Creating Supportive Environments – Part 2

Creating supportive environments is imperative to your success as an entrepreneur. It goes without saying that if you have environments that will support you and your passion, it’s going to be much easier and more enjoyable for you to do your work. In Part 2 of this series, I’m going to touch upon a few more of the environments that I believe are most essential to your success and well being.

Let me ask you something. Are you like me and by about mid-February, you’ve had it with the gray day after day? Not feeling sunlight for days at a time really affects my mood and my motivation levels. And sometimes, when you work at home, it’s easy not to go outside for days at a time. I try to make any effort to spend at least 15 minutes outside, soaking up some sun. What about natural light in your work space? Windows? Clean and fresh air? Are these things part of your everyday creative environment, as they should be?

Exercise 5:

If you aren’t getting enough natural light, fresh air, and can’t see the outside world, you are stunting your creative flow. If there is anything you can do to change or improve your natural environment in this way, I encourage you to do it now.

Your energy field is one of your most important environments. It doesn’t only include your own energy and the sources from which you get it, but it also includes the energy, positive or negative, that you get from your spouse, your friends, your children, your other family members, and your clients or customers.

Since our relationships are so important to us, it is very difficult sometimes to set appropriate boundaries, and we tend to tolerate behaviors and actions that are detrimental to our own well being. In order for you to be as successful as you want to be (remember that everyone’s definition of success is different), you need to take a hard look at the relationships that are not nurturing you, that are sending negative vibes into your energy field, and recognize that you are allowing it. And then you need to make adjustments.

You will either need to set clear and solid boundaries, or you will need to let go, as hard as that may be. I found I had to do this with a few very old friends several years ago. As much as we share a history that I treasure, when I was making some major transitions in my life, the only “support” they could give me was to remind me how miserable it all was, even when I had moved through the misery of it and had created a new and happy life for myself. They just wanted to stay stuck in the misery of it, and you know why…because they were miserable! It was hard, especially because we had a lot of mutual friends, but I have never regretted that decision. And you know what happened? Several new amazingly wonderful supportive friendships showed up in my life soon afterwards.

Cutting ties with old friends is hard, but dealing with not-so-supportive family members is even more difficult. My favorite tactic is to not react to anything they say or do, to just simply respond. It is very hard to not be attached to the feelings that a family member can arise in you (guilt, worthlessness, stupidity), but at some point you have to take back your power and not allow them to make you feel that way anymore. Their issues are their issues and you need to let them own that – don’t carry it for them.

I have found that when I am able to respond instead of react, they tend to give up and move on much faster. And each time I do this, I get better at it, and they get the message more and more clear. And suddenly I have found them on my side, being a cheerleader for my work and my life. Believe me that it is worth it to stand up for yourself with grace.

As for dealing with clients or customers who drain your energy, your best bet is to create an Ideal Client Profile and stick judiciously to it. The ICP is not a new concept, by any means, but it is one of the best ways to create an environment around your work that is full of supportive and wonderful people who love what you do and who make you want to do more for them because of it.

Exercise 6:

Choose one person, if needed, in both your personal and professional life to whom you either need to let go of, or set some clear boundaries with, and get to work.

You’ll find that your inner environment will improve as you make positive changes to your outer environment. In addition, making space in your mind for your creativity to flow is important for you to be able to bring your best self into the world.

One of the ways to do this is to invest a bit of time each day into writing what Julia Cameron calls “Morning Pages,” which is three pages of free writing at the beginning of each day to clear your mind of some of the unnecessary clutter. Sometimes what you write will seem trivial, but it’s that trivial stuff that takes up much needed space in your head! Other times you’ll enjoy some real breakthroughs. I highly recommend engaging in this practice. I have been journaling all my life, but the practice of Morning Pages really does help the creativity flow – besides that I believe that every life that is worth living is worth recording.

Exercise 7:

Your assignment then is to purchase a journal or notebook, or create a new file on your computer, and start tomorrow writing three pages of whatever comes to mind. Make this a daily practice and watch what happens.

Making an effort over time to create supportive environments for the things that are most important to you will open doors and opportunities that you might never have received otherwise. You deserve to be supported in your work and your life, so choosing to allow those people and things into it that bring out your best is not only a gift to yourself, but also a gift to the world.

I’d love to know your thoughts on creating environments that support you – please leave your comments below.

Creating Supportive Environments – Part 1

I’m writing this on my laptop in a Cosi café in Dupont Circle in Washington, D.C. The reason I am here has nothing to do with me or my business, but the reason I can continue to be successful in my work is because I have set myself up to do so. How? By creating supportive environments. In this case, the laptop, the appropriate software, and the ability to connect to the Internet, as well as the support of my husband, all contribute positively to my accomplishment of the task: writing and submitting this piece on deadline and without stress.

