Business & Marketing

How to Discover Your Authentic Voice

The other day, I mentioned one of my takeaways from #BelleLive being authenticity in the way you talk on your blog. This is something that I struggled with at first, and as it turns out, many of the commenters did too.  It seems like it should be easy right? Write how you talk…but for whatever reason, it’s not. Some of us were taught very formal English writing methods, and it’s stuck with us. But the fact is, school doesn’t prepare you for blogging, and blogging requires a more informal approach.

Not only was I taught proper English in school, but I later attended college for a time, and took English. And there, I got introduced to MLA Writing Style….yikes! o.O There are SO MANY MUSTS in MLA format. You must use 12pt font. You must double-space the text. You must create a header that numbers all pages consecutively in the upper right-hand corner, one 1/2″ from the top. Oh and it must be flush with right margin. etc. etc. etc. (If you can hear that said ala The King & I it works much better.)

But here’s what I’ve found:


Properly vs Proper

I also wanted to tell you about my journey, and how I discovered my authentic voice. It’s a wee bit longer than some of my other videos (about 10 minutes), but it’s definitely real. lol

For those of you who will skip videos on principle (haters!) (just kidding), here’s some of the highlights:

[Tweet “‘You can speak properly, without being “proper”.’]

*Actually we had to move right before the weekend, because he had test at a fire station on Saturday. So..crazy! And this was with him working nights… 


So have you found your authentic voice? If not, do you have a better idea on how to figure it out? Leave me a comment and let me know. Also, let me know if you want more video posts…just with better sound/lighting/background. 😀

Your Voice + Your Blog = Magic

Very quickly, I realize that no posts went out last week, and I apologize for that. We had an extremely last minute move, and it was a whirlwind week of planning & packing.

Several months back April started talking about her upcoming CreativeLive appearance. Now, like any good online learner I’ve perused CL’s website many times, but I’ve never actually made it to one of their classes. But as her fan/future-good-friend-she-just-doesn’t-know-it-yet, I had to go to this one. Besides, who could turn down something titled “Build a Successful Creative Blog”?

Now I’ll admit, I was a bit concerned that this would be like so many classes I’ve attended, that promise worlds of new information, but there’s nothing you haven’t heard a million times. I always feel so let down when that happens, and worse, I feel like I wasted my time. And time is precious to me. So I pondered over this….3 whole days of blogging information…surely there would be something new in there. Plus it was April….I had to at least see.

I didn’t even know what to expect as I logged in…at first I just watched…then the hosts mentioned people in the chatroom, and I vaguely recalled April having mentioned a chatroom for the course. So I found that, and set my screen so I could see the chat & the course, and I dove in. The chatroom was incredibly friendly, and the hosts were lively, and April was doing an awesome job! And yes, I’d heard some of it before (like the value of lists), but she has a gift for presenting even that information with such enthusiasm that you feel like trying it again, even if you have dozens of times before.

So here’s some of my favorite things from her course:

  • She has fun & colorful photos throughout the workbook.
  • Her workbook is also peppered with quotes…I’m a HUGE fan of quotes.
  • She talked about goals for your blog. Now I know all about goals, and I frequently have goals in mind, but I rarely write them down. But there’s something powerful about writing your goals down, and then seeing the magic unfold.
  • She talked about comparing yourself to other blogs in your niche, not so you can copy, but so you can figure out what makes you different so you can use that as a springboard for inspiration.
  • She discussed avoiding trite prose in your blogging (which thrilled me, because I’m awfully sick of “yummy” being used everywhere…or God help us…yummo…)

There were so many things she discussed, that I am still going back over the workbook, and writing down little notes and things I want to try with my blog in the near future.

One of my biggest takeaways?

You should be your truest self on your blog. Formality is WRONG if it isn’t YOU! via @AmandaSueHowell (Click to Tweet that!)

I had a tendency to go back through and over-edit myself to where it no longer sounded like me. Why? Because I was trying to make it “proper”. And properly written English doesn’t start sentences with conjunctions…but I do. I also like to use exclamation points a lot, and some people think it’s annoying! But it’s me, and those who love me, will get it.

