5 Podcast Interviews That Influenced My Business This Year

You guys know me – I’m a podcast junkie, always listening to inspiring shows that are relevant to business and life. 

But I have to say that the podcast episodes that made a true impression on me this year did more than inspire me. They were actionable too. I think you’ll find value in them as well so today I’m sharing my list of the top 5 podcast episodes that influenced my business this year. 

Here they are:

5 Books that Shaped My Business This Year

If you head into a bookstore this holiday and go to the aisle on entrepreneurship, you’ll find hundreds of titles to choose from. (And if you go on Amazon and do a search, well, be prepared to be even more overwhelmed.)

That’s why I’m sharing a curated list of books that helped me shape my business this year. I know the time you have to read is limited (after all, you’re growing a business) and that the titles you pick up need to be particularly impactful. 

So here it is, my list of 5 titles that influenced me this year, and earned my "worth your time" recommendation: 

I’ve been waiting and waiting to share this with you…

About a year ago, I learned that the host of one of my favorite podcasts, The Startup Sessions, lived just a few miles away from my home in Portland. 

So, even though it felt a bit uncomfortable and a little fan-girl of me, I sent the host, Michael, an email to say thanks for creating such great content. Then I asked if he’d ever like to meet for coffee and tell me more about the podcast and his work. 

He said yes.

So we met and chatted about simplicity in entrepreneurship and about growing a business that suits your lifestyle. (These are two big things our coaching practices have in common.) It was such a rich conversation that I left that coffee shop wishing I could have recorded it to send to all of you. 

That’s why I’m excited to bring you something even better today.

how to create more freedom this holiday season

As we officially head into the holiday season, plenty of entrepreneurs are talking about closing shop, taking holiday trips and enjoying scheduled time off with friends and family. 

You might hear about this kind of freedom-filled lifestyle and feel a little ping of jealousy because you too crave freedom. It is, after all, one of the reasons you opened your business and became your own boss.

But you might not be there yet – and that’s ok because you’re far closer to enjoying these kinds of freedoms than you think. It’s just that something is holding you back and, from my viewpoint, it’s probably one of two things. You’re either…

a coach is not a silver bullet

I hired my first business coach when I was 31, close to a decade after I’d gotten into creative entrepreneurship. I was at a crossroads in my professional life and, as I got ready to launch my second business, I knew I couldn’t go at it alone.

I was right to seek support BUT I made one mistake that first time I hired a coach. I went into it thinking that investing in coaching was going to be the silver bullet that made my new business work. 

I now know how naïve I was because a coach is not a silver bullet. Hiring a coach isn’t a magic solution, and a coach isn’t going to hand you the blueprint to overnight business success, solve all your challenges or give you “all the answers”. It’s just not how it works (though you might have heard otherwise).

how to get more clarity in your business

Creatives and entrepreneurs often tell me that having clarity is the thing that would make the biggest difference in their businesses.

They want to know who their people are and what their target audience wants. They want to better understand the value they offer through their services or products. They want to be really clear with their messaging and have their elevator pitch dialed in. And they want to stop searching for answers so they can finally explain their purpose, their mission, their why.

It's easy to understand why clarity is such a covetable thing. Just think about it for a second. When you lack clarity in your business, everything feels messy. Unclear. Hard. Complicated. You have to put in a ton of time and energy trying to figure things out. And, even so, it still feels like you're throwing spaghetti at the wall because so much of what you put out there falls flat. 

Yet when you have clarity, it's like a light bulb goes off. Suddenly, you know exactly what you do, who you serve and how you help them. Suddenly, you know where to find your people. Suddenly you feel like you have a sense of direction. Suddenly everything flows and it's much, much easier to…

getting featured on podcasts doesn’t have to be so hard

It's not surprising that trying to get featured on podcasts feels overwhelming. After all, there are about a million of them (or so it seems every time I log into iTunes). And when you're just getting started, it's hard to know what to do first. 

