[Featured: Relevant Entrepreneur] Defining Your Core Values in Life + Business

[This post was originally published as a guest blog contributor for Relevant Entrepreneur .  Check out their site for resources to help you build a God-centered business.]

Have you ever felt lost in a sea of competitors?  Does the thought of making a million CEO decisions stress you out?  Are you wondering how you could create work/life balance, and create a personal brand that’s true to who God created you to be?  

When I started my business, I had a clear mission in mind -- to equip Christian women with the skills and tools they need to lead their companies well.    

I was on fire to pursue my calling, and loved every minute of it.  I created new resources and offerings, connected with like-minded ladies, and impacted people along the way.  It wasn’t until my family moved and I expanded my practice online that I started to compare myself to other coaches, get overwhelmed with decision fatigue, and began to doubt what I had to offer.  

This led to a business I no longer loved.  

So what happened?  In the hustle, I lost sight of honoring my core values.  Core values are the things that are unique, important, and true to you.  Core values are the way God specifically designed you.  Core values are characteristics of your beliefs and the motivations for your actions.  

The good news is when you identify your core values, you can align your actions to what’s most important to you, resulting in a fulfilled life and business.

This this article, I'll walk you through some soul-searching questions that will help you uncover YOUR unique core values. 

Head on over to the Relevant Entrepreneur to figure out how to create your guiding principles AND be connected with more amazing resources that will help you along your entrepreneurial journey.  

With joy, 

10 Online Business Apps I Can't Live Without

Since I run my business mainly online, I have a list of my go-to apps and tools that I use regularly to better organize and streamline my processes and systems.  I’ve been getting more and more questions about tools and apps preferences so I thought I would do a round-up of the online software I use as a coach and entrepreneur.  Although I do recommend doing your research to see what is the best fit for you, ultimately most apps are super similar so as long as you choose one to test it out and incorporate it, you can always switch or upgrade down the road because your needs will change.  

1. Trello | For Organization & Business Systems
Trello is like an online pin board that is visual and versatile.  Before using Trello, I would use a paper planner to write down a huge list of tasks and to-dos, and post-it notes to keep track of what I need to get done.  The problem was that I was wasting time writing and re-writing my projects and it didn’t capture everything that I needed to do.  

So, I began using Trello as a project management system, weekly/daily to-do lists, digital marketing content planner and calendar, and keep track of my business systems and CRM (yes, I even use it to keep track of my leads and who I need to follow up with).  Trello includes boards, lists, and cards that you can add due dates, delegate to team members, select files, and categorize.  I keep finding new ways to use it, and so far, am loving it! 

I'm even using it now with my VA, where we have a board to keep track of weekly and monthly to-dos, so we can keep track of what needs to get done.  It can also integrate with Slack for communication, although I haven't tested out this feature yet.  


2. Dubsado |  Invoice, Contracts, & CRM
I recently started using Dubsado for my invoice, contracts, and CRM system but I'm liking it so far!  It's nice to have a "hub" to take care of all of my "front-end" lead to clients processes, making it all simple, and adjustable to my branding and preferences.  It does take a little bit of time to set up but their customer service is AMAZING, prompt, and helpful and offers help to get you all set up.  Before this, I was using different apps to invoice, send contracts, and follow up with emails, so I like having ONE hub for everything.  It also has a feature for workflows so you can keep track of the progress on all of your different projects AND they are consistently working to improve and add various features.  

If you'd like to receive 20% your first month or YEAR of Dubsado, then use the code "shichencoaching" as a special offer!  

3. Hootsuite & Later | Social Media Scheduling
Social media marketing is essential for an online business.  I typically like to create content in bulk and use an app like Hootsuite to schedule my posts.  The free version only allows for 3 platforms, so I use it for my LinkedIn page, Facebook business page, and Facebook group. I use Later for Instagram.  What I liked about Hootsuite was its ability to schedule among multiple platforms and track analytics.  I've even used Post Planner specifically for my Facebook group, Authentic Brand Leaders, although I prefer to post directly in the platform for engagement purposes.  

