It's a legitimate question to ask yourself when you are building or growing your business. Are you waiting for everything to be perfect or are you moving forward with "good enough", "fairly decent", or average" and making things happen? Too often I have worked with clients who have lots of enthusiasm, unique ideas, top-notch products or even businesses that only needs a few tweaks to achieve success simply let opportunities pass them by because they are waiting for perfect. It doesn't matter if they are waiting for the perfect moment to launch, the perfect amount of inventory to set up shop, the perfect website, the perfect content for their social media, the perfect location, or the perfect photographs, chances are they will still be waiting for perfect in a month, six months or a year. We've all done it. I know I have. But then you realize that you can change , improve, adjust or modify after the launch or whatever it is you are trying to do perfectly. Perfect is a dream. Perfect is a myth. Perfect is for people who don't really want to do anything.

Are you in the perfect trap? How can we get you out? Whatever the thing is you are holding back from doing because something isn't perfect, just let it go. Launch that business. Open that restaurant. Post that photo on social media. Start being successful. Don't wait for perfect. Work toward perfect. Embrace the imperfections and let them become a part of you and your business. Chances are your favorite pair of jeans are the ones that are a little worn out, not the ones that are brand-new and perfect. Think about why you like them so much and see how that relates to your "imperfection". It probably seems pretty silly now how much time and effort has been wasted waiting for perfect.

I'd love to help you get past your idea of perfection. Your first 30-minute strategy session is free because working one-on-one with a business coach for the first time isn't going to perfect and we can get to know each other and make sure we're a great fit first. I understand the desire to have perfect. Been there, done that! But then I realized I was missing out on so much in my business and personal life because of it, so I changed my mindset and now I aim for the best I can. It feels great and I'm the only one who knows it isn't perfect! Pretty cool, huh?

For a limited time I am offering FREE 30-minute strategy calls to work through your number one burning issue and give you an action plan to give your creative business an instant spark! This is a great opportunity for us to chat and see if we'd be a fabulous fit to work together. Schedule your strategy call today! I can't wait to ignite your spark!

Email Pink Spark Creative
Call us @ 865.406.3870
Follow us on Twitter
Find us on Facebook
View us on Instagram
 
 
My story. Or how Pink Spark Creative was ignited.

Pink Spark Creative exists for one reason and has only one purpose. The reason Pink Spark Creative exists is because I want other creatives, artists, makers and photographers to achieve success without having to learn everything the hard way, alone. Pink Spark Creative has only one purpose which is to give you exactly what you need to achieve success.

It all started with a Caribbean cruise.

For the sake of boring you with the details, I will give you the short version of this part of the story. I went on a cruise to the Caribbean and met a guy who convinced me to move from Cape Cod, MA to Knoxville, TN. It didn't work out with him, but I decided that I loved Knoxville and wanted to stay. I had a great job which led to another great job, and a new friend who introduced me to this other guy, who is now my husband. Allan, the guy who is now my husband, owned a boat dealership when I met him and through some unfortunate circumstances he had to close it down a couple of years later. 

What's this newfangled technology?

Before Allan closed down his boat dealership he purchased a digital camera to photograph the boats for the website. This was one of the first digital cameras and it took the 3.5 inch floppy disks. A lot of them! Using this camera reacquainted Allan with his high school love of photography and led to the purchase of a better Canon digital camera. Mind you, the prices were still ridiculous for these cameras, but if there is one thing you need to know about Allan it is that he loves having all the gadgets, or toys as some may think. He didn't have the vanity plate 'TOYMSTR' for no reason!

From boats to brides and flowers to babies...

Once Allan started getting used to the whole concept of digital photography and editing outside of a darkroom and inside Photoshop (and later Photoshop Lightroom), we decided to start photographing everything. And I mean everything. Birds. Flowers. Brides. Babies. Random nonsense. You name it, we photographed it. And that is what led us to start a part-time photography business. ALM Photo was started about 15 years ago with little more than a dream and a multi-thousand dollar investment in equipment. We photographed mostly action sports and weddings of friends in the beginning, and I learned by doing. We attended a lot of workshops and honed our skills while holding down full-time jobs, until one day I decided I couldn't take it any longer in the corporate world. I hungered for creativity in my daily life.

Failure leads to success.

I quit my 'real' job and Allan and I became self-employed. I always say it was the best thing I ever did AND the worst. It was the worst because we didn't have a plan in place before I leaped. I really would have preferred to have had a plan. Plans ensure you have envisioned what your success looks like. I will say though, that it is true that failure will lead to success. And doing nothing will lead to, well, nothing. I attempted to launch a business that I thought would fill an underserved niche, but someone said it was foolish. At the time, I didn't realize what I was trying to do was be a virtual assistant, which is now a really awesome niche serving entrepreneurs and small businesses. I have great talents at running businesses for other people, so I thought I could do that for people all over the world with the help of the Interwebz. The experience of starting up that business showed me I was an true entrepreneur at heart. And there was the success in my failure!

How do I earn a living now?

I'm a creative entrepreneur with three businesses. It's like juggling, except I don't even know how to juggle. Some days I am a photographer, other days I am a fused glass artist and instructor and growing this business, Pink Spark Creative, by helping other creative folks learn how to grow their businesses. It's challenging and rewarding and I love the full, long days, the crazy opportunities I have been afforded, the amazing people I've met and the sheer joy of being my own boss. Being a creative/small business coach is what I feel I was meant to do with my life and it never would have happened it I hadn't gone on that Caribbean cruise.

