Determining Your ‘Last Straw’ & What To Do About It

Note: This is going to be a pretty long post. Please read it when you have the time to absorb it and internalize the things I’ve said in a way that helps you best.

It’s funny, this internet thing. I’ve been working online in some form or another since 1996, and to say, “I’ve seen it all,” is an understatement for me most of the time.

I’ve learned that while the internet can be an amazing place to express yourself, meet people, build a career, profit from a hobby, and get yourself addicted to certain things like facebook games or social media sites… after nearly 20 years, I’m becoming one of those people who begins to loathe what they love.

I’d be lying if I told you it wasn’t bothering me.

My pants would likely catch fire if I told you there was never a time where I wanted to just shut down everything, move to some artsy-touristy town, and try to make a living by opening up a bakery/coffeehouse/shop that sold my art and that of others. Without using the internet at all.

determining-your-last-strawI think the things that are bugging me the most lately are when I see people being out and out mean to complete strangers, people who are out there convincing others that they should fork over their life savings to learn how to make more money, and all those stupid, effing “viral” sites.

A contradiction, I’m sure you’re thinking, since here’s me, a creative business coach that offers one-on-one and group coaching on how to build your creative business up to be something you can make a real living from. Online. And I charge people for that.

But there’s a deep-seated purpose to what I’m doing here, and I really want to share it with you because I feel like with all the bull-puckey going on out there, I need to keep it as real as I possibly can.

I’m NOT someone out to make a bajillion dollars a year so I can take fancy vacations and buy my daughter more clothes/toys/junk than she needs. I’m not someone who wants to drive the most expensive SUV on the market (or even the mid-range expensive ones). I have a 2004 PT Cruiser that I absolutely adore, and will drive until she decides it’s time to die forever.

I’m NOT someone who wants to convince people that if they give me $4000, I’ll have all the answers as to how they can multiply it times ten in 30 days. In fact, I happen to know for absolute certain that anything anyone promises that remotely sounds like that is complete and utter lies. And if you’ve fallen into the trap someone’s set like that, I’m really, really sorry for you.

No, I’m a mom of a toddler whom I’d give anything to spend more time with.

I’ve got an amazing man with a heart of gold and a broken back. We’ve got bills to pay, like everyone else, and I’m the only one who can do it right now.

I want to help people be comfortable selling themselves and their art online. I’ve had SO many heart-wrenching conversations, with women especially, where they’re afraid to upset their fans, or worse… afraid to fail. It’s painful to hear, and I’m on a mission to make it feel safer and better and be happier for them.

I don’t need a huge house (or even multiple ones). I don’t even want that! Too much work, really. Same with extra cars, clothes, toys, and so on.

I would like to be able to give more money to charities I love to support when I can. To spend more time volunteering, helping, and giving back. Teaching my daughter how important that kind of stuff really is.

These are the reasons I do what I do. The real purpose behind my passions. I’m over all the people who are over-charging for services or coaching. I’m over all the sites that focus on making fun of people. I’m over the jerks on social media sites that hide behind their internet wall and say things they’d never dare to say to someone’s face.

I just want to help people and have enough time and money to do the things I mentioned up there. That’s the purpose behind doing what I do for a living.

Determining Your ‘Last Straw’

I can honestly say that I’ve never truly enjoyed working for others. I was always one of those kids that wanted the payout before doing the work. I remember my parents telling me that whenever they tried to get me to do something by promising me a reward, I was always trying to convince them that if they let me have/do the reward, I’d then do the work. I know, it sounds absolutely ludicrous as an adult, but as a kid, it made perfect sense to me.

But this whole paycheck-paycheck thing, with someone else having 100% control over whether or not I got one, has always driven me mad. Sure, when I was working jobs I loved, like as a zookeeper and when I was working for Neopets and ProBlogger… it wasn’t so bad. I loved getting up in the morning and going to work and clocking in, or sitting at my desk and jumping into what was going on.

