designing an mba

should you have one shop or two?

one shop or two

Your business has been chugging along. You’ve been making a product you’re excited about when suddenly, you have a NEW IDEA!

You’re excited! You dive in! You start making like crazy.

But then you get to a crossroads.

Because your new ideas is different from what you’ve been making. Perhaps it’s a different material. Or a different product category. Or it just feels different.

And that difference raises one big question when it comes time to sell. Should you put it in your current shop or start a new one?

Should you have one shop or two?

This is a question I hear a lot, particularly since I’ve run multiple shops in the past.

And let me tell you, running multiple shops is hard.

I mean, really hard.

It’s essentially twice the work. Twice the promotion. Twice the management.

Not to mention twice the confusion for your potential customers.

I learned this lesson several years ago when I tried selling the cozy/cuff in it’s own shop. (I eventually just moved it over to my shop at meganauman.com.)

Except I didn’t really learn the lesson.

Because when I started painting, I decided to open a new online shop.

And it really did make sense at the time.

With the paintings, I wanted to tell a different story. That meant a different about page. Different language. And that seemed like a good reason for a separate shop. (It still does.)

But then I started designing textiles. Now, I was back to product design. And since the textiles were based on my paintings, I put them in the shop with my paintings.

But that didn’t really make sense to my customers, especially with the scarves. You wear scarves. Just like you wear jewelry. So why weren’t they in the same shop?

After two conversations (and a beer) yesterday, I made the decision to move everything into one shop.

This makes sense to me. After all, I see myself as a lifestyle brand. And that means all my products should be under one banner.

One brand, one purpose, one shop.

Is one shop or two the right solution for you? Here are a few questions to ask yourself:

Am I telling a different story with these new products? Be careful with this question. A different story doesn’t mean different materials or different products. I mean the idea behind the products themselves. Let’s say that you’ve been making high-end bridal jewelry, but you suddenly have an idea to make t-shirts for dogs. Your bridal jewelry is about elegance and timelessness. Your dog t-shirts are about humor. That’s two drastically different stories (and the way you talk about yourself as the owner of each brand would be very different) and so that likely calls for two different shops.

Is the customer drastically different? If your new idea is serving a very different customer, then that’s a good case for different shops. But again, be careful. We’re talking about drastically different here. If you’re current work would appeal to a woman in her forties who lives in a city and your new idea appeals to a woman in her fifties who lives just outside the city, that’s probably not different enough to warrant two shops. But if your jewelry appeals to young women who come from money and your new idea appeals to gay dog owners in their forties and fifties, that’s a pretty different audience.

Do I see myself developing other new ideas in the future? Are you the kind of person who’s always dreaming up new products and ideas. (That would be me.) If so, creating a new shop every time can be very draining. (I should know.) If you see yourself constantly adding new products to the mix, one shop for everything is going to be easier down the road.

What kind of brand am I building? Despite spending the last few years really focused on growing my jewelry business, I’ve always wanted to be more of a lifestyle brand. And that lends itself to one umbrella shop for everything. When you think about adding in a new shop, ask yourself, what do I see myself becoming? What kind of brand do I want to be? If the answer is a lifestyle brand, don’t waste your time setting up that second shop!

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Need more help understanding what your brand is all about? I’ll be teaching all things branding on Creative Live on December 4 and 5. And it’s all free when you watch live! Click here to enroll!

Brand Your Creative Business with Megan Auman of Designing an MBA on Creative Live

you are a brand

you are a brand - designing an mba

The other day, Bonnie Glendinning interviewed me for her upcoming event, The Thriving Artist Summit.

In our conversation, I mentioned to Bonnie that I viewed myself as someone who is building a lifestyle brand.

The idea that I view myself not just as a lifestyle brand, but as a brand at all, was really fascinating to Bonnie.

“Do you think it’s important for artists to view themselves as a brand?” she asked.

Not to give anything away, but the answer is unequivocally a YES!

If you are running a business, you have two choices. You can be a commodity or your can be a brand.

Commodities are interchangeable. Commodities compete on price. Commodities thrive on huge economies of scale. Commodities are all work and no play. In short, it’s hard to be a commodity.

But a brand…

Brands are full of infinite possibility. A brand can be anything. Brands stand for something. A brand is what customers respond to.

Brands are where the money is.

