The 10 Most Important Lessons I've Learned as an Online Business Owner

I left my career as an elementary school teacher in June of 2018 to go full-time in my product-based business. A lot has changed since then (more on this later), and I’ve had quite a bit of time to reflect on the last couple of years of running my first business — I faced a lot of challenges, especially in the beginning, and I see so many women who are currently where I once was not that long ago.

I didn’t have a professional coach or mentor, nor did I have any loans funding my little hobby turned online business; I started my brand in my parents’ kitchen on a random night after work and truly, from that moment, the rest was history. Looking back there are plenty of things I would have done differently, but there were so many important lessons and experiences I wouldn’t have had otherwise. This post is for all the women who are currently working their asses off to turn their online business dreams into reality — and need a little push to keep them going on that journey.



Lesson #1: Marketing is everything

Full disclosure — I was really, really, really awful at marketing. It took a lot of tears, frustrating conversations with my significant other, late nights combing through every resource I could find, and lots of patience to finally get a grip on marketing. The truth is, you can have the most incredible product but if you’re not working on marketing your business and giving people a reason to buy from you, it will be reflected in your sales (or lack thereof). Remember that.

We are often tempted to have this mindset of “build it and they will come” (I know I did at first), but you have to work on bringing people to you. In rare cases, people may randomly stumble across your social media or your website, but 99.9% of the time you have be taking actionable steps to get your future customers to your online store. There are so many facets to marketing an online business — SEO, social media, Pinterest, emails, cold-calling, in person networking — the list seems endless and extremely overwhelming at times.

My best advice: if you go the DIY route with your marketing, find out where your target market is hanging out the most and focus on one or two areas to begin with so you don’t overwhelm yourself. Get really good at marketing your brand in those two areas before you add another method to the mix. If you can afford to outsource your marketing, I highly recommend hiring someone to do a lot of the leg work for you. There are plenty of Virtual Assistants, SEO Experts, and general marketing strategists out there that are more than willing to help you at a variety of different prices. Alexa from Healthy Dash of Social is a digital marketing genius, and I totally suggest you check out her services if you need someone to help you out. Outsourcing takes a lot of the pressure and work off your shoulders, so you can focus on the other important tasks of running your online business. Whichever route you choose to take, know that marketing is absolutely essential to growing your brand.

Lesson #2: Start building your email list ASAP

In the same thread of marketing, you need to establish an email list as early on in your business as possible. I started my email marketing system so late in the game, and that is one of the things I wish I would’ve had in place right from the get go. A lot of people roll their eyes at this piece of advice, but you’ve got to start getting people on your list — even if you haven’t officially launched yet.

Why? Simple: you do not own your social media. If your account is hacked or a glitch happens, you can lose everything, easily. In addition to that, with the way the algorithms work at times, your content is not always being seen by your followers. You want to have a quick, convenient way to get directly in front of your target market — current and future customers alike — at any given moment, and e-mail marketing is the best way to do that.

Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links. I receive a small commission if you sign up or purchase through my link at no additional cost to you. Thank you so much for your support!

In the beginning I used MailChimp for my email marketing, but switched over to ConvertKit as I found it was much more organized and user-friendly; now, 9 times out of 10 I always recommend starting with ConvertKit. You can sign up for a free trail to start, and then choose a plan according to your preferences (and budget), when it’s time to upgrade. If you want to find out if ConvertKit is right for you, this article is super helpful and can help you decide if it will meet your needs.

  • To provide you with a little email marketing 101: When you are first establishing your email list, you will want to provide your future subscribers with a reason to give you access to their inbox. This happens by offering some sort of incentive in exchange for their email address that you will collect via an opt-in form. The opt-in form for the freebie (an ebook), that goes with this blog post might look something like this:

 

Important Lessons for Entrepreneurs

Download the free ebook for online business owners

    We won't send you spam. Unsubscribe at any time.
    Powered By ConvertKit
     

    • For example: The incentive I’m offering you in order to collect your email address is the freebie (an e-book). The opt-in form is where you enter your email address to get access to the freebie. A stand-alone opt in page might look something like this, and can be created even if you don’t have a full website just yet, but want to start collecting subscribers. A stand-alone opt-in page can be created within your email marketing provider, who will then supply you with a unique link to share with your customers.

