We Dare You To…

Recently, we asked members of our community to issue a challenge to their fellow One Woman Shops. Here's what they (and we) dare you to do today, this weekend, or next week:

...reach out to someone you admire [email protected]_alittlecreative

...go a day without social media

...be fearless -Porche' Maria

...lose track of time during a coffee meeting with a potential client or new business friend

...go for a walk without your cell phone [email protected]KatiaPriceless

...ignore your inbox for (gasp) a whole day

...fail -Tanya Kertsman

Any challenges you'd like to issue to the One Woman Shop community?

Motivation Monday: Get Outside Your Business Area

Join us every Monday morning for Motivation Monday, where we share a helpful “homework” assignment that gives your business a creative boost and gets you thinking (and moving) outside the box each week.

We've said it before, but we'll say it again: spending time away from our direct work can have incredible benefits- it helps us keep our sanity, but it can also spark new ideas. We like to dabble in areas that are on the "fringe" of our own- so, if you're digital marketing, social psychology might be a fun and relevant area to explore. If you're looking to be more efficient, reading recruiting blogs like Boolean Black Belt could be beneficial.

Here are some ideas for getting your creative juices flowing. We hope at the very least that it gives your constantly-whirring mind a little break but you never know- something cool might come of it!

  • Skim the documentary section of Netflix- Freakanomics, Craigslist Joe, and Happy are all our on list!
  • Listen to a new podcast- we recommend Wait Wait Don't Tell MeRadioLab, Planet Money, and Side Hustle Nation
  • Grab a book about social psychology from the library- Sparring Mind has a great list of 50 social psych books
  • Spend some time jumping from one YouTube video to another- LifeHacker and TED are great places to start
  • Find new blogs to read- Feedly allows you to add content by topic but you also ask your Facebook friends and Twitter followers if they have suggestions

As you're absorbing your new resources, see if the business-related ideas start to flow naturally. If not, ask yourself the following: what is the lesson here and how can I apply it to my business or others' businesses?

Use your new inspiration to brainstorm blog post topics, come up with topics for speaking engagements, or just inform your thinking about a certain topic.

(7 More) Things to Do When There’s Nothing to Do

Do you feel like it's feast or famine in your solo business? You're definitely not alone- we all deal with up and down periods, especially at the beginning. Lauren Caselli recently shared five tips for what to do when there's nothing to do in your business, but we're back with even more ideas for you that will keep your business in order, expand your network, and help you maintain your sanity.

Connect with your email subscribers: When's the last time you did a little research on the people on your email list? Look through the list, Google search each name, find their email address, and shoot them a quick personal email. Don't have an email list? Set one up now!

Go through Twitter followers and Facebook likes: Your followers and those who like your Facebook page only see a fraction of the things you post- ensure that they see everything by finding their email address and asking if you could add them to your email list. Follow back the accounts that you find beneficial.

Recategorize your blog: Having a streamlined system of categories and tags on your blog ensures that people can actually find content that is relevant to their interests. Don't overdo it with categories and tags- how will readers know which one to click if there's a bunch that are essentially the same thing? Be consistent- use SEO or Search Engine Optimization, but not both. Here's a great resource on how to use tags effectively.

Clear off computer desktop: Is your desktop covered with downloads, documents, and screenshots? Organize them to speed up your computer and ensure that you can easily find items.

Update WordPress plugins: If you're using WordPress for your blog or website, you should be using plugins for added functionality. Unfortunately, they can become outdated quickly, so take a few minutes to update them regularly.

Add new contacts on LinkedIn: If you've been to a networking event lately or met new business friends online, take a few minutes to keep your LinkedIn network up-to-date. You never know when you'll want one of your contacts to facilitate an introduction for you!

Add new sites to your Feedly account: We're sure you have a few tried-and-true blogs and website that you read every day, but now's the time to add a few more by searching or asking your network for their suggestions. Don't have a Feedly account yet? Sign up now!

P.S. If you like these suggestions, be sure to download our Nothing to Do printable- just print, cut along the dotted lines, and pick out one of our suggestions when you have some down time in your business!

