Angie, Master Urban Farmer

The Ohio Master Urban Farmer Workshop Series is a new program developed by OSU Extension, and Bob and I are planning on attending so we can be, “MASTER URBAN FARMERS!”

<!– did you hear the sound of trumpets when you read that last bit? –>

This series of seven evening workshops is designed to help individuals learn how to produce and market all kinds of food in urban settings. While the workshop’s content will be introductory, individuals who already have some experience growing or marketing food products are invited to participate.

Experience growing and marketing food? Here’s the pumpkin from this year’s garden, and pictures of the garden from the old apartment and the website for the Food District. Check, check and check.

The cost of the entire program is just $75 per participant, which will include a course notebook, several books, light refreshments each evening, and one free soil test. A limited number of scholarships are available for participants with financial constraints, (contact Mike Hogan at hogan.1@osu.edu or at 740.653.5419 for info about scholarships.)

Successful graduates of the Ohio Master Urban Farmer program will also receive free assistance on securing land, tool, seeds, and other resources needed to start or expand a successful growing venture. Graduates will also have the first opportunity to market their products at a new farmers market being planned for the Weinland Park neighborhood. (Additional farmers markets will also be accessible to Master Urban Farmer Graduates.) For more information about the Ohio Master Urban Farmer Program, contact OSU Extension Educator Mike Hogan at 740.653.5419 or by email at hogan.1@osu.edu.

I don’t know what we’d grow and market, but I’m sure we could think of something. Is there something you’d like to see at your local farmer’s market that isn’t around much?

Workshop Schedule

February 5

  • Introduction to Master Urban Farmer Program
  • Introduction to Urban Agriculture
  • How to Choose a Farm Enterprise
  • Site Selection Issues
  • Soil Testing for Urban Sites

February 12

  • Basic Plant Science
  • Soil Quality & Soil Health

February 19

  • Insects & Diseases
  • Integrated Pest Management
  • Bees & Native Pollinators

February 26

  • Season Extension Techniques
  • Business Planning for Gardens or any Agriculture Project

March 5

  • Marketing Bootcamp (How to market your products in any setting)

March 12

  • Vegetable Production
  • Tomato Production

March 19

  • Food Safety & GAPS
  • Harvest Timing
  • Tools & Storage
  • Keeping it Legal
  • Graduation!

Caramelized Apple Vinaigrette

Imagine, if you will… a world where caramel apples frolic in fields of green spinach with fluffy goat cheese clouds…  Doesn’t that sound lovely? Well brothers and sisters, I have been to this land, and IT IS GOOD. Very good.

Caramel-Apple-Salad

I first tasted this dream at Market65, a salad restaurant in downtown Columbus. If you visit and would like to order this salad, it’s the Harvest and is described as Bacon, Spinach, Apple, Slivered Almonds, Dried Cranberries, Goat Cheese with Caramel Apple Vinaigrette. It’s divine.

The vinaigrette is the star of that salad, and after having it two or three times, I started googling for ripoffs. I found this Not Too Virtuous Salad with Caramlized Apple Vinaigrette. The dressing seemed spot on, and while the salad looks good to ME, I had planned to bring this to Thanksgiving, where most of the people attending are culinary lame-o’s and don’t like things like mixed greens, fennel, and celery root. So I knew I’d better stick closer to the salad from Market65 if I wanted any of them to actually eat it. Here’s the resulting recipe which was FANTASTIC. Even some of the fuddy-duddies loved it. I didn’t add caramalized pecans or slivered almonds, but I think they would have been lovely, if not a little too sweet.

