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!

Just Stop Multi-Tasking Already!

Everyone gets overwhelmed at one point or another, especially when you’re wearing a dozen hats in any given day. I have many things on my proverbial plate that need to get done, and when that happens to me, I find that I wind up focusing more on my to-do list than I do on any action item itself.

In conversations with my other blogging friends, I’ve learned that this is by no means something that just happens to me. I am NOT alone and neither are you, dear reader, if you often find yourself feeling this way. So what do you do to fix it? How do you stop wasting your time on Facebook games, Skype chats, or discovering that you have 30 tabs open in your browser?

The answer is so simple, so easy, I think you’re not going to believe me when I tell you what it is.

Are you ready?

Pick one thing, and do only that one thing.

Set yourself a pre-determined amount of time to spend on that one thing, and shut down any and all distractions. You cannot “take a break to check your email”. You may not use your smart phone to respond to a tweet or check your blog stats. Just. Do. One. Thing.

Let’s pick some scenarios here. Not all of these are related to blogging or community management, but they’re all related. Put yourself in one of these situations for a moment (because I know you’ve actually been in them at least once before):

Look around. Your house is a disaster area and it seems that you’re the only one who “sees” the mess. Laundry is so “everywhere” you can’t tell what’s clean and what isn’t, and there’s a gigantic dust bunny in the corner of the kitchen that you think just might be getting ready to grow legs and very sharp teeth.

Stop what you’re doing, it’s perfectly okay to get off the computer for a while. (Seriously, it is!) Go work a room or two from the ceiling to the floor. The benefit to this? Well, besides having a clear, clean room or two, you won’t have it weighing on your mind any more when you’re trying to work. I firmly believe that once you get a room done, you’re GOING to want to do another. And another. Just force yourself to get through that first room without constantly thinking, “Gah! I need to be blogging/tweeting/facebooking! I don’t have TIME for this!” Whenever that thought pops into your head, crush it by saying to yourself, “No! I can’t sit in front of that machine knowing that this room is such a wreck! I owe it to myself to get this done, and done FIRST.”

I bet you’ll wind up cleaning the whole house top to bottom, will end your day with a shower, grab a beverage of your choosing and tweet away for a while, but will wake tomorrow feeling like you can finally get done the next day-long task you pick.

You’ve spent the past three days tweaking the width and color of the vertical line between your content area and your sidebar on your blog, and haven’t written a blog post in a week because it took you that long to figure out how.

So you find yourself taking a week reading blog posts and surfing the WordPress.org forums looking for answers to your questions, tweaking the width and color of the vertical line between your content area and your sidebar a hundred times to get it “just right”. Between that, you’re checking out the blogs of your competition (or others in your niche) and you’re stressing that their blog looks so much more professional, or that they have six ads and you only have one so that means they’re making way more money than you, or that they have 4,007 blog posts and you only have 17, or… wait!

You only have 17? They have 4,007? This means that you’re avoiding writing for some reason. Dig deeper. Figure this part out. As a blogger, your main focus should be building content. Sure, you might have other things you do for work, like many of us do. Some of us are consultants, some have “day jobs”, some have families and children to distract them from writing. But the bottom line is that you’re NOT going to have a successful blog if there’s no damn content on it. Period.

For one day, do nothing but write. I don’t care if what you churn out winds up being complete crap. Just turn off your internet if you have to, and open up a Word doc, and write. Keep writing. Go to the bathroom, refill your coffee, and write some more. Don’t answer the phone unless you know it’s an emergency (they’ll call back after getting your voicemail if it is, trust me), and freaking write!

Once you get a few good posts together, turn back on your internet, but just to go to your blog and schedule out those posts for throughout the week. If you only have three, that’s okay, hit it up for Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. Then go clean your bathroom or do some laundry, you slob! ;)

You haven’t looked at your Facebook fan page community in weeks. Your last tweet was an instagram pic of the dessert you had three days ago. So was the tweet before it. The one before that was about the bitch at the grocery store who took the last jar of peanut butter right out of your hands. Your inbox has 237 unread messages in it. What the hell have you been DOING online?

