10 Things You Can For Yourself During Naptime

Some days you feel ultra productive. You work on your business during your child’s naptime. But what about those days when you’re drained? Self-care is very important especially as a freelancer. Self-care activities are positive stress relievers that relax you, inspire you, or recharge you.

Here are ten things you can do for yourself during your child’s naptime:

1) Meditate and stretch

My most important tip for naptime is to meditate and stretch. The whole routine can take less than 10 minutes, but it clears your mind and makes your body feel limber. I use the Stop, Breathe, and Think app to meditate. There are many meditations on the app that are five minutes or less. I usually do at least 10 minutes of meditation during naptime.

I do a simple stretching routine to keep my muscles from getting tight.

2) Take a nap

One of the most obvious things you can do is take a nap. A quick 20-30 minute snooze can give your brain a rest and recharge you for the rest of your day.

3) Read a book

Whenever I open a book, I take a tiny vacation. Try spending 20-30 minutes reading a book during your child’s naptime. It doesn’t matter whether the book is fiction or nonfiction, just choose something that interests you. I do almost all of my reading during naps and in the 10 minutes before I go to bed. I usually end up reading around 30 books per year. It’s possible to get a lot of reading done if you spend 20-30 minute each day doing it.

4) Take a bath or shower

As work-at-home or stay-at-home mama, we don’t get a chance to shower during the day without an audience. When your child takes a nap, you could spend some time relaxing in a hot bath or taking a shower. Having a peaceful shower that’s not rushed always makes me feel better.

5) Watch a show

Sometimes I’ll take a Netflix break during my daughter’s nap. I recently got through all seasons of Scandal. I don’t like having the TV on too much during the day and my daughter is not happy when a “Mama show” is on. I do my TV watching in the evenings or on weekends.

6) Get outside

If the weather is nice, I spend 20 minutes outside while Norah naps. I take the baby monitor outside and either read, do work, or just sit and enjoy the sunshine. Sometimes I walk laps in the yard to get a little exercise. If you have front porch or deck, try getting a little sunshine while your child is sleeping.

7) Have a snack

We all have those snacks that we don’t want to share with our kids. Get into your secret stash and have a snack during naptime. Whether your favorite treat is salty or sweet, it will be that much more delicious because you don’t have to share it.

8) Connect with a friend

Text or call someone and see how they’re doing. This is especially nice to do to other stay-at-home or work-at-home moms. The days can often be long and lonely so reaching out to each other is a good way to have a little adult interaction.

9) Work on a hobby or craft

This could be as simple as doing a little coloring in an adult coloring book or it could be as complicated as you are crafty. I enjoy knitting and I’m planning on learning how to hand-letter in the next few months. I like to have one activity I enjoy that doesn’t require screens.

10) Clean something or declutter

If my house is a disaster, I have a hard time focusing. Of course, there are toys strewn all around the living room for most of the day, but I like to take five minutes to tidy up while Norah sleeps. She destroys the living room as soon as she wakes up, but my sweeps help a bit. At the very least, they help me find the half-eaten snacks that she’s hidden in the couch.

When your child takes a nap, ask yourself whether you’d like to spend the time working or practicing self-care. Don’t feel guilty about your choice! Either way you are doing something good for yourself.

 

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Should Freelancers Trade Services?

As a new freelancer, it can be hard to find clients. While you can spend time working on your own brand, you also need to gain experience working with clients. However, I don’t think you should ever work for free. If you can’t get paying work or you have some extra time on your hands, you could consider trading services.

How does trading services work?

Trading services is where two business people exchange beneficial services instead of cash.

First, think about what you value. Even while trading services, you don’t want to work for something that has no value to you. Perhaps you’d like to do social media work for a local gym in exchange for a free membership. Maybe a free membership wouldn’t be worth it to someone else.

Who should you approach to trade services?

