BUSINESS

A Revolutionary Concept That Will Change The Way We Live + Love + Make Babies + Parent + Adopt Puppies + Work + Build Business Empires

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Despite your best intentions to downgrade our awesomeness with things like comparing yourself to strangers on the Internet or worrying about all the things in the world that “might” happen: You still pretty AMAZING, you know that?

And talented. Ridiculously so.

I’m actually beginning to think you’ve been here before. Past life: Walt Disney. This life: You.

Wait a minute! You don’t fantasize about this sorta’ stuff? Oh. Yeah. Me neither.

All I’m trying to say is: I know you’re smart, but I also know you’re struggling.

I know you know how-to make better choices.

I know you know how-to make more money.

I know you know how-t0 rise above the mess + change the world.

We both got access to more information + more books + more websites + more apps + more scientific research than ever before. We know the how-tos, yet… we keep hitting brick ways… keep falling… keep feeling overwhelmed by all the “incompletes” in our live.

Why is that so? Why do we still feel so inadequate? I’ll tell you why. Because we don’t talk about the stuff that gets in the way. That’s why. We don’t. We don’t talk about what keeps us eating Doritos until we’re sick + numb.

Don’t get me wrong. I would love to skip over the cacophony bits… the embarrasing stories… the poo in the middle, but life doesn’t work like TiVo.

Instead of fast-forwarding over our lives crappy commercials, today I want to invite you to practice a revolutionary concept called: ASKING FOR HELP!

Here’s how it works: Anytime you’re full of anxiety + self-doubt seek out a friend who deserves to hear your story + have an honest conversation.

Is that simple.

Sure, you can drink wine. Or limoncello.

I promise you, it will change the way you live + love + make babies + parent + adopt puppies + work + build business empires.

Cuz, sometimes all we need is a little reminder that:

  • No, it’s not just us.
  • Crap is universal.
  • We all have it.
  • Yes, and we’re all afraid to talk about it.
  • The more we hide it the more control it has over our lives.

Let’s heal. Together! Because sometimes all it takes to start a revolution is a small army of confidants.

 

BUSINESS

Is Blogging Dying? This Is What I Think!

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With the rise of new social media platforms like SnapChat + Periscope, adding to the already exciting parade of options (like Facebook + Twitter + Instagram + Pinterest to name just a few), it’s no surprise people are questioning the power of blogging. Is it really necessary? Is it worth the hard work? Is micro-content enough or is a main HQ still important?

Do you want to know what I think? Do you? Do you?

Well I’ve thought long n’ hard about this one + I’ve come to the following realization: The internet is basically one BIG High School cafeteria. 

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There’s the nerds table + the mean girls table + the artsy kids table + the football team table + the book club table… and all the drama in-between. And every table has its unwritten instruction manual with rules of what you can + cannot do.

Instagram, for example, let’s you share pictures but the only active link allowed is the one on the bio page. Twitter let’s you share no more than 140 characters at a time. If you wanna hang out at their cafeteria table, you gotta obey their social code.

In a way these platforms are basically saying, “Sure, you are welcome to seat with us, but we get to call the shots.”

Maybe it’s agreeing to let the Periscope gang remove your videos in 24 hours. Perhaps it’s agreeing to let the Facebook folks use anything you post in their own advertising or charge you to interact with the audience you’ve built and fostered. Oh! And have you heard the news about Instagram’s new curated feeds?

And think about it. There are no guarantees. The luncheon dynamics can change. Anytime. People might get tired or disillusioned + decide to eat at the bus instead. Or the gym benches. This happened to MySpace. Closed shop. Forever. Gone. In the middle of the game. You can’t sit with them anymore, because they are no longer there.

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I get the pro’s of sitting with others. I do. Eating your sandwich (or empanada) in good company is nice, especially if you’re the new kid in school who doesn’t know anybody + nobody knows you. Picking a table is not only a smart option, it’s survival. It can help you gain traction + popularity, or at the very least, be heard by a few who will listen. Your cafeteria entourage can even help you rise from oblivion into stardom. Think of all those YouTubers who became famous overnight. The platform helped them do that.

Now this idea of becoming a celebrity is so appealing, so tempting that people often forget about the drawbacks of picking a table at the cafeteria.

The downside for me is so obvious thou. It’s not your table. Your cute lil’ touchie might be sitting there, but it’s not your table. It’s not. You don’t own it. You don’t make the terms + conditions. You can get kicked out anytime without a 30 day notice. You + your meal + all your fans. Out! And the honey badger doesn’t care. The honey badger doesn’t give a damn if you were counting on that revenue stream or marketing outlet.

People somehow miss this important piece of the puzzle. Why? Consider why you tell yourself blogging isn’t worth it? Ask yourself why you convince yourself to stop trying?

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I’ll tell you why. Because:

  • It’s more convenient to blame someone else. Your Kickstarter campaign failed miserably? It’s easier to say, “Kickstarter doesn’t work” than to say, “I was not able to recruit enough supporters to fund my project.” Thin line. Easier to complain + dismiss + procrastinate than to assume responsibility.
  • It’s less work. Sure, posting a pretty picture of your breakfast with a cute caption is easier than putting together a thoughtful + valuable post about morning routines. Whereas the first option is cheaper + faster, the later is much harder + scarier + more time-consuming. So our monkey brain encourages the easier + seemingly better option.

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Social media is easy + fun + gives you instant gratification. In the animal world that works just fine. If you are a monkey, for example, who spends all day doing nothing but eating bananas, you’re a huge success. But unfortunately for us humans, we have a big ass brain that allows us to recall the past + make decisions in the present + transform the future. Being a homo sapiens is a hard gig. So is blogging.

