market your business

The Fortune is in the Focus: How to Properly Market Your Business

Why do some marketing campaigns succeed while others fail? The fortune is in the focus.

Throwing spaghetti against the wall to see if it will stick may ultimately get you to your goal, but it will be a painful process. Having a clear idea of what you are looking to achieve so you can map your route from Point A to Point B is significantly more efficient.

To get started, we’ll map out three necessary elements of a marketing campaign. Let’s take a look at a fictional business — a brick-and-mortar candy shop — as a way to illustrate each point.

Know Your Goal

What is the goal of this candy shop? Don’t jump the gun! Yes, the goal is entice individuals to purchase candy, but let’s get even more specific than that.

As a content marketing effort, the company writes a blog post about their love for Halloween. The title and social media messaging are critical to converting passive readers of that blog post into attentive, potential customers.

For example, a generic title or social media post may read, “Candy Corner’s Love of Halloween Has Lasted A Decade.” That line is accurate, but it doesn’t speak to the business focus, which is to draw people to the store.

A more focused title or post may read, “Candy Corner is a Must-Stop Shop on Halloween.”

The story itself is the same in both examples, but the messaging in the focused post is specifically targeted toward the business goal.

Know Your Worth

What is it you are offering your customers or clients? Be careful with this one because it isn’t always what you believe to be the obvious answer.

In our candy store example, your knee-jerk response may be that this particular business is offering customers candy. Easy enough, right?

While that may be true, promoting “candy” as the reason customers should purchase won’t set this business apart from others. The key is to look at the differentiating factors between this business and the competition.

A few things to consider:

  • How many stores are there specifically dedicated to candy nowadays? Perhaps this business is providing an experience to customers beyond walking into a chain store to purchase candy.
  • What kind of variety exists within this candy store? More than likely, a candy store will have a much wider selection than a grocery store.
  • Is the product of higher quality than packaged candy? Maybe this store makes their own candy or chocolate without preservatives.

Understanding what sets your business apart from the competition is critical to an effective marketing campaign.

Know Your Audience

You must get inside the heads of your target customers to know why they are the right people to buy from you. Making this a bit more tricky, you may have multiple audiences you are targeting at any given time.

For our fictional candy store, there would be multiple audiences:

  • Grandparents may come to the store because they want to have a fun day out with grandchildren and provide them something special. Messaging may speak to “spoiling” them.
  • Parents may appreciate the higher quality of candy. Messaging may speak to ingredients, fewer preservatives, or better taste.
  • Older individuals may have a sense of nostalgia going to a candy store as they did when they were younger. Messaging can speak to re-living their youth.
  • Children are an obvious target audience, but this is a great example a need for a different marketing strategy. How much money will children have and how will they get to your store? While they will consume your product, they may not be one of your primary targets.

The audience you speak to will depend on which is the most likely to convert. You may start with one group and then add another once you’ve found success with the first.

It’s important that you don’t try to speak to everyone at once. The more specific you are with your targeting, the better the results. It may seem counter-intuitive, but it’s true that when you try to speak to everyone, you ultimately speak to no one.

How do you focus your marketing campaigns? Where do you start and how do you come up with your messaging?

new clients

A Client Being the Wrong Fit Doesn’t Make YOU Wrong

As I have immersed myself into a world of female entrepreneurs, I’ve learned a lot about what it means to have a woman-centered business – especially when it comes to look for new clients.

Many female businesses have a strong why attached to them — women want to start a business to change or influence the world. The result? It puts their hearts smack dab in the middle of their businesses.

It reminds me of Meg Ryan’s character in You’ve Got Mail. Her independent bookstore, which had been in her family for generations, is purchased by Tom Hanks’ character (the owner of the movie’s version of Barnes and Noble).

He tells her the buyout “wasn’t personal.”

What is that supposed to mean? I am so sick of that. All that means is that it wasn’t personal to you. But it was personal to me. It’s personal to a lot of people. And what’s so wrong with being personal, anyway?

