In case the title didn’t give it away, today is Mint’s anniversary of another year around the sun!
If you’ve ever had the pleasure of meeting Sara virtually or in real life, which we finallllly did this past year (yes, there’s video documentation), you’d know she’s one of the biggest cheerleaders, best mentors, and top advocates a solopreneur could have.
She’s also one of the best business partners/ co-head honchos that One Woman Shop could have, and it’s clear to see by the love our community has for her.
Cheers to having your best year yet filled with all the popcorn and word nerdery you can handle!
Happy birthday, Mint! May your year be full of big magic.
Maybe you’re expanding your own business and are ready to start building a team of bloggers. Maybe you’re looking to fill up your guest posting roster. Or maybe you’re managing a project for a client and they’ve decided that they want some blog posts — only you’re not really a great writer.
Whatever the reason, you need to find great bloggers to get on board, like, yesterday.
But where do you find them? What do you say? And how do you avoid getting inundated with a bunch of applications from people who don’t know their Oxford comma from their elbow?
Deep breaths — let’s break this down.
When it comes time to find great bloggers to work with you, you’ve got three approachable options: referrals, social media posts, and direct email pitches. But no matter which route you’re taking, you’re going to need to do a few things first:
1. Know exactly what you’re looking for.
If you’re not clear about the logistics of what you want people to do for you, there’s no way you can communicate that in your ask. So make sure you write down exactly what you’re looking for, whether that’s a one-off blog post for a client with a deadline of five business days, an ongoing series of guest posts of 500-1,000 words on XYZ topics, or a working relationship with a team of bloggers that you can contract work to, ad hoc.
2. Create a hiring page that includes tests.
Once you’ve figured out the details you want to share about the job right out of the gate, create a hiring page to direct people to. You don’t have to include every single detail about the job — for instance, you might want to keep information about rates back until you talk with people directly if you’re hiring, or you might be willing to negotiate deadlines for guest posts on an ongoing basis — but do include any dealbreaker-level things.
Also, make sure that you build in a couple of tests on your hiring page to help you filter out the people you really don’t want working with you. This is going to vary depending on the specifics of the job, but as an example, if you really need someone to be detail-oriented, then put out a list of things you want them to send you, from their social media handles to their rates to the answer to a specific question. It may sound arbitrary, but if someone can’t be bothered to get the details right when they’re pitching to you, they’re damn sure not going to bother when they’re working for you. (Here’s an example of what this can look like in real life.)
3. Think about what the next steps are, and do what you need to do to make that work.
Finally, make sure you’ve figured out a structure to manage what happens after you start getting applications, because these can spiral like you wouldn’t believe. The best way to figure out what this should be is to walk through the process in your mind step by step, thinking about what you’ll need at each point in the process.
A couple of things to think about include: scheduling links for follow-up calls or interviews, a spreadsheet or project management software to keep track of progress and deadlines, accounting software and legal agreements if you’re paying people, working guides or onboarding guides so people know what’s expected of them, information about your email hours, and of course, a backup plan in case you end up working with someone who really screws up and you have to salvage the project.
If nothing else, I recommend setting up a spreadsheet to keep track of who’s applied, whether they meet your criteria or not, any notes you have about them, and a record of your correspondence with them.
Now let’s talk specifically about how to put out the ISO (in search of) call for referrals, social media posts, and direct email pitches.
Tactic #1: Referrals
Always ask for referrals first. You’ll likely get your highest quality leads this way, and it’s really easy to write a quick email asking people for recommendations. Keep it short and simple: Start with an intro paragraph telling people that you’re looking for recommendations for bloggers. Follow up with a couple of bullet points that hit the highlights of the project, with the link to your hiring page for more info. Finally, thank them for helping you out. It’s simple manners, but a lot of people just don’t bother, so it can make a big difference in how the exchange plays out.
Tactic #2: Social media
If you get what you need from your referrals, great! If not, try putting out the call on social media. Facebook Groups are fantastic for this, but do know that you may get swamped with pitches. (That’s why it’s so very important to have your structure in place before you start!)
