[Note: I started doing an annual recap back in 2010 . You can find other years here: | 2011 | 2012 | 2013 | 2014 | 2015 | 2016 | 2017 | 2018 | 2019 | 2021 | 2022 - 2020 got skipped for a number of reasons, not the least of which was the pandemic that shall not be named.]
OHHHH 2023. What a year you turned out to be!
If you've been in my orbit for any length of time, you know that my new year starts on Jan 5, because that's my birthday. It's so close to the beginning of the year - and I take that week off anyway - so it just makes logistical sense to my brain to count things that way.
So yeah... Happy New Year, y'all!
In many respects, looking back on 2023 felt like ripping a Band-Aid off a hairy, scabby wound.
But once the bandage is off, you see it's not so bad in there, after all.
While we didn't hit all our goals and objectives for 2023, we did manage some pretty cool stuff at Creative Freedom HQ. And there were some really neat surprise blessings that came along. The biggest of which TECHNICALLY happened in 2024, but I've been paving this path for months, so I'm counting it as one of the surprise blessings of 2023.
And yeah, there were some pretty crappy things, too - not the least of which was Jim's surgery. So let's pop into the wayback machine and have a look at the year we call 2023...
Oh, and for those of you unfamiliar, I set my goals using my Dreamblazing program, so you'll see me break my goals down by each of the 5 Key Area of Success.
At the beginning of 2023, this was my number 4 goal - to SHINE like the STAR that I am. To recognize, embrace, and celebrate my own Star Power. Self-belief has been an ongoing struggle since my divorce. It's easy to put on a veneer of confidence, but to actually FEEL like you're making progress toward the things that matter most hasn't been as easy for me. I had major surgery three years in a row, Covid at the beginning and end of 2022, and five moves in 4 years. Unsettled, unstable, frenetic, scrambling would probably be the best way to describe the undercurrent of energies I've been feeling for a while.
But moving to Bloomington allowed us to put down some tenuous roots... and they're starting to take hold.
Depression and anxiety have been nipping at my heels for a couple of years and THIS year it finally started to feel like I turned a corner and the clouds were rolling out. I made some new friends locally, was active in our TEDxBloomington organization, and will likely move into a more permanent curator role in the next year or so.
"Life happens every six months" was a lesson I learned from my manager during my days as a financial advisor. He encouraged us to schedule reviews with our clients at least that often, which is part of why I still hold semi-annual review sessions with my community. By the mid-point of 2023, I recognized how important it was for me to really step more confidently into the next version of me.
A lot of priorities got shifted with Jim's surgery (more on that shortly), and this was no exception. It became my number one priority for the second half of the year: to play big in healthy ways so that I can shine like the star I am and trust the Divine to provide.
Careful what you wish for.
So that showing up and shining part? Yeah. I think I checked that box. The trust part? Um... welll...
I definitely had some great opportunities to shine - My TEDx Talk finally went live on the TED channel, as did my marathon 4-part interview with Rachael Kay Albers about the Internet Marketing Family Tree. Enoughness became a whole thing in the second part of the year. I did several talks and interviews exploring the subject more deeply.
I also had an amazing photoshoot. The talent in this town is uh-may-zing! Jim was my Art Director for the shoot, and we hit up a bunch of locations around town. My stylist, photographer, and hair & make-up artist did a bang-up job of helping me step into this next iteration of me.
They say God doesn't give you more than you can handle. So, in that respect, we came out okay. We're still here. It was a rollercoaster, but we made it. I wish that trust was easier. But trusting the divine (as a goal) almost implies that SOMETHING is gonna happen to test that trust.
Jim was already in the throes of his months-long medical situation when his company decided to start screwing with paychecks. A day late, then a week. Layoffs and firings for seemingly no good reason. Then, while he was out on leave, a company-wide pay and hours cut.
My trust was definitely being tested!
With the help of my coach, my in-laws, and some Divine timing, we made it through. It was stressful, but he was able to tender his own resignation this week. His last day will be the end of the month.
This was my number three goal for the year - to cultivate a supportive community that sees and believes in me - and tells me so. This goal didn't change over the course of the year, but it did shift in priority, from #3 to #2.
While we were on vacation in July, Jim ended up in the hospital. He had some kind of mass on his abdomen that had probably been growing for at least 15 years undetected. It finally decided to make itself known in a big way. The rest of the year, Jim was in and out of the hospital a few times, culminating in major surgery just before Thanksgiving. He's still in recovery as I write this. His health is improving, but he still needs a visiting nurse a couple times a week to care for his wounds.
Yes. "Wounds", plural. They had to cut a few holes in him to fix the issue. But it IS fixed at this point. Now, it's just a matter of continuing on his healing journey.
Once Jim's health became an issue, I got clear that I don't want to move again, at least for a while. We've moved SO many times since we got married, due in part to Jim's work. With his health and work situation getting murkier as the year went on, I realized that staying here meant I needed more local friends and connections. People to go out and DO things with, but also, locals who knew who we are and could become a local community of support since we're so far from all our family.
Our neighbor Gary started mowing the lawn so that we didn't have to. He's got a riding lawnmower, so I think he likes doing it anyway. I'd bake them snacks and he'd mow our lawn. They're an adorable older couple and I'm glad to have them as neighbors.
Look at me! Actually getting to know my neighbors and whatnot!
Jim turned me on to Bumble's BFF app - essentially a dating app for finding friends. He had connected to a couple of guys, one of whom was the station manager for the local NPR station. The guy let it slip that they were looking for a morning show host, and well, let's just say, I saw an opportunity! More on that in a minute.
The app helped me to connect with a couple of new folks, too. We've hung out a few times and it feels like I'm starting to build some connections and make friends, which feels really encouraging after years of social distancing.
I also took a VERY part time job at Torrid in the mall. I certainly didn't do it for the paycheck! My youngest makes more as a high schooler than I do at this job. I get out of the house for a few hours, meet some people, and get the employee discount on anything I want to buy with the money I make. And anything left over goes into our tax account because we're likely to have a pretty big tax bill this year. More on that in a bit.