Motivation Monday: Rainy Day File

You know those crappy work days where you feel tired, unproductive, in need of more caffeine, full of doubt, and ready to run back to a cubicle? Where all you want to do is pull the covers over your eyes, curl up with a cup of coffee, turn on Friends, or take a road trip to get away? Yeah, we've had them too -- the days where it might be sunny outside, but it sure feels like a rainy day. On those days, it can be tough to remember why you usually love your job and the many successes you’ve had. The awesome client response to a project; the great feedback from a customer; the sweet thank you note from a blogger you worked with -- they all seem to be instantly banished from your memory.

Which is why we keep a Rainy Day folder (or a 'Keepers File', as Jenny Blake says!) to keep track of the nice things people say about our work or metrics that prove that we are, in fact, on the right track.

Where to create your Rainy Day collage:

  • Email (add a "Rainy Day" label to all nice incoming emails)
  • Pinterest board (keep it secret if you want)
  • PicMonkey (though you won’t be able to edit it)
  • Polyvore (you could save it as a draft so that it’s not publicly visible)
  • Evernote (better for words than photos)
  • A bulletin board (yes, a real one!)

What to include:

  • Thank you notes (or photos of them)
  • Text from positive emails, tweets, or Facebook messages sent by your contractor, your client, or your customer
  • An article with your byline and headshot
  • Screen shots of your successes (like that graph showing a 500% increase in your site stats for your blog!)
  • An autograph of a famous-in-your-industry individual that you were able to meet
  • An image of a graphic you designed

We're all about internal self-assurance and intrinsic drive, but sometimes, you just need that little bit of external reassurance. Undoubtedly, these things won't complete you, but they can provide a quick pick-me-up on a rough day.

5 Things in Business That Won’t Complete You

We recently read a piece, entitled Things That Won't Complete You, about all those material goods or experiences that you have convinced yourself will "fill in your missing piece, your gassy void, your melancholy nothingness, your gaping abyss." Harsh wording aside, we liked the sentiment of the list and wanted to create our own. Presenting:

5 Things in Business That Won't Complete You

  1. Reaching a financial milestone: Did you finally get your first thousand dollars or first hundred thousand dollars as a solopreneur or freelancer? You may get a boost in self-confidence, you may feel more comfortable telling people your rates, and you may rest a little easier at night knowing your bank account isn't near zero- but it won't complete you. 
  2. Selling out a product, service, or course: You are in demand, lady! All those late nights and Venti coffees are paying off and filling up your bank account (see above). You can confidently say that you have found your target market and are selling to them effectively. That's awesome, but again, it won't complete you.
  3. Increasing your email list size by any percent: People like what you have to say and voluntarily give you access to their inbox? You have a targeted list to sell your awesome products and services to (see above)? That's huge in this email marketing driven world! But we're not even going to say it this time, but you know what we would say if we would say it 🙂
  4. Maintaining a 5/5 feedback rating: You better believe that this will help you sell more products or services in the future because your future audience will know that you provide value to your current clients and customers. It's an awesome rush to open your Google form responses and see a big 5 there, but it won't give you complete satisfaction in the long haul.
  5. Gaining new Twitter followers or Facebook likes: Do you watch these numbers religiously? We admit, we do too, but at the end of the day, there are a heck of a lot of things more important to us than making sure that we have more followers than people we're following. We've had that and it doesn't carry us through our day with a sense of ease and contentment, trust us.

We're not saying goals aren't important- but it would be misguided to think that any of the above metrics or accomplishments will, on their own, provide you with a sense of fulfillment overnight. The satisfaction we feel from reaching these goals is often fleeting and replaced by the need to set an even higher goal.

Want proof? Ash Ambirge of The Middle Finger Project is a hotshot in the online media world- and she's got over 10,000 Twitter followers and more than 9,000 Facebook likes to show for it. But guess what? She recently wrote a post about 9 things everyone needs to know about success, reality, and being human, where she admits to being overweight because she can't pull herself away from work, unconsciously picking her fingers due to stress, and ignoring friends and family so that she can focus on work.

