What do adult colouring books and blogging training share in common?

20 July

There is a message surfing around the internet which is hard to miss – “Done is better than perfect”. (Mostly imagined) fears rattle around in our heads and hold us back from starting things. But today when I read an article about adult colouring books, it reminded me of something clients often say to me – “I’m not creative”. I’ve discovered that most of us need help in realising that we are creative. If we don’t believe this, it’s hard to put hand to keyboard and start publishing content.

Creativity takes many forms and the visual form is the one that mostly springs to mind. But how about the art of words; people who can skilfully juxtapose words to inspire new meaning? A sharp wordsmith is a valuable asset to any business.

First of all, what is an adult colouring book? It’s probably not what you think (and I dread the sea of spam comments that this title is going to attract!). Adult colouring books are designed to allow adults to be playful, just like kids. Colouring allows the brain to relax while still being creatively engaged. The key attraction seems to be that the user is not faced with a blank page. Someone provides you with an outline, which means that you don’t have to make that first mark on a glaring white page!

Secret Garden

“Many people fear the idea of filling a blank page, and this comes from the often misheld belief that they aren’t creative. By acting as an entry point into creative activity, adult colouring can help people to tackle this fear. Michael Bierut, my fellow partner at Pentagram, was recently discussing Johanna and her work on his podcast, Observatory, and he said “there is something great about giving people a way in with creativity, even if it has multiple training wheels on it,” and I agree. The great result of adult colouring is not the act itself, it’s the subsequent acts of creativity it inspires. It’s a gateway drug, if you like.”

Quote from an ‘It’s Nice That’ article by Angus Hyland

Starting to blog can feel like staring at a blank white page… it can feel incredibly scary at first. My job is in helping my clients in two ways;

  • To give you the confidence that you are indeed creative and have something valuable to say
  • To help you find your voice and give you the techniques and strategy to help you make it happen.

    Most of my posts are about getting you to think differently about marketing what you do. As Seth Godin recently said, no-one suffers from ‘talking block’. As a business owner, you are the best person to tell your story. Perhaps you need the equivalent of a colouring book outline to get you started?! Give me a call if you’d like to chat about some training.

    Here are some other posts I’ve written to inspire new business bloggers:

  • How to set sane, humane reasonable goals
  • Invest in Mattering
  • Let’s make friends with the idea of business blogging first!

    Image credit
    The illustration above is taken from ‘Secret Garden‘ by Johanna Basford.

  • Head Space #2 – how to set ‘sane, humane and reasonable goals’!

    9 July

    Headspace is a new series on the blog. I’m going to share thought-triggering ideas with you. Do with them what you will! Comment, share or start a new movement. People tell me that I’m a great curator of content but that’s a (fabulous but) fancy word for being curious! I like to bounce ideas around and start interesting conversations. I’m inviting you to pause and hold a single idea in your head for a while… and share what comes up.

    Alexandra Franzen planted a wonderful suggestion in my head. It rolls to the surface whenever I need to be kinder to myself.

    Head Space - ideas to challenge the way you look at the world!

    So why is this idea so powerful? As business owners (and regular humans), we often set ourselves ridiculous targets. We scribble lengthy ‘to do’ lists, knowing that we won’t have the time to accomplish them. Alex wants to help us break this loop – She suggests that we can be kinder to ourselves, by setting manageable goals.

    Let’s look at the example of writing a business blog. When I train owners how to write a blog, there is usually some concern around how much time it will take. It’s a totally valid question. Here’s how I tackle this issue with my clients:

    I ask; What is a sane, humane and reasonable goal for you? Could you commit to writing one or two posts a month? What might that involve? Maybe your goal is to practice writing for 15 minutes every day or for an hour on Sundays. Whatever you choose, start with small realistic goals. Being kind to yourself always pays off! You’ll be more productive and much calmer”.

    As a trainer, I start by getting you excited about sharing your ideas on the web. Then I help you to to create systems and strategies that work for you. It’s amazing what you can achieve if you set yourself sane, humane, reasonable goals!

    If you’re thinking about writing a blog or would like some help simplifying what you do – give me a call on 087 635 5655. I’d love to hear from you!

    More inspiration for you:
    This post is part of a series called Head Space.
    Simplify your life – How minimalism can help you simplify your life and business.
    Learn a new habit in 30 days –Your 30 day challenge to start your blog.

