Deepen Your Online Relationships: Send a Smile in a Box

Mission Storytelling collage

Just for fun, click the image above. (For the biggest impact and to see everyone’s mug up close, open in full screen)

It’s a collage I created in under ten minutes on Smilebox. I chose a design, uploaded some photos, added text and background music and — Voila! My creation was ready to be shared.

No kidding. It really is that simple.

In case you’re wondering, there’s a free version and a premium version. An annual premium membership equates to about $4/month.

Smilebox LogoInstead of elaborating on all the spiffy features of Smilebox (because I know all you wise owls and smarty pants can do that for yourselves), I want to go a different route.

Let’s Talk Relationship Building Online

It’s not easy, is it?

The number of Facebook fans and Twitter followers you have may be in the thousands by now. Maybe you’ve been added to hundreds of circles on Google Plus and you’ve joined a mountain of business groups on LinkedIn.

And chances are great these days you’re pinning like crazy on Pinterest or adding installments to Instagram like there’s no tomorrow.

Splendid … but superfluous.

What am I getting at here?

The FB “Likes” don’t matter. A gazillion peeps don’t matter. Link-up parties don’t matter. Endless noisy chatter on Twitter doesn’t matter. Blogging seven days a week doesn’t matter.

An ensemble of cat memes doesn’t matter – for sure!

The numbers don’t matter. People matter. {Tweet This}

Tried a little tenderness lately? It works.

We Don’t Need To Start A Revolution

We just need to do our part to stop the madness.

We need to find better ways to develop and nurture online relationships. {Tweet This}

Before enrolling in the Annenberg School of Communications at USC, I asked my oldest daughter “why” she chose to pursue this field. She indignantly and vehemently replied, “Mom! Communications is EVERYTHING in life!!”

Wow. That was an unforgettable (and fervently animated!) moment – a moment and message that’s stuck with me ever since. She made her point. What’s more, I agree.

Consistent, clear, caring, and compassionate communication needs to be the focus in building relationships online. I joined a free 30-day challenge, aptly named, “Bloom Your Online Relationships”, to do my part to stop the incessant madness. Take a minute and check it out.

We need to have “real” encounters online … not countless numbers of shallow exchanges. {Tweet This}

Starting today, forget about spending precious time amassing a larger following. Explore the network you’ve already created and work to deepen those relationships.

I bet a Smilebox would brighten someone’s day!

Go ahead. Create a quick greeting, a note of thanks, a simple “Hello, I’m thinking of you”, an invitation to virtual coffee, a slideshow, a poem, a video, a collage of inspirational quotes – whatever floats your boat.

And then see what happens. That’s the fun part.

There’s Plenty More Where This Came From

Dash over to Mission: Storytelling, a monthly word carnival for small biz owners, to discover more tools (for UNDER $10/month) that you can put into action right away. No panaceas, just great tools that work well.

Posted: .

Random Acts of Serendipitous Marketing: A Trip in the Time Machine

time machine

You know those folks you cross paths with online whom you instantly “feel” a connection? Like in a heartbeat?!

The people you can’t wait to network with, can’t wait to read their next blog post, can’t wait to find out more about, can’t wait to receive their newsletter, and can’t wait to meet in person?

Yeah, those people.

The truly priceless connections, kindred spirits, and solid bonds you form online; the email lists you actually want to be on!

Bet you’ve stumbled on more than a dozen of these fabulous keepers, serendipitously, along the internet highway.

You haven’t spoken one word to them (yet) but your intuition assures you they’re going to become long time cherished connections – forever friends and colleagues. You can feel it in your bones, from your head to your toes.

Stick with me and I’ll tell you what all this has to do with marketing.

Boarding the Time Machine to Travel Back a Decade

I’m a people person … period.

I love to exchange ideas, engage in lively conversations, lend inspiration and encouragement, share remarkable stories, problem solve, walk my talk, and nurture meaningful relationships.

