Take time off

Don’t forget – you need to set aside your to-do list for a few days. Take time off. Take a sabbatical. Here are some more resources and inspiration:

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Summer BLAHs – and a solution

It’s coming. I can feel it. The SUMMER BLAHs.*

That slump in the middle of the year when you are far from your new year’s resolutions, but still don’t see the light at the end of the tunnel. It’s like The Dip and creative blocks combined on a recurring annual basis. We’ve been 140% committed to our new goals and our One Little Word and making this THE BEST YEAR EVER, that we *may* have overcommitted ourselves and gotten burnt out.

I can tell you that my friend Kam – Campfire Chic – has sent me quite a few emails and texts over the last few months. She’s up late because she has too many deadlines, she needs help, and sometimes she has even had to stay home sick because her body is just protesting! In all of this, Kam thought to put together a collection of tasks and challenges to help her move past that overwhelm and BLAH. Kam is one of the smartest bloggers people I know; I am always so grateful when she has time to help me talk through my own overwhelm and BLAH.

Which is why today I am so excited to help her announce Spark – a new ecourse that will take you 30 days of challenging yourself, refocusing your intentions and combating the overwhelm and BLAHs that every blogger inevitably faces.

What is the Spark ecourse?

Spark will take you through the 30 day process of getting out of a blogging rut. It’s an email based course so the daily content is delivered straight to your inbox – no hassle of remembering a password to some website you’ll only visit once or twice. Some of the tasks are a little unconventional, but if you trust the process and you have a little fun while finding your spark, you’ll understand why Kam included some of the sillier things with each email. This is the prescription she gave herself to halt her blogger burnout in January. In fact, I’m sure she used some of the lessons again recently when she was burning ALL of the midnight oil.

I have just signed up myself, so I’ll be sure to give you all a more complete review once I’ve gone through the emails. So far I have created a specific folder in my email box for these because I’m *sure* I will want to revisit them after these initial 30 days.

The 30 emails will take me almost all the way to my 1 year quit-versary – the *perfect* time to rekindle my passion for blogging. I’ll be armed and ready to combat those Summer BLAHs. Lemon and Raspberry is my job, so it is important that I am totally committed all the time, not just when I’m all hyped up on new year goals.

CLICK HERE to register and join me!

*If you’re in the Southern Hemisphere,
do you get Winter BLAHs this time of year?

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On letting go of a past dream

Wedding portraits at Terrenea ResortThis month has been about finalizing some big changes.

I have finally been BRAVE enough to do that thing that I’ve been thinking about for about 2 years.

I dissolved my photography business. Officially official. The state of CA has my paperwork and the bank has closed my account and the only think I have left to do is take down my site and close my email account.

My emotions have completely swung the whole gamut over the last couple years, fighting with myself, talking myself into it, admitting things about myself that I have only recently discovered. It would have been fascinating to watch if it wasn’t happening for me. As it is, I’m glad I’m through it all.

I think that I am a good (enough) photographer. I think that I am a good (enough) businessperson. I live in SoCal where there are plenty of people who have money to pay for wedding photographs. I genuinely love weddings. I genuinely love documentary-style photography and I think everyone should have fantastic wedding photos that they love. I am still proud of the work that I’ve done for couples since 2008.

All of that said – being a professional wedding photographer is not for me.

There are a lot of reasons. Big reasons and little reasons. Tiny preferences, practicalities and discoveries about my personality. Being a professional photographer is A LOT OF WORK …. so it had better be work you definitely want to do.

And it’s not for me. Not for the rest of my life.

It took me awhile to get here, but I am looking forward to ending this phase of my life and having more focus to move forward into the next one.

I’m really really excited about it!

If you are also letting go of a past dream….

  • Allow yourself time to mourn. I’ve been thinking about this decision for at least 2 years. At least.
  • Be realistic about why. Know if you could have done better. Know if you made poor decisions. Know if it is just that your goals have changed. You’re not a failure – you’re just a different person than you were when you formed that dream.
  • Jump into your next dream. Take as much time as you need, but be BRAVE and keep moving forward.

 Be BRAVE. Fail big. Fail often.

P.S. Thanks Maggie for these shots of me working!

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Review: About You ebook and workbook

About You ebookLast week I recommended that you spring clean your blog. Did you get on that yet?

I am *always* thinking about reshaping my About page and I recently re-did my short author bio for guest posts and things. It is a constant maintenance issue and I actually have a recurring event on my Google Calendar to remind me.

Writing about yourself is always tricky. You need to come off with authority but also not like a know-it-all.

I know it’s hard to write about yourself. If you’re stuck on what to write about, how to write about yourself or where exactly you need to keep your About info updated, check out Campfire Chic’s ebook and workbook About YOU: A simple guide to writing about yourself with confidence.

