Tag Archives: Business

Nothing Lasts That You Don’t Feed…


Relationships. Goals. Values. Love.

It all matters. And it all requires nourishing.

I was struck last night by an article titled, “Don’t F* Up The Culture,” written by Brian Chesky, CEO of Airbnb.

I’m not much into use of profanity for shock value, except in distinct circumstances where it really helps illustrate a point.  And here it definitely does.

Brian touches on the sentiments of an investor who sees that all too often, a great thing goes wrong when it gets too big. Brian then presents his own exploration into how he could make sure that his own company did not fall into this same pit of disappointment.

And he brought it all down to culture.

While I agree that culture is the vehicle, it takes the values at the core to create a culture around.  A point he illustrated well.

Brian had some striking things to say.  Here’s what stood out to me most:

…Culture is what creates the foundation for all future innovation. If you break the culture, you break the machine that creates your products.”

“…We build culture… by upholding our core values in everything we do. Culture is a thousand things, a thousand times. It’s living the core values when you hire; when you write an email; when you are working on a project; when you are walking in the hall. We have the power, by living the values, to build the culture. We also have the power, by breaking the values, to f* up the culture. Each one of us has this opportunity, this burden.”

“The stronger the culture, the less corporate process a company needs. When the culture is strong, you can trust everyone to do the right thing. People can be independent and autonomous.”

“Ever notice how families or tribes don’t require much process? That is because there is such a strong trust and culture that it supersedes any process. In organizations (or even in a society) where culture is weak, you need an abundance of heavy, precise rules and processes.”

– Brian Chesky, CEO of Airbnb

A thousand things, a thousand times.
It creates the foundation for the future.
When it’s strong, you can trust everyone to do the right thing.
When it’s weak, you need an abundance of rules and strict processes.

And it struck me how perfectly this illustrates our human need to:

  1. Hold ourselves to a life code, one that we never violate – whatever it is.
  2. Nourish the unity and relationships within our families, within our circles, within our culture as a society.
  3. And for simplicity through responsibility.

Everything in life is cycles and flow.  But it all requires nourishment and commitment to keep going.

Our relationships.  Our skills.  Our bodies.  Our money.  Our society.  Our trust.

Everything requires investment in order for it to be anchored and remain.  It requires loyalty to ideals and to each other.  It requires flexibility for flow and breathing room, while still maintaining a core of strength that is never compromised.

The perfect system.

I don’t know. Seems Brian strikes an important tone to give attention to.

Maybe you’ll agree?

Check out his article here.

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How Do You Know If You’re Pricing Your Offers Properly? – Guest Blog by Lynn Scheurell


Intro

“Starving” artists, charities, yoga teachers, writers, massage therapists, musicians, holistic practitioners – I tend to lump us all into the same basic category because often our struggles are the same. These are the things we do for the heart of it and often it’s not the easiest path. Business doesn’t always feel easy when you want to put love first. And yet, we still need healthy business practices if we’re going to thrive.

We get this.  We know we need to charge for our work and get paid for our services.  We know we need to value ourselves and put a price on our amazing talents. But… so how do you know when you’ve got it right?  A friend of mine has a good answer!  But let me introduce her first.

Lynn Scheurell - Creative CatalystI’m really blessed to know some incredibly talented people in Austin and around the world.  Lynn Scheurell of Creative Catalyst is one of those excellent people who just happens to also be an excellent teacher in business and marketing. She teaches people from literally all around the world. She’s both creative and business minded and she’s a writer, publisher and inspirational speaker.

I also trust her with anyone I send her way. (That’s a big deal to me, btw.)  And one of her recent newsletters just happened to really hit on some of the very same points we were discussing just a few weeks ago about pricing and valuing our work as creatives.

Now the letter is one that Lynn only sends out to people on her list and it is about services she offers. So I want you to know that up front. However, I felt it had some really good points y’all would appreciate. So I asked her if it would be OK to share it with you. And she said yes!

Here it is. Enjoy and check out her credentials at the end!
(And if you talk to her, tell her I sent you!)


Are You Pricing Your Offers Properly?
by Lynn Scheurell

Here’s how you know if you are pricing your offers properly…
– you feel good about your work with clients.

If you feel drained, resentful, anxious, frustrated, watch the clock, stressed about money, feel like you can’t breathe, pushed or hurried in your time with clients, then a boundary around your worth is being violated through your pricing.

The inside secret is that you are the only one who can set and honor your boundaries. You are the only person who can set your fees.

Tragically, most entrepreneurs under-value their work by at least 10% – and that likely includes you.

You may not have a pricing strategy in place, or have one that doesn’t serve you, or have pricing that doesn’t connote your true value.

In fact, I have a personal story about that to share with you… from wayyyyy back when, I was a practicing Feng Shui consultant. (Feng Shui remains one of my true loves to this day… but I digress!) ;+)

Anyway, at the time, I was charging $75 per consultation (without time limits!) – and I couldn’t GIVE them away!

I worked with a business coach, who told me I needed a higher fee. I thought she was out of her mind – raise my fees when I wasn’t attracting business as it was??? Holy cow… but, per her instruction, I meditated on a number and got one.

She was on vacation for about three weeks but I decided to put that number into action immediately. (I am a Catalyst, after all…!)

The first time I said it out loud to a potential client, I’m not sure how he heard it over the sound of my knocking knees! But over the course of the next three weeks, I had more consults using that new fee than I’d had in the previous three months at the lower fee!

When my business coach returned from vacation, we had a session. Of course, she asked if I had a new number and I said yes and that I’d been using it already.

She asked what it was – and remember, she knew my fee was $75. When I told her $450 – and that I was GETTING it! – I’m pretty sure she fell off her chair!

The point is that, once I was charging enough, people believed that I was offering something of value. I was more in line with the market in terms of fees. I didn’t need to ‘wait’ for some reason to justify my new fees based on filling my schedule at the lower rate first. And I was getting booked right and left at the new rate!

It felt great to actually be receiving my value professionally. But it took me honoring myself and following my intuition and then claiming my worth before it could happen. Only when I did could my business take off… and I haven’t looked back since (except to share this story!). ;+)

How this applies to you… you must know your value and claim it through your fees. And your rates must make sense within a strategic framework, or business model.

If you don’t have a business model, you’re flying blind and it’s likely that your business feels scattered. If you can’t predict your monthly income in advance, it’s time for an overhaul.

The fastest way I know to upgrade your fee structure and business model is to work with someone who understands revenue models AND understands you and what you bring to your clients. It’s actually rare to find that combination in an expert. (I know because I searched for that very resource early in my own business!)

Fortunately, that’s one of my signature specialties… I offer Business Vision Mapping for forward-thinking entrepreneurs who really GET that it is vital to price their offers properly within a strategic business framework.

These Catalysting sessions are designed to answer your questions about implementation, neutralize personal fears, limiting beliefs and obstacles and/or address sticky situations as you gain new momentum in your business. And they are invaluable as you begin taking action into new territory to grow your business.

Pricing your offers properly also means that you are honoring your clients.

If you undercharge, you feel drained and will look to shortcut your time and energy in delivering the product or service.

If you overcharge, your client will feel taken advantage of and look to maximize their investment in ‘creative’ ways that won’t serve either of you in the long run.

You really do owe it to yourself AND your clients to properly price what you do…

To Honoring Your Clients And Your Worth ~

Lynn


Biography

Changing the world through business starts by understanding your motivations, inspirations and purpose; in other words, changing the world starts within you. Only then can you apply your intensity through strategic business models, systems and focused action to create conscious, and often dramatic, results.

Lynn Scheurell is a visionary pioneer, spiritual teacher for entrepreneurs and authority in the area of conscious business. She is a leading proponent that entrepreneurship is one’s highest calling made manifest through service and that one’s business is the ultimate tool for personal growth. And she has a rare skill as a gifted communicator with solid experience in business models and systems.

Internationally known for her empowering and inclusive approach to conscious business, Lynn teaches entrepreneurs how to identify, align and express their true nature at every stage in business to accelerate results. Learn more at www.MyCreativeCatalyst.com.


If you enjoyed this article, you might also like:

When Designers Hear “Can You Cut Your Price?”
Dear Artists: Your Prices Are Not The Problem – Or Are They?
Dear Artists: There’s A Problem With Your Pricing – Part 2

Display And Pricing Your Art And Handmade Items At Shows


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What’s Your One Thing?


