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Building an empire is not a linear affair

Quick post here, because:

  • I’m committed to writing.
  • I’m trying to overcome my perfectionism (so I won’t be agonizing over this one).
  • I’ve got other things to do.

With Christmas approaching, I have plenty of personal crocheting to do. I always make handmade gifts for my kids—and this year, that’s all they’re getting. So they have to be extra special.

My accountability partner will not let me make excuses! She encourages (insists) I work on my business every week. But the business is not the boss of me! It’s true, I need a plan, and sometimes I while away time rather than work on my empire. But if I want to take a couple of weeks off, that’s my right. There may be consequences, but that’s true for every decision. Instead of fretting, I’m deciding. My empire won’t crumble if I take a couple of weeks off (and I’ll still be crocheting, so perhaps it’s an investment in my education and skill development. Yes, that’s how I’ll look at it!).

My guest blogging experiment frustrated me. I was spending more time creating free patterns for the blogger than I was for my own shop. I was honest with her, we had a great conversation, and she proposed a new model that I’m pleased with. It’ll help me start the new year with some new energy.

So that’s where I am, here nearing the end of my first year of crochet empire-building. Merry Christmas!

 

Happy Thanksgiving!

I’m thankful for crochet. I am thankful that all my fingers work well (and that I have them all), that I have no trouble holding yard or hooks, and that I never have pain.

I am thankful for the creative community, the inspiration, and the sharing.

I am thankful for yarn, and the variety of fibers, colors, textures. I am thankful we live in a country where we can get high just walking down an aisle at a store.

 

Photo by Marat Gilyadzinov on Unsplash

Off to a craft fair, jiggety jig

Craft fair tomorrow! I have been busy preparing for six months. Ok, I have been registered for six months, and I’ve been busy preparing for a week!

This is only my second craft fair. I only sold three hats on my previous fair adventure. So why am I trying again?

I get feedback on my products.

When I put myself and my work out there, I have the opportunity to interact with potential customers. What are they buying? What are they looking at? The challenge is finding out why some people stop and DON’T buy. How do I get that information? I’d feel odd flagging them down and asking, “Why didn’t you buy anything?” Yet I need the feedback. I’ll be looking for ways to get that tomorrow.

I become known in the community.

I get my name out there. People will see me as a talented part of the community (I hope), and perhaps as a resource. This will particularly benefit me when I schedule crochet classes. “Oh, yeah,” they’ll think. “I met her at the craft fair. She knows her stuff!”

Besides, this is a local event put on by the local woman’s club. It helps the community, and I meet people I don’t cross paths with in my other spheres.

It’s better timing than in spring.

Christmas is coming, so people are looking for gifts. And there’s already snow on the ground here, we broke a new low-temperature record last night, and I sell hats. I hope hats fly tomorrow!

I’ve already made an investment.

I spent a fair (pun intended) amount of time and money on my display last spring, and I want it to count for something! I wanted a professional presentation and a shopping experience that made the customer feel important. That meant investing in items to better display my hats, purchasing bags, buying a credit card reader, etc. It is too soon to give up on recouping that money!

I don’t have a lot of wisdom and experience when it comes to craft fairs, but isn’t this why I share my journey here? I’ll let you know how it goes!

Does God want me to have a crochet business?

As a woman of faith, I want to walk in response to God’s leading in my life. I believe he has good plans for me. I just wish he’d tell me what they are, right now!

Whose voice is that?

When the idea of a crochet empire popped into my head, I could not determine the origin of the thought. Was it a prompt from the Holy Spirit? Is it my own desire? Is it just a crazy notion?! How do I know? I don’t want to move ahead if it’s just a crazy notion—that doesn’t sound like a good reason for starting a business. Yet, with proper research and sound business practices, even crazy notions can be successful.

I must be doing something wrong.

For a long time, I thought that if I wasn’t clear on the direction I am supposed to go, it must be because I’m not hearing. And if God is silent, it must be because I’m doing something wrong. This thinking is a holdover from the religion of my youth (God blesses the obedient and punishes the disobedient). Jesus said the sheep hear his voice. Does the fact I’m not sure I’m hearing mean I’m not part of his flock? No. It means he has to speak louder—I may just be a dense sheep.

