How to Embrace the Messy Joy of Starting Over

I remember the first few weeks of working for myself.

I was like a blind woman, wandering around, trying random things. I put a profile up on a tutoring site, and the first time someone hired me to tutor her felt like a dream. Wow, I thought. I can really do this.

As exciting as it all was, I just wanted to be further into the journey, to know how to do it all already.

Since then, I’ve tutored dozens of kids, teenagers, and adults. My friend and I started a web design business, and I built websites for small businesses and even a small medical college. I’ve taught over 100 women in a membership site I built from scratch.

When I built my first online business, I felt a fiery desire to learn everything I possibly could. I threw myself into online courses, listened to dozens of podcasts, and invested in all of the best apps. I was a woman with a dream, and nothing could stop me.

I built a Facebook group to 6500 people. I sold online courses, and coaching, and did all of the things I had dreamed of doing.

And then. Things didn’t work out exactly how I had hoped. I closed down my membership site, knowing in my gut that, even though I loved the community, I didn’t want to teach about blogging forever. I didn’t have the passion, the stamina, or even the desire to keep it going.

Then, for months, I sustained myself through freelance writing, something I am good at, but that doesn’t light me up inside. I ached for that missing sense of purpose and joy.

Wandering around this strange no-woman’s land, I wondered, How do I reclaim my passion for creating? How do I pick myself up, dust myself off, and start over?

This in-between place feels so different from where I was when I first started. And it seems like most of the support out there is designed for people who need to learn the ropes of business, not folks like me who know how to do it, but feel stuck and lost and disillusioned.

I want a course for people who know how to do online business but who have tried all of the tips and tricks, have used all of the templates, and want to start fresh doing things their way.

Who have exhausted all of the worn paths and are ready to hack their way through the woods, if only we had the courage and the strength to get up and try again.

As you can tell, I’m still in the middle of the process myself, but here are some of the things I’m learning and trying. If you’re a few years in and exhausted, maybe this will help.

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1. Honor yourself for all the work you’ve done so far.

Sometimes I forget to pat myself on the back and remember everything I’ve learned and tried and accomplished. I look back at the past 5 years and see a void.

But when I’m able to remember all of the things I’ve added to my proverbial backpack over the years, it reminds me of how capable and strong I really am.

Do this:

Imagine you’ve brought a backpack with you through all of your business/blogging/self-employed experiences. What new skills and strengths have you put in your backpack? What useless things have you removed?

If it helps, create these sections:

  • Skills
  • Strengths
  • Lessons learned
  • Accomplishments
  • Things I’ve let go of

When you realize how much you’ve gained and how full your backpack is (luckily it’s imaginary, so you don’t have to struggle to carry it), you’ll feel so much better prepared to get up and start over.

2. Start small

I’ve realized that in the process of starting over, it’s been hard to think small.

When I first started my blog coaching business, I created a free 5 day course, and got 30 people to join it. It was a small, doable experiment to see how viable my business idea was, and I loved it.

This time, I’m doing a writing workshop for 7 women in my apartment. A small, intimate experiment that makes me happy.

I think that we often forget (or at least I do) that most businesses start small. It’s these simple actions – writing a blog post, offering a workshop, creating a PDF, that add up into something larger.

Just like, when I first started, I wanted to be an expert already, now, I want my new writing coaching business to be HUGE and SUCCESSFUL. I want to be making a full time income from my efforts. But I can’t build a big business in weeks. All I can do is focus on small things that make me happy and fulfill me.

If you're struggling to start over after a fall, honor your accomplishments & start small.Click To Tweet

Do this:

If you’re in between businesses/projects, or if you’re losing excitement for your current business/project, try out mini-experiments that will bring you closer to the business you want.

Make sure your mini-experiments:

  • Arouse your curiosity
  • Spark your joy
  • Don’t stress you out
  • Reflect what you want to do large-scale

Last night, my friend Ani and I discussed this question: How do you know if an experiment is successful?

For me, an experiment is successful if:

  • I enjoy it
  • Other people resonate with it
  • It feels honest and true

Ani’s measures of success are more about metrics. How much money does it bring in? If she scales it up, does it show that she’ll earn what she wants in the longterm?

Figure out your own measures of success. They can be nebulous and feelings-oriented like mine, or numbers-driven like Ani’s. If they feel good to you, they are good.

3. Practice self-compassion

I’m reading a book called Self-Compassion by Kristin Neff.

(Watch her TED Talk here)

She talks about the importance of giving yourself compassion no matter what.

When thoughts come up like…

“Why couldn’t I make that business work?”
“Why aren’t I as successful as I want to be yet?”
“What’s wrong with me?”
“I suck”

Instead of letting yourself continue on that treacherous path, give yourself a hug, wrap yourself in your favorite blanket, and whisper soothing things to yourself. Remind yourself that you are human, that you’ve come a long way, and that it’s okay to fall down and get back up again.

I don’t know about you, but I’d much rather work for a boss who is compassionate and kind, who gently pushes me to get back up and try again, than one who berates me and doubts me at every turn.

When you work for yourself, you are your boss. (Not to state the obvious, or anything.) So be a kind one.

4. Stop worrying about doing it right

The great thing about failing is it shows you that even when you try to do everything right, it often falls short or blows up in your face.

Why is this a great thing, you ask?

Because it gives you the freedom to stop trying to “Do it right,” and instead, to do it in a way that you enjoy.

Maybe this time, instead of loading up on online courses and trying to do what some guru tells you to do, you’ll listen to your intuition, instead.

Do this:

  • When something doesn’t feel right to you, stop doing it. Even if “everyone” is saying it’s the best thing since cold brew coffee.
  • When you get the urge to try something that feels weird and different, do it. Ignore the voice in your head that’s trying to keep you safe by stifling your creativity.
  • Make a big sign that says “Trust Yourself” and hang it up somewhere in your house, or office, or both. I suggest taping a bunch of paper together, writing it in huge bubble letters like you did in elementary school, and coloring it with magic markers.

5. Reach out to your community

When you’re in between businesses, when you feel like you’ve “failed,” it can be a huge source of shame. I know it has been for me. It takes guts to say, “I tried something and it didn’t work the way I wanted it to.”

But one of the worst things you can do when you’re down and out is to isolate yourself.

If you feel frustrated that something didn’t work, if you feel discouraged and afraid to try again, talk about it. Talking about things makes them seem less scary. It reminds you that you’re human and that part of being human is trying things that don’t work out.

Do this:

Find one friend to reach out to and tell her (or him) how things are going. Make sure it’s someone who you can trust, and who loves you, and who won’t make you feel worse. Tell her what kind of response you want. Do you want her to just listen and reflect? Do you want her to share her own stories that connect with yours? Are you looking for advice? Be clear about what you need from her.

Then be honest. Let yourself be seen. Share what’s real for you right now. Bring your pain and your shame into the light.

6. Stop hiding

I’ve spent many days reading on the couch for hours, telling myself I’m taking care of myself, all the while feeling like I should really be doing something productive.

Really, this isn’t self-care. It’s hiding.

What do you do to avoid facing your feelings? Do you bake cookies? Read? Play video games? Whatever it is, recognize it.

Do this:

  • When you find yourself hiding in an activity, first, give yourself compassion.
  • Then get curious. Ask yourself, What am I hiding from right now?
  • Set a timer for 10 minutes and then write whatever comes up for you.
  • Reread what you’ve written.
  • Give yourself more compassion.
  • Do one action that makes you feel good.

You can hide for days, weeks, even years, from your true feelings and desires. But once you face them, you can stop hiding and step fully into your life.

Being in between things is hard.

But if you give yourself compassion, if you try small, joyful experiments, if you stop worrying about “doing it right,” if you reach out for help, and if you come out of hiding, you will soon find yourself back on the path of creation.

You’ll find the courage and the strength to try again. You’ll be able to pick up your imaginary backpack and cut your own path through the magical forest.

Let’s try it together.

The Naked Truth About Being a Writer

I’m a freelance writer, which means I get paid to wake up and write everyday.

I write in my dining room, sipping a glass of cold brew coffee over ice, my goldendoodle Kaia laying under my chair.

I often wake up at 9AM and it’s okay, because no one is breathing down my neck. I get to research things I’m interested in, and people actually pay me to write about them.

Being a writer definitely has its perks. But then there are the hard parts, the dark parts, the parts every writer experiences but few enjoy sharing.

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Writing can feel very lonely and isolating

While it’s great to be able to manage my own schedule and work in sweatpants, writing is also a lonely pursuit. Often, it’s just me and my keyboard. Sometimes I daydream about having an office job (seriously) because then I would be able to actually see other people and collaborate with them. (Imagine that!)

I’ve wrestled with the pain of being a writer who thrives on social connection. How do I do both? I’m still figuring that out. I hope that eventually I’ll be able to teach writing just as much as I do writing, that I’ll get more collaborative writing assignments. Until then, I have to intentionally make social time a vital part of each day.

I try to call at least 3 close friends a week and have long, thoughtful conversations with them so that I don’t get completely lonely and depressed. Those conversations keep me going.

I also try to do writing that involves interviewing and learning from others. As writers, we have to intentionally connect with other people. It’s not an integral part of our work. And that’s hard sometimes.

The claws of self doubt often sink into me when I want to write something new and different

I’m writing a soap opera series for one of my clients, 42 Dubonnet.

