How My Instagram Kept Growing While I Was Inactive

We know we need to keep growing our social networks to drive traffic to our website and make sales. This is the funnel we have adopted as the technology has advanced- but it’s tiring when you start out! All that growth takes time and effort. You know how to do it- but that doesn’t mean you have the time or energy to! So what is going to sustain you through those times where you simply can’t stand to even look at Instagram?

I’ll give you an insider view of how I reached a new Instagram follower milestone after not posting to Instagram OR stories in days!

 Beginning of the week: 720 followers on Instagram

End of the week:  800 followers on Instagram (and it’s still growing!)

What made my Instagram, that was being so inconsistently updated, so appealing to these 80 new followers?  

1. The Content 

The messages I had been putting out in my old posts were still as true today as the week I posted them. Having evergreen content that is engaging, thoughtful, and honest will keep you interesting to your followers old and new! Plus, if your feed is looking good, people will have no problem waiting to see what you come up with next! What is good evergreen content? Inspiring quotes, introducing yourself, giving your why, a client success story, a good joke... lots of things can be shared at any time. Plus, a good stock photo never goes out of style. Check out my favourite collection of stock photo sites here!

2. The Branding

Within my content, I made it very clear who I am, what I do, and why I am a valuable person to follow. That means that when people stumble across my feed they can quickly assess whether they want to follow me or not- and through my branding I make that decision very clear either way. I would rather someone know off the bat that we’re not a match than get annoyed by what I post! It’s best to let everyone know exactly who you are and what you do openly and honestly- it will make your followers that much more meaningful and right for you too! The way I do it is by talking about myself about once a week (it’s hard to start but you’ll get used to it!) and sharing things that I truly believe- I don’t fake it to try and get followers  that’s a recipe for a bad relationship with social media!

3. The Hashtags 

Hashtags are the reason that people found my content in the first place! My content and branding could be on point but it means nothing if people can’t find it.

The two places that hashtags matter most are in your bio and on your posts! Whether you put your hashtags in the comment or on the post itself, the same guidelines will apply.

If you want to know everything I have to say about hashtags, head on over here to get the ultimate hashtag guide, How To Use Hashtags to Reach Your Ideal Audience! 

I hope you feel prepared to take on Instagram now! But just FYI- a lot of this has also worked for my Pinterest account!  If you want some more social media hacks then get in touch. You can book an appointment with me right here on my blog! Just hit the Get Started button. Talk to you soon!

Be Productive: 4 Not Completely Obvious Tips

I know that you've seen all of those articles out there that tell you how to be productive. They say things like "make lists!" and "get enough sleep!" and "eat good food!". I don't have anything against this advice at all. But it just seems kind of obvious, right? If you want to be successful in your business and personal lives, you have to take care of yourself! So many people forget to do that- but it's not the ONLY thing you can do to be productive. It's just the bare minimum. So, here are my not-completely-obvious productivity tips that take you that step beyond. You're pretty comfortable with eating and sleeping- now you can give these a try!

1. Clean

I know, this is part of the basics of caring for yourself too, however, cleaning can help you feel productive at the very top of your day. I always make my bed before I do anything else, and it feels like a bigger accomplishment than it is, every day. The room looks brighter, cleaner, and I feel fresher and ready to start my day. If I take on a bigger task like doing some dishes before work, I have the time to get my body ready for some light labour and I have a chance to think through whatever is on my mind before I get to work. Cleaning can be very meditative! Plus, whoever you might happen to live with would appreciate it and it has been proven that working in a neat and organized space makes you more productive!

2. Play Productive Mind Games

This one might not be productive for everyone, but I like to warm up my brain with a game like Sudoku or a study app like TinyCards or Duolingo. It gets my mental energies flowing and excited about the accomplishment of completing a puzzle. I do set boundaries around these activities though- there's only so much productive Sudoku one can play in a day! Additionally, Sudoku in a newspaper or puzzle book might give you the opportunity to interact with a pencil and paper, a feeling that people often miss when working on computers all day (and doesn't having a writing utensil in your hand make you feel productive?)

