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280: Biz lessons from (foster) parenting

Parenting and business can feel like they’re worlds apart, but luckily there are transferable lessons! Learn more about the business lessons I’ve learned from one year of foster parenting at TaraSwiger.com/podcast280

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So hey, I became a parent this year! I parented 5 kids in 12 months, not concurrently but consecutively. And in this year of parenthood, I have learned a LOT about myself, my worldview, my marriage AND my business.

Today I want to share what parenting has taught me about business.

This episode is ultra-vulnerable, because I usually talk about stuff that I know quite a bit about, that I’ve researched and experienced. Well, parenting is not really my expertise. And I’m gonna be honest – I wanted to be a parent for SO LONG that when it DID happen, but in a very nontraditional way, I still feel a little bit of imposter syndrome.

I am NOT a parent the way most parents are. I did not give birth or get pregnant. I also didn’t lose pregnancies or go through massive infertility treatments. And I haven’t adopted a child. So right now, I don’t actually, legally, HAVE kids. I temporarily have kids, but as you can imagine, the day to day of parenting feels very very real. Heck, it IS real.

I am having the experience of parenting even if I’m not legally a parent yet.

So, as you can tell, I feel kinda nervous about talking about this, but I know that we ALL have things we’re inexperienced about, and learning THROUGH the inexperience is how we improve.

Now before we go farther, let me just say to all my sisters who are feeling pain around not being a parent yet, and really really wanting to – you might wanna skip this episode. I know that in the past I found all KINDS of things triggered my grief, and I would HATE when a business teacher would talk about kids as if we all just had kids, no problem, no struggle.

That said, I encourage EVERYONE to consider foster care as a way of pouring your time and energy and resources and privileges into someone’s life. Someone very cute. So if you don’t have kids yet, and you’re even considering foster care a little bit, stay tuned and check out my videos about the process of becoming a foster parent.

And of course if you are a parent, through traditional or nontraditional methods, stay tuned because I think you’re going to enjoy noticing how business and parenting overlap in so many ways.

Work on your STUFF

The first BIG lesson of having a business or being a parent is this: If you don’t deal with your stuff now, you’re going to have to deal with it later.

Both parenting and business serve as a magnifying glass for all the STUFF you need to work through to move forward.

What do I mean by stuff? Whether it’s mental health stuff like anxiety, depression, eating disorders or it’s stuff from your own childhood or past relationships, both business and kids are going to bring it up again.

I have long said that business is one of the best therapists, because it is ALL going to come up. As you set goals, level up, move forward, you are going to come up against your own feelings of inadequacy, worthiness, confidence, mindset. If you don’t work through it, release it, or in some way transform your stuff, it’s going to KEEP coming up. You’ll end up self-sabotaging or getting stuck or feeling horrible instead of happy.

And oooh boy, if this is true of business, it is doubly true of becoming a parent.

Every bit of unhealed trauma, grief, and fear from your childhood comes and smacks you in the face when you’re taking care of tiny children. (Or is that just me?)

I got a head start on working through my stuff and develop a support system for it, while building my business. I had to work through stuff about being worthy, about mindset, about clear communication in order to grow through my  business.

That has made me able to move through it quicker (than I used to) when it came to kids. But for my husband, he struggled. He’s had to develop ways to calm down, to recharge, to release stuff, to confront himself and forgive himself…while in the middle of parenting toddlers.

So really this first lesson is: work on your stuff. Now or later, you’re going to need to. If you had kids first, hopefully you’ve learned to identify some of this stuff and you’ve already started the process.

(And PS, business and kids aren’t the ONLY ways to work on your issues, they’ve just the two biggest triggers for what I’ve needed to work on! Relationships are another big trigger for people – whether friendships or romantic relationships.)

The next lesson is about TIME

Oh my gosh, I never felt like I had so little thinking time in my LIFE!

It has forced me to get very clear on when and how I work best – what I need to be most productive.

What I’ve learned is that I need dedicated focused time in order to do most of what I do.

And Introvert Recovery cannot be skipped – the longer I spend surrounded by kids and NOT working, the more I need to recover before I can be productive. This is counter-intuitive and VERY annoying, but I’ve found it to be true, so now I just try to build it in when I can.

My other “hack” around this is to squeeze all appointments into same day and have days that I never schedule anything kid-related (of course DCS does not really respect my boundaries, but when possible, I stand up for them.) It all comes down to the fact that time management is so much more crucial now that I have kids, so I’ve had to get better at it.