    Your incentive may vary depending on what type of business you have (or aspire to have). It may come in the form of discount codes, free shipping, e-books, informative articles, exclusive access to a subscribers-only membership portal, etc. If you do some digging around Pinterest or Google, you can find a long list of suggestions for possible incentives that make sense for your industry. Just keep in mind that most of the time, your customers aren’t just going to give you their address without knowing they’ll get something in return. Take some time and really think about what you will offer them.

    I promise I will have a full post dedicated to email marketing soon, because it’s a topic that a lot of entrepreneurs (and bloggers) wonder about. For now, just know that you should (1) choose an email marketing platform (2) create your opt-in form or page (3) offer/create an incentive and (4) deliver valuable, consistent content to nurture your list and keep your subscribers happy.

    Lesson #3: Get really, really clear on your ideal customer

    “When you speak to everyone, you speak to no one.” – Meredith Hill

    While the context from this quote originally came from an article about attracting clients, it also holds true for product-based business owners: If you think you’re selling to everyone, you are selling to no one. Your products will. not. be. for. everyone. That’s just the reality — and that’s totally okay. You just need to figure out exactly who you are selling to.

    You need to get incredibly clear and incredibly specific when defining your ideal customer avatar. Who are you selling to? Why do they NEED your products? What problem are you solving for them? How old are they? Where do they live? What do they do for a living? (You’ll find a full worksheet in this free e-book to help you discover your ideal customer).

    You have to step outside of yourself, the business owner, and step into the mind of your ideal customer. Your products are for them and they are handing over their money to you. Take care of them, get to know them, and market to them. 

    Lesson #4: Don’t lower your prices as an attempt to generate sales

    One of the most difficult things in the beginning stages of my first business was determining prices. I worried that if my products were too expensive, no one would buy them, and if they were too cheap no one would see the value in them and I wouldn’t make any money. Initially my first instinct when I wasn’t making any sales was to decrease my prices, so I went ahead and cut my prices nearly in half as a desperate attempt to get more customers.

    The result? I barely broke even during that time. In fact, I’m pretty sure I lost money when I slashed my prices. People weren’t flocking to my store like I hoped they would.

    When I finally started charging what the products were actually worth, that’s when I realized I didn’t have to drop prices to bring in customers — people would actually pay the higher price if my marketing was in check. You need to dig really deep into the numbers here — know how much your products cost (whether you make them yourself or purchase wholesale), how much you put into making/packing/shipping your items, factor in any of your overhead costs, and decide how much you want to earn (your profit per item). There are plenty of resources out there to help guide you through determining your cost of production and your prices no matter what industry you’re in; I was lucky enough to have a financial analyst for a significant other to help me work through this process.

    Lesson #5: Create a lifestyle around your products

    A great price of advice I got early on in my first entrepreneurial endeavor was to create a lifestyle around my brand. This is where defining and understanding your ideal customer avatar really comes into play, and how it connects with your marketing strategies. Show your products in action. Curate a social media feed that is appealing to your target market and showcases your brand. Provide your audience with valuable, engaging content and give them a reason to need your products (or services). Sometimes it’s crystal clear on how you can develop your brand’s lifestyle, sometimes it isn’t so easy. Take some time to really sort this out.

    Lesson #6: Don’t be afraid to reach out to influencers

    I recently wrote a blog post about how entrepreneurs can work with influencers based on my experiences with my product-based business and as a micro-influencer myself. Using influencer marketing is a great way to get your brand out there and build a loyal customer base, but there are a few things to consider before you publish a post in a Facebook group asking for volunteers to review your products. When you go into influencer marketing blindly, you end up sending out a ton of free stuff with very little return, so you absolutely need to do your homework first. I highly suggest reading that post before you start collaborating with influencers, or even if you’ve already done some collaborations in the past. Regardless, don’t hesitate to reach out after you do some research on who would be a good fit for your brand!

    Lesson #7: When sales are stagnant (or non-existent) don’t churn out new products

    Keep. it. simple. This was a hard lesson learned for me. Early on I thought if I offered more it would bring in more sales, but all it did was stress me out, put me in the red, and spread me way too thin. I’ll go as far to say that it made me hate my business at times. You need to get really, really good at making and selling what you currently have first; then later on down the road once you’ve built up a loyal customer base and have your feet under you more, you can gradually introduce new products if the time, price, and demand is right.

    Lesson #8: Network, network, network

    My dad has ingrained the importance of networking into my brain for as long as I can remember, and I guarantee you he attributes much of his success to this very principle. Grab yourself some business cards, hit up local events in your area, talk to the stranger at the coffee shop, tell people what you do — it doesn’t matter where you are or what you’re doing, there are always opportunities to build new, meaningful connections and solidify existing ones. You truly never know what could come from a simple conversation with the person next to you.

