The Beginner’s Guide to Email Marketing

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You’ve heard about this thing called email marketing. You’ve been told that it’s critical to running a business, but you’ve put it off.

Maybe you’ve procrastinated because you don’t know the first steps to getting started. Maybe you have you no idea which email service to use or how to put an opt-in form on your website. Or, maybe when you think about email marketing, a migraine forms behind your eyes at the thought of even attempting setting it up on your own.

Whatever excuses you’ve used in the past, push them aside and start building your first email list.

This is NOT an optional step if you’re running a business.

If smoke could come out of my ears (like in cartoons), it would happen every single time I work with someone who isn’t utilizing email marketing. It’s the best way to keep your products and services in front of your target market.

And, don’t you even say something like, “Well, I’m on Instagram and post at least once a day there, so I don’t really need email marketing,” or “But, I’ve built a following on Snapchat and that’s where I promote my stuff.”

A social media platform is NOT a substitute for email marketing for a few reasons:

1) You don’t control the platform and if they make changes to it that limits your ability to get your posts in front of your followers (I’m looking at you Facebook!), you’re completely screwed. You should never put your all your eggs in a basket you don’t control.

2) You could get kicked off the platform at any time for any reason. This happens waaaaaaay too often to leave it up to chance. What would you do if you woke up tomorrow and your Instagram/Facebook/Twitter/Snapchat/Pinterest account has been suspended? Weep and drink three glasses of Pinot Grigio at lunch? Save your liver and sanity by getting your social media followers to join your email list.

3) For the most part, your followers don’t check whatever social media platform you’re using as a substitute as often as they check email. I know I check my email more than Snapchat, Pinterest and Facebook combined. I also look at my emails more closely than any other social media app. When I’m scrolling through Instagram, I barely glance at half of the photos and captions.

Marketing on social media is also important, but it shouldn’t take the place of email marketing. When you use them together, you’ll have a much better chance at success.

Ready to tackle email marketing once and for all? Follow the steps below to get started:

Step 1: Choose an email service provider.

Some of the main email service providers are: MailChimp, AWeber, Mad Mimi, Convert Kit, Constant Contact, Ontraport, and Infusionsoft.

I’ve played around with MailChimp but not enough to say whether or not I recommend it. From working with lots of entrepreneurs, I know that the main con of MailChimp is that it’s hard to set up different segments. For example, if you sell jewelry and stationery, you’ll probably want to have two segmented lists so that women who are interested in only your jewelry, only receive emails about your jewelry and vice versa. Don’t worry too much about email segments now, but just know that if you’re going to want to set up different lists within your email system, MailChimp might not be the way to go.

I’ve used AWeber for six years and highly recommend it. It’s not the most user-friendly option available, but if you go through a few tutorials, you’ll get the hang of it pretty quickly. It took me about half of a day to set up my opt-in on my website through AWeber. If you’re going to hire a designer to create your opt-in form, AWeber is a great platform, but it does seem to be one of the harder platforms to create really pretty opt-in forms if you’re inexperienced.

Mad Mimi is a good option for those of you who want your emails to be super pretty. My partner in crime, Mayi Carles, has used Mad Mimi for years and that’s one of the biggest pluses for her.

Convert Kit is very user-friendly and makes setting up different segments incredibly easy. It’s the email service provider I’ve been recommending to most of my clients. The main con with Convert Kit is that it’s not as easy to use lots of visuals within your emails which is a sticking point for some creative entrepreneurs.

I don’t have any experience with Constant Contact, but I read some reviews and it seems like the biggest con mentioned regularly is that it’s not very user-friendly. However, they offer affordable plans and they have hundreds of templates to choose from.

I’ve also used Ontraport. When Mayi and I teamed up to create Connecting the Gaps that was the email service we used. We wanted more options than what AWeber and Mad Mimi provide. Unfortunately, we both felt that it was not at all user-friendly. Maybe things have changed. We haven’t used them for a couple years, but we both struggled with it when we used it. It took me about five times as long to set the same type of thing up in Ontraport than it did in AWeber. (P.S. Marie Forleo uses Ontraport.)

Infusionsoft is one of the most expensive options and also one of the least user-friendly. However, it seems to give you the most options. For instance, you can set it up so that you unsubscribe someone from a promotional list once they’ve bought your WordPress course so they don’t receive anymore sales emails about that course. Or, let’s say that someone clicks on a link to watch a video about a specific topic. You could move them onto the list where you go into more detail about that topic.

I would NOT pick one just because it offers a free trial. Most entrepreneurs that I know who do this end up regretting it when they realize they want to move to another platform and lose a bunch of subscribers in the process. A lot of these providers have budget-friendly options when you’re just starting out and as your list grows, it’ll pay for itself.

Step 2: Go through that platform’s tutorials to learn the backend.

No matter which email service provider you choose, you’re going to have to learn how to create emails, design an opt-in form and add it to your website and more. And, each email service provider is different, so there aren’t many shortcuts to this step. Suck it up and do it, my friend.

Schedule a two-hour timeslot for sometime in the next week to go through the tutorials. That should give you enough information to at least get started.

Step 3: Decide on your opt-in freebie and create it.

An opt-in freebie is the thing you’re going to give away in exchange for the person’s email address.

The biggest mistake entrepreneurs make when creating an opt-in freebie is picking the wrong thing to give away. You want to make it something that your ideal customer can’t resist.

For example, let’s say that you’re a web designer trying to get more web design clients. You might think about giving away a DIY WordPress tutorial to email subscribers, but that won’t attract the right people. That will only attract people who want to design it themselves or don’t have the money to pay a web designer. On the other hand, if you offer a downloadable checklist of the things they need to do before hiring a website designer, you’ll be attracting people who are thinking about hiring someone like you.

That’s a very important distinction.

Some people would tell you to do this later. Not me. If you do this step now, writing your welcome email and designing your opt-in form is going to be a lot easier. If you do this last, you’ll probably have to go back into your welcome email to add the link to your opt-in freebie and some copy about it. And, you’ll probably have to redesign your opt-in form, so that you feature your freebie.

Step 4: Write your welcome email.

Now that you’ve picked your opt-in freebie and created it, it’s time to write your welcome email which is the email your subscribers will receive as soon as they confirm that they want to receive your emails.

You should include your freebie in this email. You want your subscribers to instantly access it so they don’t forget about it.

Also, the copy you use in this email is very important. Do NOT rush this step. This is the first taste your subscribers get of your style. The copy should be branded and filled with personality. It shouldn’t read like any other welcome email. Add some sass or beauty or humor.

If you don’t put much effort into this email, you can expect to lose the attention of many of your subscribers.

Step 5: Design your opt-in form.

Now it’s time for the hard part if you’re not a designer. If you’re doing this step yourself, match it to your branding. Use your fonts and colors and feature the freebie. Keep it simple and get feedback from some of your peers.

If you have the budget for it, I highly recommend getting a professional to design your opt-in form. Five years ago, I hired a designer to create mine for $75 and I instantly saw results—my subscriber counts massively increased.

Step 6: Put your opt-in form on your website.