Communication

Dealing with toddlers requires clear communication.
Dealing with DCS and birth parents and other adults in your kids life requires clear communication.

And guess what? Your business, especially your marketing messaging requires clear communication!

One of the keys to clearly communicating is to always ask yourself: What is the goal of this communication?

What is the goal of this foster care meeting? What is the goal of this outburst? What is the goal of this Instagram post or email or item description?

You’re always trying to communicate something to someone.

By getting clear on what the goal is and who the intended audience is, then you can shape your message around that.

And yes, I am encouraging you to take a minute and think through what you’re about to say, so that it’s clear to everyone what your goal is.

If we’ve ever been in a conversation together, you know that I am not going to let you go until I know that we have met the goal. This has been so useful in working with birth parents and DCS.

For example, in a meeting with a social worker and some family members, I could tell that the worker was focused on just saying what she wanted to say (in industry-speak) and that family members didn’t understand the seriousness or what’s at stake. So I stopped the worker, over and over to ask: “So you’re saying….” and kept rewording it until I could tell family got it.
When we walked away, my husband said, “You were great. You probably really annoyed the social worker, but at least we know we got everyone on the same page.”

I credit my decade-plus experience of writing marketing messaging (and a stubborn streak that wants to make everyone feel included) to this skill, but it’s developed over time.

If you have been negotiating with toddlers, for a few years, I bet you have worked on your communication skills. (Simplicity! Clear requests!)

If you have been in a relationship for longer than a minute, you have worked on your communication skills.

The thing is, you can bring that INTO your business! Those skills translate!

ALL these skill translate!

Whether your life has inspired you to get good at working on your stuff, at time management, or at communication, you can now take those skills into your business!

Often we feel like we don’t know enough or we’re not good enough to create thriving businesses, to be profitable, to charge what we’re worth.

But you know what?

You are! You have the skills you need!

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.

256: Time: there’s never enough

Between running a business and having a life, it feels like there’s never enough time for all the things you want to do. But what do when that’s the case? Learn how I handle having a list of things to do that is far too long to get done at TaraSwiger.com/podcast256

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When I asked on Instagram what the most-pressing issue in your business was, I got one answer over and over and over: TIME. Time to do everything you want, time to grow your business, time for a business after the day job, time to post regularly, there's just not enough time.

This week we're going to talk about how to have enough time, no matter the season of life you're in.

Before we get into today’s lesson, I want to tell you that I’m doing a free workshop answering your questions on how to use my favorite tool for motivation and productivity and feeling better: essential oils. You can sign up at TaraSwiger.com/eo.

If you are like most of my Instagram friends, you constantly feel there's never enough time. Just not enough! Between life, and family and maybe a day job, and growing a business, let alone adding the things you want to do – like exercise and reading and going out with friends – there's just never enough time!

And girl, I feel you. When we had the 2 year old and she was home with me 24/7 for a month with doctor appointments and social worker appointments, or after that, when we had to go to 3 visitations a week and getting her to school 3 days a week, it felt like I never had enough time. Especially to rest, take care of myself AND to get work done.

So, unlike naive Tara of the past, I'm not going to tell you it's just about prioritizing and finding the time for the things you really want to. I'm going to tell you that it's hard and that there's no easy answer.

I mean, I feel like I could end the podcast here. It's hard and there's no easy answer.

But… there are ways to work with the time that you have, to be MORE effective with the time you have. And there is a way to reframe the issue, that makes it all a little less hopeless. So let's dive in, knowing that there's no easy answer.

Start with honesty

The first thing we gotta do is a little tough love: Are you really being honest about the situation, you priorities, and your capabilities?

For example, for the first month Honey was with us, my priority was settling her into our life, it wasn't really working on my business. So that priority got my time and energy. And if I'm being honest about my capabilities and the situation, the fact is the first MONTH of being someone's mom is not really the time to try to be productive at work. In the US the average maternity leave is 6 weeks, but in Europe it's 6 months to 2 years. So I truly don't have the capability to figure out how to be effective with my time during my first months of motherhood, but it's not because I suck, it's because that's just how it works, for many women – we need the time to adjust.

Will I need the same amount of time to adjust to our next placement? I have no idea. Become someone's mother and getting them settled in your house, is the same no matter how many kids you've had, but maybe I'll be better at it because I'm more experienced? I have no idea! What I do know is that I need to give myself grace for not being immediately effective, and not instantaneously working out the perfect schedule that balances motherhood and work.