    My favorite place to network online is inside Facebook groups. I’ve met so many incredible people within these various groups who have purchased from me, signed on as clients, and even purchased inventory at wholesale rates. I started a community for creative, entrepreneurial women that you can find here, but if you want to search for additional groups to join, I highly recommend browsing Facebook.

    Lesson #9: Your mindset is a crucial factor in the success of your business

    “Whether you think you can, or you think you can’t, you’re right.” — Henry Ford

    I’ve always had a pretty crappy mindset, but towards the end of my teaching career, I slowly started to realize that I could re-wire my self-sabotaging brain to think differently. Running a business will test you emotionally, physically, and mentally, so loading up on personal development is incredibly important. If you don’t think you will succeed in your business, you won’t. Plain and simple. If things get really difficult and you can’t see yourself pushing through those challenging moments, you won’t. If you think you can succeed, however, you will. If you believe in every fiber of your being that you are destined for success and financial abundance, you are. That’s not to say we don’t have moments of self-doubt from time to time, but your resiliency, how you react to challenges, and how you bounce-back says a lot about your state of mind.

    Your mindset is a powerful tool: feed it, nurture it, and treat it gently. You can find my favorite personal development books for entrepreneurs here.

    Lesson #10: Patience is hard, but absolutely necessary

    Ah, my least favorite lesson of them all. I am not a patient person; and in a world where instant-gratification runs rampant and so many things are literally at our finger tips, patience is a difficult virtue to possess. Building a business takes a lot of time, and success just isn’t going to happen overnight. It’s so hard to be patient sometimes but you have to put your head down and keep at it. Keep providing value, building connections, and working on your marketing.

    Final Thoughts

    Starting and running your own business is not for the faint of heart — it will test you, break you, make you cry, and you will absolutely have moments when you ask yourself 'wtf am I doing!?’ but it will also show you how resilient you are. It will teach you important lessons, provide you with new, exciting opportunities, and maybe even uncover new skills and strengths you never would’ve noticed otherwise. If you’ve made the brave, bold decision to start a new business, if you’ve finally committed to transforming your candle-making hobby into a full-blow brand, or if you have taken the leap and left your career to be a full-time entrepreneur — I commend you. In a lot of ways, you’ve already done one of the hardest parts, and I’m proud of you for that.

    My inbox is always open if you want to chat, or just need some positive vibes sent your way. What are some important lessons you’ve learned running your business?

    xxElizabeth

    5 Mistakes You're Making with Pinterest

    Pinterest is my number one source of traffic across all of my websites. Once I started taking consistent and strategic action to grow my brands through Pinterest, my website traffic more than tripled in just one month of getting serious with my business account.

    When I speak with clients or readers on social media, they always ask me the same thing: How!?

    They usually follow up this question with asking me one or all of the following: Why do I need to use a business account? Can’t I just pin from my personal profile? Is this going to take a lot of extra time? How long will it be until I start seeing the growth I’m after?

    Luckily, I have quite a few blog posts already written addressing some of these questions — and I have a top secret project currently in the works that will help you learn more about maximizing Pinterest to grow your brand — but before you dive into those other resources, it’s important to double check your current usage on Pinterest to make sure you’re not making these 5 common mistakes:

    LMDPins (3).png

    You don’t have a business account

    This is the first thing I do for my clients when they hire me as their Pinterest Assistant. Creating a new business account, or converting your personal account, grants you access to a whole new world on Pinterest (and it’s free). Setting up or converting to a business account will not only allow you to create viral-worthy pins that link your audience back to your website, but it will allow you to monitor your Pinterest analytics. You’ll be able to see how your pins are performing and which ones are being saved and how many people are clicking on them to go to their original source (your website). These analytics will give you exclusive access to the behaviors of your current and target audience. Having access to this information may not seem like a huge deal, but if you want to learn how to truly grow your brand on Pinterest it’s important to pay attention to what the data tells you.

    A lot of people will ask me if they can just pin images directly from their blog or website to their personal Pinterest, rather than setting up a business account. Of course that’s certainly one way to go about it, but resisting a business account isn’t going to do you much good, plus it literally takes just a few minutes to set up. If you want to learn more about why and how to set up your business account you can take a look at this post here where I get into the details, or you can have me set up your account for you.

