8 Benefits of OCR Technology for Your Business

woman working on laptop
by Yazi

Paperwork is a necessary evil that all businesses have to deal with. With every business day comes a series of hard files that need to be digitized –every line filled and ever character copied.

This can be time-consuming, tiring, not to mention, it makes for a dull work environment. But what if there was a way to simplify the data entry industry? Well, there is, thanks to the Optical Character Recognition (OCR) technology.

What Does OCR Software Do?


This technology allows you to convert paper documents, including printed paper, PDF files, images, and contacts, into editable digital documents that can be searched electronically. The limitless benefits of OCR have made it an indispensable part of business operations.

Advantages of OCR


1. Easy Accessibility and Recovery of Data


Storing data can be quite challenging, especially for many files. Important folders can get misplaced or accidentally deleted. But, OCR has the ability to centralize and organize your storage space so you can access data with ease whenever you need it. Digital data is easily searchable, which ensures employees find specific documents faster without wasting time. If data is lost after a disaster, OCR enables fast data retrieval, allowing your business to resume work fast.

2. Cloud Storage


This technology allows for cloud storage rather than physical data storage. Many businesses are currently mobilizing their documents to the cloud as it allows employees to access company information from any smart device anywhere, anytime. This ensures easy coordination among employees, and it can be very beneficial to employees who are on the go. In addition, the cloud keeps files secure and encrypted so they can't be accessed by someone outside the business.

3. Saves Time and Money


Every business strives to optimize time and minimize costs. And, given that most businesses still work with tons of data in paper form, OCR can help reduce the amount of time and money spent on manual data entry. For instance, coders utilizes OCR technology to transform those codes into digital output that helps corporations and SMEs in data processing.

Processing paper documents can be time-consuming, not to mention the time it takes to locate, retrieve, scan, and re-file documents can be used on something more productive. When you eliminate the manual process, your business doesn't have to spend on printing, paper, ink, storage space, copying, filing, shipping, or even the costs of retrieving lost or misplaced data.

4. Efficiency in Management


Everything is automated with the OCR technology, which means managing data is much easier and effortless. Confidential documents can be sorted and stored effectively. When data management is done seamlessly, it boosts productivity and business growth.

5. Reduces Human Error


We all make mistakes, but with this technology, you can rest assured that incorrect data or any misprints will be detected and corrected proactively. Plus, you'll never have to deal with lost or misplaced data again.

6. Secure Storage


All business data must remain secure at all times. Any security breaches could undermine your business' reputation and result in lost investors and customers. Paper data can be misplaced, lost, stolen, or even destroyed by natural elements. On the other hand, digital data remains safe in the storage space. Sensitive information is password protected, limiting access to avoid mishandling. Backups can also be encrypted to prevent theft or misuse.

7. Customizable


Every business is different in its own way. Luckily, there are different types of OCR to choose from depending on your requirements. Other uses of OCR include personalizing and customizing documents, including fonts, layout, and formatting, to fit your business' needs. Additionally, this technology can read different numerical texts, images, and languages, and convert them without losing any data.

8. Save the Environment


Businesses have a social responsibility to maintain sustainability, not to mention eco-friendliness is valued by customers. Less paper use equals less environmental impact. Plus, digital documents can be emailed rather than faxed, which reduces carbon print.

Investing in this technology is a proactive way to respond to digital trends. Furthermore, OCR seems like the future of document storage. The earlier your business makes this transition, the more competitive advantage you'll get over your less progressive competitors.


About the Author: Yazi is an inspired writer who enjoys writing about personal growth, self-help tips, and women's lifestyle.
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How to Get Bonded Despite Having Bad Credit

Eric Weisbrot photo
by Eric Weisbrot

Having a surety bond is a requirement in many states for several different types of professions. From licensed construction contractors and tradesmen to mortgage brokers and freight brokers, a surety bond helps protect customers against fraudulent or incomplete work.

Financial losses are covered under a surety bond, and the surety agency backing the bond pays the customer for a successful claim. However, the individual owner of the bond repays the claim amount over time. For this reason, having a solid track record of responsible financial management is a must.

Surety agencies want to feel confident that you pay your bills on time, and the best representation of this important information is your credit history and score. When you have a low credit score or a negative credit history, you may think getting a surety bond is out of your reach. The good news is that could not be further from the truth; however, you need to know what it takes to get bonded despite having bad credit. Here are proven tips to help you through the process.

Know Where You Stand


If you haven’t checked your credit in a while but you’re in need of a surety bond for your business, getting an updated credit report is the first step in the process. Many people bury their head in the sand when they have credit blunders on their report, but knowing is half the battle. You can check your credit reports from the three major credit bureaus – Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion – once each year, for free. Getting these  details allows you to know where you stand so you can move forward in the bonding process effectively.

Work to Fix the Negatives


One of the reasons for gathering your credit reports is to uncover any negative items or errors that may be dragging your score down. Negatives may include missed payments on loans or credit cards, bankruptcies, civil judgments, or liens against you or your business. While these play a big part in a low credit score, you may not be able to expedite their removal. However, errors can also drag down your score, including incorrect account details. These can be fixed with a little know-how.

You can use the dispute process through each of the credit bureaus to have errors removed, or you can work with a professional to do so. Either way, getting inaccurate negative marks off your credit will help boost your financial profile before applying for a new bond.

Establish Good Financial Habits


If you have some time before you need to get your surety bond, working on improving your credit history and score is your next best move. This can be done by keeping your financial house in order. On the personal financial front, take care to pay your bills on time each month, and avoid using too much of your available credit when possible. From a business perspective, be sure to have accurate and organized records ready to present to your surety agency. These small steps can go a long way in helping you get a surety bond with bad credit.

Consider Financing


If you don’t have time on your side when it comes to your surety bond, consider your options for financing its purchase. Surety bonds are priced as a percentage of the total bond amount requested. For those with bad credit, this percentage is far higher than those who have a clean bill of financial health. Some surety agencies offer financing for a larger surety bond price. You can also look to outside financing sources, like a loan, line of credit, or credit card for temporary help. If financing is the strategy you take, be sure to read the fine print, taking a close look at the fees associated with stretching out your surety bond premium.

