Why Your Blog Needs a Style Guide and How to Make One on Liza Wilde Co.

Why Your Blog Needs a Style Guide and How to Make One

By | Branding, Business, Design | No Comments

Why Your Blog Needs a Style Guide and How to Make One (Plus a free template!) from Liza Wilde Co.When you were first starting out with your online business, what was the first thing you thought you needed?

A name? A logo? A website?

There are a lot of things that we rush to create in the beginning. It’s exciting, it’s new, and we have ALL THE IDEAS.

Unfortunately – and I say this from experience – in all that excitement, we tend to move too fast and put out something that doesn’t represent us or just looks shitty.

Sorry, I said it, but you know what I mean. You’ve had those moments where you look at your website and cringe at the random colors or weird fonts that pop up when you install a new plugin.

I’m all for the “make it work, then make it better” motto. But when it comes to launching your blog or website, there are just some things you need to do, otherwise, your site will look inconsistent and piecemeal.

In my experience, nothing drives away people faster than lousy content and when lousy content looks even worse than it reads.

I love how Karla Cook over on Hubspot put it, “The best brands stick in our brains because their presence is defined by the repetition of the same logo, fonts, colors, and images. Once we see them enough, they become instantly recognizable, bringing us a clear sense of reliability and security.”

So today, we’re going to talk about how to take your website to the next level and make your content and site look good. I promise it’s not going to be as much work as you think it is!

What is a style guide?

Usually, a style guide is a PDF document put together by a designer, that details how every element on your site should look as far as fonts, colors, spacing, graphic elements, etc. You can search “style guide” on Pinterest and finds all kinds of inspiration!

an example of style guides on Pinterest

Style guides can also contain information about written elements such as language or specific phrases and terms used with your brand, or voice and tone.

When it comes to working with my clients, I have a handful of items I always include in their style guide.

Usually, I build my guides out in Adobe Illustrator, but I recreated my template in Canva so I could share it with you.

Things to include in your style guide:

  • a logo (if you have one, light and dark version) or your business name
  • heading levels 1-5
  • body text
  • block quotes
  • primary and secondary colors
  • graphic elements (textures, patterns, blog graphic styles)
  • buttons and links

Grab your style guide template here!

Make sure to go to File > Make a Copy, so you’re not overwriting my or anyone else’s template.

So before you get started, here are the main three reasons you need a style guide for your blog or website:

Consistency

It’ll save you time when your creating content if you know what things are supposed to look like every time, and it will make it easier for your readers to consume that content.

Memorability

By having a style guide, you’re setting yourself up to be memorable. Visitors will know when they come across something you’ve written or created because it looks like it belongs.

Scalability

By setting up how your site should look now, you are paving the way for guest contributors and team members to be able to quickly and efficiently help you on your website. It’ll be as simple as handing them the rulebook – your style guide!

If you’re looking for more information on how to create a style guide or resources for doing so, download my Ultimate Website Planning Guide. In it, I talk about style guides and each element.

The Ultimate Website Planning Guide from Liza Wilde Co.

Stop cringing at your website

Download my Ultimate Website Planning Guide and get started revamping your website so you can build a consistent and memorable brand.

How to Set Awesome Business Goals with Heart Using Tarot

By | Business, Intuition | No Comments

How to Set Awesome Business Goals with Heart Using Tarot on Liza Wilde Co.Happy New Year!

If you subscribe to my newsletter, you’ll know all about the many ways I’ve been planning for 2018. In this post, I want to share with you one of my favorite ways to prepare for the new year, new quarter, or even just a new month: tarot spreads.

It’s not a secret that I use tarot a lot in my everyday life. I use it as a daily journal prompt. I use the Golden Thread Tarot app to pull a daily card or gain clarity when I’m on the go and don’t have one of my decks around. But I haven’t before talked about how I use tarot in my business. So here it goes.

How to set awesome business goals with heart and intention using tarot.

My Tarot Practice

I haven’t been using tarot long, only about two years, but it has had such a significant impact on how I respond to and process my life. For me, tarot is a form of self-administered therapy. It’s being able to ask questions of myself and let my subconscious project what’s going on in my head into the card illustrations.

