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Add a Support Team to Boost Your Success

Wednesday, September 7th, 2011

I started this series on the S’s in Success three weeks ago. The first “S” was for Self and the second was for Systems. The last “S” I call Support. You can’t build a successful business without support.

At some point in the growth of your business, you realize that you need help, that you need to create a team. In my case with the International Association of Professional Quilters, I have an amazing team that supports our growth. I cannot operate this business without this team, and I am grateful every day for them. They include our regular columnists and writers, our art director, our advertising representative, our copy editors, our virtual assistant, our web developers, our printer and mailing house, and more.


When I first started publishing The Professional Quilter, I did much of the work myself. As the business grew, I saw the need to create a team. It had several positive results. It let me concentrate in the areas where I’m really good, and it let me spend time on building the business. It also let me support others who want to work in their areas of brilliance. That left me with more energy for my work. It was really win-win for everyone.

I’m sure many of you are in the same position. When you started your business, you tried to do everything yourself. At the time, it seemed like the most cost effective way to go. At some point, though, you realize that it’s time to bring others on board. I know that it’s often a cost issue. How can you afford someone to help you? If you really look at how much it costs to hire someone for a task, you’ll realize that you can make more per hour working on what you do well than you pay the person you hire. Here are team members you might consider:

  1. A bookkeeper. Many creative people are not “numbers oriented.” Of course, it’s critical that we know how much money is coming into our business and how much is going out. We don’t need to do the daily number inputting. A bookkeeper will, in many cases, work much faster than you can. For many solopreneurs, this is the first person they hire.
  2. A child care provider. On a more basic level, if you can pay someone to care for your children during the day or after school, you’ll be freer to create your product or market your business.
  3. An in-office helper. Quilters have lots of fabric and it gets in disarray. Sometime ago, one of our members asked about staying organized. I suggested that she hire a high school girl to come in once or twice a week and help put fabric away and keep her studio organized. Traveling teachers can also use an in-house helper to create the handout packets or pack the supplies for classes.
  4. An apprentice. This is a great idea for someone who dyes fabric or makes quilts for craft shows. You can have someone complete some of the preliminary parts of the job or work under your direction. A longarm quilter could hire someone to load the quilt or handle pantographs.
  5. Pattern testers, stitchers. Your task as a designer is to create designs and market them. If you have people who can test your patterns and stitch and quilt your quilts, you can spend more time creating.
  6. A virtual assistant. I have used a virtual assistant for three years now. A virtual assistant is your administrative partner. She runs her own business and usually works from her own home. I’ve never met any of my virtual assistants in person, yet I feel confident that they can complete the tasks I have for them. Your virtual assistant will be skilled to handle lots of administrative, marketing or technology tasks. A virtual assistant would be perfect for handling some of the social media tasks or keeping track of your teaching assignments.

I think it’s sometimes hard to take the step to hire the first team member. Once you do take that step, it becomes easier to look for tasks that someone else can complete so you can get your work accomplished. I’ve found over the years that my virtual assistant has helped me look for work she can do, and it’s had a positive impact on my business.

Finding team members can also be a challenge. I think we’re lucky in that as quilters we have a network of other quilters who want to help us. When I looked for help, I advertised in my guild newsletter and found great additions to my team. I’ve also used referrals from friends. Other options include looking for someone in your neighborhood, your local high school or college, your church, the local senior center, even Craig’s List. People with the skills you need are looking for work.

What kinds of support do you have in your business? Where did you find this support? Are there tasks that you could pass along to someone else freeing your time up to work in your brilliance? Take some time this week to look at areas where you can get support and share your results on the blog.

Creating Systems For Success

Wednesday, August 31st, 2011

Have you given any thought to systems in your business? I know many solo creative entrepreneurs who have no systems for processes. They, in essence, reinvent the wheel every time they do the same task again. I’ve heard that any task that is done more than once or twice can be systematized, and this lets you work smarter not harder.

My favorite resources for understanding systems are any of the E-Myth books by Michael E. Gerber. Gerber often talks about working on your business rather than in your business. His solution is to consider your business as the prototype for a franchise operation and create systems so processes can be done at the lowest level possible. He doesn’t expect you to create a franchise; he wants you to understand how systems help you create and build a successful business.

When you have systems in place, you are better able to use your time for what we could call your brilliance. For creative people this results in spending more time creating your product or generating new ideas.

