5 Ways to Create Connection

Do you feel like your brand is showing up on social media in a big way? Are you blasting ads, promoting blogs and pushing pictures like a champion? How much of that content connects with your audience or are you pushing out the corporate version of “Hey girl”?

  1. Put Customer Service front and center for your business in the hands of a person backed by a plan. Build a list of contact names, areas of expertise, complete with emails, social handles and phone numbers. Then, educate your front person how you expect the list to be used. Do the subject matter experts want direct connection with the customer or do they want the social person to serve as the communication conduit? Build a process and thoroughly communicate it internally. You don’t want customers waiting days for acknowledgement and a follow-up solution. Make contact, connect with the right people on behalf of the customer, propose the solution or make the appropriate introductions.
  2. Really listen. Don’t just talk about your products and services Take the time to listen and speak to your customers’ needs. You can do this by following the comments and feedback sections of your blogs, products and social feed. You can also send out surveys to engage your customer base and get some real answers about the problems their facing.
  3. Segment your website to create a more personalized experience for your users. This requires a bit more knowledge of your guests and their preferences, but the payoff is an emotionally invested customer. By targeting preferences and speaking to their needs, they will feel known and seen. Isn’t that what we all want and need?
  4. Use your phone for something other than social media and sports scores. Believe it or not, you can talk to other people through that tiny box in your pocket! Pick it up and have a conversation with your customers about the ways they’re struggling. Ask them how you can better serve them. Then take the time to listen. This isn’t about making a sale. This is about solving a need and/or providing a real solution.
  5. Be human. Empathize. Drop the corporate-ese. Relate to your customers and guests the way that you would to friends and neighbors. If we take off our “corporate armor,” it’s much easier to find common ground. Then, it’s just two people talking about how to make things better.

Do any of these points resonate with you? What do you do to make sure you’re connecting and not just commenting?


Happy Missteps & Glorious Mistakes

Have you ever lost a job? Lost a love? Lost your mind and tore your world apart to “get right” again?

Did you get a little distance from the situation and think, “Oh, THANK GOD!”

You’re my people.

There are several events I look to as pivot points for my life. Situations where – to my liking or not – I had to pivot and find a new path, a new outlook, a new way of doing things.

I won’t lie – in the moment, those events left me awash in waves of hot, dark hell crying for mercy.

But I did what I do best. I took the next breath . . . and the next . . . and the next.

Eventually all those breaths added up to minutes. Minutes turned into hours. Hours, days. Then, one day, from far away, I could look back at the man, the job, the meltdown, the (fill in your own blank) and say, “Damn – I didn’t like it in the moment, but that really changed me for the better!”

How do you navigate the change that comes from tough times?

Do you let it mold you and sculpt you into something better or do you get bitter?

Here are a few things I’ve learned about overcoming my Bitter-B tendencies:

I have to stop myself from making up a different story. I’m a writer and I’m southern, which means embellishment is one of the things I do best. So, when I’m going through a tough time, I remind myself to recite the facts, only the facts – without any “supporting details.”

Once I get my story “straight” I ask:

What am I REALLY upset about?

A lot of times, it’s not the actual thing that I’m upset about. It’s the ideas/dreams/stories I told myself about the thing that I’m upset about losing.

Now that I’ve reframed, do I want what I lost? OR, do I want a different/better version that’s more in line with my dreams and ideals?

This is where I’m able to gain footing. Most times, I don’t really want the actual thing I lost. I want the version of the thing that I had in my head.

What action steps can I take to bring me closer to what I REALLY want?

I’m a list-maker, so I pull out a pad and get to listing. Some of my ideas are shit. But, sometimes, I come up with something brilliant. (PSA: If you’re applying these steps to your breakup – stalking, whether online or in person, is NOT an action item. I repeat, stalking is bad, m’kay?!?!?!)

Of course, sometimes, I continue spiraling. And, when I look at it, it’s because I’m ruminating. That’s when I make a deal with myself to step telling myself “the story.” (Yes, read that again.)

I’ve noticed that it’s worse when I’m in the car. I’ll be driving down the road and my monkey-mind will be on chattering away going over and over and over what happened, what I did wrong, what they said, what I said, what I could’ve done differently, what they should’ve done differently, what I wished I would’ve said . . . and on . . . and on . . . . and on. Seriously, it’s like the crazy train pulls into the station and blows the whistle for all the nutty thoughts to come aboard!

So, I redirect my thoughts when I find my mind winding up the story box. Even if it’s just 15-minutes at a time. I’ll sing along to the radio or put on a podcast – I’ve noticed that when I engage with words, I disengage my internal monologue. But, if you’re in a story spiral, you’ll have to experiment until you find your key to stop the self-talk.

Finally, I seek forgiveness.

I’ve learned that I don’t have to have an apology – or even a conversation – to forgive someone. I simply get quiet and picture them in my mind and I say to them, “Person’s Name, I forgive you and release you. I wish you nothing but the best.” Then, I picture them getting lighter and lighter and lighter until they turn into a fine mist and they’re gone.

