Lisa Robbin Young

Credit: Pexels

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.

Get help during start up

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.

Wild ideas are often the best ideas

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!

Create an Environment of Empowerment

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.

Always sign the checks... and trust the process

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!

For years, I've held connection calls where I hop on zoom for 20-30 minutes to get to know a new networking connection. Invariably, a business question pops up and most of the time I can spot a solution to their issue before the end of the call.

In many of these cases, I was able to help them see a way to open up a new income stream, refine a system or process, or just make their business easier in a matter of minutes. Not long ago, I was talking with a guy and by the end of the call we'd mapped out a new approach to one of his existing offers.

That new approach landed him a $15,000 deal later that same day.

I know that might sound a bit unbelievable, but I have receipts. This was both a blessing and a curse for me. A blessing, because I've been able to help hundreds of people over the years. A curse because, for years, I didn't really know how I was doing it.

So, I finally sat down and spent time examining how my brain works... the questions I was asking in order to get those kinds of results for total strangers.

That's how the Creative Freedom Business Model Equation was born! Once I had it worked out, I tested it with a few of my clients before rolling it out in last year's CashFlow Creator Workshop.

I'm excited to announce that we've re-opened the doors to this popular workshop and I'll be hosting it again this month!

The Cashflow Creator Workshop is designed for entrepreneurs and business owners who want to create a business that reflects their personality, voice, and style and connects with more of their ideal clients and customers with greater ease. More money, more time to enjoy it. A business that works for how you're wired to work.

Whether you're just starting out or looking to rebrand and redesign your business, this workshop will provide you with the guidance and support you need to succeed. By the end of the workshop series, you'll have a personalized roadmap for building or refining your business, based on your unique lifestyle and goals.

What can you expect from the workshop series?

This 5-day workshop series, running from April 17-21, will provide you with the tools and guidance you need to design a business model that works for how you're wired to work. Each day, we'll focus on one part of the Creative Freedom Business Model Equation. By the end of the workshop, you'll have a comprehensive understanding of what is and isn't working in your business and how to fix it.

You

Day one of the workshop will focus on the first part of the Equation: You. We'll dive deep into what really matters for you, including your values, personal context, and the mission/vision for your business. We'll look at how those things play together and what your non-negotiables are to actually feel successful. At the end of the day, you'll be able to communicate clearly the strengths that you bring to the table through your company, and what's most important for you - both personally and professionally - so that you can have a business that supports you to have more of what you want and less of what you don't!

Why

On Day 2, we'll dive deep into the "why" of your business. Not YOUR personal "why" - although that's important, too. Instead, we'll explore why you're in this line of work, what motivates and inspires you, and what makes you uniquely qualified to do what you do. We'll also examine the core purpose of your business, the change you want to see in the world, and the impact you want to have on your customers or clients. By the end of the day, you'll have a clear understanding of the driving force behind your business, which will help you create a brand message that resonates with your ideal audience and sets you apart from the competition.

Who

On Day 3, we'll dive into the "who" of your business model equation. We'll take a deep dive into your ideal clients from a different angle - those who already resonate with your "you" and "why" elements. Instead of trying to conjure up some niche market out of thin air, we want to connect more deeply with people who already resonate with who you are and why you do what you do. We'll explore who your ideal customers are, where they hang out, what they want and need, and how your business can best serve them. By the end of the day, you'll have a clear picture of who your business is for, and how to speak directly to their needs and desires.

What

On day four, we'll dive into the "what" element of your business model. We'll explore the transformation your offer provides for your clients or customers and identify any gaps or areas for improvement in your current offers. This day is all about fine-tuning your offers so they are aligned with your unique value proposition and the needs of your ideal clients or customers.

How

Day five will be dedicated to the "how" of your business model. You can deliver the same "what" in different ways - different "how's". A book, a course, and a video, for example are different ways to delivery the same "what". We'll examine the delivery and pricing of your offers, as well as your marketing strategy. By the end of this day, you'll have a solid understanding of how to package and promote your offers in a way that resonates with your ideal clients or customers, and generates the cash flow you need to sustain and grow your business.

What others have said

This is one of my favorite testimonials from our workshop last year:

photo of Teresa Romain

"This workshop is POWERFUL! And Lisa Robbin Young is a MASTER at the concepts and practices she teaches - not to mention a great coach. I got a level of clarity of purpose and strategy for going forward that had been missing for me. And it's a strategy that EXCITES me and had me saying 'YES! That's ME! I can do that!' Thanks Lisa!"

Teresa Romain - Founder of Access Abundance

Other attendees said they also experienced:

  • A better understanding of their unique strengths, skills, and values, and how to leverage them to create a profitable and sustainable business.
  • Increased confidence and motivation to take action and make positive changes in their business.
  • Clarity on their ideal client and how to best serve them with their offers and pricing.
  • A new direction for their business that feels fresh and meaningful
  • New offer ideas to roll out and make (a LOT) more money with greater ease

So if you're serious about having a business that works for how you're wider to work, get your buns over to my info page and register for the CashFlow Creator Workshop series and take the first step towards a fulfilling and sustainable business.

I'm capping registration at 20 people. If financial accessibility is an issue for you, please reach out. Partial scholarships or grants may be available.

I've said before that I'm an Internet Marketing dinosaur. With over 25 years in the online world, I know the value that digital marketing can bring to any business. I had a website for years before blogs were a thing. After a little while on Myspace (remember that?), I decided to dip my toe into blogging. And am I ever-so-glad I did! My first foray into blogging (on blogspot, no less!) expanded my audience and my income. It helped me build the Noble Empire that would eventually become Direct Sales 101 and later the entire Creative Freedom brand.

There are different ways to achieve the level of success that you hope for. If you've got the cash, investing in PR, media, and publicity is a fast track to wide recognition. But digital marketing, including blogging, SEO, and sharing quality content and affiliate advertising usually cost less and have a longer-lasting and farther reaching impact for your business. My appearance on Disney+ last year saw a short-lived spike in my website traffic and book sales. A few people are just now discovering the show and reaching out on social media, but for the most part, the hubbub is over. But all the other marketing I do (including my show and my blog

Getting your business link shared on someone else’s blog is a positive way to go, but there is the additional possibility of running a blog around your business, which may attract enough interest to be a very useful part of your marketing. However, it is important to bear in mind that “a blog” in and of itself won’t make that much of an impact. It needs to be a blog that people are prepared to read - and that’s a trickier process.

