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How to Know When You’re Ready to Get Help

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As makers, we’re all pros at DIY when it comes to our product but that mindset of “I can do it all myself” needs to be altered when it comes to our business.

You know how it’s better to be a master of one trade than a jack of all of them?  It’s true when it comes to running your business as well.  You only have so much time in the day and if you have to divide it between making, answering emails, writing blog posts, packaging, shipping, tweeting, and a hundred other things, you hardly make any headway in your business.

You spend so much time dealing with the issues of right now that you can’t make any moves for the future.

And guess what, it’s only by looking ahead that you can expand your business and its profits.

I know it’s hard for you to even THINK about letting someone else take over some of your tasks.  Little voices pop into your head telling you things like:

  • “They won’t connect with my customers like I do.”

  • “They can’t package as well as me.”

  • “They’ll learn all of my secrets.”

  • “I can’t afford an assistant.”

I hope those all sound a bit silly to you too but let’s tackle them some more.

 

“They won’t connect with my customers like I do.”

If you’re worried about letting someone else answer your general work emails, think of this: What do your customers truly value from your business?  I would put big odds on it being the thought and effort you put into your product and NOT your name at the bottom of your emails.  Having someone take care of general emails frees up a ton of time and your customers will see you as a truly thriving business.  For example, when you contact Kari Chapin, the awesome writer of Handmade Marketplace, you don’t expect her to answer.  She’s too busy collecting stories and advice for her next book!

 

“They can’t package as well as me.”

Unless you compete in those holiday wrapping contests, it’s not too hard to train someone to package (and mail) your products.  I’m also betting you’d rather be making new creations than standing in line at the post office, especially during the holidays.

 

“They’ll learn all of my secrets.”

This is only EVER a problem if you’re a big company like Nike and someone discovers your new sweat-wicking fabric formula.  As a small business owner, it’s not just WHAT you make but what you put into it that draws in customers.  They buy because of your passion, your personality, your voice.  That is something that can’t be copied.  And if your product doesn’t have any of those, chances are YOU are the making-secret-stealer or a trend follower.

 

“I can’t afford an assistant.”

I want you to think about this in a different way.  If you always look at hiring an assistant in terms of, “It’s going to cost me $100 a month to have someone help me,” you will never hire anyone.  If, instead, you think, “Having someone help me would allow me to ____________,” you’ll begin to see how much money you will MAKE thanks to an assistant.  If you didn’t have to spend an hour a day checking emails, packaging orders, and driving to the post office, what could you do with that hour?  Would you create a new line?  Would you finally have time to write a newsletter for all those people on your mailing list still waiting to hear from you?  Would you have time to pitch wholesale shops?

I’ve worked for several people as a virtual assistant and the one thing they all have in common is that their businesses exploded as soon as I started handling their basic tasks.

 

How do you know when you’re ready to move from doing it all yourself to asking for help?

If you are never getting ahead in your tasks, despite working from sun up to sun down, you’re ready.  If you haven’t been able to expand your business or add new revenue streams in the past six months, you’re ready.  And if you want to spend less time doing ‘busyness’ work and more time creating, then you’re absolutely ready to reach out for the help that will help you grow and mett your goals in 2013.

{image by Toma Estudio}

And the Set Up Shop Winners Are…

I was totally blown away with the response to the Set Up Shop giveaway – truly.

SO many of you shared your stories – stories of hope, dreams, and determination. I knew there was a place for this course in the world, but I didn’t realise just how many of you feel that you just need that guidance and direction to take your shop and business to the next level. I’m so excited about sharing that with you throughout April!!

It was really hard to pick a winner – I read and responded to each and every one of you, and goodness, you really opened up and shared your lives and wishes with us all. That takes courage. Thank you.

So, without further ado…

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{image from bonbon balloons}

The Silver winner was the random draw, and the winner of the Silver Membership is:

Cat of Tiny Lion Jewellery

After reading over all your comments numerous times, a few stood out to me – but one really captured me. And so I chose…

The winner of the Gold Membership is:

Sally Steele!

Sally, I trust you to take what I teach you and run with it – run with the wind!!

To everyone else who entered – thank you, thank you, thank you. I hope you’ll join us in the course – I’d love to see each and every one of you achieve your goals and dreams!

Registration opens Monday the 25th, at 7am AEST – prices will be released then (but just so you know, the Silver Membership will be well under $100 – my aim is to make this course affordable for everyone).

