Evolve or Die: Why it is OK (and Necessary) to Change Your Path

I’m pleased to welcome a new guest contributor, Kathy Rasmussen! I met Kathy through a group of badass biz ladies called The Collective {of Us}. Kathy is a super smart implementation coach, event planner and speaker based in Salt Lake City, Utah, and I know you’re going to love her!

Evolve or Die: Why it is OK (and Necessary) to Change Your Path

If millions of years of evolution has taught us anything, it’s that change is natural. And actually, it isn’t just natural, it is inevitable. Things change: people, circumstances, styles, trends, culture… The list goes on and on. One simple truth stands firm – evolve or die.

I frequently hear creative business owners confess they are unsure about what they are doing. They have lost their passion, are getting bored or it simply doesn’t feel quite right. I’ve definitely been there. When those feelings set in, it is nature’s way of telling you that evolution is coming.

Evolution can be a natural occurrence or a conscious decision. And in the best businesses, a combination of both, otherwise known as Guided Evolution.

Indie Biz Case Study: The Evolution of Bee Wise Goods

In 2008, Gabrielle Krake formed her company, Bee Wise Goods. “We make whimsical treasures for your life and home, including kid and baby items, limited runs of clothing, 10 types of bags, housewares, artwork, notecards and journals. It all started with a reusable grocery bag tutorial for my blog.”

Gabrielle was not new to the entrepreneurial game. She says,

“I have always been an entrepreneur, ALWAYS! As a small child I took my artwork to my mom and dad’s places of work and sold them to their coworkers (not because they were amazing or anything, but the people appreciated my verve, I guess). I had lemonade stands constantly, sold do-dads in front of our house, had yard sales etc. Then in my teens I had become a very proficient seamstress. I made most of my clothing and soon was doing it for friends or teaching them to sew. My mom had an outdoor outfitter company making custom clothing for dog mushers, and I soon found myself designing and making items for Iditarod mushers. My specialty was harnesses and dog booties for every condition of snow and ice. I made thousands upon thousands of them and had quite the living as a junior and senior in high school.”

Once settling down with her husband in Idaho, Gabrielle stumbled on a need which needed filling.

“I had just started blogging in 2007. No one was reading or at least commenting and I was treating it more as a personal journal than anything, but I wanted to start putting crafts on the blog rather than just rambling about my day. I was having a frank internal conversation with myself about what to make, but knowing that what I really needed to do was go to the grocery store.

“This set me off on my utter dislike for my reusable bags – a hodge podge of free type bags that I had collected to do my green part. I usually “forgot” them in the car. Inspiration struck. I ran downstairs, grabbed a paper bag and the next 5 hours was spent designing and making myself some really cute grocery bags. As I was leaving, one of my best friends stopped by, she saw the bags and screamed, “Where did you get those???”

“I informed her I made them. The next five hours, she was convincing me to sell them and go into business. Nine days later, our business was up and running, with orders from five boutiques (one in San Francisco), a website and all the other details. It was crazy!!!! Simply a miracle.”

BeeWiseGoods & Boise'sBakery in Boise Idaho

Since starting her online business, Gabrielle has added on a brick-and-mortar store, video tutorials, in-house training and she started a bakery. She says the evolution of her business was natural, “but as customers’ needs changed or the market shifted we had to be paying close enough attention to make conscious moves to stay in business.”

How To Use Guided Evolution In Your Creative Business

1. Assess
Do some real searching of your business’s soul. Where are you in your business? What is working? What is not?

Don’t rely on your analysis alone; an outside perspective is crucial for objectivity. Get some feedback through a customer survey, focus group or asking some trusted (and knowledgeable) friends or colleagues.

Gabrielle’s advice is to always look at the numbers. She says, “I watch our numbers very closely. This enables me to keep a realistic “pulse” on all aspects of our business. For instance, when doing craft shows stopped creating enough revenue to make attending them worth it, we stopped. Or when sales of a particular item lagged for more than 6 weeks, I stopped making it.”

