Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Techie Genius #1 Carol Poortvliet

As I disclosed last week, I’ve shared almost the full extent of my own knowledge about creating a new website, so I asked my techie geniuses to share a little advice with you. This week you’ll hear from Carol Poortvliet, graphic artist and website designer extraordinaire. Welcome, Carol, and thank you for your beautiful work on my website!

1. When you begin to work with a new client, what kind of information do you need from them? How do you get that information?

I need a clear vision of their ministry and what purpose their site serves, whether to provide an ongoing avenue of communication with their readers, generate a response from potential clients or to simply provide valuable information.

It’s also helpful to know the site’s target audience. Catering to women is obviously different than catering to men, and appealing to both requires a fine balance of visual elements. The same goes for an audience of varying age groups.

Next I like to get a feel for the atmosphere my client is trying to establish on their site. If the site represents their personal ministry, it should be like opening up their home and inviting their readers/followers in for a cup of coffee. How would they decorative their home (site) to reflect their personality and passion?

And of course, I would need some technical information such as whether or not they have acquired a domain name and hosting service for their site. If not, I can offer suggestions for providers. And I need to know which platform they want to use for the site. I currently design and set up sites for WordPress and Blogger.

These are the main points of information needed to get started. Other information comes as we work through the process. I usually send potential clients a questionnaire that walks them through elements of a site design. This helps them think through their purpose, which content/graphics they have for the site, and what they need to acquire or address in order for the site to be completed.

2. Do you start with a contract or agreement? How do you outline your services with a new client?

Though I own my own design business, I work very informally. I do not use contracts on a regular basis. I’ve been fortunate with my clientele. They are guided by the same moral compass and I haven’t run into any issues. But I will provide a contract for any client that feels more comfortable having my services in writing. I communicate mostly by email, though sometimes a client will request a phone call to relay their vision. In my initial email I outline my services and set fees. Sometimes I’ll ask for more information from a client in order to provide them with a more exact estimate. I’ll also give my client an estimated timeline and outline my design process so they will know what to expect along the way. I try to keep an open line of communication going with my clients so they will be aware of any roadblocks or concerns that may affect the schedule or outcome of the final product. After all, I work out of my home and around my family’s schedule.

After giving a client a projected start date, I ask them to return their completed questionnaire to secure they spot on my schedule. I then request they provide me with any graphics or content that needs to be incorporated into the site design prior to our start date. This doesn’t mean all site content such as text for every page, but more of an outline of elements that need to be included in the site and where. Obviously if the client wants to include their photo in their site, especially the header, I’ll need that up front. The same goes for any existing logo or imagery that is used in their ministry. Specific page content for support pages (about, speaking topics, resources, etc.) can be provided after the design has been approved.

3. How can a client best help you to realize their vision?

Communicate, communicate, communicate. If they have something in mind, I want to know, no matter how unsure of it they are. I would rather know that a client really wants to incorporate swirls and strongly dislikes the color pink before providing them with a design full of polka dots and hot pink hearts. I understand that some clients really have no idea what they want and are hoping I will come up with something that will knock their socks off. But it’s really helpful to have some point of reference. Clients can peruse other websites and point me to elements or layouts that grab their attention and draw them in. Or they can point out sites that don’t appeal to them at all. This at least gives me a starting point to work toward or away from.

As I said before, it’s important for clients to know their product (ministry) and their target audience. The best clients to work with are the ones who have thought through these concepts and worked out any inconsistencies on their own.

4. How do you work with a client when they have a difference of opinion about direction? A question or a concern?

First I will weigh the significance of the opinion or request when it comes to the overall site. Some small things aren’t as significant in the big picture. But if a client feels strongly about incorporating things that go against basic design principles, I’ll gently explain how I do not think it’s in their best interest to use those elements and redirect them to alternatives. There are rules of design just as there are rules of nature. The client may not have thought through the impact of their choice. If they are not deterred or are hesitant, I’ll provide visual examples because often seeing is believing. In the end, if we can’t come to an agreement, my belief is that the client is always right. After all, it is their site and a reflection of them or their ministry, not me. So I will give them what they want with my blessing.

