July 20, 2015

My Vacation & A Summer Sale


This upcoming Saturday I hope to be somewhere under the Tuscan sun. My husband, kids and myself have been invited by my in-laws to spend two full weeks in a Tuscan villa to celebrate their 45th anniversary. We'll be accompanied over there by my in-laws of course and my brother in law and his girlfriend. Since I've never been to Italy and it has been on my to-see-list forever I'm pretty excited to finally see those Tuscan hills with my own eyes. I hope the weather will be gorgeous and we'll see lots of beautiful scenery and visit lots of beautiful places. While I'm dreaming about visiting Florence, Rome and the Vatican, my kids get more excited by the thought of endless pizza and pasta ;-) But before we leave I've got some stuff to take care of, suitcases to pack and a business to manage.

From Tuesday, July 21 till Sunday, August 9 my blog related Etsy shop Dutch Lady Digi Design will be closed. Since a lot of the items I sell over there are either custom made or need to be installed I would not really have a vacation if I have to keep on working during my stay in Italy. So if you're thinking about purchasing a premade blogger template with installation or a custom made blogger design, I'm at your service again on Monday, August 10!

My other Etsy shop, that sells instant download items like clipart, social media icons and blog headers will remain open during these weeks. And to celebrate that it's full Summer over here you get a 50% discount on every purchase from Tuesday, July 21 till Sunday, August 9. All you have to do is use coupon code SUMMER at the checkout during this period and Etsy will immediately deduct 50% off your total purchase amount. 

During my vacation you can leave me a message through the contact form if you want, but please understand that I will answer it after my vacation, which will be on Monday, August 10. Thanks so much for understanding and till soon!

Enjoy your Summer (or Winter if you're in the Southern Hemisphere!)
 

July 17, 2015

Freebie Fridays #56 - Grungy Square Clipart


Last week I shared a set of square shaped social icons and this week I'm sticking with the square shape again. Today's freebie is in the form of square shaped clipart though, with a twist of grunge. If you wonder what to do with it, try to make your own (printable) cards with it, use it as a part of a logo or decorate a part of your blog or website with it.

The grungy squares come in 5 different colors and all have a transparent background which enables you to place them over other images without blocking the complete image. The squares are all .PNG images that are sized 1000x1000 pixels.

Did you know that you are allowed to use my freebies for commercial purposes? As long as you don't sell them as they are, but you alter them - add text, turn them into a logo or icons, or make some kind of printable or product with them - I'm okay with you using them for business purposes and making some money with it. The same goes for all the clipart that I sell in my Etsy Shop.

So get creative this weekend and have a great time!




July 15, 2015

The importance of updated blog pages


When thinking about keeping our precious blogs updated most of us will automatically think of posting content on a regular basis. And while blog posts will probably take up the major part on our blogs, we should not forget about the content we share in the pages of our blogs.

Readers follow along with our blog posts and get a little peek into our lives and projects. The blog posts keep them updated on the stuff that goes on in our businesses and private live, and whenever a new project or idea is launched we all make sure we'll share the big news in a blog post. But what about the pages in the menubar or sidebar? Do they get as much attention from us as the posting area?

They definitely should! Blog pages are the go-to-places for our readers when they are looking for additional information. That could be info on the blogger, info on products or services, info on ways to collaborate and sponsor or a contact page. And when these pages are not as updated on a regular basis it can be really disappointing to a reader. Worst case scenario: you as a blogger might miss out on a great business opportunity or collaboration just because you forgot to update your menubar. Bummer!

As a blog reader myself I love to read the about pages on blogs to get a little background info on the blogger. If you are a frequent about-page visitor yourself, you might have noticed how often the about page content dates back to the time the blog was actually launched. In the meantime a ton of blog posts have been shared, sometimes over the course of a couple of years. You can even see the personal growth of the blogger through time in the way they write or in their pictures. And yet, the about page still shows a picture from another era and outdated info. But life is fast and busy, so how can you prevent this from happening?

SCHEDULE TIME FOR REGULAR UPDATES
Just as most bloggers schedule time to write their blog posts, you make it easier on yourself when you schedule some time for updating the other parts of your blog. Since this doesn't have to be done on a daily, or even weekly basis, you might want to set a monthly schedule for yourself. If you are using an editorial calendar for writing blog posts you can schedule a little time once a month to go through all your blog pages and other blog parts to see if the content needs an update. If you don't use an editorial calendar, put a monthly notification in your (digital or paper) agenda.

DATE YOUR PAGES
If you want to be really clear on how updated your page content is, you might want to put a date under the content. I have done this on my about page here on the blog. I sign off with my name and the date that I last updated the page.

