26 January 2015

Marketing and industry analyses

As I'm preparing for the next big adventure in my career, one of the things I'm doing is conducting both a marketing and industry analysis for my new business plan.

The industry analysis gives me an idea of what's going on to see what my competition is, what I offer that they don't, what I need to be mindful, and things like that. It will be a bit more broad than what I'll be doing because of the specifics of the business (details to come soon!), but it will still be very valuable as I'm moving forward.

The marketing analysis will help me identify and reach my target market, and help me develop a marketing strategy for both short- and long-term goals. This will also include competitive information, but from a marketing focus rather than an industry focus.

Analyzing both the industry and your marketing is valuable to do periodically. I'm doing it now because I'm getting set up to go in a new direction with my career, which includes launching all new services and quite a bit of re-branding, but once we're set up and working, we'll likely do these analyses at least annually (probably twice each year) to help keep tabs on what's going on and where we stand in the industry and within our target market.

I know that this part of the work can be tedious and irritating, but I also know it's valuable in order to be successful. So we'll compile data and insights and analyze information and use it to provide better services to our customers and ensure that they know exactly why investing in [COMPANY NAME REDACTED] is beneficial for their businesses.

Do you do regular analyses? How have they changed how you operate your business or services?

25 January 2015

Renew your spirit with wedding plans

Bo and I are getting married in October.

So we're getting some initial planning done, securing vendors, organizing our ideas and making progress toward our happy day.

Yes, we're more than nine months away from the wedding, but it's the wedding industry so we have to reserve things early. Also, we live in a big city in a warm climate, so October is a busy wedding month. Add to that the fact that marriage equality just came to Florida, and it's almost surprising that we've been able to make as much progress as we have!

What started out as a low-key, laid-back wedding has become much more actual wedding than we expected it would.

We are doing some traditional things. Bo's dad will walk her down the aisle and we'll exchange rings. But we're definitely making it our own, too. The rings we're exchanging at the wedding will be our "pretty" rings, which are typically used as engagement rings. Our engagement rings are simple silver bands. We're having a reception, but no dancing.

I'm excited to see how things are already coming together, and how our brainstorming is transforming into plans. I can't remember the last time I was this excited.

It's going to be a beautiful October.

15 January 2015

The year is changing already

Toward the end of the end of the year, I was optimistic about 2015. Bo and I had plans that would be set in motion this year that would mean very good things for our family. It was going to be our year.

Then, in the first couple of weeks of January, things changed, which has led us to re-evaluate our plans, shift some things, and adjust short- and long-term plans. Nothing bad or catastrophic has happened. In fact, I think even the challenging aspects of what has changed will ultimately lead to a good overall outcome.

One of the significant changes is in Bo's job. Since I have been planning to shift/expand my career to the new business, she is going to step into the business as a graphic designer. Not only will it be good for her career path, but will allow the business to do more than I would be able to do on my own.

This has presented a challenge, but has moved up the timetable for the business which I think will ultimately be a good thing. The business will be up and running by the end of the summer (and some of my blogging will be moved to the business website once it's up, so watch for that change this summer!). I'll have the opportunity to do more of what I really love (targeting marketing content) in a market I'm passionate about (holistic health and wellness), and I'll get to do it with Bo!

Of course, there is also the upcoming wedding. (So exciting!) We're planning to get married in October of this year, so our summer will be spent getting ready for that. We've already been talking about some aspects of our wedding and making some preliminary plans (venue, colors, type of reception).

It's going to be a damn good year.

13 January 2015

Love wins!

Image source
On January 6, 2015, it became legal for same-sex couples to marry in the state of Florida. (Hooray!) There have still been some complications, but it is legal, and Orlando welcomes marriage equality.

This is wonderful news. Florida is finally on the right side of history,

On January 11, 2015, Bo asked me to marry her, and I said yes.

We love each other fiercely, and as cheesy as it sounds, I truly believe that she is my other half. I can't imagine sharing my life with anyone else the way I have shared it with her.

So we're going to get married.

We haven't set a date yet, but we have some ideas of what we'd like to do for our wedding, as well as when. Right now we're just in the beginning-est planning stages, thinking about the wedding in more abstract terms, especially because of some significant career changes that are happening later this year (more on that in the next couple of days).

