I'm an entrepreneur. I know a lot of people throw that term around loosely, but I don't.
In fact, there was a time when I didn't throw it around at all. Why?
Because I never wanted to be one.
The truth is, I tend to be a scaredy-cat. I'm resistant to change. When things get stressful or tough, I definitely lean more towards the "flight", not "fight" camp. The thought of starting my own business - the kind that made real money and therefore had the potential for real risk - was enough to make me swear I'd rather just work for someone else for the rest of my life.
After all, that meant they took all the risk, right? They're the ones who'd have to make all the tough choices, worry about taxes and business accounts, and handle employees and business expenses.
Turns out risk can find you anyway. Tough choices will show up at your door regardless or how much you hide. And you end up trading freedom and choice for limited earning potential and someone else's dreams.
I spent 16 years playing at business. I said I had my own business, but I didn't. Not really. Eighty percent of my contracts were from the same company, and I didn't actively pursue growth and development. For all intents and purposes, I was an employee of one company. I was at their beck and call 24/7. Their deadlines became my deadlines. Their stress became my stress. I was never, ever going to be anything more than their contractor.
I was meant for more than that, but I refused to acknowledge it. I stayed the same, played small, and hid. Until finally one day God said, "Enough. If you won't grow where you're at, then I'll move you." And He did.
The bottom dropped out of my business literally overnight. Things HAD to change because there was no other choice. Guess how much I liked that?
That time in my business was intense. Read a couple blog posts back to see what I mean. I gutted it out because I had no choice, but inside I was bitter and resentful. I never wanted this, I thought. All these other people around me and thriving as "entrepreneurs". They think it's great. Why can't I love it like they do? Why do I feel like a sinking ship? And I began to refer to myself as an anti-preneur as a joke. I wasn't against entrepreneurism. It's just how I felt - I was an entrepreneur by necessity, not choice.
God had a lot of work to do on me. He took me through a time of fiery refinement that altered many things about me as a person and EVERYTHING about my business. And during that time, I began to write again as a way to process change and communicate with God and with myself. Writing became my saving grace, which was His intention all along.
Little by little, slivers of light began to pierce through. I started to realize there were certain things about what I was doing that I was really good at. When I focused in on only those things, everything changed. Suddenly, my work was FUN again.
And then one day there it was. I was no longer an anti-preneur. I was a full-on entrepreneur and loving it. I began to really thrive.
I've learned a new level of trust in God. Every step of my journey was designed for my growth, even the hard parts. Especially the hard parts. Things are as He designed, and it's SO much better than anything I'd have ever come up with on my own.
If you're sitting in the hard place right now, trust. I don't mean that flippantly. Sometimes trust is the only thing you can do and the only thing you have left. It's WORK. But He knows what you need.
Oh, He knows what you want, too. Thank goodness He doesn't always give us what we want. I am SO thankful He didn't just let me have what I thought I wanted. If He had:
He KNOWS what you NEED.
I was a graphic designer for 16 years until one day I heard through the grapevine that the company that held 80% of my contracts was shutting down.
That was so fun. Not.
What should I do? Should I go get a job? Sell a kidney? Lay down and cry? Yeah, no. I didn't do any of that. I've always had my own business, I kind of need both my kidneys, just in case, and I'm not really a crier.
I decided to build a better business - one that didn't have all its eggs in one sad little basket - and I realized I was going to needed a way to market my services. I joined a digital marketing group on Facebook, and it changed everything for me.
I decided to launch a digital marketing business. Because that's how I do things - I see the potential, I take the leap, and then I learn on the way down. #YOLO or some such. Naturally, when I started out, I went hard. I offered every service under the sun. You need social media platform management? Sure! Facebook ads? Okay! A sales funnel? Whatever you want! Video editing, email marketing, web design - I did everything.
Everything, that is, except sleep, take care of myself, or have any semblance of a balanced life. You see what's coming, right? I did that for six months, day and night, night and day, and I completely burned out. I couldn't keep going like that, and everyone around me could see it but me.
The boiling point came one morning when my husband made an innocent comment about something business-related. It was so no big deal that I can't even remember what it was, probably something like, "Why are we out of printer paper again?" but it just hit me the wrong way. I got up from my desk in tears and went downstairs to hide. I am an expert hider.
