Is it Time to Write Your Book?

When I was in the throes of publishing my book Storytelling for Small Business last year, I was fortunate enough to meet talented author/coach and now friend & colleague Rochelle Melander, the Write Now! Coach. So many of you have told me in the past few months that you’d like to publish a book too, I thought an introduction was in order. So everyone, meet Rochelle. Rochelle, meet everyone. Enjoy.   —M.

 

Some people say that a book is the new business card, but the benefits extend beyond sharing your brand. Once that book is out in the world, it can benefit your business in myriad ways.

No matter what type of a business you own, a book will help you:

  1. Increase your credibility
  2. Teach potential clients about you and your work
  3. Build trust with your audience
  4. Educate and inspire your readers
  5. Attract new clients
  6. Increase brand loyalty
  7. Build buzz for you and your business
  8. Access influential leaders
  9. Capture media attention
  10. Earn more money

Woot! That’s great news for business owners. But before you set aside precious time to write and publish your book, it’s important to consider whether now is the right time to write a book. Over the years, I’ve discovered a few signs that help people recognize when they’re ready to write a book. Here they are:

You have something to say.

You have a unique process or approach to your work—and you are excited to share it with others. Perhaps you write blog posts or articles. But you’d like to explore this idea in more detail—and the blog posts are just not long enough for you to say what you need to say. A book can help you do that. When you write a book, you can shape your ideas, dig into a topic in detail, and share what you know with your readers.

You have an audience eager to read more.

Perhaps you blog, teach classes, or work with clients. Your readers and clients regularly ask you for more information. They’re excited by your ideas and long to hear more. Or they love your process and want to be able to do it at home on their own. If you have people who want to hear more from you, a book offers you the opportunity to share your story or process with them.

You have more clients than you have time.

Perhaps you can no longer help everyone who comes to you. There just aren’t enough hours in the day. Even with offering classes or group coaching, you still have more people who need your support. A book could be the answer to this problem. A book can teach the foundational elements of your work or guide the reader through a basic process that you no longer teach. For example, a career coach who no longer writes resumes might design a book that helps the reader create one.

Your message is timely.

Maybe you have a story or a process that fits well with the struggles that people are facing right now. Or perhaps your book is tied to a current event, like an election or the anniversary of a big historical event (this January we celebrated the 100th anniversary of prohibition). Or maybe you have a conference or retreat coming up, and you’d like to have a way to share your ideas with as many people as possible. All of these are good reasons to take that book off your someday list and start writing.

You feel called to write a book.

This sense of being called to write a book shows up in different ways. Maybe you wake up earlier than usual and know you need to use the time to create something valuable. Or you react strongly to someone else’s success, feeling jealous of them or frustrated with yourself. Or you get teary when you attend a book signing or a play, knowing that you are called to create something, too. However the calling shows up, pay attention: these are signs that the time to work on your book is now.

How to move forward

If you read the reasons above and found yourself shaking your head, “Yes!,” then it might be time to write your book. But how do you move forward? It’s often as simple as setting the intention to write your book by a specific date and then taking time to create it. Of course, there are things figure out along the way: what kind of book do you want to write? How do you get your ideas on paper? And what’s the best way to publish a book?

When it comes to doing something new—like writing a book—many of us experience challenges: we feel afraid, we don’t know how to do the next thing, or we get overwhelmed.

But the antidote to fear is simple: start. Here are three small steps you can take to start writing your book:

Choose your topic. My guess? When you read the reasons above, your ideal topic popped into your head. If not, take a look at your work and choose your topic from one of the following:

+Ideas or content that excites or engages your reader

+Frequently asked questions

+Information about your topic that you wish everyone knew.

Make a list. Once you have a topic, make a list of everything you’d like to cover in the book. If you have an idea about how you want to write about the topic—as essays, questions, or short anecdotes—make a note of that, too.

Write. Set aside time in your schedule to write. I find it’s helpful to tie your writing to something else you do every day, like your morning cup of coffee. Next time you pour that cup, bring your laptop or notebook with you—and write. Even if you write just 100 words a day, those words will add up over time.

If writing a book is something you’d like to do, then go for it. And if you need help, and would like to talk about your project and how I can help, schedule a free consultation.


 

Rochelle Melander, WriteNowCoach.comWrite Now! Coach Rochelle Melander is an author, a certified professional coach, and a popular speaker. Melander has written ten books including Write-A-Thon: Write Your Book in 26 Days (And Live to Tell About It) and the forthcoming book, Level Up: Quests to Master Mindset, Overcome Procrastination and Increase Productivity. As the Write Now! Coach, she teaches professionals how to write books, get published, and connect with readers through social media. Get your free subscription to her Write Now! Tips Ezine at http://www.writenowcoach.com.

