Posts Categorized: Small business advice

4 Tips To Deal With The Fact That The Internet Is Always Changing


When Facebook changed its algorithm (so it sucks even more than usual) I was so, so angry. Incensed! I’d spent four years building up a Facebook page with almost 4,000 followers and now Mr. Zuckerberg was telling me I’d have to pay to access the people who actively opted to follow my blog.  I maaaay have tweeted some cuss words about it.

I can swear about it all I want, but that won’t change Facebook’s new policies and it won’t change the fact that blogging, social media, and the internet in general, change at the speed of light. It can be totally overwhelming to try to stay on top of the internet as is currently exists.  New developments?  Forget it.

But there’s a reason we have all those sayings about ‘evolving or getting left behind’.  And it really is possible to evolve along with the internet, without losing your mind to overwhelm.

Here are four ways to deal with the fact that internet is always changing - and some tips about how you can change along with it.

1. Before you dive into a new social media platform, really think about if it works for your business
There are new social media platforms popping up left and right and it can be really beneficial to be an early adoptor.  But if you want to use a platform really effectively, you should be creating content that’s specific to that platform - don’t just push your Instagram photos onto Facebook or your Facebook status updates onto Twitter. It’s lazy and it looks unprofessional.  And creating that custom content is time consuming, so make sure the platform is a good fit for your business before you hire someone to manage your account.

You’re a local bike shop that specializes in mountain bikes and 90% of your customers are men? Maybe don’t devote 10 hours a week to Pinterest.
You’re a travel concierge who creates custom trips for high-end clients?  You’re obviously taking gorgeous photos of all your adventures and posting them on Instagram, right?

2. Stay on top of changes by listening to podcasts
I’d be remiss in my duties as your internet BFF if I didn’t tell you to read Copyblogger, Problogger, and Mashable. But even I don’t have time to read everything they write - and I’m on the internet for a living!

So here’s what I’d suggest instead: listening to small business/entrepreneur/social media podcasts. You can listen in your car or while you putter around the house and even if you don’t absorb 100% of that information you’ll be better off than you were before. Podcasts to check out: Fizzle // Suitcase Entrepreneur // Smart Passive Income // The Unmistakable Creative

3. Change your offerings to reflect changes in the market
Did you start your career helping people making Myspace pages? If you did, you’ve probably altered your offerings a bit, yeah?  My Solution Session offering includes a plan for Facebook + Twitter domination - but I’m thinking of scrapping the Facebook portion of that and including something else.  I fancified and updated my free ebook to reflect Twitter’s new in-stream photo option and using Twitter lists. Changes in the market create opportunities for you to help people in totally new ways!

4. Know that you can also be successful by doing the opposite of what everyone else is doing
We’ve all heard that blogging is dead because people only have the attention span to look through Instagram photos.  Or that the only blog posts that matter at gif-riddled listicles.  And there’s probably a grain of truth in there.  But you know which blogs I love these days?  The ones that publish long, well-written personal essays.

There are well-known bloggers who don’t have Facebook pages (I’m looking at you, Alex).  Print media is allegedly dying and Danielle Laporte is launching her own printed magazine.  You can opt out of new things that don’t resonate with you try something completely off the wall - an actual, print mailing list!  Where you send your readers postcards! Taking photos with a film camera! Writing long form pieces! Creating and printing a newspaper!

There are certain non-negotiables in business. Customer service, taking pride in your products and services, talking about what you do in some form - print advertising, Instagram, billboards, giving your customers a good product for their money.

The rest is up to you.

How do you stay on top of changes online?  What changes have you made recently?

P.S. If you’d like help mastering the internet in the least overwhelming way possible, I can help! I’ve been blogging 5+ days a week (even while traveling internationally!) without losing my mind, so I know a thing or two about creating an online presence in a doable way.

photo by jurvetson // cc

5 Ways To Really, Actually Enjoy Networking (Or At Least Hate It Less)


This guest post comes to us via Alexa Fischer, a communication coach who helps her clients feel confident and comfortable speaking anywhere – in presentations, at networking events, on video. You can get free admittance to her Public Speaking 101 course here or follow along on Twitter and Facebook. 

