So, I thought that a few years ago I had written a hilarious post about giving myself an annual review, like I used to get when I worked for larger companies, but it must have been lost in one of my many blog host change moves. I was going to read it over, and decide what humorous parts I could rephrase from it, as I write a semi-serious review about the last year and what I can do better to improve next year. Then I got lost in thought as I debated, internally, if I wanted to do a straight-up serious year-in-review post, or if I wanted to write a second, more humorous employee evaluation review. And *then* I got more lost as I searched through my online photo albums to find a picture of an office in which I've worked, so I could do a comparison between then and now. And there went my morning!
I have to be honest, I do not miss, one single bit, employee reviews. To get called into an office - or worse, a cubicle, where everyone around can pretend not to hear - and to get dressed down for things that you've already forgotten about, or called out on how people perceive you and you have no idea what your boss is talking about, or reminded of that one time eleven months ago when you dropped the ball on a group project... all so that your company can justify not giving you a big fat raise or bonus? Or worse, getting told you're doing a fantastic job... but that the company can't afford to give you a raise? Gah. My "favorite" (and I do use that term loosely) was getting told that I was doing an adequate job but showed no motivation to grow in the company, and that next year I should really think about applying myself so that I could move up the corporate ladder. When really, at the company I'm thinking of, the only reason I would climb up the company ladder would be to throw myself off it because my goodness, have you people MET yourselves? Why would I want a lifetime career *here*?
Hmm. Is it any wonder I work for myself?
So then. Let me call myself into the office and talk to myself about the last year.
In January, my focus seems to have been on restocking yarns, some soaps, and beginning to work on ceramic fairy doors. The fairy doors were (are) wildly fun to make and great for kick-starting my imagination, but it seems that the only person they really pleased were me; I sold exactly one. Evaluation? Either I need to somehow make it more obvious that they are doors (in spite of me calling them doors every time I posted about them, when finished, most people thought they were tombstones), or make them only as doors (take off the stoop and the add-ons like flowers and frogs), or make them just for myself. A really great idea that brought be a lot of joy in the making, but went nowhere. I never even finished the last batch of them.
I also put out a newsletter in which I outlined things I planned for 2014... about a third of those things never happened. Evaluation? This year (going into 2015) I have both a product and a marketing calender; when I'm making things, when I'm teasing them, when I'm releasing them -- not just a vague idea of "I'll do THIS!".
February's focus was restocks. I had strong restocks in all categories; February is a short month but a slow one, so I was able to focus on getting a lot of work done. I also had a small health scare, a mammogram that needed a follow-up ulstrasound and then a biopsy, that I'm not sure I ever really got into here on my work blog. Everything is fine, I'm fine, and oddly it made me want to focus on and finish things at work. Review/Evaluation? Let's do more of the same this year. Well, not more biopsies. But more making and finishing.
March saw new things, and phasing out of old things. I brought in a new yarn colorway. I started to get rid of some soap fragrances that weren't selling. I started to bring in stitch markers. I started to advertise the May-July yarn club. I added a useful widget to my online shop that will notify people when things are back in stock. I restocked something in all categories, and teased a new mug design. Review/Evaluation? I wish I had marked down all 12 soap fragrances I was phasing out this last year at once, rather than one a month. This year I have more that I'm retiring (and more I'm bringing in, so don't panic) and I'm marking them all down at once. The stitch marker thing was maybe a little more than I could bite off -- I really like making stitch markers but don't like making them out of Fimo clay. I may start looking into beads and things, so that I can make the markers without having to make the dangles first. (When you make everything by hand, sometimes you have to choose at what level you're going to start... sometimes it's easier to just go out and buy bread than start growing grains.) And the three-legged mug design. Again, as with the fairy doors, a design I loved. And everyone seemed enthusiastic online... but when I sold them in person at shows, mostly... people just asked what they were. If I have to explain what a functional item is, I may have a design flaw that needs to be addressed.
April was primarily about buttons and soap. I saw a few ceramic restocks, but nothing major, and nothing new. Review/Evaluation? April was also the month we decided to start looking for a new place to live, although we didn't announce it at the time. In retrospect, this is where the year started to unravel for me a bit. I should have stayed more focused, but I did not.
May mostly saw restocks in yarn and ceramics. May was also where we announced we were thinking of moving, and I posted that it might happen in a couple of months so I was going to put a hold on most custom work. In reviewing this, I feel torn. I don't see that there was anything I could have done differently at the time - we honestly did think we would be moving by July. But in retrospect, it seems sad and jumping-the-gun-ish. We had our eye on that place until... October, when we finally admitted it wasn't going to work. So I spent from May through October dialing back my creative spark, not wanting to be jumping into making new things when we might move at any moment. I tried not to commit to anything, and I think that both hurt my creative flow and my business -- I turned down custom work, I turned down wholesale inquiries, and I never knew what to promote or advertise because what if I suddenly had to close for a month and pack and move? Yes, in review, this is where I disconnected a bit. And yet, I still don't see what I could have done differently... other than not mention a move, and not mention I might have to close for a few weeks.
