4 Things To Consider Before Working With Your Spouse

The first thing I want you to be clear on is why you’re bringing them on in the first place. If it’s because you feel like it’s the logical thing to do, then rethink the crap out of that idea. Three things come to mind there - resentment, obligation and push-you-off-a-cliff-because-you’re-driving-me-mad annoyance. You wouldn’t hire your friend, your next door neighbor or your dog because they were close to you, so you need to separate your business brain from your Mrs mind.

But, you’re still reading this so you’ve decided that bringing your spouse on board is going to make your biz into something it couldn’t have been if it was only fueled by you and too much coffee. Sweet! It won’t be all fun and games, much like delegating the housework, but if you’ve got solid answers to these four questions then you’re already one step closer to Bey & Jay Z status.

1. WHAT WILL THEIR ROLE BE?

I doubt you’re paying your love to come in to make you coffees all day (although that would be amazing), so what are they bringing to the table?
Set the boundaries and the expectations based on ability, not preference. If you love has put their hand up to do your social media but shrugs when mention FB ads, you might need to rethink the role. Coffee sounds good now, right?

2. WHO HAS THE FINAL SAY?

Potentially messy, but laying it out from point A is crucial. It might be that you’re each responsible for a different zone of genius. It might be that you’re still the head honcho and get the yay or nay vote. If you’re brought them on as a partner then you’ll know what portion of the control they have, but if they’re your employee, you can’t be afraid of pulling them up if need be.

3. WHAT'S THEIR WORKS STYLE LIKE?

You like to work in the morning because you’re not a functioning human being after 9pm. Your spouse is a night owl and wants to be working on that project at midnight. Evernote is your second brain, where all the ideas and brain fart goodness is kept, but your spouse has pieces of paper all over the desk, all over the floor and “hang on, I’ll just find that super important page somewhere… here… it’s here, I know it is… I’ll just… FOUND IT!”.
Delegate work that can be done solo, get them on the bossy babe train or find a happy medium between both work styles. Either way, be prepared for it - just like any other colleague.

4. WHERE ARE YOUR SWITCH OFF BOUNDARIES? 

“The couple that plays together stays together.” You’ve heard that before. But when have you heard, “the couple who works together, lives together and occasionally plays together because they’re always talking about work stays together?”

If your waking hours are together for work and together to chill, you’ve got to have your boundaries. Pick a time to switch off and stick to that, or you’ll still be talking about branding instead of bonking, constantly. Life still needs to be functional for you both outside of your work.

RELATED POSTS

How To Get Your Spouse On Board With Your Biz Goals

ABOUT JESS

Jess is an Australian born and bred relationship guru for entrepreneur and career women who are balancing the building of their empire and the connection with their spouse. She helps you tweak the good to make it amazing through Heart Speak and simple, powerful twists in thinking. Jess’ own relationship shift was the catalyst for her business and she uses what she knows to completely transform other couples’ relationships. Her self-paced program Relationship Rebalance (http://bit.ly/relationship-rebalance) covers it all. You can find her sassiest, juiciest stuff at thefirestokers.com and connect with her on Facebook.

How To Create Shipping Profiles + Set Up Shipping Upgrades On Etsy

It’s September which means, it’s almost Christmas. And that means things are about to get busy!!

One way to get ahead of the holiday insanity is to have things ready to go or publish way before you think you’ll need them. Shipping is a huge concern during the holidays of course, so making that aspect of business more streamlined is in your best interest as a shop owner.

Etsy allows you to create what they call “shipping profiles” and you should take advantage of them if you aren’t! There is also the option to allow shipping upgrades which is of course something shoppers will want to see at holiday time.

Here’s how to get ahead and set these things up now so they are ready to go when you need them. 

First, go to your shop settings page and click “shipping profiles” in the sidebar. This will bring you to a screen where you will see a blue button to “create shipping profile” in the top right corner. Click it!

There are so many possibilities here for profiles but as an example, let’s create a profile for a Free Shipping Black Friday Sale! For this sale, we will offer free shipping vis USPS first class mail to addresses within the USA. We will offer this on all our products - a ready to ship item and a made to order item. These items have different “processing times” (amount of time before the item is ready to be put in the mail.) So we will create two profiles:

1. “black friday free domestic shipping - ready to ship”

2. “black friday free domestic shipping - made to order”

Go ahead and begin creating your first profile for this sale by naming it name it“black friday free domestic shipping - ready to ship” (just FYI, customers won’t see this title.) 

Etsy will ask you if you want to use calculated shipping or “create your own”… I’m selecting “create your own” because I think in most cases, sellers are sending similar or standardized packages of similar weight and size. (Calculated shipping is great for vintage sellers who sell all sorts of items of varied weights and sizes.)

Now you’ll fill in the country you ship from and your processing time. Remember, ythis is the processing time that applies only to the ready to ship item in your shop! (You can batch apply the profiles later on to the items.)

Since this is a free shipping sale, just plug in “$0.00” as the shipping price to the United States for the item “by itself” and “with another”:

Now you can input your usual shipping costs for “everywhere else” or the specific countries you send to. Beneath this you’ll see a place to create a “shipping upgrade” (if you are in the USA, it will say “…within the USA”)

This is a feature you can use here and on other existing profiles or future profiles. Input the amount ADDITIONAL it will cost to upgrade the shipping! In my example, I’m offering an upgrade to USPS priority shipping, and since my starting price is $0, i’m inputting $7.00. If you want to offer an upgrade on international shipping you can do that as well.

Now to complete the profiles needed for this sale, you will have to create a second profile for the made to order items in your shop. Once both are made, you can batch edit your listings and apply these profiles to the products in your shop!

Another tip for using shipping profiles to prep for the holidays is to create staged processing time profiles per product. Example: the made to order product might increase in lead or “processing” time after the black friday sale, so you can create a store a profile to apply to those items AFTER the sale which will change the processing time to 2-3 weeks. 

Get creative with this and be smart! You can create profiles and publish them months later. I like to keep a free shipping profile on hand for any flash sales I might feel the urge to run at the last minute. 

If you are interested in prepping your shop even more for the holidays, now would be an excellent time to take my Etsy Training Course! (LINK: http://members.merriweathercouncil.com)

How else do you use shipping profiles to streamline and simplify the business you do on Etsy? 

RELATED POSTS

How To Get Featured On Etsy

ABOUT DANIELLE

Danielle Spurge, founder of The Merriweather Council, is a crafter and craft business consultant to handmade shop owners who want to optimize and leverage their work, and build better brands and businesses. Danielle works and writes to inspire and support makers in business by sharing insights from her five+ years of experience selling handmade work online. Danielle's Etsy Training Course (bit.ly/etsytrainer) teaches Etsy sellers how to position their shops and listings for increased traffic, more sales and improved customer relationships. More info can be found RIGHT HERE.

6 Key Elements of A Perfect Logo

Chances are if you’re reading this, you need a logo. Congrats! You’re about to join the really awesome branded-business-babes-brigade! At the end of this post, we’ll take a proper moment to celebrate your radness. 

But first, let’s do real talk. 

I’ve been designing logos for babes like you for quite a long minute now, and usually at the start of a project, I get an email with a link to a Pinterest board entitled “branding / logo ideas”. And pretty consistently, these boards all are filled with nearly nothing besides logo after logo after logo. Some are logos from brands, some are pre-made template logos that inspire them— you get the idea. 

And I can already hear you saying, “Well duh, Zie. What else would even be in a logo or branding board?” 

Literally anything else, please.

When you’re redoing your bedroom, chances are you’re looking at bedroom decor boards on Pinterest. Same for when you’re wanting a new hair style— you’re probably pinning looks that are really similar to the style you’re going for. So you should totally pull up other photography logos when you’re trying to create your own photography logo, right? Nah. 

Let’s take a look at what a logo is for a sec. Logos are the visual mark that represents your personal brand. They’re often the first thing anyone sees and help to identify your brand anywhere. And just like your personal brand, your logo should be as unique as possible and represent you. So when you’re bringing a list of logos for other brands to me as your designer, what I’m seeing is a shopping list of frozen dinners, rather then an original recipe. Make sense?