(To be fair, there are bargain brands and discount brands. But there are also high-end brands and luxury brands, and brands that we fall in love with, and dream about, and obsess over, and declare our loyalty too. These are the brands I’m really interested in.)

Whether you operate under you own name or the banner of a business name, thinking of yourself as a brand is essential to your success.

Having a strong brand is what allows you to charge higher prices, what makes you instantly recognizable, and what turns buyers into loyal customers and raving fans.

So what do I mean by brand?

Your brand is made up of three key elements – purpose, people, and presentation.

Purpose is what your brand stands for. It’s your WHY. It’s what you and your customers believe in.

Purpose is what helps turn your product into a statement. A rallying point. A symbol.

People are you, your team (if you have one), and your customers. People influence how your brand is perceived.

Some brands are personality brands. They thrive on the personality and celebrity of the owner or figurehead. Other brands are customer brands that focus on the mentality of the tribe. (Think DVF verses lululemon.)

One isn’t better than the other, but it’s important to understand which one is your primary branding strategy.

Presentation is your visual story. It’s everything from your products to your packaging to your website to your fonts, colors, mood, and more.

When most people think of branding, they think of presentation. But presentation, while 100% essential, is only sticky when it supports the purpose and people behind your brand.

Like it or not, we live in a brand-obsessed culture. (Personally, I think it’s a good thing. It provides endless opportunities for you and your business.)

As makers, it’s so easy to get caught up in the process or the product. But it’s the brand that your customers really want to buy into. It’s the brand that provides the potential for growth and opportunity.

It’s the brand that can really catapult you into success.

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Because building a strong brand is so important to your success as a business, I’m making it the January focus of the Honors Program. And because I want to make the Honors Program as affordable as possible, I’ve added a twelve month payment plan option! Click here for all the details!

The three types of products you should have in your line

Whenever I give a pricing talk, someone always balks about raising their prices.

“I want my work to be affordable or accessible,” they say.

Having universally low prices does not make your work affordable. In fact, it can actually have the opposite effect. It’s the quickest route to burn out, and your products aren’t accessible if you go out of business.

The key to making your products accessible is to have a range of prices.

In my experience working with makers, I’ve found that most do not have a big enough range in their prices.

Look at your own product line up. What is your most expensive piece? What is your least expensive? Chances are, the gap is relatively small.

My jewelry ranges in price from $45 to $600. That’s a pretty big range, and I’ve got lots of price options in between. Pieces in the lower end of the price range give customers a lower entry point into my line, while higher end pieces provide a bigger profit margin (for me) and give customers something to aspire to.

In addition to just having a range of prices, a good line should hit these three types of products – gateway, aspirational, and up-sell.

three types of products you should have in your line

Gateway products are the products that get most customers into your line. They aren’t necessarily your least expensive product, but they are towards the lower end of your pricing.

The perfect example of a gateway product is my Audrey necklace. For many women, my jewelry is bigger and bolder than anything they currently own. They like the look, but they aren’t sure they can pull it off. The Audrey necklace serves as the gateway to the line – something easier to wear and less expensive, requiring less commitment all around.

Aspirational products are your big ticket items. These are the products at the higher end of your price range and typically the products with the biggest impact. These are the products your customers adds to their wish list (or their Pinterest board) and dreams of owning someday.

My Maya necklace is the ideal aspirational piece. It makes a big impact and it’s the kind of necklace woman dream about wearing. But at $380, it’s also not an impulse buy for most people. It’s the necklace that gets shared and talked about and purchased, when the time is right.

Up-sell products are products that you can add on to an existing sale to get to a higher dollar amount. If you sell wholesale, up-sell is a favorite word among buyers. That’s because stores are always looking to improve their ADS. (That’s average dollars per sale.) An up-sell takes place after a customer has already committed to making an initial purchase. Up-sell items tend to be at the lower end of your price range, but, just as with gateway pieces, aren’t always the lowest priced items.

Many of the earrings in my line serve as an up-sell piece when a customer buys a necklace. Since my necklaces are made from less common materials, buyers are looking for an earring that can easily pair with their new necklace.

If your line is missing any of these items, you’re likely losing out. Giving customers an entry into your line while also giving them something to aspire to means you can have the double benefit of keeping your line accessible while also hitting a higher price and a higher profit margin that can help your business grow.

