Brilliant Business Moms with Beth Anne Schwamberger

No matter how many talented authors we interview, I'm always surprised at the new ways each of them chooses to market their books and make them a success.  Ruth Soukup, best-selling author of How to Blog for Profit Without Selling Your Soul, and just today, Living Well, Spending Less, 12 Secrets of the Good Life, shares 7 great tips on marketing your book and turning it into a best-seller.

She discusses timelines for traditional publishing versus self-publishing, strategies she's used for growing her blog, what's working for her with Pinterest right now, and the development of her course, Elite Blog Academy.  Most of all, I love Ruth's story of setting a huge goal for herself: earning a full-time income blogging and bringing her husband home from his job.  3 years into her blogging journey, Ruth accomplished her goal, and her blog and business continue to grow on a daily basis.

Ruth is so kind, down-to-earth, and of course, chock full of great advice!  If you're struggling to figure out what having the good life means for you right now, we highly recommend that you check out Ruth's latest book.  It's chock full of great advice and encouragement.  As Ruth says, "You can do it!  You can do it!"  I hope you leave this podcast feeling pumped up and encouraged to keep working towards your biggest dreams and goals.  We believe you can do it too!

On the Podcast

01:41 - From Shopping Habit to Blog Success
04:31 - No You're Not Stupid. Ruth Says You Can Do It!
06:39 - Ruth's Favorite Books (+ how they help her get more done!)
11:03 - 12 Secrets of the Good Life
13:35 - Traditional Versus Self-Publishing
17:54 - The Birth of Elite Blogging Academy
19:22 - 7 Tips for Launching an Amazon Best-Seller
26:08 - What is Bookbub? + Why You Should Care
26:58 - The Making of an Online Course
31:50 - 4 Strategies for Blog Growth
36:55 - The Perfect Pin - Ruth Explains All
39:50 - A Day in the Life of a ProBlogger
42:35 - The Big Leap
46:18 - A Funny, Messy Mom Moment!

From Shopping Habit to Blog Success

In 2010, Ruth and her family had recently moved to Florida from Washington State. She was missing her friends and family and felt lonely as a mom with 1 and 4 year-old girls. She spent a lot of time wandering Target or the mall and going shopping. She was spending more than she should have, so fighting about money became a common occurrence for Ruth and her husband. Finally, they took drastic measures, and Ruth was on a really strict budget.

Not knowing what else to do with her time, and needing an outlet to hold herself accountable, Ruth decided to start a blog. She hadn't read many blogs before, so as she began, it was as if a whole new world was opened up to her.

Ruth realized that there were people who made a full-time income from blogging, so pretty early on, she set that goal for herself. She told her husband she was going to be a blogger so that someday he could quit his job. He told her multiple times that her idea was dumb - you can't make money with a blog.

No You're Not Stupid

Ruth knows from experience how easy it is to get discouraged in the early stages of blogging when everyone else tells you that it's just plain dumb and doesn't make any sense.

Ruth's pick-me-up when she felt discouraged was Darren Rowse's book: ProBlogger: Secrets for Blogging Your Way to a Six-Figure Income.  She read it at least 50 times in her first 6 months of blogging. "Darren says I can do it, so I'm gonna do it!" Ruth would tell herself.

The best part? Ruth got to meet Darren in person last summer. Even though she was a complete spaz and star-struck for the first time in her life, Ruth says that Darren was so nice. It was great for her to tell him in person how much his book meant to her.

As a successful ProBlogger herself, Ruth says, "I love now that I have that opportunity to be the voice for other people saying you can do this! you can do this! even when everybody else is telling them to quit."
(We love it too! Your story is such an encouragement to us, Ruth!)

Does everyone around you tell you that your dreams of a full-time blogging career are crazy?  They're not!  It's ok to fail, but just keep going!  Learn from Best-selling author and blogger Ruth Soukup.  She shares her tips for growing, sticking with it, and marketing your books.  Hit the link, press play on the podcast player, and listen while you get some work done!  | brilliantbusinessmoms.com

Ruth's Favorite Books

Eat that Frog by Brian Tracy - The book is all about avoiding procrastination and tackling your biggest and hardest task first thing in the morning. You'll get more done by tackling the hard, more long-term projects first and keep your momentum going. (Sarah lives by Brian Tracy's advice too!)
The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg - This book discusses creating good routines for yourself. It takes a different part of your brain to do something that's routine versus something that's new, so if you can build strong habits, you'll be able to extend your discipline and ultimately accomplish more things.

12 Secrets of the Good Life

Ruth's Newest Book, Living Well, Spending Less: 12 Secrets of the Good Life  is all about discovering what it means to create the life we've always wanted.

Ruth used to think that the good life was about the celebrity lifestyle - big houses, private jets, fancy clothes, and more. Many of us have a similar idea that the good life is about all the stuff we can acquire. That's what marketers, retailers, and everyone who's selling to us wants us to think.

Ruth's own realization, in praying for change, is that "the good life has nothing to do with those things. it's not so much about what we have as who we are as people."

Each chapter discusses a different secret of the good life. Everything from goal-setting to saving money on groceries, setting a budget, learning contentment, and de-cluttering are covered. Every chapter revolves around the theme of what the good life really means and how we can get it for ourselves.

Are you struggling to figure out what your calling is?  Ruth's new book  has great advice.  Hear her story of finding her calling as a full-time writer and blogger.  Trust us, it's full of plenty of bumps and people telling her that her dream was stupid!  (It wasn't.)  Click the post, and then press play on the podcast player so you can listen while you get things done! | brilliantbusinessmoms.com

Traditional Versus Self-Publishing

The main drawback for traditional publishing is the very slow timeline attached to the process.

Ruth shares her own timeline for Living Well, Spending Less versus Blogging for Profit:

  • January 2013 - worked on book proposal for several months
  • Agent began pitching to several publishing houses
  • The proposal + pitching took 6 months
  • During the wait time, Ruth wrote How to Blog for Profit (it took her just 3 months!)
  • As she finished the How to Blog for Profit manuscript, she heard back from publishers and got offers for a book deal.
  • Ruth signed with Zondervan because they offered her a 2-book deal
  • She self-published How to Blog for Profit using KDP Select on Amazon in September 2013
  • Began writing manuscript for Living Well, Spending Less and turned it into Zondervan in January 2014.
  • Ruth has been waiting a whole year for her book to come out in stores!

As you can see, self-publishing runs on a much faster timeline. The only limits are really your own writing, editing, and formatting power! A book about blogging or any other topic that changes quickly, would be silly to publish in a traditional format. Self-publishing allows Ruth to make updates and changes to her book at any time. She's already added a 2nd edition for How to Blog for Profit because things in the blogging world change quickly.

The Birth of Elite Blogging Academy

After writing her book, How to Blog for Profit, Ruth did consulting with other bloggers, and discovered that most of them had questions about the same things. They wanted someone to walk them through the process of growing a blog, step-by-step. She created a course to solve that problem.

Elite Blog Academy Covers these Questions in Detail:

  • How do I refine my message? How do I know if what I'm presenting is the right message for me, for my audience, and a message that the world wants to hear?
  • After I've refined my content, how do I find people who will read it? How do I find new readers and grow my audience?
  • Once I've grown my audience, how do I monetize the content that I've built up?
  • How do I grow my business? How do I start looking at myself not just as a blogger but as an entrepreneur?

Ruth Soukup with her family having fun.  Learn her 12 Secrets of the Good LIfe and how she's grown her blog into a massive success.  I love listening to these podcast episodes while I work.  The player is embedded right into the post!  | brilliantbusinessmoms.com

7 Tips for an Amazon Best-Seller

Ruth talked with publicist, Ashley Buffa, who specializes in e-books, and she gave her great advice on launching How to Blog for Profit successfully.

The 7 Factors that Led to a Best-Seller:

  1. Get at least 25 reviews on Amazon before launching
  2. Ruth mentioned the book on her blog, and many other bloggers wrote about the book as well.
  3. Offer an introductory sale price on launch day
  4. Ruth's book was accepted on BookBub.com who shared news of her introductory sale.
  5. Ruth is part of many Facebook groups for bloggers. On launch day, she mentioned in the groups "hey I wrote this book, and it's on sale today if you want to grab it."
  6. Make sure your book is really helpful. People will always share great content.
  7. Once your book makes the Top 100 in its category on Amazon, the site will take notice and start marketing the book for you. They'll email people who buy similar books and recommend it to shoppers on the site.

All of this happened on Launch Day - September 25, 2013, so that led to a huge blitz of sales and views for her book on Amazon. How to Blog for Profit hit #14 on Amazon's main list and it was #1 in the Blogging category for a year.

Ruth shared that they sold 1,400 copies of her book on the first day. Making a best-seller list most likely depends on the day and which other books you're competing against, but 1400 sales and at least 25 reviews before launching is a great reference point! How to Blog for Profit consistently stays in the top 10 for blogging books.

We can also attest to the fact that people are STILL talking about it! Many of the guests on our show have recommended Ruth's book as their go-to resource for blogging.

FYI: Ruth got plenty of reviews by reaching out to her email list of bloggers who participate in her Thrifty Thursday Link Party. At that time, she had about 500 bloggers on the list. She wrote to them hoping that 40 people would volunteer to read her book for free and write a review for her on Amazon.  After sending the email, Ruth had 200 responses within minutes. She knew at that point that there was probably a good market for her book!

What is Bookbub?

Bookbub.com is a site that features books that are on sale for the day. They have over 1 million people on their email list, and they send out a book list to their subscribers every day.

You can customize which email is sent to you based on the book genres you're interested in, so as an author, it's a great way to get in front of book buyers who are interested in your niche.

The Making of an Online Course

Ruth shares that it took twice as long to develop the curriculum for her course, Elite Blog Academy, than it did to write her book, How to Blog for Profit.

There are 12 units in the course, and every single unit goes way more in-depth than the book. Each unit has multiple assignments and is very hands-on.

After the curriculum, Ruth wrote scripts for the videos that accompanied each of the 12 units.

Then they filmed the videos, set up the website, email system, shopping cart, and tackled all of the technical stuff. (Ruth outsources these tasks!)

The course took 9 months of development. It was the biggest investment she's made into her business so far in terms of both time and money.

The first session of Elite Blog Academy was launched in September 2014. Ruth expected to enroll maybe 100 students. Instead, they enrolled 700 students, which was the max capacity for their first run!

The feedback has been incredible for the first group. They have a forum where they can connect, and they're sharing amazing success stories. In just 2 months they're seeing double and triple numbers in traffic and income growth.

FYI: Ruth will open the course again in the Spring, and you can sign up to be notified when it opens.

Struggling to market your book or grow your blog?  Ruth has you covered!  Learn 7 new tips for marketing your way to a best-seller.  Learn what Ruth is doing right now to kill it on Pinterest.  Click the photo, then click play on the podcast player in the post to listen to her interview while you get things done!  | brilliantbusinessmoms.com

4 Strategies for Blog Growth

Ruth has used multiple strategies through the years to grow her blog. She shares 4 things that have worked well for her at different times.

  1. Content - Start by having fantastic content. Your content must solve a problem and provide value to the reader.
  2. SEO - Optimize every post to include the keywords you'd like to target. Ruth optimized every single thing, even at the very beginning. Eventually Google took notice. When the TV show extreme couponing came out 6 months after Ruth started blogging, her series called The Beginner's Guide to Coupons was the first search result for "how to use coupons".  Suddenly, Ruth went from having no traffic to over 5,000 people a day on her site.
  3. Pinterest - Ruth became active on Pinterest early and saw a huge spike going from 100,000 pageviews per month to over a million per month due to Pinterest.
  4. Facebook - There was a phase when Facebook was really big for Ruth. She went from 30,000 visitors a day to 50,000 visitors a day by being active and sharing content on Facebook.  (Having trouble with Facebook?  Crystal Paine shares the Facebook strategies that are working for her.)

"Part of blogging," Ruth says, "is being aware of all these different areas for potential growth. Ride the waves as they come, and never put all your eggs in one basket."

The Perfect Pin - Ruth Explains All!

With Pinterest's Smart Feed, having fantastic content is even more important. Pinterest is selecting certain pins over others and weighing some things more heavily depending on the strength of the Pin. It's imperative to have the perfect pin for every post.

The Perfect Pin has 3 Main Elements:

  1. Content - Solve a problem, and make the reader want to read Right Now. (You don't have to solve world hunger, it could be a greasy hair problem! Or, if you're a food blogger you can solve the problem of what's for dinner, and provide that sense of urgency too.)
  2. Image + Graphics - Your photo is your cover. It has to grab people's attention. (Again, though, it's the content that will make those new readers want to keep reading.)
  3. Description - Explain the problem you're solving and why the reader should read your post right now. Be compelling; draw the reader in.

(Grab more Pinterest Strategies from Melissa Will + Crystal Paine)

A Day in the Life of a ProBlogger

Ruth's typical day starts around 4 AM. She has a cup of coffee, writes her list of what she needs to accomplish for the day, has devotional time, sometimes goes for a run, and then dives into her work. Ruth uses that early morning time as Eat That Frog time. She works on big projects, such as books or other content to write.

Her husband wakes up at 7 and gets the girls up. From 7-8 she helps her husband Chuck get the girls ready for school.

Chuck is a stay-at-home dad and keeps everything running at home for them. Ruth knows that having a stay-at-home parent is a luxury. She's so blessed to have him to focus on all the details that she would forget.

When Chuck takes the girls to school, Ruth goes back to work from 8:30 - 3:30 or 4 in the afternoon. Evenings and weekends are reserved for family time.

Struggling to market your book or grow your blog?  Ruth has you covered!  Learn 7 new tips for marketing your way to a best-seller.  Learn what Ruth is doing right now to kill it on Pinterest.  Click the photo, then click play on the podcast player in the post to listen to her interview while you get things done!  | brilliantbusinessmoms.com

The Big Leap

Ruth's husband wasn't always a stay-at-home dad. He was an aerospace engineer for 30 years, but he hated his job. In April 2013, the Soukups made the leap as Chuck left his job to be a stay-at-home dad while Ruth's blogging career would support the family.

At the time, Ruth's blog was growing, she was homeschooling her girls, and they all knew something had to give. Still, it was a risky move. The blog was making money, but not at the level that it is today.

Being completely debt-free (including their house!) along with owning a rental property and some other investments gave them the freedom to take the plunge.

Once Chuck came home, Ruth was able to focus 100% of her energy on the blog and business, and it grew so much more than it ever had before.

Ruth went from a solo show to hiring 2 full-time assistants who work in-office with her, and she has many contract employees as well.

Ruth Soukup dishes on life as a full-time mom blogger, what's working for her right now on Pinterest, and how she marketed her book into a best-seller.  Click the post, then press play on the podcast player so you can listen while you work!  | brilliantbusinessmoms.com

A Funny, Messy Mom Moment!

You'll have to tune in to hear Ruth's funny story of getting the house ready for Thanksgiving....and the catastrophe that can happen when kids and dogs are involved!

Stay in Touch with Ruth!

LivingWellSpendingLess.com
EliteBlogAcademy.com

What were your takeaways from the podcast?  Most of all, I was encouraged that Ruth was once a newbie just struggling to grow her blog too.  With tons of hard work, constant learning, and persistence, she's become a huge success!

And of course, Sarah and I learned some great strategies for marketing a book.  Did we mention that our first book is coming out in February?!  If you're on our email list you'll be the first to know :)

~ Beth Anne

 

Direct download: Episode206220Ruth_mixdown20final.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 10:18am EST

Have you been blogging for years with little results?  Sarah Mackenzie is proof that with focus, intention, and creating a great product, you can turn your blog into a career.  Hear her story, plus learn how to market a book on the brilliant business moms podcast.  brilliantbusinessmoms.com/61

Have you had a blog for years? Is it something you do for fun, or are you secretly hoping that one day things will take off and it will turn into something more? Sarah Mackenzie is proof that blogging for fun can absolutely turn into something more with intentional work, focus, and the creation of a fabulous product.

Just one year ago, Sarah decided to take her blog of 4 years a bit more seriously. She began writing with more intention, and she surveyed the readers she had to make sure the topics she wrote on were making a big impact.

As Sarah continued to write on a topic close to her heart – homeschooling -- she started digging deeper into the concept of teaching from a place of rest. What started as a blog series quickly turned into a book. What started as a book quickly turned into a group of products – the book, audio interviews with experts, and a printable journal. What started as another blog series quickly turned into a podcast on reading aloud to your children. 3,000 sales and 100,000 downloads later, Sarah has a successful book and podcast to add to her name.

Hear her story to learn excellent advice on marketing your book, developing an affiliate program, and many other great tips and tricks you might not have considered.   It's obvious from all the laughing in this interview that we had a great time interviewing Sarah!

On the Podcast

01:34 – Blogging for Fun
03:03 – Making the Most Impact
04:42 – Writing a Book
06:33 – 3,000 Sales
12:25 – Reaching Bloggers
13:22 – Affiliate Program Tools
14:04 – A Unique Way to Say “Thanks”
15:13 – A Tip for Amazon Success
16:48 – Book Sales: The Stats
20:12 – Tiered Pricing – Does it Work?
24:01 – How She Does It
25:48 – The Art of Idea-Taming
30:49 – How to Find Help + What Tasks to Delegate
33:58 – A Great Tool for Podcasters
36:04 – 100,000 Downloads
38:06 – Sarah’s Favorite Biz Tool
39:16 – A Funny Mom Moment

Blogging for Fun

Sarah started her blog, Amongst Lovely Things in 2009 to document what she was doing in her homeschool. It was a casual, chatty blog for her, family, and friends. Sarah quickly realized how much she loved blogging, and for five years, she’s never taken more than 5 days off from writing.

On Thanksgiving of 2013, Sarah decided to be more intentional in growing her blog.

Making the Most Impact

Just after Sarah had her set of twins. (Did we mention she’s a Mama to six children, ages 12, 11, 9, 2, and 1 year-old twins?!) she realized she didn’t have time to blog endlessly, so she needed to make sure she was writing about the things her readers loved reading about.

After surveying her readers, Sarah discovered that their favorite topics were the same ones she most enjoyed writing about. She let gluten-free living and photography posts fall by the wayside, and was able to focus on the blog posts that made the most impact.

(I think this is a great lesson for all of us. None of us should really spend endless amounts of time blogging. How can we focus and truly make the most impact?)

Have you been blogging for years with little results?  Sarah Mackenzie is proof that with focus, intention, and creating a great product, you can turn your blog into a career.  Hear her story, plus learn how to market a book on the brilliant business moms podcast.  brilliantbusinessmoms.com/61

Writing a Book

Sarah admits that she never set out to write a book. She was moved by this idea of teaching from a place of rest and being at peace with the kind of homeschooling mom that God had called her to be. She didn’t want to be anxious, frenetic, and constantly running at 100 miles per hour.

As Sarah set out on a journey to discover what it meant to teach from rest, she began to write about it. She launched her blog series in February of 2014, which is classic burnout season for most homeschooling parents!

Her audience responded well to her series, so Sarah just kept writing. At that point, she realized that she might have more than just a blog series on her hands. She might have a book!

3,000 Sales

Sarah sells her book in two places: On her website as a PDF, where she also sells 2 companion products, and on Amazon as a Kindle book.

Sarah believes that her 3,000 sales came from the help and promotion of many bloggers she admires along with loyal readers. Here’s how she got them involved in her book launch.

Sarah sent her book to about 40-50 bloggers whose readers might be interested in the message of her book. She simply sent them an email letting them know, “I have this book. I thought it might bless you.” No strings attached.

Only if the bloggers responded back saying they enjoyed the book or wanted to share it with their readers did Sarah write back and tell them about her affiliate program, send them a link to sign up, and offer for them to give a copy of her book away for free on their blogs.

In addition, Sarah sent her book to 150 of her most loyal readers. These are the people who always leave comments on her blog or that she chats with via email. Sarah really wanted her long-time readers to just have her book for free. Again, these same wonderful, loyal readers would probably be the group who would go out of their way to leave Sarah a review on Amazon or spread the word about the book.

Sarah sent this emails out to both groups about 1 month before the book launched. By the time she officially launched, she had about 10-15 reviews on Amazon. Many people in the homeschooling sphere were already talking about the book and creating buzz.

Sarah says the launch strategy became much bigger than herself:
“It was sort of like a big ripple, like I just tossed the rock in and it kept going.”

Reaching Bloggers

You won't leave a great impression when your first interaction with someone is you asking them to promote your stuff.

Sarah recommends engaging other bloggers in conversation on their blogs and on social media. When you finally reach out and say, “Hey I have this thing,” they might actually take a look at it.

Sarah’s pretty convinced that many of the bloggers she emailed didn’t even look at her book, but that’s ok. It only takes a few influencers to start the conversation before it generates some buzz.

Have you been blogging for years with little results?  Sarah Mackenzie is proof that with focus, intention, and creating a great product, you can turn your blog into a career.  Hear her story, plus learn how to market a book on the brilliant business moms podcast.  brilliantbusinessmoms.com/61

Affiliate Program Tools

WP Affiliate – a plug-in to create affiliate links and track sales. The program tells Sarah how much she owes each affiliate at the end of the month, and she can pay them through Paypal.
WP E-store – made by the same people as WP Affiliate, and Sarah used to use this as her payment system
Gumroad – Sarah’s current checkout system

A Unique Way to Say “Thanks”

Sarah did interviews with four experts in the field of homeschooling, and those interviews made up the audio companion to her book. All of these individuals took the time to do interviews with Sarah out of the kindness of their hearts.

As a way to say thanks, Sarah offered these four individuals a 75% commission on their affiliate sales of her book. This turned out to be much larger compensation for each of them than Sarah could have ever offered up front. It’s been a really fabulous way to show them how much she appreciates them.

For reference, Sarah’s other affiliates receive a 30% commission for each sale they refer.

A Tip for Amazon Success

“Reviews really have a huge impact,” Sarah says. “You don’t need a ton of them. People just need to see that others have purchased your book and enjoyed it.”

Amazon recommends books more often when those books have higher ratings and more reviews.

Book Sales: The Stats

Sarah’s book sales come primarily through her own website. When the book first launched, she sold 5x as many on her site when compared to the Kindle store.  However, as things progress, those numbers are evening out.

Sarah has sold 3,000 copies in just 6 months since her book launch.

Tiered Pricing – Does it Work?

80% of Sarah’s sales on her site have been for her combined package:  the e-book, journal, and audio companion.  The rest of her sales are often for the journal and audio companion, and Sarah believes those sales come from people who bought her book first via the Kindle store.

It’s encouraging to see that customers are not opting for the most affordable option, but rather the option that provides the most help and value.

Sarah says of her journal that she wanted her book to not just be an inspiring for a day and then be put down and forgotten about. She wanted to make a difference in readers’ lives. The journal helps readers translate her writing into a different way of looking at their day, a different way of looking at their kids, and a different way of looking at their homeschooling calling.

Have you been blogging for years with little results?  Sarah Mackenzie is proof that with focus, intention, and creating a great product, you can turn your blog into a career.  Hear her story, plus learn how to market a book on the brilliant business moms podcast.  brilliantbusinessmoms.com/61

How She Does It

Although never a self-described morning person, after Sarah had her twins, she realized that if she wanted to write or be creative, she’d have to get up early to do it. Sarah gets up at 5 AM to write each day.

On the weekends, her husband gives her a couple of 3-hour time blocks to work.

Sarah tries not to fit too much work into the edges of each day, because it’s hard for her to focus on homeschooling the kids or homemaking when she has a million ideas in her brain!

The Art of Idea-Taming

Sarah confesses to having a million ideas swirling around in her brain at all times. (I can relate!)   To keep the ideas in check, Sarah keeps a blackbound journal close to where she is at all times. When she has an idea, she writes it down.

If she tries to hold the idea in her head, she’ll either completely ignore everyone around her so she doesn’t lose it, or the idea will be gone forever.

Sarah’s journal is bursting with all sorts of ideas, and every once in a while she’ll look back through it to remind herself of both the great ideas and… the not-so-great ones.

Sarah read about Ryan Holiday’s Notecard System.  (Looks pretty great, actually! I might give it a try!) but this wasn’t a great solution for her. She’s got too many little ones around who might actually eat those note cards, or the note cards became a tool for trapping spiders instead of ideas.

When she’s on the computer, Sarah uses Scapple.  It’s brainstorming software for those who are into mind-mapping. It’s made by the people who created Scrivener.

How to Find Help + What to Delegate

Sarah is currently at the early stages of bringing on extra help in her business. She’s relying on the community of podcasters and bloggers she already knows to recommend great people who can edit her podcasts or provide other support.

In terms of delegating, Sarah puts tasks into 3 categories:

  • Things she’s good at
  • Things she’s not so good at
  • Things she dreads doing

The last two categories can likely be delegated!

A Great Tool for Podcasters

The SmartCast Player is a $30 plug-in that will automatically play your most recent podcast episode.

You can style the widget to match your blog’s colors and fonts, and it’s mobile responsive.

This simple little sidebar widget lets people know immediately that you have a podcast, and they can try a sample right away.

100,000 Downloads

At the time of our interview with Sarah, she was just putting out her 14th episode of her podcast, and she was closing in on 100,000 downloads! That’s astronomical considering the number of episodes!

Once again, Sarah never intended to start a podcast, but she was trying to find a way to get her readers more excited about reading aloud to their children. Her Read-Aloud Revival Series on the blog wasn’t taking off as she’d hoped, so she started a podcast to bring the revival to life.

Sarah had no idea she’d love podcasting as much as she does. (It shows! Sarah has a natural talent for it!)

Sarah’s Favorite Biz Tool

Sarah’s favorite tool for growing her business is listening to podcasts! (We’re big fans of podcasts too ;)

She loves that she can gain a skill while she’s doing other things throughout her day like going for a walk or folding laundry. There’s so much that can be learned, even as a busy mom who can’t devote 100% of their attention to something.

Have you been blogging for years with little results?  Sarah Mackenzie is proof that with focus, intention, and creating a great product, you can turn your blog into a career.  Hear her story, plus learn how to market a book on the brilliant business moms podcast.  brilliantbusinessmoms.com/61

A Funny Mom Moment

We interviewed Sarah a few months ago, so you get to hear about her 2 year-old’s take on a trip to the pumpkin patch. It’s super cute!

Stay in Touch with Sarah Mackenzie!

AmongstLovelyThings.com

Direct download: Episode206120Sarah20Mackenzi_mixdown20final.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 12:40am EST

Do you struggle with defining your target audience, then knowing how to market to them?  Learn from Jess and Whitney of Moody Sisters Skincare.  They've built their skincare line using a test

Does the thought of working with your sister make your eyelid twitch a little?  Over and over, Sarah and I hear from other Mompreneurs about how impressed they are that we work together.  "My sister would drive me crazy!" they say.  The truth is, sometimes Sarah and I do drive each other crazy, but when we interviewed Jess Piestrup and Whitney Acheson of Moody Sisters Skincare, we discovered we weren't alone.

Despite the craziness, working with your sister can be a wonderful way to grow a business.  Chances are, you each bring different strengths to the table, and there's no one who will love you, quirks and all, quite like a sister will.

Whether you have a sister or not, there's so much to learn from Jess and Whitney's story.  They've figured out how to cater to their target audience with a strategy that we think is pure genius!  Beyond that, they routinely find MORE members of their target audience by partnering with bloggers.  Hear all the details about how they achieve success, plus some funny sister antics too!

On the Podcast

01:59 - How Solving Skin Problems Became a Business
05:48 – From Hobby to Full-time Gig
07:50 – Using Test-Panels to Skyrocket your Success
10:43 – Blogger Outreach: Where to Go + What to Do
15:09 – Getting Great Photos
17:11 – A Photography Secret You Should Know About
19:09 – The Best Source for, well…. Sourcing things!
20:43 – A Moody Sisters Setback (+ how they recovered)
22:59 – Tips on Teamwork
26:01 – How to Work with Your Sis (without going crazy!)
29:13 – The Tool that Kicked their Business into High Gear
31:37 – Adorable, Fun, and Crazy Mom Moments

How Solving Skin Problems Became a Business

Whitney has struggled with allergies and skin sensitivities for many years. It was difficult to find any skin-care or hygiene products that she could use. Even simple things like washing her face were a struggle!

Whitney’s sister Jess chimed in with advice on using essential oils and making products at home. The sisters met on weekends to create new products and test them out.

As they worked and created, they thought to themselves, “Wouldn’t it be cool to have a business where we could create different bath salts or skincare products?”

As they honed their skills, they realized that their products were pretty great! Whitney set to work designing and printing little labels on her InkJet printer, and soon the sisters took things from a crazy idea to an Etsy shop.

The Moody Sisters received orders their very first day on Etsy. At that point they knew they could turn their skin-care hobby into a business.

Do you struggle with defining your target audience, then knowing how to market to them?  Learn from Jess and Whitney of Moody Sisters Skincare.  They've built their skincare line using a test panel of loyal customers.  Hear their advice on how to partner with bloggers to not just gain more exposure but more sales.  Plus, they've got a top-secret product photo trick to share!  Hear the interview with these talented mompreneurs at brilliantbusinessmoms.com

From Hobby to Full-time Gig

From October of 2010 until May of 2013, The Moody Sisters continued to treat their Etsy shop like a fun hobby. They spent those years putting their feelers out there to see what people liked, what they could make well, and what their identity would be as a business.

As their sales started growing, getting together once a month to make products wasn’t cutting it anymore. Both Jess and Whitney were spending a lot of time on the shop while balancing other jobs. Jess was working full-time in the corporate world, and Whitney was working for another company from home. Life was getting too chaotic to do both jobs well.

At the same time, Jess’ family was considering a move across the country. She wasn’t happy with her current job, so that along with the growth of the business made both Moody Sisters decide to go all in and make their skincare biz their full-time gig.

How a Test-Panel can Skyrocket your Success

When you run a business online, it’s often much more difficult to figure out who your target market is and find a way to get in front of them. You don’t have the luxury of seeing each customer walk into your store and give you immediate feedback on your products.

Jess and Whitney came up with a killer solution to this problem: They created a test panel!

Picking from some of their most loyal customers, they asked these ladies if they’d be willing to answer questions about the business and test new products.

This test panel of fabulous women helped the Moody Sisters determine what new items their customers wanted and in what directions the business should go next.

They’ve been a tremendous help to Jess and Whitney, and in exchange, they receive credits for products from the Moody Sisters that they already love.

Do you struggle with defining your target audience, then knowing how to market to them?  Learn from Jess and Whitney of Moody Sisters Skincare.  They've built their skincare line using a test panel of loyal customers.  Hear their advice on how to partner with bloggers to not just gain more exposure but more sales.  Plus, they've got a top-secret product photo trick to share!  Hear the interview with these talented mompreneurs at brilliantbusinessmoms.com

Blogger Outreach: Where to Go + What to Do

Connecting with bloggers has been huge for Jess and Whitney’s business. They share several tips on how to find the right blogs and what to do once you’re there.

Where to Go

  1. The Moody Sisters always start by asking their customers about their favorite blogs and what they’ve been reading lately. Chances are, if their customers are reading those blogs, their friends and other members of their target audience are too. They do polls with incentives on their Facebook page or they ask their test panel for recommendations.
  2. They look for blogs themselves. Since Jess and Whitney embody their target market, they know that analyzing what they enjoy reading or what their friends are talking about is a great strategy. Whitney says that if a blog isn’t appealing to her, she’ll pass on a partnership. If she’s not interested, chances are her customers won’t be either.

What to Do
Since Moms often purchase based on feedback from other moms, Jess and Whitney find that reviews are much more valuable than giveaways for their business.

Whitney says, “The most valuable content we can have is having someone get a product of ours, try it, absolutely fall in love with it, and want to tell the whole world, because you can sense their enthusiasm and their honesty in the review.”

When a reader already trusts that blogger, she’s more likely to give the products a try too.

Getting Great Photos

Once the Moody Sisters decided what colors, look, and feel were part of their brand, they knew they wanted a professional photographer to take their photos.

They asked a friend who typically does family photography if she might attempt product photos for them. Samantha Witt gave it a try and continues to do an amazing job taking all of The Moody Sisters product photos.

Jess and Whitney send Samantha boxes of their products, backgrounds, props, and huge lists of what they’d like, and Samantha does the rest!

(We recommend this technique as well.  Beth Anne’s friend Ariel has taken all of the outdoor, lifestyle photos in The Amateur Naturalist shop.)

Psssst! A Photography Secret

How do the Moody Sisters achieve the fun, but natural feel of their Skincare Products through photos? They have a secret source!

They buy vinyl photography backdrops from the SwankyPrints Shop on Etsy. There are thousands of options to choose from!

Recently, Whitney purchased some 12 by 12 squares to tie in the feel of their brand with their Instagram account. How smart is that?!

Do you struggle with defining your target audience, then knowing how to market to them?  Learn from Jess and Whitney of Moody Sisters Skincare.  They've built their skincare line using a test panel of loyal customers.  Hear their advice on how to partner with bloggers to not just gain more exposure but more sales.  Plus, they've got a top-secret product photo trick to share!  Hear the interview with these talented mompreneurs at brilliantbusinessmoms.com
We love how fun Jess and Whitney are!

The Best Source for Sourcing things!

Jess and Whitney are part of the Indie Beauty Network. They obtain their business insurance from the network, but the group provides support in so many other ways too.

There’s a private Facebook group that’s full of other men and women with independent beauty businesses. There are soapmakers, candle makers…. you name it!  There’s always someone who’s willing to help them to find suppliers for new ingredients they want to try, or find the same supplies at a better price.

It seems that no matter what venture you’re part of online, developing relationships in your niche is so very important.  (Anne + Abby both speak to the integral role blogging buddies have played in their success!)

A Moody Sisters Setback

When Jess, her husband, and their daughter decided to move across the country, The Moody Sisters thought they had developed the perfect plan to move forward with their business.

Jess was supposed to take over product production and shipping from her new home in Florida. Whitney was going to handle online listings and customer service.

Once Jess arrived in Florida, the sisters quickly determined that product production would not be an option there. Cosmetics are highly-regulated in Florida, and you cannot make anything out of your home that has to do with beauty or skincare.

The sisters scrambled to find a way to move forward. All of the supplies were shipped back to Cashmere, Washington where Whitney lives, and they had to re-structure all of their job duties.

Tips on Teamwork

So how did Jess and Whitney move forward and decide who would work on which tasks?

After listing out every single task that had to be done each week or each month, delegation was based on 2 Factors

  1. What does each sister enjoy doing the most?
  2. What is each sister realistically good at doing?

The Moody Sisters have broken down tasks like this:
Detail-oriented Jess handles the details of each product listing, checks for grammar and accuracy. She’s also great at customer service, so every email from customers gets funneled right to her.
Effervescent, Idea-Girl Whitney tackles new strategies, social media, and some aspects of branding and design.

(Sounds like a great way to figure out how to delegate. This might apply to your blog or business and the team you’ve assembled too!)

moody-sisters-mysterious-mom-online-entrepreneurs

How to Work with Your Sis

Always full of crazy, big ideas, Whitney says, “Jess having to reign me in on a daily basis is probably mind-maddening.”

Yet Jess admits that without Whitney, they wouldn’t have a business at all. “She comes up with the awesome business ideas, and then I just try my best to make them work.”

(Jess and Whitney’s relationship sounds so similar to Sarah and mine that we were cracking up! I have to say, it’s wonderful to work with someone whose strengths are so different from my own, and someone I can be incredibly honest and open with. We might not have a business without me, but our business would have no direction or focus without Sarah!)

A High-Powered Business Tool

Jess and Whitney use ShipStation to fulfill and ship all of their orders. The program can pull orders from both their Etsy shop and their Squarespace site. Product information can be entered and saved so that every time a given product is ordered, the program automatically assigns it a shipping weight.

ShipStation also sends out email notifications with the attached tracking number. The whole process is automated, which makes the Moody Sisters’ job so much more enjoyable.

Adorable, Fun, and Crazy Mom Moments

With Jess having a fourteen year-old and Whitney having an 18 month and a 6 year-old, there’s always something crazy going on with the Moody Sisters’ kids! Tune in to hear the latest.

Find the Moody Sisters’ Great Products

MoodySistersSkincare.com

Pin this post so you can reference the Moody Sisters' Great Business Advice later!

Do you struggle with defining your target audience, then knowing how to market to them?  Learn from Jess and Whitney of Moody Sisters Skincare.  They've built their skincare line using a test panel of loyal customers.  Hear their advice on how to partner with bloggers to not just gain more exposure but more sales.  Plus, they've got a top-secret product photo trick to share!  Hear the interview with these talented mompreneurs at brilliantbusinessmoms.com

Direct download: Episode206020Moody20Sisters_mixdow20final.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 3:30am EST

Have you ever considered a daily deal site for your small business?  Amy Gabriel makes hundreds of sales by partnering with Jane.com to get more eyes on her products and gain new customers.  Learn how Amy has grown her handmade business through daily deal sites, and how can you do it too!  Brilliant Business Moms Podcast featuring Mompreneurs each week.