Caramelized Apple Vinaigrette

  • 2 ounces brown sugar
  • 3 ounces plus 1 ounce apple cider vinegar
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 gala apple, peeled, cored and medium diced
  • 1 lemon
  • 4 ounces olive oil
  • 2 ounces canola oil
  • 1 teaspoon fresh thyme
  • salt
  1. In a small skillet over medium heat add 3 ounces vinegar and the sugar. Let it reduce until the color turns a dark caramel color and begins to thicken. You will start to see big foamy bubbles on the surface.
  2. Add the apples and garlic and sauté until the apples are cooked through, about 5 minutes. Stir occasionally.
  3. Remove from heat and put in the blender with 1 ounce of vinegar, thyme, juice of ½ lemon and a pinch of salt. Woosh until blended, then slowly add the oil. Blend until the dressing is emulsified. Taste and season with salt and perhaps a splash more vinegar.
  4. I served it on the side of a spinach/bacon/apple salad topped with goat cheese.

DIY Luxe Christmas

Here are some simple steps for a DIY Luxe Christmas:

Step One: Visit PotteryBarn.com and drool over the beautiful ornaments and decorations.

Step Two: Check out the Silver and White Christmas rooms on Houzz.

Step Three: Realize that buying Luxe Christmas decorations from Luxe Christmas decoration retailers aren’t going to get you to your goals any faster.

Step Four: Figure out another way to get the same look for less. How? Hit up the thrift stores for porcelain Christmas figures (each of the ones in the pics below were less than $4.99, some way less), then buy ONE can of Chrome spray paint and blast those suckers.

Total spent: Less than $25. We’ve now got a Santa and Mrs. Santa, Snowman, Christmas tree, and a Santa candle holder for our Christmas table. We’ll be matching them up with some red and blue ornaments we already have and some plants. Done.

Santa

The world is indeed full of peril and in it there are many dark places.

The world is indeed full of peril and in it there are many dark places. But still there is much that is fair. And though in all lands, love is now mingled with grief, it still grows, perhaps, the greater. (Haldir)

We’ve been going back to church lately, to Grandview Christian Assembly (GCA). We first went there early last year, before we even moved into Weinland Park. GCA doesn’t do a lot of marketing save one yard sign in front of the office building they rent. I woke up one morning and while I was taking a shower felt like God pretty clearly said to me that we should get going, to that church on the corner. So we did. We went back a few times after that. We had been to a rockstar church plant around the corner just a few weeks before, and a typical Willowcreek plant, too, and even the most local branch of the Columbus Vineyard…and GCA couldn’t have been more opposite.

It’s hard for me to visit a church, and we hadn’t been for a long time. Most of the people reading here know me as WordPress Angie, or Internet Marketing Angie. But you may also know I was a youth pastor, or if you know me more than that, you know I also did Assimilation and Integration. From the second we step onto a church campus, I’m looking for all the ways they could improve systems and service(s) to more easily and gracefully move a guest towards membership, or um, Jesus. It is VERY hard to turn that thing off. Yeah. Snap out of it, Angie.

The “problem” with Grandview Christian Assembly is that they just don’t DO any of that. It’s just ALL “broken.” The band is kind of “awful” so there’s no working on transitions and lighting and video packages and creative storytelling. There’s no way to find information about small groups or classes without calling or emailing the pastor, so the whole guest information services is out the door. When you drop your kid off in the kids’ area, they just ASK your name, and your kids’ name. And when you pick them up, they just say, “Nila, your parents are here.” There is no checkin system – that’s just “dangerous”. They don’t even print a general order of service in the program. They take the offering at the very end of the service, and don’t play a song while they pass baskets. It’s just the LAST thing that happens, an after you touch the basket church is kind of over. It is just a hot mess.

And it’s kind of great. I don’t have to worry about any of that stuff. It’s all so stupid anyway. I mean, it’s NOT if your church is a bajillion people, but here’s what important about this story.

This church, this “broken” “awful” “dangerous” church, they remembered our names. Not just after a week. Not after two weeks. But after four months, when we hadn’t even been in three months, when we bumped into them at a local festival. They remembered all of our names. And then eight months later, when we still hadn’t been back and bumped into them again at a restaurant, they still remembered all of our names.

You know what’s even better (and WAY easier) than an amazing parking team with Cat in the Hat hats making people unexpectedly smile before church? or a kids’ checkin system that would make even the NSA blush? or a drama team that reaches you at the depths of your soul? or all of the wheels and cogs it takes to make that whole crazy beast of a machine work?