First, look at the activities you do that are repeated. This can be something done daily or weekly or quarterly. Take the time to write down the actions step by step. The second time you need to do the activity, use your written system and refine it. I have spent time creating an operations manual outlining steps for a variety of our activities. It did take me time to put together the systems, and in the end it was definitely worth it. I’m able to have others complete many of the tasks now, and in a pinch, I can pitch in and find following the system takes less time.

Here are some ways that quilters, fiber artists and other creative entrepreneurs can use systems:

  1.  Are you an artist who shows your work? Create a written system to contact and follow-up with gallery representatives, a system to ship your work or hang your work in a local gallery, a system for following up with potential buyers. If these are written down, you’ll have an easier time each time you or someone else completes the task.
  2. Do you have templates for forms or letters that can be used again and again? This could be the press release for your new pattern release or the gallery show that you customize.
  3. Do you have a system to gather the names of visitors to your website, possibly offering them an incentive? If not, you are losing the opportunity to contact potential customers.
  4. Are you a pattern designer? If you look at the processes involved in creating a pattern, you’ll find areas to systematize. One would be to create a style sheet listing the fonts, spacing, formatting, etc., of your pattern. Another would be your system for order fulfillment.
  5. Are you a longarm quilter? Do you have an order form with questions you need to ask each new client? Do you have a system for loading the quilts? This could actually be a task that you could teach someone else to do, freeing up time for you.
  6. Do you spend time online marketing your business with a newsletter, blog, Facebook and Twitter? When I taught a class on Social Media Marketing this summer, I suggested that people set aside 15-20 minutes each day to focus on listening to what’s on social media, responding to it and participating in conversations. I also suggested setting aside an hour or so one day a week to create articles for your newsletter or blog posts.

What kinds of systems have you created? Take some time this week to look at where you can create a system, select one and document each step, and share your results on our blog. Once you’ve created systems, not only do you have the exact steps to follow, the chance of forgetting steps is virtually eliminated.


Do You Know Your Value?

Wednesday, July 27th, 2011

This article was prompted by the book Knowing Your Value by journalist Mika Brzezinski, which I reviewed below. In working with creative entrepreneurs, I often find they struggle with determining a value for their work and then charging for it. Here are some tips for dealing with worth.

  1. Know exactly what you are charging. Quilters often are challenged by what to charge for their services. Many tend to undercharge because they don’t know what to charge. They look at what others are charging and figure it must be right. Ever wonder how that person came up with her price? She probably did what you did: looked around at what others were charging and figured it was right. Take the time to go back and determine how long it takes you to accomplish your work. Consider what your expenses are – overhead, taxes, materials, etc. Then determine what you need to make on an hourly basis to meet your expenses and make a profit.
  2. Build confidence in your work and value. In Knowing Your Value Mika Brzezinski said, “Knowing your value means owning your successes. Owning your success means acknowledging your achievements. By acknowledging achievements you build confidence.” One way to do this is to have what I call a Weekly Success and Strategy Session. This is where you set aside time to review your accomplishments for the week and celebrate them. Then strategize for the week to come. Seeing what you accomplish does build your confidence. With increased confidence you will be better able to see your value and express it.
  3. Be visible and promote yourself. Once you see your accomplishments, don’t be shy about sharing them with everyone you know – and even those you don’t. Women, in particular, are not bold about this. Remember, if you don’t toot your own horn, who will? If you need ideas on promoting yourself, listen to our PQ Cafe Business Series call from April with Tara Reed on “How to be a Pres-Friendly Agent.”
  4. Look for a mentor. It can be useful to have someone else help you objectively look at what you have to offer and your value. It’s easy to stay in our own shell and others often see things we don’t.
  5. Step out in faith. Once you know and believe your value, don’t second-guess yourself. Own your value and move forward.

Please share your thoughts and comments below.



Please do! Just be sure to include the blurb below.

Morna McEver Golletz is the founder and CEO of the International Association of Professional Quilters, an association to help quilters, fiber artists and other creative arts entrepreneurs build business success. Her weekly e-zine offers tips, techniques and inspiration to help you craft business success from your creative arts passion. You can sign up for a F.R.E.E. subscription at

How Do Quilters & Creative Entrepreneurs Use LinkedIn?

Wednesday, July 6th, 2011

During an open call I hosted yesterday on social media, someone asked me about LinkedIn and quilters. I said that quilters have been slower to use LinkedIn than other social media. It’s been primarily thought of as a more corporate platform where people can make connections for job searches.

