Time Blocking Tips for a Super Simple Weekly Schedule | Feeling overwhelmed by all the things you have to do? Not sure how you’re going to get them all done? This post will help! It includes 12 productivity hacks for entrepreneurs and bloggers to help you simplify your week and get tons of stuff done, PLUS a free time blocking template. Click through to see all the tips!

Weekly Time Blocking Template for a Super Simple Schedule | Feeling overwhelmed by all the things you have to do? Not sure how you’re going to get them all done? This post will help! It includes 12 productivity hacks for entrepreneurs and bloggers to help you simplify your week and get tons of stuff done, PLUS a free time blocking template. Click through to see all the tips!You know what every entrepreneur has in common? We all use a weekly schedule. We also have a gazillion things to put on the schedule and not enough time to get to everything.

But feeling scattered, flustered, and generally overwhelmed can be one of the worst feelings, especially when you feel like you’re doing everything *right* to take your business to the next level.

Having a to-do list that crushes you – instead of you crushing it – is just not going to work.

A while back I shared the block scheduling template I use to organize my week and get things done.

Hands-down, that is my most popular post to date. So if you feel like you’re juggling too many things, you’re not alone, sister.

So today, I’m sharing a handful of things that will help you get the most benefit from the time blocking template and block scheduling in general. My goal is to help you get everything done in a way that makes you feel calm, centered, and in control of your week.

Now, you may be thinking That’s easier said than done, Sandra! Been there, done that.

I hear ya. There’s a way to make sure you stay on track with your schedule, and a lot of it has to do with how you manage time blocking, which I’m going to show you how to do that right now!

Click here to download the time blocking template and start planning your week.


First things first, we need to set some goals so that we have a clear focus:

1) Create a high-level plan

Before we start time blocking, it’s important to have high-level goals and milestones in mind for what you want to achieve. If you’ve followed my last post, you already have or are working on your 12-month plan (at a minimum, your 3-month plan). This will make is so much easier to plan your week, because you’ll have clearly-defined focus areas and priorities.

When you’re creating goals and milestones, there’s no need to be super specific. That will come later. What you’re aiming for here is to get a bird’s eye view of your business and the general things you should working on.

2) Make a list of tasks

Next up, break down your big vision goals into weekly tasks so you can start achieving them.

Yep. I’m sayin’ it again because I really want you to get this. Make sure you set tasks for each of the four buckets from our Blog Profit Plan (content, traffic, subscribers, profit).

Beyond that, the most important step here, and what you can’t forget to do, is to prioritize the tasks on your work schedule template. Some things on your list will be a high priority and others not so much. Your high priority tasks are the ones you MUST do, no excuses! That means when other things come up, you postpone them or put them aside so you can address the things you absolutely have to get done.

I know, so much easier to say than to do! This is one of those things that will make a world of difference if you can stick to it.

Essentially, you’ll be breaking down your tasks like this:

  • Must-do: will take over 2 hours
  • Must-do: 1-2 hours
  • Must-do: 15-30 minutes
  • Nice-to-do: over 2 hours
  • Nice-to-do: 1-2 hours
  • Nice-to-do: 15-30 minutes

If you want, you can use different colors for must-do vs nice-to-do tasks so you can differentiate them.

Let me clarify one thing that will help you get the most benefit from time blocking:

Nice-to-do tasks are just that: it would be nice if you can get to them. That means it would be a major perk if, once you complete your must-do’s, you have extra time to crush these too.  If you don’t get to them, no sweat. You’ll simply roll them over to the next week (I’m going to show you how to do that next).

Must-do tasks get scheduled first. Nice-to-do’s get put on the calendar next. With me?

3) Start time blocking

Nothing makes you feel more defeated than when you have a million things to do and at the end of the day you haven’t gotten to one of them. No more of that noise with time blocking, k? We’re going to know how much we can really get done on any given day so that we can feel pumped and excited!

How do we do it?

Great question! First off, we’re going to create time blocks for each task.  Then, we’re going to get very specific with what we plan to do and make sure we account for every minute of our workday.

HEAD’S UP. You want errrrthang in there. Even personal tasks.

So if your daughter’s play date is on Wednesday at 3 pm, make sure you block out time for it. Dropping shirts off to the cleaners on Tuesday? Block it out, baby! You’d be amazed at how much you can get done when you put it ALL on your calendar.

It you want, you can use my time blocking template to create your weekly schedule. Click the image below to download it.

Download my Time Block Template to help you increase productivity and get even more stuff done each week!


I want you to be super successful with time blocking. In the next steps, I’m sharing productivity hacks and tips that will help get the most benefit from it.

Let’s start working the template.


4) Schedule must-do’s when you’re most productive

This one’s a biggie: Schedule must-do tasks during your most productive hours.

Are you a night owl? Block out time to create content at night. Do you like to do your deep work before the world wakes up? Make sure you use that time to do the things that ONLY YOU can do. Don’t waste it on checking your email or Instagram.

5) Schedule tasks at the same time each day

Let’s say you like to create content in the morning, break for lunch at 1:00, and manage client projects and meetings in the afternoon, and workout at 6:30pm.

These are called recurring tasks. Try to block out the same time for them to give your days structure and help you get into a routine.

For instance, I spend ten minutes on social media in the morning, and another ten minutes at night when I’m catching up on Hulu. I also like to coordinate with my team in the morning. I spend the rest of the day creating content and working on client projects.

I recommend planning everything on your weekly schedule template like this, even those events that involve other people (that you can’t reschedule or cancel). Think of them as “recurring events” and plan them at the same time.

6) Include everything that might pop up

This is jumping off from the previous step.

What derails my schedule more than anything else are the things I forget I need to do. Like running to the bank, working out, picking up a prescription, going to Home Depot. I call them the incidentals.

Incidentals need to be on your schedule. Otherwise, you’ll think you can write that entire blog post today but whoops! You can’t really. That oversight bleeds into the next day, and the next, and so on.

Once you start getting off track like this, it’s easy to feel defeated. Better to plan for everything and set yourself up for success.

7) Focus on one task at a time

Whatever you do, stop multi-tasking. Right now! There’s no way you can email a client, jump on Facebook, create an Instagram image, schedule your social media, and write a post at the same time.

So stop thinking that you can, friend!

Instead, focus on one thing at a time. It’s on your time schedule template, which means you’ve made it a priority and identified that it needs to get done. Now it’s time to follow through with it. This is where done means done (not “almost done”, not “about to start”). Force yourself to finish one task before you move on.

And if you don’t get to the next task for two weeks, that’s perfectly okay.

8) Give yourself enough time to complete tasks

Some of your two-hour tasks will wind up taking you eight hours. Heck, you may not even finish them today.

Those gaps that can mess up your schedule and make you feel defeated, even when you’re crushing your to-do list.

The best way to avoid this is to be as accurate and realistic as you possibly can. Make sure you block out enough time for each task. Then pad in some wiggle room.

For instance, if you plan on spending two hours to create a lead magnet, block out four hours for it. If you don’t know how long something will take, triple your time estimate. Let’s say you need to schedule time to outline your first course. Instead of blocking out two hours, block out six hours.

Whatever you do, don’t trick yourself into thinking you can get an eight-hour task done in three!

I speak from experience on this one:

I’d block out three hours to write a post because I wanted to write it in three hours. To this day, my posts take me between five and six hours to write. And I’ve tried so many tricks to speed things up. Never happens, friend!

Point is, by wishing I could write my posts faster I would load up my schedule with more tasks:

  • Write post: 3 hrs
  • Social media graphics: 1 hr
  • Lunch: 1/2 hr
  • Create a freebie: 2 hrs
  • Record a video: 2 hrs

Can you see how going “overtime” on any one of these tasks can throw out your week, in a minute?

Try to be realistic when you’re using the time blocking template.

9) Turn off your cell phone and email

Like the plague!

Let’s face it, it’s waay easy to get distracted. I even find myself LOOKING for distractions.

I’ll check my junk mail, Pinterest, Facebook, Instagram, anything I can get my hands on. I’ll remember the eggplant lasagna recipe I want to try. That I forgot to text Laura. That I need to call John real quick.

We’re all victims of shiny object syndrome, especially with new tasks. When it’s too far, large, hard, confusing to tackle, we start reaching for busy things so we can feel like we’re being productive.

Being busy does not equal being productive.

So close your email, turn off your cell phone, and log out of Facebook and Instagram (yep, even the apps).

Don’t turn them on until you get your deep work done. You need to focus on what’s in front of you so you can get it done.

Your texts and emails will be there later. Promise 🙂

10) Review and reschedule

There will most definitely be tasks you can’t get to. You can count on that. 🙂

Whatever you do, don’t get flustered by it. That’s why we’re throwing a time blocking party. Woop Woop!

At the end of each day, review what you got done and reschedule anything that you didn’t. This way, you’ll wake up fresh the next day, ready to pick up where you left off.

Psst…Make sure you block out time to review your schedule. It usually takes me 15 minutes at the end of the day to review my schedule and shuffle things around for the next day.

11) Train your friends + family

You have your week schedule template, but let’s be real. You’re a one-person team, and only you know when and IF you need to get something done.

Remember, you’re answering to yourself now. Your friends and family may not think the time spent on your blog biz is valuable. Or, maybe they think working from home means you can run to the dry cleaners anytime you (they!) want.

(This is especially true if your biz is new and you have yet to earn money from it.)

Here’s where you have to play two roles:

Role one: Employer
Role two: Employee

As the employer, you decide which tasks need to get done. As the employee (hey there, that’s you too!), it’s up to you to get them done.

The only way you’re going to reach your goals is if you make them happen, so say no to random asks that interrupt your schedule.

You’ll likely get push-back here. But if you say no long enough, the asks will stop coming and this step will get a whole lot easier. Pinky swear.

12) Organize your workflow

This is a biggie. Much bigger than I thought initially.

Where do you keep all the ideas that pop in your head? Do you use Evernote?

How do you manage projects/team/tasks? Do you use Trello or Asana?

What about your files? Are they in Dropbox, and if so, how well are they organized?

Having a cluttered desktop is the enemy of an effective weekly planner template, including the time blocker. I know this to be true.

I’m notorious for creating a new Word doc for every new idea (gotta jot it down quick, right?). When I see them on my desktop the next morning, I’m instantly overwhelmed and flustered. It’s a whole different ball game when I take the time to place the docs in folders that make sense, with names that I recognize and understand.

I recommend coming up with standard workflows for all things administrative – right down to naming conventions – so you have what you need, where you need it, and when you need it (not a minute before). This will help you approach your day with a clear head so you can knock items off your list quickly.

If you want, you can use the time blocking template I created to help you plan your weekly schedule. Click the image below to download.

Download my Time Block Template to help you increase productivity and get even more stuff done each week!

There you have it! What’s your favorite time management tool? Have you tried time blocking?


How to Plan Your Schedule with Time Blocking (Plus a Video Tutorial!) This post includes time management tips and time blocking template, plus a step by step planner and video on how to use time blocking to plan your schedule and increase productivity. Click through for the template! #timeblocking #timemanagement #productivityHey there, friends!

You know what we all struggle with as entrepreneurs?

We have way too much to do and not enough time to do it. It gets even harder if you’re juggling a full-time job, school, a family, and other *life* things on top of running your online business.

So today, I’m sharing five quick time blocking tips to help with time management. This post is a follow-up to my original post on time blocking, where I explained:

  • What time blocking is
  • How to use a time blocking calendar
  • A simple process to break down high-level goals into smaller ones

Here’s a link to that post in case you need a refresher:

How to Increase Productivity and Get a Massive Amount of Stuff Done

If you’re curious, time blocking is a process where you create a visual calendar of your to-do list. Here’s an example:

The Time Blocking Template

Now, since my original time blocking post still seems to be popular, I know you’re like me and wrestling with a growing to-do list (probably tired of feeling defeated by it too, amirite?).

