My Exact Client On-Boarding Process

I’ve received quite a number of questions regarding how I work with clients. As my web design business has grown, I’ve learned that having specific, organized systems in place is the best way to to ensure my clients are happy, involved and informed about their project. Most of my clients come from referrals, Facebook groups, and Instagram, but I’m starting to explore other avenues of networking to connect with potential clients, which I’ll be sure to post about in the near future. In the meantime, this week I’m laying out the exact blueprint I use when I get ready to work on new projects, and I’ve also created a quick cheatsheet for you too!

Scheduling a Free 1:1 Consultation Call

how to work with clients in service based businesses howshedoesitco

After our initial connection, I have all prospective clients schedule a call with me via Calendly. I simply share my link with them and they choose a time that works best for their schedule based on my availability I set when I created my Calendly account. I typically suggest they choose my 45 minute service consultation where I ask a series of questions to learn more about them, their brand, and what they’re looking for in a web or graphic design. I also thoroughly go over the services I offer, the project timeline/process, and leave time at the end to address any questions they have before we move forward.

If a client isn’t quite sure what type of service they need and require a bit more guidance, I suggest they choose my 1-hour strategy call so we can dive deeper into their brand. Some calls take less than the designated time while others take up the entire slot. It truly varies from person to person; either way, offering these free consultations have made a massive difference in my business, and have freed up a lot of time and extra work on my end. They also allow me to connect with my prospective clients on a much deeper, more personal level, rather than simply chatting over email or social media.

While my consultations are done over the phone, video chatting via Zoom is another option. You can always leave that as an option for your clients, or you can choose whichever method you are most comfortable with.

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!

Creating and Sending Contracts

When we decide to move forward with working together, the next step in my on-boarding process is sending over the client contract. When I first started freelancing I didn’t have any contracts in place. Huge mistake on my part! Contracts ensure that you are protecting your work and yourself, while clearly stating the terms and agreements of your services. I now use Bonsai to create all of my contracts. I love Bonasai because it’s super easy to use; you can choose a template and customize it according to your services and all signatures are done electronically. Bonsai does a great job of guiding you through the entire process of setting up your contract before you send it over to a client. Just make sure to read over it carefully before hitting send!

Sending Security Deposit Invoices

When I send over the contract, I also send over the client’s first invoice. I require a non-refundable security deposit of 50% of the total investment before I begin any work on a project. On very rare occasions I offer customized payment plans, but for the most part I structure my invoicing at 50% up front, and 50% after the project is completed, before final files are handed over to the client.

Inviting to Client Project in Asana (with Tutorial)

Using a project management tool not only keeps me organized and on top of all my client projects, but it allows my clients to track the progression of their project and communicate with me quickly. I used to do all communication via email, but this method became confusing, disorganized, and left room for errors or missed files. After a client signs their contract and pays their invoice, I then send them an invite to their project in Asana and provide them with a quick (under 5 minutes) tutorial on how to use this tool. Once they’re signed up with their free Asana account, I assign them any tasks they need to complete throughout their project so they know what I need from them. I also add in deadlines for both of us so we can stay on schedule.

There are a number of project management tools out there, but Asana has been my favorite so far. Not only do I like how easy it is for me to navigate but my clients find it easy and enjoy using it too!

Creating and Sending Out Client Questionnaire

Even though I have a pretty in depth conversation with my clients during our consultation calls, I also have them fill out a questionnaire once they’re set up in Asana. This is one of the first tasks I assign to them, and is required for them to complete before I start designing their project. I set up all my questionnaires in Google Forms, add the link to the task in Asana, and print them out once they’re completed so I can quickly reference them throughout the design process. I also suggest that clients create a Pinterest board for inspiration, but leave this as optional as some clients aren’t comfortable with Pinterest. If a client doesn’t want to use Pinterest, I ask them to upload inspiration images or files to their designated task in Asana so I can get a better understanding of their design preferences.

Beginning the Design Process

Once all preliminary tasks are completed, I look over everything with a fine-tooth comb to make sure I have everything I need to start the project. I remain in close communication with my clients throughout the design process, and update them as the project progresses. My turnaround time varies by project, but I make sure to have specific deadlines for each milestone of the process.

