Posts Categorized: Self-employment

The Life-Changing Magic of Intentional Ignorance

A few weeks ago I did something exceptionally brave.

I had to psyche myself up a bit and it took a few false starts, but after a few minutes of hovering and second guessing, I did it.

I was flooded with a mix of relief and guilt. I felt the internal click of an idea sliding into place, the realization that I could do things differently than I have in the past.

And what difficult, meaningful thing did I do?

Dear readers, I clicked ‘mark all as read’ on my RSS feed.

And when I saw newsletters from some of my favorite writers and bloggers filter into my inbox? I clicked ‘delete.’

Are you audibly groaning and rolling your eyes?

I realize it might not seem like a particularly revolutionary act, but this temporary ‘opting out’ has increased my productivity and cleared my mind like nothing else.

You see, I’m deep in ‘creation mode’ at the moment, I’m ghostwriting a book for Penguin. I’m writing a book proposal for another client. I’m completely rewriting, re-marketing, Kindle-izing and Amazon-ing two of my ebooks.

And all those great articles and clever blog posts and super helpful tutorials that I usually read aren’t helping me get any closer my goals. In fact, they’re distracting and misdirecting me.

Just learned 20 blog changing tweaks? I should probably stop what I’m doing right now and implement every suggestion in that 20-point list.

Just heard about the benefits of Periscope for the 50th time? Better scope riiiiiight now!

Happened upon Regina’s beautifully formatted and optimized images? Wouldn’t it be awesome if every image in my entire archive of 2,000+ blog posts looked like that? Clearly, I should start doing that now.

So I’m making the decision to safeguard my focus and productivity. I’m putting the proverbial blinders on and keeping my eyes on my own paper. And you can do exactly  the same thing if you want to.

You can choose intentional ignorance.

Sometimes intentional ignorance is the best choice you can make for yourself, your life + your business. Click To Tweet

And while any suggestion that includes the word ‘ignorance’ might give you pause, hear me out.

Intentional Ignorance gives you space to do your best work. It frees up mental energy for big, exciting projects. It allows you to focus - with laser-like intensity - on one or two things.

What Intentional Ignorance is

It’s realizing that you’ve reached mental capacity and you don’t have time for another social media platform. It’s deciding that - while you’re sure webinars are great - you’re simply not going to learn about them right now.

It’s deciding that your SEO situation is good enough because you’re focusing on something else for the time being. It’s a temporary decision to put tweaking and fine tuning on hold because you’re busy putting E-V-E-R-Y-T-H-I-N-G into one (or two) projects.

What Intentional Ignorance isn’t

It’s not a long-term strategy. It’s not an excuse to ignore advances and changes in your field. Intentional Ignorance won’t save you when Google and Facebook change their algorithms.

How you can add a little Intentional Ignorance to your business life

  • Allot a specific amount of time for your information sabbatical
    When are you going to resurface? A week after you launch your product? Once you’re done promoting your new ebook? January 1st? It’ll feel more professional (and less flakey) if you choose an end date.
  • Choose an area of interest and stick with it
    If you’re working on defining your writing voice, those are the blog posts you should be reading, the webinars you should be watching, and the newsletters you should be opening. If doesn’t address the topic you’re working on, you officially have my permission to ignore it. (In the event that you need permission from some stranger on the internet.)
  • Resist the urge to pin/save/sort things that you’ll ‘read later’
    I know, I know. You imagine resurfacing from your romance with Intentional Ignorance and actually clicking through everything you’ve filed in your ‘professional development’ folder.

    I’m here to tell you that a) that won’t happen b) all those unread newsletters carry an immeasurable psychic weight. They make you feel bad just sitting there, all unread! Dude, delete them. That’s what Google is for. When you’re ready, you can just type ‘how to get more blog sponsors‘ into that search box.

  • Consider dialing back your other commitments + responsibilities
    If you’re in the depths of a huge project, you should be intentional with your information consumption and intentional with your energy. You’re totally allowed to post less - or bring in guest posters, host interviews, do link roundups, or reuse old posts.

    You’re allowed to turn down clients or take a vacation from your blog.

We all cycle through seasons in our lives and businesses - times when we’re seeking inspiration and insight and times when we need quiet single-mindedness and uninterrupted time. Take a look at where you are and what you’re doing and if you need to turn down the noise, go ahead and click ‘unfollow’ or ‘unsubscribe’ or even just ‘mark all as read.’

