Permission to Take Time to Create

This week a Facebook friend shared something that surprised and delighted me.

But not at first.

You see, it was a link to a podcast about creativity, and the episode title was “The Silent Episode.”

Huh?  Is that some kind of joke?  So at first I was skeptical.  I scanned the comments for snarky comments, but there were none. Was it like the emperor’s new clothes—everybody knows that podcasts aren’t silent, but no one wanted to say anything?

As it turns out, it was no joke, and it made my day.

On that day I was happily preparing for a day full of creativity.  I’d set my alarm and gotten up (and caffeinated) early. I lined up sharpened pencils, a couple of pens that actually had ink in them, a big journal, a little journal, a charged laptop, and lots of time and space.

Crickets.

I just didn’t have any ideas. Not a single one.  Picture a closeup of a sharpened #2 tap-tap-tapping on a blank sheet of paper. Tap-tap-tap.  Drawing a frowny face. Scratching it out. Tap-tap-tap.  Oh, I should go check the mailbox.  Or do the dishes.  Or….

Enter the Ideamedic, my hero(ine) du jour, with this podcast.  It may sound strange, but it turns out there’s a world of difference between a self-help guru proclaiming you should “Give yourself permission to be creative whenever and wherever and as much as you like!”  and a simple podcast that say, simply and quietly, “Hey, here’s ten minutes. Play.”

Enjoy:

With my thanks to the fabulous Tara Roskell, the Ideamedic!

 

 

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For our nonprofit friends…and THEIR friends

Search engine specialist Charlotte Davies shared this with her audience on Facebook (of which I’m a happy member), and I’m passing it along to all of you because there are quite a few nonprofit organizations in our tribe, as well as a lot of folks who support nonprofits.

Google Ad Grants is a program that provides free Google AdWords advertising—up to $10,000 USD per month—on Google search result pages, to eligible nonprofit organizations. The program is designed to help organizations extend their public service messages to a global audience to make a greater impact on the world…in the form of more visibility, more volunteers, more donations.

Visit their page at https://www.google.com/grants/ for more details and to learn if your organization—or an organization close to your heart—is eligible.

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Are you working on a book, or wanting to publish? BookBub’s got your back.

A friend is working on publishing a book this year, and we’ve been chatting about how to promote it on the web.

She shared the link below with me, which takes you to the ebook “The Ultimate Collection of Book Marketing Examples” at BookBub’s website.  For those of you who might be working on a book, branching out into writing/publishing, or just like looking at pretty things, you might find it a nifty reference. You do have to subscribe to their blog to get it (free) but their posts are chock full of book marketing tips, which might be worth assessing to see if they’re valuable to you.

If you see things that pique your interest, and you’d like to know how to incorporate them into your own web presence or social media, let me know.

Just click the graphic to be taken there:

 

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It’s about you: On being fiercely yourself on your website

According to the oracle that is Google Analytics, one of the most popular places on my professional website is my About page. GA tells me how many people visit that page in a given month, and how many minutes they spend there, and whether they then leave the site, or move on to somewhere else.

I recently wrote about the importance of this page, and how its job is to give people the information they need to decide, “Yesss. That’s the right person for me.”

What Analytics reminded me, and what I neglected to mention in that post, was the importance of the opposite side of the equation, as in, “Nope. That’s not the person for me.” In many ways, “No” is even more important than “Yes.” Confused?

Don’t get me wrong. I love Yes. But the flip side of the coin is this: No saves me time, energy, and other scarce resources. I don’t have minutes or passion to spare to start a conversation with people who—for a variety of reasons—are intrinsically a bad fit for me, and I for them. In other words, it doesn’t bother me that some people get to my About page, spend a couple of minutes, then leave the site.  I trust that they know what’s best for them, and that they’ll move on and find their perfect partner.

