how to grow your business by doing less

I know you've heard that you have to hustle to reach success. That you have to do all the things, wear all the hats and work round the clock to make your business profitable. That you need to be visible on all the platforms and attend all the networking events and take all the trainings and courses if you want your business to work. 
 
That isn't the message you'll get from me. 
Because I believe that growth stems from simplicity – and I know that you won't get better results by doing all the things. The real way to make your business work is to stop overcomplicating things and instead embrace a simpler, more focused approach to building it day after day.
 
Now I know that's not as flashy as some of methods you've heard about. But I think you care less about that than you do about finding a strategy that works to grow a sustainable business that supports your lifestyle.
 

That's why I want to introduce you to Anna.

these three tools will save you tons of time

When you're dedicated to running a business that's profitable and that provides you with plenty of freedom, your most precious resource is usually time. That's why clients often ask me how they can save more time while tackling to-dos in their business – and why I'm sharing the tools I always give them with you today.

So here are the 3 main tools I use to streamline my to-dos and simplify the day-to-day tasks in my business.

the simplest way get clients

Creatives and entrepreneurs are always telling me that their biggest struggle in business is getting clients.

I'm never surprised to hear that because we all need a steady stream of clients to bring in revenue and run a sustainable business.

What shocks me is how those individuals think they should go about getting clients because it's always something big and complex and (often) expensive too.

how I had a freedom-filled summer (and still grew my income)

I don’t know about you but at my house, we are in full on back to school mode. We’re stocking up on supplies, shopping for school clothes and sneaking in a few more trips to our neighborhood pool and favorite picnic spots. 

It’s been a good summer, for sure. But, more than that, I can finally say it’s been a freedom-filled summer, which is something I didn’t always think was possible in my life as an entrepreneur. 

You see, for many years, I thought that you could either have freedom and flexibility OR you could have success. 

This year, a little experiment showed me you can have both. 

what kombucha did for my business

Last week, my friend and fellow creative Lauren Carnes sent out an amazing newsletter talking about how rompers defined her brand. 

Her point was this: we all need to share personal details in our brands because they serve as connection points for potential customers, clients and fans to engage with us.

I couldn't agree more - and I personally love using this simple strategy to build that all important know, like and trust factor with your audience. 

But I also believe that you have to use this strategy right for it to be effective, which means you can't just go around sharing the same personal details that everyone else is sharing.

In other words, please, please don't be vanilla. 

One of the biggest mistakes I see creatives make when they're sharing personal details in their content is that they post the same old highlight reel everyone else is using. They say things like they work in their PJs or love messy buns or fuel their days with bottomless cups of coffee. 

These things might very well be true about you (the PJ part certainly is for me sometimes) but they aren't really original. They aren't enough to make someone stop long enough to engage with you or your brand. 

So before you start sharing personal details in your content, ask yourself are these things memorable enough to stand out?

If not, let's dig a little deeper. When I'm helping a client uncover personal details to use in their bio or about page or social media posts, I ask them tons of questions. Here are six specific ones you can ask yourself if you don't know what personal details you should share or where you should start:

1. Among your family and friends, what is one thing you're known for loving or doing?

2. How do you like to start and end each day?

3. What is one thing someone would never guess about you?

4. What's your current obsession (could be a food, a show, a color, a place)?

5. If you had to spend all your time doing one thing, what would that one thing be?

6. What's your secret hobby or biggest quirk?

 

Once you've answered these questions, look at your answers and pull out a few interesting things that you can use in your content starting right now. 

Like Lauren, I know your efforts here will pay off. That's because I've seen this strategy work in my own business when, about a year ago, I started talking about how I can't make it through the day without a kombucha (and how coffee is not my thing). 

This one little detail has led to loads of connections, to better engagement on social media and to emails from prospective clients, who've turned into actual clients after that initial kombucha connection. Best of all, it's unique to me and totally true.

So go ahead, give it a try. And if you're feeling stuck or doubtful about what you should share, hit reply and let me know. I'd love to chat with you about this simple strategy for better engagement.

With love,

Ashley

how to get the big stuff done

I belong to a small mastermind group of lovely, whip-smart women who recently asked me how do you get so many projects done in your business?

I get asked this question a lot (and I say this humbly because this was not always the case!) So I wanted to share my response with you today because I know you too might be searching for a secret that will help you be more productive with the bigger projects in your business. 

So here it is: I focus on one big goal or project at a time, and keep focusing on it until it’s done. 

This is an incredibly simple practice, and very effective too. BUT it isn’t easy to do. Because in reality, keeping that singular focus - that eye on the prize - is much harder than it sounds. 

That’s because every day, you’re working against distractions like...

those frequent alerts on your phone

the social media rabbit hole

household tasks and chores

your friend who calls in the middle of the day

your inbox that needs organizing

And then there is the biggest distraction of all: the many, many other projects and ideas you have. The ones that appear so bright and shiny. The ones that feel urgent the moment you even think about putting them on pause to focus all your energy on one thing.

The way I see it, you have two choices. You can give in to distractions and try to work on many ideas at once, reducing your productivity. Or you can pick one project to focus on, commit to it and - here’s the most important part - keep committing to it and working toward it day in and day out until it’s done. 

If you can do that, productivity is well within your reach.

With love,

Ashley
 

P.S. The big project I focused on these past two weeks was creating a webinar on Getting Ready to Get Featured for the Rising Tide Society. You can catch the replay here

my secret to creating content with ease

As a creative or entrepreneur with an online presence, you have to create a lot of content each week. You need content for your blog or videos or podcast. You need content to post on social media. And you often need content for other platforms too (think Facebook groups and other people’s blogs). 
 