Many female entrepreneurs operate their businesses personally, because they have a genuine cause behind them. So when a client relationship doesn’t work out, it’s easy to take it personally and believe it’s because there’s something wrong with the business.

If you’ve been in business for any length of time, you’ve had a client relationship that didn’t work out. Let me ask you this: did you find your mind drifting toward self- or business-doubt?

If this client doesn’t want my services, are my services wrong?

Am I not as good as I thought I was?

Even the most confident business owners may have fleeting moments of doubt.

Here are a few things I ask myself when a business relationship or partnership turns out to be the wrong fit:

1. Was I Looking in the Right Place for New Clients?

Let’s say you’re a fitness consultant who specializes in quick, 5-10 minute workouts for busy moms. If you’re marketing your services to a group of hardcore gym rats, you’re going to fail and — quickly — lose your business confidence. Hardcore gym rats want to spend hours working out in the gym. You’ll hear no after no after no.

Does that mean you have a horrible service? Of course not! It just means you’re looking in the wrong place for new clients. A hardcore gym rat doesn’t bring the right set of qualifications to the table to make the relationship a good fit.

It’s up to you to make the proper adjustments to find people with the right set of qualifications: busy moms with little-to-no time to exercise.

2. Why Did This Seemingly-Ideal Client Become Not-so Ideal?

Sometimes a prospect seems to be exactly what you’re looking for, only to reveal itself as the wrong fit. Let’s go back to the fitness consultant example. You’re out for coffee with a friend when you strike up a conversation with a woman wearing workout gear. She’s just come from her spinning class.

What a coincidence! you say, I have a set of workouts I’ve developed that you may be interested in! This woman is, in fact, a busy mom and she clearly likes to exercise. You schedule a discovery call. You call her the following day, excited to add new business. At the end of the call, however, she tells you she’s not interested.

What went wrong?

It turns out that this woman really enjoys going to her spinning classes so she can be social with her friends. The idea of exercising alone in her living room just doesn’t appeal to her.

You’re totally bummed, but the first thing you shouldn’t do is internalize it and tell yourself you have a bad product. What you should do is refine your search process and stop prospecting women who attend classes at the gym.

3. Was There A Point I Should Have Said No?

It’s so easy to get caught up in the excitement of a new client, especially when you are in the business of impacting lives for the better! When a potential business relationship doesn’t work out, though, it’s important to ask yourself if there were any points along the way that you should have said no.

Maybe in our last example, the fact that the woman had just come from a spinning class should have been a red flag. Have you ever found yourself qualifying the red flags because you’re so eager for a little extra money, a new client to help, or the rush of a “win?”

Sure, she’s just come from spinning class, you may think, but just because she enjoys going to the gym doesn’t mean she won’t like doing my workouts, too! After all, she likes to work out and she’s a busy mom. I’ll make this exception and she just might work out!

When we act like the client is doing us a favor, we set ourselves up for disappointment. It’s important to enter into a prospecting situation looking for mutual benefit. Don’t make concessions so the client will say yes. Stay true to you, whether it’s in regards to business philosophy, money, or communication style.

As a female entrepreneur with an eye toward making a difference, it’s easy to get caught up in wanting to help everyone and growing discouraged when it doesn’t work out. Know that these things happen and that you shouldn’t want to be all things to all people!

Keep your eye on the right clients for you and keep on keeping on — it will all work out!

video

How Video is King … and Social Media Success Summit

smss-image-101116Doing what works isn’t always easy. Or convenient. Or pleasant.

As a digital marketing consultant, I sometimes find myself in a position of having to explain to a client why he or she should do something that fits within the aforementioned category. It’s tough, especially since I don’t always have stats readily available to support what I know to be true.

That’s why I registered for Social Media Success Summit — to have access to an amazing panel of experts that would support and add to the knowledge I already have.

So far I haven’t been disappointed.

What I Already Knew to be True

Heading into SMSS, I already knew that video was king. After all, Facebook embraced the idea of being provider of all videos which means we all have to follow suit or be banned to a world of zero engagement (aka algorithm hell).

