As entrepreneurs, we have so many ideas swirling around our heads. New ideas for products, marketing ideas, new business launches and the list goes on and on.
How do we make sure we focus enough on an idea to see if it’s viable, make a plan to carry it out and then ensure it’s a success.
After many hard-won years of trying new things in my business, I’ve unlocked one of the secrets.
Do things one at a time, not all at once.
Consecutive not Concurrent.
Seems like a really simple and almost ‘duh’ kinda realisation but I’m telling you now: it’s often the simplest things that we fail to see or forget when we’re knee deep in our business planning.
I have started so many things in the past that haven’t really had the legs because I tried to do them alongside another huge project or business and then ultimately ran out of time.
So how do you decide what you should focus your time on?
Follow these three easy steps to make sure you actually get things done and don’t use up all your energy trying to do things all at once
1. Write them down
You’re afraid if you don’t start on your new idea right away, you’ll forget it.
Simple solution: write it down.
Use a project planning site like Trello or a just piece of paper and a pen: it doesn’t matter as long as you have it to refer back to.
2. Plan them out
Make yourself a list of questions which will help you to decide whether this idea is going to be good for your business.
e.g. Does this fit with my business plan? Am I at the right stage of my business to add this dimension? What is the real reason I want to enact this plan/idea? Is this financially viable (write a small budget)? etc.
Then, once you’ve written a few of these plans and you have a few ideas which you want to get started on, decide which one to do first.
Consecutive not Concurrent.
3. Put them in your calendar
Now that you know what you want to do first, plot out how long it’s going to take you.
e.g. If it’s new product, how long will it take you to design, develop, make, photograph, market and list in your store
Then do this for the other ideas you have and plot them into your calendar along with milestones you want to reach along the way.
Then you’re all set to get started on your new idea without feeling like you’re neglecting all your other great ideas.
Having a planning day away from your creative space is such a great idea if you’re going to undertake this activity. I can’t recommend enough finding a Library, cafe or other free space to sit and think about these things without the distraction of home and work.
Have you got a story to tell where you took on too many things? Tell me below!
I know it’s only the end of August, BUT – for those of us in handmade business, the time to start thinking about the holidays and Christmas sales is now. Why? Because it takes a lot of time to get prepared for the (hopeful) Christmas rush, and by getting ready early, we can ensure we’re organised, stocked up, and don’t miss any potential opportunities.
No matter how many years you’ve been in business, it is worth setting aside a bit of time around the beginning of September to plan your holiday strategy. How? Well, that’s exactly what I’ve got for you today. I’ve created a checklist of the most important tasks and steps to take in order to have your best Christmas sales season yet.
Sound good? Right on, let’s do this!
Quotes and highlights from this Episode:
I reckon the downloadable checklist is enough for you to be getting on with this week – so download the image and/or the pdf printable version below! I go into a lot more detail about each step in the podcast (including sharing a few stories where I got these things VERY wrong and learnt my lesson the hard way).
Please feel free to share the image of the checklist below wherever you’d like – Pin it; share it on Facebook, twitter, or Instagram; email it to a friend; print it out and stick it on the noticeboard at your local craft shop or cafe – whatever! – and help other makers get prepared for their own holiday sales.
To get a FREE downloadable PDF of the checklist, just enter your email below!
This download is available as part of my #HandmadeBusinessToolkit – which is packed full of free resources (ebooks, downloadables, and guides) that will help you grow a thriving handmade biz.
The Handmade Business Toolkit is available for absolutely FREE to my C&T email subscribers.
If you’re already a subscriber, check your inbox for the most recent email I sent you – the password for access is inside!
If you’re not already subscribed, just pop your email in the box above and click ‘yes please’ to get access to the #HandmadeBusinessToolkit for absolutely free!
So, you’ve decided to do your first market, or perhaps you’ve done a few and are struggling a little with your setup.
Here are some things I’ve learnt over the past 6 years to make the lead up to a market and your setup time easy and fun.