Did you put ‘Attend more networking events‘ at the top of this year’s list of resolutions?
Make awkward small talk with strangers while shoving my business card in their direction‘?
Wander around hotel ballrooms while avoiding eye contact‘?

No? Now I find that surprising. 😉

Most of us think we hate networking. We think it’s a necessary evil and if we do it at all, we probably do it with a healthy dose of grumbling and side eye. Regardless of your industry - coaching, photography, copywriting, or a brick and mortar business - your business will benefit from networking.

And it’s really, actually possible to do without dying inside. Here’s how.

1. Stop telling yourself (and anyone who will listen) how much you hate networking events
If you spend 20 minutes complaining about networking for every 10 minutes you spend actually networking you’re not going to get any closer to liking it. We all do things we don’t like that are good for us in the long run (I’m looking at you, 6 am spin class). It’s part of being a successful adult. It’s okay if networking isn’t your new hobby, but commit to stopping the complaints.

2. View networking as an opportunity to help + connect people (rather than just promote yourself)
This is the biggest, best thing you can do for yourself and your business. Can’t you just feel your shoulders relaxing at the thought of it?

Instead of feverishly prowling the room looking for people to pitch, what if you just approached someone with a friendly face and talked to them like a human being? And then when they mention that they’re struggling with social media, you can tell them about your beloved Twitter guru. Or when they say they need a virtual assistant for 10 hours a week, tell them about yours.

If they’re buying something you’re selling or need help with something you know about, by all means tell them about it! But don’t worry or rush or force yourself to ‘always be closing,’ just be the kind, helpful human that you usually are.

3. Don’t limit the conversation to business stuff
You’re more than a web developer or a wedding photographer - and so is everyone else at this networking event. Go ahead and ask people what they did last weekend, if they’re doing anything fun this winter, what they’re reading. Their answers will give you insight into their personalities that a job title won’t and you’ll be a lot more likely to connect when you discover you both love winter vacations to Utah.
4. Invite people to join your conversation
Don’t you hate hovering at the outside of a conversation circle, doing that thing where you nod and make eye contact and devotedly hope that someone will include you? Be the person who invites others in.

Include them by telling them what you’re talking about and inviting them to contribute. “We were just talking about our post-holiday plans and our obsessions with Park City, Utah. Are you doing anything fun to get through the rest of the winter?”

5. If you’re really, truly shy, don’t force yourself to stay for three hours
If you’re introverted or really uncomfortable in groups don’t force yourself to network for a million hours. Give yourself a goal (talk to three new people, stay for 45 minutes) and when you’ve met that goal, head home to your Netflix. Maintaining your sanity is a lot more important than exchanging one more set of business cards.

How do you feel about networking? Share your best tips in the comments!

P.S. How to befriend bloggers

photo by Rex Roof // cc


6 Tricks To Stay Healthy While Sitting + Staring At Screens All Day

cubicle health

So here’s something creepy.

I’m 99% sure that I’m developing ulnar tunnel syndrome (it’s the red headed step-child of carpal tunnel syndrome).  And I’m 99% sure that I’m getting it because I insisted on using a super cute, design-y desk chair and a super cute, tiny mouse.   I don’t want some  dorky, ergonomic monstrosity maring my adorable office!  I don’t want visible wires!

Buuuuut, I also don’t want to lose feeling and function in two fingers on my left hand. Or undergo an expensive and painful surgery.

So!  In honor of being a Grown Up Who Takes Care Of Her Body, I’ve started making a conscious effort to really, really look after myself during all those hours spent sitting and staring.

