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 Sarahvonbargen.com 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 epSos.de // cc

3 Ways To Make Your Clients Feel Really, Really, Really Appreciated (No lavish gifts or muffin baskets, required!)

This post comes to us via my dear, real-life friend Alexandra Franzen.  Alex writes about how to be a better writer. Which really means she writes about being understood. Which really means she writes about love. Her tips on clear, persuasive, positivity-charged communication have been spotlighted on The Daily LoveFast CompanyForbesThe Huffington Post and in several books. (Including one of her own.)  Learn how to write with style, simplicity + astonishing ease at AlexandraFranzen.com.

When you’re a coach, consultant, designer, coder, writer, editor or service-offerer-of-any-kind, making your clients feel really, really, really appreciated is not rocket science.

And contrary to conventional belief, expressing your gratitude isn’t about sending lavish gifts in the mail — like bouquets of roses or blueberry-studded muffin baskets.  Gifts are lovely — I rarely turn down a muffin, myself! — but showing your clients that you love, respect + genuinely care about them is actually much simpler. And less crumbly.

To quote Maya Angelou, a very famous online business strategist + certified life coach (right? I’m pretty sure I read that in O magazine…) “People will forget what you did. But people will never forget how you made them feel.”

For the next week — just as an experiment — make every email you send out to your tribe feel like a “thank you” note. Even if it’s not.

And while you’re at it: practice these three techniques with your current crop of clients. (Prepare to feel really, really, really appreciated, right back.)

Your client says: Hey, could you recommend a graphic designer I ought to hire?

You say: Sure! Here’s a list of my favorite 10 designers.

(You could leave it at that, and they’d be perfectly happy. But to make them feel really, really, really appreciated, add a personal twist…)

All of these designers are terrific, but I’ve highlighted the top 3 that I think would be perfect for YOU. If you’d like a personal introduction to any of ‘em, let me know.

Your client says: OHMYGAWDYAY!

Your client says: I’m feeling really frustrated by my current website. It’s old and clunky and I’m embarrassed to show it to anyone — which is making it difficult to promote myself in the media. It’s really holding me back, but I don’t have the budget for a big, fancy website overhaul. {insert ten more minutes of rambling + mental spillage, here} Argh! What should I do?

You say: It sounds like you’re craving a crisp, sleek website that reflects who you’ve become — not who you were, back when you first started your business. What if we created a super-simple 3-page WordPress site — nothing fancy, just clean lines + gorgeous new headshots — and kept the whole project under $1,000? Sound good?

Your client says: {sniffle, sob, weep} OHMYGAWDYAY and THANKYOU and YES! When do we start?


Your client says: I know I need to work on being more ‘visible’ online — guest-blogging and stuff. But it just feels so draining. Blech.

You say: You know, you’re such a natural on video — maybe that’s the medium to focus on, instead of writing? I happen to know someone who does a weekly video-interview series with cool entrepreneurs. Want me to introduce you two, via email?”

Your client says: OHMYGAWDYAY, you are SO right! I’d never considered that. And YES! Introduce away!

*Not just to other people + resources, but mental connections that your client can’t quite see on their own.

With every conversation + email exchange, your purpose is simple + clear:

Personalize. Really listen. Synthesize + echo back information. Make connections.

Your clients will feel deeply seen, heard + appreciated — no muffin basket required.

(And if you still feel compelled to blast some pastries through the postal system, you can go right ahead + send them to me. 😉

photo by briana lehman // 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

7 Insanely Helpful Posts About Your Business

Wait!  Before we get to links I have something else I want to talk to you about.

It’s late September and I’m talking about the holidays. 


Okay!  Now that that’s out of my system, let’s also acknowledge that 80% of Americans buy gifts online. And wouldn’t it be lovely if they bought those gifts from your Etsy shop/online store/blog?  Yeah, I think so too.  

But what if your online space isn’t quiiiiiite ready for an influx of visitors?  Dude, I can help.  

Each month I help small businesses and creative entrepreneurs with their online presences through my Solution Sessions.  It’s an awesome (and big) consulting package, filled with lots of different takeaways - none of which I offer a la carte.  Until now! (please read that in your best monster trucks announcer voice.)  

Here’s the deal: 

* You buy a Holiday Presence package
* You send me your URLs (blog! shop! social media profiles!)
*  I stalk your online life and send you 15-20 actionable, profit-increasing, awesome-i-fying suggestions
* You spend October implementing said suggestions to make your online presence as amazing a internet-ly possible
* In November, your ad goes up on Yes and Yes, introducing your products (and your newly improved online space) to 11,000+ people and 3,000+ newsletter subscribers
* You make waaaa more sales and enjoy lots of traffic and new readers
* We send each other internet high fives.  Yes?  Yes.

