To Peach, We Say: Happy Birthday! ?

Happy birthday, Cristina!

Today (July 14th) is a very peachy day around these parts.

It's Friday.

It's part of the same week that the idea for One Woman Shop was born.

And...it's our founder Cristina's BIRTHDAY! ?

Now, you may know Cristina as a world traveler, a kickass community leader, and -- if you're me -- a stellar business partner.

But, there's more. You see, Cristina recently discovered the magic of communicating via emojis over on Slack -- and it's been a gamechanger.

So, I thought it best to reciprocate the love with all.the.emotions. (okay, emojis) that come up when I think of our co-head honcho, Cristina -- AKA Peach. ?

Here goes nothing:

Cristina, as a business partner, you're the ?.

When I think of you in Guatemala, I have visions of ??.

Your direct outreach skills deserve a ?.

When your wifi plays tricks on you, I share in your ?.

When you're mentoring/coaching others, you really make us ?.

For some reason, every time we get on a call, I'm inspired to drink even more ☕️.

Whenever the going gets rough, I want to send you ?.

I always look forward to evening coworking sessions because I know we'll both have ?.

I feel your pain from afar when you're on a ✈️.

I could not be happier to be the ? to your ?.

Today, and every day, I wish you lots of ☀️!

Happy birthday, Peach! May your year be full of the happiest emojistions. ?

Why There’s No Shame in a Bridge Job

bridge job

bridge job

Let’s not beat around the bush: There seems to be a myth amongst One Woman Shops that it’s shameful to take on part-time or full-time work for someone else when they’re working to build their solo business.

The feelings that come up: shame; embarrassment; failure. After all, how can you call yourself a business owner if your business isn’t fully supporting you?

Excuse us while we clear our throats -- as it turns out, we happen to have a lot to say about that.

Issue #1: That’s a whole lot of all-or-nothing thinking going on.

It’s not black or white. It’s not stop or go. And it’s certainly not all or nothing.

The author Barbara Kingsolver writes acclaimed novels, grows her own vegetables, runs a local co-op, and holds classes on farming out of her backyard. Do those “extracurriculars” make her any less of an author? No.

Just like babysitting, tutoring, tending bar, or any number of bridge jobs you might take on will not make you any less of a business owner, so long as you keep putting time into building your brand.

And the “gurus” who tell you that you have to be 110% committed or you’re not a “real” business owner? We happen to like Coach Jennie’s response to that one, after falling for that advice: “these all-or-nothing thinking gurus weren’t responsible for my rent.”

Issue #2: Working from a place of financial stress simply isn’t effective.

While we can come up with several reasons for a bridge job (and we share them, below), the biggest reason is because a solo business owner may find herself financially stressed.

And here’s what we see in our coaching clients, members, and community when they’re coming from a place of financial burden: desperation (that their audience can “smell”). Hasty decisions. Getting away from their values or what they’re truly aiming for.

What ends up happening is that they build a business for short-term gains instead of long-term appeal. This is through no fault of their own -- when there are bills to pay, mouths to feed, and responsibilities, those short-term gains are necessary.

But they aren’t ideal for building a business that will fuel you for a long time to come -- especially one where you’d like some semblance of solopreneur sanity.

The beauty of a bridge job

Here’s what we mean when we’re talking about bridge jobs: a job that gives you financial stability while you build your solo business.

A bridge job is literally anything that brings that financial stability -- from pouring wine tastings (Sara) to catering for a pizza restaurant (Cristina) to babysitting (both) and everything in between. There’s no shortage of bridge jobs out there.

What a bridge job allows for

Financial stability: We like to think of it as a comfy cushion. When you’re working from a place of financial comfort, you’re empowered with the confidence to take risks, fail faster, and reiterate. You have room to experiment. To work with people how you want to, not just in the way that will make you the most money. Maybe you just want money to put into your business? A bridge job can provide the money to invest in that new website.

Structure: Have you ever heard the adage, “If you want something done, ask a busy person?” As it turns out, most of us work better with structure. I (Sara) can speak from experience on this one: When building my business as a side hustle in addition to my full-time job, I was amazingly productive in the ~10 hours/week I devoted to it. Once I had my days wide open after quitting that full-time gig? Productivity became a tug of war. So if you’re worried about a bridge job taking away precious time, remember this: You can do big things with just 5, 10, or 15 hours a week.

