If I got a nickel for every time I had a potential client request Wordpress for their CMS (content management system) or blogging solution, I might have already retired.
Or not, but you get the illustration. It happens a lot.
Before I get into my anti-Wordpress spill, let me make a few things perfectly clear:
- Wordpress is awesome.
I have used Wordpress in the past, and think that it's a wonderful solution for a blogging platform, and even some informational websites.
- I will never pull someone away from Wordpress who is having wonderful results from the platform.
Wordpress is a wonderful solutions for many types of websites. Obviously.
- This is based on my experience with my clients and contacts who have attempted to use Wordpress for their online shop and related blog.
If you've been using it effectively, I'm by no means telling you you're wrong, just that you're rare from where I'm standing.
With that said, I would like to outline a few very key reasons why online business owners with an ecommerce component to their online presence should steer clear of Wordpress.
1. There are other solutions.
Many people suggest Wordpress simply because it's the only CMS they're aware of, or because someone they know uses it well.
That's all good and cheery, but just because it's the only one you know of doesn't make it the only fish in the sea. Likewise, just because a friend uses it advantageously does not mean it's going to be the solution for you.
Do some research, folks.
2. It's a blogging platform.
It's true. The basis of Wordpress functionality is in blogging. It's a wonderful blogging platform. That's what it was built to do.
With this said, it is not an ecommerce platform. Just because you can get a widget that lets you add products to your site does not mean that it should be done. Who built that widget? Who will you go to if you find a bug in how it works? The teenager in his basement who produced it?
Also, what about security. Wordpress sites get hacked on a regular basis. The security requirements for a blogging CMS are a lot different from those required for real ecommerce options. Don't put yourself, and your customers, in that kind of jeopardy.
3. Blogging can, and should, be done elsewhere.
Ok, so you've committed to a fancy-pants ecommerce CMS. Wonderful! Now can you get a Wordpress blog?
I guess. If you want to lose your SEO (search engine optimization) advantages of even having a blog.
When you have your shop and blog on the same hosting account, when they're deeply entwined on the same host, then the SEO that you get from constantly updating a blog with relative content automatically boosts the optimization of your shop.
If you have a shop on one host, and your blog off somewhere else, then you lose that direct connection between your blog and your shop. All that blogging has no SEO effect on your shop.
If your ecommerce host allows for you to have a blog on their server, even if it's not Wordpress, do yourself a favor and go with the host's blogging platform. It may be a bit of a learning curve to learn a new way of blogging (really, none of them are that different), but you'll reap the SEO benefits.
(This does not count for ecommerce hosts that allow you to load a Wordpress blog straight onto the site's server. There are some ecommerce options that allow this, so if leaving Wordpress for blogging is not a topic up for discussion, then find a host that allows this. It just takes a little research.)
4. We know you're using wordpress, and we know it's free
Wordpress sites have a look about them. Unless you get a heavily customized template, many people know you're using Wordpress.
And it's not just me, the web designer, who can tell. I recently had a potential client (who's in the music business) tell me he didn't want his site to look like a Wordpress site. He wanted something more upscale.
I know Wordpress is cheap. Free even. You're paying - what? - $5/month for hosting. If you're business is going well, don't you think it's time to invest a bit more into your business? Into your image? Into how effectively you manage your online business?
So, before getting your heart set on Wordpress out of familiarity or a not-knowing-of-anything-else, do yourself a favor and do some research on the available platforms, and weigh what is important to you and your creative online shop. You might just find that there is a better solution out there for you altogether.
Like this post? It's just a bit of a taste of what goes on in my Indie Shopography ecourse and workshop. Sign up for updates and be the first to find out when registration for the next ecourse opens, or sign up for my upcoming Dallas workshop!
As small creative business owners, I think we all know what it feels like to want to build our business from nothing. We just want to start out with our skills and our knowledge, and for many of us, that works out pretty ok.
For a while.
Looking back over the life of my business I can see clear lines drawn in growth where I went beyond that cheap-o habit and actually put some extra time and money back into my business.
1. I bought my iMac.
Purchasing my iMac was one of the first things that I did when I started my web design business. I was only about 2 months in when my old Dell almost sputtered and died.
I could have kept on, restarting the desktop every half hour, but it was more important for me to work more efficiently than it was to save a buck (or a grand) on a new important piece of equipment.
2. I bought the creative suite.
This one took too long for me to commit to. I mean, the Adobe Creative Suite is not cheap! I spent a good six months of my web design business piecing together free and inexpensive graphic and coding programs to build websites. It was a hot mess.
