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Why Writers Need a Professional Head Shot

One example of the many photos my hubster has had to take.

“I need you to take a picture of me.”

I say those words to my husband about once a month and not because I’m a fashion blogger or incredibly vain. Whether it’s for an article I’m being featured in or an advertisement for a conference at which I’m speaking, about once a month someone asks me to send them my head shot.

But I don’t have one.

So I make my poor husband play photographer, which is not fun for either of us because I hate having my picture taken.

“The more work you do and the more exposure you get, the more people will ask you for one,” said Alison Lewis, founder and editor of Healthy Travel Magazine and Ingredients, Inc. “It’s great to have in your back pocket!”

Writers may need a head shot for a book cover or blog or for speaking engagements.

“Even if you don’t need one regularly for work, your LinkedIn profile photo should be professional,” said Birmingham-based blogger Tanya Sylvan. “That’s people’s first impression of you, and you don’t want it to be negative.”

In addition to blogging, Tanya works in advertising and contributes to See Jane Write Magazine. She a busy and popular woman who probably needs a head shot. In fact, I even asked her for one when putting together the See Jane Write Magazine contributors page.

Sherri Ross Walters, a writer and the founder of Birmingham Girls Club, is another person whose portrait is probably in high demand.

“I have never had one, but the more connected and exposed people get and become, the more I’m finding a single, universal head shot is super helpful and convenient in recognizing people…myself included,” she said. “I need one!”

I need one too!

Enter Lynsey Weatherspoon, one of Birmingham’s best local photographers.

Lynsey has generously offered to meet with the women of See Jane Write for brief headshot sessions for the cost of only $75. She normally charges $350 for a head shot session, so this is the deal of a lifetime. The sessions will be held the afternoon of Sunday, July 21 on Morris Avenue in downtown Birmingham. (You’ll be sent more details on the location.)

You can sign up for your slot here.

Now go pick out your outfit!

5 Steps to Consider When Starting a New Business

Sponsor Spotlight: Hamer Law Group, LLC

Editor’s Note: The following post is by the attorneys at Hamer Law Group, the presenting sponsor of our See Jane Write Magazine Launch Party! So many women involved in See Jane Write are aspiring entrepreneurs and I hope you’ll find this information useful. 
Many people have heard tales of successful businesses being born on the back of cocktail napkins, and ask, “Does that really happen?” In all likelihood, it absolutely does. In its infancy, a business typically starts out as an idea. It may be a solution to a problem, a lifelong dream or an intellectual collaboration. And yes, even a drunken epiphany at an adequately stocked watering hole. The next question is usually, “My napkin is complete, now what?” Quite simply, it’s time to get to work.
Here are five steps to consider when starting a new business.

1. Develop a plan.

One of the most critical steps when starting a business is going beyond the napkin and forming a plan. It seems like common sense, however, some entrepreneurs are so eager to dive into their new business this step is given little to no consideration. This is by no means an exhaustive guide, but should serve as a gentle reminder to actually form a plan. Here are a few things to consider:

Practical Considerations:

•           Revenue Streams – How do we make money? (i.e. products, services, subscriptions)
•           Customers/Client – Who’s buying what we’re selling? (i.e. businesses, individuals, government)
•           Competitors – Who are we up against? (i.e. local, national, multi-national)
•           Competitive Advantage – Why are we better than the competition? (i.e. price, location, quality)
•           Projections – How much money are we going to make [or lose]? More importantly, how much money do we need? (revenue, cost of goods, operating expenses)
•           Capitalization – How are we going to fund the business? (personal savings, investors, debt)

 Legal Considerations: 

•           Relationships between owners and/or investors
•           non-disclosure agreements 
•           licenses, permits and regulatory concerns
•           franchise/supplier agreements
•           lease agreements and/or real estate purchase agreements


2.      Make a name for yourself…literally.

Choosing a name for a business is a big deal. For some, it may be as easy as a person’s name and a description of the business (i.e. Joe’s Plumbing or Hamer Law Group). Others find it exceedingly difficult to come up with or agree on a name. A few things to consider when selecting a name:

Practical Considerations

•           Related to the industry, business or owners
•           Allows customers to easily identify with products and services
•           Catchy or memorable
•           Easy to spell (more important than you may think)
•           Not offensive or misleading
•           Logos
•           Domain name/website availability

Legal Considerations

•           Statutory Requirements (i.e. “Inc.”, “LLC”, etc.)
•           Copyright/trademark Issues
•           Trade Dress
•           Trade Names

3.      Get organized as a business.

Once you’ve decided you’re going to form a business, it’s time to determine what type of entity is necessary to protect the owners and provide a solid structure for the business to grow. The default entities of sole proprietorship and partnerships offer little protection from personal liability for the owners. Corporations, LLCs, LLPs, and other limited liability entities are desirable to protect the individual assets of owners and investors. 

