How To Find Thrilling, Interesting, Awesome New Blogs To Read

find new blogs
“Uuuuugh, everything on the internet is just listicles and reaction gifs.”
“Nobody uses punctuation anymoooooooore!”
“If I see another pale pink or gold anything I’m going to dig my eyeballs out with this spoon.”

Such were the complaints leveled against blogging at my most recent Internet Lady Brunch.
As we sipped our overpriced lattes, my ladies and I opened up our RSS feeds and tried to recommend blogs to each other.

Were any of us reading anything the others should know about? Was anyone writing interesting, hilarious, weird, personal stuff? Was there an oasis of good writing somewhere among the Buzzfeed lists? Not that we could find.

I realize, of course, that I’m just as guilty of listicles and caps lock as anyone else.  And if you hire me to help with your blog, I’ll tell you with a sigh that, yes, you should probably be writing how-tos and list posts BECAUSE THAT ISH WORKS.

Be that as it may, I miss the joy of discovering a new blog or Twitter feed or Instagram account that I immediately tell my BFF about. I miss becoming so emotionally involved in a blogger’s life that when they break up with their boyfriend I send them a pep talk email.*

So in the name of refreshing our RSS feeds, making new online friends, and finding new reading material for this, the back-to-school season, here are my five favorite ways to find awesome new blogs.

1. Go to a blog you know/like/trust and click through their sponsors and ‘friends’ tabs

In a perfect world, every blogger is intentional and selective about the sponsors they accept; they (hopefully) choose sponsors they know will resonate with their readers. Take advantage of that curation and click through! I discovered some of my favorite blogs because they bought ad space on Yes and Yes!

2. Click through the comments on your favorite blogs

Do you love the DIYs and recipes of A Beautiful Mess? So do all the commenters – and I bet a lot of them have sweet, DIY-filled blogs. Do you like the motherhood, family vibe on Bleubird? Her comments are probably filled with other mommy bloggers.

3. Use Feedly’s ‘You Might Also Like’ tool

I looooove Bitches Gotta Eat and The Toast. Feedly was kind enough to point me towards The Bloggess, Waiter Rant, McSweeney’s (dur, Feedly. I know.) and ReductressInto ’em. Every last one.

4. When you read something you particularly love on a big site, see if the writer has their own blog

Many of my favorite writers at Xojane have their own sites as do the writers at Jezebel and Ravishly!

5. Click through link roundups and then subscribe in an RSS feed

If I had a nickel for every time I found an awesome blog through a friend’s link roundup and then forgot about said blog … I’d have like 85 cents. If you find something or someone awesome, follow along somewhere – on Twitter, Facebook, in an RSS feed or subscribe to their newsletter. Do something so you won’t lose them in the shuffle of Buzzfeed lists and photos of lattes.

My favorite blogs/Instagram feeds/Twitter feeds you might not know about:

1. Bitches Gotta Eat
Hilarious, moving essays about dating, food, race, family.

2. Adulting
EVERYTHING KELLY WRITES IS SO SMART AND USEFUL.

3. Hommemaker
If David Sedaris wrote about interior design this is what it would sound like. His Instagram feed is also spot on.

4. Dallas Clayton’s Instagram feed
Sweet, funny, inspirational illustrations all the live long day.

5. Ruby etc_’s Instagram feed
Funny, awkward sketches of daily life. (One of my favorites is ‘Foods that are lying about being food and their real names.’)

6. Kate Henning’s Twitter feed
Sample: “Does anyone know which Godard film this is from (picture of Cookie Monster)”

7. Kara Haupt’s Twitter feed
Sample: “Either your life is falling apart or you’re dehydrated, so drink some water before you decide.”

Anyway! How do you find new blogs? Where do you read them – in your actual browser? Feedly? Blog Lovin’? And pleeeeeease tell me what you’re reading and following that I need to know about!

* which I’ve totally done. Twice.

P.S. If you want to befriend any of your favorite bloggers, here’s how.

photo via death to the stock photo // cc

11 Articles That Your Business Wants You To Read

cats-on-the-internet

print via phil jones

Summer is winding down, guys! Weeeep! I’m taking an entire week off for family stuff, splashing along the north shore of Lake Superior, and doing some ‘bigger picture’ ‘long term’ ‘business visioning.’ (Meaning I’m thinking about how I can make a million dollars on some sort of cat-related app.)

Anyway, I’ve gathered up the best, most helpful things about self-employment, creativity, productivity and general internet awesomery! Just for you!

What happens when you’re ‘famous’ on social media? 
The truth is, our technological leaders have built these tools in a way that explicitly promotes the idea that one’s follower count is the score we keep, the metric that matters.

I’ll be working my way through these when I get back from the lake! 20 epic blog hacks in less than 20 minutes!

