Goals & Practices in Embroidery: Part 1

With SMART goal-setting, considerate action plans, and the willingness to practice your craft, you can press on and persevere

Every January, your local gym fills with hopeful souls looking to attempt their latest round of New Year’s resolutions. Though it may not make you look better in your apparel, taking the same initiative with your embroidery and digitizing skills will make your apparel offerings look better on your customers — without requiring you to cut out carbs.

With competition as stiff as ever, keeping an edge in embroidery is more and more important. Whether you are looking to bulk up your abilities and offerings, or you need to focus on your fundamentals, now is the time to take the first step toward self and shop improvement. With SMART goal-setting, considerate action plans, and the willingness to practice your craft, you can press on and persevere.

Setting SMART goals

As much as we all recognize the beginning of the year as a time to turn over a new leaf, that row of treadmills is never as full in February as it is just after the first. Though the goal of getting fit, diving into digitizing, or learning a new decoration method seems self-explanatory, having such large and seemingly difficult tasks ahead of you can sometimes be disheartening. If we leave our goals too vaguely defined, we can also feel directionless or even paralyzed by the plethora of potential avenues we could explore on our way to reaching them. No matter the specific part of your business you are looking to improve or expand, setting SMART goals and parsing them correctly can help you stay the course and strengthen your skills.

As the uppercase letters may have given away, SMART is an acronym to help you evaluate your goals. Your stated goals for improvement should be:

Specific: Rather than “I want to learn patches,” try a goal like “I will be able to create small-run patches in-house with a professional result, understand how to price them, and add them to my website as an option, including offering in-house patch attachment and iron-on patches as products.”

Measurable: Make sure your goal has something measurable that can let you know you are on the right track. Some goals, like “Make better embroidery,” are hard to quantify, but “Increase sales of hats,” or even “Get 20 positive reviews from my embroidery customers” are easy to measure as you work toward them.

Attainable: Though I am big on sky-high goals being part of defining your overall drive, the truth is that setting unreasonable goals or expecting unreasonable amounts of effort from yourself can lead to disappointment and dropping out of the process. Set goals you can attain with the resources you can reliably access. Consistent, incremental improvement that you can sustain will result in long-term gains — whereas a Herculean effort paired with the let-down of missing your mark may lead to burnout.

Relevant: As with all expansion in your business, you have to make sure it makes sense to your market, or that you have a market in mind for what you are trying to achieve, or at the least gets you closer to a long-term goal or aligns with your overall purpose. I’m guilty on this score; early in my career and serving a largely B2B space, I found myself getting overly interested in counted cross-stitch and bohemian folk embroidery. Though it was interesting and informed my overall creativity, that learning was not well aligned with my logo-heavy work. I didn’t think about marketable places to flex those new styles before I dedicated time to studying them. Though you can certainly follow your creativity, some projects are best done in your creative playtime rather than during hours that should be dedicated to skills critical to your core business model and market.

Time-based: Set dates, not only for the final result but also for regular check-ins with your progress. As part of your specific goal, set a date or time period by which you will attain it, and set dates for regular review of the work you’ve put in. This will help you as you decide on the steps it will take to get to your goal and help you get into action mode to prepare, practice, and finalize your work.

Step into action

Goals are great, and we all want to get our shops in shape, but no goal is achieved without action. Now that we’re SMART about where we want to go, we have to know what we’ll do each day to get there. If goals are the results we want to see in the mirror, actionable steps are the exercise routines that will start making the change. This is the stage that takes you from your wishlist to your to-do list; this is where we make decisions and eliminate ruminating doubt.

To create actionable steps, we have to consider what immediate actions our larger goals require. Within a given goal, you’ll need to gather the equipment, information, and assets you’ll need and make a plan for the literal actions involved in each step. For instance, if your goal was to add in-house, small-run patches to your product line, some of your steps might include steps such as the following:

  • Find classes, videos, or other educational resources that teach patch-making
  • Watch patch classes
  • Find a resource for the materials mentioned in the classes
  • Order sample materials for patch substrates, stabilizers, and adhesives
  • Have digitized or digitize a design specific to the patch process I’m learning
  • Stitch initial patch sample
  • Refine the process/design (as needed)
  • Photograph finished sample patches
  • Research patch pricing
  • Establish pricing schemes according to my shop’s costs
  • Write copy for the patch section of my website
  • Build patch ordering page
  • Create marketing materials for social media and email at launch
  • Launch product

Even simple steps may need to be broken down further into sub-steps. Finding a source for materials may mean contacting multiple supply companies to discuss materials. Each of those calls and follow-ups is an actionable task. When you go to plan your daily “exercise,” it takes more than goals to maintain the course; having clear, direct steps on which you can take action without dithering or going back to the process of decision-making can stop you from losing your momentum.

In Part 2, we’ll focus on exercises to refine your goals and actionable steps.


Erich Campbell

Erich has more than 18 years experience as an award-winning digitizer, e-commerce manager, and industry educator. He empowers decorators to do their best work and achieve a greater success. A current educator and long-time columnist, Erich takes every opportunity to provide value to the industry.

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