What Affects My Business the Most and How I’m Changing It

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Many of you know that I’m chronically ill. What I have, I’m not so sure. Neither are the fifty billion doctors I’ve seen all over the freaking country.

It started a little under five years ago, a week before my wedding, when I was hospitalized for a staph infection.

The doctors told my soon-to-be husband that “he should prepare himself” because I probably wouldn’t be leaving the hospital. They advised me to cancel my wedding.

I didn’t. Seven days later I walked down the aisle and married the love of my life.

The crazy-pants antibiotics that made me vomit around the clock cured the staph infection. Yay!

I thought everything was fine. Fast forward to a year later and I was seriously ill. Like ‘want to claw my throat out’ and have to take painkillers every day kinda ill.

I saw a handful of doctors who all said the same thing: get your tonsils removed.

Done. The surgeon who removed my tonsils said that my symptoms (flu-like stuff, daily fevers, severe fatigue, throat ulcers) would most likely go away.

A couple days after getting my tonsils removed, I developed pneumonia. And, it lingered worse than your Aunt’s horrible perfume after she hugs you. For five months, I had to sleep sitting up or I wouldn’t be able to sleep cause I’d cough the entire time.

Everyone was shocked when my symptoms that were supposedly gonna disappear after I got my tonsils removed didn’t.

That started the doctor to doctor shuffle. Johns Hopkins, Wake Forest, UVA plus over fifteen local doctors. Ear, nose and throat specialists, oral dermatologists, rheumatologists, infectious disease specialists, immunology specialists and more.

Everyone wanted to do invasive testing (which I did) but no one wanted to try anything to actually treat my symptoms. Every doctor I went to basically said, “I’m stumped.”

Finally, I found a doctor who wanted to try things to alleviate my symptoms. I’m currently taking medicine that has made me anemic. Before that I tried other medications that made me violently sick to my stomach.

And, at my latest university visit, I was tested for leukemia and lymphoma because “you’ve been tested for every infectious disease and your symptoms almost always fall into one of two categories: infectious disease or cancer.”

I was told this four days before my thirty-second birthday this July.

For a week while the tests were being sent to the Mayo Clinic, my entire family was freaked out. My husband had nightmares of visiting my grave. My mom was in denial. My mother-in-law cried with me.

Cancer. No one had ever mentioned cancer seriously before. One of my doctors was concerned that I might have throat cancer but he did this horrible test where he shoved a scope/light down my nose into my throat to check for anything cancer-like and didn’t find anything. It hurt like a bitch.

Thankfully, the tests revealed that I didn’t have leukemia or lymphoma.

Phew! At that point, I thought I could handle anything. As long as it wasn’t one of those very scary diseases, I could do this.

But being sick for years has worn me down. I’m tired. I’m frustrated. And, I’m so sick of being sick.

Fevers, fatigue, constant nausea, throat and stomach ulcers, severe muscle and joint pain, and more super fun symptoms have taken over my life.

It’s so true that you don’t appreciate your health until you lose it. I would do practically anything for one week of feeling healthy cause that hasn’t happened in years. Can you imagine? I know some of you who are chronically ill can.

Anyways, I’ll get to the point of today’s post.

I’m done being carted from doctor to doctor. I’m done putting all of my hopes and wishes into my next doctor’s appointment.

I can’t tell you how many times my husband or I have said, “This doctor is going to be the one. He/she is going to know what this is and he’s going to have a plan on how to combat it.”

Then I usually leave the appointment sobbing because we traveled for hours to meet with a doctor who doesn’t have a clue what to do and paid hundreds or thousands of dollars for it.

In the past five years, I’ve accumulated more than $30,000 in medical bills. And, I have health insurance! That’s insane.

When I went to Wake Forest, I met with a specialist for about an hour and then received a medical bill for $1,968.25. What the what? You’re kidding right?

I don’t really care about the money. I mean, I do when I feel like you haven’t done anything to help me and then you charge me more than what I pay to live in my house each month. But, if a doctor actually helped me, I wouldn’t care. I’d pay whatever it took.

Being disappointed over and over and over and over sucks. It’s worse than spending thousands of dollars.

So, I’m taking my health into my own hands.

I’m not going to stop seeing my doctors or taking my medications just yet, but I’m also not going to keep relying on them to figure this crap out. I’ve seen the best of the best and they don’t know what to do besides fill me with painkillers.

When my husband and I traveled to UVA in July, we decided that if that doctor didn’t have any ideas, we needed to start taking action on our own. Meaning we needed to start experimenting with holistic, more natural methods.

Don’t get me wrong. I have tried other things besides medication. I’ve done acupuncture, meditation and seen a chiropractor for months. I got myofascial therapy for months. I eat almost all organic. I’ve completely cut gluten from my diet. But, there are lots of other things I could do: eat even better, do daily yoga, try reflexology, get weekly massages, try acupuncture with a different person, get serious about meditation, try tapping. I haven’t tried it all.

