This is me

19 Oct

Recently, a friend of mine posted a note on Facebook where she talked openly and beautifully about her relationship with her mum – specifically, how she’d used her mum for many years as an excuse for not doing what she wanted to do and not being what she wanted to be.

This was a private post, so I’m not going to reproduce any of it here – but the realisation my friend had come to resonated with me, and so now I will share my realisations with you.

I have spent a long time avoiding my true self, and not following what I believe to be my calling. The reason for this, I realised as I read my friend’s post, is that I carried around with me the fear of other people judging me.

Not only that – these people lived in my head, and it was their voices I heard whenever I criticised myself for doing something wrong, completing something poorly or just when I fell back into old patterns of behaviour.

I believe we all carry people in our head, and if we listen to the words spoken in their voices, not only can we stop ourselves from acting on our dreams and desires, but we can grow to resent them as if it really were them stopping us.

But of course – really, it’s just us.

For my friend, the voice she carried and the person she blamed was her mum.

For me, the voices I carry are those of the people who bullied me at school, the people who excluded me at university and who made the first years of my working life a misery.

It is their voices that have stopped me from acting, made me withdraw and procrastinate about following my heart’s desire.

But it’s not their fault.

I’m the one who’s chosen to carry them with me. And now I chose to release them.

I’m no longer listening and I’m no longer hiding behind their imagined censure.

So this is me.

I…

…am an accountant

…am a writer

…am intuitive

…am a lover

…am Australian and English

…have seen and heard spirits as long as I can remember (that’s one of the hardest things to share)

…have two degrees and hope I never stop learning

…am a sister, auntie and great-auntie

…love cats

I am a work in progress

xx

Why 90% of blogs make me hit the back button straight away

4 Oct

Your blog is your online real estate.  Present yourself poorly and potential clients will be beating a hasty retreat.

I spend a lot of time browsing the blogs (hey, it’s all research), and it never ceases to amaze me how careless some entrepreneurs are with their precious first impressions. Here are the top five issues that make me click ‘back’ before I’ve even read the first line.

1. Cluttered design

It’s tempting to overdesign your blog. Very tempting, and my personal view is that a little html knowledge is a dangerous thing when it comes to a website’s look and feel. You know the sites I mean – the ones where the background is brightly coloured, or each paragraph is written in a different colour text, or the cursor is an animated icon.

There are even some sites that commit all three crimes at once.

The key is to remember who your site is for (hint: it’s not for you). Your reader is all-important, and there’s no point crafting quality content if your visitor can’t read it when they reach your page.

The best thing to do is KISS – Keep it Simple & Subtle. Take this site for example. Granted, a plain white page isn’t exactly eye catching, but it is readable.

And that’s the most important thing of all.

2. Pages that are no more than a collection of links

A few years ago a colleague told me about a website course they’d seen advertised that promised to teach them how to build a website that would immediately rank on Google’s first page.

Yes, you read that right. Immediately.

Further investigation revealed there were two strategies promoted during the course. The first was to choose a relatively narrow niche. Nothing wrong with that – writing consistent, quality content about a narrow niche is a good way to build traffic.

The second strategy was to build your page based entirely on links to other websites that already ranked highly on Google for that niche, the theory being that this would propel your site onto page one.

The issue with this is that a site built in this way isn’t actually adding anything to the visitors’ experience. Let’s face it, they would be able to find all the ‘information’ on your website through Google itself. Building a page purely to achieve a Google ranking will almost certainly alienate the reader and result in an immediate back-button hit, and a mental note to not bother with your content in the future.

One more potential customer lost.

3. Spelling mistakes and incorrect words

You don’t have to be able to write like Hemmingway to write good content. In fact, it’s probably better that you don’t. But you do need to be able to spell correctly, and know when a word is incorrect.

Mistakes like incorrect usage of their/there/they’re and poor spelling just show that you don’t pay attention to detail. And why would I want to work with someone who can’t even take the time to read their blog posts through?

