A YEAR OF HAPPINESS

a year of happiness // artsocial Wow it's been a whole year of the Be Happy linkup and my blog happiness project has officially come to an end. I collaborated, I grew my numbers, I hosted events (!), I worked with brands, I launched services (!!)... crazy how much can happen in a year, huh?

You may be wondering, am I happier? Happier in life? With my blog? With my career? I can wholeheartedly say that I AM. Not in an annoying Susie-Sunshine-every-second-is-rainbows kind of way, but in an I'm-genuinely-excited-and-fulfilled way. Last year at this time I knew I had a lot of growing to do and, more importantly, a lot of soul-searching to do where my career was concerned. This project has helped me immensely. It took a major commitment on my part, but it was SO worth it. Having goals and focusing on them one at a time for a year? Amazingly effective and satisfying.

If you're trying to figure out the next steps in your career, make some serious long-term goals. Take the time to make plans. I know it can feel frustrating and even silly to plan out an entire year in advance, but I'm tellin' ya, friends, really thinking about the future and where you want to be is KEY. The more clarity, the better.

Now the question is: do I start a new happiness project? With new goals and even BIGGER dreams? What do you think? Have you enjoyed hearing about my happiness project and reading the Be Happy linkup posts each week? I wanna know!

Also, I've been thinking - the best part of this linkup is community, right? Right. So guess what? I'm passing the Be Happy linkup baton to Louise of Laid Off Mom for the entire month of October! So starting next week, grab your happiness posts and linkup over on her uhmazing, gorgeous blog. Wahoo! High five to Louise and to everyone in the Be Happy crew! xoxo

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Image by artsocial.

AMAZING THINGS ARE HAPPENING

believe that Being interviewed on All Things Beautiful last week made me realize how far the Be Happy linkup has come. Next month marks the one year anniversary! Wowza. That's 52 posts about happiness on my blog alone! With all of the wonderful bloggers who've joined in, that's like hundreds of happiness posts put out into the universe. High five, ladies. I think a major celebration is in order, yes?

My blog happiness project has taken me on quite the journey. My hope for this project was to learn all I could, grow artsocial into a professional blog, and by the end have a solid idea of where I'd like to go next. I've always wanted to expand artsocial into something more, something bigger...

Guys. I think I've found my next step. Eep!

I'm oh so excited to announce I'll soon be offering some veeerrry special graphic design services. As many of you know, I've been working with the always amazing Tiffany Han as her blog manager, creating her blog graphics, program banners, and working on other awesome projects (like glitter photo shoots!). Very very soon I'll be offering such services to YOU. Woot woot!

I'm so thrilled to start helping more creative entrepreneurs with their blogs. Designing / curating posts is the part of blogging I've fallen in love with... so that's what I'm focusing on. After all, that's the secret to happiness, right? Do more of what you love and less of what you don't love... could it really be that simple?? YES. Believe that.

I can't wait to share more about my new services! More details coming soon. Like real soon.

It’s Thursday and that means a whole gang of rad bloggers are talking about happiness! Join the movement below, on facebook, and on twitter with #BeHappylinkup!

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Image by artsocial.

WORK HARD, BE KIND, NEVER GIVE UP

can't stop won't stop I can't believe I only have 2 more months left to go for my blog happiness project! My goal was to slowly but surely work for myself as a blogger. Dudes. I'm doing it. I'm working with brands I love and collaborating with amazing people. Conan is right: “If you work really hard, and you're kind, amazing things will happen.” Of course Conan's right!

I'm so grateful for the opportunities that have come about over the last 10 months... and MOST importantly, I'm grateful for all of you, everyone I've connected with since starting artsocial in 2011. It's very humbling and amazing and makes me want to dance around the room! Probably to this song.

But. My blog happiness project isn't over yet. June is dedicated to exploring new avenues. Each month this project allows me to reevaluate where I am and decide what I'd like to change. When I first wrote June's goal, I was thinking I'd like to write an ebook, start a service, or create a product. BIG decisions. I wouldn't want to start any of those things halfheartedly. I'm gonna take some time with this one...