Very early in my work with Websites for Good, I took on projects that my intuition told me were going to make me deeply unhappy. In an effort to keep my newborn business afloat, I turned a blind eye to the fact that they were doing work that I didn’t respect (like a business coach whose tactics included verbal abuse), or had values that curled my toenails (like the agent for nightclub entertainers who boasted about paying them as little as possible), or, most common of all, who had no respect whatsoever for my time or the need to be compensated for my work.

I wish I could say that one day the sun rose particularly bright, leading me to march into the office and kick all such comers to the curb. But truthfully, I was a slow learner, a chronic people-pleaser, and more than a little afraid of having to say, “Ummm, I don’t want to work with you.”

Almost by accident, I stumbled over a tool that, over time, has largely eliminated the need to say that: My About page.

In that space, I am (as my lovely coach teaches all in her flock) unashamedly myself, and no one else.
I give my background.
I state how I came to this work and who I love working with, and why.
I show people beyond a shadow of a doubt what sort of person I am.
I speak exactly the way I speak in real life.
I don’t hide the fact that I have feelings and opinions. They need to know me in order to make their best decision.

Alongside each of those risky areas, there may as well be big glowing Exit signs that allow people to “opt-out” before ever contacting me.  They might think,

Jeez, she sounds like some kind of idealistic hippie.
She’s a dreamer. She’ll never make money just working with those kinds of snowflakes.
She seems like one of those granola-crunching outdoorsy types. Ick.
She seems irritatingly happy. That would drive me batty.

A person like this wouldn’t like working with me. They know it, and I know it. If I chose to be more timid about showing the world just who & what I am, such people would be forced to waste time (theirs and mine) figuring that out the long way round, after a half-dozen emails, a marathon phone consultation, or even a face-to-face meeting.

But of course there are also people who read my About page and resonate with me—with my mission/vision, my energy, the fact that I have a garden and a dog, or that I’m frugal or have a slightly quirky sense of humor.  Whatever makes a connection.  More than enough of them finish reading and then contact me, a pre-filtered population of folks with whom I “click,” and thus feel like I can do my best work and stay mentally focused and healthy.  (For a great explanation of this, see Sarah Swanton’s swell blog post ‘Why Having A Niche Is Good For Your Mental Health‘)

Are you being You on your website? Or are you being the persona you think will cast the biggest net and catch the most prospects? Do you find yourself having the throw a lot of them back in the water?  Or maybe you don’t say “no” to them, and some have turned out to really not be good for your business or your peace of mind.

I’m happy to help you craft your About page and other aspects of your website so it feels like you AND attracts the people you really want in your working life…that allow you to be your best, grow your work, and love waking up in the morning.

Drop me a line through my Contact page and let me know if I can be of help.

 

 

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What does your website’s About page say about you?

I stumbled over the most swell website “About” page the other day (don’t ask me how) and I knew I wanted to share it with you. I’ve done that below, but before that, I wanted to pour a cup of coffee and have a little chat with you about your About page.

I’ve learned from our product The 90-Minute Website that there’s one page that seems to take the longest for participants to complete, because it never quite feels right, and it gets revised and revised and revised.  You guessed it: The About page.

Most of my clients agonize over their About page, some to the extent they don’t put one up at all.  They worry over what to say.  How personal to be.  Whether it should be first-person or third-person (or second person…wouldn’t THAT be interesting…)  Should I include a photo?  Should it be a studio headshot or a relaxed, approachable view of me?  Does anybody read those things?

Because I don’t believe this much pain and suffering is required, I wanted to show you a couple of examples of About pages that work, tell you why they work, and then give you a little formula that might help you feel good about yours. Would that help?  I hope so.

First, a small company.

From http://mariecatribs.com/about/

I’m so toughened against marketing that there isn’t much that catches my fancy for more than a few seconds at a time these days (sad, huh?)  Restaurant websites are not something that usually keep my attention.  But I literally read through this entire page, flipped through every one of the 20-odd photos in the slideshow, smiled all the way through, and wished I lived in Grand Rapids.

Why does it work?

