How to Survive Your Business Launch, AKA: Self-care For Entrepreneurs

Launching a new business or product can be a serious drag on your personal well-being.

It feels like there is no time to get anything done despite how long you're working, and when you do find a glimmering sliver of free time, you're too fucking exhausted to spend the time doing anything you really enjoy. But it doesn't have to be that way. I just launched a shiny brand-new, full-length ebook, and I didn't:

  • stay up until 2am (in fact, I'm such a raging grandmother than I'm in bed by nine everyday, and reading for a bit before bed)
  • stop eating anything but cardboard microwave pizza
  • forget to shower
  • forget to feed my cat
  • forget that I have a cat
  • forget that I have a husband (okay, maybe some days. Sorry, love)
  • completely snap and sob for an entire afternoon

In fact, life went on mostly as usual. I cleaned the house a little less (... maybe a lot less), I still read a few books, went for a few walks, watched uncountable hours of Youtube, tackled an insane knitting project, and made and ate real food. There are of course a few things that I would like to make sure I do better next time, but over all, I think it's proof that you can try new things, take on big projects, and succeed without running yourself into the dirt.

The hustle is real. But taking care of yourself is also real. The pressure to achieve what some of these big bloggers and entrepreneurs are doing is intense. I just launched a product, but did I make 400k?

Hell no.

The truth is, most of us won't, no matter how accessible it's made to seem— and it's not worth the mental wringer we sometimes put ourselves through in an attempt to achieve this success and mimic these lives when you're just starting out. You don't need $400,000 or even $100,000 to be happy, successful, and totally fulfilled.

 

REMEMBER YOURSELF

You are the most important part of this equation, babe. You can't do it without you. You can't have success (whatever that may look like for you, success is individual, as is failure), you can't have thriving businesses, you can't have epic books or beautiful courses if you're not present. And most importantly? You can't be around to enjoy the fruits of your labour if you need a month to recover from the process. That's not what is it about. We struck out on our own to ditch that shit, remember?

It can be really heavy on the shoulders wearing fourteen hats as a solo entrepreneur. But never forget that you can take off some of those hats, if only temporarily. You can hire someone else to wear a hat, or you can simply let go of some of the less used and less useful hats. You don't have to do everything, you only have to do what works.

 

ACKNOWLEDGE WHERE YOU ARE, AND WHERE YOU'VE BEEN

Sometimes when you are smack in the middle of a business or product launch— whatever that all consuming, totally exciting adventure is for you— it can be easy to forget to look back. In these times we are so intensely focused on looking forward, on seeing what the results of our actions will be. We're so consumed with whether or not we will succeed or fail that we end up on a very short time-scale roller-coaster of emotion. Things are good, things are bad— but we're seeing these things like the three-day weather focus, rather than looking at the climate.

Gain some perspective by focusing on the climate, and take a moment to look at what has changed in the long term. Where were you this time last year? The year before that? Seriously, get out that quill and parchment and jot down some of the things you've tried this year, some of the books you've read, some of the things you've learned how to do— I guarantee you'll impress yourself. How would the You of one year ago felt about where you are now? It's incredibly easy to acclimatize to new achievements, feeling increasingly like they are your new base level— it's like hedonic adaptation, but for business. When you once would have been beyond thrilled to have four hundred views in a day, you're now looking at 1,200 going eh, not bad.

This isn't to say that it's a bad idea to strive for bigger and better things— far from it. But it's important to keep your goals in sight and to remember each day what is it you want to accomplish, and not what other people are telling you that you need to accomplish. Remember that as long as you are taking steps forward to your ultimate goals and dreams— NO MATTER HOW SMALL— that is all that matters. Everyone has different strides.

 

DITCH THE TOXIC COMPARISON

Let's be honest here— there's never a good time for toxic comparison. However the worst time you can start to become buddies with the Big Evil is during your launch. And with good reason. The launch of a new product or service is incredibly sensationalized— especially if you're hanging out on social media with other bloggers and entrepreneurs. It's the be all and end all of business, apparently. Don't get me wrong, the launch is certainly important, but when you become totally fixate on the exact method to success that other entrepreneurs have used, you're headed down a gloomy path.

It doesn't matter what others have done, or how much money they're making. Different circumstances bring each person to different places. There is no one method you will be able to follow for immediate success, only techniques. Be incredibly wary of the person who tries to tell you that this is the case.

