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265: 10 years of self-employment: What I’ve learned

"Your business grows as fast as you do." -Tara Swiger Learn more at TaraSwiger.com/podcast265

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You guys, I have been self-employed for TEN YEARS, this week! That is really unbelievable to me, because I had no idea what to expect when I quit my dayjob to make yarn full-time. I have learned so much, struggled so much, and had weird unexpected successes (like improving my credit score, and earning a lifetime achievement award at Midwest Craftcon?).

Today I want to look back on it with you, and share some reflections that may help you in your own business journey.

I have been running a business full-time, since July 1, 2009. I quit a dayjob in an office, in part because I worked for a state university (an administrative assistant in HR) and the state cut funding, so there was a hiring freeze and a buyout. I applied for buyout and took it (it paid for us to pay off the car, and rent a UHaul to move), because I had grown the business to replace my day job salary most months.

I actually talk more about my business journey in the very first episode of the podcast, and you’re going to hear it again next week! As a celebration of 10 years of self-employment, and to spend more time with my foster kids this summer, I am re-broadcasting older important episodes from the last 5 years of the show. In July you’ll hear some of the oldest episodes that are the most important topics that basically no one has listened to, about launching and fear of success. In August you’ll hear the most-popular episodes ever, most are from about a year ago, and they cover topics like “how to stop seeking approval”, and “the pressure to be perfect”. You don’t have to do anything extra to get these episodes – just tune in each week  and you’ll get a new intro from Current Tara, along with a listen at the old musical intro (it was bad!) and Past Tara. Then I’ll be back in September with brand-new episodes!

As I was talking in the Starship about being self-employed for 10 years, Jennie asked me: if you could have a do over, would you change the rate of growth of your business? Would you grow faster/slower/the same? 

My answer is always: I wouldn’t change anything because then I wouldn’t be where I am. 

Which is kind of an annoying answer, so I really thought about this some more. The thing about my rate of growth is – sure, if I could have scaled to more profit, quicker, especially in the earlier days, that would have been fabulous, I would prefer to skip the years of being really broke and my business just covering the bills. But I would have had other growth-related problems and the fact is, I wasn’t ready to handle those problems until I grew.

One of the truths about business is that your business grows as fast as you do. If you’re expanding your belief in yourself, if you’re setting up systems, if you are confident and assured, you’re going to grow. But if you get stuck, or you leave something undealt with, your business will grow as much as you can until you hit that stuck point. You are always the bottleneck. Whether it’s that you don’t know how to let go and delegate, or you don’t believe in yourself, your business or the mission, or you’re not taking care of yourself, or your running yourself too hard, or you don’t value yourself, whatever it is, it’s the bottleneck.

So, the answer to the question is: Sure, I’d prefer that my business grew faster if that meant that I was growing and developing faster. But I couldn’t skip over learning what I needed to learn. So let’s talk about what I have learned:

Rule #1: Figure out how you make money.

I know this seems obvious – you make a sale, you make money. But do you? What’s the amount of profit on that sale? (I teach this math in the class Pay Yourself, which is only available in the Starship program, you can learn more about it at taraswiger.com/starship)

The next question is – how do you make a sale? What do you do that generates a sale almost every time? Or maybe you do a thing 5x and you make one sale?

This is really the first thing to figure out, before you’ve got your whole marketing plan, before you commit to whatever every day for the next year, test it out: What do I do that results in a sale? How often do I have to do X thing to get one sale?

Start to look at what you want to buy (for yourself or the business) in terms of what you’ll need to do to make enough sales for the profit to afford that thing. This is where all my early growth came from. I would want to do a thing (like a big craft show across the country). How could I afford the trip? I’d have to sell X skeins, so I’d have to Y listings on Etsy, followed by Z emails (emails were the thing that generated sales). And then I would do it.

Now, over time you need to be consistent in doing the things to generate the sales, so you have an idea of what you can regularly make. But to scale up or push yourself out a plateau, challenge yourself to make a certain amount of money is a certain time and hit it.

Again, I want to stress, this is not a long term path to consistent income, but you HAVE to have this knowledge to scale or become consistent with the RIGHT stuff.

Everything is figureoutable.

