April 2018 Brags

Here are some of April’s wins for this month’s brag post. 

As always they’re in no particular order.

1. The school I helped fund in Laos finished ahead of schedule.

I wasn’t there for the celebration and actually got the email with the grand opening pictures while I was at a business meeting in Chicago. I was so excited that I could barely focus for a little while. When I finally “came to” I downloaded the picture here and made it my desktop wallpaper.

It’s been a dream of mine to fund schools and it is was awesome to finally see everything come to fruition. I’d actually donated the money in December 2015 (crying when I hit the “pay” button) and since it took a while to build, I started to forget about it. Seeing the final product was thrilling.

2.  I spent lots of time with my nephew again which is great for both of us. We enjoyed playing at the trampoline park, dehydrating food together, playing outside, shopping for Paw Patrol sneakers… and I had a pretty fun time tricking him with some cauliflower crust pizza. ;)

3. I made some pretty tough decisions on some personal items that I know are for the better, but still weren’t easy to make.

4. I’ve done a great job fulfilling for everyone who signed up for LHS Jumpstart. I think the webinars have been very helpful and it’s been great hearing about how people are making sales.

5. I put in another pretty sizable chunk of change into WealthFront. If you’re not using this site I definitely recommend it for a passive investment strategy.

After you sign up, it auto-invests your money using time-tested stock advice. I think you need to start with $500 and then if you sign up via http://www.rachelrofe.com/wealthfront it manages your first $20k for free.

I’ve been using the service since December 2015 with pretty good returns:

Using this site is a part of my “retire at 40” strategy because it’s been essentially giving me free cash.

6. I’ve been using the Headspace app for meditation. On April 16th I hit 200 minutes meditated and then on April 25 I finished the 30 days of meditation series. Daily meditation has been really helpful for me.

7. In April, our warehouse in shipped out over 59,000 “print on demand” items and another several thousand regular fulfillment items.

8.  People in LHS are continuing to get excellent results. Here were some from April:

9. We got some awesome endorsements from celebrities for my warehouse! Check them out here: http://rachelrofe.com/chplaylist.

More are coming this month.

10. I booked an incredible few days at Mandarin Oriental and took care of myself beautifully. I booked 2 days at the spa and got amazing massages, treatments, and self-care time.

I think that’s everything for now. Please feel free to share your wins, too!

33 ways to break out of a creative slump

We’ve all been there –

Drumming your fingers on the table, wracking your brain, trying to figure out what to do next with your business idea or project.

It’s SUUUUUPER frustrating!

But the good news is, you don’t always have to take it lying down, while waiting for inspiration to strike.

There are some very helpful things you can do to break free from your block and return to a state of flow and productivity.

In this post we’ll go over 33 different block-busting strategies for how to break free from your slump and return to a state of flow and productivity.

Normally I don’t love having posts with big lists since they can overwhelm people, but since we’re all different and have different things that work for us, it felt right on this one.

Scroll through and pick whatever works best for you.

Let’s get going…

Grab a pen or pencil and do some old-school journaling.

Journaling helps your thoughts flow freely. Since you’re writing for yourself only, you don’t have to censor yourself.

Because of that, journaling evokes mindfulness and heightened self-awareness to help you release thoughts and ideas you didn’t fully know you had.

Keeping a journal can also provide you with surprising benefits like changing your IQ, improving your communication skills, enhancing your memory (especially if you journal by hand!) and makes you more self-disciplined.

Go outside and do something.

Sometimes when you’re in a creative slump the best thing to do is to step away from what you’re working on. Your brain gets burnt out if it’s overworked or if you make it focus too hard on any one particular task.

If you start to feel this way, close what you’re doing and go do something – especially something outside in nature.

Maybe there’s a park nearby if you’re in a major city, or you can even just stop for a minute to take in the beauty of the trees lining the sidewalk.

Focusing your brain on nature and what’s around you helps enhance your mood and memory, and studies show that it also improves your creative reasoning.

Do a fun but mindless task that stimulates creativity.

This is another good way to give your brain a break if you start to feel overwhelmed or burnt out. Fun, mindless tasks help relieve stress and anxiety. Plus, they can increase your focus.

Some examples of fun, mindless tasks include working on a jigsaw puzzle, building a 3D model, like an airplane or ship, or coloring. (You can actually find coloring books for adults — as in, they’re designed to reduce stress, not as in they contain explicit material.)

