In the garden of your business, one of the hardest parts of cultivation is managing growth of your harvest. Your crops are your products and services, and even if you think you know when to they’ll be ready to harvest, they seem to have a mind of their own. The harvest is for you (selling that product = cashflow) and for your community (they are being served by your product or service). Each crop has a different harvest time – a felted pincushion might result in a next-day sale, while teaching a class might not be ready for harvest for a month, and writing a book might not yield a harvest for a year or two.
Everyone I’ve ever worked with has had the same gardening issue – completely fallow periods followed by a crop so huge that they don’t have the time to harvest it all. This often comes to a head right when you should be celebrating – when you reach a long-time goal, like landing that book deal, getting a huge wholesale order, or being accepted into a trade show. But instead of celebrating, you feel the weight of the huge harvest. Not only do these Big Projects take time and energy, but you still have to keep your regular business flowering so that when you’re done with the project, you can continue to pay the bills.
(My own experience with this came last Spring – the week before my manuscript was due at the publishers, I got the largest wholesale order of my life. I spent those two weeks editing/emailing all day, and spinning and dyeing all night, while fulfilling client obligations and weekly Starship chats. Ooof!)
There’s something about Spring, with it’s glut of trade shows, publishing deadlines, and craft show application due dates, that has conspired to overwhelm nearly all of my clients with new Big Projects. If you’re struggling to feed your crops and harvest the fruits, here are a few gardening tips for managing it all.
1. Plot your garden.
The beginning (or even the freaking-out-middle) is the perfect time to really look around your garden patch. Have you planted everything willy-nilly? Or do you have orderly rows? What will be ready to harvest and when? Every plant (product or service) you could possibly seed will have a different timeline and need a different amount of space. While you probably can’t plant everything you want to eat at once, you can think about what you’ll plant and when you’ll plant it, with an eye towards the harvest.
When you’re just getting starting, it’s all about cashflow, so you want to start planting things with a quick harvest. But as your business grows, you’ll need to offer your customers different options, which will provide you with a mix of harvest times. You may want to invest time and energy into a longer-term project which will yield bigger crops (and a more invested community).
This healthy mix is different for every business, but the important thing is that you make sure you’re able to harvest something regularly (or you have a savings plan to get you through until the next harvest). For example, I have monthly clients, quarterly book royalties, yearly-renewing Starship members, and a few one-off one-on-ones and classes throughout the year.
Remember: your garden plot isn’t just for you – it feeds your customers, too! Bring ’em to the table with something quick and nutritious and then invite them back for more and more. The easiest gardening mistake to make is investing in a long-term, big-commitment project right from the start, before building the trust of providing great service over the years. But just as dangerous is only ever offering something quick, cheap, and low-investment — some of your long-time customers will want a big, leasurely feast with you!
Even if you’ve plotted the perfect garden with regular harvests, Big Projects are going to pop up and take over. The trick is to be able to distinguish an opportunity you really want from a weed (an opportunity that doesn’t serve your long-term goals). Once you’ve decided you do want to keep that plant, you’ve got to make the space for it. Perhaps you need to scale back on one of your other plants, or you need to refrain from planting what you had planned, so that you can dedicate your resources to the new project.
You’ve heard it a zillion times, but let me reiterate: to give all of your beloved plants the sunshine and soil they need, you’ll have to say no to some project plants. You might need to cut back something you used to love, or totally transplant something that’s not serving you anymore.
When you’re struggling to give everything the sunshine and water of your attention, it can seem impossible to make the time to fertilize your inspiration. But this is when you need it most of all. The fertilizer of your business is rest, inspiration, and connection. Even when you’re at your busiest, you’ve got to take time away from the business in order to have energy when you are working. Soaking up inspiration will brighten your own light. To make sure you’re not comparing (the ultimate light dimmer!) your work to the inspiration – look outside your field of work. I like to look at paintings when I’m burnt out with writing, or go running with music after a day of business-flying.
What do you do to tend your garden during periods of intense growth?
PS. Need the help of an experienced gardener? Check out a Flight Plan session for plotting your next Big Project.
Come chat with Tara Swiger and #OMHG from 1-2pm EST this Thursday (April 25) on harvesting our creative bounty and strategies for surviving success!