I bet you’re one of those people who reads and comments on 30 blogs a day. Or you’ve spent hundreds on ebooks and coaching programs and you’re reading to death. Or, what’s worse than even those things, is that you finally reached level 50 in Farmville!

It’s time you set yourself up with a plan. Go sign up at HootSuite (the free version is fine) and bookmark the link. Use it to manage your Facebook pages and Twitter account from one place.

Now, the hard part… Give yourself 20 minutes at a time, 3 times a day. This is difficult for just about everyone, because sometimes they get wrapped up in stuff that will keep them longer than 20 minutes, and others will struggle with what to talk about for 18 minutes, and then find themselves bailing out on what could’ve been a decent conversation.

But this is important. You need to be super strict here, so use an egg timer or your computer/phone alarm system. Sure, if you’re involved in some kind of #chat or are really enthralled in a conversation with someone, that’s one thing, once in a while. But really, there’s nothing that needs to be done on Twitter or Facebook on a daily basis that should take longer than that. If you’re already a super productive person who’s well organized, fine, but for now, let’s stick with the plan.

One Last, Extreme Trick To Increase Productivity and Organization

I know you’re an adult, but remember back in grade school, when you had to have a routine? You woke up around 6am, showered, had breakfast, grabbed the bus, and then moved around every time a bell rang? Then you came home, and either banged out homework right away, or took a two-hour break to relax, had dinner, then watched your favorite television shows, and were in bed by an exact time?

When I was in high school, the first bell rang at 8:10am and the last rang at 2:25pm. Including lunch, we were “working” for 6 hours and 15 minutes. Homework usually took less than 2 hours unless a big paper was due or we were cramming for a test. That’s less than 8 hours of actual working. Think about that.

As adults, we have more responsibility than we did as kids. Less room for fun. When you’re working 9-5, you live for the weekends. When you’re working for yourself, it’s WAY too easy to get up at 6am, grab coffee, and “work” until midnight, 7 days a week. Just STOP.

I’m personally trying something new…

Waking up at 630am, grabbing coffee and sitting down to work. Making myself some breakfast around 8, and actually STOPPING my work day by 1pm. What this does is gives me a definitive time where I can close the laptop and go clean something, go grocery shopping, do laundry, or work on my creative offline projects like my art and jewelry. It also forces me to be more productive during my day because I’ve promised myself (and my boyfriend and friends and family) that I’ll be offline by a specific time.

Plus, I’ll feel like I’ve reclaimed daylight.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I’m sure there will be plenty of times when I have one of my online coaching sessions set up for 3pm, or a deadline on a website to finish, or something going on in a community that happens during any time outside my 630am – 1pm window. That’s fine. It’s realistic. But what I’ll do is get offline earlier, and come back to it at whatever scheduled time I have to, or take hours off the next day to make up for it.

So there you have it, the ultimate truth. Now stop multitasking and go get something done!

Recommended Reading:

[easyazon-image-link asin=”0142000280″ alt=”Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity” src=”http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/412mHGHqzzL._SL160_.jpg” align=”none” width=”100″ height=”160″] [easyazon-image-link asin=”0143034545″ alt=”Ready for Anything: 52 Productivity Principles for Getting Things Done” src=”http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/51UuPQVfXyL._SL160_.jpg” align=”none” width=”106″ height=”160″] [easyazon-image-link asin=”1606232932″ alt=”The Procrastinator’s Guide to Getting Things Done” src=”http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/51MobxyxiEL._SL160_.jpg” align=”none” width=”107″ height=”160″] [easyazon-image-link asin=”1592574211″ alt=”The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Getting Things Done” src=”http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/51JUZTGn4JL._SL160_.jpg” align=”none” width=”127″ height=”160″] [easyazon-image-link asin=”1434103188″ alt=”Zen To Done: The Ultimate Simple Productivity System” src=”http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/41SGYSA5laL._SL160_.jpg” align=”none” width=”107″ height=”160″]

The Downfalls of Being Self-Employed or, “Lara’s Bad Day”

I’ve got so much damn work to do, but I feel like I have to put this post out there, in order to get this out of my head. I’m feeling frustrated today, and am opening up about it.

