A Book From 1999 is Still Right About Food & Restaurant Marketing

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Technology and marketing change so much every day that an online article about it can become irrelevant within a matter of minutes. 

So, imagine my surprise when a book from 1999 totally changed my perspective on everything.

Even though it was published almost 2 decades ago, marketing genius Seth Godin's book Permission Marketing: Turning Strangers into Friends, and Friends into Customers rings true for brands today. Especially for restaurants and food brands. 

It's a quick read, and it's written broadly enough to apply to many types of businesses. But, if you haven't read it in the 19 years it's been on the market, I'm going to take a wild guess it isn't going to happen. 

So, I'm going to break it down for you. 

Even in 1999, at the dawn of the internet, Godin realized how much was at stake. Consumers were bombarded with more and more advertisements every day, and the internet was only going to pour gasoline on the situation. So, instead, he proposed a different method for businesses to reach consumers — permission marketing. And, spoiler alert: it's going to help you crush it in growing your food business. 

In this Permission v. Interruption Marketing guide, you'll learn:

  • What is interruption marketing?
  • What is permission marketing?
  • What food marketing method is best for my restaurant, food brand or food product?
  • How do I implement these strategies in my food business?

Let's do this!


What is interruption marketing?

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Commercials. Billboards. Magazine ads. Pop-ups. Banner ads. Random direct mail. 

Interruption marketing is everywhere — the number is widely debated, but most estimate that we're exposed to anywhere between 4,000 - 5,000 advertisements PER DAY.  You know why that number is so shocking? Because you don't notice most of them anymore. The truth is, we're getting really freaking good at tuning it out because most of it isn't relevant to our lives.  

How many times have you seen a commercial for a car you're never going to buy? A magazine ad for a perfume you'll never wear? A pop-up for a product you can't even use? 

These companies are relying on what I like to call the "Throw Everything At The Wall And See What Sticks" method. By airing an expensive commercial during prime time, they comfort themselves by knowing that SOME percentage — no matter how small — may be enticed by the message. 

Not only is interruption marketing expensive and nearly impossible to measure, it's annoying. It's viewing marketing as a shouting contest instead of a conversation. It's requiring your customer to halt their day and listen to whatever you want to say whenever its convenient for YOU. 

It's outdated. Seth Godin knew that in 1999, but many, many restaurants and food brands still aren't listening. 

What is permission marketing?

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“Rather than simply interrupting a television show with a commercial or barging into the consumer’s life with an unannounced call or letter, tomorrow’s marketer will first try to gain the consumer’s consent to participate in the selling process." - Seth Godin

Tomorrow is here, folks. Technology has come with its pitfalls, but personalization isn't one of them. Permission marketing turns promotion on its head — making all of that clutter an asset.

Permission marketing is selling and marketing to people who have OPTED INTO that relationship. Or, as the book's title suggests, turning strangers into friends and friends into customers. 

Permission marketing is like dating. To start, you offer something interesting enough for customers to agree to a first date (free information, a discount, etc.). Next, you slowly get to know each other, earning more permission over time. It's simple — once someone has agreed to pay attention, it's easier to teach them about your product or service. 

We're talking about ditching commercials and print ads in favor of something a little more personal. Something that can really build trust and loyalty. Tools that can turn strangers into friends. We're talking about opt-in communication here: mostly email, social media and blogging. 

How does this help my food business?

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To explain the core of permission marketing in action, we're stripping away the digital world and going to go back to 1908 — to Proctor & Gamble and good ole' Crisco. 

Long story short, P&G needed Crisco to take off, but there weren't TV shows and magazines to rely on, so they needed to get creative. Here's what they did. 

1. They paid the train lines to use and advertise Crisco in concessions served on board. 

2. They held "high society" tea parties in major cities — inviting "leading ladies" and only serving products using Crisco with the tea. 

3. They created and promoted free cookbooks, and inside were helpful recipes — all touting the benefits of, you guessed it, Crisco. 

Once mass media emerged, Crisco made the switch. But, at the time, the most successful campaign was the free cookbook. The exchange of free information led to brand loyalty beyond their wildest dreams. 