Unlike with the writing I do for my other clients, this is a creative project completely driven by my own imagination. Sometimes I wake up with every intention of writing another episode of The Adventures of Delilah Dubonnet, but my head junk gets in the way, and I just end up sitting on the couch and reading all day.

With my own blog, it’s also a challenge to push myself to write new and creative things. I will often think of a blog post idea and then immediately dismiss it. I will think, “No one will ‘get’ that.” Or “Who am I to write about that?” Then, instead of pushing through the haze and writing anyway, I let my own fear keep me from putting words on the page.

But when I do trust my voice, when I do push through and write something original, it feels really, really amazing.

It’s all too easy to fall into the trap of learning instead of doing

Have you ever had a brilliant idea for a blog post, writing project, or email, and then thought, “Let me just see if there’s a ‘right’ way to do this?” Then you probably went into the endless hole of the Internet, reading about all of the ‘proven’ ways to write a ‘successful’ post. 6 hours later, you resurfaced and realized you never wrote anything.

Unfortunately, Internet marketers know you’re afraid. They know you want to do it ‘right.’ And they’re all too eager to share what they’ve learned to save you time and effort. But following someone else’s process is a great way to lose your own voice and to join the crowds of people who sound the same.

When I started my blog, I wanted to help people find their voices. But then, without even meaning to, I got swept up in the wave of people teaching other people how to blog. It was so easy to follow the crowd instead of digging down and staying true to what I wanted to write about.

The bottom line? If you have a thread of curiosity in your heart, let that propel you forward. Don’t lose yourself in other people’s “best practices.” What’s best for them may not be best for you.

Sometimes I wonder if my writing really matters

Everyone in my family works in a helping profession. My dad is a divorce lawyer who also counsels his clients. My mom worked as a social worker with foster families for over 40 years, and my sister is a social worker who works with teens. My husband is a family doctor.

I’m the only one who doesn’t work directly with people on a daily basis. Sometimes I wonder if my writing really matters. I deeply want to make an impact with my work. And while I enjoy writing and I’m good at it, sometimes I wonder if it’s enough.

But then I read a blog post that makes me think about the world in a totally different way. I devour a novel that makes me question my beliefs. Or I hear a podcast that gives me hope and inspires me. They help me remember that what I’m doing matters, even if I don’t see the immediate impact of my work.

The other thing that gives my work purpose is knowing that even if no one else reads my writing, the act of writing itself transforms me and teaches me. Especially when I write something honest and original. Writing helps me see things I need to pay attention to. And if my writing makes an impact on me, that’s powerful on its own.

You can’t be a writer without experiencing rejection

No matter what type of writer you are, at some point you have to experience rejection.

I’ve had article pitches rejected. Clients have completely edited and changed articles I’ve written. Every time I send an email to my email list, a few people unsubscribe.

Every writer I’ve read, even the best ones, have negative reviews on Goodreads. The most provocative, stirring articles always have people complaining about them in their comment sections.

While being a writer has made me better at taking criticism and dismissing rejection, it still hurts. I still just want people to tell me they love what I’m doing. I don’t know if that’s ever going to change.

On the other hand, the more I’m rejected, the more I realize that rejection doesn’t hurt me. My writing isn’t me, so when someone doesn’t like it, it doesn’t mean they don’t like me. And even if they don’t like me, that’s okay, too. My dog will love me no matter what.

Getting comfortable with rejection lets me take more risks — both in my work and in my life. And that means I have a fuller life than I would otherwise.

Being a writer takes tremendous self-discipline

I could just binge on Netflix while eating Talenti gelato everyday, because I don’t have a boss other than myself. That means I have to motivate myself to get off the couch, sit down at my computer, and write. Sometimes, I just don’t have it in me to do that.

Don’t get me wrong, if I have a deadline, I meet it.

But if I don’t, it’s all too easy to procrastinate. It’s so tempting to clean my kitchen when I know I should be pitching to new publications instead. Sometimes I’d rather listen to a podcast and dream about being a successful writing teacher instead of doing the actual work of writing. And sometimes, I let myself off the hook.

On the other hand, the fact that more often than not, I get off the couch and do my work means that I’ve built up a well of self-discipline I can draw from. I know that I do my work not because someone else told me to, but because I choose to. And that is a powerful realization.

It’s too easy to ‘disqualify’ yourself from being a writer

I’ve been writing for my entire life. I even have a Creative Writing degree. Yet sometimes, I still think, “Am I really qualified to call myself a writer? Am I qualified to help other people write?”

I’m pretty confident in my writer-ness most of the time. But I know plenty of people (maybe you?) who find a million ways to disqualify themselves.

They say, “Well, I write on my blog, but I’m not really a writer” or “I don’t have a degree so I’m not a true writer” or “I haven’t published anything so I’m not a writer.”

Unlike other professions where if you have a degree, you can add some fancy initials next to your name, no degree can truly make you a “licensed writer.” That means you have to own your writer-ness yourself. You have to have the strength and the confidence to say, “Yeah, I’m a writer.”

And if you write, even if it’s just in your journal, you are a writer. I promise.

Despite all the hardships, I am still a writer.

Honestly, I can’t help it. It’s like there’s an inner voice that pushes me to write. If I haven’t written anything in a long time, it gently nudges me. It says, “Daniela, you need to get your words on the page.”

Being a writer is part of me, like being a woman or having curly hair. For better or worse, I’ll be a writer until I die.

I shared all of these hard, naked truths for a few reasons:

  1. I’m clearing out the cobwebs to give myself space to write with greater depth and clarity
  2. I believe that the dark forest of writing is just as important to acknowledge as the bright flashes of insight, the brilliantly written poems, the incredibly crafted articles.
  3. I think you may have experienced similar hardships to mine. And I want you to know I’m in the scary forest with you. We’ll get through this together.

Here’s a thought to take with you into the future:

It’s normal to feel lonely, fearful, rejected, and frustrated as a writer.

And the thing that will keep you going, more than anything else, is that quiet voice inside you, that playful, creative voice, that whispers “I have something to say.”

Listen to it. Let it out. Your voice wants to be heard.

How to Trust Yourself More as a Blogger

In order to create a blog you love, you must trust yourself.

In creating blog posts and in growing an audience, you step into the unknown. And it’s a little bit scary to put yourself and your voice out there.

You might think…

  • What if no one likes this post?
  • Who am I to say I’m an expert?
  • Am I doing this right?
  • What if people think I’m crazy?

And on and on.

When these fears come up, it’s easy to:
A. Stop yourself from blogging at all.
B. Search out the advice of so-called blogging gurus.
C. Blog about what you think people want rather than what you truly care about.

But there is an option D. Which is to trust yourself.

You can do things to build that trust day by day, week by week.

Until, one day, you will find yourself thinking I got this, and plunging into a new blog post without a second thought.

That feeling is awesome.

So…how do you develop that trust?

1. Show up for yourself and do what you commit to doing

There are 2 parts to this, and both are equally important.

1. Make a commitment to yourself that you can keep.

How often have you told yourself, I will write a blog post every morning, and then you feel like a failure when you only write once a month.

It’s okay. You are human.

But in the future, try not to make commitments to yourself that you can’t keep.

How often can you actually commit to working on your blog? Choose something that feels good and that you will do.

You know yourself, so just lovingly ask, Self, what is realistic here? and you will get the answer.

2. Show up for your blog when you say you will.

You may want to put your blogging time on the calendar. Or you may want to commit to doing it on a specific day, but leave it open as to when.

Just make sure that you make a solid commitment and follow through with it.

Every time you sit down to blog when you say you will, your trust in yourself as a blogger will grow.

2. Listen to your intuition

Trust your gut. Trust your intuition. Do what it says.

You know what I’m talking about. That little voice inside that says, Why don’t you try this? or Maybe you could do that.

We all have a wise inner self. And when we consistently listen to it, we are able to hear it with greater and greater clarity.

This is especially important when it comes to writing and growing a blog. It is so easy – almost inevitable – to fall into the trap of looking at what everyone else is doing and then falling into line.

But your blog’s success – and your own fulfillment as a blogger – depends on you doing your own thing in your own way.

Your intuition knows…

  • Your deeper purpose for blogging
  • What you need to write right now
  • What your readers care about
  • How to leverage your greatest strengths in your blog

The only thing that’s keeping you from knowing these things is your fear and your desire to “get it right.”

Drop your fear, lean into your intuition, and you’ll find your way.

3. Let go.

There is a strange interplay between trust and letting go.

On one hand, how do you let go when you don’t trust? On the other, how can you be held if you don’t let go?

How will you know you’re safe if you don’t let yourself take down your defenses?

Blogging takes a tremendous amount of letting go.

  • Let go of your attachment to outcomes.
  • Let go of wanting it to be perfect.
  • Let go of knowing how it will be received.
  • Let go of needing the approval of others.
  • Let go of that voice in your head that tells you you’re not good enough.

When you let go of these things you don’t need, you will find your creative core at the center. And that’s where truly transformative blog posts come from.

4. Lead yourself forward.

Guide your blogging decisions from a place of strength and self knowledge.

Take time to ask yourself what you actually want from your blog.

Why do you want to grow an audience?

What is the message you care about so much that you’re willing to write about it week after week for the foreseeable future?

How do you want to earn money?

How can you grow your online presence and feel good the whole time? (Or at least most of it?)

