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Would you like an accountability partner?

accountabilityHappy New Year! I know we are all looking forward to an amazing 2015! First of all, I would like to say that you are exactly where you need to be right now. There were lessons and triumphs that you experienced in 2014 that helped shape you and your business. Those experiences also helped you create goals and visions for this coming year.

I learned some lessons myself. I sat down to work on 2 different planners/workbooks over the holidays and realized that I had already had similar worksheets on my computer that I had created. About 2 years ago, I had an idea for a workbook and started creating the pdfs and saved them on my computer. I have spent a lot of time here and there fine tuning them. I told about two or three friends about it and showed some of it to one of them. I didn’t give myself any sort of date to get it finished by. I have had some self-doubt about sharing it with the world.

I will admit that I had a moment of feeling disappointed in myself when I realized that other people are helping others using similar content and mine was just sitting on my computer. So like I said above, I do believe I am right where I am supposed to be but I think I might need help getting me where I want to go. I need an accountability partner. Someone who I can share my goals with and know they are going to check in to see if I have gotten them done.

I am assuming you have tons of ideas and goals especially since it is the new year. Are there ideas you had last year that you didn’t bring into fruition for your business? Would you like an accountability partner?

If yes, you must be willing to share some goals with your partner and agree to check up on their goals at least once a month. I will be sending out an short questionnaire tomorrow to email subscribers to help pair you up with a partner. This could be something that lasts the month of January or 3 months or the rest of the year. I will try to match you up based on business size, social media that you prefer using and the possibility for cross-promotion.

I have a gazillion things I want to do on this blog this year and I am realizing that if I am the only one holding myself accountable then they will not all get done. I am excited about the prospect of having to tell someone how far along I am or what steps I have taken to reach a certain goal. Let me help find someone to help you reach your goals too! If you are not on our list, sign up below!

 

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The Worst Advice Ever ( + What to Do Instead)

advice

As I was brainstorming what I would write this month for Handmade Success, I thought about my blog topic sampler post, 27 Blog Topics You Can’t Wait to Write About (& Your Readers Can’t Wait to Read!). I’m working through all 27 myself to show how much fun they are, and I’m currently on #8: The worst advice I ever heard.

As we are all in creative business, an industry where advice and seller tips abound, I thought this would be the perfect topic to discuss with you! Thinking back on the building of my creative business, I think the worst advice I’ve ever received is the most common advice around! I’m super excited for the chance to dispute these myths here today.

3 Examples of the Worst Advice Ever:

1. Use the maker’s story as copywriting.

In the handmade industry, we’ve been sold on the idea that you should put yourself front and center; that customers will be interested in buying because they love the story behind your products.

Here’s why that’s bad advice:

Let’s understand that humans are narcissistic creatures, and we are almost always thinking of ourselves. Please keep that in mind when you think of your customers. Reflect on the way that you shop AS a customer. When you make a purchase, you want to be pleased, proud, and comfortable with the product you bring home.

Please realize that it’s quite natural for small business owners to approach business thinking only of themselves and their needs. However, successful sellers know that this thinking needs to be rearranged.

You must have a clear picture of what you’re offering the customer, how she can benefit, and what her end-result will be. In fact, successful marketing involves thinking from the end: you see the satisfied customer with your product in hand. What is she feeling? What is she thinking? How does your product improve her day?

Listen to this advice from Scientific Advertising written by Claude Hopkins in the 1920’s:

“Remember the people you address are selfish, as we all are. They care nothing about your interests or your profit. They seek service for themselves. Ignoring this fact is a common mistake and a costly mistake in advertising. Ads say in effect, ‘Buy my brand. Give me the trade you give to others. Let me have the money.’ This is not a popular appeal.”

Therefore, practice putting the customer’s needs first, and switch the focus of your shop onto them.

2. List as many items as possible in your online storefront.

There are many reasons we’re advised to do this: because it will help you get found in search, because it give your customers more options, because Etsy collects listing fees for your 16 pages of items (cha-ching!) … oh wait, they never mention that part.

In coaching, I often run into clients who are spending their days doing something that’s not working, yet they keep doing more of it. If you’re still making and listing hundreds of items and getting only a few sales, you’re doing a lot of what’s not working.