If you hire someone to design your opt-in form, make sure they’re also willing to put it on your site for you. This will probably take a web design professional a lot less time than it would take you to do it.

If you’re not hiring a designer, once you finish designing your opt-in form, you’ll get the code you need to put on your website. Copy and paste that code where you want your opt-in form on your site.

You should make sure that your opt-in form is placed above the fold (meaning that you don’t have to scroll down to see it) and is one of the most eye-catching things on your site.

Bonus Points:

a) Consider using pop ups.

A pop up is an opt-in form that pops up while someone is on your website. You can set up pop ups in a bunch of different ways such as an opt-in form that pops up after a specific amount of time (such as one minute) or an opt-in that pops up when someone clicks to leave your site.

As a consumer and blog reader, I hate pop ups. As a business consultant, I sometimes recommend them because they absolutely work. If you use a pop up on your website, you will get more subscribers. You have to decide whether or not that’s worth annoying some of your readers.

You can also use pop ups in a way that’s less obtrusive. For instance, you could place the pop up in the lower right corner so that it doesn’t obstruct the blog post when someone is reading.

b) Set up a sales funnel.

A sales funnel is a series of emails that tries to convert subscribers to customers.

When you get your target market on your list, you should take advantage of that opportunity by selling to the people on your list. Want more info on what a sales funnel is and how to set one up? Check out these posts: 1) A Sales Funnel Example and Workbook and 2) Tips for Creating a Successful Sales Funnel.

c) Use email marketing in your current content.

Because most businesses use email marketing, it’s not as easy as it used to be to get people to sign up. If you want your ideal customer to opt in to get emails from you, you can’t just add to the noise and clutter.

You can’t just put an opt-in box on your sidebar and be done with it, even if you have an awesome freebie.

If you’re already creating content on a regular basis (through blog posts or YouTube videos or Facebook Live), add something special to that content that people have to opt in to get.

For example, in a recent blog post titled 75 Done-For-You Blog Post Title Templates, I put together a download with all the templates listed on it. But, I didn’t just add it as a download. In order to access it, you have to hand over your email address. Anyone who wants to print out the list so they don’t have to keep coming back to the blog post to see the templates opts in to get it.

I just started doing this and it’s already increased my subscriber rates immensely.

d) Use landing pages to get more subscribers.

If you spend a lot of time promoting your business on social media, you should consider utilizing landing pages that you can send your followers to. It’ll make it easier to convert those followers into email subscribers. For more information, check out this video: Landing Pages: What They Are and Why You Should Use Them.

I hope this helps you get started with email marketing. Still have questions? Ask them in the comments below.

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Why Haven’t You Done It Already?

Why Haven't You Done It Already?

If I could do a little spell, point my wand (I don’t actually have a wand but I wish I did since Hermione Granger is one of my heroes) and make something happen in your business right now (other than more sales because duh!), what would you choose?

Would you ask for more email subscribers that you can hopefully convert into customers?

Would you want a list of bloggers to pitch guest posts to so that you could get your expertise in front of more people?

Would you request your own CreativeLive course?

Take a moment to really consider this before you keep reading or else you’ll lose a little bit of the magic. (Yes…I’ve probably watched Harry Potter one too many times if you can’t tell.)

Now that you’ve thought about the one thing you’d ask for, I’ve got a question for you:

Why haven’t you gotten it already?

No, this isn’t a trick question.

I really want you to think about it.

If there’s something in your business that you want more than anything else, you should be doing everything that you can to obtain it, right?

So, what steps have you taken this week to get closer to that goal? Have you done anything today to achieve it—even if it was only a small step? (Or, have you flopped down in front of a Friends rerun because you’re tired and you’ll ‘do it tomorrow?’ If that’s the case, give up the ruse now. We both know that tomorrow really means weeks or months from now—if ever.)

Maybe you’ve made excuses for why you haven’t achieved it.

You’re going on day eight of the worst runny nose of your life (summer colds are pretty terrible!). You’re homeschooling two young children. Your day job sucks the life out of you, leaving little else besides the ability to zap dinner in the microwave and lose yourself in Monica and Chandler’s relationship drama.

I get it more than you might know.

But, I also know how to break free of this wretched pattern and take charge of your life and business.

You do it through retaking your product photos because they’re not quite right even though you’ve already spent 80 hours on them. Through taking an extra hour at the end of the day to read Fascinate by Sally Hogshead to learn more about marketing. Through sending out another guest post pitch when you’ve received three ‘no thank you’ emails in a row.

From the outside, many successful businesses look like everything happens easily, but from someone who’s seen the inside of lots of these same businesses, a brand’s Instagram feed or blog posts can be extremely deceiving.

Most businesses only share the shiny parts. But, the shiny parts often only come from many, many messy middles (as my friend, Mayi Carles likes to say).

If you feel like your running up against obstacle after obstacle, you’re not alone. That happens to all of us.

The entrepreneurs who get back up, dust off their rompers and try again are the ones who have all the shiny things to share.

If this is your dream, you can’t let anything or anyone stand in your way.

That sounds extremely corny and I’ve almost deleted this entire post a bunch of times (due to abnormal amounts of corniness), but we all need a wake up call every once in a while.

Ding ding ding. This is yours.

Let’s get back to that thing you want more than anything in your business right now.

How hard are you really working for it?

Are you willing to double or triple your efforts today?

When you get caught up in your daily routines, you often lie to yourself about how hard you’re working. You don’t do this on purpose. It’s human nature.

You tell yourself that you worked as hard as you could when you really spent an hour too long scanning Pinterest instead of using it to market your business. You tell yourself that you couldn’t possibly do anymore when you’ve marathoned every season of Gilmore Girls in less than a month. You gripe about not having enough ‘me time’ even though you hit the snooze button seven times every morning.

Often what’s holding us back is ourselves.

Instead of working as hard as you’ve been for the past six months, amp it up. That might be exactly what you need to actually achieve this goal.

Let’s say that you know you need to get more email subscribers. Most online businesses make the majority of their profits from their email list. It’s important stuff.

So…you know it’s important. What have you done lately to get more subscribers?

Have you used all of your social media platforms to drive more people to your opt-in? Have you pitched a bunch of guest posts, interviews and/or features? Have you created regular blog content that would make someone feel like they have to sign up to get your emails so they don’t miss out?

Have you thought about whether or not you’re using the right opt-in to get the right people on your list? Have you experimented with anything different?

Have you hosted a webinar or tried a giveaway or boosted some Facebook posts?

If not, you’re not trying hard enough.

I know that’s hard to hear.

And, you might be coming up with excuses as you’re reading this. Maybe you’re saying something like, “She doesn’t get my situation,” to yourself.

Stop whining. Stop complaining, And, for holy guacamole, stop making excuses.

This is your one life. It’s not a dress rehearsal. Do you really want to spend it miserable in a day job that you hate or underperforming and underachieving? Is that the legacy you want to leave?

Make a pact with me right now. Over the next month, triple your efforts to achieve that one thing you thought about when you started reading this post. See what happens.

You might just realize that if you work hard enough, you can achieve anything. I know, I know…more corniness. But, it’s the truth and I want you to live your life on purpose, doing everything you can to make the most of every day.

