The best of 2015 – the ideas I learned and shared this year

13 January

Three Thought Bubbles popular blog posts 2015

I write this blog to help you and to help myself.
I tease out ideas, I share knowledge and skills and I play with words.
I reach out to new people who excite me (mostly Tweeters!) and we have blind dates over strong coffee. There is electric energy in many of these conversations. Ideas collide and grow new limbs! Unexpected collaborations and strong friendships have developed too.

If you are in business, you must emotionally connect with people. This is something I can help you with. This blog post introduces you to the skills and values that underpin my training.

Here are the most popular posts from 2015 – they all focus on authentic ways for you to market what you do.

I tell my clients that a blog becomes a living business plan. Over time, it reveals the ideas, people and values that matter to you. It’s your choice to invest in mattering or write for SEO robots.

In 2015, I wrote about self confidence in business, telling your story and the art of writing, human marketing, visual storytelling, living your brand and face to face networking with people who excite you. What drives me most is finding ways to make business more human. Of course we need to market what we do but there are authentic and meaningful ways to do this.

Learning new skills – how to be kind to yourself

As business owners, we can be very tough on ourselves. I find this is especially true when people are learning new social media skills. My advice is to take baby steps and be kind to yourself! These posts might help you with this:

How to set ‘sane, humane and reasonable goals!
How to give yourself a break. It’s all about taking small, achievable steps.

Blogging – how do you feel about learning a new skill?
Do you expect to master new skills in an instant? Could you change that mind-set?

How minimalism can help you simplify your life and your business

I’ve discovered that less works best – less words, less goals, less obsessively reading online content!

Writing tips

When did you learn to write? Probably at school or college. Now it’s time to lose some of the formal structure and learn to write like you speak. This takes time and commitment but it’s an enjoyable journey. Here are some tips on writing skills and styles:

Chop your words; the skill of editing
Language is an art – how to be selective in your word choice and word count.

Why blogging is not about finding your voice
It’s in the doing; the magic happens as you learn.

Is the feeling of having to ‘create content’ killing your creativity?
Are you writing for SEO robots or because you have something interesting to say?

Human Marketing

When I first heard this phrase, it rang true with me. Sometimes, perceived opposites can work harmoniously together. The reason I set up Three Thought Bubbles was because I believe there are authentic ways to market a business. The second reason is that I know this technique is proven to be effective. People buy from people they like and trust. That is what human marketing is all about; understanding what people want help with. These posts will get you out of your own head and into the mind of your ideal customers:

Brand tone; what do your customers really hear?
Your brand is the conversation that your customers have when you leave the room! How do people ‘experience’ your brand?

Invest in mattering…
What if you focused on how what you do matters to other people? Would it change how you approach your business?

Stop, think, post – how to do social media with intention
Stop and ask yourself ‘what is my intention?’

Tips on how to tell your business story visually

Humans make sense of the world through images and stories. Images are powerful for reinforcing your written ideas. There are lots of ways for you to tell visual business stories:

How to use Instagram to tell your business story
Instagram is a powerful micro blogging platform – see how other businesses are effectively using it.

Visual tips to bring your business stories alive
Simple tips to tell powerful visual stories.

How can you ‘Live our brand’?

We might fight it but each of us is a brand. We’re selling ourselves on a daily basis! We now have the chance to create our online identity:

How much thought do you give to your personal brand?
What do you find when you Google your name? It’s time to own and develop your online reputation.

Connect with people on and off the web

And finally, I encourage you to connect with others and always ask for help!
Find interesting people on the web and invite them out for coffee. See what happens next!

The reason we are in business is to connect with people on an emotional level. Most of us never learned how to do this is in a business context. I can help you by offering you training, support and strategies. Give me a call on 087 635 5655 if you’d like to discuss some options.


How to blog for your Irish wedding business

7 April

How to write a blog for your Irish wedding business

Are you an Irish wedding business owner who would like to connect better with your customers on the web? I can help you to humanise your business by training you how to write an authentic blog. You already know who your ideal clients are – and you love working with them. I can show you how to translate your face to face personality online so that your clients get a sense of who you are and how you do business.

