How to Optimize Your Experimentation

 

How to Build a Business While Learning Your Craft

 

Lesson Info

How to Optimize Your Experimentation

- [Megan] How to optimize your experimentation? If you find yourself in a time where you get to be in experimentation mode? Because it might be that you realize, "I can hang on to my day job for a year or two and play around on the side." Or, "Actually, my business is really stable, and I'm going to go over here and paint," right? So the reason this is important to acknowledge is because experimentation is a natural state for most creatives. We have all the ideas. We want to make all the things. I work so much not because I'm a workaholic, but because I love what I do, right? I want like 20 more hours in every day, so I can spend them all in my studio making all the things. Or I can spend like 10 of them making all the things, and 10 of them making all the other things that I make because they don't support my business, but I want to make them anyway because they're fun. Yesterday, after I wore than fun skirt, all I could think was, "I need to make more clothes again." Right? It's a na...

tural state for most creatives. Sometimes you have the luxury of being in an experimental state. But that being said, if your goal is to grow, you'll need to move from an experimental stage to a stage of focus. And there are ways to set up your experimental stage to set yourself up for success later. And one of those is that you can still build an audience from the experimental stage. But you want to build it around an aesthetic, and not around your craft. Because your craft is going to change, or your art is going to change. So this is obviously a hard one to do around things like search, or press, but it's a really easy one to do around visual content creation. It's super easy to do with Pinterest, right? Because it's curating someone else's content. So you could just say, "Okay, I'm going to build all of these boards around these ideas, and I'm going to work on growing my Pinterest followers while I'm in experimentation phase. And because I know you guys, and I know that when you're in experimentation phase, you have lots of ideas, and then you want to pin them on to Pinterest. That's what secret boards are for. My public boards are very highly curated. What you can't see is that I have like 20 secret boards. For all the stuff that doesn't fit the brand image that I'm trying to put. Used to be you could only have three secret boards, so I have one secret board that's like filled with a lot of junk. Now, I get to have all the secret boards need, and it's amazing, right? When you're in this experimentation phase, don't use Pinterest to plan your experimentation, right? Use it with a cohesive aesthetic to grow your brand, and use your secret boards for experimentation. But you can do the same thing on Instagram. There are plenty of people who don't make things, who have huge Instagram followings because they take beautiful photography. So maybe, while you're off experimenting, one of your experiments is going to be to curate a beautiful Instagram feed. Maybe it's going to be around going out every day and taking beautiful images of plants. Or maybe it's going to be taking all these great images of architectural details. If I had a million hours, I would have an extra Instagram account dedicated to like beautiful, decorative architectural details, right? That would be a great way to build a following, even if you didn't know where you're going to end up. So you can think about doing that, so that when you are ready to dive into focus, you're not starting from scratch in your audience growth strategy. But you're not building an audience that thinks you're a crazy person. Don't post every whim and experiment online, especially if they're unrelated. So most of you probably have an Instagram account. And if you're in experimentation mode, don't post like 400 times a day. This morning, I'm painting. And then later, I'm doing a floral arrangements. And then tomorrow, I'm sewing a skirt. And then now, I'm making pottery. And now, I'm weaving. And now, I'm doing this. Again, crazy person, right? It's confusing to your audience. So be a little bit more strategic. It's like the thing I said with Jordan. You're like, "I have all these ideas." I was like, "I would never know that." Because at least you're really strategic about your Instagram. - [Jordan] Well, something that helps with that is I have like my personal Instagram. That's where I post picture of my kids. That's where I'm like, "Hey, I made this soup today." But I'm not going to be like, "I sell bunnies, and I made some soup." - Exactly, right. And now, it's even easier because you can toggle between multiple accounts, without having to log in and out. So yeah, use the personal Instagram for all the stuff, all the life. And right, keep the business one really, really narrow. Okay, I know I just kept saying don't be a crazy person. But in experimentation, phase, this is when you get to push yourself to make things that are crazy, and you don't have to worry if they'll ever sell. These are four-foot wide wire panniers. They're literally like they stretch to the end of either arm. I made them to wear in a fashion show. I think now, they're sitting in a box in my attic, right? Never going to sell that. Man, they were fun to make, right? This is when you get to do this. And what's great about doing things like this is they can lead you to paths of focus. My entire production line, for the first eight years of my jewelry business, evolved out of the shapes I made, and that welded wire furniture that you couldn't actually sit on. Everything that I did came out of that crazy thing, where I was like, "I want to make a whole room out of wire." It's never going to sell. That's also sitting in my house. That one's at least on display. It's not in the box in the attic. But that leads you down a path. That's the other thing that you want to do is you want to be aware of the experiments that give you the opportunity to dive deeper. So let yourself linger in places, even if you're like, "I'm giving myself permission to try all the things." If in one of those things you get excited, start to dive a little deeper, because it's easier if the focus feels natural than if it's like every avenue is something different, and now I have to pick one. If something is exciting, stay with it. And then you can also set a timeline for experimentation based on your financial needs. So if you're like, "Okay, I don't like my day job. But I acknowledge that I want to spend a little time playing around before I have to quit it. I'm going to give myself six months to experiment, and then I'll make myself focus for six months, so that hopefully, I can quit my day job in a year." Or, "I'm going let myself experiment for the next year while I'm at home with my kids, and then I'm going to settle down and focus so that I can start to generate more revenue. And I mean, this happened to me. It was pretty darn force. Here's your graduation date. Here's your diploma and your student loan bill. Okay, now it's time to focus, right? All right, any questions about that? - So would you ever suggest having like an experimentation time? Like if you're in focus mode, but you're kind of feeling like you need a little something on the side and be like, "Yeah, Tuesday night is for two hours I like scrapbook, even though I make jewelry." Or like, would you encourage that? - Yeah, I would absolutely encourage things like that. What I recommend is if you can do them in a different space from your actual work, so that they don't impede, and they don't take over. Because then, what happens is this little Tuesday night experiment is all over your work table on Wednesday morning when you're supposed to make production, and you're like, "Well, I think I could just finish this," right? So think about, can you do it in a different space? Or can you go somewhere? A couple of weeks ago, I went to Collage and Cocktails. That's like an art studio, with my girl friends. It was so fun. I made this horrible collage, and I drank some gin and tonics and made a horrible collage, but it was so fun and freeing. So yeah, giving yourself permission to do things like that is totally valid. But I think it's easier if you can keep it out of your workspace, so it doesn't creep in. So actually treat it like a hobby instead of like, this happens in my same creative space where I'm running my business. That's a great question. All right, I think we have a couple of questions and comments from online, so let's take a look at those in a minute. Does anyone else have a question while we're getting there? I think we're queuing up a couple. Denise. - [Denise] I'm just curious. This might be going back. - That's okay. - I'm curious to know whether you think, since I'm kind of stuck between the focus and the experiment. Not experiment. What was the last one? - The evolution. - Yes, evolution. I'm curious whether you think in the financial state, I need to be making more income right now? - Yes. - So would you suggest releasing these new products to encourage sales, like to freshen the look? Or would you encourage reaching out to more stores to get an income to then put into releasing the new product? - Are the new products close to ready to go? - Yes. I just need to order all the stuff. - Then I would release those. So most of my growth comes when I release new products, because it gives your existing customers something new to buy. So I think that's going bring an energy into business, and that's also going give you more to go forward to stores with. And so I would do that order for you, for sure. All right, let's go ahead and take a look at a question from online. Okay. "I completely change the aesthetic of the jewelry I've been making for the past few years. Is it best to branch off and start a new company? I'm not sure my current name will fit the new style of jewelry I'm thinking of focusing on." Kimberly, that's a great question. We're going to talk a little bit more about evolution in the next segment. But one of the things that I think is really key to keep in mind is it's always better to evolve from your current business than to start completely fresh, even if that means changing the name of your business and forwarding your own domain, right? Forwarding your own domain over. Because every time you start from scratch, you're starting from scratch. So I would look at, is there a way to make this an evolution instead of a clean break, so that you can take some momentum? And you know what? Your customers are actually really supportive and understanding if you're honest with them. They don't expect you to make the same thing forever. Very oftentimes, the people who want you to make the old things are the people who only just discovered the old things, right? Your new customers see the journey. They see the transition. Hopefully, you give them a warning that said, "I'm switching." If not, that might be part of your problem. But hopefully, you're giving your customers a little bit of heads up that this transition is happening. And so your current customers are going to understand. And people who find the old stuff, sometimes it's okay to be just like, "Nope, not making it anymore." All right, great question. I think we have a couple of comments. "I'm in experimentation stage because I have analysis paralysis. I need to make a decision, pick a focus, move on, and start making money. Thank you, Megan, for lighting a fire." Daisy chain, you are so welcome. And, actually, in the next segment, we are going to talk even more about how to get you to make a decision and pick a focus. You definitely want to stay tuned for that. Right, and we have another comment. "I just hired my first two seamstresses just so I'll be able to create and focus on marketing." That is amazing. Congratulations. That is such an awesome step. And it does, when you can hand off that production to somebody else, it frees up time to do a little bit more of that creative stuff, which is awesome. So, congratulations. I think we have one more comment. Oh, that's a long one. Oli says, "This is super helpful. Didn't even realize I had sort of transitioned into focus mode these past three months. In my head, I feel like I'm in constant experimentation and chasing new ideas, but the work I've began to put out is in focus." I think that's where you are, Jordan, too. "I've also started compartmentalizing the different personalities, so even while I'm experimenting in very different areas, publicly, they still feel separate and have their own stage." That's fantastic. I'm so glad that kind of helped clear up for you what you're already naturally doing.

