Best & Worst Tools For Running Your Online Business

Best & Worst Tools For Running Your Online Business

Each year I am approached by companies wanting me to try their products & services and ultimately share them with all of you. Some have been great additions to my business others have left me disappointed and flummoxed. I thought I would share with you the best & the worst from the past year!

To begin with, I’m going to break it down into 4 categories.

  1. Blogging tools
  2. Social Media
  3. Email Marketing
  4. Running your business

Blogging Tools

As you know (if you have a blog) there is always so much that needs to be done in a short amount of time so anything that I can find that will:

  • Save Time
  • Save Money
  • Improve My Skills

is a Godsend to me. Now, I want to share them with you!

Web Hosting  

I have my own hosting that I provide through Flywheel (owned by WPEngine) which runs $20 a month. We provide fast, secure hosting, free SSL’s, and amazing support. I only have three spots available.

For someone just starting out or on a tight budget I use **Bluehost. I have to say that I have set up hundreds of sites on Bluehost and not once have I ever had a problem. Once upon a time, Bluehost was considered the bottom of the barrel in terms of hosting, but a few years ago they turned it around and I have to say that I’ve been very impressed with how hard they have worked to improve every aspect of their service.

Themes

I have always been a Genesis girl and **Studio Press is the place to get the best themes. A few months ago I had the opportunity to work with **Divi by Elegant themes and I have to say that I absolutely love it! It’s so versatile and easy to use and saves me tons of time. There are so many things included that you hardly need any plugins at all!

Plugins

Listen I know that those sneaky plugins get you where it hurts. I’m sure you have seen the notices in your dashboard ‘get this pro version’, ‘buy this’, ‘do that’.  Nine times out of 10 you don’t need it. There are free plugins for just about anything. My go-to plugins are:

  • Updraft Plus for backing up.
  • Wordfence for security.
  • Jetpack lots of things.
  • Akismet for spam.

If you’re using Genesis then I add:

  • Genesis Enews (optins)
  • Simple Social Icons
  • Simple Social Share

If you’re using Divi

  • Bloom (optins)

All of those are free & if there’s something you want just search the plugin repository.

Free Courses

From WordPress

WP Beginners
Neliossoftware

Hubspot created a blog post with 60 free online courses that you can take to improve your skills. If you don’t follow Hubspot’s blog you really should. There is always so much valuable information.

Would you like to learn more about Facebook ads? Here’s a great post by Insane Growth that explains it all.

Social Media

Social media is the bane of my existence, but it’s also a necessary evil. I build websites and create content with business tips for bloggers, entrepreneurs & small businesses. I get asked to try a lot of different social media scheduling tool and here is my honest opinion.

**#1 For me is Sendible.com. I run three different websites and manage several clients’ social media accounts. Scheduling blog posts and monitoring keywords that I set up, even monitoring my competitor’s social media accounts. If you run multiple blogs or social media accounts

Sendible is the best.

Most places make you pay per account so for three sites I would have to have three different accounts. I would only be able to pick up one RSS feed unless I had three different accounts.

I could not run my business without Sendible!

Sendible is different. I have a set number of services I can set up and it doesn’t matter how many RSS feeds you pick up and auto-posts new pieces. You can schedule them to repeat however many times it’s all completely up to you. I post to five different FB pages for various people and with Sendible I can do it automatically saving myself lots of time.

Then there is **Tailwind

I love using it for Pinterest.

I know I’m not taking full advantage of the features but what I am using I love. BUT  I don’t like them for Instagram. I tried it I really did, but it was just too confusing and I wasting to much time trying to figure it out.

A few years ago I bought a lifetime membership for Grum.co for only $39 and I love it for scheduling Instagram posts. That’s all it does Instagram, but it’s so easy to use. Unfortunately, they are no longer taking on new customers. If I didn’t have this I would make the time for Tailwind, but this one is just to easy and it’s a lifetime purchase.

CoSchedule

I love Co-schedule I really do, but because of the limitations of only having one site on one account, I just can’t justify that expense when I have other options. It offers a boatload of features and it’s easy to use.

There is really no “free” service for scheduling your content. You can use “Publicize” inside your WordPress site and it will automatically post to FB, Twitter, & LinkedIn.

I know that Buffer offers a free version but I’m not sure of its limitations. I’ve always found it too confusing to use.