So, I’ve decided to try something semi-new or completely new each month over the next year and document it to see how it makes me feel. Monthly health experiments if you will.

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Because I truly believe that food is medicine, the first thing I’m going to do is focus on nutrition and improving the nutrients I put into my body each day.

I ordered a bunch of books on nutrition but the one I’m focusing on this month is Superfood Smoothies by Julie Morris.

I ordered acai berry powder, spirulina, camu berry powder, goji berries and such. And each day in September, I’m going to consume a smoothie from this cookbook, either replacing a meal or having it for a snack.

I only eat one or two meals a day most days because I’m nauseous all the time. It’s hard to eat when every mouthful of food feels like it’s gonna come back up. I’m hoping that by adding these smoothies to my daily food intake, I’ll get more nutrients and eat at least three times a day. That’s gotta help things a little bit, right?

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I’m hopeful. We shall see.

I thought about keeping all of this to myself, because Blacksburg Belle is about helping creative entrepreneurs build successful businesses. But, when I announced that I was struggling with my health a while ago, I was inundated with emails and comments from others who are suffering from chronic illness or constant sluggishness or unhealthiness.

Your health FOR SURE impacts your business. I know it impacts mine. When I’m feeling better, I do better work and get more done.

If you want to follow along, I’m going to post updates weekly or twice monthly (depending on how much I have to share) via written posts and videos. I won’t be posting these on Wednesdays cause I want to stick to business-related stuff on Wednesdays after this post. I’m thinking Fridays.

I won’t be sending out emails about these posts, so if you want to know when these posts get published, make sure that you’re subscribed via Bloglovin or whatever blog reader you use.

Also, I’m going to update my Instagram account every day during the month of September with a photo of that day’s smoothie along with how much I like it and how it makes me feel. If you want daily updates, follow me on Instagram.

And, lastly, if you want to get healthier, I hope that you join me for some of these challenges. Maybe try healthy smoothies for breakfast for a week next month just to see how it makes you feel? Maybe it’ll increase your energy, make your skin glow, help you drop a pound or two, or just make you feel a tad bit better.

You can look for my next update and how I feel after my first five days of smoothies on Friday, September 5th. I hope to “see” you then, in the comments of course!

I’m planning as I go, so if you have done something that has vastly improved your health, let me know about it!

Has daily meditation changed your life or helped your pain management? Has acupuncture cured you? Has yoga given you more energy and increased your happiness? I might just make a monthly experiment out of it.

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An Experiment: The ’20 Things You Might Not Know About Me’ Blog Tag

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Working by yourself from home can get a tad lonely.

When you say you blog, your in-real-life friends think you’re one of those weird internet people. So you don’t talk about it.

You can’t tell anyone that your business idol retweeted one of your hilarious tweets cause they just wouldn’t understand even though it made your entire day.

You can’t explain why you’ve stayed in your pajamas for two straight days, not showering cause you’ve finally figured out exactly what you want to sell and you’ve been in a creating frenzy. When you’re in the flow, you can’t stop. You just can’t. But, your nine-to-five friend won’t understand.

One of my goals for Blacksburg Belle this year was to build more community aspects—the stuff that connects each of us together. The bloggers, artists, creatives, life coaches, jewelry makers and writers who understand what you’re going through cause they’ve experienced similar things: blogs being hacked, hateful customers, feeling like a fraud, loads of doubt, excitement over that first sale, feeling like you’re gonna vomit when you realize someone actually gave you money for your ebook or necklace, and the need for more and more Instagram likes.

So, I’m starting an experiment today and I’d love to invite you to play.

Introduction time.

Have you heard of BookTube? It’s this really awesome community of people who discuss books on YouTube. I found it a month ago and I can’t get enough. I love reading and discussing books. If you’re not familiar with the BookTube community, it’s okay cause the only reason I’m telling you about it is because they make these fun “tag videos” where each booktuber discusses something specific like their favorite book couples or the worst books they’ve ever read. At the end of the discussion, they tag other booktubers to film a video discussing the topic to add to the conversation.

Basically, it’s just a way to get the community talking about a specific topic at the same time while getting to know each other better. Pretty cool, right?

Well, I’m gonna take that concept and pull it into the creative blogging world.

I’m going to pick a topic related to creative businesses or the people who run those creative businesses, make up some questions about that topic, answer them and then tag other people to answer them on their blogs.

If they accept, they either write their answers or film a video answering the questions, and publish it on their blogs with the tag title. Then, they tag other bloggers they want to see answer the questions.

That way, we’re getting to know each other even better, talking about some of the same topics at the same time and connecting on a more personal level.