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Looking to develop a solid pricing strategy? Confused at how to go about raising prices? Or even how to set your prices in the first place? My digital workshop, Pricing for Profit, is completely revamped , with more information than ever on profit, pricing, value, and customer perception. Click here for more details!

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Pricing for Profit is completely new and on sale today only!

Last year, I had a major shift in the way I think about profit.

Instead of being an afterthought, I placed profit at the forefront of my pricing strategy.

Profit is not something to add on at the end. It’s something to plan for in the beginning.

planforprofit.024

Using this as my starting point, I completely reframed the way I thought pricing. I rewrote my pricing formula. And I started sharing this new mentality in every pricing talk I’ve given since.

But sadly, Pricing for Profit has remained sadly behind the times.

Until today!

I’m excited to announce that I’ve completely revamped Pricing for Profit, my digital workshop, to be better than ever.

I’ve created four new videos that help you put profit first, calculate your product costs to ensure profitability, create a strong pricing strategy, and walk you step by step through the process of pricing a product.

Plus, I address the fears and concerns around pricing I’ve heard from countless makers as I’ve taught pricing workshops around the world!

To celebrate this new version of Pricing for Profit, the digital workshop is 50% off TODAY only! (Sale ends Tuesday, October 15 at 11:59 PM Pacific Time.)

Click here to stop making excuses and start pricing with confidence!

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As an added bonus, when you purchase the new version of Pricing for Profit, you can join me for a live Q&A call on November 6 where I’ll be answering your pricing questions. You can purchase Pricing for Profit anytime before November 6 to join the call live, but when you can save 50% when you purchase Pricing for Profit today!

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the secret to getting what you want

the secret to getting what you want

At NY Now this summer, my booth causes a bit of a stir amongst some of my friends and fellow exhibitors.

I exhibit in Accent on Design, a section of the show where your booth package includes hard walls. It’s incredibly convenient, because it means I don’t have to drag my hard walls all the way into New York City.

But this show, my booth had something that made many of my fellow exhibitors jealous – an extra wall.

When it comes to designing a trade show booth, it’s rare that I use the full depth of my booth. I often add in an extra wall, which not only helps bring my product closer to the aisle, it gives the added benefit of some secret storage space. (And I love my secret storage space!)

Throughout the show, friends would swing by my booth and whisper, “I want to talk to you.” When they made their way back around later, the question was always the same. “How’d you get that wall?”

And here’s the short answer: (and the big lesson for this post)

I asked.

I wish it were more complicated than that, but it’s not.

It turns out that as part of the hardwall booth package, you can request additional walls in advance.

So I did.

Last year, Tara got invited to speak at a conference for women entrepreneurs at Syracuse University. Syracuse is my Alma mater, and I really wanted to speak at that conference.

So I emailed the organizers, explained why I made a good fit (I was, after all, an alumni running her own business) and asked to speak.

And they said yes.

Not only that, but at the conference, the university’s chancellor mentioned me and my success in her opening remarks.

Whether it’s walls or speaking gigs, I’ve found that when it comes to getting what I want for my business, the process is pretty much the same.

I just ask.

The reality is that most people are scared to ask for what they want. Which means if you decide to ask for things, it puts you lightyears ahead of most people.

The reason most people don’t ask is simple, they fear the no. (Or the no response.) To many of the creatives I work with have this incredible fear of rejection. And it stops them from doing anything or getting anywhere.

So let me be honest with you.

You will get rejected.

It doesn’t mean that you aren’t a good person, or your work isn’t worthy enough.

It just means you and the opportunity weren’t a good fit.

Which means you can move on to the next opportunity.

But here’s the crazy thing that I’ve discovered.

When you just ask for what you want (and you give a compelling reason why) more often than not, the answer is yes.

Conference organizers are looking for incredible speakers. Bloggers are looking for interesting products. The staff of a trade show you’re exhibiting in is there to serve you.

All of these people need YOU to make what they do possible.

And they’re just waiting for you to ask.

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It took me a few shows before I realized I could ask for an extra wall at NY Now, and clearly, many of my fellow exhibitors weren’t aware of it either. I’ve amassed a lot of knowledge over the years exhibiting at various trade shows, and in Wholesale Academy, I share it all with you. The next session of WA starts in just one week, and there are still a few spots available. Click here for more details and to claim your spot!

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how to fight loneliness as a solo-preneur

how to fight loneliness

Last night, my husband and I went out to dinner, and I’m pretty sure I talked his ear off for an hour straight.

