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TravelZoo has been around forever yet I can't believe how many people don't know about it.
To sum it up, TravelZoo is a travel deal finder. And when I say deals, I mean REAL deals... like you are saving hundreds of dollars on hotels, on flights, on trips and more!
My most recent TravelZoo purchase was last year when I scored $320 roundtrip tickets from NYC to Southern Spain. And yes, that cost included all taxes and checked luggage!
And about Wednesday... EVERY Wednesday they publish their famous Top 20 Deals! I get the info sent to my inbox and the list is always exciting (even if I'm in a period in my life when I can't travel).
Here's what caught my eye from last week's Top 20:
I can't live without these!
This is another must have product (Just Hold it There Suction Hook) that you have probably never seen. It sticks to nearly any smooth surface and it holds (like really holds) thin objects. I'm really struggling to describe it so just pan down to the pictures.
Personally, I'm using it to hold a wire on my desk, my face mask (at my front door), and my razor in the shower. But really, the uses are endless!
One of my favorite purchases this year (Jan 2022) was this beauty! It dropped in price down to $36 and I snagged it. It arrived a few days later in a huge box and in perfect shape. Normally my plants come from trading with other people, from Freecycle, or even from the curb (yes, people throw their plants out), but I couldn't resist this deal from Amazon.
Sometime you just have to (or want to) remove the background from a photo. Most recently I used this feature for a product I'm selling but you can also use it for your Insta or Facebook posts or JUST for fun.
My favorite app to use to remove the background is PhotoRoom. There are many many things you can do with the free version (which is what I use) but you can always pay to get more features and for the auto removal of their logo.
Video Diary - 1 Second a Day
My new obsession is "1 Second Every Day", https://1se.co/ It's an app that sends you little reminders to take a quick video EVERY DAY. I know you are thinking "wow, that's a lot" but really it's just so easy to use. And at the end of the year I'm going to have an amazing diary showing just some of what I did in 2022.
Watch the founder's original video here, youtu.be/lyx6O_WFJhU and you'll understand why I'm doing this for this year.
And I'm back!
After a 6 year hiatus I'm bringing back my blog, this time with a focus on some of my favorite resources and products!
Free Stock Photos
I recently came across Pexels and since then it has become the FIRST place I check out when looking for stock.
If you are looking for stock, be sure to check it out. Below are the amazing results I got when doing a search for "kids".
I cannot tell you how many times my company was in the news and I was not even notified. However, now instead of missing out on the information, I find out via Google Alerts (a totally free, easy, and awesome service provided by Google). What is Google Alerts?
Defined by Google:
“Google Alerts are email updates of the latest relevant Google results (web, news, etc.) based on your queries. Enter a search query you wish to monitor. You will see a preview of the type of results you'll receive.”
How to Use Google Alerts:
Set up multiple Google alerts. (It’s free and easy so why not do this now?) I have the following alerts set-up for my first business, www.NJYP.org:
"Get out. Make friends." (my tag line)
"Members meet at restaurants, bars, in coffee houses, at comedy clubs, and even outdoors" (my main copy)
"New Jersey" "Young Professionals"
NJ "Young Professionals"
As you can see, not only am I seeking information that may appear about my organization, but I am also keeping an eye on whether anyone is using my tag line and copying illegally, talking about me by name, or talking about Young Professionals in NJ.
It will take you less than a minute to set up a few Google Alerts. An alert will keep you updated on who is talking about you and it also may help you figure out who is stealing your ideas.
Whenever you create a new group on Facebook, you need to decide if your group should be Closed, Public, or Secret.
Pick CLOSED every time!
If a group is public it means all the posts in the group are public. Anyone can navigate to that group and see what every member said. More importantly, it means a member's post MAY show up in their newsfeed. Depending on the topic of your group, your members may not feel safe posting.
For instance in a breastfeeding support group a new mom may not want ALL of her FB friends to know she is having a hard time with Postpartum Depression. She may just want the support of her fellow BFing moms. If your group is public she probably wouldn't bother posting.
