Why I Ditched LinkTree & the Simple Solution I Use Instead

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OK friends.  I'm here to tell you that you do NOT need to do all the things.  Or jump on the bandwagon of every new app or tool out there.

For those of my fellow creative business owners who use Instagram for business purposes, many of you have probably heard of a tool called LinkTree.

For those of you who haven't, LinkTree allows you to create button styled links that can be changed up on a moments notice.  Sure it is convenient, and especially useful for any of you who don't yet have a website.  {For the purpose of our conversation, I am going to assume most of you already have websites.} The free version also shows you very basic analytics on how many folks clicked on your buttons.

But if you truly want to customize your color scheme, remove the LinkTree logo and/or receive advanced analytics about your link engagement, you are going to have to sign up for their pro plan at $6/month.  Now that doesn't sound like much.  BUT so many other apps and services are going to subscription based models, and these "little" monthly costs can add up quickly.  Am I right? 

Besides $6 is an extra fancy coffee drink.

And if you have a website, you want to use those precious link clicks to drive traffic THERE, not a third party app or service.  So we are going to dive in and I'm going to show you how to do just that.  I'll showing you how to set this up on SquareSpace, but the broad concepts should translate to other website platforms as well.  Are you ready get started?

 DISCLAIMER: What I am sharing here is what worked for me.  If you choose to give it a try, great.  But you take full responsibility for the results and any repercussions on your site.  This also assumes you have a basic understanding of how to navigate your web platform.

DISCLAIMER: What I am sharing here is what worked for me.  If you choose to give it a try, great.  But you take full responsibility for the results and any repercussions on your site.  This also assumes you have a basic understanding of how to navigate your web platform.

STEP 1: SET UP A NEW PAGE

Log in to your Squarespace site and pull up the Pages sidebar.  Create a brand new page under the Not Linked section.  This means your new page will not show up in any of your navigation menus. Choose a blank page template and hit save.  I recommend you title your page something like "social", "social links", "hello" or something else that's short and friendly.

You will notice your page will still have your site header and footer showing.  We are going to hide these in Step 2.  Most lead type pages do not show your website header and footer information because you want folks to focus on what your page is offering.  {Incidentally, this is the exact same strategy I use to set up my own lead pages on SquareSpace!}

STEP 2: HIDE YOUR HEADER & FOOTER

This part requires a little CSS know how.  I am no coder and have completely bumbled around until I figured out the right set up that works for me.  If I can do it, so can you!

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Pull up your page settings (the little gear icon when you hover over the page link on the left hand menu bar) and click on the advanced tab.  Now the exact CSS coding may vary slightly by theme.  The fastest way to find out the right #element name is to right click on that element and choose the "Inspect Element" option.  Simply switch out the # if need be.

In your Page Header Code Injection copy and paste this:

<style>#header { display: none; } #header-controls {display:none;} #footer { display: none !important; }
  #preFooter {display:none;}
</style>

If you want to customize the color of your link buttons to something other than you site's default options, use the following code instead.  Change out the color hex codes ( i.e. the #9bbec5) to your preferred color.  You can find out your color code using a color finder like this free online tool here: http://hslpicker.com/

<style>#header { display: none; } #header-controls {display:none;} #footer { display: none !important; }
  #preFooter {display:none;}
.sqs-block-button .sqs-block-button-element--small {    background-color: #9bbec5 !important; border-color: #9bbec5 !important;}
</style>

Save your new settings and the header and footer should magically disappear from your social page.

STEP 3: ORGANIZE YOUR LINKS + SET-UP LINK TRACKING

Using a spreadsheet, gather and organize your links.  It takes a few minutes but will make your life SO much easier, you will thank me later- I promise!  I recommend a setup like this... this tracks the link purpose, link text, link itself and the link we will be using so we can see the analytics.  You could also add more colums to keep track of those analytics and progress.  This is a screen shot of my actual file in Google Sheets.  Fill in the first 3 columns with links and information you will want to feature. You may not want to feature them all at one time, but having them organized in a central setting makes it easy to swap out and stay organized so you can track your numbers over the long haul.