2. Research
Next, do some searching outside your business. Research your market: What is your audience looking at? What do they love and what do they avoid?

Research your competition: What are they doing that’s working? Analyze and learn from their strategies.

3. Plan
After the assessing and research, your destination will be much more clear. With your destination in mind, make a plan of how to get there. For my own projects and when I’m working with clients, I use a seven-step process to create a blueprint to keep me on course and on schedule.

Keep your plan loose. Though planning is an important tool to launch your projects, over-planning is a recipe for disaster. Not only is it a form of procrastination, it sets your expectations too high — nothing ever goes exactly as planned. Keep your plan agile and flexible. It will evolve with you throughout the process.

4. Take the Next Step
Now is the moment of truth. It is time to take the plunge. I could rattle off a thousand cliches, but it simply boils down to: just start. To do this, ask yourself one question, “What is the next step?” Then take it. And, once you are done, ask the same question again.

What is your next step?

Leave me a comment below and let me know about your own evolution.

Thanks to Kathy for sharing her tips, and thanks to Gabrielle for sharing her business evolution story. Check out Kathy’s blog for more actionable tips and sage advice. 

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Getting Published [Tips on Finding Readers, Self-Publishing & More]

Are you an aspiring author, looking to get published? So is my friend Suzy, who inspired this post. She's almost done with her novel but has no idea what to do next to get it published.

Luckily, these days there are more resources than ever for getting published and self-publishing your fiction and non-fiction books.

Getting Published Tips

I reached out to a few different friends who have gotten their books published, either through traditional means or by self-publishing.

Below you’ll find their tips and advice for aspiring authors, as well as additional resources for those who are working on getting their written work published.

Beth Moncel Food Blogger & Cookbook Author: Budget Bytes

Here are my thoughts on publishing. I've never self published, but I think I would next time based on my experiences with a major publishing house.

Expect the following from a publisher:

  • It's a long process. Usually 1.5 years, or 9-12 months if expedited.
  • Most people don't get an advance, so you'd be working "unpaid" until after publication. Advances themselves don't usually come before you start working, but in lump payments throughout the process, so many people have to keep a regular job while working on their book.
  • Royalties are usually only around 7% of sales.
  • It's really tough to sign on with a publisher. Usually you have to get an agent to sign on to your project first, then they shop it to publishers. There are many tutorials online about how to write and prepare book proposals for agents and publishers.
  • The publisher does a lot of the work for you, which is nice (design, editing, publicity/promotion) and they have established connections and networks that work to your benefit.
  • A LOT of people will have their hands in your book and want to make changes.
  • Having an assigned publicist is probably the biggest benefit to using a publisher.

Self Publishing:

  • You can work at your own speed, but you're responsible for everything (design, editing, promotion).
  • Upwork (formerly Elance-oDesk) is a great place to hire out help with those tasks.
  • You keep 100% the profit, as opposed to a 7% royalty.
  • You will have complete control of the content.
  • It's a good option for people who already have a big following or reach because you'll already have a big audience and exposure without extra promotional effort.
  • It's a good option for smaller books or publications with a really small niche market. Small projects don't necessarily need a team of people to make it happen.

In conclusion, I'd self publish unless it was a huge project because being paid 100% of profits for your hard work is a LOT different than 7%.


For the past six years, Beth has been dishing out healthy, inexpensive recipes and teaching kitchen basics through her popular blog, Budget Bytes and the corresponding cookbook, Budget Bytes - Over 100 Easy Delicious Recipes to Slash Your Grocery Bill in Half. She loves getting creative in the kitchen and hopes to show others just how fun and rewarding cooking can be.

Self-publishing with Amazon

Amazon has become a leader in the self-publishing world, and they offer lots of tools and resources for wanna-be authors.

Interested in selling e-books? You can publish your digital book for free with Kindle Direct Publishing. You’ll have to potential to reach millions of readers through Amazon’s Kindle platform, and you will earn royalties of up to 70%.

If you want to create a print edition of your novel or non-fiction book, you can independently publish with CreateSpace.