Of course, my husband lives here too, so he found me right away. Then he literally scooped his sleep-deprived, incoherently-sobbing mess of a wife off the floor, set me on his lap, and looked straight into my face to be sure I would hear him. This is what he said:
"You have to stop. This is not why you're doing this. Why would you build something that's killing you?" He was right, and I knew it. In that moment I decided that I was only going to offer services I loved. The problem was, I was so burned out, I had no idea what that was. Because I'm crazy like that, I did the only thing that presented itself to me at that time.
I completely stopped working with private clients and took positions with two agencies as a white labeler - one for copy writing and one for Facebook ads management. I know. I know what you're thinking. Why would you do that? Why would someone who's always run her own business go work for someone else? It doesn't make sense!
You are completely correct. It did not make sense. But it was one of the best decisions I have ever made. Taking everything else off my plate allowed me to really lean in and invest in what I was doing while absorbing massive amounts of training in skills from people who had been there and done that and were a few steps ahead of me. The things I was really good at had a chance to come out and make themselves known. Suddenly, everything about my business was FUN again.
I discovered that even though I hadn't written much of anything since my stint as a writer for my university's daily newspaper, I still enjoyed writing and had a natural knack for writing effective sales copy. I also got very good at Facebook ad lead generation and came to understand the inner workings and strategies behind the Ads Manager platform like never before.
Could a person learn all this without having to go through all the hard stuff? Gosh, I sure hope so. But this is me we're talking about, and I'm going to let you in on a little secret. I'm a #hotmess, okay? I'm going to do everything I can to avoid a challenge or a breakdown, but it's going to find me anyway. It seems like I have to go through all the hard stuff, the stuff that WON'T work for my business, before I can get to the good stuff.
I had to go through the emergency crash landing experience - you know, the kind where three engines are on fire, the pilot's yelling, "MAYDAY! MAYDAY!" into the radio, flight attendants are passing out in the aisles, oxygen masks dropping like pinatas, and the landing gear won't engage. Without living through that experience, I wouldn't have experienced the strengthening, learning and growth needed to be doing what I'm doing today.
And what I'm doing today is more fulfilling, fun, and "me" than anything I could have dreamed up. Today I write high-level Facebook ads, sales funnel and email marketing copy for six-, seven-, and eight-figure coaches, consultants, and membership and course creators. I also ghostwrite non-fiction business books for entrepreneurs and influencers who have an important message they want to share with the world.
Maybe the section of the journey you're in right now feels more like a dumpster fire than a dream. Somewhere along the line you lit a match with good intentions, but it got out of control, and now you're sitting in the rubble with smoke stinging your eyes and flames inching ever closer. What do you do?
You look up.
You will not make it out by sitting there staring at the flames. Period. This sounds harsh, but in a real fire, that is how people die. They get scared, and instead of looking for a way out or asking for help, they hide, and the smoke inhalation kills them.
It's hard to focus on anything else when it feels like the world is on fire. Believe me, I know. I worked so hard every waking moment of every day on my business during that six-month period. Literally the only time I ever gave myself a chance to relax and think about anything other than work was in church on Sunday mornings, and that's because it's generally frowned upon to bring your laptop to the sanctuary and work during the sermon.
And every Sunday morning for two months straight, I cried during the sermon. I'm sure people thought, "Oh, she's so moved. That's just precious. What a tender heart." I wish I could say that's what it was. I love a good dose of the Word, but in this case, it was a total cry for help. This was the only time I allowed myself to step out of my business and evaluate how things were going, and it wasn't good. When I was forced to face the truth, it broke me. Yet after lunch on Sunday, I'd push it away, hop back on the laptop, and go again. Next Sunday, same thing. This happened every Sunday for two months.
I finally admitted to myself that I'd done it. I'd build the digital marketing agency ... and I completely, utterly miserable. I realized that for the first time in my professional life, I was doing something that I had absolutely no desire to keep doing for the next 20-30 years of my life. AND I HAD DONE IT TO MYSELF!
I knew a one-stop shop agency wasn't for me, and that put me in another conundrum. I'd joined a mastermind group focused on helping people grow digital marketing agencies. If I no longer ran a digital marketing agency, then I wouldn't belong in the mastermind group anymore, right? I convinced myself I was taking a valuable spot away from someone else by staying, and that the best, most selfless thing I could do was quietly leave. This group was my business family, and I was devastated.
