20 Questions to Answer for Your Yearly Review

20 Questions for Your Yearly Review

At the end of every year, I cozy up by the fire with a soy chai tea latte to look at what worked for my business and what didn’t.

Before I set concrete goals and map out my marketing plan for the next year, it’s important to know what I should do more of and less of.

It might seem like one of those “well duh” concepts but I can’t tell you how many times I’ve worked with creative entrepreneurs who do the opposite. They spend more time on the stuff that isn’t working, trying to figure out how to make it work and stop doing the stuff that worked so well for them. And, they want to know why their businesses aren’t doing so hot.

If you’ve never done a yearly review of your business, now’s the time to start a new tradition.

Here are 20 questions to get you started:

1. What was your best-selling product? What do you think made it so successful?

2. What was your least successful product? Why do you think it didn’t sell well?

3. What marketing strategies worked best? (Examples: blog tour, video series, giveaway, guest post, interview)

4. What marketing strategies failed? Why do you think they failed?

5. In what month did you make the most money? What did you do differently in that month?

6. In what month did you make the least amount of money? What did you do differently in that month?

7. What blog post got the most comments? What do you think connected so well with your readers? Did you encourage comments in some way?

8. What blog post got the least comments? Why do you think your readers didn’t connect to it? Did you encourage readers to leave comments?

9. What blog post had the most shares on social media? Why do you think so many readers shared it?

10. What blog post had the least shares on social media? Why do you think your readers weren’t excited to share it?

11. What social media platform worked best for your business? Why?

12. What social media platform didn’t work well for your business? Why?

13. What was the subject line of your most opened email newsletter? Why do you think so many subscribers opened it?

14. What was the subject line of your least opened email newsletter? Why do you think your subscribers didn’t open it?

15. What did you enjoy working on the most?

16. What did you least enjoy working on?

17. Who did you enjoy working with the most? (Write up an ideal customer profile based on this person!)

18. Who did you least enjoy working with? What characteristics should you look out for in prospects so that you avoid working with that type of person in the future? (If you’re still working with this person, it might be time to refer him/her to someone else.)

19. Make a list of what you spent your biz money on. (Examples: website hosting, advertisements, boosted Facebook posts, new computer, Adobe suite, CreativeLive course) Beside each one, place a ‘checkmark’ if it truly moved your business forward and a ‘x’ if it didn’t.

20. How much money did you make total for the year (profit)? How do you feel about that number? How much do you want to make next year?

Once you answer these questions, you’ll be in a better place to set goals and create a marketing plan for 2015.

Have a question that we should add to the list? Leave it in the comments below.

I’d also love to know your answers to one or two of the questions. You pick and share below!

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How to Have Your Best Year Yet + A Big Announcement!

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I recently had a conversation with a jewelry artist that went a little something like this:

Her: My business didn’t grow this year. I made less money than I did in 2013 and I’m feeling really discouraged.

Me: Did you take any steps to grow your business?

Her: Well, I watched a few CreativeLive courses. I read a couple business books and I read a bunch of blog posts.

Me: What I’m hearing is that you took in information, but did you take action on what you learned?

Her: A little bit but I could’ve and should’ve done a lot more. I did a few things like sprucing up my website here and there and I blogged twice a month.

Me: What did you do to connect to other creative entrepreneurs during the year?

Her: Not much. I commented on some blog posts and I got on social media some each week. I kept meaning to send emails and there was even a conference that I thought about attending but then I decided to try to go the next time.

Me: From what you’re saying, it seems like you weren’t really committed this year—like you weren’t invested in growing your business.

Her: I kept telling myself things like, “I’ll do that next month,” and “I don’t have time for that right now but I’ll do it next week.” And, then it never got done. I love my business but for some reason, I kept putting everything on the back burner.

Me: You’ve got to want it. And, I mean really want it. Do you?

Her: Yes. I do. I’m miserable in my day job and I love creating jewelry. My dream is to support my family with my business. I really want to do things differently next year.

Me: Okay. Then, you’ve got to make a firm commitment for 2015. You’ve got to start taking regular action, not just learning what you need to do but actually doing it, and you’ve got to invest in and prioritize your business. If you don’t, then you’re probably going to be in the same position at the end of next year.

Her: I’m ready. 2015 is going to be my year.

I’m sharing this interaction with you because I hear this kind of thing waaaaaaay too much.

There will always be excuses. There will always be reasons to procrastinate: to start the blog next month, to go to the conference the next time, to set up an email newsletter opt-in later, to invest in the Adobe suite next quarter, to learn how to host a webinar in a few months.

If you want to be successful, you have to prioritize your business regardless of the excuses. You have to commit. You have to make time.

Of course, that’s much easier said than done, right?

You can set goals for 2015. You can tell yourself that you’re going to blog every week. You can promise that you’ll finally set up an email newsletter opt-in. You can decide to design a new line of jewelry for the summer. You can set out to do one interview a month.

But it’s easy to let life get in the way, to put it off for another week or month or year.

It’s a horrible feeling to look at the past year and know that you should’ve done more—that you didn’t reach your goals and that you wasted so much time.

That awful feeling can be avoided.

My hope for you is that at this time next year when you’re taking stock of what you accomplished in 2015, you feel amazing. You reached your monetary goals. And you finally did what you set out to do whether that was write and launch an ebook, sell your first watercolor painting and then many more, teach an online course (that sold out within days of opening up registration), or quit your day job because you’re making a full-time income from your creative business.

Think of a big goal you’d like to reach in 2015 and then imagine how you’ll feel at the end of the year if you reach it.

Come on…close your eyes for a minute and imagine that feeling.

Accomplished. Confident. Thriving. Successful. Smart. Relieved. Stress-free. Excited.

So, how are you going to make sure that you reach your goals instead of procrastinating and telling yourself that you’ll do it later?

Here are the two main strategies I used in the beginning that helped me reach my goals, including earning a full-time income, selling out my courses and landing high-profile speaking engagements.

1. I invested in my business.

When you get serious about your business and invest in it financially, you’re more committed to succeeding. This does NOT mean that you have to spend thousands of dollars. Staying lean in the beginning is so much better than going into debt.

But, investing here or there can really make a difference to your excitement, productivity and commitment.

For example, I registered for a course that cost $997 within the first few months of starting my business and it lit a match under my little bum to make that money back. Instead of making excuses, I did the work and it paid off when I sold out my very first group-coaching program.

Some of the information in the course was stuff I already knew that I needed to do (like pitching guest posts and interviews and making my opt-in visually attractive) but I hadn’t done it yet. That course gave me the push to do the stuff I’d been ‘saving for later.’

I hired a web designer to design an email newsletter opt-in for $75. She designed it, added it to my website, and made sure all the tech pieces were taken care of. It was one of the best investments I’ve ever made for my business because I make about 90% of my income from my email list.

I also spent money to go to a conference within the first year of business and I came home feeling extremely energized and confident. I did the best work I’d ever done the month after that conference. And, I connected with entrepreneurs like Marie Forleo and Laura Roeder which definitely skyrocketed my business.

Every time I invested in my business, there was a spike in my productivity and profit. Even though it was scary, it was worth it each time.

