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How to Run Your Creative Business While Working Full-Time

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It’s the ultimate dream doesn’t it? Spending your days in your studio or in your home office running your own creative business. The longest commute of the day is from your bedroom to your studio. Not having to request vacation or sick days from your boss because, the boss is you! It’s just you, your work and your customers.

But if you’re like a good many creative business owners, that scenario is a daydream…at least for now. Your creative venture don’t quite pay all the bills yet. So as of now you have a full or part time job in addition to your creative side gig (or gigs). How do you effectively juggle all of that and still have a life as well?

Juggling a creative business with a full-time job (and a family and that thing called life) isn’t easy, but it can be done. Here are some tips on how you can maintain the balance.

Managing your time

The biggest factor in juggling your job and your business is time. Or rather the lack of it. If you’re struggling to successfully managing your time between your job and your business, here are a few ideas to consider:

Carve out time for your business– We all have have small pockets of time throughout the day that you can take advantage of to get some work done. Even if you feel like your days are packed, there are always some pockets of free time you can use to work on your business.

The first step in carving out your time is to keep a time diary for a week or two so you can track when you go to sleep, when you get up, how long it takes you to commute to work, how long it takes you to prepare a meal, how long it takes you to get ready in the morning, what you do during your downtime, and so forth. By the end of the week you should have a fairly accurate picture of what your days are like and how you actually spend your time.

Look over your time diary and see where your free time is. Can you find pockets of 30 minutes to an hour you can use to get some work done? Are you able to make extra time for yourself by giving up a few hours of television or waking up a half hour early or going to bed a half hour or so later? Can you allocate a few hours per week on the weekend for your creative business? Could you spend a couple of lunch breaks per week to tackle a few tasks?

Don’t underestimate the amount of work you can get done in a half hour. I often find that the amount of time it takes me to do something magically expands to fit the time I have available. The advantage of time limits is that it often forces you to focus and work efficiently.

Juggling a creative business with a full-time job isn't easy, but it can be done Click To Tweet

Make use of systems– When your time is limited, efficiency is key. There’s probably a lot of tasks that you do over and over again on a regular basis like shipping orders, sending invoices, posting social media updates, or following up on sales calls. If you don’t have a systemized workflow to handle these routine tasks you’re probably wasting a good bit of time.

The benefit of setting up and using a system for your tasks is that you follow the same steps each and every time you do it. You won’t have to waste time trying to figure out what to do next. You’re less likely to skip a crucial step in the process which may cause mistakes that you have to go back and fix. And you can easily train an assistant or employee on the process if you have a solid one already in place.

A system doesn’t have to be complicated. It can be as simple as a checklist or a set of tasks in a to-do list that you go through and check off while you’re working on a routine task.

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Setting up systems and workflows for common tasks to can help save time in the long run.

And remember that systems aren’t just a good idea for your business. You can use systems to save time in your personal life as well. For example, I created a system for preparing my clothes for the entire week on Sunday mornings. I check my calendar to see if there are any meetings where I need to dress up a bit, and check the weather to see if it’s going to be hot, cold, or raining. And I also check the clothes I want to wear to make sure there aren’t any missing buttons, wrinkled, stains that made it though the wash, or any surprise ripped seams or tears. The clothes are then arranged by day towards the front of the closet.

So instead spending five to ten minutes every morning trying to decide what to wear, all I have to do is grab my pre-selected outfit for the day and get dressed. This small savings in time every morning allows me to spend it on accomplishing business tasks before work.

Systems can be an awesome time-saver. Give them a try!

Get and stay organized– Another side benefit of creating systems is that they can also encourage you to organize your workspaces…which also saves more time. The less time you spend looking for more packing tape or trying to find that file on your computer is more time spend spent on more important things.

Take some time to organize your physical workspace. Set it up so you can quickly find materials that you use frequently and stow away things that you don’t need on a regular basis. Organize your digital files so that you’re not sifting through dozens of vaguely labeled folders or trying to sift through multiple versions of the same file to find what you need to work.

This doesn’t mean that you have to have to have one of those absolutely clean workspace with nothing but a pencil on the desk. Rather, set up your space so that you know where everything is and that you can lay your hand on the things you need when you need them instead of having to search for them.

Take advantage of mobile apps and services– There are a wealth of free and paid apps out there these days that can help you save time and manage your side gig while on the go. Everything from productivity apps like Todoist, IFTTT, Trello, Google Docs, Google Calendar, and Evernote to apps that help your run your business like Sell on Etsy, Mailchimp, or Buffer.

With your mobile device and the right apps, you have the equivalent of a traveling office in your pocket. You can easily take advantage of spare minutes like waiting in line or at the doctor’s office, during commutes on public transportation, or for a few minutes between meetings to keep track of your projects, tasks, and schedule as well as manage your social media, update your Etsy store, send email newsletters, and update your blog.

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Day to day tasks and longer term projects can be successfully managed using productivity apps such as Todoist.

Have a plan– If you’re first starting out or even if you’ve been working at your business for a while, you may find yourself flailing around, doing one task, then switching over to another task, and eventually you find that you’re doing a bunch of work, but you’re not really going anywhere.

This drifting around from one unrelated task to another is usually a sign that you don’t have a clear plan for your business; a tangible goal to reach and a roadmap to get there. Without a goal or a timeline to work towards, it’s easy to simply fill what time you have with aimless tasks that gets you nowhere.