CHECK IF LINKS ARE STILL WORKING
If you use any links to other websites in your pages, check out during your monthly update if these links still work and the pages you link to still exist. I do this with my portfolio page. On this page I share the custom made blogger layouts I've worked on. All the clients on this page gave me permission to share a link to their blog. But as time goes by they might become bored with their layout and contact another designer to make a new blog layout. It would be pretty awkward if I linked to them to show off my work while meanwhile they put a complete new layout from another designer on their blog.

HAVE EASY CONTACT OPTIONS
This isn't so much a tip on how to keep things updated, but I wanted to share this anyway. One of your pages should definitely be a contact page. When your blog starts growing people might want to contact you for various reasons. If you don't have a contact option on your blog you might miss out on great opportunities. While a seperate contact page in the menubar is probably the most professional option, you can skip a whole page and just put a contact icon in your sidebar. But whatever option you choose, make sure readers can actually reach out to you!

Since my Summer vacation is coming close (more on that next week) I took the time this week to go through all the pages of my blog to see if anything needed to be updated. I won't be around for a couple of weeks, but at least all my info is up to date!

July 13, 2015

How to leave your site link professionally in blog comments


I'm sure we've all come across blog post comment threads were some of the commenters got a little too enthusiastic and gave their comment followed by a 'please follow my blog back!' or a similar piece of text. Let's be honest, these comment threads are great opportunities to get your own site noticed, but this can be done with a little more dignity and respect than coming across as a desperate teenager. No offence to teenagers. Some of them write incredible blogs ;-) But you get the picture.


LEAVING YOUR SITE LINK BEHIND YOUR NAME
When commenting on blogs most of the time you will be given the opportunity to leave your website address together with your name (see image below). Once your comment is posted, the link to your website will be behind your name. So when people click on your name they will be taken directly to your site. If you want other readers to notice that you actually have a site, instead of just typing in your name you can type in your name together with your website name, which will look something like this: Daphne @ The Dutch Lady Designs. Once you've given your website link it will be put behind the full name. Using this kind of name will point out to other readers of the comment thread that you actually have a website and people can click on your name to visit it.




LEAVING A STYLISH LINK WITHIN THE COMMENT TEXT ITSELF
This way of linking back to your website is even more beautiful and stylish if you ask me. Of course never miss out on the opportunity to fill out your website address when the comment form asks for it, but to get people even more curious you can leave a stylish link right after your comment text. All you need to do is copy the code below, paste it right after your comment text and replace the code with your own data:

YOURNAME | <a href="http://YOURBLOGADDRESS">YOURBLOGNAME</a

Filled out with my personal data it looks like this:

Daphne | <a href="http://www.thedutchladydesigns.com">The Dutch Lady Designs</a

This is what the final result will look like once the comment is posted:



Well, now you know how you can leave a professional link to your website in comment threads. Most bloggers won't mind as long as you really engage in the conversation. Just leaving comments with the sole purpose of marketing your own blog is considered 'not done'. On this website I go through every comment before I decide to post it. On one occasion I had to reject the comment simply because the writer didn't even take the effort to write a comment. He or she just gave a link to his/her website and that was it. Not very nice, nor professional.

This also shows that if you have a blog or website where readers can comment on your stories, you might want to be strict in your comment settings and verify every comment before it is published. You will have the opportunity to sift out the serious commenters from the publicity seekers!

July 10, 2015

Freebie Fridays #55 - Social Media Squares for Blogs and Websites


It's been a while since I posted the last episode of Freebie Fridays, but I'm picking it up today. And what better way to pick things up than sharing a set of social media icons for blogs and websites.

I noticed that the Freebie Friday episodes where I've shared social icons are amongst the most popular. It's one of those digital items that almost everyone with a blog or website will need at some point in time. And while you're more than welcome to purchase a set of icons in my Etsy Shop, you can download this set of square icons for free at the bottom of this post.

I made the icons in two grey tones since grey goes well together with almost any color you might have going on on your blog or website. The icons come in 3 sizes each: 65x65 - 55x55 - 45x45 pixels to fit most sidebars. If you want to find out exactly how you can determine the perfect size for your sidebar you can check out this tutorial: http://www.thedutchladydesigns.com/2014/11/what-size-should-your-social-icons-be.html

Have a great weekend and happy blogging!




July 6, 2015

Setting boundaries in my business - Part III


I knew the post series of setting boundaries in business wasn't done after writing part I and II a while back. Setting boundaries pops up as a big life lesson for me over and over. And it doesn't just restrict itself to private situations. Sometimes I think the reason I ended up with a small business is really the lessons I have to learn from it. Having your own little business is a great teacher, no doubt about that. And with my Summer vacation coming up I feel I really need to set some new boundaries to make life a little easier on myself.

