How to create an action plan for your craft business – so you can achieve more by doing less
It’s not always easy to make a success of your craft business especially if, like lots of other Folksy sellers, you combine your online shop with a full or part-time job, freelance work, looking after a family, mountains of commitments and just life. Sometimes it can feel like you’re working and working but not actually achieving anything. Surely there’s a better way? We asked planning and productivity mentor Josephine Brooks to show us how to make an action plan for your creative business that allows you to focus on the tasks that really matter – and get more done by doing less…
Over the last few years of building my business as a side-hustle I’ve found that having an action plan is essential to help keep moving things forwards and to make sure I’m clear on where my focus needs to be.
I’ve experimented for a long time with planning. I’ve made wildly over-ambitious year-long plans that were dead and buried by March and I’ve tried not planning at all. The problem I found with annual planning was that I just couldn’t predict what curve balls were going to come at me over the course of the year and I’d be pushed off track by month two or three. Oh and spoiler alert, the not planning at all thing resulted in everything getting done in a panic at the last minute. Not fun. Know the feeling?
I eventually found success in planning when I developed my own approach, which I now call my 3-step planning method. It involves planning in 12-week chunks; long enough to make some big things happen but also short enough to plan realistically. My 3-step planning method is simple to follow but effective, especially for anyone juggling their business alongside other commitments. Here’s the basic framework and steps you need to follow to create your own 12-week plan.
Step 1 – Find your focus
Productivity isn’t about being busy and getting lots done, it’s about doing less and focussing on the stuff that really matters. That’s why this first step is SO important. The temptation is to dive straight into the planning but you need to know where you’re going before you can figure out how to get there.
You see, we want to do all-of-the-things in our businesses. We all have too many ideas and not enough time. So, I’ve found that picking just one to three projects to focus on over a 12-week stint is enough. Any more and you’ll be spreading yourself too thin.
Picking just one to three projects to focus on is enough. Any more and you’ll be spreading yourself too thin. Highlight the projects that most excite you and the projects that are going to have the biggest, most positive impact on your business.
So, first up pick just one, two or three projects you want to work on over the next 12 weeks. If you’re struggling to get it down to just three, write down all your ideas, every project you want to get done. Highlight the projects that most excite you and the projects that are going to have the biggest, most positive impact on your business. Then get cut-throat. Take away any projects that don’t excite you and remove the ones that are on the list just because you feel you ‘should’ be working on those things. Keep crossing off projects until you’re left with just three.
Step 2 – Make your plan
Take your three projects and break them down. For each project list out all of the steps you’ll need to take to finish that project. This is probably the most important part of making your plan effective because it breaks your project down into appetising chunks and also gives you a picture of how much you’ve got on your plate for the 12 weeks ahead.
List all of the steps you’ll need to take to finish that project, breaking it down into appetising chunks.
Once you’ve broken your tasks down, plot them out over the next 12 weeks. Either on a calendar, spreadsheet, big sheet of paper or alternatively I’ve created a 12-week action plan wall planner specifically for the purpose of making an action plan for your business – available here https://www.josephinebrooks.co.uk/shop.
Before you get all excited about diving into your plan, give it a reality check. This is where you need to engage your gut and be honest with yourself, can you really make up 200 products, photograph them all, write descriptions and get them live in a week? (If you can, please tell me your secret!) If your plan is looking over ambitious, scale some parts back or just focus on one or two projects.
Spread your tasks out evenly over the 12 weeks, making note of any weeks when you’re likely to be busy with life stuff or when your job might take over.
I also often see people front-weighting their plan with most of your tasks plotted in for the first four weeks. Do yourself a favour and spread your tasks out evenly over the 12 weeks, making note of any weeks when you’re likely to be busy with life stuff or when your job might take over. This will help you stay on track and give you more chance of getting to that feel-good factor at the end of the 12 weeks.
Step 3 – Get motivated
This final part is all about setting yourself up for success because, guess what, the next bit is where the work comes in and things might get challenging. So now’s the time to put measures in place to keep you motivated and on track with your plan all the way to week 12.
There are a few ways you can make yourself accountable to your plan. Think about what’s motivated you in the past to get stuff done. Is having self-imposed deadlines enough or do you need the expectation of someone else to give you the motivation to finish projects?
One way to make yourself accountable is to announce in a podcast episode, email newsletter or Instagram post that the project or product you’re working on is going to be ready or finished by X date.
One thing I do a lot to make myself accountable is announce in a podcast episode, email newsletter or Instagram post that the project I’m working on is going to be ready or finished by X-date. For example, I’ll let my social media audience know that my new product is going to be on sale from Friday – that really puts a fire under me to get that product on sale by Friday because I hate the idea of letting my audience down.
Send a message to an Insta-friend or fellow craft seller and see if they fancy being accountability partners, so you can hold each other accountable to your goals and cheer each other on along the way.
Or perhaps for you having an accountability partner might help. You could send a message to a friend who also has a craft business and see if they fancy being accountability partners, so that you can hold each other accountable to your goals and cheer each other on along the way.
The final thing that’s also essential is to make sure your support network is in place and looking healthy. This will be your safety net, something to fall back on when you’re having a challenging week. I truly believe it’s not even possible to grow a business without a support network, so email that mentor or coach you’ve been wanting to work with, find like-minded people by joining Facebook groups, get in touch with that Insta-friend who’s also got a creative business and see if they fancy meeting for a coffee or Skype chat so you can cheer each other along throughout the journey of growing a business.
The most important thing to remember is that you started your own craft business because you wanted to do what you love, so try to stay true to that ambition by enjoying the business journey.
And there you have it, a simple but effective action plan for your business, ready and waiting to help you make your ideas a reality. Oh and a word on getting stuck into the work. The most important thing to remember is that you started your own business because you wanted to do what you love, so try to stay true to that ambition by enjoying the business journey because when you’re enjoying the process, you’re doing what you love.