Ink-Dipped Advice

Dynamic Small Business Expo

image courtesy of rawpixel  via pixabay.com

Many thanks to 1Berkshire for their dynamic and inspiring Small Business Expo yesterday at the Stationery Factory in Dalton.

They had a terrific mix of vendors and panels. There were opportunities to reconnect with people met at other events, meet new people, and start new collaborations.

As always, the staff of 1Berkshire handled everything with a high level of organization, tact, and kindness.

This is one of my favorite events of any year.

Advertorials Tilting Perspective

White question mark on bright blue surface
image courtesy of  Stephan via pixabay.com

Every few weeks, a spate of articles appears, insisting that remote work is “dead” and everyone “has” to come back into the office.

As a remote worker who was remote far before the pandemic, I can attest that this is simply not true. Although many a corporation wishes to make it so, and is putting far too much money into that wish, rather than putting it into something healthy that will actually benefit the corporation and its employees.

First of all, look at the publications running the articles. Go on, take a look.  I’ll wait. Back? What do you see? Corporate-focused publications who are paid to toe the corporate line. Several of those publications, which used to be good outlets for freelancers, now slant more toward advertorials than actual articles.

Oxford Languages defines “advertorial” as “a newspaper or magazine advertisement giving information about a product in the style of an editorial or objective journalistic article.”

I used to write a good number of advertorials. Many of them paid better than typical freelance articles, because they were backed by corporate dollars. However, they were also clearly marked, at the top of the page, as an “advertorial.” The company paid the advertiser’s rate and bought the page on which the advertorial lived. While it was written in the style of articles in the publication (or slanted to the corporate style), it was clearly marked so that there was no question that it was paid advertising, rather than an article assigned by the publication’s editor.

The point of the advertorial was to invite, entice, convince, and expand the audience to the product or service touted in the advertorial, with an eye to profit. It was marked as advertising, but written in the voice of an editorial or feature article. If the reader couldn’t tell, that was on them, since it was clearly marked; but the purpose was to promote the advertiser’s product or service. It challenged the reader to pay attention, especially as the font marking it as “advertorial” got smaller and less significant over the years.

On the internet, many pieces of what used to be labeled as “advertorial” are now simply called “content.” Especially when paired with a click-bait headline. Much of what comes up in “feeds” are advertorials or content on a company site pushing their products and opinions, not actual news or feature articles in an independent publication. There are fewer and fewer “independent” publications as more and more have been gobbled up by corporate interests and not allowed editorial independence.

When I first started my writing career, and did more journalism than I do now, I was trained in the NEW YORK TIMES style of reporting (back when they were actually a publication many of us dreamed about working for someday). There was a whole course on it, that I attended either between high school and college or early in college.  It was a long time ago, whenever it happened, but I use what I learned to this day. In addition to the “who, what, where, how, why” necessities, we were also taught that, for something to be a fact, it had to be corroborated through three separate, reliable sources.

This gets muckier when dealing with whistleblowers and scoops, obviously, but the basic foundation was that, in writing an article, even (especially) on tight deadline, you also had to investigate your sources to make sure they weren’t making it up either for their own ego, or because they were paid to plant information.

On many publications, when I submitted an article, I also had to turn in a sheet for the fact checker, who would check the sources and quotes, thereby making sure I got it right and to protect the publication. This was true in both newspaper and magazine writing.

Most publications have dismissed their fact checking departments.

I remember one of the journalists who spoke to the class telling us, “Assume anyone you interview is lying and work back from there.” Which is cynical, but also often necessary.

That is not a plug for “both side-ism” – especially since that has become the catch phrase for only giving conservative points of view credence. But it means thoroughly investigating information to find out what the spin is on it. Once you know the purpose of the article in enticing you to its point of view and who is behind that enticement, you can make a decision on whether or not it is credible.

And if you “don’t have time” to dig?

Then don’t take a position on what’s being spoon-fed to you until you can gather information from credible sources.

Of course, all this spin makes it harder to know what a “credible” source is. It’s not a source that only reinforces your opinion. Credible sources are getting harder and harder to find, much less define, since so much is about smoke and mirrors and carny barking rather than verifiable information.