If you’re going to spend money this is one of the places where I say if you can pay for it then get it. A good social media scheduler can save you loads of time while helping you build your tribe.

Email Marketing

In today’s 24/7, 100mph world if you’re not marketing through email then you’re leaving a lot of money on the table. You should absolutely be sending a welcome email sequence & sending out an RSS to your subscribers.

A few months ago, I was singing the praises of **Engagebay and I learned a very valuable lesson. Sometimes quick decisions can be the wrong decisions. It can send beautiful emails, there are tools for marketing, sales or service. I feel as if it is an excellent platform, but it just didn’t fit my needs. The main problem was the RSS emails. There just wasn’t enough flexibility and I actually sent out a few crazy emails before I gave up.

If you’re running a small business then I cannot recommend Engagebay enough. It’s beautiful, easy to use and handles so many tasks. It’s also affordable. Here is a link to their Youtube channel which has a lot of info about its features. It’s a great platform I just tend to have a problem with change I guess.

So, I’m back at MailChimp and that’s where I’m staying! I know my way around, it’s easy to use (most of the time) and it’s cheap. They have changed things and unless you have a paid account you are limited in what you can do. Such as only having one audience(list), limitations on automation, etc. I pay for The Blogging 911 account and use the free version for Wanding Web Designer & The Diary of an Alzheimer’s Caregiver my other two sites. The paid version runs me $9.63 a month.

Have you seen my the MAILCHIMP EXPLAINED ebook in the 911 Resource Library? It’s just one of the many free resources inside.

 

 

I’ve worked with ConvertKit before and it is easy to use. I didn’t like the design limitations and figure if I’m going to spend $30 a month it needs to have a lot more.

Running your Business

There are several tools that I use every single day to run my business. Some are free (well most are free) but they are still necessary. Tools such as:

  • 17Hats – is an all-around scheduling tool, lead capture forms, templates such as contracts or estimates. It runs $39 a month for all of its features and there are many. I personally only use the free version because I use the templates & lead capture forms (those project inquiry forms you see around here).
  • Acuity Scheduling – If you need an easy way for people to schedule appointments I highly recommend Acuity. Their free version has always been more than enough for me.
  • Asana – This is my project management tool and it keeps me on track when I’m building out a new site, managing other projects or even just things I need to do. There is both a free and paid version and I’ve always found the free version more than enough for my needs.
  • Canva – There is a free version of Canva that works very well. I use Canva almost every single day and I love it for it’s easy to use dashboard, to the free and paid elements like stock photos, icons, frames, colors, and fonts. For this, I splurge and get the paid version so that I can store my own logos, my fonts (up to 25) and my brand colors for $12.95.
  • Google Drive – Also free. I use it to store all of my clients’ assets. I like how easy it is and it works great with Gmail which is another great free tool. I do use the paid version of this and it runs $6 a month and I have tons of storage and it’s easy to use.
  • One Drive – This is part of my Microsoft subscription which is about $7 a month. This is where I keep all of my assets. (Such as stock images, templates, or other graphics).
  • Dropbox – This is where I store all of the backups for my clients & my own personal websites. This costs around $10 but they’ve added a bunch of new features.
  • Screencast-o-matic – This another thing I purchased from Sumo. It was a lifetime subscription for only $39 and I use it whenever I need to make tutorials or other videos where I share my screen. It’s something I purchased on APPSUMO.
  • APPSUMO – is a great place to find great deals on products or services to run your business! They always have freebies or lifetime deals that will save you tons of time and money.

Know some great tools that I might not know about? Let me know in the comments below.

** Means that it is an affiliate link if you purchase a service, with the (**) beside it, means that I will earn a small commission that will in no way affect your cost.

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How To Set Attainable Goals In 2020

How To Set Attainable Goals In 2020

It’s easy to set a goal. It can be as simple as I want to go XXX in 2020 or I want to improve my social media following, but goals like this are seldom successful. These goals are too broad. They’re undefined.

Wikipedia’s definition of a goal is:

A goal is an idea of the future or desired result that a person or a group of people envision, plan and commit to achieving. People endeavor to reach goals within a finite time by setting deadlines.

  • A goal is something you work for. It’s not given to you.
  • A goal is a way of improving, of growing, of enhancing even.
  • A goal is a way of measuring the success of your business.