However there have been way too many times where the thought of even getting online to work gave me a migraine. Times when I really didn’t want to finish a project because my heart wasn’t in it, even if the money was good. Times where the person I was working for was a completely selfish jerk, and I really just wanted to crawl in a hole and die every single time my phone would ring or a Skype message would pop up. But I did it all, simply because I needed the money.

And then I got so sick and tired of it, I stopped.

I totally threw caution to the wind and decided that it was over. No more doing work that didn’t make my heart sing AND pay the bills. I’d had my last straw (or several of them), and made the conscious decision to do whatever it took to work to live, not live to work.

I’m completely, thoroughly, madly in love with what I’m doing now.

I’m doing everything in my power to keep doing things the way I am, because it not only fulfills my passion, but my purpose.

But the truth is, not everyone has the same tolerance (or lack thereof). I know people who get up and go to the most ridiculously boring jobs, because they have to pay their bills. They deal with interoffice politics because… they have to pay their bills. They loathe every single face they have to see every day, but they do it because they have to pay their bills.

Yes, needing money is most people’s second-to-last straw. It’s the thing that keeps them hating their work. It’s not the boring job, the politics, or the faces that put them over the edge. It’s their fear of not being able to pay their bills that prevents them from stepping near the edge in the first place.

I’ve lived that fear. I’ve even been in situations where I needed to rely on public assistance. I’ve currently got 3 mouths to feed on one income. Is every single month a cake-walk? Nope. Are there times I stress more than others, because I can associate signs with history to prove to myself that it’s gonna be a bad month? Yep.

What To Do About It?

The difference between me and those people who haven’t found their last straw yet is that I leapt. I know that if I really, really need money, I can go pick up a gig and be able to earn some. It may not be what I love doing, but it’s something. I’ve stopped looking at working for someone else (be it a single project or an ongoing thing) as a dead-end, and began to view it as an option. A last resort. I KNOW that I can make a living doing what I love and with purpose. I’ve done it, and I continue to do it. And I know that everyone can. It’s just a matter of them finding their last straw and making that jump.

If there’s nothing else I can ever teach anyone I come across, I want to teach people to have courage. This life we live is so short. So limited. I know that when you’re 70 years old, everything feels like it was so long ago, and that you’d spend a huge amount of time on this planet. I know that when you’re in your 20’s you feel like you’ve got your whole life ahead of you and nothing can break you. I know that when you’re a parent to small children, it feels like each day lasts a second and before you know it, they’re talking in complete sentences and you just want them to go back to being that teeny tiny person that couldn’t even hold their own bottle. As much as you couldn’t wait for them to be able to hold their own bottle when they couldn’t yet do it.

Life is not meant for us to trudge through. Life is meant to be lived with as much joy and excitement and eager anticipation we can muster. Yes, there are super low times. For some people, it seems more often than not at times. But you know how we get through them? By embracing all the joy and excitement and eager anticipation for the good times that we can think of. It takes courage to let go of what you know and try something new. It takes planning, too, of course. But boy howdy does it ever take courage.

But that’s what life’s about, for me, and what I hope you’ll discover for yourself. I want you to step so close to the edge of that cliff that your toes hang over and then…

You leap.

How and Why I’m Cutting Back My Services for 2015

Lara Kulpa's services and packages availableI think sometimes when you’re the kind of person who’s been making a living online for nearly 20 years like I have, you tend to have this, “I can do that for you!” mantra that pops out of your mouth every time someone tells you what they need.

Sometimes it’s happened on coaching calls. It’s determined the person needs a new branding package, so I hand them a deal since they’re a coaching customer.

Other times, it’s because someone contacts me as a friend of a friend who needs a new website for their club, which is a non-profit, so I give them a deal.

And still other times, I get a new client who “just” wants a website, but really needs a full branding package, a new site, some SEO and marketing work, and so on.