You can even create an audiobook with Amazon’s Audiobook Creation Exchange (ACX).

Missy Wilkinson YA Author: Destroying Angel 

If you’re self-publishing, congrats! You’re taking control of your own literary destiny, sharing your work with the world and positioning yourself to reap excellent financial benefits for doing so.

The great thing about self-publishing is there’s no barriers. Anyone can self publish. That’s also the downside: ANYONE can self publish. Your self-publishing journey is all about setting yourself apart. The best way to do that is by publishing a book of outstanding quality.

I’m already assuming you have a manuscript in hand. First and foremost, the manuscript should be the best damned thing you can write. You should write, revise, write and then revise again. Then hand the whole thing off to a group of trusted readers. Family and friends are good first choices, but can be biased in your favor. Online communities like AgentQueryConnect and Wattpad are ways to network with other writers and gain feedback.

Once you’ve gotten feedback from a handful of early readers, incorporate what resonates with you and/or makes sense. Then clean it up, grammar-wise, to the best of your ability and hire an editor. Hire an editor. HIRE AN EDITOR. Yes, I just repeated that three times, in violation of Strunk and White’s first rule of good writing: Omit needless words. (Do you own The Elements of Style? You should.)

But that emphasis is warranted! For a book to be competitive on the literary marketplace, it has to be as good as what small and large presses are publishing. They ALL hire editors. Prepare to shell out hundreds to thousands of dollars for this service, depending on your manuscript’s length and who you hire.

There’s also a hidden marketing benefit to hiring a stellar editor: you can use the positive parts of their feedback as book endorsements. If you go this route, be sure to ask the editor for permission to quote him or her before you plop the blurb on your book jacket. Most will be happy to comply. A positive endorsement from an editor who is known in the field is one of the most powerful tools you can have when it comes to selling your book.

Good luck!


Missy Wilkinson is author of the Young Adult novel DESTROYING ANGEL (Prizm/Torquere Press) and special sections editor at Gambit Weekly. She freelances for xoJane.com, BRIDES, HelloGiggles.com, Country Living, Google's GeoEditorial project and many others.

TOP REVIEWED BOOKS ABOUT MAKING A LIVING FROM YOUR WRITING

Want to make a living doing what you love? (And I'll assume in this case, what you love to do is writing.) Check out these top-rated books on Amazon:​

Autumn Ware Copywriter: Aware Copywriting 
  • Check out Wattpad.com as a way to crowdsource feedback. Major publishing companies monitor it to see which stories go viral, and several authors have picked up contracts without even having to send out a query letter.
  • Start building your platform as early as possible.
  • Make sure that you create an actual author page on Facebook rather than using your personal page. When you’re famous, you’ll appreciate the privacy. ;)
  • Once the book is out, be sure to take time to create author pages at Amazon Author Portal, GoodReads, Manic Readers, Book Riot, Shelfari, etc.
  • Remember that social media isn’t for selling but for building relationships. Think about what the people who would enjoy your novel are interested in and focus on sharing that with them. If you publish enjoyable posts, they’ll remember your name and your branding without promoting yourself non-stop. M.J. Rose, a paranormal romance novelist, does a great job of this.
  • Please do not do that auto-DM thing on Twitter. I’ve got a hundred authors that I intended to support, but the minute I start getting inundated with automated messages, I’m done. On the flip side, when anyone thanks me for following them by name, meaning they actually took the time themselves, I’m won over.
  • According to Mark Coker, SmashWords founder, the highest grossing authors offer at least one book free.
  • Invest in an attractive, professional cover and a thorough editor.

Autumn Ware supports her writing habit through her New Orleans-based business Aware Copywriting Services. She pens novels about ninjas, poets, stray cats, and teen hackers as a hobby.

Have you published a book?

If you have additional advice, please share your tips for getting published in the comments below, or reach out: hello @ missmalaprop.com

Are you an aspiring author?

Do you have more questions that aren't covered above? Please leave a comment below and I'll try to track down the answer for you!