Have you ever considered being a vendor with a deal site as a way to expand your business? If we're being perfectly honest, Sarah and I had never considered the idea! We wrongly assumed that deal sites were only for larger companies or manufactured items. After talking with Amy Gabriel of Gabriel’s Good Tidings, we discovered that many small, handmade businesses sell on deal sites as well.

For Amy, they’ve made the difference between supporting her husband through grad school versus struggling to get by. They’ve put food on the table for her family, and helped her husband to accomplish his goals. After listening today, maybe you’ll discover that deal sites would be a great fit for your business too.

Psssst!  Amy was not only generous with her time and great advice, she's sharing a generous deal with all of our Brilliant Business Moms listeners!  Grab 50% off in Amy's shop by using the coupon code BrilliantBizMom.  Now through December 31, 2014.  How sweet is that?!  Thanks, Amy!

On the Podcast

01:54 – How Amy Got her Start
05:58 – Daily Deal Sites: 2 Factors to Consider
09:22 – Developing Relationships
12:06 – Quantity – How Much is Too Much?
13:30 – Making a Profit
14:56 - On Productivity
20:58 – Her other Half
25:26 - Jane.com Insider Info
30:13 – Details on Inventory
31:24 - How Making Friends can Grow your Business
35:55 – Using a Giveaway to Gain Subscribers
38:01 – What to Include in Your Newsletter
40:56 – Business Advice + Books
44:07 – How She Does It
46:46 – Amy’s Funny Mom Moment

How Amy Got her Start

Amy has had a sewing machine for as long as she can remember. Her mother and grandmother worked with her as a teenager to teach her the basics. She helped her grandmother sew her prom dress, and in college she sewed curtains and pillows. Sewing is something Amy has enjoyed as a hobby for years.

In 2012, Amy’s husband, Mallory, wanted to go back to school for a master’s degree. He and Amy both knew that for this to be possible, Amy would have to provide most of the family’s income. Amy and Mallory have two children, ages 5 and 7 years old.

For quite a while, Amy worked outside the home and had her Etsy shop on the side. After experiencing the 2012 Holiday Season on Etsy, and then learning about deal sites through a friend, Amy’s business really took off.

Daily deal sites became the bread and butter for her business, because she was able to get her products in front of a much larger audience, and sell large quantities at one time. Now, Amy’s business provides at least 75% of their family’s income.

Amy's adorable lip balm holders
Amy's adorable lip balm holders

Daily Deal Sites: 2 Factors to Consider

Amy notes two important factors to consider before signing up with a particular deal site.

1. How streamlined is their process for working with vendors?
Jane.com recently set up a vendor portal, which makes it easy to submit your product photos, bullet point the item’s details, lay out quantities and pricing, and then hear back yes or no. If a deal site isn’t organized or streamlined, you’ll spend much more time sending emails back and forth.

2. How much traffic does the site get?
There are many daily deal sites out there. You want your product to get in front of the most people at one time, because you’ll get a bigger return on your investment for all the time you spent taking photos, refining the contract, etc. Check out the site’s social media presence and connect with other vendors to discern their sell-through rates.

Developing Relationships

Sarah and I were curious about the process of “getting in” with a deal site. Is it difficult? What’s involved?

Amy confessed that for her, getting in was easy and she believes this is because her product, lip balm holders, had not been featured on any deal sites before, and deal sites weren’t quite as big when she started 18 months ago.

Amy offers these points for getting started:

  • Keep in mind that your information is going to a real person, not a computer system. Be personable. Introduce yourself.
  • If you have a mutual contact who sells with that site, let them know.
  • Give them as many details about your product and pricing as possible up front. This makes it much easier for them to say yes versus them spending more time trying to get more information from you. For example, let them know what price you can offer for the deal, and what percentage off your retail price this would be.
  • Include what quantity you can offer. (Jane.com has minimum quantities of 50 for handmade items and 100 for manufactured items.)
  • Once you’re accepted for a deal, it’s fairly easy to keep re-booking and simply hone your price point and quantities.
Amy's home office - where she gets the occasional visit from a princess.
Amy's home office - where she gets the occasional visit from a princess.

Quantity: How Much is Too Much

Jane.com is always open to higher quantities from their vendors, so that’s the good news. However, Amy recommends starting small at first. Get your feet wet, figure out shipping and tracking first, and then book a larger deal when you sell out.

FYI, Amy’s biggest sale was 630 lip balm holders in November of 2013. (Wow! That’s a lot of sewing and shipping to do!)

Making a Profit

With a smaller ticket item such as a lip balm holder, Sarah and I were curious about making a profit. Amy accomplishes this by buying her supplies at wholesale cost since she sells hundreds of items at a time. She can purchase supplies by the thousands and maintain a healthy profit margin.

On Productivity

How does Amy manage to sew 600 lip balm holders at a time?! She offers several tips and tricks.

  • Jane.com allows 14 days from the day of your sales to make the items. Amy generally takes advantage of the entire 14-day period.
  • She divides her holders by thread color and sews with the same thread color on a given day
  • Amy makes a game of sewing by laying out, for example, 2 chevron plus 1 polka dot, and repeating this little pattern over and over to help her change things up.
  • She listens to podcasts, audiobooks, or music while she’s sewing to keep her brain engaged.
  • Sometimes she sets a timer on her phone and resolves to sew for 30 minutes straight. She won’t look at her phone or allow any distractions until the timer is up.
  • She sets small goals for herself like sewing 30 holders in the next 30 minutes.
  • It helps that her product has simple, straight lines. The process can get boring, but she can make the holders very quickly.  (Amy’s personal record is about 40 holders in 30 minutes!)
  • When Amy receives a massive order, she calculates the total number of sewing hours she’ll need to complete the order. From there, she divides that by 6 (giving herself a day off) so she knows how many hours she needs to spend sewing each day.

Amy Gabriel of Gabriel's Good Tidings shares how she uses deal sites like Jane.com to grow her handmade business.  Learn how she's turned this business into a full-time income, and how you can do it too!  Weekly interviews from Work-at-Home-Moms at brilliantbusinessmoms.com

Her Other Half

Amy knows one thing for sure: her business wouldn’t be nearly as successful without the help of her husband.

Although he hasn’t learned to sew (and since he’s graduating in December, it probably won’t happen!) but he knows how to cut materials, pin things together, finish the lip balm holders with hooks, and ship items.

Amy says that Mallory blesses her so much, because he’ll be gone all day working at an unpaid internship and then classes at night, then he sits down with her while they talk, watch TV, and finish each lip balm holder together. (They sound like an amazing pair! We love husband and wife teams!)

Amy Gabriel of Gabriel's Good Tidings shares how she uses deal sites like Jane.com to grow her handmade business.  Learn how she's turned this business into a full-time income, and how you can do it too!  Weekly interviews from Work-at-Home-Moms at brilliantbusinessmoms.com

Jane.com Insider Info

Jane.com takes 25% of the total sales price as their commission. This is much higher than Etsy, but in exchange, your products are seen by thousands more people.

Typically a deal runs for 72 hours at a time, and Jane encourages more sales by playing on the urgency factor.

Amy loves the torrential downpour of selling with Jane.com versus Etsy, which feels more like a slow drip and a continual to-do list.

Details on Inventory

Amy used to pre-make everything before a deal would go live on Jane.com or before listing it in her Etsy shop. As her volume and business grew, that wasn’t possible anymore.

Jane’s policy is that you must have the item in your possession before the deal goes live. Amy always has all of the materials for each item on hand, but usually she’s sewn only 10% of the items, and the rest of her inventory is at different stages of the creation process.

Making Friends & Growing a Business

Early on, Amy reached out to several other sellers on Jane.com and became friends with them. Her circle has become invaluable as a source of advice and new business leads.

They give each other tips on which shipping systems to use, what label printers are best, and so much more.

They tell each other about new subscription box companies and offer new contacts.

When it comes to boxes, some will pay you a wholesale price for your items, whereas others will want the item for free in exchange for advertising. Both can be effective, but in the past Amy’s family needed the income more than the advertising, so she’s only agreed to subscription boxes who pay her for each item.

Through 2 subscription box companies, Amy has gotten two large wholesale orders. Making friends in your industry is not only a great source of encouragement, but it can help your business to grow as well.

Amy Gabriel of Gabriel's Good Tidings shares how she uses deal sites like Jane.com to grow her handmade business.  Learn how she's turned this business into a full-time income, and how you can do it too!  Weekly interviews from Work-at-Home-Moms at brilliantbusinessmoms.com

Using a Giveaway to Gain Subscribers

Amy hosted a giveaway on MoneySavingMom in August. She offered a coupon code that was good for 7 days and gave her new customers 50% off in her Etsy shop.

However, Amy used a genius strategy to not just encourage immediate sales, but retain longer-term customers. She offered a coupon code for $5 off a $10 purchase for anyone who signed up for her email list. She gained many new subscribers this way, because people wanted a coupon they could hold onto for later.

Amy uses MailChimp for her email service provider (we do too!) and she loves it (same here!). Her coupon code gets sent to each new subscriber in her Welcome email.

What to Include in Your Newsletter

Amy sends a monthly newsletter and generally includes 3 things:

  1. New products – Amy showcases new products she has or new patterns and designs to encourage new visits and sales
  2. Discontinued/Clearance Items – Amy incentivizes sales of items that are in limited supply or are on sale
  3. Something Personal - Amy loves to give her customers a glimpse into her life.  For example, she’s done a countdown to her husband’s graduation. There are people who sign up for Amy’s emails just because they like her story and following her family. They want to see what happens next, and they feel more invested in her business.

Business Advice + Books

Amy loves Purple Cow by Seth Godin.   She takes his advice when it comes to offering exceptional customer service and appreciating each customer. She wants people to know how much she appreciates each Etsy and Jane sale. Those sales are how her family has survived grad school. “When you appreciate your customers, they will come back," Amy says.

Her favorite quote comes from Rebecca Smith of Better Life Bags.

“We do not have to be non-profits to make a difference in this world. We can be a for-profit business that does things differently.”

Have you ever felt guilty for running a business instead of a charity?  Well, you can still make a difference in the world.  You can be a for-profit business that does things differently.  Quote from Rebecca Smith of Better Life Bags

How She Does It

Amy always works at least 10 hours per week, but sometimes, it’s closer to 40.  Her work hours fluctuate based on the volume of sales.

Although she doesn’t prefer to sit at her sewing machine on a Saturday while her kids are out playing with their dad, but she views those sales as a huge blessing for her family.

She loves that she’s home all week with her kids, and she gets to be there after school and do many things that she didn’t get to do when she worked at a traditional job.

Amy’s Funny Mom Moment

Amy’s mom moment will crack you up, especially as we all get ready for Christmas!

Stay in Touch with Amy!

GabrielsGoodTidings.Etsy.com
Instagram: @gabrielsgoodtidings
Facebook: Gabriel's Good Tidings
Twitter:  @GabrielsGoodTid

Direct download: Episode205920Amy20Gabriel_mixdown.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 11:07am EST

5 Reasons Why you Should Support Small Business this Christmas.  When you support small business you support: Innovation Opportunity Families Our Economy Giving Back, and so much more.  Read more at brilliantbusinessmoms.com

As I sat at home, my little boy playing on the floor close by, preparing to record this podcast episode, so many reasons came to mind for why small businesses matter.  There are a million reasons - like the little girl who gets to take music lessons or the parents who are able to put food on the table.  There's the teenager who goes to college because his parents took a risk.  They got out of their dead-end jobs, worked their buns off, and created something from scratch.  There's the mom who teaches her kids every single day that you can create the world you want to live in.  There are a million personal stories for why small business matters.  Then, there's the bigger picture that shows what all of these small businesses mean as a whole.

Tune into the podcast to hear my take on why small business matters, plus a special announcement!

When You Support Small Business You Support:

  1. Innovation – Small businesses focus on solving problems and creating products that aren’t always driven by popular trends or sales forecasts. There are so many unique products created by makers and artisans every day - individuals who are set on making the world a better place.
  2. Opportunity – On a recent episode of Shark Tank, Daymond John said, “Being an entrepreneur is the ultimate equalizer.” There is opportunity for everyone when it comes to innovation, hustling and getting your products into stores and the hands of customers. Being an entrepreneur is hard, grueling work. It's that way for everyone. The playing field is equal and it’s all about the level of determination and work that you bring to the equation.
  3. Families – When you buy from a small business, often you’re supporting a family. You’re the reason a mom is able to be at home with her children, or that a family is able to pay their mortgage or send children to college.  You’re supporting individuals with a high level of ethics, who treat their employees like family.
  4. The US Economy - Many small businesses have products that are handmade by their owners right here in the U.S. Rather than buy plastic junk from China and factories where the working conditions are unknown, you can support quality products, eco-friendly materials, and families paying their workers fair wages.
  5. Paying it Forward - Small businesses give back.  Research indicates that over 90 percent of small business owners contribute to their communities through volunteering, in-kind contributions, and cash donations. When you support small businesses, you’re helping to pay it forward.

 Discover some great small businesses that you can support this Christmas.

Pin this graphic so you can spread the word and encourage others to SHOP SMALL this year.

5 Reasons to Shop Small this Holiday Season.  Supporting small businesses is a vote for families, the economy, innovation, opportunity, and giving back.  We hope we'll see you on Small Business Saturday!

Direct download: Episode2058_mixdown20final.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 3:30am EST

Learn how one viral Pin saved Melissa Will's blog.  @EmpressofDirt   After learning all that she could about Pinterest and crafting many viral posts since, Melissa now earns a full-time income blogging.  Hear her story on the podcast and grab the shownotes to put all of her best advice into action.  Have you ever watched in amazement as a Facebook post, Tweet, or Pin goes viral? If you’re anything like me, you immediately think about the factors that led to its virality. Was the content incredibly moving? Did it solve a huge problem? What made this post stand out among all others? How can you harness some of that virality for your own business?

Melissa Will of EmpressofDirt.net is one of those lucky (and skilled!) creators of a viral post. She was literally telling her blog readers goodbye with a round-up of her best content, when to her amazement, her post went viral on Pinterest. As Melissa shares, “I thought my website was under a robot attack!” Since that time, Melissa has learned all she can about harnessing the power of Pinterest to grow her blog.

Hold on to your seat, because this episode has enough tips on Pinterest to make you dizzy! Don’t let that overwhelm you, though. Take things one step at a time, and maybe you’ll have a story to share just like Melissa’s a year from now!

On the Podcast

01:54 – From Online Business to Blogger
08:22- Taking Advice from Others
09:07 – The Turning Point
11:08 – They’re Coming…Now What?
13:35 – Pinterest Tips + Best Practices
19:37 – How to Show up in the SmartFeed
21:19 – Pinterest SEO
26:04 – Hashtags are Over
27:28 – Best Sources for Pinterest Advice
28:16 – How to Craft Your Pinterest Routine
32:16 – The Power of a Round-Up Post
38:11 – Income Breakdown + Adsense Advice
43:47 – Hilarious Mom Moment (I know I’ve been there before!)

From Online Business to Blogger

No, that title isn’t a typo. Melissa actually started an online shop in the year 2000 – when online shops were few and far between. It was only after many years with a shop that she decided to grow her blog into a full-time profession.

Melissa’s entrepreneurial journey began when she was pregnant with her youngest daughter. She was very ill during the pregnancy and had serious complications during childbirth. She hadn’t recovered enough during maternity leave to return to work, so Melissa resigned from her job.

Melissa took up quilt-making and start hand-dying her own fabrics for her quilts. She loved fabric-dyeing so much that she needed a reason to justify all the fabric she was creating.

Her husband showed her how to use html, and they set up an online fabric shop for her. Social media didn’t exist at the time, but people found her via search engines.

Melissa received her first order just a few days after opening her online shop.

She received letters from potential customers saying that they wanted to purchase from her, but they didn’t quite trust the whole process of ordering items online. Melissa solved this problem by creating a front page for her shop that featured a journal of her life as a stay-at-home mom running an online business. Essentially, Melissa created a blog before anyone had even given the thing a name!

Melissa’s business quickly grew into wholesale orders, craft shows, and teaching fabric-dying. She was a mom by day, and a fabric-dyer and entrepreneur by night.

Melissa offers this insight:
“When you’re home with little kids, you really need to have something that’s all your own where you feel valued and creative in it, and you can really spread your wings.”

Melissa eventually became burned out from all the demands of her fabric business, and eventually she put her shop on hiatus. She continued as a hobby blogger and would read success stories about people earning their living through blogging, but she couldn’t figure out how to make it happen for herself.

Taking Advice from Others

After years of blogging with very little results, Melissa knew she had to stop doing the same old thing and let other people advise her.

She took a blogging course from Corbett Barr. (He’s one of our favorite guys over at Fizzle!) Then she got her own domain, hosting, and found an email service provider.  (Our pointers on where to grab these)

The Turning Point

In July of 2012, after taking Corbett’s course, things did pick up for Melissa’s blog. She had several hundred visitors per day, but that wasn’t enough to earn an income.

At Christmas-time in 2012, Melissa decided to say goodbye to her blog and move on to something that would provide a steady income.

She bid farewell to her readers with a summary of her best projects from the year. Melissa made her very first collage pin showing each project and put it on Pinterest. (At this point, Melissa hardly ever used the platform!) She emailed all of her subscribers and linked to her Farewell post.

Within 12 hours Melissa says she was getting message in her inbox from people she didn’t know, along with new subscriptions to her newsletter.

When she looked at her site stats, she thought that it might be under a robot attack because of the drastic increase in visitors!

Melissa said it was like her site suddenly came to life!

The Collage Post Cover that went Viral on Pinterest and Saved Melissa's Blog.  Click on the photo to check out the blog post.
The Collage Post Cover that went Viral on Pinterest and Saved Melissa's Blog. Click on the photo to check out the blog post.

They’re Coming…..Now What?

Instead of saying goodbye, Melissa spent 2013 trying to make the best use of her new-found traffic. In addition to focusing on Pinterest (which we’ll cover in great detail next!) there are five other things Melissa did to grow her blog.

  1. She focused on making her site better so that people who stumbled upon her via Pinterest would want to stay.
  2. She created an e-book - Melissa followed Pat Flynn’s advice and created an e-book based on all the projects in that Farewell Round-up Post. (Melissa makes it clear that all of the content in her e-book is readily available for free on her site, but people like the convenience of an e-book)
  3. She used Hometalk.com – You can share any projects you’ve made there and link back to your site. It’s a great way to get new visitors.
  4. She created a Blog Tribe – Melissa reached out to a blogger she didn’t know but admired and started a blog tribe with her. She and other gardening bloggers have joined together to help promote each other.
  5. Social Media – Melissa didn’t just focus on Pinterest, but got more involved in many social media channels, and learned the best practices of each platform she used, so she could harness its power to its full potential.

Pinterest Tips and Best Practices

There are 3 Basic Goals for Pinterest

  1. Get Repins
  2. Get Followers
  3. Get Clickthroughs

Once someone clicks through to your site, you’d like them to take off their coats and stay a while. Again, this relates back to great content and an easy-to-navigate site.

Melissa tells us that keeping up with the changes on Pinterest is a must, because their algorithm will always favor those pins and Pinners that follow the current best practices.

Current Best Practices for Pinterest

  • Crisp, well-composed images
  • Set up your profile properly with a nice image of yourself, great description about what you do, and a verified website URL
  • Become a trusted pinner by choosing to pin only content that links back to the original source. (Pinterest’s guideline is to make sure your pin links to something helpful.)

How to Show Up in the Smart Feed

  • Enable Rich Pins on your site  (Here’s an overview on enabling rich pins.  It looks rather complicated and you may need the help of a developer.)
  • Rich pins are, essentially, a validation system to show that your pin goes back to the original site.
  • Create engaging boards that tell a story.
  • Use titles for your boards that have relevant keywords so you’ll be found when someone searches for that topic
  • Link your board to the correct category on Pinterest (again this makes it easier to be found)
  • Change up your board covers every so often so your profile page has a new appearance
  • Push seasonal boards to the top of your profile
  • Keep your account active by adding pins to all of your boards at least every couple of weeks.  (As Melissa says, “there are rewards in the feed for those who stay active and play nice.”)

Pinterest SEO

There are 3 places where your keywords for each pin should be found.

  1. Pin descriptions – These are a huge opportunity to show up in the feed. Write in an engaging and natural style, but make sure relevant keywords are included
  2. The file name of your Pin - The search tool uses that file name to index it, so your image should be titled and saved with those important keywords included.  (This is true of any image on your site or in your Etsy shop – more on Etsy SEO here.)
  3. The URL that the image is linked to

All 3 of these places to include the correct keywords will stack up together to make your pin more visible.

Another huge factor for relevancy?

Higher engagement via more re-pins, hearts, and comments make your pin more visible in Pinterest’s new SmartFeed

How to Ensure Excellent Pins Every Time

So, you’ve figured out how to craft excellent pins, but what happens when others pin content directly from your site? I mean, it’s great, right?! But how can you take full advantage of this opportunity?

  • Use the Pin-It Button to make pinning your content easy for your readers
  • Images that are taller than they are wide often do better (aspect ratio of 2:3 or 4:5)
  • Include at least one longer image within each blog post along with the other image choices
  • Fill in alt tags for images on your site. Pin-It buttons pull the pin’s description from that alt description.
  • Note that most pinners will not compose their own description for your image, so you need to do the groundwork for them by creating an engaging, keyword-rich description via the alt-tag
  • Hashtags are now strongly discouraged on Pinterest
  • The only exception to the hashtag rule is when you’re doing a sponsored post and you’re required to include #spon or #Ad to indicate that it’s a sponsored pin.
Another successful Pin by Melissa.  This one pin alone has been re-pinned over 4,000 times!  Note the beautiful photo, helpful and compelling text, and great description of the pin.  Click the photo to view this pin on Pinterest.
Another successful Pin by Melissa. This one pin alone has been re-pinned over 4,000 times! Note the beautiful photo, helpful and compelling text, and great description of the pin. Click the photo to view this pin on Pinterest.

Hashtags are Over

  • The old advice was to use two hashtags in each pin description
  • With the new promoted pins that are surfacing, Pinterest’s guidelines indicate that one hashtag is ok, but any more than that appears spammy and will not be approved for promotion
  • More than one hashtag will actually demote the pin in the SmartFeed

The Best Sources for Pinterest Advice

The Pinterest Blog
The Oh So Pinteresting Podcast with Cynthia Sanchez
The Social Media Marketing Podcast

How to Craft Your Pinterest Routine

Melissa admits to spending only 10 minutes per day on Pinterest despite benefiting from hundreds of thousands of visitors via the site each month.

How is this possible? Melissa crafts each blog post with Pinterest in mind, and by optimizing the post and images, Pinterest does the rest of the work for her, in a way.

When she develops a new blog post idea, she creates it with sharing in mind.  She writes out a storyboard of all the images she’d like to have in the post – including ones that would do well on Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, Google+ and Twitter

Melissa has worked to build up her image library. She always has a camera with her. Whenever she finds something beautiful, that tells a story, would make a great background, she just snaps a picture.

She snaps a close-up, far-away, and small video clips.  Over time, Melissa has a huge library to pull from and can blog about any topic at any time with all of her original images.

As Melissa says, “At some point if you get a book offer or want to write an e-book, you’ve got a huge amount of new content that you can share.”

Just one example of how Melissa uses her photo arsenal to create excellent blog post cover photos and collages every time.
Just one example of how Melissa uses her photo arsenal to create excellent blog post cover photos and collages every time.

The Power of a Round-Up Post

Melissa tells us that every single one of her most popular pins has been a collage.

Over the course of a year, Melissa will write many posts that each have a uniting theme to them. Then she takes the individual posts and writes a round-up post with a collage. “They always do well,” Melissa admits.

In addition to using collages on her round-up posts, Melissa makes a collage for various menu pages on her site. For example, if you check out her Garden Ideas Section, there’s not just a list of all her posts on the topic, but a Pinnable collage with images from some of the posts. These Menu Page Collages bring lots of traffic to her site, and from those menu pages, her new visitors explore lots of content.

Melissa shares this valuable stat: Visitors stay 4-5 minutes when they arrive at her site via a menu page versus just 1-2 minutes when arriving from a typical blog post pin.  (Wow! Clearly Menu Page Collages are powerful stuff!)

Income Breakdown Plus Adsense Advice

Adsense – this is Melissa’s largest source of income
Amazon Affiliate links
E-books – Melissa has several e-books for sale on her site. She doesn’t push them or sell hard, but they continue to sell well every year
Sidebar Ads from Sponsors
Sponsored Posts – This is rare, as Melissa says yes to only 1 in 100 requests she receives

Adsense Advice

Have you heard that Adsense is only for Amateurs? Melissa is living proof that Adsense can pay off for experienced bloggers in a big way.

  • Set up targeted ads by filling in descriptions on what your site is about, who your audience is, and where on your site the ads will appear.
  • Use mobile-responsive ads. (Non mobile-responsive ads will cut off versus fit nicely on the screen, and over 50% of Melissa’s traffic is mobile.)
  • Place one square ad in the upper 3rd of every blog post
  • Use the plug-in, Quick Adsense. (It allows Melissa to place the ad exactly where she wants it to fall within the blog post, typically under the first image.)

Melissa’s Hilarious Mom Moment

This one had Sarah and I both cracking up! It reminded us so much of the harried, distracted mompreneur stage that we’re in at the moment. Can you relate?

Stay in Touch with Melissa!

EmpressofDirt.Net
And of course, you know you want to follow her on Pinterest!

Direct download: Episode205720Melissa20Will_mixdown20final.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 1:58pm EST

Learn from New Mom Entrepreneur Laura Smith of IHeartPlanners.com.  Laura makes a living designing and selling planners, planner kits, and blogging.  Hear her great tips on product photos, staying focused, and email newsletters.

Have you ever looked at someone else's success and wondered, "How did they do that?  What's their secret?"  On this episode, Laura shares some of the best advice I've heard on how to be successful.

It's both much easier and much more difficult than you'd think.

Success involves clear goals, planning, and unshakeable focus.

Tackle those 3 things, and you're well on your way.  Listen to Laura's best advice.  Seriously, it could be a game-changer for you.

P.S.  Learn how to get great product photos too!  Seriously, Laura spills some secrets we've never heard before!

P.S.S. Did we mention that Laura is a fellow Pittsburgher?  That alone, is reason enough to tune in :)

On the Podcast

01:17 - From Electrical Engineer to Entrepreneur
03:52 - The Importance of Being Focused
05:29 - Great Product Photos (4 Tips)
09:26 - How to Use Stock Photos
12:12 - 3 Ways to Get More Done
14:11 - 2 Ways to Grow
17:09 - Using an E-Course to Add Subscribers
19:35 - Email Newsletters – What to Include
22:17 - Revenue
26:14 - Business + Baby: How Life Looks Different
28:52 - The Key to Getting Things Done as a New Mom
31:22 - 3 Tools that Keep Laura Organized
37:23 - One Simple Step that You can Take Today to Get More Done

From Electrical Engineer to Entrepreneur

Laura has a degree in electrical engineering and worked as an engineer for six years. What made her quit such a stable job to start life as an entrepreneur?

For years she read blogs on how to start a business online. She didn’t have the confidence or courage to try it, but she enjoyed learning all she could about the process.  In 2012, she decided it was time to stop letting “fear for no reason” hold her back.

One year later, she quit her engineering job to grow her business full-time.

Thankfully, with her husband’s income, Laura was able to quit her job before her business was earning its own full-time salary. She was blessed to be able to focus on growing the business before they had children.

The Importance of Being Focused

Laura has always loved planners, but she didn’t have the confidence early on to recognize that she could build a business around them.

A few months into blogging, Laura realized that her passion was organizing, and people were relating to those posts on her site. She re-branded her site from SuperSweetLife to IHeartPlanners and has narrowed her business focus around this one topic.

“If you try to pursue too many things, it’s just really hard to become very good at any of them and really turn it into something profitable.”

I Heart Planners by Mompreneur Laura Smith.  Listen to her best business advice on the Brilliant Business Moms podcast.

Great Product Photos (4 Tips)

As Laura says, “Photos are absolutely key and very difficult!”

Her strategy:

  1. Take a LOT of photos. Try out different props and backgrounds to see what works.
  2. Use natural light (even if it’s two degrees in Pittsburgh in January!)
  3. Go through all your photos and pick the layout that works the best. Repeat that layout for your other products to save time.
  4. Use a professional photographer for those products that are key to the success of your business.

Laura found a product photographer in a Facebook group, and she ships her Sweet Life Planner to the photographer internationally each year. The photographer then creates the perfect set-up and takes far better photos than Laura could do on her own.

This plan wouldn’t work if Laura hired a photographer for all of her product photos, but since she does this just once a year, the time delay and expense is worth the end result.

The Sweet Life Planner
The Sweet Life Planner

How to Use Stock Photos

Laura employs another unique product photo strategy:  She uses stock photos!

Here’s how it works:

  • Laura buys stock photos for $15 from KateMaxShop on Etsy
  • The photos are made to have blank space so that you can insert your product digitally.
  • The shop has photos that match Laura’s style closely, so it saves her time compared to hunting around on huge stock photo sites.
  • Your product photos will also look more cohesive if all of your stock photos are from one photographer.
  • Kate Maxwell has a video tutorial that teaches how to add shadows to your product using PhotoShop so that the end result is a seamless, natural photo.
  • Laura knows that the same set-up at her house would take her hours to create and still wouldn’t look as good, so buying great stock photos is the perfect solution.
How to Use Stock Photos for your Product Photography - a podcast interview with Laura Smith of IHeartPlanners
An example of a great stock photo Laura uses from Kate Maxwell- isn't it gorgeous?!

3 Ways to Get More Done

  1. Plan out your week.  Laura believes you can’t over-plan! Even though she rarely gets through everything on her list, she’s confident that she gets much more done than if she hadn’t planned her week at all.
  2. Close out of email and turn off notifications. Those are just distracting you from your real work.
  3. Follow Kat Lee’s advice of the CEO, Manager, and Worker Bee Hats. Once the CEO and Manager have decided your overall goals and tasks to complete, you need to get into Worker Bee mode and just sit down and get it done.

2 Ways to Grow

Laura feels for those of you who are still in the early stages of growing a business! She remembers when her site had only 5 pageviews a day. (1 from her husband, 1 from her mom, 1 from her best friend, and only 2 new visitors!)

The momentum is really slow in the beginning, but be persistent and eventually you’ll see positive results from your effort.

Laura focuses on 2 Key Strategies for Growth

  1. Get every visitor to sign up for her email list. (Laura sends out an email newsletter every single week without fail to stay in touch with her audience.)
  2. Focus on Pinterest for social media growth. (Laura gets the biggest bang for her buck on Pinterest, so she invests her time there versus other social media channels.)
Growing a Business from Planners with Laura Smith of I Heart Planners.  Hear her great product photography advice, advice on staying organized, and more on the Brilliant Business Moms Podcast.
Laura's baby girl, Savannah. How adorable is she?!

Using an E-Course to Add Subscribers

Laura has a killer email opt-in for her subscribers:  Get Organized Once and for All E-Course.

Here’s how it works:

  • She set up an auto-responder sequence in MadMiMi (but you can do this for other email service providers as well)
  • The E-course is divided into 6 lessons, and they’re automatically sent one week apart.
  • Each lesson has one main graphic and a short text.
  • The lesson includes simple steps that anyone can take.
  • Laura focuses on helping others to change their lives, and she knows this can happen by taking small, do-able steps.
  • After each lesson, she asks her subscribers to write back and tell her how they did with the action points.
  • Laura asks all of her subscribers to respond to the initial email and tell her what they need help with.
  • Either Laura or her assistant responds to every single email.

“It’s really important for them to know that a real person is listening and cares.”

Email Newsletters – What to Include

  • Keep it Simple
  • Laura writes a new blog post once a week.
  • Her post goes out on Thursday mornings, and the email newsletter goes out on Friday mornings.
  • She writes a summary of the blog post in the email with a link to learn more.
  • If there’s a second post that week, she’ll feature that as well.
  • Below the main body of the email, she’ll include a couple of small photo links to products in her shop.
  • Although the product photos don’t get a lot of clicks or sales, she continues to remind her subscribers of the great products she has to offer.
  • When she launches something big like the Sweet Life Planner, she sends out a special email to get her subscribers’ attention.
  • Laura reminds us that it’s important not to get too caught up in the stats. It may seem like things aren’t working, even if in the long-term, they really are.

“Focus on connecting with people and helping them and the rest really does come naturally if that’s the focus of your newsletter.”

Revenue Breakdown

Surprisingly enough, Laura’s smallest revenue stream in terms of true profit comes from her Etsy shop. Once she adds in the cost of materials and shipping, the Etsy shop brings in much less revenue than the digital product she sells on her own site: The Sweet Life Planner.

Laura earns some income from ads on her blog or affiliate sales.

Physical products, like those in her Etsy shop are more time-consuming and difficult to keep in stock or handle logistics. However, Laura enjoys the creative process of making a physical process.

The blog, digital sales on the blog, and her Etsy shop all complement each other well, and Laura likes having her eggs in a couple of different baskets.

I Heart Planners New Mom Entrepreneur Laura Smith with baby Savannah

Business + Baby: How Life Looks Different

Many things have changed since Laura’s sweet baby girl Savannah has arrived. Here’s how Laura has adapted to life as a mom entrepreneur:

  • She focuses on getting more digital product sales versus physical products. This way, she doesn’t have to rely as much on items that have a fast turn-around or are more time-intensive.
  • She prepared as much as she possibly could before-hand and worked hard to get things done ahead of time.
  • She’s brought on more help and is ok with decreasing her personal profits right now. Laura doesn’t want to go crazy trying to do it all. She loves having the privilege of working with her daughter right beside her.
  • Her structured work day is gone, and it’s all blended into one these days. It’s a little tough on someone who’s a natural planner, but Laura wouldn’t trade her new life for anything.

“I just think it’s a huge, huge blessing that I get to work with my daughter sitting right beside me.”

The Key to Getting Things Done as a New Mom

Prioritize like CRAZY!

There are things that absolutely have to get done, Laura says, and that’s what she focuses on each day.

“The worst thing to do is to work on something that’s less important just because it’s there and seems fun rather than work on the things that really need to get done.”

(We couldn’t agree more. First things need to come first.)

What life looks like as a mom entrepreneur.  How to blend motherhood, work, and priorities to be successful.   I Heart Planners by Laura Smith.  Hear her story on the Brilliant Business Moms Podcast

3 Tools that Keep Laura Organized

  1. A Physical Planner – Laura believes in the power of writing things out
  2. Outright.com – Outright automatically links to her Etsy shop and business credit card. It makes accounting quick, easy, and automatic. (Laura let us know that Outright won’t link to Shopify so she’ll outgrow it at some point.)
  3. ShipStation – If you have multiple Etsy shops, ShipStation can help you to see everything all in one place. In addition, you can set it up to automatically send emails based on the products your customers purchased. For example, Laura has a tutorial video for applying labels and a different one for decals. ShipStation sends the relevant directions automatically. ShipStation can also remember the weight of your products and enter them automatically.

One Simple Step You can Take Today to Get More Done

Go on a Media Fast so you can really FOCUS.

Laura took the Life is Messy BootCamp by Mayi Carles, and realized how much time she spent reading blogs and consuming new information. Although learning new things can be good, it can also paralyze you from making any progress on your own.

Take a break from learning new things until you’ve implemented some of what you’ve learned. We often use learning as a tool for procrastination. It’s easier to read about a strategy versus doing the hard work to put something into place for yourself.

Focus on taking action for a while.

(We couldn’t agree more! Learning is great, but it’s more important to set goals, make a plan, and stick to the plan. The content will still be there waiting for you when you’re ready for the next step.)

Stay in Touch with Laura!

IHeartPlanners.com
Etsy: IHeartPlanners
Pinterest:  IHeartPlanners
Instagram:  IHeartPlanners

What did you take away from Laura's episode?  Will you try a new method to get great product photos?  Will you focus on the important tasks first and eliminate distractions?

Let's chat in the comments :)

~ Beth Anne

Direct download: Episode205620Laura20Smith_mixdown20final.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 3:30am EST

Where are your people

In Episode 49 we talked about defining your target market.  Today we are taking the next step and determining where your target market hangs out.  Where are your people?  It's great if you know who your target market is, but it doesn't do you any good if you can't find each other.  You need to know where your people are, so that you can be there and get found.