What do you want to accomplish with your creative business in the next year or so? Do you want to write your first novel? Build your first collection? Get into your top three galleries? Take some to to really think about where you want your business to go in the next 12 months. Express that accomplishment in the form of a tangible, measurable goal, such as; “In 12 months, I want to launch a collection of 12 new designs“.

Once you’ve decided on a goal, all of your tasks should be focused on that goal. This tight focus keeps you from wasting time on useless tasks. If a task isn’t closely related to your main goal, it shouldn’t be on your list.

Annual_Plan_CoverOne tool that can help you break your main goal down into an actionable task list is an annual plan. An annual plan steps you through on planning your main goals in various areas of your life for the next year, and then creating a plan help you reach your goal. You can download a copy of the Annual Planning Guide from the Creative Business Toolbox.

Get help where you can– Getting more done doesn’t mean that you have to do it all yourself. If you need help managing your Etsy store or building a website or managing a lot of your office related tasks, consider hiring an assistant for a few hours a week.

A virtual assistant can answer emails, update your website, or do marketing research, or send newsletters while you’re at your full time job or even while you’re asleep. You can opt to hire a local assistant to come in during the evenings or the weekend to help you with fill orders, filling, or organizing your workspace. This can free your precious time up to do higher level tasks like strategizing, creating your work, or finding new customers.

You may even find that your spouse or children are actually eager to help you with certain business related tasks as well. I recently completed a full inventory of my jewelry and supplies with the help of a teenaged cousin who also helps with household chores from time to time. Inventory is a task that I always find to be an exasperating, yet necessary evil. She found it infinitely fascinating to learn the ins and outs of keeping inventory and why it’s important. And of course, the main attraction for her was seeing all the jewelry. It was a win-win for both of us.

Don’t forget that the less time you spend on normal household tasks like cleaning, cooking, and running errands, the more time you can allocate for your creative gig. If you have a significant other or children, work with them to redistribute some of your household related chores so that you have more time to spend on your business.

If you don’t have anyone to redistribute chores to, consider hiring a cleaning service once or twice a month to clean while you work on your business. For other household projects line small repairs, errands, and yard work, you can use a service like Task Rabbit can help you find people in your area that will offload those chores on a one time or ongoing basis.

Task Rabbit

Services like Task Rabbit can help you manage household and personal tasks so you can have more time for your business.

Managing your energy and focus

Making time to work on your creative business is only part of the battle. You also need to be productive with the time you set aside. Being able to divide your energy and focus between your job and your creative business is just as important. Here are some tips to help you manage your energy.

Work with your natural energy flow– Everyone has natural energy peaks and lows. If you work a regular 8 hour day at your full-time job, you may often find yourself too tired and mentally drained to work on your side gig before bed, especially if you’re not a night owl. If you’re not a morning person, the thought of waking up early to work seems ludicrous when there’s always more sleep to be had.

When you’re carving out time to work on your side gig, remember to work as much with your natural energy flow as possible. If you’re a morning person, take advantage of that energy by rising an hour or two earlier before work. If you’re a night owl, use your extra burst of energy in the evening to get your tasks done. Match the tasks you’re doing to match when you have the greatest amount of focus. I focus best in the mornings, so I choose those times to do tasks that require more brainpower for me, like planning and writing. I save tasks that require less focus like listing Etsy store items, editing photos, inventory, or filling orders for the evenings.

And take note of your limits as well. If you’re a morning person but you’re still sleepy at 5am, adjust your routine so that you either go to bed earlier to get enough sleep to be alert at 5am or simply get up a bit later, say at 6am instead.

You’ll also have days where you seem to be super focused and days where your mind seems to be a bit “fuzzy”. In many cases it’s better to adjust your tasks and schedule to accommodate the days that you seem to be off instead of trying to power through them.

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Use your calendar to map out your day-to-day work schedule and tasks.

Don’t forget that it’s just as important to manage your energy at your 9 to 5 job. The energy you spend at your full-time job will effect how much you’ll have left for your creative business. If you find that you’re frequently coming home from work exhausted and fried, that could be a sign that you need try to take better control of your work day.

If you’re able, try to build in more breaks throughout your day at your full-time job where you take a few minutes to get away from your task and regain your focus. One study showed that people tend to work better if they work in 1 hour increments followed by a 15 minute break. If you can, try this technique in your own 9 to 5 job and see if it makes a difference in how you feel at the end of the day.

Set the mental stage for work– Squeezing a couple of extra minutes into your schedule here and there can help you knock out small tasks. But a lot of your more impactful, meaningful work is going to require your full energy and attention. How you go about starting your work and setting up your work area can help you set the proper stage.

For tasks and projects require your full concentration, set the stage in so that your mind is totally focused on your work. In a recent Creative Live article, writer Suchi Rudra described how she juggled writing fiction pieces on the side while working as a staff writer for a business journal. She would come home from work, shower, change into comfortable clothes, light a stick of incense she brought back from a recent trip to India, turn on some mood music and spend the next few hours writing. Using this method she managed to write her first novella in less than a year.

Think about what kind of work ritual you can implement that will help you focus on your side gig. For example, I do most of my blog post writing in the mornings a couple of hours before work. I get out of bed, put on my most comfy robe, perform a brief morning ritual to wake me up, make myself a cup of tea, go to my office/studio, turn on my favorite focus app Focus@Will and concentrate on writing for an hour and a half. This sets me up not only to have a productive morning for my business, but it also puts me in a good mood for my full-time job.

