How To Take A Good Selfie – Not!

How to Take a Good Selfie (not!)

This week I discovered the self-photography is not my forte. Selfies as the young kids call them. Blast them all to hell and bah-humbug.

I recently purchased a fun doo-hickey for my iPhone, a Tripod that acts as a Phone Mount, which can be used for video, photography, and even a selfie-stick. I first saw it on Chalene Johnson’s YouTube videos, and I wanted a tripod/selfie stick that was inexpensive and would help with taking videos for my blog…. Right! Well it turns out that Miss Chalene Johnson must have the most steady freaking hands on earth because every video I take is shaky as hell. The tripod works great as an actual tripod, I get the most use of it when I’m video conferencing or filming video.

Anyway! I realized two things this week. Firstly that every headshot of mine is upwards of 5 years old. Some are two years old, but they’re not my favourite, and the one that’s five years old is a super professional headshot that really doesn’t look like me anymore (or so I feel). The second thing I realized is that I suck at selfies.

I’m trying to take a picture of myself, WITH glasses on since I always wear glasses, something cute and quirky and profesh, something that screams I am a woman, and an entrepreneur, and a mama, and a lady boss, and I’m killing it – but not in an over-achiever way. Not in a way that looks braggy and inauthentic. So of course, self-photography seemed the route to go.

So firstly, I’m sure you’ve taken a picture of yourself with your phone, but I never know where to look. I look at the screen instead of the actual camera. I want to make sure I look good on the screen first, so by the time I take a picture, I either forget to look at the camera or I’m too far above the camera, or I just take the shot at the wrong moment… I think it’s safe to say that I don’t know how to take a good selfie.

How to Take a Good Selfie (not!)

How to Take a Good Selfie (not!)

How to Take a Good Selfie (not!)

How to Take a Good Selfie (not!)

How to Take a Good Selfie (not!)

How to Take a Good Selfie (not!)

I took a lot of selfies. A ton. I think I had maybe 100 useless shots of my mug. Too blurry, too sketchy, too shiny, too frizzy hair, too flat hair, two many chins… ha ha! I’m hilarious when I’m making fun of myself. Do you think this mama figured out how to take a good selfie? Nope.

Time to find a photographer. Do you know any?

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Branding Your Business 101

branding

Hey Small Business Owners and Creative Entrepreneurs!

When it comes to branding your business what do you think of?

Do you think of your font choices, colour palettes, and logos? Do you daydream about business cards, websites, and chic packaging for your products? That’s great! But when it comes to truly branding your business, you’re only halfway there…

As a Creative Entrepreneur or a Small Business Owner, whether you provide a virtual product, coaching, physical products online or brick-and-mortar style, branding your business is an important part of your overall business strategy. Your branding should reflect the actual essence of the business. Think of the branding process as a unique opportunity to discover your business’ personality.

Branding your business doesn’t seem like a difficult feat, but there’s a reason why so many businesses and brands get lost in the abundance of competitors. It goes far beyond choosing the right fonts and colours for your logo, website or business cards, it’s the overall experience your brand provides.


So where do you start to brand your business?

 

  1. Define your business in one sentence and visualize what that business looks like.
    What are your top values or principles? Are you providing virtual or physical products or services? Is there a need for  your business? What sets you apart for other similar businesses?
  2. Who is your ideal client and how can you attract them? 
    Are you business-to-business or serving clients directly? Define their age group, sex, lifestyle, and figure out who is your business created specifically for and think of how to reach them.
  3. How is your business conducted?
    How do you do what you do? Is your work flow considered serious, quick, sharply, relaxed, flexible, cheerful, playfully, intense, approachable? What makes the way you achieve results unique?

branding-quote

By finding the unique qualities in your business, it gets easier to draw on those strengths and market to your core clientele. Your entire company should be considered your branding department, it’s the behind the scenes AND the front of the house that represents your brand. It’s how people view your business from first glance to first purchase to re-purchase.