I’m co-signed on all of these: 10 simple ways to prioritize what you love. (I particularly like/struggle with number five.)

I loved Hillary’s unwritten rules for ‘making it’ as a freelance digitial creative. Good reminders for all of us.
Make friendly, specific requests of the heroes or colleagues you admire. Tell them what you like about them, and ask what their skill development/support/book recommendations might be. If you’re feeling ballsy, you can also offer your services to support them and get closer to their work.

I really appreciate it when online people are transparent about how they make money (here’s how I make money and here’s why I post what I post). I liked Bri’s honest breakdown of how she and the Design Lovefest team earn their keep.

Useful. 15 Smart Things To Say That Will Reassure People That You’re A True Professional.

I’ve been there, girl. How to schedule your week when you work fulltime AND freelance.

Equal parts terrifying and beneficial: Why you need to clean your list and dump the people who aren’t reading.

Do you want your packages to sell out? (Dur. Yes.) Here’s how to package them so they do that!

Gaaaaah! It happens to the best of us. What to do when a professional relationship falls apart.
Some judgment reveals more about the speaker than the recipient, but if you’ve heard the same critique from several people, maybe it’s time to be honest with yourself. If multiple people have commented on your tardiness or typos, think about how you can right your ship and do better in the future.

If you’re thinking of hiring a VA, read this first.

Hope you’re enjoying the end of your summer, guys!

The Bizarrely Obvious Money Maker I Always Forget About

make more money
Here’s a serious question for you guys:

What sound do you make when you realize something painfully obvious? What do you do when someone says “I’m sure you’re doing this already but ….” and then says something that you should, yes, be doing BUT SOMEHOW TOTALLY AREN’T?

Depending on the source, I either:
a) tip my head back, look up at the ceiling and say “Oooooohhhhhhhh…..” in a sort of overwhelmed/nasal-y manner
b) mumble “Oh, sure yeah. Coolcoolcool. Just a sec. I’ve juuuuuust gotta run to the bathroom.” And then I make a note of said obvious-yet-somehow-not-completed-task in my phone

If you’re a human or a business owner or service provider you’ve probably had your fair share of these moments. I know I certainly have. (I’m currently rating about one per month.) And because one person’s Obvious is another person’s You’ve Just Blown My Mind With This Information, I’m going to tell you about the bizarrely obvious source of income that I just remembered – and how I made a very tidy profit with two emails.

So here’s the not-so-secret: it’s easier to sell things to people who have previously bought things from you. So if you have something new, sell it to them first at a discount.

Duh, right? And yet it took me four years of self-employment to realize this and apply it to every area of my business.

In May, my lifestyle blog Yes & Yes was gorgeously redesigned by Kim Lawler, resulting in bigger sidebar ad space. My sponsorship program is quite popular – most months I can actually pay my rent with it! (Here’s how)

But summer is slow on the internet and sponsors weren’t biting. So I emailed everyone who’d ever purchased ad space on Yes & Yes and offered them a 15% discount if they booked ad space by the end of the month.

And I made enough for two months of rent.

On the 25th, I sent a friendly email to the people who hadn’t responded, reminding them that the offer was about to expire and I made another month of rent.

“That’s great and everything, Sarah, but I don’t sell ads on my site,” I hear you say.
But you can apply this to just about anything!

Here’s how:

Step 1. Collect and group the email addresses of all your previous clients/customers/sponsors.
For me, this means one list of people who have purchased my travel ebooks, one list of writing clients, one list of blog sponsors, and one list of consulting clients.

For you, this might mean a list of people who’ve purchased jewelry from your Etsy shop, a list of graphic design clients and a list of people who bought your art prints. Or maybe it’s a list of your one-on-one health coaching clients, a list of people who bought your cookbook, and a list of people who bought your homemade jam.

Step 2. When you make something you know will appeal to one of your previous customer groups, tell them about it. Give them a discount as a thank-you for their business and as a way to test out your new offering. You’ll get business and feedback, they’ll get your shiny new offering/jewelry/jam at a discount!

Have you had any head-slappingly-obvious business epiphanies? If you have, please leave them in the comments – you never know who else needs to be reminded of those things!

photo by jorge franganillo // cc

How To Ignore Emails Without Alienating Everyone


Friends, raise your hand if you live in your inbox.

(98% of the internet raises their hand. One person in the back is busy flicking through Instagram and eating a messy, sprinkle-covered donut so they don’t hear me, but they probably live in their inbox, too.)

It sounds melodramatic when I say that email is a complex, emotionally-charged issue – but hear me out.

Many of us gauge our success by how full that inbox is – how many client inquiries we get, how many requests for interviews we receive, how many sweet, ‘I loved your post!’ notes find their way to us. If the inbox is too empty, we feel unpopular.