So in this post, I’m sharing simple time management tips to help you use the time blocking calendar effectively.

I made mistakes at first and had a hard time sticking to my schedule. A few of those mistakes are:

  • Underestimating how long things would take
  • Planning too many tasks back to back (aka task-shifting)
  • Trying to get everything done in a week

My hope is that these tips will help you follow through and feel excited about everything you’re getting done!

If you want to use the Time Blocking Template I created for you, you can download it right here: 

Download my Time Blocking Template to help you increase productivity and get even more stuff done each week!

These tips will be super quick…you can probably do them in less than 10 minutes each…

1. Plan your week ahead of time so you can hit the ground running.

You know what will make you feel great on Monday morning?

Having an action plan and a clear focus on what you need to get done.

So every Sunday, set aside some time to plan your week.

It won’t be set in stone, don’t worry. Think of it as more of a high-level view to make sure you can get everything done. And that you’re focusing on the stuff that matters.

You’ll be updating things as you move through the week…

2. Focus on 1-2 work-related tasks a day.

If you’re using the time blocking calendar the way I recommend, you’ve got EVERYTHING on there…biz time, family time, school, work, meals, errands…all of it.

And that’s great! They need to be in there.

But sometimes we think we can do things faster than we can.

(Write a post in an hour, anyone?)

And you may be tempted to schedule more than you can do – partly because it looks good on paper, partly because you’re not sure how long it will take, and partly because you just want to get it done.

But there’s only so much time in the day! We can’t get to everything…

You may even have a full-time job or family to take care of outside of running your online business! And there’s nothing worse than feeling like you’re falling behind on things. Bleck.

So don’t try to be a superhero when you plan your week. Schedule just one or two “work” things a day and then immerse yourself in getting them done.

Oh, and make sure the things you plan will grow your business, not just eat up your time.

Which leads me to…

3. Cross off things that eat up your time each day.

When you think about it, there are only a handful of things that will really impact your business. Those are things like:

    • Creating content (free and paid)
    • Client projects and meeting
    • Creating products
    • Planning workshops and events

Sounds pretty straightforward, right?

Ahh, if it weren’t for those sneaky time-crushers…

The Facebook ping you have to check…
A message you forgot to send…
An email that just popped in…

But let me ask you a question:

When is the last time you read an email that positively impacted your business? (except for mine, *wink)

The thing with emails is, most come with their own agenda.

So if we’re being totally honest, you only need to check it 1x a day, and that’s just for sanity’s sake.

Which means you can block out time for email + admin stuff, say, on Fridays. Or first thing in the morning. Or whatever.

Then after that…

Shut it all down and get to work. Don’t let distractions stop you from growing your business.

4. Take 15 minutes to plan your day tomorrow.

Make sure you block out 15 minutes a day to review your progress.

(should be the last thing you do each day)

That’s when you cross off things you got done, reschedule things you didn’t, and update tomorrow’s schedule so you can crush it again without wondering where the heck you left off.

And here’s the REAL magic of reviewing your day…

Once you see what you achieved (vs what you planned), you start to become a ninja planner. The best part is, you get real about how you’re spending every minute of your day.

For example:

Sometimes I’ll *pretend* to start working at 8:30am but not really do much until 11.

That’s two and a half hours, friend…

We can’t waste time like that!

5) Quick Recap

Plan your week on Sundays. Then, at the end of every day, review and update tomorrow’s schedule.

Cross off things that are time-suckers. And don’t worry if you don’t get to something. Or if something needs to drop off your list completely

Because the goal of time blocking is to help you get better at:

  • Estimating how long things will (really) take
  • Planning enough time for complex projects
  • Squashing multi-tasking
  • Working in your passion zone
  • Getting more of the right stuff done

One last tip before I sign off, make sure you block out 15 minutes between tasks. Every time you switch gears, your brand needs time to catch up, and that will help. 🙂

Here’s the Time Blocking Template again if you want to grab it: 

Download my Time Block Template to help you increase productivity and get even more stuff done each week!

Wondering how to start a business while working full time? I've got 9 side hustle ideas to help you make money online as quickly as possible.Are you finally ready to launch your freedom business? I’m so excited for you! Entrepreneurship is one of the most enriching things you can experience in life, and I can’t wait for you to start your journey…

Now, I totally get that you can be wildly thrilled about starting your new business and STILL have a hard time staying motivated with a 9-5 gig weighing you down.

Maybe you’re wondering if it’s even possible to start a business while working a full-time job…

Or, maybe you’re wondering how to go about it in a way that sets you up for huge success today and tomorrow

Lately, I’ve been getting start-up questions from the wonderful members of my Facebook group (and from you guys). Here’s what I’ve been hearing:

  • How do I manage going to school, starting my business, and a social life?
  • I work a full-time job and then come home and spend time with my three children. By the time they go to bed, I’m wiped out. How do I squeeze in the time for my business?
  • I feel like I’m not getting anywhere with my business idea. What should I do differently?

Sound familiar?

If you’ve been struggling to launch your side hustle, you’re in luck! Today, I’m sharing strategies to help you carve out the time (and stay motivated) to make it happen, f’real.

Before we dig in, what I’m covering here can apply to just about ANYTHING you want to launch…a new business, a new product, or a new service.

So whether you’re just tossing around business ideas right now, have been at it for a while, or are gearing up for a new product launch, I’m hoping you’ll find something of value in this post. 🙂

#FULLDISCLOSURE My only stint as a 9-to-5’er was the year I launched my temporary tattoo business (my most successful business to date). I’ll be using that experience as a reference, plus what I’ve learned from starting up businesses while running a full-time business.

Believe me, I feel your pain. It can be hard to find the time. Hard to juggle everything. And, most importantly, hard to know when you should ditch the 9 to 5 for good.

Before we dig in, I created a business plan template you can use to create a roadmap for your new biz! Just click the button below to grab it.

Grab Your Creative Business Plan Template

PLEASE NOTE: In order to be able to edit and customize it yourself, when you’re viewing the template go to File and Make a copy, or you can simply download it as a Word doc or copy and paste it to your favorite program!

Grab your Creative Business Plan Template so you can get started mapping out your freedom biz and reaching your goals!

So let’s dig in and see if we can make heads or tails of it all, k?

1) First, hold on to your day job for as long as you can.

There’s no way around it, you’re going to need a cashflow. The last thing you want to do is to jump ship on your job without having financial security.

You’d be walking into a train wreck:

  • You’d start feeling desperate
  • Go into “survival” mode
  • Make the wrong business decisions
  • Scramble to look for another job

The good news is, there’s A LOT you can do to start your business while you’re working full time. At a minimum, aim to have these things complete before you sign off on your job:

  • Market research – make sure you understand your target audience and what they want
  • A working brand identity – the bare essentials are all you need (logo, business card, website)
  • An online presence – be active on at least one social channel
  • Your first 10 blog posts – you want to launch with a handful of posts
  • A minimum viable product – can be a physical product, digital product, or service offering

2) Next, save your money.

Try to put aside at least six months of income before you leave your day job. This will help you make objective decisions and give you enough time to navigate earning an income from your business.

If you can save a year’s worth, even better.

3) Start with the right business idea.

This one’s a biggie.

In fact, it’s such a biggie that I’m going to create a workshop on business ideas – how to weed out the duds, sort through the noise, and choose the right one…

Here’s why:

Your business idea ALONE can literally make or break your success.

Take it from me on this one! I’ve been *around the world* when it comes to launching businesses and can finally tell the difference between a good business idea and a bad one.

The last thing I want is for you to put in the hard work upfront, only to lose your enthusiasm when the ROI takes longer than expected and you can’t sustain an income.

Besides, nothing spells buzzkill faster than not making money.

Let’s say you’re married with two kids and a demanding job – one that requires your full-on attention. At night, you like to spend time with your kids before they go to sleep, which gives you two hours to work on your business idea before you clock out. You decide to spend that time learning how to code so you can start your web development business.

Can you see what’s wrong here?

Starting a business is SOOO hard! Don’t make it even harder by learning a new skillset before you even start!

Here’s the thing:

You probably have about 15 hours a week to work on your business. In that time frame, you’re going to need to see REAL progress to stay motivated. Otherwise, overwhelm and defeat will start to creep up on you. Slowly at first. Then bam. Like a ton of bricks.


It’s much easier to start a business based on what you already know. Look at your skills, research the market, and find the place where they intersect. That’s your success path.

4) Be all in.

Total immersion or bust, that’s my motto…

You’ve got to be “all in” on your business idea and make a conscious decision to succeed with that vs your job. Then shift your mindset to make it happen.

Here’s how that plays out in the real world:

  • You stop being an over-performer at work.
  • Let others get promoted instead of you.
  • Work on your logo during lunch.
  • Design your website when you have downtime.
  • Set the alarm an hour early to get your creative juices flowing.
  • Write your business plan instead of reading emails and texts.
  • Create a Facebook page instead of “socializing.”

You get my gist. When you’re all in, every minute counts and you get to work…

5) Forget about Plan B.

Now, I know this may go against every grain in your body. But it’s true.

Back-up plans make you lazy. They keep you fearful and second guessing. They make you settle for so much less than what you were born to do in this world.

If you really, REALLY believe in what you’re doing, there will be a tipping point…

When every bone in your body screams I can’t do this anymore!!

When your future’s in limbo and you’re stuck between your day job and your biz…not getting anywhere with either one.

Now, I don’t have a specific date or milestone for you, but it will be sometime after you create a foundation (step #1 above). When you’re ready to make real money and can’t possibly do it in your current situation.

That’s when it will be time to leave your 9 to 5.

6) Establish clear priorities.

Starting a business takes deliberate focus and attention. If you back-burner it, you’ll risk not reaching the finish line.

But hey, when you really, REALLY want something, you don’t back-burner it, right? You make it a priority.

You inherently *get* that you won’t be able to have your cake and eat it too. Not today, anyway. So you start de-prioritizing other things.

Maybe you don’t go to every party. You hang with your friends less. Or, you get your spouse to help with the kids. Can you cut down on the number of hours you work? Heck, maybe you can look for part-time work rather than full-time!


You say No more than Yes.

(I’ve been saying no for a looong time now, *wink.)

But you know what? You’re EXCITED to make the sacrifices today in exchange for your FREEDOM tomorrow.

#HEADSUP Your friends and loved ones may not be keen on your newly-found priorities at first. But if you can hang in there, they’ll get on board. Promise.

7) Develop a routine that you can follow.

Set a minimum number of hours each week that you will work on your business idea. Then use a time blocking calendar to set specific time slots each day.

(Don’t forget to look for “hidden hours” you can squeeze in, say, during or after work.)

Now, when it comes to sticking with your routine, I’ve got two strategies for you! These will be especially helpful on days when you feel extra stressed and ANYTHING BUT motivated.

First off, plan your week every Sunday.

When you’re crystal clear on what you will be doing and when – down to the tiniest details – you’ll be more inclined to show up and execute on them.

But when it’s Wednesday and your brain is fried already, THEN you have to figure out what the heck to work on, you know what happens?

You put it off ’til tomorrow.

And then…

You stop seeing consistent progress…

Which makes you less motivated to work on your business idea…

So you put it off again…

Then you’re off to Procrastinationville! Don’t go there, friend. Plan ahead and stay on track.

Psst…What can really help with time management is my time blocking template below. If you want, you can use it to create a *visual to-do list* and block out your entire week.  Include everything…work, kids, school, social, and your biz, so you know exactly how much time you’ll have to focus on your business idea each week. Totally helps beat procrastination because you can see how much time you really have available!   

Download my Time Block Template to help you increase productivity and get even more stuff done each week!

Second, understand your work patterns and when you feel the most creative.

For example:

Instead of trying to do your deep work during the week, plan simpler tasks like:

  • Designing your logo
  • Creating a social media image
  • Drafting a blog post

Set aside Saturday or Sunday for projects that require more brainpower (like products and content).