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Once your spreadsheet is set up, open a new browser window and head over to https://bitly.com/.  Snag yourself a free account if you don't already use the service.  Use the information on your spreadsheet to create bit links that mirror the name and link destination so you can easily track your engagement. 

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Copy the bit.ly link and paste into the 4th column.  Now we are ready to create the actual page!

STEP 4: DESIGN YOUR SOCIAL LINK LANDING PAGE

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Start by adding your logo as a photo.  It will be huge, but no worries.  Add a content block spacer to either side and then adjust until the logo is centered and a reasonable size.  Click the bottom dot of the spacer content block and drag until they are acting like long vertical margins.

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Under the logo, start inserting button blocks.  I recommend using the small button as it is more phone friendly.  Center the text.  Keep adding buttons until you have all your links loaded. Make sure you use the bit.ly link so you can track your engagement.  What you can measure, you can grow and perfect.

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Finish it off with a Social Links content block to make all your contact details relevant. And don't forget to save your hard work.  When you want to update this page simply pull out your spreadsheet and delete or add buttons as necessary.

STEP 5: ADD THIS PAGE ADDRESS AS THE LINK IN YOUR INSTAGRAM BIO

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And there you have it friends!  Your very own FREE branded version of LinkTree. 

If you aren't yet, follow me over on Instagram @dmicheleperry for inspiration, brand education and wholehearted encouragement.

How to Find & Use Great Photography to Build Your Brand

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I have a confession to make.

I'm a little bit of a digital photography hoarder.  I have terabytes of photos.  Some are my own.  Some are from stock subscriptions.  Many are from the growing number of sites where photographers give their photos away. 

Gorgeous amazing photos that are offered free of charge and free of restriction.  If you can't take your own relevant image, unrestricted photos are the way to go.

But there is a method to using these images well.  Every image is not equal.  Every image is not relevant.  Some are beautiful photography, but simply do not fit your brand vibe. 

1. Find Your Brand Aesthetic

Before you can find or create images that will fit your brand aesthetic, you have to know what that aesthetic is.  What is you signature "look"?  Are you moody or airy, minimal or feminine, dark or bright?

Clean + Bright

Vintage + Moody

 A screen grab of  @TwinSparrowCo , who makes the most gorgeous leather key chains + illustrated notebooks

A screen grab of @TwinSparrowCo, who makes the most gorgeous leather key chains + illustrated notebooks

Light + Airy

 A screen grab of  @LisaSilvaPhotography , an incredible fine art wedding photographer + sweet friend

A screen grab of @LisaSilvaPhotography, an incredible fine art wedding photographer + sweet friend

There is a reason why we can recognize Anthropologie or Calvin Klein or Target.  They have a look.  And it is consistent.  What is your look?  What sets you apart?  If you aren't sure or haven't nailed that bit down, pause and go surf Instagram.  Take note of the accounts with looks that light you up inside.  What about the look stands out to you?  Analyze it.  Why does it speak to you?  Find at least 3 accounts with looks you love, that feel like you'd fit into.  Make notes.  Then create some aesthetic guidelines for your own imagery.  Use these guidelines to determine whether an image is a good brand fit or not for your visuals.

I love Twin Sparrow Co's look.  I love it all the way to my toes and back.  But it is not my aesthetic.  Where as Lisa's look is much closer to my own.  (Go follow them on Instagram.  They are amazing.)

2. Understand What Types of Images There Are & How You Can Use Them

Gone is the time you can hop on Google Image search and just pull an image out of the internet stratosphere.  If you are going to be using images in your social media and in your blogging for your business, it is really important to know how you can use them legally.  This is not an exhaustive list, in no way meant to be legal advice or meant to cover every circumstance. That said here are a few of the most common photo usage scenarios.