You don't know what went into someone else's launch process— even if they tell you. You don't know about all the factors, because they might not either. Two people could follow the exact same steps with hot and cold results. There are so many small factors at play here from writing style to disposable finance.

Step back for a moment and take a look your definition of success— at what you really want, and what you really need. There is a good chance if you haven't done this before, you might be surprised at the results. You might find that you have been nodding along with someone else's definition of success without taking a moment to see if you really need the same thing they've got. You might need more, you might need less. It doesn't matter what they do or do not have.

My recommendation? Stop looking at income reports. Kick that to the curb. You don't need to know what anyone else is making, and you don't need to know how many thousands they pulled in during their last launch. It may seem like this is a healthy practise because it's contained within the envelope labelled 'business', but let me tell you it's just the same as flicking through fashion magazines, full of the envy of bodies and dresses you don't have.

Someone else's income is not the stick by which you measure your success.

Write that shit down.

 

GREET YOUR LIMITS

We all have them, and I'm telling you right now, muses, there is no shame in acknowledging them. Your life will be a lot more sparkly if you do, I promise you that. Just because someone else does, or claims to:

  • run 5k a day
  • sleep for only four hours
  • subsist entirely off of green juices
  • work for fourteen hours straight
  • participate in five different mastermind groups
  • rock Pinterest, Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, and Periscope without a VA

does not mean that you need to do any or all of the above. The thing is, these folks never showcase what they're giving up. You see the results, but you rarely see what it cost them to get there. The entire process of being an business owner is give and take. You can get more efficient, you can hire help, you can learn new techniques, but you cannot create more time, add infinitely to a list of tasks, or shake that pesky fact that we, as humans (and most of us are, as far as I know) need sleep. Preferably like seven hours of it every day.

Your limits might be different than those of others, but it's important to nod to them, and to say hello when they do appear. They're telling you something important.

 

TAKE BREAKS— WHOLE DAYS, EVEN

If you've been around here for any length of time you'll know that I'm a pretty big fan of taking breaks, and making good use of the incredibly-productive short workday.

Now, I'll be the first to say that I sometimes fuck this up, too. Sometimes I work for too long, and I can feel myself regretting it even as it's happening. I know it's really hard to make the decision to let go when it feels like the mountain of work is growing exponentially.

I can also admit that when I do push myself too far and neglect to take breaks and nurture my brain, my work suffers. Why? Science. Countless studies for years and years have been showing that people simply suck at focusing intensely on something for really long periods of time; I remember when we found this out in high school and attempted to overthrow the hour-and-a-half class times in favour of shorter ones.

Why does this matter? Short bursts of intense productivity is the way to get the most, highest-quality work done— and you'll be happier while you're doing it. Test it just for one or two days and see. Now, when I say work, I really do mean it. For whatever period of time you dedicate to work (say 50 minute work periods broken up by 20 minute breaks), ditch social media, get the hell off Facebook, stop wandering around your house looking for things to clean and declutter. Put your pen on the paper, your fingers on the keys, your hand on the paint brush— whatever your tool of choice— and produce something.

It's difficult to work up this kind of discipline, there's no doubt about that. But we need not be afraid of discipline, no matter how scary the word sounds, and how strongly it may conjure up images of Professor McGonagall at her worst.

Discipline is choosing between what you want now, and what you want most.

It is just as important if not more so to extend this mentality to your weeks— and take a damn day off, girl. Put the laptop in a closet. Have an herbal bath with a million candles. Go for a walk. Make soup. Draw some cards for yourself. Journal. Go dancing. Marathon a TV show you love (hands up for Vikings, anyone?).

 

MOVE

Ahh, and so we come to it. The place I failed. Of course I've failed at all of them from one time to another, but this is the one at which I fail consistently. I somehow manage to tell myself that my physical health is not quite as important as my mental health— and I've done this consistently pretty much all my life. I'm bookish. I'm paperish. I'm laptopish.

Unfortunately, it's not the truth. Mental health and physical health go hand in hand. If you spent hours a day sitting like a ton of creative entrepreneurs do, letting your body atrophy, you're not going to be able to do anything when you finally have the time— at least, you probably won't enjoy it.

