Loving A Writer

 

A letter to those that love a writer…

 

Many of the posts on this page are geared towards other bloggers and a few are just to the general public.  This post is directed towards a different particular group, anyone in the support system of a writer.  It doesn’t need to be a wife, husband, girlfriend or boyfriend, it could be a mother, father, brother, sister or just a close friend.  Anyone who has ever been faced with someone that you love looking into your eyes, asking you to read something they have written with the innocence of a child and a raw, nakedness in their eyes.  Whether it’s a one line story or a full manuscript, they are handing you a product of what goes in their head.  They are entrusting you with the most intimate part of themselves, their thoughts.  The one place that no one can ever go without your permission is into your head, they are giving you unfettered access to that place.  They are giving you the power to support or destroy them.

 

Some of you may think this is a dramatic and over the top description.  If so, then you’ve either forgotten what it was like in the beginning or maybe you’ve never been there.  Picture yourself sitting in front of a computer either at a desk or at the dining room table.  The person you love has handed you a piece to review for them.  Fill your heart with love and pride, because no matter what words are on that paper you can see the path that brought them to this point.  You have watched as they have grown, stumbled and kept going just to get to the point of putting those words on paper.  It could be gibberish, but you’d still be proud because this point is already a success.  Now as you begin to read, you can feel their eyes on you and your own anxiety spike.  Making sure to keep your breathing even and face expressionless for fear a stray thought causing a frown, no matter how completely unrelated, could cause a moment of doubt in their mind.  A doubt that could destroy the potentially fragile foundation there are standing upon.

 

Then there’s the inevitable constructive criticism.  While I am blessed with a writer that is open to such ideas, others may not.  Mine truly wants to know my opinion and thoughts.  We are able to have an open conversation about the piece and any ideas I have.  This is a truly remarkable place to be with mutual respect and love being the cornerstones of this conversation.  I still struggle with pointing out any typing errors or plot holes because my goal is always to protect those that I love.  I have to rationalize this process as a comparison to telling someone you love that they have food in their teeth or that black pants do not go with brown shoes.  I’d rather be the one to bring it to his attention.  It’s much worse to have a complete stranger point out a flaw from a place of ridicule instead of loved one from a place of compassion.

 

This confrontation and critique of their passion and ramblings into written word isn’t the only struggle in loving a writer.  There are the days when I feel guilty because I know he is choosing spending time with me over writing despite a deadline approaching.  There are also days when I feel like there an entire separate world that he is a part of that I can’t be.  I don’t know a thing about blogging, about SEO or affiliate programs.  I can’t help when he’s struggling with a new line of code or trying to reformat a picture.  There are people he can go to for help, a community of bloggers, and a world that I don’t fit into.  I’ve tried to learn enough to intelligently nod while he patiently explains once again how google analytics works and of course I do my best to not be jealous that some unknown to me female was able to solve all of his issues.  He knows these people, in the way that you know anyone on the internet, but more than I will ever know them.  They are a part of his writing world.  There’s also another part of his world that I can’t access.  It’s the one in his head, the one where these stories are created.  He has stories and characters that are constantly being built, walking around in his mind, growing and changing.  I wait in anticipation of the accesses granted when I’m asked to read a piece of his work.  I love to see how his mind works and the worlds he has created.

 

So to the point of this rambling.  First it is to tell the world how proud I am of my writer, how thankful I am be a part of his writing and how blessed I feel to be building this life we are building together.  While I have known him for many years, this is a new relationship and a new adventure.  There have been struggles and blessings and that’s before you add writing into it.  I enjoy being a part of his process and seeing his words become immortal for we all know that things on the internet are forever.

 

There’s also another purpose.  If I have learned nothing from my many years of being addicted to the internet, it’s that no matter how random your opinion on things is there will be someone, somewhere that will understand what you are going through.  Perhaps this will reach one of those people or perhaps it will only reach the trolls that will tell me how insecure we both are and we should probably seek counseling.  Either way, whether it reaches someone that needed to know they weren’t alone in these feelings, or whether it will reach someone that can give me advice on ways to better support my writer or just the trolls… this writing has served the main purpose.  To tell my writer that I will always support him in every way possible.

A Tale Never Told

A Tale Never Told

I entered a flash fiction contest a few months ago. The contest gives you the genre, a location for the story to take place in, and an item that must appear in the story, after which you have 48 hours to write your entry of no more than 1000 words. I got historical fiction in a book store with a flood light.

This is my entry.

 

 

This is my first time meeting the gruff old man I’m interviewing. He walks into my hotel room without knocking, with little fanfare and no introduction. He drops rigidly into a chair opposite a camera, fold his arms over his chest and acknowledges me with the curt nod. He immediately reminds me of what you would get if Clint Eastwood played R. Lee Ermey in a movie, or vise versa.

“So, how does this work?”

“Well, I’m going to try to keep my mouth shut and let you tell your story. I will try to save any questions I have until you are finished. Just be yourself. You don’t have to stare into the camera or anything, try to relax. If you need to take a break, or if you get uncomfortable just stand up and step outside. We can always edit the video later, but I prefer to not stop the camera once it has started. Is that all acceptable to you?”

“Sounds fine to me. I’m not gonna tell you how to do your job.”

“Cameras are rolling, you can start whenever you are ready.”

“My mother worked at a bookstore next to the commissary called ‘The Library’.”

“Was it a bookstore or library?”

“What happened to keeping your mouth shut? It was a bookstore. The sailors called it the library because if they didn’t damage the books they could return them for full price. That rarely happened though.

I went to work with my mother so I wouldn’t be home alone on my birthday. It was common to see kids at work with their parents back then, even more so on a military base. I had my own chair next to the register, right under a lamp that mother brought in so I didn’t hurt my eyes reading. The shop only had one window, and the overhead lighting wasn’t great so it was always kinda dark. Mother said sunlight was bad for the books, I thought it was because it was an old building.

I was just starting “My Friend Flicka” when we heard the planes. It was one long thunderous rumble getting steadily louder and closer. The sky dimmed as the rumble grew. Mother went to the door, when she looked out she paled. It was right then that explosions rattled the walls. People started screaming. The streets were immediately flooded with, then devoid of, people as everyone ran to their homes.

That’s what they were told to do you know. Just go home. Everyone watched from windows. Machine gun fire tearing up streets in front of their homes. They weren’t allowed to evacuate while the bombs were dropping, so they just waited.

Mother made me get under the counter. She shoved the lamp, and a stack of comic books into my hands and told me to hide. Then she started pacing. I didn’t really know what was happening. She wouldn’t let me near the door or window, she said we’re being attacked, but I wasn’t scared. My father was Senior Chief on the Arizona, he would beat them. What did I know, I was only just turning 9.

I started to worry after I had read 3 comic books and the explosions were still happening. Just as I was picking up another comic… It was…I need a minute.”

His face started to crack, then he immediately steeled his resolve to finish the story. My heart turned to mush right then. I looked away out of respect, and so he didn’t see me tear up. This is a man who told his story with all of the feeling of a technician saying you needed an oil change, not because he didn’t hurt, but because he hurt so deeply that this is the most he can muster without breaking down completely.

After a couple of minutes he started again. “You can read about people watching the PX get hit, but that doesn’t accurately depict it. A Japanese plane was shot down, and crashed into the PX. ‘The Library’ was attached to the PX.

I was lifted by the original impact then thrown back down. The sound was, still is, indescribable. There was screaming. Non-stop screaming, which turned out to be me. I was trapped behind the counter. The wall fell in but the counter held. The front of the counter had splintered enough that I could see through. It took a few minutes for the dust to settle before I could see anything. I could hear my mother saying my name, almost whispering it.

After a few minutes I heard the high pitched whine of the floodlight kicking on, then I saw her. I could only see her shoulders and head. The front door was blocked by something and the power was out, so the only light was from the whiny battery powered floodlight over the front door that shined directly on her.

She kept whispering my name. I told her I was ok, but she didn’t hear. I watched her for hours. She only laid there and whispered, occasionally turning her head looking for me. I could hear people trying to get in. The explosions stopped a while ago. Then I saw the blood, slowly forming a halo around her head. She couldn’t hear me. I kept screaming at her to be ok. I told her I was ok. She had to get up. They were looking for us, they were coming. The next time she tried to whisper she coughed blood. Her eyes closed. I watched her drift away.

I was trapped in the rubble for almost 24 hours before they got me out. I was all cried out by then. I didn’t have any tears left when they told me that the U.S.S Arizona was sunk and almost everyone aboard died. I never got to cry for my father. I have never cried since.”

Then, just like that, he stood said thank you turned and left with even less fanfare than he arrived.

 

 

 

 

Blogging with Passion and Discipline

Do You Blog With Passion or Discipline?

This post contains affiliate links, which mean if you use these links to purchase an item or service I receive a commission at no extra cost to you. Visit my Affiliate Disclaimer page here.

A common question I see from new or newer bloggers is “What should I write about?” or “What niche should I choose?”, and they always seem to get the same answer. “Write about something you are passionate about.” I believe that is an incomplete answer. I feel that follow your passion is over distributed advice that is easier to give than the whole truth. It should really be, “follow your passion with discipline and hard work.”

Passion

Passion is an emotion. It waxes and wanes over time. It can be incredibly deceiving. Is it a genuine lifelong passion, or something you just discovered that you really like? It can be interrupted by old passions coming home to roost, or new found passions you never knew existed. I was just reading an article about someone who started a blog solely on a topic they were passionate about. They talked about how wildly successful this blog was, but further into the article, they also state that they haven’t touched this blog for almost a year now because they started another one and they were spending their time on the new one. Their passion only garnered them a few months of work before they got a new idea. Most blogs are abandoned within their first year due to a declining interest. Passion alone is not enough to carry you through to success. You also need self-discipline.