What kind of awesome new offering would you like to see on artsocial? Be Happy ebook? One-on-one time to ask me anything about collabs, linkups, sponsorship proposals, events, etc.?  Do you have some writing or graphics you'd like some help with? Maybe I can help you out... leave me a comment, girrrl!

 

It’s Thursday and that means a whole gang of rad bloggers are talking about happiness! Join the movement below, on facebook, and on twitter with #BeHappylinkup!

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Image by artsocial.

MAKE IT HAPPEN

blog-life-artsocial I've spent the last couple weeks reassessing my bloggy goals. I first started the Be Happy linkup and my blog happiness project to help me stay on track, stay accountable, and, honestly, to help me dream bigger. It's definitely helped me grow. I feel like I've climbed up a couple rungs on the dream ladder recently and now it's time to reevaluate. Thank you for all of your support and encouragement by the way... gah, you're so awesome.

It's time to put all of the tips and advice I've collected to work and be really honest with myself about where I want to invest my energy. Cuz there are a bajillion options and I've learned I (unfortunately) can't do everything. I apparently have to sleep and stuff... so annoying.

Here's what's in the works for the second half of my happiness project:

MARCH Take artsocial offline. That’s right, folks. An event has been in the works for a while now! March 28th at West Elm in Cherry Creek. That’s all I’m sayin'... for now. I'm so excited I can hardly contain myself.

APRIL Create a media kit I'm really proud of. I need to get my media kit ducks in order, ya know? I gots to be ready. I recently had a thought - what if my dream sponsor reached out and asked for my media kit? Omigosh, I'd have to scramble like cray to put something better together. So my goal is to create a media kit I'd be comfortable sending my dream sponsor.

MAY Research and join an ad network. It’s time. I’m comin’ for ya, ad networks. What do you guys think of ad networks? Are you part of an ad network? I'd love to hear your thoughts!

JUNE Explore new avenues. Product, ecourse, ebook? Oh I’ll keep you posted. This one is incredibly exciting and daunting at the same time. I love the idea because it means the opportunity to grow and create and help people, which is my ultimate goal. But the HOW and WHAT is the tricky part. It's time to figure that out.

So that's what coming up for artsocial. I still have two more months to fill for my blog happiness project, but I think I'll hold off on filling those spots. I have a feeling they'll fill themselves over the next few months...

WHAT ARE SOME OF YOUR GOALS THIS YEAR?

Check out the posts from the Be Happy linkup crew and join the conversation on facebook!

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TO COLLAB OR NOT TO COLLAB

do-what-you-want For my blog happiness project, February was all about reaching out to brands I love. I definitely started that one early, I'm such a happiness project cheater. I was just so excited!

I’ve collaborated with some really amazing brands over the last few months. Big hugs and numerous thank yous to these companies and shops. I lurve them all.

I've learned a lot from the collaboration process... With the right brand, collaborating is so fun, the inspiration comes easily, and I want to shout from the rooftop (aka twitter) that I'm working with them. Good collabs are magical and reaffirm my love for this blogging game.

But what about when brands aren't quite the right fit? Well that's not as fun. If you're feeling unsure about working with a brand - well that's kind of your answer right there, doubt means don't! If you're still unsure, consider these questions: Is this a brand I'd normally share with my readers? Would I be excited to collaborate with them for free? Would I be excited to collaborate for 3x what they're offering me? Those questions usually help me reach an answer.

I've learned that nothing is worth compromising that trust you have with your readers... and absolutely nothing is worth compromising your integrity and your vision for your blog. Sometimes the brand just isn't the right fit. There are plenty of other brands to work with and plenty of other blogs that will be a better fit for them.

I've definitely rushed into a few collabs due to sheer excitement and quickly realized: waaaait a minute, this doesn't feel right. But I already said yes... this is when I force myself to be a grown up and write a very nice I'm-sorry-but-actually-no email (following all these tips). I'm sure these collaborations would be fine, but they wouldn't move my blog in the direction I want to go in and that's important to me.

