Click Publish Sketchnotes

I had the honor and enjoyment of creating a sketchnotes poster for Cory Miller of iThemes based on his inspiring Click Publish session at Word Camp Dallas in 2014. Capturing all of the great thoughts and information was a challenge, but I feel I nailed down the essentials you need to know in this 11 x22 poster.

Click Publish by Cory Miller, Sketchnotes Poster

If you'd like to get your own custom illustrations, hand-lettered quotes, gravatars, customized VANS or TOMS, or have me sketch note your event, I am available to do it. Contact me today.

Every Day is a Gift from God

Last night I was contemplating on whether I should write such a deep, emotional post that touches upon the subject of life and death. There are many of my friends right now who have experienced the loss of a wonderful friend, who was admired and respected in the WordPress community. There is also the understanding that not everyone believes in God and that some people will immediately choose not to read what I have to say. Yet I am compelled to open up about some of my dark secrets and personal thoughts in the hope that it may help us to appreciate what we have every day. 

We All Will Die 

Life is passing us by each and every day, whether we realize it or not. There is nothing we can do to slow it down or stop it from ticking away. One day our clock will stop ticking and time will be out.

This realization has been a very heavy burden on my heart ever since I turned 40 years old. In fact, I've struggled greatly with the idea of my mortality and that one day I will no longer be. Some days the fear of dying has been so intense that I experience severe anxiety attacks and actually forget how to live. This is strange to me because of my faith in Jesus. Yes, there is eternal life beyond death, but I am still burdened.

I think the biggest fears for me when it comes to death is that I will no longer have the relationship with the people I truly love and that I'll no longer be able to do the many things I hoped I could do one day. Love and regret are the culprits I suppose. This is why I want to make each and every day count. As Cory Miller said in his Click Publish talk, "There are no refunds in life." There are no do-overs. We get one shot at this.

This is one reason why we, and I mean ALL of us, need to appreciate every day and make the most of every opportunity to connect with the people we love and care about. Life is short. We never know when someone we care about will be gone and we certainly don't want to live with regrets.

Why Did They Die Early?

This question started early for me in life when one of my best friends, Chuck Baird, was hit by a car and killed. We were in the 4th grade.

I've had way too many close friends and family who passed away too early. Glenn was killed by a drunk driver at the age of 20 while serving in the Marine Corp. Trey lost his 16 year old sister because a drunk driver ran a red light. Three days later he was killed while driving under the influence. He was only 20. My cousin Ricky was 35 when he lost his battle to cancer. His 21 year old son passed away a few weeks ago. My dad was 51 when he died of a sudden heart attack and I've lost two young aunts to cancer. Now there is Kim who was only 56. 

Saying goodbye to someone you care about always sucks, especially when their life was cut short. And trying to understand WHY a person dies early in life is absolutely maddening. It's not fair and it's not right. There are NO EASY ANSWERS even when you have faith in God above. 

Every Day IS a Gift

It can be difficult to believe this some days for whatever reason. We all have circumstances in our lives that can suck the joy and happiness out of it ... but we are alive.

I've been on a pity partly lately because of financial and health issues. 2014 wasn't the best year ever. I feel the depression that my friend Matt Medeiros wrote about in Precursor to Greatness. But you know what? I need to suck it up because I have been blessed with another day to live and make a difference.

The truth is that you and I have been given a gift and it's called life.

I don't know how much time any of us will have on this planet, but it's up to us to make the most of every opportunity we are given. Stuart Scott, one of the most loved ESPN commentators, passed away on Sunday after a battle with cancer. If you read the story or watch the video, you will discover that Stuart lived on purpose even when he faced little hope of survival.

“When you die, it does not mean that you lose to cancer. You beat cancer by how you live, why you live, and in the manner in which you live.”
— Stuart Scott

You and I have been given the gift of life today. We can do with it what we want. We can choose to be positive or negative. We can help others or turn our backs on them. We are able to inspire and lift people up, or we can tear them down. 

I never met Kim Parsell in person, yet there were numerous times she tried to lift me up when I was feeling down. Based on what I read on Twitter about her life from the people who really knew her, she was a rare gem in the WordPress community. She made the most to inspire and bring happiness to many people. Isn't that how we should live?

Whatever you choose to do today, it is still a gift. The difference is what you do with that gift.

Every Day is a Gift from God

It is a miracle that I am here today to write this post. I don't believe that today is a gift from God because someone told me or indoctrinated me with religion. I believe because of what I've experienced in my 44 years of life.