If you’re at all confused, you’ll see what I mean shortly. Keep reading. (Who knows…I might’ve tagged you!)

THIS BLOG TAG TOPIC: 20 Things You Might Not Know About Me

I thought it was only fitting that we start by getting to know some of our favorite bloggers and each other much more personally.

Here are the questions and my answers for this topic.

Question 1: How tall are you?

Answer: 5’3”. I’m short. When my husband and I first met, he used to call me shorty cause he’s a foot taller than me. Romantic nickname, right? Not!

Question 2: Do you have a hidden talent? If so, what?

I’m double-jointed. Does that count?

Question 3: What’s your biggest blog-related pet peeve?

Having to “sign in” to comment. I don’t want to jump through hoops to add to your conversation or tell you that I love your post.

Question 4: What’s your biggest non-blog related pet peeve?

People who blow their noses at the table when people are still eating. GROSS. ME. OUT.

Question 5: What’s your favorite song?

Ice, Ice Baby by Vanilla Ice. Cheesy? Yes, but I can’t help but dance every single time I hear it.

Question 6: What’s your favorite Etsy shop that isn’t yours?

Coco and Bubbles—best candles ever. Favorite scent: Lavender + Vanilla.

Question 7: What’s your favorite way to spend your free time when you’re alone?

Reading young adult books.

Question 8: What’s your favorite junk food?

Potato chips of basically any flavor.

Question 9: Do you have a pet or pets? If so, what kind and what are their names?

Three dogs, all lab mixes and their names are Kaya, Max and Dubbya (Yep, like as in the president, George W cause we thought he was a tad mentally slow when he was born. My husband named him and I laughed harder than I have in my entire life when he came up with that name. Obviously, we were meant to be.)

Question 10: What are your number one favorite nonfiction and fiction books?

Fiction: The Time Traveler’s Wife

Nonfiction: Eat, Pray, Love

Question 11: What’s your favorite beauty product or tool?

The bombshell. It’s a curling iron.

Question 12: When were you last embarrassed? What happened?

About a week ago, the police and animal control were outside of our house because we called them when we found a dog roaming around the neighborhood and couldn’t find his home. No tag. It was embarrassing because neighbors were staring like we were in trouble or doing something crazy. Mind your business, people.

Question 13: If you could only drink one beverage (besides water) for the rest of your life, what would it be?

Honest tea. My preciousssss.

Question 14: What’s your favorite movie?

The Little Mermaid.

Question 15: What were you in high school: prom queen, nerd, cheerleader, jock, valedictorian, band geek, loner, artist, prep?

Cheerleader.

Question 16: If you could live anywhere in the world, where would you live?

Blacksburg, VA. Go Hokies!

Question 17: PC or Mac?

Mac for life.

Question 18: Last romantic gesture from a crush, date, boy/girlfriend, spouse?

Husband brought me flowers today cause he’s sweet like that.

Question 19: Favorite celebrity?

Chelsea Handler cause she’s hilarious.

Question 20: What blogger do you secretly want to be best friends with?

Kris Carr.

I’m tagging these ten people to do this ’20 Things You Might Not Know About Me’ Blog Tag by answering these same questions in a blog post:

1. Mayi Carles cause she’s one of my bestest friends and I still don’t know all of her answers from these questions.

2. Kris with a K cause I think we’d totally be friends in real life and I wanna know her even better.

3. Jessica Swift cause I can’t get enough of her art. LOVE IT so very much! And, she’s such a bubbly, sweet person. All around awesome.

4. Lisa Lehmann cause I love her personal-ish blog posts. And, she creates the most beautiful jewelry for our world.

5. Sage Grayson cause she’s adorable, smart and so much fun.

6. Bonnie from Going Home to Roost cause we recently connected via creativeLIVE (thank you, Bryan), her course was AMAZING and I’d love to know her better.

7. Meghan from Meghan G Photography cause she recently left her day job to go full-time with her business! Yay Meghan! (And, who doesn’t wanna know their photographer a little bit better before signing a contract to photograph the most romantic day of their life?)

8. Emily from Indieshopography cause she seriously cracks me up on a regular basis. I wanna know how she’d answer some of these questions.

9. Jennifer Kennedy from Create Amazing Online Courses cause she’s super sweet and I loved getting know her when she attended my creativeLIVE course.

10. YOU! Tag, you’re it.

Here’s how you play:

1. Copy and paste the questions below and then answer and turn them into a blog post. Or, record a video answering these questions and upload it to your blog post.

2. At the bottom of your post, tag anywhere from 2-10 bloggers you want to see answer these questions. (I also suggest hitting up your tagged people via social media just to let them know you tagged them to do this tag challenge.)

3. Use the title: 20 Things You Might Not Know About Me Blog Tag. Once you’ve hit publish, leave a comment below with the link to your post.