TAKE ACTION NOW:

Make a list of five to ten things you’d like to invest in during 2015. Pick one of those things, price it out (example: contact three web designers to see how much it would cost to design a header for you), and start saving for it.

You can do this by saving money from your paychecks from your day job, saving a percentage of each sale, or giving up something and putting that money towards the investment (examples: instead of getting Starbucks twice a week, put that $8 in savings; cut back on going out to eat from four to two times a month and put that $70 in savings).

2. I focused on connections.

It’s silly and unwise to stay in your little bubble, at home by yourself, when your business will grow so much faster if you regularly spend time on connections.

I left thoughtful comments on other blogs, emailed other entrepreneurs, connected on social media, went to conferences, asked others to chat on Skype, hosted a blog tour, set up an affiliate program, interacted in private Facebook groups and more during my first year of business.

The more I spent time strengthening connections with other entrepreneurs, the less time I had to spend on marketing and the more money I made. 

I met one of my best friends, Mayi Carles, through a blog series that I hosted and we became each others’ accountability partners. We went through B-School together, told each other what we were working on, and checked in with each other every week to make sure we were staying on track.

One of the best things I did was invest the time and money to meet others in person. Meeting Mayi in person changed everything for me. She has helped my business more than any other person through feedback, support, encouragement and promoting my stuff to her audience.

TAKE ACTION NOW:

Write up a ‘connection plan’ for 2015. What are you going to do daily, weekly, and monthly to strengthen connections with other entrepreneurs who have similar values and goals?

Find an accountability partner: someone who you can check in with once a week (via email, Skype, or Google+) to share your goals, give each other feedback and hold each other accountable.

And, pick at least one event to attend in person. It could be a retreat, conference, course, or trade show. You can stay local or you can take a leap of faith and pick something that you really want to go to—something that you know will give you the energy and confidence to do the hard work it takes to succeed in business.

If you’re interested in attending a women’s retreat for creative entrepreneurs, I’m soooooooooo excited to announce that I’ll be speaking at the Movers and Makers Summit this upcoming February!

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Along with Lisa Jacobs, Bonnie Christine, Paige French, and Kerry Burki, I’m co-hosting this amazing weekend retreat for twenty creatives in South Carolina.

This retreat is all about connecting and learning. If you decide to join us, you’ll learn how each of us has built our businesses while getting lots of practical advice on how you can improve your business, have access to ask us about any and all business secrets during lots of Q&A and discussion time and leave with professional headshots by the talented Paige French.

And, it’s all happening in a serene, coastal view location in Charleston.

It’ll be the perfect time to step away from the hustle and day-to-day drudgery while brainstorming new ideas, getting a clear focus on where you want to take your business in 2015 and connect with like-minded mentors and entrepreneurs.

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You can find more details here as well as sign up to be the first to know when registration opens on December 29th.

If you’re at all interested, I highly recommend that you sign up for the wait list because there are only 20 spots and they could sell out fast.

I’d love to know how you’re going to invest in your business and strengthen your connections in 2015. Leave some of your action plans in the comments below!

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Behind the Scenes: My CreativeLive Playlist (Plus, a Sale!)

I turn into a crazier version of Martha Stewart when December hits: knitting, wrapping paper making, embroidery designing, Christmas day meal planning…

Yesterday, I finished painting 15 yards of wrapping paper and 8 gift bags. I love the holidays!

While I’m crafting and decorating, I listen to music and audio books or I watch reruns of my favorite shows on Netflix (Parenthood is my jam). Usually, it starts off with Christmas music, but I can only take an hour or two before I’m ready for something else.

I have lots of different playlists, so that I’ve always got something to listen to, depending on the mood I’m in.

I created a playlist to rock to while I was in hair and makeup at CreativeLive–something that would pump me up and give me an energy boost. And, some of you asked if I’d share that playlist.

So, today I’m sharing it. Warning: it includes explicit language so don’t listen to it around the kiddos.

And, while we’re on the topic of CreativeLive, they’re having a huge sale this month so you can get access to my courses at a discount:

Build a Successful Creative Blog

Create Digital Products that Sell While You Sleep

Make Your Creative Business Uniquely Irresistible

You can give yourself an early Christmas present that’ll help you have an awesome 2015.

P.S. In order to create a tight, supportive community, I’ve decided to cap Six Weeks to a More Passion-Filled and Profitable Business at 75 students, so there are only 12 spots left! If you absolutely know that you want to join the course, make sure you do so sooner rather than later, because I will be closing registration once we hit 75 students.

What’s your favorite PUMP UP song? Share in the comments below!

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Behind the Scenes at CreativeLive (and Why I Cried on Video)

Behind the Scenes at CreativeLive

If I had to sum up my trip in one sentence it would be: The BESTEST time ever.

Except the trip home where United gave us the worst customer service that I’ve ever experienced–no exaggeration. But, let’s stick to the positive cause everything else was pretty darn amazing.

I vlogged a lot of moments, because I thought that would work even better than trying to describe my adventure with words like I did last time.

Disclaimer: This video could’ve been a good thirty minutes. I cut a lot out but tried to give you an overall picture with what I included. And, I say “thank you” a lot because I needed to thank a lot of people. It wasn’t just ME who put those courses together and who made the courses happen. THANK YOU CreativeLive for EVERYTHING!

If you missed the courses and you want a sneak preview of them, you can check out Create Digital Products that Sell While You Sleep right here. And, you can find Make Your Creative Business Uniquely Irresistible right here.

CreativeLive is amazing and they always provide a portion of the course for free so you can watch it to see if it’s the right fit.

The private Facebook group that comes as a bonus with purchase of the digital products course is AH-MAZING you guys.

There is so much support and encouragement and questions and feedback happening in there every day and it’s still not too late to join and catch up. We’re still in the beginning stages and I’m going to be adding more tips and advice throughout the next couple months.

I’m in that group every week day (and some weekend days cause I just can’t help myself) for at least twenty minutes answering questions and giving feedback.

And, once again, I wanna thank: Bryan (content producer), Elizabeth (executive producer), Kate (line producer), Christy (makeup and hair–sorry if misspelled), Chris (on air host), Vanessa (chat room host), camera crew, sound crew, and seriously EVERYONE at CreativeLive who helped me in big ways or small, Mayi Carles for doing a fun interview with me, the in-studio audience (who I’ve got something special planned for so that you can all learn more about them), everyone in the chat room, everyone who helped me spread the word about the course, all of the ladies who gave me the scoop on their businesses to include in the bonus case studies ebook, everyone who watched from home–whether for 30 minutes or all three days, my husband who was there for me every step of the way. Without ALL of you, the courses wouldn’t be nearly the same.

P.S. The payment plan option for Six Weeks to a More Passion-Filled and Profitable Business ends tomorrow and the course is over half-booked. I decided to put a limit on how many people can take the course, because I want to develop a really tight community among the women who join. Once a community becomes ginormous, it loses some of that intimacy that I definitely want to be a part of this group and course. If you want to pay all at once to join the course, I’ll be changing the buy button on Saturday because the payment plan won’t be available anymore and you can pay for the whole thing then.

If you watched either of the CreativeLive courses, I’d love your to hear some of your thoughts and feedback in the comments below!

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Winners Announced + 55 Must-Read Blog Posts!