There is no question I can’t answer. There is no problem I can’t overcome. As long as I think of something as a mystery (or something someone else is just “naturally good at”), it’s always going to be a mystery. The good news: I always figure it out. Always.

Taxes are serious, but not excuses

Don’t be scared, have a plan.
I get soooooo annoyed when people are afraid to make money because they’ll owe taxes. You should HOPE your business owes taxes – that means you were profitable! If you want your business to be sustainable, it’ll be profitable and you will owe taxes. So I’ve always been HAPPY to owe taxes, but I haven’t always had a good plan for PAYING for those taxes. I didn’t plan well, and I owed taxes. But you know what? It’s actually not a huge deal (as long as you file on time and always talk to the IRS). Everyone I’ve ever talked to at the IRS is super friendly and helpful, so it’s nothing to be afraid of, but it is something to take seriously.

I can trust myself – I am my best business resource.

We make it big and scary. But nothing is as risky as we think. There are always other options if it doesn’t go well. And just like everything is figureoutable, what I know for sure is that I always figure it out. I can trust myself in any situation, I will be ok. I will make a good decision. Often there is no “right” decision, so I just need to trust myself and then COMMIT to whatever I decided.

I am my best resource and that means my #1 job is to keep my business resource (aka, me) in the best condition possible. This isn’t about a size or “clean eating” or anything full of shoulds and shame. This is about feeling what I feel, giving myself permission to feel how I do and need what I need. It’s sleeping enough, drinking enough water, journaling, and asking for help when I need it. It is prioritizing Peak Tara over everything else in my life. Yes, even kids and Jay, because THEY deserve Peak Tara too, they would rather I asked for a night completely alone instead of NOT asking and biting their heads off all night. (I just double-checked with Jay and he confirmed this is fact). Which every new challenge in my life, I have to learn this anew!

I certainly don’t have everything figured out, or even most of it. But I am proud of myself for keeping my business thriving and above all, for growing myself and creating something I love. I wish each of you the joy of looking back at what you’ve created, for however long you’ve been working on it, and knowing you still have so much ahead of you. That it is ok that you aren’t where you thought you should be.

Thank you so much for being here and being part of what I’m doing for however long you’ve been here! Whether it’s been for the 13 years of my biz or for the 5 years of my podcast or you just tuned in for the first time! Thanks for listening and have an enthusiastic week!

How to listen

  • You can subscribe to it on iTunes (If you do, leave a review!)
  • You can listen to it using the player above or download it.
  • Subscribe or listen via Stitcher (or subscribe in whatever you use for podcasts – just search “Explore Your Enthusiasm” and it should pop up!).

Find all the podcast episodes here.

252: Get your confidence back

Confidence generates forward momentum and forward momentum generates confidence. But what do you do when you don’t have confidence or momentum? Learn how to get your confidence back in your creative biz at TaraSwiger.com/podcast252

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I’m gonna be honest: For years I have been teaching about confidence, here on the podcast, at conferences. So I was surprised to find: I had totally lost my confidence. Today I’m going to share how I lost it and how I’m getting it back. Hopefully it will help you locate your own confidence.

First: What do I mean by confidence? Let’s define it here, because it’s easy to misunderstand. And I’ll be honest, I meet a lot of women who say they can’t move forward until they’re more confident and in my work, I’ve just found that’s not entirely true. You are probably confident ENOUGH to at least do SOMETHING.

So let’s define it: Confidence, in the terms I’m talking about, is what psychologists call self-efficacy – you have the power to do something. You believe you can do it and affect the outcome.

It’s NOT believing you can do EVERYTHING. You may be confident in your cooking, but not have confidence in your business. You may be confident in your writing, but not in public speaking.

Another thing: Being confident doesn’t mean you feel confident ALWAYS.
It is NOT feeling amazing all the time. Feeling like you can do anything, feeling totally fearless.

For more about what confidence is and isn’t, check out episode 126: What Confidence is and isn’t.

You probably have enough confidence about SOMETHING, to take it and apply it to your business. Even if you don’t feel amazing all the time, you can take the next step.

Here’s the thing: Confidence is a spectrum. You’re not “confident or not confident.” Some days your more confident than others. Your more confident in some areas than others. And depending on life, and business, and the results you’re getting, you may slide around the spectrum.