4. Out of date content

Out of date content is an issue for blogs and more traditional, static websites. If you’re running a blog, you do need to update it regularly (aim for once a week). If you’re running a static website, you need to make sure you keep your content accurate. There’s something very off putting when you click onto an ‘events’ page and see last year’s courses listed… especially when it’s now October!

5. Lorem ipsum dolor

Yes, I have seen this. Lorem ipsum dolor is the dummy text that is sometimes inserted into webpages when designers are working on the look and feel. You need to delete it when you create and upload your own pages. Leaving this text on the page is just another example of poor attention to detail.

What makes you want to reach for the back button?

Five networking no-nos

19 Sep

Building business is all about building networks and contacts. As tempting as it is to think that you can work as a pure e-entrepreneur, tucked away behind your keyboard and never interacting with anyone else – ultimately that’s just not possible.

Opportunities to build your network are everywhere, and should never be turned down. That doesn’t mean you treat everyone as a potential customer and approach them with a ‘what can I get out of you?’ attitude. Far from it – it’s far more a case of ‘how can we support each other?’. No one entrepreneur can be all things to all clients. At some point you’ll need to make the decision to refer a client you can’t help out to another entrepreneur, and that’s where having a great network comes into its own. By taking the time to build your network, you’re ensuring you always put your clients first.

Networking can take place anywhere (so always make sure you have business cards with you), but formal networking events are becoming more and more popular. Whether you decide to network formally or informally, there are some networking no-nos you need to bear in mind.

1. Not enough details on your business card

There are times when I’ve had a great conversation with a fellow entrepreneur, and happily taken their business card – only to find out that it doesn’t have all their contact details.

There’s no point polishing your presentation and having a kick-ass tag line if people can’t get in touch with you after the event. You also need to think about the fact that some people prefer written communication to verbal, therefore you need to give them various options for getting in touch with you.

At a minimum, your business card should contain your name, phone number, email address and website. You do have a website, don’t you?

2. Not having your website set up

Ah yes, error number two. When I’m reconnecting with potential business partners, the first thing I do is check out their website. It tells me a lot about them, and as a writer one of the things I’m looking at is attention to detail and quality communication.

So it is incredibly frustrating when I’m met with a holding page, or worse still just one of those pages telling you that the address is registered with GoDaddy.

I don’t care who hosts your URL, I care about your product and services. If nothing else, get up a simple WordPress site.

3. Not listening

It’s easy to tell when someone’s not listening to you. Their eyes aren’t quite in focus, they nod their head a little too vigorously.

Not listening is the cardinal sin of networking. Why would anyone want to do business with someone who isn’t interested in them?

Now I’m the first to recognise that it’s tough to remember what other people have said to you when you’re feeling nervous about your own presentation. So if it’s a formal networking event, make sure you prepare well the night before, get plenty of rest and take the time to clear your mind you go in.

Then, when a fellow entrepreneur is talking with you, really focus on what they’re saying. It can sometimes help to repeat what they’ve just said to you back to them, but in the form of a question. Voicing the words yourself can help the facts to stick.

4. Not taking other people’s experience seriously

Imagine this. You sit down to talk to someone at a networking event, introduce yourself, your company name and give a high level overview of what you do.

All in all, you’ve spoken for maybe twenty seconds at most.

Before you get to go any further, the person your talking to interrupts you and tells you that you don’t have enough knowledge or experience to run your business. They then proceed to spend the next five minutes telling you all about their experience.

Not very nice, is it? This happened to me at a networking event a while ago. The business owner who treated me in this way now tops the list of ‘people to never refer clients to, ever’.

The simple fact is that you can’t tell anything about a person’s ability or experience by looking at them, or through less than half a minute of talking. Don’t alienate potential business contacts by making hasty judgements.

5. Not following up

The final sin of networking – not following up. You may have collected a heap of business cards, but they don’t equate to a relationship in and of themselves. To build the relationship, you need to follow up.