By being where your people are, you are able to get to know them.  The more you know about your people, the more you can deliver what they want, and meet their needs.  In Episode 54 Caroline Starr Rose talked about how she reads many current books to get a feel for her target market, and to help her discover what they wanted.

When you hang out where your people hang out you will find opportunities to talk about your "thing", to trade advice, and be helpful.  Maybe you could guest post where your people hang out or comment on articles.  The point is, unless you go to your people, they will never get to know you or find you.

So how can you discover where your people are? 

John Lee Dumas of Entrepreneur on Fire sends out an email to everyone who signs up for his email list.  In the email he asks, "How did you find me?".  Chances are more of your people are hanging out in the same place where this person found you.  This gives you an opportunity to be more active and present in that place.

What about trade magazines and journals?  Does every knitter read a certain magazine?  You need to immerse yourself in those publications.

What about conferences?  Are your people more the Influence Conference type or the Comic Con type?  Go to those conferences.  Be where they are.

Don't neglect in person opportunities to get to know your target market in real life.  Does your target market hang out at the gym?  Maybe you need a gym membership.  Do your people go to MOPS?  Don't miss a meeting.

Which social networks do your people use the most?  If your target market is made up of photographers, chances are they are on Instagram more than Twitter.  Does your target market love to cook?  Chances are they are constantly on Pinterest searching for recipes.  Determine which social media platform your target market most often turns to, and then focus the majority of your social marketing efforts in that direction.

A fabulous tool for learning where your people hang out is through a specific Facebook search.  On BrittanysBest.com she has a great article, "The Foolproof Formula of Successful Sellers", that walks you through a Facebook Graph search to learn more about your people. 

Here's how it works.  In the Facebook search bar type in "Pages liked by people who like YOUR BUSINESS".  The results that come up represent the overlap -- the pages liked by people who also like your page.  These pages are the other pages where your people are hanging out.  The search results seem to list them in order of the most overlapping fans. 

Our top result was Amy Porterfield, so many of people who like us on Facebook also like Amy Porterfield.  That tells me that I need to get involved on Amy's site a bit more.  If my people are also hanging out with Amy, then chances are good that more of my people (the people who haven't found me yet) are also hanging out there.  I need to be reading Amy's articles and making great comments. I need to interact with her and her fans on social media.  I need to be familiar with Amy and her work.  Maybe she accepts guest posts, I need to find out.

Now, when you find out where your people are hanging out, don't hang out there in an annoying way.  Don't just leave your links everywhere without adding something of value.  Don't comment without reading the article first.   (This should be a given, right?)  Get involved in the community and be helpful.

So go out there and find out where your people are.  Let us know how it goes!

-Sarah

 

Direct download: Episode2055_mixdown20final.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 3:30am EST

How to Become a Published Author with Caroline Starr Rose.  Now the successful author of several books, Caroline Starr Rose shares her best advice for those apprentice authors who are still in the trenches.  She shares an incredible list of resources to help you grow, hone your craft, and find the right agent and editor for your book.  Click to listen the Brilliant Business Moms Podcast interview.

What if you had a great big dream? 

What if you pursued that dream -- working faithfully to hone your craft for years? What if during those years, you faced hundreds of rejections?

Would you continue?

Caroline Starr Rose answers that question with a resounding yes.  Even as those around her wondered how she could keep going, she pressed forward.  She refused to give up.  Most importantly, she accomplished her dream.

Caroline can now add published author to her list of accomplishments, and today on the podcast, she'll share her beautiful story, along with excellent advice and resource for aspiring authors who are in the trenches.

We hope you'll decide to continue on too.  As Caroline says, "you only need one yes."  Press forward towards that yes!

 

On the Podcast

01:15 - Roald Dahl, the Oregon Trail, and Caroline's Journey
04:24 – The Most Honest Thing She’s Ever Written
07:48 – What about Mr. Chapman?
09:59 – The Apprentice Stage
13:34 – Maniacal Optimism
16:54 – Why a Traditional Publisher?
19:29 – How to Get Published
22:50 – Finding an Agent
24:59 – Advice for Apprentice Authors
29:31 – Does a Web Presence Matter?
31:02 - A Day in the Life
34:34 – How Much Does an Author Make?
38:56 – Resources for Aspiring Authors
44:30 – A Funny Mom Moment + What Caroline’s Boys Think About Having an Author Mom

Roald Dahl, the Oregon Trail, and Caroline’s Journey

Although she has wanted to write for as long as she can remember, Caroline’s journey began in earnest as she was teaching the 6th grade. A few weeks before the end of the school year, her class watched a video about Roald Dahl, and he shared his daily writing tips

  • Write for 2 hrs every day whether you have something to say or not
  • Always stop at an exciting place so that it’s easier to begin your work again the next day.
  • Write your work on yellow legal pads. (Caroline does not follow this bit of advice.)

So in the summer of 1998, Caroline spent two weeks researching the Oregon Trail, earned her Ph.D. in Oregon Trailology (totally kidding!) and set out to write historical fiction.

Caroline confesses that her first novel was awful. It was a really hard process, but a great learning experience.

After that point, every summer Caroline would write, and during the school year she’d revise her work and send it off to publishers.

The Most Honest Thing

After sending off 10 manuscripts to hundreds of publishers, and 12 years of working, Caroline was finally offered a book deal for her novel, May B.

Caroline was frustrated with the distance she felt between the ideas in her head and what she was putting on the page.

She read a book called, Read this Only to Yourself: The Private Writings of Midwestern Women, 1880-1910

She was struck by the patterns that frontier women used to communicate with each other. Their language was spare and careful. Whether they were talking about something awful, mundane, or celebratory, the language was all very controlled and contained.

Lightening struck: “If I could capture this aspect of communication...if I could really mirror the voices of these women, I could tell the story most truthfully. I could access May Betterley’s life really directly, and this would be the best way to tell the story.”

For this reason, May B. is a novel written in verse. As Caroline spoke with her mother about the project early on, she shared, “I don’t really know what to call it, but it feels like the most honest thing I’ve ever written.”

May B. A Novel by author Caroline Starr Rose.  Learn more about her story on the Brilliant Business Moms Podcast.

What About Mr. Chapman?

You’ll have to listen to hear Caroline’s interpretation of this new character, along with her take on May B’s coming to terms with who she is and how she sees herself.

The Apprentice Stage

Caroline wishes she had this understanding of her process 10-15 years ago, but she now realizes that for many years, she was in the apprentice stage of becoming a writer. She was still finding her way.

For many jobs, there’s a clear timeline for obtaining education, training, and finally getting hired for your first position. As an author, this just isn’t so. Many are self-taught. Who is to say how long the apprentice stage should last before a professional career results?

As Caroline worked through the apprentice stage with 2 young boys at home, she read books on the craft of writing, read writing magazines, spent time reading re-reading her childhood favorites, and time getting to know the new titles on the shelves.

As Caroline wrote picture books as well, she would lug home the 50-book library limit. After she read the stories with her boys, she would write notes in her notebook. The book had different pages for different publishers and imprints. (Imprints are little individual publishers within the larger publishing house. They each have their own style, flavor, and flair.) She became familiar with which imprints published which kinds of books.

Author Caroline Starr Rose works on a manuscript while her son looks on.  Learn how she became a published author on the Brilliant Business Moms Podcast.

Maniacal Optimism

When asked how she kept going through years of rejection, Caroline points to her maniacal optimism.

She confessed that you don’t quite know if you’re pursuing something that’s a dead end, or if in the pursuit of this dream, you’re feeling so strongly that it’s something you want, and your work will only get better as you continue to try.

The years of rejection were not quite as easy for her husband to handle. She would run to the mail truck like a little girl on her birthday…every day for 12 years. He often wondered how she kept going, pressing to make sure this was what she really wanted to do.

Caroline’s attitude: “If the worse you can tell me is no? My gosh, I’ve found that “no” is not that bad.”

“What really just kept me moving was a love for the stories, a curiosity about what would happen next, and again this maniacal optimism that someday the next story, the next editor.... those would be the ones.”

(We are so glad Caroline did not give up! Let’s all muster up some maniacal optimism to keep going!)

Author Caroline Starr Rose reading with her mother as a child.  Hear hear story and learn how to become a published author on the Brilliant Business Moms Podcast
Caroline reading with her mother as a child.

Why a Traditional Publisher?

We were curious to hear why Caroline continued to pursue traditional publishing through years of rejection versus self-publishing her books.

She confessed that she hopes this doesn’t sound snobby, but she always hung her hat on a traditionally published book. That was her goal.

Caroline points to the benefits of a traditionally-published book, such as the team of talented individuals who surround you to ensure that the project is a success.

Editors serve as professors, she said. They see your weaknesses – the pattern of things that you don’t do well. They find ways to work on those. They point out the things you do, in fact, do well and figure out how to develop those strengths more fully.

If it was up to Caroline to create a beautiful, cohesive novel all on her own, she doesn’t believe she could produce anything that was worth a reader’s time.

How to Get Published

  • Find an agent. (It’s still possible to get published in the children’s market without one, but it’s very rare, and very difficult.)
  • Your agent becomes your advocate and business partner. They have the contacts that you don’t have.
  • They figure out which editors would be a great fit for your book, and then submit it to the right people.
  • An agent speeds along the process of getting published. They’re already seen in the industry as someone “in the know”. They’ve earned their stripes and can put a little pressure on an editor to make a decision more quickly.
  • Once your book is sold, the very fastest it will go to print is 12 months after the sale, with 18-24 months being a far more standard timeline.
  • For picture books, an illustrator must be brought in and go through their own round of revisions, so picture books often take 3 years or more from the point of sale to printing.

Finding an Agent

  • Caroline found her first agent through the GLA Blog (Guide to Literary Agents).
  • This agent was new and hungry for more clients.
  • She had 80 agent rejections when her first agent, Michelle, took her on.
  • Caroline warns that finding an agent is NOT an extra step. An agent is ideally there for you for the life of your career as an author.  They will continue to represent your work in the future.
  • An agent has connections and clout that you simply don’t have as an aspiring author.

“You only need one yes. The no’s aren’t fun, but you really only do need one yes.”

Author Caroline Starr Rose shares her best tips on finding an agent and getting published.  Brilliant Business Moms Podcast

Advice for Apprentice Authors

What About a Web Presence?

When you’re ready to submit work, Caroline attests that it is important to have a web presence. Editors and agents will look you up.

From her experience, her own blog hasn’t helped her to get published, but it can in some cases for non-fiction writers who have a large following online.

Another reason to blog? The immediate feedback on your work that comes from blogging is wonderful, particularly after years of waiting to hear from editors and publishers!

A Day in the Life

There are no typical days for Caroline, but she shares some of the the ways she might spend her time as an author.

  • Most days start with a run or a trip to the gym.
  • With her boys in school, Caroline has a window of time each day that is all her own.
  • When the boys were young, she had to find little nooks of time. She had to be satisfied with even just 10 minutes per day during that busy time, because otherwise, she would have gotten too discouraged to keep going.
  • If Caroline has work back from her editor, that has to be tackled first because a deadline is always attached.
  • Once her work has been sent back to her editor, she’ll have a period of 2 weeks to 3 months where she must start working ahead on her next project.
  • During this time last month, she started research and drafting for her next novel.
  • In addition, she has blog posts to write and a questionnaire to fill out in preparation for her book’s launch next March.
  • She’ll also talk to her publicist for the first time this month (November), again, for a book not coming out until March.
  • Overall, Caroline says that there are always several balls to juggle at once.

How Much Does an Author Make?

Despite one boy asking Caroline if she was “as famous as Justin Bieber”, Caroline confesses that most authors are not making a killing.

For comparison purposes, she let us know that her first book sold for less than her teaching salary in New Mexico in the mid-90’s! (New Mexico is one of the poorest states in the country.)

“Unless you are highly, wildly, successful and have a number of books that come out one after the other…As far as sustaining yourself on this income, it’s not exceptionally easy.”

For Caroline, she considers herself successful if she can keep her boys in glasses and braces, and re-cover the couch. She’s done all of that plus paid for a back yard and a new bathroom.

Thankfully Caroline doesn’t have to put food on the table, and that’s hugely liberating for her. She can pursue the ideas that speak to her heart.

A note on writing from a child to author Caroline Starr Rose.  Hear her story on the Brilliant Business Moms Podcast

Resources for Aspiring Authors

  • A few times a year on Twitter, you can participate in #pitchwars.
  • Agents will tweet what they’re looking for with this hashtag, and then you’ll know to whom you should submit your work.
  • Get the CWIM (Children’s Writers and Illustrators Market Guide). It costs $25-30 and is published every year by writer’s digest. It’s an enormous phone book with information on the magazine market, agents looking to represent authors, which editors work where, what they’re looking for, and guidelines to submit to an editor.
  • The CWIM will also give you an idea of the style each individual imprint looks for.
  • Read the acknowledgement section of books you love, because authors will often thank their agents and editors.
  • From there, you can write a query letter saying, “I just read your Northern Lights, and I’m writing something along a similar line. Perhaps you might be interested in it.”
  • Subscribe to the Publisher’s Weekly Children’s Bookshelf. It’s an online publication that comes directly to your inbox on Tuesdays and Thursdays.
  • The PWCB shares industry news about who the big authors are, what they’re doing, new books coming out, interviews with editors, news on the publishing industry, and at the bottom there is always a list of the most recent books sold to which editors with a synopsis of the book.
  • You’ll get a great sense for what topics are selling and which editors and agents are buying.
  • Again, join the SCBWI, and try to attend their annual conference if you can. You can make connections with other authors and meet with industry professionals.
Author Caroline Starr Rose's family - the men who kept her going through years of rejection.  Her biggest supporters.
Caroline's husband and two boys. Her boys certainly have a lot to say about their mom's writing!

Funny Mom Moment

Caroline’s two boys have plenty to say about her writing and what they think of having an author for a Mom. Tune in to hear her son’s criticism of her latest book!

Stay in Touch with Caroline!

CarolineStarrRose.com (check out the Writing Life section for more great advice!)
Twitter: CStarrRose
Facebook: Author Caroline Starr

 I know Sarah and I learned a ton from Caroline.  I've never seen myself as an aspiring author, but Caroline sure provides enough resources and wisdom to make me believe it's possible. 

The maniacal optimism?  That's something I'm resolving to pack with me along every journey towards an impossible dream.

~ Beth Anne

Direct download: Episode205420Caroline20Starr20Rose_mixdown20final.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 10:52am EST

Kelli Miller teaches everything she knows about Twitter on the Brilliant Business Moms Podcast.  Included:  How to host a Twitter Party, How to Grow Your Following, and Her Favorite Twitter Tools.

Does Twitter strike you as a place for business men and celebrities with no room for the average mom? Do you feel like the geeky girl standing in the corner while everyone else enjoys the party around you?

We’d be lying if we said we didn’t have those feelings about Twitter sometimes!

Today on the podcast, Kelli Miller gives us a Twitter Makeover so we’re ready to sparkle and work the room. She shares her best tools for using the platform and inspires us to use this powerful social network to connect with others and grow our audience.

Kelli has been blogging since 2006. With years of experience under her belt, last year she and a blogging partner, Crystal, started the #LearntoBlog weekly Google Hangouts.

They discuss anything and everything related to growing your blog such as getting more click-throughs on Pinterest, how to read Google Analytics, among many other topics. They’ve done over 70 Hangouts to date, and you can find them all at LearntoBlogHangouts.com

In addition to sharing her extensive blogging knowledge, Kelli write about products she loves, kid-friendly recipes, and all things related to life as a stay-at-home mom at 3BoysAndaDog.com

Kelli lives on the Gulf Coast with her 3 boys, her husband, and now, 3 dogs!

On the Podcast:

02:24 – Kelli’s Big Secret
03:41 – A Big Change for the Millers
05:04 – Asking for Help
06:36 – 29,000 Followers? Kelly Explains How
09:18 – Hashtag University
10:12 – Kelli’s Twitter Routine
13:11 – Twitter Parties – (What they are plus how to Rock them!)
15:41 – Partnering with Brands on Twitter
18:02 – How to Get Started with Twitter Parties
19:30 – Kelli’s Favorite Hashtag Tool
20:12 – #LearntoBlog
24:53 – Kelli’s Unconventional Tip for Taking your Blog to the Next Level
28:12 – Kelli’s Favorite Book on Blogging
29:29 – Thousands of Emails a Day?! (Kelli shares how she manages them all.)
38:12 – Her Funny Mom Moment

 

Kelli’s Big Secret

With 3 kids, two blogs, and turning out tons of new content every week, we asked Kelli how she gets it all done.

Her answer: “I don’t get it all done! Shhh! Don’t tell anybody!”

(We were cracking up because we completely agree. Sometimes on a busy week, something just has to go. You do the best you can with each day you have.)
She admitted to having a super helpful hubby and older boys who are relatively self-sufficient at 14, 12, and 8 years old. (Her 12 year-old can even cook!)

Kelli also has two assistants and several regular writers for her blog.

kelli-miller-3-boys-family-learn-to-blogThe most important guys in Kelli's life!

A Big Change for the Millers

Kelli admits to putting much of her income back into her business with blog re-designs and items for her home office.

She does do well with income from affiliate networks, ad networks, sponsored posts, and Twitter parties.

Related to her blog work, the Millers recently bought a new house, and they’re showing all of their remodeling projects on the blog. You can check out Miller Manor here.

Asking for Help

Kelli put out a post on her site saying that she was looking for writers. At this point, her writers are not paid, but benefit from the added exposure of being on Kelli’s blog, along with free products as they often write product reviews.

(What a great way to find guest contributors since they already read your blog and understand your style and focus!)

Kelli also uses a Facebook group called VA’s for Hire. If she has extra projects that are outside of the scope of her current assistants, this group is full of individuals with a wide range of skill sets.

Finally, in the newly launched, #LearntoBlog Forums, there’s an area for bloggers to post that they’re looking for help or to post that they’re looking to get hired.

29,000 Followers? Kelly Explains How

With more followers than Kmart or Dairy Queen, Kelli has certainly learned how to use Twitter to its full potential.

Here’s her advice:

  • Be authentic. Reach out to people and respond to those who reach out to you.
  • You can search on twitter for topics related to your niche. For example, Kelli might search for homeschooling and then reach out to the moms talking about homeschooling or mentioning it in their profiles.
  • Kelli also uses Justunfollow  They have a free version, and you can easily find people interested in the same topics that you are, as well as unfollow those who aren’t following you back. It makes the process of finding and connecting on Twitter much faster and easier.

kelli-miller-with-son-google-hangouts-learn-to-blog

Hashtag University

  • Do some research on Google for hashtags related to your niche.  For example, Kelli might search for homeschooling hashtags on Twitter.
  • Search for those hashtags on Twitter and strike up a conversation with those people.

“To me, Twitter’s like a party. you don’t just go to a party and sit down and expect people to come to you. You go into a party and you walk around and you introduce yourself: “Hey I’m Kelly… my boys are driving me nuts.”
(Kelli cracked us up with this one, but she’s exactly right. You have to treat Twitter like a party and figure out how to work the room and connect with others.)

  • In the same way that you’d strike up a conversation with someone at a party and exchange phone numbers, on Twitter you can follow each other.

Kelli Miller of 3 Boys and a Dog and the Learn to Blog Hangouts shares everything she knows about Twitter.  Learn how to be the life of the party, grow your audience, and grow your blog on the Brilliant Business Moms Podcast

Kelli’s Twitter Routine

  • Kelli tweets about 20 times per day, on average.
  • If she’s doing a Twitter party, it’s much more than this!
  • Some of her tweets are scheduled via HootSuite.
  • She gives her assistant a list of posts that she wants her to promote each week, then she goes in, pulls quotes from those posts, and schedules them to go out during that week.
  • Kelli uses TwitterFeed to automatically tweet from other people’s feeds.
  • You can set it up to just retweet or to pull a quote from the metadescription, and the service is free.
  • For example, Kelli sets up her Twitter feed to retweet Kraft any time they mention a new recipe. So that gets shared to her followers about twice per day.
  • She also sets up her Feed to retweet content from GrowMap – a great blogger who writes about blogging.
  • Kelli sets up her Foursquare, Instagram, and Pinterest to automatically tweet when she has activity on those sites.
  • She confesses that when she’s on vacation, between all the pictures and extra time to Tweet, she sends out hundreds per day.
  • Another great aspect of HootSuite? You can set it up to autoschedule your tweets. In this way, HootSuite will analyze your followers and choose the time to send the tweet out based on when that tweet it likely to get the most views.

Twitter Parties

Kelli says that Twitter parties are the easiest way to get people talking about your business.

Here’s how they work:

  • Find a hashtag that no one else is using.
  • Set up a specific time for the party.
  • Write a blog post about the party where attendees can RSVP via inlinkz or linky tools.
  • They should include their URL and Twitter ID to RSVP
  • As host of the Twitter party, you’ll tweet out questions throughtout the hour, and the participants respond to those questions.
  • All of the tweets should include the designated hashtag for that party
  • 98% of the time, the brand that sponsors the Twitter party will provide some giveaways, because it attracts a larger audience
  • Brands may provide gift baskets of their products, or if their items are too expensive or difficult to ship, they may provide gift cards to Amazon, Wal-mart, or Target instead.
  • As an example, when Kelli and Crystal launched the #LearntoBlog Forums, they hosted a Twitter party and offered a site critique, free consulting, and 3 month memberships to the Forums as their prizes.
  • As the chatter gets going around that topic and hashtag, the impressions for a Twitter party can be in the millions.

(One year, Kelli and Crystal scheduled a Twitter party for a baby food right in the middle of a presidential debate. They STILL had over 3.5 million impressions on their party, and their topic was trending higher than the debate was!)

How to Get Started with Twitter Parties

  • Kelli recommends signing up with MomSpark if you’d like to get started with Twitter parties.
  • You can sign up as a blogger and then apply to be a panelist when they post Twitter parties.
  • MomSpark pays $75 for a panelist.
  • After you have a track record, you can reach out to brands and mention that you’ve participated as panelist in x, y, z Twitter parties, and show them the stats on the impressions generated.
  • Participating in Twitter parties as a panelist will also help you to increase your Twitter following, which will make you more attractive to brands.

kelli-miller-mom-blogger-twitter-expert

Kelli’s Favorite Hashtag Tool

  • Hashtags.org allows you to verify whether a hashtag has been registered.
  • You can also register your new hashtag there, for example, if you’ve created a new one for a Twitter party.
  • Double check any hashtag searches by searching on Twitter itself to see what pops up.

#LearntoBlog

Every Tuesday at 10AM Central, Kelli and Crystal Host #LearntoBlog Google Hangouts. They chat for an hour and cover a topic on blogging. Often, the topics are related to what’s in the news at the time or what their followers are asking for.

If you leave Kelli a message on Google+ and let her know you want to be notified of their #LearntoBlog Hangouts, she’ll add you to her circle and you’ll be the first to know!

They’ve recently launched a paid VIP forum where they go into more depth with what they teach along with challenges to help you grow.

Kelli’s Unconventional Tip for Taking your Blog to the Next Level

At one point, Kelli’s blog required help and expertise that she didn’t have, but it wasn’t making enough money to support hiring extra staff.

Kelli came up with an unconventional solution: She went to work.

Kelli worked 4 hours per week as a VA for someone else making about $15/hour. She then hired somebody to work on her blog for 5 hours per week at $10/hour.

Kelli used this system for 6 months, and the VA she hired was able to increase her presence on other social media platforms. Her blog grew from 5,000 pageviews/month to 30,000/month. (This was several years ago, and Kelli’s numbers have grown tremendously since.)

Kelli believes this worked for a couple of reasons.

  1. She hired someone with expertise different than her own
  2. Those 5 hours were spent doing focused, productive work. (Kelli confesses that when she “works” on her blog she wastes too much time on email, social media, or reading someone else’s blog. When you hire someone else, they’re doing productive work the entire time.)

kelli-miller-twitter-party-mom-blogger

Kelli’s Favorite Book on Blogging

ProBlogger: Secrets for Blogging Your Way to a Six Figure Income

Kelli calls Darren Rowse “the man” (we agree!) and says that whenever she feels stuck, she opens up this book, reads a few chapters, and it gets her going again.

Thousands of Emails a Day?!

5 Tips on Cutting through the Noise

  1. Delete – a LOT, particularly if they’re mass brand pitches
  2. Use Templates so you can quickly Reply/Paste to similar requests (ex. People wanting to interview her, people wanting her to promote their product, etc.)
  3. Use the Search Function, ex. Kelly searches for topics she’d like to blog about and uses those blog posts that come to her inbox as resources in round-up posts.
  4. Outlook – to keep her task list, calendar, and inbox more organized
  5. ClearContext – a tool to help you sort all of your emails quickly into projects, task lists, calendar events, and more.

(As mentioned on the podcast, I found a really detailed blog post on filtering your Gmail through Outlook.  Full disclosure:  I don't feel ready to tackle this task at the moment, but if you're up for the challenge, knock yourself out!)

kelli-miller-knows-twitter-SAHM-blogger

 

Funny Mom Moment

Kelli’s youngest had a hilarious mix-up moment. He thought his class was going to visit the Crematorium instead of the Exploreum (Science Center). (I’m glad for his sake that he was wrong!)

Where to Find Kelli

3BoysAndaDog.com
LearntoBlogHangouts.com
Twitter: @KelliBMiller

Direct download: Episode53KelliMiller.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 12:23am EST

Crystal Paine, the MoneySavingMom shares the Facebook and Pinterest strategies that she's using right now to drive more traffic, get more engagement, and grow even more.  Her step by step list of strategies is easy to follow and implement.

Have you ever thought to yourself, “If I could just learn the strategies that the most successful women are using, I’d follow those exactly and finally get some results.”

Today we’re giving you the opportunity to put that theory to the test. Crystal Paine of MoneySavingMom.com shares the Facebook and Pinterest strategies she’s using right now to increase her traffic and engagement. She also shares the top 3 ways she’s grown her blog.

Crystal lives in Nashville, Tennessee with her husband, and three children. Despite a wildly successful blog and best-selling book, Crystal still loves bargain shopping, freezer cooking, and putting her faith and family first. She is truly a Brilliant Business Mom who has found a way to make it all work.

On the Podcast

01:38 - Turning a Debt-Free Focus into a Popular Blog
03:04 - How the Teen Years Shaped Crystal
04:00 - Knowing When to Move On
05:42 - The Top 3 Ways Money Saving Mom has Grown
08:14 – Why Planning can be Misleading
10:10 – The Early Days of Blog-Building
10:55 – 6 Facebook Strategies that Crystal is Using Right Now
15:30 – 6 Ways to use Pinterest to Drive Traffic to your Site
18:41 – Crystal’s Adorable Mom Moment
20:11 – The Best Book on Blogging

Turning a Debt-Free Focus into a Popular Blog

Crystal and her husband Jesse made an audacious goal of staying out of debt while Jesse went through law school. At the same time, Crystal became very sick with her first pregnancy and had to quit working. Knowing that they couldn’t pay the bills with Jesse’s part-time job, Crystal had to find a way to keep making money from home.

Crystal learned everything she could about making money online and discovered the world of blogging.  She started a mommy blog where she wrote on many different topics. Her readers were most interested in saving money, and her Frugal Friday blog posts became very popular.

Crystal Paine, the MoneySavingMom with her husband Jesse.  Crystal talks blogging, how she got started, and social media on the brilliant business moms podcast.

How the Teen Years Shaped Crystal

While other teens were busy avoiding chores and responsibilities, Crystal was learning real-life skills that ultimately shaped her blog and career.

She grew up in a family of nine, and her Home-Ec experience as a home-schooled teen involved recipe planning, grocery shopping, and cooking for her large family.

How to Know When to Move On

Crystal urges other women not to do what she did! At one point, she had 3 blogs that she was trying to run all at once. This was too much stress for a mom with 3 young children.

Her advice for starting anything new is to make sure you have the capacity in your schedule to add in that new project, and if you don’t, you’ll have to find something that you can subtract first.

(Great advice from Crystal! How many times do we assume that we’ll magically find extra time for something new that we’re pursuing?)

Crystal also encourages other moms to realize that “There’s nothing wrong with changing course.”

She advocates for jumping out and trying new things, and in this way, you’ll learn what works and what doesn’t.  "Go with those things that you really love and that are working really well for you."

Crystal Paine of MoneySavingMom shares blogging advice on the Brilliant Business Moms Podcast.  "There's nothing wrong with changing course." Crystal says of wanting to try new projects.  She just urges women to make sure they subtract something else or have a clear place in their schedule to add something new.

The Top 3 Ways MoneySavingMom has Grown

(plus advice for you on growing too!)

  1. Build a community and listen to your readers. “The blog was never about me," says Crystal.  She advises others to listen to their community: What are they asking for? What do they find interesting? What are their needs and how can you meet them?
  2. Keep your integrity in the process.  Crystal has been offered numerous opportunities that would earn her thousands of dollars, but they weren’t in line with her readers or her beliefs.
  3. Use Social Media, especially Facebook and Pinterest. Learn what works, rinse and repeat. When it stops working, experiment, learn, and try new things until you find a new formula for success.

Why Planning can be Misleading

Despite being Type A, very organized and driven, Crystal says one of the best things she’s realized is that there is no “typical day”. You can make elaborate plans, but they don’t always work out.

Just the other day MoneySavingMom was under attacks from Nigeria, and Crystal couldn’t access her site. She had to drop everything and just focus on that problem.

(Wow, what a great reminder that no matter how successful you are, no one is immune to stress and difficult circumstances!)

Despite being prepared for nearly anything to happen, Crystal does have a general schedule for each day:

  • Wakes up before her kids, reads the Bible, prays, and begins planning for her day.
  • Goes online, gets some blogging done, exercises, shower, and then the kids are up.
  • Kids wake up, do chores, and have breakfast.
  • School starts around 10 AM, and Crystal begins work on writing her book or blogging.  (Crystal's husband Jesse is doing the homeschooling while she writes her new book.)
  • At 3 or 4 in the afternoon, Crystal wraps up her writing and works on some projects around the house.
  • The evenings are focused family time for the Paine's.

Crystal Paine of MoneySavingMom taking silly selfies with her kids. Crystal shares tons of great advice for blogging and online moms on the brilliant business moms podcast.

The Early Days of Blog-Building

In the early days of blogging, Crystal admits to not having good compartmentalization because she didn’t have any help with her online work. She had taken on way too much for herself.

She’d wake up extremely exhausted because she hadn’t gotten enough sleep the night before, put out fires all day, and then repeat again for the next day.

“It was not a healthy place” Crystal admits.

Crystal Paine on the Brilliant Business Moms Podcast - she talks about the early days of blogging and putting out daily fires.  Now, her life is much more balanced.  Great advice for moms wanting to start and grow a business here.

6 Facebook Strategies Crystal is Using Right Now

Crystal's blog traffic from Facebook took a huge hit recently.  So she began experimenting with ways to get those traffic numbers up again.  Here is what is working for her:

  1. Post Round-the-Clock. The MoneySavingMom page puts out a new Facebook post every hour.
  2. Post at Night. Posts that are scheduled to go live at night often get more views than those during the day. The reason? It takes a few hours for Facebook to show posts to most people in their feed. At night, there’s not as much competition so Facebook automatically bumps up the relevancy of that post, shows it to more people, and then as those people engage, it gets shown to even more people.
  3. Don’t Share Every Blog Post on Facebook. Crystal used to share every post on Facebook but now makes more strategic choices based on which posts she believes will go viral and do well on the platform.
  4. Upload 3-4 Pictures and a Link versus using the Post Share Feature. Crystal uses a one-line, catchy title in all caps, adds the link, and then uploads 3 -4 photos for a given post. Many of her posts are how-to topics such as frugal tips or recipes. They’re very photo-oriented so posting a group of photos is more effective and helps the posts to receive more views.
  5. Share the Posts of Others too. Crystal shares a ratio of 50% her own blog posts, and 50% others’ posts. If you share directly from Facebook pages that have high engagement, Facebook will show those posts to more of your readers compared to pages with low engagement.
  6. Use Facebook “Pages to Watch” to make Sharing Popular Posts much easier. You can set up pages you want to watch in Facebook Insights. From there, you can see the top 10 posts that page put out from the last week.  You can share those posts directly from that dashboard. (Wow, genius! We had no idea!)

Crystal Paine shares her social media strategies on the Brilliant Business Moms podcast.  Great, actionable steps you can take on both Facebook and Pinterest to get more results are shared.

6 Ways to Use Pinterest to Drive Traffic to your Site

  1. Focus on Beautiful Photos, Well-Crafted Titles and Taglines in order to get Clickt-hroughs versus just Re-pins.
  2. Join Group Boards. Crystal is a member of multiple group boards.
  3. Pin many times each day and schedule them out if you can. Crystal pins 60-90 pins every single day, scheduled out, and most of those go to group boards.
  4. You can pin the same item multiple times a week to the same group board because many active group boards are updated very frequently every day. No one will ever be able to tell.
  5. Don’t worry about pinning  too frequently when you use group boards. Your followers don’t see your group board pins; they only show those to the followers of those group boards. So they won’t be barraged with tons of copies of the same pin. They just see the pins you choose to put on your non-group boards.
  6. Find out which pins are your top 100-200 site-referrers based on Google Analytics.   From there, make sure they're evergreen (not tied to a particular year or season, but instead, always relevant).  Pin those over and over to the group boards.

Crystal’s Adorable Mom Moment

Listen to the podcast to hear how Crystal sets an example for her children by finding ways to stay creative, refresh and refuel.

Crystal Paine shares an adorable mom moment on the Brilliant Business Moms Podcast.  She likes to fuel her creativity and find ways to unwind.  Coloring with her kids (and by herself!) is one of the ways she de-stresses.

The Best Book on Blogging

Crystal highly recommends How to Blog for Profit without Selling Your Soul by Ruth Soukup. Ruth shares loads of Pinterest advice and strategy, and Crystal says that everything she learned about Pinterest, she learned from Ruth.

(With more than 265,000 Pinterest followers between them ....'nough said!)

Crystal Paine's daughter writes her a note to congratulate her on her book:  Say Goodbye to Survival Mode.  Happy Book Day!

(I couldn't help but share this adorable note that Crystal received from her daughter when her book, Say Goodbye to Survival Mode was released.  How sweet is this?!)

Of course, you can find Crystal at MoneySavingMom.com

Why not send her a tweet to thank her for such a great podcast?! 

What will you change as a result of hearing Crystal's advice?  I'm trying the multi-picture Facebook post and posting at night first.  One step at a time!

~ Beth Anne

Direct download: Episode205220Crystal20Paine_mixdown20final.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 12:11am EST

How to Guest Post Well - 10 Best Practices for Getting Your Guest Post Accepted, Gaining New Readers, and Building Relationships #blogging #guestposting

Guest posting is consistently touted as one of the best ways to grow your blog.  Yet so many of us put the whole thing off.
(Do you see me raising my hand right now?  I'm so guilty!)  

Building off of Amy Lynn's killer advice in episode 50, I'll share a few more best practices so there are no more excuses.

You'll have to press play to hear the tip that will save you loads of time.

Pin this post so you don't forget to keep guest posting as a top priority.  We can't wait to hear about the new doors it opens for you!

Guest Posting 10 Tips for Doing it Well and Making the Most of the Opportunity #bloggingadvice #guestpost

~ Beth Anne

Resources Mentioned:

How to Use Open Site Explorer to Find Great Places to Guest Post

Tips on Reaching out to a New Audience

Kate Erickson from Entrepreneur on Fire on How to Request to Guest Post and Get Accepted

Kissmetrics Guide to Guest Blogging

Jeff Goins:  How Guest Posting can Help Grow your Blog

 

Hey Brilliant Business Mom! Are you tired of spinning your wheels and leaving so many items on that to-do list unchecked each day?  Check out the 8 Apps Work-at-Home Moms are using to get more done!

Direct download: Episode205120guest20posting_mixdown20final.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 3:30am EST

Amy Lynn Andrews on E-books on Amazon and Guest Posting #momblogger #podcast

How do you become a successful blogger, and even more than that, a well-known expert in your field?  By being insanely helpful and putting yourself in your reader’s shoes!  Amy Lynn Andrews does just that on her website: AmyLynnAndrews.com

Amy started blogging in 2004. At the time, she was a struggling pastor’s wife with two small children. Her blog was a much-needed outlet for coping. In 2010, she started the site that is now AmyLynnAndrews.com where she shares blogging tips and tutorials. (Boy, does she! Amy’s blog is just about as comprehensive a resource on blogging as we’ve ever seen! She does it with no hype, no fluff, and in a down-to-earth manner.)