You have to drill down and get the answers to where you are right at this moment and where you want to be in a future moment.

It’s a specific growth in a specific time frame.

How often do you measure your business? Things like:

  • income stream
  • outsourcing costs
  • time spent on certain projects
  • social media growth (each platform)
  • analytics
  • ad sources & conversions

At the end of this year, 2019, I will have published 40 blog posts. I actually thought I had done a better job and was surprised the number was so low. I run three websites and write all of the content for two of them so maybe it’s not to bad.

Anyway, I wrote 40 posts. Next year, I would like to create a blog post every week. So I need to create 12 more than I did last. year. It’s specific and it is attainable if I work a little harder.

I try and concentrate on three social media platforms even though I’m on most of the big ones. I only want to put my best effort into proven strategies that I’ve used in the past.

Wandering Web Designer is a relatively new site, but right now I have 182 Likes which honestly sucks. The Blogging 911 has 531 Likes and The Diary of an Alzheimer’s Caregiver has 862 Likes. These numbers are nothing to write home about. Facebook is the least favorite of my top three but often it is highest in referrals.

I know that I need to increase these numbers but I’m not really sure how to accomplish this. I’m also not willing to put in a lot of effort because I just don’t care much for the platform. An important thing for us to remember though it shouldn’t matter which social platform we like it only matters what our readers, customers or clients prefer.

Still, if we’re not improving we’re growing stagnant. I would like to increase each of these accounts by at least 100 likes each. That’s a specific goal and that, with a little hard work, is attainable which leads to greater success by keeping a positive outlook. Let’s face it. If we don’t like it we really aren’t going to reach the ultimate success and maybe that’s okay for some things.

I’ve been concentrating on Instagram and Pinterest lately just because I like them over FB. I’m not a people person and I like that it takes less engagement, unlike FB. I’m shy and I constantly second guess myself on what I should be posting to FB and that in a nutshell is why I don’t like it. It overwhelms me.

I have two Instagram accounts. one for The Blogging 911 & the other Wandering Web Designer. On 911 I have 3,277 followers & on WWD I have about 3,133 followers. I’ve been putting so much hard work into these two accounts and I know that I can do even better by creating the weekly content.

I also have, you guessed it, two Pinterest accounts. The Blogging 911 has 399 followers which can definitely use some improvement, but it’s not enough to say I want to build my community larger on Pinterest. You need specifics & you need a plan. I would like to build my Pinterest account up to at least 1,000 by the end of 2020.

On Wandering Web Designer has 1.6 thousand followers and I’d like to improve it by 400. So by the end of 2020, I’d like to have 2,000 followers.

Once I’ve figured out my goals, the next thing I need to do is create a specific plan to attain it. Write it all out. There’s nothing like seeing statistics and plans on paper to make them real. Check your growth at set intervals. Maybe every month or every 3 months. It’s totally up to you.

  • Make a plan
  • Write it down
  • follow your growth
  • tweak your plan

If you drill down to the specifics and set attainable (while still pushing yourself) goals you will achieve success whatever your goals might be.

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Women In Biz #10 Barbara Harmon

Women In Biz #10 Barbara Harmon

Welcome to the tenth in our “Women In Biz All Around WordPress” feature that will run the 1st Sunday of every month. It’s a new series where we spotlight amazing women and the ways in which they have used WordPress to spread their message, sell their products, or provide valuable services.

The hope is to inspire other midlife women to build their online businesses and find what we’re all looking for; financial freedom, a lifestyle they love, and excitement they may have been missing! All of these women are current or former clients of mine who have inspired me over the years and I think they will inspire you as well.

Barbara Harmon or Barb as I call her is a lovely woman who never fails to bring a smile to my face. She has faced hardships that many of us couldn’t even imagine but has somehow remained a beautiful, positive woman who looks toward the future with curiosity and excitement.

She recently became an ex-pat when she and her husband decided to have the grandest of adventures by moving to Pézenas, a small village in the south of France.! I am so jealous I have to admit but one day I’m determined to sit under the Eiffel Tower with her having a coffee and some great conversations.

Tell us a little bit about you

I’m a wife, mother, gram, retired cosmetic exec, entrepreneur, blogger, and now a full-time expat in Pézenas, France.