I read a really good article from Entrepreneur Magazine today. It’s called: “12 Successful Entrepreneurs Share the Best Advice They Ever Got.”  I wanted to share it with you because it’s good stuff!

I like reading about other entrepreneurs, because that’s what all we handmade artists and writers are, even if we don’t really think about it.  We are entrepreneurs. And even if we’re not in a more traditionally recognized “business,” our struggles to get started and to thrive are much the same as anyone’s.

I love the entrepreneurial path as one of the most life enriching paths there is.  Being in business for yourself presents you with perspective and challenges you would never otherwise choose.  And with experience like that you can’t help but grow.

There were two stories in this article that I especially liked.  The first was Dilbert creator Scott Adams’ story about advice from Jack Cassady.  I love that a successful man took time to reach out to someone just starting out, encouraged them and reminded them to never quit.  It’s just a wonderful example of how someone can help not only enrich the life of a single man, but of a whole generation of people.  Read the story and then imagine if Mr. Cassady had never taken the time?

The second story I really appreciated was Dane Atkinson’s advice about creating clarity for your business.

He says the following: “One thing that I’ve slowly come to realize is that focus is so critically important…. Saying ‘no’ to great ideas is necessary to get to the brilliant ones.  At every step of the way you have to cut towards one path.  It’s such a hard thing to do as an entrepreneur because you don’t really have the confidence in where you’re going yourself…. We all expect services to do one thing right….  It’s a very simple formula that you just repeat and rinse all the way to success.”

One_ThingIt strikes a very personal chord for me.  I have seen more business failure based in decisions that spread a business (or organization) too thin and keep them from specializing in what they do best.

And I’m here to tell ya – artists are guilty of this!

A business or an artist gets a good focused start, enjoys some success, then starts looking at what others have, trying to do what others do, then fails and everything is lost when they would have grown if they instead stuck with honing their focus instead of spreading to areas that aren’t really them.

We talk about it all the time – know your purpose.  “Know Thyself.”  It’s the crux of all success.

A business needs its purpose as much as any person does.

Don’t covet what others have, don’t try to be something else because you see others succeed at it and you think you should have a piece of their pie. Don’t get off in the weeds and leave your purpose.  I am capable of doing a lot of things.  I like the idea of a lot of things, but my focus stays pretty clear.  And I’m not just content, but excited to let others be experts in other areas for me!  Because we all thrive then.

How do you serve? What’s your passion and purpose? What do you love?  What fires you up!  What do you bring to the world table?

Now be the best at that you can be, pouring your heart and soul into it!  Don’t add anything to your mission that doesn’t feed that!

As soon as you covet the path or success of others and try to add their purpose to your path, you water down your own success and ability to serve.  You water down your own value to the world, because you’re supposed to be you, even as a business!  Success doesn’t revolve around serving multiple masters. I’m not talking about getting too comfortable or never challenging yourself, I’m talking about getting clear about your purpose in the world, without trying to be others.  Learn from others, then be yourself!

Clarity is the key.  Find your unique business path. Does your business do X, Y or G?  Because it can’t succeed doing all A-Z.  Unless you’re God.  You don’t think you’re God, do you?

Find your own path.  The rest is for someone else to do and make their own – and thank goodness!

Special note here: One of the worst things you can put on an application to a show (and I suspect other types of applications too) is that you “do everything.” Don’t do that.  It’s like applying for a college scholarship and saying, “I want to major in everything and specialize in nothing, please award me money!”  You need to choose a focus or a specialty.  That will best help you and the show director (who is responsible for planning a successful show for everyone) the most.

You are an investment.  Clarity is king.

So what’s your one thing?


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Don’t Shop-Block Your Fellow Artists


OK, I had to find a nicer way to say it.  Unfortunately inspired by true events. 

I thought about it and thought about it.  And this was the nicest way I could think of to say that and still get the sharp point across.  Don’t shop-block your fellow artists and professionals.  (And likewise don’t let anyone do it to you.)

Just don’t.

When you’re doing shows, especially juried shows, there are internal cultural parameters as to what’s acceptable professional etiquette and behavior from participating artists, and what is not.  Not too unlike wearing white to a wedding when you are not the bride and it’s not your wedding day, you never want to block or steal a sale from anyone else.  And though most of these rules should be rather common sense to everyone, since they are mostly about basic manners and professionalism, unfortunately they are too often not clear to everyone.

One of those rules is to never violate another artist’s sales space.  We all paid for space at an event, it’s your job to govern your own space, but also to support the show as a whole and to support each of your fellow artists by maintaining a professional approach to everything.  Never come over to a fellow artist’s booth and talk to the customers in their space or block them from being able to shop.  It doesn’t matter if you just talked to them a few minutes before somewhere else.  It doesn’t matter if they’re your best friends whom you haven’t seen in years.  Unless they left their glasses on your table, you don’t go after them into someone else’s space.  You just don’t do it.  Not to mention that it can be seen as stalking.  If you just must talk to those customers, do so privately and in the public arena, not in someone’s space.  Not ever.

And the same goes for friendly chatting with your fellow artists in their spaces.  It’s one thing if you’re friends with that other artist and you’re chatting privately, but as soon as a potential customer shows up, you politely exit, get out-of-the-way or at least shut up right then.  And you keep your chatter to a minimum, because everyone is there for one main reason – to serve the customers at the show.  Nothing else should have a higher focus than that.

You never stand with in front of someone else’s space and block traffic flow to their booth either.  It’s incredibly rude!  In fact, it’s a faux pas for customers too.  Congregating in front of an artist’s booth that you have no intention of shopping at, thereby blocking traffic flow so others cannot easily see or enter that artist’s booth, is a terrible thing to do to someone.  However, because we all want customers to have a good time at an event, we artists generally try to be polite and patient with customers who do this, for a little while.  (If you’ve done this unawares – now you know better – don’t do it again!)

Artists should abso-frickin-lutely know better.  Traffic flow is gold at a show.  Every booth and logo and display is all counting on traffic attention at a show.  You can only sell as much as you are seen.  And you never want to mess with that for anyone!  Talk about bad, bad show karma!  And if it’s obvious that you are doing something like that intentionally, it can get you black-listed – for good reason.

Why is all this important?  Because shows (especially juried shows) are for professionals.  Shows survive and do well as a whole marketplace.  To be respected as an artist and human being, you have to consider the long view and the reputation you build every single day with every single action and choice you make.  And how well can you represent not only yourself, but the other businesses (shows) you align yourself with.

So just on a purely professional class basis, you never, ever EVER do something that could cost your fellow artist a sale.  You know what it’s like.  It doesn’t matter if you like that fellow artist, if you do the same work as they do, or if you’re friends or enemies.  It doesn’t matter if you had the same idea they are selling out there right now or you’re so sure that your product is better and it’s killing you that they were juried into the same event.  You never show your ass or cost them a sale.  You have the decency and professionalism to keep your mouth shut and let them do business.  Express any concerns you have to the appropriate planners and then move forward being the good person and professional you know yourself to be.  Don’t stoop to lower level behavior.

These professional principles aren’t just for the show circuit though.  They hold true anywhere, even online.  It’s happened to me.

I marketed a service offer to my followers on one of my social sites once.  (I’m not just a crochet designer/writer, I work in other fields too.)  In this case, I offered some tech help to some fellow professionals whom I care about through one of my various public pages.  A page you have to subscribe to, to see.  And guess what?  Someone immediately commented about her “identical” services on my post, on my page!  She was just dying for the world of my own readership (not hers) to know that she also wanted to offer what I’m offering.  In all reality, she stepped into my booth space and hawked her wares.

Dude!  You don’t do that!

Needless to say, I took her remark down.  It’s my page, I can do that.  I didn’t choose to respond to her remark though, because anything I could say would either cost me sales, or cost her own sales/reputation.  And it would just leave a bad taste for everyone.  After all, her remark was already… professionally awkward, to say the least.  There was no way I could tolerate her move professionally.  However, I also wasn’t going to compound her mistake by making one of my own in a public response to her  either.  Taking the remark down was as much kindness to her as it was defensive for me.

Whatever your profession, you know exactly what I’m talking about here.

So here’s the thing my dear artists and colleagues of all walks of life.  I’m betting you already know this, or my title wouldn’t have drawn you in.  You’ve probably already had it happen to you at one time or another.  You know of other fields and incidences where this principle can be applied.  And if you’ve chosen an indie-business path, then you also know that you’ve entered a world where everyone expects you to show some class, to elevate your awareness and likewise raise your level of professional behavior.  Because you are everything in your business and your business reflects on your reputation.  There’s no one to praise or blame but you.  That’s part of what makes this path such a growth-inspiring one.