Post consistently

"Consistently" doesn't always mean "frequently". I mean, if you can manage to crank out content like Gary Vee, then have at it. But most folks I know can't do that and keep their sanity.

So what makes sense for where you're at in your business. I know a six-figure independent author who writes a new blog post once a month. Then, he spends the entire month promoting that one blog post. WordPress makes it easy to schedule posts for a later date so that there are updates even when you’re otherwise occupied. Many times I'll film two or three episodes of the show at one time, but they're scheduled to only go out on a weekly basis during the show season.

Focus on your expertise

You have a level of expertise that other people don’t, and you can gain regular satisfied blog readers by focusing on your expertise. Create how-to content, or demonstrate your art. People want to know how things work or go behind the scenes in your creative work. Humans have this vicarious nature where we want to see how other people operate. That's the entire basis of the reality show genre!

You may consider hiring a digital marketing company or other team members to help strengthen your blog, but remember that it's your expertise and talent that people are coming for. This season, I hired a copywriter to help develop a longer season for the show. It's still me in front of the camera and writing the content, but Jackie's brilliance in researching topic ideas and developing show outlines has saved me countless hours and helped me focus in on the parts I do best!

Keep it short and shareable

"Short" and "sharable" are relative terms. Content only needs to be as long as it needs to be in order to get the point across and make your desired impact. You don’t have to write anything particularly long. 500 words is plenty, and it doesn’t even need to be that much. Seth Godin regularly cranks out blog posts that look like haiku.

Conversely, if you feel like even 2000 words wouldn’t cover the topic you want to write about, you can serialize it. Five posts covering an entire week (or month) can create a lot of buzz... if you have something to say.

Make it easy for folks to share your content. There are plenty of plugins that help your blog readers make sharing easy. But they won't share if your content isn't engaging. Give them reasons to WANT to share your EPIC content!

Running a business blog can fast become your best traffic generation tool and solid source of (almost) free advertising. Focus on your expertise, create engaging content, and post consistently for best results.

[Note:  for the past 9 years, I’ve posted an annual re-cap of the highs and lows, lessons learned, etc. You can find previous years here:  2010 | 2011 | 2012 | 2013 | 2014 | 2015 | 2016 | 2017 | 2018 ] 

It's my birthday - or will be by the time this post goes live. That means it's once again time for my year in review, for those among you interested in the inner workings of me, myself, and I. If you're new to this ride, you might want to check some of the previous years' posts to catch up. Otherwise, strap yourself in, because we're taking a ride in the way-back machine to this time last year.

Evaluating 2018

One of the phrases my clients are probably tired of hearing me say is "Plan. Do. Evaluate." It was something I learned from my kid when he lived in the wilderness camp for two years. They did it every day. I'm not so gung ho, so the beginning of a new year is a great time to look back, see what went well, where things went off the rails, and begin to formulate a new plan for this year.

My 2018 theme was Wealth and Health. My definition was "finding the appropriate balance for me between making a living and having a life; Working in a way that affords me the ability to enjoy my life, while experiencing wealth and happiness at a deeper, soul level, with a sense of peace and contentment I’ve never had before."

So that was the "plan" part. The "doing" didn't go as well as I'd imagined, but not nearly as bad as I'd feared. My 2017 theme was Collaboration, and I doubled down on that in 2018, bringing on a few new (and amazing) part-time team members to round out the organization. I got a LOT better at trusting Jeanie to do the work... maybe a little too well. There were times when I found myself with little to do - and no motivation to step things up.  I found myself going through a mild depression about half way through the year that lasted most of the third quarter. More on that as we look at how I fared in my 5 Key Area goals.

Faith

This year, I wanted to trust more deeply. Opening myself to a loving relationship wasn't really on my mind when I set my goals for the year, but nothing sets you up to trust more deeply like new love. I met and fell hard for a guy that checks boxes I didn't even know I had. That was one of the biggest surprise blessings of the year. It hasn't been easy to let go of old stories, patterns, and habits. 10+ years of marriage creates some deep ruts in the routine patterns of your brain. It also came with challenges that really forced me to examine my beliefs about life, God, and really, everything. The year-end result is exactly what I'd hoped for, even if it didn't happen the way I'd planned. I know myself more deeply. I trust my decisions more fully, and I feel infinitely more confident in my relationships because of it.

About mid-year, I got the intuitive guidance that I needed to pare down everything and get ready to move. So I did. I put nearly everything in storage, expecting that I'd go on the road once my youngest was back home with his dad. That didn't happen. At the very last minute, I found a new apartment on the opposite side of town and I've been there ever since. It worked out so effortlessly, that it felt like Divine timing.

Trust the process, right?

We had some clients complete the Incubator earlier than expected (all but one was a Chaotic creative, which is another story for another day). That also called me into a deeper relationship with my sense of Faith. It's easy to say "letting go of a client makes room for something even better". It's another thing to believe it and live by it. I expected this might happen as the Incubator grew - a function of needing to refine our screening process as our pool of applicants grew. Several clients were entering a business downturn when they came to us (normal in every business), and when cash flow slowed, it scared me a bit. I had to lean harder into my Faith, trust the process, and keep showing up to do the work in front of us.

Family

This year's goal was a continuation of last year. I needed to continue to rehabilitate and strengthen my relationship with myself. My ex remarried in a surprise wedding in China, which created a lot of unexpected emotional stuff for me. As an advocate for my child (who still lives with my former husband), there were a lot of unanswered questions about his new stepmother and stepbrother. As someone still friends with my ex, it was another emotional blow in the trust department.  The emotional tailspin found me unable to complete the Creative Freedom shooting season, and we ended with only 10 episodes - my shortest season to date.

I spent the rest of the summer hanging with my kid and my new sweetheart, digging into those relationships for some stability and comfort. Intellectually, I knew that I had no longer been attached to my ex husband for well over a year, but emotionally, the marriage started a grieving process I didn't even know I needed. So I took it easy all summer, until we were able to finally tell my son the big news. Initially, he seemed shocked, but took it well. As time has gone on, however, he's had some emotional "leaks" that indicate he's trying to wrap his 12 year-old brain around what's happening to his family.

I felt the final stitches of my family ties unravel this year. My last trip back to Michigan brought some joy, but a lot of pain, and it became clear that it's not my home anymore. It's where my kids live. It's where some of my best friends are. But it's not home.