Live video has become “the thing” for businesses (and direct sales individuals) to take advantage of because:

  • It pushes out a notification to your followers/friends announcing you’re live – instant promotion!
  • Once you are finished recording, an archived video lives on your page or profile.
  • Facebook loves videos, which earns you special treatment on the news feed. Think of it as your child being on his or her best behavior in order to get dessert. Give Facebook what it wants and you will get more of what you want: exposure!

What Presenters Validated

We are barely into the second week of SMSS and I’m blown away by the volume of quality content. I have watched a handful of presentations live (others I can listen or watch on demand), all giving me applicable information I can use immediately.

  • Amy Schmittauer is the founder of Savvy Sexy Social. Her presentation supported the notion that chronicling our story through video is critical to developing a brand message. She also drove the point home that businesses must engage with each social media platform differently.
  • Mari Smith is a top Facebook Marketing Expert. Mari dug into the dreaded Facebook algorithm, reminding us social media marketers that achieving organic reach is something that takes time, effort, and VIDEO.
  • Donna Moritz of Socially Sorted presented seven visual marketing tools to help posts stand out. After hearing Amy and Mari talk about the “what,” it was awesome to receive the “how” from Donna!

What Worked Immediately

I put the advice and tools of all three ladies into practice right away and saw immediate results. Even better? The results were with two brand new clients who hired me to expand their Facebook reach.

Both clients already have established audiences and thriving businesses, but were missing the mark on Facebook. Video is something I was already pushing prior to SMSS, but receiving expert advice from Amy, Mari, and Donna had me packing a bit more of a punch.

Though one of these clients had to step outside her comfort zone and the other had to make the time to make the video, both took the leap and both saw an immediate increase in reach!

That is what I am loving about SMSS — it is showing me that my expertise is right on track while providing me with tangible resources to back it up!

Can’t wait for the next 2 1/2 weeks!

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social media

How Should You Dress for Each Social Media Platform’s Party?

This was the first week of the Social Media Success Summit and I’m having a blast!

The idea of attending a conference in my workout clothes that I listen to on demand while driving was too good to pass up. It doesn’t hurt that all of the presenters are the top in their fields! Kudos to Social Media Examiner for providing this incredible resource.

One of my favorite presentations so far has been Amy Schmittauer of Savvy Sexy Social. She was tasked (off the cuff, mind you) with attributing each social media platform with a party you would attend.

Now, I fully appreciate this exercise because I have numerous clients who say things like, “I don’t even understand the purpose of {insert social media platform here} — I just don’t get it!”

Well, Amy’s analogies will help you understand.

Facebook: A Family Reunion

I am 34 years old and I’m finally starting to feel old. I’ve heard many sub-30 individuals refer to Facebook as the platform “for old people.” That’s when I finally looked around and recognized … it is for old people!

Unfortunately — for those who hate it — that Facebook family reunion is a necessity for just about every business because everyone’s there. Regardless, dress like you’re about to meet Aunt Hilga. And, if you have a new beauty product for Aunt Hilga to try, Facebook is the place to be.

Twitter: A Networking Event

I will admit that I have semi-recently fallen madly in love with Twitter. Many clients have expressed to me their misunderstanding of Twitter’s purpose, but it is a fantastic place to talk to influencers and get on their radar.

It’s crazy that Twitter has turned into a B2B platform and PR tool, but it totally has. Even better are the improvements the platform has made to prove to the world it can be monetized. I see you, Twitter. I see you.

SnapChat … or … Snap: A Rave

Okay, Snapchat is now just “Snap” and, frankly, the platform scares me a tad. I have a love-hate relationship with it. Sometimes I feel like it’s the place to be and other times I feel like the grandma who stumbled into a high school party.

Amy was dead on when she called it a rave (she then clarified that she had never actually been to a rave … sure, Amy), because it’s a huge party where anything goes. If you’re looking for all the young people, head over to Snap(chat). Now, Instagram has replicated Snap(chat)’s efforts with Instavideos, but it’s not the same.

