Adventures in Longarm Quilting Research

I wish I could say my longarm quilting machine research has been a wonderful experience, but I can’t quite bring myself to say that.

Last weekend I did my longarm rental training. A few days later I rented a longarm machine for four hours. The entire process was a $*&# show beginning with the multiple attempts to book my training and rental time, right to the end of my rental time. But I DID get my quilt done. If I quilted it by hand, it would take me a year! Isn’t that pretty stitching?

I admit that I am not really too upset about all the things that went wrong with this rental process. I was able to load up on stories and ideas that I am fairly certain will make it into my new book.

Sorry…but as the saying goes “if you didn’t want me to write bad things about you, you should have behaved better”!

For example:

  • This company doesn’t answer their phone. I’m not sure why they advertise two different phone numbers, but they don’t answer either one. I think I discovered the reason when I spent FOUR HOURS in their studio and never once heard a phone ring. Perhaps they don’t know that you can turn the phone ringer on???
  • They also don’t return email messages and Facebook messaging is hit and miss. Mostly miss.
  • After being PROMISED at the training session that I didn’t need to purchase batting that day for my rental just a few days later, I showed up at my rental time to discover that they didn’t have any batting. Bad enough discovery…but several of the staff suggested I could just run down the road to another store. In fact, there were two within a 10 minute drive. No big deal in their eyes. I can’t even begin to tell you what a big deal it was to me…you’ll have to wait and read about it in the book when I get it written!

The experience could have been worse, because I WAS able to get my quilting completed. Really, it turned out to be exactly the research I needed! After all, a story is not much of a story if the hero/heroine just sails through their story.

I hope this company is able to solve their enormous communication and customer service problems. They have quite a cool business model that I believe has enormous potential. Unfortunately potential is useless without motivation.

PowerPoint and Office 365

Have you seen the latest PowerPoint program? If you’re an Office 365 subscriber, you have access to the latest and greatest versions of some pretty cool features.

I used PowerPoint for training sessions and seminars. It is easy to use, and it is easy to hire someone to create a slide deck if you’re just too busy to do it on your own. Now you can even create videos from PowerPoint!

Use these tips when you’re creating a slide deck for your presentation. I have been playing around with this presentation to see how the new features work. It’s not finished yet (next I’m going to play with audio and video options), but see if you can guess which tips I haven’t followed!  TMT_ScannerMarketing

  1. Keep each slide simple. Stand about ten feet back from your computer screen…can you read the page easily? If not, split the slide into as many as you need for the text and images to be easily seen. If you can read your computer screen from about ten feet away, your audience should be able to read it on a projector screen.
  2. Don’t read from the slides. It irritates the audience, and you’ll lose them when they read at a different speed than you are speaking. Instead, use each slide to gain interest from the audience. Use interesting pictures and images, use a minimal amount of text, and expand on the slide with your voice.
  3. Create speaking notes to go with each slide if you plan to use the slides as a handout. In the speaking notes you can expand on the slide content, adding relevant information that does not fit on the slide.
  4. Remember to include an action slide at the end of your presentation. It should contain your name, website URL, contact information, and your call to action. What do you want your audience to do next? Go to your website? Call you? Subscribe to the newsletter? Be very clear about the next step they should take.DO NOT give them five things to do – unless you are also giving them a handout of those five things they should do. In which case, leave it in the handout, not on the slide!
  5. Don’t be afraid to learn how to use PowerPoint. Tons of free training are offered for each Office 365 program. Microsoft offers all kinds of training options: go here and select “PowerPoint” and select the training you need.

Bonus Tip: record an audio to go along with your presentation and put the slide show with audio on your website as a downloadable file. You can ask for your audience to subscribe to your newsletter and offer this as a free download bonus.

Most important tip – have fun with it! Be creative. Take a few chances, and test what works with your audiences. Then keep tweaking your presentation.

 

I’m Renting a Long Arm Machine!

I’m renting a long arm quilting machine this month! I can hardly wait. First comes the workshop to learn how to use the machine. Then I have rental time booked, when I will be quilting the quilt I made last year for the trailer. Here is a picture of the top. You can hardly see my mistakes from this distance.

