Musings from the Moonroom

Thoughts on Art, Inspiration, Creativity and Spirit


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Solopreneur Wednesday: You Gotta Spend Money to Make Money and Fighting Limiting Beliefs

Do you have limiting beliefs about money?

You know what I did with mine today? I ripped them up , set them on fire, and then drowned them.

Fighting Limiting Beliefs About Money

Last week I revisited the moola making chapter in Jennifer Lee’s book, The Right Brain Business Plan. Though we’re already half way through the year, it’s never a bad time to reassess money making opportunities in your business. Of course, if you’re reassessing where you’re making money, you must give equal time to where you’re spending money.

Ick.

Money is, for many solopreneurs, a double-edged sword. You have to spend money to make money. But sometimes it is hard to spend that money if you don’t know when you’ll make back the money that you just spent.

This was the limiting belief that hit me square in the head last week. It has been following me around for quite a while too.

Limiting beliefs. Quirky little buggers. Especially when it comes to money.

Where do these beliefs come from? Some of them most likely form when we’re kids. We pick up on these beliefs from our parents or other adults in our little kid life. We observe how our parents handle money-both the saving and the spending aspects. We take a little from that time period, form our own ideas as we get older, have a good experience or a bad experience and then the whole mess gets mixed up in a great big cauldron called our mind.

Groovy.

Until it starts to bubble and froth and spews forth at any time while trying to run our small business.

Make a List. Check it Twice. Then chuck it.

I’ve been in business for several years. And my beliefs about money aren’t nearly as overbearing as they were at one time. But there are still some that rest in those dark recesses. And when it comes to looking hard at “the numbers,” guess who pops up?

Right.

Before being able to move forward with setting new money making goals, you need to understand what is holding you back. You may not know why, but at least giving those limiting beliefs a name can help.

Set aside some time to do this task. Get a pad of paper and a pen. I like to put on some instrumental music. But maybe you’d prefer something a bit more head-bangy metallic? Take a few deep breaths. Ask yourself what your limiting beliefs are about money. Ask yourself why the thought of spending money in your business gives you the heebie-jeebies. Ask why the thought of accepting money for your product or service makes you feel light-headed.

And then let ‘er rip. Write it all down. Don’t worry about good grammar or spelling. Just go with the flow. Keep writing until those negative thoughts stop or slow down to a trickle.

(If the thought of writing this down causes your brain to freeze or you draw a complete blank when you look at your sheet of paper, try doodling or making little symbols on the paper. Perhaps single words will start to trickle out and then an avalanche of words and phrases. There is no “right” or “wrong” here. I believe the act of writing can be cathartic. Something about getting your hand moving across the page. But if you prefer to type this out on your computer, that is okay too. Do what works best for you.)

When you’re done with your list, look it over. Read it. Then set it aside.

The Turn Around

Now you don’t want those limiting beliefs to sit there and stare at you. No way. Now you need to turn them around.

Yes, this can be a little tricky because you want to make a negative into a positive. (Don’t worry, no funny math or physics formulas required.) Take another deep breath, look those limiting beliefs in their beady little eyes and flip the words into a positive affirmation.

I mentioned that one of my limiting beliefs is “I’m afraid to spend money because I don’t know when I’ll make back the money that I just spent.”

My turn around for this: “I make more money than I can spend.”

Now, on a clean piece of paper, write down a positive statement for every negative, limiting belief you wrote on that other piece of paper. When you’ve written all your positive affirmations, set that piece of paper aside.

And that sheet of paper with the limiting beliefs? Get rid of it! Shred it, burn it, flush it down the toilet, or put it in the compost bin. Make a fun ritual out of it. Just don’t keep it around for long because you don’t want the negative energy from those limiting beliefs to sit and fester.

A Brand New Day

After you get rid of that negative, limiting belief sheet of paper, make sure you keep your positive affirmations in a spot where you can read them every day. Maybe you read them two or three times a day. Whatever works.