The internet will still be here when you get back.

Have you ever practiced Intentional Ignorance? Would you? What big things are you working on right now?

photo by death to the stock photo // cc

9 Things That Will Make Your Blog Successful (and it’s not the posts you’re writing)

As a professional writer, a former English teacher, and a full-time blogger it pains me deeply to write the following sentence:

Good writing isn’t enough to make your blog successful.

(Can you hear that? It’s 2007 me weeping. It’s Professor Purdy shaking his head. It’s the sound of ‘Bird by Bird’ throwing itself off my bookshelf.)

The truth is, good writing and helpful content are significant aspects of any blog’s success, but if we’re screwing up the other stuff, we’ll struggle to keep readers around or make any money.

And I don’t want that for you! I want your readers to fall down the proverbial rabbit hole of your online space and emerge hours later, fingers numb from clicking the ‘older post’ link. I want them to pick up what you’re putting down and buy what you’re selling.

With that in mind, here are nine things that make for a successful blog … and have very little to do with your actual blog posts.

  1. Your site is clean and professional-looking

How many times have you clicked a promising-sounding link only to find yourself on a center-justified, GIF-filled, neon-fonted Geocities-eque nightmare? For most people, it wouldn’t matter if the blog posts rivaled David Foster Wallace, we want to read things in an aesthetically appealing space. When a site is busy or ugly, we’ll immediately navigate away.

Having a well-designed site is especially important if you’re selling products or services. When your site is polished and professional, you seem more trustworthy, so we’re more likely to buy things from you.

In fact, having a well-designed site is so important, I’ve re-directed potential clients to a web designer before we work together. All the content and strategy advice I give can’t do much when it’s housed on an ugly site!

  1. You show us + tell us what to do next

    Do you want us to sign up for your newsletter? Then make sure you have sign up boxes in multiple places on your site. Do you want us to read through your blog archives? Then make sure you’re using a ‘related posts’ plugin or giving us a P.S. that links to other posts.

  2. You make it easy to find your best stuff

    We all have a few pieces that are our cornerstone content, stuff that’s super helpful and really insightful. Do you have a ‘start here’ tab? Or a ‘popular posts’ widget? Do you have an email series that shares your best things with new subscribers? Don’t let your best stuff gather dust! Find a way to bring it front and center so new readers can find it easily.

  3. You share your stuff all over. Repeatedly.

    If you’ve slaved over a blog post for three hours, don’t tweet about it once and then allow it to fester in your archives. Tweet about it several times (with images, of course). Share it on Facebook and Instagram and Google+ and LinkedIn. If that post is particularly applicable to a specific time of year – the holidays, tax season – promote it then, too. If you’ve linked to businesses or people in that post, email them and tell them so or @mention them on Twitter.

  4. You’re easy to find

    Are your social media icons easy to find? Are they on every page of your site? Do they link to the right places? Do you have the same handle on every social media platform, the same headshot, and the same bio? Are you sick of these questions yet?

  5. You’re elsewhere on the internet

    Writing wonderful, useful posts for your own blog is lovely, but if we’re not careful it can get a bit ‘if a tree falls in the forest’-y. Your fantastic blog posts will strengthen your relationship with your current readers, but they don’t do much to bring in new readers.If you really want a successful blog, you need to introduce your writing and ideas to new audiences. Write guest posts. Do interviews. Appear as a guest on podcasts and webinars.

  6. You’re creating supportive, lovely relationships all over the web

    What’s that old cliché? No blog is an island? Yes, I’m sure that’s it. You’ll find more support, inspiration, success, and inbound traffic when you make an active effort to develop relationships with other bloggers. Create link roundup posts and send traffic towards other awesome bloggers. Retweet. Comment. @mention. Send now-fawning fan emails. Befriending bloggers isn’t hard!

  7. You’re making your content easy to share

    If you write something awesome, your readers just might want to share it – but what happens after that depends on how shareable you’ve made it.

    Are you creating Pinterest-friendly images to accompany your posts? Are you writing title text for your images so they’re more SEO-friendly? These little tweaks make your content exponentially more shareable.