Here are some of the things I’ve been doing to stay healthy:

1.  Take a break every 25 minutes
I’ve been a missionary for the Pomodoro method for quite a while, but I often used those five minute breaks to check Facebook or do exciting things like wash dishes.  Now I use my break time to do a few sun salutations, some lunges, put my legs up the wall, or just close my eyes.

2.  Drink one metric ton of water
You already knew that, right?  In addition to staving off headaches and making your skin lovely, drinking lots of water will reduce Dry Screen-Staring Eyes and you’ll also have to pee more often - which will get you up and moving around more often. I try to drink at least two full water bottles each day and I fancy it up by adding pieces of fruit, fresh herbs, or tea bags.

3.  Switch between contacts and glasses
Your eyes don’t particularly enjoy staring at screens all day.  Give them a break by occasionally wearing glasses instead of contacts or at least keep some rewetting drops on hand. (Note: Visine doesn’t actually help with dry eyes, it just constricts blood vessels so your eye don’t look bloodshot.  I’m the last person in the world who wears hard contacts, but I like these drops.)

4. Get regular massages
Wait!  I know you’re thinking “Von Bargen, I’m not made of money!”  I know, dude.  But! Groupon is full of massage coupons and many malls feature those ‘$1 per minute’ places.  You’d be amazed by the difference seven minutes can make.

5.  Add plants + a humidifier to your office space
If you live in humid climate, go ahead and disregard the latter part of the above sentence but Minnesota gets drrrrry in the winter.  When the the air is dry you’re more likely to get sick and your eyes get even drier and more worn out.   Humidifiers are good for your skin and eyes and they actually make cold winter air feel warmer (and you can even get a cute one!)

What’s the point of buying a potted plant?  They clean the air, decrease stress, and improve productivity.

6. Do non-sitting, non-staring things when you’re not working
A lot of us (myself included) engage in sitting, screen-staring hobbies even when we’re off the clock. (For the record, cat video-watching toooootally counts as a hobby.)  But your body and eyes and brain will be a lot happier if you use some of your time making things with your hands, cooking, talking to friends (like, with your voice while looking at their face), hiking, being outside, or really just doing anything that’s different than what you’ve been doing for the last either hours.

Also?  Pony up and get the dorky ergonomic chair/keyboard/mouse.  Your health is way more important than having an office like this.  (Though I do want a mirror desk now.)

Has your office job had any effect on your body or health?  What are you doing to stay healthy?

photo by nkeppol // cc

Work Happiness Secret: Track Your Efforts, Not Your Accomplishments


When I do Clever Sessions, I help my clients with all sorts of things.
We talk social media.  We come up with ideas for info products.  We wax philosophical on the merits of traffic-driving posts versus personal essays on important, thought-provoking topics.

Regardless of the client or topic, one questions almost always comes up:
“How much traffic/followers/subscribers do I need before I can  ________________?”

And while I do have a pragmatic, number-based answer to that question, I also have a much healthier, sanity-saving response.
You will be about a million times happier if you track your efforts rather than your accomplishments.

This is true for many reasons.

1. As with most things in life, the only thing you can control is yourself
You can’t control if something you write goes viral. The biggest traffic spike that Yes and Yes ever received was when Reddit thought I was the Ermagerd girl.  Shockingly enough, I did not build ‘be mistaken for internet meme’ into my marketing plan.  You can control how often you post.  You can control how much time you spend on Twitter befriending awesome people.  You can control the topics you write about.

You can’t really control who links to you, who retweets you, who likes your funny cat photos on Facebook.   You can make it significantly more likely that people will link to you and like your stuff, but you can’t really make anyone do anything.

2. Most goals are reached really, really slowly with a lot of hard work
About 11,000+ people read my blog Yes and Yes every day.  Which is great!
I’ve been getting paid to write since I was 20 and I’ve been posting seven days a week for five plus years.  If I’d been working towards the goal of 10,000 daily readers when I started my blog I would have given up a 4.75 years ago.  (Also: I would probably have drown myself in a sea of noodles and butter but that’s beside the point.)