Having these systems in place prior to the start of each project allows me to stay organized and on-time with multiple, on-going client projects. If you are a current or aspiring freelancer or service-based business owner, I highly recommend finding a system that works for you and your clients. You may find that my process is a great fit for your brand, or you may find that a variation of this process provides you with what you need; to help you get started, don’t forget to download the free cheatsheet to set up your on-boarding process for your new clients! If you have your own system that works well for you, I’d love to hear about it!

xxElizabeth


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.
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    • 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

    How to Run Your Brand on Autopilot with Content Batching

    If you’re a content creator, chances are you’ve experienced moments of overwhelm, stress, and frustration — I know I certainly have. As creators, it can seem that our to-do list is never ending, and just as we reach that glorifying moment of crossing off one task, another one appears in its place.

    How to run your brand on autopilot with content batching

    How to run your brand on autopilot with content batching

    I spent months dealing with a roller coaster of emotions when it came to creating content for my blog, email list, and other aspects of running my online brand, until I finally hit my breaking point — I decided to search for a better way to deliver valuable and consistent content without (or at least less of) the headaches, tears, and sleepless nights.

    I like to believe that I work better under the pressure of a deadline, and while that may be true, it doesn’t make my life any easier. Trying to keep up with blog posts and running a business means my schedule is jam packed nearly every day, and it can be difficult to find time for well, anything else.

    So my solution? Content batching.

    Content batching involves planning and creating significant amounts of content over a couple of days that are then scheduled to publish or post at a later date, so you can get back to enjoying other things outside of your online brand. Designating one or two days a week, for just a few hours, can open up so much more time and take a lot of pressure off your shoulders in the long run.

    I’ll go over my exact method to content batching, but I wanted to let you know there’s a free content batching guide I created for you to help you get started. You can find the free guide here or click on the the button below. Use this guide to help you through each step.

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    Download the Guide Here

    Before you get started, think about what you want to content batch for and focus on one area at a time. You might want to content batch for your:

    • Blog

    • YouTube Channel

    • Podcast

    • Social Media Content

    • Email List or another area that you spend a lot of time working on

    You might find that some of these things flow into one another, but try focusing on one area to avoid becoming overwhelmed. You can content batch for different areas on different days but just make one area your central focus for right now. When you’re clear on your area of focus, you’re ready to start batching out your content.

    Brainstorm Session

    Think of this as the Konmari method for clearing out your mind. This happens on the first day of your new content-batching routine before you begin creating any type of content. Find a quiet space, print out your free guide, grab your favorite beverage and get ready to write. I’m going to recommend doing this with pen and paper, not on your phone or computer.

    A lot of people like to call this a ‘brain dump’ but honestly that phrase just makes me cringe. I usually dub this my brainstorm session or my brain purge. Call it whatever you want, your brainstorm session consists of taking all those thoughts swirling around in your mind and putting them on paper. In the free guide I’ve created, you have plenty of space for this process. Use that space and fill it up — print out another page if you have to. Let everything flow out onto the paper.

    Your brainstorm session should take you maybe 15-20 minutes, or slightly longer if you have a lot on your mind. I recommend using a timer and committing to stopping when the alarm goes off. Of course if thoughts come up throughout the day, feel free to add them in later after we’ve gone through some of the other steps to this process.

    While you’re brainstorming, write down anything and everything you can think of, even if it doesn’t directly relate to the content area you’re going to be focusing on. It doesn’t have to be neat, organized, or anywhere near perfect. Just Get. It. All. Out.

    Topic Dissection + Organization

    Once you’ve completed your brainstorming session, take a look at your list. Do you see any patterns? Does anything connect? When you start to see similarities, start organizing your ideas into categories or topics. Group similar thoughts together wherever you can. This is going to help you determine the type of content you will create, and this practice often leads to even more ideas. Make sure these categories are topics that will be valuable to your target audience — no matter what you create, you always want to have your audience in mind. If you have some ideas that stand alone, or don’t quite fit with anything else on your list, save them for later — you might find them useful in the future.

