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Why We Need Rainy Days

cat looking at rainy window

It has been a gorgeous summer in Pennsylvania. After a long and cold winter, we have earned these warm and sunny days – and there have been many! A couple of weeks ago I had some (rare) free time during a Sunday afternoon. My first instinct was to find something to do outside that would allow me to enjoy the day; however, the skies were ominous with a pending thundershower. As I stood by the window, I took a deep breath and felt a wave of relief wash over me. What an odd reaction to have to a dismal day? No, I didn’t feel sad, depressed, frustrated or annoyed. I felt relieved.

Reflecting on this feeling and the circumstances of the day made me realize something quite important. We all need rainy days in our life. Obviously the rain nourishes and revitalizes the earth, but it does the same for us.

My relief came from not feeling like I had to find something to do make the most of the nice weather. I had an excuse to be inside – and to just slow down for a little bit. On this particular afternoon, I watched a movie from start to finish (a nearly impossible feat for a mother of a toddler). That’s it. That’s all I accomplished and had nothing to show for it. Or did I? I felt focused, rested and happy. It’s the first time in a long time that I turned off all other distractions and was fully present in the moment. I can’t remember the last time I did this, can you?

On a sunny day, I feel like I need to be outside walking, running or at the park with Holden. I feel guilty making him play inside when I know all too soon winter weather will come rolling in and we’ll be locked up for months. Even when we’re inside during naptime, the blue skies inspire me to tackle work projects and chores at a dizzying pace. In the afternoon we’re on the go again, running errands or back to the park. And after dinner? You guessed it; we get outside as a family! I’m proud of my active lifestyle that has allowed me to accomplish all that I have, but even hybrid moms need to idle every so often.

On a rainy day, we move slower. There’s no rush to get to the park; it’s not even an option. Naps seem to last a little longer and watching more television than usual is completely acceptable. If errands can wait, they do. Getting toddler in and out of a car seat is even more of a miserable chore when rain is pounding on your back. Maybe best of all, without the sun shining through the windows, I don’t notice the little finger prints that should be cleaned off as well as every other surface you can imagine. It all waits and we rest.

I don’t take for granted that the “sunny” days, when I feel energized and productive, will always be around – so I make the most of them! But I no longer dread the “rainy” days that serve an equally important purpose. These days revitalize my soul and force me to slow down long enough to appreciate the need for balance. The weather is a funny thing; somehow it knows exactly what we need even when we do not.

What purpose do rainy days serve for you? Share how you have found balance in your daily life!

 
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Posted by on August 11, 2014 in Life

 

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The One Question Every Successful Entrepreneur Must Be Able to Answer

top three priorities

One of my favorite shows currently on TV right now is Shark Tank. It feeds my entrepreneurial spirit and ignites a lot of creative (and sometimes cooky) ideas that I could only wish to have the opportunity to present to this impressive audience of venture capitalists.

All that aside, the reason I really love watching this show is because of the pearls of wisdom these experienced entrepreneurs spout off that have inspired quite a few blog posts – this week being no exception. On an episode from a few weeks back, it was Barbara Corcoran who said “Never have I ever met a successful entrepreneur who is unable to answer this one question.”  The question?

“Tomorrow when you wake up and go into the office, what are your top three priorities?”

This question is deceivingly simple. Try answering it off the top of your head right now. When I tried to do the same, I knew I had the answers, but when put on the spot, I found it hard to quickly put these key priorities into succinct bullet points. This doesn’t mean I’m doomed to fail as an entrepreneur, but it did make me want to sit down and put some thought into my top three priorities right now. Should I ever “bump” into Barbara Corcoran, this would be my answer to her question:

1. Continue to build quality relationships with my existing clients

In the pursuit of new clients, I never want to take for granted the awesome ones I currently have. I’ve already put the effort into earning their business, building a relationship with them and becoming efficient at the tasks I do for them month after month. It is a valuable use of my time to keep these existing clients happy and on board because trying to replace them is far more costly.

