The Brilliant Business Moms podcast and blog provide practical business advice for moms just getting started in business or looking to grow their business. Our main focus is on helping moms to be successful in their businesses.
Surprise! I’ve got another team member on the podcast for you. This will be our last podcast episode of 2017, and we’ll be taking a break in January.
Just like you, we’re looking forward to some white space to reflect and plan out a brilliant new year!(Awwww! Don’t miss us too much! You can always listen back to old episodes in the meantime.)
Victoria’s thoughts will be a great way to end 2017. She shares some fabulous ways to honor your own boundaries and prevent burnout in your life. As you plan for 2018, I hope you’ll keep these thoughts in mind.
Especially around the holidays and heading into the New Year, our schedules are suddenly fuller than we thought they’d be….aaaaaaand we’re pulling our hair out!
But maybe you’ve been living with this kind of harried anxiety for quite some time now. Maybe you’ve been committed to overwhelm for so long that frantic just feels normal.
Maybe you’re even starting to feel those effects in your own body, with headaches, upset stomach, fatigue, or brain fog. I’ve got to tell you, those are classic signs of burnout.
And if you’ve been there, I have, too.
2017 has been a bit of a painful growing year for my family and I. (We’re friends, right? Let’s just cut it straight.) About March we realized I was burning out and heading down a really scary road of health complications. It’s taken a year of rearranging life and schedules, reordering eating habits and priorities, and even pursuing counseling to walk the road to recovery.
To give you a quick update before continuing (if you’re the kind of person who will be wondering!) our family is feeling especially blessed and hopeful of the healing that’s taken place. Almost in confirmation of the work we’ve been doing, I found out I’m expecting Baby #3 this Fall! We are grateful to God for stopping us in our tracks and granting the wisdom to see how to course correct.
What I want to share with you are 3 perspectives that have helped me stop my hectic life pace and start focusing on what really matters.
Keep in mind, I’m a work in progress just like you are. Please, pretty please, do not listen to this episode and think, “Wow! Victoria really has her ducks in a row!” As the viral saying goes, it’s more like I have squirrels and they are at a rave.
I’m reminding myself of these perspectives over…and over…and over again. Sometimes I hit the mark; a lot of times I don’t. But I’m closer than I was before, and that’s what matters.
3 Perspectives to Prevent Burnout and Live Intentionally1) Swap FOMO for JOMO
I have to give credit to Christy Wright for the phrase JOMO, ‘Joy Of Missing Out’. So often we focus on what we’re leaving behind or missing when we say no or step back. Christy says that’s the wrong place to set your attention! Focus instead on what you’re gaining.
A few examples:
Instead of hustling to accept that Moms Night Out invite with casual acquaintances, you might instead get the joy of a relaxing night at home with your husband – you remember, that guy you ACTUALLY know really well.
Eliminate some extracurricular activities so many kids join these days. Sure, they might be genuinely fun and enriching to your child. But if you say no (or even say yes to just one) you won’t become an Uber driver for your kid and you’ll get the joy of eating dinner face-to-face with your family.
Choose not to catch up with every latest episode of all the hot new TVs shows means you might miss out on some pop culture conversation, but you’ll have the joy of knowing you’re making progress towards your business goals – or finishing that home project you’ve been dying to do.
2) Boundaries aren’t Bad
We all live under a set of boundaries. (Don’t believe me? Hello, gravity! See? Boundaries aren’t all that bad.) The thing is if you don’t set your own boundaries, you’ll be scrambling to live life under someone else’s idea of how you should spend your time, money, and energy. I don’t know about you, but I want to be in control of my life!
Setting boundaries really is almost the easy part. It’s actually enforcing them that’s tough. And for starters, we’ve got a great post on the Brilliant Business Moms blog about how to say no if you can’t ever seem to find the right words.
Two concrete examples I can give you about how I set my boundaries are with my work schedule and our family finances:
I schedule my working time each week, largely around when I have childcare available. When I get a new assignment, I try my best to estimate when it will be done according to my work week. When I’m working, I’m working. And when I’m not, I’m not! I don’t feel the rush to drop everything and work the moment I get that email notification. I have the freedom to say, “I got this project, thank you! I will next be working tomorrow at 9am and will start on it then.”
Our family has been on a written budget for over a solid year now. Those financial boundaries mean for example, that we have X-amount allotted for gas each month. So if there’s a fun event in the next town over, but we’ve only got $5 left in the gas category – sorry, Charlie! We aren’t going. (This is where the joy of missing out is so vital! Instead of focusing on the fun we could have had at such and such event, we focus on the joy we DO have by doing something closer to home – like taking a walk with the kids or visiting a neighbor.)
3) No for Now Doesn’t Mean No Forever
I’m an ideas person. I constantly have new ideas that I want to act on RIGHT THEN. This year I was running 3 business ventures. 3!!! (No wonder I was burning out, right?) What I learned is that I need to set one business in particular aside for the time being, even though it’s the one I’m MOST passionate about, because the timing to pursue it just isn’t best.
No for now doesn’t mean no forever. It’s okay to admit to yourself, “It’s better for me to spend my time here, so later I can spend more of my time there.”
Keeping that long game in mind will really help you. It’s so easy to get caught up in the here-and-now, when really what we’re working towards is a brighter future. With that long term focus in mind, stepping back or saying no loses some of its initial sting.
How do you feel after listening to this episode? What things might you need to set aside for the moment to pick back up later? I’d love to hear in the comments!
Now it’s your turn to head out there and Be Brilliant!
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I’m super excited for this special holiday episode! I invited my team member Carlee on the show to talk about her family’s holiday traditions.
What I love about Carlee’s unique take on holidays is how refreshingly simple it is. By keeping Christmas others-focused rather than stuff and events-focused, Carlee and her family get to serve others, make a lot of great memories together, and kiss overwhelm goodbye in the process.
Press play to hear from Carlee!
If you’re like me and you don’t love the “gimme focus” the holidays can bring, you can decide to change that focus in your home! The way to start is by making a list of what matters most to you that holiday season.
Believe it or not, we don’t buy our kids a lot of presents. But before you think our real last name is Scrooge, hang with me! I’ll explain what we do instead.
When our family made this list of what mattered most to us during the holidays, making great memories within our little family made the top of the list, along with finding ways to bless others and get the focus off of ourselves. Here are our the four traditions we follow each year to keep Christmas meaningful and simple.
Prompt Acts of Kindness
Go Easy On The Presents
Surprise Another Family In Need
Bless Your Community
Let’s look at those traditions in detail.
Prompt Acts of Kindness
Every year during the first week of December, the five of us as a family each put our name in a hat, and everyone draws a name. That week, each person focuses on showing extra kindness to the family member they drew — from serving them to giving little gifts or taking care of a chore for them.
And, we really want to make sure our kids know their gestures are just as important as what my husband and I can give as adults. It’s not about size or money when it comes to serving each other, but heart and intention. Our kids did all sorts of things to show kindness, like coloring a picture, telling a joke, putting that family member’s shoes away, carrying groceries, or leaving little treats on a pillow.
Over the years it has been so fun to watch our kids get creative with how they can serve one another.
The next week, we each draw different names and the tradition keeps going all December-long.
Go Easy On The Present
Alright, don’t throw the eggs from your holiday cookies at me! We do get our children a small gift, but it’s not the main focus of Christmas for us. (Plus, they get plenty of gifts from extended family!)
Here’s what we do instead:
At the end of November or beginning of December, we’ll dedicate a weekend or two to taking each child individually on a ‘Christmas Date’. They get to pick their meal of choice at a restaurant of choice. We take our time at these dates!