Instead, let’s look to your mood board. What elements would lend themselves to a style or theme for your logo? What’s the thread that’s going to stitch your entire brand’s visuals together into a cohesive, but unique blanket? (Don’t have a moodboard? Now is a great time to make one!!) 

SIX REALLY IMPORTANT THINGS ABOUT A LOGO

1. Keep It Simple Silly- One thing that was drilled into our heads in my college design classes that I 100% agree with: Less is always more. Especially when dealing with logos. The more frills & frippery you add to a logo, the more cluttered and confused it is.

 “But I don’t like just text logos” -- This is a conversation I recently had with my mother (and one I’ve had with quite a few clients). If you’re the kind of person that wants some kind of icon or graphic element to go alongside the text, that’s totally ok! I know so many people who honestly don’t think a logo is a logo if it’s “just text”.

This all boils down to personal preference. Just remember that your logo is not your advertising!You’ll have a million other opportunities to make sure everyone knows who you are and what you do. Keep it simple.

2. Am I Going to Remember You?- While you want to keep it simple, there is a balance that needs to be maintained. You want to be remembered, and remembered for good reasons too-- like having a great logo! So don’t make it bland either. :)

This can be achieved in numerous different ways. Your icon or graphic element being interesting and unique, the font you choose, the colors you choose to use (or not use! black and white are totally ok!), or even how you use the logo.

3. Does This Feel too Hipster? - You want a logo that’s going to last a long time. If you’re having to change your logo every year or even every couple of years to keep up with trends (or undo last year’s trends), you’re setting yourself up for failure. Because if we’re being honest, these very trendy logos are all white-washed and completely forgettable.

 You’re not setting yourself apart and you’re not instilling any long-term brand recognition with your audience. The logos that are green with leaves on them are usually meant to feel very “fresh” or “healthy” or “green”. And while I’m not saying green logos with leaves are horrible and should be erased from the archives, they’re not really fresh anymore. My advice on this is still to simply avoid looking at other logos for inspiration.

4. What If I Expand My Brand? - So what if you’re currently a wedding photographer but next year you decide you also want to start doing pet photography? That’s totally cool! Unless of course your logo is a camera with wedding bells or wedding rings around it. Then you’re kind of in a pickle.

 If instead of starting out with wedding bells, wedding rings and a camera, try something that’s a little more versatile. This will save you time, money and a whole lot of grief down the road.

5. Know Your Audience - Again, if you’re wedding photographer, you’re probably not going to want to have a skull and cross-bones for your logo. Unless you specialize in pirate themed weddings.Then def. do a skull and cross-bones.  \m/

6. What Does This Say? - The worst thing you can do for your personal brand is to have a logo that is illegible. I’ve seen quite a few logos over the years that use really crazy fonts with zero space in-between the letters (kerning) in a bright color, displayed over bright images. This kind of thing kills me. 

If you make it hard for your audience to read, they won’t read it. It’s as simple as that and it goes for everything from the logo to the blog posts, etc. So if you’re worried if your logo is legible, show it to your grandma (or anyone over a certain age). See if they can read it easily and quickly.

These are just a few things to consider when creating your own logo or hiring your designer. (Which, if you need to hire one, get at me, bebes.> ziedarling.com) But as long as you are staying true to your own brand image and avoiding looking at other folks, I think you’ll do just fine. 

And now, let’s celebrate! You’ve just joined the really awesome branded-business-babes-brigade! Throw some glitter in the air, listen to some Nicki Minaj and pop open some champagne! Now, let’s go take over the world with some fab logos, babes. 

ABOUT ZIE

My name is Zie Darling! I'm your fairy godmother, here to motivate and inspire you, teach and guide you. 

I fully believe that every brand has a story and I'm here as your own personal storyteller. I am all about women who want to live their own glamorous lives, who are excited by lifting other babes-in-business up and who are actively choosing to live happier, more glitter-filled lives. 

I also happen to live in Nashville, eat a staggering amount of hot wings and have a cat named Napoleon Fitzwilliam Bonaparte.

How To Get Your Spouse On Board With Your Business Goals

Thanks so much to the gorgeous Caitlin herself for giving me the floor! As solopreneurs and seriously driven lady bosses, it's pretty easy for us to push our biz to the top of the priority list and let the other stuff slip. You've got big plans for your little blog and visions of big bank accounts and copious amounts of time for your family and your love are forefront of your mind - but your spouse can't see that. 

You've spent money on another course that you know will boost your skill set, but they're just seeing dollar signs. You've dropped down to one income so that you can hustle your ass off, but they're not seeing the traction you've assured them will come. You're balls-to-the-wall on a Sunday creating your best content yet, but they're frustrated that you won't get off your damn computer.

It's all for you, darling but-sometimes-clueless spouse of mine! Why can't you get on board with my business goals?

1. Know your why. Know why you get up in the morning, know why you tie your shoes the way you do, know why you breathe… You hear it in the entrepreneur world all the time and I get it, the term is tired. But knowing why you’re getting on the laptop and not getting off with your spouse is your key to getting that point across. You’re sacrificing more than you probably realise while you’re building your empire and if one of them is time with your spouse then prepare for that to come up in a shit storm of ways. If you can say with total confidence that what you’re doing is worth it and WHY it’s so important then you’re one step ahead.
 

2. Recognise your spouse’s values. Everyone loves differently and needs their cup filled with different juice. There are a ton of names for it and I just happen to call it Heart Speak - essentially, its how you love. Knowing how you love and how your spouse loves is such a freaking big deal. You can have anything in the bag with this little nugget of wisdom. In trying to get your spouse on board with your business goals, you'll want to concentrate on their Heart Speak.
To work it out is simpler than you might think.

  • take note of how your partner spends their time and the hobbies or activities they prioritise.
  • observe their interactions with you, even the ones that you don't resonate with (it might be their own loving coming through as a default!)
  • check out any words or phrases that pop up commonly and keep them in your back pocket.

3. Fit it all together. When you next have the usually-awkward chat about when the money is going to start paying for all those courses you're signed up to, use what you now know.
Instead of: "I'm doing this for our family!" try "I'm doing this so that the extra income I'm bringing in will let you drop a day at work. You'll be able to go surfing in the morning without rushing for work. Won't that be rad?"
You'll insert whatever knowledge you've gathered to make sure the message you're sending to your spouse is getting heard in the right language, pushing the right buttons.

I can't tell you that after one conversation your spouse is going to be drafting your emails or sharing every one of your Facebook posts, but you need to stick to this, babe. Mindset shifts take time, but if you're tailing that message to their needs as well as yours you will make waves, I promise.

ABOUT JESS

Jess is an Australian born and bred relationship guru for entrepreneur and career women who are balancing the building of their empire and the connection with their spouse. She helps you tweak the good to make it amazing through Heart Speak and simple, powerful twists in thinking. Jess’ own relationship shift was the catalyst for her business and she uses what she knows to completely transform other couples’ relationships. Her self-paced program Relationship Rebalance (http://bit.ly/relationship-rebalance) covers it all. You can find her sassiest, juiciest stuff at thefirestokers.com and connect with her on Facebook.

How To Turn Down A Customer

Here’s the deal: Etsy continually promotes items that can be personalized or made to order and they foster an environment that favors custom and personalized work. Open any Etsy finds email, there is sure to be at least one section that highlights pieces that can be made to order in any capacity.

Regardless of this fact, it is common for people to ask for custom or personalized pieces on their own volition without influence from Etsy because that’s just human nature. We see things, and we imagine them suiting us better. So you will likely get a custom order request at some point… probably a few.

Custom work is an awesome way to expand your product line and make more money. It’s important that your work stays true to your unique vision and perspective though, and sometimes you just flat out can’t or don’t want to take on a specific request. Here are 3 easy ways to turn down custom work you aren’t interested in.