So, what’s the one thing you’re going to triple your efforts in achieving this month? Leave it in the comments of this post so we can send you lots of positive vibes and cheer you on.

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75 Done-For-You Blog Post Title Templates

75 Blog Post Title Templates

You write the draft of your blog post as you sip your favorite tea.

You take 30 minutes to edit it the next day as you listen to Adele (Send My Love speaks to my soul).

You set up the perfect photo to go with your blog post, snap about 37 options, pull them up on your computer, spend 20 minutes editing seven of them even though you’re only going to use one.

You pick the right photo and add text to it.

You format it in WordPress, wondering for the 89th time if you should hire a virtual assistant to do this for you.

You’re ready to publish…but wait!

You haven’t brainstormed the right title. Ugh.

You just want to publish it already. You’ve used up all your energy and willpower actually writing the darn thing and taking the right image for it.

You come up with a title option, quickly type it in, look at it closely to make sure there aren’t any typos and you hit publish.

You share it on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram and sit back to wait for comments and shares.

The next morning you brew a cup of lemon and ginger tea and pull out three oatmeal raisin cookies for breakfast. Who’s gonna know? And they’ve got oatmeal in them. That totally counts as a breakfast food.

You sit down to check your stats and you’re disappointed. Why aren’t people clicking on your blog post? Why aren’t they sharing it? Why aren’t they commenting?

They must be idiots or all on vacation at the same exact time. That was some of your best work.

But was it?

Did you really spend the extra time coming up with the best, most click-worthy title?

If not, you wasted a great opportunity. Titles matter more than most people realize. It’s really the ONLY thing that matters when you’re trying to get people to click to read the blog post. If it doesn’t grab their attention and intrigue them to find out more, you’ve lost.

To make this process easier, I’ve created 75 blog post title templates. Simply add in your content to the templates below to come up with a bunch of different ideas. Then, pick the best option.

I also put this list into a downloadable PDF. Just click the button below to get instant access!

1. ________________________ 101

Example: Instagram for Lifestyle Bloggers 101

2. ________________________ Fundamentals

Example: Landscape Photography Fundamentals

3. ________________________ for Beginners

Pattern Design with Illustrator for Beginners

4. Unlock the Power of ________________________

Example: Unlock the Power of Blogging for Your Business

5. The Power of ________________________

Example: The Power of Bullet Journaling

6. Master ________________________

Example: Master Video Marketing in 8 Weeks

7. How to ________________________

Example: How to Care for Your Handmade Jewelry in 3 Easy Steps

8. Why You Should ________________________ Today

Example: Why You Should Read Fascinate by Sally Hogshead Today

9. Behind the Scenes of ________________________

Example: Behind the Scenes of My CreativeLive Course

10. Secrets to ________________________

Example: Secrets to Creating the Perfect Summer Capsule Wardrobe

11. The Ultimate Guide to ________________________

Example: The Ultimate Guide to Brush Lettering

12. A Beginners Guide to ________________________

Example: A Beginners Guide to Finding Inexpensive Flights

13. A Step-by-Step Guide to ________________________

Example: A Step-by-Step Guide to Editing Selfies with the Facetune App

14. ________________________ Ways to ________________________

Example: 13 Ways to Boost Your Happiness

15. The Right Way to ________________________

Example: The Right Way to Learn Speed Reading

16. How to Decide Which ________________________

Example: How to Decide Which Statement Necklace to Wear to Dress Up an Outfit

17. Why ________________________ Is the Best ________________________

Example: Why Art Journaling Is the Best Way to Explore Your Creativity Daily

18. How to Create a ________________________

Example: How to Create a Lightbox for Product Photography

19. The ABCs of ________________________

Example: The ABCs of Finding Your Signature Fragrance

20. ________________________ Mistakes You Need to Stop Making Today

Example: 10 Social Media Mistakes You Need to Stop Making Today

21. The Best ________________________

Example: The Best Yarn for Knitting Winter Sweaters

22. The Do’s and Don’ts of ________________________

Example: The Do’s and Don’ts of Buying Fine Art

23. The Quickest Way to ________________________

Example: The Quickest Way to Learn Calligraphy

24. The Top ________________________ Reasons You Should ________________________

Example: The Top 5 Reasons You Should Buy Handmade Over Mass Produced

25. How to Start ________________________

Example: How to Start Sewing without a Sewing Machine

26. How I Went from ________________________ to ________________________ In ________________________ Days

Example: How I Went from 3 Closets Full of Clothes to a Capsule Wardrobe in 5 Days

27. ________________________ Tricks to ________________________

Example: 17 Tricks to Jumpstart Your Writing Career

28. ________________________ Tips for ________________________

Example: 12 Tips for Camping with Young Kids

29. How to Completely Change ________________________

Example: How to Complete Change Your Sleep Patterns

30. How to Get Rid of ________________________

Example: How to Get Rid of Your Inner Critic

31. The Advanced Guide to ________________________

Example: The Advanced Guide to Creating Patterns in Illustrator

32. ________________________ Key Benefits of ________________________

Example: 21 Key Benefits of Staying Hydrated

33. ________________________ versus ________________________

Example: Knitting versus Crocheting

34. Why I Prefer ________________________ Over ________________________

Example: Why I Prefer Watercolor Pencils Over Watercolor Paints

35. The Inspiration Behind ________________________

Example: The Inspiration Behind My Photography Style

36. The Story Behind ________________________

Example: The Story Behind My Best-Selling Necklace

37. My Journey to ________________________

Example: My Journey to Blogging Full-Time

38. ________________________ Reasons Why ________________________

Example 13 Reasons Why You Should Follow Me on Instagram

39. A ________________________ Cheat Sheet for ________________________

Example: A Hashtag Cheat Sheet for Creative Businesses

40. How to ________________________ Without ________________________

Example: How to Start a Business Without Quitting Your Day Job

41. Where to Find ________________________

Example: Where to Find the Best Photo Props for Your Instagram Pics

42. ________________________ Essential Ingredients for ________________________

Example 12 Essential Ingredients for a Viral Blog Post

43. How to Build a ________________________

Example: How to Build a Large Following on Facebook

44. The Most Effective Way to ________________________

Example: The Most Effective Way to Find Cheap Flights

45. ________________________ Creative ________________________

Example: 17 Creative About Pages

46. How to Tell if ________________________

Example: How to Tell if Minimalism is For You

47. How to ________________________ in ________________________ Easy Steps

Example: How to Write a Persuasive Sales Page in 10 Easy Steps

48. The Formula for ________________________

Example: The Formula for Creating Click-Worthy Blog Post Titles

49. Little Known Ways to ________________________

Example: Little Known Ways to Fix a Knitting Mistake without Starting Over

50. ________________________ Questions to Ask Before ________________________

Example: 15 Questions to Ask Before Hiring a Website Designer

51. The Hidden Secrets Behind ________________________

Example: The Hidden Secrets Behind Mass-Produced Jewelry

52. ________________________ Trends for ________________________

Example: 21 Fashion Trends for 2016

53. ________________________ Signs You Should ________________________

Example: 7 Signs You Should Hire a Website Designer Instead of DIYing

  54. ________________________ Things You Need to Know Before ________________________