My husband and I ask our kids reflective questions about the past year: What were their greatest joys and challenges? We especially like showing our kids that because they’ve overcome one challenge, they can overcome another. We also help our children set goals for the coming year, and it’s been great to see how those goals have changed over the years.
After our Christmas Date meal, we head out to a few stores and give our kids a budget with the goal of purchasing gifts for their siblings. Our kids chip in with money they’ve earned themselves, too. This has been a wonderful way to foster our family bond, and it keeps our focus on others.
Surprise Another Family In Need
One tradition we all have so much fun with is surprising an unsuspecting family in need around the holidays. We’ll often fill our gifts with groceries and gifts for the kids in that family, and we deliver them every night for 12 nights leading up to Christmas Eve! The espionage-factor is half the fun and we try to keep our identity a secret the whole time.
This year we’re going to try out a 12 Days of Christmas theme where we match each gift to the items in the song. My kids came up with doughnuts as the “5 golden rings” in an instant! (If you have any themed gift ideas, I’d love to hear them!)
We make so many great memories each year by blessing another family in this way, and it’s a lot less stressful than hosting fancy parties or other Christmas events we could attend.
Bless Your Community
Of course the holidays are fun and festive, but for many people the holidays are sad, lonely, or just plain stressful. We encourage our family to take that one extra step to serve our community.
If you can make anyone’s day a little bit easier or happier, I promise that gesture will go a long way!
Some ideas to get you started:
Offer to help load groceries
Leave a bigger-than-usual tip
Pay-it-forward in the drive thru
Help a neighbor put up decorations
Shovel snow for a neighbor or business
Invite a family having a hard time over for a meal
What ideas can you come up with?
Here’s the bottom line: Prioritize what’s meaningful to your family, give yourself permission to say no, and look outside yourself this holiday season.
I’d love to hear if you’ll be bringing any of these ideas into your home this December. Leave a comment and let me know!
Anne Bogel was one of the very first guests on the Brilliant Business Moms podcast. And I still remember the giddiness my sister and I felt when she was the first ‘big’ person who agreed to an interview. (If you don’t know, my sister and I launched this podcast back in 2014. Sarah has since left to pursue her own business and she’s doing great!)
Knowing yourself isn't as simple as taking an online quiz like ‘Which seltzer water best describes your personality?’. (True story!) What I love about Anne’s book, and our conversation, is that it helped me delve deeper into what makes me, well, me so I can best optimize my success.
If you’re coming to this topic with no prior knowledge of personality types, that’s okay! Psychologists say that if you don’t know anything else about your personality, knowing if you’re Introverted or Extroverted is a good starting point, it’s the ‘the North and South of Temperament’.
What if you’re one of those people whose personality type is that they hate personality types, as my husband would say!? Anne has thoughts for you, too!
Other topics we discuss include:
Clues that you might be a Highly Sensitive Person (experts say about 15%-20% of species are highly sensitive) and what you can do to unlock the keys to understanding a finely calibrated nervous system.
How your personality affects how you run your business.
How you can leverage your personality to plan your day.
And the benefit of knowing how people’s differences helps you view the world.
If you’re ready for some self-discovery, click play below:
Digital designer, professor, PR specialist, small business owner, wife, mom of two – you might listen to the many roles of Lydia Kitts and think, “Woah, this sister needs to take something off her plate!” But before you go all ‘Judge Judy’ on Lydia, take a listen to the podcast. You’ll hear exactly how Lydia juggles so many things at once, while keeping people first, and does it with excellence. We at Brilliant Business Moms are just in awe of her!
Lydia lets us in on her unique planning philosophy, which involves using a combination of 3 planners. (I know, right!?) Throughout our interview, you’ll notice how Lydia is hyper-focused on the task at hand. She doesn’t let herself get distracted by giving every task a spot in her day, and keeping tasks in their spots.
In this interview, you’ll also get to hear Lydia answer a great question from one of our Brilliant Business Moms. Amy Gabriel asked, “I want to know how to build a timeless brand that has a strong and loyal following. How do you look at modern trends and base designs off of the current style, but also build something that will last for years to come?” You’ll just eat up Lydia’s answer!
If you follow the productivity tips and hacks Lydia drops in this episode, you’ll be able to keep your family first AND your clients happy just like she does.
If this all sounds like information you need as a momprenuer, hit the play button below!
Lydia’s 3 Planner System: a Legal Pad, The Brilliant Life Planner, and an academic planner
Today on the show we have a very special business mom and friend, Courtney Westlake. We’ve actually gotten the chance to meet and hang out in person, which was super fun! I met her sweet family and she met Holden; we just had a great time together!
Courtney has been blogging since 2011 at CourtneyWestlake.com. She shares a lot about her story of being Mom to Brenna, who has a very rare skin condition and special need.
Courtney is a blogger, published author, and now a very successful freelancer. I know you’ll learn a lot from hearing her story!
1:15 – Courtney’s Unexpected Beginnings As a Blogger
The majority of people will know of Courtney via her blog, which she began to document her daughter Brenna’s birth and early days in late 2011. Her daughter was born with a rare skin condition and accompanying special needs. (You can watch Courtney’s family story here…major tissue warning!) She originally started her blog to update family and friends, but the circle of readers quickly grew. The more Courtney wrote, the more people read! Courtney had no end-goal in mind with her writing, she was just processing being a mom to a child with an unexpected diagnosis.
In 2014, Courtney got a chance to meet a literary agent and she signed with her. And in 2015 she signed a book deal! A Different Beautiful came out in 2016.
2:55 – What’s It Really Like Publishing a Book?
I’ve had the pleasure of reading Courtney’s book and absolutely loved it. She is a very talented writer! I know many of you are thinking about monetizing your writing platform, and Courtney has some great book publishing insights.
Of course, there are a lot of ways you can go about book publishing. Courtney self-published a children’s book in 2014; her non-fiction book was traditionally published two years later.
She says the two experiences were so different! Courtney’s advice to help you choose your path? Think about your goal.
Courtney’s purpose in writing was to get her message out. Traditional publishing isn’t a super lucrative endeavor. She did receive an advance (an amount the publisher anticipates the author to sell in the first year) and once her book sold the amount of that advance, then she could start earning royalties. And to make sure there are no rose-colored glasses on, royalties are only about 15% of the sale of the book, not a lot!
It really is easy to look at big time authors on best seller lists and glamorize their success. But most first-time authors don’t earn very much money.
If you choose to self-publish with e-books or something like a print-on-demand service, Courtney says you can expect to make more of your own money, but your book may not get as far of a reach. For example, Courtney’s traditionally published book could be purchased at Barnes & Nobles in the US, Australia, and Canada. (Isn’t that so neat?!)
I can tell you from the outside-looking-in, Courtney’s book launch looked so cool! She has a sizeable following and has built great relationships with her readers. Courtney’s publisher was really happy with her launch, which of course made her proud!
There aren’t many ways to slice it: launching a product is a lot of work. And that’s just how launches go. During my most recent big launch, FB Brilliance, I really appreciated having my team to delegate to. And Courtney, also, had a launch team that did some of the work for her. Automating as many processes as possible is another great way to lighten the launch-time load.
7:05 – Transitioning from SAHM to Freelancer
One reason I wanted to have Courtney on the podcast is because she recently told me that she’s been able to do about 15 hours of freelance work a week, and replace her full-time job income! HOLY COW! I had to know how that’s working!