  • It was God who saved me as a child from a disease that could have killed me.
  • It was God who held me up when I almost drown in a river as a teenager.
  • It was God who spoke to me as I was about to pull the trigger on the gun when I wanted to commit suicide after my dad died.
  • It was God who has provided for me in desperate times of need or comforted me when I've had to say goodbye to the people I love.

These are only a few times in my life that I've seen miracles and gifts in a way that I could not explain -- even before I decided to place my trust in Jesus Christ. 

I'm not sharing this with you today because I want to "convert you" or make you see my point of view. I certainly am not one of "those" Christians. I just wanted to give God credit where credit is due and to thank Him publicly for the blessing of another day to live. A day that I hope will be filled with joy, happiness, and inspiration that can be shared.

Whatever you believe or don't believe, please understand that life really is short. Love someone today. Lift a friend up who is in need. Share something positive. Give back from the gift you have been given.

 

Why You'll Never Be a Professional Freelancer

When American Idol first appeared on American television, I thought the idea was interesting but that the show would never last. Three judges watching dozens of hopeful recording artists in a competition seemed boring. Who would watch such a show? Apparently I did -- along with many other millions of Americans! The show was a huge success.

while you will never be a freelancer.jpg

The real reason I enjoyed American Idol had nothing to do with the competitors, but because of Simon Cowell. At first I thought this British guy was absolutely rude and uncaring, but over the seasons I was drawn to him. What I learned was that Simon wasn't always trying to be crass or hurtful towards contestants; Simon was just being completely straightforward and honest. He was ripping the band-aid off of the wound so that it would hurt less. There is something to be said for people who can shoot it straight and tell the truth. If I were attempting to be a professional singer and I sucked at singing, I would want you to tell me. Even if it hurt.

There are times in our lives when we need to hear the truth. We need to understand the realities of our situation and we have to be honest with ourselves and the people around us. This may suck at the time, but it can be very beneficial in the long run, especially if it keeps us from chasing a dream or a career that may never happen. We only have so much time on this planet. We should want to make the most of it.

Today I am ripping the band-aid off for some of you. I am not trying to be mean spirited or discourage you from becoming a professional freelancer. What I am going to do is be brutally honest. I've now coached and worked with hundreds of aspiring freelancers, all who hope someday they can make a living doing what they love to do. Unfortunately most of them will never succeed at these dreams. As Simon would say, "I don't mean to be rude BUT...."

Why You'll Never Be A Professional Freelancer

You make too many excuses. There are ALWAYS plenty of reasons why we can't do what needs to be done. It could be because of money, time, equipment, training, family requirements, health problems, bullying, or the monarch butterflies in China. Maybe you're the person I used to be -- the victim. A victim blames every failed circumstance on the people around them. If you can't get beyond the excuses that are keeping you from achieving success, then you will never achieve success. Travis Mills has many valid reasons to not be productive with his life, but he is kicking ass and taking names. Now tell me what's your excuse?

You ask for too many bailouts. If you live in the United States, then you've likely seen the ideology amongst some Americans that they deserve a bail out. We have people on the street corners panhandling for money to communities crying about the injustices of their situation and asking the government to give them financial assistance. I know of many freelancers who rely on family members or friends to help them out financially in time of need. I'm not saying it's wrong to get help from time to time or to even ask the people you love to invest in your business, but there comes a time you (and they) need to let go. Freelancing is a tough lifestyle and until you can become FULLY dependent on yourself, you will never make it.

You aren't putting in the effort. Work is a four letter word my friend. It's a dirty word that so many people don't want to do. I hate to tell you this, but there is no magic bean that you can easily plant, water, and grow into a cash tree. If you want to make it in any business, then you are going to have to sacrifice your time to make it happen. Rome wasn't built in a day and neither will your freelancing business. It's taken me over 20 years to have overnight success. Maybe you will be "lucky" but probably not.

You spend more time playing than working. I have a love and hate relationship with technology. The value it can provide is priceless, but it can also suck your life away. I've known designers and developers who spend countless hours on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, SlackChat, Skype, forums, and membership sites instead of being productive on tasks that would actually get them business. While connecting to potential clients via these tools can help you build your business, you aren't going to do it by talking about the latest memes, animated GIFs, or stupid criminal videos. There comes a point when good old fashioned work and knocking on doors is the only way to get projects that will pay the bills.