Talk to a friend, family member, or mentor.

Anytime you’re going through some kind of problem or issue, talking about it helps. Getting it off your chest can feel like a huge sigh of relief, enabling you to feel lighter and think more clearly.

Set up Google alerts.

What topics are you most interested in? What topics most closely relate to what you’re working on? Make a quick list. Then, set up Google alerts around these topics.

This way, you’ll have easy access to a variety of articles, news pieces, and videos related to your work or interests, which can also serve as sources of inspiration.

Meditate.

I’m a big believer in meditation. Regular meditation can afford you with SO many benefits, including relieving your stress and anxiety, fostering mindfulness, enhancing your memory, and stimulating creativity. You can even meditate for 10 minutes a day just to get your mind adjusted into something new.

I recommend meditating either first thing when you wake up or just before you’re about to head to bed. And if you’re new to meditation, I suggest listening to guided meditations, as they help walk you through the process.

Dig through content archives and old social media posts.

While not everyone blogs or writes on a regular basis, most people do maintain at least a basic social media presence.

So if you’re a blogger, comb through old posts to see what topics you could update, expand, adapt, or re-format. And if your content creation occurs mostly via social media, look back to see which posts or tweets got the highest levels of engagement (i.e. the most retweets, likes, comments, and shares).

Looking through old content could give you an idea of what to focus on, moving forward. Plus, the actual act of perusing old content is a way to refocus your mind in and of itself.

Help other people with something they’re working on.

Helping someone else just makes you feel good in general. But when you help someone with a project they’re working on — for example, by brainstorming together or giving feedback — it can help you to think about your own projects in new ways. Plus, that same person you helped might also be willing to help you.

Work from a new location.

When you fall into a creative rut, it sometimes helps to mix up your location or surroundings so your brain gets exposed to new stimuli.

For example, if you typically work from home, try going to a coffee shop.  Or if you work in an office, try sprucing up your desk with some new plants or photos, or rearranging your office furniture.

Change up your routine.

Similarly, when you’re in a rut, changing up your daily routine can be helpful.

I’m not talking about major changes, though. I’m talking about minor things, like waking up 15 minutes earlier each day so you can stretch your body or meditate. Or maybe there’s a different route you can take to work. Or perhaps you could look for new recipes and try cooking something you’ve never eaten before for dinner a couple times a week.

Start following inspiring people on social media.

When you aren’t feeling much inspiration coming from within, looking to other people can be helpful. They don’t have to be people in your niche. They could be anyone, really — celebrities, athletes, politicians, anyone you admire or think has led an inspiring life and has quality information to share.

Compile a list of inspirational quotes.

This is a really good thing to keep around your workspace. Maybe the quotes even come from the people you started following on social media. But keeping a list of inspirational quotes handy is a good way to get a little mental pick-me-up if you’re feeling discouraged, lost, or stuck. It’s also just comforting to know that other people experience challenges too, so you’re not alone.

Do the “30 Circles” test.

This is a simple exercise that helps flex your creativity muscles. Draw a series of 30 circles and then challenge yourself to turn all of the circles into different objects. You can work with the circles individually or you can combine some or all of them together. There are no official rules with this exercise.

Watch or read something that makes you laugh.

Laughter has been shown to help people expand their thoughts and become more in tune with complex patterns, associations, and relationships. Humor doesn’t rely on traditional logic. Rather, it’s more closely linked to lateral thinking. So exposing yourself to more laughter-inducing content may help spark your own creativity.

Be a tourist in your own city or town for a day.

Rarely do people take the time to explore their own cities or towns. It’s all too easy to get caught up in “maintenance mode” with your life when you’re just working your way down to-do lists. And the closest you get to exploring is taking a trip to the grocery store or running some other kind of errand.

So, to spark your creativity, try finding something unique about the place you live and going to see or do that thing. Pretend you’re just visiting and you want to try the best of what your city or town has to offer. Look at everything with fresh eyes and try to find what makes your homebase special.

Clean and organize your workspace.

While not everyone may feel this way, I know I personally think A LOT better when my workspace is clean and organized. For me, de-cluttering my desk helps de-clutter my brain. There’s just something about a tidy work environment that makes it easier to get into a good workflow.

