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.

 

Helping declutter your mind in 2019: Nearly-no-brainer ways to keep your website safe

In early 2019 I’m already noticing an uptick in hacking attempts among my clients’ websites. How can I tell? Even though no one has yet been hacked, I monitor their security programs and see the same wave of attempted logins, brute force attacks, etc. It’s a shame; don’t these guys have anything better to do?

These jerks know what I know: There are some changes taking place that are creating opportunities to break into websites and do their dirty work.

I wanted to share with you the top five factors that create fertile ground for exploiting a website. I’ll keep it “geek lite” to avoid giving anyone a tech migraine. Please feel free to be in touch any time if you have questions.

1) Cheap or bad website hosting

There are a lot of good, smart, inexpensive website hosting companies — companies that store and ‘broadcast’ your site on the web. And there are a few that are inexpensive-but-untrustworthy. I write about a couple of them here. Some hosts are cheap but just don’t take good care of their clients’ data, and some don’t properly separate user accounts—which opens up opportunities for hacking. In one case in particular, a client’s site was repeatedly hacked until we moved it to another host. Since then? Nothing.

2) Easy-to-guess website logins (especially if you’re on WordPress, but other sites as well)

This is the most commonly jimmied “door” to your site because many people still use simple, easy-to-remember passwords like “bluepony5” and “mary*jane” and even, yes, “password2019” (#facepalm). It might save you the trouble of remembering a more complicated password, but it may also cost you thousands in getting your web presence back. (not to mention the fact that once hackers guess it once, they’ll try to find other spaces you frequent on the web and use it there too. They know you want to use that easy password all over…  🙂 Keep it complicated, folks. Use uppercase, lowercase, symbols, and numbers, and never—ever—use dictionary words.

3) Outdated software

Many of the websites we are asked to look haven’t been updated in some time. Old or outdated bits and pieces of your site’s machinery are a prime area for jerks to crash your website party. Every piece of your site’s technology—the framework (like WordPress), plugins, themes, programming—should be kept up to date to fix bugs and patch security holes they are constantly finding.

4) Out of date programming

Behind your beautiful website, no matter what kind, is programming (or “scripting”) language spewing out thousands of lines of code that make things go. For WordPress sites, for example, that workhorse is called “PHP.”  That programming needs regular updates as well. In a huge current example, the team behind PHP has just stopped supporting (protecting) the version that runs behind more than 60 percent of websites that use it, and everyone should update it. This is something that can be updated via your website hosting company, but needs to be done carefully to be sure your existing site won’t be broken by the new version…there are even little programs to check whether your website guts are compatible with the new versions. Ask them (or us) about it.

5) Running a site that’s not “https” (and the “s” is for SECURE)

Take a look at your own website, specifically look at the top of the screen where it displays your website’s address: http://(your website address).com

If you do not have the “s” in https, or if you’re seeing a “not secure” message, that’s trouble. That goopy part of your web address means all communications between your website browser software and the website you’re viewing are encrypted/safe from prying eyes. It’s remedied by installing something called a secure certificate on your website hosting account. This is another thing that needs to be wrangled with your website host…but if you have questions, let us know.

If you need help deciphering what any of this means to you, or if you’d like to just have this automated so it’s all just taken care of — leaving you time to create, write, and run your business — we do that for a lot of people, so just get in touch with us. We have subscription plans for as little as $25.00/month to keep an eye on things for you . . .so you can turn your eyes to the work you actually like doing.

Stay safe out there, everybody  🙂

Panic is purely elective: Bringing your site back from a WordPress 5 update

If your WordPress-based website auto-updated to the new version of WordPress before you were ready, give this simple trick a try before you panic. I’m referring to WordPress 5, which I talk about a bit in this post.

In many cases, there’s nothing at all wrong. It’s just that you’re viewing the site through the “block editor” in the new software, and some WordPress sites and themes just still spit up hairballs.

If your website person is asking for hundreds or thousands to put it right, consider doing this little trick first to see if you can return things to normal. (It may still be that things have gone wrong, but at least you can try a two-minute trick before going down that road.)

