How A Simple Handwritten Calendar Helped Me Defeat Overwhelm

There was a time I could simply never get ahold of my calendar. Commitments entered into a calendar would never be noticed again. Digital reminders were excused and promptly forgotten. I couldn’t even tell you what day of the week it is, let alone the date.

I tried digital calendars. Some paid, some not. Eventually, Google Calendars made the most sense for us. It’s shareable which means I can delegate the task of entering appointments to all concerned. But still, I needed more help when it came to keeping the calendar in view. Once an app is closed, it’s out of sight and… out of mind.

weekly-hand-drawn-calendarOne year, I started drawing out my calendars by hand. I would start each week and month with a hand-drawn calendar in my journal. Nothing fancy. Just basic grids. Then my commitments were written in by hand. Here’s what a week spread looks like.

In this day and age, it sounds so silly to do that. Starting out, I did feel a bit of a fool. But one Sunday evening, while I was laying out my calendar while watching TV with my husband, it clicked.

Writing down all my commitments by hand actually helped eliminate overwhelm. First, it helped me remember them better. There are lots of studies indicating the connection between writing something down and retention. That was definitely true for me.

Second, the act of setting time aside to do this, helped me think through each day and how I was going to manage the day. For example, if I have several commitments that day, I would go through in my head and envision how the day would go.

What can I fit between this appointment and that? Can someone else do this so I can have this on my calendar? Or, this is a shorter work-day which means I must finish XYZ the day before and so on.

It is said, that athletes often envision themselves reaching the winning line, and that convinces them they are already winners long before the race begins. It’s the same here. By visualizing your days, they automatically become less stressful. You feel more in control and you’re more likely to have a good day because you’ve already laid it out in your head.

You could argue that a digital planner can do that too and you’d be right. It all boils down to whether you can make it work. I found digital planners too easy to set aside. I had a tendency to add to the list but never sitting down long enough to review it. And that is the key…


The review.

If there’s anything I learned this year, it’s the power and tremendous value in the review process. No matter what it is you have in mind. Long term or short term goals. Weight loss, being more mindful, being a better boss etc. If you don’t review, you don’t know how far you’ve come, you don’t know how much further you have to go and you don’t know how to fully maximize your days. Handwriting things slows you down so you can that.

That’s why I started publishing a printable planner for bloggers 9 years ago. When I started, I still wasn’t completely sold out on pen and paper. As I grew, learned more, and am not fully committed, I’ve tweaked the planner each year into a significant tool to help bloggers achieve their goals.

The best thing is, the planner is 100% FREE. Claim yours today.

5 Tips to Invest in Your Business Blog on a Budget


Blog, they say. That’s the best way to get your small business noticed, to raise your search engine rankings, to increase customer engagement, to imprint your brand on customers, and much more. It’s true that blogging has a lot of benefits for helping small businesses get noticed. But it’s not always an affordable form of marketing.

Many small businesses struggle with investing adequate funds into their blogs because the capital doesn’t stretch as far as they hoped. As a result, the blog ends up published on a low-quality platform with short, unuseful content and poor imagery. This is unfortunate because when your blog is low-quality, performance tanks and your business receives virtually no benefits from blogging in this oversaturated market.

Fortunately, a lack of funds doesn’t mean your business is doomed to fail. You simply have to make some small changes to your blog and reallocate the funds to do the most work within your blogging platform.

  1. Let your blog pay for itself

There are currently bloggers out there making more than $10,000 per month with their blogs. Though this makes up a very small portion of the bloggers on the web, it illustrates the possibilities. Most businesses don’t focus on monetizing their blog because they don’t want to take their attention away from their primary business plan. But if you’re in need of money, monetizing your blog is a great way to raise it.

Through measures like affiliate marketing, advertisements, paid sponsorships, and products, you can reap decent profits from your writing efforts. It might be just an extra few hundred dollars per month, but that’s more than enough for most small businesses to develop quality blog posts and promotions each month.

  1. Take advantage of freebies

Though the quality is often in question, there are thousands of free tools, software, and resources at your disposal. Use these for both marketing and content generation purposes. Here’s a list of some of the free tools you’d be foolish not to use.