Community: Depending on the role, a bridge job will introduce you to people who might end up as readers, followers, customers, clients, or collaborators in your solo business. And if the people themselves aren’t ideal partners in any way, shape, or form, let them serve as inspiration. (I’ve often considered becoming a bartender just for the appreciation of the stories I’d be sure to hear.)

Learning: Getting paid to learn might be one of the best feelings, ever. And if you go into your bridge job with this attitude, there’s no shortage of things you can learn. Learn from your boss; learn from your fellow employees; learn from the situation. I learned to upsell while pouring wine samples; Cristina learned the importance of connecting with potential clients and customers on shared interests. Keep an open mind.

Bridge jobs for building businesses

Whether you’re just starting out, or you’ve been in business for a while but just aren’t there yet, there is absolutely no shame in taking on a bridge job that helps you reach your long-term goals and build the business you want to run.

Businesses take time. “Overnight successes” more often take 10 years than they do one day.

We don't share any of this to discourage -- we certainly are not saying that you can’t take the leap from your full-time job tomorrow or stay away from “the man” forevermore. We share this because we’ve seen all sorts of business situations amongst our community and members, and, it takes most (us included!) a long time to become both profitable and sustainable. In fact, had we been in this solely for the money, One Woman Shop likely would’ve folded by now. (#truth) We’re fueled by our passion, our belief in what we’re doing, and the progress we’ve seen so far in helping other One Woman Shops.

You are in this for the long haul, right?

Tell us: What fears creep up for you when it comes to the idea of a bridge job to ease your financial situation? Remember: There’s no shame here!

This post originally appeared on The Huffington Post.

Stuck on Building That Next Big Thing? A Tip: Create What You Need.

Stuck on Building That Next Big Thing? A Tip: Create What You Need.

Stuck on Building That Next Big Thing? A Tip: Create What You Need.

There’s something we mentor our coaching clients and members on nonstop here at One Woman Shop: that you, as a solopreneur, are your first and foremost client.

It seems that without that constant reminder (that everyone needs), it’s easy to keep working in your business and forget that you deserve to work on your business. And it leads to your business often falling by the wayside.

But lately, we’ve seen another reason that it’s important to see yourself as your primary client: because it might just be what you need to get you past that persistent imposter syndrome that digs its claws in and just won’t let go each and every time you’re trying to create something new.

The question you’ll likely be asked

When your inner naysayer does decide to pay you a visit while you’re in creation mode, here’s what you’ll probably hear the most:

“Who do you think you are…”
…to be creating this workbook?
…to be teaching this subject?
…to be coaching these clients?

Fill in the blank with whatever illustrious doubt your imposter syndrome instills in you.

Then, keep this in mind: often times, you’re exactly the person who needs it.

Creating what you need

One of my (Sara's) favorite authors of all time, Ann Patchett, shared this sage advice in a NY Public Library podcast episode (that was an enlightening, inspiring, and hilarious conversation with Elizabeth Gilbert): “Write the book you want to read.” Likewise, Liz Gilbert preaches in her book, Big Magic, that we need to create for ourselves, not others.

So when you’re questioning who you are to create this, and who in the world is going to listen to what you have to say, be selfish -- and create what you need.

Cristina built a 16-page outline for Building Your Online Community nearly overnight because it’s something she’d preached and coached on but knew we could better implement at One Woman Shop.

I, Sara, created Kickstart Your Content because I’ve helped others build effective content strategies and killer blogs, but couldn’t seem to kickstart my own.

And we both went heads down creating our latest product, The Solopreneur Sanity Handbook, because if there’s anything we’ve learned over the past year of intense work at One Woman Shop, it’s that we need all the help we can get when it comes to taking care of our well-being and staying sane as solo business owners.

Put your work to use

The beauty of this approach is this: Not only does it get you past the mental barriers of believing that you’re unfit to create what you’ve set out to build; it also truly solves a problem you have. So once you’re over the hump of creating what you need, practice what you preach and use it.

Go through the lessons of your e-course; hunker down with the workbook; do the work. Not only will you better your business (your #1 client), you’ll also improve what you’ve created when you put it into action.

Take that, imposter syndrome. Who am I to create my next product or service, you ask? The perfect candidate, indeed.

Your turn: What do you tell that pesky imposter syndrome when it's holding you back from creating?

Third Time’s the Charm: A Beginner’s Journey With Meditation

Solopreneur Sanity

Does this sound familiar?

Here's what I want you to do right now: find a super comfortable nook, ideally with some soft, natural light shining through. Pop in your headphones and find a track with the waves crashing in on the shore. Sit up, with your back straight, and start breathing. Gently close your eyes. Now clear your thoughts, and sit there for at least 10 minutes.