You know that feeling you get when you've had a bad cold or flu and you've been in bed for a while, unable to do much, and then finally one afternoon you decide that it's not doing you any good and you need to get outside despite feeling like your head is jammed full of expanding foam?

It's the very same. We get to a point where sitting around all the time makes you feel tired and crappy, which in turn makes you not want to move, which makes you feel more tired and crappy. It's a hard cycle to break (I've been thinking about writing a longer post on this at some point). But start small. There is no sense beating yourself up for not being in great physical shape when your job demands that you sit around all the time. It's hard to tell yourself that you need to do 30 minutes of this physical activity stuff you don't really want to do when you have a mountain of work you need to do.

The thing is, you might be able to get away with this for a while, but as I'm finding out right now... not forever. Go for a walk or do some yoga everyday, preferably in the morning. You deserve it.

I hope this advice has been helpful for you all. Be kind to yourself my loves, it can be uphill and windy out there.

Find your own metric for success. Define your own goals. Dream your own dreams.

How You Can Conquer Creative Fear & Transform Negative Feedback

So you've had this amazing idea blossoming in your mind for ages now, and it's bursting to get out into the world.

You've spent ages putting your best effort into your passion project, but you feel a total twist in your gut when it comes to actually letting your dream out into the world.

This fear has plagued artists, inventors, and entrepreneurs since some dude said "I think maybe round is the better choice, here." It's not new, and it's totally normal to feel a little nervous when we take that first step to getting out work out there. We may not want everyone to like us— in fact, we're pretty sure that universal admiration has never existed— but what if no one likes our work?

It's a basic human need to want to be seen, to be understood.

We all want someone to get it.

We want the community that comes from a common interest and a common pursuit.

There's good news: just as universal admiration is a full-on harmful fallacy, so is universal dislike.

I mean, there are thousands of people who are perfectly willing to vote for Donald Fucking Trump. If that's not proof, I don't know what is.

Some negative feedback is inevitable— I'd even argue it's necessary. It stings, but it's how we learn and grow— and learning and growth is the foundation of any creative endeavour or entrepreneurial project. We can take this negative feedback and we can find the spark of positivity within it. We can use it to transform our creative lives and businesses, without letting it tear down our confidence and smother our passion.

 

1. STAY CALM

Most of the time the occasional snippet of negative feedback doesn't make your blood boil— but every now and then? A killer doozy that makes you want to put someone's head through a wall. If you've worked in customer service before I can almost guarantee you've experienced one of these unless you're one of those totally unflappable goddesses, in which case, I salute you.

It's so hard to really internalize this information, but the truth is customer anger is almost never directed at you. Not you personally. They've probably had a bad day, they're frustrated with lost time and money and they want someone to hear them— as would anyone. I mean, the majority of us deal with our frustrations gracefully and without shitting all over someone else's good day, but what can you do? Understand that blowing up will only make the situation worse. The best way to diffuse a tense situation is to reign in that alpha female who wants to give your rude client a smack down. If you're in a face-to-face situation, keep your voice slow, quite, and relaxed— your customer will be more likely to match your approach.

If you're dealing with criticism through email, blog comments or other social media interactions, take a moment to breathe. Write out the angry response you've always dreamed of (without the email address), get that salty shit out of your system, and take a beat. Consider what they are really upset about, decide if you can improve their situation, and take it from there.

 

2. DON'T DWELL ON 'YOU SUCK'

Before you really let any feedback into your heart, make sure you determine what kind of place this feedback is coming from. The feedback might be critical, but has it been given to you from a good place? Is the reader or customer trying to help you learn something? What can you learn from them?

If someone is simply coming along to say "Hey, I think your blog is shit," let that go. Delete and move on, baby. You don't need that crap. It's not contributing to the conversation, and it's not contributing to your blog or business. No one is learning anything here, except that some people are d-bags. If someone else isn't taking the time to contribute usefully and authentically, you don't have to either.

 

3. ACCEPT YOUR HUMANITY

Getting your art, your blog, or your business out there often requires a lot of self confidence. Often we've broken away from the pack because we want to be doing things our way without the pressure and restraint of The Boss, and The System. However, it's important to remember that we can still be wrong. Really wrong. We're still normal people, and humans make a lot of mistakes.