Create a foundation for your blog and your business. Base it on self knowledge and thoughtfulness.

Then when a decision comes up like, Should I buy this course? or Should I put ads on my blog? you can go back and make your decisions from a place of strength and self trust rather than fear.

If you’re a blogger, you are a leader.

You’re someone who wants to serve people, to change how they think, and to educate them. And you must do that from a place of strength and trust in yourself.

If you’re a blogger, you're a leader. So trust yourself to lead your blog forward. Click To Tweet

So treat yourself like the powerful, trustworthy person you are.

  • Only make commitments you can keep, and then show up for them.
  • Listen to your intuition.
  • Let go.
  • Lead yourself forward.

When you fully trust yourself as a blogger, others will trust you as well. And then you can finally reach the more people and make a greater impact with your blog.

How to Stop Listening to Blogging Gurus and Stand Out Online

To become a successful business owner or blogger, you must know how to stand out online.

But here’s the real, painful irony: in pursuit of writing a popular blog or getting clients, so many of us (including me) get caught up in trying to use other people’s formulas.

It’s nearly impossible to avoid clicking on blog posts with titles like “5 Blog Post Templates That Will Knock Your Readers’ Socks Off” or “My Simple 7 Step Formula for Getting a Bajillion Email Subscribers in 2 Days.”

These posts promise quick results for little thought or ingenuity.

As fallible humans, we want results and success fast. So we do our best to imitate the strategies of others. Only to make blogs that are the same as everyone else’s.

And then we wonder why we’re not getting thousands of readers like the “gurus” we’re attempting to imitate. We’re left thinking there’s something wrong with us for not being able to use these formulas to catapult us into instant success.

But here’s the truth.

Formulas won’t make you stand out online.

Formulas won’t make you a success.

Formulas won’t bring you instant wealth and fame.

Only your own ingenuity, creativity, and intuition can make you stand out online. Only your inner wisdom, grit and determination will bring you the success you are looking for.

So throw out the formulas. Don’t expect someone else’s blog post or online course to give you the keys to the castle.

Want to stand out online? Be authentic.Click To Tweet

What you have inside of you cannot be replicated. It’s your secret sauce. Your magic juice. And no one else has it.

So, how do you access that magic juice and use it to stand out online? Here are a few ways. (No formulas included. I promise.)

1. Use your intuition to come up with blog post topics.

Throw out your lists of headline hacks and blog post templates, and instead, rely on your intuition to guide your planning.

In a recent episode of my new favorite podcast, Unthinkable, The Role of Gut Instincts in Content Marketing, Jay Acunzo and Tim Jensen explored the idea that your gut feeling or intuition isn’t some magic spiritual thing. It’s actually your subconscious mind, which is guided by your deep well of experience and knowledge.

You probably know a lot about your topic, your unique approach, and your audience. So you can trust yourself to use that knowledge and insight to inform your blog post ideas.

Sit down and do some deep thinking.

Feel into your intuition and ask yourself these questions:

  • What do my readers need to know right now?
  • What message am I aching to share?
  • What deep questions am I grappling with?
  • How have I profoundly helped someone recently?
  • What’s a simple thing I know a lot about?

Let your blog post ideas come from a desire to genuinely serve your readers and clients, rather than from an attempt to make something that you think people will like.

2. Reframe how you think about your online marketing

All too often, we think of our blogs like megaphones, our email lists like cash cows, and our online marketing activities like tentacles intended to draw people in. Ick.

Let’s reframe that.

Your blog is meant to be a conversation starter and an entry point for people to learn about you.

Your email list is meant to create a relationship between you and your readers. It’s a list of people whom you can serve and from whom you can learn.

Your online marketing is an opportunity for you to find ideal clients, collaborators, and mentors, and to build genuine relationships with them that are beneficial to both of you.

Even though you can’t see your readers or email list subscribers, they’re actual people. (If I sound condescending, know that I’m writing this to myself just as much as to you.)

So follow the same social guidelines you would in person.

Be helpful. Be curious. Be real. Be open.

Start conversations. Connect on an emotional level.

Forge genuine connections. That’s how you’ll stand out online.

3. Stop trying to grow your email list

Have you noticed that most bloggers are obsessed with growing their email lists and page views?

I get it. Believe me.

But the reality is most of your email subscribers and readers are on a bajillion email lists and read thousands of blogs. So seeing those numbers creep up doesn’t actually mean that much.

While everyone else online is trying to get more, more, more, you could be doing something truly remarkable: trying to get to know the people who already showed you they’re interested in your offerings.

Imagine you’re at a party, and you’re talking to someone who seems fairly interesting.

After a few minutes of conversation, he asks you if you want his business card and he takes yours in return. As soon as you pocket his card, he immediately moves on to someone else. The next day, you get a generic email from him that makes it clear he has no idea who you are (probably because you’re one of dozens of people he barely talked to at the party).

But at the same party, you meet a really nice guy who takes the time to get to know you. He asks you about yourself. He hangs out with you for awhile and asks some deep questions. After talking to him, you feel seen and heard. And when he emails you the next day, he mentions something you discussed the day before.

Which of these guys would you be more likely to hire or do business with? Probably the second.

Unfortunately, in the online world, most people are like the first guy. They want your email address, and they want thousands of other email addresses, too. But they don’t take the time to actually get to know you or what you need.

So, how do you stand out online? By being like the second guy. By inviting actual conversation with your readers. By getting to know them. That’s how you’ll convert visitors into clients.

Can you still grow your list to thousands? Of course.

But first, focus on understanding your current subscribers. Figure out what they want, what drives them and who they are. Then use that to grow.

4. Be realistic about what you can solve for your readers

Many online marketers will tell you to figure out what your readers are struggling with the most and then create something that solves their problem.

Which sounds good and all. But often, our readers’ greatest struggles are large and complex and can’t be solved with a free PDF or email course. (I know, I’m disappointed, too.)

But, ever the good students, we try to create quick solutions to problems that can’t be solved that easily. And our resulting freebies leave our readers feeling like failures.

So instead of trying to make something to solve your readers’ greatest pain point, make something that actually solves a small problem, instead.

My friend Kathy was struggling to grow her email list. Then she created some beautiful goal sheets for a talk she was giving in Sonoma California, where she lives. She decided that since she’d already made them, she would put them up online and see what happened.

Her email list grew by hundreds and then thousands. It’s 2 years later, and she still gets about 20 opt-ins per day. (Yeah, I know.)

She told me that she thinks people are downloading them in droves because she made them to be used.

What can you make to be used?

5. Trust yourself

What drives us to search for easy, quick formulas and solutions?

In my experience, it’s uncertainty, fear, and perfectionism.

This online marketing thing is hard. So is owning your own business.

It takes courage to write a blog post and put it out there, to email a group of people you’ve never met, and to ask for a sale. It’s freaking scary sometimes.

So we go on a search for the “right way” to do things for fear that we’ll make a mistake.

But making mistakes is actually a good thing. It allows us to learn and hone our craft. It is part of the process of making something truly unique.

When we try to take shortcuts, we end up short circuiting our creative process and making stuff that looks like everyone else’s.

But you don’t have to do that. You can trust yourself.

The next time you feel that fear, that doubt, that anxiety creep up, ask yourself, “How would I move forward with this? What’s my best solution right now? How can I get playful and creative in this moment?”

Trust yourself and make something that’s truly a reflection of you.

To stand out online, stop listening to the blogging gurus and listen to yourself, instead.

  • Use your intuition to guide your blog post ideas.
  • Reframe how you think about your online marketing
  • Instead of focusing on growing your list and page views, get to know the people who are already in your community
  • Be realistic about the problems you can solve
  • Trust yourself

Here’s one final thing to think about.

This is not just about learning how to stand out online. It’s also about giving yourself the permission to be real, to be creative, and to make genuine connections. Which, in my mind, is far more important.

How to Bring More Joy into Your Creative Business

how-to-bring-more-joy-into-your-creative-business-1

When I tell people I work for myself as a creative business owner I get one of 3 reactions.

The first reaction: “That is so awesome! I own my own business, too. Let’s be best friends!”
The second reaction: “Um…that’s cool.” (Awkward pause.) “What does that mean?”
The third reaction: “Wow. You are so lucky! I wish I could do that!”

When I get the third reaction, I am torn between feeling really proud of what I do, and wanting to tell them how freaking HARD it is to work for myself.

It’s definitely not luck that allows us to be creative business owners. It’s a ton of hard work. And a lot of that work is internal.

For me, it’s easy to write a blog post. I can create an email opt in sequence in under an hour. Want me to set up a landing page? Done.

The hard part, and the truly important part, however, goes much deeper.

Running my own business challenges me to constantly show up and put myself out there – even when it feels terrifying to do so. It means waking up everyday and relying on my own creativity and diligence to make things happen.

It means facing down and slaying my inner demons (of which there are many). It means consistently choosing to find my own path instead of trying to fit into someone else’s formula.

And because running my own business requires so much soul wrenching work, I’d better be sure that I’m enjoying it. Because otherwise, it would definitely NOT be worth it.

So how do you grow a creative business that you truly love, that makes you feel joyful everyday, and that makes all of that hard work worth it?

Read on to find out.

1. Clarify your vision

You know all of those business plan templates you can fill in? Those “customer avatar” exercises where you define who your audience is?