4. Use the hashtag #20ThingsBlogTag when sharing on social media so we can all find your awesome posts!

As you can see from my answers, your answers can be super short.

If you want an intro to include at the beginning or end of your post, here’s one:

This blog post is a part of the ’20 Things You Might Not Know About Me’ Blog Tag started by April from Blacksburg Belle. She began this blog tag experiment to build community among creatives, help us bloggers to connect more and get to know each other better. This month’s topic is all about sharing just a little too much information about yourself. If you’d like to participate or want more info, check out the beginning post right here.

Let’s get to know each other and build the best community vibe ever.

(Disclaimer: It’s totally cool to NOT participate if I tagged you and you either: don’t want to do it or don’t have the time. You won’t totally crush my feelings.)

Easily copy and paste the questions below OR read when you film your video:

Question 1: How tall are you?

Question 2: Do you have a hidden talent? If so, what?

Question 3: What’s your biggest blog-related pet peeve?

Question 4: What’s your biggest non-blog related pet peeve?

Question 5: What’s your favorite song?

Question 6: What’s your favorite Etsy shop that isn’t yours?

Question 7: What’s your favorite way to spend your free time when you’re alone?

Question 8: What’s your favorite junk food?

Question 9: Do you have a pet or pets? If so, what kind and what are their names?

Question 10: What are your number one favorite nonfiction and fiction books?

Question 11: What’s your favorite beauty product?

Question 12: When were you last embarrassed? What happened?

Question 13: If you could only drink one beverage (besides water) for the rest of your life, what would it be?

Question 14: What’s your favorite movie?

Question 15: What were you in high school: prom queen, nerd, cheerleader, jock, valedictorian, band geek, loner, artist, prep?

Question 16: If you could live anywhere in the world, where would you live?

Question 17: PC or Mac?

Question 18: Last romantic gesture from a crush, date, boy/girlfriend, spouse?

Question 19: Favorite celebrity?

Question 20: What blogger do you secretly want be best friends with?

If this goes well, I might make this a monthly thing (while tagging new people and choosing a new topic each time) for the next six months or so to build community.

If it flops, oh well. This could be the first and last. I’m experimenting!

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Stop Being a Selfish Twit

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You know what’s not okay?

Selfishness. Full-fledged selfishness.

It makes me ANGRY. Can you tell?

Business owners who only think about themselves burn their connections, frustrate their customers and give off that snotty arrogance that nobody likes. It might take a little while, but your true jerkface colors will eventually shine through.

And, if you’re a small business (as in it’s only you or it’s you and an assistant or you and a couple of freelancers), it’s pretty darn obvious when all you care about is you.

I get it.

You’re in it to win it. (Forgive the cheeseball sayin’.) You want to succeed. You need to make money. You’re constantly thinking about how to get more customers, how to better your website, how to get more likes on Instagram and retweets on Twitter and how to get your mom to stop referring to your online jewelry store as “that little thing you do on the internet.”

But, come on. You’ve got to give, too.

I know this is a little more rant-y of a blog post than I usually publish, but a few things have happened recently that have put me in a rant kind of mood.

Think about all the other people who are working their butts off to build their businesses. Think about all the other creatives who are putting their art into the world to make it a more lovely place. Think about all of the customers who are giving you their hard-earned money.

Signs you’re being waaaaay too selfish:

You don’t give away any of your time. (For instance, I set aside about 10% of my work time for answering non-customer emails, doing interviews that I think will help other creatives, helping other people promote their stuff—usually via social media and answering questions I receive on social media. I also write and publish blog posts for free—to help my business and creatives who don’t have the money to invest in my higher priced courses.)

You don’t give a little support to someone (like tweeting about her latest product when she sent you easy-to-copy tweets) you call a friend and who has always given you and your business support.

Your Twitter feed is all self-promotional. If you haven’t re-tweeted someone else’s blog post, given a shout out to another creative entrepreneur or said something nice about someone else in the past month, what are you waiting for?

You mention someone else or someone else’s product in a blog post, but you don’t include a link. Without a link, it doesn’t really count.

You NEVER link to other people’s stuff in your blog posts because you don’t want your readers to ever leave your site. (Why don’t you just set the link to open in a new window?)

You don’t give credit where credit is due.

You steal someone else’s concept, design, photograph, illustration or copy and pretend it’s your own. (Just to clarify, I’m not talking about designing something that you actually thought of on your own and then you find out that someone else has created something that looks kinda similar. That happens. I’m talking about intentionally stealing.)

You want to steal someone else’s concept, illustration, idea, design or copy and you know it’s wrong, so you ask them if you can also use it. Or, you email them afterward, telling them that you were inspired by their work—when actually you just copied pretty much every single thing. (I’ve had this happen more than 10 times. I’m not kidding.)