But it behooves us to help set the example.  Reach out there and help those newly inducted into the world of business ownership.  Be a part of discussions and local Chambers of Commerce and get to know other artists and professionals in your field.  And help everyone understand the level of professionalism that is expected of them.  By example if by nothing else. Pass this article around so others who might not realize what they’re doing can wake up and smell the coffee.

We all need to eat.  We all need to survive.  We all have medical bills, and special needs and causes we fight for.  And we all have lessons to learn.  There’s plenty of need and plenty of pie to go around.   So have some class.  We’re all in this together.  There’s no need to cost someone else their piece.

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Filed under Business, Doing the Show Circuit, Editorial, NaBloPoMo

Sometimes It Takes Being MacGyver To Succeed


You know, there’s a neat little benefit that something like the NaBloPoMo challenge gives you, as a writer, and as an individual pushing yourself to grow.

It puts you against a wall.

There are two types of fuel for success in the world: inspiration and pressure.  And while we often crave the first, it’s the latter that we need to value a bit more.  Because it often helps us the most.  Why? Because it forces us to deal with things we would not otherwise choose to.  And we need that as a balanced part of life too.  Not too much of either, but enough of either one.

NaBloPoMo is 30 days, blogging every single day, no matter what.  And of course, when you participate during the traditional November month, there’s always Thanksgiving week in there too.  So you have to make your turkey, and eat and write about it too.

But putting yourself on a daily deadline and making that honor commitment to make your posts count every day is quite something to embrace.  It creates stress, it forces you to be creative under less than ideal circumstances and it gets you to face a task you might otherwise wish to avoid.  And it forces you to adapt when things don’t go as expected.  Even when you have some ideas on what to write about, it doesn’t mean that those ideas will spark and flow the day you need them to.

The same is true in business.  Even when you prepare and have a plan, it doesn’t mean that’s how things are going to work out.  And you have to learn to be flexible.  To think on your feet and not get bent out of shape too easily over anything.

As for writing, I personally have 49 subject ideas in my queue right now.  And not a one of those ideas would flow for me tonight.   So with the clock winding down to midnight and not an idea that wants to say more than a sentence or two, the pressure pot is on.

Then it dawned on me, that pressure pot often squeezes the best out of me.  Because when push comes to shove, and all you have is a rubber band, a piece of gum and a toothpick and the timer is running out, some kind of genius takes place when you focus well enough.

And that’s a lot of what we deal with in business.  Heck, sometimes it’s why we’re in business.  We were put against a wall, our choices were pared down and we were forced to work with a situation that was not ideal or to our liking.  Like getting laid off, or having a child with special needs or whatever.  And we had to come up with a solution and rise above.

Being in business for yourself is risky stuff, and sometimes you have to think like MacGyver in one of those unexpected situations.  How are you going to fix this, or deal with that or avoid those?  The pressure is not often what I would call pleasant, and sometimes it happens as a result of some failure (learning experience) on our part, but it does often in my experience push me to elevate my thinking and come up with a solution.  And I always grow.

So don’t be afraid to feel pressure.  Sometimes it brings up in you skills you didn’t know you had.  Sometimes that wall is more support than you think.  And sometimes even, it becomes your greatest story.

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Filed under Business, Education, NaBloPoMo

I Give You Permission To Thrive!


This past week’s evolving discussion on entrepreneurial, service and creative business has been really enjoyable! 🙂

I love hearing the stories, reading everyone’s comments and even being disagreed with. We have really dug into some issues that are on the minds of the majority out there in our fields and I know that all our thoughts and input are helping others now and will in the future when they are searching.

But there is one thing I really want to give some attention to that I keep hearing in the voices of artists, and massage therapists and musicians and a myriad of other creative right-brain, heart-led thinkers out there.

And that’s this general sense of guilt that it’s not OK to thrive.

There are two angles to this: Those who don’t have confidence that they can thrive and those who do have confidence, but don’t think they should thrive.

I keep hearing things like, “My motives are not money, I just want to make enough to get by.”  “I enjoy this kind of work, so I don’t charge much because I’d do it anyway.”  “I can’t afford much, so why should I expect others who can’t afford much to pay me?”  (That’s a big one.)  “I’m not good at business stuff.”  (Another big one.)  “I don’t want to seem greedy, or too focused on money.”  “I don’t need to learn about business. Only greedy people do that.”

And on it goes.

Umm, hello!  This may be news to you, but I don’t want to just scrape by.  I know what that’s like and I don’t want to live it.  I don’t want my kids to live it!  My father was an entrepreneur with 4-5 employees, and we just got by.  Thank goodness for Grandpa’s garden some years, because when there wasn’t profit after paying everyone, there wasn’t profit.  And profit is how Dad got paid.  And he was seen as a leader in the community.  (He also had trouble getting paid by his customers.)

We survived.  Obviously I’m here to tell the story.  But we did not thrive.  We did without shoes, scraped by on food and cut every corner we could.

Stop what you’re saying to yourself and to others and really think about that.  Because I don’t think you really mean it when you say things like that.  Because that would honestly just be weird to only wish to “get by.”  We cannot grow on “get by.”

And I don’t want to just survive.  I know how to do that and it’s not enough for me.  I want to thrive.  And that’s where I’m heading.

And you know what – you can come too.

I give you permission to thrive.  And permission to say no to what’s unhealthy for you.  Including poisonous customers and relationships.

I grant you permission to create a plan, a strategy and a structure that is good for you and good for growing your business.  And if you get paid for what you do – you have a business!  It’s not a bad word!

Learning and becoming good at business is not greedy.  I give you permission to go forth and conquer – not the weak, but yourself.

I give you permission to be confident, brilliant and excellent – no apologies!  No dissing your accomplishments, talents or yourself.

I give you permission to be successful.  And you know what else?  To define for yourself what success means to you!

I give you permission to earn a living doing what you love.  And permission not to feel guilty because others don’t (yet).

I don’t however give you permission to be unkind, dishonest or apathetic.

I give you permission to be yourself fully and to enjoy making money.

I give you permission to take risks, to stray from the sidewalk, to do something breath-taking.

I give you permission to let go of “supposed to’s” and instead embrace “want to’s.”   And to release all scarcity mindsets.

I give you permission to ignore advice! And your parents and your siblings and anyone else who is harming, not helping.

I give you permission to ignore good advice and strike out on your own path!

I give you permission to fail!  And fail again!  And to not see that as a bad thing!

I give you permission to allow yourself some clarity about what you really want in life and to let go of those inner blocks that are getting in your way and standing between you and the rest of your freedom.

Why am I giving you permission?  Because apparently we haven’t all given ourselves permission.  And hopefully, if you know what I’m talking about, somewhere in here is a seed that you can adopt and take home with you.  Go with my blessing!

It’s time for us to commit if we’re going to master the calling of being an entrepreneur.  Business is like a garden that requires love and tending.  And it either thrives, or dies.  Or gets overgrown and sidetracked by weeds.  All of us artists, writers, musicians, and consultants – we’re all entrepreneurs.  Don’t kid yourself otherwise, we are in business for ourselves.  Art requires discipline and skill, just as does business!  So we know we can do this!  If an artist can sacrifice and pour out our soul to do what we love – you tell me why we can’t succeed at the core principles of good business!

I invite you to write yourself a code of ethics that embraces responsibility, integrity and ingenuity that you can embrace heart, mind and soul.

I invite you to be selfish and think about your needs: physical, emotional, spiritual, mental.  Who does it benefit if you are not nurtured?  Seriously! Who?  Kill the starving artist mentality!

I invite you to think of your business as a child you are bringing up and to nurture it and yourself.  To nurture the relationship you have with business and money.  To provide it structure that it cannot provide for itself.

I invite you to forgive yourself and to be tender and kind in your dealings with yourself.  And yet, not to be too easy on yourself either.

I invite you to analyze your business inward, not just outward.  Find your unique value to the world.  And find who benefits from that?

I say these things as much for me, as I do for you, because I need that encouragement too.  I want my children to have it someday too.  There’s been an unhealthy disconnect between the creative soul-driven worlds and business and we do not need to feed or foster it.

The key is our mindset.

What does thriving look like for you?


If you enjoyed this article, you might also like:

When Designers Hear “Can You Cut Your Price?

