Is September the New January?

Is September the New January?

Have you heard versions of this?

September is the new January!

Fall is a fresh start!

It makes perfect sense to me because, let’s be honest here, January is all about intention and often no action. Sure, we have big dreams. We set big goals. But, who wants to work on their beach body when there’s a foot of snow outside? Or dive into huge work projects when you know you have a whole year ahead of you?

September reminds us that the year is coming to a close. That we have a smidge over one quarter of the calendar left to accomplish all those things we wanted to do. It’s a perfect time to check in on those goals, reflect on what’s working, and change what isn’t.

Here’s my fail-proof, 5-step strategy for a successful Q4 that answers the question:

Is September the new January?

Nope! It’s much, much better!

  1. Assess. Pull out those goals you set at the beginning of the year. Tick off the ones you’ve accomplished, and review the ones you haven’t. Flip through your journal and daily agenda. What projects have you wanted to tackle all year that you just haven’t gotten to? What projects did you not plan for but did accomplish anyway? This isn’t the time to judge yourself (that comes later-ha!) but rather to note what you’ve done and what you still want to do.
  2. Celebrate! Does that sound strange to you? I think we self-directed folks tend to move the bar on ourselves constantly. Achieve one goal? Move onto the next! Get that one? Next! Now that you have a list in front of you of all you have accomplished so far, raise that glass and toast your wins! Better yet: Make it a habit! Celebrate your victories before you move the target on yourself!
  3. Plan. Go back to the list of things you haven’t yet finished for the year. Do those goals and projects still excite you? Are they things that will continue to grow you and your business? If not, maybe it’s time to let them go. (And that’s OK!) If they do, or if something had simply fallen off your radar, now’s the time to plan their completion. I like to start a new page in my notebook for each project. If you’re a digital planner, go for a tool like Trello. List out every tiny action that you need to complete, and–here’s the most important piece–assign a deadline to each minuscule step! Then, add each of those deadlines to your calendar. As the saying goes, Failing to plan is planning to fail!
  4. Execute. Now, do those tasks! And do ’em by their deadlines! No excuses. Just get it done. You’ll feel like such a badass if you can cross everything off by the end of the year.
  5. Repeat. Assess, celebrate, plan, and execute on repeat. Set a weekly date with yourself to go through these steps. Make it nonnegotiable. Put it in your calendar. A weekly session keeps you focused and on track, which ultimately means that you won’t need a September or January to reset!

How often do you revisit your goals and plans? Are you a big New Year’s goal setter? Or a September goal getter? Something in between?

Here’s to a fun, productive, and profitable Q4!

There’s No Such Thing as Passive Income

Well, technically there is… but NOT how it’s defined by online salespeople. 

There's No Such Thing as Passive Income

What is passive income?

From BusinessDictonary.com: “Earnings from rent, limited partnership, or other sources of income (in which the earner does not take an active part), not including salary, wage, interest, or capital gain. Also called unearned income, passive income can be written off against passive losses.”

There is a section of the U.S. tax code dedicated to passive income as it’s defined above. It’s this.

In other words: Passive income IS NOT ebooks, info products, webinars, courses, downloads, workbooks, etc. that sell “in your sleep.”

That isn’t passive income. See the official definition above, whereby the earner does nothing active.

So, why is it that there are dozens and dozens of online salespeople who claim that their course, their ebook, their workshop, their mastermind will help YOU create a stream of passive income, earning you virtually six figures (why do they always say six figures?) while you sleep?

Why? Well, because people are willing to throw money at the idea that they can earn a ton without doing much.

I hate to be the one to break it to you, but unless you are, say, a landlord or something that the IRS considers “passive,” selling anything online requires a ton of activation.

It’s the polar opposite of passive.

To make a living selling products online, you have to do one (or all) of three things:

  • You need to build a large, thriving, loyal audience–a feat that takes concerted, purposeful effort.
  • You need to spend a fortune on running ads, something that costs money and also a ton of your time because you have to figure out what types of ads convert, write the copy, create the imagery, run the campaigns, etc.
  • You need to create stellar products that deliver on what you promise at such a high value that your customers can’t wait to buy your next product.

All are worthy and worthwhile. None are passive.

They all take time.

They all take money.

If you don’t have an audience, you don’t have anyone to sell to, and it can take years of hard work to create that audience.

If you don’t have time and money to spend on ads, especially if you haven’t yet built that thriving, engaged audience for potential organic reach, no one will know your product exists.

And if you don’t create amazing products–something that takes a mountain of effort–you’ll find yourself with dissatisfied customers who demand refunds and, even worse, blast you on social.

Sure, once you have all that in place–a thriving audience, an effective ad campaign, and amazing products–you’ll make money while you sleep as products sell.

But you’ll never build a thriving, sustainable business with minimal effort. You’ll just end up with unhappy customers (which, btw, doesn’t stop MANY people from still selling online… they just funnel gobs and gobs of money into targeted ad campaigns to hit new people with each launch).

Instead of throwing your time and money at some online guru who claims to be able to help you build a six-figure income in your sleep, stop.

Take a breath.