4. Google Drive | For organization
I seriously don't know what I would do without Google Drive.  Google has a suite of apps that’s similar to the Microsoft one.  What I like about it most is that it features ALL kinds of apps like Google Docs (like Word) and Google Sheets (like Excel) that is shared online and collaborative in nature.   This way, I can keep everything in ONE place and share it with my team and my clients.  I recently upgraded to use the Google Business Apps for $5/month for extra storage, and it also hosts my business email address as well.  

Here's what I mainly use Google Apps for: 
Google Docs:  I keep a folder for each coaching client, and take notes of each session to keep track of what we talked about and their progress;  I also use it to write each blog post, then I can copy and paste it when it’s time to post  

Google Sheets: I use this to keep a monthly business budget, and anything else that may need Excel like qualities

Google Surveys: I use this for feedback forms, and pre-session questionnaires for my coaching calls. 

5. Loom | Screencast Videos
This is a recent find that I LOVE!  You can add it directly to your browser so you can create screencast videos quickly and effectively.  You don't have to fuss with downloading it, or uploading to a different platform like YouTube.  Once you record it, Loom hosts it and gives you a link you can share with people!  I've used it to make videos for my Virtual Assistant.  I'll just record myself doing a task and narrating it as I go along, and then share the Loom link when I'm done!  This way, I can easily show her my business processes, she has a video she can always refer to, AND we don't have to set aside meeting time to go over these things.  I've also used it for my coaching clients if it's more effective to show them something rather than type it out.  For example, I'll record a Loom video if a client wants feedback on a web site or sales page and it's easy for them to receive my response!   

6.  Convertkit | For Email Marketing
Email marketing is another important part of staying connected to prospects, fans, and clients and to provide value and share my services.  When I started my business, I used the free version of Mailchimp which is an AWESOME app to get started, but as I grew my list and had multiple free resources to offer, I made the switch to Convertkit.  

The main difference is that Mailchimp is list-based while Convertkit is subscriber based, meaning that it counts each person as one person regardless if they’re on multiple lists.  Also, Convertkit has the ability to create follow-up email sequence and drip content for courses and nurture sequences.  They're recently added automated, which is more behavior based emails, which will be a powerful way to make sure your audience is receiving relevant information.  

7. Acuity Scheduling | For appointments
I researched and tried a few different calendar scheduling apps like Calendly and even Satori, but ended up sticking with Acuity because of its comprehensive features and affordable price.  I love it because it’s beautifully designed, easy to use, and gives me the available to set my coaching hours and my clients the flexibility to schedule their appointments by type.  It also automatically syncs with Google calendar, integrates with Zoom and Convertkit, and has the ability to take payments, create questionnaires, and small agreements as well.  Their customer service is really helpful and friendly as well!  The BEST part is, that it's FREE (the emerging entrepreneur plan) if you're a Squarespace user as long as you embed the scheduler onto your site, which is a pretty awesome feature!  

8. Zoom Conferencing | For client conference calls
When I first started, I used Skype to host my coaching calls.  However, I was experiencing a lot of connectivity issues so I switched over to Zoom conferencing.  I pay about $15/month (or less if you do an annual plan) for my group coaching calls  and have the ability to record my sessions so my clients can refer back to our conversation if needed.  I’ve also used it to record video interviews as a guest, as a webinar/live call platform, and for group coaching calls because it hosts multiple people in a more reliable platform than Skype and Google Hangout.  It does offer a free version as well, but only limits your calls to 40 minutes.  

9. Adobe Illustrator | For creating graphics
Confession: I use Adobe Illustrator to create my graphics.  It’s apart of the Adobe Creative Suite and it has a been steep learning curve to use.  So, I recommend using something free and simple like Canva to create graphics if you’re getting started.  But since I already knew how to use it, I prefer to use Illustrator because I keep templates for all of my blog post images and social media graphics.    

