“Fuck the 5 year plan”

design_fuck_the_five_year_plan

I love having a plan. A roadmap. A series of boxes to check off to know that, at the end, I will have achieved my goal. I was an A-student all the way through college. Follow the plan, get the grade, on to the next class.

And then I became an entrepreneur.

Bye-bye roadmap.

Even though I’ve been very successful without a business plan or any real marketing, deep down I’ve holding myself back from growing my business until I have The Plan in place.

I’ve drawn diagrams and filled out workbooks and signed up for courses and learned my ass off. I know about creating Unique Selling Propositions and sales funnels, and autoresponder series and content marketing. Hell, I provide those services to my clients! And yet, I’ve taken very few concrete steps forward with my business, because I don’t have a crystal clear picture of the destination.

I can’t see how this pile of puzzle pieces is going to fit together because the box with the picture on the front is missing. And, even though I’m embarrassed to admit it, that missing “big picture” vision has stopped me cold.

“Vision without action is daydream, and action without vision is nightmare.”
- Japanese proverb.

I’ve been going in circles for years. I’ve “committed” to taking action and then not followed through. And then I signed up to learn something else from someone else. Because this person or this programs looks like it has the key I’m missing.

To say I’m frustrated with myself is an understatement. I’ve talked about it a lot with Allison Crow, my intuitive, creative, soul-full business coach, and with the other women in my coaching group.

And, on my group coaching call last week, Allison started by sharing this with us:

“Magnificence is never created in a to-do list.”

And then someone else spoke for a little while. In my notes, I wrote:

“Fuck the 5 year plan.”

All of the tension I was carrying in my upper back disappeared, almost instantly. What if I don’t really need a plan?

It’s been a week and the phrase “Fuck the 5-year plan” keeps flying through my head.

I’ve made plans. I’ve made lists of action-items stretching from today until next year. The lists become insanely long and complicated and overwhelming and then I don’t look at them ever again.

Where do I want to be in five years? I don’t know. Does it really matter?

This morning, as I was pouring my coffee, I thought about 5-year plans. And the question that popped up was — Where was I five years ago?

What was going on in my life in July 11, 2009?

I was still living at home with my parents. My boyfriend (now husband) was “home” for the summer. We’d been in a long-distance relationship for the past two years while he was in grad school in Miami — and now he was moving to Los Angeles at the end of the summer. I didn’t know what was going to happen with our relationship. (Just thinking back to this spot in our relationship made me cry.)

I was working at my first paid gig out of college. I was a contractor for United Stationers Supply Co., where I designed office supply catalogs. I had just finished a huge project and was beginning the art direction for their School Supplies catalog. I remembered feeling so stressed and pressured that I would have panic attacks where I couldn’t breathe.

July 2009 was kind of a mess. And I didn’t even consider myself an entrepreneur yet (that came in November 2009 when I left United Stationers.)

Five years ago, I had no idea that where I am now was even a possibility.

I’ve been married to Jeremy for 2.5 years and we live in Los Angeles with our dog Scoop. My business thrived with the cross-country move. It’s shifted and adjusted and grown organically. I’ve worked with a mentor I admired for years — Peleg Top. I first met Peleg at the Creative Freelancer Conference in San Diego in August 2009, and hearing his story made me realize it was possible to strike out on my own, at my age. Peleg introduced me to Rich Litvin, and I designed his book The Prosperous Coach. We’ve worked together ever since and on Wednesday, I’m flying to London to work at one of his events.

If you told me in 2009 that a client would ask me to travel to London for work, I wouldn’t have believed you. I can hardly believe it now. Taking time this morning to reflect and look at how much has transpired in the last five years has really surprised me.

And, I’m sure that a lot more will happen in the next five years. Maybe I’ll be a mom. Maybe I’ll have employees. Maybe we’ll be living somewhere else. Maybe I’ll have a million dollar business. Maybe I’ll be doing something else entirely.

All of the leaps I’ve made in the past five years are the result of doing things that scared the shit out of me. I didn’t feel qualified to art direct professional photo shoots and design templates at United Stationers and I did it anyway. I was terrified to leave my family and move across the country. I said yes to designing a book, even though I had never done it before. I signed up for group coaching with Allison, even though the investment was a stretch. And, in February, I literally jumped off a fucking cliff at our kickoff retreat in Mexico.

Allison keeps reminding me to take “kaizen steps” – to make change, keep improving and moving forward.

