Wrapping up 2020: You May Say I’m a Dreamer, But I’m Not the Only One
If you follow my blog, you’ll probably see I love to weave in my favorite song titles and lines and sprinkle my writing with funny personal tales of my daily work and personal life to guide women through business and messaging strategy.
Can we dig deeper today?
In January of this year, I went against my personal grain and did two things. I made a vision board and picked a word of the year. You might wonder why this was outside my norm. Well, I never liked the concept of vision boards I had heard in the past- basically, put a bunch of visuals on a board you want to come true, and if you visualize it enough, it will come to pass in the year. As a doer, a hard worker, and a visionary at heart, I know it takes more than a wish and visualization. It takes commitment, drive, and personal accountability to see a vision birth. My sister, an amazing creative, gave a workshop to create vision boards, and the way she presented combined the pragmatism I needed with the dream. They can go together!
Now let’s talk about the pick a word thing, well, it seemed trendy and cliche. I am not trendy nor cliche. In fact, I rather fight falling in line with trends- most of the time that’s a good thing but not all of the time. This year, I didn’t go about the task of trying to do this seemingly trendy thing of sitting for some days and thinking hard for a word to pop into my brain and guide my year. The word came to me. I am a person of faith, and I remember the day I was sitting in deep thought over the direction of my business. I have many of these kind of days, but on this particular one, I was dreaming of all the big things I wanted to see happen- launch a course, start a membership group, and other big pursuits, and I heard God say, “Those things are not for this year. This year is about FOUNDATION.”
I’m a mover and shaker, and laying a flipping foundation just sounded boring and worse of all it sounded slow and very unexciting. Trust me, I tried to shove that word out of my mind as quickly as I could. Surely, if I was going to do this word thing and give myself to it, shouldn’t the word make me jump up and down?
As I’ve matured in my personal and business life, one thing I’ve learned to do is listen. When God speaks, I know the sound and the feel, and I know that the more I try to hush Him, the louder He speaks. So, I decided to embrace the word. My word was foundation. I was not to build the course, not to make the membership group, not to do any of the zippy and zingy ideas…not for this year. I was to establish a foundation.
Honestly, I didn’t even know what that was going to mean for me. As someone who is a strategist and who has strategy as her top Gallup strength, I went the way that made sense for me and contemplated what the goals would look like. In true word nerd fashion, I found a book I felt could match my most lack-luster word and started reading The Big Stretch by Teneshia Jackson Warner. It is a great read by the way with step by step guides to make big stretches over time in business.
February, I led a women’s business retreat which had been on my heart to put together since summer of the year prior, and what an amazing time I had with each woman there developing ideas, strategy, and encouraging one another. Two weeks later- COVID-19. The ‘vid showed up and I thought, “How am I supposed to build a foundation during a hurricane?”
Do you remember the scene in the Wizard of Oz where Dorothy’s house suddenly stopped spinning and landed? Whens she opened the door, and the movie continued in vibrant color. March and April, I was in the tornado of COVID and of personal circumstances. I was shifting, pivoting, and dodging all kinds of flying projectiles, but when my metaphorical house landed and I opened the door, the world was full of color, of hope, and of promise.
Back to that vision board, the word, and the goals I wrote in that book to strategically support the two, I changed something I originally wrote while I was still wrestling with “foundation.” I had written “launch a digital course.” After making peace with my word, I wrote, “create 20 new strong relationships.” Always being relational, at first this seemed dumb to quantify, but it was the most brilliant strategy shift I made for myself.
I began writing daily, blogging weekly, reaching out and virtual meeting other minds who resonated with mine in passion and in drive, and building my foundation. I stopped obsessing over the course and the course I was going to invest in to do the course creation correctly. I shifted from a focus on product to strengthening my process. I started taking a mad number of online courses and workshops to further my mastery of copywriting and brand messaging. Sitting at the beginning of Q4, not only do I feel more knowledgeable to serve the business community with my copywriting and messaging services, but I stand with more than 20 new strong relationships and have seen referral grow as a natural byproduct of laying a firm ground floor, and I have seen more business grow over this hairy year than I could have ever dreamed.
Where do you need to reinforce your processes, so when you do pursue the product, you are unstoppably equipped?
Making stuff happen is exciting. Watching a flower grow is not, but when the flower blooms something beautiful and fragrant, you are thankful you watered the soil and fertilized it, and did all the other unexciting tasks to cultivate a thing of beauty.