  • Templates and blog themes
  • Security plugins
  • Social media
  • Google AdWords, Trends, and similar tools
  • How-to blog subscriptions
  • Photo editing software like Pixlr
  • Email services like MailChimp
  • Infographic and video software like Canva
  • SEO tactics
  • Google Drive

There are more tools out there, but this is a good place to start.

  1. Social media is free and effective, so you might as well use it

Social media was mentioned in the list above, but it’s so important that it’s worth covering in greater depth. Blog posts have the potential to go viral on social media, reaching billions of viewers. As a small business, you can join Facebook, GooglePlus, Pinterest, Instagram, LinkedIn, Twitter, and most other relevant social media pages for no cost.

Once you’ve established a solid profile and generated a following, you can begin promoting your blog through this channel in order to enjoy the many benefits that blogging yields. Also, all of this is usually free.

If you have a little extra cash, invest in Facebook advertisements for your blog or business. These are fairly inexpensive and extremely effective, as they reach a wide audience. Facebook is also very good at targeting users who may be interested in your content by scanning search results and past purchases for individual customers.

  1. Hire interns to develop quality content for cheap or free

Many students majoring in communications, marketing, or English need internships to graduate, and content writing will fulfill the requirement for most. Work with local colleges to set yourself up as a business that can give interns an opportunity to learn and perfect their craft for free without setting you back.

Note: Taking on interns is about more than free labor. You have to provide a solid educational experience for each student so you can remain a qualified internship provider and continue getting quality content from these “employees.” Make sure your office is set up for such an experience.

  1. Update efficiency within the department

It’s the inefficient processes that will result in wasted labor and lost revenue that could have gone towards your blog. Your content creation team can improve efficiency in several ways. First of all, create an editorial calendar that shows which blog posts are to be published and when.

Using project management software, cloud content platforms, and other types of free or affordable software will have your teams working faster and better. Discuss regular ways that you can make content creation more efficient in order to optimize your budget.

6 Reasons Why Outsourcing Hurts For You And How To Get It Right

6 Reasons Why Outsourcing Hurts For You And How To Get It Right

Everybody tells you. Don’t do everything. Outsource it. Get someone to help you. Focus on what you do best. They are right! But every time you try, you end up with:

  • A design that is completely different than what you imagined.
  • A project that seem to require more money at every turn.
  • Someone who disappears.

Sound familiar? There are some rotten workers out there for sure. I’ve hired freelancers since 2006. I have experienced every one of those and more. It is not easy to admit but these are the lessons I have learned.

Reason 1: Not Defining Scope

According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, scope is the extent of activity. It’s the range of operation. Some jobs are easy.

With other jobs like building an e-commerce store, the scope can be a little fuzzy. You might have heard people complain about their designer trying to nickel and dime them.

That does happen. But when I talk to people, usually the problem comes right down to the absence of scope.

Let’s take the example of building an e-commerce store. Like a builder, the designer can build you a lavish home, or a small cozy cottage.

Let’s say you ask them to build a cottage. Throughout the process, you make additions and changes. With each change, the builder needs extra time, more labor, or different materials. He may even have to knock down a wall and rebuild to accommodate your changes. Your builder bid on your contract based on a much different house. It’s unreasonable to expect them to absorb the difference.

The same happens when building an e-commerce store, or any project. What you should do is take the time to write down how you envision the store to be like, and what features you want it to have. Then communicate this in simple language. I find bullet points help a lot.

If you have seen this at another store before, give them the URL to that store. Create videos and take screenshots what these look like.

Once both have reviewed and agreed upon the project details. Let them build it. Don’t go changing things around. It’s OK to make small modifications to language, colors and maybe even layout. But within reason.

You can ask for milestone check-ins so you can take a peek at 20%, 40% completion and so on. Just be realistic. Don’t lose your head if you don’t see something at 20% when it’s scheduled for 80% completion. In the early stages, what you are looking for is whether you are headed in the right direction.

Reason 2: Unrealistic Expectations

Here’s a complaint I heard recently. Someone wants an image created for a blog post. She wanted a cat, wearing a vest and a purple hat jumping up and a text she provides on it. What she got was a stock photo of a jumping cat with her text on it.

Granted, the designer could have warned her an image so specific would be hard to find. He could also have told her they use stock photography, but he’ll try to find one as close as possible.

On the other hand, it’s Fiverr. You cannot expect custom photography for $5. Not even $20. At those rates, you can’t expect people to spend countless hours to find the picture either.