Party on.

Instagram: Fashion Week

Yes, Amy. Yes. Fashion Week. Instagram is classy. If you’re looking to visually promote your business, it is the place to be. Now, I don’t have much else to say about it from a social media marketing standpoint, so I’ll go off on a small tangent.

I hear all the time how people “fake” their lives on Instagram, staging items to make their lives seem perfect. Sure, you see the beautiful dinner on the plate, but do you see the piles of dishes and the mess in the background?

I get that argument, but, really … who cares? I think Instagram is a beautiful platform to showcase art, whether that art is food, kids, or scenery. If I’m pretending all I do is sit by the pool with my computer all day, who cares? It’s art. Carry on.

Honorable Mentions

Amy didn’t have time to get to all the platforms, so I’ll add a few:

  • Pinterest: A scrapbooking party or teacher meeting
  • LinkedIn: A travel-for-work conference
  • Google+: College orientation – you go out of necessity
  • YouTube: A frat party

Do you have any fun descriptions for social media platforms? Add them in the comments!

female entrepreneurs

Why I Believe Female Entrepreneurs are the Best to Work With

I spent the first decade of my career in a male-focused field where women were the exception, not the rule. I equated stereotypical masculinity with power and pushed down my feminine qualities in the hopes of getting ahead.

Fast forward three years and I recognize feminine toughness and the power it wields. So many women are getting business right because they have their priorities straight and are secure with who they are.

See if you relate to these four ways of conducting business:

1. There is no such thing as work-life balance.

For successful female entrepreneurs, work-life balance is a myth. There is no special formula that will allow one to reach harmonious rhythm.

Work is life and life is work.

Female entrepreneurs make a living doing what they love while remaining flexible for self and family. There is no juggling necessary because owning a business allows for making it to gymnastics by 4:15 or soccer practice by 4:45. And if it doesn’t? Arrangements can be made.

The idea that there has to be clear separation of work and family has gone by the wayside. When work needs attention, work gets attention. When family needs attention, family comes first.

2. Priorities are in line.

Just as the definition of work-life balance has changed for female entrepreneurs, so has the idea that life happens. These ladies won’t bat an eyelash when you can’t speak over the phone until after your kids go to bed because they’ve been there or they are there.

When one of my clients hurriedly got off the phone because her kids came home from school, I was pleasantly surprised. This was a far cry from the “don’t ask don’t tell” culture of: “we won’t ask what you’re doing when you have ‘an appointment’ and we don’t want you to tell us because you’ll be judged.”

In that moment, she put work second because it was time for the kids. Later, she may squeeze in some work or get up early the next morning. It ebbs and flows.

3. Emotions are completely okay.

I don’t know who came up with the idea that emotions aren’t allowed in business, but it’s ridiculous. Expressing healthy feelings within the working world is 100-percent okay and can be a huge asset to the success of a business.

When employees know they are appreciated and cared for, they do better work. Have you ever had a job where your boss treated you like expendable garbage? Your morale was undoubtedly low and you were probably at your professional worst.

Emotions also contribute to empathy and compassion toward clients or customers, which will only improve business. Operating within the parameters of healthy emotions will breed happiness and loyalty among both customers and employees.

4. Business is centered around trust and respect.

Trust and respect are not exclusive to female entrepreneurs since I know men who build their businesses this way and plenty of women who don’t.

In my handful of years as an entrepreneur, though, I’ve found more women than men willing to accept what they don’t know before trusting areas of their businesses to experts.

When it comes to content and social media, for example, I give a lot of credit to those who recognize it isn’t their wheelhouse while respecting my expertise. That allows me to build upon their strengths with mine, taking their businesses up another level.

Take it from me: pure-hearted, female entrepreneurs are without a doubt the best allies to have because they are driven, grounded, and supportive. If you aren’t already in a community to female entrepreneurs find one now!

