5 Ways You’re Sabotaging Your Own Success





5 Ways You're Sabotaging Your Own Success

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.

You know I am a HUGE proponent of consistent investment in your own education – both personal and professional. I teach courses, I write ebooks.

That said… there is definitely such a thing as too much research.

There comes a point where you just have to take the leap.

Stop planning and start doing.

Yes, you will fail and fall down.

Yes, you’ll make an embarrassing mistake (or 20).

Yes, you’ll undercharge on postage at least once. Badly.

But until you actually step into the arena and start failing and succeeding, you’ll never make real progress.


5. Waiting for perfection

This is closely linked to number 4. Too often, people hang back from taking action because of fear.

They’re afraid of not being perfect. Of not having a perfect product, or perfect packaging, or perfect photography.

Nothing is ever perfect.

Get it to the stage of ‘pretty darn awesome’ and get it out into the world.

You can evolve. You can work on it, you can make it better.

Don’t hide your light from the world – let it shine.


Now it’s over to you – do you recognise any of these traits in yourself? What are you going to do about it?


Image source: Elisabetta Foco


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!

Click here to find out more…

Set Up Shop Registration CLOSES Today!




Set Up Shop Registration closes

Just a super-quick reminder that registration for Set Up Shop closes today!


I’m so excited – we’ve got an amazing bunch of creative, passionate people signed up for the Feb class (somewhere around the 80 mark as I write this) so there’s going to be a lot of support, encouragement, and awesomeness going on in the private course Facebook group as we all work through the 30 days of lessons together!

See you there?

Register now.

Jess xx

P.S. Registration closes tonight (Thursday) at 9pm AEST. What time is that where you are? Well, in New York it’s Thursday at 6am, in London it’s Thursday 11am, in Mumbai it’s Thursday 4:30pm. Don’t say you didn’t know! 😉 

P.P.S. That photo is me standing on snow for the second time I remember in my whole life in Whistler, Canada. The English and Canadians were shaking their heads at this Aussie’s insane enthusiasm for dirty snow… But… SNOW!!!

Handmade Business is Hard Work






Handmade Business is Hard Work - Create & Thrive

I’m going to lay some truth on you all today.

Handmade business is hard work.

Building a successful handmade business that actually makes you a decent income? Seems darn near impossible.

But take it from me – it’s not. It DOES takes a long time and it IS a lot of work. There are no shortcuts. No-one can figure it out for you. No-one can give you a bullet-proof method for success.

And if anyone tells you differently? They’re probably trying to sell you a ‘miracle cure’.

Many of us start out – just like I did – selling stuff simply because we make more than we can ever use or give to family and friends. We never really thought this would turn into a business – but it started to evolve that way when we realised that we could actually make some real dollars from our craft.

Then we start trying to figure out how to sell more – and fall into the overwhelming and bewildering world of photography, keywords, blogging, social media,  venues, mailing lists, marketing, SEO, lions, tigers, and bears – oh my!

There’s an endless wealth of things to learn out there. The hard part is choosing what to implement, and what to ignore. You could spend your entire life learning about business and not one moment actually DOING business, and still not know all there is to know.

When I talk on this topic, I often say that when you’re starting out, you need to spend 80-90% of your time on the business side of things, and the small remainder on the actual making.

No, I’m not kidding (I know what your face might look like right now because I’ve seen my audience respond to this!).

When you’re starting out, there’s no point putting more time into making more and more products if 1. You’re not making the right things, and 2. No-one is actually SEEING them.

So, how do you make sure you’re making the right things, and creating a brand, presence, and shop that actually brings people in the virtual door – and has them walking out again having bought one of your beautiful creations?

You learn from those who are doing it right.

This is the entire philosophy behind Create & Thrive. Learning from those who’ve actually done it. Because they’ve learnt the hard way – through years of trial and error… and success.

It reminds me a bit of this cartoon, just insert the word ‘business’:


Someone who’s a few mountains ahead of you can shout back to you and warn you about that unexpected lake or storm – because they’ve already been through it. They can have a boat or bridge waiting for you to carry you across the chasm.

That’s how I learnt. And it took me YEARS to get it (somewhat) right.


2014 is my 7th year in business. Whoa! And my 5th year full-time. I don’t know it all – and I never will.

But I know enough to have built an online handmade jewellery business that brings in an average of $6,000-$7,000 in sales every month.

And what I’ve learnt about the fundamentals of getting an online shop set up – and set up right –  I’m sharing with you in Set Up Shop. Because I want every creative entrepreneur to build the business of their dreams – sooner rather than later. It’s my way of holding out my hand to help you across the chasm.

Hold on tight, and let’s get started.


Jess xx



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!

Click here to find out more…

Cartoon by the Doghouse Diaries.

I’m Taking a Digital Sabbatical – I’ll be Offline Oct 3rd to 8th…


I’ve been thinking about doing a digital sabbatical for a long time now.

