Tomorrow, April 2nd, is World Autism Awareness Day.
I’ve got a story to share, and I’ve held it in for long enough.
Almost 3 years ago a burning mission came bubbling out of my inner being – it was just as powerful as birthing my boys in many ways.
I was involved in an epic journey that took place over 31 days. It was entirely online, but it couldn’t have felt more real than if I had been experiencing it in the flesh. As a result of that virtual journey I arrived at a profound awareness of my mission.
But, let me give you my backstory first.
My Family’s Autism Story
Six years ago, my first-born was about to start kindergarten in Halifax, Nova Scotia.
In the months leading up to September, I’d noticed some strange behaviours in my boy. He didn’t seem to know ‘how’ to play with his toys or other children at the playground. And even though he had been in full-time daycare for two years with lots of other kids, he was always happiest doing his own thing. Loud sounds really bothered him (to the point he would refuse to enter public washrooms for fear of the hand-dryer) and he had been through speech and language therapy because at 14 months he still hadn’t uttered a single word. (The speech therapy helped tremendously and you would never know today that he ever didn’t talk!)
But, within a few weeks of the start of school, my son’s teacher called me to discuss her concerns in that very loving way and with the experience only a veteran teacher possesses.
She confirmed what I had already suspected – that my loving, sweet, brilliant, intelligent boy most likely had Autism/Aspergers.
Within a few months, we received the diagnosis of High-Functioning Autism from the caring doctors and psychologists at the local hospital.
Personal Experience Influences Life’s Mission
And here’s where my mission starts to build up within me.
You see, we were reluctant to share about his diagnosis with anyone who didn’t absolutely need to know.
Why? Because we didn’t want it to limit him. We didn’t want to colour how others perceive him, or most importantly, how he perceives himself.
Most* High-Functioning Autistics and Aspergers (some claim they are the same, the only difference in my boy’s case is his speech delay ruled out Aspergers – which technically is no longer an official diagnosis) are quite brilliant, and my boy is no exception. Academically he is very strong (although he struggles to see the point to doing his homework!). Gym class is not his favourite as he can be awkward at times. And cooperating with other children his age can be difficult.
*You’ll soon discover that sweeping generalizations in the Autism community are frowned upon. There’s a saying that “once you’ve met one person with Autism, you’ve met ONE person with Autism.” Every person living with Autism displays their challenges in unique ways. But there are certainly a LOT of ways they are similar.
As I’m seeing where my boy struggles in school and in life (he doesn’t like change, especially unexpected change – but he’s getting better at managing when things don’t go as expected) I’m thinking about his future and where his path might take him.
Ultimately, he’s really great at some things, and not so great at others.
Aren’t we all like that?!
Since I am a computer programmer by training, I know how a logical mind can be put to good use.
I see all the possibilities for my boy’s future.
And yet, my fear is that his challenges may prevent him from being able to find gainful employment.
He wouldn’t have trouble finding a job because he’s incapable of doing the work, but because the hiring manager may not be able to see that he’s capable if he gives off a wrong first-impression. Or perhaps he will find a good job, but the environment will be too challenging for him to succeed.
My Mission: Change the Professional Landscape for People With Autism
By 2020, my mission is to change the workplace landscape for young adults with Autism – so that they are seen for their strengths, being adequately compensated for their skills, all within a supportive, adaptive environment where they can thrive.
It seems I may be on the right track as the UN declared the theme for this year’s Awareness Day is “Employment: The Autism Advantage.”
But wait a minute – what does that have to do with “Online Empowerment” and website development? For the past three years I’ve been asking myself the same dang question.
The answer came to me last week. And when I’m ready to share that answer, you’ll be the first to know about it!
For now, please join me in supporting World Autism Awareness Day by wearing BLUE, lighting up blue if you can, and asking questions. The more we know, the closer we get to true acceptance.
I’m going to leave you with this thought: 1 in 88 children (1 in 54 boys) are diagnosed with some level of Autism, and their numbers are only growing.
Now you know 1 – my son, if you didn’t before.
I’m not asking for money (but if you feel called to, you can donate to AutismSpeaks.ca in Canada, or AutismSpeaks.org, or search for your local Autism community and find out how you can help), all I’m asking for is more awareness – ask questions if you don’t understand – and acceptance – my boy is perfectly quirky and there is absolutely nothing “wrong” with him.
He just experiences the world differently and is doing his best to navigate it by ‘neurotypical’ standards.
Will you help me ‘change the landscape’ for all of our future selves? I hope so.
I invite you to share your Autism awareness story in the comments or on social media and tag me (@CorinnaRake).
Take heart – sending your newsletter doesn’t have to be complicated, and you don’t have to do it alone!