We also migrated the Rising Tide community off of Facebook and into a private platform. People were finally getting frustrated with Facebook enough to want a different solution. After 2022's website crash, I knew I wanted to pull all my courses off the site and had been looking for a place where both the coursework and the community could live. We settled on Heartbeat (yes, that's my affiliate link), which does both pretty well. We've removed the old LearnDash and Wishlist plugins from the site and migrated everything over there. I even moved all my direct sales training from Direct Sales Classroom. Now everything lives in one place - and I LOVE it. Engagement is higher, new people are finding us and connecting to our community. Most importantly, though, people are using the training and getting the support they need to succeed.
That's the best feeling in the world for someone like me!
Cultivating anything takes time, but cultivating community is a long game. Seeds planted and nurtured this year will hopefully yield fruit for years to come. I'm excited to see what comes of all the new relationships begun in 2023.
I DID NOT HAVE COVID!
Since I started and ended 2022 with the dreaded virus, this was sort of an unspoken goal for myself! In fact, this year was pretty much incident free for me! Which was good because it was apparently Jim's turn this year. In general, I try to set two goals for this Key Area of Success - one for my physical container, the other for what's being held inside that container (my mental, emotional, or other well-being stuff).
My number two goal was to take pride in my body, no matter my shape or size. My other fitness goal - at number 5 - was to rebuild my body for optimal health. For me, this was the balance of "love the body that you're in" and rehab/care for what can be improved.
My heel lift had deteriorated after my spinal surgery in September, 2022. If I stand on one foot and try to get up on my tip toe, I can do it on my left foot, but not my right. This is one of those goals that didn't see much improvement, despite months of physical therapy. I had two rounds of PT last year. It's been frustrating, but I'm still hopeful that there are a few things left we can do in 2024 to turn things around.
Not being able to lift my heel makes dancing a challenge. So my audition for Lizzo's reality show was probably one of the last times this year I actually did much dancing. Heck, just walking for more than a few minutes at a time is progressively more uncomfortable. The longer I walk, the more it hurts. I've tried to not let my physical constraints cause too much disappointment and sadness for me. I've got a lot of good things going on and I'm looking forward to what 2024 has in store.
My mental well-being definitely improved. By mid-year, I changed the verbiage a bit and goal two, which moved to the #3 position, became more about having a happy and healthy outlook in general, and less specifically about my body.
I needed to put more attention on my mind-body connection. We were going THROUGH it last year, and it was easy to feel defeated. When my student loans were finally forgiven after 20 years of repayment (YAY!), I learned that Indiana will tax me on that "income".
Ugh. If we were still in Nashville, we wouldn't have this extra financial burden! I was worrying left and right about how to deal with this new development. On the one hand, getting out from under student loans is a tremendous blessing, but we weren't prepared for a big tax bill. AND I didn't want to be one of those IRS horror stories.
It was easy, especially as Jim's health and work situation started deteriorating, to waffle between panic and worry. RE-focusing on my mental health and mindset helped me see my best path forward. It also helped me create - or in one case, re-create - some healthier habits around caring for my brain and my mental well-being. I was on a waitlist for a therapist all year long because of our insurance. I credit those habits (and my coach) with helping dig me out of the years-long funk I'd been in.
This year began with an admittedly vague goal: Be a wealthy, generous entrepreneur. Part of the task in this goal was trying to figure out exactly what that meant. Thus, it was the lowest priority - Goal #6. By mid-year, I realized that it was less about BE-ING, and more about experiencing. Exploring into what it would be like to live the life of a wealthy, generous entrepreneur. Having experiences that I imagine would come along with being a wealthy, generous entrepreneur. So I shifted the goal wording to reflect having a STAR experience.
Hiring a stylist for the photoshoot was a great first step. Trusting my team to just let me show up and shine during that shoot was a great next step. But I still wasn't clear on how to bring that kind of ease into my life. Ease was my word for the year. By August, life still felt anything but easy!
Enter Jacqueline Gates' STAR Program. Nope. Not an affiliate link. I just believe in her work that much. She uses a brilliant mix of coaching and stagecraft to help you develop and tap into the "character" that is your next future self. I've been an actor and performer for most of my life, and I've taught the "future self" concept to my clients, so I laugh at myself for not making this connection sooner.
Jacqui has a great way of connecting the dots between character development and identity. Working with her helped me embody the changes I wanted to step into. I finally stared to have an experience of ease - even when things were getting increasingly chaotic during the year. In fact, I've said numerous times that this is the most prepared and confident I've ever felt going into the start of a new year. Despite all the things in flux.
This was actually my number one goal for the first half of the year - to feel spaciousness and ease in every way throughout the year. Like I said, "Ease" was my word for the year. I wanted goal achievement and project completion to feel easy and light. I wanted ample space for leisure, vacation, and travel.
That meant really pulling back on things. Frankly, our team was just not up to snuff this year. We started the year with 2 support people, but things just didn't click. We struggled to get good workflows and meet deadlines - even ones that seemed generous. "Stuff" kept coming up. One team member had two deaths in their family within a couple of months.
Things just didn't feel easy. We had to release that team member. The other is my rock, and she has limited capacity, so I'm still actively looking for alternatives to round out our team. That has not gone as well as I'd hoped.
On one hand, it would be easy for my Fusion Creative self to just take back and do all the tasks - because it really is often faster for me to just do it that way. But, this is part of the growing pains of running a growing business. Finding reliable, consistent, quality help within your budget often takes time.
Then, once Jim was hospitalized, my priorities shifted. So at the mid-point of the year, this goal moved down the priority list and morphed into laying the foundation for Jim's retirement in 2025. Still with some sense of ease and spaciousness.
Less travel, more prep for the future.
The funny thing is that once I had THAT kind of clarity, it became a lot easier to see what was important and what needed to be thinned out. We were trying to maintain several social media presences. Even with automation, it wasn't generating the ROI that made it worth the investment. It was taking up too much of our collective time to do everything that wasn't moving the needle - which meant the show kept getting put on the back burner. I spent a good part of the second half of the year working with my assistant to clean up and pare down all the extraneous stuff.