Hold onto your dream in this season, but more than that, dress it by engaging the processes, habits, and skills you need to ensure it blooms in its due season. I don’t know what next year’s word will be, but I do know building a foundation was so worth the work and worth the wait. Don’t give up because the dream takes time. Let your dream and the One who made the dream take your hand down an unforgettable journey.
Remember, circumstance does not determine outcomes. 2020 doesn’t have that much power girlfriend.
If you identified the title of this blog as a Smiths’ song, I’m impressed. Hang out a bit and learn how to generate blog ideas for days!
You sit down to write a blog, and you get stuck. The end.
Does that sound familiar? Maybe you don’t even get to the sit down part, because while you know a blog will help your SEO, connect to your clients, offer value, give you great content pillars for social media, blah, blah, blah, you’re gripped with anxiety over how to even get started.
I want you to tell yourself this (make sure you say it out loud!), “I have years of writing within me on at least a thousand topics, simply because I’ve lived life.” If you woke up yesterday and walked through your day working and living, you have a story to tell today.
Release your imagination. Everything you write on your business site blog doesn’t have to directly relate to what you do or sell. You can connect humor, relatability, and shared brand values through your blog. Every life experience you’ve had has created what you are what you do today. Your business has directly birthed from everything you are not just what you sell.
Here are 7 easy ways to get your blog writing juices flowing that will work for anyone across any industry. Grab your prettiest notebook and favorite pen (that’s step one to creative brainstorming) and let’s walk through how to use your story to light a lamp in your mind that doesn’t have a chance to burn out, because every new experience will give you more ideas to blog.
Go back through your business page’s social media posts. Which ones were popular? Build longer form content around the topics of those posts.
Think about your clients’ pain points and list them. Each is at least one blog idea!
Get with another friend in business and brainstorm for one another a list of topics or questions you each of you are interested to know for the other. Sometimes, we are too close to our own businesses that we fail to understand what others don’t inherently “get” about what we do. Remember, you’re the expert!
Think of all the “how tos” in your field. Readers love bulleted lists and step by steps!
Talk about an opinion related to your industry. I really want to know what YOU think about your field! If you are a designer, talk about color trends that you think are fading and not worth following. If you are a hair stylist, tell me what people are doing in the name of hair fashion that you feel is harming their locks. Are you in finance? Tell me some opinions on apps, software, or money topics. Opinions make you memorable and make for great blog topics.
Look at your competition’s website and blog (if they have one). After reviewing their content, what are they not talking about? Therein lies an edge for you to inform your audience what no one else is!
I was going to end at 6, but I like 7s better…You probably follow other big names in your industry through social media or email. If you are not following people who are living the dream in the field you’re in, well you should for many reasons! By studying businesses who do what you do with excellence and success AND who have larger audiences, you can get a pulse on what people want to know more about. Listen to industry trendsetters, as what they are saying is being consumed by many. After consuming their info, their followers are going to search online for more info on those topics. Keep lists of ideas you think about from observing leaders in your field and put some feet to those ideas in your own blog post.
Every time you post something online, you have a choice. You can either make it something that adds happiness to the world or you can make it something that takes away. -Zoe Sugg, Vlogger
Go make sunshine. Don’t be afraid to take a stab at writing. Let your mind go, let go of perfection, and allow the pen to do its thing. Remember, you are interesting and people want to have their lives enriched by you.
If you write a blog inspired by this blog, let me know! Happy blogging!
When you started your business, I’m sure you couldn’t wait to share what you sell and could only think of trading what you do or sell for some profit. You love what you do, and you were sure others would too.
Open a cute shop and they will come. Make something pretty and it will sell. Have an amazing service and people will see how much their lives have been lacking without it.
Then it got a little complicated.
You like hats as a fashion accessory, but probably never realized you’d be wearing so many simultaneously. Then there were all the decisions, and they all involved money which as a start-up or scaling business is something you don’t want to waste, so you keep putting on more hats. The problem is before you know it, you’re doing more of what you never intended to do and less of what makes you set out to do to make mulah.
Here is a good question to ask yourself.What are you willing to invest time and money in to learn to do AND feel you could learn with good proficiency, or what will cost you more in time to learn and maybe every just do mediocre or consume tons of time and should be outsourced?
In the beginning of my entrepreneurial journey, I was certain that I could figure it all out. I could be all the things I needed to be or learn all the roles to play the parts of web designer, bookkeeper, public relations specialist, and office manager among other things. In 2006, social media for business was not even a thing, and I was still overwhelmed.