And that’s what I’m going to do. Screw “The Plan” and the giant to-do list. I’m going to choose the next step, the one that probably feels scary, and just do it.

Today, that means pressing “publish.”






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Show Your Work – first round of CSS updates

Last week, I created a child theme to prepare the WordPress backend for my style changes. It’s important to create a custom child theme so that if Genesis gets updated in the future, you don’t lose all of your custom code.

Today, I created the first draft of a custom header, styled the navigation, adjusted the widths of the main content and sidebar, and adjusted the padding and margins throughout to give everything a little more breathing room. Things are still feeling a little too cramped to me, so I’ll continue working on it.

I also added in two sidebar widgets – my basic contact information and social media icons (using the “Simple Social Icons” plugin)

BEFORE:

show-your-work-website-May26-2014-v1

AFTER:

show-your-work-website-May26-2014-v2

How to change your website’s “fav icon”

What’s a fav icon? In your browser bar, there’s a little image next to the URL:

fav-icon-before

This image will also appear in browser tabs and in the bookmarks folder. Customizing it is a nice touch and helps readers find your site easily. The Genesis theme by StudioPress uses a black box with a G by default.

To create a fav icon, you can use an online generator like this, or you can create a 16px by 16px image in Photoshop. Save the file as “favicon.ico” (the name must be that, or it won’t work). That isn’t a default file type in Photoshop, so you can save it as a .png or .jpeg and just change the file extension afterward by renaming the file. Next, you’ll upload it to your WordPress theme’s folder on your server.

To do that, you can use an FTP client, or the File Manager from your web host’s cPanel (I use InMotion Hosting).

For this instance, I’m going to use the cPanel.

  1. Click on “File Manager” and select “Web Root (public_html/www)”
  2. In my case, I had to navigate to the Genesis theme folder’s image folder (/wp-content/themes/genesis/images)
  3. Click “Upload files”
  4. Click “Choose file” - then browse your hard drive for your “favicon.ico” file and select it
  5. It’s a small file and uploads quickly.
  6. Close that window.
  7. I also had to upload the file to my child theme’s image folder (/wp-content/themes/epik/images) — If you’re not using a child theme you can skip this step.
  8. Now, go back to your site and refresh the page (Cmd-R on a Mac, or F5 on a PC)
  9. You should see your new image in the toolbar.

fav-icon-after

One more tiny thing checked off the to-do list! I still have a long way to go.

WordPress themes don’t look like you’d expect when you first install them

I spent a lot of time looking for a new baseline template for this site.

I love working on the Genesis Framework (created by Genesis theme by StudioPress) and chose to go with the Epik child theme, created by a 3rd party developer. The demo site is gorgeous. Here’s a look at the homepage:


Screen Shot 2014-04-24 at 8.30.12 PM

And, as you can see, when I first installed the theme and imported some blog posts, the site looks pretty sad.

Screen Shot 2014-04-22 at 8.56.24 AM

No navigation, no sidebar, no cool homepage. You have to add all of this in. So, I started out by adding a few key pages and created a new static page for my homepage. (To get the cool-looking homepage, you have to create artwork and configure special widgets. I just wanted to get something up that wasn’t my blog)

Screen Shot 2014-04-24 at 8.38.31 PM

I am really disappointed at where the menu appeared. There are two menu placement options – one as you see here, and one where there would be a black bar above “Danielle Baird Design.” There isn’t a default way to get the navigation to appear to the right, as you see in the demo shot. I’ll have to edit the template’s CSS or find a plugin for the header widget area.

I’m able to troubleshoot this because I know how to edit the code, but this must be incredibly frustrating for the average person who’s trying to DIY.

Next, I’ll start making some design edits to the theme in order to customize the look.

Help! I stink at picking colors that go together.

Developing color palettes can be a difficult skill to master, but there are plenty of free and paid resources to give you a leg up.

COLOURLovers – Free

“COLOURlovers is an international creative community that helps people discover their inner designer. We provide people with a wealth of user created & shared color inspiration as well as tools that make the creative process as simple as possible. Whether you’re simply looking for a color palette to kickstart your next project or want to produce a piece of vector art, we have the tools and services to help anybody from go from design inspiration to execution. There are 4,060,125 COLOURlovers around the world who have created 7,103,660 Colors, 3,139,088 Palettes and 3,997,390 Patterns.” [Read more...]