Two of my favorites are Natalie Eckdahl at BizChix.com and Adria DeCorte at adriadecorte.com.

finding clients

A Dollar Earned in Misery Isn’t Worth It

finding clients

The stress of working with the wrong clients isn’t worth it. Photo: Huffington Post

You want to work with everyone when you’re just starting out, but finding clients who value what you offer is critical to your success.

Still, you want to say yes to everyone. After all, you need the money! Even in this early stage, though, it’s important to weed out clients you have to convince to hire you or who clearly don’t see the value in what you provide.

As a content and social media strategist, my services don’t always deliver a direct monetary return. The majority of my clients are looking to establish trust, brand recognition, and warm up cold audiences.

Many businesses see that as an add-on rather than a necessity. I recognize that I must seek out the first group and avoid the second, even when the latter is well-intentioned.

As an entrepreneur, it’s vital that you to gravitate toward clients who see your services as critical to their businesses.

If you don’t, your business will suffer. Here’s why:

You Will Feel Undervalued

If you are providing a service your client sees as a “bonus,” you will feel like you’re on the outside looking in.

When you jump in to talk strategy, your advice will be (politely) ignored or brushed aside. This is because the client doesn’t really believe what you have to offer is a necessity to his or her bottom line.

While this is directed at what you offer and not at you, you will feel like you aren’t being heard or appreciated for the hard work you’re putting in.

You Will Feel Unproductive

This has happened to me even with the most well-intentioned of clients. If my services are not seen as a priority, emails and text messages go unanswered and projects remain incomplete.

Some of these clients even pay well and on time, but the work associated with them hangs in the balance. These open-ended projects clutter our minds and our planners, delivering a hit to our productivity.

As much as we want these relationships to work, they need to fall by the wayside.

You Will Feel Unfulfilled

As entrepreneurs, we love the work! So when a client doesn’t engage, it’s both frustrating and unfulfilling.

I was talking to a new client just yesterday and dug into the strategy surrounding her content plan. After a minute or so digging into the nuances of different social media platforms, my energy level skyrocketed. I was so pumped to be talking about what I love!

When you work with clients who don’t see eye-to-eye regarding your services, that fire is missing. Projects remain on the ground floor and the back-and-forth that drives and challenges you isn’t there.

It’s a huge buzz kill!

All Dollars Are Not Created Equal

A dollar earned amidst passion and energy is worth far more than a dollar earned in misery.

Learn to detect the warning signs in the early stages of prospecting and then — in the nicest way possible — run like hell when it’s not a good fit.

Trust me, it’s the greatest gift you’ll ever give to yourself and to your business.

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clarity

Gaining Clarity in Your Business Will Take it to the Next Level

As a female entrepreneur, do you ever struggle with confidence? Does it eat you up inside, knowing you need to have it all together if you’re going to succeed in business?

I totally get it.

I’ve been an entrepreneur for two-and-a-half years. I can honestly say I’ve struggled with confidence and it’s killed me, primarily because I’m a confident person in life.

I’ve seen other amazing, confident, talented women go through the same thing. They have so much to offer, yet struggle to price themselves, come up with specific services, and target clients.

What is it about business that opens us up to self-doubt?

The Real Problem

I have fantastic news for you. You don’t have a confidence problem. Confidence is a secondary emotion in this case, bubbling up to the surface because you are grasping at straws.

So, what is the real problem?

Clarity.

Think about it. You are super talented with a ton of skills. You have countless services you can offer potential clients. But when you get them on the phone and they ask the simple question — What do you do? — you aren’t quite sure what to say.

Oh, you end up saying a lot anyway. You find yourself babbling about this and that, up and down, blah, blah, blah, until the prospect on the other end of the line asks, “Okay, so what do you charge?”

Crap! You don’t have a concise answer for that either! What is wrong with you? Shouldn’t this be simple?

Yes, it should be simple and, frankly, it is simple. The key is finding the right person to pull that clarity out of you.

The 5-Day Clarity Challenge

Just last week, I participated in the 5 Day Clarity Challenge by Adria DeCorte. I went in without a ton of expectation … I was simply hoping for a bit more insight into my growing business.

Well, let me tell you. She blew my socks off.