  1. We get to see Marie (of Marie Catrib’s restaurant) doing her thing and obviously just delighted to be doing it
  2. The page title pulls you right in – it’s a universal truth that intrigues you from the first glance. What does that have to do with a restaurant?  Inquiring minds need to know.
  3. It shows that she has been lovingly crafting the whole experience of her restaurant in her head since she was little. That’s the kind of place you want to eat.
  4. It explains why she does this work, why it matters to her.
  5. It gives you a crystal-clear idea of the owner’s values, warmth, creativity, and caring.

In short, it humanizes the restaurant, and makes it the kind of place—and person—you want to support.

Now, a big company

https://mailchimp.com/about/

What sets this one apart from the standard, boring corporate About page?

  • Another grabby and fun photo, like Marie’s montage. This one plays off their current humorous ad campaign that centers on the fact that people (apparently) regularly mispronounce the MailChimp name or get it wrong
  • What the company does, and where it came from
  • Their leadership team and their people, displayed in a fun, informal and engaging way
  • Their corporate culture and their work in the community, described in an unstuffy, approachable way  (“MailChimp serves the people and organizations in Atlanta that help make our city better, weirder, and more human.”)

I have a lot of choices when it comes to email marketing services, and most of them are to me (as my friend & mentor Judith Morgan would put it)  “Much of a muchness,” offering very similar services.

I want to work with the one that’s creative, human, approachable, and fun — AND good at what they do. This About page seals the deal for me.

Having trouble with yours?

Here are a handful of tips for making your About page a super-useful page in your site:

  1. Have one.  And call it “About”.  That’s what most peoples’ eyes are looking for when they want to learn more about you.  
  2. Tell people your name, and what you do.  Don’t worry about redundancy. Always remember that, through the mystical world of Google search, they may land here FIRST when they visit your site.  Reiterate, in a very short blurb, who you are and what great thing(s) you offer.
  3. Tell your story, but don’t make it a novella.  Keep it focused, keep it tight.  This might not be a comfortable topic, but it has to be said:  If your About page is a thousand-word tome that rambles through your life journey and work history and trials and tribulations, the intuitive takeaway to potential clients is that a working relationship with you will be similarly unfocused and one-sided.  Instead….
  4. …Start with them.  And end with them.  Wait, you thought the About page was about you?  Well, that’s partly true.  But what you’re really doing out there is connecting with the human being who clicked “About” in your site’s menu. Tell them why you’re good at the thing they came to the site to learn about.  Tell them how your unique history prepared you to help them. Tell them—show them—how passionate about your work you are.  This kind of energy establishes a bond between you and your audience. They know you, like you, trust you
  5. Show yourself.  Yes, the dreaded photo.  Sorry.  But seriously:  If I am online checking you out, with the intent of recommending you to someone important to me, or taking the next step into a business relationship with you, I need to get a sense of you first. I need to see you, hear you, and decide whether I like you.  The best choice for a photo isn’t always a formal headshot. Showing yourself doing the work you love, or in the environment where you do it, can make a stronger connection than just donning the spiffiest suit in your closet.
  6. Don’t use jargon.  Oh, don’t get me wrong. You can use the language of your industry, but steer clear of trying to prove how much you know on your About page by packing it full of niche terminology. By limiting yourself to business-speak and obvious self-promotion, you end up sounding just like everyone else. The idea is to set yourself apart, not prove you’re just as good as the other players in the room.
  7. Write it in your own voice.  Read it out loud to yourself or to a colleague/friend.  Rank it on the stuffy meter, wherever it falls from super-formal to ouch-maybe-too-much-information.  Lean it a smidge more toward the latter than the former.
  8. Answer the question:  Who are you, how can you help me, and what passions/tools/background prepare you to do so?  No more.  No less.

Still have questions?   As always, feel free to drop me a line. Your About page is the second-most important page in the site, after your home page—it’s worth the effort to really make it great.

 

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There, That’s It! Finding the Typefaces that Serve You Best

When I begin building a website with a client, there can be a lot of elements that fall into the category of “Gosh. I’ve never really had to think about that before.”

