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How Blogging Has Built My Business

building blocksWhen I first began blogging in June of 2011, it was an experiment. Publishing my first post didn’t feel much different than writing in a Word doc. I had zero subscribers and only a measly three or four people randomly stumbled on my blog each day. I wanted to learn how to be an effective blogger for my clients. To do so, I first had to become an effective blogger for myself. The blogging experiment far exceeded my expectations and I’m officially hooked. I write passionately for my readership of more than 700 subscribers every Monday morning.

The Bennis Inc blog began as nothing but a blank page, just as most things in life do. But it grew – and so did my business. Sure, time alone can cause growth, but I venture to say that it took more than just time. It took regular upkeep, vision and a willingness to put my thoughts out there for all the world to see. As awkward as that felt in the beginning, almost 150 blog posts later and it couldn’t feel more natural.

The best side effect of this blogging experiment was how it built my business and defined my personal brand. I’m still amazed to talk to a new acquaintance who mentions a recent post they read or to look at the stats and see the various search terms that led people to my blog. Whether you’re a fellow blogger (novice or expert) or an intrigued reader, here are the key ways in which blogging has built my business – and has the power to build yours as well.

It’s an icebreaker

My blog provides a great reason to start a conversation. Whether it’s in a business meeting or a quick run-in at the coffee shop, telling me, “Oh by the way, I read your blog,” has replaced the obligatory conversation about the weather. It has also given people a reason to reach out to me with a professional question or to explore the services I offer. If I was just a name on a web site, people may not feel this same connection or be motivated to start a conversation. This is a pleasant reminder that the time I spend putting my thoughts into words is worth something.  It’s cultivating an audience, opening doors and inspiring people enough to want to tell me about it.

It reaches further than you might imagine

My blog has opened up an avenue for communication with people from all across the world. When looking at the stats, it’s exciting to see how many different countries are lit up on the map. Even more fulfilling than just numbers and statistics is the meaningful interactions with people via comments and emails. The reach of my blog has helped to grow my business on a more local level as well. Within my local network, I’m impressed by how many people I know (and look up to) read it on the regular. I would never have imagined they had the interest or free time, but they do. This has helped to build my credibility as a writer and entrepreneur.

It’s a living portfolio

I’ve often referred to a blog as a living portfolio of your work. When a client asks to see examples of my writing, I can simply send them to my blog where they can choose from a variety of topics to really get a feel for my style. This is much easier and more genuine than putting together a dull document of writing samples. They can also see the interactions with my readers which demonstrates my ability to grow an audience. My blog has become a valuable asset to my proposal process and I believe has helped to win me some work as well.

It strengthens your SEO and your personal brand

The final and most powerful way I feel my blog has helped to build my business is by strengthening my SEO and personal brand. Adding fresh and high quality content to your blog and appropriately tagging each post is one the best ways to increase your search engine optimization. I choose to host my blog on WordPress (as oppose to my web site) because of its added SEO power. Many readers have found my blog by browsing WordPress’s categories.

My blog has also strengthened my personal brand by showcasing the “human element” of Bennis Inc – me! While my business is all about Public Relations, I choose to make my blog much more personal with many articles on the struggle of entrepreneurship, life balance and unconventional wisdom. My blog shines a spotlight on the “Twenty-Something Entrepreneur” that I’ve become.

There you have it – all the compelling reasons you could need to be inspired to create or grow your own blog! The most important thing to remember is that once you start, don’t stop. Keep writing and posting regular content. Think of your blog as a hungry little monster. It needs food to keep it growing and that’s what your posts will be, food for your blog and fuel for search engines to pull new readers to your site.

Finally, here are some tips for successful blogging to get you start. Go forth and blog!

 
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Posted by on December 16, 2013 in Business & Success, Social Media

 

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7 Steps to Financial Success for Young Entrepreneurs (Guest Blog by Dave Landry)

This week’s post comes to us from guest blogger, Dave Landry. Dave specially crafted this article for the Bennis Inc blog to assist fellow “amateur entrepreneurs” and guide them toward successful endeavors. Be sure to visit Dave’s business web site for more information on the many skills he has to offer. Enjoy!

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For a young entrepreneur, every penny counts!

For a young entrepreneur, every penny counts!

In today’s economic environment, it is extremely important for a new breed of young entrepreneurs to take risks. As venture capital declines and direct investment opportunities increase, it really is a moment where new minds with elaborate new ideas can affect the world and embrace success.

With startup companies constantly appearing in the headlines, reports from the Kauffman Foundation show that startups have declined from 12 percent of all companies (since the 1980s) to less than 8 percent. It is now at its lowest point on record but as the Kauffman report writes “new firms and young businesses account for about 70 percent of gross job creation and disproportionately contribute to net job creation.”

