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.
If you want to turn your dream of having a successful online handmade business a reality, join us for Set Up Shop – a 30-day e-course where I take you step-by-step through everything you need to know to get a fabulous shop up and running smoothly. You’ll also join over 400 alumni in our private facebook group and gain invaluable support, friendship and understanding from those already turning their dream of having a handmade business into a reality!
If there’s one thing we all have in common, it’s that we want our creative business to thrive.
Of course making money is important – without it, we’re not a business! – but the thriving I’m talking about here is not focused solely on financial success. There is a much more true measure of our success available to us and it takes real guts to tap into running a business this way …
It also has to feel good.
In my many years as an Artist, I have gone from making artworks and products I thought others would want to see and buy; to making deeply personal, authentic and rich work from the heart that feels good and authentic to me. It makes sense to me that if I want people to deeply connect with my business offerings, I need to deeply connect with my needs first!
So in this post, I share some simple, creative tips to get our business work for us – all in ways that feel good on the inside and out.
Authentic-Feeling Business tip #1: Identify Your Resentment
Although we’d all like to focus only on the positives and avoid negative thinking in our businesses, sometimes we need to address the elephant in the room.
I recently read a great article about resentment being a sure-fire sign that we’re under-valuing ourselves with our pricing. But in my experience, resentment is a feeling we experience anytime we are not working towardswhat really lights us up inside.
For a long time, my handmade Art Prints range was very successful. But after becoming a mother, I began loathing the individual printing, packaging and posting for my orders, because it felt tedious and it took my away from my other new business ideas. That’s when I knew it was time to shift my focus.
Maybe we’re feeling resentful about our prices being too low. Maybe it’s about continuing to make a product line that sells well, but we no longer enjoy creating. Maybe it’s because we’re spending so much time on our business, that we’re neglecting our family and friends. Or maybe, we just need a holiday. All of the above have been true for me at some point.
Mini exercise #1: Getting Real with Resentment
Grab yourself a piece of paper and a pen. Take a few breaths to feel calm, then ask yourself: ‘What parts of my business do I feel resentful about?’ Be honest and thorough as you list these in dot-point form.
Once you’ve got yourself a little list, go through each one and ask, ‘How could it feel to let go of this in my business?’ Visualise yourself becoming free of this feeling. How does this feel? Jot down some words or symbols.
Last question … ‘What is one action I could take today, to help me let go and move into a better-feeling space about this issue?’
Sometimes, just knowing we’re working towards something can dissolve resentment almost immediately. We don’t have to solve the whole problem now, but we all have it within us to make one little step forward. That step forward might be anything from setting a due date for a long-term goal, to sending an email to a new supplier, to hiring a professional to do your accounting.
Authentic-Feeling Business tip #2: Who do you admire?
I read this amazing book recently, called Daring Adventures in Paint. In it, Mati Rose talks about finding her voice and how people she admires, help point her in the right direction.
Think about it. The people we admire, whether they are fellow entrepreneurs, celebrities, authors, organisations or even family and friends; are the kind of people we’d like ourselves to be. I’d like to take this one step further and say that the qualities we admire in others are the qualities we already hold ourselves – whether or not we’re aware of them!
For me, Flora Bowley’s self-expression, Oprah’s generosity and Marie Forleo’s playful nature, all strike a chord within me, because these are all aspects I value in others, myself and in my business.
Once we know where our values lie, it gets so much easier to make a business which feels good to us.
Mini exercise #2: My key business values
Draw a circle in the middle of your page.
Inside this circle, jot down at least five people and/or businesses you admire.
Around the outside, begin to list the qualities you admire about each one. Place these anywhere around the page.
Each time you notice the same quality emerge, place a tally mark next to that word. (e.g. three of your admired businesses are quirky or generous or eco-friendly – they’ll have extra tally marks)
Once you have exhausted your list, circle all the qualities you’ve listed more than once, PLUS the ones that stand out most strongly for you.
These circled qualities are your key business values!
When I did this exercise, many of the answers surprised me. I discovered I was much more awesome than I thought! I also unearthed some untapped key values for my business, such as philanthropy. So I introduced a yearly Art Auction, using all my surplus stock, to donate to my favourite cause the Fred Hollows Foundation. Last year alone I raised over $1000 in Artwork sales, got to feel great about myself, made loads of new customer connections and moved old stock all at the same time.
Our deep values truly rock and deserve to shine in our business!
