Being the Dreamer

Jim and IIn our house I am the dreamer, the one that chases after ideas and hopes. I know that someday a few of them will actually succeed and turn into a business or at least an income-generator.

Being raised by parents who both owned their own businesses I have this entrepreneurial spirit in me. Since I quit my job to stay home with Jack I have hoped that I would be able to create a business of my own that will allow me the flexibility to work out of the house, be at the bus stop in the morning and afternoon and volunteer at school. Right now I have more ideas and irons in the fire than I can recall.

Jim and I have balance in our roles in our relationship. I am the dreamer that follows opportunities. Jim is the realist and supports my endeavors while challenging their viability as rationale business pursuits. This is not to say that I jump into something without thinking it through. But I believe that if you don’t take some chances you will never find the big opportunity.

I hope that I am able to show my boys that if you have a dream and work hard enough you will be successful. It may not be in what you expect but if you are flexible and keep your eyes open, you never know when something will present itself.

My friend Laura has followed one of her dreams and published a book she wrote. I got the pleasure of being one of her editors. It is a very sweet book; she wrote about being at the ocean with her boys. She took all the photos in the book and turned them into the illustrations as well. You and Me By the Sea is available at Amazon.

Laura's book

I hope that you too follow your dreams. Do you have any you would like to share?

Office 365 for Small Business

I have been using Office 365 for almost two years for my small business. It has been a great service for me at a reasonable price and very little downtime.

Before using Office 365, I had researched options to get my email, calendar and contacts onto an Exchange server, which would eliminate sync problems I was having between devices. Most services were double the price of Office 365 for just the Exchange portion and didn’t include the other services they provide.

Included with my Office 365 service is SharePoint access and website hosting. I recently moved our www.denike.com website over to Office 365 too. They have a few different templates to choose from and a pretty easy design interface. It works for our site, but if you need something more custom or have specific features it may not work for you.

denikecom

Using an Exchange server has been more than worth the money for me. I am able to have my email, calendar, contacts and other elements of Outlook synced across my phone, iPad and laptops in real-time. Before this I would have to use a kluged system of POP3 for email, Google sync for calendar and periodic manual syncing for contacts. Things were never completely coordinated. Now I have access across multiple devices seamlessly and even have access through the web via the Office 365 portal.

The main drawback of Office 365 for Small Business is that you pay per user. However for me I only have two registered users, Jim and I, so it is still cheaper than using Exchange through another host. If you have more users than that it could become more expensive, but you get more services too.

If you own a small business and are looking for a way to get on an Exchange server and access the other Office tools, Office 365 is a great way to go.

What tools do you use for your small business?

 

I was not compensated in any way for this post by Microsoft or Office 365. These are just my opinions.

What I learned at #BBCChicago

bootcampchicagocityI spend this past weekend in Chicago for Bloggy Boot Camp Brand edition, stepping out of my comfort zone, since I didn’t know anyone else who was going. I hopped on the plane and came home with a bunch of new friends and lots of new ideas. The two days were full of speakers that were inspiring while offering a wealth of practical advice on how to leverage the potential of your brand.

This was my second Bloggy Boot Camp and I loved that this one was so focused. It was all about how to use your blog to build your brand and make money using it concurrent with social media. I was really inspired and feel rejuvenated and focused on where I want to take this little blog.

The amount of relevant information is too long to share here so I have distilled my lessons learned to six that I want to implement or at least start before the end of the year. I am excited to incorporate these elements into the next phase of my strategy. They include:

1. Write an eBook – Not only will this help me get published, but it can provide a good marketing tool for the books that I am writing and plan to write in the future.

2. Get my Google+ and Linkedin profiles up to date – I learned why these are so important and why I need to do a better job of using them to tell my story and establish my brand.

3. Update my “about me” page and links to it – It is natural to focus on the more dynamic areas of the site and this is an area that is often overlooked and undervalued. Expect updates here soon.

4. Make a media kit – That way when PR representatives, companies or publishers come to the site, there is a quick takeaway that gives our critical data.

5. Create a brand targeting list and establish mindshare – While the brand universe is infinite, a brand-specific target list will help narrow the focus and facilitate productive connections with PR/Social media representatives.

6. Reach out locally to find new writing opportunities – This is another strategy that is often overlooked and while we are all taught to think globally, it often starts by acting locally.

