This Week In Business

The Challenge Of Coming Up With A Price List

On more than one occasion, I've been at a social gathering and people wanted to know what I do and how much I charge. It is not often easy to come up with; every Web project seems to be pretty different, but there are some common things I get asked about a lot.

I've been drafting a price list for about six months. Sometimes a look at it and I'll think "that's too expensive" or "I didn't charge enough for that". Most of the time though, I find it hard to put a price on some of my services. First of all, no one else seems to be posting their prices for these kind of things, at least not that I've found. Second of all, I feel like once I upload this PDF, I'm locked in. And that's kind of scary.

This week, I purchased an ad in the paper (50% discount, sweet!) and promised an online price list. Just the kick in the pants I needed to get myself to finally do this!

This price list also exists partially because people don't quite understand what I do. Most people think that I design websites (which if it were true would be a total conflict of interest with my day job). Really what I do is help market websites. And to help wipe that bizarre expression off peoples' faces, I have to give some examples.

So today I'm taking a deep breath and I'm posting my price list. I have no idea whether it's competitive or not but I do know how long it takes me to do some of these things and I guess that's a start. So please check it out here if you feel so inclined; I'd love opinions! (Okay, unless they're really bad in which case please soften the blow.)

Wednesday Writer’s Spotlight: Rhea Côté-Robbins

For the next few Wednesdays, I'll be featuring writers I like and how they hone their craft, use the internet, get writing ideas from life, and rake in the dough.

Rhea Côté-Robbins is a Maine author and Franco-American activist. Her first book, Wednesday's Child, chronicles the life of a young woman growing up in a mill town. She has since edited an anthology of early Franco-American women writers' translations, Canuck and Other Stories, and written a sequel to Wednesday's Child titled, 'down the Plains. Cote Robbins is a professor at the University of Maine in Franco-American Women's, Maine and University Studies. She's the Founder and Executive Director of the Franco-American Women's Institute and publishes the Franco-American News and Events blog (to which I occasionally contribute).

Your first book Wednesday's Child is a creative nonfiction memoir about what it was like growing up in a milltown. How does this straddle the divide of fiction and nonfiction? It seems like this would be a challenging first book to write in many ways.
 
I believe that there exists a Franco-American women's literary tradition, and whether we, as Franco-American women, know this or not, I believe that we participate in this written tradition. My own book, Wednesday's Child, came out of an event which happened in my girl days, 1969 to be exact, and at the moment of insight I decided to write my story so that others could understand what it was like growing up in the South End of Waterville. I was sixteen at the time and I knew that the story I wanted to tell was an important one and that the story deserved to be told. Now, many years passed before I did write the story, but the story only got better as a result of the wait. Like any art form, whatever life happens in the between times becomes a part of the ongoing, creative process.
 
Rheacoterobbins The book was challenging because there is a myth that there is not a Franco-American literary tradition, and as a result, each and every Franco-American begins at square one. We are always having to re-tell the story, each and every one of us, of how we were discriminated against, and the story stays stuck there for many people. My idea is to create a literary movement so that more and more Franco-Americans come out of their writing/writer's closet and proclaim their independence to be artists in their own right/write.
 
The classic scenario is to isolate and create a feeling of the writer being all alone in their art. When, in reality, the opposite is the true state of affairs. If anything is difficult, I find getting past the barriers created by the myth of Maine that the only literature happening here is based in "yankee" ingenuity. Well, I believe there is so much more to the whole story than that, and I would like to see the story expanded and enlarged to encompass the Franco-American literary voices–which includes mine.
 
Wednesdayschild Wednesday's Child is taught at several universities and colleges as well as read in the community. I think this is an indication that the story remains important, alive and vital to the larger story plane of the continent.
 
How did you decide that the Franco-American female experience was the most powerful thing you could write about and ultimately dedicate your life to? I'm sure you could have written about a number of things.

