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 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)

Sep 232014

This may seem counterintuitive but it’s not. You have to try many things and have many failures before you know what works for you — – and only you.

failure - EdisonA famous quote by Thomas Edison is “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.”

That doesn’t mean you don’t need to plan – you do.

Your plan as a solopreneur is not carved in stone but should be looked at least every 6 months and assessed. You don’t know when you start a business who your target market will be or which marketing activities work.

But I’ll repeat — plan anyways but put “review” right in your plan.

Several of us who coach and mentor business startups recently had a conversation and agreed that one topic which should be taught and emphasized is that people need to try things a lot in the first year. A woman who started her business last year said that she’s changing her target market and asked if that was alright. We all chimed in “of course it is – that’s normal. Don’t feel guilty that you didn’t know when you started. Few people do.”

It’s like learning to ride a bicycle.

startup business tipI was about eight and kept watching with envy the other kids on my street who could ride a bike. They would “whiz around” the neighbourhood. My parents had bought me a bike and a neighbour offered to teach me to ride. He held onto the back of the seat so I wouldn’t fall. Needless to say, I didn’t learn. Then another neighbor (a teenage girl) stepped in one day.

I thought she was holding onto the seat too so I kept riding. But when I turned around she waved at me from half a block away and called out “you’re riding.” I fell right away but got back up. I fell often at first but kept trying  … and rode. I was still wobbly but in about an hour I was riding up and down our street.

What did I learn from that?

  • Focus Know what end result you want and go for it.
  • Persistence  “Try, try again.”
  • Confidence She (the one who taught me) believed in me and said so.
  • Falling is good. Just keep getting up.
  • Plan for mistakes

failureMake lots of mistakes. Plan to fail. It’s a good thing. Make failure a part of your plan.

Review your results every six months. If you’re not getting where you want to go with the marketing tools you’re using — try something else.

Ask clients what they want and are willing to pay for. Focus on a smaller segment of your target market or change markets completely :-)

What I do today is different from what I did in 1980. I’ve refocused or changed businesses six times since then and tried many different things in that time. Each time I assume that making mistakes will be a part of the process.

Tell me about your plan and the mistakes you’ve made.

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 September 23, 2014  Posted by  Marketing Mindset, Startup Business Tagged with: ,  No Responses »
Aug 132014

marketing planWhen you see the phrase marketing plan do you cringe? Do you think of long and detailed plans that corporations use? Do you think of math and lots of detail and the time it would take? As a solopreneur starting out in 1980 I did. I even wrote a white paper on how to do one (in the 90s).

Do you look at successful entrepreneurs and say that some of them didn’t have a plan at all? They just flew by the seat of their pants (at the beginning). Or planning seemed to be a left brain activity and you’re right brained.

Everyone knows you should write a plan but like eating healthy or exercising many of you say you will do it but few of you do. So what’s stopping you? You have lots of excuses but the most prevalent is there’s not enough time.

I’m here to say that there is a happy medium – especially for solopreneurs. The standard marketing plan at least for solopreneurs is dead.

Use the word map instead of plan.

You can draw a map (right brain people) or use written directions (left brain) or both. Mapquest does. Why don’t you?

marketing planThink of planning for a trip. You decide on your destination and which places you’ll visit along the way and what you’ll do in each place. You choose your clothes according to these activities. You go on the trip and take lots of pictures. When you get home you feel relaxed and think about all the places you visited. You may even arrange a get together with friends to show your photos.

That’s a simplified version of everything you do before, during and after a trip. Now let’s compare it to planning in your business.

  • choosing your destination = writing your goals
  • what you’ll do in each place = assessing your uniqueness/ your ideal customer
  • your clothes = marketing activities
  • taking pictures = what you deliver in your business
  • getting home and thinking about where you’ve been = analyzing your results
  • having a get together = a celebration!

There could be much more but you get the idea. You’re really developing a plan. But you say that a trip is fun and so planning is easy! Why not make business and marketing planing fun too?

I recently read a book called The Right-Brain Business Plan by Jennifer Lee published in 2011 so being right brained isn’t an excuse. She found a way to make planning for creative types fun.

It’s about mindset. Change your mindset and you’ll see a business and marketing plan differently.

Tell me how you developed your business plan and whether you enjoyed the process. Remember if you love your business ….. loving planning goes along with it :-)

photo credit: Yahoo Inc via

Jul 302014

face to face conversationYou need to be on social media if you have a business today. But the best way still to build a relationship is to get together face to face. I was reminded of it a few years ago when my “movie buddy” and I went to see The Social Network which was about Mark Zuckerberg founding Facebook.

You may think I’m going to write something I learned from the movie but I’m not – exactly.

We met before the movie to catch up over a coffee, and play some checkers, too. That event reminded me that a “face-to-face” get together is really a reunion. It’s a chance to see the person’s expression and “feel” their warmth (pleasure or displeasure) as we each take a turn to talk. You’re building your relationship.

