Business Tips

  • How to Break Your Business Out of a Funk

    It happens to us all. You’re cruising along happily in your business and then you hit a wall.

    Your productivity and motivation disappear.

    Your income slows down. Or, even worse, comes to a complete standstill.

    Things just don’t feel like they’re working any more. It’s a horrible feeling as a business owner – you’re not sure whether it’s time to throw the towel in or it’s just a bit of a business funk.

    I’ll tell you now, that more often than not, you’re just in a bit of a business funk and it will pass. Your funk might just last for a couple of hours but it might last weeks or even months.

    So, you know you need to break your business out of a funk but how? Don’t worry, this post is going to outline all of the ways you can tackle that business funk and your biz moving forwards again.

    Break Your Business Out of a Funk

    ** This blog post contains affiliate links. I may earn a small commission to fund my latte drinking habit if you use these links. You will not be charged extra, and you’ll keep me supplied in caffeine which enables me to keep creating awesome new content for you. It’s a win for everyone, really. For full details, please click here**

    Review Your Goals and Your “Why”

    A great place to start when you’re trying to break your business out of a funk is to go back to the roots. Think about why you started your biz in the first place.

    Taking a step away from the day-to-day tasks and the immediate hurdles that you might be facing in your business at the moment and looking at the bigger picture can be really helpful.

    If you don’t have a “why” or any big-picture goals, then now is the time to get them in place. Chances are that you do actually have them, but you’ve never sat down and thought about them as your official business goals! Whether you’re starting out from scratch, or just feel like revisiting and updating your goals, check out this post all about how to set business goals the right way.

    By going back to the “why”, you’re refocusing your mind on the end goal which should give you a new lease of business life and a renewed sense of determination.

    Take Some Time Off

    I don’t know about you, but some of my best ideas come to me when I’m not working. Whether it’s in the shower or when you’re stuck in traffic on the way home from Ikea, inspiration strikes us when we’re least expecting it.

    Not only is taking time off from your business good for new ideas but actually taking a step away from your business and switching off from it completely is great for your mental health. We spend far too long staring at screens or pouring over our latest creations.

    We rarely take time off.

    I know for a fact that I never, ever switch off from work. Even if I’ve turned my laptop off for the day and we’ve put a film on, I’m still checking emails on my phone or scrolling through social media and “networking” with other business owners. I just don’t stop!

    And I know it’s really bad for me – it’s often the cause of my business slumps.

    If you work too hard, you will get burnt out. So taking some time off from work completely will help you get some well-deserved rest. Try and leave the stresses of work behind; even if it’s only for a couple of hours. You can always build up to eventually taking a full day or even a week off!

    Have a Business Retreat

    Working “in” your business is very different to working “on” your business. And, if you’re trying to break your business out of a funk, there’s nothing better than taking some time to work “on” your business.

    Working in your business is all about doing the tasks that make the business function and bring in money. Working on your business is all about strategising and putting in systems that help you work in your business efficiently.

    But it’s hard to work on your business when all of your time is spent working in it – completing client work, creating new products…basically doing the things that make you money. And then of course, once that’s all done, you want to take some “time off”. Time to keep your house clean, time to eat and time to watch Netflix.

    That’s why a retreat is great. It can be as simple as setting aside a day to work in your home office or local cafe and focusing on those systems and cleaning up your business functions (like finally getting round to organising your inboxes!) If you’re looking for something a little more heavy-duty, why not book yourself an AirBnB for the weekend (or week), pop your out of office on and really get into things.

    If a retreat is out of the question for you or you want to find more time to work on your business and not just in it on a regular basis, check out this awesome post from Nesha Woolery.

    Chat to Other Business Owners

    I will bet all of the hazelnut lattes in the world that you are not the only business owner who’s trying to break your business out of funk right now.

    Every single day there will be thousands of entrepreneurs and business mums just sitting there at a complete standstill in their business wondering what the hell to do!

    So why not reach out to them and chat about what’s holding you back at the moment. It doesn’t matter if they’re in a slump at the moment or not, chatting with other business owners is always inspiring and might be just what you need to get back on the horse and get your business out of a funk!

    Facebook groups are a great place to meet other business owners. There are groups for business mums, businesses in your local area or businesses in the same niche as you – whatever your criteria, there will be a group for it. Why not check out the Flourishing Business Mum’s Facebook Group and grab a copy of my list of 201 Facebook Groups for Bloggers and Entrepreneurs to get you started?

    Learn Something New

    Depending on what kind of funk you’re in, you might want to learn something new that’s biz related – or maybe not!

    I often find that when I need to get my biz out of a funk, I focus on one area of it that I know I need to improve and set about teaching myself how to do that. For example, I know that my email funnels could be much, much better which, in turn, would help boost my revenue. So, if I’m feeling stuck in my biz, I look for blog posts or courses etc. to help me build better funnels.

    This links back to working on your biz rather than in it because you’re still doing something to build and improve your business but you’re not getting bogged down in the things that are frustrating you at the moment.