Carol PoCarol_headshotortvliet lives in Greensboro, North Carolina with her husband and two daughters. She has owned her own graphic design business for 15 years. Carol works out of her home while juggling school schedules, dirty clothes and three pets. Fortunately she doesn’t have to do the cooking! She is passionate about spreading the Gospel by helping others to promote their ministries. When she’s not working she enjoys reading, jigsaw puzzles and playing games with her family. And she is always happy with a cup of Starbucks hot chocolate in her hand. You can find Carol online atwww.thedesigndiva.org. Email her at lucydesigns@triad.rr.com.

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Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Hiring Some Help

I’ve shared everything I know about creating a website in the past few weeks. This is where I run into a wall.  If you’re technically challenged like I am, hiring the right professionals to work on your website is an important step.

Here are some people you may want to include in your website team:

  • Photographer–You’ll need professional level photos for your website. I did my website on a very slim budget, so I’m thankful to have a niece with a great camera and a fabulous artistic eye. You can hire a professional, but you may have someone like my niece Megan in your life. I’ve decided that I’d rather pay her than someone I don’t know, and I think I got better pictures because I was so comfortable with her. One of the things Megan asked me to do before our photo shoot was to make a Pinterest board of photos I liked. That gave her insight and direction before we started, and it gave me ideas from some props I used.
  • Brand Identification Specialist–Are you still struggling with knowing how to brand your website? It’s really tough to identify your brand on your own, so you may want to hire some help. Holley Gerth and Stephanie Bryant, creators of (in)courage, coach speakers, authors, bloggers and business owners in branding. Check out their services on their adorable website Squee!
  • Content Coach–(That’s me!) When you’re writing the content for your website, it’s often helpful to have someone outside your own though process to evaluate and shape your writing. I love helping women write a bio and topic descriptions that are audience-focused and describe your niche in ministry. You can take a look at our Menu of Services to see a description of what Next Step does. If you’re interested in any of the services, simply fill out the Request Information form, and I’ll contact you to set up a free consultation call.
  • Website Designer or Graphic Artist–Unless you have a particular gifting in this area (I’ve had a couple of clients who did their own beautiful design), I highly recommend hiring a graphic artist. Honestly, I truly believe they’re worth their weight in gold. A skilled graphic artist can help you with branding as well as web design, because they understand how to use visual elements to communicate subtle messages. Looking at lots of sites and finding the information about the designers of your favorites is one way to find a great one. This is a crucial person in your website development, so choose carefully.
  • Web Developer–Web designers sometimes can serve as both designer and developers, but true web developers usually have a greater ability to implement all the bells and whistles. They can help you choose a WordPress theme, buy a domain, choose a hosting site, strengthen SEO, and find Plugins for any function you can imagine. My web developer saved me money and honed details on the site. I’m also thrilled to have someone who can help me solve problems and work on projects in the future.

Next week I’ll introduce you to my techie geniuses and let them talk about what they need from us non-techie types.

Amy

 

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Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Write Engaging Content

If you’re sticking with me, we’re really building up steam! Did you get your website map finished for your website last week? I’d love for you to share so we can celebrate together. Do you have any exciting ideas to share?

You’ve only got one more step before you’re ready to start connecting with your techie folks. Creating written content to engage your visitors might be one of the most challenging and most important steps. Take a look at your website map. Where are the places that require text? At a minimum, you’ll need some “About” information and descriptions of your speaking topics. Here are some additional areas to consider creating content:

  • A statement of faith
  • Free resources
  • An opening blog post introducing the new site

One of the ideas I implemented on my site was an area specially created for event planners. I was tired of emailing my bios, topic descriptions, headshots, etc. to each planner individually, so I have all those pieces collected in one spot on the website. When I have my initial call with an event planner, I let her know everything she’ll need is there. It has made life easier for me, and the planners seem to appreciate the ease of use too!