Unfortunately, you can’t just fill them out once and go on your merry way. (Sorry.) Growing a creative business that truly brings you joy requires you to constantly clarify who you are, who you want to serve, and how you want to show up in the world.

Do business plans and avatar exercises help? Sure they do. But I believe that they only skim the surface of your vision.

As you keep doing business, you will start to answer these questions:

  • What am I really good at that I also love doing?
  • What type of clients do I want in my life?
  • How deep do I want my client relationships to be?
  • What do I want my clients to walk away with after working with me?
  • How do I determine my own success?
  • What type of selling feels really good to me?

The more observant you can be about your own tendencies, and the more honest you can get about what really works for you, the clearer your vision for your business will become.

2. Celebrate and develop your strengths

Part of being a joyful business owner is loving yourself and being honest about where you shine.

You would want your day job boss to appreciate you and celebrate you, right? You would want her to give you opportunities to hone your skills and stand out in the company.

So why wouldn’t you do that for yourself, as well?

It’s all too easy to look at other business owners, other bloggers, and feel insanely jealous.

“She is SO good at XYZ.”
“I wish I could be as impressive as her.”
“Wow, when I compare her blog to mine, I feel so lame.”

Yup. I’ve thought all of those things.

But when I get really clear about what I bring to the table, which is depth, intuition, lots of experience building businesses, a dry sense of humor, and my own brand of awesome, all of that jealousy flies out the window. Why? Simply put, no one else is ME. And no one else is YOU, either.

So every moment you spend trying to be “as good” as someone else, you could be spending developing your own one of a kind brilliance.

How do you do that?

You notice what people come to you for. You ask your closest friends why they love you so much. You find activities that you can do for hours and that energize you.

And (this part is REALLY important, so pay attention) you believe (or at least pretend to believe) that your brilliance, your skills, the way you want to show up in the world is something that is insanely VALUABLE and that people will pay for.

Your brilliance, your skills, & the way you want to show up in the world are insanely VALUABLE. Click To Tweet

You don’t diminish yourself for being multi-faceted. You celebrate your unique nature because it freaking ROCKS. And then spend all the time you’ve freed up by not comparing yourself to others, and use it to become even better at being you.

3. Let go of what doesn’t serve you

Oh boy. This one is a doozy.

Letting go is one of the most powerful things you can do to be more joyful in your business, and to spend your time doing what you truly love.

Letting go can mean:

  • Unsubscribing from newsletters and emails that distract you or make you feel bad
  • Saying goodbye to friends who drain your energy
  • Not reading books/articles that activate your fear
  • Leaving Facebook groups with negative energy
  • Not doing things that feel bad, even if you think they will grow your business (There is always a way that’s truer to you)
  • Identifying and shedding negative beliefs about yourself (This one takes a lifetime, so be ready for a long and rocky ride)
  • Stopping habits that don’t serve you

I recently shut down a gigantic 6,500 member Facebook group, because I realized that it was draining my energy and forcing me to engage in a way that felt uncomfortable. It felt like breaking up with a longtime boyfriend.

I cried, but then I felt so much energy flooding back into me. I can now devote my time connecting with women who truly inspire me instead of deleting spam and refreshing my Facebook notifications.

Letting go of what doesn’t serve you – even if it’s hard – is a powerful first step to taking ownership of what DOES.

4. Learn to receive

Holy crap! This is a big one, too. Uh…I guess they all are.

Anyway.

Here’s a hard lesson for you.

You can’t build a business on your own. You just can’t. You MUST receive money from your clients to actually have a business. (Duh.)

And not only that, to have a business that truly brings you JOY (which is what we’re talking about here, right?) you must learn to receive from lots of other people, too.

You must connect with mentors who can help you dream bigger and do more in your business.

You must grow friendships with people who are on the same path as you and who will challenge you to keep going.

You must be willing to receive support, money, feedback, and praise from people you trust.

You can’t do it alone. You DO deserve to be paid. You ARE worthy of being surrounded by people who support you in a myriad of ways. So open your hands and your arms and your heart and get ready.

how-to-bring-more-joy-into-your-creative-business

When I think about what a “successful business” means to me, a huge part of that is feeling joyful and fulfilled.

Yes, making money is important. But I want to bring in that abundance by working in a way that lights me up.

And the best way to do that?

  • Clarify your vision
  • Celebrate and hone your strengths
  • Let go
  • Be open to receive

What brings more joy into your creative business? Share in the comments below.

How to Avoid the Mental Blocks That Plague Most Bloggers

Blogging mental blocks that plague most bloggers

There’s one thing that all bloggers MUST do to create amazing, inspiring, fulfilling blogs:

They have to keep going.

It may sound simple, but it’s actually really hard to keep blogging and creating week after week, year after year.

That’s because there are so many mental blocks to overcome in the journey of creating something that matters. There’s the feeling that you’re not good enough. There’s the tendency to want to do everything “right.” There’s the ever-present danger of burn-out.

More than anything or anyone else, we bloggers get in our own way of creating a blog that we love and that inspires others.

Here are 6 of the most common blogging mental blocks that will stop you in your tracks, and how you can move past them to create an incredible blog.

1. Imposter Syndrome

What it is:

Imposter Syndrome is the ever-present feeling that you’re not good enough.

It’s that insidious little voice at the back of your head that whispers, No one will care about this, Who are you to write about this? That other blogger is better than you, and other equally damaging things.

How it will stop you from creating the blog you want:

When you give in to Imposter Syndrome, that gross feeling of unworthiness, you will lose the motivation to blog. You’ll throw out perfectly good post ideas because you’ll (wrongly) decide that what you care about doesn’t matter. And you’ll put a barrier up that prevents your creativity from filtering through.

Symptoms of Imposter Syndrome:

  • You’re constantly comparing yourself to other bloggers and feeling bad about yourself because of it
  • You automatically assume that what you want to blog about isn’t that important
  • You are unwilling to promote your posts because you don’t want to “bother people
  • You feel insecure about sharing your blog with people you know in “real life”

How to move past it:

When negative thoughts emerge, write them down. Ask yourself, “Is this true? How do I know it’s true? What opportunities am I missing out on because I am giving power to this thought?”

You can also write them down and put them in a special place so that you can deal with them later, thereby giving you the space to forget about them right now and do the creative work.

Byron Katie’s book Loving What Is (Affiliate link) is an incredibly powerful resource that helps you move past negative thoughts. If you find yourself struggling with Imposter Syndrome on a regular basis, I highly suggest you read it and learn from it.

2. Perfectionism

What it is:

Perfectionism is when you are so afraid of “getting it wrong” that you read dozens of blog posts on how to do every little thing before you do it.

It’s when you fail to publish your posts because you want them to be perfect before you put them out there.

You may think, Perfectionism is good because it makes people strive to be the best bloggers they can be.

For some people, that is true – as long as their commitment to creating is stronger than their commitment to “getting it right.”

How it will stop you from creating the blog you want:

If you’re constantly focused on being a “perfect” blogger, you’ll struggle to write blog posts because they will never measure up to your expectations of yourself.

You won’t give yourself the time and space to improve because you’ll expect yourself to be an amazing blogger right from the beginning.

And you’ll experience “education stagnation” – the phenomena of learning at the expense of actually getting things done.

Symptoms of Perfectionism:

  • You go over your blog posts dozens of times before hitting the “Publish” button.
  • You cringe when you read your blog posts because they never measure up.
  • Any time you attempt something new, you get lost in reading tons of blog posts on how to do it right – instead of trusting your own creative impulses.
  • You often hold back from innovating because you’re afraid it won’t work out.

How to overcome it:

Check out this guide from Personal Excellence on how to overcome perfectionism.

The steps include knowing the difference between healthy and neurotic perfectionism, removing the all or nothing mindset, and using your ideals as guides, not absolutes.

3. Trying to do too much

What it is:

Does this sound familiar…?

You’re trying to master Twitter, Pinterest, Facebook, and LinkedIn all at the same time.

But it’s really hard because you’re also trying to blog 5 times a week and participate in a different link party every day of the week.

On top of that, you’re wondering what you need to do to optimize your blog for SEO and how to install Google Ad Words into your blog – despite the fact that you’re only getting 10 page views per day.

Yeah. You’re trying to do too much.

How it will stop you from creating the blog you want:

You may think that doing all of these things is helping you build your blog and your audience, but you’re sadly mistaken.

In reality, when you try to do too many things at once, you spread yourself thin and prevent yourself from developing expertise in any one area.

You also run a high risk of burning out – which will keep you from doing the steady work that needs to happen if you want your blog to blossom and grow.

Symptoms that you’re trying to do too much:

  • You come up dry when you try to think of things to write about because your creative well has already dried up
  • You spend hours on social media, with a little voice in the back of your mind asking you, “Why am I doing this again?”
  • You feel like you’re expending a ton of energy and not getting anywhere

How to move past it:

Stop. Write down everything you’re doing to grow your blog and why you are doing it.

For anything you write down that you can’t come up with a “why,” force yourself to stop. Just for now. You can come back to it later if you want.

Start with one social media platform and only add others once you’ve mastered it.

Cut down on writing. Once or twice a week is enough. Really.

If there are things you need to do for your blog but don’t enjoy, outsource them to technology or people.

4. Stats addiction

What it is:

Stats addiction is the unquenchable desire to check and refresh your blog stats all. The. Time.

