Dancing outside my comfort zone

Posts tagged ‘fears’

Upgrading My Marketing Mindset

Marketing Makes Me Ill

I admit it. I’m a hater, at least when it comes to marketing for myself. The idea of trying to sell my own services is the stuff of nightmares. But as a solopreneur, I’m learning you simply have to suck it up and find a way to do it.

That’s not to say we have to sound like those annoying car salesmen who used to frequent the limited TV channels when I was a kid. We just have to learn to put ourselves out there and give people an opportunity to ask us about the services or products we offer.

As a writer, the most common of these is pitching. Unfortunately, my brain has twisted that word into a rather unappetizing pretzel as palatable as the afore-mentioned care salesman. Though I can’t get completely away from pitching, I have been able to soften the word so it doesn’t stick in my craw.

Proposing vs. Pitching

Lately, I’ve had the opportunity to write proposals and that’s where I start to hit my stride. I spent far too many hours working with a proposal team in my last job, and have taken much of what I learned in those hours to heart. There are plenty of do’s and even more don’ts about proposal writing. My favorite of all of them is the “so what?” approach to evaluating a proposal.

The “so what?” approach essentially looks at all you’re offering the client or customer from their standpoint. If you can’t show the benefits of something you’re offering, or demonstrate how it will make their life easier, they’ll likely read it and wonder why you even included it. Many things fall into this category including lengthy descriptions of your assets and attributes. Believe me, a potential client doesn’t give a horse’s patoot how many years you’ve been in business or how many awards you’ve won. They want to know what you can do for them. They want to feel comfortable handing over not only their hard-earned cash, but tasks they want done on time, within budget, and above all, done right.

Testimonials from previous customers are great, but in this day and age, they’ve probably already looked at your website and seen the testimonials.

The Key is in the Customization

Remember all those resumes and cover letters you’ve sent out over the years? And remember when you finally learned that sending generic ones would most likely get you passed over no matter how good your qualifications were? A decent proposal (or pitch or query or whatever word you choose to use) is much the same. Sure, I use a template. I suspect most freelancers do. We don’t have time to reinvent the wheel every time we propose a job. But you have to take the time to learn something about the client and their company.

Sometimes, they’re not very forthcoming about their business, so you have to read between the lines. Sometimes, you’ll get a little bit of information from your direct questions, but the real gold comes from doing a little research, and from conversations and emails. In short, from less formal communications.

Lately, I’ve found that asking an innocent question in the context of the conversation will yield gems you weren’t expecting, but which will give you insight into what the client is really trying to accomplish with the service or product you offer. (From here on out, I’m just going to talk about services since that’s what I do. Product marketing is an entirely different ballgame anyway).

Understanding the Do’s and Don’ts

In the last couple of months I’ve learned a few useful things about potential clients and proposals which are making me look at the whole process from a much less revolted point of view.

  • Rarely is the service you’re proposing your contact’s priority. They’ve been given the task of coordinating with potential candidates, but they have a lot of other responsibilities which are more important than what you’re proposing.
  • Patience is rewarded. Because of the first point, you may experience long lags between your responses and theirs. Get used to it. Check in once a week or so, but don’t be a pest. You’ll often learn where things stand priority-wise if you ask for a little time to respond to their latest request.
  • Always believe that no news is good news once you’re communicating with the potential client. I’ve sent out my share of queries which never even get opened, so I know what it feels like to send my best efforts into a black hole—every freelancer and solopreneur I know has files full of rejections by silence. So when you do get someone to respond, take it as a yes until such time as, god forbid, they tell you no.
  • (This one should probably have gone first, but this list is not in order of importance) Spend time on the company website getting to know who you want to be working with. This is where strong investigative skills come in handy. But you can certainly take note of the obvious things like pages on their site (for me, one of the first things I look for is evidence of a blog. If it exists, I look at how active it is, and when they last posted). From there, look for the services or products they offer, the people they serve, and the problems they solve.
  • Leave room in your proposal for services above and beyond what you’re proposing. Make sure you have a clause which covers you for “scope creep”. I see many freelance service providers complaining about clients who take advantage of them.  Putting the “scope creep” clause in the proposal and contract tells the client exactly what they’re signing up for and when additional work will require a new or modified contract.
  • Whether you’re dealing with the company President or someone 20 steps down the ladder, respect and consideration go a long way. Those gate keepers have the power to lock you out. Never lose sight of that. I’m reminded of the years I worked in Corporate America. Until computers rendered a lot of secretarial tasks obsolete, every director and upper-level manager had a secretary or admin and woe be to the person who got on that admin’s bad side. When all else fails, put yourself in their shoes. How would you want to be treated by someone whether you’re just recommending them or you’re the decision-maker?
Learning to Wait, Revise, and Rethink