 
The Franco-American culture workers over the past century and more have done much to contribute to our treasure trove of life experiences–something like an Everything in the Whole Wide World of Franco-American Interpretation Center…I was going to say museum, but museum connotes past tense. The Franco-Americans are not past tense. We do need interpretation, although. My thought on writing about the Franco-American female experience has to do with going deep into the meaning of the culture and what is usually hidden, kept from the public eye, secret, or overlooked is the definition of what does it mean to be Franco-American and female and living in the state of Maine. That, in fact, was my working question for my book. The working question kept me focused on what I wanted to examine in depth and write about. I am absolutely enthralled with the common, everyday aspects of our lives as Franco-American women. I take some of my inspiration of Laura Thatcher Ulrich and her examination of ordinary women's lives. She has studied the life of a dish towel–from growing flax to its final weaving and use, which takes over a year to make a dish towel from scratch by the way, and then she writes about this. I find that inspiring and fascinating. What I want told as an art form, not simply as stories about the good old days, and told in such a way that elevates the Franco-American story to the level of great literature. I think what it takes is attitude. And a good computer. And an agent. And a publisher. And book sales. And major prizes won. I want that for myself and for the Franco-American story about Franco-American women telling her own story.
 
You've had the Franco-American News and Events blog since before blogging got really big. How has the blogosphere and your audience changed over time?
 
Canuckandotherstories Sometimes blogging feels like you are suspended in outer space talking out loud to yourself…you feel deliciously alone. And then, someone leaves a comment. Or, sends you an email suggesting a story I might have missed. And then they send more suggestions. And then they send links and stories. You realize someone is reading the material. Oh, oh, I'm not alone. I was hoping I was the stealth blogger and that no one was paying attention.
 
Jacques Boudreau who blogs/blogues from QC on the FA News and Events blog, was one of those folks who took notice of this little event happening in the blogosphere. So, I invited Jacques to go ahead and join the blogue and put up the pieces he was finding. He wanted to know, what about French articles? Sounds good to me. What happens is that the blogs capture the attention of folks from all over the world. So, lots of people have lots of time on their hands, I'm thinking, or, they resist
 other temptations by cruising the internet blogs.
 
My first blog happened in March of 2003. A friend put me onto blogging. I think I suffer from a condition knows as loquaciousness; I have a surfeit of words and if I don't let them out somehow, I combust internally. My maman used to call me "the talking machine." I used to really bother people back in the day when letter writing was the way to chat and send them 10-page letters. It was very embarrassing. So, I found the joy of journaling and I am on my 130th+ volume; write everyday, and
 that does not count the emails, blogs, etc. I don't watch much TV, although. But I do read many books in the course of a month. I think I am a word addict. Blogs are the proof that there are many like me out there; they may or may not know from what they suffer, but they are prac
ticing their addictions with fervor and a writer's religion.
 
 Blogs, to me, are proof that we are all story makers.
 
Does your teaching inform your writing? Another UMO professor I interviewed has said that teaching has not necessarily helped her writing but has really helped her editing.
 
Teaching and writing are like editing and writing, for me. Two different worlds. And anything that is not me writing, or my writing, frankly, interferes with my writing. Keeps me from the act of writing. Now, above I said that all things feed into the act of creativity. But, at some point, you have to sit down and do the deed. I also find I don't necessarily want my student's writing voice in my head. Nor, do I want to be in the position to point out grammar errors. But that is part of the job and I do it, but I am very aware that I am not doing my own writing when I am teaching. I believe that time off from the teaching is a time when I don't want anyone else's voice in my head. I think because I am so "slayed in the soul" from someone else's work, that I take on their voice, etc. I don't just read a book; I live the book I'm reading. Comes from being a shy child perhaps?
 
What do you think most people misunderstand about Franco-Americans? How do you try to change this view with your writing and teaching?
 
Oh, boy. Big questions. One, I don't think Franco-Americans are dead, gone anywhere too far, nor out of touch with their culture. I think, if asked, or pushed, the surface scratched, the living blood proof of Franco-American is alive and present.
 
