2019 In Review

Last year around this time I took some time to reflect on my first year of blogging. Back then this blog was called Oh My Mermaid – it launched in early 2018 and it was great to see how the first year went. Those stats and that review told me a lot about the response I had gotten and motivated me to keep showing up and putting myself out here.

Of course reflecting should be a habit we do annually, at least, if not more. So here I am reviewing 2019.

Curious thing about 2019’s stats. They demonstrate that there’s still a growing audience for this blog – and oh my god I’m so grateful for that revelation I could cry. More on that in a bit. What 2019’s stats reveal more so than 2018’s did, though, is my life offline.

See, 2018 showed great growth from launch onward. 2019 shows a slower, more steady growth but fewer blog posts, fewer words. A symptom of a complicated and changing life offline.

I wrote about that in my last post, titled It’s Time for a New Chapter – have a read if you want more on that.

In those changes and the battles that were going on I lost a part of myself and the blog suffered because of it. Now I’m back. I feel more like myself than I have in a long time and just as losing myself took away from the blog, finding myself has started me writing again.

I want to take a moment now and really tell you – from the bottom of my heart – thank you for reading. Even when I was distant and posts were few and far between. Even when I seemed so far away and you may of thought I’d forgotten and abandoned this blog all together… I hadn’t. And this little corner of the internet has been a source of motivation to get to a good and healthy place in life. Writing for this blog – even bits and pieces I never published – has helped me sort and understand my own feelings. Messages I’ve received after posting have reminded me how much I’m part of a community and never alone. I am so grateful to my readers and well, ’tis the season to let ya’ll know you truly mean so much to me.

So without further ado, a few stats from the previous year and a promise to post a 2020 sneak peak, just as I posted a 2019 sneak peak this time last year.

While I made 72 posts in total for 2018 I only made 18 posts in 2019… actually seeing that stat today was kind of a shock. I knew I had lost myself in what was going on offline but I didn’t totally realize how much of myself I’d lost.

Still, despite the scattered posts I had more views and more visitors this year – that… that fills me with gratitude and hope. I had 6713 views from 3362 visitors. As I said last year – not half bad, but with room to grow!

I grew from 103 followers to 160 here on wordpress.

I switched my facebook page to a new Tea With Carmen one – leaving the old Oh My Mermaid page – please come join if you haven’t yet.

I grew from 163 followers on twitter to 200 even and counting with every tweet – it’s a weird habit to get back in to!

On instagram I held even – not to shabby given long absences.

I have some new social strategies I want to try going in to 2020 and I’m excited to be coming back to the online projects I started with such passion.

As promised, stay tuned for a 2020 sneak peak shortly after Christmas and some new comment in January! Drop a comment with any requests so I can get to work bringing you content you’ll love =)

Happy One Year Anniversary to Oh My Mermaid!

*Update: Later rebranded to Tea With Carmen

Well it’s officially been 365 days since I launched this blog. I’d planned and planned and one year ago today I launched with the full roster of social media accounts to connect people with this blog and share what was happening with this project.

It’s been an awesome year and totally surpassed all my expectations. I mean, I’m not totallhy sure what I expected. I guess, of course, I figured there was a potential audience for this project but I didn’t know if I’d actually live up to that potential.

Today, not only do I feel like I’m reaching a wider and wider audience with this project but I’ve been given opportunities I never expected that have lead to the launch of my Social Media Business – Seashell Social Media – just last month and an Etsy shop – Seashell and Mermaid – this month!

I never expected that my work with this project could lead to so many blessings and opportunities so I’m here today to say THANK YOU to my readers and share a few of my accomplishments from the last year.

Crunching the Numbers

73 Posts
85 Comments
481 Likes
54,900 Words

3, 606 Visitors
7, 657 Views
Whoa! I kinda secretly thought I’d get just, like, pity reads from friends and family. I’m so grateful to every single one of ya’ll who has been reading and always returning to the blow!

Instagram – 500 followers

Twitter – 175 followers

Facebook Page – 62 Followers

WordPress – 111 Followers

Working on the social media for this project helped me learn a lot and continues to be my sort of playground and experiment in what works and what doesn’t so I can grow with my social media business. I’m sorta my own guinea pig client!