So when I see an article that’s clickbait and obviously corporate-funded rather than objective journalism, I remember my old training and do a little digging before I accept what’s in the piece. Especially when my lived experience is so different from what the article insists is “the way it is.”

Are you running into advertorials posing as journalism more than usual, to tilt the public’s views one way or another? How are you dealing with it? Drop your experiences into the comments.

Digital Tidiness Helps With Focus

Laptop, cell phone, notebook and pen on a wooden plank table
image courtesy of stokpic via pixabay.com

Apologies for the break in posting on this blog for the past few weeks. My mom (who is 99) had a small stroke at the end of February. She’s doing very well – speech and motor capacity restored. But there’s still extra elder care and monitoring that needs to happen. I had to pare back on certain obligations, and this blog was one of them.

But it’s a lovely spring now, and we are getting ready to move into summer.

It’s been time to do a big spring cleaning, both physically and digitally. My old laptop died; I had to buy a new one, although I also got the old one sort of fixed, and will probably get it refurbished later this year.

I cut way back on social media, which made me happier, more productive, and the social media on which I remain has a decent conversion rate. I will do another social media centric post in early June, for a mid-year check in.

I’m part of a regional capacity building program for artists from February through July, which has been great. Workshops are helping me focus on specific areas, and make a business plan in alignment with the direction I want for both my artistic work and my more business-oriented work, and make it more holistic.

Don’t ever forget that, as an artist, one must also function as a savvy small business. Unless you can afford to hire someone to manage the business aspects!

I was lucky enough to be part of a marketing cohort of small local businesses led by Francesca Olsen through the North Adams Chamber of Commerce. If you ever have the chance to take one of Francesca’s workshops or hire her as a consultant, JUMP ON IT. She’s smart, creative, fun, energetic, and knows how to pull different possibilities out of various boxes to create something unique to the person/business for whom she’s consulting. What I learned in a few two-hour sessions with her will carry me through this next phase.

I’d already begun going through each of my websites to clean them up, refocus where needed, update information, and keep each site’s unique voice while giving it a more overall voice that ties them all together. People can choose to spend time on one site, or they can follow trails to other sites that have other topics of interest. It’s like having a series of islands in the digital ocean and being able to go from one to another as one chooses.

The main sites remain this one for the more business-oriented freelancing. Pages on Stages focuses on the theatre and radio work. The Devon Ellington Work site is the flagship for work published under that name and some of the other pseudonyms including Ava Dunne, Christy Miller, and Christiane van de Velde. It also leads to the different series that I write, and leads to the main site for Legerdemain, which started life as a serial, and will be many things by the time I am done. I’m putting a lot of work into re-envisioning the Cerridwen’s Cottage site, for the work I’ve done for years under the Cerridwen Iris Shea name that deals with tarot, home and hearth magic, and the like. I’ve never fully tapped into the Llewellyn audience, and it’s about time to do so!

This post should have been posted last week and did not (but then I wouldn’t have much of the information for it). There will be another post next Wednesday, since it is the third Wednesday of the month. The plan is to get back to posting on the first and third Wednesdays of the month.

Have a lovely spring, and drop a comment to tell me what’s new in your life and work!

Managing Communication

vintage brown rotary telephone on a wooden table with a bottle of perfume, a cut of tea, an open page book, and cutlery resting on a white napkin
image courtesy of  u_xbk28dh7pk via pixabay.com

One of the great things about modern technology is that it gives us communication options. We no longer have to put up with our workday being derailed because someone interrupts us with an unscheduled phone call for something that’s not relevant to the task at hand, because they want to hear themselves talk.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m a big fan of brainstorming and tossing around ideas to find the best approach. But if someone wants to talk their way through a task, I need to schedule it, so it works within my day, rather than destroying it. Being mutually respectful of each other’s worktime and work process results in better quality from all parties concerned.

What about communication tools like Slack, etc.? I do love ZOOM, although I’m a big believer that once you’ve said your hellos in a meeting, you can turn your camera off. We don’t need to watch each other nodding as though we’re hearing Deep Thoughts. We shouldn’t have to perform in a meeting.

Play readings, rehearsals, etc. via ZOOM have really upped the inclusivity and creativity of working across miles and time zones and I love it.

