Weekend project: Spring clean your blog

It’s been awhile since I’ve assigned you all a weekend project, but I have a GREAT one this week!

This is something that I’ve been thinking about on and off all year already. It totally goes with my One Little Word NURTURE … And I’ve been newly inspired to really make my blog work for me from some long lovely conversations Andrew and I have.*

weekend project

Here are some ideas:

Recycle older content:

We talked a little bit about this on my free Pillar Content webinar a couple weeks ago, but just think about how many amazing posts you’ve written in your years blogging that are just languishing in the archives. There are a bunch of ways you can refresh and reuse those posts to make sure they continue to get read by your newer readers.

Refresh your about page:

 When is the last time you updated your About page? Had any big life changes? Tweaked the topics you write about? Win an award recently or published something big? Your About page is the first page most new readers visit, so just double check and make sure it’s what you want.

Purge your sidebar:

The problem with blogging for a long time is you make a little change here and a little change there and then after a year your blog design is a mess! This weekend, clean it up! Pull out the extraneous affiliate buttons. Pull out the Goodreads or Spotify widgets. Make sure that your sidebar has just a few options for readers, so you know that they’ll go where you want them to go.

Check out this big group Pinterest board – Blogging Tips and Tools – for even more ideas!

I would *love* if you leave your blog URLs in the comments below! Public accountability – can’t beat it. I’ll be looking forward to checking out all your blogs come Monday morning!

*He’s the best and always so supportive.

1 comment

in blogging, BUILD YOUR PLATFORM

Garbage in, garbage out

I read Steal Like an Artist over the weekend.

I didn’t mean to.

Steal like an artistBut I picked it up, flipped through it for just a couple minutes and the next thing I knew I was already a third of the way through and only put it down because I wanted to go find a blank notebook like Kleon recommends.

I love books like this. Kat said it well, I love books that are made up of “things you know but maybe needed to hear, things you didn’t know that you knew, and things that shift the way you look at creativity”.

Kleon talks throughout the book about how each artist is influenced by dozens or hundreds of artists and thinkers that came before. You learn one thing from one person, and pick up another technique from someone else and are inspired by a third person’s big idea. It is the combining of all these ideas that you “steal” that makes your work original.

I love that idea.

To that end, and to make sure that I am only spending my time on work that truly inspires me, I really want to refocus my consumption habits. We haven’t had TV for pretty much our entire relationship, but that doesn’t mean that I don’t let all kinds of junk into my brain. I need to let go of my completist tendencies. For example, I should not have finished the Divergent series. I’m not calling it garbage, but I didn’t love it, and I knew it.

Some other filtering I’m doing:

  • I canceled a couple books on my library hold list that I’m not excited about
  • I deleted a bunch from my Amazon wish list
  • Goodreads To Read List – I’m coming for you next. I already try to only add U.S. History books with an average rating of 4.0 or higher, but still.
  • I’ve got about 5 boxes of books to get rid of, and I’m looking to filling more
  • I need to purge probably half of my Netflix queue

In the meantime, maybe I’ll read a few of Austin’s picks. And stay off sites like Facebook that just offer very little. Constant vigilance.

Pleas commit to the ‘Garbage In – Garbage Out’ mantra with me!

No more ‘hate reading’ of certain blogs. No more forcing yourself to read that chick lit (or classic) you think you should for whatever reason. No more trashy TV (you define what that means). (And join the L&R Book Club, while you’re at it)

9 comments

in courage and fear, great work, resources, TELL YOUR STORY, the artists shelf

Marketing 101: Benefits, not features

Continuing our Marketing 101 series:

We’ve talked about the very basics of marketing, how to identify what you are offering, know how it helps people and how to make sure they know about it. The next step in creating your marketing campaign is to make sure you reach your potential customers with all that info. Get them what they need and you can actually help them change something in their life.

Marketing can be boiled down to this:
Know what you’re offering, how it helps people and make sure they know about it.

Let’s dig deeper into knowing how your offer HELPS people.

It’s not enough to be able to describe the dimensions and parts of whatever you are selling. You also need to know the benefits of your product or service.