Two, I don't think Franco-Americans speak a bad French. They don't speak slang French. They don't speak a dialect. The Franco-Americans speak French. Just French without any adjectives. Trying to erase that myth might take a word bomb of sizable proportions. Some cataclysmic event equal to tip the linguistic universe on its ear to create a space for Franco-American French as a living language of a living people. To hear some folks say that they never hear French spoken in towns in
 Maine must mean they have their ipods on or something. I hear French everywhere.
 
Three, Franco-Americans don't know their own stories, histories, writers, etc. They need to be more self-aware of the power of their stories.
 
Four, Franco-Americans love their priests and their nuns–religious and otherwise. They are used to being led and told what to do. I would like to see them aware of their "follower" status and change it to refusing to be led, especially when it comes to non-Francos telling Francos who the Francos are. Sounds harsh, but I think there needs to be a reckoning of the days when Franco-Americans could not speak for themselves, were spoken for, and we need to lose that habit fast. Especially the women. It is good to have the validation, we all need to support one another, but I do think that non-Francos could listen more to Francos instead of talk for them.
 
Five, since this is wish list time, to go with the above, Franco-American artists creating till we all fall down from the sheer weight of the outcome. And in some kind of concerted act of committing political act on behalf of all Franco-Americans.

I think the arts are the answer to what does it mean to be Franco-American because the arts are a language that many can understand.

Want to be a part of this series? If you get paid to write, you qualify! Email me and we'll talk!

Wednesday Writer Spotlight with Mark Laflamme…
Wednesday Writer Spotlight with Melanie Brooks…
Wednesday Writer Spotlight with Carrie Jones…

Wednesday Writer's Spotlight: Rhea Côté-Robbins

For the next few Wednesdays, I'll be featuring writers I like and how they hone their craft, use the internet, get writing ideas from life, and rake in the dough.

Rhea Côté-Robbins is a Maine author and Franco-American activist. Her first book, Wednesday's Child, chronicles the life of a young woman growing up in a mill town. She has since edited an anthology of early Franco-American women writers' translations, Canuck and Other Stories, and written a sequel to Wednesday's Child titled, 'down the Plains. Cote Robbins is a professor at the University of Maine in Franco-American Women's, Maine and University Studies. She's the Founder and Executive Director of the Franco-American Women's Institute and publishes the Franco-American News and Events blog (to which I occasionally contribute).

Your first book Wednesday's Child is a creative nonfiction memoir about what it was like growing up in a milltown. How does this straddle the divide of fiction and nonfiction? It seems like this would be a challenging first book to write in many ways.
 
I believe that there exists a Franco-American women's literary tradition, and whether we, as Franco-American women, know this or not, I believe that we participate in this written tradition. My own book, Wednesday's Child, came out of an event which happened in my girl days, 1969 to be exact, and at the moment of insight I decided to write my story so that others could understand what it was like growing up in the South End of Waterville. I was sixteen at the time and I knew that the story I wanted to tell was an important one and that the story deserved to be told. Now, many years passed before I did write the story, but the story only got better as a result of the wait. Like any art form, whatever life happens in the between times becomes a part of the ongoing, creative process.
 
Rheacoterobbins The book was challenging because there is a myth that there is not a Franco-American literary tradition, and as a result, each and every Franco-American begins at square one. We are always having to re-tell the story, each and every one of us, of how we were discriminated against, and the story stays stuck there for many people. My idea is to create a literary movement so that more and more Franco-Americans come out of their writing/writer's closet and proclaim their independence to be artists in their own right/write.
 
The classic scenario is to isolate and create a feeling of the writer being all alone in their art. When, in reality, the opposite is the true state of affairs. If anything is difficult, I find getting past the barriers created by the myth of Maine that the only literature happening here is based in "yankee" ingenuity. Well, I believe there is so much more to the whole story than that, and I would like to see the story expanded and enlarged to encompass the Franco-American literary voices–which includes mine.
 
Wednesdayschild Wednesday's Child is taught at several universities and colleges as well as read in the community. I think this is an indication that the story remains important, alive and vital to the larger story plane of the continent.
 
How did you decide that the Franco-American female experience was the most powerful thing you could write about and ultimately dedicate your life to? I'm sure you could have written about a number of things.