I did a quick, albeit unscientific, survey – I asked on Facebook and Twitter – to see if quilters were using LinkedIn. The results confirmed my theory. I think it’s because most quilters’ customers are not on LinkedIn. If you think you’d like to learn more about LinkedIn, sign up and give it a try to see for yourself. Here are six ways that I and other professionals can use LinkedIn.

  1. Find a job. Last week I discussed a possible opening we plan on in our business with a potential candidate. I probably would not have found this person outside of LinkedIn, or definitely not as easily.
  2. Get an introduction to someone you think might further your career. For example, if you are a fiber artist and you see a friend of a friend is a gallery owner or art consultant, you could ask for a connection. Where that leads is up to you.
  3. Learn industry news. For example, I learned that FiberArts will no longer be publishing after its June/July issue. Then I learned that Fiber Art Now is a new magazine serving the fiber arts and textile community to start publishing in October.
  4. Connect, share and learn through the groups function. You are connecting with other professional fiber people who share their expertise willingly. You will make connections that you wouldn’t find other places. Discussions tend to be more business focused.
  5. Invite your connections to events. If you become active on LinkedIn, your circle of connections will grow and you can invite them to events you host.
  6. Post your blog for others to see who might not be in your circle otherwise. With a WordPress plug-in, your blog posts will automatically repost onto LinkedIn, letting a wider audience learn about you and your company.

As with any form of social media, you’ll get what you put into it. I think for many quilters, LinkedIn offers valuable discussion and connection. Please share how you use LinkedIn on our blog. If you want more help in the area of social media, please join me for our upcoming five-session Social Media Marketing seminar.

Your First Steps to Social Media Marketing

Wednesday, June 29th, 2011

I’m often asked where someone should start to market a business with social media. It is really easy to get overwhelmed with all the choices out there: Facebook, blogs, Twitter, YouTube.  Before you decide which platform will work for you or which one to use first, you need to spend some time getting clear about your goals, your market and your message. Since I have a journalism background, I sometimes think of these steps as the who, what, where, when, why and how of a story.

1. Clarify the who

Who exactly is your customer? The clearer you are about your customer down to the minutest detail, the better. One suggestion here is to actually name your customer. For example, perhaps your target customer is Beth, a 35-year-old mom, college-educated, loves to quilt, has little spare time because she has two small children, makes mostly traditional quilts, lives in an urban area, reads Quilters Home, hangs out with other soccer moms. Once you are clear on your target market, it makes it easier to create your marketing message. You can picture your customer.

2. Clarify the what

What is your product, i.e., what are you selling? The key here is to think of what you are selling as a benefit. One example I always use when talking about benefits is the Michelin tire ad with the baby sitting inside the tire. Michelin is not selling tires, it is selling safety. Ask yourself what problem you are solving for your customer.

3. Clarify the where

Where are you going to find your customers? When you got really clear about your target market, the who, you also should have thought about where they hang out. This would be the time to think about who uses Twitter vs. Facebook vs. blogs vs. email newsletters (ezines). Generally Twitter is big in big cities and big with a younger demographic. Think the Gen X we’re trying to get into quilting. Facebook is popular with everyone, though the fastest growing demographic is baby boomer women, typically the average quilter according to the latest Quilting in America™ survey.

4. Clarify the when

When and how often are you going to reach out to your customer? You may want to send a monthly or weekly update. You may want to tie your contact into specific holidays or events. You may have weekly sales and that dictates how often you contact your customers. Start with a marketing calendar and figure out what you are promoting; that will help you figure out when to contact them. How often you contact your customers also depends on the medium you choose. You’ll use Twitter more often than you’ll send an ezine. I suggest setting a schedule that allows for a certain number of contacts per day, week and month. Something to remember, too, with connecting with your customers is to give them a call to action, something you want them to do as a result of your message.

5. Clarify the why

Here you should look at the why from two sides – yours and your customers. Why are you using social media and what are your goals? Look at the why of your customers. Why should they care about what you have to offer? What differentiates you from all the other offerings on the street? This is closely related to the what, in that you need to consider the customers’ viewpoint. When I teach business classes, I remind my students that we are all tuned to the same radio station – WIIFM. That stands for What’s In It For Me. Tell your customers why they should care.

6. Clarify the How

How are you going to reach your customer and how are you going to educate them about you and your company? You already know that your customers are lots of places, so go where they are and invite them to come play with you. For example, if you provide good content, people are more likely to value what you offer and come to know, like and trust you. Let people know how to find you. Use the social media icons on all your online correspondence with clickable links. For printed materials, include your social network information. Make it easy for people to connect with you. Another idea here is to offer something to people who join you on one of your networks. This could be a discount or even a free product.