Patience has never been my strong suit. I’ll be the first to admit it. But I’m gaining a newfound level of respect for a friend who is a commercial realtor. Many times, I’ve seen her comment on the latest iteration of a contract, often in double digits. As I propose and re-propose myself, I’m learning it’s just part of the process. People re-evaluate. When they see something in black and white, it makes them think about what they truly want. They’re not trying to be difficult. They simply want to be clear on how the problem they’re facing should be solved.

I’m also gaining an appreciation for marketing, and despite the many voices telling me it’s just a numbers game and I have to send out a million pitches, I believe we have to find what works for us. When I hear someone say they get sick to their stomach whenever they pitch, yet they spend a significant part of their day doing it, I have to ask Why would you want to do something that feels like a bad case of morning sickness? Be creative. Find something that works without the physical discomfort.

I’m one who gets physically ill just thinking about selling myself. But I’m also not willing to give up on myself, so I’m taking my own advice and looking for a better way. Part of that is talking to people who more about putting yourself out there to gain recognition and trust rather than playing the numbers game. I spent enough of my life playing with numbers. I’m learning I prefer words, hands down.

Gratitude Always Works

My gratitudes tonight are:

  1. I’m grateful there is more than one way to reach my goals.
  2. I’m grateful for the examples I see before me. Some, I’ll incorporate into my strategy, others I won’t. It doesn’t mean any of them are bad. Some are just a better fit for me.
  3. I’m grateful for dance nights, even when the DJ plays the same old boring dances instead of the many new ones we’ve learned. I get my exercise, my social engagement, and my hugs.
  4. I’m grateful for the upgrades I’ve made in my house in the last week or two. They’re neither expensive nor earth shaking. But they make me feel better, clearer, and more confident of my ability to attract the things I dream of.
  5. I’m grateful for abundance; love, joy, manifestations, inspiration, motivation, companionship, friendship, peace, harmony, philanthropy, and prosperity.

Love and Light

 

The Facebook Live associated with this post can be found here.

I invite you to visit my Facebook pages, Sheri Levenstein-Conaway Author and HLWT Accounting. Please also drop by my website, www.shericonaway.com and check out my Hire Me Page. I’ve created these pages as a means of positive affirmation and would be very grateful if you’d “like” them or leave a comment! Thank you!

Are You Committed or Merely Interested?

A Time for Reassessing. Am I Truly Committed?

The last 3 1/2 years have been quite a ride for me. I’ve dabbled in a lot of things, written a few drafts of novels, and several hundred blog posts, but I’ve yet to figure out quite what I want to be when I grow up. No, I take that back. I’ve figured out what I want to be, I just haven’t fully committed to what’s required to get there.

We go through life trying many different things. Some simply interest us, but every so often, one comes along that grabs us by the throat and we have no choice but to commit to it, heart, soul, mind, and body. I thought the writing was it for me, but with each setback, each rejection, each failure to launch, I become less certain.

Step 1: Having a Plan of Action

I know I need a plan, and have come up with several, but have yet to truly stick to anything long-term. Even the plan I typed up and put on my wall hasn’t really come to fruition. I’m not spending 2-3 hours a day writing. I’m not spending 2-3 hours a day reading motivational literature. And worst of all, I’m not spending 2-3 hours a day working on queries or researching companies to send queries to.

