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Why Self-care Needs To Be In Your Business Plan

By Kit Cronk,

Self-care, mental health, treat yo self, me-time, chilling out …

We throw these buzz words around at each other when we’re feeling stressed, overwhelmed, and desperately need a break.

Unfortunately, the concept of self-care (my preferred buzz word) is too often used when talking about some reactionary, last minute decision to stop everything and give yourself some chill time.

Spoiler alert: This doesn’t actually WORK. Not in the long term, anyway.

Self-care is all about taking care of yourself (surprise!), which means you need a plan of attack. You don’t accept the responsibility of caring for something, like a pet, without planning when you’ll walk it, getting things ready to feed and house it, and being prepared to dedicate some time to the task!

Especially if you’re running a business, which usually means you are doing #allthethings, you cannot afford to push aside self-care for when you “have time” (ha!) or really need it.

Here are some truth bombs that you need to hear:

1. If you don’t take care of yourself, you WILL burn out. You’ll get physically ill, have a mental breakdown, or just loose the will to work. You’re no good to ANYONE if that happens!

Taking care of yourself NOW ensures that you’ll be able to keep going LATER. It’s an investment.

SIDE NOTE: I learnt this lesson the hard way, when I went overboard working crazy hours to meet some deadlines… At the end of it, my body was so run down that I didn’t recover to full health for six weeks. None of us can afford to be out of commission for that long! ESPECIALLY when you’re running / building a business!

2. It’s possible to burn out even if you LOVE your work. Busyness is still stress, even if you enjoy the tasks. Lack of sleep, exercise, human interaction, eating well, are all going to end up with you in a bad place.

3. Women aged 20 – 40 are suffering from more mental health issues than any other time in history. You’d be hard pressed to find ANYONE these days who doesn’t have anxiety / depression or know someone close to them who does. Self-care is one whopping big weapon in our arsenal to manage mental health.

4. It’s up to you. You are the only person who can take responsibility for your self care. It helps if you have people around you who’ll prod you when you look like you need a day off, but you are ultimately the only one who knows what’s going on in your head. Don’t wait for other people to give you permission to take time for yourself.

There are plenty of different ways to integrate self-care into your business life… I’m going to break down some ideas by “level” for beginners to experts! Pick a few and start implementing them THIS WEEK!

LEVEL 1: NO TIME FOR SELF CARE
You’re tired all the time and just want another day in the week. You’ve got a bajillion things going on and there’s no way you can just up and leave for the holiday you desperately need.

Never fear! There are super simple ways to start your self-care that will leave you feeling more refreshed.

GET. ENOUGH. SLEEP.
I can’t emphasise this enough! The very FIRST thing we all need to do is consistently get 7-8 hours sleep. If that means going to bed at 8pm and letting the washing go un-folded for a few days, that’s OK.

HYDRATE
Get yourself a water bottle and make sure you drink it all 3 times each day (or whatever the equivalent of 2 – 3 litres is). If you can manage it, try to have one less cup of coffee. It dehydrates you and makes your heart race.

UNSUBSCRIBE
Go on an unsubscribing rampage. Every email newsletter you don’t read, page that is clogging up your Facebook feed, and person whose constant selfies are driving you crazy on Instagram. You’d be surprised how much some digital “spring cleaning” can help your stress levels!

CELEBRATE
Pop some mini-champagne every time you get something done. Taking the time to congratulate ourselves and dwell on an achievement / success works wonders for your brain! Keep on filling your mind with positive reminders of what you’ve done – You can even keep a list somewhere you’ll see it regularly.

LEVEL 2: I COULD BE BETTER
You’re not constantly exhausted, yay! You might be getting by, but you know you could take better care of yourself. It’d be nice to feel like your brain doesn’t have too many tabs open.

TIME OFF
Plan a non-work day every week. Even if you’re side hustling, you can choose a night of the week that is purely to rest. Don’t even try to read blogs or just do one social media update. This is totally guilt-free time to NOT spend on your business.

FOOD SWAP
As a hot chips addict, I do not say this lightly. You need to look at what food you eat and consider if you can improve it. Swap out your 3pm chocolate bar for some crackers and cheese. It doesn’t have to be an all-out diet, but you can try some substituting a few things.