Some guidelines for following up.

Following up is not bombarding your new contacts with promotions, signing them up for newsletters without their permission or stalking their blog.

Following up is sending them a brief email saying how much you enjoyed meeting them, posting a useful link on their facebook wall or retweeting a link to their blog to your followers.

What skills have your learnt in your network-building escapades?

Time to get down to the core baby!

7 Sep

You’ll hear me talk a lot about core values in this blog. The reason for this is really quite simple. Understanding your core values will give you unrivalled clarity and focus meaning it will be easy to identify what doesn’t resonate with you any more. Doesn’t that sound great? Knowing instantly whether what you’re doing right now is worth carrying on with, or if it should instead be lovingly kicked to the curb. Imagine – no more guilt about what you think you ‘should’ be doing, and no more being distracted by things that don’t align with your core beliefs (no matter how tempting and sparkly the distractions are!).

A word of warning though (isn’t there always one of those…) Understanding your values also heightens your responsibility to act upon this knowledge and live in alignment with your own principals. And trust me, once you have worked out what’s important to you, there’s nothing worse than the nagging feeling that you’re somehow selling yourself out.

If that’s not put you off, then read on to discover a little more about core values and why they’re important.

What are core values?

Core values are a series of consistent ethical beliefs and behaviours that make up your personal moral code. They form the bedrock of your approach to life and ensure that you’re always able to answer the question: ‘what’s the right course of action here?’

We all have them – it’s just that we might not be consciously aware of them. But if someone asked you a moral question (is it ever okay to cheat on your partner?), then your instinctive answer is the one that draws on your core values.

I say your instinctive reaction as it’s easy to talk ourselves into our out of opinions based on what people around us say, think and do. So you’re most in touch with your core values when you respond naturally and without thought to a question.

Where might value systems be out of alignment?

Core values can be out of alignment in any area of our lives. For example, you may work for a company where the corporate culture is aggressive and makes you feel like you’re being bullied all the time. It’s a safe bet that that environment is out of alignment with your core values.

It doesn’t just have to be at work though. Any close relationship – life-partner, friends and family – can host a clash of values. The example given above (is it ever okay to cheat on your partner?) might highlight a clash of values between you and your life partner if the answers are different. Clashes can manifest through difference in behaviour too – prolonged and significant drug or alcohol use can be a manifestation of someone’s core values, and your reaction to that would be an indicator of whether you are in alignment with what they believe.

What does being out of alignment do?

First of all, continual and significant misalignment makes people grumpy. It’s as simple as that. That person who barged in front of you at the supermarket, then grumbled about how slow the cashier was? Out of alignment.

The driver who cut you up this morning? Out of alignment.

The teacher who shouts at students rather than engaging with them? Out of alignment.

You get the picture. Living in a way that doesn’t align with your true values wears you down and depletes your ability to deal with everyday minor irritancies in life.

Stay in this state for too long, and I believe you’re more prone to stress, depression and eventually physical illnesses as your body struggles to cope.

What are the benefits of being in alignment?

Clearly, the obvious benefits are that you’re happier and less likely to suffer from illnesses. Other benefits however include better relationships and a sense of life being easier. When you truly understand your values, it’s far easier to direct your life – you can examine each goal you have and work out whether it move you towards or takes you away from, your values. Then you can work towards it or dump it, whichever is the best course of action.

What can you do?

First things first, work out what your values are. Then watch for circumstances where you feel a negative reaction – where you feel grumpy, stressed or angry. These are situations where you are trying to force yourself to do something or act in a way that doesn’t align with your own personal truth.

Identify these situations one by one, and take steps to change them.

Keep a constant watch. Life will bring you circumstances to help you identify your core values, and just when you think you’ve got it down pat – there’s another one!

Engage your values in your everyday life. Think about what you’re doing and why. Do your actions resonate with you, or do they leave you with a slightly sick feeling?