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!



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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 . To grasp the concept and hear a great message, I urge you to take a little time to watch .

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 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?



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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.




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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!


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