Work with the Right Surety Agency

Finally, working with the right surety agency is a key factor in securing an affordable bond for your business activities. Surety agencies that work with several different bonding partners offer the most flexibility for those who have bad credit. Additionally, the right surety agency will work to understand your circumstances and budget to help you find the best solution available. A good surety company also helps if a claim is made against your bond in the future, which can save you time and money.

Getting a surety bond with bad credit may seem like an impossible task, but you are not completely out of luck. Start by knowing where you stand with your financial history, and take the time to clean up your credit before applying for a new bond. Build up good financial habits when possible, but also consider your options for financing your bond premium if the cost is still too high. Always be sure to work with a surety agency that understands that bad credit happens to get the best bond possible.

About the Author: Eric Weisbrot is the Chief Marketing Officer of JW Surety Bonds. With years of experience in the surety industry under several different roles within the company, he is also a contributing author to the surety bond blog.
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How to Avoid Burnout in Small Business

Whether you’re an entrepreneur trying to get your idea funded or you’re running a small family shop that was passed down to you, it’s easy to feel burned out by your business. Given that we still haven’t achieved pay equality, women have to work especially hard at our trades just to keep up.

Burnout has negative impacts on our health, happiness, and relationships. That’s why it’s so important to recognize potential signs of early burnout and stop it before it takes hold. 1 in 10 businesses fail because of lack of passion, and it’s estimated that negativity costs businesses $300 billion per year.

This infographic from Fundera identifies ways to help you avoid burnout at every stage of your business: funding, marketing, building a team, feeling overwhelmed, and finding a sense of direction. A few simple tips will keep you motivated and excited about your business, ultimately leading to a healthier and happier life.


how-to-avoid-burnout

Graphic by Fundera.com
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How She Does It: Trudie German, Founder of Body Envy

Trudie GermanTrudie German fell in love with the idea of fitness after seeing Angela Bassett’s arms in the 1993
film, “What’s Love Got to Do with It.”

However, the more time she invested, the more she learned about the amazing health and wellness benefits associated with an active lifestyle.

This led to her founding, Body Envy, an in home personal training business in the Greater Toronto area. Body Envy serves a wide range of clients, offering in home and mobile personal training services across the GTA (Greater Toronto Area).

They specialize in various forms of high intensity interval training (HIIT), which focuses on the intensity of your workout, as opposed to the length.



Deb Bailey: Welcome to the Secrets of Success blog, Trudie. So, how did you get started as an entrepreneur?

Trudie German: Great to be here, Deb. I was in the corporate world and I was unhappy there as I felt unfulfilled. I didn't feel as if I was a contributing factor in making a positive difference in the lives of others. I loved training myself and my manager and a few friends of mine suggested that I pursue a career in personal training. At first, I thought it was absurd, but then the more I thought about it, the more natural it seemed.


Deb: Who are your ideal clients?

Trudie: Busy, professional women over 30, and women who want to be physically fit but are pressed for time in their busy lives.


Deb: What are some of your successes and challenges?

Trudie: One of my biggest success is the fact that I'll be part of a panel a Harvard University in February 2019, discussing my entrepreneurial journey. One of the biggest challenges is the mental and emotional aspect of being an entrepreneur. There are days I experience amazing highs and lows in the same hour!


Deb: I'm sure most entrepreneurs can identify with those experiences! What inspires you to do the work you do?

Trudie: Most women, give to everyone else (their family, spouse, career) that they neglect their own needs. I want women to MAKE time for themselves to take care of themselves. They need to understand the importance of their health because without their health they can't take care of the things and people they care about. I want women to not feel guilty about taking time to care of themselves.





Deb: What advice would you give to women entrepreneurs who are just starting out?

Trudie: Have a plan. Make sure in that plan you include a community that includes an amazing network and support system because when the time, gets rough, they'll be your rock.


Deb: What is your favorite activity to relax and unwind?

Trudie: Eat pop-corn and drink Moscatto wine.


Deb: That sounds like a fun combination. What do you wish you could tell your younger self?

Trudie: Be kinder, gentler and nicer to yourself and everyone else. The world isn't as hard and mean as you think.


Trudie German


Deb: One last question, what do you think are the top 3 traits an entrepreneur must have?

Trudie: Perseverance, Tenacity, Resilience
Without these traits, their entrepreneurial journey will be short lived.


Deb: Thanks for stopping by, Trudie. Please share website and social media URLs

Trudie: It was fun, Deb. Here are the URLs.

http://www.bodyenvy.ca

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/bodyenvy1/
LinkedIn: https://www.facebook.com/trudie.german
Facebook: http://www.linkedin.com/in/trudiegerman


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"Why Great Customer Service is a Must for Your Business" with Kerry Heaps on Women Entrepreneurs Radio

Show #479


Kerry Heaps returns as co-host for this conversation about customer service essentials for your business.

We discuss:


  • Steps from sales to customer service
  • Getting referrals from current clients
  • How to give great customer service
  • Tips on customizing the experience for your clients


A seasoned Entrepreneur of 14 years, Kerry Heaps is the Publisher of Pageant Platform Magazine and the Host of Pageant Platform Podcast.  She is also the Founder of Pitch like a B*tch Media, an online resource for Entrepreneurs and Business Owners that want to gain more media exposure and Book.Speak.Repeat. a speaker submission service. 

She is the Author of Pitch like a B*tch, Top 10 tips to pitch like a Pro (December 2018) and the Create your own Media series for Podcasting, Publishing and Publicity.  Kerry has an extensive background in Sales, Networking, Recruiting, and Training. She is a former Model who specialized in Trade Show and Print work, and an experienced judge on the beauty pageant circuit. 


Pitch Like a B*tch Media: www.pitchlikeabitchmedia.com  
Pageant Training:  www.kerrysstudio.com 
Pageant Platform Magazine:  www.pageantplatformmag.com 


Listen on Podomatic:
https://www.podomatic.com/podcasts/dbcoach/episodes/2019-01-31T15_29_13-08_00


Subscribe on iTunes:
https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/women-entrepreneurs-radio/id939410730?mt=2


Listen on Libsyn:
http://womenentrepreneursradio.libsyn.com/why-great-customer-service-is-a-must-for-your-business-with-kerry-heaps





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What Affects the Cost of Surety Bonds

by Eric Weisbrot

Several professions require the purchase of a surety bond to help protect customers from financial loss. While surety bonds a common component of operating a successful and legitimate business, not everyone understands what impacts the cost of a bond or how to go about getting one.