We're in no way bashing Ash. We really respect her honesty and courage in baring it all and unfortunately, we're not convinced that she's too much of an anomaly in the fast-paced entrepreneurial world. But she is a great example that shows superficial metrics won't complete you (thanks for putting it out there, Ash!).

We encourage you to keep aiming high and continuing setting goals, but to simultaneously let go and realize that followers, likes, money, and positive feedback will never complete you.

What do you tell yourself will complete you in your business?

Motivation Monday: Update Your Bio

Join us every Monday morning for Motivation Monday, where we share a helpful “homework” assignment that gives your business a creative boost and gets you thinking (and moving) outside the box each week.

"Can you send over a bio?" Ah, sounds so simple, huh? But if you're paralyzed by the idea of writing about yourself in a pithy way that actually showcases your personality- and in third person, to boot- it can be an awkward process.

All business owners and freelancers should always have a bio on hand to send to potential clients, to include on their "About" page, to send off for speaking engagements, and to include at the bottom of guest blog posts.

Already have a bio? We encourage you to take a few minutes to ensure that it does the following:

  • Answers who, what, why: Who do you work with? What do you do for them? What is the ultimate goal for your clients or customers? Be sure that your bio captures the various aspects of your business if applicable- we're talking to you, multipassionates! Highlight the common thread that connects all of your various projects and offerings together, but feel free to toss one or two unrelated things in to spice things up.
  • Showcases your personality: If you're a silly person, don't be afraid to let that come through in your bio (you may want to have a less goofy version on hand just in case though). We like using a slightly embarrassing but relatable hobby or quirk to break the ice- like mentioning how we play Candy Crush in our free time (anyone else?). If you're feeling particularly daring, try something like Stephanie Cleary does (there are mentions of f bombs and sexual innuendoes- not for the faint of heart!).
  • Shows authority: Have you been featured on top websites? Spoken at prestigious conferences? Received an awesome award? Been told you were incredible by someone famous? Highlight these in your bio to establish social proof.
  • Tells people where to find you: Tell people your favorite place to connect- there's no need to include every single social media channel ever. For example, we don't use Pinterest much for business, so we can leave this one off and really focus on our favorites (hello, Twitter!).
  • Provides a call to action: What do you want people who read your bio to do? Visit your website? Join your email list? Buy your latest product? Be sure to highlight this effectively.

Also important? Keep three versions of your bio on hand: a micro one (1 sentence), a short one (3-4 sentences), and a long one (several paragraphs).

And we have another quick tip for you: if you've been on a guest posting rampage in the past, but have a new product, service, or website, we recommend reaching out to anyone and everyone who has profiled you and ask them to update your bio. A few minutes of time in for a lot of benefit out!

Need more guidance? We love Alexandra Frazen's Mad Libs bio template and these 8 tips from Undercover Recruiter.

Why You Need Both Joy and Purpose in Your Business

joy and purpose in businessImagine your perfect work situation. Are you imagining it?

If you’re like us, you want to start work every day feeling like you’re fulfilling your purpose by changing the community, empowering individuals, helping others grow their babies businesses, providing people with inspiration, or something else purpose-y. It doesn’t have to come in the form of working with a non-profit or being a career counselor, but purpose- however you define it- is probably important to you. So we’ve talked about the purpose side of the equation.

Now let's assume that you also care about things like having a schedule that fits for you, having the flexibility to take breaks if and when you need them, getting to work with clients who are fun and easy to work with, and working on awesome projects. That's the joy side of things.

What if you have purpose, but no joy, in your business? Chances are, you're going to burn out- you may lose interest in your work or begin to find it mentally draining- even if you think you're providing a benefit to society in some way, shape, or form. For example, a freelance non-profit consultant might feel that they provide extensive benefits to the clients they secure, but they feel stressed and overworked, especially for the amount of money they're paid. Hence, a purposeful business devoid of joy.

And what about a business that's full of joy but no purpose? You may thrive on your day-to-day work, but you will likely lose steam over the long haul if you only feel that you are serving yourself and your own interests. An example might be a designer who loves their freedom, flexibility, and autonomy, but doesn't feel that they are making any kind of impact through their work. Here we have a joy-filled business that lacks purpose.