How do you feel?

Will this bring money flowing through your door immediately? Probably not. However, I do believe that great things happen unexpectedly. Putting that positive energy out into the Universe can be a good thing.

You still need to do your work, make your connections, sell your product or service.

But understanding your limiting beliefs and how to turn them around can make this solopreneur gig a lot easier.

______________________________________________________________________________

Leave a comment below and share how you confront limiting beliefs.

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The Polyform Debacle

A few days ago, Polyform Products announced several color changes to their polymer clay line up. Polyform Products produces Sculpey III and Premo! polymer clays along with numerous accessories to use with polymer.

In the announcement Polyform revealed the addition of several new colors to both the Sculpey III and Premo! lines. Along with the announcement of several new colors, however, was the revelation that a number of popular colors would be discontinued, including Red Pearl, Green Pearl, Cobalt Blue, Sea Green, Copper, Zinc Yellow, Frost, Fluorescent Green, Fluorescent Yellow, Fluorescent Red and Glow-In-The-Dark.

The announcement of the pending discontinuation of favorite colors has set off a firestorm on Facebook and elsewhere. One of the main reasons for this is that two of the colors, Cobalt Blue and Zinc Yellow are primary colors used in color mixing and in the creation of many artist’s custom color palettes. These two primary colors are also the basis for understanding color theory and color mixing in Lindly Haunani and Maggie Maggio’s popular and successful book: Polymer Clay Color Inspirations: Techniques and Jewelry Projects for Creating Successful Palettes

I am heartened by the passion of my fellow polymer clay artists in their response to the Polyform announcement. While many of us look forward to seeing the new colors, we are also equally dismayed by the loss of two primary colors. Polyform has stated that “recipes” will be available on their website to recreate most of the discontinued colors. But as more than one polymer clay artist has asked “How do you recreate a primary color?” And given the variability in the mixing process, how will the same color be recreated on a consistent basis?

What disappoints me more, however, is what appears to be a disregard for the customer. Many are asking if a customer survey was conducted prior to this decision. That question remains unanswered. Unfortunately, it does appear that this decision may be based more on sales numbers.

Now I don’t know what percentage of people who buy Premo! are polymer clay artists. Nor do I know how many of those artists buy the soon-to-be-discontinued colors. But it seems, according to Polyform Products, that either there aren’t enough of us or we aren’t buying enough of these colors to justify their continuation.

As a small business person, I understand some of this logic. I, too, have discontinued color designs from my lines of artwork because those designs didn’t sell well or perhaps they sold well initially, but then sales leveled or fell off. I understand that businesses need to keep their product line fresh and maybe an item is discontinued, made available as a special order, or brought back for a limited time only.

But how does a company decide to eliminate two basic, primary colors that are key to the creation of so many other colors? Many have asked if Golden or Liquitex or Winsor & Newton would eliminate primary colors from their lines of paint.

Perhaps we were too complacent, believing that certain colors would continue to be made available. Perhaps Polyform didn’t fully understand the importance of these colors to polymer clay artists. The reality is that Polyform Products risks losing a number of customers should they proceed with their decision to eliminate Cobalt Blue, Zinc Yellow, and several other colors. They risk driving into the welcoming arms of their competitors the customers who have stood by them, tested and promoted their products.

As I posted on Polyform Products Facebook page “…It appears that you may lose many customers, myself included, because of this decision. And while customer loss may not directly impact your bottom line, the opinions of the artists and the recommendations we make when teaching and sharing could have a ripple effect. I ask you to reconsider this decision to discontinue zinc yellow and cobalt blue.”

If you’d like to add your voice to this situation, visit the following sites:

Cindy Lietz’s online petition

CraftyGoat’s blog

Carol Simmons’ blog

Maybe this groundswell of voices will convince Polyform Products to reevaluate their decision.