It also helps to develop rituals and “pay-it-forward treats” to help you get in the mood to work.

Do you like meditating first thing in the morning? Staring at your computer with a cup of coffee? Watching TV? Give yourself that treat BEFORE you start working. During this transition time, visualize WHY you’re going to haul yourself up and work. Imagine what things will look like on the other side.

For me, listening to my music gets me all pumped and fired up to work.

What’s your thing? Think about what excites you to do the work, then do that every day before you get started. When you follow the same routine and consistently put in the work, you’ll be motivated to do even more.

8) Spend more time doing and less time planning.

It’s easy to fall into the trap of over-planning and under-executing.

To avoid that, give yourself a time slot for planning (preferably on Sundays). Leave the other time slots for doing. Then hold yourself accountable to show up and get them done.

It can also be tempting to think Since I won’t get much done in an hour, I’ll wait until the weekend when I have more time.

This is dangerous territory for so many reasons (step #6 above).

When you put it off today, the next thing you know you’re blowing off an entire Saturday or Sunday. I mean, if you didn’t make it a priority on Monday, why should it be a priority on Sunday, right?

Wrong. You’ve got to make it a priority e’erday.

Even if Monday morning all you do is stare at your laptop for an hour, the fact that you’re sitting there reinforces your commitment to your business. Plus, trust me. You won’t be able to stare at your screen for an hour! You’ll get bored in 15 minutes and start digging in.

9) Focus on the process.

It’s easy to feel defeated when things take five times longer than you expected (which ALWAYS happens!).

Instead of focusing on the end goal, focus on your daily progress. Keep a journal or use the time blocking template so you can feel good about what you’ve accomplished.

When you review your progress like this each day, something else starts happening…

You know what you REALLY need to work on the next day.

(which can look a lot different than what you planned on Sunday.)

More often than not, we *think* we can do A, B and C when we can really only do A. Then we get bummed and feel like we accomplished nothing!

Setting unrealistic expectations usually comes from being fuzzy about how long A, B or C will take in the first place. When you start tracking your progress daily, you’ll know how long things REALLY take and be able plan your time more accurately.

Then you keep on doin’.

10) Find ways to get less (other) stuff done.

There are things you need to do and things you don’t need to do.

For example:

When I get the urge to create a family picture wall in my hallway (something I’ve been wanting to do for some time now), I think about how long it will take. Then I ask myself if I really need to do it now. Or if it can wait.

Calculate how much time it will take you – door to door – to go shopping, run an errand, and so on. Do you have that time to spare? Does it really need to get done? What could you accomplish in your business in that time?

Plus, let’s be real for a sec. Every time you switch gears, your brain has to play catch-up. You’ve got this delay thing happening that turns four hours into six.

You know what your brain says next, right?

I’ll just work on my biz tomorrow…

And it’s off to Procrastinationville again.

The good news is, you can use these steps to get back on track quickly. 🙂

That’s a wrap! What strategies have you used to start a business while working full time? I’d love to hear them!


Simple productivity systems for busy bloggers to help you streamline and scale your business! It includes time management tips, goal planning ideas, goal planning tips for bloggers, business goal setting, and productivity hacks to help you get more done in less time, plus a free goal setting planner.Have you tried time blocking to help with time management?

I was introduced to it a while back and let me just say, total game-changer.

Seeing what I had to do each day, down to the minute, made me feel like a productivity goddess.

I finally had an intelligent way to organize my list and a system that accounted for everything, even things I always forget like exercising, taking breaks, and running errands. I’d even gotten into a routine of blocking out the same time every day for similar tasks, which was like, whoa. I thought for sure that would 10X my productivity right there.

Problem was, my perfect time blocking calendar still didn’t translate into a perfect 40-hour workweek.

I still had more to do than I could manage and was struggling to get everything done. I’d go from writing a post, to working on a project, to meeting with clients, to working out, to writing my blog post again.

Sound familiar?

Most of us know that multi-tasking doesn’t work, but it’s hard to stop trying!

I think I finally nailed it this time, though.

I figured out why time blocking ALONE isn’t the answer, and why we need a whole new productivity paradigm. In fact, today, I’m putting our entire concept of productivity under a microscope and giving it a face-lift.

Here’s what I’m covering:

  • Redefining what productivity means
  • The power of short-term “sprints”
  • The right way to drill down on your goals
  • How to stay in your Passion Zone (more on that in this post)
  • Life-saving systems that you can’t do without

Let’s dig in.

Step 1: Time to redefine productivity.

The standard definition of productivity is some variation of: a measure of output per unit of input.

Now, this input/output formula might work for machines but not so much for humans. It’s turning us into robots, y’all! All we care about is getting more done, and quick like.

I’m a huge fan of productivity but we seriously need to flip the switch on all this.

Imagine what it would feel like to spend LESS time getting MORE done! That’s what we’re shooting for. And the best way to do it is to establish criteria for our to-do lists.

Time to shrink ’em down, friend.

I know you may be thinking How can I even think about trimming down my list? Things need to get done and I can’t just drop them!

I’ve got you covered! We’re going to create a plan to find your freedom and increase productivity at the same time. I want you to be able to work in your sweet spot 24/7 and still get incredible amounts of stuff done.

What we’re aiming for is a better process to manage your workweek, so that when tasks pop up (and they always do!), you run them through these four filters before adding to your calendar:

  • Is this something YOU need to do?
  • Does it need to get done AT ALL?
  • Is it a priority?
  • How can you outsource it?

These next few steps will give you a framework to do just that.

Step #2: Set short-term goals.

Everything starts with goals . . . the trick is to set the right ones.  Here’s a quick exercise to help you do it:

Grab a piece of paper and write down five things that ONLY YOU can do for your business. These are things you can’t outsource even if you want to desperately!

I’ll bet sharing posts on Facebook and creating images aren’t top-of-mind, amirite? The reason is that when we dig deep, we know the difference between busy work and real work. We just need a little structure to help us act on it.

That’s where goal setting comes in.

In my mind, the best goals are short sprints over a period of, say, three months. Far away enough to allow you to focus and really dig in, and close enough to see the end goal.

Here’s why I say this:

As a short-distance runner in high school, I’d leap ahead of my teammates and sprint straight to the finish line. But longer races? Eeeks, I was a mess. I’d either run out of breath after the first mile or drop back because it kept going and going, with no end in sight.

I thinking building an online business is a lot like running. We need to see the finish line to keep our momentum going. Three months is a perfect sprint. 🙂

So my question for you is: What sprint are you in?

If you’re a bit stumped with what your goals should be right now (most of us could use a nudge to validate and act on our instincts), it may help to look at your business in sprints, like this:

  • Launch Sprint: Launch your website and brand
  • Hustle Sprint: Get traffic, subscribers, and clients
  • Growth Sprint: Create courses, products and funnels
  • Profit Sprint: Automate and scale

Each sprint has its own strategic focus and priorities (more on this in my DIY-Your-Biz Blueprint).

For example:

If you’re in the Hustle Sprint, your goals are to get traffic, subscribers, and clients. Everything you do in this sprint needs to support your goals. That means when other things pop up, you put them on a waiting list or delegate to a team member.

Bonus: I created this simple planner to help you put what you learn into action and clarify the goals for your next sprint. Click on the image below to get started.

Use the 90-Day Blog Planner to set goals so you can get to your next level quickly.

What if you need to rerun your sprint?

Great question!

That’s perfectly okay . . . Rome wasn’t built in 90 days. In fact, I ran the Hustle Sprint for the better part of 2017. I’d run it over and over until I hit my traffic and subscriber goal.

Today, I’m in the Growth Sprint and have to admit, feeling a bit out of my comfort zone. I’m creating courses instead of blogging and have less time to develop infographics and content upgrades. And it bugs me to see my traffic fluctuating when I know I can easily increase it.

I also know I can catch up to it later. I read once that women can have it all . . . wonderful kids, an abundant career, amazingly supportive family . . . just maybe not all at the same time.

That applies to building a business. One sprint at a time, yo.

Step #3: Drill down on your goals.

Here’s where you start getting specific. In the Hustle example above, your goals might be to:

  • Get 5,000 subscribers
  • Hit 10,000 pageviews
  • Win three $10K clients

From here, it’s time to figure out the specific projects and tasks that have to happen to hit your goals. If we break these goals down, your individual tasks might look like this:

  • Write blog posts
  • Create share images
  • Create infographics
  • Share on social media
  • Join and share to Facebook Groups
  • Share to Pinterest Groups and Tribes
  • Create content upgrades
  • Do keyword research
  • Add keywords to blog posts (on-page SEO)
  • Look for guest post opportunities
  • Create YouTube videos
  • Start a Facebook Group
  • Message potential customers in Facebook and LinkedIn Groups
  • Join and share to LinkedIn Groups
  • Host a giveaway
  • Do a webinar
  • Make connections on LinkedIn
  • Create email sequences, landing pages, and opt-in forms
  • Create cold email sequences to potential customers
  • Find stock images (or take original photos)

Phew! This quick list just keeps growing – I’m sure it can even double from here.

Can you see the problem here? Even when you use amazing tools like the time blocking template below, you’ve got two things to add to your list for everyone one you check off.

Not anymore, you passion-zone-goddess, you! You only have to choose five tasks. My picks would be:

  • Write blog posts
  • Create content upgrades
  • Host a webinar
  • Do keyword research
  • Add keywords to blog posts

I chose the first three because content needs to come from you. Those last two, keyword research and SEO? Every entrepreneur should know how to optimize content for both organic search and social media. Traffic is the lifeline of your business, and the last thing I want is for some SEO’er to get your site penalized by Google.

If you want, you can use the time blocking template I created to put this new productivity paradigm to the test. Click the image below to download.

Download my Time Block Template to help you increase productivity and get even more stuff done each week!

Step #4: Next up, what can you outsource?

A wonderful member of my Facebook group was having a hard time staying consistent with social media, especially sharing to Facebook Groups and Tribes.

Sound familiar?

When this happens, you’ve got two choices:

  • Create systems and workflows (step #5 below)
  • Hire a virtual staff to assist

Now, you may be thinking It’s too early on to hire an assistant! I still have a full-time job and am not even monetizing my site yet!

I hear ya! It can be hard to bite the bullet. This is one of those things you should do early on in your entrepreneurial career. Hiring virtual assistants is the smartest move I ever made. They are life-savers! If you don’t have one on your team yet, stop what you’re doing and hire one.

Generally speaking, virtual assistants fall into these roles:

  • Video editing
  • Web design
  • Graphic design
  • Social media management
  • General VA (GVA)

First of all, that last one is the person every single employee should have on your team. My GVA is the person I lean on day to day in my business, and she helps me more than any other employee!

The other thing I’ve come to respect and acknowledge is that no one person can wear every hat. To maximize the potential of your team, you want to keep every employee working in their Passion Zone.

It’s best to hire a general assistant for daily admin tasks, a graphic designer for all things graphic, a video editor for courses, screencasts, and YouTube videos, and a social media manager.

Some tasks you can outsource:

  • Social media
  • Moderating Facebook groups
  • Content promotion
  • Graphic design and images
  • Adding tags and images to blog posts
  • Publishing blog posts
  • Proofreading posts
  • Ebook design and layout
  • Opt-in form design
  • Promoting Facebook pages
  • Monitoring Twitter accounts
  • Sharing to Tribes
  • Sharing to Facebook Groups
  • Creating spreadsheets and worksheets
  • Miscellaneous tasks
  • Creating and editing landing pages
  • Outreach on social media
  • Research guest post opportunities
  • Invite LinkedIn connections
  • Researching user-generated content
  • Scheduling to Instagram

Where can you find virtual assistants?

Great question!

Upwork, Facebook Groups, and online marketplaces like onlinejob.ph are places where you can find extremely talented employees.