OptinMonster

Discipline

If passion is the driver of your success, than discipline is the fuel it runs on. Discipline is stability, and direction. It is the foundation that good habits are built from. It is all too often that social media makes life look so easy. The world is full of successful bloggers and writers making thousands a month on their products. The truth is, if they are making anywhere near as much as they say they are, it’s not easy. They have had to work for everything they have. I recently saw a pole question asked of bloggers. It was “How much money do you make from your blog, and how much work do you have to put into to it to sustain that amount?” If all of the answers were honest, then anyone who makes $1000/month or more put 5 hours a day or more into their blog every day. That is a minimum of 35 hours a week. That’s a full-time job.

How many of you are still passionate about your full-time job? Probably very few, but you still get up every day at the same time and manage to make it in. You have to treat your blog as what it is. It is a small business start-up. If you had opened a storefront you would go to work every day until it was successful enough that you felt comfortable handing the management duties off to someone else. You wouldn’t just go to work on the weekends. You wouldn’t work only in the evenings while watching T.V. with your family.

SEMrush

Your self-discipline is what carries you through the periods of dwindling interest. In The Power of Habit, Charles Duhigg explains that habitual behaviors come from the basal ganglia, the part of the brain that controls memories, emotions and patterns, while decisions are made in the prefrontal cortex. If you decide to work on your blog every day at 9a.m. for 4 hours, then it will become a habit. You have to first make the decision to build the self-discipline required to run a successful business. Then you have to decide every day that whether or not it is still what you want to do. Running a business is not easy, don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.

Remember, follow your passion with discipline and hard work.

 

Bits of Yourself

Bits of Yourself

This year I ran from fear and stepped from the shadows to display my work in ways I would have never dreamed. I started this blog, which is a horror show in its own right, and I’ve began submitting stories to contests. Both of these are horribly wondrous opportunities to be struck down, or worse, ignored.

When you write you leave little bits of yourself on the page. Try as hard as you might, but this can’t be stopped. If somehow you manage to keep yourself all to yourself, then the writing turns out to be flat and listless. Because the page is covered with these bits, letting someone read your work is akin to flaying your dreams and displaying your void. Taking a strangers hand and leading them through your soul is heart stopping, yet exhilarating. The highs when praised or congratulated for a tale well weaved are like no drugs I’ve ever done. They are quite as addicting, but they can’t just be found on any street corner. They must be paid for with struggle and tear, and you will always be left wanting.

I have a friend who once said many years ago, “If I ask out 100 women eventually one of them will say yes”. We had very different views on some things.  I would spend the night buying drinks for and talking to one girl, while he ran the bar talking to the rest of them. I won’t get into specifics but I’m sure you can guess who had the better success rate. Writing is sadly similar to my dating life in my early 20’s. I have only one wildly popular post on my site. I have submitted a few stories to contests just this year, and only one so far has placed. It’s hard to accept such shitty results with all of those bits of yourself under such scrutiny but, like dating not everyone is going to like what you have to offer. You just have to keep trying.

It can very well take over a year for even the best blog to pick up steam and really get rolling. It can take much longer than that to get published. Whether you write in the digital world or print you just have to keep laying bare the ragged edges of your soul for the world to see. Like dating, eventually you will find your perfect audience, and they will fall in love.

Finding your market and selling to it.

Finding Your Market, and Selling to It

This post contains affiliate links, which mean if you use these links to purchase an item or service I receive a commission at no extra cost to you. Visit my Affiliate Disclaimer page here.

 

This post started as something else completely. It was never meant to be the article that it turned into. It was started as research on selling products traditionally marketed towards women to men. My girlfriend is a doTERRA health advocate. Which in plain speak means that she educates people about and sells essential oils, among the many other things she does. I know about half of you tuned out as soon as I said essential oils, but stick with me. It’s because so many eye rolled at essential oils that this post is needed. What are you selling? Are you marketing your own “Make Millions Blogging” or “Quadruple Your Website Traffic in 3 Days” course? I know I roll my eyes every time I see someone offer a class like this. But why? Maybe because it wasn’t marketed for me. Or maybe because it wasn’t sold to me. How do you stop eye rolls at your product or service?

 

Differences in Marketing and Selling

It’s all too often that marketing and sales are lumped together, and while they depend on each other, they are quite different. Marketing turns cold leads into warm leads, and selling converts those leads into sales.

Marketing

Marketing is a multilayered strategy designed to build trust in your brand, and promote products. It also creates prospects and drives them to your website or into your store. Some examples of marketing strategies would be television advertising, social media campaigns, brand marketing, and public relations campaigns. The one thing that truly sets marketing and selling apart is the relationship with customers. Marketing is one-on-many, targeting the general public.


 

That is the most basic definition of marketing. We are going a little more into depth about selling, since that is where my research started in the first place. We just can’t cover both too deeply in one post. There are entire books on both subjects, and one article will not do either justice, so we will be concentrating on a few key areas.

Selling

The basic definition of a sale is exchanging goods or services for currency. It has a one-on-one or one-on-small group relationship with the customer.

 

That’s it. Now anyone who has ever professionally sold things knows there is way more to it than that. Realtors, car salespeople, telemarketers, and the age old door-to-door salespeople all know that there are strategies and psychology involved in closing sales. There was a study published in “Psychology and Marketing” in 2014 that found the color red in your wardrobe makes you appear more persuasive and your statements more accurate. Selling is the art of turning a rebuttal, and is far more than exchanging goods for currency. But how do you translate that into a digital business? How do you “sell” to someone you cannot see, hear, or talk to? First you have to understand a little about the people you are selling to.

Age

For example, in the U.S. 54.4% of people have made purchases from Amazon Prime. That market is mostly made up of the 30-39 age range with 65% of people within that demographic shopping on Amazon. Almost 6% more than the next closest age group which is 18-29. So if your main source of income is the Amazon Associate program you want to target the under 40 crowd for best results. The 30-39 demographic is also more likely to purchase items online then pick them up at the store, while the 18-29 age group is the opposite. They are more likely to examine an item in the store, then order it online to be delivered. If you advertise your product on social media 31.7% of your customers are likely to be 18-29, while only 11.4 % over 60. When it comes to digital shopping habits in the U.S. the largest participating age group is 18-29 with the numbers declining as the age range increases, except for examples cited above. Occasionally there is only a slight change in the 18-29 and 30-39 age groups, for example there is only a .6% difference when it comes to purchasing travel services/products digitally. All above statistics were found in various places on statista.com.

 

I know. What does this mean to you? How does this help you? All of this information is just a piece of the puzzle. Different groups of people will react to your content differently. Doing the research and finding out how will determine how you sell your services or products. Using trendy words from the times period and pop-culture references is one way to help connect with particular age groups.

 

Hello fellow kids

Men/Women

Women are more emotional shoppers whereas men tend to be more mission or goal oriented shoppers. If a man needs to buy a pair of jeans, he will typically enter the store, go straight to the jeans, pick out his size, and ring out. The whole process usually takes about 30 minutes. A woman on the other hand realizes that what she actually needs is a pair of pants, not necessarily jeans, and will shop until she finds something comfortable that will suit her needs. Which from start to finish takes much more than 30 minutes. Selling to men and women is much the same.

Men

Men want all the pertinent details upfront, then some time for quiet contemplation. Once they make a decision, men often remain fiercely loyal to “their brand”. Whether it’s the razors they shave with, beer they drink, kind of car they drive, or bbq sauce they use when cooking on the grill. Men pick a brand then stick with it. Changing their mind can take an act of God, or the opinion of someone they deeply respect. However, if a man chooses your brand, he will do his best to get his buddies to do the same.

 

If your site markets “male” oriented products, then you want to be very straightforward and upfront about the benefits of using your products or services. No beating around the bush. If your product is better simply state how and why it’s better. If there is some science behind what makes it better, state that too. In general men don’t have to completely understand the science behind everything, or how everything works, but it is very important that they know you understand what you’re talking about. Show them the value in your product. How does it solve their problem? How often will it need to be replaced? Why should they choose yours over other similar products? What do past purchasers have to say about it?

 

Racked published a very interesting article a few years ago about selling Beauty products to men.

Women

Women want to build a relationship, and talk their way through a decision, usually by asking questions. They are rarely loyal to a brand, but are often loyal to an experience. If they are treated well, and their many questions answered patiently and informatively with respect, women will loyally shop at that store or with that particular salesperson. Women will often follow a salesperson that treated them well through multiple jobs. Like a car salesperson to another dealership, or a hair stylist to another salon. It is more about the relationship with that individual then it is about the product. Women will tell everyone about their experience in a particular store or with a particular salesperson.

 

What’s more important to women is who they buy from. If your site markets more towards women then you need more content that tells the story of the product or service. Something that helps form a genuine connection. In general women want to understand everything about the product or service and make an informed decision. The “why” behind a product is also very important to them. Women want to know why someone else may have bought your product /service and compare if the situation applies to them.

 

The statements above are generalities. The truth is everyone is different. You can’t boil people down to their basic category and expect the same results from all of them. We are the sum of our experiences, and we tend to remember bad ones much longer then the good. Because of this, as consumers we tend to be naturally suspicious.

 

“You cannot underestimate people’s ability to spot a soulless, bureaucratic tactic a million miles away. It’s a big reason why so many companies that have dipped a toe in social media waters have failed miserably.” -Gary Vaynerchuk

 

Whether you are an affiliate marketer or you are selling your own products you face the same hurdles and difficulties. In 1936 Dale Carnegie said “Dealing with people is probably the biggest problem you face”, and that statement is no less true today. Knowing what we discussed earlier it is more important than ever you treat people honestly and fairly. Not only is it more likely to result in a sale, but not doing so means greater consequences. Long gone are the days when the tale of a misogynistic salesman doesn’t make it any further then the immediate neighborhood. If you treat someone poorly, the world will be informed. If your site appears to be “talking down” to a particular group, Facebook and Twitter will hear about it. If it is unnecessarily difficult to return an item or correct a mistaken order, your reputation can be ruined in short order. And without the social cues of facial expression and body language you are far more likely to be misinterpreted than ever before.