10. Squarespace | For web site
Every online business needs a comprehensive web site as a store front.  I used Wordpress for many years during my blogging days but it got to a point where every time I updated the theme, a plug-in, or my server Blue Host, it would slow down my site or something would stop working because with Wordpress, all the parts work separately.  

home page screen shot.png

So I switched over to Squarespace and love it!  I’m not super tech savvy (although I pretend I am) so Squarespace worked much better for my skill set and needs because it includes beautifully designed, easy-to-use templates so I can use focus on creating content.  My favorite thing about it is that it's comprehensive -- I don't have to worry about hosting, and it even has great offers to integrate with gmail, acuity, and social media as well!   

So, that’s my comprehensive list of must-use apps that I use for my coaching and my business. The moral of the story is: there are a ton of free and easy to use apps that were perfect for me when I got started in business.  But as I grew and my needs were more complex, I upgraded to software that has saved me time and sanity, and I hope that this list helps you do that too!  What tools and apps do you love to use?  Let me know if the comments below, or share it with a friend! 

With joy,

Time is Money. Let's Track It.

As an entrepreneur (and human being), your time is VALUABLE, and is the only resource that you can never get back!  One of the big obstacles and excuses that I hear from my clients and fellow female founders is "I don't have TIME!"  Well, my friend, if you have the dream, then I'm here to help you MAKE the time to follow through on those brilliant ideas I know you have.  

This week, we'll take an honest look at how you are ACTUALLY spending your time in regards to working ON and working IN the business can give us insight into how you can make changes to be more productive so you can do what’s most important to you.  This will also help lay the groundwork to give you data if you'd like to invest in online tools, or even hire team members.  

1. First, let's start with doing a time audit.  

You know how whenever you want to start keeping a budget, you first start with tracking your finances?  Or how my nutritionist wanted me to track everything I ate for a week to see just how much sugar I was consuming?  You can do the same thing with your time.  

By tracking how you spend your time, you’ll get a baseline look on your habits and workflow, so you can honestly evaluate what’s working and not working.  No judgment here, just simple reporting!  You can do it in a paper planner, in an excel spreadsheet, or an online tool like Toggl.  

** Your action step is to jot down the time blocks on everything you do for a whole week, INCLUDING your life activities (because it’s hard to separate).  ** 

2. Categorize them into types of activities:

Did you know that there are different types of activities?  Meaning, there are some tasks that only you can do as a CEO/service provider that are worth more than other tasks that you could outsource or even delete.  

Here's where you can start to categorize your tasks according to how much this activity is worth your time.  For example, "CEO time" spent creating your unique brand position will ultimately help you bring in more money than changing the font on your web site.  

So, here's a general category list that I like to use to break down the type of tasks I do.  Since I'm nerdy, I like to color code them as well.  
Money-Making (green), Customer Service/Client Calls (blue), Planning & Strategy (purple), Admin (red), Personal (pink).  

Then, assign each category a $$ amount, generally in terms of what you get paid v. what you can pay someone to do. 

For example, Money Making ($1000), Planning & Strategy ($500), Customer Service ($100), and Admin ($15)

3. After a week of time tracking, reflect on how you're spending your time. 

There are a few things to notice here:  

What are my priorities, and are they scheduled FIRST into my calendar?  Your values are important to taking the TIME to express them will make a difference in your fulfillment.  

What are activities that you don't enjoy and you're not good at?  If it's business related and NOT necessary, then say good-bye!  If it's business related and necessary, then this could be a task you automate with a tool, or a team member you hire.  For example, let's say you don't enjoy scheduling your social media, but using a tool like Hootsuite will save you time, or hiring a social media manager who helps you to create, post, and engage may be an option for you.  

What activities can I batch together?  
Sometimes a great time saver is to do "like" activities all together so you don't have to interrupt your brain flow (which can really hurt your productivity and efficiency!)   Even things like meal plan and prep for the week or batching your content for the month can all be done in one sitting.  

4. If you have team members or support people, delegate those lower-income tasks, or streamline your process to make it a simple process.  