Dear Artists: Your Prices Are Not The Problem – Or Are They?

Dear Artists: There’s A Problem With Your Pricing – Part 2

Please Help Me Travel The World To Study Crochet Hooks!

How Much Are You Worth?

When Artists Hear “I Can Make That!

Disparaging Handcrafts In The Name Of Law – How Far Does It Push Us Back?

Cro-pocalypse: The Rise of Crochet


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Filed under Business, Inspiration, NaBloPoMo

You Can’t Work All The Time


When you’re an entrepreneur, it is easy to be sucked in 24/7.  And honestly, that’s much as it should be.

Why?  Because being in business for yourself is a responsibility that requires your heart and soul in order to run and to succeed.  Your business succeeds as you will it to.  And business is work.  You will find a lot of satisfaction in working for yourself, but the catch is, there’s no clock to punch out and there’s no guarantee of income and success.

But you can’t work all the time.  You have to break sometime.  You have to switch gears sometime.  You have to rest sometime.

I tend to have my fingers in several projects at a time and work way too many hours for the pay I make.  Part of it’s because I work for myself, and that’s often part of that life.  Part of it is because I’m catching up from losing 2.5 months and missing all my fall shows to a broken ankle.  So not only did I miss out on pay because of that, but I have medical bills to pay off too.  Yippee Ki Yay.  And while it feels really good to be getting back to normal (well close), I’m pretty exhausted too. Besides being a designer, I also do social media consulting for a couple of small business clients.  So my brain is constantly going back and forth from creative to computer, as much as I can stand.  Plus there’s the fundraising for Spain and well, everything left on my mom plate at the end of the day.  Someone please do some laundry for me? 

However, this is Thanksgiving week.  I don’t like falling into the holidays at all, much less Thanksgiving.  It’s important to me at this time of year to take time and experience this week with awareness.  And to meditate on the things that matter most in life.

So today, I got ready for Thanksgiving week by spending my time baking.  And with clean up.  It’s still maintenance and creativity, but of an entirely different sort than my business.

We have a tradition at our charter school of making pies for the teachers.  This year (after all, it’s our 11th year there) I did not sign up for the usual volunteer sheet that blankets the whole school.  This year the kids took polls from their teachers and decided what they wanted to make for them and we shared the work individually.  It’s our way of showing our gratitude to our teachers for what they do for us.  And there are a couple of them who may get bonus food.  I’m very thankful for the experts who are helping to shape my children’s experiences and are helping to prepare them for life.

So I go to bed tonight in a house that smells of peach pies and banana breads.  And I make some really amazing banana bread, let me tell ya.  My daughter’s peach pie rocks too.  (Our secrets?  Over ripe bananas and unsweetened peaches.)  Tomorrow I have chocolate truffle pies to make and more banana bread I want to give to our neighbors.

I did have to stop in the middle and go buy a new mixer, but in the end it was a nice break from the usual work at hand.  The baking that is, not the going to the store on a Sunday night bit.  I actually kinda hate shopping.  Except for yarn.  And maybe motorcycles and drums.

Just as it’s important for parents to make time to still have dates even after having kids, it’s also important for business owners to still in a sense court themselves and do something else completely different than baby their business.  And you may find if your ideas are getting stuck and stagnant and you’re worrying about burning out, that this is especially important to do.  You don’t have to take a vacation or do anything expensive.  You just have to switch gears and do something different from what you normally do to survive.  It’s OK if it’s still “work,” but it has to be different than what you’ve been doing.

So unless you have a show this week, this is a good time in the U.S. to take a bit of a breather and allow yourself to do something different, that you haven’t done in a long time.  And if you’re not in the U.S., then it may be a good week to make a date for a break anyway, what with other holidays looming on the horizon.

Take a break, get some rest, let down your hair and entertain yourself in some different way.

What will you pick?


If you enjoyed this article, you might also like:

Dear Artists: Your Prices Are Not The Problem – Or Are They?

How Much Are You Worth?

When Artists Hear “I Can Make That!

Disparaging Handcrafts In The Name Of Law – How Far Does It Push Us Back?

Cro-pocalypse: The Rise of Crochet

Help Me Travel The World To Study Crochet Hooks!


1 Comment

Filed under Business, Editorial, NaBloPoMo

Dear Artists: There’s A Problem With Your Pricing – Part 2


I received a comment on my blog post from yesterday that shows I need to further clarify what I mean when I say – price is not really why people buy.  Mandy brought up the following, and it’s a legitimate position.

“Forgive me… but I respectfully disagree with one of your points. …. It’s not that I don’t value great art, but purchasing art of any kind, for any reason, is a luxury for me. So if your beautiful crocheted scarf that I admire deeply and would love to own is priced about $20 more than what I can allow myself to spend, it’s going to stay right where it is. No offense or disrespect intended, but my funds are limited and my hands are essentially tied. I may be the minority?

Having said that, in the past year or so I have started teaching myself to crochet as a hobby, and have started giving crocheted gifts. As a result, I’ve had ladies ask me if they could buy some of the things I make. I’m lost when it comes to pricing my work because I am a hobbyist, and a newbie. My materials and time are valuable, but maybe not in the same respect as those of you who are true artists and are supporting your families with your craft. I am guilty of thinking to myself that I’d like to offer my work for a bit less than some of the prices I have seen, because of my personal experiences, and because I know most people in my community and surrounding area are not likely to pay “artist prices.” Have any of you run into this, and do you have any advice for someone just starting out? I’m not opposed to one day crocheting to sell, but for now it is just something I enjoy and a way to give practical handmade gifts.”

Mandy, thank you for your valuable addition to the discussion and daring to disagree!  I’ll explain my position better below.  Dear Community, she’s asked a question of all of us, so feel free to respond, politely.

First, I’ll refer you to my article “How Much Are You Worth.”  Here I talk about the difference between novice and expert work and about sweatshop pricing. And that’s something we all have a responsibility to do something about. We have gotten used to being able to live off the work of others in low economies. And so when it comes to the actual cost of our materials and goods where we live, where it’s more expensive, we still think in terms of 3rd world sweatshop pricing.  But do we really expect anyone to live off 50 cents an hour? Or for anyone to pay off their degrees and training and education, not to mention materials and taxes and fees that way? Of course not. No reasonable person would. And yet, every time we price our work in par with a sweatshop, that’s what we do.  And in an economy that is much more expensive to live in.  I cannot usually buy yarn as cheap as the sweater you buy at WalMart.  So when I make that sweater from the materials available to me, cheap or expensive, it’s still going to cost way more, no matter what – even if I don’t charge for time and expertise at all.  And there’s nothing at this point that I can do about that.

On the other hand, in general, the market will not bear outrageous pricing.  So I would argue that there should be a natural cap to how much beginner level type work should go for.  Sticking a bead on an ear wire and slapping a $100 price tag on it better mean that’s one heck of a valuable bead.  Because we know how much skill and time went into it and that cannot alone bear the weight of the price tag.  Sometimes things just aren’t practical or there just isn’t a market for them.  Who wants to pay a significant chunk of money for a cashmere wash-cloth to scrub dishes with?  Unless you can provide some amazing advantage as to why this would make someone’s life better, this is just not likely to sell.  There’s no demand and even more, it doesn’t make sense.

We can’t always afford the work we love.

This is part of life. Sometimes that means we learn to make it ourselves to offset cost of time.  But even then, even with my level of expertise, I can’t myself always afford the work I can produce.

For example, I have a friend who has amazing wood carving skills, he literally works for the stars – several celebrities own his work. And yet, he has four kids, one with downs and says he cannot afford the work of his own hands. The materials and time and methods are all that specialized and expensive. Should he stop making what he makes? No. There is a demand for it and what he does is highly specialized and arguably a dying art. He’s really (I mean really) good at it. Would you have him instead do something he’s not good at? Not to mention take away the work that is feeding his family, and paying for the therapy his child needs for downs. Even so, he doesn’t yet feel like he can justify owning one of his best pieces yet.  The materials and expenses alone are cost prohibitive.

Now, my friend works in a highly specialized scenario that relies on the help of galleries and such, which also increases his expenses, but his story illustrates a point.

When you are in the handmade market, it’s important to price fairly and consider developing a range of products.