Sure, I’m writing a blog post here and there. Yes, I’m doing at least 2 Facebook Lives a week. Yes, I’m still going to the gym most weeks, though the last couple have been challenging, to say the least.

Having a plan is certainly a good place to start. But if you don’t follow the plan, it’s just words on paper, and may as well be in Swahili for all the meaning they bring into our lives. Yet, if you’re truly committed to something, won’t you stick to any plan at all just to be heading in the right direction?

Acknowledging Our Fears and Frustrations

I question myself every day. I ask what I’m afraid of. At first, it was fear of not following through. But if I’m completely honest with myself, I’ve followed through on writing commitments for others again and again. It’s myself I have trouble committing to. But at least that eliminates the excuse that I don’t send out queries because I’m afraid I won’t be able to fulfill the obligation.

I’ve added a number of chapters to Forgotten Victims though I’m far from done. I did pay close attention to a book I’m currently reading in which the writer said that if your purpose in writing is to help other people, you might as wall hang it up. If your purpose is to help yourself, you’re more likely to succeed, at least by finishing what you set out to write. If it helps someone else, great. But the primary goal has to be self-healing. I needed to hear that as I’d gotten off track in writing my memoir.

I’d started posting chapters of Sasha’s Journey to a site of writers who critique each others’ work. But I wasn’t really committed there either. I read and commented on a couple of pieces, then slacked off. And now that they’re changing the rules and want us to post on our own blog sites and link to theirs, I’m not going to waste my time. If I wanted to post it on my site, I’d have already done so.

So the frustration, the backpedaling and the discouragement continues.

And again I ask myself “Am I committed or merely interested?”

Giving My Life Blood for Someone Else’s Dreams

The reality is, I’ve just about used up the time I had to dabble here, and fritter there. I need to get focused on what I truly want to do, what I’m truly passionate about; and throw myself into it wholeheartedly. Because if I don’t, I deserve no more than to work the rest of my life to pad someone else’s retirement fund. At least there, I know what I do not want.

It’s funny how figuring out what you don’t want in life is pretty easy. You just have to take all the things you’ve found uncomfortable or annoying all your life, put them in a pile and light a match. Those are your “don’t wants”.

Being Clear on What You Do Want

Figuring out what you truly do want is another story entirely. I want to write, yet I go for days without writing a word.

I want to be independent. But I go for days without doing a thing to move myself forward.

I want to do good for others, but here I sit, devoting time and energy to just worry about myself. That’s energy I won’t get back and it benefits no one.

I want to be an inspirational speaker, but until recently, was doing little or nothing towards that end. At least now I’ve signed up to volunteer at a summit for speakers in October. I’ve also been reading books like Talk Like Ted to help me understand what makes a truly great speaker. I’ve been incorporating what I’m learning into both my Facebook Lives and my writing. I’m also watching how other people speak, paying close attention to what does and does not work. As  a result, my more recent Facebook Lives have been under 15 minutes. (18 minutes is optimum for a TED talk. I figure a live broadcast should be shorter).

The Best Lessons Come From Watching Others

While watching one live broadcast recently, I realized how important it is to be prepared before you go live, and to have all of the tools you’ll need for the broadcast within reach. Nothing screams “unprofessional” to your viewers like staring at an empty wall while you disappear to find something you needed for your talk.

With all of the setbacks, with all of the failures, I must still be committed in some fashion, because here I sit, writing another post which will support one of my Facebook Live broadcasts. I created an editorial calendar today which will be the home to everything I need to write, both for publication on my own sites and for others.

Focus on What Is Working Instead of What’s Not

I’m getting back into the habit of writing late at night, even if it’s only 500 words. If I put it in perspective, 500 words a day will give me the 30,000 words or so I still need for my memoir in about 2 months. Considering how long it’s been a work-in-progress, 60 days is nothing!

Like the carpet that still needs to be pulled up in my bedroom, like the garage that needs to be shoveled out (though I have made some progress in recent weeks), like the yard that needs to be weed whacked—everything begins with a single step.

A few weeks ago, I pulled up another section of the carpet. I can do another section now. I just need to get up and do it.

I’ve been consistent with my Facebook Lives. Now I need to be more consistent with the coordinating blog post.