Now, while I may have a "presence" on multiple platforms, it is primarily to reserve that user ID, not to create new channels of communication. This year we'll be focused on Youtube and Instagram. I still have groups and connections on FB that will require my presence, but don't expect to see a lot of activity from me there.
Turns out that my goal was a bit prescient, because Jim had to take 6 weeks off unpaid for his November surgery. We managed to make it through, but we wouldn't have had I not shifted this priority in July. He just tendered his resignation and is deciding on his next steps. We're not quite ready to retire him completely, but with the other big change happening this month, he's got more options and freedom to choose what his next move will be.
I applied for and accepted the position as the Morning Edition host on our local NPR station. It was a months-long interview process. I got the call on my birthday - happy birthday and happy new year to me!
With all the flux at Jim's job, I could feel the anxiety creeping up on both of us. Instead of waiting around to see what might shake out, I did the thing that would take the pressure off Jim to find something right away.
It was actually a bit surreal: applying for a job that I didn't NEED, but thought would be fun. To go into an interview process ready to walk if it didn't feel good isn't an experience I'd ever had before this year. Applying for jobs always came with a sense of desperation and fear. Like they held my life in their hands or something. Both the mall job and this radio station gig are on my terms. And I love it!
Plus, the benefits are amazing. We've almost always had insurance through Jim's work. Now, it's my turn!
And I hear your wheels turning... Yes, technically I'll be working two jobs AND running a business.
But here's what's so great about that: I'm already up at 6am - why not get paid for it? Plus, I'm home in the early afternoon, so it doesn't change anything about how I work with my clients. That was something I made abundantly clear when I interviewed. I'm a business owner. I plan to STAY that way for years to come.
And I have the capacity to do this work. I know not everyone does. And there may come a point where I don't. But for now, I do, so I'm going to ride that wave because it works for us. I've already adjusted my calendar and my offerings to reflect my new availability... and honestly, it isn't a whole lot different than it was before.
This position gives us a huge opportunity to make Jim's transition to retirement happen with more ease and more speed. He can't retire yet - we've got a few goals to hit first - but being the morning show host means that Jim gets to have that same experience of freedom to choose. He doesn't have to walk in to an interview feeling desperate or fearful. He can take some time - without a ton of financial pressure - to find something that suits him.
And we can stay put for a few years! Then, when he's ready to retire, he can work if and when he wants to, not because he HAS to. I've wanted this for him for a couple of years now, and I'm excited to see it coming to fruition!
So yeah, 2023 was a year of big changes, and 2024 has a few already in motion. Inside Creative Freedom HQ, we're getting ready to roll out a new website with updated brand elements - including the images from my recent photoshoot. We closed the Incubator to new clients last fall when I rolled out Intensives. I've raised rates on most of my work and LOWERED the price to join us in the community. I streamlined offers and made it easier for the right people to work with me - something I preach to my clients all the time!
But the thing I'm most excited about our the Star Power Intensives. These private, half-day sessions give me the opportunity to get down-and-dirty in your business like I did in the Incubator, while creating real and lasting results the same day.
Available in mini and half-day formats, I've had the joy of taking several people through their own Star Power Intensives at this point. They've all raved about the level of clarity and efficacy of what we've developed together. Of course, not everyone is a good fit for an intensive, which is why I still offer Next Steps Sessions - to help you figure out your next best move.
Over all, this is a MUCH more streamlined set of offerings, focused on helping you have the reach, the impact, and the respect that comes from being a celebrity in your niche. That's my focus going forward. I want to see more good people in roles of influence in the world. We've had enough of the rocket-launching billionaires taking the spotlight. It's time to shine a light on folks who are doing the work to make a positive impact on this big blue marble.
My word this year is LUXE - luxury, yes, but also "lucks" - luck in many ways. My coach gave me this mantra: I can only win!
It's helped me re-frame a lot of what's been going on in my life as I move into 2024. I've never felt more ready for a year to get going, and this year feels like it's going to be BIG! It's my last year in my 40's. This time next year, I'll be celebrating the big 5-0, and I have plans for it to be pretty freaking spectacular. Let's do this, 2024. I'm ready for you!
Time management. If you've been in my world for any length of time, you know that I believe that you can't really manage time. Time marches on whether we want it to or not. Instead, I try to be intentional about where I invest my time so that I get the most bang for my buck, so to speak.
That's one of the reasons I love me a good template. Why reinvent the wheel when templates can do most of the heavy lifting for us? From tax invoices to pitch decks, a template keeps you from staring at a blank page and often gives you a helpful starting point. And if it's a fill-in-the-blanks style boilerplate, that can make life even easier.! Here are five time-saving templates you'll want to keep on hand in your business toolkit.
Every successful venture begins with an effective business plan. However, staring at an empty document and wondering where to start can be daunting for any entrepreneur. But business plan templates provide an easy solution. They offer predefined structures for outlining goals, market strategies, competitive analysis, financial forecast and more - saving both time and ensuring no essential details are missed out! Plus they're an essential step toward convincing investors your concept is worth their investment!
How many times has a company asked you for a formal invoice even if you accept electronic payments like Paypal, Venmo, or Cashapp? I don't get them very often, but when I do, an invoice template makes life easy. I just plug in the details for the transaction and send it on over!
A tax invoice template is a standardized document used to record sales transactions and their related taxes - like invoice number, client details, description of goods or services sold or provided, tax applied amount applied to the total amount paid, as well as any additional important details. Plus, if you need to report sales tax, you've got a "paper trail" come tax time. We may not use them a whole lot in digital commerce, but they're still a very much-needed tool for your business. A template makes it easy to just pop in the necessary information and stay on-brand in the process.
Whether you're building out a presentation for a webinar or convincing investors to support your start-up, pitch deck templates come in handy to showcase your vision, mission and/or business model in an accessible format. These templates provide a framework for crafting an engaging story about your business, covering key points like problem statement, solution, market size, business model, competitive advantage, team composition and financial projections - and they can be customized for any kind of content. They help maintain an logical flow for your pitch deck, ensuring it is cohesive and convincing to potential investors. A well-prepared pitch deck could mean the difference between walking out with an agreement and leaving empty-handed. So use these templates now and start crafting your winning pitch!