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Do Good: Buy Handmade & Change Women’s Lives with Gifts from Global Goods Partners

Buy Handmade Gifts and Change Lives: Global Goods Partners

Clockwise, from top left:

Recently, Malerie Thiel reached out to let me know about the non-profit she works with, Global Goods Partners. Their mission is to connect women artisans in some of the world’s poorest communities with a market for their handmade products. Thanks to Malerie for sharing this story of how traditional artistry from around the world is being used to create beautiful handmade goods and transform women’s lives.

The world of contemporary fashion and modern business often leaves behind centuries-old practices in art and culture. Across the globe, many communities that have made a living by using traditional art practices have found themselves struggling to find new sources of income, and have been held back by lack of economic empowerment and resources. This is where GGP comes in.

Global Goods Partners is a non-profit organization that specializes in partnering with artisan communities around the world.

Global Goods Partners is a non-profit organization that specializes in partnering with artisan communities across the globe and providing them with access to the US market. We work with nearly 40 associations, cooperatives and social enterprises worldwide that integrate their commitment to community development—such as improvements in education, health, women’s rights, and employment opportunities—with socially responsible income-generating programs in craft development. GGP works exclusively through local organizations, so none of the work disrupts the community or negatively affects other artisans trying to make a living. This way the focus is entirely on the needs of the community; not building a foreign business that competes with other impoverished citizens.

Our designers work with our artisans to create fashion-forward designs that incorporate traditional practices into contemporary products. This partnership not only reinforces a community-centered artistic tradition, but also provides living wages and economic empowerment to impoverished families around the world.

One example of our collaborations is the Indigo Ikat Weekender bag, a beautiful product from our partner Maya Traditions in Guatemala. Indigenous peoples such as the Maya are especially in danger of loss of culture, so we are proud to show a design that features an example of traditional Mayan weaving practices.

To create this product, first natural dye is prepared and applied to cotton thread to achieve a deep, vibrant indigo:

natural fabric dying process

Next, the thread is woven on a traditional back-strap loom as the intricate ikat pattern is formed. Although ikat has become a trendy pattern seen on style icons such as Kristen Bell, Leighton Meester, and Michelle Obama, the roots of the pattern can be seen in traditional Maya blankets and weaving:

Mayan weaving techniques

After that, the woven fabric is carefully sewn into shape. With the addition of locally-sourced leather straps, the bag is ready to be shipped to our warehouse and then to you!

Indigo Ikat Weekender Bag

Every purchase of the Weekender provides social services such as youth education, financial assistance, a community health program, and workshops on product design and business development, as well as a living wage to our artisans.

To shop our handmade, fair trade products and support hundreds of talented women throughout the Global South, please visit GlobalGoodsPartners.org. Any questions or comments can be directed to info@globalgoodspartners.org or tweeted to @GlobalGoods. You can also find Global Goods Partners on Facebook, Pinterest and Instagram.

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#BadassCreatives: XO Sarah Morgan

The Badass Blog Planner, by Sarah Morgan

I stumbled upon Sarah Morgan fairly recently, as her workbook The Badass Blog Planner popped up on Amazon as a suggestion for a book I might like. You know I love to celebrate badassery in all its forms, and I was so excited to find someone else who is all about helping other badass creatives!

Sarah is a badass web designer, writer, and consultant for freelancers, bloggers and small biz owners. But she’s oh-so much more than that… Sarah is also an aerial instructor and circus performer. When I discovered that, it really resonated with me, as I have a lot of uber-talented friends here in New Orleans who make their livings as burlesque and drag performers. I LOVE people who are multi-passionate and have figured out how to make a living doing all of the things they love.

I recently chatted with Sarah to find out more about her newest book and how she got into aerial arts.

Sarah Morgan aerialist

Photo credit: Cheryl Willard, Spilt Sugar 

In addition to web design and training programs for other creative entrepreneurs, you also do aerial performance. Can you share how you got started in that, and how you think that has shaped your overall career as a creative entrepreneur?