What was your spark?

I would love to work with you if you're ready to grow or start your own creative or small business. With over 30 years of working in small, creative and niche businesses my brain is full of useful information (and maybe some useless information too!) and I am very familiar with the obstacles you're facing each day. Learn from my failures and successes! Let's work together to spark your business! 

For a limited time I am offering FREE 30-minute strategy calls to work through your number one burning issue and give you an action plan to give your creative business an instant spark! This is a great opportunity for us to chat and see if we'd be a fabulous fit to work together. Schedule your strategy call today! I can't wait to ignite your spark!

Email Pink Spark Creative
Call us @ 865.406.3870
Follow us on Twitter
Find us on Facebook
View us on Instagram
 
 
So, maybe you've been wondering where I've been since January. Or maybe not. If you're not wondering, it's probably because you know me and you know I've been busy working on all sorts of awesome things that just haven't directly involved blogging over here at Pink Spark Creative. If you don't know me and have been wondering, well, sit back and let me get you up to speed.

First of all, if you've read the blog you know that I hate excuses. I mean, really what is an excuse anyway. It's usually pretty lame and doesn't even come anywhere near close to explaining why something didn't get done or turn out how it was supposed to or whatever. So I have no excuse for not blogging for the last 8 months. I do have five draft posts that I have started... <EXCUSE! Ha!

Since I am coming clean about my lack of focus with this blog, is there something you'd call your "it's been awhile"? I bet it was that vegetable garden you thought was an awesome idea in February. Is it a weedy mess of overripe tomatoes and hidden squash? I'll give you a pass. Make an excuse! Who has time for all that weeding and watering and picking and eating of the vegetables? Nobody. Seriously. Or maybe your, let's just call it "IBA" is that Etsy shop you opened 6 months ago but haven't listed anything. Or could it be the workshop you want to teach but you haven't even created an outline. I get it. We don't get to everything. And we make excuses. But the excuses just make us feel worse.

Excuses make you feel like a failure. Am I alone here? When I would make an excuse it would just make me feel worse than I already did, so why did I do it. Because it's easier than being honest. I mean, let's be honest here. If I don't answer an email right away or get a quote back to a potential client in like 5 minutes, I might say "Sorry I took so long to respond, but I've been weeding my overgrown vegetable garden all day". What I should say is "I don't care enough about having you as a potential client, so I am going to make an excuse so you feel sorry for me and I can go back to my weeding." What? Yeah, that's what excuses really sound like. What about being honest?

Start first with being honest to yourself. Don't make excuses to yourself. Hungry? Ate a cookie. Don't say to yourself it was only 100 calories. Say, I ate a freaking cookie. End of story. No excuse. Own it. Try it. Go eat a cookie. I'll wait here.

Now incorporate the honesty into everything you do. Here's a personal example. Yes, it involves riding a mountain bike. #SorryNotSorry I was riding with two of my lady friends and couldn't get over an obstacle. I tried three times. It wasn't working. Rather than make an excuse - I'm tired, it's hot, it's hard, I'm weak. I simply said, "I'm not trying hard enough". Not an excuse, but an honest statement. Let me tell you how that made me feel. Fantastic! That's how I felt. I was honest to myself. I was honest to my riding partners. And I have complete control over changing the result when I attempt that obstacle again. It wasn't a defeating statement like "I'm weak" would be. 

Next, practice turning an excuse into an honest statement. When you feel yourself starting to make an excuse...STOP...and turn it into an honest statement. It will probably feel really weird and people might think there is something wrong with you, especially if you stop talking mid-sentence, but hear me out. Here's an example. You're late to a meeting. Simple. Happens all the time. To other people. Right? Anyway, this time it happens to you. You know why you are late. You were lollygagging around on Facebook and checking out Instagram when you should have been putting on your pants, so you left the house 15 minutes late. Instead of stating the obvious, "I'm late" or making a lame excuse, "Traffic was backed up to Idaho", be honest and say "I have crappy time management skills and love looking at photos of strangers cats more than I love this wonderful job". Maybe not that honest. But you get the point.

Lastly, take some time to figure out why you are making excuses. If you make a lot of them, this is very important. If you are an occasional excuse maker there is probably something wrong with you and you'll never figure it out. But seriously. Seriously. Look for patterns in your behavior. Analyze why you repeatedly make the same excuses, like tardiness or time management. When you identify the cause you can work on a solution. It can take some time. And it will take some effort, but you can do it if you don't make any excuses.

No excuses. Be honest. Figure out the root cause of the excuse making. That's your assignment, if you choose to accept it. If you don't, then make a good excuse and email it to me at lisa@pinksparkcreative.com. I'll be sure to respond in a week or two with some lame excuse about being too busy riding my bicycle to respond to your email. Or I'm weeding my neighbors vegetable garden. I haven't seen her in a month.

While you're here, pop over to the Success Series page and download the super awesome exercises to get you on track for success in your creative business!

For a limited time I am offering FREE 30-minute strategy calls to work through your number one burning issue and give you an action plan to give your creative business an instant spark! This is a great opportunity for us to chat and see if we'd be a fabulous fit to work together. Schedule your strategy call today! I can't wait to ignite your spark!