 
The Franco-American culture workers over the past century and more have done much to contribute to our treasure trove of life experiences–something like an Everything in the Whole Wide World of Franco-American Interpretation Center…I was going to say museum, but museum connotes past tense. The Franco-Americans are not past tense. We do need interpretation, although. My thought on writing about the Franco-American female experience has to do with going deep into the meaning of the culture and what is usually hidden, kept from the public eye, secret, or overlooked is the definition of what does it mean to be Franco-American and female and living in the state of Maine. That, in fact, was my working question for my book. The working question kept me focused on what I wanted to examine in depth and write about. I am absolutely enthralled with the common, everyday aspects of our lives as Franco-American women. I take some of my inspiration of Laura Thatcher Ulrich and her examination of ordinary women's lives. She has studied the life of a dish towel–from growing flax to its final weaving and use, which takes over a year to make a dish towel from scratch by the way, and then she writes about this. I find that inspiring and fascinating. What I want told as an art form, not simply as stories about the good old days, and told in such a way that elevates the Franco-American story to the level of great literature. I think what it takes is attitude. And a good computer. And an agent. And a publisher. And book sales. And major prizes won. I want that for myself and for the Franco-American story about Franco-American women telling her own story.
 
You've had the Franco-American News and Events blog since before blogging got really big. How has the blogosphere and your audience changed over time?
 
Canuckandotherstories Sometimes blogging feels like you are suspended in outer space talking out loud to yourself…you feel deliciously alone. And then, someone leaves a comment. Or, sends you an email suggesting a story I might have missed. And then they send more suggestions. And then they send links and stories. You realize someone is reading the material. Oh, oh, I'm not alone. I was hoping I was the stealth blogger and that no one was paying attention.
 
Jacques Boudreau who blogs/blogues from QC on the FA News and Events blog, was one of those folks who took notice of this little event happening in the blogosphere. So, I invited Jacques to go ahead and join the blogue and put up the pieces he was finding. He wanted to know, what about French articles? Sounds good to me. What happens is that the blogs capture the attention of folks from all over the world. So, lots of people have lots of time on their hands, I'm thinking, or, they resist
 other temptations by cruising the internet blogs.
 
My first blog happened in March of 2003. A friend put me onto blogging. I think I suffer from a condition knows as loquaciousness; I have a surfeit of words and if I don't let them out somehow, I combust internally. My maman used to call me "the talking machine." I used to really bother people back in the day when letter writing was the way to chat and send them 10-page letters. It was very embarrassing. So, I found the joy of journaling and I am on my 130th+ volume; write everyday, and
 that does not count the emails, blogs, etc. I don't watch much TV, although. But I do read many books in the course of a month. I think I am a word addict. Blogs are the proof that there are many like me out there; they may or may not know from what they suffer, but they are prac

ticing their addictions with fervor and a writer's religion.
 
 Blogs, to me, are proof that we are all story makers.
 
Does your teaching inform your writing? Another UMO professor I interviewed has said that teaching has not necessarily helped her writing but has really helped her editing.
 
Teaching and writing are like editing and writing, for me. Two different worlds. And anything that is not me writing, or my writing, frankly, interferes with my writing. Keeps me from the act of writing. Now, above I said that all things feed into the act of creativity. But, at some point, you have to sit down and do the deed. I also find I don't necessarily want my student's writing voice in my head. Nor, do I want to be in the position to point out grammar errors. But that is part of the job and I do it, but I am very aware that I am not doing my own writing when I am teaching. I believe that time off from the teaching is a time when I don't want anyone else's voice in my head. I think because I am so "slayed in the soul" from someone else's work, that I take on their voice, etc. I don't just read a book; I live the book I'm reading. Comes from being a shy child perhaps?
 
What do you think most people misunderstand about Franco-Americans? How do you try to change this view with your writing and teaching?
 
Oh, boy. Big questions. One, I don't think Franco-Americans are dead, gone anywhere too far, nor out of touch with their culture. I think, if asked, or pushed, the surface scratched, the living blood proof of Franco-American is alive and present.
 