Whether you’re already creating all that content or just aspire to do so, it can feel like a huge and stressful undertaking. BUT it doesn’t have to be. 
 
That’s why I want to tell you my secret to creating content with more ease. And I’ll give you a hint: I’m not going to tell you about systems or spreadsheets or content calendars today. (Those are conversations for another time.)
 
Not surprisingly, my secret is pretty simple: I do what works for me.
 
Take, for example, this newsletter, which I send to you each week. To create ease around this weekly task in my business, I’ve established a process that makes writing this newsletter feel fluid and fun. The actual process looks like this:
 
1. Brainstorm ideas + lean into the one that feels the most relevant or exciting to write about. (This usually happens while I’m on my morning run.)
 
2. Write a rough draft of the newsletter for that week by hand. (My ideas flow best when I’m writing with pen and paper, not typing.)
 
3. Type up the rough draft on my computer, making changes as I go.
 
4. Set the draft aside to get some distance from my writing. (Sometimes I just need a ten minute break and sometimes I let it sit for a few hours.) 
 
5. Return to my computer to polish the newsletter so I can send it off to my amazing online business manager, who sends it out to you.
 
This is the process that works for me so I set up my schedule each week to accommodate it. And I do the same thing for other types of content I create in my business.
 
That doesn’t mean, however, that this is how you should go about creating your newsletter or any content really. What I’m inviting you to do today is figure out how you can create content in a way that feels fluid and fun for you. 
 
I want you to think about the length of time you need to create content and block it out in your calendar.
 
I want you to think about the environment that will best support your content creation. (Is it a coffee shop or your home office or maybe even your couch?)
 
I want you to think about the tools you need to create content with ease. (For me, I have to have a pen and paper.)
 
Then map out your own process based on these things. Try that process out this week and see how it feels in practice. Then make tweaks until it feels like the right one for you to repeat week after week or day after day as you create content for your business. 
 
If you do that, you will find that you can create your content with a lot more ease.
 
Now I’d love to hear from you. Tell me what works for your content creation? Leave a comment below and let me know.
 
With love,
 
Ashley

why you need to make space for your dreams to unfold

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Seven years ago, my husband and I made a list of all the things we desired in a potential neighborhood and home. Then I put it in a drawer somewhere and we promptly forgot about it. 
 
This year, we got the house hunting bug again. We looked at dozens of places. Old craftsman homes and fixers and ranches and ramblers. Nothing really felt like the right fit. 
 
Then we spotted a home on Zillow that was laughably NOT our style. The kitchen was stuck in the 1950s. There was wood paneling on the walls. The bathrooms were covered with pink tiles. I figured I’d have to start dressing like Betty Draper to live there. 
 
BUT it was two blocks from our daughter’s school in a neighborhood we loved. So, on a whim, we decided to take a look. 
 
We signed the papers to close on that house today. 
 
The house was not what we were looking for but it is exactly what we wanted. In fact, a few nights ago, I was cleaning out files in preparation for our move and found that old list of things we desired in a house and neighborhood.
 
Our new house meets every requirement. It just didn’t happen the way we thought it would or look the way we thought it should.
 
My point here is not to make lists and ignore them for close to a decade. (That’s not really a strategy for making your goals happen.) My point is that you need to recognize that the way you achieve your goals won’t always look exactly the way you thought it would. 
 
It’s true in life, and it’s true in business too.
 
So pay attention. Set goals and have big dreams. But don’t be too strict about how you achieve them. Don’t cling to a plan when another option unfolds. Don’t get stuck thinking that there is only one linear path forward to reach the success you’re after. 
 
Because if you do, you will miss out on the kind of opportunities that aren’t obvious but are actually exactly what you need to make your goals a reality. 
 
All you have to do is open your eyes.
 
With love,
 
Ashley
 
P.S. I experienced this lesson recently with our house but I’ve learned it many times over with my business as well. I recently talked about those lessons in a live conversation in my Facebook group, The Simplified Entrepreneur. Click here to join and catch the replay. 
 

visibility starts with self worth

I can tell you how to get visible. I can teach you the steps. I can show you the strategies and I can help you figure out which one is the right one for you to use. 
 
But the truth is that you will have a hard time executing any steps or strategies if you don’t believe you have something valuable to say or share first.
 
Because in the end, visibility starts with self worth.
 
In order to get visible, you have to be clear on your value, and you have to be sold on yourself. You have to believe that you have something to say or share or offer. If you don’t, that little voice inside you will always pipe up to say why should I bother?
 
If you’ve been struggling with getting visible – even though you know how to go about it – it’s time to shift your focus to what’s going on in your head. That means you need to address your fears, doubts and limiting beliefs, then get clear on all that you have to offer so you can get visible with more ease. 
 
I bet you’re wondering how.
 
First, we’re going to start by uncovering the thoughts that are holding you back. To do that, grab a blank sheet of paper (or open a blank document on your computer) and set a timer for 5 minutes. Then do a brain dump. Allow yourself to write freely and list all the thoughts that come up when you think about getting visible. Your thoughts will be unique to you but they usually sound something like this:
 
I’m not smart enough.
I’m not attractive enough.
I don’t have anything valuable to say.
I’m an imposter.
I’m not ready.
 
