Why I Blog

Why I Blog

Writing is built into my blood vessels. I feel lost when I don’t.

I could snap and edit pretty photos all day long.

It gives me a platform to share my oh-so-important thoughts with the world.

Blogging allows me to sell my products and courses, so I don’t have to work for someone else. Score!

It allows me to work from home in my comfy pajamas or a cute Anthropologie romper, depending on my mood.

It grants me an excuse to buy fresh flowers for my desk.

Blogging challenges me to better—to be someone worth following.

It provides a reason to scour Pinterest for hours. (Check out and follow my boards here.)

It justifies my addiction to experimenting with color, prints and patterns.

It gives me that gushy “I’m-making-a-difference” feeling.

Why I Blog - April Bowles-Olin, Blacksburg Belle

Blogging helps me focus my thoughts into bite-sized, consumable pieces.

It makes it more likely that my husband will support me when I tell him I wanna buy that light pink vintage camera because it would look darling in my photos.

It gives me a way to share the creative aspects of my life with other creatives.

It pushes me to write better and more often.

It helps me develop my unique voice.

But, really, my main reason for blogging is: it gives me a way to connect with YOU.

Now, I’m turning the mic over to you: Why do you blog?

Please share your reasons in the comments below!

I’d love to share my blogging story with you and teach you how to build a successful creative blog. You can watch my blogging workshop for FREE May 1st-3rd. RSVP right here.

Comments { 25 }

Behind-the-Scenes: Prep for My creativeLIVE Workshop

My creativeLIVE workshop begins in 17 days. Eek!

(If you’re a crafter or artist and live in the San Francisco area, you still have a bit of time to apply to be in the studio audience which is absolutely FREE.)

I’m working on this course day and night. I couldn’t fall asleep last night until 4am, because my brain was buzzing with ideas, changes I want to make, and of course, potential outfits cause a girl has gotta look cute.

Here are some behind-the-scenes shots.

I set up a photo shoot for one of my slides, and I’m having trouble picking which one I like best.

(I’m thinking #3–which one is your favorite blueberry shot?)

Blueberries - Food Photography on Blacksburg Belle

Blueberries - Food Photography on Blacksburg Belle

Blueberries - Food Photography on Blacksburg Belle

Blueberries - Food Photography on Blacksburg Belle

I toyed with a messy bun hairstyle for one of the three days:

(I think I’m going to try a side bun, so you can see a bit of it from the front. Maybe even throw a braid in there? I’ve got tons of inspiration pinned here if you wanna check it out.)

Messy Bun - April Bowles-Olin on Blacksburg Belle

Messy Bun - April Bowles-Olin on Blacksburg Belle

Messy Bun - April Bowles-Olin on Blacksburg Belle

And, here I am blowing off a little steam. I love mixing prints and red flats.

Mixing Patterns - Blacksburg Belle

If you want to learn how to improve your blog and have so much more fun with blogging, I hope you watch the workshop online. It’s FREE if you watch it live. RSVP right here.

Comments { 11 }

What Your Blog Could Be–And How I’ll Get You There

What Your Blog Could Be - April Bowles-Olin on Blacksburg Belle

“Eventually, I figured out how to install a blog, and that changed everything. A blog is the ideal machine for turning flow into stock: One little blog post is nothing on its own, but publish a thousand blog posts over a decade, and it turns into your life’s work. My blog has been my sketchbook, my studio, my gallery, my storefront, and my salon. Absolutely everything good that has happened in my career can be traced back to my blog. My books, my art shows, my speaking gigs, some of my best friendships—they all exist because I have my own little piece of turf on the Internet.” –Austin Kleon, Show Your Work!

That’s from one of my favorite books. I’d eat it if, you know, books tasted good. {Buy this book now. Thank me later. You’re most welcome.}

I happen to completely agree with Mr. Kleon. {I feel grownup when I call people Mr. or Ms. so-and-so. Weird? Probably.}

My blog has helped me reach a lot of victories: leaving my day job, speaking at the Etsy Success Symposium, getting featured in Where Women Create as one of the top inspirational and educational blogs, getting interviewed for U.S. News and World Report, selling consulting sessions for $495, selling out group coaching programs, and speaking at creativeLIVE this May.

Build a Successful Creative Blog on creativeLIVE with April Bowles-Olin

Time out! Regarding that last one: It’s FREE to be in the studio audience with me at creativeLIVE, and I would be honored to have you there. The applications to be in the studio are closing soon. In like less than a week.