Your situation is different, but you also need to look at it honestly – what is TRULY your priority right now? If you have a sick partner or parent or you are struggling to heal, it's likely that your business isn't a priority. And that is OK. Go back and listen to episode 245 about Seasons in Your Business. It's ok to be in a season where you just can't spend as much time as you like on your business.

If you're feeling frustrated that you don't have the time to work on your business because you need and want to prioritize something else right now, I want to encourage you that you don't need more time, you need a mindset shift. You need to realize that you are CHOOSING something else right now and that it is the RIGHT thing for you. You are not being tossed about by the winds of fate, you are choosing. Just recognizing your own choice can be empowering, and can make you feel more capable of spending the time you do have more effectively.

Now, you might be wanting to argue and say – no, I didn't choose this situation! I didn't choose this! No, you might not have chosen the situation, but you are choosing to spend your time on it. You could choose NOT to spend time with a loved one that needs you. You could choose to cut people out of your lives, instead of allowing them to take up your precious life. But instead you're choosing love and kindness or care.

Or maybe you feel stuck in a situation you don't want to choose. Perhaps it a day job you hate, or your stuck doing things that someone else asked you to do, but you do not want to prioritize them. You have two options:

  1. You can choose to the see the reasons why this is the right decision for right now (ex. you need the day job money to fund the startup for your business. Elizabeth Gilbert calls this being your own patron. I did this for years as I started up and I highly recommend it. Having another income takes the stress of your business)
  2. You can say no and stop doing the things. If you truly don't want to be doing them, stop doing them. Sure, this might be a complicated process to extract yourself from, but you absolutely can.

You see, when we say we don't have enough time, I think what we really mean is “I don't like my choices and the necessary sacrifices”.

I get that, but…we have to live in reality.

Because of the space/time continuum you simply can't do everything all at once. So every decision to spend time on one thing means your sacrificing something else. That is just a fact. The sooner you come to embrace this and accept it and make decisions accordingly, the better you're going to feel. Will you be happy all the time with the available choices? No! But studies show that just by recognizing that you DO have choices, you'll be more empowered and will make better decisions.

That's the framework you need, the lens you need to be wearing when you look at your situation.

I want you to look at your situation again. Ask yourself the tough question:

What is my real, desired priority in this season?
What is my capability?
What choices am I actually making in each day?

This shows you your real-time priority – the things you actually do prioritize.

How do you spend your day? Is it on what matters to you?

Maybe you need to stop doing some things, maybe you need to quit some commitments.

And maybe you need to accept that right now, in this point in your life, you only have 2 hours a week to work on your business. Or you have 30 minute on your lunch break each day. That's not a bad thing. There isn't a “perfect” answer here.

If you feel like that's not enough, then you need to stop comparing yourself to what other people are doing. Stop looking at the girl who has 10 hours a day to style her instagram. Spend your time doing you work, not comparing it to other people.

So the first step is honesty, the second step is a reality-check (where are you actually spending your time) and the third step is acceptance and effectiveness.

You see, you can't focus on being more effective if you don't first accept your real life situation. If you keep making plans and lists for a 8 hr workday and you have a 1 hour workday while the kids nap, you're always going to end up disappointed and you'll feel behind and like you're never doing enough.

So accept the real workday you have and then work to be effective within that.

Use the time you have effectively

Now, I could talk for hours on how to be effective with your time, and guess what? I have already done that! I put my best tips for effectiveness, with a big workbook to apply to your own workday,  with 6 hours of professionally produced class on CreativeLIVE exactly on this topic! Go to TaraSwiger.com/time to take that class. It'll help you apply it to your own workday, to become more effective and productive with whatever size workday you have.

And if you’re issue is balancing the time you have? We’ll talk about that in next week’s episode.

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.

184: Sane Holidays: 3 questions for the busy creative

The winter holiday season can be the busiest and MOST profitable time of the year in your creative biz. But it can also be the most overwhelming, and least enjoyable time of the year. Learn how to have a busy, profitable, enjoyable, and sane holiday season at: TaraSwiger.com/podcast184

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Welcome to your busiest, and potentially your most profitable time of year! And…also potentially the LEAST sane time of year. If you are dreading the holiday season and busyness and scramble, I wanna help you get you ready to have a killer season and fantastic good time.

As we leap into Thanksgiving, Hanukkah, and Christmas, I hope this collection saves a bit of your own sanity.

On CraftyPod:

On Karina Dressess:

I gather all my favorite sanity-saving posts on this Pinterest board (new articles are added all the time!).