Wait... what? Where am I supposed to sit? I don't have a comfortable "nook" with perfect lighting or piles of pillows and Buddhist figurines surrounding me. What are these waves crashing in? All that's making me want to do is use the bathroom. Breathe... isn't that what I do already, all the time? Clear my thoughts. Ha. Do you know what my headspace is like? Nice try.

If you're anything like me, this is what you know of meditation. This is what you've read you should try, and this is what it's been made to look like. And whenever someone tells you that it's a game-changer, you kind of wonder what the heck they're doing that you're not.

The idea of meditation is great, sure, and I've never doubted the science behind mindfulness and its potential impact on happiness, productivity, and well-being. But actually sitting still and shutting down my thoughts? It just didn't seem probable. I tried once -- no, I tried way more than once. Each time, I'd start a 20-minute guided meditation. And each time, I'd end up discouraged, frustrated, and feeling like a failure.

Taking a different approach

Like any good learner, I decided it was time to embrace the beginner that I am (and perpetually will be), and start over.

I downloaded the Calm app for some guidance, and instead of embarking upon 20-minute sessions, I set a goal of doing at least a two-minute meditation each day.

I decided my computer chair is a perfectly suitable location to meditate, and for one week, I sat down at my desk in the morning, closed my eyes, and started a session before lighting that screen up.

That first day, I remember getting just a few seconds in, and my thoughts launching into overdrive, again. Before I had a chance to think about the fact that I was failing, yet again, I reverted back to my childhood nights of counting sheep in an attempt to fall asleep, and started counting my breaths.

In, 2, 3, 4.

Out, 2, 3, 4.

In, 2, 3, 4.

Out, 2, 3, 4.

I went on like that, just counting and breathing, and suddenly two minutes were up. Well shoot, that was quick.

So the next day, I upped my session to three minutes. To pre-empt any rambunctious thought activity, I started counting right away. I still strayed, despite my best efforts, but instead of thinking about the fact that I was thinking, I redirected that energy into getting back to counting my breaths. Before I knew it, three minutes were up.

It went on like this for a few days, but I capped myself at the five-minute mark. Each day was different; some riddled with thoughts, others relatively clear. Some where each deep breath just led to a massive yawn, others where deeper breathing felt completely natural.

And when I got on a really great roll, I decided I was going to meditate for at least five minutes per day until the end of the year, at which point I was sure it would just become a habit I didn’t have to try so hard with.

And the minute I set that intention, I missed a day.

I got into bed on a Sunday night, feeling like I was forgetting something, and woke up the next morning to remember that I had missed my meditation session. (And went to bed six steps short of 10,000 on my FitBit -- but that’s another story.)

I was not happy with myself. But to spare you the illustrious self-judgment I doused myself with, I quickly realized this: when it comes to meditation, and most things that have to do with our self-care and overall well-being, the minute we put too much pressure on it, the minute it becomes more of an obligation or responsibility (and therefore something we can fail at) than a gift we give ourselves.

Despite understanding the practice a bit better, I was still looking at meditation as a test that I needed to score an A+ on.

And so I went back to square one.

Starting over, again

This time I looked at meditation for what it really is: a slice of time we give ourselves to take our eyes off the screen and our mind away from the noise, and simply be. In starting over, I eliminated every “rule” I had set for myself, and vowed to make no more new ones.

It doesn’t matter what time of day I meditate.

It doesn’t matter how long I meditate for.

It doesn’t matter how far my thoughts wander.

It doesn’t matter if I fall asleep.

It doesn’t matter. What matters is that I recognize it as the gift it is: the gift of calm. The gift of separation from the day-to-day. The gift of being still.

It wasn’t until I took the pressure off of it and just let it happen that I truly started seeing the benefits:

In my reactions: I’m a naturally stressed out person, who likes to add to my own overwhelm by never saying no. Because of that, I often find myself coming from a place of stress, impatience, and frustration. In practicing my breathing, I’ve learned how powerful a few deep breaths can be before responding to situations that might otherwise prompt an unintentional response.

In my mindset: Speaking of overwhelmed, taking a few minutes out of my day to meditate has taught me that no matter how busy I am, there’s always time for what matters. Put another way: if it truly matters, I will make time for it.