 

The original book “How to Win Friends and Influence People” is considered one of the best self-help books of all time. Carnegie believed that your greatest influence comes from genuinely wanting to help others, and that in all interactions you should leave the person you interacted with better then you found them. Now consider that today you have dozens if not tens of dozens interactions every day though the wonder of the internet. The adapted “How to Win Friends and Influence People in the Digital Age” discusses how to execute Carnegie’s principles through online exchanges. Some of which I’m sure you already practice unknowingly. “He [Carnegie] taught principles that flowed from an underlying delight in helping others succeed.” –NY Times. By publishing helpful and entertaining information on your blogs at no cost to your audience you are already producing interactions beneficial to your readers.

 

Where Carnegie discusses people in a manner that translates to sales, Robert Cialdini discusses sales in a manner that can also translate to human interactions. In “Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion” Cialdini lists the six principles of persuasion and teaches you how to wield them ethically in order to make sales. The first principle is Reciprocity used in sales to persuade someone to make a purchase by offering them something for free. Like BOGO deals or a free gift for “ordering now”. Because when someone gives us something we feel obliged to give them something in return. Which can be applied to personal dealing by the simple, treat others as we wish to be treated. If you hold honest dealings than you will receive honesty in return. The video below describes the principals in a way only a video can.

 

 

Through the research required for this post the most important and amazing piece of information I discovered is that the ideals and practices behind being a good salesperson, are the same ideals and practices behind being a good person. Being a good and responsible businessperson requires being a good and responsible human being. Help others succeed and thrive and they will reciprocate.

 

Get your copies of books mentioned above right here.

Guest Post

The Memoirs of a Freelance Writer

This post contains affiliate links, which mean if you use these links to purchase an item or service I receive a commission at no extra cost to you. Visit my Affiliate Disclaimer page here.

 

I believe I speak for a majority of writers when I say that freelancing is not the bed of roses it’s set out to be. I can only assume that those not in the majority are either just starting out or have some of the best working conditions there are. Do not mistake me for a pessimist just yet, though. I am of the opinion that only two types of people get into freelancing as pertains to writing. These are rebels (or the aptly labeled free-thinkers) and those who choose to settle for what is readily available. The two ‘ideologies’ eventually come together in a metaphorical rose thicket, wild roses to be exact. Why roses you ask? Because the symbolism, though considered “played out” or overused, is the most relevant one there is. It’s characteristic of a rose to be appealing to any eye; dark red petals reminiscent of the very substance that runs through our veins. The knee-jerk reaction is always to pick it, smell it, a euphoria that’s abruptly brought to an end by its prickly thorns.

 

Of Hard Truths and Fairytales

The allure of these ‘petals’ is existent all over the internet. Aggressive marketing ads telling fairy tales of young individuals living lavishly are enough to reel any undecided mind in. The accompanying photos leave nothing to the imagination, and all that is seen is a fellow human being who has worked down the freelance path to wealth and riches, all on his/ her own terms. To the rebels, the thought of being their boss and answering to no one does more than tickle their fancy, and to those who compromise, it is a simple, workable way out. Anyone who is a keen student of life would question the circumstances. “But what about the thorns?” Indeed, what about them? They do not compromise; they do not recognize any hierarchy or lack thereof. Anyone can, and will, get pricked.

 

I know, I know. I hope you are still holding off on the pessimist tag. I am a freelance writer. Views and opinions are free and open to all, and I am just penning mine. Nothing is that easy, simple or straightforward, and freelance is not the exception to the rule. I feel some responsibility to share my thoughts and experiences and hopefully provoke thought in someone, especially those considering coming into the fold. Do I have your attention?

Know Thyself

Passion is everything. You have to love what you do. You have got to fall in love with the process. Otherwise, you run the risk of burning out almost as fast as you came into freelancing. Establishing whether or not you are passionate about anything should come first, in everything. The next thing is to choose a niche. A specific path you consider yourself competent in and can produce quality content. Then comes choosing a platform. The internet has left freelancers spoilt for choice. I went with Fiverr as my platform of choice. Reasons for this choice range from a fantastic, well-rounded community of buyers and sellers, to a barrage of features that help sellers package their work in the best way possible to appeal to targeted clients. Done? Welcome to my world, welcome to freelancing.

The Good

There are well known positive aspects of freelance writing, the ‘petals’ so to speak. At the helm of that list is the flexibility in working hours. On one side of this double-edged sword, freelance allows some of the best working hours in any industry. The flexibility allows scheduling other engagements into my day. Be it a 9 to 5, voluntary work, babysitting; you name it. Freelance allows you to maintain other income streams.
As mentioned, Fiverr allows proper packaging tailored to a target client base. With such a setup, your freelance escapades are bound to receive a steady stream of orders from a variety of clients. Customer satisfaction for one order quickly translates into repeat customers and new orders because of the good reputation slowly being established.
Of course, it cannot be understated that freelancing is, in every sense of the word, a job. It is a source of income. The platform provides a working-learning environment with every order leaving you a little more knowledgeable than you were prior. The exposure to different works and topics may lead to creating other platforms for yourself to venture into other creative spaces, say, becoming a successful blogger.

 

Fiverr

The Bad

I believe the double-edged sword mentioned earlier is still in the environs of your mind. Here is the other side. The flexibility in working hours quickly morphs into irregular working hours. No good thing is preceded by the word irregular. Orders may be made at 3 a.m. for instance and maybe have a deliverable time in the same vicinity. Freelance quickly becomes a slippery slope. Should you not respond to (Accept or Turn Down) orders early enough, your reputation suffers. Should you turn down the order, you potentially lose a client. Should you miss the deadline, you lose a client and possibly receive no payment, even with very reasonable explanations. This quickly turns into sleepless nights in an attempt to appease everyone but yourself. Either way, you suffer. Personal priorities must, therefore, be stuck to in freelance.
With a growing client base comes an uptake in the number of orders and requests received, modifications to be made and misunderstandings to be settled. From there it does not take long before the feeling of being overwhelmed gets you into a chokehold you cannot get out of. Soon you are in no position to complete one order, leave alone several. Remember, inner peace and mental health are key. Again, priorities.

The Ugly

From too many orders to order droughts. Yes, there are periods of time where not a single order comes in. For a freelancer having that as his/her daily grind, it is enough to make you rethink a 9 to 5. The worst part, however, is either a difficult or an unsatisfied client, or a combination of both. This is hell for a freelancer. Pray you do not ever do business with such.

Bottom Line

So which are you? If you’re the rebel, you must have realized by now that instead of one boss, you have multiple in freelancing, each with a deadline for you. If you choose compromise, that will be the last time you have any room to do so. As rewarding as it is, freelancing is not for the faint of heart. Are you still willing to pick the rose?
I await your answer,

Sincerely,
Writing Yodah.

Project A.S.K.

Saving the Children

Project A.S.K.

We are going to take a little trip today. A trip down memory lane. I want you to take a second, close your eyes, and think about grade school. Go back as far as you can. Try to picture your classmates. Picture the odd one. The kid that kind of smelled funny. The one that seemed to always wear the same clothes. The one that maybe other kids made fun of, and didn’t seem very smart. The one that had holes in his or her shoes, or never had a jacket. Now take a minute and think about how you would react if you saw that kid today. Not the person they may have grown into, but the child that you remember. You as an adult may realize that there is a very real possibility that he/she needs help. That something just isn’t quite right. That the situation this child finds his or herself in, is through no fault of their own.

 

All too often a scene just like this one plays out, and when it does, people are quick to admonish the parents. “Who lets their kid go out like that?” “Why don’t they buy that kid some shoes?” “Why isn’t he wearing a jacket, it’s freezing out here?” People seem to forget about the child that’s freezing right in front of them. It doesn’t matter how that child ended up in this position, he/she needs help right now.

 

Just outside of Harrisburg, Pennsylvania there is a program that does exactly that. It is called Project A.S.K., and they help kids. They help any child that needs them within the West Shore School District. I mean it, every single one, and they’ve been doing now for 5 years.

 

As I tell you about Project A.S.K.’s methods and partners I want you to keep thinking back. Don’t forget about that kid. As a matter of fact I want you to expand the journey. Try to remember all of them. As you progressed through school, people come and go. Some move away with or without notice. Some just seem to fall off of the face of the planet. Sometimes we are the ones that move. Whatever the reason we don’t usually continue our path through school with the people we started it with. The only constant, is that there was always at least one kid that would have benefited from a little help. Think about that for just a minute. The sheer amount of people that pass through your life during your school years. How many different children do you think you saw or knew that may have been picked on or ostracized for a crappy situation entirely outside of their control?

 

Do the kids in your memories, the ones that needed help, seem a little below average? Were they always struggling to complete their assignments? Did they have trouble comprehending what you thought was common sense? Step into present day for just a minute. Think about a time you were having a particularly bad day. Maybe you were running late and missed breakfast. Maybe you spilled something on your clothes. How hard was it for you to concentrate that day? Were you more concerned with whether or not people could see the stain, or hear your stomach rumble then you were with the office meeting? Did you have trouble doing your work that day? Now try to sympathize with those children from so long ago. Were they not as smart as everyone else, or were they just hungry? Were they ashamed and embarrassed of their old or torn clothing and unable to concentrate?

 

I’ve recently learned about Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. The Hierarchy depicts human needs as a tiered pyramid with the most basic needs at the bottom. The needs at the bottom of the pyramid (Food, water, warmth, sleep) must be satisfied before needs higher up can be attended to. To quote the current president of Project A.S.K. “In the face of hunger, bullying due to the lack of clean clothes, improper clothing for the climate and multiple other issues, learning to multiply 3 x 3 can seem impossible.”

The needs of students and children.

The Mission

My high school has over 2000 students with 17% below poverty line, 1000 in my middle school with 19% below the poverty line, and 600 students in my elementary school with a whopping 42% below the poverty live. This isn’t yesteryear’s problem. Those are today’s numbers. I know putting it in those terms make it seem like a societal or governmental problem, like if we raise the minimum wage or stabilize the rising cost of living we can reduce those numbers. Maybe that’s true, I don’t know. I do know trying to go that route Will Not help any of the children in school now. By the time those things begin to make a real change current students will have children of their own.