2018 was a year of immense clarity for me in my relationship to myself. I've gotten much better at being my own advocate - before I need to learn a hard lesson about boundaries. 🙂

Fitness

On the one hand, this year was a joke in the physical fitness department. I didn't hit my goals and I found myself undoing all the progress I'd made in 2017. On the other, I learned a LOT about my body. A trip to the ER got me more focused and curious about how nutrition really affects me. I learned that iron is inversely related to blood pressure. So if my iron is higher, my blood pressure is lower. I didn't learn it from the ER doc who was treating me for a migraine, tho. I learned it from donating blood at Red Cross. This year I learned a LOT about what works for my body (and what doesn't) - mostly through trial and error. I learned that, while I'm grateful for medical doctors, they're overworked and focus on symptoms more often than causes. It's up to me to be in the know about my body and what it needs to be healthy. I've been lazy about that all my life. That changed this year.

My emotional funk also did a number on my mental well-being this year. Despite having a fantastic relationship with a guy that I see as a real blessing in my life, it wasn't all sunshine and rainbows. We each hard plenty of relationship fear and baggage that was triggering us, and it took patience to drop the baggage and hold each other instead. Suffice it to say that 2018 was an emotional roller coaster that gave me a lot to be grateful for after a LOT of emotional labor to be ready for those blessings.

Fortune

It was a banner year at Ark Entertainment Media. We did more than double our previous year's earnings, making it one of the highest-grossing years of my entrepreneurial career. We expanded the Incubator this year, which helped bolster revenue, but book and course sales were higher, with an average 33.73% of my revenue coming from leveraged offerings. My goal was 60%, so I fell short, but with the business downturn in Q3/4, I'm pleased with the final outcome, since we're on track to do even better in 2019.

One of the interesting things that I discovered was that Portable Coaching is a great feeder to my other offers. In fact, by the end of the year, most of the people who started Portable Coaching had graduated to A-Club or another program. Since I didn't market it heavily, the program didn't get many new enrollments. On the other hand, A-Club doubled in size this year, and our retention rate is still around 80% with an average member lifespan of about 20 months. Still one of the highest in the industry, as far as I know. And we just added private coaching as a "consistency incentive" to stick with the program, so I think we're going to do even better as we move forward.

I added coaching because I realized how much more progress people can make with even just a little help from me. Clarity matters, and a good coach can help you get that clarity quickly.

Freedom 

After the launch of my book, Creative Freedom, I saw a flurry of activity from radio stations, podcasters, and other media outlets that wanted to talk about the book and my process for helping creative entrepreneurs make good money doing what they love. My goal is at least one interview or guest post a month, and that's a goal I'm maintaining this year. We're entering year three of the Creative Freedom brand and season 5 of the show is just around the corner. Yes. I got out of my funk long enough to develop a content plan to re-launch the show very soon.

My 2019 Theme: Free to be me

I feel like I lived in a sense of Health and Wealth last year, but it certainly didn't look at all like I expected it to. I'm glad 2018 is over, and i'm already soaking up the rays of 2019. It's a beautiful day in Nashville today, and, for the first time in a long time, I have fun plans to be with someone I love on my birthday. That is no small thing for me. It's more meaningful than me winning the lottery without buying a ticket. More meaningful than bigger gestures. Just staying true to what I really want and seeing that become reality. I want more of that in my life, and this is a great start to my year.

My 2019 Theme Song: I Don't Want To Be

It's a #BraveNewYear for me, and as Gavin said, I don't want to be anything other than me. The writer. The Performer. The Singer. The teacher and coach. The friend, lover, and mother. Just me. And be well-compensated for it. This year, it's about a new album, a new publishing division (got a book inside you? Let's talk!), and new ways to reach even more creative entrepreneurs to help them own their dreams without selling their soul. There's more, and it'll come in time, but for now, that's the news that's fit to print. I'm off to enjoy my birthday!

Is Content REALLY King?

Back in 1996, Bill Gates wrote an essay for Microsoft insiders stating that Content was King – meaning that as the internet advances, it will be imperative to deliver timely, useful content in whatever form the platform demands. It was a statement so general that it easily became a meme for CEO's across the globe, and still lingers to this day as a key reminder that what you have to share better matter to the people consuming it.

If content is King, context is God. - Gary Vaynerchuk

Fast forward 30 years, and Gary Vaynerchuk offers this addendum: "Content is king, but context is God." He invites his audience to consider the medium and the platform as much as the content itself. Make sure that what you're saying and sharing makes sense in the context of how the audience is showing up. Don't start singing “Figaro” at the top of your lungs during a dramatic reading of Hamlet, for example.  Don't sell tickets to your event at someone else's grand opening.

And yet, that's exactly what so many marketing messages do today. They interrupt us. They try to “grab” our attention. There's nothing subtle about them – which makes us feel slimy, smarmy, and out of integrity if we feel like that's the only way people will buy from us.

"Hey! Buy  my stuff! It's on sale for hella cheap!"

"You'd be crazy not to buy this RIGHT NOW!"

"We interrupt your Facebook feed to bring you this useless advertisement..."

But there's a better way. One that keeps us in integrity with our values and still invites our audience to invest with us. One that still puts money in our pockets, pays our bills, and let's us be a force for good in the world. You can use  it on any social media platform, in your email, and any other place where you might find yourself using marketing messaging on a regular basis (during the merch pitch at your concert, perhaps?)

By paying attention to the context of your audience – and providing content that meets them where they are at – you can draw them in – lead them through an experience that makes them eager to say yes to your offers without feeling like they've been marketed to.

Your content calendar

There's a difference between an editorial/content calendar and a marketing calendar. Editorial calendars support your marketing efforts. So once you know what you're promoting at different times of the year (your marketing calendar), you can set themes and develop content that supports your promotional efforts. If you're not developing content, you probably don't need an editorial calendar.

That said, most of my readers ARE creating content – shows, videos, blog posts, sales presentations, classes, etc. And you're not just creating content for the sake of producing more stuff. I believe that you're hoping that content will ultimately lead to more sales of your stuff.

Not every piece of content needs to be for marketing purposes.

I recognize that there are times when content creation isn't about a set agenda – we post pictures on instagram about our recent trip because we're excited to share our adventure, not necessarily to sell our latest offering.  But when you are creating content for marketing purposes, it's important to remember the journey your customer takes in order to decide to buy from you.

How buyers decide to buy

Most collegiate business textbooks outline the stages of the consumer buying process. It looks something like this:

  • Needs reocgnition
  • Search for information
  • Evaluate solutions
  • Choosing and purchasing

This means that, you can use this process to generate your content.