I’m also a big fan not only organizing my workspace but also turning my workspace into an environment that I love. For example, you can put a vase of fresh flowers on your desk or have some soothing music playing in the background — anything that makes you feel more at ease and happy to be where you are.

Combine ideas in a fresh way.

What’s often the case when you’re feeling stuck or in a slump is that you have lots of half-baked ideas but no fully formed ones. And if you find yourself in this type of situation, instead of putting all your energy into fleshing out any single idea, try looking for relationships or associations between your half-baked ideas to see if you might be able to combine two or more of them together and come up with a more fully formed concept that way.

Create a folder for half-baked ideas.

Again, you might have a lot of half-baked ideas floating around in your head. Don’t discount these thoughts, though, as you never know when inspiration may strike.

Create a folder — for example, in Google docs, your email, or as a Word document — and put all of your half-started ideas in there. Even if it’s just a few sentences or keywords, don’t throw any of your ideas away. While some of your ideas may be underdeveloped now, the rest of the concept may come to you at a later time.

Approach the problem or topic from a different perspective.

If you look at something from only one angle, you’re going to have a limited perspective. So if you’re feeling stuck, try to get outside your head and approach the issue from a different angle.

Ask yourself questions like…

“What would an engineer do?”

“What would an artist do?”

“What would a kindergartner do?”

“What would the president do?”

Et cetera.

Stimulate your senses.

Sometimes, our daily routines can start to feel a little too routineSo it’s helpful to shake things up a bit, which you can do by stimulating your senses.

For example, you could try some exotic new food, especially one that has an extreme flavor, like super spicy or sour. Or, you could listen to a new type of music or stop to smell the flowers in your grocery store’s floral department. (For an extra kick to your senses, try doing these things with your eyes closed.)

Challenge what you think you know to be true.

Sometimes, you can get a little too “comfortable” with your own perceptions or ways of thinking. And you may need to challenge your thoughts, because if your current ways of thinking aren’t working, you need to try something different.

A great example of this has to do with the way watermelons are grown in Japan. You might think watermelons can only grow in one basic shape: round. This actually isn’t true, however.

To help make watermelons easier to stack and ship, and fit inside small Japanese refrigerators, Japanese farmers figured out a way to grow watermelons that were square, thus making them more stackable and conveniently sized.

So if you’re in a creative slump, don’t accept everything at face value. Challenge your assumptions and see if you can come up with a creative alternative.

Stimulate the right side of your brain.

Your right brain hemisphere is your creativity center. It also controls the left side of your body. So try stimulating your right brain by breathing out of only your left nostril, for example, or hopping up and down on your left foot, or doing some kind of artistic activity, such as painting or playing a musical instrument.

Play the “Word Association” game.

To do this, start by writing down a quick description of what you’re going through or trying to work on. Next, choose a word at random and write it down. You might even flip to a random page in the dictionary and select the first word your eyes land on.

Then, as quickly as you can, write down the first thing that comes to mind when you think of that word and repeat that step for each subsequent word and phrase that pops into your head.

The trick, though, is to form connections between words that aren’t super obvious. For example, if the first word you write down is bear, instead of writing down the name of another large mammal, maybe you think of “Teddy” as in “Teddy Bear” and you write down the name of another United States president (as the Teddy Bear was named after Theodore Roosevelt).

After you’ve gone a few rounds this way, review all the things you wrote down and circle back to your original description. See if any of your associations could be applied or adapted to your description and help push you out of your creative slump.

Create a mindmap.

This suggestion is somewhat similar to the word association game. In the middle of a piece of paper, write down a topic (e.g. an idea you have or something you’ve been working on). Next, draw branches extending from the main topic and write down sub-topics. Then, draw more branches from your sub-topics and write down more related ideas.

It can be fun to add illustrations or to use different colors to make your mindmap’s creation a creative exercise on its own.

Break the problem down into its smallest components.

Especially if you’re feeling overwhelmed, take whatever is it you’re working on or feeling stumped about and break it down into its smallest parts. Then, think about how everything should be put back together again. Ask yourself every step of the way if there might be a better way of doing things.

Maybe there’s something you missed or could do differently. Question everything.

Turn off distractions, like your phone, television, and radio, for a while.