Try and step back from the situation and look at it from an outsiders point of view— or better yet, get the point of view of a trusted outsider. Someone you can count on to give it to you straight without worrying about breaking apart a friendship. Are your instincts and judgements on track, or is there maybe some aspect of this situation that you're struggling to see?

 

4. PICK YOUR BATTLES

You can't always be on the front line, fighting it out. If someone is coming at you with a criticism and a request, sometimes it is simply easiest to honour your request. Is it worth the social media smackdown your business will get if you don't leave your customer with a good impression?

Definitely not. If they're unhappy with something, you have a golden opportunity to make it magic for them. Going the extra mile will ensure that the gossip they're spreading about you and your blog or business is the kind of gossip you want. They will remember the person who reached out to them with willingness and a smile. It can be tough when you're just starting out to give up that sale or reimburse someone's payment, but if you look long-term, rather than short-term, this is money in your pocket. These are future sales you're not going to miss out on because of a spoiled reputation.

However, there are always those people who simply cannot be pleased. When you put your life and your business on the Internet for the world to see there will always be people waiting to talk shit about you, to bring you down. Don't let it hold you back. Those are not your ideal customers and readers, and if you lead by example and show the world you're awesome, the people who matter will notice.

 

5. STICK TO YOUR CORE

It's so important to get really clear on what our core principles and values are. Where are you not willing to budge? Feedback is almost always useful, but there are definitely going to be times when you get feedback that simply doesn't jive with you.

Don't shift your vision simply because someone else isn't on board with what you are trying to accomplish, with your message and your dream. You know what values lie at the heart of your endeavours. If you are offering tarot sessions to help spiritual business mavens get on track and someone comes along and says they like your advice, but don't think you should be using tarot...

This is not your person.

 

6. THE OPINIONS OF OTHERS DO NOT SHAPE YOUR WORTH

No matter what feedback you get, no matter who loves your work, or who hates your work, in the end the only thing that matters is you. The opinions of others do not determine whether or not it is worthwhile for you to make art. They don't determine whether or not you get to write, or share that art, or turn that creative passion into a business.

Do you think Neil Gaiman spends time thinking about whether or not he should write because there are lots of people out there who can't stand his writing?

Hell no.

He writes because it gives meaning to his life. If six, or six hundred, or six thousand people tell you they don't like your art, it doesn't matter. What matters is that it enriches your life, that you learn and grow in your experience, and that you share authentically. All the rest is just sprinkles.

The thing is, you'll never know until you let go of your message in a bottle, until you send it out there and see who picks it up. Creativity is a solitary endeavour, certainly, but it can also be a community one— and to build that community, you have to welcome vulnerability. You have to open your arms and take whatever comes back to you, good or bad.

You will only be all the stronger for it.

MindsetDanna Rowan
Leap: How to Take a Risk

Imbolc, impulse.

The quickening of new life. A time of action, motion, new beginnings, and taking risks. Starting a new blog, business, creative project, or taking a step towards a major life change can be scary— and it's often at least a little bit risky. You could be a totally beginner in your field, working a day-job while trying to launch your side-hustle, moving to a new country, or starting a new relationship.

In these times, money, security, and comfort are all up in the air in pursuit of what you really want in your life. Sometimes to move ahead we have to make a choice without knowing exactly what the outcome will be. We step forward into murky future full of that dazzling mix of uncertainty and promise.

 

"Sometimes you wake up. Sometimes the fall kills you. And sometimes, when you fall, you fly."  Neil Gaiman

 

Here are the five things you need to consider carefully before taking a risk.

 

1. WHAT DO YOU WANT?

Before you jump head first into a risky decision or venture it's important to get super clear on what result it is that you want. What are you hoping to achieve? What is your ideal outcome? It's important that you nail down the specifics here, just like you would while setting quality goals. If you're buying a course to invest in your business, what do you want to learn from the course? How is it going to concretely improve your business? What changes are you going to make?

You also want to consider what emotional outcome you are looking for. No matter the type of risk, you want to make sure that your choice is going to get you feeling the way you want to feel.

 

2. WHAT DO YOU RISK LOSING?

This is where you have to be really honest with yourself. It wouldn't be a risk if there wasn't something important at stake. What is it? Are you putting up a little more money than you're comfortable with as an investment? Are you risking your blog or business by refreshing your branding? Are you risking a relationship by coming clean with what you really think or feel about a situation that has been bringing you down?

