Level up your job search in 2017 with a creative resume + Life Updates

Resume, career, freelance

get The Job you deserve in 2017!

The New Year is upon us which means  (hopefully) you’ve already plotted, planned and written down your goals for 2017. One goal that undoubtedly shows up on most lists at the start of the New Year is “increase income” either with a new job, more freelance/side work or a combination of the two. A fresh resume that stands out from the rest is one way to breathe new life into your job/gig search.

If you haven’t done a major overhaul to your resume within the last year, we need to talk. An outside of the box resume is the only way to go in 2017. The competition is stiff so it’s time to toss that old stock Monster.com drivel and break out design elements like illustrative icons, fancy fonts, profile photos and cool colors (GASP). Yes, I said color. It’s 2017 for goodness sake!

If you’re an entrepreneur or freelancer, you’re probably asking yourself, “Why do I even need a resume?”. That may be true for many but you never know what opportunity may cross your path. There’s an old Proverb from a hood philosopher that goes, “if you stay ready, you don’t have to get ready”. Typically, I use my online portfolio and writing samples in lieu of a resume for freelance work but I have applied to gigs that require one so better to be safe than sorry.

The key is to write and design your resume in such a way that it reflects your personality and… Click To Tweet

If you’re a “creative”, you definitely want your resume to stand out heads and tails above the rest. There is heavy competition in most creative industries. If you’re wondering what a “creative” is, I’m referring to the graphic designers, makeup artists, photographers, freelance writers, copywriters, marketers, advertising professionals, fashion designers, public relations managers, etc. Everyone is vying for these cool jobs and the opportunity to “level up” up their skills and experience.

I’m going to give you the lowdown on how I created a resume that landed me an awesome Marketing/Communications opportunity at a Fortune 500 company and a spot in a Top 10 graduate school M.S. Communications program! I’ve also received responses from ad agencies that I applied to which is better than cold, hard silence. Ad agencies are a tough sell with little to no agency experience.

But first, here are a few reasons why you should toss that black and white yawner of a resume and get creative:

Employers get a glimpse of the kind of employee you’ll be

Do you go that extra mile? Your resume is the first chance you get to make a good impression. You don’t want it to be ho-hum like the other 500 applicants. Take it a step further and show them who you are before the interview. A resume doesn’t have to be a chore. Make it a fun project! It sets the tone for your interview and your tenure assuming you get the job.

Employers get an idea of your design sensibility

Do you shun risk or do you take chances? To be honest, I’ve contemplated an untraditional resume in the past but I wasn’t quite brave enough to go through with it. I was in commercial/retail real estate for a long time and conventional (read: boring) resumes were the norm. I consider my personal style to be one part conservative to two parts edgy, so it always made me nervous to be too “out there” with potential employers. You don’t want to turn them off but you can strike a balance, even if your industry is more suit and tie than flip flop and khakis.

 you’re an ‘outside the box’ thinker

Are you a leader or a follower? You can say you think outside of the box and take chances…or you can show them. It takes guts to do something out of the norm. Career websites give us a standard resume format and we follow suit like zombies. You’re not going to do that this year!

If you have a design background, blog or brand then you should take advantage of it by using your own brand colors so it’s consistent. You can be certain that the person doing the hiring will visit your website, if you have one (you do have one, right?). Wouldn’t it be nice if your aesthetic flowed straight through from start to finish? This shows them that you know the importance of branding. Believe it or not, even if you work in corporate America you are your own brand.

why i overhauled my resume plus life updates

Last year, I decided to take a mini-break from freelancing to stick my toes in the corporate America pond once again. I’ve wanted to be a part of corporate communications since I graduated with my Journalism degree many moons ago. My website and freelance business and blog were a strategic part of my exit from an industry that I didn’t enjoy and, quite frankly, wasn’t very good at because I wasn’t using my natural talents and gifts. It wasn’t until 2015 when I “picked myself” that I found some success in pursuing my dreams and now I couldn’t be happier.

I was doing well freelancing with amazing high-paying clients but to be honest, my work/life balance was in the shitter for awhile. That wasn’t fun which made my productivity respond in kind. I missed having a consistent paycheck that didn’t require back to back 12-hour+  workdays. I still take one off projects but it’s a lot more fun now that I get to pick and choose projects that speak to me.

With the advice of my best friend whom I admire and respect, I decided to look for something in corporate communications. I knew I’d have to start over from the bottom which wasn’t a problem for me being the free spirit I am. I was transitioning to a new career and needed to learn best practices in a structured environment.  I took on a part-time role at a large global Fortune 500 technology company to see if communications and marketing were something  I wanted to pursue full-time. I know it sounds crazy but I’d do it all over again in a heartbeat to live the life I’ve always dreamt of!

I learned more about email marketing, analytics and SEO in those first few months than I ever would have on my own. Best decision I ever made! I loved it so much that I applied to two top 10 highly ranked competitive graduate schools for a Masters in Strategic Communications and was accepted to both.

I never hated corporate America completely…I just wanted more flexibility and to live life on my terms. My new resume was instrumental in achieving both of those goals. Now that you know what brought me to this point, let’s get to the good stuff.

I used Canva (free) for templates and inspiration. Canva has so many different layouts, elements and options to choose from. It makes it a fun process!

For my most recent resume for grad school, I was inspired by the resume of Marissa Mayer, President of  Yahoo. Her resume is simply amazing! There are so many interesting elements to borrow from including a photo, quote, icons, abstract lines, graphics, strengths and languages.

I’m in the technology space so I liked the lines that were incorporated. It grabs your attention without being too in your face. Surely, you can use one or two of these design elements in your own resume.