For me, investing in the Creative Suite allowed me to streamline my design process.
3. I partnered with Business Catalyst.
At about the same 6 months in that I invested in the Creative Suite, I also decided to take my commitment to getting small businesses online seriously by investing in a partnership with Adobe Business Catalyst.
This investment proved to myself, more than anything, that I was in this business for the long haul. It was a commitment to have an ongoing plan for helping small creative business owners, and I now have the tools to assist these businesses like never before.
4. I went to Paris and Alt Summit and Dallas.
Life in the mountains is a bit of a design/networking/business black hole. I've realized that it's important for me to occasionally go on business expeditions to connect with like-minded professionals.
Travel expenses from my little corner of mountain life can be a little pricey, not to mention staying extra days in a super fancy-pants hotel, but for me, the expense of going to conferences, networking, and doing business projects is well worth it. So, everytime I take one of these trips, it's an investment. One that's fun, beneficial, and get's me closer to my goals.
5. I developed a process.
Investments in your business don't have to just be financial. Sometimes investments in time can pay off more than any amount of money.
I have been spending the last few months working endlessly to refine and execute my process of getting small creative businesses online. It's a process that starts with inspiration and ends with website launch, with 6-8+ weeks of design, coding, and content in the middle.
It involves consultations, worksheets, and moodboards, and it works. This process sets my business apart, and is my favorite investment yet.
When To Invest
Each of my investments have been made at times when I've hit a ceiling. I don't go all willy-nilly throwing my time and money at whatever comes around. I wait until current situations can no longer support my growth, and then I make a commitment to push past the boundaries.
I'm also one who's not afraid of change. I like the idea of evolution within and beyond my business, and these investments make this evolution, and growth, possible.
Is there anything that you've done for your business that you would consider a big investment? How did it affect your business?
I often get emails from potential Indie Shopography students who are interested in knowing what makes I.S. different from all the other ecourses and workshops out there for small creative business.
My answer: everything.
When I created I.S., which was first an ecourse, it was important to me that I understand my competition. The interwebs is full of ecourses for small creative business owners. There were a number of key things that I wanted I.S. to embody that I just wasn't seeing elsewhere.
1. Touchy-Feely is Good, But What Next?
I am all about the journey of self-discovery, and the creative online business world is full of ecourses, ebooks, and other estuffs that will help you along the path of discovering who you are, what you do, and what you want that 'do' to do for you.
But what comes next? Where are the instructions for the next steps? What do you do to make those dreams come true?
That's what I wanted I.S. to do. I wanted the course to be the next step. The actual how to do it, more than the usual how to figure it out. It's all about the actual nuts and bolts, a guidebook, of getting your business online.
It's important to me that I.S. can be enjoyed in as many ways as possible, and it's repertoire is growing.
I.S. began as an ecourse, with lessons being presented in written and video form. There's also a forum that will allow the learning to go beyond my course outline into further questioning and learning between myself and students.
Now, I.S. is even offered as a workshop, with upcoming dates in Austin and Dallas, TX. I've teamed with Braid Creative to offer these workshops with branding topics as well as my own get-your-business online topics.
But, that's not all.
This summer I hope to release I.S. as an ebook, and possibly even podcasts. You'll be able to enjoy the I.S. course work any way you choose!
3. One-on-One Consulting
Offering one-on-one consulting for ecourse students isn't something that is offered only by I.S., but it is something that I feel isn't offered quite enough. I feel that offering one-on-one time after the ecourse is a great way of answering any lingering questions, making sure your information was well-received, and making a real connection with students.
4. Concrete Tools
Worksheets and homework are great, but I felt it was very important that I offer some longer-lasting tools when I designed my ecourse. Though I.S. surely has worksheets, it was also important that I offer tools that could be taken beyond the course to help further.
I wanted to arm my students with handouts that could be taken to a designer if they choose to have a custom website developed, and charts that would help them organize content and products. The kit is the beginning of these tools, with more offered throughout the course.
Offering concrete tools is also something that Kathleen and I feel is central to our workshop, so we're designing a kit for the workshops as well.
5. You Help Shape the Course
I have a gazillion topics that I wanted to include in the I.S. course schedule. However, it was more important to me that the course be shaped by my students than it was for me to blab endlessly.
To make this happen, I purposefully included two days at the end of the 4-week ecourse that have no scheduled topics. There is a forum that is specifically for posting questions that students would like covered on these two days. I teach exactly what they want to know.
The same is going for the structure of the workshops. They'll be very discussion-driven, and questions will be endlessly encouraged.