If you want people to be able to find and join your group via a search then DO NOT pick Secret. Secret groups are 100% secret which means admins and members can add more members. No one will be able to find it.
Closed groups are the happy in between. They will come up in a search BUT only members will be able to see what has been posted.
In a past blog I spoke about how to respond when your ideal client posts in your local FB group. In order to "stalk" these local groups, you FIRST need to be a MEMBER of them. So today let's talk about how to find the groups.
One of the best ways to find local Facebook groups in the area you service is to ask for referrals. Go to all of the groups you currently belong to and post something like this:
"I am looking to join more local FB groups. Does anyone have a group they recommend?"
Believe it or not, some of the biggest groups I belong to are SECRET groups. If a group is classified as secret, it will never come up in a FB group search.
There are a number of reasons an admin may make the group secret but the most common reason is due to spam. I admin multiple groups and the bigger the group is, the more spammers request to join. Because of all the spam requests, I need to go into every membership "application" and decide if the person trying to join is a spammer. This takes time.
If I make a group secret, however, it means spammers will never find the group. New members would come into the group by way of referral (friends adding friends). As an admin, a secret group means less admin work fighting the spammers.
The Search Tool You Didn't Know About
I don't know why, but FB makes it hard for people to search for groups! There is a way to do it though, just follow the steps below for this example of what a birth worker who serves Miami should do.
Notice I did not search for "Miami moms". I kept it broad so I could scan through hundreds of groups and decide where my clients may be. If I had done a search for Miami Moms I would have missed out on groups named "Moms of Miami", "Miami Mamas", "Miami Mommies", "Lesbian Moms Living in Miami", etc.
So now that you were able to find and join local FB groups, what should you do!? You need to participate in the communities, "stalk" the communities, and run contests.
By now you've seen someone post, something like this, in your favorite peer to peer Facebook group:
"Hi, I want to build my own website. What did you use to build your website?"
Usually the replies go like this:
All over the place, right? And you'll often notice that people LOVED whatever platform they used. But which is the best?
I can tell you, ALL of these platforms create BEAUTIFUL website (when used correctly).
ALL of these platforms also come at an affordable price. (Weebly and Wix could be completely free but then you are stuck with their name in your URL and on your website; please don't do that).
The real question you need to ask is "Which of these platforms is right for ME."
To figure out which platform is right for you here's what you need to do (note: this is exactly what I did when I needed a new website a few years ago):
AFTER you do this 4 hour testing period, ask yourself:
For me, Weebly (affiliate link) was the CLEAR winner.
The website you are on right now is a Weebly website. I actually love Weebly so much, that I now teach others how to build Weebly websites. You can learn more about my next class here.
As always, if you have questions, just comment on this blog. I'll get back to you :)
I have already written about why you MUST be blogging! Now you are asking me, "What can I write about!?".
Here are some QUICK TRICKS to coming up with blog topics.
I guarantee that it will take you less than 5 minutes to apply tactic 1, 2, and 3. I am also pretty sure that the Facebook community will provide you with way more than 25 topics.
Tactic 4 is a little more complicated so only resort to it if 1-3 come up short.
PRO TIP: When posting to Facebook, consider the best time to post. I personally avoid posting on the weekends and on holidays. If many of your clients are parents, avoid school drop of and pick up times and instead post around 9am and after kids' bedtimes.
5 Reasons You MUST Be Blogging
If you are not blogging, you are missing out on potential clients. Hopefully, after reading this BLOG (see what I did there?) you'll see the benefits too!
So, even if you think you aren't a good writer or you "HATE" writing, please consider adding a blog to your website. If you need a website be sure to check out my next class on how to EASILY build one.
One of the best things I've ever done for my business was to create my own Mastermind Group. If you have not yet heard the term "Mastermind," then you may have been offline for the past year. Mastermind groups are popping up all over Facebook, as live events in big and small cities, and even in your own neighborhood.