Just a few words about your writing… Make sure the writing on your website reflects your consistent presence online. If you have a casual presence, I think it’s fine to use a casual voice on your website. One of the words friends and Next Step clients consistently use to describe me is “warm”, so I wanted to convey that on my website. My “Amy’s Story” section is very casual (and hopefully warm!), but I’ve included a link to my professional biosheet as well. If your audience is more corporate or professional, you’ll choose a more formal voice. You want to use your natural, authentic voice so visitors feel they know you personally. For some great examples, read over some of the biosheets from Proverbs 31 Ministries’ speakers.

I found it took a big chunk of time to create the written content for my website, so it was nice to have it in hand when my designer and web developer were ready for it.

Do you have any questions about content for your website? I’m happy to answer them in our comments section today!

Amy

 

 

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Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Create a Website Plan

If you’re working on a new website, I hope you’re building some momentum! You’ve found your why and looked around, so now it’s time to create a plan.

Once I created my long list of elements I loved from other people’s sites, I began to evaluate what I could implement. You may need to do what I did and create 2 lists: an “Elements I can Create Now” and “Elements I Want to Add Later”.

I decided I needed to made a concrete plan that I could pass on to the people who would be designing and building my site, so I started to divide my list of elements into pages for the site. I color coded everything just like a real map. Here’s a picture with my color-coding system and a sample of what the plan for one page looked like. The link for the PDF is below it if you’d like to print it for your own use.

website map pic

Website Plan

If you want to compare my plan against the reality of how it all turned out on my personal website, you can click here and look at the Speaking tab. You’ll see my site is still in progress. The sample video and MP3 download are still in progress. (Note: As Michael Hyatt says, you can’t wait for perfection. At some point you need to go ahead and launch!)

My sample is what I wanted one page to include. You’ll need to do a plan for each page. Once you have your techie people in place, they may have additions and suggestions, but with a plan, they’ll be able to better understand your vision and purpose.

If you’re struggling with what you want to include on each page, ask yourself, “What do I want the visitor to this page to know or do?” A friend shared that question with me when I was working on my site, and it gave me greater clarity. Try to put yourself in your visitor’s shoes. They don’t know anything about you, so fill in all the blanks.

Michaela, my wonder-intern, is posting some fantastic links on Facebook and Twitter this week with much more information about how to develop the elements of your website. Please join her there by clicking on the icons above and share with your friends!

Next week I’ll talk about creating great content for your site, and then I’ll move on to how to hire and work with your techie folks. In the meantime, how’s it going? Are you currently working on your site or upgrading your old one? What kinds of challenges are you facing?

Amy

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Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Take a Look Around

Today is part 2 of our series “Creating a Website (for the Non-Techie)”. If you missed last week, make sure to read the into here.

One of the absolute most valuable steps I took in pre-planning for my website was becoming a student of others’ websites. I was creating my new website on a very limited budget, so I took on the burden of being very clear about what I wanted before I contracted with my techie geniuses (an intro to them is coming in a few weeks).

I visited each site with a pen and paper by my side, ready to take copious notes on features I liked from each site. These are the kinds of sites I visited:

  • Other speakers  I admire.
  • Industry leaders (publishers, literary agents, marketing gurus, etc)
  • Sites of speakers at bloggers’ conferences such as Allume (I figured if these folks are speaking at a bloggers’ conference they know what they’re talking about! I got some genius ideas from their sites.)

**If you want to see other sites I visited, please join us on Facebook or Twitter this week. My intern, Michaela, is visiting some of them right now. She’s going to lead you on a little tour! (To join us on FB or Twitter, click the icons above.)

I went through each of my “study sites” with a fine-toothed comb. I studied every page for both content, layout and visual design. For each site, I listed elements I loved. When I was finished, I had a page covered with notes. Here are some questions to ask as you tour websites:

  • What is the color palette? Is this a palette I like or would use?
  • What style is the photography? Casual? Business?
  • What is the layout of the home page? What does that layout say about the emphasis of the site? (ie. True bloggers usually have their blog as their homepage. Because I have a love-hate relationship with blogging:), I decided to minimize its importance on my site this time.)
  • Is each page laid out identically or differently?
  • What is in the sidebar of each page?
  • How is video/media used?
  • What resources are offered? What are “take aways” from the site?
  • Can I identify the “why” of the website owner?