3. Most accomplishments probably don’t feel the way you’d expect
When you’ve been working towards one goal for months and months (or years and years) you might just come to hate that goal.  Or by the time you reach it, you’ve seen it looming in the distance for six months and it’s not particularly surprising or joy-making.

When I handed in the final paper for my M.A. I felt super glad it was over.  And then I went out for pizza with my boyfriend. When I signed with a literary agent, I felt nervous and all “Welp, I guess this is what I’m doing with the next two years of my life.  So that six-week trip to Russia and Mongolia is out of the picture.”

4.  You’ll have a lot more efforts than accomplishments - so you’ll feel happier when you track them
Two scenarios.

What you say: “I’ll keep track of how many new clients I get!”
How you feel: “Sooooooo, three months and I’ve only landed one new client.  I’m a failure, I hate everything, and I should go drown myself in a pool of butter and noodles.”

What you say: “I’ll keep track of how many potential clients I pitch!”
How you feel: “Wow!  I pitched five potential clients this month!  I’m about a million times braver than I was last month and my presentations are heaps smoother.  I’m getting better at dealing with rejection and my pitches are getting tighter and smarter each time.”

See the difference?

Lastly - and most importantly obviously - regular efforts lead to accomplishments.  If you focus on little, day-by-day steps the big stuff will take care of itself.

What regular efforts are you taking that you can track?  How do you keep from getting discouraged?

photo by la farfalla // cc

How To Create Your Own Infographics

This guest post comes to us from Cristina Roman. She’s a Digital Strategist at CMR Strategies and the founder of One Woman Shop, a resource site for freelancers and solopreneurs. In her spare time, she drinks too much Starbucks coffee, volunteers, plays tennis, blogs, and makes gluten-free meals. Want to connect with Cristina? Find her on Twitter or join her email list!

Who hasn’t heard of infographics by now? These colorful graphics have been circulating the internet for the past several years - a quick search on Pinterest generates thousands of results. A fun side note: though infographics have been having their heyday recently, they’ve actually been around for centuries- cave paintings and the Washington DC Metro map can both be considered infographics!

If you’re looking to capitalize on the popularity of this visual trend but worry about your lack of graphic design skills, take note of these tips for the amateur designer.

Get inspired
Browse Google or Pinterest for design ideas that grab your attention. Use the description area on Pinterest to add notes on what you like best about the design- is it the amount of white space? The use of various types of graphs? The incorporation of interesting angles and shapes? The theme (maybe it’s vintage or digital or 80’s…)? Obviously, copying another designer’s work is never cool, but don’t be afraid to pull elements that you love from other pieces.

Choose a palette
If you’re creating an infographic for your brand, consider sticking to your brand colors and fonts (here’s where that style guide will come in handy!). Not sure what colors your designer used? Upload an image of your logo or a screenshot from your website to this handy tool to figure out the HEX code of the color used. If you’re looking to experiment with new colors, check out one of these 10 super useful tools for choosing the right color palette. Lastly, find lighter and darker shades of any HEX color with this tool from W3Schools.

Choose fitting fonts
 Slap a cool font on anything and it instantly jazzes it up. offers free downloads of fonts available for commercial use. Love a font that you saw while browsing Pinterest but not sure which one it is? Use WhatTheFont! (how awesome is that name?!) to determine the font style. If you’re completely overwhelmed by all of the fonts out there, check out this infographic on the psychology of fonts (see what I did there?) to find a good fit for your purposes.

Take advantage of free tools
With the rising popularity of infographics in marketing, several websites have cropped up to make it easy to create professional-looking infographics in minutes. Both and offer pre-made templates that you can insert your own data and content into. allows you to create interactive (read: clickable) infographics from your data. It quickly converts data from Excel into an infographic and has lots of themes to choose from. On the down side, there are limitations to the graphical elements you can insert and no branding is available with the free version.