Finding the right brand fit is a lot like dating, huh? You have certain expectations and you don't want to disappoint anyone or hurt anyone's feelings. But in my experience, I know right away whether or not it's a good fit. The way I feel when I first start reading that email pitch is a surefire sign of whether or not it's the right match. Usually if you're feeling uncomfortable, there's a reason you're feeling uncomfortable. Pay attention to those feelings. They know.

How do you feel about brand collaborations? Have you ever said yes when you wish you would've said no way, José?

 

Be a part of the happiness movement below and join the convo on facebook!

link up. be happy.

Image by artsocial.

IT'S OKAY TO CHANGE DIRECTION

yes yes y'all

I started my blog happiness project 6 months ago. Wowza, time is flying. I recently logged in to ye ol' blog to review what I have planned for myself + artsosh in the coming months. Instead of feeling excited, I felt a little ugh, a little meh, a little uh-oh, I don't really want to do that anymore. Then I started wondering - is it okay to change my blog happiness project half way through? Is that allowed? Will Gretchen be mad at me?

I posed this question to the Be Happy fb group and the response was: Of course! As long as you're not changing your plan as a way to avoid something, then it's absolutely okay. Phew. Good. And I couldn't agree more. (p.s. such a great group, join the be happy convo here!)

Why did I think I couldn't change my plan? Just because it was written in web ink? That's cray. I've learned SO much since writing those goals in September. There's no way I can make goals for an entire year without doing a little editing, revising, and improving as I go along.

Happiness projects, life lists, 30 before 30 lists - I LOVE all of these ideas... but until last year, I never participated. And I think it's because of this issue. How the heck do I know what I'll want to do in the future? I never started a list because I knew I'd want to change it. But the thing I didn't realize before is that THAT'S OKAY! Just start where you are... and you can always change direction.

Our lists + goals should change and evolve over time. In fact, they have to. We're not going to be the same person 6 months, maybe even 6 days from now. Is it just me or does a lot seem to happen in a week? Just me?

For my blog happiness project, I originally planned to take video blogshop & blogcademy in the coming months. But, honestly, super srsly, I've taken in SO much information in the last 6 months, the gi-normous cherry on that sundae being Alt Summit. I deeply feel I need to sit with all of the information I've taken in, ask myself what the heck I want to do with all of it, and go from there.

I can learn everything in the world about blogging, but if I don't start utilizing it? Well that's not very helpful for anyone... Do you guys ever feel this way? Like you just have to turn within and have a little conference with yourself about errthang? That's where I'm at.

Time to reassess, embrace change, and plan out the next 6 months for this blog in an even bigger and better way than I did last September... SO excited.

Happy valentine's day, awesome readers! I love you.

Image by artsocial.

ALT SUMMIT: PART ONE

alt-summit Dudes. Let's do this. I asked you on Monday what you wanted to know about Alt Summit... well here we go! I've picked out the main takeaways from the first 5 sessions as well as answered a couple other Qs... I'm throwing a lot of information your way, so I decided to break this up into 2 parts.

01. collaboration with sponsors

Takeaways:

+ Seek out the right brands for your blog. Only work with brands that are a great fit for your mission and aesthetic. If McDonald's offered me mucho dinero to blog about them? Tempting, yes, but my answer would be EW, get away McDonalds. It's important to get really clear about your brand. What do you stand for? What do you want to be known for? Think about what's at the core of your brand and then seek out other like-minded brands that share your vision. That will ensure collaboration magic. + Another major, major point that was reiterated throughout the conference was the importance of compelling and creative content. Guys, that's what we do! We're content makers - creative geniuses if you will. It's easy to get caught up in the growth and monetization of blogging, but content must always be our number one priority. If your content is stellar, then growth and money will come naturally. So get to brainstorming, ya hear... or meditating ;) Original and interesting content trumps numbers. Even if you're a smaller blog, if you have a great idea and really believe in what you're doing, the right brands will want to be a part of it.