Level up your resume
more Tips:
  • Have your resume professionally printed for interviews and face to face meetings as colors vary from printer to printer
  • Compress file size, if emailing large document
  • Hyperlink your website in the resume, if possible
  • Use a professional photo and make it consistent across your social media profiles and website/online portfolio
  • Have someone else proofread for errors and typos
  • Don’t forget to add facts and figures

I hope this gives you some ideas to get the job you deserve in 2017! A fresh new resume will invigorate your job search. Thanks for reading!

Why Your Prices Should Be Listed On Your Website

So you can stop Wasting everyone’s time

Why You Should List Your Prices On Your Website

“Should my prices be listed on my website?” I see this question pop up often from other entrepreneurs in service-based businesses. I find that we all have opposing views depending on how long we’ve been in business, services offered/industry, lead generation wishes or a myriad of other personal reasons. For those just starting out, it can be quite confusing so I wanted to touch on it and open it up for discussion here on my blog.

When I first launched my writing and digital marketing business I didn’t post my rates on my website. I was in “do-mode” of getting my business out to the world so I was doing everything on the fly in order to push past the fear. I’m the kind of person that has to act fast because if I think about it or research too long I become paralyzed with fear.

The thought that I may have been losing customers because prices weren’t listed on my website  never crossed my mind. Another reason that I didn’t have prices listed was because I was unsure of them myself. I didn’t want to be pigeon-holed into a price that I wasn’t confident about. I was still “feeling things out” so I felt more comfortable winging it.

As time went on and I did more research, I found that most entrepreneurs suggested posting rates for the world to see. That was a scary proposition because that meant I had to commit and really put myself out there.  What if my rates were too high, or worse, too low? It was a vulnerable moment but I did it and perhaps you should consider it too.

Here are a few reasons you should consider posting your prices on your website.

Stop Wasting Everyone’s Time

Time is an asset that you can’t get back and your potential clients feel the same way. If you’ve made it on their shortlist but they’re unsure if they can afford you or they’re in a pinch, you may fall off the list. Don’t give them one more reason to not choose you because you don’t have your rates posted.

Sorry to break it to you but there are tons of businesses that do what you do in some capacity. The potential client may connect with you and love how you do it but if they have to go through a long, drawn-out process to get basic information they may just move on. It’s that whole path of least resistance thing. Ain’t nobody got time for all that!

Time is an asset that you can't get back and your potential clients feel the same way. Click To Tweet

Let’s not disregard your own time as a business owner. The time you spend vetting people and responding to requests about your prices takes away from time you could be pitching new clients or working with those who get it. Do you really want to spend several minutes a day or week turning people away or even worse negotiating your prices? Of course not.

I’m well aware that if you’re just starting your business and clients aren’t exactly flooding in that this doesn’t sound like the worst thing that could  happen. This brings me to my next point.

weed out who isn’t a good fit

By posting your prices on your website you immediately weed out those who aren’t a good fit…yet. Your ideal client is comprised of a number of qualities, however, a big one is that they can afford you. Let’s be honest here for a moment. We all have bills to pay. The potential client could very well check off every other box with the exception of money. But you still need to feed your family and there’s nothing wrong with that.

Can you imagine if I walked into Restoration Hardware holding a catalog with everything in it circled but had no money? Sure, I have the taste and desire to purchase but no cold hard cash (I don’t do credit). I’m not their ideal customer yet and you can believe they won’t feel bad about turning me away and neither should you. I’ve struggled with my discounting mindset but I know I’m worth it.

On the reverse, many potential clients could assume that they can’t afford you without a price to go on. This may be true and it could also be false. Do you really want to take that chance? If you remember my case above, initially I just didn’t think about posting my prices.

Have you heard the cliche “if you have to ask the price that means you can’t afford it”?  Most of us subconsciously believe that so when we don’t see prices we perceive and assume something is out of our league. Now this might be what you’re going for. Many entrepreneurs sell their services based on value vs. price. They prefer their ideal client to be value-focused vs. price-focused. This is actually a great strategy that you can use…and still list your prices! That’s why it’s imperative to know who your ideal client is and what your brand stands for. It comes down to positioning.

Many entrepreneurs prefer their ideal client to be value-focused vs. price-focused. Click To Tweet

I’ve heard business owners say that they don’t list prices because that’s how they generate leads. There are many great ways to get leads  but don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater.

And that’s all I have to say about that.

Prices aren’t Set In Stone

Fear is palpable when you’re an entrepreneur. You’re constantly wondering if you’re making the right decisions. You’re reading every blog, watching each webinar and digesting e-courses galore to make sure you’re on the right track. You’re also grasping at straws from others who’ve come before you and that’s where finding your tribe comes in.

It all seems so overwhelming and finite. Well, it’s not.

A major thing to keep in mind is that it can all be changed literally with the click of a button. It’s your business so you make the rules. How awesome is that? If you think your prices are too low or high, simply update your website to reflect that. Is your pricing structure not working or not attracting your ideal client? Change it after doing some testing.

When it comes to pricing (or anything) it helps to see how others have done it and adapt to best practices. You still have to do what works best for your business but you don’t have to reinvent the wheel. I’m constantly looking at entrepreneurs who inspire me to see what they’re doing and tweaking my own model. It’s perfect because when you’re fairly new in business it’s expected and no one notices or even cares. Take advantage of it and play with it. I love having all control since it’s one of the reasons I started my own business.

“How do I quote a project or list prices without knowing the intricacies and details of an individual project?” That’s one of the questions I had when I began freelancing. You will undoubtedly need more information before accurately pricing a project but you can still give people an idea of your range.

Here are some brief suggestions of techniques to help you with pricing your services:

  • Use software like typeform to create a form to vet clients
  • Use terms like “Starting at ….”
  • Include a price range “$500 to $1,000”
  • Breakout types of services and prices
  • State that custom projects will be quoted separately

I hope this helps you decide what’s best for your business. If you liked this article, sign up for my list below to be the first to know about my upcoming ebook. I’ll give you helpful tips, tricks ,and information on how you can move past the fear to start the service-based business of your dream, start earning an income fast and live the laptop lifestyle!