This isn’t an uncommon occurrence, especially on a day like yesterday, where I had very little interaction with other human beings. (I’m pretty sure the longest conversation I had was with my dog.)

Running your own business is fantastic, and I wouldn’t trade it for anything in the world.

But when I talk to solo creative business owners, the number own thing they complain about is loneliness.

In some ways, it’s comforting to hear that other solo-preneurs go through this too.

I live in the country (where I’m definitely not surrounded by like-minded creative people) and I always thought that was a big contributor to my loneliness.

But I’ve spoken with friends who live in major cities who feel the same way.

When your job is to be in your studio or at your computer working, it doesn’t matter where you live. You’ll be spending a lot of time alone.

I’m totally an extrovert, and I need people for energy, so over the years, I’ve developed some sound strategies for coping with my loneliness. Here are a few of my favorites:

Skype. It seems so simple, but Skype has become a really important tool for me when it comes to fighting loneliness. Often, when I connect with someone online (or at an event or conference) I’ll suggest we get together and have a Skype chat. I have several friends where we have semi-regular Skype dates (in fact, I’ve got two tonight!) and if I get a good conversation going with someone over social media, I’ll suggest we pick a time to Skype. Sometimes I use video, other times just audio. But the important thing is that these Skype dates let me connect with like minded solo-preneurs from around the world.

Travel. I’m fortunate to have friends not only across the US, but around the world. Part of this is due to the Internet, but it’s also thanks to my commitment to traveling. Relationships take effort, and I’m not afraid to hop on a bus or a plane from time to time to get some quality time with the people who matter. If I can extend a business trip to spend a few days with a friend in a nearby city, I absolutely will. But I also make new friends and connections through traveling. Whether it’s a trade show or a conference, it’s important to get out of your regular work environment and make connections with other solo-preneurs.

Invite someone for coffee. I don’t meet many kindred spirits where I live, so if I do come across someone online who lives near me and we seem to hit it off, I make an effort to get together. (Even if it means putting in some drive time.) If you’re already interacting with someone local to you on social media, it only makes sense to take the conversation face to face. I realize that for many people it can be scary to ask someone to coffee, but it’s definitely worth the risk. It’s how Tara and I became best friends and why I’ve been working so much with Amber lately. A simple cup of coffee can lead to some amazing connections and collaborations.

Teach. For many years, I drove an hour and a half (one way) to teach one day a week at a university. Even when I no longer needed the paycheck, I still continued to teach for a while, because I wanted the connection and community that come from teaching. Now, I no longer drive to teach, but teaching online still helps combat my loneliness. When I teach a class, I have both a Facebook group and regular live group coaching calls. These give me the opportunity to interact with a group on a regular basis, and, even though I’m the one teaching, I usually leave inspired with new ideas for my business.

Unfollow. (Or step away from social media.) This last one seems counter intuitive, but I also have a pretty strict unfollow policy to help combat loneliness, especially when it comes to Instagram. Everyone uses Instagram in different ways, and there are definitely people who predominantly post pictures of themselves and the people they hang out with. (Who always seem so cool.) With lots of those images in my feed, it’s easy to feel lonely and jealous. So I simply unfollow. And if I know there’s a big conference where many people in my social media feeds are (and I’m not) I’ll step away from those social media channels for a few days. Being a solo-preneur is lonely enough without being bombarded by images of how much fun everyone else is having.

I’d love to hear from you. Do you ever feel lonely as a solo-preneur? And what do you do to combat that?

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Interested in using teaching as a tool to combat loneliness, jump start your own business, and make meaningful connections? The next session of Do/Teach starts Monday! Click here for all the details and to claim your spot!

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Who Killed Creativity?

Today I’m so excited to share a guest post from Amber Kane! Amber is a rock star when it comes to understanding creativity, and she applies that to everything, from her scarf business, to teaching high school art, to her new project, The Unstandardized Standard. Amber and I have been getting together to discuss creativity, business, and education, and we’re cooking up some exciting collaborations for 2014. But in the meantime, Amber is launching an amazing class this fall that will help you get a deeper understanding of your creative process. Thanks for sharing, Amber!

