Uncategorized

I Didn’t Blog For Six Months (And Nothing Bad Happened)

This summer, I officially reached my threshold.

I ran three businesses, started a new one, managed people, ran an Airbnb, hosted a reunion of all my college friends and their families, and had my boyfriend and his children living with me for five weeks.

It was so exhausting I stopped blogging entirely. For the first time in over ten years.

This blog has been weekly since September of 2007. For two years it was a DAILY BLOG!

I blogged through my father’s death, my divorce, and other various changes that were good and bad. The blog was my thing I committed to.

Until I didn’t.

So what happened when I stopped blogging for six months? Let’s take a look.

My traffic went down, but my business went up.

I stopped blogging regularly in June and completely stopped blogging in August. Here is a month by month view of the traffic.

So revenue is up over last year in the business… but our blog traffic looks like it’s tanked about 20% or so.

I tell people all the time that a blog gives Google something to regularly index and something to share on social media, email, and other kinds of online marketing. So I was expecting traffic to go down and it seems to have taken the biggest hit in both search and social media (both down about 10% from the previous year).

Now if I am spending more time on billable work and less time on blogging, that’s overall good… but I think I could definitely do a better job of balancing.

I need an editor and not writing was me avoiding the editing process.

One of the things I miss the most about Kassie (who worked with me for 4.5 years) is that she edited me in exactly the way I wanted to be edited. Not just grammar but also style. I honestly need someone to tell me when I sound negative or maybe could use an example for a point I’m trying to make.

I have ten blog drafts and none published and as I type this one, I realize it’s because I want, and likely need, an editor. So I just wrote to the best person I think could do this.

I was blocked.

One thing about writing is you need something to write about. And when you are too stressed out, trying to think of something while looking at a blinking cursor feels impossible.

For awhile, I was worried I had nothing more to say.

Turns out when I took a moment to breathe and think, I suddenly had lots of ideas. I just needed to manage my health (including my stress) so I could get there.

I kept thinking the first blog ‘back’ had to be epic.

Yeah, no pressure or anything, right?

Turns out the first blog back after a long hiatus just has to be written. So here I am, back after six months, having lost some traffic and momentum but gained some perspective.

Happy 2019 and whatever you are getting back to, whether it’s blogging or something else. Because we all have things worth picking back up again.

Get Organized to Get Packing

If offered a choice between moving and getting my eyebrows completely waxed off while being taunted mercilessly by a group of middle schoolers every day for a year, I’d have to think about it long and hard.

This is how much I hate moving. I’m just not a fan of physical labor, preferring to spend my spare time falling asleep watching Netflix under a fine coating of Cheetos dust.

Almost as bad as the pain inherent in trying to shimmy a 30-year-old foldout couch through a doorway is the sheer logistics of moving: Planning, packing, hiring movers or bribing friends. In other words: ORGANIZATION. Fortunately, for those of us organizationally challenged, there are some handy online resources, which you’ll see listed at the bottom of this post. In addition, because I was a horrible person in my past life, I myself have had to move more times than I can count. Here are the lessons I’ve learned that can apply to both a residential and corporate move

  1. Plan ahead. Create a schedule for packing, loading and unloading, unpacking and cleaning.  Put in for some paid time off at work so you can focus on your move.

2.  Budget! Figure out a budget for moving costs including truck rental, insurance, gas and movers — plan a contingency for unexpected but inevitable extra costs.

3. Heeeeeeey yooooooou guuuuuuuys! Did you remember to call the electric company and other utilities and tell them about the move? What about a change of address at the post office and a word with your internet service provider?

4. Dump the clutter before packing. “When in doubt, throw it out.” Whoever thought of this axiom should get a medal. Another good rule of thumb is that if you haven’t seen it, used it, or thought of it in a year, it’s probably not worth holding onto (family heirlooms and photo albums excluded. The best way to cut down on hassle while moving is to have less stuff to move. Start planning your trips to the Salvation Army and Goodwill Store. Someone is going to want your embarrassing Hummel figurine collection that you inherited years ago against your will. Depending on where you live, some charitable organizations will even come to your residence and pick up unwanted furniture you don’t feel like taking with you.

5. Boxes! Boxes everywhere! Large or small, most stores will be happy to donate to you their gently used cardboard boxes. Liquor stores, big box retail, corner stores — they’re pretty happy not to have to put the time and effort into recycling cardboard boxes themselves.