    Plan + Outline

    Once you have your ideas organized into categories or topics, you’ll need to start the planning process. Is there a certain order you need, or would like, to present each item? Does it make sense to create a series around any of your ideas? Is there any further organization that needs to take place? Take a good, hard look at your new list and see if there’s any room for adjustment.

    The next step to our planning process is actually getting this content on the calendar. Will you be adding a new piece of content every week? Twice a week? You always want to make sure you’re providing your audience with valuable, consistent content, and content batching is the perfect way to ensure that happens. It’s up to you how often you want to reach out to your audience — just make sure you do it consistently. I keep a separate planner exclusively for my blog and freelance business, so it’s easy for me to plan out my content and keep everything organized. I don’t just write ‘blog post’ on every Wednesday block of my calendar, I write the title or topic of the post so I know exactly what to plan for, and what will be live each week once it’s scheduled.

    I like to plan about six weeks (six blog posts, for me) ahead of time. That might work for you too, or maybe you want to start with only four weeks at first. Find out what feels right to you — you can always adjust down the road to determine how much content you want to prepare in advance. Use the guide to help you map out which topics you will cover over the next several weeks.

    Content Creation

    Now that you’ve brainstormed and planned out your content, I want you to take a look at your calendar and find one or two days that you can sit down for a few hours to create your content. I know we are all busy, but one or two days — or one or two evenings — of content creation will save you days worth of work, stress, and frustration. Just trust me on this one.

    Once you have the day(s) picked out, put it on your calendar and stick to it. When that day arrives, know that you have an appointment with yourself to create your content — write your blog posts, record your Youtube videos or podcast episodes, put together your social media posts, write up your e-mails — whatever it is, it’s important that you stick to this creative appointment. Use these days to focus solely on creating content for your area of focus, and don’t worry about any of the ‘extra’ stuff just yet. If you’re batching blog content, I wrote this article about what to do after you publish a blog post, and while those are necessary steps to take after a new post goes live on your site, on this day you are focusing purely on the content. Save all that extra stuff for another day, or after you’re done creating your new pieces of content.

    When I write, I need my work space to be clean, organized, and free of major distractions. Sometimes I like silence, sometimes I like something on in the background. I make sure I take breaks after long periods of sitting at the computer, and try to avoid disruptions that might make it more difficult for me to return to my work. If you’re podcasting or filming YouTube videos, I’m sure you know the importance of a quiet, distraction-free zone! I also make sure there is hardly anything on the calendar that day that might interfere with my creation session.

    Of course, life does happen and sometimes things get in the way — just try your best; but make sure you have at least a couple hours to sit down and focus on your content. If this is your first time content batching, be mindful of the clock and see how long it takes you to create your first four or six pieces of content, so you know for future reference. If you can’t get all six pieces of content completed in one day, spread them out over two days. You’ll get a feel for how much you can produce as you practice these strategies.

    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!

    Schedule Finished Content

    I blog and run my freelance business on Squarespace, and this platform makes it super easy to schedule out blog content. I’ll often write my content in a Google Doc, then copy and paste it into Squarespace so I can format it and schedule it to publish over the next six weeks. If you’re recording videos for your YouTube channel, you can also easily schedule your videos to go live at a future date. If you’re planning out social media content, I recommend using Tailwind to schedule your posts. You can sign up and schedule your first 30 posts for free here! It’s my favorite scheduling tool for Instagram; if you want to learn more about why I think it’s a necessary tool for social media, you can read more about it in this blog post.

    Whatever you’re scheduling, just make sure it aligns with your posting frequency. Again, I like to publish new blog posts and send out emails once each week, so I make sure to schedule that content to go live every Wednesday.

    The Final Touches

    This goes without saying, but if you’re creating any written material, go over and proofread your work. Make sure you’ve added any necessary links, photos, and have formatted your content accordingly. If you’re recording videos or podcast episodes, make sure you have your files ready for editing. You can choose to edit your audio or video files on the same day you content batch, or reserve that for another day during that same week. Either way, have your show notes or video descriptions ready with necessary links and graphics.

