May 162016

Aletta de Wal’s email signature back in 2009 described her as “Author of the forthcoming book: My Real Job is Being an Artist” so when it was published in 2015 and she sent me a copy I wasn’t surprised.

Aletta deWal

Aletta (on right) & me July 2014

I met Aletta in December 1970 when we were both students at the University of Western Ontario in London Ontario. Our friendship has had its ups and downs as all friendships do and the best thing about it is that it has endured for 46 years!

How could I tell the book was hers?

When we were in university I would do research in the library and stay up until about midnight writing an essay for which I always got a B or B+. Aletta on the other hand would spend several days in the library doing research then would stay up many nights until 3 or 4 a.m. AND she got A or A+. At the time I thought she was crazy …but …. that was her!

Fast forward to her book. I read the book and knew it was hers. It’s thorough and full of details as each of her essays had been. It has 265 pages of solid information that any artist just starting out or established can use. A lot of research went into writing this book – it’s definitely NOT “a bit of fluff”.

Is it just for artists?

I’m not an artist. I’m a small business marketing expert and content writer so I read this book from that viewpoint. Nearly everything in it works for a solopreneur with a service business especially those that need to buy supplies for their work.

Most importantly, it’s a must read for ALL artists. Keep it up Aletta!

If you want to know more about the book itself and what’s in each section go here. You can even buy it online!

May 032016

business goalsAre you “too busy” to do some business activities? Do you have lots of interruptions? Do these often interfere with you meeting your business goals?

Breathe easy. You’re like most other people. I set goals, write them down (or type and print them) and then I don’t look at them. I’ve tried hanging the sheet with them on near me. I still don’t look at them. I put them in to do lists that I stick to for a while and after a while I don’t look at them either.

You probably think I have a solution for this. I don’t. Well I do have one – have a person or small group that you meet with or talk to (I’ve found that email doesn’t work) either weekly or monthly that hold you accountable.

Recently some of us started a Mentors’ Circle, which is a kind of mastermind. Each us did an exercise at the beginning called “The Mentors’ Circle Scorecard” where we rated our responses to the 10 statements on it. Then we shared them with the other five business owners and unanimously we had put that what we wanted/ needed most from this group was accountability. Interesting.

We (the six of us) get together (in person) monthly and before we end the meeting each of us chooses someone with whom to “check in” before the next meeting. I had a call with the partner I’d picked but I’d only worked on one of my goals. This bothered me until she said something that made me think … and feel better.

I’d had a lot of “stuff” that I’d taken care of – got a new medical card, prepared info for income tax (it’s that time of year!) for my accountant, and completed lots of other government forms – in other words a lot of paperwork to do and mail and … you get the idea.

She said that sometimes taking care of “stuff” that’s NOT business makes room for clear thinking when you do business stuff. Getting it done takes a load off your shoulders. The accomplishment of it causes you to celebrate – yeah – it’s done J


So the next time you don’t reach your business goals but you DO complete something personal, don’t be hard on yourself. Remember that you’re clearing the way for smoother sailing toward your business goals.

What have you done to feel better?


 May 3, 2016  Posted by  Celebrate No Responses »
Apr 192016

work aloneWhat does it feel  like to be alone when you’re a self employed person who works from home? Do you like it? I know there are phones, texting, email, skype and facetime but using them is not the same as being with someone. You can do your work at a coffee shop and have lots of people around you but that’s not it either. What I’m talking about is getting out, talking and being with another person. It’s about spending time with someone and communicating with him or her. What’s missing is the social interaction that comes from this meeting.

And what if you’re okay with being alone but like me you are “stuck” in your apartment or house (especially if you’re an extrovert)? I had a debilitating stroke in 2005 that has given me many physical disabilities all of which I accept. One of them means that I have a lot less energy than I did before.

What I miss however, is not being able to drive. To me it meant freedom, independence and spontaneity. Now I need to call a taxi to go somewhere or arrange with friends or family to drive me – plan my outings.

I’ve learned through this experience to savour every moment with others. I’ve also learned first hand how to live “in the moment”. I look forward to ALL of my time spent with colleagues, friends and family.

Going out with my brother to the grocery store has become an outing. Having lunch with a friend or meeting a colleague for coffee is a delight. Being at a networking event is heaven.

Recently six of us women solopreneurs who know each other well started a mentors’ circle which is kind of like a mastermind. We spend the first half hour of our meeting every month sharing our business challenges with each other. We aren’t looking for solutions … yet … we just need to vent – get things off our chests – with others who understand since we all have something in common.

Back to the focus of this article …. what have I learned that I’d like to share?