2. Selectively target new clients

Once I devote the time to keeping my current clients engaged, I need to continually fill my pipeline with ideal prospective clients. I’m lucky to be in a position where I can be selective with the new clients I choose to take on. I know the size, industry and vision of companies I best serve and these are the ones in which I’ll devote my time to pursuing. Smaller clients or ones that don’t quite align with my services may still find me, and I’m happy to see how I can help, but they are not the ones that I will actively put my resources into pursuing.

3. Find ways to automate my tasks and become more efficient with my time

I’m a consultant and sole proprietor by design. This means I must carefully guard my time and find ways to be extremely efficient as I take on additional clients if I want to continue to enjoy the benefits of the 80/20 Principle. It is my goal to find ways to automate my tasks or become more efficient at completing them so that as I take on new clients, I’m not working more, I’m simply filling the bandwidth my efficiency has opened up.

Whatever your top three priorities are right now says a lot of about the current state of your business/career and your entrepreneurial style. Maybe they even point out some areas where you need to refocus. They should address your immediate needs, but also plan for future growth and strategic change. Having your top three priorities locked and loaded serves a purpose far greater than simply impressing someone who asks. They give you that laser focus each and every day that is at the core of every successful entrepreneur.

Are you able to easily answer this question? Share your personal top three priorities by commenting below!

 

 

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Are You Making the Biggest Social Media Mistake?

#fail

These days, everyone is on social media. But really though. There are fan pages for cats, Twitter profiles for cartoons and Instagram accounts devoted solely to food. It’s no wonder every business wants to also have a presence on these platforms because it’s where they can reach their targeted audience with interactive content that sparks discussion and builds brand loyalty.

With everyone diving in head first, this also provides a prime opportunity for a lot of mistakes. For the most part, these are minor errors or forgivable social infractions, but sometimes these mistakes can prove to be much worse – even deadly – for business. So what is the single biggest mistake businesses make with social media? It’s NOT having it be part of a bigger communications strategy.

The danger of a disconnected social media strategy

The most effective social media cannot be done in a vacuum. Nor can it be your only effort to communicate with your target audience. The danger is two-fold. First, you risk presenting a completely different voice on social media, one that does not resonate with the rest of your brand. Second, you turn off the power to all other means of communications that could help to amplify your social media efforts.

If you pique someone’s interest with a great Facebook post, only to send them to an outdated website that makes you look inexperienced or unprofessional, even the best social media efforts in the world won’t close the sale.

How to avoid this mistake

Luckily this is an easy problem to fix. It begins with identifying the missed communications opportunities outside of social media and paying special attention to the brand you want to create so that all efforts work in unison to achieve this end result. Knowing what to do is the easy part, but actually making the time to do it is where the problem most often lies. It can be overwhelming, especially to business owners who don’t consider themselves to be communications-savvy.

It’s good to keep in mind that outsourcing is always an option and the number of firms and consultants who offer these services are ever-growing. But proceed with caution. If you’re thinking about working with a person or company that only does social media, you may want to rethink this decision. It’s okay to be specialized or particularly experienced in a certain niche, but when it comes to your business communications, everything needs to flow together. The various ways in which you communicate with your target audience need to complement one another.

Instead look for a firm or consultant who offers multi-faceted communications strategies that go beyond just social media. You want someone who can also create content for your website, blog, e-newsletter and other promotional materials. This is the best way to ensure that the voice and messaging will stay consistent.

Steps you can take today

One. List your other current communication efforts. Do you have any? Maybe there’s a brochure or business card you hand out, but it’s badly outdated. Maybe you have a website that you push your targeted audience to visit, but it’s a static web page with cheesy clip art and bright fonts. Take a critical look at ALL the messages you’re sending out in various ways. How are people finding you and what is this saying about your business?

Two. Note the areas that need some TLC. So you have social media down to an art – after all, it is kind of fun. Now, turn your attention to the messaging on your website, blog, promotional materials and e-newsletters. How can they benefit from some of the modern messaging you’re putting out on social media? Create a vision for how they can better engage your audience, just like you’re doing on Facebook, Linkedin, Twitter, etc.