Pro tip: Effort in = effort out when it comes to building your team. Be explicit with what you expect and provide clear job descriptions upfront. Whatever you do, don’t expect employees to figure out what to do on their own! Record training videos, hold weekly Skype calls, and use time tracking software. Thank me later. 🙂


Step #5: Create systems and workflows.

If you can create a system for what you want to achieve in each sprint, you can reach your end goals a lot faster, and stay in your Passion Zone for the entire race.

And the best part is, you can rinse and repeat over and over again to keep hitting massive goals with your next sprint.

Kick-butt systems = Insane time-savers

Funny, even the simplest system can make big tasks seem small. Here’s an example:


Duh, right? Seems like an obvious thing to number your Dropbox folders.

Alas, only in hindsight! I picked this gem up from Amy Porterfield. You’ll be amazed how fast you can breeze through folders when they’re organized like this.

Here are other business systems I use every day:

Google Spreadsheets

My secret weapon! I use spreadsheets a million times a day.

Anything you can do in Excel you can do in Google Spreadsheets  . . . format text, merge cells, freeze columns, clip text, customize fonts, import colors, create formulas, add borders, add/delete rows . . . and then some.

But what really sealed the deal? I can instantly share spreadsheets with my team and track what they’re working on, what needs to get done, and who’s slackin’ off (kidding).

Here’s how we use spreadsheets:

We have one master marketing sheet that includes multiple spreadsheets for everything we do, including:

  • Tribes tracker
  • Facebook Group promo threads
  • Blog Promotion
  • Product promotion
  • Pinterest keywords
  • Keyword Research
  • Blog ideas
  • Sales funnels worksheet
  • Hashtag worksheet
  • Pinterest Groups tracker
  • LinkedIn Groups
  • Images to create
  • Old blog posts
  • Online Biz Superheroes threads
  • Best pins / tweets
  • Affiliate programs
  • Income tracker

Want to see spreadsheets in action? I created this blog promotion worksheet you can start using today:
Download the Blog promotion worksheet to get traffic to your blog.

Every project or task gets its own spreadsheet where my team and I collaborate, track progress, and brainstorm new ideas.

For example:

Once a month, we grab quick stats on Pinterest Groups and Tribes and document them on the sheet. Then, we use that data to drive our pinning strategy and track share dates to each group/tribe.

Can you see how much time that saves?

No more scratching your head wondering why or when you shared a pin. And the best part is, you’ll only be sharing to tribes or groups that drive traffic.

Same thing for keywords and hashtags. You want to have them at your fingertips, ready to post. When your GVA asks which hashtags to post on IG, just point her to the spreadsheet. Check.

Templates, templates, templates!

You need them, friend. Alot of ’em! The more templates you have, the faster you and your team can get things done.

I recommend you keep templates for these on hand:

  • Landing pages
  • Opt-in buttons and forms
  • Share images
  • Social media profile images
  • Ebooks and printables
  • Email marketing

What tools should you use to create them? My vote is Canva or Photoshop for image templates, Canva or InDesign for Ebooks and printables, and hands down, ConvertKit for email marketing.

Related: How to Create Branded Social Media Images in Photoshop

A Content Calendar

Having a hard time figuring out what to post on social media?

Wish you had a system to plan your content so that you always have something to share?

A content calendar is a tool I’ve come to appreciate BIG TIME. One thing’s for sure, a content calendar will help you post consistently, organize your blog ideas, set monthly social media goals, plus gather images, keywords, publish dates, and deadlines all of your content.

The best part is, you get a high-level view of every piece of content you plan to share so you can coordinate it with important events, promotions, and products.

If you want, you can download this free content calendar template and start using it right away.

That’s a wrap! Hope you guys have your best sprint ever!



6 Easy Ways to Drive Traffic to Your Content And Your Business | Struggling with how to get more people to download your free checklist or template? This post is for you! It includes 6 tips to help promote your content and grow your email list. Click through for all the tips!Now that you’ve developed a super valuable ebook or checklist, you can sit back and wait for people to find it, right?

Hah! If only it were that easy.

Now it’s time to let as many people as you can know about it so that they can find it.

This is where having a content promotion strategy comes into play. Here are a few steps you can follow to drive traffic and get the best possible results for your lead magnet.

1. Create a landing page

The first way to drive traffic to your lead magnet is to create a landing page for it. This should be a simple page on your website with a description of your content and a form so people can provide their email in exchange for the download.

The landing page should let people know exactly what they can expect to receive once they click. Ideally, you’ll remove navigation and other links from the landing page so that readers have only one thing to focus on: the “submit” button.

Here’s a sample landing page to use as a guide:

landing page example

Once you have the landing page, you’ll need to create a call to action button or CTA. This button is different from the download button on your landing page. You’ll use this CTA throughout the rest of your website to drive traffic to the landing page.

Make sure the design of the call to action is unique so that it stands out from other elements on the page and captures people’s attention immediately. Do some A/B testing to find out which combination of colors, fonts, placement and size are most effective in getting people to click.

The best way to grab the reader’s attention is to use actionable verbs such as “Download Guide Now” or “Get the Report”. People need to know quickly what you want them to do, and if you use passive text such as “Report” or “Guide”, they may not get it right away. Be as clear and direct as possible with your call to action.

Here’s an example of a CTA:

Call to Action example

Notice how both the CTA and the landing page include an image of the book so that when people click through, there’s a clear connection. Visitors know immediately that they’re in the right place. Taking that a step further, it’s important to use consistent messaging, titles and naming conventions as well.  For instance, if you call it a “guide” in your CTA, don’t use the word “ebook” on the landing page. This is a small but important detail that can make a huge difference.

2. Place the CTA on high performing pages

One of the easiest ways to promote content is on your website.

If you have Google Analytics installed (which you should), you can easily see which pages are most popular and get the most visitors. Chances are good that your home page tops the list, so be sure include a prominent CTA there.

Don’t forget to include CTAs on your blog posts too. You may drive tons of traffic to your website through your blog pages, but if you don’t engage visitors once they read your article, you’ve got a missed opportunity.

A natural “next step” for readers to take is to download an ebook or guide that’s related to the blog post. Since they’re already engaged with your content and in “research” mode, there’s a good chance they will click on your offer in order to learn more.

Place the CTA in the right sidebar of you blog and within the article itself, either early in the post or at the end of the article.

Even though the bulk of your CTAs should be driving traffic to content, it’s okay to drive people to other pages on your site as well, as long as they’re related. And every now and again, use a call to action to your services or product pages. Some readers may be ready to purchase and want to learn about what you offer.

(NOTE: Want to create content that turns visitors into customers and grows your list by thousands?? Get my Irresistible Lead Magnet Checklist.)

Turn existing traffic into leads and more sales with my Irresistible Lead Magnet Checklist!

3. Email it to subscribers

You’ve got an email list. Use it!

Once you’ve developed your ebook or checklist, create an email campaign to let your subscribers know about it. Make sure your email includes the benefits of your freebie and answers questions that people will most likely have about it.

Keep in mind that each freebie you create may not be relevant to everyone on your mailing list. The more targeted your email, the better your conversion rate will be. You first need to segment your contacts and create targeted lists for each piece of content.

You also want to differentiate the content you offer existing customers from what you offer other people. You might offer one ebook providing special value and detailed information for customers and a more general introductory one for leads.

Emails can be simple text, like this one:

Email example

Or HTML with images and graphics like this one:

HTML email

Your HTML email can include an image of your ebook, a short description and bullet points highlighting the information. Once readers click through, they’ll be taken to your landing page with your opt-in form. Be sure to include share buttons on your email as well as your landing page so that subscribers can share your content with their connections.

4. Share it on social media

The same way that you use your social media profiles to share blog posts, you have to make people aware of your premium content. This may take a little extra work, but with the right social media strategy you can drive traffic to your content that rivals search engines.

Here’s a sample sequence for social media sharing:

  • Tweet about it. The first day your content is available, tweet about it 3 or 4 times and include a picture of your ebook and a link to your landing page. Don’t forget to include 2 or 3 hashtags as well.
  • Share it once to Google+. The best way to comment on Google+ is to use a bold, eye-catching title and short paragraphs that describe what your book is about. At the end of your commentary, ask people a question to start a conversation about it. Just like Twitter, you’ll want to include 2 or 3 hashtags. Once you’ve shared it, +1 your share to start the ball rolling and encourage others to share. You only need to share it on Google+ once on the first day.
  • Share to LinkedIn. Copy the Google+ commentary to share to your LinkedIn profile and groups.
  • Share to Facebook. Post the same commentary to your Facebook profile, business pages, and any groups.
  • Schedule additional tweets. Tweets are gone in a second, so use Buffer or Hootsuite to schedule more tweets for the first week. Keep your tweets fresh by tweeting something different each time and using different hashtags. Tweet an excerpt once, then tweet your thoughts about the book, ask a question, point out key takeaways, and so on. Make sure you add a picture of your ebook with a link to your landing page.

Once you create a following, you’ll have more visibility for your book. As your followers share your posts with their own connections, you should see a substantial boost in traffic. This type of social media sharing is what creates viral landing pages.

5. Create a Facebook Contest

Facebook contests are a powerful way to gain exposure and place your ebook in the hands of new audiences.

You’ll want to create a brand page for your ebook with the same information you included on the landing page: title, key points and benefits, bullet points, and so on. Include a link to your landing page on your brand page.

Once your page is up and running, it’s time to attract followers who will engage with your content and download your book.

Here are a few tips for creating your contest:

  • Make the entry steps simple. The shorter the entry the better.
  • Use an actionable CTA. (“Download the report here”, “Get the details”).
  • Include a great visual of your ebook. Use the same one you shared to social media profiles.
  • Promote the contest. Announce it on your website, on social media and to your subscribers.
  • Keep the enthusiasm going. Contact winners personally and announce your next contest to keep fans engaged.

6. Reach out to influencers

Guest posting on well-known blogs is a powerful way to drive traffic, especially if your own blog doesn’t have a lot of traffic already. By reaching out to influential bloggers, tweeters and brands in your space, you can reach their followers and generate qualified leads from new audiences.

And it’s not as hard as you think, especially when you offer an ebook that is packed with great information. There are many bloggers who like to share content that is relevant to their audiences.

The first step is to find top blogs and influencers in your niche and in your target market. In case you don’t already know, influencers are trusted authorities in their field and highly active in social media. Their content is always top quality and they’ll have a lot of followers. Once you find the blogs, you’ll want to subscribe to them.

You may have to do a little digging to find popular blogs that your ideal customers read. Technorati is a great source for finding popular blogs in your space. For influencer research, try Followerwonk or Little Bird.

Pro tip: If you haven’t already, try to find a way to include some targeted sources in your ebook. Mentioning influencers in your content gives them an added incentive to want to share your post.

Once you have your list of influencers, it’s all about the outreach. When emailing people, keep it personal, short and to the point. Make sure you answer these 3 questions right away:

  • What are you pitching?
  • What’s in it for me?
  • Who are you and why do I care about your brand?

If the outreach isn’t getting the response you expect, be persistent. It may be as simple as tweaking your subject line, or you may need to send two or three emails before you hear back. It’s a good practice to split test different subject lines to see which ones perform best.

And finally, don’t spend time creating the post until you have influencers interested in your topic. Your goal is to find compelling subject matter that both connects with their audience and relates to your ebook.

As with all marketing, influencer outreach is a number’s game. You have to reach out to at least 100 influencers if your goal is to target 10 or 20.

Key Takeaways

Putting a content marketing promotion strategy into action will drive traffic to your content, more targeted leads and and more sales. The best part about following these steps is that your content will always be working for you, from the moment it’s published and over the long run.

(NOTE: Want to create content that turns visitors into customers and grows your list by thousands? Get my Irresistible Lead Magnet Checklist.)