 

This is a problem that we cannot fix by treating the cause. Going straight to the root is forgetting that there is a kid freezing right in front of you. Figuring out why so many families struggle to make ends meet does not feed children starving right now. It does not put kids in clean clothes and let them walk the halls head held high, instead of trying so hard not to be noticed.

 

Project A.S.K. operates completely without judgement, behind a firewall, and under a cloak of anonymity. The idea is to provide assistance while hiding the identity of the recipient of said assistance. They do this by working through a social worker, and the school nurses. They don’t want students to be pointed out to their peers as needing assistance, in whatever form it may come. One of the ways this is accomplished is all 14 schools in the district is kept stocked with what is called Nurses Supplies. This is a bit of a misnomer because they are actually supplies for needy children, to be distributed as needed at the nurse’s discretion. In this case “needy children” does not necessarily mean poor or under nourished, it literally means a child with a need. Throughout the year things happen. Pants rip. Someone gets sick on themselves or someone else. Food and drink is spilled. There is a stock of season appropriate clothes kept on site, in as many different sizes as needed, dictated by age of students. Everything from boxer briefs for boys and bras and panties for girls, up to pants, shirts, leggings, and even socks. Complete wardrobes are kept on hand for whatever occasion. Sometimes the occasion is that a student showed up for school in shorts and a t-shirt when it was 30 degrees Fahrenheit outside. There is also a supply of bottled water, granola bars, cereal bars and other snacks. Any student can request items from the nurses with no restrictions. The ability to give these things to absolutely anyone who asks, helps encourage kids in trouble to come ask for things without fear of ridicule.

 

Anything outside of those basic necessities comes through the social worker. Parents or even the students themselves can request help from the social worker, and whatever she can’t find through regular programs will get forwarded to Project A.S.K. or one of its many partners. It takes a village to raise a child, in this case it takes a village of charities and nonprofits to fill all of the holes in government programs. Project A.S.K. has fulfilled all manner of requests from basic school supplies of a kindergartner, to a senior who had all of the required credits but still needed a cosmetology kit to graduate VoTech. The district social worker identifies need within the community, and provides a buffer between the students and the volunteers of Project A.S.K. This buffer stops unfortunate events like the complete public embarrassment of a high schooler when a volunteer sees them in the grocery store and asks them how they like their new clothes in front of their friends. Because sometimes even the most well-meaning individual can, entirely unintentionally, cause more harm than good. That is the last thing Project A.S.K. wants to do.

Project A.S.K.

 

The important thing to remember is the kids. Could some of the parents asking for help be gaming the system? It’s possible, but it doesn’t matter, because only the kids matter. There are children within the program that don’t take the clothes they are given home because they are afraid their parents will sell them. But because of the social worker, who genuinely cares, they have a safe place to come to school shower and change into their good clothes. Think back to those kids you have been remembering. Would a few extra sets of clothes changed their life? What about easy to prepare food to take home over the weekend? Remembering those children, what would you do to help them?

 

If you continue to come back to this site you will hear much more about Project A.S.K., and the other groups they work with. I have been close with the family that started Project A.S.K. in 2013 as Compassionate People Who Care before they joined CCU and rebranded for many years. I don’t see that relationship changing anytime soon. The current president is my girlfriend, and I am helping revamp their warehouse inventory management program. So if there is anything you wanted to know that I didn’t cover, it may be coming soon, but you could always leave a comment below and ask. I know the biggest question is going to be “Why only the west shore school district?” Honestly it’s only because they aren’t big enough to take on any more territory. If they thought they could handle it they absolutely would. One of the things they always say is, “If you can put together a group to do the same thing in your area, we will teach you how. We will lay out exactly what we do and show you how to do it.”

 

If you would like to help Project A.S.K. in their mission you can snail mail  checks or money orders, payable to Project A.S.K., to C.C.U., 413 S. 19th St., Harrisburg, PA 17104. Unfortunately, they are not able to accept digital donations at this time. Or contact C.C.U. directly at (717) 230-9550 to make donations or volunteer your time.

 

If you are interested in expanding Project A.S.K. to your area, and are looking for the building blocks to do so, let me know and I will put you in touch with their president, I have an in.

Off page SEO techniques for beginners

Off Page SEO for Beginners

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This post contains affiliate links, which mean if you use these links to purchase an item or service I receive a commission at no extra cost to you. Visit my Affiliate Disclaimer page here.

 

Check out this video made by Google about how search engines work.

SEO Strategies

When I see someone ask for tips on increasing traffic to a newer blog, there is always a host of people crying “do SEO.” As though SEO is something that you do. SEO or Search Engine Optimization is a strategy comprised of many techniques involving the formatting of your page, the text used on your site, backlinks, and internal links just to name a few. There are on page techniques like optimizing keywords to acquire your target audience, and off page SEO techniques like social media marketing. Saying “do SEO” tells a new website operator absolutely nothing. It is an unhelpful tip parroted by people who don’t know any better because it’s the only advice they got when starting out. Let’s see if we can help lay out some of the strategies involved in “doing SEO.”

 

Just using the right keywords and headers isn’t enough to get ranked highly on Search Engine Results Pages (SERPs). There is so much more to it than that. Search engines are getting smarter, not like AI take over the world getting smarter, but they are being consistently updated to give users the best experiences possible. Google for instance wants to continue to be the most used search engine. The only way they can do that is to continuously improve the user experience. That is why tactics previously used for search ranking, like invisible text, and keyword stuffing no longer work. Google wants to ensure that when a user performs a search that they only receive truly relevant results. Search engines are now being programmed to read and translate the text on a page and rank its value to the search performed. Then that is taken into account along with roughly 200 other things to weigh your placement on SERPs. One of those things is your sites’ DA (Domain Authority) which is of course effected by backlinks.

Off Page SEO

Off page or off site SEO is by its most basic definition actions off of, or outside of your site taken to acquire “mentions”, or backlinks from reputable sources. That’s the gist of it. Google can read a mention even without a link. So if someone writes “I really love The Ragged Writer” but doesn’t backlink to anywhere on the site, google still recognizes that. It does not carry as much weight as a link however. Any time another site voluntarily links back (backlink) to your site without the rel=no follow tag, they are “vouching” for its authority. To simplify this post, or to not complicate it further, we are going to assume all backlinks are “do follow” links.

 

Just to clarify we are talking mainly about naturally acquired backlinks. By voluntarily I mean not compelled to in any way. Not payed for links, or link for link exchanges. No transactional interactions that may be considered “Black Hat.” Links that are payed for often end up on sites with a large number of outgoing links, and without any real value to the end user. These sites are classified as spammy, and links to them actually penalize your site rather than boost its authority. Excessive link exchanges are considered “link schemes” by google and will also penalize your site. They never clarify exactly what is considered excessive, or how the penalty is applied. If you participate in only a single link exchange, but partner with someone whom has engineered over a hundred, do you get caught up in their link scheming? Please use caution when exchanging links.

Social Media Marketing

So how do you get organic backlinks or brand mentions? I’m sure you have heard the phrase “content is king.” You have to create quality content that adds value to the end user. Plainly put, you have to write good stuff. For someone to share, cite or reference your page, it has to equal or surpass their standards, be relevant to their audience, and they have to like it.

 

Once you have created your well written work of art, the next step is to market it. Just plastering links over Facebook again and again isn’t what we are talking about here. Link building through social media requires deliberate and targeted marketing techniques. The idea is exposure to website/blog owners relative to or within your niche that may reference or cite your material. This is different from using social media to build your audience. Use Facebooks targeted advertising and twitter searches to get your posts in front of the right eyes.

Guest Posting

When thinking of off page SEO techniques guest posting or guest blogging is usually the first thing that comes to mind. Unfortunately most people use guest blogging incorrectly. Let me explain. One of the factors used to determine DA is domain age. As a website ages its DA increases in what google calls an “expected pattern.” One of the expectations of growth is acquiring backlinks over a timeline. If you go on a guest posting campaign to build links, then you will acquire too many too fast, and be judged as trying to manipulate the system. Google does not look kindly on attempts to manipulate the algorithm. Keyword stuffing and low quality backlinks are examples of attempts to manipulate the system. The latter was the cause for Google’s Penguin update. Which addressed link spam and put more emphasis on the quality of backlinks rather than the quantity.

 

Guest blogging just for the link is falling back into transactional interactions. There it is. There is the moment that you think to yourself “This guy is an idiot, then what is the point of guest blogging?” Exposure. You do it for exposure. I can see the hair on the neck of all you freelancers standing straight up. “We don’t work for free.” In most cases I agree, but this isn’t writing for someone else. Link building is a dying strategy. Google puts much more weight on links earned through valuable content. Google can tell the difference between a link built on and inserted into a post on yourwebsite.com (self-built link) vs (natural link) one built on forbes.com for example. Link earning is slowly taking over as the top off site SEO technique, and you earn links by creating great content. Am I saying that you should not include a backlink in a guest post if offered the opportunity? Absolutely not. I am saying that that backlink does not carry as much authority as one earned editorially, and links should not be your motivation for guest blogging.

 

Within the strategy of link earning, the point of guest blogging is to put quality work in front of a new audience that will result in added traffic back to your site, and backlinks from related sites. When you are starting out getting a post on a site with 500-1000 visitors a day is a pretty big deal. Hell, I’m 6 months in and it’s still a pretty big deal to me.

How do you get approved for guest posts?

Look for sites or articles related to your site, topic, or niche. Backlinks from completely unrelated sites carry very little weight and are often spammy. Check their guest post policies, the stricter the better. Stricter policies indicate they are trying to avoid spam posts and likely have higher quality content, and higher authority backlinks. After identifying your target spend some time cultivating a relationship. Leave comments on blog posts or Facebook pages. Follow their site or tweet their posts. If you tweet their post make sure you @username the site operator. Read their posts to identify their audience, voice, and what kind of posts they are looking for. Once you’ve done your research, email your pitch. Since you have been interacting with them they will recognize your name and be more susceptible to your ideas.