I’m one of those people that many others hate. You see, I knew what I wanted to do my entire life, or so I thought. As a child I would play school with my neighbors, and when they weren’t around, or didn’t want to do the homework that I was assigning, I would simply pretend that I had students. My bedroom was decked out with a white board, chalk board, and bulletin board (which I changed each month with a new theme). My teacher training started early.

I went to Messiah College, earned my degree in Art Education, and landed a high school position right after graduation. All seemed to be going as planned.

But that wouldn’t last.

While my love for teaching has done nothing but grown, I’ve realized that I don’t agree with the public school system, and well, they don’t agree with me.

I want to throw standardized tests out the window

I’m not one for following rules that don’t make sense and schools are full of them

And I don’t believe that Algebra is more important than art.

I spent 4 years feeling like I was David fighting Goliath, 1 year giving up and admitting defeat, finally arriving to a year of freedom and focus. Two years ago I received a letter from the administration “kindly” reminding me that art was an elective that could be cut at any time. (This was their way of telling me to stop asking questions and challenging the system.) I was angry, sad, defeated, and wanted to walk away and never look back. And while I had my one-of-a-kind scarf business up and running, I didn’t feel that I was ready to give up the pay check.

I’m not one to give up a fight if it’s one worth fighting. While there is a lot that I want to change about where I work, I fought that battle for 5 years and got nowhere, and when that happens you need to step back and reevaluate. I’ve realized that I can change the system from within only slightly, but I want to make a bigger impact. And that impact needs to happen outside of the system.

I want to pause here and define two words that will make the rest of what I have to say easier to understand.

Creativity: the ability to come up with a new idea that adds value.

Divergent thinking: necessary to be creative, the act of making many connections and solutions to a given problem. Divergent thinking is not directly tied to IQ and is commonly found in people that don’t conform.

It’s likely that you aren’t great at divergent thinking, and honesty, that’s most likely not your fault.

Last week I asked all of my students how many of them spent time imagining and student after student responded that they don’t. I have to admit, this is hard for me to understand, as I”m a stellar daydreamer and imagination rock star, but I’ve taught enough, and asked enough people the question, to realize that it’s true.

While schools make us feel bad for daydreaming, it’s actually an important problem solving skill. Through daydreaming and imaging our minds make new connections, that later solve problems. More specifically our ability to imagine helps us to determine how to share our talents and gifts with the world.

Children have wonderful imaginations, ask any child that you can find what they want to be when they grow up and they have an answer. Then we grow up, decide that our childhood dreams are just that, childish, so we push them away, and go do something that we hate. We forget how to dream, and give up. Had I forgotten how to dream, I would continue for the next 28 years to either be David fighting Goliath, (and never winning), or completely give up. Neither should be options. Instead I spent a lot of time dreaming and began to create solutions, because in my dreams I can make a huge impact by teaching you and your friends, and their friends, how to think and act creatively.

Let’s get started

Registration for The Creative Class Webinar is now open (and it’s free), you don’t need to feel like you have a creative bone in your body to take the class.

Break down the walls, say goodbye to creative block, and hello to making great art on your terms and on your time schedule.

The Creative Class is a 5 week course designed to help you understand what creativity is, how it works, and how to make it work for you.

Whether you’re a maker, teacher, parent, or all 3 this course will provide you with actionable steps to live a more creative life.

Space in the class is limited, so make sure to sign up early.

is your marketing creative?

I’ve been reading a lot about creativity lately, (I blame Amber) and I’m currently devouring Ken Robinson’s book, Out of Our Minds: Learning to be Creative. (It’s a must read, especially if you’re at all concerned with the future of education.)

In Out of Our Minds, Robinson writes:

“It is often thought that creativity is about special activities, like the arts, or advertising, or design, or marketing. All of these can be creative; but so can anything, including science, mathematics, teaching, working with people, medicine, running a sports team or a restaurant… Creativity is possible whenever we’re using our intelligence.”

I couldn’t agree more.

A couple of years ago, I did a complete overhaul of my first e-course, Marketing for Makers, with this exact idea in mind.

As makers, we tend to funnel marketing into the “business” side of our business. We make it into a “have to do” that’s about as exciting as keeping up with the books or filing paperwork.

But your marketing is way more fun (and way more effective) when you approach it with the same creative energy that you approach designing your products or making your art.

The most successful businesses are always marketing, and they are able to do this because marketing is a natural extension of their creative process.

I love this approach to marketing and I love the way Marketing for Makers came together around this idea. Whenever I go back into the content, I fall in love with it all over again.