Blogging comes with a huge deficit because it takes planning + effort + momentum + guts. It might seem less pleasant than scrolling social media all day, but epic things happen when you don’t let your monkey brain take the stirring wheel.

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I’m not lobbying for a riot at the school cafeteria. I’m not an anti-social media billboard. All I’m saying is that it’s dangerous to solely exist + build buzz in someone else’s ground. That’s all.

Anyone… any place… any thing  that makes you check off a terms and conditions box to hang out with them shouldn’t be your number one hang out, much less your business strategy.

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And there’s no excuse. These days, the internet let’s you build your own site in minutes, affordably.

I set up a basic blog on WordPress. Got my own mailing list up n’ running. Why? I’ll tell you why. Because this way, I get to keep my power + my work + my voice intact. But more importantly, there are no Illuminati censoring my content + editing my ideas + gatekeeping my gigs. It’s MY intellectual properly. MY audience. And the best part? I get to call the shots. Heartmade, this blog, is not a democracy. I decide who plays + who doesn’t. What? You’re a troll who spams the comment box with links to fake Kate Spade bags? Expelled! You’re too cool to be nice to my virtual family? Fired!

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Sure I still hang out with my friends at the cafeteria. My besties over at the Instagram table are so much fun to be around. And don’t even get me started on my Pinterest gals. They are the bomb. But I always make sure to come back home, to my HQ + give clear directions with links or call to actions to where people can find me if they want to know more.

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The charm of the High School cafeteria is obvious. It’s entertaining. But if you want to make sure you always have a safe space to eat your peanut butter and jelly sandwich + an open mic to share your brilliant ideas with the world, you’ve got to build your own playground. An online headquarters for your content that Google can easily find. A place where you can try out your coolest tricks + make meaningful stuff. Make it a friendly place for people to come visit. Often. Let them wear their paint stained pajamas if they wish. Bring your heart, your humanity, your value.

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The reality is this: You only get out what you put in.

I’m not here to endorse hype-y fantasies around being your own girl boss, like working 4-hour weeks while dipping your feet in warm sand. That sh*t ain’t real. I repeat: that sh*t ain’t real.

Wanna make a living online? Put in what you want to get out. Simple as that. And I’m not talking about busy busy busy work – the kind where you pull all-nighters + skip breakfast + cancel lunch dates with your girlfriends to browse Pinterest and call it research. I’m talking about committing to the act of creating + sitting down to write when you don’t feel like it + hitting publish in spite of being afraid.

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Not everyone is willing to do it. But then again, you are not everybody.

This lil’ blog is still the heartbeat of my business. Sure, I’ll be the first to admit that blogging isn’t for lazy people. Trying to keep up the pace of posting regularly + creating original content (not just echoing what the entire blog galaxy has already said) can wear out anyone who’s not built for this. Those of you who have blogs know exactly what I mean.

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So if you’re pondering: “Oh! boy, but I’m already too busy running a shop + updating my about page + doing the laundry + perfecting my skills + inventing my new product line + preparing for a craft show + invoicing, do I really need to have a blog?” Here’s why I think you should give it your best try:

  1. Blogging helps you build strong relationships with clients. Through your blog you let your personality + charisma + passion shine. This helps your customers relate + connect with you on a deep human level. And a customer that has empathy is a customer that connects with you + trusts you + befriends you. This is a rare + beautiful thing.
  2. Blogging lets you show you’re a pro. It’s an opportunity to showcase your abilities + skills in a non-braggy kinda way. If you make the best brownies in town, give your clients an inside pick into how you prepare the dough + how you cut the brownies + how you package them the way you do, without giving away all your secrets of course. It will show customers that you sure know an awful lot about brownies + chocolatey things + baking without burning things in the kitchen + etc. And people love to buy from shops that they feel confident about.
  3. Blogging helps you document your creative life. I love looking at my blog archives to see where my mind + heart were at 5 weeks ago, 3 months ago, 7 years ago. This time last year I know I was a lot more afraid. I dunno when I changed, or how, but I know at some point between then + now I built wings + set myself free. It’s like having my own little time machine to travel back in time + navigate through my creative stages + access my virtual diary. Helps me learn + grow, ya’ know?
  4. Blogging lets you share updates with your fans. You just released an awesome new collection? You’re having your annual Everything Must Go sale? You were featured in US News? Sure, social media let’s you shout the news through the roof tops, but these channels go by so fast, that important information typically falls through the cracks. Your launch can be easily missed. Your TV appearance missed. And that’s just sad. Blogging gives you both a space to inform your clients about all the wonderful things that are happening, and most importantly it lets you archive them so they never go by unnoticed.
  5. Blogging connects you with the indie community. When you blog, you become part of a cult of artist + designers + crafters + freelancers that get it without much explanation. When people ask me, how to do advertise your products, they’re shocked to know I don’t do ads. I don’t buy followers or run promoted posts. I let my customers do the talking. They are my brands true ambassadors, and in my humble opinion, the best kind of marketing there is.
  6. Blogging gives you VIP access to Google. Blogs are built for search engines. They are indexed faster + more frequently than your shop is. They also have this cool optimization feature that reads your keywords like “business tips” + “planners” + “mess”, and connects potential fans to your site via those tags. This brings targeted traffic from people who are searching for exactly what you have to offer. Pretty neat right?
  7. Blogging is so freaking awesome. When you get in the habit of blogging + write about the things you are truly care about, everything just clicks. It stops being hard. Blogging flows. And you become hooked. Our career choice as creators + innovators can sometimes be a solitary path, but blogging lets connect with readers all over the globe + start a conversation with people with similar interests + get instant feedback. All the sudden you realize, “I’m not alone in this”. It’s a comforting + uplifting + energizing feeling.