A good friend of mine recently hired a company to re-brand her business, a process which left her overwhelmed, confused, and exhausted. At the end of the day, all she wanted was to be able to sell her product line online by reaching the right consumers. She currently found success in pop-up shops held throughout various cities, but struggled to make any impact in the online world.

After investing in a branding package with a company she found online, but upon starting the re-branding process with them, she felt their ideas and hers didn’t quite align. She was at a loss and turned to me for some advice, showing me their first and second draft logos and website ideas….

I quickly realised why she was so overwhelmed and confused. She didn’t need to re-brand her company, she needed an online business strategy. She had a logo and colour scheme, what she needed was to tweak her current branding to create a prominent online presence. Managing your brand is an ongoing process, and when your business grows or changes, it may be necessary to tweak or adjust your branding strategy.

A brand is how one customer will describe your business to another. It’s like a personality, and once you identify your company’s unique brand personality, you can use that wisdom in all that you do for your business brand.

Having you branded your business? How did you find the process? What helped? What didn’t?

 

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Remove All Distractions

remove-all-distractions

 

It can be difficult to tune out the world around me, and focus on what I’m really doing. Whether I’m coordinating events, managing my shop, planning social media, or even simply replying to emails, things don’t always get done if I get distracted. My mind easily trails off and I find myself absorbed in the next task and forget to finish what I was doing…

I’m a believer in multi-tasking (I’ve written about the subject here), however there are times when a duty or obligation needs your full attention. I’m also a believer in minimalism, in aesthetics and in life practice. The theory of minimalism can be applied to all things: how you dress yourself, your approach to food, the spaces you create, and even how you work.

The excess, the “stuff”, the waste, the unnecessary is all removed. It might seem odd to apply this principle to your daily life and work processes, but it simplifies things and creates freedom for you to get it all done.

After the holiday break, I came back to a desk covered in ‘stuff’. Bills, invoices, paper work, and business cards created mountains around me – I went through the piles methodically, sorting things out, placing them in their proper piles or files, then creating a checklist and prioritizing my ‘things to do’….

But I couldn’t have done any of those things if I hadn’t removed all the distractions first.

  • Turn your phone off. Or place it on “airplane” mode. Put it in a drawer or a bag so you can’t be bothered with any notifications from any app. Do not place on “silent” only to hear incessant vibrations.
  • If you have to work on your computer and don’t need the internet, say if you’re a writer or have accounting work to do – turn off your wifi.
  • If you have to work online, close down any unnecessary program that may possibly distract you (mail programs, hoot suite, twitter, etc), as well as any browser windows that have nothing to do with your task at hand. Better yet, hide your bookmarks/favourites bar so you can’t be distracted.
  • No food, just lots of water. (If you’re hungry, take a break.) Eating while working leads to dirty fingers, spills, reaching for napkins, etc – which are all technically distractions. Make your meal an event unto itself, be French or Italian and be present for your meal, instead of stuffing it down your throat while working.
  • Music… this is a tricky one. Sometimes I work well without music, sometimes I need to listen to it to help me focus. Just be sure to not get distracted by creating playlists or changing it up all the time.

How do you remove distractions from your life?

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Note to Self: I CAN’T Do It All

I Just Can't

I can feel it.

Starting in the back of my neck, a pain, just in that crook above my right shoulder blade.

It starts to spread to the other side, as I’m hunched over my keyboard, multi-tasking my life away. Phones ringing, papers flying everywhere, it’s like the beginning of some movie where the bored-with-life cubicle-caged employee snaps and goes off on a spontaneous adventure.

My cage, however, is self-made. A desk that is smack dab in the middle of my home. Always there, always eyeing me, always letting me know that my to-do list is never done. No door to shut it away.

This IS my adventure.

I remind myself of that. I chose this. Well, not THIS current panic-driven state. But I chose to be self-employed, to create a business, and run it as best I can.

But there’s days that I simply can’t do it all. Days where absolutely everything goes wrong, and surprise – it’s my fault.