Creating supportive environments is imperative to your success as an entrepreneur. It goes without saying that if you have environments that will support you and your passion, it’s going to be much easier and more enjoyable for you to do your work. I’m going to touch upon the environments that I believe are most essential to your success and well being.

There are many environments in your life, and most of them intertwine. Being aware of these environments will ensure that you have a hand in creating them, and not allow them to be created for you by tolerating those people, situations and things that you shouldn’t.

Important areas of your overall environment include your home, office/work space, body, energy, and nature, which all impact your mental, spiritual, and emotional environments.

In your outer environment, your home is one of the most important. Your home should be a sacred place for you, a place where you feel safe, taken care of, and content. Clutter and chaos in the home should be kept at a minimum, but your bedroom and your work space in particular should reflect calm. I know sometimes it just isn’t possible to stay on top of it all, but if you make a consistent effort to divide and conquer – and ask for help! – over time you can make a huge difference in the quality of your home environment. As bonus, you’ll create space for other more appropriate and wonderful things to enter as well!

Exercise 1:

If you have a list of things that are broken, need replacing, or just need to be tossed, then start doing this today. Pick three things that are in your home right at this moment that you can either toss or give away. Then do so, and feel the space clear.

Nothing blocks creativity more than clutter in your office or work space. To be honest, I write that sheepishly thinking of the paper piles on the floor surrounding my desk at home. What I need are several filing cabinets so I’ve ordered the ones I want and just that simple decision is freeing a lot of mental stores.

Exercise 2:

If you have clutter in your work space, you are not allowing yourself to be more productive and creative. Give yourself the gift of a clutter-free space in which to bring your gifts into the world. Take ten minutes at the end of each day and tidy your space. File what needs to be filed, throw away anything that you no longer need and can honestly assess that you really won’t ever need, and make a plan for tomorrow.

Don’t ask yourself to be perfect in this; sometimes you are going to need to fly away from your work space and simply don’t have the time to do so. When that’s the case, then take the ten minutes in the morning to clear your space so you can clear your mind for the work of the day.

Having the right tools to work with will also make your work more enjoyable and much less stressful. My desktop died a slow tortuous death one summer and you can’t imagine my stress level at the time. It got so bad that I literally shut down and spent a week in a cabin in the woods, just working from my laptop, just to get away from it. And I also can’t tell you how happy I was when it finally bit the dust and I bought my new one. The lesson for me, though, was that I should have simply bought the new desktop when I knew that there was no saving my old one, instead of going through the stress of not being able to do my work, and not being as productive as I like and need to be to continue to be successful in my work. It certainly wasn’t worth it – on any level – to suffer through those last weeks.

Exercise 3:

As in your home, are there things in your office or work space that need to be tossed, replaced or upgraded? Are you tolerating things for financial or other reasons that are really counter-productive, like I did with my ailing desktop? Choose one thing that would make your work easier and more enjoyable if you replaced, upgraded or tossed it, and make the decision to do whatever it takes to make that happen as soon as reasonably possible. Stop tolerating what you shouldn’t and get on with bringing your work into the world.

Your body is an environment that you need to take care of as well. Are you getting regular exercise? Are you participating in something physical that you really enjoy, not something that you dread making yourself do simply because you know it’s good for you? Are you eating as nutritiously as possible, without feeling deprived of the foods you love? Do you get haircuts as often as you should and would like? Do you treat yourself to a manicure, pedicure, or some other spa treatment once in awhile? Do you get enough sleep? Do you rest when you need to? Do you run on adrenaline or do you use food and exercise as your means for energy? Our body is one of the environments that can be easy to ignore (until something is wrong), yet when we take good care of ourselves in this way, it is amazing how much more energy, patience, creativity and satisfaction we have.

Exercise 4:

Choose one area of your body environment that you know you can improve right away and make the commitment right now to do it. That could mean you will go to bed a half hour earlier each night, or that you will take a 30-minute walk outside today. You could not have a sugar-laden dessert tonight and instead opt for a lighter version of frozen yogurt with fresh fruit. What action could you take today that you know will make you feel proud of yourself for doing so?

I’d love to know your thoughts on hiring help in your business – please leave your comments below.

Increase Your Bottom Line by Hiring Help

Do you do everything yourself when it comes to running your business? Or do you find it difficult to delegate to others, at least sometimes? Do you think you don’t have the money to hire help? Well, I’m going to show you how hiring help can help increase your bottom line dramatically.

Not delegating is one of the major hurdles my private clients seem to struggle with. They are doing everything themselves and are so busy with the little administrative things that they have little time to devote to their “genius” work – developing products and services for their niche and working directly with their clients.