For example, if you sell coaching, chances are good potential clients might not know they even need coaching. So trying to offer a coaching service to the uninitiated might not land well. You may have created an amazing offering, but if your audience doesn't recognize they have a need for coaching, they simply won't buy.

How to use content to attract buyers to your creative business

Educating the buyer around the problem has to come first. This is email-level and blog post-type content. This is awareness-building content. It's early stage content for your launch sequence. People have to know they need what you offer before they're going to buy, and your emails, newsletters, and social media posts can go a long way toward building awareness for your solution.

But you can't stop there.

Because even after they recognize they need coaching, why should they choose you? After all, there are plenty of options out there, right? So now, they're going to start investigating options – unless you've already laid the ground work for them that YOU are the only game in town. Quality content helps position you above other options.

Positioning yourself as the go-to choice is the early to mid-stage launch content, your opt-in content, and the opening of your sales and marketing materials. This is where you get to remind people that "yes, there may be lots of options out there, but this content I'm sharing with you now illustrates why I'm the best choice." And if they're still not convinced? That's where you take things deeper.

The more you personalize the content, the more they feel like you get them. Webinars, live streams, teleclasses or one-on-one sessions - any ways you can interact directly with your potential buyers are going to not only position you as the go-to person, it's going to elevate your stature with your client. They've invested time with you, so there's a greater likelihood that they'll choose you when it comes time to buy. There are no guarantees, however.

Because once they've narrowed their choices, they've got to be ready and able to buy. My husband has known for years that he wants a Cooper Mini, but he's not in a position to buy. He's done the research, he's evaluated his options, he's even made a choice, but he's not buying. He's not ready. He's not financially able or willing to make the commitment to buy yet.

You are NOT creating content for that guy. Sure, you want to make a compelling case for buying with you, but your content at this stage should assume the sale. Assume your clients want to buy from you. At this stage, you're mostly re-assuring them that buying with you is a great value. This is sales-page level content, or evaluative consultations, where you make the recommendation at the end of the consult to buy from you. This is your call-to-action content.

However, all call-to-action content is not created equally, and customers today are more knowledgeable than before. As a result, the typical call-to-action triggers fail to achieve the intended results. It's a narrow line between creating a sense of urgency and being aggressive. Fortunately, a few SEO marketing agencies can help you create the right content to get that guy's attention and make the sale.

That's four distinct tiers of content and if you're launching 3 or 4 offers in a given year, that's 12-16 pieces of quality content that you can craft that directly tie back to your offers, leaving plenty of room in your editorial calendar for lots of other content that isn't marketing a specific offer.

And what if you don't "solve a problem"?

Every "problem" has a core solution of making someone's situation even better. So if you're a musician or a painter, it's the same story. How does your work make their life even better? Why do they need what you're creating? Why should they consider your offer over the offers of other artists or musicians? Macklemore still hosts an annual appreciation pizza party for his fans. What are you doing to create a community around you and your Great Work? Your content calendar can help with that.

Go back to the 4-step framework:

  1. Establish the need - use your content to show them how what you're doing has helped or inspired your other fans. Show and tell them how their lives could be even better when they buy your painting (or download your song). You could do this with a short fan video or an instagram photo of a piece of art you're shipping off to a client.
  2. Show them options - let them know that you're aware they have choices  (maybe even share a few with them), and begin to explain how what you do is unlike anything else out there. They're going to do some of this on their own, but if you help, you become like Santa in Miracle on 34th Street, who helps people find what they need (even if they can't get it from his department store). A simple way to show options is to share what you're listening to on Spotify, or links to other artists you admire (and tell people why you like it!)
  3. Reaffirm your difference - keep showing your awesomeness and illustrating why your offer is still the best choice. This is you, sharing content from your shows, your portfolio, or your studio, and letting people see how you make magic happen. Do a livestream and connect individually with your fans. Give them a chance to connect more deeply with you.
  4. Ask them to buy - this is the place where most creatives fall short, failing to ask and just assuming people will choose them. Assuming people want to buy from you is one thing, but it's meaningless if you don't offer the call to action to buy from you. It's not just saying "HEY! Buy my stuff because it's awesome!" It's reminding your fans that tickets go on sale next week, in three days, tomorrow, TODAY! - and sharing your enthusiasm about what it means for them (as much as what it means for you). It's inviting them to tell their friends, or bring a friend, or make new friends! Remind them why they want to be part of your community and invite them to invest in you.

There's nothing slimy or icky about reaching out with an average of 1-2 marketing messages per month, especially when they don't feel like marketing messages! And while you may condense your timeline to 1-2 messages per week during a marketing launch, you're still not making your audience feel icky because the content you're creating is actually helping them make progress toward their goal.

Want to know more?

I'm leading a call for my Accountability Club members and current subscribers at 1pm Eastern tomorrow. I'll share specific examples of content for marketing, and there's a Q&A session at the end. If you're already on my list, look for an email with details. The call is free to listen live, but only A-club members get access to the recordings. Learn more about Accountability Club and get access to all of last year's training too.

[Note: This is an excerpt from my book "Creative Freedom: A comprehensive guide to personal and financial freedom as a creative entrepreneur". If you'd like to be the first to get updates and excerpts, make sure you're on my mailing list, so you don't miss a beat!]

Be The NextBEYONCE!

Suppose you saw this "advertisement" on social media. You'd no doubt roll your eyes, scratch your head, and maybe even wonder aloud "Who do they think they are? Beyonce is like The Highlander... there can be only one!"

The Highlander franchise might belie that notion, but I digress.

Regardless, you'd likely consider this ad complete nonsense and skip right on past - no matter how badly you'd like to be the next Queen Bey.

And yet, how many times have you been lured by other similar, yet equally absurd promises?

Depending on the circles in which you travel, you may have mixed emotions about the phrase "earn six-figures a year." After all, earning six or seven figures is the holy grail of many online business coaches and so-called internet marketing gurus.

The phrase "earn six-figures" is often followed by such deceptive codswallop as "in your sleep" or "in your pajamas" or "part time from anywhere".

These inflated promises are often found co-mingling with sentences like "all you need is a laptop and a dream."

Puh-lease.

While it's true that some people have done those things, the reality is that very few people can replicate their success - and when they do, success doesn't happen overnight. There's no "blueprint" or "formula" that's going to give you those kinds of results overnight.

