// strategy for creatives who mean business

Does finding your blog niche feel limiting? Do this instead.

Alarming fact of the day: I’ve been blogging on a daily, and now weekly basis, since 2002 which means I’ve spent all of my adult life with the question “what should I post about next?” floating around in the back of my mind.

When you have a strong direction for your blog you can answer this question with systems that capture your ideas. You can pop open Google Docs or Evernote and you’re ready to go! But if you’re still wondering “what is my blog about?” then figuring out what to post becomes a very sticky part of your life.

Finding your voice as a blogger is even harder when you’re constantly told to find a blog niche and hold onto it for dear life.

Again – great advice! But for business owners who are struggling to feel comfortable with starting a conversation around their work, or for bloggers still finding their voice it creates pressure and anxiety.

Pressure and anxiety are fine if you’re racing to a nuclear fallout bunker in the event of the apocalypse (in which case, please stop reading this post and focus on your escape) but they actively shut down the part of our brain where creative breakthroughs and higher decision-making happens.

Finding your blog niche shouldn’t feel like sealing yourself in a fallout bunker! (Tweet it)

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How You Plan Your Days Creates Your Life, So Stop Settling!

Since 2008, one of my favourite things about January is has been making printable planning worksheets to make my life easier. I started out customizing store-bought day planners and agendas, and adding images to them that were more my style.

It was fast and simple, and I didn’t give it much thought. It was just a fast little project. No different than making dinner.

But as that first year went on I found that having something that I’d created live with me for a year was just different.

In a digital world packed with low value, high volume visual candy, a craft project that becomes part of your daily life for a year feels downright countercultural.

Part way through the year I adjusted my monthly planner, and made it work better. Then when January came around I made another, slightly different planner.

Somehow, among all the habits that I want to start and never keep up, I’ve been doing this every year since 2008.

This year, I’ve been thinking about why this project stuck.

This is a corner of it:


Set Blog & Business Goals for the New Year – Without The Hangover

My name is Kyla, and I’m an over planner.

It should come as no surprise that I love goals, lists, plans and filling binders with ideas for any project I set my sights on. I came thisclose to a career in stage management after all (think air traffic control for the entertainment industry).

I mean, I’m such a keener that I have an online course about designing your own day planner.

The appeal of setting big goals at the start of the year is visible everywhere. What’s not to like about dreaming big and turning over a new leaf?

The problem is the flip side to our accomplishment buzz is often a results hangover.

Expectation Hangover® is how Christine Hassler talks about this in her work, and it perfectly sums up my feelings about how I usually live out goal setting. Everything starts out fun, but in the end I’m disoriented and need to calm myself with a combination of breakfast foods and picturing the ocean.

Now you might have this all worked out, in which case, how dare you.

For the rest of us, deadlines and details and planning are tough stuff! Each year is filled with surprises of all sizes that knock us every direction.


When the World Needs More Love Letters…

One of my favourite holiday campaigns is More Love Letters – an incredible organization that helps strangers request and write love letters to someone who needs one. I’m sharing Cody’s story today:

“Cody is the most selfless and giving person I know”, writes his good friend. He is the Captain at a fire department, as well as a police officer, and goes above and beyond to help people outside of work. He spends most of his time striving to help others and save lives.

His friend writes; “he saved my life almost 10 years ago”. He is selfless and full of good heart for others, but Cody, in his positions, rarely gets a thank-you that his heart deserves.

Lately, Cody has been through a lot and has fallen a little lost. Let us remind him just how thankful we are for him, and just how much he is loved by perfect strangers. There is still good to be spread in the word, let’s be a part of that with Cody.”

The news has been full of hard things happening to normal people lately, and it’s a time of year that lends its self beautifully to helping others.

Before December 19th, join me in sending Cody a note of encouragement.


Free Printable 2015 Desk Calendars for Creative Types

If you love organization, Pinterest is really fun rabbit hole to fall down. If you love anything, or feel human emotion, Pinterest is a really fun rabbit hole to fall down. While I use digital and paper tools, I love having a small calendar around for reference and Pinterest has a huge selection to browse through.

These are my favourite 2015 desk calendars and monthly planners for anyone looking to start the new year with a little more organization and beauty in their work life.

Calendar-and-Meal-Planner-Printables-Vertical-600x800

A clean and bright printable calendar that’s ready to tackle your life from Today’s Creative Blog

2015 printable desk calendar seasonal

Love vs. Design has a full colour year on a page that worth emptying the office’s colour cartridge!