  • Plan to get out more often and live in the now when you do.
  • human connectionArrange to have coffee with someone you know. The anticipation of this event gives you as much pleasure as the get together itself. Dr. Jeremy Dean, psychologist who is the author of Psyblog suggests in this article that (link to article
    • “Research on the psychology of happiness shows that anticipation can be a powerful positive emotion. We enjoy looking forward to things much more than we enjoy looking back on them afterwards (Van Boven & Ashworth, 2007).

So, make a plan now and try to always have something to look forward to, however small.”

As a solopreneur you’ll be happier and a lot more productive when you do :-)

Do you have something you do to get human connection?


photo credit: Home alone via photopin (license)
Image courtesy of Serge Bertasius Photography at

 April 19, 2016  Posted by  Networking 2 Responses »
Nov 262015

conferenceYou’ve just spent a tidy sum on a conference registration fee. There’s also travel (if it’s out of town), parking or taxis, meals, snacks and of course time away from your business that you should also add. It’s a lot of money, isn’t it? You start to think that maybe you ought to find a way out.

Stop! Don’t go there. Think of this as an investment in your professional development. You’re a “lifelong learner”!

9 Things to do

The following is a checklist of 9 things you can do at a conference to make it a successful experience.

Mark Victor Hansen and Trudy Van Buskirk1. Take a notebook or tiny recorder. You’ll get so many ideas from the speakers and from the people you meet AND from yourself and you want to remember them. I’m still going back to ideas I had at the Mark Victor Hansen Marketing Conference in 2004 and using them today.

2. Take lots of pictures. Take a camera or your phone. In 2004 when I was at the MVH conference, cameras were larger. Now you can get a palm size one or use the one built in to your cellphone or tablet. Before you take pictures of you and someone else, ask their permission to publish it — it’s the polite thing to do.

3. Be curious and show it. Ask people about themselves and their business then listen. You never know if they’ll become a client or tell those they know about you and your service or product.

4. Have lunch with a different group each day. Have dinner with another group. Have breakfast or dinner with an individual you want to get to know better.

5. Take mini breaks. Go outside or to your hotel room for a short time. You’re getting bombarded with information. Just don’t miss a whole session. You never know when you’ll get an insight.

6. Don’t make deals. Brainstorm and come up with several scenarios but don’t talk money or anything legal. Arrange to talk again when you’re both back home.

7. This is an opportunity to network. Use “good networking” practices. Collect business cards and think of each card as representing a person who like you has wishes and goals – especially for this event.

8. Write a note on the back of each card so you remember the person. Put something about them, their business and most importantly what you promised them.

9. Followup with each person you met at the event and got a card from (that’s why you get them) within 3 weeks. Plan 1 or 2 days for this followup since it likely lead to conversations by phone.

Remember that marketing ISN’T just selling. Look at going to a conference as another opportunity to get known and to network.

A close friend got chatting after a church service to someone she knew. She mentioned my monthly networking group which she has attended and suggested the woman she was talking with should come. She gave her my name and contact info. The woman called me and it turns out that we had met 15 years ago!! You never know …

What else have you done at a conference to get known? Share it with us. (I also stand up and ask a question in each session.)

photo credit: GDC 2011 Day 5 (3/4) via photopin (license)

 November 26, 2015  Posted by  Marketing Basics, Networking No Responses »
Aug 192015

Cheryl RankinCheryl and I have both been networking for many years so of course that’s how we met. When it started the now defunct Women in a Home Office was held at The Beacher Cafe in Toronto (that’s where I hold my networking group now) and that’s where Cheryl and I first met more than 10 years ago.

We’ve continued to run into each other over the years at events here in Toronto. In fact she was a speaker at my network and I used her (her team) service when I needed a Word doc made into a pdf. The latter took a lot of back and forth (because of me) but they hung in until it was ready for publication!

Again networking and building relationships have paid off!

As Cheryl writes about her company Fit For Business on her website ” Hiring Fit For Business is like hiring a personal trainer for all aspects of a small business.” and she’s right. You need personal attention which means someone who listens carefully to you and recognizes what you need.

Click below to hear our interview. If you want to save a version to listen to at a later time, click where you see “Download MP3“.

MP3 File
Cheryl can be reached via phone at (416) 647-287-0320 here in the Toronto area or by email at

Her website is . You may ask her any questions about her services and you may even use her. She’s very accessible and will call or email back herself.
I interviewed her as another woman entrepreneur to demonstrate that YOU CAN DO ANYTHING!
Aug 092015
Trudy Van Buskirk sailing

Here’s a photo of me in August 1995 at the helm of MY OWN SAILBOAT in San Francisco Bay.

I’ve used the analogy of sailing to describe business many times – and not just because I’m a sailor!

Here are 8 ways that show it.

