Feb Recap: A Month of Decisions

I know there’s lots to do. I really do know this, and I also know I should just get started on something. But it’s Saturday and I feel like I’ve not written for days and also the new series of House of Cards has just come out. And the other thing? Oh, the wedding! Yes, I’m also still preparing for a wedding. This blog tends to be mostly focused on my business goals and struggles and successes, and I don’t want to drive it away from that too much. But on the other hand, it’s so evident that your personal life can totally affect the results and successes in your business. So here is a quick February recap:

  1. I made a new friend through this blog, even though I don’t publicise it very much at all. Tammy runs a language school in Shenandoah Valley and interviewed me for her podcast. I love Tammy’s transparent, open, positive approach to business and I’m so glad we connected.
  2. I fell out with my seamstress, learnt something about how I want people to communicate with me (and what can go wrong when they don’t) and finally decided that I have to take some drastic wedding dress action. Within the course of the last week I put my original dress up for sale, visited four bridal shops, tried on every sample going and bought another dress. It’s been stressful, but again it taught me something really valuable, which is this:

    When it comes down to brass tacks (an expression I only have just learnt) I can totally make a decision. Decision making is what I got completely stuck on when purchasing dress 1, and it generally is something I do not do well. I hate excluding options, I hate trusting my gut, I don’t know how to say no. But when you have a week to buy a wedding dress because you simply do not want to go on looking, you get on with it.

    I used to have this technique of scoring my options on made-up categories, which I dug out again yesterday. Totally works for me. LISTS. Also, this might be the world’s greatest worksheet. And come May, I am going to look like I’m wearing a cloud.

  3. My Savvy Brand Academy launch isn’t succeeding in the way that I would like it to succeed, so I’m having to adjust here and go with plan B: A cool self-paced option, adjusted messaging to return to my original target group, and again basically making a decision. The amount of times I say that appealing to everyone means connecting with no one! Time for me to make a stand.
  4. Taking action is cool! I’m challenging myself to speak in public 10 times before the start of June – so far 2 webinars are done, and the third one is running on Monday. I’ve also held a workshop on Blogging and have interest for a second one that I’m bringing out later in March. I’ve learnt how to run Facebook ads, and I love how this is growing my community and saving time. The problem that I do run into right now is that a lot of my activity on visibility becomes disjointed as I haven’t got a clear product or programme to promote. Savvy Brand Academy is closing its doors next week and going self-paced, which requires a good bunch of work behind the scenes. If you happen to be someone wanting to build your online teaching brand, contact me and let me use you as a guinea pig.
  5. Another decision made: I’m going to face up to VAT MOSS. I’m going to get a VAT number. I’m going to take those damn hurdles that were thrown at digital entrepreneurs and try to make it work. Bastards. I’m also going to keep campaigning, writing to parliamentary representatives and raising my voice because just because the law hasn’t changed yet I still think it could be improved. In fact it must be improved. Please keep an eye on this awesome blog.

For the coming month, I am not really ready to set goals as such. I have no new initiatives, instead I need to take this time to ride out the ones I set in motion earlier in the year. Adapting Savvy Brand Academy, running the planned workshops and figuring out my 1-to-1 offerings will be enough to handle in one month. And that’s just the business side before things really do get wedding-serious and exciting.

What have you got planned, and how was your Feb?

Energised Post of Learning and Optimism

Ahh, there’s something about doing a lot of writing in the day job that really doesn’t lend itself to “leisure blogging” sometimes, but hey guys here I am! I’ve returned from my great US trip motivated and energised, and just strongly hoping that I’m gonna be able to keep this up. The therapeutic effects of a conference like Pioneer Nation just must be explained for a second: I honestly felt like this place was the first time I found myself in a room full of people who are (kind of) just like me. We don’t like having a boss, we have an urge to make or create things, we want to see stuff get better, and it’s just…I always thought those were the weird things about me. If you haven’t picked up on this from reading my blog yet, then let me tell you: I love finding a fault in myself. When things went “to plan” in my life, this wasn’t really too disabling. I was okay with just ploughing on and staying in the belief that I’m probably a bit rubbish, but no one’s really noticed yet. But then things started going more wrong – my workload increased and increased, and like a true little trooper I tried to keep up, until I broke. The bosses were happy to go along with me blaming me. Now I’m the boss and need to remember this is a pattern I’m liable to repeat.

I’m forever learning more about how it’s okay to be just okay, not amazing all the time. And that this is part of accepting something else: If I have a personality that is vocal, enthusiastic in happiness (and sadness), creative (but flighty) and really quick at drawing conclusions (but indecisive), then that is also okay. That’s me. Being in this conference made me feel validated, happy and supported, and I need to carry it into everyday life.