Email Pink Spark Creative
Call us @ 865.406.3870
Follow us on Twitter
Find us on Facebook
View us on Instagram
 
 
One of my core principles is to not make excuses. 

It's a tough one to stick to because life happens and sometimes you really just need to make an excuse, so it's definitely a challenge. It was especially challenging this past August when my mom unexpectedly passed away. She had been living with my husband and I for the last few years when her ability to live alone had become a challenge and she enjoyed having us around to keep her company. 

When it rains, it pours.

We're all familiar with this quote and you've probably used it when one thing after another goes wrong. I know I sure do. And boy did I in July and August. In July my mom ended up in the hospital and had to have her appendix removed. It should have been a short stay type of thing, but she wasn't doing really well, and eventually ended up being transferred to a short-term care facility much like a nursing home. This was right before my husband and I were to take a two week vacation out to Colorado to visit my brother, sister-in-law and two nieces and do lots of mountain biking. My mom had been insisting, before she ended up in the hospital, that she would stay home alone (the neighbor and some friends of mine were going to pop in and check on her) and care for the cats, dog and bird. So, just to make this brief, here is a list of all the things that went wrong from right before we went out of town until about three weeks after we returned.

  • Mom ends up in hospital and has surgery
  • Mom gets transferred to care facility just days before we leave
  • We have to find a house/pet sitter
  • Some of the electricity quits working in the basement
  • The air conditioner quits
  • The hot water heater quit
  • I get piriformis (Google it) and can't sit, stand or lie down comfortably (but I could ride my bike!)
  • My business coaching gig at the University of Tennessee begins for the fall semester
  • I have meetings to attend as co-chair for Fantasy of Trees (a huge fundraiser for East Tennessee Children's Hospital)
  • We have photography jobs
  • My mom passes away
  • We have a bunch more photography jobs
  • I have more Fantasy of Trees meetings
  • I lead the meet-up for the local Etsy team

and there are many more things...

The point of the list is not to show you how busy I am, but to point out that I didn't make an excuse because terrible things happened. I'm accountable to my obligations. I'll be honest and say that sometimes I flake out on fun activities with friends, but if it is work-related or has to do with a an activity I have an obligation to, I am committed. This is probably why I get annoyed when I hear people give lame excuses about why they haven't gotten their Etsy shop up and running or their social media accounts set up. The passing of a parent is certainly good cause for excuses, but I couldn't not show up for the events I was being counted on to attend to.

These setbacks helped me grow. I had to shift the way I was thinking and change my attitudes in order to keep my businesses moving forward and handle all of the challenges. It was not easy!

My challenge to you as creative entrepreneurs is to think long and hard before giving an excuse when you are faced with a setback. Is it a valid excuse? Is it a valid setback? What are the repercussions of making the excuse? Will this setback potentially (or definitely) cost me money or customers? Will I be letting someone down who really needs me or my help? If you can't come up with solid, valid reasoning, then think about what the real reason is you are making an excuse. Is the setback real and justified? Is it just something you don't want to do? Does it not bring you joy or make you happy? Those are things you can fix by just not doing them any more. Is that coffee meet-up not engaging you with the right people? Quit going! Is that client demanding too much time that they won't pay for? Fire them!

Stop making excuses and focusing on the setbacks and start living the life you want to live. Just remember, it is totally OK to take a few days to yourself if you do lose a parent or loved one. I really was glad I had so many distractions at the time of my mom's passing, but if I hadn't I would have taken a few days off. Please don't think I want you to be like me. Because that's just plan crazy. Let me know what your thoughts are on making excuses and dealing with setbacks. I'm curious if I'm alone in my feelings on the subject. And I do realize I got a little off-track with the whole excuse thing, but it's such a common problem I see creatives making. I should also point out that one of my other core principles is not to complain and I'm obviously still working hard on that one!

On another note, it's a new year and I'm getting back on track with Pink Spark Creative's blogging and newsletter. You can also expect to start seeing some Periscopes and podcasts soon. No excuses! I'm trying to add one new thing to the mix each month so I don't go overboard, so be patient. Oh, and email me if you have any topics you'd like me to cover on Periscope or in a podcast.


For a limited time I am offering FREE 30-minute strategy calls to work through your number one burning issue and give you an action plan to give your creative business an instant spark! This is a great opportunity for us to chat and see if we'd be a fabulous fit to work together. Schedule your strategy call today! I can't wait to ignite your spark!

Email Pink Spark Creative
Call us @ 865.406.3870
Follow us on Twitter
Find us on Facebook
View us on Instagram
 
 
When was the last time you said you were too busy to do something? This morning? At lunchtime? Right now when prompted with the opportunity to read this blog post?

We all do it. We all say we're too busy to do this, that or the other. But are we really "too busy"?

About a year ago I started analyzing when and why I would say I was too busy to do something or why I would respond with 'busy' as an answer to how I was doing and decided to make a change. Here's an example because writing this out makes it sound confusing. A friend would ask me to meet for lunch and I would say I was too busy. And then I would be mad because I didn't go spend time with my friend. I mean, at most it would be two hours out of my day including travel time. Now, if I actually had a photo shoot or appointment scheduled that day at that particular time, then I would legitimately be too busy to meet them for lunch. So, was I saying I was too busy because I didn't want to go or because I felt that my time would be better spent doing something else?

