Big Things I'm Doing Differently in 2018

I took a break from my business in December. 

And I had a realization. 

What I've been doing up until this point has gotten my business to where it is today. But it won't get my business to the next level. 

So I decided that I wanted to do some things differently. 

I’m sharing a sneak peek at what’s coming up for Elle & Company in 2018 and the big changes I’m making to my business. 

These changes aren’t a step-by-step plan at what you should be doing. Instead, they’re a preview of what you can look forward to. I’m going to be sharing why I’m switching things up and making adjustments so that you can utilize those lessons in your own business.

This year will definitely look different, but I’m excited to share my plan with you. 

Big Things I'm Doing Differently in 2018 | Elle & Company

Episode 12 Livestream Replay

Episode 12 Podcast

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Lauren Hooker: Hello, everyone, and happy New Year. I'm excited to welcome you to the first Ellechat of 2018, and I'm so glad that you are taking the time to tune in today, especially to tune in live to the webinar portion of this Ellechat. I'm grateful that you're here.  

I'm going to be talking about a lot of my goals and things that I'm changing up for Elle & Company this year.  

The reason I wanted to do this topic today and start off the 2018 Ellechats by talking about the changes I'm making in my business is because, as I was taking some time off in December and just planning for the year ahead, I saw that I needed to be doing things differently, and I wrote about this in the newsletter this week that, if you aren't making any changes, you can't expect anything to change in your business, if you aren't doing anything differently. You can't do the same things and expect different results.

This last year, 2017 for us was a whirlwind. We moved. My husband graduated from seminary and we moved to Florence, South Carolina. Before that, his car was stolen by some drug dealers. I can't make this up. It was a week after my car got rear-ended. Both cars were totaled about two weeks before we moved. It was crazy, and then, four days after we moved, I found out that I was pregnant, so it has been a whirlwind of a year. Needless to say, business didn't go really according to plan last year, and that's okay. Every year, you reevaluate. Every year looks a little bit different.  

Every year looks a little bit different, and what I want to encourage you all to do is not necessarily to copy everything I'm doing. It might not work for you, but just to reevaluate and think about the reasons behind why you're doing what you're doing in your business and to know that you have the license to reevaluate if things aren't working, to come back and reprioritize and figure out what's working and change the things that aren't in your business.

This happens at every stage of business. If you're just starting out or whether you've been in business for 20 years, this is a good practice to get in the hang of constantly coming back and reevaluating your business and figuring out what's working and what isn't.

The biggest thing, like I said, last year that wasn't working for my business was that I was doing the same things and expecting different results, so, in order to move forward, I have to be able to change things out. The things that got me to where I am now worked, but the things that are going to take me to the next level I need to start implementing.

I want to know before I dive into the things I'm changing what your biggest hangups were in 2017. What wasn't working for you? What hangups did you have that have been keeping you from moving forward? I know you've already shared your goals with me, but I want to hear about the hangups from this last year.

As I thought about the hangups, I also thought about what is the purpose of Elle & Company in the first place. It's so easy to focus on all these little details and doing all these things and lose sight of why you started in the first place, and so my primary focus has ... It wasn't in the beginning. It was primarily design, but it has become helping other creatives like y'all turn your passion and your talent into a successful, profitable business. That's what I love to do, and that's what the whole purpose of this business is.

It's good to define that and go back to the basics. Why do I want to help people create a business off of their gifts and talents? It's because I believe that we all have different talents that we're given, and they all need to be shared and that it's a blessing to not only have these gifts and possess them, but also to enjoy them and to make an income from them and provide for our families and also to help others in the process, so that's why I do what I do.

Thinking about that why and thinking about that purpose helps me to weed out the bad things that aren't working in my business and look ahead to what I could be doing differently and what's working. I'm going to look through these hangups really quickly. Thank y'all. I love that it's a two-way conversation with these webinars.

Amber said that her health ... some expected things came up. She had to cancel projects, service is not selling, new idea, afraid to try new ideas. Yeah, all of these are great. Thank you all for sharing. Stuck in your ways. Burn out. I think we can all relate to a lot of these. Awesome. Thank you all for tuning in. Feel free to keep going. Personal stuff creeping in. Awesome. Good to hear from you all, so, thinking through what your hangups were and getting back to your why, why do you do what you do, what is the overall purpose and kind of starting there as you plan for the year ahead.

1 | Stop scheduling social media posts

The changes that I'm making to Elle & Company this year especially with the baby on the way is to provide more value for the Elle & Company audience, but cut back and maximize the time I am putting into my business, and that's going to play out in a bunch of different ways.

The first way is, and this isn't necessarily cutting back on time, kind of is, is no more scheduled social media posts. I'm taking a break from MeetEdgar. I'm taking a break from scheduling Facebook posts and everything right in the platform for a couple of reasons.

These two weeks, this past week and the week ahead, I've been having ... I know. You all might be surprised to hear that. Shocking, I know, but I have my reasons. This past week and the week ahead, I've been having one-on-one Skype calls with my Freelance Academy students. It was a bonus that I offered way back in August. I waited until the end of the course to have these one-on-one calls, and they last about 30 minutes, and it has been awesome. It reminds me of why I'm doing what I'm doing. I love the one-to-one face time with people even if it's through Skype.