  • PHOTOS YOU HAVE TAKEN:  They are yours!  You can use them however you like.
  • PHOTOS PHOTOGRAPHERS HAVE TAKEN: If paid, make sure you have permission to use them online and specify what they will be used for.  Get permission in writing. If done in collaboration, again specify what is and is not acceptable, preferably in writing.  In both cases, clearly credit the photographer and get permission to edit if you are going to need to do so.  Seriously.  Ask first. 
  • STOCK PHOTOS PURCHASED ONLINE: Make sure you read the license agreement and honor it.  Most stock photo sites require crediting, though some do not.
  • PHOTOS YOU FIND ON PINTEREST:  Just nabbing a photo from Pinterest without researching it first is bad form.  Find out where it came from and get permission before using it.  Make sure you credit it clearly as well.
  • PHOTOS YOU FIND THROUGH GOOGLE, FLICKR OR SEARCHES: Unless clearly marked otherwise, assume the image is copyright protected.  Some photos will have permissions to share with credit or other qualifications for usage.
  • PHOTOS THAT ARE CC0 OR COPYRIGHT FREE: Crediting is appreciate but not required.  You can edit these photos and use them however you like! This is where we are going to focus from here on out.

3. Where to Find Amazing CC0 Images for FREE

There is a whole counter stock photography movement where incredible photographers offer gorgeous images free of restriction.  They give them away.  Below are a few of my favorite CC0 image sites.  There is some overlap of certain content but all 3 are worth perusing.

  • UNSPLASH.COM: This is arguable my favorite.  The images are consistently high quality.  Sign up for an account to like photos and organize them into your own collections (like folders).  You can also surf other folks collections.  It is very easy to get lost in all the beauty.
  • PIXABAY.COM: This is largest collection of CC0 images that I am aware of online.  There are a greater selection to chose from but the quality varies a bit more.  But you can search and narrow results by color, file type and orientation which can be really helpful.
  • PEXELS.COM: A smaller collection but absolutely beautiful.

OTHER PLACES TO FIND CC0 IMAGES:  These sites have a wide range of quality and subject matter.  Always double check the image license if there is any doubt.

4. How to Make CC0 Images Work for Your Brand

Here are some tips to make the most out of the CC0 images you find.  Some of these also can be applied to purchased royalty-free stock photography, just always double check the usage agreement for any restrictions.

  • Edit the tonality, brightness and crop of the image.  My aesthetic is very bright and clean, with some pops of color.  I use SnapSeed on my phone to do the first round of edits and usually bump up the brightness and highlights of the image at a minimum.  The second round of phone edits usually happens in Instagram's native editor before posting.
  • Add words using Canva.com or an app on your phone like WordSwag.
  • Use the images to tell the visual part of a story and your caption written in your brand voice to tell the rest.
  • Create a consistent narrative both with your visuals and your voicing.  When in doubt, leave it out.
  • Intersperse CC0 or Royalty-Free stock photos with your original content to keep your feed fresh, unique and relevant.

5. Beautiful, Affordable Royalty-Free Stock Photography

These images are gorgeous and won't break the budget.  And there are no affilite links here, I'm just sharing what I love.

On Name Changes & Other Transitions

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Creative business is nothing if not a journey.

Over the last 20 years, ideas, names, products and focal points have all grown and changed with me.  Some people wonder when I will settle down and just do one thing.  I'm just not wired like that and if you are in creative business there is a good chance you aren't either.  I'm here to tell you that is more than OK.  It is a hidden strength, an ability to adapt and pivot, to flow with change and spot places where your gift can bridge gaps and meet needs.

I've never been comfortable building a brand around my name alone.  It is common and in some cases even advisable.  But for me in where this journey has unexpectedly started to turn, it has become about building something bigger than me, my personality, or my style.

If you are feeling stuck in your current brand or business, take time to step out from working in your business to working on it.  What is making you feel stuck?  Is you brand still congruent with your purpose, that focal point that makes your heart come alive?  Is your brand too small?  Is it reflective of where you are going, or only where you have been?

Change is the creative constant. And you have permission to embrace it with intention.