1. Refer a friend. This is my favorite thing to do recently. If I get a request for something I don’t really want to do, don’t have time to do, or that simply isn’t in my jurisdiction as far as technique goes, I will refer the client to a fellow embroiderer. This works well for a few reasons, firstly it’s a great karma booster! When you refer work to someone, you are basically instantly awesome as far at they are concerned. Neatly, it totally makes you look like a caring shop owner to the client. Just because you cant fill the order, doesn’t mean you can’t help. It is best to refer clients to people whose work is similar in style or aesthetic to yours so that the connection is clear. Remember, this isn’t about competition, you are choosing to refer a friend, and you are freeing up time in your own life to focus on work you really want to do.

2. Redirect. If you get a request for something that seems similar in design or purpose to another item you already carry or make, you might redirect the customer to that item. “This piece would work well in a baby nursery and can ship immediately!” might be enough to close the sale. Sometimes people don’t see everything in your shop, so it’s never a bad idea to try this tactic!

3. Decline with grace. If something really doesn’t suit your style or schedule, and you cannot refer the work to someone else, it’s usually best to just decline. No one will be happy with the end result if it’s too far outside your usual style and approach. One thing I like suggest is putting the customer’s needs and wants in the forefront of the response - let them know that you care about this project and you want them to be happy. Try “I don’t think I am the right person to make this vision come to life” or “I cannot dedicate the time that this project deserves right now."

ABOUT DANIELLE

Danielle Spurge is a crafter and craft business consultant to handmade shop owners who want to optimize and leverage their work, and build better brands and businesses. Danielle works and writes to inspire and support makers in business by sharing insights from her five+ years of experience selling handmade work online. Danielle's Etsy Training Course (bit.ly/etsytrainer) teaches Etsy sellers how to position their shops and listings for increased traffic, more sales and improved customer relationships. More info can be found at merriweathercouncil.com 

9 Pinterest Marketing Myths Exposed

Before we get started, let me tell you that Pinterest was a hard nut for me to crack. I used to really struggle with gaining relevant followers on that platform. Once I figured it out, I was easily getting 1,000 new relevant followers each month. Save yourself some time and get my free eBook to learn how you can do it, too.

1. It is better to pin from the source, not from the Pinterest feed.

FALSE. You can grow a relevant following quickly and never pin anything from the source. In order to grow a following on Pinterest, you need to pin a lot. Pinning directly from the Pinterest feed is the easiest way to do this. Do you know how many things you should be pinning a day? Read my free eBook. Pinning from the source won't slow your growth, it just takes longer to pin.

2. Join group boards for more followers.

PROCEED GROUP BOARDS WITH CAUTION. Group boards that consistently have a high repin count AND have content that is in sync with your brand are dreamy. When you join boards like those, your content will be introduced to people who are looking for are your target market. It's a match made in heaven. HOWEVER, if you are joining Pinterest group boards willy nilly and the content posted there doesn't represent your brand...don't do it. Your feed will get clogged with a bunch of pins that aren't relevant to you. This will reflect badly on you and will slow you down because you'll have to sift through a lot of nonsense before you get to the good stuff.

3. Leave lots of comments to get people to follow you.

FALSE. If you leave a bunch of comments on various pins, Pinterest will think you're a spammer and freeze your account. Yikes. Nobody wants that. If you want to thank people for pinning your stuff, just click the little heart. You don't need to write a long drawn out comment instructing people to visit your shop for more merchandise. Ick.

4. If you delete a board, then you will lose followers.

TRUE. If a follower is only following that specific board and none of your other boards, then your total following count will decrease by one when you delete the board they are following. That sentence was so long, but thank you for powering through it. This is a big problem for people who convert from a personal account to a business account. After converting to a business account, you may want to get rid of personal boards that aren't relevant to your business. You may lose followers by doing so, but if the topic doesn't relate to your business, then who cares.

5. Include a specific caption for each pin.

FALSE. (SORT OF) When you are pinning your own content from your website, you absolutely need to include a description that is rich with keywords. I NEVER change the caption when I'm repinning other people's content and I'm still able to get 1,000 followers in one month. If you change the caption for every single thing you pin, it will take a million years to pin just a few things. I don't have time for that and neither do you. 

6. Pin your own content more than once.

TRUE. So, if you aren't pinning your own content over and over on Pinterest, then wtf are you doing there? Ladies. You need to promote your own stuff! 10% of the content you post should be your own. That means if I pin this blog post on Monday to my Little Farm Media Blog board, then I can pin it again two weeks later to my Social Media Tips board. Why two weeks? I don't know, BUT if you're pinning a ton of content and have at least 500 new followers coming in every two weeks then you will always have a new set of eyes on your boards.

7. Vertical pins get more repins.

TRUE. I don't care how good the article is, I will never pin it if there isn't a nice vertical image to go with it. Vertical images stand out more on Pinterest than small, horizontal images. Why should you care about repins? Pins with more repins have a greater chance of being shown in searches because Pinterest will identify you as a Pinterest Badass. The more pins you have with a high repin count, the more followers you will get.

8. Use hashtags in your caption.

FALSE. Hashtags don't help AT ALL. When you click on a hashtag on Pinterest, it will bring up a ton of content that doesn't even relate to the content of the hashtag. This article from moz.com explains it way better than I ever could

9. Delete pins with a low repin count.

TRUE. I never give advice on this blog that I haven't tried myself, but I heard from two reliable sources that this worked for them. I read about it on Erika Madden's blog post, Pinterest: The Ultimate Guide To Getting Followers + Repins, and saw Melyssa Griffin, of The Nectar Collective, post about it on her Instagram. I decided to go straight to the source and asked Melyssa and Erika to explain why. They both agreed that eliminating OLD (6 mos.+) pins with a low repin count would help Pinterest recognize you as a power pinner. Pins with a low number of repins make Pinterest think nobody cares about your content. If most of your pins have a high number of repins, Pinterest will think you're important and show your pins more.

5 SEO Tips To Prepare For Holiday Sales

It may seem crazy to even mention preparing your shop for holiday sales in the middle of the summer, but if you want your product-based business to have a fat bankroll come New Year’s Eve, now is the time to start thinking about how to boost your holiday sales. A bit of hard work now will pay off big time this December. Here are 5 SEO tips to get your e-commerce shop in shipshape for the holidays.

Update your product listings with gift-related long tail keywords.

You may have heard that including keywords in your product titles and descriptions is important for SEO. And oh boy, is it. When you begin thinking of relevant keywords to include on your product pages, be sure to also brainstorm gift-related long tail keywords.

“Long tail keywords” are short phrases, usually made up of 3-5 words, that people use when searching to find very specific things. When people use long tail keywords in searches, they often intend to buy the thing they are looking for.

“Head” search terms aka “short tail keywords” might be something like “Christmas gifts,” whereas more specific long tail keywords might include things like “gifts for my geeky husband” or “funny gifts for coworkers.”

If you want shoppers to find your product pages when they search for specific types of gift ideas, be sure to include those specific phrases on your product listings.

Optimize your Pinterest for gift-related searches.

For many e-commerce companies, Pinterest is a top source of traffic. This aesthetically pleasing time-suck is more than just a place to bookmark your favorite recipes and craft tutorials. It’s also a search engine.

Now that you’ve narrowed down relevant long tail keywords for your products, be sure to also include those phrases throughout your pin descriptions where applicable.

If you haven’t already done so, I also highly recommend building out Pinterest boards that function as gift guides. If you sell handcrafted cufflinks or fancy one-of-a-kind bowties, create a Pinterest board featuring all of your favorite gifts for men. Be sure to give the board a keyword-rich title and include your long tail keywords in the board’s description as well as in the individual pin descriptions.

In June, Pinterest rolled out their much-anticipated “Buy it” button. While most of the stores participating in the initial launch are major retailers, indie brands who use Shopify have the chance to be among the first Pinterest merchants.