Before having kids, Courtney worked in a Public Relations department at a local university. After her first child – a son who is now 8 – was born, she started staying home. (Isn’t that true of so many of us?) She freelanced here and there, trying to see what would stick, but the jobs didn’t pay much.
With the birth of Brenna, her daughter’s special need was very consuming for a long time.
Now that both Courtney’s children are school-aged, she’s got the chance to do pursue more formal work again. She started writing pieces for different publications, and then eventually scored some business clients.
Those corporate clients are what have potential for high income. Last January she decided to maximize the growth and really go for it! It’s been going really well. To date Courtney keeps four really great regular clients, and a few others who provide less regular work, but are clients she really wants to work with.
With her kids now in school she can take on more work, and the increase has been a total blessing to her family. She can use her creativity and passion to earn a decent income
9:25 – The Ins and Outs of Writing for Businesses
What does it look like writing for a business? Content marketing is a buzzword these days, and the jist of it means is writing blogs, email newsletters, and website pages for any business.
For her clients, Courtney has provided the content – the written words – for entire websites before! She also has created sitemaps, going through the pages on their website they want revamped and so on.
For her regular clients, she almost acts as a marketing consultant in addition to providing the writing. Courtney’s clients can bounce ideas off her, and she loves learning what’s latest in marketing, writing, sales, and online media. It’s a win win!
10:33 – Kinds of Businesses Hire Freelance Writers?
I love that Courtney does writing for a variety of businesses. Included in her portfolio is: a construction company, a mid-sized bank, a content marketing agency that specializes in education writing (working with schools through them), and a nonprofit.
11:15 – Getting That First Writing Gig
Back in January, Courtney decided she would really go for the freelance work. She stared out by emailing different contacts locally, people she had worked with before or had some prior connection to. In those initial emails, she outlined why she thought the managers should hire her, ideas she had for their company, and so on. As cold outreach goes, she got back a lot of “Thanks, but no thanks” messages.
But – finally! – a yes came.
Her first big gig was a company wanting help with their website.
It snowballed from there. The last few months she’s tried to take the initiative and focus on people she really wants to work for.
12:12 – A Personal Touch Makes All the Difference
Going the extra mile to make a personal connection in those initial outreaches makes a huge difference. The content marketing agency she’s currently working with Courtney found on a freelance forum. The agency posted their need to have a writer who could take occasional jobs. Most of the commenters on the thread wrote back with a generic reply we’ve all seen, “Send me a PM!”
But Courtney went a step further.
She went to the agency’s website and got to know the firm. She found a direct email address and wrote a kind message to the agency director. Courtney got back a message almost immediately. The agency was interested!
Courtney took the next step to go directly to the director via email, which made her stand out from all the other commenters!
(And trust me! As a business owner who gets unsolicited pitches all the time. I can tell right away who took time to be personal and who didn’t.)
13:50 – When Charging Your Worth Makes You Go ‘Eeep!’
It can feel so uncomfortable to share your rates! I totally struggle with this on the odd-occasion I accept a coaching call for a high rate. And Courtney has struggled with that same feeling, too. In fact, the morning of our interview she quoted a job and didn’t land it because of her price. But at the end of the day, as mamapreneurs we have to stick with our prices! We know what we’re worth, and we know our clients and customers will get what they pay for. One person may not see your value, but that doesn’t mean many others won’t see it.
Courtney agrees it’s much easier to be choosy with jobs when she has a fuller load and not that urgent NEED for income. It’s certainly more fun to pick jobs that you’ll enjoy and know will bring a good income!
She’s been able to reach this ability to choose who she wants to work for (and be confident in her rates) by slowly and steadily building clients and sticking to her rate. “It takes time,” she says, “But you’ll get where you want to be. You have to know what your work is worth.”
And let’s be honest, ladies! Taking time away from our family or errands we need to do isn’t easy. Our time is valuable.
16:55 – Raising Rates and Regular Clients
Has Courtney raised her rates since building out her client portfolio? Her short answer is yes, but the change is hard to quantify since her writing projects are so varied. For some jobs she still gets paid hourly, though her hourly rate is high enough she’s happy with it.
Other jobs pay per project, and she certainly has raised the project rate the more jobs she’s gotten.
How does Courtney decide which jobs to take? She trusts her gut. When she meets a client and hears about their project, if her first thought is a ‘Heck Yes!’ she’ll go for it. And if not? She gives herself the freedom to pass.
18:18 – What Does A Writing Project Look Like?
Primarily, Courtney writes for websites, both updating the content of entire sites and writing new blog posts.
When she’s crafting the content for an entire site, she’ll make a site map of the different pages and what content needs to be on those pages, and then she writes the content.
For blog post writing, sometimes clients give her an idea of what they want and let Courtney do most of the work and research. Some provide talking points and she will build a post from the client’s initial work.
All of Courtney’s writing is what’s called ghostwriting. That means she tries to adapt her voice to match the client’s to make it seem as if the client is actually the one who wrote the piece. That means Courtney doesn’t get credit for her work, but she’s okay with that! It’s like she gets to put on a different costume each day and pretend to be a different person!
One project Courtney is currently loving is a case study she’s putting together. She’s gotten to interviewing her client’s client and write about their experience for marketing purposes. It’s like a journalistic piece, super fun!
20:10 – Is Courtney Still Building Her Personal Blog Brand?
With this new freelance schedule, is Courtney still blogging and building her personal brand? She admits did take a break from blogging over the summer, which allowed her to settle into the freelance schedule. Courtney has a new idea for an ebook, and wants to keep blogging to see where else it will take her.
At the same time, Courtney is confident that she’s finding her stride writing for others. She really likes the business to business model, rather than business to consumer.
22:22 – Do What You Enjoy
It’s natural to look around at the leaders in your niche and want to copy their steps for success. In Courtney’s experience (and my own!) there really isn’t one, clear path. She knows what success looks like for herself, how she wants her days to run, and knew that freelance business writing is the way to make it happen.
25:30 – Scaling a Service-Based Business
It is hard to scale a service-based business. You personally only have so many hours a day and finite resources to work with. Unless you hire additional people to provide your service, service-based businesses really can have some limits!
But Courtney has found that freelance copywriting works so well for her. The income she makes suits her goals. She doesn’t have to hustle all day long, she can just do her work on her schedule and bring in a decent income.
(The potential for a copywriter income is huge! Seriously. I’ve seen some charging $1,000 an hour! Copywriters Courtney knows are making $100,000 or more a year.)
26:50 – Taking Off The Rose Colored Glasses (Downsides to Freelancing)
We’ve been really talking up how great the freelance life can be…buuut, what’s the downside? Has Courtney ever had a total client disaster!? What’s the tough part of being a freelancer?
Years ago Courtney worked on a small project for a client referred to her by a friend. Courtney wrote a few press releases for this client and, as you do, billed for the work. And…crickets. Courtney send a few more messages, but never got a response. The client had gone totally off the radar, and Courtney didn’t get paid! Courtney says, “I felt really dumb to have not gotten some sort of deposit or something.”
Since then, Courtney has been extra careful with payment measures. And thankfully this lesson wasn’t learned on a huge project.
29:30 – Adorable Mom Moment
Courtney’s son Connor talked so much about how he loved the tacos at school, so Courtney made burritos for her family. Of course, he hated Courtney’s burritos!
She asked him, “How are these different than the ones at school?”
“Well…the school’s are good,” He responded.
Oh my goodness!! We work so hard for these kids! And at the end of the day, they just want cafeteria food.