Is one or the another enough? We say no, at least not long-term. We believe that a great business is found at the intersection of joy and purpose- so here's to finding your Ah! spot.

Do you think both joy and purpose are necessary in your business? Do you currently have both?

4 Strategies for Conquering Awkward Situations (in Business and Life)

When was the last time you were uncomfortable? Not like there's-a-tag-in-your-shirt-that's-scratching you uncomfortable…I'm talking about socially uncomfortable. That feeling where you want to crawl under something or at the very least avert your eyes because you can't bear to meet the eyes of the other person. You might look back and cringe over the moment because it was just so uncomfortable or the way you handled it was just…bad.

  • Did someone ask you that dreaded, "So, what do you do?" question?
  • Did you have to have a discussion with someone on the topic of money?
  • Did you have to stand up for something when you knew you were going against the majority?
  • Did you make a faux pas so bad you wish your could erase the memory, Men In Black style?

This topic always makes me think of that deodorant commercial where the cute 20-something is at a work party with her boyfriend. She sees him standing at the refreshments table, walks up and flirtatiously smacks his butt then he turns around and it's her boss wearing the exact same outfit as her boyfriend. I'm shuddering just thinking of it!

Now think of one of those moments in your life (bonus points if it was in your biz). Do you have a super uncomfortable moment in your mind? Tell me- what happened as a result?

Was your life in danger? No? Did you almost lose your home? No? Did you business go under? No? Do you get what I'm getting at here? The point is that we're all conditioned to be almost deathly afraid of awkward and uncomfortable situations.

I'm not saying that you should go up and smack a random person's butt tomorrow- I'm just saying that sometimes the biggest leaps you can make in your business are just on the other side of an uncomfortable situation.

Some obvious examples:

  • Raising your rates and having to approach your current clients about it
  • Having straight forward sales conversations
  • Approaching big names about collaborations
  • Nominating yourself for an award
  • Speaking in front of a big crowd

Think back again to the awkward moment you were thinking of before. What could have happened if you handled it perfectly? Best case scenario; what was the potential? I'm willing to bet there was serious potential for you to either look awesome, feel awesome, or just grow as a person (bonus points for revenue potential!).

Huge opportunities disguised as potentially awkward moments pop up all the time. Tough discussions and being put on the spot come with the territory when you're running your own business so it's time to get prepared for the situations.

Here are a few simple strategies you can use to prepare for and shine in awkward high-stakes moments:

Ask for more time

I know that I get flustered when I am put on the spot. It's okay to need more time- sometimes we are the ones pressuring ourselves to come up with a quick answer. If it's appropriate in the situation, you can say, "Wow, thanks for asking, that's such a great question. Would it be okay if I get back to you on that? I want to be sure that I can give you the best answer/explanation and I don't feel quite prepared to do that this moment." As a bonus, it makes you look even better because it shows that you care about accuracy and quality.

Say your peace, then shut up!

One of my good girlfriends taught me this years ago and I’ve heard it time and time again since then. Silence is your friend! This is particularly true in negotiations or when discussing rates or rate changes. When we are have uncomfortable conversations, we all seek to make the situation more comfortable, perhaps subconsciously. So, what do we find comfortable? Words, noise, chatting, small talk, filling the space so no one has to deal with what’s right in our face: the uncomfortable topic. My friend told me the story of a friend of hers who was negotiating her new salary and was asking for significantly more than the initial offer. When they asked what number she was thinking, she told them and then was silent. An uncomfortable amount of time went by where there was silence on both sides because both were aware that whoever spoke first “lost.” Finally, the company’s HR rep spoke first- and she got her much higher rate. Although it was an uncomfortable silence (she said it was almost unbearable and felt like a solid minute of silence), she didn’t lose the opportunity and I can damn well bet the people that went toe-to-toe with her in the negotiation respect her for sticking to her guns and negotiating like a champ. Silence is golden. Say your piece and then shut up!