In 3 Steps to (Re)Launching Your Email Newsletter I covered what it takes to set up that e-newsletter of yours. Now it’s time to focus on what it takes to produce regular issues.
What’s involved to send your newsletter? Follow along the fictional story of Jane, a mompreneur who has it all together (or at least looks like she does!) as she prepares to send her regular message to her list.
Jane is ready to send her first newsletter. She’s gone through the 3 steps to setting up her email template and process and has identified:
- WHO she’s talking to: moms with young children who have businesses (or want to start) selling items on etsy
- HOW she’s going to talk to them: she’s going to write her own articles that include tips about selling on etsy; the same content will also be available on her blog
- WHEN she’s going to send her brilliant tips: every Tuesday afternoon
Based on her needs, MailChimp was her best email delivery option, but she also considered Aweber (this article helped her make up her mind).
Because she values brand consistency and she knows her community values companies that have the right look, Jane hired someone to help with setting up and connecting her MailChimp to her website, and also had an email template created to match her website’s branding.
Thanks to the email list opt-in box that’s on the sidebar on every page of her website, prospective clients have been joining her list and now it’s time to really engage them with great content.
But wait, what should Jane do? What are the steps she needs to follow to get that email out to her list?
You need to think about three general areas when you’re producing your newsletter: Content, Audience, and Delivery. Throughout these recommendations I’ll be referring to the previous post about (re)launching your e-newsletter, so be sure you’ve gone through those recommendations first.
Start with Content
- Decide on the topic - Ideally you have created an editorial calendar, or at least a list of topics you will talk about, so you don’t have to start from scratch with every issue.Your editorial calendar will be more specific than those initial ‘broad strokes’ categories that you would have listed when going through your initial “WHY” for your newsletter.Remember to be specific. Narrow down your topic that you can present it with no more than 3 main points.To return to our fearless newsletter creator Jane: she has decided to write about the right way to using image when you list products on etsy.
- Now that you have a vision and a clear direction, it’s time to generate the content. How you do that depends on what you decided in HOW you’re going to talk to your audience.If you’re curating content, you’ll start researching based on the topic of the week and then you’ll write the copy that links all of the ideas together. If you’re writing your own article, get your 3 main points sorted out and get writing!
- Your writing isn’t done until you craft a subject line that inspires people to open your message. Leave extra time for this – even professional writers will tell you that coming up with a subject line is the hardest work of all. Here’s a handy PDF that might help with this, generously created by Michelle Shaeffer.
Jane is going to write her own tips article and talk about how to make the most of the size, quality and lighting of the photos used in your etsy product listing.
EXTRA CREDIT: Include at least one pinnable image to go with your message (preferably with your article title and website on it somewhere).
Your Audience: What Do They Need to Do Next?
- The next step is key: decide on a strong Call-to-action (CTA). Every newsletter needs to offer a logical ‘next step’ for your audience to take.Sometimes your whole message is created with your CTA in mind (because, for example, you have a program launch coming up and want your list to claim their spots first).
When your attention isn’t on one big offer you still want to direct the reader to do something when they reach the end of the email. Maybe it’s appropriate to link to one of your products or affiliates. You may simply want to ask them to share the article through social media or forwarding it to a friend.
Jane has a new package for busy moms who want to start selling on etsy: she helps them get set up on the platform with custom graphics and more. So, her CTA is “sign up for a 15 minute consultation” so she can answer prospects’ questions and also helps them decide if she offers the solution they really need.
Delivering that Email is About More than Clicking “Send”
- Add content & image to newsletter template. You won’t be composing in your email program (too many things could go wrong so be sure to write and edit your work in a reliable, stable word processing program). Be aware that it might not be as easy as copy and paste because certain text programs (like Google Docs or Word) will include invisible formatting. This make take some knowledge of HTML code. If you’re stuck, contact me and I can help you out!
- After everything has been copied and uploaded, send a test message to yourself. In addition to making sure that everything looks ok, be sure to click on each link to ensure they work.
- Tweak and perfect – but don’t make yourself crazy!
- Schedule to send at appropriate time based on what you know about your readers’ habits and needs. For example, if you’re targeting busy career moms about making improvements on their home, send that email on a Friday afternoon or a Saturday morning when they’re thinking about how the house is a disaster and they need to add on!
Jane logs into her MailChimp account and creates a new campaign message using the template that was created to match her website’s branding. She copies her content into the message, uploads the image(s) and sends herself a test message. Once the message looks the way it should, she schedules it to send out on Tuesday at 3pm.
