The First Step to Getting the Life of Your Dreams

making dreams come true

I used to be the girl who when asked if she needed help carrying out her grocery bags would say no. I can carry my own damn bags, thank you very much. Yes, I have a baby in one arm, a lost set of keys, and a pinky to push this cart, but I’ll figure it out.

But I’m also the girl who is the first to drop to the floor to help when a stranger spills her purse. I’m a giver. I just want people to feel at peace, so I’ll do my part to make sure that happens.

You, too? I’m not surprised. We givers find each other. 

(For the audio version of this blog post CLICK HERE)

A few months back I went to a local spiritual store to get my aura read. Um yeah, that’s a thing. And, it’s pretty amazing. So this adorable fairy-looking lady, who definitely is a descendant of the Peter Pan family, takes a photo of me with a special camera. Out comes an instant photo of me, sitting on a chair, with a burst of color covering my face and head.

Like a pensive doctor about to give you some not-so-great news, she looks at me and says, “My concern is that your aura is off to the side.” My aura is off to the side! What does that mean?! Am I dying?? I'm on my way out, aren't I?

It turns out my aura was trying to tell me I was a little off balance. Meaning, I was giving more than I was receiving. Of course, this is pretty standard when you’re a mom, but my issue was a little deeper.

There was help and gifts around me, but I wasn’t willing to accept them. Why? Well, on some level I felt I wasn’t worthy of them, and on the flip side I felt if I received help then that would make me appear weak. You know… just crazy beliefs we pick up along the way.

The problem with not being able to receive help from the grocery guy is that we are sending a direct signal to the universe letting it know that its gifts—everything from money, love, and career help—are no good around here.

Here’s how you can switch it. First off, start small. Say thank you when people pay you a compliment, and really accept it. A friend recently told me that my website looked beautiful and I told her I couldn’t take credit because it was a Squarespace template. But hold up, I made it. I did! So damn it, Nikki, say thank you and accept.

Secondly, start feeling worthy. And you can do that by not allowing yourself to play the victim role anymore. Everything you see out there that you want, that perhaps other have, is up for grabs. We’re all made of the same stuff, which means we all deserve the same things. Wake up in the morning saying this, “I deserve to have a happy, abundant, peaceful life.” And keep it going throughout the day.

Life has so much to offer us, but we have to be willing to open up our arms and receive with humility. It’s starts with the smallest things — from allowing someone to open the door for us to accepting work at a fair pay rate.  After you build the muscle, you’ll have the strength for the big stuff. I want to see you with the big stuff.

Writer's Curse

how to be a better writer

The more I write, the more I begin to believe that writers, innately, must be insane people.

I subject myself to the same anxiety that comes with looking at a blank sheet paper that must magically transform into something legible, day after day. And this is a practice I believe to be fun. Really? Staring at the ceiling, while grasping my hands so tight that they begin to turn a blush white, and simultaneously praying to every god and saint (even the ones my mom considers to be of the Santeria variety) for divine intervention, is something I consider to be enjoyable?

In the midst of me stretching the skin on my face diabolically, while trying to complete my writing assignments for the day, it hits me: It’s not only writers who feel this. The feeling of constant self-doubt coexisting with a type of bright-eyed hope is an experience reserved for anyone who his crazy/romantic/brave enough to have the desire to create something… anything.

So why go through the pain? Those of us looking to create a business, a purpose, a painting, a revolution; are we all just crazy? Or is there something bigger than ourselves that drives us?

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The answer is yes. And while there might not always be a logical explanation as to why we strive to create, there’s a responsibility that comes with hearing the call. You must answer. Even when the self-doubt screams louder than the peaceful feeling of knowing that something is pushing you to move forward with your creation. We just have to trust and obey.

Author Anne Lamott said it best in her book, “Bird by Bird.” “You just have to keep getting out of your own way so that whatever it is that wants to be written can use you to write it.”

That quote gives me such comfort. And it rings true for anyone who feels moved to create something, conquer a goal, or live a dream. You just have to push the self-doubt aside and go on with your bad self.

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When a thought is constantly popping up in your head and guiding you to make a move, make it. Yes, while taking the step you might think, “What the F am I doing?” It happens to me every day. But just because you don’t answer the call doesn’t mean the phone will stop ringing.

Answer it. And surrender to your calling. As for the self-doubt, well, you can always use it for creative inspiration.

How to Know What to Charge a Client

how to charge a client_how to know what to charge a client-how to create a proposal

So you’re just starting to realize that people are willing to pay you for things you actually love to do like write stories, pin beautiful photos on Pinterest, or take pictures. I know… it is madness! Please, I always knew it was possible for you. I was just waiting for you to come around. Wink, wink.

Ok, so you have this potential client who wants to pay you for your services. Problem? You have no idea how much to charge or how to go about this whole proposal thingy. Allow me to share my process.