    Alternatively, why not take a complete break from your business and learn something new that you’ve always fancied but never tried. It might sound weird but when you need to break your business out of a funk, focusing your mind on something completely different and entirely capativating can help massively.

    If you’re a creative like me, it’s no use trying to switch off from work by watching a film or going to dinner. Your brain will still be running a million miles an hour, thinking about your biz. BUT, if you’re learning something new, that big ‘ol brain is so focused on absorbing that new information that you forget about those business frustrations. When you do eventually go back to working in or on your business, your mind will have had a well-earned break and your focused and clarity should be much better!

    Try Something New

    If you really, really, really feel stuck and can’t possibly see a way to break your business out of a funk, maybe it’s time to mix things up a little.

    In my mind, being in a funk and quitting are a long way apart and there are a lot of steps and possibilities in between.

    So, before you give up, take a look at those goals and your overall “why” and rethink things. Are there things in your business that just aren’t working? Are there parts of your business that just aren’t bringing an ROI (return on investment)? Or are there things that you’ve wanted to try for a long time but never had the chance to?

    Sometimes, trying something new in your business gives you a new sense of purpose, determination and enthusiasm for what you do.

    The only thing I will add to this one is a word of warning – think carefully about any big changes you might want to make. Whilst adding a couple of new products to your line is a fairly minor adjustment, having a total rebrand and targeting an entirely new market is likely to slow business way down in the short term.

    Believe in Yourself

    One of the biggest walls I hit with my businesses comes down to self-doubt and the downward spiral that ensues!

    Sometimes I find myself doubting my products and services so much that I don’t promote them. I think I’ll improve them (and myself) before I start promoting and showcasing what I have to offer again. Then, because I’m not promoting, business slows down a little which only makes me doubt myself more. And so on.

    I know I’m not alone in this and that means neither are you!

    Getting out of this mindset can often help you break your business out of a funk but the big question here is how to break yourself out of that mindset and break free from the cycle. For me, the answer is to keep pushing through regardless – that’s just the best method I have found to work for me personally.

    For other people, it’s about looking back at what has worked well and really celebrating those achievements. Other people invest in a coach to help them through. It all comes down to trying different tactics and finding what works for you.

    So there you have seven ways to break your business out of a funk.

    Is there anything I missed off the list? Let me know what works for you when you need to get out of a business funk. 

  • 20 Awesome Tools to Skyrocket Your Productivity Today

    Are you ready to skyrocket your productivity and get more done?

    When I speak to people (whether they’re mamas or not), the thing that they say they struggle with the most when running a business is productivity. When I ask what’s holding them back, “I don’t have time” is the most common answer.

    They are either lacking the time to get everything done or simply getting distracted by things around them.

    But there is an answer to this – to use our time differently and run our businesses in a more effective and efficient way. To get more done in the time we have and to spend less time sitting at our desks buried in work.

    It’s time for us to claim back our time, streamline our businesses, work more efficiently and, most importantly, have time for other things in our lives again.

    There are tonnes of tools and apps out there and the temptation can be to try and use them all. At the same time. This will only get you bogged down in playing around with those tools and apps and spending even less time in your business. But don’t worry, I’ve got you covered with this list of 20 awesome tools that will skyrocket your productivity.

    Skyrocket your productivity with these 20 awesome tools. By using these simple tools and apps to organise your business you can streamline your business, become more efficient and spend less time in your business

    ** This blog post contains affiliate links. I may earn a small commission to fund my latte drinking habit if you use these links. You will not be charged extra, and you’ll keep me supplied in caffeine which enables me to keep creating awesome new content for you. It’s a win for everyone, really. For full details, please click here**

    20 AWESOME TOOLS TO SKYROCKET YOUR PRODUCTIVITY

    Planning and Project Management Tools

    Asana

    If you’re ready to skyrocket your productivity, we need to start with the very basics – planning!

    All too often we get excited by the prospect of a new project and just dive in head first with very little planning happening. We get distracted by unimportant tasks and new business ideas and, before we know it, we’ve forgotten about important tasks and deadlines.

    If you work with multiple clients and customers you DO NOT want to be missing deadlines!

    That’s where Asana comes in!

    Asana is a free project management tool that allows you to keep track of everything business related (and non-business related if you really want to!) You can have up to 15 team members and unlimited projects and workspaces on the free plan too.

    I personally create workspaces for each client so that we can share everything within that workspace and then create projects within that workspace. You can assign tasks to team members and set deadlines for them too which is great for when there is more than one person working on a particular thing. Your clients can also allocate things to you too which saves time and multiple emails clogging up your inbox.

    Google Calendar

    Alongside Asana, I use Google Calendar to help ensure that my personal life, business and any other appointments don’t clash or get out of hand.

    Any appointments that I schedule through emails, such as client calls, automatically get added to the calendar. I add in any personal appointments I have too (midwife appointments, lunch with my mum etc.) so I know what times I am working each day.

    My Google Calendar is synced to my phone and I share it with my other half too which means that no matter where I am, I always know what appointments I have scheduled, when I have meetings and when we have family things planned too.