The bottom line is that people want to buy from companies they trust. You build trust by sharing free and useful information before a sale — telling your story patiently to each customer that's willing to listen. Frequency, reliability and trust will always outweigh exposure and reach. 

Implementing Digital Hospitality

If you own a food brand with a physical presence, like a restaurant, you're probably already doing this in-person. Successful food brands were founded on hospitality, which is defined as "the friendly and generous reception and entertainment of guests, visitors and strangers." You banter with guests, answer any questions and always deliver what is needed — often before it's requested.

All we're encouraging you to do is extend that courtesy to potential guests online through permission marketing. Digital hospitality is simply that — it's the exchange of helpful information, entertainment and goodwill online. It's committing to potential customers before they're in the door. It's hanging your hat on relationship building instead of blasting meaningless marketing messages. 

With the new technology available, you don't have to print a free cookbook and ask folks to write in and request it like P&G did in 1908. You can start now. 

Stay tuned next week when we breakdown suggested permission marketing channels and how to use them — from websites and blogs to email and social media. 


For more helpful tips like these, sign up for our FREE 5 Minute Food Marketing email series — we'll send you one helpful food marketing tip per week.

The Ultimate Guide to Beat Writer's Block

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How many times have you sat at the computer to write, stared at that blinking cursor and felt like it's mocking you? Do you have great ideas strike you at inconvenient times — like the car or the shower — only to get home, try to write about them and go totally blank?

You've got writer's block, friend. But luckily, you're not alone.

Some of the most famous writers in the world — from Kurt Vonnegut to Maya Angelou — have expressed their frustrations with writer's block. It's a natural speed bump in the process. But, for people like me who write for a living or others that are on a strict deadline (hello, college term papers!), we literally can't afford to have it. If a paper or project is due, the professor or client doesn't care if you had writer's block. They care that you can complete the work. 

For me, knowledge is power. Oftentimes, the more I can learn about something, the less intimidating or paralyzing it can feel. I'm the girl who will stay up all night googling how criminals are caught so I can feel safer in my house. I've WebMD-ed the -ish out of every ailment you can imagine, thinking if I understand it, it can't impact me. 

While a lot of that behavior is next-level, Looney-Tune crazy, there is merit to some of it. The more you learn about something like writer's block — why it happens, how to beat it and how to prevent it — the more you can feel in control of your creative process and work towards eliminating it for good. Well, at least significantly.  

In this guide to beat writer's block, you'll learn:

  • What writer's block is

  • Why you may be getting writer's block

  • How to overcome and prevent writer's block in the future

SO LET'S DO THIS!


What is writer's block?

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Quite literally, writer's block is defined as "the condition of being unable to think of what to write or how to proceed with writing." It's when your fingers sit on the keyboard, but your brain can't give them instruction on how to continue. It leaves you feeling unmotivated, creatively drained and undeniably frustrated. 

There's one hard truth about writer's block, and it's both the good and bad news about it — it's all in your head. It's not a condition that infects your body like a virus. It's not a mental illness that requires professional treatment. Like any fleeting emotion — happiness, sadness, anger — writer's block is influenced by your environment, but 100% controlled by your brain. 

Basically, we're not dealing with a broken arm here, people. You can pull yourself out of this one. 

But to fix an issue that your brain is constructing, you first have to figure out why it's happening in the first place. 

Why do we get writer's block?

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There are a lot of reasons that people feel stuck in their creative endeavors. It's easy to blame it on a lack of inspiration, but no one made a successful career by sitting around and waiting for inspiration to strike. You've got to learn how to spark inspiration within yourself whenever you need it.

So, the root of the problem is established — you get writer's block because you're feeling uninspired.

Now you have to figure out WHY. 

Here are common reasons I've experienced or heard others discuss AND how to beat them: 

How do I beat writer's block?

You're Uninspired Because You're Distracted

It's very difficult to be jazzed about whatever you're writing while you're also doing something else. As much as you think you may be an all-star multi-tasker, you aren't if whatever else you're doing is keeping you from working. So, turn off the TV, put your phone in another room and leave yourself no other option but to work. 