 

How to prepare for a Zoom/video meeting so you’re not pulling your hair out

Many of my people either already use Zoom—the groovy online tool that lets you do video conferencing on the web—or a similar service like Skype or GoToMeeting. They give people like us the ability to hold meetings with faraway clients, as well as offer workshops, classes, coaching sessions, group meetings, and any number of other business-building offerings. I previously wrote about business-building ways you can use Zoom, currently my method of choice.

Using any of these services requires “bandwidth” —a good internet signal. They’re sending a lot of bits and bytes over your internet connection, whatever it might be. Just keep that in mind if you are sharing your internet signal with Netflix, mobile phone(s), tablets or Kindles, an online-gaming teenager, a neighbor stealing your signal, and more.

If your computer is using a wireless signal and sharing that with all of those things, your video connection can be very choppy, with lots of freezes and hiccups. Super-frustrating, especially if you’re doing coaching, a workshop, or other services that people expect to be smooth and problem-free.

Also, if you’re a person who habitually has lots of software applications and documents open at all times, this too may work against you as Zoom competes with all of them for memory.

For the record, here are some things I do when I’m about to go on a Zoom call/conference, or hold one:

30 minutes before:  I turn off the power to my wireless router, wait 20 seconds, and power it back up. These devices often have software updates that take place when you “cycle” it like this, and it gives your router’s brain a refresh.

30 minutes before: I restart my computer or laptop completely. This can clear out memory caches, stuck software, and other stored stuff that might interfere with my computer’s memory or signal.

15 minutes before:
I walk around and do the following:
Turn off my wireless printer.
Turn off my iPad, Kindle, and my husband’s laptop  🙂
Turn off the TV and leave it off.
Put my mobile phone on airplane mode. If I need to make a call (say, if my meeting attendee doesn’t show up) I can.
Make sure I know where my wired headset is. (I have a noisy Mac, so a headset is essential…and a wired headset doesn’t need any signals)
Test my video and audio on my computer by going to Zoom and trying them both out
Turn off ALL OTHER APPLICATIONS that I’m not using.
Pause things that might decide to auto-update while I’m talking, such as Dropbox synching, system backups, and virus protection updates

5 minutes before: (these are the non-tech things that are just nice)
Pour a glass of water
Hang a “do not disturb” sign on my doorbell, front door, office door, and have a chat with my dog, Gordon, about barking 🙂
Review my notes and make sure I have something to write with, and on.

1 minute before:
Breathe deeply, and remember how lucky we are to work for ourselves, bringing our best energies and talents into the world to do something great.

Enjoy your trouble-free Zoom session!

Why even the smallest of businesses need Zoom: 50 ways to connect, serve, and earn income

Many of my small businessfolk friends either already use Zoom—the groovy online tool that lets you hold inexpensive video conference gatherings on the web—or are “Zoomcurious,” wondering how they could use it to benefit their work. Even I was intrigued . . . and I’m known as being terribly camera-shy.

small business online meetingsThings like Zoom weren’t always something solo entrepreneurs or small businesses had to think about. Not too long ago, video conferencing was for corporate types, with 20 people sitting around a polished boardroom table looking up the table to a screen where a ghostly head from Corporate was droning on and on.

Nowadays, services like Zoom, Skype, and Go To Meeting give service providers like us the ability to have meetings with faraway clients, prospective clients, audience members, potential partners, buyers, donors, virtual assistants . . . anyone. This gives us a much greater reach, widening the circle for the work we do.

Overview of its top benefits

small businesses can earn income and grow with videoconferencingIt has benefits for many types of businesses, even though it might not be obvious. For me, they are coaching sessions with people anywhere in the world, website co-creation and repair, private training, weekly virtual “office hours” for client questions, and a lot more. I can share my screen, share the viewers’ screen, take control of their screen to show them how to do something, play a video or audio, text chat publically or privately, write on a collaborative whiteboard together, create breakout rooms for individual groupings…and much more.

Best of all, I can save the video recording, audio recording, and a chat transcript, and offer those whenever it’s helpful. The free version allows you to have meetings of up to 40 minutes each. I use the service level that costs $14.99/month, which allows you to do a lot more. It pays for itself a hundred times over every month, probably more than any other tool I use.

So how might this help YOU and to YOUR work?

Below are some common and a few uncommon possibilities to ponder. See if anything here, or anything else comes up for you.  And if you have your own creative use to share, please do share it in the comments!