It’s really difficult to get into a creative flow when you’re distracted, as overstimulating your brain prevents it from making associations and thinking freely. So try turning off everything, especially your phone — and don’t check your email or social media — for an hour or so and allowing your brain to relax and open itself up more to the free-flow of new thoughts and ideas.

Write down a “brain dump” of as many ideas and solutions as you can.

Instead of wracking your brain to come up with one great idea or the perfect solution, try coming up with as many ideas or solutions as you possibly can.

Basically, write down everything that comes into your head, no matter how implausible or ridiculous it might seem. This helps get your mind flowing more freely.

And after reviewing what you wrote down, you might just find that one great idea or perfect solution in the mix.

Create lists of your favorite things.

This is another way to help your brain flow more freely. Making a list of your favorite things lets you shift your focus away from whatever it is you’re stuck on and allows your brain to think about something else — something more positive, like all the things you really love.

You could also try making a list of all the things you feel grateful for — for example, family, friends, travel experiences, or your health. This is an especially helpful list to make if you’re also feeling a little down, as counting your blessings provides perspective and reminds you that you have a lot of wonderful things going on in your life.

Do something outside your comfort zone.

Maybe you’re scared of heights so you decide to go skydiving. Or, on a smaller scale, say you’re uncomfortable speaking in front of a crowd; the next time you spend time with a group of people, stand up and give a toast.

It doesn’t have to be anything huge. Just challenge yourself in any way you can. Facing challenges and doing things that scare you are ways to help you grow, experience new things, and expand your perspective.

Engage in more positive self-talk and/or adopt a positive mantra.

Sometimes, if you sit back and just listen to your own thoughts for a second, you’ll notice a lot of negativity. Maybe it’s feelings of self-doubt or being over-critical about your skills and talents. You can be your own worst enemy at times, and the biggest obstacle to your success might actually be yourself.

So, if you catch yourself engaging in a lot of negative self-talk, flip and script by replacing the negativity with more positive thoughts, which might come in the way of an inspiring mantra that you repeat to yourself — something like “I am capable, skilled, and motivated to achieve great things.”

Take a quick nap.

Something as simple as catching a few extra z’s could be all you need to break out of a creative slump.

Also, try paying attention to any dreams you have, as your dreams may reveal hidden thoughts or truths about yourself.

Imagine if your creative slump was permanent…

Imagine that you worst has happened and you have to find a way to cope. What do you do?

Thinking about what it would be like to live your worst case scenario can actually be liberating. When you confront your biggest fears or concerns and realize that life still goes on, it can make you feel more at ease and let go of some of the apprehensions and self-doubt you’ve been holding onto.

Here’s a bonus list of ways to break free from your creative slump by following the lead of some of history’s most innovative minds:

  • Sleep facing north like Charles Dickens.
  • Put on a funny hat like Dr. Seuss, which is actually what inspired The Cat in the Hat, believe it or not.
  • Count coffee beans like Beethoven.
  • Take a bath while eating apples like Agatha Christie.
  • Or, if you’re really daring, take an “air bath” like Benjamin Franklin, which involves reading or writing for 30 minutes while standing naked in front of an open window.

What do you think of this list of ideas for how to start feeling more creative? Do you have any other suggestions that you can share? Please leave a comment below and let me know! 

Feeling stuck? You might be in a creative slump. If so, here are 33 ways to get your creative juices flowing so you can start being productive again in your business!

FAIL – 7 traffic-getting experiments that were a total bust…

When it comes to marketing, there’s a lot of trial and error. What works well for one person or brand may be a complete flop for someone else.

Having a lot of failures under your belt is a GOOD thing though. It means you’re trying. Even geniuses like Einstein and Picasso had a pretty small success rate compared to all the things they tried.

And in the vein of failing, today’s post is all about some case studies and experiments we’ve tried over the past few months that ended up becoming complete busts.

You can either learn from our experiences, or maybe you’ll read one of these case studies and come up with a way to make it work. If you do, let me know!

And until then, let’s take a look at the strategies we tried and what went wrong…

Failed experiment #1: Case study using Repricer Express

The premise:

We wanted to test-drive the Repricer Express tool as a way of helping people monitor their competitors’ prices so they could offer the best possible rates on Amazon.