Don’t forget to sign up below to get access to Holiday Sanity Guide in the Black Friday Bundle!

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.

178: How I found time for a whole new business

Finding time for a new venture when you already have one successful creative biz can sometimes feel impossible. But it’s not! Find out how I created time to start a whole second business on this episode of Explore Your Enthusiasm at: TaraSwiger.com/podcast178

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In April of 2017, after 8 years of self-employment, shifting my business focus a few times and having my best year ever in 2016, I started an entirely new business…while keeping my current business almost exactly the same. I record a weekly video and audio podcast, hold live weekly chats, teach classes around the country and started a whole second business, based in collaboration. How the heck did I find the time for it?

Links I mentioned:

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.

Your Questions Answered: Pricing, Quitting Your Day Job, and more

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How do you go full-time? How do you avoid perfection while still continuously improving? How much time should you spend marketing vs making? How much is “too” much?

Today I’m answering your questions!

Links I mention:

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!).

Since this was a Q+A episode, I didn't make a transcript – but you can still sign up below and get access to my full library of transcripts from previous and future episodes!

Your questions answered: email list growth, self-publishing and what I’d do differently

Get YOUR questions answered: self-publishing a book, growing your email list, and advice on building your crafty biz!

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Today I'm answering questions from my Instagram followers (to get your questions answered, be sure you're following me!). In fact, I received so many questions, I split them into two podcasts!  You can find the first Q&A post here.   Today we'll cover:

  • Email List Growth
  • Self-Publishing
  • What I'd do differently

 

Resources:

Check out these awesome handmade businesses:

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.

Your questions answered: Coming back after illness, finding time for everything, and handling discouragement

Q&A for your creative biz: How to get back to your crafty biz after a break, time management for makers, and handling discouragement!

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Today I'm answering questions from my Instagram followers (to get your questions answered, be sure you're following me!). In fact, I received so many questions, I split them into two podcasts! Today we'll cover:

    • Coming back after illness
    • Finding time for everything
    • Handling discouragement

Resources:

Check out these awesome handmade businesses:

 

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.

 

 

Instagram stories, choosing the right idea, + more of your questions answered

Today I’m answering questions from my Instagram followers. To get your question answered, be sure you’re following me. We cover: How to decide between ideas for new products How to use social media without wasting too much time How to use Instagram Stories for your handmade business. Listen in at TaraSwiger.com/podcast138/

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Today I’m answering questions from my Instagram followers. To get your question answered, be sure you’re following me. We cover:

  • How to decide between ideas for new products
  • How to use social media without wasting too much time
  • How to use Instagram Stories for your handmade business

Resources:

Check out these awesome handmade businesses:

If you want to get your questions answered on the podcast, consider becoming a Patron! Patrons at the $2+ levels get to tell me what to podcast on next, attend live recordings (online!) and ask their questions while I’m recording and have me reply! I’m going to be using patronage to buy a new lighting set-up so I can do more videos throughout the dark winter months. If you want to help with that, support it here. Thanks!

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.

How YOU Get Stuff Done

How do you actually get done the things you need to do for your business? Are you more likely to do something if you "owe" it to someone else, or if it's something you personally want to do? Or, maybe, do you rebel against the idea of a To Do list altogether? Learn more about your own tendency and how you can use it to get more done - including a FREE resource guide! - at TaraSwiger.com/podcast122/

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Get more goodness and support the podcast: http://patreon.com/taraswiger

How do you actually DO what you want to do in your business?

Do you need to understand WHY you're doing it?

Do you need to be held accountable?

Or do you rebel against anyone telling you to do anything (even when you really want to do it)?

This question fascinates me, because it's at the heart of why some people build their business quickly and others struggle along without ever taking much action. This has been such a popular topic that I thought we'd revisit it this week for the podcast. Make sure you read to the bottom in order to get your FREE guide to getting stuff done for Questioners, Obligers, & Rebels!

When I talk to makers and artists who are frustrated that their business hasn't grown, it's very rare that they have NO idea what they should do. Instead, it's that they aren't taking the actions they feel they need to take, they aren't doing what they want to do.

The best explanation I've ever found for WHY some people struggle to get stuff done, is in Gretchen Rubin's book Better Than Before (it's all about habit change, and working on your business really is about habits). She defines the Four Tendencies, as a reason for why some people get stuff done (or change their habits, or work on their biz) and others don't.

I've talked about this before on the podcast (listen in here), but this comes up so often, I wanted to revisit it.