This isn’t a one-and-done practice, though. Sometimes, it takes several forgiving and releasing visualizations for me to let peoople go. But, that isn’t the hard part.

The hard part is to forgive and release myself. I let go of the ridiculous expectations I had for myself, I let myself off the hook for saying horrible things, I just let it go and feel the freedom from being released. When I’m able to do it, it’s quite a remarkable experience. I urge you to do the same.

Finally, I take responsibility for my story and my life moving forward.

Yes, that last chapter wasn’t so lovely, but I can turn the page and start penning something marvelous now! After all, I’m in charge of my experiences and you are responsible for yours! That’s why I’ve started making plans – both professionally and personally – to be active in drafting a bright future. Grab your calendar and put some fun outings and challenges on there! It’ll give you something to work toward and look forward to conquering.

Of course, if you’ve tried everything you can think of to get out of your own head and can’t stop the cycle, consider talking to someone. Do your research and choose a life coach or a counselor to help you identify some strategies that will get you through this roadblock and on the path to a better life.

At the end of the day, though, what matters most is that you’re able to learn and grow from your experiences. Life should make you better, not bitter! Let’s drop our sad stories, let’s stop being victims and let’s embrace lasting change and renewed strength.

Cheers, dears, to the happy missteps and glorious mistakes that make us our most glorious selves.

Stop Outsourcing Joy

Would you give a stranger your wallet? No.

Would you hand them the keys to your new car? Also no.

Then, why do you blindly give away your joy, peace and happiness without thinking about it? Be greedy with that shit!!!

If time is a commodity, then emotions are our currency. The way you feel from moment to moment determines the quality of your life. Why give away the good stuff . . . in traffic, when you miss the elevator, when you’re slightly inconvenienced at Starbucks?

Have you ever noticed how quickly a sweet morning sours with a few unfortunate sequences? The kids spill cereal in the car, there’s an accident that slows traffic, you don’t get the promotion you wanted . . . 1, 2, 3 and the next thing you know you’re flailing about like a fool in the parking lot.

Did you know that you don’t have to respond?

You don’t have to engage.

You can receive the information and let it pass without assigning meaning.

You see, it’s the meaning that we attach to things that hook us into the downward spiral. If you let the cereal be an accident – which it is – it’s less personal than a reflection of the child’s blatant disrespect and inability to listen . . . even though you told them 5,972 times. Yes, it’s an inconvenience to get the carpet cleaned so the milk won’t spoil, but that’s all it is. It isn’t a reflection of horrible parenting. It doesn’t mean your littles won’t function as a part of society. Do you see the difference?

And this applies to everything – from the stuff your boss says to your partner leaving their socks on the bathroom floor. It’s not personal – it’s information. It doesn’t mean that your boss doesn’t appreciate your hard work and contribution – it means there are areas for growth and improvement. It doesn’t mean your partner doesn’t love you. It means you’re receiving feedback – there’s an article of clothing on the floor.

When you get the information, decide if there’s anything you can do about it. If you’re willing to do something, do it. If not, skip it.

Do not hand over your happiness.

Do not let joy slip through your fingers.

Do not slam and huff and act like a child.

Claim responsibility for your life. Use your words. Share your concerns. Brainstorm and implement solutions. But, do not, under any circumstances, put your happy on someone else’s to-do list. It isn’t their responsibility – it’s yours. Happiness is an inside job that does not rely on a set of outside circumstances.

That’s hard sometimes, because yes, life is frustrating. People will be late, traffic will slow, the internet will drop your connection.

But you, alone, are responsible for your happiness – not the weather, the socks or the cereal. Slap a smile on your face and let that shit go. Let it go!!! It’s not your job to perfect everyone and everything. And it’s not their job to put a smile on your face. It’s YOUR job to seek out and truly enjoy the delights of the day.

Why not just say “fuck it,” step over the socks, pour yourself a coffee and read your favorite book if that’s what makes you happy? Work on the engine, learn a new skill, paint the picture, sit in the sunny spot, host a party, play hide-and-seek with the neighbor’s kid, call a friend . . . do the happy things before your time ends.

Just – whatever you do – don’t put your happy on someone else’s to-do list.

How To Celebrate the Everyday

Get up. Go to work. Come home. Make dinner. Go to bed.

Get up. Go to work. Come home. Make dinner. Go to bed.

Get up. Go to work . . .

Do you relate? Do you feel like your life is on autopilot and that one day runs into the next, into the next, into the next?

Have you ever thought about slowing down and celebrating the everyday? (Yes, even the mundane!)

It occurred to me one night when I was making dinner. (Which I do NOT love to do, btw. I’m much better at making reservations.) I’m in the kitchen and think – I hate this, but it’s necessary. What can I do to make this hell task more enjoyable? How can I celebrate this moment, because THIS very second is all I have.

