5 resources to become an awesome small business owner

The question came up last week in Kara’s Babes Making Things Facebook Group, about if someone should go to school or if there was something she absolutely needed to do in order to be a designer and small business owner. I jumped on RIGHT AWAY to spew my self-taught-evangelism. I 100% believe that you can do it yourself.

be awesome resourcesMy husband went to trade school for 9 months and now is the very top of his industry through hard work and teaching himself. I have a blog that makes enough money to let me quit my job, and my 7 years in college were all about novels and critical analysis of text and not in the tiniest bit about marketing.

YOU CAN TOTALLY DO THIS ON YOUR OWN. Here are my favorite resources to take control of your small business and learn how to become an awesome small business owner:

Blogs: There are some *amazing* smart people out there writing every day or every week and just offering their knowledge for free on their blogs. I recommend Problogger, Jon Morrow, Seth Godin for sure.

Podcasts: If you have a long commute, or a lot of piecework or time that you watch TV or listening to music, I suggest trying podcasts instead. Briefly, a podcast is kind of like a radio show, except on demand. I am subscribed to more podcasts than I could ever possibly listen to, but they are in a variety of topics and I can learn all kinds of things just by listening to these free audio shows! (my favorites are here)

Email lists: Not unlike reading blogs, so many brilliant business people will send tips directly to you via email. And a lot of them offer exclusive content via email. I love Tara Gentile, Braid Creative and ittybiz among others.

CreativeLive: This began a few years ago as free live-streamed courses for photographers, but it is so much more than that! Design, business, life, money, etc. If you have the time to watch the courses live (usually 2 or 3 days from about 9am to 5pm) they are an amazing free resource. If you don’t have time, you can purchase the courses for a really low price and watch the hours of video whenever convenient. Here’s a glimpse at some classes coming up.

BUILD ecourse: I mean obviously, self-promo. But my goal with this ecourse is to be a one-stop-course to help you establish your foundation AND have the steps to build your business even further. I am super proud of the ecourse as-it-is and even more excited about what I have planned to add to it!

What are your favorite small business resources?

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Marketing 101: What is a call to action?

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 who those people are, how to make sure they know about it and knowing what to tell them. The next step in creating your marketing campaign is to make sure you are asking for what you want your customers to do. They need to know what the next step is.

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

Here’s how you make sure they know about it: You TELL THEM.

I know, ground-breaking. But a lot of people (ahem. Me.) forget that you actually need to be clear with your readers and customers on what you want them to do. If you want your blog reader to sign up for your newsletter, tell them about it. If you want your newsletter subscriber to buy your recent digital kit launch, ask them to. If you want your Twitter follower to retweet your link, suggest they do so.

That is a call to action.

It really doesn’t need to be any more complicated than that. They just need to know what the next step is.

Practice by adding calls to action to your blog post (“Leave a comment below about _____” or “Follow me on Instagram for more behind the scenes”). Review your last product or service launch, and make sure all the communication around that included a clear call to action. Add ‘call to action’ to your checklist for the future.

Additional reading: 5 effective tricks to create a killer call to action (from Problogger)

What are your biggest hurdles with Calls to Action?

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L&R Book Club: September/October Firestarter Sessions

Ok, so summer was slow and relaxing and we read all allowed ourselves 2 months to read a book that probably could have taken 2 hours.

But fall will be here soon (!!) and it is time to kick all our butts into gear.

Which is why the L&R Book Club selection for September/October 2014 is

The Firestarter Sessions by Danielle LaPorte

Official book description from Amazon:

The Fire Starter Sessions is an apathy-kicking, integrity-infusing guide to defining success on your own terms.

As the creator of DanielleLaPorte.com–deemed “the best place online for kick-ass spirituality,” Danielle LaPorte’s straight-talk life-and-livelihood sermons have been read by over one million people. Bold but empathetic, she reframes popular self-help and success concepts:

: Life balance is a myth, and the pursuit of it is causing us more stress then the craving for balance itself.
: Being well-rounded is over-rated. When you focus on developing your true strengths, you enter your mastery zone.
: Screw your principles (they might be holding you back).
: We have ambition backwards. Getting clear on how you want to feel in your life + work is more important than setting goals. It’s the most potent form of clarity that you can have, and it’s what leads to true fulfillment.

(Note: This is a good lead-in to The Desire Map that I am planning on choosing for January/February 2015)

Grab your copy of The Firestarter Sessions by Danielle LaPorte from Amazon, your library, your friend’s bookshelf, your local bookstore, Audible. Wherever. September 1 is soon!

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Marketing 101: Who is it for?

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, how to make sure they know about it and knowing what to tell them. The next step in creating your marketing campaign is to make sure your marketing message is reaching the right potential customers. Get the info to the right people 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 who your offer is for!

Your product is NOT for everyone. Sorry. It’s just not. And your marketing is not going to be effective until you start to embrace the small niche that is interested in what you have to offer.

You need to think about questions like:

  • How does your customer spend the bulk of their time?
  • What kinds of things do they value?
  • What is their experience with similar products/services?
  • Who or what is the major factor in your customers’ decisions?

Your product might be for stay-at-home moms who need to run purchases by their husbands because they don’t feel comfortable spending money they didn’t directly earn. Your product may be for just-out-of-college professionals who have a full-time income for the first time in their lives. Your product might be for 40-something couples who are not quite at a mid-life crisis but are still looking for something exciting to shake things up.

Your marketing message can be tailored to a very specific group as in these examples. You just need to know who YOUR specific group is.

For example, now that I am moving farther into fiction-writing circles and introduce myself, I often have to give the disclaimer : “Oh, I blog for blogging crafty creative ladies. You, middle aged nerdy male writer, are not the audience so don’t even bother looking me up.” It also saves me from having to try to explain what 30 Days of Lists is, for example. Unless you are already acquainted with the idea of an online class or creative challenge, #30Lists is mind-boggling.

As Seth Godin says about figuring out who your product is for, “It’s cheaper to answer these questions than it is to spend time and money on marketing, but, alas, it usually doesn’t happen that way.”

P.S. This weekend will be the BUILD virtual retreat! You MUST be registered for the ecourse to join, but all weekend I’ll be online answering whatever questions you want. We will tailor the retreat content very specifically to the attendees.

P.P.S. The BUILD ecourse price will go up on September 1, so this is the best time to jump in if you have been thinking about it.

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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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