One thing that I continue to talk about, the one thing that keeps coming up is how social media is changing. It's not the same as it was even a year ago. It's less about these pretty curated feeds and more about engagement. People are longing to connect. People are longing to hear from people who are going through similar things as them. They want to make friendships. They want to feel like they know the people they're following along with, and I found that the automated kind of robotic posts don't receive as much engagement.

I've even noticed that, when I post from MeetEdgar, what I've also noticed people who post from CoSchedule and things like that, it's great for saving time and batching tasks, but they just don't receive as much engagement because it will even say that on Facebook that it's posted from Meet Edgar, and I don't think that people want to interact with a robot on the other side of the screen. I think they want to interact with a person.

I found, too, that the further I get from posting to social media and scheduling it and just doing it just to do it, the further I get from interacting with my audience and the people following along with me, the less connected I feel with them, and so I want to get back to being in tune with what my audience is struggling with, looking for help with.

I want to actually connect with individual people on social media who follow along with Elle & Company, so I'm focusing primarily on engagement, focusing less on trying to get a ton of followers following along with me and more on focusing on how I can get the followers who are actually following along to engage with me, start a conversation with them.

A lot of times, we look at social media as a one-way conversation. We're talking at people, and I'm tired of talking at people. I want to start a conversation, and that's why I love these Ellechats, that's why I love when you all participate in the comments is that I get to know you, and it becomes a two-way conversation, so I want to know how y'all feel about that.

What is your take about social media? For the people that you follow along with and love following along with the most, why is that? Is it because they try to generate engagement? Is it because you feel like you know them? What is it? What is it about it?

Robyn Murray says that she's been thinking about this, but she's been a little unsure, and so, yeah, that's how I felt about it. This is an experiment. Let's see how it goes. I know one of my assistants is really surprised to hear me say this, and I said, "We can just try it for a little while, see how it goes," but I've been doing it this past week, and I've loved it.

It has taken a little bit more time on my end, especially not using MeetEdgar just to recycle posts, but I feel like my posts are actually making a difference in some way, and people are connecting with them, and I feel like I can provide more value when I focus on engagement. I'd love to get your feedback on that in the comment section.

Rochelle says, "Do you think that it is going to suck a lot of your time getting lost in social media?"

I do like scheduling social media because it forces me off of there sometimes. It is going to take more self-control to post and not come back to it every time, but I think there's also things called like the Moment app that helps you figure out how much screen time or how much time you're spending on your phone, and I've been implementing that.

Sometimes, I just like to post once a day, and then come back and check it once a day and try to follow up with people. We'll see how that works, but I feel like having a little more time to put into it is probably going to be more helpful. The results of that are going to be more helpful than just automating it just to save time, so we'll see how it goes.

I've gotten away from sharing ... I haven't been making a lot of changes, but sharing things as I'm doing them with you all. It's a vulnerable place to be, but I'm really excited to do it just to share with you how this works. It could flop. It could take a ton of time and not work for me, but I'm willing to give it a go and invite y'all in on the process and what that looks like.

That's the first thing. No more scheduled social media posts for the time being, and we'll see how that goes. I'm mainly focusing on Facebook and Instagram and trying to do more engaging posts on there. We'll talk more about that in just a second.

2 | Emphasize live content

The second thing I'm doing is to put more emphasis on these Ellechats and on live content. You all have probably seen the stats that video is the future for marketing, for everything. I pulled up a few statistics to share with y'all.

The first is that 80% of people would rather watch a live video than read a blog post. Times are changing. Blog posts are definitely helpful. I still highly recommend writing long-form content. SEO is great for that. Not everybody does watch video or if people are reading your blog during the day, maybe at work, not that I'm recommending that, but it's not as easy to tune in to a live video or even watch a video, so blogging is definitely helpful, but live video and just video in general is starting to become the trend, and it has been for a while.

Another stat, 82% of people prefer live video to regular social media posts, which is really interesting, and you can see that more and more in Facebook Live and Instagram Live, even short little videos and Instagram stories.

92% of mobile video consumers share videos with others, so video is also highly shareable. That's what I want to focus on. Outside of courses and outside of my services, I feel like I'm able to give people the most value in these Ellechats, and I'm able to cover topics in a lot of detail. I'm able to answer your questions. I'm able to engage with you first-hand, and it becomes more of a two-way conversation together, and so I would love to focus more on live content.

It's kind of out of my comfort zone, but I found that the more I put time and effort into this live content, the easier it becomes. I also know that the people I enjoy following along with the most are the people I feel like I connect with and I know them, and I wouldn't know them outside of hearing their voice, seeing their facial expressions and all of that great stuff that can come from live video.

I saw that a lot of you, when you're talking about your goals in the comments, even talked about more live video as you prepare for 2018. It might be out of your comfort zone, but those statistics are pretty shocking, and I would encourage you to go for it. Even if it's starting out small like those little videos on Instagram and working your way up to something like a webinar, it would be awesome.