What made you first decide to build a blog or website? How long have you had your site? 

I started my first blog (The French Elements) in 2007 to tie in with an online business. Within months it became more of a journal than a business blog. It was a place to share family life, travel, hopes, dreams, and of course, goals as well as product. When my youngest son passed in 2015, I closed my shop and put the blog to bed. The passion for both was gone. In 2016, Chasing The Next Chapter was birthed.

What is your niche?

I’m a Gemini which pretty much says it all. Niche?… Travel, fashion, food, fun: and now I can add writing about life in a small, medieval village in France.

Of all of your blog posts or pages on your site which is your favorite?

I’m partial, so it’s difficult to choose a favorite, but post wise it has to be the series of posts titled You Know It’s Hot When. These are annual posts that began when I was writing my first blog. The inspiration was summer in Arizona, hell on earth. My favorite page, hands down, is The Journey Begins. If I ever need encouragement, I re-visit this page as it illustrates how far we’ve come. With grit, determination, and a whole lot of prayer, we achieved a life-changing goal in a short period. We became truly serious about moving overseas in October 2018. In June 2019, we realized that dream/goal when we moved to France. It was an incredible amount of work (STRESS) but worth every gray hair.

What is your favorite social media platform and why?

Instagram! It’s so easy (almost too easy) to quickly reach a variety of people with just a picture, a few words, and of course, the famous hashtag. IG has broadened my horizon and provided the opportunity to connect with folks around the globe—people I would never have ‘met.’ I wish there were fewer sponsored ads, though!

Do you find WordPress easy to maneuver or do you avoid the back end like the plague?

I have a love/hate relationship with WordPress, Rena. I’m always excited when I can make a change to the site, but most of the time, I’m sending you an email titled ‘HELP’ because I’ve screwed something up trying to do it myself. All I can say is, “Thank God; you respond quickly and with a smile.”

Is your site a business that makes money or a passion that makes your heart sing?

It’s a passion that does make my heart sing, but I also use it as a ‘work’ tool. Several years ago, I re-visited freelance writing (I found my voice—once more) and added a section titled Articles with a variety of my published work. It’s easy for an editor to quickly get a feel for my style by reading through a few pieces. I’m pleased to say, I’ve built some strong relationships and traveled to some exciting locations via this page!

If you use your site for business what do you sell or what service do you provide?

Well, my site isn’t monetized (those ads/pop-ups drive me crazy), but a freelance writer usually receives some type of compensation for articles written, so I ‘sell’ my voice.

 

What is one thing you’d like people to know about you?

I can spot a fantastic bargain a mile away.

Would you like a little more of Barbara? Find her here:

FACEBOOK | INSTAGRAM | PINTEREST | WEBSITE

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The Seven Deadly Sins Of Web Design

The Seven Deadly Sins Of Web Design

Designing a well-built website is more than just pretty colors & fonts. There are do’s and don’ts that you need to be aware of. If you spot these don’ts on your own website I’m hoping you will recognize and fix immediately. It will benefit you, your readers, your pageviews and your followers.

#1 FONTS

Fonts that are too small or too light are a pain. I wear glasses and there are times that I can’t even read a piece of content because I literally can not see the font. Compose great headlines, write interesting content and use headline fonts that can grab attention. Also, line-height is an important factor. Give your text room! Big sections on content can overwhelm. Keep sentences & paragraphs short,

Think about it as an elevator. What do you do when the elevator door opens and it’s packed

#2 MOVING SLIDERS

A year or two moving sliders were all the rage, but as with everything else we began to see the drawbacks immediately. Slower sites, annoying movement or site bloat. Today moving sliders are so 2018 and if you’re still using them stop it!

#3 TOO MANY ADS

Listen, you’re never going to get rich running ads on your website BUT they can cost you big time. Site speed is so important these days and ads slow your site WAY DOWN! Not only that they’re annoying when there are so many you can hardly find the content. I assure you, your readers won’t. They will click off faster than you can say WAIT What?

#4 CONTENT OVERLOAD

I know it’s hard to create compelling content consistently (that’s a lot of c’s), but when you use long sentences and even longer paragraphs I can guarantee nobody is going to be reading it. People skim, they no longer read.