Do you have prices for your services listed on your website? Comment below and let me know your thoughts either way.

 

My Life As a Freelancer: 5 Month Review

The Highlights and Lowlights of freelancing

My Life As A Freelancer: 5 Month Review

I just looked at the date of my last blog and realized that it’s been a month since I posted. Eek! I had great intentions of doing a series on productivity but life and business (mostly business) got in the way. I also decided to write the productivity posts for larger authority sites. That said I can’t complain. Being busy is a good thing but I wanted to update you on how my freelancing life is coming along and what I’m working on going forward. My plan is to break my SMART goals down into increments throughout the year.

As I said, the last month has been crazy. I shot right out of the gate in January and had a steady flow of clients. I experienced a bit of a slump in March which was seriously a little depressing. I got my head back in the game and April ended up being the best month so far. I made more in April than I did the first 3 months combined which consisted of writing gigs and social media clients.

Here are a few wins and losses from the first 5 months of the year as a full-time freelancer:

  • Published in The Huffington Post 2x’s. Read here and here.
  • Created online store to sell my first digital  product that helps freelancers onboard clients. I’m working on more products but more on that below. I need to market this product more.
  • Published in Nia Magazine, an inspirational digital magazine geared toward African American women.
  • Obtained a part-time Marketing Specialist position for an awesome company called $99 Social. I’ll be working with the founders to create and implement marketing campaigns and strategies. The best part is that it’s also flexible working from home. I love it!
  • Secured my Public Relations client, Salon D’Shayn, a spot on a local Arizona TV news station. She killed it! Check them out here talking about the best tips to get a great wax!
  • Grew another client’s early adoptor list by over 150% in 2 months.
  • Narrowed down my niche to health & beauty since nearly all of my clients are in the health and/or beauty industry. All the time I was pondering my niche  and it found me.
  • Increased my rates and obtained new writing gigs and social media clients.
  • Grew my email list 75% by offering content upgrades in posts.
  • Attended 2 networking events or conferences each month with another scheduled in May. This was a personal goal of mine.
  • Reached over 1,200 followers on Twitter.

Those are some of the highlights and lowlights of the last 5 months of working as a full-time freelancer. I’m really proud of what I’ve done so far. My goal when I quit my job at the end of November was simply to control my schedule and have more flexibility.  I wanted to be able to attend my child’s school functions without sacrificing my dignity…I hate to ask for anything. I wanted to work from my patio or a coffee shop or anywhere in the world while still contributing to the household financially.

I sacrificed for 2.5 years paying off debt and living on nothing (no Mani/Pedi’s, fancy lunches or new clothes). I say that because it’s important for people to know that nothing happens overnight and I also have a long way to go in my eyes!

I think sharing information on where we are in our journey is helpful and therapeutic. Click To Tweet

Here’s where I’m going and where I plan to focus my energy:

  • Write for health & beauty related websites/publications.
  • Create at least 2 more passive income-producing products before year end (possibly ebook and webinar).
  • Focus on high-level social media and digital marketing strategies.
  • Soak up knowledge and kill it in my job as a Marketing Specialist.
  • Grow email list to 1,000+ subscribers.
  • Provide more value to my clients.
  • Blog consistently to increase page views.
  • Outsource by hiring a virtual assistant and a housecleaner. Praying for this one by the end of the month!

I’ve learned a lot as a new freelancer and my goals are HUGE but I believe it’s all coming together as far as where my business is headed. The picture becomes clearer every day. It still feels surreal but it hasn’t been easy. In fact, I’m still waiting for the other shoe to drop. It’s been such a blessing to have lunch with my daughter weekly or to meet my husband for lunch on a whim without looking at the clock.

Of course, the downside of freelancing is that you’re always “hustling” for work. That’s the case with most entrepreneurs or small businesses though I think.We don’t have a big brand name like Starbucks behind us. It’s a constant marketing dance but I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention that.

On the bright side, my income is nearly back up to what it was between my part-time income and my business. What’s most important is that I have the flexibility I’ve always dreamt of as a wife and mom. My goal is to at least double my previous income by the end of this year. Hopefully, I can hire an assistant soon to grow my business even more.

Anywho, that’s where I’ve been and where I’m headed. I’m focusing on contentment and gratefulness although my sights are set quite high. The sky is the limit but it’s really about my lifestyle and freedom these days. Life is too short to be somewhere doing something I hate!

How is your journey coming along? Have you reflected on your wins and losses? Comment below.

How to Brain Dump and Increase Your Productivity

Brain Dumping your way to success

How To Brain Dump and Increase Your Productivity

It’s amazing how changing your mindset can lead to massive levels of productivity.  By making incremental changes in your daily routine, you can get more ish done…fast. Duh, right? It’s a difficult thing to do but once you start you’ll wonder why you waited so long. That’s why I’m doing a multi-part part series around mindset and mindfulness. I’ll be writing about implementing strategies to increase your productivity and lower your stress. Today I’m focusing on the power of brain dumping. We’ll call this brain dumping 101. There are so many benefits to brain dumping including The Law of Attraction.

There's power in getting tasks & ideas onto paper where you can see them. Click To Tweet

“A brain-dump is a complete transfer of accessible knowledge about a particular subject from your brain to some other storage medium, such as paper or your computer’s hard drive”. – WhatIs.com

In childhood, I used journals and planners as a way to document my journey and chronical my feelings. Some of the journals I still have and need to burn. These days I’m obsessed with using them as a way to stay organized by brain dumping. My “To Do” lists are never-ending little lifesavers. A good list is effectively brain dumping which is productivity central.

