stay the course

Originally, I was going to give a little overview of my first week with my #100daysproject, in which I am spending 100 weekdays experimenting with different methods of textile printing. You can see my daily documentation of that here.

But I changed my mind and decided to talk about something a little more fresh on my mind today: Staying the course. 

I guess this topic is not completely unrelated to my #100daysproject. Part of what is so powerful about these types of daily challenges is that they encourage me to stick with something, even on days when I’m not totally feeling it, but know that doing it will be a good thing and get me closer to a bigger goal.

I’ve mentioned before that one of my main goals for 2016 is to make a plan for the entire year, in an attempt to not be so reactive in my business and set milestones for myself. I actually started doing this at the end of 2015 and the impact on my business (and my mindset) was immediate.

Maybe one of the best parts about having a plan of action is having everything laid out for the days when you are feeling a little lost. Or on days when you don’t really feel like working. Or times when you kinda just want to put your brain on autopilot. Or on days when you would rather be watching Netflix (amiright?).

Oh yeah, I’ve been there. 

If you are feeling even a little overwhelmed this month while planning out your 2016, I want to remind you to do one thing: Stay the course.

I know sometimes things seem hard and I know that you want to do so much. Focus on the things you can do right now. Pinpoint the things that make YOU light up, ignore the shoulds, and make a plan that allows you to chip away at it day by day, little by little so you can continue to build on a  phenomenal body of work. 

Give yourself a few daily, weekly, and monthly task guidelines so that on the days when you just don’t feel up to it, whatever “it” is, you have a plan in place so you can do the work even when it feels like work and you feel a bit lost and uninspired.

We all have those days, even when we know that being our own boss should be the best thing ever. The reality is, some days being the one calling the shots is hard (and some days it really is the best thing ever). You’re allowed to have slow days, but stay the course and don’t let those days affect the ones following them. 

A Brief Year in Review & What's Next for 2016

The beginning of a new year always hold so much potential, doesn’t it? I sort of bowed out of 2015 Irish-Goodbye-style with this blog, taking a break without really announcing it. But I had lots of time to think about the blog, and I’m back! And ready to tackle a new year with lots of big ideas.

While January 1st is, essentially, no different than December 31st, it’s too easy to put all this damned pressure on ourselves to perform better and do more and make the next year the most awesome ever (!!!!) as soon as the clock ticks past midnight.

This is my year!

Have you ever said that?

That’s exactly what I said last year (and I’d be lying if I pretended that I hadn’t thought it again this year). It’s exciting, right?

Truth be told, my 2015 was a bit like letting air out of a balloon, sound effects and all.

I started out really strong, then I became completely burned out, kinda gave up for a few months, then panicked and snapped out of it, then got fired from my part time job (a serious blessing in disguise, although I still feel crappy about it sometimes), and felt like I was playing catch up for the remainder of the year. Financially, my business performed almost exactly the same as 2014. Emotionally, I was up and down. 

Here’s why I’m telling you this: I’m okay.

Yep, I had a tough (but not terrible) year, trying to figure out a lot of my shit, and I’m still here, still enthusiastic about what the next year holds.

I started thinking long and hard about what I really wanted my life and business to look like. I also realized that it was time to do something I had never really done in the past: make a plan for an entire year. I'm talking finances, marketing goals, in person events, everything.

I've always been so reactive with my business, only planning out about two weeks to a month at a time. For this year, I’ve been breaking it all down, bit by bit. Part of what gets so overwhelming about making big plans is trying to process them all at once in a really short period of time.

I got real about what it takes to achieve big things: time and consistency.

I created worksheets for myself to help break it all down into more digestible pieces.  Sometimes it helps to write this stuff down and journal through it. Click here to download them for yourself (and join the newsletter, if you haven’t already, to get the password)! 

Lessons learned so far... 

It’s important to dream big, but create a realistic timeline for goals. And put real numbers and dates on them (I know how scary that sounds, but it’s crucial)!

Most importantly...

We have to give ourselves some grace. 

