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?

early entrepreneur

Dear Early Entrepreneur, This Is for You

Dear Early Entrepreneur,

This is not a post that will give you six easy steps to business success. It will not provide four tips to pricing yourself properly or offer three ways to cope with difficult clients.

This, fellow entrepreneurs, is a post simply meant to relate.

Regardless of how you became a first-time entrepreneur, the early reality is the same. Solos with integrity, passion, and talent are the ones who hover in the shadows afraid to pronounce themselves as experts while the frauds with the opposite are charging insane rates and delivering crap.

What the hell?

You want to put yourself out there at the same high price — one you deserve — but you know you’re still learning and it makes you uncomfortable. The last thing you want to do is make a promise to a client who takes a chance on you and fail miserably. It’s a phobia of yours, actually.

Well, friend, I’m here to tell you that it gets better. Unfortunately, the feelings of inadequacy are growing pains of the truly successful. Why? Because the truly successful know what they don’t know. The truly successful are always learning, growing, and failing forward.

Early days are going to suck, I’m not going to lie. You’ll take on clients you’d like to strangle because they treat you like they’re doing you a favor for working with you … even though they sought you out. As much as those situations are awful, they will teach you how to negotiate, stand up for yourself, and price yourself.

Your talent will rise to the surface in your eyes and your doubt will melt away. When you walk away from those PITA clients, you’ll do so with renewed confidence and understanding that you truly have something to offer as an expert in your industry.

Each difficult circumstance will grow your business IQ. One day, you’ll find yourself speaking with authority to a prospective client and wonder where this new person came from. You’ll look back and see that this person emerged from the dues you paid selling yourself short.

This representative will have risen out of the ashes of feeling bad for quoting a high price only to quote a low one and grow resentful of the client for paying pennies.

I’m here to tell you that you’ll figure out what you should sell. Right now, you want to offer everything. You want to say ‘yes’ to anyone willing to pay for your services. That happens in the beginning, but it gets better. As you work with more and more clients (and you will because you’re good), you’ll recognize what you bring to the table that no one else does. You’ll start to sell yourself as a premium product because you are one.

The early days of being an entrepreneur aren’t glamorous. You’ll want to work 9–5 because you feel like you’re supposed to, so you’ll hit F5 on your favorite job board ad nauseum hoping to find your perfect fit. You’ll analyze and over-analyze potential projects as though you’re dating, trying to fit a square peg into a round hole because you’re desperate.

You’ll look at the rates you’re charging compared to the amount of time you have and recognize that it doesn’t add up to paying your bills. How will you ever make it work? The answer, friend, is that you’ll see what you’re worth and you will adjust.

Once you come out the other side, you’ll be in the exclusive club of business people who did what they had to do to truly make it. You’ll see you didn’t cut corners, cheat the system, or lie about your skills. Yes, you will have embarrassed yourself, cursed yourself, and cried for yourself. But you will have learned.

It’s all worth it.

In the end, it’s all worth it.

If you’re in the dark and despair of early entrepreneurism, chin up. Know you’re on you’re way and that it gets better. Lean on your support system, ingest wisdom, and drink lots of wine. Once it’s all over, you’ll have a sense of pride you didn’t think possible because you had the balls to do what so many others can’t. You will have put yourself on the line … and you will have won.

DIPG share Facebook

Why I Share Tough-to-See DIPG Posts on Facebook

I still remember the moment I started crying and couldn’t stop. It was a November morning. I was perusing Facebook and clicked on a video of little Chad Carr. I had helped at the family’s 5K event the month before and Chad had seemed okay. Watching the video that morning, it was clear that Diffuse Intrinsic Pontine Glioma had taken its toll.

Chad Carr

Christmas came on November 12 for Chad Carr and his family.

His mom, Tammi, was waking him up for Christmas morning. The only thing was, it was early November. But Chad’s family wanted their little boy to have one more Christmas and they knew he wasn’t going to make it to December 25.

I can still remember Tammi’s words, so excited to wake up her little boy, but the part that broke me was Chad’s glee that it was Christmas. The pure joy that remained despite a brain tumor that was robbing him of life. It was that childhood innocence seen in a short video clip that had me sobbing.