  1. Let’s say you want to sail across Lake Ontario from Toronto to Rochester. You know where you’re starting from and where you want to get to – your destination. That’s like business planning. For example, you plan to get gross sales of $1 million and you have a revenue of $0 to start.
  1. You have a nautical map and use it to mark your route. In business this is your written business plan.
  1. When sailing especially when you’re taking a long trip in waters unknown to you, you need a chart (map) that  shows what’s under the water – rocks, shoals, sandbars or reefs. In business you must know your industry and its trends and you must always be learning so you have a good idea of what’s coming. The future could hold things like changes in your industry, technology updates, the need for a mobile friendly website, or new laws like CASL (Canadian Anti-Spam Law).
  1. Sailing is different from using a powerboat since the motor in a powerboat allows you get to your destination in a straight line. There’s no such thing as “straight there” in sailing. It always depends on the wind – you could be on a tack or a reach; use a small sail or your spinnaker. In business you learn to “go with the flow” and expect changes – in everything.
  1. Speed is also dictated by the wind on a sailboat. Sometimes you move fast (on a reach – all hands on deck) and sometimes you’re in irons (no wind and therefore no movement) during which you clean the ship, fix sails etc. As I said in another article “All marketing is slow marketing“.
  1. You keep adjusting your sails to try to get as “close to the wind” as  you can. In business you need to review your marketing and sales results (analytics, split headlines) frequently and then tweak your plan accordingly. But since you know your destination that’s not a problem. Changing it just gets you closer.
  1. You could be in a fog (a real one like I was in San Francisco Bay) or heavy rain and you need help from others. We asked the US Coast Guard for help. In business it’s important to know when to ask for help.
  1. Before you begin any sailing – daysailing, racing or a trip, you ALWAYS check the equipment – the sails, the lines, the mast, and even the team to make sure they’re all in good shape. In a business the first thing you need is knowledge. I know it’s free on the internet but that’s not good enough – take courses – hire a consultant – get a team around who know what they’re doing because they’ve done it before.


Does this make you think of other similarities you? Tell me!

 August 9, 2015  Posted by  Business Basics No Responses »
Jul 062015

networkingYou pick a networking event and go to it. The speaker is great and she gives you lots of ideas for things you can do right away. Then comes the time to network.

The usual question when you’re networking is “So …. what do you do?” The eyes of the person you’re talking with glaze over. It’s boring and you know it.

How do you get a conversation started that’s engaging AND leads to another conversation one-on-one over coffee or tea?

Try some of these questions and see which ones work for you. ( I assume that each person has a name tag with their name and that of their business.)

  1. Tell me about yourself. How did you get into this particular business?
  2. Who have you been influenced by in your business?
  3. What do you enjoy most about your business?
  4. What’s the most helpful advice you’ve ever received?
  5. What separates you and your company from the competition?
  6. What advice would you give someone just starting in the widget business?
  7. What one thing would you do with your business if you knew you could not fail?
  8. What significant changes have you seen take place in your profession through the years?
  9. What do you see as the coming trends in the “widget” business?
  10. Describe the strangest or funniest incident you’ve experienced in your business.
  11. What marketing activities have you tried? Which ones work best for you?
  12. What one sentence would you like people to use in describing the way you do business?
The one question that separates “pros” from “amateurs”. 

The following question is key in the process of getting the person you’re speaking with to feel as though he knows you, likes you, and trusts you.  Be sure you ask it sincerely, and only after some initial rapport has been established.

“How can I know if someone I’m talking to is a good prospect for you?”

Makes you think of other questions to ask, doesn’t it?

What questions do you use to engage the other person in a conversation?

Read the next post to get 12 more questions to use to start a conversation.

Jun 072015

bill collectionAs a solopreneur you wear many hats including the one as the “dreaded bill collector”. Here is how to make this another sales opportunity.

Have you ever bought “fast food” and thought about why after you’ve placed your order, the clerk asks “would you like fries (or a sundae or a hot apple pie or whatever they’re featuring) with that? Of course you have. Put on your marketing hat and you see that as upselling.

Why not do the same thing when you’re collecting bills? Oh and do it by phone – it’s a lot more personal than email. Here’s what to do.

YOU: Hi. This is YOUR NAME of YOUR COMPANY and I’m calling today to see how my service (DESCRIBE IT) worked for you.


YOU: How did you use it?


YOU: I’ve switched to another hat now as the “dreaded bill collector”. (SMILE) When can I expect payment for this?


YOU: (after a bit of negotiation about the bill and payment.) I’d like to tell you about xyz product or service that I’m offering now. (Then describe it.) Does it fit for you to buy it now?