I realized I was saying I was too busy because I felt like I was supposed to be working all day, every day to grow my businesses, when, in fact, I wasn't really getting any more work done by not going to do this other thing, like lunch. We say we're busy when what we really mean is (A) we aren't really busy but want you to think we are or (B) we don't want to do this other thing or (C) we didn't plan our day in a way that would allow us to get the important tasks accomplished.

Let's be honest here, those are the only answers when you aren't actually doing work in or on your business. So now if I want to do the thing I've been asked to do, I think about my answer and do a little analysis. So, using the example of being asked to meet for lunch, I would ask myself these questions:

1. Do I really want to go to lunch at this place, at this time, with this person?
2. Will I really get more work done if I don't go?
3. Will I be in a crappy mood for the rest of the day if I miss this opportunity to see this friend?
4. Is this something I really want to do?

Once I have answered those questions, I can make a smart decision that I will be happy with. Too often we use 'too busy' as a catch-all excuse when we really want to say 'no' or 'not right now'. Sometimes by saying 'no' or 'not right now', you save yourself from taking on way more than you can handle and you learn how to set boundaries for your time.

What are boundaries you ask? Well, let me tell you how awesome boundaries are. Once I realized that I wasn't really too busy to do all the things asked of me, I discovered that what I was doing was setting boundaries for myself. 

Choosing how to spend my time rather than letting others dictate how it was spent has opened my time up to opportunities I might not otherwise have been able to fit into my schedule. Saying 'no' or 'not right now' shouldn't make you feel guilty, it should make you feel empowered. Guilt is for people who know they should be using their time better. You, on the other hand, are working towards awesomeness and don't have time for guilt. Start setting your own boundaries with your time and you will soon see that you really aren't as busy as you think.

Please leave a comment sharing how you set your boundaries, share this post with others or let me know how I can help you ignite your spark and grow your small/creative business!

For a limited time I am offering FREE 30-minute strategy calls to work through your number one burning issue and give you an action plan to give your creative business an instant spark! This is a great opportunity for us to chat and see if we'd be a fabulous fit to work together. Schedule your strategy call today! I can't wait to ignite your spark!

Email Pink Spark Creative
Call us @ 865.406.3870
Follow us on Twitter
Find us on Facebook
View us on Instagram
 
 
I was recently interviewed by Michael Peggs for his podcast on You University and it was a blast. Peggs found me on Twitter and approached me for an interview, I saw that he is doing great things for entrepreneurs and immediately said yes! Scroll to the bottom for a link to the interview and be sure to share it with any who might enjoy giving it a listen.

This is what Peggs had to say about me:
Lisa Mueller is a professional photographer and creative entrepreneur. She is also the founder of Pink Spark Creative, which provides mentoring and consultation services as well as educational resources for creative business owners. If you’re an artist, photographer, designer or other creative and have been dreaming of starting your own business or looking to grow the one you have, Lisa can help spark your growth and guide you to success. Creative entrepreneurs, listen up!

 What we talked about:
  • The challenge of creativity
  • The intersection of art and industry
  • Photography and how to build a business behind the camera
  • How to reconcile the fear of failure and success
 Resources:
For a limited time I am offering FREE 30-minute strategy calls to work through your number one burning issue and give you an action plan to give your creative business an instant spark! This is a great opportunity for us to chat and see if we'd be a fabulous fit to work together. Schedule your strategy call today! I can't wait to ignite your spark!

Email Pink Spark Creative
Call us @ 865.406.3870
Follow us on Twitter
Find us on Facebook
View us on Instagram
 
 
Lately, I've been doing a lot of thinking about how creative folks can tell the story of their business and I came up with 5 easy ways to share the story of your creative business. There are several reasons why telling your story is important so I'll cover some of those first so you'll have a starting point for how to tell your story.

4 reasons to tell the story of your creative business

1. People want to know why, how and where you do what you do!
2. Shedding light on your personality makes it easier for people to like you!
3. People do business with people they like and know!
4. Your story may inspire someone to start their own creative business!

Take a moment and think about what you would share when telling your story. Grab and pen and paper and write down the first 3 to 5 points that came to mind. These are the things you'll definitely want to cover in your story. It's your story, so you're the only one who knows how to tell it. Now it's time to decide how to tell the story!

These are my top 5 ways to tell the story of your creative business and you'll want to choose at least one method, but choosing two or more will help you craft a well-rounded story you can share on different platforms. I'll explain more about how to use the different methods together below.

5 easy ways to share the story of your creative business

1. Blogging

Blogging is the absolute easiest way to tell the story of your creative business. Chances are you are already blogging and maybe you have been telling your story without even thinking about it. If you've done a few posts that give the background of your business or tell how you create, then all you have to do is refresh those posts and reshare them or create some new content using the older posts as a guide.

Blogging your creative business story can be done in a single post or a series. It really just depends on whether or not you like to blog. Add photos to increase visual engagement with your readers. Be sure to include photos of you doing what you do, your workspace, your creations and maybe even some work in progress images. Breaking your story up into a series may increase readership of your blog as well as give you the opportunity to share different parts of the story over time. Remember, blogging isn't like writing a book, it can be short and to the point, but if you love to write, by all means let the words flow in your own authentic voice.