My goal in studying these sites was to learn as much as possible from people who are using the internet effectively. Many of the people on my list are professional marketers or have marketers working for them, and since I don’t, I wanted to glean what I could from the experts.

One point I want to emphasis is that it was never my intention to copy or replicate another site too closely. One example would be an element I love on Renee Swope’s website. She included photo albums that I just love. She’s used them to connect with people on a personal level as well as to show the different roles she carries–wife, mom, speaker….

I wanted to do something similar using the power of photography without copying her unique idea exactly. I tried to use lots of photography on my site showing the different sides of my personality, and I want to include more family shots, event pics, etc over time. So use people’s concepts, but I encourage you to make your site as unique as possible. Imitation may be the sincerest form flattery, but you don’t want to leave anyone with a bad taste in their mouth. Besides, it’s your unique perspective that will capture others’ attention!

Next week I’ll share a step to create a powerful tool for communication with your techies. In the mean time, would you share a site you love and what you learned from it? I’d love for us to have our own tour here. At the end of our series, we’ll do a Mr. Linky tour so you can show us your website. Can’t wait!

Amy

 

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Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Find Your Why

Last fall was one of the busiest ministry seasons ever, and in the midst of it all I launched a new personal website. In retrospect, I should have planned a little more space for such a big project, but I didn’t realize how much mental space the work would take on my part. In the next 8 weeks, I’m going to write about steps to creating your own blog or website.

I need to start by saying that although I know more than I used to about using my computer,  I’m still a relative non-techie. So this series is officially titled “Creating a Website (for the Non-Techie).

Here’s what I’m afraid of. I’m afraid some of you are going to check out because you’ve already got a website or you don’t have and/or don’t want a website. Can I ask you to hang in there with me? I am going to attempt to write helpful posts for those of you in the process as well as the other two groups.

This week I’m going to give you a simple assignment. Before you ever start picking color palettes, having professional photography done or writing bio content, I want to challenge you to ask yourself some basic questions:

  • Why do I want or need a website?
  • Why do I want people to come to my website?

There are lots of people talking about seeking your personal “why”, but I believe the champion of this concept is Simon Sinek author of Start with Why. To grasp the concept and hear a great message, I urge you to take a little time to watch his excellent TED Talk.

Identifying the why for your website is absolutely crucial for building a foundation for your vision. Without your why, you’ll be adrift without a vision. My friend and Next Step client Cheri Gregory helps tremendously in this blog post to find our why by giving us some key questions to ask ourselves. In the paragraphs above, I’ve referred to this process of finding your why as “simple”. I think it’s worth saying that it might be simple, but it’s certainly not easy. This process of finding the why for your website will need to be steeped in prayer, time and reflection.

Once you’ve found it, use your why to work toward developing a tagline . You can click here, and here to get more instruction. Writing a tagline is a process with much more powerful purpose than simply having the product of a tagline. It will cement your why for your ministry and website and give you clarity and purpose.

I’d love for us to use this spot as a forum to discuss as you work toward creating or updating your website. Feel free to ask each other questions, share tips or tell  us about your discovery of your why!

For those of you just starting a website…This week pray about your personal why and please share here. :)

For those of you with a website…Do you know the why of your website? Can visitors tell what it is?

For those of you without a website…Do you know the why of your ministry? Is it apparent in your messages?

Last scary questions…Would you visit my new website and weigh in? Can you tell what my why is?

Amy

 

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Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Why Hire a Coach?

Years ago, I remember having a snarky conversation with a friend about the upsurge in life coaches. “I’m sure glad I don’t have to hire a friend!” I sniped.

Ouch! It’s hard to have your own words come back to bite you. I’m now a huge believer in the power of coaching, not just because I am one but also because of the help I’ve received from coaches. When I found out one of my Next Step clients, Jill Hart,  is also a business coach, I scheduled some calls for her to help me build Next Step. I was new to entrepreneurship, so she was a huge help to me. In the new year, my friend Trisha McDuffee is going to be my health coach as I tried to unpack some of the pounds I’ve packed on. Here’s a big cheer for an expert on a healthier life!