    I actually take things one step further and use my Google Calendar to block out time each day for pretty much everything. Whilst this might be too much for some people, it really helps my productivity. For example, I know how long I have to complete housework before I start my workday. The temptation when you work from home can be to keep doing chores all day long which isn’t great for your business! Having set times for different things in my life such as client work, my blog work, general admin, housework and general downtime, means that I’m more productive in each of those windows that I have blocked out.

    Skyrocket Your Productivity

    Airtable

    Even since Zoe Linda introduced me to Airtable I’ve been obsessed with it!

    In their own words, Airtable is a spreadsheet that acts like a database. Now, I don’t know about you but I **LOVE** a good spreadsheet! And, whilst the initial set up of a good spreadsheet might take me a few hours, over the course of a few months, they can save me hours, if not days of work!

    I use Airtable to plan and track everything in all of my business from content calendars to finance and sales funnel tracking. I find Airtable much easier to use than Excel and, as someone who is very visual, I love the way it looks (hello, colour coding heaven!)

    If you want to learn more about how to use Airtable to skyrocket your productivity, check out this post by Terra from Uncork Your Dork.

    Client Management

    Dubsado

    I’ll hold my hands up now and say that I put off investing in Dubsado for way too long! I thought I could manage my clients using spreadsheets, Word and Excel (yeah, not even the online versions!)

    The moment that I signed up to Dubsado and saw what it was actually capable of, I knew it was going to make a huge difference to my productivity. Instead of sending emails to potential clients with lots of questions about what kind of assistance they required, I could create a template and set it to send automatically when someone completed an initial inquiry form. I could suddenly send contracts that the clients could sign with the click of a button which would then form part of their record in Dubsado. I could create and send invoices at the click of a button and auto-schedule payment reminders instead of having to set diary dates and chase people manually!

    It really does save tonnes of time having everything you need for one client in a single place – no need to refer back to a long string of emails and Facebook messages to track down minor details. And, as an added bonus, each client can have their own client portal so that they too can access things like their contract, emails, previous invoices etc. in one easy to access, convenient place.

    The Contract Shop

    You’re probably sitting there thinking this isn’t a tool that can skyrocket your productivity but bear with me!

    One of the things that we try to do when we first start our businesses is…EVERYTHING!

    We literally try to do every single thing ourselves. And I get it, I really do. I was the same. Part of it is a pride thing – we want to be able to say that we built our businesses from scratch all by ourselves. Another part of it is money – if we’re just starting out, not many of us have “spare cash” lying around to just pay other people to help us.

    BUT sometimes, we need to get help from other people. And the legal areas of running a blog or business are one of those times. I spent hours and hours researching what terms and conditions I needed to have on my site and how to make sure I was GDPR compliant. Then I spent days writing those Terms and Conditions and a Privacy Policy. And then even more time double-checking and worrying about them.

    In reality, all I needed to do was head over to The Contract Shop and purchase the ready-made GDPR Compliant Terms and Conditions and Privacy Policy Template, add in my own details and paste them onto my site.

    The great thing about The Contract Shop is that it’s run by Christina Scalera, who really knows her legal stuff and has something for pretty much everyone! Here are just a few examples of what you can find in The Contract Shop that will save you not only time but also the headache of having to draft things yourself:

    Calendly

    No more going backwards and forwards 20,000 times over email with a new client just to find a time that suits you both for a 20-minute call!

    With Calendly, you can set your available times, send a link to your client and they can choose a time that suits them from your calendar. It’s super simple and free to use (there are some features that you’ll need to upgrade for but I’ve found the free version fine!)

    Simply set up a free account, make sure that you keep your availability up to date and say goodbye to all of that wasted time trying to set up calls.

    Social Media and Graphics

    SmarterQueue

    Really want to skyrocket your productivity? Then SmarterQueue is what you need in your business! Social media scheduling used to be a huge black hole of wasted time for me. Don’t get me wrong, social media and marketing your business is ESSENTIAL but it can take hours and hours of time. Time that you could be spending working with your clients directly or creating new products to sell to your customers…or you know, hanging out with your family! With SmarterQueue you create categories for your posts like these:
    • Own blog posts
    • Own products
    • Affiliate links
    • Posts from other people
    • Tips and tricks

    You then add a whole list of posts to each category and select the time slots that you want to share those categories with your audience on each platform. And what really saves you time? If your mark those posts as “evergreen” SmarterQueue will recycle them for you once they’ve been posted. You don’t have to log in and retype them every week or month! If you want to know more about using SmarterQueue and how I’ve saved myself over 8 hours a week using it, check out this post.

    Planoly

    Planoly is my favourite tool when it comes to scheduling Instagram posts.

    I’ve found that I’m much, much productive when I can batch tasks. This includes scheduling my Instagram posts which I do every Sunday for the week ahead. I sit down for half an hour, plan out my content and schedule it out.

    There are a couple of reasons that I chose Planoly as my go-to Instagram scheduler and they all come down to saving time and being more productive.

    Firstly, you can use Planoly on your laptop/desktop. I don’t know about you but I hate typing out long captions to an Instagram post on my phone. I can type much faster, and more naturally on my keyboard.