Make your post short and to the point. Start out with a headline that makes it really clear who you’re looking for, then, just like in the referral email, include your bullet points and hiring link. Make sure that the tone in your post is going to appeal to the type of people you want to work with. For example, if you want really serious grant writers, then write your post in more academic language. Or if you’re looking for sparky young bloggers, then keep your tone light and a bit irreverent.
Ideally, you should also create a graphic with the bare bones of what you’re looking for in it, since it’s much more eye-catching. Here’s a simple example of what that can look like:
Tactic #3: Email pitches
These are great for situations where you have a specific blogger in mind that you really want to get on board for a particular project. If you’ve connected with them before on their blog or via social media, so much the better, but you can also successfully cold pitch to bloggers if you know how to do it right. (Read: in a way that doesn’t make you come across like a high-handed jerk.)
The great thing is, you can reuse a lot of the text from your referral email for your pitch email. The bullet points are all the same; just change out the first paragraph to tell them a little bit about you and why you thought of working with them specifically. (Honest flattery can help!) Then include your bullet points, link them to the hiring page for further details, or invite them to email back or set up a call to chat about the specifics of the project.
Here’s what you need to know:
Get clear on the details of the project before you ever talk to anyone else.
Use your hiring page as a secret way to sort people so you don’t get stuck filtering through a bunch of unqualified leads.
Think about what happens next before this thing balloons on you.
From that foundation, you can tailor your request for great bloggers for each medium: referrals, social media posts, and direct emails — and watch the pitches flow in!
Create an operations manual. It’s probably business advice you’ve heard on more than one occasion. If you’re like most solopreneurs, it’s one of the things you skip — maybe because admin tasks just aren’t what you got into business for, or perhaps because you’re not sure what it is or why you need one.
We’re going to fix that today. Even if you’re just starting out, you can benefit from creating an operations manual! Let’s start at the beginning…
What is an operations manual?
Think back to the last time you started a job. You probably received a company handbook. That handbook laid out the company’s mission, rules, and procedures. They’re a required read to learn about the company’s expectations for you as an employee.
That document was the company’s operations manual. They built it over time as the company grew, likely adding to it as they found information they need to reference and relay to other people. It helps ensure the people they hire know what to expect and do while at work.
Even if you’re a one-woman show today, an operations manual can save you time, money, and headaches down the line.
Why create an operations manual for your solopreneur business?
There are a few reasons an operations manual might be a wise addition to your solo business.
1. Increase productivity. As your business grows, you’ll find your responsibilities do, too. Keeping track of every task you need to do will become impossible if your brain is your only storage system. You’ll inevitably start to miss steps in tasks you do on a regular basis. You’ll spend hours looking for a document because you don’t remember where you saved it. Soon you’ll find you’re spending more time fixing mistakes than moving on to the next task. Creating an operations manual will ensure you never miss a task or a step to complete things, saving you time and unnecessary stress.
2. Get organized. Organization should be a top priority as your business grows. It’s inefficient to have the tools you need to run your business scattered across a variety of platforms, apps, and devices. You end up wasting precious time trying to remember where the thing you need is, then searching for it across all the places you use for storage. By creating an operations manual, you build a central hub where things are all in one place and easily accessible.
Prepare to grow. Your business goals include growth right? While growth comes in many forms, many times it means bringing people on to help you. These people could be employees, freelancers, or collaboration partners. An operations manual will help you bring them up to speed quickly on what your business is about and how you run it, saving time (and money) in the onboarding process.
Your operations manual can be as simple or as robust as you’d like. There’s no right or wrong answer here. Keep this in mind, though: As your business continues to grow, it is much easier to implement new ideas if there is already a record of how things are currently done.
I know getting started can be hard so I’ve put together a few suggestions to help you out:
The options for items to include in your operations manual are endless. Decide what’s important to keep your business running in top form and put it in your manual.
Where to create your operations manual
I recommend creating your operations manual in a system you already use. I like to access my operations manual from anywhere, so I built mine in Trello. You might find Google Drive, Evernote, Asana, or some other system works better for your business. If you prefer to use a non-electronic operations manual, a binder with dividers is easy to update and copy.