Whether you are a licensed contractor, auto dealer, or mortgage broker, you need to know how surety bond pricing works and the factors that influence its cost.

How Surety Bonds are Priced


A surety bond is meant to provide some financial protection to customers of certain industry professionals. Unlike insurance, a claim against a bond is paid directly to the bond owner’s customer, not the bond owner himself. For this coverage, a surety agency requires a percentage of the bond amount to be paid as the premium. In most cases, the price of a surety bond ranges from 1% to 10% of the total bond amount. Because of this pricing structure, surety bond costs depend heavily on the amount of the bond requested.

Factors that Influence the Cost


In addition to the bond amount dictating the cost, surety bond prices are influenced by other factors as well. These include the following:

Your personal credit – a surety bond is a form of credit extended to you which you must repay if a claim is made against your bond. For this reason, your personal credit history and score drives the bond price. If you have less than perfect credit due to late payments, bankruptcies, or court judgments against you, the percentage of the bond amount you pay will be higher than someone who has strong credit.

Your industry – surety bonds are a required part of the licensing process for many professionals. However, the type of work you do and the location of that work drive the cost of your bond. For instance, licensed construction contractors may require a surety bond for residential work, but most must have a bond in place for commercial projects. The state or city where the work is performed will have guidelines on how much of a bond is required – this dictates the price.

Your claims history – if you have had a surety bond in the past and customers have successfully claimed against it, the price you pay for your bond will likely be higher than a claims-free bondholder. Surety agencies view past claims history as an indicator of risk, and the more claims you have, the higher the risk you pose to the agency.

Your business history – if you’re just getting starting in a new industry or starting your own business, a surety bond may be more expensive. This is because the surety agency doesn’t have much to go on as far as evaluating your character, your track record of working with customers or clients, or your business financials. You may be viewed as a higher risk because of a minimal business history, but this does not exclude you from getting the surety bond you need. It simply means your first bond price may be higher than other industry professionals.

Getting an Affordable Bond


Although the cost of a surety bond varies greatly from one person to the next, you are able to get an affordable bond by preparing in advance. Working to clean up your credit before applying for a new surety bond helps tremendously, as does having your personal and business records organized and accurate. You should also be sure to work with a surety agency that partners with several different bond providers who offer programs for individuals with bad credit or a frequent claims history. Taking these small steps can help you get the bond you need for your business both now and in the future.

About the Author: Eric Weisbrot is the Chief Marketing Officer of JW Surety Bonds. With years of experience in the surety industry under several different roles within the company, he is also a contributing author to the surety bond blog.


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Scents That Will Make You More Productive

Imagine a day full of meetings and long discussions about a new project, when the day is over it’s time for household chores or taking care of the children. Then you happen to smell a familiar fragrance that inspires you to close your eyes, take a deep breath and feel revitalized. That is the magic of aromatherapy. It can help energize, or it can give you a break from your tensions and worries and makes you feel rejuvenated.

To help you find the aromatherapy scent that’s right for you, FragranceX found 12 wonderful herbs and natural scents that will boost your productivity and help you concentrate longer and harder.

Rosemary: This household herb not only makes steak taste better but also increases alertness and memory.

Vetiver: This garden plant is used to improve brain function and boost concentration. A group of ADHD participants who inhaled vetiver noticed enhanced brain patterns and decreased indicators.

Coffee: Have you ever been charged up while passing through Starbucks in a mall? That is because coffee enhances analytical reasoning and promotes attentiveness. Yes, even just the scent of it!

Lemon: The scent of lemon is invigorating and awakening. This wonderful fruit arouses the senses and makes you more alert and energetic.

Jasmine: This little white flower does wonderful things to improve productivity. It re-energizes the body and lifts the mood. This flower is also used in many Asian temples to detach you from the worries and meditate deeply.

Citrus: The fragrance of citrus increases physical activity and shortens response time.

Cinnamon: That little stick used for baking is the best option to keep close when you need heightened attention and increased motor response.

Peppermint: This herb is known to improve alertness and performance. No wonder this flavor is used in majority toothpaste to help you wake up fresh.

Ginger: This versatile root is used to fight fatigue and ease pain. Its aroma encourages appetite and helps you digest food, fueling you for the day ahead!

Pine: This wintery fragrance elevates the mood and increases alertness. In fact, studies show that walking through a pine forest can elevate the mood and fight depression.

Lemongrass: This fragrant plant reduces stress and eases anxiety. Add a little bit of lemongrass to green tea and feel relaxed and energized.

Lavender: Lavender helps create a deep concentration and helps you focus more. Don’t forget to plant those lovelies this spring for better results.

infographic


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How you do anything is how you do everything, or is it?

by Chris Atley

I remember when I first heard the saying; “how you do anything is how you do everything.”

It rang true right away. How we honour our time and our commitments (or don’t), reflects all areas of life and how we show-up.

If we are never giving ourselves enough time, we therefore run late and therefore don’t’ show-up as our best selves and it impacts how other view us, and therefore lack of results we’re wanting. It’s a bit of a downward spiral of less than stellar results.

One of my other mentors added in; “how we do anything is how we do everything, until it’s not.”

This also rang true.

Sometimes there are exceptions, and situations out of our control that we must attend to. It’s not always so cut and dry.

So how do we know when this is a pattern or a one off?

Well, a good rule of thumb is if it’s happening 3 times or more. That’s a good indication that it’s now actually a habit and not just “a one off” situation”.

If we’re making disempowered decision habitually, we first need to draw awareness to the issue. Where are your decisions causing overwhelm and stress. What are the effects of these decisions? How are they leading to negative results?

This really involved taking an honest look though.

We have to be honest with ourselves, and this is usually what people (myself included) tend to hold back. It hurts deep down to admit we’re less than perfect and making a mistake, well for recovering perfectionists like me ;-) We deep down feel like we’re flawed in some way, which leads to feeling like a bad person. We subconsciously try to avoid this like the plague.