I’ve put the deadlines for client work on my new calendar. I know I’ll meet or beat those deadlines. Can I say the same of deadlines I set for my own work? Someone recently mentioned they’d committed to 3 blog posts a week. There’s not a single reason why I can’t do the same, even if I write them all in one day and schedule them to post throughout the week. I’ve proven time and again that knocking out a 1200-1500 word post is pretty much child’s play for me.

The Big “Why”

Everyone talks about the big “why”. Mine is becoming so clear that I inadvertently picked out a paint color to go with the life I want to live. It was brought home to me yesterday when my daughter and I took a couple of wrong turns and ended up driving along the beach. The water was the exact color I’d chosen for my dining room wall! Thanks to my daughter, it is now a beautiful dark teal, the same color as the ocean yesterday. The rest of the walls are in process of becoming a lighter version of the same color. Every time I walk out into my living room, despite the furniture sitting in the middle of the floor and the fine layer of dust coating everything, I feel both energized and soothed just by looking at that beautiful ocean-colored wall.

I also broke down and bought the resin Adirondack chairs I’d fallen in love with a week or so ago. They, too fit the life and setting I envision for myself.

My big “why” is alive and well. It’s now a matter of committing everything I have, everything I am to making it happen.

Writing has always been my best therapist, and tonight is no different. I began this piece feeling like an utter failure with no real possibility of achieving my dreams. But as I think of the changes I’ve made even in the last couple of weeks, I realize I’m more committed than I give myself credit for. I’m simply moving towards my goals in my usual convoluted fashion. It may seem like I’m aimless and uncommitted, but somehow, in my own weird way, I’m getting where I’m going.

Remembering Always to be Grateful

My gratitudes tonight are:

  1. I’m grateful for the supportive people who continue to find their way into my life. My blessings grow daily.
  2. I am grateful for my personal therapist who has a way of turning my frown into a smile no matter how bad I think things are looking.
  3. I am grateful for the opportunities that are literally dropping into my lap lately.
  4. I am grateful for learning how to ask for help, and how to put myself into places where I can find exactly what I need.
  5. I am grateful for abundance; resources, friendship, courage, companionship, progress, improvements, signs, commitment, love, joy, peace, harmony, health, philanthropy, and prosperity.

Love and Light

You can find the Facebook Live which inspired this post here.

 

I invite you to visit my Facebook pages, Sheri Levenstein-Conaway Author and HLWT Accounting. Please also drop by my website, www.shericonaway.com and check out my Hire Me Page. I’ve created these pages as a means of positive affirmation and would be very grateful if you’d “like” them or leave a comment! Thank you!

September 18, 2015 Gratitude: When What We Need is to be Needed

The Universe Always Comes Through

I’m a firm believer in the Laws of Attraction. The Universe will always bring exactly what is needed, though quite often it isn’t exactly how you might have envisioned it. Whether we realize it or not, we are putting our wants, desires, hopes and dreams out there every day and though we might not see all of the big ones manifesting, if we pay attention, we will see a multitude of small ones.

I couldn’t tell you which of the many requests I’d put out there was answered yesterday, nor how I’d asked. What I do know was that when yesterday’s writing session was interrupted by a friend in need, it wasn’t long before I realized that at some point, I’d expressed a need to be needed. I feel both honored and grateful that my schedule as a writer and freelancer allows me to be there in those rare but beautiful moments when a friend reaches out, seeking what small comfort I might offer, but I know I’m the one who’s truly blessed because I’m being allowed to be needed. So many of my friends and family members are much like me and rarely ask for help so when one of them does ask, it’s something really important and requires attention at the moment of the asking, otherwise, the asker will just pull back into themselves and try to muddle through alone. As I worked on this post, Pandora chose to play this song and as it was so appropriate to what I’m writing, I am sharing it with you.James Taylor – You’ve Got a Friend

Don’t think it gives me joy when someone I care about is suffering. Of course, I’d rather see them not have to go through a painful experience. But if it is necessary for their growth to struggle a bit and they can reach out to me to help them weather the storm, I can only feel grateful that time and circumstance aligned so that I could.