Success Alliance defines a Mastermind Group as, "Mastermind groups offer a combination of brainstorming, education, peer accountability and support in a group setting to sharpen your business and personal skills. A mastermind group helps you and your mastermind group members achieve success."
In the Fall of 2013 I decided that I needed to belong to a Mastermind Group in order to "freshen" up my business. I was feeling like I was stagnant and I could benefit from hearing new ideas and be inspired by seeing other business owners who were growing their businesses.
There were no Mastermind Groups in my area so I started my own (how I did it is posted below). I can confidently say that I would not be where I am today with out the group. There are a total of 6 of us in the group, all women and all with very different businesses. We are, however, all self-employed full time (no one has a "real" job) and we all have children (so the struggles to run a business and raise children exist for us all). I look forward to the meetings every month as they serve as a burst of inspiration for me!
Ready to start your own group (or find one that already exists)? Here's what I did:
What a Meeting Can Look Like:
If you have any questions about how to start a MASTERMIND group ASK below by commenting. I'd love to help you out anyway I can.
Are you ready to step up your game!?
If you are using an @gmail or @hotmail or @aol type account for your business, now is your change to look a little more #profresh.
Get a professional email account via Google Apps for 50% off!
It's the email service I've been using for YEARS and I love it.
Go here, http://goo.gl/sPHVsQ (affiliate link)
When asked us code "9TMA3MMHVVLJGX"
* You'll get 50% off the first year. Normal cost is $50 per year so you'll pay $25 for the first year.
* You'll have ONE email addess, typically people do Name@YourWebsite.com
This offer expires December 31st.
Buy Your Own Domain
Too often I come across business owners who have "lost" access to their domain (aka www.businessname.com). Here is how the story goes:
"My ________ bought the domain for me because I had no idea what I was doing. Now s/he is ignoring my calls and emails and texts. Now what?"
You can fill in the ______ with: boyfriend, programmer, husband, good friend, girlfriend, wife, son, daughter, etc.
If they are ignoring you and basically holding your domain hostage you need to kiss that domain good-bye. To get it back (assuming the other party does not want to give it back) would mean bringing them to court.
Because stories like this are so common I NEVER EVER will buy a domain for someone. I simply send them these instructions:
The link I posted above is an affiliate link. That means I get a kickback if you buy a domain through GoDaddy. But kickback or not, I strongly recommend GoDaddy. They are HUGE, so I know the company is not going to disappear. Their customer service is the BEST I've seen. You can call them up and get real help. Sometimes they even call you just to make sure everything is OK or to remind you your domain is about to expire. Really, I love them. The only reason not to love GoDaddy is (as you saw) they try to upsell you on services.
Now that you've bought your own domain you know it is safe (just do not lose the password) :)
In my webinar on The 5 Pages Your Website Must Have, I talk about how head shots are mandatory!
The Birth Workers featured in this blog, offered up their head shots for the world to see. As you may notice, they are setting the industry standard and YOU need to keep up.
I also want you to take note that MANY of them paid NOTHING for their photo. Some had friends take their picture and others traded their services.
Do YOU want a free head shot too? In my Launch with Laura class I go over how to get a head shot and what to do during the shoot. I also talk about my rookie mistake (knowing it will save you time and money.
A huge thanks to everyone who participated!
If you watched my webinar on The 5 Pages Your Website Must Have, then you know that I believe everyone should have an active blog.
In a nutshell, here’s what blogging will do for you.
I wanted to INSPIRE non-bloggers, or those struggling to blog, so I reached out to the Birth Worker Community and asked them to share their most popular blogs with me.
The topics are varied but all have ONE thing in common. All of these blogs are written FOR CLIENTS (moms, pregnant moms, soon to be pregnant moms, and dads too!). Remember that your peers (fellow birth workers) are not who your blog is for.
So let's take a look at these talented, professional, women who are leading the pack in the BW blogging world!
In no particular order:
#1. 'Twas the Night Before Labor
Author: Ali Fallis
Laura’s Notes: The Huffington Post picked up this blog!