Everyone uses tarot a little bit differently, and there is no right or wrong way. Tarot is a tool for tapping into your intuition, something that every person has.

When I started using the cards to sort out my head, I was following Biddy Tarot’s interpretations, and I still do occasionally. But the best advice I can give to anyone who is looking at the cards for the first time is to focus on the illustrations. Describe, out loud or by writing it down, the story that is in the picture. And gradually start pointing out how this relates to your life.

At first, I pick out the obvious stuff. For example, the three women in the Three of Cups almost always speaks to me of my group of business besties. Eventually, as you begin to weave the story together, you’ll notice smaller, seemingly less significant symbology that is relatable.

If you’re not ready to dive into your own interpretations, there is no shame in following along with a guidebook or other resource. Biddy Tarot and Jessa Crispin’s book The Creative Tarot are my favorites.

Now that you’ve got an idea of how to read the cards let’s get into the spreads I use for planning.

Yearly and Monthly Themes

The Year Ahead Spread by The Wild Unknown on Liza Wilde Co.

First, I owe credit to finding this spread to Maggie Gentry. (The picture above is from The Wild Unknown.) I first saw her doing this over the holidays on Instagram, and I thought it was just a lovely way to start the New Year. Since this was still relatively recently, I haven’t incorporated this spread 100% into my goal planning, but I want to, so I’m sharing it with you now so you can see how thing progress in future blog posts.

This 13 card spread picks a card for each month and then one at the center for the year as a whole. While 13 cards is a lot and can be intimidating at first, it is very insightful.

Below is a picture of my yearly spread for reference.

My Year Ahead Spread for 2018 on Liza Wilde Co.

Step 1: Shuffle your deck. I always do some deep breathing while I do this.

Step 2: Choose your 13 cards, laying them out one at a time, until they’re all select.

Step 3: Flip them over, and take a few minutes to just sit with the pictures. Jot down notes about your initial reaction to each one.

I’m not going to lie; there are cards that I see (ahem, The Tower) that immediately make me anxious. But remember, there’s always more than what sits on the surface, it’s just a good gut check to see how you initially feel towards a card.

Step 4: In a journal, Google doc, or whatever method of recording you prefer, make a note of that card, which month it represents, and any keywords associated with it. I use Biddy Tarot to remember these keywords.

Step 5: Now go deeper – start looking at each month’s card and figure out what it means to you in the coming year.

Like I mentioned previously, I always pick out the obvious stuff first, then I start to narrow in on the little things that I didn’t notice at first. Go through them all, making a note if you’re still confused by a specific month/card.

Step 6: Once you’ve looked at all the months individually, we can look at them in quarters of the year. How does January’s, February’s, and March’s card go together? Are there any common themes (i.e., money, new ventures, family, burnout, etc.)? Do you have more of one particular suit than the others? What does that suit symbolize?

If there was a card you still had questions about, does seeing it within the quarter break-out spread help clarify it? If not, there might be some additional questions you need to ask yourself about in a separate reading. (See the 3-card reading towards the end of this post.)

Step 7: Once you have looked at each month and quarter, take a look at your year as a whole. How do you time in your yearly theme to each quarter? Each month?

I always find when I’m recording this, my notes get messy. Which is why I start off with a notebook, where I can draw in arrows and scribbles and whatever else I might need to. Then I iron out my themes and add them to my Big Picture Strategy board in Trello. This is a board I found through Think Creative Collective’s Trello for Business course, which brings us to step eight.

Step 8: What does it all mean? Take some time to reflect on your notes, pick out any patterns that resonate with you, suggested times of energy and times when self-care will be necessary. Make a note of these on your calendar, or whatever method you use to keep track of time-sensitive items.

With these monthly themes in mind, consider what could be done to channel that suggestion. For example, the Queen of Rods (also called wands or staves) is ruling over February for me. She’s all about exuberance, warmth, and determination, but is also symbolic of stubbornness, with the potential to suffer from burnout. With those keywords in mind, I know February will be a time for me to focus my creativity on something that fuels me up, rather than something that drains me.

Now that we’re aware of some general themes for our year look at what you’ve already begun dreaming about for your business? Did you want to start a YouTube channel? Maybe plan on doing that in a month where you’re full of creativity and energy. Did you want to take a tropical vacation? Look for the months that you’re going to be coming down from a lot of work, and will need some rejuvenation.