According to Gretchen (and backed up by my own experience working with hundreds of makers and artists), we react to expectations (ie, people telling us to do something), in one of four ways. The way you react to expectations tends to be consistent across your life.

Upholders:

These people do everything that's expected of them, easily. They both meet external expectations (other people telling you what you should do) and internal expectations (things YOU want to do). I have met very few Upholders, and I think it's because they don't seek out biz support – once they know what to do, they just do it.

Questioners:

These people (uh, myself included) don't care to meet external expectations unless they understand WHY. But they have an easy time meeting internal expectations… if those expectations are built on understanding the rationale behind them. In other words, we questioners can do anything if we can turn it from external expectation (you telling me to do something) into an internal expectation (I understand why, and now WANT to do it, because it makes logical sense to me).
These people need to know WHY they are doing anything in their business (“because experts say so” isn't enough). Because I'm a Questioner, I create all of my classes and books for Questioners – I don't tell you what to do, I tell you why something will benefit your biz, then I give you a bunch of questions related to your business, so you can see how to do it in your OWN way. This is why I've built the Starship experience to start with you getting clear on your goals and your path – so that you decide what you want to learn and what you want to do next, and feel motivated to do the work because you can see how it fits into the bigger picture.(According my unscientific study, about 1/3 of the Starship members are Questioners)

Obligers:

These people (maybe you?) have a pretty easy time fulfilling external expectations (if someone asks you to do something, you will), but have a tough time fulfilling internal expectations (say, working on your business, just because you want to). In fact you may fill your days doing things others care about more. So you feel frustrated that you never seem to make the time to work on what matters to YOU. Ugh, this is frustrating.

The solution?
Get someone to ask you about what you really care about.
In other words, externalize those internal expectations.
You can do this with a group (like the Starship), where you tell us your goal and then check in as you work through it (this is why we have the weekly live check-in and forums) or with a single person (an accountability partner). After learning that about 2/3 of the Starship members were Obligers, I upped our accountability-providing, by creating the Accountability Partner Program – you just fill out a short form, and I match you with a partner. The two of you work together to decide when to check-in and then you simply tell the person: This is what I'm working on, I'm going to be done with it by X date. That, alone, can suddenly make you feel like you “owe” someone and so you work harder on your business!

Rebels:

These people tend to feel constrained by any kind of expectation. They tell me (we have a handful in the Starship) that “As soon as I write something down, like a goal or to do list, I suddenly do NOT want to do it.” In fact, creating a schedule or a must-do list is going to ensure that a Rebel never does anything.

The solution?
I'll be honest, I have been thinking about this for over a year and quizzing any rebels I meet. Gretchen doesn't offer any solution in her book, and I had a hard time coming up with one. Joeli is a self-described Rebel who has made MASSIVE momentum in the last year of her Starship membership (you can get her full story if you sign up here) and she says what works best is making a big list and then picking, each day, what feels fun (instead of telling yourself you HAVE to do something that day), and setting goals that are more about paying attention and learning, than about measuring. (For example, set a goal of “noticing what already works in my business.”) In other words, for Rebels, taking the pressure OFF is often a good motivator for working harder (but if you already feel bad about how little you get done, this might feel REALLY scary). This is why we focus, in the Starship, on finding what works for YOU and giving yourself permission to not do what other people tell you “have” to do.

So how do you get stuff done?

I hope you see that the answer lies not in forcing yourself to work in ONE way, but in finding what works best for you. No one of the above is better than the others (although I think we all secretly wish we could be Upholders!) – the key to productivity is acknowledging your tendency and then setting up your work day and expectations in a way that works for you.

If you think that more accountability, question-answering and a community of encouragers would help you in your business, check out the Starship – it's opening next week! 

Sign up below to get a FREE guide to go with this episode!

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.

How to make time for marketing

You're busy making products, photographing, listing, and (hopefully) shipping orders - how do you find the time to also do marketing? In today's episode, we tackle the problem of never having time for marketing. We cover: How you know if you're doing "enough" marketing How a plan saves time Batching your tasks Using what you already have

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You're busy making products, photographing, listing, and (hopefully) shipping orders – how do you find the time to also do marketing? In today's episode, we tackle the problem of never having time for marketing.

We cover:

  • How you know if you're doing “enough” marketing
  • How a plan saves time
  • Batching your tasks
  • Using what you already have

Links mentioned:

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.

Sign up below to get a FREE e-course on making your marketing more effective! No matter how much time you have for marketing, it's important to focus on improving its effectiveness.

 

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