So when I came online and started blogging (back in the dinosaur days), I had NO idea sharing other bloggers’ posts, virtual events, social media updates, book releases, dynamite freebies, product launches, etc., was a form of “marketing”.

Who knew?!

Yep. I was marketing my little heart out by showcasing the lovely gems I uncovered while mining the mighty blogosphere. I didn’t grasp it at the time, but I was hard and heavy into honing my online visibility skills.

One goal was clear: Bringing the little known and unknown bloggers (those magnificent hidden diamonds in the rough) to the forefront.

Singing praises is my ‘thing’.

Need a biz cheer leader? Looking for a trusty blog ambassador? Want to get the word out about your upcoming event? Count on me. I’m a whiz at tooting horns.

When I see good work, good writing, good branding, and good deeds, I can’t help but shift into sharing mode. It makes me giddy to put deserving, hard-working solopreneurs in the spotlight.

And you know what usually happens? They reciprocate. (Read that again and you’ll sense the magnitude and the ripple effect of sharing.)

I recommended and promoted people, products, events, and services for a long time before I realized I was, in fact, helping small business owners with their marketing efforts.

Let’s just call it “Serendipitous Marketing”.

I didn’t seek out anyone in particular during those early years or any specific type of business or blog. Where I landed was a pure and simple case of sheer happenstance and serendipity at play.

The Almighty Universe can take full credit for being my guide.

Today I’m in the company of a beautiful network of some of the coolest and most creative solopreneurs and biz bloggers on the net.

Ooh! I’m blessed.

Nothing Has Changed: Still Promoting the Underdogs

The trip in the time machine was a fun nostalgic adventure but let’s fast forward to the present time.

I’m still doing it – marketing serendipitously.

Oh, I have my “regulars” whose online visibility I won’t hesitate to boost. I’ll never leave them in the dust. They’re on my hit parade for keeps. Whatever they’re writing or marketing goes right to the top of my priority list for sharing.

However (and thank goodness), my sacred guide is still working to direct me to new connections all the time.

Throughout my uncanny (I-didn’t-know-I-was-marketing) journey, I gleaned a much tighter grip on what marketing is all about along with the added perk of understanding the kinds of people my soul is attracted to.

I like quirky people.

The black sheep. The wallflowers. The outcasts. The loners. The rejects. The eccentric. The broken. The lost and forgotten. The odd ducks.

And why not?!

I’ve got a few quirks of my own. <grin>

But I’m not too quirky or too proud to admit I was flexing and strengthening my marketing muscles long before I could even define marketing.

It’s Your Turn

Do you have a [marketing-before-you-knew-the-meaning-of-the-word] story to share? Plunk that tale in the comment box! Make my day. I would love to hear it.

Next step: Don’t let the party end. Head over to this month’s Mission: Storytelling word carnival to read more on “How I marketed before I even knew what marketing was”. (A.K.A. “Marketing without marketing”)

Image credit: Pixabay

Posted: .

Value Tastes Better Than Price: A Tale of Eating Out and Eating In

Greek saladYour colleague, Michelle, places great worth in dining at an upscale restaurant every Saturday night while your best friend, Nick, prefers home-cooked meals, exclusively, and finds no value in eating out.

The value prospects find in a product or service can vary, enormously, from one person to the next.

The magic happens when you market your value to your “right” people.

It’s most likely costing Michelle a lot more for her Saturday night meals than Nick but she values every detail that encompasses the experience of enjoying a meal fit for royalty. She treasures the ambiance, entertainment, fine wine, variety of gourmet selections, exquisite table settings, personal service, and decadent desserts.

Getting dressed up on the weekend and heading out for some fine dining and great entertainment is very much a part of Michelle’s lifestyle.

Upscale pricing isn’t a concern.

She’s forking out the big bucks for what she desires – the experience.

Enter the Small Business Owner (You)

What can you learn from Michelle’s and Nick’s preferences that will help you market your value and not your price?