I have a new training course specifically designed for wedding industry professionals. Here’s how I can help you – First up, I know how many of you are petrified by the whole idea of social media! I used to be like that too until I discovered a new way of communicating. Blogging completely changed the way I thought about marketing. I found a genuine and effective way to connect with my customers before we met in person. And the feedback from clients was amazing.

We each have different ways of connecting. Some people are great on stage or at a networking event. Others do really well telling stories or relating one-to-one. But business happens online now, so we must make an emotional connection here first. I have fifteen years experience working in the wedding industry and seven years blogging – here is my story:

Before launching Three Thought Bubbles, I owned Rangoli Jewellery. Working one to one with clients every day made me understand how important this human connection is. I had a professional website but I realised that it didn’t show my personality or convey what it was like to do business with me. So, I started writing a business blog in 2008. My customers loved getting a behind the scenes glimpse into my business. I found ways to share content that excited and inspired them. My blog helped me to build trust before a face-to-face meeting. It also gave me huge clarity on what I wanted from my business. It helped me to seek the kind of work I wanted more of.

Rangoli Jewellery website

My blog was twice a finalist in Blog Awards Ireland for ‘Best blog of a SME’. Blogging made me realise that I could chat and connect in a natural way online. My customers got a sense of what it was like to do business with me. They trusted that I could help them.

I understand your industry and the personal relationships that you build with your couples. Bridal specialists are brilliant at listening and interpreting ideas for their clients. I also understand the pressures of running a successful business and all the juggling that is involved. I can give you the confidence and skills to translate what you do so well, to the web!

  • I’ll help you know what to write about – together, we’ll create a content strategy and calendar.
  • I’ll teach you how to find your voice – really it’s about writing in a conversational style and using language that you use in real life.
  • I help you understand how people read content online and how to write for this audience.
  • I’ll support you and hold you accountable! I’ll give you practical tips and tools to get you started.
  • I’ll show you how to make blogging a regular and valuable part of your business.

    Learn how to write a blog for your wedding business

    Here’s some feedback from Aine Teahan from ‘And Baby Makes Three‘, formerly Allegria Wedding Photography.

    I am now blogging consistently on a weekly basis and I can see huge benefits for our business – more that 80% of our business comes as a result of the blog! If you’re on the fence about blogging or have lost your way, Aisling will get you on track. She is enthusiastic, full of great ideas and she will inspire you to get your story out there. It will be the best investment you could possibly make for your business.

    New bloggers always have some questions and I’m happy to answer them. Please give me a call on 087 635 5655 and we can have a chat! Otherwise you can send me an email. Read more about my one-to-one training and pricing. If you’d like me to help you tell your story, we can discuss that too.

    Image credit: Rangoli bride Aisling – (read her wedding story). Photographer: Peter Gordan of ExploreLight

  • One great Pinterest tip for business

    16 April

    In my last post I promised to share a Pinterest how-to video. Did you know that by adding a dollar price tag to your Pinterest image, it automatically gets added to their Pinterest Gifts section? That means that people who are actively searching to buy something, can view your product or service, with a direct link to your site. This simple hashtag can lead to increased sales and exposure for your business.

    What is a hastag? It looks like this # and when it is placed directly beside a word or phrase, it allows you to tag content online. This helps other people to be able to find information related to this topic. It works in a similar way to facebook tagging, which uses the @ symbol. In this Youtube video, Andrew McCarthy shows you how simple it is to add your images to the Gift Gallery on Pinterest.

    I visited the Gift section and did a quick search for ‘frames’ and found a huge selection to choose from. Each image is a link to the original source, where the item can be purchased. Search the Pinterest Gift  Gallery for images from your industry – it may give you ideas for product photography or infographics that you could create. 

    pinterest tip how to add images to pinterest gifts section

    In my next post I’m going to be talking about making the time to blog. I’ll be sharing a new 30 day habit I’ve challenging myself to. It involves early starts but I’m enjoying it hugely!