Example: 3 Things You Need to Know Before Traveling to Italy

55. ________________________ Facts About ________________________

Example: 36 Facts About Me

56. A Practical Guide to ________________________

Example: A Practical Guide to Hand Lettering

57. ________________________ Hacks to/for ________________________

Example: 17 Hacks for Cheap Travel

58. How to Get More ________________________

Example: How to Get More Done Each Morning

59. ________________________ Habits of ________________________

Example: 5 Habits of Published Writers

60. ________________________ Types of ________________________

Example: 8 Types of Fabric Perfect for Quilting

61. ________________________-Point Checklist for

Example: 10-Point Checklist for Taking Beautiful Product Photos

62. ________________________ Resources to Help You ________________________

Example: 21 Resources to Help You Learn Spanish

63. ________________________ Things Your ________________________ Doesn’t Want You to Know

Example: 5 Things Your Kid’s Daycare Doesn’t Want You to Know

64. DIY ________________________

Example: DIY Your Website in Two Hours

65. How Do You ________________________?

Example: How Do You Get Rid of the Geo Tag on Instagram?

66. ________________________ Effective Techniques to ________________________

Example: 19 Effective Techniques to Learn Brush Lettering

67. You Won’t Believe ________________________

Example: You Won’t Believe How Easy It is to Knit Your First Scarf

68. Why You Need to ________________________

Example: Why You Need to Stop Dieting

69. Why I Don’t ________________________

Example: Why I Don’t Care About SEO

70. The Foolproof Way to ________________________

Example: The Foolproof Way to Grow Your Own Vegetables Each Summer

71. ________________________ Most Popular ________________________

Example: 5 Most Popular Nail Polish Colors for the Summer

72. Quiz: ________________________

Example: Quiz: Which Friends Character Would Be Your Best Friend?

73. What I Wish I Had Known ________________________

Example: What I Wish I Had Known When I Started Blogging

74. ________________________ Ideas for ________________________

Example: 21 Ideas for Inexpensive Father’s Day Gifts

75. How to Tell If ________________________

Example: How to Tell If You Should Start a Facebook Group for Your Business

Want to print this list to keep by your laptop? Click the button below to get instant access:

I hope this helps you brainstorm a bunch of blog post titles instead of just going with the first one you can think of. If you find this helpful, I’d love to know in the comments below.

Want more help improving your blogging game? Check out my CreativeLive course, Build a Successful Creative Blog.

Comments { 17 }

10 Things to Do Before Hiring a Website Designer

10 Things to Do Before Hiring a Website Designer

Have I told you lately how important it is to have business buddies? The kind of friends who just get it without explanation.

It’s what keeps me from huddling in the corner mumbling to myself on overwhelming days.

Every Tuesday, my very best biz bestie, Mayi Carles, and I hop on Google Hangouts to chat, update each other on what’s going on in our businesses and lives and provide each other with loving nudges in the right direction.

Yesterday we talked about my website redesign and how it’s going.

During our chat, I realized that I’ve never really done a website design. When I launched Blacksburg Belle in the very beginning, I just designed a blog header (which was pretty horrendous).

When I worked with the designer of my current design, she asked me a few questions about what I liked and what I wanted for the color palette. Then, she did everything else. She put together two or three options, and I choose the one I liked best. I didn’t participate in the design process at all. And, I didn’t redo any photos or rewrite any copy for the new website.

This time, things are different.

I’m working with Amanda (from Amanda Creek Creative) to design my website. I’m creating all the watercolors and photos for the website and she’s putting them together so that they look amazing on the page. I’ve done some of the heavy lifting this time and it feels completely different.

Plus, I’m redoing everything—from the photos to the copy to the email opt-in. Every single detail is being changed, because it needs a reboot.

If you’re a creative entrepreneur, you’ll probably want to be semi-involved in the process of designing your website whether that means creating illustrations for it or deciding on the color palette or designing a background pattern. You might write all of your own copy. Or work with a copywriter to make sure all the copy sounds like you.

The point being that if you’re considering a website redesign, you’ll probably be taking on a bunch of extra work.

Now that I’m about two-thirds of the way through the design process, I know I could’ve been better prepared. Because I hadn’t really been through it before, I didn’t know what to expect or how much time all of this stuff really takes.

I miscalculated how long it would take me to: 1) paint all of the watercolors 2) take all new photos 3) rewrite the copy 4) update the blog images with the right fonts and 5) collect updated testimonials.

For those of you who are considering hiring a website designer, I thought it might be helpful to know what I probably should’ve done before hiring mine.

(Thankfully, Amanda is patient with me and understands how long it really takes to do these things even if I had no clue.)

The first five items on this list are things that I recommend you finish before hiring a designer. The last five are items that will make it so much easier on you and your designer if you’ve at least started them.

1. Decide on your website goals and priorities.

What do you want to achieve with your website? What are your top priorities?

Are you a product-based business wanting to add a shop to your website so that you don’t lose customers to other sellers on Etsy anymore? Are you trying to land more speaking opportunities and want to highlight a video of you speaking at a conference? Do you want to prioritize a new opt-in to get more ideal customers onto your email list?

If you know this going into the hiring process, it’ll give your web designer a better idea of what needs to be done and help with planning the layout. She’ll also be able to tell you whether or not she’s a good fit for your project.

2. Create a Pinterest mood board.

If you want your website to match the fuzzy vision in your head, you’ve got to give your designer good direction. Unfortunately, designers aren’t magical wizards that can read your mind.

Get on Pinterest and pin things that match: 1) the color palette you’re drawn to 2) websites that have elements you really love and 3) any other inspiration that matches your branding or the feeling you’re trying to create with your site.

3. Decide what you want done.

To find the right web designer and get a clear estimate, you need to know what you want done. Do you want the works—a total website redesign with all the fixings? Do you want to keep your existing design but want to add a membership program to your site? Do you just want a new header and social media buttons?

This can change a little as you start the project. For instance, I’ve added on pages that I didn’t think about in the beginning but we’re sticking pretty close to the plan. If you don’t know what you want a website designer to help you with, you’re going to really struggle to hire the right person.

4. Determine your budget.

If you’ve ever planned a wedding, you know how important it is to have a budget. It’s easy to fall in love with pastel-colored peony floral arrangements that cost double what you wanted to spend or the perfect off-the-shoulder lace dress that drains your decor budget.

If you start contacting website designers without knowing your budget, you might end up falling head over heels for something waaaaaay out of your comfort zone. Then what?

Keep in mind that you usually get what you pay for, so I don’t recommend going with the cheapest option to save a little bit of money. This is your online home after all, but you should have an idea of what you can spend.

5. Figure out the purpose of each page.

It’s easy to get lost within a website redesign. To make sure you don’t get to the end and wonder how the heck you ended up with the final design, stay on track by knowing the purpose of each page on your new website.