How to Choose Goals

Choosing goals can be tricky. I like to take a look at what big dreams I’ve recently been thinking about. I also really like Maggie Gentry’s The 2018 Year Ahead Planning Bundle. She has you hone in on your previous year’s numbers and where you’ve been, which is super helpful when planning for the new year.

Each goal has to be something you believe in, a good balance of dreamy yet realistic. I know it sounds like a mythical creature, but those are the best kind of goals.

Here’s a look at my first quarter goals based on my themes:

My quarterly goals set in Trello on Liza Wilde Co.

Q1 Cards

  • January – The Star reversed – a lack of faith, weariness
  • February – Queen of Rods – passion, energy, determination
  • March – Ten of Coins – wealth, family, establishment

Q1 Goals

  • $4000 for the quarter
  • 100 newsletter subscribers
  • Weekly newsletter (currently biweekly)
  • Weekly blog post (currently inconsistent)

Q1 Launches

  • Virtual Office Hours
  • YouTube channel

As someone who works a full-time job as well as running my own business, an extra $4000 for the quarter, would be a great start towards replacing the income I make at my full-time job.

Increasing my content creation to a weekly newsletter and weekly blog post is a lot of work, but it will help further establish my expertise.

My two launches are both things I’ve been thinking about doing, and both happen to be giving back to my online community for free, which is something I’m passionate about.

What’s Next?

Now that you have the monthly and yearly theme established, how can you be sure to follow through with everything?

I recommend setting a date on your calendar, either the last day of the previous month or the first day of the month to reflect on that month’s theme and pull the following 3-card spread to guide you through the month.

3-Card Spread: Obstacles, Opportunities, Outcome

Use this spread for some internal reflection.

  1. What obstacles are going to try and stop you? How are you holding yourself back?
  2. What opportunities have presented themselves to you? What opportunities might you have looked over?
  3. With your obstacles and opportunities in mind, what will the outcome be? How can you reach this point, or change it if it’s unfavorable?

This spread doesn’t always immediately seem positive. But remember, there’s still more to the cards. The cards don’t dictate our future; they just provide a different perspective. If your outcome was that you’d end up destitute and unhappy, perhaps this is only the unspoken fear you’ve had in the back of your mind. What mindset blocks and habits are preventing you from moving forward? What sort of opportunities can you jump at to prevent that fear from happening?

Tarot has always been and will always be a tool to help us gain clarity. Whether you believe they’re predicting your fate or you use them to see things from a different angle, tarot is powerfully insightful.

If you’re struggling with a creative project, I recommend picking up Jessa Crispin’s book The Creative Tarot. If you’re just looking for some general guidance, I recommend checking out Biddy Tarot’s online guides. And if all else fails, you can grab one of my Virtual Office Hours spots, and we can chat about all things tarot if you’d like.

So, what are your 2018 goals? What was your favorite card for the new year? Which theme has you worried? Let me know in the comments below!

Have a question about business goals or tarot?

Grab one of my weekly Virtual Office Hours spots and we can talk about!

Grab Your Spot!
Wordpress vs. Squarespace: How to choose the best platform for your business to grow on | post on Liza Wilde Co.

WordPress vs. Squarespace: How to choose the best platform for your business to grow on.

By | Business, Web Development | No Comments

Wordpress vs. Squarespace: How to choose the best platform for your business to grow on | Liza Wilde Co. - web design and development for creative entrepreneursIf I had to pick one question that I get asked more than any other, it would be: Which is better, Squarespace or WordPress?

Now, it’s no secret that I’m a WordPress babe through and through. But even I can admit that Squarespace has its merits.

So when a client comes to me and asks this question, I give them my best answer: It all depends on what you’re going to do with your website. But I understand that not everyone is ready to sign up for a website consultation (if you are, click here!) so I thought I’d put together my thoughts on both platforms so you can assess for yourself which platform might be best for you individual needs.

