The Trendy Lie You Shouldn’t Believe

Truth about Marketing

Lately I’ve noticed a trend among entrepreneurs slightly bragging about how they’re successful without marketing.

And, every time I read one of those blog posts or hear someone say it in an interview, it makes me really uncomfortable.

Because it isn’t true. (At least 99% of the time it isn’t true.)

Most of these entrepreneurs who are telling you that you shouldn’t have to promote your business in order to be successful do the exact opposite of the advice they’re giving you.

They are writing and publishing blog posts every week. They are emailing their lists. They are growing their lists through interviews and speaking engagements. They are updating their social media accounts regularly.

That’s marketing, people.

Just because you don’t have to spend lots of time promoting every single product or service you offer doesn’t negate all of the time you’ve spent blogging, emailing your list and updating social media. Those people who are following you and reading your blog didn’t just appear out of thin air.

It’s extremely frustrating to see successful (or at least seemingly successful) entrepreneurs pretend that you can sit back, produce good products and earn a full-time or six figure income without marketing.

As if they didn’t spend a lot of time, at least in the beginning, spreading the word about their businesses and products.

When I sat down to write today’s blog post, I wasn’t planning to write about this.

But I got sidetracked, like we all tend to do online, and stumbled across more than one post on more than one blog in which marketing was bashed.

Normally when I see something that I don’t agree with, I just move on to another blog that I gel with more but I couldn’t this time. Especially since I’d heard more than one entrepreneur gloating about their lack of marketing in interviews in the past couple months and this trend is irking me to no end.

I feel like I have to clarify that I’m not at all into the “look at me, look at me” marketing where it feels like the person is yelling at you to buy their stuff.

You know the kind of marketing where you can imagine the person standing on the curb with a poster screaming to come and get your $5 pizza?

That’s what my mind conjures up when I see those blogs where post after post is a picture of a product with a link to buy it online and not much else. Or those Facebook walls that are filled with the same thing: here’s my product—go buy it.

That type of marketing doesn’t work and it gives marketing a bad name.

Good marketing makes you feel excited to buy a product. And, great marketing doesn’t feel like marketing at all.

But for entrepreneurs to claim that they’re successful without spending a good chunk of time promoting their businesses is confusing and deceptive to new entrepreneurs looking to them for advice and guidance.

It encourages the “if your products and services are really good, you shouldn’t have to spend time on marketing” fallacy.

One such blog post I recently read was written by someone that spends a great deal of time on marketing: writing and publishing blog posts that sell products, emailing one’s list regularly, using social media to connect with one’s target market, etc.

So, the next time someone says that you can succeed without marketing, take a look at how much marketing that person does.

Once you get to a certain stage in your business, marketing should become easier.

At least, it has for me and many entrepreneurs that I’ve worked with.

Instead of having to pitch interviews and speaking engagements, people come to you asking to interview you and requesting you to speak at their events.

Instead of crossing your fingers and wishing upon a star that twenty people will sign up for your next online course, your course sells out within two weeks due to the amazing testimonials on your sales page and the three well-written blog posts you wrote to get your readers excited about it.

Instead of having to tweet about your latest blog post ten different times, you tweet about it once or twice and twenty-four of your followers retweet it, helping you gain lots of new readers.

Sometimes, something big will happen that completely changes the game for you.

You get featured on a blog with hundreds of thousands of readers and make more money in a week than you did all of last year. Or, you land a speaking engagement that gets you in front of the right market and helps you fill up your consulting spots for the entire year.

It doesn’t mean that you never have to work on marketing again, but it does make things easier.

However, for most of us, the beginning looks like this: one comment on the blog post you spent six hours writing and editing, twelve likes on your business Facebook page, and one sale within the first week of your product launch (that may or may not be from a friend who felt bad when you told her how upset you were that your launch didn’t go as expected).

That’s normal.

And if we pretend that it isn’t and that you don’t have to work hard to get your products in front of the right people, especially in the beginning, we’re doing a disservice to all those passionate entrepreneurs who are just getting started or have been at it for six months and are still struggling.

Most of the time, success doesn’t fall at your fingertips.

It’s okay want to learn about and spend time on marketing. It’s more than okay—it’s necessary.

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Discover Your Super Power + Clarify Your Vision

CTG17

I truly believe that business should be fun.

When you’re enjoying yourself, you power through the hard moments (like your website crashing and refund requests), you feel energized–not drained–after working really long hours and your customers feed off of your enthusiasm.