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If you have difficulty concentrating, a productivity app like Focus@Will can help you focus while your work.

What kind of ritual will work for you? Make it into an experience. Where will you work? When? How for how long? What will you be wearing? What kind of sensory cues will you use to put you in the mood for work? Things like music, sounds, smells or drinks like tea and coffee can be a signal to your brain that it’s time to start working. These cues will make it easier for your brain to settle down and focus on work, which will make your work periods more productive.

Explore workspaces away from home– As strange as it sounds, sometimes you’ll get much more of your work done when you’re away from your home workspace. This is especially true if there’s a pile of laundry in the corner waiting to be washed, or a stack of dishes in the sink, or if your family like to come into your office to see if you can do “just this one thing”, or if your friends have a habit of dropping in for surprise visits.

If you find that frequent interruptions at home are constantly effecting your ability to focus on your business, see if you can find a spot away from your home workspace to work, like the library, the local Starbucks, or a shared workspace. Even if your home space works quite well most of the time, sometimes an occasional change of scenery can keep you focused on days where your brain seems a bit fogged in or you don’t quite seem to be in the mood to work at home.

Take care of your health– What is the most valuable asset in your creative business? You are. You won’t have the energy to successfully handle your full-time job and your side gig if you’re sleep deprived, sick, stressed out, or all three at the same time.

When I was running my freelance business a few years ago, I spent more time trying to get more projects done and get more clients and less time getting enough rest, exercising, eating right, and just spending downtime with family and friends.

I refused to slow down even when I occasionally felt dizzy, or when I found it harder to walk up and down the stairs to my office, or even when I got so exhausted I couldn’t stay awake past 9:30 pm. Finally, I was forced to slow down when I ended up in the emergency room with severe anemia. And when my health crashed, so did my business.

It took that hard lesson to teach me that spending time to exercise or prepare a good meal or just hanging out with family is just as important as getting that new client or finishing that project. Remember that the energy and creativity you need for managing everything you do comes from how well you treat yourself. Make it a top priority.

Managing your attitude

Juggling your job and your business doesn’t just require good time and energy management. A big part of the juggling act is your attitude about it, because when that sucks…everything sucks.

Shake off the “part-time” artist stigma– If you have the notion that you won’t be a “real artist” until you’re making a living from your work, get the idea right out of your head. Ever heard of Elizabeth Gilbert, Marie Forleo, or James Franco? They worked a variety of day jobs while building up their respective crafts and businesses. So you. So do I. So do a whole lot of other unknown artists all over the world.

In Elizabeth Gilbert’s book about creativity, Big Magic, she quickly dispels the notion that that in order to live a creative life one has to give everything up and move to Paris to paint the rest of their lives. She stresses that, “living a creative life is simply having the courage to follow your interests and going where creativity may lead you”. She even cautions against depending on your art to support your life too soon (or at all) because the stress of doing so may end up killing your creativity.

If you’re telling yourself that you’re not a “real” artist or creative because you’re not doing it full time, stop it.

Have the right attitude– There will be days where you absolutely hate your job. These are usually the days where you’re itching to get a business project done and you can’t because your spending 8 hours of your day on the job. Or they’re the days where you’re having a crappy day at work. Or perhaps you just have a terrible job.

Those are the days you want to simply walk out the door. If quitting is completely out of the question, you may simply try to disappear. You’ll want to hide away from co-workers, start taking too many breaks, or try to do as little as possible while keeping your eyes on the clock, waiting for the end of the day.

Don’t do it. Just don’t. If you’re not reasonably sure that you can meet your financial needs after you quit, you’re dooming your creative business to failure. Desperation over finances usually leads to crappy business killing decisions, and as Elizabeth Gilbert pointed out in Big Magic, it can kill your creativity as well.

On the other hand, a having a bad attitude at work all day can be pretty energy draining and you risk having that bad attitude spill over into your creative business. If you absolutely can’t stand where you’re working, try to find a better job first. Unless you absolutely thrive on stress, quitting may put your side gig at risk.

If you’re going to stay at your full-time job, commit yourself to doing the work and doing it well. See if you can find ways to introduce your creative skills in your job to make it more enjoyable (The Todoist blog has a nice article about this). Instead of seeing your job as a burden, see it as an opportunity to get your business where it needs to be before you add the extra stress of making it profitable enough to go full time. You won’t be as tempted to make decisions based purely on the fact that you need to bring in money and you’ll have more leeway to experiment and take a few risks.

You can also use your full-time job as a training ground to master the skills it takes to run your business. Many of the same skills you’re likely using on the job; time management, customer service, and presentation skills are going to be some of the same skills you’ll need to be successful in your business. Use your time at your full time gig to sharpen those skills and apply them to your business.

Learning to successfully juggle your full-time job and your creative business will make you a ninja at managing your time and making your business run efficiently. Remember that your time constraints aren’t going to magically disappear on the day you finally quit and go full time with your gig. Your work will simply to expand to fill the rest of the day. So use this time to get the foundations of your business; systems, goals, and good work habits in place before you quit.

Other people's 'overnight successes' always seems more glamorous than building your own Click To Tweet

Become an intern at your job– One of the valuable things about internships is that it gives you a peek into how certain industries run and allows you to pick up a variety of skills. Depending on where you work, you may have the opportunity to learn specific skills that may benefit your business. In my job, I work within the marketing department, which gives me the opportunity to ask the social media team questions about Facebook advertising, or I can pick the brain of the public relations guy to see who the local media contacts are in our area, or I can gather a few more Photoshop tricks from the folks in the graphic design department.