Level (1 easy to 5 hard): 1 to 2 depending on your love of writing

2. Photo essay, slideshow or video of still images

As I mentioned above, photos are essential to increasing visual engagement with your existing and potential customers or clients. Images can show so much more than you can say in words, am I right? The whole picture speaks a 1000 words thing is so true, so why waste your precious time writing when a collection of great images can do it for you. 

Assembling your images into a photo essay covers the visual engagement while giving you a chance to say a few words about each image. An essay is perfect for behind-the-scenes and sharing work in progress stories. The key here is to use only the best images, so you may want to consider hiring a professional or asking a friend with great photography skills to take the photos.

Another way to tell your story with images is to create a slideshow or a video using still images. There are many different ways to create a slideshow, whether as a stand-alone or incorporated into a blog post. A quick Google search should produce a list of suitable options, but I highly recommend using Animoto. Animoto has a lot of really cool features to create a unique video with still images, text and even videos. Check out the options and decide whether the free or paid version suits your needs.

Level (1 easy to 5 hard): 1 or 2 depending on your photo and tech skills

3. Video

Like photographs, video is a very visual medium that can include sound, which can save you from typing out words. Not everyone enjoys writing, so video is the best medium for folks who like to talk and tell their story in their own words and voice. Break your story down into several short videos and tell your story in bite-sized pieces. This is a great way to easily create more content to share with your audience over time. 

Creating videos can be as easy or challenging as you choose. Keep it simple and use your smartphone to record and edit the video quickly and easily. Or work with a videographer or similarly talented friend to produce a high-quality video with crisp audio. Either option is acceptable so don't feel limited by your resources of time, money and skills.

Once you begin creating videos to tell the story of your creative business, you may even consider starting a podcast to share more about yourself and your business. Speaking to your audience is a great way to let them get to know you because your personality will come through in the video.

Level (1 easy to 5 hard): 3 because video may involve some tech like editing, video capture, and audio.

4. About you/us page

Most websites or blogs have an About Me/Us page where you can find out more about the person or people behind the business. This is also a great place to share some of your creative business story. How many times have you visited a website or blog and thought "I really like what this person has to say/do/show"? How did you find out more? Most likely you clicked on their About page and had the opportunity to read a little bit more about them.

Giving visitors to your blog or website a glimpse behind the curtain is both entertaining and an easy way to increase engagement. You may also want to include links to videos or blog posts that tell your full story. Take advantage of the platforms you are already using and put them to work delivering your story. Make sure you write in your own authentic voice!

Level (1 easy to 5 hard): 1 because you already know all about you and this is easy writing in your authentic voice.

5. Social media

I saved this little nugget for last because it is the easiest and most efficient way to share your story. You may want to incorporate using your social media platforms in conjunction with any or all of numbers 1 through 4 above. For example, if you are creating a series of blog posts to tell the story of your creative business, you may want to share them on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest at different times to increase their reach and engagement. It's kind of like double (or triple or quadruple) the content without creating any extra content!

Social media also gives you the opportunity to share your story in more places easily. Post something on Facebook on Friday, then share it on Twitter on Tuesday and so on. You'll likely have a mix of different followers on each platform, as well as some of the same, so your story has a good chance of reaching more people with each platform you add to the mix.

Remember these posts telling the story of your creative business shouldn't be the only thing you are sharing on these platforms. Keep a steady mix of retweets, your regular tweets and links to those great blog posts you read, so your feed doesn't look like it's all about you. Keep it simple and engaging!

Level (1 easy to 5 hard): 1 to 2 depending on how many social media platforms you utilize
As you can see some of the ways to share the story of your creative business are very easy and a couple will require more skills and effort if you want to tackle them yourself, but don't let that stop you from sharing. Share your stories with me as links in the comments via email, I'd love to hear the story of your creative business!

You might also like these posts:
5 Tips for Marketing Your Creative Business With Little or No Money
5 Reasons You Should Be On Twitter

For a limited time I am offering FREE 30-minute strategy calls to work through your number one burning issue and give you an action plan to give your creative business an instant spark! This is a great opportunity for us to chat and see if we'd be a fabulous fit to work together. Schedule your strategy call today! I can't wait to ignite your spark!

Email Pink Spark Creative
Call us @ 865.406.3870
Follow us on Twitter
Find us on Facebook
View us on Instagram
 
 
So, which one is it? Procrastination or poor time management? Sadly, it's probably a little of both. Most of us fail to plan our days properly. This week I have been struggling and it's because I didn't plan my week out in advance. Admittedly, I had a crazy weekend which was part of the problem, but that isn't a good excuse. There isn't any excuse. I just didn't plan.

This past weekend I had the opportunity to go on the road with our local mountain bike club, Appalachian Mountain Bike Club, to generate support for Knoxville to win a $100,000 grant from Bell Helmets to build a super awesome downhill trail. My husband has become the group's official volunteer photographer and I was along for social media support and to be a smiling face. It was a fantastic weekend as we traveled in what is referred to as the #SoKnoLimo from Knoxville to Snowshoe Mountain, WV and on to Washington, DC meeting lots of people and getting votes for our Urban Wilderness Gravity Trail. We also got to do some mountain biking and I rode the downhill trails at Snowshoe for the first time. (More on that experience later...)
Our journey started early Friday morning with some local news spots and then we drove Downtown and our city Mayor, Madeline Rogero, spraypainted the last window before we took off down the highway. I knew I should have taken my Day Designer with me, but I was trying to downsize my belongings so I left it behind in my office. That was my first mistake.