Practical Considerations

•           Number of owners/investors
•           Type of owners/investors
•           Splitting of profits and losses
•           Management structure
•           Operation of the business
•           Purpose/Nature of the business

Legal Considerations

•           Limitation of liability
•           Tax considerations
•           Relationships between owners/investors
•           By-laws, operating agreement, etc. 

4.      Track your progress.

Just like a fifth grader’s report card, a business’ performance should be tracked and measurable to ensure success and maximize profitability. Properly categorizing and accounting for items and transactions allows a business owner to gauge performance, detect problems, and make corrections. Tracking is incredibly important. 
A business owner should always remember that its financial statements are only as good as the data is put in them. Due care and time should be spent to ensure that financial statements are up to date and accurate as possible.

Practical Considerations

•           Accounting method: accrual/cash basis
•           Accounting software
•           Hire a good accountant
•           Learn to read a PNL/balance sheet
•           Do NOT get behind in your bookkeeping

Legal Considerations

•           Tax related matters
•           Duties to other investors and owners
•           Proper Due Diligence 
•           License and regulatory issues
•           Reporting requirements

5.      Get help!

It’s unlikely that you will have all the answers when starting a new business. Often times you’ll have to rely on consultants, accounts, and lawyers to guide them through areas of uncertainty. Forming a strong relationship with professionals you can trust early in the development of your business can help you build a comfort level with the unknowns of starting your business. Building relationships often helps build knowledge. 
Additionally, similar businesses, competitors, and trade organizations can act as an excellent resource for industry specific questions regarding the operation of the business. 
Disclaimer: This list is provided as general information and does not constitute legal advice. 

You Need an Elevator Pitch

Image by robinsonsmay via Flickr/Creative Commons

Yesterday after stuffing myself with turkey, dressing, macaroni & cheese, greens, and yams, I somehow resisted slipping into a food coma and started chatting with my dad about my future. During our talk I announced that I had plans to start my own business, sort of. I saw his face light up. My father, who’s always been my biggest cheerleader, was eager to know more. So I started to tell him a bit about See Jane Write and how I had plans to transform my little networking group into a non-profit organization. “OK, tell me what it will do,” my pops asked.

I had an answer, a very looong and detailed answer. As I was explaining what See Jane Write has done in the past and what I hope the group will do in the future I felt I was rambling. My father listened intently, hanging on my every word, and showed how confident he was in my future success, but that’s because he’s my daddy. If I were pitching my idea to a potential sponsor or to a woman I hoped would be part of See Jane Write I would have been tuned out after my first few sentences, I thought.

Immediately after this conversation I decided I needed to draft an elevator speech for See Jane Write. Chances are you need to draft one for one of your project as well, whether it’s a business you hope to start, a blog you recently launched, or a book you’d like to publish.

An elevator pitch, as I’m sure you know, is a brief speech that you can use to spark interest in your organization, project, or idea. Obviously, it should last no longer than a short elevator ride of about 30 seconds — hence the name.

An elevator pitch should answer three important questions — WHO, WHAT, and WHY — and should state a goal. Who are you? What do you do and what problem do you seek to solve? Why is your organization/project/idea unique? Explain your short term goals.

Here’s what I’ve come up with:

See Jane Write is an organization for women writers of Birmingham. 
It offers free programs, such as workshops and panel discussions, to help fiction and non-fiction writers sharpen their skills and to help women writers learn how to promote themselves and their work. 
This group also strives to build community among women writers through social media and networking events. 
My hope is to register See Jane Write as a non-profit organization within the next year so that we can be eligible for grants that will allow the group to do even more for local women writers and launch a program for teenage girls interested in writing careers. 

Clocking in at 39.1 seconds, it’s a bit long, but I think it will do the job for now. Feel free to leave tips for improvement in the comments.