But most of us are also compleeeeeetely overwhelmed. We subscribe to too many newsletters. We get CCed into ridiculous email chains about where to meet for happy hour. We’re asked questions that could so, so easily be googled. If the inbox is too full we panic, ignore everyone, and eat an entire bag of cheese curds while binge watching ‘Silicon Valley.’*

Unfortunately, most of us are used to same-day, within-a-few-hours email responses. I’m one of those over-eager a-holes who has propagated this, mostly in an effort to JUST HURRY UP AND EMPTY MY INBOX. Constantly checking and replying to email serves no one. It ruins your concentration and creates unrealistic expectations.

So what’s the solution?

1. You (and I) could grow some self-control** and limit ourselves to twice-a-day email check-ins, responding to email just once a day. If we were really smart, we’d do this after we’ve done our creative work for the day.

2. When we start working with a new client, vendor, or collaborator we could make them aware that we’re Once-a-day Email People. We can share our collaboration guidelines and gently teach them how to treat us.

3. We could create a witty, on-brand autoresponder that answers common questions, directs people towards commonly sought pieces of information or sets expectations for response time.

Alexandra Franzen’s 2013 autoresponder

Hello, friend …

Life is wild. Your inbox? Probably even wilder. (Mine, too.)

So: I’m trying a little email-experiment to create some breathing room in the midst of the madness.

I’ve rounded up the top 10 topics that most people email me about — and I’ve answered every single question, right here.

If your email falls under one of the top 10 topics, consider this note your official response. (Ta da! Happy trails.) 

If your email pertains to some other topic — or if you’re my mom, my literary agent, my publisher, in the media, an active client, or, like, the ghost of Oscar Wilde — you’ll get a separate response from me as speedily as humanly possible.

Thank you kindly. 

:: A

–  –  –  –  –  –  –

If you wrote to me because …

1. You’re interested in booking a 1-on-1 VELOCITY session with me.
Splendid. I’m currently booked up for the rest of 2013, but you can hop on my just-in-case waiting list to find out when the doors are swinging open, again. Drop your name + email address on this page.

2. You want to come to one of my Write Yourself Into Motion workshops.
YES! I’d love to have you. My 2013 workshop tour is sooooold out, but you can plop yourself on the just-in-case waiting list right here
. (You’ll also be first in line to register for 2014 ‘shops + events.)

3. You want me to participate in your online event / virtual mastermind / teleseminar.
I’m flattered. Right now, I’m strongly focused on non-virtual speaking gigs, so I’ll probably (politely) decline your invitation. You’ll hear from me, personally. And thank you.

4. You want me to teach at your live event / conference / retreat.

I’m honored. I’ll respond when I can. I love face-to-face shindigs.

5. You want to interview me for your magazine, podcast or blog.
How delightful! I’ll respond when I can (and my answer will probably be YES). In the meantime, you can scope out my favorite interview topics + grab my headshot and bio, over here.

6. You’re looking for a web designer (or virtual assistant, or illustrator, or personal shaman) and wonder who I’d recommend.
All of my favorite humans (and tools) are curated right here. (You can even take a detailed backstage tour of my business, over here.)

7. You have a question (about your life, your business, or your writing) and wonder what I think about it.
I love inquisitive + curious people, but I appreciate self-reliant people even more. 😉

I recommend using the almighty Google (and your own intuition) to answer your own question. Because you are so darn smart. And because I probably won’t send a personal response for a very long time (or maybe at all.)

8. You bought one of my digital products but never received a download link. (Or the link expired.)
Your download link was delivered to the email address associated with your PayPal account. Check that inbox, first.

Don’t see it? Check your spam box, too.

9. You’re doing amazing work in the world and wonder if I’ll help you promote it (with a tweet, a shout-out to my readers, a fireworks ceremony, etc.)
I’m so proud of you. But unless I’ve personally experienced your work, have collaborated with you in the past, or consider you a close + trusted friend, the answer is probably “no.” Thank you for understanding.

10. You just want to say “hello” and introduce yourself
I think that’s grand. I’ll respond when I can. (And if your note happens to include a sweet compliment or a nice story, I’ll put it in my Permanent Happy File. And keep it. Forever.

Keep reaching out to people you dig.

Rachel MacDonald’s autoresponder

Hi there, 

Lovely to hear from you. 

I’m currently spending significantly less time in my inbox — *however,* let me see if I can help you with your inquiry right now. 

Below are a handful of responses to the questions that frequently land here, that may just help: 

When are you running Bright-Eyed & Blog-Hearted again? I missed the
last enrollment, but MUST get on board (lemme in!)
Sad news: Enrollments are closed until 2016. 