Part of what I was hanging onto was control. I had birthed this business baby, and no one could take care of it like mama could. Butttt….
Time is money. You pay for what you get.
If I had the money back that I lost in the time and mistakes I made in trying to do everything myself or in outsourcing cheaply, well, let’s just say, I’d have more money in the bank and might have saved myself a few pounds caused by stress eating.
Friend, make a latte and a list.
This week, settle onto your comfiest chair with your laptop or paper and pen. I want to challenge you to think about all the hats you are wearing and list them. Then I want you do decide if you wear that hat well at all or could learn to wear that hat well and are willing to invest into growing in that area. Here are some areas to assess:
Photography– In a media-heavy business world, having good quality pictures of you, your products, and services will help you shine over your competition in visual appeal. There are great stock photos on apps like Canva (I recommend paying the monthly subscription for the pro edition to unlock thousands of great pictures), but having even a small catalog of quality, branded photos can make people stop scrolling or really polish up your website. Consider investing in a branding photography session with a photographer who specializes in brand photography and who can capture the essence of your brand’s heart and story. A couple headshots (because I love you, pretty please take down the selfie profile headshot) and 10 styled shots can make a huge difference in how your business presents. Some photographers will also coach you in how to take better pictures with your phone for ongoing filler pictures.
Copy and Messaging– Did you ever date a guy with a gorgeous face you could stare at all day, but then find you couldn’t connect deeper and so his pretty face had to go? Hang with my analogy sister 🙂 Your visuals (pictures, website design, and logo) may attract a potential customer, but if she can’t get deeper by developing quick and strong chemistry with your brand by understanding your messaging and wanting to be part of your brand story, she’s going to move onto a deeper connection. A great looking website and beautiful social media feed comes to life through the words that breathe life into the pages and posts. A copywriter (like yours truly) can offer a variety of services from done with you consult on your brand story, general messaging, blogging strategies, social content ideas or done for you services. Invest in getting really clear about how you show up and what you say to people. A clear mind will say yes to what you can offer them 🙂
Bookkeeping/Accounting– I’m going to keep this one short and sweet. Your money. Maximize it and allow a pro to guide you. There are many options here from monthly to quarterly to annual services to help you know exactly where your money is going and what is coming in and stay in compliance with state and federal regulations. Not to mention, depending on the type of business, accounting can take a lot of time.
Website and logo design– It’s tempting to go with cheap on a website and logo, but you will probably end up unhappy and spending the money again to redesign and pull these vital brand components together. I promise you you can find affordable quality, but you should have a realistic expectation of associated costs and put those into your start-up plan. For a website, you can buy some beautiful and easy to build out templates or hire a web designer to get your site built out on a platform you can easily tweak and build out new pages by copying already designed pages. My site is on wordpress. I started my own build on WordPress with a Divi overlay while taking a web design class at a local community college (I quickly learned I was not built for the patience I needed for WordPress), got through as much as I could and then handed my page over to a local web designer for cleanup, formatting, and organization. After she did the first 4 pages or so, I could duplicate pages and found it fairly simple to tackle. With regard to logos, if all you need is something simple, there are templates you can purchase or you may have some luck on a site like fiverr.com. Just be sure to make sure if you go a route like a template or fiverr design, that you get a vector file, so you may change the size of your file without sacrificing quality.
Any other time suckers– It depends on your business, but you may wish to outsource/hire out scheduling, email, social media (get your messaging together first to convey to the person doing your social media and email marketing), payroll, and housekeeping (for office or home). If you can be making more money per hour doing what you do than any of these tasks, take the hat off and give it away!
So there you go! I’m a huge believer in start-slim businesses and minimizing risk. Start-slim means you spend where you must and wait to reap profit before investing in other areas. Figure out what you are willing to invest this year for quality and efficiency, and I hope my picks of where to put your money brings some happy thoughts and lightness to your next steps by pulling off some of the hats 🙂
Anyone who knows me well, knows I’m an over-the-top John Mayer fan, so he gets a blog title in honor of one of his great songs.
I have seen him three times in concert. He inspired the name of my cat, Olivia (check out his song “Something Like Olivia”). Seeing him sing and strum his guitar motivated me to buy my own electric guitar. It’s a thing of beauty from a small guitar company in Miami. It’s made of wood and is the most gorgeous teal. Back to Mayer, I own a couple concert T-shirts, and I’m quite convinced if I could find John Mayer underwear and pajamas, I’d add them to my collection. If you ever need to send me a gift, now you know.