    Since I publish posts and send emails on the same day every week, I also like to prepare my emails ahead of time. I usually wait to content batch my emails until the following day, but if I can, I’ll work on them later in the day of my content batching date if I have time. I also create my pins for my blog posts and schedule them in advance with Tailwind, too so they go live when my blog posts are published. If you have multiple areas to content batch, designate different days of the week to create your content, but get the main portion of your content created first before you work on the ‘less’ important areas.

    Once all the necessary content elements are set to publish, you can sit back and breathe. You have six weeks of content created and ready to go live, meaning you have some time until you have to get ready for another round of content batching. I know it sounds like a lot of work up front, and it is, but it will save you so much time in the long run. You won’t have to worry about rushing to get a post, video, or episode up every week — you’ll already have done the hard work. If you get stuck or confused, always feel free to send me an email. Your guide is there to help you stay organized and get in the routine of batching out content every few weeks.

    If you found this article helpful, please feel free to share on Pinterest, with other content creators, or let me know in the comments below.

    Have you tried content batching yet? Was it helpful?

    xxElizabeth

    What You Need to Know Before You Start a New Instagram Account

    Whether you plan on blogging or running a business, the beginning stages can be filled with so many mixed emotions. It’s exciting but overwhelming, for sure! Many people are eager to dig right in and line up their social media accounts to start connecting and sharing with their audience, but are unsure if they should use their current profiles for their brands, or start a fresh new account.

    Last week on Instagram I asked my audience to send in questions they had related to running an online brand. One of the questions I got — and one I see a lot within Facebook groups — was about creating a new Instagram account.

    If you’re weighing the pros and cons of creating a new profile, here are some things to think about:

    what you need to know.png

    Who is your target?

    I talked a little bit about defining your target audience (or target market), in this postwhen you’re starting an online brand it is so important to get clear on who you are speaking or selling to because it dictates nearly every aspect of your brand. If you don’t know who your target is yet, make sure you ask yourself:

    • Who would benefit from reading my content, purchasing my products, or utilizing my services?

    • What age range am I targeting? What do they do for a living? Where do they live? What are their likes and dislikes?

    • How does my product, service or content solve a problem(s) they are experiencing?

    Get really clear on your audience before you move forward with your social media profiles. It may sound silly, but I highly recommend creating an ideal client or ideal customer profile (also known as an ideal customer avatar), that addresses these questions. I’ll even do this when I need to refresh my brands, or rethink my marketing strategy to ensure I’m reaching my target more effectively.

    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!

    How will you provide value to your audience?

    Sure, posting beautiful photos is one way to attract attention, but it isn’t necessarily going to convert to traffic, sales or new clients. You might gain a ton of followers and get a lot of likes this way, but are you really contributing thoughtful, meaningful information just by posting images? Are you building a loyal community using this method? You have to serve your audience by providing them with consistent, valuable, and engaging content. Utilize your captions and stories to connect with your audience — share authentic stories, provide educational information, offer advice, engage in their DMs and comments on their own profile — give people something to connect to so you can build up a loyal community.

    On top of providing valuable and engaging content, you want to remain as consistent as possible on social media. We all need breaks from time to time, but one thing that helps me is planning and scheduling content. I love using Tailwind to schedule my Instagram posts — they have an incredible hashtag finder and provide automated scheduling so you can run your content on autopilot. If you want to read more about how Tailwind can help you manage your Instagram, I wrote a detailed post about it here. You can also sign up with Tailwind to schedule your first 30 Instagram posts for free. I’ve tried so many different scheduling apps over the years, but Tailwind blows them all out of the water.

    Really dig deep and think about what you are bringing to the table with your brand. Consistency and value builds trust and trust builds a loyal community that converts.

    Do you mind having strangers see more intimate aspects of your personal life?