Three. Dedicate time in your schedule to tackle some of these tasks in order of priority. If you know you simply don’t have the time, allocate this work to an employee or hire a communications consultant to help you keep things moving forward. While you’ll need to invest in their time, if they allow you to keep doing what you do best while they improve your comprehensive communications strategy – that is a worthy investment!

Where have you seen the biggest social media mistake being made? Join in the discussion by commenting below!

 

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The Easiest Way to Find Your Passion

Live-with-Passion

What do you want to be when you grow up? It’s a question we have all been asked at least once in our lives by a teacher, guidance counselor or parent trying to steer us in the right direction of a fulfilling career. Can you recall how you answered? I’m willing to wager that a vast majority of us never became what we thought we wanted to be when we were young, but don’t take this to mean you’ve failed your childhood self.

This question was never going to help you find your dream career or perfect job, because it doesn’t ask the only thing that really matters. What gets you excited?

The easiest way to find your passion is to identify what excites you. What energizes your soul? What puts that spark in your eye? What would you choose to do every day, again and again, for the next 100 years? This is what excites you, this is where your passion lies and this should become (at least part of) your career.

There may be some ideas swimming around in your head right now, but before you storm in your boss’s office with your two-week notice, let’s cover just a few more important details about turning your passion into a career.

Why excitement matters

It doesn’t take too much searching to find someone who has chosen a particular career path because it’s easy, stable or lucrative. While these aren’t necessarily bad characteristics of any job, without it also involving your passion, you will spend the majority of your life deferring your happiness to the weekends or retirement.

Excitement and passion for your job also helps you to excel in your field. When you love what you do, you take pride in your work and strive to be better at it each and every day. A job should do more than provide a pay check, it should provide a stage for you to showcase your best talents to the world. Pursuing a career that excites you will ensure you look back on your life’s work with satisfaction.

Understanding what really excites you        

If you’re asked “What excites you?” you might answer “Sports.” But we have to dig deeper. Simply saying “sports” is too broad of answer that doesn’t give us a clear indication as to what exactly about sports excites you. There are countless options.  Is it the element of competition, the energy of the crowd or the impressive athletic performance that you enjoy the most?

To better pinpoint your passion, we must peel away the layers of your initial answer by asking “Why?” at least five more times. For every answer, turn it into a question and ask yourself again. If you initially answered, “I like sports because of the element of competition.” Then ask, “Why do you like the element of competition?” This may seem redundant, but you’ll be surprised as to how it identifies what really excites you.

Turning excitement into a career

Once you have a narrow focus on your true passion, you will find that there are many career options that will allow you to tap into your passion on a daily basis. You may also be surprised with how different each option is. For me, it was foremost my passion for creative writing. The communications field obviously provided an opportunity to utilize this passion, but so did political campaigns, speech writing, website design and advertising agencies, to name just a few.

It’s important to think beyond the literal interpretation of your passion. Sure, you may be passionate about eating baked goods, but you have more options than becoming a baker. This love for food can also be turned into a passionate career as a food blogger, marketing director within a snack food company, food photographer or graphic/web designer that specializes in web sites for bakeries. Get creative and keep an open mind! A job will still involve work (sorry, there’s no way around that) but when it taps into your passion, even the work will become a labor of love.

If we want to reverse the dangerous trend of seeking careers solely for security and stability, we need to stop asking “What do you want to do?” or “What do you want to be?” And instead start asking, “What gets you excited?”  This is the easiest way to pinpoint your passion and ensure a life’s journey filled with fulfillment and joy.

Where does your passion lie? Share your own search for inspiration in the comments below!

 

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4 Ways to Make More Money Without Raising Your Rates

full piggy bank

No matter the size or industry, there is one thing every business has in common – the goal to make more money. Once you’ve established yourself in the market and increased the demand for your goods or services, it’s common sense to slightly increase your prices as well. However, too many years of this gradual price-creep can eventually price you out of the market and lose you clients.

It’s important that all business owners realize that simply slapping on a higher price tag isn’t the only way to make more money. Instead, think strategically and put the effort into learning how you can better serve your existing customers. In doing so, you will see that there are at least four different ways to make more money without raising your rates.