Having a groundbreaking product or service is wonderful - now how will you reach the target market with it? That's where a solid marketing plan comes into play. Marketing plan templates provide a structured format for outlining your marketing strategy, outlining key components like target audience analysis, marketing objectives, promotional strategies, budget allocation and key performance indicators. These templates will guide you through the process of planning, executing and measuring marketing campaigns to reach your target audience efficiently and effectively. Remember that an effective marketing plan can be your ticket to startup success - grab these templates now to begin plotting out the path towards market dominance!
As part of an entrepreneur's toolbox, email templates are an essential piece. As an entrepreneur, your inbox is always buzzing with activity! From engaging potential investors to communicating with customers, suppliers, and your team - emails play a pivotal role in daily operations. However, writing each email from scratch is time consuming and inefficient - enter email templates! These preformatted outlines simplify your correspondence by streamlining various scenarios like sales pitches, customer service responses, team updates and investor communications. By keeping to consistent professional and precise language while saving time - time being money! In today's fast-paced entrepreneurial world, don't allow tedious emails slow you down; use email templates instead and supercharge your communication!
Entrepreneurial life is no cakewalk, so templates can help ease the strain by providing an outline. Templates serve as guides rather than gospel. Use them as springboards to develop content that represents your brand and vision - not simply copy and paste from someone else. Remember the key here is working smarter not harder! Anything that streamlines your efforts and frees up your time can make a big difference in the workflows of your business.
Delegation can be a royal PITA. As a solo or micro business owner, it's not always as easy as passing a task to someone else in order to get it off your plate. If you're a Fusion Creative, it's very often true that you can do it yourself faster.
But faster, in this case, isn't always better. If you don't slow down once in a while to train someone else to do those tasks, you end up holding the bag on EVERYTHING.
Um... no thanks! We're all about Creative FREEDOM over here!
Not every single task can be delegated. Some work is strategic or critical to your business and may require your personal attention. Evaluate both the performance of the work and then the implications that come with delegating it. I generally encourage folks to start with the tasks that, if they fell through the cracks, wouldn't destroy the momentum of the business. I start most of my VAs with tasks that aren't time sensitive. That way, if I need to pick up the slack or find someone else to do that work, I've got plenty of time. If they prove capable on those tasks, we move on to more "mission critical" activities.
Generally, if a task is recurring or duplicatable, that's a good place to start: scheduling media, data entry, etc. If you can create a 'how to recipe' of the steps involved in doing a task, it's something you can probably delegate relatively quickly. If you work in construction, a BuildOps glossary can be useful. A process doc is a great place to start keeping track of the steps involved in completing the tasks inside your business. Once you've done the task from the process doc a few times to work out any missing steps or bugs, then you can pass that task on to almost anyone to accomplish because all they have to do is follow the "recipe" to get the end result.
There's a difference between delegating a task and delegating an outcome. You need to learn how to let go and trust your team member to get the desired end result - even if they find a better approach than YOUR process doc to get it done! If you don’t, then you may find that it harder to delegate in the long term. Delegating tasks means you still need to follow up and check their work. Delegating the outcome means they're responsible for flying the plane and it's up to them to make sure it's done right - without you checking and approving everything.
That can be very uncomfortable when you're dealing with time-sensitive tasks... which is why I start my team with tasks that don't create that kind of pressure from the onset. It takes time for your team to learn your approach, just like it takes time for you to learn how to effectively delegate. In the same vein, some team members may take time to get work done, and you might even be able to do it faster. That doesn’t mean you should take care of it yourself though (not at first, anyway), it just means that you need to take steps to give your team more training going forward. If they can't pick it up in a reasonable manner, then it might not be something you can delegate just yet.
Understanding your priorities and the difficulty of your tasks will make things easier. If something is a high priority then this means that it has to get done soon, whether it is by you or by someone else. Depending on the work, you can then decide to take care of it yourself or to delegate. The best way for you to try and clarify your priorities would be for you to connect your work to your team goals, and your company goals. It will then become easier for you to make decisions moving forward.
Efficient delegation has two elements, which involve delegating work to teams who have skills in that particular area and giving people the chance to work on new skills. Make sure you understand what your team's goals are. Host some 1:1 meetings to get a better feel for what your team is up to, their personal dreams and goals. When jobs align to those goals, team members are often more committed to doing the work - because there's a bigger benefit to them than just compensation.
When you hand off work to other people, you have to make sure that you are providing clear context. You have to set the other person up for success. This includes helping them to understand how to get the work done and also the due date for the task. You should give them the tools they need to get the job done and the priority of each segment. By doing this, and by explaining the outcome you want, you will soon find that it becomes easier to get things done. Keep in mind that the work may be easy for you to do, but it might not be easy for someone else. Try and take the time to walk everyone through the assignment and then answer any questions that they may have. This will ensure that everyone on the team is set up for success.
Invest in Training
There may be work that nobody in your team can do but you. Some managers think that they cannot delegate work at all, but depending on the priorities you have, it may be better to train other people to do it. You have to remember that training takes time, and although it is tempting to do it yourself, it is a good way to protect the future of your business. Part of training someone else how to do the work will give them the space they need to solve problems.
When you are training someone, you have to prioritize feedback and you also need to ensure solid communication. If you don’t then you may find that you end up struggling more than you have to and this is the last thing you need. Ask for feedback too. By asking your team if there was anything that you could have done better, you can then go ahead and delegate more efficiently in the future. As you coach people through work, make sure you aren’t spending too much time on it. Instead, focus on the end goal and then give your team members the chance to come up with their process. You never know, this may help you to be more innovative going forward and it might also help you to become a better business owner overall. If you can keep things like this in mind then you will soon find that it is easier for you to move forward with a much more positive and productive attitude.
