Posts Categorized: Uncategorized

8 posts for smart-working, creative-types

Friends!  Some helpful links before you dive headlong into Christmas debauchery.

Did you launch something?  And it didn’t go quite how you would have liked?  Here’s how to regroup.
The truth is, most product launches don’t go viral. In the normal world, those occurrences are the outliers in the statistical universe. For you, it’s probably going to take a little more time, a little more effort, and a lot more patience.After all, there is a ton of behind-the-scenes work that goes into an overnight success.

Is it time to rebrand?  3 questions to ask yourself.

So helpful!  The Small Business Year-End Checklist.

Does SEO make you want to scratch your eyes out?  Here are some totally doable, non-overwhelming basics.

Want to increase your rates in 2014?  Here’s how.
1. You’re in charge of your business and your rates–not your client. So act like you’re in charge. That means communicating the information directly and with confidence as if it were the most natural thing in the world—and your client will have confidence in your decision. Communicate with hesitation, however—meekly asking what they would think if, or how they would feel if—and the client will see it as an invitation to negotiate.

One of my favorite time-effective ways to engage in ‘professional development’ is to put on Social Triggers videos while I’m making lunch or fold laundry.  Tons of helpful info that I can listen to in the background!

Yet another alternative to Paypal.

I do all of these - do you?  10 things to do to each blog post before you click ‘publish.’

Hope you had a lovely, calming holiday, friends!

photo by blupics // cc

5 Business Lessons I Learned From Creating A Cat Calendar (Yes, really.)

pussinbooks-2PicMonkey CollagePicMonkey Collage1adollshouse-photo
If you’ve been within 10 feet of me in real life or on social media for the last month, I’m sure you’ve heard me natter on about what is probably the most awesome/ridiculous project of my professional life: the 2014 Puss In Books calendar. While this is not my first calendar/rodeo this year I really, really went all out.  A separate website.  A professional photographer.  The whole nine.

And here’s what I learned (and don’t worry, these are lessons any business can benefit from, cat-related or not)

1. Ridiculous, just-a-joke ideas can lead to awesome stuff
I work on a lot of Serious, Important things and I have some clients who even intimidate me a little bit - six-figure building industry recruiters, healthcare leadership consultants, fancy, complicated apps.  On Yes and Yes, I interview people with major medical issues and really tough jobs.  With stuff like that, I wrote off the idea of a calendar based on cats, dressed in literary-themed outfits, accompanied by quotes from famous literature.  That’s silly!  Shouldn’t I be banging out sales pages for entrepreneurs?  Or working on my book proposal?  Why should I devote time to something so silly and fun and easy? Because I wanted to.
Your lesson: Sometimes easy = right.  Just because something is fun or feels natural, doesn’t mean it’s wrong.  You’d be amazed at what happens when you stop believing that only hard work is good work.

2. Add little, personal touches to your products
I add a spoonful of confetti to every calendar I send out. (That’s not a metaphor. I literally sit at my dining room table with a tupperware container full of bulk confetti and drop it into those envelopes.)  I also include a thank you note from my cat and a handwritten request that customers take a photo of their pet with the calendar and send it to me.  Is this stuff time-consuming?  Of course.  Do people notice it and appreciate it and buy the calendar again the next year?  Also, yes.
Your lesson: Get on your packaging game.  And your thank-you note game. And your ‘tiny extras’ game.  People notice.

3. You can be more creative within boundaries
When I decided that I was going to create this calendar, I made a list of my favorite books and then spent an inordinate amount of time googling “Ponyboy costume for a cat.”  Shockingly enough, said costume does not exist.
So I changed my strategy.  I planted myself in front of Amazon’s pet costume section and started scrolling.  As I looked at the costumes, I thought about the books I’d read in high school and college and thought about what I could make work.  What books involve sailors?  Could I do something with a lobster costume? The second approach worked a lot better.
Also: I was able to find a use for this costume.
Your lesson: If you’re feeling overwhelmed by possibility or you don’t know where to start - narrow your view.  Instead of thinking “I want to make jewelry” think “I want to make vintage-inspired jewelry that incorporates foreign coins.” Instead of “I’m a health coach” think “I’m a health coach for women over 35 who work full time and live some place with long winters.”
Things actually get easier when you create creative boundaries.