6. Invest in a tape gun. Also, invest in more tape than you think you’ll need. Sharpies, too, are indispensable. Label EVERYTHING.

7. Don’t be intimidated by the giant moving van. You don’t even have to know how to drive a stick. Just take it slow on the road but make sure you’re insured.

8. Know when to call in the pros. Movers and packers can be expensive, but often times worth it, especially if you have a lot of stuff, little time and no available friends. Plus, it’ll save you from having to invest in a back brace.

via GIPHY

Resources for those on the move:

Lifehacker’s start-to-finish moving guide: http://lifehacker.com/5591389/the-start-to-finish-moving-guide

How to Move (With Pictures), from WikiHow: http://www.wikihow.com/Move

BuzzFeed’s 33 Moving Tips That Will Make Your Life So Much Easier https://www.buzzfeed.com/peggy/brilliant-moving-tips?utm_term=.ftj4V6ne0y#.chbzQ2ovnR

Better Homes & Gardens’ 10 Biggest Moving Mistakes http://www.bhg.com/home-improvement/moving/moving/biggest-moving-mistakes/

BEC Story #3: Space To Grow

One thing I love/hate about running a business is when problems you thought you solved reappear (or sometimes more accurately, decisions you thought you had already made and were done with). For example, once upon a time had an office… until we needed another office.

Problem: After four years in business, Breaking Even got an office. And when we were two people and our income was at the level it was, that office was very functional. When we (the business) needed to increase to three and four people, I hired a part time, two hour away friend (telecommuting) and worked with a subcontractor (also who would work remotely). Then one day, I thought how helpful it would be to get us all in the same room for a day. So I started calling around.

I wanted someplace private (a lot of the local banks have conference spaces but they don’t feel like you can really close the door and be undisturbed… unless you were having a meeting with a bank employee of course). I wanted someplace nice. I wanted someplace with good internet. I didn’t need to pay hundreds for a banquet hall for a weekend wedding; I wanted six hours of peace and quiet in a nice room with a table, some chairs, and the internet.

As I tried to make a list of amenities writing this, I realize more of what I wanted was for my coworkers to feel a certain way. I wanted them to feel taken care of. Relaxed. Inspired. Happy. Productive. Engaged. Warm.

I ended up renting a hotel ballroom. When I walked in, I smiled. In this relatively large room with a crystal chandellier was a small table (big enough for four people) with four water glasses in the geographic center of the room. And nothing else. I chuckled because it looked cute and a little absurd. And I wondered how many other people needed what I needed at least sometimes. If we were going to work well together, we needed a room we could all fit in.

I had done a pretty exhaustive search of office spaces in the area.  I’ve seen about 20 total offices in my community and much of what I looked at years ago is still on the market now.

Why? Remember the feelings I wanted my coworkers to have at the retreat?  These spaces exuded none of that. And if we were going to make a change, I like changes to be ‘onward and upward’, not ‘lateral and with the same issues.’ Plus, a new office space was not going to be able to fulfill our meeting needs anyway, even if we could get past weird smells, a lack of natural light, or lack of parking options for our clients.

Solution:

Honestly, a bigger office would have been a lot less work than opening up a whole new business. But in these stories, you may know hard work is one of the qualities I value and try to cultivate.

The idea of a coworking space has been rolling around in my head for almost four years. Since I heard of the concept, I loved the idea. It makes a lot of sense for an entrepreneurial community like the one I live in to have something like this, not just for Breaking Even Communications but small businesses operating out of homes, coffee shops, and libraries as well as bigger firms who did work in the area but didn’t have office space nearby (contractors, engineers, etc.)

Opening Anchorspace was part selfish-we needed more space. But I truly believed that the solution to our problem could simultaneously be beneficial to the community, so why not help others while we were at it?

So I wrote a business plan, did cost projects, worked with a career counselor, worked with an intern on market research, secured a space, painted the space, furnished it, had security cameras installed and a few other upgrades, and opened Anchorspace in less than a year. My coworkers in the meantime picked up my slack at Breaking Even so I had not only the time but the brain space to deal with this very big idea.

Values demonstrated: Open to ideas of others, community minded, hard work, teamwork, resourcefulness, going with my gut (intuition maybe?)



How could this story be improved?