Sure, we all have our own share of struggles and those struggles not only make us stronger but give us new tools with which to face future obstacles. Just as we crawl before we walk, we face bigger and bigger obstacles in our lives so we can receive or even create the tools we’ll need to make the next challenge that much easier. Imagine trying to fight a forest fire with a garden hose because you hadn’t gone through the experiences necessary to acquire a fire hose. Life is like that too. Anything we do gets better and stronger with practice.

I look back on how I wrote when I was a kid, then as a teenager and, more recently, when I started this blog 6 1/2 years ago. So much has changed, not only for me personally, but for the way I put words together. The only way I got here was to put hundreds of thousands of words together in an infinite number of ways until I learned what worked and what didn’t. That’s not to say that I’ve got it all down, but the practice I’ve already had makes what I do going forward maybe just a little less like drek and more like literature. It has certainly encouraged me to keep trying, even when I’m taking my first novel apart and reassembling it, losing some of the old pieces and inserting quite a few new ones.

Maybe I’m not quite achieving the aggressive goals I set for myself, but the four chapters my friend Candy challenged me to complete has now grown to 11 completed and a twelfth in progress. (what that means is, I figured out which of the original fifty-odd chapters I wanted to go next and cut and pasted it under the heading “chapter 12”). Admittedly, the initial challenge to get my butt back in gear came at the end of July, and that, in fact, is when I got the first four chapters done, so seven more in a month and a half isn’t exactly breaking any records, but forward progress is forward progress, and now I’m setting my own goals even if I have to revise them because I was too aggressive for right now. That doesn’t mean that four chapters a week won’t be realistic the further along I get. If I get frustrated, I look at page count instead and see that I’m almost 80 pages into a 342 page book right now. Again, not bad as long as I don’t dwell too long on how long it’s taken me to get this far.

What I’ve gained over the last few weeks may not be earth-shaking, volume-wise. But I’ve gained consistency in sitting down to work on the project. The time I spend in a sitting has grown from about an hour to well over 2 lately (when I’m not interrupted, of course). Better still, I no longer have to argue with myself about sitting down to write, be it a blog post for me or a client or editing Sasha’s Journey. I just allocate time every day to write something, anything, even if it’s pure garbage. (I actually revised Chapter 11 3 times over the last few days until I got it somewhere close to acceptable so I could move on). In fact, I’ve been getting so focused lately that I often forget to turn on the background music. That may or may not be a good thing as I tend to be significantly more self-critical when my internal editor is not otherwise occupied.

Once again, I’ve wandered off the track a bit, but interwoven between all of the words I’ve put on the screen tonight is a single theme: Gratitude. The Universe really does hear our requests. It may not bring them to us in the form we imagined, but it brings us what suits us best and helps move us forward.

My gratitudes tonight are:
1. I am grateful for the opportunity to give of myself.
2. I am grateful for the friends who teach me by their own beautiful ways to be more giving, kind and compassionate.
3. I am grateful for the progress I’m making and though it will never be easy, I’m no longer having to fight with myself to move forward.
4. I am grateful to one, special friend who flat out told me to stop allowing my fears to get in my way. Even if I can’t identify them, I know they’re there and anxious to get between me and my dreams. Only I can thwart them.
5. I am grateful for abundance: love, friendship, progress, tenacity, determination, joy, health, happiness, harmony, peace, philanthropy and prosperity.

Blessed Be

I invite you to visit my Facebook pages at https://www.facebook.com/SheriLevensteinConawayAuthor?ref=aymt_homepage_panel and https://www.facebook.com/HLWTAccounting . Please also drop by my website, http://www.shericonaway.com and check out my Hire Me Page. I’ve created these pages as a means of positive affirmation and would be very grateful if you’d “like” them or leave a comment! Thank you!

January 16, 2015 Keeping it real: Leaps of Faith come in all sizes and colors. Find yours!

When you buy a new car, you suddenly notice every one like yours on the road.

Taking a leap of faith is no different. I find that my eyes have been opened to the miracles others perform every day. Some may think it’s nothing, but the rest of us know they’re pretty amazing.