Turn existing traffic into leads and more sales with my Irresistible Lead Magnet Checklist!

How to Start an Online Business While You're Working Full Time, plus grab the free business plan template. I've got 10 ways to start a business and creative business tips to help you make money online. Side Hustle Tips / Creative Business Plan #startup #makemoneyBuilding an online business is hard work. There are a lot of moving parts and it’s on you to push them all forward so you can grow and scale quickly.

So you’re always on the look-out for marketing tools that can save you time and help you get more done.

Here are seven marketing tools that can automate many of the tasks involved in promoting your business. Read on for the best-of-the-best and start putting tedious marketing tasks on autopilot.

1) Blogger Outreach Tools


When it comes to growing your blog or business, blogger outreach can help you increase your SEO rankings, build backlinks to your website, and find influencers and joint venture partners to promote your products and services.

Problem is, link building and blogger outreach can take a serious amount of time. You have to do things like:

  • Find interesting blogs
  • Search for contact info
  • Write a personalized pitch (not a must, but you should)
  • Manage responses
  • Follow up with non-responders

Every single one of these steps can take hours, which is why a lot of people give up. For an outreach campaign to work, you have to reach out to hundreds of blogs and publishers. Without tools to speed up the process, it can be hard to hang in there and follow through to get results.

Outreach tools can help by automating the process of finding websites, scraping them for contact info, sending emails, and following up.

Try these tools:


Pitchbox will help you find and send customized emails to bloggers, publishers, and influencers. Pitchbox pricing starts at $95 a month, so make sure you’re serious about blogger outreach before using it.

(Looking for a more affordable alternative to Pitchbox? Try Outreach Ninja.)


BuzzStream is another outreach tool worth trying. It’s a relationship and outreach CRM that lets you manage and grow a huge list of outreach campaigns. Be ready for a learning curve though….it can take some time to master.

For more on outreach tools, read this complete review of best blogger outreach tools for marketers.

2) Social Media Tools


Social media marketing can be hugely effective in promoting your business.

If only there weren’t so many channels to tackle! Nowadays, people use at least three social media channels. To reach your target audience at the right times on each, you’ll need to be sharing on multiple platforms throughout the day.

But let’s face it, you’ve got more to do than be *social* all day…

Just imagine trying to manually post to Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, AND LinkedIn…every day. You’d have to create two to three posts for each channel. Plus, design each post to grab people’s attention quickly.

If you’re already sharing posts regularly, you know how hard it can be to find content that resonates with your audience.

That’s where social media management tools come in.

Social media management tools can make you look like a ninja marketer, sharing custom variations of your posts on each platform – around the clock.

Tools to try:


Buffer is the perfect tool to use if you’re just starting out with scheduling.

And when you combine it with IFTTT, it can be a powerful way to fill up your Twitter queue with an endless stream of tweets.

What makes Buffer so popular is how easy it is to use. Want to rearrange your posts? No problem. Set a custom posting schedule? You can do that too. See which posts have the highest engagement? Head over to the analytics dashboard and you’ll see.

The best part is, Buffer is free for one account (up to 10 scheduled posts). From there, pricing starts at $15 a month for 8 social channels (100 scheduled posts per channel).


SmarterQueue is another popular scheduling tool that makes it easy to share original and user-generated content, all from one place. Import your Feedly bookmarks and RSS feeds, create categories for each type of content you share, and monitor your schedule with SmarterQueue’s weekly calendar.

SmarterQueue pricing starts at $25 a month (up to four channels).


DrumUp is a content curation and social media management tool that does the heavy lifting of finding content for you to share. If you feel like you’re spending more time than you have each week managing social media, DrumUp can save you hours.

Just enter a list of keywords and topics, and DrumUp will scour the web for interesting articles. From there, you can customize your posts and tweets with hashtags, emojis, mentions and GIFs.

Pricing starts at $15 a month.

3) Visual content creation tools


Many bloggers and entrepreneurs struggle to create stunning graphics – it’s one of those things that can really make you feel stuck.

Truth is, if you want to build a stand-out brand, your visual content has to have impact. You can’t get by with ho-hum graphics that blend in with the others.

And while there’s no simple workaround for creating visuals that make people want to swerve over, there are tools that can save you from hours staring at a blank screen, *gasp.

Tools to try:


Canva is an all-in-one design tool for creating social media graphics, ebooks, opt-in promo graphics, and more.

With Canva for Work, you can save branding elements, organize and manage projects, create shareable templates, resize designs, and more. Canva also has a huge library of elements, photos, and overlays to get your creative juices flowing.

Canva for Work costs $12.95 a month.

Psst…Check out these design templates and tutorials that will help you quickly create graphics that stand out and get noticed with Canva.


PicMonkey is similar to Canva, minus the pre-made templates. So while you’ll have to start from scratch, you can quickly build a library of custom templates from your own designs.

What makes PicMonkey unique are the photo editing features. Need to tweak a photo to match your brand? No problem. Just use one of PicMonkey’s effects to change the color and create a custom graphic that is uniquely you (a great way to breathe new life into old stock photos).

PicMonkey basic pricing starts at $5.99 a month.

Want to see PicMonkey in action? Here’s a step-by-step tutorial.


Want to really speed up things up? PromoRepublic may be the answer.

It’s a content creation, curation, and scheduling tool with 100,000+ pre-designed posts for just about everything…motivational quotes, trends, holidays, events…and more.

All of the designs are done for you and ready to share. Just tweak your posts using the graphics editor, then schedule them to social media. PromoRepublic can even automate Facebook and Instagram promotions to help you generate more sales for your business.

PromoRepublic pricing starts at $9 a month.

Headline Analyzer

CoSchedule’s Headline Analyzer tool will help you improve headlines and titles so you get more clicks.

For example, my working title for this post started out as:

7 Time-Saving Marketing Tools Every Savvy Blogger Needs
(score of 57)

After plugging it into the Headline Analyzer and following their tips and prompts, it became:

7 Powerful Marketing Tools You Should Be Using Right Now
(score of 72)

The best part? Headline Analyzer is 100% free.

4) Content Promotion Tools


Creating engaging content is only part of the equation when it comes to building an audience and driving traffic…

The harder part is promoting your content and getting it in front of your audience. You need a strategy for how and where you share your posts.

That’s where automated content promotion tools can help.

Content promotion tools are similar to social media management tools. They allow you to schedule and post to multiple channels at different times for increased visibility on each platform. Plus, you can see what your competitors are posting and use that to inform your content strategy.

If you need to drive even more traffic, content promotion tools can point you in the right direction by showing you the types of content that perform best in your niche or industry.

Tools to try:


Quuu is a content curation tool that hand-picks content for you to share on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.

It also has a sister site, Quuu Promote, that works in conjunction with Quuu by promoting your posts (as suggested content) through their community.

Quuu pricing starts at $15 a month.
Quuu Promote costs $40 a month for one piece of content.


If your niche is marketing, Zest is a Chrome extension that can boost your traffic. Just submit a post, wait for the Zest team to review and approve, and start promoting.

Zest is free to use.

5) Keyword Research Tools


(not an automation tool but a must to grow your business!)

Since you’re already doing the hard work of creating content on the regular, it makes sense to take an extra step and optimize your posts and pages so that people can easily find you on Google.

Keyword research tools can help you optimize your existing posts, plus understand what your audience is actively searching for. You can use this intel to create future posts that address their queries.

In this way, keyword research is good not only for SEO, but for attracting more of your ideal customers to your business.

Tools to try:

Adwords Keyword Planner

The Adwords Keyword Planner has gone through changes recently but is still a strong keyword research tool, especially for bloggers who aren’t ready to spend money for keyword research (it’s free).

You’ll have to create an ad account and keep your credit card on file to access. Still, you can easily work around this by simply “creating” an ad campaign and pausing it.

Even when you add other SEO marketing tools to the mix, the Keyword Planner is helpful for finding related keywords to include in your posts.


KWFinder is a relatively new keyword research tool that is gaining popularity due to its ease of use and accurate data. You can also see the top ranking domains for each keyword on the same dashboard, which is convenient. Most paid tools offer keyword difficulty scores so you know what you’re up against, and KWFinder is no different.

One thing to point out with any tool, competition and search volumes for any keyword tend to be a moving target. So even though you may find a keyword with great ranking possibilities today, that may change tomorrow. Make sure you check each keyword in real time (vs. keeping a spreadsheet), so you know how much work you’ll have to do to rank your page or post.

KWFinder starts at $25 a month for 100 searches a day.

6) Email Marketing Tools 


Almost half of all customers are more likely to buy from a brand that stays in touch with them through regular emails.

And of course, you’re not going to manually email your subscribers one by one! You’re going to use tools to automate your campaigns and broadcasts.

At their most basic level, email tools allow you to send different emails to subscribers based on their engagement and behavior.

But they can do much more…

More advanced email tools can integrate with your e-commerce platform and send emails based on purchase or browsing history. They can help you improve sales by segmenting your list and sending emails based on actions your subscribers take.

They can also show you statistics to help improve the ROI of your email campaigns (subscription rate, unsubscribe rate, open rate, click through rate, and more).

Tools to try:

MailChimp is a great tool if you’re just starting to build your email list. You can send up to 12,000 emails to 2,000 subscribers for free each month.

MailChimp is free for up to 2,000 subscribers.

ConvertKit has sophisticated features that allow you to create tags, rules, and segments for your subscribers so you can build highly targeted and effective sales funnels.

For a complete tutorial on how to use ConvertKit for your business, read this post.

ConvertKit pricing starts at $24 a month for up to 1,000 subscribers.

7) Analytics Tools


You may be thinking that one marketing strategy is all you need to grow your business.

Unfortunately, that’s not the case.

You need to test multiple strategies to find the ones that work.

The reason is that your customers’ behaviors and needs are constantly changing. What they want today may not be what they want tomorrow. And the platforms they use today may not be where they hang out tomorrow.

Which means that what’s working for you today may not be as effective tomorrow.

Automated analysis tools can help understand what’s working where, how people are engaging with your pages and posts, which channels are most successful, and where there’s room for improvement.

A good analysis tool will track and display things like conversion rates, engagement, sales, refunds, and more.

The idea is to provide you with a comprehensive overview of the success of your efforts so you can make decisions going forward.

Tools to try:


Mixpanel tracks the actions or steps people take on your website, landing page, or sales page (watch a video, share a post, click a button).

Because it tracks more than pageviews and length of visit, it can help you learn which pages you need to optimize to drive more sales.

Mixpanel is free for up to 2 data points.

Facebook Ads Manager Tools

Facebook ads can burn a hole in your budget quickly, but with over 2 billion users, you can’t afford NOT to use them, especially if you host things like webinars and workshops.

To avoid exhausting your budget too soon, be sure to test your ad copy, images, targeting, objectives, and more.

Within the Ads Manager, you can create reports to measure number of leads, registrations, purchases, CPM, CPC, costs, and more.


LuckyOrange is a website conversion tool that will help you understand which pages people visit, how long they stay on your site, and where they drop off.  You can also use it to discover keywords and referrers that drive traffic to your site.

LuckyOrange pricing starts at $10 a month.

For a complete list of analytics tools across social media, read this post.

Wrapping it up

Why do the hard work when software can do it for you? Use the automated marketing tools listed here to free up your time so you can focus on everything else you need to do to grow your business.

What marketing tools are you using to promote your blog or business?


Attracting your ideal customers is all about knowing who they are, where they are and what motivates them. Here’s the low-down on how to use customer avatars to visualize their wants, needs & challenges (because when you can communicate the problems they have better than they can, they will automatically seek you out as having their solution!)

How well do you really know your ideal customers? When you sit down to write, can you visualize them in your head?

If not, it may be time to use a customer avatar worksheet, friend.

A customer avatar worksheet will help you zero in on your ideal customer so you can create content that is undeniably valuable to them.