I’m careful about not overbooking ZOOM calls. I have a finite number of time slots available each week; when those slots are filled, the person requesting the meeting has to push it back to the following week or whenever there are slots open. One of the positive things we learned via the remote work during the pandemic is how few meetings we really need. Most work is done in spite of meetings, not because of them. There are exceptions, but if someone has constant “emergencies” it usually indicates poor planning, which needs to be addressed.

Since I am someone who works best in large swaths of uninterrupted time, I am often in “Do Not Disturb” mode on Slack or similar tools. I check messages at specific times in the workday and respond, the same way as I used to do in the old days, when I would unplug the phone as I worked and let the machine (in another room) take a message. Phone calls are scheduled, and they are billed separately from project time, in 15-mimute increments, the way a lawyer bills. We all know that when someone says, “let’s just jump on for a quick phone call” that we’re going to lose at least two hours of our workday. That time needs to be paid.

The quickest way to get a response is to email, because I check email whenever I switch tasks. It’s my palate cleanser, as is sometimes hopping on social media. It keeps the inbox and social media (both are vital tools of my work) under control, while still giving them the regular attention they need.

And, of course, I’m still a big fan of postal mail, but I use that more for personal communication than business communication at this point in the game. The exception is my quarterly direct mail campaign, which still usually gets a high response rate.

All of this is clearly set out in client contracts and in early work style conversations, so that it’s worked out before the project starts.

Another important point of communication: if it’s something that’s important to the process and the project, put it in the contract.

What are your favorite communication tools? I’d love to hear from you in the comments.

When Tools Cost Time, Rather Than Saving It

red sand flowing through an hourglass set on a newspaper
image courtesy of Nile via pixabay.com

One of the positives of modern technology is that “they” keep coming up with cool new tools to play with, which are supposed to help us streamline our workday, increasing both productivity and efficiency. One of the negatives is that the people who create these tools rarely listen to the people who actually use them. I found that especially true working for a library, when the regional system changed software systems which created more work instead of streamlined it.

I love playing with new tools when they come on the market. I’m also far enough into my professional life that I know what I need and want in order to support the work, and few tools actually support it. Far too many get in the way of it.

Scheduling and project management tools are a good example. There are so many of them now: ToDoist, Asana, ClickUp, the list goes on and on. I tried a bunch of them, because I do love planning projects, I love calendars, and I have a system that works well for me about planning back from deadlines.

However, when I tracked the time these tools ate up, it turned out they cost me time (which means money), rather than saved it. First, I had to plan it all out and enter it into the schedule. Then, I had to go back into the tool and mark it when it was complete.

Compare that to my giant wall calendar that holds my deadlines in different colors. I add things in as they occur (5 seconds or less), plus spend maybe 20 minutes once a month adding in things like the serial episode release dates and the column deadlines. No need to wait for a computer to boot up, find the site, sign into the site, and then add it in the way the site deems it should be entered. No need to switch sites at the end of the day, sign in, and then update, which can take 20 minutes or more each day. I can pick up a pen and put a checkmark beside the task (1 second).

For me, it is a much more efficient use of time. When I tracked my time, I literally saved a few hours a week not using project management software. I work independently most of the time, rather than in a team situation, which is a whole different ballgame, and which we’ll discuss in a future column.

If I need the calendar on my computer because I’m moving between locations, I can take a photo and upload it. Or print it out and carry it with me. I often work in places without internet connection, so everything I need must be WITH me, not just in the cloud.

All much more efficient than all of these tools. I mean, ToDoist crossed a line when it told me to vacuum my house one day (something I did not enter into the schedule). I have a regular vacuuming schedule, thank you very much, and don’t need to be managed that way.

My rule of thumb with a tool is that if it takes longer to enter and update the information than to do the task, I ditch the tool.

When I draft my work, I draft in the format in which it will be submitted. In other words, I draft prose in standard manuscript format, which is evenly double-spaced all the way through, not the wonky spacing or single spacing most writing software uses. I draft scripts in script format. I draft poems in whatever way I want to spread out the words on the page (and I need flexibility for that).

Drafting in the format appropriate to that medium keeps me in the headspace for that medium, and allows me to use the craft of that particular medium and meet expectations better as I create it, rather than having to rework it later. It helps me create.

Being forced to draft in a software’s format that does not serve the work is just that, for me. It does not serve the work. It is, in fact, detrimental to the work.