Prepare ahead of time 

If it's possible, get your head together before the potentially awkward situation. I do this by thinking through every possible rebuttal, response, and reaction. There are some situations in which you may be unable to predict how things will unfold but the vast majority of the time, you can anticipate possible outcomes. Once I think of all possibilities, I plan how I will handle each of those situations. Need to fire a client? Think through all potential outcomes and consider reaching out to your network to find out what people in your trusted inner-circle have encountered in similar situations. Ask for their hindsight advice. Think through every possible situation, role play your points and rebuttals, and prepare yourself. You'll feel a million times better going into that conversation than if you were just to wing it.

Employ humor

I love using humor in tough situations when it's appropriate and won't minimize or undermine my stance. As a general rule of thumb, this is helpful in lower-stake situations. In the right situation, I think it's funny to bring attention to the awkwardness of that situation because it eases the tension. You will know when it is an appropriate time to throw in a little one liner but always be prepared to smile, laugh at yourself, and realize that everyone is human. I've seen this work really well when someone is speaking in front of a group and fumbles their words or forgets what they were saying. So make light of it, address it head on, laugh at yourself, and move on. Everyone will appreciate your humanness.

As humans we naturally shy away from uncomfortable situations, even if there's nothing to lose- even if we won't feel any pain other than maybe a pang of embarrassment or momentary emotional dissonance. There's no way to eliminate our self-preservation instinct (and we shouldn't want to!) but I know that if you actively use these strategies, push yourself outside of your comfort zone, and confront uncomfortable situations head-on you stand to gain so much.

What's one thing you've been avoiding because it's uncomfortable? What strategy are you going to implement today to confront it?

Motivation Monday: Book Covers

Join us every Monday morning for Motivation Monday, where we share a helpful “homework” assignment that gives your business a creative boost and gets you thinking (and moving) outside the box each week.

Do you struggle with your business' branding and the vibe you want your potential clients or customers to feel? Are you unsure of which colors and fonts you should incorporate into your business site? Get inspired by visiting your local bookstore or library and pulling 5-10 books off the shelves that have covers that light you up. And don't worry, this is the time to judge the book by the cover 😉

Note what your favorite book covers have in common and let these preferences begin to guide your business and personal branding. Some questions to ask yourself:

  • Are you more drawn to simple or busy covers?
  • Do you tend to like modern or vintage covers better?
  • Do you like photos, illustrations, or plain fonts better?
  • Do you tend to like a lot of different colors or just one or two?
  • Along the same lines, do you like bright colors or muted colors best?
  • Is there a mood that all of the covers seem to capture?

Want a handy worksheet to track your branding preferences? Just enter your email address below:

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Call for Responses: One Woman Experiments

We're all about finding new, better ones of getting things done in business. We are looking for daring women to experiment with different parts of their business in order to find best practices. Aptly named One Woman Experiments, these mini experiments will not only (hopefully) improve your own business, but also inspire other One Woman Shops to test-drive new strategies.

Some topics we're interested in exploring:

  • Does adopting the five.sentenc.es email philosophy change your email process for the better?
  • Does using the Pomodoro technique improve your productivity and concentration?
  • What happens when you adopt the ideas from The 4 Hour Workweek?
  • Does working from a coworking space improve your business (productivity, networking, etc)?
  • What happens when you take on a bunch of pro bono clients (does it lead to good business developments)?
  • What happens when you declare email bankruptcy?
  • When happens when you take a week off from social media?
  • What would happen if you sold a product or service using a Pay What It's Worth model?
  • Your idea!

Interested? Please email us with the experiment you're interested in conducting. We'll get back to you with a decision on whether we'd like you to write the piece for the site. If we say yes, here's what  we'll need from you:

  • a 150 x 150 px headshot
  • A 3-4 sentence bio in third person
  • 1-2 paragraphs responses to the following:
      • What is your experiment and why?
      • Tell us your methodology (length of experiment, what you'll measure, etc)
      • How did you feel when you adopted the new practice? Were you more productive/sane/happy? Metrics are great- like "I was able to do x% more in the same amount of time"
      • Any revolutionary/surprising insights?
      • What was the toughest/best part of your experiment? Do you think you'll stick with it?

P.S. Looking to contribute to One Woman Shop in other ways? Be sure to check out our Call for Responses section!