Take, for example, a friend of mine who is about to move herself, bag and baggage, four states away. She just decided it was what she needed to do for herself, and put the plan in action, allowing herself the chance to let things fall into place just because she believed in herself. Now, as she’s ready to leave town, she has 3 jobs, including the one in her current state, and she’ll be able to work them all from her home office, with regular trips to and fro, allowing her to stay in touch with friends she’s made all over the place. How terrific is that? And none of it would have happened had she not just believed.

Or take another friend who, despite a cranky knee, runs marathons what seems like every weekend, AND she dances AND keeps up a very active life besides. She truly is a rock star!

Then there’s my daughter who encouraged her husband to follow his own dream. He decided to take whatever route he needed to in order to get into the medical program with the Navy. At the moment, he’s a chef, but he goes above and beyond whatever he does. He’s already ranked up and is getting very positive feedback from some of the officers. But it meant that my daughter had to move far away from home for the first time in her life. What did she do? She went back to school…and she took up karate…and she’s getting involved with the family support group for her husband’s ship…and who knows what she’ll take up next. Best of all, she’s following her own dream as the colleges where she moved have exactly the programs she wants and needs!

In my quest to write and publish, I’m stepping further out of my own comfort zone and looking for a writer’s group which will suit me. I love reading everyone’s stories. Even letting someone read our scribbles can be a huge leap of faith, much less putting in the time and effort to actually publish something so it’s available to the masses.

How better to perpetuate leaps of faith than by surrounding yourself with other leapers?

As I follow my own personal reinvention, sometimes leaping, but more often crawling, I find myself inspired by people who have made drastic changes in their lives, and I want to surround myself with people who are willing to get past their fears and just follow their hearts. I was going to say that they squelched their fears, but at least those like me don’t do that. We simply recognize the fear but don’t let it paralyze us. If nothing else, you don’t write things publicly or toss your literary baby out into the world if you give in to your fears. You slap a lid on them, glue it down as best you can, move forward while they’re being quiet, and stop when necessary to slap them down again. Otherwise, you’d be a quivering mass of protoplasm curled into the fetal position in some dark corner, never to be heard from again.

Writers must write. It’s as important to us as breathing; maybe more so. That doesn’t mean we have to share, but authors need to share, and share, and share. Although, after I read the rules for the writer’s group I’ll be visiting tomorrow, I don’t think I’ll be sharing for awhile yet. They only want edited work, and frankly, mine has a long way to go. But there will come a point when I’ll know that it’s do or die, and one of my babies will be launched from the womb to bear the scrutiny of a world I hope will, at least initially, be kind in its criticisms. There will be plenty of time after it’s been fine-tuned for the world to take pot shots. Hopefully, by the time that happens, both my writing and I will have thickened our skins so most of what is chucked our way will roll off of us like water off an oil slick.

All I can say is: “Keep on Leapin’!”

My biggest desire right now is to keep meeting people who took their own leap, and who will share their stories with me so I can add them to the growing list of people who’ve changed their lives for the better.

If you would like to share your own leap of faith, I invite you to be a guest blogger. You can message me on Facebook through the page I’ll reference below, or leave a message here on the blog. I look forward to being able to share your story!

My gratitudes tonight are:
1. I am grateful for small successes in the Tarot Spells I’ve cast.
2. I am grateful for people who inspire me to continue to push my envelope.
3. I am grateful for quiet evenings alone with my cats to fiddle and play, but also to be inspired and to write.
4. I am grateful for the variety which has come into my life lately. Maybe soon I’ll be able to keep track of what day it is again!
5. I am grateful for abundance: leaps of faith, energy, inspiration, motivation, consistency, love, joy, happiness, friendship, lessons, health, prosperity and the constant companionship of my cats.

Blessed Be

And now for some shameless self-promotion:
I’d love it if you’d visit my Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/SheriLevensteinConawayAuthor?ref=aymt_homepage_panel. I’ve created this page as a means of positive affirmation and would be very grateful if you’d “like” it or leave a comment! Thank you!

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