Lauren Keplinger is a fellow military spouse (hoo-ah!), and mom of three kids ages 5, 4, and 1. She started her shop, Funky Monkey Children, during her husband’s deployment to Afghanistan in 2012. Since that time, she’s grown her custom business to over six figures in sales, including over 5,000 sales on Etsy. And, remember, she did this through deployments, moves, and the birth of 3 kids! If Lauren can grow a biz, I know you can, too!
1:16 – When Mom Wants More
When Lauren was pregnant with her 2nd child, her first was only about 6 months old. She got started sewing as a hobby with a really terrible sewing machine she bought at a yard sale. Lauren would make John Johns for her son and burp cloths for the new baby.
But she wanted more. (How many of us have felt that way!?)
As a military spouse, so much of life revolves around her husband’s job. She wanted a challenge for herself while she was home with an infant. Lauren started selling her creations on Etsy and the business just grew from there. She says it’s been a wild ride!
2:40 – Etsy vs. Self-Hosted Site??
Having her own site is a recent development in the last 18 months. The majority of her sales are still on Etsy.
And a question we frequently get is, “Should I use Etsy or a self-hosted site?” What’s Lauren’s answer?
She has mixed feelings! Etsy has a great built in traffic and its own platform. She can test new products and quickly see how they’ll perform with the built-in traffic of Etsy.
She’s found it harder to drive traffic to her own site. Lauren does keep an active Instagram account and has found that’s where most of her site traffic comes from. But beyond social media or word-of-mouth referrals, it’s been tough! For now, Lauren is Team Etsy because of the opportunities.
It’s tough to have a sustainable business site without a strong following. (I agree! The main way we drive traffic to our own shop is paid advertising.)
Bottom line: If you build it they don’t necessarily come.
4:05 – A Perk of Having Your Own Shop Site
I wanted to offer my experience that one mega benefit I’ve found of running a self-hosted shop is that I can easily collect email subscribers and get back in front of people with new products. (Especially when it comes to Facebook ads!)
Lauren does leverage her Etsy sells by including a card with a coupon code that works on her self-hosted site in every package, but she says the use of the codes are hit and miss.
But the strategy is smart! 90% of her purchases are gifts for other people, being sent directly to the recipients. Lauren already has the potential of the gift-giver to be a repeat customer, and by including the coupon code she can try to bring the recipient on as a new customer. Though Lauren says she has a few customers who have purchased from her multiple times always via Etsy, despite the coupon codes to her own site!
Another smart way Lauren tries to optimize email subscribers is by including her newsletter link on the message Etsy sends following checkout.
6:20 – Selling What Your Customers Want
Originally Lauren started selling baby items, because that was her season of life. At first she thought her products would be higher-end baby items, but turns out that’s not what Lauren’s customers wanted.
She always took custom orders on Etsy. And over time, she let those custom orders change her business direction as more people were interested in nursery items and baby shower gifts.
(As we’ve heard time and again on this show, listening to customers is a perfect way to grow your business!)
7:30 – Simplifying Gift Giving for More Sales
Is there anything a shop owner can do to make their products easy to give as gifts? Lauren has some great practices!
Offering product customizations is an instant hit with gift-givers.
I absolutely love how Lauren thinks of the list-minute shoppers (like me!) by offering her ‘Rush Order Upgrade’ service. She ships products even faster through priority shipping. In other words, you could order from Funky Monkey Children on Monday and receive your order in time for a baby shower that weekend.
Let’s be honest, people don’t always think that far ahead in advance when it comes to giving gifts, especially for baby showers! I absolutely love that Lauren truly thinks about her customers’ needs and finds ways to meet them.
9:20 – Hey, Etsy! Here’s an idea!
By the way, wouldn’t it be great if Etsy could filter your search based on turnaround time!? I would definitely choose shops with rush shipping for their fabulous products!
10:00 – Learning as You Go by Doing the Work
Lauren started Funky Monkey Children with no prior business background! She learned a lot by trial and error.
She started her shop buying bibs from Babies ‘R’ Us and monogramming names on them. Since that time, she’s worked hard to increase quality by (you guessed it!) listening to customer feedback.
In the early days she would get comments that one fabric seemed too thin or a certain bib wasn’t very high-quality. Hearing critical comments about your work can be hard to take, especially for someone, like Lauren, who doesn’t have any background knowledge in business (or sewing, for that matter!). Where the heck do you even find thicker fabric?
To answer those questions Lauren did the her homework and looked at how she could improve things.
It seems like a lot of work to undertake, and it is, but Lauren’s goal was always to have a sustainable business, not be a hobby seller.
Because of that commitment, she has committed to great customer service. Lauren knows that part of the job is to do the work of resolving and correcting issues, making it super easy to be a Funky Monkey Customer.
I’ve totally seen Etsy or other handmade sellers really struggle when they get negative feedback. It feels personal, but Lauren has a fresh, wonderful perspective: It’s just a business transaction. “If it’s not what you want, I’ll make it right,” wins every time.
12:00 – Two Strategies for Helping Unhappy Customers
One of Lauren’s most frustrating instances of an unhappy customer is when the customer ordered the wrong size and then was mad that the product came in the size she had ordered!
Lauren keys in on the emotions many of us have felt: “It’s hard when you’re working so hard on your business and you don’t want to spend the time to do it again or work for free! It’s hard to balance.”
One of her practices that’s been so helpful is to wait a day before responding to any criticism. Sleeping on it helps her to not have an emotional response, so she can approach it as the business transaction it is. Again, her philosophy really takes the pressure off: “They bought it, they’re not happy, and I can take care of it. It’s not the end of the world.”
I’ll admit – customer care really it’s hard for me! I don’t do my customer service anymore, and it’s a good thing! That’s a second strategy to handling customer care, outsourcing it. One on hand I can be super giving and when I think the cause is worthy I’ll give away whatever! But when customers want refunds for a reason that feels to me like they’re cheating the system, I get super emotional! As always in business, compensate for weaknesses and play to your strengths.
All of Lauren’s trial and error, testing and learning, have really paid off. Now she consistently gets great feedback that, in turn, perpetuates sales. She’s got 5-stars on Etsy and over 1,100 reviews; her shop stats clearly speak for themselves!
14:10 – Where to Source Products?
When you care deeply about quality, how can you get the right products for your custom work?
As usual, Lauren spent time trying and testing a bunch of options. She said she has hundreds of dollars worth of stuff she’s ordered sitting in her basement simply because they don’t meet her standards.
Another way she’s found products is by watching the conversations in Facebook groups specifically for embroidering and applique businesses. She would follow threads in those groups in which makers would mention their materials companies, then place a sample order herself.
I think it’s totally brilliant that, after Lauren made a sample order, she would try out the pieces on her own kids to see how the fabrics held up. Because we all know that how an item looks out of the bag is totally different after a few washes and drying cycles. What a great idea to use her kids as tiny product testers!
15:22 – How Many Materials Do You Order?
Placing an order is so tricky! How does a newer business owner decide how big of an order to place?
Lauren didn’t start with wholesale purchases. She started buying pieces from Amazon and Babies ‘R’ Us, and it was a slow process from there.
Eventually, she upgraded her burp cloths, and then bibs. About two years ago she took a huge leap in her business and started buying bigger quantities, which allowed her to expand since not only did those larger quantities increase her profit margins, they also increased the variety of products she had available.
16:25 – How Lauren Gets It Done
Where is Lauren now in business? What does her order fulfillment process looks like? Is she still embordering, packaging, and shipping every order herself? Or does she have help?