God doesn’t want me to have fun.

I’ve had a lot of losses and disappointments in my life; I’ve learned to keep my expectations low. This means I don’t dare hope that I could have a thriving business that I love. Abundant life? Yeah, right! Yet the fruit of the Holy Spirit is joy. I’m still working on this one. I daily write what I’m grateful for. And sometimes I am overwhelmed by God’s goodness to me—it just doesn’t always look like what I think it should (i.e. financial success!).

Thou shalt be a crochet designer.

I’ve been looking for specific direction, thinking that if this is truly the way I’m supposed to go, the road will be easy, and my success will be assured. Just writing this makes me laugh! What crazy thinking! Does anything of value in this life come easily? And when does the result justify the decision? If I get in a car accident on the way to Walmart, does that mean I shouldn’t shop at Walmart? Or I shouldn’t drive on that road? Or at that time of day? If I start a business and fail, does that mean I shouldn’t have started the business? No; maybe I had important things to learn.

Eat, drink, and enjoy your work.

Solomon said that we should eat, drink, and enjoy our work. Proverbs tells us to be diligent and work with excellence. Yes, we are supposed to trust God and he will direct our steps, but perhaps our life choices are not as limited as we imagine. Maybe it doesn’t even matter if I start a crochet business or do something else—maybe the important thing is how I approach my work. Maybe God has gifted me with the freedom to pursue my dreams, whatever I decide they are.

I am learning to live with the discomfort of not knowing. But I am also enjoying the peace of knowing for certain that if I seek him first, God will provide my needs. And so far, I have not heard a booming voice saying, “Hey, you! Stop crocheting!”

Photo by Tim Easley on Unsplash

The benevolent crochet empress

I took some time off from empire-building to participate in a local theater production of “Steel Magnolias.” (I got to play Ouiser Boudreaux—one of the highlights of my life! But I digress.)

I decided my character did not like to sit still. She liked to crochet! So with the director’s approval, I crocheted on-stage, in character.

I also crocheted different totes for each of my scenes. The photo above shows the one I coordinated with my outfit. I offered the totes to my castmates after the show, and they snatched them right up.

I also crocheted a baby afghan for our director who is expecting a girl. The colors are blush and bashful, and the design has a magnolia in the corner and is framed in baby’s breath (all nods to the show).

But maybe this is part of empire-building, too. If other emperors/empresses had shared their love and talent with others, the world would be a much nice place.

Why I resist what I want to do

A blog post a week—that’s reasonable, right? Indeed it was. For four weeks. Then I hit a wall.

Here are some of my excuses for not writing my weekly blog post and some questions to challenge myself:

I have more urgent things to do.

This is a common excuse in all areas of my life! There are things that need to get done. I am often so distracted by the urgent that I put off what’s important. The dishes will get moldy; my waiting blog post won’t. So that means I must do the dishes now, right?

Are the things I consider urgent really so?

I want gratification now.

I crave two things every day: A sense of productivity, and income. (Okay, three—add dark chocolate). I can get the first by doing the dishes. Or playing a game of Ruzzle. I can get the second by investing my time in activities that are a long-term investment. Like sharpening the saw, as Stephen Covey says in The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People. It’s easier to chop down a tree if you take the time to sharpen the saw first, rather than hack furiously with a dull blade. I’d be more successful if I took the time to invest in big picture activities that will eventually yield both productivity and money.

Also, writing is work. It takes a lot of time with no immediate reward. There’s no writing fairy that taps me on the head and gifts me with brilliance and motivation.

What are the consequences if I put off the more time-consuming, important things? How can I have a balance of accomplishment and investment every day? Where is my copy of The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People?!

I’m a perfectionist.

I want every blog post to be interesting, helpful, maybe even profound. Sometimes the imposter syndrome kicks in, and I doubt my ability to offer anything useful. Sometimes I want to dig deeper into a topic but feel the effort to do the research won’t pay off or that it will take hours (see previous points!).