Now ask yourself: Are these thoughts true? If you aren’t absolutely certain they are true, there’s room to question them – essentially disproving them to make room for some new beliefs. 
 
That’s where step 2 comes in – and yes we’re going to make another list.
 
This time I want you to get another piece of paper (or word doc) ready and set a timer for 10 minutes. Then make a list that includes all the things that make you valuable as a person and business owner. Include all of your accomplishments, your unique skills, your strengths and your talents. 
 
A lot of people get stuck here because it’s easier to detail our flaws than it is to celebrate our strengths. So if you’re struggling to write this second list, here are a few questions to help you uncover what makes you so great:
 
What do people often praise you for?
What do people frequently thank you for?
What do people often ask for your help with? 
What do people repeatedly ask you for advice about?
What comes easy to you that other people struggle with?
What have you achieved in your life or business in the last month? The last year? The last 5 years?
 
At this point, you should have two lists: one filled with doubts and one filled with things that make you great. Things that show you your value. Things that remind you of all that you have achieved and all that you have to offer. 
 
Place those lists side by side. Then recognize that you get to choose which set of thoughts you believe. You can continue focusing on your fears and doubts, in which case you’ll probably keep having trouble getting visible. Or, you can lean into the list of your accomplishments, acknowledge that you have something of value to share and take the steps to get visible from a place of self worth.
 
I hope you choose the second option because I know you have something to share. The thing is, I’m not the one you have to convince. But I’m confident that if you do the work to get sold on yourself and your value, you will start getting visible with a lot more ease.

With love,
 
Ashley
 
P.S. If you’re ready to go deeper on the topic of mindset and visibility, check out my free guide From Stuck to Standing Out: 5 Steps to Get Visible with Greater Confidence and More Ease. If you haven’t downloaded it yet, you can get your free copy of the guide (and the worksheets inside it) HERE.

how to stop procrastinating

I work with this amazing woman, we'll call her Melissa, who says she's a horrible procrastinator. 
 
The story she tells herself about herself is that she's someone who puts things off until the last minute. She says she succumbs to every little distraction, and that she wastes time on things that don't really need doing (like organizing her desk for the thousandth time) to avoid doing the important things (like finishing her latest work project).
 
I know many of you can relate because you've shared that you also put off doing your work by…
 
Taking personal calls in the middle of your working hours.
Deciding you're too tired and just need to nap.
Scrolling social media for hours on end.
Deciding the house really needs to be cleaned before you can do anything else.
 
Then the end of the day comes or your deadline arrives and you realize you haven't completed the work you set out to do. 
 
You know procrastinating is a problem – and like Melissa, you may be looking for a way to solve it so it doesn't affect your work and productivity so much. That's why I'm going to share the simplest solution I have in my toolbox today: You need to stop calling yourself a procrastinator. 
 
Because the biggest issue you have is that you believe you're a procrastinator. And because you believe it, you allow yourself to do things that prove that label true again and again and again. You procrastinate, and then think well, that's just me being me so you never break the pattern.
 
Don't worry. You can do something about this – and it doesn't require 7 steps or excessive willpower either. Instead, you need to flip the switch and find a new belief to focus on when you find yourself going down the path of procrastination.
 
Call it a mantra, call it a new thought to think. What you're looking for is a simple statement that gets you thinking and acting like you're the kind of person who gets work done, not the kind of person who procrastinates doing the work. 
 
Here are a few options that could work for you…
 
I don't procrastinate. 
I don't get distracted.
I get shit done.
I do things today, not tomorrow.
I'm choosing to take action, not delay it.
 
Adopt one of these statements, or create your own. Then once you've found a belief that resonates, use it. Say it out loud when you catch yourself indulging in procrastination. Put it on a sticky note and post it on your computer monitor as a subtle reminder. Write it on your bathroom mirror where you'll see it every day. 
 
If you can do this, you'll slowly start to believe that you're the kind of person who gets stuff done, not the kind of person who procrastinates. And as you take the actions that prove your new thought to be true, your trust in it – and belief that you're a person who has overcome the tendency to procrastinate – will grow stronger.
 
With love,
 
Ashley

don't think you have anything to say?

I don't have anything to say.
 
Whether you're trying to write your first newsletter or are struggling to create a caption for an Instagram post, THIS is one of the biggest beliefs holding you back from creating content for your business. 
 
I don't have anything to say might seem like a pretty innocent thought but it can limit you in big ways. That's because it's hard to create content from a place of self-criticism or doubt. And honestly, if you don't think you have anything to say, you'll struggle to find anything to say at all
 
So how do you get past this belief when you feel absolutely certain it's true?
 
The solution is at once simple and complex. It's simple because you just need to do one thing. It's complex because that one thing requires a willingness to question your own beliefs, and that isn'talways easy. 
 
The thing you need to do is find a way to believe that the opposite is true. You need to find a way to believe that you DO have something to say.
 
I know that feels impossible right now but hang with me for a moment because I'm going to help you get there.
 
Here's how: we're going to use the power of a great question to move you toward the new belief. In this situation, my favorite question to ask yourself is what would I write about if I WAS the kind of person who had something to say? 
 
This might seem too easy but this process works because your brain is primed to answer questions. So when you ask it this particular question, it will get you thinking like someone who has something to say – and give you at least a few hints (if not an outright answer) as to what that something could be.
 
In the very least, you'll have some loose ideas to build on, which is better than the blank page you had before. In the best case scenario, you'll know exactly what you want and need to say in the next piece of content you create.
 
