Avoiding Overwhelm

If you are a female entrepreneur like myself, during the busy season you have a hundred things thrown at you at once. I know I have become overwhelmed easily in the past, which is why I've developed a strategy to stay sane.

Right now, I have a handful of websites that I'm creating, plus hundreds of little dancers who need their portraits taken, edited and sent to their parents. I have a senior portrait scheduled, my own kids who need braces, and the list goes on.

When I handle the stress well, I absolutely LOVE creating websites and photographing littles. When I let myself get overwhelmed, I have a hard time enjoying anything (and I have a feeling I'm not very enjoyable). Here are my "secrets" to avoid overwhelm even in the busy season.

FOCUS

  • Do what you love, not what others demand.
  • Don't take on unnecessary responsibility.
  • Respect your own prices and policies. If you give in often, you will lose focus and respect and eventually become overwhelmed.
  • Keep a schedule. Batch process. Turn off social media. Multi-tasking and overwhelm are evil cousins.
  • Focus on the positive. See Philippians 4:8-9

Fun Focus Tip: I listen to the Spotify playlist "Entre Los Andes" -- fun, Latin American music that doesn't distract.

FAITH

  • Focus on the now, taking one day at a time. See Matthew 6:25-34
  • Don't worry. Faith it til you make it. See Proverbs 3:5,6
  • Slow down. God is in control of your universe, not you.

Fun Faith Tip: Write down, paper to pen, 3 faith statements ("I will", "I am") that address your top 3 worries. Ex.: "I will trust the Lord to provide. I am prosperous in all that I do."

SLOWING DOWN

  • Drive slower. It's better to arrive late and nice, than on time and grumpy with a speeding ticket.
  • Take a walk or do some yoga even if you think the world will fall apart when you do. Slowing down goes back to faith.
  • Respect the Sabbath. Take a day off each week (even in the busy season) where you only do what centers you. You will be more productive on Monday and less likely to succumb to overwhelm.

Fun Slowing Down Tip: Use the iPhone app Abide to listen to really good prayers that help you meditate in a biblical way. Listen while you walk, clean or lie down.

STEWARDSHIP

  • Take time to manage your finances. Take it from me, discovering that you spent all your busy season earnings because you didn't manage your finances is a real bummer.
  • Take time to manage your health. I'm no Chalene Johnson but, I am aware of the link between overwhelm and junk food and lack of exercise.

Fun Stewardship Tip: Save money for specific things in actual envelopes. Watching the cash grow, and even paying for big things in cash is really fun! See Financial Peace

Your Homepage

Keep Your Words:

  • understandable (avoid terminology not everyone gets)

  • relatable (keep your reader's needs in mind)

  • brief (the less you write, the more people will read it)

1. The Header & One Liner

Your logo and menu can overlay the header image or can go above it. Limit your menu to 3-5 items so you don't overwhelm the viewer.

Your one liner should be simple and repeatable. It should refer to the problem that you solve for the customer while also mentions the solution. It's your 3-second chance to grab the visitor's attention and keep them on your website.

 

2. Call To Action #1 - The Freebie

Your goal for your first CTA is to offer something so valuable, people will want to share it. If they share your link, they are doing your advertising for you. Your secondary goal is to collect email addresses so you can deliver your next amazing offer straight to their inboxes.

Be sure your give-away is downloadable and relevant to your business. They should also be your original work, not something readily available on the internet.

Here are some give-away ideas.

  • Free 15-minute consult
  • Free Video from Your Webinars
  • Free Photos
  • Free PDF's
    • Sample Book Chapter
    • Prayer Request Form
    • Budget Form
    • Chore Chart
    • Devotional
    • Checklist

3. Benefits & Features

When you talk about yourself or your business, always keep the visitor in mind. Talk about what you have to offer that will make their life better. But, don't be shy to post a great headshot. A big smile can build trust.

CTA #2 - Your second Call To Action can be a button that leads them to a contact form or to your About page. Make it even more tempting by offering them that free consult. Or send them to your Resources page.

4. The Testimonial

Including a quote from a previous client can also build trust. Remember, trust is key when building any relationship. Show off the authenticity of that testimonial by including a name/city and a photo!

5. Featured Blog Posts

If your website is primarily a blog, you can put your featured blog posts above the fold. But don't include more than three. Too many options may cause people to click away from your website. On the other hand, one popular blog post featured on your website can up your SEO because the visitor will click to your blog, read it and then share it with others.