For example, I’m designing a new FAQ page and the purpose is to answer the questions I get the most often about my brand and myself. That way, my virtual assistant and I can point people in that direction when they ask those common questions. My website designer kept this page pretty simple, because we want it to be easy for readers to find what they’re looking for. We both could’ve gotten carried away with adding this and that to it, but that would’ve taken away from it’s purpose.

6. Write the copy for each page.

You don’t need to have this done before hiring a website designer (none of the following items need to be completely finished), but you have to finish the copy before the launch. Let’s say that you’re planning on launching in three months from hiring your designer. Are you going to be able to get all the copy done within that timeframe?

The more you have done before you start, the better. Once your website designer has the copy for each page (especially the homepage), it’s much easier to create the design around it.

7. Put your copy into Google Docs.

Once you finish the copy for one of your pages, load it into a Google doc so that you can easily share that document with the designer that you hire.

8. Get new headshots and take any photos you want to use on your new site.

If you’re using visuals (illustrations, product photos, headshots, etc.) that you’ve already got, then you can skip this step. But, you should keep in mind that the visuals are often the things that give your site a new fresh look.

You don’t have to redo all of it (like I am), but if you haven’t taken new photos of yourself for two years, it could definitely help to give your website a new look.

Before you jump into this step, keep in mind that if you’re taking new photos, you want them to match your new branding and if you have no idea what that’s going to look like, you may need to wait until you start working with your designer.

Also, I did four different photo shoots for my new design. In the first shoot, I didn’t take enough photos with space on either side of me. Because my designer is using my photos to create most of the design, we needed some with me on one side so she could insert text on the other side. As soon as she saw the photos from the first shoot, she sent me an email to let me know that we needed more photos with space on one side of me.

If I had taken all of my photos before hiring Amanda, I would’ve had to redo some of them.

You could probably take new product photos or create new illustrations (if you’re an artist) without consulting your website designer, but just keep in mind that they might need something that you haven’t considered.

9. Set up a Dropbox account and add your images to it.

In order to easily share your visuals with your website designer, set up a Dropbox account and a folder for the visuals. That way you don’t have to send email after email with high-quality visuals (that are often large files). Some of them could get lost in the shuffle. If they are all in one place, it makes it much easier on your website designer.

Dropbox is also a great place to put a backup of your website before your designer starts working on your site. Just in case!

10. Collect testimonials from past customers.

You absolutely want to include testimonials on your new site. Remember that your customers are busy like you, so try to give them a bit of time to reply to you. I suggest setting a deadline, because people also tend to procrastinate. Let them know when you need them by and give them a bit of direction.

For example, you might ask them to describe how they would introduce your brand to a friend or why they love reading your blog or what they enjoy most about your products. The more direction you give, the more likely you’ll get testimonials that focus on what you want them to focus on.

I hope that helps you if you’re planning a website redesign.

Even if you’re six months or a year out from contacting web designers for quotes, start prepping now. Take it from me—it takes a lot longer than you think to finish all of these things.

If you’ve worked with a website designer or are a website designer, please leave any other tips in the comments below. What should creative entrepreneurs who haven’t been through this process do to prepare? Did I leave anything out?

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Sunday Society Giveaway Winners Announced!

Sunday Society Giveaway Winners

Thank you to everyone who entered this giveaway. Your comments made me happier than an Anthropologie shopping spree (and for those of you who know me well, you know that’s big).

As I read your comments, I made notes so that I could pick the winners. As I finished reading the last comment, I realized that I practically wrote every single name down. I wanted to give everyone a three-month membership to Sunday Society. And, if this wasn’t how I pay my bills, I probably would.

I realized two things pretty quickly: 1) I had to give it away to more than three people so I upped it to five winners. 2) There was no way I could pick so I put everyone’s name in a hat and picked the winners randomly.

If you’re not one of the five winners, I truly hope to see you inside of Sunday Society at some point.

In many of your comments, you talked about feeling lonely, having the Sunday night blues and wishing for regular support and encouragement.

Give Sunday Society a test run (you can cancel your membership anytime), because it’s a program that will help you stay accountable to your goals and connect you with other creatives who are striving for similar things. And, we’re ready to welcome you to the club.

Now for what you’re here for…the winners…

  1. Richelle S.
  2. Fanny
  3. Rebecca Nash
  4. Lucy Newton
  5. Trish from Jewels by Trish

Congrats!

***If your name is on this list and you aren’t currently a member of Sunday Society, please check your email inbox. You’ll receive an email from me by 5:30pm EST today. Welcome to the family! If your name is on this list and you’re a member of Sunday Society, I’ll email you to let you know that I’m cancelling your payments for three months.

Thanks again to everyone who entered!

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Sunday Society Giveaway! (Giveaway is closed)

Sunday Society Giveaway

Does this feel at all familiar?

It’s Sunday night and you’re relaxing with your spouse watching some television, but you’re not actually relaxing. Your mind wanders to that icky place.

“Tomorrow morning is going to suuuuuuuck. I’ve got that meeting with Kevin who always seems to have bits of egg yolk stuck in his beard and Emilia who sounds like a squeaking bird whenever she speaks. Then, I’ve got hours of paperwork and emails to go through. I’m gonna need 18 gallons of coffee. Is that pain in my side related to how much coffee I drink? Side note to self: google coffee and kidney problems.”

or

“I wonder if I’ve gotten any sales since I checked 17 minutes ago. If I don’t have at least five sales this week, I’m going to have to cancel my cable but how am I expected to live without Game of Thrones? That’s paramount to torture. Hey…I just used the word paramount on a Sunday night. I’m pretty smart. Wait a second…what does paramount mean? Google here I come…”

or

“I’m actually going to do it this week. I’m going to wake up an hour early each day so that I can write a blog post and add five new items to my shop. I’m not going to hit the snooze button 12 times before realizing that I’ve overslept, which means I don’t have time to eat breakfast or iron my wrinkled top or meditate. Okay…who am I kidding? I don’t ever meditate. I wish I was the type of person who liked meditating. I wonder if I could ever be the type of person who likes meditating…”

If that sounds familiar, you’ve got a case of the Sunday night blues.

Instead of enjoying your night and looking forward to the next morning, you’re worrying about the upcoming week either because you aren’t making enough money or you’re working a day job you desperately want to leave or you need some motivation to get things done each day.

Let me introduce you to Sunday Society: Chats, Tea and Fishtail Braids.

I created a membership program for creatives who are looking to connect with other girl bosses building their own signature empires.

If you’re in need of accountability, we spend time every Monday sharing goals for the week and every Friday checking back in to say if we reached them or not. If you’re in need of people to bounce ideas off of, we have regular live calls where you can hop on with me to get feedback (from myself and the other members). If you’re in need of a mentor who’s consistently hanging around and answering questions, I’m in the Facebook group every weekday and answering questions on the Q&A calls.

Want an opportunity to check it out for free? You’re in luck. I’m running a giveaway for a 3-month membership to Sunday Society.

All you have to do to enter is leave a comment below on why you want to join or how you think being a member of Sunday Society will help you. The giveaway closes on July 26th at 1pm EST so make sure you leave your comment below before then.

