A Meltdown and a Retreat

 

It was my birthday yesterday (yay!) and I am now the grand old age of 35. Woolf Works is also turning the grand old age of 1 in a week or so, so it feels like a particularly poignant time. This year has really been the cliché entrepreneur’s rollercoaster – big highs of accomplishment with big lows of ‘what the hell have I gotten myself into’.

 

This last month or two particularly has been tough on me and in the interest of ‘keeping it real’ I’m going to be honest about what I have been going through – because I know behind all the happy social media photos we all go through crap times.

 

I had a bit of a burn-out last month, though probably no one else knew it. It’s amazing how conditioned we are at keeping up a façade isn’t it?

 

My burn-out was caused by a multitude of factors including:

  •  working on a bunch of different things simultaneously and without enough planning or support
  •  not packing lunches or snacks for work and so either not eating, or eating takeout
  •  no exercise
  •  not enough sleep
  • two kids who were fighting constantly
  • a husband on a on a long overseas trip
  • over-scheduling myself

It ended in a lot of tears.

But, most importantly, it also ended in a great chance to reassess how I was doing things, which was obviously unsustainable.

Once the tears had passed and I realised it was time to make some changes – some of which are short term, some are long term:

 

  •   Taking control of my work by extensive list making, project-based organization, deadlines and identifying what I can delegate, what is urgent and what is just going to have to wait. I’m also exploring automation and creating pathways and forms that require less input for me while getting the right information out.

 

  •  Seeing a nutritionalist to help with food planning, learn about healthy snacks to fuel long days at work, to learn about healthy menu choices when I am eating out, and to get some accountability and track what I am eating.

 

  •   Seeing a therapist. Yes. Here I am, saying it out loud. And you know what, it feels great to have an outlet and to learn skills to deal with unhelpful thought patterns and negativity.

 

  •    Limiting nights out to two per week and learning how to say ‘No’. There are so many great events on, so much I want to be part of and so many people I want to meet! But if I want to be healthy and effective I need to have sleep. I already have a 2 year old keeping me up – I don’t need to be out till midnight all week on top of that.

 

  •    Exercising when I can. Last year I went hardcore – personal trainer three times a week, running two or three times a week. I’m kind of all or nothing with exercise and the last three months it’s been nothing. Now I’m finding an in-between, something manageable and much less stressful. A swim one morning, a 3 km run the next evening, or a yoga class at lunch time.

 

The last, and quite possibly the best thing I’m doing: A weekend retreat.

I’m writing this from a hotel room in Singapore, tucked away from the world. I have a pile of books, some writing projects and my running shoes. I plan to sleep and read a lot and I have been looking forward to this for weeks. It was time for me to get off the frantic bullet train of life and have some time out for me.

 

I’m learning that one of the greatest gifts of getting older is getting to know myself better. Learning my triggers for over eating or not eating, learning to give myself structure to stop the overwhelm and learning that ‘good enough’ can be enough – I don’t need to be perfect.

 

Have you taken a personal retreat? How do you cope with overwhelm?

 

We have two retreats coming up with Woolf Works this year – the first is a Writers Retreat, dates to be announced – a long weekend close by to Singapore with lots of time to write, share, have a massage, write some more and make new friends over dinner and drinks in the evening. Interested? We’ll be limiting the numbers so email me at michaela@woolfworks.sg to be on the first invite list.

The second retreat is to Bhutan where we will be working on mindfulness and self leadership. It will be in either November or March. Lots more info available here and you can register your interest here.

Always great to know your thoughts and feedback. Drop me a line anytime (though forgive me if I don’t reply immediately, I’m taking that email pressure of myself too!)

Blogging for Business – HOW?

Part Three: HOW To WRITE?

From my Blogging for Business One and Two you will hopefully have gathered together a ton of ideas and started to think creatively about different ways to engage with your target customer.

Working At Home

Image courtesy of http://laurelsprings.com

All these ideas it can be overwhelming – where do I start, how do I manage it all?

I start by creating categories. Look over your lists and ideas and start grouping them together under category labels.

Some examples-

Tips
Business Skills
Profiles
Inspiration
Company – focused
Events

Look at things critically and see what ideas slot in nicely and what doesn’t fit in anywhere at all.

Remember to keep in mind your niche and your brand. Do these all match up nicely with what you want your business to convey?

Choose three to five categories that seem to fit best. From here its time to create a very simple Blogging Calendar: this will be the core of your blog planning.

Everyone will have a different way to structure this and there are a ton of different tech tools that can help. For me, an excel document with a month by month plan works best.

Think about how many times a week you want to post. Be realistic. How much time do you have? Maybe you want to post once a week? Two or three times a week can be a good target.