Before we start, here’s a few terms I’ll be using frequently that I wanted to define ahead of time:

  • Out-of-the-box – this means initial setup, no extra money spent other than the hosting price
  • Responsive – this means that your website looks good on any size screen or monitor, and scales down appropriately for tablet and mobile devices
  • CMS or content management system – this is just a fancy term for the software, or platform, behind your website

Let’s get to it, shall we?

1. Ease of use

Squarespace: Perhaps their biggest selling point, is the ease of use with a new Squarespace site. The platform comes programmed with dozens of helpful modules such as newsletter blocks, embedded images and videos, buttons, and so much more. It requires very little user programming or code, which is what makes it so appealing to people who aren’t tech savvy. It’s what we like to call “plug and play”. You can literally sign-up, pick one of their templates, and start building.

There’s some finesse to getting the modules and spacing setup, but if you’re willing to take the time to learn about spacers, and get your cursor positioned in just the right hover spot, pages come together pretty quickly.

WordPress: As someone who has been using WordPress for 13 years, I’m 100% biased in saying that WordPress is also easy to use. In fact, I think out-of-the-box, WordPress is easier! However, what WordPress lacks, is a beautiful designed template out-of-the-box that is also easy to use. Instead, it requires some navigation of theme catalogs to find what you’re looking for, and often times, you’re limited on what that theme provides you without some coding knowledge to go in and tweak.

Regardless of which platform you choose, there’s always going to be a bit of a learning curve when getting something setup. And if you’ve been on one platform, and are switching, you’re probably going to hate it for the first few weeks. That’s our human reaction to change.

2. Design

Squarespace: This is one area, where I think Squarespace totally wins over WordPress out-of-the-box. Squarespace has designers that build beautiful, minimalist templates, that are responsive and work on all devices. They look great without much help, and you’d allowed to change fonts and colors and images if you’d like.

I also think this is where Squarespace starts to fall short. While they do allow for some code injection and custom CSS, the customization capabilities of Squarespace are far smaller than that of WordPress. You have to use one of their templates, you can’t hire a developer to design something 100% unique to you.

WordPress: As much as I love WordPress, I think it lacks in beauty when it comes to the free themes that it offers. Granted, there are literally thousands of options as opposed to Squarespace’s 30 or so, but they’re still not nearly as elegant as one would hope. And they’re definitely not all responsive.

However, unlike Squarespace, if you’re unhappy with what you get in their basic templates, you’re free to use resources like Elegant Themes, Themeforest, Creative Market, or any of the other theme resources out there that you’d like to purchase a premium theme (usually around $25-$50) and use that instead. Often times these themes are packed full of great things like page builders, custom post types, and other great items you’ll use down the road.

And if you can’t find a premium theme you like, you can hire a developer like myself to build you something from scratch to fit your exact needs and vision.

3. Maintenance/Security

Squarespace: Another perk to being a proprietary piece of software, the Squarespace team is in charge of all of the security updates and code maintenance that happens on their platform. You’ll never have to worry about running monthly updates or anything like that, because they do it for you.

They also offer a free SSL certificate to all Squarespace domains, which is an important level of added security that Google loves (yay free “Google points”!) and e-commerce shops are required to have.

The downside to Squarespace being a private company with their own software – if that company ever goes out of business, your site goes with them. You can technically export your content, but it won’t always transfer over one-to-one to another provider.

WordPress: The best thing about WordPress is that it’s an open source software, which means it’s free. The downside to that, is that it means you’ll have to self-host it somewhere and you’re responsible for running any updates to the CMS, themes or plugins, as they pop up. Fortunately, this process isn’t super difficult, and as long as you stay on top of theme, there shouldn’t ever be serious complications.

Occasionally, you’ll get plugins or themes that have issues with an update, but if you’re using properly supported and vetted items (more on that in another post) it shouldn’t be long before there’s a fix pushed out.

And the best thing about your site being on WordPress is that it 100% yours. You own the content, the theme, and whatever else you’ve added to it. So as long as you pay your hosting bill, you’ll never have to worry about it going under.

4. E-commerce

Squarespace: They make it easy to set up a store and start selling your product pretty painlessly. Because they offer free SSL certificates with domains, you’re pretty much ready to go as soon as you go live. The downside, is that you’re limited to the templates they provide you.

