If you’re in the United States, you’re being bombarded with “back-to-school” advertising. I decided to put my own spin on the back-to-school theme by sharing 8 free and low-cost resources you can use for professional development to help you launch, manage, and expand your yarn-related business.
- Use your local, regional, or federal small business development center
- Connect with colleges and universities
- Apprentice or barter skills with a master crafter
- Participate in a blog challenge
- Take a video course
- Listen to a podcast
- Volunteer or speak at an event
This post contains affiliate links.
1. Use your local, regional, and federal small business development centers
As a small business owner, you may be entitled to free support services from the government. These services may include workshops, free clinics with legal or tax professionals, or one-to-one business counseling. Check out the Small Business Administration Learning Center or SCORE for more information.
While often these organizations have limited understanding of the yarn industry, home-based businesses, and online business, they can be very helpful in providing information about “basic” business information that doesn’t feel very basic when you are starting out.
You may also want to investigage business improvement districts, economic development zones, or related local initiatives to support small business growth.
In general, reading books is an inexpensive way to learn new things, but I’m going to share some tips for saving even more on books.
- Use your local library system. In addition to books, your local library is likely to have a variety of DVDs and audiobooks, as well as access to research databases and other resources for small business owners. Some systems even have a dedicated business branch. You may also be able to request books on business or craftsmanship via interlibrary loan from nearby library systems for free. Additionally, many libraries hold classes on-site. If your library doesn’t have the resources you need, get to know your local librarian. S/he will be more likely to help a valued local branch customer.
- Use a subscription service like Amazon Prime. I’m an Amazon Prime customer and affiliate. (You can try it free for 30 days here.) Amazon Prime is a subscription program that costs $99/year and offers several different benefits including free 2-day shipping, access to free streaming music and video, cloud storage for photos, and the Kindle Owners’ Lending Library. You can borrow up to one book free each month from the Kindle Owners’ Lending Library. Each book can be kept as long as you’d like, but you have to return it in order to take out another book. You can find the full list of ebooks available thorugh the Kindle Owners’ Lending Library here. Navigate on the right side to choose the sections of interest.
- Listen to audio books through Audible’s subscription service. Many crocheters and knitters prefer listening to audiobooks to reading physical or e-books, but audiobooks can be expensive. Audible is a subscription service operated by Amazon, and you can listen to one or two free books each month with your subscription. (I’m an affiliate and you can try it free for 30 days here.) There are tons of great business books on Audible, including those in the Business Life, Leadership & Management, Marketing & Sales, Personal Finance & Investing categories.
- Write book reviews. If you have a consistent following on your blog and/or social media accounts, approach a book publisher’s marketing or publicity department directly to request a review copy, or sign up for Netgalley, which coordinates advanced review copies of ebooks. Ask to review books that focus on the areas you’d like to develop to get the most out of your review experience, and don’t forget to properly disclose your receipt of a review copy as per FTC guidelines.
3. Connect with local colleges and universities
Colleges and universities frequently have guest speakers, workshops, and conferences that are open to the public. These events may be free or low cost. As a side benefit, you may make connections with potential student interns or professors who might be willing to use a challenge facing your business as a class project.
Your local business school may also have additional opportunities available, including free classes for small business owners. If your local college or university offers majors (e.g., textiles, fashion design, marketing, new media, etc.) that are relevant to your business, consider how you may connect with faculty and students.
4. Apprentice or barter skills with a master crafter
Apprenticing or working closely with a local artisan or business owner can help you improve your skills rapidly under the tutelage of an expert. Approach a master and ask to be an apprentice or intern. This approach is much more time-intensive, so you should consider it more cautiously. You may also barter your skills with this person in exchange for private lessons.
5. Participate in blog challenges
Information on almost anything a small business owner might need is freely available online, but the hours required for research can be daunting. Many bloggers curate this process for you by holding challenges focused on improving your skills. These challenges sometimes convert from free experiences to paid courses once they are archived, so join in when you have the chance!
Some of these challenges are delivered via email, while others are posted directly to blogs. These can be difficult to find, so use Pinterest or your search engine to look for “TOPIC challenge.”
Video courses are often cheaper than other forms of professional development and you are usually able to learn at your own pace and review the materials, which are added benefits. There are many great options for taking video courses online. Two of my favorite resources are Udemy and Craftsy.
- Udemy. Instructors create their own courses and then add them to the Udemy platform. Although courses have to be approved, this allows a wide variety of styles and options to exist. There are courses on business, computer applications and technology, photography, and more. You can read customer reviews to find the best course for you. Udemy offers both free and for sale courses, and they also frequently have sales on courses, so sign up for their email list to save even more.
- Craftsy. Craftsy’s courses are curated and filmed at Craftsy’s studios, so there is a more uniform appearance. The courses are affordably priced and they offer frequent sales, too. Some of the more helpful courses for yarn-related business owners are the advanced courses in crochet, knitting, or spinning, as well as photography courses. They also offer several free mini courses.
You may also want to consider MOOCs (massive open online courses) from colleges and universities. You can find business MOOCs on edX here and Coursera here. These courses are often free but rarely carry college credit.