Attracting New Clients:

Free exploratory consultation or conversation
Free group workshops and classes
Summits and discussion groups
Group meditations or healing sessions
Demonstration of a product
Demonstration of something physical, such as

A yoga pose, meditation posture, proper exercise form
Using a tool properly
Teaching a dog a trick
How/where to apply essential oils
Doing a website/social media task online
Finding images collaboratively
Finding answers on Google
Creating a helpful document for productivity…

Serving Existing Clients Better

Meetings/conversations with or without video – you can use it even if you’re camera-shy!
Client pre-evaluation for acupuncturists, naturopaths, and healers of all kinds (to determine the right appointment type for a client)
Regular/recurring coaching, consulting, or guidance sessions
Working consultations with screen sharing
Private/secure meetings for money management or confidential activities
Group, team or mastermind sessions
Customer tech support
Video demonstrations of the products/services you offer
“Office hours” — times when you’re available online to answer questions and offer help and support
Co-working sessions: Scheduled sessions to do focused work together, avoiding procrastination and powering through a project or challenge
Larger online meetings and corporate presentations (advanced Zoom packages)

Income-Producing Activities

Sell live group workshops, classes, webinars
Sell recorded (evergreen) workshops, classes, webinars  for passive income
Introduce your service business locally
Have a video or live component to an online course you’ve created
Create an entire online course
Offer 1-to-1 coaching or guidance
Offer group coaching programs
Book/manuscript/content review and feedback
Tutoring services
Music lessons
Online instruction
Certification programs – use as a meeting component
Regular meetings as a value-added service for paid groups
Optional follow-up support packages for your product or service
Consumer survey interviews

Help, Community, Business Growth

Recording a video/screenshare to share to YouTube/Vimeo or other social media
Interviews with potential employees or freelancers
Video meeting with an employee
Video meeting with a faraway virtual assistant
Group meetings for collaborative projects
Event planning team meetings
Virtual lunch meetings
Private virtual meetings with students
Listening in on a workshop or class while driving (with the mobile app)
Nonprofit board meetings
Writing group meetings
Informal “tours” of an office space, building, shop, community garden…
Interview speakers for an upcoming event
Mediation

Certainly, there are a zillion more uses, but these were the first to come to mind. Zoom.us has really terrific support, ongoing regular webinars to introduce you to the platform, and great documentation for learning how to make it work for you. There are books and videos online too, of course. And if you’re the kind of person who best learns things like this in a hands-on, one-to-one way, I also offer a bite-sized private training session for it here, where you’ll walk away with everything you need to know, without digging for it.

But no matter how you learn, I’d encourage you to give this tool a test drive if you haven’t already. It has really opened up the world to me, and to many of my clients. It might be just the tool you need to be joyfully productive, pleased and profitable in 2019.

You are not a conversion: Small business and the (nearly) lost art of being genuine

This is the part of writing that’s the hardest: Although I’ve had a small business for 20 years, I still get to show the world just what a slow learner I am sometimes.

A few weeks ago, I got an email from an amazing old friend with whom I’d lost contact years ago. By ‘amazing’ I mean someone I love and who randomly pops into my head all the time. She always seemed too busy to get together, calls and emails went unanswered, and I chalked it up to how some friendships fade over time. Although it made me sad, I just shelved it in my mind and moved on.

All this to say that getting an email was a big deal. It literally made my eyebrows shoot up and a big smile crease my face when I saw her name in my inbox. The note started out very friendly and chatty. She asked how I was doing, how my work was going, she’d love to find a way to get together and catch up, etc.

Then she casually dropped in a description of the political candidate that she’s been volunteering for this fall. So-and-so’s hopes and dreams about a change for the better, and so forth. And by the way, how I was going to vote in this election? Which seemed a bit weird. But hey. I was so happy to hear from her that I punched the “Reply” button right away. I answered her questions about how I was doing and what I was up to. I asked about her family, her travels, her life. I praised her candidate. And I suggested we have coffee.

I never heard back from her. I tried one more time, in case email had been having a bad day. Nothing.

The penny drops at last

When I received three more of these emails from other friends, with similar radio silence, I realized what was up. This is (I learned, slowly) a tactic from the playbook of political candidates. All their phone/email volunteers use it. There’s no warmth toward me whatsoever. It’s just a suggested script, and she had no actual desire to be in contact on a human level.

It’s okay—lesson learned, and I’ve always got my big girl pants on. But it tripped a larger conversation in my head. (Come on, you know me; even a bad hair day can trip a larger conversation in my head 🙂

This happens online a lot, doesn’t it? We get missives from various kinds of service providers that are full of warmth and support and friendliness, designed to make us feel seen, feel heard. That button pushed, they progress into a pitch for whatever it is the person’s promoting that they know will make our quality of life even better.

When we reach the scarcity part of the email or sales page—only three spots left! I won’t offer this again this year! the price will go up next year! And there it is. That pit-of-the-stomach moment when we realize what we’d hoped was some sort of genuine human connection was actually just a textbook strategy. When we see we’re really just part of someone’s spreadsheet under the column “conversions.”

The emails from friends? Well-meaning, yes. Serving a purpose, yes. But do I matter? All I am to a political candidate is a conversion—am I, or am not, going to vote to give them the job they want?

When did we stop seeing each other as individuals?