For a long time, I would beat myself up for not finding “success” really immediately in my business (I’m talking, like, 6 months in…totally unrealistic, people). I thought that just because I wanted it so bad and was willing to work my ass off, that success should’ve found me sooner. But after lots of research and introspection and meditation and journaling (and occasional woo-woo tactics, just shy of asking a Magic 8 Ball), all signs point to:

This is a marathon, not a race.

And thank goodness! I am so glad that some of my earlier endeavors did not take off and become overnight successes! Because they weren't that great! It takes time, for a reason. We need space to refine what we do.

So, what’s next for LeapRepeat and Casey D. Sibley Art + Design?

To kick off the new year, I'm starting a 100 Day Project (inspired by MJ of Pars Caeli) where I’ll be creating something consistently for 100 days (excluding weekends). I’ve done similar daily challenges in the past, but never this long. They’ve always helped inspire new work, sometimes great work! This time around, I’m focusing on 100 days of textile design. I’ll be experimenting with hand painting, stamping, or dying fabrics each day. I chose this particular challenge because I love the pattern design part of what I do the most and want to sharpen my skills as a textile designer. I also think this will tie in nicely with my overarching goal to create a plan and stick to it this year. 

You can follow along with my #100daysproject on Instagram @caseydsibley. Today is my first day to do it (and as of writing this post I haven’t actually done it yet, but it will be up by this evening). 

I also plan to integrate the LeapRepeat blog a little more seamlessly into my creative business.

When I started the blog, I thought I wanted to separate it from Casey D. Sibley Art + Design. But the more I write, the more I feel like I can offer value to you by having a more well-rounded conversation about all the aspects of creating a business AND life around something I love. And I'll dive a little deeper into the specifics of running a hand made product based business and the inspiration behind ALL of it. 

I could change my mind again in two months, but I’m allowed to do that! I’m lettin’ it flow. 😃

And truth be told, I simply want to share the journey with you.

I was feeling a TON of pressure (partly self-imposed, mostly social-media-imposed) to transform my business into a consulting model and create "passive income" (the official business buzz word of 2015!). While I’m not opposed to offering some sort of consulting, I don’t want it to be the basis of my business. And, uh, I also realize that the term "passive" is pretty misleading.

Moving forward, I want my focus to be on creating an outstanding body of creative work and sharing the process with others. I want my work AND my process to inspire both customers and others who might have an interest in doing what I do. Not everything has to be a money-maker. 

And that's the gist of it all!  Happy New Year and best of luck (and perserverance, time, patience, etc., etc.) to you in 2016! 

What about your goals for the year? Did you have any big takeaways from 2015 that are helping you shape a plan for 2016? Tell us about it!


Have a friend that might enjoy this post? Please share it with them and grow the community of support. 

If you want weekly post updates delivered to your inbox, as well as exclusive access to the worksheets library, sign up here!

How I'm Tracking My Financial Goals

Performance Review (4).jpg

I started my business for two reasons: 

  1. I was really curious to see if anyone would pay me for my art, and
  2. Once they did pay me for my art, I was ecstatic and obsessed with becoming my own boss.

Admittedly, I went into this very focused on doing what I wanted every day, and my fantasies of career freedom definitely didn’t include punching numbers and tracking finances. For a long time, I barely paid attention to those aspects of running my business.

As business picked up, I found myself feeling more and more scattered. I was working like crazy, but had no real clue how well my business was doing. And that? Made me feel like I was never doing enough.

I also desperately wanted to quit my Day Job. Without knowing how much money was coming in, and more importantly, how I was going to make more in the future to sustain my desired lifestyle, going full time on my business seemed like a pipe dream.

The first thing I did to start (finally!) tracking my growth was hire a bookkeeper.  He entered all of my monthly income and expense for a full year and had a few meetings with me to discuss how to structure my business financially. Talking to him was a huge education for me. And when I saw my numbers, I was very pleased! I had no idea that I had made that much. Ok, it wasn’t that much. But it was enough to make me feel like I had a real business.

And you know what else? It was a starting point for estimating how much I wanted to grow the next year. After looking at the monthly breakdown of my expenses, I decided that I wanted to triple my sales for each month. It was a manageable goal that was easy to track. 