That is, if you have no plans to get that highly specialized. You want your highs, your lows and your middles.  For example: I have some amazing purses I’ve made, where the blunt, literal cost in materials to me is over $150 and I haven’t even lined them yet. Their final cost will be substantial. The silk, the beadwork, the specialized hardware to make them look and work right – all of that requires not only a lot of time and expertise out of me, but also the money to acquire materials. And because I’m not a warehouse, I cannot get warehouse prices on materials either. So I’m slowly but surely investing in the work I’m putting into them. Everyone loves them. Will everyone be able to afford them? Nope. But they are my OOAK high-end specialty art pieces and out there someone will decide to snap them up. That said, I also have made some purses I could comfortably sell for $35. My level of expertise is the same, but what is different is mostly my cost in materials.

This is why it’s important to have a range of product prices and work you are doing in business, if you want to hit a wider range of customers. The fact is, it’s my work, my service and my story that will draw you to me. (My writing even.)  Either you will like my work or you won’t.

Maybe you can’t buy my high-end expensive purse.  In that case – the price data is what helps you say “no” to that particular piece.

However, that is not the same as saying no to me.

Because if I have another beautiful piece, where the materials do not cost nearly the same, and it is in your price range, you will likely settle for that instead.

And that’s one part of what I mean about people not saying no based on pricing.

Sometimes “No” Is Really About Guilt

There’s also the reality where people say no seemingly “based on price,” but it’s really based on guilt. The “it’s not you it’s me” scenario. When a customer has money issues or financial PTSD, that is not something you can ever control. And their bad relationship with money is theirs to bear, not yours. Getting their sale will not make a difference to you in the long run. You have to look at and make decisions based on the long financial picture of a business, not the spur of the moment whim.  This gets back to knowing your market and even knowing your individual show. Not everyone will feel like they can afford your stuff. If they did, then you might as well be a dollar store and have trouble paying your bills.

Newbies who are dropping their prices out of fear that they can’t get a sale is an entirely different thing from trying to price fairly. It’s important to understand the distinction. A) Price dropping like that creates an unhealthy relationship with money and it can get you into trouble with your business. B) Most juried shows forbid it and it can get you kicked out.  C) Business is risk. Don’t get into it without embracing that fact.  It’s not if you will fail at some point, it’s when.  And it’s about you learning not to see failure as a bad thing.  Becoming a business owner is one of the best things you can do for your own personal-growth.  Kinda up there with parenthood.  You will learn amazing things, whether you set out to or not.  D) People are not turning down the artist based on price as much as they are based on their experience. If you like my work, my story, my service, and if I have something in your price range you want – you are likely to buy it. Period. It’s really that simple. If you don’t like my work, no amount of dropping my price is going to make you spend money on it.

And that pretty much sums it up.

Everyone justifies their spending somehow.

I know someone who for years complained about how she hated her shag carpet, but couldn’t afford to get it replaced. carpet was her “luxury.”  And yet, she always had the latest clothes and fine jewelry to wear. It was her choice. She just didn’t invite anyone over.

Me? Hey, I value quality shoes. I’m on my feet all the time and have a degenerative genetic joint condition that causes pain. You better believe I invest in good footwear that won’t aggravate my degenerative condition. It could cost me hundreds of dollars, and I don’t care, I will work a 3rd job if I have to not to be in pain. I also value a good dishwasher. For reasons I just stated, I try to limit the time I’m on my feet. So a dishwasher that never breaks down and practically eats the garbage from my dishes is an asset I want to own. My time is worth more than to be constantly fixing something.

I know someone else who has almost no kitchen ware, but they have cutting edge materials and sewing equipment for quilting. And yet another person who values homegrown food most of all and would sooner spend $10 on seeds than on a new shirt.

We all have those things we see the value in much better than we see in others. You want to look for the customers who will value you.

Back to what I said before about fair pricing.

I repeat, we’re not talking about over-pricing.  (Though there are cases where it can be used as a management tool, but that’s another article.) I’m talking about fairness that’s win-win.  But as Laurie Wheeler from The Crochet Liberation front said it best: “You are not a sweatshop!” And you’re not. OK? So stop working on something for hours and then charging $2 to a stranger for it. It’s wrong. And anyone who supports that kind of self-abuse is also wrong. As is anyone who raises their kids to think about money and work this way.  And those 3rd world countries everyone’s wishing could get better pay will also never be better off, as long as we all help promote this lack of value for time and hard work. If you’re giving a true gift, or you’re doing charity work, that’s one thing. But that’s not what we’re talking about.

What is my hour worth?  A sack of potatoes?  A loaf of bread?  A lunch?  Or a cheap cup of coffee?

When you dare to enter business, it’s important to recognize the value of every single part of the equation. And it’s time we grow up and get a handle on what a responsibility this really is. My customers work hard for their money, every bit as much as I. My suppliers also work hard for their money, every bit as I. When all we respect each other, we create balance and everyone can win.

There is another thing though.  We tend to be worst of all about valuing the work that women traditionally do. Even we women do this to each other.  Even in this day and age.  And we need to stop and think about this when we size things up and question whether we’re guilty of it or not.

So, I leave you with a challenge. Whether you own a business or not, it’s a good exercise to help you get a handle on what you value, how you spend and also recognizing how it might be for others too.

Stop and think about a $20 bill and just what you would justify spending it on and what you would not. Would you take a friend out to lunch? Would you buy a scarf? Would you pick up some gourmet coffee or buy a pack of smokes? How about a case of canned goods? How about a skein of yarn, or a tube of paint? Maybe an organizer? Or an iPhone case?  Makeup maybe?  A couple of crochet magazines?

What things could you do with a $20 bill and would or would not do? And once you’ve thought about that deeply, then analyze each item’s true worth in terms of the value it provides or not. $20 to feed a friend, or to keep someone warm for the winter, or to help you get organized, etc..

Money is nothing more than a tool.  How do you use it?


If you enjoyed this article, you might also like:

Dear Artists: Your Prices Are Not The Problem – Or Are They?

How Much Are You Worth?

When Artists Hear “I Can Make That!

Disparaging Handcrafts In The Name Of Law – How Far Does It Push Us Back?

Cro-pocalypse: The Rise of Crochet

Help Me Travel The World To Study Crochet Hooks!


33 Comments

Filed under Business, Crochet Community, handmade, NaBloPoMo

Dear Artists: Your Prices Are Not The Problem – Or Are They?


I wrote the article: When Designers Hear “Can You Cut Your Price?” a few days ago and it has really stirred up some conversation from fellow business owners.  Comments from Twitter, Facebook, G+ and this blog have poured in from around the world as other artists and entrepreneurs chime in about their experiences and frustrations.

And there’s a common theme popping up – the concern about pricing.

Often times, artisans will lower their prices because they want to be sure they will make some sales. There’s nothing wrong with making money – we all need to eat.  Still from our business side of things, we start to see our expenses pile up, and we get worried.  And then we start tweaking our prices.

Maybe we see someone else’s lower prices and we feel we have to compete.  Maybe we’re just nervous about the show.  Maybe we really haven’t thought through the true cost of our item.  Maybe we have guilt issues over making money on our own and by not working for someone else to be paid.  Maybe we truly just want to have some fun and throw a sale, kinda like how we might throw a party.  And maybe we ourselves have undervalued an artist before and we know it.  So we try to compensate for that guilt too.

Who knows?  But right or wrong, we all give lowering our prices a try sometime, for some reason.

But here’s the thing – that bit that you lower your prices to, at shows and for general public shopping, does not really make a difference in getting the sale or not.  All it makes a difference in is your bottom line.

People are not really quibbling over dollars here and there.  And people only think on the surface that they spend money with artists based on price.  Perhaps a little, but it’s not really the core place that people operate from, it’s a peripheral one.  Price is a data point by which we try to measure our true reasons for what we buy and why we justify it.  But it’s only one data point and it’s not the core.

The heart of why people buy is not money, but instead their experience of it. 

Why?  Because innately, we are after the human experience of things.  Innately we are ever seeking to improve that core life experience and either you, your story and your product fit into that connection or you don’t.

If you are truly an artist and not just a manufacturing machine, and if you will truly embrace your art, your expertise, your passion – people don’t just invest in the thing you produce.  They invest in the artist.  They invest in you.  They invest in your future and your light.  And that’s where you want to distinguish yourself.

Price your items fairly.

In no way am I saying be extravagant or unreasonable in your pricing approach.  We’re not talking about pissing into a jar and hawking it on Craigslist for a million bucks.  But you need to think about all of your overhead, your taxes, your licenses, your internet fees, your materials, your table fees, your travel fees and last but not least – your time.  Think about it fairly, set your price and then stick to your guns.

