Take a Shot!

I often hear (and am guilty of it sometimes myself) small biz owners say “I’m not a big enough business to try that” or “I don’t have a chance of getting into that”, so they don’t bother to submit articles, send samples to magazines or websites, or try to get their product into that big store they dream of.

The problem with down-playing your business and feeling as though you aren’t worthy of more, is that you are simply hindering your own growth and creating a self-fulfilling prophecy! If you don’t dream big and reach for that dream, then your business will be stunted only by yourself.

Months ago, I saw a request from the giant shopping website, on HARO. RedPlum was looking for submissions for their many different holiday shopping gift lists. As someone that has used their gift lists in the past to shop for my friends and family, I immediately wanted to send them a picture and write-up on my Record Notebooks. Immediately after that, I thought to myself that there was absolutely no chance that I would actually get in their lists…in the past I’ve seen items from Banana Republic, Target and other big corporations on RedPlum. Still, I thought I should send them an email anyway. Maybe someone in the office would think my notebooks were neat and buy one, so I took a shot.

Weeks later, I got an email from RedPlum. They were interested in seeing a couple product samples to show test panels. Again, I thought “I’m just one person, a woman making these in her kitchen. I don’t have a shot at this. But maybe the test panels will like it, and I can make a few sales!”, so I sent them two of my favorite notebooks.

I was completely shocked and wonderfully surprised to then receive an email from their editor that they loved my samples and wanted to include my notebooks in RedPlum’s 30 under $30 Editor’s Choice Gift Guide! Not only was my small business included in the list, but the website would be hosting parties all over the United States for top bloggers to see the products included in that list! I was getting free exposure to hundreds of bloggers, and then through RedPlum’s website for practically nothing. I said to my husband “If only they knew I’m not a huge company, I’m just a girl working out of her home!”.

The Gift Guide came out this week. My notebooks were number six on the list, right above Demeter Fragrances. I LOVE Demeter Fragrances! I buy Demeter Fragrances! What a compliment to be right above them on this list!

All through this process, I thought it was crazy that I would be picked. That I wasn’t worthy of it, because it’s just me. No employees, no warehouse, just me. Then it occured to me… why not? What does any of that have to do with it? I make a great product, and one that a lot of people love. It doesn’t matter how small time I am, not to my customers and not to bloggers and not to RedPlum. What is important is that I make something people like. And the more people are exposed to it, the more sales I have, and the possibility of this tiny business that I have can grow.

So take that chance, even if you don’t think you have a chance in hell! Who knows what can happen, just dream big and keep telling yourself that it is possible, and work towards it! Everything that you can do and try is worth the time, and you are worthy of it!

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Crissy Says

What I’m Thankful For…

It’s Thanksgiving morning and before I head out to all the family stuff I have going on today, I wanted to take a minute and tell you what I’m thankful for in my business…

Now, of course, there are lots of things I’m thankful for outside of my business; my family, friends, and the doctors who figured out what was going on with me and prescribed the B12 shots that have made me feel so much better.

But when it comes to my business, I do have a lot to be thankful for. I’ve made a lot of great friends through my business in the past two years since I’ve started my site. I’m thankful for the flexibility and the ability to work on my business wherever I want to work on it. I am thankful for the creative outlet it provides and am extremely lucky (and thankful) that I love what I do (not a lot of people get to say that).

Most of all, I am thankful for you, my readers. Without you, there wouldn’t be a business. When I first started this, a little over two years ago, I had no idea if people would like the site, if they would keep reading or if it would just be a fly-by-night thing. But thanks to you, the site keeps growing. Thank you for coming back to see what I have to write about, time and time again. Thank you for all the notes you send throughout the year (they make my day).

Thank you for giving me a voice. I truly appreciate all of you.

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Crissy Says

Balancing Your Biz With Your Kids

I asked Carrie Lauth to speak at The Indie Biz Chicks Conference about balancing a business while raising children. Carrie did a fantastic job. And believe me, she knows what she is talking about. She is the mother of five – soon to be six – children!

After the call, she shared some of her blog posts with me on topics that we brought up during the seminar. Here are the links:

Why Moms Should Start A Home Based Business Today

“No Money, No Time” – Sorry Mom, But I Ain’t Buying It

I Learned Everything I Needed To Know About Business From Childbirth

You can read more posts from Carrie by clicking here

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Crissy Says

Movies & TV Shows To Help You Get Your Biz On!

I don’t like to admit that I’m sick… but I am.  I’ve got a pretty bad case of bronchitis. The picture to the left is the arsenal of meds my doctor prescribed today.

As you know, you’re supposed to drink lots of fluids, eat chicken noodle soup and get plenty of couch time when you’re under the weather. But if you’re like me, you’re going to be thinking about all the stuff you could be doing for your business during your recovery time.