You’ll leave with the foundation to build your own successful blog. And, we’ll have a ton of fun. If you’re in the San Francisco area or can travel, let’s work together in person. I want it to be a Blacksburg Belle audience, know what I mean? Cause you gals {and guys} rock.

Time back in: Even better than those other victories, I’ve met some amazing people {online and in person} because of my blog: Mayi Carles, Michelle Ward, Jessica Swift, Kimberly Palmer, Lisa Lehmann, Laura Roeder, Erin Giles…and I could go on until your eyes start to blur over. {Oh, that’s already happening. Whoops!}

The beauty of blogging is that it can lead anywhere.

If you put in the work, you’ll get more than you can imagine out of it.

It’s your online home. A place to inspire others, share your work, connect with people all over the world, get noticed by the big names {hello, Oprah!}, and give something to the world that otherwise wouldn’t be “out there.”

It’s all yours. You can think as big or as little as you want. You can share personal details or keep them to your private self. {I’m wearing a cheetah print tank top right now as I type this. It has sequins on it. Don’t be jealous.}

You’re on board, right?

Because, who doesn’t want to get their creative work in front of the right people, have their products flying off of the virtual shelves, and actually enjoy the process of blogging so much that they’d love to be doing it 16 hours a day. {24 hours would be a bit much. You need to sleep. And, get freaky with your significant other, right? Not to mention pizza consumption and watching Parenthood. All a must.}

I want to help you fall head over heels in love with blogging.

That’s why I’m teaching a workshop all about blogging at creativeLIVE May 1-3. RSVP right here to watch online {in your checkered cotton pajamas!}. If you watch it live, you get access for FREE. That’s right. Free, for you, my friend.

And, I’m working my tushy off for this workshop. It’s gonna be goooooood.

I hope to “see” ya then!

P.S. Wanna be super awesome and help me spread the word? You can tweet about the workshop, share it on Facebook, or even call your friend who needs to get on this blogging thing like yesterday. Thank you for the very much appreciated support.

Comments { 11 }

How to Develop Your Blogging Voice

How to Develop Your Blogging Voice on Blacksburg Belle - photo credit: April Bowles-Olin

Make a list {on paper or in your head} of your top five favorite blogs.

Got ‘em?

Now, consider why you’re semi-addicted to each one. What’s the pull that keeps you coming back for seconds {and thirds and fourths}?

Maybe it’s the helpful information. The creative DIY projects. The pretty photos. The interesting stories.

But, lots of blogs have these things. What makes those top five blogs stand out among the millions you could be reading?

Could it be the blogger’s style and voice?

It’s not just the pretty pictures but it’s the style of the pictures. If you were to spot one on Pinterest, you’d know who took it without clicking on it. And, there’s something about her style that you adore.

It’s not just the helpful information, but it’s how the blogger makes it fun and engaging.

Or, maybe it’s the way she writes: with lots of snarkiness and honesty. You can’t help but laugh out loud every single time you read a post on her blog.

This is the magic. The fairy dust. The wizardry potion that you’ve been searching for to make your blog the kind of blog that has devoted, slightly obsessed readers.

Today we’re going to focus on the voice part of this equation.

If you don’t have a strong blogging voice, dullness will permeate your writing. We won’t be able hear you in your posts. And, that’s a problem.

Instead of starting from scratch, pick one of your recent posts and let’s give it the “personality test.”

Print out the blog post so that you can scratch out words, circle things, make notes, and highlight. {Who doesn’t love to highlight things? If you don’t get a little thrill from highlighting, we can’t be friends.}

Step 1: Read it out loud and fix the “I’d never really say this” parts.

Don’t rush. Pay close attention as you read through it. Circle anything that doesn’t fit. Circle the words that you stumble over. Mark the sentences that feel clumsy in your mouth. Pick apart the phrases that don’t sound like anything you’d ever actually say in a conversation.

Go back through the post and rewrite those pieces that you marked.

Step 2: Include bits of story whenever possible.

Something unique to you and only you are your stories, and your viewpoint of those stories. Snippets of story infuse a mundane blog post with adventure, comedy and drama.

When you write a post about the newest quilt in your Etsy shop, tell the story of how you learned to quilt when you spent the summer before fourth grade with your grandma. Tell us how you’d sip pink lemonade while your grandma demonstrated each step of the quilting process and then let you try.

When you blog about your latest paintings inspired by your recent trip to Italy, include the story of how you got stuck in the rain and wound up in a tiny coffee shop, indulging in the most decadent tiramisu and sketching in your moleskine.

