Entrepreneurship Requires Discipline

I believe discipline is more of an issue for people who started in a traditional job before deciding to follow their entrepreneurial dream of being their own boss – thinking that it doesn’t require work to build a business – but it does.

When you were working at your 9-5 job you dreamt of being able to work from home, the problem is for most people, the dream was about being home and work wasn’t actually part of the fantasy. Being an entrepreneur can be more financially rewarding that working for an hourly wage, and it can allow you to be flexible in your schedule and location, but at the end of the day, what is really required is work.

I feel like I have just uttered a four letter word in a room full of young children – did she just say W-O-R-K?

Yes, I did.

In the beginning, it will take more effort on your part, you will be learning new things – this is going to require time and discipline for you to succeed – but you can do it. One of the best ways to make life easier is to develop systems. Systems don’t have to be rigid to help you. Ideally systems will help keep track of tasks to be done, the steps to complete those tasks and of course you will make use of automation when possible.

Develops Systems

Systems can be simple. For example, a checklist for each blog post that you write may include things like, SEO Friendly Title, Call to Action at the end of the post, Images to use, and a reminder to share to social media sites – you get the idea. A checklist is a system and you can find checklists that others are using and then adapt it for your business.

As your business becomes more successful, you will want to be able to outsource tasks, that you don’t like doing, aren’t really good at doing, or that just take up too much or your valuable time. Having systems already in place allows you to more easily see the tasks you can outsource and it helps you to explain what you expect from the person you are delegating that specific task to.

Without systems, it is harder. I’m not saying you won’t be successful, just that it will feel like more work and less reward if you can’t ever be away from your business. If every time you write a blog post, you have to stop and take the time to think – is there anything I forgot – it seems harder because it is harder. But you are making it harder.

Setting up systems can also seem like it takes more time than just doing the task at hand – and that may be true in the moment, but over the long term you will be wasting more time than you gained initially.

Checklists are not the only systems you can use in your business, do you have an autoresponder for you emails? That is a system, it is an email management system – imagine if you had to do all that work yourself. The more you grow your business, the more “moving parts” it will have and the longer you wait to get systems into place, the harder it becomes. Not impossible, just harder.

You may have to try more than one system or method until your find what works best for you and your business, so get started today.

Manage Your Time

This can be very hard. You left your traditional job so that you could have more free time, so why would you want to limit that? Well as mentioned above, you will have to find time to actually work if you plan to bring in a steady income.

You will have to learn to say no – and that can be very hard to do. You need have a calendar to know what events are coming up for your family, and what social activities you want to make sure you attend. For me my #1 social activity is my monthly book club meeting, I work my schedule around that event as much as possible, on occasion I do have to miss a month, but very rarely.

Now that you have the good stuff on the calendar, start a second calendar to write down all your business commitments, including project due dates, client meetings, etc. Now compare the two calendars, and look at any days and times that overlap – start there – this is your most immediate problem. Once you have any areas of overlap cleared up, you still need to add in time for you to work in and on your business.

If after you have done these exercises, you need to determine if you have left yourself enough time to truly build your business – if not, you will have to make some sacrifices either in your leisure/family activities, or in your expectations for your business growth.

I would also recommend repeating this process at least every 90 days and in the beginning, maybe every month, just to make sure that you time management system (see how I snuck this system in) is working for you and your business. Time is the most precious resource, we can never get back our time so we want to make sure we are spending it wisely.

Now that you have your systems in place you are one step closer to building that entrepreneurial lifestyle you were dreaming of while you were working at that old 9-5 job. Having the freedom to live the lifestyle you want requires discipline, but the fun you can have will be so worth the effort.

I’m Lori Winslow, the Organized Solopreneur.  I help solopreneurs get their business and their life organized.  To get started, pick up a copy of my Top 10 Ways to Get Your Solopreneur Business Organized.

Bullet Journal Creator Ryder Carroll Interview

I found this interview of Ryder Carroll the creator of the Bullet Journal system and wanted to share it with you. I found it very interesting and I hope that you do too.  I loved hearing that he uses a combination of his bullet journal and technology, just like I do. I love my bullet journal but would be lost without my Google Calendar to send me reminders.

