This week a woman looked me in the eyes, really stared into my soul trying to see… me. She was looking; searching for meaning, depth, story. And then she smiled.
Just as she expected, it was there. She didn’t learn my story, but she knew there was one hidden in the quiet way I returned her gaze unflinchingly.
“You are a shining star! Keep on Manifesting your Magnificence!”
Could she see the tears I’ve shed along the way? The doubt I’ve felt on my path? The waiting for life to begin? Or was it the fact that I was there at all? I stood in front of her with the words ‘Be Bold’ echoing in my head. Could she hear them? Was she saying them?
‘Dream big,’ her eyes whispered.
I was at a book launch and inspirational evening hosted by TOAST! London. They invite visionaries to speak and share their stories of how they beat the odds, struggle against life and its challenges, and thrive, supporting their communities along the way. The woman who shook my hand was one of the authors in the book; a trailblazer in her own right. And she recognized something in me that spoke to her.
Do it. Take the step. Push yourself. Don’t be afraid. You will thrive. I have faith in you. Shed your insecurities and have faith in you too.
This summer I attended a staff appreciation barbeque for a client. The hosts are great people and I had a lovely evening, chatting with guests, enjoying a campfire and dining on a sumptuous meal. Yes, I had seconds of everything, including dessert. It was that good.
As I am a sucker for delicious fare, I had to ask the chef about the yummy dishes he had prepared. Well, one thing led to another and the conversation swung around to social media. Chef Chad was in the process of setting up a new catering business. He had worked in several upscale restaurants over the years, but was hungering for a change. Starting his own business was great, but getting the word out about it was a different matter entirely. He was curious about what I did for CLC Tree Services. I don’t think he realized what he was getting into when he asked.
When I have the opportunity to speak about the merits of social media with people not overly familiar with it I have been known to go on, and on, and on… It apparently is a bit of a passion. So when Chad asked, “What’s a blog?”, I launched into my spiel.
As you are reading this, you probably already have some idea, but if you are new to blogging, give me a moment to share my passion. Old forms of advertising are falling by the wayside. The Yellow Pages have shrunk and their circulation is being curtailed. When people want to find information on something or locate a business, they pull out their smartphones and google it. Companies who do not have a presence online are losing out on this huge market where not only can you advertise that you exist, but you are can establish yourself as an expert in your chosen field, whether that be tree services, real estate, plumbing or junk removal (yes, I have worked for all of these clients). If you have a business, you need that market of people who want your goods or services. Social media helps them find you.
So how does it work? For starters, you can set up a website. Websites serve as a great place to let people search for what you have to offer. They want baby clothes? You’ve got them! Their children want to take an art class? You’ve got classes starting next week. In theory, it gives the public easy access to what they want to know.
BUT what about your competition? There might be dozens, hundreds or thousands of other companies out there who are offering the same or similar services/products. When people go searching for something and turn up a million hits, typically they will only peruse the first page or two of results. Where you want your business to be is on that first page. You have to be, or else consumers will never find you (unless they already know you exist and are specifically seeking you out). How do you up your chances of getting onto that all-important first page in search results? Search engines have to find you searchable.
Have I lost you yet? Stay with me. I’m getting to an important point here.
So search engines are constantly scouring the net for information. No easy task, as there are over 4.7 billion indexed pages out there. Mind-boggling in scope really. Finding your business on the web is equivalent to searching for that proverbial needle in a haystack.
Don’t be discouraged!
There is a way to increase your chances of being found. Most search engines tend to return local sites first (if you allow them to know your location or keep some cookies). That helps. Having a current website gives them a landing space too. The fresher your content, the more recently the web crawlers will visit your site. But if all you have is a website that was updated months or years ago, then I hate to tell you, but the search engines won’t have visited. And if they forget you exist, they aren’t going to be informing those desired customers you want that you exist either. You have to remind them that you exist.
“How?” you ask.
You have to be active. No one experts your website to be a constantly changing thing, so that is where social media comes in. The best way to be remind those search engines you exist is by publishing fresh content regularly. And there are lots of ways of doing that. I bet you can think of a few without me even having to tell you. There’s Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, LinkedIn, Google+, Instagram, not to mention the humble blog. Every time you publish a status update, picture, tweet or whatever, the search engines immediately visit. The more you do that, the more often they visit.
Are you getting it yet? I think this is where overwhelmed people often have light bulbs start to glow in their heads. In order to be noticed, you have to make yourself noticeable. Makes sense, right?
I should note that quality is still important. It is one thing to make a presence and have web crawlers visit, but who you really want to visit are those customers. And in order for them to visit and convert to a fan and customer, you need to impress them with your quality of service and expertise.
If it seems like a lot to process, it is. And I realize it can be hard to find the time to jump into social networking, when you already have a company to run. I get it. But every little bit helps. And sometimes that means asking for help. Hence how I got involved in social networking myself. I understand enough about it to play the game. I am not necessarily active everywhere nor even on every social platform, but I do what I can. And as I am a writer by trade, I can help companies who would like to create a bit more presence do that. I blog. And I blog for others who need someone who is a bit more of an expert on the platform than they are. I have the time to research, write and edit articles on a wide variety of topics.
There are a few people who appreciate that enough that I have been working with them for a while. Now Chef Chad is interested too. I don’t profess to be an expert on everything, but I can manipulate words well enough to make an impact. Some people call me wordy, but when I start talking social media, I’ve had more than one audience interested. And if that gets me a few new clients at the end of the day, I guess we can all be happy about that.