UPDATE: 11/22/10-Polyform has announced that Zinc Yellow and Cobalt Blue will remain in the Premo! line up. The voices of 100’s of polymer clay artists did not go unheard. Thank you, Polyform Products, for reconsidering your decision to discontinue these two essential primary colors. For more on this announcement, go to Tonja’s PolyClay Corner


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To Market, To Market

Continuing my periodic posts on my progress in the Right Brain Business Plan e-course, the next topic is determining your target market and finances.

Up to this point, we’ve discussed values and our business vision, the business self-portrait and the business landscape. However, now that you’ve got this great product or business idea, you have to think about who you’re selling to; your target market.

Target Markets

Unless your product or service is geared to a specific customer base, determining your target market requires a bit of educated guessing. Historically, I’ve known that women are my primary market. But which demographic of women?

Some areas to consider when determining your target market include the potential customer’s age, education, financial background, career, and location (urban/suburban/rural.) Those are the fairly straight-forward, easy to answer questions.

Then there are the demographics that might not be as easy to answer, such as shopping preferences, forms of entertainment, and likes and dislikes. We refer to those as the “I’m making up these answers” type of demographic questions.

As I started to write down the details about my ideal customer, I realized the description seemed to fit me. I guess it is good to know I might actually buy my own artwork. However, it is also important to stretch beyond the familiar.

To that end, I came up with two groups women for my target market:

The mid 20’s to 40 year old group

Customer Collage 20's-40 y.o group

I’ve defined the 20-40 year old market as those entering their professional or career world, D.I.Y, Etsy or handmade nation supporters/creatives; supporters of the green movement, including recycling/up-cycling. They shop online and are technology savvy. They have an interest in art/craft and learning something new and would like to earn some money using their craft skills.

These women are making a name for themselves and are entrepreneurial. They enjoy social networking, social media and have an interest in self-care and holistic areas. They are primarily college educated. May be dealing with debt issues, especially student loans. This may effect what they buy and spend money on.

The 40’s to 70’s group

Customer Collage 40's-70's group

This target group is comprised, primarily, of college educated, professional women who are questioning the “next step” in their lives. They want to express themselves creatively but may not know how to access and express their creative muse. Therefore they are seeking guidance on creativity; how to be creative, how to make art/craft.

Within this group are those who will be or are empty-nesters, including active retirees. All of these women want balance and fulfillment and seek how to make meaning in their lives. For the most part, these women are comfortable in their own skin.

I put the two collages shown above in my Vision Book in an envelope titled “Target Market.” On the back of each collage I wrote down some of the demographics as listed above.

Playing With Numbers

After we determined our target market, it was time to look at the finances. (Or, as Jen puts it “Making the Moola.” Doesn’t that sound more fun?) Not always a pleasant task and probably the one area that many creatives hate to deal with. We like to bring in the money; it is the money going out that pains us.

Way back, I used to keep track of my finances with an Excel spreadsheet. As my business grew, I switched to Quickbooks. QB is great because you can generate a variety of reports, depending on your needs. This year I was better about setting a budget for those costs which are fairly static and for some expenses I knew were coming up this year.

However, setting financial goals and writing them down has never been my strong suit. We all have our issues with money; voices and impressions from childhood that stick with us. Another reason this has been difficult is the feeling (an excuse???) that I can’t make someone buy my artwork. So how could I possibly set a revenue goal?

However, with encouragement through the RBBP process, I set a financial goal for the year. Then I looked at all the areas where the business generates revenue, including 3 new areas that I’m pursuing this year, and determined the percentage of income each area needs to produce. In July, I will review these goals, see how I’m doing and determine the appropriate follow-up action.

How about you? Who is your target market? Have you set any financial goals for the year? How do the money ‘voices’ impact your progress?