This is a way different love affair than the one I had with Jordan Knight of New Kids on the Block, although I was crushing really hard a few years ago when I saw them in concert for the second time. I’ll tell you why I choose John all day over Jordan.
Words. Lyrics. Poetry. And oh, how that guitar sings those words.
So now I have to share something with you I’m a little embarrassed of. Normally, by brain is brimming with ideas for content. I am a writer after all, so I generally have 25 ideas that didn’t make it to paper for the one that did.
Last week. Fumes. Nada. Can I tell you how frustrating that was for me? I posted 3 days instead of my usual 4-5. I had gotten behind the couple weeks before on writing jobs and got out of my normal weekly planning routine. Sure I could have posted something, but no idea was hopping, so three posts it was.
I know you feel my pain, because some of you have told me how you are trying to post to your social every day (like “they” say we should do), or show up twice a day, but you’re struggling to find ideas, so you post something funny or share an idea your friend posted on her business page.
You made it a point to show up to the content party, but did your content enter dressed to the hilt?
Like your content would make other’s people’s content hang onto their men just a little tighter, as you enter the room.
You don’t write because you want to say something. you write because you have something to say.
F. Scott Fitzgerald
Hold your cosmo and lean in. Listen to Mr. Mayer and Mr. Fitzgerald. Say what you NEED to say. Write when you have something to say. The point is not to just show up the party. You have to deliver at the content party. Consistency with content that takes their breath away is key. If you skip a couple days until you find inspiration, your true following will not vanish. Believe me.
If you can only come up with filler and fluff, like a little black dress, it’s standby party wear. It’ll do, but it won’t get you seen like the royal blue off the shoulder number. In fact, it could just get you overlooked. If you’re going to go to the content party, and you are going to put in the effort to show up, you may as well get some attention for your efforts.
Grab your mimosa and let me give you three ways to give your content ideas a nice spark.
Remember that some of the best content comes from stories. A story doesn’t have to be loooong or have to do with your childhood. You are creating story every, single, day. Look at the last 100 photos in your phone’s gallery. Find 5 of them you can tie to your business happenings, values, mission, or vision.
Grab a book but not just any book. I’m giving away a big secret here. Go to Target. Enter the calendar, planner, and journals aisle. Buy a journal that has daily prompts. There you will find 365 days of engagement content questions you can tweak for your audiences. My favorite one right now is A 5 Year Question A Day Memory Journal. I also love quotes for inspiration, and people love to like and share a good quote. Quotes are usually the framework of my weekly content, whether they are my own or something amazing that speaks to me to share. Another great book for content inspiration is Beautifully Said- Quotes by Remarkable Women and Girls Designed to Make You Think.
Use the heck out of Pinterest. I look up terms related to my business such as “writing tips for businesses” or “small business strategy” to find inspiration. You could query the same terms in Google, but with Pinterest you will get the added bonus of visual inspiration too. Think about your field and look up tips or questions people have related to your industry.
Ok, I know I said three, but you are going to get a bonus. Write down the top 10 questions your clients ask you, and each of those are super to show up to your content party, because they are exactly what your clients have invited!
I’m hoping Monday is not a state of ugh or dread for you. Yes, yesterday was fun when I spent the afternoon at the beach with my sister, but Monday has actually become one of my favorite days.
No, I’m not crazy. I’ll tell you why, and it ties into something I want to talk to you about- checking your optimism.
Here’s what Monday does for me. It’s the day that sets the tone for the rest of the week. I give Monday my best. I play hard on the weekends to recharge my mind and spirit. Aside from setting up my social media on Sunday mornings, my weekends are all mine to do all the things that fill my cup- spend time with family, cook some good meals, enjoy a little wine, put my nose in a book, and attend church online.
Monday deserves the best of me. My business deserves the most optimistic me. By resting well, I supercharge cheerfully into my week. I carve time Monday mornings to blast out lots of email business, set my schedule for the rest of the week, ensure I’ve blocked time for all the must-do things professionally and personally, and confirm appointments. I will put gas in my car today, so I don’t have to worry about that when I’m running out the door for an appointment a couple days from now. I even loosely plan out my wardrobe and make sure my clothes are laundered and ready to wear. All the little things take ease up the rest of the week and allow my general mentality to stay lighter and happier.