I still love learning new tools and playing with them. Whenever a new tool comes out, I look forward to learning it. But I also know when to move on from them, when they start getting in the way of the work, rather than supporting the work.

What tools do you find useful? What have you ditched because it got in the way of the work? I’d love to hear about it in the comments.

LOIs That Get Attention

Blue Fox manual typewriter with white page in its carriage
image courtesy of Dean Moriarty via pixabay.com

One of my favorite ways to expand my client base is through the LOI (Letter of Introduction). An LOI is different than the cover letter used with a resume; it covers some of the same points, but has more breadth and depth, and is far more individualized.

When do I send LOIs?

When I see a company that I suspect I’d enjoy working with, and adding something of value to their business. Even if I have a fairly busy client roster, I send out LOIs regularly, because freelance is ebb and flow. If I’m at an ebb, maybe they’ll be at overflow and need someone extra on a project. Keeping a steady stream of LOIs going out is a good idea. I admit, I’ve been lax about it the past few months, but I’m ramping up again.

Once the company catches my interest, I research them. My research on companies has gotten more thorough over the years. I dig into their website, looking for tone, content, values. I read as much as I can ABOUT them – do they take the values they claim to hold out into the world? If they don’t, or if they fund politicians who work to strip away rights and overturn democracy, I move on. People who say working for a company “has nothing to do with politics” have the privilege of ignoring a company’s stance on something. I do not.

Once I’ve decided that yes, I really do like this company, I sit down and write the LOI.

One of the best tools I’ve integrated into the LOI is the hook. When I write a cover letter for a submission for fiction or drama, I open with a hook, which is a statement tied to the theme of the piece to get their attention and keep reading.

Using that same technique in the LOI has served me well, but rather than it being about my piece, it has to do with their company, and is usually tied to what caught my attention about them in the first place (without using that phrasing). It’s tied to what caught my attention and what I offer that supports it. Which means it’s individual to each letter and company.

I then highlight skills of mine and previous work that is relevant; or, if something isn’t relevant but supports the company’s mission, how that feeds into it. I add links to my portfolios, or attach a relevant PDF. I have recently added a clause stating that I do not use AI in my work. A few years ago, I added a clause about having a separate contract for tests or project-specific content created as part of the interview process. Refusing to do free labor as part of the interview process is one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. That includes one-way video interviews. A good video interview, even one minute, is about $3K of unpaid labor on the job seeker’s part, not to mention that interviews need to be CONVERSATIONS, not PERFOMANCES. You are interviewing the potential client as much as they are interviewing you.

The one-way interview is akin to an actor sending in an audition reel. Not the way I, as a writer, do business.

After all the business clauses and boundaries, I thank them for their time, sign off, and put the appropriate website of mine under the signature line.

Attachments are usually a resume and/or a PDF portfolio where appropriate, if I haven’t sent them a link within the letter.

Some LOIs get quick responses. Others get a response of, “We don’t have anything right now, but please keep in touch.” When the latter is the case, I let them know that I will, and then add them to the quarterly post card mailing (if there’s an office address) or do a quarterly check-in email. It can take a year or more to get an assignment, but it happens, and they’ve been some of the most satisfying for both of us.

How do you craft a Letter of Introduction? How has it boosted your business?

Clean Up Time

A sparkling clean window in an empty space.
image courtesy of Muntzir Mehdi via pixabay.com

January is the time of fresh starts. So is September. So is the first of any month. So is the start of any day you choose to be a fresh start. You can start fresh and make things better any time you want. Isn’t that wonderful?

But January is the start of the new year, so it’s also a good time to do a cleanup.

Generally, I check on all my websites and book links and all the rest in September, and any time a new book or a new edition or a new distributor shows up, to make sure they are consistent.

But January is a good time to clean up the inboxes of my various emails. That’s not just about dealing with and/or deleting, but about deciding which lists I want to stay on, and which lists to drop.

Our websites are basecamp. I’ve often stated that if a business that wants my money only has a social media page and not a dedicated website, I don’t place my money there. As far as I’m concerned, they’re not serious enough about the business end of the business for me to trust them. We’re certainly watched enough social media sites fail in the last few years to understand the importance of having our own sites.