In my release: This one surprised me. I’m naturally a communicator who doesn’t believe in holding things inside only to see them build up and explode later. But lately, I’ve found myself in a few different situations where I’ve pent up some feelings for one reason or another, and put myself in jeopardy of a serious implosion. Well, in a meditation before going to sleep one night, I found myself crying. I didn’t see or feel it coming. It just happened. It only took a minute to realize it was simply a build up of what I’d been holding inside. And after that meditation, I was able to let it go.

Different for everyone

I could go on with the changes I’ve noticed in myself, but I know this: it’s different for everyone. And it’s not magical. It’s not just going to happen. This has been nearly three years of on-and-off dabbling in meditation.

So while I can’t tell you where to set up, how many candles to light, what kind of music to put on, or any of the other things that will look different for you, here’s what I can share, if you’re a beginner like me:

  1. Start small. A few minutes can make a world of difference.
  1. Don't make it a stressor. If you miss a session, simply look forward to the next one.
  1. Be realistic with yourself. It’s not going to be perfect, and every session is going to be different.
  1. Enable yourself. Download an app (here at OWS HQ, we seriously love Calm); set a calendar appointment; build in some accountability. Make it as easy as you can on yourself, depending on what you need.

I’ll leave you with a thought first shared with me by Cristina but oft-repeated since then: if you feel like you only have time for a 5-minute meditation, it means you should meditate for an hour. The gist? You’ll neglect it when you need it most. Keep that in mind, and remember that clearing your head of clutter might be the destination, but the journey there is a long and winding path.

Want more tips + tactics for maintaining your solopreneur sanity? We've got you covered. Just released: The Solopreneur Sanity Handbook, inspiration and action for finding the intersection of productive and sane to maximize your time working so you can maximize your time living. Ready, set, sanity!

Solopreneur Sanity Handbook

Tools We Love: Edgar

Tools We Love: Edgar social media scheduling

Welcome to Tools We Love, where we highlight some of the tools that make us more efficient, productive, and effective in our businesses. Have a tool that you want to share with the community? Email us!

Meet Edgar. He’s an octopus who just so happens to be a social media wizard. (Really, it’s a social media curation + scheduling app that allows you to automate your social updates like no other third party app out there.) It currently supports Twitter, Facebook personal profiles, Groups, and Page, and LinkedIn. And it just so happens it’s branded with an octopus full of personality.

Edgar seems to come up in any and every conversation I have about digital marketing -- because he’s just that good.

What Edgar is

Created by the LKR team, Edgar is, in their words, “the only app that stops social media updates from going to waste.” Tall task, wouldn’t you say? Well, he lives up to it.

Here’s how it (he) works: you create content and add it into your back end library in Edgar, organizing it by category. Once you’ve built a library of updates, you create posting schedules on a nifty calendar for each account you’ve set up. At the times you’ve specified, Edgar will choose an update from the designated category and post it to your account(s).

Here’s how that looks:

1. I have several categories set up in my library.

Meet Edgar - categories

2. I create a schedule for each account I’ve linked up with Edgar.

Meet Edgar: schedule

3. Edgar pulls the needed updates from your library and creates a queue.

Meet Edgar: queue

It’s genius, yeah? Edgar effectively automates your social media -- but leaves you in control. You create the categories, determine the schedule, and have the ability to view the queue days in advance and swap updates as needed.

That’s the basic gist of Edgar’s functionality. Here are some nitty gritty details that make him even more awesome:

Take advantage of the ‘Use Once’ category. Sure, most of the content you’ll load into Edgar will be evergreen content or content that has a decent lifespan (since that is the point of revolving it, after all). But not everything you want to post should be repeated. No worries -- just choose the default “Use Once” category, and Edgar will know not to go back to that particular update once it’s been used.

Batch upload with import functionality. If you’re a Google Doc addict like some of us (ahem, Cristina and I here at OWS), you like to collaborate via shared documents before finalizing anything. Fret not: you can draft those social media updates in a spreadsheet and use the Import button to bring them all in at once.

Take a break. Let’s say you’re going on vacation or just want to go dark for a while. Or perhaps you want all of your social content to point to something like a launch (like we did for Building Your Online Community!). There’s a handy “Pause Queue” button that freezes Edgar and his revolving content and makes it ridiculously easy to pick up right where you left off when you’re ready.

Add photos. Edgar doesn’t just support plain text updates. With a handy “Add Image” button for each new update you add, you have the ability to easily enhance your post.

See how you’re doing. Edgar’s got a built-in statistics dashboard that’ll give you a quick glimpse at how each of your posts are performing. After all, social media requires strategy -- and strategy requires metrics to benchmark yourself on.