What can you learn from your current job? If you pretended to be an intern at your current job, what can you learn that may benefit your business one day? What can you learn about customer service from your job? What can you learn about managing employees and teams? What can you learn about managing projects? What can you learn about local markets and trends? What can you learn about presenting your ideas? Or about setting up procedures and systems to manage everyday tasks?

You don’t have to work in a creative field to learn something that would apply to your business. Even if you feel that what you do is the most useless, soul killing position in the world, you can at least learn how not to run your business and see what doesn’t work. Keep your eyes open and take advantage of any lessons you can find at your job.

Be patient and stay motivated– Let’s face it. Working a full-time job or a couple of part time jobs while running your gig can be exciting. But sometimes it will be utterly exhausting and the exact opposite of exciting. When it seems like you’re doing so much work and not getting much out of it, it can be an absolute motivation killer. What do you when you feel like you’re not making any headway?

Recently my husband and I had dinner with a group of friends, one of which was someone we really hadn’t seen much of in a couple years. During dinner he talked about how well his business was doing. He’s getting lots of new clients…more than he could handle in some cases. He’s also getting lots of referrals and he’s projected to hit his yearly sales goal five months ahead of schedule.

Listening to my friend talk about his recent success, I reflected that it’s easy to forget that he had actually started his business over 13 years ago, building it slowly in the mornings before going to his full-time job and working on it before bed in the evenings. There were a few years where he always had an additional side gig or another part time job as well to keep things afloat. The past couple years, the ones where he “disappeared”, he had gone back to school to get a business degree….while working on his business…while working a full-time job.

Finally after 13 years of hard work, holding down multiple jobs, going to school, and slowly building his business one customer at a time, he was an “overnight” success.

Bottom line, it’s going to be a lot of hard work. Other people’s “overnight successes” always seems more glamorous than building your own. There’s going to be trade offs. There’s going to be setbacks. There’s going to be times that you wonder if you should just give up your creative business altogether.

Be patient. Focus on what you’ve accomplished so far. Focus on your routine instead of your results. Put your current results in the proper perspective.

Conclusion

Managing the demands of a day job and creative business can be a bit daunting. With the right strategies, the right tools and the right attitude, your day job can be the catalyst to help you take your creative venture full time.

Your turn! What strategies do you use to balance your full-time job and your creative business? What difficulties have you come across managing the two and how did you manage to overcome it? Share your thoughts by entering a comment below.

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Planning for mid-year success: Why you should review your creative business goals now

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Summer has arrived and we are approximately half-way through the year. How is your creative business doing so far? Are you on track to meet your goals? Have you exceeded them? Are you a bit behind? Or do you need to reevaluate what you’re doing? Now is a great time to do a mid-year review.

Why you should review your year now

You already know the value of setting goals at the beginning of the year. There’s also a lot of value in checking in at least once during through the year to see if you’re still on track. I actually do this once per quarter or about every three months; in the spring, summer, and fall and then finish out the year with an in-depth annual review. For me personally, I need more frequent check-ins through the year to keep me on track. I know several creatives who checks in bi-monthly. You may not need or want to check in that frequently. But it’s a great idea to do it at least once during the year…and the best time to do it is at the half-way mark.

Why? There’s several reasons why this is a good idea:

1. You can check the progress of your goals– If you’re like a lot of creatives you started off with a list of things you wanted to accomplish this year. You may even have written up a detailed plan. But a list or a plan is only good if you review it every now and then to see if you’re on track. How far along are you on your list? How many of these goals have you reached? Which goals have you completed? Which goals are in progress? Are there some goals that seem to be roadblocked? One thing you don’t want is have October or November roll around and realize that you haven’t really accomplished what you set out to do this year. A mid-year review can give you the kick in the butt you need to get back in gear.

2. You can figure out what’s doing well and what needs work– One reason why many of us can’t hit our goals is that we plow ahead with our routine without pausing to see if what we’re doing is actually effective or not. A review allows us to look back and see if our past efforts are getting results. What are you trying to accomplish this year? Is it your goal to more sales? Getting into more galleries? Get more new customers? Is what you’re doing now actually moving you towards your goals? If not, why?

On the flip side, a review can also reveal what’s working for you as well. While it’s easy to zero in on what’s going wrong, there’s just as much that can be learned by figuring out what we’re doing well and seeing how we can apply that to other areas of our business.

3. You can adjust your plan and your goals– Just because you’ve made a plan at the beginning of the year, doesn’t mean that you have to be a slave to it. Things change. Situations change. Opportunities open up and disappear. And when they do, your plan has to be flexible enough to change as well.

A mid-year review can give you the kick in the butt you need to get back in gear. Click To Tweet

4. You can celebrate your accomplishments– Probably one of the best reasons to check at mid-year is to see what you’ve accomplished so far and celebrate. Even if you feel that you’re far behind in your goals, you can always find some accomplishment that you’re proud of. And you should remember it and pat yourself on the back. Running a creative business is a long haul activity. There will be some days that you’ll be excited and motivated to get to work…some days may be a bit of a slog. Reviewing your mid-year wins is one way to help you buckle down and get motivated towards finishing up the next half with a bang.

Reviewing your year…so far

When you’re doing your review, set aside quiet time so you can really reflect and concentrate. One day per quarter I set aside a whole day to really focus and get my review done. That means my calendar is completely clear for the day; no meetings, no appointments, no work of any kind. You’ll want your time, energy, and mind clear when you’re doing your review.