Online business owners and solopreneurs

Small businesses owners and solopreneurs are usually handling a lot of the administrative and marketing aspects of their business on their own. Sometimes they try their hand at making a website or just set up a Facebook page and have no web presence. Depending on your skillset, you could offer the following trades:

  • As a website designer, you may want to approach a copywriter to help you with your site. In exchange, you could spruce up their site’s layout
  • As a social media manager, you may want to offer your services to a photographer in exchange for images you can us
  • As a graphic designer, you may want to offer a new logo to a copywriter in exchange for a rewrite of some website pages.
  • As a virtual assistant, you can offer to send invoices for a marketing company in exchange for social media postings about your business a few times per week.

 

Local businesses

Some local businesses could use help, but may not have the means to pay for your services. You could offer your services in exchange for theirs.

  • You could offer your services for a monthly membership fee (like a gym or club).
  • You could offer your services in exchange for goods or food.
  • You could offer your services in exchange for displaying your business cards or an advertisement for your business.

Special events, conferences, summits

You could offer to do work in exchange for a seat at the conference, event or summit. There are many great online conferences and summits that you could have access to if you helped out with marketing, design, or administrative tasks.

How to get started

  1. Make a list of the skills you’d be willing to trade
  2. Figure out who or what would be worth your trade
  3. Create an email pitch to send to potential swappers

Sample email:

Hi Person,

I’m a content creator/website designer/virtual assistant. I wanted to see if you’d be interested in trading services? I was thinking something like X for X. Does that sound fair to you?

I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Thanks,

You’ll never know what business connections you can make through reaching out and offering a trade. Trading services will add to your portfolio of work and could also lead to more paying gigs in the future. If you need more work, trading services is another way to get your name out there.

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Do You Want to be An Employee or an Entrepreneur?

So, you have a great idea, product, or service to offer the world and you want to start your own business? Fabulous! There’s a lot of technical and logistical issues that you will encounter as you begin your new venture, but first things first, are you ready to start your own business?

The first question you need to ask yourself is:

1) Do you want to be an employee or an entrepreneur?

This question seems painfully obvious and most people will answer “entrepreneur!” without hesitation. However, you will need to dig deep to discover whether you really want all of the responsibility and stress that comes with running your own business.

Your Work Ethic

There are many perks to running your own business including setting your own hours and choosing what type and amount of work you do. However, there are many downsides as well. In a survey of 10 entrepreneurs, all worked more than 50 hours per week and many worked up to 70 per week. That’s a lot more than your standard 9-5! If you enjoy hanging up your hat at the end of the day and putting work totally out of your mind, you want to be an employee, not an entrepreneur.

Entrepreneurs make sacrifices in their personal lives in order to make their businesses succeed. As with most things, it gets easier and less time consuming to run your own business the longer you are doing it, but the first years can be the most difficult. Over 40% of small business fail within two years. Can your personal relationships handle the stress of potential failure? If you don’t think so, you may want to stick with being an employee.

How do you feel about living on less? You might have to get used to it if you become an entrepreneur. It may take up to two years, after starting your business, before you can pay yourself a salary. Can you afford to work that long without pay? Would you even want to? If you’re dedicated to your business, is it possible to start it as a side hustle while working a full-time job? If you don’t have the energy to work on your side project at the end of a long day, you may not care that much about it or you may not have the work ethic that being an entrepreneur requires.

Problem Solving and Critical Thinking

When running your own business, you will ultimately be in charge of all day-to-day operations. You can hire someone to handle administrative issues such as bookkeeping and tax preparation, but that may not be feasible until you start getting customers. Any amount of business sense will be a boon to an entrepreneur, but the most important skills in determining whether you are suited to be an employee or an entrepreneur are critical thinking and problem solving.

While working for someone else, is your natural inclination to take problems or solutions to your supervisor? If you take problems to your supervisor and expect him or her to decide how to handle it than you may be better suited to be an employee. With the empowerment that running your own business brings, you may become more comfortable with problem-solving, but it may not come easily. A person who is naturally inclined to brainstorm solutions before asking their boss for help would do better on their own.