You’re called out on intentionally copying and you say that “you’ve changed enough things that it’s different enough that you aren’t legally obligated to do anything about it.” (Ummmm…are you serious? How about be original? And, the last person who said that to me lost that legal battle. Take that.)

You’re mean to your customers because they have questions.

You’re rude to someone because she hasn’t actually bought from you yet.

You don’t give someone the time of day because she isn’t as “big” as you. Maybe she only has twenty followers on Twitter and five blog readers, so you ignore her. (I recently had a business treat me really bad, so I mentioned it on social media cause I was fuming. They immediately reached out to me, because they saw how many followers I had (I’m not Beyonce or anything but they were scared) and they wanted to contain the situation. That’s the only way I got their attention and I had tried calling customer service and going to the actual business to work out the issue. They didn’t pay attention to me until they thought my talking about it would impact them negatively. Then they wanted to fix it immediately. Complete selfish jerkfaces.)

You don’t say “thank you.” (Whenever a customer comes to me with an issue like she can’t download my digital book because her link isn’t active anymore, I always try to remember to thank her for buying from me first. Cause I am very thankful. Then, I fix her problem ASAP.)

You don’t ever go out of your way to help someone else succeed. When you receive that handmade purse you ordered off Etsy, take a picture and share it on Instagram. How good would that make you feel if someone did that for you? Spread the love!

You never “help” someone else unless you think something is in it for you.

This might be a tad harsh, but we all need a little wake up call every now and then, right?

I’m not saying that I’m perfect. Not by any means. Selfishness is human nature. There have been plenty of times that I’ve reminded myself to stop thinking about just me.

I’m hoping this post inspires you to do better. Give more. Think about others. And, maybe laugh a little? The word twit always cracks me up and how could you take that photo seriously?

It feels so darn good to help others and give. So why not bake that into your day or week? Start each day by doing something to help someone else.

My challenge to you (even if you haven’t been very selfish lately) is to do something for someone else right now.

Need some ideas? I’ve got you covered:

  1. Tweet about the helpful video you watched on YouTube yesterday.
  2. Say yes to an interview that might help other creative entrepreneurs.
  3. Take a picture of the handmade necklace you bought two weeks ago and post it on Facebook with a link to where others can buy it.
  4. Link to an amazing blog that you highly recommend others read in the blog post you’re currently writing.
  5. Write an email to someone that might need a little support and ask her if there’s anything you can do for her.
  6. Write an email to a blogger who inspires you, letting her know that you love her work and don’t ask for anything in return.
  7. Leave a thoughtful comment on a blog post that doesn’t have a single comment.

Then, leave a comment below letting us all know what you did. That way you spread the love even further and give us even more ideas on how we can support and encourage each other.

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The Two Markets You’re Ignoring (And How You Can Double or Triple Your Profits)

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All creative businesses have at least three target markets, and most business owners are ignoring two of them.

Yep, it’s true. You’re probably neglecting people who would love to hand over their credit cards to you.

The three markets I’m talking about are: 1) the people who want to buy your product (the necklace, mittens, handbag, body scrub, etc.), 2) the DIYers who want to make it for themselves, and 3) the people who want to learn how to start a business like yours.

You’re always going to have customers who want your product, made by you.

They don’t have the time or skills to make it themselves. They just want to order it, get it and use it.

Like the customer who buys your organic apricot facial scrub for an indulgence. She’s recreating the spa at home, and the last thing she wants to do is battle traffic to go to the grocery and health food stores to hunt for all the ingredients and then come home and create a disaster, including piles of dirty dishes, in her kitchen while trying to make the scrub herself. That defeats the point for her. She’d much rather pay you $16.

But, you’re also always going to have customers who love to DIY and troll Etsy and Pinterest for stuff they can try to make themselves.

Instead of buying your embroidery hoop art, they’d love to buy a PDF pattern of your adorable bumble bee design to embroider it themselves.

You might never want to sell to DIYers, especially if you’re the type of creative who could never imagine giving out her trade secrets. And, that’s okay.

But, it’s important to recognize that those people exist and that there’s potentially a lot of money to be made.

Why would you want to sell to that market? Well, I’ve got a few good reasons:

1. Lots of times when you’re selling patterns, ebooks, or tutorials, you only have to create something once and then you get to sell it over and over and over and over and…well, I think you get it. Basically, you can sell it while you sleep, without having to wake up the next morning and make each thing you sold. It gets delivered upon purchase, so you make more money without having to do anymore work. Talk about magical.

It’s much easier than creating every product by hand. In that scenario, you’re trading money for time and you can never get more than twenty-four hours a day. You’re limited to how much you can make—product and money-wise.

I’ve worked with creatives who’ve added patterns and tutorials to their revenue streams and doubled or tripled their profits in a couple months without adding more work hours to their days. Sounds kinda great right?