When did we lose the awareness of individual needs, pains, and desires? At what point did we convince ourselves that we’re doing people such a favor with whatever we’re “selling” that we needn’t bother paying attention to how impersonal and mechanistic we’re being? When I’m having a (now rare) glass of wine while working in the evening, I’ve been known to talk back to websites like that: “Do you know how obvious you’re being? Do you think I believe you actually care?” (for an amusing visual, imagine Gordon the Dog growling at the screen, which often happens)

Don’t even get me started on the name “ConvertKit.” If you use it, and of course it does have its uses, PLEASE make sure it doesn’t say “ConvertKit” anywhere near your forms (like right below them, in tiny letters). Let’s not be part of the depersonalization problem.

Since we are all both creators/sellers AND consumers, you’re going to see a lot of the word “We” in the following sentences. Sorry.

We are not just conversions. We are people, with a pulse, a sick dog, a cough that won’t go away, a nagging sense of not-being-enough, too little time to cook a healthy dinner tonight, insomnia, a job we detest but can’t seem to escape.

We are not conversions. We’re people who have a glimmer of hope when they find something—your coaching program, your book, your workshop—that might ease our stress. Maybe we’ll even get some sleep tonight if we believe hard enough.

We are not conversions. We’re people willing to pay for the privilege of being treated like people instead of another cha-ching in someone’s PayPal account.

There has to be a better way

It’s time to stop converting and remember what it’s all about: Being of service, making someone else’s day/night/dinner/life/work better in some way, and being a person of integrity as you do it.

If you agree with this, and want your promotional materials to be genuine and compassionate, here are some things you might pay attention to:

  • Think about the person you’re speaking to with your promotion. Visualize them as a person; give them a face. Consider going to https://images.google.com and finding a face for your ideal client (hint: start with the word “face” and then the adjective that describes how they might currently be feeling: frustrated, stressed, underpaid, scared)
  • With that face in your mind (or even better, on your bulletin board) read your sales page out loud to them. Pay attention to how your voice sounds. Where do you shift into sales-pitch language? Where do you stop talking to them as though they’re standing right in front of you, and instead move into convincing an anonymous “them” to buy your stuff?
  • Find your most intuitive friend who might be interested in what you’re offering, or able to look at it objectively. Have her read your sales page and track how she feels with each paragraph. Have her use words like curious, interested, hopeful, surprised, disappointed at price, delighted with price, doubtful, confused. Ask her to call out any places where it ceased to feel as though a conversation were taking place, and instead she was being “funneled” into buying.
  • If you’re part of a mastermind group, local business group, women’s group, or Facebook interest group, see if you can find some folks who would be willing to examine your sales page and give you honest feedback—anonymous if need be, via SurveyMonkey.com or similar—about how the page feels, where they shift away from being seen/heard and start to feel “sold”, what they might change that would make less formulaic and more human and kind.

We are not conversions. We are people, with our own unique needs, pains, and desires. And in a world where it seems like it’s all about “the art of the deal,” if we’re treated with kindness and respect all the way to the “Buy Now” button, we will choose your offerings over all others.

25 things I do to preserve energy, time, and optimism for my work

There are a zillion vampires that will rob your business of energy, time, and optimism if you let them. Here are 25 things I do to keep them at bay.

Guten-who? What to do when WordPress makes its big change

Folks who have websites built in WordPress will see a big change this Fall with the new “Gutenberg” design/editing system. Not time to worry yet though…

Six fun and powerful little tools that are day-makers for people like us

This morning I had an email from a client who was stuck in techie purgatory. She needed to find a way to have just some of her blog posts appear on her website’s home page, but have the whole collection appear on her Blog page, and to top it off, her blog images weren’t displaying when she tried to share them to her Facebook page…basically, everything was misbehaving for her.

Typical of many of my self-sufficient clients, she didn’t want me to wave my geek wand and fix it; she wanted to understand it and know how to fix it herself.

I could’ve sent her a lengthy tome about this-and-that setting, do this/do that, but this is the kind of situation that is best solved by showing, rather than telling.

If you’ve ever had trouble explaining to one of your clients how to get on your webinar, how to make one of your products work for them, or even just what it is you DO, then you understand this—sometimes, video is best.

Enter one of my favorite little tools, Loom. It’s a free service that lets you capture short videos with just one click of an icon in your web browser. You click, start the video, say/show what you need (screenshare, or you talking, or both), and send them the link, all in the blink of an eye. I’ll show you a teensy video at the end of this post I made in Loom and embedded in my blog post in just under two minutes total.

Whenever I use it, it brings to mind all of the small tools that make formerly-time-consuming tasks so easy and fast now, creating more time for me to work with the people I care about (and have a free evening to read books on the back porch). I wanted to share a half-dozen of them with you here that I really couldn’t function without. None of these are affiliate links, by the way; I just think they’ll rock your world:

Privacy Badger

Not technically a time-saver, unless you count not having to deal with ads shoved in your face every time you turn around. I should confess that I hate being tracked by marketers when I’m online. (It reminds me of the scene in the film Minority Report, when Tom Cruise is walking through a sea of customized virtual ads popping up in front of his face.) Privacy Badger is a little gizmo you add to your web browser with a click that “…stops advertisers and other third-party trackers from secretly tracking where you go and what pages you look at on the web. If an advertiser seems to be tracking you across multiple websites without your permission, it automatically blocks that advertiser from loading any more content in your browser. To the advertiser, it’s like you suddenly disappeared.” Perfect. It has cut down on a huge amount of ad clutter and junk for me, and I’m grateful. Check it out.