June was primarily about ceramics, with some yarn restocks. Again, in review, I look back and feel that I was not as committed to work as I could have been. I was still making some new things, and definitely restocking, but all of my dreaming power was going towards thinking of the move I thought was just around the corner.
July hardly saw anything new. And it should have. I started on my color chart posts (a long endeavor I'm still not finished with), I completely revamped my Pinterest account, and I restocked some soap. Review/evaluation? I should have been working more in this month. I should have been making a lot more; summer is traditionally slow in retail, and this would have been a great time for me to make more things and hone my process -- make a few things just to practice the making, getting better at them. But again, most of my energy was focused on ... waiting. I should have done better.
August saw a few yarn restocks but was primarily about ceramics. I started to put waiting on the back burner, starting to feel that buying a house was out of my control. I made a lot in August, ceramic-wise. In reviewing, if I had behaved in July like I did in August, I would have felt more committed to my process and my business in the year as a whole. Oh, and I did bring in a new yarn colorway!
September was a few ceramics, but primarily, Fiber-In. Fiber-In is a yearly yarn and fiber weekend-long show that I absolutely love. I brought in new spinning fiber for it, and beefed up my soap and my yarn-themed ceramics. Review/evaluation? This month rocked. This was the first month I'd felt 100% committed to my business since May. I still thought we might move at any moment, but I was determined not to let my stock and booth at Fiber-In reflect my inner insecurity and thus I made ALL THE THINGS. And had a rocking time at Fiber-In as a result!
October was spent starting to think about 2015. I had some yarn restocks, some soap restocks, and was hip-deep in yarn club... but mostly, my focus went back to moving. Specifically, not moving. We'd finally gotten a price for the property our friends were moving out of, and while we could have just swung it, we wouldn't have had anything left over to renovate the unfinished workshop into a studio for me -- the primary reason we were thinking about moving. So we decided to look for something else. The next thing we looked at fell through pretty much immediately -- I don't think I ever even mentioned it, ten acres out near where our friends Chris and Sharon live. The third thing we looked at appeared at first sight to be the thing that the universe gives you when it's done dangling those other things in front of you that it never really planned on letting work out. At the end of the month we looked at 15 acres about 20-30 minutes away from where we live now (five minutes away from where my long-time family friend and surrogate aunt lives) with a 2000 sq. ft. house and a 2200 sq. ft. finished studio. Also in October, I signed up for Lisa Jacob's The Luminaries Club, a creative business resource and group that I've already found invaluable in helping me focus and giving me support. Review/Evaluation? In retrospect, sure, I wish we'd found the potential new house first and even not found it until October, leaving me May - September of running my business as normal and not spending most of my time sitting around with my head in the clouds. But we are who we are, and unlike a Big Company Boss I'm not going to sit here and berate myself, justifying a horrible raise - or no raise - by harping on my poor performance. Instead I'll acknowledge what I did that wasn't the most effective, and work to do better next year.
November saw advertisements for the next yarn club, and massive GLAM preparation. I came back to my love of crafting with renewed vigor, because (a) I now knew exactly when we'd be moving (if we get the loan) and (b) I had GLAM to prepare for. I had a flurry of ceramic activity and I think I fired the kiln three times the last week of November. Review/evaluation? Like September, this month rocked. I had focus and a plan and things to do, and it worked. It all fell together.
December has seen a few new things, but has mostly been about reflection and planning for next year. I checked in as much as I could after GLAM, things I'd pulled for GLAM and were already written on the website were easily checked back into stock, and I had about two days where I took some photos of new items... and then the Christmas rush hit and it's been non-stop wrapping and packing and mailing since then. Work for which I am honored and humbled! Review/evaluation? Next year, if I get into GLAM, I will not promise to have new things up the week after. I still have four boxes of ceramics sitting in my office, now, two-and-a-half-weeks after GLAM, that I haven't had time to photograph and write listings for. Next year, I'll use those items to start off the following year with, rather than feeling guilty for not getting them done. I am but one person.
And that's it! That's my year in review. And possibly the longest post I've ever written on this blog. Is anyone even still reading this? ;-)
Last year in a nutshell: a few great, productive months but over-all, disorganization and my head in the clouds. Next year's plan: a girl, a calender, a plan, and ideas that are going to happen. Bet on it.