Under the table when you’re eating dinner with friends. While you’re walking your dog. In between helping your kids with their math assignments.

And you’re not checking them for any strategic purpose, but just to reassure yourself that people like you and your blog.

How it will stop you from creating the blog you want:

Every minute you spend checking your stats is a minute you could be doing something creative or giving yourself a rejuvenating break from blogging.

When you obsessively check your stats, you are doing it because you feel like you need external “proof” that what you’re doing matters. And you don’t have control over them – not really. So instead of focusing on what you can do for your blog, you are putting your energy into something you can’t really do much about.

Symptoms of Stats Addiction:

  • Your number of page views affects how you feel about yourself
  • You refresh Google Analytics multiple times each day
  • Sometimes your need to check your stats gets in the way of being present in the moment – or being creative.

How to move past it:

Instead of worrying about your stats, focus on what you can control – which is how you spend your time.

Whenever you find yourself checking your stats over and over again, ask yourself, Why am I doing this? Is it to prove I’m worthy? If the answer is yes, get on the phone with a friend instead. Or meditate. Or do something you love.

Remind yourself that you ARE worthy, regardless of your stats.

Google Analytics isn't a worthiness tracker. Remember that the next time you check your blog stats.Click To Tweet

5. Wanting it all NOW

What it is:

It’s the feeling that you’re not successful unless you grow your blog FAST. It’s the insistent voice in your head that tells you that you need to make income from your blog in the next month to make it worth it to keep going.

It’s focusing on how your blog is doing today, rather than looking at longterm goals.

How it will stop you from creating the blog you want:

When you pressure yourself to grow faster, you lose out on the opportunity to build relationships with the people you want to serve, which is something that only comes with time.

You waste time, money and energy on activities that don’t serve you or your blog, because you think they’ll result in instant growth.

You’ll forget to celebrate the small wins, and instead feel an insistent sense of impatience and dissatisfaction, neither of which are good for creativity.

Symptoms of “Are We There Yet” Syndrome:

  • You compare yourself to other bloggers who have found success faster than you have and think “Why isn’t that me?”
  • You give yourself unrealistic deadlines for achieving blogging milestones, and then you feel bad when you come up short
  • You spend money on courses that promise to make you an overnight success, only to feel bitterly disappointed when they don’t work

How to move past it:

Celebrate the small wins. One tweet, one blog comment, even writing one blog post is a win. Don’t forget to acknowledge your growth – no matter how slow it feels.

Have conversations with other bloggers about how long it’s taken them to grow their audience and make money from their blogs. When you hear what is realistic, you’ll stop pressuring yourself.

Don’t jump into blogging expecting to be an overnight success. If you have a day job, keep it until you’re making steady income from your blog.

6. Fear of investing

What it is:

Do you avoid spending money on your blog at all costs? You have a free domain, a free theme, a free…well, everything.

You don’t know if you’re going to make a profit from your blog, so you avoid investing in it. You tell yourself, I’ll invest once I’m making money.

How it will stop you from creating the blog you want:

Not investing in your blog isn’t just being frugal – it’s keeping you from growing.

When you invest in (the right) courses, you learn much quicker than by piecing together advice from many different bloggers by reading free blog posts.

When you invest in a self hosted WordPress site or in a Squarespace site, you come out with a much more professional looking and versatile website.

When you invest in a VA or in software that does mundane tasks for you, you free yourself up to create more and do more of the work that will actually grow your blog.

Symptoms of Extreme Blogging Frugality:

  • You want to invest in your blog, but you don’t feel like you can because you’re not making money yet.
  • You spend a ton of time figuring everything out instead of investing a little bit of money to pay for coaching or courses.
  • You use the free version of everything and won’t upgrade even though you know it will probably make your life a lot easier.

How to move past it:

Make a budget for your blog, and then invest in things that will help you meet your goals.

Blogging mental blocks that plague most bloggers

Do you suffer from any of these mental blocks?

(If you don’t, what’s your secret?)

But seriously, all bloggers will battle with these at some point or another. The important thing is to get back up and keep going.

If you’ve experienced any of these, I would love to hear your thoughts in the comments!

How to Feel Fit and Sexy (and Build a Blog You Love)

How to Feel Fit and Sexy (and Build a Blog You Love)

I’ve lost almost 20 lbs since April.

I now feel stronger and better about my body than I have in years.

In the beginning, it was quite the opposite.

I hadn’t weighed myself in months, but as I was about to go on a trip to Hawaii with my family, I decided it was a great time to lumber onto the scale and assess the damage. (Yeah, not so smart.)

I knew that I was larger than normal, but when I saw the number, a number 10 lbs more than I had ever seen on the scale, I was a bit shocked. I proceeded to tell my husband I was fat and do very little else about it.

Then, in Hawaii, we took pictures next to these gigantic banyan trees that were in Jurassic Park. As I looked at the photos afterward, all I could think was, Wow, I look huge. I felt ashamed that I had let myself get that big. Tears rose to my eyes as I pleaded with my sister, Rachel, not to post the pictures on Facebook.

In the car that night, I opened a Weight Watchers account.

Rachel, who lost 35 lbs on Weight Watchers, and has kept it off for 5+ years, looked over. What are you doing? She asked.

I’m joining Weight Watchers, I told her.

Right now? In Hawaii? She sounded incredulous.

Yes. I am sick of feeling this way.

And so my weight loss journey began, in the middle of a trip that included lots of decadent eating and frequent visits to Lapperts Ice Cream.

I had “tried” to lose weight 4 previous times, unsuccessfully, but this time was different. This time, I was committed. And I was willing to buckle down and make major changes to get those pounds off.

I made an agreement with Rachel that I would weigh in with her every week. Every Wednesday, I take a picture of the scale and text it to her. That, more than anything, has helped me stay on track.

It’s one thing to weigh in with the Weight Watchers ladies, and quite another to weigh in with your sister who will call you if you “forget” to weigh in.

The first week, I lost 3 lbs. The second, I lost 4.

As my body changed, I felt more confident and excited to be seen.

I shopped for fruits every week. My kitchen filled with peaches, strawberries, blueberries, apples, bananas. I ate Israeli salad and hard boiled eggs for lunch everyday. In the mornings, I measured 1 tablespoon of half and half before pouring it into my cold brew.

I also worked out more, sweating on the elliptical and swimming in the pool in our condo building.

But it wasn’t all easy.

I went to Denver for a month and gained 2 lbs. It was just too hard to pass up going to my favorite Ethiopian and Thai restaurants…and overeating my mom’s amazing cooking.

My mom and I drove from Denver to Miami, on the way, going to Nashville, Asheville, and Savannah, where I gorged myself on southern cooking.

When I returned to Miami, I got back on track.

I’m not going to lie. It is tough to snack only on clementines and apples. And one day, I ate chips with a wild abandon that I knew would have dire consequences.

Yet now, 4 and a half months after I started dieting, I actually like looking in the mirror. I feel good in my body. And I’m determined to keep losing weight until I have the body I’ve always wanted.

It’s not for my husband. He seems to barely notice I’ve lost weight.

It’s for me. Because I want to feel good.

And it’s not just about the weight or about feeling healthy, although those things are important. It’s also about showing myself that when I want to do something, I can.

I want to lose 15 more lbs in the next few months. But I already feel so much better in my own skin. I smile when I look at myself in the mirror, instead of looking away.

So…what can my weight loss journey teach us about writing and blogging?

1. You have to be committed.

The first 4 times I tried to lose weight, I made a half-hearted attempt to eat healthier. When the pounds didn’t come off quickly, I gave up. This time, I put my heart and soul into it. That’s why it worked.

Blogging takes an enormous commitment as well. You have to really want it, and you have to be willing to keep going, even when it’s hard.

2. Accountability really helps.

When you have someone who gets what you’re going through to check in with every week, it’s waaaaay easier to keep pursuing your goals.

Sometimes, the only thing that kept me from ordering dessert was the knowledge that I would have to send my sister a picture of the scale the next morning.

And what’s kept me committed to blogging over the past 2 years, more than anything else, are my Mastermind groups and accountability partners. When I know that someone is going to check in on me every week, I am much more likely to keep writing, to keep creating.

It starts with my commitment to myself, but having someone else rooting for me has made a gigantic difference.

Check out this post on how to get the support you need on your blogging journey.

3. Having a specific goal helps a lot.

With weight loss it’s easy to set a specific goal, because you can pick a number you want to see on the scale and aim for it.

With blogging, it’s a bit harder. What do you aim for? More page views? Getting more content written? More email subscribers?

It can be tough to even figure out what your goals are – let alone whether you’re getting closer to them.

And without knowing if you’re getting closer to your goal, it’s very difficult to celebrate the small, incremental steps.

So before you freak out that your blog isn’t “successful,” ask yourself what success means to you, and why. It will help you gauge what your next steps should be.

4. There’s no straight line to success.

Just like I found myself leaning on the kitchen counter, shoving chips in my mouth, or indulging in road trip gorge-sessions, I’ve also skipped weeks of blogging.

But because I care so much about creating this blog, I always come back to it. (And after my chip pig-out sessions, I went back to munching on peaches instead of chocolate bars.)

If you find yourself skipping out on your blog for a few weeks, it’s okay. Really. You can still build a blog that matters to you and inspires your audience.

Forgive yourself and then get back to it.

5. Figure out what works for you, and stick to it.

The how of losing weight is actually quite simple. Eat less and burn more calories.