See the slideshow presentation from this session here!

02. how to earn money from your blog

One of the most powerful things I took away from alt with was the understanding that we should get paid for what we do! We deserve to make money. No excuses or apologies. While content is my priority, heck yeah I wanna get paid for it, and that will only allow me to create better content. Alt definitely helped me realize it's okay to go for what I really want.

Takeaways:

+ Affiliate links - when someone clicks on an affiliate link from your site and makes a purchase, you get paid bro. Here's a great list of affiliate programs. + E-courses - such a fun option for earning money! I'm horribly camera shy though... + Selling ads - whether you reach out to small shops or larger companies, make sure you have a solid media kit and be selective! Only work with shops and brands that are the right fit. + Ad networks - they help you find sponsorship opportunities, whether display ads or sponsored posts. Some ad networks include Lijit, Glam Media, Blogher, Sway Group, and Federated Media.

P.S. Nicole of Making it Lovely wrote a really great post on how her blog went from a hobby to a job... check it.

03. blog to shop

Are you wondering why I took Blog to Shop when I don't sell anything? Fair. I've always been super curious about having an online shop... I'd love to do that eventually. I'm just not sure what my shop would offer exactly. Someday, friends. It'll happen. Packaging up tiny gifts and sending them out just sounds so exciting...

Takeaways:

+ Sell without selling out: find the intersection between what you love and what sells. + Follow the sales trail: don't be surprised if it's not what you expected. Follow what works. + Connect with influencers: reach out to bloggers with a ton of pinterest followers, for example. Create collaborations with people who'd love to promote your work. + It's easier to keep repeat customers than find new customers: make every interaction positive and be consistent (i.e. your packaging should match the aesthetic of your blog/shop). + The highest sales are around mid-month (everyone's already paid rent and they've got their second check), this is a good time to promote your shop. + Best time to tweet, pin, or post your work is Monday-Wednesday, 11-1pm. BEST time is Wednesday around 1pm... who knew?

04. being a contributor

Takeaways:

+ Put yourself out there: build a successful site and share your work. Respond to those calls for contributors! Engage with bloggers you'd love to work with. Be confident, be persistent, be tough! + What blogs are looking for: a unique perspective, a strong voice, writing skills, passion + energy, creativity + initiative, and mad photo skills are a bonus. + Always negotiate payment: talk numbers with confidence and value your work. They're paying for creative genius... and that's costly. + Charge more for original posts & photos vs. roundups.

Goods sites to connect with:

+ Curbly + Momtastic (you don't have to be a mom to contribute to a mom blog!) + Vivint + Apartment Therapy + Design*Sponge + Gawkerverse

05. makers gotta make roundtable discussion

Oh this was one of my favorites! Sandra from Raincoast Cottage and Jennifer from Classic Play did an amazing job. We discussed topics like how to deal with jealousy, our inner critic, finding a balance, and building a community (online & offline). It was so refreshing to openly discuss issues like jealousy and self-doubt. It's something we all deal with... especially at a conference surrounded by incredibly talented and powerful women.

Takeaways + my thoughts:

+ Ask yourself why you're jealous: what skills are you wanting that so-and-so has? Use your jealous feelings to guide you to change. Don't get discouraged and put blinders on, instead thank your ego for showing you where you'd like to improve. Man, that's a tough one, huh? + Your critic is not your truth: you don't have to listen to every thought that comes into your head (something Eckhart Tolle says and I luurve it). + You are more than one post, one tweet, one project; you're a whole body of work. Don't put so much pressure on yourself to post everyday or get upset when you don't get to everything on your to-do list. You have a whole foundation of awesomeness already.

Wow, big thank you to Sandra & Jennifer!

Taxes

In Monday's post, Em asked about taxes as a blogger and becoming a LLC. While I didn't attend any alt sessions on the topic, I did get to meet my amazing CPA, Helena Swyter of Sweeter CPA. She's so knowledgeable, guys. She'd definitely be able to help you out with any tax Qs. The alt blog also has some great info on the subject... AND Helena's teaching an alt online class, Ask an Accountant, on February 18th.