Start building yours today
If your business plan includes growth, it’s never too early to start creating an operations manual. Next time you write and upload a blog post, for example? Take note of all the steps you take. It may seem like a lot of work, but an extra hour or two now can save time in the long run — and who doesn’t love saving time?
Your days, back in your hands.
Get instant access to 5 Days to Reclaiming Your Time, a free email course with the mindset shifts + action steps you need to get started in reframing your relationship with time. Sign up below!
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As any seasoned solopreneur knows, customer referrals are critical to growing your business. Whether it’s finding the right first hire or getting traffic through the door, having a trusted network endorse your business is what inevitably leads to success. It’s time to start paying attention to your network of referrals, if you haven’t been doing so already!
Referrals, sometimes called word-of-mouth marketing, are the most powerful form of brand building out there. Measurement firm Nielsen reports that “92% of consumers believe recommendations from friends and family over all forms of advertising.”
The power of referrals isn’t limited to friends and family, either. Wouldn’t you rather eat at a restaurant rated 5 stars on Yelp by 435 people than pick one off the street and hope it’s a great meal?
Of course, it might all sound like a great idea — but the idea of generating customer referrals might leave you with a few questions: As a small business owner and entrepreneur, how can you harness the power of referrals? What’s the best way to activate your loyal customers to speak on your behalf? And, most importantly, how can you be sure your referrals are being seen by the people who matter most: your target customers?
Keep reading, one woman shop: I’ve got a few ideas to get you started in mastering customer referrals.
1. Lead with your personal reputation
People want to buy from businesses and causes they believe in. Millennials especially want to buy from brands and companies they can feel proud to support. Marketing firm Cone LLC discovered that “an astounding 94 percent of consumers would switch brands if one carried a cause and another did not.” That good cause can be as simple as supporting an entrepreneur or strong female business owner they believe in.
Bottom line? Customers (read: millennials) want a personal relationship with the businesses they support. The best way to build that relationship is to lead with your personality. Infuse your brand with your own vision, passion, personality, and vibe. Communicate what you’re about and why you’re excited about what you do! This will help others who relate recommend you like crazy.
Where’s the single best place to start in building your reputation? Start by asking your friends and family to recommend you to others. They know you best and can speak to your personality and strengths. From there, it’s about connecting, not collecting: Follow up and start to build genuine connections with the people your family and friends refer. You can start to grow your referrals from those few initial contacts.
2. Show the good with the bad
Part of building your personal brand is recognizing that you’re not perfect. (Fact: No one is.) Referrals are strongest when they’re honest. That’s why sites like Yelp and TripAdvisor offer the opportunity for companies to respond to a negative review. Research shows that a company that responds to a negative Yelp review will see more positive marketing than sending a direct mail ad to their local area. It is so powerful to take the time to correct a wrong or own up to a mistake.
“Responding to negative reviews shows both the reviewer and potential customers that the business cares about its customers, and is willing to make things right when mistakes are made,” says one expert in the Huffington Post. Moreover, millennials trust companies that are transparent and authentic. They’ll be more likely to refer you and your business if you’re not trying to fool them by looking perfect all the time.
Once you know your own personal brand and have activated your friends and family to recommend your business, it’s time to start a more formal referral program. We suggest reaching out to your most loyal customers. According to the New York Times, “When you are clear about describing the recommendations you want, you make it easier for your referral partners to identify prospective customers for you.” If you’ve taken the time to make meaningful connections with the people you connect with regularly, then this ask should feel natural.
Should your referral program involve incentives? This is tricky: You don’t want it to seem like you’re bribing customers for a good review. One blog suggests forgoing your referral incentive for a customer loyalty reward: “The type of incentive you offer must fit with the kind of business you run. It could be a discount, service credits, an upgrade, a free item, or some other trigger that will entice clients to provide referrals.”
If you’re not comfortable with directly asking for referrals yet, find or build a system that makes it easy and seamless for your customers to leave you feedback. Over time, you can choose to broadcast these reviews or build connections with the clients you know have had a positive experience with your brand.