3. Listen To My Body

While I am working, I take bathroom breaks when I need to. I put on a sweater when I am cold. I try to have everything I need within arms reach- a snack, a drink of water, a sweater, my slippers (I live in a basement suite and my feet get really cold!)- so that I don't have to get up and leave the room to meet my body's needs. I meet them as soon as possible so that I don't allow them to distract me. My concentration gets a lot lower when I am cold or hungry or in any way uncomfortable- I make sure that I don't have to stop working 20 times a day just to meet my physical needs!

4. Treat Work Like Work, No Matter Where I Am

Working from home is such a luxury, and I totally went through the honeymoon phase with it. I wouldn't get dressed until 4 or 5 pm, after I had got my major tasks for the day done, and you know what? I would feel gross by the time I did get dressed. Working in your pyjamas is totally fun, but it doesn't make you feel very professional. I do still indulge with certain things that I wouldn't in an office building- I don't give myself a dress code, I don't wear makeup or do my hair, and I sing along to my background noise music on occasion. I do still get fully dressed, brush my teeth and hair, and think to myself that I am going to work. Honestly it has made me way more productive and way more satisfied with my jobs. I can demonstrate to myself that I take this very seriously! I also try to work outside of my house once a week by going to a coffee shop to work for a few hours. It gives me the sense that there are people around me holding me accountable, which is an essential part of staying productive!

That's it! Once you have mastered the obvious, try looking at those not-so obvious things that will make you more productive!

Freelancing Success: Resources, Tips, and Best Practices

Recently, a friend of mine asked me to sit down with him to talk about freelancing.

"What?" I thought. "I'm nothing special- what could I know that this older, smarter friend of mine does not?"

And then I thought "Lauren, don't sell yourself short!" 

I may not be an expert in any field- but I know what has worked for me and what hasn't. Who am I to deprive my friend, or anyone, of the knowledge and experience that I have to offer? It isn't like it costs me anything- it's not a fool-proof recipe for success that I have on my hands here, and I am not in competition with him- so why not share?

After a very productive meeting, I wrote him a detailed message highlighting all of the things we had talked about. It made me feel good. And it made me think "Wow- I know a lot more than I thought I did!" so in the interest of sharing, I thought I would write down the resources, tips, and best practices that I have in my own freelance life to help get you started!

First- Think About What You Are Good At

A few years ago, I started a blog because I knew I was good at blogging. Then later, I realized that I was good at Facebook. So I started training myself to be better at it and to find a way to make the amount of time I spend online work for me instead of working for someone else! 

Second- Figure Out How It Has To Work For You

I am an actor, so I have to be able to travel and take gigs whenever I want. So I needed jobs with flexible hours, the ability to go offline but appear online, and the ability to work at any time from anywhere. Social media was an obvious choice, but there are lots of writing jobs that you can get that fit into this as well, or jobs with very loose and flexible schedules. 

Third- Make That Dream A Reality- Take Action!

Steps one and two are all about thinking- this is where you have to go after that. You can dream about the life you have so far imagined all you want, but if you don't put in the work, it won't happen for you.

For me, my taking action started with that first blog. I made commitments to myself and to my readers/writers about what that blog would represent, how it would be executed, and when it would be executed. And over the year and a bit that I ran it- it went very well. But I wasn't achieving what I had wanted to when I first set out- I wasn't helping my community in the way I had hoped to. So I decided to go back to step one and re-evaluate. That is when I realized that I could make social media work for me. Here are the steps I took to get where I wanted to be.

1. Get the right tools

I got Hootsuite right away, a great service for managing social networks. When I first started on Hootsuite, I had 5 accounts to manage, most of them my own. Now I have 23 across 5 networks, plus a few accounts that Hootsuite doesn't yet support. Hootsuite also has an excellent series of training programs, and from them I earned my Social Media Marketing Certificate just over a year ago!