And of course, you can always contact me for a non-geeky, plain English, calming & comfortable conversation about it any time.

WordPress 5.0: The pain, the gain, and why you shouldn’t update yet

This post is especially for my beloved folks out there whose professional websites are built in WordPress – about a third of the world’s websites by some estimates.

Today is the day the benevolent geeks in charge at WordPress released their spiffy new version, WordPress 5.0. You’ll start seeing the graphic above (absent my embellishment…) when you log into your site.

I see you yawning out there. Software update? Dull!  But bear with me for just a second.

It’s not like most web software updates, which just replace the old with the new, in a calm and orderly fashion, like the changing of the guard at Buckingham Palace. This one has the potential for causing some mischief that could be, shall we say, “stressful.”

It’s all about “Gutenberg,” the editor. That screen you’re on when you’re creating or editing website posts and pages? That. I wrote about it this past Fall and posted a little introduction to it here in my post, “Guten-who?

The good part:

It’s pretty neat. The new one uses a system of blocks to let you arrange things on the page in ways you sometimes couldn’t before, embedding different kinds of content (pictures! text! columns! yay!). For non-technical folks who would love to be able to easily create and edit their own pages, and do more than just the one-long-column-of-text thing, it’s going to be awesome.

The bad part:

Many website designs, frameworks, plugins, add-ons are not compatible with it and thus your site might spit up hairballs when it’s installed. That could mean anything from “no effect whatsoever” to the white screen of death, with no way into your site. Especially if your site is more than a couple of years old and hasn’t had any sort of updating of its “guts,” it could be messy.

It is already causing a bit of mayhem, the same sort of mayhem you might expect if you decided, for example, that you wanted your own personal pet rhino. It’s very possible upgrading to 5.0 right now will break your existing website into smithereens unless you follow some special procedures – and who has time for that right now right before the holidays, seriously?

For the do-it-yourselfers:

But okay, to stay solution-oriented: I’m going to list these procedures below for those who care for their own sites. Before updating, you’ll want to do things like:

  • Take a complete backup of your site and download it to your own computer. NOT just your files and database. The whole directory. Your website host can point you in the right direction there.
  • Update your website’s “theme” – the design framework that it’s running (in your Dashboard, go under Appearance>>Themes to see what I mean) – to the newest version available.
  • Also update your site’s “plugins” (Dashboard >> Plugins) which are the little programs that enable your site to do things like cool contact forms, shopping cart, security, automatic backups, etc.
  • Install a little plugin called “Classic Editor” to switch your editor back to the way it was.

See what I mean? Who has time? Even after all of that, it may still alter your finally-beautiful website, so have your web person’s email handy and consider letting them know before you plan to do that (or have them do it for you, and save a few brain cells).

BUT once the WordPress gods get the kinks worked out, it’ll be a pretty nifty little update to WordPress that’ll help zillions of people work with it more easily and create more beautiful things with it. Totally worth it. No, I mean it, it’ll be good for a lot of people.

They are already apparently working on a revision to fix some of the bugs, and should be publishing a cleaner version (or two, or three) of it in January 2019.

SO, TO RECAP:

  • Don’t push that blue “update to 5.0” button. Just don’t do it. At least not for a month or more.
  • If you can’t resist, take all of the steps above FIRST and light a green candle, burn some incense, recite some incantations from the Necronomicon, etc. If you’re not a WordPress geek, coordinate with your web person before you do.
  • Wait until late January at the very earliest. There’s no compelling reason to upgrade right now. None. So let the dust settle, let the geeks pick it apart and let WordPress fix all the bugs.

If you are hosted by Hostgator, and here are all the reasons I still advise against that, you may want to check with them to make sure it’s not going to automatically update itself.

I’ll update this post as things get sane again.

Peace, all.

P.S. If you’re interested in having us do regular updates to your website so you don’t have to worry about this (including security, backups, updates, and all those geeky things), please reach out.  Learn more about how to buy an hour, or five, or ten, to make sure you can focus on doing the work you love rather than trying to be a website expert too.