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If you want to get pumped up (and prepared) for my CreativeLive course, Create Digital Products that Sell While You Sleep, take a look at some of the blog posts below.

They’re all from the blog tour I announced right here. These posts are inspiring, motivating and many include tips on how to make your digital products more successful.

I used the questions these bloggers included in their posts on creating and selling digital products to add even more content to my upcoming course. I wanted to make sure that I’m covering all of the topics you guys want information on.

Here are the 54 amazing posts from the Create Digital Products Blog Tour:

1. Sell While You Sleep: Sarah shares the wins she had after implementing techniques from my last CreativeLive course, Build a Successful Creative Blog. And, she talks about a really cool upcoming project that you should check out. Only read this post if you want to feel inspired and motivated.

2. Make Money While I Sleep? Uh, Yes Please! Richelle sure knows how to make a girl blush! Thank you sooooooooooooo much. I loved your post times fifty-six million.

3. The Easiest Way To Make More Money From Photography: If you’re a photographer or wondering how digital products might fit into your business, you need to read this post! It’s incredibly inspiring.

4. Why I’m Flying all the Way to San Francisco to Learn How to Create and Sell Digital Products: Ummmm…YAY! I’m so excited to meet Kris in person and give her a HUGE hug. Read her post to see why this writer wants to add digital products to her business plan.

5. My 3 Bestselling Digital Products: A Printables Shop Peek: This post will give you AMAZING tips if you’re new to selling digital items. Such good, simple information that you can start to build from immediately.

6. Why I am Stuck in My Business…and What I Plan to Do About It: I love the honesty and openness in this post. It’s a must-read for anyone feeling fear about putting yourself and business “out there.”

7. Create Digital Products that Sell While You Sleep: Indre discusses why she wants to create clothing patterns but what has been holding her back from doing so in this wonderful post. Check it out!

8. Time to Create Digital Products: Emily makes a big announcement and shares why she hopes to use my course to add more passive income streams to her business. I think it can do just that!

9. Why This Embroidery Hoop Artist Wants to Learn How To Create Digital Products: Love this post about why Cathy wants to learn how to create digital products and product ideas she has considered in the past. Pumps me up for November!

10. Scaling Up without Losing Sleep – A Project Plan and a Class: Such a cool idea for scrapbookers and anyone who takes tons of digital pictures…I’m raising my hand!

11. What To Do With The Book Inside You – And What I’ve Done With Mine: Erika blogged about what she created after taking my last CreativeLive class. It’s inspiring–and applicable to anyone who doesn’t want to read their camera manual. I mean, who does want to read their camera manual, really?

12. The Magic of Gift Wrapping: This blogger used to struggle with writing like herself, in her voice. Read this post and tell me you can’t hear her personality with every choice of every word. Delightful!

13. Three Not So Small Steps to Get Out There: Such an honest post about the fears that hold her back from putting her work out in the world. Had me in tears!

14. Why You Should Sell Digital Products: Cole shares why she wants to sell digital products–and I really enjoy her reasons.

15. Digital Products, Naturally: Ani shares 9 questions she would love for me to answer during my course. I can’t wait to dig into these topics.

16. April Asked Me Why (Part 1): Read this post if you’re thinking that starting a blog seems way to overwhelming or even downright scary. And, if you want to read a post from someone who is authentically discussing how she’s making her dreams a reality.

17. April Asked Me Why (Part 2): Super inspiring follow up that you should absolutely read. It might just give you a boost of courage.

18. April Asked Me Why (Part 3): Jen wraps up her three part blog series on why she wants to learn how to create and sell digital products. It’s pretty darn fantastic.

19. It’s Going to Have to Be Digital: I’m in love with how she shares the good and the bad so openly. It’ll make you feel an instant connection with this blogger.

20. Digital Low-Down: Surviving the Test Phase: Jenny writes about the process of testing crochet patterns before release. Sounds intense! Knitters and crocheters will appreciate this one for sure.

21. Olivar Shawl: My Best-Seller Pattern PDF AND What I Learnt from Its Success: If you’re a knitter, please please please check out this post. It’ll definitely give you some things to consider.

22. Gone Digital: Vivayne includes a list of ideas on digital products you might want to sell. I love stuff like that–brainstorming done for you.

23. Why I Want to Learn How to Create and Sell Digital Products: If you want to hear from someone who has taken past courses, check out this post. It’ll give you an idea of my work.

24. Download, Print & Conquer! Printables Are Tools to Build Dreams: This post is all about HOW to use printables–very action-packed and inspiring!

25. Creating and Selling Digital Products: Do you wonder if you can actually create a comfortable lifestyle and dream home from selling digital products? You’re not alone. Check out Holly’s post for her experience and what she hopes to learn about creating digital products.

26. My Dream–Get Paid to Sleep: This sewer and blogger dishes on why she wants to make digital products. Her designs are super cute!

27. Another Ambition: Create Amazing Quilt Patterns for Beginners: I love all her product ideas and I’m really excited about helping her turn the ideas into products.

28. Why I Want to Learn How to Create and Sell Digital Products: This watercolor artists blogs about why she wants to learn about digital products. I love her digital product ideas.

29. Always Learning Something: Beth shares info on the course she’s already creating. It sounds really exciting! If you want to get your photos off your phone and actually use them, pay attention to this one.

30. How I Make Extra Money with Digital Products and How You Can Too: Read about the realities of selling digital products. It’s not always sunshine and rainbows but it can really help your bottom line if you put in the effort and work.

31. Finding Creative Inspiration at Home: For those of you who feel like you have to leave home for inspiration and learning, read Katie’s post! I’m a homebody so it really spoke to me.

32. Wanna Sell Digital Products in Your Jammies? Love all of these questions Trish includes in this post. We’ll be delving deep into many of them.

33. Seed Swap: Help Me Help You, a Blog Tour: Such an honest discussion on what isn’t going right and I really appreciated it.

34. The Biggest Questions I Have When It Comes to Selling Digital or Information Products: Love the main question in this post! I’ll definitely be digging into it during my course.

35. I Have a Bit of a Bug but I Think I Know How to Cure It: Bev and I share the teaching bug. Love her reasoning by wanting to take my course.

36. Sell While You’re Sleeping…It’s Not Just A Dream: This post is a must-read because the blogger is open and fun and lovely. Plus, she brings up a lot of things I’ll be covering in my course.

37. My Idea for a Digital Product and Why It Hasn’t Happened Yet: I’ll be going over all of this stuff in my course. The fear and perfectionist mindset is REAL and we’re gonna stomp all over it.

38. Digital Products Blog Tour: Learn about this blogger’s best-selling prints and why they’re selling so well.

39. Three Creative Ways to Make Everyday Chores Fun!: I’m not a fan of chores, but these things do help make it a little bit more fun. I’ve never tried the first one, but I will now.

40. What’s On My Workdesk Wednesday: A Free Online Course: Belinda not only shares why she wants to sell online courses and what she wants to learn–but also what is on her desk. So fun.

41. Why I Want to Learn How to Create and Sell Digital Products: Lisa already has a great free digital ‘product’ that you get for signing up for her email list. Now, she wants to build on that.

42. Because Everyone Deserves a Stuffed Krampus: I mean, you have to read this post just because of the title, right? Plus, it’s great.