These are other key takeaways from this year’s Boot Camp will serve as the basis for the next phase in my blog’s strategy.

navy pier 
I met Jen from @LifeWithLevi, Amy from @GrinCheek2Cheek and Jamie from @ToysintheDryer through twitter and then tagged along with them Friday morning.

View from my room
This was the view from my hotel room.

Using Pinterest to Build your Brand

Most of us use Pinterest for personal use, collecting ideas we like or projects we want to do, but you can also use it to build your business brand. Pinterest can be a great way to showcase all the aspects of your business or products and connect with your followers.

pinterest

Here are a few tips to help make the most of Pinterest for building your brand.

Make your profile compelling and link to your website.
This may seem basic, but how many of us see abbreviated business descriptions on Twitter and Facebook? Be sure to include a link to your brand’s website and a well thought out description of your brand.

Create pinboards for all of your content or product areas.
Whether your brand is a blog, service oriented business, or product producer, use Pinterest to highlight all the different aspects of your brand. These pinboards can show the breadth of your skills, products, or content and entice new people to become followers. These pinboards can effectively highlight reoccurring features on your blog, especially photos or projects.

Pin your visuals, photos or infographics and others’, too.
Once your pinboards are created, pin the images you use on your site on the boards. The better the content you include, the more likely people will start following you and make their way back to your site. By adding pins of other people or brand’s content to your pinboards, you are extending your reach, showing compelling content beyond your brand and not just self-promoting.

Fill your pin and pinboard descriptions with keywords.
By filling your descriptions with keywords it will make them more searchable. Using words like “cute” or “fun” might be easy, but it doesn’t allow for others to find your content easily.

Have a “follow” button on your site and “pin it” button on posts or product pages.
Just like with Facebook and Twitter follow buttons, have your Pinterest button prominently displayed on your site. By having “pin it” buttons on each of your blog posts or product pages, it allows your followers to quickly pin images, content, or products they like. Each time someone else pins your content, it links back to your site and will display for their followers to view.

Use #hashtags in your description.
Pinterest, like Twitter, supports the use of hashtags. By adding hashtags in the descriptions of your pins, it makes them easily searchable.

Add links to your content in the description of your pin.
The pinned image is supposed to be linked back to the original source of the content. However, sometimes these get broken. By adding the link in the description, it makes it easy for someone to find the source. With that said, make sure your links are short.

Hopefully these tips and a little bit of well spent time can help you build your brand using Pinterest and help you find some new followers that may not have found you before.

 

This post was originally published at MomItForward.com on August 30, 2012.

Mommy’s Helper

As any work-at-home parent without full-time care can tell you, summer can prove to be a difficult time to get work done. Especially if the children are school age as parents are used to having time to get their work completed without the kids in the house.

The last few summers I have struggled with balancing my work time and fun time. Summer is supposed to be a time filled with fun activities that you can’t do while the kids are in school. Especially in Seattle — we love to take advantage of the nice weather and be outside as much as possible. I have found it difficult to fit my work obligations in between our normal daily activities given the constant child interruptions. Even with Will’s nap I was only getting about 20-30 minutes of uninterrupted time. I would stress about being behind on my work and not spending good quality time with the boys doing fun activities.

This summer I decided to learn my lesson and hire a “mom’s helper.” Our regular babysitter (and across the street neighbor) didn’t have a job this summer, so we worked out a schedule for her to help me out. She comes over two afternoons a week between 2 and 5 pm. She has about an hour with Jack to help him finish his summer learning or reading and play before she gets Will up from nap. Then they go outside to play.

We have only been doing it for two weeks, but so far it is working great. I have told them to act like I am not home (unless there is an emergency). I close my office door and work on whatever I need to get done. So far I have been able to get drafts of my posts written the week before, plan content for several months and do research. On the days she doesn’t come, I am able to get some quick work done, and then spend time with the boys doing fun activities. This way I don’t worry about being behind.

I had to get over the idea that I was paying for a babysitter while I was at home. My consulting work more than covers what I will pay her and the stress relief is worth more than that. I am so much less stressed and we have already been able to do some fun activities like going to a movie, making tie dye T-shirts and having lunch at the park.

How are you managing kids and work from home in the summer?

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