Something will happen this week that has the capacity to get me off-kilter. It’s inevitable. It’s going to happen to you, too, so don’t be surprised by it. It’s life, and it’s the life we’ve chosen as business women- a professional life of lots of moves and shifts. Something will get off-my schedule, a challenge will rear up unexpectedly, or a flat tire. Something might even make me cry in frustration this week. Here’s the big BUT though. If I start my week positively, grounded, and rested, I will be able to get through whatever comes my way without it threatening to derail my whole week and worse of all my whole mood. You see, when you permit circumstances which are bound to happen to throw off your optimism, you are going to lose in business- motivation, momentum, passion, and ultimately these all tie to your ability to earn money. Moody, pessimistic, slow-to-move people are not making money.
When you set yourself up to give Monday a big hug and start it standing on two feet strong and ready, it will love you back by setting you up for a great week ahead. Your energy and optimism will carry you through the week. You’ll recover setbacks quickly. You’ll pivot smoothly and keep clear view of your short and long term goals.
What do you need to do to make Monday one of your favorite days? How can you maybe shift your weekend and Monday routine to give you an injection of optimism to boost your week and move you to lots of wins?
Give it some thought and share your thoughts with me! I’d love to hear from you!
If I can help you form some mood-changing and money making habits, reach out! I’m here to help you set up for success!
Up until mid-March, like me, you probably had a couple weekly networking groups on your calendar each week. Chamber groups. Local business owner groups. Women’s groups. You were dedicated to the communities you linked arms with to further the impact of overall business community.
Or perhaps, networking has felt daunting. Maybe you’re a newer business owner who has been watching the business community from the sidelines. You were about to dip your toes in the networking water when “the ‘rona” threw its hat in the game or wrench in the plans.
Good news. Whether you were well drenched or a toe dipper in networking, the playing field has been leveled for all of us, as we’re all adapting to the new virtual ways of doing networking. There’s no better time than now to dive in, because it’s kind of weird for us all!
I run a women’s networking group in the Tampa Bay area called Hearts and Heels. Prior to COVID-19, we had one big meeting each month to connect on a workshop topic and socialize over dinner. We maintain a very active online group. I love the face to face time we schedule each month and the side meetings that happen between the members. When I realized meeting in person was going to be a no-go for a while, I admit…I freaked out.
I knew I could go to an online model, but I myself did not particularly like the few online meetings I had done to that point. Between March to now, however, I’ve (and maybe you’ve) done probably hundreds of online meetings. Practice makes perfect, right?
I am convinced there are some ways we can all make the experience of online networking more comfortable. Here’s some tips to help you not feel like a fish out of water but like your online networking time is valuable to your business AND that you are contributing to the meetings. Let’s face it. Online networking isn’t going anywhere, even if the current world health situation was to disappear tomorrow.
Get a 60 second commercial together. It’s going to happen. It’s going to be your turn to introduce yourself and give your 60 second elevator pitch. Write it down. There is no shame in reading off a cue card to make sure you use this 60 seconds as effectively as possible. BTW, I’ll go live this week on my FB page http://www.facebook.com/genevamaresma to talk about exactly how to do this!
Before the meeting, create some personal goals. Perhaps you’d like to identify one or two people with whom to have a virtual coffee. Maybe you’d like to learn something specific from a workshop being given. Your goal, if you’re new to networking, may be to simply attend a group and get more comfortable with networking in general.
Recognize that the true reward to you is in the follow-up and post-meeting connections. If you attend one or 100 networking meetings and never extend your efforts beyond the meeting itself, you’ll probably be in the camp that says, “Networking meetings didn’t work for me.” Networking is THE single most powerful form of marketing you can do for your business. Hands down. My entire first business was successfully built on word of mouth.
Remember, networking is not a one and done, and many people unfortunately look at it this way. They will state, I didn’t make a sale. No one was interested in buying my products or services. That’s the wrong perspective. Networking groups are to create referral connections. Connections take time to build. No one will refer you until they know, like, and trust you. If you join a group, commit to it for a time and shift your focus to how you can pour into it and how you can give to the community over take from it. You will gain from it eventually, but you are going to have to authentically give to get.
So set a networking goal this week. Embrace virtual networking, because it’s here to stay! Be brave and try a group if you haven’t. If you’d like to join my group (for women in business), let me know, and I’d be happy to introduce you into it and I promise it’s fun and friendly!