Here’s why that’s bad advice:

First of all, I’ve never had more than two pages of inventory in my Etsy shop, and I average 1,000 sales per year. I spend about 20% of my time making and shipping, 40% of my time blogging, and 40% of my time planning and marketing.

Sure, you’re getting found more often in search when you list hundreds of items, but how much time are you investing in doing so? And what’s the actual return on your investment? My guess is, it’s not worth it.

Moreover, your Etsy storefront (especially) isn’t set up to organize hundreds of products. You only have ten categories to work with! I always use Old Navy as an online storefront that knows how to organize and handle a large inventory – you can easily navigate it and see everything that’s available. However, you’re more likely to overwhelm your customer rather than entice them when you offer them so much on Etsy’s format.

3. Tag your products as handmade.

The last piece of advice I think we’ve been pushed a little too often is to “show off your handmade;” I think it feeds into the branding of our store hosts (i.e. “Etsy has handmade sellers”), but I’m not sure it belongs in our shop announcements and copywriting.

I love handmade. I am handmade. However, it’s not a keyword for my business.

Here’s why that’s bad advice:

What are you trying to build here? A handmade Etsy business? Or your own creative business as a recognized brand in the industry?

If you’re happy to call yourself “an Etsy business” forever, then go ahead and keep marketing yourself as handmade. If you’re out to become an independent creative professional with a respectable business model, call yourself what you are: an entrepreneur; or a jewelry designer; or owner of [insert your business name here].

What is the worst advice you’ve ever received? And what did you do instead?

lisawashi

 

 Lisa Jacobs — Marketing Creativity

Lisa Jacobs writes Marketing Creativity for fellow creative spirits who aim to build a career with their own two hands. She leads group webinar programs and offers one-on-one coaching designed to help you get paid to be … you.

How To Beat Burnout and Gain a Fresh Perspective

takeabreak

Who’s feeling a little burnt out after a busy first quarter? My productivity took a hit after an excited (and exhausting) January through March this year, and I desperately needed a break. I bet you can relate.

I simply became too attached to email and imaginary deadlines. To keep the computers in the house off for a week sounded as good as a vacation in Fiji to me … to not have to answer and check and reply and check. In other words, to just be in my quiet home with the day ahead of me sounded as peaceful and inviting as warm white sands and crystal clear waters.

But here’s the thing: I don’t like to admit that I need a break from my amazing work-at-home career doing what I love. It feels silly and selfish, yet so true.

You need time to be gentle with yourself.

A creative career is demanding. Yes, I’m typing to you in my pajamas under a blanket on my couch with a cup of decaf vanilla chai tea beside me. The irony is not lost on me. But, I’ll say it again: a creative career is demanding.

I’m always creating my next move, and my inner-dialogue sometimes feels as frantic and high-pressure as a stock exchange trading floor. My family comes home from work and school, and sometimes I’m present, but other times I’m still mentally lost in the frenzy.

You know they feel that, don’t you? They know when you’re present, and they know when you’re more focused on what’s behind your eyes than what’s in front of them.

Take a digital cleanse.

If you’re feeling burnt out, schedule at least two days in the next two weeks where you vow to turn everything off. You see, a digital cleanse helps clear the frenzy away. It helps you to be present. You will instantly release all of your made-up demands and (hopefully) let gentleness wash over you.

And then, go climbing.

I recently settled down with my children for a showing of Mary Poppins. It’s been a few years since I had seen it last, and I love to revisit a classic. In it, (the character) Bert says,

“What did I tell ya? There’s the whole world at your feet. And who gets to see it? But the birds, the stars and the chimney sweeps.”

I love a good dose of perspective. My last home was situated high on a mountain, and right beside me in my own back yard? An even higher peak. I hiked it often, especially on beautiful days, for the view and perspective it offered.

When you work from home, it’s easy to get lost in the maze of your own four walls. Spaciousness is a value in my life, and for me, small spaces = small ideas. There’s something about climbing above the noise, being still, and watching the motion of the world beneath you.

Even if you don’t have your own personal mountain to climb, close your eyes and adopt a bird’s eye view of the day you’re facing. Allow your mind to rise above the noise, and imagine the whole world at your feet.