You invest more time in learning than doing.  Just like playing on social media all day long, reading the books or blogs of the people you love can be detrimental to making a living. I love learning from the experiences of other people and I am a voracious reader. Education is valuable. But there comes a time when you have to do it. Spending hours of your day watching videos or reading blogs is never going to help you become a professional freelancer. There comes that point when you can only learn by getting in the trenches and fighting your way through the battles.

You don't charge enough for your services. I've heard plenty of freelancers complain that they don't make enough money on their projects. Let me very clear and upfront. It's not your client's fault that you're broke; it's your fault that you're broke. There are plenty of resources to help you learn how to sell on value, how to price your services, and how to find the perfect clients. The reality is that you are in business to make money and a profit. Period. I love how Cory Miller responded to Brian Krogsgard article about PostStat.us yesterday. Don't apologize for making money and don't make excuses about it either. #BOOM

You don't know how to run a business. OK, this might not be your fault because so many of us don't know all the details of running a business. Hell, I'm still learning! The truth is that professional freelancing is more than just you doing great work that you enjoy, for clients willing to pay you for that great work. You have to set your business up legally, pay the IRS their damn taxes, invoice clients for the work that you do, put away a portion of your earnings for retirement or health insurance, and wear 100 other hats throughout the course of a day. You need to learn how to run a business and fast. The best resource I've found so far is Thrive 15. I wish this would have been available when I started out.

You hate to do sales. For many people, the idea of selling makes them cringe. It takes risk and courage to get out of your comfort zone to ask potential clients to buy your services. As uncomfortable as it might be, you will must learn how to sell yourself if you are ever going to freelance professionally. You cannot count on clients to just walk in and hand you money. You have to get in front of people and convince them why they should hire you.  If you don't, then your business is dead.

You refuse to quit. WHAT??? Aren't we supposed to stay committed to the course? No one likes to be a quitter or to give up their dream, but sometimes you will need to do something different. Some of you are not cut out to be a professional freelancer and there's absolutely nothing wrong with that! You just need to realize that this journey might not be for you or it's not the right timing.

If your family is struggling to survive because you aren't getting enough work, then it's probably time to get a part-time or full-time job. It's one thing if you're single or living in momma's basement, but when you have a family to feed, don't make them suffer because you want to dream. I put my family through hell in the first ten years of my freelancing career because of my desires. This is my biggest regret. There are times when you need to work for someone else (and I have throughout the years) and earn a paycheck. Sometimes you will discover that freelancing sounded like a wonderful idea but you are really better off being a part of a team.

We Can't All Be Professional Freelancers

The romantic idea that freelancing is easy, and that you can do what you want when you want, is nothing more than a childhood fantasy. Being a professional freelancer is a tough road to be on. There will be times when you're in demand and other times when the well dries up. You will have to put in long, difficult days so that you can have your "free time" later. You won't be able to call in sick or take snow days. You will go on a week's vacation and then feel three months behind when you get back. You will often work alone and may only have friendships via Twitter or Facebook. You will have to finish your work even when you don't feel like it. It's not always glorious as some bloggers and speakers make it out to be. That is the brutal and honest truth.

If you want to succeed as a professional freelancer, then you better be prepared. You better realize that controlling your own destiny means controlling the situations that keep you from achieving your dreams. If you can't navigate the problems I've stated above, please work for a company because you will be much happier in the end. Not all of us are called to be professional freelancers. There's no shame in that game.

How Badly Do You Want Success?

I want to be successful. I want to make more money. I want to have better clients. I want to have freedom to choose what I want to do each day. I want to be debt free. I want ... I've heard so many "wants" from people hoping to achieve the destination they've dreamed for themselves. In my profession, the conversations usually surround the dreams of freelancers. Guys and girls who want to work from home and make a great living with their natural talents or skills. They all want to be successful. The problem is that all of them don't want to make the sacrifices or commitments to be successful.

How Badly Do You Want Success?

This is the question I am starting to lead off with when people ask me for business advice. How a person responds will tell me everything. How they answer the question will determine whether they will achieve the success they desire or whether they will fail.

There is a clear distinction between leading with your head or leading with your heart. Your mouth might be saying you want to do something, but your actions, actions that follow your heart, will determine if you arrive at your destination. Let me put this another way. You can talk the talk, but you have to walk the walk.

If you aren't willing to change your verbiage from I WANT to I WILL, you are going to fail.