Setting up your table a couple of days before your market will not only make your setup time quicker and easier, it will also allow you to play around with how best to exhibit your products, give you time to work on your display, and allow you to setup with confidence and joy on the big day.
Set up just as you would for the market. If it’s a night market and you need lighting, set up at night and use your lights to ensure they highlight your work in a way that will draw customers to your stall.
If you’ll be in a marquee set up in one or if you don’t have one, measure out the space so you can get a feel for your table layout.
Most markets rely to some degree on the fan bases of their stall-holders to drive customers to the event so make sure you promote your market dates to your customers and followers and in your e-newsletter if you have one.
Packed and Ready
Packing your items and display pieces to take to market takes practice but having them packed neatly and concisely will make it easier to travel from your car to your stall site and to unpack quickly.
Plastic boxes of various sizes are the most common way to pack your pieces if they are small. Use bubblewrap for fragile items, you can use it again to wrap them when they sell.
If you sell clothes, you can set up a hanging rail in the back of your car so you can transport them to market without them getting crushed.
Buy or borrow a flatbed trolley and straps to keep boxes secure (you can get them both cheaply from lots of places and they truly are worth it).
You don’t need expensive display items to show your work off.
Creating height and balance to your stall can be achieved through using wooden crates or boxes or wrapping and painting cardboard boxes.
Look around your house and see what you can use to create a memorable display.
Op shops are also a great source of display items and if you’re handy or got someone handy in your life, making bits and pieces for your display is not only satisfying but makes sure it’s the perfect size and fit for your products. Remember that you’re creating a mini shopfront so make it inviting with business cards in a prominent place.
Always make it bit more than you think you’ll need and be prepared with pen and paper to take any custom orders that might come along on the day if your business works that way.
Sometimes customers don’t like to ask the price so make sure everything on display in your stall is priced in a discreet yet clear manner.
Ensure that your items are priced clearly and that your table is not overcrowded.
Price points are an absolute must so be prepared with entry (impulse), mid (affordable and the bulk of your sales) and high-end (draws people in) priced products to attract a range of customers and encourage repeat custom.
Essentials for Market Day
It’s easy to stay up late the night before a market whizzing up last minute bits and pieces but it’s to your advantage to give yourself a cut-off point where you stop making, get your car packed and rest up for the big day or night ahead.
Wear your product if it’s appropriate and make sure to choose comfortable clothes and shoes suitable to the weather and your style
Have some healthy and wholesome snacks with you as well as lots of water
Pack a mini first-aid kit with some band-aids, pain relief, hair bands, safety pins, sunscreen etc in case of emergencies
Make sure you’ve got bags/packaging for your customers to take your products home in
Be sure to take business cards along so your customers can find you again!
Have a newsletter signup sheet so people who are interested with your work can keep up to date with what you’re making
And last but definitely not least, be inviting, courteous and gracious and most of all have heaps of fun!
I’ve been feeling a little bit guilty lately that I’ve let things get away from me with my business and my life.
About 3 months ago I had everything stable and in a great routine.
I was working two days a week on my passion projects, the local Community Centre, as well as being the Assistant Editor here at Create & Thrive.
I was getting my recently re-branded soap business This Soap Smells Good up and running from home and my mini-store, Handmade High Street (HHSt) at Southside Antiques where I work one day a week while I look after their website and social media.
I was also running 4 creative workshops a month which go hand in hand both the Community Centre and HHSt.
Plus, on the back-burner I had a few other little projects which I’d been dabbling in including a market which I organise twice a year for traders in my local neighbourhood
My plate is full.
But it doesn’t feel full most of the time because I’m used to it and I have a pretty strict routine which helps me to keep all the balls in the air.
We live in sunny Brisbane and my husband worked at the local Children’s Hospital which was only 4 minutes drive away and we had one car, our little house and two rascally pups.
I also almost started a Graduate Certificate at University this Semester but I have now deferred until 2016.