A simple math equation…

Everything Goes Wrong

I’m tired. My mind is constantly running around in circles, trying to remember the tasks that need to be done for all the different projects. I am constantly forgetting things. I am making mistakes, more often than not. I used to be the one catching others’ mistakes and being frustrated with their inability to do a simple math equation. How the tables have turned…

Step away…

I get up from my desk, breathing heavy because I just can’t. I can’t. So I step away, and make myself a coffee. Throw a load of laundry in, while eyeing the dirty pile in the hamper, and the clean pile in the laundry basket, all folded but not put away. The mirror in the bathroom has water spots, and I notice my eyebrows are out of control.

There’s not enough time.

I quickly clear off the bathroom counter, shoving everything in the drawers, this way and that, never to be found again. I drink my coffee and ignore a phone call on purpose, because I just can’t.

Five more minutes.

Do More Yoga

I should do more yoga. I should go out for a walk. I need to go for a run. I have a race to do in two weeks that I haven’t trained for. My nervous energy is driving me crazy. I feel like one of those joke cans full of snakes. You know the ones you saw on tv as a kid? “I can’t open this can of peanuts Dad!” “Here, let me do it!” and out pop a handful of toy snakes, surprising Dad and making everyone else laugh.

Instead my snakes are real, and crazed, full of venom, waiting for the chance to strike. Or that’s how it feels anyway.

Sssssssssss… Don’t pop that lid open…

A sink full of dishes greets me upstairs, and a kitchen counter full of the remains of breakfast and lunches made in a hurry. Throw it out, wipe it down, fill the sink some more. I curse the fact we don’t have a dishwasher, what was I thinking? I shove a bunch of almonds in my  mouth, not the healthy ones but the chocolate-covered kind, and get back to work.

Emails. Emails in all sixteen of my inboxes. All need attention. All require more than a one word answer as a response. I finally check the voicemail and realize the phone call I avoided an hour ago was rather important, and am now kicking myself for not answering it. Calls returned. Emails start to fall apart. I answer one, but not the other. I save a few in the Drafts folder, never to be found again.

I just can’t.

Back to Work

Back to working on some good old graphic design. Website formatting. CSS. But creativity is lacking. I look down and realize that I’m basically wearing pyjamas. Yoga pants and a loose top make me feel like I’m wearing clothes, but it’s the 21st century’s sweat suit. I haven’t done yoga in months. I’ve gained 5 pounds.

Which doesn’t sound like much, but after losing 30 pounds, ANY gain seems devastating. And causes me to immediately reach for chocolate, gummy worms, or a nice, cold, and well-deserved beer at the end of the day.

I need to work out more.

Is that the time? Kids are almost out of school. This is bullshit. Nothing has been completed. This is NEVER-ENDING. I distract myself by throwing the laundry in the dryer, and playing with my new labeller – because if I was more organized, my life would be MUCH easier, right?

Denial. Denial. Denial.

Get in the Mode

I finally get in “the mode”. The one where I actually complete things. Photoshop decides to work for once, the internet isn’t too slow, everything gets uploaded, things are being crossed off the checklist – and then the kids get home. Most days they’re great together, but some days…

I just get sick of hearing my shouting voice. My angry voice. The one that snaps because I can’t write a full sentence without hearing them bicker and argue over nothing. I make them dinner, clean the kitchen, give them baths, get them ready for bed, and start to write down my to-do list for the next day.

I finally return some emails. I finally send things off to the printer. I finally clean my desk off. Finally. Finally. Finally. I know I can’t do it all, but I’m going to damn well try and I’m going to feel good about it.

And then I make the mistake of going on Facebook. There’s nothing worse. Instagram is lovely. Twitter is chaotic and boring. Pinterest can be fun. But Facebook?

Just kill me now.

Pesky Snakes

Between the politicos, the braggarts, and the whiners, there are those “friends” on Facebook that are actually living life. LIVING. Not just breathing and going through the motions. They’re travelling, and cooking, and exploring, and pushing themselves through new and amazing journeys. I remember occasionally feeling like that was me.