Looking to create infographics for internal use? Link to your Google Analytics account or Facebook Insights! Want to take advantage of the infographic trend? can be connected to your LinkedIn profile.’s limitations include the inability to customize certain data and, like with, no branding is available on the free version.

Ready to design your first infographic? Get out there, you future design whiz! Once it’s complete, read up on a few tips for promoting your colorful and informative marketing visual.

Do you use infographics for your business or blog?  How do you create them or find them?

infographic via // by alberto antoniazzi

How To Toot Your Own Horn Without Being Totally Annoying

how to promote yourself

There are probably a million awkward, difficult things about running your own business.
(And a million awesome things, too! Spending a weekday eating pizza and buying over-priced bras with a dear friend being chief among them.)

In addition to networking on Twitter, blogging regularly, and finding clients, you should probably find a way to toot your own horn and showcase all those satisfied customers.  Preferably without being super annoying about it.

Is that possible?  I hope so!  Here are a few things that I’ve tried.


Rotating testimonials in your sidebar
You should definitely, definitely have a testimonial page loaded with kind words from satisfied clients (more on that below.) But even the most convincing of testimonial pages is probably tucked into your menu bar.  That’s why I have short testimonials rotating through my sidebar.  They’re  a lot more eye-catching than the ‘testimonial’ tab in my menu bar.  My designer built mine for me, but you could probably do something similar with this WordPress widget.


A testimonial page
Buy you already knew that, right?  If at all possible, your testimonial page should also include photos of the people recommending you + your wares and links to their online home.  It adds a lot of weight to their praise and reassures us that, yes, Real Actual Humans have used your services and goods.

Not sure how to get those testimonials?  My girl Alex Franzen wrote a great blog post about exactly how to do it.  If applicable, ask your clients to share really specific, quantifiable changes that have resulted from working with you.  How many more clients have they landed?  How much longer are people staying on their website?  How many more sales have they made?


Tweet about it

Did someone say something nice about you and your wares on Twitter?  Retweet it.  Are you working with a new client?  Tweet about it and @mention them.  This shows your Twitter followers that
a) you’re a busy, popular, painfully talented person
b) you appreciate your clients
c) the type of clients you work with

You can also tweet links to clients’ new products, new websites, or new developments that you were involved with.

On your sales page
If you have several different offerings, that accomplish several different things, tuck a few testimonials specific to that offering (with headshots and links) into that sales page.  Customers want to know that they’re not the first person to purchase this product and what other people got out of it.


On Facebook
Did someone send you a photo your product in use?  Put it on Facebook.  Did someone write you a super lovely email about how your ebook changed their travel life? With self-deprecating wit and graciousness, put it on Facebook.  Is someone using using your jam in a recipe on their food blog?  Link to the post on Facebook.


Link to your press mentions
Press mentions are lovely because someone else is doing the horn tooting for you!  All you have to do is link to them and mention how flattered you are.  If you regularly get mentioned in the press, you can even create a ‘as seen in’ section for you sidebar.

Most importantly, toot your horn for other people
If you’ve purchased a product or service that you love, tell the internet about it.  Tweet that you just got the proofs from your photographer Leslie Plesser and you loooooove them.  Or that your designer Kim Lawler is a genius of unparalleled abilities.  They will appreciate the kind words and you’ll be supporting people and businesses that deserve it.

How do you incorporate testimonials into your websites and social media?  

Finding Your Ideal Clients (no really, the perfect ones) Without Going Broke

This guest post comes to us via Kristen Kalp who is a writer, orphan hugger, and business whisperer. Follow her adventures on Facebook or Twitter!

find ideal clients

Every business owner has heard of the elusive “ideal clients” — the unicorn-like creatures who pay what you ask when you ask it, offer up only witty and charming questions, and love your business more than all of their first cousins, combined.