WordPress: Since WordPress is self-hosted, getting an SSL is on you. Some hosting providers include this in their hosting package, but most have it as an add-on. Usually, this will run you anywhere from $20-$80 a year. However, sites like Let’s Encrypt and Cloudflare provide free options which work just as well. And the up side, is that using Woocommerce on WordPress allows you (or your developer) to edit the templates to your heart’s desire. You’re not limited to any one appearance. It does require some coding skills.

5. SEO

This is a topic that gets super tricky no matter how you slice it. I don’t think either site can really claim to be SEO friendly out of the box. The one item that Squarespace has on WordPress, is that you have more immediate control over your page titles and descriptions without installing a plugin like Yoast SEO. However, this aspect of SEO only gets you so far. The biggest portion of it is going to rely on your content and inbound links, which is all on you no matter what platform you choose.

I suggest checking out a site like Moz if you’re looking for more resources on SEO. Or check out my friend, Claire Paniccia, who help with content strategy and SEO research.

6. Evolving Your Website

When starting out, a lot of us don’t need a big complicated site. We want a nice looking homepage, an about page, maybe a contact form, and sometimes a blog. And for a while, that’s enough. But what about a few years down the road, when your business is thriving and maybe you’ve grown your services or hired a team. Is one platform going to make growing your site easier?

Squarespace: In my experience, the best thing about Squarespace is how quick and easy it is to setup a site. You can basically go from zero to hero in only a few hours, especially if you’re not customizing much. But as you start to grow, the limited dashboard can be just that – limiting. What if you want to start a podcast, or create a membership site? There are definitely some people who have managed to make this work on their Squarespace site, but it gets clunky and disorganized fast.

WordPress: Since it’s an open-source CMS, WordPress has a solution to just about everything under the sun. Membership site? No problem. Podcast and syndication? No sweat. Do you want to have a network of sites (2+) that are all controlled from the same dashboard with the same login? Done.

Seriously, when it comes to customizability and the unforeseeable expansion of your kickass business, WordPress is going to be your friend. There’s almost nothing it can’t do. (Sorry, I still can’t get it to order and deliver a latte to my door… but that’s an app idea!) And if you can get it in the hands of a developer, it really can be the best platform for your business to grow upon.

9. Cost

The biggest hang up with starting any site is going to be the cost. I get it. We’re not made of money. I started off learning how to code on strung together Neopet’s pages! But as business owners, we need to invest in ourselves and our business, so be ready to shell out some money regardless of the platform you’re on.

Squarespace: At only $16 per month ($14 if you pay by the year) and $20 domain names, Squarespace is a bargain. It’s hard to beat it when it comes with an SSL and ready to go ecommerce system if you need it.

WordPress: Again, it’s free but it’s self-hosted, so that means you’ll need to find a hosting company you trust to work with. I personally love A2 Hosting. They’re local to me, so I love that I can support ‘em. I also love Pantheon, because it gives me a great staging platform if I have large changes that I don’t want to make on a live site.  But Host Monster and Blue Hosting are both companies I’ve had good experiences with. No hosting provider is perfect, it’s unrealistic for us to think they are.

Anyway, costs for a domain outside of Squarespace can be anywhere from $3-$50. Hosting also varies, but can usually range from $5 per month to $100 per month – with those ranges having various benefits and services with them.

WordPress is going to be the more expensive option in the long run, there’s no doubt about it. But it’s also going to give you the most room to grow, to evolve, to change and to own it 100%.

Summary

As I was writing this, I realize I sound more like a Squarespace advocate, but I swear I’m a WordPress girl.

What it comes down to, is that Squarespace is great from bloggers and entrepreneurs who are just starting out. It let’s you get something legit and beautiful up quickly, and it comes with a lot of perks.

But when you’re growing your business, there comes a time when you need to bring in the big guns and hire a professional. If that’s the case, and I sure hope it is, it makes total sense to set yourself up for long term success, by starting off on a platform that will allow you to grow no matter what that means. And that means WordPress, because it’s customizability and adaptability cannot be rivaled.

If you’re still unsure of what platform might be right for your business, I’d love to jump on a quick Skype call with you and talk it out. Seriously, zero cost, 100% pitch-free. I just want to make sure you’re making the best decision for your business and yourself.

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