Inspiration to Innovation
Ecourses and workshops that help small creative businesses have inspired me. I've taken several, both for myself, and as research for referring my own clients. The heart and work that goes into their creation is so inspiring.
I'm glad that I was able to take this inspiration and expound on it, creating an ecourse that I'm quite proud of. It has been about finding the most effective way of sharing knowledge that helps creatives like myself. And that just makes me happy.
There has been lots of chatter around these parts about Kathleen. I mean, really? Who is Kathleen?
If the blog world were high school, Kathleen would be that effortlessly cool chick that every girl either secretly or not-so-secretly wants to be. Period.
The Back Story
I first started reading Kathleen's blog, Jeremy & Kathleen, about 2.5 years ago. Her blog was actually one of the first blogs that I ever started reading regularly. She was blogging about food and clothes and adventures, and just made everything look so cool. And that hair!
Then she quit her day job, and started working as a freelance designer. This was when I was about 6 months into my own freelance design career, so her monthly check-in posts ended up almost mirroring my own journey.
I always felt a weird blog-world connection with Kathleen. When people asked me what blogs I read, and I told them Jeremy & Kathleen, I always explained it as if Jeremy and Kathleen were David and I if we'd never had Cute Kid. Young, an obvious left- and right-brain pair, gettin' sh!t done, doing Everest Base Camp. Yup, David and I, except we're lovingly tied down by Cute Kid.
I really can't remember when Kathleen and I first made contact, but emails have been exchanged over the months regarding design, tattoos, P90X, and babies. It was just a little flow of friendly little emails and occasional tweets.
Then, there was Alt Summit, when we ran into each other a couple of times. There were the usual pleasantries and chit chat about which session we'd be attending next, and then I went to her round table session about leveraging your blog as an authentic marketing tool. It was my favorite session.
At this point I had had lots of thoughts about taking Indie Shopography from ecourse to workshop, and I knew I wanted to team up with someone who could compliment my "syllabus" to give creative business owners two great days of business development. Kathleen and her branding skills felt like a natural match.
And so, I asked her to join me. We had our first Skype video chat, where she asked me lots of questions about my goals for the workshops, and I sat there with my arm pits sweating like never before. And then she said yes.
What She Does
Kathleen is half of Braid Creative. Her sister, Tara, makes up the second half. Braid Creative is a magical place where the two of them use their powers to help you uncover your brand. And I say this so mystically because they're really that awesome at what they do, and I'm really that blown away by it.
I believe in them so much because I'm working with them to rebrand myself. They had my crying happy tears of clarity after the first 1-hour phone call. They're good.
Which reminds me, we'll need to have tissues.
Here's what they can do for you, and why I wanted to team up with them for the workshops:
- Find a succinct way to tell your friends and family what you do
- Bridge the gap between the brands you love and your own identity
- Identify your dream customer (more niche means more impact)
- Balance your past experience with you big picture vision
- Blending professional with personal
- Leveraging your blog
They have an amazing arsenal of talents between them, and I'm so excited to be working with them, both on rebranding myself and having them join me for my workshops.
The students who sign up are going to be blown away by what they walk away with.
Now that you know a bit more about Kathleen and what Braid Creative will be bringing to the Indie Shopography workshops, I hope you'll join us and let us help you grow your own creative business!
As small creative business owners, we hear it all the time, "Be an expert in your niche."
Sure, sounds easy enough.
We spend our days working on our business, and our nights dreaming about it. Whether you're into knitting fingerless mittens or wedding stationery design, you're pretty good at what you do. You have experience, but are you ready to be an expert?
I've been doing a lot of business thinking lately; planning a huge overhaul by the beginning of summer. I've realized, quite unintentionally, that the word "expert" scares me.
I've been in the small business world for 7 years. I've been in the creative business world for the past 4+ years. I've formed a niche for myself in helping small creative businesses share their work with the world by getting them online.
But the word still scares me. What if there's a question I can't answer? Or a task I can't handle?
That's when a string of thoughts brought me to this: experts are still human.
And so, in that, I'm getting much more comfortable with calling myself an expert. I am an expert.
We're ready to finally announce, for real, the dates/times/locations of our very first two Indie Shopography workshops.
Kathleen and I have been scheming away, analyzing data, making maps (well, that was me, the geo nerd), playing with the numbers, and all around geeking out about meeting you.
We're heading to Austin!