43. Christmas 2014 Series: Peace: I wish I could rename this one, “Am I Really an Artist? Heck Yes!”

44. Plan Your Learning Objectives Before Taking a Class: Yep and yep. Totally agree that it helps to plan out your goals for a course so that you know what to focus on and how to avoid instant overwhelm. This is a GOOD ONE.

45. Learn to Cook in 10 Days eBook Intro (and a Look Back on Food Blogging): Matthew shares his upcoming ebook and the highlights from blogging for six months.

46. If I Build It Will You Come: Are you wondering what digital products you should offer? So is this blogger…so check out her post.

47. CreativeLive and Selling Digital Products: Some great questions that I’ll be digging into in my course! Can’t wait.

48. Digital Products Blog Tour: What Are Your Favorite Two Products? Tess wants to know what you want from her and she shares what you she wants to learn in my course. Love how she’s polling her audience.

49. Bounce Back with Me: Amreta shares why she didn’t want to become an artist by why she’s pulled to it anyways.

50. Why I Want to Learn How to Create and Sell Digital Products: It’s the first video post for this blog tour! Yay!

51. Digital Products Don’t Have to Be Scary: Sage is going to help you face your ‘can I really create digital products’ fears. Ready…set…go…

52. Create Digital Products: Amanda shares why she’s flying to San Francisco to learn from me! Squeeee!

53. How I sucked up a great business idea and what I will do to not let this happen again: This is all in Russian so I can’t read it, but I imagine it’s wonderful. If you speak Russian, this one is for you.

54. Make Your Business Uniquely Irresistible so You Can Make Money with Digital Products While You Sleep: Wondering why your digital products aren’t selling the way you want them to? So is she!

55. Doing What You Love–Authentic Happiness: This post discusses so many reasons why this blogger wants to create and sell digital products. And, these reasons are why I want to teach people how to create and successfully sell digital products. Let’s do this!

If you want some super teacher’s pet points, pick three of the above posts to read and comment on.

It feels amazing to get comments, doesn’t it? So, spread the comment love around and make someone’s day.

(If you participated in the blog tour and your post isn’t listed above, make sure that you left the link to your blog post in the comments on the blog tour post as instructed. If you did, send me an email at blacksburgbelle@gmail.com with the subject line ‘blog tour’ and I’ll make sure you get added to this list. I tried my best to include everyone but it’s possible that I missed something.)

THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU to each blogger who took the time to write a thoughtful post for this blog tour. I’m truly grateful!

And, now for the WINNERS!

When I invited you to participate in this blog tour, I said that I would be picking five of you who write blog posts to receive anytime access to both of my upcoming courses: Create Digital Products that Sell While You Sleep and Make Your Creative Business Uniquely Irresistible. (I didn’t select anyone who’s joining me in the studio audience, because you’ll all receive anytime access to the course.)

This was reallllllly tough, because I enjoyed each and every post. If I could pick each one of you, I would, but I had to narrow it down to five. Here are the winners in no particular order:

1. Charlie from The Female Photographer Association (Her post from the blog tour.)

2. Emily Hudspeth (Her post from the blog tour.)

3. Amanda Sue from Cheeky Visionaries (Her post from the blog tour.)

4. Nancy from Domesticraft (Her post from the blog tour.)

5. Ann-Marie from Beautiful Stitches (Her post from the blog tour.)

This means that you’ll receive access to the courses and all of the bonuses! If you won, I’m sending your email address to CreativeLive and they will hook you up with my courses so look out for an email from them.

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21 Ways to Make Your Business Stand Out from the Crowd (aka, Become the Alternative)

21 Ways to Make Your Brand Stand Out from the Crowd

No matter what you sell, there are people out there selling something similar for less money. That’s just the truth.

So, why should we choose YOU?

How do you make it clear to your target market that you’re different than your competitors?

If you can’t answer those questions very easily, don’t worry. I’ve got 21 ways you can differentiate your business, making it the pumpkin spiced latte of lattes when autumn hits.

1. Think about what makes your favorite brands your favorites.

Why do you love them? What makes them special? The things you love about other businesses are often things you can pull into your business in a way that works for your brand. No copying—take the idea and twist it to make it yours.

 2. Build your business around what you stand for.

What are the big values you’ve built your business on? Are you true to them all the time? The best businesses are. {Think Warby Parker.)

3. Write your one-sentence message.

Often, we overcomplicate things. Can you define your brand in just one sentence? If you can’t, work on it until you can. Then, use that one sentence over and over and over until people recognize your brand whenever they hear or read it.

 4. Consider the true value of your products.

Why should your customers choose your business? It’s all about the value and benefits you offer them. Consider why you choose Sephora over department store beauty counters or why you choose Uber over other taxi companies. {If those don’t apply to you, pick ones that do.}

5. Make sure you know and use your unique brand trifecta.

What you do best, what makes you truly unique and your highest values combined creates a brand that can’t be copied. {If this is confusing, I’ll be explaining it soon in my upcoming CreativeLive course. RSVP here to watch it live for FREE.}

6. Define success for yourself.

We tend to get suffocated by the details that don’t really matter to us. Define success for your business yourself. Don’t let others tell you what you have to reach to succeed. Then, you know what you truly want to be working towards and that helps to create something unique.

7. Start with passion.

Recently, Malcolm Gladwell said that passion is the single most important factor to a person’s success. I agree. Passion is what helps you complete projects instead of stopping halfway through. It’s what helps you put all of your energy into creating something you know people will love. It’s helps you pull all-nighters without drinking ten cups of dark roast coffee. And, it gets you through the toughest of times when you think you’ll never make it.

8. Know why your customers should choose you.

If you’re a solopreneur or a small business, you’ve not only got to know why your customers should choose your business, but also why they should choose YOU. What makes you the right person for your type of business?

9. Use what you know to be true.

What are your beliefs? What truly motivates you? Use this stuff! These are the details that make you different.

10. Pull the pieces of your personality into one business.

Instead of trying to focus on one thing or one passion, pull the many pieces of you into your business and watch the magic unfold. When I allowed myself to move beyond the square box of ‘business consultant,’ things changed in a ‘moving from vanilla to peanut butter brittle’ kinda way.

11. Get to know your customers.

The BEST brands know their customers better than the competition. Do the work to get to know your target market and you’ll stand out from the crowd pretty darn quickly. {Hint: I know that YOU know this one, but are you really doing the work?}

12. Use what you know about your customers.

Use this knowledge in every aspect of your business: blog posts, social media updates, product design, packaging, sales copy, bonuses, etc. When you do this, your customers will trust you and they’ll believe that you’re the person to help them.

13. Focus on your customers—not your numbers.

One of the biggest mistakes I see entrepreneurs making is focusing on growing their numbers (Facebook likes, email subscribers, blog readers) instead of focusing on the people that have already given them their attention. When you treat your customers better than they deserve, they do most of the marketing for you. Now, doesn’t that sound like the stuff dreams were made of?

14. Develop a customer service plan.

We’re all used to mediocre customer service. And, we only tell others when we receive amazing or horrible customer service experiences (I’m looking at you Bank of America). You want to land in the ‘amazing’ category, right? Then, you’ve got to have a customer service plan.