Authentic-Feeling Business tip #3: Name your Biggest Dream!
I have left this one until last, because it is the juiciest and potentially, the scariest of them all. Because, if there’s one thing more scary than failure, it’s success!
Naming our biggest dreams out loud – in front of other people – not only brings it out of our heads and into the world, but it enables us to step into new possibilities.
Mini exercise #3: Share your awesome business dream!
Imagine you had absolutely all the money, all the time and all the self-love in the world to do ANYTHING with your business. What would it be? How far could you shine? How would it feel?
Leave a comment below and put this dream out there. You never know, one of your fellow readers might have a link, tip or connection to help you make this dream happen sooner than you thought!
Be sure to include your business website below, so people know how to contact you or share your link.
If you’re anything like me, you start a new year with an inner restlessness so intense that it’s practically palpable to the people around you.
You then take that intense energy burst and apply it toward every great idea you ever had, starting projects left and right.
Within a few months, your energy fizzles and most of your great ideas are left unrealised.
You worked so hard and used so much of that buzzing creative energy, but you have very little to show for it aside from the piles of unfinished business around you.
This was my pattern.
With every change of season, this energy seems to renew within me, and I used to burn the midnight fuel chasing multiple inspirations.
When we changed over to 2014, I realized my pattern … particularly the aftermath of unfinished business and burnout that left me feeling utterly unaccomplished.
I decided that I needed to temper my creative energy and give it boundaries so that it would last much longer and produce much more.
This may seem paradoxical to the issue, but in order to produce more, I decided to reduce my working hours and work off a task list: a task list that was built to help me achieve my goals and get closer to my dreams.
I have a full-time, work-at-home creative career, but this idea can be applied to whatever number of hours you have to work on your business each week. I have a potential seven working hours every weekday (while my children are at school and the house is quiet). That’s thirty-five hours a week to myself.
Up until this year, I’ve tried to fill those thirty-five house with laser-focused production and an occasional day off here and there.
This approach to my work has produced epic failure, major burn-out and unhappiness.
I’ve given it some thought: I don’t know anybody who works a laser-focused eight-hour day without losing their marbles. And when I say laser-focused, that’s what I mean: I set the timer, the only task in front of me is the task at hand. No phone calls, no chit chat, no email checks or Facebook updates … just work that allows me to cross important things off my professional to-do list.
Most people go to work and take plenty of breaks, interact with their co-workers, and get up for a stroll. Meanwhile, I’m locked up alone in my house with work that needs to be done. That uber-strict regimen simply wasn’t working; it resulted in two weeks of production, four weeks of burn-out.
At the start of the year, I decided that I’m only going to work four hours per day, Monday through Friday, with two personal days and one family day scheduled each month. I’m also taking off the months of June, July, and most of August and December.
The reduced work-week is not only resulting in amazing accomplishments, it’s also helped me to complete personal unfinished business, lose some weight, stick to my budget better and eat healthier having so much more time to focus on my overall wellbeing.
What I’ve realized is this: Creative energy isn’t cheap; it’s quite costly on both the mind and spirit.
Most of what you do with your working hours requires great innovation. Your work involves less mundane tasks than you’d expect to complete during a typical 9-5 at a traditional job.
A creative career is full of new ideas that are taxing to manifest.
Having made the switch, I’m so excited for the end-year results; I can hardly wait to see how a year’s worth of harnessing my creative energy will work out.
I’ve just done my very first retreat – specifically, a yoga retreat.
I’ve been practising yoga at home consistently for a month or two, and I’ve done it off and on for 17 years, ever since my host family in Seattle when I was 15 took me along to a Kundalini yoga class.
I started to practice yoga daily recently because it made me feel good. I was having consistent shoulder, neck, and back issues related to my work (sitting at a desk, hammering, leaning over to examine jewellery pieces). Frankly, physio appointments get expensive, so I thought there must be a way for me to treat myself.
It’s been around the 2-month mark that I’ve been practicing daily, and it’s already making a huge difference. I expected and hoped for the increased strength, flexibility and ease in my body. I didn’t expect that I would begin to crave the physical challenge and mental space that yoga gives me.
Early last week, in order to deepen my understanding of yoga, I decided to search for yoga retreats near me, and found one, just 45 minutes drive away.
It was a fabulous experience, and I will be going on many more in future.
I had some epiphanies about my work, my life, and my mission. I believe you create your own purpose and meaning in life. You do what you feel called to do.