Then we went into the movie and I was reminded that even though social media is important for us and our businesses to attract people that the physical act of getting together is better – even wonderful. We should savour every second of it. It’s an opportunity to “be in the present”.

So meet your clients in person if you can. It’s more than good marketing. It’s great to be WITH someone. And if you live far away from them you can use skype or google hangouts to see them. when you chat.

What do you do?

(By the way, it was a good movie.)

photo credit: [Duncan] via photopin cc

Apr 292014

how to work with youHave you ever heard the phone ring when you’re working with a client?

You can let it go to voicemail but aren’t you distracted for an instant when it rings? Now with cell phones and the proliferation of texting, aren’t you sometimes bothered by this? I am. In the 90s before email, I had a pager but my message there and on my phone said “If I don’t answer, I’m probably in a training session and will call you back within 24 hours.”

When you start your business, teach your clients how to work with you. It’s not just telling them your fees and how your service works but about calling you, emailing and texting you now. I reply to business emails on the weekend, keep them in my draft folder and then send them on Monday morning so people don’t think they can communicate with me on the weekend.

Four things to educate your clients about

Think about these areas of your business. How do you want people to work with you?

  1. What you offer. Whether it’s a service or a product teach people everything about what you have available. Include a few of the negative aspects, too! (That’ll make you more human and trustworthy).
  2. How to do business with you. What times are you available? What’s the best way to reach you? When do you check your email? etc … This will make your life and theirs simpler.
  3. What terms you use. What do people need to know? If they’re not buying yet, they may not understand the terms you’re using and that could be the reason why! Tell them without using short forms or jargon so they understand (for example, if you’re helping with technology don’t say RAM. Use memory. Don’t just say hard drive say storage etc). Tell them the term and a simple way to think of it. Never use jargon. That brings up another point. Who is your potential client? Who are you writing for? Novices and experts are very different.
  4. How to work you once they’re a client. What city are you in? How far will you travel? Do you prefer a long distance phone call or skype?

teach clientsCommunication is always at the top of the list of things that are important to people. Let them know and they will usually forgive you when you have a problem.

That should help them AND you! Tell me what you do.

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Aug 062013

wizard of ozI saw The Wizard of Oz stage musical here in Toronto and it was magical. All boomers should see it with their friends, children and grandchildren. My favourite song of all times is Somewhere Over the Rainbow and when Dorothy sang it there were tears in my eyes.

The audience at the matinee I attended was mostly women and children. Many of the women had grey hair so I expect like me they had seen the original movie with Judy Garland as Dorothy (which was produced in 1939).

What can boomers starting their own business learn from this?

Choose an enduring product or service as your business.

How do you know that it’s enduring? Look around you at things that have been around since we boomers were kids. Technology is not ALWAYS the answer.

  • People always shop for clothing. Be a personal shopper.
  • They always write. If you’re good, become a writer. You don’t have to have a degree to do this.
  • They always take photos. Teach people how to take photos (you don’t necessarily hack to learn the “techy stuff” for digital camers.)
  • They always move. Seniors downsize. Be a “downsizer”.


Do you see what I mean?

You don’t have to learn technology (except for your marketing where you need to have a website and you can hire an expert to do that.) Stay young by taking a few courses at a community college college to refresh your knowledge and your skills.

I recently had coffee with Laurie Bell of Moving Seniors with A Smile. She works with seniors to help them downsize. When I asked her why she had started this business she said that she had helped her mother to downsize several times so when she left her job to start a business she knew just what could do – downsizing for seniors.


Have you started a business yet? Do you have a business now? Is it in something you had as a hobby before? Tell us about it :-)

 photo credit: Jim, the Photographer via photopin cc

 August 6, 2013  Posted by  Startup Business No Responses »
Jul 172013

startup - wizard of ozWhat can a startup learn from Dorothy?

Recently I saw the stage musical “The Wizard of Oz” – inspiring and motivational.

If you’ve ever seen the film by the same name, Dorothy is knocked out by a house that got caught in a tornado (very common in Kansas) and imagined a whole story which put the people she knew in fictitious roles. She always had one goal though and that was to get home to Kansas so along with her little dog Toto, she followed “the yellow brick road” to find the “wizard of Oz” who she was told could help her get back home.

Dorothy never gave up on her goal – to get home to Kansas. She dealt with evil witches, scary forests, the smell of poppies which made her sleep and “loud” guards at the gate to where she wanted t go.

How is this like you and your startup?

She had (and used) persistence, resilience, and courage which are all qualities of an entrepreneur.  “The Wizard of Oz” is one of my favourite movies (it came out in 1939 with Judy Garland playing Dorothy). I saw it as a child in the 1950s (yes, I’m a boomer) and it must have affected me. I’ve been self employed since 1980 and have gone through ups and downs and have had problems and opportunites in my businesses and in my life. AND I’ve always been persistent, resilient and courageous …. and positive.