But the truth of the matter is that all of this stuff kind of ebbs and flows, and it’s not me who’s in control of my workflow. It’s chance. I mean, don’t you hate not knowing if next month you’re going to have the same money coming in as you did last month? Especially when it can vary by thousands of dollars? (Yes, this has happened to me. Many times.)

It was one thing when it was just me. But I’m a Mommy now, and have my family to think of. I need stability AND growth. And I need to stop doing things that don’t bring me joy (not that I hate them, but dammit, I want the JOY!)

So here’s what’s about to go down as of January 1, 2015:

  • There will be no more basic/moderate web design packages. I realize that this is probably going to upset some of you who’ve been saving up, but I really just can’t afford the time. If you wish to schedule one before the end of the year, you can do so here. I’ll honor all that are purchased between now and Dec 31. Otherwise, I’ll be building some great resources and a referral network to help you out.
  • There will be no more Custom Website Inspections, either. If you want one, grab it before the end of the year, and I’ll honor all that were purchased prior to Dec 31.
  • I am going to be offering Group Mastermind calls that will focus on helping creative people build and grow their businesses online, but in a group format (don’t worry, it’ll be a small group). It’ll start in January, and each session will run for 3 months. Total price for the full shot is $397. (Details coming soon.)
  • I will open up 6 spots per year for “The Big One”, which will include full design, development, branding, and marketing packages for creative entrepreneurs, and includes some one-on-one coaching. The investment on your end will be $8997. (Details coming soon.)
  • I will also maintain availability for 2 coaching clients per month. My current packages will be coming down at the end of the month, too, so if you’re interested, book them now.If you’re already a coaching client, you’ll need to reserve and pre-pay for the months you’d like to have as soon as possible, so make sure you email me now to keep the spots you like. The one-on-one coaching investment is $397/month, and is a much more detailed package than what I’ve been offering thus far. It’s the first time I’m going to open it up this big, and I promise not to disappoint. :)

So if you’re interested in any of the above, you can either watch your email like a hawk for opening announcements, or you can message me now to let me know which you’re interested in, even before the links and details go up.

The reasons are many, but the bottom line is that I have to tighten up my business, and you need to tighten up yours. I’m still on a mission to help as many people as I can, but I have to do it in a way that makes sense to me. I realize I may lose some fans here, but I hope instead I’ve inspired more of you to take control of your lives and build the business that fills your soul with joy and success and peace.

Remember, I love each and every one of you, and am ever so grateful to be on this journey with you and for you!

7 Things I Learned Doing My First Pre-Sale

WOW! First, I’d like to thank all of you who purchased the 2015 Creative Entrepreneur Planner Pre-Sale! You guys have honored me in a way I can’t even begin to put into words. I can only hope that I can live up to (or better yet, exceed) your expectations!

Now that November 1st has come and gone, and the download links have been put out there for everyone who purchased, it’s time for me to turn this whole thing into a lesson for you, my dear readers.