2. There’s a huge DIY population, people who love to make and create and who would never ever buy your handmade products because they want to make the stuff themselves. For example, I’m a knitter so I hardly ever buy hand-knit products. But, I do buy lots of knitting patterns.

3. You can serve people who can’t afford your handmade products. I’m a huge Alabama Chanin fan but $3,860 for a dress is a big deal for me. I didn’t spend that much on my wedding dress and I’m not a millionaire. So, I’ve been creating my own Alabama Chanin pieces (my poncho is almost done!) with the help of the Alabama Chanin books and patterns. I still support her business by buying her books and fabric.

This isn’t the right direction for every business, but it’s something to contemplate because it works really well for many creative businesses.

You have the option of making your patterns and tutorials available for personal use only—that way you can still sell your handmade creations without direct competition.

And, then there’s the third market: the people who want to learn how you do what you do so they can start a business like yours.

Knitters who want to sell their own knitted creations. Illustrators who want to learn about licensing and how to break into the freelance scene. Jewelry artists who want to know the ins and outs of setting up their own jewelry business and selling retail.

They’re looking for classes, books, guides—anything that’ll help them get there faster.

If you’re a natural teacher and love public speaking, this is another market you could tap into and make money from.

You could write a series of ebooks, put together workbooks, offer online courses, teach in person, and apply to speak at conferences. The options are unlimited thanks to the glorious internet.

If you can’t fall asleep at night cause you’re wondering how you’re going to make your handmade business work long-term, these other revenue streams might be just the thing that’ll derail your nightmares and allow you to sleep easy.

If you’re getting overwhelmed by the amount of creating you have to do every day to make your business profitable, these other revenue streams could free up your time while overflowing your piggy bank. Cha-ching!

If you’re thinking that this all sounds great but you have no idea where to start, you’re in luck. I’ll be teaching a course on creating digital and information products that sell at CreativeLive November 10th-12th. You can join me in the live audience or watch from home with a big bowl of popcorn for FREE. Mark your calendars now and I’ll be sharing more info soon!

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How My Website Has Affected My Business

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One of my favorite web designers, Emily Thompson, asked me to participate in her blog tour on how my website has affected/grown my business.

Well, that’s easy. I wouldn’t have a business without a website.

Seriously.

It’s how I’ve launched all of my products and courses. It’s how I’ve “met” the majority of my customers. It’s how I’ve shown people that I know what I’m talking about.

Without my website, I can’t tell you where I’d be. It’s unimaginable to me.

Starting my blog changed everything for me.

Within a few months, I had hundreds of readers. People who otherwise wouldn’t know anything about me or what I offer.

I connected with my business partner, Mayi Carles, through my blog.

Etsy “found me” through my blog and featured many of my blog posts and asked me to speak at the first Etsy Success Symposium.

Kimberly Palmer, author and journalist, read my blog and loved it. She interviewed me for U.S. News and World Report and featured my business in her book, The Economy of You.

One of the executive producers of creativeLIVE, Elizabeth, checked out my blog when thinking about asking me to lead a workshop for them. Obviously, she liked what she read, right?

My blog is my place to be me, share my ideas with the world and connect with other creative minds. It’s my online home. It’s my brand.

Now, here’s the thing you’ve got to realize: I started waaaay before I was ready. I started with a shoddy web design and hired that out six months later.

I didn’t know exactly what topics I was going to cover or what my blog posts would look like. I didn’t know much about my target market or what I’d sell. I just started with one blog post and grew from there.

If you’re waiting until everything is perfect, you’ll be waiting forever. It’s much better to learn as you go. You’ll figure it out. But, you’ve got to start somewhere.

What’s the next step you need to take to establish your online home? Or, what’s the next step you need to take to use your website to grow your business?

This blog post is part of a blog tour to let you know about a fabulous ecourse, Indie Headquarters, that’ll teach you the foundations of building your brand online. Registration is open until July 10th, so check it out now!

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100 Creatives to Follow on Instagram: Artists, Writers, Photographers, Crafters, Designers

100 Creatives to Follow on Instagram

I’m slightly obsessed with Instagram.

Cute dogs, pretty flowers, gorgeous paintings, delicious recipes, fun crafts, fashion. The inspiration I get is endless. I probably spend a little too much time on Instagram, but hey, it’s fun.

If you’re a newbie to Instagram or just want a list of creative people to follow (who post lovely pictures), I’ve compiled a list of 100 of my favorite creatives who constantly inspire me with their pics. I hope you find some new favorites in my list below.