With love,
 
Ashley
 
P.S. Earlier this week, I shared a new way to get my support that's getting people great results in their business: a single 90-minute Strategy Session. (Here's the announcement if you missed it.) If you want to claim a session for yourself and get my support solving your biggest challenges in your business right now, send me an email at ashley@ashleymgartland.com.

the ONE thing you need to do to reach your goals this month

If you’re like most creatives and entrepreneurs, the start of a new month means it’s time to set new goals. So you turn over a fresh page in your planner and write down a goal you’d like to focus on this month.

Then you go about business as usual. Maybe you occasionally think about that goal or set aside a few minutes to work toward it. But it’s not necessarily top of mind, which is why you don’t always achieve it.

I want you to experience something different this month. I want you to reach your goal. So let’s start here: name your goal. Put it in your planner. Write it on your white board or chalkboard or plop it into your project manager.

Then ask yourself this question: what’s one action I could take this month to make achieving my goal inevitable?

The action will be different for everyone but it should be something you can repeat daily or weekly that will virtually guarantee your success. If you need a little guidance, here are a few examples of goals and actions someone might take to make achieving their goal a sure thing.

 

Goal: Get a guest blog published on a popular platform.

Repeated Action: Pitch 8 guest blog posts to different platforms this month.

 

Goal: Finish my web site.

Repeated Action: Work on my site for 1 hour each day.

 

Goal: Get 3 new clients this month.

Repeated Action: Talk with 4 new people who might be potential clients or a good source of client referrals each week.

 

Now that you have the details nailed down, you need to decide if you are really willing to commit to taking that action day in and day out (or week in and week out). Because you have to commit for this process to work.

If you’re committed, you’re ready . So go ahead and calendar the repeated action you’re going to take this month and get started right away.

Much love,

Ashley

my secrets to simplifying your social media

At least once a week, someone asks me how they can make the whole social media thing less stressful and more manageable – and boy, do I get it. Between the Facebook posts and the pins and the tweets and the Instagram stories, it's easy to feel like you're stretched too thin as you try to keep up with it all. 
 
I also hear you when you say that your content strategy on social media feels chaotic at worst and haphazard at best because most of the time you're just throwing up posts at the last minute and hoping they engage the right people. 
 
Now I'll be honest: I'm not a social media expert. So if you're expecting me to talk about algorithms or creating Instagram pods, you're going to be disappointed. 
 
But if you want to simplify your social media strategy so it doesn't take up so much of your time and brain space each day, I'm your gal. 
 
In fact, today I'm going to share three specific strategies I use in my business to make social media more manageable. Here they are, in no particular order:
 
1. Focus on two platforms.
You do not have to be everywhere. In fact, at the start, it's probably better if you're not. I believe focusing on just two platforms – and doing them really well – is far better than doing a mediocre job posting and engaging on all the platforms. So go ahead and pick your two favorite platforms, ideally the ones that allow you to use your talents (i.e. if you're a great photographer, choose Instagram and if you're amazing on video, go live on Facebook). Then take the time to master those two platforms before you ever consider adding a third.
 
2. Give your content a little framework.
Coming up with original, inspiring posts and images every day of the week is a truly hard task – especially when you're starting with a blank slate. The solution: create a loose framework for your content so you don't have to start over from scratch each day but can still exercise your creativity. What do I mean by framework? One example is that you could assign a content category to each day of the week but allow yourself freedom to share different messages about that content category on any given day. You could also decide ahead of time what type of posts you put up each day. So you might always share a quote on Mondays and introduce yourself every Friday but do it in a different way each week.
 
3. Pick a tool – and stick with it.
There are so many tools that can help you with social media from project management sites like Asana and Trello to design sites like Canva to scheduling tools like Buffer and Meet Edgar. None of them will be the perfect solution for all your needs so your best bet is to pick one and stick with it. That way you won't waste time bouncing around from solution to solution trying to find the perfect fit. 
 
Last but not least, cut yourself a little slack. Remember that you don't have to be perfect, and neither does your social strategy. If you post something that doesn't engage people like you'd hoped it would or forget to post entirely or need to do a social media detox for the weekend, that's ok too. 
 
With love,
 
Ashley

what simplifying your business really means

I talk a lot about simplifying your business. About how simplifying is the thing you can do to make your business work. About how it can lead to more growth. About how it can lessen your overwhelm. And about how it can create more freedom for you in your business, and your life.

But you might be thinking that’s nice, but what does simplifying your business actually mean? So today, I wanted to share 5 things you can do to simplify your business right now.

 

Focus on just a few projects.

It’s hard to make progress on your projects if you’re trying to tackle dozens of them at once. So instead of trying to do it all, try focusing on just one or two projects at a time; do them really well and to completion before you add anything else to your plate.

 

Keep your blinders on.

New strategies to help you grow your business pop up every day, and you could easily spend your working hours trying to learn and execute ALL of them. But that would spread you pretty thin and slow your progress too. Instead, you should weigh your options and pick a strategy or two that feel like a good fit for you. Then give yourself permission to focus solely on them and ignore the rest.

 

Start relying on systems.

Systems aren’t the sexiest thing to talk about but they can make a world of difference in your business. If you aren’t using systems yet, you should first take the time to figure out what kind of systems you need. Once you pinpoint your needs, you can set the systems up and start using them to create more flow and ease in your business and life.

 

Get support.