Assuming that you don’t have a business partner, you are going to be your own main resource for problem solving and critical thinking. You’ll need to be a fount of knowledge and ideas. Thankfully, there are thousands of resources at your disposal specific to whatever type of business you want to start. You will need the motivation to look for resources that can help you and the critical thinking skills to put what you learn into practice and modify advice to apply to your situation.

Your Personality

While it doesn’t take a particular personality type to be a successful entrepreneur, it does help to be realistic about who you are. A self-motivating personality is a good fit for entrepreneurship. Your success will have a lot to do with how hard you’re willing to work and how much effort you put into your business. Even if you have the support of a team, you’ll need to have the vision to carry your idea out. In the same vein, it’s better to be a leader than a follower when running your own business.

There is no right or wrong response to the question “do you want to be an employee or an entrepreneur?” Your dream job may be working for yourself or it may be working for an established company. Spending time thinking about what option is the better fit for you is crucial before deciding to start your own business. If you have self-awareness and can take an honest look at your strengths and weaknesses, you’ll discover the right choice for you.

 

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What I Do After I Write a Blog Post

I’ve previously talked about my blog writing process. After I write the post, I do a few other things before publishing it. These steps make the post into shareable content.

Find an image for the post

I got to Librestock to find an image that complements my content. For my posts on freelancing, I like to find images of offices, people working, and computers. I also like photos of nature scenes. Sometimes I include pictures of my family, but only in the parenting posts.

Create a Canva graphic

I edit the image in Canva to create a “Pinnable” image. I do this by taking a template that I made of the blog title and my website address. I change the image, add the new text and insert it into the end of the blog post.

Write social media posts

I post every new blog entry once on the Freelancing Mama Facebook page. Sometimes I share Freelancing Mama’s post on my personal Facebook page. I also tweet each post three times within the week that it was published.

Schedule the blog post

I schedule each blog post at least one day in advance, but sometimes posts are scheduled a few weeks in advance. One of my goals for 2017 is to have content scheduled at least one month in advance.

Post on Facebook group

Once the post goes live, I post my link in a variety of places. There are several freelancing and blogging groups that allow people to share their content once per week on a certain day. I take advantage of this and post my work in the threads. Usually, this results in 2-5 people sharing my content. You can find groups by searching Facebook for your topic of interest and choosing the Group tab to see what exists.

Pin my post

My next step is to pin my post. I do this by using the Pinterest Chrome add-on. I hover over the pinnable image that I include at the end of my posts and then add my blog. I have a Pinterest board for the Freelancing Mama’s posts. I typically add more to the description field before saving the pin.

Repost on Medium*

Medium is another blogging platform. My husband primarily uses it for his writing. I read Medium articles every day, but only post some of my work there. One reason for this is that I don’t want to negatively affect my website’s SEO rankings. Duplicate content can lower your ranking. The second reason is that I want to keep a consistent image on that site as a social media marketer / freelancer. On my own blog, I also write about parenting and being a stay-at-home mother.

I’m a relatively new blogger and don’t do this as a career so this is a basic list of resources. As I learn new things, I’ll continue to add to this procedure.

after-blog-post

How I Write a Blog Post

The hardest part of writing is often just getting started. One of my favorite pieces of writing advice is “BICHOK” – butt in chair, hands on keyboard. Often the magic happens when we show up.

My writing process rarely varies.

I always start with a blank Google Document.

I title the document and change the font to Headline 1 size. I may end up tweaking the title after I finish the post, but most of the time I know what I want to write about and my title explains it fairly well on the first try.

Next, I write a bullet point outline about what I’m going to discuss in the blog post.

  • First point
  • Second point
  • Third point
  • 1-2 sentence conclusion

As we all learned in school, essays should have a beginning, a middle, and an end. Blog posts are similar, but they are open to your personal style choices. Some people’s posts are a stream of consciousness while others are more like newspaper articles. It’s up to you to choose your style of writing.

After I have the bullet point list, I may skip around in the document and write sections that are coming easily first.

I also like to include 1-2 links to other blog entries and websites. This doesn’t always happen, but it’s my rule of thumb. When I think of something that I want to cite I write (LINK) next to the text to remind myself to go through and find the links during the editing process.