If you’ve never heard of customer avatars before, they are semi-fictional representations of your ideal customer. Think of them as your customer. In the customer avatar template, you fill in basic info like income, gender, job title, and age. But you get even more granular and outline their fears, challenges, obstacles, and goals.

Using customer avatars helps so much because once you’re done, you have a core message that speaks to their needs and connects with them on an emotional level. And this core message is what you’ll use for all your future marketing.

In this post, I’m going to explain why you need to create a customer avatar before you start creating content. Then I’ll show you how to create one.

Here’s why you should be using customer avatars

Customer avatars start a conversation

We all can get caught in our comfort zone and slip into technical sales jargon from time to time. And most of us are comfortable using a first-person voice (“we”) instead of a second-person voice (“you”). As a business owner, this makes sense. You better than anyone know the history, intricacies and nuances of the products you offer.

The problem is that customers don’t really care, at least not when they’re still getting to know your brand. They care about what it means to them and whether or not you can help them solve their problem.

The more you can visualize your customers, the less you’ll talk about you and the more you’ll talk about them. You’ll start speaking directly to them with your writing about things they want and need to hear. And you’ll get better at creating content that attracts and converts them.

By putting a face to your ideal customer, your writing will naturally shift to a more conversational tone. You’ll start speaking to customers as if they were in the same room with you and be able to translate business goals into benefits that they can digest easily.

Customer avatars get you traction faster

If you’ve been blogging for a while without getting the results you need, it may be because you’re not creating content to attract the right people.

Will your content hit the mark some of the time? Sure. It will also miss the mark. And when you do attract the right customers, you’ll be left without a system in place to convert them into leads and sales.

Knowing who your customers are will take the guesswork out of your marketing strategy. You’ll be able to create targeted marketing campaigns that customers care about and like – with content that has the best chance of attracting your ideal customers, converting them into leads, and then nurturing that relationship until they close as customers.

Avatars deliver better quality sales leads

By creating content that attracts the right people, you can start to form a personal connection through email marketing, which will improve the overall quality of leads you have.

By understanding the needs, interests, and habits of your avatars, you’ll be able to create automated email marketing campaigns that nurture potential customers as they move beyond “getting to know you” and start to like and trust your brand.

Each touch point will encourage contacts to move deeper into your content. As people begin to evaluate products and services and move closer to a purchase decision, your content will reinforce their trust in you and keep your brand top-of-mind.

This gives you the opportunity to generate better quality leads and create customers that are well-aligned with your firm’s goals, values and objectives.

Avatars inform product development

If you truly understand what your avatars want, you can create great customer experiences and align your products with what they really want.

It could be a simple shift in packaging or an entirely new product that customers will respond to. Either way, the more you know who you customers are, the more you’ll be able to respond to their changing goals and challenges.

As you create products and services that respond to their evolving needs, you’ll reinforce their loyalty to your brand and be able to retain them as long-term customers.

(NOTE: Want my easy 3-step process to getting clear on who you’re selling to? Get my Customer Avatar Worksheet.)

Download the Customer Avatar Worksheet to get clear on who you're selling to.


Avatars helps you identify where your ideal customers hang out

Creating content and messaging that resonates with your customers is one step toward achieving marketing success.

Knowing how to reach them is another key step. Avatars give you insight into more than the pain points and challenges of your ideal customer. You’ll also know where they’re likely to spend time and get information online.

You can be more efficient with your marketing by putting resources into the channels that they’re already visiting.
If your persona spends most of their time on LinkedIn, you can explore using the publishing platform to share content with your connections. You can also experiment with participating in groups and even starting your own group specifically targeted to your customer avatars.

Avatars builds loyalty with customers

Customer avatars will help you create messages that put your customers first.

Potential customers will immediately sense that you care about what they care about rather than your own agenda.

Even though they may not be ready to buy today, they’ll become champions of your brand and remember you when they are ready to purchase.

Avatars help differentiate your brand

Positioning is about creating perceptions in the mind of customers about your brand. The goal of brand positioning is to carve out a distinctive place in the market and make sure customers have a reason to buy from you instead of a competitor.

If you want to influence the way people perceive your brand, you have to know that your products and services align with what your ideal customers actually want.

Avatars allow you to create a value proposition that will mean something to your ideal customers.

You’ll know where they shop, how they spend their time, obstacles they face professionally and personally, and concerns and fears they have regarding your product.

Not only will your value proposition be meaningful to ideal customers, but you’ll also differentiate yourself from other companies who aren’t using customer avatars to inform their marketing.

Unlike your competitors, your message will spark interest and curiosity instead of falling flat. You’ll evoke an emotional response and make an immediate connection with prospects.

How to create a customer avatar

1. Make a list of questions you’ll ask

All customer avatars should include some basic information as a starting point. Here is some information you’ll want to include:

  • Title
  • Age, gender
  • Company
  • Goals & challenges
  • Role at company
  • Buying habits and preferences
  • Personal background
  • How they measure success

Specific questions range from “What’s your daily routine?” to “What news sources do you read on the internet?”

These questions should be a baseline. As you evolve your customer avatars (which you should do every 90 days or so), you can dig deeper into intricacies and details specific to your audience and industry.

2. Gather your research

There are a few ways to get your questions answers so you can create your customer avatars.

The most straightforward is to select a handful of contacts who fit your criteria as an ideal customer and have them fill out a survey. Six to 12 customers will give you a good benchmark.

You can also ask your sales team and other client-facing members in your organization to gather insights and feedback they have on customer needs and interests.

This way you can uncover trends related to questions or comments people have relating to your product. By looking through your contact database, you can also uncover how people find you and consume your content.

If you don’t have existing contacts or leads for your research, create a prospect profile and then spend some time on LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook and Google + to find out more about the interests and behaviors of your target audience.

You can then build your customer avatars using educated guesses to start and then when you know more come back and refine them.

Once you have your persona questions answered, look for trends in the responses.

What positions do they hold and what is the age range? Do most live in the suburbs or in cities? What do they enjoy doing in their spare time? How frequently do people use social media, and which ones are they most likely to interact with? Do they answer the phone or prefer email?

Some common themes should start to appear that you can use to develop your avatar.

(NOTE: Want my easy 3-step process to get clear on who you’re selling to? Get my Customer Avatar Worksheet.)

Download the Customer Avatar Worksheet to get clear on who you're selling to.

3. Use the research to build out your avatar

Now that you’ve completed your research, use some common best practices to build out your avatars:

  • Keep your person fictional. It should be a composite profile of all the people you interviewed.
  • Focus on one primary customer avatar and let the others be secondary.
  • Create a story from what you’ve learned that tells the “why” behind their behaviors. Use the narrative to identify common objections to your products or services and what factors influence these objections. Depending on the role they play within the organization, objections can range from budget concerns to lack of buy-in from C-level executives to a fear of becoming irrelevant in the marketplace. Whatever they are, knowing the objections will help you overcome them and address future concerns regarding your products.

4. Next steps and execution plan

Update your marketing message

First, update all marketing materials with messaging that speaks to your customer avatars. This includes everything from your website to ads, landing pages, emails, print, and so on.

Every interaction that prospects have with your company should be tailored to your avatars and consistently reinforce your new message.

Your website design in particular must immediately engage your ideal customer. Understand what your ideal customers want to know the moment they arrive at your site and what information would be most useful to them.

Prioritize your web content accordingly, and make sure your marketing message is clear and easy to read. Place the most important information in the top navigation and above the fold of the web browser so people see it without scrolling. This way they will know they’re in the right place immediately, because they’ll see that you have what they’re looking for.

Tailor your content to your customer avatars

Your avatars will be the foundation for all of your marketing from here on out. We’re talking all of your copy and design. Your goal with everything you write is to address the needs and interests of your avatarss at each stage of the buyer’s journey.

Tailor your blog posts and premium content so that they speak to your customer avatars. Remember that you’re building relationships and use a consistent voice and language across all content.

Keep an eye on your Google Analytics so that you can see on blog posts, offers and landing pages are getting the most page views and engagement. Staying on top of these kinds of metrics will give you even more insight into your ideal customer. Every time you learn something new make sure to update your persona.

Based on these new insights, you may or may not need to update your messaging and content as well. Your goal with each iteration should be to close any gaps in your content, so that you speak more and more clearly and directly to your ideal customers.

Create landing pages to capture important information

For your premium content, you’ll want to drive people to a custom landing page that lets people know exactly what they can expect to receive by downloading the content.

The landing page will include a form to capture their information. At a bare minimum, you’ll want to grab the person’s name and email. But you can take it a step further and also capture persona information, such as job function or company size. This way you’ll be refining the customer avatars so that they more accurately reflect your target customer.

Get feedback regarding leads

Pay attention to your sales efforts so you know where your leads are coming from.

How many of the leads have you been able to convert into customers? Are there similarities in job function, revenue or other demographics?

As you refine your avatars, make sure you tweak your content and marketing message so that it continues to resonate and engage the right prospects. Refining and updating your customer avatars as you receive new information will shape your inbound marketing campaigns for success.

Knowing the habits of your avatar is key to reaching them when and where they are most receptive. For instance, if your buyer is most likely to check emails early in the morning or just before the end of the day, make sure you schedule your emails accordingly. If they tend to be on Facebook during lunch time, schedule your updates so they show up in news feeds at 12:30 in the afternoon.

Key Takeaways

If you jump right into blogging and content creation without using customer avatars, you’re simply placing tactics before strategy and throwing time and resources out the window.

The same way architectural drafts are used as a guide for home construction, as a business owner and marketing you need avatars to inform your marketing. They’re essential to aligning your products and services with needs of your ideal customers, and to aligning everyone within your organization to meaningful  message that resonates and delights your customers.

Every 90 days or so, measure the response to your content and tweak your customer avatars accordingly. Your goal is to close the gaps where you’re losing potential customers and to continue to deliver qualified leads.

(NOTE:  Get my 3-step Customer Avatar Worksheet to start attracting your perfect clients.)

Download the Customer Avatar Worksheet to get clear on who you're selling to.

Have you found gorgeous styled stock photography to use in your blog? Need some inspiration to create branded blogging pictures? You’re in luck! I’ve got an amazing Picmonkey tutorial that shows you how to edit free stock photography to fit your brand so you really stand out on social media. It even includes a free downloadable set of ULTRA beautiful, creative photography you can start using today. stock photo resources / stock photography ideas / feminine stock photosBy Aminta Demadura

Have you ever come across styled stock photos you absolutely love, and then wondered how you could make them fit with your brand?

I wondered the exact same thing.

And as it turns out, adding your own branding to modern stock photos is really easy!

Branding and customizing stock photos is a super important step in creating a unique business that your readers and customers absolutely love. This type of branding helps your followers relate to you, form a connection with you, and in the end, purchase from you.

So it’s important that your visuals represent who you are and what you do.

In this post, I’m going to show you how to create social media graphics that stand out above the rest using styled stock photos (and my favorite tips to customize them and make them your own).

Before we get started, let me show you the original styled stock photo we’ll be working with below:

super high resolution stock photos

If you’re curious, styled stock photos are created with entrepreneurs, bloggers, and business owners in mind. I like to think of them as “startup stock photos.” They’re incredibly handy when you’re starting out and don’t have the time, expertise, or space to take your own photos.

Styled stock photography makes use of props (office supplies, household items, plants, stationery, flowers, mugs, and so on), and can range from flat lays, to mock-ups, close-ups, and still lifes. And with the rise of free feminine styled stock photos, there are new sources popping up every day.

Let’s have some fun and see how you can make this image fit your brand.

1) Use Fun Filters to Brand Your Photos

My favorite free image editor is Picmonkey. If you’re a Canva fan, that’s fine too (I won’t hold it against you!), but I find Picmonkey to be more intuitive, easier to work with, and I love that it comes with SO MANY features.