Distractions aren't just things like TV and snacks, though. I'm what I like to call an "A-1 Procrastinator." Meaning, if I have something I need to be doing that I don't want to do, I'll do ANYTHING else on my to-do list to take its place— clean the house, call a friend I've fallen out of touch with, reorganize the kitchen... ANYTHING but the most important task at hand. If you're like me, it's important not to rationalize this behavior because you're completing something else. Drop the dish towel and get back to that laptop, friend. It's not going to write itself. 

You're Uninspired Because You're Overwhelmed

Too many things popping in that noggin of yours? I get it — sometimes we've got so many items on our mental to-do list that we feel paralyzed by the thought of tackling it one by one. 

You know what to do here. Write it out. This is what I call mental dumping. Get out a piece of paper or word document on your computer (I highly suggest good ole pen and paper for this one) and list out every single thing you have going on in our head right now — your to-do list, what groceries you need this week, your aunt Mary's birthday that you're trying not to forget... all of it. Then, take that piece of paper, fold it up, and get back to your work. 

The secret of getting ahead is getting started. The secret of getting started is breaking your complex overwhelming tasks into small manageable tasks, and then starting on the first one.” — Mark Twain

You're Uninspired Because You're Directionless

This is super common in longer pieces of writing. Instead of being overwhelmed by other tasks, you're overwhelmed by this project and the fact that you have no idea where take it. It's called analysis paralysis, friend. But it's beatable too. 

Remember those old-school, roman numeral-laden outlines that your professors used to require you to make when you were doing a research paper? They weren't just for fun/torture. Writing is easier if you make a roadmap first. You don't need to get fancy here, just outline where you need to take the piece, the points you need to hit, etc. and then work on filling in the gaps. By breaking it up into categorical chunks, you can take it one step at a time because you've already planned out how to connect the dots. 

(pssst.. See the headers in this piece? That's the outline I've had sitting in my drafts for a week for this one.)

You're Uninspired Because You're Uninterested

Not every piece you ever write is going to shake you out of your chair with enthusiasm. Sometimes, it's just a snooze fest. But, you know what's less interesting? Sitting there and ruminating over it for longer than necessary. 

If you can't think of ways to make the topic more appealing to you, revisit your WHY instead of the WHAT. Instead of thinking about the topic, find inspiration by remembering WHY you're writing it. If this piece itself is boring, what part of finishing this will be exciting? Say it out loud a couple of times. Maybe even write it at the top of the page. Consider...

  • "It's important I finish this because..."
    • ... it's a story that needs to be told
    • ... the client is going to love it
    • ... I need to pass this class to graduate
  • OR "I'm excited to finish this because..."
    • ... it won't be weighing on my mind anymore
    • ... I get to go to a party after I finish
    • ... I'll never have to look at it again
    • ... I'm going to reward myself with _______
Don’t waste time waiting for inspiration. Begin, and inspiration will find you.”
― H. Jackson Brown Jr.

You're Uninspired Because You're Exhausted

Fact — when you're tired, so is your brain. Writing is very mental, and if you're eyes are closing, it's going to be hard to get words on the page. Now, in a perfect world, my advice would be to outline the piece, go to sleep and pick it back up in the morning. BUT, I'm assuming if you're reading this, you're probably on some sort of deadline and running out of time. So we've got to simulate alertness. 

When I'm borderline asleep and need to get moving, here are a few things I've found get the job done:

  • chug a glass of water
  • have a light snack
  • drink something caffeinated  
  • pump some seriously upbeat music (dancing optional but encouraged)
  • go for a 10 minute walk
  • do 30 jumping jacks 
  • laugh — call a friend for 10 minutes, watch some funny YouTube videos, whatever works for you

You're Uninspired Because You're a Perfectionist

This is perhaps the hardest one, because it's ingrained in us much more deeply than being sleepy or distracted. But perfectionism is important to recognize and refine in your life as a whole, not just when it comes to writing. 

If none of the above is helping, you need to ask yourself — Am I unable to write this because I'm worried I'll fail? 

BOOM. Many people struggle with any decisive action (not just writing) because they're obsessing over the repercussions — Will this not be good enough? What if I work really hard on this and it sucks? What if the client fires me? What if I'm not as talented as I thought? 