Do you have Rich Pins enabled for your site? If not, now is the time to make it happen. Need to give your most important product-related pins a jumpstart? Promoted Pins are a great way to give new pins a big boost.

Create gift-themed blog content.

Want to drive organic search traffic to your e-commerce site all holiday season long? Create amazing gift-themed blog posts that help your potential customers save time finding the perfect gift.

People often do their gift shopping by searching for gifts for particular types of recipients: think about creating gift guides featuring unique gifts for grandparents or what to give to the co-worker who has everything.

After you’ve rounded up plenty of amazing content for your holiday gift guide blog post, make sure to include a Pin-worthy cover image. In order to create gift guide images worthy of going viral, I usually use Pixelmator, an image editing program for Mac, but Canva offers a great free alternative.

Create a holiday PR plan for getting in gift guides.

Now is the time to start thinking about getting your products featured in gift guides put together by magazines and bloggers. Most magazines plan out their content months in advance, so if you want to have any chance at a feature during the holidays, now is the time to pitch yourself.

Don’t forget to think local either… while getting a feature in a national magazine’s gift guide may seem next to impossible, hometown newspapers and magazines are often looking to feature locally made products during the holidays. Develop a strategy for yourself and decide what local publications might be a good fit for your work. Create a spreadsheet detailing which magazines you want to pitch your products to, along with any contact information you find for their editors. Begin engaging with the publication on social media now, in a natural, non-spammy way, and if possible, find the individual editors on Twitter or other social channels. Building authentic relationships with local journalists and pitching myself when the time is right has been one of the main ways I’ve gotten press for my biz over the years.

While it’s always great to get free press mentions, there are also plenty of affordable gift advertising opportunities for indie business owners as well. When I was running my e-commerce store, I regularly participated in co-op advertising sites and sponsored gift guides put together by my favorite bloggers.

Plan your holiday social media and e-mail strategy.

During the holidays, you’ll undoubtedly have a lot on your plate, but you can’t let your social media marketing or e-mail list suffer. Create a plan for yourself NOW.

Make an outline of any holiday sales and products that you plan to promote, along with important dates, such as Black Friday or Cyber Monday. You might even go so far as drafting out social media posts using a tool like Hootsuite or Buffer. You’ll want to set a reminder for yourself to double check everything in November or December, in case any of the details have changed, but the more you can plan ahead now, the better you’ll feel during the holiday rush.

What are YOU doing this summer to prepare your online store for holiday sales?

Let me know in the comments below!

ABOUT MALLORY

Mallory Whitfield began her journey as a creative entrepreneur in 2004, selling her handmade creations at local craft shows. In 2006, she started blogging at MissMalaprop.com. Through trial and error, and a whole lot of Google searches, she taught herself all about blogging, HTML, WordPress, social media marketing, SEO, affiliate marketing, and so much more. To save you some of the trouble, she’s created a free online course, the 30 Day SEO Boot Camp for Bloggers & Badass Creatives. Mallory is also part of the organizational team for Pursuit Creative Conference, a new conference for creative entrepreneurs in New Orleans, which takes place on October 3, 2015.

How To Host An Instagram Loop Giveaway

Instagram Loop Giveaways are a great way to grow your following, introduce your followers to new accounts, and create excitement. They can also be a big dud. I have tested all of these tips myself during the last Loop Giveaway I organized and gained 700 targeted followers in 48 hours. They work.

WANT AN EXACT COPY OF THE EMAILS I USED TO ORGANIZE THE LOOP?

These instructions are super clear and will save you tons of time.

If you already are a newsletter subscriber and have the super secret password, click here to access all our digital freebies.

1. Don't post an open call. I see this happening in Facebook groups all the time and it drives me nuts. You need to choose specific people and reach out to them individually. Through email. Posting an open call is basically saying, "Do you have a pulse? I would love for you to represent my business." 

2. Ask the right people. Your audience trusts you, so don't break that trust. If you include people in your loop that aren't amazing, you will seem desperate and your audience will be annoyed. Amazing doesn't necessarily mean people with tons of followers, but it does mean people who share a similar audience. Each person in your loop should be chosen because you know your following would find their content useful. 

3. Don't be intimidated. If you have 1,000 followers, then someone with 10,000 followers may not be interested. BUT, they might be interested if the collective following is 50,000. 

4. Make it easy for everyone. Give clear instructions for all participants. Don't clog up their email with lots of back and forth. If you haven't downloaded my Instagram Loop Giveaway Email Series, then do it now.

RELATED POSTS

What's Your Instagram Strategy? | Violet Tinder Studios

One of the most frequently asked questions I get about Instagram is how to grow an engaged, targeted following. I found Natasha, of Violet Tinder Studios, on Instagram a while back and was sucked into her gorgeous feed. I can't remember how many followers she had at the time, but it seemed to me like she should have WAY more. She scheduled a consultation with me and we covered a TON of stuff. Now she has tons of followers, but even more importantly- she is getting more sales and has a few exciting collabs in the works.

1. Who are you, what do you do, and how did it all begin?

I’m Natasha of Violet Tinder Studios. I love to paint and create “paper fun”- stationery, stickers, etc! It all started right after I had my daughter Lucie, in 2014. I had always love to paint and create as an outlet, but had never really done much more with it. Home with a newborn, I’d find myself with little pockets of time in the day (while she napped or ate) and decided to start using that time creatively. From there, it grew as I found myself more and more inspired, and loving every minute of it. In late summer 2014, I officially launched Violet Tinder Studios, and I haven’t stopped running since. Ha.

 2. Where can we find you on social media?

I’m mainly on IG, and I’m @violettinder- I just love the visual aspect of IG and the fun community of creatives. I’m on Pinterest and Twitter as Violet Tinder, and Facebook as Natasha Martin, but honestly, I spend much less of my social media time on those outlets. Well, actually, I do like to pin at night, while I watch Netflix.

3. What is your favorite hashtag?

#thecandyrainbow!! It was a fun collaborative project started by my friend Rachel of @linesacross and myself- we both love candy and taking fun, colorful photos so we turned it into a weekly challenge and it has been SO. MUCH. FUN. It’s also crazy how much it’s grown- not only do other people jump in with their own candy pics, but we’re starting to find new avenues to take it, like working with some candy companies and doing more styled candy photos.

 4. Why do you use social media?

Ok, if I’m honest, two reasons- 1) I honestly love the creative aspect… finding new and fun ways to photograph something, and the challenge of trying to make my work stand out in a little square photo- I really truly find it fun! But also, 2) it’s been INCREDIBLE for my business. I mean, really. Violet Tinder Studios has been in action less than a year, but in just that year it’s grown into it’s own profitable business (small, but growing) and I attribute 90% of that to my use of social media. If you’re smart about it, you can find new customers, promote and market your work for FREE, and learn sooooo much from other more experienced people. What else on earth gives you all of that, for free, and makes it fun?? I sound like an IG ad, I know, but I’m continually amazed at the opportunities I get from social media, especially as I become a little savvier in using it.

 5. Which tools do you use for creating or posting content?

I don’t use a ton- mainly just VSCO to slightly tweak the lighting in some photos. I don’t use any posting apps, because I’m a spontaneous-control freak (who knew those things could go together?) so I like to be able to change my mind at any time about what and when I post. So yeah, I pretty much just take photos as they come to me, tweak them a little with VSCO, and save them up so I have options when it’s time to post.

6. What effect does social media have on your business?

Well, I sort of already answered this, but a HUGE one. I find a large percentage of customers and even wholesale opportunities, through Instagram. I also love how it challenges me to take better, more appealing product photos (that you get instant feedback on) so I can hone my styling skills. Basically, if social media didn’t exist, I’d be sitting at my kitchen table, 10 months after starting Violet Tinder Studios, with maybe 10 sales. And I’d probably feel pretty defeated. But instead, I feel like there’s this huge ocean of opportunities that I have access to, and all I have to do is suit up and make sure I dive in everyday. Business is out there. You just have to find it. (Do I sound like a motivational speaker? haha)

7. How do you measure success on social media?

Hmmm good question… well, the obvious answer is followers, but I really think that can be misleading. Personally, for me it’s engagement. Do people like my photos? Are they commenting? Do they seem interested/excited by what I’m sharing? Sometimes people get so hung up on followers, but then their photos aren’t that great, and it shows because their followers aren’t engaged,and they don’t seem to be encouraging it anyway! Caitlin, you’ve always said this yourself, but if you have 25k followers, but no one is engaged in what you’re promoting and they don’t buy from you, who cares? I’d rather grow my following in a slow & steady way (or, ok fast & steady would be cool too), and gain people that really like my vibe! That’s what counts.