#2. A day at home with your postpartum doula
Author: Devon Clement
Laura’s Notes: I personally share this blog with everyone who thinks they need a “baby nurse”. What they really mean is they need a PPD!
#3. I Left My Infant In The Car
Author: Amber Mohr
Laura’s Notes: I love how this made Amber very real and human. Any parent who made a mistake (um, all of them) can relate to this blog.
#4. Our Birth Story
Author: Tenaj Ikner
Laura’s Notes: Everyone loves a good story. Every mom loves a good birth story even more!
#5. Too Bad You Had to Switch To Formula
Author: Lindsey Harman
Laura’s Notes: This blog hit 3000 views on Facebook alone! Not too shabby. By the way, I teared up a little reading this.
#6. Isn’t my Husband my Doula?
Author: Amanda Mason
Laura’s Notes: EXCELLENT informational piece that could help a lot first time moms (and dads).
#7. The Authentic Truth of Breastfeeding with Poland Syndrome (Part 1 and 2)
Author: Sarah Case
Laura’s Notes: Another great story! Are you starting to see that you (and others) love reading stories?
#8. 5 Reasons Chico is a Great Place to Have a Baby
Author: Sarah Tingy Gordon
Laura’s Notes: Everyone loves a good list! When she sent this to me I didn’t even know where (or what) Chico was but her title made me want to click. Clearly this blog is great for those who may be doing a google search for ‘chico doula’. Actually, just an FYI for Sarah, I just did a google search and Chico Birth Services is 1st page, 3rd website down!
#9. Beautiful is Your Postpartum Body
Author: Eizabeth Luke
Laura’s Notes: Yup, Elizabeth proves you can given turn your poem into a blog. This blog got about 1000 views.
#10. 15 Reasons you Need a Doula
Author: Maria Pokluda
Laura’s Notes: Another great list that educates. This blog gets 700 views PER MONTH!
#11. Top Ten Tips for Writing a Birth Plan
Author: Bethany Sawhill
Laura’s Notes: Not only is there great info, Bethany even gives away a worksheet at the end of this blog (genius).
#12. Why you won’t hear me suggest galactogogues
Author: Tipper Gallagher
Laura’s Notes: This blog received 31,000+ views. She published it June 2013 and August 2015 people are STILL commenting on it! Need I say more?
#13. Birth Partner No No’s
Author: Justine Geberdt
Laura’s Notes: Justine pulled off serious and funny at the same time. Plus this blog has gotten 7k+ views.
#14. I love TEA!! Safe herbal teas for Pregnancy and Breastfeeding
Author: Ashley Shea
Laura’s Notes: This blog has gotten 10k views so far! Think of how many moms google “safe tea pregnancy”.
#15. Attack Formula Companies--Not Formula Feeders
Author: Christy Jo Hendricks
Laura’s Notes: 37,758 views so far on this one. Christy Jo's blog is for professionals because that is who your clients are. If you are a birth worker who trains other birth workers your blog should be for peers as well.
#16. You’re Not Allowed to Not Allow Me
Author: Cristen Pascucci
Laura’s Notes: 76k likes, 250,000 views (that’s not a typo).
#17. 13 Myths About VBAC
Author: Jen Kamel
Laura’s Notes: 128,000 views. This was the only VBAC blog submitted to me, which is surprising because it is a popular topic among moms in Facebook groups. More VBAC blogs from others please :)
#18. Cervical Scar Tissue – A Cause of Preventable C-Sections
Author: Dawn Thompson
Laura’s Notes: Great facts may get you 1 MILLION views! Wow.
#19. Denying the Pain of Labour is Like Denying the Pain of Life
Author: Nadia Raafat
Laura’s Notes: Another blog that was published in the Huffington Post.
#20. Early Labor: What Your Doctor Won’t Tell You
Author: Kate Novotny
Laura’s Notes: This blog has another irresistible title. I challenge a first time pregnant mom to read that title and NOT click it.