No doubt, how you price your products or services is important. I’m not suggesting you discount or ignore the dollars and cents of profit and loss.

However …

If you focus on pricing as the only deal breaker, you’ll be traveling the quickest route to breaking your business. {Tweet this}

Prospects always want to know, “What’s in it for me?” “Why should I buy from you?” “In what ways is your offer valuable to me?”

The kinds of dining experiences Michelle and Nick value are very different.

Michelle is checking online to see if the hottest band is in town this weekend and performing at one of her favorite restaurants. Nick, on the other hand, is perusing ads in search of local farmers’ markets happening on Saturday. He’s hoping to land some fresh organic produce for his weekend meals.

Value: The Main Ingredient in Your Marketing Dish

The best place to begin to understand “how” to market your value (in lieu of your price) is to create an Ideal Customer Persona. Get into the heads of your target audience and get specific knowledge about them.

Dig really deep.

Michelle is a consumer who:

1.)  Is in her mid 20’s

2.)  Enjoys being in social settings

3.)  Loves music and other forms of entertainment

4.)  Appreciates the finer things in life

5.)  Works in a corporate setting and eats all her lunches out

6.)  Has discretionary income and loves to buy special occasion gifts for everyone in her circle of friends and family

7.)  Is vivacious and fun-loving; the life of the party

8.)  Is single and dating

9.)  Frequents local upscale venues for dates and outings with her friends

Nick occupies a different spot on the spectrum. He’s a consumer who is:

1.)  In his early 30’s

2.)  Happily married

3.)  Enamored with fantasy, science fiction, and all things geeky

4.)  The father of triplets

5.)  Budget-conscious and a good saver

6.)  A self-employed small business owner

7.)  A trainer and public speaking ace

8.)  A creative and quick thinker who appreciates people with a good sense of humor and sharp wit

9.)  Health conscious, prefers organic foods, and loves to cook

Michelle is a big spender who has the means to support her out-on-the-town lifestyle while Nick is a family man who needs to watch his pennies. They both enjoy tasty well-prepared meals but one is eating out and the other is eating in.

As a single woman, Michelle is not financially responsible for anyone but herself. Nick is saving up to put triplets through college some day. (Yikes!)

This is just the beginning of creating ideal customer personas for Michelle and Nick.

To dig even deeper, we could explore areas such as pets, favorite sports teams, hobbies, locale, favorite movies or books, special interests, and causes or charities they support.

Please Show Me the Way

You may be thinking, “This is all well and good, Melanie, but how do I uncover what’s valuable to prospective buyers? If price won’t seal the deal, what will it take to show my value?”

So glad you asked.

Now go and ask them!!

I’m serious. That’s the only way you’re going to find out exactly what your target audience values (Unless, of course, you’re a mind reader.)

  • Post questions on social media channels.
  • Encourage feedback on your blog.
  • Send a survey to your email subscribers. Be specific and keep it short. Offer a small perk for completing your survey.
  • Follow up with your current customers or clients and ask them to share what they value most about doing business with you. Then post those testimonials on your web pages.
  • Invite your target audience (and/or your colleagues; others in your niche) to brainstorming sessions. Rely on Skype or G+ Hangouts or explore online brainstorming and collaboration tools.
  • Use reverse thinking. Ask people why they “wouldn’t” buy from you? What’s the missing ingredient for them? Why do they not find value in your offerings? And what would it take to convert them into buyers?
  • Include the features (cold hard facts) of what you’re marketing, for sure, but REALLY HONE IN on the benefits (e.g. easier access; no appointment needed; faster turnaround; simpler process; quicker results; proven strategies; open all night; backed by research; stress-free assembly; 24-hour customer service; makes your skin look radiant, etc.). Ask people which benefits they value most and why. Use that feedback to improve your sales pages, blog posts, and landing pages.

