Goals for the New Year

Before I get too far into this, I’d like to apologize for going off-format a little with this post, I hope you guys will bear with me…

Somewhere back in grade school, a teacher of mine made the bold claim that there were no stupid questions. I remember she said that if one of us didn’t understand something, chances were pretty good that there were a dozen other people in the room too afraid to raise their hands, and we were doing them a favor by asking. As I recall, she was spot on and it certainly made the learning environment a lot more constructive.

Toddler Upcycled Chalk Board Table and School Chair by Vintage Renewal

So what does that have to do with business tips? Well, even though I’ve volunteered to blog on the subject, I am in no way an expert on running my own business. I simply figured my experiences, research, and especially my mistakes can help others who are on the same path.

Like many of you, I’m swimming in last minute holiday orders and other end-of-year messiness. I actually caught myself making little promises to my crafting table that next year… next year would be different! Next year I will get my orders done earlier and save some time for personal creating!

Except I say that every year, and it never quite seems to work out.

One of the absolute hardest things for me has been finding separation between the business and what used to be my personal life. Reading other seller profiles and features I’m struck by how much everyone kind of says the same thing – they are working longer hours than ever, they don’t really take vacations, and the option of walking away from the job at 5pm is – well, it’s no longer an option. This is fun and exciting at first, it feels really good to be spending so much time and energy on something that is well and truly yours, doesn’t it?

But here’s where I’m shyly raising my hand. What happens when it no longer feels so good? How do you guys decide when to say when? Can we talk about office hours and what to do when it’s always assumed you can drop your work at a moment’s notice to do this life-related thing that your partner has no time to do? Or, how do you deal with people insinuating you don’t have a “real” job and don’t understand why you can’t take a 3 hour lunch?
Does having your own studio help? How do you manage your day? How do you manage spouses, friends and children who don’t respect your work time? How do you find time to enjoy your holiday? Do you still craft for yourself?

Again, I apologize for going off format, but if there’s anything this group is good at, it’s sharing problems and finding solutions. I’d like to move into the new year with a better handle on my own personal time management skills and a much more organized working environment. So, I’m raising my hand and maybe there are a few more of you out there who can benefit from the wisdom of the class.
Thank you.

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  1. This is a truly beautiful and very positive thread – it just shows we are all human beings – doing our best and getting it better slowly.
    My partner and I we take 3 month of every year – we go walkabout for the winter (outback australia) for this time. it is our time, no phone, no internet, no etsy shop just us and nature. I do collect material during this time but this gives us the excuse to go to certain areas, camp there and walk the land. so it is a very enjoyable excuse. The rest of the year I do work a lot and my life is work and one of my workshops is in our launch room… it is all mixed up and I am trying to improve… but what keeps me going is that I love creating and I know our 3 month are coming again – to slow me down, to keep me sane and to keep our relationship a good one – the relationship to myself, to my partner and to mother earth.
    blessings to all you creative people – thank yourself often and trust you are doing your best.

  2. not sure if i’ll ever figure it out, but i’m trying to work smarter, not harder!

  3. Michelle;

    Wanna trade schedules? or life for a day?


  4. Karen, that would be fun.

  5. Karen, I’m in.

  6. I am going to open a new Etsy Shop called, “Life Coach for Etsians” and then, hold retreats and crafting-for-me weekends as therapy.

    Anyone want to sign up?

  7. These are great comments, thank you guys! Lots to think about!

  8. I understand where you are coming from. I was there with my first business on Etsy and it scared the hell out of me when I saw my work as no longer being fun. In fact, I started to hate it the way most of us hate working a 9 to 5 job in some cramped office space. Then I did something I never thought I would do. I took a vacation. I posted enough inventory and then I walked away for a whole week. No Twitter, no Facebook, no blog- nothing. I needed this time to rethink what was important to me. I realized I needed to make time for me and my family or else there would never be any time.

    I started small and simple. Since the post office was closed on Sunday and I wouldn’t be able to mail any orders anyway, I decided that my store would be closed. No work. NONE. Just me and my family. And guess what happened to my business when I claimed this day as my own? Not a single thing. Life when on without me glued to my workbench or computer for 24 hours.

    Next, I took it a step further, I only worked at night after my little girl was in bed or early in the morning before she woke up. I would have orders packed and ready when she got up and then we would walk to the post office together. Our return trip home would include a stop at the park or at a friends house. I made sure that all ‘business’ was done by noon, so that the rest of my time was just that- my time.

    Today, my life schedule goes something like this- 7am- prayer and bible reading, 7:30am- tea and emails, 8:30am- work/crafting, 11am- post office. 12pm to 10:pm-Life. 10:15pm- emails, 10:45pm- work/crafting, 12am- bed.

    I think the key is in realizing that your life is more important then your work. When you take the time to be a blessing to those around you, you will in turn be blessed with the time and resources you need to bless the world.

  9. This sooo hits home for me. I closed my shop early – so I could spend time with my family for fun things this season. I knew I didn’t want to be grumpy trying to balance it all.

  10. I hear you on everything! It can be so hard to separate business from personal, especially when you work from home. I do have some advice I have learned over the years that has really helped me, maybe some of it will help you guys as well.

    One of the big things that has helped me is that in our new house my office/studio is downstairs with the laundry room and garage, so it is totally cut off from the actual living space of the house upstairs. I would still love to have a studio away from home, but I just can’t do that yet. I definitely recommend having a separate space for your work area(preferably with a door) that is just for your business, plus the space is a great tax deduction.