    My first experience in building an online brand came with my product-based business, so I knew right away I wanted to create a separate Instagram account for that brand. However, when I became a Beachbody coach, I entertained the idea of integrating my journey on my personal profile, but decided it was best to create a new account. I simply did not want all the Internet strangers out there to see the more personal photos I only wanted to share with my close friends and family. I also didn’t want everyone I knew in my personal life to see everything I was posting on my fitness account. It was just a personal preference of mine. I’m all for sharing authentic moments and getting personal with my audience, but there are some things I just don’t want them to see, and some things I post on my personal page that don’t fall within my niche.

    How much do numbers matter to you?

    When I started a new account I knew that meant starting at zero as far as followers were concerned, but I knew I could provide my target audience with valuable content that would grow into a loyal community.

    A lot of people are worried about starting from zero — they feel that follower count they have on their current profile will help grow their new brand, and sometimes maybe they’re right — but this is where knowing your target is so important. You want to follow and attract followers who are within your niche, and your personal account might not have many people that fall within your target. In fact, you might notice a significant drop in your followers if you re-brand your personal account and take it in a new direction. Those people who hit the unfollow button aren’t within your niche. If you’re starting anew, trust that you will find your people, and they will find you. Of course you can promote your new account on your current profile if you choose to keep them separate. Just don’t focus so much on the numbers or let that keep you from starting a new profile.

    The bottom line

    It’s all about personal preference. If you don’t mind sharing your brand or your journey with your current followers on your personal account, by all means give it a go. However, if you’d like to keep your personal account more private and reserved only for people you know in real life, then keep it that way. I currently run three different brands on Instagram and have a personal account. Each brand falls within a different niche, and I know for a fact there are plenty of people I know in real life that are unaware my brands exist, and I’m totally okay with that.

    What are your thoughts on creating a new profile for your brand? Does your current profile align with your niche?

    xxElizabeth

    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.

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    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

    Female Feature 01: Rachel From Zoe Jewelry Designs

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    I’ve been wanting to talk more about my experience running my own business because it’s a huge reason why I decided to start blogging again. Having a space to connect with other creatives and small business owners, share our experiences and most importantly support each other, is a major reason why I put so much energy into social media and my blog.

    Today I want to share a fellow female business owner with you. Rachel from Zoe Jewelry Designs and I connected on Instagram the other week. She shared her beautiful handmade jewelry business with me and we spent some time chatting about being small business owners and what it can be like in the early stages of a new business.

    I recently received the necklace I ordered from Rachel and fell in love with it. I love dainty pieces like hers and the feather pendant was right up my alley. She has several other cute pieces on her Etsy Shop and many of them are currently 10% off — plus you can get an additional 10% off by entering the code WELOVEYOU at checkout!

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    I love that Rachel’s pieces are handmade, dainty and elegant and are suitable for any occasion. Her price point is very reasonable, and any of her items would make gorgeous gifts, especially with the holidays coming up. On her Etsy shop, Rachel shares a beautiful message about her jewelry designs:

    “I make all of my jewelry with love and compassion, and hoping to share that same sentiment with you as they make their way to your home. I use the highest quality of metals, and natural gemstones, making them very powerful pieces to wear.”

    My next purchase from Rachel will definitely be one of her gemstone bracelets! If you’d love to support another female small business owner, you can check out Rachel’s Instagram over at @zoejewelrydesigns and her Etsy Shop Zoe Jewelry Designs to give her some love!

    As both a business owner and a blogger myself, I know how difficult it can be in the beginning. Exposure is key and it’s not easy to do it alone. I want to help other women get the recognition they deserve and show support for their hard work. Having an online presence in the form of a blog or business is a wonderful tool for growth and sales, but it can certainly be challenging at times. I truly believe so many great things can come from us spreading the word and supporting each other here!

    Rachel’s feature and my desire to share more about running a small business inspired me to create a new series here and on Instagram, featuring female bloggers and business owners on a bi-weekly or weekly basis. There are some incredible women I’m going to be featuring here soon and I’m so excited to share them with you all over the next several weeks!

    If you or someone you know is a small business owner leave their business or blog below — I’d love to check out and support their blog or business however I can!

    xxElizabeth

    what no one tells you about leaving your 9-5

    If you’re active on social media I’m sure you’ve seen countless posts from work-from-home bloggers, business owners, and network marketers talking about how incredible their life is now that they work for themselves. I’ve certainly shared many times how much happier I am now that I am no longer stuck working a job that was truly sucking the life out of me, but the reality is it isn’t always unicorns and rainbows every day. It is hard, stressful, and often unpredictable, especially when you are first starting out.