Once they’ve hired help, either a virtual assistant or an in-office assistant, and move through the growing pains of delegating and trusting that the work will get done (and usually get done faster and better than they could do it themselves), I can always sense a feeling of freedom and excitement as the space opens up for them to work on the things that are really creative and inspiring to them, instead of dealing with invoices or fixing a glitch with their web page. And very soon after, their business really starts to move forward because they have the time and focus to dedicate to increasing their product and services line, which, of course, translates into more profits.

There are many ways that you can work with an assistant. You can hire someone on an hourly basis, or hire someone on a monthly retainer, which is often less expensive. You can hire someone for a single project only or you could hire someone part- or full-time to work in your office with you. Think about which of these scenarios might work best for you.

A tip: If you hire someone as an employee, remember to check with your accountant about filing the appropriate paperwork. The beauty of working with a freelancer, independent contractor or virtual assistant is that they cover their own overhead, including any insurance needs.

Here are 10 ways you can use an assistant:

1. submitting your articles to article directories and submission sites
2. handling registrations for your teleclasses/workshops
3. proofing and formatting your written material
4. creating graphics for your products
5. maintaining your website
6. inputting any necessary updates to your products/services
7. as a sounding board for new ideas
8. responding to your customer/client inquiries
9. bookkeeping
10. packaging and shipping your products

If you can’t quite see how an assistant could help you deal with all the time-suckers in your business, keep a log of your business activities for a week, including how long each task takes you to complete. Then at then end of the week, review it and circle all the tasks that an assistant can help you with (there should be quite a few!). Consider the number of hours those things have taken you to accomplish, and decide if the $25-$50 an hour for an assistant would be worth the investment. Statistics tell us that your bottom line could increase as much as 40% once you hire help – now that’s a pretty good return on investment, isn’t it?

And if you still think you can’t afford to hire someone, then start asking around in your network for someone who would be interested in an exchange of services or for an intern or apprentice. Or ask your colleagues who are happy with their own VAs to see if any of their assistants are looking for additional clients.

So before you burn out and lose the passion for owning your own business that you started off with, hire someone to help you. You’ll reach more people with your message and make more money at the same time. Start small and add hours as you feel comfortable and for what you find necessary. You’ll never regret it and you’ll never go back to being a lone ranger!

I’d love to know your thoughts on hiring help in your business – please leave your comments below.

6 Ways to Optimize Your Opt-in Page

Building a responsive, high-quality list of email subscribers is the key to leveraging your marketing time and increasing your income. Here’s 6 specific ways to show you how:

1. Don’t Hide Your Opt-In Form

Don’t make your website visitors search for the opt-in form to your list. To make it super-simple for your visitors to sign up, do what I recommend to my clients – just a simple one-page website, that I call an Invite Site, where the only thing you’re doing on the site is inviting your visitors to sign up for your list.

Then there’s no confusion or question about what it is they should do. Once they sign up, you can redirect them to another page where they can gain access to more information from you.

2. Offer a Free Taste

Encourage people to sign up for your list by offering them something of value for free in exchange for their email address. Good choices are a mini-ecourse, a special report, a checklist, or a short audio program. Add some enticing copy describing the benefits your visitor will receive from your gift to increase your sign-ups.

3. Keep it Simple

If you only ask for your visitor’s first name and email address, you’ll get a higher response rate, meaning more people will sign up for you list.

Obviously, if you’re offering a physical Free Taste (like a CD), you’ll need to get your visitor’s shipping address as well. Just try to limit the information you’re asking for to increase the number of people who sign up.

4. Add Your Privacy Policy

Make your visitor feels comfortable giving you their email address by adding a short privacy policy right there with your opt-in form. Something as simple as “We will never share your email address, period” should suffice.

5. Include Testimonials

Even adding two or three testimonials of people who’ve signed up for your list and received your Free Taste will increase your list numbers. If you currently don’t have anyone on your list, send a copy of your Free Taste to a handful of colleagues and ask for testimonials in return (and offer to do the same for them).

6. Getting People to the Opt-in Page for Your List

Once you optimize your opt-in page, you need to get people to it. There are literally hundreds of ways that you can drive traffic to your web page where people sign up for your list (we cover 42 of them in my 21 Easy & Essential Steps to Online Success System™), but here are three of the best:

1. Utilize your email signature in every email you send out. Be sure you point people to your opt-in page in your signature with some enticing copy as to why they should click on your link.

2. Write and submit articles, including the link to your opt-in page in the author’s resource box.

3. Do a simple pay-per-click campaign to drive targeted traffic to your opt-in page.

Follow these tips and you’ll start increasing your email list subscribers today.

I’d love to know which of these resonates with you the most – please leave your comments below.