The best way to get more eyes on your content and lower that bounce rate is to write short complete sentences. Small paragraphs (no more than five sentences but even better three). Use your headlines correctly and space out your content so that it is easy to read quickly.

#5 BAD IMAGERY

As a designer, I think that imagery is so underrated. In my opinion, it’s the most important part of your content. Finding the right images isn’t easy but with loads of free stock photo sites, it’s a lot easier than before.

Think about your piece of content and find images that say what you mean. By that I mean if you write a post about blogging don’t use an image of a national park or if you’re a food blogger don’t use images that are money-related. I wrote the Essential Stock Image Guide that will show you what to use and where to find them.

#6 CONFUSING CONTENT

This is a little harder to explain, but what I mean is stay within your niche. If you’re a food blogger don’t suddenly throw in a travel piece. Or if you’re a travel blogger don’t suddenly start writing about crafting. It confuses your readers and a confused reader won’t be engaged.

I get it writing about the same things day after day gets boring and there are ways to incorporate different aspects. Maybe as a food blogger, you could write about the food in a city you just visited. Recreate the recipes or even build on it. If you’re a travel blogger write about the culture and display items of local color.

#7 COLOR & FONT HOARDING

This one is a constant fight. I get bored easily and changing things up keeps your site fresh and interesting BUT you can overdo it. Believe me, I can be the Queen of overdoing it. Using the wrong fonts in the wrong places or using too many different font types. Never use cursive in your main content. I seldom use serifs either just because it’s harder to read. A good crisp sans-serif is a great idea for your main font.

Limit yourself to no more than two different ones. You can always use different weights to help your content stand out. The more fonts the slower your site and the more confusing it can be to your reader. #thestruggleisreal

The same thing with color. Limits people! I never use more than three colors and seldom use that many. A good accent color and another to stand out against the rest. Any more can be confusing and choosing your color combinations is important.

It should be based on research for your niche and of course something that you AND your readers will relate to. Color psychology is real and it’s a very important step in the design process. For more information check out this post.

 

BONUS TIP

You should treat your website like the piece of prime real estate that it is. What I mean about is this;

When Google reads a website it goes from left to right just as you would read a book. So it stands to reason that the top left part of your website will be the most important space on the whole site. I’ve made a little illustration to show you exactly what I mean.

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Two Google Analytics Filters Everyone Entrepreneur Should Know About

Two Google Analytics Filters Everyone Entrepreneur Should Know About

Every blogger knows just how difficult it is to build a successful blog. There are so many things that you have to learn about that most people don’t even consider. Things like:

  • Creating graphics
  • Understanding email marketing
  • Social media
  • Branding

and that list goes on and on and on. You know the old joke:

How many hats does an entrepreneur where? ANSWER: All of them!

One thing that isn’t often talked about but is definitely a necessity is analytics. If you do affiliate marketing, sponsored posts or make money off of your site in any way you need to know the stats behind it.

Things like pageviews, unique visitors, bounce rates. Terms like this usually invoke either 1. Your eyes glaze over and you skim the rest of the article or 2. Confusion about what it all means.

Today, I’m going to show you two Google Analytic filters that every blogger should be using as well.

Filters are a way of weeding out the events that you don’t want in your final counts. The first of which is the IP filter. What does this mean? You need to be filtering out your own IP address so that you are not counted along with your other stats. Why you ask? Because without this particular filter you won’t get an accurate picture of how your site is doing.

So, together we’re going to set up an IP filter. It’s really simple so don’t panic!

The next filter we’re going to set up is to keep your analytics from being hijacked. In the video below I show you exactly how to set up both filters.

How can someone hijack your analytics? Well, there’s a little known way of finding out anyone’s GA code. It’s very simple.

  1. Go to your website.
  2. Right-click your mouse.
  3. Choose “Page Source”.
  4. Hit CTRL + F for the find command and type in GA.
  5. Scroll down and you’ll see your own GA code.

There isn’t a way to hide them from this view so the only thing you can do is to add a filter that will keep your GA code safe from hijacking.

Go into your GA account, click on ADMIN>>Filters. Add a new filter and then choose “CREATE NEW FILTER” and give it a name that you will remember.

Scroll down and hit “CUSTOM” and then check the “Include” button. In the dropdown choose HOSTNAME and in the box below type in YOURDOMAINNAME.COM & click save! It’s that easy.