Instead we need to see it for what it is – it’s okay to make mistakes. There is no such thing as failure, only feedback. We learn from every single thing we do, and we must keep putting ourselves out there in rode rot learn and grow. It’s okay if it doesn’t go as planned.

So with time and commitments, look at where you’re really falling short. And if you immediately get defensive, or want to say “ya but…” and think you have a good reason, you are lying to yourself. And it’s how your suspicion is keeping you stuck. As soon as you can see where you are falling short without feeling like a bad person, you are 1000 times ahead of the game! This is huge!

Get curious, look at what’s not working and why, how you talk yourself out of honouring your 5 days a week going to the gym, or meditating in the morning, whatever it is for you, and look at it objectively. Tweak what isn’t working and for only make commitments you know you can keep. Set yourself up for success. Maybe it’s a bit of a stretch, but you know you can make it happen. Start there and build.

If time is an issue, start scheduling in more time then you think you need. And really take a look at how you are making your decisions in the first place – are they from fear or some type of lack, like not enough time?

When making decisions, it’s also important to look at what the pros and cons (consequences) are for making the decision at hand, and will ti take you closer or farther away from your goal?

You will definitely shift things if you do the above. Over and over. It’s a contact work in progress and wake-up call for all of us.


Written by Success Speaker & Coach Chris Atley, CEO of Chris Atley LLC ~ Decisions by Design. For complimentary success tips for business and life, please visit www.chrisatley.com.

Picture credit:
unsplash-logoAnthony Tran
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Martin Luther King Jr Day - A Day of Service

"Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly. I can never be what I ought to be until you are what you ought to be. This is the interrelated structure of reality." -Martin Luther King, Jr.


Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was a vital figure of the modern era and a pivotal figure in the Civil Rights Movement. His lectures and dialogues stirred the concern and sparked the conscience of a generation. His charismatic leadership inspired men and women, young and old, in this nation and around the world.

After a long struggle, legislation was signed in 1983 creating a federal holiday marking the birthday of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

In 1994, Congress designated the Martin Luther King Jr. Federal Holiday as a national day of service and charged the Corporation for National and Community Service with leading this effort. Taking place each year on the third Monday in January, the MLK Day of Service is the only federal holiday observed as a national day of service – a "day on, not a day off."

It calls for Americans from all walks of life to work together to provide solutions to our most pressing national problems. The MLK Day of Service empowers individuals, strengthens communities, bridges barriers, creates solutions to social problems, and moves us closer to Dr. King's vision of a "Beloved Community."
- from http://mlkday.gov/index.php


Recently Discovered 1964 MLK Speech on Civil Rights, Segregation & Apartheid South Africa
http://www.democracynow.org/2015/1/19/exclusive_newly_discovered_1964_mlk_speech


MLK biography on Nobel Prize.org
http://nobelprize.org/nobel_prizes/peace/laureates/1964/king-bio.html

The King Center
http://www.thekingcenter.org/

MLK Research and Education Institute
http://mlk-kpp01.stanford.edu/

The "I Have a Dream" speech audio and video
http://www.americanrhetoric.com/speeches/mlkihaveadream.htm

The Greatest MLK Speeches You Never Heard
http://www.cnn.com/2014/01/19/us/king-speeches-never-heard/index.html?sr=sharebar_twitter

The "Beyond Vietnam -- A Time to Break Silence" Speech
http://www.americanrhetoric.com/speeches/mlkatimetobreaksilence.htm

"The Drum Major Instinct" Speech
http://mlk-kpp01.stanford.edu/index.php/encyclopedia/documentsentry/doc_the_drum_major_instinct/

MLK Day on Twitter
https://twitter.com/mlkday

MLK Now on Twitter
https://twitter.com/UnitedBlackout


Set New Writing Goals for the New Year


by Author Kelli A. Wilkins
www.KelliWilkins.com


Hi everyone,

It’s the start of another year, and everyone is talking about making changes and setting goals for themselves. And why not? We have brand-new calendars hanging on our walls that are filled with unexplored days yet to come.

But do you find yourself gazing at your new calendar and wondering, “How is it 2019? Where did last year go? I had all those plans…”

If so, don’t stress out. Not everyone accomplishes every goal they set for themselves. Take some time to look back at what you achieved last year and start thinking about this year. Evaluating your writing goals and setting reasonable action steps now will help you get on target for 2019.

Perhaps you took time off from writing and want to get back in the swing of things. Maybe your writing muse went on vacation to Hawaii and hasn’t come back yet. That’s okay. It’s fine to take a break from writing for a while—but not too long. (If you rest too long, you’ll rust!) Writing exercises, journaling, and freewriting story ideas are great ways to revive your motivation.

Keep in mind that everyone’s writing career and writing goals are different. Think about what you want for you. Do you want to finish the novel you started last year (or haven’t started yet)? Send out a dozen short stories? Enter a contest?

If you write magazine articles, are there any major publications you’re targeting? Start brainstorming ideas now, make a list of places to send queries, and check out potential markets for their latest submission guidelines. (It’s also time to be thinking 3 to 6 months ahead and plan those spring and summer articles.)

Write fiction? Have you found any new markets? Signed up for online market newsletters? If you’re published in one genre (say, romance or horror), are you going to expand your horizons and write a different type of story this year?

Is the writing part going fine, but you need to develop (or enhance) your online profile and/or marketing? Explore writing-related websites and blogs, Yahoo Groups, social media groups, and advertising opportunities for your work. Are your blog, website, and author page(s) up-to-date? Should they get a refresh (or a major overhaul) for the new year?

Make a list of all you want to accomplish in the next few weeks and months. Having a list of projects and priorities will help keep your writing objectives on track. For example, if you want to explore new markets for your short story, put “find new markets” on your list.

If you’re determined to write a new book, make a timeline for research, character development, plotting, etc. Give yourself a deadline for when you want to start writing and stick to it. Decide how many pages or chapters you want to finish each day/week/month. Little by little, your book will take shape, and you’ll be amazed at your progress.

No matter what your writing goals are, a little pre-planning will help you focus and allow you to flow from one writing project to another. Preparation also keeps you motivated and fends off writer’s block, because you always have “the next thing” to work on.