As a creative person and woman (let’s be real), there are tons of things bouncing around in my head at any given time between work, family, health. It’s vital that I get things out of my headspace and transfer them to a place that I can refer to. As I stare onto the page of undone tasks, It holds me accountable. I’m a visual person so I highly recommend brain dumping if you are as well. I’m putting it all out there for and with you. Let’s make it a goal to be more efficient and organized together.

You can brain dump digitally or on paper. I use a combination of both depending on my mood and whatever’s within reach at the time, however, when I need to dig deeper…paper it is.

Here are a few tips and tricks that I use.

Schedule It

Schedule a time to braindump and do it consistently. Set aside time to make it happen because ,if you’re anything like me, it won’t get done otherwise. I’m obsessive about lists. I make a list every night of the 3-5 things I want to get accomplished the next day. I also make a list on Sundays for the week ahead. I can’t recall where I got this nugget but several people do it now. Instead of waking up pondering my next move it’s already decided for me. Whether or not I take action on it 100% of the time is another story. I also have a running list of my goals for the  month and year that I retool as needed. Get in the habit of brain dumping and it’ll feel strange when you neglect to do it.

Make It Fun

I’ll be honest, I haven’t gotten this far yet. I’m pretty boring with my dumps (sorry). Many listers make it fun with stickers, colored pencils, glitter pens and cute book markers. If investing a little moolah in crafty supplies and tools makes you more productive…go for it! I love a beautiful pen and journal myself. I remember shopping for school supplies as a kid and school didn’t suck quite as much for awhile. Am I the only one?

If you love pretty journals check out my shop. ALL Journals are now 10% off! No code needed.

10% OFF All Journals Thru April.

Brain Dump

The first step in brain dumping is to write it all down. Don’t worry about categorizing your list  just yet. For now, just take stock of all tasks or ideas that need action. It doesn’t matter what the tasks are…mail a birthday card, buy stamps, grocery store run, cupcakes for child’s classroom. Dump it all on paper like a crazy person. You’ll see it pile it up pretty fast but better on paper than bouncing around in your head.

Categorize It 

You’ve been keeping a running list of tasks/ideas all week and now it’s time categorize it. This makes it easier to tackle chunks at a time. Those pretty colored markers you bought are more than just eye candy. Group similar items or color code them (green for money, yellow for fitness, red for school-related activities, etc.). When you group similar together you won’t have to do much mental jumping around. You move seamlessly from task to task. It also makes a good stopping point so you can divvy up tasks by days or urgency.

Tip: Categorizing errands by location is a great way to conserve energy and gas.

Gather Information

Gather documents or information needed to complete your tasks or to take action on ideas. For instance, compile all bills or account numbers you need beforehand. A good list or brain dump keeps you on track and organized which increases your productivity big time.

Now you’re ready to tackle the items on your list. If you brain dump frequently and take action, you’ll begin to see a great shift in your productivity level.

 

Do you brain dump or list on a consistent basis? What tips and tricks do you use to stay productive?

 

The Best Blogging and Writing Tools

my favorite resources from start to finish

Best Blogging and Writing Tools

 

I’ve been asked about my favorite writing tools so I decided to devote an entire blog post to the programs that I use the most often for blogging and client work. They all serve very distinct functions but I have a backup or “honorable mention” for each one. You’ll also find screenshots of the programs that I love most but not as  well-known. I hope it helps!

Check out my favorite writing tools from start to finish. It’s a long one ladies and gents!

Writing Tool 

Microsoft Word – I use MS Word to draft my documents if I’m not blogging directly in WordPress. This allows me to do a word count and check my spelling and grammar thoroughly. The only downside is if I copy & paste into WordPress there’s reformatting to be done. It doesn’t take long but it’s an extra step for sure. Another reason that I like to write in MS Word is that it makes it easy to send a writing sample to clients or potential employers in PDF. It’s much easier do it this way vs. the reverse when I need to send a writing sample fast.

Honorable Mention

Google Docs – I only write in Google Docs when I’m writing content for clients. This allows me to send the client a draft and get their revisions and comments all in one place. There are so many benefits to using Google Docs for writing and editing. It’s a huge timesaver. I can share the document with my client, collaborate and make all of my updates right in the program. It automatically saves it in real time without having to save in Word and resend. I highly recommend using Google Docs for client work even if that means copying/pasting from another program.

Editing Tool

Grammarly – I adore Grammarly. Seriously, if you’re not using Grammarly as an editing tool you’re missing out big time. I have the app downloaded directly into my computer so it catches errors in all correspondence including emails and documents…yes, WordPress too. It may not catch everything but it’s another check and balance. I’m currently using the free version but I’ll be updating to the paid version ASAP for $139.95.

Grammarly

Grammarly screenshot

 

Honorable Mention

Hemingway – Hemingway is not just an honorable mention. It’s another holy grail program that I use when editing my writing. Hemingway believed that most writing should aim to be read at a middle school level. This app catches run on sentences, passive voice and funky wording. I can’t count how many times it has saved me. It takes long complex sentences and makes them clear and concise. I use Hemingway in conjunction with Grammarly for client work. Highly recommend the free version!

Hemingway

Hemingway screenshot

 

Stock Photo Sites – I won’t go into much detail here since I have an entire post dedicated to my favorite stock photo sites.

Pexels – I love Pexels. It’s free with high-quality images for download. I’ve never had any issues resizing images for my blog or client work. It’s my go-to site for stock photos. Enough said!

Honorable Mention

Pixabay – If I can’t find what I need on Pixel, I head over to Pixabay. This site is hit or miss for me but it’s one to keep in your back pocket.

 

Social Media Scheduling Tool

Buffer – Buffer is easy and affordable for scheduling social media posts. It’s also incredibly user-friendly. The free or “Individual” account lets you queue up to 10 posts at one time on 1 platform each. You can schedule posts across social platforms including Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google + and Pinterest.  I use the Awesome plan for $10 month to schedule for up to 10 different accounts. It’s perfect for managing social media for others as well as personal accounts.