There are so many reasons someone may buy your product – aside from the fact that it’s pretty or cheap. The DECIDING factor of why someone may buy from you is that they see the inherent value in your offer. They have evaluated what you are selling and have determined that the benefit they will get from buying is worth more than the dollars they are trading for it.

Which means that you need to know what the benefits of your offer are – not the features.

Features are the details of your product – Benefits are WHY anyone should care. Features are helpful to know – Benefits are essential if your customer is going to spend money on it. The features may lead to the benefits, but not always.

Features are measurements, quantities, colors, contents, capabilities and more. Features are things like “18 hours of video interviews,” “comes in tan, black and teal,” and “batteries included.” Features can help encourage the sale but will not be the reason your reader connects to your product.

Make the benefits clear instead. Express exactly how the customer’s life will be changed or transformed after purchasing your product. How will it help them?

Most purchasing decisions are rooted in emotion. Focusing your sales copy on the rewards (benefits) of your product can connect your potential customer much more deeply and emotionally than the features alone can.

For example, at the very beginning of my sales page for the BUILD ecourse, a prospective student learns that I build a blog that helped me quit my day job, and the course content can help you do the same. The benefit of registering is clear. The end result is clear. Yes, there are a bunch of interviews and external resources and other aspects, but to a prospective BUILDer, they want to know what they will get out of the ecourse.

To get customers excited about your product, you’ve got to spell out for them the WHY they want it. Give them the benefits they’ll reap by owning your product. Spell out to them what they will get beyond the physical object – emotionally, experientially, and more. Once you know what you’re looking for (the WHY anyone would care), it gets easier and easier to frame your product descriptions in terms of benefits.

This week review your sales pages and product descriptions – make sure it is crystal clear how you are helping.

There is SO MUCH more on marketing in my BUILD ecourse. Click below for details.

free blogging tips

And if that’s still too scary, let me know. We’ll schedule a day together to chat and break it down and make you a marketing plan.

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in marketing

L&R Book Club: May/June

I’ve been enjoying the L&R Book Club so much! Reading is more or less my life, so having someone to discuss books with (or lots of someones) has been the best.

We read 1 book every 2 months – because I know everyone is busy and these are the kinda books you want to sink in and implement. After a quick mini poll in the Facebook Group, I am excited to announce the L&R Book Club choice for May and June 2014:

The Creative Habit: Learn It and Use It for Life by Twyla Tharp

I have owned this book for years and still never read it. I think I’m intimidated by it.

I mean, I have heard only really positive, raving reviews. Which means this book is probably fantastic. Which means it will *probably* change my life in someway. Which is obviously slightly scary and unsettling.

So (for years) I have put off reading The Creative Habit until I felt “ready” and that I had the space in my life to handle it.

Well, I guess it’s now or never. Not only is NURTURE my One Little Word this year, but June will be my 1 year anniversary of quitting my day job.

What better time is there to jump?

So! I hope you’ll join me over the next couple months! Grab The Creative Habit from Amazon or your library or other chosen book store and get ready to change your ideas about creativity.

2 comments

in FIND YOUR GREAT WORK, Lemon and Raspberry, TELL YOUR STORY

Found

Around here in the last week …

… The last several weeks have been emotionally exhausting – my amazing grandmother died combined with Andrew having to work so much I see him about 45 minutes every other day. We’re getting through it.

carole hann

… We did have Sunday together. Driving 6 hours to Phoenix for my grandmother’s memorial and then 6 hours back in the same day. But, you know. Together.

… We came home with some fun treasures she wanted me to have (I am the oldest grandchild) including this fantastic vintage trunk.

trunk

… after almost 6 years of reading U.S. History I finally got father than Andrew Jackson. I have now finished 1 President Martin Van Buren biography, and am working on a President William Henry Harrison biography. Combined that takes me to about spring 1841. My goal is to get to 1860 by the end of the year.

… I mowed the lawn for the first time in 20 years. Proud of myself for actually doing it – physical exertion is NOT my thing.

… Also, my banana peppers are going like gangbusters! Here are 2 I picked yesterday with my hand for a size comparison

banana pepper

… working on my novel and creative workshops this week. Planning another free blogging webinar, too!