If you want success, it requires that you act. Even when you don't want to or when circumstances aren't in your favor. You must be willing to set aside the excuses and burn the "I'm a Victim" card. You will have to make sacrifices that you don't want to make or open up yourself to failing a lot. Success doesn't come easy and it doesn't come overnight.

  • Are you willing to get up earlier or stay up later to reach your goals?
  • Are you dedicated enough to turn off the TV or social media toys when you need to be productive?
  • Are you able to tune out what the world around you is doing so you can focus on your destination?
  • Are you willing to give up expensive lattes, fast food meals, or Direct TV to save your money?
  • Are you tough enough to say no to abusive clients even when you need the work?
  • Are you brave enough to get out there and hustle your product or services even when you might fail?

Unfortunately so many people I've tried to coach or give advice to over the years aren't going to ever see the success they could have. They aren't willing to do what needs to be done. They want to press the Easy Button for instant results. They don't want to get their hands dirty.

Stop the Wishful Thinking. Start Doing.

I WILL be successful. I WILL make more money. I WILL have better clients. I WILL have freedom to choose what I want to do each day. I WILL be debt free. I WILL ...

Success begins with will and not with want. You will do what it takes to achieve your hopes and dreams. That's the answer I am looking for when I ask the question of how badly do you want success. Anything else is just wishful thinking and wishful thinking never got Columbus or Michael Jordan or Steve Jobs to their destination.

One Size Fits All WordPress Theme

I'm designing and building the most premium WordPress theme ever to be sold in the WordPress marketplace.

It is going to do EVERYTHING that you could ever dream about when it comes to creativity and endless page options. Boxed layouts, rounded corners, fullwidth, animations, vast font and color changers, variable drop shadow effects, pricing charts, and killer short-codes with only the best button graphics. It will also include predesigned testimonial pages, author pages, product pages, landing pages, team pages, and even pages for your kittens. There will even be a creative library of professional images that you can choose from so you don't have to buy stock photos or get your hands dirty in Photoshop. It will also include membership modules and be the friendliest SEO theme on the market. It's called One Size Fits All WordPress theme!

BUT WAIT! THERE'S MORE!!

The best perk about One Size Fits All WordPress theme  is that designers and creative types can finally cut out the WordPress developer. Pay yourself MORE MONEY instead of putting it in the developer's pockets. Besides, code is so subjective and developers don't do any of the real work anyways.

A SWEET DEAL

I'm going to sell One Size Fits All WordPress theme for $39 for a one year license including premium support. You will be able to anything and everything with this theme. And it will work perfectly right out of the box. Guaranteed. Are you interested?

One Size Fits All® WordPress Theme

OK, I'm being facetious here and having some fun! I'm really not going to design and build One Size Fits AllWordPress theme. Because it's a joke. In so many ways.

As a highly creative designer who is horrible at hacking CSS, I love the idea of having WordPress themes that give me the opportunity to design whatever comes to mind. I want to be able to design captivating and engaging websites for my clients, without learning or touching any code. This is absolutely not a joke. However, I am smart enough to know that such a WordPress theme should never exist.

We do have "drag and drop" themes such as Builder, Headway, Divi, Enfold, and a plethora of others already available. We also have WordPress plugins such as Velocity Page or FastLine that provide you with the ability to easily edit page layouts with any WordPress theme. Some of these products are solid and meet a valuable need and others are absolute rubbish. It's enticing to want to try out and play with all of these options available, but in the end is it really worth it? Do we really need an endless list of options or would we be better off with themes that serve a particular purpose over a one size fits all approach?

Why WordPress Themes Should Be Specialized

It's been really fun to explore and use DYI themes like the ones I mentioned above, but I believe it's time for WP designers and WP developers to make a concentrated effort on producing quality themes that specialize in a particular niche or focus. We don't need more "one size fits all" products; we need dependable themes that are great at doing one thing. The problem with drag and drop themes is that they can present a host of problems for you and your clients. Bloated code, slower response times, higher learning curves, and the inability to easily edit your content are common with these themes. These problems are worse than having a WordPress theme that doesn't give you the creative flexibility. You substitute design for performance and this is not good.

I would be willing to invest more of my money in WordPress themes that are niche focused. I would pay over $150 per theme for a product that was developed for a specific audience purpose. An example would be a WordPress membership theme. I'm not talking about a great plugin like iThemes Exchange + Membership, but a theme that has predesigned page layouts for content such as eLearning modules, podcasts, videos, and a start here page. Membership sites have some unique needs and creating a theme for membership styled content would be valuable. Theme designers could be more profitable and effective if they would limit the options instead of creating more of them in one product.