    Next up, you can save groups of hashtags within Planoly and add them to your posts with the click of a button. For example, I have a group of productivity related hashtags, a group of VA specific hashtags, a group for my favourite blogging hashtags and so on. Trust me when I tell you that this feature will save you so. much. time.

    Third on my list is the drag and drop grid planner feature. You can see how your images will look on your grid before you post and, if you’re not happy with the layout, you can rearrange them. This isn’t necessarily a time-saver but it is a dream come true for those of us seeking the perfect 9 square!

    Finally, and most importantly for me, Planoly is a trusted third-party app to Instagram. This means that they are allowed to automatically post to Instagram for you. You simply add the caption and hashtags to the image you want to post, schedule a date and time and select “autopost”. Repeat until you have scheduled your posts for the day, week or month and Planoly will take care of the rest. No more push notifications on your phone. No more having to log into the app on your phone and copy everything over to Instagram.

    Tailwind

    Let’s face it, none of us has the time (or the energy) to be on Pinterest 24 hours a day. Well, maybe we do for home inspiration and hairstyle ideas, but not for work!

    In order to save time and avoid spending hours trying to pin 50 pins each day, I schedule ahead of time using Tailwind.

    Tailwind has a Chrome, Firefox and Safari extension so you can pin from anywhere which is a huge timesaver. You can also batch pin by pinning one single pin to multiple relevant boards. Tailwind also has great analytics and suggests the best times for you to pin so you don’t have to work it all out for yourself.

    If you’re completely new to Pinterest and you’re not sure where to start, check out this eBook from Ana at the She Approach.

    It’s not just any old eBook though, here’s what you get: 

    • A 170+ page eBook with detailed strategies on how to get started with Pinterest, craft an advanced pinning schedule and boost your blog traffic like a pro
    • Access to 17 case studies from bloggers and biz owners who mastered Pinterest (and their best kept secrets)
    • Free video training: How to create stunning Pinterest graphics and templates in Canva
    • Free video training: How to find, report, take down and prevent stolen images on Pinterest
    And all of this is just $35! It’s an absolute bargain and perfect for anyone just starting out with Pinterest or looking to boost their accounts and traffic.

    Canva

    You know all of those lovely graphics you need to create for your website and social media accounts, including pins for Pinterest? Imagine how much you could skyrocket your productivity is there was a quick and easy tool to help you create them?

    Well, there is and it’s called Canva! Now I know that the graphic designers out there will be cringing at my recommendation of Canva, screaming at their screens that tools like Photoshop and Illustrator are much better but for most of us, Canva will do the job. Plus it’s super easy to use.

    How does it save you time? Well, you can create as many templates as you need and simply edit the text each time you need to use one. If you’re not creative or you simply don’t have time to sit down and put a set of templates together, check out these beautiful templates from Bluchic:

    Styled Stock Society

    When it comes to making our websites look great and curating those lovely social media graphics that entice people to click through to our sites and buy from us, image is everything.

    When I first started blogging I would spend hours putting together flatlays, taking hundreds of pictures and editing them. Just for them to look less than ordinary and actually make my blog look pretty amateur. Then I came across the world of stock photos and, more specifically, the Styled Stock Society membership.

    There are currently over 1,400 images in their library with new content being added each week. There really is something for everyone, with categories such as lifestyle, desktop, mockups and seasonal images.

    Communications

    Slack

    Emails are so last season!

    Whether you’re working in a team or looking for a time-saving way to communicate with your clients, I will always recommend Slack. It’s kind of like going back to the old days of MSN messenger but with new, quicker, more professional technology!

    You can message each other instantly, share documents and create team channels (like group chats), making those one-line emails a thing of the past.

    Not only is it quick and easy to type your shorter messages into Slack but it also means you won’t have as many emails in your inbox each day which is another task off your list. Another added bonus is that it’s free to use. Like most of the “free” tools, there are upgrades available but I’ve never needed to upgrade to the paid version of Slack.

    Loom

    Do you feel like you’d be able to skyrocket your productivity if only you didn’t have to write or type everything out? I hear ya!

    Loom is an amazing tool that you can record yourself and/or your computer screen with. As a VA, this is a total lifesaver. If I need to show a client how I’ve set up a new workspace or Airtable spreadsheet, I simply record a quick tutorial on my screen. No need to write a 20-page manual for them.

    And it works the other way too. I often ask clients to record themselves completing a task that they have allocated to me to do in the future so that I can follow the exact same process at them. Having the video makes it easier to follow instructions and it means that you can go back and re-watch it again as many times as you need.

    Oh, and did I mention that Loom is free too? There is a paid version but I’ve never needed to use any of its features.

    Zoom

    Sometimes (most of the time) it’s much easier and more time efficient to jump on a call and talk something through with someone. Emails can be misread and are often long-winded, causing more confusion than they solve!

    That’s why I use the free version of Zoom to have video calls with my clients. It’s really easy to use. You create a meeting and send the link to the other person (you can be super efficient and send it to them via Slack!)