What the buyer expected for $5 or $20 was a job that easily costs 1000 times more. That’s unreal and not fair. What should you do instead? Find a professional photography and pay them their asking price to get the exact shot you want.

Or, relax your expectations. A lot. Chances are, the vest and purple hat have no impact on your sales. Go after the things that do. If the image looks nice enough and isn’t offensive, run with it. Don’t sweat the small stuff.

Reason 3: Unreasonable Deadlines

On the heels of unreasonable expectations is crazy deadlines. First, telling your hire you wanted that yesterday will not motivate them to work faster. It only breeds resentment. Also remember, outsourced hires are not your employees. They can decline your job.

Short deadlines are sometimes inevitable. Things crop up and in some industries like website recovery, short deadlines are a norm. Most service providers have a rush fee add-on. If something is urgent, pay them for it. If you can’t afford that, extend the time.

What happens when you are always working with short deadlines? Then what you have, is a project management problem. Tackle that first. Then, work on outsourcing.

Reason 4: You Are A Poor Paymaster

This shouldn’t even be on the list. But it is because too many clients do not pay their hires, let alone pay on time.

If you worked for someone and they never paid you on time, would you continue working for them? I think not.

Oh and don’t haggle after the fact either. When a project is finished, pay them the agreed upon fee. Nit picking on a small pixel out of place, or asking for a discount because of something insignificant reflects poorly on you.

Besides, outsourcers talk amongst themselves. Word gets around. Good people don’t work for poor paymasters. If the only people you seem to be able to hire are mediocre people, maybe it’s because you don’t pay, or pay on time.

Reason 5: You Are Not Consistent

Do you run out to find a new graphic artist every time you need a new image? Or do you have an artist who has worked for you for years and gets every graphic task you need?

If you get someone new for every job and every task. This hurts you. Getting people up to speed on your business is a costly affair.

A regular hire already knows your business. They know your likes and dislikes. They know your habits, your workflow, your outlook. Because of this, they actually become faster and more accurate and over time, cost you less.

What you should do is find the one who works well with you. If possible, they should also enjoy working for you. Once you do, keep them busy.

Reason 6: Poor Leadership Skills

At the end of the day, outsourcing is a lot about leadership than you think. Too many entrepreneurs come into the picture with the posture of a “boss”. I sit here above, giving all the directions, you do the work.

Whether you say it or not, this kind of attitude comes through. Even online where nobody sees you. It comes across in the tone of your emails, and the deadlines you give. It comes across when you hover over projects, and when you negotiate every hour they clock.

Learn to be a good leader. Give praise and recognition where due. Thank them. Again and again. Never underestimate the power or that. Be humble. Learn to be thankful for their service and not pay lip service. Your hires know when you are not genuine.

You need them as much as they need you. Sure you can always hire someone new but remember reason #5 above. Getting people on board is costly. If you are at all concerned about your bottom line – and you should be – keep new hires to a minimum.

Finally, just because you don’t hire the right person the first few times is no reason to stop. It can take a while to find the perfect fit. Don’t be afraid to let people go if they aren’t, and do it fast, but keep looking.

How To Engage In Content Marketing Like the Big Boys Do

Here’s a terrific opportunity to educate your customers in a big way and at the same time show your expertise. Write an eBook on your specialty. This doesn’t have to be the size of a novel, it just has to be rich enough to cover what’s important for them to know. It gives you the opportunity to put any myths to bed as well. If a customer takes your eBook, you then have their undivided attention. They are actively seeking the information you are providing. Ebooks are great because not only are they typically a quick read, you also have the ability to put live links in place to bring in other resources for them to enjoy. Maybe send them to your website for more information.

If you move into eBooks you are actively participating in content marketing. This type of marketing is hugely influential online right now. Content marketing is massively desirable to the search engines. Ebooks are fresh valuable content. You can use it in so many ways. If you’re trying to grow your list, you can use it as an email harvester. Offer it to customers who give up their email to possess it. You can use it to influence the way people view you. It shows your authenticity. I try at every turn to show customers what I know and how it can help them.