4. How long do you think it’ll take?  It’ll take longer
One of my travel rules is ‘everything will take twice as long and cost twice as much and you’d expect” While that didn’t quite hold true for this project, I probably would have been happier if I’d mentally doubled my estimated costs and time.  Any time you do a project involving other people or even a self-contained project with lots of moving parts (photos! layout! website! marketing! printing!) there are lots more things to screw up.
Your lesson: Pad your budget and time frame. Be pleasantly surprised when things come in faster or cheaper than you’d expected.

5. Involve your readers and followers
In previous years, I involved my readers none in the calendar process - or follow up. This year, I asked them to take photos of their pets with the calendar and the results have been hilarious. It’s hard to track exactly how many more sales I made through those photos, but I’ve really enjoyed captioning them and sharing them - and that’s just about as important as sales. 😉
Your lesson: Ask your readers to get involved!  Offer them discounts if they send you photos of your products in use!  If they have a social media account, @mention them when you post their photo!

Tell us about your biggest product launch!  What did you create?  How did it go?

Win A Free Solution Session For Your Small Business!

In the spirit of the holiday season (and helping you + your business get a jump on 2014), I wanted to do my small part in spreading good cheer.  In an attempt to repair my karma after regifting that sweater and making my cat wear costumes, I’m giving away a Solution Session to one deserving company, creative, or entrepreneur.

Last year, Arc’s Value Village won.  They’re a Twin Cities-based, chain of non-profit thrift stores that supports children and adults with disabilities.  Last year, their stores brought in over $2 million dollars to fund special needs programing. Isn’t that lovely?  I was flattered to be able to work with such a wonderful organization. (You can see nice things previous clients have said about my work here.)

While I’ve got a weak spot for nonprofits, you needn’t be rescuing puppies or curing cancer to win this Solution Session.  I love businesses and people who are passionate about their mission - whatever that is - and show that they’re serious about what they’re doing. You’re on at least one social media platform. You update things regularly. You do not quake in the face of terms like “at mention” and “Hootsuite.”

Sound like you?  Wonderful!  Fill out this questionnaire to apply for the free session; I’ll choose a winner next Tuesday.

And? This is probably a good a time as any to tell you:

My Clever Sessions will go from $250 to $300 and my Solution Sessions from $1,000 to $1,200.  If you’ve been thinking about working together, you might want to book now and lock in my lower rate 😉

Why the change? I need a break from sales pages and About pages.  I’m working on one (or three) apps, a book proposal, and a new ebook. I’m planning trips to Mexico and Alaska and Florida.  My clients have straight up told me I should be charging more.  And honestly? I’m ready for something new.

As always, I am so, so thankful that you make Yes and Yes and this blog part of your online life.  I so appreciate it!

8 Super Helpful Posts About Self-Employment + Small Business Awesomery

Helpful links for you, dear creative/freelancer/small business owner!

A reminder that the words on your website are often more important than just about anything else.
Think about all the things you could communicate with a simple page like this. If you’re a businessperson, you could sell something. If you’re a teacher, you could teach something. If you’re an artist, you could show something you’ve made. And if your words are good, people will read them.  If you’re a web designer, or a client who is working with one, I’d like to challenge you to think about words first. Instead of starting with a style guide or a Photoshop mockup, start with words on a page.

Want to know all the different ways you can monetize your blog?  Listen to this.

Another good podcast - this one about content marketing.

If you’ve ever had clients, you’ve probably gotten angry at them.  A reminder that amateurs get angry with clients - professionals educate them
But the truth is, we deserve the clients we get. Bad clients aren’t the result of some cosmic force working against us, they’re more likely the result of our own actions. Frustrating clients are the result of some misstep we’ve made along the way. To do our best work and work with the best people, we need to be diligent in our relationship with our clients.