Yes, that's right. I was sitting right smack in the middle of my very own business dumpster fire, unable to take my eyes off the flames, dangerously close to spontaneously combusting. And I did the one thing that changed everything. I looked up.
I sent an incoherent, middle-of-the-night message to my mentor, an amazing woman named Rachel Pedersen, founder of The Social Clique, SMU Elite, and Social Media United. I don't remember exactly what I said, but I admitted to her that I knew a digital marketing agency wasn't the path I was going to take. I told her I felt selfish for taking a spot that could go to someone who did want that, and that I was going to step down from The Clique.
She was awake and immediately received the message. And let me tell you, she was not having it. "Christa, the Clique isn't just about growing a digital agency. It's about growing a business of any kind and encouraging and nurturing each other to success. You cannot leave the Clique, because the spot you're in can only be filled by you. You belong here."
It was as if a little bit of the smoke cleared, and I could see a way forward. In that moment, my thinking changed. I didn't have to build what everyone else was building. In fact, I SHOULDN'T build any kind of business except the one that fit me. I just needed to figure out what kind of business that would be. It was as if I'd just been given permission in a way that I hadn't even realized I needed.
I began to be more open about my struggles with the safe people in my life I knew I could trust, especially those who were ahead of me in their entrepreneurial journeys. I learned that what I was going through was completely normal, and in fact part of the process of growth.
I got up and walked out of those flames, and you know what happened when I did? I left part of the woman I was behind. Yeah, that fearful girl unwilling to risk or change didn't make it out, and that NEEDED to happen. Did it hurt? Heck yes! But I couldn't bring her with me. She could not have walked where I'm walking now, and I'd have died trying to save us both.
Look up! There are people just ahead of you who want to support you, encourage you, and cheer you on. You're not alone. Find another entrepreneur who's a bit further along in the process to connect with. Join a mentorship or mastermind. Hit up a Facebook group in the industry you work in. Look for the ones who still smell a little bit like smoke. They're the ones who know EXACTLY what you've been through and can point you in the right direction as you KEEP GOING.
It wasn't pretty. It wasn't eloquent. There were no hearts or Cupid's bows, no cutesy sayings, no X's and O's. But my husband sent me a love note this morning. And today? Today, it's everything.
This week has been tough so far. If anyone tries to tell you being an entrepreneur is easy, just assume they're lying. Being an entrepreneur is like riding a rollercoaster - with no seatbelt. The highs are high, the lows are low, and you're never quite sure whether you're strapped in and ready to go.
At one point in this rollercoaster ride today, I found myself pulling out my phone and texting my husband, "I'm so sorry. I wanted this all to be success and smooth sailing. Ugh, I feel like such a failure!"
The phone was silent for a long moment.
And then he sent me this:
I burst into tears. It may not have made sense to anyone else, but I knew what he was saying to me.
Earlier this spring year I had a conversation with a very successful businessman. In the course of our conversation, he told me a story about a young man who worked for him. They had met for lunch, and the young man was venting to him about how he had all of these ideas but was too afraid to start. He didn't know if they would work. He didn't know if he could make a go of it. He didn't know if he was brave enough to try.
The businessman said he grabbed one of the cocktail napkins off the table and in bold ink letters wrote "permission to fail" on it. He signed his name and dated it and silently slid it back across the table to his employee.
Not long after, the young man gave his notice and left his job. A year later, the two men met again for lunch. As they sat down, the former employee took a small white square out of his pocket. He unfolded it, then set it down and slid it across the table between them.
It was the same cocktail napkin with "permission to fail" written on it.
The young man had carried his "permission to fail" with him every day for the past year, and he had looked at it every time he was afraid or uncertain. Now he could look across the table at his former mentor and say "I did it. I made $1 million this year."
I had told my husband that story because it really impacted me as an entrepreneur. We hadn't spoken of it since. Until now.
Keep going. If you need permission to fail, then consider it given. Just don't let fear stop you from doing what you're called to do.
So I might be a little stubborn. And resistant to change. But I've learned that if I have to force something, it probably wasn't meant for me. Of course, I learned it the hard way.