I’ll be sending out an email prior to that with a link to the registration page… so if you want to be the first to register (especially if you want one of the limited Gold or Platinum places) make sure you’re on the email list. Also – those who register within the first 24 hours will receive a bonus – a FREE copy of my ebook – How to Run a Rockin’ Mailing List. Just my way of saying thanks for hopping on board!

If you have any questions about the course, please leave them on the comments, or just shoot me a quick email 🙂

Congratulations to the winners, I’ll be in touch very soon!

Success Stories: Leah Duncan

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I have a lot of role models (and hopefully you do too!) who I’m continually looking to for new ideas and inspiration.  I’ve been following the success of Leah Duncan, an American textile artist and illustrator, for nearly a year now.  Every time she comes out with a new line of work, my jaw drops into my lap.  Today, Leah sat down with us to share some of her amazing journey.  I hope it inspires you!

Can you take us on the journey of your creative career path so far?

I’ve always been an artist at heart, but my professional career didn’t start until after college when I worked as a graphic designer for advertising firms and screen printing companies. While I learned a lot as a graphic designer and am grateful, I never felt creatively fulfilled with the type of work I did in those positions.

When my husband and I moved to Austin after our wedding, I was determined to make a living doing work I was truly passionate about. I started with putting my drawings on Etsy and my shop evolved to include textiles and stationery. That was in 2008 and, at this point, I think it’s safe to say, with a lot of hard work, I’ve made my dreams come true.

What has been the biggest challenge you’ve overcome so far in your business?

Having your own business is almost always a challenge. I think one of my biggest weaknesses has been that I’m a people pleaser and will almost always do whatever it takes to make other people happy. The truth is as a small business owner and working artist you’re always pressed for time and you consistently have to look out for your own best interests.

This means being firm when needed and saying no when it doesn’t work for you. Looking back it seems so silly, but I think it’s something many women can relate to. It was a hard lesson learned with time wasted or people taking advantage of my kindness, but I got there in the end.

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Triangles Tea Towel

What has been the biggest ‘fist-pump’/successful moment for you so far?

They happen every single day! Sometimes simply getting a wholesale order out on time or signing a print without my signature veering off and up to the right is the greatest thing I can achieve. The two biggest challenges I’d say have been taking a leap of faith financially to attend Surtex (an art licensing show) in 2011 and getting my latest collection ready to release last Fall. As a small business owner risks like this have to be taken and it feels amazing when it pays off.

Do you ever have doubts as to your future creative direction? Are there things you yearn to achieve, but haven’t yet found the time for?

Absolutely! Doubts are a given but are also something that drive me to achieve more. I’d love to one day have my own brick and mortar shop/studio and also have a home goods line released with a well known retailer. I know I’ll get there one day, doubts and all.

Are there times when your creativity and inspiration seem to disappear? How do you handle that?

Yes, and it’s a horrible feeling! I always find the best thing I can do is clear my mind and that usually involves yoga, a run, or a walk with my dog. If that still doesn’t work, sometimes it’s better to walk away for a little while and come back when my focus arrives. Or simply call it a day and have a nice dinner and a glass of wine!

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My Heart to Your Heart print

How do you balance your work with the rest of your life ~ what does a typical day in your life look like?

It’s tough! It varies depending on the time of year and comes in cycles, but generally during the slower months I like to have two days set aside for creative projects. My typical day could be anything from sourcing textiles to creating a new collection to taking care of my books. It’s amazing how many hats you wear when you’re self-employed.

In a good week I’m able to take two full days off to focus on my friends, family, and general well-being.

What has been the best marketing move you’ve ever made for your own business?

Hands down, signing up for Etsy has been the single best way to connect my work with my demographic.

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 Elena Scarf

What is one piece of advice you’d like to give fellow makers about running a successful creative business?

Follow your passion and don’t let anything stand in your way. Make it happen no matter what. Also, mistakes are lessons learned so never be afraid of making them.

Where do you see yourself in 5 years time?

With my own shop and studio, hopefully creating two full lines a year, with a great team working for me so I can focus on starting a family and making memories.

You can find more of Leah’s work in her shop: LeahDuncan.com

On her blog: Freshly Chopped

And on Twitter: @leahduncanisme

C&T Q&A – How do you know it’s time to take the leap from hobbyist to business owner?