Simplifying your business often means doing less better so you may need to find someone to pick up the slack and tackle the tasks you don’t have time for anymore. For example, you might bring on someone to help with administrative work or start outsourcing certain tasks like graphic design or copywriting. Whatever you choose, getting support will give you the freedom to focus on the most important things in your business – the things that will help it grow.

 

Recognize what’s important.

Most creatives and entrepreneurs are juggling a lot of to-dos in their business, which can lead to overwhelm. The important thing to recognize here is that you probably don’t have to get to all those to-dos; you just need to handle the important ones. Simplifying your business means learning to prioritize those important tasks and letting any seemingly urgent busywork go.  

 

These are a few of my favorite strategies for simplifying your business but I know plenty more exist. If you have a tip or tool to share, hit reply and let me know how you’re simplifying your business right now.

With love,

Ashley

 

P.S. The tips above are great for simplifying your overall approach to growing your business. But I also love getting more specific with you by helping you simplify key elements of entrepreneurship, like your visibility game.

If ‘get featured’ is on your goal list and the whole process of pitching is feeling overwhelming and unmanageable right now, I invite you to check out The Pitch Partner. In this new 1:1 coaching partnership, you’ll learn how to simplify the pitching process so you can get featured and get visible with more confidence and greater ease.

Click here to learn more and see if The Pitch Partner is a good fit for you.

4 mistakes people make when pitching (and how you can avoid them)

Whether you joined the All Eyes On You Challenge last week or not, I've heard from enough of you to know that getting featured is something you very much want to make happen this year. I also know that you realize you need to learn how to pitch if you're going to make that goal a reality.

I'd like to help you with that. So let's start by talking about the most common mistakes people make with pitching - and what you should do instead.


Mistake #1: They don’t do their research. 
It’s a huge mistake to write and send a pitch without ever researching the place or publication you want to get featured in because it decreases your likelihood of getting a yes. Skipping the research step might save you time up front but this approach won’t give you great results – if it gets you anywhere at all.

What to do instead: After you decide who you’re pitching, take the time to research the platform. You don’t need to go overboard though; if you’re pitching a podcast, listen to a few episodes to make sure it’s a good fit and get a sense for the host’s style. If you’re pitching a magazine, read a few issues and learn what kind of content they publish, and don’t. Knowing these kinds of details ahead of time will help you send better pitches and make a great first impression with the people on the receiving end of your pitch.


Mistake #2: They don’t sing their own praises.
Look, I get it. It’s uncomfortable to talk about yourself – especially when it feels like you’re bragging about your accomplishments. But if you want the people you’re pitching to understand why you or your products or services are worth featuring, you have to highlight what sets you apart. If you leave that piece out of your pitch, you’ll just blend in with everyone else.
What to do instead: Before you hit send on a pitch, pause to read it and ask yourself: have I taken the time to share what makes me valuable here? If not, add in a line or two to highlight your accomplishments so people know exactly why you’re someone worth featuring.

Mistake #3: They don’t factor their business goals into their pitching plans.
It’s easy to convince yourself that you want to get featured in the same places everyone else does, which are likely the biggest, brightest opportunities around. Those places might be a match for you too but you’ll never know that for sure if you don’t take the time to ask yourself if they’re a good fit for you and your current business goals.
What to do instead: Before you jump on the bandwagon and start pitching the places everyone else is pitching, think about the results you want to achieve in your business right now. Then ask yourself if getting featured in the publications you’re thinking of pitching would actually help you achieve those goals. If it would, pitch away. If not, it’s time to think of alternative places to pitch so you can get visible in a way that supports your goals. 

Mistake #4: They wait too long to pitch.
This last mistake isn’t actually one you make when you pitch – it happens when you decide to skip pitching all together because you don’t think you’re ready or professional enough or a big enough deal to get featured. The truth is that there are opportunities for people in all stages of business to get featured. If you take yourself out of the game, you’ll miss out on every one.
What to do instead: The first step is to get your messaging, website, and social media profiles ready. (Don't worry: it's not as complicated as it sounds.) After that, give yourself permission to just start – and you don’t have to start at the top either. You can start by pitching smaller publications or by appearing on friends' podcasts or by writing for lesser known blogs. But whatever you do, stop waiting. It's time to take action now.

With love,

Ashley

what to do when fear gets in the way

Of all the things standing in your way of getting visible, fear is the one I hear about the most. 
 
I’m talking about a fear of being seen. I’m talking about a fear of being found out and called a fraud. I’m talking about the fears we have that our work isn’t good enough and about the fears that tell us we don’t have anything unique to say. 
 
I’m talking about the fear that we might start getting visible and fail, and the fear that we’ll be so good at visibility that we won’t be able to manage that level of success. (Yes, people actually fear success too.)

Like it or not, I think we can all agree that we have fears around visibility. It’s what you decide to do to manage them that matters. 
 
If you’re ready to start managing those fears so you can reach your visibility goals with more confidence and ease, I’m going to suggest doing a Fear Dump.
 
I learned about this exercise from my friend Sonia Ruyts, who is a talented creative, a yarn shop owner, a blogger and a podcast host; she learned about it from her mentor Megan Flatt. (I say this all to give credit where credit is due here – though I’ve tweaked the exercise just slightly to simplify it for you.) 
 
Here’s how you use it:

Set a timer for 5 minutes.

Grab a journal or sheet of paper and write down all your fears and uncertainties around getting visible. Don’t hold back or edit your thoughts – let them all out.

At the end of the 5 minutes, go through the list and, as you look at each fear, ask yourself: Why is this NOT true? 