Next: Creative cohorts and goal setting


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It’s a Value Thing

Last month I started the Right Brain Business Plan E-course with Jennifer Lee. The online class has 23 creative souls supporting each other and cheering each other on as we work toward the creation of our business plans. We are supported and encouraged by Jenn each day through our periods of overwhelm, frustration, fear of the unknown, and battles with the negative inner voice. (Suggestion: tell your negative inner voice to go re-arrange the sock drawer. It seems to keep it pleasantly happy and out of your head.)

This is Week 3 of the class and I’m still working my way through part B of Week 2’s assignment. The beauty of online classes is that you can, more or less, work at your own pace. The frustration of an online class is that you might feel your pace is too slow. So while I’m playing catch-up on my homework assignments, I wanted to catch-up on blogging about the class.

Return to Week One

Way back in Week 1 we were asked to reflect on our values and the values of our business. This was a completely new concept to me. Not so much the personal values, but to actually think about the values I’d want for my business. I swear I’ve never seen this component mentioned in the traditional left-brain approach to writing a business plan. Curious.

I never gave this value thing a thought when I started my art business. Well, except for the “make money” value. Really. When I was put in this unplanned position (being asked to sell my art) what do you think the first thing was that came to mind?

Someone wants to pay me for my art = MONEY

And for a couple of years that really was the base goal: Make money. Make money to buy supplies. Make money to pay your bills.

There is certainly nothing wrong with making money. It feels good. Yet when the pressure (self or externally imposed) to make money is your main focus, the desire to keep doing that is going to result in a slow fizzle toward boredom, frustration, and asking “Is this all there is?” At least it did in my situation.

The Value Thing

Now that I am working on a business plan that focuses on expanding my business, I relish the thought of considering what I value in a business and how that influences my future business. After working through Jenn’s visualization exercise a couple of times and thinking about the questions posed during Week 1, here are the values that I find important:

  • Creativity & original thinking; originality, thinking out of the box
  • Acknowledgment & recognition; saying ‘thank you’
  • Independence
  • Community, networking, friendship, collaboration, teamwork
  • Communication, openness, being true to your word, being able to admit mistakes
  • Teaching, learning,growth, discovery, service
  • Empathy, encouragement, respect
  • Connection
  • Authentic
  • Spirituality
  • Adventure, exploring new frontiers
  • Leading, leadership, mentoring
  • Being open-minded and flexible
  • Sharing, helping, inspiring
  • Trust, support, secure environment
  • Happiness, laughter, fun
  • Contributing
  • Making meaning

I mentioned in a previous post a statement from the Week 1 exercise that caused an ‘a-ha’ moment for me. It bears repeating here:

As a right brain entrepreneur, if your values are not reflected in your work, your work will lack meaning. Are you being authentic in your business? If you’re compromising your values in your work, you’ll feel resentful, upset, burnt out and frustrated. When you’re aligned with your values, you’ll feel fulfilled and energized and that is what people will resonate with most.

What values are important to you? How do you bring those values to your business?

Next: Having Visions


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Expectations

It is bound to happen in every artist’s life that you experience a customer who is, well, difficult. Now you can define “difficult” any way you want. In my case, it means when a customer places an order but then cannot meet your expectations of payment for said order.

I’ve been extremely fortunate in my art business that I have never had to deal with such a situation until now. The closest I’ve come to playing “collections officer” is requesting past due payment on a couple Net 30 orders. And that situation was resolved without difficulty.  Perhaps it is part and parcel with the economic times. Earlier this year one of my wholesale customers closed the doors to her store. It was sad to hear that she had to close her business.

This situation, however, was a challenge for me because I don’t like confrontation. In fact, I don’t really like the word “confrontation.” (The word just conjures up images of anger and frustration.) But anyways, I truly dreaded dealing with this issue. When you’ve lived a good part of your life as a people-pleasing-I-don’t-want-you-to-be-angry-with-me human being…let’s just say it takes a while to prime the engine, swallow your weeniness, and make that call. No one likes to be a hardass.

But this is a business and in business expectations are set. When you receive an order, you expect that payment will be received under whatever arrangement you and the customer have agreed upon. In turn, the customer expects that you, artist, will deliver your product in a timely manner or under whatever schedule you have agreed upon.