My Day Designer is what keeps me organized. It's a fabulous planner with a page for each day where I can make of list of what needs to be done, with a special section for my top 3 to-dos, and there's a place where I can put appointments or block out time for projects. Without this planner, I am lost. For real. While I was on the road, I should have taken a few minutes and planned my week rather than thinking I would figure it all out when I got to the office on Tuesday. 

Wrong! A shortened work week means you have to fit more activity into less time. It means deciding what is important and what can wait. It may mean that some tasks get crossed off the list completely. Allan and I were already behind with editing and culling images from shoots we had done over the past few weeks, so those deadlines were no longer valid when Tuesday rolled around and it caused me some unnecessary stress. 

Stress. Ain't nobody got time for that. And it often leads to more of one of the topics of this post, procrastination. In my experience, if you don't plan, you get stressed and you end up procrastinating because you haven't created a good plan, with tasks in order of priority, of what needs to get done. Note that I said in order of priority. It's important. Yes, we can all make a list of stuff we need to get done, but if you don't assign any priority (or more to the point, a deadline) you will just stare at that list and do nothing. Are you nodding your head in agreement? Can you recall a time when you felt this very same way? Was it today? Like, maybe right this second...

So, now you understand how failing to plan is one of the ways procrastination sneaks into your life and stops you from doing whatever it is you should be doing. Procrastination also sneaks in wearing the disguise of being busy. This one is my favorite!

I'm too busy. We've all said it. Some of us say it more than others. Try not saying it. Try an honest response. Here's an example so you can better understand how this is really procrastination in disguise. Your friend asks you to meet after work for a glass of wine (or a beer, whatever) and you say you can't because you're too busy. Your friend asks why and you say it's because you have to work through the night to finish a project for a client by noon the next day. Your friend asks why your client wants you to work through the night. And that's when you make up some lame excuse. You do this because the truth is that you didn't plan properly and you procrastinated and now you're stressed out AND you're "too busy" to have a drink with your bestie (or your boyfriend, whatever).

Here's a little homework assignment for you to get out of the lame "I'm too busy" rut. Every time you start to answer with "I'm too busy", stop and think about why you are "too busy". Is it because you've taken on too many projects, you didn't plan you day properly, you took a long lunch, you got up late? Start being honest with why you are "too busy" and a weight will lift from your shoulders and you will feel free of the "too busy" monster! We all have the same hours in a day, how you use them is the key to getting more done and not being roadblocked by procrastination.

So, what's stopping you? Is it procrastination or the other equally annoying culprit, poor time management. As I mentioned earlier, it may be both, but here are some ways that poor time management can be stopping you from reaching your most awesome potential.

As I mentioned above, not planning your day, week, month, year, etc. can lead to problems. Properly managing your time is critical. If I create a realistic plan there is no reason why I can't knock out a blog post, write a newsletter, do a branding photo shoot, ride my mountain bike, eat three meals, drink two beers, watch an hour of TV, respond to email, tweet some tweeps, post a few important tidbits on Facebook and pin some cool places to mountain bike on Pinterest, attend a meeting for an organization with which I volunteer and get 7 hours of sleep. Seriously. I do this almost every day. It's only possible because I manage my time. I don't schedule too many appointments and I guard my personal time like it's a baby gorilla. (We just had two baby gorillas born at the Knoxville Zoo this week, so I have gorilla babies on my brain!)

What does your productivity and time management look like? Hopefully not like a baby gorilla. I mean they are cute and all, but I doubt they can take care of themselves let alone plan their time well. Your homework assignment is to analyze your time management and productivity. Write down everything you do for one week (two is better, but one will do the job if you are "too busy") from the time you get up in the morning until you lay your head on the pillow and go to sleep. Be sure to include what you do from the time you actually wake up and get out of bed and the same when you go to bed. I don't mean anything overly personal, but we're all guilty of checking our phone or playing Words with Friends when we're supposed to be sleeping or getting up. 

Keeping track of what you do while you're awake will help you see how you are using your time- the good, the bad and the ugly. Once you've tracked your time for seven days you will be able to see some patterns. Are you going to bed really late and trying to get up early only to fail and fall back to sleep and wake up late? Are you getting enough exercise? Are you eating three (or more) meals per day and properly hydrating yourself? Are you getting the important work done or are you fooling around on Facebook and Pinterest? This is an exercise of honesty. Track everything!

The point of tracking everything is important for several reasons. One, you will see where you are spending your time and you will be able to determine if that's where you really want to be spending it. Two, you will be able to figure out where you need to make improvements either in your time management, prioritization or grouping of smiliar tasks. Three, you will discover you are wasting a lot of time on unnecessary tasks. Trust me on that last one. 

Here's what to do next to get better at time management and avoid procrastination. Take at least 10 minutes at the end of each day to plan the following day (or days, for you overachievers). Write down the tasks you need to accomplish, note the priority of these tasks. This is important if you day goes sideways and you might end up with fewer hours in your day than you planned. If you have kids, pets, parents or other obligations, you know what I am talking about. After you have planned your the day(s), take a moment to see what you actually did get accomplished on this day and determine if you could have done better, or if you need to adjust the time allocated for any recurring tasks. Example: Maybe you figured it would take 30 minutes to write that blog post, but you discovered it really took 1.5 hours. (Like this one...)