What can I do to just start, to get out of my head and into my fingers? Would a little chocolate treat help?!

My decision-maker is tired.

My brain gets tired of making decisions all day long (it’s been estimated that we make thousands of decisions a day). What should I write about? Are my posts coming out in a logical order? Should I even be trying for some kind of logical order?! What day is good to write this week? When is the best time of day for me to write? What photo or graphics should I use?

Can I let the process be more organic? Should I just decide on a certain time to write my blog post—in other words, make a major decision that removes a lot of the minor decisions?

I don’t manage my time well.

I confess: I spend way too much time on Facebook, looking for that quick dopamine hit. I play too many games of Ruzzle a day (a quick hit of accomplishment). I work for a couple of hours and feel I deserve a reward (this is embarrassing to admit!). Sometimes I crave structure, and other times I want the freedom to do whatever I want. Often, in my rebellion to do what I want now, I sabotage my own future success and happiness.

When I’m really stuck, I set the timer and work like crazy for thirty minutes, then take a ten-minute break. This system really breaks through a lot of my inner resistance to a project. And often the break means doing the dishes or going for a walk—activities which give me a sense of accomplishment or recharge the body for another round of sitting.

How can I include deep work and free time in my life every day?

I believe work should come before fun.

Like a well-disciplined child, I have a voice that tells me I need to work before I have fun. And crocheting is fun! So I think the house needs to be clean before I sit down with my yarn and hook. Or that my crochet work should only be done in the evenings and on the weekends when it’s my “free” time rather than during “work” hours.

Is this way of thinking discipline or bondage?

I have psychological problems.

It’s the only logical conclusion! I resist the very thing I want to do—seems like a deep psychological issue to me. I have identified several bad habits and ineffective ways of thinking, but I’m not sure I’ve pinpointed the root cause of my resistance. But I can’t let stewing about it (or perfectionism) stop me from moving forward. Maybe action itself will reveal the subconscious hesitation; perhaps new behaviors will change my thinking.

Do I need to read The War of Art again? Or just get moving?

The conclusion of the matter? I have spent hours on this post. In the middle of the day (I’m already stretching myself!). I am tempted to sit on it another day and read it with fresh eyes tomorrow. See, the procrastination monster is attacking me! So is the fear of imperfection! I’m going to hit Publish—then check this week’s blog off my To Do list. And have some dark chocolate.

What’s in a name? A business by any other name…

Naming my business was an important step in creating my empire. A name would legitimize my status. Things with names are more real than ideas.

Though I was in a hurry to build my empire, I allowed myself a couple of weeks to brainstorm, research, and ponder this important decision.

As I began the process, I decided I wanted a name that was:

  • Available. (Unfortunately, I did not do enough research—I found a J Crochet on Etsy after I’d decided on my name.)
  • Something I would be proud to say.
  • Simple and cheerful.

These are steps I took (not necessarily in order) to come up with my business name.

1. I considered using a name I already had.

I already had a business that I was no longer promoting, so the name was available. Julie’s Off the Wall was/is a painting business, and I liked the name. I am working to get out of this business, so I considered transitioning it from a painting/art business to crochet. However, since I have a Facebook following that likes my work at Off the Wall, I decided to select a new name.

By the way, I also researched whether having “crochet” in the business name makes a difference for SEO (Search Engine Optimization). It is not necessary. Crochet content on my site will improve my SEO ranking. In other words, when people enter “crochet” in a search engine, the name of the business is not as important as the information on the site in getting the business to show up in the search results.

2. I brainstormed.

One fun way to look for names is using a business name generator. (Just search “business name generator.”) I didn’t find any names I really liked, but it expanded my thinking.

I also looked at the names of other crafters’ businesses.

Finally, I asked myself questions and wrote all the answers, no matter how unlikely I was to use them:

  • What are some words for hat (since hats are my niche)? Hat, cap, crown, cover…
  • What are some craft business words? Creation, craft, design…
  • What are some happy words? Yay, got it, wow, cool…
  • What are some words that start with C (to use as alliteration with “crochet”?) crown, cool, creative, creation, contemporary, classy…
  • What are some crochet terms? Stitch, hook, yarn…
  • Do I want my name associated with it? Crochet by Julie, Julie’s Crochet, J Crochet… (I also considered whether this was limiting. What if I’m a success, and I want to sell my empire—would having my name in it be a hindrance? Think big, people!)