Need a little more help? Try this video I made to show you how to quickly filter out your IP address and including only your own hostname.

Have questions? Let me know in the comments below!

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Women In Biz #8 Esther Zimmer

Women In Biz #8 Esther Zimmer

 

Welcome to the eighth in our “Women In Biz All Around WordPress” feature that will run the 1st Sunday of every month. It’s a new series where we spotlight amazing women and the ways in which they have used WordPress to spread their message, sell their products, or provide valuable services.

The hope is to inspire other midlife women to build their online businesses and find what we’re all looking for; financial freedom, a lifestyle they love, and excitement they may have been missing! All of these women are current or former clients of mine who have inspired me over the years and I think they will inspire you as well.

This month, I have a special treat for you!

Esther Zimmer is one of the kindest women I know. She’s a truth-teller & has a way of putting into words what we all feel sometimes as either the grown women in our mirrors or the little girls in our hearts.

She doesn’t send newsletters, no way, not Esther. She sends love letters and that’s exactly what they are. Each month, I look forward to what amounts to an email from a much-loved friend on the other side of the pond.

Let me introduce to you, Esther Zimmer!

Tell us a little bit about you

I’m an Australian living in London with my American husband, David. Some say this makes my life complicated, I say it makes it interesting. I’m childless by choice, worked in corporate communications for over 20 years, as a personal stylist for three and almost seven years ago I started my self-directed recovery from disordered eating because I was tired of feeling like I was constantly at war with my body and food, and feeling alone and ashamed. I’d lived that way for almost 30 years.

Through my recovery, I wrote a far more powerful story for myself and I consider this to be one of my greatest achievements. Today I don’t diet and I love my body, but I’m still a work-in-progress; I fall over, I get back up, I’m constantly becoming and evolving and growing and I love that so much.

I recently spent a year on an incredible cycling adventure. David and I rode our bicycles from Turkey to Thailand (with the occasional plane, train, and automobile ride thrown in) and without an iota of cycle touring experience between us. It was one of the best things we’ve ever done!

Since May of 2019 I’ve been back in London, a city I was hoping I wouldn’t return to, at least not to live. However, here I am, so I’m treating my return as an opportunity to have a do-over, to live the London life I didn’t truly give myself permission to live my first 17 years here. I believe life is a precious gift and we must embrace the moment we’re in.

So, right now I’m looking at my life and figuring out exactly what my do-over looks like, whilst writing my first book – a travel memoir – consulting part-time and creating a gorgeous vision for the next iteration of my business. My best moments in life are the ones spent with the people I love.

What made you first decide to build a blog or website? How long have you had your site? 

I first started blogging in the summer of 2013 when I left a corporate career in communications to do what many people dream about: I launched my own business – as a personal stylist. My intention was to use that blog as a way to showcase my own personal style and styling skills. However, I soon discovered I wasn’t that interested in writing about style from that perspective and in the years I worked in the fashion industry I also became acutely aware of how destructive it is – to people and the planet – styling no longer felt like a fulfilling vocation. At the end of 2016, I closed my consultancy and thus, my blog. My business no longer aligned to my personal values and walking away from everything I’d created was one of the bravest – and best – choices I’ve ever made.

Since then I’ve been writing under my own name at estherzimmer.com because what I did learn from my first foray into blogging is that the writing I share publicly – as opposed to the words I write in my journal – help me figure out what I truly believe in and what’s important to me; it’s also been a great way to achieve closure on certain chapters of my life and at times, to make sense of the world. It’s also led me to connect with some fabulous people!

 

I’ve not been particularly prolific since I started writing under my own name as I’ve been travelling a lot, and maybe I never will be, but 2020 is the year I’m going to get back to writing consistently because I’ll actually be in one place! I have several series planned because I love to write that way – to create a body of work – rather than a random assortment of articles. I’m not sure why that works better for me, but I’ve decided I’m going to focus more on the things that feel good in my writing and my work from now on. Also, I’ll be using it as a way to showcase my writing when I start looking for an editor and later, a publisher for my book.

What is your niche?

My audience is typically women 45 and older who want to make the rest of their lives, the best of their lives. Women who know they’re not meant to be just one thing; they know they can love camping under the stars and city breaks in five-star hotels, they know they can paint their nails, wear stylish clothes and climb mountains. Women who refuse to choose between all the different, precious pieces of who they are.