1. April Bowles (yep, that’s me–above is one of my Instagram photos!)

2. Mayi Carles

3. Lisa Congdon

4. Brittni Mehlhoff

5. Katie Jaeger

6. Jessica Swift

7. Whitney Leigh Morris

8. Anna Bond

9. Laura Hooper-Leader

10. Madeline Trait

11. Jordan Ferney

12. Bri Emery

13. Claire S. Wilson

14. Heather Ross

15. Kate Bradbury

16. Sarah Yates

17. Courtney Cerruti

18. Brittany Jepsen

19. Elsie Larson

20. Hilary Rushford

21. Laura Blythman

22. Romina Bacci

23. Lisa Currie

24. Lauren Essl

25. Light Rust Studio

26. Jackie Reisenaur

27. Patricia Martins

28. Meghan Plowman

29. Sarah Shotts

30. Female Photographers Association

31. Suzy Gasson

32. Karla Lim

33. Jamie Beck

34. Cindy Loughridge

35. Ashley Goldberg

36. Kelly Lanza

37. Shasta Garcia

38. Sarah Palmer

39. Victoria Smith

40. Abby Smith

41. Morgan Lamkin

42. Christine Schmidt

43. The Happy Hunters

44. Melanie Burk

45. Leah Duncan

46. Jessica Shyba

47. Chelsea Foy

48. Kiss My Spatula

49. Jessie Chanes

50. Mike Perry

51. Kim Ficaro

52. Sean McCabe

53. Joy the Baker

54. Alice Gao

55. Ben Wagner

56. Anna Joyce

57. Kris Carr

58. Jolie Ankrom

59. Theron Humphrey

60. Ariele Alasko

61. Live Green Healthy

62. Diana Dontsova

63. Aran Goyoaga

64. Kimberly Sienkiewicz

65. Dawn Smith Designs

66. Scott Rankin

67. Alabama Chanin

68. Ali Edwards

69. Alma Loveland

70. Jessica Comingore

71. Piera Gelardi

72. Ez Pudewa

73.Ellie Koleen

74. Danni Hong

75. Amanda Rydell

76. Bonnie Christine

77. Anastasia Marie

78. Joy Cho

79. Angela Hardison

80. Bianca Cash

81. Eva Black

82. Kate Arends

83. Lisa Rupp

84. Sarah Kate

85. Tina Yang

86. Will Taylor

87. Edyta Szyszlo

88. Jess Marvel

89. Tara Pearce

90. Valentine Hello

91. Nicole Franzen

92. Joshua Lott

93. Vicky Navarro

94. Hiroaki Fukuda

95. Lisa Lehmann

96. Heather Bailey

97. Jenny Doh

98. Molly Hatch

99. Austin Kleon

100. Add the link to your Instagram profile in the comments below!

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Scholarship Winners for From Busy to Happy!

Winners

We thought we were only going to give out ONE scholarship, but then we saw all the amazing photos on social media and read your blog posts and knew we had to increase that number to THREE!

First, we want to thank everyone who entered. You set inspiring goals that you want to achieve by specific dates. That’s a huge, vulnerable step and you deserve a pat on the back (and a mojito). If we could all have a party in person, Mayi and I would supply mojitos for you all.

With that said, the scholarship winners for From Busy to Happy are…

Imagine trumpets blaring…

confetti raining…

superhero capes blowing in the wind…

Kris Windley, Caylee Greyvenstein, and Kimberly Sienkiewicz! Congratulations!

You’ll receive an email from me tomorrow (Friday) letting you know exactly how to set up your memberships, so be on the lookout.

We’re beyond excited to have you join us for From Busy to Happy.

And, if you weren’t selected for a scholarship, we really appreciate your thoughtful entry and would love to have you join us if you can.

If you still have questions about From Busy to Happy, check out the replay of the happy hour Mayi and I hosted yesterday (fast forward to 6 minutes and 30 seconds cause we were working on getting the audio right until then). It should help you make a clear decision. And, if you still have questions after watching, just email us at connectingthegaps@gmail.com and we’ll answer you as soon as possible.

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Chat with Mayi and April for Free Today!

Happy Hour

Check all that apply  to you:

1. You do a lot each day, but you never seem to reach those BIG goals (like getting your website set up, blogging once a week for a year or fitting into your pre-baby jeans).

2. You have so much going on in your life that your normal is always busy, and you’re not really sure if that could change.

3. You haven’t felt calm and relaxed since your last vacation (excluding the nights that you down three glasses of wine).

4. You wish you had the time to indulge in bubble baths, massages, manicures or just reading a good novel in bed.

5. This isn’t quite what you pictured your life to look like. You were thinking more Anthropologie shopping sprees and less technological-related stress. More laughter and beach trips and less twelve-hour days.

6. You’d love to chat with ladies who get it cause they’ve been there (and ask them all your questions–nothing’s off limits).

If you said yes to two or more of the above, you need to join us tonight at 7pm EST for the happy hour that we’re hosting.