But just knowing what works won’t take the pounds off. Making daily choices to be healthy is what actually creates change.

The how of blogging is also “simple”. (Okay, not really.) Choose a focus and an audience, write regular posts, promote them diligently, and keep experimenting.

And then, to create a blog that you love and that inspires an audience, you have to figure out what works for you, and then keep doing it. And, when it stops working (and it inevitably will), shift and try something else.

There is no magic bullet that will catapult you to blogging fame. There’s only your hard work.Click To Tweet

6. The internal benefits are even more important than the external ones.

It’s fun seeing the numbers on the scale go down every week. But it’s way more satisfying to have my clothing fit better, to feel beautiful, and to want to be seen.

It’s the same for blogging.

Instead of gauging your success by page views and email subscribers, ask yourself, Do I feel excited to blog? Do I feel seen and heard? Am I connecting to the people I care about? Am I passionate about getting my writing out there?

Use your own feelings as a barometer of success. You’ll get a lot farther that way.

How to Feel Fit and Sexy (and Build a Blog You Love) (1)

Can I be totally honest with you?

Part of why I wrote this post is because I am really, freaking PROUD of losing 20 lbs. I wanted to share it with the world.

I think, more than anything, that’s why we blog. Because we want to be seen. We want to share our stories and triumphs with an audience.

So thank you. Thank you for witnessing me.

And thank you for joining me on this long, delicious journey of blogging and creating.

How to Find Your Big WHY for your Blog

How to find your big WHY for your blog

It’s hidden where you can’t see it.

In between your heart and your feet.

The thrumming in your belly, the core of purpose you can feel if you just stop and focus for a minute.

The reason you’re creating. The reason you’re writing. The reason you’re blogging.

And…it may be different than you think.

For years, I struggled to write a blog that I could actually stick to.

I would start out with an excited burst of creative energy, only to have that energy – and my blog – fizzle out.

There were so many reasons for my waning excitement about my blog – picking a topic I wasn’t driven to write about, loneliness, the lack of feedback from my readers, imposter syndrome.

The list goes on.

But, at the very center of it all, is this: I didn’t understand my WHY.

Without that WHY, that solid core of purpose, it was all but inevitable that I would abandon my former blogs.

Without knowing my WHY, no editorial calendar or inner pressure to “just do it” would save me.

When I started this blog, I would love to tell you that I saw a flash of lightning, had an awakening, and came home to my WHY in a dramatic rush of insight.

But it didn’t happen that way.

It started with an insatiable urge to write. And as I wrote, I managed to dig my way through, to carve out a path toward finding my purpose – and then sticking to it.

I think the reason I was able to hold on to my WHY this time was because I accepted my WHY in all of its complexity. I let myself hold it loosely, give it a chance to change, to morph.

I took the advice of experts but I turned the volume way up on my inner wisdom.

I allowed myself to struggle with weeks painfully devoid of inspiration.

And after those weeks, I always came back to keep doing the work.

I can’t give you a list of neat and careful ways to find your own WHY, but I can give you some words of wisdom on how to stay close to your purpose, the thing that will keep you coming back to the work again and again.

1. Choose the medium you love the most.

When I tell people I’m a blogging coach, many of them ask me if they should start a blog.

I’ve traveled to some amazing places, they’ll share. I’ve always wanted to blog about it, but have never been consistent.

Or, I want to start a blog because I want to quit my job. How do I do it?

The first thing I ask them is, Do you actually love writing?

If they say no, I tell them to do something else. Because let’s face it, blogging is hard work. And if you’re not really into it, if you don’t love the work itself, you won’t want to keep doing it.

So choose to create in the way that you love. If you love photography, go with Instagram. Make short blog posts that are 80% photography and 20% writing. If you could make videos in your sleep, start a YouTube channel.

Don’t listen to the so-called experts who insist you have to create in a specific way, in their way. They aren’t experts on you or your creative process. Better to follow your own urges than the advice of someone who knows nothing about you or your work.

2. Be honest.

The truest way I’ve found to get closer to my purpose? Writing with blinding honesty.

Sometimes honesty doesn’t feel all that comfortable.

Sometimes what you want to write doesn’t fit into what you think you should write.

Sometimes the words that come pouring out of your fingers aren’t the words you thought you wanted to share with the world.

That’s okay. As long as they’re honest.

And be honest with yourself. If you don’t feel comfortable sharing something you’ve written, it’s perfectly okay to leave it unpublished.

Writing or creating with complete honesty is the best way to speak to your inner self, the self that knows what you need to express.

Trust yourself. Trust your writing. It will keep you close to your purpose. Really.

3. Create your own unique niche. One that lives outside the box.

I know you’ve heard a million times that you need to find a niche.

And you’re probably struggling with that. You don’t want to get too narrow. You have so many things you want to blog about and it feels painful to cut them out of your blog.

So I have great news for you. That niche doesn’t have to look a certain way.

My friend Orana blogs about living abroad with her family. Her blog is colorful and bright and full of stories. And she also does design work for bloggers like me. Her online presence is one of a kind. It doesn’t fit into a nice little box with a bow on top. But neither does she.

Missy Miller, an amazing mother and Have Your Cupcake member, blogs about traveling the country with her 7 kids and husband in a school bus. And she writes about her daughter who has a developmental disability. And she helps families convert their own buses. A typical niche? No. One that inspires people and helps them see what is possible? Absolutely.

You don’t have to confine your blog to a niche that feels uncomfortable. You can bring yourself into it fully.

When you blog, you create an online world that is completely yours.

So include the things that make you jump for joy.

Don’t be afraid. Don’t worry that you’ll lose readers if you include your random quirks.

Because if you force yourself into a niche that is too small for you, you will resent your writing. And blogging will become a chore.

4. Nurture your true genius

Remember how I just wrote that you can create a niche that embraces all of the quirkiness and weirdness that is you?

Hang all of that quirky, weird beauty on something solid. Hang it on your genius. The things that you really freaking ROCK at.

You may say, I’m not good at anything. Well, I don’t often cuss, but I call that bullshit.

Because we’re all incredibly talented at something (or many things). Even you.

Take me, for example.

I freaking rock at writing. I am great at giving advice. I’ve been told that I have an uncanny ability to see the big picture. (Thus my obsession with knowing your why and having an overarching content strategy.) And I also see my clients’ brilliance with stunning clarity.

Things I’m not as great at? Following other people’s rules. Looking perky on video. Being “one of the popular kids.” Writing about the “what” without the “why.”

Admitting you are a complete genius at something isn’t being egotistical. It’s not wrong to stand up and say, Yeah. This is my thing.

Know what you’re good at. Stand confidently in that knowledge. And get out there and kick butt. Click To Tweet

5. Write about things that matter to you

This might seem like an uh, duh… one, but it’s essential. And I have personally battled with my own inner demons on this, so I’m guessing you may have, too.

There are a bajillion posts and experts that tell you to base your content on what is popular already. Look on BuzzSumo, Amazon, etc. Find the trending hashtags on Twitter.

And yeah, it is a good idea to see if there’s an audience who wants to read your ideas. (More about that in a second.)

But it’s even more important to write about what you really care about. Even if it seems stupid. Even if it seems like no one else cares. Because that’s what you’re here to do in the first place – create something you care about and that makes an impact on the world.

And guess what? By focusing solely on what’s popular and forgoing your own zany interests, you will end up writing the same things as everyone else. Which is NOT what you’re here to do.

Stand up defiantly and write what matters to you, first.Click To Tweet

Your posts will buzz with an energy you can’t achieve by just doing what’s popular.

Your people will find you. And you’ll find them. I promise.

6. Become BFFs with your blog readers

I often tell bloggers to get to know their readers as well as they know their BFFs. But in this post (and from now on), I’m taking it a step further.

You don’t just want to know your readers as well as you know your dearest friends, you actually want to become friends with them.

Here’s why.

Your best friends are the people who appreciate you for all of your strange quirks. They’re the ones with whom you can let down your guard and be vulnerable and honest.

Your dearest friends like what you have to say and the way you say it. They come to you for advice because only you can help them in your way.

What you want to talk about is what they want to talk about, too. So it’s easy to write posts that you care about and that they love.

And they never, ever expect you to be someone you’re not.

So yes, get to know your readers extremely well. Learn what they fear, what they want more than anything in the world.

And also, only focus on serving readers who believe in you, who give you the space and the courage to stand up and be yourself.

Only serve readers who believe in you, who give you the space and the courage to stand up and be yourself.Click To Tweet

Forget about everyone else. Let them go. You don’t need them in your blog.

7. Give yourself a break (or rather, many, many, many breaks)

Be kind to yourself.

Let your journey take as long as it needs to take.

Don’t feel pressured to make money, to get a certain number of readers, or to do anything else that’s outside of your control.

When you fumble, when you fall, stand up and give yourself a healing kiss.

Give yourself the space and acceptance you need to do work that really means something to you.

If what a guru says doesn’t sit right with you, ignore it. If you feel out of alignment with your purpose, take a few breaths and come back to yourself.

Finding and nurturing your WHY is a worthy process. And anything worth doing deserves respect, care, and love.

So love the heck out of yourself and your journey. You deserve it.

How to find your big WHY for your blog (1)

Here’s the deal, oh online BFF.

You won’t find your WHY by following a formula.