So, I went to the living room and brought back a candle. I poured myself a glass of wine and turned on some music. I took a couple of sips and by the end of the bottle I FREAKING LOVED cooking!!! (Kidding.)

I settled in and tried to find pleasure in the task – the colors, smells, movement, textures. Which, overall, made it more enjoyable than cursing every step of the recipe and my inability to “throw something together” like some people do.

Then, I wondered about the rest of my life and the 3,000 mundane things we all do on the day-to-day. How could I make each “chore” a little less “chore-ing” and a bit more enjoyable?

I added podcasts and audio books to my daily walks, because I never feel like I have enough time to read and listen to all the things I want. I turned on the deck lights every night – even if I don’t sit outside, I can see them through the windows and they make me happy! I threw things away and started a donate bag, because clutter makes me crazy. I painted my nails for #manicuremonday – because I like the way pretty polish looks when I type on my keyboard.

Basically, I’m waking up to the gift of each moment and encourage you to do the same. This is NOT a dress rehearsal, kids. And nothing brings that home more than the big birthdays and milestones. So, I beg you . . . use the “good” plates, take the bath, light the candles, drink the wine and soak up every minute of your gorgeous drudgery.

Because, celebrate it or not, one day it will be over. And, right now, I’m pretty confident that as you draw your last breath, you’ll never regret having made the most of every single moment.

Dress For Your Day

I will never forget the text message . . .

“I just went to the kitchen. There is a girl wearing leggings as pants with cat heads on her knees. Literally cat heads on her knees!!!”

Ruh-roh. Whaaaaaaaaaa???

Soon after I left corporate world they dropped the dress code in favor of something called “Dress for Your Day.” AKA – cat leggings are now pants. *facepalm to the side eyes power*

Don’t misunderstand – I believe in business evolution and the changing tides of fashion. But, when your kitty wears camel toe at corporate, it’s bound to cause a bit of a commotion in the cathouse . . . which means work isn’t being done. And that causes me to ask – what’s the motivation for changing dress codes and how does that impact your performance?

Certainly, as a freelance writer, I fully appreciate the comfort of working in yoga pants and an oversized sweatshirt . . . within the confines of my own home. You can be sure, though, that if I left the house to meet with a client, I would look nothing like I do now. However, I do believe that when I look better, I feel better – which means I work better. That’s why you’ll find me with a bit of tinted moisturizer and a fashioned pony – not just a greasy heap of hair.

I suppose I grew up at the tail-end of a time when people still celebrated dressing up. In fact, I remember not being allowed to wear jeans on an airplane! We dressed up to go to church, weddings, funerals and holiday dinners. And to go to work? Dress up – even when the attire is “casual.”

Casual doesn’t have to be ratty sneakers and an old concert tee. It can be jeans and a nice shirt with a cool jacket.

When did casual become synonymous with sloppy???

Should this be called “UN-dress For Your Day”???

I’m truly curious to know about your experience with “casual” attire in the workplace. Mostly because I know this is a topic people react strongly to.

Do you find that you more or less productive in different forms of dress? Do you find that it’s more distracting than motivating? How do you dress when you perform YOUR best? Leave a comment and let me know.





Money Talks: I’ll Show You Mine

Let’s talk about money for a minute.

(Did your skin just climb off your skeleton and crawl under the table? Call it back. I’ll wait.)

Financial conversations are key to successful freelancing. After all, you can be the most prolific writer or the most creative designer, but if you’re not paid fairly for the work you produce it’s a hobby, not a career. The problem is . . . nobody wants to be the first to name a price.

I’ve read tons of articles that say the freelancer should never name a price first. But, if I’m not to name a price and they’re not going to name a price, we’re never going to get any work done because we can’t agree on a price that we’re not talking about!

Is it just me or does the entire working world feel like a giant game of “chicken”?

So, in the name of getting work done, I’ll take a deep breath, close my eyes and show mine.

If I’m able to get an idea from the possible client about their budget, I will. Most of the time, though, companies don’t want to tip their hand. And, rather than not being in the game at all, I do my research and submit my quote.

Yes, I’ve left money on the table.
Yes, I’ve been told that I’m out of the company’s price range.
No, I don’t feel bad about it.

If I avoid naming a price at all, I won’t work. And, I love working! I love helping people share their message and sell their products and services. If that means that I win some and lose some, that’s great for two reasons:

  1. I believe in the law of big averages and know that everything evens out over time.
  2. It means that I’m showing up and participating – which is WAY better than working a job I hate and dreaming about being a freelancer.

To the writer or designer who doesn’t want to show yours first: do your research, know the going rates and averages, but above all else, know your worth.

Understand and communicate the unique skills that you bring to the table, because that’s YOUR competitive edge and selling point. If your prospect isn’t interested, that’s okay. It’s a disappointment, not a death sentence.

Take a deep breath. Feel sad. Reflect on what you could and would change about the experience. Then, keep going.

There are countless companies who want and need your time and talents. Find them . . . and fearlessly name your price.