In the meantime, we're enjoying the excitement and anticipation of this new adventure in our life together, and sending lots of thank you messages to friends and family.

It's going to be a good year.

07 January 2015

This year's theme

Last year my theme was No excuses. I used it as a mantra when I started to feel overwhelmed or needed something to ground me a little bit. It worked well.

This year's theme is Keep moving.

I'm using this year's theme in the same way I used last year's. It's meant to be an encouragement and inspiration to me, and to help motivate me when I need motivation.

I chose this theme because a lot of the goals I have this year are dependent on my ability to keep moving forward, even if I have to take things one baby step at a time. In addition to the goals I've set for myself and that we've set as a family, there are changes that could be occurring sometime this summer that will mean a significant shift in our lives, and if I keep moving, I can meet the impending challenges with ease.

Do you have a mantra or theme this year? Why did you choose it?

05 January 2015


Gerard ter Borch [Public domain]
via Wikimedia Commons
In my book, the "cover page" for each month comes with an inspirational quote or saying. Some of them are pretty cheesy, but they're all valuable reminders. So I decided this year that I'm going to use those sayings each month as a sort of mantra. This month:

Happiness is never out of reach, for the sweet miracle of life is that we are free to follow the path of our dreams.

I am one of those privileged people who gets to do what I love every day. Not only did I go to school to be a writer, but it's something I truly, truly love. I can't imagine doing anything else except what I'm doing right now.*

When I started college and made the decision to major in English (writing concentration), I was told that I had two real options for a career: journalism or teaching. After all, what could I really do with a degree in English?

After graduating, I discovered there was a whole society of people in business who don't like writing or feel that they "can't" write, and are happy to have other people do the work for them, especially when it comes to regular blogging and updating web content.

I started freelancing in 2008, and while I've taken breaks from it here and there, I've never gone very far from writing as my career.

I have been fortunate to be able to make a path for myself doing something that makes me very, very happy. I work on my own terms and in my own way, and after all the work I've put in over the past six and a half years, I've proven what I can do.**

I know there are a lot of people with degrees (advanced degrees, even) who are not working in their fields. Or who have taken whatever jobs they can find because there's just nothing available where they live. I'm fortunate enough that the work I love to do continues to be in high demand.*** (In fact, my primary client is expecting significant growth this year, which translates to more work for me.)

I have found that the path I am now is really the key to my overall happiness. I have had traditional jobs, and while I didn't abhor them, they didn't really make me happy. Even my most recent "real" job, which was in marketing, was the closest to happy I have had outside of freelancing, but the enjoyment I got from that job is nothing compared to what I feel now.

All of this is confirmation to me that I'm doing the right thing in my life. And to stay happy, I'm just going to keep at it every day.

*Specifically, I adore working with my current primary client. It's a great gig!

**As evidenced by the conversation I had with my writing manager over the weekend. More on that another time.

***My primary client is an organization that provides academic content for individuals and groups. I've written white papers, business plans, thought leadership content, and a wide variety of other academic-style content on many, many subjects. I love doing this kind of research and writing, and would be very happy sticking with this client for a long time!

04 January 2015

Renew your spirit with new plants

Winter is over in Florida. It's already back in air-conditioning weather, and the garden department at Lowe's is ready.

Today, Bo and I took Puck and Tink to pick new plants for our patio. Each of them got to pick a plant they wanted, and they both picked pretty flowering plants (with Puck's being big and in full bloom, of course).

Our patio looks like spring with pretty plants and brightly-colored pots all over. It's wonderful.

I know that, in most of the country, there's still a long way to go before it's time to start thinking about flowers, but I'm glad it's warm enough to add some plants to our home. I love having plants around. They bring a little bit of the natural world into my home--which is important on days I'm working 10+ hours--and make our apartment feel a bit more homey.

I love having lots of plants around, and now we have two more beautiful flowering plants, thanks to Puck and Tink. It's going to be a good spring.

02 January 2015

Character sketches

One of the things I like doing is writing stories and character sketches inspired by people I see during the course of an ordinary day. In an effort to make more time to write fiction, I'm going to commit to writing at least one character sketch a month (to start).

I miss coming up with stories when I see someone walking down the street or sitting in a restaurant or wherever else people exist. I think this will be fun. And definitely good for my writing.

My plan is to post some of the character sketches here, as much to hold me accountable as it is to share writing.