7 Things I Learned Doing My First Pre-Sale

  1. Planner kits take a LOT of work to put together. I’m not even kidding you. To not only come up with your own design, but then think about what has to go into each page, lay it out so that it fits even after the holes have been punched, and create template after template after template takes a TON of time for each component. I’ve always created printables for myself, and I’m the Queen of Paper when it comes to making lists and diagrams with a pencil, but there was a lot of tweaking that had to be done to ensure that these pages would look great as well as be functional and useful.
  2. I did too much, in not nearly enough time. This pre-sale offer included a TON of components for the main planner, but then I added a bunch of bonuses that I had no idea would take so much time to pull together without sacrificing things like cleaning my house and playing with my daughter on the weekends. Part of this is because while I certainly could’ve chosen one color and one pattern scheme to do everything, instead I decided to do FIVE color options for over 97% of the components, which all had varying patterns. This was probably NOT my best idea, but I really hope that my buyers are happy that they have so many choices and combinations available.
  3. It’s best to limit the initial offer, and then add bonuses and freebies later. What I should’ve done is just do the pre-sale at the discounted price for the main components, and then whatever I was able to make later could’ve been sent to my buyers as a thank you or included as part of a “… plus any other planners I create during the remainder of 2014″ kind of thing. Again, this goes back to building the pre-sale offer up bigger than I was able to finish up in the time I gave myself.
  4. My customers are AMAZING! Everyone’s been so kind and understanding that it’s going to take a few more days before they receive every bonus I offered. I’m beyond grateful, and intend to fully make their patience worth their while by giving them “pre-sale buyer only” goodies. I’ll figure them out once I get everything together, and just send them off as they’re done. Again, anything to make my customers smile, and let them know I appreciate them.
  5. The next time I do something like this, I’m going to enlist some help. Again, it comes down to time, and I underestimated mine. I know loads of great designers and Photoshop people I can call on (and help out by giving them a paying gig), and next time, that’s what I’m going to do. I know what I’m good at and what my time allows for. I need to call on people rather than trying to do everything myself.
  6. Facebook is NOT a great place to advertise this kind of product/offer. I know I got a few buyers from my facebook posts (and maybe even the ads I bought), but really it came down to my email list. You guys are awesome, have I said that already? I need to make sharing from the email or my site as easy and inviting as possible, and hope that I can do that in the near future so you guys can help me get the word out when I have new stuff going on, but other than that? I’m not going to waste my money on facebook ads ever again. Not for this stuff.
  7. Organization is SO important. Had I not kept a spreadsheet and sorted my files the way I did on my computer, I would’ve never been able to track what was completed and where I could find it to send out. I can’t even begin to think of the time that would’ve been wasted there… days, I’m sure.

So there you have it. Learn from me, my children. ;) While I made some mistakes, I’m very happy with how things have turned out, and I can’t wait to get rolling on my next product/offer. Just not until I completely finish up with this one!

Get Rid of Social Media & Other Distractions Once and For All

Are you one of the people I’m always yelling at to get off Facebook? If no, do you need me to be?

Well, it’d be pretty pricey to have me there, standing over your shoulder like a sweaty gym coach, so here’s a list of really nifty (and somewhat extreme) tools to help you. Your very own “internet nanny” so to speak, that will help you stop wasting time on social media (or any other site, for that matter), and get you in the right frame of mind to be productive with your creative business. If you find yourself playing a little too much Angry Birds with Friends, you might need one or more of these.

 

turn-off-distractionsFirefox & Chrome Productivity Plugins

  • LeechBlock:  (FIREFOX)
    Block specific websites within a designated time frame, such as setting it to block all social media sites and your email account between 9am and noon. This way you will be reminded that you should be doing something else, like listing your work on Etsy or writing up blog posts.
  • StayFocusd:  (CHROME)
    Allot certain amounts of time to specific websites each day, such as giving yourself one hour per day to be on facebook, or only 30 minutes to peruse Pinterest each day. Once the time is up for the day, you’re blocked from accessing until tomorrow. Yes, I know it sounds so drastic. But social media addicts, or people who check their email too much NEED drastic measures.
  • ChromeNanny:  (CHROME)
    This one’s kind of a combo of the other two above. You can either block websites during specific times, or allow only a fixed amount of time per site, per day. For the ultimate procrastinating control freak you know you are. ;)

Productivity Software Solutions

  • Cold Turkey (WIN)
    Block websites for a set period of time. Cold Turkey is intentionally difficult to circumvent, so you won’t be tempted into shutting off the program.
  • SelfControl (MAC)
    Blocks email servers and websites for fixed periods of time. This is for the habitual newsletter subscriber in you. Stop the “shiny object syndrome”!
  • Freedom (WIN or MAC)
    Completely blocks access to the internet for fixed periods of time. For most of you, this one won’t be of much use, unless you’re needing to do some accounting or writing and you’re finding yourself too distracted by what other people are doing.
  • Anti-Social  (MAC)
    Blocks access to social media websites for fixed periods of time. I’m looking at you, Pinterest obsessed one.