    Free stock photos for bloggers

    16 February

    No matter whether you are a baker or a builder, you need to have a visual brand. Did you know that images combined with text help us understand and connect more? Forget your logo; this is about telling the story of your business through pictures and words. As bloggers, we need to source (or take our own) images and copyright is a massive issue. Yesterday I stumbled on a listing of sites that share free stock photos. Today, I’m sharing it – that’s what the blogging community is all about!

    Image copyright has become a huge issue online and rightfully so – photographers need to be credited for their work. And this doesn’t just mean adding a credit or link. You must seek permission before publishing any image on your blog. The other option is to learn how to take your own images but it’s great to have other choices.

    I have made a collage below using images which I found on these sites. Images that you can crop, add text too or do whatever you want

    free stock photos for bloggers

    So get ready for a visual party. I suggest you set up a private board on Pinterest to save your favourites. I bet these images will trigger blog post ideas.

    • Little Visuals – “Sign up to get 7 hi-resolution images zipped up in your inbox every 7 days. Use them anyway you want.”
    • Unsplash – “10 new photos every 10 days.”
    • Death to the Stock Photo – “Free high-res lifestyle photography sent to you monthly, to do whatever you please. For your blog, social channels, mockups or even to hang on your wall if you’re so inclined. No need to credit us – but we always love a nice shout out.”
    • New Old Stock – “Vintage photos from the public archives.Free of known copyright restrictions.”
    • Superfamous – “Photographs on this page are available under a CC Attribution 3.0 license.”
    • Picjumbo – “Totally FREE photos for your works. New photos daily! Every. Single. Day.”
    • Gratisography – “Free high-resolution pictures you can use on your personal and commercial projects. Click on an image to download the high-resolution version. New awesome pictures added weekly!”
    • Getrefe – “Refe is a marketplace of the best mobile photos. Here are free photos for your personal or commercial projects.”
    • IM Free – “A curated collection of free resources, all for commercial use.”
    • SplitShire  – “Delicious free stock photos for personal & commercial use. Do what you want with them, for personal and commercial use. Yes, everything free of charge, just an attribution if you like my work or offer me a coffee through donation to help me maintaining this site free for you.”

    A big thanks to Dustin Senos who shared this great list over on Medium.com – another amazing blogging community site!

    The next collage of images were found on The Pattern Library – a Willy Wonka-esque collection of bold, colourful patterns. Sometimes, you need a people-free image to create an info-graphic! Simply add your own text. I’ll be including a ‘how to’ tutorial on this soon.

    copyright free patterns for bloggers

    You’ve no more excuses not to get visual now! Start thinking about what pictures speak your language. Experiment by taking some of your own photos. If you don’t have a ‘proper’ SLR camera, take a mobile phone photography course with Photo JoJo for just $10! If you’ve any questions about visuals on your blog, let me know and I’ll include them in a blog post for you!

     

    What does it take to get to the top? Online video for business

    7 February

    Online video for business is where it’s at. Words have a powerful effect on how we think. Combine those words with pictures and you strengthen your message. But watching moving images with words invites us into a whole different world. We get to think and feel like the people in the film. Businesses are coming up with really clever ways to move us. Here are two of my current favourites. Both are on the theme of cycling; the first one will get your heartbeat rocketing and the second will wind you down!

    I absolutely love this motivational cycling video because it screams about the skill and endurance that are required to succeed in the world of competitive cycling. The jerky jump-cuts and stop-motion photography bring the pain alive. The audio chops up exaggerated breathing sounds with army major roars. We feel the pain and we can imagine the rewards! It’s impossible to watch this film and not feel a strong connection with the subjects. The motivation coach is right when he says that getting to the top doesn’t happen overnight.

    Mountivation Cycling Development Academy – Boot Camp. from Henry Iddon on Vimeo.

    Is your adrenalin still pumping? Let’s slow the pace down a bit with this gem of a business story. The Inverted Bike Shop is the story of a bike enthusiast, who loved bikes so much he made his own and then wanted to share them with others. 718 Cyclery in Brooklyn was born. He understands his customers inside out and he offers an intuitive service based on what his customers really need. It’s told in simple language by people who love what they do. It’s not a fast paced like the one above; the power lies in how the story is slowly revealed.

    This whole business is built around bikes and people. When someone comes in the door, we sit down with them and ask them, ‘What do you see yourself doing with this bike?’ We’re almost like a therapist in a lot of ways; we get to the heart of what they’re really looking for in a bike.

    The Inverted Bike Shop from Show Love on Vimeo.

    What do you feel when you watch these two films? They both trigger different emotions don’t they? I’ll admit that the first one makes me want to sit in a cosy cafe with a large coffee and cake. But maybe that’s ok; I’m not their target audience and being a competitive cyclist is not high on my list. But I could imagine having that coffee while chatting about my dream bike in Brooklyn!