Did seeing this movie as a child influence me? Of course.

Do you have these qualities? Yes you do since you’re starting a business. Keep moving forward as Dorothy did :-)


What other qualities do you have? What influenced you — a movie, a person, a book, a song? Let us all know by writing a comment.


photo credit: Jim, the Photographer via photopin cc

Jul 032013

take a breakGet away from your business.

It’s summer here in the northern hemisphere and most people plan some kind of holiday now but I’m talking about taking a break anytime.

We don’t take enough breaks and should take more. Don’t use your cellphone or your laptop. But DO take your camera. Don’t call your clients. Tell them you’re going somewhere you can’t be reached. The power of self employment is that you CAN take a break whenever you need one. If you run a business where clients have urgent needs then have someone you trust take care of them and have a voice mail message that tells how to reach them.

How do you do stop working?

If you don’t stop for even a little while you will be forced to – by your body. You’ll get an ailment of some kind that will remind you that you must.

This is how to take some time away from thinking about your business.

  1. take a bike ride or if you don’t have or ride a bike, take a walk – with your hantake a breakds empty. The further you get from your office and the longer you’re away, the clearer your mind will become.
  2. go away somewhere for a couple of days. You can sail, walk, climb or drive to someplace you love or have never been and always wanted to go.
  3. have a 1 or 2 week vacation – a real trip and don’t plan anything (except maybe how you’ll get there and where you’ll stay).
  4. for 3 weeks or 1 month, get away from your business. Michael Gerber, author of The E-Myth Revisited , asks us to work ON our business and not IN it.

Any time away from your business and that means your “electronic stuff” too is good. As long as you think of something else or don’t think at all, it will free your mind up and you will be better when you get back. I read a book called Mastermind. How to think like Sherlock Holmes and one of things I learned that makes him a great “sleuth” is that he takes time away from a case – he plays his violin or goes for a long walk.

You don’t have to go away

If you can’t get physically away (yet) be sure to schedule some time every day to be away – yoga, walking, lunch with a friend who won’t talk business, put your head down on your desk, or look out of the window and be grateful for everything you have.

Do this

Put the points from above (numbers 1 through 4) in your daytimer and take it. You deserve it. Time is all we really have.


Tell us how YOU took a break in the comments below.

Oct 232012

school teacherYou’ve probably been a schoolteacher if you’re a boomer woman over 55.  I was born in 1950 when women had three career choices. You could be a school teacher, a secretary or a nurse. I chose to be a teacher since I knew that I wouldn’t be one forever.

From university on, I wanted to have my own business. Little did I know then that teaching would give me the skills I’d use as a business owner. I taught for 8 years from 1972 to 1980. in the summer of 1978 I taught how to use computers in the classroom as a course BEFORE you needed credentials to teach it to other teachers. Nancy Murray a Superintendent in the Windsor Separate School Board took a risk on me. I had 40 teachers in my class that summer. That was the beginning of my self employment journey. I’d started.

Being a teacher is one of the best things you can do. Many of us have been teachers and most don’t know that teaching prepares you to become an entrepreneur who starts and runs your own business. Here are some of the many skills that teaching gave us.woman business owner

  1. being “teachable” and therefore learning what you need to know through professional development.
  2. short term and long term planning. (Do teachers still create “day plans” and “weekly plans”?)
  3. running a large group. When I started in 1972 I had 42 students in my first year. Did that ever prepare me!
  4. risk taking
  5. persistence
  6. patience
  7. goal setting. You set goals not only for yourself each year but especially if you taught special education as I did, you set goals for each individual student as well.
  8. speaking to a group. You know how to speak to a group and if you had the courage you also spoke to larger groups of your peers.
  9. educating!!!
  10. how people learn (3 modalities). As a teacher it was automatic for you to know this but those who didn’t teach learned it later — if they were lucky :-)
  11. how to research offline and online
  12. “reading, writing and of course arithmetic”
  13. creativity. You had to “make do with what you had” and therefore if you didn’t have something you used your creativity to make what you needed from what you had.
  14. listening to and knowing the individual needs of your students/ clients
    … and of course …
  15. being your own boss (I guess that’s why I liked Special Education so much.)

I could go on and on. Do you see how as a teacher you have the skills needed as a business owner? What you don’t know yet is how to start a business but you know how to learn, don’t you? Well that’s all you need. I and most entrepreneurs didn’t take courses on how to start a business. They (and I) learned what we needed as we went along by trial and error. Sure we made mistakes. Didn’t your students when they were learning? We read books, took classes, attended conferences and hired coaches.

Take a risk and start your own business. Ask for help when you need it. And keep learning. That’s what keeps us young!

Just do it as the Nike slogan says. What else would you add to this list?

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