Your Turn to Make it Happen – Send Your Newsletter
Yes, there’s a lot to think about when you commit to sending an email to your list on a regular basis, but I promise it’s worth it. Leaders in content marketing from Chris Brogan to Copyblogger’s Brian Clark all sing the praises of email for one simple reason: it still works best.
The good news is that it is possible to outsource the aspects of the process that stress you out or distract you from your sweet spot. Contact me to talk about how I can help you (or find you the right help) so you feel empowered and supported every step of the way.
Having a newsletter, or email list of subscribers that you connect with on a regular basis is still the most important piece to your marketing puzzle. Whether you offer services or sell products, you want to stay top-of-mind by appearing in your community’s inbox.
But you’re smart – you already know this! You understand the benefits of having your own list and you get why you need to be in regular contact with them.
Your problem? Sending out a “simple” email newsletter is actually overwhelming and stressful!
You don’t need that stress in your life. But you DO need to be in regular contact with your list. What’s an entrepreneur to do?
Let me show you 3 steps to break down ‘the newsletter problem’ into manageable pieces. Apply these 3 steps once when you’re setting up (or re-launching) your newsletter.
BONUS! I’ve also outlined the steps you need to take each time you send out your newsletter – even includes an infographic! GO HERE when you’ve got your newsletter setup and you’re ready to get it out to your people.
Step 1 – Your overall message & content
- Define your main topic that will weave through all your messages. Hint: this should tie in to your brand message and be targeted at the needs and desires of your audience. If you’re nervous about this at all, do the foundational work first by spending time on message discovery.
- Determine your content style. You’ve got so many great options – after all, it’s your newsletter. Focus on what you know about your audience and how they like to receive their information as well as what’s most natural and effortless for you.
- Will you send 1,000 word articles every time, or snippets of your 3 most recent blog posts?
- Will you write mostly how-to articles, story-based lessons, or will you teach and engage with video or audio?
- Will it be all your own, unique writing, or will you collect ‘the best of’ articles suitable for your audience and message?
- Will your content be exclusive for subscribers only, or shared on your blog and in the social sphere at the same time?
- Will you only send promotional content to help sell your goods/services? (not recommended)
- Decide when you are going to deliver your newsletter. What is your frequency and best time/day to send out your message? This will depend a lot on what your message is about, and when your audience is ready or looking for it.
It’s easy to skim over those questions as you push yourself to just get that newsletter out there, but here’s an example of how answering them can give you an easy-to-follow structure.
This is this Online Empowerment newsletter strategy.
MAIN TOPIC: Give readers the knowledge and support to gain confidence and skills to build an empowered online presence.
CONTENT STYLE: The newsletter mostly features my own content, primarily how-to format, shared from the Online Empowerment Formula blog (not exclusively for subscribers). NOTE: This will likely change in time, but it’s what works for now. I encourage you to have a similarly open mind about your answers – they don’t have to be perfect, they just have to be answered!
DELIVERY SCHEDULE: A bi-weekly newsletter sent on Wednesday afternoons (… I think! Can you help me decide? Answer this super-quick, two-question survey) because this is generally actionable content that you can start implementing right away. NOTE: I used to publish on Fridays, but when you receive it at the end of a work week, you’re likely to file it away and never come back to it. Is that true for you?
Step 2 – Your design & platform
- Determine which email list service to use. There are lots of choices for email list service providers – how do you know which is the right one for you? The two most common services are Aweber and MailChimp, and each has its pros and cons. If you still have questions or are currently using a different email list service and not sure if you should switch, send me a message and I’ll be happy to help you through the decision process. You do want to spend a bit of time and research on this decision. Changing email newsletter services can be a bit of a pain, so you want to be sure.
- What will your email look like? Ah, the dreaded design question. The good news: all you *really* need is a header image that sits at the top of your email. You can have a fantastic looking, well-read newsletter with nothing more than a nicely designed header that ties your message to your brand. And the simpler the format the better since email displays differently for just about everybody.
I highly recommend getting support in this step. As mentioned, there are lots of nuances when it comes to choosing a service provider. And sure, you can probably make a half-decent email header using Canva and your logo – but do you know what to do with the header after you’ve created it? And where do you find what dimensions it needs to be? An experienced professional can take care of these two pieces in an effective, efficient way, if you’ll let them.
If you’re ready to take this step, the Online Empowerment Email (Re)Launch package includes helping you decide on an email newsletter service provider and a custom-designed email template to match your brand.
Step 3 – Your subscribers
- How will people get on your list? We’re all-to familiar with the ‘opt-in’ box seen on nearly every. single. website. But you know what, they’re there because they can work. But how do you get people to your website to see the sign up box and take action?
- Invite people to sign up. Spread the word far and wide – on all your social channels.