    I’ve gathered some more great business stories for you to read too. If you need help getting clear on your business story, I’d love to help you. I’m always up for a coffee and my classes are ongoing.

    For more info on the businesses above:
    Mountivation Performance Matters – Film by Henry Iddon
    718c bicycle shop, Brooklyn – Film by Show Love
     

    Irish hotels need to get blogging!

    17 November

    I made a shocking discovery while researching my talk for a conference recently! Only a tiny proportion of Irish hotels or venues write a business blog. So why is it that so few of these businesses extend their personal welcome online; the very first point of contact for most guests? I challenged myself to find some good examples to inspire my audience!

    I was invited to talk about blogging to an audience of wedding suppliers. The conference was about marketing and booking more wedding clients. A big proportion of my audience were hotel owners. While researching this market, I was amazed at how hard it was to find Irish venues or B+B homes that write a blog.


    website versus blog ballyvolane house 3
    Images from Ballyvolane House website and Instagram account


    I started my research by looking at all of the websites for the attendees. All were professionally designed with quality photography but this is what I noticed immediately:

    • The website templates all looked very similar
    • There was a huge number of options, often in lengthy drop-down menus.
    • The language used was corporate and not aimed at the customer

    So how can you share what it feels like to visit one of these hotels or country homes or B+Bs? What makes your venue different to a competitor?

    Here’s what I believe; People want to experience what a stay at your venue will be like before they actually get there! And they are more interested in behind-the-scenes shots and stories than your carefully crafted marketing blurb.

    After asking a few industry colleagues for recommendations, I came across the wonderful Ballyvolane House. Everything about their branding is customer focussed and very friendly!

    First up is an image of their website homepage, below. They have a clear message, explaining who they are, what they offer and where they are based. To the right, they have highlighted their latest blog posts under the title ‘Recent News’. You can choose to call your blog whatever you think will appeal to your audience. ‘Recent News’ lets their customers know that they are constantly updating the site with content that might be relevant to them.

    ballyvolane house ireland

    I then discovered that Ballyvolane House are on Instagram. Instagram is the perfect place to share behind the scenes shots of daily interest. Quality, professional photos have a place on your website but spontaneous phone pics can capture the everyday delights of your business. Below, the staff share images of a proud fisherman with his catch, cakes and meat fresh out of the oven and glamping guests feeding the pigs. That hammock is calling to me too!

    ballyvolane house instagram

    Here’s an added bonus; blog posts are also instant material for your newsletter. Below is a screen-shot of a portion of one, including a selection of their recent blog posts. There is great variety in the content too, from recipes to suggestions for possible events to host at the house.

    ballyvolane house newletter 2 1
     

    Next up, I’d like to talk to the staff at Ballyvolane House to ask them how they feel blogging has helped their business. I’m sure you’d be interested in hearing their story? I’m always looking for great examples of business bloggers from around the world. One of the best pieces of advice I have heard is to look outside your own industry for inspiration. So if you’re a jeweller, you might be inspired by looking at a bicycle shop blog! If you only look at your competitors, it’s tempting to follow their style and content.

    We’re getting close to the month of madness! I running one last group workshop on 8th December. I’m also continuing my popular ‘Introduction to blogging‘ one-to-one classes. Keep in touch if you’d like to be on my mailing list for future events.

    For more information about Ballyvolane House:
    Website: Ballyvolanehouse.ie
    Blog: Ballyvolane House News
    Instagram: ballyvolanehouse

    The power of storytelling in business with Andreea Wade

    28 October

    I’m back after attending my first Askaton event and I am truly hooked! Imagine a room filled with passionate business owners (or those on the brink of launching) who are interested in sharing ideas and inspiring each other to succeed. One of the taglines of the group is to ‘Ask, Share, Laugh’. I did all three of these things and met a bunch of inspiring ladies to boot! This group could help you too…

    askaton dublin adreaa wade science gallery

    Andreea Wade is one of the co-founders of Askaton and also owns a marketing company called Brandalism. She gave a talk about Storytelling in business. As you probably know by now, this is something that I’m really passionate about. It’s certainly not about making up stories (which is what most people think clever marketing is about). It’s about getting to the core of what you do and why you love it. Some of us get lost in the doing and making and we forget about what it was that got us started in business.

    My mission this year is to connect with all sorts of new people; to seek out adventure without knowing exactly where it will lead. This is what blogging teaches you and what I’m passionate about sharing. You come to realise that sometimes the unexpected encounters are where the best things happen. They can happen online, but really, the magic happens when you get out and meet people face to face.

