18 July 2014

Creating a community, the simple way


Today we have a beautiful guest post from Naomi on community. I'm particularly passionate about this topic and love hearing her insights into simplifying relationships, which can often be complex things.

Creating a community, the simple way. 

I talk a lot about community and relationships in my inner circles. I’m afraid I speak too openly about it in my online groups, maybe so much so that people tune me out?  It’s just that I feel SO strongly about the power that is harnessed when you bring together a group of people (let’s talk just about women here) for the greater good. 

Sometimes the greater good is a purposeful afternoon for working on crafts or projects together. Sometimes it takes on the image of support and tears. For other moments, the greater good is specifically inspiration and motivation. 

But how do you create community when those relationships feel elusive? Maybe you move around a lot. Whether those relocations are cross-country or across the ocean, any upheaval of the roots of a friendship can be damaging.  Maybe you have lost your tribe and community due to the simple passage of time In some instances, the prior hand-holding and shoulders available to lean on just didn’t fit anymore. Sometimes community falls apart also because you (or others) restructure their priorities. 

When I share my ideas with others on finding friendships and locating a community, the first question is “But I don’t want all of the fuss of networking events, morning coffees and awkward playdates.” 

Simplicity doesn’t mean that things fall in your lap naturally. The notion that you can create something so important as your tribe without investing any work is one we need to work on dispelling. Simple living doesn’t mean EASY living. 

  1. Notice the mothers that are at drop off at school in the morning. Reach out of your comfort zone and ask four of them to come to coffee later in the week. Keep it laidback and offer coffee and tea, as well as a boxed package of biscuits. Don’t let the imagined pressure of having home baked goodies sway you away from simple hosting. 
  1. Begin a Stitch’n Bitch group. These were one of my fondest memories of a community from when my children were younger. Gather women who have projects to do, rotate homes and offer the children a play date while you work on your projects together. The projects can be researching an upcoming vacation, paying bills, organizing photos or knitting a scarf!  Those hosting don’t lift a finger, and those attending bring goodies. 
  1. Join or create a Cooking Club … if you truly want a simple community, choose a once a month date, and rotate who brings the recipes and the ingredients. Make your monthly gatherings a way to explore cuisines, gather around the kitchen and break bread together. If you want to be a bit more focused, consider a community cooking group where you take turns literally cooking for each other (Monday of week one, I cook four sets of meals and deliver three … then the remaining three weeks on the Mondays, I get my dinner delivered!). 

I have a whole host of other ideas and thoughts when it comes to creating community but the most important piece of the puzzle is this: 
Make yourself available, as you are today. 

Don’t struggle to change yourself, rearrange your interior d├ęcor or go out to buy new things just to host a group of your potential people. What if you create an open ended coffee morning on the first Monday of the month and just see what happens? What do you have to lose? 

Create a space in your home that you feel comfortable in. Then, trust that you can welcome your guest in – whenever that doorbell rings -- and allow them to experience all you have to offer -- simplicity, honesty and vulnerability.  

Inside of that space you can begin to create a community that will create a lasting imprint for those you have surrounded yourself with. Those that you attract are often the exact people you happen to need in your own life. 



If you’d like more practical ideas on creating community, email me at naomihattaway@gmail.com 

Naomi is married with three littles (one in elementary, one in middle school and one in college).  After living in several states in the United States, her family moved overseas to Delhi, India and then Singapore. Now back in the United States and living near Washington D.C., she enjoys making an impact - even if only with a small corner of her world for the better.  She blogs about relocation, life with itchy feet and living your best life at www.naomihattaway.com 

14 July 2014

Brighteyed & Bloghearted: My Interview with Rachel Macdonald


You've heard me mention here and there how much I loved studying in Brighteyed and Bloghearted, the ultimate blogging and copywriting course from Rachel Macdonald. It closed right after I joined but has opened up today and as an affiliate and student I wanted to share my experience.

In celebration of Brighteyed and Bloghearted reopening it's doors for a short while, I also have the opportunity of interviewing its founder, but first here are my thoughts :)

Blogging know-how rooted in real-life experience
Rachel's background is in PR, working for 10 years in the corporate world. Her experience in digital communications is infused in Brighteyed and Bloghearted, in every module.
She's also a fully booked Life Coach and Blog Coach, working with women around the world. This means the course has lots of insight for entrepreneurs.

On top of that, she's a pro blogger. She managed to quit her job and become a fulltime work from home Coach slash author slash in-demand speaker from her blog in almost record time. 