Social Media Management Website: https://www.seashellsocialmedia.com/

Etsy Shop: https://www.etsy.com/shop/seashellandmermaid

Thank you everyone for your continued support! I hope to keep creating even better content in the coming year!

What do you want to see here at Oh My mermaid? =)

-Carmen

2018 In Review

It’s hard to believe I’ve been working on Oh My Mermaid for a year now. Originally I started developing this project back in January and the 1st post went live January 16th 2018. I posted 3 things that day because I felt the need to get a bit of content on to the website. I didn’t want to welcome internet wanderers to an empty house, after all, when I finally started inviting people over.

I finally launched – as in, started telling people the blog was a thing and building my social media presence – on February 5th.

Since then this project has grown and grown! This year I’ve posted 64 posts here – this will be number 65. Those 64 totalled 50,084 words.

Sometimes blogging can feel like talking in to a void… you take time to create these carefully crafted pieces and share parts of yourself, and you put them out there hoping someone hears it, sees it, reads it… you hope that you have a purpose.

Oh My Mermaid has attracted 6, 615 views from 2,936 visitors. As blogs go, I have room to grow but I could do a lot worse!

I’m so grateful to the 103 people following me on wordpress, 57 people who have liked my facebook page, 163 people who have joined the journey on twitter and the 415 people who are there for me on Instagram. Ya’ll, all of ya’ll, are really what make this project have life.

You have read, commented, and shared with me all year long and from the bottom of my heart, I thank you!

I’ve talked a lot on this blog about my relationship. It’s been an amazing place to share the happiness and joy that has come in to my life since starting to date Maggie and Tom alongside my marriage to Ben. Being able to write about the journey has allowed me to process my own developing relationships and I’ve been so happy to share how our lives are changing and developing.

I shared my very first trip to Pride Toronto with Maggie by my side. I also shared Ben and I’s trip to Blue Mountain, Ontario as I started dabbling in a bit of travel writing.

Don’t worry, we are all planning 2019 trips that I can’t wait to share with you!

I’ve even been able to use this as a place to share my ongoing struggles with fitness and weight loss.

Really, it’s been a lot of #realtalk and 2019 is going to bring even more with a new flare for beauty blogging – something I never thought I’d do! I’m so excited to share some beauty realness with you!

I’ve also been able to share about my developing work-from-home lifestyle with teaching remotely and an increasing desire to follow my entrepreneurial spirit wherever it may lead me.

Stay tuned tomorrow for a little preview of what’s coming in 2019! ūüėČ

In summary, 2018 has been a great year and this project continues to grow. I’m so humbled and grateful to have followers along with me on this journey and I’m so excited to see where 2019 takes this project and our little mermaid minded community! ‚̧

Thank you 2018,

Carmen

PS. Haven’t caught up with me yet? Find me here:

Twitter

Facebook

Instagram

And as always, right here on wordpress!

What’s your Personal Brand

One of the biggest mindset shifts that has helped me successfully make a living by essentially freelancing services that I’m interested in providing is thinking of myself as managing a personal brand.

In this mindset, any service I provide – anything I do in exchange for money – is part of the brand. ¬†My teaching, my writing, this blog, and my social media services are all products offered by this brand. ¬†It’s personal to me and exists in direct relation to who I am as a person but it’s a unique section of my life.

There are a few reasons why I think this mindset is important for others with a similar work style or similar work situation. ¬†Let’s look at those reasons now.

Working from Home but not Working When Home

Okay, that’s a bit confusing but let me explain. ¬†I work from home. ¬†In my family, we make jokes about how I never leave the house and might easily be mistaken for a captive of my family rather than a member of it because they all go out into the world but I spend endless hours in one room of the house. ¬†The jokes are like a thinly veiled coping mechanism for what we all know is an odd reality. I don’t leave the house often. ¬†Sometimes I get so stir crazy I have to leave for the sake of leaving without any actual mission other than getting fresh air.