I have cried for other children since then. All of these innocent children who have had their lives stolen by a brain tumor with no cure. It is rare, says the medical community. We can’t single out diseases, say politicians.

Those statements may be conceptually true, but they aren’t right once the reality of DIPG is seen because there aren’t many diseases in the developed world absent of hope. Even the worst have a chance of survival. DIPG does not. You are delivered the diagnosis and told you are lucky to have a year to spend with your baby. Then you watch them die.

Put yourself in those shoes and then tell yourself that the rarity of the disease is a legitimate argument to a lack of funding and attention.

That’s what brings me to my purpose in writing this. Katherine the Brave passed away on Monday after a one-year, four-day battle with DIPG. Her family has made it their mission to expose the cruel, vicious reality of the disease. It is what more and more parents are doing as a way to bring attention to DIPG and the need for a viable treatment plan. I say viable because the current “treatment plan” is to send families home to make memories. Those who are “lucky” have what is referred to as a “honeymoon period” — a few months free from symptoms after radiation shrinks the tumor.

I understand the need for awareness. Without awareness and dedication, nothing will change. When I share Facebook posts that show the reality of DIPG, though, I often think about those who will see it. Friends, family, and acquaintances with healthy children and grandchildren who may not want to be exposed to the ugliness of life and death. I get it. You’re talking to someone who refuses to watch animated animal movies because a character always dies.

But it is our responsibility to see it. Just as it is our responsibility to see the war, poverty, abuse, slavery, racism, and sexism running rampant all over the world. We don’t have to take on the burden of all these things — that would ruin us — but we have to see it. Seeing it changes our hearts, minds, and actions, and it can make a difference in the smallest – and biggest – ways.

I do understand, though, that seeing it makes us vulnerable to the reality that we are not separate from it. It could be any one of our children receiving a horrible diagnosis and we know that. Even if our conscious mind doesn’t allow it, our subconscious mind understands, resulting in paralyzing fear.

I believe it’s why we try to “fix it” for grieving parents. We want to believe that if the same thing happened to us we would somehow “get over it” and live a happy life. We want to quiet the terror in our hearts that a random act of horrible luck could result in our worlds being turned upside down and irreversibly damaged.

Unfortunately, there is no fixing a grieving parent. There is no “making it better.” There is only support, love, kindness, and care. Seeing images of Katherine the Brave’s final days in her earthly body and her parents sobbing with grief is heart wrenching. I do want to fix it. I want to help. I want to do something. I suppose it’s why I’m writing.

Even if we found a cure for DIPG directly from Katie’s donated brain, though, it would not “fix” her parents or family. It would not alleviate their pain or take away their grief. It’s the same for all of these families fighting for a cure. They do it to carry on the legacy of their children, to keep busy, to hold on to a purpose, and to ensure other families never experience the anguish they have experienced … but it won’t change their pain.

Each day when I spend time with my three children, I think about the mortality of our family. I think about the possibility that something could happen to any one of us at any time. I would be lying if I said it didn’t scare me. I would be lying if I said I didn’t try to push those thoughts out of my head. But I would also be lying if I said it didn’t make me appreciate life more.

Yes, I still find myself barking orders at my kids and saying things like, “Are you insane? Stop spinning/touching that/falling!” But I also find myself with the ability to laugh a lot more (even if it’s on the inside) at the craziness of children. I appreciate them for who they are and I am thankful every day that I am given the privilege of being their mother because tomorrow isn’t guaranteed.

Then I continue to share those Facebook posts, write stories, and talk about the ugliness of DIPG, because it needs to be shared. These families will help the medical community find a cure, forever revered for the sacrifices they have made and the unwavering love they have shown.

You can support DIPG research and awareness through The ChadTough Foundation’s RunTough for ChadTough event on September 24. Run in Saline, Mich., or anywhere as a virtual runner.

mother's day dipg

There Will Be A Heartbreaking Side of Mother’s Day for These 3 DIPG Moms

mother's day dipg

Tammi and Chad. Photo: The ChadTough Foundation

Mother’s Day is this Sunday. In light of that event, Angelique Chengelis wrote this beautiful piece to spotlight Chad Carr‘s mommy, Tammi. The story digs into what other mothers fear the most.