I will say this - I was kind of surprised at what I loved most about alt. I thought my favorite thing would be all of the invaluable information I'd be getting during the sessions... but, nope. That wasn't my favorite. There was some good info, but honestly alt's online classes are just as helpful. Sorry alt, but it's true. I still love you. Srsly the BEST part was meeting all of these incredible women (and man) in person. They're even more awesome in real life. I'm so grateful to be a part of this creative community... alt has made me realize the importance of building community and engaging with the people I really love. That's the good stuff.

To be continued...

link up. be happy.

Photo found here by Brooke Dennis. Check out all the awesome alt photos here!

MERCI

dream big A couple months back, I shared an entry from my gratitude journal. When it comes to being happy, it's so important to stop and think wow, look at all this awesomeness in my life. Being grateful for what you already have will always bring more awesomeness into your life... fact. Here are a few things, big and small, I wrote down yesterday.

01. working in a field that celebrates creativity... and collaborating with awesome, talented, and passionate people to make this blog a better place.

02. meeting some of my bloggy friends in real life... holywow, they're even better in person guys.

03. all of the comments and support from you guys. Srsly you're amaaazing.

04. that black & white cookie I had from the Hello Social... so nom.

05. being inspired to think BIGGER for myself and artsocial.

Follow along on twitter and instagram for a peek at all the Alt Summit fun!

link up. be happy.

Image: heart of gold by Paloma's Nest

LISTEN

Dots by  Kate Donaldson The first Be Happy linkup of 2013 - can I get a HOO-RAY?

So. Did you make some resolutions? I have ongoing resolutions/goals/commandments from my blog happiness project... but there is one commandment I'm really focusing on in the new year. To listen. I know, you may be thinking boo, lame! Out of all the cool action words I could pick from, why listen?

I don't mean listen to other people. In fact, most of the time you should probably ignore other people. That's right, I said it. Realizing your creative dreams often means following your intuition and ignoring the concerned looks your friends and family give you. I think following your passion and enthusiasm requires your attention. What do you really want? What makes that heart of yours sing? Only you can figure that out.

So, this year, I'm listening to myself. I'm vowing to get quiet, check in with myself, and make my decisions - big and small - based off of my intuitive feelings/gut reactions/ultimate truths. No more saying yes to be agreeable... gah still haven't mastered that one. I'll get it this year, guys.

And guess what? The Be Happy linkup now has a facebook group! Join this awesome crew to talk about happiness and get inspired on the daily... oh yeah, 2013 is gonna be amaazing.

link up. be happy.

Image: Dots by Kate Donaldson.

HERE WE GO

Well, hellloooo December. Super excited for this month - not because of the holidays although they're pretty neat - but because according to my little blog happiness project, December is blog design + branding month. HOORAY!

I've been ready for a profesh design basically from the beginning... my inability to customize my blog design has been a huge source of bloggy frustration. It's like wanting to be a super cute professional, but you're stuck wearing a suit set from JCPenney. It's time for some real style up in here. It's time to whip this blog into shape, focus my content, define my target audience, make it easier to comment (argh finally!), and bring my vision, mission, and design together into one cohesive brand of awesomeness.

I'm a couple weeks into this process and I've already learned so much. I've learned about branding elements, editorial calendars, content strategies, and oh so much more. But I think the most important lesson I'm learning is about listening to myself. Getting a clearer vision of my brand requires a surprising amount of soul searching... What do I like? What don't I like? I sometimes feel overwhelmed by these questions, but I'm learning you always have the answer. There's always a sense, a feeling, a pull towards one decision or another. I'm learning to pay attention to that intuition. It's what led me to this career path to begin with... and I'm pretty stoked about that.

So excited about this redesign journey... and to share everything with you guys, of course!

 

It's Thursday and that means awesome bloggers are talking about awesome things! Join us?

Image by artsocial.