Boomerang for Gmail

I’m a Gmail user, and I have to confess that I probably couldn’t get through the day without Boomerang (or something just like it). Boomerang is a little extension you add to Gmail that lets you do magical things like:
schedule the redelivery of emails back to you if you’re busy
schedule outbound emails for a certain day/time
set reminders for yourself to respond to an email/look for a reply
undo the email you just sent (!!)
attach notes to yourself to an email
pause your inbox for a while so you can breathe
…and a lot more. I love it so much I wrote a gushy post about it here last year: https://websitesforgood.com/tools-for-tiny-businesses-i-heart-you-boomerang/

Zoom

I have lost track of the number of people who’ve said to me, “Oh, Zoom, right — I’ve been on a group call on Zoom but figured it was too complicated to use for my little business.” It’s a videoconferencing tool anybody can use to connect with people all over the world with just a couple of clicks. With a very short learning curve (think minutes) you can expand the reach of your service business from your town to the entire planet. Even in the Free version, you can host an unlimited number of online meetings (think one-to-one or one-to-many coaching, workshops, webinars, trainings…), with 2 to 100 participants if your session is less than 40 minutes, and unlimited session time if you’re just doing one-to-ones. Try a free account and check it out. I’m happy to show up and be your guinea pig, or you can check out my quickstart 1-to-1 session on using Zoom to grow your business here!

Acuity Scheduling

It would take me 500 words to explain how much Acuity has transformed my business, my productivity, and my stress levels. Without it, I used to spend a lot of time doing…well, the tasks to the right. With it, my people (clients and inquirers) can quickly view my availability, self-book their own appointments, reschedule them with a click, receive reminders, fill in intake forms, make payment for paid services, and about a hundred other things that used to take time and bandwidth. For…$10 a month. (or free if you choose that kind of account.) If making appointments is part of your work, it’s worth a look…they’re also amazing at the art of very personal and entertaining support. Check it out.

If you don’t need fancy things like reminders, rescheduling, etc., check out other systems like Calendly or Setmore from this page: https://zapier.com/blog/best-appointment-scheduling-apps/

Loom

Finally, circling back to Loom.

I explained it above, but I’ll show you the results here:

From the moment I clicked the Loom icon on my browser to posting it here, 1 minute 45 seconds elapsed. The videos can be longer, shorter, or much more elaborate if you like (you can include screen captures, videos, etc.), but Loom’s strong point is the ability to just knock out a quick visual and share it with very little effort, so you can do more of it. Check it out.

FB Purity

Oh, what a life saver for those of us who want to use Facebook for business or personal reasons…  F.B. (Fluff Busting) Purity is a browser extension that lets you customize Facebook in amazing ways. It alters your view of Facebook to show only relevant information to you. It lets you remove the annoying and irrelevant stories from your newsfeed such as game and application spam, ads and sponsored stories. It can also hide the boxes you don’t want to see on each side of the newsfeed.

CNET described it better than I ever could: “The interface is extremely intuitive. Apart from having the option to hide a multitude of stories including profile updates and tagged photos, you can hide the suggestions box, sponsored box, and the “get connected” box in the right-hand panel of the screen… Facebook has the ability to hide some of this for you (not the side panel though)… having all these options clearly marked in one place with checkboxes is very practical.”

The ability to hide the more annoying and useless-to-you aspects of Facebook, while still having the option to display them, is an incredible time- and energy-saver. You can even filter out posts by keyword (to avoid politics, celebrity news, so-and-so’s tweets, etc.) so you never see them and have to cope with the associated emotional distraction. I couldn’t work without it.


Those are my favorite tools today, though I’m discovering new ones every day. I would estimate that using these tools has helped me recapture at least three hours every week–and BAM, there’s three hours I can spend on working with the people I love, exercising, meditating, building income, or just playing with the dog if that’s what I need for my mental health.

Got any great little tools that YOU use and couldn’t do without? Please share with me! I’m always in the market.

Love,
Margaret

 


LEARN SOMETHING NEW AND SAVE A BUNDLE

Looking for a fast, friendly, personal way to learn how to manage those online things you’ve been paying others hundreds of dollars to do? Reach more of the people that matter, start offering online workshops, finally start using video on your website, and more!  Save some money, time, and brain cells: I offer one-hour, 1-to-1 sessions to self-employed folks who’d like to do more, but without the pressure of a webinar or the geek-speak of online classes. Choose one from the course list, or request a customized session for exactly what YOU want to learn.
Let’s have some fun. What do you want to learn? >

Building blocks of a healthy web presence for your thoughtful small business

I’m forever tinkering with my own biology. From what/when/how much I eat, to how much physical activity I engage in, to what sorts of chemicals I allow into my microbiome and home, I’m a fun-loving scientist using my own body as the test subject. (If I ever try to do something like graft on a second brain or install bionic hands, I’ll get permission from you guys first.)

