My Big Birthday Announcement

There comes a point in every adult life when you finally decide that birthday are not important. I am delighted to point out that I have not reached that point in my life just yet.

I have spent the past week finding “non-nonchalant” ways to tell everyone  that today is my birthday. This blog post is no exception.

I love birthdays. I love that I woke up this morning just assuming today would be a little more magical than every other day. That is a great feeling for a typically pessimistic soul. And that is why today is worth celebrating!

So! I came up with a way for all of us to celebrate together.  And my birthday present is built right in to the celebration! (see what I did there?)

Here is my request –

I want you to take a moment for yourself, reflect on your career and celebrate just how far you have come.

A few years ago, I launched the “twenty something letter” project on my blog, and asked women to write letters to their twenty something selves.  It totally exploded and I ended up being featured in the New York Times and interviewed on NPR. It was insane.

I have spent the past few months getting ready to launch a similar (but very different) project, and thought today was the absolute perfect day to invite you to participate. It would be such a great birthday present to get all of you to contribute a letter.

Here are the details:

I would like you to think of a time in your career when you felt stuck or unsure of what you were going to do with your life. I would like you to write a letter to yourself during that time.

What do you know now that you wish you knew then? What advice would you give yourself during that time?

If you are interested, simply fill out this form here and I will email you the details.

May today be magical for each and every one of you!

The best networking tool you never use

I have spent the past five years working in the blogger/brand space, which means I am subscribed to more than three-hundred blogs.

It is my job to stay “in the know.”

I spend a good amount of time each week sifting through content, and finding the pieces that are most relevant to my network. This is the most powerful tool I have for growing my business: information.

Sharing interesting content is one of the best way to show potential clients what interests you, and how you are thinking about the space.

Find a connection you want to work with, and start sending them relevant links you come across, with a couple of lines shows why it might be interesting to them.

It turns out I am on to something.

60% of executives say their primarily source of news is email newsletters, so your link might be one of the only news source they read that day. You are bringing incredible value by keeping these connections up-to-date and are able to build a deep connection with someone who is typically very hard to reach.

I have been using this networking tool for years, and would say 70% of my business comes from relationships I built using this method. Of course, reading hundreds of blogs and new sources can be totally time consuming, so I broke down the tools and system I use below.

1. Scan the news 

I don’t have hours each day to spend thumbing through blogs, so most of my reading happens on my phone when I am moving between meetings.

I normally start with the blogs I subscribe to on Feedly, and then move over to Zite.

Zite is amazing because you can subscribe to categories based on keywords. This means you can pick hyper-niches to follow, and gather news about a very specific industry. When I get bored with those sites, I have a bunch of other apps that I use depending on my mood. Some of my favorites are Flipbard, Nuzzel, Medium and of course Buzzfeed.

2. Bookmark the best links

I spend the entire time I am flipping through blogs thinking about who would find the content interesting. The goal of scanning these apps is not to read every single blog post, but to sift through headlines and find the pieces of content that are going to be most useful to you.

Keep this question in the back of your head–Who would find this information useful?

I add all of the interesting links to “Get Pocket” so I can dig into them later.

3. Review and send around 

Once a day I log-in to Get Pocket and read through the links I saved.

I send the most interesting links to the people in my network who might find it useful with a little info on why I thought they might like it.

The goal of this exercise is not to be their source of news, but to give them a new idea or business perspective they can apply to their work.

Try it out yourself. Send five links to people you love to work with, and let me know what happens.

 

What I learned about making a big career leap

I have spent a lot of time lately thinking about what professionals need to make a big jump in their career.

Colleges (sort of) give us the skills we need to land our first job, but who shows us the path up to and through middle management?

I remember walking into my first performance review absolutely positive I deserved a raise, and absolutely no idea what to expect in the review. Should I ask for a raise before the meeting? Do I negotiate in the meeting? What if they don’t give me a raise? Does everyone get a raise at their performance review?

These were things I never learned in the college. (you can find the answers here)

Lately I have been obsessed with the strategies people use to make a big leap in your career. It has become clear to me that having a huge career requires a series of big leaps, but what do those leaps need to look like? And how do you make them?

How do you know what skills you need to develop to get to the next level in your career?

I think I came up with an answers. It appears (to me) that in order to make a big career jump you have to learn an entirely new industry.