Even when I have time off from the jewellery business (such as our #USACAN2013 trip this year), I still stay connected. I still work – checking email, running this blog, staying on top of social media.

I have a desktop, a laptop, a tablet, and a smartphone. Seems a bit crazy when I lay that all out there, but I use them all (except maybe the laptop) every single day. Oh, and I have a kindle for the sole purpose of reading novels, too.

I’m betting you’re in pretty much the same boat, am I right?

I find myself thinking in tweets. No joke!

Or, perhaps I should say that when I have an interesting thought, my first instinct is to think ‘how can I say that in a tweet’.

Not that that’s a bad thing, necessarily… but the idea of being disconnected from twitter et al for a period of time appeals to a part of me – the part that remembers what life was like BEFORE the internet. Before Google, smartphones, tablets, instagram etc etc.

Don’t get me wrong – you all know how much I love the internet, blogging, and social media. Heck, I wouldn’t have the life I have now without them. They are ESSENTIAL to my business and my life.

But I yearn to live once again as if none of that connection existed – even if it’s only for a few days – because I’m curious as to how I will feel and think without the trappings of digital connection.

So, this October, I’m taking a 6 day digital sabbatical.

I’ll be completely offline from Thursday the 3rd of October to Tuesday the 8th. It’s a short time, but I hope it’s long enough to reap some benefits.

I’m combining it with a trip away – I think it will be MUCH easier to maintain if I’m in a new environment, busy doing things, rather than sat at home. I’m also doing it over a weekend as most of us tend to ramp down our work/social media on the weekend, so it won’t be such a stretch.

My oldest and dearest friend and I started a tradition last year – we call it our Dream Date – where she and I go away together for a long weekend to natter, chill out, drink a cocktail (or four) and just spend some good-old-fashioned face-to-face time that we don’t get anymore, now that we live in different cities.

So, instead of reaching for my phone, I’ll be out and about – and if thoughts come, I’ll be reaching for my moleskine instead.

I won’t lie – I’m a little trepidatious about this! I think connection has become such a routine, ingrained part of my life that I’ll struggle being without it. I’m sure I’ll find myself reaching for my phone on numerous occasions.

I also have a grand dream that the mental space I’ll reclaim during this time will result in amazing ideas and schemes for the months and years ahead… but I’m trying to go into this without any goals or expectations. Rather, it’s an experiment, and only by doing it will I know what the result will be.

So, I’ll be leaving my laptop behind, switching off the data on my phone, and attempting to live in the moment… unplugged.

I shall report back and let you know how I go!

If you are one of my October Set Up Shop students, you’re going to be in the capable hands of my very lovely assistant Megan Eckman. You can email her – megan@createandthrive.com if you have any questions/issues as the course progresses.

Ditto for any other urgent issues – please shoot Megan an email and she’ll do her best to help you out in my absence.

Things will be ticking along as per normal here – we’ve got some great posts scheduled up, and Megan will be sharing great stuff on FB in my absence, too!

If you’ve done a digital sabbatical, I’d love to know how it went for you, please share in the comments below!


For further reading on the subject, here are a few great posts around the interwebs:

How to Avoid Burnout and Take a Digital Break

The Importance of Unplugging

A Beginner’s Mind: Insights from my Digital Sabbatical

Screen Time: The Place to ‘Connect’?

40 Ways to Give Yourself a Break

Due to Demand… Set Up Shop is running in October!

do you want to take Set Up Shop in October?

So… I wasn’t planning on running Set Up Shop again until February next year.

However… quite a number of you have emailed/messaged/tweeted me and asked that I please, please run it again this year. After asking over on the C&T Facebook page, I have to give it to the power of the people, because…

You convinced me.

Set Up Shop is going to run one final time in 2013 – October 1st to 30th.

If you’re at the ‘thinking about it stage’ or the ‘have a shop but it’s not up to scratch’ stage… or, even the ‘have a shop but want to spruce it up and get it in tip-top-shape before Christmas’ stage… then Set Up Shop is for YOU.

If you’re new round these ‘ere parts, and don’t know what Set Up Shop is, click here to find out, and just hit reply if you have any questions at all!

I’m really looking forward to guiding a new group of fabulous Thrivers through the course – every time I run it I have people who come out the other side with completely revolutionised shops – and businesses – so I’m super-excited to see what the final 2013 cohort has up their sleeves!

Will you be joining us? Click here to register now!

Jess xx

P.S. Here are some fun pics for you to use if you want to spread the #SetUpShop word!

1-are your handmade goods piling up in your online shop because noones buying
1-do you want your handmade shop to stand out

1-does your handmade shop have that little something unique

1-does your handmade shop make people want to reach out and touch

1-is your handmade shop trapped in the ordinary box

1-when it comes to your handmade shop, do you have all your ducks in a row

P.P.S. If you’re wondering what AWESOME shop I took all these photos in… the answer, my friends, is Loopy Mango in SoHo, NYC. BEST SHOP EVER.

P.P.P.S. Have you signed up yet?

Pin It on Pinterest