  8. You’re meeting up with internet buddies IN REAL LIFE

    All the Twitter conversations in the world can’t match a great dinner or a window-shopping date. Reach out and get to know your favorite internet people in Actual Real Life! Invite them to coffee. If you’re traveling through their city, invite them for coffee or a drink. Go to meetups and conferences. Ask them if they’d like to rent a house with you in Mexico.*

    Now, all the professional relationships and good site design can’t make up for poorly written, unhelpful blog posts. But if you’ve wondered why your awesome blog has failed to thrive, these seven reasons might give you a bit of insight.

    I’d love to hear from you! What non-writing, non-blog post things do you think make for a successful online life?

    * Yes, really. After we’re back in the states, I’ll write a post about how to DIY your own ‘mastermind retreat.’

Photo found here // cc

How to feel unproductive and worthless in one easy step!

I remember the first time I saw that now-famous pin, informing me that I had exactly the same number of hours in my day as Beyoncé.

“By god, you’re right, Pinterest! Beyoncé and I are both bound by the same laws of space and time! We are both doing our best with the 24 hours we’re given, but she’s clearly doing a lot more with hers. This is a wakeup call, self! Use your time more wisely! Less Netflix, more sit ups! Nooooo moooore excuses!

And then I drank a pot of coffee and wrote a bunch of things filled with typos and worked for so long I gave myself a headache and my hands cramped up.

Now, I like a tough-love reality check as much as the next Virgo but here’s the thing: you and I actually don’t have the same number of hours in the day as Beyoncé.

Let’s look at the numbers.

In a given 24 hour period, mere mortals like you and I run errands, cook meals, tidy our homes, and take care of our pets/children/partners. We drive places, we shop for things, we do our makeup and style our hair and choose our outfits.

We do all these things in addition to the things we actually do to earn a living. We do these things in addition to writing, consulting, coding, designing, or styling. Of the 24 hours we’re given, most of us spend at least 3-8 hours just managing our lives.

I’d wager a guess that Beyoncé (or Oprah or Taylor) spends 0-1 of her 24 hours managing her day-to-day life. In fact, if you added up the hours that Beyoncé’s team puts in every day – promoting her, photographing her, styling her, cooking for her – girl probably has 200+ hours in her day. At a minimum.

So I guess what I’m saying is, when you see that image float across your internet life, instead of doubling down on your workload or feeling like a failure, go ahead and reinterpret it.

This is what that aspirational image should really say:

Perhaps you could be using your time a bit more wisely. Maybe take the Facebook app off your phone. But it’s not fair to compare yourself to an international pop star who has a staff of dozens. You’re doing a great job! Keep going.”

How do you balance your expectations of yourself with reality? What do you do when you get down on yourself?

P.S. This is a concept I first came across in the book The Effortless Everyday. It’s full of smart, sweet, helpful epiphanies like this. Check it out!

photo credit: wikicommons

How To Have Long-Lasting, Super Loyal Professional Relationships

On a scale of 1-10, how weird is it that I’ve known most of my clients longer than I’ve known my husband?

Wait. Don’t answer that.

It’s not that I married my husband a few months after meeting him, it’s more that I’ve been with most of my clients for a very, very long time.

I knew Dr. Danielle Dowling before she was a doctor, back when she didn’t have a Facebook page and she was juggling a full-time job with grad school and clients. I started writing for Maria well before she became a mom (little Callum is almost two now!) and the first time I talked to Rikka was during a pit stop on my spring 2012 road trip around Louisiana.

Is there a secret to long, super loyal professional relationships? Honestly, part of it is luck. I lucked into finding clients I like who happen to be so good at what they do they’re still in business (and can afford me) five years in.

But the stuff of great relationships is made up of four probably obvious things and one slightly less obvious thing. If you’d like to create awesome, business-building, long-lasting professional relationships, here’s what you can do.

The probably obvious stuff

Do what you say you’re going to do, when you say you’re going to do it Click To Tweet
If you only read one sentence in this entire blog post, let it be the one above this. This seems ridiculously, painfully obvious, but you would be floored by the level of flake-dom that occurs in the online world.

If your clients have ever hired anyone before, they’ve probably experienced people missing deadlines. People ignoring the guidelines. People failing to invoice. People ignoring the word count or the swipe files or the hex codes. People jacking up the price without notice. People bailing on a project when things get hard. People failing to double-check for typos or dead links.

When you don’t do these things – when you’re reliable and prompt – you’re already ahead of the pack, setting yourself apart. You will never, ever, ever lack for business. Ever.