This doesn’t mean that you don’t ever tweak your prices. 

Figuring out your market usually takes time and experience.  Until you’ve been in business for at least a year, you really don’t know anything.  And never use your first show ever as a measure of what business as usual looks like.  Whether that first show is good or not, no individual show is going to tell you what you can count on.  So you will adjust from time to time as you figure things out.

But never do you want to make your prices unfair for you.  For the health of your business, you have an obligation to care for it, just like you care for a child.  In order for it to grow and thrive, and in order for that business to successfully serve your customers, you need to make good healthy decisions.

You are judged by the prices you set, for better or worse.  And if they are not right, they become your problem and not your solution.

If you don’t want to be associated with knock-off bargains, flea-market tactics or Wal-Mart mentality, then don’t look like them.  If you don’t value yourself more highly, why should anyone else?  And if you don’t stand up for yourself, who else will?  It’s your life to live and your business to run, no one else’s.

This is a really important thing, because in the handmade and service markets, prices that are too low are often a sign of inexperience and lack of professionalism to everyone in the know.  Your fellow artists know it, your buyers know it and your show directors know it.  It takes discipline to run a strong business.  If your prices do not match the needs and design of a show, it just might be what keeps you from getting in.  And it could be a whispered warning that you might be too risky to team up with either.

Pricing should not be about fear or negative emotions.

It’s fairness and it’s strategy.  Gather your data, give it the attention it deserves and then design a logical working framework with flexibility built in.

Last but not least, build in lows and highs, but remember that most of your sales come from the middle. 

Part of the human psychology is built around the justification of what experiences we choose.  And most of us will not fall into the extremes.  But we will look at those extremes as measurements to help us find the middle ground that feels right to us.  We like groupings of threes, fours and fives.  Too much more and it gets complex, too little and we innately don’t feel we have enough data to make the jump.  Make it easy for your buyers to feel good about their decisions, knowing they are looking for certain data points to reach their conclusions.  And then wow them with your amazing talent and service.  You’ll have it in the bag!


If you enjoyed this article, you might also like:

Dear Artists: There’s A Problem With Your Pricing – Part 2

How Much Are You Worth?

When Artists Hear “I Can Make That!

Disparaging Handcrafts In The Name Of Law – How Far Does It Push Us Back?

Cro-pocalypse: The Rise of Crochet

Help Me Travel The World To Study Crochet Hooks!


18 Comments

Filed under Business, NaBloPoMo

When Designers Hear “Can You Cut Your Price?”


I was so irritated.

It happened.

I’m not going to say their name, give you details, or talk about the proposal, but I certainly am going to write a warning for anyone who will listen.  And I don’t frellin’ care that I want to yell about it all over the internet.

It happened.

Red_Wine_GlassAnd it was asked by the owner of a new business, who days after asking me to commit to a project, came back and bemoaned the fact that she had a slim budget for her grand opening.

Was there any way I could negotiate a lower price?

“I can appreciate the prices you charge because of your extensive expertise, but…. I’m paying for all this wine and I don’t have enough money.”

blinkhuh

What. The. Hell.

Really.  After a week of knowing my price, and me setting aside time and making preparations.  Really?

So dear readers:  would you take a 50% pay cut if your boss asked?  Bet not only you wouldn’t, but you’d tell him where to go!

DON’T DO THIS!  ARTISTS ARE PEOPLE TOO!

And just because you’re used to buying 3rd world cheap, doesn’t mean you’re justified in asking for my services, scheduling me and then asking me to slash my pay.  (What d’ya wanna bet that ain’t box wine you’re springing for.)  I could have far better respected you coming clean and saying, “I’m sorry, I didn’t have as much money as I thought,” than to ask me to work for half price.

“I have 200 people on my mailing list that I will advertise your business to when I advertise my event. So you’ll get exposure.”

Really?

“Exposure” is the rotten kiss of hard-work-for-nothing in many cases.  Every newbie thinks at some point that every flirtatious offer to exchange products or services for “exposure” will be good for them.  Too often it just isn’t.  And for some businesses, too much of that kind of financial risk is just the kiss of death.

And 200 people on your mailing list?  That’s all?  If the wind is blowing the right way, I might get one contact out of that.  IF your email ad is done nicely.  But statistics are not in favor of even that.

“I’m sure people who attend my event will become future customers for you.”

Here’s where my eyes start to glaze over just a little.  I’ve heard all this before.  People who try to present themselves as having assets they don’t really have.

In over a decade of being in business for myself, not once has making a donation, or participating in someone’s private event ever… let me repeat that… EVER sent me a lead, much less a sale!

Now.  I do a lot of charity work.  I’ve often donated to cancer causes with no questions asked.

But here’s the big key.  I don’t do it for exposure.  I do it because I choose to give back to the world through a kind heart and generosity.  Because that feels right to me and because I want to.  That doesn’t mean I don’t put my name on my donations, but giving for exposure is the wrong reason.  Spending business assets on possible “exposure” has never paid for me.  Not saying it won’t for someone else, but it never once has for me.

Artists and designers and consultants and musicians and all those other entrepreneurs out there need to be just as respected for their time and expertise as someone who works for the man.

And whatever this weird fatal attraction is, where society is dying to have us colorful creatives around, but you want us to pimp ourselves out for cheap, has just gotta go.

Stop dissing our fields.

Stop diminishing our returns.

Stop using us.  And artists, don’t you go caving either!

We have every right to feed our kids and have a warm bed too.


If you enjoyed this article, you might also like:

How Much Are You Worth?

When Artists Hear “I Can Make That!

Disparaging Handcrafts In The Name Of Law – How Far Does It Push Us Back?

Cro-pocalypse: The Rise of Crochet

Help Me Travel The World To Study Crochet Hooks!


42 Comments

Filed under Editorial, NaBloPoMo

The Balance Between Communicating Too Much And Not Enough


I like details.

I like specific questions. I like specific answers.  I like conversation.  And most especially (besides sheer writing for the joy of it), I like thorough two-way communication.

But sometimes, no matter how much you like to communicate, you find yourself on uneven ground, face to face with someone else who does not communicate the same way as you.

communication_blocked_signedI’ve been told that I’m too bold, and that I’m too timid.  That I’m too detailed and that I don’t communicate enough detail.  And so often times, it begins to feel like some kind of dance.  Which direction will this dance partner take me today?  And will I be able to follow suit?

And that’s without the “do I take them literally, figuratively or read between the lines” sub-rhythm that I also know all too well.

Since I like writing, and because I like being thorough, when it comes to letters and emails I can tend to get wordy if I’m not careful.  And I tend to write the same way I’d converse with someone.  Some people really like that.

But not everyone.

Some people will only communicate over email in cryptic short bursts.  And more often than not, these are the people who tell me that I don’t communicate enough.  When the reality is, I gave them so much information, they just didn’t really read it.

Often when I catch on to someone’s short communication pattern, I will try to pattern after them, and keep my responses short like theirs.  My husband is more like this.  I’ve figured out that I need to keep any emails I send him short, focused and sweet, or call him instead.  One or two lines, no more.  Otherwise, he won’t read my email.  He just won’t.  And then I’ll hear later how I never told him something.

However sometimes, especially in business, I can’t justify using short burst communication, because there are too many important details that need to be addressed.  And this is when I really need whomever I’m working with to get over their preferences and adapt to me so we can get things done.

And yet, the cryptic short burst communication type folks will still tend not to read what the information they are sent.

Sometimes I try to relegate communication to “phone only” with these individuals, but it never ceases to amaze me how many people seem to refuse to use phone conversations anymore.  Which to me is quite weird, because typing is such a one-dimensional way to communicate, much less in a few sentences of 8 words or less.

I’ve seen more misunderstandings take place thanks to only communicating in text over the internet than anything else in all my life.  Ninety percent of the time, if someone would just pick up the phone, there wouldn’t end up being a misunderstanding at all.

There’s a little rule of thumb my husband taught me that he used in his sales job and that I view as a golden truth: If it takes more than two emails, it’s time to pick up the phone.

But you can’t force someone to call you.

These are the times that try my professional soul.  And sometimes my PTO motherhood soul.  And sometimes my wifely soul too.  Though hubby and I have the luxury of recapping with each other every day.

So when that important communication blunder takes place, what can you do?

One idea: Try to head it off before it takes place.  Establish a particular format or a thumb-nail sketch of rules that you use to govern your communication by.