Your categories can slot into your Blogging Calendar as you see fit. An example would be:

Tuesdays: Profiles
Thursdays: Company- focused posts
Fridays: Inspiration
Every second Monday: Tips and Tools

Once you have the basic categories planned, start adding blog titles to go out on certain dates. If you have further details like links or descriptions put them there too. The more information you have the better. If you can fill up 12 weeks of content planning – perfect. If not, try for 8 as a minimum. Look at upcoming events and see where guest posts can be fitted, or thematic posts around a holiday, but keep your categories consistent.

The more in-depth your planning is now, the easier it will be later when you are trying to write. Here’s an example

blog
Actual Writing

For many this is the scary bit.
Now you have a plan, you have to actually do the writing!

Posts don’t have to be long. 500 words is a good length. One page.

But the key is scheduling YOU. As well as your Blogging Calendar you need ‘Content Creation’ slots in your own calendar.

If you want to publish a post on a great salad recipe or a book review on Wednesdays, you need to schedule an hour into your Monday to write it and half an hour on Tuesday to edit it, find some images and get it looking pretty.

If you have Customer Profiles planned for every Thursday, you need to send out fifteen interview requests at the beginning of every month because it’s likely only five will reply, and even then will take more time than you expect.

Plan and Schedule. Stick to It.

 It’s not going to happen just because it’s in the Blogging Calendar.

Be realistic, with your planning and then commit to keeping to your plan.

If you do, eventually you will have an in depth blog with on-brand articles you can tweet about, share on Facebook and email to clients for whom it could be relevant. You can re-post articles on your Linked In profile (with a link back to your blog), or guest post on another blog.

You will have a way to connect deeply to your customer and help your customer identify who you are and why you are doing what you are doing.

We have covered the Why, Who, What and How in this three part series. Has this helped you identify useful content for your business blog? Have you set up a Blogging Calendar?

 

This article was written by WoolfWorks founder, Michaela Anchan and was featured in Executive Lifestyle. 

Blogging for Business – WHO and WHAT?

If you missed the Part One: WHY SHOULD I BLOG, you can read it here.

Part Two: WHO and WHAT?

Now we have established WHY you should be blogging, the next step is to pin down WHO are you, WHO you are writing for, and WHAT you could write about.

Go grab a lovely big A3 piece of paper, a sharp pencil and a cup of coffee and let’s figure it out.

woman typing

Image courtesy of http://www.womansday.com

Who are you?

What is your ‘why’ behind your brand? What is the story, the passion, the reason you are doing this? How are you going to help people?

What are the qualities you want to convey? What is the connection you want to make with your customer? How do you want them to feel about you?

Connecting to the person and the story behind a company can make a huge decision to a customers decision to do business with you.

Who are they?

It is absolutely vital you put a solid amount of time in to figuring out your niche.

Who is your ideal customer? How old are they? Are they male or female? Are they an entrepreneur, an employee, a freelancer or are they a homemaker? What are they worried about? What magazines do they read? Where do they socialise? Are they tech savvy? Do they want to be? Where do they live?

What?

What are you going to write about: the big question. Again, I recommend a nice crisp A3 sheet of paper and a sharp pencil. Start brainstorming ideas.

Start very broadly:
What are the interests, thoughts and topics that are linked to your business and interesting to your target?
What are the questions customers tend to ask you?
What are the challenges they face?
What do they believe you are an expert in?

Then do a bit of research:
Look at other blogs, magazines, websites related to your industry – what are they writing about?
Ask your customers – do a formal survey or just call them up for a chat. What are they confused about? What do they find mysterious about your industry? What information would they like to have access to? Who do they admire? Where do they want their business to go? How can you help them?
Let these questions and thoughts sit at the front of your mind for a few days – once you start thinking and talking about these questions the ideas may pop up at different times. Write everything down.

blogging

Image courtesy of http://www.scribewise.com

Then, take it further by looking at different types of content. There is so much you can do which can tie in to all of the above:

Customer profiles or interviews
Staff profiles
Profiles of people in history
Profiles of partner businesses
Guest posts from partner businesses
Links to relevant articles around the web
Information about a package / rate you offer
Write-up an event you held
A day in the life in your business
Resource lists
Tutorials
Infographics
Images
Business background stories (focusing on your WHY)
Beginners guide to..
FAQ about your business

And don’t forget videos and podcasts!

Keep the WHO is mind during this – who you are, who your customer is. Keep the ideas flowing – write everything down! Keep going, keep researching – the more ideas now, the better. Don’t worry about relevance or titles yet, just keep writing down ideas.

Next week we will talk about the HOW.

How does this brainstorm of ideas get turned into a structured, planned social media campaign? How is this going to be manageable for me when I have so much going on?