Lauren is still running her business all on her own. While putting in those kind of womanhours week after week is certainly impressive, she freely admits it’s not sustainable for the long term and expects changes in the coming months. Much of her growth has come on quickly and her business has doubled in the last year.
Steady childcare has made a big difference in her ability to grow her business. For a while she worked at naps and bedtime. In fact, for one entire year she worked weekends – all day Saturday and Sunday. Her family made this decision to save up money while her husband transitioned out of active military duty, but everyone understood the arrangement wouldn’t be perfect.
Last year she put all of her children in school, 5 days a week. Her two youngest go to preschool from 8:00am – 11:45am and her oldest child is in kindergarten. Lauren only works during those times and has found it to be so helpful mentally! When you’re trying to fit in work at every turn, it really is a recipe for stress and often feels as if there’s never enough time.
It’s helpful for Lauren to know there are set working hours, plus she can always pick up work later if needed.
20:00 – Business Mom and Military Spouse
About 6 months after starting Funky Monkey Children, Lauren’s husband deployed to Afghanistan. The Keplingers knew that this major adjustment was coming, and building the business during that time ended up being a great blessing to them. It’s been a source of income that’s followed her family through countless moves and many life transitions.
Being a military spouse, there have been many times Lauren’s business has taken a backseat to family life, and she’s had to be okay with that.
I appreciate how honest Lauren is in this interview! She says straight up that the pause moments often felt more like setbacks. And it IS frustrating because Lauren says it felt like every time she got momentum in the business, something would happen and she’d have to slow it down again.
But in the midst of so much instability, it was great to have something stable. She didn’t have to start a new job each time her husband received a new assignment; she could just keep building what she had already started.
22:45 – Business Game Changers
This past year, Lauren’s business has really taken off. What made it happen for her??
Adding child care has been a great help to Lauren as she grows her business. (And we talked a lot about this earlier, so no need to rehash here!)
This tip is a clever one! Lauren doesn’t have any data to back this up, only her anecdotal experience, but the findings are interesting! She’s been noticing on Etsy that her sales will be really consistent as long as she’s consistently shipping things out. If she’s shipping every single day, sales are consistent. But if she gets really busy and misses three to four days of working and shipping, her sales will decline for a few days until she ships out again.
In short, the more active she is in her shop, the more active her shop is. If she’s updating pictures, adding new listings, or doing any sort of general tinkering, it seems to drive sales higher.
Adding a variety of products has been also been a huge factor in the growth of Funky Monkey Children.
And finally, continuing to take custom orders has been a bit of a Golden Ticket for her growth! When people request custom orders and those sell well, it gives Lauren a whole new shop category!
For example, she’s been selling baby quilts. Those started out when she created a few for friends, and took photos to put in her shop. Then, guess what? The custom orders came in! “Can you make one with just initials and a birth date?” “Can you make a quilt for a baptism with a cross?”
Oftentimes we shop owners might think one particular product will be so successful, but it isn’t always! You aren’t always marketing to people just like you. It’s a good nuance to remember.
26:45 – Is Etsy oversaturated?
To finish our chat, we address that constant question, “Is Etsy oversaturated?”
Lauren’s bottom line is this: If you make your products stand out, you’ll build and expand. And hint: you don’t have to be the cheapest to stand out! (You’ll have to listen to hear Lauren talk about why standing out isn’t a race to the bottom for pricing!)
There’s room for growth on Etsy if you have a unique product, with a unique angle.
It may be cheesy, but I feel that it’s true that ‘the cream will always rise to the top’.
If you always work hard to serve your customers well, to be different, to find a space to shine, you know you’ll rise to the top.
People are buying things all the time. There’s plenty of room for more sellers.
30:05 – Adorable Mom Moment
Lauren’s 4-year-old daughter just decided she likes yoga. And yoga is the least competitive activity ever, right? But with 3 kids everything is a competition. The other day her daughter was finishing up her yoga video and said, “You know mom. I’m going to keep practicing yoga every single day. I’m going to go up to my room and practice with no one watching. And then I’ll become a yoga champion!!!” So cute!
First of all, the thing I’m just bursting to tell you is that the 2018 Brilliant Life Planner will drop in the shop this week, Friday, November 3rd @ 10 AM Pacific / 1 PM Eastern. Make sure you’re following @brilliantlifeplanner on Instagram because that’s where the planner fun will happen.
There will be so much going on for those of you who can join the launch live, and also for our early-bird purchasers. Pencil this date into your planner and come hang out!
It’s been absolutely amazing to hear from so many ladies who are excited for this year’s planners. It gives me all kinds of warm fuzzies to hear how you love it, how much you’ve used it this year, and how much you’re looking forward to 2018! I just want to say thank you for loving and cherishing The Brilliant Life Planner as much as I do!
And since we’re talking all things planners, I want to share a few insights into what I’ve been learning about time management, intentional living, and goal setting this year since I had a baby in April. I hope to give you some perspective, some encouragement, and maybe even some wisdom (maybe!)
The phrase that has guided my year is, “You don’t want to miss this.”
One thing I’ve been so grateful to not have missed is all the moments with my baby and all the moments our family has had together. I’ve been able to slow down quite a bit and spend the majority of my time with little Levi.
This new pace has caused me to stop a minute and think, “What do I remember most, and what brought me the most joy this year?” And to add perspective, I’ve been asking myself, “What do I regret the most and what bummed me out this year?” Both of these questions guide me as I plan for my year ahead and keep first things first.
At the top of my list of what brought me the most joy are the people in my life and the memories I create with them, and I know that people will always trump other goals.
People Matter More than Productivity
When I sit down to write my great big goals, my family goals come first. Keeping this perspective is so important because crushing all the great big goals in the world at the expense of missing out on life with my family isn’t worth it to me.
Some of my goals this year include helping my son Holden accomplish his personal goals (like joining a basketball team, honing his skills, and starting his own online business!) and the ones I have for him, like helping him to become a kind, compassionate, hard-working person who loves God and others well.
So as you start to plan for 2018, make sure you ask yourself, “What do you not want to miss? And how can you help others reach their great big dreams?” It’s just as fulfilling as working towards your own goals!
You Can Do More Than You Think You Can
Even though I’ve slowed down a lot this year, I’ve realized that I can do more than I think I can. That doesn’t mean filling up a to-do list with 100 things a day. But the goal you’d like to accomplish most this year (from business growth to personal health or whatever it may be!) even if it feels overwhelming at the start, is something you can do.
You can do more than you think you’re capable of. If you stretch yourself a little bit every day, you’ll be amazed at what you can do.
In 2017, running on the sleep deprivation that comes with having a baby, I still accomplished a lot! I’ve launched new mini-courses, worked on the 2018 planner, helped develop new physical products (coming soon!) led a team of many talented women, and had plenty of time for my family in the process.
I can do much more than I think I can, and unless I push and stretch myself a little bit more, I’ll never know what I’m capable of.
I know at the end of the year I’ll regret too much time on the couch with my feet up, but I won’t regret time spent with family or time spent growing my business in a meaningful way.
(There’s a little BBM confession in here too that you’ll have to listen to about facing challenges head-on and tackling them! I’ve been urging my team to do more than they think they can too!)
You Can't Do Everything
When it comes to stretching yourself and taking on new challenges, though, you’ve got to remember you can’t do everything. It might not be helpful to take on ten huge new challenges this year! So, how do you pick and choose? How do you decide which challenges to face head-on and which ones are too much and not worth it?