Bring your favorite cocktail (tequila shots count, right?) and any questions you’ve got for us about From Busy to Happy: A 21-Day Productivity Mission!

Dress code: sundresses or pjs. Either works for us.

You can ask your questions via text or video, so if you don’t mind joining us on camera, we might invite you on. Imagine a slumber party with online friends. Fun, right?

We look forward to seeing you then.

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Win a Scholarship to From Busy to Happy!

From Busy to Happy Scholarship

Have you heard of From Busy to Happy?

You know, THE course that’ll help you stop wasting hours on social media, get clear on the goals you actually care about, and figure out what obstacles are standing in your way and how to demolish them.

Well, Mayi and I are offering a scholarship for the course cause we want to help as many creatives as possible, no matter how much money is in their piggy banks.

If you’ve been drooling over the course and counting your pennies to see if you can register, we’re opening up one spot for FREE.

And, we’re making the process super easy, because we know you’re busy. Hello! That’s why you want to take the course, right?

All you have to do to enter is:

1. Print off the hand-painted declaration of your goal (see banner below).

2. Fill in your goal, the date you want to accomplish your goal by and the kryptonite that you won’t let stand in your way.

3. Take a picture of yourself holding your declaration and upload it to your favorite social media platform(s) (Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest) with the hashtag #connectingthegaps and the link to the course page: http://bit.ly/busytohappy

4. Leave a comment below letting us know which social media platform(s) you posted your declaration on.

5. The scholarship entry deadline is THIS THURSDAY, June 26th at 1pm EST. We’ll announce the winner around 5pm EST on June 26th.

Scholarship Download

Bonus Points:

1. The more social media platforms you post your picture on, the more times you’ll be entered in the contest. Options: Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest.

2. If you post the picture of you holding your declaration of your goal in a blog post (with the link back to course page) and write a little bit about why you want to reach that goal, you’ll get entered another five times. Make sure to leave the LINK to your blog post in the comments below, so we can find and read it.

Fine Print:

Anyone worldwide can enter. The scholarship decision is final. If you already paid for a spot in From Busy to Happy and you want to enter, you can. If you win, we’ll simply refund your purchase.

Have a question? Leave it in the comments below or email us at connectingthegaps@gmail.com and we’ll get back to you as soon as possible.

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A 3-Day Mission to Boost Your Health and Happiness + FREE Printables

Connecting the Gaps

It’s way too easy to get stuck on the hamster wheel of life.

You wish upon a star each night when you’re falling asleep that you’ll find that extra time to write that book you’ve been dreaming about since your mid-twenties, go to the gym so you’re not wasting that expensive membership you paid for months ago, or finally take that vacation you’ve been talking about with your husband for the past two years.

But, then you wake up and chaos ensues. Your to-do list is monstrous. Your business is struggling. The laundry is overflowing and your mom thinks you should be able to go grocery shopping with her mid-day cause you don’t have a “real” job.

You snap at your husband for forgetting to take out the trash. (Doesn’t he know that you’re on your period and he should obey your every command?) You barely have time to fit in that five-minute yoga video before taking the fastest shower of your life.

You manage to whip together spaghetti for dinner. (Okay, the sauce came from a jar but at least you made something.) And, by the time you’re finished loading the dishwasher, you’re exhausted. (Even a bubble bath sounds like too much work.)

The day is over and you’re not really sure where it went. You did a lot but you don’t feel like you really accomplished anything.

It’s not as if you’re depressed or completely unhappy, but you’re also not thrilled with how things are going. You feel like you’re always on the go and have no time to: sit back and enjoy the ride or actually work on your BIG goals.

This certainly isn’t how you pictured your life.

You imagined yourself walking your golden retriever with a nice tan from your two-week vacation in St. John. You imagined weekly dinner dates with the love of your life. You imagined owning a wardrobe that makes you feel beautiful and taking hot yoga classes to keep your arms toned.

You didn’t picture wearing sweatpants most days, feeling self-conscious about your jiggling arms when you dare to wear a tank-top or having to make do with orangey tinted self-tanner because you barely get outside.

And, the worst part is that you’re not trying to change it. You’re just trying to get through each day, hoping that the next one will be better.

Connecting the Gaps

So, here’s the hard truth that I know you already know: if you’re not taking steps to change your current circumstances, they’re not going to change.

You’re not going to find Cinderella’s fairy godmother waiting to make all of your dreams come true standing next to your bed when you wake up tomorrow morning.

You’re in charge of changing things.

We all fall into a rut sometimes. It just happens.

I’d like to help you break free of the monotony—to focus on yourself, your happiness and your health.

If you can give me a little bit of your time for the next three days, you can start to shift everything in the right direction.

Grab yourself a cup of tea or a glass of freshly squeezed juice and press play on this FREE video.

P.S. There’s really fun (and totally cute) printables included!

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