Remembering names.

Are you known at your church? Is it even possible for you to be known?

Bidsketch Review – For Easier Proposals and Pricing

Let’s talk about pulling toenails off with a hot pair of pliers soaked in lemon juice. You know, the activity otherwise known as WRITING A PROPOSAL.

For as long as I’ve been sending out actual proposals/contracts/invoices, I’ve had this process. Well, if you can call it a process. It has looked something like this: Labor for days over detailed proposal. Send proposal. Wait around days or weeks for a yes or no. Get yes (typically 😉 ) Send contract. Wait for contract to be returned. Send invoice. Wait for invoice to be paid.

Seriously. WORST PROCESS EVER, right?

It got a little better when I started using Freshbooks earlier this year. The invoicing part of that goes much more smoothly now, and I’ve eliminated the devil that is PayPal by using Stripe. Now I know that when a client pays by card, I’ll get that payment deposited into my business account EXACTLY seven days later. No guessing. And Freshbooks integrates with Podio, which I started using earlier this year as both my CRM and Project Management tool (though with just myself using it, I have to force myself to track everything there – it’s more of a discipline I know I want to have in place and well, it’s just the right thing to do, I think we can all agree on that).

But Freshbooks and Podio alone wasn’t solving the actual proposal and contract creation/sending/getting/signing/tearing up process that took me hours upon hours upon days. Seriously, sometimes, even though I KNEW I pretty much had a contract locked down – I’d put off putting together the proposal and contract because I just hated it that much.

Not anymore! Last week I ripped out three proposals in two days and I didn’t shed a tear! How did I accomplish this feat of freelancing wonder, you ask!?

http://www.bidsketch.com . Recommended to me by Justin Sainton.

Bidsketch has lots of great features, and you can read about those features on their site. This is NOT a “let me tell you everything you possibly need to know about Bidsketch” post. But, I do want to tell you what I really love about it – what’s making it REALLY work for me.

1. It integrates with Freshbooks. SO, when I create a proposal in Bidsketh, I can click a link to create an invoice that will be sent once the proposal is “accepted” and “signed” in Bidsketch. Magic. Saved me tons of time right there!
2. It has proposal templates for me to start with, but which can be customized. Web Design, Web Development, and Strategy Consulting are three I’ve used already. These have the same types of language I was using in my own, hand-crafted proposals, only these templates say it in 4,000 less words, which is always better for the client.
3. Bidsketch tracks when the client has opened, viewed, printed, and pretty much touched the proposal, anytime they do. This for me is both one of the best features and the worst. I love seeing that a client first opened the proposal for 5 minutes, then 35, then printed it. But, I also DON’T like seeing that another hasn’t even opened theirs yet when I was PRETTY sure that meeting went REALLY well. Knowing is half the battle, though, right? I guess that just gives me a little more reason to call and follow up.
4. The proposals are delivered electronically, and can be legally signed electronically, too.
5. You can include certain features of your proposal for x fees, but then also include OPTIONAL features for optional fees which clients can choose to accept or decline. That’s pretty sweet – anytime you can give clients choices you’ll come out ahead in the end.

I didn’t dread creating any of those proposals last week, which is the first time I’ve ever felt that way. I have another to do on Monday morning, and I know already it’s not going to be difficult because of Bidsketch. I wish I’d found this tool years ago.

PS – this was another totally casual, unedited post. If there are spelling mistakes or grammar goofs, not sorry! Done is better than not!

Reader Questions Pt. 1: Pricing

Do you remember my interview on the Matt Report last year where I rambled on and on about all the things I do related to WordPress. Among the questions Matt routinely asks his guests is a question something like, “What advice do you have for the freelancer trying to go from the $500 site to the $1500, or $1500 to $2500… etc.” I’d have to go back to watch it to see exactly what I said, but I know that around the time of the show, I was myself making a pretty significant shift in how I priced my own work, so my answer was probably some shifty, hodge podge mess of “Well, you see, it all has to do with the VALUE the work provides to the client, rather than the time it takes to produce that value.”