I’m stacking up blocks, taking them down, stacking them another way. I’m experimenting, noticing, tracking, and adjusting. What works? What keeps me joyful and what weighs me down? What has no effect and isn’t worth the trouble, and what gives the most gratification and reward?

As you might guess, I often put on my Fun Scientist lab coat when it comes to websites for my self-employed kindred spirits too.

I’ve noticed over the years that, just as there are a handful of simple things we can do to make our bodies/homes/lives happier and healthier, so too there are a handful of simple things we can do that make promoting our work easier, more effective, and less likely to cause headaches and heartburn. Below are a few of them. I’ve divided them into “public facing” (the part the public sees) and “behind the scenes” (the part that’s mostly invisible to the public).

Basic website elements: Public facing elements

HOME/LANDING PAGE: As my teenaged friends would say, “No duh.” Yes, you need a home page. Make sure you have one that doesn’t take forever to load, and that acts as a warm, welcoming anteroom for all the wonderful goodness inside.

It should use colors, images, and language that makes people feel the way you want them to feel (calmed, excited, curious, hopeful). It should give them a topline view of how you can help them shift from where they are now to where they want to be. It should have clear next steps to reach you or get more information.

Oh, there’s a ton I could write about the elements of a successful homepage, but for now, just remember this mantra and make sure your homepage says it: I’m glad you’re here. I see you and know why you’ve come. Here are some things I can offer for that. Here’s what you can do next.

ABOUT: Include an About page that helps people know, like, and trust you. People visit About pages for several reasons, but it all wraps around learning whether you’re the best person for what they’re hoping to achieve, have, fix, or become.

Tailor your About page to your ideal client. If you’re offering a service to an audience for whom credentials=credibility, detail those. If you’re offering something where being a good-hearted, wise listener is most important, show me that. Show me your face. Show me your humanity. Show me that you “get” me.

A CLEAR VIEW OF WHAT YOU OFFER: Don’t just list what you do a Services or Products page. Give me the full details on what you offer, how much it costs, and how it’s going to change me. Let me see/hear the voices of other people who’ve experienced the service. Describe the “new story” it’s going to create for me. Give me a next step (buy button, ‘more information’ button, sign up button).

There’s a thousand mile difference between “Here’s what I offer” and “Here’s what I offer and here’s why it’s going to light up your day/life/work/health.” Make sure you’re putting the effort into creating the latter.

TIERED OFFERINGS: Many folks sell very expensive services and/or products, and they are usually worth every penny. But although your prices might be perfectly fair, when you’re starting out, you may find that you have trouble building a client base. It’s not that you’re not worth it, because you absolutely are; it’s just that many people need to be eased into feeling confident and comfortable enough to spend their dollars working with you.

Offer a variety of entry points to working with you or buying from you, at different price points that give them a staircase rather than a ladder. The easiest first step is to offer lots of free content (articles, blogs, etc.) that show you care about them. The next might be a free consultation. After that, a low-priced offering such as an ebook, workshop, or mini-session helps them to get a taste of working with you. Then a mid-priced offer…are you seeing the staircase now? If you offer all of those, your high-price-point coaching packages no longer feel like such a risky endeavor. They know you. You’ve proven your mettle and have been honest, helpful, and generous.

BE PAINFULLY CLEAR ABOUT NEXT STEPS (CALLS-TO-ACTION): Check and doublecheck that you’ve provided a path to a next step toward you on every page, perhaps one for every option you present to readers. (If you make readers burn calories trying to figure it out, they will assume you’ll also make them burn calories if you they choose to work with you.) Calls-to-action must be very clear and obvious – buttons of contrasting colors are particularly useful here. If you have any doubt as to whether your call-to-action is clear, have someone unfamiliar with your website walk through it and give you feedback.

DON’T NEGLECT CONTACT DETAILS: Be sure to provide clear and persistent contact information and a way for your reader to reach you if they have questions or want to explore further (such as a free consult). Persistent? Remember that, while they are meandering in your site assessing your offerings, the YES of inspiration can strike them at any time. Make sure there’s always something in view that aids and abets them in following that inspiration; don’t make them go hunting for it.

BLOG: Hey! Come back here! I know all the reasons why this word makes you recoil (see my blog post “10 Reasons to consider writing a blog, even if the thought of it makes you cringe“)

But I can’t overstate the value of including something on your website that has new juicy material added to it regularly. If it helps don’t call it a blog. Call it Articles. News. The Latest. What’s Up.