#BelleLive Blog Tour


This post is a part of the “What #BelleLive Taught Me” blog tour. This tour was conceptualized by a group of the chatroom participants, and since then took on a life of it’s own. In order to continue your journey, visit Jo Cavagnis (It’s All About YOU!) and Kristina Zabrano Getting the K9 Blog to the Groomer {Creatively Speaking}). Jo Cavagnis’ website is also where you can find a full list of the other participants. 🙂

Business Lessons From the Pistol

What I learned about business from "Pistol" Pete Maravich, via #entrepreneurship #business #basketball

When I was a kid, my parents started getting movies from a place called Feature Films For Families. It’s a little operation out of Utah, that creates family friendly movies. Additionally, they curate other movies that are either family friendly or almost family friendly.

One of those movies was The Pistol: Birth of a Legend. It tells the (probably dramatized) story of “Pistol” Pete Maravich, a basketball player in the 70s. The movie takes place when Pete is in the 8th grade, and it shows his rise from the little kid no one wanted on the team, to being on varsity a year before he was “old enough”.

Today, I introduced my children to the movie, and it’s the first time I’ve seen it since I was a kid myself. I didn’t set out to learn any business lessons, but as it seems to go in an entrepreneur’s life, I picked some up along the way.

  1. Never underestimate the underdog.
    This one seems obvious, so I’ll get it out of the way quickly. Pete is shorter, scrawnier, and younger than everyone on the team. Despite the number of people who say they root for the underdog, people still seem to overlook them in this day & age.
  2. Hail to the power of introverts.
    Not only is he young/small/short, but he’s quiet. He keeps to himself, but this gives him a superpower. Focus. His father instilled in him the value of big, big dreams. And rather than sitting around and “hoping” for that dream to come true, he worked. He ate, drank, slept, and breathed basketball. And not just basketball…it was all with the aim of excelling at basketball.
  3. Being different can be a gift.
    Initially, the coach doesn’t want to let Pete on the team, because he thinks he’s a showboater. The Pistol has tricks up his sleeve, that no one’s ever seen yet, and it scares the rest of his team. But after a while, his drive starts to infect his teammates & they realize that his moves give him an edge.
  4. Know your value.
    Early in the movie, his father is teaching him about confidence. Clearly it’s an oft repeated speech, as his wife & son both mockingly join in on the words “cause he’s got confidence”. As a demonstration, he explains a particular stunt with the basketball, and he tries to get his son to do it. Unsurprisingly his son can’t do it. His wife takes the opportunity, and dares him to try, and (also unsurprisingly) he pulls it off. He turns to his son, and he says “You ‘thought’ you could do it. I knew I could do it. Confidence.”
    Later in the movie, he & his father are discussing the greatest basketball player in the world. His father & mother throw out various names, but Pete shakes his head at all of them. Finally, his dad asks who he thinks the greatest player is. Pete turns his back on him, plants his feet squarely, and bounces the ball backwards, between his legs, and up into the basketball hoop. He then saunters away tossing the line “Who do you think Pop?” over his shoulder. Confidence.

This movie was inspiring to me as a kid, because I was always the short kid. In fact, at 5’1″, it’s safe to say that I never grew out of it. To see someone who was so willing to pursue their dreams, no matter how seemingly crazy, obviously made a great impression on me. I’ve gone on to serve in the military, sing the National Anthem at over a dozen on/off base events, and start my own business.

I’m thrilled to say that the inspirations from the movie have stood the test of time, and I’m still finding gems from these movies as I watch them with my children.

Photo credit: fabbio / Foter / CC BY-SA

What Da Vinci & Paris Hilton Have In Common

What Da Vinci & Paris Hilton Have in CommonWhen I say “Paris Hilton” what comes to mind? Is it her show with Nicole Ritchie? Is it the dog she carted around in her bag?