6. Social Links & Footer

Social Links: Again, limit the links to the social media sites that you keep updated weekly or even daily. Drop the social media sites that don't affect your purpose or bottom line.

Footer: Your footer gives the visitor information they will want without scrolling back to the top of your homepage. You can give them your address, menu, copyright info, and your most important Opt-in.

Do you have questions about your website? I'd love to take a look at it and offer my point of view!

Improve Your Photos for Only $20

TOTAL: $20

As a professional photographer, I know how easy it is to spend thousands of dollars on photography equipment. But, I have a cheap secret to help you improve your brand photography no matter what camera (or smartphone) you use.

First, let's avoid the mistakes most amateurs make

Mistake #1 Yucky Lighting

  • Not enough light is yucky
  • Camera flash is yucky
  • Fluorescent light is yucky

Solution: Window Light

Soft window light on a clear day is absolutely beautiful for photographing just about anything.

PRO TIP: Turn off the room lights and increase your ISO to 1600-6400. If you still have too many shadows, use a reflector before you experiment with flash.

 

Mistake #2 Busy Backgrounds

The most common amateur photographer mistake is to ignore what is behind the subject matter. Unless you have a professional camera that can totally blur your background, keep it white.

Solution: White background and base

Emphasize your product with a simple background. In the diagram, the tri-fold foam core board not only reflects the window light onto the shadow side of the subject matter, it also creates a clean and simple background. The 20x30 foam core is the base. 

PRO TIP: Open your aperture setting below 2.8 for a soft depth of field and blurry background, even with the white background. I used my 35mm lens for the shot below.

Mistake #3 Unedited Photos

I would never show my photos before passing them through Adobe Lightroom and working my magic in Photoshop. But, you don't need expensive software subscriptions to brighten up your photographs. You can do it for free!

Solution: PicMonkey Photo Editor

  • Crop your photo using the rule of thirds for good composition.
  • Brighten the exposure by playing with the slider bars until your photo looks great.
  • Adjust the temperature (under "color") so the photo is warm and sunny but not too yellow.

PRO TIP: Adjust all lighting and color in Lightroom. Brighten your photos in Photoshop with actions from the Florabella Collection.

Mistake #4 Doing Everything Yourself

Your photographs can make or break your brand and directly affect sales.

Solution: Hire a Pro for The Following Photos:

  • Photos on your homepage

  • Your headshot

  • Photos for advertisements

  • Product photos of your top selling or high-priced items.

Get 10 free images through June 30th when booking Design Blossoms' Brand Photography Package!

Why I Closed My Etsy Shop

. . . and how I stopped the negative cash flow

After a super motivating weekend with Christy Wright's Business Boutique, I set out to make my Etsy shop a success. I saw amazing women entrepreneurs on Instagram with piles of orders ready to be shipped. I saw them do beautiful, creative work. With credit card in hand, I set out to do the same, or better!

I had amazing branding, beautiful products (watercolor Bible page prints and hand-painted wood signs). In 2016, my shop earned 140 five-star reviews and made 10K in revenue! Sounds great, right?

$10,000 would have been great if I hadn't spent $15,000 on the business. #buzzkill

Finally looking at the horrible numbers put me in a pit of gloom until I decided to make some drastic changes. I close my shop, pivoted the type of work I sold, and got a grip on my finances. The biggest step was taking Dave Ramsey's Financial Peace University. I had been foolishly avoiding this course for several years. I was surprised that I could understand it and that it brought unity to my marriage!

My business is now debt free! And I've reopened my Etsy shop because there's nothing wrong with Etsy. The problem was not having a financial plan that kept my spending down. 

I'm using my creativity to run my business very low cost. (My bank actually penalized me for not spending enough on my business!)

Here are some ideas to cut cost in your biz:

1. Minimal Cost of Goods

The cost of goods (COG) when selling physical products can put you out of business.

Before I would spend money on everything from a new scroll saw to ink-jet watercolor paper.

My first year in family photography, I spent all my earnings on props. Moon-shaped cradles, real bunnies, and sofas that I put in the middle of an apple orchard.

I called my delusional, presumptuous thinking "optimism". #dreamchasers should #dreambig right?

Now I sell only digital products. I sell my photography as digital image downloads. I create websites, branding and commercial photography - all of which are digital services. I reopened my Etsy shop but all I sell how are moodboard image bundles. I don't spend a lot of time on my Etsy shop as I am focusing on what brings in the most money.

2. Very low CODB

The cost of doing business (CODB) is tricky for a self-employed entrepreneur because we tend not to consider our time as an expense.