The most important steps to solve this are: 1.) admitting your perfectionism is prohibiting you, not helping you. 2.) Realizing that not doing this at all because you're worried it won't be perfect is worse than finishing something that's incredibly average. 

I have this written in a sticky note at my desk. I suggest you do the same — DONE IS BETTER THAN PERFECT. 

Stop caring about word choice, grammar and winning a prize for how impressive this piece is and just GET. IT. DONE. Write the whole draft without carrying about any of that. Focus on FINISHING. Then, you can go back, clean it up and edit. 

How do I prevent writer's block from happening again?

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This is a toughie. Because writer's block is essentially a self-constructed state-of-mind, there's no preventative measures or pill to help cope. There is, however, one thing you can do consistently to make sure that it happens less and less. 

WRITE MORE. (Sorry, don't hate me.)

Writing is like a muscle— it's got to be exercised often to be readily available to you. Just like you can't lay on the couch for six months and expect to pop up and run a half marathon, you can't avoid writing and expect it to come easy to you when you need it. 

If you don't work in copywriting, freelance or a career that requires it all the time, there are still small exercises you can build into your routine. Here are a few I suggest:

  • Journal / free write - I do this once a week. I write about whatever I feel like, and it can't be for public consumption. Try writing about an article you read, something that's been bothering you, your goals, anything. 
  • Try a writing prompt - There's a reason they made you do these in school. Try this list to get you started. 
  • Email or write a letter to a friend - We're so focused on texting and short communication these days. When was the last time you wrote a long letter or email to a friend? Deep-diving into communication with one is still a useful writing practice. 

And, always remember: 

Writing about a writer’s block is better than not writing at all.”
― Charles Bukowski

Still need some assistance getting that writing project started? Get in touch today, and we'll see how we can help. 

5 Self-Improvement Books That Everyone Should Read

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I know this is a completely cliche way to start a blog post— but I can't believe we're more than halfway through 2017. Back in January, I set a lot of resolutions for myself, mostly focused on building an atmosphere of growth. (more on that here.) One of the biggest resolutions on my list was to read more. 

I've always loved reading - even in middle school when it was cool to pretend you didn't. I'm the type of person that picks up a good book and CANNOT put it down until it's finished. I'll stay up late, skip plans with people... it's bad. And, sometimes that bad habit will make me skip reading altogether, but that's not the answer either. 

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To get in a healthier reading routine, I now read 15-30 minutes every weekday morning and sometimes on the weekends. It's a great way to wake up, and it helps get my creativity flowing before I let my inbox dictate my to-do list for the day. Sticking to this has helped me read a steady book per month, and I've come across a lot of great suggestions along the way. 

I love reading fiction and memoir, but lately I've been on a huge business/self-improvement book kick. Especially because I'm reading in the morning before work, it's been a super inspiring way to start the day. I always put the books down feeling motivated and ready to dig into my to-do list. 

Here are the five self-improvement books I would recommend everyone read:

The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck by Mark Manson

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Who It's Best For:  I would buy a copy for everyone I know, BUT it's especially great for people who find themselves caring too much about every. single. little. thing. 

My Take: GAME. CHANGER. I can't say this enough. As someone with a history of giving entirely too many fucks about entirely too many things, this book was the slap in the face I needed. And judging by the 4.5 star-rating from 1,843 Amazon users, I'm clearly not alone. The premise of the book is that instead of trying to be positive all the time, we should focus on getting better at facing adversity AND developing a life that's suffering for the right things. 

Favorite Quote: “Don’t hope for a life without problems. There’s no such thing. Instead, hope for a life full of good problems... True happiness occurs only when you find the problems you enjoy solving.”

You Are A Badass by Jen Sincero

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Who It's Best For: Anyone needing a swift kick of motivation and a reminder that you're awesome.

My Take: This is the kind of book that you never stop reading because you can crack it back open anytime you need a pick-me-up. The author is hilarious, no-nonsense and gives the kind of advice you wish you could give your friends when they're in a rut. Read more about it here

Favorite Quote: “If you are depressed, you are living in the past. If you are anxious, you are living in the future. If you are at peace, you are living in the present.” 