Amy is married with four kids, and she and her husband both work part-time online while tag-teaming their kids’ education. This is my favorite part about Amy (ok, maybe second favorite part after all of her awesome blogging advice!): She’s a couponing dropout, and is terrible at crafting, cooking, and all domestic tasks that start with “c”. (I’m right there with you, Amy! Give me a blog post to write or a math problem any day!)

Amy Lynn Andrews on being authentic and empathy online

Press Play to hear Amy’s best advice on growing her blog, finding content for the Useletter, selling e-books on Amazon and via affiliates, and making the most of guest posts. This episode is chock full of great content!  Consider it a free coaching call with Amy –-we certainly did!

On the Podcast

  • Making the Switch from Consumer to Producer
  • The Top 3 Ways Amy has Grown an Audience (they may not be what you’d expect!)
  • Why You Can’t Hang Your Hat on Traffic
  • How to be a Curation Queen
  • The Stat that Matters Most
  • One E-book’s True Story
  • Sales Strategy: 3 Tips from Amy
  • Amazon versus your own Site: Deciding Where to Sell
  • 8 Tips on Guest Posting (from the guest post gatekeeper herself!)
  • How to Make the Most of Your Guest Post

Making the Switch from Consumer to Producer

Amy was an avid consumer of online content by the early 2000’s. She’s a learner at heart, so she loved being able to find information quickly and stow it away easily.

She assumed (as many of us did!) that you had to be a computer guru to start your own website. One day, she got an email from her cousin telling her to check out the new website he had created for his newly formed non-profit.

Amy was amazed at what she saw, and knowing that her cousin was not a guru, she realized, “If he can do it, then surely I can too.”

This was the turning point for Amy’s online career. She switched from seeing herself as a consumer of the internet to a potential producer of content online.

The Top 3 Ways Amy has Grown an Audience

  1. Be as helpful as possible. Amy acknowledges that she started with absolutely nothing. It was the generosity of others that taught her how to get started, so she loves that she can now be generous in helping as well. Every piece of content Amy puts out into the world has a main goal of being really helpful to those who read and apply it. Amy loves to help others who lack a technical background but still want to figure things out themselves
  2. Be patient. Building solid relationships and a solid reputation online is important, and it’s a process that takes time. People will stick with the individuals they trust. “Building a reputation of trustworthiness… you can’t short-cut that,” Amy says.
  3. Be empathetic. Empathy comes easy to Amy who describes herself as a deep feeler, observant of others, and interested in their lives. She describes her empathy as being hands-down the most useful quality in growing a successful business. She puts herself in her readers’ shoes and imagines how she would feel if she were sitting on the other side of the screen. She checks everything she does by asking questions like, “would this make sense to me? Does this feel too sales-y? Is this too much promotion?”

  Amy Lynn Andrews on trustworthiness #momblogger

Why You Can’t Hang your Hat on Traffic

There used to be a much higher emphasis placed on traffic. The old blogging formula was simple: Get tons of people to your website and serve up ads that will make you money.

With Google algorithm changes, Facebook changes, and so many other factors outside of our control, it no longer makes sense to rely on traffic-dependent sources of income.

Amy realized that she needed to own as much of her online presence as possible and not depend on other sites to send people her way. She took some of her eggs out of the traffic basket and began building her email list.

Amy cites Seth Godin’s principle of permission-based marketing. Email means that others are giving you permission to decide when you want to pop into their inbox.

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How to be a Curation Queen

Amy knew that in order to stay front-and-center in her subscribers’ inboxes, she’d have to deliver super helpful tips and trustworthy content. The concept of bite-sized, use-able tips became “The Useletter”

Anyone who’s on Amy’s list knows how valuable the Useletter is. Amy clearly spends a lot of time curating the best content and tips to share with her subscribers.

How did she become such a well-known curation queen? Amy breaks it down for us.

Amy naturally reads a lot, and the Useletter gives her a great excuse to feed her reading addiction! She uses Feedly to keep track of the blogs she follows. She organizes each blog according to the main topics she usually shares about in her emails.

She tries to hit about 4 of those main topics each week, alternating week by week so that her subscribers grab tips in different “flavors” each week.

As Amy scours the web and her favorite blogs for the best content, she’ll highlight the tip, write a quick comment, and send it to Evernote. Within Evernote, she tags all the tips that fall under the same Useletter category. This way, when she’s building her Useletter for the week, she can grab from the topics she wants to cover that week and she already has a stack of great tips ready to go.

Watch Amy's video on how she uses her editorial calendar.

The Stat the Matters Most

Amy is so honest and upfront, we just love it! She shared with us that her email list is approaching 11,000 subscribers, but there’s a stat she cares about far more than that one.

Which stat is it?

The open rate.

Amy aims for an open rate of 35-40% (This is so far above average industry open rates, it’s ridiculous!)

For this reason, she frequently deletes unengaged subscribers. This not only saves money by not paying for people who aren’t opening your emails, but it also increases your open rate. There’s no reason to pay for unengaged subscribers.

Amy’s tip for those wanting to increase their open rates?

Provide consistently good content and make sure that the people on your list know what to expect and look forward to what you’re sending out each week.

Amy Lynn Andrews #momblogger

One E-book’s True Story

Oftentimes, a successful product doesn’t spring from a burst of creativity, but from those around us seeing its potential and encouraging us to move forward.  This was the case with Amy’s book: Tell Your Time.

At the time, Amy was working as a VA for Crystal Paine of MoneySavingMom.com.  Crystal encouraged her to turn her valuable time-saving strategy into an e-book.

Although writing isn’t Amy’s first love, she realized that putting pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard!) would not only get her information out to others, but allow her to experience the e-book process from start to finish. She’d learn more about writing, marketing, and selling, and then share all of that information with her readers.

Sales Strategy: 3 Tips from Amy

  1.  Choose to be on the front-end of new trends in business. Dive in and learn as you go. Don’t wait for others to show you how to sell an e-book, launch a podcast, or whatever the case may be. You might miss out on a big opportunity if you don’t latch on while it’s at its peak.
  2. Establish relationships with other bloggers and set up an affiliate program for them. Amy used E-junkie to create an affiliate program for her e-book. All of her affiliates received 50% of the sale price when they referred a sale to her. She sold many more e-books through affiliates than she ever could have sold on her own.
  3. Offer content that solves a problem or changes a life. When you can truly help someone else, they’ll pass that information along to others they know. They’re also more likely to take the time to thank you in the form of a positive review. Amy believes her relationships with bloggers and writing helpful content played a large role in getting so many reviews on Amazon.

Amazon versus your Own Website: Where to Sell

Amy shared some invaluable tips on the ins and outs of selling on Amazon versus your own site.

It is possible to sell on both your own site and Amazon at the same time, but you must be careful. Below is a breakdown of the rules and requirements.

  1. Amazon has a program called kdpselect. This is something you may choose to sign up for and be part of as an author. If you choose to go the kdpselect route, you give Amazon the exclusive rights to sell your book for 3 months. During that time, you may not sell your book on your own site, or anywhere else, for that matter. However, kdpselect gives you several perks such as higher royalty rates on sales, inclusion in Kindle Unlimited, and the ability to offer countdown deals or your book for free for a period of 5 days.
  2. If you choose not to participate in kdpselect, you may put your book on Amazon as a regular e-book author, and you’re then free to sell your book anywhere else as well. The one caveat is this: you must never offer your book anywhere else for a lower price than Amazon’s price. Amazon’s price must always be the lowest price available.
  3. Note: this means that if your book is for sale on Amazon, you may not offer that same book as a freebie, lead magnet, or bonus of any sort. This would violate Amazon’s terms of service. If your book is for sale on Amazon for 2.99, that book should never be available anywhere for less than 2.99.
  4. Amazon will automatically figure out if your book’s price on other websites, such as Barnes&Noble, has lowered, and they will lower the price on Amazon to match the competitor’s price.

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8 Tips on Guest Posting

When Amy worked as a VA for Crystal Paine, one of her jobs was to filter through all the guest post requests and select those that would be a great fit for Crystal’s audience. With that experience and her own blogging knowledge in mind, Amy shares 8 fabulous tips for successfully navigating the geography of guest-posting.

  1. If you want to guest post somewhere, read the blog first. Read many articles until you have an excellent idea of what topics are discussed and the overall style of the blog. Your goal is to build relationships, not just grab some cheap link juice.
  2. Read the guest post guidelines before you send out an email request. A lot of your questions will be answered, and you may be able to give the blogger exactly what they’re looking for. Search “guest post guidelines” or look at previous guest posts to find a blurb there on guest posting.
  3. If the guidelines are nowhere to be found, send a super short email explaining that you’d love to guest post on topic xyz, because her readers might appreciate that, and does the blogger have any guest post guidelines?
  4. Provide absolute value to the readers of that particular blog. Help them; focus on them.
  5. Ensure that your content is extremely high-quality. Proofread everything, check all links, include excellent photos, and write in a compelling manner that fits the feel of the blog.
  6. Make sure your guest post is not published anywhere else online. The post should not be re-published on your own blog. You could perhaps share the first paragraph of your post and then link to where you guest-posted, but do not re-publish the article in its entirety.
  7. Be very careful about putting your own links in the body of the post. This is considered bad etiquette by some bloggers.
  8. The exception to linking is your bio. You absolutely want to include a short bio with an excellent link back to your site at the end of your post.

Get more tips from Amy on Guest Posting!

How to Make the Most of Your Guest Post

We all understand that guest posting is not just about doing  random acts of kindness for other bloggers. Our goal is to reach a new audience and build new relationships. Hopefully, we’ll land on a few new loyal readers and grow our own website in the process.

With that being said, there are right and wrong ways to make the most of a guest posting opportunity. Amy shares excellent advice on guest posting so that your relationship with the other blogger as well as your new readers is strengthened and off to a great start.

  1. Make your bio interesting and compelling but completely natural. Don’t say, “hey, head over to my site” but rather “Beth Anne and Sarah blog and podcast about growing a business as a stay-at-home mom at BrilliantBusinessMoms.com”
  2. From that bio link, don’t link directly to your homepage, but rather a landing page specifically designed for that new audience coming from your guest post.
  3. Put yourself in a brand new reader’s shoes and pretend that you’re a tour guide. Thank them for stopping over and let them know that if they liked your post on X’s site, they may be interested in X, Y, and Z articles from you.
  4. Nail down the main goal for new visitors to your site. Is it to get them onto your email list? Is it to sell them your e-book, course, or some other product? That main goal dictates where you want them to go and what you want them to do.
  5. With your goal in mind, your landing page may gently lead your new reader towards a product or a freebie that compels them to join your email list.
  6. Again, though, your goal is to be insanely helpful and provide great content. Gently steer; don’t be pushy or sales-y. You want your new readers to stick around for the long haul, so treat them with care.

Wow, Sarah and I are still in awe of all the incredible tips Amy shared with us on the call! Did you feel like you were listening in on a coaching call with an online business expert? We sure did!

Stay in Touch with Amy!

AmyLynnAndrews.com
You can find her as Amy Lynn Andrews on Pinterest, Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter too!

Direct download: Episode205020Amy_mixdown20final.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 3:30am EST

defining your target market

Most of us have heard the term "target market", but how many of us have taken the time to actually sit down, with pen in hand, and define our target market?  Lets change that today.

A target market is a specific group of consumers at which a company aims its products and services.  They are the target market because they are most likely to respond to your product, service, or information.  By "respond", we mean that they are most likely to buy, consume, sign up, read, or otherwise be engaged with what you disseminate.  Your target market is most likely to be a sneezer for you.  And because what you have to offer resonates with them, your marketing efforts will be most effective with this group.  You will get the highest ROI (return on investment) with this group, in terms of your time and money, than with other groups.

So this target market sounds pretty great!  How do I define who they are?

In the marketing world, there are different segments that are used to define a target market (adapted from smallbusinessnotes.com):

  • Demographic Segment - Age, income, occupation
  • Geographic Segment - Location
  • Psychographic Segment - Lifestyle preferences
  • Use-Based Segment - Frequency of usage, ex. travel
  • Benefit Segment - Desire for same product benefits, ex. luxury

Not all of these factors will be applicable to your target market.  For instance, here at Brilliant Business Moms, a main element of our target market is that they are female (and most likely, moms!), however geography is not really a factor.

In his book The $100 Start Up (affiliate link) Chris Guillebeau helps us to understand our target market by asking, "Who are your people?"  Chris found that his target market didn't fit into a traditional demographic segment.  Instead, they were people of all types, with the common thread of wanting to live their life unconventionally.  They were big dreamers who wanted to make a difference.

So what about you?  How can you define your target market?  Lets brainstorm and come up with a nice long list of possibilities.  Start out by just thinking about what makes sense to you.  What type of person would want what you have to offer?  It might even help to write out a persona about who this person is, and what they might be like.  Dig in deeper and actually think of a person you know that you think would be part of your target market, and ask them questions about themselves.  Write down anything that you learn or anything that comes to mind.

If you are already in business, you may not realize that you already have some data on your target market.  If you are an Etsy shop owner, take a look at your past customers, your convos, and your reviews.  Is there a demographic or geographic trend among your customers?  In your reviews, do people mention how they used your product, what event it was for, or if they gave it as a gift to someone?  Comb through past communications with customers, and jot down things they mention.  You may begin to see a pattern you hadn't realized was there.

If you are a blogger, you can do something similar.  Take a look at comments that people have left on your website or on social media.  Begin to jot down things you glean from their comments and communications, and look for patterns there.  Use all of this information to define your target market.

If you already have an audience, conducting a short survey to learn more about them can be extremely helpful.  Take that opportunity to learn who they are as people, what their values are, what their struggles are.

Are you a member of your own target market?  Chances are you might be!  Write down your own values, demographics, lifestyle choices, and more.

Now that you have quite a long list of thoughts and data, begin to look for patterns and trends.  Circle the items on your list that keep popping up.  These items define your target market.

There's one other point to consider.  Your product may be for a certain target market, but it may be purchased by another set of people entirely.  For instance, if you sell something for children, it's almost as though you have two target markets to consider: the children who will use your product and the parents and grandparents who will buy it.  The same holds true for an item that is most often purchased as a gift.  In these instances, keep both target markets in mind during the product creation phase and the marketing phase.

Defining your target market is not a static process, it may take refining as you learn more along the way.  For instance, in Episode 48, Melissa Kaiserman initially thought that her target market would be other very thrifty people like herself.  She advertised on frugal-living blogs, but that didn't pan out very well.  When she advertised on organizing blogs and began to see results, she knew she was onto something.  Her target market was a little different than she initially thought, and so she tweaked her vision. 

If you have multiple products, your target market may be slightly different for each product.

Fizzle.co put out a great resource for defining your target market but also for determining new product ideas based off of your target market.  This is a free resource you'll receive by signing up for their blog newsletter.

Use those little gray cells of yours, pay attention, and define your target market.  Describe this person in writing and use it to help guide your marketing and product development decisions.  When you do, we want to hear about it!  Let's chat in the comments!

 

-Sarah

Direct download: Episode204920target20market_mixdown20final.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 3:30am EST

Melissa Kaiserman of A Time for Everything shares her story of growing her Etsy Shop into a full-time business that supports her family #mompreneur #etsy

Melissa Kaiserman has a business that makes perfect cents (quite literally!) An avid believer in the cash envelope system of budgeting, she created something more durable than her paper envelopes. Her solution was not only practical, but beautiful too! In solving her own problem, Melissa quickly discovered that there were many moms out there looking for the same thing. They practically begged Melissa to create a solution for them, and after some time, she finally agreed!

In case you’ve never heard of this system, it works like this: take out cash for all of your daily expenses such as food, clothing, entertainment, or fun money. Many people pay their mortgage and utilities online, but for everything else, they use cash. Separate your cash into different envelopes to represent each category. When your money is gone, you can no longer spend on entertainment, or whatever the case may be, for that month. The system is a way to stay disciplined and ensure that you stick to your budget.

Listen to hear how Melissa turned a cute little cash envelope system into a thriving business that supports her family.

On the Podcast:

How a 10-Hour Blog Project Turned into a Business
Factors that Led to Melissa’s Early Etsy Success
The Lightbulb Moment that Changed Her Business and Family Life
When Setting a Low Pricepoint is a Good Idea
Finding Your Ideal Audience
Growing Through Authenticity
How to Migrate from Blogger to Wordpress (plus plugins for shop owners!)
A Time For Everything’s New Focus
An SEO Tip You Can’t Afford to Ignore
Etsy Christmas Tips
Tips on Shop Workflow and Staying Organized

How a 10-Hour Blog Project Turned into a Business

After starting a blog soon after her third child was born, Melissa later decided to dig out the old sewing machine her mom gave her and work on some simple sewing projects. Her old sewing machine had traveled with her through college and marriage, and she finally decided to quit being afraid of it.

In 2010, she found a tutorial for an oilcloth wallet meant to be used with the cash envelope system. She decided to attempt the project, although it seemed a bit outside of her skill level. Her first cash envelope wallet took about 10 hours to make!

Melissa shared the project on a her blog with a link to the tutorial. After being deluged with comments, emails, and real-life friends begging her to make them one, she finally gave in and took orders for about a dozen envelopes.

It didn’t take long for her to feel completely burnt out making them. Those first twelve envelopes took her a really long time to make.

3 months passed, and Melissa quickly forgot how painful the first batch of envelopes had been to create (just like childbirth!). She was ready to start again. She added pages to her blog and sold a simple design.

It wasn’t until she attended a craft retreat, made several wallets all at once, and had extra inventory that Melissa finally decided to try Etsy.

Melissa Kaiserman Etsy Shop Owner Workspace and Sewing Room

Factors that Led to Early Etsy Success

On October 14th, 2011 (If you’re reading this on the podcast air date, today is Melissa’s 3rd Etsy-versary!) Melissa listed her first item.

She had a sale within 24 hours!

Melissa attributes 3 factors to her early success on Etsy.

  1. Low competition – Only she and one other seller (whose products looked very different) were selling handmade cash envelope systems on Etsy.
  2. The Economy – In 2011, many people were still choosing to downsize and live more frugally. The trend for cash envelope systems was still on the rise.
  3. A giveaway on ABowlfulofLemons  - In January of 2012, Melissa did a giveaway here and offered free shipping on all orders during the giveaway time period. The event drove a lot of sales, and Melissa still gets Etsy traffic from that one blog post from almost 3 years ago!

The Lightbulb Moment

Melissa’s husband, Dave, had a really stressful job. They both felt that he should resign, so they began putting Melissa’s Etsy earnings into savings to build up 3-6 months of living expenses.

After Dave resigned at the end of summer, 2012, he was applying to several jobs, and made it to the final round of interviews for 3 different positions for which he was well-qualified. In all 3 cases, he didn’t get the job.

In the meantime, Melissa received an $1800 order for a credit union who needed door prizes. She had to close her shop for a week just to get the large order done, and she never could have finished it without her husband’s help.

Finally, the lightbulb went off for both of them: they should be doing the business together. If Dave had gone back to work, Melissa would have had to scale back the business and not accept as many orders. Instead, they were working well as a team, and everyone in the family loved having their husband and dad home.

Frugal to the core, Melissa shares that she and Dave have no debt except for their mortgage. If they had more expenses, they wouldn’t be making enough from the Etsy shop to do it full-time.
“Our lifestyle is worth it enough for us to live frugally to be able to keep doing this together,” Melissa says.

A Time for Everything Blogger Melissa Kaiserman with husband Dave

When Setting a Low Pricepoint is a Good Idea

Melissa keeps an $18 envelope design in her shop at all times. She’s never raised the price of that item, because she wants to have an affordable option that even the strictest of budgets could accommodate with a few months’ of fun money.

(We love this idea! Melissa truly understands her audience, and although she can branch out to higher-priced products, she acknowledges that she has a core customer who is often on a tight budget!)

Finding Your Ideal Audience

Melissa had to think outside the box to find out where her ideal audience hung out. It took some experimenting too! In the beginning of her business, she assumed that most of her customers would be those who followed frugal living websites.

What she discovered instead was that those who are extremely frugal have the mindset, “Why would I pay for something to help me get out of debt?”

Instead, she discovered that organizing blogs tend to have her ideal customer as followers. People who like to organize usually like pretty things, and they’re often moms on a budget. Hosting giveaways on organizing blogs has proven to be an excellent way for Melissa to attract her ideal customer and grow her business. She admits that the only two giveaways that didn’t have a great return were on frugal living blogs.

The one exception? A giveaway on MoneysavingMom was her most successful ever, but this is because her readership is so large. So even though the focus is on frugal living, there is a lot of overlap with other topics as well.

Growing Through Authenticity

Melissa is someone who lives the business she’s created. She’s not just a crafter who makes wallets because she can, she’s been an avid user of her own product for years. She’s passionate about helping others to get out of debt and live on a budget. She’s earned the trust of her customers because they know she doesn’t have a secret stash of credit cards on the side.

Melissa's son helping her work on the budget!
Melissa's son helping her work on the budget!

Melissa shared this story with us to illustrate:

In March, a potential customer just starting her Financial Peace journey wanted to place an order and asked if I would allow her to pay half up front and half when it was finished since she didn't have the full amount available right then. At the risk of losing the sale altogether, I had to say no. I explained that I am so passionate about people living debt-free and within their means that I could never in good conscience put myself in the place of a lender. I encouraged her to save up for it and that the freedom she would experience from following a budget and making those little decisions along the way to becoming debt-free would be worth it.

Yesterday I received an order from that very same gal with this note:

"Hi Melissa!! I FINALLY was able to save up enough money to make this purchase...thank you, Jesus!! I appreciate your not being willing to let me make payments on it a few months back {I just realized now that I never responded to your response; I totally forgot - I'm sorry!!}. The purchase is going to be even more special, now that I've had to work for it! "

I was reminded of two things:
One, standing by your convictions and doing what is right always bears fruit, even if you don't see it right away (or ever, as is sometimes the case).
Two, there really is great freedom and joy in choosing to delay gratification and avoid debt. It's like giving yourself two presents!

Melissa shared a favorite quote that sums up her philosophy: “Activity follows identity.” - Jeff Goins

Etsy Shop Advice from Full-Time Etsy Seller Melissa Kaiserman #mombusiness #etsyadvice

How to Migrate from Blogger to Wordpress

Melissa took the 5 best How-to posts on the topic, compared them all side-by-side, and went through the process systematically, step-by-step.

She then developed her site on a test URL so she could do things one at a time, and no one saw your site as she was working.

Finally, she pointed servers to her domain, put her site in maintenance mode, and then took 24 hours or less to make sure everything was working fine before going public.

For someone who’s not interested in learning the step-by-step process, Melissa recommends hiring from GretchenLouise.com

Gretchen also has a new 31 day series on becoming savvy with Wordpress!

Shop Plugins

Etsy 360 – provides a shop link in the navigation menu that brings up a visual form of your Etsy shop on your own website, while payment transactions still occur on Etsy itself.
Woo Commerce – This free plugin allows you to create your own shop right on your Wordpress site. You’ll pay normal paypal fees or fees for shipping program, but the Woo Commerce plugin will match the look and feel of your blog’s child theme to create a great fit. Melissa says installing Woo Commerce was easy, but it’s a lot more work to list each product compared to Etsy.

A Time For Everything’s New Focus

Ever since she began selling her own products, keeping up with her blog became difficult to manage. Melissa misses that connection with her readers, so she’s starting her new website with a new focus.

She admits that when she starts a new project she’s often overly optimistic, not able to keep up, and then gets discouraged and gives up altogether. This time, Melissa says she will, “Do it Afraid.”

Lucky for us, she’s kicking off her blog’s new focus with 31 Days to Managing Your Time Talent, and Treasure.

Her blog’s new tagline is Managing Time, Talent, and Treasure for His Glory.

How did she come up with this?  She asked her readers to figure out what they wanted to see most!

melissakaisermanatimeforeverythingbanner

Reader Survey

Melissa used a Form in GoogleDocs with multiple choice questions as well as "Rate from 1-10 based on interest."

She linked to the form in her email newsletter and on Facebook.

She received about 100 responses, which was not as many as she had hoped for. Melissa chose not to offer an incentive or giveaway, but she’s encouraged that those who did take the time to complete the survey are her ideal readers – the most committed and interested.

An SEO Tip You Can’t Afford to Ignore

Focus on the titles of each product. Put relevant information at the very beginning of the product listing. Ex. Cash Envelope System versus Cute Blue Wallet. Use words people actually search for when they’re ready to buy, and use Etsy’s search bar for related suggestions.

We’ve got more info on Etsy SEO and finding the right Keywords right here!

Etsy Christmas Tips

  • Participate in Black Friday, Cyber Monday, or other sales with relevant tags to attract more customers.
  • Set a firm shipping deadline. Make it clear in your shop announcement that all orders must be placed by X date in order to be shipped on Y date.
  • Melissa recommends never saying “in order to guarantee arrival by Christmas” because in all honesty, the package is out of your hands once you send it on its way. However, you can provide a firm guarantee of the date that you will ship the package and let your customers evaluate the probability of arrival.
  • Be realistic in what you’re able to do. If you receive too many orders, can’t complete them, and you let people down who are depending on those gifts, those bad experiences will be reflected in your reviews.

Shop Workflow and Staying Organized

Use the Print Edit Function in Firefox. It’s right in her toolbar. Melissa goes to the sole order, hovers over a sale, clicks and it will isolate just the orders she wants to print.

Melissa prints orders according to the day they’re scheduled to be shipped. She staples together all the orders for each day, cuts fabric for that shipping day, and then has a system to keep all the orders together that ship on a given day.

At one point, Melissa was so overwhelmed with orders from a blog mention on IHeartOrganizing that she had to shut down her shop for a weekend. She realized that she was catering to her customers by relisting orders that had sold out and spending 2 hours a day just on convos and making listings.

Now, Melissa has a listing called the Divide-It Wallet in Your Choice of Fabric that includes longer turn-around times. This allows customers to purchase a custom item that’s not pre-made, but it saves Melissa hours on convos and custom listings. Now when Melissa hosts a hugely successful giveaway, she doesn’t have to shut down her shop to keep up. (Genius idea – Melissa!)

Melissa Kaiserman's cash envelope system wallets in fabric of your choice on etsy

Stay in Touch with Melissa!

ATimeForEverything.net
Facebook: ATimeforEverything
Instagram: ATimeforEverything
Twitter: Atime4everythng
Pinterest: MKaiserman

What are your takeaways from Melissa's interview?  Is there a problem of yours you can solve that would help others too?  (Like Jocelyn?) Do you have a passion you live out daily that could also be a business?  (Kristen and Amanda do!)

Maybe you're just feeling more equipped to tackle that tech issue on your blog.  (I know I am!)

Let's chat in the comments!

Direct download: Episode2048_mixdown20final20220Melissa.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 3:30am EST

How an E-book became a Movement, and other ways to change the world with Kat Lee of HowTheyBlog and InspiredtoAction #podcast #momblogger

When you add up all of her accolades, you might feel a bit inadequate in comparison. Kat Lee is a blogger, podcaster, speaker, and writer. Yet, despite all of this, she’s insanely humble and fun! The last thing Kat would ever want to do is make someone else feel “less than”. She’s an encourager by nature, and after learning some of her productivity tips, you may find that you can get more done too!

Interviewing Kat was incredibly refreshing, because she never focuses on the numbers or the bottom line, but rather, how she can help and encourage others.  Kat has traveled with and is an advocate for Compassion International. Her e-book, Maximize Your Mornings has been downloaded over 15,000 times. The book launched a movement called HelloMornings. It’s a thriving community centered on keeping one another encouraged and accountable to waking up early, exercising, spending time with God, and being intentional about their days.

Kat and her husband live in Texas with their three children. Besides writing, podcasting, and encouraging others, Kat loves running, God, and Tex Mex food.

On the Podcast

05:59 – How an E-book became a Movement
06:58 – Accepting Help and Acknowledging your Strengths
08:30 – How Kat Does it All (Plus 3 Apps that help!)
12:23 – How to Blog Like a Ninja
16:06 – Fake it Til You Make It
19:00 – Masterminds: Tips for Forming them and a Helpful App
23:53 – Kat’s Life-Changing Trip
27:36 – The Foothills of Success (and other thoughts on low points)
32:58 – What Matters Most
35:48 – Why Kat Doesn’t Rely on Her Blogging Income
39:31 – Favorite Biz Books and a Quote to Keep you Going
40:04 – Uncommon Focus

How an E-book became a Movement

When Kat wrote Maximize your mornings, she never expected that an e-book on waking up early would become so popular! Women were resonating with the idea of starting their days with intention.

Fellow blogger, Katie Orr, approached Kat about turning the blog post series, HelloMornings into a group challenge. Women signed up and were placed in groups to hold each other accountable to waking up early, spending time with God, exercising, and planning their days.

The first time around, a couple hundred people joined the challenge. The movement has now grown into several thousand women who are connecting and encouraging one another. Over 40 countries are represented in the HelloMornings community!

HelloMornings - Daily Accountability for Women from Kat Lee of InspiredtoAction

Accepting Help and Acknowledging your Strengths

Kat quickly realized as she was trying to match women to the right accountability groups that she is not a details person. As she put it, her brain was exploding!

Kat took a step back from HelloMornings and allowed Katie Orr to take it over and get things in order. Now she’s come back in, but with a renewed vision for what her role should be.

Inspiring people, casting vision, encouraging others, and leading well are among Kat’s strengths. Stepping away from the details is a smart move for her.

(What a great lesson for all of us:  If we’re not gifted at something there’s no need to struggle through it; just surround yourself with others who can shine in that role.)

How Kat Does it All (Plus 3 Apps that help!)

Kat wakes up at 5:30 each morning. Right now with her children starting school early, this only gives her about 30 minutes to spend time with God, order her to-do list, do a tiny bit of exercise, and then she’s off to get the kids up and out the door to school.

Kat heads back to the office around 8 AM to start her work day. She has about 5 hours to work until her kids get home from school. After those 5 hours, she tries not to do anything work-related. She spends time with her kids, has dinner with her family, and relaxes with a book before bed.

3 Apps to Stay Productive

ToDoist.com – The app allows Kat to organize all of the items on her to-do list, break them into smaller tasks, and keep track of them no matter where she is.

30/30 App – Kat can list tasks, allot time to each one, then press play to start the timer and race against the clock.

Coffitivity – The app provides coffee shop background noise. Kat also likes to play classical music on Pandora.

Kat says her 3 favorite apps + Pandora combine her love for people, classical music to make her feel smart, and her love of sports and competition in racing against the clock!

Kat Lee on How to Blog Like a Ninja and her favorite productivity apps #podcast #productivity

How to Blog Like a Ninja

Kat asserts that we can eat up far too much time just trying to decide what to do or what topic to write about. Instead, she recommends a 3-Hat system.

  1. CEO Hat – Once a month, sit down and evaluate where you’re headed. What are your long-term goals?
  2. Manager Hat – Figure out how to turn those goals into a reality. Break down all the steps you need to take to get there. Prioritize projects by importance.
  3. Writer Hat – When it’s time to create content, there shouldn’t be any distractions. Simply sit down and write. Trust that the CEO and Manager know what they’re doing and picked the perfect topic to write about. During content creation, you shouldn’t have to make important decisions.

Fake it Til You Make It

As a beginning podcaster, Kat decided to just fake it til she made it. One of the first interviews she did was with Andy Andrews. The more she researched him, the more she realized he was kind of a big deal. He’s given talks for NATO, met with presidents, and written best-selling books.

“Here I am sitting in my little closet office, a stay-at-home mom interviewing him,” Kat says.

Kat Lee of HowTheyBlog with her best podcasting advice

Before they got on the line she just thought to herself, “He doesn’t know any different. For all he knows I’m a highly professional podcaster who has done this for years.”

Kat planned everything out and let Andy know what her goals were for the interview, how they would help the listener, and how she was going to do things. (It went great!)

Masterminds: Tips for Forming Them and a Helpful App

Kat recommends that you put together a wishlist of the people who really inspire you and who you connect with. She notes that you shouldn’t feel timid about asking people who appear “much bigger than you” online. “You really never know how much of a community they may have online.” Maybe you’ll be just the support and encouragement they need.

“The more no’s you get the more likely you are to get some great yes’s”

Kat loves using Voxer for her mastermind groups.  (We looked it up because we've never heard of it!  It's a walkie-talkie like system with live voice, texts, and photos.  I think if I got this app, Sarah would murder her phone with all the live voice messages she'd get of all my crazy ideas!)

Kat’s Life-Changing Trip

Kat is part of the Compassion Blogger program. Compassion is a child sponsorship organization that provides food, clothing, and education for children around the world in need. A few years ago, Kat had the privilege of going on a Compassion Blogger trip to the Philippines.

Kat is half-Filipino, but never had the chance to know her mom. She grew up with her All-American Dad with no connection to her mom's side of her family. She was able to connect with a cousin via Facebook, and on the same day that she met the child her own family was sponsoring, she arrived back at the hotel to see 18 members of her family there waiting to meet her for the first time.

Wow! There are just no words to express this life-changing trip. It impacted Kat’s life forever, but through her blog, she’s been able to impact so many other people as well.

Kat is pictured below with Maricor, the child she and her family sponsor through Compassion

Kat Lee of InspiredtoAction.com shares about her trip to the Philippines with Compassion International #blogger #makeadifference
“To think that my words could actually impact the lives of children on the other side of the world that maybe I would never be able to go and help – maybe I would never meet them….but the things that I shared could completely transform their lives, just completely blew my mind.”

The Foothills of Success (and other thoughts on low points)

Kat’s lowest point in blogging came just before one of her highest points. As she was preparing for the Compassion Blogger trip to the Philippines, she was utterly overwhelmed. She was about to fly around the world, barely knowing a single soul on the trip, and getting ready to meet her family for the first time.

Just before the trip, she was insanely busy matching women with accountability groups for HelloMornings. Finally, her last straw was broken in two as she was told during church small group that it was her turn to watch the kids.    Meltdown.    It was too much in that moment!

Yet just a week later, she’d have the most amazing experience of her life.

“Sometimes I think our lowest points are actually just the beginning – the foothills of our highest successes.” ~ Kat Lee #quote #inspiration

(Kat also learned through this experience the importance of delegating and playing to her strengths. There’s a purpose for every struggle!)

What Matters Most

Kat isn’t particularly motivated by money or traditional standards of success.

“If somebody’s life is changed – that’s really to me what matters the most.”

Kat Lee from the HowTheyBlog Podcast on What Matters Most to Her #podcast #momblogger

(Wow, we’re so inspired by Kat’s passion to encourage others and make a difference! I hope that all of us can get back to that singular focus of helping others.)

Why Kat Doesn’t Rely on Her Blogging Income

Kat doesn’t want her family to ever feel like her blogging income is something they need to depend on. Her priority is ultimately her kids and family, so she wants to be able to step down at any time if her family needs more of her attention.

Right now, the money is just being saved in an account, and they’re not sure what they’ll do with it.

Kat also shares a funny story about how committed she and her husband were to paying off debt in the early years of their marriage. Tune in to hear it!

Favorite Business Books

Anything by John Maxwell

Kat confesses that she reads his business books just as much to learn about being a good mother as to learn about growing her blog and podcast. Leadership is so applicable to our roles as moms!

Uncommon Focus

“The successful warrior is an average man with uncommon focus” ~ Bruce Lee

The playing field is wide open with this quote. Anybody can be successful if they narrow in, and don’t let the distractions take over.

Stay in Touch with Kat!

InspiredtoAction.com
HowTheyBlog.com
Instagram is her favorite: InspiredtoAction

Another Pinnable Quote for you below.  Kat had so many words of wisdom to share!

Kat Lee "If somebody's life is changed; that's really to me what matters the most." #quote #inspiration

 

Direct download: Episode2047_mixdown20final.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 3:30am EST

The IRS and Small Business

Dealing with the IRS when starting a small business sounds really intimidating!  But I'm here to walk you through the basics of what you need to know, and set your mind at ease!

As a caveat to this discussion, I am an accountant, and I do have my CPA (certified public accountant) license, although currently I have put my license on inactive status.   My professional experience mostly consisted of government and non-profit audit, not tax law!  The guidance I am giving below comes directly from the IRS website, but is summarized for your ease of use.  However, please keep in mind that your particular tax situation may require the advice of a tax professional.  The tax code is lengthy and complicated, and I do not presume to know everything about taxes.  I am always happy to answer any questions that I can, but a complicated situation will need the advice of someone who works with taxes professionally.

For the purpose of this discussion, we are also assuming that your business structure is most likely either a sole proprietorship (just you) or a partnership (more than one person).  These are the simplest business structures, and the most likely choice for a new small business.