    There are a number of options available so you can use Zoom in a way that suits you. You can opt to use the audio only (great for those days when you’ve got a call 2 minutes after you’ve woken up!), you can use your camera and you can share your screen. You can mix and match these options too.

    One feature of Zoom that I absolutely love, and is a great time saver, is the record feature. You can record your video to play back later. This is ideal for initial discovery calls with clients where there’s lots of information that you want to note down. You don’t want to get distracted by handwriting notes during the call so just record it and listen back later.

    Emails

    ConvertKit

    As most of you will already know, I always recommend ConvertKit to anyone looking to build an email list.

    When you first look at ConvertKit and all of its amazing functions you might wonder how this amazing tool will skyrocket your productivity. Surely, you’re just going to lose hours on end trying to get everything set up?

    Well yes, and no.

    It might take you a while to get to grips with ConvertKit and get everything set up. But, once you do, you can automate pretty much everything email related in your business! From delivering freebies to new subscribers to creating and automating free email courses, there’s nothing that ConvertKit can’t do for you!

    As I mentioned, there are tonnes of functions and things that ConvertKit can do for you which can be overwhelming. That’s why I joined – and would recommend to anyone else wanting to use ConvertKit to join – the ConvertKit Club by Elizabeth Buckley-Goddard

    If you’re unsure about joining the membership or just want a quick guide to Convertkit, Elizabeth also offers this free beginners guide to Convertkit.

    Gmail and GSuite

    I have to say that the biggest thing I ever did to increase my productivity was to get organised!

    It sounds silly but every single day I was wasting so much time looking for documents and images and emails and…well, basically everything because nothing on my laptop was in any sort of order.

    When I got myself a professional looking email with Gmail, I took advantage of the storage that came with it. Not only did Google Drive provide me with the perfect place to save and organise my stuff, but it also proved to be a fantastic way to share documents with clients and team members too.

    Others

    LastPass

    Do you spend 10-15 minutes searching for your login details every single time you need to log into anything online? I know I used to.

    Originally, I kept them in a spreadsheet but, well…you know, that’s not very safe! Then I discovered LastPass.

    It’s a great tool that saves your login details securely. The Chrome extension will automatically complete the details on the login screen of online programs you use. You can also share passwords with other LastPass users without them actually being able to see what your password is. This is great for client work or when you’re working with a team of people. You can send your details via LastPass meaning that they can log into your accounts without seeing your password

    It will also generate passwords for you should you need to create new passwords for anything.

    Grammarly

    When I sit down to write a blog post or long email, I like to write. And write. And write some more until everything I need to say is on the screen. I don’t like to write a few words and then edit and then write a few more and edit. It’s just not my style.

    I also don’t like to write a huge blog post – like this beast that is over 3,000 words long – and then spend an extra 2 hours proofreading it. Quite honestly it’s a boring task. Plus, I’m usually so tired from writing that I don’t actually spot my own mistakes.

    That’s why I use the free Grammarly extension. It’s basically like Word’s spellcheck but for online “stuff”. Yes, you have to go through and correct the red underlined words but it’s faster than editing from scratch.

    Bluchic Templates

    I mentioned Bluchic templates earlier in this post but they’ve saved me so much time that they’re getting another mention.

    On top of the Canva Social Media Templates, Bluchic also sell some beautiful Landing Page Templates.

    What. A. Game. Changer.

    I’ve honestly spent hours and hours trying to create the perfect landing pages for various things. And, no matter what I did, they never seemed to be quite right. After purchasing a theme from Bluchic (the one I use on here), I was so impressed that I checked out some of their other stuff too.

    After purchasing the templates I’ve been able to create sales pages, tripwires and more in the blink of an eye. All of the pages have played a huge part in automating various areas of my business, in particular in setting up sales funnels.

    The bundle of templates includes:

    • Opt-in Page
    • Tripwire Offer Page
    • Thank You Page
    • Webinar Registration Page
    • Live Webinar Page
    • Sales Page
    • Offer Expired Page

    The templates are designed to be used in WordPress with the Elementor plugin which I’m a huge fan of. You simply upload the templates, add the relevant one to your page and edit the content to suit your needs! Easy peasy!

    Not only will they help you save time in the short term but they’ll take you a long way in automating other parts of your business too!

    Tomato Timer

    The final tool on this list of 20 tools to skyrocket your productivity today – the Tomato Timer!

    There’s not really much to say about this. I am a huge fan of it and use it every single day.

    You may or may not have heard of the Pomodoro technique. The idea is that you work in short, uninterrupted bursts. So, you work for 25 minutes with no extra browser tabs open, no phone, no TV etc. followed by a 5-minute break. When I do this, I use the Tomato Timer to keep track of my short bursts of work.

    Why? Because I have zero self-control. And every time I pick up my phone I spend 45 minutes scrolling through Facebook and Instagram! With the Tomato Timer, I just open up another tab and leave my phone completely out of reach.

    Phew! That’s a long old list. Whilst it might seem overwhelming, making small changes and using these tools in your business will save hours of time.

    Let me know what your favourite productivity tools are in the comments below.