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Yes, blogging is more difficult + requires work, because teaching + inspiring + launching is hard. But, it’s also how we get to do what we love for a living using this amazing tool called the internet.

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So the next time someone asks, “Is blogging dying? Are blogs a thing of the past?” Will they not survive another month? You can tell them what I think. I’ll be sitting at the messy table by the corner with my vintage typewriter if anyone asks.

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What do YOU think? Are blogs dying? Are they becoming diluted in a sea of social media-ness? Drop your insight in the comment box. The best discussion always happens there.

 

*This post is sponsored by Kate Spade NY. All content + ideas + words are my own.

Photography Credit

Susana Aramburú

BUSINESS · LIFESTYLE · PERSONAL

Juggling Life As Girl Boss and New Mommy (Plus My Top 20 Comeback Tips)

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The other day I was talking to my friend Farideh about the challenge of being a new mom + an entrepreneur. She shared with me this quote, which pretty much sums it up: You want to work like you never had children and you want to be a mom like you don’t have a business.

Every mom/entrepreneur in the room is shaking her head up + down right now. I know it.

For months I’ve been dreading this day. The day I had to pick up my slack + get back to the office. The day I had to become both a girl boss AND a mom, like, AT THE SAME TIME. I mean, cuz I know how to do the girl boss thing on it’s own. Even mastered the mommy thing during maternity leave. But! BOTH. Damn it!!!

For months I’ve been dreading this day. The day I had to embody the challenge of wanting to work like I didn’t have a baby to love + wanting to be a mom like I didn’t have a creative empire to run.

It’s the whispers that affect me the most, ya’ know? The little voices inside my head that tell me what I could or should be doing. The gremlins that lure me out of gratitude + happiness. The mental script that teases me into comparing myself with strangers on the Internet. Those moms that are making homemade play dough + wearing Baby & Me matching outfits, while I’m here all like, “I got out of bed + brushed my hair. Go me!”

It’s exhausting.

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I guess it all comes back to fear. Fear of missing out. Missing out on being good enough. A good enough CEO. A good enough mom. It’s my struggle, and I suspect in some ways, it’s yours too. That fear of falling into the cracks of mediocrity… of abandoning our path… of walking out of our true calling… of giving up those precious moments that hold meaning to us so we can prove that we aren’t missing out.

And of course we know inside our hearts that we are everything. E-VERY-THING. That we are exactly where we need to be. On course. On track. Right here. Except when we skip a nap or breakfast because we said YES when we really meant NO. Those times, we really do miss out, on our own live.

Know what I discovered? That we cannot trade living life for what-if, because we’re afraid to miss out a big opportunity, the one that could be our big break. You know what my biggest break was this week? Watching Olivia say “PAH-pa-pa-pa-pa-PAAA-pa” for the first time.

In a way these past months have been about finding the courage to enjoy NOW for what is.

This is a stage. Just a stage. The checking-to-see-if-Olivia-is-still-breathing stage + the car-seat-tantrum stage + the shhhhhh-the-baby’s-sleeping stage. It’s all a stage. Everything’s a stage. And every stage has a beginning + an end. Just a couple of weeks ago we got over the sleeping-in-two-hour-intervals stage, and I tell you the truth: I miss it a lil’ bit because it means my baby’s all grown up. She was so tiny, like, yesterday. What happened?

The years are long, but the days go by so so fast you guys.

Maybe we become. Slowly. Perhaps at some point down the road we all the sudden become worthy to be called “ma-ma-ma-ma” + wear the superhuman boss boots.

Or maaaay-be we unbecome. Gently. Perhaps we unlearn how to be Robocop-woman, and we just are the journey. 

I think it’s the latter.

I trust it’s the latter. Because everyday I close my calendar of perfectionism + give myself permission to stay one more hour in my pijamas (or three) + to snuggle Olivia until we both become one breath + to watch one more episode of Modern Family with hubby (or a whole season) + to have a grilled cheese sandwich in bed… it gets easier. Life does.

I trust that a place in a galaxy not that far away exist, where I don’t have to give up my passion projects + I don’t have to say good-bye to those chubby little hands that like crawling up my chest from 9 to 5 from Monday through Friday. I don’t want to.

I believe there is a place where girl boss meets super mommy, for tea + ginger cookies. And they get along.

The girl boss has the backbone to stay on course + the firmness to keep going for her dreams. The super mommy has the softness to be grateful + the heart to stay grounded. We need both to guide us home.

The girl boss reminds the super mommy of her mission in this world, which is greater than herself. And the super mommy reminds the girl boss that the world doesn’t need more successful people, what it needs is more unconditional lovers + more people who read “Once upon a time…” stories.

They need each other. The girl boss + the super mommy do. I really believe that now.

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My Top 20 Comeback Tips

Coming back to work after hibernating in maternity la-la-land has been sweet n’ sour.

After a long adjustment period, I really feel like I have found my happy rhythm. I don’t know that I’m quite there yet, since I still catch myself saying things like “I survived” or “Winter is coming”, but I’m definitively getting somewhere that’s not bad at all.

If you’re looking to return to work after a a sabbatical + you’re freaking out a little (or a lot), I made a list of a few things that helped me transition back into the keyboards. Smoothly. Without hyperventilating.