They were sitting together for a while when Chad told his mother he was tired.

And he pointed up,” Tammi said. “I said, ‘Do you want to go upstairs?’ And he shook his head no. And then he put out his arms for me to pick him up and I just held him. And he fell asleep and he didn’t wake up.

I don’t know if he saw angels, but it was a peaceful look on his face.”

The strength it takes to share something like that is insurmountable. For those who haven’t lost a child, reading it can be uncomfortable. We all want to remain in our bubble that doesn’t include loss – one that remains on the surface and doesn’t familiarize us with the sorrow of grief.

But it is that kind of sharing that brings about change. When those who have walked through such pain invite us into their journeys, they are giving us permission to approach. They are absolving that survivor’s guilt we let stand in the way of offering support.

In a way, they are taking us by the hand and reassuring us that it’s okay to be uncomfortable, okay to stumble over words. It’s extra effort they shouldn’t have to expend, but they do it for their children and they do it for the cause.

Making it Personal

mother's day dipg

Janet and Jack. Photo: Jack’s Angel’s Foundation

I met Janet Demeter through my work with The ChadTough Foundation. I cried as she recounted the moment her son, Jack, couldn’t play on the playground with the other kids because of Diffuse Intrinsic Pontine Glioma, or DIPG.

“Throughout all of it, the most important thing is just that he was here and he was an amazing little boy,” she said.

Even though Jack’s Angels Foundation – by Janet’s own account – isn’t a money-generating powerhouse like some of the other DIPG nonprofits, she does whatever she can to move the needle. I am in constant awe of her drive and determination to make a difference using what resources she does have at her disposal, most notably her time.

I followed her Facebook feed as she trekked 200 miles to raise awareness for HRes586 – Chad and Jack’s DIPG Resolution – which she has fought hard to pass. Then she marched up to the Hill to talk to politicians about funding DIPG research.

Her strength amazes me because she doesn’t care that she hasn’t had the monetary resources she would like to have. Instead of complaining or giving up, she has scratched and clawed for every bit of awareness she has generated.

“(It’s) the old argument that, ‘Well, we need more money for healthcare in general and we don’t like to single out specific diseases,'” she spoke in a video following a meeting with Bernie Sanders.

“I should have said, ‘Well, how’s that working for you?’ You’ve got $2 Billion more for the NIH for everybody. So you’re basically telling me the same thing: that my kid can just die, because he doesn’t matter.

“Until we get specific, people, until we look at the most poignant example of neglect in the medical research system, nothing’s going to change. I’m going to fight for it, damn it.”

Reality of Loss

mother's day dipg

Michael and mom, Jenny. Photo: Michael Mosier Defeat DIPG Foundation

Jenny Mosier was also on the Hill that day, lobbying on behalf of DIPG research. She lost her son, Michael, a week after Mother’s Day last year. Jenny, husband Mark, and sister Lila, have championed for Michael through the Michael Mosier Defeat DIPG Foundation ever since.

It has been a labor of both love and pain.

“Michael had been a healthy, active kid, loved playing basketball, soccer, and especially baseball,” writes Jenny in her article, What Motherhood Means to Me, One Year After Losing My Son, in the Huffington Post.

“He was an avid learner with an unbelievable memory that kept us on our toes. His smile lit up the room. One week after his sixth birthday and his first day of kindergarten, we learned he had DIPG, and our world shattered: inoperable, no effective treatments, no cure.”

It’s a reality that has been swept under the rug within the medical community because it affects so few children – 200–400 per year – in comparison to other diseases. But for those 200–400 families each year, there is legitimately no hope. These precious children are losing full lives to this disease and something has to be done about it.

For Tammi, Janet, Jenny, and countless other DIPG mothers, that “something” comes in the form sharing their grief with the world. It’s painful, unbearable, and ugly, but they see it as a necessity.

“Grief is tiring,” Tammi Carr told Angelique Chengelis. “We have two other kids we have to be moving for.

“But at the same time, we’re trying to keep this going. The (ChadTough Foundation, which raises money for DIPG research) is kind of like a baby. It’s Chad’s legacy. It’s what we have left of him. It’s our baby, too.”