 8. What aspect of social media do you find most challenging?

I think just continually coming up with great new content that’s photo ready! Some days, I’m so crazy and hectic with projects (and juggling my toddler), and I think “man, there’s a gold mine of fun photos here, all over my floor/table/counter/studio… but who’s gonna clean it all up and stage it (in perfect lighting, no less) for me?!!” haha. I really do try to keep a backlog/library of photos, but sometimes that’s hard! I’m trying to get better about planning out my posts for the week ahead, to alleviate some of that stress. Especially as my business grows, I want that to be more streamlined. 

9. What makes you follow another brand back?

Mostly fun + colorful photos, and a consistent theme. I want to look at their page and clearly know what they’re all about. Sometimes, I’ll look at a page and see some cool photos, but then there’s a lot of other randomness, and I just think hmmm, I’m not sure here… I know it’s hard, because my style was WAYYY all over the place when I first started too. It’s like, you have to edit down your real life, and the real you, into a tighter package of what you are all about. Really, I think it’s a great exercise in branding! Oh, and I love witty captions. (Caitlin, yours have made me spit out my coffee more times than I can count. :))

10. Which brands have social media you admire?

Oh, there are so many good ones!! I DIE over @mattcrump and his #candyminimal photo series… he’s an amazing photographer, with such a fun spin. I love love love @shopbando- not only are their products super fun, but their social media is so on point! (@christinawinkelmann, I’m looking at you!)… and @sugarfina does such a great job with making candy seem so glamorous and fun and party-ready!

I think accounts that really master presenting a strong, branded image are my favorite- it’s so attractive!

11. Any advice for other brands just getting started on social media?

Ok, don’t get discouraged!!! You have to play around and experiment to find a style that feels right to you, and showcases your business in the best way for it. That will take time, so just keep going.

With that said, be consistent! Challenge yourself to post almost every day, and make sure you are interactive with people that interact with you.

Also- hashtags are your best friend, use them!! When I first started, I didn’t get the purpose- true story, I thought they like “declared” what your picture was or something ("#food? or course my ham sandwich is food!!”) BUT now I see- it’s like holding up a candle in the dark- it helps people to find you, in the crazy sea of Instagram!!! Thankfully, I had Caitlin to knock some sense into me. :)

See what some of my other clients are up to on Instagram.

How To Use Periscope Like a Boss

If your creative business has an account on Periscope and you don't know what to do there, then keep reading. Periscope is new and fun, which means a lot of businesses have jumped onboard. Build your following now before it gets super crowded. Before you start posting a bunch of rambling videos, I want you to remember this. If you want to use it as a business tool, then you need to scope content that your target audience wants to see. If you are an artist scoping biz tips, that's great if you want to start consulting or want to attract an audience of struggling artists. If you want to SELL stuff, then read on. P.S. You can find me giving a TON of social media tips on Periscope: @littlefarmmedia

WANT YOUR PERSONAL PERISCOPE OPENING SCRIPT WORKSHEET?

This script will help you plan out the first 5 minutes of your Periscope broadcast AND help you grow a loyal following quickly.

If you already are a newsletter subscriber and have the super secret password, click here to access ALL our digital freebies.

1. Tips. What are you an expert on? There are A LOT of business coaches on Periscope, so if you are a biz coach, then you need to create niche content in order to stand out. Just because you see someone with lots of followers scoping about email lists doesn't mean that you should if you aren't an expert! Tips are not just for biz coaches. If you sell skincare products, then give your audience tips on how to take care of their skin. If you sell accessories, then offer your audience style advice. 

2. Behind the scenes. Work in progress scopes show the time and effort that go into creating your product. Your product might be an e-course, a painting, a blog post, or a freaking birdhouse. I don't care what it is, show your audience how you did it! There is a reason Bob Ross was so famous and why home renovation shows are so popular. 

3. Unboxing videos are a great way to show how special your product is. I am obsessed with unboxing videos. Yesterday I watched a dude scope for 10 minutes just so I could watch him unwrap a dang memory stick. I have a zillion memory sticks, yet I was totally captivated and had to hold back from commenting: "Show me the stick already!" 

4. Demonstrate how to use your products. Think about QVC for a minute. They will fill up 60 minutes of air time with floral blazers. You probably make something better than a floral blazer and should have no time at all doing a product demonstration for a few minutes. P.S. I just decided we should bring back the floral blazer. Who's with me??? Periscope is just like QVC in that you have constant interaction with your audience. Ask them how they would use your product. Would they use it in a house? Would they use it with a mouse?

5. Save your videos. You can adjust the settings on Periscope to automatically save each scope to your phone's drive. Upload your videos to Facebook or YouTube directly from your phone! Repurposing content is a great way to save time and reach new audiences. Videos are super engaging on Facebook and will really stand out on the newsfeed. 

6. Write a great headline. Put some thought into your title and add key words that describe your content. Emojis also are a fun way to make your Periscope headline stand out. Not to harp on my whole floral blazer idea, but just imagine the emoji you could use. The possiblities are endless!

7. Tell everyone you're on Periscope. Your followers might not be on Periscope yet, so give them a reason to join. Write it in a newsletter, make announcements on your social media, and add it to your email signature. Tell people what to expect when they follow you. If you don't make it sound good, they won't do it. 

8.  Tell everyone on Periscope you're on Instagram/Pinterest/Facebook. If you are an artist and have a beautiful Pinterest account, take some time to show everyone. People like to see what inspires you. If you are a branding expert, show people your Pinterest board that is filled with branding boards. 

9. Make the most of your first five minutes. I've included 5 things you MUST say during the first five minutes of each scope. They work to help you connect with your audience and grow a following quickly. Click here to get instant access to 5 Specific Things To Say On Each Periscope Broadcast. If you aren't on my newsletter and don't know the super secret code, then click here.

UPDATE: Academy of Handmade just wrote 25 Things Makers Can Do On Periscope. Get over there for more ideas!

RELATED POSTS

What's Your Instagram Strategy? | The Higgins Creative

You know what drives me crazy? A gorgeous Instagram account with a strong voice that has fewer followers than I do. I was dying to work with Lilah Higgins, of The Higgins Creative, for a long time before she contacted me for some consulting. We met on Instagram and I got to know her a bit more in my private Facebook group, Creative Biz Owners. Lilah has a beautiful minimalist aesthetic that I absolutely love. Read on to discover how she uses Instagram to grow her creative business.

1. Who are you, what do you do, and how did it all begin?

Hi! I'm Lilah, one half of The Higgins Creative. My husband, Zac and I started "Techne Arts" back in 2011 on a whim to sell my art for extra income. We moved from Southern California to Wyoming right after we married and needed an outlets such well. We dreamt about eventually adding services like website design, social media management, logo design, and all kinds of other stuff we didn't have a clue about. Fast forward a few years and we rebranded in 2014 with a better name and a simpler plan. The Higgins Creative was born and we boiled everything down to "modern design for simple homes." Now, we design logos and graphic work on the side, but graphic design is really a means to provide for our real passion: making.

We take what we've learned about good design and mesh it with things you can actually use, like tea towels, coasters, unique jewelry, and art prints. Design meets purpose.