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{Comic Book Jess says ‘Hmmm…’ – photo by smilebooth Australia, edited by moi} 

This week’s question is from Grace, who writes:

How do you take that first step from being a hobbyist to a business owner? i.e …How do you know when the time is right? and What knowledge do you feel is essential before starting your biz (there’s gotta be more than just being ‘crafty’ to succeed).

I love this question – I think it’s one that a lot of people struggle with.

When is the right time? What do I need to know? When do I make the leap from hobby to business?

The short answer?

When you make the decision.

The long answer?

I don’t care how long you’ve been doing your craft as a hobby. It might be 10 years, or you might have started yesterday. I don’t care how much you know about ‘business’. You could have an MBA, or, you could be like me when I started and know pretty much nothing.

Your craft hobby turns into a business when you start treating it like a business.

When you decide to take it – and yourself – seriously.

When you start keeping track of your numbers – your income and expenditure.

When you start thinking like a businesswoman.

When you believe in yourself and your product.

When you start looking at your products from the perspective of your customer, rather than just yourself.

When you attack the Google machine with any question that comes up, and you’ll be dammed if you stop before you find a solution.

When you start to get strategic.

When you analyse your prices to see if you’re making a profit.

When you say ‘I have a business’ to yourself, your family, and that dude you meet in the line at the coffee shop (you gave him your beautiful, professionally printed (or handmade if you’re in letterpress) business card, yeah?).

That is when you have taken the leap.

It’s a leap of faith, to be sure. You don’t know if you’ll ‘succeed’ (whatever that means to you). You don’t know if you’ll ever be able to make enough to quit your job. You don’t know that you’ll still want to be doing this in a year/5 years/10 years time.

You know what? None of us do when we start out. I certainly didn’t. I still don’t know if this is what I’ll be doing in 5 years time. Do I let that hold me back from putting my heart and soul into what I do?

Nope.

None of that matters.

It’s enough that you want to do it NOW. That you want to throw yourself into this crazy dream and make it happen.

No-one is going to make it happen for you.

You have the power. You have the control. You have the choice.

It’s a business when you say it’s a business.

*****

Need help making the transition from hobby to business? Want to set yourself up for success from the get-go? Come join us and I’ll teach you how to Set Up Shop and get it right, right from the start.

Be Prepared to Say “YES!”

be prepared to say yes

{image from the Merriweather Council}

Good press can really help you expand your audience and grown your business.

So, you will want to be prepared to cultivate any opportunities that may come along to get your products into magazines, broadcasts or other publications!

I have been lucky enough to have my work featured in a few publications and I can say from experience, every time I was asked for a sample and the sample needed to be received within 5-6 days. So keep in mind that these things can be very last minute and you want to be prepared!

I’ve written up a short list of things you can do now to ensure you are in a position to say “YES!” when you are approached by editors, bloggers or other who want to promote your work!

One.

Create and save a letterhead document (consistent with your brand, of course) that can be edited to print and put in with each sample sent.

Be sure to include your name, email, mailing address, website and a note about where return shipments can be sent to if possible. Each time you use the letterhead, fill in the address you are shipping to, a short thank you message and a brief description of what is enclosed in your package. Always include a business or postcard as well!

Two.

Probably the most important part of this whole equation: have samples ready to go!

Have at least a few different color ways, sizes, versions, etc, or multiples of your best seller on hand and ready to ship out if needed. Remember, often time requests for samples are last minute and need to be shipped asap, so having them pre made is a huge help. Send more than one sample if you can.

Three.

As stated earlier, requests always seem to come at the last minute. Set some money aside in your monthly budget for expedited and emergency shipments. Since these samples will likely have to arrive within the week, you will want to use a reliable shipper with expedited and tracking options!

Four.

Keep high resolution photos on hand of your best sellers on solid white backgrounds.

Sometimes magazines will ask for samples so they can photograph the items to fit their editorial needs but sometimes they will just request a high resolution image. White backgrounds are best. Keep some magazine worthy, high res images on your computer. Better yet, email them to yourself so you have them in case you are on the road when you get the request…. it happens!

Five.

Speaking of being on the road… leave one or two samples with a friend in case you are planning on being away for a while. Or teach your boyfriend, roommate, mom, dad, cat, whoever, how to put together a sample package should you be unable to due to traveling.

You won’t regret doing these things ahead of time, I promise!