I cannot believe I didn’t know about Explore. Create. Repeat.  A gorgeous website full of helpful content for creatives, makers, and the self-employed.

Do you have a virtual assistant?  And you’re pretty sure you could be making better use of their time?  Here are 101 things you could have them work on. 

9 habits that make freelance life hard + 9 counter-habits that will grow your business.

Helpful! 20 things to do when business is slow.

What great things have you read recently?  Leave links in the comments!

photo by andertoons // cc

4 Clever Things You Can Do With Facebook Photo Albums

Are we friends on Facebook?  I’d sure love it if we were.  And if we already are, you’ve probably seen me fussing with my photo albums.  In an effort to make better use of all the posts in my archives and to organize things in a pretty (and dorky) manner, I inadvertently stumbled upon something clever.

And once I fell down that proverbial rabbit hole, I got to thinking about all the other ways a blogger/entrepreneur/company could use their Facebook photo albums.  Let’s get to it!

Photo albums for each of your post series
If you, like me, have on-going post series, this is a great way to make use of your archives and encourage your Facebook friends to have a dig through all that useful content.  You can also make photo albums for tags you regularly use on your blog - vegan recipes, hair tutorials, how-tos.

To make these photo albums as engaging + clickable as possible, crop your post image into a square and overlay the post’s title. Now your readers will be able to see all the posts on one prettily organized page.  If you’re feeling ambitious, you can schedule some tweets telling your Twitter followers that they can find all your travel posts in one place now.
A photo album of your press mentions
If you and/or your products are getting written up in magazines and newspapers, tell us about it!  It’s a lovely way to showcase your authority - in addition to those inevitable sidebar links.  You could also use this space to share screen shots of good Yelp or Amazon reviews.


A photo album of customers using your products
Encourage your customers to send you photos of your products in use.  You never know how someone is going to style your dress or what recipe they’ll make with your maple syrup!  If you’re feeling generous, you can offer them a discount off their next purchase in exchange for sending  you photos.  And then if you’re really on top of it, you’ll encourage them to include their social media information with their photo so you can @mention when you post their photos.

facebook-photo-album-product-linePhoto albums for each of your product lines
Do you come out with new products each season?  Or maybe you’ve got different products lines for different consumers? Make a photo album for each line.  It makes it easy for your followers to see all of your goods in one place (other than your online shop) and reaches people who follow you on Facebook but might not check your website regularly.

And if you don’t want to do any of this?  Make a photo album of your cat being needy.

Are you utilizing your Facebook photo albums?  Any other awesome tips to share?

P.S.  You’ve obviously installed the newsletter and Twitter apps on your page, right?  And customized your url?  And customized your app images?

6 ways you can build good karma into your business (without losing lots of money)


When I first started my blog, I was working as an ESL teacher at a non-profit.  I spent my days teaching Southeast Asian refugees how to take the bus, apply for jobs, and the difference between ‘chicken’ and ‘kitchen.’  (It’s harder than you’d think!)

I looooooved my job and I loved making a very tangible difference in the world.   I did not love the fact that I only had two weeks of vacation, that I worked in a rough neighborhood in a building with very little security, that I made about two dollars. (Really.  Think about how much public school teachers make.  Then reduce that by 25%.  That’s how much I made.)

These days I make slightly more than two dollars.  I write copy for small businesses and entrepreneurs and I have a variety of consulting offerings.   And for a long time I felt guilty that I made more money doing this than I did when I was doing something Unequivocally Good + Important.  So in an attempt to ease my conscience, I did my best to incorporate a bit of good karma and philanthropy into my business practices - all without losing my shirt.  With the holidays nearing, I’m sure we’re all in a more grateful, giving mood - so here are six ways you can build good karma into your business without losing lots of money. 