Insanely useful and actionable advice
When I signed up, I received access to preworksheets that made me rethink everything about what I write, why I write, who I write for, what my values are and how I can incorporate them into my site and social media. I wasn't expecting nearly as much value as Brighteyed and Bloghearted delivered even before the course started. My mind was blown that early on, and that's saying something as I have been a freelance writer and blogger for years. When the course dived in social media, I assumed I would know most of it as I have a consulting business that deal primarily with social media strategy, but I was wrong: Rachel goes into Facebook's algorithm issues, when to post on where, and other in depth elements about social media that impressed me. She also makes great app suggestions.

Clarity
The number one thing I got out of Brighteyed and Bloghearted was clarity, that feeling where you understand blogging and how it applies to you, and what you can do with it. How you can remain authentic and yourself while not comparing yourself to 'big bloggers'. 

Jam-packed with wisdom on transitioning from blog to biz

The blogger I recommend would be best suited for investing in Brighteyed and Bloghearted would be the one trying to transition to a business, or who wants to market their current business through their blog. In reality any blogger would benefit from the course, whether you have a ministry, nonprofit, or just want to reach a larger audience.

There are extra bonuses especially for coaches too, so if you happen to be a coach of anykind you will especially benefit. 

Community
Not being a fan of forums or groups, I didn't plan on interacting much in the Facebook community, but after checking out the different dialogues going on in there plus the useful feedback I was soon asking questions and connecting with other bloggers across the world. It is by far the most supportive online group I've encountered. 


Layout and Modules
Brighteyed and Bloghearted contains an array of PDFs, audio mp3 files, videos, transcripts, and templates plus custom spreadsheets. There are six modules plus the preworksheets and bonuses and the private facebook community. 

Each module has a video, one or two audios, a typically large PDF to study ( gorgeously designed I might add) plus worksheets based on the PDF, and for some spreadsheets to track your social media and networking endeavors. 

Topics covered include:
SEO
Copywriting
Social Media Strategy
Branding
PR
Networking
Affiliate Marketing for Bloggers
Creating an Infoproduct
Marketing Services On Your Blog ( coaching, consulting, etc)



 Interview

Rachel MacDonald is a life and blog coach, soul-centred writer and speaker, and was selected as one of Problogger’s ‘Top 15 Bloggers to Watch in 2013.’ She is the co-author of Spirited: Soulful Lessons on Clarity, Connection + Coming Home (to You) andSpirited 2014 Companion: Spirited Solutions to What’s Holding You Back and created the mega-popular six-week blogging ecourse Bright-Eyed & Blog-Hearted.
With unwavering enthusiasm, electric insights and a whole lotta heart, Rachel guides passion-fuelled women out of fear and uncertainty, and into lives and businesses they love (and truly desire).
Today Rachel talks with us about authenticity, how to get more traffic to your blog, and how Coaches can market their services through blogging.
SS: First off Rachel, thank you so much for giving us this chance to get to know you better! Your journey to blogging began a few years ago and now we are just rockin' it. Was there ever a make-break point for you when you wanted to quit but kept going? How did you get through it?


RM: Gratefully, when it comes to to blogging, there hasn't been. I honestly can't imagine NOT doing this. Almost daily, I'm humbled by this journey. 

There have definitely been creative and energetic ebbs and flows over the three years that I've been blogging, and riding that sometimes disconcerting wave involves a spot of surrender, a hefty dose of compassion and time away to reenergise and recalibrate. It's pretty extraordinary what can shift quickly (often in a day or two) when we embrace, rather than push through. (One of my favourite blogging and life lessons learned to date.)


SS: As a both a Blog Coach and Life Coach, I'm sure you get a lot of clients who are health/life coaches and want to generate leads for their coaching business. What are your top tips to help them grow their businesses through their blog?

RM: I sure do. A couple of handy tips for any coaches amongst us: 

Show up consistently. Create useful, compelling content that speaks to, and serves the needs of your audience. Also, ensure this content is the content you want to write. We'll feel your genuine passion.  

Be visible. On social media as well as in Facebook groups and on other blogs via guest blogging or interviews. If the plan is to grow your business through exposure, these are perfect ways to showcase your expertise (by generously offering feedback in groups) and reaching new audiences filled with your dream readers. 

Build your list. My first batch of clients all came from my mailing list — loyal readers who had opted in to hear more from me, and who were then very interested in taking things a 'step further' by signing up to work with me one-on.one. 