Newsletters are a vital part of many small businesses. I try to support as many fellow authors and artists via their newsletters as possible. However, some of those need to be cleaned up this year.

My own author newsletter is quarterly, which works for what I do. I don’t have a business/freelance newsletter, because that wouldn’t serve either me or my client base.

Many authors have monthly newsletters, and most of those are fine. Authors who’ve migrated to Substack look at that as a newsletter, and that’s often weekly. Since I’m done with all things Substack, I’m n the process of cleaning out and unsubcribing.

One of the things I’m doing in these early months of 2024 is culling the newsletter subscriptions, especially from those authors who aren’t, in turn, subscribed to my newsletter or supporting my work in other ways (such as liking or sharing posts about it on social media). I don’t want to get into the same cycle I was in a few years ago, of non-reciprocity, where I was doing the heavy lifting in far too many professional relationships. It’s on a case-by-case basis with some obvious exceptions.

I will support as many fellow artists as I can. In return, I hope they will support me. If they’re only looking at me as a customer rather than a colleague, the relationship is not what I need or want from fellow artists and I will adjust, while still wishing them success. If they’re “too busy” to treat me as an individual, they won’t miss that I unsubscribed anyway, and we’ll all be happier.

That will take a lot of pressure off me as far as getting snowed under in my reading, and also allow me to spend more time on the newsletters from my colleagues, and genuinely enjoy them. Instead of feeling as though I have to rush through the material because I have another 100 to read, I can take my time, follow links, and maybe even respond. I can enjoy and build the relationship.

As I do this, I will also look at who is subscribed to my lists, and make sure I am subscribed to their lists, where appropriate, in return.

Energy has to keep flowing between artists, or it gets stagnant. Artist and audience need to have a circular flow, not a stream in a single direction.

I’m taking myself off a lot of product mailing lists, too. If I want something from a particular supplier, I will go and hunt it down. There’s enough paid advertising to let me know when something new hits the market.

Something that I’ve noticed, over the past few months, from product lists, is those aggressive emails demanding that in order to “stay” on the list, I have to do a click through to “prove” I’m reading it, or the threat of dropping me if I don’t open the emails faster. First of all, if my little, tiny newsletter has the capacity to track how many people open and/or read it, a high-paid ad campaign platform can do the same. So you KNOW I’m opening the emails. Don’t make me jump through hoops to “stay on the list” because I won’t. I’m happy to be dropped. Or maybe, I’ll just click on your “unsubscribe” button and save you from following through on the threat. Second, I often put aside promotional emails and batch read them between other tasks that require more attention. I’m going to read your email when it works for ME, not when you want it for your metrics. Quick way to get me to unsubscribe. Third, threatening me isn’t keeping me as a customer, or enticing me to be a customer in the future. That aggressive edge of desperation is a turn-off, not a call to action or engagement.

I am also investing in more paid advertising for my own work, to broaden my reach to a larger public.

Note: that is not, by the way, an invitation for people to try to sell me their ad-making skills. I know how to create my own ads; when I run into trouble, I’ve built a network of fellow freelancers to whom I will turn (and pay) first.

I need to make room for healthier, more reciprocal professional relationships in 2024, and cleaning out various subscription lists is a part of it.

How are you cleaning up for 2024?

Social Media Experiments Part 3

social media apps on a phone

December 8, 2023: More Social Media Experiments

This should have gone up on the 6th. Apologies.

I’ve settled into several platforms pretty regularly, and I’m sharing my experiences. This is the third post of the year about these various platforms. I’ll probably do it annually moving forward, but this year was such a year of social media tumult, it made sense to update the experiments.

Again, this is my experience with my own work, not for clients.

The blunt truth is that, unless a site drives traffic and results in sales of my work, I can’t put the time into it. Hanging out and being social is fine, but it also has to drive traffic to my sites and result in sales.

Bluesky: This has become the platform on which I am most active. It took a bit of time to acclimate, but as more and more writers, artists, publishers, agents, etc. migrate over, it makes sense to be there. I have some great conversations, there’s support for the work, it drives traffic back to the work, and I’ve had two short stories published in publications whose submission calls I originally found on the site. I’m strict about curating my feed and quick to block. There are bullies and shitposters, and I have not time or patience for that. Immediate blocks are my best tool. I reconnected with some former colleagues from Twitter, and have met up with a bunch of new people who I really enjoy. It’s getting to be the site where I can post a question about something and get viable answers, as it continues to grow.