So how do I know I’m done with work? Honestly, the entering and exiting of physical spaces is something that we often take for granted in our lives. We enter our workspaces and know we are at work, we exit them and can start thinking about our personal lives again. ¬†I’ve done a decent job of making my office my physical workspace and letting what happens in the office stay there when I leave it BUT it’s always¬†right¬†there, calling to me when something could use my attention. ¬†Why wait until tomorrow morning when I could just go grab my laptop and attend to it right now? ¬†Thinking of your work as existing under the umbrella of a personal brand helps to add one more layer of separation between your personal life and your professional one even when the two cohabitate in one physical space.

Not only have I left my office but I’ve mentally left the headspace of the brand and so whatever needs to happen will have to wait for me to get back in the office and back in that headspace.

Your Brand can Turn Down a Project

It’s really hard to turn down work when you’re a freelancer working from home. ¬†You figure there’s always a way to shuffle your calendar around and make time for¬†one more project¬†because security is so elusive. ¬†Work is work and money is money, right?

Sure. But if you’re so busy taking every opportunity that comes along you may end up with a set of projects that don’t fit or make sense together. ¬†This seems pretty benign on the surface but can actually become quite problematic for your overall productivity. ¬†If your projects don’t make sense together then they can start to battle each other for your time and switching projects will become a big interruption to your workflow.

For me, working on Oh My Mermaid and working on Playful Greetings social media work really well together because a lot of the organization can happen from one single platform so time spent on one can easily coexist with time spent on the other.

Thinking of new projects as coming in under your personal brand gives you a buffer between them and you that will allow you to reject them without feeling guilty

You can say to yourself and the potential project, “I’m sorry, that project/job/contract doesn’t work with my current portfolio so I wouldn’t be able to fit it into my schedule or do a good job of it without hurting my other projects.”

When the reason you’re saying no is that it doesn’t work for “the brand” rather than because you just don’t feel like saying yes there’s a lot less guilt and obligation.

It’s also easier to ask for an Opportunity¬†

Just like it’s easier to say no because it isn’t personal, it’s also easier to ask for an opportunity because just like when you turn something down, rejection isn’t personal. ¬†When you feel like it’s just you, as a person and a freelancer, saying to a company that you’d like the opportunity to work with them then when they say no they’ve rejected¬†you.¬†And that sucks. Nobody wants to feel like that.

But when you apply feeling that you’d like to add that opportunity to your personal brand portfolio and you get the rejection it’s easier to just move on, work on your existing projects and look for the next opportunity that might be an even better match for you and your brand.

A Personal Brand is Something you can feel Proud of

One of the biggest struggles I notice as an independent freelancer is that there is a lot less positive feedback than I might have access to in a regular old brick and mortar job. ¬†As a student for most of my life and in the various regular jobs I’ve had I’ve always appreciated the positive and negative feedback that lets me know what’s going well and what isn’t.

Working in isolation, as I talked about earlier, feedback can sometimes be seriously lacking.  It made me feel like I was lost in space having no idea if I was going the right direction or what was going on.

Thinking of my work as a personal brand somehow makes it a bit more tangible. ¬†I start finding ways I can measure performance. ¬†Income, of course, but also through social stats, leads, and projects. ¬†I feel proud of what I’ve accomplished with Oh My Mermaid and the other projects I’ve taken on. ¬†That’s something that reduces the sensation of being lost in space.

So overall there’s a lot of good reasons to start thinking of yourself as managing a personal brand to create an extra mental layer between your work and you as a person. ¬†It’s better for your mental health and self-worth to feel that it’s still a job, at the end of the day and you do get to be off duty even if that just means going to a different room in your house.

A Weekend Getaway to Blue Mountain

This past weekend Ben and I went on a little weekend getaway to Blue Mountain resort in Ontario. ¬†Since I share so much of our lives here I thought I’d share our vacation, too!

We did things a little differently. Actually, going on vacation at all is a little different for us. We’re kind of the masters of a day trip. We don’t mind long drives or getting home late so we usually just go to events or go sightseeing and then make the trek home. Deciding to go somewhere and stay not just for 1 but for 2 nights felt like we were spoiling ourselves.