I work on a blog post when during my 30 minutes of concentrated writing time each morning. If I don’t have anything to add in one post, I’ll move on to another. I have between 20-30 drafts going at all times so there’s always something to do.

I complete some posts in 10 minutes and others take hours. It depends on my familiarity with the topic and how easily writing is coming to me that day. Sometimes I’m pulling the words out of myself and other times they are flowing freely.

Concentration

I write with Brain.fm playing in the background. I truly believe that it helps focus my brain. I also use YouTube to find classical music. Here’s a nice 3 hour compilation of classical music.

Proofreading and editing

After the first draft is complete, I read through the post out loud to look for any errors or sentences that should be reworked. Often, reading out loud helps to find awkward phrasing or incorrect grammar. I run a free spelling and grammar checker called Grammarly on my posts to catch anything I’ve missed.

I typically spend another 20-30 minutes proofreading and editing the post to get to draft two. Once the second draft is complete, I leave the document alone for a few days.

Final read through

I do a final read through a few days after editing draft 2. After I read through, I go through my after blog writing process.

Celebration

After I finish a blog post and after all of my 30 minute writing sessions, I have a small celebration.

As an adult, even while working in an office, you don’t get praise very often. My husband is very supportive and always tells me he’s proud of me. When I’m alone in my kitchen and just finished some writing, it helps to get up and say “Go Erin!” or some other exclamation out loud. Having a toddler is a benefit because she’s always ready for an impromptu dance party. If I’ve had a particularly difficult writing session, I turn on one of my favorite songs and rock out for a few minutes.

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What to Do When You Feel Overwhelmed by Motherhood

Being a mother is one of the most rewarding jobs in the world, but it can also be one of the most exhausting, overwhelming and tedious ones too. At one point or another, all mothers have felt like they weren’t able to keep up with the onslaught of housework, caregiving, and maintaining their sanity.

Here are some ways to cope when you feel overwhelmed by motherhood:

  • Find a support group

In-person would be best, but if all you can find or have time for is an online group, that can work too. Support groups consist of other mothers, some in the same position as you, others who are newer to the job, and some seasoned pros. They can offer support and help. A weekly or monthly meeting can be a great place to recharge, relax, laugh and commiserate. Check Meetup groups in your area or Momsclub.

  • Ask for help

If you have a relative or a friend that you can ask for help, reach out and do so. Sometimes we don’t reach out for help because we’re embarrassed and assume that everyone else has it together. Everyone could use some extra help every now and then. Ask if someone can watch your child for a while so you can run an errand solo. Ask if someone could entertain your child while you get some things done around the house. Ask if someone could help you clean while your child sleeps. Whatever you need help with, put aside your temporary embarrassment and ask for help.

  • Take a break

When your child is napping or otherwise safely contained somewhere, take a break. Take a few deep breaths, do some stretching, read a book for a few minutes, or just leave the room. Sometimes separating yourself from the situation for a bit can help especially during toddler tantrums or newborn crying jags. When you calm down, go back and comfort and redirect.

  • Hire someone

If you don’t have regular help, you may want to hire someone to give you some time out each day. Babysitters, nannies, or ‘mother’s helpers’ can be as reasonable as $7-15 per hour depending on where you live. If you are able to pay someone to come a few days a week, it may be best for your mental health. You can find local caregivers on Care.com.

  • Find daycare

If you don’t want a babysitter coming to your house or can’t find one, you could use a drop-in home daycare service. This would allow you to bring your child for around $25-45 per day. Most commercial daycares will not allow drop-ins, but do have part-time schedules that can be as flexible as two days per week or a few hours each day.

  • Go outside

If you’re stuck in the house all day, you’re bound to get aggravated. Both you and your child need a change of scenery. Go outside! Go to the playground, the library, or take a walk around the block. Even running a few errands can break up the monotony.