Can I hire you as my coach?
I’m currently (gratefully) completely booked for 2015. 

I’ve created a new product. Can you please review it/ write me a testimonial?
Huge congrats on your new offering. I’ve had to significantly pull back on reviews and testimonials (but thank you so much for asking). May your launch be a smashing success. 

Can I guest blog for you? Can you guest blog for me? Can I interview you?
To laser-focus on my own writing, I’m not currently doing interviews and guest posts (and I don’t feature guest posts on my site.) Know that your request has been received with a smile and much gratitude. 

I work for brand/ advertising agency and want to feature an ad on your site/ talk about sponsored posts. 

My site is ad-free, and sponsored posts aren’t part of my editorial mix. 

I’d also love to point you in the direction of the two eBooks I wrote with my dear friend Tara Bliss — Spirited and the Spirited 2015 Companion — in which we explore a lot of the themes and big life stuff that we’ve learnt on our own journeys and as coaches.

If you’re a gorgeous coaching client of mine, you are my priority and I will be in touch very soon.

Thank you again for reaching out,   

Rach x

Jess Larsen’s auto responder

Hi there,

Thanks so much for your email — you rock, and I’m so glad you got in touch. I’ll make sure I get back to you as soon as I can, usually within the next two business days. 

In the meantime, here are the answers to some commonly asked questions:

 * What’s the correct way to use semi colons?

Damned if I know! No — jokes aside, someone asked me this the other day, and I think it’s something that a LOT of people struggle with in their writing. If you’ve been throwing these little guys into your work without *really* knowing what you’re doing, here’s a great explanation to get you on the right track (includes a picture of a gorilla in a party hat — you’re welcome!) –> http://theoatmeal.com/comics/semicolon 

* What’s your favourite word?

This month: ‘trollied’ and ‘tangential’. Extra brownie points if they’re in the same sentence. 

* I want to write a book. What’s the best way to get started?

Check this out –> http://www.hellowordsmith.com/stop-wishing-start-working/ 

* Do unicorns exist?

Yes. (Duh!) 

All love,
Jess

Connie Chapman’s autoresponder

Hello!

Thank you for taking the time to get in touch. This is a little note to let you know your email has been received, but please allow 2-3 days for a response. 

In the meantime, perhaps some of this may be helpful…

+ Interested in working 1:1 with me?
I have now re-opened my coaching calendar for the second half of 2015 and I am taking bookings for new clients. 

Read more about my 1:1 Coaching Programs here.

Or email connie@conniechapman.com if you would like to book a complimentary 20 minute Discovery Session to explore which coaching option is best for you. 

+ Want to interview or feature me?
Thank you so much for thinking of me! These days I am dedicating less time to interviews and guest posts, but I am still interested to hear about your opportunity. I will be back in touch to let you know if I can be a part of it. 

+ Want some support?
I am unable to provide coaching guidance via email, as I reserve this level of support for my 1:1 clients. 

Instead, please feel free to;

1) Check out my blog which is jam-packed full of beautiful, life-changing wisdom and tips.

2) Join my signature 3 month online program The 90 Day Transformation Project.

3) ) Download a copy of my Guided Mediations For Inner Transformation Album to create more inner peace, balance and bliss.

4) Tune into an episode of Awaken Radio for some soul-stirring conversation. 

Finally, I love connecting on social media so come and hangout with me on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram.

If you are one of my 1:1 clients, you are my priority and I will back in touch with you asap.

With love,
Connie x

….

Amazing, right?

If I emailed any of these ladies, I’d know when or if to expect a response and I’d know more about their work.

When Alex and I were emailing back and forth about the art of auto responding she shared her clever, clever formula:

– a brief description of what you’re doing right now, where you are, why this auto-responder is turned on.

– some expectation setting: “you can expect to hear back from me by…” or “I generally respond to emails within xx days…” or “I get back from my trip on DATE, and I’ll be digging into my emails then…”

– at least three delightful things that the email sender can do while they are waiting for a personal response.

– cool song and/or video.

One enormous side note about using auto responders:

If you regularly correspond with someone – if they’re your client, your close friend, a vendor, or you’re in the middle of an important email exchange – turn the autoresponder off for them. It can feel impersonal and unprofessional to receive an auto responder from someone you email every day.

Here’s how to turn off your autoresponder for specific people in Outlook and here are instruction for Gmail.

How do you feel about auto responders? Helpful for managing expectations or annoying and impersonal? If you know of anyone else who has a particularly good auto responder, leave links in the comments!

* Or is that just me?
** If you know how to do this, please teach me

photo by Death To The Stock Photo // cc

12 of the best, most helpful articles about blogging/business/creativity

1761023_8202819_pmprint by heymonster

I found the best things on the internet for you! Here they are!