I find the best way to on the few goals I’ll tackle in a year is by starting with the end picture in mind.
Start with the End Picture in Mind
I like to picture what my dream life would look like at the end of 2018. I map out what my family, my friendships, my business, my health, my faith, and every piece of my life’s puzzle would ideally look like at the end of next year.
Then I work backward to figure out if each challenge or task along the way is going to get me to that end goal.
In the past, I set goals like, ‘I want to have 1,000 new students in my ads course’ so I can help 1,000 ladies grow their businesses! (And in pursuing that goal, I actually discovered this year I’d rather dig deep with a smaller number of students and really make an impact.)
Or, I’ve set goals like, ‘ I want to have a 7-figure business.’ when in reality, increasing profits is more impactful than increasing revenue.
Impact Over Fancy Numbers
So even if my great big goal involves big numbers, both in business and in my personal life I keep in mind that the impact I make on someone’s life matters more than that big, fancy number.
For example, rather than set a big fancy number goal for my business, like having 7 figures in sales this year, it’s much better to look for the impact my team and I can have on the women we serve and having the profits in the business to do things like adopt again and build an orphanage, than to reach that number and be stressed out and overwhelmed.
And I see that playing out in my personal life too. We just hired a babysitter to watch Levi for 3 hours, 3 times a week, and when I picked him up the other day, he looked at me and just started laughing! He grabbed my face to give me great big kisses.
I realized in that moment, I am this sweet little guy’s best buddy right now, and that doesn’t last forever. It’s so precious to me to have that, and that’s the impact that counts. I get to spend my days with this little guy, which I didn’t have with Holden. He came home at two-and-half years old, so we missed those sweet baby moments with him.
The impact I get to have by being Levi’s best buddy for now matters so much more than any fancy numbers or tracking milestones and dates for him. It’s the day-to-day relationship that matters most to me.
How will you use your planner for 2018 so you don’t miss all the amazing moments, all those incredible things you can do, and the people you can invest in?
Julie Fuller is the super creative owner of Tokyo Blossom Boutique where she sells Christian gifts for women. She’s married to a fellow creative, and together they have one handsome son.
As a busy Etsy seller and mom to a darling boy with special needs, it’s critical that Julie makes the most of her time. Press play on the podcast player below or keep on reading to hear all about Julie’s brilliant planner hacks.
Fun side note here!: Julie was one of the very first listeners of the Brilliant Business Moms podcast! Julie and I got to hang out at a conference in Nashville last year, and I wasn’t at all surprised to discover she’s as sweet in real life as she is online!
1:30 – Not Sure How to Grow your Biz? Listen To Your Customers!
Julie’s shop, Tokyo Blossom Boutique, has gone through a bit of a transformation in the time I’ve known her. Lately, her business has been growing in fabulous ways, and I just had to hear what changes Julie’s made that have led to her new growth!
Through 2016, Julie was selling lots of hand crochet and knit items. One of her products, knit cup cozies, was selling WAY more than the other items, but she couldn’t figure out why. At that time in business, Julie had been working hard to make her brand visually unified, rather than focusing on a target audience.
The more cup cozies she sold in person, the more feedback she got that her product was encouraging. One lady said she was buying a cozy for a friend who’s not very joyful, as a reminder to be joyful. (This one made us both chuckle a bit!)
After they purchased a cozy, customers would message Julie to say they purchased it because they needed the inspirational message to encourage them during a difficult time. One woman in particular wrote to tell Julie that her husband was facing tough medical issues and life was especially hard; She wanted a cozy to have that reminder to be joyful right on her daily cup of coffee. (Wow, that’s a powerful reason to buy a product! And Julie listened to each of her customer’s stories carefully!)
Early in 2017, Julie decided to focus on developing more encouraging products that her customers would love.
She revamped her shop and made mental notes of which products to purge and which to keep. The cup cozies, of course, stayed! Another favorite product, her planner clips, got a makeover; Julie redesigned them to incorporate inspirational messages. And the switch worked! Many customers are using the planner clips not just for planners, but to accessorize their Bible journals.
Tokyo Blossom Boutique is now happily a Christian gift company!
I just love the simple but impactful steps Julie took to refine her business:
Listen to them
Serve their needs
5:30 – Selling Handmade in a Retail Space
The day following our recording, Julie moved into her first retail space! She’s officially a vendor at Woodstock Market, which is a huge retail store of local makers selling home decor and gifts.
Julie had been eyeballing this place for a year and a half…she knew it would be a great opportunity! Plus, once a vendor gets in, they receive lots of traffic and attention from local businesses and boutiques.
Though Julie’s desire to have space in a retail setting was strong, she knew there was a lot that had to happen in her business and personal life before justifying the risk. Julie’s husband Scott had recently started his own creative business, and she wanted to give him time to get his business going strong. Julie wanted to have the confidence that even a small risk wouldn’t hurt their family.
A wise move on Julie’s part was that she also wanted to make sure her shop was ready for a bigger platform. Though her products were visually appealing and high quality, she wasn’t confident that she could give a tidy description of her shop in one sentence. She wanted to work toward that unity within her business before contacting Woodstock Market.
The right time turned out to be 18 months after she first started thinking in that direction.
Julie had a peace about finally reaching out to the merchandising coordinator and putting in her application, and she heard back the very next day! Those magic words, “You’re a perfect fit, and your products are just what we’ve been looking for!” were exactly what she needed.
Since Woodstock Market is Christian-owned, they’d been looking for a vendor who offered Christian gifts. Talk about perfect timing!
After Julie got her initial call back from the space, she then had to go through an interview process. Julie says that she appreciated how honest and validating her discussion with the merchandiser was. Julie asked hard questions, like “What if I bomb as a seller!? And can you explain the details of this contract?” And she got straightforward answers right back.
In fact, everything worked out so perfectly, that Woodstock Market actually made room for Julie when they had just booked their last spot! She’s been getting great feedback from her in-store shoppers. And it’s encouraging to Julie that many local stores got their start as a vendor at Woodstock Market.
11:45 – Julie’s Brilliant Life Planner Business Hack
I already love Julie’s planner clips, but planner clips aren’t the only creative planner hack she’s made!
Julie has experimented a lot with the Brilliant Life Planner. The planning pages at the beginning of the year and each month have been a big part of her goal setting. But, like most of us, Julie says most of her hang-ups come during those daily, mundane tasks.
She would look at the blank week ahead feeling like a deer in headlights! What were all those nitty, gritty business tasks she had to do? Planning for social media, sending her newsletter, marketing, and contacting the right people…the list was overwhelming!
Inspired by Crystal Paine’s Homemaking Binder, Julie made a master binder for her business that she incorporates in her planner. She listed all her weekly, recurring business tasks by day and tucked that list in the front pocket of her Brilliant Life Planner. Now Julie tackles that blank week with confidence! She fills her schedule with the regular tasks first and then adds in all the unique ones.
16:00 – How to Make Sure Important Biz Tasks Always Get Done!
Julie’s system for tackling recurring biz tasks is brilliant! She has an awesome system in place to make sure none of the important tasks in her business fall through the cracks. She makes progress on all of them each week.
So what are some of Julie’s recurring business tasks?
On Mondays, for example, she makes it a point to give her Etsy shop an update. How does everything look? Are her listings up-to-date? Is there anything new she wants to add to her Shop Announcements? Julie keeps regular tabs on her shop so it always shines.
Does Julie kick herself if she misses one week of shop updates? Not at all! But having this important to-do on the schedule ensures it gets accomplished more often than not.