I regularly write about the fact that those kinds of results take time.  Jeff Walker, developer of Product Launch Formula, said he got fewer than 10 buyers the first time he launched.  He had to launch more than once before he hit seven figures. Beyonce only became Beyonce after years of focused effort, a few heartaches, and more focused effort.

The same is true about building your own Noble Empire. You have to keep showing up consistently, iterating, focusing on what works and discarding the rest. That's how you build a reputation and make a good living doing what you love.

But too many creatives settle for subsistence-level income in their so-called business. It's time to stop the madness. (Tweet this)

That's why I am a firm believer that every creative entrepreneur needs (yes, I said needs) to build a six-figure company. I call it the Six-Figure Imperative.

The Six-Figure Imperative Explained

At its core, The Six-Figure Imperative is both a mathematical equation and psychological illustration (Fusion creatives, rejoice!). In most casts, a healthy company needs to make at least six figures in order to pay the owner a living wage and still be able to cover the business expenses. Sure, there are places in the world where you can live on less (or might need more), but that's a fair baseline for most creatives, and I don't know many people aiming to live closer to the poverty level - which, in the US, is just over $20,400 for a family of 3 (higher in Alaska & Hawaii).

All you Chaotics out there, breathe a minute and let's explore these numbers. If you want to pay yourself $50,000 per year (before taxes), your company needs to bring in at least $100,000. That's based on the Profit First approach that I use with all my clients. Developed by Mike Michalowicz, the Profit First approach recommends that owner's pay be half of the company income.

So, $50,000 x 2 = $100,000 business revenue

Special notes: Once your business revenue is over $250,000, your owner pay percentage will shrink, and your profit sharing percentage will grow. If you want your take home pay to be $50,000, you'll need to add your taxes on top of that number before you multiply. I'm no tax pro, so you'll have to do that math on your own, but this gives you a baseline idea of how it works.

Now, all you Linears can sit back for a minute while we cover the psychological illustration. Most creatives see the six figure mark in one of two ways:

  • They reel against it because of all the icky marketing tactics they've experienced in pursuit of it. "Screw this! 'Six figures' is just a marketing ploy the gurus use to separate you from your money!"
  • They drool over it like it's some pie-in-the-sky fantasy that is only available to the likes of Beyonce. "Someday, I'll get discovered, the world will beat a path to my door, and I'll be rolling in the dough!"

The Six Figure Imperative works to break that psychological block by showing you that six figures is not only reasonable, it's important to the long-term health of any full-fledged business.

There's a wide range between six figures and seven figures

When I say "six figures" I mean it as a baseline. I hope you're able to make as much money as you desire with your Noble Empire. Eight figures? Go for it. Ten? Why not? More? That's okay by me, too. But for most of us, the low-end of six figures is a useful rule of thumb.

But there's a big gap between $100,000 and a million. Where should your personal baseline be?

If you're living in a major metropolitan area, where rent is obscene, the low end of six figures might not even cover your mortgage. I saw an apartment listed in Nashville for $8,000 per month. And a girl's gotta eat, right? So your six-figure baseline might be closer to $250,000. That puts you owner pay at $125,000 per year. $96k for rent and $31k for all your other living expenses.

Only you can discern what will really work for you. Maybe you have no kids, or maybe you have seven. Maybe you have no debt, or maybe you've got thousands of dollars in student loans that still need to be paid off. Once you determine your living wage, you'll be able to determine the baseline income goal for your personal Six-Figure Imperative (and also helps you make the six-figure distinction).

Six-figures for a business (not a hobby)

There's one last clarification I need to make. The Six-Figure Imperative applies to full-fledged businesses. If you're a creative entrepreneur with a "side hustle" or a hobby that happens to earn some income, this may not apply to you. Creative Freedom is focused on helping creative entrepreneurs build a full-fledged business that's healthy, profitable, and sustainable. The Six Figure Imperative is meant for any Noble Empire that's designed to pay you a living wage and stand on its own. That means you don't need to prop it up by pumping your own money into it all the time, and you're not running it down to zero to keep your personal bills paid. You don't need a job to keep it afloat because it swims on its own.

That doesn't mean that your hobby can't make six figures. It doesn't mean you have to quit your day job to do what you love. There are many stories of creatives that have a day job that pays the bills so that they can create on their own terms. Jim Henson started life that way. But at some point, he decided that being a creative entrepreneur was his path, and he built a company that paid him well - and was able to feed and clothe an army of employees to boot. You dream may not be as grand as Henson's was, but The Six-Figure Imperative can help set you on the path for healthy growth, whatever size your company may be.

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If you're ready to set your own Six-Figure Imperative, and grow your creative business in a sustainable way, the doors are open to my new Portable Coaching program. If you need start up money, we recommend qvcredit as our legal money lender Singapore. They are tuned in for tech and innovation start ups. Designed for creative entrepreneurs in the start-up phase of growth, Portable Coaching is an easy, affordable way to get the help you need to grow your business. Beyond early start-up? I also have two openings for one-on-one advising. These spots fill fast, so check it out today if you're curious!

It may sound silly to you if I asked “what does your business taste like?” or “if your business were an animal, what would it be?” And yet, these are not uncommon questions to ask in the branding process. While there's not enough time and space to develop your brand in a post like this, here are some things to keep in mind as you develop your customer experience.

  • How do you and your business show up in the world?
  • What would you never be caught dead doing?
  • What do you hope will happen for your clients because they chose to experience your Great Work?

Your answers to these (and other) questions can paint a striking picture of your creative brand.

MacGyver vs. Sydney Bristow

I loved MacGyver (still do!). To me, he was trustworthy, reliable, and he had an unmistakable brand. He never used a gun (except once, in the pilot episode of the show), he ate healthy food, and he had a mullet that every girl seemed to love. I'm pretty sure he was a Fusion Creative. He wore jeans, drove a Jeep, and was never without a roll of duct tape. He used his brain to solve the problems of the world. On the rare occasions he put on a tux, he looked like a fish out of water – he even confessed that he felt like a fish out of water! He preferred his jeans and tennies, his Jeep, and his handy roll of duct tape to the high-falutin airs of some Embassy dinner.

In fact, you might say he was trustworthy and reliable because he had an unmistakable brand. You always knew what to expect from MacGyver.