In some cultures, a significant life change or season change is accompanied by a change of name.  Naming is a powerful thing.  It is the power to call forth identity and purpose, as well as to recognize when identity has grown and purpose has shifted.

The car accident that broke my wrist and rearranged my brain was a life event that will forever be a watershed moment.  There is a before and an after.  I am still working to come to terms with the after.  This has been one of the hardest things I've ever walked through.  I want my brain back.  I want to be able to think and read and research and find joy in all the synapses firing like I did before. 

I don't want to look at words having to choke back dread and fight back fog.  Words have been my oldest friends and I want that friendship back.  I'm muddling just trying to get through most days.  And I'm grieving that which has been stolen through other people's careless negligence.  Every single day I'm fighting to keep my head above water and to breathe.  And to gain even a millimeter of ground back.

In some ways, this business re-brand and re-naming is a battle cry.  Designed to Thrive.  A heart cry of purpose.  To offer resources to help you THRIVE, not strive or survive, but THRIVE doing what you love bringing joy and life to those you serve.

If something is not working or fitting correctly with your business or project, you have the ability to change it.  Need a professional sounding board?  Check out my Creative Espresso Strategy Sessions. You get a targeted, focused hour where I help you clarify your dreams, evaluate your branding, develop your action plan, look over your online strategy and encourage your heart.  Interested in finding out more?

 

 

When the Road Turns {On Creative Resilience}

on creative resilience

It happens.  You are excited for one journey.  You are ALL in.  Invested.  The wind in your face as you move forward.  Filled with hope and expectation and all that burns bright against the dark of the unknown ahead.  Then there comes a turn in the road you could have never seen coming.  In an instant everything changes and suddenly you are on a journey you would have never chosen.  But you weren't given that choice.  Now the only choice that remains is how you respond to this new road ahead.  What do you do?

January 27th I was returning from a speaking engagement out of state.  On the way home from the airport, I was in a major car crash that left me with a broken wrist, severely injured hand (and of course it was my dominant lettering/painting/writing everything hand/wrist), and a traumatic brain injury.  In the weeks that followed, everything I had built my business on came apart at the seams.  Piece by piece screaming as it was peeled away and I lay in dimly lit silent room unable to do anything to stop it. 

When you have a 100% service based business and you are not able to serve your clients, the business meets a rapid demise.  These last months have been some of the hardest in my life.  And the hard is far from over.  Many medical challenges lie ahead for the foreseeable future.

 ↑ Think this might encourage someone you know?&nbsp; Share it on Pinterest with your tribe.

↑ Think this might encourage someone you know?  Share it on Pinterest with your tribe.

Success is not measured by how we handle the expected turns in the road, but by how we pivot to embrace the unexpected ones.   

The ability to pivot and embrace change is a core part of developing creative resilience.   The ability to look at a crisis and see opportunity rather than defeat. If we cannot change the situation we are in, perhaps it is time to change the way we see that situation.

My business got stripped back down to foundation level.  It doesn't get more open than that friends. (Remember that openness is my word for 2018?)  Would I fight to rebuild what I had before or would I fight to build something I love even more? 

I'm going for more. And it has changed my entire business model.  I have had much time in a dim room to ponder and reflect on my options.  Some days I still do.  Who'd've thought bad brain day would become part of my working vocabulary?  Not me, that's for sure.

But out of this season of struggle are coming some beautiful things. 

I've shifted my business model from being primarily service-based (branding/web design/coaching) to focusing on creating educational, inspirational and practical resources for some of my favorite people in the whole wide world: YOU.  Creatives & entrepreneurs.  (I still will be doing limited stationery at WWhimsyPaperCo.com as my injured wrist allows + other design work here on a limited case by case basis). 

Product-based businesses are scalable & sustainable in ways service-based business are not.  And that is really exciting. (I learned this one the really hard way.)

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I'm in the middle of creating and launching a new brand called Designed to Thrive™... And everything I'm pouring my heart, soul, time and strength into is designed to help you live wholeheartedly, thrive extravagantly and build a brand that matters.  We are talking digital tools, online courses, a totally unique and new way to embrace business planning and strategy designed especially for creatives, innovators and entrepreneurs... complete with supportive community and so much more.