I also do my reviews away from my studio/home office. Sometimes I’ll visit the closest Starbucks, get a beverage and a piece of lemon pound cake (because lemon pound cake is brain food 😃 ), and work on my review there. My other favorite off-site work location is the local library. A change of scenery helps me focus, plus I’m less tempted to stop doing my review so I can put in a load of laundry or to get inspired to work on that half finished project on my workbench. If that sounds like you, consider finding a nice place other than your usual work area to get your review done.

And while I write my reviews in Evernote, feel free to use a diary, a notebook, a white board, a legal pad, or even a big sheet of paper and crayons if you like. Do whatever works best for you.

There’s really no one way to do a review. The following is my method. You’re welcome to follow it as you like and adapt and change parts as you see fit.

1. Review your annual plan– I plan my goals for the year by creating an annual plan. For you, it might be a simple to-do list or a list of goals. Whatever you’ve used to plan your year, take a few minutes to reacquaint yourself with your goals at the start of your review.

2. Update/review metrics– I’m a bit of a measurement nerd. One of the things that’s part of my annual plan is a list of metrics that’s directly or indirectly related to my yearly goals; such as the number of sales I’ve made, the number of people on my email list, the number of visitors to my website/Etsy store, how many blog posts I’ve written, etc.

Since most of the metrics are tied to what I want to accomplish for the year, they can be a useful indicator of how well I’m progressing with my goals. If you haven’t been keeping track of your metrics you can skip this part.

3. Look over weekly reviews– Yeah…so I’m also a bit a of a review nerd too. Once a week I write a quick review of what happened the week before and list what needs to get done for the week ahead. The great thing about doing this is that it makes it easy for me to track what I’ve gotten done week by week, what my main roadblocks were, and what I’ve been doing to address them. Which makes it really easy for me to look back and get an overall picture of how things have been going and why.

In your case, you may want to look over your calendar to see what meetings, deadlines, and appointments you may have had. If you write in a diary or keep a blog, review that. What you’re trying to do is to jog your memory about what you’ve done so far so that you can complete the rest of your review.

4. Write down your accomplishments– Write down everything you’ve accomplished. While it’s easy to remember the big stuff…don’t forget to include the small stuff, no matter how tiny it may seem to you, write it down. Think about what you did to accomplish these things. Write that down as well.

5. Think about what needs to be improved– Now think about the stuff that hasn’t gone quite right or the goals that you haven’t gotten accomplished yet. Write them down. Think about what may have lead to that result or lack of a result. Write down what you think and any ideas you have to improve next time.

6. List lessons learned– What have you learned so far this year? Is there a tip or a trick or a new method you’ve discovered that’s really help you out? Is there a new app that’s really changed your life? Have you read a book or an article online or found a quote that’s really inspired you? Have you encountered a situation or had a conversation with someone that’s changed your outlook? You guessed it…write it down.

It’s easy to zero in on what’s wrong. There's much that can be learned by figuring out what we’re doing well Click To Tweet

7. List goals for the rest of the year– What are your goals for the rest of the year? Look over your plan again. Cross off the stuff that you’ve completed…just the act of crossing stuff off your list can be deeply satisfying. Then go through the rest of the list and adjust, subtract and add goals and tasks where necessary.

8. Schedule time for your next review– Keep your progress going by making regular reviews part of your planning routine. The next review date could be six months from now at the end of the year or you could opt to do them quarterly. The frequency is up to you. Just commit yourself to your next review by scheduling the next date on the calendar now.

9. Congratulations…you’re done!– Celebrate by getting another piece of lemon pound cake <- This is optional but highly recommended

Lisa Jacobs also has a list of five good mid-review questions that you can use in her blog post. I’m thinking about incorporating some of these questions into my review process as well. You can check them out here.

What if you don’t have an annual plan?

A lot of the process is based off having a list of goals or a plan for the year. What if you don’t have that? Well, the mid-year review process will work just fine without it. But if you’re really wanting to have an annual plan for your creative business, there’s nothing stopping you from developing one now, is there? There’s no need to wait until the end of the year, write one now and start working it.

Annual_Plan_Cover There’s lots of way to plan your creative business goals for the year. If you need a step by step template to get started, check out my Annual Plan Template. It will help you review and plan your business and personal goals for the year. Subscribers can find it for free in the Creative Business Toolbox. If you’re not a subscriber to the Crafted Webmaster you can sign up for free here.

Taking some time out of the year to look back on what you’ve done so far, and to plan for the rest of the year ahead can help keep your goals on track. Have you done a mid-year review for you creative business? Share your review method and your goals for the rest of the year in the comments below!

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24 Ways to Further Your Creative Business on Your Lunch Break

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If you’re balancing building your creative business along with juggling a full time job, it can seem like a struggle to find time for your business. Throw in a significant other and/or little ones at home and it becomes doubly difficult. You’ll quickly find that early mornings and/or late evenings are your friend.

Do you know what other time period is your friend? Your lunch break. Furthering your business doesn’t always have to take hours and hours of time. Sometimes you can make some progress in the few minutes that you catch while you’re eating lunch.

Here are some tasks that you can knock off your to-do list during your lunch break:

1. Send an email to your list– Has it been a while since you’ve emailed your list? Take a few minutes to send out an email and remind your subscribers that you exist. Don’t know what to write? Here’s a few ideas.