4. Activate social media
Make it easy for people to refer you! By hosting reviews on your Facebook Page or on a site like BULLIT, you’re really becoming your own reference when you post on social media.
It’s tough to argue with the power of referrals: Most often, you’re not only building a reputation that precedes you and takes significant weight off your need to market your business — you’re also getting in front of people who you’ll enjoy working with, because they’ve been referred by people who know you best.
How can you get started today? Head to BULLIT.me to build a free profile where you can start to see referrals work for you right away.
If you’ve been stuck thinking there just aren’t enough clients in the world, it’s time to turn that scarcity mindset around. Reframe it like this: As a solopreneur, you’re a problem solver. And it’s likely that there are more people experiencing that problem than you might initially realize.
For the purpose of this post, let’s pretend you’re a freelancer writer. (Or maybe you are!) While you might be serving the same types of clients over and over, maybe you’re seeing the well dry up — or you’re just looking for a new project to invigorate your love of writing.
It’s time to open yourself up to niche writing markets you may never have considered.
Here are 12 niche writing markets to get you started:
1. Menus: Not every restaurant needs you to write highly creative and exciting descriptions, but they all need menus. You’ll need to be able to make any meal sound delicious and worth ordering. If you know your food, this might be your new favorite market.
2. Writing prompts: Good at brainstorming? Try writing prompts for budding authors. Everyone needs some inspiration from time to time, and you could be just the person to provide it. Try sitting down and thinking up as many story seeds as you can for your favorite genre — come up with enough, and you could become popular with fiction writers.
3. Resumes: If you’ve had a lot of success with your own resumes, why not try writing them for other people? It’s easy to find work as lots of job seekers are struggling with writing theirs. With the right set of info, it’s easy to get started.
Example of a niche website for application: Resumention
4. Product descriptions: Anyone can open an online store these days, but they need an expert to really describe their products. That’s where you come in. If you can position their products in a way that sells them to their ideal audience, you could be worth your weight in gold to any seller.
5. Academic writing: Great at essays when you were at university? Don’t let that skill go to waste now. There are plenty of sites that allow you to sell your writing to students that need it — especially if you’re a specialist on the subject needed. (And you don’t have to pull an all-nighter like you did back then!)
Example of a niche website for application: Essayroo
6. Event programs: Strike up a relationship with a local printing company, and you could be referred to anyone who needs an event program. Ideas: Couples getting married, theatre companies, tradeshow attendees, event hosts — they all need a program to let people know what’s happening.
7. Content for educational portals: A lot of what you know as a writer can be translated into advice for students. Education portals like Australian Help are always looking for people who can write grammar guides, explain what plagiarism is, or just write advice on how to complete assignments.
Example of a niche website for application: Academized
8. Instruction manuals: Often called ‘technical writing’, instruction manual writers can explain how to do something clearly and concisely. If you’re good at getting instructions across, this could be a good source of revenue for you.
9. Proofreading: Writers can always use an extra set of eyes. People who have written pieces but don’t want to proofread them could send them to you. A lot of writers find proofreading easier than writing itself, so it could be an easy way to make some extra cash on the side.
Example of a niche website for application: UKWritings
10. Greeting cards: The verses inside greetings cards are called ‘poems’, and you can make a tidy amount selling them to greeting card companies. Be aware that they will buy them, but they’re not always going to use them. They do happily accept unsolicited verses though, so it’s well worth a try.
11. Band bios: Passionate about music and know the music scene well? Welcome to your new favorite market. Bands need help with bios, websites, and pretty much all marketing for shows.
Example of a niche website for application: Bandzoogle
12. Editing: Along the same lines as proofreading, you could offer your editing services. (A more involved form of proofreading that looks at the developmental side of things rather than just grammar and spelling.) This is a good idea if you have an eye for what works and what doesn’t in any text.
Example of a niche website for application: BoomEssays
Hey, solopreneur: Think outside the box
This is just a small sample of the niche writing markets that freelancers could branch out to in order to shake up their normal routine, secure new clients, and perhaps renew their love of writing.
Whether you’re a freelance writer, designer, coach, speaker — you name it — don’t be afraid to think outside the box niche.