Two more things I love about Buffer…the analytics and RSS Feed features. The analytics tracks your best performing social media posts. You can “Re-buffer” them which I do often. You don’t have to go in and recreate the wheel. If it’s gotten a few clicks and good reach just queue that baby up again! The RSS Feed is great as well. You can go in and add relevant sites that coincide with your brand. For instance, if you’re a beauty blogger you can go in and add your favorite beauty publications and bloggers and pull their content in as well.

Buffer Screenshot

Buffer Screenshot

 

Honorable Mentions

  1. Coschedule – I’ve used Coschedule on a trial basis for a couple of weeks. I liked it for the ability to collaborate as a team but ultimately I couldn’t justify the price when Buffer can do the exact same thing for $10/month. Coschedule has a calendar and can access WordPress for the purpose of pulling in blog posts but it still wasn’t worth it to me. It’s all the rage amongst bloggers and if I had a heftier budget and more team members to collaborate then I might go for Coschedule.

2. Hootsuite – Before Buffer I used Hootsuite. It gets the job done but I find the interface a little confusing. You can manage and schedule the same social platforms as Buffer but there’s something about the setup that perplexes me. Check it out below.

 

Hootsuite

Hootsuite screenshot

 

Photo Editing Tool

Canva – I’m in love with Canva. I’ve signed on and haven’t looked back. Although I’m familiar with Photoshop it can be cumbersome to log in so if I need to get something done fast (which is usually the case) I use Canva. I’ve tested the paid version “Canva for Work” and didn’t see a big benefit other than it lets you use your brand colors and fonts. Personally, that’s not a huge deal for me so I’m using the free version and I’m quite happy with it.

I love that I can use custom dimensions but the preset template sizes for social media are my best friend. Canva also has great free images that you can use or images that are $1 each. I also use it for my freebies and will be using it for my eBook.

Canna screenshot - Pinterest image

Canva screenshot – Pinterest image

Honorable Mention

Photoshop – I don’t have to say much about Photoshop. It’s complex and best for larger projects. That may not be the case for others but it’s always my last resort if I can help it.

 

Note Organization  Tool 

Notes (IOS) – I keep my iPhone handy in case I ever need to quickly jot down blog post ideas or notes. Content ideas come to me at the most awkward times so instead of letting them get away from me I jot them down quickly. I highly recommend getting in the habit of taking notes as they come vs. waiting or shrugging them off. It’s handy to have an ongoing list of blog posts or article topics to refer back to.

Honorable Mentions 

1. Journal – I’m a writer so naturally I prefer the written word. It helps to see words written down on paper. I’m the queen of notebooks and journals. I even having my own line of journals which I’ll be posting on this site in the near future. There’s a running to-do list in my journals along with ideas for content and my goals.

My line of journals

My Journal line!

2. Evernote – I’ve used Evernote for years. If I need to flesh out notes in depth, I use Evernote. It allows you to add photos, text, audio and make lists. It’s a great tool that many people are already aware of. I have the app on my iPhone and on my MacBook Pro and they are synced up. Clients have also sent me notes via Evernote and it’s extremely user-friendly.

Evernote Screenshot

Evernote Screenshot

 

Editorial Calendar

Edit Flow – I use the Edit Flow editorial calendar WordPress plugin sporadically to plan my content in advance. I’m not super consistent with it but my goal is to step it up and start planning and batching content weeks or months in advance (ambitious much?). I’ve heard great things about using an editorial calendar to create cohesiveness with content and I’m all about that. My next post will be my favorite WordPress plugins. See I’m starting to plan my content already! Check out the screenshot below.

Edit Flow Editorial Calendar

Edit Flow plugin screenshot

Honorable Mention

iCal – This can a good backup plan to plan content in advance. It’s not the best but it gets the job done in a pinch. However, I highly recommend Edit Flow because you can track your posts.

 

My Favorite Headline Analyzer

Coschedule – I won’t lie to you. Writing headlines is not my favorite thing to do but it’s extremely important. It can make all the difference in your content getting read and shared. You should focus on it as much as you do the rest of your writing. I use Coschedule to determine the effectiveness of my headlines. Coschedule analyzes the length, effectiveness and sentence structure of your headline.

Coschedule headline analyzer

Coschedule headline analyzer screenshots 🙁

Screen Shot 2016-03-22 at 11.22.53 PM

 

Honorable Mention

Emotional Marketing Value – The EMV is a tool that copywriters use to measure the emotional effectiveness of their copy. The art of copywriting is about reaching people through emotions hence the name. I recently found this tool and while it’s hit or miss it’s better than nothing. When in doubt use both tools together and revise as needed.

 

Whew! If you read to the end then “Bless Your Heart” as we say in the South. I hope you found a few new tools and resources to whip your content into shape. There are a ton of other tools but these are the ones I find myself using time after time.

I’d love for your to share your favorite writing tools. Which tools do you swear by?

 

 

 

 

How to Write the Perfect Pitch

 AND get attention for your brand

Write the Perfect Pitch

If you’re a writer or an entrepreneur, most likely you’ve written a pitch of some kind. If you haven’t, rest assured you will at some point or you maybe you’ll hire someone like me to do it. At any rate, it’s important to know how to use a pitch to grab attention for your product or service. I was very uncomfortable the first time I wrote a cold pitch. A cold pitch is pitching to someone you have no connection with. The fear of rejection was palpable. But did I die? Nope, and neither will you. Now I write pitches so often I don’t even bat an eye. Fortunately, I hear back more often than not.

If cold pitching gives you the hives, I’m going to walk you through a few pointers. You can also check out a sample pitch that I used to cold pitch a current client of mine. Use it as a template to write your own perfect pitch.