Since I'm constantly learning myself it kind of feels weird to write a post in which I tell my readers what to do in certain business situations, so I didn't want to give this post a title like '10 tips to set boundaries in business'. Although it would probably do better in Google rankings than the current title it wouldn't be fair. This post is just to share my experiences with setting boundaries and to let you all know with what decisions I came up. And who knows, maybe in time I will have to get back on those decisions and alter them. Life changes, right? So let's see what boundaries I set these last days concerning my business.

If you're working with clients you're working with real people. People that have lives outside the connection you have with them. Some clients are really focused on the project you're working on with them and some clients have other stuff going on in their lives which makes them less focused. The latter kind of client might have so much on their plate that the project is kind of bleeding out in the end. I will be waiting for them to answer certain questions or to come up with certain info or data in order for me to complete the project. And then they just don't.

Now what? Do I keep asking them? Do I wait around until I hear from them? I was really confused at first how to deal with these kind of situations. To be honest, I was kind of surprised these situations even occurred. I thought that if people had already paid they would like to see the results and would be focused enough to bring the project to a good end. But I guess I was wrong. Maybe something happened in their lives that put the project on the back burner for them. So after a while I decided to leave it up to them to contact me again when they felt they were ready to work on things again.

This way of dealing with it goes pretty well if it's just a couple of these clients and they don't all decide to contact you to pick up the project again in the same week. If it's more than a couple of clients I realized I would have a problem on my hands once they all decided to work further on things at the same time. I would probably have trouble to fit it all into my working schedule, not to mention the time I need to work with new clients. Also, having unfinished projects is creating a bit of stress or restlessness for me. In the back of my mind I'm still thinking about these projects and when a client finally decides to pick up the project it costs time and energy again to dive into the project. Where were we? What still needs to be done, etc. While thinking about my life and business this last month I knew I needed to make a decision on this issue as well. And so I did.

At the end of July I will be on Summer vacation for a couple of weeks and before that I really want all those loose ends tied up again. So I sent out emails to the clients that had unfinished projects and from whom I hadn't heard back in a while. I told them I was going on vacation and I really needed us to finish the project before that time. It doesn't come natural to me to call out people on their part of the deal or responsibilities, but by not doing so I'm my own worst enemy in the end. I'll end up with a ton of unfinished business that only provides stress for me.

And to prevent more unfinished projects I will have to be stricter with clients from now on. I need to point out to them that if they are working on a custom project with me I expect them to return my messages within 48 to 72 hours or something like that. And when someone purchases a premade blogger template that I have to install for them I think it's not that weird to expect them to come up with all the info and data I need for the installation within one work week. By setting these boundaries I give myself some air and space. And in the end everyone is going to benefit from that. Myself and my clients.

If you have a business, please let me know how you set boundaries in the comments below. I would love to hear your stories and experiences!


July 4, 2015

When blogging and social media become a burden


Hey, hi again! It's been almost a month since I posted something on here, and no, I wasn't on vacation. That's still in front of me at the end of this month. So why was I missing in action then? Well, the whole blogging thing can be quite overwhelming at times and I needed a couple of weeks to sort out myself and where I stand with my business, blog and private life. Sounds familiar?

I'm sure I'm not the only blogger that wrestles with these issues from time to time. Blogging is fun, no doubt about it, but for me personally it's only fun when it comes directly from the heart. When an idea for a post pops up in my mind and I feel that urge to touch the keyboard and write the story. If I'm not in that rut, blogging can definitely feel like a burden sometimes. Not to mention all the promoting of blog and business on social media that we bloggers and small business owners are supposed to be doing. And I say 'supposed to' because it's one of those things that I've never been good at.

Being an introvert by nature, asking for attention, in any way, shape or form, doesn't come natural to me. Flaunting myself and business on platforms like Facebook and Twitter just doesn't feel good to me. I honestly wouldn't know what to share all the time. Would people really be interested in what I think and do, with whom I hang out and how I spend my day? And probably most important: do I really want to share every aspect of my life on these platforms? I guess not, otherwise I would have had some flourishing Facebook and Instagram pages by now.

On the other hand I know how important it can be for a small business to have a regularly updated blog and to be present on social media. It's the way we all communicate these days. And if you miss out, you might miss out on clients, income and chances. I'm really satisfied with how my little business has been doing since I started it. I'm honestly still surprised that I can earn money working from home and doing something that I really love to do. But I also know that if I would invest my time in being present on social media all the time I could probably double my income. But do I want to?

And that's the question that keeps popping up in life lately: do I really want this? Not only in business issues but also in personal ones. As for the business part I've come to the conclusion that I'm satisfied with where I am right now. More isn't always better and I want to live my life in real time and not through the screen of my phone or camera because I need to capture all these precious moments in time to share them on social media. And I'd rather spend time on my family and myself than on social media. From a marketing point of view maybe not the best decision, but from a spiritual perspective it is the best.


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