… Andrew has been working so much his feet are a disaster. I successfully got him to relax and actually elevate his feet before bed the other night. Also! He got a hookup and got a hair dresser to come to his work to give him a hair cut. It’s his new favorite thing (yep, he works so much he doesn’t even have time for a hair cut)

Screen Shot 2014-04-17 at 6.19.05 AM

… It’s getting to be that time of year that is way too hot in our bedroom or my office. Which is super sad because I could spend my life between those 2 rooms (if I had coffee and ice cream).

And now for this week’s links!

2 comments

in found

Lessons from writing a third novel

I am currently in the middle of writing the first draft of my third novel. I haven’t even done anything with the drafts of my first 2 novels and I have already learned so much.

Scrivener

I am really loving using Scrivener for writing

The first book I thought about for years and years and years. When I finally decided I was BRAVE enough to start writing it, I wrote about 70,000+ words in 2.5 months. Not bad. It still needs a pretty thorough revision, since I didn’t do any planning ahead of time and have since realized I need to add at least another third or so from another character’s P.O.V.

The second book I just had a flash of an idea for, had to do *some* historical research, but again did not do any real planning ahead of time. The fact that the concept of the book was considerably more difficult (1st person, unreliable narrator) AND I had not had years to let the idea marinate means that it took me WAY longer. About 60,000 words in 7 months. Not great. All needs a major revision and possibly scrapped altogether.

This third novel I actually outlined (!). Miraculous! Again I just had the flash of an idea and not years to think about it, but I read this book and this book and this book and spent about 10 days making notes and detailed story arcs and decisions before I jumped in to the actual writing. The notes and outline alone topped 6000 words (~20 pages).

And I jumped head first into writing the draft – 3200 words in the first 2 days. I’m working on building 4 hours a day of fiction-writing/editing/plotting into my schedule so I can get up to 2500+ words per day and write a whole novel in a month.

What I learned from my biggest creative projects:

I’ve got to know the plan.

I’m a planner by nature, so lord knows why this didn’t occur to me until now. But I have worked so much better AND faster by spending a few days a head of time to actually write out the plan.

After this novel, I have a very (very very) rough idea for a 7-book series. That needs to be planned and outlined and crafted.

I can’t wait!

Full disclosure: I have not yet revised the drafts of my first or second novel, so I don’t actually have anything DONE. Which means, of course I have nothing PUBLISHED. Which means I really have very little idea how good or bad these books are/will be. But, I have read enough in my life and written enough non-fiction to know what is working for me and what is not.

I have absurdly ambitious fiction plans for the next year. I don’t have any idea if I can make them work, but the trying will be fun!

What have you learned from your biggest creative projects?

6 comments

in resources, writing

Taxes and monies

Today is tax day in America! You got your stuff all settled?

Luckily (I guess) my business is still teeny teeny tiny, so I haven’t had any need for a 1099, or giant estimated taxes or other big headaches throughout the year. But my husband also has a small business (that has not yet made money) and a freelance career with a ton of expenses. And we don’t even know what all we can claim as expenses. And we have a mortgage and 401ks and an IRA and all. And my brain hurts.

Many of you know I quit my day job last June (!!). At that point I was making enough money outside of my day job to cover my expenses. Enough – but not more. I’m not rich. I have debt. I am not a trust fund baby. There’s a reason my husband still has a day job.

I am not an expert at this.

Here’s the thing about small business taxes and monies: I have very little idea what I’m doing. So I ask for help.

Separate accounts

I am still working on this. Paperwork and stuff. But even just using my PayPal account JUST for Lemon and Raspberry stuff has been SO helpful! I can keep track of exactly which transactions are work-related and which are personal. It helps in sorting receipts and all, as well. I don’t have a *ton* of transactions so I can go through and sort once a quarter or so instead of daily or weekly.

I’ve been recommended Citibank for a small business account, but let me know if you have another recommendation.

Bookkeeping

You must keep track throughout the year. You don’t really want to do it all in January, right?

I use an online bookkeeping program; originally called Outright and bought by Go Daddy it is now GoDaddy Bookkeeping. There’s a very basic free version, but I pay $99/year for the more advanced option. It imports all the income and expenses that go through your other accounts (right now I have it only attached to my PayPal) and allows you to categorize each income and expense really easily. It gives me estimated taxes I should be paying each quarter as well as lets me run specific reports from all the transactions of a specific category to who my best customers are.