Delegation can be easier than you expect if you take it slow. Sometimes you get lucky and someone can just take everything off your plate like you've cloned yourself. More often, though, it's a slow, steady process to bring the right people onto your team and help them get up to speed. You can do this. Just commit to one task at a time, then outcomes, and eventually, you'll be able to step away from the tasks entirely!
If you've been following along at all, you'll probably know that he was admitted to the hospital while we were celebrating our anniversary in Nashville in July. Since then, it's been a series of surgeries and hospitalizations to sort the problem, attempt to let it heal on its own, and then finally to fix the problem.
We got some great news this week: my husband is now free from all the tubes and wires of the past 6 months. Talk about a Merry Christmas!
I've been half joking about including a major surgery for one of us each year in our annual plan. His was this year. I had back surgery in 2022, and a robotic surgery on my ureter in 2021.
We are SO ready to be done with surgeries!!
If I've learned anything from all this it's that you have to make sure that you look after yourself first. It’s so easy to ignore certain aspects of your health in order to prioritize your ambitions, but it will come back to bite you in the butt later! I can't tell you the number of Internet Marketing folks I've known who called it quits because it was negatively impacting their health. It's one of the reasons I believe in building a business that works for how you're wired to work - so that you don't have to quit doing something you love.
You can be a smart person and still struggle mentally and physically. But let's look at a few (maybe obvious) reminders to bring your health into focus as part of your success path.
Physical vitality isn't about a number on a scale. It's about having a body that works optimally for who you are. When you have hardly any energy and you aren’t physically up to it, it's easy to feel sorry for yourself and doubt yourself. Sometimes, it can be hard to find the motivation to improve your physical and mental self. Be gentle, but firm. If it's something you really want, keep angling for the way that works for you. Give yourself rest. Surround yourself with the right people to help raise your spirits - or just BE with you when you're not feeling like doing a damn thing.
There's a saying I grew up with: "god doesn't give you more than you can handle... I just wish he didn't trust me so much". It reflects that idea that doing hard things builds character.
When you do things for yourself (yes, you can do hard things), you build mental resilience along the way. But it can also be traumatising to HAVE to be resilient all the time. That's why rest and relationships also are part of your well-being. I like to tell my clients that "resting IS doing something."
I've spent years working with, watching, and learning from people: clients, mentors, coaches. It's taught me a lot about how people move and think and act. I like to think my emotional intelligence is almost as high as my social awkardness!
Social skills did not come easy for me - pretty typical for most neurodivergent folks. Beyond the "please and thank you" niceties my grandmother drilled into me, some of the common "don't say anything if you can't say something nice" advice flew in the face of me wanting to help folks... because I couldn't think of a nice way to tell them they were being a jerk.
Thankfully, I've matured and have a better grasp on how to say things with love. I can still drop an F-Bomb and ruffle feathers with the best of them, but learning how to navigate social situations and read social cues has helped me have deeper, better relationships with people that matter most to me.
Health At A Holistic Level
Your total well-being contributes to your over all experience of success. Whether it’s a case of using the a Light-Cured Desensitizer on your teeth, building awkward friendships that become stronger over time, taking a walk in the fresh air, or speaking with a therapist when necessary, you’ll have a stronger experience of success when you're paying attention to all the moving parts and pieces of your wellness.
I've said before that "success is a destination and you're already there!" So if you don't like the success you see around you right now, it means doing something different... and being intentional about your total wellness is a great place to start.
When I was doing vendor shows back in my direct sales days, it was hard to be seen. You're in a gymnasium, a hockey arena, or show all the size of Texas, with pipe and drape all over the place. Every booth looks pretty much the same from one end of the arena to the other. The only way people are going to find you is if your booth is memorable.
How can you make your business stand out from the crowd? One simple way is to use better signage. Whether you're doing a vendor faire or setting up a more permanent location, signage matters. In just a few seconds, the right signage will engage with your potential customers, help them better understand your brand, and let your business be seen in a better light.
Your business' signage can affect your brand. Your signage is your customers' first interaction with your business! Whether that "sign" is your logo on your website, or the shingle hanging outside your brick and mortar shop, when your signage is poorly designed, you can send the wrong message to your customers, making them turn away from your business!
As a business owner, you need more than just an orange and black "for sale" sign that you bought at your local hardware store, or a hand-written neon green posterboard (I've used both, so I don't judge!). Signage conveys who you are as a brand. It makes a lasting impression on anyone who sees it!
Customers appreciate consistency. They want to receive the same quality products or services every time. And you might've not realized it, but your signage can be a way to promote your consistency.
Think about McDonald's. Their iconic logo is always red and yellow. If you suddenly saw it in lime green and hot pink, you'd probably wonder what the heck was going on. Is this REALLY Mickey D's or am I in some counterfeit location?
A brand bible or a style guide can help you keep things uniform. Use the same format for all your marketing materials, from the font to the color and messaging. This way, your customers will know it's your brand the moment they see it. And you'll end up with increased loyalty and trust over time!
Your signage doesn't stop at your storefront. It also guides your customers when they're inside your store!
When you have well-placed interior signage, your customers know where to look, and where to go for what they need. Plus, they can also discover your promos and offers, which helps boost sales and customer satisfaction!
A friend and I went to dinner last week - or we tried to. Her co-workers told her about this yummy hot pot place we needed to try. We drove downtown and circled the block three times before we saw the shop. The signage was up higher than we expected and it wasn't illuminated. It's dark at dinner time in Indiana's winter months. We simply couldn't see what was right in front of our faces.
When it comes to signage, the location matters. You want your restroom sign to direct people to the restroom, not the kitchen - and you want it in a conspicuous location so that people can actually SEE the sign - instead of asking you over and over again where the restroom is.
So, make sure that your signage isn't only eye-catching, but it's also placed in an easy-to-spot location. This way, you can draw attention from people and increase foot traffic for your business (and fewer unnecessary requests from your customers)!
You can't deny that marketing will cost your business money, no matter which marketing channel you use.
However, did you know that signage can be your easy and cheap way to market your brand? Properly maintained, you can use signage for many years! It can attract customers, from young to new people, and expand your customer base for years to come.