Why am I so excited? Well, partly because I really want to have the new quilt finished and in the trailer for us to use this year. But mostly because this is research for my new book!

In my new book, Elsie has been scrimping and saving to start her dream quilting business. Although she is an accomplished sewist and quilter, she has done all of her sewing with a domestic sewing machine and by hand. She needs to learn about long arm quilting machines so she knows what to buy for her new studio. She also needs to learn how to use one – and then get good enough to offer custom quilting to her potential customers.

So much to learn! What do you think I should be watching out for? What can you tell me about your experiences with a long arm? Please put it in the comments below this post.

Can you believe that a NEW long arm machine with bells and whistles is about the same price as a car? Wow. Elsie needs a second job. She goes to work for a quilt shop that offers long arm machine rentals. Elsie is a straight shooter, so she tells her new boss Joan what she’s up to.

Joan agrees to help Elsie in her quest to become self employed, if Elsie agrees to put her quilting and sewing skills to work. She puts Elsie to work in the store, and sets her up to teach sewing and quilting classes in the back of the store.

I’ll post an excerpt from the book soon. I’m still working on the story line and characters. And the research. Speaking of research, I think I need to buy more fabric. In fact, I’m pretty sure I need more fabric. Catch you later!

Quilting Novel – The Beginning

I am writing a novel about quilting. I won’t say much more than that for now, because the plot is still evolving. If you like quilting, or stories about quilting, I invite you to join me on this writing adventure.

I will be posting here often about my progress. My writing goal is 2500 each writing day – but I don’t write every day.  Right now most of what I am writing won’t even make it into the final version. Character sketches, descriptions, and research results all count toward my word goal.

I wrote this story the first time in 2013 during NaNoWriMo. I managed to write over 50,000 words – but it was done very badly! Now I am tackling the job of rewriting the story and hopefully finding some content in the first draft that can be salvaged.

It is possible that three stories will come out of that initial mess. If you’d like to ride along with me on this writing journey, please do! I will be posting questions here and/or on Facebook to help me as I research how and why people do what they do.

For example – this week I posted a poll on Facebook about how people would act in a B&B. If you stayed in a B&B and saw a squeegee when you stepped in to shower, would you use it? Or would you feel like the fee you paid to stay at the B&B covers the cost of cleaning? Feel free to put your answer in the comments, the Facebook poll is only open for a few days.

There is no right or wrong answer, unless the character I am writing about chooses the wrong thing. And sometimes a little mistake in character can ruin the flow of a good story.

So, please join me on this adventure! Hopefully at the end I will produce authentic characters who will entertain you well.

Luxury Lifestyle

What is your idea of a luxury lifestyle?

I am cheap – I don’t like spending money where I don’t need to. So my definition of “luxury” may not be yours.

For example, I hate driving on bad winter roads and I am not a morning person. It is a luxury to wake up slowly instead of being jarred awake by the sound of an alarm. It is a luxury to set my schedule based on the weather.

There is more to my luxury lifestyle than just waking up without an alarm. I can choose when I work on specific tasks. During the winter I work with clients more. I write my marketing content, and schedule the delivery of most of it over the next year.

I spend less time on marketing in the summer – I only need to write current posts because I spent the winter writing “green” content. More time to spend on outdoor hobbies, another luxury.

Luxury extends from my work schedule to my leisure time too. In the winter I spend more time with creative pursuits – writing fiction, quilting, learning to draw, etc. All things that I can do from the comfort of home.

In the summer I spend time outdoors. Gardening, camping, and just relaxing in the backyard with a fire in the firepit. We upgraded to a larger fifth wheel trailer so we had the luxury of a high ceiling in the bedroom – and we sometimes splurge at campsites to have full hookups. See what I mean? We ARE cheap!

As you create your “luxury lifestyle”, be aware of those little day to day luxuries. What does your ideal day, week, season, etc. look like? What are the small luxuries that you have been missing out on? What would you have to change to take advantage of those opportunities now?