It’s easy to say that’s a pipe dream being touted by marketing experts and business bloggers the world over to trick small business owners into feeling bad, but it’s not.  Ideal clients are very real, and you deserve to find yours within the next few weeks!

Best of all, you can find your ideal clients without going broke.  Finding your ideal peeps requires payment in courage, not currency.  

If you’re tired of having less-than-dreamy people buying from your business, it’s time to get to work.

Ideal client finder step 1: choose them
Let’s say that you’re shopping for a wedding dress.  You go into a store and say, “I’m here to find my wedding dress!”  Any salesperson worth her weight in taffeta will ask follow-up questions, like, “What’s the silhouette you’d prefer?  Would you prefer traditional or modern?  What sort of details do you like on a gown?  Do you prefer floor-length or a bit shorter?  Would you like a train?”

Let’s say that you answer, “I don’t know.”  Your salesperson is suddenly deflated, as she’s seen this “I’ll know it when I see it” scenario play out before: the indecisive bride-to-be always leaves disappointed.

The same goes for you and your business if you don’t define your ideal clients in a loving yet precise way.  Yes, they can afford your products or services, but go beyond that: who are they as human beings?  What defines their inner life?  Their outer life?  What do they aspire to be or to do in the world?

The more detailed you can go into defining who you’re trying to draw to you, the more likely you are to actually draw it to you.

Ideal client finder step 2: tell them who they are, and often
My peeps are heartstrong (yep, I made up that word) entrepreneurs who laugh at a good “That’s what she said” joke every time.  No matter what stage of their business they’re in, my peeps are interested in doing more than making money with their business.  They’d like to change their lives, change their industries, and/or change the world.  They like to be entertained when they’re learning, and they’re not adverse to my use of inappropriate analogies.

I mention these attributes to them in blog posts and in the Start Here page that introduces them to my business.  We all love to feel like we’ve found “our” people!

Ideal client finder step 3: show them who you are, and often
It’s only by being willing to go too far that I find out how far I can take my business, and the same is true of you and your enterprise.  (More about that below.)

A few questions to check in with whether you’re an ideal-client magnet:

Have I defined my ideal clients in more than vague terms?
Your ideal clients will be just like you, so start there.  If you’re into the jazz scene and attending festivals for the genre, your clients will adore music.  If you’re into reading and consider a good date night one spent at a bookstore, your clients will be bookworms, too.  Scribble down the attributes most likely to matter when it comes to interacting with your business, and you’ve got a good start to your ideal client profile.

Do I explicitly tell my peeps who they are somewhere on my blog/website?
If no, go ahead and add a sentence that sums them up to your bio, your introduction to your company, or in your newsletter opt-in.  Easy peasy!

Do I share any elements of my personal life on my blog or website regularly?
Whether you’re addicted to homesteading or you can be found at live concerts three nights a week, the details of your life DO matter.  They make you interesting, they make you quirky, they make you human.  Don’t be afraid to tie your personal life into your blog posts more often!

Am I willing to offend some people in the name of drawing my ideal clients closer?
Since my peeps aren’t offended by swearing, it’s easy to offend people who aren’t for me: I swear.  That’s not me being a jerkface, that’s me acknowledging that I’d rather not cause heart attacks if one of the easily-offended should purchase my products or services.  I consider it fair warning for my trucker mouth.  It means I issue no refunds and I don’t get chastising “you’re such a pretty girl, why do you have to swear?” e-mails.  (The pretty girl line is still my Mom’s favorite, but that’s a different issue.)

If you’re an activist for animal rights, gay rights, human rights, or hell, daffodil rights — your ideal peeps will be drawn to you because of that.  So share your feelings, your deep desires, and what you’re working to change in the world!

Yes, some people will be offended.  But the others?  The ones you really want to work with?  They’ll be drawn closer to you in a powerful way.  A powerful way that leads to more clients on your calendar, more money in your bank account, and more satisfaction in your heart.