If you're going for electrical outdoor signage, it's crucial that you find the right partner. There are sign professionals all over the world that can bring almost any sign you can imagine to life! In Arizona, you might head over to https://rayteklighting.com/ and consult with their team of experts.
Marketing your brand towards success can be a challenging task. After all, competitors keep popping up everywhere, grabbing the attention of your customers. However, using signage can make a positive impact on your business in the long-run.
Becoming self employed: the best decision for your career? It’s time to find out! Working for yourself is the dream for many. Set your own hours, decide your own salary, work where you want - the possibilities for more "freedom" in your life and work are pretty intoxicating to think about.
Owning your own business puts control into your hands, but it’s not all rainbows and unicorns. There are downsides to a self-employed future that you need to acknowledge: the ups and downs of income, rejection from potential clients, and watching the business go do someone else who's clearly not as good as you (it happens. BELIEVE ME!). Even when you’d love to do nothing more than quit your current job and register your own business, it’s worth it to apply the brakes and ask yourself some hard questions first.
A successful business needs to be profitable and sustainable. Said differently, it needs to make more money than it spends, and it needs to be something you can continue to do for a while. It needs to sustain itself without asking you to spend every moment of every day for the rest of your life working on it (even if that sounds like fun, it's not healthy!).
You need to be sure you’ve got a future in this work - and that it will sustain you in the lifestyle you want to live. Before you make the leap, consider this:
That sounds bad, right? And it can be, if something goes wrong. However, if you’re the only one liable, you’re the only one who needs to make a decision. Nothing and no one else comes into it, and your only consideration is what will be best for your career next.
For someone who’s tired of the daily grind, that’s probably the most attractive thing about working for yourself. It’s up to you, and even if you make a mistake, you’re still the only one who needs to weigh in. This actionable attitude is very healthy for your career.
Anyone who gets paid for doing a job makes their own money. But when you’re working for yourself, you get to decide your own salary. You price what you’re worth, you can charge for both service and time, and then you pay your own taxes on what you make.
This is a great level of control to have over your income. The reality, though is that it might take a while for the numbers to get to a point where you can live off of your business revenue entirely. And clients can say "no" to your rates... we saw a lot of that happening in the online world this year - did you see how many "Black Friday" offers there were priced under $100??? SO many!
So yes, you can name your wage, and you still have to do the work of attracting clients willing to pay it - and enough of them to keep you from going bankrupt.
Having the ability to choose which way to go, in your own time, is the greatest sense of freedom -and also a big responsibility.
If you're like many Fusion Creatives, it may feel like a ‘non-linear’ approach to your career, as Jonathan Martin, NFL, would say. He came out of the NFL and moved into the financial sector! Every choice moves you in a direction - either toward more of what you want or less. You can make as many decisions as you like to choose your own path, and there’s no ‘traditional’ career frame for you to have to follow.
On one hand, that's exciting - the world is your oyster! On the other, decision fatigue is real. You'll learn pretty quickly how exhausting it can be to be the one making all the decisions. But, you’re the one in charge and that means you've got to get good at making decisions (or hire someone that is!).
The more resources you have, the easier it is to stay in business. And PEOPLE (friends, networks, colleagues) are the best resource to have early in your business when money's tight and even BETTER when you're experiencing solid growth.
This might sound intimidating at first, but the more you network, the more confidence you’ll gain. You won’t have a problem with introducing yourself, or selling yourself in the space of 30 seconds, and it becomes easier to talk in public. You may never give a TEDx talk, but you'll be much more comfortable in front of an audience of your peers. This level of confidence is great for any job, but when the focus is on you, your business can reap the benefits.
Believe in yourself and your business idea. You need more passion and excitement for it than anyone else you know. Disney built his empire on a swamp because he believed so deeply in it coming to pass - even when others thought he was out of his gourd. If you don’t believe in you, why should anyone else?
Entrepreneurship is a challenge, and while it’s often a worthwhile one, you wouldn’t want to walk into it without doings some research and being aware of what it really takes to be successful. Job hunting may be challenging, but it's a heck of a lot easier than staring down the barrel of having to make payroll for multiple employees every couple of weeks. KNOW what you're getting yourself into - at least as well as you possibly can. Arm yourself with information, get help when you need it, and be willing to take the risks to be successful. That includes the biggest, riskiest endeavor of all: believing in yourself. If you've got the courage to do that, then entrepreneurship just might be good for you!
Accidental entrepreneurship is more common than you might believe. So often, the creative entrepreneurs I talk with started their business out of a desire to move away from something else, and only after they'd seen some success "selling their stuff"... whether it was profitable or not.
Whether you want to create a clothing brand, become the next music sensation, or open a therapy school, in order to have a profitable, sustainable business doing what you love, you need to know how to build the business - in ways that work for how you're uniquely wired to work, as well as ways that work for your best customers. Most of the time those things are pretty similar, but not always identical.
Using this guide, you can understand the best ways to make your own business a hit.
So many creative entrepreneurs start businesses with little business knowledge, then they wonder why they are experiencing all kinds of issues. Trying to go it alone is a one-way ticket to stress, frustration, and a lot of trial and error.
One of the places I see most creatives trip up is worrying about the type of business to form. LLC? S-Corp? C-Corp? Sole proprietor? Non Profit?
While on some levels, this isn't nearly as important as, say, figuring out who your best buying audience is, it's still not something you want to try to do on your own. Even setting up a sole proprietorship, while easy, comes with risks that you should understand before committing to that type of business.
And if you want to start a non-profit here in the U.S., knowing how to start a 501(c)(3) is key if you want to avoid obstacles. Without the right support, you'll likely have a bundle of problems come tax time.
Don't be afraid to get piecemeal help if your budget doesn't allow you to keep professionals on retainer. Have an attorney review a contract, or hire an accountant or tax pro for an hour to explain the differences in start-up types. Arm yourself with enough clarity to help you make more confident business decisions.
To grow your business, new may be better, but WILD can be the best way to go. Out of the box approaches and innovators in the market face some uphill struggles in the beginning - Walt Disney built his playground in a swamp, for pity's sake! But once the idea takes hold, you'll be miles ahead of what any competitor could do to play catch up.