Stories make your blog posts come alive for your readers.

Step 3: Get detailed.

Vague words will annihilate your voice. Read through your post again, and mark all words and phrases that aren’t clear. Hint: Anytime you use an adjective, determine if you could get rid of it with a more descriptive noun or verb.

Here’s an example:

Vague: I made a yummy pie for my grandma. She’s coming to visit this weekend!

More descriptive: I spent the afternoon baking a peach pie with a graham cracker crust for my grandma’s visit this weekend.

Even better with voice: I’m still finding remnants of the buttery, graham cracker crust I prepared earlier today under my nails. I baked my nana’s favorite, peach pie, for her visit this weekend, but I might have to sneak a slice. The warm peaches, sugar and cinnamon filled every corner of the house, making my stomach rumble with greed.

With the first vague sentence, you’re being told that I made a pie for my grandma, but you can’t picture it. You can’t hear my voice. By the end, you can see the crumbs still under my nails and smell the baked peaches mixed with sugar and cinnamon.

It’s much easier to stick with vague, but easy isn’t always best, especially when it comes to writing.

Step 4: Read each sentence critically and give it the friend test.

Each sentence needs to stand on it’s own. Would you say it that way to a friend?

If your answer is no for any of your sentences, rewrite them so that they sound more like your amazing self. Include words that you often say in conversation.

Step 5: Use bolding and italics to help your readers hear the authentic ring of your voice.

When you type a sentence, we don’t always know what part you would emphasize if you were speaking to us—instead of writing to us.

Use italics and bolding in special cases when you want to spotlight a word or phrase. You don’t want to overuse this technique, or it’ll get annoying for your reader.

Read through your post and pick one to three words or phrases you want to highlight. Italicize or bold them.

Those are just five steps you can take to ensure that your posts sound more like you.

I could write another fifty-seven pages on writing with personality and writing like yourself—but that would be an ebook, not a blog post. I’ll be covering this topic in more depth in this three-day workshop: Build a Successful Creative Blog.

RSVP right here to watch it online for FREE May 1st to May 3rd. And, if you’re in the San Francisco area or able to travel for the workshop, I’d love to have you in the studio audience which is also free. The studio audience will be small, and I’ll be giving each person individual attention and feedback. {And, wouldn’t it be soooooo super cool to hang out in person for three days?!?! Only awesome people read this blog, so I know we’d have a ton of fun!}

If you know anyone who would benefit from this workshop on creativeLIVE, please share this page with them. I want as many people as possible to watch it live while it’s free, because my goal is to help as many creatives as possible improve their blogs. You in?

Click to Tweet: I RSVP’d to take this workshop on building a successful creative blog! It’s FREE if you watch it live.

Comments { 20 }

Why You Can’t Charge What Your Products Are Worth

Why you can't charge what your products are worth on Blacksburg Belle

You create and sell products that you think are pretty great.

You spent weeks learning how to make your own headpins, earwires, and other jewelry findings. You mastered wire wrapping. You created a signature charm bracelet that all your girl friends request for their birthdays.

You took a watercolor class four years ago and fell in love with it. Every day is a little bit better if you can spend time in your studio painting. You’ve stocked your Etsy shop with thirty-five paintings that you poured your heart into creating.

You learned how to spin yarn on a wheel in your early twenties and you swear that something clicked in that moment. You realized your passion and what you wanted to do with your life. When you’ve got Sarah Bareilles playing in the background, the pedal pumping and the fiber twisting through your fingers, everything else falls away.

So, why can’t you charge enough to actually make a good profit?

You know you make a quality product—one that many people say they love, but those same people don’t buy.

You know you should pay yourself more than three dollars an hour, but when you raise your prices, your sales drop.

You want to make enough to pay your rent and other bills and still have some leftover to buy the organic blackberries and the light pink lacy bra and panty set that would make you feel sexy. Cause it’d be so great to stop wearing mismatched, stretched out underwear that you’re ashamed of.

What’s going on that makes it impossible for you to charge what you need to for your handmade goods?

This is something that I’ve been thinking about a lot recently.

The talented and lovely Kimberly Palmer included me in a recent post on Etsy, and I had a huge influx of new email subscribers {thanks Kim!}, and some of them emailed me about their biggest business struggle {because that’s what I ask of new subscribers}. Lots of those emails included issues like:

The same thought kept tugging at me as I looked at tons of Etsy shops over the past week: What you can charge is dependent on so much more than your actual product.