    You’re pinning images that aren’t relevant to your niche

    If you’re a health and wellness blogger, does it make sense for your audience to see your “Dream Wedding” board when they visit your profile? I think the answer is obvious there, yet I see so many clients making this mistake! You have a target audience that you want to attract — whether you want them to read your blog, buy your products, or utilize your services — so you need to create boards and pin images that will bring forth your target audience. If I’m browsing Pinterest and stumble upon a health and wellness profile, I expect to see boards filled with content related to their brand.

    If you are going to be converting your personal profile to a business account, you can easily turn some of your off-brand boards into “secret” boards so you don’t lose all the content you’ve pinned over the years. I have plenty of secret boards on my business accounts that I still pin to often, but I don’t want my audience seeing them because they don’t pertain to my niche and will attract the wrong audience. Save the dream wedding and hair color inspo boards for your personal profile or secret boards, and keep your business account specific to your niche.

    You’re treating it like social media

    Raise your hand if you’ve ever felt personally victimized by the ridiculous algorithms on social media ::raises hand::

    I think Instagram and Facebook are secretly run by Regina George (if you don’t get the Mean Girls reference you can ignore that first sentence), because it feels like they’re always working against us. I lost faith in Instagram when they got rid of the chronological feed and made it harder for people to be seen unless you spent countless hours posting, engaging and paying for ads. Don’t get me wrong, social media is still a useful tool, but I’ve seen so much more growth and conversions by utilizing Pinterest, and it all started happening within that first month I got serious with my business account.

    A lot of people have what I call social media syndrome when they start working on their Pinterest account — they think that followers are the end all and be all, and have this belief engrained in their minds that if their follower count isn’t going up on Pinterest they aren’t growing. Well my friends, lucky for us, that couldn’t be further from the truth! What matters most on Pinterest is that people are seeing your pins, saving them to their own boards, and clicking on them to land on your website. Those are the numbers that matter. Your audience doesn’t have to be following you to see your content — they just have to see it in a search or on their feed. Sure, it’s nice to see your follower count increase but it’s not a critical measurement of success. Pinterest is not a social media platform: it’s a visual search engine.

    This leads me to the next mistake:

    You’re not optimizing your board and pin descriptions

    Think of Pinterest like Google, but with pictures. When you go to Google you enter certain terms into the search bar and Google pulls up a ridiculous amount of resources that are relevant to your search. Pinterest does the same exact thing but with pretty images. How and why do those images show up in your search? It’s all in the descriptions.

    This is another huge reason why you don’t want to just use your personal account to pin images from your website. Those images may very well be pinned without any type of relevant or searchable descriptions, which means your audience could be missing out on finding your content. Every time you upload your own image to Pinterest, you have the opportunity to craft a description that will hopefully show up in your target audience’s search results. This requires a little strategy on your part, so let’s take a look at some examples.

    Here’s a somewhat-recent pin I created that has specific, searchable terms (keywords) in the description. I’ve included a few hashtags (no need to go crazy like on IG), but notice some of the words I’m using:

    Even looking back at that description there are some things I would change to make it even more searchable, but you get the idea. You want to imagine what your ideal reader, customer, or client would search for when coming to Pinterest (or Google), and try to include some of those keywords in the descriptions of your pins and your boards. This is how your content can end up on the screens of your target audience.

    Please, please, please promise me though, you won’t just jam a bunch of keywords into your descriptions. Write out a couple sentences, put some effort into it, then end with just a couple hashtags if you feel so inclined, but don’t just type out random terms or hashtags and throw them in the box.

    If you’re stuck on what to say in your description and aren’t sure how to really optimize your pins or boards, think about who your target audience is and what they might be searching for to arrive at your profile. Think about your brand, your content, your products, or services. Once you get used to writing descriptions, you’ll get the hang of it.

    You’re not utilizing Tailwind

    This last mistake is a BIG one. I’ve talked about Tailwind before and how much I love it for running my Pinterest and Instagram on autopilot. It’s also a huge reason why I was able to triple my website traffic in just one month of consistent and strategic use in conjunction with Pinterest.

    If you haven’t seen the post I mentioned above, Tailwind is a Pinterest-approved scheduling tool that allows you to create and schedule pins that will automatically pin to Pinterest at the most optimal times. You can literally schedule out weeks worth of content and save SO much time since you won’t be stuck pinning aimlessly at odd hours. You can even join Tailwind tribes (general or niche-specific groups within the tool), to share your content in order to help get re-shares, drive traffic, and add additional content from other users to your boards. I use Tailwind for all of my clients and it just makes everyone’s lives so much easier.

    Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links. I receive a small commission if you sign up or purchase through my link at no additional cost to you. Thank you so much for your support!

    You can learn more about Tailwind by checking out this post, or if you’re ready to dive in and see what it’s all about you can sign up for your account and get started using it today.

    Final thoughts

    If you find that you’re making any (or all) of these mistakes with your Pinterest, don’t stress! They are relatively simple fixes that make a massive difference. If you’re still struggling after making some adjustments, you can check out my Pinterest services here and I’ll be more than happy to help you out! Stay tuned for my special project announcement that will provide you with even MORE Pinterest help!

    xxElizabeth

    Download your FREE Pinterest Strategy Checklist

    Enter your email below to receive your free four page quick guide, complete with essential tools and checklists to start driving more traffic to your website!

      We promise we won't send you any spam. Unsubscribe at any time.

      Powered By ConvertKit

      5 Mistakes to Avoid When Starting an Online Business

      When I started my first business I had absolutely no clue what I was doing. I took a hobby and transformed it into my full-time job in about two years -- something I never imagined would happen in my life until I started my business. There have been many challenges, successes, and lessons learned from my entrepreneurial journey; when I sat down the other day to reflect on my first year as a full-time business owner, I found there were many things I wish I had known back when I first started.

      Read More

      My Favorite Communities for Creative Entrepreneurs

      One of my biggest tips for you if you’re starting a blog or a business is to find support. I am a one woman show over here, but I wouldn’t be able to take on all of these responsibilities and challenges without a solid support group. I am lucky to have a family, a handful of friends, and a significant other who support my mission to pursue my passions. As much as they support me though (and as much as I appreciate it), not all of them understand exactly what it’s like to live the lifestyle of an entrepreneur and blogger.

      Read More

      How to Avoid Burnout As An Entrepreneur

      I think feeling overwhelmed is almost a natural emotion for many business owners. Not only do we have our businesses to run (or if you’re like my friend and I — multiple businesses), but there’s also social media algorithms to figure out, blog posts to write, and our own personal lives to keep up with. Sometimes it can feel like your head isn’t even attached to your body anymore. Let me tell you — I get it. I feel you. I’m right there with you. There are honestly some days I feel like I can’t keep up and all I want to do is crawl back into bed, tuck my phone away and watch every season of Friends while sipping from a very large pitcher of mimosas. But since that isn’t going to solve any problems or make me any money (at least not in the long term), I’ve started to explore some strategies that work for me when I reach my threshold.

      Read More

      Shopify vs. Squarespace: how to choose the best option for your business

      Starting a business is hard. Starting an online business is even harder. In the never ending sea of online businesses, it can be so difficult to get your store recognized among the millions of other business owners out there. So continuing with this series for bloggers and business owners, I wanted to take some time today to talk about the best options for hosting your online shop.

      I get asked by aspiring business owners almost daily about who built my website for my brand. When I tell them it was me, they are floored. They then often ask me what platform I used and how I did it. All of these questions inspired me to revamp my blog and turn it into what you see here: a resource for other business owners and bloggers.

      I’ve tried Etsy, Blogspot, Wix, Shopify, Wordpress, and Squarespace in the last several years. I took my business online about year ago, but was doing in-person sales almost a year prior to that. I still do most of my sales offline through wholesale and individual sales, but once more people started asking about where they could purchase my products back in 2016, I knew I had to create an e-commerce website for people to order from.

      From my experience with Wix, I knew I wanted something that offered a bit more customization. There’s nothing wrong with it, I just knew I wanted more freedom and flexibility in my designs. I had tried my hand at Etsy, but found that the keywords and SEO were just as frustrating as Instagram’s ever-changing algorithms, so I went with Shopify.

      Disclaimer: This post contains some affiliate links. I receive a small commission or credit if you sign up through my link at no additional cost to you. Thank you so much for your support!

      I love Shopify for several reasons. It’s so easy to use that anyone with little to no background for web design can set up a beautiful site that will be visually appealing customers. It wasn’t until later that I found Squarespace, which is what I use for my blog currently.