Have you found your ideal clients?  How’d you do that?  Share your tips in the comments!

photo by emre ayer, cc

How To Manage Internet Overwhelm (Without Going Off The Grid + Still Get Stuff Done)


I’m on the internet all blessed day. Truly.  I need to be online for my business and I genuinely enjoy reading blogs and watching videos of cats and weird Japanese game shows.

Even though I’m a die hard, dyed-in-the-wool, down-to-the-quick-of-my-bones Internet Super Fan, it can get overwhelming. The never-ending email, the constant updates, the perceived need to be awesome across so many different platforms.

Here’s how I turn down the roar on the internet without totally tuning out:

Unsubscribe from newsletters
There are some newsletters that are really, genuinely helpful that I really, actually open and read.  Then there are the people/businesses who add you to their list without your permission and bombard you three times a week with promotions.  Good day to you, sir.  I’d like a heaping helping of unsubscription, please.

Turn off updates from Twitter, Facebook, and your blog
For YEARS I’d get notifications every time someone commented on a Facebook status, or followed me on Twitter or left a comment on my blog. This meant that opening my inbox was an exercise in exhaustion and anxiety.  Adjust your settings so you get only the most important notifications - if you get any at all.  Set aside a time once or twice a day to log into your accounts, check the comments, and then get back to work or (better yet) get away from a screen and do something awesome.

Schedule everything in advance
95% of my social media is scheduled in advance.  Sit down every Friday afternoon and spend an hour or so scheduling your tweets and Facebook updates then go enjoy your weekend.

Block yourself from social media
Left to my own devices, I’ll check Facebook and Twitter every 45 minutes.  BECAUSE WHAT IF SOMEONE SAID SOMETHING FUNNY AND I MISSED IT?  Shockingly enough, this is not a recipe for productivity.  I use LeechBlock to bar me from social media and other tempting websites during work hours.

Reevaluate your need for all the social media platforms
Do you want permission to opt out of Facebook or Instagram or Pinterest or Vine? This is it. You don’t have to do it if you don’t want to. There are super successful people who don’t use these platforms. You don’t need to do everything all the time.  I don’t care about fashion or crafts or cooking enough to use Pinterest.  Alex Franzen doesn’t have a Facebook account - like, even for her friends!

Reevaluate your need for a data plan on your phone
What?  Yes.  I don’t have a data plan and I love it.  Do I really need to read a tiny screen on the bus when I could look out the window?  Do I need to play Angry Birds while I wait for my friend at the coffee shop when I could be reading the newspaper?  I do not.

Use Google Docs offline
Wanna get real crazy?  Activate Google Docs offline and then go somewhere that doesn’t have wifi (I’m fairly sure these places still exist). And then work. In beautiful, uninterrupted internet silence.   Drink something yummy and revel in your amazing low-tech productivity.

Do you ever struggle with Internet Overwhelm?  How do you deal with it?

P.S. Did you know that when you sign up for my newsletter and send me your URL, I’ll give your site a once over and send you three, specific-to-you suggestions to make your online space more polished, trafficked, and money-making?

photo by kevin j, cc

A 2 Step Plan To A (Much) Better Business


For the last year I’ve been doing something really easy and basic that has made a huge difference in my business and blog.

And for a long time, I put it under the heading of “so obvious I don’t want to tell anybody about it because surely they’re already doing it.”  But you know what?  I’m going to err on the side of telling you something you already know.

So here’s what I do:

Every day I set my trusty Pomodoro timer for 20 minutes and engage in some ‘professional development.’

Maybe I clean up old sales pages or I read smart, helpful things (I love Copyblogger, Problogger, and Small Business Bonfire).  I listen to Blogcast FM.  I might read An Actual Book (!) or research the submission guidelines for a website I want to pitch.  Regardless, I don’t really have a chance to get bored because it’s just 20 minutes.