Now that I’m returning to the UK, I’m really trying to make notes and draw conclusions about what I want from life. One aspect of seeing so many self-employed people who have made a living doing things that they’re best at was that I am sort of beginning to feel like I am approaching the point of knowing what else I’m good for besides teaching German.

So anyway, this is a ramble and what I want to get to is also the GOALS update of course! Let’s plough through these – some amazing things are happening.

Main guidelines for 2014, as learnt on this trip

  • I need to make myself happy first
  • That means doing things that make me happy
  • And not judging those things
  • And that means not telling myself I “should be working” or “should not be spending money on this”

Goal updates

1) Online Business

Well, this one has been massively interesting. Obviously, Pioneer Nation was full of training and information about all sorts of online business aspects. There were course creation, info products, sales pages, you name it. And I did a thing I’ve not really done before: I asked someone else to look at my website and critique it! What could’ve been more useful than someone else asking me “What do you want people to do when they see your website?” MAN! So useful. I love it. And the strangest thing is, once I had thought about it from that point of view and put some changes in (I want people to sign up to my mailing list first and foremost, and secondly I want them to ask me to teach them German), the tinkering level went down. So in other words, that bit was good.

This also means that the affiliate adverts went away. I had not even realised how much I was distracting people from the heart of what I’m doing – and essentially how I was putting other people’s products ahead of anything I could come out with. Guess why? Yep. My thought default is that I’m crap. Say “impostor complex”, will you?

2) Blogging Training

Shine Online is probably more of a “Lights Out Offline”, in other words we’ll have to cut our losses and move on. I’ve already dealt with any thoughts about whether someone like me can lead courses like that and decided that yes, I can, so at this stage I honestly don’t feel too bad. The course set-up was complicated and today I saw some serious admin problems on the host’s side of things that just could not have been fixed unless I was holding the event myself. I won’t go into too much detail, except to say that both trainers have been left pretty disappointed, and not about the sign up rates. I have learnt something useful which is that it’s better to be in charge of your own crap sometimes. I will tell my inner Type A person. She’ll be pleased.

BUT BUT BUT, wait, let me tell you the good news. I am recruiting for a small online seminar, which I truly am in charge of all by myself. It’s called Fresh Content. I’ve got only 2 places left on it, which means great things, and is something I came up with after talking to people and getting a feel for what sounded good to them. I’m really nervous about it, because I think the audience for this one is full of extremely brilliant people, and also because I’ve not led an online seminar before. But what this means is that I have basically created something, promoted it and had a decent level of success in under 4 weeks.

3) The thing with Sam..

Well, the thing is the thing that had to go away to make space for all the other stuff.

4) Home Working

I’ll be damned if I had more than 3 days off in the last month, but at the same time my working rhythm while on the trip was better than ever. I’m good at evening work and will often get going from 7-10pm. I took afternoons off to go and discover new places, slept in quite late and worked from lots of different places on the laptop. In fact, this all worked so much better than sitting in the home office every day, that I’m making a commitment to taking the computer to all sorts of places in the future. Mobile working seems to suit me right now.

In May, one of my core goals will revolve around doing more justice to the thing that I enjoy so much which is basically brainstorming and getting things started. I have not had the confidence so far of proclaiming “I’m great at this” and thinking about what that can mean in terms of career prospects, so let’s see what…er…crystallises.

Still reading? WOW! It’s clear you are one of my true friends. I’ll buy you a drink if you comment on this. A £7 cocktail even.

Goal Update for February Goals, #2

It’s time for a check in and update on my various goals, which had been set for Feb 2014. Just before I go ahead and tell you about all I’ve done, let me say that yes I know! I did go and work on a few things that weren’t really on the list. In my defense, I had tried to keep the list pretty low in the ambition stakes because of my illness and stress, and it was easy to overshoot. I have to watch out for that.

Goal Recap:

HOME WORKING

I have the coolest goal to introduce in March. It will be working from the road. OH YES. More soon.

  • Rearrange the home office to give it a new positive feeling

Oh, what a beautiful change! I did rearrange my office and now proudly take advantage of more space, more daylight and some pretty new document boxes. I haven’t currently got a super tidy desk, but overall it is positive and waiting for lots more great pictures for the walls.2014-02-23 18.28.05

  • Apply for one job (all bases covered, and only one way to find out if it’s better!)

Not 100% done yet. I did re-apply for a job with Buffer that I’d previously been rejected for, but no success this time either so I’m not sure that counts. Should focus this week.

FLUENT

  • Pass one of my language students to a fellow tutor to make more time for other things

As you know, I decided to quit my part-time job as a Market Research Assistant instead, and yes that is done and makes more financial sense. No regrets!