Small business success is important to our economic recovery, adding a great amount of responsibility to those that are entrepreneurs. By taking the risk on new ideas that may become mainstream in the future, young entrepreneurs are incredibly vital to our economic system.

Here are seven extremely valuable tips for the young entrepreneur. By keeping these in mind, one can supply a focus to the difficult task of financially building upon your talent:

1. Create a star team

It is extremely vital to take as much time to create a team that will be strong for a startup. By honing in on strengths and weaknesses, a team can be formed over supplemental talents adding to its strength and focus.

2. Focus in on problems

Focus is what investors are most interested in. Creating a team that isolates problems, creates a proper strategy to execute a solution, and has a determined value is extremely useful for the starting entrepreneur.

3. Use failure as an inspiration

Everyday functioning for a startup can be filled with a certain amount of failures. Don’t unleash this frustration on colleagues, instead control your emotions. Mistakes can be used to coach others through their faults and toward future success.

4. Try not to work at home

Working from home can be amazing but it can also be constraining. If the lines of home life and work life are blurred, a young entrepreneur can become distracted and frustrated. If an office space seems too expensive, try sharing one or opting for a desk-for-a-day rental service that is priced well for an entrepreneur on a budget. It will also give you an added level of professionalism where you can meet clients in a real office setting.

5. Sharing Successes

A young entrepreneur should never feel the need to be too humble. Celebrating a success, no matter how big or small, inspires the team and makes investors and the public aware of your progress. By keeping a team happy through sharing each victory and by sharing them with your consumers/investors, everyone will feel a part of these small celebrations. Think of them as an adult equivalent of a gold star in elementary school!

6. Learn from past entrepreneurs

It’s important that a young entrepreneur learns from others. This can assist in starting a venture, save time and resources and most simply lend some aspiring wisdom! Literature by Venture Deals’ Brad Feld and Jason Mendelson are one helpful resources. Also try searching interviews or quotes from successful entrepreneurs such as Warren Buffett to hear how they overcame their career challenges.

7. Use spare time to reboot

Just like laptops need some time to rest, so do young entrepreneurs. By spending time with friends and family, or just getting some rest, someone approaching a new venture can utilize time away from work to approach their venture with invigorating motivation and a fresh mind.

dave landryDave Landry Jr. is a businessman and financial strategist. Be sure and visit www.NationalDebtRelief.com to see what Dave and several others are doing to assist people during financial crises!

 

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Why You Should Become A Lifelong Learner

Head in sand ostrich

It’s tempting to bury our heads in the sand, but to remain competitive in the marketplace, we must take our education into our own hands.

The first 22 or so years of our lives are consumed by education. Our full time job is to learn as much as we can about the world around us and narrow our focus on a specific area that we hopefully will turn into a career. But once we’re launched into the real world, this commitment to continuing our education seems to wane. As we spend more and more time applying the knowledge we have, we have less and less time for seeking out additional education. Slowly but surely, our wealth of knowledge begins to depreciate as it becomes outdated and incomplete.

With the types of resources we have available right at our fingertips, this should never be the case. We always have the opportunity to better ourselves through lifelong learning even if we feel we have no time or money to do so. It’s possible – and paramount – to developing both our career and our character. Here are a few critical questions we must first ask ourselves if we want to assume the mindset of a lifelong learner.

When did we decide to stop learning?

Doesn’t it seem unbalanced that we rely upon the education we gain during the first quarter of our lives to last us for the other three-quarters? This is a common idea that society has made acceptable. Maybe it’s because we’re so overloaded with school, classes, exams and essays that when we earn a degree we want to wash our hands of this part of our life completely – never wanting to return to the anxiety and challenge that often accompanies it. The shame is that this is such a small part of what learning truly is. Learning need not be defined by a classroom, diploma or grades. The decision to start learning again doesn’t mean having to enroll in a graduate program. The options for how we can do so are virtually limitless, but first we must change our definition of learning.

How do we change our definition of learning?

It doesn’t require a classroom setting to enhance your education. In fact, most of what we’ve learned throughout our lives was from observing other people or through trial and error. So throw away the notion that night classes are the only way to re-educate yourself. Technology has also drastically changed the learning opportunities available to us for free and from home. College-level courses are available at all hours of the day and in increments that can fit into any schedule. This type of learning may not earn you a formal degree, but unless your career field has a proven return on investment for additional degrees, don’t take on that unnecessary debt. Rather, informal and free courses are just as effective at achieving the ultimate goal…a lifelong education.

Will lifelong learning really make a difference?