    Andreea talked about the power of “Once upon a time”. She reminded us that, once upon a time we had a passion that led us to set up a business. This is something that we need to capture and never forget. And she reminded us that stories are about things that matter.

    Andrea also spoke about how confusion is one of the greatest enemies of any marketer. As business owners, we need to be crystal clear about the message that we put out into the world. If we are not clear ourselves, how can we expect our customers to know how we can help them? The purpose of your blog is to be like a window into your business. It’s your space to chat with and educate your customers; for you to get to know them and for them to get to know you. To share what it is that you love to do and tell others why they should consider spending their money with you.

    Ultimately though, people buy from people they like or can relate to. We hear this again and again but do we really understand how it works? In the chaotic, frenzied, online world, we need to find a way to make people pause and feel something. We’ve been telling each other stories for centuries; it’s how we all make sense of the world. This quote from Ira Glass, that Andreea shared, sums up the idea perfectly;

    Great stories happen to those who can tell them.

    So, are you interested in telling your story or finding new ways to tell people what you do? I’d highly recommend the Askaton group as a way of meeting like-minded business owners. The other thing worth mentioning is that there is a really relaxed vibe to this network. There is no power dressing or stuffy formalities. It’s about people who are into doing stuff as well as talking about it!

    I give a number of different blogging courses and workshops to help business owners to learn how to talk confidently and passionately about what they do. My one-to-one classes focus purely on you and my group workshops allow for lots of interaction and cross-pollination of ideas! Would you like to be notified of my up-coming events? if so, just drop me an email or leave me a comment below. And I’m always up for a 3d coffee and chat…

    Let me know if you’re a member of any collaborative business group; I’d love to put together a list that we can share.

    Your 30 day challenge to start your blog

    27 August

    Thirty days is all it takes to form a new habit, according to Matt Cutts. This guy has done amazing things by simply challenging himself for short periods of time. This got me thinking about the initial burst of energy, confidence and commitment that you need to launch your blog. After that, it gets much easier – I know this because I have been regularly blogging since 2008! So, are you up for a challenge?

    What could you do in 30 days if you really put your mind to it? In just 3 minutes, Matt wants to motivate you to start something completely new and exciting! This talk is part of a series of three minute Ted Talks, all designed to inspire you to change for the better.

    ted talks 30 day challenge

    I’m creating a 5 week online teaching course at the moment that ties in with this idea. The feedback I’m getting from my students is that they would like to receive more long-term support as they launch their blogs. All shall be revealed soon, but let me know if you have any suggestions about how you like to learn. What do you need help with most at the moment?

    As always, I’d love to hear your thoughts, so drop me an email or leave me a comment below.

    Reassure me; tell me more.

    22 July

    You might be shocked to discover how many people get anxious when they visit your website or blog. I am talking ‘mild anxiety’ here, but most customers are looking for reassurance and help when they research online. The purpose of your blog is to provide answers to their questions.

    Recently, I had an architect take one of my blogging workshops. The group talked about their perception of architects and our chat sounded something like this;

    mark stephens architecture ireland

    The thought of having a house designed or renovations done is really exciting. We’re all huge fans of Grand Designs aren’t we? But when it comes to approaching an architect, we are petrified of the process. First of all, most websites are not customer friendly and they use language that is hard to understand. We could arrange to meet an architect but would we then feel obliged to employ them? What is the process involved and how long will it take? Will it totally disrupt my family life? Will there be huge hidden costs which might bankrupt us? You can see where this conversation was heading!

    A blog is the perfect place to explain your process and reassure someone who is thinking about working with you. You can’t possibly explain every eventuality but you can show that you are open and willing to make the process as enjoyable and stress-free as possible.

    Mark Stephens is an Irish architect who gets this idea. He has recently added a section called ‘The Process‘ to his website. Here, he talks to the customer in simple language about what is involved in having building work done.

    Mark told me why it’s so important to understand his clients’ needs and for them to understand how the design process works;

    “My creative process always starts with me thinking “If I was this person, living with their circumstances – what would be the best possible solution for them, the site/house and the planners? It is only with this mindset, where you are looking for the ‘best’ solution, that although inevitably there may be compromises along the way, the initial ‘ideal’ concept carries through.”

    Can you see how this way of thinking is essential for all businesses? We need to start thinking like our customers, in order to understand how we can help them. If your website simply has a product gallery and contact information, you will lose the potential customer who needs to find out more information before making a decision.