Here are a couple of examples:

-If you work in a PR or Advertising agency, you have spend the first few years of your career learning to do your job. But once you get to middle management, the only way to make is a big leap is if you learn how to land new clients for your agency. This means you have to master the art of selling before you can propel yourself upward.

-If you are a teacher or daycare provider, the only way to grow your career is to open your own business. This means propelling your career upwards requires learning the art of caring for children AND the art of business.

If you are thinking about making a big leap in your career, start by looking at the other skills that you will need to acquire. What industries align well with yours? What gaps are in the marketplace?

Create a plan for the skills you would like to develop and then find resources that take you there.

Good luck!

How to monetize your creative projects

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This is my friend Karen. She is great at everything she does. And she does a lot of stuff.

I have spent most of my career helping brands figure out how to work with bloggers. This means I have spent approximately a gazillion hours digging through blogs in search of new interesting talent. Karen was the result of a late night research project in which I was trying to find the coolest hidden lifestyle influencers ever.

Her blog, The Art of Doing Stuff is absolutely amazing. Its a combination of personal stories, ideas for your home, tutorials and the occasional swear word.

Karen spent the majority of her career working as a TV personality. She was the host of pretty much every major home decor show in Canada, and got to interview celebrities like Tom Cruise. And then she quit.

Her career in television wasn’t giving her the life she really wanted. She wanted more freedom over what projects she took on, and how she did them and the way that she taught other people to do them. She wanted to do everything she was doing on TV, but in her very own special Karen way.

And now she makes a full time income doing just that.

Karen posted five days a week for the first five years of blogging. She tackled her own projects, took her own pictures and built a community from scratch. She decided what kind of career she wanted to build, and then went out and built it.

She built her own chicken coop, designed a cob oven for her backyard and renovated her kitchen all by herself. And she tells the stories on her blog. And its way better than being on TV because she can pick all of her projects and decide what days she wants to wear pants and she can mutter swear words under her breath without getting fired. And isn’t that exactly the type of career we all dream of having?

What is really special about Karen is that she knows who she is & she’s great at forging a path that is true to herself. Karen had THE dream career and she gave it all up to do what she wanted to do in the way she wanted to do it.

Building a career that is true to who you are involves taking huge risks. It requires you to bet on yourself in a way no one else in the world could ever possibly do.  And it requires follow through. And these are things that Karen has done in an incredibly successful way.

Why I am telling you all of this?
You have a chance to hang out with her night, listen to her story and ask her your own questions about finding the path that’s right for you. The free live webinar is happening tonight at 7pm PST. You can register here. Don’t worry if you aren’t able to make the webinar live, because we will be sending a recorded version around after the event.

Sign up now.

How blogging conferences helped launch my career

I spent my early twenties traveling around the country to blogging conferences. I have been to almost every blogging conference that is known to man. I have scanned all of the expos and sat in the sessions and danced on the liquor soaked dance floors. Some college students go to Cancun on spring break. Me? I went to Blissdom.

The first conference I ever attended was BlogHer ’09.  I had only been blogging for six months, and I just landed my first online marketing job.  Alli Worthington was building an online empire from the ground up. This means she was working from home while raising her five boys and building an online magazine on a shoestring budget.

Alli hired me to figure out the best way to monetize the site. That’s what I was supposed to do at BlogHer ’09. My goal was to land sponsorships.

I had no money so I emailed the founders of BlogHer and asked for a student discount. They sold me a pass for $75. I split a hotel room with two women I met on twitter, spent $30 on a train ticket and filled my suitcases with dresses from Forever 21 and black cardigans. The black cardigans were my way of making the dresses look more professional.

I showed up to the conference with a printed out schedule organized in a binder with tabs. I had every party and expo spot scheduled, and planned to use this event as the launching point for my next big move.

For three days, I gallivanted around Chicago drinking free wine and networking with people I never imagined meeting. I stayed up late and went to parties on rooftops and packed my bags with free samples. I talked about writing and business and online marketing. I connected with people who cared about all of the geeky weird things I loved, and I felt community.

I did not land a single sponsorship. (This was the year mom bloggers were threatening PR managers for free Crocs. and the other 1500 women attending the conference had the same agenda as me.) But it didn’t matter. I came away with something even more valuable. That weekend connected me with dozens of women who collectively changed the course of not only my career, but my life.

I kept going to these conference because each time I would walk away with new mentors and new opportunities and new ideas about what I should do with my life.