Sometimes we're tempted to downplay the risk in order to justify making it, because we want the positive outcome. But folks, it's just important to consider how you're going to get by when the thing you were risking is gone from your life for good— whether it's a friend, a lover, or a cheque for $10,000.

 

3. WHAT IS THE WORST CASE SCENARIO?

We're almost done with the doom and gloom, I promise. This is what I like to call The Apocalypse Scenario, and although it may seem counter to all of the love, light, and manifesting that has taken the world by storm, it's important to understand that while it probably won't happen, it might, and you're going to have to deal with it.

So get zombie-invasion serious here. What could really go wrong for you? What could happen if your risk backfires and you lose not only what you were intentionally putting on the road of uncertainty, but other things, too? Thinking about this not only prepares you for what may happen, but gives you a serious dose of gratitude-fodder for when it doesn't. When you consider the worst case scenario, a neutral outcome becomes pretty desirable, and a successful outcome all kinds of epic.

 

4. WHAT IS THE MOST REALISTIC SCENARIO?

Now it's time to reel it in a bit, put away the HAZMAT and Nuclear Winter stash. What is the most likely outcome? If you're not sure, it's probably in that fairly unexciting middle area between epic success and epic failure. More likely than not, some aspects of your ideal scenario will come to fruition, and others won't. It's the way of the game.

Get detailed— seriously. Get out a pen and paper and write in detail your most likely, most realistic scenario, and make sure you're okay with this outcome. I would also recommend getting an outside opinion at this point. Often, the scariest part of risks is that we ourselves cannot clearly see the most realistic scenario. We see the polarizing opposites and forget about the hazy grey area in the middle.

 

5. WHAT ARE YOU GOING TO DO TO GET THERE?

A risk is a type of goal, and with all goals, carefully thought-out and actionable steps are the key to getting a good results. When do you expect to see your risk pay off? How long will it take before you start to see success (or failure)? Is the risk a primary step in implementing a longer term plan?

To get the most out of your risk, break it down into the smallest parts you can. What do you need to do to bring about your ideal scenario? Are there any steps you can take to be as prepared as you can and to help ensure success? Think both long and short term. Break down larger sections of action into small, manageable tasks that you can do today to move towards the result you want.

You've done a lot of thinking and you've approached your risk from many perspectives. All that's left is to decide whether or not to leap.

MindsetDanna Rowan
Finding Money for Your Business When it seems like you have none

When it come to investing in your blog and business, finding the extra income can be a little tricky.

Often when we're just starting out we are students, new parents, twenty-somethings, taking a risk, or leaving a job. We don't usually have a ton of cash on hand ready to invest in our shiny new blog or creative business.

Now, I'm not saying that you do need a ton of money to start— you don't. I didn't. I grew my list to over 1300 subscribers and my monthly views to over 65,000 without spending a cent on advertising or costly lead-generating systems like Lead Pages. But it can be useful to have a little extra income to pay for some tools and systems that are really useful for building a successful blog and creative business.

Am I about to give you a magical solution to making $3000 a day while working at home? Definitely not. I'm going to show you how you can reallocate funds you already have to better serve you.

 

THE DAILY COFFEE

Raise your hand if you're guilty. I know you're out there. You grab a coffee on the way to work, or at lunch. Maybe it's a habit you got into during the winter, maybe your coworkers encouraged it. Let me tell you right now that this is the easiest way you can cover all the important things you need to get your blog or creative business going. Seriously.

Lets assume you're spending $3 a day on coffee. For some of you, this may be a little high (hello, Canadian Tim Horton's drinkers). For others, a little low— I'm looking at you, $5 latte.

$3 x 30 = $90/monthly = $1080/yearly

Get a sweet tumbler from Starbucks or DavidsTea (be warned. The DavidsTea ones keep your tea hot forever) and make the best tea and coffee from home before you head out. Even buying $20/lb gorgeous fair trade beans, grinding them yourself and making coffee is still cheaper than buying out. A lot cheaper. When you do go out for coffee every now and then, it becomes an extraordinary treat— something you look forward to for days, rather than something that has just become a part of your everyday routine.