15. Understand your customer’s experience.

You want to create an experience for your customer that starts from the second she finds you to the moment she receives and uses your product (or engages in your services). Do you know what it’s like to be one of your customers? If not, go step by step through your own process. The details matter. Think Disney!

16. Use your copy to deal with the main objections your customers have to buying your products or services.

That’s a fancy way of saying dealing with potential customers that say things like ‘I don’t know if I can afford that’ or ‘I don’t know if I really need this right now.’ Do you deal with the main objections that cause your customers to pause from buying in your content and sales copy? If not, you’re losing out on sales every single day. {Insert sad emoticon here.}

17. Use branding stories.

We learn and speak in stories. Does your brand have some great stories behind it? Do you share them with your customers? Give your customers stories to tell so they can spread the word about your business for you in way that captivates others.

18. Help your customer become who she wants to be.

Our buying choices say something about us. They represent us. What does it say about your customers when they buy your products or services? Think Apple, ModCloth and Method.

19. Make your about page unique.

On many websites, the about page is the most highly trafficked page on the site. You want yours to grip your customers’ attention, let them know that you’re the right brand for them, and show them how you can help them. It’s not really all about you—potential customers are looking to see if you’re the right business for them.

20. Create a sense of belonging with your brand.

We all want to belong. It’s human nature. When someone buys from your brand does she feel like she belongs? When she finds out a friend also uses one your products, do they feel bonded, like it means something?

21. Embed your brand into your customers’ habits.

If your brand becomes a part of your customers’ habits, you’re golden. How can you do that? For example, I received a mug when I joined B-School and use it all the time when I drink tea. Marie Forleo embedded B-School into my habits with that mug.

If you want more in-depth information on any of these 21 ways to make your business stand out from the crowd, don’t forget to RSVP to my course, Make Your Creative Business Uniquely Irresistible.

I built my course from these exact concepts and will help you apply each of them to your business. You can watch it live for FREE.

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Your Invitation to Join My Blog Tour (and a contest!)

Join the Blog Tour with April Bowles-Olin

I’ve got a way for us to help each other.

A couple days ago, I got this crazy idea for a way to spread the word about my upcoming CreativeLive course: a blog tour.

Now, that’s NOT the out-of-the-box part. A blog tour isn’t a new idea. Last time I taught at CreativeLive, I hosted a blog tour with some of my best online friends and it was a lot of fun and super successful.

But, I wanted to shake it up and find a way to involve YOU this time around.

Not only did I want to involve you, but I wanted to do it in a way that would help you and your business. If you decide to take part (and I hope you do!), I will be compiling a list of all the posts and links to the posts and publishing them on Blacksburg Belle. I’ll also be spotlighting lots of the posts on social media. And, the CreativeLive team is really excited about this and they’re going to be sharing your posts on social media. They have 119,000+ Twitter followers. Score for getting your blog in front of so many people!

And, I’ll be choosing FIVE of the bloggers who participate to win anytime access to both of my upcoming courses: Create Digital Products that Sell While You Sleep and Make Your Creative Business Uniquely Irresistible. That means you’d get access to the courses AND all of the bonuses for free. (And, the bonuses that you can only get with purchase are pretty darn great if I do say so myself. And, I do say so. Humbly, of course.)

Talk about win-win, right?!

This is your official invitation to participate. Here’s how:

1. Pick one of the following topics to blog about: a) What you’d love to learn from my upcoming course, Create Digital Products that Sell While You Sleep b) The biggest questions you have when it comes to selling digital or information products c) Your best-selling digital product and why you think it’s the most successful (if you already sell digital or information products) d) Why you want to learn how to create and sell digital products e) The biggest issues you’ve had with trying to sell digital products

2. Pick a day between October 20th and October 29th to publish your post on your blog.

3. Include this little blurb about my upcoming CreativeLive course (make sure you include the link) at the beginning or end of your post: “Are you ready to make your creative work more lucrative, stable, and sustainable in the long-term? Join April Bowles-Olin for an introduction to digital products and how they can enhance your creative business. This course will show you how to produce and position viable products for generating multiple revenue streams and passive income. RSVP right here to watch it live and get access to the workbook for FREE. This post is part of the Create Digital Products blog tour.

4. Let me know that you’re participating by leaving a comment below, including the day (between the 20th and 29th) that you’re planning to publish.

5. If you want, you can include the image below in your post! (But, it’s not a requirement. Just thought it would make it even easier for some of you to join the blog tour. If you want to use it, just right click on it and then download.)

6. Come back here when you hit publish and share your link in the comments, so that I can include it in my compilation post on November 5th. I’ll also be sharing this list with the CreativeLive team so they can share the posts.

Create Digital Products that Sell While You Sleep

One of my goals for 2014 was to build more community aspects into Blacksburg Belle. I want each of you to feel included and supported. I hated cliques in high school and the feeling that you aren’t cool enough or good enough–that you don’t belong. That’s another reason I choose to host this type of blog tour. You are cool enough and good enough. You do belong.

If you have any questions, ask below and I’ll answer as soon as I can. And remember, if you’re going to participate, let me know below what date you plan on publishing your post.

I can’t wait to read what you write. I’ll be making additions and last minute changes to my course based on what you want to learn and the questions you have when it comes to creating and selling digital products if I’m not already covering it.

I believe that adding digital and information products to your business plan can make a huge difference to your success. You’re able to sell to more target markets, make more money without working longer hours and price your handmade products higher. Building a business based on digital products equals freedom!

And, I want to help as many creatives as possible with my course. That’s why I’m working so hard to promote this course–the more creatives that watch it live, the more people I can help for free. So, thank you so very much for helping me spread the word by joining this blog tour.

To wrap-up, if you participate in this blog tour, you’ll: 

1. Get your blog post included in a post on Blacksburg Belle, including a link back to your blog which is always helpful with SEO when people search on Google for what you do.

2. Have the chance for social media shout-outs from me and CreativeLive.

3. Be entered to win anytime access for both of my upcoming CreativeLive courses.

4. Help other creatives improve their businesses and make more money. Good karma, my friend!

UPDATE: CreativeLive is going to kick off the blog tour with a introduction blog post on the the CreativeLive blog! Yay! So, make sure that you pick a date for your post (and use the link to your blog–in the website slot–when leaving your comment) so that I can include you on the list that I give to CreativeLive. That means another link back to your blog and even more sharing/promotion love! (I’ve sent the list to CreativeLive for them to publish on Monday. If you’re adding your name after 10/17 at 6:30pmEST–basically if you’re reading this–you won’t be included on that list. However, you can still participate and I’ll include you on MY list that I’m publishing on November 5th.)

Second Update: Use the hashtag #bellelive when talking about this blog tour or sharing your post on social media. That way we can all find each other on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.

Comments { 234 }

Smoothie Experiment Wrap-Up and Next Month’s Health Challenge Announced!

Smoothie Experiment Wrap-Up

In the next few days, I’m wrapping up my smoothie experiment.

(You can check out why I started this health experiment right here if you need a little refresher.)

I know people always say this, but where the heck did September go? I know where my September went…working on my upcoming CreativeLive courses.

I’m surprised and excited by how my health changed over the course of four weeks.

Every week, I noticed a boost of energy.