Every choice that you make from the banner you use to the words you include in your product descriptions to the product photos you snap to the packaging of your products determines how much you can charge.

You might have the most amazing bracelet set listed in your shop, but if you don’t also have the following, the bracelet set isn’t going to sell: 1. Branded, beautiful product photos that make your customers want to reach into the computer and touch it. 2. A description that intrigues and appeals to your ideal customer—not just a boring list of the details. 3. Positive feedback and testimonials {this builds trust}. 4. A cohesive shop that makes sense to your target market.

You also need to: bring in your own customers {you can’t just rely on Etsy}, have a marketing plan, have a way to stay in touch with customers {aka, email newsletter}, provide outstanding customer service, and show your potential customers how your business and products are different than your competitors.

Selling on Etsy also affects how much you can charge.

If you sell your products on your own site, everything is customized and branded to match your business. Every detail is left to you from the way you set up your shopping cart to the way your products are displayed to the wording on the receipt someone receives upon purchase. You can only do so much to brand your Etsy shop, because they’ve already made a bunch of the choices for you.

When people buy from your site {instead of Etsy}, they aren’t comparison shopping. They are there for you and your stuff. You don’t have to worry about the person getting distracted by the next shiny thing and leaving your shop, not knowing how to return.

This doesn’t mean I don’t think you should sell on Etsy. There are lots of pros.

It’s easy to set up shop. If you don’t have the skills or money to hire someone to set up a shop on your own website, you can start selling on Etsy with little technical knowledge. This is HUGE for those of us who get tripped up by coding anything {raises hand}.

The explosive traffic doesn’t hurt, either. You’re bound to get sales from people who stumble upon your shop.

There is a level of trust and credibility already baked into Etsy, so people aren’t as hesitant to buy from a shop on Etsy as they might be when buying off of a website they’ve never heard of.

The point is that EVERY choice you make within your business determines how much you can charge for your products, so choose wisely.

Brand everything that you can.

Pay attention to the details.

Stop making excuses. Either you’re an amateur or a professional. Which is it?

Comments { 13 }

The Top 10 Resources That Make Up My ‘Marketing Degree’ {some are FREE}

The top 10 resources that make up my 'marketing degree' on Blacksburg Belle

I’m a marketing nerd.

Unlike lots of business owners, I looooooove to learn everything I can about marketing. Books, podcasts, courses, videos, blogs, articles. I want to devour it all. Every single morsel.

I enjoy everything from copywriting to email marketing to social media.

Along the way, I’ve found some amazing resources and they range from completely 100% free {no need to empty the piggy bank} to high-end training that will cost you a pretty penny. No matter your budget, you’ll find something on this list that’ll help you.

{The prices included are the prices at the time of writing this.}

10. Copyblogger {FREE!}

When I first started Blacksburg Belle, I’d brew a cup of tea, settle in front of my computer and read the latest post on Copyblogger every day. Now, I read the posts that speak to me on Fridays. And, I still get so much from this site. You should definitely download their free ebook: Copywriting 101.

Remember that if you’ve got an online business, your words matter—more than practically anything else.

9. Made to Stick by Chip and Dan Heath {$7.27 on Amazon}

If you’ve ever wondered why some ideas thrive while others die, you need to read this book. Your fingers will itch to highlight passages and mark things to come back to again and again. My copy is littered with sticky notes.

8. Yes! 50 Scientifically Proven Ways to Be Persuasive by Robert Cialdini {$13.24 on Amazon}

Persuasion isn’t just an art. It’s a science. And, if you want to learn about the hidden rules of moving people in your direction without spending lots of money on psychology courses, this book is for you.

7. The Fascination Advantage Test {$37}

Your personality influences your business and brand. You can learn how to use that to your advantage with this test. I also recommend you read Sally’s book, Fascinate. When you apply this to your business and marketing, you’ll be much more likely to attract your target market.

6. Different by Youngme Moon {$10.94 on Amazon}

One of the biggest struggles creative entrepreneurs face is setting their businesses apart from their competition. What makes you different? If you can’t answer this question clearly and simply, this book is worth the $11 investment.

5. The Unmistakable Creative {FREE!}

Podcasts like this one make my day so much better. I listen to these inspiring interviews while washing dishes, cooking, folding laundry, sewing, working in my art journal, and walking my dogs. You’ll get so much more than marketing advice from these interviews, but you’ll definitely learn about promoting your business.