Turns out people are still watching that interview and, for whatever reason, finding what I had to say interesting. Imagine that. 😉 I’m kidding. We all have something to share from our experiences, don’t we? I might not have it all figured out yet, but I’m going to suck it up and share what I’ve learned and AM LEARNING even now. To that end, a viewer emailed me some questions and rather than just answer him, I thought I’d answer them here in case anyone else is interested.

1.) Should I join The Skool? Is it worth it? Has it paid off for you? etc.

The Skool is a web agency education company formed by Jose Caballer of the Groop. I first encountered Jose and the Skool also on the Matt Report. Watch the video. No really. Bookmark that then watch it. If you know my story, you know I don’t come from an agency or design background. I used to be a youth pastor. To me, the “agency gurus” were somehow always going to have me beat because I just had no idea what they DID. I looked at my WordPress work compared to some of the other smallish agencies in town and thought, “WHAT? How did they get that site? I could do that?!” And then through one channel or another I’d find out what they charged for it, and I’d fall out of my chair, knowing that LITERALLY, I could do that exact site myself. I knew there was something missing between what I do/did and what agencies do/did, but short of going to work or intern for one, I had no way of finding out what it was. So, I joined the Skool. I don’t know what it costs now, but then it wasn’t very expensive then because they were in some sort of transition. I might have also begged for a discount. Maybe. I wanted to get the Agency in a Box but I couldn’t afford it, so I just soaked up everything I could from the Skool videos and documents and went from there. I also watched every video I could from This Week In Web Design on You Tube.

For me, it was worth the small investment and WOULD HAVE BEEN worth tons more. It gave me a framework for a PROCESS of sharing with clients the VALUE I was ALREADY providing to them, but didn’t have a system in place for sharing with them. The truth is, for every project, I was already working through Company Branding, User Profiles, Goals, etc (join if you want to know the rest), but 1) I wasn’t charging for that process 2) I wasn’t bringing the client in on it, because I wasn’t working with clients who VALUED that process – so I was just figuring it out for myself because I knew it mattered and 3) I didn’t have a repeatable system I could use. I just KNEW it, but it wasn’t a system. Now, it is. Jose says (and I’ve heard it other places, too) that the value of an agency is the process, the relationship, and the Skool helps me define that process (and is still helping me – I literally just watched a video again today and will watch another two tomorrow).

2.) Does TheSkool help with marketing ideas for your business?

No, and Yes. Not implicitly, but when you stop trying to sell the features of your websites, or stop trying to sell your websites by price, and start selling the value your websites provide a business based on the outcomes you can provide after completing a systematic process of Discovery, Inception and Build… you will HAVE ideas for marketing (example here). I think what’s interesting to me is that THIS is what my clients have always said they likes about me – being able to translate the concepts of what’s happening in these phases and why – so for me, the “marketing ideas the Skool provides” … eh, again, if anything it provided more of a framework for getting those ideas out. Each of those three phases have so much fodder for marketing already.  I think once you realize these systems for yourself, the most important next question becomes WHO do you want to market TO?

3.) How do you market your business besides being involved in WordCamps and other local social events? Do you do SEO, AdWords, etc.?

Nope, never any paid search and really, though I know HOW to execute a killer organic strategy, I just don’t have time for that (the maids house is always dirty). When I DO write or produce content, video, graphics, etc…, I do it right, but I don’t do it that often.  And not until October 2012 did I even have my license, so the number of “social events” I attended was pretty much limited to the monthly WordPress meetups I help run with two other guys. Even now, I can’t say I’ve been to anything outside of Startup Weekend Columbus and WakeUpStartup. I can honestly say I built my business entirely organically – both in terms of search engine marketing and referrals. Only recently (maybe the past nine months) have I been tipping the scales at half of my leads coming from search; until then almost all of my work was entirely referral. Which was GREAT – except that most of the work in the previous years was at a lower price point than I am now… so referrals from previous clients would most likely be referrals in the same price range. The leads coming from search right now are leads that have to deal with my contact form which acts like a funnel. And what’s great NOW about my leads coming from search is that my messaging and my pricing are starting to match what search has been bringing all along… so I’m seeing those leads from search starting to convert better than before when the game I was TALKING and the portfolio I was showing (I think, anyway) said “more than $1500” but my pricing structure didn’t. And, I haven’t been to any other WordCamps. I just run ours. I’d love to go to some others in 2014, though.