Those are just some of the features -- the fun doesn’t stop there.

The most grateful octopus you ever did meet

There are different perceptions on what good customer service is, but I think every user of Edgar can agree: Team Edgar nails it. Beyond easy email access to the Edgar pros, the team also runs an “Edgar HQ” Facebook Group where there’s a fair share of learning and celebrating going on. The best part of all this access? The team is incredibly receptive to requests for upgrades to their own application. In less than a year since launch (I’ve been a user since day 1!), I’ve seen countless changes made based directly on user requests -- a true testament to caring about your customers.

Okay, okay. I’ve got one last thing to gush about. You see, Edgar is just downright grateful to have you as a user -- and it shows. I was glowing a bit the day this came in the mail: his response to my Facebook post about him. What a guy! (The back had my post printed out with hearts surrounding it, and a note that “Edgar loves you, too!”)

Meet Edgar: love note

Things to keep in mind

Naturally, nobody’s perfect -- even this little guy. A few things to keep in mind as you consider the use of Edgar:

1. He’s not exactly a cheap date. It’s up to you to weigh both the time he’ll save you in streamlining your social media as well as the benefit of having a consistent presence with the price tag. There are two account levels: $49/month for up to 10 accounts and 1,000 stored updates, and $99 for up to 25 accounts and 5,000 stored updates. On the fence? Request an invitation (average wait time is 24 hours or less!) and give a 30-day trial period a go.

2. He’s not the be-all, end-all. Like most things, you don’t want to put all your eggs in one basket. When it comes to social media monitoring and engagement, automation is fantastic to keep things consistent, but checking in live on a regular basis to respond to and interact with others is paramount to an honest, successful social strategy. For that, we layer on Hootsuite and the native Twitter app, as needed. (And TweetChat for our monthly #OWSchat, of course!)

What Edgar means for social media

For a solopreneur running the rat race of serving clients, creating new revenue streams, and handling all the day-to-day happenings of running a One Woman Shop, Edgar means a stress-free approach to social media management and consistency in your social media marketing.

Oh -- and it means for the first time ever, you can call an octopus your friend.

One Woman Experiments: Coding With Skillcrush (Part I)

Welcome to One Woman Experiments, where daring business women experiment with different parts of their business in order to find best practices. We hope these mini-experiments help improve your business and inspire you to test-drive new strategies. Have an experiment you want to test out and document? Check out our ideas and guidelines! This experiment in web development is currently being embarked upon by OWS head-honcho, Sara Frandina.

I’m a multipassionate. I don’t believe in confining yourself to a niche; I aim to learn as much as possible about many different things; and I sure as hell don’t ever find myself bored.

Being a multi-passionate, to me, means constantly evolving and trying new things. I’ve learned to overcome my fear of public speaking and won a campus-wide contest. I’ve learned to speak fluent Italian and traveled there as part of a full-immersion program. I’ve researched carboys and the best oak to use as I learn to make wine.

My Type-A personality lends itself well to learning, sticking with something, and getting pretty good at most things. (I’m not bragging. It’s a blessing and a curse.) But there’s one thing that’s been on my bucket list for far too long now, that I simply have not been able to grasp: coding. (Web developers: you have my undying envy + awe.)

Learning to code as a One Woman Shop

I’ve putzed around with the self-teaching route for coding. When I launched my business in late 2013, I even set out to build my own site. As a copywriter + editor, it was a complete mindset shift from the creative, free-flowing words to the rules-laden, no-room-for-error world of code. But still, even after embarking upon the process and keeping the best notes possible, I just wasn’t getting the hang of it.

A lot of that came from being a One Woman Shop who really needs to spend the majority of my time doing the things I’m good at to keep my business growing -- and therefore not being able to devote consistent time to a “non-essential” skill like coding. But the desire to learn to code hasn’t escaped me -- especially as I have client after client ask me how to put the web copy I write to its best use.

So when one of Cristina’s online contacts connected One Woman Shop to the ladies at Skillcrush suggesting we collaborate, it seemed a match was made in heaven. What’s Skillcrush? Oh, just a company that aims to teach tech skills to people who are complete newbies in a non-invasive, self-paced way. (And it’s a company built + run by a team of women -- even better.)

Learning to code, the Skillcrush way

Skillcrush has designed what they call Career Blueprints: comprehensive, three-class plans that you purchase as a package. They currently offer Blueprints for Web Design, Web Development, Freelance WordPress Development, and Ruby on Rails Development.

