Walking the Path

I’ve been thinking a lot about paths recently. It lingered on my mind when I woke yesterday, how things twist and turn and find yourself somewhere you never expected to be.

School made life seem so easy. In high school, the path was clear: go to college, get a job, meet a boy, fall in love, marry.

Things aren’t that smooth.

I went to college with a double major in mind, graduated with only one in hand, but was positive that career path wasn’t for me.

I’ve felt like a pinball since then, moving from job to job, from major to major to graduate school, from city to city. With each university program or new job, I thought the path would finally show itself, that something would finally click.

Then I abandoned the path completely and started a business. In two years, I’ve learned there is no real path, no certain direction to move in. There is only the path we forge for ourselves, the world we create around us.

This is what live is. This is what vulnerability is — admitting we don’t entirely know what we’re doing but promising ourselves that we’re going to do it boldly, that we’re going to stop defining ourselves in single terms or job titles, that we’re going to dare greatly, fall, and rise strong.

Come, traveller, and walk with me.

Photo from Brené Brown — go pick up her new book, Rising Strong. It’s crazy inspiration at your fingertips.

Hitchhiking on Someone Else’s Dream

A few weeks ago, a friend told me of a business he wanted to start: an online archery shop.

I wanted in.

It was easy to imagine myself in charge and building an incredible company. More than anything else, I imagined all of the content I could create for the world, particularly for young girls interested in archery. I had such good ideas.

But the dream wasn’t mine. I was hitchhiking on his dream.

It wasn’t the first time I had done this. I’ve lost myself in teachers’ plans for me, the requirements of companies I worked for, the expectations of graduate school.

I remembered standing in my graduate advisor’s office, as he told me that I needed to give up my hobbies if I wanted to be a philosopher, that I needed to dedicate more time (subtext: all my time) to this career. It was then I decide I was done trying to please other people.

I left grad school, got a job, and started working. I tried to excel but there was no place for initiative. I tried to fit in but I felt entirely out of place in a company where everything was wrapped in red tape. I was told I wasn’t quite meeting expectations. It was then I was done with not being myself.

I wanted freedom – to travel when I wanted to, to dress in a way that expressed who I am, to live wherever I’d like, to take time off when I need to, to be myself – my full, vibrant self.

I considered what working on this archery shop would look like for me. It wouldn’t be mine, not properly, and there would be new expectations. So I asked myself,

Why hitchhike on someone else’s dream
when I can dream something even better for myself?

Precisely.

Binging on Business

When I committed to my mastermind group in December, I promised myself that I was really going to get my business set up right this year. My business had a lot of growth in 2014 — my income tripled from my first partial year and the projects were flowing in. But it was all me and the hours I was working were very reflective of that. I wanted more freedom in business, the ability to take a vacation without the anxiety of knowing there were unanswered emails piling up, the time to dream big in all I was doing and work on projects that I loved.

So I promised myself I would work on my business like an athlete training for the Olympics.

Three months in and I’m seeing some incredible changes. My work load hasn’t let up yet (and won’t any time soon), but everything I’m doing has a clear purpose. There’s intention behind it, there’s strategy.

Where is all of this strategy coming from? Obviously, the mastermind group is a big part of my growth, but I’ve also been reading some incredible books lately that every soulful entrepreneur needs to dive into. Here are four to get you started:

The Big Leap by Gay Hendricks
Entreleadership by Dave Ramsey
The Referral of a Lifetime by Tim Templeton
The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz

While the first three are obvious business books, the last one, The Four Agreements, definitely doesn’t fall into that category. However, this book has such valuable insights about being in the world that I can’t leave it off this list. It has profoundly shaped how I see the world, and I attribute a good portion of my past success to what I learned from it. The Four Agreements is the first you should pick up — and have a permanent home for on your bookshelf.

What books have you been learning from lately?

How To Make A Good First Impression With Your Website

Websites are the calling cards of the digital age. So often, a good website can make you. You might be an incredibly talented milliner, life coach, photographer or pastry chef, but if your website looks like something out of the mid-2000s, you could be left behind.

Excellent content wrapped in a beautiful design that works right is pure gold.

This is why I started my business: to give people a space online where their talents can really shine, to create a space that is sacred and helps them on their journey to who they are becoming.

So where do you start with your online space?

1. Invest in a logo.

Seriously, don’t underestimate the power of a logo. Think of Apple — iconic, recognizable anywhere instantly. Now, your brand may not have the same worldwide attention that Apple products do, but a beautiful, identifiable logo goes a long way. It can be synonymous with your brand. Invest in and fall in love with yours.

2. Use clear terms in your navigation menu.

According to one eye-tracking study, visitors spent an average of about 6 seconds looking at the navigation menu (second only to the site logo). Give your visitors clear choices. If you have a blog, call it a blog; people know what that is, they know what to expect. Don’t list your services under “Fashion” and make users work to find them.

3. Organize your content.

Be clear about who you are and what you do. It should be easy for visitors to find these things when they hit the homepage. Create an About page that allows them to connect and relate to you. If you offer services, find a way to visually organizing what you’re offering and who it’s for. Clarity is key.

4. Know what’s above the fold and make sure it’s awesome.

Users are more willing to scroll than click on multiple content pages, but what you show them above the fold of your site will make them want to scroll. That content above the fold is a crucial part of your first impression. Use it to convey your message or highlight key content you want to shine. Make them want more.

5. Make it work.

Everything on your site should work — sliders, opt-in forms, testimonial plugins. There’s really nothing worse than broken page elements.

6. Update the content regularly.

You don’t need to blog every day or even every week, but be consistent. Your readers should know when your posts go up. You’re creating an expectation — deliver on it.

Let me admit right now: this isn’t always easy. Entrepreneurs and business owners in the start up phase often may de-prioritize their content regularity because they get overwhelmed by their business. It’s okay. We’ve all been there — I go through regular phases of overwhelm myself. But I recommit regularly as well, and it’s that recommitment that will take your business from start up to success.

Well, that and a great website with that design/content killer combo.

(Psst…if you’re thinking about a new design for your site, get over here and sign up for my newsletter. I’ve got some good projects brewing that you’ll want to know about and if you’re on my list, you’ll be the first to know when they arrive.)

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Credits

Jane Reaction

(logo and original branding) is a graphic design and art director who works with with small businesses and creative entrepreneurs, creating cohesive and interesting brands and websites.

Carrie Coleman

(photography) is a wedding photographer, whose goal is to capture the visual expression of a couple's love through timeless, organic images. She is based in Charlottesville, Virginia.