#21. 5 Awesome Things About Oxytocin You Probably Don’t Know
Author: Emily Fontes
Laura’s Notes: Another great list that is easy to absorb.
Are you inspired!? Feel free to post a link to your blog in the comments below.
When I first started out I used an @hotmail.com address for my business. This was in 2004 before @gmail.com was public. But after I few years I knew it was time for an @MyDomain.com email address. By then I had a gmail account and I loved the ease of it so signing up with Google Apps was a no-brainer.
Your Google Apps email looks just like gmail but the address will be @YourDomain.com instead of @gmail.com. The cost is $5 a month per user or $50 a year.
To save some money go here (affiliate link) and give this promo code a try. It is first come, first served so it may or may not work.
Starting on 4.21.15 Google began ranking Mobile Friendly websites HIGHER in the search results.
What this means?
If someone searches for "San Diego Doula" the websites that are mobile friendly will show up higher on the search page. A non-mobile website may not show up at all.
Is your website mobile friendly?
There is a quick way to find out. Just go here and enter your URL.
Did your website fail the test?
Then you need to upgrade right away! If you are using Wix, Weebly, SquareSpace then contact their customer service to see what your options are.
If your website needs a full upgrade, then check out my Launch with Laura Class where I will teach a group of birth workers how to build a Weebly website.
The $5 Logo Experiment
In 2004 I started a business by accident. The short story is I had moved for a new job and I wanted to make local friends. I started a social group online and 100 joined it the first week. Within 2 years, I was able to quit my job (I worked with troubled youth) and run the group full time. Revenue came in from membership dues, event fees, and sponsors. The group was HUGE.
In the early months I had no logo. I also had no budget for a graphic designer because the company was not bringing in any money at that time. So I did what anyone would do, I started with a DIY logo (I think it was made using MS Word but I'm not sure).
2 years later, when there finally was decent revenue, I was able to get a professional logo, created by a professional graphic designer.
The point of this story is you have to start somewhere. Having a DIY/starter logo may have kept my business from growing quickly or maybe it didn't, who knows. I just know that I did the best I could with the resources I had.
My starter logo was good enough and once I was able to make money, I was able to upgrade.
Recently, in peer to peer Facebook groups, I noticed that some were saving up for a logo. So they had NO logo at all and were expecting it to take a long time to save. Often professional logos are anywhere from $300 to $1000.
I wanted to show people that the lack of a logo does not have to hold them up! So I did something I've never done before. I went to Fiverr to get a logo for one of the members of Birth Worker Mastermind.
I posted every step of my $5 logo experiment below so you can repeat it for your business. The worst that can happen is you lose a small amount of money. But the BEST thing that can happen is you walk away with a logo you can use until you grow your business.
Here's What I Did for My $5 Logo Experiment on Fiverr
I went to Fiverr then to Logo Design.
I flipped through the artists.
I looked for those who had portfolios that I liked.
I looked for those who had good ratings.
I read up on what you get for $5 (some would provide the original files, others wouldn't, some would do 3 logos, some just one, some offered unlimited revisions, some offered no revisions).
I narrowed the artists down to THREE.
I sent Artist B and C the message below.
Artist A was going to create her own original drawing, so I told her I wanted a shell and a pearl.
Note, there is NO need to send an image to the artists. I just wanted to see what they would do with it and without it.
You SHOULD however, send them a color palette.
Name of the Business:
Jersey Shore Doula
See attached. Pick the pearl and shell image (you can delete the box that is around it).
I am looking for you to use this image AND to do an alternative logo where you pick a pearl and shell image that you like.
I am picturing the image of the shell on the left and the words to the right.
I received all of the logos within a few days.
Total spent was $16.50 ($5.50 per artist).
Everyone allowed for edits but I didn't opt for any since this was just an experiment.
In my personal opinion, there are SEVERAL good logos here! Artist A and C really shined. Artist B was horrible! My 4 year old could have made better logos.
All three artists allowed for edits. So I could have easily asked them to tweak the fonts or the layout.