Once you write one eBook, I can assure you, you’ll write more. There’s a large payoff, when people care about what you say. We all have an audience, most of us are unaware. Take the benefit of a doubt and try one small eBook. Email it to all your existing customers. I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised by the outcome. It will show your thought leadership. They will appreciate the education. Many I’m betting assume what you do or at the very least under estimate the full extent of your services. Consider an eBook for each service. Develop it into a series.

If you also do public speaking having an eBook, to draw attention to, gives your listening audience a reason to visit your website. Direct them to a landing page where they can get your latest eBook for FREE. On the front end make it look like the cover of a book. The graphic and message should resonate with whom your speaking. If you get enough ebooks together over time, you could put them all together and do a hardcopy book. I call my book of tips – “101 Branding Tips.” I refer to it as my 114 page brochure. ( it’s unconventional but is always well received. As content marketing suggests, it’s all about valuable information that customers are looking for. It all follows the mantra of give before you get. NEVER use this platform to sell directly. As you write your content, try your best to not write an ad. It’s tempting, but i suggest you resist the urge. Once you first experience the reaction to authoring content, it’s value will be apparent. 

4 Digital Marketing Mistakes That Shouldn’t Be Carried Into 2016

4 Digital Marketing Mistakes That Shouldn’t Be Carried Into 2016

Any time you approach the end of a calendar year it is a good time to spot if you have made any of the 4 Digital Marketing Mistakes. It is important to reflect and project your progress. In terms of reflecting, you should look at your business and consider everything that’s happened over the past year – good and bad. This will ultimately feed your ability to project. There will be things you want to bring to an end, as well as profitable aspects of your business that are worth continuing.  

As a digital marketer, it’s imperative that you’re able to honestly reflect on the past year. There should be no sugar coating or overlooking different aspects of success or failure. If you want to improve upon this year and make 2016 your most successful year in recent history, then it’s time to identify and do away with the following 4 digital  marketing mistakes that far too many brands made this year.

  •   Having the Wrong Definition of Digital Marketing

Simply put, it’s amazing how many self-proclaimed digital marketers don’t actually understand the full definition of digital marketing. Unbeknownst to many, there’s a distinction between internet marketing and digital marketing. Internet marketing is a component of digital marketing, but these terms are not interchangeable.

As successful entrepreneur Neil Patel says, “Digital marketing is any form of marketing products or services, which involves electronic devices.” While the growth of the IoT means most modern electronic devices are either directly or indirectly connected to the internet, this isn’t always true. Digital billboards, radio, and TV are all examples of digital marketing mediums that operate independently of the internet.

Keep this in mind as you move into 2016 and don’t be afraid to broaden your horizons beyond your current internet tactics. There’s nothing wrong with sticking to internet marketing, but learn to use the correct term moving forward.

  •   Ignoring the Growth of Mobile

In May of this year, it was announced for the first time ever that “more Google searches take place on mobile devices than on computers in 10 countries including the US and Japan.” We’ve seen this trend unfolding for years, but it’s now official. That means you can no longer ignore mobile in lieu of desktop.

Mobile should be the priority in 2016. From web design and paid advertising to content marketing and social, optimizing for mobile is incredibly important moving forward.

  •   Not Tracking Your Efforts

A handful of years ago, nobody could fault you for failing to track your digital marketing efforts. There simply weren’t very many tools and resources available to accurately monitor internet marketing campaigns in a cost-effective way. However, those days are long gone.  

In 2016, you’ll have access to hundreds of different budget-friendly tools that can help you achieve clarity and visibility in real-time. From predictive analytics tools to social listening resources, there’s a technology for every need.

  •   Failing to Invest in Video

For someone who’s never invested in video, the process can seem intimidating and expensive. However, now’s the time to jump on board. Just scroll through your Facebook newsfeed or head over to YouTube and you’ll see just how prominent video is in today’s internet marketing mix.

Currently, online video accounts for 50 percent of all mobile traffic. That number is expected to grow in the coming months. By 2017, 69 percent of all consumer internet traffic will be video. While you shouldn’t invest in an all-video strategy, it needs to play a role in your digital marketing efforts moving forward.

  • Eliminate These 4 Digital Marketing Mistakes Now

As you can see, there’s much room for improvement in the digital marketing industry. While you may not be making all of these mistakes, you’re probably making at least one. By eliminating these faults and correcting them before your enter the new year, you can enhance your efforts and incite growth.