Yes. Making the commitment to learn throughout all quarters of your life – not just your first – will have a great impact on both your career and your character. It will keep you competitive in today’s job market. With the ever-changing face of technology, we don’t have the luxury of relying on what we learned decades ago to get us through the job we have now. Even more mind boggling is that for many of us, the job we will have 5 years from now likely doesn’t even exist yet! If you want to increase your value as an employee (and secure your job for the future), lifelong learning is a must. Also, the more you know the more interesting you tend to be. Did you ever know someone who could start a conversation with just about anyone? It’s likely that this person was well-educated and continued his education throughout his life. You want to be that person, too. Finally, lifelong learning will make you independent. The more you know how to do on your own, the less you will feel inferior or helpless. You will be able to trouble-shoot your own problems and work more efficiently as a result. There’s many more compelling reasons why each of us should become a lifelong learner, but I think I’ve made my point.

To end, I will leave you with this interesting quote from Robert Heinlein:

“A human being should be able to change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog, conn a ship, design a building, write a sonnet, balance accounts, build a wall, set a bone, comfort the dying, take orders, give orders, cooperate, act alone, solve equations, analyze a new problem, pitch manure, program a computer, cook a tasty meal, fight efficiently, die gallantly. Specialization is for insects.”

Resources for lifelong learning:

Coursera. Coursera works with top universities from around the world to offer classes online for free.

OpenStudy. OpenStudy is a social learning network that allows you to connect with individuals who have the same learning goals as you.

edX. Harvard University and MIT partnered together to create interactive, free online courses. The same world-renowned professors that teach at Harvard and MIT have created the courses on edX.

Udacity. More college level classes taught online for free.

CreativeLive. CreativeLive lets you stream live courses being taught for free (if you want to view the course later there is a fee). The courses focus on more creative and business subjects.

TED. TED compiles speeches and lectures from professors as well as interesting people from many different walks of life. This is a staple for lifelong learners! (And they tend to be far more interesting and entertaining that the college lectures you remember)

iTunes U. iTunes U has thousands of free downloadable podcast lectures taught by the best professors from around the world. Learn while you exercise or on a long road trip.

YouTube EDU. Addicted to YouTube? Put it to good use by enriching your mind with thousands of videos that cover a variety of topics.

 
 

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Meeting Fate Halfway

blindfolded womanEvery so often life presents us with moments where things really feel like they’re coming together. We can choose to believe this is by chance or that this is by fate.  Switching careers, buying a new home and falling in love are all life changing experiences where so often we hear people say “It was fate.” I do believe in fate. I believe that doors close so others may open and I believe that our passions can lead us toward where we are meant to be. But I also believe that we must meet fate halfway.

In a recent conversation with a friend about my own endeavors as an entrepreneur, he said that I am fortunate to have had fate lead me down this path. My response was that although fate presented me with opportunities, it was still my responsibility to be prepared to seize them. This is important for every business owner to remember. Even if you believe in fate, this is not an excuse to walk around blind folded just waiting for it to lead you where you’re supposed to go. You must be an active participant in the process. Just a little more than two years ago, when I turned my part time passion into my full time career, fate presented me with the opportunity, but I still had to contribute the vision and the hard work to make it a sustainable success.

During this entrepreneurial journey, I’m learning that you can’t leave everything to chance. When I meet a potential client, I still have to prove my skills and professionalism to increase my chances of working with them. Fate may have placed me in the right place at the right time to be considered for this opportunity, but I most certainly won’t get the job if I sit back and do nothing.

I’ve also learned not to be foolishly optimistic. Fate is a presence in my life, but it’s not a safety net. Relying too heavily on fate to always give you your happy ending will result in many unhappy outcomes. Fate won’t pay my taxes, guarantee new clients or further develop my skills. It isn’t fate’s responsibility to do so. It’s mine. Fate has and continues to present me with the opportunities to accomplish these things successfully, but I must always meet fate halfway.

I think we must redefine our perception of fate. It’s fun and romantic to throw our cautions to the wind and say “whatever will be, will be,” but this is taking advantage of – and missing out on – the opportunities with which we’ve been presented. Instead, even with fate on our side, we must continue to keep our nose to grindstone and prepare ourselves to seize life’s fateful opportunities.

 
 

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For Better Time Management…Eat A Frog?

frogHere’s a piece of advice that will surely grab your attention, “Eat a live frog first thing in the morning and nothing worse will happen to you the rest of the day.” Mark Twain is credited for this witty and wacky quote, but I can’t imagine he was advising us to actually go out and eat a frog. So what point was he trying to make with this sliver of creative wisdom? I believe Twain was alluding to one of the greatest time management principles of all time.

Tackle your most undesirable task first.