 

When you get approved to submit a post do not include affiliate links or self-advertisements. Only place a backlink in the body of the text if previously agreed upon and it fits. Don’t just shove your link in there, it looks tacky and unprofessional. Be prepared to promote your work. Sometimes so many Facebook or Twitter posts are part of the deal. Check back on your post a couple time a week for a few weeks and respond to comments just like you would on your own site. It shows you’re genuinely interested in keeping the professional relationship and could attract more opportunities.

 

If you have been here before you have probably noticed all sorts of mistakes and inconsistencies in this site. I stated from the beginning that I was going to allow this site to be a road-map of the mistakes I make building this site so you can use it to avoid them. My onsite SEO practices up to now have been atrocious, but they are improving. One of the things I am not doing is going back and fixing mistakes as I learn the correct practices. I want to be sure that you can learn from my mistakes as I have. 

Sites That Are Offering Guest Posting Opportunities

When I was gathering the information for this post I asked around for any sites that accepted guest posts and wanted to be linked on my page. Surprisingly only a few cared enough to actually follow directions.

 

Website- Adventures of Southern Motherhood

URL: http://adventuresofsouthernmotherhood.com/

Niche: Motherhood & Lifestyle

Basic description: I am a Motherhood and lifestyle blogger who loves to help other bloggers with their blogs.

Guidelines for guest writers: 400+ words, must promote on social media, no vulgar language.

 

Website- The Frugal Mom Guide

URL: www.frugalmomguide.com

Niche: Parenting, Frugal Living & Blogging Resources

Basic Description: I help moms (and dads) with parenting hacks, frugal
living tips and money-management in general. I also share my info on my
blogging journey.

Guidelines for Guest Bloggers: Posts must fall within one of the above
niches (parenting/frugal living/blogging)

 

Website- SIM Tourist

URL: https://simtourist.com/

The site includes general travel content / tech reviews, and guest posts are wide open – so long as it is something that might interest our readers. We are particularly interested in content relating to France.

Guest posts must be at least 600 words long, and of course original!

 

Website – Tech Shout Us

URL: https://techshoutus.com/

Niche- blogging & SEO

Description- Tech Shout Us is a Blog for Bloggers which helps you to become a better blogger. Tech Shout Us comes to rescue by helping you with quality and easy to follow Tips, Tricks and Tutorials to make a successful Money Making blog.

Guidelines for guest writers- minimum 600 words of post. With unique article.

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Back to School

This post contains affiliate links, which mean if you use these links to purchase an item or service I receive a commission at no extra cost to you. Visit my Affiliate Disclaimer page here.

 

I am 40 years old, and I am beginning a journey that most start at 18 or 19, and it’s absolutely fucking terrifying. Not just terrifying, no, that doesn’t do it justice. I cannot find the vocabulary to describe the level of fear I feel without the quantifying and wildly versatile “fucking”. Let’s see if I can break this down for you. I have spent periods of time homeless. I have been shot at, both randomly and deliberately. I have been mugged at gun point twice. I have been in a house when S.W.A.T. kicked the front door in looking for someone else, and I almost got shot. I have been stabbed by a girlfriend and by a stranger, separate occasions. I was once intentionally hit by a car driven by a friend, looking at you Brother Bear. The thing that scares the hell out of me, is going back to school.

 

 

Out of all of that I guess the question is, is it necessary? Is it necessary to put myself though everything involved in getting a degree at this age, or in fact at all? I think it is, for me at least. I need to prove to myself I can do it. Whether or not it is for you, I guess that depends on what you want out of life and what makes you happy. A large number of people get through life perfectly happy without a higher education. Some never get the opportunity, and some absolutely love working with their hands. This doesn’t make anyone any less intelligent, everyone has to walk their own path and they have their own reasons. If it weren’t for changes in my life in recent years I would never even consider making the attempt. I just didn’t realize that such options were open to me, and even when I learned that if I really want it, that there are ways to do it, I still waffled.

 

I want to, but I’m already 40 is it worth it, it will be great for my career, but will it really, and back and forth. Back and forth. Right up until this very point, I doubted. But. While I was looking for resources to reference for this post, I found this page. On it are anecdotal stories of people that went back to school at an older age. Most of them are actually quite a bit older than I am now.  In Nancy B. Irwin’s story, who went back to get a Doctorate in Clinical Psychology, she stated that you have to get used to answering the question, “How old will you be when you finish?” Her answer was, “The same age I’ll be if I don’t finish!”

 

Shaw Academy Ltd

 

That struck a chord with me. It wasn’t till I read that that it occurred to me. Depending on work/school schedules, it could take me 4-6 years to get a Bachelor’s. Whether or not I go back to school, those 4-6 years are still going to pass. Deep in the back of my mind I worried that the time spent at school would keep me from accomplishing other things. That it would feel like I wasted it. Realizing that the time would pass with or without me changed the way I saw things. Not that I didn’t know that time moves on. I was taking it for granted. Sometimes common place things are so commonplace that you forget that they actually have an effect on you. Driving is only driving, until you’re in a car accident, then it’s a dangerous act that must be taken seriously. Until you get used to it, and it again becomes commonplace for you. Walking at night is no big deal, until you’re shot at for the first time.

 

The realization of Nancy’s statement was like a shot across the bow. It woke me up, if for only a moment. Wouldn’t I be better served working my way up in a new job for those 4-6 years? Gaining experience and cultivating contacts? Experience has taught me no I wouldn’t. That without a degree, they will only let you climb so far. Spending time climbing a ladder to nowhere. That would truly be a waste. There isn’t anything I could do better with my time, than spend it bettering myself.

 

Earnings and Unemployment by Education

 

From what I can tell, that graph right there is pretty damn close. I’ve been walking the line of High School Diploma’s earnings for a few years now. If that’s the case, then not jumping on the opportunity that has been given to me would be idiocy. By no means am I saying that everyone should go back to school. Everyone’s life goes differently. I’m doing it more for the chance to prove that I can, than I am for the career path it may offer.

 

iMBA - 728x90

 

After she received her degree, Nancy B. Irwin, PsyD, C.Ht. wrote a book about the challenges of going back to school at 44 after being a stand-up comic for so many years called Your-Turn: Changing Direction in Midlife. Everyone knows that writing is my passion, that’s how this blog started in the first place. Maybe one day I will also have a book about the changes I’ve made in my life.

Did you go back to school later in life? Brick and mortar, or online school? Leave your comments below.

How to make your qualifying sales as an amazon affiliate.

How to Make Your Qualifying Sales as an Amazon Associate

This post contains affiliate links, which mean if you use these links to purchase an item or service I receive a commission at no extra cost to you. Visit my Affiliate Disclaimer page here.

 

To a newer blogger the Amazon Associate program looks like an untapped gold mine ripe with ore. Who doesn’t like Amazon? They announced >310 million users in 2016, with 562,382,292 individual products as of Jan. 2018, and it’s only gone up since then. Everyone can find items to market within their niche. In most cases all you have to do is search for your keywords and Amazon will find items for you. Amazon will find products for you even if you can’t narrow down your niche. A search for the word “Blog” returned 20 pages of items. This is why the Amazon Affiliate program is often the first affiliate program new bloggers sign up for, because it appears to be a sure thing.

 

 

Even with all of that going for it, I see conversation threads every day about people not making the necessary sales to qualify for the program. If you don’t make three qualifying sales in 180 days, your application to the program is rejected. Hell, I didn’t make my three sales the first time around.

In a prior post “Tips for Amazon Associates” I went over some of the pitfalls I had fallen into. So when I received the notice that I did not qualify I was disappointed but not surprised. I had a pretty good feeling I wasn’t going to make it. So I took a week off from “selling”, and wrote about “Experiencing Life.” Over the next week or so I examined my past posts and selling techniques, identified some of the problems, and tried again.

 

After a few weeks and a few posts, I wrote a post, reapplied to the Amazon Associate program, added links to the new post, and posted it the same day I reapplied to the program. Within a week I had my sales. All it took was a little research, a little self-evaluation, and some passion.

 

How do you make your first qualifying Amazon Affiliate sales?

 

To start off you can’t be nonchalant about it. I insert quotes in a lot of my posts. In “Look Out for Sharks” I quoted “Rounders”, so I inserted a link to buy the movie. That link didn’t get even one single click, much less a sale. Just dropping a link for the sake of the link doesn’t convert. It’s not much different than putting a food display next to the bathroom. It may have seemed like a good idea at the time, but no one wants to eat food stored near the toilet. It’s not an extra opportunity to make a sale, it just makes you look desperate and untrustworthy. A blog isn’t like a convenience store, you aren’t going to get many impulse buys. People ended up on your site because they were looking for something specific. Try to keep your advertising along those lines.

 

 

Take this into account when placing advertising banners in your posts also. Keep the banners related to the content. If you have written a post about the 5 best mountain biking places in the Midwestern U.S., don’t include a banner advertising Amazon’s Baby Registry Bounty Program. Which I didn’t know they had by the way. Again, it just looks desperate for a sale. If your readers trust you, they will take your advice and purchase products you say are worth their money. If you try to appeal to everyone, you will appeal to no one. That’s why you write to a niche in the first place. If I wanted to get into mountain biking, and I just read that post I would take your opinion into consideration when purchasing a mountain bike. However, I would have no reason to click on your baby registry banner. If I’m looking to go ride the 260 mile Sheltowee Trace in the Daniel Boone National Forest in Kentucky, I probably don’t have a baby on the way.

 

You have to be deliberate. Once you are 100% approved for Amazon’s Associate program you can open up your options a bit. Until then you need to pinpoint your best options to make a sale and target your audience.