      Regardless of which platform you choose for your business, you absolutely need to purchase a domain name before you fully launch. That will immediately eliminate the generic www.{your brand name}.shopify.com web address and make your brand look much more professional. All of my domain names were purchased through Go Daddy, but I’m currently looking into transferring these to self-hosting through Site Ground (more on that later). I pay for my domain names annually, at $14.99/year. Go Daddy isn’t a bad option at all in my opinion, but if you prefer to be self-hosted then definitely go with Site Ground. If you want to start with GoDaddy, you can sign up here.

      In this post I’m going to breakdown the differences between Shopify and Squarespace — the pros, cons, what they’re used for, and which one you should go with for your online business needs. Just to reiterate, I use both of these platforms every day and have become very familiar with the two of them and love them both, but for different reasons. Here’s what you need to know:

      Shopify

      Shopify is perfect for you if you’ve never run a website before and have a product or service to sell. It’s incredibly easy to set up and doesn’t require a huge learning curve. When your customers ask you if they can purchase your products or services online, it is crucial you have an easy-to-navigate online store ready for them to go to.

      Shopify offers plenty of visually appealing templates to choose from, and they are all fairly customizable. You can use additional graphic design tools like Canva to customize your site even further, but if you don’t have the time or patience to go that route, Shopify still has enough features that you can use to make a beautiful online store.

      It is super easy to manage your inventory, track your sales, and ship out your orders. What I also love about this platform is their app that you can download right to your phone that essentially has all the same features as their website version. This allows you to easily manage your shop from your phone which is a huge bonus.

      As far as price point is concerned, Shopify offers a few options. You are granted a 14 day free trial before you fully commit, but after that you need to choose a plan to fully publish your site. I currently pay monthly for my Shopify site at a rate of $29/month for the basic plan. Rates for the other plans then start at $79 or $299, but if you are a new business, the basic plan gives you everything you need. There are zero transaction fees to pay under any of the plan options, but credit card rates start at 2.9% + 30 cents for the basic plan.

      Squarespace

      Oh how I love this platform. Unlike Shopify, Squarespace comes with a bit more of a learning curve. There’s a lot going on here, and it’s going to take a bit more time to learn the ins and outs of this platform. If you have some experience in building a website, you may feel comfortable taking on Squarespace. If you want to offer your customers more than just an e-commerce website, then this is definitely a better option. For example, if you want to run a successful blog and an online store together, Squarespace is my first pick. If your sole purpose is just to sell products or services, then you might be better off choosing Shopify, although I do know plenty of business owners who have chosen to run their site through Squarespace and have been very happy with it.

      Similar to Shopify, Squarespace offers a ton of beautiful templates that are all highly customizable. The design features are pretty outstanding in my opinion. You can manipulate very specific design features on this platform as compared to Shopify, where you’re slightly more restricted. You can also use additional graphic design tools like Canva here, though you might find Squarespace already has exactly what you’re looking for in many cases.

      There are a few different apps that Squarespace offers. The only downside is you’ll have to download them separately — they have an app for your blog, your e-commerce store, your portfolio, and another one that allows you to view the analytics of your site. While it’s helpful there are mobile apps for Squarespace, it can be a little inconvenient to have multiple apps to manage everything.

      As far as price point is concerned here, Squarespace also grants you a 14-day free trial before you publish your site. From there you have a few different options. Squarespace allows you to build a personal or business website, but if you are hoping to build an online store, you will obviously want to choose that option. If you are just looking for a basic plan, you can choose to either pay $26/month (billed annually), or pay $30 month to month. If you need more than just a basic plan, you’re looking at $40/month (billed annually), or $46 month to month.

      One last thing I have to say about Squarespace is regarding their customer service. Recently on Instagram I talked about how I had an issue publishing one of my digital downloads. I like to think I’m pretty tech savvy and can usually troubleshoot most issues on my own, but after an hour of trying to figure out the issue, I opted for Squarespace’s chat support. The person I was connected to was extremely personable and helpful — something not all platforms offer. I haven’t ever needed to use Shopify’s customer support, but I’m sure they would be equally as helpful.

      The Final Verdict

      If you are looking for something that can be easily accessed from your phone, is simple to navigate, and will allow you to focus on selling a product or service, my best advice is to go with Shopify.

      If you are looking for a platform that will allow you to go above and beyond in the creative design features of you shop, or if you plan on providing your customers/audience with more than just your products or services, AND you can take on a platform that requires a bit more of a learning curve, then Squarespace could be the right one for you.