Become a value-laden marketer, not a price-pitching salesperson. {Tweet this}

The bottom line: Gathering as many details as possible about your target audience will help you market your value and give your customers or clients precisely what they desire.

Lay some feedback on me

Do you have a tip for small business owners to help them market their value?

My fellow small biz blogging buddies have some fab tales to share with you in the month’s Mission: Storytelling. Grab a cuppa and head over to “Value and Price: What’s Your Work Worth?”

Posted: .

Real World Networking: Shake Some Hands and Kiss Some Babies

real world networkingJulie is a content marketing consultant with a serious problem.

She’s great at helping small businesses rock their content marketing but the trouble is …

She consistently finds excuses to worm her way out of offline networking events and opportunities. She squirms at the thought of networking in person.

Julie is the quintessential introvert. Her comfort zone is her home office.

Granted, it’s a beautifully-designed space with her favorite artwork and accessories, comfy office chair, pretty textiles, soothing wall colors, and all the spiffy must-have electronics.

Not to mention the fabulous view overlooking her garden and the peaceful sounds of an indoor water fountain.

No wonder she doesn’t want to leave the house!

I understand how Julie feels. You guessed it – I’m an introvert, too.

Criss Jami really nailed the essence of introversion:

“Telling an introvert to go to a party is like telling a saint to go to Hell.”

But hibernating in her comfortable spa-like workspace and conducting ALL of her business from home means Julie is really narrowing her chances to expand her client base. She’s also missing out on making some new friends and meeting prospective joint venture partners.

So, what is networking in the real world?

It’s having the human experience of face-to-face interaction. It’s …

  • Lunch ‘n Learn gatherings
  • Meetups
  • Coffee shop talks
  • Local events
  • Retreats
  • Soirees (Parties)
  • Chamber of Commerce mixers
  • Book signings
  • In-person Masterminds
  • Public speaking engagements
  • Trade shows
  • Seasonal festivals
  • Knocking on the doors of local businesses to introduce yourself and your services

Julie needs to shake some hands and kiss some babies.

She may not see herself as a social butterfly but she needs to spread her [business] wings and elevate her chances for greater success as a content marketing consultant.

Besides the obvious benefits, getting out and about will help an introvert like Julie hone her interpersonal skills and speaking skills.

Turning it over to you now

How are you networking in the real world? Are you planning to host any offline events?

Be sure to click the “Local events” link above to see what’s happening in your neck of the woods. Just type your city and state and then choose a category. Let me know if you find something that piques your interest. (Example: Business events in Portland, OR)

My fellow carnies (some of the best and brightest writers around!) have a lot more to say on this topic in this month’s Word Carnival, Rediscover the Real World: Unplug, Unwind, Unleash

Posted: .

Note to Self: You Are Awesome, As Is

perfectionism and procrastinationI used to have a to-do list with a table of contents.

I was hooked.

Bringing “order” to life was my addiction … my drug of choice.

I designed a color-coded garage, a storage space for everything, and everything in its place.

To say I was “neat and tidy” would be an understatement.

I never left the house without completing a full regimen of make-up application. And my jewelry had to match the occasion, even if it was a trip to the grocery store.

My label writer and I were meant for each other and we enjoyed a beautiful long term relationship.

I smiled every time I opened the pantry door and saw labels smiling back at me. Every shelf had a clear purpose, thanks to my addiction.

I was in labeling heaven — my rendition of bliss.

Nothing made me happier than a closet filled with precision-folded towels and the sweet smell of freshly-laundered bed linens, ironed to perfection. You should have seen the impressive crispness in those creases!

Martha Stewart couldn’t hold a candle to my ironing prowess.

A dust-free environment and a clean car was a must, the bathroom mirrors were never smudged, and my pets were bathed and groomed like clockwork.

My dietary habits were regimented beyond belief. Military boot camp had nothing on me!

And then I woke up from the coma of perfection.