(If you’re already a member, you can also enter the giveaway. I’ll just stop your payments for three months! YAY!)

I’m going to pick three winners and announce them next week on July 27th right here at Blacksburg Belle in next week’s blog post.

***Make sure you use a valid email address when leaving your comment so I can contact you if you win. The winners I choose are final and non-negotiable.

Comments { 106 }

FAQ Sunday Society Style

Sunday Society Q&A

You’ve got questions. I’ve got answers.

Here are the most common questions I’ve gotten since opening the doors to Sunday Society: Chats, Tea and Fishtail Braids yesterday.

I hope these answers help you make the right decision.

1. Why should I join now instead of in a couple of months when I know I’ll have more time?

Over 30 women have already joined and they’re getting to know each other in the private Facebook group. Wouldn’t it be nice to join in the beginning instead of joining once it’s grown and you feel kinda like an outsider?

There have been a couple of times that I’ve really regretted not signing up for something sooner, because I could’ve gotten even more out of it if I had started in the beginning. I just want to give you that opportunity.

Of course, you’re welcome anytime. This is not the kind of thing where registration is going to close in two weeks. That doesn’t mean that YOU should wait.

The other big reason you should join now is that this membership program includes monthly challenges and they build on one another—meaning that you’ll get more out of them if you start with month one instead joining when everybody else has completed six of them.

Don’t get me wrong, you’ll be able to jump in and start the monthly challenges at anytime without having to do the previous ones BUT you’ll get more out of them if you start with the first month.

And, if that doesn’t push you into joining, if you join within the first 30 days, you get access to my 365 writing and blogging prompts ($47 value) for free.

Yes, I’m definitely pulling out all the stops. You can’t blame me when it’s because I want you in there! Every single person brings more to the table in something like this.

2. I’ve taken a bunch of online business courses. How is this any different?

This isn’t a course. Some months will include mini courses (20-90 minutes) but this isn’t a marketing or blogging or business course.

The purpose of Sunday Society is to give you a place to hang out with other creative entrepreneurs, to attend live calls and ask specific questions to help you move forward on stuff that’s keeping you stuck, and to get consistent support and encouragement from me and other members.

3. What happens if I join and want to cancel my membership?

I’ll record myself ugly crying and send it to you via email. No, really, it’s not a big deal. You can cancel your membership anytime with a simple email. I mean it. If you realize it’s not the right fit for you, I’m not going to make you prove you’ve watched every video or attended live calls or jump through any other hoop.

That makes this super easy for you to join. If you don’t like it, you can leave but at least you tried it out instead of wondering.

4. How does the monthly payment plan work?

Once you register, you’ll be billed monthly, on that same date each following month (unless you cancel your account). You will be billed from the same source you used to pay the first time–so if you pay via PayPal, your monthly charge will come out of PayPal and if you pay with a credit card, your monthly charge will be billed to your credit card each month.

5. Should I join if my business doesn’t fall into the traditional “creative business” category?

There aren’t any rules. If you write for your business or take photos for your business or anything else that calls for creativity, you have a creative business in my mind. I consider my business a creative business and I’m a business consultant. But, I write and take photos and paint watercolors and design worksheets. I’m creative and I bet if you take away the stereotypes, you are, too.

6. Should I join if I’m in the very beginning stages of my business—like haven’t even started yet?

YES! We’ve got members who haven’t started their businesses yet to members who’ve been in business for years.

If this were a super expensive program that was time-sensitive, I would tell you to hold off but this is a budget-friendly membership program that can help you despite where you’re at in your business. But, sometimes, hearing and seeing other people doing the kinds of things you want to do can inspire you to finally take action on your dream.

And, if you get in there and three months go by and you don’t use the material, cancel your account and come back when you will use the material.

7. How will I access the live calls?

For now, the live calls are on platform called Crowdcast. Because it’s live streaming video, the faster your internet, the better quality you’ll receive. If you have high speed internet and close out other programs while watching, you shouldn’t have any problems joining and participating in the chat.

8. What happens if I can’t attend a live call at the time it’s scheduled?

All the live calls will be recorded, so you can watch them anytime at your convenience.

If it’s an Ask April call and you have a question or multiple questions (even better, my friend!), you can submit them ahead of time.

9. Can I pay for a full year at one time?

This isn’t a current option, mainly because I want everyone to test it out to make sure it’s right for them. Those kinds of lump payments are harder to refund once a couple months pass. However, I might offer this to current members after a few months in case they’d like to pay for a year at a time and they know they want to stick around.

10. Why should I join your membership program over others out there?

Is there anybody else out there running a membership site who can quote almost any line from Gilmore Girls because she’s watched it so many times, creates pretty worksheets that feature her watercolors and can produce the perfect fishtail braid? I didn’t think so.

But, for a more serious answer, you should join my membership program over others out there if:

  1.  You like my style. Read a few of my blog posts, watch one of the free clips on CreativeLive to see my teaching style, and check out my YouTube channel. Do you think we’d get along? You want to learn from someone that you like (and someone who’s knowledgeable and built successful businesses) and if I’m that girl, join Sunday Society. If my voice is the most annoying sound you’ve ever heard, join another program.
  2. You want to learn how to build an online business (I definitely don’t specialize in brick in mortar businesses) and believe that blogging and email marketing are two important pieces for doing so. If you’re anti-blogs and anti-email marketing, we probably wouldn’t work well together.
  3. You’re looking for a budget-friendly option that doesn’t feel budget-friendly. A lot of inexpensive membership programs don’t include as many live calls or a mentor that actually checks in every weekday. In fact, I can’t name one. If you’re looking for hands on help, you’ll probably really enjoy Sunday Society.

If you didn’t find your question in this list, email me at blacksburgbelle@gmail.com and I’ll answer it.

If you’re already inside, I’d love for you to leave a comment below on your first impressions.

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How to Start Your Week with Energy and Inspiration

Monday Motivation

It’s just another manic Monday. I wish it were Sunday…

It’s the beginning of the week.

Your alarm clock blares. You hit the snooze button and crawl further under your warm sheets, pretending for 10 more minutes that it’s the weekend. Maybe you’re exhausted because you partied all weekend (you’re definitely too cool for me if you fit into that category) or your kid threw up in the middle of the night and it was your turn to change the sheets and cuddle him back to sleep or you couldn’t put down that thriller you started reading and stayed up till 3am to find out whodunit (does that happen to anyone else?).

Or maybe…you start out strong. You woke up 60 minutes earlier than normal to get in a 30-minute run. You listened to Better than Before by Gretchen Rubin while doing laps around your neighborhood and you’re excited about what you have planned for the week. But once you flop down at your computer, you get sucked into emails and social media and before you know it, Monday is almost over and you didn’t write 1,000 words or take new product photos or write copy for your upcoming product launch like you had planned.

Or if you’re one of the lucky ones, you wake up on Monday ready to tackle the week, because you love your work, you’ve mastered work/life balance and you’re so motivated you always get your to-dos done plus some. (If you fall into this crazy awesome category, you can skip this post.)

For the rest of us who sometimes struggle with motivation and inspiration, I’ve started a new series of videos called Monday Motivation.