1. Do a pay-what-you-can sale and donate the proceeds to charity
On your birthday, your company’s anniversary, or on a special holiday, why not run a pay-what-you-can sale on some of your older info products?  Or some overstock in your inventory? It’ll free up some space in your storeroom, introduce new people to your products, engender goodwill, AND bring in money for a good cause.  I did this with my 2012 Year in Yes calendar and was able to raise money for 1,000+ meals through Feeding America.

2. Contribute a portion of pre-sales to a charity
If you’ve got a amazing new course or a physical product coming out, you can build buzz and bring in a bit of ahead-of-time money by contributing a portion of your presale profit to charity. It’ll make people more likely to pre-order (so you’ll have a better idea of how many items to manufacture) and defray your upfront costs.  If you partner with a smaller, local charity they’ll probably even help you promote your product!  I’m donating $1 from each pre-sale of my 2014 Puss In Books calendar to Feline Rescue, a local no-kill shelter that fosters, socializes, and re-homes stray cats in the Twin Cities. 

3. Offer scholarships
If your offerings are expensive-ish, consider offering scholarships once a year; you can make it easy by creating a Google form that applicants can fill out.  If there are tons of qualified applicants that would benefit from your help, you can reach out to a select few and offer them your services at a discounted rate. I did this last year and gave away a Solution Session to the very, very deserving Arc’s Value Village

4. Highlight up-and-comers
Even if you’re not in a position to donate your time or profits, you can share a bit of your internet limelight with people who deserve it.  If you’re working with an amazing designer/developer/writer/VA - tell us.  (I love Scott Puhl for app design, Kim Lawler and Sara Misconish for design, Leslie Plesser and Meredith Westin for photographs). When you read useful, helpful things, share those discoveries with your Twitter and Facebook followers.  When people do great things, email them and tell them you liked it!

5. Promote or partner with other companies who promote social causes
Do you offer ad space on your blog?  Offer discounts to non-profits or companies who have built philanthropy into their businesses.  If you’re a beauty, fashion, or lifestyle blog you can tell your readers about retailers who offer ethically sourced items.  Reach out to businesses who promote causes you care about and see how you can help them spread their message.

6. Donate a set amount of time each month to charity
If you’re a social media consultant, a developer, or a designer there are about a million non-profits who could benefit from your wisdom.  Choose a block of time you know you can afford to donate and give that amount each month to a different charity.  You could donate five hours of social media consulting each month or 10 hours of design work.  Choose something that works for you and see who you can help!

Have you built philanthropy into your business?  How do you give back?

photo by kevin dooley // cc

Forget About Sales Funnels. How about A SALESNADO?!

This guest post comes to us via Halley Gray. She’s a marketing strategist over at Evolve and Succeed. She teaches entrepreneurs how to create great products & services and sell them with ease. 

When I was first learning about marketing my brain would crumble into dust with the dry terms that float around - target market, market research, leads, marketing funnel - it was arduous for my limited attention span.

I want making sales to be easy and fun for you. Let me introduce…SALESNADO.

The structure of how you sell your goods also known as a ‘marketing funnel’ or ‘sales funnel’. Why you need one - you’ve had an excellent session with your client - there was laughter, breakthroughs and pure magic. Your client ends the call by asking ‘how can I work with you after this?’

‘Uhh I’ll get back to you, happy customer.’

Radio silence. Sale missed. This is where your salesnado should have stepped in to sweep them off their feet and up higher and higher into your other available products and services.

Selling to people who have already bought from you and want to keep working with you are what great businesses are built on.

How to make your own salesnado:

1. What’s the common progression for your clients? (Problem/step one, problem/step two, and problem/step three)

2. What are the solutions for each problem? What steps do they need to take to solve each one?

3. Most affordable first and then bigger investment steps as you go.


A career change coach wants to create a salesnado. She notices that her clients have the same three problems:

First they all need to figure out what they want to do.
Second they need to figure out the ‘how’ of making it happen.
Thirdly they’re now doing their passionate career but it’s not going as well as they’d like.