  • Find free activities in your town

In most cities, there’s something free happening almost every day. Most museums and zoos have donation days where you pay whatever you can. Look up activities in your city and get out of the house. It can seem overwhelming to leave the house at first, but once you get to your destination, you’ll be glad you did. Search “free activities [your city]” or “donation day [your city]” to find lists of resources.

  • Join a gym

There are many gyms with childcare included in the membership price. The YMCA is a great example. For around $40/person per month or $70/family per month you can go to the YMCA every day and use the childcare for two hours per day. This situation is a win-win. Not only will you get some exercise, but you will also get a much-needed break.

  • Get more sleep

When you’re sleep deprived, everything is harder. Try to get to bed earlier. If your child is still waking through the night, consider sleep training. I used the SleepEasy Method to sleep train my daughter. If your child naps during the day, try to take a 20-30 minute nap with them. It’s tempting to power through your day on caffeine and sugar (I know I have!), but try not to consume them after 2 pm so you can fall asleep faster.

  • Speak to a therapist

If you’re feeling overwhelmed frequently, you may want to speak with a therapist. You could be experiencing postpartum depression or anxiety. Even if you’re not, the therapist will give you tools to help you cope with your day-to-day struggles. It’s often hard to find time to go to a therapist when you have children, but this is where babysitters, family, or friends can come in handy. You must prioritize your own health because no one else can do that for you.

Feeling overwhelmed is a normal occurrence in motherhood. Children can be demanding and exhausting and it’s stressful to have the responsibility of raising them on your shoulders. Make sure to take time for self-care. You are important.

If you feel hopeless or overwhelmed the majority of the time, please contact someone about postpartum depression/anxiety. It is very real and very serious.

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Creating a Productive Morning Routine

A productive morning routine can be the difference between a great day or a terrible one. The elements of a productive morning routine differ for each person, but there’s some overlap for everyone. Here are some simple activities you can consider adding to your morning routine:

1) Stretching

Stretching has many benefits for our bodies. It helps blood flow and keeps us limber. After sleeping for 7-9 hours (the importance of enough sleep cannot be overstated), our bodies are stiff and need to ease into the day. Start off with a simple 2-3 minute stretching routine as soon as you get out of bed. Here’s a good tutorial for morning stretches.

2) Drink a large glass of water

Not only is your body stiff after sleep, but it’s also parched. Although it’s tempting to do so, don’t immediately grab coffee when you wake up. Pour a 8-10 oz. glass of water and drink it first. If you don’t like drinking plain water, add lemon or cucumber slices. I have a bottle of lemon juice to add when I don’t have fresh lemons (which is often).

3) Do something meaningful to you

Before you get caught up in the rush of the day, try to do something meaningful to you. This could be reading, writing, working on a craft or project, cleaning something, or whatever makes you happy. I spend 30 minutes each morning writing. It doesn’t really matter what writing I choose to work on, it’s the routine of doing 30 minutes of writing before starting my client work. If you can take 30 minutes for yourself at the beginning of the day, your activity is much more likely to happen. If you wait until later in the day, you probably won’t end up having time.

4) Meditate

Meditation is simple, but it is not easy. You can do it without any props. You simply sit down, close your eyes, and focus on your breath. When thoughts enter your mind, you acknowledge them and let them go. You can picture your thoughts as clouds in the sky, blowing by.

If you want a little more out of your meditation, you can download one of the many meditation apps or programs and do guided meditation. This is where someone walks you through the meditation. I love the Stop, Breathe and Think app. Headspace is also good.

5) Pray

If you pray, morning is a great time to get your prayers in. Say a quick prayer of thanks, ask for what you need for the day, or send some prayers to someone in need.

6) Journal

Write down your thoughts for a few minutes each morning. I write down the events that happened the day before. It helps me remember what I did and focuses my attention on the day at hand.

7) Gratitude list

Make a list of 10 things you are grateful for each morning. Expressing gratitude has huge benefits for your mental health. Every day my list has the same things in the #1 and #2 spots – my husband and my daughter. After that, I try to think of specific things I’m grateful for. Sometimes they are things like the ability to see and other times they are things like flavored coffee. The items don’t have to be meaningful or deep, they just need to be something you feel truly grateful for. Reflect on each item for a moment and you’ll have a better outlook on your day.