    I hope I’ve got you thinking about what your customers might need help with? It could be as simple as explaining the process of how you work, as Mark has done. Share your thoughts by email or below; I’d love to hear from you!

    For more information about Mark Stephens Architect, visit the website and blog.

    Photo credit: Mark Stephens

    A shorts story – Patagonia

    10 June

    What emotions do your customers feel when they buy from you? I’m not suggesting that you manipulate these emotions! I want you to think about how they align with your passion for what you do. Your passion is what your customers want to know about. And your blog is the perfect place to share it.

    Patagonia are a long-established outdoor clothing and equipment company. The emotions I associate with their products are adventure and a love of the outdoors. The clothes you wear are tied in with your memories of events. That’s one of the reasons Patagonia have such loyal customers.
     

    worn wear patagonia

    When your customers start telling stories about how much they love your brand, you know you’re on to a good thing! Surfing couple Keith and Lauren Malloy set up a Tumblr site called Worn Wear: True Stories of People and Their Patagonia Gear. These two were inspired by the years of use they were getting from their surf gear, so they decided to start a blog where people could share stories about their favorite piece of Patagonia clothing.

    Here’s one of my favourites from Melissa from Vermont;

    patagonia worn wear

    “Dear Patagonia,

    I bought these blue Stand-Ups in 1988, in Connecticut, right before I took one of my first extended road trips around the country. That summer I traveled with a friend, cutting a kind of figure-eight through the United States. Since then the shorts have been with me to every state except Hawaii. Over the course of 25 years they have climbed mountains in New York, Colorado, Alaska, Vermont, Montana, Wyoming. They have visited the desert and the sea. They’ve sat quietly in the car across Texas and the Dakotas; they’ve seen small shacks in Louisiana, ancient Indian dwellings in New Mexico, vast fields of corn in Iowa and thirty Dead shows. The stand-ups have never, ever let me down. Each spring, they’re the first item of clothing I take out of storage. I slip them on to make sure not too much damage was done over the winter (to me, not the shorts), and then I get lost in the dream of the road, of the kind of adventure that is waiting for us all the time, and of this trusty pair of shorts that have been with me everywhere.”

    -Melissa

    People choose to buy for a number of reasons; mostly it’s to do with how the product or service makes them feel. So it makes sense to be aware of what these emotions are, right? I teach business owners like you how to confidently tell your business story online. In order to do that, I help you understand who your customers are and what they need help with.

    I offer one day workshops to small groups as well as one-to-one sessions. I successfully blog for my business and can help you do the same. I am easy to contact and would love to hear your ideas! My next workshop is on Sunday 7th July. Early bird tickets are available until 21st June.

    Credits and links:
    Image via The Wornwear blog
    Pataginia blog : The Cleanest Line
    Patagonia on Tumblr
     

    I want to write a business blog

    31 May

    Are you thinking about writing a business blog? Does the starting part overwhelm you a bit? I now offer one-to-one mentoring sessions to give you the confidence to write your blog and launch! This session is the perfect introduction to my one day workshops on how to write a business blog with heart.

    ‘Mentoring’ sounds serious but these sessions are far from it! Like most things; just getting started can be biggest step. This is a chance for you to pinpoint the core message of your business. I’ll de-mystify the jargon and help you come up with a plan of action.

    I’ve run my own business for fifteen years and have been blogging for five. I know what it’s like to juggle business promotion with making or doing. I strongly believe that telling your business story is the best way to connect with your customers.

    This introductory offer is for a ninety minute, one-to-one class which is priced at €90. These classes take place in a Dublin city centre location. Another option is to learn at your place of work. Pricing for these classes will depend on the venue location.

    How will I help you?

    Before we meet up, I’ll get you to answer some questions about you and your business. This helps me to tailor your session. Questions will include: Why do you think you should blog? Who is your customer? What problems can you solve?

    Once we know the answers to these questions, I’ll help you come up with content ideas as well as a content plan. I’m here to help with the answers too!

    We will discuss different blogging platforms and see which one suits your needs best. I’ll briefly show you how to write a blog post, include photos, video and links. I can recommend website or graphic designers to help with your website template.

    An overview of your industry; I will show you examples of good blogs within your industry. We’ll also look at other industry blogs to show you interesting ways of business promotion.

    My forte is listening and offering advice! I want to show you how easy it is to connect with customers and peers. I’ll also tell you about the hidden benefits of blogging too!

    Everybody’s needs and experience level are different. Give me a call or drop me an email so we can chat about your business.