(I mean, we have no idea who did that either.)

Beloved Mini 2015 Printable Calendars

Want something small that packs a lot of pattern? Angie Hinksman has you covered.


Weekly Links & Goals can’t wait for the next Serial episode either (no. 62)

Links-and-Goals---Yellow

Just Be posted by Cody Small on Behance

Just Be posted by Cody Small on Behance

✚ If you’re all burned out on creative ideas use this this trick from The Middle Finger Project to short circuit yourself back into the zone.

✚ Girl Scout cookie sales are moving online! Girl Scout cookie sales are moving online!! I mean, I love salad.

✚ Are you going to be alone these holidays? Missing someone you love, or someone you lost? Get through the holidays in one piece, no matter how you’re spending them.

✚ Have you been holding back from being active because you feel guilty or like you’re behind? Yoga doesn’t care – and neither does spin class, your treadmill, or gym. Stop rationalizing, and start acting!


Why we’ve closed Freckled Nest Design (& what’s next!)

For the past five years I’ve been the co-owner and Managing Director of Freckled Nest Design. While we’ve talked about different possible futures before, the decision to end our partnership and close the company we built together started with a simple comment by Leigh-Ann at the end of a conversation this fall.

“I guess at some point we should have the conversation about if we’re building one company, or if we’re building two separate businesses.”

My response was immediate.

“NO, I THINK WE’RE GOOD – LET’S TALK LATER! KBYE!!”

As soon as the words were out of my mouth I was instantly annoyed, since I’ve learned that when I have a knee jerk reaction to anything it’s because there’s something bigger there to look at. While we’d talked about our professional futures – together and separate – many times before, it was still a big adjustment to think about working in a different way.

After a lot of thinking, talking, laugher (and some tears), today Leigh-Ann and I are happy to be past the hard part of adjusting. We want to share that we’ve decided to end our partnership on a high note, with a lot of friendship, respect and fabulous memories.

 

Five years of Freckled Nest Design

The “Freckled Nest” part of our business name came from the name of Leigh-Ann’s blog (that you can still read), where she taught online and started her freelance design work. She invited me to join her as a designer in early 2009, along with Moorea Seal (who has gone on to take over the internet!). By the end of 2010 I’d quit my full time job, then the part time job that topped up my income, and we’d rented a beautiful studio downtown. In the first months of 2011, Leigh-Ann decided that she needed more of my technical and business know-how, and invited me to become Managing Director & an owner.

After reading her blog and looking up to her as a mentor, working alongside her was a dream. I had always wanted to work for myself, but getting there seemed murky and impossible. Having my friend there with me as I took it on made it seem less scary and more like an interesting puzzle for us to solve, together.

In the past years, we’ve both learned and gained so much experience together, and I’m thankful for that every day. As Creative Director and a designer to her clients, Leigh-Ann’s talent has blown me away since I met her. Her enthusiasm, passion, and energy are otherworldly. Hands down. Just in this last year, I’ve had the privilege of seeing her skills grow at an exponential rate as she upgrades her graphic design training and I can’t wait to see what she dreams up next.

 

Making the tough decision

As much as I’ve loved being a partner in Freckled Nest Design, for the past several years my role was to run the day-to-day business of the company, in addition to the design work that pays my bills, and it’s been demanding. My client work and online courses have always been completely separate from Leigh-Ann’s, to the point that we’re essentially two freelancers working under one name – and that’s worked well for both of us for a long time, even if it’s confused our accountants.

(Leigh-Ann’s accountant last year at tax time asked us again, “Wait, HOW is this a partnership?”. Because we said so, that’s how!)

The responsibility and challenges have been fun and interesting but even when everything was working seamlessly, the amount of time and effort that I needed to sustain it was high. Especially because at the end of the day, there were two decision makers. As Leigh-Ann has discovered that one-on-one design work is her speciality, I’ve realized how much I love helping bloggers grow their blogs into businesses and create systems that work for them, how much I want to teach online and that I want to write more.

So this fall, when Leigh-Ann asked if we were building one company or two, I realized that both were choices and I needed to choose.

Either I could keep putting my time and energy into running Freckled Nest Design for Leigh-Ann and I and have little leftover for my clients, or I could do the scary thing and end the partnership so I can build something that lets me focus on what I love even more.

Being able to do more of what I love lights me up & terrifies me at the same time. It’s electric. If I've learned anything, it's to trust and run toward that feeling as hard as I can. [Kyla Roma]

Helping people lights me up. I love hearing your ideas, helping you spin them out in new ways, and discover how they can help you pay your rent or mortgage. It’s an honour to me, and a responsibility that I take seriously – and I realized that now is the time to double down on my commitment, and on my follow through.