You get the idea. A dreaded call for you (few of us like collecting payment) becomes that AND an opportunity for you to tell the client about your latest offering.

It’s one of the 99 Ways to Build Your Business Under $100 that you get when you sign up for my monthly newsletter.

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 June 7, 2015  Posted by  Marketing Basics No Responses »
Jun 022015

marketingWhat do I mean by that? Marketing activities are what you use to get known therefore they are long term, aren’t they? What is long term to you – three months? six months? one year? five years?

Marketing plans and thus activities are directly related to and evolve out of your strategic plan. The strategic plans you write establish your business goals. The marketing activities are “how to get there” or tactics. They’re for a defined period of time, which most commonly is a year, but could be a quarter or even a month. They are your monthly “calendar of marketing activities”.

Therefore there’s an order to the things you need to do.

  1. set goals for your business  (one year)
  2. decide which products and services to do AND that help you meet your goals
  3. choose two kinds of marketing tactics
    • those for your long term goals (one year) and
    • those for your short term projects (products and services)

It also depends on your reason for using a particular marketing tactic and why you are you are using it. Here are two questions you need to ask.

1. Why are you doing it?  Which of your goals does it meet? Is it for a particular product or to build your reputation? The following are two reasons you may be doing it and the particular marketing activity to use.

  • for a campaign to launch a product or service (a page on your website, an ad, a newsletter item, several blog posts, your “30 second infomercial”, social media posts,presentations you’re doing, part of your email signature) 
  • get known locally – nationally – internationally (your entire website, newsletter, blog posts,”follow” or “friend” people on social media in your target market, networking, speaking, training, attending events, part of your email signature, etc)

You can see you can and should use all marketing activities.

2. How quickly do you need results?

It may be for a special and therefore time sensitive so you need results according to that date.

It could be to get known and that’s long term so requires you being “seen” often and everywhere hence my belief in repetition and that includes online. Frequency is important and therefore slow or long term.

In summary

ALL marketing is slow and repeated like a dripping tap. You hear it so often that you do something about it.

You’re in business for “the long haul” so market slowly and repeatedly.

What do YOU do?
 June 2, 2015  Posted by  Marketing Basics 1 Response »
May 072015

website or blogYou’re probably confused about whether you REALLY need a website or a blog when you start a business. Most business owners will tell you to have both. But do you have to? I’m going to present the case for having a blog first.

What is a blog?

A blog (short for weblog) is a discussion or informational site consisting of individual entries or “posts”. Blogging is a form of social network and twitter, facebook and linkedin (although it now has “Linkedin Pulse – but that’s another post) are microblogging platforms. Blog can also be used as a verb, meaning to maintain or add content to a blog.

Most blogs are interactive, allowing visitors to leave comments, and it is this interactivity that distinguishes them from static websites.  Bloggers not only produce content to post on their blogs but they also build social relations with their readers and other bloggers.

A typical blog combines text, images, and links to other blogs, websites and other media related to its topic.

Why should you start with a blog?

One word — cost.

1. It’s free unlike a website which can cost you from $1500 to $5000 to build it then anywhere from $75 to $200 a year – every year! (Typepad has a cost of $8.95 per month)

2. It’s easy. You only have to write one “post” to get up and running. (Post is the name that a blog gives to what you may know as an article.)

3. It’s kept on external servers like yahoo mail, gmail or hotmail are so you don’t keep it on your computer and it’s backed up by them ( or typepad or blogger) not by you.

4. You don’t have to have the whole thing “finished” like you do with a website.

5. It takes a lot less of your time. You only need to write blog posts on it as infrequently as once a week.

6. You can do it yourself (or you can hire someone to set it up for you then teach you how to write the posts.) (see my service to Build A Blog for you.)

What is different with a website?

Simply – it costs more and here’s why.

It costs your time to decide what you want it to look and the number and topic of pages to have.

It costs for a website developer and a copywriter (if you don’t write your own content).

When you decide to have a website, you need a domain name (the name of your business or yourself) and a host (somewhere to keep it). The domain costs about $7 the first year (to get your business) but annually after that about $15.

How are they different?

The only thing that makes the two different is the cost of hosting.

You can use your own domain name with a blog (the one they give you is as an example) and as with a website you pay to own the domain name.

You may choose to have someone develop your blog (colour, template, text, etc) and that will cost you. The good news is that you can start simple and keep adding to it.

Start with a blog – you can always create a website later. In the meantime grow your business and direct people to your blog!

So  … are you starting your business “on a shoestring”? Then you can do it by using a blog! What did you start with – a blog or a website?

photo credit: This is for Everyone, Mosaic by Sue Edkins, Mostly Mosaics at East Sheen Library, photo by Robert Smith via photopin (license)