Being agile with your time management is a bonus. Very rarely will your plan work out 100% as planned. It might be close, but you will always need to be ready to make adjustments. This ability to adjust should also help you avoid procrastination. Instead of saying you don't have time to complete the task, maybe a lower priority task can be moved to another day or it doesn't need all of the allocated time. Be flexible, but know your priorities.

Procrastination and poor time management can be eradicated from your life if you do the homework assignments and follow these suggestions. It may take some time as you work through changing long-established habits and learn to be flexible, but it will happen. And you won't have so much stress. And you will feel better. And you'll get to ride your mountain bike more. Or whatever.

For a limited time I am offering FREE 30-minute strategy calls to work through your number one burning issue and give you an action plan to give your creative business an instant spark! This is a great opportunity for us to chat and see if we'd be a fabulous fit to work together. Schedule your strategy call today! I can't wait to ignite your spark!

Email Pink Spark Creative
Call us @ 865.406.3870
Follow us on Twitter
Find us on Facebook
View us on Instagram
 
 
Are you ready to launch your creative business?


Yes! Yes! Yes!

Why do I think you're ready when I have no idea where you are with your planning? Because there is really no time like the present! Almost everyone is guilty of waiting until they have put the finishing touches on every aspect of their dream creative business before they actually launch. And you know what, it will never be perfect! Trust me, I know from years of experience. Heck, Pink Spark Creative launched at the end of 2014 and I still haven't finished writing my "About Me" page. And I am totally OK with it because I launched, I started my business and I got moving in the right direction. I want to share some of my hard-earned wisdom about launching a creative business and let you know why it's OK if you aren't 100% ready.

Your creative business will never be perfect.

I have said this twice so far so it must be true! The fact is our creative businesses are works in progress. We adapt to the marketplace. Our skills grow. We add revenue streams. Our vision changes. We evolve. Every day our creativity is changing and our business changes right along with it. So it will never be perfect because our business will never be completely stagnant so that we can catch up with all this perfection we think we need.

It's awesome if you have a business plan developed before you launch, but even that bundle of documentation is bound to change over time, thus it will never be perfect either. I do recommend having a plan or vision that will serve as an overall guide to the general direction of your business. Allow yourself to be flexible with this plan. It's just a plan and we all know that plans can change. 

Even though your plan may change it is a good idea to look into the future. (I'll give you a moment to grab your crystal ball...) In all seriousness, looking to the future can help you launch today. Visualize where you see your creative business in 1 year, 5 years, 10 years and beyond. If you are continuing to grow as an artist or are someone who enjoys working in different artist disciplines, then your future may be very different than what your are envisioning today. For example, you may be creating watercolor portraits of pets, but one day paint a portrait of your best friend and her husband on their wedding day and your fans go wild. Your business just changed. Did you have this change in your plan? If not, are you going to add this type of portrait as another product offering or will you stick to the plan.

You are afraid of success. Yes, you. Bet you didn't think I noticed, did you. We're all a little bit afraid of the success that could come if people love our creations. But isn't that what you want? Don't let the possibility of greater than expected success keep you from launching. What if it doesn't happen and you wasted time worrying? I'm not being negative with that statement, just honest. Worrying about something that might not happen, whether it be good or bad, is dumb. And it wastes valuable time you could be spending on deciding what to watch on TV. Or figuring out your pricing.

You are afraid of failure. But you are actually more afraid of success, but you pretend it's failure that is the bad guy. Because failing is bad and success is good, right? So many times I have a client say "But what if nobody buys my stuff?" and I say "But what if they do?". Stop putting so much negativity into the process of launching! Worrying about failure is bad for your business and it's not putting any money in your pocket. Change your mindset and focus on success. 

It's too hard to launch. Hey, that's why I am here! As a creative business mentor and consultant, I help you figure how to launch and guide you through the process. Of course, there are other mentors and consultants that can help you, but this is one of the most critical times in your business to get help. Let someone who has been there and done the work show you the ropes. 

You are lazy. Let's be honest, this is probably the number one reason why most creatives don't launch their business. It's going to take a lot of work to launch this business and keep it running. If the plan you've created has a future outlook beyond next week, you're going to have to put in some serious time and energy. Launching and running a successful creative business is rewarding but difficult and it isn't for everyone. It might not be for you. What are you more excited about, the idea of having a creative business or the idea of building a creative business?

If you aren't afraid of success or failure, don't think it's too hard to launch and your aren't lazy, then what are you waiting for? Launch already! Once you've launched you can work out all the little details and get it closer to perfect. Don't let anything hold you back, except for the few things I listed below.

There are some tasks you should do before you launch because they will affect your marketing message and audience.

Spend some time determining who your ideal customer or client is before your launch. What? Yes, I do want you to consider a few things before you do launch, but only because they are detrimental to the success of your business. If you don't understand who your ideal customer is, you won't know how to get your message to them. Knowing who you are marketing to will ensure you are getting the information about what you create to the right people.

Decide what type of on-line presence you need. Do you need a stand-alone e-commerce website and a blog or could you get started with an Etsy shop and free Wordpress blog? Thoughtful planning could save you a lot of time and money and get you making sales more quickly. Don't forget about social media too. While you don't have to utilize every social media platform, analyze which ones might be best to get you started. And then, get started!