I know what you might be thinking: how is Skillcrush any different than the classes I can find, most likely cheaper, on Skillshare, Udemy, and the other online learning platforms that we love? Now that I’m nearly two weeks into the first module, let me count the ways:

Structure

The thing I lacked most in teaching myself to code was structure. Even going to frequent Girl Develop IT classes put on by our local chapter just didn’t provide the structure needed to learn, implement, and keep learning. With Skillcrush’s Blueprints, you have set lessons to follow -- whether you do it for an hour daily, as they suggest, or at your own pace -- and a road map for where you’re going. Suddenly, I understand the pieces of what I’m learning and how they’ll all work together.

Support

The community around the Skillcrush Blueprint is amazing. Not only do you have the support of your teachers, but you have constant access to fellow students running through the same program you are. They’ve built the Skillcrush community via Mightybell (basically a social intranet), which takes some getting used to, but it’s fantastically active.

Syllabi

The Blueprint is fantastic in that I know what’s coming next -- and the lessons drop into my inbox every day, so I don’t have to remember to go log in and check them out. I’ve just dipped my feet in the water with the first monthly module, HTML and CSS, and I’ve got a full four weeks of lessons to help me fully immerse myself and put it into practice before the syllabus calls for the next modules, JavaScript and jQuery, and Ruby, Git, and Sinatra. Do I even know what half of those things mean at this point? Nope. But that’s the beauty of the guided syllabi -- I’ve got the path laid out for me.

Why this is truly an experiment

Skillcrush makes some big promises: on the landing page for the Web Developer Blueprint, it tells me that I’ll have “everything you need to know to become a kick-a$%, take-no-prisoners, digital native.”

After years of trying to learn, I’m excited to see how true that is. And with the structure, support, and carefully-thought out syllabi, I’m dedicated to taking my hour each day to see it to fruition. Will it be perfect? I doubt it. Will I struggle? For sure. But that’s the purpose of this column: so you can learn from my mistakes and see if Skillcrush is the answer to your tech-savvy dreams.

Stick with me -- I’ve started off strong and now I need you to hold me accountable. I’ll be sharing the ins-and-outs of learning to code with the Skillcrush Web Developer Blueprint over the next three months!

PS - Skillcrush isn’t just a pay-to-play learning site. I’ve encountered countless fantastic resources via the Skillcrush blog to help me in both learning to code and learning to excel as a solopreneur.

PPS - Full disclosure: This post contains affiliate links + Skillcrush has comped the Blueprint for me as part of this One Woman Shop Experiment. (Aren’t they awesome?) That being said, everything I share is made of up my candid, honest opinions as I move through the Blueprint.

Weekly Finds

Welcome to One Woman Shop Weekly Finds - where we members of the community scour the web to bring you a curated list of posts, links, and resources that we they think will help your business—and maybe even your life! This week’s curator: copywriter + editor Sara Frandina.

Ever have that project that NEEDS to get done but you just can't quite get yourself to do it? (Yeah, I might just have a few of those at the moment...) Christine Kane has nine fantastic steps to just getting. it. done.

You're in crisis mode. Burnt out. Just plain tired. Do as Cordelia does: Go Into Energy Saver Mode. Love, love, love this post -- printed it out to keep in a drawer for those days when my brain is turned off and the couch is calling. (This will be especially handy as the holidays approach!)

Still struggling to choose between WordPress and Squarespace? You aren't alone. Listen to this uber-helpful podcast from Website Superhero Natalia before making any snap decisions.

Feeling stuck in your biz? Take it from my good friend Misti: "You CANNOT THINK your business out of a block. You MUST WORK your way out of it." She'll help you get started in her complimentary Biz Therapy Session. I thoroughly encourage you to check it out -- but a quick note: it's not for the faint at heart!

Your request was sent over three days ago and you've been twiddling your thumbs (and perhaps pulling out your hair) ever since. It's time to follow up, friends. Cure your fear of the follow up with this how-to post from Careful Cents contributor Melanie: The Art of the Follow-Up: How to Get a “Yes” Without Being Pushy.

In this post, Erin from In Our Stillness wisely reminds us that "Wellness is personal. It doesn’t have one, universal meaning." Decide what wellness means to you, then live it.

Just for fun: the holidays are fast approaching, which typically means one thing for me -- panic over gift-giving. That's why I was incredibly happy to stumble upon The Thinking Closet's new e-book, "Thinking Outside the Gift Box." Dig in + have fun with these fun ideas!

How To: Gather Testimonials From Past and Current Clients

Testimonials. Raves. Reviews.