4. Start With Why by Simon Sinek {$9.04 on Amazon}

This book completely changed the way I look at business—my business, my clients’ businesses, businesses that I buy from. I recommend this to every business owner I know. I bet it’ll change the way you do {and see} things, too.

3. MarieTV {FREE!}

B-School buzz has taken over the internet lately, and some of you are bummed out that you can’t afford to join this year. The good news is that Marie Forleo produces high-quality, free training every single week. You wouldn’t believe how much of that free training I’ve used to improve my marketing strategies, and you can, too. You don’t have to spend money to improve your selling skills, my friend.

2. The Middle Finger Project {FREE!}

When I’m so busy that I don’t have five minutes to shower {aren’t those days the craziest?}, I still read the emails I get from Ashley Ambirge, the brilliant wordsmith that runs The Middle Finger Project. I took a copywriting course from her and tried to find it for this list, but I don’t think she’s offering it anymore. If she ever offers another one, sign up. Immediately. Without a second thought. She’s that good. If you don’t mind a little adult language, you will get so much out of reading her blog. You’re welcome!

1. B-School {$1999}

You can learn a ton from the other resources on this list, but if you want something complete from A to Z and you can afford the monthly payments, B-School will teach you everything you need to know about marketing your business. I was able to recover my costs of ‘attending’ B-School within a couple months just from putting what I was learning into action. It was truly worth every penny.

I know this post is about resources I’ve absorbed to learn marketing techniques, but I’d be remiss not to tell you that I’ve written a book just for creative entrepreneurs like you, Marketing for Creatives. It’s very budget-friendly, and it’s also part of the B-School bonus I’m offering with Mayi

Did I leave something off this list? Have a favorite book, blog, or course that you’d like to add? Share it in the comments below.

Comments { 18 }

How to Know When to Take the Plunge and Invest In Your Business

Investing in your business - April Bowles-Olin on Blacksburg Belle

I don’t know about you, but anytime I’ve invested more than $200 on something for my business, it’s been a big deal.

When I purchased my DSLR camera and favorite lens, I remember staring at the “add to cart” button for an hour before leaving the computer and experiencing a moment of panic.

Is this a smart investment? Will it make a difference to my bottom line? Is this the right time? Will I have to eat ramen noodles for a month? Is my husband really on board with this purchase or is he just saying that because he doesn’t want to upset me?

At the time, my husband and I were driving a beat up Jetta. I mean beat up—dents all down one side from someone side swiping it in a parking lot. And, my 6’3” husband looked kinda funny jammed into that small car.

Even though I don’t care about fancy cars, I wondered if we should put the money aside for a new one. Was I being selfish buying this camera, especially since I’d just invested in a new MacBook Pro, printer and scanner for my business?

Would I feel good about the purchase a day later? Or, would I regret it?

I had that ‘squishy-pit-in-my-stomach’ feeling that you get when you don’t know if you’re making the right decision.

Fast forward a couple years later.

I use my camera almost daily. I love photography and my photos set my business apart from a lot of other business coaches and consultants. I used my own photos in my book, Marketing for Creatives, and I’ve gotten a ton of amazing feedback from it. I know that my business and blog wouldn’t be the same {aka, nearly as good} if I didn’t invest in photography.

I wish I would’ve known a few things on the day I bought my camera and lens: 1. It would pay for itself many times over. 2. I wouldn’t regret the purchase for a second. 3. Spending that money actually made me happier because of how much I enjoy taking and editing photos. I didn’t realize how much joy I would get out of it. {Or, how much of a photography nerd I would become.}

And, we also got a new car. Not right away, but it happened and I love my Buick Enclave. Vroom vroom. Who knew I’d fall for a SUV when I used to drive {and totally adore} a VW Beetle?

Okay, I’m getting a tad off topic, aren’t I? Back to big {and scary} investments.

How do you know when to make those big investments?

I’ll let you in on a little secret: you never feel 100% ready.

When I purchased my Nikon, I needed a new camera because my point-and-shoot died. But, I could’ve just gotten another point-and-shoot. I’d outgrown my camera, but I could still take really pretty pictures with it. It wasn’t a MUST, but I knew that if I wanted to continue to grow in photography, I needed to upgrade.

So, I took twenty-seven deep breaths and pressed the buy button.

I know some of you are contemplating investing $1999 in B-School, because enrollment opened today.

PHOTO #3-2

I’ve been there. And, honestly, I was skeptical and scared.