We wanted to make the most of our time there and make it a weekend of indulging things we don’t normally give ourselves time for.

First of all we made room in the budget and also go the style of vacation we would enjoy most by using Airbnb. ¬†This was our first airbnb experience and we are now happily singing its praises. Instead of staying in a shoebox with a bed we were able to rent a 1 bedroom condo 2 minutes from the village. Having a kitchen to cook our fave breakfast food in plus a super cozy space to netflix in the evening made a huge difference in our “lifestyle for a weekend”.

img_0652In the spirit of doing things we don’t normally make time for I took myself to the spa while Ben rounded up some groceries and supplies. ¬†I enjoyed a hot stone massage and a facial at Kalola spa in Blue Mountain village. ¬†It was so relaxing but definitely a splurge that I’ll save for rare occasions and not make a regular habit of. As much as I enjoyed it in the moment it was a pretty fleeting pleasure which made the investment seem disproportionate. ¬†I don’t regret the¬†decision to treat myself at all but it was definitely a vacation lifestyle treat and not a regular lifestyle need.

On Saturday we found an adventure tour company offering ATV tours. ¬†Ben grew up with a 3-wheeler and had a few friends who had 4-wheelers so he was happy to go adventuring on one. I’d never ridden one in my life and so I was super excited to try it out. ¬†It was an idea to satisfy our craving for adventure and something off the beaten path. ¬†I can’t say enough good things about the company and how nice the trails were. ¬†There was a little something for everyone with rugged hill climbs, muddy, winding trails through the trees and wide open well-groomed pathways where we could speed up a little bit.

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I honestly had no idea what to expect from either the experience of riding an ATV or the environment we’d be in so everything was new for me. ¬†I didn’t anticipate the effort it took to maneuver the ATV. I mean, I guess I just never really thought much about how much they weigh or that grippy tires let you do a lot of cool climbs and ride over everything but also take work to control. ¬†You’d think everything after crashing a car for fun would be a breeze but I still took my time getting used to it.

Perseverance paid off, though! By the end of the hour long tour I was really enjoying myself and as soon as we were in the car we were both talking about visiting again. ¬†The company operates all year round so if you like to adventure through heat, mud, raino r snow they’ve got a tour for you and a few different options for what you want to drive.

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The tour guides were super nice and chatted with us after, as well. ¬†People and personal connections can make such a huge difference and these folks are a great example of how good people leave a lasting impression for their business – thank you so much for an amazing experience, ya’ll!

 

In the afternoon Ben and I headed back in to the village (after a hard earned soak in the resort hot tub!) to try out the “Ridge Runner Mountain Coaster” we’d read so much about.

Check out this article to see why we had to check it out:

here we though we’d be gliding gently down the mountain admiring the fall leaves… nope! We got to glide gently up… and up… and up. ¬†On the way down you could pull your breaks if you were¬†really¬†scared but it was strongly discouraged by staff as you slow down everyone behind you and muck up the timing of the track. ¬†It only seemed polite to push forward at full speed wondering how anyone could be afraid… then your cart rattles around the 1st bend far faster than you expect.

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This moment separates the strong from the weak.

We loved every adrenaline-fuelled second so much we rode a 2nd time before going to get dinner.

We wandered around the village, shopped a little and then returned to relaxing at the condo.

On Sunday we went for a scenic drive and hiked around the mountaintop taking pictures of the partially snowy landscape.

We were really picky about what we comitted to with this weekend. We wanted time to relax and focus on each other as a couple while still enjoying the unique experiences the area had to offer.  I think we accomplished this with a few great experiences like the ATV tour and the coaster while taking the rest of our time to relax and do whatever we wanted without stressing out.

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What’s your weekend getaway style? Are you a fully scheduled weekend warrior or a worry-free weekender with an open calendar?

 

 

 

 

Blogging and Social media: You’re there but Why?

I am still learning on my entrepreneurial journey.  The blog is launched, posts are becoming more regular, my social media presence is growing and in every week there are lessons learned.