Unicorns are iconic. Emblematic. They symbolize the effortless realization of dreams.
The thing is, dreams are real, but unicorns are not.
That seems like a despondent note to start on, but it’s actually kick-start positive.
Having dreams is healthy. It gives you goals and ambition — a driving force for all that you do. It reassures you in the face of failure and encourages you when you’re out of ideas. Solopreneurs often have no one to rely on but themselves. We all need an inner unicorn.
But business success isn’t magic, no matter how much we might wish it to be. Reality has a nasty habit of making dreams slow and difficult to realize.
Here’s your first reality check: Nothing is impossible.
Businesses are bedfellows with the Internet now. It’s almost impossible to launch a business without a website to match.
Getting your dream domain, setting down a design (either yourself or with a professional) and launching it makes it all official.
It doesn’t matter if you don’t have your product ready to go yet — having a mesmerising landing page and opt-in form is a great way to get the ball rolling.
Work on amassing a stellar email list. Spread the word about your product. Send your loyal subscribers some high-quality newsletters or mini e-books with actionable, unique takeaways. Write a blog to underpin the product.
Is this quick list a lot of work? Yes. Is it worth it? 100%.
Think of it as laying the groundwork for your main product. You wouldn’t leap into a marathon without any training. If you build up a solid audience then market your product well, the launch will be far more lucrative and you’ll see a positive ROI much quicker than delving into a cold market.
Ongoing: Love your stumbles
Learning from your mistakes is one of the best qualities in any business person, particularly a solopreneur.
As a one woman shop, you can’t handle everything all at once without occasionally slipping up. Take the falls on the chin, make a note, and work to ensure it doesn’t happen again. Likewise, figure out what does work and stick to it.
Ongoing: Pen Pencil and paper
People change as they grow. You might suddenly want a tattoo, or a cat. Your dream of a skyscraper studio apartment might morph into a cottage with land to keep miniature donkeys.
Dreams can change, too. They might shift into something bigger, something with a new end game, targeted to a different market.
That’s okay. That’s natural.
Don’t feel you’ve failed. Pencilled dreams can be rubbed out and altered, whereas dreams written in pen are final and can only be crossed out.
Keep an open mind. There’s more than one way to achieve success.
Ongoing: Value your critics
That might seem self-destructive, but your naysayers act as free consultants.
It might be difficult to see the faults in your program because you’ve invested so much of yourself into it. An outside opinion could actually be beneficial.
There’s a difference between someone trying to cut you down and someone trying to cut you a break.
Listen to them. Think of what your product will look like if you implement their changes. Don’t be too proud and reject outside help, whether in the form of assistance or criticism.
View critique as a free screening. If any glaring errors are found, you’ll be glad you listened to your cynical friend.
Ongoing: Embrace your inner unicorn
Be bold. Be brave. A unicorn is a mythical creature that has stood the test of time, despite being literally impossible.
You can do the same. Know the difference between dreams vs. reality in business, then be like a unicorn and never give up on that dream. It might take a little longer than a day but you’ll get there so long as you stick to your plan, maintain your work ethic, and learn as you progress.
Keep a clear head and a focused goal. Don’t be afraid of change and criticism.
And know that when — not if — when you get there, you deserve every bit of it.
You’ve likely heard this shouted from fellow business owners everywhere: Pinterest drives more traffic to my website than any other social media platform!
Well, it happens to be true for me. I see growth in my email list daily, and I get consistent sales for my ebook, pretty much all thanks to Pinterest. But, of course, it wasn’t always that way. It wasn’t until I studied the ins and outs of Pinterest strategy — and made some strategic moves — that my website traffic, email list, and sales increased.
Today, I’m going to share one (very important) secret to getting loads of traffic to your site from Pinterest: How to create the perfect Pin.
It probably goes without saying, but Pinterest relies on visuals, so it’s extremely important that the Pins you upload look attractive and, well…pinnable.
Here are a few tips on creating beautiful, attention-grabbing Pins for your blog:
Example: If your brand is punk rock, then something light and airy with pastel colors wouldn’t be on-brand, but something edgy and bold with bright colors would be. Colors and fonts are a great way to express your brand so be sure to choose wisely!