Sound like something you’re interested in?  Fantastic!  Check out my traffic stats here and then drop me a line at sarah (at) yesandyes (dot) org.  

Okay.  Onto the links!

20 quick tips for writing great blog posts.
Mix up the length of your posts – short can be sweet but long can be epic!
When an idea strikes – drop everything and capture it!
Do everything you can to understand who is reading your blog – it will make you more useful to them

What’s the difference between flat rates and hourly rates? And which should you use?

If you’re tired of hearing about marketing funnels, then you should read this post about the much more fun-ly named ‘salesnado’.

Did you know that super successful people share a lot of the same habits?  Let’s steal 9 of those habits!
Talk is cheap and meaningful customer relationships are built on promises. Same goes for your personal life, right? Well, maybe. Success is built on mutually trusting relationships with just about everybody. If you say you’re going to walk the office dog? Well, you’d best walk the office dog.

7 timeless principles of creative management

Holy helpful!  Bookmark this ish NOW. Startup Toolkit: the best tools for entrepreneurs

NBD.  My True Story: I Waited Till Marriage To Have Sex post was on the front page of the Subreddit: Sex board and I still get heaps of traffic from it.  Want to get a link on the front page of Reddit?  Here’s how.

Have you read anything particularly helpful lately?  Leave links in the comments!

photo by kennymatic // cc

How To Be Amazing At Social Media Without Letting It Consume Your Life

Good lord but maintaining your online life can get exhausting.  There’s always a new platform to sign up for, more people to follow, new best practices to perfect.  When I’m doing a Clever Session with a client, social media overwhelm is inevitably one of the first things we talk about.

Nearly everyone I’ve worked has said some version of the following:
“I know I need to use social media but I have no idea where to start.”
“It’s just so time consuming! I’ve got shit to do!”
“Do I reallllllly have to use __________?”
“How can I find time in my day to watch all of the cat videos I want to see?”

Dude. I know.  I totally, totally know.  I work hard to maintain some level of work/life balance and for me that means no data plan on my smartphone and only using two social media platforms (I use Twitter and Facebook - let’s be friends!)  It’s taken me a while (and an abandoned Pinterest account) to figure out a social media plan that works for me, promotes my stuff, but doesn’t consume my life.  Here’s what I’ve figured out (and what I suggest to my social media overwhelmed clients

Choose 2 (or 3) social media platforms and get good at them
It’s much, much better to do two things well than five things poorly.  If you ‘just’ have a Facebook page and Twitter account that is 100% acceptable. Devote your time to writing interesting, click-worthy tweets, creating Twitter lists that will help you reach your goals, and posting clever things on your business’s Facebook page.

If you’ve chosen LinkedIn, reach out to people you want to work with and post helpful articles. If you’re on Pinterest, write funny, helpful captions. Instagram? Share photos of the products you’re developing or behind-the-scenes photos.

You get the idea.  You’ll see better results (and feel a lot less stressed) if you really commit to becoming amazing at just a few things.

Pre-schedule your social media
This is the absolute best thing you can do to make social media manageable.  I (somewhat controversially) recommend that you tweet about your blog posts multiple times - which can obviously get time consuming.  Set aside an hour or two each week and spend that time scheduling your tweets and Facebook updates.  If you’re super organized (and feel so inclined) you can even schedule out Instagram photos and pins on Pinterest.  I use Hootsuite for all my pre-scheduling needs, but there are heaps of other pre-scheduling services.

You should also set aside at least 20 minutes a day to pop into your social media account and interact with your friends and followers in real time.  Robots we are not.

Work around the limitations of the platforms you’re using
Just because you want to post a tiny video of your products, doesn’t mean you have to create a Vine account.  If you’ve already got an Instagram account, you can use their video option.  I don’t have an instagram account, but I regularly share images on Twitter by using Twitpic.  Do you love to curate collections of inspirational images but don’t want a Pinterest account?  Create a photo album on your Facebook page.

Choose a platform that makes sense for your business
Really, arguments could be made for just about any social media platform for just about any business.  Regardless, here are my two cents for which platforms make the most sense for which business.
Twitter: just about everybody.  It allows you to interact directly with customers and potential clients in 140-character bites.
Facebook: most companies - especially brick and mortar businesses. Facebook is the grandma of social media so most people view it as a foregone conclusion that any reputable business will have a Facebook page.  It’s also the platform with the most users.
Instagram: photographers/designers/lifestyle brands.  Your goods are visually appealing!  You should be showing people that!
freelancers/marketers/consultants.  This is where you find potential clients and collaborators.  Obviously.
Pinterest: anyone who markets to women.
Vimeo/Youtube/Vine: speakers/coaches/companies whose product must be demoed to understand.

Which social media platforms do you use?  Do you preschedule?  How do you avoid the overwhelm?

photo by sean mcgrath // 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