Let me leave you with a few questions to think through.  Now one likes to entertain worst case scenarios, but sometimes they happen.  Prepared is better than perplexed.

If you were taken out of your current business model overnight and could not work or be present at all to meet existing deadlines or client needs:

  • How long would your business last without you? A week, a month, 4 months?
  • Are there some simple tweaks you can put in place now that would give you more buffer time?
  • If you are a service business (as I was), can you translate aspects of your services into products that can be monetized in a way to create a passive income flow?
  • Do you have a contingency plan on what you would do if your were taken out of commission unexpectedly?  (I didn't and it cost me dearly.)
  • Have you looked into forms of insurance that could help mitigate these type of losses?

Shiny Object Syndrome

We have ALL been there friend.

You go into the store for one thing and come back with 5.  Please tell me I'm not the only one this happens to.

Shiny object syndrome is a reality in business as well.  Any other opt-in hoarders, um collectors, out there?  I have a folder.  And they all land there in the digital abyss never to be seen again for the most part.  And then there are the gems I sign up for twice for.

From Facebook campaigns to email lists to graphic bundling sites, every one is in a mad clamor for your attention, your time and eventually your money.  By the end of 2017, I had over 200 emails a day coming in from things I had opted in for.  I only read two of them. 

Starting last week, I've been on a mission to declutter my world.  Getting 200 emails a day all telling me I needed to buy this or listen to that or implement these 15.7 steps to 7 figure success was stressful and exhausting.  I unsubscribed from everything.  And resigned up for the 2 emails I actually read.

Shiny object syndrome (SOS) is a real thing in business.  Especially for entrepreneurs.  It goes after how we are wired.  We are the early adopters, the ones excited about change, the innovators always looking for the better way to get things done.  But SOS commandeers those strengths and turns them into distractions that confuse team members, make it difficult to finish projects, lead to planning lapses and that burn holes in our bottom lines.

I get it.  At one point while I was living in Africa, I had 10 websites.  Yep 10 websites.  Every new idea I flirted with wound up with a brand, a business plan and its own shiny new spot on the world wide web.  There was my personal blog, my art site, my organizational platform, an idea for a fundraising strategy, a blog for social enterprise, well you get the idea.  Eventually everyone, including me, was confused at what I was doing.  #designerproblems

More is not always merrier.  New is not always necessary.

Here are some things I am committed to with my business to keep it on track growing toward sustainable profitability:

 ↑ Think this might be helpful someone you know?&nbsp; Share it on Pinterest with your tribe.

↑ Think this might be helpful someone you know?  Share it on Pinterest with your tribe.

  • Not every idea needs to be acted on.  And almost never immediately.  Write it down and literally put in on a shelf to let it simmer.  Research it.  Write down pros/cons and costs/benefits.  Then let it simmer some more.
  • If you have a team you work with, get together and bat ideas around.  Inspect them from every angle.  Play critic as well as cheerleader.  If you don't have a team, grab some friends and fix that.
  • Go through your subscriptions and cancel all of them you don't read.  And cancel all the apps you don't actively use.
  • If you have marketing emails {graphic bundle sites I'm looking at you} that lead to leakage from your budget, unsubscribe.  Set boundaries that govern your buying of company assets.  No deal is a good deal if you don't actually need it.
  • Stay in your lane focused on what you have been given to do.  Not on what the latest algorithm-busting-short-cut is to get more followers.

How do you stay focused in an online world that competes for your attention?  Any tips you've found really helpful?  Share away in the comments so we can all grow together.

Branding Is More Than Your Logo

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What's the first thing that comes to mind when you heard the word "branding"?  A logo?  A color scheme?  If you said yes, you are not alone.  That's why so many people outsource their brand design to a graphic designer only to wind up frustrated with the results. Most graphic designers are not also brand and business strategists.

And we don't have time for you to be frustrated or for you to not get a great return on your investment, right?