READ
Getting your head out of reality and diving into a good book will do wonders for your mental health. Research has found heaps of benefits to reading regularly – not the least of which is giving your brain a break from constant screen use. Try starting with a book every 2 weeks!

STRETCH
Set aside 10 minutes a day for stretching. Preferably away from your desk. Really focus on deep breathing and stretching SLOWLY. Your body will thank you for it, and there are plenty of youtube videos that will take you through a little set if you’re not sure what to do!

LEVEL 3: FEELING LIKE A TOTAL BOSS
Not that you’d brag about it, but you’re doing pretty well. Some days you don’t even NEED coffee, and you’re good at switching off your “work brain” when you need to. This is the big leagues now.

GET A HOBBY
Wait, what? Start doing ANOTHER thing? Yes. Find a fun hobby you can get stuck into. Personally, I love knitting. It really relaxes me and is a great little skill to have. Working on a creative project OUTSIDE of your business is a great way to keep your brain active, but still taking a break from the every day.

EXERCISE
We all knew this one was coming. Regular exercise is proven to have a positive effect on both the mind and body. It doesn’t have to be strenuous – You could do Pilates, go for a slow walk, or take a stretch class. Experts recommend 30 – 60min a day… But there’s no shame in starting smaller than that! It will get easier to increase and form a habit over time.

UNPLUG
Try to go totally technology free for a while. If you can manage it, do at least half a day each week or maybe a completely unplugged holiday for a few days! I promise you that all the latest news will still be on your Facebook feed when you get back to it.

TREAT YO SELF
Do you plan treats for yourself when you hit milestones? Maybe it’s a financial goal, you finished a project, finalised a collaboration, or just survived another quarter. Set a date and treat yourself. Go see a movie, get a facial (my personal favourite!), or schedule a weekend getaway!

Kit Cronk is a freelance graphic designer and letterer. Her retail line, Ruby & Pearl Press, is full of funny cards, cute stationery, and inspirational quotes. When this Brisbane girl isn’t working, you can usually find her watching re-runs of 90’s sitcoms or reading another fantasy novel with iced mocha in hand. Follow Kit’s work on Instagram or browse all the awesomeness on her website.

Image: Camille Styles

8 Reasons To Choose Squarespace Over Wordpress

By Rachel Gadiel

One question I hear all the time is how to choose the best platform for your website.

I’ve experimented with various platforms including Wordpress, however in recent years, I’ve become a Squarespace convert and now I host all of my websites with them.

It’s the platform I use for my clients’ websites and it’s the platform I recommend most often to anyone looking to create a beautiful, well-executed, mobile responsive website.

That’s not to say I wouldn’t recommend Wordpress - I believe Wordpress to be an incredibly powerful and robust platform - plus it can make for a lovely website, but at the end of the day it comes down to your specific needs; your skill set; and how hands-on you want to be with your site.

Many people opt for a Wordpress site simply because their designer or website developer recommend it; or because they see the insane number of plugins and programs that can be integrated.

However, in both of these scenarios you can end up finding yourself out-laying significant costs as your site evolves - simply because you don’t have the time or expertise needed to maintain the site and you end up needing to pay someone to help.

Ask any person who is starting a new business how much time they have to dedicate to learning code to configure their website and make changes - the answer is always: not a whole lot.

So today, I’m sharing 8 reasons why I recommend Squarespace as the best option for aspiring entrepreneurs and business owners to launch a web presence, with maximum impact.

 

1. Squarespace offers an all-in-one hosting and publishing solution.The most significant difference between Wordpress and Squarespace is that Squarespace offers an all in one web publishing solution, with all of their services including hosting and publishing bundled together.

Given this, it offers new business owners simplicity, ease of use and the convenience of having their website, hosting and publishing tools all safely housed in the one platform - which is a very attractive offering to time-poor entrepreneurs and business owners.

The biggest upside to this means that you don’t need to worry about having multiple providers when it comes to your domains and hosting.

The integration Squarespace provides with third party domain providers is brilliant, making it a seamless process to integrate your domain from providers like Google, GoDaddy and Blue Host.

Plus, it also offers the ability to connect multiple domains and then choose a primary domain and configure all other domains to point to your nominated primary domain.