Below are two Pins that are different, yet similar. The trick is to use the same colors and fonts, and use photos that have a similar mood.
2. Create a template (or two)
The easiest way to maintain consistency (see above) is by creating templates for your Pins. That way, you can simply plug in different titles and images while keeping the overall look the same. (Bonus: This also saves you time!)
I shudder thinking about the awful blog graphics I had on my first website. They were all over the place, with no consistency in font, color, or size. Now I create all my Pins using Canva, a free online graphic design tool. You can create your own templates in Canva or use the templates that Canva provides that already have the ideal size and proportions for an attractive pin.
3. Stick to vertical pins only (No landscape, please!)
Vertical images (tall, not horizontal or square — see One Woman Shop’s example below!) tend to get more clicks and repins. One main reason is because they’re easier to see. Most Pinterest users are on their mobile devices, so it’s important to make your Pins easy on the eyes.
Images that use the ratio of 2:3 or 4:5 are best. I make my Pins 600px by 900px and it works perfectly. When I upload the Pin to my blog it doesn’t look overly huge, yet it looks clear when viewed on Pinterest.
This tip is short, but not always easy: Make sure you use an easy-to-read text overlay. Remember, most people are on their tiny phones looking at these pins. If pins are difficult to read, it’s unlikely they’ll inspire people to click or repin.
Beautiful images are key. If you’re using your own images, make sure they look professional (even if they’re shot from your iPhone). You want to avoid anything dark, out of focus, or messy-looking.
If you’re using stock photos, be sure to steer clear of anything cheesy. (You know what I mean. We’ve all seen those goofy photos with fake smiles and garish colors. Leave the cheesiness for the infomercials!) You want something on-brand and inspiring that your ideal client will love.
Some of my favorite stock photo sites are Haute Chocolate, SC Stockshop, and Bloguettes. They’re not free, but their photos are worth it. Instead of wading through pages and pages of questionable stock photography to find one beautiful, on-brand photo, you’ll have lots of gorgeous photos to choose from.
Remember to always keep your target audience in mind and choose photos that both showcase your brand and appeal to your peeps.
6. Get strategic with your blog titles
Creating a snappy title is just as important as creating consistent-looking Pins.
Your title needs to be specific and communicate exactly what your audience is going to get out of the article. You want to stir up an emotion in them and make them curious enough to click through to read your article or repin it to their board to read later.
For example, if you’re a health coach creating a Pin about what you eat in a day, the title “What I Ate Today” isn’t going to get many click throughs or repins. It’s too general.
Instead, try a title like “What a Health Coach Eats.” That’s much more intriguing, because your reader probably assumes that a health coach is more knowledgeable on healthy eats than the general public.
For extra credit, include a tantalizing subtitle. For our health coach example, you can try “What a Health Coach Eats (It Might Not Be What You Think!)” That title suggests that perhaps the health coach doesn’t eat healthy all the time, piquing your curiosity even more as to what exactly they eat. Makes you want to click through and see for yourself, doesn’t it?
The Pin description is the text that shows up under the Pin.
Your description should include keywords and phrases relevant to your blog post and brand to help people find your Pin when searching Pinterest. Explain the purpose of the article without giving too much away and perhaps even invite the pinner to click through to read more.
For instance, if someone was looking for a yellow chair on Pinterest, they would search “yellow chair.” If your pin is a picture of a yellow chair but doesn’t have the words “yellow chair” in the description, it’s going to be very difficult, if not impossible, to find.
How exactly do you add descriptions to your Pins? When you upload your Pin to your blog post you’ll want to add the description to the Alt Text of the image. And if you’re using an SEO plugin like Yoast SEO you’ll want to write a description for the meta description, because sometimes this shows up on Pinterest too.
Once the Pin is uploaded to your site you can use your Pin It button to save to your Pinterest boards.
Make the most of your Pinterest presence
In addition to creating pinnable Pins, you’ll want to repin fresh content to your boards daily or almost daily (a mixture of your content and others’). Consistency is key! Pinterest rewards those who pin great content and often.