Sounds pretty straightforward and not complicated, right?

Sigh.

To prepare for this situation, I set an intention for the conversation. I used my tingshas to help clear the stuckness I was feeling. And then I made the call. In a nutshell, I set a final, firm due date for payment or I cancel the order.

No one wants to do this. You really do want the customer to get their order. You really don’t want to lose the money. But you also need to stay true to your expectations.  At some point you can only be so accommodating. I keep reminding myself that this is part of business; the good and the not-so-good. But it still sucks.

Here are a few things I’ve learned from this situation:

  1. Set your expectation up front and early. I relied on a previously agreed upon payment plan that worked well the first time and not so well this time.
  2. Follow-up. Don’t let too much time pass between conversations. The “out of sight, out of mind” motto rings true in these situations too.
  3. Rehearse what you’ll say, set an intention, and don’t get angry. Money is an emotional trigger. Don’t feed into your frustration or the other person’s frustration.
  4. Don’t take what they might say personally. Don’t react to their words; just be neutral. Sometimes it is better to say nothing.
  5. Accept that the outcome may not be what you hope for. Not every situation has a happy ending. Don’t dwell on it. Learn from it and move forward.

Though I’m not sure what the final outcome of this situation will be (cue the voice-over: “Will the money be received? Will the order be canceled? Will someone tell me why I’m talking this way :-)”) I feel better knowing that I handled it professionally and with confidence.

What has been your experience in dealing with these situations?


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Tuesdays’ Business: Decision Making

Last week I alluded to a situation where I had to make a decision regarding the future direction of my business and how that situation caused me to think quite a bit about the meaning of success.  This week I wanted to share with you some aspects to consider in decision making.

Intuition

When I first started my business and someone would make a suggestion or offer an idea on an item to sell (“have you consider making/selling…?”) I often took their idea to heart, came home, and tried to make whatever it was.  I was eager to please and, frankly, thought if I could make something that would sell and make some money, even better.

But what I rarely did was listen to my inner wisdom, my inner self, my intuition.

I understand that for many people the idea of listening to the little voice inside is all woo-woo hooey.  I know; I’ve been there.  Yet what usually happened when I’m make widget suggestion #54 is I’d find myself thinking “why am I doing this?” or “I really don’t want to do this.”  And I’d still ignore that little voice and plug along, make a few of widget suggestion #54, take them to the store and…they wouldn’t sell.

Now maybe it was my choice in colors or maybe it was the price or maybe it was the energy that went into the piece wasn’t very positive and therefore it didn’t generate much interest.  So I’d eventually remove widget suggestion #54 from the store and think to myself “now what the heck am I going to do with these?”

Now when someone presents me with widget suggestion #93 or #94 or whatever, I thank them for their suggestion and tell them I’ll have to think about it.  9 times out of 10 I don’t act on the suggestion because it doesn’t feel right, it doesn’t excite me, or it simply doesn’t fit my into my lines of art.

The situation I referenced last week required much more thought than one might give to creating a widget.  I found myself reflecting on the offer and going deep into my thoughts.  In this situation several questions were key:

How does it make you feel?  And not just externally but deep inside.  Do you get excited or do you get a pit in your stomach?  When you picture yourself pursuing the option, what do you see?  Again, how does it make you feel?

Listening to your inner voice, your intuition, really can help guide you down a more positive path.  Odds are you’ll be much happier with yourself.  The big catch here is that whichever way you go (listen to intuition or don’t listen to intuition) you have to move forward and not look back.  Learning from a decision is one thing.  Regretting a decision is something else entirely.  I don’t believe in regrets.  What is done is done; you can’t go backwards so there is no point in worrying about it.

Finances

It is always important to consider the financial ramifications in making business decisions.  The first question most of us ask is “Can I afford it?” or perhaps “Can I afford not to do it?”  I do believe that if we wish to pursue an opportunity, we will find a way to afford it.