Learn more about these foundations at: The ChadTough Foundation | Michael Mosier Defeat DIPG Foundation | Jack’s Angels Foundation

freelance rules

I’m Breaking All the Freelance Rules

I read and listen non-stop to articles and Podcasts about being an entrepreneur and freelancer. I know all of the tips or “best practices” for growing a business, being productive, and maintaining sanity. I understand the reason behind all of those tips, but following them is a completely different story.

As I was getting ready to hop into bed with my laptop — no-no No. 1 — it occurred to me that tonight I am breaking all the rules.

1. No Laptops in Bed

Yes, the first is the laptop. The idea is to avoid bringing a computer to bed because it associates work with sleep and then you forgo the sleep when it’s time to sleep. I typically abide by this rule and don’t bring my laptop to bed. The only problem is that I do bring it to my living room couch … until approximately 1 a.m. That really messes with my sleep, let me tell you.

Then there’s the whole “no screen time” thing after a certain point in the night to shut off the brain and get Melatonin settling in. I’m lucky I shut off the computer, let alone my brain.

2. No Writing What I Want to Write

Instead of writing what’s on my mind and what I want to say, I’m supposed to “channel my target audience” and answer questions for them. When I decided I was going to rattle off my list of transgressions, I recognized that I was committing a transgression by writing the post to begin with. I’m rolling the dice that my target audience is made up of fellow rule-breaking achievers who need to understand they aren’t alone.

3. No Distractions During Work Time

You know I watched that Michael Jackson video with disbelief that he was actually painted as a sex symbol. I also have the ID channel on in the background, airing a brand new Dateline. I have not set aside a specific work time with a timer running to keep me completely engaged in the task at hand. Anyone who listens to or reads books on Productivity will think that joke is funny.

4. No Work-Work Balance

You know what I’m talking about. I’m supposed to have that ever-elusive “work-life balance” that some claim doesn’t really exist anyway. Work is supposed to be part of your life, right? Well, right now it’s really a part of my life. The fact that I spent all day today not working is a huge achievement. Essentially, my crazed entrepreneur side feels guilty for avoiding work while my doting mom side feels a huge sense of achievement.

Thankfully, Dateline is over, but a new On The Case with Paula Zahn has started. Blast.

Paula Zahn

Ah, Paula. How you pull me in.

5. No Avoiding Exercise

Today I went shopping for summer clothes. I had to sprint through Old Navy because I had my two older kids with me. I grabbed what I thought was my size with the intention of trying everything on at home and returning anything I didn’t want. Well … the fashion show was a very, very sad sight. No, I’m not overweight, but, yes, I have a lot more cushion in certain areas because I have completely neglected exercise for the past six months.

Aren’t us entrepreneurs supposed to take care of ourselves physically as well as mentally to keep our work high quality and ourselves from burning out? Well, answer me this, female entrepreneurs: how do you work out during the day when you’ve already showered and gotten ready for the day? And if your answer is to NOT shower and get ready for the day, how much fun is it to drop your kids off at school looking like the walking dead? I wore a skirt and linen shirt to drop my kids off last Monday and five people said, “Must have a meeting!”

Yeah, I did. Whatever.

6. No Going Insane

I’m not sure if this is a rule and I’m exaggerating just a touch. But reading all of these things I’m not doing helps me recognize just how much I have to work on. The irony is that all of the things I need to work on consist of taking care of myself.

Anyone else have experience with this? How do you tear yourself from work to truly take care of yourself? Give me some answers while I go back to my wine drinking and ID binge-watching.

get high-quality leads

How to Get High-Quality Leads

When you’re just starting out as a freelancer writer, it can feel like everyone you talk to is trying to get something for nothing. The stress over what you should charge is great; you don’t want to price yourself out of jobs because you need money, but you also don’t want to charge so little that you have zero desire to complete the project.

I completely understand. When I was first applying for freelance writing projects, I took a job for $25 per article because I thought it would give me good experience and a byline. I ultimately had zero desire to do the work and regretted taking the job.

So now for the million dollar question: how do you get quality leads? My answers may surprise you.