He’s of course promoting his book:

If you are a fan of Bullet Journaling, you want to get a copy of this book it is awesome! He has an interesting story and it helps to understand the concept of how to use a bullet journal for yourself.

 

3 Essential Types of Written Content for Online Business Owners

Content creation is an essential part of any online business, but let’s face it, written content is still king. I believe that there are three forms of written content essential to market your business, grow a relationship with your community and show off your expertise. And I also want to share some ideas on how to create all this written content day after day and week after week.

Blogging

Let’s start with blog posts. When people think about online content most people think about blog posts. Blog posts can by any length you need to convey your point, long or short. You can share tips, ideas, customer comments, pictures, stories and just about anything else related to your online business on your blog.

When you are creating content to share on your blog, you should keep two goals in mind. You want to share content that attracts new visitors that might be interested in your products and services, and grow your relationship with your existing readers. Of course, not every blog post will be able to that, but strive for a balance.

For example if you’re a personal trainer, you may want to write some posts about how hiring a trainer will push you to the next level or help you lose weight and get back in shape. At the same time you may also want to share nutritional tips that will help your current clients. Mix and match and get it the habit of blogging on a consistent schedule.

Email Marketing

The best way to reach your potential customers directly is through email marketing. These are people that have signed up to be contacted by you. In other words, they are asking you to share information. You want to offer information and make recommendations for goods and services that truly assist your target market. For many businesses the bulk of their purchases are a direct result of their email marketing campaigns.

And those emails are content combined with offers.

There is no right or wrong email schedule, but you can look at what is working for others in your same target market. A restaurant may offer daily specials, so that is a good reason to email on a daily basis. Your business may be better suited to a weekly or monthly email schedule.

Just remember, email is primarily written content.

Ebooks, Short Reports or any PDF

Lastly, are PDF’s or any type or report or ebook. This is content that is usually downloaded vs being consumed directly on the webpage (blog post) or in an email. Your goal in creating these PDF’s is to share your expertise, grow your reach and get more eyeballs to your website, or whatever your end goal is.

As a marketing tool, short reports make great opt-in offers. You offer information in exchange for someone’s email address. This is how you grow a list of people to send that above mentioned emails to.

Longer ebooks can be used as a paid product. An easy way to create and ebook is to look at some of the popular posts on your blog. Do you have a few related blog posts you could compile into a report? Or maybe you have a popular blog post that you can expand upon the topic.

These days it is very easy to use software to make your PDF, long or short, look professional. My personal favorite software is Designerr. It is very easy to use and offers a lot of choices and the ability to customize your ebooks and short reports.

These are the three types of written content you will need to create for you online business. Of course, you can and most likely will add audio and video to your website and your emails, but those usually include even a brief amount of written content.

The more content you create and share the more likely you are to be found by your prospective customers.

How Do I Create All This Content?

But don’t think that you always have to be creating new content, sometimes you just need to freshen up something you have already created. Not everyone is going to have read every one of your blog posts from the beginning of time. There are many people’s emails that I look forward to, but guess what, sometimes, I don’t read every word of every email I receive. Shocking, I know.

The point is, you have a duty to your readership to update and refresh your existing content as well as creating new content.

The truth is, things change. Depending on your niche, that change may happen often and quickly. Other niches may be more evergreen, but either way, you can freshen up old content.

First take a look at previous blog posts, is there any outdated information? Do you have links that no longer work? Are any of the products or tools mentioned in the post outdated or no longer available? Have you changed your stance on a particular issue? Or is there just new information on the topic?

These are all posts that can and should be updated for the benefit of your community, and to keep your status as the leader. You really don’t want to delete your old posts, if at all possible just update the information and share it with your email list and social media followers.

Next, read through the content again. Is there something you can add to it to make it even more helpful? Can you explain things differently to make it even better? Can you include some examples or illustrations to make it easier to understand?

Always be on the lookout for ways to improve your content. Your blog posts are often the first impression people get of you and your business. Make sure to make a great first impression.

Now depending on how old your blog posts are, you may not have used images in your older blog posts, but these days, people expect images. I like to use multiple images to give my readers more opportunities to share the post on Pinterest, they are welcome to share it on other social media sites, but Pinterest is my personal preference.

Now what about the format of your old posts. Can you make use of some sub-headings, break up the length of your paragraphs? Add bold and/or bullets and lists to create more visual appeal.