Somewhat related to blogging: yesterday I wrote about my decision to choose my life over a book deal. It was, as I’m sure you can imagine, a pretty tough decision.

30% of Erika’s traffic comes from Pinterest. This 4,000-word post shares everything she knows!

3 options if you’re bad at what you love.

Want to build a business that fits your lifestyle? Here’s how.

Yessss! Write your social media updates in batches and pre-schedule them!

Do you get mental fatigue? I always referred to this as ‘psychic weight’ but I loved this article that
a) validates that it exists
b) shows us how to deal with it
Even some of the common ways in which we pass the time when we are taking a break—presumably for the purpose of refreshing our minds—probably fatigue us even more and should be avoided if they occur just before we have to be on top of our game. For example, if you often turn on the news or check out a news website that reports on the latest tragedy or an upsetting political development, it can require a good deal of self-control to manage a knee-jerk reaction to these kinds of stories. So avoid these activities before you have to be at your best.

I’ve been using the 1-3-5 method for my to-do list and it’s sooooo much more sane and sustainable than my old 20-bullet point lists.

Have you heard of The Noun Project? Thousands of icons you can use for anything?

When I create new services I usually just email previous clients and say “Hey! I’m doing this thing now!” (super profesh, Von Bargen.) But did you know you can ‘launch’ services – even if they’re available all year round? Maggie Patterson talks about how she did it here.

Clever, clever, clever. How to hide an image in a WordPress post.

Creating healthy business boundaries can be hard. Norma has a five-step process that makes it easier.

Micromanagers are Le Worst (I know because I can be one). But with a bit of finesse you can manage your micromanager.

If you read or wrote anything super helpful to bloggers or business owners, leave your link in the comments!

How To Turn Your Online Community Into Offline Friends

This guest post comes to us via Beth Maiden, She’s a tarot reader, writer and facilitator based on a little boat in Manchester, UK. She helps people to develop their own unique approach to tarot, build their card-slinging confidence and explore themselves through those 78 cards. She’s the creator of the Alternative Tarot Course and the Alternative Tarot Network.

blog friends
When I started my blog nearly five years ago, I had no idea that people out there would even want to read it, let alone invite me into their homes. But a few months ago, that’s exactly what they did! I spent two whole months Greyhounding around the US from Portland OR to New York, meeting and geeking out with a bunch of awesome people who share my interests.

A little background. My name’s Beth Maiden, and my blog and business is Little Red Tarot. It’s a resource for anyone curious about tarot, from total newbies to experienced readers, with a really strong focus on alternative perspectives on a craft that is steeped in often bewildering traditions. My income comes from different sources including one-to-one tarot readings, the Alternative Tarot Course, and my little online shop – but it’s all fueled by my blog.

As readership has grown over the years and my business has developed, I’ve seen some really awesome stuff happening in the periphery. Firstly, in the comments – where more and more people are piping up with their own ideas, and offering each other, and me, support and love.

Secondly, in my inbox, where I now receive a whole bunch of emails every week from people thanking me for ‘creating this space’, or replying to thoughts I share with my mailing list. And thirdly, on Twitter, where I get to geek out with fellow tarot-lovers and discuss card meanings, new decks and so on.

This is all very nice indeed, of course! Most bloggers want to create this kind of buzz around their work, and I think many of us are excited about the online communities we’re active in. I wondered if it was possible to take that sense of community and explore it in real life.

Here’s how I took my blog from a simple website to a network of enthusiastic tarot geeks, and eventually wound up couch-surfing across the USA.

ta-road-trip

1. Make friends with readers by helping them out

My blog is chatty, down to earth and accessible. The emails I get from my readers let me know that they find a load of helpful resources here where they’ve found other tarot sites to be intimidating. I regularly ask Little Red Tarot readers what they like to talk about and how I can help them, and then provide content that answers these needs. It’s fun for me to know I’m being genuinely useful, and it makes readers feel listened to.

2. Keep it personal

There’s a load of information out there about how to get fewer emails, how to prevent people from contacting you. I’ve taken the opposite approach. I actively encourage folks to get in touch with me and tell me what they’re up to or what they’re struggling with and reply to everyone. Sure, it takes time, but without personal relationships, my business is nothing.

I also send out friendly emails to my bits and bobs list, letting people know what’s happening in my life and in the tarot world. Sometimes these get really personal, like when I moved house or when my dog died, I found a lot of support through people replying to my emails and sending warm wishes. People feel like they’re part of a community – it’s not just a one-way process.

Photo-07-03-2015-11-16-41

3. Play with online/IRL boundaries

Almost my entire business and community interaction takes place online. That’s great ’n’ all, but I really wanted to know how my relationship with a regular blog commenter or Twitter friend would work in real life.