    I’m now offering a course of three, one-to-one sessions to help blogging novices get launched. If you need that extra bit of encouragement, get in touch and we’ll have a chat!

    Time to blow some bubbles

    23 April

    Today is a special day for me; nerve-wrecking and exciting in equal measure!

    In my mind I am rewinding 18 months. The idea for Three Thought Bubbles was inspired by a quote I read; what are the three things that you would like people to believe about your business? It got me thinking and my answers inspired me to talk differently to my customers.

    why do you do what you do 2

    Today I am launching Three Thought Bubbles; fun workshops, teaching business owners how to blog with heart.

    I’m thoroughly bored of websites, although I know they serve a purpose. Most of them are static and full of corporate talk. Is there a human in there? Really?! I believe that we need to start communicating online in a much more human way.

    Using social media has made me more social! Made someone with a fear of networking events start connecting with other business owners. The difference is that I have found a way to talk about what I do in a way that feels comfortable to me. Firstly, via blogs and Twitter and then in the ‘real world’! These 3d meetings have led to great collaborations as well as mutual support in business. And most importantly, my customers get a sense for how I do business before they meet me in person.

    I’ve decided to teach my workshops for two reasons; I want show other businesses how blogging can help them on a business and personal level. And I’m driven by a passion to share these skills and collaborate with other creative people.

    I’d like to thank everyone who has supported me in launching this business. A special thanks goes to the loyal group of new friends and allies that I have met on-line. Photographer Aine Teahon is one of them and I’m so grateful for the photos she took of my workshops. Designer Karen Seery created my branding and website and interpreted my ideas perfectly. She was a dream to work with. Next up are my endlessly creative friends and family. And finally, my favourite husband Ben!

    So, have I got you thinking about how you tell your story? Would you like to learn a new skill in a relaxed environment? I’d love to meet you at one of my workshops! My next class is on Sunday 26th May. If you can’t make this one, be sure to sign up for my mailing list.

    Blogger Spotlight – Curious Design

    6 April

    Rachel and Marie from Curious Design

    I get a great buzz from chatting with other business owners and hearing how they do things. So I’m starting a regular feature called Blogger Spotlights where I’ll be introducing you to some of my favourite Irish and International bloggers. Diversity is the name of the game. The best blogging advice I got was to look outside your industry or area of interest for inspiration!

    So, first up (after my own self-interview!) is Marie from Curious Design. Marie and Rachel run this Irish company and design everything from branding to brochures and email newsletters to e-commerce. They especially love creating identities for small creative businesses. Let’s meet Marie;

    The ‘Curious Design’ and ‘Curious Casa’ blogs

    Hi Rachel and Marie! I love following both your blogs; your Curious Design as well as Curious Casa. Curious is a brilliant word – tell us how it sums up you two and what you do?

    Thanks Aisling, we really like it too!

    We thought long and hard about our name. Asking questions, researching and getting to know our clients is a big part of our design process and something we really enjoy so we wanted to reference this in our company name. Curious was a nice friendly word that felt like a good fit. We are also quite nosey!

     Branding, website and print for photographer Magda Lukas

    You describe yourselves as ‘friends, work-mates, and design junkies’. Tell us a bit more about those three things!

    We’ve been friends since we met on our first day of college in 2001 and collaborated and bounced ideas off each other all the time during those 4 years. After college we still shared inspiration and ideas when working for various companies, as well as brainstorming (some would say obsessing…) over our weddings, houses, and quite a few fancy dress parties. In 2011 we set up curious together. Those years of collaborating have proved invaluable, as we know how the other ticks at this stage and work very well together.

    We have very similar taste and love simple modern quirky design. We occasionally drive our other halves batty showing them pictures on pinterest so curious casa is a good outlet and way of sharing cool things we have found with each other.