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.

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.

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.

 

For self-employed folks, noticing your mental state can make all the difference

One of my mentors often says, “Your state of being is the most important thing.”

Translation: Think about how you feel right now, this minute, as you read this post. If you had to equate your state with a traffic signal, would you be green (relaxed, content, confident, optimistic) or red (tense, worried, pessimistic, low energy, overworked, etc) or somewhere in between? (yellow)

As much as I’d love to always say I’m in a green state, that’s just not true. Sometimes I’m reaching for something that’s hard for me. Sometimes I’m afraid I’m not doing enough, or I’m doing too much. Sometimes I’m just not sleeping or eating or doing what’s right for my body, and it’s like trying to take a journey in a 1973 Ford Pinto that’s held together with duct tape, baling wire, and Bondo.

Part of my problem — and perhaps you share it — is that I sometimes get so wrapped up in a project or task or situation that I feel as though the only way to honor it, to successfully get through it to the other side, is to keep my face in it for as long as it takes. (Or until I physically can’t do it a minute longer.) The thought of taking a walk, sitting outdoors, or heaven forbid, lying down with my eyes closed for a few minutes, just feels like a dereliction of duty. “It’s just going to take longer to resolve this unless I stay right here and keep working on it until my eyeballs bleed.”

The best thing we can both do for ourselves, my friends, is to stop a few times a day to be aware of what our respective traffic lights are showing. Unless you’re a neurosurgeon, one minute is not going to kill anyone. We can stand up, stretch, go to another room, breathe, and conjure up something simple we can do to move to a better state.

To this day, I can look at the history of my business, look at the pieces of it that have never quite been what I wanted them to be, and I can tell beyond a shadow of a doubt which ones I forced myself to do in a red state. They just reek of it. I feel tense and dissatisfied when I look at them.

The converse is true too. The things I created in a green state, when I felt like I was in flow, channeling the very best parts of my nature, are the things to which people have reacted the most positively, and thus are the things that helped me build a business I love.

Your state matters. It’s not woo-woo. It’s just a fact.

A water break changes my state of beingMy go-to state-changer? Get up, walk to another room, and drink a tall glass of cool, clear, delicious water very slowly. Use your most beautiful glass. Take at least two full minutes to drink it. Close your eyes and feel it moving out into your cells, hydrating them and lubricating them, loosening everything up. Remember to be grateful that you have this magical silver handle in your house that you can turn, and — get this — pure, clean, life-giving water comes out. You didn’t have to spend hours out of your day to fetch it. You don’t have to worry about catching cholera. You didn’t have to pay much (or anything) for it, or stand in line. It just…happens. It’s a beautiful thing, isn’t it?

Other state-changers I employ include very short guided audio meditations like these, having a dog that needs to go outside periodically and bark at the enemies (aka neighbors), five minutes of loud and beautiful music in my headphones to drive out all other thoughts, and using an app or system like https://tomato-timer.com/ to remind me to stop and take note of my state.

(For my clients who just think I’m naturally chill and/or I’m genetically wired to walk around with a calm smile on my face all day, I’m sorry to disappoint.)

And if I don’t believe myself, I can turn to page 156 of Judith Morgan’s swell book, Your Biz Your Way, and hear her voice in my head, saying, “Breathe. And take care of you first, above all else. Relax! You’ve got this.”

There are tons and tons of ways to improve our state, something for literally everyone. For example, I’ve always loved this list from Charlie Gilkey. Maybe there’s something here that will help you get to green today, or at least move toward it: https://www.productiveflourishing.com/12-simple-ways-to-be-present/

Here’s an article by George Kao explaining his view of “green yellow red,” and how he handles his own state of being:

https://www.georgekao.com/blog/greenyellowred

So whaddya say? Let’s get green today. If you want to love your work and grow your business, it really does help.

If I had my way, everyone would have a coach. Here are mine.

If I had my way, I’d hire everybody their own coach. They can give such great perspective. But since I can’t, I’d like you to meet both of mine.