Ok. You’re probably wondering why would you need to write a pitch at all. Here are some times when you may need to pitch someone:

  • Cold pitch your services to clients or agencies
  • Pitch product to blogger or journalists
  • Guest post for blogger
  • Contribute to publication
  • Pitch startup for funding (different beast)

Now that you know why you need a pitch let’s get to work. Keep in mind that keeping your pitch brief is best. Journalists and popular bloggers don’t have a lot of time so keep it short and sweet. If they’re interested and want more information, they’ll ask you for it.

The Research

A pitch has many functions but it always needs to be tailored. Don’t be that person sending out a run of the mill spammy cold pitch. It’s the hallmark of an amateur and will be sent to the trash immediately. Journalists and bloggers can smell spam a mile away. And trust me…it wreaks.

The first step is to do your research and find the correct person to send your pitch to. Research the specific person’s real name, connect with them on social media and even comment on their posts. It also helps to show that you’re familiar with their work by referencing a similar story they’ve covered in the past. The same applies if you’re connecting with a journalist to pitch a product. As a journalist myself, I know that research is the foundation of a great pitch.

Tip: Give a little information about yourself but focus on what you can offer/provide. State any features and benefits.

Pitch The Angle

Why are you writing this pitch? What are you hoping to gain? Publicity, exposure, connections…those are the usual suspects. Ideally, you already know the answer but if not figure it out beforehand. You’ll also need to do some brainstorming on the angle of the story. The goal is to do as much of the work for them as possible. I know this sounds backwards or like a lot of work but by doing this, you’re more likely to get exactly what you want. For example, If you pitch a popular blogger to guest post on their blog, I suggest giving them a choice of 3 topics that you can write about on their blog. This also helps you because if they accept your submission you already have a topic and you can get straight to writing.

To pitch a popular blogger or publication, give them 3 choices of awesome topics you could cover on their blog. Click To Tweet

Tip:  Perform a search in the bloggers toolbar to make sure the topic hasn’t been covered recently. If it was previously covered, simply work a different angle or solve the problem. This is a gimme if that particular post was really popular (comments & shares). You can also read comments and get ideas based on reader’s pain points.



The Call to Action

One of the most important things that people miss is a good call to action or CTA. It seems simple but you’d be shocked at how often this is forgotten. I’ve also seen weak calls to action. “Well um if you want to check out my stuff…”. Where’s the confidence, friend?  You’re awesome and so is the product/service you provide. Why wouldn’t they want to feature you?

There are various ways to prompt the reader to act and move the process forward but you have to make it easy for them.

Below are a few CTA’s you can use or use a variation of a few:

  • Add social media links (Link to your most popular/used social platforms)
  • Link to best samples/portfolio
  • Link to demo video
  • Contact information (A MUST)
  • Schedule meeting
  • Link to E-commerce or brick & mortar business
  • E-Press Kit Link
  • A relevant source

The CTA is one of the most important elements of the pitch so don’t leave it out. Put yourself in the readers mind and include information you’d want to know but don’t give away too much. Don’t write a book…just give the basics.

Tip: If you’re pitching a submission to write, include your turnaround time and the # of words you project the piece to be.

The Follow-Up

As I mentioned earlier, anyone you’d want to pitch to is likely super busy. If you don’t hear back immediately, don’t feel slighted. Most professional bloggers and publications have an editorial calendar planned out months in advance.  Your story may not fit into their content plan or strategy at the current moment. Maybe they’re on vacation or it fell off their radar temporarily. Don’t let it fall off your radar. The key is good old-fashioned follow-up.

I always end a pitch or any request with the following line: “If I haven’t heard from you by __________, I’ll follow-up with you”. Then I drag it to my calendar and follow-up with the person when I said I would.

Hopefully, this gives you the structure for writing a pitch to get you noticed. Have you had to write a pitch before? Let me know in the comments!

 

 

How to Write A Killer “About” Page + Free Questionnaire

Picture by A Prettier Web

The dreaded About page. The About page is one of the most visited pages on any website. That comes as a shocker to most but it shouldn’t if you think about your own habits. It’s no surprise that readers and clients want to know the person behind the brand. If there’s one thing that makes most bloggers or business owners procrastinate when launching, it’s writing the About page.

I hate talking about myself as do most people. The About page  falls in line with that sentiment. But it doesn’t have to be that hard folks! I’m going to give you the lowdown on writing a killer About page that’ll make your audience connect.

You think the About page is all about you. No, the real reason readers visit your About page is about them. Click To Tweet

You may think the About Page is all about you…on the contrary. The real reason readers visit the About page is about them. They want to know your story and why you do what you do. Clients want to know what makes you qualified to help them. Why should they give their money to you vs. their 3rd cousin who will do it at a 70% discount? This is your chance to woo them.

There are a few elements, tips and tricks  you must consider when writing your About Page. Let’s dig in!

Get your FREE questionnaire to write a killer “About” page!



 

How Can You Help Me?

As I mentioned above, the main reason that people flock to your About page is to learn how/if you can help them? Tell them about your background, experience and education so they know why you’re the man/woman for the job. Give them insight as to why you’re passionate about what you do.

Did you go to school for graphic design? Have you traveled the world and found that your passion lies in travel writing? Tell them your “why” in a genuine, authentic way. You want them to feel a viable connection to you. Aside from qualifications, I recommend throwing in some personal information as well. You don’t have to get into much detail about your personal life but a few fun facts are fun. It lets the reader in.

Take a look at my “About Me” page. I’ve weaved in both personal and professional information. It’s a constant work in progress for me. That’s the great thing about all of this…nothing is set in stone.

We Want to See Your Face

If you don’t have a profile picture on your About page, you need one like yesterday. As an introvert, I can understand wanting to stay out of the spotlight. But if you’re a successful business owner, (and hopefully you want to be) you’ll be out there in one way or another. You can’t hide forever. I certainly want to know who I’m interacting with or potentially hiring. Your audience does too.