People talk about this all the time, how it’s not all it’s cracked up to be, being self-employed. There are a great number of posts about it, in fact, check it out.

But without even going into those lists, or worrying about if I’m replicating some of them, here are my current beefs with it:

1. Your friends and family don’t care that you’re working. Okay, so that’s harsh. It’s not that they don’t care, but they tend to forget that just because you’re sitting at home in your pj’s, that doesn’t mean you can drop what you’re doing and talk to them on the phone, run to the store, fix the laundry, or whatever. When you “ignore” their calls, they get upset with you. If they haven’t voiced their upset, they just keep calling and you know damn well they’re just not getting it, and you feel guilty.

2. You have to wear a thousand hats in life and work. I’m a daughter, granddaughter, girlfriend, best friend, an “aunt”, niece, maid, cook, shopper (both grocery and personal), business owner, “fire fighter” (in the figurative, aside from being a member of a fire department), community manager, blogger, writer, crafter, artisan, sales person, web developer, customer service agent, consultant, accountant, and about 978 other things. I’m tired, a lot. Things get lost, things get forgotten. I feel guilty.

3. Organizing your time takes time. There are few things in life I’m “OCD” about, and some things only rear their ugly heads when I’m feeling frustrated or out of control. I’m a planner. I like to sort out my day and then scratch things off my list. When things come up, I get flustered and stressed out about not having enough time. When I start feeling like my to-do list is so damn long I’d rather sit and play “Bejeweled” on Facebook than tackle it, there’s a problem.

4. Giving up tasks to others isn’t as easy as you’d think. One of the basic rules of increasing your productivity is to delegate tasks to others. I’m kind of a control freak, I think. I want to be the one doing everything, because then I know it’ll be done my way. Yes, I’m chuckling to myself as I write this, because I know how absolutely absurd it sounds to feel this way, but it’s true for me. The times I have asked others to do something for me, it either doesn’t get done quickly, or at all, or they do it once and then don’t do it ever again because let’s face it, the task sucks in some way. (Which is why I didn’t want to do it in the first place, right?) The hardest part in all this though is money. I hate asking people to do something for me unless I can afford to pay them to do it. Sometimes that doesn’t pan out well, and even though I know that it’s worth paying someone to do something so I can focus on bigger tasks, if the money’s not there, it’s not there.

5. Money. Money, money, money. People often assume that self-employed biz owners are wealthy. They also assume that if you’re not wealthy, that you suck at your job. The truth is, when you’re self-employed you don’t get paid vacations, paid sick days, paid benefits (do you have ANY idea how much individual health insurance really costs?), 401k or other employer-contributed retirement plans, and much more. You also have to pay more taxes than someone who is employed by a corporation. Then on top of that, you have to deal with non-paying clients, paying for (in my case) software or hardware upgrades, travel expenses and other allowances often covered by an employer.

6. You never leave work. This goes back to #1 up there, but the bottom line is that I spend a LOT of time “at work”. Sure, I’m home in my pajamas, but I’m “at work” from 630am until either something distracts me from it (in which case I’m still “here” but just away from my desk) or until I go to bed. Stepping away from the computer to make dinner or go toss in a load of laundry makes me feel guilty for leaving my desk. Heading over to my mom’s for a cup of coffee is an emotional struggle with myself. Let’s not talk about the last time I actually left the house work… I think it was the day before yesterday, to run to the pharmacy. Plus, since I’m actually running two businesses, where one requires me to be on the computer but the other doesn’t, even when I’m not online, I’m usually working. At home.

Don’t get me wrong. I LOVE what I do. (I feel like that should be ten times larger type than it is.) I wouldn’t trade it for the world, I wouldn’t go back to working for a corporation unless it was an absolute necessity (like, if I had kids and this self-employment thing wasn’t cutting it). I love the people I know, my clients, the interactions I do have, and all the benefits that go along with working from home like saving on gas and food expenses, not having to spend money on a particular wardrobe, dealing with co-workers or a nasty boss (though there are elements of that at times in any business)… I do love my career. There are just days where it all comes down on your head and you have to vent, so here I am. Please, forgive me? :)