2. Don’t have an email list? Start one– This one’s easy. Go to Mailchimp* (it’s free up to 2,000 addresses and 12,000 emails per month) and sign up. Then create your first list. Shouldn’t take more than 15 minutes tops.

* Full disclosure: I am an affiliate of Mailchimp…but only because I think it’s awesome! 😉

3. Do some research on Marmalead– This tool enables you to do market research on Etsy. You can see the most popular price points are, which tags that drive the most traffic, and analyze your competitor’s listings. Fire up a quick lunch-time Marmalead search and see what you can learn.

4. Do a weekly review– This is especially useful if it’s done at the beginning of the week. A weekly review can help you look back on how you did the week before and then help you plan your goals for the week ahead. You can learn more about the process here.

5. Research media opportunities– Want to get your work featured on blogs? In magazines? Or your local news? Write a list of potential outlets and start researching them one by one. When you have more time, check out Brigitte Lyons Creative Live course on PR for creatives for more info.

6. Make sales calls to galleries– Got a list of galleries you want to submit your work to? Take a few minutes to knock a few of those sales and scouting calls off your list.

7. Analyze your website statistics– If you’ve got Google Analytics installed on your website or blog, take a peek at them to see how your traffic is doing. Write down unusual spikes or dips in traffic so you can study them further. Don’t have Google Analytics installed? Watch this.

8. Tweak your Etsy About page– Your Etsy about page should be something that you’re reviewing on a regular basis. Take a few minutes to review yours. Update, correct, or tweak as needed.

9. Research guest blogging opportunities– Guest blogging can be a great way to build more traffic to your business. Use some of your time to research potential opportunities and to contact them.

10. Write a thank you note to some of your best customers– Pick three of your best customers and drop them a nice heartfelt thank you note. Send them an actual note, through the mail, not email. This is another great way to remind your customers that you’re still around.

11. Update one of your social media profiles– When was the last time you’ve updated your social media profiles? Pick one and spend a few minutes updating it…even if it’s just to freshen up the cover photo or update the bio.

12. Research product photo ideas– Product photos are one thing that you constantly need to improve. If you need some inspiration, study the photos of Etsy shops that are similar to yours. You can also try studying photos on Instagram as well.

13. Have lunch with a mentor or fellow artist– This kills two birds with one stone. You can exchange ideas and information with a fellow artist or a trusted mentor over a lunch at a cafe or even over a quick brown bag somewhere close to work. And don’t forget to save receipt for tax season.

14. Call up your best customer to thank them– Chase Jarvis of Creative Live calls up three customers per day to thank them for being customers. Imagine how memorable you would be if you did something similar.

15. Get customer feedback– Pick three of your most vocal customers (you’ll who they are), and send them a personal email asking them for some feedback on your business. Ask them what they like about what you do and how you can improve. If you’re thinking about starting a new project or making some changes to your website or store, you can use this as an opportunity to get their thoughts about it.

16. Send a personal email to your most recent newsletter subscribers– Got a new email subscriber to your list? Send them a thank you email and engage them in some way by asking for some quick feedback or see if they have any questions about your work or your business. People are used to getting automated thank you emails…so getting an actual email from a real person is a pleasant surprise.

17. Engage with your followers on social media– If you’ve gotten into the habit of simply posting and/or pre-scheduling posts, break that habit by going onto the social media channel of choice and engaging with your followers. Reshare or like their content, leave comments, ask questions or answer them, give your most responsive followers a shoutout to the rest of your followers. Don’t forget the social part of social media.

18. Read a book on business– You can’t go wrong by spending your lunch-time with a good business book. My most recent reads includes Art, Inc.: The Essential Guide for Building Your Career as an Artist by Lisa Congdon, The Creative Entrepreneur by Isa Maria Seminga, Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear by Elizabeth Gilbert, and Linchpin: Are You Indispensable? by Seth Godin.

19. Brainstorm your next blog post– Not sure what you’re going to blog about next? Take a notebook with you during lunch and brainstorm while you eat. You can also use the Blog Idea Template to help you out. You can access the template from the Creative Business Toolbox.

20. Start rewriting or updating an old blog post– If you’re a long time blogger, you probably have a number of old blog posts you can update, refresh, or even expand into new content. Choose one and start updating.

21. Share an old blog post on social media– You also probably have a number of posts that are just fine as is…they just need to be seen. Pick one and share it with your social media followers.

22. Research upcoming art shows and exhibitions– Check your community calendar and your local and regional websites for information on upcoming events, festivals, and exhibitions.

23. Tweak the copy on your least effective Etsy listing– Do you have an Etsy listing that doesn’t really perform well? (You can use this simple formula to tell) Take a few moments to tweak the copy, the listing title, and the listing tags. If you’re not sure how to improve your listing copy, check out Lisa Jacob’s course on copywriting for crafters.

24. Organize a mini-show for your co-workers– If your co-workers have been bugging you about bringing in some of your work, think about setting up a mini-show during lunch. Of course you want to be extreeeemely careful about doing this. Even if you’re lucky enough to have a boss that’s cool with you bringing in your items, it’s still probably better find a neutral area outside your place of employment to hold your lunch-time showing. And of course don’t do any of your pre-showing organizing during work hours.

A few more things to consider

Be careful that you’re not filling up all of your lunch periods with business tasks. Remember that taking some time to enjoy your lunch and having a proper break from work is just as important as squeezing in “one more task”. Leave some lunch periods free so you can step away from your job or have lunch with your co-workers or your friends…or even just to have lunch by yourself.

