Ask the Expert: How Do I Get It All Done?

by small business expert Donna Maria Coles Johnson

Running a business where you make everything you sell has multiple challenges that other businesses do not have.


Managing and Making: How Do I Get it All Done?


Not only must you be present as the business leader, but you must also be present in the business as the product manufacturer. This is an easy integration when your business is small and you don’t have many customers. But as you grow each year, you’ll need to change how you do things to accommodate that growth.

What worked during Year 3 as a Maker and Handmade Entrepreneur will not work in Year 9. This requires a mindset shift that many people never make.

I invest the better part of my professional career as founder and CEO of the Indie Business Network studying, sorting, and curating the best practices to help you make that shift. I believe that the more of your best self you become, the more successful your business will be. That’s why I was thrilled when The Arts Business Institute asked me to share with you some of the wisdom and experience I have acquired over the past 17 years in business.

My core promise is to help you maximize your potential through small business ownership, and this is the first in a series of articles designed to help you do that.

Today’s article is about successfully integrating your life as a Maker with your life as a Handmade Entrepreneur. If you are constantly struggling to “get it all done,” there are probably some critical core activities you need to incorporate into your business. Here are three of them.

1. Begin with the end in mind.

You can be so excited about getting your product to market that you do not take the time to first think about exactly what you want your business to do for you. Until you clearly define this, you will have a hard time getting it all done because it will be hard to define what “it all” is.

Take a moment and clarify exactly what role you want your business to play in your life. Why are you in business? What do you what your business to do for you?

If you have never done so before, take a moment and now to clearly articulate exactly why you want to be in business for yourself. Be very specific. For example, “to make money,” or “to get paid for doing what I love,” are not specific enough.

This is specific: To work from home so I can be more accessible to my family, and to sell x number of products online to high-end retailers at $x each each month, so that I can save $x by the time I’m xx years old, and then hire 6 craftsmen to make my products so I can retire and travel the world selling them in galleries throughout Europe.

That is the kind of specificity needed to give you the clarity needed to define what “it all” is for you.

2. Narrow and clarify your target customer.

When Makers find themselves unable to keep track of the details that are integral to profitability, it’s often because they have not narrowed down a specific niche.

Trying to sell a product to every type of person is a nearly impossible task for even the largest Fortune 500 company — much less a very small business.

Not selling to everyone frees you to sell to the people who are most likely to buy, and this will provide you with more time to do the things needed to attract those specific buyers. Your brand flourishes because the products offered are specifically aimed at the target customers who are most likely to buy them.

The tighter and more defined your niche is, the more clearly you will be able to define your target customer. The more clearly you define your target, the more likely you are to hit it … over and over again.

3. Delegate.

Once you have defined your “why,” and you know exactly what you are selling, and to whom, you can prioritize your activities.

Only engage in activities that lead specifically to your “why,” and that specifically lead you to put you product in front of your target customer.

Everything else can fall off of the list of things “to do.”

If you cannot get to everything on the list, delegate the things you don’t want to do or are not good at doing.

This is necessarily a high level overview. There are many details that are unique to your business that are not addressed here, but the chances are good that some of the challenge to do “it all,” flows from one of these three areas.

Conclusion and Action Steps

The bottom line is that you will probably have to quit doing a lot of things so you can focus on doing the right things.

Know why you are in business, and do not engage in activities that do not serve your “why.”

Narrow down your business goals to selling specific products to a particular target customer, who is specifically defined — and skip everyone else.

After you take those two steps, you’ll have a much shorter list of things to do. You can then focus on your highest priorities, assigning some to yourself and delegating others.


Donna Maria Coles Johnson is an author, small business personality, and award-winning home-based business advocate. She is also the founder and CEO of the Indie Business Network, a trade organization providing mentoring and coaching services, and affordable product liability insurance, to makers and creative entrepreneurs across North America. Donna Maria has hosted the Indie Business Podcast since 2005. She blogs at the Indie Business Blog, and she is @IndieBusiness on Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat.


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  1. Every word is TRUE, TRUE, TRUE! After reading this I hung my head as I KNOW I should be DELEGATING more. Thanks for the nudge, DM. I always, always, always learn something new or get a nudge on something I need from you!

    • Thanks Kathy! I don’t recommend delegating just for the sake of delegating. I do lots of things myself in my business. I just make sure they are the ones I am good at, the ones I like doing. They are also the ones that feed my business and life goals. I have let everything else go. There was a time when I discovered I was delegating too much — too many things that did not have to be done in the first place. You are good at so many things, and you seem to be a naturally organized person. I am not, so I need lots of reminders to make sure I am not doing a lot of things well, but doing the right things. Thanks for reading, commenting and sharing 🙂

  2. These are excellent points thank you! To begin with the end in mind helps create the vision and the reason we start a business in the first place which can get so easily forgotten. Narrowing and clarifying is so important to success and delegation is key!

  3. “You can be so excited about getting your product to market that you do not take the time to first think about exactly what you want your business to do for you. Until you clearly define this, you will have a hard time getting it all done because it will be hard to define what “it all” is.” Donna Maria I love this quote. This is the core of getting things done and it’s only taken me 6 years to figure it out. What my business Could be, or what someone else Thinks it should be is of no help to me. Focusing on what I want it to be has made it easier for me to make decisions on what is truly important for me to do, and what I can let slide.

    • Six years is not a long time, especially when you have also been working a full-time job. If you think about it then, it only took you three years to figure it out, and that’s a drop in the bucket in the life of a business. Go Angela!

  4. Good points. Being specific is so important. You have to know exactly what you want in order to know how to get it.

  5. This! I wish I read it 10 years ago!

  6. This quote “I believe that the more of your best self you become, the more successful your business will be.”! I wholeheartedly agree with this and can see it this in my own business but also the ones I serve. While I haven’t had to delegate anything from my business out just yet, I do have a plan in place for when I need to, and I think that it really ties into the “Begin with the end in mind.” I really loved your article, thank you!

  7. Great information. I just wish delegating was not so hard to do!

    • Delegating is VERY hard, you are so right. It’s often harder than just doing things yourself, but over the long term, I have found that it’s just so necessary for any business that is on a growth trajectory. Love what you are doing with your farm, services and retail store. All so wonderful!

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