It is important to note that your website code base ultimately belongs to Squarespace as it is hosted on their servers.

But, unless you have a very specific reason as to why your site requires self-hosting (for example, organizations like banks and telecommunications companies have unique security requirements), given the level of convenience Squarespace offers, the benefits are overwhelmingly compelling.

 

2. Simplicity and ease of use.The simplicity and ease of use of Squarespace is not just limited to their hosting and domain bundling - it extends to their entire publishing platform.

Not only is it easy to navigate your way around the various functions of the site, the seamless process it offers users to update images, copy, add pages, forms, newsletter integration, or audio files, make it an incredibly attractive option.

Users need zero coding experience to navigate their way around and the highly intuitive platform, making it a breeze to use.

 

3. Beautiful range of fully customizable designs.Given Squarespace is a closed source platform, the only designs available are the templates they create and offer to their customers.

I see this as a huge benefit as there are so many beautiful design options to choose from. In the majority of cases, users will be able to find a design that matches their requirements.

And if not, they can tweak the templates via the ‘content blocks’ Squarespace offers to suit their needs.

What I love about Squarespace is they are continually updating their range of designs and there are always new designs being added.

4. Seamless eCommerce integration.
Opening an online store has never been easier with Squarespace. All stores integrate with Stripe and incorporate the appropriate taxes rules for your region.

Inventory management, coupons, discounts, order confirmations and invoicing are all taken care of within the platform.

 

5. Your website can grow and evolve as your business does.This is probably one of the main reasons why I’d go for Squarespace over Wordpress. I remember when I had my Wordpress site and any time I wanted to add a new page, or change the layout of something, I’d spend hours trying to work out how to do it, eventually getting frustrated by it and ending up pay someone to help me.

It is natural for your business offerings and services to evolve and grow over time. It should not mean that you need to hire a developer each time you want to add a new feature or page to your site and Squarespace makes it super easy for you to do so.

 

6. All designs are mobile responsive.64% of americans own a smartphone which means there is a strong likelihood the people checking out your website will be doing so from their mobile device.

Add into the mix the latest Google SEO ranking factors meaning organic search results will now take into account how well your site has been optimized for a mobile-friendly experience.

Never before has it been more important for your website to look amazing and offer an exceptionally seamless user experience across all devices, including mobile, tablet and web.

All Squarespace designs are fully mobile responsive, which essentially means that regardless of what size or type of device you are using to view a website, the design will automagically render to fit your screen.

No more having to configure multiple design layouts to work across various browsers; no more ugly designs randomly showing up because the design doesn’t work on a specific screen - none of these are a concern with your Squarespace website.

Even better - there is even a nifty viewer in the content management system to switch between your design and how it will look on each platform.

7. Cover pages are a smart way to promote special offerings, launch products or services and encourage newsletter sign-ups.
I
 love the ability Squarespace offers to create and add cover pages to your site which can be used to your advantage in numerous ways.

From promoting features, special offers or even to as a way to grow your newsletter database, you can put cover pages to work in just about anyway you want.

It also means that if you are just starting out and building your site, you can put up a cover page on your domain and start generating buzz for your site launch, along with capturing email addresses at the same time.

And, if at any point need to update your site design, a cover page will allow you to seamlessly make the transition between your old and new website design.

 

8. Squarespace support and documentation.In case you need more convincing at this point, I think it’s worth mentioning the fantastic support Squarespace provides their customers. Any time I’ve needed support with my site, or even just to ask a question, I’ve been easily able to have a live chat with one of the friendly Squarespace team members who are always incredibly helpful!

There is also a huge archive of support documentation available so it’s super easy to find the information you need.

Their documentation is written in plain English - meaning you don’t need to understand complex coding or design language - it’s written in a super digestible and straightforward way that is easy to make sense of.

Still on the fence? Here are a few questions to consider when choosing the best platform for your new website:

  • What is the most important thing you need your website to do for your business?
  • What are the main functions you need your website to perform?
  • Are you happy to get your ‘hands dirty' and learn some basic (and potentially more advanced) HTML and CSS?

Nothing gets me more excited than helping ambitious women launch their businesses to the world with a strong brand that gets you noticed.