 

I came across a post last week that was titled “10 best books for Bloggers” or something similar. Naturally I wanted to see what those books were. When I got to the page I saw that it was comprised entirely of 10 hyperlinks. That’s it. No reviews, no descriptions, no actual text at all. Just 10 book titles that linked to amazon. I immediately closed the page. How am I supposed to know those are the 10 best books for bloggers? It didn’t tell me anything about the books. I’ve never been to that site before so I didn’t have any reason to trust it. Not only did it not sell me any of those books, I didn’t even have a reason to believe the post author actually read the books he/she was trying to sell.

 

You have to intentionally sell the product to your readers. That doesn’t mean you have to resort to sleazy tactics, or a used car salesman persona. Actually it’s the exact opposite. It’s easier by far to sell an item you have used and believe in. I made my qualifying sales from “The One Thing Every WordPress User Should Own”, because I was open about the problem I had, and how the book helped me overcome that problem. I realize it may not be possible to try out every single item you want to promote, but you damned well better do your research. I don’t mean just read the first 3 articles after a google search. You should know everything about the item, and report on its flaws as well as its features. It never hurts to be honest, people will only trust you more.

 

Writing a post specifically to promote a product or multiple products is essentially a long form sales ad. Identify a problem or question your audience may have, then offer them a product that answers their questions or solves their problem. Keep your language simple, and write conversationally. Write like you are speaking to your readers face to face, almost exactly like you would speak in person. There is no reason to use sesquipedalian words, but you don’t have to use a monosyllabic tone either. See what I mean? It’s obnoxious, and irritating.

 

Use multiple links to the item in your post. You never know which paragraph or sentence will convince someone to buy the item you are promoting. When it happens you don’t want them to have to search through the post for your link. A link every other paragraph or so should be sufficient, if you are mentioning the item. Don’t try to unnaturally shove posts in the text. 3-5 hyperlinks is enough for a 1000-1500 word post. You don’t want to spam your readers either, it’s a delicate balance. Try to be sure a link is always on screen as you are scrolling through the post.

 

 

The last tip I have to make your sale in the 180 day time-frame, is make sure you have a CTA (Call to Action) on your posts. You didn’t just write all of that for the sake of writing it. You want readers to purchase the item you are promoting. So, tell them so. Even something as simple as “Click Below to Buy One Now”, or “Get Yours Here” will help convert. You want a clear and concise CTA instructing readers exactly where to click and why.

 

Also, please make sure you adhere strictly to Amazon’s Terms of Service. It’s an awful lot of work to go through to make your three qualifying sales, to end up being rejected for violating the ToS. I have a post here, about common mistakes Amazon Associates make when first starting out. Be sure to check it out if you have any questions or doubts.

Throwing a Harry Potter Themed Party.

This post contains affiliate links, which mean if you use these links to purchase an item or service I receive a commission at no extra cost to you. Visit my Affiliate Disclaimer page here.

 

If you have been following along then you know that I want to work with charities, and that I know a few people involved in local charities. My girlfriend’s family founded a great charity based just outside of Harrisburg called Project A.S.K. (Assisting Students and Kids). They mainly provide necessities such as clothing, lunch money, or basic school supplies to underprivileged kids in the local school district. It’s through working with them that I met, stay with me here, my girlfriend’s mother’s best friend, who we will call MJ. Did you follow that? MJ sits on the board of Project ASK. I know this is a little round about and confusing, just try to bear with me for a few minutes.

 

Hanging Candles 2 HP

 

MJ asked us to help her throw a surprise birthday party for her husband. As a group we have decorated, catered, and hosted many parties and special occasions in our church, or for fundraisers for Project ASK, so this wasn’t at all an odd request. MJ does a lot for other people, she is generous with her time, and genuinely cares, so of course we offered to help her.

 

Luggage Cart

Luggage Cart Decoration For Harry Potter Party

 

She wanted to make it special, even bordering on over-the-top and that’s what she got. After a few questions about her husband’s likes, dislikes and hobbies it was narrowed down to either a “Lord of the Rings” theme or a “Harry Potter” theme. We quickly dismissed “LoT”, I mean really, how would that look? How would you decorate for that? Random rock formations around the room covered in goblin blood? A stray battle axe or arrow here and there? That sounds awesomely boring and not even a little safe. You can’t have random axes AND an open bar, someone will get very hurt, and that someone often ends up being me. Besides we thought going with Harry Potter opened up many more options for decorating.

 

Getting the decorations together took about a month of sporadic planning here and there. Then about 3 weeks of build time with the first week being mostly purchasing supplies and doing a lot of printing. After that we were kind of sequestered in our own groups with our own projects. My main job was recreating the pictures that hung in the great hall. My girlfriend’s mother who we will call M, and another one of her friends that we will call J, are both retired and worked on this project like it was a full time job. They actually did most of the DIY projects from M’s craft room, putting in about 8 hours a day, for at least two weeks. My GF did all of the planning and most of the designing and generally helped in all of the projects. She helped me make the pictures and she came up with the fantastic creations below.

 

Book of Monsters

 

Book-of-Spells.jpg

 

Picture-Wall-HP.jpg

 

I know all of the initials can get irritating, but as I am writing this I realized I haven’t asked anyone if they care if I use their names. I may be going overboard but I’m just trying to be respectful of them and their privacy.

There were a few things that we purchased from amazon, such as one of Harry’s brooms, and of course the Talking Sorting Hat, and a Golden Snitch that we hung from the ceiling in front of a broom like it was being chased, and of course Hedwig, but most of the decorations were hand made. M and J were particularly proud of the way the wands turned out. They should be because they were amazing.

Place Settings

 

The venue was divided into two areas. One was the dining area, and the other had the bar, bands, and dance floor. The dining area was decorated as The Great Hall. We hung plastic sheeting on the walls that gave in that block wall look, and over 100 L.E.D. Candles from the ceiling with a thin wire. The second area had representations of a few shops from the movie, the sign in table and luggage cart, and elements of  Quidditch hanging from the ceiling.

 

Honey Dukes Candy Shop

HoneyDukes Candy

Apothacary

Slug & Jiggers Apothecary

 

Ollivander's Wand Shop

Ollivander’s Wand Shop

 

The party was a huge success. The guest of honor was thoroughly surprised, and MJ was ecstatic about the level of detail that went into recreating elements of the movies. Their grandchildren got to keep a few of the wands, and everyone got to take a golden snitch home with them.

 

Party Favors

 

Aside from all of the hard work the volunteers that helped us put in, the things that really helped make this possible were Etsy sellers, and M’s Cricut Printer. Most of the designs for the labels on the HoneyDukes candy or on the Slugs and Jiggers jars and containers were created by someone from Etsy, then printed and cut out by M’s Cricut printer. The wings that you see glued to Ferrero Rocher candy for 80 guests, would have been impossible without the Cricut.

If you have any questions about exactly how we made anything feel free to leave a question in the comments. There are far too many pictures to post them all here. It would take almost a week to write out all of the projects step by step here, and since there were so many people and places involved I didn’t get pictures of individual steps on any of the projects except the picture wall.

WordPress Blog building

The One Thing Every WordPress User Should Own

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When I started my site I didn’t have a lot of experience building a website, and by not a lot I mean none. Absolutely none. Not a little bit, not I’ve seen it done once, not even someone told me I could but I didn’t believe them. Absolutely none. I didn’t have any idea that someone could build a site on their own without 6 years of schooling and two masters’ degrees. Which also goes to show you how little I knew about schooling and degrees. But, I’ve learned a lot since then. It’s been a long bumpy road with many ups and downs, and I realize that my journey has really only started, and that learning something isn’t the same as mastering it.

One of the many things I learned is that thanks to WordPress pretty much anyone can start their own website. WordPress is hands down the most user friendly site builder/content management system in existence today. It is so easy to use in fact that 31.4% of all websites in existence use WordPress. Aside from its ease of use WP (WordPress) is so widespread because its developers keep it open source. In layman’s terms that means it’s free. Well, the code required to build a site is free. In most cases, you still have to pay to host your site. It’s like if someone gave you all the materials and plans to build a house. You still have to purchase or rent land to put that house on. That’s what you get with WP, the materials and plans. Actually, you get a seemingly endless supply of materials, plans, and templates that you can tear down and rebuild on a whim.

 

 

There is almost as many website hosting companies as there are internet service providers. You have Liquid Web, Host Gator, SiteGround, Blue Host, Kinsta, and WPEngine just to name a few. All of them have their pros and con’s, and getting into that will require a whole separate post. I, on the other hand, went the other direction and hosted this site on WordPress.com. As a beginner this gives me a certain piece of mind. While it may cost me a little more than some of the sites listed above, I don’t have to worry about things like site security, or site back-ups as WP takes care of all of that for me. WP also has great customer service, and has on one occasion worked with customer service of another company to help me get through a problem.

 

While I say WP is the most user friendly site builder out there, it’s not without its growing pains. Things just aren’t where you would expect them to be. For example you can’t just go to settings and change your font. Font isn’t anywhere near settings. Your font is determined by your theme, preset layout, and to change your font you must customize your theme. If there is a particular font you want, and your theme doesn’t contain it, you have to download it, then upload it to your site. Sometimes you have to actually purchase it first, depending on where you get your fonts. That seems like a lot to go through just for a font.

 

I know that makes WP appear incredibly complicated but it’s really not. If you find a theme that works perfectly for you, and you can use it for your site with little or no customization, you can have a site up in only a few more minutes than it took you to choose the theme. And if you’re ok with a run of the mill cookie cutter website than you’re done there. If you want your site to accurately represent you or your business, than you have some changing and customizing to do. There is an almost countless number of adaptations and modifications that can be done to a WP site. Anything from Font and background color to graphics placement and shadowing effects can all be changed by you. I know this sounds a bit overwhelming but once you get the hang of it, it’s really pretty easy.