Here’s wishing you a delicious dose of gentleness + perspective!

lisawashi

 

 Lisa Jacobs — Marketing Creativity

Lisa Jacobs writes Marketing Creativity for fellow creative spirits who aim to build a career with their own two hands. She leads group webinar programs and offers one-on-one coaching designed to help you get paid to be … you.

The Juggling Act

doubledubsReclaimed Barn Wood & Mason Jar Wall Art Hand-Painted Wood Sign from The Double Dubs

When I first opened my shop on Etsy, I was working a full time job and taking care of my 6 month old daughter. I was looking for a hobby and in the beginning had no expectations of creating a real business. Flash forward just over a year, and I’m still working a full time job, chasing around my energetic little girl who’s turning 2, and running a successful online store; The Double Dubs.

My shop has grown far beyond my expectations, but with the increase in sales comes the increase of stress and decrease of time. There have been moments when trying to manage everything has been overwhelming, but as time goes on I have been able to develop ways to stay organized and balance the many areas of my crazy, wonderful life.

When I told my husband that I was writing an article about balancing a business with your day job and home life, his response was “Let me know when you figure that out.” I’m certainly not an expert, but I have made great strides and hopefully I can help others find ways to do the same!

Get Crazy Organized

I still remember the day I brought home my label maker….such fond memories. I quickly began labeling everything in my studio from the garbage/recycling bins to the space reserved for my hot glue gun. While labeling every little thing in my studio may not have been necessary, it made me think more about how I was utilizing my space.

I’m very lucky to have a designated area in my house for the business, I realize that a lot of people starting out aren’t as fortunate. But it’s important to organize your work space whether it’s a spot at the kitchen table or an entire building. Keeping my studio organized helps me to find things quickly, get to work quickly, and clean up quickly. And let’s be honest, when juggling multiple roles time is of the essence.

That’s not to say my space is always spotless. I mean there are days when I can’t avoid letting my daughter pull out all the recycling or unravel the bubble wrap while I package orders. But by putting in the effort the first time to organize (and label like a crazy person) my studio, makes it easy to get it back to its meticulously organized state fast.

Method to the Madness

There are countless ways people have found to stay organized and juggle busy lives. None of these methods are necessarily the wrong way or the right way to do it. The key is finding the method or style that works best for you. So experiment and adapt until you find the right mix. To give you a starting point, here’s some of what has worked for me:

  • My best friend the label maker– Giving everything a place has increased my efficiency
  • Writing lists– I have created a template that I use for writing my to-do list every day (and laminated it….I know I’m a nerd!). The front goes through everything I’ll need to accomplish for the shop, to what’s for dinner that night. The back has an overview of big projects for the whole week.
  • Calendars – Keeping track of important dates and deadlines is essential! I make sure to have separate calendars for the business, our personal life, and finances (when those obnoxious bills are due).

Don’t be Afraid to Ask (or Scream) for Help

You need to know your limit, and more importantly, to ask for help before you reach it. Whether that’s help from your spouse, your kids, your co-workers, or online community. Without a great support system, my business, day job, and home life all would suffer. When the shop is really busy and I’ve had to put in a full day at work, my husband steps in to make dinner and do laundry. If there’s a project at work that I’m just too stressed about, I solicit other perspectives. You should never feel guilty about asking for help!

Don’t Strive for Super Hero Status

It’s easy to set ridiculously high standards for yourself and feel defeated when you fall short. There are going to be days when you accomplish more than what you had expected, and days where you feel like you’ve only added to your list rather than complete it. It’s okay to have those days. It certainly doesn’t make you a failure, it makes you human! So set goals, work your butt off, and keep trying.

 

 

Stephanie Wotachek – The Double Dubs

We have reclaimed barn wood that would have otherwise been destroyed and given it new purpose.  Through our artwork, we are able to share a piece of our family’s history with others.

Keeping Up the Momentum of the New Year

momentum

Last time I visited Handmade Success, I wanted to know: What’s the reason behind all that you do? In other words, what are the desires that drive your passions in life? And how can you incorporate those desires into your everyday activities for a more fulfilling career?