Another thing is that these Ellechats allow me to repurpose content. I can repurpose content on the blog by sharing the replay in the show notes. Facebook Live, Crowdcast allows me to livestream the Facebook Live, the podcast. I'll repurpose the audio and put it into a podcast. That's available on iTunes just to make it easier for y'all to follow along if you can't tune in live every week.

Ellechats for me are sustainable in the long term, and I actually really enjoy it and look forward to these every week with y'all. Like I said, I feel like I can provide them as value, so that's what I'm looking forward to in 2018 is to put even more emphasis on these Ellechats and live content.

I've been saying this for months, and I need to finally act on it. Y'all can hold me accountable to this. I've gotten a ton of emails about it already, but I really want to start allowing businesses to advertise on these Ellechats, and I think it'd be a lot of fun because no one is doing anything like this right now. They might have short ads on podcasts or something like that, but not on the live video. I feel like, for businesses, it would be great because video is so much more engaging, so it's a better opportunity to really, I don't know, reach more people, engage them with your product.

I'm currently working on a sponsor guide and what that would look like, and I'm hoping to kick that off in February, just short chunks, and because it's live, I don't know, I just think it'd be a lot more fun than a recorded ad, so it's something that I look forward to.

3 | Delegate more tasks

The first thing was not scheduling social media posts anymore. Second is more emphasis on Ellechats and live content and, number three, I'm going to be delegating tasks a lot more. This was probably one of my biggest hangups. When you start a business, and I'm sure that many of you can relate especially if you're a perfectionist, it's kind of like your baby. You put all this time and effort into it. No one loves it quite like you. It's one of the most rewarding things, but you tend to want control over it. You know the ins and outs of it. You don't think anybody can do it better than you can because you know it best.

I found myself having trouble opening my hands, loosening my grip and passing things off to other people who can probably do these tasks a lot better than I can, so I've been looking back on all that's on my plate and just thinking about why am I spending so much time on tasks that are not in my wheelhouse, that I don't know a lot about when I could hire someone to do it better, and they probably bring in a bigger return. They'd probably bring in a lot more money than I would pay to have things done.

For example, just in full transparency with y'all, as I always try to do, I hired someone to help me with the upcoming launch of my Adobe Illustrator course. There's a lot that can go into a launch. I've kept them pretty simple in the past, but, like I said, you can't do the same things and expect different results, and so I wanted someone who specialized in launches to just map everything out for me, give me a game plan. It was scary to spend that money, but I'm quickly finding out that it's well worth it.

The guy I'm working with is Tom Morkes. I hope to bring him on an Ellechat webinar very soon to share with y'all because I'm so excited about what he came up with and just the intention and thought behind it all. Awesome, and it has been so worth every penny I've spent, and so it encourages me to want to delegate more when it comes to things that are out of my wheelhouse, that I'm not good at, that someone can do better, to quickly pass it off to them, spend the time on my strengths and pass off the things that are my weaknesses.

This also involves for me, with delegating, and I want to know how y'all have delegated in your business, and I know that you all have some questions. I'm going back and forth between screens.

How did I find Tom? That's a good question. I think, through Bryan Harris from Videofruit, and I think Tom and another peer have a podcast that they invited, or a webinar, that they invited me on a while ago, over a year ago, and so we connected that way.

Sharon said she would love an Illustrator class. It's going to be coming up, so I would love for you to participate in the Illustrator class.

Too, I think word of mouth, reaching out to a Facebook group to ask for recommendations, reaching out to other people that you admire in the industry to ask who they're working with, usually, people are pretty transparent. I love sharing who I'm working with to give them even more ... to expose them to a new audience and send more people their way.

Tom has been awesome, awesome, awesome. I couldn't recommend him enough. All that to say delegating has taken a weight off of my shoulders. It frees up my time. It allows me to focus on the things that I do well and that I enjoy doing.

Delegating also even with outsourcing tasks and delegating to my assistants forces me to more in a leadership role, and that's something that I didn't realize. It was way out of my comfort zone. I know I did an Ellechat on assistants and hiring assistants and what that has looked like, but I've come to realize that, for most people, leadership is a learned trait. We're not all naturally gifted with it. Some people are, and I'm envious of that trait, but, for me, it is not something that's innate. Managing my team and delegating and being in this leadership role has been really refining for me, and it's something that I'm always trying to improve upon.

If you have any leadership resources, I would love to hear about them in the comments. I'm trying to spend more and more time learning this year and delegate or set apart some time to pour into my business since I feel like a lot of times I'm pouring out, and I want to know do you all hope to bring on a team down the road? Is that something that you're looking forward to? Are you consciously trying to delegate tasks? Are you afraid to pull the trigger because of resources or just feeling like you can do everything best? I would love to get your feedback on that.

Stephanie said, "I've hired someone to edit my weekly YouTube show. I don't even want to learn how to deal with YouTube."

 That's a great idea if you do the video. Pass them off to somebody else. It will save you a lot of time.

Robyn Murray said hiring last year is the best thing she did, cannot believe how much it changed things for her, so I totally agree.