Was it really worth that much money—cause that’s a freaking boatload, right? Would I have enough time to make it worth it? Would I be able to make the money back quickly? Would I already know most of what she teaches? {I had read a ton of books and blog posts on marketing and business, listened to more podcasts than I could count, watched every free video and training I could find and already invested quite a bit in programs like Creating Fame.}

And, here’s the truth: it was the best investment I’ve ever made for my business.

B-School is more than the training {which is worth more than the price tag in my opinion}. It’s a community of amazing women {and some men} who have similar values, hopes and dreams. It’s a chance to change your life and business.

I know that you’ve received a ton of B-School-related emails recently and it might feel like a bit of a circus.

The reason you’re receiving so many emails from people you like and admire about B-School is because they know how amazing it is and how life changing it can be.

Yes, affiliates get a cut of the sale {which is super generous of Marie}, but it’s so much more than that. People believe in this program. They know it contains the tools you need to build the business of your dreams. Still skeptical? Spend a few minutes delving into these B-School success stories {including mine} to see the magic that can happen from applying what you learn in this course.

PHOTO #2

So, how do you know if you should invest in B-School?

Go through this checklist:

1. Can you afford the monthly payments and still be able to buy food and pay your rent or mortgage and other bills? It’s a big investment, but if spread over a year, it’s $5.47/day. That might be less than you spend on coffee or your gym membership or Anthropologie shopping sprees. If so, are you willing to give up a little bit now to gain a lot in the future?

2. Do you wish you were making more money? Is your PayPal account lonely and sad?

3. Do you need some serious help in the marketing department? Do you struggle with selling?

4. Do you want to belong to a community that gets what you’re going through, is supportive and wants to see you succeed?

5. Do you enjoy learning and trying out new strategies?

6. Do you looooooove what you do and wish with all your heart that you could make a living from it?

If you answered yes to all of the above, then B-School would be a great fit for you.

I woke up this morning excited for the B-School newcomers, because I know how much it helped my business. I’d love to see this program help your business thrive.

If you’re thinking about joining B-School, check out this bonus package that I’m offering with Mayi from heartmade.

B-School 1

Whether you chose our package or someone else’s, I’m really happy for you!

And, if B-School isn’t right for you {or if it isn’t the right time}, that’s okay, too! The circus will be over soon.

I hope that my camera story will help you with other big investments that you’re considering—not just B-School. These decisions not only impact our bank accounts—they also affect our success, prosperity and happiness.

Comments { 6 }

Make Mo’ Money and Change the World

Join B-School Banner

Check all that apply:

a) You’ve been thinking about joining B-School for a couple years now, but it’s always seemed like a gigantic investment. Maybe a bit unaffordable.

b) You’ve been daydreaming about B-School but you don’t know if it will work for a creative, product-based business like yours.

c) You’re overwhelmed by the amount of “B-School bonuses” offered and have no idea which one to pick. Eeny, meeny, miny, moe, anyone?

d) You’ve bought other online courses and wonder if B-School is any different.

e) You hate marketing. Just reading the word makes your skin crawl. But, you’re also really smart and know that you have to be a good marketer to have a successful business. You’d love to find a fun way to learn about marketing and all that business-y stuff.

f) You know you want to join B-School this year, but you’re looking for a bonus package that’s created exclusively for creative entrepreneurs: artists, potters, jewelry makers, fabric designers, photographers, knitters, sculptors.

If you said yes to any {or all} of the above, Mayi and I are here to help. Take a deep breath. We want to help you make the best decision for you and your business. Click here for all the details.

Comments { 0 }

The Secret to How I Actually Reach My Goals

The secret to how I actually reach my goals - April Bowles-Olin on Blacksburg Belle

Your New Year’s resolution sparkle has fizzled out.

You’ve skipped the gym a few times. You missed a couple blog posts. You actually never got past page five of that book you promised you were going to write this year. You didn’t reach your sales goal for January.

You’re discouraged. And, you’re frustrated with yourself. You might be thinking, “What the heck is wrong with me that I can’t keep up with my goals for more than a month? Why does everyone else seem to have it together?”

You really want 2014 to be THE year for you. I get it, and I’m with you. I’ve got big plans for this year: a speaking engagement I’m excited about {more on this later}, a new program I want to launch, a book I want to finish and a lot more.

So, I’m going to share my simple {yet awesome} secret with you on how I take those super big dreams and break them down into bite-sized bits of action.

First, I start by prioritizing my goals. {I know. BO-RING. But, it’s non-negotiable.}

Be realistic with how much you can actually accomplish right now. Don’t try to set eighteen million different goals, because you’ll get overwhelmed and give up. Remember that just because you set something aside for now doesn’t mean that you won’t ever get to it—you’re just not getting to it right now.