Favorite part about the ebook:

The 10-minute tasks. A) These little exercise give you a succinct idea of what you should be learning from the chapter and B ) Taking action (even little ones) helps me learn better. Also (bonus) I don’t have to take more than 10 minutes and over-think it (which I am prone to do).

Favorite part about the workbook:

I love the space to visually consider what the about page will look like, including space for photos, bulleted lists and other visual design space. What a great idea! Especially when you consider all the little pieces you can put in a full About page.

I would actually do something similar with a shorter author bio too – you don’t want those to be too link-heavy and a visual can help you see if it’s off-balance at all.

I have a bit of an advantage, in that I can get away with harassing Kam ALL THE TIME for her advice on my blog/business/etc. But even so, I loved reading through this for her thoughts on such a specific aspect of my online platform. She’s so smart :)

About YOU: A simple guide to writing about yourself with confidence is a 20+ page ebook focused on you and your story. It’s clear and concise, because you’re busy and want to make changes right away. The ebook progresses quickly and reinforces lessons in each chapter, because practice is awesome!

About You ebookChapters include:

  • Introduction
  • What do you have to say?
  • Write about what you know
  • Do some research
  • Brand narrative
  • About page
  • Author bio
  • Your social media profiles
  • Interviews
  • About for projects
  • How much is too much?
  • Get your calendar out

Need more homework? Check out some About pages from that I really like:

Grab About You ebook + workbook (or just the ebook) and get your info all fancified, up-to-date and effective!

Full disclosure: I am an affiliate for this product and was given copies of both the ebook and workbook. That said, all of the opinions in this post are totally my own, and I delayed posting about the product until I had the time to go through it properly. Even though it is *months* after launch.

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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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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”

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Creative small business resources

What are you doing this lovely (spring?) Monday afternoon? Not ready to jump into your week yet?

Procrastinate Spend quality time doing research by reading through these creative small business resources from around the web that I love.

Any good resources you want to add in the comments?

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Are you on the list? New free business resource

As part of my goal to NURTURE things in my life, last month I completed my new free guide for my newsletter subscribers!

Current subscribers already got it, so make sure you’re on the list to get it too!

I get asked a ton what I use for my shopping cart or what I use for blog or what kind of camera or other tools. For so many people, it’s just easier to get recommendations from people/bloggers they trust rather than go through the trouble of hours and hours of research. That’s simply the kind of economy we have now – recommendations and word-of-mouth is how I find most of the companies I work with.

So here’s mine!

CLICK HERE to sign up for access to the L&R Library!

Once you are signed up, you can download a simple 1-page resource of the 5 tools I use (every single week) to build my business AND my free guide on how to jumpstart your creativity!

I was able to quit my day job last June and these are the biggest things I used to build my platform and get me to that point. I hope you find something that works for you!

Sign up here to get it. Print this out, save it to your computer for future reference, or just go get all five of them right now and save yourself the trouble.

And, as always, let me know if you have other questions or requests. I’m happy to help you all as much as I can!

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5 easy ways to build trust with your readers

One of the best ways to BUILD an online platform that can help you get what you want is to build a supportive community of readers. So let’s talk about how you will use your content to build trust with your readers, which will in turn build a community around your blog.

how to build trustBe honest.

You are of course entitled to your own privacy, but if you’re going to start a website with yourself as the primary (or sole) person behind it, you owe it to your readers to at least be honest with a little bit of yourself. There are a lot of nuances to being honest, and you need to set your own boundaries, but just don’t be deliberately deceptive.

Be transparent (about what you’re writing about).

If you write a fitness blog, you don’t have to talk about how much money you make. But if you write a how-to-make-money-on-the-internet blog, you might want to offer that as evidence you know what you’re talking about. If your readers find out later that you didn’t they’ll feel like you were trying to deceive them and you may have lost any trust you previously built.

Answer questions.

Don’t just be a god-like voice from on high, when your readers try to interact with you. You are positioning yourself as a leader in your niche, so demonstrate that you have some answers. Or, at the very least, opinions and some kind of guidance. Elsie and Emma regularly answer FAQs and give behind the scenes glimpses of their lives.

Go to where they are:

If your readers are on Facebook, join them there. If they have their own blogs, visit them and comment when you can. Show your readers that while you are a leader in your niche, you still are interested in them and what they are doing.

Display social proof:

People look at reviews before they purchase something; they are easily persuaded by the evidence of their peers. People want to know that they are not the ONLY one reading your blog. Show your comment count, display testimonials, promote how many subscribers you have.

How do you connect to your blog readers?

More resources for building trust with readers in the BUILD ecourse

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creative small business resources

Get your new year started right with some great creative small business resources:

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