      If you still aren’t sure which platform you’d prefer, I recommend signing up for their free trials, playing around, and seeing what you are most comfortable with. If you have any questions about either platform, or need some help once you sign up, please feel free to leave a comment or send me and e-mail — I’d be happy to help!

      I also just launched several custom design services here, so if you’re looking to take some extra work off your shoulders, I would be more than happy to design your Squarespace or Shopify store for you. If you’re interested, you can head to my design services page to check it out!

      xx Elizabeth

      free stock photography that doesn't require an e-mail sign up to download

      Running your own business or blog requires a lot of work, especially if you’re a one-woman show like I am most of the time. I take a lot of my own photos for my business, but I’m not super skilled at arranging the perfect flat lay or capturing the right photo to add to a blog post.

      IMG_3986.PNG

      This is where stock photos come in. Thank goodness for whoever cooked up the idea to make stock photography available online because it is one of my biggest time and sanity savers as a blogger and business owner. If I can’t photograph it myself, I head to my favorite stock photo sites to see if they have something close to what I envision.  

      There are TONS of options when it comes to stock photography. Some sites will require you to subscribe to their email list and/or charge you a fee in the form of a monthly or annual membership, a package, or per photo. I personally prefer to use reputable free stock photo sites — ones that require you to subscribe to an email list and ones that don’t. 

      Today I’m sharing my favorite stock photo sites that don’t require you to sign up for email marketing because let’s face it — we all probably have way too many emails currently cluttering up our inbox. I will, however, be adding another post of stock photo resources that do require an email to download, but for now take a look at these awesome sites you can start using today:

      Unsplash — by far my favorite free stock photo resource. Simply type in what you’re looking for in the search bar, browse, and download your favorites! You don’t have to give credit to the photographers but they leave their socials/links when you download each photo so you can link back to them if you wish. I absolutely love using these images in the digital designs I create in Canva. The photo below I found while searching “flatlay lifestyle.”

      IMG_3949.JPG

      Pixabay — another favorite of mine. Pixabay comes in at a close second for me. Similar to Unsplash, you’ll search, browse, and download. Super easy! You may find some repeats here that are also seen on Unsplash, but there are plenty of unique photos to choose from. If I can’t find what I’m looking for on Unsplash, I head to Pixabay.

      aerial-3452425_1280.jpg

      GOLD AND BERRY — this is a new one for me, but I like what I’ve seen so far. To find the photos, just start by browsing through the freebies section; you can find plenty of beautifully styled stock photography that can be downloaded right to your computer or mobile device.

      Stokpic — You’ll find a ton of stunning photos on this site. My favorites are the tropical landscape shots like the one below. You can browse through their categories or search for a specific type of photo here. Their selection isn’t quite as expansive as Unsplash or Pixabay but you’re sure to find something that can work for your brand.

      Ivory Mix — This is the only site that I’m breaking the no-email-signup-rule for because these photos are absolutely incredible. When you sign up for Kayla’s free stock images, you get immediate access to over 550 beautiful images. Once you’re signed up you’ll enter the password to gain access and you’re good to start downloading. I can’t recommend this site enough!

      Do you have any favorite free stock photo sites? I’d love to add more to my list!

      xxElizabeth

      how to make your Pinterest stand out

      image_6483441.JPG

      Long gone are the days that Pinterest was only used for viewing pretty photos and finding inspiration. While this incredible platform is certainly still used in those ways, Pinterest has become an undeniably helpful tool for bloggers and business owners to grow their brands and drive traffic to their websites.

      Growing your brand and your Pinterest can be so gratifying and fun but it’s not easy! It takes a lot of time, hard work and patience; just like anything else involved with starting a new blog or a business. But my hope is to lay out a sort of formula for you that I am currently following for my Pinterest accounts in order to inspire you to try the same for yours. If you want to give your Pinterest a makeover but don’t have the time to learn how, you can see the Pinterest services I offer here.

      Before we dive in, I’m sure it goes without saying that you should have an account with Pinterest, and better yet you should have a business account with them. This will allow you to track your analytics, create rich pins, and connect your account to your website. We’ll get into all these specifics in a separate post very soon. Once you have the basics of your account set up, give these tips a try to get your Pinterest off to a great start:

      create boards that are relevant to your content area (aka niche)

      If you’ve been here for awhile you know how I feel about the word niche, (I prefer to call this your “content area” instead). I think it’s really important to keep your “theme” in mind when creating your Pinterest boards for your brand. If you are a health and fitness blogger, I would absolutely expect to see several boards designated to different subtopics in this area. Same goes for fashion bloggers — I would expect to see boards geared towards fashion trends, outfit inspiration, and a reflection of your personal style. If you’re a natural skincare brand I would hope to see your products, tips for taking care of your skin naturally, and maybe even some clean foods to eat to help your skin. Is this starting to make sense?