Bringing order to life sucked every ounce of physical, emotional, and creative energy from me.

My drug of choice no longer created euphoria.

In fact, it made me sick – sick and tired of trying to be perfect.

I broke up with my label writer and today I fondly refer to myself as a “recovering perfectionist”.

I finally accept and embrace the truth that I’m awesome, as is.

Personal tale aside, I’d like to ask you awesome solopreneurs and small biz owners …

Do you have stringent routines, suffocating habits, or stifling behaviors you need to break up with? Is perfectionism keeping you from “shipping” the projects you need to finish if you ever want to make money?

And if perfectionism isn’t an issue for you, how about “procrastination”?

Are you a Level 10 Procrastinator?

If perfectionism or procrastination isn’t in your character, is there anything else that begins with “p” that’s bugging you these days?

Posted: .

Please, Oh, Please Don’t Read The Bullet Points

path to pathetic webinar presentationsI can’t wait to attend another boring webinar (said no one ever).

Buckle up.

We’re about to hit some big bumps and even bigger potholes on the path to pathetic presentations.

If I had a nickel for every crappy webinar I’ve signed up for, I’d have enough dough to buy that cute little vintage Vespa I’ve always wanted.

Let’s Talk The Intro (a.k.a. The Boasting Fest)

You know, that part where some presenters spend ten to fifteen minutes (and sometimes even longer) shining the spotlight on you-know-who.

Nothing but nothing turns me off more than a personal intro that goes on for miles. And that applies to offline presentations, as well.

If you intend to go on and on … and on … at least weave in a good story!

Preferably something humorous or heartwarming that might help to keep me awake. Because I really have no interest in hearing your laundry list of accolades or the millions of dollars you’ve made selling potholders and perfume (from the trunk of your car).

I’ve had the privilege of being interviewed on webcasts and I’ve hosted some presentations of my own.

Want to know how long my personal introduction is?

Under two minutes.

My goal is to get to the meat of the material as quickly as possible – the stuff people sign up and show up for.

Let’s Take A Look At The Slides (Eeek!)

Graphs and charts and text, oh my!

Personally, I’ll take the lions, tigers, and bears. They’re a lot more engaging.

Unless you’ve just crawled out from under a cabbage leaf, I’m pretty sure you’re up to speed on what’s happening these days under the big tent of content creation.

In a word … images.

In four words … less text, more images.

Webinar slides plastered with text or boring graphs should be buried under the Smithsonian.

And let’s not forget those lovely bullet points. Bullet points are a great way to arrange thoughts in a concise, organized flow but please …

Oh, please! Don’t read them, verbatim. It insults my intelligence. After all, I know how to read.

Instead, elaborate on your bullets in a conversational manner. People will love you for doing so … and maybe even send kudos and cupcakes!

Let’s Address The Sales Pitch

How many times do presenters need to mention a paid offer during a webinar?

Once is enough.

And please don’t save the pitch for the end of your 60-minute virtual event when attendees are in “information saturation mode”.

They’ve had enough and they’ve heard enough.

Most will click away due to sheer fatigue or simply not absorb half of what you’re peddling. Sitting for long periods of time is tiring.

Here’s what I recommend:

Make an announcement at the beginning of your webinar that you’ll be taking a “brief commercial break” midway through your glorious presentation to share an offer.

That’s it. It’s that simple.

Everyone will know what to expect and if people don’t care to hear your offer, they can run to the fridge for a nice snack or pay a visit to the loo (I’ve always loved the British term for toilet).

Speaking Of The Toilet

Don’t let your webinars go down the crapper.

1.)   Craft a short and sweet personal introduction

2.)   Learn to tell better stories

3.)   Create images that capture and convey your message

4.)   Use bare bones text on your slides

5.)   Pitch your offer (only once) midway through your presentation

You have worthwhile messages, fun anecdotes, and wonderful offers to share with your attendees.