For the last year, I've been trying to force one of my social media accounts into a mold that just didn't fit. As a social strategist and digital media marketer, I have no trouble creating content and building accounts for my clients. In fact, I have a great time learning my client's voices and creating posts and ads and sales funnels that ooze with their style and personality.
So why was it so hard to do the same with my own business? When it came to my own stuff, I struggled. I struggled to the point that I was barely posting at all. I couldn't help but think to myself that it shouldn't be so hard, but I wasn't sure what to do to change things.
One day, a friend of mine and I were chatting back and forth about content and copy. (Yes, these are the riveting conversations we social strategists have together.) We started spouting off crazy ideas for social media profiles. "What if everything rhymed?" "What if it all was written in alliteration?" "Memes with animals! Memes with animals!" It was so much fun - we were having a blast and giggling like mad.
It hit me then. That's what I was missing - fun! I'm very serious about my business, but I'm not a super serious person. I love to smile and laugh and enjoy life. If someone looked at my social profile, however, they'd have never known. I was providing content and creative that mirrored what I thought people would want to see, but in the process I was overthinking it and sucking all the fun right out of it.
I realized I had just spent a year beating my head against a door that wasn't mine. My business doesn't reflect ME without the element of fun that my personality brings, and it was time to put more me into my business. That very day I began rebranding, and I never looked back. When I finally quit trying to squeeze my business into a mold it that just didn't fit, promoting my own business became a breeze.
If you're feeling stuck on how to promote yourself or your business, could it be that you're giving people what you assume they want, but nothing that's really "you"? Maybe you're beating your head against a door that isn't really yours.
There is only one you. There are things that only you can bring to the world. Do not be afraid to let your business reflect a piece of that. It's valuable. It's YOU.
Hi friends! Today I'm going to take the opportunity to do to introduce a specialized branch of HUB Creative Media. This branch hasn't been featured on the blog yet, so without further ado, let me introduce you to Livestock HUB, the division of Practical Promotions designed and created specifically for the livestock sales industry.
I cut my professional teeth as a layout and design artist for the Iowa Angus Association over 15 years ago, and that was the beginning of a beautiful path that led to the co-founding of HUB Creative Media, under which I spent over a decade doing graphic design and advertising development with Conover Auction Service out of Baxter, Iowa. Although I grew my skills over the years and began to branch out more with professional offerings like web design and social media management, I have continued to love the work we do for the livestock industry. This summer, my business partner and I felt it was time to invest more deeply into this industry and co-founded Livestock HUB.
Through Livestock HUB, we offer promotional services for the livestock producer. Sale catalogs, web design, advertising, database management, and social media management are some of the services we offer. But even more than that, between my partner and I, we offer over 40 years combined experience and expertise in the livestock industry. We're excited to bring this experience and expertise to the table and offer livestock producers the services and tools they need to promote their sales and events.
So welcome to Livestock HUB. We'd love to have you check out the Livestock HUB portion of our website where you can find our full menu of services, updates on up-and-coming events and sales, special features, fun trivia, and more!
If you're a member of the livestock community, thanks for visiting this blog. As our way of expressing our appreciation, we've created this fun infographic
7 Simple Must-Haves for Effective Livestock Sale Advertising.
Thanks for visiting the blog. Check back next week for more.
Happy Birthday to the Cutest and the Wisest: A Story of How Social Media Connected Family Across Generations
Yesterday my family celebrated the shared birthday of two guys we've designated "the cutest" and "the wisest".
Name: Justus Floyd Burton
Past Times and Hobbies: Being cute, duh. Also saying things that are so adorable you want to squeeze him, playing hardcore with anything with wheels, and pronouncing anything that has the "k" sound as a "t" (e.g. "fork" equals "fort").
Claim to Fame: He is really, really good at redistribution. And by redistribution, I mean redistributing Cheerios from the box to the floor.
Name: Floyd Wesley Burton
Past Times and Hobbies: Antique cars. Spending time with friends and relatives. Helping out on the farm. Serving others.
Claim to Fame: There is so much. He can fix anything. Anything. He's a self-taught farmer/engineer/mechanic with an intense work ethic and a never-give-up attitude. He's faithful to his wife of over 60 years, faithful to his family, faithful to his friends, and faithful to his community.