I think the most important takeaway is that many of those who start a business start it with a very low budget. It is ok if your logo or website is not perfect your first day in business. Keep doing what excites, the money will follow, and then you can get a fancy logo that better represents your brand.
Do you know someone who doesn't have a logo? Please SHARE this blog with them. Sharing is Caring :)
Alternatives to Dollar Photo Club
This past week Dollar Photo Club closed it's doors to accepting new members. If you have been following my blogs or webinars you know that Dollar Photo Club was my go to for Stock Photos. Each image was $1 and their collection was amazing!
Here's what it means to you:
If you currently have a membership it seems you can continue to get the $1 images. Just make sure you do not let your credit card expire and do not cancel your membership. If you feel like you have too many stock photo credits in your account you can always see if any of your peers or friends need stock photos! No where else can they get $1 images.
If you missed the boat and need stock photos I suggest you check out Fotolia (affiliate link). You can follow the steps in the image below and get $2 images that are medium in size (they'll fit across your websites and blogs. Clearly this is double the price but it's the best deal I could find right now.
Below are the steps to get the $20 a month for 10 images deal.
How to Get Noticed in FB Groups
Many of the "good" Facebook groups do not allow blatant advertising. For instance you can't post something like this on the wall anytime you want:
But some groups will allow some sort of "advertising". Usually it will look like this:
If you belong to a group that has exceptions, as I stated above, that is a WIN for you! Now the trick is to make sure your post does not get pushed down and buried by the normal, every day chatter or by other people's "ads".
The Secret Strategy
The secret to making sure your ad gets seen is to get people to comment on it. Every time someone comments on a post in a FB group, that post gets bumped up to the top!
Here are some examples of what to do regarding the possible scenarios I posted above.
1. For these scenarios:
What to do:
"After I had a doula at the birth of my first child I knew it was the career for me! Did you have a doula at your birth? http://brentwooddoula.com/"
"So tell me moms, how much did the ultrasound tech say your baby weighted VS the actual weight at birth? http://brentwooddoula.com/2015/06/size-matters/"
2. For this scenario:
What to do:
3. For this scenario:
What to do:
If this blog helped you then it may help others. Please share it with friends and with groups you are in. For bonus points, ask a question when you share it so others will comment ;)
Was this helpful?
So you've been stalking Facebook groups (as I discussed in my webinar) but you are noticing that when someone asks:
"Can anyone recommend a [insert birth worker title here] who serves the area?"
That the post is FILLED with recommendations (by both the birth workers themselves and former clients).
Below is an actual post from one of the FB groups I own. There were 4 Placenta Encapsulation that were referred multiple times (you'll see that PC C was mentioned 5 times).
*I coded them as PC A, etc for privacy reasons.
What is a birth worker to do?
Here is what I recommend:
1. Always post a "Kind Reply". Follow the steps in the past blog. Even if you feel it is pointless to post as your comment is already 16 deep do it!
2. If this is YOUR group (you own it and moderate it) you need to revamp your rules ASAP! Add something like this to the description:
This group is moderated by [your name] of [your website] and you can PM her here, [your personal FB page url]. [your name] is a [job title] servicing the [your region].
- Do not post anything that is a solicitation for another doula or placenta capsulator.
- Be kind to each other.
3. If you don't own a group start one! This way, YOU can create the rules AND come across as an expert and leader in the community. I talk about how to start a group in the webinar.
4. Consider starting a brand ambassador program. Basically you will form a team of clients who used your services and loved you (you super fans). They'll back you up on Facebook (in a genuine and transparent way) and you'll reward them (perhaps with free services, free classes, invites to private play dates, etc). Google around for more information, they are VERY popular right now.
5. Above all, what you DON'T want to do is nothing. If you do nothing, I guarantee that client will not become yours.
Do you want to dominate in Facebook groups? Check out my next online class (available for a limited time).
Laura Occhipinti is on a mission to point people to websites, apps, and products that they MUST know about!