Over the past five weeks, I’ve uploaded short videos to my YouTube channel at the start of the week with the purpose of giving you a boost of energy and motivation.

If you’ve missed them, you can catch up by watching the videos below and make sure you subscribe to my YouTube channel so you get notified each time a new video gets published, because I’m continuing this series until at least the end of the year.

Monday Motivation Episode 1: Intro

Monday Motivation Episode 2: Importance of Calendars

Monday Motivation Episode 3: Back to Basics

Monday Motivation Episode 4: How to Get Motivated

Monday Motivation Episode 5: Detrimental Stories

If there are any specific topics you’d like me to cover in this video series, leave them in the comments below.

And, if you’ve been following along with the video series so far, I’d love to know if it’s been helping.

Comments { 4 }

18 Smart Ways to Use Your Business Downtime

How to Use Your Downtime

You open your email for the 157th time today, hoping that a new ‘you’ve got a sale’ email is waiting in your inbox.

Nothing.

You wait five more minutes, sipping your peach iced tea and scrolling through your Instagram feed. You press refresh again.

The only new email is from ‘I don’t know how to market my business’ company asking you to place an ad on your life coaching website for recliner chairs.

It’s obviously spam, but you’re a bit desperate for money so you wonder if there’s any way you could accept the offer.

Maybe writing a blog post on how recliner chairs make you happier because they’re so comfortable?

Probably not the best idea.

What about a post on why television really isn’t that bad in moderation?

Yep. Nope. Horrible idea.

You delete the email and pick your iPhone back up. There are 12 new photos in your Instagram feed. YAY!

Many creative entrepreneurs hit a slow patch in the summer.

People are hanging out by the pool, going on vacations, eating dinner on their patios, and barbequing with their neighbors.

Because of that, you’ve got less sales, less blog comments, and less interaction.

It happens to the best of us.

Instead of wasting this valuable downtime, I suggest that you get something done that will make a difference to your business and bottom line.

How to Use Business Downtime

Here are 18 better ways to use your downtime than stalking your frenemies from high school on Facebook and refreshing your email every five minutes:

1. Create extra blog content.

There comes a time in every business when there isn’t enough time in the day to do everything. When that time comes, you don’t want to have to give up doing something that helps market your business. Instead, prep for those overwhelming time periods.

You’re also going to have weeks where you don’t feel like blogging. You don’t have any original ideas. You’ve got a migraine. You want to get a pedicure for your upcoming vacation, so you don’t shock your husband with your overgrown toenails. You’re going for sexy—not scary.

When that happens, you’ll be glad that you’ve banked a handful of blog posts that you can pull from.

Instead of just not publishing something that week (and looking unreliable and inconsistent to your readers), you can pick one of the blog posts you’ve saved for a rainy day.

2. Prep for the holidays.

If you run a business that picks up during the holidays, you should absolutely prep for it during your slow months.

Create extras of the products you sell the most of during the holiday season. Make sure your holiday packaging is ready to go. Get all of your holiday marketing prepped and done in July. (Then, reward yourself with a refreshing mojito. You’ve earned it.)

You’ll thank yourself when December hits and you’ve got enough time to make sugar cookies with your kiddos, because you did a bunch of the hard work in the summer.

3. Create a batch of visuals.

Use this time to set up a bunch of photo shoots. Edit your photos and categorize them so they’re easy to find over the next six months.

If you use other types of visuals within your business (like infographics), create some of those, too.

4. Fill up your social media timelines.

Use those photos from above to plan out your Instagram and Facebook feeds for the next few months.

Then take a day to fill up your Twitter queue with a bunch of content.

That way you can check in each day to reply to comments and to engage others, but your content is already created and scheduled.

5. Create the content for your next launch.

How many times have you launched a product or service and wished that you’d done a bit more?

Maybe you wanted to create a handful of videos for your launch but never got around to it. Or, maybe you wanted to send out a few more emails to your list.

Now’s the time to prep for the next one. Create the content for a launch this fall that will blow your customers away.

6. Plan out the next six months of marketing.

Marketing is one of those things that too many entrepreneurs say they’ll pay attention to ‘later’ but later never comes. If you’ve got a bit of extra time, plan out your marketing for the next six months and get started on it. Go go go!

Day Designer

7. Film and edit a bunch of videos.

If you use videos in your content and marketing, spend a week filming and editing a whole batch of them. It’s just like having extra blog content—you’ll be able to pull from these videos for months, consistently uploading to YouTube or social media.

8. Collect testimonials.

Spend a couple of days collecting testimonials from past customers and inserting them into your product descriptions and autoresponder emails.

People want what other people want and have. Using testimonials might give potential customers that little push to buy from you now instead of later. You never know—this might help you get out of your slow period.

9. Finally put together your sales funnel.

You know you should have a sales funnel, but they’re time consuming to create. Use this time to finally get your sales funnel up and running.

10. Get organized.

Now’s the time to finally organize all your photos into neat categorized folders. Label and group your supplies. Categorize your blog posts. Add keywords to all your YouTube videos. Start a new planner/calendar system.

Figure out what you need to systemize and do it.

11. Re-write old website copy.

If you’ve got website copy shame, you can fix it during your slow season. Work through all the main pages of your website, rewriting them one by one over the course of a couple months.

Look at your older product descriptions and sales pages. Could they use a revamp? Do it now, so that those products sell more when things pick back up.

12. Talk to some of your ideal customers.

When I tell creative entrepreneurs that they need to actually talk to some of their ideal customers to get to know them better, I can tell they want to say, “Who’s got time for that?”

First, if you want to run a successful business, you should make time for that. Second, downtime is the perfect time to do this dreaded task.

If you’re a wedding photographer, attend a local bridal event and talk to as many brides as possible. If you’re a jewelry designer, ask your top five customers if they wouldn’t mind chatting for 10 minutes on Skype or Google Hangouts. If you’re a copywriter, contact some entrepreneurs and ask them if they have a few minutes to chat and in exchange, you’ll give them some personalized copywriting tips.

Don’t put this off any longer. It’s one of those things like going to the dentist–you aren’t thrilled about going but you’re glad once you’ve done it.

How to Use Business Downtime

13. Go through your payment process, paying attention to each detail.

Buy one of your own products so that you can see exactly what your customer sees at each step.

If it’s too complicated, simplify the checkout process. If there’s a grammatical error or two, fix it. If the receipt that’s emailed to customers after checkout sounds robotic because you never personalized it, do that now.

Details matter when it comes to branding, and this is your chance to make sure each detail works with your brand.

14. Survey your customers.

Put together a short survey and send it to your email list. Ask what they love about your brand (so that you can do more of it) and ask what they don’t love (so you can change it).

15. Host a yearly sale.

If you’re running low on sales and you need some income quick, this is a great time to host a yearly sale. Offer your email subscribers a really good discount—one that they can’t pass up and sit back as the sales roll in.

I wouldn’t recommend doing this more than twice a year (and really, I think it’s better as an annual thing), because your customers will wait for a sale instead of buying your products at full price if you have regular sales.