 

What you can do with $90/monthly:

  • Hire a virtual assistant for a few hours (6hrs x $15)
  • Pay for a Teachable subscription to host your online courses
  • Pay to send mail to your list with Mailchimp ($30-$90)
  • Set up Tailwind to rock Pinterest ($10)
  • Pay for a stock photography subscription like Death to Stock to fill your blog with gorgeous images ($15)

 

THE LUNCH RUN

This is another bad habit that folks working in offices or typical work places tend to fall into. Your mornings are rushed and groggy, and you totally hate making sandwiches for lunch anyway. You promise yourself you're actually going to do it this time, and then somehow you're at Subway or Wholefoods forking out a ridiculous sum of money to get you by. This is a much easier habit to avoid when you work from home, but if you're working a day job and hustling your passion-project on the side, you might find yourself falling into this trap. I'm going to low-ball it here, although you could be spending anywhere from $4 to $12 to buy yourself lunch depending on where you are. Assuming you buy lunch only twice a week...

$6 x 8 = $48/monthly = $576/yearly

To be completely honest, fellow bosses, I hate making my lunch too. Luckily working from home I can actually make a meal like pasta or a panini. However, making your lunch doesn't have to mean making a boring ass ham sandwich. Get on Pinterest, and get serious about your business. There are so many wonderful ideas out there.

What you can do with $48/monthly:

  • Use Leadpages to grow your blog and email list like a pro ($25-49 depending on your payment plan)
  • Use DPD to deliver digital products to your customers and set up a flawless affiliate system ($10-30)

 

THE DINNER

Am I totally sucking the fun out of everything yet? Remember that you don't have to cut all of these things out of your life. Minimizing your expenses in any area will give you a little extra income to boost your business. Now, you're probably not this person, but I know people who go out for dinner or buy take out almost every single day of the week. If they're not doing that, they're eating frozen meals out of a box. Let's assume you're buying a drink with your meal, and you're going out twice a month. This puts you at probably $30.

$30 x 2 = $60/monthly = $720/yearly

If this is you, think about how you could be transforming your business, and get out the cutting board. Making a nutritious meal that costs you as little as a dollar is a great way to save money, get healthy and give yourself a little break from your blog and business. It's important to slow down every now and then, and this is a really fantastic way to do it— bonus points if you use meal-making as bonding time with your partner. Rather than head out for dinner, make it really special. Get out those candles, put on your favourite music. You can make every meal your favourite meal.

What you can do with $60/monthly:

  • Pay for a little Facebook advertising to give yourself a boost during a launch period
  • Sign up for Adobe Creative Cloud and give your website's graphics a professional edge ($10-$50 monthly)
  • Web hosting & a domain name ($10 a month)

 

THE CAR

If you live in a city with somewhat decent public transportation, chances are you can get by pretty well with public transportation— and even better, a bike. Two birds, one stone; fitness and transportation. Of course, there are some situations when you simply need a car, but if you're rocking on for convenience, really consider what you're giving up here. You could be spending at least $50 a month on gas, $300 a month on a car payment, $150 a month on insurance, never mind the cost of maintaining a car. Let's call it $500 a month.

$500 x 12 = $6000/yearly

If you're really serious about growing your business, this is the biggest untapped potential you might have. Think of what you could do with $6000 or more each year to invest in growing your business. Not to mention adding to your health and happiness, and decreasing the load on the planet. It's a pretty epic choice.

What you can do with $500/monthly:

  • Get serious about creative coaching, or web design
  • Take a course you've been coveting which you are sure will help your business (Don't get swindled folks. You don't need to pay thousands of dollars to join exclusive clubs).
  • What can't you do with $500 monthly?

 

THE BOTTLE

Going out for a drink every now and then is not the worst idea— especially for us folks who spend a lot of time working from home and might not see other living creatures besides our cat for long period of time. It's a good way to meet like-minded people who may also be creative entrepreneurs. But when it becomes a habit, it's an expensive habit. Whether you're going out or having a few drinks at home, let's look at how you can use this to take your business to the next level. Let's assume we have two drinks when we go out.

$14 x 4 = $56/monthly $672/yearly

You can save a lot of money by hosting friends over at your house rather than heading out— and to be honest, for a lot of us introverts, it can be a lot more fun, too.