Ever since I’ve been in business for myself, I’ve juggled the library of services I offer: content and social media strategy, writing, website management, public and media relations, and more. Since creating my website, I’ve niched and pared down the offerings to get more and more targeted.

While I’ve found success, I still felt something was missing. I’ve been more reactive than proactive in my prospect calls, asking “What do you need?” instead of stating, “Let me tell you what I offer.”

It’s a small nuance that makes a huge difference. Going through the 5-Day Clarity Challenge helped me make that shift. Through Adria’s daily activities, I (easily) pinpointed the theme around everything I offer: authenticity.

Hold up, you may be thinking, authenticity isn’t a service.

No, it’s not … and that’s why I’ve struggled to pinpoint exactly what I offer. Adria helped me recognize that authenticity is my primary skill while social media, content, PR, etc., are the tools I use to execute that skill.

Clarity Begets Confidence

The clarity provided through Adria’s challenge has been business-changing. I now recognize that everything I offer is fueled by authenticity and helping business owners and thought leaders convey their authentic messages.

What’s more, I have a crystal-clear focus of who I’m targeting and – perhaps more important – who I need to run far, far away from. I love working with passionate, authentic people, driven by a desire to help others.

Now, isn’t that statement is a far cry from, “I manage social media and write blogs?” Aren’t you way more intrigued by the first statement?

If you are struggling with clarity – especially if you are trying to get over a hump in your business – I highly recommend working with Adria. Not only is she talented at what she does, she’s genuine, sweet, and will motivate you to get the best for yourself.

Please know that she did not compensate me at all for writing this. The clarity she provided me has made such an impact, I want to help her extend her message for her Be-The-Expert Bootcamp!

Feel free to reach out to me with any questions, but believe me when I tell you that you won’t be sorry for choosing to work with her!

social media marketing

Content and Social Media Strategy: Why Should You Invest?

As a successful business owner, you understand the importance of trust. Whether you’re targeting other businesses or individual consumers, you get that others invest in you because they know you have their best interest at heart.

What you may or may not be doing, however, is translating that into your digital media strategy.

Different Worlds

The online world plays by a different set of rules than the traditional marketplace. If you are fluent in the latter but not the former, this can be frustrating for two reasons:

  1. You don’t understand the nuances of digital media and, frankly, don’t have the time to figure it out. Your business is doing just fine, thank you very much … why invest time or money into something you don’t need?
  2. You have invested time into digital media and it isn’t working, so you’re ready to give up. Refer back to No. 1. Your business is doing well without social media and online content … why not leave well enough alone?

Why You Should Get Behind Digital Media

I’ll tell you why! If you already have a successful business, there is huge untapped potential for you in leveraging digital content and social media. The key factor is trust.

You must translate the trust-building efforts you put into your brick-and-mortar (or person-to-person) business into your digital strategy. It is the fuel that drives online marketing.

Here’s why:

1. People or Businesses Invest in Experts

If your target audience trusts that you know what you’re talking about, they’re more likely to pay for your product or services.

If you’re a hair stylist, make how-to videos showcasing fancy up-dos. If you’re a wedding planner, write articles that list the items every bride should have on hand on her wedding day.

Don’t fear giving away your company secrets!

I may read a cheat sheet for filing a lawsuit, but does that mean I want to do it myself? Heck no! But that cheat sheet shows me that the lawyer knows what he or she is talking about and I’m more likely to hire him or her!

2. People or Businesses Invest in People or Brands They Like

Quality engagement on social media is a huge plus! As your audience gets to know you, it builds a trusting relationship that can translate into sales.

After bootstrapping my own business, I recently decided it was time to take things to the next level and invest in personal coaching. The coach I reached out to was someone I’d listened to via Podcast for months.

I handed over my $300 for a 90-minute session without hesitation. Not only do I recognize her expertise, I genuinely like her. There’s no way I would hand over that kind of money a coach – grossly successful or not – if he or she rubbed me the wrong way!