Michelle, good to see you in here, said she just built a small team and it took her three months to get used to being in charge.

I've had assistants now for, man ... Two years ago, I brought on my first assistant, and I am still learning. Some things I feel like are going well. Other things could always be improved upon, so delegating things like launches, funnels, sequences and those kinds of tasks that I don't have the time to sit down and learn are great.

My assistants are starting to take on more and more like editing the audio for the podcasts and getting them up and running, setting up things with clients and that sort of thing, which has been so helpful and has freed me up, so I'm trying to take more of that leadership role with Elle & Company, especially with change number four, which is I'm going to be working a lot less.

4 | Work less hours

I think for all of us, one of the most appealing parts or pieces of running a business and maybe your motivation to try to run your own business is to do it on your own terms. I think that's why we're all attracted to books like the “Four-Hour Workweek”, because we want to be able to do it on our own terms, but, when we start a business, what we don't realize is that it takes a ton of time. It takes away more time than you ever expect it to before you can really cut back.

In the first few years of Elle & Company, up until this past year, I clearly remember working six days, maybe seven days out of the week. I would try so hard to take Sunday off as a day of rest. I would put in over 12 hours a day, and it was just brutal. At the time, I could kind of afford to do it. My husband was in school. He was up late at night working on papers and things. It didn't feel like I was robbing my family of my time, but I knew that if I put in the time in that I could cut back later, and I feel like I'm at a place now, especially with the baby due in April, to start cutting back.

To be honest, that's a little bit scary, but I feel like, in this season, it'll be kind of sweet because I'll be able to relate to a lot of y'all again. I've been blessed to be able to work in my business full time. We haven't had any kids. Now, I'll be able to really relate to a lot of you who have kids and are trying to run a business, maybe relate to those of you who have very limited hours that you can pour into your business, and so I'm excited to be at that point, very nervous, but excited, too.

I'm planning on taking two to three months off of Elle & Company starting mid-March for maternity leave. For those of you who have gone on maternity leave, I would love to hear some tips and advice for that. This is all new to me. I'm trying to plan that out so that I can still keep some things running, but really enjoy that time and not have to put a ton of time into Elle & Company, and then, after that, I'm going to try to have open hands because I know that business will look different, but I'm trying to cut back now in order to plan for that and keep things up and running afterwards.

I'm excited, like I said, a little nervous, but mainly excited and excited that I'll be able to relate to a lot of y'all in a new way. I know that a lot of people have been saying, "Yeah, I understand that you're able to do all this stuff because you work full time and you don't have kids," but how would this play out for me when I only have 10 hours a week to put into my business or 20 hours a week? I might be able to help you there in a few months.

I would love to know how many hours you're currently dedicating to your business right now. Whether you're doing it part time, full time, how many hours are you putting into your business and many hours do you want to be putting into your business? Those might be different numbers.

5 | Cut back on content creation 

I'm cutting back on the amount of time I'm putting into my business, delegating helps with that, but also I'm going to be cutting back ... and this is one of the changes I'm probably most nervous about. Number five is I'm going to be cutting back on the amount of content that I share from Elle & Company each month. This is something, like I said, that I'm the most fearful about and I've been thinking about over the past year because I love pumping out content. I love filling up the content calendar and seeing it look so pretty in my content queue.

Posting a lot of content was really helpful to build an audience. Without blogging, I think my business would have failed. I was blogging every weekday. It was a lot of work, but I really, looking back, really enjoyed it. It was fun to see the blog start to gain some traction.

I want to focus on less content, but I want to focus on more value as well, so what does that look like? I'm going to do one blog post each week on Elle & Company blog. I'm going to continue to do these Ellechats each week so you won't miss out on that and repurposing the Ellechat, too, so, again, high quality, a lot of content just once a week and one newsletter every other week. I feel like this is maintainable for the long haul.

One comment that I used to get when I did blog every day was people were actually asking me post less because they weren't able to consume it all. People would say, "I know this is a crazy request, but I wish you'd post a little bit less so that I could read it all and then have time to implement it all." I'd love to hear your thoughts on that with content.

I know that, for one of my assistants, Marisa, she was really sad to hear this. I'm sad to cut back on the amount of content, too, but, for me, I get excited about thinking about giving you all even more value in those blog posts and maybe switching things up a little bit, even more value in these Ellechats and these newsletters, that I won't be pumping content out just to pump content out, but I could really be intentional about the content I'm sharing and how it's going to help you all.

Yeah, Jesse said, "Aiming for quality versus quantity." Exactly. Ashley said, "Blog posts once a week and emails once every other."

Yes. I tell this to people all the time, when they're first starting their blog, newsletter is to start out at a maintainable rate and then you can always add on, so every other week for emails. I can always go bump it back up to every week for emails, but I feel like, instead of just trying to get content out there, that I can be much more intentional and helpful by doing it every other week.

I feel like I've reached the cap in this industry. I've been doing the same thing for so long that I haven't really gotten outside of the audience that I currently have for growing, and so I'd love to start writing for again. I got one post on there a couple of years ago. I got invited to be a contributor and, because I've been so focused on content for Elle & Company, I haven't been writing as much as I would like to for Entrepreneur and bigger sites just to expand my reach and reach new people in this industry as well.