Call them what you want, but know that they all boil down to one thing: social proof. Proof from past and current clients that you do what you do as well as you say you do. (How’s that for a mouthful?!)

It’s this social proof that can make or break your solopreneur marketing. Consider when you hire a contractor to work on your home, or are searching for a great new restaurant to take your friend for her birthday: I’m willing to bet that nine times out of ten, you’ll scour a review site to make sure the person or place is as good as their marketing makes them look. Agree?

The same happens when people are searching for the solution you provide. They land on your home page, check out your about page to see who you really are, and maybe hit up your blog to get a better feel for your expertise. But before they hire or buy? They’ll want to read reviews.

That’s why, whether you’re brand new to a side hustle or are a seasoned business owner, it’s incredibly important to collect testimonials and use them effectively on your website and in your marketing. Read on to get started.

Who to collect testimonials from

Consider the services and products you offer. For example, I’m a copywriter. So naturally, I’ll look to my copywriting clients to provide testimonials about my copywriting skills and conversion rates. But, I also provide other ways of helping fellow solopreneurs and One Woman Shops. Each time I offer a service or jump on a “pick my brain” call with a fellow solopreneur, I immediately follow it up with a gentle ask for a testimonial.

This could go on -- if you’ve released an ebook, you’ll want to solicit reviews from readers. If you’ve built and facilitated a course, you’ll want to garner testimonials from participants. You get the idea -- take all of your services and products into account (including what you’d like to offer in the future), and make a list of people who can provide a testimonial for each.

And remember: testimonials don’t have to be limited to your current client base. Keep your past clients in mind when you’re making your list.

Then, it’s time to make the ask.

How to ask for a testimonial

There are two goals when devising your process for testimonial gathering:

1. Make it ridiculously easy for your client.
2. Make it ridiculously easy for you.

Sounds great, right? Here’s how you get there:

Create a template. No matter how many services or products you offer, you can build a few standard templates to be used over and over again. You’ll want certain things out of your testimonials, but remember -- your clients can’t read your mind. That's why it's important to create templates that prompt them for the exact information you’d like. Here’s an example of what mine might look like for my Copy Power Hour:

  • What was the biggest benefit you received from your Copy Power Hour?
  • Based on what you got out of your Copy Power Hour, how will your business’ copy change?
  • Would you recommend the Copy Power Hour to a fellow business owner?

I’m only looking for my testimonials to be about 100-200 words, so I keep my ask to three questions. For you, this might look different.

Templates are a great way to systematize how you ask for testimonials. (Click to tweet this!) Creating a few different templates tailored to your different products and services sets you up for easy asks when the time comes. And the real bonus? It makes it easy on your clients to answer specific questions and provide you feedback.

Load it into an easily replicable form. Once you’ve developed your set of templates, get them set up in an easy-to-share form. For me, that means loading them into Typeform. (I highly recommend it!)

The beauty of using a form generator like Typeform, Wufoo, or Google Forms, is that you can easily link to the form over and over again, and the software will gather the results and generate reports for you. Each time someone fills out a Copy Power Hour testimonial form, I get a beautifully organized email from Typeform with the answers, which I can then copy and paste into a testimonial on my site. Voila -- you’ve just made it easy on yourself.

Save an email draft that you can personalize when the time comes. The final step once your templates are turned into beautiful forms: distribute. Again, the goal here is to keep it simple on your part. To continue with my example, this means saving an email draft in my inbox labeled “Copy Power Hour feedback.” Just a few hours after our session, I’ll send a quick follow up to the client with a summary of our session, and a link to the testimonial form.

For products or services sold on a grander scale, you might have a campaign set up in your email client that automatically goes out once they’ve purchased or completed something. Consider the best process for your biz, and make it happen.

Make testimonials work for your business

Word-of-mouth and referral marketing are the bread and butter of gaining new clients at very little expense. Asking for testimonials means purposefully gathering that word-of-mouth and referral marketing so that you can use it to work for you.

Stay tuned: we’ve got a post coming up soon on how to effectively use the testimonials you’ve gathered throughout your website! For now, make your list of past and current clients, develop your forms, and start making your asks.

Weekly Finds

Welcome to One Woman Shop Weekly Finds - where we members of the community scour the web to bring you a curated list of posts, links, and resources that we they think will help your business—and maybe even your life! This week’s curator: copywriter + editor Sara Frandina.

