Last year, I worked 14 hours a day, 7 days a week.
Let that sink in. 14 hours a day! That’s almost double the normal work day. And I was only bringing in around $30,000 a year!!! That is NOT sustainable. Nor is it acceptable. It should make you mad. Honestly, I hope that those numbers make you mad. If you’re going to work 14 hours a day, you should be bringing in what a Google worker brings in, which has to be around $300,000+ a year.
So this year I realized that enough was enough. Working myself to the bone everyday was not making me the money I wanted. Obviously I couldn’t work any MORE (unless I had some sort of super powers or hired help) so I had to work smarter.
Part of that working smarter for me means taking a small vacation every day. That small vacation takes place at 9pm. Now, that may seem late to you but last year I was working well until 10:30 or 11pm. Thus I worked from the time I got up at 6am until 11pm when I crashed into bed. Now I stop at 9pm. No matter what I’m doing, the computer gets turned off.
That last hour or two each night before I go to bed are now spent playing games with my partner, reading a book for fun, watching a movie, or just sleeping. It’s the perfect way to end every day and it’s had incredible results in my business so far.
At the end of this month, I’m on track to make the same amount as I did last year at this point.
Now, you might say that I didn’t make much of an improvement since I’m not making any more money but I’d like to point out that I’m working 1.5 to 2 hours less EVERY day. So, really, I’m working smarter in those 12 odd hours that I now work each day.
The best part is that you yourself can easily take this same type of vacation every day. Now, I can already hear your arguments but let me tell you something important. We have certain times of the day where we’re extremely productive and times we we get piddly done. Taking your vacation during those times when you would take an hour just to answer 3 emails doesn’t lose you any money or add to your to-do list. You simply shift the times when you do your work to get the most out of your super productive times. For me, as soon as the sun goes down, my motivation is shot and I can get lost on the local humane society pages looking for a cat for nearly an hour.
So when can you take a small vacation every day?
I think you’ll be surprised how a little me-time doesn’t hurt your business at all. In fact, it helps it.
Oh, and want to know something crazy? Starting July, I’m taking all of my Sundays off. No internet, no computer, just me, my partner, and adventure!
Over the last few years, I’ve taught, talked with, and watched many hundreds (perhaps even thousands!) of people who have the shared dream of turning their handmade hobby into a thriving business.
Unsurprisingly, they all share many positive things in common.
A passion for making something. A love of being creative. A drive to evolve. The desire to make real dollars from their craft.
All of those things are vital if you want to reach your goal.
That being said, I’ve also noticed commonalities in those who are struggling to move forward.
These are the people who dream the dream, but just can’t seem to turn it into a reality.
Sometimes, there are outside factors that hold us back, for sure.
But very often, these people are actually getting in their own way. They’re holding themselves back, or sabotaging their own success – and they might not even realise it.
I want to share 5 ways I see these people sabotaging themselves – because becoming aware of the issue is the first step towards moving beyond it.
1. Giving up too soon
Let’s just get this out of the way straight up. If you’re starting a handmade business expecting to be making a 5-6 figure profit in the first year – or even 3-5 years – please don’t bother.
Even those people who seem to be an ‘overnight success’ usually have many years of experience behind them – whether that’s years of doing their craft professionally (like an illustrator) or as a hobby.
Unless you are in the infinitesimal minority who have an absolutely brilliant, unique idea, AND know how to run a brilliant marketing/advertising campaign to get your brand off the ground, it is going to take YEARS before you’re making really decent money from your handmade business.
Obviously this will vary on umpteen factors, such as your cost of materials (for me, silver is pretty expensive and eats into my profits, but if you’re a graphic designer, you’ve probably got all the tools you already need, and you don’t buy ‘materials’ as such), the time you have to devote to your business, whether you have another job, and so on.
Too many times to count have I seen someone open an Etsy shop, chuck in 10 or so badly-lit, badly-photographed items, and then throw their hands in the air after a month because ‘they’re not making any sales’.
Of course you aren’t. You’re competing against other makers who have been not only honing their craft for years – they’ve been honing their branding, photography, marketing, etc.
You need to up your game.
Not only that – you need to go into this thing with patience and dedication.
If you’re not in it for the long haul, don’t start.
2. Focussing on the negative
The perfect place to see this in action is on the Etsy forums.
There is some great advice in there, but it’s more often than not buried amongst the masses who are moaning about some change Etsy has made that’s apparently caused their sales to suddenly cease. Well, honestly, I haven’t been in there for years apart from the very occasional and quick dip in, so maybe things have changed… but I’m guessing not. (Also, just a case in point – I’ve been selling on Etsy since 2008, and not once has a change they’ve made so far had any real noticeable impact on my sales. You know what has? Me – working on my photography, titles, tags, descriptions, marketing and customer service.)
This is just one example of how people are sabotaging themselves by focussing on the negative.
If you catch yourself doing this – stop.
No-one is responsible for the success or failure of your business but YOU.
Stop blaming, stop complaining, stop obsessing over your competitors, stop focussing on the negatives, and start focussing on the positives.
If you stumble across a product that looks suspiciously like yours… click away and forget about it – after all, how do you know you came up with the idea first? (Exact copies of art and photography obviously exempted here.)
If your venue makes a change you’re not happy with (for example, I disliked that Etsy moved from a 3-choice rating system to a 5-star system, but I never once thought of leaving) – either stick with it and see how it affects your business in the long term, or start building your own shop on your own dot com.
Don’t focus on the sales you don’t get – focus on making the customer experience for the sales you DO get absolutely fricking amazing so your customer raves to all their friends about how amazing you are and how gorgeous your product is.