I share these lessons as I learn them to become the resource I crave and build my¬†identity within this industry. ¬†I’ve talked before about following good advice and where to start.¬† Today I want to talk a little about being valuable versus being accessible.

The thing is that when we start blogging, or really when we start any online project we might secretly dream of overnight fame. ¬†Wouldn’t it be nice if we woke up and tens of thousands of people had “liked” and “followed” us?

Sure, it’d be nice but not realistic in the least.

After all, what makes people follow you? ¬†If you read the how-to guides floating around for Instagram right now the biggest thing most of them say is¬†be consistent. ¬†It’s good advice but it’s leaving something out. ¬†Be valuable.¬†

You can post all day long, on a consistent schedule but what are you posting? You want to be consistently valuable as much as you are consistent with anything.

The online world will demand your accessibility – people will message or comment at all hours, they’ll forget about normal family schedules and just see you as totally available to them. ¬†There’s a lot you can do too, to foster your relationships and availability is the easy part.

The true art is in being out there and giving people content that they actually want.

Carmen

 

 

 

 

 

How to Find Followers and Be Loved by Everyone

 

Everyone’s working hard and we want to be noticed and appreciated – we want to see our hard work pay off! ¬†We see success in rising stats and so the key question becomes: How do I get followers? How do I become popular?!

I wish there was a simple answer like follow steps 1-3 and BOOM! You’ll reach your wildest dreams! But in a world dictated by algorithms and with everyone being careful and thoughtful about what and who they follow or subscribe to, it’s a little tricker than 1, 2, 3.

I post my tips and lessons as I learn them – I don’t have mind blowing numbers to show off as reasons you should listen to me. ¬†What I have is a genuine experience that I’m sharing as it happens (Imagine, the original purpose of a blog!)

So here are my tips and strategies for finding followers and being loved by everyone. ¬†Maybe when I’m famous I’ll rewrite this post and let you know if it works ūüėČ

You have to collaborate to be successful, but you do have to participate. 

You see, creating great content is only part of the battle. ¬†You don’t have to collaborate and share credit but you do have to interact with others. ¬†How do you expect people to find and appreciate your content if you’re simply posting it and waiting for the big rush of applause and appreciation? ¬†When they say you have to put yourself out there it isn’t about putting your content out there – it’s actually putting¬†you¬†out there and making connections.

Go find, like, follow and comment others who might be interested in your work. Find your audience and invite them in to see what you’re doing. ¬†(And show a little love for them – you know how hard the grind is, after all!)
Pro tip: Do this on multiple platforms! Running a wordpress blog? Go like and comment on other blog posts. ¬†Working on upping your instagram game? You know what to do – double tap and show some love! Looking to be the next twitter superstar? Twitter is a giant conversation platform – don’t just talk to yourself ūüėČ

How much do you love it when you connect to someone, or to a company because they make you feel like a¬†person instead of a customer? ¬†When you are waiting for people to stumble across your content and appreciate it you’re thinking of them as customers or follower stats – not people. ¬†In a fast-moving society where we often feel kind of lost in the masses, we have come to value personal connections. ¬†So provide that! ¬†Provide what you crave!

Support doesn’t cost you anything!

All the practical reasons aside – going out and giving those likes, follows and comments doesn’t cost you anything! Okay, so actually finding people who belong to your target audience and connecting with meaningful comments does take¬†time.¬†But you can work that into your workflow. ¬†It’s actually an enjoyable part of my day so I use seeking and connecting with others who might like my work as a way to break up the heavier lifting. ¬†If I am stuck in my writing I can work my social media a bit. If I am dizzy from the research I can find some new people to follow. ¬†Work the different social media platforms you want to grow on into your daily workflow¬†and watch how much¬†making the first move helps you grow!

Just remember…¬†Don’t be an asshole! Don’t start getting spammy and desperate leaving lazy comments that are just emoji’s or one word like “Great”. It doesn’t feel personal or thoughtful. ¬†You want to¬†invite people to connect with you¬†so it’s worth being a decent member of the online community in the process!

Open your mind – what’s the vision when you say working for yourself is the dream?