Stephanie said, "That will give us more time to implement everything you share."

Thank you. Y'all are helping me fear it a little bit less, but, again, it's ... I'm experimenting, and I want to share it with y'all and be transparent with you all and, hopefully, it will be even more helpful in the long run, so I'm cutting back on the amount of content, and I'm also going to be doing less client work while still focusing on passive income.

I will never ever stop doing design work. I've thought about it many times, and I can't get away from it. That's why I started Elle & Company in the first place. That's kind of my first love, and I really enjoy designing brands and websites. I love that creative component to business.

I know that with services, I can't bring in as much as I can through passive income like courses and that sort of thing, but I will always make time for design work. I may not take on 24 clients a year like I have in the past. This year, I took on only a couple, and I actually launched one today for Melissa Lynn Hunt Photography, which was really fun.

I also want to take on some local design projects. We just moved to Florence, South Carolina. It's very different from Charlotte where we were from. They're trying to revitalize Florence and bring it to life again, and I want to be a part of that. I want to help in any way that I can in giving businesses a facelift here. I'm currently working on a bakery that's well-known in town to re-brand their business, and so I'm really, really excited about that, kind of a fixer-upper on my own, very small scale, to helping Florence, so I'm excited about that. I want to take on some local design clients as well and a handful of coaching clients.

I do have a coaching program. I don't announce it that often, and I've been grateful to have some really great clients. Actually, Michelle was one of them who I know is tuning in today. I'd still want to do that. I'm just figuring out how many I'm going to take on so that I can truly help them, and so I'm just trying to take on a bunch and not be able to put in the time I'd like to, so less client work and more passive income.

I'm going to stick with my two courses. No new courses this year. My Adobe Illustrator course in the spring, my Freelance Academy course in the fall, just doing what I'm doing and trying to improve upon them and make them even better each time.

I want to focus on affiliate income. That's something I haven't been able to put a ton of time into, but it would be well-worth it, sponsorships, like said, so I'm trying to work smarter and capitalize on what I'm already doing. The things that are working, I want to continue to do those and make them even better, so awesome.

Thank you, Michelle. That means a lot.

6 | Redo my website and offer more resources

Then the last thing, and then I'll open it up for some questions because I see some rolling in there, is that I'm redoing the website and taking a different approach to Elle & Company website. I want it to be more of a resource space that it is right now. I'm going to do some fun landing pages, some really helpful freebies on there for y'all, more resources pages, so, if you're having trouble with a certain topic, you can to the website and find pretty much everything you need on Squarespace or finding clients or Adobe Illustrator and things like that.

I'm really, really excited about that. I hope to kick that off once the Adobe Illustrator course launches at the beginning of February, so you all can look forward to that. I've been putting a ton of work into that recently. I need to focus my time into the Adobe Illustrator course, but I hope to have it up very soon.

Sharon said, "Don't forget to give yourself some room to breathe."

Yes, and that is what I'm hoping for in all these changes with Elle & Company. Even planning out the weeks ahead, I feel a lot more at peace about it instead of frantic trying to get everything done, so I'm really looking forward to it.

Like I said before, one thing that I've really gotten away from this past year in particular and just the craziness of this year is experimenting, trying new things and then sharing them with you as I do them. I really want to get back to that especially as I enter this new season and this New year.

Also, one thing that I'm going to be doing is taking some time to learn. Like I said a few minutes ago, I found myself pouring out a lot and never taking the time to fill up, so I'm prioritizing reading books. I'm almost done with Donald Miller's Story Brand. It's been so helpful, given me a whole new perspective, especially with how I'm approaching my website, so, if you haven't read that one, it's super helpful.

I want to start listening to podcasts. I really don't even listen to podcasts just because I'm so busy doing all of the things, and I don't have to commute, and I probably should listen to it while I work out, but I don't, so I want to listen to more podcasts, take courses, just spend more time looking outside of myself for new techniques, strategies and putting my own spin on them again, seeing what other people are doing and then finding my own approach to them with Elle & Company.

I want to be open to change and embrace it instead of thinking I've got it all figured out. I'm really looking forward to getting back to that this year and sharing with y'all, too, as I come across new resources through these Freelance Academy calls that I told you all about. One thing that people continue to ask me is for more resources, continued education, who do I enjoy following along with, and I realized I didn't have as many answers because I'm not looking outside of my business for help, so I'm really excited to dive into that and share with you all as I find some helpful resources. I would love recommendations for that, too, and to hear some of your favorite podcasts and books that you're reading and that sort of thing.

Yeah, so I'm going to take some time to answers question, being a boss, awesome.

Stephanie, "I can't wait for your Freelance Academy call next week."

Awesome. Okay. Hanna said, "What is your number one routine or habit you're going to focus on in 2018 and why?"

Routine and habits, one thing that actually went really well despite the craziness of last year in 2017 was developing a morning routine. I've definitely not been perfect at it especially since this baby has been on the way and sleep just looks very different now, but I try to wake up, we go to the gym at 5:30 in the morning, come back, get ready for the day, eat breakfast, do Bible study, and then plan out my day and get started from there, and it has made all the difference in the world.