After my conversation with Chad this summer, it got me invited to a #FoodBlogTour in Chatham, so I don’t regret a thing. More delicious Field to Fork meals for me makes me plump and happy. And happy to keep talking social media to whomever wants to listen.
I just need to share. I have said it before, but I love what I do. I really do. Life seems to be giving back to me and I am tickled beyond belief. I hope I’m not tempting fate, but my happy dances just keep on coming and I’m thrilled!
So what’s going on? I have connected with three new clients since the spring, all of whom I consider quality companies who care about their communities, their employees, and the world. What’s not to love about that?! A long-time client has expanded what I am doing for them. Works for me! And they came up with a neat idea for some blog posts, which will get me out and meeting even more great people. They would like me to interview some of the companies whom they work and network with.
Wouldn’t you jump at the chance to meet more people whom someone you admire thinks highly of? I did. And I met with the first company this week. Today I published a post on local business Hedley Bennett Truck Parts for CLC Tree Services. I had promised the owner I would send a link to the article and promptly emailed it to her.
This is the part that made me proud to be a writer. This evening I received a heart-warming letter from the Hedley’s wife Pattie, which I have to share;
As I write this I wipe tears from my eyes. What you wrote is wonderful. God your good at what you do !!!!!!!!!!!!! I hope our paths cross in the future. If I have the opportunity to refer you to someone I certainly will. Please know you are always welcome and it was a pleasure talking with you.
I am glowing. There are no other words. That level of appreciation touches me to the core. It makes me so proud and brings a hint of a tear to my own eye. I do my best when I write and apparently, my best is pretty darn good. Writing for a living seems like the best thing in the world I could do right now.
So my coffee date got rescheduled. Right after I got all excited and wrote my last post about it. Sigh… ☹
But I am not going to let that get me down. As writers, we are slaves to deadlines and I completely respect that. So I used the setback to push me a little in other directions. Meeting new writers is great, but I happen to already know some great writers and it’s high time I reconnected with them too. So today I will be meeting with the lovely and talented Suzanne for a cup of conversation in the village.
Working from home is great, but the routine needs to be shaken up a bit every once in a while with human interaction. And I am due. I am looking forward to hearing about her life, her writing, and the teaching she does. I just might share a bit of my journey too. Our paths have had a similar bend that somehow drew us together and I value sharing those stories to benefit each other.
And I have to share that Suzanne inspires me. She faces the hurdles life throws at her and keeps going. Even better, she writes about them. I know she writes to understand, to process and to pull strength from those around her. We all have challenges and hers have been monumental in the last few years. Writing has been a way for her to weather her storms. While she might not always see her strength, I do, and I suspect she will emerge larger than life when she least expects it.
Why? I believe.
I believe in the power of hurt to transform. I believe in the power of self to fall on your knees, but continue to crawl. I believe in opening your eyes in the morning, even when you don’t know what the day will hold. I believe that tomorrow holds magic. And promise. And that we can all access that if only we believe.
Optimist? Sounds like it. But without the power of positive thought I wouldn’t have kept going when life threw storms my way. I wouldn’t have started writing my pains, sorrows and questions in journals even when those words wouldn’t change the outcome of the day. And I certainly would have put the idea of writing a book out of my head long ago. Those stories aren’t dead though. They still want to be told. And they will be. Because writing is sharing, and sharing helps to lighten many loads. And sometimes all it takes is a little inspiration from friends to keep those words alive.
So today I look forward to sharing a few words with an amazing person and basking in the inspiration I know she will fill me with, whether she realizes it or not.
I love the spring. The weather warms up, flowers bloom and everyone gets outside to enjoy nature and each other’s company again. Markets re-open and gardens beckon. Housework takes a back seat (at least at my house), and the outside world shines in the spotlight. The labour it takes to make it sparkle is all worthwhile when you can step back and see the results.
Sometimes we have to put in the effort to make other aspects of our life shine too.
For the last few weeks my weekend ministrations have been balanced with plenty of excursions away from my desk during the week too. There have been field trips with my children’s school (Festival of Trees, Kusterman’s berry farm, track and field), as well as events with clients (Aerial Rescue Training, tree planting). They are good fun and a perk of working from home, as I get to schedule in time to socialize with others aside from just my cat and the plants in the garden.
Don’t get me wrong. Working from home is great when you can fit in activities like that, but when they are few and far between, life can sometimes feel isolating. So that’s why when I was handed a business card of a fellow local freelance writer by her husband at one of the events I attended recently, I jumped at the chance to contact her. I have to admit I was a wee bit nervous that she wouldn’t appreciate my email…
“You gave my card to who? What were you thinking?!”
But was pleasantly surprised when she seemed excited to connect. We all know the perks of working from home (set your own hours, freedom to schedule appointments at your convenience, blah, blah, blah, etc), but the drawbacks can be pretty tough on occasion too (isolation, hard to make new contacts, etc.).
So after emailing back and forth a date has been set to meet for coffee this week. And I can’t wait to meet her. I hope to find a kindred spirit, inspiration, a new motivator, possible a new beta reader or editor, and hopefully a new friend. Making new contacts isn’t always easy, but it is worth the effort if I can build my writing network.
How do you handle working from home and the inherent isolation it can bring?