I put out a note in an email to my list, asking if anyone would be up for hanging out. I got so many replies! I got a big map of the US and started putting pins in, somehow putting together a route. And then I just did it!

But it’s not just about meeting up in person. I still consider many of my readers my IRL friends because of the quality of our interactions. Talking tarot over a glass of wine with you is one of the greatest pleasures in my life, but it’s also amazing to talk over email.

4. Do the things that bring you joy and be prepared for change

When you start an online business, you read so much information about all the different things you need to do, the best ways to market yourself, which social media platform is the one you need, how to be ridiculously productive, how to make six goddam figures in your first ten minutes and all the rest of it.

All that really matters is that you do what you love and what feels right for your life and business. Earlier this year I knew I had had enough of sitting behind a screen, even though my community was awesome and I got so much joy from my online interactions. I wanted to know want these people looked like in real life, how they spoke, how they did tarot. I wanted to move! To talk over a brew or a glass of wine rather than via my blog. More than anything, I wanted to connect.

So I did it. I asked people, they said yes, and what else was there to do? I headed off and had a grand old time – I went to the launch party of a super cool new queer tarot deck, camped out in a trailer, went sailing in New Orleans, created a truly transformative new moon ritual in a woodland cabin, met one of my first ever internet friends, did a comedy run through of a new tarot deck with one of my most prolific commenters, went to the best queer festival in the world ever, read cards on the road for strangers and loads more.

Photo-22-03-2015-18-28-06

As soon as I got back, I launched a social network. It was so clear that my growing community of tarot people is special and amazing and needs a special amazing place to hang out. It’s no replacement for online interaction, but it brings people together so we can all feel part of something. And that is the best way I can think of to do joyful, sustaining, sustainable business.

Where am I going with this? I’m not suggesting everyone reading this heads off on a road-trip and meets their blog folllowers… though hell, why not? It’s this more general thing about community. If you have a bunch of people around your blog, and they like you and what you do, nurture them. Talk to them. Invite them in. You never know where they might take you.

Have any of you organized on offline meetup for your readers or clients? If you have, tell us all about it in the comments!

P.S. The Network of Nice is a great, free way to make friends online, test your offerings, or get feedback. If you’d like to be involved, take a look through some of our previous editions and if feels like the right fit for you, email me at sarah (at) yesandyes (dot) org with 100-ish words with your non-promotional, un-Google-able hookup offer or request! (Hookups can’t contain any live links or business names.) 

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The One Time It’s Actually GOOD To Compare Yourself To Others

compare-yourself
Friends, permit me to begin this post with a personal anecdote followed by a (potentially) heavy-handed business metaphor.

A few years ago, I decided to undertake the white girl’s right of passage: the novelty 5k. Yes, like everyone else in your Facebook feed, I signed up for some color run/mud run/well-intentioned fundraiser run and then proceeded to question that decision.

But like the try-hard that I am, I downloaded a Couch-to-5k app and proceeded to train my ass off. I bought cute pink sneakers and started doing that walk/run interval thing that every training program suggests.

Walk run walk run walk run run run

Despite what seemed like a fairly sane training program, I found myself incredibly winded and exhausted. “Maybe I’m even less fit than I realized? Do I have lungs the size of almonds?”

I kept training and I kept feeling overwhelmed and exhausted. On a whim, I invited a veteran runner friend to join me on a training run; at least I’ll have a companion and witness to my misery, I reasoned.

When my friend met me, I explained my interval training program and we took off at a brisk walk. When my C25K app beeped, I broke into a what I thought was a jog. I did what I thought I was supposed to be doing, going at a pace I  thought I should be going.

“Whaaaaat are you dooooing?!” my friend yelled from 10 feet behind me. “Why in the name of Nike are you sprinting right now?”

But I didn’t know I was sprinting.
I thought I was ‘jogging.’

I thought I’d set realistic expectations for myself, when – in fact – they were ridiculous and unsustainable. And I didn’t realize that until I showed my friend what I was doing.

The goals we make for our businesses and online lives are very frequently private. They’re often based on what we want for ourselves – more Instagram followers, more clients, more traffic, more money. They’re not always based on what’s sane, sustainable, or realistic.  We might not even know we’re setting ourselves up for stress and heartbreak because we’re so busy playing our cards next to our chest.

The moral of this story, dear reader, is that we might be sprinting when we should be jogging. We might be expecting to land a book deal when a self-published ebook that earns $1,000 might be more realistic. We won’t know the difference unless we open up to our friends and peers about what we’re trying to do and where we’re trying to go.