And I encourage you to write and share your own character sketches and scenes.

We can make it a thing.

30 December 2014

On Leelah Alcorn

Image source
There's a very sad story circulating this week about the death of transgender teen Leelah Alcorn.

Leelah, who was born male, was struck by a tractor-trailer on Interstate 71 in Ohio. Days later, a suicide note appeared on Leelah's Tumblr, which explained her desire to transition, the lack of support, and her desperation because of the situation, which led to her decision to commit suicide.

There has been a lot of discussion about this story already. It may be easy to place blame on Leelah's parents for their lack of support, particularly when it led to such a tragic end. And while I most certainly don't condone that kind of lack of support, neither can I judge them for doing what they thought was best at the time. That's what I do as a parent.

Besides, there is a bigger issue at work here (well, two issues that I want to discuss) than whether or not Leelah's parents should have behaved differently.

The first and most important thing is that we have to do better. There are teens and adults all over this country that die because of who they are. Some take their own lives, like Leelah, because of how others react to them. Others, like Matthew Shephard, are killed because of other people's perceptions of who they are.

There are people dying every day because of small-minded, judgmental people who won't see past their own opinions to offer the support that's needed in these situations.

And we have to do better. We can't let society continue to kill people for being who they are. For wanting to live authentically.

The other issue I want to discuss is the media coverage of Leelah's death.

I am so glad that Leelah's story is being told, and that it's starting and continuing important conversations about what it means to be queer* in today's society. But how many other teenagers and adults have similar stories that haven't been told? How many families bury their trans children using their birth gender and name instead of how they identified? How many families turn their backs when people come out, leaving family members homeless and alone? How many people just like Leelah have no voice in our society?

We have to do better.

With Puck and Tink, I frequently remind them that I just want them to be happy, and to be the people they are on the inside as well as on the outside. I want them to be comfortable in how they identify, and will always do whatever I can to help them live authentically every day.

Because, as a society, we have to do better. As individuals, we have to do better. As parents and siblings and children and friends, we have to do better.

And it has to start right this minute before we lose another precious life.

*I have chosen to use the word queer in this post as an inclusive term in regards to the LGBTQ community.

Doing what works for me

Some time ago, I committed to living a vegan lifestyle. It was a much easier transition than I thought it would be. Some time after that, I re-introduced some animal products into my diet. It was a hard decision, but one that was made with my health at the forefront.*

However, I have recommitted to a plant-based (vegan) diet, which I'm transitioning back to now.

The decisions I have made about my nutrition and exercise, and even spirituality, have been made carefully, with much research, and focusing on what I truly believe to be best for me. That is why I moved away from a vegan diet, and that's why I'm now moving back to it.

I have to do what I feel is best for me. And moving away from a vegan diet (which I thought was best for me at the time) has shown me that plant-based living really is one of the keys to a healthy life for me.

I know there are those who will see that and say, "Well, of course. Why did you ever give it up in the first place?"

I know now that I shouldn't have, but again, I was doing what I thought was best for me at the time, and that's all I can do.

Here's the thing. For lots of people, the choice to go vegan is an ethical or environmental one. They see the travesties that occur in the industry, even among "ethical" and "organic" and "free range" companies, and they can't support that. I am on board with that.

For others, the choice to eliminate animal products and by-products from their diets comes from a place of improving health, and knowing that cutting meat and dairy and other processed foods is better for health. And I am on board with that, too.

For me, it's a combination of ethical/environmental and health reasons, but the health reasons are slightly different. I have found that my body does not handle animal products well. I would equate it to a similar reaction that people get when they are lactose intolerant.** It's not an allergy, but my body doesn't react well, and lets me know that it prefers it when I don't eat those kinds of things.

So I'm transitioning away from them and back to a vegan lifestyle.

Since I've done this before, the transition is easier this time around. I don't find myself craving non-vegan foods the way I did previously. And because I'm trying to focus on how those foods make me feel when I do eat them, it's been easier to avoid them.

One of my goals for 2015 is to make sure that the decisions I make are best for my family and for myself. And that's why I will be proudly vegan beginning January 1st.

All I can do is what works for me, and vegan works best for me.

*I know there are people who say there is no health reason to eat animal products. I am aware of the arguments. Keep reading.

**I was lactose intolerant as a kid. It got better when I was an adult, then came back after my pregnancies.