Pinterest is an amazing platform with tons of potential for driving high-quality traffic to your site. (And it’s so much fun!) Use these tips on how to create the perfect Pin and you’ll be on your way to growing your business using Pinterest!
My content marketing business is in a rapid state of growth. I’ve taken on several new clients, doubled my workload, and seen every blog and social-media metric surge beyond my goals. I’m recently married and had my first child six months ago, plus I’m forging new personal and professional relationships in my hometown where I returned three years ago after a 12-year absence.
Basically, my life is on a pretty kick-ass trajectory and I feel darn optimistic about the future.
I couldn’t say the same thing, however, six years ago or even two years ago. That’s because at each of those points, I experienced crippling grief from which I thought I might never recover.
Losing a sibling
The first and most shocking setback of my life came nearly six years ago, on July 4, 2010. That morning, my dad called to tell me he had some “upsetting news.” My younger brother had died a few hours earlier from a heroin overdose. (“Upsetting” was understating things a bit.)
I’ll never forget a moment of that day, which played out like a blur of frantic activity around me as my own brain seemed to move in slow motion.
Driving around until I could find someone to comfort me (a friend’s mom finally answered her door). Falling to my knees in a pile of tears as I said the words aloud for the first time. Waiting while my friends packed my bags and asked me to pick a funeral outfit. Seeing the world whiz by while my friend drove me six hours to my hometown. Hugging my mom and feeling her immeasurable pain. Hearing the gut-wrenching wail of a 10-year-old girl learning her daddy was dead. Then hearing my mom say she had no reason left to live (um, what about me?!).
At the time, I was 35 and my freelance writing business was five years old. I had recently hit a professional slump due to the changing economic landscape (I was doing mostly magazine writing at that time and magazines were a dying breed). In the months and years following my brother’s death, however, things went from bad to worse.
I stopped looking for new assignments and began missing deadlines for what little work I still had. I didn’t even bother to tell many of my editors why, burning every bridge imaginable. I was simultaneously going through a divorce (I suffered death, divorce, and losing my home all in less than a year) and began making really self-destructive decisions about men. I was drinking too much, sleeping too little, and burning through my savings account with reckless abandon.
Two months after my brother’s death, I was out of money and took a sales job that was absolutely not a fit for my skills nor in line with my passions. It paid the rent until I found another gig as an office manager that, again, made no sense for my career path.
I still did some freelance work, but treated it like a hobby at best, not a serious business.
After two years of acting out and scraping by, I finally reached my breaking point. I realized something had to change, so I packed up my belongings and moved back home with my mom — a humbling experience for a 37-year-old woman.
For the next year, I spent time writing about my grief, exploring a healthy relationship, and repairing the bridges I’d burned with former clients. By 2015, I had found love, moved out of my mom’s house, and started making a living wage as a business owner.
It took a long time to claw my way out of the nearly bottomless pit of grief, but I finally found my way back to the sun and felt so good about life that I was ready to create a new life. We decided to have a baby.
In March of 2015, we learned I was pregnant. On Mother’s Day, we excitedly told our families the amazing news. Two days later, during a routine visit to my OB/GYN, I learned the baby no longer had a heartbeat.
The entire episode lasted 10 weeks, but the loss was no less real. Once again, my grief sent me spiraling. Facing hefty medical bills from the experience, I panicked and took a full-time editorial job. It was a better match than my previous attempts at day jobs, but I knew in my gut I was meant to be my own boss.
This time, I quickly decided not to let grief consume my life. I allowed myself to cry when I needed to, and reached out to friends and family for emotional support. I was honest with the freelance clients I still had and asked for extended deadlines. I started a weekly mastermind group and got serious about building my business so I could quit the full-time job.
Four months after starting, I gave notice at the 9-to-5 gig and focused all my efforts on growing my content marketing company. I clarified my marketing message, rebuilt my website, and bumped up my social media presence.
Now, one year later, I’ve never been busier or more profitable. Oh, and I got pregnant again and had my baby boy last May!