Find the “fold” in your website design

Perhaps you’re already familiar with the newspaper terms “above the fold” and “below the fold.” If not:

Above the fold” is a graphic design concept that refers to the location of an important news story or a visually appealing photograph on the upper half of the front page of a newspaper. Most papers are delivered and displayed to customers folded up, meaning that only the top half of the front page is visible. Thus, an item that is “above the fold” may be one that the editors feel will entice people to buy the paper. (Wikipedia)

Below the fold” (as you may have guessed) refers to the bottom half of the  page.

These terms have carried over onto the web.

[Read more...]

Tittle: Typography Terms #1

[image] A tittle is the dot above a lowercase j or i.

Definition:

tittle : the dot over i or j

Example Sentence:

Make sure you tittle your i’s and cross your t’s.

Origin:

Tittle comes from the Latin titulus, which originally meant “title.” Titulus came to refer to marks such as the abbreviated form of n written over a vowel (like the Spanish tilde, which indirectly got its name from titulus), and then to any mark above a letter.

Source: merriam-webster.com

No More “Maybes” – Understanding the Sales Cycle

I have a confession: I am an entrepreneur and I don’t really know how to sell.

But, (obviously) my one-person service business relies on me selling my services.

I’m getting better at it, but most of the time, my sales cycle feels a little awkward.

Quite often, prospective clients want to cut right to the quote. Here’s a real email (made anonymous for these purposes) I got from a prospective client:

I am looking to have a logo created for my company. I am looking for a very simple logo.

I am also looking for a simple website for the company. Basically I will need a home page, about, services page, and resources page.

Also, I have the domain name for somedomain.com and I would like to get a blog started and eventually turn the blog into a website with more information on it to include blog posts, video blogs, advertise & sell products – books and ebooks, etc.

Could I get a quote for all of these different options? I am on a small budget.

After over a dozen emails back and forth (asking for clarification and details, etc.) over the course of a month, she decided to go with another company.

Honestly, it wasn’t a good fit, and I think I knew that pretty early on. But, I spent a lot of time and effort trying to cultivate a relationship that wasn’t going to work. These situations get really tiring and frustrating.

After watching this 16-minute video by Pam Slim, author of Escape from Cubicle Nation, I completely see where I went wrong.

There are three steps you should go through before you ever submit a proposal (initiate, educate, validate). I was trying to cram all of that into a proposal based on a few vague emails.

The first instance you see that the prospect isn’t a good fit, you should take them out of the sales funnel – not drag them kicking and screaming the rest of the way.

I highly, highly recommend watching this video (embedded below) if you’re even slightly confused about your sales process:

Get a handle on the sales process — and close more business from Pamela Slim on Vimeo.

Or watch it on Pam’s site here.

I’d love to hear what you think of the video (and the sales process) in the comments.

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The Internet: Every Word Matters

Are readers getting lazier? Or just more demanding?

The Internet gives consumers options. If you visit a website and can’t quickly find what you’re looking for, you’re going to leave and look elsewhere. It doesn’t mean you’re lazy. It means you demand well-written, well-organized content.

It’s egotistical for a writer to expect you to try to figure out what the heck they’re talking about. It’s their responsibility to make it as easy as possible for you to understand their message.

Clear writing takes time

“If I am to speak ten minutes, I need a week for preparation; if fifteen minutes, three days; if half an hour, two days; if an hour, I am ready now.”
—Woodrow Wilson

The same is true for writing. I find that it takes me much longer to edit my copy than it does to write it the first time.

Readers are giving us the gift of their time and attention, and we, as content creators, should honor them. It’s easy to call your readers lazy. It’s hard to write content that’s worthy of their attention.

Tips for writing better content:

Write a compelling, relevant headline to earn their attention. (Read: How to Write Magnetic Headlines from Copyblogger)

Write a strong lede that encourages them to keep reading. (Read: Five Lessons From Newspapers to Boost Your Blog’s Circulation from Copyblogger)

Edit, edit, edit (Read: 5 editor’s secrets to help you write like a pro from Remarkable Communication)

Don’t publish immediately. Let your copy sit overnight (or for at least a few hours) and look at it with fresh eyes.

“A sentence should contain no unnecessary words, a paragraph no unnecessary sentences, for the same reason that a drawing should have no unnecessary lines and a machine no unnecessary parts.”
—William Strunk, Jr., The Elements of Style, 1918

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