I write a regular, personal essay series (newsletter) called “Truth & Clues” where I share the truth about my life a woman in her 40s who’s still trying to figure out her place in the world, and the clues I’m following as I take one step forward, followed by the next. I write about things I was taught not to talk about: Ambition, fears, mental health, menstruation, menopause, money, sex…you get the idea.

I write for women like me; women who long for human stories, the ones that make us feel a little less alone. If this resonates with you, please do subscribe at estherzimmer.com!

Of all of your blog posts or pages on your site which is your favorite?

I love this question because some people seem to consider it arrogant if you claim to love your own writing! But if you don’t love it, how can you expect anyone else to? So, I have two favourites, “Leaving London: Nothing is Wasted” because I made a lot of mistakes the first 17 years I lived in London and writing such a deeply personal piece helped me to close the chapter on those mistakes and view them as lessons instead.

The Jewels that are Buried Deep Within You” is my other favourite because journaling has been the foundation for everything I’ve created in my life. This blog post also came about after an afternoon of shopping in Hanoi when I picked up an exact version of a notebook I’d purchased six years before in London. You’ll have to read the blog post to see why that was a moment that took my breath away!What is your favorite social media platform and why?

I frequently feel like I’m a bit of an anomaly when it comes to social media. I love it (and met one of my most precious girlfriends through Instagram) but I don’t love the amount of time it takes up. I don’t hesitate to step back from using it if I feel like social media is taking time away from actually living my life. To be honest, I’ve not been active on any of my social media channels the past few months. I’m currently in the process of deciding what, how and when I’m going to use it going forward.

Also, I prefer to create a feeling of community and connection rather than having someone feeling like they’re just another face in the crowd, and this seems to be easier for me to achieve via email. I receive the most beautiful emails from my subscribers, have been offered some fabulous opportunities as a result of the personal stories I share and have met and become friends with readers from other countries, either because I’ve been visiting their part of the world, or they’ve been visiting mine.

I don’t like the word “newsletter” though, that feels so impersonal to me. I call my updates “personal essays” because that’s exactly what they are. I’m so tired of all the clichéd, everything-needs-to-be-a-lesson, self-help that’s being peddled right now. I want to know about the state of your heart, that’s what makes me feel a connection with you and if you have a business, buy from you.

Do you find WordPress easy to maneuver or do you avoid the back end like the plague?

If I apply myself I find it “reasonably easy” to manoeuvre, but I don’t enjoy figuring out the technical side of things. I often insist on doing everything myself though – because I am a closet control freak – but one of my resolutions for 2020 is to spend less time on things I don’t love, so I can spend more time on things I do. This means handing over “some” control! However, Rena is one of the best people I’ve worked with and has restored my faith in trusting others to do things they’re far better at – and more passionate about – than I am.

Is your site a business that makes money or a passion that makes your heart sing?

I’m not currently making money from my site so I guess that makes it a passion project. I’ve never been interested in advertising or doing paid or sponsored posts, however, but I do believe we get to choose what feels right for us individually. That’s just never felt right for me. Up until recently, I was selling an online course and I want to create more of those.

If you use your site for business what do you sell or what service do you provide?

I’m not selling anything right now as I’m expanding and updating the content of my first online course, which is designed to help you develop a journaling practice. I’m also in the early stages of creating two new online courses for 2020; one will guide you through “future writing”, a powerful writing practice I use in my own life. The other one is a course on how to style yourself, because what I learnt from my years as a stylist is that so many women struggle with this one thing we all have to do every damn day – get dressed – and that breaks my heart.

What is one thing you’d like people to know about you?

I care deeply about animal conservation – with a particular focus on elephant conservation – I worked as a volunteer at Elephant Nature Park (ENP) in Thailand earlier this year and I’m a UK Ambassador for ENP. Over 10 million tourists ride elephants in Thailand each year, but in order for an elephant to be tamed so it can be ridden, it literally has to have the wild beaten out of it when it’s just a baby. I recommend watching the documentary, “Love & Bananas”. Standing eye-to-eye with an elephant and feeding it bananas is a far more beautiful experience than sitting on top of one ever could be. It’s an experience that might even change your life forever.

Would you like a little more of Esther? Find her here:

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