Now I have been talking primarily about making sure your written content appeals to your readers, but there is another consideration too – SEO. You want to make sure that you understand how you readers will be looking for you, meaning, you know the keywords and keyword phrases they are typing into the search engines to find your website.

I’m not an SEO expert and I don’t play one on TV, this is how I understand SEO and how I use this knowledge in my own business. SEO means, Search Engine Optimization. You want to make sure your written content includes terms that people are searching for, and those terms are used strategically in your blog post title and throughout the post.

In addition to the actual blog post content, you can use categories and tags to further help with your SEO ranking. You want a high SEO ranking to improve your traffic. And this is free traffic, the best kind.

Written content is so important for your online business. Each piece of content should have a goal. What do you want your readers to do when they are done reading it? Should they engage with you via comments? Join your email list? Buy a product you created or just one you’re recommending?

Be clear on what your intent is and learn to use your words to your advantage and you will be a winner in the content game. Share your content wins or struggles in the comments below or if your prefer, you can use the contact form.

What Is Compelling Content and How Do I Create It?

Compelling content is what makes the difference. Compelling content helps your reader find a solution, and compells them to take action. When you regularly create compelling content and share it on your blog and with your email list, then your community will begin to flourish. And a flourishing community can often lead to an improving income.

Here’s what sets compelling content apart from ho-hum content:

Compelling content serves a need.

The best content meets a real need for your audience and connects with their problems. For example, if you’re a wellness coach that serves busy moms, then you know your clients struggle with making food that’s quick to prepare while still being nutritious.

You could take this information and create a blog post about twelve healthy meals busy moms can make in their slow cookers. You could also share tips on how to use a food processor or blender to cut down on time spent in the kitchen.

Once you identify a problem your clients are struggling with, create content that offers solutions. People aren’t looking for you when they type into Google, they are looking for solutions – offer the solutions, and they will find you.

Compelling content has your personality.

You know what problem your content is going to address and you have a few solutions to offer your audience. Now, it’s time to get started creating content.

You may be tempted to share your solutions in a bland or universal way. Don’t make this mistake.

Many solopreneurs and bloggers struggle with letting their personality shine through their content. But the best content has your voice and style.

Your unique style is your best asset. It attracts your audience and makes them think they’ve finally found a leader they’ll love following. Keep giving them more of what they want.

Compelling content inspires action.

When someone has finished consuming your content, they should feel compelled to do something. It might be to buy your product, like your Facebook page, join your email list, or share your content on social media.

But don’t leave this step up to your readers, listeners or viewers. Include a call to action at the end of your content.

Ask readers to take one small step, like joining your email list or liking your Facebook page. You want to keep it simple here. Don’t ask listeners or viewers to take multiple steps or you’ll overwhelm them. Stick with just one call to action.

But…

Where Do You Find Ideas For Compelling Content?

When it comes to creating compelling content, you don’t have to spend hours brainstorming ideas or researching topics. There are plenty of easy ways to figure out what topics will be the most useful for your community.

I use these suggestions to jumpstart my creativity, I hope they will inspire your next content piece too.

Many solopreneurs find Amazon amazingly helpful for content ideas. People are buying products – and products are solutions to a problem. You can get tons of ideas from the biggest online store.

Amazon’s search feature, like Google’s, offers suggestions. Start by going to Amazon and typing your keyword into the search box. You can see the dropdown menu starts to offer suggested “next words.” This can be a gold mine of ideas about what people are actually typing into the search box. Knowing what people are looking for, lets you provide the answer.

Now my other favorite Amazon method, is to make use of the book section. Look for books in your area of expertise. Books with an orange banner are best-sellers.

You can use Amazon’s “look inside” feature to see the table of contents and a few sample pages. Scan the available preview and if any ideas jump out at you, write them down. Build upon these ideas, from your own unique perspective.

Another great place to find inspiration is the podcast section of iTunes. The most popular podcasts will be in the top ten. Those are great, but don’t limit your research to just the top ten.

Notice what topics these hosts are covering as this will show you what topics your audience wants to learn more about. If something sparks an idea, be sure to capture it. But keep in mind how you could give the topic your own unique twist.