4.) Looking at your prices in your Contact form… wow! Are those there to scare away the people that can’t afford you? Do you have people taking you up on each of those items? Those prices seem steep to be a two-person shop, I’m just curious to how those prices are received.

No, we haven’t yet had projects at all the new price points, but we have closed contracts in the $xx,xxx range.

They’re not to scare them away, of course not! They’re there to say, “I want to work with businesses who want to see this type of return on their investment.” I do – I want really want to work with businesses who, after completing our work together, can realize significant improvements in whatever their measurable goals were. Let me explain.

There is a salon here in town who desperately needs a redesign of their website. You or I could do it. YOU would charge maybe $500 or on a great day, if you were feeling bold, $2500 for it. Let me tell you about this company, though.

They have six salons in Central Ohio. Each salon spends $50,000 a year on advertising for a total of $300,000. The average sale at each salon is $150.00. If the redesign of the website produces just 2 extra sales per week per store ($300 x 6 = $1800 x 52 = $93,000) they’d see an increase in sales of $93,000 a year in the first year alone. And that’s with just two extra sales a week. Knowing all of the major issues their site(s) have, an increase of two sales per week would not be difficult. So you would charge $1500, because you’d think in terms of “how long would it take me at $x hours to redesign the site” and I’d aim for $50K – $75K, because I know that they will see a return on their investment of that much this year PLUS $20K, and nearly $100K each year to come, for an initial investment of 16% per store’s advertising spend (or since they have an overall advertising/marketing budget, it could come from that instead). Your proposal of a $1500 site suddenly looks cheap compared to my promise of a $100K returned for years to come, doesn’t it?

The difference is that you sold your time, and I sold a value. As far as I can tell, the thing that separates the two proposals is that one starts with YOU, and the other starts with the CUSTOMER. And really, I’m still learning this as I go, so I may come back and amend this post one day. But it’s about what it’s worth to the customer, not what it’s worth to you.

Having said that, if you follow that line of thinking, you have to then reverse engineer your prices to find your ideal customer (or the other way around, whatever). If you know that you want to charge $50-75K for a website, then you need to target customers who can pay $50-75K for websites, and for whom that investment makes sense. Who are they? Probably customers who have sales of at least $5M annually. After that, you have to figure out the rest.

When you’re working with clients who are willing to say to you, “These are my goals. These are my customers. These are THEIR goals. Let’s figure out how to then make those happen.” you’re working with good clients. When you’re working with clients who say, “Just build me a pretty website, I don’t care about that stuff” you’re working with clients who don’t understand the driver of success their website can be, OR the value you can provide to them as it relates to their bottom line.

5.) What do you do with the leads that can’t afford your prices?

Well I think for the most part they stopped emailing me because of the form. I did once recently get someone who I think was using the “Strategy and Support Retainer” to ask for so much support it was basically a website build, but after going through the rate it would take to “support” her questions she decided she would figure it out herself by reading the documentation and also using the support that came with the plugins.

 

Ok that’s a long enough post for now. I hope that answered your questions. I’m not editing any of this, it was just a mind-dump in response to your questions. If anyone else reads this and has follow up questions or is absolutely outraged at my responses, please feel free to comment below. I do have a follow up post coming on FEAR and BOLDNESS related to pricing, but, that’s for tomorrow.

Best wishes for huge success in your businesses and life!

 

Angie

@angiemeeker