Then, I set my timer for another 20 minutes and spend that time talking to my readers and with people I think are awesome (those are frequently one and the same.)
I respond to comments on my blog, Twitter, and Facebook.  I leave comments on blogs and find content I want to promote.  I email people I admire and find companies I want to pitch.  And juuuuuust as I’m about to lose interest and search for the newest yelling goat video, the timer rings.

It seems sort of ridiculous but those 40 minutes a day?  They really, really add up.
And even if you just do 20 minutes, a few times a week?  I promise you’ll see difference.

P.S. If you this, sign up for my newsletter! You’ll get two free ebooks and I’ll send you these blog posts every Wednesday!

photo credit eflon, cc

Getting Your Customers To Gossip About You!

This guest post comes to us via Maria Ross, chief brand strategist and creator of Red Slice, a digital elixir of stories and strategies to boost your business, your brand, and your brain.

“Did you hear about So-and-so?  They just launched a new line and it sold out in a day.  Yes, really!  And if anybody deserves it it’s her.  I love her stuff.  Did you know it’s all made in America?  Truth.  Also: her dresses make me look capital h HOT. “

Obviously, you want your customers talking about you + your products.  And it would be great if they were saying exactly The Right Things.  While you can’t control the words that come out of your clients’ mouths,  you can make it much more likely that they’re saying good things if you create a  customer script.

Oh, you didn’t know they needed one?

If brand is all about reputation, than nothing beats it when that reputation spreads organically through word of mouth. You can’t be all places at once, so it pays to turn your customers into your own private evangelist army.

Many big  brands revel in the fact that customers love them so much, those fans will generate content on their own accord – without pay – that promotes the company. Virgin America enjoys YouTube videos created by their happy passengers. Local businesses love seeing hundreds of stellar Yelp reviews from fans.

But you also want those messages to highlight the right things for your brand. Meaning, you have to give your customers a script – or the main talking points – so that the messages they spread are aligned with the ones you want out in the world. Do you want people to talk about your low prices or your artisan craftsmanship? Do you want the first thing they talk about to be your generous return policy or your quirky and fun email newsletter?

What do you want to be known for? What is most important? One way to ensure customers know the script is to ensure that YOU do.

1) Know your benefits
I work with clients to build brand strategies and messaging platforms. Messaging platforms are internal tools designed to keep all your marketing on script for the three main messages you want to communicate about your brand. Make sure you’re crystal clear in your communications about your top three benefits, rather than rattling off a laundry list no one can possibly remember.

2) Know your differentiators
Make sure people understand why you’re different - and more importantly - better than your competition. Call out the competition if you’re strong where they’re weak. Connect the dots for people - don’t just assume they’ll figure it out for themselves. You know your business intimately and may think something is common knowledge, but people might not know you offer a free trial or donate 10% of your proceeds to the ASPCA. Choose your key differentiators wisely and try to map them to your mission or benefits when you can.

3) Know your brand voice
How does your company “talk?” Are you formal and elegant? Are you sassy and slangy? Whatever voice you choose, ensure that it’s authentic, attracts your target audience, and that you use it consistently. If they are not sure what to make of you, they won’t be able to describe you well to others.

Think about a conversation between a customer and a friend. What do you want them to say about you? What do you want the headline to be? Craft your messaging to ensure your top benefits are conveyed everywhere - your website, presentations, social media, ads. This way, you’re arming your customers with the right script to share with others.

In order to control the external message as much as you can, you need to clarify the message internally first. Don’t just hope your customers will say the right things. Craft your messaging platform based on your brand and your authentic strengths and then bang the drum around those main messages over and over again. Pretty soon, your customers will know the script by heart.

Maria’s just unveiled a killer Indie Brand Bootcamp that helps you create an irresistible brand so you attract more of the right people with less wasted effort.  Use code YESPLEASE for an additional $50 off.

photo (without text on top) by coolio-claire