And it should go without saying that you don’t try to do business using company resources or during company time. That’s something that very few employers would appreciate and rightly so. Many of these tasks can be accomplished by using your smartphone or tablet or even a simple paper notebook or journal.

Find a place away from work to get these quick tasks done. One of my favorite lunch-time “offices” I used was a local hotdog shop across the street from the building. They had free wifi and the hot dogs were delicious. There might be a cafe, a restaurant, or a coffee shop nearby that you can use to do some work while you’re having lunch. There might even be a local library or a park or some other public space where you can work while brown bagging it.

Use apps like Evernote, Box, or Google Drive so that you can access any files you may need from your mobile device. Many blogging platforms will have an app that will allow you post from your mobile device. Or you can post to your blog via email. Email management providers like Mailchimp have their own apps as well so you can manage your email list on the go. I use the Sell on Etsy app pretty heavily to help manage my shop on my phone and of course I couldn’t do without Evernote.

Plan your lunch-time tasks. Decide what you want to do ahead of time and put them on your to-do list or calendar. You’ll make a lot more progress in your business if what you’re doing during lunch is part of a well thought out plan instead of aimless puttering around. Be intentional about what you’re doing and you’ll see these small steps will turn into big progress.

Conclusion

Starting or running a creative business while you have a regular 9 to 5 can be a challenge. But with some planning and some smart use of your time, it can be done. Now, it’s your turn! Are you building your business while working a full time job? What are your strategies for getting things done?

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Keeping Your Motivation When You’re Not Getting Results

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It’s a sentiment that we all feel at one point or another. You’re putting in the time and effort with your art. You’re writing blog posts, posting photos on Instagram, pinning and repining your work on Pinterest, sending emails to your list, making phone calls to galleries, networking at exhibitions and open studios, pitching your work to bloggers and magazines and… it. just. doesn’t. seem. to. matter. All of this effort and it seems like you’re just spinning your wheels and going nowhere.

Some days you feel like quitting altogether. What’s the point? Eventually you decide to just skip that next blog post…why not? Nobody reads your blog anyway. Maybe you neglect your sales calls to galleries because you’re tired of being rejected. Or your social media networks start to look dated and stale.

If you’ve ever felt this way or you’re feeling this way now, read on. Here are 10 tips to get your motivation mojo back.

1. Let it go– Just wrote an awesome blog post? Or a truly witty tweet? Or posted a fabulous photo on Instagram? Great! Press “Publish” then let it go. Move on to the next thing on your list. Don’t refresh your Instagram feed every few seconds to see if you got any likes. Don’t check your blog post every couple hours to see if you got any comments. Don’t check Twitter to see how many times your tweet got retweeted. It’s hard…I know. It’s an impulse I have to fight on a regular basis. But it’s important not to get addicted to the feedback. Because once you start depending on the feedback, it’s going to bum you out when you don’t get it.

Not everything you do is going to get a reaction. Even if it does it may take days, weeks, months, maybe even years before you get it. And it may not even be the thing you shed blood, sweat, and tears over that gets the kudos, but the quick thing you dashed off without a second thought. You never know what will take off and for your own mental health it’s better to not to try to guess. Don’t wait for the applause…keep busy with your work so when you do get some recognition it comes as a welcome surprise.

2. Focus on the process instead of results– The difficult thing about focusing on goals like making a certain amount of sales or gaining a certain number of followers or getting a specific number of subscribers to your list is that you really don’t have much direct control over when or IF you reach that number.

Instead of focusing on a specific result, start focusing on the process that leads to that result. I did this in my personal life a couple years ago when I wanted to lose some weight. Instead of focusing on a specific goal weight, I focused on how many workouts I completed in a week. I made sure that I reached goal every single week. And it worked. The number on the scale became just that…a number. It didn’t matter so much if the number didn’t go down as fast as I wanted because the goal wasn’t the number, it was whether I worked out or not. And the weight eventually came off. Did it get boring? Hell yes. But often the key to making progress is to embrace the boring every day routine and stick to it.

Think about your current goals. What kind of activities will lead to that goal? If it’s a certain number of sales, then perhaps the activity that leads to sales is making calls to galleries. If it’s gaining followers on social media, then maybe the activity is the number of quality updates you make to your social media channel. Take that activity and break it down into a goal that you can work towards achieving every day. Make it easier to achieve by building it into a repeatable process you (or an assistant) can follow.

Then focus on repeating that process…day by day, week by week, month by month. Grade yourself on how well you’re sticking to that process. If it’s the right process, the results will come in time.

Once you start depending on feedback, it’s going to bum you out when you don’t get it Click To Tweet

3. Put results in the proper perspective– Earlier I said to launch things out in the world and not worry about the results. But that doesn’t mean that you ignore results completely either. You do have to keep an eye on things overall to see what’s working and what needs improvement. Letting go and focusing on process is good for everyday, get it done progress. But every so often you need to take time out to see if what you’re doing is actually working.

Schedule some time, perhaps once a month or once a quarter, to review your results. Check your feedback. Review what you’ve done so far. If things are going well think of how you can expand on your good results. If things aren’t going well try to find the root of the problem. Brainstorm some ways to address the problem and how to put them into action. The key is to putting your results in the proper perspective is not by reacting to feedback as it comes, but rather by getting a big picture look at what you’re doing and strategically deciding what to do next.