Use virtual events to your best advantage by creating remarkable presentations – and don’t forget virtual event etiquette!

Make your next webinar one people want to talk about.

[Stepping down from my soap box]

Image credit: Pixabay

Posted: .

Comprehensive Knowledge and Skill Does Not Mean You’re An Authority

Man playing banjoGo ahead. Feel free.

Fire away!

Ask me a question about pregnancy, labor & delivery, postpartum, or breastfeeding. What would you like to know?

I’ve spent three decades as a Certified Perinatal Educator. I’ve worked with hundreds and hundreds of expectant couples, new moms and dads, and their precious babies.

Prior to that, I spent a decade as a radiologic technologist. Great career! I loved it, especially the opportunity to work with students.

Teaching is one of my biggest passions in life.

For that matter, ask me a question about marketing your small business … or blogging … or social media … or networking … or event planning (I completed the most awesome and extensive college course in event planning and passed all my exams with flying colors!)

Heck! Throw in some questions about writing poetry or making music. Those are always fun.

Chances are darn good I’ll have the answers … and be more than happy to spill the beans.

Do I consider myself an expert in all these areas? Am I an authority?

Nope.

I don’t even like the word, “expert”. It implies “know-it-all” — folks who profess to have all the answers and don’t like to be questioned or criticized.

Do yourself a favor. Don’t get into a debate with an alleged expert. They’re inflexible and refuse to be challenged. And, sadly, some have “arrogant” as their middle name.

Spend an hour online researching social media marketing, for example, and notice how many people call themselves experts.

Kind of a ballsy claim, if you ask me.

Here’s the truth:

I don’t know it all. And I hope I never do.

I believe if you stop learning, you may as well stop living. For me, living and learning walk hand in hand and there’s no shame in admitting you don’t know everything.

A broader knowledge base than the next guy and more years of experience under your belt doesn’t make you an expert, in my opinion.

It does, however, make you a doggone good go-to person, a reliable resource, a credible colleague, a person worth networking with, and what I like to call a “seasoned professional”.

Read more from my fellow carnies on the topic of experts in this month’s Word Carnival, Being an Expert Doesn’t Mean You Know Everything.

Image credit: Gratisography

Posted: .

The Answer Was Staring Right At Me and Yet I Couldn’t See It

walking through the fogIt was another foggy day.

A dingy, dense, and dreary encounter.

I couldn’t see a thing.

The absence of clarity can be pretty frightening.

Just the scary thought of placing one foot in front of the other brought on a paralyzing phobia – the fear of being stranded; stuck; suspended in time.

I don’t fare well in dark places. I lose my grip on sensibility, my systems shut down, and I shiver like a lost child in the night.

And there I stood … in the foggiest of fogs.

Oh, before I go on …

Did you think I was talking about the weather?

My sincerest apologies.

The weather’s grand in my little corner of the world these days. Beautiful clear skies with lots of warm spring-y sunshine, delighting the vegetable garden and flowers.

I was lamenting writer’s block – a syndrome that creates the thickest kind of stifling fog!

Back to that day …

Staring at a blank page for what felt like eons, my brain fogged up and my eyes fogged over.

Hell! I had fog clogging my veins!

There’s nothing like having a writing assignment due in a matter of hours with not one syllable on the page.

A migraine headache would have been far less debilitating.

Just for the record … Quick-witted, I’m not.

And I don’t believe in forcing creativity. You may as well try pushing a hippo uphill – with one hand tied behind your back and the other in a cast.

Then an idea rolled in like thunder and struck like lightning! (Bet that happens to you sometimes.) You know. Those ideas that always show up late to the party – fashionably late, that is.

My foggy brain managed to recall a short “visual observation” exercise (a fellow blogger shared with me some years ago) that gets your creative writing wheels spinning.

It’s all about turning what you observe into teachable moments – little golden nuggets to share with your readership.

Here’s the quick gist:

1.)  Spend ten minutes looking around your immediate surroundings.