Then attack your business with passion and purpose.

Save the money you were going to spend and create and run your ad campaigns instead.

Save the time you were going to spend and create amazing products that people can’t help but buy.

Save the effort you were going to expend and work on building your audience through authentic content creation and purposeful content marketing.

And if you need help with the content piece, check out my super affordable, you-do-the-hard-work guide, Authentic Blogging. For only ten bucks, you get:

  • Seven chapters to help you discover your authentic voice.
  • Worksheets to improve your blogging skills.
  • Appendices with resources to further your study.
  • Exclusive bonus worksheets to expand on the concepts.

Nothing about blogging is passive. Nothing about creating info products is passive. Nothing about selling online is passive. Don’t fall into the “passive income” trap! Do the hard work, and it’ll pay off in spades!

What I’m Working On…

What I'm Working on via MaggieMarton.com

It’s been a bonkers 2016 so far! (I feel like I say that about every year…)

I took on the role of Senior Editor at BlogPaws at the end of 2015, and it’s been a whirlwind of activity since. I’m proud of all that’s been accomplished on the BlogPaws blog and would love for you to go check it out.

I’ve also contributed two columns each month to Pet Age Magazine. It’s such a pleasure to work with leading pet industry manufacturers and media pros on a monthly basis. I learn so much with every story I write. Check out some of my recent work.

It’s been a travel-heavy year, too. It started with the BlogPaws team summit in Phoenix earlier this year, followed by Global Pet Expo in Orlando, and my trip to Best Friends in May. BlogPaws is around the corner, in Phoenix at the end of June. That’s followed by SuperZoo in Last Vegas and a girlfriends’ trip to Vancouver at the end of August. Whew!

I took on a bunch of other little side projects, too, like contributing blog posts to PAW5 each month. I love that gig because they’re an eco-friendly brand that’s all about enriching our pets’ lives. How great is that?

Lastly, I’ve been chipping away at OMD. To be honest, I’ve struggled to keep up with it, not just because of all the work stuff, but because it’s hard to find our herd’s new voice after we lost Lucas. Everything changed, and it’s just taken me time to wrap my head around it and find this new voice. But, it’s coming.

So, that’s where I’ve been! How about you? Connect with me on Twitter so we can compare project notes!

Why BlogPaws?

On a sunny May morning in 2010, I pulled into a gas station somewhere between Bloomington, IN, and Columbus, OH. I pulled out my phone while the tank filled. I spotted a ton of tweets from other folks who were on their way to the first ever BlogPaws conference.

I actually considered NOT tweeting that I was on my way, too, because I felt like such a fraud. Who was I to be going to a social media conference? Who was I–a blogger with less than a year under her belt–to think I could hold my own in a professional crowd?

Of course, it all turned out fine, despite myriad doubts and fears and insecurities. In fact, it turned out great. Some of the dearest friends and most important people in my life today were friendships formed at that first BlogPaws. I learned a ton, though I was incredibly intimidated. I vividly remember hearing a speaker say that you can’t really make any money at the blogging game until you have at least 5,000 followers. I balked. At the time, I don’t think I had more than 50 or 100 readers at that time. Not per day. Not per week. Per month!

Since then, since BlogPaws 2010, I’ve topped 20,000. I credit my herd with that growth because they’re the ones who give me the stories to tell. But, I also credit BlogPaws–not just the speakers and sessions and keynotes, but the relationships formed. If I have a WordPress question or need a contact at a PR agency, or if I just need someone to cry on the phone with (which I did when Lucas was diagnosed with cancer), that community is there.

Sure, BlogPaws isn’t perfect. But there’s truly no other organization like it, and we can all improve if we work together in constructive, positive ways.

We’re lucky: We’re in two growth industries. The pet industry has become a massive, innovative behemoth, and the blogosphere continues to expand and develop. Both industries are primed for development. We, as pet bloggers and social media influencers, are in position to lead, to direct the future of both capacities.

We have that power.

And that’s why I go to BlogPaws.

Join me?

Here’s what I’ve been working on

What I'm Working on via MaggieMarton.com

Whew. Things have been busy, busy, busy. My goal for November was simply to keep my head above water!

We relocated, and the move took up far more time than I ever imagined. And we’ve moved a lot. This one was an extra-big-beast for some reason. Thankfully, though, we’re settled in and (mostly) unpacked. I’m grateful it was all completed before the bustle of the holiday season!

In the meantime, I’ve been working away. I’m finishing up the semester teaching writing skills to an eager bunch of adults who are all working like crazy to get to the final paper.

I’ve also been writing for one of my favorite sites, PetGuide.com!

Plus, I’ve had the unique opportunity to serve as a campaign manager for several blogger campaigns for BlogPaws. It’s been an incredible learning experience. Part of the job requires reading a handful of blogs every morning, and I’ve spotted so many “best practices” and clever ideas. Soaking it all up!

There is so much on the horizon, so many big, huge things about to happen. I can’t wait to share them all as the projects get finalized. Stay tuned.

In the meantime, have a wonderful week and a productive start to December!