Recently, husband has started a 6 month stint at a hospital around 1.5 hours away from our home and we have moved part-time to my family’s house which is close by. (It does mean that I will have to do that 1.5 hour journey once a week for my Centre job but it’s not so bad).
He has also started studying again so he’s going to need my help to get his work done and that piece of paper signed off at the end of it all.
Now I can feel those juggling balls slipping out of my fingers: I feel like I am trying to grip each too tightly, not giving me enough time to catch the next one in line.
I looked at the list of things which I am responsible for and I had a sudden realisation:
I’ve lost my focus.
I’m a ‘yes’ person. I love to do more, try everything, never say no!
But in reality, consecutive rather than concurrent will give each project, task or job more clarity and will ultimately make you feel more accomplished and on the path upwards rather than in the wiggly track I’ve found myself on.
So here’s my tips for getting your focus back if you’ve got yourself into the bother that I have and need to streamline your business and life… and even cull some of the extraneous tasks or jobs to help you have a better work/life balance.
1. Write down every project, responsibility and job you currently have
Make sure you write down everything.
Don’t leave something off to make your list look easier or more achievable, that’s cheating yourself and you’ll lose clarity.
Here’s mine as an example: believe it or not, there used to be more on it.
Fundraising and Grants Portfolio
Town Hall Meetings and Annerley Support Meetings
Annerley Junction Traders Association Markets
Create & Thrive
The Thriver Circle
This Soap Smells Good
Handmade High Street Mini Store
Southside Antiques (media and marketing)
Grad Cert Community Development
Look after Husband when he’s working long shifts and studying
Look after two dogs
Keep the house tidy and household happy
Look after me
You can’t focus without specifics so it would be a good idea at this point to drill down on each of these jobs and projects with individual tasks and the time it takes you on average each week to achieve them.
Breaking things down into smaller parts makes it clearer how much time and energy they are taking up in your day.
I’m not going to bore you with mine – we might be here all day!
2. Decide what can go and what must stay
What’s the bigger picture here? What do you want to get out of your business and how will that balance with your life?
After writing that list I realised something really important.
Look where I put the words ‘Look after me.‘
There I am, right down there at the very bottom.
We’ve talked about self-care many times on this blog and I’ve realised that I’ve slipped out of the routine of looking after myself.
Also, where can I fit in my ‘useful distractions’? Things like hanging out with my friends and going out to dinner with my husband are important for overall happiness in my life.
Now, it’s time to decide what’s going to stay on that list and what’s got to go.
You’ll know what needs to stay and I bet you can look at my list and make the same decisions I would. Some things are so important that you can’t take them off the list – I can’t just stop looking after my dogs, my husband and myself can I!?
But there are going to be some things on that list that you’ll realise straight away are time-eaters or might be able to be postponed to a time when they are more achievable.
What can you put on the back-burner for while? Or maybe get rid of completely?
3. Make a Pros and Cons list for the things you’re not sure about
I have been thinking about some of my roles for a while and I just can’t seem to make a decision about whether or not I should keep going with some of them.
The important part here is getting out all your emotional, practical and logistical thoughts about each project or job and thinking critically about whether you want to do it, should do it or can do it… or not!
If you’re really into analysing your data, there’s a great post here about how to write an amazing Pros and Cons list.
After you have made your list for each task, really think about it with your heart – can you bear to let it go? Are you really invested in it?
If you feel like you can let go, it’s time to make a move on culling those things in your life which just aren’t working for you – at the moment.
You might find some of them can be left on the back-burner whereas others are now-or-never kinds of projects and roles. Make sure you take this into consideration.
4. Start a calendar and plug in times for each project, job or task
Take a break and make sure that all sits well with you. It’s a really tough thing to do but finding Focus takes… well… focus!
Now is the time I start looking at my time and a calendar is a really great place to start.
I looked at all the tasks I wrote and ‘drilled down’ on in the first place and see how much time each one of them takes.
I use Google Calendar but you could just as easily use a paper calendar or make one yourself.