It says several things about you: I know my stuff. I am out here paying attention. I am always thinking of how I can be helpful to my people. I am generous with my time and wisdom. I am trustworthy and I show up for you. I am someone valuable to have in your life.

Basic website elements: Behind-the-scenes stuff that’s still super-important to have:

A SECURE CERTIFICATE that lets you have “https.” Google has already started to scare the heck out of your site visitors by warning them away from any sites that don’t have this, and it will become fairly universal in the coming month. Please don’t postpone. Learn more in my Facebook post: https://www.facebook.com/websitesforgood/posts/2155915141307233

A PRIVACY POLICY that includes your cookie policy, information on what data your site collects from them (GDPR stuff), and terms of use of your site. Contact me if you need to have this created for you. Not only does Google use this as a factor for search engine listings, but you really don’t want to run afoul of the GDPR/data privacy laws.

If you use WordPress, PLUGINS FOR SECURITY (such as Wordfence or iThemes Security) AND FOR AUTOMATIC BACKUPS. Unless you relish the possibility of throwing your website investment of time and money down the drain due to hacking or system failure (plus the cost of having a new one built), you really can’t go without these any more. And there’s no reason not to. They are free, and just need to be installed and set up with basic settings.

GOOGLE ANALYTICS (or other systems of tracking visitor statistics): This is very simple to set up, free, and allows you to receive reports showing who’s coming to your site, how they found you, where they go, where they DON’T go, and a lot more.

AT LEAST A LITTLE SOCIAL MEDIA: Basic presence on at least one social media channel can help most of us, and it’s nothing to fear. A Facebook business page (NOT your personal page) or a LinkedIn profile are natural choices for many. The ability to reach millions more of your people for free is not something to dismiss just because it sounds hard. But because it DOES sound hard, I’m working on two bite-sized private training sessions to just sit down with me for an hour on Zoom and get it done. We’ll have fun. There will be music and poetry and cold drinks 🙂 Write me if you’d like more information on that.

There are many more things I can list, and of course I could wax poetic about telling your story, being a changemaker, choosing the right photos, etc.

But like the basic building blocks of keeping your body healthy, we’ll start with these…then experiment, notice, track, and adjust.

Enjoy!


P.S. Remember, if you don’t have these things, you can always drop me a line and ask me questions about anything. I’m here.

GDPR = Guide to Developing a Philosophy of Respect

I am normally good with words, and especially good with letters. (“Q” is a particular favorite…such a cute little tail.)

So why then did I have so much trouble with the now well-known acronym GDPR? Coming out of my mouth or keyboard to tell people about it, it would become DGPR, GPDR, etc. How embarrassing for a demi-geek like me.

When this happens in my brain, it always helps to give an acronym a meaning, a hook, so it’s not just a bunch of letters floating in my soup bowl. I didn’t get a hook from its real spelling-out (General Data Protection Regulation makes me fall asleep right around the first “O” in protection).

So I thought about why it’s even a “thing.” What’s at the core of it all…why was it so important to go through all this bother? That helped me dream up my own: Guide to Developing a Philosophy of Respect

I know. Crazy idealist. Oh well.

But think now: What’s this GDPR stuff about? At its core, it’s about respecting peoples’ rights to not have their personal information used and re-used, swapped and sold, manipulated and mushed to serve purposes they never intended when they shared it.

It’s like this: Say I’m at a social event and I’m lucky enough to make a new friend, Marcia. Very cool person, lots in common, and we decide we’re going to walk our dogs together. Marcia gives me her cell number and her address so I can arrange to drive Gordie over, pick her up and take our stroll. It’s a wonderful time.

What if, after that, I began to freely share everything she’s told me with other people? What if I’m on some very public online space and describe her, “Oh, yeah—such a cool person. She lives at 3998 S. Mayhew Circle. She has a Welsh Springer Spaniel and an Audi R8 and she’s a proctologist. Here’s her phone number too, I’m sure she wouldn’t mind if you gave her a ring some time.”

Okay, that’s a goofy example, but you get the feeling, right? I’ve taken information she shared with me for a specific reason—information she does NOT want others to know, especially people with nefarious intent—and splashed it all around.

Unchecked, companies you buys from could take what you’ve shared with them—what they DEMANDED you share with them in order to sign up for their service—and then turn around and share/sell this information to partner organizations or data brokers. They can then re-sell it to other companies and causes that have nothing to do with your original agreement.

In some twisted universe, that might be okay. But most normal humans would agree that here in ours, it stinks. Hence the need for repercussions under a law like GDPR. Because, as much as we may tire of the tangled spaghetti of law after law after law governing every imaginable situation, it’s gotten to the point where respect is no longer a “given” in business, if it ever was, and in the digital age has to be enforced with legislation.

With our small businesses, yours and mine, we want to put respect and integrity above all other values. The people who come to work with us (or buy from us) deserve our honesty, our clarity, and above all, our respect for their time and other precious resources. Privacy of their personal information—protecting what they’ve shared with us—is one of those resources.