In addition to the obvious decisions like how many pages you want and whether you need a PayPal account or an email opt-in list, there are more fundamental elements like the right colors, the right photos, and the stickiest wicket of all, the right fonts.

The fonts you use in your site DO matter. Granted, no one is going to say, “Oh, I couldn’t possibly buy my jewelry from someone who uses sans-serif headings.” (And if they do, that’s probably a client you really don’t want.) But fonts can really differ in terms of their readability, their effectiveness, and the different impressions they can make on web readers. Don’t believe me? Here’s a test.

Put yourself in the shoes of a physician who is starting up a new housecall practice. The hurdles in his new business include establishing his credibility, instilling trust in potential new clients, and convincing people that a housecall physician is just as capable and professional as a hospital physician. Here are three typefaces that he’s considering using prominently in his website:

 

The first font says, “I’m professional, smart, and trustworthy.”

The second font says, “I spent too many years in a M*A*S*H unit and have the bedside manner of a drill instructor.

The third font says, “I’m going to show up at your house with a red ball on my nose.” (now if you WANT a doctor to make your kids laugh while they get their immunizations, that’s a good thing.)

Granted, this an extreme example.   More often than not, we just need to be sure our headings and our main text look harmonious together, and are easily readable even in long blocks of text (p.s. – the web isn’t the place for long blocks of text.)  And the most important of all?  You have to like how your site looks. It has to feel right to you. It has to feel like you.

Many people on the web have created visual cheatsheets that show you some great font pairings that work well with each other. As a visual person, this is really the only way I can imagine how certain things will look.

These three are my favorites … the first is just plain beautiful to use.  The second one gives you the ability to type in your own headlines and text so you can really get a sense of how it will look on your site. The third one … well, I’ll let you play with that. So many choices, but powerful.

Have fun!

http://100daysoffonts.com/

http://fontpair.co

http://andreasweis.com/webfontblender/

 

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If you need your website, please take two minutes to read this note

As much as I prefer to write about the more “human” side of our businesses in my blog posts, this week I really need to go geek on you for just a second.  Please don’t stop reading. This is important.

In a recent newsletter we published a recommendation that you update your WordPress website so it would be safer from attack. While a few people responded to us about this, stats show the majority did not read it.

Everyone’s busy, and so believe me there’s no judgment here. But I would feel terrible if I didn’t impress on everyone just what a big deal this oft-procrastinated thing is, and what it may cost you if you don’t.

(Lest you think this is some kind of sales pitch, it isn’t. I have no vested interest in how you get this done; I just don’t want what’s happening out there to happen to you.)

There was a recent security “hole” discovered in WordPress that opened the door to what’s called a “defacement hack” — the hacking of websites to post spam, porn, ads, or just nasty messages, on your web pages.  If you’re up for a little geeky language, you can learn about this here, but it’s not essential. If you do read it, bear in mind that the numbers they quote of infected sites has grown. A lot.

Three separate clients reported issues over the past week, and it was a bit of mayhem.  Two were just mildly inconvenienced. One site vanished entirely.  The most recent information shows that millions of sites are being hacked.  To be clear: Your clients may visit your site and see . . .shall we say . . .not what you intended. If you do nothing else, please go out and be sure your website is still there, and that you can get into it.

Getting the hackers’ dirty work out of your site is not a simple affair. Their code can reach deep into your website’s guts where it’s very difficult to find and get rid of. Some of it regenerates itself as soon as you delete it. Some tactics change your login name so you can’t get in to manage your own site. Some brings your entire site down, forcing you to rebuild it from a backup copy or from scratch.

I can’t be any more honest than this: Unless you feel you’re in a position to spend a LOT of money and risk your site being down for days or weeks, please go out to it and make sure your version of WordPress is the latest (that would be version 4.7.2, which closes that door).

If your site has a backup system, whereby it backs itself up periodically to keep a safe copy somewhere, then please manually back it up yourself prior to updating.