You can’t dig it up like a nugget of gold, or catch it in your hands like a firefly.

But you can write yourself into it.

You can give yourself a framework for creating that invites more meaning and purpose into your work.

Here’s how…

  • Choose the medium you love the most
  • Be honest
  • Niche outside the box
  • Create around your area of genius
  • Write what matters to you
  • Become BFFs with your audience
  • Be kind and loving to yourself

Go out there and blog with purpose. Blog with passion.

And most of all, blog with joy.

I believe in you.

How to Get Out of Your Own Way and Write Your Truth

How to Get Out of Your Own Way and Write Your Truth (1)

Does this sound familiar…?

You carve out some precious minutes of your day to write a blog post. You make a cup of delicious coffee to sip while you’re writing it. Then you open your laptop and get ready to write a brilliant blog post.

You’re ready. You’re going to do this. Really.

And then…nothing.

Everything you try to write comes out sounding just…lame.

You start a post, only to stop in the middle. Then you start another one. That one sucks, too. (At least, in your mind.)

Your cynical friend’s voice sounds in your head, You seriously want to be a blogger? Is that still a thing?

Then you hear your writing teacher from 7th grade pipe up, Your writing is…inventive. (Code for If you would just stick to the rubric, your essays would be so much better.)

Geez. How are you ever going to get anything written?

Often, what keeps us from writing consistently isn’t a lack of time. It isn’t because we don’t have anything to say, or because we’re just not disciplined. It’s because we get in our own way. (I am writing “we” because I do this, too.)

What keeps us from writing is usually our own doubts and fears. Here’s how to kick them in the butt.Click To Tweet

1. Get up close and personal with your “inner sweetheart.”

Natalie Goldberg’s book Wild Mind (affiliate link) is one of my favorites.

She provides a short story about her life in each chapter, along with a writing prompt.

One of the prompts is to write a letter to your inner sweetheart.

So often, we give the microphone to our inner critic while our inner sweetheart, the part of us who is nurturing, and loving, and believes in us, is consigned to sit in the back row.

If you were to imagine your inner sweetheart, what would she look like? Smell like? Sound like? What would she say to you, while you’re struggling to complete the first sentence of your blog post?

Mine says, Daniela, you’ve been writing since you were 4 years old. It’s as natural to you as breathing. It’s your birthright. You don’t have to write anything amazing. Just write something true.

She looks like my creative writing teacher from high school, Jana. Jana has long, brown hair. She always has a smile on her face. And just by being near her, you know that your words matter.

2. Try some unbridled writing.

Unbridled writing is writing without boundaries, writing whose only purpose is to get to the core of your truth.

You might be thinking, Geez. That sounds hard.

It isn’t. Are you ready to learn how to write your truth?

Step 1: Get out something to write on. It doesn’t have to be pretty. It can be a lined notebook from Walgreens, an Evernote folder, or even a piece of printer paper. (I use Evernote and Scrivener, because I literally can’t write by hand anymore. It hurts too much.)

Step 2: Set a timer for 5 minutes. (Or 10, if you’re really brave.)

Step 3: Start with one of these phrases:

I remember…
What I really want to write is…
I feel…
Today, I am thinking about…
If no one were to read this, I would want to write…

Step 4: Write without stopping until the timer goes off.

This is very important. Do. Not. Stop. Writing. Until it’s time.

Your brain will try to interrupt. Your brain will say, That’s stupid. Don’t write that. Eeek. Don’t go there.

But if you keep writing, if you keep your pen or your keyboard going, you will cut through all of the bullshit that your mind tries to spew at you.

No matter what you do, don’t delete. Don’t cross out. Don’t correct.

Do trust yourself. Do write the things you’re afraid to write about. It’s okay. You are safe.

Let yourself write whatever you need to write. No one needs to see it.

Step 5: When you’re done, read it out loud.

Read it to yourself, or call a close friend and read it to her. Give your words a voice.

Read it loudly, proudly, and unapologetically.

Step 6: Repeat steps 1–5 tomorrow.

Jana called this type of writing Finger Exercises because it was writing without pause. Natalie Goldberg calls it writing practice. I call it Unbridled Writing. And it’s the best way to access your voice and your truth. So do it often and do it lovingly.

3. Write a list of your fears about writing and ritually destroy it.

What thoughts keep you from writing? Write them down to destroy their power over you.

My negative, writing-destroying thoughts:

Don’t write that, your audience isn’t interested in it.
What if they lose trust in you when they see that you struggle, too?
Shouldn’t you be more…I don’t know…perky?
Wow. If you publish that, people will think you’re full of yourself. Hold back on the self-celebration.
People don’t care about your life. Really. They just want how-to’s.

I could go on…but I think you get the picture.

Write your fears down and then get rid of them. Write them on a piece of notebook paper and tear it up or burn it.

Make a document with your fears and then drag it into the virtual trash.

My friend Brenda writes her negative thoughts on slips of paper and then puts them into a box. She figures she can look at them later if she needs to – but by getting them out of her head and into the box, she forces them to relinquish their power over her.

Create your own ritual. Do what you need to do to destroy those negative thoughts.

4. Write from your core.

I believe that each of us (yes, that includes you) has a powerful well inside where true writing emerges.

Part of Unbridled Writing is writing from your core. Writing from that deep, deep place of wisdom and experience. When you read a blog post that speaks to your heart, know it’s written from that place.

So, before you write, connect to that core.

Stand with your feet firmly planted on the ground. Feel the strength in your legs. Feel your own power. And then write from there.

Write from a place of genuine self-acceptance.

Even if you need to lose weight, even if your house is messy, even if you haven’t paid your taxes, you still have that inner well. And that’s what really matters when you write. So close your eyes, put your hand on your belly, breathe, and tap into your strength.

5. Love the writing unconditionally.

When you write a blog post, don’t think, It’s good if it gets lots of social shares. It’s worthy if it gets lots of traffic. It’s worthwhile if people comment on it.

No.

Your writing matters if it’s true.

It matters if it’s written from a place of wanting to connect.

Even if no one notices it, it’s still important. It still means something. Because you took the time and you had the courage to sit down and create.

Social shares, traffic, comments, and whatever other stats you’re tracking have less to do with your writing and more to do with your promotional strategy, your online reach, etc.

A better gauge of your writing’s worth? Your intuition.

How to Get Out of Your Own Way and Write Your Truth

The next time you sit down to write and nothing will come out, do this:

  • Give voice to your inner sweetheart
  • Try some Unbridled Writing
  • Ritually throw away your negative self talk
  • Tap into your powerful core
  • Love the writing unconditionally

It’s incredibly important that you do these things. Because the world needs to hear your voice.

An Open Letter to Myself as a Beginner Blogger

An Open Letter to Myself as a Beginner Blogger

Dear Daniela,

I am so excited for you.

You just started a new blog, and it’s freaking amazing that you’re putting your words out there into the world.

I know it’s hard sometimes. Sometimes you feel like you aren’t reaching anyone.

There are people in your life who wonder why you’re creating this online world. They ask if you’re helping anyone. They ask if what you’re doing really matters.

I am telling you it does. It does matter. So keep going.

Also, blogging is supposed to be hard. (Really.) Yeah, I know that sucks.

There are times when you feel so jazzed up about what you’re doing, so excited to just get your words out there.

But then there are the times when it really. Freaking. Sucks. And that’s not you. That’s the nature of creating something that you care about, and putting yourself into it fully.

Creating something you care about is hard. That's okay. Keep doing it anyway.Click To Tweet

Blogging isn’t supposed to be easy. It forces you to figure out what matters to you and to write about it with (sometimes) painful honesty. It is a journey that’s fraught with self doubt and anxiety.

You may sometimes want to give up, because as fun and creative as blogging is, it’s also a lot of work. There’s a huge learning curve. But don’t worry, because you are fully capable of learning everything you need to learn. I promise.

Connecting to your people will sustain you on this journey.

The people who will be there to support you and believe in you in Mastermind groups and accountability calls. And the people who love your work, and who have the kindness to let you know that what you’re doing is making a difference in their lives.

Everyone talks about finding your ideal audience member. Sometimes that sounds like a lot of noise, a lot of jargon.

So don’t think of it that way. Think of it as connecting with the people whose lives your work will transform. The people who you will fall in love with because of the sheer honesty and strength of their words and their stories.

Go find those people. And let them find you. (They will find you. Really.)

Daniela, what I want you to know is that you don’t have to be someone else.

You will compare yourself to other bloggers out there. You will wonder why you’re not more prolific, why your audience isn’t growing as fast as their’s.

You will think that you need to be someone you’re not. But that’s the quickest path to burnout.

Deepening your relationship with yourself will juice you up and keep you going, so focus on that. Also, know what you care about and reconnect with your WHY.

Believe that what you’re offering is enough.

As you continue on this path of creation and connection, you will learn things that you can’t learn now.

You will see how all of the pieces fit together.

The impact of a blog post, or a free challenge, or a Facebook group, or an email, will become clearer to you. Right now, you can’t know how a single blog post will affect your world. And that’s okay. Write it anyway.

Which brings me to something else that you need to know.

For you, writing is water.

Writing will sustain you.

Not just writing. Writing what is true, what is real. Writing is like the strong rope that will get you to the top of the mountain.

Keep doing it.