What I learned from surviving and thriving after loss
Death and loss affects everyone at some point. Grief feels exceptionally lonely, but it’s actually our most common bond. Whatever you’re experiencing, take some comfort in knowing someone else has already gone through it. You’re not alone.
Seek out a community. Whether it’s friends or an organized support group, seek out a group you can talk about your situation with and find those who can be truly empathetic. Sharing with others who’ve had miscarriages, and later writing a blog about my experience, helped me get through this experience in a faster and healthier manner than after my brother’s death.
Allow yourself to feel your pain. Take the time — however much you need — to experience the very real feelings of grief. Running away from the emotions only delays the inevitable.
Treat yourself with grace. During our darkest hours, it’s likely we will make some mistakes, drop some balls, and say some stupid things. Forgive yourself for these moments.
Be vulnerable. When you do fall down and upset or disappoint a client or friend, be honest and tell them why. You may be surprised by the outpouring of love and understanding you receive.
Ask for help. It’s okay to admit you are overwhelmed with your situation. You may need to ask your friends and family for emotional (and even financial) support. This doesn’t make you a failure. It makes you human. Be grateful you have people in your life who love you and thank them for helping.
My hope is that everyone will have a perfect 2017. Unfortunately, the reality is many of us will suffer a loss or otherwise experience grief in the coming year. While we can’t control what happens to us, we can be responsible for how we respond. If you fall on tough times, I hope my tips will help ease the pain, even if only a bit. And if you need support or advice, my (email) door is always open.
It happens to the best of us. We’re going through our day, when a great idea for a blog post pops into our head. And that’s when we tell ourselves the biggest fib of our blogging careers…“I’ll remember that later.”
Ladies, don’t do it.
Write down all of your magical ideas in a notebook as soon as you think of them, whether it’s a physical notebook, a bullet journal, or something digital like Evernote.
Even better than getting them in a notebook? Putting them down directly in your editorial calendar. When you assign a date for your idea (even if you change it later), it suddenly takes on a whole new level of importance. It becomes less of a scrawled thought, and more like you’re writing an article for your very own magazine.
But what to use for an editorial calendar? Like anything else in life, this is a super personal decision. Ask a dozen bloggers, and you could get a dozen answers…it’ll vary by personality, work style, and a million other variables. But just to kickstart your thoughts, I’ll go over some of the ones I’ve tried:
1. Simple notebook
I’ve done this by just assigning a notebook page for each month, and writing 1, 2, 3, 4…or however many posts I wanted to do that month. You can use fun notebooks from makers like Erin Condren and May Designs, or hit up the $1 section at your local office supply store to get a basic pad.
2. Post-It calendar
You can buy this from several places, but I picked mine up at Target. There are a few limitations: each page is only for a week, and there are less than 52 pages, but it’ll get you a decent way. And because each page is for a week, the squares are a great size for writing in. Plus, you can easily rearrange the Post-It notes.
3. Door full of Post-Its
Speaking of easy rearranging, in the early brainstorming phases, I have been known to paper the back of my door with all of my ideas on Post-Its. I’m a visual person, so it makes it easy to look at all of my ideas in just a few moments, and figure out which one is really grabbing me.
I know I’m on a Post-It kick, but really this works quite well with the smaller Post-Its. You can scribble down an idea, slap it on the calendar and rearrange it to suit your needs. It makes it easy to to figure out where your posts need to fit in coordination with holidays, launches, and other major events in your business.
5. WordPress plugin
Tada! This one has nothing to do with Post-Its at all. And, it’s digital! There’s a WordPress plugin that’s simply called “Editorial Calendar.” It lets you create draft posts and schedule them out, so you can see what you’ve got coming up that you’ve finished writing, or still need to work on. They even set it up to enable you to drag and drop the posts, so if you realize that something is trending, or you accept an interview, you can easily reschedule one of your upcoming posts by scooting it to a different date. Cool, huh?
Of course these aren’t the only options, and some people use a combination of these and/or other methods. But with a plethora of easy options, there’s no excuse for not getting started.
Tell us: What’s your favorite way of organizing your editorial calendar?