    This last spring I started to get really burnt out with my bridal business, I was working all the time, and I felt like I had no life, and like you said, it just didn’t feel good anymore. So, I took a step back, re-evaluated my entire process, my prices and looked at my product line. It is very hard to look at your business from an unbiased perspective, so if you need help, ask someone you trust to be totally honest with you. What I decided to do first was raise my prices(some items went up very little, while some tripled in price), that allowed me to sell less items and make the same amount of money, freeing up time for other things. Then I went through my process and figured out how to cut out unnecessary steps, without compromising on quality, saving even more time. Also, making lots of the same item in one sitting saves a lot of time, so I started to make extra product up ahead of time. What I found in asking others is that what I thought was absolutely necessary to the quality of a product in my eyes, was to others unnecessary and in some cases lessened the quality in their eyes. So ask your friends, family and neighbors what they think about your products, you will be amazed at what you learn. After making those changes, I was able to cut my work hours to 25-35 a week and made the same amount of money as the previous year when I worked 45-60 per week.

    What I have done to help others understand I am working, is to remind them that I am working, lol, it sound silly, but a lot of people just need to be reminded. I sat down with my husband and we discussed what hours I would be working and what days, just like a ‘real’ job. It may also help to post your hours on the door to your office, or have a sign that says ‘in business’ that you can hang on the door, and tell everyone what that means. It is also helpful to not answer your home phone while you are ‘at work’. My cell phone is my business number, so I do answer that one, but I found that when I started to work from home, my family would call many times a week and want to chat because I was home. I stopped answering their calls during the day, and they stopped calling during the day. Basically it is our job as small business owners to train our family how to treat our business, that sounds funny, but I swear it is true. Communication is key, and a set schedule can really help as well, tell everyone you work 9-5 or whatever, and stick to it. That will also help you to turn it off at that time and attend to your family life. Also, do not get on the computer after you are done working just to check on things, you will find something that needs your attention, so just stay away until the next morning(this one is very hard to do). If someone wants you to take a 3 hour lunch, just say sorry, I only have an hour for lunch today. They will probably say to you, really, your business is doing that good? And you can proudly say yes :)

    I do have very little time to craft for myself. My goal for next year is to have more time to make things just for my personal enjoyment, not for work.

    Good luck to everyone in finding the balance, i hope some of my experiences over the past year can help some of you.

  11. I don’t think you are going off topic at all!! Moderation, balance whatever you want to call it has become a SUPER Challenge in the way we live nowadays. Everything seems to be faster, harder, more, more, more………..
    I think that when setting goals with a Handmade business we need to bear in mind that unlike mass-manufactured items we simply cannot keep up. Nor do we need to. Handmade is art, it is our souls. Isn’t this why handmade has more value?
    Having a business plan is essential. But giving yourself time and space to recharge your batteries is just as important. What ever we focus on expands. Being realistic with yourself about how much you can handle is an excellent place to start setting goals. We need to pay more attention to the process more rather than just the end result.

  12. Balance…hmmm, finding balance… Easier said than done. You forgot to throw in finding time to get the regular housework done as well. I’m right there with you sister! I actually schedule the times that I will concentrate on creating – which is usually around 7:30 – 8:00 pm after I get home from my 7:00 – 6:00 job, cooked dinner, cleaned dishes, picked up after the kids and took my coat off (sometimes I stays on for a while till I remember that it’s another task I have to do – take it off).

    Happy Holidays!

  13. Karen, this resonates so deeply with changes that I want to make in 2011, it’s almost karmic to read it. Thanks for the food for thought While I love my business as much as my favorite things and people in the whole world…the business is just one part of my whole world and we have to all remember to take time to breath and enjoy too.

    Big hugs and Happy New Year!

  14. Jenn, that day planner thing… I used to do that and for some reason I stopped. I think maybe I am the kind of person who needs it all right in front of me each day, so I should start doing that again. Good advice! Thank you.

    Jane: *peace sign right back at ya!*

  15. Oh you took the words right out of my mouth with this one! It is really difficult to separate work from life for me too sometimes (and I’m sure everyone who runs their own business can attest to that like you said!) and I’m not sure there is a magic formula that works for everyone. My Etsy shop is very slow all the time so that doesn’t take up the bulk of my time but I run a decorative paint company (faux finishing) as well as write full time and I just enrolled in school (because I needed more on my plate apparently lol). The easiest solution for me has been to use my day planner and enforce myself to schedule “free” time as well as work time.

    At the beginning of every day I write out the time I plan to spend on each facet of my business. So for example I check email & Facebook in the morning & I carve out an hour to do so. That way it isn’t 11AM and I’m still sucked into the email black hole. This has helped a lot. The other thing that has helped for me is adding in an exercise routine that I do with my husband. When he gets home from his out of the house job we get right to it. That allows me to keep an eye on the clock and wrap up my day at about the same time every day. Then after workout & dinner I do not get back online. It was hard at first but since I start working at about 7AM I feel getting off the computer at 6PM is reasonable.

    In this new world of get it done yesterday I found the single most important thing was just to learn to say “no, its my time now”. I tell people up front that I only have an hour for lunch and treat it like a job because if I don’t then I know I have to work longer & harder the next day. And who wants that? :-)

    Like I said, the same thing might not work for all people but in the past 6 months I’ve found that doing this (and sticking to it!) has really helped, and the people in my life have grown to understand that I am a dedicated business person as opposed to just a “crafter” who has loads of free time to do whatever I want with. Good luck with it and have a happy holiday!

    And PS…yea you for being so busy with your orders!!!

  16. I’ve got one hand in my pocket and the other one is raising a ~peace sign. (consider me raising my hand along with you). Thanks for sharing!

    This season my only tip for myself was to repeatedly voice in my own head… ~I can only do what I can do.