Tuesday, March 26, 2019

Building a Business

I often get asked about my "brand", meaning my business and the image I have created for my business/myself. Essentially, no matter the type of business, your business will always be a reflection of you. Because of that, it is very important to invest as much as possible (in money, time, and effort) into your business. I have a few very basic tips that might be helpful for those looking to build a business.

First and foremost, you have to really want it. That sounds cliche, but it's important. If you do not truly want the business, it will be much harder to put in the dedication needed for the business to succeed. I have known people who want a business just because they think it's the mature thing to do. They think if they don't "level up" they are somehow failing at life. That mentality, in my experience, is toxic. Without passion, it's just another job. And "just another job" is not something you make sacrifices for.

Second, have a great idea. This kind of goes hand and hand with the first tip. To truly have a successful business, it needs to be something that people are going to care about. Whether that is numerous movie reviews or low carb ice cream or an easy-to-follow financial planning system, if you truly care about it, and feel there is a need for it in the world, other people will likely agree.

Similarly, it's important to understand your customers. Knowing what your customers are looking for, what they expect, and what they don't want to see is vital to customer success. One way of knowing is that you relate to them, because they want the same things you want, but there are tools that can help, too, since as your business grows it will expend past your demographic and become more universal. Guided tour features allow you to create detailed, personalized onboarding tracks that guide your customers in a high-touch, yet scalable way.

Know your limits, but don't settle. It's important to have realistic expectations. If you have delicious of grandeur you can find yourself feeling like you're failing even when you are doing quite well. Your business will most likely not become an overnight sensation. It probably won't be the next Amazon or Apple, but it can change your life and even change the world. That's not to say don't strive for those things. Always be building towards more, just don't expect a miracle. It takes work.

And last but not least, never give up. Another cliche, but it's sometimes the simplest things that are the most important. You might have it easy. You might strike gold on your first swing, but it is more likely that you will fail at some point. That's life. That's business. The real success is in not letting that stop you. Passion, intelligence, hard work, dedication, ingenuity, creativity, empathy, these are the building blocks of any good business. The rest is just the drywall. Go forth and build.   

The Business of Blogging

Since my blog is also my business, I have to treat it like a business. I invest in my blog and build it and grow it the same way I would any other business. Actually, I think I treat it more personally, since it is a reflection of me. It's my brand, my image out in the world. I want it to be everything it can be.

One of the most important tools in blogging is networking. It's a funny thing, because you can't just install a program or have a sale or something. Networking is very much about you. While you can have other employees, and they can help with this, it is about your relationship with clients and potential clients. And it is such a huge factor in the success of your brand. Having a good relationship with a PR can transcend other factors (like UMV and Social Media followers) used to determine your "worthiness" of collaboration.

The numbers are quite important, too, however. Being able to present evidence of your followers, engagement, etc. goes a long way toward forming partnerships. Gartner MDM can help with that. Their unique approach allows you to fast track your data management. Having concrete statistics not only helps you show prospective clients what you can offer, it also helps you see where you might need to improve. Solving problems before they even arise.

You should also invest in other software and devices to help your blog be efficient and professional. For example, a good, fast, laptop with a lot of storage space is a great tool for writing and all the email and social media demands. A great camera is important to capture quality images. You will likely want some sort of photo editing software, to make the photos even more professional. There are so many ways to invest in your blog.

Let your blog invest in you. "You have to spend money to make money" is true, but no one says you can do both at once. While investing in your blog, let your blog work for you. Sidebar ads and SEO marketing are great ways to earn income from your blog on top of any paid work you are doing. I, personally, avoid popup type ads that visitors have to X out of, because they are an annoyance to me as a visitor, so I would not wish that on my readers.

Publicity is important. Like networking, it is important to put yourself out there. The easiest way is via social media. Obviously, you use social media as a tool for blogging, but it is a great way to "meet" people that are truly interested in what you are doing. In addition to promoting your work, it helps to promote yourself. Take all the pictures. At an awesome concert that has nothing to do with your blog? Share it. Post the pictures and the videos and use the hashtags and get people to notice you and feel like they know you. People want to support the people they relate to. Show them why you and your brand are so amazing.

Monday, March 18, 2019

Tips for Improving Your Credit

Did you know that over 30% of Americans has bad credit? Regretfully, I am one of them. If you are too, I feel your pain. Clearly, I am not the credit guru to be taking all your advice from, but I do have a few tips that might help make the burden a little less heavy.