 2. Where can we find you on social media?

Our main site is www.thehigginscreative.com. You can find us on Instagram @thehigginscreative, and my personal account at @mrslilahhiggins. We tweet at @higginscreative & @zhiggins2010. We pin design work we admire, home decor, sailing & rving inspiration, and diy ideas on Pinterest @higginscreative. And we also post major updates and announcements to our Facebook page (www.facebook.com/thehigginscreative)

3. What is your favorite hashtag?

Our favorite hashtag is the one we made up (fancy that!) #waketomake! It is filled to the brim (over 1,000 photos!) with an authentic, gorgeous community of makers and shakers. When we're bored or discouraged about our influence or if what we do matters at all, all we have to do is scroll through #waketomake & everything is suddenly right in the world.

4. Why do you use social media?

We live in a rural area (a difficult thing for our adventurous & artsy souls!) and we don't have easy access to a large city or its amenities. Small town = small amount of customers. Selling online and using social media to promote our shop is THE best way for us to get our products out there.

 5. Which tools do you use for creating or posting content?

Ha. So many. My main buddy is my Canon Rebel XTi. He comes with me everywhere. As far as apps go, we use the VSCOcam app for editing, Over for text overlay, TakeOff for managing Instagram, HootSuite for managing Twitter & Facebook, & IFTTT for picking up where the other apps lack.

6. What effect does social media have on your business?

It's the main way that we sell, communicate with our customers, and reach out to the world outside of our little town. It's like uber crucial.

7. How do you measure success on social media?

That's a tough one. Some days I measure it in how many interactions/likes/comments/follows I get, but that can be devastating to depend on if I'm not careful. Not gonna lie, I've cried like a baby over it before. When I'm a little LESS insane, I measure success in reaching people. Not in quantity, but in quality. In making someone feel a little less alone, in making others feel welcome to join in on the exciting things we've got going on, and in making a difference through whatever level of reach we have. And making a sale feels pretty darn successful too. 🏼

 8. What aspect of social media do you find most challenging?

The most challenging thing for me is the constant need to keep up. The desire I have and the expectation I put on myself to post multiple times a day, with content good enough for he likes of Darling Magazine to MAAAYBE share, is so. Much. Work. Most days I love the hard work and the challenge, but some days I just want to quit and move to an island somewhere and fish.

9. What makes you follow another brand back?

On Instagram, good photography. I like to get inspired when I scroll. On Twitter, thought-provoking words. I like to be challenged to think bigger. In general, if it's a clean, well-made, thought-out and beautiful product or website, I'm a fan. 🏼

 10. Which brands have social media you admire?

I love @woodwoven (www.instagram.com/woodwoven) for their product displays and photography. I love @darling (www.instagram.com/darling) for the community they promote and how much I feel a part of what they're doing, even if I'm mostly a spectator. But we did get featured once for our magazine hanger https://instagram.com/p/1BiCpANPlG/! WOO! 🏼)

11. Any advice for other brands just getting started on social media?

Find your thing. What means the most to you? What is the message you're trying to get the world to listen to? Ours is focused on the importance of making, and we also (conveniently!) make good quality items for our followers to buy. Our voice screams "we make! you can make too! making is important! buy our handmade items!" And that's our thing, and we own it like its our job (oh wait...)

So, to sum up, find your thing. Own it. And learn how to take good pictures of it. White balance.

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Best Facebook Groups For Creative Biz Owners

I know Facebook is a thorn in the side of many creative business owners. This post will change that. One of the most profitable parts of Facebook for me has been Facebook groups. In addition to my own kick-ass, super amazing, bossy Facebook group filled with thousands of coaches, bloggers, and entrepreneurs (which you can join for free right here), I want to share another one that I am in and absolutely love. 

There are many super newbie groups that focus on VERY basic aspects of your business, but I don't hang out in those. Those groups serve a purpose, but they aren't necessarily my scene. The other kind of Facebook groups you will find are those that are SUPER spammy. They are filled with promotion after promotion and there is very little dialogue happening. Each group has it's own vibe, determined largely in part by the host. 

WANT MY FREE FACEBOOK ETIQUETTE GUIDE?

Before you read the list of my favorite Facebook groups, I am going to get a little Miss Manners on your ass and give specific examples of what to post and what NEVER to post. This guide will show you what I do to make the time I spend in Facebook groups enjoyable AND profitable. Cha-ching. 

If you are already on my newsletter list and know the super secret password, then click here.

1. Creative Biz Owners - Hosted by Caitlin Bacher of Little Farm Media

Description: "Not to brag, but this group is filled with the most amazing creative business owners you will ever meet in your whole entire life. If you are a creative business owner and like to have FUN, then get in here!"

The Vibe: Bossy, Smart, and Fun. 

Who Should Join: Creative Biz Owners: Makers, Artists, Designers, and Bloggers 

Frequent Topics: Social Media, Marketing, Production, Pricing, Handmade, Branding, Wholesale, Web Design, SEO, Etsy, Web Design (hint: if you provide any of these services, you should totally get in here) 

2. Savvy Business Owners - Hosted by  Heather Crabtree 

Description: "This is a private group for women who are or want to be Savvy Business Owners."

The Vibe: Savvy, Collaborative, Generous

Who Should Join: Savvy Business Owners - Wedding/Event Planners, Creative Consultants, Professional Service Providers

Frequent Topics: Outsourcing/VA, Streamlining, Web Design, Branding (hint: if you provide any of these services then get in there!)

For more Facebook Group recommendations, read 9 Smart Facebook Groups Worth Joining by Erika Madden.

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What's Your Instagram Strategy? | Married + Bright

I want you to meet one of my favorite makers on Instagram, Annika Benitz Chaloff. When I met Annika many months ago I had no idea she would turn into one of my favorite clients. Her commitment to growing her biz is truly inspiring. Just look at her Instagram and you will see what I mean. She has a consistent color palette, is product-focused, and has a genuine voice. The love for what she makes comes through in each post. Enjoy!

married and bright 1.png

1. Who are you, what do you do, and how did it all begin?

Hi! I'm Annika. I'm the owner-operator of Married&Bright, which is a line of handmade lingerie which I design, sew, and ship myself. Married&Bright happened to me a little bit by accident after I decided to close down my maternity wear and children's clothing company, Expect, during a particularly heartbreaking holiday season. I realized that Expect wasn't a happy place for me anymore and I decided to just take a break. During my interim, I started sewing a few things "just for fun." One of them was a gold sparkly bralette, which I posted on instagram. I got a lot of "Ooh! I want one!" and so I set up a little etsy shop and started selling. It was the most serendipitous thing and I am so grateful for it! 

 2. Where can we find you on social media?

My favorite social media is Instagram (isn't it everyone's?!). My handle is @annikabchaloff. You can also find me at facebook.com/married.bright

 3. What is your favorite hashtag?

I have a lot of favorites. I love #pursuepretty, #flashesofdelight, and #prettylittlethings. I use #makinsparklybras on my own work as a way to group together my favorite shots of my bralettes.

 4. Why do you use social media?

At first, it was just like a fun playground for me. I loved looking at pretty photos, seeing what my friends were up to, drooling over donut pics. But now my main purpose is to find customers. I actively seek my target customers out and work to convert them into shoppers. In one sentence: I use social media to make money.

 5. Which tools do you use for creating or posting content?

Investing in a pair of white foam boards and a couple sheets of fancy wrapping paper from PaperSource has revolutionized the backgrounds of my instagram photos. I shoot 99% of my photos on my phone and then touch them up with either the adjustment settings (not filters! Filters are ew!!) in the Instagram app -- my formula is brightness up, contrast down, fade up, warmth up, and then if I still want it a little more white I add in some of that sunshine dial thing at the top -- or I use an awesome app called Rhonna Magic. I like it even better than Afterlight.

 6. What effect does social media have on your business?

I literally would not have a business if it weren't for Instagram. If no one had told me that they wanted the bralette I posted, I would never have started my etsy shop. Now, it's a great way to test what people are looking for, and introduce new products. I get feedback on what I'm putting out in real time and it's so helpful. I feel like I can reach through my phone and find and converse with my target customers. It's pretty amazing.