These two. There are almost no words for how precious this relationship is.
Justus is the youngest of my brother and his wife Tyler's children, the youngest of Floyd's great-grandchildren. Floyd is my father's father, my gramps. Weeks before Justus' birth, I followed a link from my sister-in-law's Facebook to an online blog, accidentally discovering that she had commented under the blog article that if their baby was a boy, they were going to name him Justus Floyd.
I virtually tiptoed away, and never said a word about it to anyone. On August 28, 2014, the phone call came.
They'd had a boy.
They'd named him Justus Floyd.
I just could not imagine how Gramps was feeling when he heard the news, but my heart was smiling so big because it was just so right.
Backtrack a few years. My brother and sister-in-law lived overseas for years, doing hard things in countries people don't go to. They gave birth to their two older kiddos in the States, and we all treasured the early months of their lives, then watched the first few years of their lives in pictures through the internet. And guess who was first in line for updates on Facebook?
Gramps. He lets nothing stop him from being there for his friends and family.
And aren't we all like that? The things that are important to us are the things we spend our energy, time, and money on. Most people wouldn't guess than an 80-something-year-old great-grandfather would be eager to learn new-to-him social media platforms. Most people would say, "There's no way you'll see my grandfather on Facebook!"
I wouldn't be too sure.
Family was a powerful motivator for Gramps, and he's never been afraid to learn new things. So he bought a laptop. Then an iPad. A smartphone was next, followed by a mobile hotspot. It's entirely possible that today, at 87 years old, he owns more tech gadgets than the rest of us.
Gramps dove headfirst into digital communication. The 13-hour time difference made direct communication difficult, but he made it work. Before long he was researching how to set up and maintain solar electricity panels and sending blueprints to my brother's e-mail, catching on all the latest photos from overseas, posting and commenting from his winter home in Texas, and Skype calling to say hello.
My brother and his family are back in the States now. Last month, they moved in just down the road from the family farm. Guess who was there almost every day during the renovation and move in process? That's right, my Gramps.
Last night we all gathered at their new home for a joint birthday party, celebrating the cute and the wise. We ate good food and laughed a lot. Our days of overseas communication are over, but Gramps is still going strong on social media. He tried it. He liked it. And he came back for more. I'm so glad.
Happy birthday boys. Love you!
With planning, organization, and content, the foundation for a website is laid. The basic structure is in and ready, and now it’s time for one of my favorite parts of the process: design.
Although the overall concept of design encompasses much more, for the purpose of this blog post, I’m going to use the term “design” to refer to the overall look and flow of the website. And when it comes to the overall look and flow of the website, my main goes is to make sure the visual look of the website consistently portrays the image the client is wanting to project. I also make sure to ask my clients what feelings or emotions they want web visitors to have when visiting their website, because design plays a huge part in this as well. A website can be fully planned out, organized down to the last detail, and have the best-written content in the world, but if the overall design is poor, the whole website will fall flat.
There are four key elements I utilize when designing a website: typography, space, image, and color. We will be discussing image more in depth in next week’s blog. Today I’m going to break down typography, space, and color.
Fonts and typefaces, serif and sans serif, display and script. Why are there so many buzz words when it comes to typography? To put it plainly, because typography matters. The way words and letters look on a screen can invoke emotion and motivate action. It can also frustrate or clarify. Choosing fonts is an important step in the process, because font sets the tone for how the text appears.
Sometimes my clients have definite opinions on a font they want to use, especially if their existing logo uses a certain font. Other times they're more open. Regardless, I always ask myself the following questions when choosing fonts
When choosing a font, besides readability and relatability, consider the typefaces available within that font family. Is the font available in bold or italic? It's nice to have those options to offset content text that's extra important or carries heavier meaning. I also suggest using no more than two fonts throughout a website - one for body text, and another for headings and featured text. Below are two examples that show what a difference is made when typography is used carefully and effectively.
Space, the final frontier . . . and when it comes to web design, each page needs some. Space is really the unsung, underappreciated element of design, but without it, a website will implode. Take another look at the two examples above. The first example is, shall we say, crowded. There are so many elements on this page, the eye doesn't know what to look at first. Instead of looking like a cohesive unit, all the colors, text, and highlighted phrasing fights for attention. Sometimes what's not on a web page is as important as what is, and the first example is the perfect case in point.