    Branding for BFI - an organisation offering free resources for educators and bilingual/multilingual families.

    When was Curious design set up and who do you most want to help?

    Curious was set up in 2011. We really like working with smart enthusiastic small businesses and individuals and start ups. It’s particularly fun working with people who are just setting up as you can follow their journey from idea to fully fledged business.

    I’m envious that there are two of you! It must be brilliant to share skills and bounce ideas off each other. What are the benefits of working together? And are there any downsides? Spill the beans…

    Having a business partner is fantastic!

    It’s great to have someone to share the load with and to bounce ideas off. Rachel has lots of experience working with print and knows all the different techniques inside out while  I studied web design and development after college and specialises in that area. We overlap a lot on projects but having different skillsets means that we can offer a broader range of services to our clients, as well as learning from each other.

    The downside would be that business talk can eat into “friend time” very easily, we try our best to keep the two separate but there will always be an overlap.

     Website design and development for the Swift Satire Festival 2012

    Why did you set up your Curious Design blog and were you nervous before you started?!

    We started the blog to help clients get to know us a bit better and also to learn about blogging ourselves. At the time we were also launching curious so there were nerves abounding!

    Have you any reservations about sharing your design process online?

    No. We try to make our process as transparent as possible for our clients and anything that helps us do this is a good thing.

    How do you measure how your blog helps your business?

    We keep an eye on our analytics and will also usually ask clients how they heard of us. The majority of our clients are referrals but they will usually have checked out the website and blog before they get in touch. Having a little bit of our personality online helps people feel they know us a bit better before getting in contact.

    Do you share the writing?

    Yes, and we share the proof reading too – Rachel is good at spotting typos!

    Irish Mammies t-towels
     Design of Irish Mammy “Tweet Towels”

    What is the best thing about blogging for you?

    We find that our blog has become a great resource for us and our clients as we have posts explaining many of the common questions we get, like the difference between a vector file and a jpeg. Connecting with like-minded people is fun too – we love comments!

    What do you find hardest about it?

    Finding time to blog! Like any small business we are usually busy working on client work so it’s difficult to make time to blog on top of this.

    Do you have a content planner or how do you plan your posts?

    How we plan depends on the type of post – if it’s part of a series we tend to plan more and have a shared folder in dropbox where we save our plan and schedule. We usually write and save posts as drafts and get the other to review them before scheduling them.

    Posts inspired by a project we’ve finished or a lovely piece of design we’ve spotted tend to be less planned and more spontaneous.

     Website design and development for Ciara of Style Serendipity

    Do you have a favourite on-line app, tool or resource that helps you with blogging?

    We use photoshop all the time for work anyway but it is also extremely useful for resizing and cropping images.

    Has blogging brought you any unexpected opportunities?

    Rachel’s home was featured in the IKEA live magazine after one of the editors spotted our blog which was a fun experience.

    Who inspires you in the blog world?

    I (Marie) am a big fan of Gretchin Rubin from the happiness project. She has 2 best selling books on the topic of happiness both of which I really enjoyed. Her blog has played a huge part in this success and she uses it as a reference and resource for her

    What one tip would you give a new business blogger?

    If you aren’t sure how you will come up with ideas for posts a series can be a useful format. We found the design a-z was a good structure that helped us come up with ideas.

    Thanks for those curious insights Marie! I agree with your thoughts on being as transparent as possible with your clients. It’s one of the reasons I started blogging myself. Your a-z series is a winner too!


    So, if you’re an aspiring or established blogger – what does your design brand say about you? Is your blog a pleasant place for your readers to hang out? Get in touch with Marie or Rachel if you’d like to spruce up your space!

    Call Rachel and Marie on 01 453 7907
    Curious Design website and blog
    Twitter: @curious_design
    Facebook: CuriousDesignIreland
    Websites mentioned in the interview: Magda Lukas Photography, Style Serendipity, Swift Satire Festival 2012, Irish Mammy “Tweet Towels”