Some other biz tasks Julie keeps on her recurring list are interactions with fans on Instagram. Like many of us, it’s easy for her to update Instagram, but not necessarily to remember to come back and interact with fans, so she puts it in her planner.
Julie also includes a list of who to contact for marketing, such as wholesale businesses and box companies. So brilliant! If marketing isn’t a regularly scheduled part of your business, growth is pretty hard to achieve!
17:00 – Brilliant Planning = Crushing Goals!
Julie’s planning strategies have allowed her to meet her great big goals, and I couldn’t be more excited for her!
In 2016 she doubled her sales from 2015, and for 2017, her goal is to double her sales AGAIN!
Julie is well on her way to reaching that milestone. At the time of this recording, she’s up 60% in sales from where she was last year! And with space in a retail setting and Christmas coming, hitting that goal is definitely within reach.
Let’s be honest, meeting these goals didn’t happen by accident. Julie has been super organized and strategic in making steady progress on her business every week.
17:50 – Washi Tape Planner Hacks
So, does Julie have any other tips for making the most of her planner? Yes!
As moms, a lot of our schedule outside of business can be counted as recurring, like picking up the kids from school, or a weekly lunch date with our husbands, as is Julie’s case.
Julie noticed that she was writing the same words and events over and over again. As a result, her pretty planner was getting cluttered!
For those daily recurring items, she writes them all out in the slots on her Monday section. And instead of writing the same task or event sideways across the week, over and over, she takes a piece of washi tape and tapes out the same hourly slot through the week. It’s one way she keeps her planner neat and pretty, plus saves herself time.
The same washi tape hack can be used if Julie has a vacation coming up. If she needs to block out a full day or an entire week, Julie just stretches washi tape either vertically down the day, or horizontally across the week. Brilliant!
20:20 – Planner Clip Hacks
Julie uses 2-3 clips in her planner at all times. She uses one to mark her weekly planning page, and another for the monthly page. Marking the monthly page helps Julie make sure she doesn’t add events to her week that overlap with anything previously scheduled.
And when she’s working especially hard for a goal (like doubling sales from last year!) she adds a clip to her goals page too.
I just love this hack! Julie saves herself loads of time by speeding up all the small tasks she’s doing each day… like flipping through her planner!
21:15 – A Bonus Hack + A Fun New Addition for Planner Lovers!
Another great spot for using a planner clip is to mark your Habit Tracker page. But speaking of the habit tracker page, Julie (and many of you!) have asked if there are plans to include the habit tracker on the monthly page.
While we haven’t changed the format of the planner, we ARE creating habit tracker stickers! I’ve teamed up with Ashley Monda of Sunshine Sticker Co. to make custom sticker pages just for the Brilliant Life Planner! They are gorgeous, and I can’t wait for them to hit the shop!
22:22 – Teeny Post-It Notes Making A Big Difference
Another thing Julie does with her planner that I just love is to use the smallest size sticky notes for repeated routines or lists. Turns out, those sticky notes are just about 1.5 inches by 2 inches and can fit across a several-hour block on our planner. Julie can then take her sticky of to-do’s and move them to different days as needed. How great is that!?
24:10 – Bullet Journal Hack
Don’t worry bullet journal fans…the planner works for you too! Julie also is a bullet journal user and has incorporated a half-and-half system in her planner.
She does time block recurring things. But during her big chunks of time, like the mornings when her son is at school or the afternoons if he takes a nap, she bullet journals. Rather than schedule 30-minute increments, she gets a lined stamp for planners and stamps lines into that block of time to create a bullet-journal style to-do list
I do the same thing! I frequently use my big blocks of time as a to-do list.
25:25 – Adorable Mom Moment
Julie’s son refers to her customers as ‘friends’. One afternoon as the two of them worked in their home office, he was very quiet and preoccupied with a project in the corner. He then came to Julie and showed her scraps of papers and glued them together. He said he made something for her ‘friends’ and they need to buy it so they’ll be happy. So cute! He gets it!
And you’ll have to tune in to the podcast for a second adorable moment that Julie shared!
Today we’re talking with Jill Martin of Strong Hearts, Strong Women. Jill and her husband Sean live in Texas and are parents to 13 kids: 11 at home and 2 who live in heaven. Their family has been built by birth and adoption, and includes several kids with special needs. Strong Hearts, Strong Women is an online community that Jill has built over the last year.
I’m so excited to chat with this amazing woman about how she’s grown her business over the last year and how she’s used her planner to juggle everything and live intentionally.
You will absolutely LOVE how Jill has gotten her kids involved in planning too! It’s a unique focus that will probably surprise you!
1:15 – From Stay at Home Mama to Encourager and Community-Builder
Strong Hearts, Strong Women started almost a year ago, when Jill originally wanted to coordinate fitness and nutrition groups. It’s a passion of hers and something she already does in her free time. A fitness coach friend of Jill’s encouraged her to give it a go, so she did!
Thirty women signed up for a one-month Facebook group, and when she looked at the makeup of the group, Jill felt like the women would be best served by the addition of a Bible study. In Jill’s mind, “No matter how many push-ups you do, if your insides aren’t right you’re still not going to be happy with your life.”
Jill’s first group was so successful that ladies were begging her to do it again!
These groups, that initially began as month-long groups, kept going for months after. Well into the New Year, Jill hosted a group every single month, with between 30-40 new women in each group.
From these groups, Strong Hearts, Strong Women was born. Jill put together a 3-week test group with women she knew where they talked about common struggles they experience. Together, the group tackled fitness and nutrition issues, but also self-image, forgiveness, or feeling that part of your life was a mistake. (They dug really deep!)
Shortly after this beta test group, Jill’s daughter had a big surgery. During that time, when Jill was using Facebook live to talk about her daughter’s recovery, a lot of people really connected with Jill and asked her to keep Strong Hearts, Strong Women going. Jill was grateful for that interest, but had a lot on her plate! What should she do next?
In July, she was finally ready to reopen the group. Currently the Strong Hearts, Strong Women community is at 260 members! She sees herself as a community leader — helping women to focus on character qualities, growing strong in heart, mind, and life. In short, it’s a safe place to be honest about hard things.
5:35 – Using a Word of the Year
Encouragement is Jill’s word of the year for 2017. (Let us know if you chose a word of the year, too!) And though encouraging others was a big goal of Jill’s, she found that she was the one getting encouragement in return.
6:20 – Family Goal Setting
Jill has always been a big goal setter and she’s introduced the practice to her kids. Each year between Christmas and New Years, the entire family picks areas of life to focus on and decides what they want to learn and spend time on.
All together, they brainstorm the next year and lay out their goals.
One year, Jill’s daughter wanted to make homemade bread, so they chose a new recipe to try each month and wrote it at the top of the month on her calendar. Isn’t that so fun!?
7:25 – Using the Brilliant Life Planner
Calendars have always been important to Jill since she loves scheduling and plotting things out. The Brilliant Life Planner came her way at the perfect time last year and she especially loves the visual planning tools, like the Big Goal Mind-Mapping page.
The way Jill uses these pages is that her kids will choose one character quality to write in the center as their big goal. For example, they may choose kindness or diligence.
One of Jill’s daughters, Joanna, has given us permission to use her worksheets as an example. (Thanks, Joanna!!!)
Joanna chose kindness for the year. She wrote kindness at the center of the mind map. Then she has all sorts of ideas for how to make kindness part of her life on the lines pointing back to the center: have more people over, more pizza nights, read to her brother, and so on.
