a peek inside the fishbowl

27 Apr, 2016

Is it Wednesday already?

Posted by andrea tomkins in: Publishing/writing/career stuff|The business of blogging

On Monday we put the latest issue of the newspaper to bed and sent it off to the printer. It’s always so gratifying when that happens! Tuesday was supposed to be my “day off” but you can probably guess what happened instead: LIFE. I would have liked to turn off my brain and refill my reserves but the day involved an ortho appointment, grocery shopping, a photo shoot, writing and web work. I am still behind on my emails! (Gah. Sorry EVERYONE.) Mark and I, however, did get to squeeze in a nice bit of distraction. In the evening we went over to Mill Street Brew Pub to attend the launch of their new West Coast IPA. (Fruity! Hoppy! Serve it with cheese!) It was fun.

From last night's IPA launch at Mill Street

This past weekend I attended the BConnected Conference. I hosted a series of roundtables on Saturday but managed to get in some learning and networking as well.

One of the highlights for me was Julie Cole’s breakfast keynote. I’ve seen Julie speak at other conferences and I always enjoy hearing what she has to say. If you’re not familiar with Julie and her history with Mabel’s Labels you can read more about it here, but to summarize: four mothers hit a breaking point in regards to their children’s constant stream of misplaced shoes/water bottles/mittens and decided to make labels. Worth noting: what started out as a basement business was bought by Avery earlier this year.

Julie’s presentation was primarily about the growth of the brand and how central customer service is to the company. (I can vouch for this. What’s more, the labels do exactly what they promise to do: (a) hold fast and (b) help recover lost items. We’ve even started using them on our yard and garden tools (!) but I digress.)

One of the conference attendees asked Julie a very good question and I’ve been mulling it over ever since. I am paraphrasing here, but it was essentially this: How do you spread the word about your business to your friends and family without sounding like a jerk?

Julie laughed and told us that she had NO PROBLEM hitting up her friends to buy labels and help spread the word. I thought this was really interesting. So many entrepreneurs (and I’m including writers, photographers, and other creative types here too) are reluctant to toot their own horn for fear of offending their friends.

Here’s where I confess that I don’t think I talked very much about my work – my writing or my blog – to fellow parents at daycare or later in the school yard. I never wanted to dominate a conversation or draw too much attention to myself. That’s rude! I also never want to appear braggy.

So the question remains, how do you talk about your business with other people who, let’s face it, may or may not help you achieve your goals? Actually, I take that back. ANYONE can help us achieve our goals, and do it in ways we never even considered. It might be as simple as a mom at daycare telling her neighbour about you and your services… a neighbour who happens to own a large company doing Exactly That Thing That Fits Your Goals and Needs.

Related: As I am tapping out this all out I am remembering something I posted awhile back about The Ask. What I’m writing about today is essentially the same thing. If you need something, just ask. It sounds simple, but as we know it’s never that simple. We don’t ask, or don’t talk about ourselves, because we’re afraid of looking weak or needy or rude.

So, going back to the blogger who asked the question during the conference, I am assuming she wants more people reading her blog and she’s reluctant to bring it up to the other parents at her kid’s school. I definitely think there’s a sincere way to slip it into a casual conversation without seeming overly aggressive about it, don’t you? It can be something as simple as: “Hey, since we’re on the topic of clothing for kids, did you know I’m a blogger and I write a lot about family life? I posted a review of some really great children’s shoes on my blog the other day and I think you’d find it interesting.”

I’m a big fan of business cards for this purpose. So, if you’ve just introduced the idea of your blog and the other person asks for the web address, instead of scrambling in your bag for a pen and a scrap of paper you just serenely pull a card out of your pocket with the URL already on it. (The small MOO cards are perfect for this.)

What do you think? I’d love to hear from you, especially if you’re a blogger or entrepreneur. On a scale of 1-10, how good are you about talking about your business and services? What holds you back?


5 Responses to "Is it Wednesday already?"

1 | binki

April 27th, 2016 at 1:31 pm


BConnected = No Weekend Reading. :(
Yes, we do notice (we being your faithful readers).

2 | Lynn

April 29th, 2016 at 6:45 am


I also never mentioned my blog to anyone, and on the few occasions I’ve found out someone at my kids’ school reads it, I kind of panic and try to frantically make sure I haven’t said anything really embarrassing :).

I agree with this post, though, it’s so hard to sell yourself but if you have your own business, it’s so important. One thing I would add, though, is to make sure you are approaching the right audience. It can feel hurtful or like rejection when your parents or your Aunt Martha or the girls from yoga class aren’t rushing to read your parenting blog, but it’s likely just not a good fit. With blogging in particular, I think you will eventually find your tribe – those who love what you love – and it might take 1000 mentions to find 50 people who want to read what you’re writing. So it’s important not to get discouraged, and not to fret if your husband never reads your blog (JUST SAYING).

3 | Shaun Markey

May 1st, 2016 at 8:12 am


I’ve run my own consulting business for the past 17 years and, over that time have had to confront this question about self-promotion on many occasions. The key question here is: if you don’t promote your business, who will? The answer is easy: no one.

This is particularly true for entrepreneurs and individuals (like me) who are essentially “one person” shops. In this situation, it is absolutely critical that you take full ownership of promotion and marketing – whatever that entails. In a one man band, there is no marketing department to which you can defer.

Yes, if you show up at a networking event, your sheer presence makes a statement of sorts but it is not enough. Like everything in life, a bit of preparation will help. Write a short description of your offering and deliver it verbally at every opportunity. If the description doesn’t produce the reaction you desire or is misunderstood, write it out again. Revise and redeliver.

In 17 years of business, no one has ever told me I am over selling myself or my services.

Never stop working on promoting your cause: in person, on line, off line, wherever. Sure. Some business ideas, products and services may enjoy early success but I’d bet the vast majority of successful endeavours are backed by a strong commitment to promotion and marketing.

Success in business or a personal endeavor is difficult. Don’t further complicate matters by weighing yourself down with self doubt, hesitation and fear. Those feelings are nothing more than a drag on your effort. You’ll learn way more from simply trying to be successful than worrying about how your efforts to succeed are perceived by those around you.

4 | andrea tomkins

May 2nd, 2016 at 9:34 am


This is fantastic advice Shaun. Thank you for chiming in. You’re totally right. If you’re a one-man show you have to take control of your marketing and use every opportunity available!

5 | andrea tomkins

May 2nd, 2016 at 12:14 pm


Lynn, so are you saying your husband never reads your blog?? :)

You make a great point about relevance. I agree that you’d have a better shot at gaining a reader if it’s relevant to that person’s life. HOWEVER, you still never know how your work might get passed around. The person you might be talking to may not care about free things to do with kids in Ottawa, but they may know someone who does…

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My name is Andrea and I live in the Westboro area of Ottawa with my husband Mark and our dog Piper who is kind of a big deal on Instagram. We also have two human offspring: Emma (23) and Sarah (21). During the day I work as a writer at The Royal Ottawa Mental Health Centre. I am a longtime Ottawa blogger and I've occupied this little corner of the WWW since 1999. The Fishbowl is my whiteboard, water cooler, and journal, all rolled into one. I'm passionate about healthy living, arts and culture, travel, great gear, good food, and sharing the best of Ottawa. I also love vegetables, photography, gadgets, and great design.

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