 

I struggled to get the hang of it. I’m sure as a new user I’m not the only one. I just couldn’t find where the settings were. I couldn’t grasp the relationships between what I wanted to do and dashboard control placement. At first, it didn’t make any sense to me that something as simple as font wasn’t just in settings. I struggled pretty hard. My 10 minute website was coming up on 3 weeks of building time, and I still didn’t feel like it was ready to go live. Someone who was a very good friend and is now much more brought me a book one day. This book may have saved my sanity and my site. It was WordPress, The Missing Manual the book that should have been in the box.

 

This book goes over everything from step by step instructions on signing up for a WordPress site through WordPress.com, to the evolution of dynamic vs static sites and how WP works, and that’s just the first 20 pages. If there is anything you want to know about WordPress it is in this book. If you want to set up multiple users for your site, for instance if you have contributing authors to your blog who don’t need access to the Admin Dashboard, it’s in there. If you need to know how to use JetPack’s LaTeX formatting, or how to add mobile support to self-hosted sites, it’s in there. There is even a section on WP specific SEO. If you are not already a WordPress master, “The missing manual” is worth your time to read. If you are a WP novice, than it is an absolute necessity.

 

Throughout the book there are images of websites, sort of. These are real images of not exactly fake sites to demonstrate one feature or another the book is talking about at that time. The sites actually exist and are navigable. There were 6 sample WP sites created and while you can’t actually modify the sites, they are good representations of the features described. There are also snippets of HTML and CSS in the book to help give you a basic understanding of code, if you don’t already have one, which you are allowed to use on your own sites without further permissions beyond purchasing the book.

 

You also get access to a page containing 181 links, they are not numbered I counted them myself, to WP websites (as demonstrations), free plug-ins, or free resources for things like HTML and CSS tutorials, and how to create a test site.

 


 

The book itself is divided up into 5 parts, each part broken down into chapters. I recommend reading the Manual in its entirety, but you don’t actually have to. Each chapter touches on a particular design feature or necessary area of knowledge, such as registering a domain name, or adding a slide show. Once you know what kind of site you want to build, the book will direct you to which chapters you absolutely need to read. For example if you only want a simple blog you only need to read the first two parts. If you want to add music player to entertain visitors as they read your musings, then you will also want to read chapter 10. ECommerce store? Chapter14. Self-hosted? Appendix B-Securing a Self-Hosted Site. It can even help you with migrating your current site to a new host.

 

Let’s be honest, WordPress is a living breathing open source tool. It currently contains over 423,759 lines of code and encompassed 112 person-years to build, and currently has 70 fulltime developers contributing to the core code. By the time I finish this post WP will probably be able to do something it couldn’t when I started writing it. “The Missing Manual” may not contain every single piece of existing information about WordPress, but it most certainly has all the information you need to start and maintain a WordPress site. As for missing information, the book has already been updated once, and there will most likely be a 3rd edition. There is even a page to inform the authors of errors or submit feedback.

 

I would not have made it this far without this book. I wish I would have found out about it much sooner, I hope it helps you as much as it did me. Click below to get yours now.

7 Tips for Driving Traffic to New Blogs

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When you are a newer blogger one of the riddles you struggle to overcome is how to drive traffic to your page. You will see hundreds if not thousands of articles on how SEO (Search Engine Optimization) is the best way to drive organic traffic to your site. Which is absolutely true, however SEO is a long game. Even if your SEO strategy is absolutely perfect, as a new site it can take many months to make it to the first page in search results for your niche. So where do you get your views? Easy, other bloggers.

 

Blogging is a community in its own right. There are 409 million blogs listed on Tumblr alone. There are 30.6 million active bloggers in the U.S. right now, according to statista.com, and interacting with as many as you can will drive traffic for the first few months.

 

 

We are all trying to be successful and make a living from our blogs. It isn’t a contest, teamwork makes the dream work. It may feel like you are competing against other bloggers but I promise you, that isn’t the way it works. Interacting with other bloggers helps you garner a following, and that following will spread your name, and talk up your site. If you work for it.

 

Visit other blogs.
               Visiting and viewing other blogs is a good practice to maintain. It helps you stay up to date on trends in the community, and can supply you with ideas for new posts. Never steal another bloggers content, but it is perfectly ok to write about the something you saw on someone else’s site in your own words and style. You should visit a few blogs within your niche every week, and leave comments. Not just hello, or The Ragged Writer was here, but things that add value to the original post, or personal insights you may have about the content. Some sites even allow you to link your own blog in your comment. Which may attract a few visitors.

 

Reply to comments on your own site.
              If you visit and comment on other blogs, people will begin to return the favor, and you should reply to every comment left on your page. If you engage and interact with your visitors they will continue to return week after week. The comment section should read more like a conversation, then just a list of individual remarks at the bottom of the page. I know what you’re thinking. If you have perused this site then you know that replying to comments is not one of my strong suites. And you want to know if I didn’t do it, then why should you. Well, it’s because I didn’t, that I know how important it is. I know that people that used to come to my page every week stopped coming because they felt insignificant or ignored. You may even begin to build professional relationships or friendships with people that have already been through what you a going through, and their experience and advice will prove to be incredibly valuable.

 

Subscribe to informative blogs in your niche.
           If you find blogs that are full of great content, informative, up to date, and pertinent to the industries you write about than following them should be a no brainer. Subscribe to their newsletter. Sign up for email notifications of new posts. It is extremely important to stay current and informed in your niche. You may not be the first to know, but you should never be the last. If someone seems to have the inside track, than get in line directly behind them. Besides, people tend to reciprocate. If you are following and subscribing to bloggers in your niche, then a percentage of them will follow or subscribe to your site also.

 

Share on social media.
           Join blogging Facebook Groups and post your work when allowed by each individual group’s rules. Post on Twitter and Pinterest also. You can acquire reasonable views by “selling” your work, but you will fare much better by being part of the community. Share your posts to social media, but share posts from other bloggers as much if not more than your own. Spamming your content to the same 100 twitter followers over and over will not get you any more readers. But, if you catch the attention of, and impress 10 bloggers who share your work with their 100 followers, then you’ve just received a big boost to your page views. When you share someone else’s work, be sure to leave them a comment telling them. It lets them know someone appreciates their work enough to introduce it to their network. People will generally reciprocate by visiting your site, and if they like your work they may share it as well.

 

Eye catching headlines.
                It is important to get your work in front of as many eyes as possible because only a percentage of people who see your post will actually take the time to read it. For example, if all 1000 people in the paragraph above actually see your post only 80% will take the time to actually read the headline (CopyBlogger). Of that 800 people only up to 20% will read the post. Whether it’s 1% or 20% depends on your headline. If you title your new post “My New Post” then only the insanely curious will click through. However, if it’s titled “20 Reasons this Article is so Genius that the only Title I Could come Up With Was ‘My New Post’” then I’m going to read it to find out if it is in fact genus, or as cluttered and rambling as the title. It doesn’t actually matter why I would open it, only that I would because of the headline.

 

Building and maintaining reputation.
                Be the authority in your writing. You don’t have to be The Expert, but you should know what you are talking about. That doesn’t mean you can only write about things you have done for a living, just make sure you research your topics thoroughly, and site your sources. Do not state facts without being able to back them up, or at least stating how you got that information. You don’t have to link every source, but you should always site it.
If you are writing about your own experiences try to be as open and honest as possible. Everyone understands that there are things you don’t want to share with the world, but you have to share enough to form a connection with your readers. And for god’s sake don’t make big bullshit claims. Don’t tell people you can teach them how to get 1000 page views a week, when you wrote a post last week about this being your first site and it’s only a month old. If your readers trust you, they will keep coming back. If they don’t, they will make it known.

 

Guest Blogging.
              Many sites accept guest posts. Guest posting is writing content for an existing blog other than your own. Generally doing so will cumulate links back to your site or Backlinks. Backlinks are the primary form of off page SEO. Basically if your site is linked to a reputable site, than google believes you must also have a reputable site, therefore ranking you higher in searches. You are judged by the company you keep. If you have a lot of good friends, you must be a good person, or in this case a good website. This is why your reputation is so important. When someone offers you a backlink they are putting their name at risk for your benefit. If they feel like they can’t trust you, than they will not take the risk. On top of backlinks, guest blogging also offers exposure to a new group of readers that you may not have been able to reach otherwise. Essentially, guest blogging is extremely beneficial in both short and long term returns.

 

 

The biggest tip I can give to anyone starting a blog or thinking about starting a blog, is Be Part of the Community. Interact with other bloggers, be it through Facebook, WordPress, Twitter, or actual blogging communities. Don’t just drop links to your posts in your groups and run off. I spend the majority of one day a week, usually Friday, reading the blogs that are linked in the groups I belong to or follow through email, and commenting on them or sharing them on social media. You don’t have to read everything. It is perfectly ok to stick to your interests. A single guy who lives alone doesn’t have to read 10 mommy blogs a week just to prove he is part of the group. Just understand that if you write primarily about video games, mommy bloggers may not be reading your work either. That is the truly amazing thing about blogging. There is literally something out there for everyone.

 

However the thing you need to realize is, quality content is incredibly important. Probably the most important. You can do everything else perfectly, but if you don’t put the time and effort into your writing, you won’t get anywhere. No one will attach their name to your work, by sharing or linking it, if it is full of typos or misinformation.

 

Write well, be a valuable member of the community, and traffic to your page will take care of itself for the first few months. You may even come away with a few lifelong followers.

Defining Imposter Syndrom

Fighting Imposter Syndrome

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I’ve noticed a trend in the discussion threads of groups that I belong to. I’ve also noticed that on occasion I fit into this trend. Not all the time, but every so often. Sometimes more than others. There is a doubt that winds its’ way through the community, touching on everyone here and there. Occasionally it strikes quickly then fades away. Sometimes it lingers like a summer cold and affects our work twice as much. It isn’t specific to writers, but it is definitely prolific among us.