The second example shows an excellent use of space. The large, single image compliments the bold headline text, which drawing the eye directly to it. You can tell right away what the page is about - the Autumn Winter 2016/17 line of this brand. The navigation bar at the top right is streamlined and clear. Nicely done!
Many people fail to consider what a useful tool space is in their websites, assuming that blank space is wasted. It's not true. Space is like a tour guide for the eye. When used to the web designers advantage, web visitors can find the information they want quickly and efficiently, which is always a win. Just remember, too much to see is just simply too much.
Color is such a fun element and probably ranks even higher than typography at eliciting emotion from viewers. Color used well is like dynamite that sparks memory and knowledge retention in the brain. Color is one of the first things on a page to make a big impression, either good or bad.
If a client already has a logo or a color scheme, that's where I start. More often than not, even if they don't, they have an idea what colors they like and want to be associated with. The color chart above is a great starting point to show your client as you begin your discussion on color. I love searching the web for color schemes. You can see some great examples of website that use color well here.
When the color scheme is settled, I then think of ways I can incorporate the chosen colors into the website itself - page backgrounds, photo frames, header text, navigation bar, footers, featured blocks of text, a chart or graphic. Using color throughout the site helps help tie elements of the website together and promote the cohesive look your client is going for.
In the client example for this blog series, color first entered the discussion with their logo. My client is wants a completely new look for their website, beginning with their logo. Red and gray are the colors they'd like to use. Although the logo is still in the final stages of completion, the color palette looks like this:
Design Wrap Up
Typography, space and color are three of my favorite stages of designing a website and a chance for me get creative. Throughout the process, I continue to communicate with my clients every step of the way. Quick recap:
Building a website is a time-consuming, involved task, but when it's done right, your new website will be the launching point for an established web presence for you and your business or organization. In the first two posts of this series, we covered website planning and organization. Now it's time to get down to the nitty gritty of website building: CONTENT.
After organization, content is easily the most important feature of your website. For the sake of brevity, we're mainly going to focus on text content in this blog post. Elements like photos, videos, and other graphic elements will be discussed in a separate post. To see how content comes into play in a website build, let's refer back to my client's website tree:
While a website tree serves as the framework of the website, the written content fills that framework in, providing the details and information website visitors are looking for.
Our website example for this series belongs to a father/son team who run a manufacturing business. Because I'm not a manufacturing expert, I will rely heavily on my clients who are experts in this field during this stage of the process. I will sit down with them, copy of the website tree in hand, and we will go through it step by step, website page by website page. I ask myself, and them, a whole lot of questions in my quest for information:
Once I've finished discovering all the content, it's time to write. Again, this will be a back and forth process of reading and proofing between my client and myself. Going page by page, I take the information they've given and I begin placing it in where it belongs. I pay special attention to not only what the message I'm writing says, but also how the message is given:
Once the content itself has been written and approved by the client, it's time to do one last edit. Nothing screams "unprofessional" like spelling, punctuation, or grammatical errors. This is when I often call in extra eyes to proof read, as I find that it's easier for a new reader to spot an error than it is for me.
At this point in the process, it's a temptation to call it a day. My brain is tired. My eyes are tired. But I have a few fun memes I keep around as reminders that the editing step is vitally important.
Amazing! Okay, just one more:
I can't stop. That's so entertaining!
Providing your website visitors with quality content is a winner every time. Although it's a time-consuming task, creating good, clear content can make the different between a website visitor cruising on by your website or clicking through for more.
Have a great week! I'll be back next week with a sneak peek into my design process.
I was twenty years old when I first met these two. I walked into their modest home, the new girlfriend of their oldest grandson. We sat down in at their drop-leaf wooden table, and we played Pictionary and laughed. A lot. We laughed until we cried.
It was here, in the midst of our rowdy game, as I was gasping for breath with laughter-tears running down my face, that I caught the eye of my now-husband across the table and he flashed me the "I love you" sign. No one caught it but me, and I will never forget that moment or the genuine look of joy and contentment on his face. It was the first time either of us had expressed the "L-word" to the other. We had only been dating two weeks, and I was dead-crazy in love with him too.