Bookbub: Still haven’t spent enough quality time there to make it work. It’s not a typical social media platform, but it could be a good marketing tool, if I would make the time to use it properly.

Cohost: Have not been on it since March, don’t intend to go back. It did not meet my needs; its user base is not my target audience.

Counter Social: I’ve been on there less frequently. The garden posts and inks to short story publications and articles get traction. The serials get nothing. The conversations aren’t as varied as they were a few months ago, but I figure it’s cyclical.

Creative Ground: I keep my profile updated over there, and I’ve started using it to find organizations to work with, or individual artists for collaborative projects. It is New England-centric, but I like it. One of their offshoots, Arts Hub of Western MA, boosted our Boiler House Poets Collective Reading to their audience in autumn, and, through them, I found a submission call for an ekphrastic poem at an Easthampton Gallery. My piece was one of those chosen, and I attended the exhibit opening to read my piece with my fellow poets, and met others there with whom I’m still in contact. Setting up the profile was a PITA, but it was worth it.

Ello: Sadly, this site tanked in June. It was one of my favorites, and drove a lot of traffic that resulted in sales in its heyday, a few years back.

Facebook: The Vella author groups make it a necessity. I use it for that, for ads to promote my work, and to keep up with friends who aren’t on other social media sites. Not one of my favorite platforms. The reality is that Facebook ads result in sales, so whatever I feel about the platform, it is a necessity for my income.

Hive: No longer try to use it (it was clunky) and don’t miss it.

Instagram: I’ve upped my Instagram use a lot since summer. In addition to it being my “fun” account for posting photos of cooking, reading, sewing, decorations, cats, it’s also a solid promotional tool.

Ko-fi: Haven’t used it in months. Am re-thinking how I want to use it.

Linked In: Tired of skeezy “businessmen” looking for sex pretending they’re hiring for a legitimate job. Tired of recruiters wasting my time, not wanting to give out basic information such as salary and job parameters, and contacting me for positions that have nothing to do with my actual profession. I’m a writer. Don’t contact me about a practical nurse vacancy. Total waste of time.

Mastodon: Hit and miss. Slowly building connections. It’s difficult to find people. Sometimes it drives traffic, sometimes it does not. There are writing games that are fun (provided no one asks for snippets of WIP – posting unpublished WIP on ANY site, thereby blowing first rights, is a nonstarter for me).

Pinterest: Haven’t finished implementing the changes I want to on my account. But it’s on the list for next year, so I can utilize its potential better, especially in terms of the serials.

Post: I use it more to read news than for interaction. I do post promos.

Ravelry: Haven’t been on it in months, although I will probably spend some time there over the winter, when I do more crocheting.

Spoutible: Some interesting people and good information/conversations. But it’s skewed more to politics and music than writing and other arts, so I spend less time there than I did initially. I like it, most of the time; there just aren’t enough artists on it, and it doesn’t drive enough traffic to my sites.

Substack: I like it, and enjoy the Notes feature, but the growth is much slower than I would like. I don’t like the hidden tiered system they use, where they pay some of their writers, but expect others to generate their own followings/income. I am unhappy that they allow right wing misinformation outlets to monetize the platform in the name of “free speech.” The amount of reading material is overwhelming. I’m in the process of unsubscribing from a lot of my subscriptions, especially if it’s not mutual.

T2: They changed their name to Pebble and then went out of business a few weeks later.

Threads: Have not tried it. I have friends who love it. I’m not sure why I’m so reluctant, except that it’s overwhelming to add One More Thing. Maybe once I clean up my Substack, I’ll have the spoons for it, but I don’t right now.

TikTok: Probably the best platform resulting in sales, even without ad buys. There’s no way I could afford an ad buy on TikTok. Just in regular views, it grows exponentially, week to week, and results in sales. It takes me about an hour to do the week’s episode videos for the serials, now that I have a template. It takes longer to do individual project videos. But they get results. I am not on camera, and it’s not that hard to create videos without being on camera.

Tribel: Haven’t been on it in months; don’t miss the screaming.