I'll be the first to admit -- I have a bit (okay quite a bit) of a solopreneur crush on Regina Anaejionu, of byRegina.com fame. This gem of a post, How I Started Making a Full-Time Blogging Income, chronicles her entrepreneurial journey and is perfect for anyone who needs a shove in the right direction.

I consistently tout the benefits of batching -- one of which is getting into your ideal state of flow to really get shit done. This article from Fast Company describes how to hack into your flow state, "quintuple" your productivity, and also produce better work. It's time to get in the zone, friends.

If you've ever felt idea-less when it comes to starting a new side-hustle/biz or ways to expand upon/improve your existing one, I urge you to read this article from Side Hustle Nation: Looking for a Business Idea? Remember to SCAMPER. While there's a ton of great info in there, the idea that really stuck out to me is this: "Most new business ideas are evolutionary, not revolutionary." Keep that in mind.

Author Deirdre Maloney has a bone to pick with us: it's the "twisted and manipulative" way we use the word "earn". Her take is quite interesting: The Seemingly-Virtuous, Often-Dangerous Word We All Use. Are you guilty of this? I sure am.

Considering introducing podcasting into your business? Check out these tips from Amy, of Savvy Sexy Social, when it comes to podcast preparation for newbies. While you're on her site, poke around -- you'll likely find a video that speaks to a need you have. They're informative and entertaining.

My friend + colleague Lisa Landtroop, better known as the "Time Thief Ninja Slayer" just unveiled her free, 21-day bootcamp that begins Monday, 11/3 -- Project Better Life, designed to help you become more committed to intentionality in seven different life compartments. I'm looking forward to using this as preparation for the maniacal holiday happenings coming up!

We hear a lot about multipassionate solopreneurs -- in fact, we encourage it at One Woman Shop. But are you letting your multipassionate lifestyle hold you back? Rebecca from Uncaged Life is "calling you out if you’ve been hiding under the veil of being multi-passionate and not actually making concrete decisions about your business." Be ready to be kicked in the you-know-what.

Batching: Your Productivity Sidekick

How many “productivity hacks” have you encountered or read about lately? They’re prevalent for a reason: every solopreneur is out to do the same -- get more done with less, and make the most of our (seemingly limited) time.

The truth is, there are truly great methods out there -- the Pomodoro Technique, unplugging, taking breaks, you name it. And different things work for different people. But there’s one trick I’ve witnessed that has worked time and time again for countless solopreneurs.

The key: batching

I'm sure you've heard of it before: batching. But what exactly does it mean?

The term "batching" simply means focused blocks of time spent on one task.

Multi-tasking is no longer the be-all, end-all for productivity that it was once thought to be. In fact, multi-tasking is actually a costly habit to form. Instead, adopting a batching process promotes getting your mind into a state of flow, where a singular focus leads to increased productivity.

When batching works best

While batching can be used for any to-do list in your personal or business life, I find that batching works best for me when I have a pretty hefty list full of either diverse tasks or clients.

As a copywriter and editor, I find it particularly helpful when it comes to adopting voices. Singularly focusing on one client means I can adopt their voice through-and-through for a set amount of time. Making a rule that I won't check email or write social posts during that time keeps me from attempting to switch between the client's voice and my own.

Even just hopping over to email to respond to something "real quick" means a mindset shift, and a break in your state of flow. Getting back into the groove of that client's work takes at least 15 minutes. Those quarter hours add up quick!

How you can apply batching to your day

Batching can be applied in a slew of different ways. Here are a few ideas:

- Client tasks and projects
- Content creation for your own business (blog posts, newsletters, etc.)
- Collaborative projects
- Writing and scheduling social media posts
- Reading and responding to emails (Tim Ferriss has been doing this for years.)
- Setting up and improving the logistical processes for your business

You can batch your list out either by the actual type of task (i.e, writing), or by the client. In my case, it certainly works better to batch by client, then further batch by the type of work. So with clients for whom I write blogs posts, newsletters, and social posts, I first batch out a block of time to work specifically on that one client, then within that time, I batch the blog posts, then the newsletters, then the social posts.

Make your list, check it twice... then attack it by batching!

Take a look at your list and divide it out by either task or client. Then get out your calendar and batch out blocks of time.

Stick with it, not matter how hard it gets, for three weeks -- after all, a new habit takes a minimum of 21 days to adopt, on average. Keep track of what you get done with an app like iDoneThis. Watch your productivity skyrocket.

Batching leads to greater productivity, which leads to happier clients, and a One Woman Shop with more time to read, play, relax, or hey, take on more clients. Not bad, eh?