If you’re anything like me, you’ve kicked off 2014 with (1.) a list of goals you would like to accomplish, and (2.) an energetic inner-restlessness so powerful, it’s practically palpable to the people around you.

There’s danger in such an energetic kick-start; it can sometimes lead to a crash and burn by the time February rolls around. Maybe you haven’t seen the recognition you want or you’re not feeling the accomplishment you crave. Perhaps you’re wondering when you’re going to finally reap the reward from all your hard work.

It’s during slow periods, these months just following high-selling holidays and excited goal-setting, that you have to actively build your next big wins. Here’s where to start …

Do more of what works.

This is a huge issue for creatives everywhere, and I’m one of them. I often talk about how your creative business lives in your mind: when you’re doing well, that’s in your mind. When you’re not doing well, that’s in your mind, too! A lot of times we tell ourselves what’s going to happen with the project we’re working on. “This product’s going to fly off my virtual shelves! I better make 50.” Or, “This book is going to launch my creative career.”

When reality strikes, and that product you have 50 of doesn’t move or that book you wrote only sells a handful of copies … well, then what?

Over the summer, I created a new wrap bracelet that seemed so trendy and fresh. I made the design for my husband, children, and some friends to rave reviews. For all of us who had one, we never wanted to take it off.

In anticipation of this new design selling like hotcakes, I spent several hours making a large stock before listing it in the Energy Shop. They never sold. Not even one. New designs are always worth a shot, but I shouldn’t have invested all of the material and labor until I had proof that my customers would love the design as much as I did.

A well-planned business is one that prioritizes what has already been proven to work. It’s fabulous to experiment with new designs and keep things fresh and exciting for both you and your customers. However, be sure you’re doing a lot more of what you know already works and brings in income.

If you’re not bringing in income, that means you simply haven’t found what works yet. Therefore, don’t invest all your time doing what you’ve been doing! It’s time to try new things and change up what you have to offer.

Plan multiple projects in advance

In other words, have a list of what projects you’ll start next. For example, on my professional to-do list, I’m writing a second e-program, a book, and stocking the Energy Shop.

When you finish a big project, you will feel an impulse to watch it to see what happens for days (or weeks). It’s natural to do so, but you’ll have to fight that tendency and knowing what to work on next will be your best battle plan against it.

It’s good to know which projects you’ll do next because …

There will be burn-out

Flashback to December. I was hosting a sale at the Energy Shop, and there were about twenty new orders to ship; several of them contained custom sizes that needed to be made that morning. I took the task on first thing to make sure it went out in that day’s mail, and by the time I finished, it was 11:45 AM. I needed to eat lunch, do hair and makeup, and prep my office for a live video webinar with Tim Adam at 2 PM.

The webinar ended well, but by 3:30 PM, I was spent … and my family was ready for dinner. I had a budget-friendly, made-from-scratch meal planned. However, every cell in my body said “NO” to more work in the kitchen, and I declared dinner (and a watermelon margarita) out.

The moral of the story is that each of us has a limited, but renewable reserve of will-power. Your self-discipline reservoir can be depleted, and once it’s spent, it needs time to refill. You’ll notice it after an uber-productive day.

Don’t you love it when you wake up and, all day long, you just can’t BELIEVE how much you’re getting done? You go to bed feeling like a boss, and if it’s Monday, you start daydreaming about all the work you’ll get done that week. When you wake up the next day, you feel like a slug nestled underneath a rock. Nothing gets done.

As human beings, that is our nature. I have a will-power-hack in that I can quit writing and go “play with beads.” After two weeks of pushing through the editing and organizing of a big writing project, making bracelets feels like a vacation! I’m still getting work done, but I’m able to ride the waves of my willpower reservoir a little longer.

How might you mix in your favorite parts of the job when your willpower reservoir runs low?

Heading into spring, bring awareness to your natural energy cycles. Simultaneously honor and challenge them. Each time you push past that point of resistance and procrastination, your willpower reservoir grows larger. Here’s wishing you the stamina and focus to make your dreams come true!

lisawashi

 Lisa Jacobs — Marketing Creativity

Lisa Jacobs writes Marketing Creativity for fellow creative spirits who aim to build a career with their own two hands. She leads group webinar programs and offers one-on-one coaching designed to help you get paid to be … you.