Facebook Groups can be an awesome source of inspiration. Sign into your Facebook account and look for the search bar at the top of the screen. You can type your keyword then click on the “groups” link at the top of the page to filter the results to only show groups.

If a group’s privacy setting is set to “open”, you might be able to see the latest posts. If the group is “closed”, you won’t be able to see posts but you can request to become a member. Once you’re inside the group, look around at the discussions members are having. Pay attention to what questions keep coming up and write a blog post that answers these questions.

Don’t just join the group to “spy” you will likely find “like-minded” people in these groups that could lead to collaborations as well as content ideas.

And finally, I love to use YouTube for research. Videos are a great way to see what topics other solopreneurs are teaching on in your niche.

You can tell which videos are the most watched by how many views they have. The more views it has, the more popular the video is.

When you are watching a video on YouTube, you see all the upcoming videos, this can also be a gold mine of information. There is a reason that YouTube is choosing to show you those videos, so that means that others will be shown similar suggestions, you just need to figure out your unique slant and get that video on YouTube.

Every solopreneur has days when their creative tank is empty. When this happens to you, recharge your creativity by looking at what other content leaders in your niche are doing and sharing. Soon you will right back to creating and publishing compelling content.

Compelling content is essential if you want to build a thriving community. When you regularly offer awesome content, your community will begin to trust you and look to you for guidance.

I would love to know what methods you use to create compelling content, if you are willing to share them in the comments below.

 

5 Steps to Help You Stick to Your New Year’s Resolutions

By this time in January, the majority of people have already dropped the ball on their New Year’s Resolutions. What seemed like such a great idea/plan on January 1 has already been abandoned – so how can you avoid the same outcome?

To help you have a better chance of sticking with your resolutions, you will need to dig a bit deeper into your motivation and also to show yourself that you mean business – because let’s face it, we can be hard on ourselves and also let ourselves slide on our commitments all too easily.

Step #1. Understand your Motivation

There are 2 types of motivation:

  • Intrinsic – this means your motivation comes from inside. For example, you prefer jogging, going to the gym, or shopping by yourself because you like how you feel afterwards.
  • Extrinsic – you’re pushed forward by actions outside your personal scope. In other words, you prefer working out with your friends, and work harder when there’s a reward system in place.

Once you figure out your motivation type is, then all you have to do is put yourself in situations that make you more excited to accomplish even more.

If you prefer more intrinsic rewards, then you know that your prefer jogging vs. going to the gym, so don’t sign up for that gym membership, it will not help you reach your goal. On the other hand if you have an opportunity to join a running group, you will have to decide if that really what you want, but it may help you to reach your running goals, so it is a much better fit for your long term success.

If an extrinsic motivator works better for you, then you would probably do alright purchasing that gym membership and keeping your eyes open to find other individuals who may want to have some friendly competition to help you all reach your fitness goals. Now, I know that these examples or centered around fitness, but the idea is the same no matter what goal you’re trying to achieve, if you understand your motivation, you will better be able to reach your goals.

Step #2. Actions speak louder than results

Deciding on a goal for the New Year, and setting resolutions may be easier said than done. And in the long run, it’s the steps you take to reach that goal that’s will ultimately determine if you will find success. One great way to help you stay on track is to break each step down into smaller goals, allowing you to know what you “should” be working on at any given time.

As you complete each step, reward yourself and feel proud of what you’ve accomplished. Positive reinforcement is crucial to help guide you as you push toward your goal and commit to your responsibilities. All too often, we look ahead and think about how much more we still have to do, but if you stop and look back, you will find that you have done more than you think you have. And giving yourself the time to appreciate what you have accomplished will help to keep you going as you move forward.

Step #3. Be Honest and Realistic With Yourself

This may be the hardest step of all for some people. The more realistic your resolutions, the more likely you’ll see them through. If your goal for the New Year is to blog more frequently, then start small. Instead of planning a daily commitment, plan to blog 3-5 days a week, then once that becomes a habit, decide if daily is the proper next step or determine if your current schedule works for you.

If you say you’re going to blog daily and then you miss a day – suddenly you have failed, but if you set a more realistic expectation, you will be able to see accomplishments rather than failures. As you start seeing what you’ve accomplished, you’ll be pumped to do even more.