In my case, I entered adulthood pretty high on the confidence scale – I worked hard, I got good grades, I made stuff happen (like a scholarship and a happy marriage). I went through bouts of self-doubt, but I pretty much never lost my belief that if I REALLY wanted something, I could make it happen. I may be slightly delusional, but this delusion let me take action that made stuff happen.

And here’s the thing: I wasn't confident that everything would be great, I was confident that I would be ok. I was confident that I could try and still be OK. I was talking to a friend with a similar background and a successful business and she said – my definition of OK was very basic. As long as I wasn’t living at home again or in an abusive relationship, I was OK.

That’s what has led me to do everything I’ve ever done in my business – to start selling yarn on Etsy when Etsy was brand new, to quit my dayjob 10 years ago, to start helping other people with their business soon after, to publish two books, to encourage my husband to quit his day job, to start a new business – it all has been based in the core belief that I would be OK. So I may as well try, right?

Then, we were hit with disappointments: infertility (which has been bubbling away in the background for a decade), we weren’t able to buy the comic book shop, I suffered my longest ever bout of depression, we had two kids we LOVED leave our home.

While we had the foster kiddos, I took a step back from work. And when it was time to step back into work, I was plagued by the constant doubt: Can I even do this?

I think a lot of self-doubt came from the period of depression – it sucked away all sense of action, of ability, of efficacy. I physically felt like I couldn’t do anything all day, my brain was foggy and it was very hard to do anything mentally, and emotionally, well I mostly just cried or felt numb. So when I was feeling better and the depression lifted…my sense of self was beat up. The depressed Tara, who didn’t have physical, mental or emotional energy became real to me. I started to believe she was me.

At the same time, I knew she wasn’t. I knew Get-Things-Done, 6 Figure Business Tara was the real me, but when I would dream about plans and goals, I was trying to imagine Depressed Tara doing it and…I couldn’t imagine it.

The basis of my confidence (which had been “I’ll be OK no matter what”) switched to “But what if I can’t do it? What if it doesn’t work out?” That hard part is, I didn’t really know this happening. My first clue was back in September when a business friend said “Oh, I’m sure you’ll be at X goal next year!” and I was like “Maybe, I don’t know” and he was like, “Wait! That is not the Tara I know.” I went back to my room and cried because my friend was right. That is not the Tara I have been.

The next clue was just a few weeks ago, when I was at a conference and the speaker asked us to think about what we wanted to get from the experience, and I realized: I want to feel confident again. I did some journaling and I realized that it’s not that I need a better schedule or a different office, I just need to BELIEVE that things are possible again. That I can work towards my goal and whether I reach or not, I’ll be ok.

The good news: Once I realized it was the problem,  I know how to get it back. I have TAUGHT how to get it back!

I’ve shared all of my story of losing my confidence with you, in hopes that you may see some of yourself in it, that if you are feeling wobbly, you’ll recognize it. Now let’s talk about how to get it back (or get it for the first time).

The first part of this is knowing yourself. If you’ve been paying attention to how you work, what your strengths are, how you work best, you’ll have a better idea of what’s going on, if you paid attention when things were going well. So that’s the first step – build your confidence from who you are. Build it on your strengths. In other words, stop paying attention to who you WISH you were and what you wish you were like. That’s going to keep you in a self-doubt spiral of constant comparison.

How I am doing this: This may sound crazy, but I make a list of my strengths. What am I good at? What do I KNOW I can do?

The next step is to take care of yourself. You’re not going to feel good if you don’t have what you need. Part of this is eating, drinking enough water, sleeping enough, but it’s also filling up your inspiration well. For me this is listening to certain podcasts (I share them in episode 248) and reading books.

Confidence comes from action. DO something every day.

If you’re waiting around to do something until you feel confident, listen to episode 131: How to Take Action, without waiting around for more confidence.

Here’s the good news: you’re already DOING things every day. Really! So write down what you want to do (be easy on yourself!) and be sure you add things that “don't count” to your To Do list. Did you feed your child? Did you feed yourself? Did you get dressed? Brush your hair! Huzzah! You are accomplished!

