This is the first “full year” of EntrepreneurMom (having launched in October of 2014) so there were a lot of ups, downs challenges and successes! I’ve taken a few that really stood out for me this year, to share with you in the hopes of making your business life a little sweeter. 😀
Images and design
I discovered Picmonkey for creating and editing images and absolutely adore it. There is even a really cool eyedropper function that helps you to pick out and match the exact colour in an image. There is a free version and a paid version (Royale, which is inexpensive). There are certain pros to the Royale version (more options), so go for that if you can, but the free version works fine too (lots of ads on the sidebar though).
I’m not great with design, but I’ve been looking at sites and when I see something that I think is eye catching, I try to create a similar style. That’s the best I can do, but it’s working ok, I think!
WishList: Would love to get a graphic designer on the EntrepreneurMom team though to spice it up, and leave me with more time to other things, like write and plan! Let’s see what 2016 brings 😉
I’ve recently signed up for Creative Market which is a resource for designers (if you check it out you will be amazed as you recognise the design elements that you have seen everywhere!). A lot is pure design element (vectors/Photoshop) but every Monday there are six free downloads. If you aren’t using Photoshop (or are a novice like me) make sure that there is a JPG format to use on Picmonkey or Power Point.
(Side note: The image I created for my home page slider was created using a free download from Creative Market, which I uploaded to edit on PicMonkey to add the text!)
Mailchimp can do more than I thought!
Mailchimp was a huge win for EntrepreneurMom last year, and since I had used it with clients in the past, so it was a no brainer for me. I know there are loads of other options for creating emails and newsletters, but I’m a Mailchimp girl!
Early in the year I was blessed to be a Beta tester of a course from Modern Creative’s Resource, on working with Mailchimp and it was filled with great info! I seriously thought Mailchimp was only about sending emails, but turns out there was a lot more too, including creating opt in sign ups, pop ups for your website, and thank you pages (too grow your subscriber lists). Mailchimp is presented in such a drab way that it really surprised me to see how you can create professional looking pop up pages, once you get the hang of it.
(Side note: Right now I’m struggling with some of the plugins on the new EntrepreneurMom.net site which are preventing my Mailchimp plugin from showing. Will get that rectified soon!)
What to pay for and what to take for free
EntrepreneurMom on Facebook and Mailchimp are two sites you may already be using for free, but this year I’ve seen some benefit in the paid-for versions. In terms of Facebook, that means advertising. Not all ads have the desired result, but you can see that immediately, then pause and tweak the ad.
A simple upgrade to Mailchimp allows me the freedom to automate and that has helped a lot (early on I literally sent out the mails myself, which meant if you ever received daily emails from me through a course or sign up challenge: that was really me, really sitting behind my computer. Now those systems are automated and there is no chance of ‘human error’ (like forgetting, getting up late….etc *blush*).
Speaking of paying for…this year I got a little overloaded with the PR work and had a few writers come on board, and took the plunge and used a virtual assistant. This is something I’ve wanted to try, but didn’t really know how/if it would work. Anyway, it was one of the best things for my business – I went with Kim Ketley, the mompreneur behind Simply Admin, who was hugely professional, accurate, and quick. I was pretty blunt about what was needed, and she had no problem getting it done. (Kim, if you read this, you are a life saver!).
If you are considering working with a service provider remotely, keep these tips in mind:
- Do use someone who comes recommended, or at least see past work, or a resume if possible.
- Be super clear about what you need and the results you are expecting. Kim was checking media lists for me and I was clear that I’d need her to source (and re-source) details until it was completely up to date. This was agreed on upfront so there was no awkwardness when I needed her to check details that bounced back.
- If being blunt and upfront about what you require scares away a service provider, that may be a good thing! You want someone who will get the job done.
- Honestly, if you expect a job done fast and well, your service provider deserves to be paid the same way. Be prepared to pay immediately!
Webdesign Woes and Wins
Well, 2015 was the year of learning for sure, and a big learning curve (to put it politely) was with my website. It took me a while to finally take the plunge and have it professionally created; I even paid in FULL up front and was so disappointed with the result, there just aren’t words!
(Side note: I’m not going to go into the name of the company I dealt with in this post, although the name is mentioned on social media in something originally posted about how excited I was.)
Lesson learned: I should have researched past work of the company more, and been suspicious right from the beginning because they did not ask anything about my objectives or audience. Also the samples they gave me to choose from were way off base. When you pay for a service, SPEAK UP before it’s too late.
Another huge mental note: your website is the home of your business to outside world, don’t scrimp!
Sometimes paying less costs more in the long run (it did for me). Sometimes getting a deal is worse than getting value for your money.
Think about this: if someone is undercharging for their services, consider if they will need to take on too many additional clients to make ends meet. Rather pay more and get focused, one-on-one attention until the job is done!
I ended up buying a theme that I loved from Restored316, which is a mommy-run business of designers who create the most beautiful feminine themes. Their after-purchase technical support is phenomenal – I’ve bothered Lauren and Courtney repeatedly and they have been awesome.
There is a lot still to be done on the site and it is getting better every day! I’m moving some of the old blogs over, and researching ways of presenting the info in a way that just makes it easier to find.