 

So how do you leave a job you love and end a business partnership with your best friend?

Should I just state the obvious first? Carefully!

Kidding aside, we’ve tried to do this with a huge amount of love and care. I’ve treated Leigh-Ann how I wanted to be treated, and because Leigh-Ann is phenomenal, she’s done the same.

When all was said and done, we made all the decisions about how we would end the partnership in two afternoons. And then we went for Mexican food, caught up, and laughed too loud.

Just like always, only better, because we knew that soon we’d get to enjoy our friendship without any of the pressure of deadlines and decisions.

If you’d like more details, to help explain the full story of the split we’ve recorded a podcast style interview that you can stream or download here.

 

What’s next for me

Spoiler alert: you’ve already found it! What’s next for me is making what I do for a living available at KylaRoma.com, and recommitting to being here for you.

The company that I’ll use for my work is called Kyla Roma Creative, but everything is right here – and I’ve updated the design of the blog and website, so come look around!

This is what I’m working on now:
  • I’ve started a free community called the Daring Creative Workshop for anyone who wants to grow their blog into a business and live a creative life that feels fabulous. Right now it’s a seed of where it’s going – but that means there’s lots of one-on-one contact with me, and you can be one of the first members of the community!

Weekly Links + Goals… no. 61

Links and Goals

Hello lovelies! This week I’m changing the format of Friday Finds to Weekend Links & Goals. Every Saturday I’ll share my favourite resources from the week on blogging, business, and living a creative life that feels amazing – and now there will be a section where I invite you to share what you want to accomplish in the coming week, and report on how the following week’s progress went. I’ll do the same & we’ll win at life together, deal?

Bring on the link goodness…

✖ If your creativity is sapped & you’re fresh out of ideas Ash Ambirge has a fun formula for getting your mojo back

✖ If you have policies on your website or offer a service to clients, you should read Alexandra Franzen’s take on how to craft ones that will make you life and business better.

✖ Love the idea of a gratitude journal but hate, you know, actually doing it? Try this instead.

✖ Productivity tips from the busiest people Fast Company could find. (The last one is my personal favourite)

✖ Read this if you’re feeling alone during the holidays.

✖ Could you make a twitter list of “people who antagonize me” in the drop of a hat? Check out how trashing other people (even in your own head!) holds you back.

✖ Reality check your negativity with these 3 quick tips for a more positive outlook.

 

goals

Last week:

 Launch the new KylaRoma.com.  I’ve been working on re-positioning my blog to serve as my full time work HQ, and it’s finally done! If you need me, I’m going to be napping while I recover.

This week:

Officially announce the new KylaRoma.com & the new Freckled Nest Design. (You’ve been getting a sneak peek!)


Watch these numbers to grow your blog & business without going crazy

When I first started growing my blog to support my web design work in 2009 I felt lost and awkward. I had no idea what would help me get clients, what would make someone feel comfortable enough to work with me, let alone what would make them come back or refer their friends to me.

I was enthusiastic and had a lot of knowledge, but you can’t show that to anyone until they find you.

It’s easy to feel like your tiny website is going to stay lost in internet limbo unless someone who’s already successful discovers you.

Watch These Numbers to Grow Your Blog and Business by Kyla Roma

While that can’t hurt, there is no one handing out wands and creating blogging fairy godmothers. And even if there were, there’s no fairy godmother section on your business plan or editorial calendar.

When it comes to growing your blog or business in a meaningful way, you don’t want to hope for a fluke high traffic day that’s gone as fast as it arrived. You want to track slow and steady growth without beating yourself up about the numbers.

So what should we pay attention to?

The past years of hands on experience – plus wearing out my library card and amazon delivery service  – have taught me a lot about online business and strategy. I’ve taken courses, attended conferences, and have been lucky enough to have conversations with really smart people.

What’s been truly transformative for me is being behind the scenes in hundreds of businesses as a designer and consultant. Before I can help anyone improve their online world I have to understand it, so I’ve had the opportunity to see a huge variety of healthy online businesses.

While some of them have thousands of people waiting to hear from them every week, most have small blogs that provide a great positive impact through a product or service that they provide. And those blogs and businesses – including my own – support families, pay for rent or mortgages, without the comment count or posting frequency that we imagine a “successful blog” has when you use lifestyle blogging standards.


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