 7. How do you measure success on social media?

This is hard for me, because I can get very focused on follower numbers. I'm always trying to drive my follower count higher and higher. Recently, however I've been focusing on converting my followers into customers. In reality, the number of followers a brand has does not necessarily correlate to their level of financial success. And, I know a lot of makers who are raking it in, who have less than a thousand followers on Instagram. So, I'm trying to let go of the idea that once I reach a certain number, I'll instantly be super successful.

 8. What aspect of social media do you find most challenging?

One of the hardest things for me is resisting posting personal photos on my business page all the time. I constantly have to remind myself to post product photos, since I'm not naturally inclined to do so. I just want to post pictures of food and my dog, which I know doesn't help my bottom line, but it's so gratifying for some reason. 

9. What makes you follow another brand back?

I love brands with beautiful pages, but what makes me follow back is when the brand is really conversational and communicative. It's nice when brands start conversations and then actually stay in them by responding to comments. It makes you feel like you can reach them if you want to ask for something, or even just say hi. It's a more personal experience. 

10. Which brands have social media you admire?

I love @vraiandoro's black and white minimal theme. It is so opposite of my own style, but it's so pleasing to look at! @shopbando's crazy fun, bright, sparkly feed is absolute perfection. The way they have created such an aspiration brand that is attainable at the same time is so intriguing to me. 

11. Any advice for other brands just getting started on social media?

I would advise to try to figure out a color scheme and theme for your Instagram page as soon as possible. If you scroll to the bottom of my page (please don't!), you'll find a whole mess of crazy looking photos. The sooner you can make an aesthetically pleasing feed, the better. And, don't be afraid to go after and communicate with your desired customers. They out there, they just won't know about you unless you say hello!

RELATED POSTS

5 Branding Mistakes to Avoid

As a personal brand mentor and designer, I get -a lot- of emails with business babes asking me for advice. Recently, I’ve received a couple dozen along the lines of: 

“Dear Zie, 

Please help. I’ve been working so hard on building my brand. I’m constantly hustling but I’m not seeing any growth. I don’t have any new followers, and I feel like no one is reading my stuff. Which means I’m not making the sales I need to in order to leave my day-job, etc.” 

And I feel their struggle. I’ve been there. We all have. So of course, I pop over to check out their social media, their blogs, their websites. And pretty consistently, I see a few problems. 

1. Private accounts!! 

This one is HUGE. I’d say almost half of these babes had private accounts. They’d been posting beautiful, helpful content regularly, but no one was able to see it or access it. 

I personally, have never followed a private account (unless it was someone I knew) on any platform. I like to know exactly what I’m going to get when I follow someone, and when you’re private, it feels like a weirdly huge risk. 

Now, if you’re using your Instagram or your Twitter to connect with family only, and you’re not trying to build a brand, that’s totally fine. However, if you’re reading this post, I’m going to assume you’re interested in building a brand and my advice is to switch to public immediately.

“Switch to public? But what if I don’t want people to see my children or see me in my bikini?”

Don’t post it. If you’re trying to build a brand, focus on that. Save those snaps of you looking absolutely fab in that hot pink number for text messages or create a separate private account. 

Unless of course that has something to do with your brand, which brings me to my next point… 

2. Completely unrelated content. 

Unless you in a hot pink bikini, sipping on a drink with an umbrella is actually relevant to your brand (which, it totally might be!) I say skip that post. I’m 1000000% pro-selfie and encourage my branded babes to share snaps of themselves. As long as they are relevant and on-brand. 

When you’re building a brand, you’re telling a story. And how weird would it be if you were watching Cinderella and in the middle of the Prince popping down on one knee, you had a clip from Star Wars pop up? Totally weird, right? 

Same thing applies to your brand. If you’re a wedding photographer who’s story is delicate moments between couples, you’re probably not going to post a photo, etc. from that Nikki Minaj concert you went to last night. (Even though it was totally rad and she’s a babe!) That just doesn’t fit with your story. 

3. Premade logos.

I have slightly mixed feelings about sharing this tip, however, I feel it must be done. If you have a premade or template logo or if you even make a living from making these, I totally understand. I’m not condemning you and I still love you with my whole heart. 

But when there are 5 babes in business and 3 of them have the same (or very similar) logos, it gets confusing. 

I totally understand trends and I completely empathize with not having the budget to pay a designer to create you a one-of-a-kind-gem. 

But I want you to succeed and to have this dazzling brand that no one else can replicate because YOU are so stinking awesome! 

4. Start how you intend to go on. 

“But Zie, I’m just starting out. I’ll just use this premade logo for a few months but then when I have a bigger budget, I’ll hire someone.” 

OR 

“But Zie, I’m just starting out. I’ll figure what my brand story is later!” 

Take it from me, that doesn’t work. Way back when I started out, I was just a dumb design student who thought that I would start a blog about who-knew-what and maybe figure out how to make some money off of it. I didn’t really even understand what a brand was back then, and if I did, I didn’t really care. I didn’t have a plan and I certainly didn’t have my shiz together. 

I’ll let you in on a secret: this has made my life so difficult. Because I never set guidelines and rules for myself and because I never defined who I was, what I was doing and who I was doing it for, I had -years- of chaos. 

If you look deep into the archives of Zie Darling (please don’t), you’ll see a time where I was a pretend-fashion blogger with a lazy attempt at an Etsy shop selling whatever I wanted. There definitely wasn’t a logo and I’m pretty sure my business name was something horrid and moody like “A Bruise Pear”. *cringe* 

My point in this little flashback is to say that if your end goals is to create a lifestyle for yourself where you are the boss babe who is an expert in your field…. you gotta start how you mean to go on. 

So take this as permission to skip over Blogger and start on Wordpress or Squarespace. Or to hire a designer or do it yourself. Or to invest in a nicer camera. Whatever. If this is your dream, invest in it. 

5. Envious-energy is a hideous shade of green. 

Repeat after me: “Her success. Is NOT my failure.”  

You may be like “Zie this has nothing to do with branding” and I’ll argue that it’s the most important part. 

In fields like ours, it’s really easy to feel envious or even bitter towards others. Especially when we see how successful they are becoming. 

I’ll be the first to admit that I’m guilty of this (even still!) from time to time. This new brand designer shows up in my feed and she’s really rad. She’s -killing- it with her Instagram, her designs are fabulous and she’s such a wonderful person. Her biggest flaw in my eyes? She’s got more clients then I do. #wut

That’s a pretty spiteful thing to think, if we are being honest. And when we break it down and really analyze what we are feeling & why we are feeling it, it boils down to fear. 

Fear that there’s yet another person in the market doing a similar thing to what you’re doing. Fear that they might be better than you. Fear that they’ll have all the clients / readers / followers and that you won’t have any. 

But let’s pause for a moment. There are literally billions of people in the world. Which means there’s like zero chance that the “market” will completely dry up. Someone will always need a logo, or a photo, or a new fashion expert, etc. in their lives. There is more than enough for all of us and the best thing we can do is promote and lift each other up. 

And here’s where I feel that this is such a HUGE part of branding mistakes to avoid: if you allow yourself to wallow in that envious-energy and become bitter, you’ll fail. It’s that simple. 

If you are constantly focused on what everyone else is doing and how horrible it is that yet another person popped up in your market or niche, then you’re not focusing on that new reader, follower, client, customer that you could have. 

So refocus that envious-energy into something far more productive like hustling smarter or joining my Personal Branding for Creatives class ;) 

I have a million percent faith in each of you, sweetlings and I cannot wait to see what all you create! 

Have another branding mistake you’ve seen or even a branding pet-peeve? I would love to chat with you either in the comments or over at Twitter or Instagram

I just want to briefly thank Caitlin for hosting me today! It’s been rad & I’ve absolutely loved popping in. 

Until next time, darlings. 

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ABOUT ZIE

My name is Zie Darling! I'm your fairy godmother, here to motivate and inspire you, teach and guide you. 