First and foremost, don't panic. It's not something to take lightly, obviously. But getting upset and stressing yourself our over it is not going to accomplish anything. In fact, that kind of stress and panic could be counter productive. If you believe it is hopeless, you likely won't even bother trying. It's not hopeless. Stay calm and handle it.

Next, know why your score is low. Check your credit report. You can request a free copy of your credit report from each of the 3 major credit reporting agencies (Experian, TransUnion and Equifax) once per 12 months. These are credit reports and do not include your credit score, but that is easy to find online (for free) many places.

Once you know what you supposedly owe, you can dispute the debts. There are sites you can use to contest the validity of a debt. Many people are reported as owing debts they never should have owed. This could be from mistaken identity or identity theft (simple ID theft, like an ex roommate or something ordering Columbia House [throwback, right?] in your name.) You can even contest debts that were your own.

This is because old debts are often sold for pennies on the hundred. That is why you got offers to settle for much less than you owe, because the original lender wrote your debt off. They sold it to someone for, say, $2. Anything above that $2 is all profit for the agency that bought it. Often when a company sells the debt, they don't send all the records/proof, whatever. When you contest the debt, the debt-holder has to prove how you acquired the debt. If they can't produce proof, the debt is removed.

For the debts you cannot have removed, try to negotiate. As I said, if the debt has been sold off, anything over what they pad for a debt is profit. So if you owed $600, the agency my offer you to pay it off for $450 (you get letters n the mail) but you could likely negotiate down even further. Because making $300 is better than never getting paid anything, which is what happens a lot of the time.

Another way is to build new credit. That is clearly difficult to do when your credit is low, but it's not impossible. There are bad credit loans out there. Knowing your options is very important. Having bad credit is hard. I's unpleasant, but it does not devalue you. Don't allow yourself to be taken advantage of or treated with disrespect because of it. Use all the resources available to you. Be confident. Be in control. You've got this.

Friday, March 15, 2019

Wonder Park in Theaters Today! Win a Prize Pack

*This is a sponsored post written by me on behalf of Review Wire Media for Paramount.*

Here in Central Florida, Spring Break kicked off today. If, like me, you are looking for a fun, wholesome way to keep your kids entertained during the break, I've found just the thing. Wonder Park debuted in theaters today.

Wonder Park tells the story of a magnificent amusement park where the imagination of a wildly creative girl named June comes alive. The movie is rated PG and stars Jennifer Garner, Matthew Broderick, John Oliver, Mila Kunis, Kenan Thompson, Ken Jeong, Norbert Leo Butz, Brianna Denski and Ken Hudson Campbell.

If you are as excited about Wonder Park as we are, enter below for your chance to win a Wonder Park prize pack (containing Wonder Park sweatshirt (random size), Wonder Park tumbler, Wonder Park sunglasses, and Wonder Park cinch sack).

Five Feet Apart In Theaters March 15th - Win a Prize Pack

*This is a sponsored post written by me on behalf of Review Wire Media for Lionsgate.*

So, I am a huge fan of Riverdale. I really like more teenager targeted shows and movies, plus I have a total crush on Cole Sprouce. So you can imagine how excited I was to find out that Cole (along with Haley Lu Richardson) was starring in the new movie Five Feet Apart. And even though they are both in their mid twenties, they are playing 17 year olds.

Stella Grant (Haley Lu Richardson) is every bit a seventeen-year-old… she’s attached to her laptop and loves her best friends. But unlike most teenagers, she spends much of her time living in a hospital as a cystic fibrosis patient. Her life is full of routines, boundaries and self-control – all of which is put to the test when she meets an impossibly charming fellow patient named Will Newman (Cole Sprouse).

There’s an instant flirtation, though restrictions dictate that they must maintain a safe distance between them. As their connection intensifies, so does the temptation to throw the rules out the window and embrace that attraction. Further complicating matters is Will’s potentially dangerous rebellion against his ongoing medical treatment. Stella gradually inspires Will to live life to the fullest, but can she ultimately save the person she loves when even a single touch is off limits?

Epic teenage love with a huge (literally life or death) obstacle? Sign me up. I can't wait to see this movie. It drops in theaters today! If the movie alone is not enough to satisfy your need for Five Feet Apart, you can also enter to win a Five Feet Apart book, tote bag and PopSockets.

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Wednesday, March 13, 2019

Personal Injury - You're Not Alone

I don't know how many of you know, but my husband got injured at work. Actually he's been seriously injured at work twice, both requiring a surgery on top of physical therapy and such. But the second time it was more serious. He injured cervical disks, causing them to apply pressure to his spinal cord.