Better Than Before by Gretchen Rubin

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Who It's Best For: Anyone looking to build or eliminate habits in their life - good or bad.

My Take: I know she can be polarizing, but I love Gretchen Rubin. I've talked about her other book The Happiness Project on here before, and I listen to her podcast every now and then. If you're Type A, you'll probably relate to her methodical approach to habits. I know I did. It's definitely rooted in her own experiences, but it's full of practical tips that anyone can use to adopt or break a habit in their lives. See a full summary and reviews here

Favorite Quote: “The most important step is the first step. All those old sayings are really true. Well begun is half done. Don’t get it perfect, get it going. A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. Nothing is more exhausting than the task that’s never started, and strangely, starting is often far harder than continuing.” 

Option B by Sheryl Sandberg

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Who It's Best For:  Anyone experiencing unexpected loss, adversity or hardship. Anyone particularly close to someone experiencing unexpected loss, adversity or hardship.

My Take: After losing my dad to cancer in early 2016, this book couldn't have come at a better time for me. Born out of the horrible tragedy of losing her husband, Sheryl Sandberg's words on loss, love and moving forward are poignant, comforting and brutally honest. It helps you feel like you're not the only one riding out a shit storm. (Totally for another day, but I also really loved Lean In. Everyone should also read that!) 

Favorite Quote: “One of the most important things I’ve learned is how deeply you can keep loving someone after they die. You may not be able to hold them or talk to them... but you can still love them every bit as much. Playwright Robert Woodruff Anderson captured it perfectly: 'Death ends a life, but it does not end a relationship.”'

Stop Saying You're Fine by Mel Robbins

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Who It's Best For:  People in need of some serious tough love to pull them out of neutral.

My Take: Mel Robbins is a hardass, and she doesn't sugarcoat anything. I read it on my Kindle— to be honest, this isn't the type of book cover you want to lug around in public, but it should be. The problem of feeling "stuck" affects everyone, and the sooner we acknowledge that, the better off we'll all be. 

Favorite Quote: “You need to hear this loud and clear: No one is coming to help. It is up to you.” 

BONUS: for those in their 20s
The Defining Decade by Meg Jay

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Who It's Best For:  Anyone in their 20s. And their parents. 

My Take: Although I've read each of the other books in the last year, I read this one my last semester of college after seeing her TedTalk about how your 20s aren't a time to be dicking around. My advice? Watch this video, and if it resonates with (or terrifies!) you, definitely pick up a copy. 

Favorite Quote: “Being confused about choices is nothing more than hoping that maybe there is a way to get through life without taking charge... Forget about having an identity crisis and get some identity capital. … Do something that adds value to who you are. Do something that's an investment in who you might want to be next.” 

What books have you read that changed your life? Share them with me in the comments! 

Because I throw away book covers, borrow from friends and sometimes use my Kindle, all photos are courtesy of Amazon.

5 Things I've Learned from My First Year as a Solopreneur

This month on June 13, The 5th Sense turned one year old!

I'd like to tell you that I threw myself a cute little business birthday party, but that would be a lie. I was back in Tennessee—where I grew up— for the week for my brother's wedding, and it was nice to return home, reflect with family and realize how far my business and I have come since I posted this blog 365 days ago

Anyone who's run a business from scratch on their own will tell you that you learn an infinite number of lessons in the first 12 months, and I'm sure that they'll continue pouring in through the years that follow. However, I do remember how much I enjoyed reading posts like these when I was just getting started— and I still do now! So today I'm sharing 5 of the biggest things that my first year of running my own copywriting business has taught me. 

KNOW YOURSELF

I talked about this some here and here, but I can't say this enough— the only way to succeed in owning your own business is to be as self-aware as possible. There's a lot of advice on the internet— and plenty of it is great— but not every method, tip or piece of advice is going to work for you and your business.  

Here are some questions I would consider asking yourself and the people who know you best. Revisit them again every couple of months to be sure you're being honest with yourself. 