First - a workbook: how to figure out your ideal job.
Second - a Facebook group: making your ideal job happen.
Third - one-on-one sessions: overcoming obstacles.

Workbook - $35
Facebook group - $97 per year
Sessions - $300 per hour

Selling your stuff just got easier.

How do you help your clients decide which services they need? And in what order?

photo by chascar // cc

7 Time-Saving, Money-Making Posts For Bloggers + Businesses

Office Posture Matters: An Animated Guide from Flikli on Vimeo.

It’s the end of the month!  Let’s look at interesting, helpful things from all over the internet!

Oh, we should all read this a million times: 5 tips for launching a product without annoying your readers. (P.S. did you know about my app and my calendar that are coming out?)
Continue to deliver high value to readers during the launch period that is outside of the launch. So while we’re certainly promoting the eBook during the above launch there’s also the normal level of blog posts going up on the blog about other topics.  On a typical week on dPS I publish 14 tutorials – during a launch week it remains at this level. The same thing is true on social media – we continue to share great content on social that is not related to the launch. So anyone who doesn’t want to buy the eBook still is getting other value out of the site during the launch.

Whoa!  Tons of free photos for bloggers!

Need visual inspiration?  Here are five great resources.

This is The Most Helpful: 37 tips for writing emails that get opened, read, clicked.
Stop talking about your list. Stop talking about subscribers. Write as if you’re emailing one person only. It instantly makes your emails more personal.
Quit wasting people’s time. Only email when you have something truly valuable or helpful to say.
Be useful. Don’t just email when you need something from your readers. Be helpful. Be generous. Be friendly. Be like real friend.

Some out-of-the-box ideas to get traffic to your site.

7 ways to avoid small business burnout. (#6 x 1,000)

Need to install social media icons on your blog?  Here’s a super easy tutorial.

What awesome things have you been reading lately?  Leave links in the comments!


An Insanely Basic Plan For Starting A Business + Working For Yourself

So you’re pretty sure you’re meant for something beyond the cubicle.  You want your efforts and creativity to be tied to your income - rather than your boss’s income.  Or maybe you just want more flexibility in your work day.  Regardless, you’re interested in pursuing self-employment, you’re just not sure where to start.

There are a million different ways to become your own boss (my own path to self employment was sort of weird and included three months in India and Nepal) but here is an incredibly basic, stripped-to-the-necessities outline to make the leap to self-employment.  Of course, mileage may vary but each of these steps will serve you well. 

Find the intersection of what you like to do/what you’re good at/what people will pay you to do
I love to watch cat videos and eat cheese.  Shockingly enough, there are very few people who are willing to pay me to do this. However, I’ve been getting paid to write for 14 years, I have marketing/pr/advertising experience, and I’ve been blogging for 5+ years.  I can do a lot of awesome stuff with those skills.  Think about what you like to do and are good at (art? planning parties? cooking?) and then think about how you can do that thing for money (graphic design! event planning! catering!)

Now do that for free or cheap for awhile
Just about everything in life has a learning curve and people will be a lot more gracious about your mistakes or extended deadlines if you’re not charging them (or charging them very little.) There are lots of ways to bulk up your skills - volunteer to do social media for your friend’s company, put out a call for clients on Facebook, cook for your friend’s family reunion, email your favorite small businesses and offer them five hours of your expertise for free.  Make sure that when you do this, you’re very, very clear with your clients that
a) you’re still a relative beginner
b)you’re doing this to build your portfolio and you’d like constructive feedback and a testimonial in exchange for your work

Also!  You can offer up your skills (for free) on The Network of Nice!

Hone your skills, learn more about your field, gather testimonials
As you’re doing all that free/cheap work, really listen to the feedback that others are giving you. Read websites/blogs/magazines about your field and talk to other people who are doing similar things.  Keep gathering testimonials and content for your portfolio.

Create a website for your business
It really, really doesn’t have to be anything fancy.  The first iteration of was something I designed myself on blogspot!  You do need a list of services that you offer, testimonials from clients (preferably with a headshot and links), and an About page that tells us why we should hire you and a how you developed these skills.