Be good at what you do
As crazy as it sounds, I think being good at what you do is less important than being reliable and prompt.

A magazine editor friend said it best. “I’d rather hire a decent writer who hands in their work on time, with the right word count, on the right topic than a genius writer who’s always late and over the count. I’ll hire the reliable, decent writer over the late, genius writer every single time.”

Refer + introduce people
I do my best to work with clients I love and whose work I believe in. So when my friend is looking for a therapist or life coach, Danielle and Katie are at the top of my list. Elise writes about food psychology and Kenden writes about meaningful meals? Well, clearly they should be introduced. Natalie writes about entrepreneurship and Susan helps entrepreneurs build teams – obvious guest posting opportunities, right?

If your client is looking for a good VA, a talented photographer, an SEO guru, or a web developer and you happen to know one – hook them up. If your people could help each other, introduce them! It’s easy and it’s good karma.

Promote their stuff
You don’t need to tweet or blog about every single thing your clients do, especially if your followers or readers aren’t your client’s ideal customers. But if you think your people might like what your client is up to – like Danielle’s book or Elise’s #12tinychanges challenge – share it.

Your people like knowing about awesome, helpful things! If your clients are creating awesome, helpful things go ahead and share them! Again, it’s easy and it’s good karma.

The less obvious thing

Treat your clients the way you’d treat any other human you like + respect
When I got married, Danielle sent me a bouquet and Maria sent me an amazing set of cheese knives (because girl knows the way to my heart.)

On Norma’s birthday, I sent her a link to Sam Heughan saying happy birthday in Gaelic (because I know she’s a devout Outlander fan.) When I was in Santa Monica, I met up with Alexa for breakfast and when I was in DC, I stopped by Elise’s house to meet her gorgeous dogs and stuff my face with her food.

Just like any other human being, clients like to feel appreciated and valued – not just because they employ you but because you have an on-going relationship and you like each other. Show your clients that you like them! Like, as human beings!

Do you have long-standing professional relationships? How do you stay in touch and let your clients and vendors know you appreciate them?

6 Business Goal Setting Tips That Won’t Make You Gouge Your Eyes Out

goal setting tips for business

This guest post comes to us via Elise Blaha Cripe. Elise is a blogger, crafter and goal setter in San Diego, California. In the spring of 2015, Elise launched GET TO WORK BOOK, a daily planner + goal setting workbook designed to help you make progress on your big goals. The 2016 GET TO WORK BOOK is currently available for pre-order here.

Goal setting is one of my favorite topics (to write about AND think about) and I find myself spending a lot of time doing both. I am so honored Sarah invited me over to be a guest and share some tips with you. Technically, these are going to focus on setting goals to improve your small business but I really think they can be applied to anything.

Business goal setting tip #1: Don’t be afraid to think big picture

Before you start thinking about how you want to work on and improve your business, it helps to consider where you actually want to be headed.

Are you trying to quit your day job? Become a fortune 500 company? Make enough to spend your summers backpacking? Knowing your “end-game” is so valuable because then you know more about what you need to be doing today. Maybe you need to be saving more of your profits. Maybe you need to be re-investing more. Maybe you need to develop more passive income streams. It’s hard to know what to focus on until you have at least an idea of what you want your future to look like.

Business goal setting tip #2: Choose something measurable

Good goals are specific. Of course, you want to “improve sales” or “grow your newsletter” but instead of just saying that, determine some numbers.

How much do you need to improve your sales? How many newsletter subscribers would you like to gain this month? Determine measurable goals, write them down and then work towards them. The satisfaction of “hitting” those numbers is awesome, but even if you fall short, you have a real amount that you fell short and that can be helpful when coming up with what to shoot for next year or next month.

Business goal setting tip #3: Be realistic (but challenging!)

As Pinterest quotes will tell you, it’s more than okay to dream big. But when it comes to goal-setting, I have found that going too big is never good. You want your goals to be realistic - something that you can actually achieve - but also inspiring enough that they feel challenging. It’s a semi-tricky balance to find, but through practice (and trial and error!) you can get there.

Business goal setting tip #4: Set deadlines

Without a deadline, a goal is just a wish. Click To Tweet It’s easy to set goals without thinking about when you’ll realize them, the trouble is, without a firm completion date in mind, it’s really tricky to actually accomplish anything. When do you want to launch that ebook? When would you like to be able to hire an administrative assistant? What month is the absolute last month you can go live with your website?