If you’re emotionally attached to something, have someone else write it. Problem is, when you are very emotionally into something, it’s hard to step back and make it interesting. Like in this story, I didn’t tell you we opened and had no customers for three months. Or any of the other small and big struggles that would have made it more interesting and relatable. I’ll admit this, I’m a writer and I paid my friend to write my bio on this website. What comes across is something much more balanced and less weird than it would be if I wrote it. This is why most magazines have journalists interview authors. Authors could write their own story… but it’s just not as good somehow, especially for that emotional stuff.

Take credit. I think as a woman in particular, I tend to not take as much credit for my accomplishments as I should. I remember in college doing well in something and hearing myself say, out loud, that what I did was nothing, not important, anyone could have done it, blah, blah, blah. Actually, I had worked hard. I had earned that grade. I told myself that from now on, when someone gave me a compliment, I would simply say, “Thank you.” I would take the credit for the work. In saying, yes, I made Anchorspace happen, I am not taking away anything from people who helped. I am just taking ownership of what I did. I saw a problem we had, zoomed out and saw we could help others, and took a harder road than a lot of people would have taken to get there. So yes, I’m going to take some credit for that.

Epilogue: I’m really struggling to write these stories. In other words, if you’ve taken our story challenge and our struggling, please know I am too!

Previous Stories:
BEC Story #2
BEC Story #1
Original post about why we’re doing these stories.

The Yule Blog

Merry Christmas from Breaking Even Communications! We hope you enjoy this “Yule Blog,” maybe even more than an actual Yule log. “Yule Blog” combines holiday cheer and the internet in a festive mashup-and you won’t have the sugar crash afterwards.  In 2015, I noticed a lot of holiday joy being spread online. Here are a few of my favorite things from this year:

  “It came without ribbons, it came without tags, it came without packages, boxes and bags!”- The Grinch, probably talking about finding holiday joy online.

Besides the obvious fact that you can do most of your shopping online (even from local people), another perk is getting ideas for what to buy everyone on your list. Some people use Amazon’s Wish List as an easy way to exchange Christmas lists. Others simply share the URLs for what it is they want (I did this for a pair of running shoes last year but it turned into a flow chart based on color availability, so it didn’t simplify the process). The internet certainly has been a game-changer for the structure of a Christmas list:

enhanced-buzz-7872-1415112822-23

Kids are probably my favorite part of the holiday season. Generally speaking, they still have that awe and wide-eyed wonder that reminds us to stop and appreciate the little things. More often than not, they remind us what the true spirit of the holiday is all about. This video from UP T.V.  shows what happens when a child is asked to choose a gift for himself or his family- every time, the child chooses a gift for his family. One kid explained “LEGOs don’t matter, your family matters.” It’s a truly heartwarming video.

theothergift

A little goodwill can go a long way. It’s amazing to see people rising to calls for help during the holiday season, which are easier to share with the help of social media. The example below is just one of many that I’ve seen go by in the past month (and the Bangor Police Department is notorious for their acts of goodwill and epic social media presence). There’s also the story of an 8 year old girl who lost her family in a fire two years ago, who only asked for Christmas cards this year. Thanks to social media, she received over 300,000 letters and about 3,000 packages (including a teddy bear from a boy in Hong Kong).

BPDnicelady

On the lighter side of holidays and the internet, Elf on the Shelf has returned again this year to our Facebook newsfeeds. Although I have mixed feelings about the whole tradition, I will say that Busy Philipps nails it. Check out her Instagram for more amazing elf ideas- no idea how she comes up with these elaborate scenes:

busyelf

Then, there’s this Craiglist ad for a Human Elf on the Shelf, offering to sit around your holiday party and “stare emptily at your guests.” The man behind the ad recently came forward and admitted it was just a prank, which he’d forgotten about until people started requesting his services. Who knew there was a market for this stuff?

humanelf

Another holiday tradition that I have a lukewarm attitude about are Christmas cards. These can be a joy or a pain, depending on how you approach them. This family has taken them to the next level, dedicating 13 years of Christmas cards to be intentionally awkward. If you’re going to commit to a tradition, it might as well be one you can all enjoy, after all!

card_6.original

And of course, what’s a holiday without a good Pinterest fail? My Christmas cookies are notoriously terrible (fortunately I don’t share with anyone), and that’s without trying to follow anything I’ve pinned. In fact, we make them terrible on purpose because it makes us laugh. I’m always impressed with the things my real adult friends concoct via Pinterest!

Franken-Cookies- and this is before decorating.