For instance, I used to require a phone number before I would work with anyone over a custom order and insist on talking with them over the phone at some point.  It helped a lot.  It kept me from hours on the computer just trying to talk to people, and it kept me from misunderstanding something because all I got was a 10 word response.  Having phone access gave my clients and I both a much clearer understanding of one another.  Not to mention it kept people from forgetting about their orders too.

However, I’ve gotten away from that practice, thinking perhaps I didn’t really need it, especially for internet sales.  And it hasn’t worked out as well.  Some things work out just fine and others, not so much.  When I’ve asked for someone’s address four times, it gets a little annoying after a while.  So I’m probably going to reinstate that rule again.  Along with a general structure of required information that I want before I even consider their project.

When push comes to shove in business and communication, we need a structure and a plan.  Since the only person in the world we can truly control is ourselves, sometimes we just have to check ourselves, try to listen to the beat, roll with the music and dance anyway.  But other times, we need to build checks and balances into our system to take care of potential issues that arise.  Like my phone number requirement for custom work.  Or a basic who, what, why, where, when, how approach.

The truth is, people really mostly want to hear about themselves, what interests them most and be pampered.  And it’s our job as professionals to figure out what all that is. We listen, we ask, we take notes.  But somewhere in there the customer has to meet us in the middle.

I’m here to serve you.

I’m not however a mind reader.  I do not offer, nor do I provide that service.

So it’s your job to 1) help me understand how best to serve you and 2) help me understand what your expectations are.  Because I cannot deliver what I don’t understand and I cannot live up to something I have no idea exists, much less never offered.

Which means all I have left is to take you at your own words.

All ten of them.

7 Comments

Filed under Business, Crochet Ruminations, NaBloPoMo, Writing

Display And Pricing Your Art And Handmade Items At Shows


I’ve done shows for some years now. And one of the things every newbie (and many seasoned) sellers struggle with is how to handle displaying your pricing.  Sometimes sellers think that not using tags or pricing will somehow make their items look more professional and nicer.  But one of the biggest mistakes an artist can make is by not displaying (or hiding altogether) the price of their work.

From a marketing standpoint, you want your customers to not only be able to see your prices, but to see that you have a range of prices. You want highs and lows and in-betweens. You will always have those buyers looking for the cheapest they can get and occasionally (maybe more often depending on the venue and location) those buyers who have no financial restraints. But most of your customers and sales are going to fall into that mid-range.  And a lot of that is frankly psychology.  Most of us don’t want the cheapest, but we also can’t always afford the best.  So we aim for the middle somewhere.  I can’t afford X, and Z is not nearly as nice, so I’m going to settle for a lesser expensive Y.  We like to work in three’s.

We tend to approach everything in life this way, like a bowling ball bumping its way down a kiddie lane, trying to find that nice wide middle.  By not providing that largest of human buying demographics the middle-ground it seeks, you set up a scenario where it’s not easy for buyers to make the decisions they are used to, because one (or more) of the three legs is missing.  Either that or there are way too many legs to choose from.  And if it’s not easy, then buyers don’t buy.  So you’re also handicapping yourself in sales.  Because let’s face it – buyers of handmade goods in the US don’t typically quibble over 50 cents here or a $1 there.  That’s not what we’re talking about here.  What they are really looking for in their buying decisions is justification.  And they will judge your pricing as a means of measuring the worth of your work.

So make sure your prices are visible and do not hide them.  Whether you do this by pricing with tags, little cards, or by using a sign with color codes dots, I’m not sure it matters. But make those prices visible and have a high, a (or some) middle and a low always. You could always opt for a pricing gun or gold ink or something if you’re trying to professionalize the look further.

There’s another consideration in the matter of pricing.  Many of your best customers are also the ones who do not like to touch displays very much and who will want to window shop a show for bit first before they handle any items. (And many buyers do not like to “show their hand” when they are interested in something.) Too many of these customers would rather walk away than touch an item to look for a price if it’s not clear what price range your booth is. Haggling is not a “high-end” kind of mentality and most juried shows don’t allow it, but also, many customers are uncomfortable with it. Also keep in mind, there are most definitely some shows out there where customers will judge you if you are not expensive enough. If you don’t think your work is worth very much, why should they?

Lastly, you should know that it’s not only your typical buyers who peruse shows.  You could have potential customers who are looking at your items from a business point of view (i.e. consignment shops who peruse shows looking for new blood).  Making sure your pricing is visible, broad spectrum and in balance, can help them make a business decision faster too. There are several kinds of eyes at shows and if you want to make sales, you want to catch them all.

Pricing is not just about affordability, but also the value you place on your work. It says a lot about you.  So think about the image you wish to convey and price accordingly.  And don’t get stuck on “nobody will pay that, so I’ll charge pennies” mentality.  Women are especially bad about valuing their work for some reason.  So think on it this way.  For the same money, you can work super hard at lower quality to sell several, or you can pour yourself into better quality and sell one.  One of these requires more patience than the other.  Which will help you find your balance in life and get you where you want to be?

If you need more ideas for doing shows, I wrote an article about shows you might find helpful here: aberrantcrochet.wordpress.com/2009/11/30/about-doing-craft-shows-ob…

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Filed under Doing the Show Circuit, Education, NaBloPoMo

Untapped Marketing – Crochet Ruminations


If you were to divide crocheters into experience classes, when you think about it, the beginner class is rather small and short-lived.  The girth of our community is somewhere in the middle to the advanced side.

So much of advanced crochet skill is not necessarily governed by stitches and patterns, but in learning consistency and control (which can’t be taught as much as practiced), refining our methods and then there are advanced concepts like shaping.

And yet the type of instruction generally offered to the crochet community remains below the skill levels of the majority.  Resulting in crocheters being ignored and even written off as cheap and unwilling to spend $$.

The way I see it, our market has so long been poorly understood.  And there exists a whole frontier of creative marketing that just hasn’t been adequately explored.

What about you?  Do you feel the level of training offered in crochet adequately responds to your expertise?  And how do you feel about the way our market is approached?  Let us know the area you’re from when responding. 🙂  Maybe we’ll hash out some good stuff!


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Filed under Crochet Ruminations

Three Communication Tips To Help You Get Your Point Across


If I’m not careful, I can be a talker. As a natural at the art of capturing a story, it’s a gift. But it can also be a weakness. Here are three tools I’ve found useful to help me stay trim in my communications and remain effective in the long run.  This includes marketing and sales.

1. Remember that people communicate (and retain) information best in three main ways: audio, visual and kinetic. A balance of the three seems to work best. Honestly, sometimes we need to shut up and let a picture say a 1000 words or let someone get a literal handle on something. But beyond that, the truth is that some people retain and communicate best by hearing their own thoughts expressed in audio. Which means, get them into the discussion and you’ll get the best out of them.

My son is an example of someone who performs best through discussion, not just listening. He has an unusual visual impairment with a kind of blend of parallax and monocular vision (and medical terms I find difficult to describe).  Due to this, his thoughts literally form best through discussion and the hearing of his own voice. Once he’s been a part of the discussion, he’s your man and knows exactly what to do. Without it, he has a harder time putting his thought process in order or “getting it” because he has no mental black-board to “see” things in his mind. When he can verbalize thoughts as they take form, the quality of his work is amazingly better, because his brain is wired that way. It’s been an interesting path of discovery for us at home and I’ve learned to tailor my communication for others as a result.

2. There is a book that I love called: How to Get Your Point Across in 30 Seconds or Less, by Milo Frank. I listen to the audio version on a periodic basis to remind me how to trim my words and get to the point.

3. Once words are spoken, you can’t take them back. So if it’s the wrong words, or just too many, the problem is the same. I like to keep in mind an old adage that goes something like this: “Better they wonder why you didn’t open your mouth, than why you did!”

These are some thoughts that have helped me in both my professional and personal communications, as well as marketing.  I hope they help you too.

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Filed under Business, Editorial, My Recommends, NaBloPoMo

About Doing Craft Shows: Observations, Likes and Advantages…


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Almost my entire background in business is from doing face-to-face sales at shows. In all honesty, I prefer it, as being seen on Etsyand other online markets can be rather difficult to achieve.

Seeing is Believing

I find that with some items, like my crochet designs for instance, that being able to touch what I make, and see in person how I do what I do, makes all the difference in the world. No one can tell from my photos just how soft my garments are. But in person, if I don’t watch it, I’ll have people hanging out in my booth just to “pet” my items. “Err, yes… ma’am…? If you don’t mind, please don’t rub it on your face unless you’re buying….” There is also only so much texture you can bring out in a photo as well.