When you write down your goals, start your sentences with a positive statement, such as: “I will finish the rough draft of my novel by June 1” or “I will submit six articles to magazines.” After you’ve made the list, note what you need to do to get started. This could include setting aside specific times to write each day, getting writer’s guidelines, or sending out query letters. Then, pick one project (the most time-sensitive one, or your personal favorite), and get to work. Spend time targeting your goals now, and you’ll be on your way to success!

But keep a balance. Don’t let yourself become so goal oriented that you burn yourself out, stress yourself half to death, and let the writing life take the place of your real life. (Believe me, I’ve been there and I’ve learned.)

Family, friends, pets, neighbors, and having fun are all important parts of being alive. Make time for your writing, but also make time for yourself and those you love. (Yes, it’s perfectly okay to leave the husband parked in front of a movie and go write for two hours. But make sure when you turn the computer off, you focus on the present moment.)

Every new day is bursting with hope, possibilities, and opportunities to make this year really great. Set some goals for yourself. Write as much as you need to (or want to), and then sit in the yard and watch the world go by for an hour. You’re worth it!

If you’re interested in learning more about the writing process and want expert tips and writing advice, why not check out my online writing course? Fiction Writing for Beginners is designed for anyone who is interested in writing and needs practical advice on how to get started, PLUS motivation and encouragement to keep writing.

Thirteen easy-to-follow classes cover the writing process from start to finish. You’ll learn where writers get ideas, how to create characters, get expert tips on writing your story, and find out how to submit it for publication. Everything you need to know to start writing is wrapped up in this comprehensive and fun course.

Each class is self-contained and self-directed. This way, you can learn about a specific topic at your own pace, and not worry about completing the class by a certain deadline. Short writing exercises at the end of each class highlight the subject matter and get you writing.

If you’ve always wanted to write, Fiction Writing for Beginners gives you all the tools you need. Visit the course page and enroll here: https://kelliwilkins.teachable.com/

Enroll today and start writing tomorrow!

Happy Reading and Writing!



ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Kelli A. Wilkins is an award-winning author who has published more than 100 short stories, 19 romance novels, and 5 non-fiction books. Her romances span many genres and heat levels, and she’s also been known to scare readers with her horror stories.
In January 2019 Kelli released the second half of her new flash fiction series, Cupid’s Schemes. These two volumes of lighthearted mini-romances are perfect reads for a quick lunchtime escape or an after-work indulgence.

She also authored her first online writing course, Fiction Writing for Beginners, through Teachable. This course is perfect for anyone who wants to learn how to write. Visit: https://kelliwilkins.teachable.com/ for more details.

Kelli’s historical romance, Redemption from a Dark Past, was published in 2018. This full-length Gothic novel is set in the kingdom of Hungary in 1723 and blends a sensual romance with mystery and suspense.

If you like horror fiction, don’t miss her latest novella, Nightmare in the North.
Kelli posts on her Facebook author page: https://www.facebook.com/AuthorKelliWilkins and Twitter: www.Twitter.com/KWilkinsauthor.
Visit her website www.KelliWilkins.com and blog http://kelliwilkinsauthor.blogspot.com/ to learn more about all of her writings.

CATCH UP WITH KELLI

Here’s a full list of where you can find Kelli on the web.
Website: http://www.KelliWilkins.com
Blog: http://kelliwilkinsauthor.blogspot.com/
Amazon Author Page: www.amazon.com/author/kelliwilkins
Twitter: www.Twitter.com/KWilkinsauthor

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Why Is In-Store Shopping More Popular Than Online Shopping?

Some people just love shopping. Some hate it like anything. But whether you like it or not, none of us can live without it. Food, home supplies, and clothes are things all of us need.

At least nowadays we have more shopping options. You can walk into your favorite store and take your time picking things you need. Or you can order a month’s home supplies with just a few clicks while watching the favorite TV show.

No matter how convenient online shopping is, it is still far behind in-store shopping.

This is clearly visible in the infographic below created by RedBrain. According to it, all big brands earn more revenue through their retail than online stores.

For instance, in 2017, Walmart’s in-store revenue was $461.9 billion while online revenue amounted to just $15.316 billion.

There are many reasons why in-store shopping is still more popular. The three most important are explained below.


We Can Use All Our Senses to Experience Products


There’s a lot more to shopping than just deciding your preferences, comparing specifications of different products, and hunting for the best deal. Before consumers buy something, they want to make sure in all possible ways that the product is perfect for them.

We want to know how comfortable this mattress is, how the fabric of that new shirt feels, how this perfume smells, or how well that jewelry looks on us.

Such information can’t be obtained online.


We Can Buy Urgently


If you suddenly find that the shirt you were planning to wear for tomorrow’s interview doesn’t fit you anymore, only in-store shopping can save the day for you.

When you need to buy something at the drop of a hat, online shopping is just not an option.


We Can Get Much Needed Advice


If you need an informed second opinion about a product or want to understand how a technical product fits your need, talking to a store employee in person can help you acquire the necessary information and make an informed purchasing decision.


Have a look at the following infographic to see how all of this holds true from major brands. Although ecommerce stores are becoming increasingly popular, people still prefer high streets and malls.

infographic



Infographic from RedBrain 
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5 Practical Ways to Increase User Engagement on a Website

working people in an office
by Yazi

Building a successful website requires more than delivering high-quality content that is relevant to your visitors.

Knowing how to engage users on your website and to keep them coming back for more is essential for long-term success in an ever-changing landscape in the technology industry.

Once you understanding how to increase website engagement, move forward with your content and marketing strategies to maximize your online reach and the exposure your site receives.

1. Responsive and Mobile-Friendly Design


In the past, users often browsed the web using traditional desktop computers with standard web browsers. With the advent of smartphone technology, more users are browsing online with their mobile phones than ever.

Ensure your website is utilizing a responsive and mobile-friendly design before you begin promoting and marketing it to potential visitors and prospective customers.

Responsive design that is mobile-friendly ensures that visitors using any device whether it is a personal computer, laptop, tablet, or mobile phone are capable of browsing your website and viewing it properly.

2. Integrate Social Media Plugins


Social media has made it easier than ever for brands and followers to communicate and keep in touch. Implement social media plugins into your website, allowing users to easily share and redistribute content they enjoy with friends and family members.