Here are some handy tips to make your return from maternity leave easier from a momma who’s just been there:

1. Plan It 

If you don’t already run your life around a calendar now is the time to start. David and I both work + have a very hands-on approach to raising Olivia, so it’s nice to schedule date nights + trips. Things to look forward to in between the craziness of building our own brands + parenthood.

Of course, every family’s tolerance level is different. Ours, for example, doesn’t do well on a fixed hour-by-hour routine or controlled feeding feeding/napping schedule, but we have learned that we cannot go more than a week without a movie + we start to get really cranky if we don’t go to our beach house for long stretches of time. So, we make fun plans all the time. And those plans are locked down on the calendar.

We have also become very guarded of our social schedule + only plan for things we really REALLY want to do.

2. Share the Load

Whether you return to work 10 hours a week or 50, you will need to enlist the help of others to avoid feeling overwhelmed. Since we can’t add hours to our day when we return to work or have a Time-Turner like Hermione, we must make adjustments to our existing schedule to fit it all in.

I’m a big advocate of bring family onboard. I literally assign missions to everybody who offers a hand. My mom-in-law helps with the groceries. My sister is great at taking the night shift. Mom babysits during date nights. Auntie Kari distracts Olivia while mommy has lunch. Everyone has a role, an important role. It’s because of them that I’m still sane.

Like the saying goes, “It takes a village to raise a child.” I see it unfolds in front of my very eyes everyday.

Don’t hesitate to ask for help. It will not make you any less of a mother. I promise.

3. Find the Right Job

When I was returning to work, I made the mistake I see a lot of my gal pals make when going back. I undervalued myself. “I’ve been gone for 6 months.” “Everyone’s forgotten who I am.” “I have nothing to offer.”

Within weeks, I had mastered the art of working while Olivia was rolling around on her foamy play-thingy or family came to visit (ahem, ahem, babysit). Quickly I was feeling underutilized + bored. I had underestimated myself.

Being a mom doesn’t mean you’re all the sudden handicapped or sick. It just takes some re-adjustment + fine tuning.

Take some time to think about what you want to do + what your skills are + what your goals are for returning to work. Is this a return to full-time work that means pursuing a career until retirement, or is this a smaller return to increase your income while still prioritizing your family? What do you like to do? How much time can you give to a job? Can you work from home or would you rather separate the two?

Find a job that’s right for YOU. This is something you will want to talk with your partner, since it affect the whole family. So make sure to carve out time to involve hubby in the process.

4. Pass The Torch

Because I’m the boss of my own time, I tend to leave too many slots available for others people’s agendas + urgencies. I tend to overcommit. I’m that super volunteer people call when there’s an auction or a bake sale. It sucks.

Being a mom has taught me to let go of a few responsibilities, pass them on to someone else if you will. It’s been nice to finally have an excuse to excuse myself. Not that I needed one, but oh well.

5. Hire Help

Get someone in regularly to help out with cleaning + laundry + cooking or any day-to-day task that you dread doing now that time is of the essence.

Her name is Cati, our savor. She comes in weekdays from 8 to 5, and at the end of the day my floors are clean + the plants get watered + there’s homemade almond milk in the fridge. It’s AWESOME.

Plus, not only does hiring help alleviate your burden, you get to help out another working mom by hiring her. Extra AWESOME!

6. Don’t Worry

Try not to worry too much. Your baby will be fine + will not hold your ‘working mommy’ status against you. In fact, you well may turn out to be her role model. Take care + be kind to yourself. You deserve it!

7. Find Trustworthy Care Giver

Finding someone you can trust to take care of the baby in your absence is a big one. I feel very blessed to have family close by that I can count on to look after baby O when I have a doctor’s appointment or business meeting. You can always hire a nanny or find a close-by daycare, if family is not an option. But! Do your research + check references. Muy importante.

8. Pick the Feeding Method That’s Suits Your Family

I made the decision long ago that I wanted to breastfeed Olivia on demand. After overcoming a very rocky + painful start, I’m finally at that point were I really enjoy nursing. I LOVE that it requires no preparation, other than buttoning down my shirt. I LOVE that food is always available as long as we’re together. I LOVE how I feel when I see what my body is capable of doing.

Like that time we went to Vieques. Packing was so easy. And not having to worry about milk temperatures or sterilizing bottles at a remote hotel was lovely indeed.

Or like that other time we were stranded in traffic for 4 hours and 40 minutes coming back from the beach (a trip that usually takes us 1 hour + 20 minutes). No problem. Daddy just pulled over every time Oli wanted a little snack (wink). That was nice.

I really encourage expecting moms to think ahead + pick a feeding method that fits their lifestyle best.

9. Prioritize

Everyone knows I’m an avid list maker. Except now, besides making to-do lists, I make sure to circle in red the items that are top priority.

I’ve learned that not everything is an emergency, like updating my Facebook fanpage or alphabetizing my cookbook collection. If something can be done later, I put it on the back burner without guilt or shame. It’s an art. I think it comes with the hormones.

10. Learn to Say NO

When it comes to setting priorities + boundaries, I say NO many times. I’ve made it a habit.

Make NO your default setting. I know it sounds horrible, but look at it this way: Saying NO to stuff that’s not aligned with your big picture only means you get to say YES to what’s truly important. It’s called living with intention. And living in authenticity with your values is a beautiful thing.