What we did:

From Michaela:

I signed up for the 15-day free trial and decided to test a mix of products, including some that sell well, some that sell just okay, and some that don’t get many sales at all, so I could get a well-rounded perspective.

I linked my Amazon US Marketplace account to the service by inputting Repricer Express along with its account number into my Amazon Marketplace Web Service.

Amazon then generated a stock report and I was able to create the following repricing rule: “compete with all sellers and beat the lowest price by 1p or 1cent.”

Next, I created minimums/maximums to set floor and ceiling limits on my products’ prices. Then, I jump-started repricing in “safe mode.”

After, I was able to see repricing activity on my Repricer Express dashboard within an hour.

The outcome:

As you can see below, my sales counts actually decreased after my 15-day free trial with Repricer Express.

Reflections:

Given the decline in my sales rate, I don’t think this service is worth investing in or recommending.

However, if you wanted to give the trial a whirl yourself, it wasn’t all that time consuming to get set up and it won’t cost you anything. I just wouldn’t have high hopes of getting positive results.

Failed experiment #2: Case study using Storewoot

The premise:

We were curious about trying out some Etsy apps and I came across Storewoot, which helps you drive traffic and sales to your Etsy store by promoting your products on Pinterest.

What we did:

From Michaela:

Storewoot gives you one free credit to start, but I ended up purchasing 20 additional credits at $2 a piece. Promotions last for 30 days, and you get to promote one Etsy product with each credit. So, in total, I ran promotions for 21 different Etsy products.

With my free credit, I chose one of my Etsy products at random. But with the additional 20 credits I purchased, I chose products that hadn’t been selling well so I could get a good sense of how effective Storewoot was at driving traffic and increasing sales.

The outcome:

With the 20 products I promoted with the 20 credits I purchased, not a single sale was made, nor was a significant amount of traffic driven to my Etsy store from Pinterest.

With the product I promoted with my 1 free credit, however, quite a few sales did end up coming in. I just can’t necessarily attribute these sales to Storewoot because that particular design was one that made a really good gift for someone’s boyfriend, and the time that this promotion ran was just a few weeks before Valentine’s Day. So I think the mug’s selling success had more to do with timing than it did Storewoot.

Reflections:

I ran into a ton of logistical issues while using this app. And Storewoot’s customer support was pretty useless. I waited days to get a response after following up multiple times, and in some cases, I never got a reply.

So considering I paid $40 to use this app and my overall results were pretty lackluster, I wouldn’t recommend using Storewoot.

Failed experiment #3: Posting product videos to Pinterest

The premise:

I read an article about how posting product videos to Pinterest can be a traffic-booster so I wanted to give it a try and see for myself.

What we did:

From Michaela:

I chose 5 mug designs that hadn’t sold well in my Etsy shop and had a Fiverr person create a quick video about each product, also including a BUY NOW link at the end. Then, I posted the 5 videos to Pinterest along with 5-8 relevant hashtags and waited a few weeks to see if any sales came in from Pinterest.

The outcome:

Unfortunately, my Pinterest product videos didn’t generate any new sales or drive any significant traffic to my Etsy store.

Reflections:

Like many marketing strategies, creating product videos for Pinterest could potentially work better for other niches. So just because I didn’t have any success with my dog-related product videos, that doesn’t necessarily mean the strategy wouldn’t work well for other types of designs.

But since I did have to spend money to get the videos created and didn’t get any sales in return, this technique is a bust in my eyes.

Failed experiment #4: Ranking YouTube videos on Google

The premise:

I came across a guide about YouTube SEO that I wanted to test to see if I could rank one or more of my product videos on Google’s first page.

What we did:

While my product videos hadn’t produced any results from Pinterest, I wasn’t ready to cut my losses without at least trying out one more technique.

So I took those same 5 product videos and posted them on YouTube. Next, I followed all of the applicable suggestions laid out in the guide I mentioned, including…

  • keyword research
  • optimizing the video file names by including keywords
  • adding keywords to the uploaded video titles and descriptions
  • finding tags to use by looking at the source code of competitors’ videos
  • creating playlists

Then, I waited to see if any movement happened with my videos’ Google rankings.

The outcome:

After a few weeks, no significant changes took place, and none of my videos ever made it to Google’s first page.

Reflections:

I can’t say the quality of these videos was fantastic. It was a matter of them being “good enough” and getting what you pay for.