Social media plugins work well to encourage engagement as they often do not require users to log in or share personal information in order to share content within seconds.

Implement social media plugins with your website's blog, incentivizing your visitors to share their favorite content on platforms such as Facebook and Twitter.

3. Create Original, Unique, and Engaging Content


When users visit your website and find content that has been written and shared thousands of times already, they are less likely to return or spread the message of your site and what it represents.

Crafting original, unique, and engaging content is key to building a following and momentum online. Research keywords and phrases that are most relevant to your website while brainstorming new ideas.

Publish in-depth write-ups on content you are passionate about that is difficult to find elsewhere online. The more your website's content stands out, the easier it is to attract new visitors who have a genuine interest in learning more about what you have to say.

4. Choose The Right Hosting To Cope With Surges


The ultimate UX faux pas is for your site to crash due to a sudden surge in traffic. One of the biggest ways to increase user engagement on the website and reduce dropouts is to choose a web host that is capable of handling your site's traffic and any traffic surges you mabe experience.

When a website takes more than a few seconds to load, users are likely to seek information elsewhere. In a world where information and results are available on a whim immediately, having a website that loads fast at all times is a must.

Websites that lag while loading have a much higher bounce rate compared to sites that load instantaneously. Choose a web host that has the ability to handle traffic surges, large websites, and even sites using a CMS (Content Management System) such as WordPress, Drupal, and Joomla.

If you don’t know how to choose the best and most suitable web host for your situation, do some research or talk to the service provider to find out what will be the most cost-effective choice. If you’re launching two or more sites, VPS hosting can be a suitable option as you need additional resources to handle multiple sites. For some others, cloud hosting might be more appropriate.

5. Implement Interactive Tools for Your Users to Enjoy


Increase the engagement on your website by sharing interactive tools and solutions for your users. Want to learn more about how your visitors feel about content or products you promote?

Use an interactive poll that shows immediate results. Live-streaming each week is another way to keep loyal followers interested in what you say and share. Create a sense of community with online forums and message boards that encourage engagement and registration.

Offer a weekly or monthly newsletter that provides users with exclusive discounts and promotions that are unavailable anywhere else online.

Conclusion


Having a clear understanding of how to properly increase website engagement is a way to boost your site's online organic visibility and your brand's overall reputation. With the right tools, create an online presence that is fast-loading, relevant, and offers content that leaves your visitors wanting for more.

About the Author: Yazi is an inspired writer who enjoys writing about personal growth, self-help tips, and women's lifestyle.


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Costly Ecommerce Store Mistakes

If you have been running an ecommerce store for a while now, you would already know how certain mistakes can cost you big.

Undoubtedly, selling products online is not an easy task. From uploading wrong product images to the poor check-out interface, a single mistake can make you lose your loyal customers.

Thanks to the people over at subscriptionly.net this could be a thing of the past. Check out their infographic below to stay up to date with the current trends in the ecommerce world.

Meanwhile, let’s have a look at a few mistakes that you should avoid making.

Wrong Product Descriptions


It goes without saying that the product descriptions play an important role. Your customers cannot see and touch the product in person, so the only way they get to know more about it is with the help of product description.

Thus, if a cotton top is being labeled as rayon, or a 6-size footwear is being sized as 8, you’re surely going to lose customers by providing them a poor experience.

Including Products That Are Out Of Stock


So you are running an ongoing promotional campaign for discounted products. The products look great and are available at half the price.

But wait. Whenever someone clicks on the product, it says ‘out of stock.’ This tarnishes your brand image, and in some cases, customers do not return to your store as this kills their time.

Thus, it is highly recommended to keep your inventory in check and exclude the products which are out of stock. Further, make sure that your advertising campaigns are in line with your actual inventory.

Popups Are Irritating


After the customers land on your website, if they have to go through several survey forms to reach the product page, then chances are high that they won’t visit you again.

It is highly recommended to provide the best shopping experience to your customers and do not irritate them with something they are not looking for.

Complex Ordering Process


Last but not the least, make sure that the entire process of ordering the products is simple and easy. It is highly recommended to use the minimum text fields to display all the important information regarding the order.

Further, try to display all the information on a single page so that your customers don’t have to jump multiple pages to edit or modify their orders.

These were a few common mistakes that you need to stop making. Apparently, the ecommerce industry has evolved a lot over the last few years and there is no room for making a single error.

To learn about more tips and tricks for the ecommerce industry, check out the infographic below!

infographic

Infographic from subscriptionly.net
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Local SEO Tips for Small Business

desktop
Image Source: Unsplash
by Maia Fletcher

For the uninitiated, any acronym is intimidating, and SEO is no exception. Fortunately for all small business owners, however, Search Engine Optimisation is a much easier beast to master than it may seem - and in this internet-driven day and age, your marketing strategy simply has to rise to that mastery. Eager to know how to improve website traffic and increase the amount of web results for your business? Read on: we’ve put together a list of simple-yet-effective online marketing tips to get you on top of everything SEO-related in no time.

1. Spend time building your website


It can be all too easy to overlook the importance of website construction if – as is the case with many small business owners – your time and energy is already stretched to the max. Believe us when we say this, though: your website is your main means of publicity in the Google era, so you’ll want to ensure that it’s well-designed, optimised for mobile use, and easy to find through a simple web search. We recommend going through a plugin like Wordpress – not only it the extension designed for beginners, it’ll speed up loading times for users. Developing a strong strategy for your website management will yield serious rewards in the long-term, so get started now!

2. Tap into the Google My Business scheme

Google My Business is behind those all-important results that pop up on the right hand of the screen when a search is conducted for local businesses. Registering is totally free and easy, and the significant upshot is that your business name, address, phone number, hours and other relevant business information will appear on the first page of results even before the searcher clicks on your website. Google My Business is a key component in making your company stand out for the local crowd.

3. Create a blog to run alongside your homepage website

These days, you’re mistaken if you don’t take advantage of all the possible media platforms on offer. In fact, launching your own unique business blog to advertise your services in an appealing manner could be the difference between a customer choosing your company over another. But whatever you do, keep consistent – no one will want to return to a blog that either hasn’t been updated in years or is simply missing the mark for relevance. If you need some help in the salience arena, consider getting some advice from a professional agency: though you might be cautious about shelling out for a few words of insider knowledge, the experts may just offer the specially-catered ideas that will help get your business off the ground.