      While I feel you can certainly sprinkle in some more personal boards throughout, you’re going to want to make it very clear to your visitors and followers what your brand is about. Think about the last time you visited a Pinterest profile — were you able to tell what their blog or business was? Keep that in mind as you create your boards.

      Obviously you’ll want to keep adding to your boards to really build them up — I’ve seen so many recommendations regarding the suggested number of pins per board; the number I’ve seen most frequently is about 50 pins. This is something I’m currently working on — some of my boards have well over 50 pins, while others have less than 30 (yikes) — so I will update you when this is completed to see if this helps with growth!

      write titles and descriptions for your boards

      I never used to pay attention to any of the text surrounding the images on Pinterest, let alone the board descriptions. However, as I started read more about Pinterest and use it more frequently, I realized just how important it was to create/update the titles and descriptions of your Pins and your boards. Your words are essentially the keywords people could potentially search for on the platform, which means if you’re using the right keywords, it’s more likely your content will show up on someone’s feed. Your wording should be clear, concise, and terms that are easily searchable. It’s best to avoid puns, odd spellings or phrases in your titles and descriptions, as these may not be found as easily as clear descriptors.

      create and upload your own pins using a graphic design tool like Canva

      I’ve you haven’t noticed by now, I am absolutely obsessed with Canva. I’ve been using it for nearly two years to create graphics for my business, and now my latest blog. I’ve put together a couple simple tutorials you can view to help you create your own pins in Canva, and how to upload them onto Pinterest. This will come in handy when you want to create your board covers as well.

      My recommendation to you, once you’ve created a few pins, is to create one or two more variations of those same pins to also upload to Pinterest. I’ve been playing around with this lately and it’s helping me determine which pins are more visually pleasing.

      create cohesive board covers

      This requires SO much work but I find it to be so much fun! Similar to creating your own custom pins, you will want to create your own board covers as well. There are endless options as to how you can design your board covers, but my favorite tool is of course Canva. I will be adding a full tutorial on how to create and upload your own board covers here shortly, but you can certainly refer to the custom pin tutorial to give you an idea!

      Creating your own board covers makes your Pinterest look sleek, seamless, and organized. Take a look below at my brand’s boards in the top two photos (without custom board covers) and my blog’s board in the bottom two photos.

      Can you tell the difference!? The custom board covers tie everything together so nicely, while the random board covers make it feel disorganized and messy. I don’t know about you, but I’m much more likely to stick around’s someone’s Pinterest if it’s easy to navigate!

      utilize schedulers like Tailwind

      I’ve been using Tailwind for a little over a month now, and I have to say it’s made things a whole lot easier. I have noticed some small impacts on growth and I’ve truly enjoyed learning to navigate all the site has to offer. If you haven’t heard of Tailwind, it’s a tool you can use to schedule pins, connect with a wider audience (through groups called Tribes), and gain all sorts of helpful insights about how you’re using your Pinterest. You can use Tailwind right from their website and install the plug in on your browser, OR you get the Tailwind app on your phone to make browsing and scheduling pins even easier. Scheduling pins may not seem like it’s necessary, but it helps me save so much time and Tailwind even schedules pins to publish at optimal times for me! I’ll keep you all updated on my progress with Tailwind as I continue to use it. If you want to check it out for yourself you can sign up here.

      Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links, which means I will make a commission at no extra cost to you should you click through and make a purchase. Thank you so much for your support!

      stay active

      You can easily plan out a week’s worth of pins to be published for you through Tailwind. However, don’t let that stop you there. You’ll want to remain active in any Tailwind Tribes you’re part of, and check in on your insights to see if there are any adjustments you should be making. I also still love to stay active on my Pinterest account outside of this tool. I love browsing through Pinterest and adding new pins whenever I have a couple minutes to spare!

      Coming soon I have a super exciting announcement that will help you guys with your Pinterest, whether you’re a blogger or a business owner! I am so fascinated by this platform and the tools you can utilize to help improve and grow your brand. Do you have any tips or practices you swear by or are implementing right now to help you step up your Pinterest game?

      x Elizabeth