By doing this, you get the biggest road block off your to-do list. It also sets the tone for the rest of the day that anything is possible and it will boost your mood. On the surface, this seems simple and attainable. But when you’re faced with a project you don’t want to start, a phone call you don’t want to make or a house you don’t want to clean, it’s amazing the ways in which you’ll find to procrastinate. To take Mark Twain’s advice one step further, I want to give you several ways in which you can learn to eat – and enjoy – your frog every morning.

First things first

It’s important that you tackle your most undesirable task first, but it’s equally important to do so as soon as you start your day. Having something at the top of your to-do list means nothing if you don’t look at the list before 2pm. The more time we take to build up fear and anxiety over completing a challenging task, the more the molehill starts to look like a mountain. Just as you would rip off a bandage as quickly as you could to minimize the pain, tackle your most undesirable tasks quickly and promptly.

No dessert before dinner

Don’t allow yourself to do enjoyable or desirable tasks until you have gotten rid of the “frog” on your plate. It’s tempting to say, “Oh I’ll clean the house after just one more episode of my favorite show…it will motivate me.” This will only motivate you to find more excuses and to rationalize yourself out of the task altogether. Our mothers were right; dessert only spoils our supper. Instead we need to view these desirable tasks as reward for completing undesirable tasks. Plus, a good dessert at the end of dinner will help to get that frog taste out of your mouth!

Embrace your “Super Powers”

Once you knock the worst task off your to-do list, be sure to take a brief moment to embrace your “super powers.” I’ve found that when I accomplish something difficult or time consuming, I feel like I can take on the world. It’s on these days that I often go on to accomplish many more difficult tasks that I’ve also been putting off. It’s like letting the flood gates open and finally releasing all the tension I was carrying around over this work. Tackling one undesirable task helps me to realize I’m perfectly capable of doing much more. Plus the adrenaline rush from being done is energy that is worth putting to good use!

What “frogs” do you have on your plate right now? Do you agree with Mark Twain’s wisdom or is there another time management technique that has worked better for you? Share your insight!

 
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Posted by on September 23, 2013 in Advice, Business & Success, Life

 

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Blogging For Broke: The Value of Blogging Outside of Income

empty-pocketsI first began the Bennis Inc blog in July of 2011 and since then I’m proud (and amazed) to say it has earned over 37,000 hits, 1,000 comments, 614 loyal subscribers and many, many more readers and supporters. Thank you! Even if this is your first time stopping by, you’re contributing to something that has grown into my passion among other things. I often get questions from fellow bloggers, entrepreneurs and friends who want to know the best way to monetize a blog. I usually stare at them blankly and respond with, “I never thought of that.” Well, that’s not completely true – I have wished that I could find the magic bullet to turn my blog into a big money maker where all I have to do is write and rake in the dough. However, I know enough to realize that this is not even close to the common scenario for so many blogs out there, and it’s not really my goal for blogging to begin with. Instead, I choose to feed the hungry Bennis Inc blog with weekly ramblings about the unpaved road of entrepreneurship for reasons that are not directly fueled by money. That’s right, I’m blogging for broke and I’m perfectly OK with that. The benefits I do receive from blogging are ones that I couldn’t buy if I tried. And so I find it important to share with you – and all fellow bloggers or aspiring bloggers out there– that blogging brings great value completely separate from the monetary kind.

Complete Control

As a business owner you may be the boss inside your own world, but as soon as you offer a service to a client or customer they become your “boss” to an extent. They have the ultimate say over deadlines, scope of the project and final edits. Frankly, there are some days when I just need that feeling of being in control again! My blog is the place I know I can always turn to satisfy this need. I am the boss here. I have the first and final say in what I write about. I tag, categorize and schedule posts exactly as I see fit and there’s no one there to second guess accuracy or style. I imagine this to be similar to the enjoyment an artist gets out of painting for himself every so often rather than for a specific client. The final masterpiece is all your own and whether you display it to the world or keep it all to yourself – that’s your decision to make.

A Means For Progress – When All Else Stands Still

I can’t be alone when I say that I enjoy progress. I hate hold-ups and stand-stills. In fact, this was one of the main motivating factors as to why I left my former job and ventured out on my own to begin with. While my projects progress at a much quicker rate than they did before I owned Bennis, Inc, I am still at the mercy of my clients if I’m waiting on feedback or critical information to move forward. There are some days when I have a million balls in the air, yet my hands are oddly idle because of clogs in progress. I refer to this state as the calm before the storm or being stuck in the eye of the hurricane. At any moment I could have an inbox full of emails come in fill my day up instantly. So what do I do when I’m waiting on a stand-still? I turn to my blog. It allows me to feel accomplished and to get the immediate gratification of taking something from conception to completion. It’s literally how I keep my hands busy whenever I need something to do.