Then I started putting some ideas together.

3. I tried them on.

I combined the elements from my brainstorming and went for a fitting. I wanted to see how they felt on my tongue, how they sounded in my ear, how they looked on paper. Some of the combinations I came up with are:

  • Crowning Touch Crochet
  • Hats Off Crochet
  • Yay Crochet
  • Crown Crochet
  • Crochet by Julie
  • Crochet from J
  • J Crochet

4. I researched their availability.

To know if my name was already taken, I conducted searches on:

  • Google
  • Etsy
  • Facebook

I learned that several of the above names were already taken. But not all!

I narrowed it down to “Crown Crochet” and “J Crochet.” I lived with them for a few days, asked my friends what they thought, and doodled logo ideas. I landed on J Crochet. Crown Crochet looked good, but it didn’t roll off the tongue. And it might be limiting—what if I want to expand beyond hats? I liked J Crochet because it’s simple, and I like the rhyme. The name is somewhat limiting as it has my initial, but I thought that it could also stand for Jazzy or Jaunty or Joyful.

It wasn’t until this stage that I searched for a domain name. That’s because I have experienced domain name front running. This sometimes occurs when you search a domain name but don’t buy it right away—then you come back and find the name has been taken (yes, you can still buy it—for a premium price! Someone else has snatched it up). So I don’t search until I’m ready to buy.

In my search, I found jcrochet.com was not available (actually, it is available for a premium price; it has not been taken by another business). This led to another important decision—what do I want my domain to be? We know .com’s are the go-to choice for business. I decided not to go back to another selection on my list but to choose a .co extension. I do not know the long-term ramifications of this choice, but I am comfortable with my decision. (By the way, I use Namecheap to purchase my domains. I am not an affiliate—I just like their prices and user interface.)

 

My advice: Don’t hurry through this process. Despite what Juliet says, a name is important. I’m not sure I’d be as successful with something like Julie the Hooker (that’s not the kind of empire I want to build!).

diagram of crochet business options

Riches in the niches (fingers crossed!)

How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time. How do you build a crochet empire? One step at a time.

When I decided to start my crochet business, I just wanted to grab a hook and buy some yarn (especially buy some yarn!) and start creating. I wanted to feel productive. But it seemed like a waste of energy to plow ahead without a destination. So I put down the hook and put on my CEO hat. It was time to step back and consider the big picture: What do I want my business to look like?

These are the questions I asked myself:

1. What are all the ways I can make money with crochet?

Sure, I could crochet a product. But I wanted to expand my thinking. Was there a crochet-related income stream I’d overlooked? Or something that was less labor intensive? I searched “How to make money with crochet” and found some great ideas. I considered my skills, experience, and interests. What was realistic for where I am right now?

Decision: Sell products, design patterns, and teach classes

2. Who is my target market?

I can’t have a successful business without customers! Who is my ideal customer? What are their needs/desires? Why would they purchase from me?

I brainstormed on paper: Target market could be women buying gifts or looking for unique gifts; they have money. Also, women who crochet gifts who have the time (mothers of children don’t have much time). Women who have babies/toddlers in their lives: mothers, friends, grandparents, church family, relatives. Target women in cold/cool climates (don’t need yarn hats in Florida). Hats for what age group? Do I want to make hats for men? (We’ll discuss marketing strategies for my target markets another time.)

Decision: I have three target audiences—women ready to purchase a product, beginning crocheters (classes), and crocheters looking for patterns. 

3. What is my niche?

I’d done enough research and listened to enough podcasts to know that my success depended on my finding a niche. Yes, I’m skilled and experienced enough to crochet anything. But I really wanted to become an expert in one area. I can always expand later (after all, I’m building an empire). For right now, I want to specialize, to be the go-to person for a particular skill.