So rather than looking at GDPR as another pain in the posterior to deal with, let’s reframe that.

Let’s look at it as an opportunity to examine the elements of our online presence, from websites to email to social media, to be sure we are indeed operating from within a culture of openness and respect.

It’s good for our businesses, good for the people we serve, good for our souls, and (lastly!) good for staying out of the legal crosshairs of privacy laws.

In my next post I’ll talk about some very common elements of many websites—contact forms, subscriber mechanisms, schedulers, payment links—and suggest reasonably painless ways for small companies like ours to make sure we are being very clear about things like:

  1. what personal information is collected by these useful mechanisms
  2. why we ask for it—what beneficial purpose it serves for us AND for them
  3. whether it’s stored on our website
  4. how people can know what we store, and how they can ask it to be deleted
  5. and more

Relax. All will be well.

See you soon.

Love,
Margaret

Self-care for the self-employed: Taking time to read the map

Like all the self-employed people I know and love, I try to grow my business in a variety of ways. Some ways feel natural, as natural as running a hand through my hair. Others push me outside my comfort zone.

The latter, of course, isn’t fatal, and is even good for us to an extent, right? I try to do a little more every day to “get out there” and get better at what I do, slowly moving beyond what I previously thought was possible for me. I like to look at it as a long, exploratory walk on a new-to-me trail through a beautiful forest. I could choose a route that I’m already 100% familiar with, I suppose. But stepping out of my “known,” my habitual ways of interacting with the world, tests my stamina, my courage, and my powers of observation. And that’s all good.

Until it isn’t.

It’s a quiet morning in Colorado. I’m sitting out on the back porch, being scrutinized by an upside-down chickadee on a nearby branch. I’m sipping coffee and staring out into space. I always have a sense that I should be doing something else instead. Some marketing thing. Some new-product development thing. Some big audacious goal. But this morning it’s a nagging voice I can barely hear, like being yelled at by someone who’s behind thick glass.

I pull a metaphorical curtain over it, and go back to sipping and staring.

Over the past few months, I’ve taken on things that have pushed me out of my introvert comfort zone again and again. Publishing a book. Public speaking. Interviews. More networking and collaboration than I think I’ve done in the last five years combined. A lot more of “the M word” (marketing) than I’m comfortable with.

All of this from the person who, at any party, is the girl in the corner having a quiet conversation with a tall potted plant.

I’ve enjoyed it all, in the way you enjoy the new muscles you start to notice in the mirror after committing to a new exercise regimen. It’s like, “Wow, look at that. I’m so glad I’m doing this.”

It feels like I’ve been on a trail, carrying a knapsack full of protein bars, Red Bull, wise books, and a walkie-talkie connection with some very smart mentors. Exploring, experimenting, breaking through to new parts of the wilderness within me. Enjoying the scenery and the healthy feeling of getting stronger and wiser and braver.

But after about 9 months of pushing hard with both hands, widening my comfort zone and filling my mind and heart with new things, I screeched to a stop. My body started to break. My mind would wander in circles. I was weary, overstimulated, insomnia-wracked, unable to turn my brain off. My emails to people had lost their tenderness. My morning writing became more mechanical, and there was no pleasure in it.

So.

Photo by G. Patterson

I’ve stepped off that trail for a while. I’ve put the adventure of moving into new lands on hold. Instead, I’m back at the porch table with my journal and my pen (the equivalent of my map and compass), thinking about where I might want to go next. I’m quietly, carefully mapping it out. There are an infinite number of possible destinations to choose from: Which one(s) will be the most joyful? Which ones will make my time here on Earth matter most?

I’m resting more. I’m breathing more. I turn off the computer for hours, sometimes longer. I say “no” more (a lot more, a fiscally scary amount of “no”).

I stay hydrated. I eat very, very well. I move my body and gently keep it limber and strong. I systematically remove toxic things from my home and my life. I’ve traded the business development books on my nightstand with a copy of Dr. Frank Lipman’s How to Be Well, and am on the second reading of it.

I still take care of clients, answer emails, do coaching sessions and consultations. I’m still here, and doing what I always do. I’m just off the dusty trail and back in my comfort zone for a while. I’m quiet, listening more than speaking, moving slowly and deliberately so I can sense what feels best. I’m planning the next few years of my life on this Earth.

Though I’m not recommending you do the same—we are all in different places in our work—I want to be sure to remind you that this possibility exists for all of us. If it feels as though this is what you need as well, make it so. Say no more. Clear the parts of your day planner that no longer bring you the same joy. Feel your body’s reactions as you move through your “normal” working day, and take note of the rhythms of tension and stress. Set aside some time to do what feels comfortable and easy, and see what kind of inspiration that ease brings. You may find that dialing it all down for a while helps you reshape the things that just aren’t working for you anymore, with no self-judgment and no regrets.

It’s worth it.

Be well.