When it involves production work, you need to break things down even further.  How many widgets can I make per hour, day, week in order to cover my costs?  Will assistance be required?  Will you pay for assistance?  How many widgets would I need to sell in order to break even or possibly make a profit?

You may also want to think about the best case and worst case scenarios.

In other words, look at the situation from as many angles as possible.

Consultation

If you can, talk to other artists who may have dealt with similar situations or who are in similar situations.  Try to get the pros and the cons.  Write down your questions. Listen objectively.  And then take what you’ve learned and toss it into the decision making bowl.

In The End

Decision making is indeed a personal process influenced by many aspects.  As I get older, I’m learning that listening to my inner voice is just as important as other tangible factors.  In some respects, listening to my inner voice is more important, depending on the situation.  Whatever process you take, do it with confidence.


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Tuesday’s Business-Diminish the Fear

Well isn’t this just ducky.  We had a potential melt down in the financial markets almost two weeks ago, then a marathon session to create a bail-out or rescue plan.  And what happened?  The plan failed in the House.

Certainly this is something that is of concern to anybody whether you own a business or not.  I did let out an audible gasp when I saw the headline on the failed bill.

But isn’t it ironic how in a moment of fear, the universe can show you that fear can be overcome…or at least put into perspective.

In my last Tuesday’s Business post, I discussed fear; the internal fear that keeps us from moving forward. I mentioned that YTD sales are down and that I am not participating in the fall Paradise City Arts Festival.  Certainly that is enough to make me feel a little depressed and fearful.  And yes, I did gasp when I read the headlines online.

But I also felt a sense of calm and here is why.

In the midst of all this craziness, I read a post by Christine Kane on how to stop the recession in its tracks.  In her post Christine reminds us that we can consciously choose to participate in the bad news or not.  In other words, we can get wrapped up in the drama or we can take a deep breath and not fixate on it.

Okay, I get that.  So I limit my reading of online news coverage and watch any news programs with a neutral attitude.  I call it information gathering.  And then I keep doing what I’ve been doing in the studio.

I remembered a comment SARK made on a recent Craftcast interview with Alison Lee.  She reminded us that we cannot deny our emotions.  Because when we work through our emotions, a shift can happen on the other side.

Okay, I’ll let myself feel scared for a while, understanding that in the big picture there isn’t much I can do.  What I can do, however, is think about what I can do to move my business along.

I was moved by recommendations of Molly Gordon whose presentation I just listened to on the SmARTist Telesummit.  Molly’s presentation was on the money dramas we find ourselves involved in and how to work through these situations to get back to the present.  The basis of Molly’s recommendations come from Byron Katie’s “The Work.”

The Work consists of identifying a stressful thought, asking four questions and turning the thought around.  The four questions are:

  • Is it true?
  • Can you absolutely know it is true?
  • How do you react when you think that thought?
  • Who would you be without that thought?

The turnarounds are reversals or opposite answers of the one you gave to the original thought.  For more information on Byron Katie’s The Work, visit The Work.

Ironically, the example provided in Molly’s presentation on how to apply The Work dealt with how businesses fare in a recession.  The stressful thought was “it is going to be harder to make a living.”  I’m going to take this same thought and apply it to my own situation and Byron Katie’s four questions.

Finally, I had a motivating conversation with Dayle Doroshow.  We were talking about how these slow periods are a great time to experiment, to work in a different medium, or to create work in a format other than what we typically create (jewelry, sculpture, miniatures, large format.)  You never know what ideas may emerge during this period of experimenting.

And what has happened during these two weeks while working through the fear?  Two small local art show opportunities have been presented to me and I received a significant wholesale order.  For each one I am grateful.

I hope some of the ideas and recommendations I’ve shared will help you diminish any fear you may be feeling during these fragile times.  I expect that I/we will still have fears, but not ones that will stop me/us.