3. People or Businesses Invest in People or Brands They Can Find

Let’s say you’re in the market for a new roof. Not a cheap project! You’re going to want to invest in a business you trust. You do a quick search on Google: “replacing a roof.”

You skim past the paid advertisements to see what comes up in your search organically. To your surprise, the top results aren’t company pages, but articles. You click on an article entitled, “How much does a shingle roof replacement cost?”

The local company has a resource-rich article filled with cost comparison, methods for replacement, instructional photos, and how-to videos. You immediately recognize that this business knows what it’s talking about (No. 1) and you enjoy reading the article (No. 2).

You found this business because it had a solid digital marketing strategy that no doubt included keyword-rich articles and multimedia along with social media promotion.

Invest in What Matters

If you are a successful business owner struggling to get behind a digital media strategy, take a moment to rethink your stance.

If you’re currently putting a futile effort into social media, paying for a premium consultant can free up your time to invest in the parts of your business strategy in which you rock!

If you haven’t touched digital media with a 20-foot pole aside from a thrown-together WordPress website and a Facebook page you’ve checked twice (and since forgotten the URL), paying for a premium consultant can take your business to the next level!

It’s all about building trust. What do you say … are you in?

productivity plan

A Plan Formed the Name of Productivity, Health, and Sanity

productivity plan

My first day of the plan. It was a tiring one that ended with DDPYoga.

Fellow entrepreneurs understand the hustle behind daily business. That’s why, when I let them know my kids are almost six, four, and 19 months, the response is typically, “Whoa … you’ve got your hands full!” Starting a business is chaotic enough without the blissful insanity of three kids under six.

This is why I found myself reacting to life. Instead of purposefully going about my days, I was experiencing regular anxiety and stress. Perhaps you can relate to these:

  • I would stay up until all hours of the night working, meaning I would have to be drug out of bed … frequently late. This left me feeling behind all day.
  • My late-night working resulted in late-night eating.
  • When I would get my exercise in, it would be negated by extra food, lack of sleep, or enjoying one too many spirited beverages after a hard day.

Breaking Point

I finally reached my breaking point. It was one week ago after a fabulous wedding weekend with family. I ate, drank, and was merry. I also tipped the scales six pounds heavier than my most recent baseline weight. This put me over the edge.

My youngest child is 19 months. My previous baseline weight was 7-8 pounds higher than my goal weight. To start gaining again instead of losing was beyond depressing. Especially since I’ve been working out.

My weight was not the primary problem, it was a huge symptom of the awful lifestyle I had wedged myself into. It was time for a change.

The Plan

The plan I came up with was inspired by three sources: Erik Fisher of Beyond the To Do List, Tim Ferriss and The 4 Hour Work Week, and Mike Michalowicz and Profit First. I won’t get into how each contributed, but I recommend listening to their Podcasts and reading their books.

My Week One Plan

productivity plan

No better way to wake up than with a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle mug.

I set my initial goal at a week to have something to celebrate early. It’s recommended to keep morale up.

  1. Wake up every weekday at 6 a.m.
  2. Exercise six days per week for at least 30 minutes
  3. No eating after 8 p.m.

The feeling of having an actual plan was awesome. No longer flying by the seat of my pants and setting lofty goals doomed to failure. This was something I could accomplish. Even better, my husband committed as well. Instead of getting up early, though, he committed to nixing going out to lunch.

My Results

The reason this plan ended up so fantastic is because of how it was inspired. I wasn’t just looking to get in shape and I wasn’t just looked to be productive. The combination of the two affected my approach in a very good way.

Wake up every weekday at 6 a.m.

productivity plan

My happy place.

This is something I’ve been meaning to do for quite some time. Pre-children, I woke up at 6 a.m. every morning for devotional time or to go to the gym. I thrive when I’ve been productive before 8 a.m. I also struggle when I’m up super late. It leaves me feeling behind and without control.

I absolutely loved getting up early. I struggled Friday afternoon because I had stayed up too late the night before reading Liane Moriarty’s What Alice Forgot (it took me five days to read it), but even that was a positive. My crazy schedule has resulted in a loss of myself and getting back into books was wonderful.