Often as creative entrepreneurs we start off in one direction, but then find ourselves way off over yonder. It's not that we all have ADD, though that would explain a lot, that's just how creatives function. Too tight of a focus on what we do and we have to break free and do something different. This is why many artists end up teaching their craft. But the real reason you should look to see which directions you can take your business is that you have to keep a roof over your head, food on the table and art supplies in the studio. Almost every creative will have that time of year that is slow or that time in their career when they aren't really charging enough for their work (that is another whole blog post) and they need more revenue. What sorts of additional revenue streams could you add?


So are you set to launch? You should be! I'd love to know your thoughts about launching a creative business and any tips you may have. Also, leave a comment if any of this post hit home or struck a nerve. And let me know too if you make the decision to just launch the dang thing after you read this!

For a limited time I am offering FREE 30-minute strategy calls to work through your number one burning issue and give you an action plan to give your creative business an instant spark! This is a great opportunity for us to chat and see if we'd be a fabulous fit to work together. Schedule your strategy call today! I can't wait to ignite your spark!

Email Pink Spark Creative
Call us @ 865.406.3870
Follow us on Twitter
Find us on Facebook
View us on Instagram
 
 
It all started with a pretty little notebook. And a dream.

The first time I did an art show about 8 years ago, I decided to put a pretty little notebook out on one of the tables with a hand-written note asking folks to leave their name and email address. I knew a little bit about marketing a business, having started a photography business with my husband a few years earlier, but I wasn't really sure what I would do with the names and email addresses once I had them.

And then it hit me! I could send them a snazzy newsletter crafted in Publisher that would tell them where I would be next, what sort of fresh fused glass goodness I was creating and if and when I would be teaching fused glass classes. (It is still hard for me to believe that folks have been asking me to teach them how to create their own fused glass goodness since my very first art show, but it is true, and it makes me smile.)

From my humble beginnings, I have upgraded my information delivery system to MailChimp and my pretty notebook to a sheet of paper on a clipboard. While I consider MailChimp a major upgrade, in all honesty the notebook was a lot prettier than the clipboard. Maybe it's time for a change! But my point here is that over the last 8 years, technology and information delivery have evolved in ways that make it super easy to keep in contact with people who like your work or want to know more about you. For one thing, you can have multiple mailing lists for different kinds of information, like a newsletter just for sales or when you will be teaching classes.

So, for the last eight years I have been telling my fellow artists, creatives and crafters to put out a pretty little notebook or dull, boring clipboard and collect up all this valuable data, but they don't. Well, most of them don't and the few that do, don't really do anything with the valuable data even though it could help them grow their business, which is what lead me to write this post. Let me know if you find this information helpful or if you have some ways you'd like to add to the list, I'd be glad to share them!

1. Treat your subscribers like the gold they really are!
Make sure everyone who subscribes to your newsletter either at an art show or craft fair, or online via your website or Facebook, knows they are special. Don't hammer them with too many newsletters. Make sure the content is useful or important to them. This is where different lists for different types of customers comes in handy. Maybe some folks want to know where you will be set up next and other may want to know what new soaps you will be offering for the holidays. Set expectations and follow through! If you promise a newsletter once a month, deliver on it. If you say it will be sporadic, don't suddenly start sending a newsletter once a week. Never give people a reason to hit 'unsubscribe'!

2. Give people a compelling reason to sign up for your newsletter!
Sometimes it is easy enough to just put out that pretty notebook or dull clipboard and ask folks to leave their name and email address, other times you might need to give them some incentive. If you are collecting your names and email addresses at events, then you will have to enter them into MailChimp (or whatever mail program you decide to use) and you probably won't be able to autogenerate a message with a nice thank you discount or special offer, but don't despair! I find it is very easy, using MailChimp, to send a specific message to anyone who has been added to my list after a certain date. Again, set expectations and follow through! If you promise a discount when they sign up, deliver on it.

3. Make the content count!
Content is important no matter what the delivery method. If you are blogging, content is important. If you are posting on Facebook, content is important. If you are putting up images on Instagram, you guessed it, content is important. Great content is probably the best way to grow your creative business with a newsletter because if your subscribers love your content, they will share it. Even better, you can encourage them to share it without seeming pushy. For example, if your newsletter features several different types of information such as a calendar of events, new products and upcoming, you can encourage subscribers to share the newsletter with anyone they think may be interested in this information, AND...be sure to encourage them to have their friends subscribe. When your subscribers pass along the information they are endorsing you, so their friends will be more likely to hit 'subscribe'!

Since I am such a huge fan of newsletters I will be doing a more in-depth post soon, with some of my best tried and true examples of how my creative business has grown with newsletters, so be sure to check back with me!

Share your tips for suggestions for using a newsletter to grow your creative business in the comments or tweet them to me at @PinkSparkCr8ive and I will share them! Spreading the love!

For a limited time I am offering FREE 30-minute strategy calls to work through your number one burning issue and give you an action plan to give your creative business an instant spark! This is a great opportunity for us to chat and see if we'd be a fabulous fit to work together. Schedule your strategy call today! I can't wait to ignite your spark!

Email Pink Spark Creative
Call us @ 865.406.3870
Follow us on Twitter
Find us on Facebook
View us on Instagram