  • 5 Sites for Free Beautiful Stock Images

    Your blog’s images say a lot about you and your blog so it’s important to have some great stock images. Having beautiful, high-quality images on your blog makes it look more professional. Having gorgeous images can be the difference between someone leaving your site within a couple of minutes or hanging around and maybe even coming back again (win)!

    Stock Images

    **This post contains affiliate links**

    After yesterday’s post on the small changes you can make to your blog to help increase traffic, I decided that it was probably time that I reviewed my own blog. I went through each of those 5 tips and checked that they all applied to my blog today. I won’t lie, it took me quite a while. The biggest part for me was the images. I wasn’t happy with the stock images I was using for my blog; they were dark and pretty boring so I went on a hunt for some new stock images to use. I wanted my blog to look clean, bright and tidy.

    Once I’d got my selection together I created all the different templates I need for my blog – Pinterest images, Facebook, Twitter…all of them have different size requirements (why????) I’m a huge fan of Canva for resizing, adding text and generally editing them to fit my blog.

    Turquoise and Palm 

    Turquoise and Palm has some seriously good stock photos! I mean, how delicious does that breakfast look!

    They offer images with different themes, so there are loads to choose from no matter what kind of blog you have. If you subscribe to their email list here, you get sent 15 free images every month.

    They also offer a membership service that has thousands of photos available for immediate download with new collections being added each month. There are three membership packages available depending on your budget.

    Haute Chocolate

    Rachel, from Haute Chocolate has a stock library with around 500 photos. Some of these can be accessed for free when you sign up to the email list. You have to pay for the others but they’re well priced and totally worth it!

    As you can probably tell, I use a lot of these on my site!

    Wonderfelle

    Elle from Wonderfelle has some gorgeous feminine stock photos. Elle’s site is amazing for all things blogging and there’s loads of hints, tips and useful information on there. If you subscribe to her site, you get 10 stock images for free and new ones emailed out to you each month.

    Ivory Mix

    Ivory Mix is a great site for all things blogging and branding. The amount of stock photos available once you’ve signed up is amazing; there really is something for everyone on here and more photos get added each month.

    Again, you’ve probably noticed me using some of these images on my blog. The only downside? There’s so many to choose from!

    A Prettier Web

    Alongside free stock photos, Mel at A Prettier Web offers some other seriously good freebies, including some awesome blogging checklists. You can get access to some free stock photos by signing up here. Don’t forget to check out some of the other things on offer while you’re there too!

    One thing that’s really important about using stock images is to check the terms of use for each and every provider that you get photos from. Some will be completely royalty free, others will let you use them however you want, other people will let you use them however you want so long as you give them credit. I’ve never come across any crazy restrictive terms yet but please respect the work of these guys and follow whatever terms and conditions they have carefully.

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  • 5 Small Changes to Improve Your Blog Design Today

    Your blog design says a lot about you and the services you provide. Whether you’re a fashion and beauty blogger or a freelance writer, you need your blog to look “professional” if you want your readers to keep coming back time and time again.

    What is “professional” will depend on your blog niche; you blog theme and layout will need to match what you’re saying, draw your audience in and keep them coming back.

    When I first set up this blog I spent hours and hours working on the theme, the layout, what I wanted in my sidebar etc. I wanted my blog to look clean but not too “business like”. It was important to me that, although I would be sharing information in an educational way, that my blog looked approachable and a fun place to be. But it was also important that it didn’t look childish – I needed people to be able to trust what I was saying and turn to me as an expert when they needed help. That’s a lot to get across to someone in 20 seconds when they first click onto your site!

    Now, I can’t sit here and tell you exactly what colour scheme to pick and where to place your widgets in the sidebar to best suit your blog. However, there are a few things you can do to make your blog more professional regardless of your niche. Here’s a list of 5 minor tweaks you can make today to help make your site look more professional.

    Blog Design

    1. Branding

    Branding is a biggie. So much so that I can’t even start to get into the details in this post. What I can say right now is that, for your blog to look like a reliable source, you need a good, clear, consistent branding. Simple things like having your website address on your images really makes a big difference.

    Clear branding means that when your images and work is being shared online, people can instantly identify it as yours. Building your reputation out there on social media generally is a great way to increase your traffic.

    If you’re unsure where to start with branding, The Branded Solopreneur has some amazing tips and free email courses. Go check out Dre’s work now!

    2. Images

    So, there’s a bit of an argument out there on the web about this point. In my opinion, it’s a balancing act between the two sides. Most advice that you will find on other sites will say that you need good quality, high-resolution images. There’s also advice floating around that high-resolution images slow down your site and distract the reader from the words.

    Like I said, I think it’s about striking a balance between the two. Obviously, it also depends on your blog too. Who would read a travel or fashion blog with only one image on it? On the other hand, if your site is taking forever to load (which is a particular problem for readers on older devices or browsers), they’re likely to get annoyed and give up. Google actually recognises slow loading as an issue and penalises sites that take longer than 1.5 seconds to load! So, if your site is a slow loader, you’re not going to get a top place in those search results.