 So here is a little post explaining the differences between branding, marketing and design and how they all play a winning game together.  {Yup, I'm using a sports analogy.  I promise it has nothing to do with watching my hometown Jacksonville Jaguars crush their NFL playoffs in the background.}

Let's break it down.

Branding is about who you are.  Marketing is about creating awareness & attracting attention based on and highlighting who you are & what you offer. Graphic design is the process, skills and tools used to create the visual elements of your brand identity and marketing campaigns.  

Branding is about identity. Marketing is about information. Branding is about big picture strategy. Marketing is about metrics and tactical goals to implement that strategy.
 

Branding shapes marketing, not the other way around.  You have to know who you are before you can boldly introduce who you are to the world.

Another way to look at it is that marketing is the vehicle used to deliver your brand message to your target audience. Marketing is ever changing and evolving as the channels for your message change over time.  Your brand however remains constant, clear, recognizable.

Branding is central and primary to every other marketing tactic.  It actually defines which tools and tactics your company should use.  Branding creates and cultivates customer experience and expectations. It is the base upon which customer loyalty is built and anchored.

For marketing to be truly successful it must be rooted in a strong brand identity.  {No matter how well you are pitched, please do not invest in expensive marketing tactics until you have a solid brand strategy to guide their use.}

While brand strategists and consultants can play invaluable roles helping you define and develop your brand, your brand itself cannot be outsourced. 

 Find this helpful?&nbsp; ↑Share the love on Pinterest.

Find this helpful?  ↑Share the love on Pinterest.

You can't outsource your brand because can’t outsource who you are.  Branding infuses everything you and your team members say and do. Every interaction, every decision is either strengthening or weakening your brand. 

Marketing, however, can and often should be outsourced to firms who specialize in handling practical tactics and detailed implementation, after a strategy congruent to your brand identity has been chosen.

Graphic designers that may not understand brand strategy can still design you beautiful visual elements.  But without the strategy to inform those designs, you might not be communicating the right message to the right people.

BRANDING

  • Identity
  • Big picture strategy
  • Shapes marketing
  • Central & primary
  • Cannot be fully outsourced, you can't outsource who you are
  • Driver of organizational culture

MARKETING

  • Information
  • Metrics & tactics to implement strategy & measure impact
  • Vehicle used to deliver brand message to target audience
  • Can and often should be outsourced

GRAPHIC DESIGN

  • Image creation & design implementation
  • Determined by brand strategy & marketing goals
  • Can and often should be outsourced

The truth is: you ARE a brand.  Whether you want one or not, you are a brand that is added to or detracted from with every decision, choice and action you take

Your graphics are not your brand, but they are an incredibly important part of your brand.  Your graphics are a visual execution of your brand identity that let's you communicate with you customer base.

The problem is in the mad rush to attract customers, do our thing and beat the bottom line, sometimes we rush right past what may be the most important part of all: clearly defining who we are.

Great branding is about authentic story-telling and clear, creative communication that reflects accurately your identity to your audience.  Great branding invites your customers to become an integral part of your story line. Because they are.  Integral.  To everything.  Your customer is always the hero of your story.

Branding is the soul of your company, your organization and your work.  It affects every area of your business.  From marketing to organizational culture, your brand story will drive both customer and employee experience.

That’s why you should never trust your brand development to a straight-up marketing firm unless they have a dedicated branding division with proven track record of helping their clients discover who they are at deeper levels and building congruent visual identities and brand strategies.

Many marketing firms say they have branding divisions.  But they don’t.  They have graphic design divisions.  If your “branding expert” isn’t asking you soul searching questions that unlock more of who you are, there is a good chance you might not be dealing with a true branding expert. 

Marketing pushes may bring new customers to come in your door but they will do little to keep customers coming back.  Your brand identity is what causes new customers to become loyal consumer advocates of who you are.

If your brand is not authentically defined and artfully designed, marketing efforts will become a cost center instead of an income generator. While some may debate the finer differences, branding is strategic while marketing is tactical and metric.  