A Living Portfolio

My blog is my journal and my canvas. It’s where I direct my extra creativity when it’s not fully exhausted on client projects. Every so often I enjoy looking back to some of my first posts, not just to see how far my writing has progressed, but to catch a glimpse into exactly what I was thinking months and years ago. I can remember the most pressing issues in my life at that time and briefly relive them through my writing. It’s a living portfolio not just of my work, but of my life. Better yet is when a client asks to see my writing samples, I can easily direct them to my blog where they have a full array of topics and styles to choose from to really immerse themselves in the level of writing I can produce.

People Really Get To Know You

The final and possibly greatest benefit to my blogging is how many people it reaches without my ever knowing. My day is instantly made when someone mentions a recent post in conversation and I had no idea they ever read my blog before. I have friends and family members also tell me about acquaintances who read my blog on the regular. Many of these are people I have yet to meet! From such experiences I’ve found that my blog allows people to get to know me for more than just my business, but as a person. It’s that “human element” I so often advocate for businesses to tap into. When someone feels like they have insight and understanding as to what makes you tick, they are more likely to trust you – and eventually hire you when your services align with their needs. Social media allows people from all over the world to feel like they really know each other even if they’ve never met or spoken in person. Blogging is a powerful means for creating such peripheral relationships.

If you’re stopping by as a reader, but have been curious about starting your own blog, I hope this gives you some inspiration to take that next step forward (here’s some information you might find helpful). Who knows what passion it could unlock within you? If you’re a fellow blogger, I hope you’ll take just a moment to comment with the benefits you receive from blogging and consider sharing this with your community as well.

 

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Social Selling: Myth or Magic? (Guest Blog by Sam Bessant)

I’m thrilled to welcome back guest blogger Sam Bessant. Her first contribution to the Bennis Inc Blog, “Success Versus the Work-Life Balance” continues to receive top hits! Learn more about Sam in her bio following this post and be sure and visit her personal blog here.

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social media tool boxSocial selling is a relatively new concept to the world as its dawn has only come through the dramatic shift we’ve all made to living our lives through social media in the last few years. The whole networking game has changed and we now have easier access to more people and more information than we’ve ever had before. But what are we doing with all this information and what impact does it have on our working lives?

The term “social selling” is being banded around left, right and centre by people who consider themselves forward thinkers in the field but few seem to understand what it really means and whether it really involves any actual selling. A new pothole for salespeople to stumble into is the idea that stalking prospects on LinkedIn and sending them a half-arsed message constitutes selling. Similarly, there is the idea that following an event on Twitter is just as good as being at the event; reading a blog about how to sell is the same as mastering the technique yourself…the list goes on. The problem is that actions taken by your “virtual” presence in the online world are just that – virtual and intangible. And the results will be too. At some point, that world of Web 2.0 needs to meet with more old fashioned actions because we aren’t living in a fully virtual society yet. People still rate people and personal relationships built up through phone calls and meetings; some people aren’t even part of this huge social network, preferring to remain aloof and test your persistence in reaching them.

So we circle back to the question of “what is social selling?” and is it something that has been created by the very people whose advertising revenue relies on us using their social networks? I would suggest not. Social selling is actually very powerful but it needs to be thought of as a tool; one singular tool in a whole toolbox of potential sales techniques. What social media allows us is the opportunity to understand more about the people we want to engage, more about the companies they work for and more about what other salespeople are doing to win themselves success. It gives us an “in” and helps to reduce the awkwardness of the initial contact because we have enough information to make contact with purpose. We don’t have to spend ages battling with switchboards to get hold of a name and we can send messages directly to C-level contacts we’d have spent months trying to target previously, but this is only the beginning.

As with more traditional sales methods, social selling takes time. You still need to qualify your prospects and build a relationship. The social media piece simply allows you to do some of the legwork before you make contact so that you can wow them with a compelling story tailored just for them. A mistake commonly made is thinking that all of the information a salesperson needs can be found online. This is not the case. What you can find is a great foundation to hop over the initial hurdles so you can spend your valuable time working on real sales opportunities rather than arguing with gatekeepers. So social selling isn’t a myth; it’s a real thing and there are real opportunities being found through social media. However, it isn’t magic either. Nobody will do the hard work for you and you’ll still need to be creative in the way you approach people and ensure you deliver the service you’d expect yourself. Social selling is a valuable tool which you can’t afford to overlook but remember…it is only a single tool and cannot replace your entire tool set.

Sam BessantSam Bessant lives in Reading, UK. She currently works the standard office 9-6 while trying to finalize the direction she will take to start her own business. Sam’s blog, 20somethingfreak was created to help Sam and others understand what it is to be in your 20s and for Sam to share some of the millions of daydreams she has every day! Be sure and visit Sam’s personal blog: www.20somethingfreak.wordpress.com.