    So, what’s the ideal solution? Go for a few high resolution compressed images within a post. If your work is very visual, for example, if you’re a photographer or designer, I would recommend having a designated gallery section on your site. That way, the visitors who want to come to your site to read your written content can still do that easily.

    It’s still really important that the images that you do use on your site are high quality. Readers probably won’t be coming back to look at out of focus, grainy images of….actually, what is that a picture of?!

    If you’re no good at taking photos, or you just want our site to have a consistent, high-quality look, I’d suggest investing in some stock photos. You can check out my list of awesome free stock image providers here.




    3. Simplify Your Site

    There are two huge ways in which you can simplify your site that will help increase your traffic.

    First off, there’s the plugins and widgets. Too many will slow your site right down and I’ve already explained the consequences of a slow loading site to you. Ideally, you should try to limit yourself to 10-15 widgets and plugins (in total) to allow your site to run at optimum speed.

    You also don’t want to distract your readers from actually reading. You don’t need things like your Twitter Feed or latest Instagram posts on there. They will just distract people on your site. Worst case scenario, it will take them away from your site which is definitely not what you want!

    Secondly, there’s your menus and navigation. Keep it plain. Keep it simple. If you want people to stay on your site, they need to be able to find exactly what they are looking for quickly. If they can’t they’ll just look elsewhere. It’s as simple as that.

    Regardless of what your blog is about, you want to keep it clean, simple and easy to use.

    4. Floating Share Buttons

    Share buttons play a vital role in the growth of your blog traffic.

    Ever read an amazing post and wanted to share it? If there was a button right there that you could click to share it pretty much immediately, you’re quite likely to share. If however, you need to copy the link, head on over to your chosen social media site, write a post and paste the link in, you’re a lot less likely to share. Am I right?

    If your share buttons are only at the top of your page, your readers probably won’t scroll back up to the top just to share. They probably don’t even remember seeing them up there; we’re all pretty immune to the top section of sites now. We all know they generally consist of menus and maybe a few ads.

    However, if you have floating share buttons (in addition to the static ones already on your site), the buttons are right there as soon as your readers decide they want to share. Those share buttons also take the hassle out of copying and pasting links etc.

    The other great thing about social share buttons is that your readers can see how many times that post has been shared before. If your post has been shared 1,000 times on Twitter in the last week, they know that what you’ve written is trustworthy and valued by others. Bonus.

    5. Add a Feature Box to Your Header

    This is one of the most important changes you can make if you’re looking to increase your traffic, in particular, increase your email subscribers.

    People HATE those pop-up subscription boxes and, not only will they not get you any extra subscribers, they’ll probably result in people choosing not to come back to your site again. But people are also immune to subscribe boxes in the sidebar or in the footer. What is ideal is having a feature box directly below your website header before your readers have even started scrolling.

    Click here for more detailed information on creating sign-up forms and where to place them.

    These changes are fairly simple to make but will help with your traffic flow and create loyal readers who come back time and time again.

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  • Why Cleaning Up Your Email List is Important

    Cleaning up your email list from time to time is important. If you’ve been following this series of posts you should have your email list set up and some subscribers. You might even have sent some emails out to those subscribers.

    Or maybe you’ve had an email list for a while now and you’re just looking for some tips on how to maintain it.

    In yesterday’s post I talked about ways to gain more subscribers, so today’ post might seem a little contradictory to that. Whilst increasing the number of subscribers you have is great, you want to have engaged subscribers. Especially if you’re paying for your email service. Most providers base their packages on the number of people of your email list so you might be paying more than you need to. I mean, you don’t want to be paying to send emails to people who aren’t even opening them.

    Having inactive users on your list can lead to inaccurate reports too. For example, if you run a report on your campaign, you might see that your open rate is 30%. When you look closer you might see that some people on that list have never opened your emails. Identifying and removing those subscribers from your list might then lead to your open rate being 50%. This is a more true-to-life representation of your engaged readers as it doesn’t take into consideration people who signed up by accident or simply aren’t interested in your content (sorry, but it’s not for everyone)!

    So, here’s how to keep your list clean and tidy.

    Cleaning Up Your Email List

    Get Rid of People who’ve Never Opened a Single Email

    This is the most obvious group of people to get rid of. Maybe some of your readers signed up for the opt-in incentive and then realised that it wasn’t what they were looking for. Maybe they’ve just changed their mind.

    You’ll notice that my other lessons have been based on MailChimp so I’m going to carry on that way. It’s really easy to identify and remove inactive subscribers:

    How to Identify and Remove

    1. From your MailChimp Dashboard, select “Lists” from the main menu across the top and then select the list that you want to work on.
    2. Select the “Manage Subscribers” Dropdown and then the “Segments” option. Next, click “Create a Segment”
    3. You’ll then be presented with a series of drop-down menus. In the top line, you want to select “all”. In the three boxes below, you need to select (from left to right) “Campaign Activity”, “Did Not Open” and “All of the Last 5 Campaigns”. Okay, so I know that sounds a little confusing but have a look at the image below. Cleaning Up Your Email List
    4. I would then recommend adding a second segment to rule out the people who have only just signed up (and might not have been sent much yet). For this second set, you need to click the “+Add” button. Then select the following options (left to right) “Date Added”, “Is Before”. The third and final option is entirely up to you and what your needs are. Have a scroll through the options in the final dropdown and choose the most relevant to you at that moment in time. Again, a little confusing so I’ve added another image below to show you. Cleaning up your email list
    5. Select “Preview Segment” at the bottom of the screen and then the “Export Segment” icon to save the list of subscribers in that segment.
    6. Final step – at the top of the screen, click the down arrow and select “Unsubscribe” from the drop-down menu.