11. Give Your Baby Quality Time

When I started taking a few clients here and there + getting back to blogging + going back to work in general after maternity leave, I made a pack with myself:

  1. Work stays in my studio.
  2. Set decent working hours.
  3. I will not take work home.

When I’m at work, I’m fully present. In my creative flow. The time I step out of my studio + enter my home, I devote it to my family. No working after dinner. No bringing my laptop to the beach. No inbox clean up in bed. No exceptions.

I think that’s one of the main reasons I don’t feel guilty about working or guilty about spending all this time with Olivia. It’s because I enjoy every instant I have with my virtual community + every slit second I get with my familia.

12. Have A Plan B

Sometimes, the best-laid plans can unravel. Tell me about is sistah!

It is possible that your nanny gets ill or the abuelita couldn’t get out of the office + cannot look after the baby as planned. Have a backup plan for such situations. I keep a little black book of options in case of emergencies – that friend you can always count on… that family member who keeps asking if you need an extra hand… that babysitter who can come to the rescue. It’s good to have options.

13. Look Your Best

You may have to buy a new wardrobe! Under no condition should you attempt to fit into your pre-pregnancy clothes. That’s a great recipe for disaster! Don’t go trying to stuff yourself into your pre-pregnancy clothes. Pick up some new clothes that will flatter your new body. You can also go for a haircut. Now will be a great time to try a new hairstyle. And while you are at it, get a facial + manicure + pedicure too!

14. Sleep, You’ll Need It

Once you return to work after maternity leave, you’ll truly understand what exhaustion feels like. Juggling work + family is one of the toughest jobs in the world. So, sleep whenever you can. That dirty bookshelf can be dusted later. That movie can be watched later. That pantry can be organized later. That homemade cake can be baked later. But you need sleep, NOW!

15. Practice Makes Almost Perfect

Before you jump into the workforce, do some practice runs. Let the babysitter try giving the baby milk out of a bottle. Let the nanny try bathing the baby without you. Let grandma put the baby to sleep without your aid. See what happens. Make adjustments. This will get you ready for the real thing.

16. Remember Why You Are Working

It may be because you need the money or because you need to work to stay sane. Whatever be the reason, remind yourself of it whenever you feel overwhelmed.

17. Let Go Of Momma Guilt

Guilt comes with the territory for most moms. Let go of it. Thousands of working moms manage to bring up amazing babies. My mom is a very successful lawyer. And I think she did pretty good.

Don’t beat yourself up. Be kind to yourself if you decide going back to work is the right thing for you.

18. There Is Life Besides The Baby (Hard To Believe, I Know)

No matter how much you love your baby, don’t make it the topic of all conversations. Your life may revolve around your baby, but others have different priorities.

Don’t blame your colleagues for not being interested in what your baby ate for dinner. Don’t blame your friends for not asking you to show them baby pictures. Don’t blame your husband if he wants to talk about something other than the baby’s poo color that day.

19. Don’t Compare Yourself With That Other Moms

Parenting is hard. Don’t compare. Make the best of the situation you + your partner picked. You will soon get into a routine. I promise it gets easier. I swear it gets easier.

20. Get Comfortable With The Stillness

My biggest shock getting back to work was realizing I would never be back, like as the Mayi from before Olivia I mean. Cuz, I used to be one of those bosses that was on call all the freaking time. For e-mails. For customer orders. For comments. For social media questions. For interviews. For round ups. For blog tours. For all nighters. For a catch up chat on Google Hangouts. I was there. Busy busy busy.

By removing all that busy work from my schedule I feared that my brand would fall apart. That I would no longer have friends. That I would PUFF, disappear from the radar.

For the first time in my life, I was forced to make room for emptiness. For alone time. For introspection. For my thoughts. Like when I’m nursing Olivia, I literally can’t do anything else. Don’t believe me? Go ask my Coordinator of Messy, Amanda Sue Howell. It’s true. Every time I try to send her a voice note to catch up on work while I’m breastfeeding or playing with Olivia, she let’s us know she’s not having the multi-tasking thing on her watch.

Being present requires work. Not busy work. Soul work.

In the words of Paul Jarvis (if you’re not signed up to his newsletter, you’re missing out big time): “When your work requires you to be creative, you need to be alone with your thoughts. You can’t get around it. You need the mental space to create.”

We prefer to fill up our days with social media + e-mails + WhatsApp messages + chores. It feels productive. But busyness rarely equals creativity.

Motherhood brings with it mandatory calmness. And with it the boundless possibility of an imaginative mind + an innovative spirit. We must sit though the discomfort, sometimes minutes… hours at a time just watching the baby sleep or ironing cute little clothes. It’s part of the job. And it pays creative dividends.

Stillness is not the ultimate punishment. It feels like it, but it’s the necessary path to true creative work that matters. Just wait + see all the stuff that I have lined up for us from all this quite time. Stay tuned!

Mayi Carles Kate Space January 16

Mayi Carles Kate Space January 15

Mayi Carles Kate Space January 17

Ultimately thou, there is no amount of preparation that can fully prepare you for the transition from full-time momma bear to world domination biz lady. I think the hardest part with any comeback is always the learning-to-trust-the-mess part.

Trust your husband to take care of things in my absence. So what if he put on the diaper wrong? Let him bond with the baby while you catch your breath!

Trust your mom/mom-in-law/sister/nanny to take care of things in my absence. So they don’t sing like you or dance like you or play like you? Do not micromanage! Your baby doesn’t need mommy clones. What your baby needs is a fun grandma. A crazy aunt. A silly God Mother. A loving cousin that sometimes doesn’t want to share his toys. That’s what will ultimately prepare the baby for the world. Diversity will.