Consider creating products. Products are a fantastic way of building your profile, establishing credibility and asserting expertise on a particular topic (and are generally a great list builder too.) 



SS: Brighteyed and Bloghearted is so fantastic and got me thinking about how bloggers need to take both branding and design more seriously. How important do you think personal branding is as far as a blogger is concerned? How much of their lives and quirks do they need to be sharing on their blog?

RM: I think the answer differs from person to person depending on the individuals intentions and what they feel comfortable sharing with the world. We all have unique values around intimacy and transparency, so my suggestion is to draw your personal 'line in the sand' and review it every six months or so.

Vulnerability and 'humanness' connects us. The beauty of blogging is that we have the freedom to share openly and purposefully in ways that we previously may not have had the ability to, but this freedom also brings with it a responsibility (to the self, and to others if they are being written about if that's the case.) 

Obviously it depends on the content of the blog, but I definitely resonate most when there's at least some insight into the person behind the screen — wisdom gleaned from the trenches, when shared artfully and authentically, is golden. 


SS: The bane of most bloggers I talk to is traffic. They feel their page numbers are not enough to pitch advertisers or sell their own products. What tips do you have for helping bloggers get more traffic and a thriving audience?

RM: I'm going to skip back to the answers in the second question for this one, and add that getting up to speed on the SEO basics is a winner — and not half as mind-boggling as expected. 

Also, along with guest posting on other sites, opening your own site up to guest posts by quality writers can drive new traffic your way, as can 'shouting out' people in your posts and tagging them on social media or dropping them a quick email. I've started some beautiful relationships this way. 

Like Facebook pages with tens of thousands of fans and hardly any engagement vs. pages that have smaller fan bases that are super engaged and full of enthusiasm, I think having 'the right traffic' is key. And building that list! 

You can find out more about Rachel and Brighteyed and Bloghearted here.

13 July 2014

Our Roadtrip To Penang



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Everything was pitch black. The bus driver had turned off all our lights so that passengers could sleep ( which Kaya thankfully did) and all that lit our way through the mountain studded road to Hat Yai was a few dimly lit streetlights. I couldn't sleep. Seeing the absolutely stunning shadows of Krabi's almost alien like mountains mesmerized me for hours. I still couldn't sleep when we neared Satun ( where I drove a few weeks back). The wanderer in me couldn't let go of the landscape and cityscape that came our way.

At 4:30AM we were at the Thai-Malaysia border and needed to wait in the bus until immigration opened. That part was somewhat eventful as the handful of other passengers on the bus had to visa issues, and we had to change over Kaya's visa onto her new passport. There were hoards of sleepy tourists in line to enter Penang. 

I was beyond thankful when we pulled up to the Banana Hotel in Georgetown. There were apparently two Banana hotels in Penang and we were wondering if ours was the cool one ( it was booked by the travel company) and indeed it was. We were greeted by Edwin, a friendly guy who gave us the low down on breakfast, check in, and our room. I made a beeline over to the breakfast buffet and loaded up on those awesome potato triangles things as I hadn't eaten dinner the night before so was ravenous. Kaya and I then scoped out the interior which was filled with Chinese antiques and housed a koi pond. 

This trip was not planned. Last minute our immigration lawyer ( who rocks) told us we had to go with her to finalize our visas ( last visa trip we will ever do, which rocks!!). I dreaded getting on a 6 hour bus after I just did it only a few weeks ago, but Billy and I discussed us flying back instead of doing the bus again, and since it was a nighttime roadtrip I gave in. Spending 6 hours in a confined space with a 6 year old is not my idea of fun, as after ten minutes it's ARE WE THERE YET?? and I get a panic attack. She started crying on the bus right after we got on as she wanted to sit next to our friend but the seat was taken; thankfully the little one fell asleep shortly after and the rest of the journey was peaceful. 

Over the course of two days, we stuffed ourselves with Indian food and salty lassis ( yoghurt drinks). Kaya befriended two little girls at the internet cafe slash car rental La Belle , located near our hotel. She was there literally all day long! She refused to leave and the family was so friendly they wanted her to stay. Meanwhile I strolled Georgetown with my camera and made frequent trips to get durian icecream and poori ( fried Indian bread similar to chapati). 

We were extremely sad to leave this time around. I must admit none of us were big fans of Penang in this trip, and I credit the change of mind to where we stayed. We love Georgetown and can't wait to go back!