Happy New Year

Fall is the beginning of my year.  It always has been.  In the first place, I’m Jewish, so I celebrate the new year in the fall rather than in January.  I take stock and make my resolutions in the fall.  Fall is also when school starts, and when people come back after having a long break.  Fall is when I naturally feel compelled to start in new directions and when the economy begins to ramp up again.

This year my main goal is to take those new directions and make them more, um…directed.  I’m trying to set clear, achievable goals for each of my current projects, which I am trying to cull and focus in service of a greater professional goal: an independent and sustainable career as a creative professional.

I’ve decided I need help with this, so I’ve been in contact with Lisa at the Renaissance Business Center here in San Francisco.  Renaissance is a non-profit dedicated to helping people start and/or grow small businesses.  What makes them different from SCORE, SBA and the SBDC is that they are much more focused on providing intensive, long-term assistance.  Two programs I’m currently looking at are their 14-week business planning course (which has been described as a mini-MBA program), and their 1-3 year business incubation program (probably the virtual incarnation).  I’ve got a tour and orientation on Wednesday.  Hopefully they can help me focus and kick my ass a little.

In the meantime, I’ve been applying for some holiday shows, and trying to create new wares for them.  The one I’m currently most excited about is DesignerCon in L.A. (formerly Vinyl Toy Network).  It’s sort of a combo trade fair/cash-and-carry for folks who make the kinds of things you see in designer toy and comic shops — plush and vinyl collectibles, limited-edition prints, and character-driven art of all kinds.  At $125 for a one-day booth, the cost is comparable to your standard craft fair.  I’m planning on showcasing/selling Sweet Meats on one side of the booth, and presenting samples of my plush design work on the other.  DesignerCon is on November 21st, which gives me a concrete deadline by which to have my new web site and business cards done, as well samples of next year’s toy line.

A little bit further down the list is a book proposal.  I’ve heard from fellow crafters that writing an instructional book is extremely difficult and takes about a year of full-time work to complete.  According to Crafty Chica Kathy Cano-Murillo, just writing the proposal takes a week.  Things being what they are in publishing, writing a book is often not very lucrative, assuming that your proposal even gets picked up a by a publisher in the first place, which is unlikely.  On the other hand, authoring a successful book significantly increases your profile as an expert in your field, leading (hopefully) to press, more clients and higher rates.  What doesn’t get picked up you can always publish on your own, so I’m keeping it as an option for now.

As for making a Thing-A-Day, I’m still doing it, though I’ve fallen back on the “work on an existing project for 30 minutes” net a couple of times this week.  Yesterday I made and decorated a cake for my friends’ 26th/30th birthdays, but I didn’t like it enough to photograph it.  Otherwise I’ve mostly been working on re-making my pieces for the Plush You show next month.

It’s going to be a busy fall.  I’ll keep you posted about what I learn along the way.  Happy New Year, everyone!

Hindsight is Crazy-Making

I had a complete meltdown yesterday.  I took an all-day seminar at the SBA entitled, “Writing Effective Business Plans” and immediately began to feel that it was a mistake to start my business.  A horrible mistake.  It dawned on me that my job for the next year is going to consist solely of digging myself out of the hole I’m in. By the time our lunch break rolled around I was already having heart palpitations so I went outside for a walk.  In the window of Stacey’s bookstore, a book entitled, Get a Life That Doesn’t Suck caught my eye.  I headed straight for it, telling myself I was doing reconnaissance for my sister, not me.  The chapters had titles like “Start. Do it Now,” “Think Good Thoughts” and “Have Fun! Celebrate Life.”  Useless.  I put it down and went back to class, where I listened to the really smart and successful-sounding comments of my classmates.  One woman named Suzanne told me how lucky she felt that the business plan class was happening just a week after she quit her job to start a business.  She had four or five business ideas she liked, she said, and now she was going to plug in the numbers in order to decide which one was most likely to succeed, and therefore, which one she should start with.  I almost threw up.  Why didn’t I think of that a year ago before I got myself into this mess?

As soon as I got home I began a panicked rant around the living room, starting with a list of all the reasons why I was never going to get rid of my inventory in time, and quickly progressing to the declaration that my entire life is pointless, I contribute nothing to the world, and I am a complete waste of space.  I was seized with the immediate and overwhelming desire to recalibrate my life and develop a new long-term plan — now. It was already 10pm, but how could I sleep that night knowing that in the morning I would have to begin completely changing my life?

Whenever I find myself in a crisis and don’t know how to proceed, my first instinct is to educate myself.  I don’t like to make choices, especially life-changing choices, without feeling fully informed by the “experts” first.  So the place I turned last night was to a well-used copy of David Allen’s Getting Things Done. GTD is best used as an organizational and time-management system, but I remember reading a chapter (#3, it turns out) about forming plans of action, from small projects (the view from 10,000 feet), to major life goals (the view from 50,000 feet).  The chapter lays out a step-by-step plan for accomplishing a comprehensive life review, which made me feel better about not have a plan myself.  “You’ll notice that a natural organization [emerges],” it told me.  So, after getting a few things out of my head and down on paper, and after committing to also read The Now Habit and The Four-Hour Workweek, I went to bed.

And that’s where I am this morning, standing at the edge of a giant precipice, ready to take the leap.  I’ll let you know what I find at the bottom.

Working with the Press

I know I haven’t been keeping up with writing very well lately.  I apologize, but I’m being forced to prioritize a lot these days.  Know, however, that I’m working on a lengthy write-up of the California Gift Show I just attended, in addition to a review of Brian Tracy’s “The Psychology of Selling” CD and a description of the uber-weird Westin Bonaventure hotel.

In the meantime I would like to point out yet another free workshop being given by the awesome folks over at San Francisco’s Small Business Administration.  This one is on working with the press (and is so titled).  It is being held from 6:00-8:30pm this Tuesday, 1/29 at 455 Market Street in downtown San Francisco.  Luckily, the SBA recognizes that many of us have day jobs to support our businesses and hold most of their classes during reasonable hours like this.  This week and next I’m working full days at Klutz and teaching some sewing classes at the Stitch Lounge at night, and even I might be able to go to this.  The SBA says that you need to register here (and I do recommend this if you want a seat) but I have seen many people come to these things at the last minute without signing up.  They just take your info once you get there.  Please leave your thoughts in a comment if you attend!