My first piece of advice when starting a business is to keep your business transactions separate from your personal transactions.  A separate credit card and bank statement will keep the IRS happy, and will make record keeping and taxes much easier to deal with.  These separate accounts can either be personal accounts in your name or business accounts in the name of your business.  Just as long as you reserve them for only business transactions you will be good to go!  Elizabeth Potts Weinstein, a small business lawyer, mentioned this in her Episode.

If you are just starting out in business, the next thing you might want to know is if what you are doing is a business or a hobby in the eyes of the IRS.  The IRS has 9 points for you to consider when making this determination, but the main point would be, are you conducting this activity for the purpose of making a profit?  If that is your purpose, you are a business.  If this truly is just for fun, you might be a hobby.

If you are a hobby,  you still must report your income on your tax return, but you can also deduct your expenses up to the amount of your revenue.

If you are a business, you can deduct all of your expenses, even if they exceed the amount of your revenue.  This excess loss can offset other types of income that you might have on your tax return, such as W-2 income.

The IRS does have a rule that may force you to be either a hobby or a business.  Lets say you are a hobby, but you have had profit in 3 of the last 5 tax years, then the IRS determines that you are not hobby, you are a business.  The IRS presumes that an activity is carried on for profit (as a business) if it makes a profit during at least 3 of the last 5 tax years.

The rule works the other way too.  Lets say you are a business, but you have not had a profit in 3 of the last 5 tax years, then the IRS determines that you are not a business, you are a hobby.  This rule applies to sole proprietorship, partnership, and S Corps.  So basically, if you are a business, you can only have expenses in excess of earnings for 2 of the last 5 tax years.  If you have more years of losses than that, the IRS says that you are not a business, only a hobby.

Material participation is another rule to consider.  If you are a business that has a loss, you must have materially participated in the business in order to deduct that loss against other income.  In general if you are the only one working on the business, or you have put 500 hours into the business, then you most likely have materially participated.  The material participation rules are actually a bit complicated, but in general, these are the most common standards that apply for material participation.

If you are a business, I would recommend getting an EIN number with the IRS soon.  An EIN number is an identifying number for each business, similar to a social security number for a person.  The process of getting an EIN number is super easy.  The IRS has an online form that spits one out for you right away after asking a few question about your business.  This is the only form of business registration required with the federal government.  So the federal end of registering your business is super easy.  One huge advantage of having an EIN number is that you can buy wholesale.  Many vendors only sell wholesale, and require you provide your EIN before they will sell to you.  If you are in a business where you buy raw materials, the ability to buy at wholesale prices will save you lots of money, and increase your profit margin.  So if you know your a business, don't hesitate, get an EIN number with the IRS.

One question I get a lot about tax deductions concerns mileage.  Every year the IRS puts out a business mileage rate.  In 2014 it's .56 .  So every time you drive your personal vehicle for a business purpose, you can deduct that mileage as a business expense.  I'm sure you are constantly running to the post office for your business, or driving to the office supply store, all of the miles are a business expense, roundtrip.  I recommend keeping a log of all your roundtrip business miles driven, record the date, and miles driven, and where you went.  And at the end of the year those miles x .56 in 2014, is the amount you can deduct as an expense.  If you forget to keep a log, look at your separate business credit card or bank statement for the year, and jot down every time you were at the post office or office supply store, or whatever the case may be.  Determine roundtrip mileage to these places and calculate how much mileage you can deduct for the year.  Mileage is a legitimate deduction that can really add up.  Many people think that if they use their personal car for business purposes that they can deduct car repair bills as a business expense, but that is not the case.  The mileage rate is designed to cover the expense of gas plus wear and tear on your vehicle.

We have covered a lot of issues that deal with the IRS, but what about state registration?  Unfortunately, I can't give a lot of guidance here, because every state is different!  Each state handles business registration in different ways with different forms.  The IRS does have a great page that will take you to your state's information on business registration.  Determining what you need to do to register your business in your state is not fun.  But I would encourage you not to put it off.  If you know your a business, don't wait to register your business, get it done right away.  States don't look kindly on a business that has been collecting revenue and not paying sales tax or income tax!

It may seem like if you are starting a business, that you are not going to have to pay someone to do your taxes.  Not necessarily!  A sole proprietorship or a partnership business income is "passed through" onto your personal tax return.  As long as you can add up your revenue and expenses, and answer some questions you should be ok to continue doing your taxes on your own.  I would recommend getting tax software that can handle business income.  Many cheap tax programs only handle simple W-2 income.  So pay a little extra for a program that can handle business schedules, and you should be all set.  I use H&R Block Home & Small Business.

The IRS has a nice small business section of their website which can help guide you as you begin your small business.

I hope you found this information helpful.  Follow the links to the IRS website for further guidance.  But don't put off business registration!  Eat That Frog and you will feel much better!  Leave a comment and let me know how it goes!

 

-Sarah

Direct download: Episode2046_mixdown20final.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 8:34am EST

Little Delights Cakes Owner and Mompreneur Beth Walburger shares Pinterest Tips for gaining a huge following, growing a food-based business, and putting family first on the Brilliant Business Moms podcast.  #mom #entrepreneur

Today’s podcast is a special treat (pun somewhat intended!) Beth Walburger is the owner of Little Delights Cakes – a small business where she creates cakes, cupcakes, and cake pops. She does it with tons of artistic flair too!

Sarah and I were so excited to welcome our first “foodie” mom to the show. There are certainly some unique challenges to running a food-based business, and Beth guides us through many of those.

Beth’s business started when she began spending more time at home due to her youngest two sons’ disabilities. Knowing that she wanted to be around to care for them but also wanting something just for her, Little Delights grew from a hobby to a small business that helps their family.

(One important note:  Beth’s business is still considered a hobby with income. Listen to the podcast to discover the important distinction and how it helps Beth to keep doing what she loves!)

Listen to Discover:

01:30 – How Beth Crafted a Business that Works Around Her Family’s Needs
03:35 – The One Method Beth Uses to Stave Off Overwhelm
07:10 – Product Planning for a Food-Based Business
09:22 – How Beth Surpassed 60,000 Followers on Pinterest!
16:35 – Seeking Guidance for Her Business
24:22 – A Hobby with Income + Making the IRS Happy!
33:46 – Her Business Advice (it’s both crazy simple and insanely difficult to follow!)

Crafting a Business with Family First

Beth’s fourth son was born with special needs. With a tracheotomy and a feeding tube, their family’s life was drastically changed. Beth was home more often taking care of her son.  18 months later, their youngest son was also born with some of the same special needs.

What started as a hobby (making more elaborate birthday cakes for her own kids, creating the perfect frosting recipe, and emailing her friends to offer her services) became a small business as word of mouth spread throughout their California town and her own friends shared her talents with their connections on social media.

Beth Walburger Family, Crafting a Business that puts Family First for this Mompreneur

Too Much Growth – How Beth Staves off Overwhelm

As word of her talent at creating the perfect cake spread, Beth started to feel completely overwhelmed.

She avoids this by simply setting a firm cut-off date for more elaborate cakes. She’s completely honest with customers who may want something fancy on short notice. She simply can’t do it.

Beth says that most customers understand that if they want something very elaborate and specific, they need to get in touch with her many weeks in advance. If not, she can offer simple cupcakes or something else.

Simply saying “no” when she can’t handle any more orders has been a huge help to Beth.

(Sometimes it’s hard for us to say “no” when we feel like we’re turning business away, but when you have talent like Beth, the business will continue to roll in! Beth prioritizes her family and sanity by saying “no” when the time calls for it.)

Product Planning and Production

Inventory is a completely different beast with a food-based business. Beth’s secret is to make the cakes ahead, wrap them really, really well, and freeze them for up to two weeks. She decorates her cakes the day before the event. Fondant can be created off of the cake in advance as well.

Frozen Cake by Beth Walburger of Little Delights Cakes mom business owner and mother of 5 shares her best biz tips

(Check out this adorable Frozen Cake Beth made!  Wow, she's got talent!)

60,000 Pinterest Followers – How She Did it!

  • Focus on a niche (hers is cake decorating!)
  • Be consistent (Beth pins for about an hour on most days)
  • Find community boards related to your niche
  • Request to join community boards by contacting the board owner
  • On community boards – don’t just pin your own content, pin helpful content from other pinners too.

In 2 years, Beth has built a following of over 61,000 (as of the podcast airdate, 9/30/2014)

(This is pretty incredible since many bloggers like Abby consider Pinterest to be their highest traffic-referrer.  Way to go, Beth!)

Guidance for Her Business

Mompreneur Beth Walburger on Struggles in Her Business and the hard work it takes to be successful

At each step in her business, Beth re-evaluates things, prays about them, and asks herself, “do I feel good about this? Should I move forward?"  So far, the answer has always been yes.

Beth says her first goal is to be a mom, and the other stuff is (no pun intended!) icing on the cake.

Hobby with Income + Happy IRS

Beth is able to work out of her home kitchen, because she is technically a “Hobby with Income.” If she wanted to get a business license, she’d have to re-do her kitchen in order to adhere to some very strict health codes.

Some moms in the food industry choose to rent out a kitchen so that they can be an official business.

Beth says, there’s a certain amount of money you can make before you have to be a business. It’s a pretty high level of income, so she’s not worried about it at this point.

As she says, being a hobby with income is a good way to go when you’re getting started.

(Seriously, what a great idea! For moms out there considering a food business, there might not be as many barriers to entry as you think!)

Best Business Advice

Beth Walburger of Little Delights Cakes Shares her business advice #mompreneur

(Our takeaway: Passion + Value = Business Growth)

Beth's Website & Social Media

LittleDelightsCakes.com

Facebook: LittleDelightsCupcakes
Pinterest:  BethsBakes
Instagram: LittleDelightsCakes

Wasn't it fun getting to know Beth and her story?  What do you think:  Will you give Pinterest some more thought and serious strategy?  What about taxes and business details?  Is there anything you'll change?

Let's chat in the comments!

~ Beth Anne

Direct download: Episode204520Beth20Walburger_mixdown20final202.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 3:27am EST

Why you should grow your email list, plus strategies for creating a killer opt-in #emailmarketing

If you're a creative entrepreneur or blogger, you may not have given much thought to creating an email list.  "Isn't that for big retailers and marketers with product launches?" you might ask.

While email is certainly for those people, it's FOR YOU too.

Email is one of the most effective ways for any brand, Etsy shop owner, or blogger to connect with their readers, fans, and customers.  Today on the podcast, I hope I can bring that point home!

The purpose here isn't just to convince you that having an email list is important, but to hold your hand and show you how easy it can be to set up that list and start growing it.  You can SO do this!

On second thought, holding hands feels a little weird.  Why don't we just chat in the kitchen while our kids wreak havoc around us?  That's a more realistic picture.

(P.S.  I fully expect some hugs and high-fives a year from now when everyone reading this has a thriving email list.  Nope, it doesn't matter how much you complain or drag your feet, we're doing this, and as I love to tell Holden:  the sooner you start the sooner you'll be done and you can go play!)

On the podcast:

  •  Startling stats on the effectiveness of email marketing (it's not dead... not even close!)
  • 4 Places on your Site where your Email Opt-in Box should be
  • 5 Ideas to Help you Create that Irresistable Opt-in Offer

Stats on Email Marketing (convinced, yet?)

  • "91% of consumers check email at least once per day." (ExactTarget)
  • Email open rates average 18-30% depending on your Industry (MailChimp)
  • Compare this to 5% of your Twitter followers viewing one of your tweets (on average) or 6% of your Facebook fans       seeing one of your posts. (Andrew Bruce Smith & TechCrunch)
  • "For every $1 spent on email marketing, the average return on investment is $44.25" (Experian Email Marketing Study)

4 Places Where Your Email Opt-in Box Belongs

  1. Your Homepage (If possible, put your opt-in box in the header area, if that's not possible, put it at the top of your sidebar.  For etsy shop owners, this means putting a link to your opt-in in the header of your shop.)
  2. About-Me Page (This is one of the most-viewed pages on your site.  On it, you've hopefully explained the benefits of readers being there, amp things up by giving them an added benefit - a great freebie as an email opt-in.  Sarah and I are STILL working on our About page. . . . . shame, shame, I know your name!)
  3. Designated Landing Page just for your email offer (2 Things are achieved with this one.  Eliminate distractions by making it VERY clear what you want your reader to do.  Second, you can create some great images that talk about your amazing opt-in and then share, pin, and tweet those out so that others will head on over and opt-in.  Here's our landing page.)
  4. The End of Every Post (Readers who make it all the way to the end are engaged.  They're interested in what you have to say.  This is the perfect time to offer them something more.  Better yet, if you're able, create an offer that's unique to that post's content.  Example, a post on photography tips could end with an offer for a checklist to ensure you snap great photos every time.)

5 Ideas for a Compelling Opt-in Offer

  1.  Resource List (Clay Collins of LeadPages says that when they analyze the data from the millions of Leadpages in their system, the ones that perform best aren't necessarily the biggest or most valuable, they're just the ones that readers perceive as the most useful.  Everyone wants shortcuts, so if you offer a concise list of the tools that other successful people are using, that's a slam dunk.  You don't have to be in the business space to do this.  It could be a list of photography props and equipment, or the tools you use to refinish furniture.  Your video course or e-book might be amazing, but everyone is short on time, so they may choose not to opt-in simply because they won't have time to consume the content.)
  2. Guest Post, then Offer a Related Opt-In on Your Site (Abby did this by posting on MoneySavingMom about her Home Binder and then offering a step-by-step guide on creating labels in Word as her opt-in.  She had just convinced her new readers that staying organized was important, so of course they wanted to grab her free tool that would help them to stay organized.)
  3. Give Away part of the Product for Free (Jocelyn gave away a month of Library Lesson plans for free.  Victoria is giving away a chapter of her YA novel for free.  In both cases, the offer helps you to gauge interest in your product and create fans who are excited and ready to buy when your product is finally available.  Those who sign up can give you valuable feedback as you hone your product as well.)
  4. Checklist (Again, this is a stream-lined, time-saving, super-helpful kind of offer.  Provide a checklist for starting a blog, or the simple things every mom can do each day to stay sane.  There are a million possibilities, and I just know there's a checklist that relates to your niche.)
  5. Comparison Chart (Once again, you're compiling information in a concise way that can be insanely helpful to your readers.  They don't have time to sift through tons of blog posts.  Provide everything they need to pick a Photo editing program or the right tools for creating incredible artwork.)

Resources mentioned:

SPI 78:  Rapid List-Building with Clay Collins of LeadPages

The Nathan Barry Show Episode 2:  Email Marketing with James Clear, Brennan Dunn, and Corbett Barr

Derek Halpern Twitter versus Email Experiment (you have to watch the video to hear about it)

What do you think?  Are you convinced that your email list is important?  If you have questions on getting started, putting your opt-in box on your site, or creating a great offer, don't worry!  We'll be tackling email marketing for the next two weeks of 52 Weeks to a Better Business.  Join us, we'd love to have you!

~ Beth Anne

Direct download: Episode2044_mixdown20final.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 3:30am EST

Entrepreneur and Mom Jocelyn Sams shares her best online business advice #mompreneur

We all have expertise on certain topics that could be of help to others.  You may not realize that your current job or hobbies could be leveraged into a successful online business.  Jocelyn Sams is proof that this is the case. In fact, she and her husband Shane have had a 6-figure month in their online business.

Talking with Jocelyn has taught us that if you focus, work hard, and keep going, six figures can absolutely be achieved. Jocelyn and her husband have transitioned from being teachers to working full-time in the online business space.

Jocelyn is a certified library media specialist for grades K-12, and her website is ElementaryLibrarian.com.  She has a blog, podcast, and frequently does webinars where she shares great advice for elementary school librarians.  This expertise has paid off in the form of lesson plans for elementary school librarians that Jocelyn sells on her site.

Listen to hear her incredible story, along with her best tips for growing your audience and becoming a pro at sales without being “salesy” about it!

On the Podcast

02:17 – From 11 Cents to a Successful Business
06:25 – Turning a Problem into a Solution that Others Will Pay for
09:49 – Growing Your Audience (4 strategies that Jocelyn uses)
13:36 – The Power of Webinars (plus Jocelyn’s best practices!)
18:57 – A Six Figure Month (yes, month!)
20:02 – The Tipping Point
23:38 - Jocelyn and Shane’s “Flipped Lifestyle”
26:29 – Hiring and Training Virtual Assistants
32:50 – Jocelyn’s Favorite Online Tool
33:54 – How to Grow Your Business (Jocelyn’s best advice!)
35:35 – Should You Walk Away? (3 Factors to Consider)

From 11 Cents to a Successful Business

Jocelyn’s husband Shane started listening to podcasts about growing an online business while he was mowing the lawn one day. He was so excited about everything that he was learning, that he stopped the mower, ran inside and told Jocelyn all about it.

Knowing that Shane is a “shiny objects” kind of guy, she smiled and nodded and assumed that he’d be onto his next big thing soon.

This time, things were different. Shane created some websites, and he kept researching and learning all he could about making money online. He was convinced that he could prove to Jocelyn that this would work.

Despite a lack of early success, Shane stuck with it and kept going. One night, as he and Jocelyn were relaxing with their computers, he started screaming excitedly that they had made 11 cents!!! Someone had clicked on one of the Google Adsense Ads he had on a site.

Jocelyn said that this was a lightbulb moment for her in thinking, “woah, people will actually give you money online.”

She thought to herself, “If he can make some money, then maybe I can too.”

Turning a Problem into a Solution that Others Will Pay For

Jocelyn was an elementary school librarian, and her principal had been asking her to create some very specific lesson plans that met national standards. She didn’t have time to work on these plans during the school day.

She wondered if there was a way for her to purchase lesson plans, edit them a bit to make them her own, and save herself a lot of time and effort.

She started searching and couldn’t find what she was looking for, but she knew that if she had this problem, chances were there were other librarians with the same pain point.

Over the summer, she created ElementaryLibrarian.com to test the idea that she could sell library lesson plans online. She knew in the back of her mind that if the project completely failed, at least she’d have the lesson plans ready for herself when she returned to school in the fall.

When Jocelyn set up her website, an email opt-in box was one of the first things she added. She had learned from Shane that collecting emails was very important for an online business.

For her email opt-in offer, Jocelyn gave away an entire MONTH of lesson plans for free! Essentially, she wanted to see if people were interested in the lesson plans and get them onto her email list.

After she gauged interest and had quite a few people who wanted her lesson plans, she went to market selling the second month of plans.

When Jocelyn first started selling, she only had two months of lesson plans completed. She continued creating more lesson plans throughout the school year. Jocelyn essentially worked two jobs that year. One, as an elementary school librarian, the second as an online business owner, and let’s be honest, the third and fourth jobs as a mom to two young children!

(We think Jocelyn’s strategy of just creating one small product at a time was so smart! She didn’t kill herself creating a year of lesson plans before she proved that the market for her product existed. She created each month of plans only after she knew that there were customers ready to buy.)

Growing Your Audience

Jocelyn shared 4 Killer Strategies for growing your audience online. The best news? They’re all free!

  1. Build your email list – Most online experts agree that this is the BEST way to get people to come back to your site. Jocelyn also grew her numbers by offering an amazing opt-in for her subscribers (a whole month of lesson plans for free!)
  2. SEO strategy – Jocelyn used Google’s Keyword Planner to figure out the best phrases to target related to her niche. She took the process one step further by searching for those terms on Google, then finding a way to get a link back to her website on those other top-ranking sites. For example, she’d leave a thoughtful comment with a link back to her blog, or if it was a wiki she’d add her website’s information.
  3. Pinterest – Jocelyn found that many of the results that appeared in Google related to elementary librarians were actually Pinterest boards. She decided to build a solid presence on Pinterest herself, and ensures that all of her blog posts have a Pinterest-friendly cover photo.
  4. Social Media – Jocelyn would remind her email subscribers to follow her on Pinterest, Facebook, and Twitter as well. (The more often you can get in front of your audience, the better!)

The Power of Webinars

Jocelyn shares that she and Shane are still new to webinars, but hosting them has been wildly successful for their business.

Her tips and best practices for Webinars:

  • Use Google Hangouts on Air (you can schedule the hangout for a given time)
  • You can send a link out to your subscribers or followers for them to join the hangout.
  • Leadpages has a custom webinar page that allows you to create a webinar box at the top and a chatroll in the bottom so participants can chat and ask questions during the webinar.
  • Prezi allows you to create a powerpoint presentation but with more options such as embedding Youtube videos.  You can also create a link to the presentation, which Jocelyn likes to make available to everyone after the webinar is over.
  • Jocelyn runs a sales special during the webinar, so there’s an incentive to “buy now”
  • She never makes the webinar all about her products. It’s about the attendees’ questions and how she can help them. She focuses on what they can accomplish together during that hour.
  • Jocelyn mentions her products for sale at the beginning and end of the webinar. (The content in each webinar focuses on all sorts of topics that would be helpful to librarians such as setting up self-checkout or utilizing student volunteers in your library.)
  • Jocelyn gives away 2 door prizes during her webinars.  The first door prize is for someone who completes some sort of social sharing for her (retweeting, pinning, or commenting on a fb post, whatever they decide for that webinar)  There’s another giveaway for someone who purchases during the hour. So again, there’s an incentive to “buy now” in the hopes of winning something extra.

A Six Figure Month

Jocelyn and Shane had a huge product launch in the summer of 2014. Their goal was to have a six figure summer of sales between June, July, and August. Instead, they accomplished their goal in July alone!

Jocelyn confesses that sometimes their business and life still doesn’t seem real!  They see themselves as just “regular people” who work really hard and don’t give up.

The Tipping Point

After Shane and Jocelyn had been doing business online for about a year, they had their first five-figure month in July of 2013. In August, they almost tripled their July sales!

The year before, they essentially had two full-time jobs with teaching and running their online business. They both knew that they were forfeiting their quality of life to grow their business.

In August of 2013, Shane and Jocelyn gave their notice and quit their jobs as teachers.  Jocelyn confesses that she left a job that she really liked, but at the same time, she knew that if she wanted to have more time with her family, it was the right move for them.

What Does Life Look Like Now?

Shane and Jocelyn get to work when they want to (and play when they want to!)

They travel more frequently and do a lot of work on the road. They use childcare during the week, but they take every Friday, Saturday, and Sunday off to have 3 solid days as a family.

Jocelyn’s advice for those who are trying to grow an online business?

Don’t lose heart. Hang in there, because something good might be waiting for you just around the corner.

Jocelyn and Shane’s “Flipped Lifestyle”

With their recent success, Shane and Jocelyn have been fielding many requests from others wanting to know how to start and grow their own businesses. Since there are only so many hours in the day, they started their own podcast and website dedicated to helping others achieve what they’ve achieved online.  You can find it at FlippedLifestyle.com

Hiring and Training Virtual Assistants

Shane and Jocelyn use O-desk to find virtual assistants. They list job descriptions and wait for people to respond. After that, they do a basic Skype interview with their top contenders to see who will be a good fit for the job.

To train their VA’s and save themselves a lot of headaches, they create screen capture videos to explain exactly what they want done. Then, when the VA has questions, they can refer back to the video.

Jocelyn also tries to give her VA’s repetitive tasks that don’t involve a lot of independent decision-making to make the process run more smoothly.

She recommends Virtual Freedom by Chris Ducker * to help you get started in hiring help online.

For website design, Shane and Jocelyn use Jocelyn’s sister Andrea Whitmer at Nuts and Bolts Media

Jocelyn’s Favorite Online Tool

Canva.com

Canva is a graphic design website that has so many templates to help you create cover pages, facebook ads, or just about anything you might need.  Jocelyn says that it’s super fast to use and create something great.

Jocelyn’s Advice on Growing a Business

Focus on one thing at a time.

Jocelyn believes that simply getting things done is the most important thing. There are a lot of people who want to work on one project for a little while, then float to another project, then come back to something later. When you work like that, it’s difficult to fully complete a project or to really do it well.

She and Shane set long-term, short-term and immediate goals for their business. Based on those goals, they decide what they’re going to work on next.

Should You Walk Away?

Although Shane and Jocelyn have experienced great success online, she shares 3 factors to consider if you’re on the verge of giving up.

  1. Time – If you’ve given your current project plenty of time to grow, it may be time to pivot and try something new.
  2. Place – Maybe you haven’t been talking about your site in the right places or advertising in the right places. Make sure you exhaust every possibility here before giving up.
  3. Communication – Maybe you haven’t been framing your product in a way that gets inside the minds of your customers. (Are you showing them how you can solve their problem and providing clear benefits?)

Jocelyn thinks that paid strategies will likely tell you more than free ones. If you’re paying for people to see your product and they’re still not buying it, that may indicate that the market is not there.

A Business Book to Help You Define your Customer

Jocelyn recommends Start with Why by Simon Sinek *

The premise of the book is that people don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it. She says that the book will help you to define your ideal customer and solidify what you should focus on moving forward.

You’ll have to listen to the end to hear Jocelyn’s Funny Mom Moment, courtesy of her five year-old Isaac!

Where Can You Find Jocelyn?

Jocelyn and Shane’s new website and Podcast: FlippedLifestyle
Twitter:  FlippedLS
Facebook:  FlippedLifestyle

(*asterisk denotes affiliate link.  We use affiliate links for products that we have personally used and loved or products that come highly recommended from business moms we trust)

I love Jocelyn's advice on just focusing on one thing.  What's the one thing you need to do to grow your business right now.  See how we're focusing on one thing right now. 

 P.S.  Another husband and wife duo and a brilliant mom who loves books!

Direct download: Episode204320Jocelyn20Sams_mixdown20final.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 3:30am EST

If you are a handmade crafter, selling your products at craft shows can be a great way to earn money and get instant feedback.  Customer feedback is a vital part of running a successful handmade business, and there is honestly not a better way to get feedback than by talking to customers in person.

For those of you who don't know, Beth Anne and I got started in business initially by selling handmade jewelry with other family members.  After several years we decided to go in a different direction, but ultimately the experiences we gained running that handmade business have been invaluable for us in our other endeavors.  With the handmade jewelry business we attended several craft shows each year, so these tips are derived from my personal experience.  Picking the perfect craft show to sell your goods is important because craft shows cost money, and they take a lot of time.  And time and money are obviously things you don't want to waste.  So follow my tips to picking the perfect craft fair for selling your handmade artisan wares!

#1 Start Visiting Craft Shows Now!

The best way to discover if a craft show is a good fit for you, is to visit it before you apply.  Scope out the fair for attendance, type of customer, type of vendors, table setups, and more.  Vendors are a friendly bunch, so talk with them about their success at this particular event, and other venues they regularly sell at.  Also keep in mind that applications for fall craft shows are often due in the spring, so get your name on the application mailing list early.

#2 Consider the Audience of the Craft Show

Does the demographic of the craft show attendees fit well with your product?  If you have a hip product geared for 20 somethings and the average age of attendees is 75, take that into consideration.  In addition, are the other vendors selling outdated crafts, or would your product fit in nicely with the selection offered?  Also consider the neighborhood in which the craft show is located.  A craft show in an area with more disposable income will probably result in attendees willing to spend more money, which is always a good thing!

#3 Cost

It may help you to think in terms of what you will need to sell to break even.  If a show costs $80 per table, and your product costs $8 each, you will need to sell 10 items to break even.  Also keep in mind that the cost of a show is more than just the booth fee.  There will be costs involved in making a pleasing display as well as cost of goods sold.

#4 Bigger is not Always Better

We once participated in a show (without attending first!) where the tables were so close together, the aisles were cramped, there were two buildings to get through, all of which did not make for a pleasant shopping environment for patrons.  In addition, if you saw something early in the day, it would have been next to impossible to get back to their booth later in the day to make a purchase.  Although this event was well attended, our sales did not reflect that.  In this particular case, the big show was not better.  On the other hand, we sold at a very large outdoor show each year that had a very pleasant shopping environment with wide aisles and easy access.  This show was consistently our best each year.

#5 Consider Outdoor vs. Indoor

There is something about an outdoor craft event which is just so nice and makes for pleasant shopping.  The outdoor event we sold at each year was consistently our best show, except for the one year we had bad weather.  Weather can be a major draw back for outdoor shows, in addition, the cost to set up an outdoor booth is often greater than an indoor booth.  An outdoor booth requires a tent, tables, chairs, and extra provisions, while at an indoor event the tables and chairs are often provided, and tent is not needed.  It certainly takes more effort to set up an outdoor booth, but the atmosphere for an outdoor show can be really nice.

#6 Consider Amenities

The main amenity to consider here is electricity.  If you rely on electricity for your display or product, be sure to look into availability early.  Many venues have limited electricity or they charge extra for electricity.

#7  Only Handmade?

A craft and "vendor" show is going to have more than just handmade crafts.  A wide variety of businesses will be present.  Most likely you will have the most success at a show that only features handcrafted items.

#8  Is it Juried?

A juried show requires you to submit photos with your application.  High quality craft shows are most often juried.  If a craft show is willing to accept anyone, the quality of combined crafters will be lower.

#9 Is it Online?

I mention this one with a caveat, most of the shows we attended were well established local events that did not necessarily have an online presence, and we did very well at these shoes.  But obviously everything being online is the way of the world, so especially if your item is geared to a young crowd, then I think a craft show with an online presence would be important.

#10 Mix it up

Even after finding the perfect craft show to sell your products, you may still need to mix it up a bit.  We found that year after year the same people attend the same craft shows.  So if they bought from you last year, they may not need to buy more, even if they loved their purchase.  Market saturation can occur with your products, and therefore sales will decrease a little each year.  Attending different craft shows in different areas will help.

Hopefully by following these 10 tips, you will find a fantastic craft show to sell your handmade items and make a killing!  Craft shows are a time-intensive endeavor, so you want to choose carefully.

Do you have any more tips for selecting a craft show?

-Sarah

Direct download: Episode2042_mixdown20final.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 3:30am EST

Mom entrepreneur Sandy Barton shares her best advice on creating an organic, GOTS certified baby clothing line from start to finish #mompreneur

Talking to go-getter business moms is always a great time! What I love most about Sandy’s story is that she saw a gaping hole in the marketplace, and rather than throw up her hands, she got to work creating the perfect product to meet her need. By creating SpenceBaby, Sandy solved not only her own problem of finding fashionable, organic baby clothing, but she solved the problem that many other moms were facing as well.

Did we mention that Sandy and her husband have created and grown SpenceBaby while both of them continue to work full-time day jobs? As Sandy says, “Sometimes you have to make some sacrifices in order to make things happen.”

Sandy and her husband Paul are definitely making things happen. They recently returned from the ABC Expo in Las Vegas - the largest baby and child expo in the world! Scroll down to see pictures of their booth – it looked AMAZING!

If you’ve ever considering launching your own clothing line, this episode is packed with some insider info on how you might be able to get started. For any other moms out there with a brilliant business idea that seems too big to achieve, listen on!

On the Podcast:

01:06 – Turning a Problem into a Business
06:34 – Finding a Supplier & Manufacturer
07:56 – The Beauty of Bootstrapping
10:09 – 1 Day, 8 Babies, and a Beautiful Photo Shoot (Learn Sandy’s best tips for photo shoot success!)
13:59 – How She Does It (What does a typical day look like for Sandy?)
16:38 – Marketing Strategy (Sandy shares what works and what doesn’t!)
20:30 – Order Fulfillment, Inventory, & Staying Organized
25:46 – Even go-getters have low points, hear how Sandy pushes past them
27:39 – Making this muddled world a better place…
33:37 – The ABC Expo (why they almost didn’t get in, and the importance of just asking!)

Learn even more on the podcast, such as what a GOTS certification is all about, why it’s so important to Sandy, who designs the clothes for Spencebaby, and what customers have to say about the quality of their product.

From the SpenceBaby Lookbook photographed by Red Pinwheel photography and styled by Heather Rome  mom entrepreneur interview on how to create an organic clothing line

Turning a Problem into a Business

When Sandy discovered that her sister-in-law was pregnant and expecting a girl, she began the hunt for adorable, organic baby clothing. Although she was able to find some organic options, there wasn’t much style involved! The same uninspired onesie and romper styles kept turning up.

Not long after this, Sandy discovered that she was pregnant too. Creating fashionable, organic baby clothing became a passion. Her husband, Paul, has always been entrepreneurial, so together they started SpenceBaby, named in honor of their daughter, Spencer.

Sandy Barton's baby Spencer, the inspiration behind her organic clothing line for babies.  Mompreneur.  Brilliant Business Moms

Finding a Supplier & Manufacturer

Finding the right manufacturer for their clothing line, as well as the right suppliers to source their fabrics proved to be a long process. Sandy and Paul knew that they wanted to use GOTS-certified suppliers and manufacturers.

For fashion newbies like us, Sandy explained that a GOTS certification covers so much more than just being “organic”. Organic fabrics are created without the use of pesticides, but a GOTS certification means that every step of the manufacturing process must be free of harmful or toxic chemicals. This regulates the dyes that can be used in the fabrics, the materials that can be used in the buttons and zippers on a clothing item, and so much more.

To find a GOTS-certified manufacturer that was reputable and trustworthy, Sandy did lots of searching online. She found Alibaba to be an excellent source as it’s user-friendly and provided tons of options for her to explore.

Once she found some different options, she was able to get samples made and sent to her and then decide which suppliers and manufacturer to use.

SpenceBaby Lookbook by Red Pinwheel photography and styled by Heather Rome, Spence Baby created by Mompreneur Sandy Barton

The Beauty of Bootstrapping

Sarah and I were so surprised to learn that Sandy and Paul started SpenceBaby using only their own capital. They are bootstrapping it all the way!

Sandy says that they thought long and hard about this venture. They really believe in their product, so they decided to jump in and do it!

Guess what?! Sandy designs all the clothes for SpenceBaby too. She has 20 years’ experience as a visual merchandise manager, and she considers everything from the cut, sizing, colors, style, and all the little details in each piece.

1 Day, 8 Babies, & a Beautiful Photo Shoot

We’ve included a link to SpenceBaby’s Fall Lookbook (isn’t it gorgeous?!) and we just had to pick Sandy’s brain on how she pulled this one off!

(If it had been up to me to handle a photo shoot with 8 babies, we all would have wound up in a crying, spit-up-filled heap!)

Tips for a Great Photo Shoot

  • Find a photographer who shares your vision (They used Ksenia Koldaeva)
  • Create a schedule
  • Break up the photo shoot into multiple parts
  • Have all props, accessories, and backdrops organized and ready
  • Steam the entire wardrobe ahead of time
  • Hire a Stylist if you can afford it (They used Heather Rome)
  • If you can’t afford a stylist, grab an extra pair of hands to help!
  • Lighting is KEY – sunset is the perfect time to shoot outdoors, or an overcast day works well.
  • Book multiple babies so that you can continuously rotate out that baby that’s tired or fussy with the baby that’s currently happy and playful

SpenceBaby Fall 2014 Lookbook photos with tips on how to pull off a successful photo shoot with babies photographytips, momentrepreneur(This cutie certainly looks happy to be photographed!  Sandy gave us so many adorable, gorgeous photos that we just had to share as many as we could with you throughout this blog post!  Hope you enjoy them!)

How She Does It

Sandy still works a full-time job, so she’s up at 6, gets Spencer up at 7, then it’s off to daycare and work. At the end of the day, she and Spencer take the dogs out, then her husband arrives home. Then it’s cooking dinner, watching Spencer, bath-time, bedtime for baby, and then finally at that point, Sandy can begin work on SpenceBaby.

"Everything happens when Spencer is sleeping,” says Sandy.

She also mentions that her husband, Paul does the website work, and he does most of that on the weekends while Sandy is watching Spencer.

As Sandy puts it, “we’re looking at it as a small sacrifice now for a big win later.”

Mom entrepreneur Sandy Barton of SpenceBaby talks about the sacrifices that she makes now in order to have big wins later.

Marketing – what works & what doesn’t

What works:
Partnering with Mommy Bloggers for Product Reviews
Contests and Giveaways
(check out spencebaby.com/free for their latest giveaway!)

What doesn’t:
Google Adwords
Facebook Ads

Not sure:
They ran an ad in BUMP magazine – a magazine for pregnant women that thousands of OB and peds offices subscribe to. (We hope they see a payoff for this soon!)

Thinking about partnering with bloggers for your business? Grab more info here.

Order Fulfillment, Inventory, & Staying Organized

Sandy and Paul fulfill all the orders from the website themselves. Some of their products are selling on Amazon, so fortunately those items are fulfilled there.

SpenceBaby has an excellent inventory system built into their website, and beyond that Sandy uses OfficeOnline and OneDrive so she has access to her excel and word docs whenever she needs them.

She uses Trello to make lists and organize her workflow.