I love how the Martin family centers their year around these one-word character qualities! And they don’t limit themselves with their goal-setting. Jill says their goals can be about anything: educational, business, personal, spiritual, crafty…whatever they want! As long as the goal connects back to the character quality, it gets put on the calendar for completion.
For Jill’s goal of encouragement, she would plan out how to make that happen for the year, like writing letters to friends or doing an act of kindness.
9:50 – Kindness in Action: How a Character Goal Comes to Life
To give a real-life example of how this plays out, Jill shared more about Joanna’s goal of kindness.
Joanna has some academic struggles, including reading and writing. Jill took this as an opportunity to get reading onto Joanna’s goal list by asking: What are some kind things you can do for others?
Sure enough, reading aloud to another sibling (a brother with a lot of disabilities) made her list. He recently received a diagnosis of brittle bone disease, which means his lifestyle is especially limited, and Joanna found a way to help.
One of the MANY things we love about Jill is how she views challenges as opportunities. In Joanna’s case, she saw the challenge of her brother being in bed as an opportunity to put a smile on his face by reading to him.
Is that not a triple win!? Building character, bonding with siblings, and – surprise – becoming a great reader all wrapped up in the goal of kindness.
Jill and her older teenager have physical copies of our Brilliant Life Planner, while her littles use our printable pages, which you can get for free here: http://bit.ly/blpprintables
Each month, Jill and her littles do a monthly check-in with their goals. I can’t love this enough!!! As a busy mom, I use the weekly reflection pages to check in on my own goals, but how fabulous to check in with the kids on theirs, too!
13:45 – How a Goal of Encouragement Led to an Entire Community
Jill started off 2017 with a character goal of encouragement, and she’s been using that to guide her choices ever since. She says she would never have guessed that her goal of being more encouraging to others would lead to an entire community of women who are growing in their faith and their character.
Members of her group get a monthly printable and devotional guide, as well as workbook pages; they can complete as much or as little as they want. The topics of these resources are geared around a character quality of the month, which the ladies in her group select.
15:50 – How Block Scheduling & Buffer Zones Help this Mama of 11 Run a Tight Ship
Can there possibly be a typical day with 11 kids in the house!? (And did we mention Jill homeschools her kiddos!?)
Surprisingly, Jill actually does have a typical day. She says she runs a tight ship, and she likes it that way: “I’m that person who likes surprises when I plan them,” she laughs. “I like to know what to expect.”
Having multiple kids with special-needs, Jill has spent a lot of time in doctor’s offices. And you know what? Her favorite doctor, an orthopedic surgeon, taught her about efficiency! She only waits ten minutes in the waiting room, her family gets to spend a half hour with him, it’s not rushed, and everyone leaves happy!
That wonderful doctor taught her how to schedule her home. While homeschooling and managing her kids will change with the seasons of life, what doesn’t change is block scheduling and leaving buffers. That’s what the smart surgeons do!
The offices that squish everyone in for the sake of more patients end up spending only 5 minutes with each patient, which means nobody's happy.
Jill didn’t want that for her life.
She follows the natural rhythms of life to block out her day:
From Get Up to Breakfast
From Mid Morning Snack to Lunch
From Lunch to End of the School Day
Then, depending on the ages of her children, Jill will put 3 – 5 tasks in each time block, accounting for buffer time within each block.
Her high schoolers get to come up with their own schedules, but they’re not allowed to get behind on work!
Life will happen in the middle, so Jill PLANS to have time to change diapers and deal with meltdowns…or answer the phone…or fix a clogged toilet…or whatever comes her way!
Here’s her trick: At the end of the block, nothing from that block moves on to the next.
20:00 – What We Can Learn about Productivity from High Schoolers
It’s really simple when you think about it! Even high school works like this: If English class is over, but you haven’t finished all the work for that class, do you stay in English or move on to the next class?
You move on to the next class, and you pick up where you left off with English tomorrow!
Jill uses the same system with her time blocking.
The things that occur in her morning block (between Breakfast – Morning Snack) stay in that block. And she has a buffer zone built in.
So, if it’s a good day, Jill might use that buffer to do business and social media stuff. She does mini tasks in those buffer zones or gives extra help to her kids, whatever is needed.
If a Morning Block task doesn’t get finished, it moves on to the next day in the same block. So the next block is FRESH.
Jill is fresh, tasks are fresh, and no one is stressed out. Tomorrow is always there!
(I LOVE that!)
21:20 – The Rhythm of the Day
The tasks that Jill needs to do every day are defined by the fact that most of her 11 kids are at home. The 2 oldest are away at school, but she has every age from littles to teenagers still at home. Her family lives on a farm in the country and they homeschool.
So first up in the day? Farm chores! These come before breakfast. Then, after breakfast, they do morning school work. She’ll put the hardest tasks first on the list, the ones that hit her children’s weakest points. It’s a mental thing and it teaches her kids to push themselves. So that might be spelling, language, or vocabulary development.
Jill’s buffer zone almost always includes diaper changes, bathroom issues, and medication delivery.
Then they have additional reading time, then go into math and writer’s workshop.
Next up is lunch and a prep time. Each kid has an assigned job. These jobs stay the same for the school year. One person sets the table every time, every meal, every day…for the whole calendar year!
Each person does their job before lunch. Then they do afternoon school work: history, science, singing, and art.
Then the afternoon includes free play, outside time, and farm activities.
For the evening there’s family time: Dinner, playing outside, games, riding bikes, whatever sounds fun!
24:50 – Rolling Right Over the Stuff that Keeps Others Down
Jill has an incredible mindset when it comes to her kids with special needs. She doesn’t want the disabilities of some of her children to define their family life, or their own lives!
She describes their approach as “not fussy; we just roll with it!” she says, “some kids get vitamins, some get seizure meds. It’s not an obstacle for them, it is what it is.”
27:00 – No Obstacles. Only Opportunities.
Isn’t Jill proof that every mom is capable of doing and accomplishing so much more than we think we can!?
Jill says, “If you make too much out of it, it will be. The mountain in front of you is only as big as you perceive it to be. You can decide: I’m not going to let this be an obstacle, I’m going to let it be an opportunity.”
Jill admits that her schedule was much more complex when she had just two kids. Now, it is much simpler. She sets those boundaries now because she has to.
27:35 – Facebook Live Tips – From one Brilliant Biz Mama to Another!
One thing we love about Jill is how she leverages Facebook Live to grow her online community and her ability to encourage others.
Jill says that she doesn’t practice, and she doesn’t do trial runs. If she’s going to a friend’s house, she’s not going to practice how she’ll answer a friend’s questions or have a conversation with them! She’ll just talk to her friend!
Jill treats Facebook Live the same way She usually has reasons for going live and she won’t just fish up topics for fun. Her content is natural and relevant for her audience.
So Jill’s Facebook Live Advice? “Don’t practice! Don’t make it too big. If you flub up, just go on or delete it. It’s not a big deal!”
And rewatch yourself to catch those mistakes or quirks you might want to fix for later lives!
30:40 – Jill’s Funny Mom Moment
One of Jill’s favorite memories is when her eldest, Jacob was really struggling with how to be patient with his youngest brother – who was a bit of a copycat and drove Jacob just a little crazy!
The two were playing basketball in the driveway when Jacob yelled, protesting, yet again, about his brother’s copying. Jill started out with a stern warning in her Mom voice, and Jacob quickly responded, “But I’m sick of opportunities for leadership!!!!!!!!!!!”
(Too funny! Jill’s kids love to joke about how she frames every struggle or nuisance as a “leadership opportunity!”)