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Image Source: Unsplash


4. Google Analytics is your friend

Another Google-specific tip: set up Google Analytics. You’ll need a Gmail account first, but from there you should be able to quickly and easily set up Analytics. You’ll subsequently be able to view (among many other stats) the number of hits your website’s getting, and whether the site visitor in new or returning. A cost-effective marketing strategy that permits you an essential omniscience, exploiting Google Analytics to your advantage will let you in on the adjustments you need to make to perfect your business’ SEO.

5. Be patient

Patience occupies an integral role where local SEO tips for small businesses are concerned. Most people just starting out with SEO are likely to feel frustrated with how long it takes for keyword rankings and traffic levels to improve, however even the most established website was unknown to begin with. This was the position of New Zealand’s SEA Containers, who entered an already competitive marketplace against well-established competitors but managed rapid growth through the successful implantation of local SEO optimisation. Popularising your site with in-store customers or through email is a good way to build up initial traffic, and your success is guaranteed to grow (however slowly!) from there.


About the Author: Gisborne-based freelance writer Maia Fletcher writes content on a vast array of topics. She is especially fond of local travel and business news. When not busy at her laptop, you’ll find her watching history documentaries or enjoying huge sashimi plates of scallops, ahi tuna and salmon! If you would like to connect with her, follow her on WordPress.
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How She Does It: Patricia Mota, President & CEO of The Hispanic Alliance for Career Enhancement


Patricia Mota of HACE
Patricia Mota, President & CEO, of,The Hispanic Alliance for Career Enhancement (HACE).


Patricia is a passionate, innovative trailblazer, dedicated to the advancement and empowerment of Latinos across various stages in their education and career. 

With over 10 years of demonstrated success in leading this personal mission via building effective programs and strategic partnerships, Patricia works to strengthen and expand the Hispanic Alliance for Career Enhancement’s (HACE) mission, brand, and impact across the country. 

Patricia serves as the President & CEO for the HACE, leading strategy, fundraising & development, professional and student leadership programs, and expanding organizational reach on a national scale. Patricia strives to engage experienced professionals as mentors and advisors to create a multi-generational network to support Latinos’ career growth around the country.

About HACE


The Hispanic Alliance for Career Enhancement (HACE) is a national nonprofit dedicated to the employment, development, and advancement of Latino professionals. HACE is committed to helping Latinos succeed in every phase of their careers. For HACE members, achieving an entry level position is the starting point, not the goal. https://haceonline.org


HACE logo

Deb Bailey: Welcome to the Secrets of Success blog, Patricia. How did you get started as an entrepreneur?


Patricia Mota: Great to be here, Deb. As a Mexican American woman, I’ve observed and experienced education and career-opportunity gaps firsthand throughout my life. These experiences have always been shocking and eye-opening to me, but I came to understand how common they are and how widely they affect the Latino community. I realized that, unfortunately, these experiences were not unique to me. I decided to dedicate my career to the advancement and empowerment of Latinos, and that’s how I landed at HACE. 

First, I served as director of membership outreach, then as senior director of strategic initiatives, and I now serve as president and CEO, a role I earned after leading significant growth for HACE’s partnerships and programming, as well as truly understanding the challenges and goals of the organization. I’m honored today to be in a leadership role at such an incredible organization that I hope will influence and champion Latino professionals across the country.


Deb: What have been some of your successes and challenges?

Patricia: At HACE, I’m extremely proud of how much the organization has grown. In my time here, I’ve helped to bring in more than $1.5 million in new partnerships, increased memberships by 67 percent, expanded our El Futuro High School Program and more, contributing to positive impact on over 25,000 students and professionals. 

I also launched the Mujeres de HACE women’s leadership program which has empowered more than 800 women nationally to grow professionally, break down barriers and succeed. Now in its 10th year, Mujeres de HACE is expanding to San Francisco and Atlanta for the first time. I know our partnerships with corporations across the country – including AT&T, JLL, ConocoPhillips, Nielsen, NBCUniversal, American Express and others – are making a real impact on people’s careers. 

However, we are still challenged with persistent biases in the workplace that limit Latino advancement, and there are not nearly enough Latino professionals in leadership roles. We are on our way to changing that, but we’re not there yet. 


Deb: What inspires you to do the work you do?

Patricia: The smart, talented and visionary Latinos I encounter every day are the people who inspire me to do this work. There are many obstacles in the workplace that keep people from being their full authentic selves, which is not only limiting for Latino people, but it can squash the potential for brilliant, authentic ideas as well. With HACE, I’m committed to changing that culture so that Latinos have the confidence and the tools they need to rise to the top and enact positive change on others.


Deb: What’s your vision for HACE?

Patricia: My vision is for HACE is to play a leading role in inspiring and enabling Latino success in the workplace. That means encouraging employers of all sizes and in all industries to build an intentional, organizational commitment to fostering Latino success at all levels. HACE believes management teams must dedicate themselves wholly to a diversity and inclusion ethos, not simply check a box. 

We’ve made great progress so far, but we’ve still got plenty of work to do to ensure Latino people are achieving their full potential. And this goal isn’t one-sided – it benefits companies, too. Meaningful, sustainable D&I efforts have been proven to bolster corporate performance and the bottom line.

Patricia Mota of HACE



Deb: Correct. It's a win for everyone. So, when it comes to small business, what advice would you give to women entrepreneurs who are just starting out?

Patricia: I would tell young women who are early on in their career that, unfortunately, there are still hurdles they will have to overcome because they are female. There are moments I remember when I was passed up for a promotion or overlooked for an opportunity because I didn’t look or act a certain way. Sometimes, we just have to work harder. 

As a woman, you are held to higher standards, but you hold a set of incredibly important perspectives, and those voices and ideas are becoming increasingly more valued in the workplace. As they should be. Today, more and more companies and leaders know that diverse ideas lead to new ways of thinking, more informed decision-making and better business results. Businesses can no longer ignore those perspectives, so make sure your voice is heard.


