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This Week’s Episode
I interview Vanessa Laven, who has been using knitting, sewing, and her love of mixed martial arts to kick cancer’s butt and grow her own indie artisan business, Survival Organs. Vanessa shares her simple rules for self care for the indie business owner. Although this interview was recorded in September, I held it until the late fall because I know this is a season where many business owners in the yarn industry (and crafters in general) stop taking care of themselves and focus on production for the holiday rush.
Vanessa’s Tips for Self Care for the Indie Business Owner
- Listen to your body
- Outsource when appropriate
- Don’t skip meals
- Set a stop time — and stick to it
- Keep mobile devices in your workspace (and don’t check email before bed)
About Vanessa Laven
Vanessa started her blog, Mixed Martial Arts and Crafts, in March 2011 as a public service to talk about life after chemotherapy. As a survivor of Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma, she knew there were limited resources and supports available for young cancer survivors and she wanted to share her story to help others.
She launched her Survival Organs shop on Etsy in August, 2013. Initially, she featured crocheted survival organs but quickly moved into sewing. Sewing the organs with cotton fabric allows her to create inventory faster to keep prices lower for her customers, and friends can also use a fabric marker to write inspiring notes to their friends before gifting the organs. Vanessa currently features breasts, gall bladders, kidneys, livers and pancreas, lungs, lymph nodes, ovaries and uterus, testicles, thyroids, and white blood cells in her shop.
This interview was originally recorded in September, 2014, when Vanessa was in New York City for Stupid Cancer‘s OMG East Cancer Summit for Young Adults. Vanessa can be found online at Mixed Martial Arts and Crafts, Survival Organs on Etsy and Facebook, Pinterest, Ravelry, and Twitter. I previously interviewed her on my Underground Crafter blog here (about her experience as a knitting teacher) and here (as part of my 2012 Hispanic Heritage Month interview series).
1. Listen to your body
Vanessa remind indie business owners to always listen to your body. Specifically, rest when you feel tired rather than pushing yourself forward. Similarly, she says if it hurts, don’t do it. This simple advice can help you avoid repetitive stress injuries and illness, and also allow you to be more focused when you are working. Vanessa also reminds us to stay hydrated by drinking plenty of water during the day.
2. Outsource when appropriate
Although outsourcing is sometimes a dirty word for DIY types, Vanessa reminds us that outsourcing tasks to other indies – such as your graphic design work, photography, web development, and more – allows you to “put your money where your mouth is” by supporting other indie businesses while clearing some unwanted tasks off your plate. She suggests that you stick to the unique work you do to makes money for your business, rather than spending a lot of time on tasks that you may not excel in or which are too time consuming for you.
3. Don’t skip meals
Vanessa talks a lot about lunch, but for the part-time indie business owner who may be working primarily at night or in the mornings, breakfast and dinner are also important. Setting some time aside for a meal allows you to recharge while also providing nutrition to power your brain through important tasks.
4. Set a stop time — and stick to it
As Vanessa is a full-time indie business owner, she advises others to stop working by 5:30 or 6 p.m. A part-time indie business owner should similarly set a hard stop time in the evenings or mornings to allow time for resting, recharging, and spending time with family and friends.
5. Keep mobile devices in your workspace (and don’t check email before bed)
Vanessa leaves her laptop in her office and doesn’t check email before bed. She reminds us that there’s always time in the morning to package items for postal pick up or respond to emails. No one (or, at least, no one reasonable) expects an indie business owner to be open and operational 24 hours a day.
Vanessa’s Bonus Tips
Vanessa also shared some bonus tips for specific indie scenarios.
Self care during craft shows
- Always get someone to help you. Vanessa advises asking a friend, partner/spouse, or relative to help out. This person may help with set up or break down, or provide much needed bathroom breaks in the middle of the day.
- Bring a cooler with snacks. Vanessa always brings two large bottles of water and some healthy snacks like nuts. Since she knows her friend will cover her for some bathroom breaks, she can stay hydrated without worry. This is especially important as talking can dehydrate you, as can being in a space that is very warm or cold (as most craft fairs tend to be).
- Take the next day off. Vanessa considers the day after a craft show as her own “introvert recovery day.” She recommends sleeping in, doing things you enjoy (rather than running errands or working), and staying flexible about scheduling.
Self care when facing unwanted business tasks
- Cluster unpleasant tasks. Vanessa suggests clustering unpleasant tasks and thinking about the business rationale as you complete them to help you move through these tasks more easily.
- Outsource. Consider outsourcing duties that you really can’t stand to other indies.
- Make it fun. One of Vanessa’s least favorite tasks is photography. She blasts her favorite music in the background while taking pictures.
Self care for new business owners
- Create consistency. Vanessa’s top tip for new business owners is to create structure for your business through scheduling. A regular schedule makes things more predictable and reduces uncertainty while helping with time management. Similarly, if your business is operating out of the home, a consistent schedule allows you to set boundaries with others in your household to clarify when you are working and when you are available.
Self care during business expansion
- Reassess your business. Vanessa recommends examining your business as it expands to explore what tasks may be outsourced or phased out if they are no longer profitable. She also suggests getting back into balance by following the original tips she outlined for self care.
What are your self care strategies? Leave a comment below, Tweet me at @cyeshow, or leave a message at 646-713-8973. (You can call me for free through the Contact page.)
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