This is basic enough to be easy to use, but detailed enough to be useful. I’m sure there are other options, but this is what works best for me.

Professional accountant

I’ve been meaning to find an accountant for a couple years. Between our full-time day jobs + my (very) part-time job + our multiple teeny businesses our annual taxes have just gotten more and more complicated. I asked a couple small business owner friends for recommendations and a week or two ago we met with Jay Kim of Robert Hall & Associates. He totally took care of us, helped us think about more expenses and details that we may have missed and gave us suggestions for the next year. He is my new favorite and I can’t believe it took us so long to hire a professional.

If you are in the Los Angeles area and end up using Robert Hall & Associates, make sure you tell them I referred you. I think you’ll get a discount.

Good luck! I hope you made a lot of money last year!!

What are your best tips for taxes and monies?

P.S. Anyone know the reference for “monies”? Full quote: “Ms. Bitterman? I want to work for monies”

0 comments

in BUILD YOUR PLATFORM, Business, entrepreneurs

Productivity resources

SoCal springtime weather!! Spring cleaning and reorganizing and blogging 2 weeks ahead and shredding all kinds of paperwork.

You ready? Here are some great productivity resources from around the web:

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in productivity, resources

What have I signed myself up for?

I will be starting TWO online creative workshops today!* Which is WAY WAY more commitment to creative projects that I have made in awhile.

I keep telling myself I can totally do this and stay caught up – I’m not sure if I believe it.

Project Life Lessons

Project Life Lessons is a workshop from Elise Blaha Cripe, Annette Haring, and Megan Anderson with their tried-and-true tips in the areas of photo management, storytelling, organization, assembly, and more. Whether your Project Life approach involves weekly spreads, monthly highlights, or something more custom, you can establish an effective working process that will help you make your albums a better reflection of who you really are and what matters most to you.

I am super behind on my 2014 Project Life spreads, so I’m thrilled to maybe get some new ideas and inspiration.

CLICK HERE to register and join me!

My Details Class

My Details is a 2 week online workshop full of 10 journaling prompts to help record your details. Use the 10 prompts to document about your present details or use them to document about the you from the past, or do BOTH as Megan and Kristin have! They will inspire you with 40+ takes on the prompts between the two of them in the form of mini-book pages, pocket page spreads, traditional layouts, and more! You can return to these prompts again and again to document your details and can even return to them later to translate them into documenting the details of others!

I am excited about having the excuse just to write. I think I’ve decided to just journal in a Word doc so I don’t have to worry about running out of room – and THEN deciding what to do with my journaling.

CLICK HERE to get your spot – use discount codes LEMONDETAILS for $2 off

Let me know if you are interested in my blogging my progress! 

Both workshops have some great pre-class bonuses that I have had so much fun going through!

*Please note: Because I am friends with one of the teachers and have helped promote,
my seats in these classes were gifted to me

1 comment

in memory keeping, sponsor post, TELL YOUR STORY

Giveaway winner: MyDetails online workshop

Thank you to everyone who entered the MyDetails workshop giveaway last week!

…. and the winner is ….

Congrats to Hannah!

I’ll see you in the class! If you’re not Hannah – check out the details below and get your own spot.

 

xMy-Details-Logo-with-Websi

Use the 10 prompts to document about your present details or use them to document about the you from the past, or do BOTH as Megan and Kristin have! They will inspire you with 40+ takes on the prompts between the two of them in the form of mini-book pages, pocket page spreads, traditional layouts, and more! You can return to these prompts again and again to document your details and can even return to them later to translate them into documenting the details of others!

Whether you’re a blogger, a mini book maker, a journaler, a pocket scrapbooker, or a traditional scrapbooker, we’ve got ideas for you to make sure you are telling YOUR story and YOUR details in your memory keeping! Join us–the pre-classroom is accessible NOW and prompts begin April 14!

xMy-Details-Sneak-Peeks

CLICK HERE to grab your spot AND use discount code LEMONDETAILS for $2 off!

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in giveaway