I created Maker Mentors because I want everyone to have the chance to connect. And some people can’t travel across the country, or find three strangers to share a hotel room with. But anyone with a computer can bring a rich online community right into their home.

You can register for Maker Mentors here. The early bird rate is $175, but you can get $50 off when you enter the discount code “IAMAMAKER”

If you don’t have money for a conference right now, you can sign up for our free community and get access to tons of resources for your business. See you there!

How to get important people to email you back when you are not important

“How do you get important people to email you back when you are not important?” 

I saw this question on Twitter and stopped everything I was doing to sit down a write this post.

(A tiny glimpse into my always-shifting attention span)

I built my entire career on my ability to get important people to email me back. I’m not kidding.

Do you know how I got my first agency job? By connecting with people far more important than me. Do you know why they hired me? Because I was amazing at getting big influencers to work with me. Do you know how I got these influencers to work with me? By sending great emails.

I am not telling you this to prove that I am the queen of email. The methods I use could be repeated by anyone in the world. All you need to have is an understanding of how to connect with people & a smart plan.

What can you do to get really important people to email you back?

First of all, Get over the fact that you are not important. No one cares who you are or what you are doing.People are not ignoring your email because you don’t have a fancy title. People are ignoring your email, because your email sucks.

Reasons I ignore emails:

  • It looked like a blanket spam letter
  • I have no idea what they want from me
  • Required too long of a response

Telling yourself that people are not responding because you are not important only distracts you from learning how to write great emails. No one cares what your title is or how many awards you have. They care about the value you have to offer & how they can use that value to meet their goals.

Stop focusing on the fact that you are not important, and start focusing on how you can make your emails better. 

Important people are busy. And they get a ton of email. Most Executives have mastered the art of managing a full inbox. This means they are able to filter through emails really fast, identify the emails that require a response and have become masters at answering any question in three sentences or less.

Ask yourself these questions before you hit “send” on that email–Is your email short & to the point? Do you explain who you are & why they should care about you? Do you ask a clear question? Can your email be answered in less than 3 sentences?

There are a million rules for writing great emails. Learn them. 

The last thing you need to learn its that timing is EVERYTHING. Important people check their email first thing in the morning and at the end of the day.

In between times, they are mostly emailing directly from their phones. If your email is too long, or they don’t know what to do with it or it takes a huge long reply—it will probably get deleted. This is why it is so important to learn how to write great emails.

The good news is that mastering the art of writing emails will give you complete control over your ability to get responses. The bad new is that writing great emails is something that can take years to master.

I am hosting a 5-day live online course totally focused on how to write great emails & find the people who can help you reach your goals. The course will take place Mon. December 15th- Thurs. December 19th. It’s $195 but if you sign up before November 21st, you get a $50 discount.  The course includes four days of live video sessions, live chat and email-based course materials. If  you miss the live sessions you can view them on demand.  You can get the full details here. 

My new big project – Maker Mentors

Everyone I have ever worked with will tell you that I am amazing at coming up with ideas.

It doesn’t matter if we are trying to figure out a strategy for your business or making a plan to end hunger in Nigeria. I can come up with an amazing idea on the spot and leave you overwhelmed with all of the possible things you could do with your life.

The only problem is that I never finish anything.

The internet is littered with my half-finished projects. I always always always forget to move the laundry from the washer to the dryer. If my kids relied on me to pick out their clothes, they would be going to school half-dressed.

The only way to get me to finish something is to stay on top of me until it’s done, which is why everyone hates working with me and gives up before the plan is done. The bane of my existence is that I have all of these amazing ideas and none of them get implemented.

I am the queen of getting mentors. My ideas are the way that I get mentors. I have had everyone from hugely successful executives to coveted career coaches as mentors.

People love to mentor me because it inevitably ends with me giving them a billion ideas for whatever problem they are trying to solve.  I am a big thinker with an endless pile of random knowledge, which makes for interesting conversations. And people only want to mentor people who are fun to talk to.

Every single one of my mentors loses patience with me at some point. They tell me I need to focus. They tell me I am lazy and that I don’t finish anything and sometimes that they tell me I am acting like a total brat.

And they are right.

I don’t like to finish projects. It’s not fun. I don’t want to focus. I would rather think about how to solve a hundred different big problems than take the time to solve one.