Franken-Cookies- and this is before decorating.

 

Hope you all have a Merry Christmas!

Tech Thursday: Insta-bleh to Insta-BLAM!

Photography isn’t your forte? Don’t worry, there’s an app for that!

In this video, we offer some tricks on how to creating an awesome Instagram account that don’t rely on photography skills.

And, for those who are interested in the collage option, here are a couple links:

1) A step-by-step guide on collage making, and

2) A review of some of the apps you can use to create a collage on your phone.

 

Marketing Monday: Goop

Editor’s Note: Thank you all for your kind condolences about the death of my dog. I appreciate your compassion, and am happy to report that I am feeling much better this week. Many thanks.
Know an individual or business doing something cool to promote themselves online? Let me know about it and they might be featured as part of Marketing Monday!


Goop's front page. Flash driven and a little vague (bad) but graphic and simple (good).
I’d first of all like to keep this blog a positive one. There are so many people doing so many good things online, to promote their business or otherwise.
Today, I wanted to review Gwyneth Paltrow’s website called Goop. It’s mission is to ‘nurture the inner aspect’ and is supposed to be about things in Gwenyth Paltrow’s life.
Recently, her post about a New Year’s cleanse recieved some media attention at both Nerve and Huffington Post and just this past weekend, the site came up in conversation over lunch with two of my friends in the media.
The only reason this website seems to work is because it belongs to Gwenyth Paltrow. I haven’t found anyone who ‘gets it’.
Goop does not embrace internet terms.
A web magazine written by one person about their life is called a blog.
Goop can call its posts ‘articles’ all it wants but in doing so alienates itself from the blogging community. I could see the use of another term if this website was launched five years ago when blogs weren’t nearly as prevalent . But nowadays, bloggers are used as experts on television news programs and followed by media types on social media for story tips.
Bloggers are far from obscure and distancing yourself from a group of people also trying to create online content seems like a silly thing to do. Let’s not mention the fact that bloggers spend a lot of their time talking about and linking to other websites. Not one of them? That certainly makes it hard to become part of the community.
It’s unclear whether the site is compensated for the products it endorses.
A whole section of Goop is called ‘Get’ and seems to endorse cool products. No where on the site could I find policies about these products. Does Gwyneth Paltrow receive financial or other compensation for putting these products on her site? Does she personally use them? It’s hard to say.
As a reader of the site, I’d like to know. A simple ‘About’ section of ‘FAQ’ would do wonders at answering some small questions about the site and its policies.
Goop doesn’t link to other sites.
Not linking to other sites makes you 1) less connected with other web developers and 2) doesn’t help your search engine ranking. This is why all bloggers have a blogroll or list of links we like: because it’s good for us and good for the people we link to.
Not having many (or perhaps any) links off the site seems like a missed opportunity, not only for increased traffic to Goop but also for Paltrow to use her star power to help out smaller sites. You can’t buy the kind of good buzz that would create.

<

div>In short, celebrities can get away with things the rest of us can’t.

Most regular people can’t get away with a ‘this is stuff i like’ blog, if only because most of us have a limited audience. There are probably 30 people in my life who would care about everything Nicole Ouellette likes in my case. I am not Oprah, and this is why my blog entries have an undercurrent of money and marketing. It is why most blogs have a topic or subject they are about: more universal appeal.
What is Goop about? Whatever Gwenyth Paltrow feels like needs to be covered that particular week.
As my Twitter friend Marc Pitman puts it, it looks like Goop is “trying to do WAY too much”. I agree.
Some people do like a website that covers a lot of ground though, but for those of us who like to know what to expect, it’d be great if there’d be a preview of what’s coming up. No doubt the staff that maintains this site plans ahead for content and letting readers in on the not-so-distant future offerings I think would lead to increased overall satisfaction with readers.
Also, it would be great if Goop engaged it’s readers in some way. Featuring helpful comments in the weekly newsletter or having reader guest bloggers would no doubt increase Goop’s appeal and further connect it to other cool things going on online.
While Goop has interesting written content and a clean design, the posts have no photos.
The posts on Goop are text heavy; it would be great to have some graphic elements to get the content more skimmable and make the website prettier. Perhaps this is a place where readers could contribute if they knew about the topic ahead of time. Just an idea…
In short, Goop is not the world’s most terrible website but it could further its mission with some thoughtful tweaks and increased reader engagement.
Want some other opinions besides mine?