Marketing for Makers started as a live e-course, but last year, due to the number of courses I’m currently offering, I switched it over to a self-study course. This is great for you, because it means that you can take M4M any time you want.

But it also means that sometimes Marketing for Makers gets lost in the shuffle around all my other classes.

Which is a shame. Because I want you to love your marketing!

I want you to approach your marketing with the same creative spirit you have for your art.

Which is why Marketing for Makers is on sale this weekend only!

From now through Sunday night, you can get Marketing for Makers at 70% off the regular price. (It’s an amazing deal on some amazing content!)

Click here for all the details and to register!

your story is powerful

About halfway through the first session of Do/Teach, something incredible started happening.

One by one, the participants in my class started sharing very raw, moving, and personal stories, in public, on their blogs.

I must admit, I was completely blow away by this unexpected result.

What is it about the process of developing a class that encourages such personal sharing?

In his book, Realizing Empathy: An Inquiry into the Meaning of Making, Seung Chan Lim shares the story of a friend in an acting class who is moved to tell her own story (through song) after an experience of attempting to empathize with the character she was playing. He writes, “The act of trying to empathize with an other, inspired her to tell the story of who she is.”

By trying to understand an other, Seung Chan explains, we always gain deeper understanding of ourselves.

The process of trying to get into the minds of their future students (a big part of the Do/Teach process) helped my students more fully understand and share something about themselves.

But the reasons for sharing such personal stories don’t end there.

When I teach marketing (which I do in Do/Teach) I encourage my students to let their own personalities come through. “Vanilla brands don’t create raving fans,” I often say. (My apologies for the lame rhyme.)

So many online solo-preneurs try so hard not to upset anyone. To not let their own likes or dislikes shine through. And this is especially true for those who hope to become teachers. Teachers, we’ve been taught, aren’t supposed to be humans.

But the best teachers are just that. Human. Real people with real lives and real passions and real flaws.

Seung Chan Lim writes:

“The acting teachers I’ve met go out of their way to model sincerity. They regularly and honestly shared their vulnerable personal stories with their students. They were always themselves, and rarely tried to appear like a ‘teacher.’… And the outcome of such sincerity was that the level of intimacy and dynamism the students felt in the space was extraordinary. And when they were asked to ‘take risks,’ they did so in ways you would never be able to imagine.”

Whether your are teaching a class or selling a product, you are asking someone to take a risk.

You are asking them to try or buy or do something new.

And when you present your true self, your real self, in the form of highly personal stories, you create a level of intimacy that enables them to take that risk.

I often speak about the importance of using customer centric language. “You customer doesn’t care about your process.” I like to lecture. And it’s true. To your customer, your process means very little.

So it’s easy to be confused by what I’m saying here. If your customer doesn’t care about your process, why would they care about your story?

Because in the case of these incredibly personal stories, I’m not talking about a HOW story. I’m talking about a WHY story.

I recently shared a story of a new painting on my blog. There’s is absolutely nothing customer centric about this story. But it still has appeal to someone looking at my painting, because it’s not the story of how I created the painting. It’s the story of WHY I created the painting.

It’s not a story of mixing paint or selecting a specific paint brush.

It’s the story of a real, universal, human feeling translated to paint.

Not every story you share has to be one of loss, tragedy, or heartache to have a profound influence on your audience. Stories of true happiness, of sheer joy, of insane humor – these can be just as powerful.

Sharing your personal stories takes immense courage. And it also takes a skillful editing eye, to understand which stories should be shared in which moments.

But when you do share your personal stories, it creates a powerful connection to the people who read them.

It builds a deeper level of understanding between yourself and your reader.

And that deeper level of understanding is what can encourage your reader to take the risk required to become more than simply a student or a customer. It may just turn them into a fan.

how do you learn to be a teacher?

One of the strangest things about being a college professor is that no one ever teaches you how to teach.

Unlike K-12, college faculty have no required instruction when it comes to teaching. My first teaching experience was similar to many – I arrived at grad school a few weeks before the semester started, was handed a syllabus (plus some slides and examples, since I was teaching an art class) and told to ask if I had any questions.

I was given an opportunity to sit in on the same class I was teaching taught by another teacher, but thanks to the holiday weekend, my class was suddenly a day ahead of the class I could use as an example. Not much help there.