Two, I don't think Franco-Americans speak a bad French. They don't speak slang French. They don't speak a dialect. The Franco-Americans speak French. Just French without any adjectives. Trying to erase that myth might take a word bomb of sizable proportions. Some cataclysmic event equal to tip the linguistic universe on its ear to create a space for Franco-American French as a living language of a living people. To hear some folks say that they never hear French spoken in towns in
 Maine must mean they have their ipods on or something. I hear French everywhere.
 
Three, Franco-Americans don't know their own stories, histories, writers, etc. They need to be more self-aware of the power of their stories.
 
Four, Franco-Americans love their priests and their nuns–religious and otherwise. They are used to being led and told what to do. I would like to see them aware of their "follower" status and change it to refusing to be led, especially when it comes to non-Francos telling Francos who the Francos are. Sounds harsh, but I think there needs to be a reckoning of the days when Franco-Americans could not speak for themselves, were spoken for, and we need to lose that habit fast. Especially the women. It is good to have the validation, we all need to support one another, but I do think that non-Francos could listen more to Francos instead of talk for them.
 
Five, since this is wish list time, to go with the above, Franco-American artists creating till we all fall down from the sheer weight of the outcome. And in some kind of concerted act of committing political act on behalf of all Franco-Americans.

I think the arts are the answer to what does it mean to be Franco-American because the arts are a language that many can understand.

Want to be a part of this series? If you get paid to write, you qualify! Email me and we'll talk!

Wednesday Writer Spotlight with Mark Laflamme…
Wednesday Writer Spotlight with Melanie Brooks…
Wednesday Writer Spotlight with Carrie Jones…

Manic Monday: How Work Won’t Take Over My Life

Do you ever feel those times in your life where work starts creeping in places you weren't expecting? Things are getting that way in my case. It's great from the standpoint of making more money and growing my business but from a personal health standpoint, I could definitely improve. Case in point: I forgot to wear a coat this morning…and it was 20 degrees out. Talk about having my brain elsewhere!

I have decided to put some practices firmly in place before things get any busier, and before I forget to put on any other article of clothing before leaving the house.

I'm taking one day off a week, completely.

I need a day of rest and if God can have one, so can I. It feels much more sane to have a day off. I'm not going to blog or do anything else on Sundays starting this week.

I'm using my spare time during the day to deal with correspondence right away. 

I'm keeping my inbox cleaned out and returning calls promptly using breaks and parts of lunch hours to get these little but critical things done. 

I step away from the computer.

Proposals can be sketched out on notebook paper with tea on the couch, ideas can be written while hanging out with a friend at a coffee shop. I no longer have a laptop so anytime away from my desk is now away from a computer. This is a good development in my case.

I set a timer.

When I get on my computer to check Facebook or Twitter, I set a timer. I keep one on my desk just for this purpose. Social networking while fun can be a big time sink and I need to be pulled away. I recommended this to a group o people I talked to and they seemed to think it was a good idea too, otherwise family and friends get mad at you for spending too much time on the computer.

It appears that tonight my brain is back, and just in time for Too Cute Tuesday tomorrow! Hope one of my little tips out there helps you with your personal sanity…

*Speaking of making money, do you have a cool way you make money on the side? I'd love to interview you for an upcoming series. Just email nicole at breakingeveninc.com and tell me about it.*

Manic Monday: How Work Won't Take Over My Life

Do you ever feel those times in your life where work starts creeping in places you weren't expecting? Things are getting that way in my case. It's great from the standpoint of making more money and growing my business but from a personal health standpoint, I could definitely improve. Case in point: I forgot to wear a coat this morning…and it was 20 degrees out. Talk about having my brain elsewhere!

I have decided to put some practices firmly in place before things get any busier, and before I forget to put on any other article of clothing before leaving the house.

I'm taking one day off a week, completely.

I need a day of rest and if God can have one, so can I. It feels much more sane to have a day off. I'm not going to blog or do anything else on Sundays starting this week.

I'm using my spare time during the day to deal with correspondence right away. 