Find a Niche

Believe it or not, the first thing you should do is find a niche. Now, this can seem counterintuitive because your current goal is to get anyone to pay you, but – trust me – you want to find a niche. It achieves a few things:

  • You gain confidence. Confidence is like the chicken-or-the-egg phenomenon in freelance writing. You need confidence to get projects but you need projects to get confidence. What a niche does is give you a focus for something you know you’re good at. It will change your pitches in a way you might not even recognize.
  • You make yourself more appealing. If you write about insects (hear me out with this metaphor) and you find a job for insect writing, you will instantly be the writer to hire when you pitch that client.
  • You immediately know where to look. Sticking with the insect metaphor, choosing to focus on that niche will help you find the best opportunities. Whether you’re looking on a job board, individual publications, or networking, you will have a clear focus and the recipients of your pitches will feel that focus.

Get Started SOMEWHERE

get high-quality leadsWhen you are first starting out, it’s important to find work wherever you can get it, and that will more than likely be with lower-paying clients. The key is finding the right lower-paying clients.

There are two types of low-paying gigs: the kind with people who are cheap and the kind with people who are in a cheap industry. The key when you’re starting out is finding projects in the latter category.

Let me give you an example. Let’s say you write about marketing. A quality “cheap client” would be a small firm that has a minimal budget and could use good content to promote their services. It’s not that they don’t value the service, it’s that they don’t have the money to spend.

A poor “cheap client” would be a successful franchise that sees little value in content marketing. Signs you should run? If the client says something along the lines of, “Yeah, we don’t need that, we’re just looking for …”

Use your gut.

Understand it Takes Time

What you don’t want to hear. Ultimately, there are critical pieces of success you won’t find in a blog about how to be successful. You need to go through the process of working, misfiring, working, misfiring, learning, getting better. The more you do, the more you learn, and the more you make.

The great thing is that all of the misfires teach you invaluable things that shape who you are as a professional and build your confidence as an entrepreneur. Without warning, you will find yourself talking price with a self-assuredness you didn’t know you had and you will recognize you are on your way.

Once the ball gets rolling, it just picks up speed. You will get a big win and, before you know it, you’ll get referrals and then unexpected reach-outs.

The key is not to worry that you aren’t there yet. Getting high quality leads isn’t a formula, it’s a feeling-out process that will work itself out if you have the talent and willpower to push forward and learn as you go.

DIPG awareness

DIPG Awareness is Spreading Thanks to Chad Carr

Over the last five months since Chad Carr’s passing, I have connected with so many families whose lives have been changed forever because of Diffuse Intrinsic Pontine Glioma, or DIPG. Parents who miss their sweet babies and articulate how it doesn’t get any easier with the passing days, months, and years. Parents who literally count the days since they’ve last seen their child. Parents who have been hospitalized for ailments that can only be attributed to a broken heart.

As a mother of three children, I look at my own kids and can’t fathom the pain. I have a tough day dealing with tantrums, illness, and sleepless nights, and think about the parents who would give anything to deal with one more meltdown, one more stuffy nose, one more timeout. The horrible reality of cancer has changed my perspective.

The pain for these families doesn’t dissipate, but they have given it a purpose. They’ve started foundations, raised money for research, and reached out to newly-diagnosed families. Even that, though, isn’t always enough to keep fighting. Sometimes there are days when nothing is enough.

“One year ago…..one of my favorite videos,” wrote Tammi Carr today on Facebook. “Whenever I hear this song I think about Chad and believe he’s saying hello from heaven. Glad my boys are still able to find joy daily. CJ told me the other day that it is sad, but that he chooses to think about the memories and then those make him happy. Wow….The memories make me smile too, but they are also so hard. Can’t help but to think about what this day would be like with Chad still here. I am grateful that he is healed and whole in heaven, but I miss him so very much. Trying hard to find the joy in each day and to treasure every day with my family.”

Looking for A Sign

One month ago, the Carrs were having an especially difficult time, looking for a sign that they were headed in the right direction with their advocacy.

DIPG Awareness

Chad Carr with brothers CJ and Tommy in April of 2015. (Photo: ChadTough Foundation)

“Today marks four months since Chad left us for his forever home,” Tammi wrote on March 23. “This has been a very hard week…harder than it’s been since he’s been gone. I’m not sure if things are becoming a little bit more real, or if things have just been building up….but it’s been tough and I miss Chad like crazy. Praying for strength as we continue to move forward each and every day….”