 

This article was written by WoolfWorks founder, Michaela Anchan and was featured in Executive Lifestyle. 

 

Blogging for Business – WHY?

Part One: WHY SHOULD I BLOG

What’s the advantage of blogging for your business?

We all hear about how you must blog – ‘content generation’ is a huge buzzword, and there can be such a feeling of guilt if you haven’t started, aren’t keeping it up or haven’t established a regular schedule.

It can be helpful to go back to basics and think about WHY you should be blogging, and what you hope to get out of it. How do you want it to help your business? We all want to generate more revenue, how can blogging help that?

1. It’s a great way to have a conversation with your target market.

You get to talk to your customers and clients directly. You get to say what you want, share the opinions, tips and topics that best reflect your business and you get it in front of their eyes – it’s a second best to ringing them up and having a chat.

2. It gives you credibility in your industry.

The moment you are an author on a particular topic you position yourself as an expert. Imagine a customer is trying to choose between two landscape gardeners. He looks online and found one has a simple website which looks good, one has a simple website but also has a blog filled with expert articles on weed control, best choices in flowers for the local climate, shrubs of the week and fertilising tips. Who do you think he is going to call?

3. If you give a little, people want more

If this gardener does a series on how to do basic landscape gardening yourself, perhaps creates an e-book around it, her customers are going to imagine just how much more fabulous she can do things as a professional.

4. Branding and Positioning

Your blogs give you a great chance to further develop your brand and position in the market place. Your topics can be targeted and developed to reinforce your brand. A high-end interior design store is not going to write about where to find the cheapest bed linen in town, nor will a yoga studio post about the new burger bar down the road. Keeping your themes and topics consistent with your brand is crucial in connecting with your target client.

5. Driving traffic to your website

Blogging effectively can be a great way to drive traffic to your website. Identify keywords that are bringing traffic to your site and use those keywords again and again. Blogging creates pages of text, which can be picked up on a Google search – use it to your advantage!

and the best part of blogging?

6. Blog posts work while you sleep!

Twenty four hours a day, seven days a week your articles are out there to be read by customers, picked up by Google and referred to by customers. They are your representatives working hard out there in the world, for a very low wage!

Modern office workplace

Image courtesy of http://sueallenclayton.com/

Clarifying WHY you are blogging is important. It helps form the foundation of your social media strategy, and ensures that your blogging is targeted and planned.

Next week, the next important question: WHO are you blogging to?

 

This article was written by WoolfWorks founder, Michaela Anchan and was featured in Executive Lifestyle

How to Inject More Excitement Into Your Business!

timthumb

(image via www.womenunlimitedworldwide.com)

We all want our businesses to be thought of as exciting, fresh and appealing. Unfortunately for small businesses, especially those with just one main person working behind the scenes, public image can become boring with repetitive marketing campaigns that lack sparkle and innovation.

Here’s a few ways to bring something new to your business:

 

1. Try different media

Video is the new black. If you haven’t started thinking about video content for your blog or social media, get thinking now!

Here’s a great article from The Guardian about video content for small business.

Check out the Will it Blend videos’s from Blendtec – a blender company created a viral marketing campaign starting in 2006, of very low production-cost videos in which they blend household objects. Cheap, creative and out of the box and this video has 11 million views!

 

2. Connect with communities out of your usual comfort zone

Ditch the networking evenings and join a dragon-boating group, an art class or a heritage walk. Connecting to new communities can not only help you reach new customers it also opens your mind to new opportunities, partnerships and ideas.

 

3.  Find people that excite and interest you

Mentors, influencers, inspirations: follow their blog, read their books, watch their speeches. Surrounding yourself with positivity and success stories keeps your mind open and engaged on your own journey. We need role models at all ages – this article from Psychology Today talks about the influence of role models on creating ethical leaders.

 

4. Go back to your WHY

Why did you start this business? Why do you love it? What’s your story?

Storytelling is a big buzz word these days, for good reason. People connect to stories and authenticity, they want to engage, hear more. They want to support someone they feel close to, especially over a cold, persona-less company.

 

5. Push your limits

Do something different, try new things, meet new people!. Switch up your schedule, work somewhere new, take a day off to go walking and thinking. Take a meditation class, have a massage, cook a new recipe. Invite someone you admire out for a coffee, swim in the ocean at 6am.

Check out this great article on Lifehacker about breaking out of your comfort zone:

“The point of stepping out of your comfort zone is to embrace new experiences and to get to that state of optimal anxiety in a controlled, managed way, not to stress yourself out. Take time to reflect on your experiences so you can reap the benefits and apply them to your day to day activities.”

 

 

It just takes a little bit of mixing things up, trying something new, to start changing thought patterns.

Schedule it into your week if you have to – just do it!