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Social Media: The compost of our creative garden, Lu and Ed for Oh My! Handmade

I know, it might be a gross comparison, but they have more in common than you think.

Compost is essential to the survival and success of your garden. Social media is essential to the survival and success of most creative businesses. Too much compost produces phosphorous which becomes a pollutant in your garden, and similarly, you can often find yourself sucked into social media and find your creativity & productivity suffering as a result. One more email, one more blog post, one more update, reply to one more tweet.

Social media is also similar to compost because it creates some pretty stinky situations – we compare our lives to the carefully staged photographs and updates others post. It can make us feel in inferior, it can make us question our ethics, our morals, the quality of our work, the integrity of our designs, and even our own thought processes and how we perceive ourselves. This all too common side effect of too much social media consumption damages our roots and wilts our creative garden!

Social media can become a toxic, addictive cycle – and it needs to be broken before your creative garden suffers!

To help maintain safe levels of compost (social media) in your garden, set blocks of time for social media. Consider using a timer to hold yourself accountable and keep yourself from replying to just one more post.

When the timer goes off, ask yourself these questions:

Have you responded to all messages, comments, inquiries and necessary forum threads on your various platforms?

Posted your daily updates?

Replied to all pertinent emails?

If you answer yes to all of these, pull the plug for the day and get to work making beautiful things!

At first, you may not finish all these things before the timer goes off, but as you hold yourself accountable for the time you invest into social media and how it effects you and your business, you will become a social media ninja, tackling the must-dos for the day quickly so you can squeeze in some “play” time before it’s time to unplug for the day!

If however, you cannot unplug for the day because you work at a computer, try these options:

If you don’t need the web, turn off your internet until your work for the day is done. If you need the web to work, try a program that blocks out social media sites for a set amount of time, and to help avoid the temptation to get sucked back in, turn off the notifications for social media alerts on your phone.

Separate yourself from the addictive time suck and damaging thought processes that can be caused by social media and you will find that your own creativity has more room to flourish when it isn’t being poisoned by too much stinky compost!

How do you keep the right balance of social media in your life? We’d love to hear your suggestions in the comments! 

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#OMHG Question of the Week: How do you deal with the thorny side of business & creativity? Oh My! Handmade

Every business + creative life no matter how well planned has thorns (problems), weeds (tiresome tasks), pests (negative influences), drought (slow seasons), or storms (big crisis). Inevitably there are going to be unpleasant bits to deal with! How do you cope with the thorny side of your business or creative life and stay positive?

This month on OMHG we are talking about growing our businesses & creativity from shoots to roots-help out your fellow creatives by letting us know your tips + tricks + experiences overcoming the problems in your business or creative life.

Our weekly questions are based on our themes & kick off our #OMHG chats every Thursday from 1-2pm EST! Meet up in the comments to talk about our question of the week,  connect with other makers + entrepreneurs to learn from each other and swap knowledge. Want more? Stop by our chats to visit us in real time or click the banner below to join our members community!

We want to hear from you & share your goodness: our Shoots & Roots theme is full but we’re accepting submissions for Organization 101 in May-submit your posts here.

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Tim O'Reilly Quote: Money

…not as much as you might think.

Last year, I went into our local AT&T store to cancel my wireless account and was greeted with pleasantries until they discovered why I had dropped in. Once my intentions were known I was questioned rather tactlessly about my decision. I assured them that I had considered all of the implications of leaving + promised them that I really would be OK. (It’s been a year, and I am!)

As consumers, we are often told we ‘need’ a device, or ‘have to’ get this feature, or ‘can’t make it without’ product x. We’re happy to oblige because the reasoning used by the marketers follows logic – and you can’t argue with logic. Or can you?

Logic, so far as I have experienced, is overrated and extremely subjective.

As small business owners, we are bombarded by offers for new products and services that will make our lives easier, create more time in our day, remove hassles + stress, and create overnight success – for a price. It can be a bit overwhelming at times. I’ve also noticed that it can leave us questioning our current methods, wondering if we’re doing something well enough, or feeling frustrated by impersonal marketing. So how do we begin to sift through these impressive deals + gimmicks and decide if they’re really for us or not?

The key is understanding the real value of an item or service.