I was stunned. I was terrified. I was elated. What he didn't know was just that morning I had woke up thinking about him, as usual, and had come to a startling realization: I wasn't just infatuated with this handsome fellow, I was in love with him. THAT VERY SAME MORNING! I went about my day and never said a word about it to anyone (although God and I were having a running conversation about it. "Am I nuts God? This is nuts. I've lost it. It's only been two weeks." You get the picture). Then that evening, he backs me up me up with his "I love you" sign. American Sign Language has never looked so good my friends.
We left that night and our love story continued. Within another month and a half, we were engaged, then married that summer. People thought we were crazy. There may have even been some bets that it would never last. But not Grandpa and Grandma Kelly - they knew. They believed in love. They believed in us. This weekend, we'll have been married for sixteen years.
When I left that night, the night of Pictionary and American Sign Language and laughter tears, they both hugged me. Even thought I was a virtual stranger. Even though we had just met. It's not that I was special - or maybe that's exactly was it was. You see, they're like this with everyone. They see the specialness and worth in everyone who walks into their lives, and they always, always see the specialness in each other. They are two people who know the value of building relationships and building families. They've been doing it all their lives. They will do it until they pass on into eternity.
I build things for a living - websites, promotional plans, sale catalogs. I love it. However, even more important and vital in my life is following the example that Grandpa and Grandma Kelly set in building their family. My husband's grandparents have been married over 60 years, and they're still dead-crazy in love with each other. In another 44 years, we'll be in their shoes, God-willing. I feel so blessed that the beginnings of our love story played out in their house, at their wooden table playing Pictionary.
Having a good website is key to developing a web presence, but it can be hard to know where to start. In this blog series, I'm giving you a sneak peek into Practical Promotion's and Livestock HUB's step-by-step website building process, beginning with Step One: Planning.
Today we're moving on to Step Two: Organization. Remember how I said you'll never regret the time spent devoted to an initial planning session because the information gained would be really helpful later on? Now is the "later on". It's time to take all the information gathered and begin to sort it into a website tree, a very useful tool for organizing information that helps form the framework and structure of the website.
Outline the Information
The first stage of organization is to outline the information gathered in the planning session in step one. We'll use my client website example as an illustration. In our planning session, my client and I pinpointed the purpose, target audience, and goals of the website, then I made an outline:
Purpose: To create an easy-to-use website for our customers/future customers to gain information needed to consider us for future work. The website should highlight our history, quality demonstrated through case studies, technology, and upcoming events.
Target Audience: 1) new private sector customers, 2) existing private sector customers, and 3) government and government prime contractors.
Making an outline really simplifies the information and helps the important information rise to the top.
Build a Website Tree
The next stage of organization is building a website tree. A website tree is a simple tool to help organize the information that will be contained in the website and structure it into a framework that's clear and easy for the target audience to navigate. Important questions to consider when beginning a website tree include:
In our example, my client's clear purpose and goals made building a website tree a snap. Check out the samples of my client's website tree. I've included step-by-step illustrations because I built the tree in stages, starting with the most important information and working my way down through the supporting information and minor details. The most important information became the main pages of the website and the headings featured in the navigation bar (Fig. 1).
After main pages have been determined, I begin filling in the supporting information for each (Fig.2). My client from our website example was very clear about what information he wanted, how he wanted it prioritized, and where the supporting information should go. The majority of my clients need more help with this stage of the website building process, so I ask a lot of questions, such as:
The website now has a basic organizational framework in place. Once I begin designing the physical website, it looks something like this:
The navigation bar items are all lined up at the top of the page. Hovering on a navigation bar item shows the drop down pages that are built in underneath. This example shows what happens when you hover over "Our Work" - you can see there are two child pages in the drop down, "Case Studies" and "Parts Gallery".
Now that the basic organizational layout of the site has been determined, my client and I will move on to content, which is the third step in building a website and the final brick in the base of our website building process. I'll be discussing content in the next blog post, so stay tuned.
Keep on friends!
Hi, I'm Christa, founder of HUB Creative Media, an Iowa-based business specializing in targeted messaging, copywriting, and ghostwriting services. I have one handsome hubby who's my partner in crime (not literally) and two great kids who keep us busy (Track and field! Volleyball! Basketball! All the sports!) Using words to help people promote what they love is my favorite!