Class Description

Are you a maker in the first phase of starting a business? You have a great business idea or beautiful product to sell, but not enough time to focus on both your craft AND selling your product. Well, this class is for you. 

Considered one of the most respected crafters in the business, Megan Auman will show you how you can concurrently work on your craft, grow sales, and focus on marketing initiatives that will get customers in the door. Megan is a designer, metalsmith, educator, and entrepreneur who has built a multi-faceted business around her passion for great design and sustainable business. Her designs have been featured in Design Sponge, Better Homes and Gardens, Cooking Light, and more. 

In this class, she will show you:
  • The who, where, and when of your business; who you should be selling to, where you should sell, and the right time to launch 
  • How to adapt your business and your product line as your business grows 
  • How to make money in the beginning stages of your business that allows you to justify spending more time on your craft
Learn the essential skills needed for having a successful craft business. There's no better time than now, so reserve your spot and turn your craft into a profitable business.

Reviews

Kristen Girard
 

Fantastic class! If you have never taken a Megan Auman class, this is the perfect one to start with. It filled in some knowledge gaps that I didn't know I had. Lots of great basic knowledge that I haven't been able to find elsewhere. Super helpful!

Maike Armstrong
 

First of all, it's so fun to learn from Megan! She is so motivating and enthusiastic – making you feel great about your business even when you are just starting out. The class is well put together, easy to follow and has simple, actionable steps to follow in order to actually move forward. I definitely recommend you check it out for yourself!

Shelby Anderson
 

Megan's class has given me such a great start and very practical how-to's for starting as a solopreneur. I've been so overwhelmed by all there is to do and all the tips, tricks, and knowledge; she was great at explaining and giving some real life and real time examples of how to step out and be great as a creative. Thank you Megan!