Don’t get caught in the “all-or-nothing” trap. Doing something, even if it’s a small piece of what you’d originally planned, is much better and more productive than doing nothing at all. Or, stop and take a look at what you have already accomplished to remind you that even if you are not where you want to be, you are still moving in a positive direction.

If you think that you can work on several goals at the same time, you may be disappointed. Make a list of your goals/resolutions, then prioritize them, and go from there. Once you feel the first one’s in the bag, go for the second, and so on. Focusing on one goal at a time will channel your energy and efforts there, helping you reach your target faster.

Step #4. Have a Positive Mindset

Having a positive mindset is key when progressing towards your goals, but let’s be honest; every plan is bound for failure if you’re not careful. Be smart and anticipate these obstacles so that when they do appear, you’ll be prepared. There will always be obstacles, some you can anticipate and be prepared for, others will take you by surprise and you will have to find a way to get around or through whatever obstacle shows up.

By thinking about possible problems and solutions, you will be better prepared for those unexpected obstacles. For example, if you get worry about running out of what to blog about, you can set up Google News, and Google Trends alerts about what is happening in your area of expertise, ensuring you not only have content, but you stay on the cutting edge for your audience. If you hate creating images for your blog posts, find someone you can outsource the job too – or sign up for a graphics subscription and use images that fit your topic.

The idea is to know that there will be hurdles, but know that you have the tools to help you get over those hurdles. Your willpower will only get you so far, a positive mindset will take you much further in helping you reach your goals.

Step #5. Be Accountable to Someone Else

Accountability means you’re taking responsibility for the choices you’re making. This is huge. And, when you have children, you have to be accountable, they don’t let you off the hook, but when you are working on your own goals, having an accountability partner is so helpful. You can decide if you want to check in daily or weekly, I don’t recommend going any longer than weekly if at all possible.

You can enlist the help of a friend or find someone who is in a Facebook Group you are already a part of, or join a Facebook group that offers accountability as part of the membership. One I can highly recommend is Laptop Lifestyle YOUniversity, this group offers accountability and so much more. You can try to be your own accountability partner, but often, we are too hard or too soft on ourselves to be truly effective.

Of course, keeping your New Year’s resolution can seem scary at first, but any attempt at change is often scary. Hopefully these 5 steps will help you reach your goals, and stay committed to your New Year’s resolutions all year long. You may even find that once you accomplish your first resolution, it’s not only beneficial to your life and business, it’s also empowering!

3 Ways You Can Use Bullet Journals To Transform Your Business

Bullet journals have become a popular organization tool. They can be simple spiral bound notebooks or specific planners that have a dot grid pattern. These dots or grids make it easy for you to design beautiful pages that help you keep track of the various areas of your business and life. Here’s 3 ideas to try in your business.

Make Blogging a Regular Habit

As a busy business owner, blogging can too easily be pushed to the back burner. I know I am guilty of this too. I need to spend time working with my clients, and working on product creation is important. I also have a few niche sites that sometimes get my “writing brain” so my main site doesn’t get the full attention it deserves.

But at the end of the day, the truth is these are all excuses – it is up to me to make sure that I find a way to keep my blog regularly updated.

This is where bullet journaling comes in. I create a tracking page in my bullet journal that allows me to make notes as to whether I have written and scheduled a post for that day, or if I just have a topic idea – this way my content is planned in advance. I don’t blog daily except when I’m involved with a blogging contest or challenge. On a “regular” month, I aim to blog 3-4 times each week – a bullet journal tracking page will help me reach this goal.

If you are not blogging as consistently as you would like, consider setting up a blog tracking page in your bullet journal. If you are blogging consistently, but have other areas of your business that could use some tracking,

Prioritize Your Day

I know that when I was first given the advice to focus on the 3-5 most important tasks of the day, I thought people were crazy – I had way more than 3-5 things that must get done every day. But it turns out, the more I “tried” this method, the more it worked. I was able to focus on a few specific tasks and become more productive. 

I use my bullet journal as a place to write down all the things I want to get done, without an edit or a specific plan, then I take all those ideas and decide where I want to focus my attention. If you find yourself, jumping from task to task all day long without accomplishing anything, you may want to consider using your bullet journal to help you prioritize your day.