How I am doing this: I noticed that when I just let myself rest and didn’t do anything (or rather, didn’t mark stuff off a list), I just felt worse. It made me feel like I couldn’t do things, so everything was so much harder to start doing, even after I felt better. (It’s harder to get started than it is to keep going). What I needed was to make myself do one thing, that had a real impact, every day. And most importantly, write it down, so I had the satisfaction of marketing it off. I had fallen so far off of my planning, that I started over with a new planner (You can watch a video about how that’s working for me here).

I started feeling better about my ability to do stuff, but there was still some stuff I wasn’t doing each week, stuff I put off for, seriously, over a month. The answer? An accountability partner with the very same goal and focus. We check in by 10am each day with a list of two things we’re going to do and again by 10pm to say if we’ve done it. Just knowing someone else is waiting to hear if I did it makes all the difference. A friend of mine is super strict about her partners – if you miss a time, or you don’t do what you said you would, you have three strikes. After three strikes, you lose your partner.

Celebrate

A huge part of confidence is remembering that you HAVE done awesome stuff and you WILL do awesome stuff again. Some suggestions for getting in that frame of mind:

  • Practice accepting compliments. Don’t follow-up up a compliment with all the reasons it’s not true.
  • Better yet, remember the compliments – put them in a folder, print them out, heck, someone on Instagram illustrated her compliments.
  • Tell your loved ones – “I need help remembering that I’ve done awesome things. Can you help?”
  • List all the things you've overcome.
  • List all the things you’ve accomplished.
  • Look at these lists as often as you need to!

I hope this helps you move forward in your business! Remember to take care of yourself, take action, and celebrate each tiny step.

How to listen

  • You can subscribe to it on iTunes (If you do, leave a review!)
  • You can listen to it using the player above or download it.
  • Subscribe or listen via Stitcher (or subscribe in whatever you use for podcasts – just search “Explore Your Enthusiasm” and it should pop up!).

Find all the podcast episodes here.

226: Why you self-sabotage

I did not want to talk about this. I have been avoiding this topic for years, even though it's something my listeners and clients ask all the time: WHY do I keep sabotaging myself? If you feel like you sabotage your own success learn more at TaraSwiger.com/podcast226

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I did not want to talk about this. I have been avoiding this topic for years, even though it's something my listeners and clients ask all the time: WHY do I keep sabotaging myself?

If you feel like you sabotage your own success, today’s episode is for you.

So last week I put up 5 different podcast ideas for the Starship to vote on what they most wanted me to talk about…and you know what got the most votes? Self Sabotage!

Even though I've been asked this a lot, I've avoided talking about it because…I think it's possible you are NOT sabotaging yourself. Sometimes the things that look like self-sabotage are actually just you taking care of yourself!

For example, if you wake up with a headache, like I did last Friday, and you decide NOT to work on your To Do list, even though it's very big and you have a deadline…is that self-sabotage? Or self-care?

Now, since we're talking about ME, I bet you'd say: Tara! You have a headache, take the day off, your business will be OK!

But if we are talking about YOU, you'd say: Oh, I really should have worked, I have things I know I am supposed to do! I totally sabotaged my list by not working!

And girl, that's just wrong.

So before we talk about REAL self-sabotage, we gotta get clear that every time you don't work, every time you take a break, every time you decide NOT to show up for something, it's not necessarily ruining everything – sometimes it is you taking care of yourself, or giving yourself what you need.

When I asked you (on instagram) for your examples of self-sabotage you told me:

  • When I get an opportunity, but believe I can’t do it, so I don’t follow through.
  • Setting a big goal and then getting sidetracked or not planning, and deciding: “well, all hope is lost!”
  • When I’m scared. I plan a big thing, and then don’t follow through (like a big launch, where then I only send a couple emails instead of doing everything I had planned).

Why you self-sabotage

  1. You are experiencing more success than your set point is comfortable with (Upper Limit Problem. This is the book about it.)
  2. You don't think you deserve it. (Imposter Syndrome)
  3. You actually don't want what you're working towards.

You'll notice that each of these reasons is actually…self-care! You're protecting yourself from what you think you can't handle or don't want.

What you can do about it:

1. Get really specific about what the self-sabotaging activity is and why you did it.

Ask yourself:
What am I trying to protect?
What am I afraid of?

This is important because a lot of women TELL me they are sabotaging themselves and when I ask for specifics, they hem and haw, “Well, all the time. I'm just never following through, I never do.”