Being an entrepreneur requires a willingness to take risks anyway, so why not go after what you REALLY want to be doing? Your quirky thought could turn into something big and wonderful. You might manage to build an incredible business from a "silly", yet effective, idea! Be that brave person and start doing what feels right. Honor what you feel called to do with this one precious life of yours!
Some folks can create massive empires from a humble kitchen table start. But wherever you start, it needs to be a place that empowers you. Having a comfortable and functional workspace will help you stay focused. Filling that space with inspiration, motivation, and encouragement will keep you going even when things get hard - and they WILL get hard! That's business!
Your environment at home, at work, and even the folks you associate with all matter. Jim Rohn once said you're the average of the 5 people you hang around most. I don't entirely agree with that notion, but I do believe that you're a product of whatever nourishes you. If you're feeding your mind, body, and spirit things that empower, energize, and lift you up, you'll be farther ahead than folks who are stuck in demotivating and uninspiring situations.
If it's not feeding you, it's not helping you. Nourish your mind and spirit as much as you can. Create a "sanctuary" for your work, and do everything in your power to keep that space sacred to sustain you.
Bootstrapping isn't a badge of honor. Trust me, I've lived that lifestyle and it's stressful. Being "self made" is a myth anyway. Yes, watch your pennies, and be mindful of what's coming in and going out. Debt is a tool that's more like a scalpel than a hammer: it can cut you if you're not careful or knowledgeable in its use.
Oprah once told Queen Latifah to "always sign the checks" - meaning, if you're putting your name on the checks, you'll always know where the money is going, and be able to spot things that are amiss before they become a problem. But minding your pennies is only half the equation.
Sometimes wonderful, miraculous things DO happen - and we need to be open and willing to receive them. Yeah. I know that sounds a bit woo-woo for my tastes, too, but it's true. You just never know when that next client will pop in, or a new offer will arrive - out of the blue - to provide the financial blessing you've been looking for. Like that first point - sometimes just getting the right help at the right moment can be a godsend!
It may seem obvious, but Fusion Creatives are notorious for trying to do everything themselves and save the world in the process. Asking for help is our growing edge. Chaotic Creatives are good at the "trust the process" part, but often struggle with the "sign the checks" part. And Linear Creatives have the opposite strength.
Everyone can use a little help from time to time. Be willing to ask for and receive it. Create an environment that allows you to thrive as a creative entrepreneur and put your wild ideas to the test. Then, keep your eyes on the finances, and trust the process. You're doing the hard work, you're sharing your brilliance with your right audience. It's only a matter of time before success is yours!
The digital world continues to expand - particularly for business. The proliferation of new AI tools and other tech-related wizardry means a lot of new opportunities even as old-school methods start to fade.
I'm not going to debate the pros and cons of AI in the creative world here. Instead, I'm going to be the harbinger of doom in another way: cybersecurity. I know, it's not a sexy topic. It's pretty much soething no one wants to talk about - until something happens.
Research reveals that the US has already lost a whopping $10 billion to cybercrime. Although some breaches seem inevitable (if someone REALLY wants in, they'll probably find a way), you can actually protect yourself proactively with just a few smart moves - most of which aren't terribly expensive. Here are a few recommendations:
It seems like a small thing, but most attacks and hacks can be prevented if you keep your antivirus software up to date. I've used MalwareBytes for over a decade now because it catches things before they become a threat.
It’s more than just a security measure. Think of it as an essential step that keeps you poised to repel any cyber attackers attempting to breach your "digital fortress". With antivirus software, you’re not just safeguarding your business, but giving it the strength and resilience to navigate the vast digital landscape with confidence.
When our website went down in 2022, I was grateful that my host kept backups. But when our site ended up with malware that corrupted the backups, I was screwed. I hadn't kept a clean copy of the site for myself. I ended up going through tons of old content on the Internet Archive and re-posting content that had been corrupted. That's when I upgraded to monitored hosting so that I wouldn't need to worry about backups ever again.
Safeguarding your company’s data is a must to fend off the potential havoc of a cyberattack. Creating an uncorrupted backup (and updating it regularly) is your ace in the hole, shielding against the nightmare of stolen, lost, or corrupted data. Whether you're backing up to an external drive or the cloud (or both!), the golden rule for a fail-safe backup is to store those copies in a different place. This way, you’re not putting all your eggs in one digital basket. Establishing a robust backup plan is a smart move to ensure your data stays safe and your operations keep running uninterrupted.
As your business grows, it’s crucial to bring in professionals. Online threats are ever-evolving, and tackling them requires a specialized skill set and constant vigilance. Professional cybersecurity experts not only understand the latest trends in cyber threats but also possess the expertise to implement robust defense strategies. Hiring the right IT support is important, yet it can be pricy to just hire an on-call IT guy for your tech support needs. Outsourcing to Managed IT services like CMIT Solutions is a cost-effective way to fortify your digital defenses. With managed IT, someone else is monitoring the threats so that you don't have to!
When I bought my first domain name, I actually bought two. I was known back then as "Lisa M. Robbin" - long before my first marriage, I had a place in cyberspace. But it was common for folks to mis-spell my last name. So, I picked up lisamrobbin.com as well as lisamrobin.com
This step is arguably one of the smartest, cheapest ways to protect your business online. When someone else owns domains that are similar to your business, they can do ANYTHING they want with it - including drive traffic to a site that makes people THINK it's yours! Securing your digital turf by grabbing similar web domains is a savvy move to lower the risk of your customers, suppliers, or team falling for tricky links or emails from spoofed addresses. For a small business, purchasing similar domains can be a terrific investment in keeping your online space safe and sound. Plus, you know, people mis-spell things all the time. Make it easy for them to find YOU!
As your business grows, you can’t afford to overlook your cybersecurity. It’s crucial to safeguarding your data and preventing breaches. Applying these tips can help improve your cybersecurity, giving you the peace of mind to attend to other aspects of your business.