As I write this, I’m realizing it was exactly ten years ago that I taught my first college class.

And since that first teaching experience, I’ve worked very hard to become the best teacher I could be. I’ve spent a lot of time reflecting on my own teaching style and the behavior of my students. I constantly evaluated projects, student responses, and results to see what I could change. I looked for areas of student confusion so I could alter the way I taught a topic the next time around.

I also began using any opportunity I had as a student to reflect on what works and doesn’t work for a class. This has become my default mode of thinking anytime I take an e-course. But I also found opportunities for learning about teaching in some unlikely places – like a yoga class.

When it comes to yoga, I’m definitely on again/off again. If I don’t love the teacher or the studio, I’m not likely to commit to a regular practice.

But back when I was teaching at a university in Maryland, I found a yoga studio I loved, and became a regular student.

That studio, and my favorite teachers there (there were many) worked for me because, as I eventually realized, we shared the same teaching philosophy.

That studio emphasized a very hands on teaching model. Teachers walked the room, making adjustments to individual students to help them find the version of the pose that was best for their body on that particular day. And while the yoga studio did have some rather large classes, there were also classes offered in a smaller studio, which I frequented, that often involved only the teacher and a handful of students. (Once, I was the only student. Best day ever!)

One of the things I emphasize in Do/Teach is getting inside the mind of your (future) students. It’s really easy to make assumptions about how our class should be based on our own perspective. Which is precisely why I find being a (highly observant and reflective) student such a useful tool for becoming a better teacher.

In the first session of Do/Teach, I had many students worried about the number of students who would sign up for their class. They worried that the students who were enrolled would be disappointed if the class was small, because it would show that the class wasn’t that popular or that the teacher couldn’t get enough interest.

But as a student, I love small classes! Small classes mean more attention from the instructor, more feedback, and in the case of yoga, more opportunities for hands on adjustment.

And for me, hands on adjustment is really at the core of what it means to truly be a teacher.

My experiences taking classes at a yoga studio has informed not only my experience of yoga (I get annoyed now when I’m in a class where teachers don’t adjust, especially when there are beginners) but my own teaching philosophy. After taking yoga classes, I found myself employing more hands on adjustment to my studio teaching. It was amazing how slightly adjusting a students hand could make a different between a broken saw blade or not, how a slight tweak to the angle of a torch could make the difference between success and failure while soldering. Just like in yoga, these slight adjustments where difficult to communicate in any way other than one on one interaction with a student.

And while I now teach online, where hands on adjustment, in the literal sense, isn’t possible, I’m constantly looking for opportunities to utilize this philosophy. Hands on teaching becomes a metaphor for close involvement with my students. For listening to a student’s question and giving them advice tailored to their specific situation. For treating each student as an individual and helping them make adjustments to be their best on any given day.

I believe that great teachers are made, not born. (Or perhaps I should say, they develop over time.) For many of us, we are thrown into teaching (whether it’s at the college level, being asked to teach a workshop, or deciding to launch an e-course) without any training or experience. It’s one of the main reasons I created Do/Teach.

But it’s also one of the reasons that I view every class I take (and every class I teach) as an opportunity for learning. I’m not just talking about learning about the subject matter. I’m talking about learning more about what makes a great teacher great (and a not so great teacher not so great). I’ve learned and grown as a teacher a lot over the last ten years, and it’s my willingness to learn from any experience that has truly helped me grow.

As I’ve mentioned here before, teaching can be a fantastic day job for artists, makers, and other creatives. (Especially if it’s not the traditional teaching route!) But if you’ve never taught before, teaching for the first time can be intimidating. Fortunately, we’ve all had the experience of being students, and those experiences can help mold our own teaching philosophies. So the next time you find yourself as a student (whether that’s in a yoga class, an e-course, or some other, seemingly unrelated class) use it as an opportunity to study the art of teaching. You might be surprised at just how much there is to learn!

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I couldn’t be more proud or excited as my current group of Do/Teachers launch their first e-courses! And I’m blown away by their early successes. One Do/Teacher had five students enroll on the first day she opened registration! Another had 15 sign ups on day one! I firmly believe in what I share in Do/Teach and I’m so excited to see students having amazing success when they put what they’ve learned into action. The next session of Do/Teach starts September 23rd, and there are still spots available. Click here for all the details and to claim your spot. Two months from now, it could be your successful launch that I’m celebrating!