Trust yourself to take care of things to the best of my abilities with a sense of worthiness. If you feel like you are not being as productive at work as you were before, don’t worry. You have just become a mother for God’s sake. It is a HUGE accomplishment. Give yourself time. And talk to other women who are going thought this process. It helps.

Trust. Takes practice.

Mayi Carles Kate Space January 1

To wrap up, here’s my final confession: I’ve changed. I’m more loose in the joints + chubbier on the cheeks + my eyes are a bit more wrinkly. In a lot of ways I’m uglier. Except to people who understand. Who get it. Who know what I’ve been through. To them, I’m prettier than ever before.

I’ll take it. It was all worth it.

It’s been therapeutic to write this. It really has. Thanks for sticking around till the end. Means so much to have a space to share this metaphorical Everest climb with.

Now I would like to hear from you. Are you returning to work after maternity leave? What is it you are worried about the most? What has helped you make the transition easier? Share it in the comments!

*This post is sponsored by Kate Spade NY. All content + ideas + words are my own.

Photography Credit

Susana Aramburú

BUSINESS

How to Self-Promote Without Feeling Pucky or Being Annoying (20 Ideas Up For Grabs)

Mayi Carles

Some people are just so great at talking about what they do + why they do it. They pull people in with a selfie + get everyone around them invested in their lifestyle in mere moments. You people, go away. This post is not for you. Kidding, you can stay… just don’t laugh at the rest of the world who really struggles with this self-promoty game.

Personally, the hardest part of my job is talking about myself to total strangers.

This past Monday I was put to the test. My super talented friend + professional hustler + public speaking powerhouse, Stefy Cohen, invited me to participate in a Girl Power conference. As the avalanche of ladies approached my booth, my heart raced as if I were riding a roller coaster, the upside down kind. Then, Loser FM started playing in my head: What if they don’t like me? What if everyone thinks my book is over-priced? What if my homemade granola isn’t good enough? Does this lace dress make me look pregnant? Wait… I am pregnant!!!

The front line is scary. I know.

Putting yourself on the line can be hard. It’s way easier to stay in bed. Tempting even. But you cannot leave your mark if you’re hiding. Even Batman has to leave his cave to fight crime + save Gotham + change the world. World’s not gonna conquer itself, I keep reminding myself.

I think many creatives struggle with promoting their work the most because, well, the work is so personal. But our small biz empires aren’t gonna create buzz for themselves. We must take the initiative to get out there + make a name for ourselves.

My goal with this post is to help you warm up your self-promoting muscles, so you feel more confident + less icky sharing your unique gifts with the world, because in doing so I’ll freshen up my un-slimmy marketing tactics + take them out for a ride, I’m getting rusty.

Here’s 20 promo-moves that won’t make you feel pucky + will definitively not annoy my tribe. Get grabby!

Sidebar Note

1. Start with how you can help them. 

The truth is people are not that into you. What they’re really after is what you can do for them? How your products + services can make their lives better? Ego stand aside. Narrow down your calling into a short + easy to read blurb. Then, place this comprehend sentence somewhere prominent on your website. I wrote mine with my 10 little fingers, so it felt like a personal hand written invitation to connect. How can I be of service? You can see this note on the right hand side of my sidebar, above the fold.

2. Let value take a front seat + self-promotion sit in the back. 

Focus on delivering outstandingly useful content that always adds value. If you share the best content in a way that’s helpful + actionable + practical, believe me, no one’s gonna think you’re a sleazy telemarketer. In fact, your audience is gonna be so eager to hear from you, they’ll probably subscribe to your newsletter just so they make sure they never miss a thing.

3. Teach what you know. 

Each one of us is an expert in something – a lawyer is an expert in law + a hairdresser is an expert in beauty care + a guy who sells hot dogs on the corner is an expert in street food. Start positioning yourself as an expert in your field by offering your educated 2-cents. Online, you can create blog posts + write guest posts for other websites that let people know you are an authority in the field. Offline, you can position yourself as an expert by teaching a live class + writing an informative article for a local newsletter or speaking at conferences.

4. Brand everything. 

Your brand is your company’s personality. Extend this over everything you do, from adding logos to your e-mail signature to your video backdrop. Create an identity for your brand + use it in all your marketing collateral + websites, anywhere that your business is represented really. Think about who your brand is + how you want to present it to others. How do you want to be portrayed? When you decide what you want your brand identity to be, create a brand book (also known as a style guide) so your brand stays consistent + tight. If you’re not sure where to start, take a look at some other examples of brand books.

5. Don’t forget about your printed material. 

When you send thank you notes to your clients, is your logo on there somewhere? When you hand out fliers, are they customized to match your brands look and feel? When you create downloads for your blog posts or products, do you remember to add your website in the footer? Well, you should. Consider looking at printed collateral designs that other graphic artists have created to get some design inspiration.

6. Add that fancy code. 

Now that smartphones are so popular, having a QR code is a great way to subtly attract new business. Placing a convenient QR code with a link to your website on your marketing items will make it more likely that potential customers will actually follow through. QR codes can also be set to dial a phone number so that customers who are interested in your services can quickly find out what you can do for them.

7. Use social media to be social, duh! 

Sharing content for the sake of sharing content is a one-way broadcast. Engaging with your community is a conversation. One is “how can I gain” focused, the other is “how can I give” centered. Guess which one works best? Exactly! Don’t just pop on social media every time you have a new promotion or update your website. Be an active member of your community.