2.)  Find objects/knick-knacks/things/stuff/trinkets that represent a concept/lesson/philosophy.

3.)  Show the comparison and share the lesson.

So ten minutes later, here’s what I found — along with the *teachable moments I created from the silly odds & ends on my desk:

Large hand-painted ceramic mug, overflowing with pencils, pens, markers, and highlighters.  I don’t use or need half of these writing implements.

*Teachable moment: Clean up your act, get organized, and de-clutter your office space for better concentration and less distraction.

Intricately designed wrought iron napkin holder, used to hold my mail and other paperwork.

*Teachable moment: Recycle or repurpose your blog posts, articles, podcasts, teleseminars, videos, webinars, etc., into info products or programs you can sell.

Hat box, imprinted with beach-y scenes of serene and exotic travel destinations.  I keep business cards, postage stamps, calculator, paper clips, greeting cards, etc., in this box.

*Teachable moment: Rest and relaxation, a much needed break from your workspace, or even a formal vacation is essential for your well being and, hence, your success as a solopreneur.

The means for lifting the fog of writer’s block was sitting on my desk, staring me in the face. Who knew?!

Posted: .

The Number One Factor that Makes You Look, Feel, and Perform Better in Your Business

Mental health and your business

Put on your thinking cap.

Have any idea what that all-important “number one factor” is?

If you’re coming up empty, here’s a hint: There was once a BIG stigma attached to this factor, draped in a cloak of shame and embarrassment.

People never used to talk about it — as if the subject were taboo. Bring it up at a dinner party or business meeting and you were repelled like a bad odor.

What a sad shame. 

Nobody wanted to engage in a discussion about something so vital to your life and livelihood.  People preferred to ignore it, avoid it, or sweep it under the rug.

Thank goodness those days are gone!

Still no clue what this factor is that makes you look, feel, and perform better in your business?

Then it’s time to inject a little story.

When I was a kid, I loved roller coasters.  I didn’t care about any of the other rides at amusements parks, especially any dizzying rides that went around in circles.  Those made me nauseated.  I wanted to spend the day as a thrill-seeking speed junkie!

Running your own business is a very different kind of roller coaster ride.  The ups are great and the downs are … well … not so great. 

I want to address the downs – as in feeling down.

As a small business owner, you likely have many competing demands on your time, sleepless nights, frustrations, and debt.  Not to mention doubts – which lower the needle on your self-confidence meter.  

Add the stress of deadlines, responsibilities to your family and pets, unexpected household, car, or medical expenses, and those impossible clients from hell and you’ve got the perfect recipe for a nervous breakdown.

And the more you try to mask these demons, the uglier and the meaner they get.

Nothing is as critical as your state of mind and overall well being.  It plays into every aspect of your life, including your role as entrepreneur. 

Your “mental health” is that “number one factor” in maintaining a vibrant and fruitful business.

If you don’t keep tabs on your mental and emotional well being, your business will go down the crapper.

Here’s some food for thought, taken from an article on Inc.com, “The Psychological Price of Entrepreneurship”:

“Successful entrepreneurs achieve hero status in our culture. We idolize the Mark Zuckerbergs and the Elon Musks. And we celebrate the blazingly fast growth of the Inc. 500 companies. But many of those entrepreneurs, like Smith, harbor secret demons: Before they made it big, they struggled through moments of near-debilitating anxiety and despair–times when it seemed everything might crumble.”

[Bradley Smith is the CEO of Rescue One Financial in Irvine, California]

Take it from one who knows (that would be me): Internal struggles can cause external troubles.  The least of which is insomnia and weight gain. Been there. Done that.

The solution is simple. Share your feelings with others.  Really.  Just do it and see what happens.

And don’t discount the healing power of humor.

I assure you the stigma surrounding mental health issues and the ban on the battle has been lifted.  Amen!