In determining my niche, I considered the following:

  • What projects could I charge enough to cover my labor costs? That ruled out afghans! Too labor intensive. I needed something smaller.
  • What projects have I gotten a good response from? Hats I made for a mom-to-be prompted the encouragement from others to start this business. They also loved the sweaters and dresses I made for my babies. Dishcloths I gave away always got a good reception.
  • What did I enjoy making? I thoroughly enjoyed making those hats for the baby shower. Dishcloths work up quickly. Baby clothes are so precious.
  • What about my personality? I love starting projects and get bored easily. I like a challenge. I love designing. I’m patient and perfectionist enough to work on a project to get it right. I also love teaching and like to be helpful. I enjoy being in Facebook crochet groups and especially enjoy helping fellow crocheters who are stuck.
  • What inspires me? Downton Abbey. I absolutely loved those hats. I want to be part of a hat revolution!

Decision: My niche is hats! I am currently making hats for young ladies of all ages, but I may want to niche further. I want to become known as a hat expert.

I have visions of expanding my business—I would love to create videos and online courses. But for now, I’m starting from a more manageable position and enjoying the process. And trusting that the money will follow. We’ll see if the riches are in the niches!

girl in crochet hat with butterflies

Five reasons you should start your crochet business as a side hustle

I am inspired, motivated, and energized to grow my crochet empire. I’ve listened to podcasts, read blogs, and googled the hours away to plan and prepare. I’m ready to go. But I’ve decided to start small and begin this business as a side hustle rather than a main source of income for five reasons:

1. It reduces the pressure of having to make money.

I began a website business a couple of years ago. I enjoyed the work and made a little money but struggled to gain traction. The pressure of having to make money with my business did not motivate me—it actually depleted and overwhelmed me. The pressure to make the best decisions paralyzed me.

Pressure also takes the joy out of pursuits. It’s a lot more fun to crochet when it’s not Mother’s Day/baby shower/Christmas tomorrow. If I don’t have to rely on the income from my crochet business, I can relax and take the time and steps necessary to build what I want.

2. It gives me an opportunity pursue excellence (as a recovering perfectionist).

I want things done right, and there are a lot of things to get right when it comes to building a business: Product, supplies, website, social media, marketing, multiple income streams, etc. I don’t want to quickly throw things out there and hope they’ll stick. I want a professional face to my business. When it’s a side hustle, I can take the time necessary to do it well. Or to redo it, or try a different direction. I can experiment and reiterate until I’m satisfied.

3. It provides another income stream.

I don’t have all my eggs in one basket, and there’s security in that. I am a single mom, so having a variety of ways to make money provides security.

4. It works with my personality.

I am a multipotentialite; I have a wide variety of interests and talents. It is impossible for me to narrow my career down to that one thing. So I do multiple things, including crochet. That works for me.

5. It gives my free time a purpose.

Working on my crochet business feels more like fun than work. It’s more rewarding to work on my business than to play on my phone or scroll through Facebook. I can still take all the time I want for family and other pursuits, and at the end of the day, I am much more content than if I’d wasted time on mindless pursuits. (I have decided Ruzzle is not mindless.)

 

This side-hustle mindset gives me the freedom to write this blog. It takes time to write. I don’t know if anyone will ever read it. But I enjoy the process, it helps develop my writing skills, and maybe one day it will help position me as an authority in the field. You know, confirm that I am indeed a crochet empress.

P.S. I highly recommend the Side Hustle School podcast with Chris Guillebeau. It’s practical and inspiring.

Respect the empress

“Crochet crap has taken over the house!” my son exclaimed. Display tables filled the living room in preparation for a craft show. Works in progress cluttered every horizontal surface in the house.

“Someday,” I replied, “you’ll wish you’d been more respectful to the future crochet empress.”

That was the first time the idea swirling in my mind expressed itself. And words have power. I am building a crochet empire. 

Until this time, I’d been playing with the idea of a crochet business. I was keeping my cards close, hedging my bets, unsure of the wisdom of this venture. But I wondered, at the end of my life, will I regret not trying? Will I wish I had pursued my dreams? My crazy dreams?

Yes. I am on a journey to building a crochet business. Join me on this adventure?