But it’s really been great fun learning as well. Each time something works out, even if it took forever to figure it out, it is a confidence booster. Now I know the results will happen if I keep working on it (isn’t this true in all areas of life though? Just know that you will find a way through, keep going, and you will see results? Right on!).
Just know that you will find a way through, keep going, and you will see results
Importance of creating regular content
So with all that going on, I found it difficult to create regular content. The site was under construction for a lot longer than the designer had promised, and when it was “finished” it was so bad (and decidedly NOT finished) that I still couldn’t post content. With no home for the blogs there was a looong dry spell with no new posts (or even old posts), and nothing original to post on Social Media either. I stagnated. Who am I kidding – I faltered and ground to a halt!
For a while I managed to get around the issue by posting links to external content, such as articles I had written in the past for online magazines, guest posts for other blogs, and inspirational graphics that I created (anything that was not housed on my own website). But there was only so much of that!
In late November I started to get moving again, but I do think the unplanned hiatus did some damage. I didn’t lose many email subscribers, but Facebook numbers did go down a bit.
It makes sense. If blogging/posting stops suddenly, there is a sort of vacuum that is created and then other pages will fill that space (thinking Facebook specifically). If you suddenly return, some readers may look at the post and think, wow, haven’t seen you in a while, guess it’s not that important. Facebook makes it super easy to unfollow/unlike now, right from your newsfeed.
One thing though, if you see that you are all of a sudden getting less engagement, more unlikes, etc, it is important to see if there is a reason for that (poor content? Too much? Too little?), but it also important to realise how many followers you have is less important that having the right followers. So if you do suffer a few losses, they may not have been your true audiences; don’t worry too much.
Changing Domain Names
EntrepreneurMom is now a .net for several reasons, I’m not sure if this has/has not/will affect readership…but there is no choice but to move forward, creating awareness of the new site.
The change also came with a mew host provider (struggling with overseas payments due to a new verification system with Afrihost, the previous provider) so EntrepreneurMom.net is hosted by MomsWebHosting. I have to say the verdict is still out on this. It’s not expensive but I’ve had some issues getting setup (I’m a technophobe though, so may just be me!) but some issues seem serious, such as readers who can’t get into the new site to issues with email.
Many of my queries have been met with….”I don’t know….” from customer service although generally the challenge is resolved so I feel like it’s a little hit and miss. Again, that may just may be me, so let’s see (in all fairness, it’s been less than two months).
This time last year I did a big article for Moms Magazine on Goal Setting, and had goal setting worksheets for my own followers. But a few months later, with SO much going on and SO many BIG goals, I started to lose focus.
So I started to planning per quarter – I still have big dreams (I mean BIG, and I bet you do too) but by only focussing on 90 day increments, my commitment doesn’t sway. I’ll be posting a video in the next few days on planning, and will come back and add the link as soon as I can.
I have to say this again, for anyone who is new to EntrepreneurMom but I love EntrepreneurMom on Google+ for SEO value. It is definitely worth signing up for (it’s free) and adding regular original content.
I’m still traversing the world of Google Analytics and so now also delved into the world of spam bots, so that will probably be worthy of its own post soon.
EntrepreneurMom’s Start & Grow your Home Business e-course/e-workbook
This year was so exciting for me with the launch of the EntrepreneurMom Start & Grow your own Home Business e-course and e-book, but also an eye opener. The course is over six weeks, 42 days of learning and action steps. Each Friday for the duration of the course there was a one-on-one Skype call with mompreneurs on the course. Not everyone chose to participate in the calls and I noticed a huge difference in those who took time each day to complete the action steps and have a call, so in future it is something to really stress.
YOU are responsible for your own future, so when you have the opportunity, go for it! I’ve been in Public Relations for a long time; it was really exciting for me to work with moms who really wanted to create a buzz around their business!
In an effort to create a system that was accessible to all mompreneurs, I packaged the workbook that came out of the course, separately. What I have honestly noticed, is that an e-book can only be great if it is read and used daily! Having an online version may be easier and less expensive, but also easy to forget about.
A hard copy to hold in your hand, which sits on your desk each day, is more likely to be used, read, and loved! And create success, so look out for a print version (and a rewrite) in early 2016!
This may be at the end of the post, but in reality it is at the top of my list because without support, EntrepreneurMom would not be here or going where it is in 2016! Support comes from friends and family, mentors, and online support. But it also comes from my supporters, followers, and subscribers.
The past year I have received some of the most heart wrenching emails from moms who are returning to work after maternity leave, or those who started a business that isn’t turning a profit. These emails hurt my heart because I have been there: going back to work with a small baby in day care, then starting a home business that I loved but which was struggling.
But as I learned and grew, and my PR consulting business took off, and I feel so blessed to have the opportunity to share that knowledge, and to help mompreneurs create the success of their dreams in 2016!
I have also received emails from moms who find support through EntrepreneurMom and I just feel blessed to be a part of it!
Thank you to everyone who made EntrepreneurMom possible in 2015!
**EntrepreneurMom reserves the right to update & add to this post as and when products/services/challenges of 2015 come to mind!**