1. Restructure existing contracts

At least once a year, you should sit down with each of your existing clients and review their current contracts. Foremost, you should be doing this to be sure that your services are meeting their changing needs. Additionally, this provides an opportunity to present new ways in which you can help them.

Restructuring your clients’ existing contracts by taking out the services that aren’t producing a good ROI and replacing them with new services that will gives you the ability to bundle these services with a new price tag. In the end, the client is a new and more effective package of services and you are getting a new contract that reflects your current pricing.

2. Turn one-time projects into monthly retainers

In my line of business, I have both ongoing (retainer) projects and one-time projects. I have a found a lot of value in getting to work with a client on a small, fixed-timeline project, growing a relationship with them and then suggesting ways in which I can help them on an ongoing basis.

For example, I might be hired to re-write the content on a client’s website. Seeing that this new website also has a blog section, I might suggest my monthly blog writing services to help take this workload off their hands. I’ve now created a reoccurring stream of income that has the potential to be much greater than that initial project—all without having to raise the price of my website copywriting services.

3. Work with vendors who offer a referral program

This is such a smart, but commonly untapped, revenue stream. I work with many different vendors including professional graphic design artists, printers, website designers and marketing consultants. I’ve also developed a referral program with many of these vendors.

In some cases, I receive a percentage of the total cost of services they complete for a client and in other cases it’s a one-time referral fee. No matter the structure, this is an extra source of income that isn’t billed to the client at all. It’s the value or working with vendors you know and trust and have the best interest for each of your businesses in mind.

4. Become more efficient with your time to increase your bandwidth

The reward for good work is more work, right? Well, the more efficient you can become at completing the work for your existing clients, the more bandwidth you will have to take on additional work – and earn additional income.

I’ve found that after working with any client for a quarter, I can complete the tasks quicker and with better quality. There’s a steep learning curve for sure, but once you get past that you will also become more efficient with your tasks. Whether you choose to use this extra bandwidth to take on more clients or to simply schedule in some relaxation, there is value in this time!

Bonus tip: Over deliver with quality and customer service. One of the best and most basic ways to ensure a steady pipeline of leads is to inspire your current clients to make word of mouth recommendations for your services to their network. Before you spend your time attending business mixers and networking meetings, first put the effort into making sure your current clients are fully satisfied with your work. This will make them want to talk about you to everyone they know. And not much is more powerful than a glowing word of mouth referral to a second-degree connection!

Have you used any of these ways to make more money without raising your rates? Join in the discussion by commenting below!

 

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The Value of Diversifying Your Customers and Clients

diversify-your-clients

No matter the industry, it is always beneficial to diversify your portfolio of customers and clients. Simply put, it prevents you from placing all your eggs in one basket. It also helps to keep your day to day work interesting, not monotonous.

Here are six types of clients of which every business should have at least one. Depending upon the types of services you offer, your model might best serve just one or two of these categories. However, the pros and cons associated with each present some compelling reasons as to why you should strive to diversify and spread out your clients. In the long run it will help you balance your ups and downs and achieve a valuable book of business.  Let’s take a look…

The longstanding clients

Pros: These clients have been with you since the start. At this point, you intimately understand their business needs and personal preferences. You’ve become very efficient with completing their work after earning your way through the learning curve. In addition to being good clients, they have also likely become good friends.

Cons: Being with you from the start often means you’ve also “grandfathered” them into some pretty nice pricing. Unless the scope of their work dramatically changed, you likely haven’t had the opportune time to raise your rates with them. The level of comfort and closeness within your relationship can prevent you from making firm business decisions because you value their loyalty and don’t want to do anything to damage it– even if it’s the best decision for you.

The new clients

Pros: In contrast to the longstanding clients, new clients offer you the ability to quote your prices at today’s rate – no grandfathering needed. They are also a breath of fresh air that embrace the suggestion of new tactics and strategies.