(Hey, if you're like me and sometimes prefer to listen, click here to get the audio version of this blog post.)

1. Identify the Type of Client

The service professionals I know all work on a sliding scale, meaning they slide their price up or down depending on what category of client they’re dealing with. I divide clients into three categories: Well Funded Clients, Opportunity Clients, and Passion Clients.

Well Funded Clients are the type of gigs that aren’t usually creatively exciting, but they have a nice budget and the client is easy to deal with. When I first started writing, a client came my way who needed website copy for his private jet company. Now, would I like to ride in a private jet? Yes. Am I passionate about the quality of leather on their chairs? No. But it was a good gig, the client was sweet, and pay was worth it. These clients pay more than let’s say a large media company (Conde Nast, NBC) because the work isn’t necessarily exciting, so in order to get a good quality creative they need to make it worth it.

Opportunity Clients are the Conde Nast and Refinery29 of the world. The pay they offer you is what you take (unless you’re an Annie Leibovitz, which would make me wonder how you got to my site and how awesome this would be, ha) because what will come out of the exposure is well worth it for you. And honestly, most Opportunity Clients (the ones that offer you the price) don’t pay bad, but definitely less than the Well Funded.

And then there are the Passion Clients. I love my 20-something ladies who are looking to create. I do my best to give them the lowest price I can, because that is where my passion is. Plus, working one-on-one with these clients help me understand them as a group, which later helps me create products that are consumed by the masses (like a blog post, a book, an online course). You have your own passions and your own entrepreneurial dreams. Use passion clients to help you make products that can serve more people and require less of your time. If this is your passion group, help them out with price but make sure to ask for something in return that can benefit you that might not necessarily be money. 

2. Set Your Hourly Rate

At this point in my career, I like to make $125 an hour. I know that sounds like a lot, but working per hour is very labor intensive especially for creatives. I love writing, but doing it all day is draining. I decided a while back that making money only writing was not sustainable for me. So if I’m doing it for a private client I have to make my hourly rate, because I chose not to work eight hours a day. The bigger picture is about making products that can serve more people and not need my physical labor all the time.

Decide on an hourly rate that feels right to you. There is no magic formula, but here’s an example. Let’s say you want to make $800 a week, so you need to make $160 a day. And let’s say you only want to work on client work 4 hours a day. That would make your hourly rate $40. ($160 divided by 4 hours = $40 an hour).

Next, you would make your sliding scale. Maybe it’s $35/hr for Passion Clients and $55/hr for Well Funded Clients. (Remember Opportunity Clients usually set they’re own price.)

3. Estimate Your Time

In order to give a proper price, you’ll need to know how long the work will take you. This is, I think, where people get the most confused and insecure.

At this point in your career, you’ve probably done similar work for free. Think back to the time you wrote an article for free. How long did it take you to write it? Or when your friend asked you to shoot some photos for her blog? How many hours did it take (minus the gossip break you two took in between, of course)?

If you can do a practice run, do it. One of my little protégés was just pricing out a web copy job. The client had given her the copy to look at in advance. She was being asked to edit it. I asked my mini me to edit one page of content and see how long it would take her to complete the task. She found that two pages took one hour. There were 10 pages, so that would take her five hours. Her hourly rate was $60. That times five (one sec… calculator break) is $300. She would price the job at $300

And that’s it, my friend. The next step is creating a really detailed proposal that educates the client on what it is you really do, and why you’re worth paying a certain rate. We’ll talk about that in another blog post.

Just remember, there is no magic formula. This is the best guide I can give you, but you know what is right for you. If you need additional help, please leave me a Q in the comments.

Much love to you.

Moving Forward Means Laying the Past to Rest

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I’m always looking to move forward. I mean, aren’t we all? I know that when I’m hitting a wall — when I’ve plateaued — it’s because I need to make a change. There is some sort of habit or belief that was working for me at some point, but right now it’s sabotaging the crap out of everything — my company, my family, and my skin.

At the end of last year, I was feeling the “blahs.” Ya know, bored with my website, my hair, the drama, the stagnancy of life… So I started to make moves. New website. New photo. New colorist. New workout routine. And boy did those changes make me happy.

For a while, at least.

But there it was again. Creeping in during my moments alone, stuck in traffic. Boredom. Restlessness. The knowing that nothing really changed.

And then out of nowhere, just as Sam Smith belted out “Stay with Me,” I realized, I wanted to stay — the past me didn’t want to go anywhere. I didn’t want it to go. Just like my buddy Sam, deep down I knew it would never work, but it’s what I knew. My old habits are comfortable. They’re predictable. And they don’t offer me any surprises. In other words, they’ve kept me small.