If you’re in the market for a new website, I’d love to chat more about how I can help create a gorgeous Squarespace website for you that will let your dream clients find you; connect with you; as well as positioning you as an expert in your field.

Instagram Etiquette: The Do’s and Don’ts

By Blazenka Harvey

When I first started on Instagram in 2013 there was no manual, or set of guidelines on how to post, what to post and when to post. (Well, if there was, I certainly didn't read them as I was having too much fun posting content)! They also had 500 million fewer users in 2013 than in 2017 ... crazy, huh!

However, if you want friends (not enemies) and real business prospects on Instagram, there are some written, and unwritten rules, we can follow. It’s what we would call basic Instagram etiquette.

Don't:
If you are going to use someone else's image, please ask them for permission or at the very least, be sure to tag the person / brand so that they know you are using their shot. Don't claim it as your own. Instagram even promote's this point in their Community Guidelines: "Share only photos and videos that you’ve taken or have the right to share." Besides it being illegal, it's just polite to ask someone to use his or her image.

Be careful with using third-party apps too unless you have permission from the user to repost their images. These apps make it easy to violate the Instagram Terms of Use and Community Guidelines, as well as infringe the copyright of another user.

Don't:
Don’t fake your comments. You've probably heard about various apps that people use to automate their comments. There are many downsides to this. One, it's very easy to put yourself into a socially awkward situation. I've read numerous posts on social media where the comment does not match the image, and sometimes it can even be offensive. For example, someone may be posting about his / her sad news and the automated comment was “That’s totally awesome!” Um, not cool.

The second downside is that using these automated Instagram bots to comment or follow goes against Instagram's Terms of Service. So there's a good chance you could get your account suspended. If you are a business, it's not worth the risk.

Do:
Do leave genuine comments. If you want to increase engagement, tell people why you like their shot, respond to their question, or ask a question yourself.

Don't:
Don't use the follow/unfollow method to build your brand. This is probably the most contentious of the lot as there are many who use this method, and at the same time, many who abhor this method.

If you're not familiar with the follow/unfollow method, it basically involves following people on Instagram and then unfollowing them a couple of days later if they haven't followed you back. You do this in the hope that the person won't notice that they have been unfollowed.

I am not an advocate of this tactic for growing an audience and I believe that genuine engagement will pay off far greater dividends than purely focusing on growing an audience that may or may not be interested in your brand.

Do:
Do visit hashtags that your target audience uses and then view the posts that come up under that hashtag. For example, if you are an Etsy shop owner, your target audience may like to peruse hashtags like "handmade" or "pursuepretty”. Go to those tags and spend a few minutes scrolling through liking and/or commenting on images. 

Don't:
Don't post numerous shots in one go. It's one of the easiest ways to get an unfollow – it’s kind of like spamming people’s feeds. People don't like to be bombarded by shots.

Do:
Do post consistently and spread out your posts. If you are posting a few shots per day then space these out so that your followers do not get bombarded. If you post once a day then try once you have worked out your optimal time, post at this same time every day. That way your audience can look forward to your post at that time.

Hopefully, with these basic tips on Instagram etiquette you can grow your account in an effective and genuine way.

Blazenka Harvey is the founder of Mama Bear Communications, which specialises in Instagram Marketing + Stock Photography for personal and business brands. Blazenka’s aim is to educate and nurture other bloggers, creative entrepreneurs and small business owners with all the tips and tricks of growing your brand on Instagram. She has a wealth of marketing experience with over 13 years in the retail marketing space, plus a huge passion in photography. If you want to receive FREE stock photography each month and have access to her Resource Library head over to her blog and subscribe to the mailing list. You can also follow her on Facebook and Instagram.

Biz Hacks: How To Grow Your Creative Business In Just 15 Minutes A Day

By Sagan Morrow

As a small business strategist, one of the things I hear students say is that they want to keep their business moving forward, but they’re having a tough time keeping on top of everything.

And I TOTALLY get that: we live in a pretty intense, chaotic world! We all have way too many things to juggle at any given time. Sometimes it can feel like we’re just scrambling to keep on top of things, and we barely have time to eat or sleep, let alone make progress with our businesses. This is especially true if you don’t have a team to help you out (hurray for solopreneurship!).