 
The beautiful thing about this exercise is that it gets all your fears around visibility out of your head and onto paper where you can observe them. Even better? When you take the time to ask yourself why each thought is NOT true, you invite your curious, creative brain to come up with evidence that pokes holes in your reasoning. 

You create some doubt about your fears and start to see them for what they really are: beliefs, not facts.
 
Now I’d love to hear from you. What’s one fear you have around visibility? Hit reply to share yours and get my support coming up with reasons it’s NOT true. I answer every email personally, and really do want to hear from you and see how this exercise plays out.

With love,

Ashley
 

an interview on growing a business while doing social good with Julie Sullivan of Ground Up

Julie Sullivan grew up in Oregon and, after graduating college, spent two years working for a social enterprise in Northern Uganda. When she returned home, she continued to explore ways to volunteer and give back, eventually creating plans to launch a social enterprise company.

Today Julie runs Ground Up with her business partner, Carolyn Cesario; together, these two women are spreading good with a line of nut butters that tastes delicious and promotes social change too.

 

What did your path to launching Ground Up look like?

At 13, my eyes were completely opened during a service trip to the streets of San Francisco. From then on, I spent all of my energy finding ways to create opportunity for women in need of help. This ultimately led me to Uganda, where I oversaw operations for a social enterprise with a team of 160 women facing extreme poverty.

I will always remember Stella. She helped me to see firsthand the power of opportunity, as she walked through our gate with very little financially and low self-esteem. Two years later, she left the organization to confidently run her own small business. It was amazing the impact we had. She was able to save money from this job and, through the educational training, she was able to provide for her children’s education, believe in herself and know that no one in the family was going to bed hungry. It was a powerful example of the ripple effect of giving one woman an opportunity.

I saw how an employment training program worked and thought – why isn’t anyone doing this back home? So I returned to my hometown of Portland, Oregon and set out to use my experiences abroad to create a similar program here at home. 

Through local, hands-on research with non-profit organizations, I saw that there is a gap in employment for impoverished women. They have the motivation to work but may lack the skills, experience or confidence to be hired by an employer, so that’s where Ground Up comes in.

The only problem was I didn’t have a product at first. I believe that business can be a powerful tool for social change and I was set on creating a business that could sustain itself. That’s when my business partner Carolyn came into the picture.

What did Carolyn bring to the table?

Several years ago, she experienced a lot of health issues, which launched her on a journey to healing. She discovered that food truly could be medicine. It can be healing and powerful and can fuel you in a way that makes you feel great. Throughout the various doctor-mandated diets she went on, nut butter quickly become one of her favorite healthy and nutritious treats. It fueled her, tasted delicious and made her feel good.

But when a scoop of nut butter is your “guilty pleasure”, you want it to taste absolutely delicious! And that wasn’t the case for many nut butters she found on the market so she started making her own. After much experimenting, she discovered that a unique almond-cashew base provided the most creamy consistency. She played around with flavors, infusing them with cardamom, lavender and even smoked honey – combinations she wasn’t finding anywhere else on the market. 

When I met Carolyn, she had no intention of starting a nut butter business. I went to her house one day to learn how to make it, not at all with the intention of business but mostly for my own selfish desire to learn how to make nut butter. (I am also a huge nut butter fan!) 

During that time, we talked about my employment training program vision and why I hadn’t pursued it further. When the missing piece was a product, Carolyn was intrigued to hop on board. We started by making each small batch in a small food processor two jars an hour and hosted a tasting where we got great feedback from friends and family.  Before we knew it we had orders coming in and Ground Up PDX was born.

 

What drew you to entrepreneurship over going a more traditional path?

There are a number of factors. After moving home from Uganda, I found myself not fulfilled or challenged in the work I was doing. By choosing the path of entrepreneurship, every day is new and different and each day there is a new problem to solve. I also was drawn to the piece that I would get to use all of my skillsets to build and create something.

I think there is a misconception that entrepreneurship equals flexibility in your schedule.  It is true to an extent but when you are doing something you love you end up putting many un-clocked hours in to see it succeed!

 

Why did you decide to make a social impact with your for-profit company, and how did you decide which cause was the right fit for you?

I believe that business can be a powerful tool for social change and every business has the opportunity to do good and create a social impact. I could not have seen starting this business any other way. The business was birthed more from seeing the need and creating the social impact model before the product came into play. 

Through local, hands on research, I saw that there is a gap in employment for impoverished women. They have the motivation to work but may lack the skills, experience or confidence to be hired by an employer. So that’s where the vision for a 6 to 9 month employment training program came into play. Through part-time work, these women will find the skills, confidence and understanding they need to transition into sustainable full-time employment.

 

What does a day in your working life look like? And are you full time in your business or is it a side-hustle for you?

No day looks the same! It involves everything from nut butter production to labeling product to get ready to hit the shelf to email communication to working at farmer’s markets and other events where we sample our product. Other days, I’m driving around dropping off samples and meeting with potential new wholesale accounts. Or meeting with potential partners and working with our interns as we pilot the employment training program. I’m full-time in the business but have a number of different side hustles too.

 

In the early days of your business, what were your biggest challenges, real or self-imposed?

Our biggest challenges were maintaining cash flow and figuring out how to make the shift from our small food processors to a more efficient production system. As well, we struggled to figure out where to pour our energy. We had a lot of ideas for sales channels to pursue, promoting our brand, etc. but we had to figure out how to narrow down where our energy was going. There are only so many hours in a day!