Real WordPress Designers and Developers Are Worth The Money!

I was kidding about WordPress developers not doing any of the real work. The reality is that great developers AND designers are worth every penny. The reason is that they create websites specific to the client's needs. They strip out all the useless code, plugins, design features, and add-ons that will make a website ineffective for the end user. The designers (shameless plug) and developers who have a solid reputation in the industry look out for the best interest of their clients. You will never get this with the "One Size Fits All WordPress theme". Ever.

All in one WordPress themes do serve a purpose and they can be good to use for certain projects. If you want the best of design and development for your specific need, then you should either go with a custom website or encourage theme developers to start producing specialty WordPress themes that work for your market or industry.

That's my two cents for today.

Prestige Conference

A couple of weeks ago I got some intel from my good friend Matt Medeiros, the genius behind the famous Matt Report, about a new WordPress related conference in the works for October. Around the same time, I was then encouraged by Reid Peifer of Modern Tribe on Twitter to attend the same event. Not having any knowledge of this conference I started digging and that's when I struck gold!

Prestige Conference. A Premium WordPress Conference.

I was connected to Kiko Doran and Josh Broton, the masterminds behind this new Prestige Conference, and struck up a conversation with Kiko about their plans for October. What I heard was something that really resonated with me and sealed my decision to attend this event.

A premium WordPress conference geared for passionate entrepreneurs who want to build amazing WordPress businesses. #BOOM

The idea of bringing together some of the very best WordPress entrepreneurs and business owners (and paying them) to share their honest insights is a fantastic idea. The focus on keeping the venue smaller and intimate so that attendees can really have time to invest in networking and learning from others is valuable. The hope in giving back ticket sale proceeds to non-profits is generous. Everything I heard from Kiko about their plans for this Prestige Conference and future events was refreshing.

Why Another WordPress Conference?

There is a real hunger from WP enthusiasts who want to build profitable businesses in the WordPress marketplace. There are entrepreneurs who long to hear honest advice and stories from seasoned professionals in the WordPress industry. And while we've finally started to see an influx of business tracks and sessions at WordCamps, it's simply not enough to meet the demand. There needs to be more.

WordCamps can be incredible events and there's nothing that can replace the type of community it builds. They serve a purpose and they do it well. However, I don't believe that WordCamps can fulfill everything the WP community is really interested in so new events must be born. This is why I believe Pressnomics has been well received and is very popular (and why I recommend attending) and why we need to invest in the Prestige Conference.

Why Attend the Prestige Conference?

There are many reasons why you should attend this conference in Minneapolis, Minnesota in October. Here are a few that I can think of off the top of my head.

  • The content of the conference is going to be amazing! Topics will all be honest conversations about building a business around WordPress. The schedule and lessons will be perfect for entrepreneurs, freelancers, and employees alike.
  • The speakers are incredible! Hearing Carl Hancock and Lisa Sabin-Wilson is worth the price of the ticket alone, but you also get Reid Peifer, Matt Medeiros, Jake Goldman, Jennifer Bourn, Nick Pelton, and Toby Cryns. All great peeps in the WP community.
  • The Honest Answers Segment on Friday Night. All the speakers will be put on the spot and asked for honest answers regarding WordPress business topics.
  • The event is smaller and intimate. So many events have so many people and sessions that it's overwhelming! Prestige Conference will be smaller on purpose so that attendees can really invest in each other and in learning from some of the best in the industry.
  • Prestige Conference is giving back and donating proceeds to great causes, one of which is very close to my heart -- Happy Joe! I am excited that Kiko Doran, as a former Air Force veteran, has chosen Happy Joe to benefit from a portion of the ticket sales from this conference. I'm passionate about helping our military veterans and this is one reason to help the mission. Why NOT support the conference and a great cause?

Finally, after visiting with Kiko about the conference for over an hour, I realized that this guy gets it! He is down to earth and very sharp. He's well organized and has valuable ideas. The vision he painted me for the future and the Prestige Conference is going to make it one of the best in the industry. I believe in it so much I am going to give away a couple of tickets.

I'm excited to attend Prestige Conference and I hope you will consider attending it as well. I'd love to meet up with any of you who are going and to sit down and talk shop. Please let me know by Twitter, a comment, or an email if you''l be there. See you in Minneapolis, October 3rd and 4th!