What you can do with $56/monthly:

  • buy books to continue your education (never stop learning!)
  • Pay for a great looking theme for your blog if you're going the DIY route, such as Headway ($60, when on sale)

This also applies to vices of other types— cigarettes, The Legal Green, whathaveyou. If you find yourself mired in a sticky habit, think hard about what you really want.

 

THE ENTERTAINMENT

Here I'm including everything from going out to see movies, buying clothes, expensive TV packages, and overprice cellphones. I guarantee there is somewhere here you can cut your expenses— even if it might seem a little crazy. Call your internet/phone/TV service provider and try to renegotiate a better deal— or better yet, cancel one of them. Get simple.

At the beginning of last Fall, I ditched my phone completely, and the experience has been wonderful. Try getting rid of yours for just a couple of days and see how you do— you may be totally shocked by how transformative the experience is, and how much more mindfully you live your day to day life.

 

A FEW TIPS

Challenge yourself to making $100. Go through the bulging closet and put up nice items that you no longer wear on Ebay or Kijiji. If it's summer-time, host a garage sale (they're kind of fun, to be honest). Go through your kitchen and get rid of the niche kitchen-accessory you got for your wedding shower and never touched ever. I guarantee there are a few things in your house which you could swap for some cash. Old DVDs? Books? To a used book store with them!

I also suggest unsubscribing from the mailing lists of the likes of Anthropologie, Groupon, etc, especially if you have a bit of a shopping habit you're trying to curb. Removing the temptation is incredibly helpful, and allows you to reallocate that money to something that will generate lasting happiness, rather than the temporary endorphin rush that comes with spending.

Are you ready to stop wasting time and take your blog to the next level?

Rock Steady: How to maintain high levels of blog engagement

You've been blogging for a little while now, but your readership is completely erratic.

You're longing for a steady upswing in traffic, but you're feeling like you can't seem to keep up a consistent level of readership. Maybe you've seen a boom in traffic that faded and left you wondering what happened.

Maybe you're not really sure where your audience is coming from, or why they are (or aren't) sticking around.

Maybe you're struggling with how often you need to be posting in order to maintain a high level of engagement.

These feelings are not unique. This is what a blog looks like in its infancy, moody and inconsistent. As a blog coach for creative entrepreneur, this is something I get asked about often. No one wants to spend hours carefully crafting a blog post only to find out they're writing to an audience of exactly 3. No one wants to find themselves collecting tumbleweed after a boom in traffic, wondering what on earth they did wrong.

 

1. CAPTURE READERS

It's crucial that you have all the features set up to capture readers, in the event that a big burst of traffic does arrive. I'm not talking about being prepared for a million viewers if you get a truly viral post, but the typical upswing of traffic you can expect from a few well-placed shares. You want to make sure that you have systems in place to capture those readers, and make sure that they are able to return to your blog. What am I talking about? A few things.

The most important thing is your newsletter. I'm not talking about a newsletter that simply tells your readers when you publish a new blog post, but a newsletter that gives them serious value for their commitment. You might offer them tips and advice relevant to your niche, extra content, or a free email course. If you notice a post is getting way more traffic than usual, make sure you have a call to action at the bottom of the post— whether that is simply telling them about how valuable your newsletter is, or offering them a content upgrade— so that you are not wasting your greater visibility. On the regular, you should always have a clear, simple way for your readers to get your newsletter.

If you don't have a newsletter, or you're looking for an alternative means of capturing your reader, sending them to your Facebook Page or group, or other social media accounts is a great way to ensure you get repeat contact with that viewer. Don't make them search for links to your social!

 

2. BUILD IN DIRECTION

Where is your reader headed after they stop by to see that blog post someone shared on Pinterest? How do they know if this blog is for them, or where they should go next? Your job is to make it extremely easy for your reader to be hooked on your blog.

I'll be forever recommending a 'Start Here' page. It's like an about page, but better. It shows your readers what you're all about, who your blog is for, and what they are going to gain by sticking around. It allows you to showcase your best blog posts, and most important services. And the best part about it? The 'Start Here' page tells your reader what to do first. It's right in the title. If they're eye is roaming the page, looking for where to go, you've got one golden opportunity to show them. Put a link to your 'Start Here' page in the top right or left hand corner. 