7. Listen to a podcast
I’m assuming that if you listen to the Creative Yarn Entrepreneur Show, you may find listening to podcasts a great way to learn. Here are some shows that I listen to regularly which I think may be helpful for growing your yarn-related business.
- The #AskGaryVee Show: This live Q&A format video show also has an audio version. It’s hosted by entrepreneur, Gary Vaynerchuk, and covers a wide range of business topics with a focus on entrepreneurship, marketing, and new media. There are several short episodes released each week. Spoiler alert: Gary is known for his colorful language, so if you are sensitive to cussing, this may not be the show for you.
- Web.Search.Social: This is a show co-hosted by husband and wife team Ralph and Carol Lynn Rivera. They focus on marketing and other business issues from the perspective of the small local business owner. Their show is muti-format and includes read blog posts, interviews, and conversations. Except for the read blog posts, they tend to be chatty. This isn’t a “quick tips” type of show.
- Etsy Conversations Podcast: This weekly show features interviews with Etsy sellers and is hosted by Ijeoma Eleazu, who I interviewed in Episode 9. Ijeoma also occassionally interviews service providers who may of use to Etsy sellers. You can learn a lot about Etsy selling, but I find the show most inspiring for its focus on creativity and inspiration.
- Smart Passive Income Podcast: This show is hosted by entrepreneur, Pat Flynn. It is usually an interview format and focuses on developing passive income opportunities.
- Tim Ferriss Show: This interview show is hosted by Tim Ferriss, the author of The 4-Hour Workweek. Tim does a great job of getting his guests to open up, and many of the shows deal with creativity, overcoming adversity, and other inspiring topics that have motivated me in my business. I usually only listen to specific episodes rather than on a weekly basis.
- I listen to three weekly author/self-publishing podcasts. These share valuable information about self-publishing and author marketing. The first two also talk a lot about creativity and the business side of being an artist or creative indie. The Creative Penn is hosted by author and professional speaker, Joanna Penn. Her guests often share insights on creativity and the mindset of being a business owner as a creative person. Rocking Self Publishing is a weekly interview show hosted by Simon Whistler. The Sell More Books Show is a weekly roundup of writing, self-publishing, and publishing news and is hosted by Bryan Cohen and Jim Kukral.
- There are two inactive shows with helpful archives you may want to listen to. How They Blog is hosted by Kat Lee. The format is mostly interviews with an occassional Q&A. The show covers all aspects of blogging. Kat is a devout Christian and many of her guests talk about Christianity and spirituality and how that impact their blogging. The show is currently on hiatus. Oh So Pinteresting was hosted by Pinterest expert, Cynthia Sanchez, who I interviewed in Episode 30. The podcast, not surprisingly, focuses on Pinterest. While some of the oldest episodes are less relevant with recent Pinterest changes, most share valuable information that you can use in your business.
8. Volunteer or speak at an event
Most conferences and events are not free or low cost, which is why few of us attend regularly. Most craft industry events (as well as blogger, business, and social media conferences) rely on volunteer staff to help things run smoothly. In exchange for your services, you are typically granted access to the vendor area, demonstrations or lectures, and sometimes even to classes and workshops. You can learn more about this option in Episode 43, where I share tips for getting the most out of conferences and how to save money on attendance as a volunteer.
You can also save on events by speaking. I share tips for pitching your proposals to conferences and events in Episode 33. If you already have an existing relationship with a company or brand, you may even be able to get a sponsorship to a conference.
Events and conferences allow you to learn while also networking. I think this is a really valuable option for home-based business owners, so try to attend if you can!
- The Creative Yarn Entrepreneurs Facebook group is growing! If you are a yarn-related business owner, join us!
- I’m planning ahead for the one year anniversary of the Creative Yarn Entrepreneur Show, and I need your help!
- I’d love to share YOUR tips and ideas in a special anniversary episode in early September. Please share the one thing that you’ve done in the past 2 years that has had the most benefit for your yarn-related business. This can be something strategic or tactical, something you’ve always done or something you learned from a podcast, book, blog, or class.
- Leave a voicemail on the show hotline at 1-646-713-8973, or send me an email or voice memo at marie AT creativeyarnentrepreneur DOT com. Don’t forget to include your business name and your name and a link to your website or most important social profile, and I’ll compile all the tips together into a special episode. To be included, I’ll need your info by August 31, 2015.
- I’m considering developing a printable 2016 business planner for Creative Yarn Entrepreneur Show listeners. Let me know if this is something you would use, and what you’d like to see included.
- I’m taking a short summer break. I’ll be back in early September with the special anniversary episode. I’ll be doing some back end technical stuff during this time, so you may notice some disruptions in the RSS feed of the podcast.
How do you save money on professional development? Let me know in the comments here or in the Facebook group, Tweet me at @cyeshow, add me to your G+ circle and send me a note, or leave a message at 646-713-8973.
You can subscribe to the Creative Yarn Entrepreneur Show on on iTunes or Stitcher. Please leave an honest review on iTunes or Stitcher and join the mailing list. I’ll let people on the list know in advance about special guests and topics so you can share your questions.