Tammi and Jason received that sign in the form of a keynote speech by Francis Collins of the National Institutes of Health. Dr. Collins was the keynote speaker at the 3rd Annual Cracking the Cure Gala in honor of Gabriella Miller, who passed away of DIPG in 2013.

Gabriella’s parents, Mark and Ellyn, have been huge in petitioning for DIPG research and funding, resulting in the Gabriella Miller Kids First Pediatric Research Fund which appropriated $12.6 million to the NIH Common Fund to support pediatric research. In his speech, Dr. Collins talked about the advancements in pediatric cancer research and the hope that can be derived.

“We’re making huge strides in areas like Leukemia and lymphomas and melanomas,” he said. “But DIPG has still been a really tough problem for us – that terrible tumor that took Gabriella’s life. We need all the tools and all the talents that medical research can muster … so we can come up with new strategies that will really work. That’s what Kids First … is enabling us to do a little faster than we otherwise could have.”

DIPG

The Miller family’s hard work and love for Gabriella made this happen.

Dr. Collins made many promising statements regarding pediatric cancer research and funding. There won’t be a cure tomorrow, but the right people are working on it, and it’s because of parents like the Millers, the Carrs, and many other families who are dedicating their lives to funding a cure.

Despite all those promising statements, though, it’s the story Dr. Collins ended with that felt like a personal message from God to Tammi and Jason Carr – it’s something they call a “God wink.”

I’ll let Dr. Collins tell it in his own words.

Dr. Francis Collins Keynote Speech

“My story actually was not one that I encouraged to happen but it happened anyway. By granddaughter, Bailey, who lives in Tecumseh, Michigan, is a big Michigan football fan. Bailey, who is 12 years old — she’s in 7th grade — was at a Michigan football game when she heard that Chad Carr, grandson of Michigan’s coach Lloyd Carr, had been diagnosed with DIPG.

“Bailey was moved to help and she and two of her friends … sat down to watch the Michigan-Ohio State game and they finger knitted in the space of that game 30 scarves and planned to sell them at school to raise money for the ChadTough Foundation to honor Chad Carr. They had their hearts in their mouths when they went to the principal to ask if it was alright to do this, and the principal thought about it and said, ‘Well, yeah, I guess it’s a good cause.’

“They figured, we’ve got 30 scarves, maybe we’ll sell one or two. They sold out in an hour. There were a lot of people saying, ‘Where’s mine?’ so they went back, they knitted more, they knitted more, they knitted 110 scarves – imagine that – three kids. And they sold all of those and ultimately raised $561 for The ChadTough Foundation for DIPG.

“And there was no greater moment of pride or a sense of how incredibly important and significant this is than listening to my 12-year-old granddaughter on a radio interview talking about why she did this. We were fortunate – (wife) Diane and I – that we were able to acquire one of these scarves.

“So in a way I had not in any way near anticipated, meeting Mark and Ellyn (and) becoming so attached to their incredible dream my granddaughter helped me realize just how important this is across this nation for so many kids who need answers. Though Chad sadly did not survive, his foundation – like The Smashing Walnuts Foundation – lives on and I understand the connections now between these two foundations.”

It’s amazing how things happen, isn’t it? Here is this man in this powerful, influential position, speaking on behalf of DIPG because his granddaughter was moved to action by the life of Chad Carr. Mountains may be moved because this 12-year-old girl heard Chad’s story and wanted to do something about it.

You may be thinking, “Sure, but her grandfather is the head of the NIH – her actions carry a greater weight.” Yes, but would she have known about Chad’s story had the community, the media, the friends, the churches, the families spread the word the way they had? It’s all relative and it all makes a difference.

Don’t ever think what you’re doing is insignificant to a greater cause. Don’t ever think you can’t make a difference. Even if you influence just one person, you’ve done something incredible that could change the world.

Watching so many amazing people fight battle after battle to make a real difference in the world of pediatric cancer is something that has inspired me and changed my outlook on both life and humanity. I truly will never look at the world quite the same way ever again.