 

Imposter Syndrome

 

“Each time I write a book, every time I face that yellow pad, the challenge is so great. I have written eleven books, but each time I think, ‘Uh oh, they’re going to find out now. I’ve run a game on everybody and they’re going to find me out’.” -Maya Angelou


Just announced from George R. R. Martin: Discover the thrilling history of the Targaryen family in F

“Some years ago, I was lucky enough invited to a gathering of great and good people: artists and scientists, writers and discoverers of things. And I felt that at any moment they would realize that I didn’t qualify to be there, among these people who had really done things.

 

On my second or third night there, I was standing at the back of the hall, while a musical entertainment happened, and I started talking to a very nice, polite, elderly gentleman about several things, including our shared first name. And then he pointed to the hall of people, and said words to the effect of, ‘I just look at all these people, and I think, what the heck am I doing here? They’ve made amazing things. I just went where I was sent.’

 

And I said, ‘Yes. But you were the first man on the moon. I think that counts for something.’

 

And I felt a bit better. Because if Neil Armstrong felt like an imposter, maybe everyone did. Maybe there weren’t any grown-ups, only people who had worked hard and also got lucky and were slightly out of their depth, all of us doing the best job we could, which is all we can really hope for.” —Neil Gaiman

 

I’m sure by now everyone knows the story of Tabatha digging the first pages of “Carrie” out of the trash because Stephen King threw them away. An incredible story rescued from a bout of self-doubt. If not for that woman in that moment we may not have had one of the greatest story tellers of our generation.

 

One of the best ways to combat Imposter Syndrome is to name your problem, state aloud that it is in fact Imposter Syndrome that is weighing on you, this immediately drains some of its’ power. Another is to realize that you are not alone. This is not a “You Problem”. This is something experienced nationwide, and no one is immune. The more successful you are, the more likely you are to feel as though you didn’t earn your success but were simply in the right place at the right time, and will be discovered as a fraud at any moment.

 

“It’s almost like the better I do, the more my feeling of inadequacy actually increases, because I’m just going, ‘Any moment, someone’s going to find out I’m a total fraud, and that I don’t deserve any of what I’ve achieved’.” –Emma Watson

 

Imposter Syndrome runs deep in younger, or newer, writers because we haven’t cut our teeth yet. It feels awkward to tell someone you’re a writer. You know they are going to follow up with the dreaded question, ‘what have you written?’, and we all know they mean ‘what have you published?’ When the answer is ‘nothing yet’ you know ‘then how can you call yourself a writer?’ is coming right behind.

 

“If you wish to be a writer, write.” –Epictetus

 

Writers write every day. It’s just what we do. I have never published a story, and I have sold only one product description to another website, but I hold my head high and call myself a writer, in the privacy of my own home. Am I a writer? I really can’t say with any sort of confidence, within ear shot of anyone else, that I am. I believe I am, until I don’t. I can tell you that my posts are better received, and stories easier to write, when I am writing with confidence. They also feel better to me in that moment. Take this post for example, I feel good about this one because one thing I’m confident about is knowing what not being confident feels like.

 

“I think the most creative people veer between ambition and anxiety, self-doubt and confidence. I definitely can relate to that. We all go through that: ‘Am I doing the right thing?’ ‘Is this what I’m meant to be doing?’”-Daniel Radcliffe

 

When you hit one of those valleys, talk to someone. Talking to family or friends about it helps, good friends almost always make good sounding boards. Talking to other writers really helps, they have an intimate knowledge of what you are going through, and can offer a unique insight. Most of all keep writing/working. It’s hard for Imposter Syndrome to drag you down when you are fighting through it. Fake it till you make it definitely applies here. It’s like swimming against the current, if you rest for even a minute you lose ground. Continuing to work can help prove to yourself that you’re not an imposter, or a fraud.

 

“Envy is ignorance.” –Emerson

 

In the world of social media, perception is everything, even if rarely true. Comparing yourself to other writers or copywriters is pure folly. You don’t know what someone went through to get where they are. You can only see what they show you. It’s like opening a candy store then comparing yourself to Milton Hershey. Most people don’t know that Hershey had multiple failed candy companies before he started Hershey’s Chocolate as you now know it. Bloggers touting 50k unique visitors in their first 6 months aren’t telling you that it’s their 10th site, and they pretty much got their system down pat by this point. You can’t judge your self-published e-book based on the success of 50 Shades. You are who you are and, you will have to take your own path to success. Remember to learn from others, be yourself, and that quitting is the only failure.

 


Back to School

 

Make a list of all you’ve accomplished, and don’t be stingy. I sometimes have to remind myself that the stories that I’ve entered into contests are accomplishments, even though I did not win. I stood up and took a chance, I put myself out there. I did something I had always wanted to do. Whether or not I won, I achieved a goal and raised the bar for myself. Even small deeds are still triumphs, so be truly honest with yourself. When you’re making this list include any positive feedback you’ve received on work you have done, no matter how small. Keep all of this in a file for easy access. These are your successes. Successes that show you are not an imposter or fraud. You worked hard for this and you deserve it.

 

“Because one believes in oneself, one doesn’t try to convince others. Because one is content with oneself, one doesn’t need others’ approval. Because one accepts oneself, the whole world accepts him or her.”― Lao Tzu

 

This is the hard part, accepting that self-confidence is exactly that, confidence in ones-self. It can’t be given to you, but it also can’t be taken from you. You alone hold sway over how you feel about you. Others can point out traits that they admire in you, but whether or not you believe them is solely up to you. I can tell you all day long that you are a brilliant writer, and it won’t make a bit of difference if you believe otherwise. Repeat to yourself a few times a day, ‘I am not a fraud, I am great at what I do, I am successful’.

 

“Even when everything is going terribly and I have no reason to be confident, I just decide to be.” -Derek Sivers

 

There is a trait in Imposter Syndrome that is constantly looked over. Imposter Syndrome is the feeling that one did not earn their successes, that they will be discovered as a fraud, that their successes are undeserved, that their accomplishments were the result of luck rather than skill. Success. One who has done nothing doesn’t feel as though they are a fraudulent couch potato. I’ve never heard someone say ‘I haven’t really done anything with my life, but I actually feel like a ginormous success.’ Imposter Syndrome is a symptom of success. You feel this way because you have busted your ass, and you stepped outside your comfort zone, and you’re still uncomfortable. It’s ok. It’s ok to not be ok. Think of it this way. Your brain knows that you are successful enough that it can convince you that you aren’t. You feel this way because you have achieved great things, even if you don’t realize it yet.

 

Comment below and tell me about your bouts with Imposter Syndrome.

 

Experiencing Life

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The act of building and running a website can take up a lot of your time, especially if you are new to the process. There is an extensive amount of behind the scenes work that can’t be seen by simply visiting a site. Endless research on techniques for design or advertising. It’s enough to drive a person out of their mind if they don’t take a break every once in a while. Regular 9-5 jobs come with vacation time, and with good reason. You need to take a step back when you are running your own business too. You need to get out, experience life, and spend time with your family. So that’s exactly what I did, and what this post is about. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not about what you need to do, it’s about what I did. Be jealous, ‘cause it was amazing. I’m going to gloss over the drive out, it’s not really pertinent to the story at hand.

 

You know that list that some people have, the celebrity crush list? That list is the reason we ended up where we did. My girlfriend’s birthday was coming up and I wanted to do something special for her. Her list consists of Ty Pennington which offered no opportunities for a gift. Wolverine, not Hugh Jackman, but Wolverine which was also no help. Her last and probably biggest crush just happened to be coming to town.

 

Poison Bandanna

 

She absolutely loves Bret Michaels, she had never been to a rock concert, and Poison was coming to the area June 24th. So I got floor tickets as close as I could, 9th row, and reserved a room so we didn’t have to worry about the drive back so late at night. Having the room also allowed us to have a few drinks together if we wanted during the concert. Instead of one of us drinking alone, and one being the designated driver.

 

Room Number

 

We got to our room at the luxurious Renaissance Hotel in Allentown Pa. with a couple of hours to spare before the event we were attending began. Basically just enough time to get cleaned up after a long drive, and still arrive at the venue early enough to get a bite to eat.

 

T.V.-Wall.jpg

 

The room was well decorated, and quite comfortable. It’s miles beyond my usual side of the highway, middle of nowhere motel. I don’t know about you, but I have never stayed in a hotel of this caliber before. This is the kind of place with gourmet room service. If I need a hotel, the kind of place I usually stay is lucky to have vending machines and the ice machine is always broken.

 

PPL Center

Taking a few pics waiting for the show to start.

 

The Renaissance Hotel is inside the PPL Center which greatly improves the entire experience. There is a door from the hotel lobby directly into the venue allowing us to skip the huge security lines and be some of the first people inside even though doors opened 30 minute before.

 

There were 10-15 concession areas open serving a pretty wide range of arena foods like hot-dogs, nachos, soft pretzels, and quite a bit more. Of course each one had beer, but you had to keep an eye out for whatever you were drinking, because they didn’t all carry the same selection.

 

PopEvil

 

Pop Evil was the opening band. They put on a great show. Towards the end Leigh Kakaty walked the crowd and actually ended up in my row and shook my hand. I’ve been to quite a few concerts and festivals over the years, and met a few band members here and there. It’s always a cool experience. I know, they are just people, but they are people I was listening to on the radio 20 minutes ago.

 

Rick Neilson

 

Cheap Trick played next. Rick Nielsen is amazing to watch. His rapport with the audience is legendary. At 70 he was running around the stage, throwing a seemingly infinite number of guitar picks into the crowd, with the energy of someone 50 years his junior.

 

Bret Michaels

There was no guessing who the spectators were here to see. Seats didn’t begin to actually fill up until Poison was due on stage. Even then they didn’t stay occupied for long because everyone was on their feet for the duration of the set. The energy and excitement could be felt throughout the stadium.

 

Seeing Poison live was incredibly nostalgic for me. They were one of the last on a list of bands that I grew up following and idolizing that I had yet to see live. To be able to share that experience with someone so special made it that much more enjoyable.

I feel like maybe I should apologize for the quality of the photo’s. I didn’t originally plan on posting this, so we only had our cell phones with us for taking pictures.