Did you know, despite her reputation of being “famous for being famous” that she actually has smart approach to her brand? Sure she has (had?) a reputation as a socialite party girl, but she’s actually done quite a bit. In addition to her socializing, and being a TV personality, she’s also done fashion design, modelling, acting (I know it’s debatable, but stay with me), producer, writers, and singer.

We’ve gone through a period in history, where people no longer respect that kind of diversity. It got chalked up to being an airhead, or ADD. But then there’s those of us who believe in Renaissance souls. When I was a kid, there was a radio drama I listened to. One time, this character was asked what he does.  He described himself as a Renaissance man. He said “I dabble in a lot of things.” But the fact is, true Renaissance men like Da Vinci, didn’t dabble. Da Vinci was incredibly brilliant!

Leonardo Da Vinci was what’s known as a polymath. Polymath is fancy schmancy term for someone who’s a freaking genius in a lot of areas. Da Vinci was a painter, writer, cartographer, sculptor, botanist, musician, mathematician…whew! The list goes on & on. He did SO much, and he was really good at it all.

It all comes back around to diversity. There’s been a resurgence of appreciation for people who can do multiple things. Sure, some people still think you’re an airhead. But then there’s the rest of us. And we think it’s freaking brilliant! So please…don’t be afraid to do more than one thing for your business. You’re a photographer….but can you do graphic design? Awesome! You’re a writer…but do you also make the most amazing costumes?  Go for it!

This allows you to create multiple streams of income. It’s like this….say you’re a photographer. Your money is limited to what you can make taking photos. And those photos are limited by how much time you have. Now, let’s just say that you’re a great writer too. So you take that writing ability, and that photographic knowledge, and you create an Ah-May-Zing ebook on how to take the best baby portraits ever. Now, that book can make a theoretically unlimited amount of money. Those books can be selling like hotcakes while you’re snoozing. Cool huh?

So, while Paris Hilton may seem goofy sometimes, she’s really being very smart. Those perfumes have made her millions of dollars. She’s done voiceover work for movies that have made millions. And there’s an autobiography, and clothing, and CDs….lots going on. Each of those things have done quite well on their own, but put together it’s become so much bigger!

If you already pull of multiple streams of income, please share how you do it, in the comments below. If you’re not diversifying yet, tell me how you want to make it happen!

My Business Superheroes

Natalie Sisson asked this question: Who is your business superhero?

I don’t know if I’ve ever mentioned this before, but I really don’t like having to pick one favorite. Favorite book? Favorite movie? What kind of heartless person even thought of these questions??? It’s like “what’s your favorite pair of shoes” or “who’s your favorite child”…not that those are comparable…I’m just saying.

Okay so because I had to at least narrow it down some, I selected 3 of my business superheroes. There’s probably a dozen, but a girl’s gotta start somewhere!

In no particular order, here are my 3 picks, and why I picked them…

April Bowles-Olin of Blacksburg Belle

  • She’s funny…the comments during her videos, and the repartee between her & her husband are hilarious!
  • Her site is gorgeous. The green is such a lovely, soothing color & it makes me feel creative.
  • Wednesday Wisdom is awesome. I’m just saying. If you’ve never watched her videos, you should.
  • I’m also a fan of her color inspirations, recipes, and interviews with other awesome people.

Mayi Carles of Heartmade Blog

  • She’s funny….the props, the animated hand movements…it’s awesome!
  • Her little drawings are adorable. It makes everything so personal…her site, her products, you know when you’re seeing something of Mayi’s.
  • The accent. Not gonna lie. It freakin’ rocks.
  • Her Friday video time is amazing. I love videos, because you get to really see someone’s personality shine through. It inspires me, and makes me want to do videos more often.

Alexandra Franzen of Alexandra Franzen

  • She’s funny….are you noticing a theme? I like funny!!!
  • The way she writes is magic. Seriously, I am charmed every time her emails come through my inbox.
  • How can you resist someone who’s newsletter enticement “You’ll get weekly bursts of neon brilliance”?
  • She does cool things like Mad Libs inspired bios. Really? That’s AWSOME!