With that in mind, today I want to share with you 5 tips for making serious progress with your business… in just 15 minutes/day:

Tip #1: Start with a brainstorming session
This is one of my favorite things to do. Brainstorming sessions are great for getting all of your business ideas on paper! It’s a total idea bonanza -- you’re not worrying about strategy and practicality at this stage. It’s all just about the brainstorming.

I like using giant pieces of poster paper with colorful pens, but you can map it out however you like. (And yes, you can even set the timer for 15 minutes to get all your ideas on paper :))

Tip #2: Prioritize your activities
Which business ideas are you most excited about? Which are going to be the easiest to implement? Which make the most sense to focus on first?

The most important thing to consider at this stage is what fires you up the most. If you don’t LOVE your business ideas, then you’re going to have major problems in taking action on them. So even if some of your business ideas might take a little longer to implement, if you are super passionate about them, then those ones are absolutely worth focusing on.

Tip #3: Set actionable monthly goals
Four weeks is enough time to get a decent amount done, if you’re strategic about how you use your time effectively. Once you know what activities you want to prioritize, then you can set about creating goals for yourself!

Keeping them as monthly goals also makes it that much more manageable than trying to plan out the next three years for yourself.

Tip #4: Outline a plan of small tasks you can take every single day
Here’s where we get to quick bursts of time! Let’s say your goal this month is to create a business plan. You’re giving yourself 15 minutes/day to work on that business plan. So what could those 15-minute time slots look like?

Your first week might look something like this…

See how that works? Once you’ve intentionally laid out all of your action steps, and identified the small pieces that build up to achieving your goal (whether it’s to create a business plan, as in this example, or whether it’s to outline a marketing strategy or get your business finances in order or pitch to clients or do something else altogether), then you truly can make serious progress with your business even when you’re on a time-crunch!

I recommend making this plan of action for knowing what daily tasks you work on up to a month in advance, but you could even do it just one week at a time.

Tip #5: Choose a specific time of day for when you’ll work on business tasks
When you work on your business every day, it becomes a habit. This is even more true if you do it at the same time each day! Make working on your business a part of your routine. Every small step you take will really add up -- and you might just be amazed at what you’ve been able to accomplish a few weeks from now.

Psst… want to make progress with your business in 15 minutes/day, but don’t want to create the action steps for yourself? I’ve got you covered! Join the FREE Begin Your Biz Challenge to get ready-made daily 15-minute action steps you can take to keep moving your business forward.

Inside that challenge, we even use monthly themes for focusing on different areas of your business! Solopreneurs of all backgrounds and experience levels are welcome.

Sagan Morrow is a small business strategist and blogger at SaganMorrow.com with nearly a decade of experience as a solopreneur. She teaches other time-crunched solopreneurs how to build their own successful, profitable home-based businesses, WITHOUT the overwhelm. She loves hanging out on Twitter and Instagram, so be sure to say hi!

How To Stop Hiding and (Finally) Grow Your Business

By Jessica Ruprecht

Here’s what I know to be true: growing your first business or blog is scary. It asks you to show up in public in ways you’ve probably never dared to before and to make yourself visible before a larger audience than you’re comfortable with.

Growing a business is not for the faint of heart!  But here’s the thing: some of you might desperately want to start a blog or a business, but feel stuck because you’re equally afraid of being seen. For years this was me. I desperately wanted to grow an audience for my blog and launch an online business, but every time I put myself out there I got so scared I eventually gave up. It was too much for me – too uncomfortable, too scary, too difficult.

I felt like I was never going to be brave enough.

The courage that I saw in the women around me successfully launching and growing their online businesses just didn’t seem to be accessible for me. No matter how hard I tried I just wasn’t able to fight my way through my fears and “do it anyway”. The truth is, trying to force myself to act more bravely than I felt never made me feel courageous. It only ever made me feel smaller, more cowardly, and less worthy.

The good news is that it doesn’t have to be this way.

It took me years to figure out that there’s a way of working with your fear that doesn’t involve holding on for dear life and trying to fight your way straight through it. I learned to navigate my fears in way that was gentle and compassionate – and it was learning this that ultimately made it possible for me to stop hiding, show up in the world, and build my business.

