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Mid-Year Reflection

I'll admit that this mid-year reflection on my business goals is about two months late, but since I started reflecting on my goals in June, I figured I might as well still finish up my reflection and publish it for my future reference. It was important to me to sit down and reflect on my progress so far this year on my goals, even if it was a little late.

This year, my annual goals centered on my word of the year, abundance. I set up several ways to practice and receive abundance, which I wrote about at the beginning of the year. Here's where I'm at right now, before the busiest season (fourth quarter) of the year for product-based businesses like mine:

Goal: Create space for abundance

  • Mindset
  • Take inventory of my product line and decide what to let go or discontinue.
  • Take inventory of my business practices and decide what's working and what to let go.
  • Declutter my home studio.

Mindset: I've created a good schedule for myself to walk outside and meditate everyday, as well as beginning a morning journaling practice based on The Artist's Way. All of these habits have been great for self-care, and especially for unblocking creativity to get work done effectively on a day-to-day basis.

Declutter and inventory: I've spent a lot of time decluttering my studio and home this year. I created a few sales of imperfect products and discontinued items to declutter my inventory. This is something that I'll continue to work on throughout the rest of the year by allowing some product lines to sell out before I introduce new ones.

Goal: Decide specifics that I want

  • Double my revenue.
  • Triple my profit.
  • Save 20% of salary for retirement.

Revenue: I'm on track with my revenue goals so far this year and seem to have more opportunities popping up that will help me to bring in even more revenue streams into 2020. I've applied for winter craft shows and have a pretty good sense of what I need to do each month to reach my goals for the month.

Profit: As far as profit goes, I'm looking to focus on reducing expenses where I can and to be more strategic about what is going to give me the best return on investment. Although I have a lot of ideas for new product lines that I'd like to create, I'm focusing on my best sellers and best product lines to grow, while discontinuing the products that don't sell as well.

Retirement: I'll be setting up my self-employed retirement account in September (when my employer-based contributions end), so I've been researching which brokerage to invest with. I've worked with both Fidelity and Vanguard for other accounts, and I'll be sticking with one of them for my self-employed IRA. To start, I might contribute 10-12% of my income instead of 20% until I have a better grasp on how self-employed income and expenses (like insurance) will play out, and then make adjustments at the end of the year if it makes sense to do so.

Goal: Create an abundant environment

  • Surround myself with greenery and growth.
  • Feel abundant with what I have now: surround myself with what makes me feel like a boss.
  • Organize studio for efficiency and sales, including restructuring my shipping and inventory spaces.

This goal challenged me over the summer when in the span of a month, my refrigerator died, my water heater died and flooded a small portion of my basement (which doubled as the master bedroom and a shipping space), and then I discovered the beginning of a small leak in my roof. Ugh.

Every one of these major issues challenged me to maintain an attitude of abundance over scarcity. In the end, I was grateful for each of the repairs that needed to be made, and here's why. First, I've always saved a portion of my paycheck for household repairs and emergencies, so I knew that I had the funds to pay for all of the repairs that came up. I was grateful to have a new refrigerator that is much more energy efficient, and I was glad to have discovered the roof leak in the middle of summer so that I could have it taken care of before the weather turns.

The biggest problem, the basement flood, ended up being what I was most grateful for because after it was resolved, I finally took action on something I knew I needed to do to have my business continue to be sustainable and open to growth and abundance into the future.

I moved the master bedroom into what used to solely be my studio, and turned the basement into my company headquarters. Previously, my inventory and packaging materials were stored all over the house, and now, everything is organized in the basement. I have an office, a packaging and inventory storage area, and a shipping space. I'm so happy to have a space where I can work, and perhaps more importantly, a space that I can close up at the end of the work day to create better work-life harmony.

Goal: Take action to increase my capacity for success

  • Reach out to wholesale retailers
  • Participate in local markets at least twice a month (and purchase a tent)
  • Seek opportunities to grow presence (blogging, newsletter, social media, press)
  • Create four collections of new products

Wholesale outreach: This has been a changing work-in-progress, from working with a company for scheduling email outreach, to participating in a small local tradeshow, to my current system of spending Tuesdays on email outreach and writing. I'm saving up to participate in some larger national trade shows in 2020, and will continue to reach out to new and current retailers for the rest of 2019.