If it’s an annual thing, they’ll probably treat themselves a bit more during that time and still buy your products during the rest of the year.

16. Take a class to improve your skills.

Sign up for the product photography course you’ve been eyeing for the past few months. Tackle that blogging course you’ve put off, because you didn’t have the time until now. Learn some advanced skills in your niche through a local course.

Improving your skills whether in your niche or in business will help your bottom line in the long run.

17. Network with other creatives.

Go to a conference for creative entrepreneurs. Attend local events for your business community. Ask another entrepreneur to go to lunch with you so you can get to know each other’s businesses. Get an accountability partner. Schedule some ‘Skype dates’ each week with other entrepreneurs in and out of your niche.

18. Give yourself a challenge.

If you’re an artist, share a sketch a day on Instagram for 30 days. If you’re a business coach, upload a video a day to YouTube for a month. If you’re a writer, challenge yourself to write 2,000 words a day for the next 60 days.

This will help you stretch your skills and possibly gain more followers if you’re sharing your work daily.

Know that slow periods are totally normal. Everyone has them!

If you’ve currently hit a slow cycle, what are you doing to make the most of it? Did I leave anything off the list? Leave it in the comments below.

Comments { 21 }

Behind the Scenes: My Website Redesign

Website Redesign

Website redesign.

Normally that’s a phrase that makes my stomach contract with nausea.

I’ve been putting it off for well over a year. Mainly because I hadn’t connected with the right person for the job. Thankfully, I found her. (YAY Amanda Creek!)

Another reason I’ve been putting it waaaaaay back on the furthest burner of them all is because I despise technical stuff.

Really and truly it’s the part I hate the most (well, second to accounting…ack!) about running an online business.

When I first launched Blacksburg Belle, I did everything myself–the design, setting up the hosting and domain, figuring out the backend of WordPress. That included 23 meltdowns, 19 shots of tequila, and 7 sleepless nights.

After about a year, a website designer contacted me. She was building her portfolio and wanted the chance to redesign Blacksburg Belle. We hit it off and she created my current design.

While I loved it for years, I’ve outgrown it.

Not only that, but website design has changed a ton since 2011. I need a reboot–an updated look.

I’ve known this for about a year and a half, but it’s terrifying to hand over the design reigns to someone you don’t know. There isn’t any trust. Like many of you running your own businesses, trust is huge to me.

I’ve already found myself working with the wrong people in the past. I’ve hired a photographer that wasn’t quite right. I’ve hired a website designer that turned out to be a nightmare. I’ve worked with a makeup artist and hairstylist that did not understand my look at all which ended up with me sobbing for over an hour (ruining the horrid makeup) and having to put off a video team that we were paying thousands of dollars to for a couple of hours and losing that time completely. (Thank you Mayi for hanging in with me during those couple of awful hours. Love you to bits!)

I didn’t want to find myself in that same situation, so even though I’ve wanted to update my website for a while, I’ve waited patiently (most of the time) to find the right person.

I’m sharing this with you, because I want you to know that it’s not always rainbows and big red balloons here at the Blacksburg Belle headquarters.

I struggle just like you–to find the right person to work with, through moments of doubt, to make everything appear as if it comes naturally.

We often blog about the magical moments (and I love those reading about those!) and skip over the rainstorms.

These behind-the-scenes posts give me a chance to talk about all of it: the good, the bad and the nightmares.

When I hired Amanda Creek to redesign my site, I was literally like a five-year-old giddy with excitement. And, don’t get me wrong, I still am!

But, for the past few weeks, I’ve been slogging through the mud to make this redesign the BEST it can possibly be.

I’ve spent waaaaaaay too much time on photo shoots. They took over my life for two weeks. I spent at least 60 hours getting ready, picking out the perfect outfits, taking the photos, figuring out that one of the outfits didn’t flatter me at all, retaking photos, editing the photos, uploading them for Amanda to access, and picking out my favorites. And, I’ve probably spent just as much time on watercolors for my upcoming website–brainstorming, sketching, painting, scanning, and editing.

We started in a direction that didn’t feel quite right so I had to redo all the watercolors I’d already done. (This one was totally on me–not Amanda. And, she’s been great to roll with it.)

Throughout the past month, I’ve also been battling my insurance company. To make a long story short, they don’t want to pay for the only treatment plan any of my doctors have been able to come up with in over five years because it’s very expensive. They’re coming up with every excuse they can think of (short of having me killed) to not pay for it. That’s been really draining. But don’t you worry about me, I’m married to one of the top 100 trial attorneys in the United States (yes…he really did win an award as one of the top 100 trial attorneys in the United States–I’m not just making up crap as a proud wifie even though I’m very much the proud wifie–go hubby go!) and they won’t get away that easy. They better be prepared for war, because we are.

Okay…let’s get back to the happy parts.

Now that I’ve leaped over a bunch of hurdles, I’ve got photos that I’m thrilled with and watercolors that I can’t wait to show you.

The best lesson I can share with you so far is that when something doesn’t feel exactly right, stop right then and adjust. If I said to myself, “Hey self. You’ve already spent hours and hours on these watercolors and editing them in Illustrator and turning them into your new logo. Don’t throw all that away because it doesn’t feel on brand,” then I wouldn’t be happy with the outcome. I know myself too well to know that just because I’ve put in tons of time into something doesn’t mean it gets published.

You would probably be shocked to know how many things I’ve done that have never made it in front of you–blog posts I’ve fired, watercolors I’ve thrown in the trash, photos I’ve deleted, courses I’ve stopped mid-way through production.

When you’re in charge, you can’t get romantic about your projects.

You’ve got learn to be lethal–canning everything that you know in your gut shouldn’t make it in the final edit.

It’s not easy. But, it makes you one heck of a girl boss (yes, I love this term and will continue to use it so #hatersgetlost) when you learn this lesson. It means that the world only sees your best and that is something to be proud of.

Alright…alright…I’ll come down off my inspirational soapbox and show you some behind-the-scenes moments from my website redesign:

First, here are some photos that I adore and am so excited about using:

Website Redesign Photo Shoot

Website Redesign Photo Shoot

Website Redesign Photo Shoot

Website Redesign Photo Shoot

It is taking every ounce of willpower I have not to share more photos. I’ve gotta save something for the website launch but oh my goodness, it’s hard to hold back.

And, this unfortunately, is what happens when you get a little carried away with photo ideas. This will never make it to the final project but I thought you might need a giggle today:

Website Redesign Photo Shoot Fail

Yes, that is silver glitter all over my lips. I must’ve ingested at least a teaspoon of glitter for this shot. Face palm!

But, hey…you never know until you give it a go, right?

Next, here’s one of the watercolors I’ve created specifically for the redesign:

This is it mid-project:

image2

And, here it is almost finished (I haven’t scanned it in and taken off the background yet):

Watercolor for Website Redesign

I hope you love it! I do.

Now, I’ve got to get back to my watercolors if Amanda and I hope to get the website launched anytime soon.

Thanks for all the support you’ve given to me as I’ve shared bits and pieces on Instagram. You have no idea how much motivation it’s given me to get this right. Virtual hugs and kisses!

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