I would have never realized that my inability to focus was holding me back if it weren’t for the mentors I have in my life. They helped me see my blind spots and find ways to work around them.

The only way to move forward is to push myself out of my comfort zone. That is a scary thing to do. I might be wrong or I might fail or I might let everyone I love down. However, there is something about having people invested in my success that pushed me to figure out what I can do to be more successful.

A good mentor is someone who has been down the path you are going now. Someone who can see the obstacles that are holding you back, and push you to move past them.

Imagine the impact we could make on the world if we all had one mentor who was invested in you for no other reason but that they cared about your success.

I have spent the past few months building something that would give everyone in the world that very opportunity.

And I finished my first project ever.

It’s called Maker Mentors and it’s a platform for helping creative people take their businesses to the next level. Together with Erin Wetzel, we built a conference, a forum for bringing a community of people together and a series of free webinars.

You can learn more about Maker Mentors here.

I want everyone to have that feeling, over and over again, of finishing a big project you’re proud of. And I want that myself over and over again, as well.

But for now, I am taking a day to celebrate that i did it one time. And it feels great.

How to build a career that doesn’t ruin your life

The biggest struggle women face is figuring out how to build a family without totally ruining your career. How can you build a successful career that doesnt totally ruin your life?

I got pregnant my freshman year of college, so I have spent my entire career trying to figure out how to balance my work and my life.

I signed up for an entire load of independent study courses the semester I had Aiden.  I will never forget calling my professors from the hospital bed to explain why my assignments would be late.

Being a college student allowed me to work part time, and have a ton of time home with Aiden. Aiden didn’t go to daycare for the first two years of his life, because I figured out a schedule that allowed me ot be home with him the majority of the time.

The downside? We were so incredibly poor.

The year that Aiden started kindergarten was the year I joined Corporate America. Him being in school full-time, gave me the freedom to focus on my career (almost) full-time.

I spent most of his early elementary years working at big jobs that required me to travel around the country.Our life was busy, but making that choice allowed me to build the foundation that got me to where I am today.

Today I am fully self-employed and get to do the work I love from the comfort of my home.

Here are five steps I learned along the way: 

1. Be realistic about your priorities 

Most women don’t have kids in the beginning of college. I have spent many nights discussing how to have kids and a career with colleagues. Studies show that having kids totally decreases your earning power, and it is becoming increasingly clear that corporate America is not making the radical changes it needs to better support women.

We all have to make choices.

Sometimes we choose to be poor and other times we choose to cut time with our families to focus on our careers. Be honest about the choices you are going to face in then next few years, and figure out a plan that is going to work for your life.

What is most important to you right now? What kind of life do you want to be living? What is non-negotiable? What are you willing to give up?

2. Explore your options

Once you understand your priorities, you can start exploring your career options and narrowing down the path that will work best for your life. It is really important to be realistic during this exercise.

Where are you working today? What paths are open to you? Where do you want to be in One year? Five years? Ten years? What paths can you take to reach your goal?

The best way to explore your options is to look at other professionals who took that path. What did they do to get there? What did they have to give up? Is that something I am willing to give up?

The social web has created tons of career opportunities that you can pursue from the comfort of your own home, or while you are traveling around the world. Choosing a big career does not mean you have to give up your life. Explore all of the paths that are now available to you.

3. Hone your skills

Making a big career leap requires you to learn new skills. Compare the goals you have set for yourself, and where you are today. What skills do you need to learn to achieve your goal? What do you need to improve?

Make a list of skills you need to focus on, and make a plan for doing so. It doesn’t have to be complicated. You can learn any skills from a mix of books, online research and courses. Get creative!

4. Make a plan for landing your dream job

The hardest part of landing your dream job is finding the perfect position for you. It is easy to land a job that is the perfect right fit for you. The hard part is finding that absolutely perfect position.

Start exploring the companies and types of positions that will work best for your life. Keep an eye on when they do their hiring, what kind of skills they are constantly looking for and what gaps you can fill in.

Start building relationships with executives you would like to work for. Having a network of established relationships will set you up for success when it comes time to start applying to positions.

5. Plan for the future
You priorities and dreams will shift during different seasons of life. Create a plan for where you would like to be in the next ten years, and identity the types of flexibility you need in your life.

Surviving the self-employment lifestyle

I had an intervention last week.

Actually a couple of them.

The best part of having mentors who are further along in their career is that they can see your obstacles much more clearly than you can see them yourself.