How Joint Ventures Exponentially Grows Your Business and Where To Begin

Business rivalry. That’s to expected isn’t it? Dog eat dog. Each trying to out-do the other. In today’s fast changing, and ever competitive marketplaces, is that still viable?

How Joint Ventures Exponentially Grows Your Business and Where To BeginTo a certain extent, maybe. Still, more and more small businesses now understand that co-operation is more profitable. To understand why, let’s establish what Joint Ventures (JV) mean.

It’s two businesses working on a project together. This can be a short term project such as a promotion lasting anything from a day, a week, to months. Sometimes it can be a long term agreement.

The two aren’t usually direct competitors. Rather, they offer complimentary products and services to the same audience. Having said, that, there are opportunities where direct competitors could work together. These work better when they each offer extra products the other doesn’t.

By working together, you gain access to the other party’s audience, and they to yours. It’s a great way to expand a business’s reach. To top that off, you are both able to offer more to your audiences than before.

Other benefits of forming a JV are:

  • Ability to enter a fresh market
  • A chance to grow your business that you alone would take longer to do
  • An opportunity to garner new skills, through negotiation
  • A chance to share resources, and reduce costs for the same or bigger impact
  • An opportunity to borrow the goodwill of a bigger, stronger partner

Though there’s plenty of good reasons, be careful not to jump on the the first one that comes along, or ask anyone. First, consider business owners whom you already have a healthy relationship with.

Before approaching them, take time to assess their business. What are their goals? What kind of resources do they have? What resources can you offer them? How can you help them grow and move in the direction they are heading? Ask yourself the same thing about them. It has to make sense for both.

Once you’ve done your homework and are sure of the people you want to work with, it’s time to pitch it. You can do this informally, if you are close to them. A written proposal is also good if you want to have things documented. Whatever the approach, if your pitch has been effective, you’ll both be eager to proceed. Move fast to create the an agreement.

In your agreement, take the following into consideration:

  • Spell out the goals of the JV
  • Document what resources each side will commit to the effort
  • State how long the JV will last
  • State who, if anyone, is in control and how decisions should be made
  • Define what each party will be responsible for
  • Explain each partner’s accountability
  • Lay out expectations of the JV
  • Explain how will you measure the results
  • Describe how disagreements should be handled, if any

It is also vital to determine an exit strategy. It is not uncommon to have a partnership deteriorate. This happens for a multitude of reasons. By defining an exit strategy early, you both know ahead of time what to expect. This also avoids a messy “break up” that could impact on both parties’ market reputation.

If the project is designed to run for a long time, consider chunking it. This means making the first agreement shorter, and extendable with results are positive both.

Last but not least, protect your intellectual property. When you join forces, you both bring parts of it to the table. You need to make sure you don’t lose what you came in with. Getting legal counsel in any such venture is a wise step.

Having entered into several JV’s, I’ve experience first hand, the importance of communication. Be honest. By this I don’t just mean be truthful. That’s a given and should underline everything you do. What I mean is, be straightforward. Be clear about your roles and document things.

Don’t assume consent. Even for what you consider a small decision, err on the side of caution. Ask your partner to give their thoughts. You want to be above board for every move.

After completing one joint venture successfully, you will be better prepared for the next. Perhaps the next one, would be bigger and better.

Why Branding and Sales Promotion are Not Interchangeable

In the world of promotion, branding has been called anything from a logo, to putting a logo on things, to a general image. If I may be so humble to speak for those those of us who specialize in branding, a brand could replace the word “reputation.” How a customer perceives you, your town , your product, experience, or organization etc. is your brand.

Most marketing people I come into contact with simply don’t get it and arrogantly think that sales promotion is 100% of what branding encompasses. Now, granted the end game in branding is to bring more dollars into the organization, BUT that isn’t soley achieved through sales promotion.

Branding done properly with a skilled facilitator looks at all aspects of your brand to see that all elements are pulling in the same direction. All of this is strategic thinking and much of it exists outside the sales and promotion circles. HR plays a role, business management culture plays a role, even people associated with the organization such as the custodian can affect the brand for good or bad. My opinion here on this blog post affects my brand, depending on my audience’s response to it.

Once you learn to embrace your brand and define it, only then will you appreciate the value it holds in making your entire business a success on multiple levels including but not limited to sales promotion.Why Branding and Sales Promotion are Not Interchangeable-061115

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