  • What are your strengths and weaknesses? (in business and personally)
    • Are there business weaknesses of yours that could be better outsourced?
    • Are there books you can read to help with those personal weaknesses? 
  • Do you work better in a structured environment or can you truly be productive at home? 
  • Are you the type of person who will feel isolated working from home? If so, how will you combat that?
  • Do you handle rejection well? If not, what are ways you can pick yourself back up after a loss?
  • Are you providing a service that the market truly needs? Or did you choose your services based on what you think is best instead? 
  • Are you good at saving money for a rainy day? 
  • Is there a new skill you can learn to better service your clients?

I've found that many of these answers can be found by taking the Myers-Briggs test (try out a condensed version for free here) and others can only be discovered through trial and error. The most important thing is to be honest with yourself— if something isn't working, stop doing it and find another solution. 

PREPARE YOURSELF  

I explained some of the preparation that I did to launch my business in my three-month check-in post, but there's definitely lots that I've picked up on since. There are plenty of other resources out there about getting an LLC, starting a business bank account and filing your taxes. I'm not here to discuss that kind of preparation. 

The kind of prep I'm talking about it beyond that. If you're reading this, you've probably read a few of the thousands of posts discussing the benefits of running your own business, but have you read up on the drawbacks? 

It's easy to picture a blissful world of choosing when you work, how you work and who you work with. And all of those things are great. But, I would urge anyone considering going out on their own to prepare themselves for a different reality.

  • Do you know WHO you're really targeting? (Hint: "everyone" isn't an acceptable answer)
  • Do you have a sales plan to steadily find new clients so you aren't out-of-luck (and money) when one ends their contract? 
  • Do you have a plan to retain the clients you currently have?
  • Are you ready to hear no a lot
    • Do you have a strategy for staying positive when faced with rejection? 
    • Are you prepared to change things up when enough no's show you that an idea isn't working?
  • Do you have a back-up plan or savings for months that you're down? 

These aren't meant to be negative, they're meant to be realistic/honest (see point 1). 

FORGIVE YOURSELF  

If I haven't reiterated it enough— no matter how great your business idea is, you're going to hear "no" a lot. Sometimes you'll work your butt off to close on a client and lose it last minute. Other times you'll have one quit unexpectedly for reasons that may be out of your control. It's one thing to prepare yourself for it, but it's another thing entirely to be able to forgive yourself after it happens. 

I've gone into this story pretty in-depth in this post, but to sum it up— I hit a "business rock-bottom" at the end of last year. From a combination of things that were and weren't within my control, I wasn't motivated, taking care of myself or investing time in finding the right clients. As a result, I lost some business, had to dip into our savings and felt super defeated. 

None of that got better until I went back to step one (KNOW YOURSELF) and finally forgave myself for having that set-back. Ebbs and flows are an inevitable part of running a business, but being able to forgive yourself and bounce back is what matters most. Say it with me, "My worth as a person is not entirely measured by the success (or lack of) in my business." Say it again. Keep saying it until you believe it. 

TRACK YOURSELF

 I swear, half of running a business is asking yourself where all the time goes. With no boss or department dictating your day-to-day, it's easy to get lost in distractions or what I like to call "productivity porn"— which is basically when you spend your day reading articles about business strategy or being productive, but you don't actually accomplish anything.

Without a boss to keep you on track, you have to monitor yourself. The best way to do this is to track everything— your time, your expenses, your incoming sales, your work flow, your work-wins, everything. To fix any problem— be it a structural, time management or something else— you have to first be aware that it's even there to begin with. Tracking is a great way to start. 

ADVOCATE FOR YOURSELF

This is important. Arguably the most important— YOU MUST BE YOUR BIGGEST ADVOCATE. If you don't believe in yourself and your business, how can you expect anyone else to? 

I know, sometimes this kind of self-love advice can feel hippie-dippy and unproductive. But it's not. When you enter a room, you need to be ready and WILLING to sell yourself. If you don't believe that you've got the best services out there, how can you hope that anyone else will buy into them? You can't wait around for someone else to instill this confidence in you or sell your business ideas to others on your behalf. You built it yourself - now go show people how f*cking awesome you are by advocating for yourself. 

What's the biggest lesson you've learned from your job (entrepreneurial or otherwise)? Let me know in the comments!