Make Changes In Your Business

If you find yourself wanting, or perhaps needing, to make changes in your business, finding a starting place may be scary or difficult. Using a bullet journal can be a great place to brainstorm the changes you want to make – and the results you are trying to achieve by making these changes.

For example, perhaps you want to add affiliate marketing to your business. You can brainstorm products you would like to promote, and make a schedule of how and when you will promote these items. If you are looking to add more passive income, you may want to create blog posts and share the posts on social media sites and/or share the posts via email.

Perhaps the change you want to make, is to better track your income or expenses. If you use paid advertising, you want to make sure your ads are producing income – you can use your bullet journal to track your results. Or, use the bullet journal calendar to remind you to check your results on a regular basis.

The more you use your bullet journal, the more ways you will find to use your bullet journal. I find that I prefer to at least start my thought process on paper, so the bullet journal allows me to do that and to keep everything in one place – no more wondering where I wrote that down.

If you like the idea of trying a bullet journal, social media sites like Pinterest and Instagram can offer tons of ideas. This is my Pinterest board for bullet journals here. You can also search using these common hashtags:  #bujo #bulletjournaling #bujojunkies #bulletjournal.

If you want to learn how to use a Bullet Journal in your Online Business, click here.

Have You Ever Tried Time Blocking?

Time Blocking is a concept that works for a lot of people, but can be a struggle to get started. This article from The Yarnpreneur Society discusses how to get started with time blocking and offers a great bonus tip!

As the author explains:

While the concept of time blocking is simple, it can be difficult in practice. It requires planning to get the schedule right for you and it requires discipline to stick with it long enough for it to become a routine. I recommend trying it out in small increments at first, so it’s not a shock to your system and current routines.

Her bonus tip explains how to use “buffer blocks” – read the full article How to Time Block Successfully here.

I’ve not tried this method before and plan to start with a 2 hour daily block for content creation. What would be (or is) your first idea for a time block? Share in the comments below.

Are You Letting the Hurdles Keep You From the Finish Line?

Sam Davidson doesn’t waste words. His posts are often short just like this one – The Hurdle is Not The Finish Line.

All too often we do stop once we get past the “hurdle” – I know I can be guilty of this – we lose sight of the real goal.

The hurdles aren’t the point. The finish line is.

Have you ever had stopped short of the finish line after crossing a hurdle?

If you have, next time, set a timer, take a short break to let your mind clear and then get right back to work – meet the goal, don’t just jump the hurdle.

Reading this short post is not going to be a hurdle 😉

I’d love to hear what you think in the comments below.

Do You Have a Process for Making Decisions?

Mel Robbins is one of my favorite motivators. In her latest post she talks about making decisions.

Sometimes the decisions you make won’t be the right ones, or they WILL be the right ones, but you’re gonna get sh*t on your shoes on your way to the clear path.

She does use curse words in her videos and posts, so if you are bothered by that, she is not your girl. I have no problem with her language and have found her 5 Second Rule to be so amazingly helpful.

The article explains the results of some of the decisions she and her husband have made, and the results of those decisions. Mel has 5 steps to help you improve your own decision making:

  1. Tune into your body wisdom.
  2. Decisions aren’t always made with just intuition, however.
  3. Imagine worst-case scenarios.
  4. Think positive.
  5. Reflect.

I know just last week – before I had read this post – I was pondering alternatives and imagining the worst case scenario really helped to make the decision easier. Read the full post from Mel Robbins here.

Are You Ready To Give Gutenberg a Try?

I have been hearing so much hype about Gutenberg, I wanted to give it a try. The new Word Press Block Editor – as I learned Gutenberg is now called is now the default on new Word Press installs, though you can change it to the Classic Editor. And I have to agree with Colin Newcomer, the author of this tutorial, who said:

While the new block editor does let you do some things that you weren’t previously able to do in WordPress, it’s also not always the most intuitive tool when you first sit down with it.

This article explains very well how to use the block editor, and discusses how to get around some of those shortcomings that currently exist.

I personally found it easy to use, and this article helped me better understand the “blocks” – I’m excited to dig back in.

Full disclosure, this post was created in the classic editor, I have not yet updated this site to 5.0. I have a new domain that I’m playing around a with a bit to learn how to use the Word Press Block Editor formerly know as Gutenberg.

Some of you have themes that already have the block system, have you tried the new Block Editor?