I feel like it kick-starts my day, so that is one routine or habit that has been awesome and just really helpful. I didn't even realize what a difference it would make just to have that habit, that morning routine that I run through every day and what a difference it would make on productivity. I feel like I get so much done before 8:00 or 8:30, and I'm ready to keep it going as I go on, and so I want to stick with that for this upcoming year.Sai says on a related note, "Do you have a morning routine that you recommend?"

I would recommend that one. I love getting my work out of the way. Now, that might be different with the baby, but I'm still going to try, still aim for that, spend time getting ready. For a lot of us who work from home, that's a big deal. That sounds ridiculous, but it really makes a difference to get up, get dressed for the day and hit the ground running, eat breakfast, spend some quiet time for me, it looks like, reading the Bible with my husband and in prayer.

Then I also love ... and I might grab it really quick for y'all. I shared about it on Instagram this week. It's called the Self Journal, and I shared about this last year, too. It's super helpful because it has you list out your three targets for the day, your big overarching goal. It has you map out your day, write some of the things that you're thinking before, and it kind of gives you a game plan for the day, so you're not just thinking, "Hmm, what do I need to do today?" or looking at your to-do list and not knowing what your priorities are. It's called the Self Journal. It sounds kind of weird, super, super helpful, so that's one thing that I found super helpful, too.

All right, Shackie, I hope I'm saying that right, asks, "I've started doing live videos in my Facebook group, but have very, very little engagement, maybe one or two people," her video. "How do you suggest I get more people to join my group? Or do you think people are moving away from groups and want more things like this, like this, the live webinar? It's worth mentioning that there are a few other groups on Facebook that have already captured a large audience in my same niche and have great engagement."

What I would tell you to do is look at statistics to see when people are online the most and maybe even just starting a Facebook Live, because I've dealt with this, too. Facebook is so finicky and it's really hard to get your content out in front of people, but I think Facebook groups are super helpful because I think people see it more than if it was just a Facebook page.

Look at analytics to see the best time to do it. Tell people when you're going to go live so they can plan for it, and give a little teaser. Tell people what you're going to be talking about, but don't give it all away, and so that people ... That way, people can make time for it and, that way, you're not just interrupting their scroll on Facebook when they didn't plan to sit down and watch your Facebook Live.

Those would be my pieces of advice. I hope to do more Facebook Live. I did a few last year and, again, didn't see the results that I wanted to just like you, so I'm going to be trying to some new things and, hopefully, can share that with you.

Barbara says, "I'm repurposing my Facebook Live videos to YouTube and getting additional views there."

That is super smart, yeah, repurpose the content as many ways as you can. We put these Ellechat webinar replays on YouTube as well just to expand the reach, so, yeah, share those Facebook Live posts elsewhere. That's a great, great piece of advice.

Miley asks, "Hi, Lauren. Are you still doing much branding work these days? How has that changed and where will that change going in 2018?"

I did cut back this year because I knew that there was a lot change involved, and we didn't know really what was ahead of us when Jake was graduating, and so I took on less. I still love branding work. I launched a new brand and website today for a client. I'm just going to take on less and try to do some local work this year ahead. I could never get too far away from design work. That's my first love.

Luke says, "Hi, Lauren. I literally just started using MeetEdgar because I realize I have a decent amount of blogs/video content, but very little traffic to them into to my website, and no time to post them manually. When you're using Meet Edgar, do you feel like it helps a lot, get a lot of traffic to your posts or do you feel like it may not have been worth the investment? Thanks."

If you have a ton of content, Meet Edgar is a great way to continually post your content. You get it in front of people who may not have seen it the first time. I think it was helpful in that sense to keep re-sharing content instead of going back through your archives, trying to figure out something to say, point to it. I think it's easier to rely on Meet Edgar only and lose sight of creating an engaging content once in a while on your own outside of Meet Edgar.

I think Meet Edgar is a fantastic tool especially for pointing people back to your old content and driving traffic, but I would encourage you, too, to try to do a couple of posts each week directly from you and not pointing to your content outside of Meet Edgar to just increase the engagement. That would be my advice. Meet Edgar is not a bad thing.

Like I said, everything that I'm talking about doing and switching up may not work for you. Where you're at right now, it might not make sense for your business, and that is okay. A lot of these things I'm just testing out to see how they're working, so, yeah, I hope that's helpful for you, Luke.

Acela says, "Hi, Lauren. Do you think you have to study design to become a designer? If not, any tips to be amazing in design?"

No, you do not have to go to school to become a designer. In fact, a lot of what I've learned hasn't come from design school. It has just come from putting ... from actually getting experience in the industry. I think there are a lot of great resources out there to learn design and a lot of great books.

Actually, the post that I can link to for you, Advice for Aspiring Designers, it's even on my contact page if you go there in like the FAQ section, but you do not have to go to school. That's another thing I love about the Adobe Illustrator class that I'm about to launch is that it not only shows you how to use Adobe Illustrator, but it also has some design fundamentals built into the course as well, so, yes, stay tuned for that.