If you’re stuck on how to create a lifestyle that is filled with daily small luxuries, get in touch with me. I can help.

Taylor Made Muse

Most writers (and other creatives) have a muse. Mine is a Siberian Forest Cat named Rosie. She is helping me write my first fiction novel.

When Rosie came to live with us, I knew we were going to have our hands full. Siberian Forest Cats are ACTIVE! Especially as kittens. Rosie would have played for 3 hours straight – if I was willing to stay on the other end of a toy. And after a short break for a snack or a nap she would have been happy with another 3 hours of play time!

As much fun as it is to play cat games, I also needed to get some work done. Retirement was still a little way off, and I needed to work!

And so began the process of training Rosie to become my muse.

I would sit at the computer. Rosie would jump on my lap. She would bat at my fingers on the keyboard. She would reach for the papers beside the keyboard.

I would put Rosie into the basket on the desk near me. She would immediately jump out, walk over to my keyboard and flop down on it.

Repeat. Repeat. Repeat.

Eventually I got smart. I put treats in her basket! BINGO! Rosie’s in the basket.

And…she’s out. As soon as the treats were gone, Rosie was back on the keyboard.

We persisted.

Eventually it worked. Now Rosie picks up her cue from me, and goes straight to her basket to snooze. Occasionally she first jumps on my lap for a quick snuggle. She also checks behind the laptop for any hidden treasures, but for the most part, she’s got her job figured out.

Not sure what I will use as my “excuse” for not working now.

Who – or what – is your muse?

Writing E-Books For Fun & Profit

There’s no product easier to create … or sell … online than a simple, straightforward instructional or how-to e-book.

I made a lot of rookie mistakes when I wrote my first e-books. I wish I had known then what I know now! In fact, because of what I learned from Bob Bly’s book “Writing E-Books for Fun & Profit“, I pulled ALL of my e-books from my site so I could rewrite them.

Why are e-books the perfect information product to sell on the Internet?

  • No shipping costs or delays.
  • Higher perceived value than regular books.
  • Quick, simple, and inexpensive to produce.

In his e-book “Writing E-Books for Fun & Profit” Bob Bly shows you how to make huge profits creating and selling simple e-books.

  • 100% profit margin.
  • No printing costs.
  • No inventory to store.
  • Quick and easy to update.

Later this year, “Writing E-Books for Fun & Profit” will sell for $59. However, to make it affordable for you to get started in e-book publishing, he’s letting my subscribers have “Writing E-Books for Fun & Profit” for only $19 today — a savings of $40 off the cover price!

For more information … or to order on a risk-free 90-day trial basis … just click here now.

P.S. But I urge you to hurry. This special $40 discount is for a limited time only. And once it expires, it may never be repeated again. If you haven’t written an e-book yet, it’s definitely time to get on it.

How To Sell Your Services

SellingYourServicesSelling is the worst part of business ownership – at least for most people. That’s why I’m bringing this resource to you. If you sell services – coaching, consulting, creative, technical, or health services – Selling Your Services might just be the single best investment you make for your business!

You’ll learn why honing your service skills is NOT the best way to increase sales. Being the best at what you do is important – but that’s not what makes people buy from you. Get the scoop on what really does make the difference to your income.

Go here to get it now.

You know I only recommend resources that I trust. This particular resource was created by Bob Bly. When he realized that his copywriting business wasn’t even breaking $40K a year, he knew he had to change what he was doing.

Bob figured out what wasn’t working, and what would work better. Within two years he broke 6 figures. Now he’s one of the top copywriters in the industry. You can do it too if you learn and apply the secrets of Selling Your Services.

Check it out today. Follow the link to learn more about Selling Your Services and TWO BONUS CDs “Getting Clients” and “Selling Your Services Online” programs.

All for under $100 – perfect for Shoestring Solopreneur™ budgets. It’s truly an investment that can change the way you sell – and turn your business from Shoestring to Sublime!