It’s obvious that my friend and business partner, Mayi Carles believes this, too (example: these dollar sign glasses)  She makes learning about business and working on your business feel like play–not work.

Mayi has this gift of engaging people by turning boring business topics into something intriguing.

The reason I’m telling you this is because Mayi has put together a free, five-day series: Life is Messy Challenge, and it’s filled with ways to improve your business while having a really good time.

It includes free printables (her printables are the best!), stories from her own business and life and really cute visuals. I’m hooked and it’s only the third day.

I’m not sharing this because I get anything out of it. I’m not using any affiliate links and this series is FREE. Mayi is launching Life is Messy Bootcamp soon and this in celebration of that…but you can get so much out of participating in the challenge without spending any money. You don’t even have to fork over your email address for access. There aren’t any strings.

This is a great way to start your year:

Day 1: Discover Your Super Power

Day 2: Clarify Your Vision

Day 3: Turn Your Dreams Into Reality

Day 4: Get It All Out of Your Head

Day 5: A Trusted Calendar System

There is a lot involved in this series, so brew a cup of tea or coffee, grab a snack and enjoy.

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5 Things You Can Do This Month to Make More Money with Your Business

Five Ways to Start Making Money with Your Business

I have a love-dislike relationship with the beginning of the year.

I love that most people are in a positive, goal-oriented state of mind. I love that my favorite stores have amazing sales (hello, Anthropologie!). And, I love the ‘I get to start fresh’ feeling floating through the air.

I dislike going out to lunch with friends and feeling a tad bit guilty that I’m the only one not ordering a salad consisting of iceberg lettuce, two cherry tomatoes, a sprinkling of carrot shreds and two pieces of congealing grilled chicken with low-fat, no taste dressing on the side.

I dislike that yoga classes fill up a week in advance with people who won’t be there in a couple months cause they’ve given up on fitting into their skinny jeans. Who needs skinny jeans when you’ve got Friends on Netflix, right?

And, I really dislike when dreaming gets in the way of action.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m all for dreaming BIG.

But, it can turn into a cycle of procrastination uglier than your great aunt’s extra large baby pink silk granny panties that are riddled with unidentified stains and have a hole in the crotch as large as your fist.

You know what I mean.

The people who dream and plan and research for hours upon hours, leaving no time to actually do anything they plan or dream about.

I groan every time I read an email or social media update that says something like, “I’m going to start my business in six months after I finish my research” or “I’m going to create my first digital product in three months after I finish taking an Illustrator course, researching the competition and planning it out.”

Yes, there is absolutely a need for planning and research. But, don’t use it to procrastinate.

Dreaming and researching isn’t going to pay for a new Macbook Pro or medical bills or the ticket to that retreat you really want to attend to hang out with other creative entrepreneurs.

In the beginning of your business, it’s important to start making money for a few reasons: 1) It gives you a boost of confidence that you can do this. 2) You can pay your bills and invest in your business. 3) You can send that blogger who gives you great advice an Anthropologie gift card. Insert diabolical laugh here. (Just kidding.)

But seriously. You’re running a business, so money is an important factor.

With today’s post, I’m going against the grain of the normal “how to achieve your goals in 2015” or “my dreams for this year” blog posts you see at the beginning of every year.

Instead, I’m going to give you five actionable tasks you can do this month to start making money from your business.

Make Money This Month

You ready to stop dreaming about earning money from your passion and actually do it?

Did you say yes or just grumble?

Once more with enthusiasm?

Okay! Here we go:

1. Ask for the sale.

Before you give me the ‘but I don’t want to come across as too salesy’ excuse, I’ll let you in on a little secret. Business is about selling things. You provide a product or service and in return you get money. Fancy concept, right?

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve worked with creative entrepreneurs who have NEVER really sold their stuff to their blog readers, email list, or social media following for fear of sounding too pushy.

These people fall into the ‘I hope they find me and fall in love and buy my products’ business death trap. Ninety-nine percent of the time, it doesn’t work.

Depending on the size of your email list, blog readership and social media following, you can probably get at least a handful of sales if you…yep, you guessed it…sell to them.

Mark a day in your calendar right now to send an email to your list and publish a blog post in which you highlight and sell your best-selling product from last year. People want what’s popular, so letting your audience know what your best-selling product is can boost your sales.

(If you didn’t have any products to sell last year, you can still do this step. Just pick the product you’re the most proud of right now and highlight it.)