Deb: What do you think are the top 3 traits an entrepreneur must have?

Patricia: I think the most important is to be yourself. For people with diverse backgrounds, there has historically been pressure to blend in and hide what makes you unique. However, it’s critical to bring your authentic self to work every day. I think the most successful people feel comfortable in their skin – they don’t need to spend time and energy hiding who they are. Instead, they can focus on their own development and success. 

The second trait is empathy, or a willingness to put yourself in someone else’s shoes. No two people see a challenge or a problem the same way. Often the best way to succeed and solve problems is to work with other people with different perspectives. 

Finally, don’t be too humble. Humility is important. But among Latino professionals, our culture has instilled in many of us the tendency to be too respectful and polite, sometimes in a way that can make us less assertive and less likely to stand up for our ideas. I encourage all entrepreneurs to be proud of your work and stand up for what you believe.



Deb: Terrific advice. Thanks for joining me today, Patricia. But before you go, please share, what you wish you could tell your younger self?

Patricia: In my role at HACE, I’ve witnessed the value of strong mentors in the development of young people. I’ve had many important mentors throughout my life who have positively impacted me in ways I didn’t even realize at the time. I would tell my younger self to always be cultivating those critical relationships, as I tell other young professionals today. In my role now, I strive to be that mentor for others. 

I’d also tell myself that progress and change haven’t happened as quickly as I would have hoped. Inclusion and diversity aren’t where they need to be. There are barriers in the workplace today that should be long gone – because of this, I’d tell my younger self to keep working hard toward these goals, and to be resilient in the face of adversity and obstacles.



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New Year’s Resolutions are Like Going to the Dentist

by Chris Atley

Most people set New Year’s resolutions and they fail. It’s like going to the dentist. You have the best intentions to floss every single day after the hygienist reprimands you during your routine check-up, but you don’t. Then you feel bad for not doing it. Shame discussion to follow ;-)

Let’s tune into what’s really going on and how to make your commitments stick.

1. Their expectations are too high. 


They start of with great intentions, but they aren’t realistic. For example, to say you are going to work out 5 times a week when you haven’t been doing it all is a recipe for failure. The lofty goal becomes overwhelming and then you likely won’t go at all! Choose what is manageable and reasonable for you now. You can increase it later. Once you shift your environment to accommodate your workouts, it will be easier to shift more and add in more.

2. Most people aren’t even doing the above. 


They say they want to do something or achieve something and don’t map out what they need to do monthly / weekly / daily to make it happen. You must make a plan to achieve your goal. If it’s hitting an income goal, what do you need to do every day to make it happen? What is going to throw you off course and what will help you stick to it? What support do you need to have in place?

3. Making goals from fear. 


Check-in and look at why you’re really setting your goals. Are they based on “shoulds” or “have to’s” or maybe even coming from a place of Keeping up with the Jones’? If any of these apply, you’re coming from a place of fear (ego) not love (source). Check-in and make sure any goals you set are truly coming from your heart and are based on what you want to achieve.

My absolute favourite way to set goals is to take some time looking at the ideal lifestyle you want to have. Allow yourself to dream big and hand write (connects more powerfully to the subconscious), everything you would like to be, do or have in 2019. This will then help you to then set meaningful goals.

Also note that I said BE in 2019. Who do you want to become over the course of the year? How do you want to feel? This is the most important piece. The material stuff doesn’t matter in the end. For example, if it’s freedom, how will you know you’re free? How does that feel? What needs to happen?

I promised to circle back around regarding shame. You’re not a bad person if you don’t floss or hit your goals. Don’t listen to your ego. It just means something needs to shift internally in your decision making process in order to achieve your goals. Go curious instead of judging.

Where did you get off track? How did you talk yourself into it? What resources do you now need in order to stay on track? What beliefs do you need to add in or let go of in order to be the person you need to become who does achieve their goals? You can do this. I know with all of my heart you can.

Keep me posted xo


Written by Success Speaker & Coach Chris Atley, CEO of Chris Atley LLC ~ Decisions by Design. For complimentary success tips for business and life, please visit www.chrisatley.com.


Picture credit: CreateHer Stock
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What to Do Instead of Making New Year's Resolutions

It’s a New Year and it’s tempting to create yet another list of resolutions.

But there’s a better way. How about giving this a try instead…

1. Decide What You Don't Want this Year

Years ago I wrote down a bunch of goals for myself. Needless to say, the sheer number of them ended up overwhelming me, and I didn’t end up getting many of them achieved.

So instead of getting lost in goals and more goals, start by deciding what you want to eliminate from your life. Not sure where to begin? Make a list of the things you don’t want to experience this year — or ever again.

I saw a joke that said, “my resume is filled with things I never want to do again.” Once you decide what you don’t want for 2015, what behaviors can you change right now?

How about things like getting out of a dead-end job, paying down credit card debt, or adding exercise to your life? It could be as simple as sending out a resume a day. Or networking with one new person a week. Or taking a daily walk, or picking a healthy food choice.

Decide what you want to release in your life, then pick one thing you can do to reinforce that.

2. Write it Down


Maybe you’re really not into journaling, and if not, that’s okay. But writing down what you don’t want will help you get your desires out of your head and into reality.

For instance, if you want to reduce credit card debt, list the actions you can take to get started. If you write down something like, “stop impulse buying,” you’ve identified something you can stop doing right away.

Instead of writing down a goal and having no idea how to reach it, you now have an action step to take.

3. Keep it Simple & Don't Dwell on the Past


Unfortunately, having a long list of things we don’t want can be just as oppressive as holding on to a list of goals we’re always stretching to reach. Keep it simple by starting with the items that you feel are the big irritations in your life.

It takes a while to get used to new habits. And in my opinion, it takes a hell of a lot more time than the 21 or so days it’s “supposed” to take.

Forget about what hasn’t happened in the past. That’s over now. Be willing to take baby steps. No matter how small the action, you’re still making progress.

Remember, we’re always reinventing ourselves, not only at the beginning of the year, but throughout our lives.


Copyright © 2015 - 2019 Deborah A. Bailey

Originally posted on DBaileyCoach.com

Picture credit: unsplash-logoBrooke Lark
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