8) Write a to-do list

Think about what you want to accomplish today. These items could be a mix of personal and business. No matter who you are, you have a list of things you’d like to get done each day. Keep your list in a place where it’s accessible all day. Make a point to check in with your list around 12 pm and 5 pm to see what you’ve accomplished and what you have left to do.

9) Exercise

Some people like to exercise in the morning while others do not. It’s important for freelancers to get some sort of exercise since the job can be very sedentary. If nothing else, try to do the 7-minute workout each day.

A productive morning routine can give your day structure which is important for remote workers, freelancers, stay at home moms, and anyone else who is home the majority of the day. You’ll end up feeling less stressed and frazzled when you’re following a simple routine each morning.

Special note for mamas: You may not think you have time to create a morning routine. In order to do so, you’ll have to find ways to work it into your schedule. Perhaps you can wake up 30 minutes earlier than your children. If that won’t work because you’re getting your children ready and off to school, then as soon as you come home you could take 30 minutes for a mid-morning or early afternoon routine. The benefits will be the same and it’s important to take time for you each day.

 

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Cold Emailing in 5 Easy Steps

Customer acquisition is a huge part of the sales process. You have to pitch to get new clients and you need new clients for your freelancing business to grow and succeed.

Although you may receive referrals through people you already know or groups you interact with, at some point you will need to find new clients. You want to reach people that would otherwise not hear about you. One way to do this is cold emailing.

Cold calling or cold emailing is a technique where you reach out to a person or business without an introduction or previous meeting.

Here are the five steps for cold emailing:

1) Get a contact list

Buy, find, or create a list of contacts that would be interested in your services. This list may be people in your niche, local businesses, or agencies. It may even be competitors! People doing the same thing as you may have overflow clients that they can pass along if you develop a relationship with them.

I created a cold email campaign for my newsletter writing service. I made a spreadsheet of all of the local Rockford, IL nonprofits and charities by googling “charitable organizations”, “not for profits” and “nonprofits”. I made a list of the contact person in each organization if their information was available on the website. If there was no contact person listed, I used the generic “info@organiation” email address.

2) Write your email template

You’ll want to change the template for each client, but some parts will remain the same. The introduction should not change much from potential client to client.

Your email template should include the following:

  • A short introduction about who you are (2-3 sentences maximum)
  • Why you’re emailing
  • A proposal for how you can help them
  • Why they need the help (using statistics)
  • A call to action **Call to action is a marketing term that describes wording that motivates the person to respond.

You’ll want to be very specific with how you can help them. If you’re a designer, talk about what exactly you’d do. If you’re a copywriter, tell them which sections of their website you would rework or that you noticed the key players in the organization don’t have biographies. You’ll want to customize your email to what they need. A general email offering a range of services will be too overwhelming and salesy for most people. People are busy and they want you to get to the point as quickly as possible.

3) Send to your contact list

Send to each person on your contact list. Be sure to use the person’s first name if possible. Otherwise, start the email with Hello or Hi.

4) Keep track of responses

I kept track of responses in a spreadsheet. Some organizations said no outright while others asked for a follow-up with my service fees.

Keeping a spreading of the status of your campaign will keep your organized so you know which organizations you already reached out to and when to send a follow-up.

5) Send a follow-up two weeks later

Two weeks after you initially email, send a follow-up restating your request and asking if the person had a chance to look over your email.

You’ll want this email to be very short. An example is below:

Subject line: [Service name, e.g. Copywriting] proposal

Hi Person,

I emailed you a few weeks ago about helping out with copywriting for your website. Did you get a chance to look over my proposal? Let me know if you have any questions or if you’d like to set up a call.

Best,
Name

Consider visiting in-person. Although this is somewhat out of my comfort zone, I know it can be helpful to go into a small business and meet the owner and explain your services. For this step, you will want to have professional business cards on-hand.