 

Google Analytics for Shoestring Solopreneurs™

Tracking your marketing results might be the single most important aspect of your marketing plan. How are you tracking those results? For most Shoestring Solopreneurs™, it’s likely Google Analytics.

I don’t know about you, but when I first looked into Google Analytics, it was overwhelming! A whole lot of terminology that was foreign to me. It was enough to scare me off. Several times.

But I stuck with it, because I KNOW this is important stuff. You write your headlines, your articles, your ads…and then you wait for the results.

  • Which idea brought in the most clicks?
  • Which wording brought in the most sales?
  • What should you repeat?
  • And what should you NEVER do again?

Now you can learn how to use Google Analytics too. I found this course and I want to share this discovery with you. Jeff Sauer got hooked on Google Analytics over a decade ago, and his passion about teaching you to use this great tool is evident.

Check it out now: Google Analytics course by “Jeffalytics”. Catchy name, isn’t it?

You could pay a Google Analytics Certified professional to handle all this for you, but it’s going to keep a lot of money in your own pocket if you can do it on your own. Shoestring Solopreneurs™ need to be able to DIY a whole lot of stuff – but even if you want to outsource this important process, you should know what you’re dealing with. How else will you know if the person you hire has the knowledge and expertise you’re looking for?

This link will take you to the “early bird pricing” page. Get it quick, before the price goes up!

When Going Viral Is BAD for Business

Not all publicity is good!

When Earl’s Restaurants in Alberta made the decision to replace Alberta beef with non-Canadian beef, customers rebelled.

Earl’s decision went viral in a big way – and it definitely wasn’t positive. Months afterward, customers still avoid the restaurant and don’t trust claims that Earl’s has put Alberta beef back on their menu.

Earl’s believed they were doing the right thing in response to what their customers were saying by sourcing healthy, humanely slaughtered beef. What went wrong?

  • Earl’s didn’t fully understand their customers’ needs and wants.
  • Earl’s didn’t do their homework on their beef suppliers.
  • Earl’s didn’t explain their decision well.

Although Earl’s isn’t saying how much they lost with this gaff, you can be sure it was substantial. They reversed their decision in response to the social pressure. Now they publish “Earl’s Beef Report” in an attempt to regain positive social proof.

Is it working? When’s the last time you chose Earl’s over A&W?

A&W, in comparison, has done an excellent job in gaining positive social proof. They responded to their customers’ needs and wants in a positive way. Their website makes it very clear that they source eggs, chicken and pork from Canadian sources who follow A&W’s strict guidelines for hormone-free meat.

I sent A&W an email to find out more about their beef sources, as they don’t specifically say it is Canadian. Their response came back on the next business day. They DO source their beef from Canada, and when their Canadian ranchers – who meet their strict guidelines – can’t fulfill their order, they source elsewhere. They even named their Canadian suppliers. I’m completely satisfied with their response. It confirms to me that:

  • A&W understands what their customers want.
  • A&W researched and developed strong relationships with their suppliers to ensure they can meet customers’ needs.
  • A&W speaks the language of their customers.

This is a pretty basic comparison. Two companies who did the same thing in meeting customers’ requests for “healthy” beef.

Two very different approaches. Two very different results.

Both had the right idea about satisfying customers – but one company clearly came out ahead of the other.

The lesson for us? Words are powerful tools. Choosing the wrong words for your message can be catastrophic.

Larger companies have the resources to recover from bad social proof. Small businesses cannot afford to screw this up. If you get this wrong, your small business could simply fail. And, since you are not running a giant corporation, chances are good that no one will even notice that you’re gone.

POSITIVE social proof is essential in your marketing materials. The reasons are obvious. If you market to consumers (B2C) it’s even more important. Consumers are more likely to be influenced by their peers’ reviews and recommendations.

Make sure that your customers are putting your best foot forward.

There are smart, easy, and inexpensive ways to develop positive social proof for your company. It’s not enough to simply post regularly on your social media accounts. You need a plan for WHAT you say, HOW you say it, WHO you say it to, and WHEN you say it.

Get in touch with me to learn how you can promote positive social proof for your business.