I had the opposite reaction when I watched Alias. Sydney Bristow was super smart, but hard to trust – even though I knew she was the hero of the show. She was a double agent, always in and out of disguises (most likely a Chaotic creative in the making). She was likable, but it was hard to know who she really was or which side she was on. I loved the show (even after they jumped the shark with that whole Rambaldi subplot), but it took several seasons before I felt like I really knew what to expect from her.

What kind of character are you creating in your business?

Whether you want to admit it or not you are a character. As a creative entrepreneur, you have to craft a persona – and I strongly encourage you to make it as true to life as possible. BRanding professionals will talk in terms of Archetypes. They'll use terms like "hero" or "innocent" or "maverick" but for creative entrepreneurs, this is more about how YOU want to show up on your best days. Young Steve Jobs dressed like a business man (mostly). As Jobs mellowed over the years, he stopped wearing business suits and became known for his iconic black mock turtleneck and jeans. It was a character, to be sure, but one that was true to who he was as a human being. Did his "archetype" change? Who cares? All I know is he became more likeable, more approachable, and that's the image he wanted to portray for Apple (even if he was a megalomaniac behind the scenes).

Lady Gaga insists on being outlandish in her own way – even when she's dressed conservatively, she'll have a thick layer of glitter eye shadow and long, color-coordinated fingernails (like she did at the 2016 Super Bowl). They are the calling cards of her brand experience.

You need to decide now what you want to be known for – before someone else decides for you. There are countless tales of performing artists who are “made” into a persona by their agents and producers. Don't let that happen to you – even if you don't have an agent or a producer. I tell my clients all the time:

You train people how to treat you based on what they've come to expect from you and what you've come to accept from them.

Knowing what you want to be known for isn't just about your Great Work. Sure, it's important to deliver a quality product or service, but who is delivering it (your character) and how it's being delivered is just as important to the story of your business. Tiffany's could use any color box and still command their lofty prices, couldn't they?

Well, maybe not.

Tiffany Blue

Tiffany's gift box has become synonymous with “excellence, exclusivity, and flawless craftsmanship” according to their own website. Founded in 1837, Tiffany & Young, as it was then known, started as a store for “stationery and fancy goods”. Then, in 1845, founder Charles Tiffany (a Linear Creative by all accounts) published the “blue book” - a catalog of their “exquisitely handcrafted jewels” that featured the distinctive blue shade on the cover. It's said that Tiffany selected the color because turquoise jewelry was a popular gift at the time.

Whatever the reason, Tiffany cultivated a marketing story equally attractive when they started using the color on their boxes and gift bags. It was the one thing you couldn't buy in the store. The box would be given gladly to you - free of charge - when you “bought a little something” to put inside it.
tiffany box

“The rule of the establishment is ironclad,
never to allow a box bearing the name of
the firm, to be taken out of the building
except with an article which has been sold
by them and for which they are responsible.”

- a 1906 news article about Tiffany's

Eventually, the color became so synonymous with Tiffany that the company trademarked it – along with the box, the bow, and the name, “Tiffany Blue Box®.” When they filmed “Breakfast at Tiffany's,” 40 armed guards were hired, not to protect the jewels so much as to ensure not a single box left the premises. They also filmed on a Sunday, which required Tiffany's to open on a special day just for filming.

Now, you may not need to go to these lengths for your own company, but if your brand is built on prestige, excellence, or luxury, these might be the minimum lengths you would go to position your brand in the marketplace. This is why it is so critical to get clear on who you are and what really matters to you in the first place. Perhaps, like Tiffany's, you don't want to work on Sunday. That's an important boundary to set in your business. Maybe you want to be seen as friendly and accessible – in which case, applying gold foil to your business cards might be a bit “over the top” for your brand.

It's your business. You get to decide. And decide you must - before someone else does.

++++++++++

This was an excerpt from my Raving Fans Toolkit, which is part of my forthcoming book "Creative Freedom". Be sure you're on my mailing list to get your free copy of the Toolkit as well as first notice when the book launches!

In the meantime, tell me your thoughts! What kind of a character are you crafting in your business? What are the "hallmarks" and signature moves of your brand? Share your ideas in the comments and let's be a rising tide for everyone.

Anyone can be a hero for a day.

An above-and-beyond gesture. An extra dose of good-will. Being in the right place at the right time.

Anyone can have a day like that, do something awesome, and be a hero for a day or two.

True heroes walk the walk, even when it's difficult. They do the right thing when there's NOT a profit to be made. Sometimes, they do the right thing when the wrong thing appears to be far more profitable in the moment.

True heroes are looking at the end game.

it's hard to ignore

They're concerned about eternity, not about right now.

When I say "eternity," I'm not necessarily talking "heaven or hell", religion, or anything of that sort.

I'm talking about being able to wake up each morning, look yourself in the eye, and know that you've made the most of yesterday, with a commitment to doing your darnedest to make today even better.

Action heroes get banged up, scratched and dented, and take a few beatings from time to time. They get a little dirty, bloodied up, and still they rise, because they know it's not about the short-term gain, it's about the end game.

Who's going to be at your funeral? What are they going to say about you? How will you be remembered? Will you be remembered at all?

Sarah Robinson once wrote about what I call the "Hero of Now," the hero of right this moment. The flash in the pan that looks good on paper, seems to be on a hot streak, or appears to have some of the success you desire. This "flash in the pan" can be pretty easy on the eyes. In fact, sometimes we get mesmerized and then we're stunned when that flash turns out to be of little substance, or simply doesn't have the long-term value that makes them a true hero.

I've been there at least eleventy-jillion times in my own life and career (give or take a few jillion). You see someone that's doing their thing and it's hard NOT to notice. In fact, our brains are hard-wired to pay attention to something in which we're interested. The Reticular Activating System (RAS) in your brain is what causes you to notice every silver Jeep Liberty on the road after you decide that's the kind of car you want to buy next... or ignore the voice of every other screaming kid at the McDonald's playland except yours.

Here's an excerpt from what Sarah noted:

I thought part of a leader’s job was to search for unnoticed diamonds in the rough and start to polish them. I thought true leaders never, ever forgot that they were once unnoticed and that someone reached out to help them become who they are.

Apparently I was wrong.

When I see “leaders” huddled together in a self-congratulatory group (I’ve even heard of an event where the leaders sit in a roped off area, inaccessible to the “common” attendees), it makes me question any aspiration I might have to someday be among them.

I know not all experts and leaders are like this and that gives me the hope I need to keep going.

Speaking as the kid in high school that was the music geek with TWO 6th hour classes my senior year, I know the uncool factor, and wore it well for a while.