Plus, honestly, there just aren't many people teaching creatives and entrepreneurs how to make this process less complicated so they can land guest interviews and start using them to boost their credibility, reach a new audience and position themselves as an expert in their field.

Or at least that's what my clients are telling me. They say it's hard to figure out how to make this whole thing easier and that, most of the time, they just end up feeling stuck and overwhelmed. 

Maybe you've felt this way too?

would you please give yourself a little credit?

It's easy to get down on yourself in this crazy entrepreneurial world. It's easy to get stuck in comparison or think that you're not far enough along. It's easy to question if you have what it takes. It's easy to wonder if you're doing the right things to make your business work.

But let me be clear: doubts like these won't serve you. They'll just keep you feeling stuck.

So today I want to invite you to give yourself a little credit for all the energy and effort you're putting into your business. Because I bet you're doing far more than you think – and if you can acknowledge the work you're doing, I know you'll find the motivation to keep going.

are you curious if I practice what I preach?

If you've been wondering if I walk my talk with this whole simplicity in business thing, the answer is yes, absolutely

That's because I really believe that growth stems from simplicity – and I've seen it work time and time again for myself, and my clients too.

I also know that growing my business by embracing simplicity lets me be the kind of entrepreneur I want to be. Choosing simplicity means I get to have freedom and fulfillment in my work. I get to have space in my schedule to practice self-care, not be a slave to the hustle mentality. And I can decide to kick off at 3 in the afternoon on weekdays so I can spend the afternoon playing in the fall sunshine with my girls.  

That kind of lifestyle isn't possible when you overcomplicate things and end up feeling confused, overworked and overwhelmed.

Right now, you're probably wondering what's the difference then? So rather than just tell you that I've learned to simplify, I'm going to share four ways I've actually done so in my business so you can steal my strategies for yourself. 

how to simplify your to-do list (plus a free gift)

When I first launched my coaching business, I started each day by making a to-do list that no human could have completed. It was an ambitious list filled with detailed breakdowns for big projects, notes about my many ideas and daily to-dos both large and small. 

It was also the source of a lot of stress. 

At the start of each day, I faced my to-do list with a feeling of utter overwhelm as I tried to figure out where to start; at the end of each day, I felt like a failure when I saw how many items I hadn't crossed off. No matter what I did, I just couldn't make a dent in that list.

But I kept making my massive to-do lists because I thought that's what productive people did. I thought I had to do all the things and have a huge list if I wanted to make my business work.  

Sometimes though, you have to do things the wrong way to figure out a better alternative.

how to make the last quarter your best one yet

I have to admit it: when the calendar turned to October this weekend, I got pretty excited. Because now that we're in the last quarter of 2017, the fall goal setting and project planning can officially begin. 

Yet, I'm noticing a trend when I'm talking to creatives and entrepreneurs lately. Almost everyone says they're feeling like 2017 is almost over so they've decided to wait to get started on any new projects or set any big goals until 2018 arrives.

That decision baffles me because we still have 3 more months in 2017 to make a difference in your business. That's 3 more months to grow and hit those income goals. That's 3 more months to get more clients, create more offers or products and make more sales. That's 3 more months to get more visible and position yourself as an expert in your field. 

It's 3 more months that you could use to knock your goals out of the park – if you make the time to set them and create a plan to see them through.

why outsourcing feels hard (but doesn't have to be)

When I first started my business, I did all the things. I wrote my copy. I designed my web site. I created my social media posts and workbooks and landing pages. And I managed my admin – the client onboarding, the invoicing and the accounting – too. 

I don't share this to imply that I was superwoman back then (far from it) but rather to share what a HUGE mistake I made when I decided to keep trying to do it all after my business got off the ground.

Because once I had a few clients and a modest income coming in, I also had the means to let go of a few things – things that would free up my time to focus on growth and revenue-generating activities instead of all those day-to-day operational tasks.

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, comment below 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.