8. Create social content that your followers want to repost.

Asking questions + sharing quotes + posting brainteasers or even making jokes are all ways to try to encourage socialization. This, in turn will help get the word-of-mouth out about your brand + help drive up sales. And don’t forget to ask for the share – “tag a friend” or “send this to someone who needs to hear this.”

April Bowles

9. Nobody can say what your business does better than an enthusiastic customer or friend.

This is the picture my bestie April Bowles-Olin posted on Instagram as soon as she received her Life is Messy Kitchen cookbook in the mail. I instantly regramed it + got a boost in sales that day. Make an effort to follow up with customers + friends who have recently bought products or services to gauge their satisfaction. Ask them if they’d be willing to give a referral + provide a testimonial or share a cute picture, which many are happy to do. Use these gems you’ve collected on marketing materials + highlight them on your website + social media platforms. Getting referrals + testimonials + visual proof that your stuff rocks, not only increases your trust factor, but it generates more leads, which means more money in your piggy bank. The best marketing of all is happy clients.

10. Go to a networking conferences or event.

But remember it’s not about who talks the loudest or hands out the most free lollipops, you have to be brave enough to get vulnerable + make genuine connections. That’s how me + my business partner April Bowles-Olin clicked. We sat right next to each other at Marie Forleo’s Rich Happy and Hot LIVE. For us, building a friendship that would last a lifetime was far more meaningful than doing small talk with hundreds of women in a 2-day event. When it comes to relationships, always choose quality over quantity.

11. Don’t be a stranger, keep in touch. 

Meeting new people is important in self-promotion, but once you’ve met someone new, you have to be willing to maintain the relationship for it to be truly beneficial. Keep up with your former + current clients to let them know you still care. Sending out birthday greetings + VIP promotions is a great way to make them feel appreciated. Take the time to respond to posts on social networking sites. This extends to more than just clients + business relations. It also includes your friends + your neighbors + your old college buddies – everybody that means something to you, regardless of whether or not it has the potential to lead you to new business opportunities.

12. Consider doing some pro bono work.

Working pro bono isn’t just for lawyers, every business can benefit from the great word of mouth that comes from donating your time + resources. True tale: I’m such a loyal Kiehl’s customer that I got a call the other day to book a free facial, and I could even bring a friend. I was so astonished by this act of generosity that I told everyone I know how much I love this brand + how amazing their products are. You can’t beat the kind of glowing recommendation that comes from making someone’s day.

13. Craft your elevator pitch.

Nine seconds– that’s the amount of time people will pay attention before getting distracted by the next shiny object. Naturally we must find the quickest + easiest way to explain what you do (and practice it), so that during brief encounters with potential clients, you are able to make the most use of your time. They call it an “elevator pitch” because it should be short enough to last an elevator ride while still making an impact.

14. Be human. 

The key to self-promotional is to maintain a sense of humility. No one likes a bragging + boasting brat. Be a human being, not human spam.

15. Host community outreach efforts.

For instance, if you’re a cheese shop, host a tasting every Thursday. If you’re a painter, have open studio nights the first Monday of every month. If you’re a yoga instructor, let clients bring a friend for free on Sundays. These are all great ways to try establishing a repertoire with local clientele.

16. Tell good stories. 

Storytelling is an accent art. It is less about language + more about making people feel something. In the words Maya Angelou, “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”

17. Tease em’, just a little. 

It’s not enough to create interest, you have to stop your reader from thinking, “Oh, that’s probably going to be about X + Y + Z. I bet I know that already.” Psychological tests reveal that most people assume they know more than they actually do, so you definitely want to make sure you’re not losing readers who “think” they know what you’re going to tell them. For example, Heartmade readers who see this headline: “How to Self-Promote” might assume she already knows how. As a result, she doesn’t feel compelled to read the article. That’s why: “How to Self-Promote Without Feeling Pucky or Being Annoying (20 Ideas Up For Grabs)” works much better. Ultimately, you’re poking should let your peeps know, “Look, I know you know a lot, but you don’t know this.” And this really encourages the curiosity gremlin to wreak havoc.

18. Host a giveaway. 

The secret to hosting successful giveaways is to first set an intention – why you’re doing this? Do you want to reward current readers? Attract new followers? Celebrate a special event? Build a relationship with a brand? Do you want more fans for a FB page? More backlinks to your blog? Ask yourself what you’re hoping to get out of it. When you know why you’re doing a giveaway + what you want from it, you’ll be better able to decide your giveaway criteria. And for the love of all things holy, please keep your requirements for entry as simple as can be.

Work in Progress

19. Think process, not end product. 

I’m talking about behind the scenes footage + outtakes + pencil sketches + bloopers + rough drafts – the stuff the camera captures just before or after you get it right. People wanna see it! They are hungry for the uncensored + unPhotoshoped + unedited version. There is power in this rawness. The messy material + on-set secrets + project sneak peeks can help you tell a deeper, more engaging story about your brand.

20. Take time to browse blogs that are of interest to you + leave thoughtful comments.

Of course, if a particular entry strikes your fancy. Commenting on other blogs is a great way to promote your business + do some potential networking. However, your comment can’t look like an advertisement or a self-promotion. That will likely be flagged as spam. Instead, leave an honest + heartfelt comment or ask questions that can start a dialogue between you + the blogger you admire.

Self-promotion should become a part of your daily routine, to the point that you forget you’re even doing it.

I’m confident that if you incorporate some of these tactics into your marketing outreach campaigns, you’ll be kicking butt in no time.