Tumblr: Decent at driving traffic to the sites, although conversion to sales is lower than TikTok or Facebook. I hear rumors that it’s in trouble and may close soon; that would be a shame.

Twitter: Twitter is dead, intentionally destroyed by Yegads Muskrat. I do not acknowledge the site known as X. I locked my account in August and have not been back. I do miss it, and I miss the reach, the traffic it drove to my sites, the conversion rates, but that’s what rebuilding is all about. That’s why it’s so important to have a website one OWNS, and not rely on social media platforms owned by others.

There are several other dozens of sites out there, such as Spill, Minds, Reddit, etc., which I don’t use. Most I haven’t tried. If it’s only app-based, with no desktop/laptop option, I’m out. I don’t like Reddit because its brand is bullying, as far as I can see. Besides, the above list keeps me quite busy enough!

I’m also frustrated that there’s not an affordable scheduling tool that goes across all the platforms I need. I could budget in paying for a tool, if it did what I needed it to do. But none of them – Buffer, Hootsuite, and the like – give me all I need, and I won’t pay for partials.

What are your favorite social media tools? What do you find drives traffic best to your sites? Which tools give you the best conversions? I’d love to hear about it in the comments.

Build That Life

image courtesy of Melk Hagelslag via pixabay.com

There’s a popular meme that’s made the rounds for the past couple of years that says: “Build a Life You Don’t Need a Vacation From.”

In theory, that’s a great idea. It means find work that pays so you don’t have to stress about keeping a roof over your head (although with the ridiculous cost of housing right now, that’s rarely possible) and food on the table, but that is also work that gives you pleasure and fulfillment.

That’s a good thing.

Most of us go through periods in our lives where we have to take whatever work we can get, because we need the money. Often, that work is exhausting and makes us feel bad about our lives, and it’s hard to gather the energy to move beyond it to something that suits us better.

But doing so is better for us physically, mentally, and that leads us to better opportunities financially.

How do you build that life?

Ignore those who tell you to stop buying yourself a coffee on the way to work and only buy generic brands. Yes, that saves some money in the short run. But at this point in the game, you’d be several hundred years old for it to add up to the deposit on a house.

Plus, denying ourselves small pleasures all the time is unhealthy. The Chronicle of Evidence-Based Mentoring has an article about small pleasures/small annoyances, and how they affect goals.

There’s a difference between enjoying a cup of coffee and blowing the entire family’s budget for the month at a casino in one night. Understanding the difference and learning how to create small, enjoyable daily rituals helps in energy management so that you have the clear mind and strength to build the rest of what you want and need in your life.

One of the things we have to let go of is the sense that pleasure is a sin, and the term “guilty pleasure.” I do not feel guilty about that which gives me pleasure. And it doesn’t make it more titillating and exciting if it is “forbidden.” I am an adult. Others don’t get to “forbid” my choices, unless it is a choice that actively harms them.

Defining pleasure as sin and something wrong is an oppressor’s tool. Embracing our pleasures is a radical act. Much like rest is a radical act in a society that demands you literally work yourself to death for someone else’s profit, pleasure is also a radical act. Pleasure takes many forms, and is a threat to bullies and oppressors, because it teaches people that there is sensation beyond feeling hopeless or like the only way to have control is to harm someone else.

Start building acts of pleasure into your daily life, and you will be on the way to building a life that energizes you, rather than depletes you.

Doing work you love, however, will not negate the need for vacations. We all need breaks and change, even from the good stuff. We need to replenish our creative and energetic wells. If you don’t follow the Nap Ministry on Instagram (https://www.instagram.com/thenapministry/), I highly recommend them. And I am someone who does not nap; a nap at the wrong time will throw me off for days, thanks to my sleep issues.

But I’m learning how to court rest.

For someone whose career was built on 18 hour or more days, working in theatre and film production, this is a huge, terrifying shift. But it’s necessary.

I will always need and want vacations. But I am building a life that doesn’t make me want to run screaming away from it, or go home crying every night and then again every morning (the way I did a few years ago, when I landed what I thought was my dream job, and instead worked under the most toxic boss I’d ever experienced).

Do something TODAY just because it makes you happy.

Then do something tomorrow. And the next day. And the next.

Build. That. Life.

Drop your favorite pleasures in the comments!