Markets: Starting in May, I ended up vending at markets about six days every month, generally with one weekend off each month. This was both incredibly rewarding and incredibly exhausting. I started the summer with a huge fear of setting up an outdoor market tent, but the trust that I'd know what I was doing with a tent by the end of the summer helped me to keep going. I learned that most vendors are willing to help out with set-up or take-down, which makes the process a lot faster, and I also learned that I can definitely set up a tent by myself when needed. Even though the number of markets I vended at felt a little bit excessive, I'll probably aim for the same amount for holiday markets. I also learned that I probably need to hire help for some of the longer markets so that I can take a break occasionally.

Blogging and Pinterest: I did pretty well with blogging up until the summer, which was when vending kind of took over all of my priorities. Since Pinterest is my primary referral to my website, continuing to blog and creating a more formalized Pinterest strategy would be to my benefit. I've planned out my content calendar for most of the remainder of the year, so I have some sense of where I'm headed in terms of topics I want to write about.

Newsletter: I've been pretty consistent with my weekly email newsletter, and it's definitely a priority for me to continue since it brings people to my shop and helps me to stay connected and in conversation with customers.

Instagram: My Instagram has been a series of secret experiments all year, which has been pretty fun. At the beginning of the year when I was still very regimented in scheduling out posts, I decided to have a bit more fun since it's a platform that isn't great for me at selling in general. I decided to do two things: to start playing with filters and to only be allowed to go on Instagram if I was willing to comment something kind and true on someone else's photo. Basically, to force myself to write out the things I thought about when looking at others' photos instead of just hitting the like button or scrolling past. This helped me to stop using Instagram as much because it forced me to start asking myself the question: am I going on Instagram to connect and build community, or am I going on the app to scroll?

New Collections: I released two full collections during the first two quarters of the year (Tamanawis and State Symbols) and one mini-collection of phone cases. For the rest of the year, I've completed my holiday card designs and am currently waiting for them from my printing partner before I release this to my wholesale customers. I also designed a new ornament inspired by the San Juan Islands that will be part of the holiday collection as well.

My Parks and Trails collection that I started in July turned into a larger project than I expected, so I've been releasing prints one-by-one in line with the areas I've vended at markets. I'll be continuing this series most likely into 2020 since I'm hoping to create a total of around 80 illustrations for a longer-term project.

Goal: Receive abundance

  • Travel: to take in creative inspiration.
  • Learn: study areas of interest including licensing and other revenue streams, learn from books and podcasts about goal.
  • Practice gratitude: give thanks to customers, retailers, and business friends.

Travel: So far so good! Traveling to Oaxaca in February brought a lot of clarity as an artist and businesswoman, even more than the abundant inspiration I received there as well. I'm also enjoying the inspiration I'm receiving while visiting local parks for my ongoing Parks and Trails series.

Learn: I continue to listen to a variety of podcasts and read some great books, including Clockwork and The Artist's Way. I attended Camp Thundercraft to build community and learn from fellow local makers. I also registered to attend a professional development workshop/conference (Paper Camp) in September that I've wanted to attend for several years.

Gratitude: Each package gets shipped out with handwritten thank you notes, and I'm starting to ask my retailers for collaborative ideas for art prints I'm creating with their stores in mind. I have a plan on how I'd like to express gratitude towards the end of the year. I've also found journaling with the morning pages technique to be really valuable when it comes to creating a mindset of gratitude and reflection.

Unexpected extras

Umm, and here's the big one: in January, I had no intentions or even the inkling of a thought of quitting my day job, but then, of course, I did. I'm feeling great about this decision and the opportunities and time it's opened up for me, and at the same time, the summer gave me a strong amount of overwhelm because of the amount of work I was doing, especially with the increase in markets I vended at.

Overall, I can see exactly how to make the revenue goals I want for a sustainable living, and now I'm thinking about how to make my use of time better. Now that the summer show season has slowed down, I’ve been able to take stock and prepare the for the even busier holiday season. I’m looking forward to where the rest of the year will take me, and I’m feeling much more scheduled and prepared for the new work life I’ve embarked on. There's still a lot to do before the end of 2019, but reflecting on progress is helpful to keep up momentum. Consider reflecting on your 2019 goals or your word of the year, too! It's fun, I promise. :)

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