Even Go-getters have Low Points

Sandy confesses that her lowest points are when she allows the fear of failure to take over. When she starts to wonder, “what if this doesn’t work?” she knows she’s keeping herself from simply doing the work that needs to be done.

Her husband Paul sometimes believes in her more than she believes in herself, and he pushes her to be better, work harder, and helps her when she’s feeling overwhelmed.

(Many of the other mom entrepreneurs we’ve interviewed talk about the importance of having their husband as a business partner and/or huge supporter of them. Having that extra support can make a huge difference!)

Making this Muddled World a Better Place…

Sandy’s favorite quote:

Winston Churchill Quote - Making this world a better place

What is the use of living if it be not to strive for noble causes and to make this muddled world a better place for those who will live in it after we are gone. ~ Winston Churchill

The ABC Expo

The ABC Expo (All Baby and Child) is the largest trade show for kids and baby in the world, and Sandy and Paul almost didn’t get in!

After first learning about the Expo, they realized that they had already missed the application deadline. Not easily deterred, they reached out to the expo and just asked, “Is it too late? We’re a new company and we’d love to be a part of this.”

Someone from the expo responded back and let them in!

Sandy reported back to us that the expo resulted in some great orders and lots of potential new clients.  Congrats to you two!

Below are some photos of their booth at the expo. Isn’t it incredible?

spencebabybooth01

ABC Expo 2014 SpenceBaby booth set-up

 

spencebabybooth03

spencebabybooth04

spencebabybooth06

Stay in touch with Sandy and SpenceBaby!

Spencebaby.com
Facebook: SpenceApparel

Direct download: Sandy_mixdown20final.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 3:30am EST


We have had the privilege to interview bloggers on our show who do a fantastic job at getting reader comments and interactions.  Specifically, Anne Bogel of Modern Mrs. Darcy and Kristen of The Frugal Girl come to mind.  These ladies excel at encouraging reader interaction, so how do they do it?  These are my 5 tips to increase reader interaction on your blog.

#1 Consistency

There are a number of ways to be a consistent blogger.  The first is to blog on a consistent schedule.  You want your readers to look forward to the next post that they know will come out on schedule.  The second way to be consistent is to be consistently you.  Write as if you were having a conversation with a friend.  If you are trying to write like you're someone else, the façade will be difficult to keep up.  By being genuinely and consistently you, a level of trust is developed between you and your readers.  The third way to be consistent is to reliably produce good quality material.  Followers will keep coming back to quality work, but will quickly lose interest if the quality is not there.  Increase comments by being consistent; consistently blogging, consistently you, and consistent quality.

#2 Honor your Reader

Your readers are your most important asset and they should be treated that way.  Kristen of The Frugal Girl does a great job at this.  She takes down ads if they are too annoying to her readers, and she is very careful to only recommend products she truly loves.  In this way she is developing a deep level of trust between her and her readers.  A follower who feels like they can trust the blogger is much more likely to comment.  Another way to honor your reader and build trust is to reply and respond to as many comments and emails as possible.  Readers will be ecstatic that you took the time to reply to their comment or respond to their email, which will only encourage them to comment and engage even more.

#3 Ask for Feedback or Help

Anne of Modern Mrs. Darcy does a great job of asking her readers for feedback at the end of each post.  She says things like "What do you think about this?  How do you handle that situation?  Have you ever done this?"  By just asking for feedback, you are much more likely to get that feedback from your readers.  Asking readers for help and advice can also really get the ball rolling.  In one particular post, Kristen asked for some help to find a good recipe for extra cabbage she had.  Cabbage!  And the response was huge.  People love to provide help when they can.  Ask for help and you will get floods of comments.  Related to this, Kristen was getting inundated with reader questions emailed to her.  She wanted her answers to benefit more than just one reader, so she turned reader questions into Q&A posts.  Genius!  After she answers the question, she asks other readers to weigh in on their answers too.  By showcasing reader questions, she is showing that she truly values the questions and input of her readers.

#4  Be Interesting and Brave

The fact of the matter is, if you're not interesting, no one will read, and no one will comment.  People want to hear about the part of you that makes you different from everyone else.  Discuss things that truly matter to you.  And if you're willing, be brave and share your opinion on a controversial or sensitive topic.  Controversy always generates a lot of comments!  Share your opinion in a conversational way, not like a lecture.  Set a tone for kind discussion, and your readers will follow suit in their comments.  Be prepared to listen to what your readers have to say on the topic too.  Sensitive subjects don't have to be taboo, they can result in a lot of great discussion.

#5  Make a Spelling Mistake

This tip, that I got from a ProBlogger article, I think is hysterical!  People love to correct your spelling mistakes!  Can you spot the spelling mistake on this blog post?  I'm sure I made a boar load of grammar errors too!  Find them if you can!

So how about you?  How do you think that Anne and Kristen get such great reader comments?  What are things you do to increase comments on your site?  We would love to hear from you!

-Sarah

Direct download: Episode2040_mixdown20final.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 3:30am EST

Kristen of thefrugalgirl.com is a perfect example of blogging your passion.  She was just the kindest, friendliest lady to chat with. (Do we say this about all the moms we interview?! Probably because it’s true.)  Every mom just amazes us with her talents, resourcefulness, and motivation to keep going.  Kristen is no exception. She’s been blogging about food waste, frugal living, and being content with less since 2008. Did we mention that she does all this while homeschooling her four children?

On the podcast she shares her thoughts on writing and selling e-books, 3 factors that have contributed to her success, and many other great nuggets of advice.
On the Podcast You’ll Learn

05:40 - How She Gets it All Done as a Homeschooling Mom of Four
07:37 – Her Food Photography Tips (no matter what kind of camera you have!)
10:58 – How Answering Questions Builds Community
13:33 – Why Less is More not just in Life but in Blogging Too!
15:45 – Why Affiliate Links Should be Few and Far Between (and other income advice!)
20:10 – Her Favorite Online Tool
22:57 – How to Find a Great Fit with Ad Networks
24:52 – What Made Writing an E-book Worth it.
28:54 – 3 Factors that Helped to Grow Her Blog
30:28 – Kristen’s Definition of Success
34:52 – Two Websites for Accelerating Growth
35:53 – Raising Entrepreneurs
How Kristen Gets it All Done

Her secret?

Kristen confesses that she never gets everything done! She doesn’t do all the things she would like to do, but she does manage to get the important things done.

Kristen gets up before her kids are awake and writes her post for the day, gets on social media, and responds to emails. Since she’s often blogging about things she’s already doing, her blog posts happen organically as she’s doing projects throughout the day such as cooking or painting furniture.  She steals moments throughout the day to moderate and respond to comments.

(We’re so impressed with all of the content that Kristen puts out considering this is far less than a full-time job for her!)
Her Food Photography Tips

Kristen says that you should move your plate and food to wherever the light is good. “If the light is horrible in your kitchen, there’s no rule saying you have to take the picture in the kitchen,” Kristen says, “you can go out on your deck or take your plate to the living room by a window.”

White plates also help your food to stand out and look great.

Kristen focuses on continued improvement in her photography by not comparing herself to other photographers (which could lead to discouragement!) but instead compares her photos to those she took a few years ago. Then she can see the improvement and be encouraged.
How Answering Questions Builds Community

As Kristen’s audience grew, she started getting tons of questions via email. Instead of responding back personally which only benefits that one person, she decided to do Reader Q&A posts where she could share her answers publicly and help more people. (“Always with their permission,” Kristen says. She doesn’t share any deep dark secrets!)

Her readers are also very engaged and chime in to share their own helpful advice in the comments. They may offer a different solution or say something that Kristen hadn’t thought of.

Kristen has built a great community at The Frugal Girl by encouraging questions and doing her best to answer them.
Why Less is More

A few years ago Kristen was feeling a sense of burnout. It wasn’t that she ran out of ideas to write about or lost her passion for frugal living, it’s just that she didn’t have enough time to keep up with blogging and homeschool her kids at the same time.

She used to post 5 fairly meaty posts per week (Monday through Friday), but after feeling overwhelmed she pared back to 3 posts per week. She has recently added back a picture post and a few words on Tuesday/Thursdays.

(Kristen, we’re so glad you kept going with your blog!)
Affiliate Links (and other income advice!)
Kristen has multiple income streams through her blog

• Sidebar Ads (through networks and others that she privately sells)
• Partnering with Brands for Sponsored Posts
• Affiliate Links
• E-book sales

Affiliate links work really well for Kirsten because she doesn’t use them often. She only uses affiliate links for products and services that she actually uses and loves.

Kristen promotes high-quality products that will last for years to come so that the cost overall will be lower. She focuses on long-term value for her readers.

(As a regular reader, Sarah said that she always pays attention when Kristen recommends something because she knows without a doubt that it will be a high-quality, helpful item!)
Her Favorite Online Tool

Kristen calls herself hopelessly old-fashioned. She uses paper for her calendar and to-do lists.  (We say, whatever works!)

She does love the Akismet plugin as a spam filter for her blog. It filters out 98% of the spam comments without her having to use annoying things like captcha phrases.
How to Find a Great Fit with Ad Networks

Kristen recommends checking out blogs that are in your niche to see what ads are on their site. It may be apparent right away which ad networks they’re using. If it’s not, just reach out to them and ask!

Kristen also gives us an insider tip: Google Adsense may let everyone in, but other ad networks that have a more thorough application process typically pay a higher rate for their ads.

Something else we didn't know:  BlogHer, an ad network for women, has an approval process but is very supportive of smaller blogs. They also require that their ads be placed “above the fold” (meaning that the reader does not have to scroll at all to see them).
What Made Writing an E-book Worth it

Kristen started with what she thought was a simple project – an e-book on 20 things to do with old clothes to breathe new life into them.  Even this relatively simple book took her so much time and energy. The formatting, photography, and tutorial collages all took her much longer than she expected.

The e-book sold fairly well when Kristen released it. She sold it for 99 cents on the first day and then increased the price.  However, she still wasn’t sure if the sales coming in were worth all of the time and effort she put into it.

Her perspective changed when Stephanie and Ryan Langford and Erin Odom from ultimate-bundles.com approached her to participate in an ultimate ebook bundle sale. Ultimate bundles takes about 100 e-books on a particular topic such as homemaking or healthy living and sells them along with other offers for a steal at $30.

As an author, Kristen gets her own affiliate link and makes a higher commission off of the bundle sales that happen through her link. Kristen said that bundle sales paid off big-time!

She’s participated in a few smaller bundle sales as well, and those were worth it too.

(Way to go, Kristen! When is your second ebook coming out?!)
3 Factors that Helped to Grow Her Blog

    2008 was a good year to start a blog because there weren’t as many out there at the time.
    Her blog topic was very timely because the economy was down in 2008 and more people were interested in saving money and frugal living.
    Consistency and perseverance have kept her blog going strong.

Kristen doesn’t feel that she does anything super amazing on her blog (we disagree!) but she’s there all the time. Her readers can expect her every Monday through Friday.

Quote: Being Frugal is Way Cooler than it Used to Be
Kristen’s Definition of Success

Kristen still can’t believe that when she’s behind her computer typing away, there are thousands of people reading what she writes, and it’s changing them. People email her to tell her that she’s inspired them and they’re making changes in their lives as a result.

Financially speaking, Kristen admits that having low expectations for her blog has helped her to keep going. “Some people experience overnight success, but it usually takes a lot of work before you make it.”

"Blogging is more of a slow-cooker than a microwave."
Kristen’s best tip for pushing forward when things are hard?

    Pick a topic to write about that you really love and are excited about because that will keep you going when those first few months are slow and you don’t think anyone is reading what you have to say. It will also help you to keep coming up with post ideas if you love the topic. 6 years into this, and I still have more post ideas than I have time to write about….topic choice is really, really important.

Two Websites for Accelerating Growth

Problogger.net

Amylynnandrews.com
Raising Entrepreneurs

Kristen’s oldest son has a photography blog. He’s done it for several years now, and even though he’s still using a “junky” point and shoot camera, it’s been a crazy transformation on how great his photos are now.

Kristen’s oldest daughter has a blog called Baking with Lisey. Her daughter really wanted to learn how to bake so to keep herself accountable, she and Kristen started a blog. They plan the projects, do them together, take photos, and write the posts together. (What a great mother-daughter experience!)

Her kids earn some pocket money from their blogs too. She’s raising a couple of entrepreneurs! (We love it!)
Where to find Kristen

If you can remember, The Frugal Girl, you can find her!

Thefrugalgirl.com
Facebook: The Frugal Girl
Twitter: @TheFrugalGirl
Pinterest: The Frugal Girl
Instagram:  The Frugal Girl

What do you think?  Will you consider writing an e-book?  What about partnering with others to create a much better deal for your potential customers?

We'd love to hear what your takeaways were from our interview with  Kristen!

~ Beth Anne

Direct download: Episode2039_mixdown20final.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 3:30am EST

How to Choose a Conference 10 factors to help you choose the right conference for you as a mom entrepreneur

You work hard for your money... in the wee hours of the morning when your house is finally quiet and you can hear your own thoughts...in stolen moments during naptime or playtime... you've worked hard to grow your business or blog.  You're ready to take it to the next level, but to do that, you might need to spend some of that hard-earned money.

A conference could be a great way to learn tons of new skills, come up with new ideas to market or grow your audience, or give you the opportunity to meet and connect with other influencers in your niche.

How do you know which conference is right for you?

It seems like there are about a million to choose from.  (We haven't counted, but we're pretty sure there ARE a million!) 

Although we wish we could push a magic button and out would pop the perfect conference for you, that's just not possible.  (Or is it.... someone get on this business idea STAT!)

Instead, we'll walk you through 10 factors that we think are really important to consider as you decide on which conference may be right for you.

After all, your money and time are worth SO much!  Before you click "buy now", we'll help you find the perfect fit.

The 10 Factors to Consider in Choosing the Right Conference as a Busy Mom Entrepreneur

  1. Goals (for your business/blog, for you personally)
  2. Cost
  3. Location
  4. Who's Going? (friends/colleagues/contacts)
  5. Who's Speaking?
  6. Topics Covered
  7. Number of Talks/Sessions
  8. Format
  9. Timeline
  10. Networking Opportunities

So I promised you a comparison chart with at least 8 conferences on it.  I'll be honest, it doesn't look very pretty!  The goal was to be really helpful, though, and if you open up the PDF of the conference chart below, you'll find that it's much easier to read and copy and paste the info that you need.

What do you think; is it helpful to have a comparison table like this one?  I'd love to break it down further into just handmade conferences, blogging conferences, social media, etc.  There are just SO many, and each one has unique offerings.

How to Choose a Conference that's right for you as a Busy Mom Entrepreneur: A Comparison Table (PDF)

How to Choose a Conference a comparison chart for mom entrepreneurs

And a Pinnable Image so you won't forget to reference this list when you're ready to pick the perfect conference.

 How to choose a conference as a busy mom entrepreneur crafter maker or blogger a pinterest chart

Will you be attending any conferences in the next year?  If so, which ones?  We'd love to hear from you and how you made your decision!  Stay in touch!

~ Beth Anne

P.S. The only conference on our agenda at the moment is Social Media Success Summit.  In the podcast, I talk a bit about our decision-making process.  We hope to add more conferences to our schedule in 2015, and we'll keep you posted on where we'll be.  It'd be so fun to meet some of you in person!  We already think you're the best!

Direct download: Episode2038_mixdown20final.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 3:30am EST

Jessica Rhodes built a six-figure business on Connecting Individuals

Jessica Rhodes is the founder of Entrepreneur Support Services, Inc. - the parent company to InterviewConnections.com. Interview Connections helps podcasters to find incredibly interesting, engaging podcast guests that match the focus of their show. Jessica has built a business around connecting others, and she has an incredible knack for it!

Interviewing Jessica was like catching up with an old friend. Maybe it’s our similar ages or the fact that despite having a successful business, she’s so laid-back and approachable.

Grab some coffee, kick your feet up, and follow Jessica’s journey from her colossal jump off of a cliff to a successful business as a young mom. We have a feeling you’ll be thinking of Jessica as an old friend too….(an old friend who has TONS of great advice on growing and running a business!)

What You’ll Learn on the Podcast:

01:49 - Jessica’s Huge Jump (and how she built the parachute on the way down!)
03:07 - How Connecting Others Became a Business
05:26 - Life as a Work-at-Home Mom
07:09 - How Jessica Prevents Her Business From Taking Over Her Life
10:05 - Firing Clients (and other challenges in her business)
12:34 - Where She Finds the Best Virtual Assistants (and where NOT to look!)
14:55 - Writing the Perfect Job Description for Freelance Work
16:57 – The Power of Relationships for Business Growth
19:24 – Jessica’s Killer Conference Strategy
22:26 – How She Chooses the Right Conferences
27:21 - Jessica’s Key to Project Management
29:05 – Why She Pays Herself Very Little Despite a 6-figure Business
33:47 – Jessica’s Plans for Growth
38:05 – The Best Business Advice Her Mastermind Group Gave Her
42:53 – Why Moms Get Made Fun of the Most!

Jessica’s Huge Jump

When Jessica found out she was expecting, she knew she wanted to be a stay-at-home Mom. She told her boss that she would be leaving her position in 6 months when the baby came along. She had no “Plan B”, and her husband’s job wasn’t enough to support the family.

I think a lot of entrepreneurs are like that. We just jump off a cliff and build the parachute on the way down.

(We love Jessica’s bold move! She knew the life she wanted, and she went for it!)

How Connecting Others Became a Business

Jessica first starting working as a VA (virtual assistant) for her dad, Jim Palmer. One of the first things he asked her to do was to book him for interviews on podcasts.  She and her father quickly realized how time-consuming this process can be, and she realized that there were probably other busy entrepreneurs out there who needed help booking interviews for their podcasts or being featured as guests on other shows.

Life as a Work-at-Home Mom

Jessica admits that life with a busy toddler looks much different than it did when Nathan was an infant. He used to sleep much more, and she would work on her laptop with him sleeping next to her.

Now that Nathan is a busy little guy (who sleeps much less!) Jessica needs more time to grow her business. She uses a stay-at-home Mom as her in-home nanny, which allows her to work from 9-3 on most days.

How Jessica Prevents Her Business From Taking Over Her Life

Jessica recently made the resolution to not look at email or facebook until she’s in her home office. This means that Nathan gets her undivided attention in the mornings and the late afternoons/evenings. (She admits that this change happened recently, so we should check in on her to see how it’s going!)

Jessica Rhodes on Growing a Business Based on Relationships and Podcasting as a Mompreneur

Firing Clients (and other challenges)

Jessica has had clients who made decisions that she didn’t agree with, and so she had to let them go. She admits that it was really discouraging to hand over a refunded payment, but ultimately, she has to do what’s right for her business. (Way to stick to your guns, Jessica!)

Other challenges that Jessica has faced included hiring the wrong people to outsource her work.

“It’s better to pay more to someone who does better work than to just spend a couple of bucks and annoy your clients.”

Where She Finds the Best Virtual Assistants

Jessica uses Elance to find her graphic designers.

She found one of her VA’s in a facebook group for VA’s. She now has a new VA to help her book interviews for her clients, and this VA happens to be a podcaster herself. (a win-win!)

Insider Advice: Jessica does not recommend using Fiverr to outsource your work. Individuals on Fiverr will publicly display their work to others, so your clients might be a little annoyed if they see their designs on the site!

Writing the Perfect Job Description for Freelance Work

• Be as specific as possible (spell out every task and detail of the job).
• Keep language barriers in mind and make each word and task as clear and simple as possible.
• Spell out due dates and the exact amount of time you expect each project to take
• Overall, be clear, give expectations, and don’t assume.
Jessica recommends The 4-Hour Workweek by Tim Ferriss for Advice on Outsourcing (this is an affiliate link)

The Power of Relationships

Jessica has leveraged live conferences, mastermind groups, and business coaching to grow her business.

At conferences, she has the chance to solidify past relationships made online, meet new people and clients, and get new referrals for her business.

Through masterminds and coaching, Jessica gets really high-level advice from successful business people. She highly recommends investing in yourself and your business in these ways.

Jessica’s Killer Conference Strategy

This one is too good to spell out in writing!  Skip to 19:24 to hear her story.

Choosing the Right Conferences

Jessica learns tons of marketing advice by attending the Glazer-Kennedy-Insider Conferences.

New Media Expo and Podcast Movement are two of her other favorites. Essentially, Jessica says, her clients are podcasters, so wherever they get together, she’s going to make sure she’s there too.

In addition, her dad, Jim Palmer, hosts the Dream Business Academy which she always attends.

Jessica’s Key to Project Management

Base Camp!

Jessica uses this cloud-based project management software to keep track of all the projects she and her VA’s are working on.

She can set a task, give a due date, upload files, and avoid emails and spreadsheets.

Each of her clients at Interview Connections have access to their own projects so they can log in and check the status of things. (What a great idea!)

Why She Pays Herself Very Little Despite a Six-figure Business

A few months ago Jessica incorporated her business and started paying herself a salary from her business account.

She confesses that despite having a six-figure business, what she chooses to pay herself is very, very little so that she can keep re-investing in the business.

(There is an advantage to owning her own business; if the budget gets a little tight, Jessica can give herself a raise for the month!)

Jessica’s Plans for Growth

Jessica plans to take many of the day-to-day working in the business tasks off of her plate so that she can do everything she can to market her business.

She plans to put out another e-book and start doing tele-seminars. (Her first e-book is Podcast Interviews, and you can grab it in the Kindle store!  yep, we're endorsing it with an affiliate link!)

As Jessica puts it, a business is something that you can leave, and things are still getting done.

I didn’t want to create a job for myself. I wanted to create a business.

Jessica Rhodes mom entrepreneur on creating and growing a business based on relationships

The Best Business Advice

Jessica’s mastermind group has offered her great business advice as she grows.

The very best advice?

Focus on marketing and growing the business you already have instead of coming up with new ideas and services to offer.

(There may be a member of our team here at Brilliant Business Moms who REALLY needs to take this advice! Who me?!     Naaaah.)

Why Moms Get Made Fun of the Most!

Jessica’s funny mommy moment had us all laughing. It’s totally true that as soon as you become a mom, your cool factor just disappears. (Who cares, right?! We’ve got bigger concerns.)

Where to Find Jessica:

Twitter: @jessrhodesess
Her Internet TV Show: Interviewconnections.tv
Interview Connections
Entrepreneur Support Services

Direct download: Episode203720jessica20rhoades20final_mixdown202.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 3:30am EST

pursue integrity

So many of the women we have interviewed have shown us how they pursue integrity in their small business.  In talking with Hayley and Katie, I was especially struck by the fact that ethical business practices were so important to them.  This got me thinking about ways each of us can pursue integrity in our own businesses.

As small business owners, our personal integrity is inexorably linked to the integrity of our business; the two are almost synonymous.  So as we strive for integrity in our personal lives or business, it will naturally fall into the other area as well.  Integrity is something that is a constant pursuit, we can never say we have arrived, but let us always strive toward integrity in everything we do.

"If you have integrity, nothing else matters.  If you don't have integrity, nothing else matters." -Alan K. Simpson

"Whoever walks in integrity walks securely, but he who makes his ways crooked will be found out." Proverbs 10:9

 
#1 Be Respectful and Kind in your Communications

Honestly, if you do this one thing, you'll stand out in a crowd!  People are so rude anymore, and in the episode I get on a little soapbox about this and start harkening back to the difference in years gone by!  I really feel very passionately that people need to be more kind, more gracious, more forgiving, and just generally nicer to each other!

Related to this, when you are wrong, admit it.  And if you're not wrong, admit you might have misunderstood and might be wrong!  This position can lead to a conversation with the unhappy party instead of just the mutual pointing of fingers.

#2 Be Honest and Trustworthy

Make sure that your product is as you described and does what you say it will do. 

Do the advertisements on your blog go against something you believe in?  Above all else, make sure you are genuine. Don't pretend to be something you are not just to get more readers.  Everyone loves an honest blogger who will give full disclosure on her life and her projects. 

Conversely, don't be self deprecating just to fit in.  Be proud of your accomplishments and strengths, and don't pretend you stink at something just to fit in.  You have a unique set of talents and strengths.  Be yourself, because you are great!

#3 Meet Obligations and Be Reliable

This one goes beyond more than just saying you'll do what you say you'll do.  Are you doing 10 things and all of them poorly?  Maybe it's time to trim down your commitment load and focus on only doing a few things well. 

How are you on answering emails?  Even if you need to tell someone no, the courteous thing to do is to honor everyone with a reply.  Being disorganized is not an excuse.  If you are letting people down and letting emails go answered, then you have three choices:  Get more organized and find better systems, say no to some commitments, or get help.

#4 Be Passionate and Engaged

If you are passionate about your business, you will produce a better quality product for your customer or client.  Maybe you can take this one a step further and only hire people who are passionate about the business too.  This will lead to happy customers, a happy business owner, and happy employees.

#5 Be Consumed with the Needs of Others

Wow!  This was a point mentioned by Dave Ramsey on his Entreleadership site.  This one can be tricky.  It is so hard to put others before ourselves and worry about our customers more than our bottom line.  You will have to listen to the episode though to find out what company I called out as being more interested in sales than me as a customer.

 

"The greatness of a man is not in how much wealth he acquires, but in his integrity and his ability to affect those around him positively." -Bob Marley

"Live so that when your children think of fairness, caring, and integrity, they think of you." H Jackson Brown Jr.

 

A life of integrity is an ongoing pursuit.  Let's encourage each other to live our lives and conduct our businesses with integrity.

-Sarah

Direct download: Episode2036_mixdown20final.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 3:30am EST

With a thriving blog, conference, and membership site under her belt, there isn't much Hayley Morgan hasn't done.

Not so fast... add designer and creator of an ethically-made clothing line for kids to the list!  (Did we mention she has 4 young boys too?!)

Hayley blogs at TheTinyTwig.com where she focuses on helping women to create lives with more passion and less fuss. Hayley is author of the e-book, The No-Brainer Wardrobe and Co-founder of the Influence Conference and Influence Network.

Her newest venture is Wildly Co. – a collection of ethically manufactured kids clothing that Hayley designs herself.  Just this month, her husband Mike quit his corporate gig to join Hayley on the business full-time.  We love the faith and spirit of this entrepreneurial pair!

Today on the podcast:

03:13 - What Tipped the Scale for Hayley and her Husband Mike
05:15 – Raise Money for your Business without Giving Away Equity
09:03 – How an Item we Use Every Day Became the Inspiration for an Ethical Business
14:55 – From Kindred Friendship to an Event and a Community of Like-Minded Women
19:44 – Futon Marketing and a Resounding YES!
21:40 – The Women of Influence
26:17 – Hayley’s White Knuckle Period of Life (and what life looks like now!)
30:55 – What to Do when You Can’t Eek Out Any More
31:56 – Things Successful People Don’t Say
33:52 – Hayley’s Tips on Crafting a Great Video for Your Brand
36:10 – Her Business Anthem
38:52 – The One Word with a Million Meanings (Hayley’s Funny Mom Moment!)

What Tipped the Scale for Hayley and her Husband Mike

Hayley’s husband Mike was doing small business development for a major corporation. He’s really gifted when it comes to working with small businesses and helping them to grow.

Mike has been helping Hayley with her blog and other business ventures for quite a while, but the scale tipped when it became way to hard for him to balance his full-time job and their new company, Wildly Co. Hayley simply couldn’t grow the business anymore with just what she was able to put into it. She needed both Mike’s talent and time to take the business to the next level.

hayleymorganwildlyco05

Raise Money for your Business without Giving Away Equity

Crowdfunding is a great way to raise money for your business without taking on investors and losing equity. With crowdfunding platforms like Kickstarter, a lot of people give small amounts of money. Instead of equity, the small business gives its funders something else of value such as a good or service.

Wildly Co. launched a Kickstarter campaign on August 5th to raise $20,000 in 30 days in order to produce their fall capsule of clothing. With Kickstarter, the full goal must be met in order for the campaign to be funded and move forward.

Wildly Co. is offering rewards from Hayley’s e-book, The No Brainer Wardrobe and a hand-written thank you note on a vintage postcard for a $10 contribution all the way up to a paid trip to design clothing with Hayley, see where Wildly clothing is made, and pick her brain on blogging and business for a $1000 contribution. (Sounds amazing!)

Between these levels of funding, there are a wide range of receiving different pieces of apparel from the Wildly Co. collection. The clothing choices that backers make also helps Hayley and Mike to gauge interest in different colors, styles, and designs to help them make the right decisions moving forward. (a win-win!)

hayleymorganwildlyco04

How an Item we Use Every Day Became the Inspiration for an Ethical Business

As a mom to four boys, Hayley knows firsthand what a central role clothing plays in the life of a family. As she pulls each pair of clothing back out for the next little boy, she’s reminded of all the memories that have been made.

As Hayley learned more about standard practices within the textile industry around the world, she realized that she couldn’t in good conscience, support her boys wearing clothing made by another mother’s children.

Hayley and Mike created Wildly Co. to provide an ethically-made alternative for children’s clothing. While they fully support eco-friendly practices, for Hayley and Mike, the people have to come first. Their most important focus is on supporting the lives of the people who make their clothing and ensuring that they are paid a fair wage and work in a safe environment.

See their story below:

From Kindred Friendship to an Event and a Community of Like-Minded Women

Hayley Morgan and Jessi Connolly feel that they were put into each other’s lives for a reason. They both connected over having children who were very sick for a time. Hayley says that she watched Jessi walk through that journey respectfully, joyfully, and faithfully. God was watching out for her by putting Jessi on her radar to prepare her for her own difficult journey.

Finally, Hayley and Jessi were able to meet in person in a loud diner with many little kids between them. They walked away with a kindred friendship.

A week later they began planning for the Influence Conference. Their vision was to bring like-minded blogging and business women together to pair a message of faith with a message of strategy.

Hayley and Jessi committed to a conference contract with a hotel that cost as much as a new car, and they both found out that they were pregnant with child #4! (You two are rock stars!)

As both Hayley and Jessi hobbled around the conference (each of them approaching 30 weeks!), they realized that the fun, creative, vibrant group of women who came together for the conference would want to connect for much longer than that weekend in September.

The Influence Network, a membership site, was born and it is a much larger network than just the people who attend the physical conference each year.

Futon Marketing and a Resounding YES!

While sitting on a futon in Jessi’s office, she and Hayley made a list of their dream speakers for the conference.  Every single one of them said YES!

These two women “went to town marketing” as Hayley says. They rallied the women they saw, called out what they saw in them, and hoped they would be leaders within the Influence community. As they did this, these leaders brought their “people” with them, and a successful conference was born.

hayleymorganwildlyco08

The Women of Influence

Hayley confesses that setting up the membership site for the Influence Network was technical, which she didn’t know when she first started.  She’s not sure if she would undertake the project again –knowing what she knows now—but that’s true of most of her projects.

I never go in thinking that I have to be an expert at something. I’m really confident in my ability to find things out and find the people who can help me learn.

Hayley was building the website for the Influence Network right up until she had her fourth baby!

Now, the Influence Conference and Network are run by Hayley, Jessi, and four other women.

Ashley runs the conference. Lindsey is the content manager and lines up interviews and photo shoots for marketing and member resources. Mariah is the customer care person before the point of sale. Rachel is head of member care. She runs the forums and coordinates the care and prayer team for any member who is going through a hard time.

Each woman was hired in January of 2013, and they’ve had zero turnover. All but one are women who attended the conference and were already invested in the community. Hayley and Jessi knew their strengths ahead of time, and they are still doing great today!

Hayley says it’s been a big shift from doing everything herself to delegating and learning people management skills.

Hayley’s White Knuckle Period of Life (and what life looks like now!)

When Hayley was starting the conference, she had one boy in kindergarten, one in preschool, one always with her, and was pregnant.

It was one of those times of life where you kind of white knuckle and hold on and you wouldn’t want to do it for an extended period of time, but you get through it.

Hayley says that she was still good at being a mom for the parts that were important to her, but she let things go like being a great school mom and doing field trips and snacks.

hayleymorganwildlyco07

Life with Two Full-time Entrepreneur Parents:

Hayley says now that Mike’s home, life is super fun. They have a lot more man hours to work with.

On Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays they have a nanny who comes to the house from 8AM – 1 PM and stays with their two youngest boys while she and Mike go to the library to work. Then, they come home, put the little guys down for a nap, do quick little chores, and wrap up work around 3.
Their two big boys come home at 3:45, and they are on as mom and dad from that point until bedtime.

Once the kids go to bed, Hayley and Mike wrap up a few more things and try to be completely done with work (computers and cell phones shut down) by 9 PM.

(Sounds like a great system to us! Now if only Sarah and I could get our husbands into this entrepreneur thing!)

hayleymorganwildlyco06

What to Do when You Can’t Eek Out Any More

Hayley tries to look for help when she reaches that pain point –the point where you can’t grow to where you want to be with the resources and hours that you have to give.

For Hayley and Mike, this happened when they decided that they needed to hire a nanny, and again when Mike quit his corporate job to do the entrepreneurship thing full time.

Sarah and I were kind of hoping for an easy answer that, of course, the income your business is generating makes it easy to hire on help or quit your day job. Hayley let us know that this wasn’t necessarily the case.

She said that sometimes you have to take the risk before you have the extra income to support it. It helps you to work smarter and better when you take that jump

“I’ve never had a situation where it hasn’t reached that difference in the income gap”

Things Successful People Don’t Say

From any successful person that I’ve seen, it’s never the people who said, “I was really prudent or I played it safe.”

Hayley said they wanted to build up Wildly to match her husband Mike’s income before he made the leap and quit his corporate gig. Yet, that just wasn’t going to happen. There was no amount of her doing that was going to grow it. They needed two people to do both family and work.

hayleymorganwildlycoonsuccess

(We love Hayley’s entrepreneurial spirit, and we’re so excited to see Hayley and Mike grow it into a huge success! Kudos to you two for not playing it safe!)

Hayley’s Tips on Crafting a Great Video for Your Brand

Although Hayley is multi-talented and so smart she could learn just about anything she wanted to (our words, of course – she’s way too humble to say that!) she realized that creating a video for Wildly Co. herself would not be the best use of her time or talents.

As Hayley put it, the return on investment was way bigger to hire someone else to do it.

Here’s how:
• Find a wedding videographer.
• Hire them for sometime in the middle of the week.
(Their gigs are often on the weekend so they tend to be wide open during the work week.)
• If you have an interesting story to tell and you give them a bonus job that they wouldn’t otherwise be able to book, they’re often     willing to negotiate on their price a little.
• Be flexible with them – allow them to use their creativity and talent.
Hayley told the videographer “I need “this” to be communicated and these 3 things said, but you can pick and music and  everything else!” (A creative person’s dream!)

The end result is pretty amazing, don’t you think?

Her Business Anthem

Don’t wait until it’s perfect to start.

Be steady and don’t quit.

hayleymorganwildlycodontwaituntilitsperfect,jpg

hayleymorganwildlycobesteadyanddontquit

The One Word with a Million Meanings (Hayley’s Funny Mom Moment!)

Tune in to hear about this one. It’s really cute!

Stay in Touch with Hayley!

TheTinyTwig.com
Wildly Co. Kickstarter
The Influence Conference
The Influence Network

hayleymorganwildlyco01

What are your thoughts?  Were you inspired after hearing from Hayley?  (I know I was!)  While most of us probably won't start an ethical clothing line tomorrow or even start a new conference, what leap are you ready to take after hearing Hayley's story? 

For one thing, I know I'd love to have a video made for our business as soon as possible - what a powerful message the video for Wildly Co. conveyed!

Thanks for listening!  We think you're all brilliant!

~ Beth Anne

Direct download: Haley20Episode2035_mixdown20final.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 3:30am EST

You've opened your etsy shop (woohoo!).  Sales are beginning to trickle in at a steady pace, and you're getting great feedback from your customers.  Things are going well.

Why should you spend your precious time and resources on creating new listings?  What you have is working.  Why complicate things?

There are a few reasons why you should complicate things. 

  1. Creating new listings doesn't have to  be all that complicated
  2. Every new listing is one more opportunity for your ideal customer to find you
  3. Every new listing is a chance to optimize for a different keyword phrase
  4. New listings are a chance to utilize different photographs, and treasury-makers love variety in photos.
  5. A full, yet organized shop signals to buyers that you are a serious seller.
  6. It's a chance to use up supplies or products that were taking up space.
  7. You can expand your market to potentially include more age groups or a new demographic (think adding kids versus baby clothes or adding small purses for single ladies versus diaper bags for moms.)
  8. You can improve customer service by offering gift-wrapping or expedited shipping.
  9. Add customization to set yourself apart as a Purple Cow
  10. Etsy has a magic number.  No jokes.  You'll have to tune in to hear what I'm talking about.