I recommend getting some professional pictures taken. If you don’t have the time or money, you can also take one with your camera or smartphone. The background shouldn’t distract from your lovely face. Keep in mind that it doesn’t have to be Vogue quality but it shouldn’t be shoddy. Check out this article from Hubspot for tips about taking pictures with your smartphone.

Tip: Use good natural lighting and remove all clutter from the headshot 

What’s the Tone?

The About page doesn’t have to sound like R2D2 of Star Wars. As a matter of fact, it shouldn’t be robotic at all. Have fun with it. Let your hair down. Play around with your tone and voice. Write a couple of funny quips and see how you can insert them into your text. But only if that’s your personality. If it’s not your personality, then disregard the previous sentences…ok? The key here is to be genuine. I’m a silly jokester so it’s only natural that my blog exhibit that side of me at times.

Tip: Write your About page in first-person (third-person can be creepy), especially if you’re a solopreneur. It humanizes you.

Of course, some of this is dependent on your company and industry. A photographer may have more creative leeway than an accountant. Regardless, you want to make sure that your potential clients or readers feel like they know and like you. A relatable tone and voice will do some of the work for you. Clients generally want to work with people they like. All things being equal (i.e. quality work,) they’ll go with the more “likable” person.

If you’re just starting out in your business,  your tone may not be defined just yet. You shouldn’t let that stop you from writing your About page. However, I do encourage you to do a little homework to discover your brand voice. This will make the process of writing a bit easier. Once you define the tone and voice of your brand, carry it through to your About page and the rest of your copy.

As you can see, the About page can serve many functions depending on your business. It’s intimidating to put yourself out there but look at it as a fun little project. Ask your family and friends for words to describe you and start there. There are certain pages on our websites that are never truly “done”. The About page is certainly one. I tweak my own page from time to time. Happy writing peeps!

If you’d like me to give your copy a facelift, then give me a holla.

Does writing your About page give you anxiety?

Your Guide to the Best FREE Stock Photo Sites

Find awesome FREE stock photos.

I wish I was a photography wiz and could style & shoot my own photos. But I can’t, at least not yet. A short term goal is to buy a great camera and learn basic photography but, in the meantime, stock photos get the job done perfectly.

I’ve managed to find some awesome FREE stock photo sites that really get the point of my posts across well. I also use them to design custom images for social media. I’ve seen many questions in Facebook groups asking for the best stock photo sites so I decided to write a blog post highlighting the ones I use most frequently.

But first..here are some examples of custom images I’ve created from stock photos.

5 Networking TipsFor Introverts-2

Pin for Pinterest made in Canva.

 

Add subheading-2

Freebie made in Canva.

 

I'd rather have a life of %22Oh Well's than a life of %22What Ifs%22-2

Instagram quote from Pexel stock photo.

 

As you can see, there’s all kinds of fun stuff you can do with plain ole stock photos. I’ll find quotes from articles, famous people and even mugs or T-shirts and simply add the text to the stock photo and add filters. Most of these images were made in Canva. I have Photoshop but honestly I’m still learning the program. I can edit an image in Canva and download it or upload to social media instantly. Why not take the easy way out?

Here’s the list of sites that I visit regularly to get beautiful FREE photos.

Death to the Stock Photo – Personally, I haven’t had much luck with this site but others have so I listed it. Maybe you’ll fare better.

Pexels

Pixabay

Canva – Do a search for images. Some are free and others cost $1 each. Still not a bad deal.

Unsplash

The sites below have a more creative girly, feminine touch than the ones listed above.  I use these sites most often for my Pinterest pins and Instagram pictures by customizing them. You sign up on their websites and they email you free photo packs each month.

How cool is that? If you sign up to all of them like I did, there’s no shortage of amazing images to choose from each month.

Hautechocolate

Pinkpot

Rekita Nicole

Bold & Pop

A Prettier Web

You’ll want to look closely at the “rules” or suggestions for using stock photos from certain sites. For instance, a couple of them simply ask that you state where the picture originates from. If I use one of those pics, I do my best to leave the info in the ALT tag on my website. It’s only fair, right?

Keep in mind that you can also purchase  monthly memberships to most stock photography sites and have full access to a plethora of beautifully styled images for as little as $15/mo. I may do that at some point but I’m having success finding free photos for now. I’m most looking forward to styling my own images.

There are tons of stock photo sites out there but most of them aren’t free or very user friendly. I hope you found this helpful!

Do you use stock photos? If so, which sites do you like best?

Why You Need A Welcome Packet Now Plus Free Template

How to Manage Expectations and Set Boundaries

Create a Welcome Packet for Clients!

I’ve learned so many lessons as a new freelancer. One of the biggest lessons comes from the challenges I’ve faced in setting  boundaries and expectations with clients.  I’ve been so focused on the grind and hustle that I had no idea I needed to think about these things early in my business. I can tell you now that was a big mistake…HUGE. What I needed was a welcome packet. A welcome packet helps to gather information, manage expectations and set boundaries with clients.

In a former job, I used to manage employees and I recall my supervisor telling me, “to be unclear is to be unkind”. And it’s so true. Of course, he was referring to my employees at the time but this is true of any relationship. You can’t fault a person for abusing boundaries and expectations they didn’t know existed. A welcome packet is a great way to do this.  The most successful entrepreneurs do it this way.

To be unclear is to be unkind Click To Tweet

I look at misunderstandings as a lesson. Several experienced members of a freelance group suggested that I create a welcome packet. This is why it’s imperative to have a tribe of people around you. They clue you in on these things. It never even crossed my mind. I was too busy frolicking in the entrepreneurial land of butterflies and rainbows. The miscommunication with a client brought me back down to earth quickly. I’m a freelancer but I’m still working with people with different personality traits similar to coworkers.