My go-to counselors and confidantes are my fellow blogging buddies in the Word Carnivals group. If something is bugging me, they listen. Without question, these folks are some of the busiest, most creative, and hardest-working professionals on the planet. 

Yet they consistently and willingly take the time to lend support, laced in love and virtual hugs.  It’s something we do for one another and it’s beautiful. 

My entrepreneurial life would be garbage without them.

By the way, today’s post is part of our monthly Word Carnivals. Treat yourself and your soul with the opportunity to meet some of these sanity savers by catching their take on “Mental Health and Your Business”. You’re worth it!

Posted: .

The Parent [Preneur] Trap

woman juggling work and familyThe difference between balancing and juggling is about the size of an elephant.

No. Make that a herd of elephants.

The crazy combo of parenthood and entrepreneurial-hood is much more of a juggling act than a work-life balance issue.

“Balance schmalance” is what I say!

As far as this single mom is concerned, there’s NO WAY to evenly balance the tasks of self-employment and parenting. If you’ve found a way to keep those scales balanced, you’re the rarest of [balancing] birds!

Just like everything in life, it all boils down to priorities, commitments, and devotion.

Every day you need to make peace with yourself and decide:

1.) What high-priority commitments (and promises) you can keep and

2.) How much time, dedication, effort, and energy you can spare to fulfill those commitments

In other words …

Which side of the scale is going to tip today? The parenting side? Or your business side?

Good advice from Robert Louis Stephenson:

“Don’t judge each day by the harvest you reap, but by the seeds that you plant.”

Which translates into doing something every day to move your business forward without obsessing about hitting a home run every time you’re up to bat.

Stay flexible and focus on progress, not perfection, and give yourself a pat on the back on your most productive days (and maybe a cupcake, too).

Raising children while running your own business is no picnic.

Sure, it’s wise to make use of all the helpful organizational tools like day planners, timers, editorial calendars, marketing templates, and social media schedulers. But let’s face it. Time management is a tough assignment.

I always say I don’t manage time. It manages me.

Annie Sisk, mom, and founder of Pajama Productivity says:

“Forget about ‘work-life balance’. There is no such thing. It is possible to get it all done if you strategize and build in accountability steps along the way. You have to be willing to adjust and adapt, and to be brutally honest with yourself about your real obstacles and goals. And having some like-minded help along the way can be invaluable.”

Dorien Morin-van Dam, mom, and founder of More in Media says:

“Here is the secret all of us working-from-home-parents know: While I work in my business – for me that is creating content, writing, creating images, planning, posting, scheduling and talking to clients – I also prepare and cook dinner, walk my dogs, drive carpool, do laundry, shop at the grocery store, make beds, pay my bills, and clean.”

Dorien has found a way to use the buzzer on her clothes dryer to help keep her on track with business-building activities. Go figure.

Nick Armstrong, brand new first-time daddy, and founder of WTF Marketing says:

“The best way I can describe it is a series of increasingly amazing moments interspersed by insane amounts of demands on you mentally and physically, all coupled with healthy doses of frustration and helplessness and joy.”

Nick is describing fatherhood but the same commentary can easily be applied to being an entrepreneur or small business owner.

To keep from getting snared in the parentpreneur trap:

Decide right now that every day will bring on a new set of challenges for you to juggle. Ask for support from family, friends, and colleagues. Delegate tasks whenever possible. Hire help if your budget allows. Make networking, online and offline, a priority.

Don’t beat yourself up when your days don’t go as planned.

Stay confident. Your parenting skills and your business-building skills will continue to improve.

And one final important note about self-care:

I haven’t met a single parentpreneur who’s experienced anything positive as a result of sleep deprivation. Don’t put yourself on the train to Burnoutville. Just sayin’.

***************************************************************************************************

This month’s Word Carnival topic is Parentpreneurs: What Being a Parent Can Teach You About Business. Click the link! Read the fab posts from my fellow carnies.

Posted: .