However, I didn’t become a finance-tracking maven overnight and still have to force myself to stay on top of my numbers and goals. It’s an ongoing process of figuring out what works, and how to make it work for me. 

So today I want to share a few lessons I have learned and a few mental roadblocks I had to overcome to get acquainted with my financial goals.

First, I realized that pretending like my finances would take care of themselves, in fact, did not make them take care of themselves. 

I was in a terrible habit of hardly ever looking at my bank account, simply because I was afraid of being disappointed. Yep, I was avoiding financial woes by ignoring them. I didn’t really want to know how bad it was or how little was coming in (or how much was going out!). So I let it operate in the background and spent money on supplies and new product ideas and e-courses (among many other things) based on my intuition of where I stood financially.

I preach a lot about trusting your intuition, but when it comes to finances, this is one area where detailed charts and numbers are absolutely necessary.

I chose to set real sales goal numbers based on real statistics of how my business had grown in the past. 

While my business is relatively small, it has grown by leaps and bounds from where I started over four years ago. Seeing those numbers laid out, nice and neat, made me realize that. I was better able to calculate how much extra work I would need to do to triple my sales each month. I had a solid number that I was striving for, and there were a few months where I actually exceeded that number. 

For a long time, I didn’t want to commit to financial goals. I wasn’t sure if my goals were realistic, or if they were big enough. As my business has grown, the numbers that I am coming up with feel more ambitious than ever. That is both exhilarating and really fucking scary. What if I don’t hit those goals? But it’s not about hitting the mark perfectly every time. It’s about having something to plan for and getting as close as I can possibly get to that number. It also helps me understand what strategies work and keeps me motivated to try new things if what I am doing in my business is falling short.

I started setting aside time every week to bring my books up to date and track my progress on my financial goals.

Like I mentioned above, I hired a bookkeeper to help me get my books in order originally. Eventually I took back control of my bookkeeping (mainly to save a little money) and have been reconciling everything myself using Quickbooks Online (this is not a sponsored post for Quickbooks—it’s not a perfect program, but it gets the job done). When I originally took over my own books again, I put off managing them for months. It’s super easy to to say, I’ll do that tomorrow. In reality, I had no interest in doing it, so I didn’t.

I finally decided to get serious and set up a weekly schedule for myself, assigning each day to specific tasks. Mondays? Are for bookkeeping, social media planning, and any other administrative or business planning tasks. While production and filling orders typically happen on every day of the week, I make sure that the task assignments for the day of the week are done first. This has been working remarkably well for me. I’m not typically a long term planner, and have had many days in the past where I woke up and didn’t really know what I would be working on that day. Having "assignment themes” for each day of the week has been a huge time saver and has kept me very productive and accountable.

I tallied up every monthly expense, both personal and business related, plus how much extra I wanted for leisure spending, saving, and paying off debt, so that I knew exactly how much my salary should be. This helped me create those sales goals, too.

Whenever I used to think about how much money I wanted to make, I would always think of $100,000. This number was completely arbitrary and had nothing to do with how much I needed, or how much I wanted so that I could live the life of my dreams. After I calculated all of my current and aspirational expenses, it turns out that I really only need about $66,000 per year to live very comfortably in my desired lifestyle. Obviously, more would be awesome. But that number helped me figure out what my hourly wage could be, and when I factored that in to my product prices and profit margins, it helped me figure out what my yearly sales would need to be to pay myself that much.

I was so excited by this little exercise that I ended up calculating my income goal based on two more levels: conservative and moderate (the $66,000 per year was the ambitious goal). So now I have a range of income levels based on different amounts of money allocated for paying off debt, saving, and leisure expenses.

I eliminated several tiny monthly expenses that ended up saving me over $140 per month (that’s over $1600 per year).

This one may seem small, but those little expenses add up! I was paying $5 per month here, and $10 per month there on several monthly subscriptions. Before canceling them, I really felt like I had whittled my expenses down as much as I could. But over time I had gradually accumulated a hefty monthly fee for a bunch of things that I either didn’t need or didn’t actually use. I plan to revisit this purge every few months to make sure that my money is being spent responsibly on both business and personal subscriptions.