So here’s the thing – a lot of people say they want to work for themselves but everyone has a different vision of what that means. ¬†For me, it means the freedom to work from anywhere (usually from home),¬†and¬†to be fluid and ever changing in what I do. ¬†I can control the content I produce and in the vision where I create my own line of products they are my design and I can change up the style as I feel like it.

So as you go seeking an audience don’t forget to look inwards and keep a clear vision of what you want. ¬†It’s easy to get so caught up being someone who will attract followers and likes that you lose sight of who you are and what you¬†want¬†to be doing.

Carmen

Don’t Mistake a Passion Project for an Easy Gig

One of the most frustrating attitudes I encounter is that my life must be easier because I’m pursuing projects I love, and because I work from home. ¬†I’ll admit the commute is alright but that doesn’t mean that I live a life of leisure.

The first word is still “Work

Between teaching and the blog, along with some volunteer work on the side I keep busy. ¬†It’s easy to assume I’m free and open all day but in reality, I have a long to-do list and my projects suffer when I don’t get dedicated time to work on them.

I could be making calls, writing, answering emails, researching or alternating between tasks.  I still look forward to an evening of relaxing just like everyone else.

This choice came with sacrifices

I think part of the reason I get frustrated when people make assumptions about my lifestyle is because they tend to overlook the sacrifices. ¬†It’s not easy to make a full “typical” salary working from home, so there are financial sacrifices. ¬†There’s no health benefits or sick days. ¬†A lot of the things we assume come with a 9-5 we forget don’t come with working for ourselves.

Don’t get me wrong, I love working for myself and being creative. ¬†That being said, I don’t want people to imagine I have it easy just because I don’t leave the house.

The things I’m passionate about doing and the things I find easy are not necessarily the same

Working on a passion project is great – take this blog for example. I get to define what it is about, focus on what I’m interested in and develop ideas from start to finish. ¬†However, that hasn’t made it easy. ¬†I’m not a trained web developer, I’m still learning about entrepreneurial work (a dedication to constant learning is a whole new blog post), and self-promotion is a time-consuming process. ¬†The fact that I am proud of this work and enjoy doing it does not mean that it’s a no-brainer for me.

Don’t assume that people who are pursuing their passions are doing so to get out of doing “real work” or because it’s the easy path. ¬†Really building your own dream takes a lot more than what people see and is about the reward of following your heart, not about doing less work, I promise.

 

What are the misconceptions people have about the work you do (whatever work that is!)?

Looking for Advice? Be Picky

Yes, even when considering mine. The thing about wanting to work from home or for yourself in any capacity – actually, the thing about ANY thing you might be searching for advice on… is that there is A LOT of advice out there.
And the big secret: a good chunk of it is good advice. But you still can’t follow all of it.

Take blogging for example. I really am a successful example of how the Western school system molds our brains to value research and hard data so with a new project in mind step one was research.¬† Before I logged on to wordpress, named my project or even knew what I wanted my scope and subjects to be I was reading other blogs and articles about blogging.¬† There’s all kinds of advice from what and how to write, to how to promote it, to sample schedules, and the list goes on.

The reality is that while it might mostly be sound advice for starting a blog, it isn’t possible to consume and then follow all of it. Pick advice that makes sense with who you are, what project you’re working on and what you want from it.

The bottom line is this: Don’t be afraid to ignore good advice.

As for deciding what to ignore, don’t overthink it. Actually, you don’t even have to look at a piece of advice and then decide to ignore it. Really, the key is finding a few sources of advice that you trust and are interested in – then, stop looking.

As long as you’re looking for advice you’ll find it. You’ll find new or different strategies, approaches, ideas, etc. ¬†You’ll find new gurus, leaders, and writers who will want to help you on your journey.

If there’s one thing I’ve noticed from hopping around between gurus and programs the key that they promote is consistency. Regardless of the platform or product, no matter what strategy you use to promote yourself the gurus agree: you have to be consistent.

So I offer you this: be consistent with the advice you choose to follow. Even if you don’t see immediate results or you see others selling advice that promises everything you’ve ever wanted… choose your advice and follow it consistently.