 

How have you worked to overcome your challenges?

We have secured a couple sales channels that bring us more consistent cash flow. We received money to purchase a larger food processor and move into a commercial kitchen. (We now make 30 jars an hour!) I think we are still continuing to learn how to narrow down our focus of where to spend our energy. Something that has been super helpful is having yearly, quarterly and monthly goals, and then each week set specific tasks that will help you reach your monthly goals and to-do lists. This has helped us when we have bigger ideas we want to pursue to see where they best fit in the timeline.

 

How have you learned to simplify your business and find focus when – as you so accurately described it – entrepreneurship can feel like you’re operating in a pinball machine?

Sometimes we still feel like we are operating a pinball machine. The biggest thing we have learned to simplify our business and find focus is to come back to our “why” as well as utilize our skillsets best. Carolyn and I both have different strengths that compliment each other, so really letting the person own the areas of the business where they have the skills is key. And then within those areas really setting quarterly and monthly and even weekly goals helps to keep on focus. 

 

What drives you to continue giving your time and energy to Ground Up, even when it’s hard?

It’s the vision for the impact that can be had in women’s lives here in Portland. We have had two interns from a local teen shelter work with us and they are truly what motivates me to get up each day. The reminder that we can play a part in giving someone an opportunity and helping them believe in themselves, gain confidence and discover their strengths to ultimately lead them into sustainable job opportunities. The vision for this training program is big and we have already seen huge strides in the lives of the couple girls we have worked with. I know that there is more to do and we cannot grow our employment training program without growing our sales channels, so I stay motivated. 

 

Let’s talk about failure. How have you learned to deal with failure in your life as an entrepreneur?

I’ve definitely learned to deal with failure as an entrepreneur by focusing each day and week on something positive that has happened or on a positive stride that was made. I continue to deal with failure as well, by believing that in order to succeed, failure is just a part of the game – that often failure in one way can lead to opportunity for other doors of success to open.

I don’t like to use the word failure in a negative connotation because I believe that every time there is failure, there is an opportunity to learnand grow and build strength for what’s to come ahead.

 

You mentioned you love sales. How have you made the sales process easier or more successful for you?

Yes, I view sales as a game that constantly challenges me and sometimes I win! When I lose, I try to figure out why and then I play again. I’ve also made the sales process easier and more successful by trying to focus on building relationships. This may make the process more of a long game before you sign a deal, but there is something refreshing about focusing on building a relationship and then the sales come. People are more inclined to support and buy from you if they trust and connect to you as a person. It’s worth the long game sometimes and then likely those will be longer standing sales channels.

 

What’s the best investment you’ve made in your business or self-development so far?

The best investment has been purchasing a grinder to increase the efficiency around our production. Secondly, seeking out mentors to guide our decisions. Thirdly, creating space to dream and create an actionable quarterly and yearly execution plan.

 

What is your long-term vision for Ground Up?

Our long-term vision is that we will be selling our product on a national level and become a reputable employment training program in the Portland community, where businesses looking to support and employ our graduates will feel confident in the skillsets the women have gained from our program to transition into full-time employment at their workplaces.

 

What’s the best business advice you’ve ever received?

There are a few things. First, don’t take “no” for an answer. “No” is an opportunity for other doors to open. I’ve also been told that those who succeed in the food industry (especially in the early stages) are those that persevere through the challenges. Few persevere through all the challenges, but if this is something you truly believe in and stand behind you can make it through. Also, it’s important to make the shift from “me” to “we”, from a founder brand to a mission brand. And to understand who is on the bus and put the right people in the right seats. You may even end up having to kick a few people off because you need to bring on the right talent or team for the jobs you need done.

 

What book has made the biggest impression on you?

Start with Why by Simon Sinek. The concept in this book to figure out your why has been crucial in our business to stay focused and motivated.

 

What are you listening to right now that’s influencing your work?

The NPR How I Built This podcast has been a great way to stay motivated and learn from successful entrepreneurs who faced similar challenges in their early stages of business. Another podcast I’ve been listening to is Girlboss.

 

Is there anything else you’d like to share with readers or any requests you have of them?

I would say to readers who are in the early stages of starting a dream and have a vision not to give up. There are many days when it feels like it would be easier to just quit and get a job but I encourage you to persevere and surround yourself with others who can encourage and support you and help you to see how far you’ve come. It can become exhausting to have people telling you that you’re crazy and it’d be easier to just get a job.  But stay strong and think about who you want to share the ups and downs of starting a business with.

We’d also love for readers to try out our nut butters – and if they like it #spreadgood by spreading the good word to their friends.

 

Where can we connect with you online, and learn more about your nut butters too?

Our web site is www.grounduppdx.com and we’re on Instagram and Facebook too.

no, you do not have to blog

Back when I was a freelance writer, blogging was very much in its heyday. Everyone and anyone had one because the rapidly growing platform allowed you to build an audience and – in the biggest success stories – parlay that popularity right into a book deal or lucrative writing gig.

So you can imagine that I got a lot of raised eyebrows back then when I told people I was a writer and no, I didn’t have a blog.

Sure, I understood the appeal of blogging and even saw the potential with the platform. But after trying to blog for a hot minute, I decided that, ultimately, it wasn’t the right fit for my particular business.

I know it's not always that easy to decide whether or not to blog. In fact, many of my clients are struggling to figure out whether or not they should blog and, if so, what it should look like. They frequently ask me questions like…

 

Should I have a blog?