Just like in high school, those would-be heroes are quite often real-life zeros once the playing field is leveled.

I can't tell you how many kids from my past - that thought I was uncool, unworthy, un____, now approach me with some kind of "wow! Look at you!" amazement.

They know I've "arrived" in a way they never did. But I'm still striving, and they're stuck wearing the blue apron at the local big box store.

So too are many of those internet flashes in the pan that were once riding high now facing their own issues: health issues, family troubles, bankruptcies, divorces, lawsuits, and other not so pretty consequences of doing their thing for momentary success, instead of building for the long term.

Your hard work doesn't go unnoticed.

People talk. Your audience sees you even if they don't always say so. Today's hero, if they continue to demonstrate heroic qualities, will continue to be a hero decades from now. If today's hero runs off at the mouth and ignores the music geeks too often, they end up fat, balding, and with no prospects...

Not that I speak from experience or anything (hee hee).

Think about music: Billy Joel is a legend. Starland Vocal Band? Not so much. Their one hit, "Afternoon Delight," was the biggest-selling single of 1976. They even won a Grammy, but by 1981, they had called it quits.

Do you want to be a one-hit wonder or a lifetime achievement award winner? Both of them may win a Grammy, but who will be remembered for their enduring contribution?

It's hard to ignore a flash in the pan... until the Hope Diamond comes along.  (Tweet This)

When you look at your business, your life, are you building something that lasts? Are you a true hero to the folks you serve, the colleagues that seek you out? Are you "The Hope Diamond" of your industry, or just another flash in the pan?

Sometimes it's hard to know for sure. We've all watched someone skyrocket to the top of their industry, stay there for a few years, and then get "shot down" by some kind of incident, controversy, or some other bad PR issue.

True heroes endure.

They stand the test of time - despite their shortcomings. True business heroes are around for decades or centuries, not months or years. True business heroes continue to learn and grow, develop their network, and rarely rest on their laurels.

True heroes adapt, are agile, and realize that getting beat up is part of standing up for what's right. Just because a company is making billions today doesn't mean it has the wherewithal to be in a future edition of "Built to Last". There are plenty of companies (and people) that started with a future just as bright as Facebook, and ended up extinct.

What makes a true hero? Who are your heroes in life and business? Is there a secret ingredient? I'm guessing you have some thoughts about it. Share them in the comments, and let's start a conversation!

[AUTHOR'S NOTE: This article originally appeared one of my old blogs in March, 2011. I revised it for re-publication here, since I felt it deserved a little resurrection.]

The Princess Bride - 1987 FilmI remember it like it was yesterday. 4th floor of Darrow Hall, BGSU. A throng of students were piled into and onto my friend Angela's futon "loft" bunk bed. She had the coolest room (and furniture) in the dorm by far, and there had to be at least twelve people crammed into that little shoebox room. I was late to the party and everyone was camped around the TV set watching "The Princess Bride".

I got there just as the sword fight was beginning. I'd never seen the 1987 movie before (it was considered a "classic" by 1993 - don't judge me), so I was asking questions trying to get up to speed. Mesmerized by the hypnotic choreography and delicious one-liners ("get used to disappointment"), I was shushed more than I was answered.

By the end of the film, however, it had become one of my all-time favorite movies. I still randomly quote passages from the movie on facebook just to see who is paying attention.

Inconceivable, I know.

Little did I know that some 20 years later, that movie would become not just a quintessential classic from my young adulthood, it would also teach me a lot about life, and specifically, about pursuing my dreams.

In the spirit of Bec Oakley's post, here are 12 lessons I learned from "The Princess Bride" if you really want to go for your dreams.

12 Dream Ownership Lessons From "The Princess Bride"

1. "You rush a miracle man, you get rotten miracles."

Stuff takes time. And just because you're not where you think you should be, doesn't mean you're not where you need to be. It's a hard-won journey to cross the eel-infested waters, scale the Cliffs of Insanity, and brave the Fire Swamp to reclaim what matters most to you. Even Dorothy couldn't click her heels together until after the journey was over. (more…)

[Editor's note: This is the sixth in an annual series of posts I write to focus my efforts for the new year. You can find last year's post here.  Here are links to parts 123 and 4.]

Inspire. Brave. ENTHUSIASM! Uncommon.

Each year, I try to pick a word or phrase that reflects my focus, my "theme" for the year. Then, at the end of said year, I look back and evaluate, before rinsing and repeating for the new year. For 2013, that theme was "Inspire".

Let's take a look at 2013 and see how much "inspiring' I embodied.

I launched the year with a goal to record 300 songs. I fell short. I'd say embarrassingly short, but I'm not embarrassed by the results:

  • My youtube channel ended the year with well over 412,000 views and 178 subscribers. Considering I started the year with, I think 5 or 6 subscribers, I'm pretty happy with that.
  • More than 50 songs found their way through the recording studio to completion. If you count the songs I performed for Christmas Unplugged, that's about 55 tunes!
  • I was blessed to work with nearly a dozen gifted and talented musicians this year on various projects, including my first-ever commissioned recording for a colleague's spiritual retreat.

I learned a LOT about what it really takes to make a quality recording in your home. More than I thought I needed to know, frankly. I learned how grossly out of my depth I am with the audio engineering process, and how it's a lot more art than science.

I think I'll stick to the art I'm good at, thanks.

Still, 50+ songs is nothing to sneeze at, and while we had some hiccups on the copyright issues with some of our broadcasters (I'm talking to you, SoundCloud!), I finally got my music heard by new fans all over the world... a bucket list item for almost 30 years.

I also met and began working with an uber gifted arranger, and we started working on the tracks that will be on my new album - my first recording in almost 10 years!

The biggest hurdle to finishing the recordings wasn't a lack of skill, it was a lack of time. The one thing you can't predict going into a new year is what new and unexpected surprises will benefit or befall you. This year was a doozie! We were right on course until April, when I was hit with horrible news about a close friend and my youngest son. That's when everything on the music front took a tailspin.

I launched several new programs including my Dream Big BreakthroughGet Your Year In Gear and the Spotlight Sessions. Not all of them were big winners, but all of them reflected the growth and new direction that 2013 was leading me in. On the direct sales training front, I hosted a year-end livestream conference that doubled as my retirement party. It had a few hiccups, but overall, it was well received and a powerful event to help direct sellers move into 2014 with confidence and know-how to build their own noble empire and inspired life.