Luke says he agrees with me and that he's completely self-taught and there are so many resources online, so, yes, I agree wholeheartedly. You do not have to spend thousands upon thousands of dollars to go to design school. You can learn on your own. You just have to know where to look for resources, so those designers in the group who have some great resources, feel free to leave a comment and help us with that.

All right, Chris says, "Will Freelance Academy run again this year?"

It will in the fall, and feel free to reach out to me, too, Chris. I might be able to work something out for you if you don't want to work ... wait until August, but, yes, reach to me about that. I'd be happy to give you more details. There's a waiting list on the website, so, if you want to go there and sign up for the waiting list, I can keep you posted on dates and details.

Leticia, I hope I'm saying that right. I butcher names all the time, guys. Yes, Paper & Oats courses and Spruce Rd. courses are super helpful, too. Love both Kelsey and Jamie. They're great designers.

"Skillshare," Kasie says, "has a lot of great classes." That's true, too.

All right, Barbara says, "Lauren, you mentioned you want to bring affiliate income on a different level. This is one of my focuses as well. I want to be more serious about it. Could you please share a bit more of your plans on affiliate marketing? Thank you."

Yes. Right now, I'm an affiliate for Crowdcast and ConvertKit. I'm only an affiliate of brands that I really love, apps and programs and websites that I'm already using. I don't want to share anything that I'm not using. Yeah, I'm not going to share anything that I don't enjoy using or highly recommend for people.

One thing that I am planning on doing, this is kind of a spoiler alert for the new website, but have landing pages for each one of the affiliates that I work with. I don't have a ton, but the ones that I do have are brands that I really love, and so ... and thank you for buying Crowdcast following my link. I really appreciate that, but I plan to have a landing page for each one of my affiliates with some resources on it, so telling you about why this program is really good, so, for Crowdcast, what I love about Crowdcast, how you can get started with it, what makes it different, and then an opt-in for Crowdcast just to put some more emphasis on it, some content upgrades maybe involved with that, affiliate.

That's a sneak peek on one way that I plan on bringing in more affiliate income this upcoming year. As I try out new strategies for affiliate marketing, I would be happy to share them with you. Like I said, I'm going to be more transparent this year and sharing things as I'm doing them.

All right, Leticia asks, "I'm trying to convince myself to do videos, but I haven't had the confidence yet. Do you have any advice?"

I would start out small. Start with some recorded videos, if you need to, for blog posts or YouTube or that sort of thing just to get comfortable in front of the camera. Don't beat yourself up if you make mistakes or hear your voice and think it sounds weird. That happens to all of us. It takes some time, but just to get in front of the camera. Do some live videos, just short ones, and then you can work your way up to things like webinars as you go. I think it's more important that you just get started, and you can make tweaks as you, so, yeah, I hope that's helpful.

I'm trying to get through a few more of these questions. I think I might be able to answer them.

Mahela says, "Have you thought about delegating parts of the design service or package or get a team for that service, something like an Elle & Company design agency?"

I have, and Jamie from Spruce Rd. has a team, and I think that that's awesome. I go back and forth on it, and I would really love to hear your advice on this issue because I found that, every time I've thrown this out there, has me being in more of an art director role and having some designers who help me out and do a lot of the design work.

People don't necessarily hire Elle & Company just for the design work to get done. They want to work with me and do it with me, and so, every time I've thrown that out there, people have been like, "I don't know about that," so it's something I've definitely been open to. I'm just trying to figure out how clients would respond to that and if people would be interested in something like that. I'd love to hear your advice on it though, guys. This is something I've gone back and forth on for a very long time.

I think part of me is also, and it sounds silly, but a fear of mine, if I'm honest, is to grow a team that's really big and be responsible for a team that's so big. It'd be cool to hire people on and be able to give people jobs. I think that that would be amazing, but that's also a great responsibility, and so even through having assistants and leading them, I'm realizing that I need some help with leadership, and so, yeah, that's something I've thought about a lot, Mahela, and continue to work through and would love to y'all's feedback on.

All right, Nikka says, "This is a more specific technical question. I've been looking for an answer on your site, but I can't find it. I'm using Squarespace and MailChimp for my business after someone makes a purchase on Squarespace. I'm trying to figure out how to automate the process of them being added into the appropriate list or group for their purchased service. I've been manually adding people as I see purchase receipt copies come in."

What I would tell you to do, because I don't work with MailChimp, I'm on ConvertKit, but I know a lot of people on the Elle & Company community group are on MailChimp, and someone in there is bound to know the answer to this question. The Elle & Company Facebook group is awesome for giving feedback and advice and working through problems like this, so take this same question, copy and paste it into the Elle & Company community, and I'm sure somebody will be able to help you with this so that you can get that up and running, Nikka. I hope that's helpful for you.

For a lot of you, if you have questions outside of this Ellechat or questions on different topics, feel free to ask them in the Elle & Company community. I try to go in there, too, and answer as many as I can from time to time, but it's a really great place for you to get referrals or ask little questions, get feedback and that sort of thing.