    People Who Have Stopped Opening Your Emails

    Now deleting your inactive users might seem a tad harsh. You might have some people who used to be really active, opening all of your emails who have been quiet recently. You might want to create a list of these people and create a re-engagement campaign specifically targeted at them. You can use the above method to filter out subscribers based on differing levels of criteria.

    Once you’ve created a list of those people who used to be really engaged but aren’t anymore, you can start your re-engagement campaign.

    You’ll need to keep an eye on this list of subscribers to see if your re-engagement campaign is working. If not, it might be time to call it quits and remove them from your list altogether.

    Now you don’t have to do go through this process of cleaning up your email list very often. How often, will depend entirely on how many subscribers you have. I currently run through this process every other month. I’ll do an additional run if I know my numbers are creeping up to the next stage on invoicing on MailChimp too!

    As always, if you have any questions or simply want some extra help, please get in touch with me.

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  • 5 Tips to Grow Your Email List

    One of the questions I get asked a lot is how to grow your email list.

    Earlier this week, I posted about getting your MailChimp account set up, sending your first newsletter and creating a must have lead magnet. But alongside your lead magnet, there are some other ways to get subscribers to sign up to your email list.

    Grow Your Email List

    **This post contains affiliate links**

    1. Well Positioned Opt-In Forms

    In a post earlier this week I told you how to create your opt-in or sign-up form. What we never talked about where to put that form to get the best results. If you want to grow your email list, you need to think carefully about where to place your sign-up forms.

    One great place to have a sign-up form is above the fold – basically, anything that your readers see before they start scrolling down your page. If it’s right there at the top, people are less likely to miss it and more likely to sign up. Simple.

    It’s also a really good idea to position it in several other places on your site that people visit a lot. I would recommend in your sidebar and at the bottom of each blog post.

    I would, however, recommend avoiding those pop-up boxes that take over your screen after you’ve been on someone’s site for 30 seconds or more. They’re super annoying and not only will they put people off signing up, it might even put them off from coming back to your site altogether. On the other hand, the sign-up box that slides in on the bottom right of my site sees a lot of sign-ups!

    For more information on where to place your posts, check out my 9 locations for opt-in forms.

    There’s nothing wrong with trial and error here. Place your sign-up forms in different places and check which one gets the most sign-ups.

    2. A Professional Site and Amazing Content

    This one is a bit of a no brainer but if your site looks basic and unprofessional and your content is sketchy at best, people probably aren’t going to be interested in what you have to say in your emails. I know that sounds harsh but think about it. If you clicked on a website that looked messy, had no clear niche and was home to some sloppy writing, would you think about signing up to their email list? Probably not.

    People only really sign up to email lists if they think they’re going to get something out of it such as useful information or updates on the latest fashion and beauty trends delivered directly to their inbox. Make it clear what you are offering so your readers can make their decision to sign up immediately.

    3. Lead Magnets

    Okay, I know I wrote an entire post on creating lead magnets (read it here) but I just really wanted to stress their importance. What I did want to add in this post is creating multiple lead magnets that will appeal to different readers.

    For example, your main lead magnet might be a 7-day email course on starting a blog. But you might get a lot of visitors to your site who already have a blog so aren’t tempted by that freebie. Set up a few other incentives such as workbooks and printables that are “advertised” in different areas of your site. For example, workbooks on more advanced blogging techniques could be placed on the opt-in forms at the end of more technical blog posts.

    4. Promote Your Email List Outside of Your Site

    I know I just said that creating an amazing site and great content will help you gain subscribers but it’s also super important to advertise your email list outside your site too. Primarily on social media.

    For example, I would recommend having the link to your most popular lead magnet in your Pinterest and Instagram profiles. There’s also some sneaky ways of advertising your list on social media that I’ve see quite a lot lately. On quite a few occasions I’ve seen Tweets that looked like links to really interesting blog posts only to find out, once I’d clicked on them, that I had to sign up to the mailing list to access that information. Sometimes this works, sometimes it’s just really annoying. It depends on what you’re offering and how valuable the opt-in incentive is to your readers.

    5. Killer Email Content

    This one seems a little odd but you need to think about keeping your subscribers once they’ve signed up. If you’ve successfully managed to get 1,000 subscribers within your first month but then the following month 700 of them unsubscribe, you know something has gone wrong.

    You need to be creating and sending amazing emails that people are happy to see in their inbox and actually want to read. Share valuable strategies and information. Share personal stories for that human touch that people can relate to. Send exclusives to your subscribers too – make them feel as special as they are!

    Let me know how you get on and what changes you see in your subscribers.

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