Narrow your focus to three goals or less. {That’s an order.}

They can be resolutions that you set at the beginning of the year. They can be health-related, personal, or something to do with finances. They don’t all have to be about your business {but if they are, that’s cool, too}.

You got your goals? {Scouts honor!}

Here’s the secret. The magic ingredient. And, it’s so easy.

All you need to do is make one decision or take one action that will get you closer to your goal{s} each day. It can be a tiny step or a huge leap. If you start today {yes, I’m giving you permission to reset your resolutions this instant}, by the end of the year, you’ll have made a ton of progress.

There’s one other piece to this puzzle: tracking your progress. In a journal or notebook, you need to write down what you did to work towards your goal{s} each day. If you didn’t do anything that day, you have to write, “I didn’t do anything to get closer to xyz.” This will hold you accountable and the tracking process will turn into a habit.

It will also help you to remember to take action every day.

Let me give you an example.

One of my goals for this year was to feel more creative. I want to make more time for creating and my hobbies because they make me incredibly happy. On a day-to-day basis, it looks something like this: Monday – Knitted for twenty minutes while watching Parenthood, Tuesday – Played in my art journal for thirty minutes, Wednesday – Took photos and played in my art journal for ten minutes, Thursday – Created my own recipe and tested it out, Friday – Worked on my Alabama Chanin poncho for an hour, Saturday – Worked on my Alabama Chanin poncho for two hours, Sunday – Played in my art journal for an hour.

If your goal is to improve your health and lose weight, a week of tracking your progress might look like this: Monday – Green smoothie for breakfast and passed on the birthday cake at the office, Tuesday – Hot yoga class, Wednesday – Ordered a large salad when we went out for dinner and walked for twenty minutes, Thursday – Walked for an hour, Friday – Hot yoga class, Saturday – Hiking with friends, Sunday – Green smoothie for breakfast.

This isn’t “I’m-going-to-change-my-life-in-one-week” kind of stuff, but it adds up over time. Those little steps that you take daily will create a new reality for you. They can {and will} change your life.

And, it’s doable, unlike so many other crazy goals that we set for ourselves. {Hello losing twenty pounds in ten days…} Instead of being so hard on yourself, you’re making one decision or taking one action every day that fits into your life to get closer to your goals.

This means if your goal is to get healthier and you don’t have time to exercise that day, you eat a salad for dinner instead of indulging in spaghetti and meatballs. Or, if your goal is to open an Etsy shop and you only have fifteen minutes to work on it today, you could work on writing one product description or you could spend those fifteen minutes editing a set of product photos.

The point is that if you set rules like you have to exercise for an hour or paint for three hours or write all of your product descriptions in one sitting, you’ll fail. If you give yourself some room to take actions that actually fit into your busy life, you’ll be much more likely to succeed.

It sounds possible, right?

Are you with me?

If so, what are you going to do today {even if it’s only for five minutes} to get closer to your goals?

I’d love to hear about it in the comments below.

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The 10 Marketing Mistakes You Need to Stop Making Immediately

The 10 marketing mistakes you need to stop making immediately - April Bowles-Olin

What makes one business better than the other? What makes you choose one handmade bracelet over another? Why do you read all of your emails from one person while hitting the unsubscribe button from another?

I wish there was an easy answer or some magic fairy dust you could sprinkle over your keyboard to make your business the chosen one. But, it’s a bunch of things that add up to create a business that captivates people.

If you want to get anywhere close to that type of business, you have to stop doing things that turn off your target market. This often means picking the harder route like: spending hours writing and editing thoughtful, personality-filled blog posts instead of slapping together a post that you wrote in ten minutes that includes a less-than-lovely picture, planning a social media strategy that inspires and motivates people instead of only posting on Facebook when you’ve added a new product to your shop, and hiring a web designer to build you a branded, beautiful online home instead of building a junky site when you know nothing about design and html.

You have to decide if you really want this, because it’s not easy. It can be a ton of fun {and it should be}, but it’s also time-consuming and sometimes exhausting.

I hope that you love what you do so much that you’re willing to take the detour. The long way. The back road.