In the images below, I added a simple filter to each of the photos. Specifically, the Yester-year filter and the HDR filter.

how to create social media graphics free

As you can see, a filter can really change the mood and vibe of a photo, which is perfect if you’re trying to add your own style to a stock photo. Picmonkey has many, many filter and effect options, so spend a little time going through them and find out what works best for your style and the photos you have to work with.

(If Photoshop is more your style, you’re gonna love this tutorial.)

2) Use Effects to Make a Photo Instantly Unique

Have you checked out Picmonkey’s effects yet? If not, you’re seriously missing out. Effects are the fastest way to make bold changes to a photo that really makes it your own. In this image, I used the sunglow effect to add a radiant center with a vintage tint to the original image.

startup stock photos

I love using these types of effects for social media, especially Instagram. Trust me, there’s nothing worse than finding a ton of other accounts using the same feminine stock photos as you in their feeds (hint: It’s not good for branding!)

And if you want to get really wild? Try layering two or three effects and see what you get. Many combinations look really cool together.

Effects are the fastest way to make bold changes to a photo and really make it your own.Click To Tweet

3) Gradient Overlays Are In

Here’s a fun one. If you want a super fast way to add your brand colors to an image in a unique way, try adding a gradient overlay, like this:

free open source stock photos


I always hear bloggers complain about how hard it is to find styled stock images that fit their brand colors. But the truth is, it doesn’t have to be!

With a little creativity you can take almost any image you love and customize it to suit your brand style. Make the gradient as light or dark as you want to get the right look, and know that if using a lighter photo, it may work best if you’re not going for that Lisa Frank look.

4) Take Horizontal and Vertical Crops of the Image

Depending on how detailed the original image is, you can easily squeeze another 10-20 images from it by cropping it in different parts of the photo:

feminine stock photos

Vertical crops are great for Pinterest and square crops are best for Instagram. You can also take horizontal crops like the one shown above to use in your blog posts and tweets.

On top of that, you can also create header images for Facebook, Twitter, and your blog by taking super wide but short crops of your image. How cool is that?

And if you want even more options beyond just cropping, try flipping, rotating, or changing the angle of your cropped versions.

5) Create Pinterest Pins that Stand Out from the Crowd

If we’re being honest, we all know it takes some amazing looking pins to really “make it” on Pinterest. They need to be bold, beautiful, and easy to read. They need to entice people to click through to your blog.

This is where making some savvy edits to free styled stock images can really help you make attention-grabbing pins.

how to create a pin in Pinterest

In the pin above, you can see that I added a filter to the cropped image to make it a little more artistic. Then I added a transparent white box, my brand fonts, and my logo to complete the pin.

BAM. You’re done.

6) Make Inspirational Graphics to Connect With Your Audience

Inspiring your audience and encouraging them to return to your blog over and over is a big part of any blogger’s job. You need to motivate and inspire your readers to really form that connection, and inspirational graphics can be a great way to do just that.

Thankfully, making inspirational graphics is easy and quick.

In the photo below, I simply added a darkening filter to the vertically cropped image that I extracted from the original. Then, I added a large white script font over the top of the darker areas to create a unique and attractive, inspiring image.

how to use PicMonkey for free

If you aren’t already, I highly recommend you try out this tactic on Pinterest and Instagram. Both platforms are super visual and people loooove inspirational images on them. Give it a shot – I promise you’ll see a little boost in traffic and engagement.

7) Feed the ‘Gram with Some Branded Squares

Does the thought of having to come up with yet another amazing photo for Insta ever give you a little anxiety? Yeah, me too. It takes so many photos to really grow a large Instagram following, and most of us just don’t have the time to plan, shoot, and edit that many photos.

If that’s your predicament, this tip will help. I recommend taking a bunch of square crops from different parts of your original styled stock photo (step #4, above).

Then, make them even more unique by flipping or rotating them in new directions, and adding filters and effects to really amp up the style. There are seriously hundreds of different possibilities you could make here, so spend about 30 minutes tinkering in a free image editor. You’ll be creating your own Instagram styled stock photos in no time!

8) Create Promotional Graphics that Make People Click

Once you have a product for sale, you’ll need to start spreading the word. Promotional graphics (used sparingly) on Pinterest, Twitter, Instagram, and other social media accounts will let your followers discover your new products and will help give you some social cred.

amateur stock photos


You can see from the image above that not only did I crop it, I also rotated it to a completely new angle. After that I added a pretty script font on top of an overlay to help promote the sale.

9) Make Twitter Images that Stop the Scroll

If you’ve been on Twitter more than once or twice, you know that tweets with pictures are waaay more noticeable than text-only tweets.

Standing out is an important part of gaining Twitter followers and encouraging your current followers to actually click through and read your blog posts. Images play a huge part in catching the eye and enticing the reader to click through. Not only that, but they also help to establish your brand and your professional image.

Lucky for us, making Twitter images is a cinch. I use Picmonkey’s Hub to save templates for each of my graphic types.

instagram styled stock photos

Once the template is there, all I have to do for each new image is go in and change the text and background image. Three minutes, tops.

Where Will You Go from Here?

Is your brain overflowing with ideas on how to doll up your own free styled stock photos? Once you’ve gone through the editing process a few times, you’ll quickly find that it’s really easy and makes a huge difference to the visual appeal of your business.

I highly recommend creating branded templates for Pinterest, Instagram, and Twitter using an editor like Canva or Picmonkey. Templates will save you so much time, and they’ll also help keep your branding on track. Good luck!

Before you go…

Don’t forget to grab your free styled stock photos pack right here! This pack is perfect for blog posts, Pinterest pins, Instagram posts, tweet images, and more. And of course, you can customize the photos as much as you’d like using my digital photo editing tutorial above.

Click the image below for your free high-resolution stock photos download:

free high resolution stock photos download


How to make your opt-in forms GDPR-compliant.Can we talk about the new European data protection regulations (GDPR)?

Because I think we need to.

I’ve been trying to put the whole GDPR thing off as long as possible, but it’s time to dig in, guys. And in case you’re late to the party like me, the regulation goes into effect this Friday, May 25th.

We have to catch up real quick.

Now, I won’t be doing a deep dive on what GDPR means for the future of email marketing or anything like that. I just want to help you understand what it is and share the changes I’ll be making so that my opt-in forms are compliant.

Disclaimer: These are only my interpretations of the regulations. This post is not legal advice. Please make sure you consult with your own legal counsel to help you make the right decisions about GDPR.

First off, what is GDPR?

GDPR isn’t really about email marketing, and yet it is…

Here’s why:

The GDPR is really about regulating how the personal data of EU citizens is handled. And since email marketing contains data in the form of email addresses and other contact info, GDPR most definitely applies to email marketing.

The regulations will give EU citizens rights about their data regarding:

  • What will happen with it (before they submit it)
  • Providing explicit consent before it’s collected
  • Knowing what data will be collected
  • Knowing why you’re collecting their data and how you plan to use it
  • The right to modify, update or remove their data completely

What do we need to do to be compliant?

For email marketing, the regulations translate to:

  • Tell people what you will do with their email address before they sign up
  • Let people see the data you’ve collected about them
  • Give them a way to modify their data and unsubscribe
  • Remove all data you have if they request it

Next, how can you make your opt-in forms compliant?

It’s no longer enough to say “Hey! Grab this awesome freebie” and then send people emails. That’s not GDPR-compliant.

The reason is that people are not explicitly agreeing to receive your emails. All they’re explicitly agreeing to is the PDF, so that’s all you can send them. And nothing else.

From here on out, we need to be more transparent with our opt-in forms and let people know we’ll be sending them emails.

Now, you could add a checkbox that says something like this:

[ ] I agree to receive the weekly newsletter.

BUT HOLD UP. What you can’t do with that checkbox is have it pre-checked by default! People will have to manually check it, which we all know is a pain.

Here’s what I’m doing to make my forms GDPR-compliant:

I’m not a big fan of checkboxes and prompts, so I’m going to tweak the copy on my forms instead. I’ll make it clear that people are signing up for my newsletter first and foremost, and the PDF as a bonus. Plus, I’ll add a link to my privacy policy.

As an example, here’s one of my current opt-in forms:

See how there’s no mention of a newsletter or regular emails? It’s all about the PDF.

Here are the changes I plan to make:

Here’s what makes this GDPR-compliant (as far as I can tell so far):

  • People know they’ll be “signing up”
  • My newsletter is mentioned in the text.
  • The main call-to-action is to sign up for my newsletter – the freebie is a bonus.
  • There’s a link to my privacy + terms.

A few other things I’ll be doing:

  • Adding a “modify my subscription” link next to the “unsubscribe” link in emails (so that people can easily update their info)
  • Double opt-in forms. It doesn’t look like this is required for GDPR…just feels like a best practice thing to do from here on out
  • Sending re-engagement emails to current EU subscribers
  • Applying similar copy changes to landing pages
  • Experimenting with the above form changes vs. segmenting EU subscribers (I may prefer to leave the opt-in forms as is, deliver the PDF, and ask for consent to my newsletter in the delivery email.

That’s it!

Again, this is just my interpretation of the regulations and how I plan to be compliant. I’m sure I’ll be tweaking my forms, landing pages, emails, and website as GDPR rolls out and things become clearer…

…and I’ll keep you posted on it all.

Over to you! What changes will you make to comply with GDPR? Are you all set? Or, is your brain still feeling a bit woozy from it all?

I’d love to hear your thoughts, feedback, and tips. Let me know in the comments so we can all benefit and make sense of the new regulation.

I’m off to change my forms. 🙂

15 Ways to Make Your Brand Stand Out | Struggling to attract your dream customers? Ready to stand out and get noticed online? This post was created just for you. It include 15 things bloggers and entrepreneurs can do to stand out above the rest and effortlessly attract your ideal customers. Click through to see all the tips!

15 Ways to Make Your Brand Stand Out | A step-by-step guide to help you effortlessly attract the right people to your business, including branding tips, personal branding tips, branding design, branding identity, and a customer avatar worksheet you can start using today! #branding #brand #personalbranding #designlovers

Does the thought of creating images, brand statements, and style guides put a big smile on your face?

I wrote this post a while back about creating a branding system for your business, and since then I’ve learned so many things that I can’t wait to share with you.

Now, to be fair, I can’t say that branding is my favorite topic just yet. To do it right, you’ve got to be relentless about every single detail and element. Ugh.

And does “branding your blog” even sound half as sexy as getting thousands of subscribers?

No to that…

But that’s not the question we should be asking. The real question is Why do we need to brand ourselves at all?

I’ve been thinking about this one for a while, and here’s what I’ve got:

  • First off, if we don’t define our brands, other people will do it for us, and that might not be a good thing.
  • If we’re going to stand out the way we truly want, branding is something we can’t afford to overlook.
  • Branding with purpose and intention will help us attract more of the right people to our blog.
  • We want visibility, baby!

We’re not building wallflower businesses here, k? We’re building climb-to-the-top-of-the-mountain, shout-me-loud brands that people notice.

So what are the things you can do to make sure your brand stands out above the rest? Let’s take a look!

1. Be consistent

This is one of the most important aspects of building a strong brand. There are a gazillion ways that people will find you and a gazillion different brands out there.

How do you rise above all that noise?

Pay attention to everything. Deets like your website, social media, fonts, colors, vibe, voice, the people you hang with, the emails you send, the way you respond to blog comments…all of it frames the way people think about you and your brand.

Your goal should be to present a consistent and harmonious brand image everywhere, online and offline.

For example, if you saw your pin in your Pinterest feed, would you immediately recognize your brand? That’s the kind of consistency and detail we’re aiming for!

The best way to stay consistent with your brand is to use The Build My Brand Toolkit and choose styles for everything…colors, fonts, images, social media, messaging, web copy…all of it. It’s like a “brand in a box” FULL of everything you need to build an epic brand that attracts your ideal customer. It may be just what you’re looking for! Learn more about The Build My Brand Toolkit.