  • Write a blog article outlining the new Fluent line (more blog, less tutor)

Blog-wise I’ve been making good strides this week, I’m really pleased with the work of bringing in new writers, setting up their profiles and hopefully getting ready to start publishing as an editor in the coming weeks (today I built http://www.fluentlanguage.co.uk/blog-writers so you can meet them). The homepage over at www.fluentlanguage.co.uk has also been reworked and I’ve surveyed my readers on the subjects of my blog’s name and monetization. The money aspect in particular has been important to me: My readers now understand that the blog must start supporting itself financially in 2014, and they have been given a say in how we’ll do it. Adverts are less intrusive than sponsored posts and product recommendations, and a lot more in favour than a paywall, so I’ll have to bite the bullet and reach out to great suitable companies. Hopefully there is a way of making this work and 1) keeping an eye on the stats while 2) keeping my site looking reasonably nice.

The key to this is basically to get the Fluent blog to a stage where it could justify itself even if it got me no work as a tutor at all. It’s looking like I can set the March goal of approaching potential sponsors (cool!) and learning about the techy side of sponsor links (less cool!). The target would be one year of hosting (value $192) in the first instance.

  • Write and publish 2 more top quality blog articles

Done – so done!

  • Set up one more auto-responder in my email series for language learners

Kerstin overshooting. I set up about 4, and all of them seem to be working quite nicely, meaning once a subscriber joins my mailing list they’ll be sent regular tips and updates for the whole first 4 weeks of being on the list. That’s pretty Pat Flynn of me.

TRAINING/MARKETING

There has been less movement in the area of marketing and blog training, and I think I can document two major reasons for that. Firstly, it’s not what I am used to now. After writing down a clear image of my dream and making the public commitment to pushing for more work as a marketing trainer/consultant, I didn’t exactly go away and network through each day. I think it’s tough to change a habit, and I’ve been committed to Fluent for a good while now. That shows. Secondly, there has been a realisation in my mind that I don’t really want to crack this nut on my own again. I’ve been there, done that, with Fluent. Now I am interested in finding business partners! Making the change needs to be a part of me making sure I adhere to each and every goal, and I think at this stage the considerations of working in partnership with other people are a bit vague and making them goal-ready could be a March focus.

  • Attend 2 new networking events where I will present my blogging business

I’ll be hitting this target on the last day of February, but at this stage I do promote myself as Kerstin the language tutor who also does blog training. Well well. If you look at the California dream, can I afford this?

  • Set a rate and finish the descriptions for Shine Online

Done! I’ve not had anywhere near enough time for promoting the training day yet, so that’s another March goal but luckily it’s a collaboration so I will have help. I WILL HAVE HELP WITH SOMETHING! YESSSS! (this is me realising I should ask for more help)

  • Contact 2-3 businesses to find out which blogging services they would be interested in

Not done! I’ve been observing the market from the sidelines and chatting to fellow social media entrepreneurs, but I think I’m not ready to make a move this month…there’s a great collaboration on the cards though.

So anyway. That’s where I’m at with the goals, and as you can see I’m pretty much juggling all my duties and managing ok. Therapy sessions have been really helpful in terms of helping me think more clearly, but I need to remember to allow more time for contemplation etc afterwards. Wedding planning is also chugging along (let’s book this thing!) and finally I’ve started regularly going to meditation with Christian. It’s a bit Buddhist, but still plenty good – every little helps, right?

The Goals for February 2014 – update

Just a quick update on 2 of my FLUENT goals, which are perhaps a little vague. Writing the goals is easier than sticking to them, but I am already finding it very helpful to have somewhere to go back to and check whether I’m making the right kind of progress. So the two goals I’m re-addressing today are about making time and forging my language blog into a real contender type site – meaning one that can make money on its own, rather than acting as a funnel for attracting new students for me.

Here are the goal revisions:

Pass one of my language students to a fellow tutor to make more time for other things

After a bit of soul-searching and Maths, I have decided that I will not be doing this and will instead keep my student, work with her on setting new goals and apply what I am learning from my personal goal setting to her own progress. I do need to make more time though, and that means dropping something. I’ve decided to give up on my part-time job, something I can probably safely afford at a monthly income of about £62.50. So the new goal reads:

Quit my part-time job and set a limit to the number of students I’m taking on

Write a blog article outlining the new Fluent line (more blog, less tutor)

I have written and published a whole mission statement for the blog, and called for other writers to come and join me. That means if Fluent takes on a few new people, I’ll be able to act in a more editorial role (fingers crossed), publish more, grow the readership and spend some time attracting sponsors. If the blog can’t make money by itself (at least enough to support the running cost, which isn’t that high, and perhaps employ a VA to help with the admin of it all), it may ultimately have to go but I’m not quite ready for that yet.