If you're participating in the Renegade Craft Fair, or maybe just planning on visiting, then you should also make plans to stay an extra day. If you're just wanting to come see us, that's ok too. We're following up the fair with a 1-day mini-workshop on Monday, May 21, and you're not going to want to miss it.
It's going to be a condensed version of our regular workshop, but shorter and just as awesome. And we have our eye on the most perfect venue.
Don't forget! A portion of our proceeds will go to an Austin charity, making this a perfect opportunity to grow your business and support your community at the same time.
Get your ticket for the Austin mini-workshop, and we'll see your pretty face there in May!
Austin Mini-Workshop Price: $325
- A Kit (for your worksheets and note taking)
- Swag Bag
Must have a minimum of 8 students by April 6th, and we're allowing a maximum of 25. More info at Indie Shopography.
Then we're heading to Dallas!
Join Kathleen and I on June 9 & 10, when we'll host our very first full 2-day workshop, where you get a combined 16 hours of branding and getting-online goodness to take your creative biz from a good idea to an awesome endeavor.
Don't forget! A portion of our proceeds will go to an Dallas charity, making this a perfect opportunity to grow your business and support your community at the same time.
So reserve your seat at our Dallas event. We're going to have a Texas-big time! (Yes, I really just said it.)
Dallas Workshop Price: $500
- Lunch both days
- A Kit (for your worksheets and note taking)
- Swag Bag
Must have a minimum of 12 students by April 13th, and we're allowing a maximum of 25. More info at Indie Shopography..
If you're in these areas of Texas, or are willing to get yourself there for a creative business overhaul, then please sign up! If you have any questions before purchasing, feel free to email Kathleen (email@example.com) or myself (firstname.lastname@example.org) and we'll help out any way we can.
If you can't make it to Texas, and want us to come see you next, be sure to fill out our survey so we can consider your location for our next workshop!
I hope to see you soon!
I'm not usually one to do a recap of things that happened for the week. Actually, I don't think I've ever done it. But, this week has been fantastic. So fantastic that I need to look back, mostly to prove to myself that I'm not imagining things.
I mean, just two weeks ago I wrote a pity-post about how stuck I felt. How out of control of my destiny I seemed to be.
Talk about a wonderful turnaround.
2. I guest posted on the Biz Ladies column of Design*Sponge, which was released on Tuesday. I talked about how to adjust to your target market, and it was very well received. I received quite a few really wonderful emails, and am so thankful for the opportunity.
3. Kathleen and I shared our first dates for our workshop collaborations. I even booked a plane ticket for our first strategic meeting and venue choosing. It's real, folks.
4. Yesterday I was featured by Rena Tom. I shared some feelings on Indie Shopography, including why I created it, what I've struggled with, and what I've learned.
5. Today April from Blacksburg Belle (who is one of my new favorite people on the planet, seriously) posted a video interview that we did earlier this week. I share the basics of one of my lessons from Indie Shopography and a free downloadable worksheet that I use in the course.
It's been a big week! Thank you to everyone who has been so wonderful about supporting me. I'm going to be spending the weekend in a state a bliss, and wonder what next week will hold.
Kathleen and I are getting some wonderful feedback from our little survey about where we should host our very first Indie Shopography workshop. You guys are all geared up for building your creative business! And that's making us very excited.
We're narrowing down locations, for both the first workshop and more to come. And we'd still love to hear from you! Throw your city in the pile of potentials by filling out the form below. You'll be automatically signed up to receive news as soon as we decide!
BONUS: We're giving back
We're making a pledge to give back to your community. Just as the Indie Shopography ecourse donates to women in small business in developing countries with every sign-up, we'll be doing the same for the workshops. But, instead of sending our donations overseas, we'll be giving it to a cause in your community. Giving back is important to us!
Thank you for helping us out, and we hope to see you very soon!
I have a nasty little secret: I schedule tweets.
Scheduling tweets has a connotation of sincere negativity. It's not genuine. It's insincere. It shouldn't be done. It's even a little creepy. The scheduler I use has "appear to never sleep" as an initiative to using the service. Weird, right?
However, I believe that, if done right, scheduling tweets can make you more productive and possibly even more genuine. Here's how:
1. Space out your quality content
When I get up in the morning, my head is reeling with ideas. Morning is my time to just get things done. That said, morning is when I have the best ideas for tweets.
When I sit down in the morning to do a blog post, check Facebook, and then tweet, I don't want to jumble all 12 of my good tweets into the first 15 minutes of the day. I want to space them out. So, I'll head over to my tweet scheduler, share all the cool links and posts that I have bumping around my brain, and just space them out throughout the day.
