Guest Post: Finding Your Happy with Tara Swiger

Lela Barker

Tara Swiger headshot

Today’s guest blog is brought to you by the amazing Tara Swiger. A fellow Tennessee gal, Tara is a sage guide in world of makers + creatives seeking direction about the emotional side of empire-building. Her specialty is helping you find your own personal happy. She has helped oodles of entrepreneurs define success on their own terms and envision the path to achieve a life that fulfills their deepest desires (as well as their wallets).  She’s the Starship Captain of and I’m uber-grateful that she’s hovered her starship over Lucky Break Headquarters today to entertain + enlighten you while I’m in East Africa loving up on babies and trying to spread some good. Without further adieu…

When it’s time to make a decision about the growth of your business, what do you do?

Do you look at other people and their business models, advice, or classes? Do you look for a well-worn path? Do you despair at the glacial pace of your growth, in comparison to everyone else’s?

It can be hard to know what to do next. There are so many paths to success – getting more press, getting wholesale accounts, doing big craft shows, getting into live marketing, creating a popular Etsy shop. But the key to growing your successful business (while continuing to love it) isn’t in any one of these paths.

The key to business happiness is to explore and define what you really want. Although it sounds obvious, it’s easy to miss. There are so many voices telling us what to do at any given moment. There are business models to follow, classes to take, and other businesses to compare yourself to. There’s the maker who got on Martha, the one who blossomed after going wholesale, the other one who licensed her art. These competing voices can make it seem impossible to know the right way, the way you should really go.

It’s frighteningly easy to create a successful business that you hate. I’ve worked with makers who sold thousands of dollars of product a month…and paid themselves nothing. I’ve worked with creators with too many paying clients…and they were constantly bored (and avoidy). It all comes down to this: If you go after someone else’s definition of success, you’ll find yourself doing work you don’t enjoy, for rewards you don’t care about. But when you define success for yourself (and continue to use it as a measuring stick), you’ll be sure to do work you love, with people you enjoy, for rewards that are deeply gratifying.

How do you explore what you want and pursue it?

You start by looking at what you already know about yourself and your business. Ask yourself (or have a friend ask you) these questions:

1. What do you enjoy doing in life and in business?

Take a look at your most enjoyable moments. Are you working with others? Collaborating on an idea? Making your product? Do you enjoy communicating more by talking or writing?

These enjoyable moments can give you hints at what you want to be doing more of, as you grow. If you love collaborating, perhaps you want to do custom work, or collaborate with a store or another brand to create a new product. If you love leading a team (and managing big projects), perhaps you’re ready to scale up production.

You won’t always be doing work you enjoy, but you can always bring more of those enjoyable moments into your work.

2. What have you been successful at so far?

What have you created that was well-received?

What projects went smoothly?

These are the clues to what you’re really great at. By building on these successes, you can find your next successful project. For example, if you have one wholesale client who is deliriously happy, perhaps you’re ready to pursue more. Or if you’ve had a profitable show, perhaps you want to do more.

As you grow, you’ll be taking on new roles that are completely new to you, ones that you haven’t yet had success in – but by adding elements of what you’ve already done well, you’ll move forward with the confidence that you can tackle it!

3. What’s your Dream Job?

I know! As entrepreneurial types, we have no desire to work for someone else!

But for just a moment, imagine that someone calls you up with the a job you can not say no to. You have complete control, unending funding and as much help as you want. What’s this job look like? How much do you work? What work do you do (vs. what other people in the company do)? Write it all out, being as imaginative as possible.

Now, translate this into the context of your own company. This scenario is a good idea of what you want to be working towards (even if it seems completely impossible now!).

Instead of looking to what anyone successful has done, look to the people who have this Dream Job (or seem to) – not for comparison, but for education.

Now that you know what you truly want for your business, what’s next?

Craft a plan.

Break the big picture into smaller chunks – what could you accomplish in 3 years that moves you closer to the Dream Job? In 1 year? In three months? Now, set that as your 3 month destination and make a map to get you there. Break it all down into mile-markers (how you know you’re getting closer) and individual to-dos…and start doing them!

Get the help you need.

There are likely aspects of your plan that you don’t know how to do yet. This is where those models and classes come in handy! Perhaps you need education (if your dream is to be a wholesale queen, don’t miss Lela’s course!). Perhaps you need accountability (you can find this inside The Starship). Perhaps you just need to know you’re not alone (the OhMy! Handmade community is fabulous for this!)

Whatever help you need – find it, ask for it, invest in it!

Stop comparing.

When you’re really clear on what you want from your business, it’ll be easier to ignore all those people who are chasing something else. But you’ll still have moments of doubt, impatience, and distraction. That’s ok. Learn to recognize it, and take the opportunity to remind yourself of your definition of success and the business you truly want. Let your specific, personal dream guide your actions, your plans, and your decisions. Keep your eyes on your own work, and you’ll get there in time!

How do you define success for your business? How has this impacted your growth?

Tara Swiger is an author, maker and Starship Captain. She leads creatives into exploring their mission, their enthusiasm and their very best business. Her book, Market Yourself, published by Cooperative Press in 2012, is a guide to sharing your handmade goodness with the world, while feeling great about it. You can start your exploration with her free mini-course, How to Explore.

About the Author

Lela Barker

Lela Barker hails from the deep-and-dirty south (ATL, represent!), where she spends her days helping makers and product designers navigate the pitfalls of product pricing, brand development, and wholesale strategy. She launched her apothecary brand in 2003 and bootstrapped the hell out of that little business to cultivate a portfolio of 1500+ stockists worldwide, generating $12million in revenue and establishing successful distributorships in the Middle East, EU, Scandinavia, and South Korea. Lela is the keeper of a well-worn passport and the maker of the finest lemon meringue pie you’ve ever put in your mouth.

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