What’s your elevator pitch? 

Cross posted at The Writeous Babe Project.

Reaching for a Helping Hand

Helpful Leader
Image via Flickr/Creative Commons

I don’t like asking people for help. 

My parents say I’ve been this way since I was a child. I’ve been called “fiercely independent” and I carry this label around like a trophy; I wear it like an “S” on my chest. 

But sometimes, actually oftentimes, two heads are better than one. Sometimes I need help. 

A member See Jane Write recently wrote a blog post on this very topic. In her post she stated: “One of the biggest lessons I learned when it came to goals is that to achieve you have to know when to ask for help.” 

My fellow Jane went on to challenge the other ladies in the group to post their goals on our Facebook group page so that we could help one another realize these dreams. I often write about my goals on my blog and mention them on various social media outlets, but usually for the sake of accountability, not for assistance. 

But that changes today. 

I have a major goal for 2013 and I need help! Next year I would like to take all the steps necessary to make See Jane Write an official non-profit organization. I have such big dreams for this group. I want to offer more programs, a conference, and a writing camp for girls. But to do these things I need money and sponsors, and to get money and sponsors I need my group to be a 501(c)(3). But the very idea of this is so overwhelming it makes my stomach hurt. 

So I’m asking for help.

Now, it’s your turn. What’s your major goal for the next year? Leave it in the comments so I and the other women of See Jane Write can give you a helping hand. And I leave you with this: 

“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed people can change the world. 
Indeed. It is the only thing that ever has.” –Margaret Mead

Cross-posted at The Writeous Babe Project

My hair is my brand and other epiphanies

In addition to the change-your-life, Oprah-like sessions I’ve written about, the skirt! Creative Conference also offered very practical workshops on how to promote your writing, including one on social media. Session leaders Taryn Pisaneschi and Desiree Scales echoed a lot of the things I’ve heard at similar seminars, which was reassuring.

Social media is like a hearing aid, they said. You can use it to find out what people are talking about. You can also use it to find events you might want to attend, position yourself as expert and to build your brand.

Something that Twitter rookies always wonder is What should I tweet about? I even know some people who haven’t tried Twitter simply because that question has paralyzed their efforts. Taryn and Desiree reminded the audience that Twitter is just a way to start conversations and really is no different from starting a conversation at a bar or a networking event. You listen a bit to what folks are talking about and jump in when you can with what you have to contribute.  You can make connections through Twitter by simply starting conversations with people tweeting about things you’re interested in, conversations that can sometimes lead to business opportunities.

While we can use Twitter to promote our writing that shouldn’t be all we do.  With that bar conversation model in mind, remember that no one likes to talk to the person who won’t shut up about herself. Your Twitter posts shouldn’t have that “Look at how cool I am!” vibe. Instead focus on others. What information can you share? How can you help others find the contacts they need? This may seem counterintuitive but it will pay off in the long run. In that same vein, they added that the best way to increase traffic and comments on your own blog is to comment on other blogs and feature other bloggers on your site.

Taryn and Desiree then gave a session on brand building. In addition to recommending that we all purchase the web domain for our name and use it as a landing page with links to our blogs, Twitter accounts, Facebook accounts, etc., they also discussed things I’d never considered. You are your brand, they stressed, which means your physical appearance is essentially your logo. This sounded scary at first, but not so much after they explained. Basically you need some simple signature. Desiree, for example, has on a stylish necklace in every photo on her websites and therefore always sports one when she’s networking or at speaking events. Taryn usually wears something pink to match the dominant color of her website.

So I got to thinking: what could be my signature? My husband is community manager for an advertising agency and I instantly knew what his signature would be: his tie. He’s known for wearing colorful and stylish ties and he wears a tie to work every single day even on Fridays when his co-workers are sporting jeans. But I had no idea what my signature could be. 

When I told my husband that I had to sit and think about this, he actually laughed at me. It didn’t take me too long, though. In between sessions I kept meeting women who would come up to me and say, “You’re WriteousBabe!” which is my Twitter handle and the name I use for the blog I write for  “Yeah, that’s me,” I’d say. Then they’d say, “I knew it was you as soon as I saw the hair.”

Of course! My big curly coif is my signature! Ironically, as I type this I’m rocking straight hair, which I do only about three times a year. But don’t worry, I’ll be sure to bring back the curls before my next networking event. 

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