 

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Why You Need A Welcome Packet 

There are many reasons why you need to create a welcome packet if you don’t already have one.

A welcome packet helps to:

  • Create concrete (written) information the client can refer to throughout the process
  • Define the scope of work (questionnaire)
  • Let the client know your work hours, contact information and preferred method of contact
  • Give the client an idea of your workflow process
  • Invite the client to work with you (welcome letter)
  • State preferred payment methods and arrangements (terms can be explained in further detail in contract)
  • Include FAQ’s that you feel a client may have
  • Be a predecessor to a contract

 “Attract the Right Clients for Your Business” Welcome Packet Templates! Everything you need in one place to get your onboarding process started on the right foot.

You can send this packet before they sign the contract for a sneak peek or you can send it with the contract. It’s really up to you and you’ll know what’s best at that moment.

This due diligence has a number of benefits. It helps clients to drill down on their scope of work and gives me an idea of what to expect when working with them. The client may even find when completing the questionnaire that his/her needs aren’t what they thought they were.The information may also prove that the client is not a good fit for how you like to work and vice versa.

I’ve created some templates to give you an idea of the kinds of information I like to request and the questions I ask before beginning work. You will also find a list of the “FAQ’s” that I like to include with my welcome packet. You can list whichever you’d like but I find those are the main ones I’m asked.

I left out some personal information that I give to my clients but I also watermark my documents to personalize them. The areas highlighted in yellow are what you will need to modify.

I hope you found this information helpful. As you can see a good welcome packet helps is the most important part of the process. You’ll able to find the right clients for your business and save time from dealing with the wrong ones.

 

 

 

Why Every Creative Needs A Tribe

Creative worker-Find your tribe

“You are the average of the 5 people you spend the most time with”.

Did you read that quote and start assessing your circle of friends? Our friends can influence us for the better or worse but, as we get older, it’s no longer about peer pressure as much as it is about finding people who support and encourage us on our endeavors.

If you’re in a creative industry, it’s even more important to cultivate a tribe. A tribe is a circle of friends that inspire, influence and push you to be the greatest version of yourself. They will always keep it real in the best possible way.

When we think of our tribe, our minds go to family and friends but that’s not always the case. If you’re a creative, it helps to have relationships with people in a similar realm as you. Someone who just “gets it”. As a writer, I surround myself with artists, designers, photographers and other writers. We bounce ideas off of each other and share our knowledge. I know they will understand the issues I face and point me in the right direction. It’s also helpful to have a blueprint to model certain aspects of my business after.

Friends and family mean well but sometimes they can’t relate to a job that isn’t a traditional 9-5. If there aren’t tangible products to sell, the pieces of the puzzle don’t fit. It can be hard to support something when you really don’t understand it. This can cause loneliness and frustration for creatives.

Creativitytakescourage

If you’re a creative, you know how it feels to have a million ideas floating around in your head that you need to get out. It doesn’t matter if you design furniture or websites, creating is like the air you breathe. You need people in your corner who can relate so you don’t feel like a weirdo.

You need people in your corner who can relate so you don’t feel like a weirdo...your tribe. Click To Tweet

You may find strangers to be the best members of your tribe. They’re unbiased and not invested in you as a person. They can see things from a perspective that friends and family can’t. But I don’t like to force myself to be a part of someone’s tribe or inner circle. I believe in forming authentic bonds and relationships organically. I have a small circle of creative associates and friends whom I consider my tribe. Although I don’t see or speak to them often, I know I can contact them with questions or concerns.

There are several ways to find your tribe but I ‘ve found that 2 methods, in particular, have worked best for me.

 Joining Groups

 I’m a member of a few Facebook groups for bloggers, freelance writers, and copywriters. I’ve learned a lot about how to run a freelance business and establish boundaries from groups. In these groups, you will find creatives of all disciplines and at various experience levels. They can inspire you and provide valuable feedback. To find groups in your field go to the Facebook search box and enter “groups + your craft (e.g. makeup)”.

Many of them are “closed” groups but they don’t seem to turn many people away. You can connect with people by commenting, asking questions and becoming genuinely concerned about their businesses. They will do the same for your business thus creating a virtual tribe of people who want to see each other succeed.

Another great perk about groups is that you may be able to find work opportunities. Many of the members will post jobs that they can’t take on for whatever reason. If you’ve managed to develop a relationship with them, they will keep you top of mind. I’ve seen it happen before. Win/Win.

 If you can find or form a Mastermind group, that’s even better. A Mastermind group consists of professionals who meet on a consistent basis to support each other, brainstorm ideas and offer advice. Everyone is on an equal playing field and brings their knowledge and skill set to the group. Mastermind group meetings can be either online or in person. Members of successful Mastermind groups have increased their income significantly.

 Blogs, Websites, and Social Media

 As a growing blogger, I study a ton of blogs to learn what successful bloggers are doing to stand out. I’ve found some great information and developed some formidable relationships from visiting blogger’s websites, commenting and sharing information. I consider a few of them to be part of my tribe whether they know it or not. I feel comfortable asking their opinions and advice and many will contact me to do the same.

There are so many creatives doing big things and nearly all are online and available via social media. If there is someone who inspires you, reach out to them and make it known. I have not come across anyone that doesn’t mind offering guidance.

The key is to provide valuable input and not expect anything in return. I’m hoping to collaborate with some of my favorite bloggers soon. It’s a mutually beneficial relationship for everyone. No one feels used or abused and it creates amazing synergy. It also allows you to widen your reach which further expands your tribe.

We all need support and encouragment. If you’ve stepped outside of the proverbial box, you will need it even more so. There’s no one blueprint for running a creative-based business but that’s the fun of it all. The beauty of it is that, in a sense, we get to choose our co-workers…our tribe.

What are a few ways that you have found your tribe? Who is in your tribe?