Do I need a blog?

Do I have to write a blog?

Is it the right time to start a blog?

 

My answer is almost always it depends because I don’t believe blogging is for everyone or that every business can benefit from having a blog. That’s why it’s important to weigh the decision before you jump right in. (The same can be said for those of you who already have a blog; if you’re not too keen on it or lack consistency with it, it pays to pause and make sure it’s still the right thing for you to keep doing.)

Here’s how I view it: Having a blog makes sense when there’s a purpose behind it and when it provides an opportunity to make progress toward your goals. If, for example, you want to grow your audience or showcase your products or provide free content to start building credibility online, blogging could help you.

But it isn’t the only way you can create and share content so you also need to determine if blogging feels like a good fit for you. Do you enjoy writing? Do you have content you’re dying to share? Does the idea of blogging feel exciting or fill you with dread?

If you can honestly say there’s a purpose behind your blog and that you also enjoy the process, then blogging is likely a good fit for you. (This is why I decided to blog in my current business; it made sense with my goals and it suited my interests and strengths as a writer and coach.)

That said, if you’re just blogging because you think you should, take a page from the playbook I used in my first business and forget about blogging. Then give yourself permission to find a better platform to share your amazing content with the world.

With love,

Ashley

How to make time for your long-term goals

Recently I was digging through some boxes of old work stuff and discovered an old notebook that I used to write down my goals in my first business. (Technology is great but when it comes to goal setting, I’ve always been a pen and paper gal.)

Back then, I would set aside a few minutes at the start of each month to create a new goal sheet for the weeks ahead. As I flipped through the pages of that book, I realized why this practice was so effective in helping me grow my business; each month, it encouraged me to make a monthly contract with myself to stay focused on the most important tasks in my business.

And it reminded me that if I wanted to achieve my goals – the very goals, I wrote down in that book each month – I had to let a lot of the seemingly urgent day-to-day tasks go.

I wanted to share this story with you today because it can help you solve a problem that many creatives and entrepreneurs struggle with.

Nearly every day, I hear women say they just can’t find time to get to the growth-oriented tasks in their business because they’re stuck handling the daily to-dos. They tell me they put off opportunities because they think they need to answer all their emails first. They say "that would be so great for my business" but never get around to doing that thing because they have a pile of administrative tasks to tend to. They tell me they have amazing ideas but zero time to act on them.

But here’s the truth: if you really want to grow your business, you have to learn to focus on what's important instead of always tending to what feels urgent. The trick is learning how to tell the difference because those urgent tasks will feel really, well, urgent. Here’s how I’ve learned to tell which is which:

Important tasks are the ones that contribute to your long-term visions and goals. They’re the ones that will propel your business forward and include things like creating new content for your community, starting to write your book proposal or putting together that presentation you want to do.

Urgent tasks are the ones that feel like you need to do them ASAP but won’t actually put you on the fast track toward your long-term goals. They include things like cleaning out your email inbox or scrolling social media to stay engaged and in the know.

I’m confident that the reason I achieved big goals in my first business (things like getting published in O magazine, reaching my financial goals and landing two book deals) is because I had a goal setting practice that helped me focus on what’s important.

That’s why I continue to use this goal-setting approach in my coaching practice each month. It’s also why I’m inviting you to try this method for the month of May.

To get you started, I’d love to know: what’s one important goal you’d like to focus on in your business this month? And what seemingly urgent task do you need to stop doing to give yourself the time and space you need to make it happen?

Drop your thoughts in the comments below.

With love,

Ashley

P.S. I know what you’re thinking: if you prioritize what’s important, when will you cross those urgent tasks off your to-do list? I talked about this very challenge in my free Facebook community, The Simplified Entrepreneur, this week. If you aren't yet a member, you can request an invitation to join and watch the replay here.

how to stop being a "yes girl"

When I first started my coaching business, I have to admit: I was a “yes girl”.

I said yes to every opportunity.

I said yes to joining every free training or challenge or webinar or networking group that crossed my path.

I said yes to every person who wanted to connect or collaborate.

And on and on.

As you might imagine, I quickly found myself feeling like I didn’t have enough time to do anything but the day to day tasks in my business.

But I did have the time. The problem was I was giving it away to all those commitments I was making. And if I wanted to grow, I knew I needed more time to dedicate to things that would propel my business forward not just help me hold steady where I was.

That’s when I realized that every time I said yes to an opportunity or training or person who wanted to connect, I was essentially saying no to myself. Because the time I’d spend on that opportunity prevented me from getting to the things I really needed to be doing to help my business grow.

So I learned to say no.

Sometimes I quantify my no to help someone understand the reasoning behind it. Sometimes I’ll say “no for now” when the timing just isn’t right. And sometimes “no” stands as a complete sentence because I’ve given myself permission to use it without explanation and without defending myself.

I’m clear that I’m saying no to give me more time for the important things in my business, and sometimes that’s reason enough.

That said, I didn’t go from being a “yes girl” to saying no with ease overnight – and I certainly don’t expect you to adopt this strategy right away. It’s a bit more nuanced than that, which is why I also want to give you a stepping stone to lean on as you start learning how and when to say no.

I talked about this stepping stone in my Facebook community, The Simplified Entrepreneur, on a Facebook Live this week. If you're already a member, you can catch the replay here.

If you aren’t yet a member, I'd love to invite you to join. Just click here to request an invitation so you can access the replay - and so much more.

With love,

Ashley