First thing I have done is lock out Saturday and Sunday. I don’t want to work on weekends and that’s part of the reason I own my own business and have such a flexible work situation.
I want time off with family and friends on the weekend when everyone else is free.
Then I have slotted in things which have set hours so that I know those times are booked out and I can’t schedule other tasks there.
I also have multiple Google calendars so I can turn them on and off if I’m taking a holiday or having a break from one of my projects or jobs for a week or two. Plus I can see them all on my phone when I’m not near the computer.
When and how do you do your best work? Make sure you’re slotting things into your calendar at times and in timeframes that will allow you to give the best output.
You might realise after slotting everything into your calendar that it’s still a bit cramped.
5. Streamline each Project or Job
Go back to the beginning of this list and see all the jobs and projects you now have on your plate after your cull.
Look at the tasks that go along with each one: where you ‘drilled down’ and elaborated on each job.
Are there things which you are doing which might be able to be dropped or at least put aside for now?
What can you outsource or get help on?
Can you take a little extra time now to work on streamlining a process which will save you time in the longrun?
Could you ask someone in the same industry to help you find a quicker way to get a task done?
You could also do the exact same process we went through with your Pros and Cons earlier but on a deeper level of your list.
Once you have streamlined these tasks, you can rethink how much time you spend on each job or project and help you to prioritise time into your calendar.
6. Review, review, review
Now you have taken a step towards a more focused life and business, you can sit back and ride the wave of success.
You’ll need to keep an eye on your jobs and projects within your business and other aspects of your life or things can have a habit of creeping up on you.
This is exactly what has happened to me!
If you feel like things are becoming too much, you can’t keep all the balls in the air or you’re simply not getting enough ‘me time’, take a deep breath, and start from the beginning of this post again.
I feel much more secure now I have really thought through all my roles in life and made decisions which will make me happier and healthier in body and mind.
I knew that an End of Workday Routine was exactly what I needed to round out my new organisational tasks which I have added to my day over the last four weeks.It seemed like a no-brainer and it truly was something I had obviously been needing to switch my brain off ‘work mode’ and into ‘relaxation mode’.
You know how I realised that all this stuff was working? I started crocheting again. Just for pleasure and to wind down at the end of the day. I haven’t done that in over a year!
I make candles and soaps in my business and I now really love that aspect of my biz. I used to crochet before I started my jewellery business back in 2010 and then I just started to do less and less of it once I was ‘creating’ as my business. I now am a crochet teacher too and I really enjoy showing others these skills.
I owned a retail store where I stocked 150 artisans but also made my own stock (jewellery then candles and soaps) and when I would get home from work, I sat on the computer fixing the website, replying to emails, adding stock to my online store, organising my social media etc. And when I was finished there, in a daze I would go to bed and get up and do it again the next day.
My retail business was a success but I completely worked myself into a state of anxiety and lethargy – what a terrible combination!
If I had thought to sit down for a few days and really think about my organisational strategy, I feel like things could have been easier and I would have been a little less stressed. If I had my Morning Dump Sheet to wake up with and then a Daily Schedule to get all my jobs done, I might not have needed to come home and work for so long.
Adding the Marketing Calendar would have meant that I wasn’t scrambling to order my Mother’s Day stock a month before the event.
Then the End of Workday Routine would have meant I could switch off, get out my crochet and enjoy the evening.
Guess what. It’s not too late for me to do that now! I don’t have the retail store anymore (which is due to needing the flexibility to travel with my husband’s job) but I can implement these techniques into my candles and soaps business and avoid falling into the same trap for the future.
I am really thankful to have had the opportunity to work through these organisational tools and add them to my work day. Writing through my experience has also been wonderful and has helped me to figure out what’s right for me.
Here’s a copy of my own End of Workday routine again which you can either print out and use or use as inspiration to make you own.
I highly recommend trying out any of the above techniques in your own business! Let me know if you have used any of these and if they’ve worked for you below.