Don’t feel discouraged if you don’t hear back from many of the people you’ve cold emailed. Cold emailing has a success rate of ~20%. However, it is one of the least stressful and time-consuming client acquisition strategies. Once you’ve invested the initial time it takes to gather email addresses, and write the basic template, tweaking it and sending the emails is a quick process.

Bonus – Cold Email Template

Here’s an example of a cold email that I’ve sent out to local organizations that are not currently publishing a newsletter. Thus far I’ve had a 25% success rate in getting new customers (I must note, my sample size is very small).

Subject line: Email newsletter for Org Name

Hi

Nice to meet you! I’m a local marketing specialist who wanted to reach out and offer my services to your organization. As I browsed your website, I noticed that [Organization name] is not currently sending out an email newsletter.

I think you would see some real benefits from a focused communications strategy. I have worked in social media marketing, strategy, and content creation for several years and started my own business in 2015. I’ve designed and written email newsletters for several clients. You can see some of my work on [client’s] newsletter (link) and on [other client’s] newsletter (link). I’m a lifelong resident of the community and I have a special interest in charity and social work. You can find out more about me on my website (link).

Email newsletters are so important for keeping the lines of communication open with your supporters and volunteers. In a recent Nielsen Norman survey when asked to opt-in to receive updates from a company only 10% elected to do so through Facebook and 90% chose email newsletters. Newsletters can be weekly or monthly depending on your goals.

If you’re interested in hearing more, I’d love to chat with you.

Thank you for your time,

Name
Phone number
Email address
Website

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I’ve Written for 30 Minutes a Day for 60 Days

After I completed 30 days of writing every day for 30 minutes, I wrote about my experience at The Write Life. I made a promise to myself to write every day until the end of the year. Then I plan to write every day of 2017.

I just completed my 60th day of writing for 30 minutes every day!

As I’ve mentioned before, the mood to write rarely strikes me. When I think about my perfect writing conditions, I picture myself alone in my basement office at about 8 pm. I have a few candles lit and I’m wrapped in a soft blanket. I have a hot cup of tea next to me and perhaps a few cookies or crackers to nibble on. I’m contemplating each word to make sure that I’m creating a masterpiece. I ponder what I will write next. I spend a lot of time re-reading what I’ve written.

Even though this sounds romantic and wonderful, I’ve done it many times and it’s not that great. I get almost nothing accomplished. I sit for an hour or two and have less than 500 words to show for it.

Compare that to how I’ve actually been writing for the last 60 days:

Most of the time, I’m located in my kitchen at the breakfast bar. I write while sitting on a somewhat uncomfortable wooden stool. I write while I sip lukewarm coffee, not wanting to get up and microwave it for the third time that morning. The light is bright and glaring because my writing happens between 7 – 9 am. My daughter is prominently involved, asking for snacks, milk, toys, and to watch Frozen for the 100th time. My Google document is filled with squiggly red lines because I don’t bother correcting grammar or spelling until I finish writing the first draft. I barely think about what I’m writing, I just let myself write.

After 60 days, I’m still feeling the benefits of this daily practice. My productivity has continued to increase and so has my confidence level.

My stats after 30 days:

  • Published nine new posts on my blog and drafted another 21 posts.
  • Planned out my content until March 2017.
  • Completed 30+ pages of an ebook on becoming a virtual assistant.

My stats after 60 days:

  • Published nine new posts on my blog and drafted another 14 posts.
  • Planned out my content until June 2017.
  • Completed another 14 pages of an ebook on becoming a virtual assistant. The ebook is now in the editing and publishing stages.

Total so far:

  • Published 18 new posts; drafted another 35
  • Planned content to June 2017
  • Completed 44 pages of an ebook

In addition to my first ever guest post being published on The Write Life, I’ve also sent out an additional three guest post submissions. One is scheduled to go live in November.

It could be a coincidence that I’ve gotten more client requests and referrals than usual in these last 60 day, but I don’t think so. Sticking to one goal and completing it each day has supercharged my productivity in all areas. I’m much more interested in growing my business and working with new people. I’m motivated to tackle projects that have nothing to do with writing, like using the electric hedge trimmer to spruce up the bushes in front of my house.