 

When you're in a creative slump, Pin this List for some quick ideas on adding new listings.

P.S. What do you think?  Is this list eye-catching or just crazy?  I couldn't decide ;)

10 Ways to Add More Items to Your Shop Without Breaking the Bank #etsy #sellerhelp

So what will you add to your shop today?  I can't wait to see all of your new creations and the new traffic and sales it brings you as a result.  Happy creating, Brilliant Business Moms, we love you!

Another P.S. - Is saying we love you weird?  Seriously, I have such warmth in my heart for you guys and I don't care who knows it!

~ Beth Anne

 

Direct download: Episode2034_mixdown20final.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 3:30am EST

Katie’s story began as she was learning to fly airplanes. As with most entrepreneurs, when she should have been studying for something sensible, she was instead innovating and thinking about her life in new ways.

To be fair, it’s not quite accurate to state that her story began just then. Katie had plenty of stories worthy of documenting and sharing before she learned to fly in rural Montana. The difference was simply the realization that she had important stories to tell, and the realization that so many of us are missing opportunities to tell our stories too.

Katie is now a self-proclaimed storycatcher and journal crafter who is devoted to helping her customers find their voice, document memories, and embrace their lives. Katie and her team make journals in a repurposed airplane hangar that serves as her family’s home and her workshop.

Today on the podcast:

03:30 - How Learning to Fly Airplanes Led to a Journal-Making Business
05:44 – Why Katie No Longer Sells on Etsy
09:41 – How She Does It (Or More Accurately, How They Do It)
11:48 – How Katie Gets Loads Done Even with Just 10 Minutes
14:10 – Her Proudest Accomplishment
18:17 – How the Weather Directly Affects Katie’s Business
22:04 – Why Thank You is Something Katie Says Every Day
28:55 – The Surprising Piece of Technology that Katie Doesn’t Own
33:39 – Katie’s Way of Saying Thank You to Bloggers

How Does Learning to Fly Lead to a Journal-Making Business?

Katie’s husband Martin has his private pilot’s license, and when they moved back to rural Montana, he began teaching her how to fly. Learning to fly is one of those things that men dream of and not very many women do. For a while, Katie sort of took the whole process for granted. Flying was just ok.

She was supposed to be studying for her private pilot’s license but got the idea to create writing prompts for herself so that she could tell this really cool story about learning how to fly. This got her thinking about all the other rare and awesome things that other women are doing. Many of these women may not even realize that their stories are worth telling.

Why Katie Moved her Shop to Her Own Website from Etsy

Katie wanted to add certain features to her shop to create an experience for her customers. There are many limitations to what a seller can do or customize on Etsy.  At Gadanke.com/share, Katie’s customers can share bits of their own journals and stories and the ways that they are documenting their lives.

How Katie Gets Loads Done, Even with Just 10 Minutes

Katie uses Excel to have a running list of projects she’s working on and actions needed for each one. If she has just 10 minutes, she can pull up her spreadsheet and quickly assess what she needs to do in that moment.

“You could easily spend that entire 10 minutes thinking about what work you should be doing, and then the 10 minutes is over,” says Katie.

On Writing Things Down Just to Cross Them Off

Katie doesn’t like to spend time writing things down just to cross them off or put a check by them.

“I want the feel-good awesome things to be sitting down and laughing with my son or looking at the same peek-a-boo book over and over and seeing how much he lights up.”

Her Proudest Accomplishment

Katie gave a TEDx Talk on Storytelling last September.

She also shares what TED is all about. (It sounds pretty incredible to me, but Sarah has banned me from attending!)

How the Weather Affects her Sales and Other Thoughts on being Busy

Katie shares that no matter how much you prepare for Christmas, you’re still going to be slammed. It continues to be true for her because the business just keeps growing.

During the slow season of summer, Katie and her husband Martin still make it busy by re-vamping journals and creating their new affiliate program.

They try their best to create systems and train employees during the slow months so that when Christmas (and January too!) roll around, everyone is ready.

Katie shares that January is just as busy for her business as December, because journaling tends to be a cold-weather activity. (We had no idea!)

Why Thank You is Something Katie Says Every Day

Katie has two part-time employees. One is an artist and the other, a student. She loves that the jobs she provides them helps to support their personal goals and not just financial goals. Her employees are passionate about what they’re doing.

Each day I make sure I tell my employees, “thank you for helping me, thank you for the work you’ve done here.

(Katie sounds like the perfect boss! What do you think, Sarah, ready to move to Montana?)

Airplanes Contributed to the Start of Her Business, but also to its Lowest Point

Katie describes the slowest time in her business as being self-induced. She was trying to juggle running Gadanke and building a home out of an airplane hangar.

She and her husband Martin sat down and said, “do we want to make Gadanke into something awesome, or do we want it to just be on the side….?”

We looked at each other and just thought of all the incredible feedback we were getting from customers. People are finding reasons to celebrate their lives and to dream and move forward because the journals we’ve created have helped them to do that.

Katie and Martin could be doing a dozen other things, but they have decided to make Gadanke their career right now. (We’re so glad they did!)

Katie’s Powerful Words

You and I probably have really amazing stories too; we just haven’t actually discovered those, and I think that’s really a great power of keeping a journal…

Favorite App or Tool

Katie surprised us by confessing that she doesn’t own a smart phone. She confessed to using Instagram on her iPad, but finds that most apps and online tools can take away from the energy that she could be putting into her business.

The Single Best Way Katie Grew Her Business

Katie was a blogger before she opened her shop.  She already had a community of women and men that she could relate to and could relate to her. She wasn’t going online to push a product on them; she was going online to connect with them.

Those relationships ultimately helped her to build a meaningful business.

Katie’s Way of Saying Thank You to Bloggers and Customers

Katie and her husband Martin just launched an affiliate program.  Anyone with a blog or even just a social media account can join. She realized that by creating the program themselves, they could cut out the percentage that goes to an affiliate network and pass along the extra percentages to the customers and bloggers who love them.

Her Best Business Advice

“Believe in yourself. It’s so easy when things are hard – when you don’t have the sales that you want – you don’t have the pageviews that you want – whatever it is you’re wishing you could do - just keep going.”

Katie also keeps a spreadsheet of customer feedback. When one negative review or the stress of the day has her discouraged, she is reminded of all the incredible stories and lives she’s had the chance to impact.

Adorable Mom Moment

Katie’s baby boy Niklas has just figured out how to pull himself up to stand. Katie says that she’ll turn around for 5 seconds, look back and realize that he’s pulled himself up.

“There he is holding himself up with a big smile.”

We love those sweet moments when our little ones are so proud of their accomplishments! So precious!

Stay in Touch with Katie

Her shop: Gadanke.com
Her blog: MakingthisHome.com
Facebook: Gadanke
Twitter: @Gadanke

What do you think? Will you start writing down more of your stories? Will you tell those who help you the most “thank you” a little more often? Or will you dive head-first into your business, believing without a doubt that it matters a great deal.

We’d love to hear about it in the comments!

~ Beth Anne

Direct download: Gadanke20Interview_mixdown20final.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 3:30am EST

Hello from Vermont!  I'm on vacation this week with my husband and our 3 fun kids!  We're visiting a college friend and her beautiful family.

I just had to pop in and say hello and leave you with some words to think on today.

“Our greatest fear should not be of failure, but of succeeding at something that doesn’t really matter.” D.L. Moody Click to Tweet!

What do you think?  Are you struggling more with the fear of failure or the fear that what you're doing may not matter?

I've definitely struggled with both!

Have a wonderful week, Brilliant Business Moms, I'll be sure to share some pictures of our trip next week!

~ Sarah

Direct download: Episode203220final.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 3:30am EST

Many bloggers and website owners forget that their About Me Page is one of the most visited pages on their website.  It's vitally important to make a meaningful first impression.

Read the Compelling Narrative on One Mom Entrepreneur’s Website that Led us to Take this Page More Seriously

Why does Elizabeth’s About Me Page work so well?

She includes all 9 Keys to a Compelling About Me Page. Can you find them all?

On the podcast:

  • Questions…Are they a good idea on your About Me Page?
  • Who is your About Me page about? Hint: It’s not who you think!
  • Why people compare my hubby to Tom Cruise
  • Do links have a place on your About Me Page?
  • Why you have my full permission to publicly scold and shame me
  • What’s the most important, can’t-miss thing that you MUST include on your About Me Page no matter who you are or what your website is about? Hint: This one thing has the power make or break your business.

 

These Nine Keys Won’t Write Your About Me Page For You, But They Will Give You a Great Start

1.)    Grab your reader’s attention with your first sentence.

This is often called “the hook” Catch your audience off guard right away, if possible.

Surprise them, be unusual, or ask questions (see Derek Halpern’s page).

Derek does a great job of letting people know that they are in the right place.

Keep in mind, your about me page is not actually about YOU – it’s about your readers.

They need to know how you’re going to help them, what you’re going to provide, or why you’re different from every other blogger on the block.

Stumbling over that perfect first sentence? You can use a video for your hook!

2.)    Share the benefits of what you and your site have to offer.

Again, it’s all about your readers or customers and how you can help them or solve their most pressing problems.  (Even if you sell hand-knit baby shoes - you can still accomplish this.  You may be solving the problem of someone finding a unique heart-felt gift for their friend who just had a baby.  Perhaps you solve the problem of being a comfortable, eco-friendly, ethically-made baby shoe that moms can feel good about putting on their baby's feet.)

An example for Sarah and I would be a focus on the community of moms we are creating. Starting a small business or blog on the side can be really stressful and overwhelming.

We’re here to help and come alongside moms who are ready to grow. We’re not claiming to be experts or gurus, we’re moms just like you who are learning and implementing as we go.

Lots of people online are sharing facts about how to be successful, but implementing all of those facts and growing your business is really, really hard. We believe that moms need support and encouragement to make it happen and keep going when things are tough. We’re lucky enough to have each other as business partners, and we don’t believe that any mom should have to “go it alone”

3.)    Social Proof

Natalie Lesnefsy of TheBusyBudgetingMama.com shares some of the positive feedback that she’s gotten from her readers. If you have happy customers or readers, have them share a bit about how your site or business has helped them.

Social proof could also mean that you share your credentials or that fact that you've spoken at conferences or were featured in magazines.

4.)    Emotions

Your About Me Page should convey some feeling. How do you want your readers to feel when they’re on your site? Should they feel at home, a sense of peace or calm? Do they feel joy or excitement? What about motivation?

Sarah and I want you to feel a sigh of relief – that you’re not alone in this crazy world of blogging, business, and being a mom. (Feel free to let us know if we’ve accomplished this or majorly missed the mark!)

5.)    Fun Facts or Tidbits About You!

Your readers want to get to know you. Avoid generics like “I love the outdoors and sipping coffee in the morning.” Be unique.

Ask your family and friends what makes you the fabulous person you are.

It’s ok to be vulnerable here.

Abby of JustaGirlandHerBlog.com strikes a great balance by sharing about being a BRCA1 breast cancer gene carrier but also sharing lighter things like the fact that everyone says she looks like someone they know.

6.)    Photos

As Neil says, no matter what you look like, you have to share a photo of yourself.

If you’re providing value and helping others, no one cares what you look like – they just want to put a face with a name and get to know you.

Mom bloggers seem to be ahead of the game on this one. Many are creating a virtual scrapbook of multiple photos with fun tidbits about each one. Again, Abby does a great job!

7.)    Link to your popular posts

Which posts get tons of comments or personal emails describing the difference that you’ve made?

If you’re brand new to blogging or starting your own shop/website, then pick the ones you think showcase both your best work, and also let the reader get to know you a bit more.

P.S. Very sorry for the jet noise during point 7 of the podcast! I’m around it so often that I usually don’t even notice it.

8.)    Make it easy for others to find you and connect with you.

There are a variety of options here. You can include an email address, social media links, a contact form, or all of these.

When your readers and customers are ready to keep the conversation going, don’t keep them hanging.

9.)  Include an Email Opt-in Box on your About Me Page

Pat Flynn gets all the credit for this brilliant recommendation.

 

Resources Mentioned in the Podcast

Ask Pat Episode 1 - How Do You Craft the Perfect About Page?

Amy Lynn Andrews - How to Write an About Page

In Spaces Between - How to Write your About Me Page

QuickSprout - The 4 Essential Elements of an About Me Page

Search Engine Journal - 25 Creative and Engaging About Us Pages

 

Seven of Our Favorite About Pages

The Busy Budgeting Mama

Just A Girl and Her Blog

Marie Forleo

Elizabeth Potts Weinstein

Pat Flynn

Jared Digital

PegandAwl

Not all of these About Me Pages Include every single point, but many do!  What catches your eye about these pages?  Do you plan to change anything on your own page as a result?

Let's chat in the comments :)

Beth Anne

Direct download: Episode203120About20Me20Page_mixdown20final.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 3:30am EST

Lawyerpreneur Elizabeth Potts Weinstein shares legal tips for mom entrepreneurs and how to design your ideal life and business

Elizabeth Potts Weinstein is a lawyer, writer, and explorer. As a small business attorney, she helps entrepreneurs, artists, coaches, and consultants to find simplicity in the law, so they can get back to spending their time helping their clients and changing the world.

Not only is Elizabeth a successful entrepreneur, she is also a single mom. She and her nine year-old daughter live in an apartment in the Silicon Valley with one cat, nine+ Apple products, twenty-one containers of craft supplies, and hundreds of books.

What you’ll learn on the podcast:

03:59 - Elizabeth's Revelation that Led to her Current Career
04:57 - Why the Subject of your Passion is not as Important as the Kind of Life that you Want
07:32 - Finding Your Ideal Client is Like Dating
11:45 - Legal Tips for Mom Entrepreneurs
15:45 - How Elizabeth Designs Her Business to Work for Her Life
22:06 - How She Managed to Be Profitable from her First Day of Business

Crafting the Ideal Business

Elizabeth got rid of the things she didn’t like about the law to create her dream job.

• No billing by the hour
• No stuffy office (Elizabeth can travel anywhere she wants with her daughter and still have a “day at the office”)
• Definitely no panty-house!
• No demanding clients that she is unable to relate to – Elizabeth chooses small business owners and people with alternative businesses who want to change the world.
• Very infrequent in-person meetings. Elizabeth is an introvert, so Skype and working from home are ideal solutions for her.

“It’s not really the subject matter of what you do because you’ll find a lot of things interesting, but it’s really about the life that you want, the people you want to be around”

The Lawyerpreneur Elizabeth Potts Weinstein talks about entrepreneurship and creating a business that works with the life you want the most

Finding Your Ideal Client is Like Dating

1. Elizabeth states what and who she is NOT.  She’s not an attack-dog lawyerShe doesn’t have a fancy office or wear fancy clothesYou won’t find her awards on her wall or a focus on prestige.

2. She uses the exact words and phrases that her ideal customer would use.
When she started her current business, Elizabeth told everyone she knew about it. She listened to her ideal clients describe what they were looking for in terms of legal advice or a business lawyer, and she used those same words in her marketing and on her website.

3. No insider lingo
Most individuals outside of a certain field use different terms than the experts do. Elizabeth makes sure to use the terms that her ideal customers will use and relate at their level.

4. The break-up
By the time someone emails Elizabeth to be a potential client, they are generally a great fit. In the rare instances that they’re not, Elizabeth is honest and upfront from the beginning. She’ll just say, “I don’t think I’m what you’re looking for, but here are some recommendations.”

“It’s kind of like when you put up your profile on a dating website,” Elizabeth says, “be really specific and state what you want so you get dates with the right kind of people – it saves everyone time!”

Why Relationships are Vitally Important to Any Business

You may not be handing out business cards at your local chamber of commerce (Elizabeth is pretty sure she doesn’t have business cards anymore!) but connecting with others is still vitally important.

Oftentimes, someone who knows Elizabeth will see a legal question in a Facebook group. This person will tag Elizabeth and let them know that she may have the answer.

Elizabeth is always paying attention to what people need and meeting those needs within her business.
She also has a sizeable email list, because she’s been doing online business for over 10 years.

Her Advice?

“Even if you don’t know what kind of business you want to do yet, you can still have a list, and you can bring those people with you wherever you end up going.”

Business is still all about personal contact but in different ways.

Legal Tips for Mom Entrepreneurs

1. Start as a Sole Proprietor until you really start earning money.
Forming an LLC or S-Corp costs money, and you may not even know yet if the business is going to work

2. Your business should have its own bank account.
Even if it’s just a Paypal account, keep it separate from your personal accounts

3. Use a separate credit card for your business.
Even if you don’t get the card in your business’ name, just have one that is completely separate that you use only for business expenses
(Steps 2 & 3 are helpful not just for taxes but also if you want to form a different entity in the future)

4. Make sure you have a written agreement if you hire someone to help with your business in any way.
Ex. - You hire someone to help with your website or marketing.
Even if you can’t afford to hire a lawyer, that written agreement makes things really clear. You may have 20 emails back and forth between you, but the written agreement spells everything out. Both parties understand what tasks were to be done and how much will be paid for them.

Designing Both Sides of Her Life

Elizabeth says there is a huge list of stuff she doesn’t do because she owns her own business.
“I’m in a business and I’m a single mom. I have hobbies and things, but I’m very picky about what I do and don’t do.”

They ask, “Can you have it all?”

“Well, no, you can have a whole lot, but you have to pick what those things are.”

“It really comes down to being picky and designing how you want both sides of that life to be.”

elizabeth potts weinstein single mom, lawyer and entrepreneur

Products and Services at Different Tiers to Meet Different Needs

Elizabeth has 3 tiers of services within her business so that she can meet a variety of legal needs that entrepreneurs might have.
(We think this is a great idea for any business owner!)

1. If a small business owner just needs to pick Elizabeth’s brain on a few questions, they can pay by the minute to call her via Clarity.
2. For someone who is starting a business or turning a hobby business into a full-time gig, Elizabeth offers a start-up plan that provides contracts, sets up the website, incorporates you, and provides legal counsel.
3. Larger businesses can hire Elizabeth as their outside general counsel. This is a much more extensive relationship because the business is more complicated and requires more legal input.

Elizabeth also follows the principle of giving away tons of value for free. There are plenty of checklists and excellent free materials on her website.

Elizabethpw.com will take you there

Organizational Tools

Google Calendar - for scheduling appointments with her clients

(Rachel, Mimika, and Anne love this one too!)

Elizabeth also has a paper calendar on the fridge so that her daughter can go and read it. Her daughter then understands what her life will look like for the next week which is important to her.
(I love this idea. My 3 year-old already asks me each day what’s on the agenda, and I have to walk him through each step!)

Elizabeth is also trying a new trick that’s very low-tech but will hopefully save a lot of time: cooking all her meals in one day for the whole month.
Let us know how it goes, Elizabeth! We’re eager to try this too!

Get in Touch with Elizabeth

ElizabethPottsWeinstein.com
Twitter: @ElizabethPW
Google+ Elizabeth Potts Weinstein
LinkedIn: ElizabethPW

Legal Advice for Mom Entrepreneurs

Did you learn some new legal tips for your business? How about tips for designing your dream job so that you can have more time for the things that matter most?

Let's chat in the comments :)

~ Beth Anne

Direct download: Episode203020Elizabeth20Potts20Weinstein_mixdown.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 3:30am EST

Quote Don't become a wandering generality.  Be a meaningful specific by Zig Ziglar

A meaningful quote has the power to change your perspective or motivation.

This one from Zig Ziglar is no different.

Don't become a wandering generality. Be a meaningful specific.

Sarah and I realize that oftentimes, getting handed multiple points and steps of business advice can be helpful, but other times it can be overwhelming.

Today, we're keeping it simple.

In light of this very simple advice to be specific --to stand out, the whole focus of your business or life could take a radical change.

Perhaps you have a blog that addresses all the aspects of being a stay-at-home mom. You share recipes, cute stories about your children, DIY projects, homeschooling advice, and thoughts about current events.

With a broad brush-stroke focus, how can you stand out?

The truth is, you probably won't.

What if instead, you let more of yourself and your passions show through?

Perhaps you are passionate about not wasting food and living a frugal, eco-conscious lifestyle like Kristen at The Frugal Girl.

No, it's not exactly sexy to talk about food waste, but it sure does set Kristen apart, and she has a loyal following because of it.

Do you have an Etsy Shop, and in it you sell paintings, handmade clothing, and craft supplies?

What sets you apart from the other shops out there?

It's hard to become a true master at a skill if your focus is torn between multiple projects.  Try focusing on one skill or product, and make it as extraordinary and unique as you can.  Others will begin to know you as the talented artist with a unique take on multi-media creations.

The struggle to stay focused and be unique

Sarah and I have certainly struggled to stay focused in our own business as well.

I'm an "ideas girl", and so my mind is always spinning with new business ideas.  What I've learned, though, is that unless the idea has a direct contribution to the projects we are already doing, it's probably not worth my time.  None of us can be good at everything.  We simply can't.

Put another way by an incredibly successful entrepreneur, John Lee Dumas

Follow one course until success

Do you make things happen or let them happen to you?

As Sarah states in the podcast, it can be really hard to stand out.  It's a tough road.

Is it tougher, though, than looking back on things wishing you had stuck to your guns more... wishing you'd taken that passion of yours and ran with it or wishing you hadn't worried quite so much about what others would think?

I've seen many eyes glaze over when I talk about our podcast.

Who cares?

I'm so passionate about helping other moms to grow their businesses that nothing is going to stop me from giving as much of my blood, sweat, and tears as possible to make this dream a reality.

Be unique and amazing at that one thing you're called to do.

Then tell us all about your unique, amazing talents and vision in the comments!

~ Beth Anne

 

Direct download: Episode202920final.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 7:00pm EST

Crafting a great blog post involves a whole lot more than just solid writing and an interesting topic.

Many bloggers are lucky enough to have those skills, yet their posts are routinely ignored.  What's at play here?  Let's explore what goes on after a post is published.

I finally did it!  I hit the publish button on a post that I spent hours on.  Before I began the writing process, I spent days debating the nuances of each thought and idea contained within.

At the end of the day the post goes live, I check the blog's stats.  This one doesn't seem to be making a dent.  No one is commenting.  No one is sharing.  No one seems to care at all.

Let's start at the very beginning.

Research shows that many readers do not make it past the title of your post.  Was your title too long or confusing?  Did you hook your reader by making them curious or evoking emotion?

The research says that the first 3 words and last 3 words of your title are all that your readers will see. Did you pack the most important words towards the beginning and end of your title? The beginning of your title is also more weighted for SEO, so fit your key words into the title quickly.

(Hint - 9 Keys might be great because people are interested in numbers, but if I really wanted to rank, I would have started off with Blogging: 9 Keys to Crafting a Killer Post.)

Yesterday on the podcast we interviewed Anne Bogel of ModernMrsDarcy.com  Since Anne does such a brilliant job at crafting her blog posts, I'll be using her as an example here.

Take a Look at some of Anne's Killer Blog Post Titles

Blowing my Mind Lately
13 thoughts on taking the rainbow bookshelf plunge
Angry Cleaning
$3 lipstick & overcoming perfectionism

She uses numbers, evokes emotions and curiosity, and utilizes 6 words or less to make sure the entire title is read by her readers.

Are Your Paragraphs Putting People Off?

Let's talk about that killer blog post you just finished writing. Did you write it as though it were a novel?

Bad idea.

In the online space, ease of reading and the ability to scan a post are KEY. Use paragraphs that are 1 to 4 sentences long. Yes, I know this seems ridiculous.

No, it's not actually ridiculous. Your readers may just make it all the way through your post if you use this technique.

Photos Belong on Your Blog even if You Stink at Taking Them

Photos are necessary.

If you're awful at photography, I recommend you find a great service like Dollar Photo Club * so you can still populate your blog with eye-catching photos related to the discussion topics.

At a minimum, your blog post must have a header photo or featured image at the top.

On Anne's fashion posts, she routinely includes 4 photos or more to keep her readers' attention and communicate the message of the post effectively.

Interlinking is Your Best Friend

This is one of those blogging talents that Anne does amazingly well.

Every one of her posts is skillfully linked to multiple other posts. You hardly notice that the links are there because they mesh so seamlessly with the message. At the same time, you can't help but to click them and read more.

Linking to Valuable Resources is Another Vote for Your Credibility

You may worry that linking to other blogs or websites will just direct the traffic away from your site.

This may be true in some instances, but the truth is, Google loves relevant links. Most of all, your readers will love the fact that you curate helpful content for them and aren't afraid to share it.

Share the love. Share resources that are helpful, and your readers will come back, promise!

Check out Anne's What I'm Into post for an example of doing this well.

Long is the New Short

When I first started blogging, I heard over and over again that keeping things short was an important key to success.

"Your readers don't have time for anything too long. You'll lose their attention," the powers-at-be would say.

Recently, though, some studies have proven just the opposite.

Google loves helpful, detailed posts that are excellent resources for the reader. Incidentally, readers love sharing posts that are helpful with others!

1500 words seems to be the sweet spot for getting more attention from Google and more shares.

This is the one principle of crafting killer blog posts that Anne does not use. Anne calls herself a maximizer by nature. Her goal is to communicate as much as possible with as few words as possible. She is a master at this!

There is something to be said for using the talents that you have.

Anne's readers also expect short, witty posts from her.

In our case, as new bloggers, we're trying to use every possible method to improve SEO. We're also trying to use every possible method to be as helpful to our readers and listeners as possible.  So we continue to type out many, many words. 

Make Your Content Really Easy to Share

Even if a reader loves your post, if it's not easy to share it, they won't.

Add sharing buttons in every place that seems relevant. Make it easy for others to share your hard work!

If Your Blog Post Doesn't Compel Action, then What are You Writing for?

End each post with a call to action.

This could be as simple as asking for your readers' thoughts on the post and asking if they would share them in the comments.

Maybe you'd like them to sign up for your email list to grab a great resource that pairs perfectly with what they just read.

Whatever the action, give your readers some step they can take next after reading your killer post.

Use Headers and Sub-headers to Make Your Post Easier to Read

These are important so that it's easier for the eye to scan down the page.

This means using the <h2> and <h3> tags when you write.  The larger titles you see on this post are done with the <h2> tag.

Bullets and numbers are also an easy way to make your post feel more organized and easy on the eyes.

The 9 Keys to Crafting a Killer Blog Post

  1. Title - 6 Words that Matter
  2. Short Paragraphs
  3. Header Photo
  4. Interlinking
  5. Link to Outside Resources
  6. 1500 Words to Maximize Sharing & SEO
  7. Sharing Buttons for Social Media
  8. Call to Action
  9. Sub-header Tags

Resources Cited:

The Anatomy of a Perfect Blog Post - Buffer Blog

The Anatomy of an Effective Blog Post - Michael Hyatt

Anatomy of a Good Blog Post - Amy Lynn Andrews

26 Tips for Writing Great Blog Posts - Social Media Examiner

The Content Pyramid - Pat Flynn of Smart Passive Income

 

Is there something your killer blog posts are missing when you hit publish?  What will you change today as a result?

Direct download: Episode202820Anatomy20of20a20great20blog20post_mixdown.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 3:44am EST

 

Anne Bogel blogs at ModernMrsDarcy.com and is the author of How She Does It: An everywoman's guide to breaking old rules, getting creative, and making time for work in your actual, everyday life. 

Anne writes about the best in the world of books as well as what it looks like to be an accomplished woman in our modern world. Her readers are a smart, kind, compassionate, and loyal bunch!

Learn why she believes she was able to grow such a meaningful following, along with the process of getting her book into the Kindle store.  Of course, Anne recommends a slew of great business books for you!

On the podcast:

  • What is Anne is coming to terms with?
  • How she does it
  • Plans for another book?
  • Her blogging philosophy
  • The new blogger on the block with as much spunk as Lizzie Bennet!

 

The beginning of Modern Mrs. Darcy

Anne and her husband were having a New Year’s conversation to discuss the big picture for their next year.  They were talking about a post her husband had done for someone else’s blog.

Anne's husband said, "You know who should have a blog?!"

Anne replied with, "No who?!"

"You!!"

She shrugged it off at first, but a few minutes later she was convinced. The blog didn’t go live for a couple of months but she started the planning and prep that very night.  This was 3.5 years ago.

 

Anne's Encouraging Words

"Everybody starts at zero; there's nowhere to go but up."

 

The Blog Posts that Make an Impact

  1. Summer Reading Guides
  2. Twitterature: Anne's link-up to bite-sized book summaries via Twitter has a small but fierce following of smart women who LOVE this feature.  Anne has been duly warned that she mustn't dare get rid of it.
  3. Work-Life Balance Posts:  People love to talk about this topic, and Anne's blog provides a safe place where all opinions are welcome, and readers are encouraged to think about issues in new ways.
  4. In case no one ever told you, Cardigans are Controversial, and controversy sells.

 

How She Does It

Work-life balance is not Anne's favorite phrase.  (Ours either!)  How about working towards doing the things you love the most in life?

Anne says that there aren't really typical days at her house, but there are seasons that follow a pattern such as the school year versus summer.

They use a nanny a couple of time a week, and she helps with some of the homeschooling.  The kids are also out of the house one day per week so Anne can do things like chat with us for a Podcast.  (Hooray for an empty house!)

The kids have rest-time every day, and Anne is very deliberate about how she uses that time.

Sometimes the schedule goes out the window, for example, when they moved this Spring.

Anne relates to the moms who are struggling with the decision to bring on help for their day to day.

"It feels like a really big step. It’s hard to find babysitters, so even doing that just one day a week can be tough."

Coming to Terms...

Anne has had a hard time coming to terms with the fact that she’s a blogger.

She takes her writing seriously and treats it like a job. When she’s among a literary crowd and mingling with people who are writing a memoir or the next Great American Novel, she can feel so low-brow.  She may come home from what should have been a really inspiring gathering and think, "I have a blog."  She’s had to work through that a little bit.

 

The Unique Ability of Bloggers

"Bloggers have the ability to start and facilitate conversations that writers just putting their words out there and sending into books don’t."

 

Plans for another book?

Good ideas tend to come fast from unexpected places, so maybe inspiration will strike. Unfortunately there are no plans for a second book at the moment. (I know. We were grieving too. Although if Anne needs some ideas... I've got about 100 per day! Let's chat, Anne!)

Her first book sprung from a conversation with a friend who was struggling to make everything work within her marriage and as a mom with all of the hats she was juggling.

Anne told her husband, “I think I’m going to write a blog post about that”

He said, “Forget that, you could write 20,000 words on that!”

 

Authentic Blogging = Authentic Community

Anne is really proud of the community that she’s created at Modern Mrs. Darcy. It’s not just her, but she got the ball rolling on it.

“I’m continually impressed day by day at the smart, savvy, thoughtful, kind, sincere community of women (and 3% men!) who show up every day."

 

Thoughts on growing a loyal following

Anne thinks she got a little bit lucky.

In addition to that, she read early on that as the blogger you’re the host in your living room, and you need to set the tone

She tries to be very warm, welcoming, and open. She writes about possibility, exploring new things, other options, and looking at life from a different angle. That general tone tends to facilitate respect and openness to other people and their ideas

 

"My blog has a Jane Austen theme so it tends to attract people who are smart, and thoughtful, and interesting, and that doesn’t hurt!" says Anne.

 

She feels like she’s in some sort of virtuous cycle, and she’s really grateful for it.

 

Are the lack of giveaways, link parties, and sponsored posts intentional?

Anne doesn’t do a lot of link parties or sponsored posts.

She’s a maximizer by nature, so she doesn’t want to waste anyone’s time. If she doesn’t want to read it on her site or elsewhere, then she doesn’t want to put it on her blog.

If it’s not worth reading, she’s not going to post it.

Revenue Streams for Modern Mrs. Darcy

  • Anne is on a bookish ad network – RiotAds One division is food and one division is books.
  • Affiliate sales work out well for Anne since she recommends books that she has personally read and loved.  Her readers are generally avid consumers of books as well.
  • Anne does the occasional sponsored post every 6-8 weeks.
  • The sponsors are reaching out to her, which gives her a little more control in terms of setting the tone and the terms when they ask her. It’s nice to have that luxury.
  • Anne participates a little bit in the PR agencies that connect bloggers and brands. She said they always look like a good idea, but when she signs up for something and sees the list of requirements, hashtags, disclosures, etc. it makes her doubt whether her readers would be interested in seeing the content.  If they won't like it, then Anne won't write it.

Favorite Online Tool or App

Google Calendar: helps her to keep track of which blog posts are coming down the line.

Anne usually has 100 post ideas and about 10 in her short-term horizon, so she’ll put them into Google calendar and move them around so that she doesn’t have too many book posts in a row or fashion posts in a row, etc.

 

How Anne Avoids the Facebook Rabbit Hole

Coschedule for Social Media. You can schedule out your social from Wordpress itself.  It’s faster because you don’t have to wait for pages to load to do tweets or facebook.  It also keeps you off those social media platforms so you don't get sucked down the rabbit hole of social media!

 

Best way to Grow her Blog

Making friends

"When I fist started blogging I had no idea that half of it was writing and half of it was community.
That’s what makes it fun and interesting, and it also helps you to grow."

Anne's Blogging Philosophy

  1. Don’t be unfunny
  2. Don’t be uninspired
  3. Don’t be unreadable

 

 

Quite literally, Content Marketing Itself

Anne has been lucky in that the posts she’s gotten a lot of buzz about are also the same things that people who l would want to stick around for a while would like. Readers may be drawn in by the summer reading guide but then find very similar content and related content that makes them stay.

Her summer reading guides are shared widely all over Pinterest and other forms of social media. They also get a lot of buzz from other bloggers.

"If you like the summer reading guide, then you’ll probably feel like you’ve found a happy place with ModernMrsDarcy so it works really well in terms of not just great content but great advertising for the blog."

The summer reading guide was her husband’s idea – no surprise there!

 

There are just so many (books), Anne. How do you do it?

Anne is a slow runner but a fast reader. Maybe it all balances out this way?

She has made it her job, in a way, but never want reading to feel like something she has to do, but rather something she gets to do and chooses to do. She is very conscious of that.

Anne is a natural introvert, so reading is a good way for her to recharge or wind down at the end of the night.

She tries to sit down with a book for 20 minutes during rest time with a coffee cup and just “be” so that she can take on the rest of the day.

Reading is built into the rhythm of her day which helps her to get through more books.

 

How did you get your Book in the Kindle Store for Amazon?

Anne's husband did it for her. He’s since told numerous people that it’s very easy to do.

Amazon has directions for how to format your book for Kindle. He said that it was very tedious to make the changes in the file, but it wasn’t difficult. Once he made all of the required changes he just uploaded the book file to the store, and then Amazon notifies you when it’s ready.

The process usually takes a couple of days.

Favorite Business Books

There is no way the Lady of Pemberley could have picked just one - so Anne lists several for us!  Listen to the podcast starting at 21:21 to get Anne's take on all of these thoughtful recommendations.

The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg

Drive and A Whole New Mind by Dan Pink

Decisive by Chip and Dan Heath

Lean In by Sheryl Sandberg

(The Confidence Code is on her stack right now.)

 

So who is this new, up and coming blogger?

You'll have to listen to the podcast to find out, but this is what Anne has to say about her:

“She’s a machine; she’s got the entrepreneurial spirit for sure.”

 

Connect with Anne Bogel

Her blog:  ModernMrsDarcy.com

Facebook:  ModernMrsDarcy

Twitter: @annebogel

Instagram: @annebogel

Pinterest: ModernMrsDarcy

Direct download: Anne20interview_mixdown20final.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 3:30am EST

Did you listen to Episode 22, work on your detailed pricing model, and discover that no one can afford you or your product?  Is your labor intensive product not a good fit for a business model?  Does that mean you have to start from square one with a whole new business idea?  Not necessarily.  Don't automatically assume you need to reinvent the wheel.

By brainstorming ways to turns Products into Services, or Services into Products, you may be able to price yourself back into the marketplace.  Or, if your business is running smoothly without much involvement from you, it may be time to branch out.  Thinking in terms of complimentary products and services might help.

Lets take a product example first.  You are a fantastic knitter with mad skills.  But when you use the pricing formula discussed in Episode 22, your products would have to be priced well above what the market can bear.  You might begin to think you need to find a new product to sell, but not so fast.  Think in terms of related services and related products as an outlet for your knitting talent.  For instance, could you create new knitting patterns to sell? Could you teach knitting classes? What about creating knitting training videos or tutorials.  Perhaps you could you write an ebook about knitting.  Maybe as you have been fueling your knitting hobby you have found some rare and largely undiscovered sources for eco-friendly fabulous knitting yarn.  Could you source out and sell these fabulous knitting supplies that you know your equally as devoted knitting-loving friends would adore?  What about a monthly subscription box service dedicated to knitters, providing new patterns and fabulous finds to your subscribers each month?  By thinking about services or products related to your passion, you may just find yourself a new business!