Let’s commit to building honest, open friendships with our peers so we can get the truthful feedback we need. Let’s have conversations include questions like “Do you think that’s realistic?” and “How long did it take you?” and “Am I going to hate my life if I do this?”

And in the spirit of healthy, sane-making comparisons, let me tell you:
* It took me eight VAs, two years, Susan Drumm, and Trello to figure how to manage someone
* I’ve been writing professionally for 15 years and some blog posts still take me foreeeeever
* Sometimes it takes me 45 minutes to find and format the right photo for a blog post
* I run my blog posts through Grammarly, I proofread them backward, I print them out and edit them by hand and typos still sneak through

Sometimes a little intelligent comparison can be a good thing.

Tell me! Has comparison ever helped you and your business? I’d love to hear your story in the comments!

photo by Death To The Stock Photo // cc

6 Free Tools That Make My Online Life Easy + Awesome

free blogging tools
This blog post has been gathering dust in my drafts folder for, oh, always. 
I want to write posts for you guys that are clever, inspirational, and filled with ideas that make your online life more awesome.

I also assume that you already know about the piles of tools/apps/platforms available to you. But one person’s obvious is another person’s you just changed my life with this information, right?

And if you already know all of these? Here’s a cool cat hoodie.

Tweetdeck (free)
This platform allows you to schedule tweets months into the future and (most importantly) upload images for your scheduled tweets. Thus far, this is the only platform I’ve found that will post images with the tweets (rather than posting a link to the image hosted elsewhere.)

If you’re not using images in your tweets, I’d be remiss if I didn’t tell you to OMG DO IT. Tweets with images are 94% more likely to get retweeted and favorited! And you can include the title of your post in the image, ‘freeing up’ your tweet so you can use those 140 characters for pull quotes or @mentions.

Gramblr (free)
In a perfect world, we’d all be professional-level photographers who took in-the-moment, filter-free photos for Instagram. For the rest of us, Gramblr allows you to post images from your computer, so you can pull images from blog posts or something you took with your DSLR.

500px.com Creative Commons // Flickr Creative Commons // YAY Images (free trial)
All of these are free resources for gorgeous, professional-grade images for your blog posts, social media updates, and marketing emails. If you’re using a Creative Commons image, make sure to link and credit the photographer. You can find Flickr’s best photos by sorting by ‘most interesting.’

Picmonkey (free or $33 a year for platinum membership)
I’ve heard tons of good things about Canva, but I still love my cheap, basic, incredibly user-friendly Picmonkey. I use it to resize images so they’re more Pinterest-friendly, create images for Twitter, and make headshots matchy/matchy.

Trello (free)
Are you working with clients or a VA? I bet you are and I bet you’re sick of 15-part email threads or those “just checking in” emails. Without exaggeration, Trello has completely changed my business life. It helps me stay on top of deadlines and huge multi-part projects. It helps me work with my designer and my VA without annoying them so much they want to quit.

Trello allows you to assign projects and break them into checklists … and then save those checklists so any time someone has to complete that complicated task again, you can just pull up said checklist. And you can assign deadlines! When a deadline is looming, Trello will automatically send the task-doer a reminder email, so you don’t have to!

IFTTT (free)
This awkward acronym stands for ‘If This Then That’ and it writes ‘recipes’ for hundreds of online tasks. Like “If I post a photo to Instagram, then a tweet with the image and caption will be automatically generated” or “If someone posts a Macbook Air on the Minneapolis Craiglist for less than $700, I’ll get a text about it.”

There a jillions of helpful ‘recipes’ – recipes for photographers, streamlining social media, even news junkies.

Of course, I also use all the usual suspects – Google Docs, Dropbox, Google Calendar, Paypal. But I imagine you really do already know about those!

I’d love to hear all about the resources, tools, and apps you use for your business! Let’s make this comment thread a recourse itself!

P.S. I remembered another one! Co-schedule’s Headline Analyzer! It’s amaaaazing!

photo by Death To The Stock Photo // cc

 

9 Wonderful Posts About Blogging + Creativity + Business-ing

18875946_15238842_pmA cute print from Saskia Keultjes

I rounded up the best of the net! For you!

Etsy friends! Sarah has made over 500 Etsy sales – here’s what she’s learned.

Pop-ups are annoying, but they totally work (I use IP-sensitive pop up Opt In Monster so once you close the pop-up, you won’t see it again till you clean your cookies or use a different IP). If you’d prefer not to use a pop-up, here are seven spots for your opt-in.

I love how Esme outlined her process for writing and designing her book. So helpful!

Also helpful, Maria’s post about discovering your competitor’s success secrets – without getting too jealous.

6 ways to recharge. I particularly like the tip about creating your own stop signs.

If you’ve ever struggled to price your work (who hasn’t?!) Kyla made you some worksheets that’ll help!