- Have the link to your sign up page in your profiles EVERYWHERE. Make it a no-brainer, simple “click here to sign up” – and tell them why. Why should I get on your email list? (Hint: refer to step 1 if you struggle to answer this.)
- Guest blogging? Include your sign up link in your author bio.
- Have the sign up at the end of your blog posts, as well as the side bar/header across your entire website.
- Make them an offer they can’t refuse. It often isn’t enough to “just” offer a newsletter in exchange for an email address – no matter how fantastic your weekly content is. People want something unique and useful that they can get/apply/use right away, so consider a free gift – a report, a video, or some other exclusive material that also serves as a strong introduction to your main offer.
So, there are your 3 steps to a newsletter launch. I know that you wouldn’t believe me if I were to say that all this is as easy as 1-2-3, so if you need help at any step along the way, consider the email newsletter (re)launch package.
BONUS! I’ve also outlined the steps you need to take each time you send out your newsletter – even includes an infographic! GO HERE when you’ve got your newsletter setup and you’re ready to get it out to your people.
You’re all packed, ready to head out on a road trip with your significant other.
You’ve been planning it together for ages. It’s going to be a long drive, and being the supportive spouse that you are (haha), you’re all set to make the most of the time and get some work done. If you’re like me, you’re usually happy to be the passenger and trust your spouse to get you there. You planned it all out together and you trust you’ll arrive safely.
But this time is different. This time, your significant other says “Honey, do you mind driving? I’m not sure I feel up to it.”
At first you think, “But I was supposed to have work time!” and you start to worry that you don’t know the route quite as well as you should.
You put your concerns aside and say “sure, I can drive.” Afterall, it’s not like you don’t know HOW to drive – in fact, you’re a very confident driver, too.
That trip is little bumpy – a couple of wrong turns and a bit of a delay, but you still arrive at the destination.
A Total Change of Plan
A few months go by and it’s time to plan another trip. This time, your significant-other says, “you know, I’m not in love with the destination we originally chose together anymore. How do you feel about it?” You can’t say you’re shocked, there have been clues that they weren’t ‘feeling’ it anymore.
But the thing is, YOU still love the destination, and the possibilities that lay there. So, after many heart-felt discussions, you decide to take separate trips, to different destinations. And because you care about each other so much, it’s ok. You get excited about the adventures they’ll have, and describing the adventures you’re going to experience.
Even though you’ll be apart, you’re still in close touch. You’ll share in the exciting times, and be a shoulder to cry on for the disappointments. Sometimes, if the situation allows, your paths may cross briefly and you can travel together for a while.
What does this story have to do with Online Empowerment and why should you care?
Dear friends of OE – friends of Marisa and Corinna,
We, Marisa and I, are the work spouses in the above analogy. Marisa has been doing a lot of the driving (as the main ‘voice’ of OE) and we have decided together it is now time for us to drive to our own, separate destinations.
When Gwyneth Paltrow and Chris Martin split they called it “conscious uncoupling.” Another entrepreneurial duo we admire borrowed the term when they separated their businesses and we feel like it fits for us too.
And, as the story explains, we’re still going to be supporting and cheering each other on, just in a different way, and more behind the scenes. If the situation fits, we are still great collaborators and have proven we work well together.
This means that I will be taking on the Online Empowerment brand as my own. Expect to see changes to the website and the services offered under the OE umbrella soon.
Returning to the Online Empowerment Mission
If you have been with us from the beginning, you may remember our first Online Empowerment Hangout Series we did nearly 2 years ago. In that 8-part conversation series, we explored what “Online Empowerment” means. There were a lot of gems that came out of those conversations and I hope to bring that vision of ‘Online Empowerment for all’ into an easy-to-follow set of guidelines. Thanks to Marisa’s persistent questioning and contemplating, much of the groundwork is already laid. That’s one of many gifts she gave to OE and I will be forever grateful.
My strengths lie in getting that information into easy-to-swallow steps and procedures, and that’s exactly what I have in store over the coming months.
I’m excited to be back in the driver’s seat again (having been a solopreneur for nearly 10 years before). I’m comfortable here.
I hope you will stay on for the ride, and please reach out if you have any questions!
To see what Marisa will be sharing and experiencing, please visit her at MarisaGoudy.com (and sign up for her list!). Her new tagline: Author & Writing Coach for Creative Entrepreneurs.
Did you know she’s writing a fiction series called Sovereign Reality?! And she’s exploring the intersection of business, writing, and everyday mysticism to help entrepreneurs uncover their vision and message based on these Sovereign Reality concepts. I’m SO excited that she’s following her dreams, and you know I’ll be first in line to buy my own copies of the books!