2. Keeps you from spamming the feed
Not only does scheduling my tweets keep me from posting all my good ideas first thing in the morning, but I'm also not spamming my followers' feeds with all my posts first thing in the morning. No one likes a feed spammer.
3. Gives you more chances to respond
When I'm not worrying about getting out my next tweet of the day, I can actually be more genuine with responding to others. It is networking, right?
4. Frees me up to work on work
We all know how dangerous Twitter is to our productivity, yes? If I can schedule my tweets at the beginning of the day, then I can focus on work more for the rest of the day.
5. Makes up for the unexpected
As a freelancer working from home, I never know what the day's going to hold. What happens if I remember at 3pm that I forgot to pick up coconut milk for tonight's curry? Or what if I get a client phone call that keeps me from posting my last good tweet of the day? Well, then I don't tweet.
But, if I'm scheduling my good content tweets, then I don't have to worry about skipping out of the office a bit early. My sharing is taken care of.
BONUS: Don't make it look like your tweets are scheduled.
There is an art to scheduling tweets in a way that doesn't red-flag you as spamming scum. You have to make it look like you're not scheduling tweets, and here's how I do it.
- Schedule no more than 3-5 tweets per day, and keep within your normal tweeting hours.
- Never schedule your more personal tweets. Those should be spontaneous, not scheduled.
- Divide them up over the course of a whole day.
- Always respond to @mentions of scheduled tweets.
- Keep with your voice/brand.
How do you feel about scheduling tweets? Still a little creeped out, or willing to give it a try?
I was sitting in my bedroom the other day, giving myself a pedicure, and I had a thought. It was kind of a scary thought. As soon as I thought it, I took pause. I literally looked around, and then chuckled to myself. My pup looked at me like I was nuts.
It was a thought regarding a project that has been on my mind, and it was brought on by a need to carefully curate my portfolio.
Curating your portfolio, whether you be a web designer or a jewelry designer, becomes more and more important the longer you're in your field. It's a process. One that you have to grow into. (Click to tweet.)
When You're 'Green'
When I began my web design business over two years ago I was fresh out of college, David was applying to graduate schools (which is just a nice way of saying he didn't have a job, and wasn't looking for one), and I had absolutely no desire to return to the world of retail management. I had been running my own jewelry indie business for over two years, so I had a foundation in the indie market, but transitioning from jewelry design to web design was a pretty big leap.
I remember taking every job I could get my hands on. Really crazy stuff. Etsy banners, blog headers, just adding logos to circles and calling them stickers. I was a bit of a hot mess.
But aren't we all in the beginning? We take every opportunity that comes our way, just with the hope of creating connections and "establishing" ourselves. It's something that we hear from professionals all the time, "Take every opportunity that comes along. You never know what's going to be your big break." But, in doing so, I feel we sell ourselves short. We undercharge. We work way too hard.
It's about quantity, and - sadly - we sometimes put quality on the back burner.
Then You Grow
Those first couple of months were hard. I remember keeping my eye on GIS job boards, though I knew nothing would ever be appealing to me. I stalked the Etsy forums and Alchemy board, finding a couple of jobs, each bigger and more challenging than the next. Then people started contacting me, and soon I had a project calendar. A project calendar!
This period of initial growth is a tricky one. It's all about balance. You have to take what you get in order to keep afloat, but you have to start censoring. You have to learn to turn away projects that you know you just don't have time for. Or maybe it's a bit too out of your comfort zone.
You grow into your niche, as you develop it. It's a simultaneous process. (Click to tweet.)
Real quality becomes a priority, but you still feel a pull for a certain amount of quantity as well.
And You Make It
At some point you have a realization, like I did the other day with the nail polish in hand. I was thinking about a potential project when I made a conscious decision to not take it on, not because I didn't have time or I didn't think it would be too challenging or not challenging enough, but because I was afraid the quality of the project, or the work that I was being asked to do, would not be worth the effort.
I was afraid it would compromise the integrity of the portfolio that I have developed over the last two years.
Wait a second, don't think that I'm a snob, because that's not it! I'll explain.
When you're green, you take any and everything on that you can. Then you begin to evolve. You recognize the types of clients/customers and projects you want to take on and you start to cut out the ones that don't fit. At first it's usually about time and effort, but then it's about quality.
You finally start drawing the line between quantity and quality. It's a natural evolution.
It's developing your niche. Your target market. Your portfolio. Your brand.
Click to tweet: Curating Your Portfolio by @emmarieDesigns http://bit.ly/AkZTFS