Cons: There’s definitely a learning curve with taking on a new client which is why you don’t want ALL your clients to be new at the same time. It can take awhile before the time you’re putting into this account will finally start being equal to your hourly rate. There’s also the uncertainty of “Do they like me?” or “Are they going to stick around?” that’s more certain with longstanding clients.

The big clients

Pros: Big clients (usually) mean big paychecks. They have the budget to hire you for a variety of services that allow you to showcase all that you are capable of and deliver full results.

Cons: If you should have a big client fall off, it can be devastating to your bottom line. While it’s a goal for many business owners to have fewer, but bigger clients, this will most certainly lead you to placing too many eggs in one basket. They can also be very demanding and because they’re paying you a pretty penny can expect unreasonable amounts of your attention.

The small clients

Pros: Small clients (ideally) demand less time and attention because they have smaller accounts. Their services are well scoped to adhere to their budget and as a result, it’s easier to quantify the services that are delivering the best results.

Cons: The limited scope of service can also limit the full extent of the results you achieve. While ideally small clients take up less of your time, I haven’t always found that to be the case. This can be where you find business owners who are very “hands-on” to the point of micromanaging. Their limited budget may also lead to unrealistic expectations for what you can achieve on for them.

The challenging clients

Pros: We all benefit from a good challenge from time to time. These are the clients who keep you on your toes, ask a lot of questions and may even change their own mind 20+ times before a project is complete. Alas, there is a pro in here and it’s that these clients help make you a better worker for all your other clients. They also set the standard for “difficult client” that make all others seem like angels.

Cons: These are pretty obvious. Challenging clients can waste a lot of your time and even cost you money. They can also make you feel undervalued and underappreciated. If they move from “challenging” to “disrespectful” it’s time to let them go!

The easy-going clients

Pros: Compared to the challenging clients, these clients are a welcome relief. Sometimes it’s nice to finish a project and just have someone say “It looks great!” They’re also open to new ideas and don’t question the expertise for which they hired you.

Cons: Sometimes you wonder whether these clients even really have an interest in the work you’re doing for them, because they seem to just say yes to everything. How can you not have at least one question or suggestion to bring to the table? This leaves all the planning and strategizing up to you with little constructive feedback.

Do you have a diverse portfolio of clients? What steps do you take to achieve this? Share your thoughts by commenting below!

 

 

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8 Time Saving Hacks I Use Every Day

time saving hacks

Living life as a young entrepreneur, I’ve tried to maintain the mindset that it’s not about building a business, it’s about building a life. How we spend our time determines the life we lead. While I love my work, I also love time spent with my family, outside, exercising and relaxing. And for me, these are all rewards of being efficient with my time.

Over the years I’ve gotten very good at efficiency, so much so that it’s a running joke between people who know me well. No, I don’t have any more hours in a day than anyone else, but I have learned some extremely helpful time saving hacks that may make it seem that way to the outside world. They’re not magical or revolutionary, they simply use common sense that we often stray away from throughout life.

1. Start your day one hour earlier than everyone else

Rise and shine sounds a heck of a lot easier than actually doing it, but getting up early and getting a head start on work is one time saving hack that has made a huge difference in my day. I catch up on all my emails, knock off the easy or reoccurring tasks on my to-do list and prioritize the remaining tasks so I have a game plan of the rest of the day.

Even though it’s only an hour of work, I find that my clear and focused mental state in the morning, combined with the silence of everyone else sleeping, allows me to work with incredible efficiency. I turn that single hour into half a day’s work sometimes. And for someone who works from home as both an entrepreneur and a mom, knowing I have that uninterrupted hour is a Godsend.

2. Simplify your morning routine

Take a critical look at your morning routine and really think about what you’re doing and why you’re doing it. The first time I did this, I was shocked at how many minutes I was wasting by not structuring my routine properly and by doing things that simply didn’t have any added benefit to the rest of my day.

From little things, like narrowing down the number of health and beauty products I use to the big things, like eliminating my morning commute by working from home, I have become an efficiency machine. If any part of your routine doesn’t help you look better, feel better or keep your household and business running, rethink why you feel the need to make it a part of your day. Habit alone is not an acceptable answer.