Strategy defines tactics, not the other way around.  Who you are shapes what you do and everything else.

 

Why Openness is My Word for 2018

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It is hard to believe my calendar is now reading 2018.  2017 was a white-knuckled roller coaster ride of year.  But I'm getting ahead of myself.

I've started and stopped this blog and restarted and stopped it again.  I think it took me a year of finding my footing in this new season to really even know what I had to write about.  I'm a big believer in not throwing words on a screen just because it is good for my SEO or bottom line.

Words to me are sacred things.  Time is the most valuable treasure we have and I am not willing to waste either-- words or time.  If it doesn't add genuine value and bring encouragement, I'm just not going to do it.

There are HEAPS of amazing blogs out there on entrepreneurship, on creativity, on creative entrepreneurship, on branding and marketing and there is so much information swirl it is easy to feel like you are caught in a conceptual rip tide of advice and insight.

And I did not, I do not want to add to the current.  After a year of trial and error and a lot of soul-searching, this space is now dedicated to serving you with Encouragement + Insight for Creatives + Entrepreneurs. 

A place to share this journey into wholehearted entrepreneurship with you in hope that it will inspire your own.  A place to be real and raw and lay it all out on the proverbial table.   A place to share what I am learning and insights that I pray will pour courage into your creative soul and put actionable tools in your hand to build your business.  A place to forge community rooted in authenticity.  A place to know you are not alone.  Not ever.

On Jan 3, 2017 I first published this website and went all in on launching this dream full time.  Now a year later it is becoming what it is meant to be, and myself with it.  The journey to embrace our story and become who we really are might be the bravest journey of all.

 ↑ Share this with friends on Pinterest and invite others to join the conversation

↑ Share this with friends on Pinterest and invite others to join the conversation

You do know it is more than OK to try things and then change them and try again until you find what fits, right?  No one expects you to nail it the first time out of the gate.  You might.  But it is really OK if you don't.  Just keep trying.

I chose COURAGEOUS as my word for 2017.  Every little step in the right direction, was a victory of courage and grace.  It has been a year that left stretch marks on my soul.  New things have a way of doing that. 

In 2013, health issues and organizational changes forced me to walk away from 130 children I thought I would raise for the rest of my life.  It forced me to move out of the home I had built in the heart of a conflict zone in South Sudan.  I wound up back in the USA with every single dream I had poured my life into for 7+ years stripped away.  And let me tell you, when that happens friend, the hardest journey I have ever taken has been the one back to choosing to dream again.

Maybe you've had a dream taken away, something you've built pulled out from under you, a life direction change, a lost job or career, a betrayal of trust... something you can't change and feel you could never return from.  But you can keep going.  We need you to keep going.

For 2018, my word is OPENNESS.  What a word it is turning out to be.  I want this to be a year where I live with my heart wide open to dream, to step out into the possibilities opening around, to live authentic with my soul on fire, to not be penned up by past loss or grief or pain.  It is a risky word to embrace.  But it is even more risky to live with a heart that is shut up in the name of safety.

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I took a little New Year social media hiatus to take that time to put as much TLC into stewarding my own story, my own brand, my own growth as I do for my clients. And something magical has happened. All the dislocated pieces of my journey these last 5 years, the crushing pain of loss and threads of purpose, passion and platform came together... woven in front of my eyes into what can only be termed redemption.

What if your deepest setback was simply the setup for your greatest comeback?


Our setbacks can truly become the stage for our greatest comebacks. Our deepest sorrows the seeds of our most profound joy. How could that perspective reframe and transform the struggles you have walked or are walking through?  That's what I hope and pray for each of you friends this year. A joy that is rooted deep in your creative purpose. And now I'm going to tuck back away and finish this website (and client deadlines) because I cannot wait to open this space and invite you in, that we all may flourish together.  You are wildly loved.

How about you friend: what is your word for 2018?  Do you have an action plan for walking it out? Are you excited?  Scared?  Hopeful?

{Pop down to the comments and let me know!  I want to hear about YOUR word for 2018.}