I'm keeping my inbox cleaned out and returning calls promptly using breaks and parts of lunch hours to get these little but critical things done. 

I step away from the computer.

Proposals can be sketched out on notebook paper with tea on the couch, ideas can be written while hanging out with a friend at a coffee shop. I no longer have a laptop so anytime away from my desk is now away from a computer. This is a good development in my case.

I set a timer.

When I get on my computer to check Facebook or Twitter, I set a timer. I keep one on my desk just for this purpose. Social networking while fun can be a big time sink and I need to be pulled away. I recommended this to a group o people I talked to and they seemed to think it was a good idea too, otherwise family and friends get mad at you for spending too much time on the computer.

It appears that tonight my brain is back, and just in time for Too Cute Tuesday tomorrow! Hope one of my little tips out there helps you with your personal sanity…

*Speaking of making money, do you have a cool way you make money on the side? I'd love to interview you for an upcoming series. Just email nicole at breakingeveninc.com and tell me about it.*

Focus On A Small Business: Growing Smart

The following is the last post of a four-part series called "Focus On A Small Business". I'm profiling local small business owners Renee Johnson and Chris Roberts, owners of Barkwheats, an organic dog biscuit company. I took them out to lunch and picked their brains. Here's some of what I learned.

Ideally, a lot of people out there would be happy working for themselves in a microbusiness (that's a business that employs less then ten people, which is a lot of businesses out there!). But many businesses also want to grow their impact and be able to hire other people and make bigger profits. And if you don't plan for growth, bad stuff is going to go down.

Make measureable and attainable goals that align with your mission statement.

Does a line of organic dog food fit into Chris and Renee's vision for Barkwheats? Absolutely. Does selling little cat toys? Not really. This is where having a solid business plan allows you to not scatter your energy in a million different directions. Because of their dog food in development, Chris and Renee are further reinforcing their mission statement of bringing wholesome and nutritious food to dogs, and isn't that what a business is all about?

Get help!

I've been saying this throughout this series so I won't belabor my point.

I know it can be fun to say you did it yourself but you can say "We did it" much sooner and with less stress so why not? Find mentors, friends, and family resources that'll help you grow. 

Box stores aren't all evil.  

This was a very interesting part of the conversation for me. I'm always trying to buy local (well mostly anyway) and avoiding box stores altogether. Chris and Renee as small business owners have come to a much healthier view of box stores that makes a lot of sense. Here's an example of the reasoning:

"…HonestTea sold 40% of it's shares to Coca Cola, which has much better distribution… I mean go to a remote part of Africa and you'll find Coca Cola… Part of that distribution will bring organic teas to so many more people who would otherwise be filling their systems with colas or high sugar fruit juices…If everyone should eat organic, you need to sell where all the people are…" (which is to say, big box stores)

So besides working with box stores to increase distribution of a good product (like Barkwheats), box stores are taking steps to be environmentally responsible, often to save money. Another example:

HonestTea was selling a three pack of its teas at Sam's Club. The warehouse company, however, realized that the product had too much packaging to fit in their trucks. With Sam's Club working with HonestTea, the packaging for the teas was reduced by 40%, not only saving resources but reducing shipping costs because more product could fit in a truck. Did Sam's Club do this to save money or help the environment? Well, the real question is, does it matter?

As Chris said "Everyone could be doing more, but everyone (ie large and small companies) has to take single steps."

So if you are going to grow, you may have to find a way to work with the Walmarts of the world. And that can be ok.

I could write another four days of posts about what Chris, Renee, and I discussed in an hour: that's how interesting the conversation was. So whether you are just starting to think about starting a business of your own or have had one for years, I encourage you to take someone you admire out to lunch with a vocie recorder and a few questions. I'm certainly glad I did!

And a special deal on Barkwheats for Breaking Even readers. When you visit www.barkwheats.com put in the promo code nopf1208 in your shopping card for 20% off your entire order. Oh and there's free shipping on orders of six boxes or more.

Read part one of this series: The Little Things…
Read part two of this series: Learning More…
Read part three of this series: Getting The Word Out…