Facing Your Entrepreneurial Fears – Part 1

YOU DESERVE MORE THAN MEDIOCRITY!

I know it’s “comfortable” and “safe” – but you are an amazing human being, with a brain that’s capable of so much more!


I’ve been fortunate enough to meet some truly amazing people in my life. Both online and in person. Some are CEOs of companies they built from the ground up. Some are worker bees. Some are women who choose to stay at home and work on the side. Some are men who do.

One thing I’ve noticed though, is that the circles I travel are full of people who have dreams of being in business for themselves, but seem to not have “what it takes” (according to them). I think that’s just ridiculous, to be honest with you.

Lots of people rely very heavily on the Myers-Briggs Personality Test to determine who they are, what they should do, who they should work with. Yes, I think that can be a decent “window” to someone’s personality, but let’s face it: People change. Sometimes daily. Life and all it’s curveballs can truly change someone. Their “Type-A” personality today could easily turn into being quite the introverted, insecure soul tomorrow. It happens.

The truth is, I firmly believe that ANYONE who wants to start a business and work for themselves, can. It’s a matter of knowing your own strengths and weaknesses (at any given time), and knowing how to work with them. Wanna know why most people just keep dreaming, instead of doing? It’s fear.

fearpt1Fear holds us back from a lot of things. I’ve known people who have purposely done poorly in school for fear of being pushed to their limit and failing. They’d rather fail “in the middle”. I’ve known people who have said that they’ve always wanted to know what it felt like to fly, yet have never gone parasailing, bungee jumping, skydiving, or anything else close.

Fear isn’t a bad thing. It keeps me from driving when there’s more than 2 inches of snow, because I’m afraid of having an accident. In that case, it’s just a risk I’m not willing to take. Yet I’m totally down with the idea of skydiving someday.

When fear becomes something you need to challenge, is when it’s holding you back from potentially POSITIVE things. Put it this way: If you stay in your dead-end job, yes, you’ll have a paycheck (as long as they don’t “downsize” on you), but it will likely be the same size paycheck (adjusted for inflation with a teensy raise here and there), as long as you’re there. Is it safe? Maybe. Is there any potential to get a BIGGER paycheck there, though? Probably not.

But going into business for yourself DOES have the potential to get you a bigger paycheck, even if it still carries the chance you’ll have a much smaller (or zero) paycheck. Sure, there’s a risk. But there’s a chance that the reward could be BIGGER than what you’ve got now.

Nevermind the money, though. Staying a worker bee carries it’s own minor rewards. You’re not working more than 40 hours a week. You get to leave your work at work when you come home. You have less responsibility than a business owner. You don’t have to deal with consequences, budgets, or any of the other things that are your boss’s job to worry about. Great. How completely freaking boring, though.

Facing your fear and starting a business could make you wealthy in so many other ways. A feeling of accomplishment. Helping others have work (because of those pesky weaknesses of yours), getting your product or service in the hands of people who want or need it, and the possibilities go on and on and on from there!

Ask yourself this: Are you truly using your brain to do the most good for yourself, your family, and the world? Or are you sitting there stuck with a status quo because you don’t know where to go next, or you’re afraid of the work, the risk, or the reward?

If it’s the latter, then you need to choose better. Choose better for yourself and your family. It’s about dedicating yourself to something bigger and better. Letting fear get in the way means that you come up with excuses to not do something potentially amazing. Don’t you have people you need to inspire? Don’t you need to go to bed at night feeling proud of what you’ve accomplished, like surpassing precisely what you feared in the first place?

YOU DESERVE MORE THAN MEDIOCRITY. Go out and get better. Be better. Be who your heart wants you to be.