Why? Understanding the real value of anything (as it pertains to ourselves + our clients / customers) allows us to make informed decisions. Informed decisions lead to the same benefits many products and services claim to begin with. Peace of mind tends to sneak in too – that’s a nice bonus, if you ask me.

Say Goodbye to Fear-Based Buying (+ Selling!)

As I left the store I felt liberated, not just from the overpriced bill, but from the fear mindset. I was no longer letting someone else tell me what I had to have in order to ‘survive.’ I thought about it further and was astounded by the number of places we have become accustomed to feeling this way.

We’re constantly being told if we don’t buy an [insert the next big thing] right now, we’ll be left in the dust. The world will move on without us. People will consider our methods stone-aged. We will be replaced by a shinier version of ourselves.

Guess what?

That’s not true.

It’s more important than ever that we take stock before making a purchase. Impulse buying is one thing when you’re at the checkout and decide to indulge in some candy. It’s another thing completely when purchasing means committing a large sum of money for something we may or may not use. Ever hear of buyer’s remorse?

So what are small business folk to do?

I’ve made a list of the things that help us make informed + intentional purchases for our business. These are tips for BIG sticker items. Obviously, if you need some sticky notes, you don’t need to consult your accounting department.

Don’t Buy It the First Time You See It

Look into your options, research the details of the item or service, make sure it’s the right ‘size’ for your business, read reviews, contact the company with any questions you might have, Google it. Get to know the products really well. If you feel like something is missing, do the same for a comparable item or items.

Split second decisions don’t often end well. Take your time; that way when you head to the store or click the ‘Buy Now’ button, you’re doing so without hesitation because you know it’s right for you – not because it’s ‘now or never.’

Make a Wish List

When you recognize a need in your business (a streamlined e-commerce solution, automated social media updates, a ghost-writer for your blog…), write it down. Keep your real needs in front of you.

Keeping track of the difficulties + frustrations we experience on a daily basis is a great learning tool. It helps us understand our strengths + weaknesses, puts time management into perspective, and separates wants + needs into tidy piles. Knowing the areas we need to improve upon or find different solutions for allows us to approach purchases with a clear goal in mind.

That way, the next time you receive an enticing offer, you can measure it against your wish list and either a.) proceed knowing that it will fulfill your needs; or b.) stick it in the recycle bin without wondering ‘what if’?

Be Honest

We’ve all been there: a sparkly new thingamabob is staring at us and we think ‘All the big guys use these…I’ve got to get one in order to grow my business.’ Remember: small business is small for a reason. We are not the big guys. We don’t do the same things the big guys do. We don’t need the same things the big guys need.

Now that’s not to say that we can’t benefit from the same things, but being a small business means we have a bit more flexibility when it comes to our needs. Step back from the snazzy display and decide if your interest in the product is due to its popularity or your actual need. It’s fine to want things, but I’m betting you’d a lot happier waiting until you really need (and will use) that big ticket item to purchase it.

Look for an Alternative

Quite often, we’re in need of a solution and we think we have to spend a lot of money to get one. Not so, my friends! I’m guessing that 75% of the things we need (in business) can be found at a very reasonable price – if not FREE – just by doing a little dirty work. You know, if you consider Googling ‘dirty.’

Need a new craft table? CraigsList. FreeCycle. The curb. Want to automate your newsletters? MailChimp. Need to grow your business library? BookMooch. The library. Want to learn how to crochet a tea cozy? YouTube. Need a bio page tonight? There are countless free and low-cost resources out there just waiting to be found.

In terms of software + programming, I’d up my guesstimate to 85% of the things we need could be found (legitimately!) through open-source channels. We’re extremely fond of OpenOffice, WordPress, Thunderbird, and FileZilla to name a few.

…and last but not least:

If You Need It, Buy It

Only you know what is best and necessary for your business growth. If something exists that you know would free up your time, save you money, or automate a tedious part of your process, buy it. Waiting for an item to go on sale just to save a few bucks will drive you bonkers. I’ve been there, and I can tell you that the relief a useful business tool provides is well worth the money.

Bottom line: If you’ll use it and can afford it – even if it’s a bit of a stretch – it’s worth it.

Ben Franklin Quote: Bargain

I’ll leave you with Mr. Franklin’s wise words…