If you answer these six questions, you’ll be well on your way to understanding how to use social media to build your business. If you want more help, please join me for our upcoming five-session Social Media Marketing seminar.

Book Review: How to Be a Press Friendly Artist

Sunday, April 24th, 2011

How to be a Press Friendly Artist

By Tara Reed
Tara Reed Designs; $27

Promotion is key for creative entrepreneurs who want grow their businesses, and part of that is getting press coverage. If you are stumped with how to go about getting the press to notice and write about your art, Tara Reed provides you with the blueprint to follow to accomplish this. Tara, a licensed artist who has created more than 15 lines of fabric in the past three years with South Seas, found herself answering questions from other artists about art licensing, and many of those questions were about getting press. This ebook resulted from Tara’s own experiences and that of her clients. She covers the basics of setting up a press release, what it should include, adding photos, how to distribute your release, creating a press kit and even how to make your website more press friendly.  Even if you’re an experienced press release writer, you’ll add a few tricks to your toolbox so you can become your own publicist. I’ve even comb bound my copy for easy reference.

Here’s a link if you would like to learn more about the book and save $5 off the price of the book.

Do You Make These Accounting Mistakes?

Wednesday, March 23rd, 2011

IAPQ member and CPA Veronica Wasec recently wrote about 10 common mistakes that small business owners make with their accounting and QuickBooks®. As a Certified QuickBooks® ProAdvisor, she’s worked with lots of small business owners, including quilters, for more than 20 years. Here are five of the mistakes she often sees business owners make:

1. QuickBooks® is not set up properly for the business. This causes small business owners to spend a lot of time getting information out of QuickBooks® or tracking information manually outside of QuickBooks®. After you understand how information is accumulated in QuickBooks® primarily by the use of projects, items and the chart of accounts, you can set up QuickBooks® specifically for your company and your needs. Once it is set up properly, you can use reports that show you how much money you made by customer, by project or job, and by inventory or service items.

2. QuickBooks® is only used as a bookkeeping tool rather than as a way to manage business finances. Many small business owners use QuickBooks® only as a bookkeeping tool – to capture their daily transactions. Unfortunately, they don’t review financial reports such as the Profit & Loss, the Balance sheet, and key reports such as the accounts payable aging, accounts receivable aging and several types of profitability reports. To manage your business effectively you need to have timely and relevant financial information available to you and you need to review it on a timely basis.

3. Bookkeeping is not kept up-to-date. Keeping your bookkeeping up-to-date can be a thorn in your side, but it is a necessary function of running your business. Here are a few tips, whether or not you hire an outside bookkeeper:

· Set aside time on a weekly basis to update your books.

· Use a checklist to ensure that you record all your transactions.

· Be sure to have receipts for all of your transactions.

· Set up a filing system that is appropriate for the size of your business and file away all your receipts and documents.

4. Accounts are not reconciled. Many small business owners have messy balance sheets because they don’t reconcile their accounts. This includes reconciling bank accounts, credit card accounts, sales tax accounts and other accounts on a monthly basis to ensure that your financial data is accurate. If your financial data is not accurate then how can you rely on it to make decisions for your business?

5. QuickBooks® is out-of-date. Many small business owners use an outdated version of QuickBooks®. Why is this important? QuickBooks® does not support any versions older than three years. Also, newer versions of QuickBooks® allow for automatic downloading of bank and credit card transactions from the bank and credit card companies. Newer versions also have higher capabilities, for example QuickBooks® 2011 version allows for batch invoicing – a great time saver for companies that bill multiple customers for recurring fixed amounts (such as monthly support charges). Upgrading to a new version of QuickBooks® is very simple and generally only takes minutes.

The International Association of Professional Quilters offers resources and networking opportunities for you to create a success from your quilting business.  Learn about all the benefits of IAPQ membership and join here.

Want to Host Your Own Quilt or Art Seminar?

Wednesday, March 2nd, 2011

Have you ever gone to a terrific seminar and left wondering if you could take that experience and improve on it, running your own seminar? That’s what happened to Alice Kolb and partner Barbara Quinby when they decided to join forces to host the annual Texas-style quilter’s seminar, now known as Quilting Adventures. The annual seminar started in the early 2000s when Barbara built on her experience from her business career to invite four to six national quilting teachers per week to a classy, yet casual resort to offer students a week of learning from one teacher, good food and lodging. Today the seminar receives rave reviews for its attention to detail and the enriching experiences of its participants. If you, too, think putting on a seminar can be rewarding, here are some tips from Alice’s article in the Winter issue of The Professional Quilter.