Kai asks, "I love your business model structure, but I've been struggling to tap into a market that can afford my design services. How did you find clients at the level that you work?"

I actually started getting clients and marketing at the same time while I was starting from scratch, so I think my first design package for a brand started out at about $5,000. That was three years ago, and so I've continued to add on over time. I think, if you haven't already, and this is a resource that's going to be on the new website, is doing some market research, so figuring out what people are following along with you and figuring out where your people, where your ideal clients and customers are, where they are so that you can start marketing to them.

Something that going to be on the new website is a market research kind of workbook to evaluate the audience that you currently have and the audience that you want to have and where they're spending their time so that you can start tapping into that market, and I think that'll be really helpful for you, Kai. Shoot me an email because I might be able to send that over to you a little bit early before the site launches, just

Ashley says, "I'd love to learn more about launching passive income products and how that may be different than the a physical product. I'm trying to move from cleaners to a focus on digital cleaners and tools."

I'm so glad that asked that, Ashley, because Tom Morkes will be coming on after this Adobe Illustrator launch to share more about launching passive income products and that sort of thing, and he is awesome when it comes to this, so be sure to be on the lookout for that one because he can definitely point you in the right direction and give you a ton of great tips and advice.

Shackie, I hope I'm saying that correctly, asks, "How long did it take your engagement to get high in your group?"

It started out slow. When I first started the Elle & Company community Facebook group, it took a while to build. It took a while to figure out what engagement would look like, and I found out that the engagement doesn't really happen for me posting as much as me trying to foster engagement on there, and people just started to jump in and ask questions, and people starting to respond and me just trying to jump in where I can. I kind of want it to run on its own, so it took a few months. I had to be patient with it, but it eventually did grow. It eventually did grow, and there continues to be more and more engagement in that group.

If you aren't a part of the Elle & Company community, there's a link in my sidebar on the website, and you can click on that and ask to join and start taking part in it, because it really has become a lot of fun with a lot of engagement on there.

All right, and Karen says, "Why do you prefer Squarespace over WordPress?"

I've a blog post on this with why I love Squarespace and why I would choose it over WordPress. On the new site, I have a whole page dedicated to Squarespace and why I made the switch.

Just a couple of things, it's very user friendly and easy to use on the backend. When I create client sites on Squarespace, I feel totally confident handing it off to them and teaching them how to use it, and I get very few questions on how to use the backend. Actually, I was just transferring my client site from WordPress to Squarespace yesterday, and the backend for me was even confusing. I couldn't find what I was looking for. I got really frustrated, and I've used WordPress before. That's not to say WordPress shouldn't be used by anyone. If you want a super custom site and you're willing to put the time and effort into it, you totally can.

I know a lot of people on WordPress and a lot of WordPress designers that's great, but for Squarespace, I love how easy to use it is, how beautiful it is. I love that everything is on one place. You don't have to mess with hosting, getting a domain name from somewhere else. It's all in one. I have many reasons. If you look at Squarespace on the Elle & Company blog or you click the little icon in the sidebar, I have a ton on Squarespace, and you can find the answer there.

All right, we're coming up on the hour. Thank you all so much for taking the time to join in today. If you ever, I want to know how many of you who are still in here, have listened to the Elle & Company Ellechats on the podcasts and, if you have and if you're already following along, subscribed on iTunes, I would love for you to take a couple of minutes just to leave me a quick review on iTunes because the more people that leave reviews on iTunes, the easier it is for the Elle & Company Ellechats to get found, and so I would love you forever and be so grateful if you took the time to leave me a review on iTunes.

If you aren't subscribed on iTunes, feel free to go in and subscribe. If you'd rather tune in to these Ellechat webinars every week, I love having you on here.

Barbara says, "No, I like to watch you."

That is totally fine, too, that's why I give you all the option, but if you are on iTunes and you could take a moment to leave me a review on there, I would be forever grateful, so thank you guys.

Do I have a link to my podcasts? Yes, I do, and I have a link to it in ... Yeah, Sai says, "Make sure to follow Lauren on Crowdcast, too." Yes, I'm so glad Sai is on here. Sai is the creator of Crowdcast. He's going to be coming on the week after next to join me for an Ellechat. The cool thing about Crowdcast is you can follow along with me on Crowdcast, too, so you can get updates on new Ellechats that are popping up, and that's pretty awesome. You can click on my account in this Crowdcast window.

"Over 1,500 followers on Crowdcast." That's awesome. I haven't checked in a while. You can go and follow along there by clicking on my account, just following along with the account there.

Tara, as soon as I hop off of here, I'll get the link to my podcast and put it in the comment section for you all. Thank you again for taking the time out of your schedule to join me. I can't wait to see what you are ... the big things that you do in 2018, how you plan to reevaluate and reprioritize. I'm excited to share with you these changes as I'm making them and invite you in.

Next week, we'll have another Ellechat. I don't have it up yet. I'll let you know as soon as it's available. Same time, 3:00 p.m., every Thursday, Easter Time. I hope to see you in another Ellechat soon. Bye, guys.