4. Focus on the right goals– Last year I took a wonderful CreativeLive course by Tara Gentile named, “Build a Stand-Out Business“. The most useful exercises in the course revolved around identifying what kind of business you want, what your identity is, what you stand for, and the creating goals that conformed to that vision. Why was this useful? Because the goals for your business need to revolve around those very important points. If you’re not clear on what you stand for and what you want to accomplish, then there’s little wonder why you’re not getting traction.

If you can’t easily explain to someone who you are, who your business serves, what your business stands for, and what your overarching goal is for your business, take some time to iron that out. It’s difficult to focus on something if you don’t have a focus. Tara Gentile’s course has loads of excellent information on how to figure this out. Maria Isa Seminega’s book, “The Creative Entrepreneur” also has some excellent chapters on that score as well.

5. Celebrate your wins both large and small– When you’re knee deep in the weeds everyday it’s easy to overlook the smaller wins and incremental progress you’re making. It’s important to take note of and celebrate all of progress you make in your business no matter the size. One way that I’ve started doing this is by performing a weekly review every Monday morning. The purpose of the review is to look back on the past week, make note of what went well, what needs to be improved and what the game plan is for the upcoming week.

One of the first exercises in the weekly review is to write down and celebrate at least ten wins you’ve made during the past week no matter how small. Sometimes it’s hard to come up with ten things and sometimes I end up writing down much more than ten. But what makes the exercise worthwhile is being able to look back and seeing your progress in black and white.

6. Avoid things that put you in a bad mood– One of things that can really bum me out is when I get a notice from Mailchimp telling me that someone unsubscribed from my list. If you have a mailing list, unsubscribes are a fact of life no matter how good your emails are. That still doesn’t make me feel better when I see that unsubscribe notice. So what did I do? I turned off the unsubscribe alert. Unsubcribes happen, but that doesn’t mean that I need to see them happen.

There’s usually something in your life that that can put you in a negative mood. Maybe it’s unsubscribes, maybe its a colleague or friend that’s always negative, maybe it’s the constant success stories you might be seeing on social media (Marie Forleo has a great video about this). If you can cut these negative things out of your life do so. If you can’t, minimize them as much as possible.

Celebrate all of progress you make in your business no matter how big or small Click To Tweet

7. Shift your focus outwards– Sometimes the best way to handle a downward spiral of demotivation is to take the focus off yourself and put it onto others. It’s hard to ruminate on your own lack of progress when you’re trying to help others. Look around for ways to help other artists in your community. Build up some alliances and collaborations with other creatives. Make it a point to share content from other artists on social media, on your blog, or to your mailing list. One of the benefits of helping others is that it can put you in a better frame of mind. And sometimes a better mood is all that it takes to reinvigorate the enthusiasm for your own business. Also, the people you work with are usually appreciative of any help you give and sometimes they’ll find ways return the favor. But don’t offer help with the expectation that people will reciprocate. Helping is gift. If you give help expecting help in return you’re turning your gift into a transaction. And you’ll end up feeling angry and cheated if you don’t get help in return. Let the feeling of being helpful be it’s own reward.

8. Stop whining– It’s natural to want to throw yourself a pity party every now and then. Feeling like you’re just screaming into the void is no fun. But it’s not going to get you anywhere. Neither will getting angry at the world, getting jealous of the seemingly easy success of other artists, or blaming imports for ruining your business. The only thing these negative emotions will do is sabotage your momentum and kill your creativity. I found a particularly great “tough love” passage from film director Werner Herzog in Elizabeth Gilbert’s newest book, “Big Magic

“Quit your complaining. It’s not the world’s fault that you wanted to be an artist. It’s not the world’s job to enjoy the films you make, and it’s certainly not the world’s obligation to pay for your dreams. Nobody wants to hear it. Steal a camera if you must, but stop whining and get back to work.”

Remember…being a creative is hard. Success is not guaranteed.

You never know when success will come. But you need to be there when it does Click To Tweet

9. Take care of yourself– It’s hard to stay motivated and engaged with your business if you’re exhausted. Make sure that you’re getting enough sleep, that you’re eating right and that you’re taking some time to get some exercise in your day. When you’re working hard it’s easy to neglect your need for sleep and exercise. Try to incorporate a regular sleep and exercise schedule in your day. Melissa Dinwiddie has a great podcast episode on how to build sleep and and exercise habit into your day.

If you’ve been working without much of a break what you may be feeling is the beginning of burnout. This might be a good time to take a step back for a period of time to recharge yourself. Change up your routine. Take a bit of time to relax. Hang out with your family and friends. Read a new book for fun. Spend sometime learning something new. Take a course in something you’ve always been interested in. In Elizabeth Gilbert’s “Big Magic“, she relayed a story of how starting a new garden lead her to write one of her most recent novels, “The Signature of All Things“. Make taking time off from your business to recharge your mental batteries a regular thing.

10. Be patient and persistent– Lastly, remember to be patient. This is the hardest piece of advice to take because success usually comes a lot more slowly and with a lot more effort than we would like. Cézanne painted his entire adult life and his career didn’t really take off until he was in his fifties. Hopefully your success won’t take that long, but you never know when it will come. But you need to be there when it does. Be patient. Be persistent.

While being a creative can be exciting and fulfilling life it can be a tough road too. It’s a lot of hard work and very often rejection and failure can far outweigh the big successes. Like everything else, your motivation will come in waves. When you start feeling your motivation slip away, remember to take care of yourself, celebrate your small successes, focus on your work, and above all, be patient!

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