This goal doesn’t need that much more of a rewrite, it’s pretty much done. A March goal will be to instruct and introduce the new writers.

The Goals for February 2014 (biz ediz)

I recently read a great business blog from a freelance graphic designer who charted the progress of her business in writing. Being so internet-organised, I never saved the web address and have since forgotten where I read this. But the feeling of enthusiasm and love that this woman had for her tasks remained with me, and filled me with a new-found optimism. For me, starting my own business has not really started yet, instead it is about to start as a whole new chapter.

I aim to get work as a freelance blogger and trainer for blogging and online marketing. Yeah, I said it – what?! One inspiring thing that I saw on the graphics blog I mentioned was that the lady publicly committed to her monthly business goals. And I’ll be honest with you – I’ve never really done that before. It sounds entirely sensible.

Why goals?

As someone who’s currently juggling 3 blogs, a part-time job and 2 self-employed pursuits, I should really get with the organisation and pacing. One of the best things about this way of setting goals is that it will make me think about what’s realistic. I’m liable to pushing for things to happen too quickly otherwise.

One other thing I recently read about goal setting really stuck with me. Make the goal about something that you achieve, rather than something that is dependent on someone else. So how much money I make or how many students I attract is one thing, but that’s not entirely free from external influence. It’s better to commit to creating or completing something.

Anyway, so here we go. These are goals spanning both my little self-employed endeavours, and Lord help me, I hope they’re achievable.

And before we make goals for this month, let’s also list the things I’ve already done in February.

  1. Met with Lancaster & Morecambe College and a fellow freelancer to start planning a training day called “Shine Online”
  2. Taught four lessons and published one blog article
  3. Promoted the new guide I wrote for my mailing list on Fluent
  4. Set my packages (version 1) on Blogging Support Services

The Goals for February 2014

Slowly realising I’m turning into Bridget Jones..(what you see here is the 3rd edition of these goals – I cut them down purposefully because they may have been too ambitious…a classic fault of mine?)

HOME WORKING

  1. Rearrange the home office to give it a new positive feeling
  2. Apply for one job (all bases covered, and only one way to find out if it’s better!)

FLUENT

  1. Pass one of my language students to a fellow tutor to make more time for other things
  2. Write a blog article outlining the new Fluent line (more blog, less tutor)
  3. Write and publish 2 more top quality blog articles
  4. Set up one more auto-responder in my email series for language learners

TRAINING/MARKETING

  1. Attend 2 new networking events where I will present my blogging business
  2. Set a rate and finish the descriptions for Shine Online
  3. Contact 2-3 businesses to find out which blogging services they would be interested in

..and then my heart sinks

I don’t know if this is one of the quirks of self-employment, or if it affects many people who work, people looking after their kids, or the unemployed. For me, this is quite new. I’m experiencing a working life populated by stops and starts, time supposed to be filled by my own initiative, and gaps between bursts of activity

When I’m left to my own devices, I start daydreaming and THEN reality hits me when I try to put that theory into practice. You see, I’m not 100% sure that what I’m doing is fulfilling all of me, so I’m having to branch out a little bit and try on a few hats to see which ones I love. I’m a happy language tutor, seeing my students succeed and cheering them on at the right times. Beyond that, I currently haven’t got much going on – I run a few local group classes but I think I want to be a trainer! Being out and about, giving inspiration to groups of people, combining new perspectives with learning from them, that’s exciting stuff. Plus, to be honest I would love to get out a little bit more. Teaching from my home all the time is robbing my life of colour.

So where do I go from here? I do have a little list of things I want to work on – training is not all, my friend. Like all of us, ideas bounce into the mind and they’re 10 a penny. Running a stationery shop while teaching students of German, could that work? What about travelling around as a trainer and combining it with writing for the newspaper? But I digress. I love that moment, you see. The stage where you haven’t censored your mind yet and all those beautiful ideas and possibilities just come bounding into your mind. And then the heart sinks when I either google around for the dream job in my mind, or I realise I’m supposed to pick something to focus on. So let’s treat it like a bucket list, record those dreams and pick one to work on.

So let’s take it to today’s question: Once you’ve decided on a thing, just one out of the bucket list, how do you go about trying it out? Last time I picked language tutor, and now I am one, POOF, but for my own tastes I may have gone a bit further than I thought I needed to. I set up with a company name and lots of energy, and every now and then I realise that I was only really wanting to try this out and the bucket list is there and I hadn’t really committed to this life yet, and anyway, it’s not perfect business and now I want to just taste another flavour of life. What do you think, spoilt or sensible?

It’s encouraging to remember that I went from international recruiter to language tutor without too much difficulty. I can do this again, and hope that my confidence will guide me through it. So next time, about finding confidence? Is anyone else experiencing split personality of the professional life?