 

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Moment versus Momentum: Learning to Harness Fleeting Inspiration

Momentum Newton's BallsWhile pursuing a career in the uncharted territory of entrepreneurship, I frequently encounter other entrepreneurs along my journey. Some are decades ahead of where I am (and hope to be) and others are merely minutes into their decision to take the leap. Among this group of individuals, the veteran entrepreneurs always seem to have at least one quality in common regardless of industry or age—they have momentum. For the greener entrepreneurs, I struggle to access whether they possess this same momentum or whether their inspiration is merely a fleeting moment. The difference in the meaning of these two words – and the affect they have on the success or failure of a dream – is far more profound than two little letters. Rather this “um” holds the inspiration, the drive and the courage to turn a single moment into a momentous career.

Is your dream a mere moment or does it carry momentum?

Among your friends and acquaintances, think about those who you would consider a dreamer or an entrepreneurial spirit. Chances are you have a variety. These people are likely different, each with their own qualities that earn them a spot in this category. Now think about those in this group who have taken a goal or idea and are in the active process of taking it to the next level. Chances are this no longer applies to everyone you originally thought of. Maybe those that don’t fit this description more accurately fit the description of coming up with brilliant and creative ideas one day, but then you never hear or see anything more about it. This is the truest differentiation I can illustrate for you between moment and momentum. I, too, have contacts that I would consider entrepreneurs at heart, but this doesn’t mean every one of them has become a real life entrepreneur. Instead, there are those who think of innovative ideas all the time, but I’ve learned to not get too excited for they’re just having “a moment.” By the next month or even the next day, the big plan for a life change has already been forgotten as quickly as it was conceived.

How do we harness this moment of inspiration and turn it into momentum?

At the root of this problem are the differing qualities of each individual. Not everyone is meant to be an entrepreneur, just like not everyone is meant to be a doctor or a rocket scientist. We all have different strengths and for some, this is taking an idea from conception to completion. For others – this is a weakness. But just like how you were told when you were little that, “you can be anything you want when you grow up,” you CAN become an entrepreneur and find your inner momentum regardless of prior failed attempts. You have at least two options to better harness your moments of inspiration and turn them into something more substantial.

First, you can commit to making a personal effort to stop the bad habits that have led to loss of momentum in the past. This includes procrastination, lack of confidence, fear of hard work or fear of failure. Just as you would commit to quit smoking or lose weight, changing any existing habit takes energy and effort. Pick a single, well-defined goal and create a timeline of specific actions. When I knew I wanted to begin my own business, I defined all the steps I had to take to reach the point of leaving my former job. I knew I needed a functional web site, enough clients to pay the bills and to register myself as an official business with the government. And so I added these to my timeline and was specific in the actions I had to take to achieve them. Every day I would assign myself one immediate thing I could do to further this timeline, whether it was sending an email to a prospective client or creating a blog. These immediate action items prevented me from falling victim to procrastination or overwhelm because they kept me on track and made me feel accomplished each and every day. Over the course of a week and then a month, these actions ultimately came together to achieve my bigger goal. I still use this tactic when I’m in a phase of business growth.

If you’ve tried or are trying to change your habits to become a person of momentum, but it just isn’t picking up as quickly as you’d like – it might be time to consider the second option. You can team up with another person or group of people who will provide complimentary skills to help turn an idea into reality. Not every business is a sole proprietorship and that’s because sometimes working together is the only way to achieve a goal of a certain scope or size.  If you have an idea for a product, but have no knowledge or direction on where to start with manufacturing it; find a partner who can provide expertise and connections in this area. A partner or team will also keep you accountable to your ideas and actions. It’s not so easy to let a dream fade if the dream is shared by many different people.

In talking with even the most successful entrepreneur, I would be shocked to hear that they never once had a failed idea or fleeting inspiration prior to their current business. To find our true calling, we must allow our mind to wander as creatively as it chooses without feeling pressured to turn every idea into reality. But when you do dream up an idea that you can envision changing your world, or the world of many others, you must find a way to harness this inspiration and keep it moving. Sometimes all it takes to turn a moment into momentum is the willingness to change yourself or team up with others…and of course a little “um!”

people-say-that-motivation-doesnt-last

 
 

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The Work-Life Imbalance

Often I come across an article or a quiz asking me to examine my “work-life balance.” It’s a term we should have all encountered by now – whether in a magazine, an HR seminar, even in a casual dinner conversation. To nod your head and affirm, “Of course, I have a great work-life balance,” carries a sense of pride as if you’re really saying “Yeah, I’ve got it all together.” But what defines a work-life balance? Must the parts always be equal to keep the scales from tipping too far in one direction?