Let's say you are in the service industry and own a restaurant.  Could you begin to bottle a favorite sauce that customers are always asking about?  That would be a related product for your service industry.  Is your restaurant slow during certain hours?  Maybe a cooking class would be the perfect thing to offer during those times.

Many service-based businesses offer very customized services for their clients.  These customized services are exactly what some customers are looking for, but they can be a bit pricey for others.  Could you make a more DIY product for those customers that don't need complete customization?  For example  BrandID creates beautiful customized websites and branding for customers who need a site tailored just for them.  But for those customers that are just starting out, identityshoppe.com offers a DIY version of a customized website.  Both of these services are owned by the same woman, but by creating a high cost highly customizable service and a lower-cost DIY version, she can keep customers in the sales loop and offer the perfect fit for each client.

If you have a hit a wall and your pricing model just won't work for your products or services, brainstorm related products and services to create a viable business model.

If you have a viable business model, don't under-estimate the power of focus.  Now may not be the time to brainstorm related products and services, you may just need to buckle down and focus on your viable business at hand.

$100 Start Up by Chris Guillebeau is a great resource for this topic.  (This is an affiliate link, but I would not recommend this book if I hadn't already read it and found it useful!)

Are you going to make any changes to your business plan or model after listening to this episode?  We'd love to hear about it in the comments!

-Sarah

 

Direct download: Episode2026_mixdown20final.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 2:55pm EST

 

If you build it, no one will come, because there are 1 billion other people who are also building “its”. Their “its” are really unique and fabulous.  Their "its" come with bonuses and amazing customer service.

If you are building "its" without a marketing or SEO plan, please stop building.

No, seriously.  Put that hammer down. 

You may just end up with a pile of dusty "its" in your garage that your grandkids will inspect and wonder about.  For your sanity, stop your building and start your marketing.

If you build it, your mom might come, but then again, there are a lot of "its" in the world, and she's a busy lady.

How does SEO Help my Marketing?

This intro on Off-page SEO could also be called an Intro to Marketing your Etsy shop, because the beautiful thing is, these two concepts go hand-in-hand.

The more you get the word out about your shop, the more Google acknowledges all of those beautiful links and clicks back to your site.

The more you share about your shop and brand on social media, the more Yahoo stands up and takes notice.

So what are we waiting for?  With hammers safely stowed for the moment, let's get started.

5 ways to dominate Off-page SEO for your Etsy shop or Website

          1. Blogs

- Partner with blogs to do giveaways or product round-ups and reviews

- Be sure the blog has plenty of traffic so you won't waste your time and money (I suggest 20,000 visitors/month minimum)

- Ensure that the blog's audience will be a good fit for your products.  Do their interests/passions/problems line up with what you're selling?

Websites to get you Started on Finding the Right Blogs

Bloglovin.com

Search within the relevant categories, and you can find the most popular blogs within that category (such as DIY & Crafts or Art).  Once you click over to a blog, it will suggest other similar blogs to follow.

Within the blog's page, you can get a really quick, thumbnail glimpse of all of their most recent blog posts.  Figure out if they do giveaways or talk about products they love.  Get a sense for what they blog about.  What’s the focus of their blog?

Feedly.com

Feedly makes it easy to search for popular websites that discuss a given topic, such as "nature crafts".  Unlike bloglovin, feedly's search engine is more targeted.

Quick Pointers for Reaching out to Bloggers

  1.  Read their blog.  No really...read it.
  2. Compliment them on a recent post.  Let them know why it was unique and the level of value they brought to their audience.
  3. Find something you have in common with that blogger that you can mention.  Whether it's children the same age or a mutual love of leopard bullfrogs, common ground not only makes you more relatable, but it also gives that blogger a frame of reference from which to view you.  After that point, they'll see you as, "Beth Anne, the lady who collects Japanese stamps."
  1. Paid Advertising

Using the same blogs you found above, hunt for that blog’s media kit. Many blogs require you to email to request a PDF of their media kit, but they will generally get back to you quickly and let you know what the sizes, locations, and pricing of their ads or sponsored posts will be.

  1. Social Media

Start with at least one form of social media, get familiar with it, then build additional social media channels from there.

Social Media Channels that Seem to Generate the Most Views and Sales for Etsy Shops

Pinterest

Instagram

Wanelo

  1. Directory Sites (NOT link directories) that are relevant to your field

Craftori

Craftcount

Craftcult

Topshopsofetsy

You can add your shop to these etsy shop directories within the appropriate categories.

Only other Etsy Shop Owners are on these Directory Sites, why should I care?

Google views relevant, non-spammy links as a vote for your shop.  So a valid crafting site with high traffic would be a vote for your shop.  (And many times, adding your shop is free.)

  1. Guest Posting

Even if you have no intention of starting a blog or becoming a blogger, there is still so much you can do as an Etsy Shop owner to get the word out about your shop.

You can submit a great DIY project with step by step photos or a video.

Share photos of your workspace or inside info on life as an Etsy seller.

Write about secrets of the trade, ex. take one of your more simple items to make and turn that into a step-by-step tutorial with photos on another blog

The benefits of guest posting

These posts written by you let others get to know you, position you as an expert within your field, and, let's face it, DIY projects make for amazing, pinnable, viral-able, content!

There are also Crafter DIY sites where you can upload your projects, ex. Craftster.org

So what are you going to do once you've set that hammer down?

Ready? Count ‘em!

  1. Partner with Blogs
  2. Paid Advertising
  3. Social Media
  4. Relevant, Non-spammy Directory Sites
  5. Guest Posting

Bonus SEO Tip

Ubersuggest.org

Ubersuggest simplifies the process of finding suggestions for keyword phrases that you may want to target.  Google's keyword planner does the same thing, but you have to toggle through multiple categories and see many repeat suggestions.  Ubersuggest shows everything on one page and lists the most popularly searched terms.

So what are you going to do this week while your hammer goes on vacation?  I'd love to hear about it in the comments!

~ Beth Anne

Direct download: Episode2025_mixdown20final.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 3:27am EST

It was so fun (and a little intimidating!) to inteview Amanda Archer.  She's a wedding dress designer who hails from Chicago, and she's clearly way too cool and creative for Sarah and I!  It was fun getting some of the inside scoop on the design business.  Plus there are tons of brilliant business moms out there dreaming of starting or growing their own clothing lines.  So listen on, friends!

The Archer Collection is about the modern woman; classic and easy to wear with a twist of retro and a bit of vintage romance. Fabrics in the collection are always made from natural or eco-friendly fabrics. Amanda searches far and wide to find the best quality of new, organic and vintage fabric and trims.

Most dresses are available made-to-order, customized or standard sized. Amanda’s dresses can be found on Etsy, or customers can come to her office studio located in Chicago's West Loop. Her wedding gowns are also available at Mignonette Bridal on Belmont Street in Chicago.

Taking the Leap

Amanda graduated from the fashion institute in San Francisco with a degree in Fashion Design. She worked for 5 years for other design companies, then started her own business in 2008.

“Etsy is what really helped me launch my business,” Amanda says.

Amanda was working full-time and doing dresses on the side for customers.  Her business was essentially a weekend job.  She also designed and made clothes at home for practice after learning something new at work.  Amanda worked hard to hone her craft and gain as much expertise as possible.

Amanda continued in this way for a few years. Once her side dress design company became fairly busy, she took the leap and became a full-time entrepreneur.  We love the way Amanda hustled on the side to get her business going!

Business was slow at first, but 9 months after she started, Amanda says things got really busy. She saw a big increase in volume of sales and she had to figure out how to handle that influx in business.

Solopreneur or Outsource?

When the orders starting pouring in, Amanda chose to push back her timelines rather than hire on help. She works with a lot of bridal groups who have many orders within one wedding.  Brides understand that there’s a longer timeline for multiple dresses and orders, so remaining a one-woman show hasn’t been a problem. Amanda's timeline is 3-6 months for bridal party orders..

What does a Typical Day Look Like for a Wedding Dress Designer?

Amanda goes to work in the morning for about 6 hours. Her husband works night shifts, so her daughter is home with her husband while she’s at work. In the afternoons she takes her lunch break with her daughter and puts her down for a nap. After nap-time, they head back to the office for an hour or two so she can wrap things up.  Then she takes her daughter to the park on the way home when the weather's nice (which we understand is a bit of a rarity in Chicago!)  Amanda is able to work 8 hours a day and also have 8 hours a day with her daughter.

Low point in her business

Amanda really cares about her customers and how people receive the dresses that she makes. So if she has an unhappy customer, that’s a low point for her. Thankfully, it doesn’t happen very often, but when it does, she works really hard to resolve the problem and keep her customers happy.

 

Entrepreneur Quote Business Advice It's Not a Mistake if You Learn from It Brilliant Business Moms Amanda Archer Collection

It’s a learning experience. In the wedding industry, it’s inevitable to run across issues, but you have to learn from those issues, do your best, and move forward.

How her dress design business helps to support her family

Amanda and her husband support the family 50/50. Amanda points out the added benefit of having her own business --  she can  work around her husband’s schedule. She can be flexible and make family a priority.

Accomplishment She’s Most Proud of

Being able to open up a studio space was a big deal for Amanda.  (Sarah and I are drooling as we think about it!  A place all our own to work and create?)

Amanda still has many more goals, hopes, and dreams, but she’s very happy with what she’s done with her business so far.

Her biggest goal is to open a bridal boutique.  She’d like to work with other artists and designers and have a space where she can produce items in the back. Her boutique space may also host wedding and baby showers.

Amanda has decided that her boutique will open within the next five years.  We love that she's setting a timeline to make her dreams happen.  Amanda is picking herself, and we can't wait to see what happens as a result!

Finding a Studio Space

It took a few years for Amanda to find the right space. She’s moved twice so far. When she found the space she wanted, there was a tenant already working there.  She found out when they were moving and then took over. Patience and persistence paid off!

Favorite Online Tool

-Etsy for Shipping with Ship n Click functionality

- Instagram to post photos of what she’s working on and pics of her baby

Inventory Tracking

Amanda uses a hands-on system that she learned from another designer.  Once or twice a month she goes through and makes sure she has the threads, zippers, and fabrics that she needs for that month’s workload.  She doesn’t type things into her computer but instead has all of her orders in front of her along with a checklist.

Single Biggest Factor that Helped to Grow her Business

Etsy! It’s a great community. It reaches people all over the world. Without Etsy it would have been a lot more challenging to grow her business.

Success

Happiness is success.  Being able to support herself and time with her family rank high on Amanda's list. Before her daughter was born, her life wasn’t as balanced.  Sixteen-hour days and very little vacation time were not all that uncommon for Amanda.

"Having a child has forced me to balance my life.  I feel a lot happier, and to me that feels like success."

 

Favorite Quote

 

Be Thankful For Each Day Inspirational quote Amanda Archer Collection Wedding Dress Designer

Right now is Amanda's busy season and she can often feel underwater. Even though it's very stressful, she keeps perspective by having a checklist for each day.  As long as she gets through that list each day, she is doing ok.

Amanda keeps perspective during her slow season as well. She's thankful that she still has business. 

 Photo Shoots

Photography is one of Amanda's hobbies, so for the past couple of years she has taken the pictures for her own photo shoots.  She does her own photo shoot of her new designs at least once per year.  Wow, we are so impressed!  Amanda hires models, make-up and hair artists. 

Working with Models

Amanda often finds her models through contacts in the industry. She’s worked on large photo shoots with multiple photographers and many models as well as participated in fashion shows.  These opportunities generate many leads.

Amanda also uses a site called Model Mayhem. The site allows users to search for a variety of parameters such as hair color or height.  From there, Amanda contacts the models to see who will be the best fit.

 As a dress designer and photographer, Amanda clearly has a vision for how she wants her shoots to go.  Amanda tells her models to pretend like they’re getting married.  They're happy.  It’s a positive thing.

Sometimes models can glare at the camera.  Telling them how to feel helps to give them direction. "They don’t have to smile the whole time," Amanda says, "but they should try not to look angry."  (Sarah has her own theory for why models look so sullen all of the time!)

Amanda Archer Collection Wedding Dress Designer Tip for Models Brilliant Business Moms

Funny Mom Moment

Amanda’s daughter is a CEO-in-training!  They were walking down a busy Chicago sidewalk, and she was shouting into her play phone for several blocks.  Business people on their phones were walking by just laughing at the baby yelling into her phone. (Clearly, she had important business to discuss!)

See Amanda's gorgeous designs for yourself!

AmandaArcher.com

Etsy: AmandaArcher
Twitter: @AmandaarcherCo
Facebook: AmandaArcherCollection
Pinterest: AmandaArcher
Instagram @AmandaArcherCo

Do you have a 5-year plan for your business?  Is there a big dream that you absolutely know you'll achieve?  We want to hear about it in the comments.

~ Beth Anne

Direct download: Amanda20Archer_mixdown20final.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 3:30am EST

How to Win Friends and Influence People:  When I first heard about this book I was a bit taken aback.  The whole idea of a book written about this topic seemed a little skeezy and manipulative.  "Is the book going to teach me weird mind games?" I wondered.
"Please tell me there's no hypnosis involved!"  My first impression of this classic could not have been more wrong.  This is a resource that I will turn to again and again.  Whether you have thousands of friends and are the most likeable person on the planet, or whether interacting with people in general just kind of scares the pants off of you - there is plenty of wisdom to be found in this book (and absoloutely zero creepy mind games!)

After you read How the World Sees You by Sally Hogshead, grab this one next so you can learn how to take the best of you and create genuine, meaningful relationships with others.

To see this book in action, let's take a look at the scenario below.

There she goes again.  You're left staring at the back of your employee's head as she walks away.  You've become all too familiar with the wave of her hair, the casual way it's tossed back, her lack of attention or care regarding anything you say.  How can you get through to her?

It's not that she's done anything worthy of letting her go, but at the same time, does she ever care about anything either?  You can't seem to get through to her.  She nods blankly when you talk with her -- her mind clearly somewhere else.  She does her tasks half-heartedly, and they are often incomplete unless she is given multiple reminders and firm deadlines.

This is not what you were hoping for when you hired your first employee.  You thought your passion and excitement for your business would immediately transfer to her too.

All you need to do is tell her what to do, be excited about it, and she'll handle the rest, right? 

Isn't this how things work between a boss and employee?

Not exactly.

There is a whole lot more involved in being a great leader or influencer.  How to Win Friends and Influence People is an incredibly rich resource that shares the basics of human psychology (without feeling like a psych 101 class!) that will change the way you see others and approach the world.

Rather than leave the pages feeling like a Jedi mind-master, you'll leave them feeling more equipped to treat others the way they should be treated.  There are no power plays here - no dramatic special effects - just plain old solid advice on how to put others first and be less demanding and selfish.

The coolest thing?

When you give more than you receive, you end up receiving more in the end.

As I listened to this book, I found myself agreeing with all of the principles mentioned, but realized how often I miss the mark in my own life.  It's easy to know what the right to do is, but it's another thing to apply it.  The best part about the book are all the case studies and real-life examples.  When I find myself slipping back into selfish jerk mode,  (Yep, that's right, I have a selfish jerk mode and it switches on far more often than I'd like to admit!) I'll return to the pages of this book to stay on track.  As a Christian, I found this book even more refreshing because I realized that being successful doesn't mean abandoning any of the principles that I hold dear.

Let's dive into the main points discussed in How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie.

Fundamental Techniques in Handling People

  1. Don't criticize, condemn, or complain.
  2. Give honest and sincere appreciation.
  3. Arouse in the other person an eager want.

Six Ways to Make People Like You

  1. Become genuinely interested in other people.
  2. Smile.
  3. Remember that a person's name is, to that person, the sweetest and most important sound in any language.
  4. Be a good listener. Encourage others to talk about themselves.
  5. Talk in terms of the other person's interest.
  6. Make the other person feel important – and do it sincerely.

"You can make more friends in two months by becoming interested in other people than you can in two years by trying to get other people interested in you.”

“Why talk about what we want? That is childish. Absurd. Of course, you are interested in what you want. You are eternally interested in it. But no one else is. The rest of us are just like you: we are interested in what we want.”

“Emerson said: “Every man I meet is my superior in some way. In that, I learn of him.”

Twelve Ways to Win People to Your Way of Thinking

  1. The only way to get the best of an argument is to avoid it.
  2. Show respect for the other person's opinions. Never say "You're Wrong."
  3. If you're wrong, admit it quickly and emphatically.
  4. Begin in a friendly way.
  5. Start with questions to which the other person will answer yes.
  6. Let the other person do a great deal of the talking.
  7. Let the other person feel the idea is his or hers.
  8. Try honestly to see things from the other person's point of view.
  9. Be sympathetic with the other person's ideas and desires.
  10. Appeal to the nobler motives.
  11. Dramatize your ideas.
  12. Throw down a challenge.

“Any fool can criticize, complain, and condemn—and most fools do. But it takes character and self-control to be understanding and forgiving."

"The chronic kicker, even the most violent critic, will frequently soften and be subdued in the presence of a patient, sympathetic listener— a listener who will be silent while the irate fault-finder dilates like a king cobra and spews the poison out of his system.”

“By fighting you never get enough, but by yielding you get more than you expected.”

Be a Leader: How to Change People Without Giving Offense or Arousing Resentment

  1. Begin with praise and honest appreciation.
  2. Call attention to people's mistakes indirectly.
  3. Talk about your own mistakes before criticizing the other person.
  4. Ask questions instead of giving direct orders.
  5. Let the other person save face.
  6. Praise every improvement.
  7. Give the other person a fine reputation to live up to.
  8. Use encouragement. Make the fault seem easy to correct.
  9. Make the other person happy about doing what you suggest.

“I consider my ability to arouse enthusiasm among my people,” said Schwab, “the greatest asset I possess, and the way to develop the best that is in a person is by appreciation and encouragement. “There is nothing else that so kills the ambitions of a person as criticisms from superiors.”

Criticism is futile because it puts a person on the defensive and usually makes him strive to justify himself. Criticism is dangerous, because it wounds a person’s precious pride, hurts his sense of importance, and arouses resentment.”

“The secret of his success? “I will speak ill of no man,” he said, “. . and speak all the good I know of everybody.”

 

In the podcast, I dive into some of the details of the points above and give some examples.  You'll also hear about my first-hand experience as a nurse dealing with some difficult people (did someone say surgeons?  who me?!  naaaah!  They're all teddy bears.) and contrast that with others who approached their interactions with more intention and care.

If you're debating whether this book will be useful for you, let me give a few examples.

You're a brand new photographer in town.  You know that networking with others and getting the word out about your business is vitally important.  Do you simply need to shout the loudest to accomplish this?  Nope!  This book will teach you how to form those important relationships to get your business off the ground.

You're an Etsy shop owner, and last year's busy Christmas season has convinced you to hire some help.  You wouldn't describe yourself as a people-person.  You prefer the solitary artist's life - working quietly in your studio.  Is it possible for you to form a successful working relationship with an employee?  Absolutely!  How to Win Friends and Influence People will point you in the right direction.

You're a blogger, and although your site gets some decent traffic one year after starting it, you're finding it tough to create a genuine community amongst your readers.  You know that community is important to keep people coming back and to create loyal customers who will be the first to buy your information products.  How can you accomplish this?  How to Win Friends and Influence People will spark some ideas for you on this front and help you get back to the basics of connecting with your audience.

I hope you will give this book a try.  I personally listened to the audiobook format while folding laundry and cleaning the house.

Grab your free Audible Trial here. *

How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie *

 

Direct download: Episode2023_mixdown20final.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 7:37am EST

Beth Anne had a great episode on pricing that talked a lot about the psychology involved in pricing and the ways in which you can potentially increase sales.  My spreadsheet-loving accountant personality just had to follow up with an episode on the nuts and bolts of pricing your products.  So get out your excel spreadsheet, and lets get started!

There are 4 components to determine a price for your product: Direct Costs, Indirect Costs, Time Value, and Profit.

Direct Costs

Direct costs are anything directly attributable to the creation of your product.  All the materials that go into your masterpiece are direct costs.  Direct costs also include special packaging you might use, a business card you include in each box, or an Etsy Listing Fee.  These are just a few ideas of the direct costs you may have.  Write down all the direct costs that go into each product you sell, and determine the cost of each of these elements.  Be as accurate as you can and make sure you do not leave anything out.

Indirect Costs

Indirect costs cannot be directly assigned to any one item.  These are the costs of running your business that are not part of production.  An example of these costs are accounting software, rent, utilities, web hosting, or training.  Make a list of all of these costs by month.  Then divide that number by the average number of products your expect to sell that month.  The result is the indirect cost that should be assigned to each product.  If your indirect costs change over time, or if your average number of products changes, come back and re-evaluate your numbers.

Time Value

The value of your time to create your product is the third component.  What is your time worth as an artist, designer, or crafter?  What is your skill level worth?  Once you have an idea of what you believe your hourly rate should be, you need to determine how much time it takes to make each item.  If you make each item one at a time, this is easy--just time yourself!  The most efficient way to make items is in an assembly-line fashion, if possible.  Here is an example: lets say it takes 3 steps to make your product.  You can do Step 1 to 10 of your items in 1 hour, for Step 2, you can process 20 of your items in 1 hour, and in Step 3 you can only get through 5 items in an hour.  If we break everything down into 10 unit increments than Step 1 is 1 hour, Step 2 is .5 hour, and Step 3 is 2 hours.  So a total of 3.5 hours to get 10 of your items completed.  If you want to get paid $20 per hour, then 3.5 x $20= $70 divided by the 10 products you made in that time means that for each item your time should be valued at $7.  The point is, time yourself, what is the best way to get through your work?  Determine exactly how long it takes to make one item, and how much you think your hourly rate should be.

Profit

The profit you want to make on each item can either be a percentage, or a dollar amount you add right in to the formula.  Make sure you have room in your pricing for profit, otherwise your business will never be able to grow and expand.  Without profits you will not have the cash flow to experiment with new products, buy in bulk, etc.

 

Here is an example of two formulas that might work for you:

(Time Value + Direct Costs + Indirect Costs)x1.1 = Wholesale x 2 = Retail

Time Value + Direct Costs + Indirect Costs + Profit = Wholesale x 2= Retail

 

Use these formulas to determine a fair price for your products, but also to determine how viable your business model is.  When you add up all your costs, is the price you should charge according to the formulas astronomical?  If so, maybe you should look into some cost cutting measures.  You might want to rethink how you create your products.  Or you may reevaluate your hourly rate.

Although these formulas are extremely helpful, they don't have to be followed to a T.  Compare your suggested pricing to your competition and evaluate in light of what you bring to the table.  Play around with your pricing a little, but watch and see how your changes affect sales.  Maybe reducing a product from $41 to $39 will result in a much higher rate of sales and therefore, the $2 cut makes sense.  Treat your pricing like an experiment by making small changes and then observing the results of your price tweaking.

Please leave me a comment and let me know if this made sense or if you have further questions!

-Sarah

Direct download: Episode202220The20details20of20pricing20products20final.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 3:30am EST

Ariel Holcomb is a newborn, infant, and family photographer who has also added military homecomings and weddings to her repertoire.  Her focus in each photo is on using natural light to create beautiful effects.  As a military spouse, it became difficult for Ariel to have a successful teaching career with multiple re-locations, and thus her photography business was born.  Her husband Matt bought her a camera as a gift, and she taught herself everything she possibly could about photography.

Ariel began doing photography sessions for fun and practice, but then people started asking her to take their photos.  She grew from charging a small amount per session to being a professional photographer.  Ariel shares some great tips for those of us who may be amateur photographers on how to get great pictures.  She also dishes on starting a business from scratch after a move.

(The secret's out!  Ariel is the talented photographer behind all of the beautiful outdoor photos in our Etsy shop, The Amateur Naturalist.)

Tips for the novice photographer:

  • Read the WHOLE manual.  Learn how to shoot in manual mode with your DSLR camera.  It’s a long process but just get out and practice.  “Photography is not like riding a bike, it won’t just click one day. You have to research and practice.”
  • Scott Kelby books – He explains everything in a simple, concise way, and his books helped her to understand the basics of photography and light
  • Join facebook groups such as The Darkroom.  They have a weekly theme and contest.  This helps you to improve your skills and see the perspectives of different photographers.
  • Expose yourself to different things to keep yourself inspired.  "The day I stop trying will be the day that my photography is no longer art  at all."
  • 1.5-2 hrs after sunrise and before sunset are the best times to shoot with natural light.  The light is soft, warm and beautiful at these times.
  • Back-lit photos (i.e. the light source is behind the subject) can really improve the look of your photos.  Move your subjects around and try different angles to get the best effect.
  • You can shoot anything in natural light if it’s in the shade, even on a bright sunny day.
  • Wear a white shirt as the photographer because you’re a giant reflector for whatever you’re shooting.  Your shirt reflects light into their face and brightens things up.

Tips on how to grow your business after a move:

  • Everywhere Ariel has moved, she has known a few people ahead of time within the small community of the Marine Corps.  Find someone you know and begin to get the word out about your business and what you have to offer
  • Ariel looked around for local photographers and got in touch with a really great photographer in Beaufort.  She wanted to learn from him and work with him, and he hired her to help with different photo shoots.  He has also put her in touch with other people who ultimately hired her for photography gigs.
  • Get out in the community and get involved.  Ariel is a part of the Photography Club of Beaufort.  Find local photo clubs and events for photographers.

How she manages her business and motherhood:

  •  Ariel has a list of babysitters on call that she can turn to when she has a photo session to shoot.
  • One morning a week Finn goes to an in-home daycare, and she uses that time to work like crazy on editing photos, ordering supplies, and work correspondence.

How her income helps her family:

  • Everything she earns from her photography (minus business and babysitting expenses) goes toward their second adoption, so it’s a blessing for her to be able support and impact her family in such an important way.

Funny and Adorable Mom moments:

  • Ariel took millions of photographs when she first met Finn in the hospital. "It was ridiculous," she said, "They were so sick of me in the NICU with my camera!"
  • Finn loves to say Hi to everyone he meets when they are out and about, so a trip to the grocery store can take 3 hours as he chats everyone up!

Advice on Pricing:

  • “Every moment that I’m putting into these photographs is time and if I’m going to have a business, then I need to be compensated for it.”
  • Ariel considers how much she is charging per image and asks herself,  "Is it a good deal, is it TOO good of a deal? It is too expensive?"
  • Ariel has general guidelines for her pricing, but adjusts them depending upon the circumstances of each job, such as number of locations, outfit changes, or number of photos desired.
  • "As a photographer or one-person business you have the freedom to change your prices with each session or customer as appropriate."
  • Ariel tries to compare herself to other photographers in the area and price herself accordingly based on her skill level.
  • "Don’t offer your product for free as a promotional strategy. When you offer your service for free, it makes it seem like it doesn’t have value.  Your product does have value, so you don't want to just give it away."

Business Tools and Resources:

  • A lot of photographers are starting to use their iPhones and Instagram (iphoneography) people are getting really great photos just with their iPhones.
  • Ariel uses Instagram to post her photos, but not for editing.
  • Scott Kelby’s books Grab a hardcover book to sit by you while you figure out Photoshop and Lightroom.
  • LightroomAriel uses it for organization.  She sorts through photos to decide which ones to work with and does basic editing.
  • Photoshop - Ariel uses Photoshop for higher-level editing.
  • Ariel uses Facebook the most.  She puts the photos up on her photography page and invites people to tag themselves.  Their friends and family then see the photos.  After she puts up a session that a lot of people see and like, she almost always gets inquiries from other people about scheduling a session.

Contact Ariel:

 

Did you learn any new tips and tricks to improve your photography?  We'd love to hear about it in the comments!

~ Sarah and Beth Anne

Direct download: Ariel20Interview_mixdown20final.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 3:30am EST

Pricing Your Products can be one of the most difficult task any mom entrepreneur faces.  We may often undervalue our work and our time.  Whether you are an etsy shop owner, photographer, legal consultant, or solopreneur, you must determine how to price your products.  Beth Anne Schwamberger, with resources such as Quicksprout, Influence, and Kissmetrics gives 5 Tips to change your mindset around pricing and increase sales and revenue.  Beth Anne covers tips such as focusing on Time in your sales pitch instead of money because it invokes more positive feelings about a product.  Make your appeal personal because customers respond and connect much more to individuals, artisans, and bloggers than they do to brands.  Context matters for your pricing.  Increasing the price leads to a perceived increase in value of the product.  In addition, you can use a higher-priced anchor to make a lesser-priced product seem like a better deal.  The fourth pricing tip is that you should choose to add value rather than reduce your price.  Think about what you as a photographer, artist, designer, etsy seller, or blogger could offer that is unique for your customer.  How can you provide them with incredible service and an experience that they will be talking about with all of their friends?  Do not discount yourself.  The last tip is to avoid option overload or the analysis paralysis phenomenon.  Try to package your products into three to five groups or packages.  This example is seen most clearly with photographers, but the same principle can apply to products offered in an etsy shop, graphic design prints grouped by category, or information products.  Overall the advice is to use psychology to stop undervaluing and underselling.  Instead sell more, make more money and in turn provide even better products and services to your customers. 

Direct download: Episode2020_mixdown20final.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 3:30am EST

Sarah Korhnak went from over 1600 emails to Inbox Zero in just 90 minutes!  How did she do it?  She'll share her best tips and advice for staying at Inbox Zero in this episode.  For starters, search for your highest frequency senders, add emails that require a response to your real To-Do List rather than leave them unread and unmanaged in your inbox.  Do not skimp on folders or labels.  Be as specific and organized as you can.  Check your email only 3 times per day, and only at times when you actually have the ability to respond to and deal with each item.  You can get to inbox zero and maintain this state of bliss too!

Direct download: Inbox20Zero20Episode2019_mixdown20final.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 3:30am EST

Etsy shop owner Dana Kalatsky sells handmade pillows, purses, and other items for women and kids in her shop, AppleWhite Handmade.  Dana's pillow was recently featured in Country Living Magazine!  Dana shares her simple routines on social media to make sure her new products reach as many eyes as possible.  She also talks pricing formulas, partnering with bloggers to do giveaways, and connecting on Etsy teams.  Dana shares insider info by revealing the top 5 traffic sources for her Etsy shop.  These are sites that every mompreneur should be paying attention to!  Stay tuned, this episode is filled with practical business advice for moms in the online business space.

Direct download: Dana_mixdown20final.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 3:30am EST

How the World Sees You by Sally Hogshead is a unique take on the traditional personality test.  Rather than focus on how you see the world, Sally teaches you how you can fascinate others.  She discusses the seven advantages and how they can combine to form forty-nine archetypes.  Sally teaches entrepreneurs how to create teams where individuals complement each other rather than work against one another.  Sally helps you to create your own anthem so that you can put your best foot forward and be fully YOU in every situation. 

Direct download: Episode2017_mixdown20final.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 3:30am EST

Sarah will teach you how to use Open Site Explorer, a search engine for links, to spy on your competition and improve your own game.  Open Site Explorer will generate a report with the places your competitor comments, contributes, guest posts, and niche forums they participate on.  You can also discover which websites are linking to you and form valuable relationships with those sites.  Overall, Open Site Explorer is an Invaluable tool to improve your Off-Site SEO and Spy on the Competition too!

Direct download: Episode2016_mixdown20final.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 3:30am EST

Mimika Cooney is an award-winning photographer who focuses on fashion photography and newborn portraiture.  She has started her business over several times as her family has moved around the globe.  Mimika is open and honest about the struggles she has faced as a mom entrepreneur, but she also shares excellent advice and tips for pushing past the hard times.  You won't want to miss all her great app recommendations and books she's reading.  Recently, Mimika launched an internet show called MimikaTV where she interviews photographers who are successful in varied facets of photography.  She is launching Capture School, and online business school for photographers, Fall 2014.

Direct download: Mimika20Interview_mixdown20final.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 3:30am EST

In this episode of "What I'm Learning this Week", Sarah reviews Purple Cow by Seth Godin.  In it he describes how you can stand out in a crowded marketplace not by being weird, but by being remarkable.  He teaches that mass-marketing is no longer effective.  Instead, you must find that small number of people who will be your "sneezers" -- your brand ambassadors who will share your message with everyone they know.  Tune in to hear Sarah's take on the book and get ideas for how you can become a purple cow. 

Direct download: SWILTW20Episode2014_mixdown20final.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 3:30am EST

In this episode of "What I'm Learning this Week" Beth Anne shares tips for reaching out to brands to monetize your website.  Ad space, partnering witih etsy shops, and working with larger brands to create sponsored posts are discussed.  By the end of the episode, you will feel equipped to begin reaching out to brands, both big and small, to create lucrative and mutually beneficial partnerships.

Direct download: BAWILTW20Episode2013_mixdown20final.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 3:30am EST

Mary Larsen and her husband created ParentCast - a podcast for new parents, new babies, and their new lives together.  Mary also has a blog for moms and is a Rhode Island TV personality.  Listen to learn her best tips for scoring sponsored posts and ad spots on her blog.  She also shares great advice on becoming a better public speaker and communicator.

Direct download: 01220Podcaster20Blogger20Mary20Larsen20Final.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 3:30am EST

Sarah reviews and highly recommends Eat That Frog: 21 Great Ways to Stop Procrastinating and Get More Done in Less Time by Brian Tracy.  It's a great audiobook that will teach you how to be more organized, focused, and productive.  Stay tuned for a special offer from Audible!

Direct download: Episode2011_final20mixdown.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 3:30am EST

Learn how to utilize SEO for your Etsy shop.  Beth Anne covers why SEO is important and what it means, how to determine what key word phrases to use and the 7 areas of your Etsy shop that you need to focus on.  Hold on to your seats - this is an action-packed episode!

Direct download: Episode2010_mixdown20final.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 3:30am EST

Etsy seller Keri Bass shares tips on connecting with others in the etsy community and using SEO to get found.  She talks about how her business has played a positive role in all 3 of her kids' lives and has shown them that they can achieve whatever they set out to do.  Keri is truly a fun and talented lady! 

Direct download: Keri20Interview_mixdown20final.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 3:30am EST

Learning from the Social Media Marketing Podcast with Michael Stelzner, we'll share with you the 5 types of visual social media you should be using to get more shares.  The five types include Tips, How-To, Checklists, Quotes, and Infographics.

Direct download: episode208_mixdown.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 3:30am EST

Do you know that you want to be an entrepreneur, but you're stuck?  Are you stuck on the all-important business idea? This week we're learning from a start-up pro who uses everyday situations to develop lucrative businesses. Tune in to get a jump-start on brainstorming your brilliant business idea!

Direct download: SWILTWEpisode7_mixdown.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 3:30am EST

Photographer and lawyer Rachel Brenke shares her best tips for creating a successful business with multiple revenue streams.  Rachel's accomplishments include writing a book, teaching an online business course, creating a shared space for photographers, and being one of the most sought-after legal consultants for photographers.

Direct download: Interview20with20Rachel_mixdown.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 3:30am EST

In this episode of "What I'm Learning this Week" Beth Anne talks Facebook strategy.  Pulling from the expertise of Social Media Social Hour, the Founder of Post Planner, and Horsefeathers Gifts, she shares 4 easy-to-implement strategies that will improve your connection to your fans on facebook today.

Direct download: 00520Facebook20Strategies20that20You20Can20Implement20Today.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 3:30am EST

Learn how Cody is growing her business as a busy Mom of three.  Cody uses Facebook and Instagram to market her business.  She is proof that the products work and believes that if she is able to help others achieve their goals, then all her hard work is worth it.


In "What I'm Learning This Week" we'll share the business concepts and tips we're learning from around the web.  Sarah asserts that it is possible to be successful as equal collaborators and business partners.  She shares our tips and tricks for maintaining a healthy, equal partnership.  Included: an online tool for organization!

Direct download: SWIL20episode203_mixdown.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 3:30am EST

Abby Lawson is a mother of two who writes about life, organization, DIY projects and home decor at justagirlandherblog.com 

Her new e-book Building a Framework: Everything I Learned My First Year of Blogging is available at justagirlandherblog.com/book


Tune in as Abby shares a wealth of information on growing her audience with Pinterest, an Incentive for her Email List, and Monetization with Ads and Sponsored Posts.

Direct download: Multitrack20Abby202_mixdown20final.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 4:01am EST

Sarah Korhnak & Beth Anne Schwamberger discuss their journey as Etsy shop owners, bloggers, and their motivation for starting a podcast just for mom entrepreneurs.  If you're looking for practical business advice from honest women who won't leave you in the dark, then you've come to the right place!

Direct download: Introduction20Episode_mixdown20Final.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 4:00am EST

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