Each morning, I worked on quick projects or completed tasks that wouldn’t take me too long and dawdled getting ready. I felt in control of my life and I’m pumped to get up this early for another week.

No, really.

Exercise six days per week for at least 30 minutes

My happy place. I’m so glad to be doing this over the summer because running outdoors is where I’m at peace. It doesn’t hurt that the running trail by our house is beautiful and that my kids like to ride along with me. I guarantee that some of my fondest memories of my kids will be of pushing them along the trail … even when Abby won’t stop asking me questions as I’m panting heavily.

I met my goal with DDPYoga on Monday and running on Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Saturday, and Sunday. When it was raining Saturday, Abby actually said, “Aw, man, no walk today!” I’m glad she looks forward to it.

No eating after 8 p.m.

The most difficult of the three. I have taken up raspberry tea drinking at night to give me something to take my mind off food. There are some nights is really tough while others I don’t think about it much. I accomplished my goal with the exception of 6-7 Townhouse crackers on Friday night. I know, it was a crazy party.

Honorable Mentions

Other things came naturally as part of my three primary goals:

  • No “after dinner” drink. I enjoy a glass of wine with or after dinner. This week, I split a bottle with my husband on Friday night (yes, the cracker-eating night), and that’s it. I know the lack drinking helped my sleep and my overall calorie intake.
  • Smaller plates. I know Mike Michalowicz used the smaller plate analogy in his book about business finance as an analogy, but I took it literally for this plan. I’ve started using smaller plates for dinner in the hopes that I would cut down on my calorie intake.
  • No late-night work. I have committed to reading before bed and tabling my work after dinner if at all possible. I understand it won’t be able to stick to this every night, but it was important to stop the auto-opening of my laptop as soon as the kids went to bed.

I feel so much better after this week! I’m so glad my husband and I are working this plan and I will continue for another week. For now, I really must get to bed.

service

Determine Your Services as an Entrepreneur

I just spent the past half hour combing through and updating my service pages. I haven’t looked at them in awhile and will admit they needed some help. Despite being a content and social media strategist, I have struggled to articulate my own services. It’s common among service-based entrepreneurs: we can advise others, but can’t advise ourselves!

Let me know if this sounds familiar: you’re thrilled to provide your talent to the world. You have a number of clients you’re working with and things are going well. But when someone tries to ask you what you do, you have no idea what to say.

What is up with that?

You know you’re good at what you do … why can’t you articulate it? I have a few theories.

1. You’re good at a lot of things.

I’m thrilled to have come across this article in Forbes that talks about being “multipassionate.” I had never heard of the term before, but the article put a label to the struggles of having to pick just a few services to offer. I provide premium content strategy, social media strategy, and LinkedIn Profile Development … but I can also do public and media relations, photography,  graphics, and websites.

Yes, it’s a good problem to have, but the more you water down your services, the fewer people you’re going to reach.

2. You’re Still Finding Your Niche.

We’ve all experienced the phenomenon of wanting to be all things to all people because — let’s face it — we need money. You want me to facilitate a fundraiser? Sure … I could do that. You need me to write a speech? I suppose I could do that.

If you find yourself saying, “I guess I could do that,” abandon ship.

It’s a necessary evil in the beginning, but a habit you need to drop as you get better and better in what you do. Gravitate toward the clients and projects you enjoy the most, which will not only increase your productivity, but will give you a clue as to what services you should headline.

3. You Haven’t Spoken to Anyone Else

Time and experience will help you find your voice, but so will talking to an objective friend, colleague, or business coach. Last week, I took part in a one-on-one strategy session with Natalie Eckdahl of BizChix.com. It provided so much insight! Not only did she help me recognize the projects I needed to drop, she offered service advice (e.g. “No one wants that”).

I don’t recommend speaking to a business coach unless or until you have very specific problems to solve, but it’s something to keep on the back burner for the future!

If you’re an entrepreneur or freelance consultant, how have you struggled to find your voice?