I fully believe that every brand has a story and I'm here as your own personal storyteller. I am all about women who want to live their own glamorous lives, who are excited by lifting other babes-in-business up and who are actively choosing to live happier, more glitter-filled lives. 

I also happen to live in Nashville, eat a staggering amount of hot wings and have a cat named Napoleon Fitzwilliam Bonaparte.

How To Collaborate Like A Boss

Have you ever had a collaboration go horribly, horribly wrong? It happens, but it's not the end of the world. I've created this handy little guide to help the next collaboration for your creative business run smoothly.

Click here to access your How To Collaborate Like A Boss Worksheet and our entire private collection of downloads exclusively for newsletter subscribers.

If you already are a newsletter subscriber and have the super secret password, click here to access all our digital freebies.


1. What do you want to get out of it?  Be specific. Are you interested in tapping into their social network or newletter list? Do they have a specific skill that you do not, which would benefit your audience? A good creative business collaboration is like a good marriage. Communication, communication, communication. 

2. What do they want to get out of it? You need to know this. Get clear on what their expectations are and decide whether or not you can meet them. Be honest. It's fun to think about a "best case scenario" that occurs when every single one of your followers on social media decides to follow your collaborator, too.  However, part of your job as a collaborator is to manage your partner's expectations. It's always better to under promise and over deliver.

3. Create a joint mission statement. This is a good litmus test to see if you can really move forward. If you have a hard time creating a joint mission statement, then your collaboration is going to be a nightmare. Trust me. It's easy to jump right into the superficial aspects of a collaboration, like the design, because that's the fun part. However, if you don't have a mission, then you will run into major problems later on. 

4. How will you split the profits? A collaboration isn't always a 50/50 split, and there isn't anything wrong with that. You don't always need a 50/50 split to ensure your collaboration is profitable for you and beneficial to your audience. If you want a 50/50 split, think of what you can do to justify it. If you want to plan a loop giveaway with someone that has a bigger audience than you, perhaps you can make a larger financial contribution to the prize. 

5. Why did you decide to split them that way? Remember, this is a collaboration. You both have to feel like you are getting a great deal. If one party feels the least bit slighted, it won't work. Be generous. I always like to err on the side of generosity to increase my chances for future collaborations. You don't want to build a stingy reputation for yourself.

6. How long do you propose this collaboration continue? There are two types of collaborations: Open Ended and Finite. Even if you are doing an open ended collaboration, you may have very different definitions of what that means. To you it may be 1 year or more, but to your partner it may be a few months. 

7. What is your plan if either of you decide to bail? Life happens. Unforeseeable circumstances may lead to an abrupt end to your collaboration. In order to avoid bad feelings, it's best to plan for the worst. What exit strategy will leave both parties feeling respected? It is disappointing if your ideal scenario didn't work out, but that doesn't mean you can't work together in the future. Remember to keep your reputation in tact. If your collaboration doesn't work out, your partner will be talking. Ideal comment: "I'm so bummed this didn't work out, but Caitlin handled it like a boss. I hope to work with her again in the future." Worst thing ever: "OMG. I'm never working with Caitlin again." 

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Best Twitter Chats for Creative Biz Owners

Twitter Chats are a great way for creative business owners to meet and learn something new. If you are a maker, artist, designer, or blogger, then this is the place for you. A good Twitter Chat feels like a party and you better believe that's what this one will feel like. This will not be a Twitter Chat where we talk about what "inspires" us. Nope. We'll be trading actionable tips and tricks that will take our businesses to the next level. For a step by step guide to joining your first Twitter Chat, click here. 

My free private Facebook group, Creative Biz Owners, is growing like crazy! Right now we have over 1,000 members. Each day we talk about a variety of topics related to owning a creative business.  A Twitter Chat will be much more focused. It will give us a chance to chat about a specific topic each week, everything from marketing to branding.

Join me on Wednesdays at 7pm PT/ 10pm ET for a Twitter Chat that will be fun, informative, and bossy. Follow me on Twitter right here to stay updated.

If you have never participated in a Twitter Chat before, you are really missing out. Here is a list of some of my favorite Twitter Chats for creatives.

Tuesday

#sfetsy - Hosted by San Francisco Etsy Team - 9pm PT/ 12am ET

Wednesday

#altchat - Hosted by Altitude Summit - 9am PT/ 12pm ET

#createlounge - Hosted by Kayla Hollatz - 5pm PT/ 8pm ET

#owschat - Hosted by One Woman Shop - 6pm PT/ 8pm ET

#nectarchat - Hosted by The Nectar Collective - 6pm PT/ 9pm ET

#creativebizchat - Hosted by Little Farm Media @littlefarmmedia - 7pm PT/ 10pm ET

#savvychat - Hosted by Heather Crabtree - 8pm PT/ 11pm ET

Thursday

#ellechat - Hosted by Elle & Co. - 5pm PT/ 8pm ET

#blisschat - Hosted by House of Bliss - 6pm PT/ 9pm ET

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What To Do About Copycats On Social Media

We have all been there before. You may be scrolling through your Instagram feed and suddenly notice that your photo has been used without your permission. Or maybe you notice that one of your followers is now advertising a product identical to your own. 

When this happens to you, these are the thoughts that may be running through your head:

  • "Oh, no! She posted my picture without my permission and now she is going to get tons of followers from the blood, sweat, and tears I put into creating that product and taking that photo. Whyyyyy???" (This is actually against Instagram policies and you should report it immediately if they refuse to take down your photo.)
  • "What? That dude has been following me for weeks and now he is making the exact same felt floral headband that I make. His looks much worse and he clearly doesn't know what he's doing, but still. What if he takes hold of the felt floral headband market and makes my business obsolete. Whyyyyy???"
  • "Wait a minute, that lady is ripping off my photo styling techniques! I always paint my nails daffodil yellow, wear a mood ring, and insert my hand into each photo at a slight angle. My signature style will make her a millionaire and I will be living with my parents. Whyyyyy???"

It really does suck when this happens. I have a private Facebook group, Creative Biz Owners with Little Farm Media, and this topic comes up a lot. Sometimes all it takes to make you feel better is a little venting. Other times, it just makes you feel worse. I have been through this scenario many times myself and here's what worked for me. Obviously, this is not legal advice and I am not a lawyer. Just wanted to throw that in here.

5 THINGS THAT WORKED FOR ME

1. It's okay to be pissed. Don't try to talk yourself out of feeling upset right away, but do take some time to calm down before taking action. 

2. Give them the benefit of the doubt. The truth is, sometimes someone will inadvertently copy you or is just completely unaware of ethical reposting behaviors. Maybe they don't realize it isn't cool/against policy to repost without asking first and DEFINITELY not without crediting. Maybe they spend their whole day looking for inspiration on Instagram, got obsessed with your feed, and unknowingly decided to try out some of your techniques. 

3. Send them a private message. If someone reposts your photos without permission, I feel this is the best approach. Whether or not they knew what they did was wrong, they will most likely take it down to avoid any trouble. 

4. Do not call them out publicly on social media. One time I did that and it felt really good. I'm not gonna lie. However, it is really unprofessional and if you keep calling people out then people will think you're a weirdo. If you have already called someone out publicly, it's okay. Like I said, I've done it before and everyone has since moved on. 

5. Keep it moving. If you are a one trick pony and someone copies you then you might be screwed. Lucky for you, your brain is filled with boatloads of creativity. Keep those copycats in your shadow by forging ahead with new ideas. Kari Chapin gave me really great advice one time, which was that those copycats will never be successful until they find their own voice. I sort of didn't believe her at the time (sorry, Kari), but I have now seen this scenario play out so many times that I know it to be true.

If you are feeling stumped about how to make your business stand out on social media, then schedule a One On One Brainstorming Session with me today. You will walk away with a clear understanding of how to differentiate yourself in a crowded marketplace. 

Can't wait for a One On One? Get started right away with my social media marketing e-course, Bossy Biz Ladies. If you are a busy creative biz owner then you need this course. You will love it.

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