Again, you want to pick something realistic (probably not this Friday) but challenging (probably not four years from now). When considering deadlines, it also helps to stagger your projects and goals. Don’t make everything due the same month or try to launch everything at beginning of the year. Give yourself (and your customers!) some time to avoid burnout.

Business goal setting tip #5: Break it down

Once you have your realistic and measurable goal(s) in mind, the next step is to break them down. This is the “how” portion. How are you going to get from A to B? What do you need to do today, this week, next week and next month to get there? What are some action steps? I have found that the more action steps I list out and schedule as to-do list items the better. Don’t let yourself get overwhelmed by a huge project. Instead, let yourself get busy working on smaller steps on a daily basis.

Business goal setting tip #6: Remember, this is fun

Coming up with goals and striving towards them can be a hugely satisfying exercise. At times, it can also feel really hard. But on the whole, you’re growing. You’re expanding. You’re learning and you’re making progress. All of those are good things and all of those will pay off for you and your business.

I encourage you to think of the whole process as something enjoyable. Remember that you get to choose your goals; no one is setting them for you. Pick the stuff that makes your heart race and your stomach flip a bit. Then get to work.

What goals are you setting for your business? Making your goals public is a great way to hold yourself accountable - tell us in the comments!

You Can Be Your Business’s ‘Why’

When you decide to go into business for yourself, within five minutes* a smart and well-intentioned person will appear at your coffee shop and hand you this book.

They’ll probably fall all over themselves telling you how it changed their business life, made sales and marketing dreamy easy and how you really need to readitalreadyokay?

If you’re not familiar with Start with Why, it’s a lovely, well-written business book that suggests businesses and leaders are more successful when their reason for being in business is inspiring. Those who are able to inspire will create a following of people – supporters, voters, customers, workers – who act for the good of the whole not because they have to, but because they want to.

We’re more likely support people/leaders/business who have high-minded, meme-worthy mission statements and ‘manifestos.’ (Holstee, I’m looking at you.)

So it follows that we self-employed types believe we should have an equally inspiring reason for being in business.

“I want to help women stand in their truth and re-connect with their innate wisdom.”
“I want to help entrepreneurs end the overwhelm and overcommitment.”
“I want to help busy moms find ways to be healthy and active so they can give their best to their kids and partners.”

And for the last, oh, ever I’ve been doing my best to come up with my own professional “why.”

If we met at a networking event** and you asked me why I’m a lifestyle blogger and ghostwriter I’d say something like:
“I want to help busy entrepreneurs free up time and space to do the work that lights them up.”
“I want to create a space where people can share their stories and connect with each other.”
“I want to help people to live adventurous, intentional, creative lives of their own design.”

While those are partially true, here’s the whole truth:

I want to be self-employed because I like taking six weeks off to road trip around America.
I want to be self-employed because I want my income (rather than my employer’s income) to reflect my hard work and creativity.
I want to be self-employed because I want to go to a matinee on a rainy Tuesday afternoon if I damn well feel like it.

(but none of that looks very good on a poster.)

And for a long time, I felt really guilty about this. Was every other self-employed creative completely selfless? Was everyone else trying to save the world through copywriting and business coaching? Didn’t anybody else want to earn more money and take longer vacations?

And then I watched this periscope and Hilary Rushford gave voice to my deepest, darkest secret. 

You Can Be Your Business's 'Why' Click To Tweet

You can become a copywriter because writing comes easily to you and you like it. You can become a life coach because you give great advice and your family moves around a lot so you need a location-independent career. You can become a wedding photographer because you have a good eye, you already know how to use a DSLR, and your friend needs a second shooter.

These are all totally valid reasons to go into business.

Of course, (of course!) you should do work you enjoy! Obviously, you should be proud of the work that you put into the world. It’s very, very nice to have a larger plan or vision for what you’re creating.

But if you’re looking for permission - this is it. 

This is your permission to pursue something because you want to make more money. Or because you want a career that works with your kids’ schedules. Or because you’re good at it and it comes easily to you.

When you like what you’re doing and the life you’re living, it’ll come through in your work.
And that’s enough.

Do you feel like you need to have a high-minded, world-saving ‘why’ behind your work? And if you have one - what is it?

* sliiiiight exaggeration but also not really
** which we wouldn’t because I hate networking events

photo via unsplash // by joe beck // cc