But for now? I’m pushing myself to work as hard as I can, for as short a time as possible, so I can come out on TOP and create something GREAT and AMAZING and FULFILLING – and then, once that happens, I can be an ADVENTURER again. I can travel, and try new foods, and go exploring in the woods again. Free as a bird spreading my wings and soaring into the distance.

But for now?

I just have to deal with those snakes.

xo

M

 

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The Lie of the Work-Life Balance when Starting a New Business

female-entrepreneur

Female entrepreneurs everywhere are bombarded with PR-friendly messages like “Create the life you want – on your terms!” and “Thrive in work AND in life”. The promises of creating your own work hours, growing a business with joy and creativity, and achieving a healthy and happy work-life balance encourages women everywhere to quit their jobs and become entrepreneurs. One thing all of these messages forget to remind us is that all this is possible – with a shitload of hard work.

There seems to be this common misconception that “working for yourself” means that you  set aside a few hours each day to work on “your business” and the remaining hours are filled with blissful pleasures like spending time with your family, enjoying an impromptu  yoga class, and taking long hikes in the woods. I’ve recently been met with raised eyebrows from friends and acquaintances who are surprised when I don’t have time for them or other commitments.

I’ve been saying “No” more often but only because every “Yes” has been given to my new business venture. My priorities are business first, pleasure second – and that’s that. There’s no way around it right now, and sometimes it’s because I’m on a roll and have a million ideas and thoughts that need to be put to work right away – and other times it’s because I’m so overwhelmed by everything and am struggling to catch up with the all-encompassing to-do list that comes along with birthing a new business.

I’ve been given a lot of advice lately. A LOT. Most of it comes from a good place. Most of it comes from women. And most of it tries to guilt me into stepping back from my business endeavours to focus on my family, my home, and my husband (who I also don’t see because he’s helping me as much as he can after his own work hours). I get where these women are coming from, and I know that they mean well – I promise, I do!

So much so, that I’ve been working on “quality time” with the kids, rather then a large quantity of time. Simply put, I try to make sure that the time we spend together is worthwhile and memorable. And although date nights have all but vanished, my husband & I might sneak away to an impromptu lunch date when we’re in the same area.

But there’s one thing that bothers me about all of this… If I were a man, would I feel the need to justify my business ventures? Would I be stressing the importance of quality time with the kids? Would I be ensuring people that I’m taking care of myself? Do men worry about their work-life balance?

Short answer: No.

Be it traditional or societal values, but men don’t seem to have to rationalize their business choices to anyone. If a man has to be away from his children for business, or if he’s working night and day to start a new business endeavour – that’s okay. That’s more than okay! But if a women prioritizes her business efforts before everything else, it feels wrong. There’s this need for balance between family, home, and work life.

But when you’re starting a business from scratch – there is no balance. You can’t sugar coat it. There is no 8-hour day, not even a 4-hour day – it’s 20-hour days of designing a business you are going to love. It’s hard fucking work. And no one else is going to do it but you. My to-do lists are huge – every. single. day. I squeeze in coffee breaks with friends, I make dinner time with the family special, but I am working my ass off, and I absolutely love it.

The balance will come. The ability to work short (but efficient) hours will come. The days where you work hard and play hard will come. But not right now. Right now is the time for effort. For hard work. For pushing yourself outside of your boundaries. For making yourself uncomfortable. For doing things you never thought you’d be able to do – and doing them well! It will not be easy. You will burn out. You will be exhausted. But in the end, you will be satisfied.

So please, when you’ve stumbled upon yet another life or business coach’s website that praises being an entrepreneur for the work-life balance, be sure that somewhere in the fine print there’s an acknowledgement that:

“WORK-LIFE BALANCE WILL ONLY BE ACHIEVED WITH A LOT OF HARD FUCKING WORK AND TIME.”

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