We spend the majority of our waking hours working in some capacity. In the best case scenario, only 40 hours of our week is spent in a formal work environment, but what about all of those evening and weekend emails, phone calls and “emergency projects” that cut into the little time we’re already given for “life?” Such tasks sneak extra weight onto the “work” side of the scale and can lead to an imbalance we don’t even know exists.

Over the past couple of weeks, I’ve taken more notice to how I’ve been chipping away at my free time by choosing to do a several minutes of work-related tasks here and there. Even just a few minutes can turn into hours over the course of a week. For example, I try to finish up my last work project of the day no later than 6pm. But while I enjoy dinner and a little bit of television, my mind is still very much on work. If I hear the chirp of an email – I answer it. And so this persists throughout the evenings and into the weekends. My best estimate is that on average, I burden myself with an additional 7-10 hours of work each week beyond what’s expected or demanded. When all added up, that’s a full day! A day in which I could have taken a road trip, enjoyed the beautiful fall weather or simply decompressed. And while these off-hour emails may help progress work, they put a major halt on life.

Back when I wrote about The Two-Day Truce, I urged everyone to resist the urge to do unnecessary work on the weekends because it only causes the recipients of the emails to feel the pressure to respond. Essentially it takes away from everyone’s weekend. I have gotten better about not being a weekend warrior with work, but I realized an even bigger problem. We’re so trained to work, we do it without even knowing it. Consciously we may feel like we’re living a pretty balanced life, but really our scales are so off kilter they’re nearly falling over altogether.

I couldn’t tell you how many times a day I check my phone for new emails, especially after “work hours.” I’m not sure I would want to know. By proactively checking for emails and refreshing my inbox, I’m looking for work to do instead of enjoying that other component that should fill our time – life. A true Work-Life Balance is so much more than saying you leave your office or close your laptop at 6pm. Chances are we’re very accessible to work during any of the hours in between. But when we’re at work are we this accessible to life? Every week’s schedule is different and there’s no doubt that there will be some weeks that demand an imbalanced share of our time for work. The key is to find the balance not every day or every week, but over the long run.

The Work-Life Balance may not be so much about balance after all. Maybe it’s more about flexibility and our openness to work more when we absolutely have to, but to also seize extra moments of “life” when the opportunity should arise. If you can’t close down by 6pm tonight, don’t sweat it, but plan for some extra relaxing time in your schedule later this weekend to make up for the difference and realign the balance!

What about you. Is your work-life balanced…flexible…or somewhat of both?

 
11 Comments

Posted by on October 22, 2012 in Business & Success, Life

 

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WordPress, Why’d You Go And Change?

negative sad smiley emoticon keyboardThis past spring, WordPress.com made some critical changes to the organization of its website and I’m certain I can’t be the only one who has caught on. The changes most noticeable to us, the bloggers, are the ones which impact the content non-subscribers are able to view as well as how easily our blog can be found when browsing the site. Ultimately these changes have altered the interaction of the community WordPress.com is built upon and your comments and page views have likely taken a hit as a result. If you’re like me, you may have been wondering why you blog has been receiving substantially fewer visitors even with the same frequency of posts and quality of content. Well, it’s not you – It’s WordPress.

As a creature of habit, I’m slow to warm to unsolicited change and so I didn’t want to form an opinion without first giving myself some time to adjust. I didn’t know if the changes would be permanent or if their impact would be decidedly negative. Now, nearly 6 months later, I’m concluding both to be true.

If you’ve joined WordPress in the last 6 months – feel lucky, you’ll never know the difference. If you’re a veteran WordPress user and haven’t noticed these changes, your personal impact may have been too subtle to notice (Warning: You may become acutely aware of these changes after reading the rest of this post). But if you’re a fellow blogger working hard for every new subscriber you earn, you may feel just as confused and agitated as I do with the blogging platform you’ve loved and supported above any other. So what happened, WordPress – Why’d you go and change?

Isolation of Non-Subscribers – Before I was ever a blogger or even a registered user of WordPress, I enjoyed visiting WordPress.com to browse through the day’s blogs. I was in awe of the chosen few who were featured on the “Freshly Pressed” section of the homepage that immediately greeted you with big pictures and intriguing article titles. As a loyal WordPress blogger for more than a year and half, I only recently noticed the different welcome page non-subscribers are now being greeted with when my computer decided to log me out one morning. Without logging in I could only access limited pages that resembled more of a commercial for WordPress than a blogging community. I get it, WordPress – you want new subscribers just as much as I do! But you have to give people a preview of the incredible content this community shares everyday to make someone want to join in. What first brought me, and as a result many of my clients, to WordPress (over other blogging platforms) was the way it openly shared blogs, allowed for easy browsing and even showcased a select few with the honor of being “Freshly Pressed” adding incentive for quality content. Now a wall has been built around the outside world and though the entrance inside only comes at the cost of an email address, this is enough to deter those who aren’t yet ready for their own blog or who want to remain an anonymous (though loyal) blog browser for right now.