Live events can be challenging to launch, but they offer a ton of benefits. I've been hosting in-person events for years now. There's nothing more powerful to bring your audience together. It can also help you reach new people. And it’s almost always a proud moment for you to showcase what you’ve been working on with the people who need it most.
Whether you're launching a pop-up store, selling your new line of fashion accessories, or a meet and greet with your fans, or simply running a booth at a local trade show to put yourself out there and network with your local commercial sector, events can be very lucrative... when they're done well.
Done poorly? They can COST you big time - in more than just financial ways!
Here are a few things to consider before hosting your first big event:
It may sound obvious, but defining the full purpose of your event is the first step to success. Now, we’re not assuming you’d just run an event without even knowing why, but it’s very easy for a first milestone event to be so exciting that you try to spin every single plate and end up with too much on each one.
For this reason, being clear about a few basic objectives will be helpful. Perhaps you’re inviting some fashion bloggers and can admit members of the public to a small fashion show including a designer launch of your new product. There, you can plan a good three-hour event with an hour-long show, a meet and greet, and perhaps a book signing or question and answer session.
This way, you’ve planned your event to be as neat and streamlined as possible, packed with content, and will impose on your audience’s time as little as possible. That really does make a difference.
It’s important to budget and financially plan your event well. Look to the necessary expenses first, such as venue hire, security, bringing along a few staff in extra hours which may count as overtime, if you’ll have any catering or drinks on hand (and of course, the permits necessary to give this out, in some cases you’ll have to hire an event refreshments service), not to mention the logistics for bringing your products to the event space.
Certain niceties may be worthwhile to have but can be optional. For example, a professional photographer to cover the event can be great, as can a videographer who will help you learn more about your robust coverage options, even using drones for wider establishing shots you can use on your website.
Be diligent and strict with your financial planning, negotiate agreements, and have an extraneous budget you can use in the case of emergencies. Finally, insure the event to make certain you can pay for damages in the event of an emergency or unexpected outcome. It will protect your firm diligently.
An event planning timeline allows you to put the pieces together in order, correctly, and with plenty of time to spare. So for example, it’s hard to make other plans when you don’t know the dimensions of the venue you hope to hire, so that should be first on the agenda.
When you find it, you know the space you have to work with, the seating capacity for tickets or walk-ins, and how much security you might need to hire. You can also then plan how individuals will walk around your event space, and how much time, on average, they’ll spend at each display or attraction.
Giving yourself a period of months to put your event together will ensure you can book all the services you need, and potential backups, much earlier than you may have anticipated.
Marketing the event should take place well in advance. With the right preparation and notice to work with, you’ll be able to hype up the event, get smaller influencers or businesses in your local area on board, or simply put together visual materials to showcase what to expect.
That might involve showing sneak previews on your social media feed of the product you’ll be launching. An event page on your website can consolidate all of this marketing into an easy information resource, so those who become interested will see the explicit information and may be able to book a place or arrange their accommodation and parking in advance if traveling to see it.
You can also include your attendees in future marketing, as taking photographs of the speakers and guests and then having release forms signed from those in the image can make a massive and positive difference going forward.
Of course, it’s always pleasant to have speakers, presenters or those you believe could contribute to your event in a meaningful way. That might even involve hiring specific actors or demonstrators to show your product to the audience, or to split up your event into several rooms where attendees can walk through and see different exhibits.
You could even invite specialists in your industry to speak, or perhaps host a few talks based on your experience in the industry and the passion behind your brand. You may need to pay for guest speakers of course, but it’s a great method of connecting with experts in your field and local movers and shakers - also counting yourself among them. As such, it can be a great investment and also a fantastic justification for unveiling more content on your YouTube channel. As such, never have any shame in putting yourself out there like this, the worst your chosen speakers could say is no.
With this advice, you’re sure to implement effective methods of running your first business or influencer event. No matter what event you run, you’ll have perfected the foundations, and as you continue to do this, more wisdom and insight will grow.
No business is an island. Yes, this may be your big idea, and the thing that you’ve put your time, energy, and life savings into, but failing to build a strong team of support could stop you from getting where you want to go. After a business has seen a few healthy years, invariably balls start getting dropped. My friend and former client, Les McKeown calls this "Whitewater". Much like the real rapids of rafting, a business in Whitewater has gotten more complex and it's difficult to navigate on your own.
Who are you going to let onto your business 'boat'? Before (or just as) you’re experiencing those inevitable highs and lows, you're going to need the right people on board. People who will take your business from strength to strength, and who you will hopefully enjoy the journey with most. And it's not just your internal team. Take a look:
You need the team that’s best for your business, not the people who you would have a great time with on a Friday night. Whether you're using temporary, contract help or employing a full-time staff, your crew needs to not only understand your vision, but also be aligned with what you want your company to be doing in the world.
A like-minded team of passionate individuals who share your vision and can help you create the right company culture to get things done. Experience and skill sets count, but think too about how impassioned your interviewees seem, and how well they convey their vision for helping you move into the future. These folks need to augment your existing support team - or you need to NOT employ them.
You may be very adept at your craft, but, if you're like most creative entrepreneurs on the more Chaotic end of the spectrum, you're probably not nearly as experienced in the business side of things. And vice versa: Linears tend to struggle with the experiential side of business building.
To overcome that knowledge gap, you may need to enlist trusted experts from time to time. If you're not great with tech, you may need to hire a professional to get your network up and running. If you're looking to attract investors, you might want to talk with a private equity consultant like those at IT Ally. Experienced experts cut the learning curve and help ensure that you're maximizing your results from the beginning.
While it's true that you have competitors, not everyone is out to get you. In my experience, a focus on collaboration over competition with your industry colleagues can actually be a big benefit. Industry connections provide you with inspiration, potential clients, and collaborators. Whether you achieve this thanks to knowledge from your expert helpers, or get into networking and events, a supportive community within your industry helps you learn best practices, learn from others in your field, and develop stronger bonds with folks who understand the journey you're on.
Choosing the right support team for your company takes time and patience. But you'll be more likely to survive even the extreme challenges of those first years of whitewater when you do.