But that being said, the videos got barely any views after following the SEO suggestions, although — again — trying a different niche could possibly yield different results. However, since these videos already flopped on Pinterest, I feel ready to call it quits with them after they flopped on YouTube as well.

Failed experiment #5: Submitting press releases

The premise:

The idea here was to create a press release for one of my new mug designs and then see what kind of traction it might produce.

What we did:

I made a list of places to submit a press release that were good for promoting new designs and ecommerce stores. Then, I created a press release about one of my stores and a personalized mug that recently became available and submitted it to all of the press release sites.

The outcome:

My press release was accepted by all of the sites except for one that said the content was too “promotional.” None of my other accepted press releases resulted in any new sales for the personalized mug, however.

Reflections:

I was skeptical about this idea from the start, as I’ve tried submitting press releases in the past and they’ve always been a bust. But I thought I’d give it another shot to see if I might get better results this time around.

Unfortunately, though, I did not. And given the amount of time and energy it takes to write a press release, I wouldn’t recommend even attempting this strategy to see if you might experience a different outcome.

Failed experiment #6: Case study creating monthly mug subscriptions

The premise:

I wanted to try the UseGearBubble feature that lets you create monthly mug subscriptions and then reach out to niche influencers to see if they’d like a free sample in exchange for posting about the subscription offer via social media.

What we did:

I actually tried this strategy in two niches, one related to dogs and the other related to feminism. Inside UseGearBubble, I created two monthly mug subscription offers, selling each mug for $12.95.

Next, I reached out to close to 200 niche influencers (people with sizable followings) via Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and related blogs, asking people if they’d like to receive a free mug in exchange for posting about the subscription offer on their social media profiles or blog.

To everyone who responded affirmatively, I sent a free mug. The, I followed up about a week or so later to see if they’d received and liked the mug, and if so, I gave them the link to the subscription offer again so they could post it on their blogs or via social media.

The outcome:

I had high hopes for this strategy, as partnering with niche influencers has produced good results for me in the past — but not this time.

Of the people I reached out to, I got the best response rate from bloggers for the feminist subscription offer. Virtually no one I contacted via Facebook, Twitter, or Pinterest — for either offer — responded, and I received barely any responses, in general, for the dog-related subscription offer.

In total, I got 22 affirmative responses and I ended up sending out 18 free mugs.

Of those 18 mug recipients, 10 got back to me about posting to social media or on their blogs.

But even though these bloggers all created positive posts about my subscription offer, including links, tags, photos, and even a couple un-boxing videos, no sales came in for either of my monthly mug subscription offers.

Reflections:

While this could possibly work better for other niches, I have a feeling monthly mug subscriptions might work better as an upsell versus a front-end offer.

There could have been an issue with the $12.95 price-point, too. Pricing each mug a little lower might possibly yield better results, although, at this point, I feel I’ve spent enough time on this and sent out enough free mugs to decide it’s time to move on.

Failed experiment #7: Product roundup case study

The premise:

For this strategy, I wanted to pick a theme, choose several related Etsy products, and compile them into a list along with an accompanying graphic that I would then encourage other Etsy shop owners to promote.

What we did:

After deciding on the theme “Gift ideas for pit bull lovers,” I chose 3 products from my Etsy shop. Then, I found 7 complementary products from 7 different Etsy shops, each of which had a lot of positive reviews.

Next, I had one of my designers create a graphic with all of the products rounded up together, which I then added to a blog post, including links to each of the products on the list.

Then, I contacted each of the Etsy shop owners whose products I’d included in the roundup and gave them the link to my post, encouraging them to promote it via social media.

The outcome:

I thought this could be a great win-win for everyone involved. And while I did get some responses back expressing appreciation for having been included in the roundup, no one ended up getting back to me about sharing my blog post or graphic. And no new sales came in for the 3 products of mine that I included on the list.

Reflections:

Experiencing success with this strategy could be a matter of hitting the right niche — and the right shop owners. It also could come down to a matter of timing. Since I chose to pitch the round up as a “gift guide,” I might have had more success had I tried this technique around the holidays.

What do you think of the 7 strategies I tried here but failed at? Is there anything you think I could have done differently to make them a success? Leave a comment below and share your input! :-) 

These ecommmerce case studies and experiments were a bust but we still learned something in the process.