Tip to make this work for your business:

Don’t JUST sell. Tell a story. Write with charisma and personality. Spend time on the email/blog post, carefully choosing each word. Entertain or educate and then sell.

2. Launch your next product or service.

Instead of simply adding your next product to your offerings or Etsy shop, launch it. Build up anticipation through social media updates, blog posts, emails, guest posts, videos, and interviews.

When you release your next product, you’ll have a group of people ready to buy. Cha-ching!

Don’t let the word “launch” intimidate you. You’re the boss which means you decide how big or small your launch will be. It could be as simple as posting on your Facebook wall three times, sending out five tweets, publishing two blog posts and sending one email newsletter.

If you work on your launch material for twenty to thirty minutes a day, you can get all of the above done in a couple weeks.

Tip to make this work for your business:

When planning your launch content always keep in mind that: 1) You want everything related to the launch to prime to your audience to buy. 2) You want to attract your ideal customer to your product which means you need to “know” her really well and speak to her.

3. Consider what worked last year.

When it comes to marketing, you want to do more of what works and less of what doesn’t.

Jot down the things that you did to market your business last year. What worked the best? Do that again (or something similar) this month.

My top marketing strategies last year were (in no particular order): speaking engagements, boosted Facebook posts, well-written emails/blog posts that contained a link and brief introduction to a product, frequently asked questions emails and blog posts, blog tours, and interviews.

If I ever want to boost my income, I know I can pick one (or more) of those things and I’ll most likely see an increase in sales.

Make Money with Your Creative Business this Month

4. Strategically use social media.

We both know that social media can either help or hinder a business. If you’re always wasting time on social media, it’s a hindrance but if you have a plan and stick to it, social media can absolutely help you increase your income.

For this month, pick one social media platform to focus on (preferably the one that your target market frequents and that you enjoy using), spend thirty minutes developing your plan for the next thirty days focusing on building your following and selling your products, and spend ten to fifteen minutes a day implementing your plan.

Example: Let’s say you’re a jewelry designer and you want to focus on Pinterest for the month. The beginning of your plan might look like this: establish boards that your target market will want to follow, pin 20-50 pins a day including one of your jewelry items each day (that links to where people can buy it), and write a blog post about why your blog readers should follow you on Pinterest.

You’d want to get even more specific but that’s a pretty good direction to start. By the end of the month, if your strategic plan worked, you’ll have made sales from people who found you and/or follow you on Pinterest.

Whenever I do this, it works for me. If I’m focusing on Facebook, I’ll notice more traffic and sales coming from Facebook. If I’m focusing on Pinterest, I’ll see that more traffic and sales are coming from Pinterest. It’s all about making a plan and sticking to it.

5. Collect and use testimonials.

Most of us have been burned from buying online (shame on you ebay seller who sold me a Vera Bradley purse ten years ago, took my money and never sent me the purse) and we don’t want a repeat of that experience.

One of the best (and easiest) ways to build trust is to share the lovely things your customers say about your products and business.

When people see that others have bought from you, received what they expected to get, and really enjoyed their experience with your business and products, there’s a level of comfort that helps them hand over their credit cards.

Think about your online purchases.

Do you read reviews? Do they sway your buying habits?

Aren’t you more likely to buy that gel nail polish when you read that other women love it and don’t mind paying more because they only have to paint their nails once a week or less because their nails don’t chip and always look shiny and newly polished?

It’s human nature.

Collect five testimonials for one of your products. Add them to the product description or sales page. Then, highlight the best testimonial in your next email newsletter or blog post.

Tip for making this work for your business:

Ask specific questions to get quality testimonials. (Examples: What is your favorite feature of ________________? Why? Would you recommend this to a friend? If so, why?)

There you have it: five ways to start making real money from your business this month. If you can only do one, that’s totally fine. If you can do them all, you’ll see that they build upon themselves. Get ready for an influx of cash!

Share in the comments below an action that you’re taking in the next thirty days to make money from your business. I’d love to hear your plans for making 2015 a profitable year.

Reminder:

If you want to join myself, Bonnie Christine, Lisa Jacobs, Kerry Burki, and Paige French at the Movers and Makers Summit February 27th to March 1st, secure your spot here. The early bird price ends in four days and almost half of the spots are already claimed. It’s going to be an amazing weekend.

You can find all the details here.

away-with-us

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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!

CL Work Bed Tea

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!

away-with-us

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.

ocean

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.

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