This might not seem like much, but I’ve gone from being able to work two to three hours most days to being able to work eight hours or more most days.

That’s HUGE. And, not only can I work more, but I’m having an easier time concentrating and my motivation level has skyrocketed.

I can’t say that this boost of energy is all due to drinking smoothies every day for the first two weeks and then every other day for last two weeks, but that’s the big change that I made so I’m assuming that it’s partly responsible.

Because this smoothie experiment has paid off, I’m going to continue to drink smoothies at least three times a week moving forward.

The superfoods that have seemed to have the most positive impact (I tracked how I felt after each smoothie) are: maca powder, camu powder, flax powder, and maqui powder. So, I’ll be using those the most in my smoothies.

I know this might sound a tad weird but I’m happier.

To begin with, I’m no Debbie Downer and I’m a pretty happy person, but I have to admit that my health issues have taken quite a toll on my overall mood this past year.

Over the past month, I’ve felt much more like myself: getting excited over little things (charity book sales and fall weather), feeling happy just because, and enjoying my work more than ever. (Seriously, I couldn’t be happier every morning when I wake up, knowing that I get to work on my upcoming CreativeLive classes.)

For the past couple years, I’ve thought, “Why me?”

What am I being punished for? Why do I wake up every morning and feel as if I have a horrible case of the flu? Why can’t I get healthy or at least find a doctor who is up to the challenge of helping me?

Until I got sick, I used to think I was lucky. I had a really great life, and then everything came crumbling down.

My life revolved around doctors’ visits. Every morning, I’d wake up and how I felt would determine what I could do that day. Would I actually have enough energy to go to the farmer’s market? Would I be able to get out of bed? Would I be able to walk my dogs? How long would it take me to put on a bit of makeup?

But as I sit here typing this, I feel lucky again.

Lucky that I have a loving, incredibly funny husband who continues to have hope that we’re gonna figure this all out. Lucky that I get to spend my days at home working with my three lab mixes at my feet. Lucky that I get to do work that motivates and inspires me. Lucky that I finally feel energized again. Lucky that I have the opportunity to take my health into my own hands and make some serious changes.

Okay, this post is turning into a mush fest and that’s totally not what I meant to do.

Before I start crying, I’m going to announce the big health change I’m pursuing in October.

For the past six months, I’ve been struggling to exercise and working out used to be a big part of my life.

I used to do 10-15 minutes of yoga when I woke up, walk my dogs for an hour midmorning, and walk them again with my husband in the evenings. And, I used to fit in about an hour of weights and abs each week on top of that daily regimen.

Exercise used to be my happy pill.

I know that some people dread working out, but I always looked forward to it. I would download a really good book to listen to while walking my dogs. I’d pump music while doing arm and leg weights. I’d feel ready to conquer my day after a little yoga.

My health has practically taken this away from me. In all honesty, I’ve let it.

It’s hard to talk myself into changing into workout clothes and getting motivated to exercise when I know that I’ve only got a few good hours each day. How could I waste part of that time on physical exertion when I could be working or writing or blogging?

Now that I’ve got more energy, I want to get back into the rhythm of moving my body every single day.

I’m a realist. I know that I won’t be able to exercise as much as I used to and I know that some days I might only be able to do ten minutes of yoga. That’s okay.

I’m going to make this as easy as possible, breaking up my exercise into bite-sized increments: five-minute dance breaks, ten-minute yoga videos, fifteen-minute walks, five minutes of arm weights, etc.

I’m going to try to do at least five minutes of something three times a day when I’m taking work breaks. That’s totally doable, right?

If you want to do this with me (it’s always better with buddies, right?), I’m starting on October 1st. Use the hashtag #31DaysofMoving when sharing your progress on social media. I’ll be checking Twitter, Facebook and Instagram for your updates.

Each week or every other week (depending on how much there is to share), I’ll blog about how it’s going, so make sure you check back in. And, I’ll be sharing photos of this journey on Instagram a few times a week—follow me there so you don’t miss a thing.

Let’s do this!

If you’re going to give this a go and want some doable, short workouts, here are some of my favorites:

Free Videos:

Flexibility and Range of Motion with Tara Stiles (Yoga – 9 minutes)

Routine for Stress Relief with Tara Stiles (Yoga – 5 minutes)

Building Balance with Tara Stiles (Yoga – 9 minutes)

Ultimate Stretch with Tara Stiles (Yoga – 10 minutes)

Natalie Portman’s Workout (Ballet and Strength Training – 11 minutes)

Ballet Beautiful Long Lean Arms with Mary Helen Bowers (Ballet Strength Training – 11 minutes)

At Home Cardio Workout with PopSugar (Cardio – 10 minutes)

Become Beyoncé With This Sexy Dance Workout with PopSugar (Cardio Dance – 10 minutes)

Bombay Jam Bollywood Dance Workout with PopSugar (Cardio – 11 minutes)

Dance REFIT Revolution to Taylor Swift’s Shake It Off (Cardio – 4 minutes)

I also really like the 10-minute Barre3 workouts. I have a monthly membership with them and I highly recommend it for those of you who want doable strength training and yoga routines.

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Behind the Scenes of My Business: Blog Tag (And, you’re invited to play!)

Behind the Scenes of My Business: Blog Tag

Don’t you love when creatives pull back the velvet curtains to show you sneak peeks of what it really takes to run their businesses?

I have to admit that it’s one of my favorite things.

And, that’s what this month’s tag is all about.

If you missed the tag experiment that I started last month, you can check out all the details here. Basically, I’m coming up with a topic, asking questions, answering those questions and then tagging others to answer them on their blogs.

When I announced it last month, I said that I would continue it the next month if the first was successful. More people than I could’ve imagined participated so I’m deeming it successful.

So, here we go with round two and it’s all about spilling the jellybeans about your business—letting your readers see what happens behind the scenes.

THIS BLOG TAG TOPIC: Behind the Scenes of My Business

Here are the questions and my answers for this topic:

Question 1: What’s your two to three sentence bio? (You know, what the heck do you do?)

April Bowles-Olin is a writer, creative business consultant, marketing strategist, and photography dabbler.  She wants to live in a world where artists and makers adore their blogs, write with confidence and know how to get their unique work in front of people who love it—and scramble for their credit cards because they just ‘have to have it.’

Question 2: What’s your favorite part of your job?

Teaching in all forms—through blogging, online courses and speaking to live audiences.

Question 3: What’s your least favorite part of your job?

Technical stuff like website coding. Yuck! That’s why I hire it out.

Question 4: What are the top three tools you use the most in your work?

Macbook Pro, Dell 27-inch monitor, and Nikon D90

Question 5: What business goal would you love to reach before the end of the year?

Have 15,000+ live viewers for my next CreativeLive courses. RSVP right here to watch live for FREE and help me reach my goal.

Question 6: Who are three creatives that inspire you?

Mayi Carles, Bonnie Christine, and Austin Kleon

Question 7: What do you listen to (if anything) while you work?

Music (some favorites: Train, Florence + The Machine, and Third Eye Blind) and podcasts (some favorites: The Unmistakable Creative and Online Marketing Made Easy with Amy Porterfield)

Question 8: Morning person or night owl?

Night owl.