To help you get through the cold and flu season, I created this list of movies and TV shows that will not only keep you entertained, they can also teach you something about business! And they’re all available through Amazon Video On Demand!

Hopefully, you won’t get sick… but if you do, you can get some rest and relaxation AND get your biz on at the same time!

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The dangers of doing work for free

A man walks into a restaurant. A waiter takes him to his seat and gives him a menu of the dinner choices to look over and leaves him to make his decision. After a few minutes, the waiter comes back and asks the man if he has made his choice. The man shakes his head no, and says to the waiter “That won’t be necessary. Bring me one of everything on the menu, and I will pay you for the dish that I like the best, if I like any of them at all”. Of course this wouldn’t happen in the world of fine dining. Unfortunately, many independent professionals are asked for free sample services. This is called working on spec, and it’s a major no-no.

In the beginning of my freelance design career, I was asked to create few logo ideas to compete for a job. I really wanted this client, so I spent a few days going through the process and sent the files to the potential client. A couple days later I received a call asking for a few more.  Irked, and after already spending much of my time doing unpaid work, I told them (nicely of course) that if they wanted more of my work they needed to sign a contract with me and pay for my services. I was told that if I didn’t do more for them that they didn’t want to be my client. Reluctantly, and even though I really needed this particular job, I walked away.

A couple of months later, while browsing their website I ran across a familiar graphic. Low and behold, there was one of the logos I had created for them. Later, I found out that they had taken my files to another designer and had them “redraw” the logo and change a few colors – for free of course. By not protecting my work I left it wide open to be stolen, and wasted my time and resources on an unpaid project. This was not the way I wanted to start my business, but it taught me a valuable lesson: though it might be tempting to do so, never work for free.

No matter what your business is, you should never be asked to provide a free service, and you should never do any work without a contract in hand. When you decided to become independent, you gave yourself the choice of who to work with, and who to turn down.

To learn more about the dangers of working on spec:

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How to Make Working From Home Work For You

Four years ago I quit my day job to start my dream job – working for myself. My plans in college while studying entrepreneurship were to open a vintage clothing store, but five years later I had changed my mind and with my husband I started a vintage clothing website instead. It was a major change for me; I went from a job managing a store for someone else with a staff of thirteen people to working by myself at home in our second bedroom. Talk about an adjustment!

It took quite a while for me to settle into my new job. Being at home so much, I sometimes had the tendency mix in personal errands or housework in the middle of my work day. I realized that work and home were blending into each other more and more, and decided to set ground rules to put a stop to it.

Most of it was common sense, but to take a step back and look at your own habits and tendencies can be difficult. I incorporated much of what my previous job was like into my new job, and my productivity (and sanity) increased dramatically.

Below are some of my “Reware Vintage Standard Operating Procedures”. If you work from home, either part-time or full-time, try incorporating these into your work habits, and they just may help you with your business!

– Get ready for work. Get dressed, eat breakfast and prepare to go into the office. You may not have to drive to your job, but you still need to get ready for work just like anyone else. No working in your pajamas!

– Don’t let work take over your home. Try to keep an “office area” in one room, and make the rest of your home…your home! If you must sew on your kitchen table, do so, but put the sewing machine away when you are done. Making dinner will not be nearly as fun or relaxing if your machine is staring at you in the corner of your eye begging you back to work!

– Don’t feed the stereotype. You will undoubtably have friends and family in your life that will make comments that you don’t have “a real job” or that work can be put on hold at their convenience. Don’t encourage it, and always correct it. Your job is just as important as anyone else’s, and just as serious. Yes, you can move around your schedule if necessary, but don’t make it a regular habit or let anyone think it can be.

– Punch the clock. Set a time that you begin work, and a time you end your shift. When you are done working for the day, shut down your computer and close the door. You are done working, and that’s that!

– Take a lunch. It’s the law that businesses have to give each employee a lunch break and a 15 minute break for every shift for a reason. Everyone needs break times away from work to relax, reenergize and recoup! Take a lunch, and not hovered over your desk answering emails.

– Finally, get out of the house! A lot of women who work from home turn into hermits over time. Don’t be one of them. Make sure to get out of the house at least a few days a week – and going to the post office to ship out orders does not count. Pick an activity that will get you out and being sociable – Join a club, go shopping, or have dinner with a friend. You deserve it, hard working lady!

Have some other tips to share? Please add them in the comments for everyone to read and benefit from!

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Crissy Says

You Can Learn A Lot About Business From A Few Dates…

If you know me, or read this site on a fairly regular basis, you’ll know that I’ve been single for a little over a year. Since then, I’ve been pretty much avoiding anything remotely related to dating. I was like a deep sea diver who needed to spend some time in a decompression tank before starting that process again.