For logged-out users, the OLD WordPress.com homepage used to greet you with its Freshly Pressed articles of the day and the option to browse more blogs under those topics. Note: this is without needing to sign in.

Wordpress old homepage

Now logged-out users are only able to get as far as “Get Started.” They’re denied any interaction with the community until they agree to create an account.

Wordpress new homepage

Freshly UnimPressed – I still believe being chosen as Freshly Pressed by WordPress is one of the most exciting honors for a new blogger. I was chosen two months after starting my blog and received nearly 3,000 blog hits in a single day and a large residual of hits and subscribers for months after. Truly this experience alone can launch a blog to stardom! Since the changes, I’m no longer as impressed with the publicity of Freshly Pressed – and it breaks my heart to say this. This stems from two main reasons. First, Freshly Pressed articles used to be featured on the homepage of WordPress.com and this produced far greater traffic for the featured blogs. Now that it’s no longer the default landing, users have to actively select the Freshly Pressed tab to view the blogs. Though even a minor additional step, this still creates a substantial roadblock that users won’t take the effort to do. I know I’m guilty of not visiting the Freshly Pressed page every day, whereas it used to be my starting point when visiting WordPress.com. Second, only registered users/subscribers can view Freshly Pressed blogs. This option no longer appears on the homepage for users who aren’t logged in. This change alone blocks out a substantial portion of potential web traffic to these blogs.

Not-So-Hot Topics – Do you remember when there used to be an option to browse by “tags” from the WordPress.com homepage? I do and it drove a great deal of new and random visitors to my blog (the best kind!). You can track how people find your blog  by checking your stats under “referrers.” Don’t be surprised if you can’t find a recent referral from a tag used in your blog, because the new organization of the site has all but brought this perk to a halt. Again the culprit is that to browse by topics (aka tags) you must go through several different steps to get there. Each additional step decreases the number of people who actually make the effort to do so. Take a look here:

This is currently the homepage I’m greeted with when I’m logged into WordPress.com. I see a blog feed of only the blogs to which I am subscribed. While there’s a column of topics/tags on the left-hand side, I have to choose to see these topics and again they only appear as a slow-loading and single-listed news feed.

New WordPress Homepage

Furthermore, WordPress.com seems to randomly generate the topics listed in the left-hand column by pulling from topics/tags I’ve used in my own posts. But what if I want to browse blogs on a new subject? I tried once to clean-up and customize my topic list only to have it reset the next time I logged in. I’ll still hoping to get that half-hour of my life back somehow…

Remeber when browsing by tags/topics was easy and attractive like this:

wordpress old topic browse

Now the only way I can figure out how to achieve this browsing capability on the new WordPress is to click “Explore Topics” and type in the topic I want to sift through. But instead of the attractively laid out format as above, the topics read more like a newsfeed and load at a terribly slow rate. Instead of simply clicking Homepage–>Tags, I now have to go to Homepage–>Reader–>Explore Topics–>Type in and Search Topic–>Wait for page to load and scroll through single-listed blog feed. To any less-motivated of a blogger, this process isn’t happening and it’s likely your blog hits from new or random visitors have declined as a result.

Wordpress topics

Segmenting a Community – The ostracizing of non-subscribers, devaluing the honor of being Freshly Pressed and creating yet one more roadblock for new visitors to reach your blog are all unfortunate results of the changes made to the new organization of WordPress.com over the past several months. But my biggest concern isn’t with any of these individually. Rather, it’s the concern that the WordPress community which I have blogged and bragged very openly about is at risk for disengagement. Together these changes produce a WordPress in which it’s harder for fellow bloggers and visitors to find your blog and for you to find theirs. If an interactive blogging community is indeed one of the major points of differentiation for WordPress.com – and I’ve always thought it to be – then it should be made a priority above all else (i.e. more subscribers and up-selling bloggers on customized domains and blog templates). I’m disheartened by what appears to be permanent changes, but it’s not just because of the decrease in blog hits, comments or subscribers. It’s because of the time and effort I put into learning and adapting to the WordPress community and interacting with new blogs daily. If future changes continue in this direction, I’m worried my single efforts to encourage engagement won’t be enough to preserve the WordPress community for what it once was.

If anyone has had a similar or different experience with the impact of WordPress.com’s recent changes, please share! I’m very aware it’s possible I could have overlooked a benefit of these changes and would gladly welcome knowing if they exist.

 
11 Comments

Posted by on October 15, 2012 in Freshly Pressed, Technology

 

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