Focus on how you can grow your business in the right direction. See every challenge as a way to grow and evolve.
3. Split focus
I’ve made this mistake myself – starting too many new things at once, and not being able to give any of them the attention they truly deserve because I’ve spread myself too thin.
It’s an oh-so-common pitfall amongst creative types, because we have so many ideas, and we get bored easily.
So, instead of starting that yoga clothing business… we start that, and a dog-walking business, and a web-design business, and maybe work as a barista on the side.
Which is, no doubt, fun and challenging… but there’s no way we’re going to give each and every one of those ventures the time and attention they need to grow truly successful if we’re trying to do them all at once.
Sales follow your focus.
That’s not to say you can’t do them all – just do them sequentially rather than simultaneously.
Give yourself a timeframe to focus on one only (say, 12-18 months) before you’re allowed to start a new venture.
Nick banned me from starting anything new in 2014, because of my habit of doing this very thing. (I jest… sort of… I banned myself, too).
Make sure, however, you’re not falling into the ‘giving up too soon’ trap I discussed earlier.
Give it true, 200% effort in the time you devote to getting a new business up and running.
4. Too much ‘research’ not enough action
You’ve done the courses. You’ve bought the ebooks. You’ve checked out every single related book from the local library.
You have all the theoretical knowledge… but you’re yet to do anything about it.
We’re bringing back our Small Successes post and this month we have so many amazing things to share with you! You may not have made the leap to full-time but you certainly have made some amazing small leaps. We want Create & Thrive to be a site that shares your successes no matter what step of your business you’re at. That’s why I’m so happy to let the celebration of small successes begin!
Katie Stack opened her first public studio and retail space! You can find it at Stitch & Rivet.
Jackie of Precious Beast got her first order from Hong Kong and sent three colorful made-to-order pieces to the buyer, a designer who is going to use them to display jewelry in her showroom.
Little Scamp Prints just crossed the 50 items mark in her etsy store…. a big achievement!
The Funky Chunks Soap Org picked up three new retailers last week, are a week ahead in our production schedule (first time ever!) and signed off on the final version of our their website.
Totally Design wrote that she, ‘Finally retired my old computer and bought a new one. This is the first big expense I’ve been able to cover with the money I’ve earned through my business! Yay for success!’
Charmed By Wine shared that she’s filling and shipping out he largest custom order this week.
Picot of Skyepiece got asked to design a small line of jewellery for a group of female, Ugandan co-op members of a non-profit organization to create.
I have to confess I work a lot. I work a lot of weekends, too (much less often in the spring and summer!) and since my husband and I own separate businesses it is hard to coordinate vacations, so we do not take them as often as we would like to. I know I need a break when:
I get cranky. People asking me to do things that make perfect sense for me to do annoy the hell out of me (“Can you turn out the light?” “ME?! Why don’t you turn out the light?” – even though the switch is 18 inches from my fingers and 18 feet from his).
I get spacey. I can’t remember the last 10 miles I drove, where I put the car keys I just had in my hand or why I walked into a room.
I get overwhelmed. Getting out of bed requires Herculean efforts, my to-do list is never ending , my bed feels like heaven at the end of the day – I start thinking I need new vitamins. Friends telling me about their amazing vacation makes me want to stick a fork in their eye (but just one of those little appetizer forks, I’m not a savage after all)!
These used to be my time out red flags. I have found the real secret sauce for happiness for me (and others within stabbing distance) is to avoid these red flags in the first place.
This has become much easier for me since I started working with the monthly phases of the moon.
In a never ending circle the moon cycles through her phases every month. We start with the New Moon – this is the time of darkness when the seeds are in the ground – this is the beginning that only feels like the beginning if we are paying attention. Then she waxes (grows larger) – the action is on accumulating and doing; this is the time to get to work. The waxing moon moves through its crescent, half-moon and gibbons stages over the next two weeks. To work with this energy, we just have to work. We plant the seeds, we water the seeds, we weed the garden.
Then the Full Moon shocks us by filling up the entire night sky – this is not an ending time – it is a peak energy time. This is the point where we give it our all - this is the point the waxing moon is building us toward. Then she wanes (grows smaller) – our energy will be receding. This is the time to start wrapping things up and letting go of things. This is the best time to declutter – this is still an action time but the action is on releasing. This is the time to transition from the peak energy of the full moon to the low energy of the new moon.
The Balsamic Moon (the final part of the waning moon – its crescent cycle – this is exactly the moon we drew with crayons as children – the skinny letter C) is the 3 1/2 days each month that I always mark into my calendar for a time out. These are the days just before the new moon when we are allied harmoniously with withdrawing. When I am absolutely forced to work during this period I have noticed an uneasy restlessness to everything I do – nothing flows right. Life is just not as supportive of physical action at this time.
This is an excellent time for reflection and dreaming. We turn our backs on the physical world. We turn inward. We rest.
Ways to use this moon:
1. Schedule your breaks at least 3 months in advance using the Farmer’s Almanac or Google. The Balsamic Moon is the last phase of the moon’s cycle just before the new moon. For example the next new moon in April is April 29th so I have scheduled my balsamic moon break for April 25-27th.
2. Don’t do anything you wouldn’t do if you were on vacation far away from your studio and office.
If you want to manifest anything into form during the approaching New Moon – use the Balsamic Moon days to their best advantage by not thinking or doing too much. You will be rewarded during the next cycle with amazing creativity and energy (and you will not lose any friends to fork injuries).