A complete beginner’s guide to starting a lifestyle blog.

Interesting! If you, like me, are trying to cobble together your ‘graphic design’ with what’s available in Picmonkey, you’ll love this tutorial on font pairing. (It’s so much more complex than I thought!)

If you want better content ideas, here’s a 144 slide presentation on how to do that. So.

If you’ve read or written anything particularly amazing lately, leave the links in the comments!

12 Surefire Ways To Master Business-Life Balance

This guest post comes to us via Jess Brown, a virtual assistant and health coach who helps other entrepreneurs and self-employed types find time for balance and health in their busy lives. You can get her free book ‘The Virtual Assistant’s Guide to Creating the Perfect Work-Life Balance’ here or follow along on Facebook.

work life balance
Are you tired of feeling like your business is creeping into all parts of your life? You started your business so you could live your life your way. But instead of having that work life balance you crave every waking minute is filled with email, client issues, and creating your next product. It doesn’t have to be that way…

Here are 12 tips to give your well-being and your business a boost:

1. Get dressed
I will be the first to admit that yoga pants and pajamas are super comfy and my outfit of choice. But there is something about putting on real clothes with buttons, zippers and all that puts your brain in the right mindset to really get stuff done. Get dressed every day. It will make a huge difference when you actually feel like you’re in a real work environment.

2. Schedule family time first
Grab a blank calendar and mark it up with your family activities and obligations. When you start to schedule this way, your life won’t revolve around your business. As you’re filling out your calendar, be honest with yourself about how long each task actually takes. If you need to leave the house, for example, don’t forget to factor in drive time to get to your destination.

3. Say goodbye to perfectionism  
This is where you’ll have to give yourself a break. So what if your apartment isn’t immaculate and that blog post you wrote last week isn’t the “best” it could be. If you’re someone who can’t stop thinking about these things, you could try a yoga class or go for a brisk walk or run.

4. Announce your “working hours”
Balancing business time with family time isn’t easy. Giving your full attention to both sides of the spectrum can be difficult if you have tons of distractions that pop up throughout the day. If you have blocks of time to work on your business and your family knows this, you’ll not only be more focused and productive, but you’ll feel a lot less stress because your family will come to know and expect that you’ll be working during certain hours. That means when it’s family time, you won’t have to worry about business. All business matters are dealt with during your regular “working hours.”

5. Learn to unplug from your business
When you’re the one in charge, it’s next to impossible to completely unplug, but there are ways to get some balance during your off-time. One idea to help is if you have people helping email address for important “after-hours” matters that need your immediate attention. Your people will know how to get a hold of you and you don’t have to check your regular email and social media constantly.

6. Expect the unexpected
Let’s face it, stuff happens. When you’re scheduling your day, it’s smart to book an hour to “unexpected” things that come up. This block of time is to take care of unexpected interruptions or events that happen. If nothing unexpected happens that day, great! You just gained an hour you can do whatever you want with.

7. Get laser focused
When it’s time to work, turn off your phone, close your email and social media and let the people in your life know not to interrupt unless it’s an emergency. Part of being balanced is using your time efficiently and minimizing distractions whenever possible.

8. Break it down
Make the most of your time and get more done by breaking your tasks into smaller chunks. Not having a plan for your work session usually results in wasted time and little progress. Get focused. Use 15 minutes to return client emails, 20 for social media engagement and 40 to write a draft for your next blog post, etc.9. Harness the power of no

If you’re available to your clients 24/7, it’s a clear sign you have a hard time saying, “no.” If you let that continue, over time it leads to bad things. Not only are you going to burn out, but you very well could start resenting your clients and your work. If you tend to say “yes” without thinking, don’t answer immediately. Get back to the person later and then you can decide if it’s a task you want to do or not. If you end up saying “no”, don’t justify or make excuses.

10. Take care of you
When you’re creating your schedule, don’t forget to pencil in free time for yourself. Book an appointment once a week to take a long bath and a glass of wine. Block out time to go to the gym. Schedule a date night with your partner. Don’t forget to give yourself enough time to get a good night’s sleep every day. Skimping on sleep is bad for your health, but also adversely affects the quality of your work and productivity.

11. Have a strong support system
Tell your friends, family, colleagues and clients you’re trying to balance work and life. Tell them about your plan and ask them to respect it.

12. Take baby steps and work up
Changing things in your life that have become habits is no easy feat. If your goal is to have dinner with your family every night, start with one dinner per week. Don’t try to change too much too soon. Just like any new routine, it’s going to take the time to adjust and build new habits.

So how do you find balance in your business? Do you have something different than what I’ve listed? Tell us in the comments!

P.S. How to juggle a day job + a blog + a freelance career + a life