There is an abundance of information out there in books, videos and programs, so why would anyone invest in coaching? Although I understand I’m not the ultimate expert on speaking, there are three very powerful benefits to hiring a speaking coach:

  1. Deadlines and Accountability–It’s easy to access lots of instruction and information on speaking, but most of us struggle to self-start. For the majority of Next Step’s services, I break a big project into smaller parts, and you complete the project a little at a time with homework assignments. There’s something about knowing someone is waiting for your work that lights a fire to get it done!
  2. The “Tw0-Heads-Are-Better-Than-One” Phenomenon–When I give my clients feedback, they have an opportunity to give their messages or marketing pieces a trial run before delivering them to an audience. We can fill out ideas, identify gaps and get a feel for what connects before messaging becomes public.
  3. Gain Your Coach’s Experience–I’ve learned so much over the years from the women who surround me on the Proverbs 31 speaker team as well as from my own failures and victories. I have lots I love to share, and I learn so much from my clients too!

If you’d like to hear more from former clients about the coaching experience, hear are some places on our site to look:

  • Testimonials on the right sidebar of our homepage.
  • Watch a video of a few of our clients and read full descriptions of our services.
  • Blog posts by clients here and here.

As you’re praying about the steps God has for you to grow your speaking ministry this year, would you consider coaching through Next Step Speaker Services? I would love to walk alongside you and invest in your calling! To schedule a free consultation call so I can hear more about your calling and to hear more about our services, simply fill out the Request Information form. I’ll contact you quickly to set up our call.

Amy

 

 

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Tuesday, January 7, 2014

A New Start in a New Year

When Amy invited me to join her in Next Step Speaker Services, it made sense. Writing and speaking often go hand in hand. Besides, I love Amy Carroll, so getting to work with her in any capacity was a blessing.

In the past 18 months I had an awesome privilege to work one-on-one with several of you. I have celebrated as some of you secured agents with a tightly written proposal, and jumped up and down with happiness as some of your proposals and book ideas went on to committee at a publishing house.

Watching writers find their niche and hone their craft makes this girl happy.

Just recently I sneaked back to take a peek at one writer’s blog. When we first started working together, she didn’t know who she was. Sounds funny, right? Yet there was this little part of her that she thought nobody would love. As we worked together, she discovered that the parts she had been hiding were the parts her readers loved the best. She developed her tag line. Her blog. Eventually she created other outlets using social media, and I couldn’t be prouder of her because by finding her niche, she found her voice. One day that will lead to books and articles and columns.

Sadly, though I have loved it, I’m stepping away from Next Step Speaker Services. I simply had to put something down. I’m marketing a book that came out in 2013, and am in the beginning stages of marketing my next book to be released in 2014. I also begin a small role in Compel Training with Proverbs 31 Ministries (www.compeltraining.com) in 2014. Pile on top of that radio, article deadlines, and 5 adorable little grandbabies under the age of 3, and you see the picture. Sometimes as writers, knowing what to keep and what to put down is integral. I will miss Amy. I will miss you. I loved this season of working for Next Step.

Come see me at my website or give me a hug at She Speaks this year, where I’ll be teaching classes in the writing track. I’ll sneak over to the blog from time to time just to spy on you, and quietly celebrate as you run after your ministry dreams.

Suzie Eller

 

I’m going to miss having Suzie here with us, but I’m excited about her new ventures! If you’ve been impacted by Suzie’s ministry here, please take a few minutes to thank her for investment at Next Step.

Although Next Step will no longer be offering services for writers, make sure to follow Suzie to Compel, Proverbs 31 Ministries’ new training program for writers. I’m a subscriber, and I can personally testify that it’s FABULOUS! Take a few minutes to check it out today by clicking here. There will be some new things for speakers coming this year from Next Step, so make sure to keep joining us here too.

Also, if you haven’t joined Next Step on Facebook or Twitter, now is a great time. This week there will be daily ideas for growing your speaking ministry in 2014. Happy New Year, ya’ll!