During a 2-hour restorative yoga session, my mind had the opportunity to really settle and open up to the deep thoughts that often get obscured by daily to-dos.
Sinking deep into yourself is for some of us a rare event – we so rarely have the space in our busy lives to stop and think.
I realised that my deep desire to make an impact on the world, to make a contribution – a difference – was something I was already doing.
It’s right here. It’s Create & Thrive. I reconnected to the reason I started this site in the first place.
I want to help you to find…
…the happiness and fulfilment in your work that I’ve found in mine.
…freedom of lifestyle and creative expression.
…the empowerment that comes with building a successful business out of nothing.
…the fulfilment of doing work you love and are proud of.
That is why I spend so many hours of my life writing about the lessons I’ve learnt. Sharing most of it for free here on this site.
It’s why when I do put a course or a guide together, I don’t charge the earth and moon for it. Most of you don’t have thousands of dollars to spend on a course. Many of you don’t even have a few hundred dollars spare.
I want to reach and help every person who needs what I have to share… while still making enough money to put food on my own table (and in my kitties’ bowls, of course.). But I don’t need a big fancy house or big fancy cars or designer clothes.
I don’t care about any of those things. I never have.
I live and work in a converted shed. In 2 rooms.
Nick and I have lived here for 5 years. To use the kitchen or bathroom we have to go outside and walk across a yard to my parent’s house next door. We have one car – a campervan. All our furniture is either second-hand, hand-me-down from family, or built by Nick.
And you know what? I’ve never been happier.
My entire life and business model is crafted around making quality things that I am proud of, of contributing joy, beauty, and knowledge to the world, while making enough money to live a comfortable life.
That’s it. I don’t care about being rich, because money doesn’t buy happiness. Once you have enough to put a roof over your head, food on your table, pay your bills, and a little bit to have fun with, it’s enough. Funnily enough, we could actually afford to buy a nice house with nice furniture if we wanted. But we don’t. We like our little home.
Happiness for me is waking up when I want. Being able to cuddle my cats whenever I want. Having lunch with my husband every day. Being close to my family. Deciding to blow off work for the morning to go to the beach. Deciding on a whim I’m going on a yoga retreat. Shutting my business down for 2 months to travel Canada and USA like we did last year.
The best thing, the thing I value most? Waking up each day knowing I am the director of my life and work. No-one is telling me what to do.
My own happiness comes from freedom, the time to spend with people and creatures I love, and the feeling that I’m helping others to live a happier life of their own.
Why am I telling you all this?
Because I realised this weekend that my mission isn’t just to teach the business and money-making part of helping you grow your own creative business. It’s deeper than that.
It’s about helping you THRIVE in your life as a whole.
Another thing about the yoga retreat? It was a women’s retreat. We spent a lot of time talking about what it means to live as a woman in this time and place. The opportunities, the challenges. And a common thread? That women still struggle to care for themselves.
We so often throw ourselves into our work and end up burning out because we forget to take care of ourselves along the way. We’re so busy taking care of our family, our customers, our friends… that our ‘I’ gets lost in the process.
I’ve been on this self-care journey myself for a few years since hitting a wall and burning out a few years back when I was working 16-hour days to get my business off the ground.
I have tried a LOT of different types of self-care. Yoga is just one of them. I also do other forms of exercise. I meditate. I get massages. I read things that entertain me and make me happy. I walk. I teach. I breathe deeply… everyone has their own way of caring for themselves. But some of us still haven’t found what works for us.
I’m still on the journey myself – but I want to share what I’ve learnt. To teach what I know works. That’s what C&T is all about, after all. Learning from those who’ve done what you want to do, successfully.
I have been dreaming of creating an e-course that takes creative, entrepreneurial women on a month-long self-care journey together. Guiding the group through the process of finding what self-care activities work for YOU and your lifestyle. The things that help you open up, lean in, and power through – to build the business you dream of to support the life you want to live.
Of course – you know me – it will be chock-full of practical, down-to-earth exercises and experiences that have proven efficacy. Nothing woo-woo. I’m not big on woo-woo 😉
Taking care of YOU means you’ll have the energy and passion to do your BEST work – and maintain it in the long term.
So, what I want to ask you is this:
Is a course like that something you feel calls to you – something you NEED to do?
If so, please share in the comments.
I create courses and guides based on what YOU need. So, as much as I feel called to create this course, it’s not something I’m going to pour myself into unless you tell me it’s something you need.