Other non-negotiables?  Business cards (I love Moo cards), 1-3 social media accounts, and a non-gmail address.  (If you can’t figure out a non-gmail email account, just use a contact form).

Network like whoa
Networking gets a bad name.  Really, it’s just making friends!  Reach out to the people in your life and tell them what you’re doing (for this I very highly recommend Alex Franzen’s Five Scripts To Fill Your Client Docket).  Follow/email/reach out to bloggers who work in or write about your field of expertise.  Go places filled with people you don’t know and then make friends with them.  Go to the sort of place that will be frequented by people who need your services.

Work at your day job (or a part time job) while you build your client base
Having a steady income will allow you to take clients you’re actually excited about.  It’ll prevent desperate, money-based, fear-based decision and lower your stress rate.  Does it mean that you’ll probably be working 50+ hours a week?  Yes.  Does it mean that your business will grow more slowly?  Yes.  But it also means that you’ll put fewer expenses on your credit card, take fewer yucky clients, and be really, really excited (rather than panic-y) when you finally quit your day job!

Once you’ve got a good client base and a nice financial cushion, quit your other job(s) (if you want to)
When you’re getting new client referrals and inquiries a few times a week, when you’ve got a list of people waiting for you, when you’ve got a nice financial cushion - it’s time to quit the day job.  But only if you want to!  You could also check out options for part-time work or contract on specific projects with your previous employer.  There’s no shame in the security of ongoing income.

What do you think?  Did I miss anything?  Tell me about how you made the leap to entrepreneurship or self-employment! 

photo by  // cc

In Which I’m Ridiculously Open About My Rates + Money

Has this ever happened to you?

One of your favorite, widely-read blog announces that they’re taking sponsors.
On Facebook , a graphic designer friend says they’re taking new clients.
A writer whose work you admire announces that she’d be happy to help people edit their book proposals.
But none of them actually mention how much they charge.

There are plenty of super valid reasons not to post your rates.  You want to write up individualized quotes for each client.  You want some wiggle room - depending  on how eager you are to work with someone.  Or maybe nobody else in your industry posts their rates and you’re worried that yours are way, way too high (or too low.)

There are also lots of reasons to be totally, totally open about your rates - which is what I’ve decided to do.

Reason 1
I want to save time - both mine and my potential client’s
I spend at least an hour every day responding to queries about my rates and how I work.   The answers to these questions are always the same and I do have a template email that I use - but wouldn’t it be a lot easier if I just posted my rates on my site?

Reason 2
I don’t want people to assume I’m out of their price range
Hiring someone to write a sales page for you seems like a Big Huge Deal that will cost you $500+ and take a month.  And maybe that’s accurate with some people or marketing agencies! My turnaround time is 2-3 business days and I charge $180 for each permanent page.

Reason 3
Being secretive exhausts me
I can’t be bothered to charge people different rates.  Isn’t transparency a million times easier? Now I’ll know that every person who emails me for copywriting or editing work has downloaded my rate sheet, knows they can afford me, and has (probably) decided to hire me.  Easy peasy, right?

Of course, there are projects that don’t fit on my rate sheet: 100-word elevator pitches, mottos, researched and ghostwritten blog posts, on-going consulting gigs.  And of course, there are projects and professional fields that don’t lend themselves to rate sheets - a static webpage shouldn’t costs the same as a totally interactive, built from scratch website.

But it brings me (and my inbox) a lot of peace to be open about how much I charge.

Do you post your rates online?  How do you deal with putting together quotes for clients?

P.S. other money stuff:  If you’re self-employed are you topping out your Roth IRA?  You should be.  I’m doing it and it’s not nearly as complicated as I thought. I also keep my money at a credit union rather than a bank and I looooove it.  Also, if you’re self-employed and you travel for work a lot, you should know about per diem tax deductions.  This ish will save you thousands of dollars a year. 

photo by // cc