.............

I’ve been truly amazed at how setting up a few good habits has eased my stress when it comes to finances for my business. I think in the past, I expected things to just work out if I worked really hard. But the truth is, having a clear idea of what’s happening behind the scenes of my business has helped me feel more in control of my own income and well-being. 

What about you? Do you have any tricks for staying on top of your administrative and financial numbers? Share it in the comments below! 

Did you enjoy this post? Sign up for the newsletter to be notified when new posts are live, have access to the worksheets library, and get a weekly digest of the things that inspire me.

Are you handing over your power?

What should I do?

Have you ever asked this question? I certainly have. 

Truth: deep down we know what we want to be doing. But sometimes the things we really want require sacrifice, at least in the beginning. Without knowing the for-sure-undeniable outcomes, it’s scary to consider making a decision that may have negative repercussions. 

So we look for advice. E-courses. Coaches. Books. Support.

None of these are bad resources. It’s when we become immersed in “studying” and asking around to the point that we become fearful of making any decisions based on our own intuition that things get out of focus. You guys, your intuition is a powerful tool.

One thing that I do when I’m feeling pulled in too many directions by decision-making is buy a bunch of books, especially of the self-help and spiritual nature. They get my brain out of the actual decision and into understanding how I want to feel.

I'll just sit...and read...and think...and...not make any decisions or take any action.

There’s a similar focus with workbooks and exercises and homework in coaching resources in which the aim is to give business advice. Not to say that I don’t enjoy those things, immensely! But I’ve realized that no decision-making exercise or anecdotal read will relieve me of having to actually make the decision. The longer I ponder the actual decision without acting on it, the harder it is for me to move on and get to work.

The same goes for constantly asking friends, family, and business acquaintances for their input. Lots of people love to give advice (you usually don’t even have to ask!), and most of them have the best intentions when they offer their feedback. But when you go to others for decision-making support, you are also opening yourself up to their fears and resistance related to your goals. I’ve had people try to talk me out of a business idea because it wasn’t something they would do. That’s not a good enough reason to not pursue something if I think it is viable. I’ve also had many people suggest product ideas that are not something that I would be interested in pursuing. Doesn’t mean I don’t appreciate their input, but I usually take those offers with a grain of salt.

When it comes to advice from other people on which direction to go in your business, you have to take what you want from it while not letting it dictate your entire path.

The fact is, you won’t know the outcome of most decisions until you test them for yourself. No amount of advice from someone else is going to fully prepare you for your own experience in the situation.  

The same goes for shifting the responsibility of the decisions you make onto other commitments, like day jobs and family responsibilities. I kind of cringe when people use those as reasons for not doing something they really want to do. Either you want to pursue a goal, or you don’t. Saying you aren’t doing this or that because your day job is too demanding, or your family needs you, is a cop out. If you really want something, you have to make the space for it in your life. It doesn’t happen overnight. You make small shifts that add up to big change over time. 

Maybe you don’t want the thing you are having trouble deciding on. That’s okay. Totally okay. You don’t have to justify not wanting it by shifting the blame to external forces in your life.

When making decisions in your business and life, it is up to you.

Asking everyone else what you should do or seeking outside approval essentially diminishes your decision-making power. You are handing over your power to someone else and releasing yourself from the responsibility of the decision.

Get comfortable making your own decisions and accepting the outcomes as your responsibility, whether good or disappointing. Making good decisions is a skill that has to be developed and practiced. The more you do it, the easier it gets and the better you become at it. You will build your confidence, and the power you have over the course of your life will grow as well.

As I mentioned above, your intuition can do so much for you if you are willing to listen to it. There are so many paths you could take. That doesn’t mean you have to try every single one. Our intuition is really good at the process of elimination. Start there.  


Did you enjoy this post? Sign up for the newsletter! I send weekly post updates, as well as a few extra tidbits and inspirational resources that I only send to subscribers. You'll also have access to the worksheets library