Daniela, even as I’m writing this letter, I’m not at the end of the journey. (I suspect there isn’t an end, just so you know.) I’m in the middle. I’m still busting my butt, putting myself out there.

Sometimes it’s hard, and sometimes it feels like I’m doing exactly what I need to be doing.

But I have all of these treasures in my backpack now.

I have my relationships with dozens of bloggers I truly care about.

I can look back at the path I’ve taken and see how it’s changed me. Not just as a blogger or as a creator, but as a person, as well.

I’ve developed muscles I never knew I needed. Muscles that help me get back to work when I feel like all is lost. I’ve strengthened my ability to trust in myself and in my voice.

An open letter to myself as a beginner blogger

Which brings me to another point.

You may think you’re blogging to earn money, or recognition. You may have the idea that you’ll someday become Internet-Famous, and that’s why you’re doing this work.

But you’re wrong.

You’re doing this for the simple reason that you need to write, and you need to teach.

You’re putting your words out there to affect others, sure, but even more so, it’s because you can’t not do this.

So whenever you feel lost, whenever you feel like giving up, look in your backpack, look in your pockets. And remember all the treasures you’ve already collected.

And then pick yourself up, dust yourself off, and keep going. I’ll be here, just a little bit ahead, waiting for you.

5 Hard Won Truths From My First 5 Years as a Blogger

5 hard won truths from my first 5 years as a blogger (1)

I’ve been a business owner and a blogger for the past 5 years.

And I’ve messed up a lot.

I’ve spent too much on courses because of my desperate need to get quick success.

I’ve always, always thought things would take less time than they actually do.

I’ve let my fantasies about 5 figure launches (not even 6 figure!!) cloud my vision about what it really takes to build a sustainable, juicy business.

I’ve allowed my emotions to freeze me into inaction for months at a time.

Because here’s the sad but vivid truth: It takes a lot of time to figure things out. Period. (I’m still figuring it out. I know there will always be new things I need to learn.)

No matter what you do, building a business is hard work.

Especially building one online, where there are so many other people out there trying to do the same thing you are.

And no matter how hard you work, there are no true shortcuts.

But doing this work is still so worth it.

Here’s (some of) what I’ve learned so far. I hope it makes your blogging journey a little bit less treacherous and more fun.

1. Things always, always take more time than you think they will.

This is embarrassing to admit, but I thought I would have a 5 figure launch in my first 4 months of starting my blog. (And that wasn’t even this blog, it was one of my old discarded ones.)

That didn’t happen.

I didn’t make any money from that blog. Zilch.

It took me 7 months to make an income from this one – and that was after experimenting and doing other things for 4 years beforehand.

I hate that things take so. Freaking. Long. To happen. I really do.

But what gets me pissed off is all of the stories about people who made a ton of money really quickly. Not that I’m not happy for them. I just think that those stories set people up for disappointment. (Like me.)

When you hear stories like that, ask for the whole story.

Because things always take longer than you think they’re “supposed to” take.

It’s not because there’s something wrong with you, or you’re slow.

It’s because building a successful business and blog is a journey. And you have to walk your own path, at your own pace. Period.

Building a successful business and blog is a journey. And you have to walk your own path, at your own pace. Click To Tweet

It takes time to learn what you truly want to offer the world.

It takes time to get to know your audience so well that you can create something they truly want.

It takes time to get over all of the mind crap that gets in the way of getting to your people in a way that feels good to you.

Yes, you can hire people to help you understand the process, and who have shortcuts that will keep you from wandering around the woods for years.

But building a blog and working on your own terms is a HUGE, monumental task. It isn’t easy. And it takes time.

You wouldn’t expect a doctor or a lawyer or a teacher to decide on their profession and then suddenly be a huge success in a few months.

So give yourself time. Realize it will take as long as it needs to take. Take a breath. (In fact, take a bunch of them.) And then keep going.

2. You must take audacious action to be successful – and that means getting uncomfortable and thinking creatively.

There are loads of “gurus” out there, who will tell you that if you just do their formula, you’ll be successful.

Yeah, no.

I’m not saying these gurus aren’t smart or that their methods won’t help you.

But if you know about their formulas, so does everyone else online.

And to really stand out, you have to do your own thing and do it extremely well.

Formulas won't make your blog a smashing success. To do that, you need to be creative and push your limits.Click To Tweet

That might mean getting on video even though you don’t love your teeth.

That might mean paying for Facebook ads even though it feels like a huge risk.

And, more than anything, it means trusting your own vision and sticking to it, even if it’s different than what everyone else is doing. Scary, I know. But do it anyway.

Here’s what I’ve done to build my blog outside the box:

  • I created a free challenge and promoted it with Facebook ads
  • I made a Facebook group for bloggers to help them connect and support each other
  • I did a brief Blab show with my friend Dre
  • I did a bunch of webinars, by myself and with other bloggers

Are any of these things groundbreaking? Probably not. But they worked for me, because I did them in my own unique way.

3. Everything is an experiment. Everything.

Everything in blogging is an experiment, from your posts to your emails to your branding.

That’s not to say you’re just blindly throwing things at the wall and hoping something sticks.

Just like scientists make hypotheses based on what they’ve already researched and know to be true, you should do your research.

Get to know what you really care about and what your audience cares about. Create a hypothesis about what will work.

And then, get experimenting.

Write blog posts and see which ones get shared and seen more.

Try different things to get people onto your email list. Create a free challenge. Do webinars. Start a Facebook group. Make a PDF guide. See what people want.

Above all, realize that everything you do for your blog is just that – a test. If people aren’t into it, that doesn’t mean you’re a failure or that your blog sucks.

It doesn’t even mean that your post was a failed experiment. Because it gave you data about what works and what doesn’t. So use that data to improve your blog.

As you keep going, you’ll get closer and closer to your own genius and to writing what your audience wants.

4. You can only learn things when you’re ready to learn them. (And learning is just that – learning. It won’t do anything for you. Only taking action will create results.)

I used to teach 3rd grade.

It took those kids years of brain development and learning how to read to be able to read Charlotte’s Web.

And no matter how smart they were, those 3rd graders could not understand The Hunger Games. It was impossible.

Yes, your brain is fully developed.

But when it comes to blogging, you might be a kindergartner. If you’re just starting out, you probably won’t “get” things like email autoresponders and sales funnels.

You may really want to know everything there is to know about blogging, right now.

But no matter how many books you read, how many courses you take, things click when they’re ready to click, and not before.

Plus…often people learn because they are afraid to take action. And learning isn’t going to help you grow your audience or create something that matters to people – only doing will achieve that.

So be selective about what you decide to learn. And limit the time you spend on courses, podcasts, webinars, books, blog posts…(I think I’ve covered everything).

Because you will learn a lot more by getting out there and seeing what works than you will by taking a course.

Let yourself learn by taking one delicious bite at a time. The cake (or cupcake) isn’t going anywhere.

5. Knowing what you stand for is more important than anything else.

What do you really care about? What matters to you so much that you’ve decided to do an insane thing and build a blog or business around it?

Stick with that thing. No matter what. Even if it seems like no one cares but you. Because that thing is what will sustain you. And when you turn away from it, you’ll be lost.

That happened to me this year.

In 2015, started writing about defining your voice. I created a Facebook group for bloggers called Blogging on Your Own Terms. I named it that because I really care about people using their unique voices and doing something that’s important to them.

But then I got all these emails from people wanting to grow their blog following, get more traffic, attract more subscribers. They wanted higher numbers.

And even though I don’t believe that higher numbers really matter (in fact, I think that focusing on them exclusively is a recipe for overwhelm and depression), I started worrying about how to help bloggers get more followers. Instead of continuing my message of helping bloggers have confidence in their own voices, I felt like I needed to serve them in a way that just doesn’t work for me.

While blogging had been a source of joy and excitement before, once I veered from what I really cared about, it became exhausting and difficult.

But once I tapped back into my initial purpose and belief system, all of my energy and excitement came back.

Whatever it is that matters to you, treasure it. Keep it safe. It will keep you going.

My first 5 years as a blogger

No matter where you are on your blogging journey, remember:

  1. It takes time. A lot of time. (Like most things that are really worth doing.)
  2. Think outside your box and outside of your comfort zone.
  3. It’s all just a big experiment. So don’t worry too much about the outcome of one thing or another.
  4. You can only learn things when you’re good and ready to learn them.
  5. Stick to what matters to you.

Why Your Blog is Already Wildly Successful

Why Your Blog is Already Wildly Successful

What if your success as a blogger had nothing to do with your number of pageviews or subscribers, and everything to do with your confidence in your own voice and determination to succeed?

Here’s the thing. You CAN’T control your number of pageviews or subscribers. So why use them as a measure of your success?

You CAN write great content, promote your stuff to the right people, and keep experimenting and seeing what works. You CAN figure out what matters to you, and stick with it.

Most of us start blogging because we have something important to say, we want the freedom to work for ourselves, or we’re just driven to express ourselves.

But then the comparison to others and the endless drive for more gets in the way.

We measure our self worth by our email subscribers and blog traffic. Instead of writing something that really matters, we run around like crazy trying to figure out what will go viral.

Yes, it’s important to know your audience and write content they crave. But it’s equally, if not more, important to remember that this is YOUR blog.

This is YOUR creation. It’s an expression of who you are, your unique take on the world, and your incredible voice.

So keep at it.

And know that putting your creative work into the world is a success all on its own.

Really.