5 Ways to Feel Crazy Productive Every Single Day

Do note that this piece isn’t called “5 ways to be crazy productive.”

This list of five wins will help you feel crazy productive every single day. And who doesn’t want to feel like they’re getting it all done?

5 Ways to Feel Crazy Productive Every Single Day

5 easy, simple, can’t-miss ways to feel crazy productive:

  1. Make your bed as soon as you get up. Seriously. It may seem unnecessary, but if you don’t get anything else done the rest of the day, at least you did that!
  2. Drink 8-10 glasses of water every day. Put it on your to-do list, and relish crossing it off!
  3. Turn off notifications on your cell phone, tablet, and laptop for two hours every morning. You will be astounded – at least, I was – to see how much you get done without all those dings.
  4. As soon as you sit in your desk chair, pull out a sticky note or scrap of paper, and write at the top: The single most important thing for me to accomplish today is____. Then, do that thing! It seems simple, right? But how many times do you think, “It’s already 5:00, and I’ve gotten nothing accomplished!” This will ensure you have your Most Important Thing done!
  5. This last one’s a biggie and something I’ve only recently started. When I plot my day, I now estimate how long a task will take. I write that amount in pencil next to the task or meeting. Then, when I complete the task, I write down how long it actually took. Four days into this routine, and my eyes are open wide! I had my schedule all kinds of under- and over-estimated. Now, I’m honing in on a more accurate idea of what I can accomplish in a day. (By the way, I used almost one hour less time yesterday than anticipated. Hello, bonus nap!)

What about you? How do you set yourself up to feel good about your accomplishments each day? 

What makes an expert?

As a writer, I frequently interview experts in various fields because their in-the-trenches insights help explain complicated concepts, or they’re the first to know the latest advances or changes in a given industry.

Then, imagine my surprise, when I’ve been called a handful of times this year to be an expert source for an article, a radio show, and on other blogs! I was shocked that someone dug me up on Google and though that I had the credentials to be a source.

But, of course, that’s exactly how I do it when I’m looking for someone to interview.

So, how do I know who to call on? What makes an expert?

What makes an expert?

The first place I start is, of course, Google. First, I look for published articles. Experts are often published in scholarly or professional publications. Or, in many instances, if someone has been quoted in other mainstream articles, I can assume they’re versed on being interviewed.

Next, I look for social media presence. This varies widely by field, but if someone is active in the social space, I can usually count on that person to be responsive and able to convey ideas for a general audience.

Third, I seek out a personal or professional website. Honestly, these days, if someone doesn’t have a website, I discount their expertise. Even a single page that lists highlights and contact info is sufficient.

Finally, I toggle over to LinkedIn and check out the person’s profile.

Those four points give me a great indication if someone is widely published or cited, if they’re able to convey their ideas well, and if they’ll be responsive to working with the media.

Those are all “soft” criteria, of course, but it’s worked well for me. Time and again, by eliminating potential sources who don’t meet those elements, I wind up with the perfect person for the piece.

How do you seek out sources to interview for your stories? Any points I’m missing?

Around here lately: What I’m working on!

I’m lucky. I work with the best people around. My editors and clients are all incredible people who achieve amazing things, and I’m honored to play a small part in their work. Here are a few things I’ve been working on lately with these wonderful people:

Newsletters and web content: I’m challenged to work on an exciting communications strategy with a consulting company that links stateside businesses with overseas partners. It’s been a fun consulting gig, and I’m thrilled I get to work with women leaders on this one.

Pet retail trends: I adore Pet Age Magazine and my editor, Michelle. This is one of the most fun articles I get to write every month. If you’re not familiar with the magazine, go check it out! My latest article is live on the digital edition of the magazine.

Pet products: Oh, how I love finding new and exciting pet products. Every month, I dig up a few new products or roundup where to buy the best pet products in stores for Shoptopia. Such fun! Check it out here.

Book reviews: Whooo, boy. My “to-read” pile has grown enormous, which makes me so happy! I have a couple flights coming up, so I plan to power through my stack while traveling. I have reviews slated to appear here, on OhMyDog!, and on Goodreads.

I’m also waiting on the ink to dry on a couple new, exciting projects, which I’ll announce as soon as I can.

What are you working on these days? I hope your work plate is piled high with fun projects!

Does a work/life balance really exist?

Recently, I was combing through the January 2014 issue of Real Simple. I love this magazine. It feeds my obsession with cleanliness and organization.

Anyway, there was a piece about balance (I didn’t save the mag, so I’m sorry I can’t cite the author). Several contributors gave their definition of balance.

My overwhelming takeaway?

Balance means something different to everyone, and the important thing is to figure out your definition and aim for that. And – gasp! – it doesn’t necessarily mean putting in the exact same amount of effort with your kids as you do at work while maintaining a well-stocked, alphabetized pantry and a closet full of perfectly-tailored clothes.

I don’t know my definition yet – it has something to do with feeling professionally fulfilled while having plenty of time to walk and train with my dogs and hang out with friends and family – but I’m working on it.

So, does a work/life balance really exist?

Yep.

You just have to figure out what it is for you then work toward that.