    I speak very little of my teaching career here, other than how unhappy I was the last couple of years at my job. The truth is, I LOVED teaching when I first started. It was everything I worked for. Heck, I even went and got a Master’s degree for it. You know going into the field of education that it isn’t going to be an easy or high paying career; what no one tells you though is just how hard it can get. How it can take a toll on your body, mind and spirit. How it can break you into a million pieces and take you away from the people you love and care about. I think the same goes for many other fields, especially if you are miserable at work every day.

    But the other thing no one tells you is how much you’ll miss everyone you worked with when you leave. I miss my coworkers so much it hurts sometimes. They were my family. They were my home away from home during the day. We endured so much together. I miss my former students. I miss hearing about their weekends. I miss hearing them call my name and telling me they need me to help them tie their shoes or help them solve a conflict with their friends. I miss drying their tears that hurt my heart every time I saw them fall from their eyes. I miss celebrating small victories and watching them hit milestones that no one but a teacher could understand. I miss their voices, their funny little mannerisms, and their innocence.

    I miss them all so much, and some days I wish I could be back with everyone just one last time — but then I remember that I had to do something really big and scary and put myself first. A lot of things were changing that were out of my control while I was still there. I spent a lot of days crying in the bathroom while the kids were at their humanities classes. I’d lock the door, sink down to the floor and just cry — wishing I could be at home. When things changed the passion I once had started to deteriorate. I was no longer happy with what I was doing in my career and that wasn’t fair to my students, coworkers or MYSELF. I lost a part of me in the last couple of years, but in the last few months since I left, I gained part of myself back.

    If you’re a teacher, I applaud you. I have the utmost respect for you. In many ways you are stronger than me for holding one of the most difficult jobs in the world. You do things no one will ever understand or appreciate. But the moral of this story is this: if you don’t love it, leave it. And if you finally decide to leave it don’t ever stop when things get tough. You simply cannot put a price on your happiness or sanity. It may not be an easy road all the time, but I can promise you it’s worth it. I will always cherish the good memories I had from my teaching career, and will always appreciate the difficult moments because they made me a better, stronger person in the long run. I’m grateful for where it all led me to today, and I wouldn’t change a single thing.

    Whether you are considering leaving your career to work for yourself, or have already left, you are going to experience so many highs and lows. You’ll want to celebrate the highs and will likely consider giving up with the lows are really low. To be honest, there have been many times when I’ve said to myself: “WTF am I doing!?” and I know there will be moments where I say it again. I’ve lied awake at night worrying whether or not I’d be able to pay my bills or keep my business afloat, and I’ve shed many, many tears.

    But when you choose to work for yourself, you have to have unshakeable determination and belief in yourself. There are going to be people who question your decision, people who will doubt you and judge you. There are going to be insanely challenging moments that will test your strength — don’t let those moments break you. Remember why you started working for yourself in the first place, and let that push you onward. I am so lucky to have an amazing support system of friends, family members and my significant other who want to see me succeed and who believe in me; I realize not everyone is that lucky.

    There are a few things I wish I would have done differently before I left my job that would have made things a bit easier now that I’m on my own (more on that later), but I can’t go back and change that. All I can do is learn from it and use my experiences to help other people through this blog, which is what inspired me to start How She Does It in the first place.

    Despite these challenges that come with working for myself, it makes me so happy to do something I’m truly passionate about. I am forever grateful that I get to wake up every morning and work from the comfort of my own home, make my own schedule, and live my life on my on terms. I can’t imagine things any differently now, and made a promise to myself a long time ago that I would do whatever it takes to be my own boss.

    xx Elizabeth

    If you are an entrepreneur I’d love to hear from you. I’ve been looking for individuals to guest post here to share their experiences about life after leaving their 9-5s. If you’re interested in guest posting, please send me an email at howshedoesitco@gmail.com

    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