Okay. I lied. They’re in alphabetical order by surname. I can’t help it…I’m equally right brained & left brained, so I like organized chaos. It’s a sickness, really.

So what has this taught me? I like funny, I like real, and I like wacky. I definitely need to work on integrating more of ALL of that into my own posts. 🙂

Your next step – If you don’t know these awesome ladies, go check them out now! I’d also love to hear from you…who are your favorite business superheroes?

30 day challenge


10 Things I Wish I’d Have Known

Top Ten Tuesday at Many Little Blessings

No one told me that you can love your children to the ends of the earth, and at the same time want to send them there. No one told me that back labor exists. In life, there are many opportunities for an instruction manual, where no such manual exists. Oh sure there’s parenting books, birthing books, and business books galore. But do they really give you true insight? Are you any more prepared for what you’re getting into? I went into my business, thinking that all the blogs, books & webinars I’d soaked up had prepared me for my new endeavor. Boy was I mistaken! Here’s just a sampling of the dozens of things webinars did not teach me!

1. Your first business might not be your last business.

I wasn’t always a creativity coach. I wasn’t always a coach. It’s a journey.

2. Always (no matter how small you think you are) have a contract.

I made the big, big mistake of thinking my policies were clear enough without needing a contract. The second part of this rule? USE the contract. Later on after I’d added the contract, I took on a client & neglected to send them the contract. Things got a bit hairy, and I’ve never made that mistake again.

3. Make sure your kids know they are top priority.

Look up from your screen, even if it’s the one hundredth time they’ve interrupted, and make eye contact. Always. After all, we want them to look us in the eye don’t we?

4. If your husband is on board, he will be your biggest enabler.

Once I fully explained my business to my husband, he has defended me to family who don’t always get it. He’s bragged about me to co-workers. He’s kept an eye on the kids and told me to go work & shut my office door so they can’t ask me questions. He’s encouraged me to invest in myself, even when I was having second thoughts. He is my cheerleader, my helper, and my support.

5. If your friends aren’t visionary, don’t share your dreams.

Cause your friends don’t dance, and if they don’t dance, well they’re no friends of mine. Okay okay, sorry. It’s out of my system now (maybe). I’ve told friends about my future goals & plans, only to have them shut me down. I’m trying to do too much. I want to make too much. How will I deal with….blah, blah, blah. If they’re not visionaries, keep it to yourself. (Just let them be impressed by how awesome you get 😉 )

6. Don’t discount yourself, because you’re newer than other entrepreneurs.

Someone will always have been in business longer than you. Just get over it. If you know your stuff, be confident and rock it!

7. Don’t sit on an idea for a service or product. Just do it!

I’m working on a creativity refresher. If I had started working on it, when I first thought of it, I’d have been helping people for almost a year now. (See, I’m still learning!)

8. Take time for you.

In the beginning, I was putting oodles of pressure on myself. I felt like I needed to be working non-stop. Get up? Check email. Doing lunch? Message a client. The kids are in bed? Back to work. It’s the weekend? Work, work, work. One day I woke up & realized that if I continued, I’d be burnt out on my business before I even got to the 1 year anniversary. Not cool!

9. Don’t be scared of being different.

I’ve thrown ideas out there, and had people who have been in business for years, tell me why it’s not a good idea. And to a degree, I want to listen. They’re experts. They know what they’re doing. That having been said, someone has to the innovator. Someone had to invent the light bulb. Someone had to create Apple. Someone had to figure out how to roast beans & brew them into coffee (thank you Jesus for that person!). HG Wells wasn’t considered a “real” writer. Elvis was told “stick to driving a truck”. Get my point?

10. Don’t give up, just because it didn’t work out.

If I had given up when I first hit struggles with VA work, I’d never have gotten this far. I’m insanely happy with coaching creatives. I love the work. I love the clients. I love the community. Just because your first business doesn’t suit you, doesn’t mean that you’re not cut out for business at all.

Now it’s your turn! What do you wish you’d been told before you started a business? Or became a parent? Leave me a comment, and then create your own post & link up with us at Many Little Blessings.