For a creative, time is a difficult concept. In order to produce creative, amazing work, we must be in the right side of our brains. Unfortunately numbers and time are regulated in the left side of our brains.

Stress is another factor that can negatively affect creativity. If I am on the clock, the stress short-circuits my creativity.

So I would take on projects that would take me FOR-EVER to complete. Once I edited 937 photos for a school and sold only 30% of those photos. When I finally did the math, I realized I had made under $2 per photo which had taken me 30-60 minutes each. Really? I could make much more money flipping burgers.

Now I organize my time and priorities. I find creative ways to run my business with very little cost. My business is debt-free and I am growing at the speed of cash.

 

These are my fave FREE online services:

Wunderlist is my favorite task manager because I can organize my tasks how I want to. It also let's me tick the box for completed tasks and gives me a satisfying "ding!" when I do. 

WUNDERLIST TIP: Set recurring tasks so you can check the box and still have it pop up the next day.

You don't need Photoshop to make professional title graphics. I have been proficient in Photoshop and Illustrator for literally 25 years and sometimes I just use canva.com to create a graphic because it's easier! I even wrote a blog post about creating great graphics using canva.com

CANVA TIP: You can now add 3 color hex codes for free to the "your brand" section. This will help keep your brand consistent when choosing colors for graphics and fonts.

This email marketing service is my favorite because it integrates with Squarespace seamlessly. Although I loved the automation features MailChimp offers for sending email campaigns, their free account version is all I really need for now.

MAILCHIMP TIP: I send one designed email to myself from MailChimp, then I create template out of it. (reply >> copy all >> paste into new canned response") When I get an email or a sign-up, I click the email address, select the canned response and send. It's a super fast way to send a designed email in gmail.

This collage maker is super easy to use. Fitting photos in a collage can be tricky in another program. I just slide things around and drag and drop to get the perfect layout.

PICMONKEY TIP: Since their free version doesn't have the color swatches I need, I upload a small jpg of my color to the "add images" section.

3. Free Advertising

Don't Pay to Advertise on Social Media

If your business is small, competing with companies who pay Facebook or Pinterest tens of thousands to promote their ads, is just lost revenue.

Instead, find like-minded entrepreneurs to collaborate with. Serve, give, love others. Then the same will be returned to you.

Be Remarkable

Perfect SEO and auto-repeating your ad several times a day will not have near the impact that remarkable work will have. Quality shouts out louder than any sales pitch.

Word of Mouth

Loving my job and who I am working for is how I give great customer service. It's not an act, I really love serving them and going above and beyond. As a result, they are happy to tell their friends about my work.

The key to remaining in a creative, loving headspace with my work is to slow down. Did you catch that? Slow. Down. Stress is the enemy of creativity and loving service. 

Is Your Homepage Turning People Away?

Would you put as much information on a highway billboard as you have on your home page?

A passing car only has a few seconds to read a billboard. A potential client will stay 3-5 seconds on your homepage before deciding to scroll or to leave. If they can't process the information quickly they click away to the next thing on their screens screaming for their attention.

TLDR

"But, I have so much important information they just have to see!" I get it. But, if you can get them to stay on your page long enough to scroll, they will eventually get to that valuable info and even opt-in, giving you their email address or signing up for your next course or making a purchase!

TLDR stands for "too long, didn't read". With the quantity of emails, posts and ads that bombard us daily, people just aren't going to read a lot of text when visiting a new website. Give your information in a focused, prudent manner.

Here are some suggestions to keep your info easy to read:

  • Use bullet points
  • Describe your business with a one-liner over the homepage header.
  • Remember, less is more. The less you write, the more people will read what you write. Same goes for your newsletter & blog posts.

Common Homepage Distractions

I would keep the following off the homepage above the fold:

  • Pop-up boxes - Your opt-in form can be visible in the form of buttons, forms or announcement bars without interrupting the the viewer and forcing them to click something.
  • Ads - You can still generate revenue with ads and affiliate links without cluttering up your homepage. Put them in the footer or in the sidebar of your blog. Be sure they aren't pop-up boxes.
  • Homepage Slideshows - Galleries with advancing photos, or even videos on the homepage are distracting. If the slides have text, it's just plain annoying. Think of your viewers as having ADD and poor reading skills. (I'm a little like that so, I know).

What Your Homepage SHOULD Communicate

  1. What unique thing do you offer me?
  2. How will it solve a problem for me and make life better?
  3. How exactly do I get it?

For more information on creating content for your website, watch Donald Miller's 5-minute marketing makeover videos