LRYLogoNew

We also did a site redesign for the direct sales website as it moves to a publishing platform in 2014. Oh, and my brilliantly gifted designer created a new logo that will go along with this website's re-launch in 2014. Here's a preview.

You might remember the phoenix. We resurrected it from The Renaissance Mom - remember that? I thought it fitting, since my whole life has been about overcoming, rising up from the ashes, and whatnot. The laurel represents achievement, hitting the mark, and the rewards & accolades that come from doing more of your Great Work in the world. I'll tell you more about it in a future post, but recognize that this is a meme for me: owning my dreams and living them fully. THAT is what 2013 taught me and what the focus for 2014 is.

On the home front...

We had a harrowing spring, when a friend of the family was arrested on charges of child sexual abuse - and my youngest was part of all that. We've spent a good deal of the year in recovery mode with him, and he's making amazing progress. My teenager's drama led to more court dates, which revealed even MORE underlying issues that we as a family had no clue about. It was a hellacious year for my family, and I think we've pulled through the hardest part. There's still more court dates to come, but I know we're on the right track, and there don't appear to be anymore oncoming trains on the horizon. My oldest just turned 17, so one way or another that responsibility will not be mine for much longer. His life is truly in his own hands.

"When it all came crashing down in tiny pieces to the ground, I was all alone down here, trapped beneath the atmosphere..."

Learning To Be The Light

I lost (and lost touch with) a lot of friends through this rough patch. It really helps you get clarity on who's got your back when you're going through tough times. I'm grateful for those friends and family members who really came through in our dark hours this year, and hope I'll be in a place to return the favor at a later date. Those who've fallen by the wayside, while painful, remind me of the wisdom of Dr. Seuss: "Those who matter don't mind, and those who mind, don't matter." I respect their needs to honor their boundaries, and pray they do the same for me and mine.

The upshot of all of this was that I got clarity on what really mattered to me. I got to see how much I matter to my kids and to my husband. I got to see how much I wasn't making myself or my self-care a priority. For as much as I preach on it, I still find myself ignoring my own self-care needs when things get stressful.

In truth, things probably get stressful because I'm neglecting my self-care in the first place. Oh the irony!

But because of all that clarity, I made some big decisions relating to my professional life.

On the work front...

I rolled up the sidewalks on my direct sales coaching practice. For the last 8 years I've been a coach and trainer to the direct selling industry as a solopreneur. It's been fun helping people do their best work and live their dreams. It's also been hard, being on the outside of an industry that's more of an old boy's network than anyone cares to admit. Since I'm not a game player, I've really had to forge my own path - and that's a lonely way to work. Plus, it's not the work I was put on this planet to do. I've gotten good at it. I enjoy it, and I know that God has a different purpose for me. So, after two years of hemming and hawing, and much hand-wringing, I got me a job.

Yep. A w-2 filing, income tax-withholding "j.o.b." - I'm still more or less in the sales arena, but it's more in alignment with my ultimate objective - which isn't to have a job  for the rest of my life.

I'm still new here, and one of the youngest turks in the company, but nearly everything I'm doing is right in my wheelhouse. It gives me freedom to travel and, most importantly, allows me to have that financial stability (that I chased for 8 years as a coach) to pursue what God put me on this planet to do: write and perform.

2014 Theme: Divine Alignment

foolishI've been a storyteller my whole life: stories about overcoming adversity, empowerment, and being more than your circumstances. Sometimes I write them (here on the blog, or in books like this one), sometimes I record them (like the 300 songs project), sometimes I perform them live (as an actor or singer). But it's always been about the stories. It took me a good portion of this year to realize that.

My whole life has been about believing in the possibilities of people. That's my Great Work: I believe in people. I inspire people to see the possibility in themselves. I believe in people when they don't believe in themselves. It's a great (and dangerous) gift to have as a coach - and part of why I think I got so good at it. I've always looked at how I can make something happen, instead of why it won't work. But ultimately, coaching isn't the platform I'm supposed to be using to do my great work.

See, just because you're good at something, doesn't mean that's what you're meant to do. It just means you've had a lot of practice at it, and maybe some aptitude. My aptitude, combined with 8 years of practice gave me a strong foundational skill-set... and created a comfort zone that was difficult to step out of.

"...and now everything is falling into place. A brand new life is calling and I owe it all to grace."

- Learning To Be The Light

Wasn't it Marylin Monroe who said "sometimes good things fall apart so better things can fall together"?

Yeah. That.

A LOT fell apart this year. Or should I say, it finished falling apart. We dissolved a business in 2012 and FINALLY was able to complete the bankruptcy proceedings this year. Which means, in MANY ways, 2014 is a clean slate.

I got to thinking during my annual planning process, that if it's really a clean slate, what do I want to write on it? How do I really want my life to look as I start down the barrel of turning 40 soon. I had goals and ambitions that I never got around to... until now that is.

There were a lot of nights (and mornings, and lunches) spent in prayer, meditation, & contemplation. I fought with God a LOT, and finally surrendered to a more difficult - and far more satisfying - path for my life. The words that kept coming up for me were "divine alignment" - stepping more fully into who I really am, who God called me to be in the world, and to do more of my Great Work on a global scale.

"You gave me something I want everyone to see."

- Learning To Be The Light

Theme Song: "Learning To Be The Light"

A friend of mine turned me on to this tune by NewWorldSon (thanks, Deb!), and I've listened to it so many times that I think I've burned a groove into my CD. I believe in my core that we're all given at least one Undeniable Gift to put to use for good in this world. This song really speaks to the longing I have in my heart to explore and share my gift with the world.

"Oh God I just want to love on everyone. All I have is Yours to give so let the people come"

- Learning To Be The Light

I know it's not a given that I can just step out onto a stage somewhere and start singing. There's work to be done. I laid some groundwork in 2013. I managed to get my book into the hands of more than 1100 people! I had at least one performance or speaking opportunity in every month of 2013. People got to hear my message - a message I'm still crafting an honing.

Gratefully, people are listening, and telling others, and joining the revolution. It's not just my journey - it's a journey we're all called to make: to own our dreams and share our gift with our world. That's what Divine Alignment is to me, and that's my focus for 2014. You'll hear more about it in coming posts, but for now, I'll let NewWorldSon say it:

"I'm learning to be the light that makes the shadows hide, the light that breaks the curse of pride, the light that takes the weary in it's arms."

- Learning To Be The Light

 

Happy New Year to all of us. Let's rock this 2014 hard!