It took discipline and courage as I repeated to myself, for weeks, over and over again, “I am willing to change. It is safe to change.” I could feel all the old baggage I was pulling around, and I was getting comfortable with the idea of purging.

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As I started to commit to change, all the dark shadows that hang out inside of me started to come to the surface, and boy were they ugly. They’re the kind of bad habits we hate ourselves for. I was overwhelmed and thought it would be impossible to change, but then I started thinking about where I was holding myself back, and who I was affecting.

And here’s the truth: the stuff that holds us back from growing our blog or creating genuine work we’re proud of, is the same stuff that holds us back in relationships, our finances, and our love lives. Heavy baggage affects everything and everyone you’re traveling with, from your blog readers to your friends.   

If we’re serious about of living a life designed by us, creating art that’s true to us, and changing the world as we know it, the change must start within our own selves. We must be brave enough to let go of what’s not working. We must be humble enough to know when it’s time to acknowledge our shortcomings and seek help.

As message bearers, it is our responsibility to be a clear vessel for inspiration. And that means taking regular inventory of what’s inside, keeping what we like, and tossing the rest. What you’ll be left with is the kind of habits that are true to who you really want to be in the world, and what you really want to put out there. I’m throwing the ball in your court.

PSST... I have a meditation for creatives, like us, who need a little help letting go of what's holding us back. I use it for myself and my students. Annnd, it's just $0.99! Scoop it up.

How these 3 Pros Make Instagram Photos Look so Fresh

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Facebook is for keeping up with friends and stalking ex-boyfriends. Instagram is porn for the visually inclined.

Because I know you’re bored of seeing cats rolled up in blankets or a feed full of inspirational quotes, I’d like to introduce you to three ladies who live their lives as creatives and make the process seem oh-so whimsical. Their accounts are like curated exhibits, and now you, my friend, are invited to the gallery.

Photo via instagram/amandajanejones

Photo via instagram/amandajanejones

 

Amanda Jones, 104K followers

This Chicago-based graphic designer, art director, and co-founder of Kinfolk Magazine makes dirty laundry look good. Seriously, she has a photo of dirty laundry in a wire basket that will shame those five-year-old panties you’ve been hoarding. Her tendencies towards neutrals of grey, black, white and brown (brought in through wood, usually) give an instant sense of serenity. My prediction is that her simplicity will soothe you as it has me. (Instagram: amandajanejones)

How do you edit your Instagram photos?

VSCO

Who do you like to follow on Instagram?

@amerrymishap, @kitato and my husband @creelanejones

What do you think makes a good Instagram photo?

I think a successful shot can mean so many things to different people. Sometimes I like a photo because of the composition, other times the colors—and sometimes I take a really bad photo, but I love it because of the memory it reminds me of.  

Photo via Amy-Stone.com

Photo via Amy-Stone.com

Amy Stone, 117K followers

A blue and magenta advocate, Amy Stone’s curating abilities are professional. Perhaps her day job as Gap Kids’ Global Community Manager has something to do with it? But my guess (and based off her earliest photos) is it’s a natural talent that has evolved as she has. What gets me the most is the fact that we rarely see her face. And if we do, it’s really far away or covered in sunnies. If you’re obsessive like me, you can visit her blog to get a better look. (Instagram: amy_stone)

How do you edit your Instagram photos?

I love VSCOcam for editing photos. The presets (filters) are designed to enhance iPhone photos instead of flattening them. S3, C2, and G3 are my favorite ones. I also bump up the exposure, contrast, and lower the temperature within VSCO. Lastly, I'm always on the lookout for clean, natural lighting—that really makes the difference in a photo. 

Who do you like to follow on Instagram?

There are so many talented instagramers out there! I follow upwards of 800+ people because I crave constant inspiration and content. Lucy Laucht, Sarah Irene Murphy, Erica Choi, and Carin Olsson are a few accounts that I absolutely love. 

What do you feel makes a good Instagram photo?

Clean, natural lighting is absolutely key.  A well-composed perspective, interesting subject matter and proper editing all contribute to a great Instagram photo, as well.

Photo via instagram.com/jessaconnolly 

Photo via instagram.com/jessaconnolly 

 Jess Connolly, 27.8K followers

Scripture print shop owner turned inspirational speaker, Jess Connolly is the wife of a pastor, momma of four, owner of Naptime Diaries, and cofounder of The Influence Conference + Network. Whoa, I’m tired. Her spirit and love for her purpose bleeds through every photo, making her Instagram feed irresistible. (Instagram:Jessaconnolly)

How do you edit your Instagram photos?

I love Afterlight for editing Instagram photos! 

Who do you like to follow on Instagram?

My favorite people to follow on instagram are other business owners and artists like @laracasey, @thenester, and @jessicahonegger.

 What do you feel makes a good Instagram photo?

A good Instagram photo has some color, some heart, and good lighting :)