Amy

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Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Q & A Week 3

Today is our last question and answer post to finish up 2013. I’ll be taking a break next week, but our next post will come out on January 7th. Here’s the question…

I’m interested in marketing my message nationally. Other than the 3 books you offered (see the sidebar), I’m wondering if there are any books specifically geared towards marketing the message?

I have two resources to pass on. The first is a series of posts Tracie Miles did for Next Step years ago. She’s got loads of great ideas in them: http://www.nextstepspeakerservices.org/marketing-your-message-series/ Lots of you may have joined us since these were published, so I want to make sure you have access to these posts now.

Also, Rob Eager, CEO of Wildfire Marketing, is a fabulous resource. I get his Monday Morning Marketing Tips, but he also has a book out called Sell Your Books Like Wildfire. Although it targets marketing a book, but so many of his ideas cross over to speaking if you think of your messages as your product.

christmas pic Photo Credit

Merry Christmas, ya’ll!

Amy

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Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Q & A Week 2

I’m doing a short Q & A series to answer questions from other speakers.  I hope these will help you too!  If you have a question you’d like answered, feel free to send it in an email to amy@proverbs31.org.  I’ll answer it here on the blog so everyone will benefit.  :)

Here’s a question from my friend and former Next Step client, Dixie.  (Thanks for the encouragement too, Dixie!)

Hi Amy,

I hope all is well! I just wanted to write a quick follow up with a thank you on our working together. I’ve just gotten a few paid speaking engagements and they are not quite what you and I worked on (they are vision board workshops) they are a start and I could not have had the confidence with out you! I also wanted to ask a question, do you remember when you first started out speaking, how did you go about getting the assignments that you truly desired and ultimately end up connected with P31, I never heard you say in your talks and I am still trying to find my footing in that area and thought if I heard your journey it may help propel me a bit faster.

Dixie

I don’t want to sound at all trite, but the beginning of my speaking journey truly was a God story.  Although I rarely journal, I had been prayer journaling following a move and writing the words I believed God was speaking to me.  For about a month, I wrote words about a speaking calling, but I was skeptical.  Were these really God’s words to me, or was this an old ambition raising its ugly head again?  I prayed God would completely purify my heart and that He’d open doors of opportunity.

Months later, I was struggling with depression.  The move had left me feeling lonely and purposeless, and I cried out to God.  “I’ve never asked for a sign,” I told Him.  “But I need something to show me that you see me.”

I’m being completely honest when I say I had low expectations.  Do you know what my heart really longed for at that moment?  Just someone to invite me to lunch.  Seriously!

Nothing happened that day, and I was crushed.  Two days later, however, I walked into my home to a blinking answering machine.  The recorded voice was someone I didn’t know from a church I had never heard of asking me to lead their women’s beach retreat.  I stood and wept.  God had answered my prayer in a fashion so exceeding my expectations.

The retreat weekend was a true blessing, and I began to wonder how my speaking ministry would grow.  Would word of mouth begin to spread?  In my prayer time, God spoke almost immediately.  He let me know I wouldn’t control this ministry or make anything happen.  He told me that He would provide opportunities that were clearly His doing.

And that’s exactly how it happened.

Every opportunity was separate and unusual.  One woman even got my name after being at my church for a funeral!

After about a year and a half of these God-generated opportunities, I attend She Speaks.  I loved what I was doing, but truthfully, I was completely winging it, and I needed help!  After the conference, I applied for the speaker team, and the rest is history.

I love telling my story, because it’s such a beautiful example of how God grows your ministry.  Does that mean we don’t participate with Him in marketing?  No.  However, I want you to be encouraged.  God is in control of our ministries.  Him.  And Him alone.  You can rest in that truth.

How do you grow?  Step into every opportunity God gives, even when it doesn’t look like you expected. Take steps of obedience even when it means hard work.  When there are no opportunities, wait, serve and grow spiritually.

Would you like more encouragement?  I’ve added a page on my new personal website just for you.  Click here to visit.

I’m cheering for each and every one of you to have the opportunities to share God’s message!

Amy

 

 

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