Other tools that I use that are VERY useful to freelancers: Pocket saves articles for you to read later and allows you to organize them however you want to using tags, plus suggests other useful content to you. Canva is both a site and an app that allows you to create beautiful and free/very inexpensive images quickly and easily. They are perfect for creating images to add to blog posts, social media profiles, or for adding things to existing images. You could even create a gorgeous logo on there! Seriously, amazing. If you're looking for something a bit more elaborate and professional, Visme is another tool that I have turned to from time to time! Opportunity and LinkedIn Jobs post jobs for you based on keywords that you put in, and help you to connect with potential employers. LinkedIn Learning is a great resource for classes as well, in all sorts of things!

2. Stay Informed

I make a very large point to stay abreast of the things going on that might affect any of my clients, plus any big news stories so that I can stay informed! Not only does this interest me and make me feel like I can be a better person, but it helps me to be able to interact with people online about way more things, and to start conversations myself too! Which is way more interesting for my clients' audiences to interact with. Whatever job you do, make sure you never stop reading up on it and learning! One way that I do this is I sign up for mailing lists and I actually read the e-mails! I do a lot of social activism in my personal life and so I follow organizations like AvaazLeadNow, and Sum of Us to read about issues that I care about and how they are doing all over the world! I also get the latest updates from influencers in my clients circles who have helpful resources for me- such as Kim Garst's Boom!Social

Pro Tip: I get on my clients' e-mail lists too- helps to make sure I know the company message and I can help with fact and spell checking!

3. Promote Yourself

This is the one I bet the most people struggle with. You have to be willing to tell people what you do and how you do it loudly and consistently (but not obnoxiously!!) Make sure that people know that you are available and that you do good work- and also let them know when you are too busy or when you're not a right fit for the job. Don't promote a version of yourself that you're not and don't make promises that you can't keep- you won't be getting a good recommendation after that job!

I personally think it is really important to have a good online presence (but maybe I am biased!) If you are a freelancer, people are going to want to look you up to see if you are legit- you had better have some sort of online presence. I got one of my favourite jobs ever because my employer saw my LinkedIn profile and decided that she wanted to hire me. That is the power of social media my friends! Don't underestimate it! 

4. Be Disciplined and Make Plans

As a freelancer, you're going to have lots of temporary or part time gigs. You have to be really good at planning and scheduling to make a go of it! I personally keep multiple calendars for multiple things, and at least once a week I check all of them to see that I have enough time to do the work I need to do, to do things that I enjoy, and to take care of myself. Everything comes in waves- sometimes I am really busy and sometimes I am not! So I make sure that before a busy wave I do things like get groceries and cook, I clean, I do less pressing things, so that when I am hunkered down I can just focus on getting it done.

I also don't waste any time doing anything that I don't want to be doing. If the job doesn't interest me, then I won't keep doing it! I don't mean that you should break your contracts or anything like that, but when your contract is up for renewal and you have asked for what you need from your employer and it just isn't happening, YOU get to say goodbye. That is the beauty of freelancing- remember that YOU are the one in charge. YOU should decide where your time and energy goes, not anyone else! For every one of my jobs, I have a maximum number of hours I will work for it a day (and a minimum too, to hold myself accountable!). I want to make sure that I have time to enjoy my life, and doing so takes discipline and lots of planning!

5. Don't Stop Growing

If you are competing constantly for short term contracts, you have to make sure that you are really providing something for your clients. The thing that I have always found the most valuable is a willingness to learn something new- in a day, a week, or however long it takes. You should always be developing new skills to keep being on top of your game. And when you are feeling stuck and you're not sure how to move forward, think about all the skills that you have and all the skills that you would like to have. Then go find people who have the skills you want and find a way to learn from them, either by meeting with them face to face or taking their free webinar or reading their e-book! Find ways to keep growing in your work and in your life, and you will be able to do anything you want!

Anything you think I missed in this blog? Comment below! I can't wait to see what things work for different people!