Feeling like I’m accomplishing something each day keeps me in a positive space. I’m finally embracing the “done is better than perfect” model. Because the thing is, even when I agonized over my work, it still wasn’t perfect. It’s much better to feel like something is done and hit publish than to keep it in drafts purgatory for the next year.

In addition, I’ve had at least 15 people tell me that I inspired them to start writing every day. A kind commenter took some of my words, printed them out, and put them on his refrigerator to motivate him to write. That means so much to me!

I plan on continuing my writing streak for the rest of the year, checking in every 30 days. When the new year starts, it’s my goal to write every day of 2017.

Care to join me?

60-days-of-writing

Celebrating Halloween with a Toddler

Halloween can be an incredibly fun time with a toddler. They are picture-perfect in their costumes, they can say “trick or treat” and are beginning to get into the excitement of the holidays. Halloween marks the start of the holiday season.

Here are some ways you can have a great Halloween celebration with your toddler.

  • Let them pick out their own costume

This year my daughter offered up the following options for costumes – Sheldon from Big Bang Theory, Mickey Mouse, or Minnie Mouse. I try not to push my agenda, but I knew that Sheldon was not going to be a recognizable costume since he wears superhero t-shirts and khaki pants which is not too different from some of the outfits she already has.

Once we looked online for costumes, she firmly declared she would be Abby Cadabby. Last year she was Elmo and Sesame Street is still popular in our house.

We also went to Target and picked out a fluffy kangaroo costume that would be more weather appropriate for night-time trick or treating.

  • Take them Trick or Treating

One of the great things about my husband’s employer is that they are a family business. They throw several events each year where employees are encouraged to bring their families. One of those activities is trick or treating around the office. There are about 50 people that participate and hand out candy to the kids trick or treating. Norah absolutely loves going to her daddy’s work and walking around the office with him.

We also do the traditional evening trick or treating in our neighborhood. Last year, Norah went to three houses, but was too scared to do any more. We came back home and she passed out candy to the trick or treaters. She really enjoyed seeing all of the kids in their costumes. Since she’s a little older this year, I think she’ll be more willing to go to the door and say trick or treat. She’s had a taste of candy and that’s a powerful motivator.

  • Talk up the holiday

We’ve been talking about Halloween since the summer. We keep reminding her of the order of the holidays and telling how fun Halloween is going to be. We do things related to the holiday for 2-3 weekends before the event.

  • Get holiday books from the library

When any major event is coming up I go to the library and get books about it. I always talk up new things so that Norah is excited and prepared, but I find that books are easier for her to understand than me rambling about something.

We’ve also watched several movies about Halloween including It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown and Trick or Treat Mickey Mouse.

  • Carve or paint pumpkins together

Last year we didn’t get around to doing this so we made sure it was a priority this year. We bought a kit with paint and sequins so Norah can go wild on her own pumpkin while Mike and I carved pumpkins. I made a cat pumpkin for Norah, Mike carved a ghost, and I craved an emoji.

  • Decorate for the event

My toddler loves decorating. She often takes stickers and places them all over the house and says “I’m decorating.”

When we see decorations in the grocery store, we go look at them and let her pick something for the house. She’s excited about the LED light pumpkins and spooky ghosts in the front yard. We also have a scarecrow in the front yard and a few things around the house. One of Norah’s favorite decorations are the sticky window clings so we made sure to get some pumpkins for the front window.

  • Disconnect and enjoy yourself

Nowadays it can be hard to be in the moment and enjoy yourself with so many digital distractions. By all means, take a few pictures of your child in their costume, but then put away your phone and wait until you get home to post them on Facebook. I see too many people interacting with their phones instead of their children and it makes me sad.

If Halloween isn’t your thing, most of these suggestions can be switched out for other holiday events. I’ve found that having a child makes the holidays magical again. I didn’t do much celebrating prior to my daughter being born, but I want to make sure she has special memories of the holidays. She makes everything fun!

halloween