At the same time, I am one of those people who realizes that they need to do whatever is scaring the hell out of them to actually grow and become a better person. And so, I bit the bullet and went out on some dates. The results have been somewhat horrifying in a comical sort of way…

But they have also provided a lot of lessons. Some that I can even apply to business. Here goes:

Listen To Your Instincts

I knew that things were doomed with the second guy I went out with before the date even happened. I was thisclose to canceling, but my sister said to give him a chance. I don’t think I’m going to be taking too much advice from her in the future… To say that it was the most horrible date ever would be almost giving it a compliment.

I knew that it was not going to fly, but I still went. I should have listened to my instincts. I definitely trust them in business – and you should, too. The next time you are trying to make a decision, listen to yourself first. What do you think? After all, it’s your business – and your life!

Some Things Are Just Not A Good Fit

Okay – back to the dude from date #2. It really wasn’t a good fit. We had zero in common.  I want to go see bands, go to the museum, or discuss books… That guy had never heard of any bands I liked, and I find it really hard to believe he has ever stepped foot in a museum or read a decent book.

To be honest, the first guy I went out with wasn’t half bad. He had read a lot of  the books I had, and it was cool to hear someone else’s take on them. He had a good sense of humor and we could make each other laugh pretty easily. But there were lots of awkward moments.

His idea of a good time was having a Dance Party USA in someone’s living room, while my idea of fun is going to watch a band. He was into fashion and wore scarves as accessories. I think if a guy wore an ensemble like that to some of the places I go, he’d get his ass kicked. So, yes, there was some stuff in common… but at the end of the day, it would just be more work than it was worth. We’d both be making too many compromises.

In business, some things are just not a good fit. I enjoy  business and marketing. Indie Biz Chicks is the perfect fit for me.  When people ask me if I like what I do, my face lights up and I say “YES! I absolutely love it. It’s who I am and I could not imagine not doing it.” If your business doesn’t make you happy, it’s probably just not a good fit. Find the one that is. You may have to try a few different things, but once you find the one that fits, you’ll be glad you spent all the extra time and energy looking for it.

You Need To Follow Up, Promptly!

There are a lot of “rules” out there about dating. Unfortunately, I have always had a strong dislike of rules and authority. Apparently, the girl is supposed to casually wait a few days after a date for the guy to contact her. Meanwhile, the guy can be out there, thinking about calling, but not calling because he doesn’t want to appear too eager.  At the end of three days, he’s supposed to call. And if he doesn’t call, you should just think “well, he’s just not that into me’ and move on.

I think this is a bunch of bullshit.

Seriously, if you like someone, just call them the next day. What’s the big deal? You went out on a date, right? If they like you back, they’ll be glad to hear from you. And if they aren’t happy to hear from you, there really is no point on going out for a second time, now is there?

The same thing applies in business. Follow up with your customers and clients in a reasonable time frame. If you let them sit around too long, they’re going to find someone else to do business with.

Be Clear And Direct…

Near the end of the date with dude #2, he asked if there was a possibility for a second date. Now, remember, to me, this was the most horrible date, ever. Apparently, he had no clue.  I was honest. I said “no.” My sister, and some of my friends, are a bit astonished that I said that. But why lie? I wasn’t feeling it. I’m not going to lead the dude on.

When you are talking with a client or potential business partner, be clear and direct. Let them know what you are willing to do, what you expect them to do, what you want to be paid, etc. Get everything out in the open so that there  is no miscommunication or hurt feelings later on down the road.

And Most Importantly, Don’t Give Up

Now, when it comes to dating, this is something that I have to remind myself to do. Dating is not exactly the big bag of fun some people claim it is. Honestly, it would be a lot easier to just give up. But how will I ever find the cool dude I’m looking for if I just give up?

Now, in business, I have no problem with this lesson! When I started Indie Biz Chicks, I knew it wasn’t going to be easy to start a website, get traffic, etc. There is a lot of work that goes into a content site. There were a lot of nights where I was staying up till 2 or 3 in the morning, trying to get the site built. I originally created everything in HTML and a few months later, I learned about the advantages of WordPress, so I switched everything over.

I’ve had a major corporation copy my work, I’ve had a hacker try to get into my server and hold my site hostage for money (did he really think this site was making me that wealthy?), I’ve moved across the country, went through a huge break-up, my computer totally crashed and died, I spent months  not feeling good  to find out I had a B12 deficiency and spent some time in the hospital getting blood transfusions… and that is just the tip of the iceberg. This is just stuff that’s happened in the past 16 months. A lot more stuff has happened since I started this site in 2007…

The point is, stuff happens to everyone. The vast majority of us never get anything handed to us on a silver platter. If your business is really important to you, you’ll go out there and do whatever it takes to be sucessful. You’ll hit a lot of roadblocks along the way and there will be days where you feel totally discouraged and want to cry.  But if you really give a damn about what you’re doing, you’ll pick yourself up and do it all again the next day.