Last week, I got into a debate over one of my blog posts with a mentor-friend of mine. She texted me late that night, “I have been reading your blog, and I can tell you are stressed the f**k out.”

 

She was right.

Here is the thing. Self employment is hard y’all.

I want to tell everyone to quit their job, stick it to the man and build a career that makes their life great. We are living amidst the gig economy where freelancing has never been more possible.

But I know why you don’t make the leap.

Steady paychecks are nice. A luxury, even.

Living in an “eat what you kill” mindset is HARD.

At any given time I’m thinking about…

  • Drumming up new business
  • Keeping up with current projects 
  • Drafting invoices to send out 
  • Connecting with new people on social media 
  • Paying this week’s bills
  • Paying last week’s bills
  • How are those going to get paid?
  • Remembering the boys start soccer camp next month.
  • Thinking that it’s time to put new tires on the car, isn’t it? 
  • Trying to put aside enough money to pay rent on the first 

The idea of “balance” is nice. But the fear of failing, going bankrupt and living on the side of the road is REAL.

So I took the weekend off, and started thinking about how I could manage my career in a way that didn’t push me over the edge.

Here is what I learned: 

1.  Assess your income from  the past few months. 

I took a step back and looked at my earnings from the past few months.

I consistently hit all of my sales goals for the past three months. But then I got bored and changed my focus and my sales reflected that.

Instead of realizing what was happening, I freaked out and spent a week totally stressed and completely unfocused. I did all of this without even realizing it was happening.

Once I recognized the changes in my income, I pinpointed where I needed to focus more of my time and put the plan in action.

Look at your earning. Identify the trends and learn from your mistakes.

2. Optimize your side projects 

After assessing my income, I realized I have been focusing a ton of effort into building a portfolio of courses, writing consistently and building relationships online.

The problem is that all of these things take a ton of time and make me very little money. They mostly just make me happy. Instead of giving them up, I found ways to optimize these projects so they took me less time and made me more money.

I killed all of my existing courses, and started focusing on creating larger more effective programs that include experts that span way beyond just me.

My first course is all about building a career that works for your life, and includes some of my favorite career experts online.  (you can get all of the details here)

This new format makes the courses more interesting for participants, and gives me more time to line up amazing presenters.

Win win for everyone.

3. Give yourself a break. 

It’s really hard to take time off when you are self-employed.

You spend all day measuring your time in relation to money, which easily translates to your personal life. Suddenly, you find yourself coming up with sneaky plans to do work while you are supposed to be doing family/life stuff.

Just stop.

You are going to burn out.

Assessing your income and killing the project that aren’t working is best way to increase your earnings. Giving up your life for work is not.

Take a step back. Asses where you are and refocus your efforts.

5 must-have apps for monetizing your blog

Over the past few years, we have seen a number of platforms and apps pop up that allows bloggers to monetize their influence. If you are an active blogger, you have most likely been pitched by two-dozen startups wanting to help you make more money.

It can feel impossible to sift through all of the pitches, so I have pulled together five of the best apps for monetizing your blog.

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1. Course Craft
Course craft is a simple platform that allows you to create and sell courses from any site. I use this platform for some of my own courses, and love the simple interface they have created. Course Craft allows you to launch new courses and sell them instantly in exchange for a small percentage of revenue. You can get more details here.

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2. Rafflecopter

Rafflecopter is an amazing tool for bloggers that host regular giveaways. They allow you to create a simple widget that manages all of the details involved in hosting giveaways. Test it out the next time you are hosting a giveaway, and let us know your thoughts!

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3. Soldsie 

Soldsie allows you to sell products directly on Facebook and instagram. I have noticed a huge trend in bloggers hosting “closet sales” online, and it seems they have had some amazing results. Soldsie allows you to create a closet sale and start making money in seconds.

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4. Sellfy 

There are a billion articles across the web giving you tricks for formatting and selling your ebooks. Sellfy has made the process simple by allowing you to instantly publish and being selling PDF ebooks. Sellfy is a great solution for publishing that brilliant ebook you have been working on, or want to create a downloadble workbook for your readers.

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5. Guides.co 

Writing an ebook can feel like a never ending project. How are you supposed to find time to write a book when you spend your days writing content online? Guides.co allows you to sell digital guides that take less time to create and are more interactive than traditional ebooks.