Question 9: How many employees do you have and what are the main things they do for you?

None. I hire out when needed like with web design, videography, and accounting.

Question 10: What’s your favorite social media platform?

Instagram—love seeing bits of peoples’ lives and businesses through visuals.

Question 11: What’s your least favorite social media platform?

LinkedIn. I haven’t checked that site in over a year. I’ve been considering just deleting my profile.

Question 12: What works best when it comes to marketing your business?

Building my email list.

Question 13: What’s one thing about your business that your blog readers probably don’t know?

I make the least amount of money from one-on-one consulting even though I charge $495 per consulting client and the most amount of money from online courses.

Question 14: If your business were a fashion accessory, what would it be?

This camera bag in caramel—chic, well made, and traditional seeming on the outside with lots of flair on the inside.

Question 15: What’s your top tip for someone who wants to do something similar to you for a career?

Spend time every day (just ten or fifteen minutes works) building genuine connections.

I’m tagging these 6 people to answer these questions in a blog post (via video or text) on their blogs:

  1. Rebecca Nash because she was the very first person to participate last month and I’d love to see how she answers these questions.
  2. Sarah Shotts because she’s a League of Supers rockstar. If you don’t know what that is, you’re not in the cool crowd. Just kidding. (Kinda)
  3. Amanda Creek because I’m really enjoying the connection we’re making via the comments on Blacksburg Belle.
  4. Michael Nelson because we connected through my course on CreativeLive and I think she’s awesome.
  5. Richelle Shadoan because she attended my last CreativeLive course and has been making changes to her business and blog ever since.
  6. YOU! Tag, you’re it.

Here’s how you play:

  1. Copy and paste the questions below and then answer them and publish as a blog post. Or, record a video answering these questions and upload it to your blog post.
  1. 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.)
  1. Use the title: Behind the Scenes of My Business Blog Tag. Once you’ve hit publish, leave a comment below with the link to your post.
  1. Use the hashtag #MyBizBlogTag 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 ‘Behind the Scenes of My Business’ Blog Tag started by April of 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 the behind the scenes stuff of our businesses. If you’d like to participate or want more info, check out this post right here.

(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: What’s your two to three sentence bio? (You know, what the heck do you do?)

Question 2: What’s your favorite part of your job?

Question 3: What’s your least favorite part of your job?

Question 4: What are the top three tools you use the most in your work?

Question 5: What business goal would you love to reach before the end of the year?

Question 6: Who are three creatives that inspire you?

Question 7: What do you listen to (if anything) while you work?

Question 8: Morning person or night owl?

Question 9: How many employees do you have and what are the main things they do for you?

Question 10: What’s your favorite social media platform?

Question 11: What’s your least favorite social media platform?

Question 12: What works best when it comes to marketing your business?

Question 13: What’s one thing about your business that your blog readers probably don’t know?

Question 14: If your business were a fashion accessory, what would it be?

Question 15: What’s your top tip for someone who wants to do something similar to you for a career?

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Do This Today to Grow Your Business Faster than Anything Else

Do This to Grow Your Business Much Faster

I’m not sure if I’ve told you this before, but a lot of my big wins, the things that I’m the most proud of, have been successful because I’ve had the help and support of other people.

It hasn’t been me at home by myself behind my computer that’s made my business a success.

If I didn’t work so hard behind my computer, I wouldn’t be where I am today…but, I wouldn’t be here nearly as quickly without the relationships that I’ve built.

Did you know that I spoke at the Etsy Success Symposium in my first year of business because I built an email and social media relationship with the person who organized it?

I was introduced to my executive producer at CreativeLive (ultimately the person who gave me a shot to teach there), Elizabeth, by Tara Gentile who I met in person at the Etsy Success Symposium.

I met Marie Forleo in person at her event, RHH Live, and she then asked me to share my story for a case study on her Live Your Dream site. She also invited me to be an affiliate for B-School last year when it was by invite only.

Thousands of viewers watched my CreativeLive course because so many of you tweeted, shared it on Facebook, shouted it out on Instagram. And, I organized a blog tour with some of my favorite people who I met online to help me spread the word.

I met my business partner (and one of my best friends) in person for the first time at a conference. She’s one of the reasons that I said yes to teaching at CreativeLive. She believed in me and told me that I could do it.

My content producer at CreativeLive, Bryan, introduced me to Bonnie from Going Home to Roost (who has an amazing course on CL) and I just wrapped an interview with her to use for my upcoming course, Create Digital Products that Sell While You Sleep. We’re now officially friends. Who wouldn’t become fast friends with a girl who named her dog Toaster? I mean, really.

I reaaaaaaally like the ladies who were in my live audience for my last CreativeLive course. We got to eat lunch together and take tequila shots at the after party and got to know each other. I’m rooting for every single one of them and I truly want them to reach their blogging goals. Each of these women holds a special place in my heart and I hope we continue to connect. Many of them have been instrumental in helping me spread the word about my upcoming CL courses via Twitter and Facebook. THANK YOU!

Not only have other people been instrumental in my success, but relationships influence practically every business decision I make.

Mayi and I hired our web designer, Emily, for Connecting the Gaps because she was my friend first. We became friends because she asked me to chat on Skype on a day that I wasn’t busy, and we connected. We stayed in touch via social media and email and when it was time to choose a web designer, it was a no brainer.

When I gave my input on who would be awesome in the front row for my CreativeLive course, I knew Sage Grayson and Jennifer Kennedy needed to be there, because I knew that they would add so much to the course from reading their comments on my posts week after week after week.

When I’m launching a new product and I want a handful of people to test it out first, I turn to Blacksburg Belle readers who have bought from me before, who comment regularly, and who connect with me on social media.

When someone emails me to help them promote their next big thing, I’m one-hundred and fifty million times more likely to say yes if I know them—whether that be through that person leaving thoughtful comments on my blog posts every week or connecting with them regularly on social media or having met them in person or on Skype.

No matter what, connections and relationships matter.

If you’re looking for a way to get ahead, to increase your sales at a much faster rate and to make more of difference with your business, you should focus some of your time on establishing and nurturing relationships. Start today and you’ll see big rewards within months.

If you’re an introvert, I know this might seem like the worst thing ever. But, it’s not.

I can say this because, I’m an introvert. I understand the discomfort of saying hi to a stranger. Big crowds tend to terrify me and it’s really hard for me to walk up to someone I don’t know and introduce myself. I have to pump myself up to do it and sometimes I still chicken out. When I go to a conference, I have to spend a week afterwards decompressing.

But, it’s worth it. I promise you that it’s worth it.

If you spend a small amount of time each day, like 15 minutes, strengthening your connections, you’ll reap huge rewards.

Tweet someone who inspires you, send a handwritten card to a blogger who you adore, shoot an email to someone you’d like to get to know better, or leave a thoughtful comment on blog post.

I also suggest that you also do one big thing every quarter/season (or every month if you’re brave enough) to build relationships.

Those small things really do add up, but the big things like attending a conference or course in person, asking someone who you’ve never chatted with to talk on Skype, or meeting someone for coffee, can help you form connections that do things for your business that you could never even imagine.

I never imagined that meeting Mayi in person would inspire us to build a business together.