We are here to help, and the safest way to do this is to buy a smidgen of our time to do it. We’ll back up the site safely, run malware scans to be sure it’s clean, update you to the new squeaky-clean versions of everything, and make sure your site security is good.  BUT I understand that many will want to update their site themselves, or get a techie person in their circle to do it, for cost or other reasons. That is absolutely fine.

However you do it, please do. You are all doing wonderful work in the world, and nobody has spare time to waste on this kind of thing.

Thanks for listening.

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How can you help more people and do more good in the world?

I’ve always had a little trouble with the phrase, “passive income.”  It brings up a mental image of someone lying on a fainting couch, the back of her hand draped across her forehead like a white dove, while $50 bills slowly float down to cover her.

This, of course, is my childish imagination at work.  But it was that sort of mental image that kept me from embracing any sort of passive income for many years.  My work was my pride, and exchanging my time and expertise for income felt like “an honest day’s work.”  The personal, one-on-one nature of consulting/helping gave me an inner feeling of making a big difference in the world, one small business or nonprofit at a time.

That cast-iron self-assessment has been unraveling slowly.  It started fraying when a mentor asked me, “How many people do you typically get to help over the course of a year?”  Sitting down and counting was a rather sobering exercise. The answer? Not enough.

She pointed out that there were two ways I could make more of an impact: One would be to find a secret science lair willing to clone me as a full-fledged adult, and send versions of myself all over the world, like some sort of benevolent Orphan Black.  The other would be to create helpful programs and products that could reach the hands of many, many people, without the need to be there one-on-one (also available, of course).

Point taken.

What does passive income look like for small businesses like yours?  It means you create something that benefits many, without you physically having to be there with them. Let’s bring the people you most want to help into the room to help flesh this out.  (Learn about my ideal-audience avatar shown, “Jean,” in this blog post.)

Jean

If you’re a life coach, you might offer Jean an email series—an e-course—that gives her a structured program to help get through a challenge  (financial, emotional, career, transition).  These can be set up through email providers like Mailchimp fairly simply with their $10/month package.

If you’re a business consultant, you might bundle your knowledge from a specific area of expertise into a collection of materials you can sell as an e-book or an entire digital toolkit. This could be something you already know that Jean needs/want to learn, in order to advance her career, or build her small business quickly, or acquire needed skills that make her work & life easier and more efficient.

If you offer classes or workshops, Jean might not be able to attend in person or at a set time, but she might be able to benefit from a video, audio, webinar capture, or podcast series that’s not time-dependent.  Many people love to learn this way – the popularity of services like Udemy and Lynda.com will attest to this.

These are just examples, the low-hanging fruit—there are many, many variants on these.  But perhaps it’s enough to entice you to give this all some thought.

Look at what you want to offer the world, and brainstorm a bit about how to offer some of it without needing to be omnipresent.

And yes, all of this serves to create another income stream for you as well.  Which gives you additional resources to create more good in the world. And so forth. It’s a beautiful wheel that can keep going ’round and ’round.

If you’re having trouble visualizing how this might work for your unique situation (I know I did) you might like the free guide to passive income sources offered by my friend and client Laura Brandenburg on her website.  I refer back to it frequently and love her clarity and passion for this topic. Her site and especially her blog posts are spot-on.  She’s pretty amazing.

If you’d like to explore how this might come together for you, please drop me a line and let me know what you’re thinking.  Although I’m far from an expert like Laura, I can discuss the logistics and costs that might be involved in bringing your idea to life via your website and social media.

Have a great February, all.

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Finding the Right Images without Brain Damage

While it’s possible to make an interesting site without a single photograph or graphic, I think that’s the (tiny) exception rather than the rule. So if you write blog posts, put things on social media, or just want to keep your site fresh, seeking out the right images is something we’ll almost all need to do from time to time. But where do you get them? Where do you go to look, and how do you find something good once you get there? Read on, MacDuff.

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Who Are You Trying to Help? Go Beyond the “Ideal Client”

In my circles, a good website is an invitation to a conversation that will show people they can believe in you, so you can take the next step together toward something better. Knowing who you’re conversing with has to come first.

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