I took an aerial class on a whim about five and half years ago. I was HORRIBLE at it, but I loved the challenge, so I kept going back. Classes turned into performances and then performances turned into teaching. Five years later I’m now in San Diego training multiple times a week and teaching kids aerial classes. It has definitely taught me to trust myself and take risks. Working hard every day and going after things even if you may fail has been a big part of my aerial practice and growing my business as well.

Create Profit Party, by Sarah Morgan

You just launched a new book on passive income streams… Can you share a little bit about it, who it’s for, and what makes it different than similar books and courses on this subject?

Create. Profit. Party! is my start to finish guide for anyone looking to create passive income. I cover everything from ebooks and e-courses, to affiliate marketing, podcasts, and tangible products. Passive income has been a huge part of growing my business and something that has made me feel more financially secure than I ever did working for someone else. Most of the books I’ve found are written by men and have more serious business tone. While I share lots of actionable info, I definitely have a different writing style, so you’ll never feel like you’re reading a text book.

If you could go back in time to when you were still working a 9-to-5 job and give yourself 1 piece of advice, what would it be?

Keep going – it will be 110% worth it. And don’t be afraid to take time off, your business will still be there when you get back.

Sarah Morgan

What’s your next big goal for your business? Where do you see yourself in 2 years?

Since the response to Create. Profit. Party! has been so great I’m working on creating a group coaching program to go along with the book. That way I can give people more specific help in guiding them through the process.

In two years I still hope to be working with design clients, creating products and programs, and helping people build badass blogs and businesses online!

See? I told you Sarah is a badass. Follow her at xosarah.com, or find her on Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest or Instagram

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Cute Swimsuits for Every Shape & Size

Cute Bathing Suits Under $150

Summer is in full swing. The pools are open, the beach is waiting, the sun is beckoning. If your swimwear selection could use a little sprucing up, you’re in luck! I’ve rounded up a fun assortment of cute swimsuits for every shape and size. I love classic lines and vintage glamour. High-waisted bottoms, kitschy prints, retro-inspired one-pieces and separates – there are lots of options out there to suit your style. Here are a few of my favorites, all under $150!

Cute Plus Size Bathing Suits

 

I’m loving these two plus size bathing suits from ModCloth. These suits are by two of my favorite retro swimwear brands: the suit on the left is by Fables by Barrie and the suit at right is by Esther Williams. Both brands make adorable vintage inspired swimwear in a full range of sizes, giving girls of all shapes something to smile about.

Handmade Wonder Woman Inspired Bathing Suits

Love Wonder Woman? (Who doesn’t?) Then you’ll seriously love this handmade super-heroine swimwear by Etsy seller Kooj. Designer Christy is a full-time mama and swimwear designer based in New Jersey who juggles caring for her infant with hand-crafting each and every swimsuit in her shop. Each piece is made to measure in a full range of sizes.

Cute Bathing Suits at ModCloth

I’m loving this black and white striped number from ModCloth. The criss-cross stripes over the waist make for an oh-so-slimming silhouette. And as for the green and black swimsuit pictured at right? OBSESSED! The colors and print are too cute!

Seafolly Women's Goddess Boy-Leg One-Piece Swimsuit

I love this boy-cut retro one-piece suit by Seafolly. This halter style bathing suit comes in a variety of colors, in sizes 4-12. I wish they offered a greater size range, because this sporty, vintage-inspired swimsuit has really great reviews on Amazon.

cute plus size bathing suits

These plus-size swimsuits are all about the details. Whether it’s a little extra coverage you seek in the form of this polka-dotted beauty by Esther Williams (those ruffles!), or you’d rather show off your playful side with a faux-button ruffle detail, a la this Maxine of Hollywood bathing suit, these swimsuits will make you want to spend your summer days pool-side.

All this swimwear shopping has me dreaming of a beach vacay. Happy summer!

** Disclaimer: Some links to products you see here are affiliate links, which means if you click through and purchase a product, I receive a small commission. That said – I only post things here that I genuinely like or think are cool! Prices subject to change. Price categories are based on product prices listed at the time of writing this article.
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