When your reader first comes to your blog, chances are they are there for a specific post, and are spending the bulk of their time reading that post. What better to do than make sure there are ample opportunities for them to explore other blog posts? Put links to relevant content right in your blog posts. You can add them at the end of a chunk of content like I did at the end of the last paragraph, or work them into a sentence, like this:

"Last week, when I was writing about building brilliant blog posts, I mentioned that you should always..."

Finally, make sure to include some links or images in your sidebar which take your reader to your services, or most popular posts. I recommend using branded cover images like the ones you see in my blog posts, as they work much better to grab your reader's eye!

 

3. DON'T BE THAT FRIEND

You know, the one who you don't hear from for 8 months, and then calls you up exclaiming how much she missed you and can we please please go out for coffee.

Consistency is very important when you are working to build an audience, both on your blog proper, and with your various social media satellites (if you aren't using social media yet to build your audience, you need to be.) People will forget you if they don't hear from you, no matter how much they liked that blog post they read. If they aren't reminded of your glorious presence, they will give up. Now, this is not to say that you need to be posting every single day.

When The House of Muses was young, I felt like I needed to be posting every single day in order to keep up my traffic— when I didn't post, traffic plummeted, and I panicked. Great quality content that shows up once a week will bring you way more success than six hastily written blog posts you banged out at 1AM. There is a place for Top 10s, roundups, and favourite things, but it sure as hell isn't in every blog post. Your readers want quality, original content that really adds value to their life. You need your voice to stand out among the noise.

 

Setting up an editorial calendar is a great way to go. At the beginning of each month, brainstorm some post topics and write them into your calendar so you know exactly what you have coming up. Experiment with posting on different days to see when your audience responds the best and stick to that day like gum in a five year olds hair.

And on social media? Make sure you stop in at least once a day. You don't need to be a master of seven different platforms; pick one or two that work best and which don't make you want to put your head through a wall and develop a clear, effective strategy. If it's Pinterest, that might be pinning a certain number of Pins every day and staying active in group boards; if it's Instagram, that might mean finding out exactly which hashtags your tribe is using and making sure you post at least once quality image each day with the relevant tags.

 

4. AN OLDIE, BUT A GOODIE

All those blog posts you spend 3724 cumulative hours writing? Don't let them go to waste! Just because they are no longer on page one doesn't mean that they can't be rocking your traffic. You want to know a little secret? My most popular blog posts and biggest traffic drivers to this day are from:

  • November 26, 2015
  • July 13, 2015
  • August 13, 2015

You can help drive traffic back to old posts with some of the techniques I mentioned previously such as building internal linking, and directing your readers to your best content in your sidebar and 'Start Here' page, but this is where social media really shines. A stellar Pinterest or Twitter strategy are some of the best places to be sharing old content. The best thing about this method is that once in place it require minimal maintenance effort on your part! Set up a schedule with Hootsuite which shares all your posts on a cycle, so each day your audience is being directed to those old but gold posts of yours.

Although it seems popular lately to post blog posts without the date attached, I don't recommend doing this. Not only does it feel slightly dishonest, but it can be frustrating and misleading to your readers, especially if the content is time sensitive. No one needs a guide on how to use Pinterest that is five years old.

 

5. KNOCK THEIR SOCKS OFF

I feel like it's cheating saying this, but I continually see these same mistakes popping up in blogs of every niche. You have one chance to make a great impression; one chance to capture your reader and keep them coming back to you and your community. Writing great content is part of it— it's the foundation— but there is more to pulling off a successful blog than just great content. Here are a few things that will drive me away from a blog, no matter how good the content:

  • a blog loaded with typos, grammatical errors, three exclamation points after each sentence, and texting short forms straight out of 2006

"i can't understand why u would do this!!!"

  • a popup that shows up right when I arrive. If your reader doesn't even know who you are, they sure as hell aren't going to sign up for your newsletter— at least not for the right reasons.

  • too many adds and affiliate schemes. They don't make you money unless you have a massive amount of monthly views, and they are driving traffic away from your website. If you are including an ad, place it in the sidebar, and for heaven's sake not in the middle of your blog post.
  • distracting visuals. Do you need to have the perfect professional brand? Definitely not. But if you don't, err on the side of simplicity. Too many fonts, too many colours and too many features will confuse and distract your readers, leaving them with no clear idea what you're all about.

Focusing on building brilliant blog posts, growing your tribe with a heartfelt, informative newsletter, and making your message clear. The rest will come.