Demos Add Interest

I’m also a teacher by nature and so I constantly demo my work at every show. I let people watch me work and even show them my tools, how they work, tell them about the custom makers behind my tools, show them the techniques I’m using, ask their opinions even. It’s very experiential, or at least I try to be on a positive scale. People are not just shoppers in my booth. They usually become contacts. When people get to observe you as you work, and you stop focussing on selling to them, and focus more on enjoying yourself, them having a good time and maybe even helping them out (I share my favorite yarn shops and online resources all the time), they are then allowed to relax and simply enjoy themselves. I find that people often buy not just because they like the item, but because they enjoyed the experience and because they are buying a piece of you. And they remember and come back too.

Missed Marketing

It depends somewhat on your product, but I also try not to forget men and children at shows, as they are the most missed sales potential for most shows. It’s true that the majority of shoppers are women, but skipping men and children altogether is a miss! Guess who’s usually tagging along (often bored to death)? If you plan to have at least a couple items geared towards these neglected markets in your booth, you just might make sales you wouldn’t have otherwise caught! And besides, there’s less saturation and competition while most booths neglect this market! For instance, being an artist of fine pottery is great and most of your customers will be adults, but just imagine a couple bits of miniatures for “kids,” even if they are higher priced. You’d be surprised who just might have to snatch it up!

Outdoor Shows

When it comes to equipment for outdoor shows, I highly recommend EzUp. Not only have I found them to be generally much better quality, but they were highly recommended to me by several seasoned artists years ago. I have also seen several lesser grade tents mangled in just a few gusts of wind. It can even be shocking how quickly a poor quality tent can be turned to rubble. This is an area where you really do get what you pay for. I don’t care how lightweight and easy aluminum frames may seem – they just do not hold up very long. And since many outdoor shows are set up near busy roads, between buildings and other structures, wind can really tunnel through such areas in a very focussed manner. May not seem like much on the street, but in a virtual tunnel and a tent full of your wares involved, it can be gustier than people realize and even devastating. Many event planners are not artists themselves and may or may not have ever set up at a show themselves, so these types of details are not always noticed or planned for.

The best affordable EzUp in my opinion is the “Express” model which has a steel frame that uses an entire support system “web” inside the tent canopy. You can see the Express model here. They are much stronger and will – with proper weighting and/or staking – last much longer should windy conditions develop (and they do).

Also, most long-standing outdoor shows will usually require white top or blue top tents. White is generally always safe. Check with shows in your area to be sure.

Even though your tent will come with stakes, good (heavy) weights on all four legs are a must. This, of course is to keep your tent anchored down and from blowing away. Many shows will actually fine artists whose tents disrupt, or cause damage, at a show. Plus you’ll be held responsible for paying for the damage to other artists’ stuff that your tent may have caused. Also, weights are doubly important as a part of your arsenal of tools because some shows do not allow staking.

Know Your Surroundings

I just want to also mention here to watch out for hidden holes, spaces with trees where birds roost and leaky plumbing, etc.. Like I mentioned before – event planners are not often artists themselves. They may put together an event, but may not have actually ever set up at one themselves and they just may not be aware of all the things to look for. I’ve attended a couple events where everything looked like a great spot for a little market, only to find out oops! – that’s the “bird poop” tree or the building next door channels water off the roof right there, etc.. This is especially important when trying out a newly created market event. Usually the long-time shows have figured this stuff out.

Creative Display

Almost anything can be turned into a display tool. Shutters and fireplace screens can display jewelry, small bookcases can add height, plant hangers and hooks can hang from your tent, decorative candelabrum with flat style holders can be used to display clusters of smaller items, etc..

I’ve seen some artists use gridwall to anchor in the center of their tent and display clothing and other items on that (which also provides extra anchoring weight.) I bought a used hat tree for my crochet hat designs and it was a life saver. Because before I had that, sometimes my styrofoam heads, in spite of my efforts, would catch a gust of wind and there’d go flying a head across the place with my crochet along with it.

Leeping_Deer_Tapestry_Crochet

My tapestry crochet piece. It’s about 5 feet square. This design was adapted from the work of Catherine Cartwright-Jones and her machine knitting book called “Enchanted Knitting.” This motif was originally designed for a hat and came from a tattoo design found on an ice princess mummy. An anniversary gift to my mother-in-law.

Don’t forget the power of PVC pipe. You can see the roughly 6 foot frame my husband made for me to display a 5 foot square tapestry crochet piece here.

It’s very sturdy and “modular’ as it can be completely dismantled and stored in an old lawn chair bag.

I have also seen (believe it or not) stained glass hung from pvc pipe frame that was wired to a tent frame. This was done indoors, using a tent frame with the canopy removed. (See, even if you’re not doing an outdoor show, a tent frame can still be very useful.)

Networking to Find Shows and Improve Experience

Get to know other seasoned artists and artisans. Most people are good people and most want to be helpful and help others on their path to success at shows. And in all honesty, it makes for a better show experience all the way around, if everyone is helpful to each other and helps the newbies learn the ropes. Seriously! I can’t tell you how many wonderful and seasoned artists have helped me out over the years, giving me insight that can only come from years of experience, saving me some serious headaches and helping me make good decisions too. It doesn’t matter if they are in your exact field or not. There are many things about shows that are all the same. And these folks can tell you where to get the best equipment, the best prices, and even what’s a good compromise and what’s not and to stand up for yourself as an artist. Likewise, if someone steps out to help you, be sure to appreciate them back!

Depending on your market, check with local cities (most have at least an annual event), schools and art/craft clubs. If there is an Etsy Street Team in your area, I highly recommend joining it. Or find a local art or craft group and join it. Many of the better groups are juried, so do keep that in mind. A juried group means you have to pass the muster before you can join. And you may find shows that are juried as well. This is a way to keep the quality and standards high, as well as maintain the integrity of the market – which in the long run spells success for its participants. Even 6 months or a year with a group like one of these will be invaluable for the information, experience, opportunities, and relationships you will gain. Plus it’s always nice to do a show with folks you know who can watch your back and support your work.

Advantages to Help During a Show

I personally feel if you can get help to run your booth, it’s well worth doing and the bigger the show, perhaps the more helpful additional hands are if you can get them. Two people to run a booth is good to start until you get to know your venues. However, when I did a couple shows with our Etsy Austin Street Team, several of us shared a single booth space to help gain exposure for the team as well as each of us. And it was (surprisingly) a very nice experience in that there were several of us available to help sell everyone’s items, watch the crowds and handle the credit card sales, etc..

Getting help with your booth is especially good if your helper(s) can offset any weaknesses you might have in public presentation. If you’re not so great with how to arrange your set up, maybe your helper has more the eye for how to arrange the booth to be a pleasant space people want to stay in and not feel like they’re about to be trapped. Or, if you’re like me – good at the talking, but less good at handling multiple points of sales at the same time, a helper would be great to help handle extra customers or paperwork stuff while you focus on your presentation. The “expert” and the “support” person makes a great basic team.

Confidence in Numbers

Another good reason to have help is strength in numbers or just support when you’re not sure what to do. I personally still struggle with what to do with bad situations with ugly competitors. Truly I just want everyone to be nice and I don’t personally know how to be mean on purpose when you need to. For instance, at a *juried* show I did last year (which was surprising because usually juried shows also mean better manners all around), I ended up with a competing hat maker’s husband standing in front of my booth, wearing her hats. Before I realized what was really going on, he started annoying people and blocking folks from being able to walk into my booth. It took a friend of mine coming over from her booth to say something to him before I could figure out how to politely get the guy away from my traffic. That was one of those situations where I really could have used my own husband or someone to help me with that one. I’m just not geared to be mean, nor able to be very confrontational in my own booth space.

So, if you have a hard time with stuff like that, having help with you who can run interference for you can be invaluable.

So What’s Holding You Back!

These are just some observations from my own experiences over the years. I hope you find them helpful in your own quest to branch out and sell face-to-face at shows. I’ll write a Part II to go with this at some point, as there’s certainly a lot that can go into being prepared for a show. So let me know if you liked this article and would like to see more.

In the mean time, if you have some ideas you think will help others – feel free to post them in the comments below!

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Filed under Business, crochet, Doing the Show Circuit