2. Take a stand

You may not think this is an important step, and I get it. Trust me though, it’s a biggie.

Not only for the reasons listed here but because taking a stand will help you guide your brand in the right direction. Think of this as if you’re drawing a line in the sand between your tribe and everyone else.

Everything you do with your brand is going to etch that line deeper and deeper. With me?

Being 100% confident in what you stand for is one of the things that will help you effortlessly attract more of your dream customers. Those who heart what you heart will naturally be attracted to your brand’s purpose.

No better way to stand out than that, in my book…

3. Let your personality shine through

So, this thing just happened that’s a perfect example…

I’ve been creating some nutrition products with my brother, Dave, and yesterday he sent me a video to review.

Now, I didn’t have the heart to tell him this, but I started watching the first video and nearly fell asleep in less than 20 seconds.

His voice was literally knocking me out cold! It was completely dull, flat and lifeless. I honestly didn’t even want to hear what he was saying.

The funny thing is that I was so mesmerized by his earlier videos… I listened straight through each of them, stopping and pausing to take notes and rewinding to make sure I got all of it.

See the difference here? I wanted to hear more vs. couldn’t listen to another minute!

#LONGSTORYSHORT It’s your shiny personality (even more than what you say) that makes your brand truly stand out. Don’t be afraid to show the real you! Your audience will love you all the more for it, plus you’ll have a much easier time driving traffic to your posts. Promise.

4. Be your brand every minute

Hmmm…this one can be scary.

Truth is that building an epic brand isn’t something that just happens. You have to steer the ship, and one of the best ways to steer it in the right direction is to live and breathe your brand ALL THE TIME.

When I asked my brother what happened with his videos, he said that he just “wasn’t into it anymore”. He’d been working on those video trainings for so long, he just wanted to be done already.

Sound familiar?

We’ve all been there, where you feel like you can’t muster up the energy for another post, podcast, video or freebie. Creating content requires a huge amount of effort!

But what happened with Dave is an example of what happens when you forget to be your brand every minute.

Your content will start sounding off-brand and just plain icky, like you’re talking to a corpse. Definitely not the way to make your brand stand out!

#MORALOFTHESTORY Don’t push yourself through a funk just to “get it done”. This is one of those things where, if we really want to stand out, we have to be fired up and in character all day, every day. If you need to, walk away for a bit and come back when you feel more energized.

5. Tell your story

Want to really stand out among the hundreds of people in your niche doing the same thing as you?

It’s right there on your About Page! Bump.

No one in the universe has the exact same story as you, special girl. When you share the why behind your brand, and the experiences that make you so uniquely qualified to solve X problem, that’s where the magic really happens.

When you think about it, telling stories is a natural exchange. It’s what we all do when we make new friends. See how I worked my brother’s bit into this post?

What ways can you infuse your story into your content? How will you shake hands with your peeps to let them know that you get them and give them a peak into your world too?

6. Host a challenge

This one is so exciting! I’m about to launch my first challenge and have to admit I have a butterfly-in-my-stomach feeling around it. Wonder if you guys are going to like it or not? Guess I’ll find out soon!

If you’re curious, it’s the Higher Purpose, Higher Profit Challenge. It’ll walk you important things like:

  • Narrowing down all of your amazing ideas to just one
  • Finding the sweet spot in your business
  • Gaining clarity over the one thing you were born to do
  • Building a tribe around your brand

If you’re interested in this, let me know in the comments and I’ll keep you posted when the challenge starts.

I get excited by challenges because I think they’re a great way to connect with you guys and get a feel for where you’re at in your business, what you’re struggling with, and how I can tailor my content to help you.

7. Create a brand style guide

I know you’re probably thinking Do I really need a style guide right now? There are so many other things I have to focus on with my blog business. I can’t even get my head around this yet!

I’m with you on this one. I didn’t even think about creating a style guide until I was 2 years into my business.

Here’s the thing though:

I started noticing that my brand was looking a bit fragmented and all over the place. I was feeling fragmented too, and I knew my confusion was seeping into my brand materials.

Every time I created a pin, I’d start with a blank canvas, which for me was a big huge playpen. Every pin was an entirely new creation and experiment. Looking back, everything took much longer as a result. Oooh, let me try this pretty font. I really like this photo too, can I make that work? My pink color won’t work with the photo, though. It needs a peach color – lemme change it real quick…

Can you see things unraveling here?

There’s nothing wrong with creativity like this. But when you freestyle your brand in this way, things can start getting confusing for both you and your audience FAST.

So if you want to really stand out (and I know you do!), you have to create clear boundaries around your brand’s style.

It’s ok to experiment a bit until you find your voice, but at some point, you’ll need to pull in the reins and decide exactly which colors, fonts, imagery, and graphics you will use for your brand.

Since we’re on track to build an epic brand AND blog biz, and since all successful brands use style guides, we need one too, don’t ya think?

A style guide is just ONE of the many brand elements you’ll create with The Build My Brand Toolkit. It’s a complete done-for-you branding system that includes all your visual brand elements (logo, colors, fonts, social media templates, style guide) PLUS your brand copy (About page, Home page, blog tone and style) and more! Click the image below to learn more.
The Build My Brand Tool Kit gives you everything you need to brand yourself like a pro! Click here to learn more.8. Check your online presence

Next up, take a look at your entire web presence and make sure it all fits your brand’s style and purpose.

Here’s a quick list of places to look:

  • Blog or website
  • Blog posts
  • Blog post images
  • Secondary post images
  • Opt-ins + forms
  • Forms
  • Buttons + links
  • Landing pages
  • Pins
  • Social media image templates
  • Social media profiles

I’m sure there’s more to add to this list. If you think of any others, please share!

As you go through everything, ask yourself these questions:

  • Do I have the same colors, fonts, and graphics everywhere?
  • Will people be able to spot my pins right way?
  • When someone reads my blog, is it fun and relevant to them?
  • Are there any odd graphics/images that jump out in an icky, outdated way?

You know what to do here…update, tweak, edit, delete. Woop Woop!

9. Update bios and descriptions

Your biz probably has experienced a lot of twists and turns as you’ve learned more about your audience and your business.

So my question for you is:

Are your bios and descriptions right there with you every time you shift gears or are they a few steps behind? If you’re like me, you check your Twitter profile every now and then and think Huh? That’s not me. That was like 6 months ago.

Let’s whip our bios into shape. We want to take people on our amazing ride, not leave them behind, right?

Here are a few places to look, edit, update:

  • Author bio
  • Blog sidebar bio
  • Speaker bio
  • Media kit
  • Social media profiles
  • Blogger outreach
  • Short description
  • Long descriptions

10. Master social media

Gotta get visible, baby!

Speaking of which, I wrote this post on creating a social media strategy that will help you stand out, get visible, and drive traffic.

What you want to do is to pick 1-2 platforms and really master those first. Don’t worry about trying to be everywhere at once. It’s not going to work (trust me, I’ve tried). Once you’re really making progress on those, move on to the others.

If you plan on starting with Pinterest, here’s how to get massive traffic from it.

What you’re really going for is to create a social media system where you engage and share on autopilot. That means your goal is to spend as little time on social media as possible. Social media can be overwhelming and time-consuming, so you don’t want to fall into a rabbit hole with it.

Ok, don’t shoot me for saying this, but…

When you’re starting out, you will need to spend more time than you want. If you hang in there with me though, this is another one of those things that will save you incredible amounts of time later on, once you set up scheduling, automation, and maybe even outsourcing. Pinky swear.

If you really want to level up your social media game, grab this social media cheat sheet and content calendar with 24 days of content to share.

A social media cheat sheet for bloggers and entrepreneurs so you know what to post and when, plus tools to help you automate everything from scheduling, to growth and engagement, and creating images.

11. Blog consistently

The second half of visibility, and something we can’t forget, is to post consistently.

It doesn’t have to be every day, and it doesn’t have to be 2x a week like some other bloggers tell you. I’ve tried like crazy to post more than once a week and just can’t do it! Grrrr…so frustrating!

Still, staying consistent with my blogging schedule (1x a week) has made it possible to grow my traffic to over 35K in just a few months.

So, we get it. We know that we have to blog regularly.

I’m so excited about the new content calendar template I created. It will help you plan the content you’re going to share so you’re always one step ahead of blogging instead of five steps behind. Been there, done that! You can download the done-for-you calendar template right here.

You’re probably thinking How do I get ahead of blogging? I always feel like I’m falling behind schedule!

Honestly, I’d love to know the secret to this one myself! Seriously though, there are a few things we can do to maintain a consistent schedule:

  • First, block out time at the beginning of the month to write all of your blog posts (you can use my time blocking template if you want).
  • Keep a laundry list of blog post ideas, arranged by theme. Use Evernote or Google docs for this.
  • Gather ideas in Trello. I’m so pumped about Trello, guys. I’ve just taken a peak and can’t say a whole lot yet, but it looks like you can create boards/cards for just about anything. Editorial calendar, anyone?
  • Create a weekly schedule where you write, proof, SEO, create images, and promote, all on separate days.

That’s all I have so far, but I’ll be looking into more ways to get ahead of blogging, because we need it!

Related: 32 Insanely Easy Ways to Boost Your Blog Traffic for Free

12. Watermark your images

Yep, you have to brand everything.

Add your logo, colors, fonts, and other brand elements to your blog and social media images. This way people will recognize your brand in their feeds.

And if you’re curious about how to share photoshopped images on Instagram, I highly recommend Planoly for uploading and scheduling posts directly from your desktop. Woo!

Related: How to Create Branded Social Media Images with Photoshop

13. Host a webinar

Another one I’m excited about. I’m no master of webinars yet (Amy Porterfield is all over this one). Buut, I have done 2 and they were much easier than I thought. Scary, but easy.

Here’s why you and I both want to do more of them:

Everyone’s blogging.
Not everyone is webinar’ing

So if we host more webinars, we’re sure to stand out from everyone else.  Let’s set a goal to do at least one webinar by the end of the year, k?

14. Review your offers

Silly question, would you rather be:

  • A commodity (just like everyone else)?
  • The go-to-authority (people seek you out for your expertise)?

Uh, duh… Of course, you’re the expert.

That means you have to be fierce about narrowing down your offers to just those things that you’re crazy passionate about and/or know really well.

The reason is that when you try to be all things to all people, you actually water down your brand and confuse the customers you most want to attract. They just won’t get that you’re a good fit for them.

The way to switch that all around is to review your offers every 3-6 months and make sure that they:

  • Fit your current brand statement and mission
  • Are unique enough to charge premium prices
  • Solve one specific problem for one specific person

If you want help here, grab my Find your Niche workbook, which covers all of this and more. Click the image below to download.

Click here to download my Find your Blog Niche Workbook!


What you’re aiming for is to wrap your offers in a pretty peach bow (insert your brand color), so your peeps know what box you’re in. 🙂

15. Update blog categories

Categories are easy to overlook because, well, you just don’t think about them every day, right? I happen to be going through a rebrand right now, which is why they’re fresh on my mind (and how I know that as your blog biz shifts, your blog categories will too).

Is it better to have tons of categories or just a handful?

It really depends on your preference, but here again, I recommend cutting the fat where you can. The more focused you can be, the better.

First of all, when you give people too many categories, they won’t know what to click on. Even I’m confused by the laundry list I see when I’m selecting categories for my posts.

Since we’re really shining brightly now, let’s get rid of this last fuzziness, shall we?

Take a look at your categories and narrow them down to just the ones that are relevant to your brand and audience.

Tip: If you have a WordPress blog, leave your existing categories as is, meaning don’t delete. It gets a little funky with SEO and XML sitemaps when you do this. Instead, add new categories and then manually update your posts.

So there you go! Those are my top 15 ways to make your brand stand out. Which ones are you working on?