While he had a fusion done, his mobility and endurance has been forever impaired. And he is at increased risk of re-injury. That makes his line of work dangerous for him. And the job that allowed him to get hurt in this way (by having him preform unsafe tasks, after he told them what he thought would happen and after others had gotten injured from the same task) refused to allow him to return to his job.

So he was out of work, with less ability to get a job in his area of expertise because of the limitations he contracted from that job. Not only that, but the company just gets to keep subjecting the other employees to those conditions. We decided to reach out to an attorney, because we knew it was unjust.

He does have a case, and the attorney is working on a suit. While money does not make up for anything that happened to him, it will help with the our bills, while he works on getting into a new field of employment. And more importantly than that, the company needed to face some sort of consequences for their disregard for employee safety. While just writing a check may not be the justice the deserve, it will hopefully make them realize that they need to change some things, lest they get sued again.

It is so important, when you are injured, whether it be in an auto accident, at work, due to medical negligence, slip & fall or another capacity where it was caused by someone else's actions or inaction, that you contact an attorney. The firm we used handles primarily workman's comp cases, but Kinney, Fernandez & Boire handle a myriad or personal injury cases. They also have six offices in Florida, so it should be fairly easy to find a convenient location.

The most important step is to get informed. To reach out to an attorney, find out what your options are, and don't let people get away with causing injury to you or anyone. Also, your attorneys will explain this, I'm sure, but don't settle for whatever crumbs they offer right off the bat. In my husbands case, his attorney made the first offer, as I assume is customary, and the first counter offer was appallingly low in comparison.

It made us so mad, not just because it is an insult to him and his suffering, but because there are so many people that are in need and vulnerable. Some people would just take anything, just to keep surviving, and that is so heartbreaking. And as horrible as it is, the guilty parties usually care at all about the victims. They don't want to actually make it right, they just want to get away as unscathed as possible. The only way to really make them feel it is to make them pay for it literally.

Learning To Let Go

This year, my husband and I will be celebrating our tenth year of marriage together. While we are still happy and very much in love, things have not always been easy. In fact, it has been very hard at times. I am sure that all marriages are like that. Nothing truly meaningful in life is without challenges. It fighting and overcoming these challenges that make life so satisfying.

Still, sometimes you can be fighting for the wrong things. Sometimes you maybe made a mistake and are so afraid of failing that you stick with it instead of trying to let it go, admit you were wrong, and move forward. When you know you have truly given your heart and soul and did everything you can to keep it together, there is no shame in admitting that it's just not meant to be. In fact, there is quite a strength and a freedom in that.

I know too many people that stayed in bad situations for too long, thinking that they just needed to work harder, give more of themselves, deal with the unhappiness. That is not the case. If you find yourself in a situation like that, it is perfectly acceptable to think of your own well-being and mental health and to take the steps necessary to take care of yourself.

And, when relationships get that way, it is not just harmful to you and your happiness, it affects your partner as well. Being with someone who is not happy being with you can be very psychologically damaging. And if there are children, it affects them also.

A lot of people "stay together for the kids", but if you are unhappy, kids can sense it. If you are being passive aggressive toward their other parent, it can give them an unfair prejudice against their parent, or make them feel bad about themselves (for being like that parent). Not to mention if you are actually getting into dramatic arguments or something; those can be very traumatizing.

Whatever the reason, if you are in a marriage that is no longer happy, healthy, and safe, it is time to think about letting it go. Of course that is sad to think about. Of course it is something not to be taken lightly, but if you are considering divorce, it would definitely be beneficial to get some information about it.

In fact, I've looked in to a local marital & family law practice, just to have a resource in case someone I know should be struggling with this situation again. (I've known a few amazing women who have been in DV situations.) But Quinn & Lynch, P.A. handles more than just divorce, they handle domestic violence, child custody, child support, visitation, and more.

If you feel like any of these situations might apply to you, don't just "deal with it". It's okay to admit to yourself (and each other) that things have changed or that you want to at least consider the options. Talk to someone together. Just do something. Pretending that there is not a problem is no way to fix a problem.

Which brings me back to domestic violence. If you are in a situation like that, please, seek help. I have been there. I know it is not easy. I know you feel like you can't do it or you are still in love or whatever else you tell yourself. But it is unsafe and you do deserve better and you can get out and you can be happy. Put yourself first. Love yourself. Take care of yourself. But get help if you need it. Help is out there. You don't have to do it alone.