1. Analyze yourself. Critique your strengths and energy – both financially and physically – and check your enthusiasm record for a long-term project.

2. Determine your level of commitment. Do you want to own a seminar company, either by yourself or with a partner? It’s a job with responsibilities that last all year from hiring teachers to handling student queries.

3.  Put together a business plan. You need to determine how much time and money are needed to bring your seminar idea to fruition. You will need to make payments well before you ever bring in any funds and you need to be sure you can handle this financial responsibility. You also need to clearly identify the market you want to reach.

4. Research potential site locations. Do they match the style of your event? Will they meet the needs of potential students identified in the business plan? Can the faculty and students easily get to the locations?

5. Personalize your event. Consider the student you identified in your business plan and how you can make the event unique for them.

6. Consider how you will attract students. This could include advertising, personal trips to shops or shows for promotion, printed material and a website. Most important, determine how much time and money you can invest to do this.

To read the article in its entirety, you can join the International Association of Professional Quilters. This issue will be the first one that you receive as one of your member benefits.

The International Association of Professional Quilters offers resources and networking opportunities for you to create a success from your quilting business.  Learn about all the benefits of IAPQ membership and join here.

Tips to Achieving Your Goals

Wednesday, January 12th, 2011

Did you spend time in the last few weeks setting goals both personally and for your business? Are you making progress on them?

Are your goals written? That’s a big key to achieving them. Written goals have the odds stacked in their favor. I think it’s because you spend time to get clear about what you want, and that lets you focus on your end result. Here are some more tips to achieving big results with your goal setting.

1. Make at least one goal a stretch goal. The definition of a stretch goal would be one that is big and possible, one might seem unattainable with your current skill set, one that will cause you to grow. What this does is challenge you to think outside the box. It also energizes and excites you as you figure out how you’ll achieve it.

2. Figure out why the goal is so important to you and what you’ll give up to make it happen. For example, if one of your goals is to increase your income by 10%, it might be important because you want to remodel your studio. If you know your why, it will help keep you stay focused on your goal. At the same time consider if you need to give up something to help in the effort. Again using the same example, maybe you need to give up that after-dinner TV show and read something that can help you build your business.

3. Chunk down each goal into tasks. Look at the date when you choose to have your goal complete and work backwards with a list of tasks. Breaking it down makes it seem less formidable and keeps you on track.

4. Take action and track it. It sounds simple, yet people don’t always take action. Chunking it down helps a lot here. I also like to use a tracking form to check off where I am on my goals. Using our example above, you could start to chart your income each week. That way you can see if you are on track, and, if not, consider what you can change to meet your goal.

5. Find an accountability partner. It helps if you have  someone on your side, cheering and prodding. I am in a mini-mastermind group with three of the women from the high-level mastermind I was in last year. We all know each others’ businesses and can offer input and a gentle push if we’re behind.

6. Reward yourself. If you are making progress on your goals, treat yourself to something. You could even decide your reward ahead of time. Back to our example, maybe you get a massage if your financial goal is on track at the end of the month.

Good luck with achieving your goals. And, feel free to share your ideas on the here.

The International Association of Professional Quilters offers resources and networking opportunities for you to create a success from your quilting business. Learn about all the benefits of IAPQ membership and join here.

Book Review: Threads: the basics & beyond

Sunday, December 5th, 2010

Threads: the basics & beyond

Threads: The basics & beyond

Debbie Bates & Liz Kettle
Landauer Publishing; $27.95

Do you want to understand how and when to use the myriad threads on the market today? Threads will get you off to a great start. The authors, Debbie Bates and Liz Kettle, suggest creating a “passport”: 5″ by 7″ “quilts” made from fabric, batting and stabilizer that will create a book. You’ll use a different page to sample each technique using your sewing machine. Techniques include thread in quilting, thread as paint, thread as texture, thread as structure, thread as ornament and thread as embellishment. When you’ve finished creating your passport, you’ll be more knowledgeable about how and when to use thread as you build your skill level. While the book focuses on machine work, it would be easy to translate the passport concept to handwork.

Here’s a link, if you’d like to add it to your library.

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