Girl, that is a belief you have about yourself. It's a belief, not because it's true, but because you keep saying it to yourself. As long as you keep repeating this and believing it, you're never going to be able to move forward.

Until you can believe the opposite (“I show up for what matters. I can do what it takes”), replace it with the truth, “I'm not sure what's up, but I'm doing my best. I'm protecting myself.” Move towards trusting yourself to show up by getting clear on exactly what you do and when you do it. Get clear on why you're doing it (what you're protecting yourself from).

2. Let go of the fear.

The next step, after you know what you're afraid of, is to look at that fear head on. I like to do fear-setting (from Tim Ferris):

  • What's the worst that can happen?
  • Do you think you can handle that?
  • If not, how likely is that to happen? (Usually, not very likely, or at least not for very long.)
  • What is the much more likely (smaller) thing that may happen?
  • Can you handle THAT?

This is the time to use all the tools you have to release fears – therapy, journaling, essential oils, tapping – whatever works for you!

3. Notice all the ways you DO show up for yourself.

Do you buy groceries and cook meals?
Do you read sometimes?
Do you spend some time crafting?
Or doing anything you love?

THAT is showing up for yourself. YOU ARE DOING IT.
And it's transferrable! If you show up in this way you can show up in others.

4. Show up for yourself, even more. And make note of it when you do.

Self-sabotage isn’t something to beat yourself up about. It’s something to take care of yourself in the face of.

How to listen

  • You can subscribe to it on iTunes (If you do, leave a review!)
  • You can listen to it using the player above or download it.
  • Subscribe or listen via Stitcher (or subscribe in whatever you use for podcasts – just search “Explore Your Enthusiasm” and it should pop up!).

Find all the podcast episodes here.

An Exploration into Self-care

Pesto soup, with gnocchi, beans & greens. Yum. #vegan recipe by @Isachandra, of course

Let's start with some honesty: I have a hate-hate relationship with the phrase “self-care” (or even worse “self-love”). I am completely resistant to it. Not because I think we shouldn't take care of ourselves, but because it sounds so…selfish. And self-centered. And terribly, awfully, horrendously self-indulgent.

 

And I gotta admit, up until last year, I secretly believed the act of self-care was all those self-involved things too. Oh, and lazy. I thought of my brain (& heart) to be the important thing. I took care of my brain through lots of reading, writing and long deep conversations. I took care of my heart with friends and family and my sweet marriage.

But bodily self-care was just…not something that seemed necessary or important. I didn't really know how to start.

 


But that changed.

As I shared here, I had a pretty awful moment of truth last January. Something about that experience woke me up and all of a sudden, I was open to paying attention to my physical home, that thing that was carrying around my big brain all these years, my body.

I noticed I never ate when I was hungry, preferring to keep working through the signs. (Not in some desire to be thin, but because I truly didn't pay attention.) I noticed that I felt actually, measurably better when I moved around and pushed myself. I noticed that I loved feeling physically strong.


As an explorer, I paid attention to what I noticed. I used it to shape my decisions, my day, my actions.

And all of this, somehow, led me to actually take care of my self. It's not a big deal and it's not something I label “self-care”…but it's there now – in eating breakfast, in running, in buying clothes that fit, in breathing deep.


The best part: this shift, into paying more attention (instead of ignoring) spreads to other areas: I have an easier job paying attention to what works in my business. I have the energy to write longer. I don't become fried at 2pm everyday (and when I do, I trust myself to take a break.)

By reframing “self-care” into an act of exploration, I shifted my relationship to my body and to my brain (and to food, clothes, other women, my role in relationships, my business, my finances…the list is endless because changing one thing changes everything.)

 

To start your own exploration: Pay attention, and then work with what's working. That's it. It's not about being luxurious or indulgent or fancy (although you certainly can be), it's about noticing + shifting, in tiny ways, until things feel a little better.

You can use this exploration method to take care of your self, your business, your kids. You can use it to change your life, your business, or your eating habits. (You can learn more about how to be an explorer in my free e-course here.)

 

This post is part of the Unencumbered Sharing Circle, a gathering of honest first-hand stories about self-loathing, self-love, and the journey between the two. Read more stories, and share your own, right here.