Now, I would like to hear from you. Can you think of other tips + techniques for more sensible + effective self-promoting ? What are some of your favorite self-promotion moves? Drop them in the comments below. 

I’ll be back next week with a new article. Stay tuned + thanks for being part of the Heartmade family.

 
BUSINESS

14 Tools I Can't Live Without (Well, Maybe I Can, But I Don't Want To)

Mayi Carles

This is a question I get asked pretty much everyday, to share what’s inside my toolbox. Today I’m going to talk about a few of my favorite things – tools I can’t live without. Well, maybe I can live without em’, but I choose not to. 

You might be surprised to see how very little I need, actually. A few basic supplies + very simple platforms that make life a little easier.

But you know what?  At the core of it all, we are already everything. You have you. I’ve got me. Our unique abilities + talents + perspective + skills + ideas + visions + the way we use all that goodness to articulate what we are. Everything else is extra frosting.

Here’s my list of favorite frostings… I mean tools:

1. 0.5 Mechanical Pencil. Got one in my purse + one in my nightstand + one on the car + one inside my beach bag. It’s my writing tool of choice.

2. Micron Ink Pens. When accuracy + minute details + preservation count, there is no pen that stands a chance next to the unparalleled archival quality of Microns. The finer-points are great for technical outline work + the bolder ones are perfect for hand-lettering projects.

3. 8.5″ x 11″ White Paper. Fancy right? Were you expecting me to recommend a glamorous sketch book or art journal? The truth is, I tried using a tablet once + many other gadgets, but I always come back to my plain ol’ blank piece of paper. My illustrations all start there, humbly. And that’s good enough for me.

4. Giant tube of titanium white paint. I usually buy Americana (or Liquitex when it’s on sale.)

5. Of course, other colors too. I splurge on these 3 shades because they’re the ones I use most often in my Design Studio: Natural Buff + Light Portrait Pink + Foliage Green.

6. 000 Brushes. Tight, but still flexible. Natural bristle, suited for acrylics. I’ m not loyal to a brand, but I usually know how I want the brush to feel on the canvas + shop accordingly. I usually purchase 20 at a time because they lose their shape quickly, and due to the nature of my work, the moment they get messy hair, they no longer serve their purpose. To give you an idea, I used 38 brushes to complete all the Life is Messy Kitchen illustrations.

7. Plastic Paint Pallets with Paint Wells: Here’s where I pour + mix (or not mix, which is what the independent paint wells are for) my paint colors. I love the way they can be completely wiped clean at the end of the day.

8. Mrs. Meyer’s Clean Day Liquid Hand Soap. Essential to clean my hands + my brushes too, believe it or not. I used to get these ugly rashes when cleaning with heavy-duty stuff like turpentine. Not anymore. Love Mrs. Meyer’s. Strong enough to remove tough messes + soft enough for my 10 little fingers. My favorite scent is Lemon Verbena.

9. Image Scanner. These days I use the Canon CanoScan LiDE 120 Color Image Scanner, Canon’s lowest-cost flatbed scanner. Lets me do high-quality image scans without paying extra for film-scanning features or photo editing software I really don’t need.

10. Life is Messy Planners. The organized system for creatives that provides “just enough” structure for your journey to take your brilliant ideas from light bulb to done without becoming a correctional facility, and “just enough” wiggle room to unleash your unique gifts + honor your most valued forms of currency, freedom + happiness. Planners are my BFF. Saved my life a couple of times already. Helped me make room for what truly matters to me + Expecto Patronus any dementor that stands in the way. No wonder it’s not just me using them, but 7 thousand other artists + creatives + innovators + small business owners. Because they were designed by someone who speaks your language… moi.

11. MadMimi. This is the e-mail marketing platform I use to send all my e-mails + stay in touch with my favorite people. It’s very intuitive + allows me to create fully customizable campaigns without making my head hurt. Above all, I’m a loyal customer because of their out-of-this-world customer service. Have never seen anything like it. They reply within minutes (if not seconds) to my needy (and sometimes frantic) e-mails, providing quick answers + solutions to my every question. Makes me wonder, maybe MadMimi is operated by minions. It’s the only explanation for their awesomeness.

12. Harvest. I used to dread invoicing, then I found Harvest. In my opinion, a simpler + much better way to work + run my business. I use Harvest for all my time tracking + billing needs. Managing clients + organizing projects + preparing invoices has never been so ridiculously easy. One of my favorite features is their seamless integration with PayPal + Stripe, making it less annoying for clients to pay with one click + freeing up my time to bake cookies. Win-win.

13. PayPal/Stripe. I use both as my payment processors. PayPal is a trusted brand + has a long history of processing payments on the web. Stripe, well, they are the hottest new payment processor on the block for handling credit card payments in a very secure way. These days, I get about 50% of my orders though PayPal + the other half from Stripe.

14. Creative Cloud. For only $40-something bucks a month, I have all the tools + assets I need to create my best work more efficiently. Creative Cloud includes all-new versions of my favorite desktop apps – including Photoshop + Illustrator. These days, when I’m not editing pictures or cleaning up my illustrations on Photoshop, I’m vectorizing my work or creating printables on Illustration.

That’s what’s on my go-to kit. Really. You will be given 10,000 options at the art supply store + the Mac store + Amazon + everywhere! My advice? Just stick to your gut + your budget + allow your creativity to take over from there.

I know it’s fun to hoard bundles of fancy brushes + expensive software. Trust me, I know. But,  you are your best asset – not the tools. Use what you have. Do what you can.

What tools can’t you live without? Any brands + platforms + hacks you’ve tried + fell in love with?

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