You can learn how to navigate your fears, too. Here’s how.

The first step is to learn to recognize when fear is present.

The purpose of this step is simply to help you become more aware of when fear (or the avoidance of fear) is motivating your actions. To do that, it is helpful to learn to recognize what fear feels like in your body – do your palms sweat, does your heart pound, does your belly clench, or do your feet itch to get up and go somewhere?

Fear wears many disguises: it may look like apathy, exhaustion, procrastination, avoidance, restlessness, distraction, or numbing. But no matter what disguise fear might be wearing you’ll always know it if you become familiar with the sensation of it in your body.

The second step is to listen to your fear and honor it.

When we try to force ourselves to take action in spite of our fear we are not honoring fear’s purpose – which is to alert us the presence of danger. Instead, when we try to white-knuckle our way through fear we are ignoring how scared we feel and disregarding our own intuition.

Our fears are not silly or foolish – they are doing their very best to protect us from getting hurt. The trouble is that sometimes our happiness is worth running the risk of getting hurt. Unfortunately, our fears will never understand that we might be willing to risk a few mean comments for a chance to share our message with the world.

The truth about fear is that most of the time it really just wants to be heard. Your fear wants you to be aware that danger is present. Most of the time your fear only wants your attention – it wants to let you know that it perceives danger, so that you can be cautious as you take action.

Step two is about engaging with our fears in an honest dialogue. It’s about acknowledging that our fear serves a useful purpose and is never malicious. Step two is about asking ourselves what about this situation is my fear reacting to? And what does my fear need from me in order to feel safe?

It is important to ask these questions because this is how we allow our fear to protect us – by acknowledging that danger is present and acting to first meet our own needs in order to help ourselves feel safe.

For example, regularly publishing content to my blog is a way that I choose to grow my business; however, if I am afraid of publishing content because I’m worried that I will say the wrong thing and upset people, then publishing content to my blog is going to be a constant battle. I’ll perpetually be resisting actually doing it even as I pressure myself into blogging because I know that I should.

But here’s the thing: my worry about what other people will say isn’t foolish – it’s about protecting myself from getting hurt. What I’m really afraid of is that if I receive criticism for my words that my feelings will get hurt. So then the question is how can I protect myself from getting hurt and still publish my blog post?

This is what I can do: I can choose to not let someone else’s criticism or praise change my own opinion of myself. I can choose celebrate the courage that it took to publish my thoughts no matter what someone else does or doesn’t say in response. And I can choose to take care of myself if my feelings do get hurt – I can soothe my hurt feelings with my own affection.

When I do this, my fear eases because it knows that I have seen the danger and have taken steps to protect myself from being hurt, no matter the outcome of publishing my blog post.

As we learn to listen to our fears and honor their wisdom, we no longer have to fight our way through them in order to achieve our goals – which makes attaining our goals so much easier.

The third step is to have compassion for yourself as you struggle with fear.  I used to see my struggle with fear as cowardice. I’d tell myself, If only I were braver… then I’d be able to achieve my dreams. This approach never helped me move forward; usually, it only made me feel worse.

So this third step is an invitation to embrace your glorious humanity and be gentle with yourself as you navigate this process. You are allowed to find things frightening. You are allowed to feel uncomfortable.

In no way do these feelings detract from your inherent worth. This process doesn’t always work overnight. Sometimes our fears are deeply seated and it takes time to soothe them.

But if you keep showing up to listen to and honor your fears and keep having patience with yourself as you struggle it will become easier to step outside your comfort zone, stop hiding, and take action in your business. Because the truth is that the courage you need is already inside you. You just need to learn how to wield it.

Jessica Ruprecht is a life coach and writer at http://jessicaruprecht.com. She works with women entrepreneurs and creators who have big dreams, but whose fear of sharing their work with the world is holding them back. She helps women trust that their work is good enough so that they can finally stop hiding and start living. Her new ebook, Practical Courage: A Heart-Centered Guide to Achieving Your Dreams, will be released this spring. Sign up here to receive her free newsletter, designed to help you live your life with less fear and more courage – plus, be the first to know when Practical Courage is released!