And, I want to help you. That’s why I’ve written this no-nonsense post for you today. Here are the ten marketing blunders you need to stay away from:

1. Stop using lingo you would be embarrassed to say out loud.

Let’s start with awesomesauce. If I could get rid of one word, it would be that one. I’ve never even heard anyone actually say awesomesauce {maybe it’s because I don’t hang out with thirteen-year-olds}, but I read it in blog posts and product descriptions all the time. Why? Does the person seriously use this word? Is she trying to be hip and cool? If so, she’s not succeeding. It looks ridiculous. It doesn’t really mean anything, and unless your target market is a bunch of teenagers, it won’t help you.

Give everything you write ‘the friend test.’ Would you say it to a friend? If not, hit delete. Otherwise, you come off as inauthentic and untrustworthy and people don’t buy from people they don’t trust.

2. Stop putting customer service last.

Your current customers who gave you their money deserve first class treatment. They deserve your attention and they most certainly deserve your appreciation. If you treat your customers like dollar signs—and not like individual people—you won’t have customers for long.

Your customers always have another option. And, if they don’t feel respected and cared for, they’ll go elsewhere.

3. Stop copying someone else’s brand.

The other day I ran across someone who’d branded her digital book {and the sales page} to look almost identical to Danielle LaPorte’s book, The Desire Map. Did I give that person’s ebook a second glance? No. Copying automatically turns people off. It’s icky and puts you in the ‘used car salesman’ category.

Instead of copying, get inspiration from the websites, businesses and people that you drool over. Ask yourself, “What do I love so much about this?” Maybe it’s the color palette, so just use that. Or, maybe it’s the boldness of that person’s copy, so be bolder. Pick and choose from what tickles your toes, and you’ll be much more successful.

4. Stop overlooking your crappy brand and website.

Your website is your online home. Your brand is what people notice within the first couple of seconds they land on your site, Etsy shop, and Facebook page. And, within those first few seconds they decide whether to stay or whether to check their email for the thirty-seventh time that day.

If you’re serious about succeeding online, you need to hire a web designer unless you’re a web designer or are willing to learn everything you need to know to create a professional {while still super creative} site.

Way too often, creative entrepreneurs DIY their own sites. Every once in a while, it turns out really nice. But very often, it looks like a mess.

5. Stop recommending that your readers sign up for your monthly {or weekly} newsletter.

These days, we all have email newsletters. {If you don’t, see number 6.} You need to give your readers a very good reason why they should hand over their precious email addresses to you. And having an opt-in that says, “Sign up for my monthly email newsletter,” doesn’t cut it. You need more. And, stop calling it a newsletter altogether. The specific words you choose matter—a lot.

6. Stop thinking you can get by without a thriving email list.

Did you skip the whole ‘setting up an email list’ thing? If you’re nodding your head, I want to shake you right now. You need this because: 1. Email is the best way to stay in touch with your target market. 2. It’s the best way to announce new products, services and sales. 3. People check their email daily. {Most people, anyways.} 4. People don’t hang on your every word and many will miss your blog posts, Facebook updates, Pinterest posts and tweets. If you really want to them to see something, you need to email it.

7. Stop lowering your prices, because you think it’ll help you get your first sales.

This is a horrible marketing tactic for all of these reasons.

8. Stop buying ads that don’t work.

About 80% of the time, when I start to discuss marketing with a creative entrepreneur, she says something like, “I don’t have the money to buy ads,” or “I tried advertising in my local newspaper and it didn’t work,” or “Where should I advertise my business?”

Stop worrying about buying ad space. Often, it doesn’t work the way you think it will. We’ve learned how to block out ads because they’re everywhere. Think about how often you click on ads online. You hardly do, right?

Focus on promoting your business in ways you have more control over: your email list, blog and social media accounts. Build a loyal customer base and readership and you won’t think twice about advertising on Billy Joe’s Blog.

9. Stop putting other peoples’ ads on your website.

Ads distract from what you sell. If you’re a products or service-based business, remove ads from your sidebar. You only make real money from this if you blog daily, have a readership in the hundreds of thousands and concentrate on this as your business model. I’m guessing that’s not you.

10. And, for the love of all things sparkly, stop talking about your kid’s fecal matter on your business social media accounts.

I would also appreciate it if you wouldn’t talk about your kid pooping in the big boy toilet at all. It’s gross. And, no one but you actually cares. Okay, maybe your mom cares, but just call her to give her the good news and spare the rest of us.

Can you tell that I’ve got some pet peeves when it comes to marketing?

What are yours? What do you suggest that people stop doing when it comes to promoting their businesses? What turns you off?

Marketing-For-Creatives-Cover

Need more help with marketing? Take a peek at Marketing for Creatives for everything that you need to know about how to spread the word about your business and boost your sales.

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