3. Block-schedule meetings and errands

Because I do double duty as a mom and a business owner, strategic scheduling is a must. Finding a block of time for a meeting (that doesn’t include my son as a tagalong) can be harder than snagging a dinner reservation at one of the swankiest restaurants in L.A.

One day a week, my husband will work from home and free me up to see clients, attend networking meetings and have some uninterrupted work time. So, I try and fit as much in as I can into these days. What I’ve found is that even without my “mommy duties” as the catalyst for this type of scheduling, planning my meetings and errands in blocks of time is incredibly efficient. When possible, I’ll schedule meetings back to back in the same coffee shop where clients can come to me and I always incorporate stops at the bank or post office while I’m already out.

4. Complete reoccurring tasks in batches

Whether they’re part of running a business or running a household, we always have those reoccurring tasks that need done daily, weekly or monthly. For me, some of these tasks happen to be writing for my blog, paying bills and making baby food. While these are quite a random assortment of tasks, I’ve found they have at least one thing on common – they can be done in batches.

Unless something is especially timely, I write and schedule my blog posts weeks in advance. I often write several posts in a day when I’m feeling particularly creative. For bills that are the same every month, I use the online bill payment feature through my bank to have these checks go out automatically. And for baby food, I have one full-blown cooking and freezing day a month that allows me to mess up and clean up the kitchen just once while enjoying extremely convenient (and cheap!) mealtimes the rest of the month. Identify your own reoccurring tasks and tackle them in quantity. This will save you so much more time than completing them one by one day after day.

5. Set time limits

This time saving technique is pretty straightforward. For those tasks that chronically take up more time than you anticipate, set a reasonable time limit and stick to it. At first, you’ll likely exceed your limit and have to stop for the day, but over time I’ve found that I’ve gotten more efficient because I really want to beat that timer! It also forces me to dive right into a project rather than wasting a half hour or more getting into the “right” mindset.

6. Unsubscribe from emails you don’t want to receive

This is something I started doing a couple of years ago and it’s completely changed the dynamics of my inbox. Any time we purchase anything online, attend an event or hand over our email address in exchange for more information, we can expect to be automatically added to a list serv. Maybe it’s minutes or maybe it’s weeks later, but we can also expect to begin receiving marketing emails.

Unless this is something you are interested in receiving, take the time to unsubscribe! Sure, this requires a few more clicks and maybe even some typing which takes longer than simply hitting delete, but in the long run it will absolutely save you time and preserve the space in your inbox for important messages.

7. Push people to communicate by email

For the majority of scenarios, email communication is a much more concise way to communicate. A phone call, for example, first requires both parties to be available at the same to connect. In today’s fast paced society that is becoming less and less likely. Next, there are the obligatory “How are you’s?” followed by some chit chat. Then, if you’re lucky, you’ll get straight to the root of the conversation. If the information is complicated or hard to remember, often one person will say “Can you email it to me?” And if you don’t connect on the first try, you might end up playing phone tag and spending even more time dialing in and checking your voicemail.

Do I make a convincing case yet? Whenever possible, I ask people to email me. I’ve also started removing my phone number from business cards so that if people feel the need to call, they can start by first emailing me for my number and I can assess whether it’s truly necessary. This isn’t to overlook the times when phone calls and face-to-face meetings are the better option, but for a hybrid mom, I love that emails can be answered on my time and don’t convey the screeching child that is likely in the background.

8. Learn to say no

People and things will always be vying for pieces of your day; you must become a conscientious keeper of your time. First, get your priorities straight. For me, this is running a business, being with my family, staying connected with friends, exercising and relaxing. For obligations that fall outside of these categories, I carefully consider whether or not they’re worth my time.

Just because someone asks you for a favor or wants to meet to sell you something you don’t need, doesn’t mean you have to say yes. Learn to say no (nicely) and you’ll be amazed with the amount of free time you’ll earn back.

What are some of your own time saving hacks? Share in the comments below and help us all to find a little more free time in our day!

 

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