There will also be those days when everything just falls into place and you can just feel that you are in the right place at the right time and this is truly what is meant to be. And going through a little ‘business hell’ is worth the days of ‘business heaven’. Trust me.

P.S. If you know any cute single guys in Michigan who like tattooed girls that are into music, museums, and the DIY scene, let me know.

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Crissy Says

Are You Stuck In A Business Rut?

Are you feeling like you are stuck in a routine? Does it seem like tasks are piling up but you have no energy to work on them? Does working on your business seem like a chore or a drain – when it used to feel fun and energizing? If so, I think you might be stuck in a rut.

Ruts can happen to the best of us, so if you got caught up in one, don’t feel bad. The point is to recognize the rut and figure out how to get out of it. Quickly! (Ruts can harm your business – so you really don’t want to stay in one for too long!)

Here are some tips on getting un-stuck:

Get out of your comfort zone!

This is probably the number one reason people fall into ruts. They spend too much time on doing things that are “comfortable.” So let me ask you a question: What is one thing you know you need to do for your business, but haven’t done, because it scares the hell out of you?

Guess what? I want you to start working on that thing … today! Don’t wait! Do it today!

Get out of your house!

If you work from home, it can be very easy to fall into a rut. In fact, your business rut can start extending into your life. It can be really easy to sit at home in your pajamas all day and never  get dressed, or fix your hair, etc. If you find yourself doing this everyday, that’s a rut, my dear.

If the above pajama person sounds like you, I want you to get out of your house. Today. And not just to go to the grocery store. I want you to pack up your laptop and head to your local coffee shop and work there for an hour or two.

If you have kids, you can schedule this activitiy for when you can fiind a sitter. But that doesn’t mean you get out of it completley! You still gotta break free from that rut, so you better find time to leave the house sometime this week! (you’ll thank me later.)

Find A Mentor

I am assuming that most of you reading this are “solopreneurs.” That means you are basically a one-woman show. When you work on your business by yourself, it can be easy to lose sight of the big picture.  Have you ever wished you could turn to someone for advice? Someone who has been in the trenches and could give you insight on how to develop your business and succeed?

Finding a mentor can help you tremendously. They can help you figure out what pices of the puzzle are missing. This can breathe new life into your business and help give you the motivation to take things to the next level.

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Crissy Says

Getting All Courageous And Stuff…

I’m not one to shy away from a challenge… but I must say, I’ve had to be more courageous lately than I would like. But I’m NOT complaining!

If you’re a regular reader, you’ll know that I was in the hospital for a week and a half in late July. I found out I was deficient in Vitamin B12 (technical term: pernicious anemia). If you follow me on Twitter, you’ve probably seen my excited tweets when my blood levels go up each week (and the not-so-happy ones when my blood levels went down).

I had to go through a lot of tests while in the hospital, not to mention blood transfusions and other fun stuff. Since getting out, I’ve learned to give myself B12 shots and I also have weekly, sometimes twice weekly, blood draws. My veins are less than awesome to begin with, and all the poking and prodding makes it worse.

Like I said… I’ve had to summon a lot of courage.

And today I had to get up even more courage. I had some biopsies on my stomach lining to test for Celiac (the allergy to gluten). I had to be under anesthesia for this. And this was the first time I’ve had to do it. I was very nervous. And I had to get an IV – not a fun experience for me. Like I said – lackluster veins! They had to poke around in 3 different areas before they found a vein. OUCH.

The thing is, I’ve always been really healthy. All of this medical stuff is new to me. It’s scary. But I’m handling it and I’m doing a pretty damn good job of it, if I do say so myself. I don’t get upset, I just focus on getting better.

This is all a big lesson – and I’m learning from it.

Being courageous isn’t easy. But sometimes, it’s the only way to be.

And that is a lesson you can definitely apply to your business…. I know, because I’ve been pushing myself to be more courageous in my business, as well.

One of my goals is to do more in-person speaking events. I love meeting and talking with people face to face. Don’t get me wrong – I love teaching classes online and through conference calls, and I’m not going to stop that. I just want to do more in person stuff.

I recently submitted some panel ideas to SXSW’s upcoming Interactive Conference. It’s a step in the right direction! (Learn more about the proposals I sent in and how to vote for them by clicking here. Your vote will help me! So please vote between now and Sep 4).

We can all decide every day if we are going to be courageous or not. For some, the decision may be to start a business, for others it could be to start using WordPress for the first time, and for others it may be to send out their first newsletter or approaching a potential business partner and asking them if they’d be interested in working on a project together. Trust me – I’ve faced all of those things and each one took courage. But I did; I survived it; and I’m a better person for doing so.

Now – what are you going to get all courageous for?

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