I couldn’t have known that meeting Tara Gentile at a conference would help me connect with someone that would give me the chance to literally change my business years later.

I didn’t know that chatting with Emily on Skype would lead to her building a website for me two years down the road.

It infuses a bit of magic into the relationship to take things offline and meet in person. It takes your relationship to a new level. And, you never know what might happen.

With that said, the application to be in the live studio audience for my upcoming CreativeLive courses on how to create digital products that sell and how to make your creative business uniquely irresistible is open and I would love to meet you in person.

It’s completely free to attend which is amazing. You get to hang out with me and other creatives who have similar goals and values for three days in San Francisco while learning how to improve your business. By being on camera, you also get huge amounts of exposure for your business.

It’s truly a once-in-a-lifetime kind of experience and this is your invitation.

“One thing that I was not expecting from attending April’s workshop, yet came as a wonderful surprise, was an increase in the number of sign-ups on my email list. I was floored (and completely grateful) by all the new readers to my blog. I’m still receiving emails from people all over the world who say they saw me on CreativeLive. In fact, I recently ran into a woman at a networking event who saw me during the broadcast (we’ll be grabbing a cup of coffee together real soon). The connections and networking has extended far beyond those three days.” –Jennifer, Create Amazing Online Courses

“Attending your CreativeLive course led to ‘meeting’ and forming relationships with the group of women who started the New Bloggers Group. And the THAT let to CTG, so basically it changed my whole life. I feel like I am part of a safe and very supportive community.” –Richelle, The Red Scorpio

Even if you don’t live in the San Francisco area, it’s beyond worth it to travel.

“It’s definitely worth it to travel to attend the CreativeLive workshop in person. You deserve to take a break from the mundane responsibilities of everyday life and treat yourself to a workshop that will change your business forever.” –Sage, Sage Grayson

“I do not live in SF but it has totally been worth it to me to travel from San Diego to be in the studio. And San Francisco is an awesome town.” –Richelle, The Red Scorpio

Want a chance at being in the studio to learn how to create digital products that sell while you sleep and how to make your creative business more uniquely irresistible? Simply click right here to fill out the application.

And, before you give me excuses on why you can’t afford it or why you can’t make it, let me share a little story with you.

Within a couple months of starting Blacksburg Belle, Marie Forleo opened up a contest to win a ticket to her upcoming conference. The ticket cost about $1500 and I had just started a new business. I was up to my elbows in student loans and scraping by to pay my bills every month.

I entered anyway, because I knew this was a huge opportunity. I won one of the ten tickets she gave away, but I still had to pay for travel and the hotel.

I told my husband how important this was to me—how it could make a huge impact on my business—and he got on board.

I sold a bunch of my books on Amazon to get enough money to pay for gas and food. I picked up extra freelance writing gigs to pay for the hotel and I saved every penny possible.

We found a hotel in New Jersey that was only fifteen minutes away from the conference in NYC by public transportation and it was less than half of what we would’ve paid if we stayed in a hotel in the city.

We drove because it was a lot cheaper than flying and we only stayed in the hotel Friday and Saturday even though the conference didn’t end until Sunday at 7pm and we lived in Blacksburg, Virginia—an eight-hour drive.

My husband picked me up after the conference ended on Sunday and he drove us home. We didn’t pull into the driveway until 4am and we were exhausted.

I was also exhilarated. I took the things I learned at the conference and applied it to my business and a few months later, I sold out the very first group coaching program that I offered.

I made connections at that conference that were invaluable to me. It was worth all the work and sacrifice that it took me to get there to attend for those three days.

Did I forget to mention that the conference landed right on my husband’s birthday and it was also a few days before our first anniversary?

My husband sacrificed for me, knowing that we wouldn’t be able to do anything else special to celebrate his birthday or our anniversary cause we were using all of our extra money for me to attend this conference. I’m eternally grateful to him for this.

The reason I’m telling you this is because that conference jump-started my business. It gave me the know-how and confidence and energy to make things happen and I could’ve just said, “I can’t afford it” and not attended.

Whether it’s my course or a conference you’d really like to attend or a person you’d really like to meet, don’t let the money excuse hold you back if it’s something that you know will change your life. Instead, do your best to figure it out. You can’t always make it happen, but if you don’t try, it definitely won’t happen.

If you’re up for it, click here to fill out the application form to join me live in the studio for my upcoming CreativeLive courses.

And, if you’re not already convinced that you should apply to be in the live audience, here are some other quotes from the ladies who attended my last CreativeLive course in person:

“Being in the front row is completely different than watching a workshop from home. You’re right in the middle of the action, and it feels like April’s talking just to you. When I’m at home, I get distracted by my business work, laundry, or my puppy, but being in the live audience gave me permission to forget about everything else and absorb the material without distractions. The best part was getting a big hug from April herself!

The deciding factor was being able to meet April in person. It’s one thing to follow someone online for a while (I’ve been stalking April for years!), but nothing compared to getting immediate feedback from April on my specific business challenges. And the workshop was free! Where else can you get elite-level business coaching in person for no charge?” –Sage, Sage Grayson

“The biggest difference between watching a course online, and being in the front row is my attention.  Watching a course online, I am at home reminded of 293 other things that I need to do, then I begin trying to multitask.  Then, inevitably, I don’t really learn too much.  Being in the front row allowed me to devote my time and attention to one subject, ultimately learning it more thoroughly and better.  Another big plus is all the yummy food CreativeLive provides and the wonderful people!” –Kimberly, K. Sienk Photography

“I loved being able to not only interact with April, but also the other women in the audience. Months later, I’m still internet buddies with them. It was absolutely a fabulous experience.

Also, being in the audience gives you the chance to ask questions that are specific to you and your experiences. I mean seriously, three entire days where you can ask all of the questions you want! Yup, it’s totally worth it.” –Jennifer, Create Amazing Online Courses

If you honestly can’t be in the live audience for my upcoming CreativeLive courses, I’ve got other ways that you can form valuable connections:

  1. Watch it live and interact in the chat. Take advantage of the chat option. I’ve heard so many stories from viewers who watched my last course that have made invaluable connections with other viewers via the chat.
  1. Closer to the course dates, I’m going to create a private Facebook group. The connections that people have made in the Facebook group that got put together for my last course is amazing. I would’ve never imagined that so many people would find new friends, help each other, give each other feedback, find accountability partners and more through that Facebook group.
  1. Use the hashtag #bellelive to let others know you’re watching, answer questions, ask me questions that I’ll answer after the course and connect with others using that hashtag. Start conversations! You never know what might happen.

RSVP for Create Digital Products that Sell While You Sleep right here and RSVP for Make Your Creative Business Uniquely Irresistible right here to be reminded of the courses as they approach, to get the workbooks for free, and to get access to the private Facebook group when it’s up and ready.

I’ll talk more about this stuff as the courses approach, so don’t worry, you don’t have to remember it all. And, there won’t be a quiz. Ha!

In the meantime, do one thing today to connect with another creative. Maybe even start or end your days with this exercise. If you do, by the time the course starts, you’ll see why it’s so important.

Leave a comment below letting us know the one thing you did to strengthen or start a relationship with another entrepreneur today. (And, by leaving a comment, you’re definitely strengthening your relationship with me because I so appreciate and look forward to them.)

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