After tracking and reflection, you can then begin to implement small changes to your schedule to see it's a more effective use of your time.  Of course, don't forget to block off PERSONAL TIME and make it a non-negotiable so you have work/life balance and boundaries in place as well. 

Your Action Step:

Track how you currently spend your time by creating a "time audit."  What are some insights you have from this?  What would you like to change?  Join the Authentic Brand Leaders Facebook group, and let us know all about it! 

If you found this letter helpful, then please share it with your friends!  Or, you can subscribe to the "Letters For Leaders" emails for more tips, strategies, and coaching exercises delivered right to your inbox.  Sign up below! 

With joy,

[Featured: The Wholehearted Woman] The Real Truth About Pursuing Your Passion

This post is originally published on the "Wholehearted Woman".  Visit their web site & sign up for their email to get your FREE copy of the magazine! [http://www.wholeheartedwoman.org/

I had my quarter-life crisis at age 24.  Don’t get me wrong, things on the outside looked great.  I was newly married, living an adventurous lifestyle abroad in Beijing, China, and landed a dream job teaching at an international school.  But things on the inside weren’t so dreamy.  I was struggling with the paradox of passion.  If I’m passionate about teaching, then how come I’m frustrated with my job?  If I’m meant to mentor others, then how come I can’t seem to find those opportunities?  If I’m here for a reason, then why can’t I create a well-integrated, passionate life?  

If I could go back and tell my 24-year-old self one thing, it would be this: Passion is working towards living out your Purpose.  It’s up to you to be intentional with it.  

There’s a lot of not-so-helpful tips about Passion out there.  “Do what you love, and you’ll never work a day in your life.”  “You only live once!” The essence of these mantras are to inspire you to do great things.  But if we’re not careful, we can struggle with Passion as we strive to chase it, rather than create it.     

Pursue Your Passion by Shi Chen

So today I wanted to share with you 3 Lies about Passion, and 3 Real Truths about pursuing it.  Hopefully, the truth will set you free. 

Passion Lie #1: “I need to be passionate about what I’m doing.”  

People get tripped up with this misconception because they associate their work with something that should fulfill their ultimate purpose.  The thing is, work is WORK.  People freak out when they can’t see the connection between where they are now, and where they’d like to be.  Your career and your business has different seasons.  It comes with challenges and opportunities for growth.  Putting your focus on things beyond your control, like circumstances, job title and description and where you can lose motivation.  Instead, you have it within your control to do the self-discovery work of identifying your passion, even if it’s just for the short-term..  Ask yourself: what’s important to me in order to create great work?  What’s my purpose for this season of my career?  What strengths do I have to offer to make a meaningful contribution?   Passion can consist of your gifts, your strengths, and your purpose, so when you can pinpoint these components, it’s easier to create opportunities to pursue them.  Passion starts with your attitude, your work ethic, and your outlook on creating positive outcomes so your initial passion can multiply into even more passion.  

For me, it was easy to lose sight of the big picture of helping these young kids grow their minds, confidence, and skills when I was caught up in the student drama, difficult conversations with parents, and administrative work.  Once I realized that my teaching job is equipping me with the leadership skills of communication, creation and execution, and working with different types of people (that would prepare me for whatever was next), I could engage better in all aspects of my work and infuse passion into everything I do.  

The Truth is: Pursuing your passion means you can be intentional about bringing passion into your work, instead of relying on your work to bring you passion.   

Passion Lie #2: “If I’m passionate about it, it should be so easy and FUN!”

The problem with this mentality is thinking passion = joy.  But the real definition of passion is doing something that’s bigger than yourself.  When you’re committed to doing something that really matters, like finally stepping out in faith to follow your dreams, go against the norm, or stand up for what you believe in, you’ll start to experience a bit of fear and resistance.  Change is tough -- and you could be mistaking those challenges and obstacles for a lack a passion.  For example, you will encounter self-doubt, people who naysay and don’t understand your vision, and things that won’t go as you expected.  Yes, pursuing your passion CAN be easy and fun, once you’ve learned to embrace your fears, face the resistance, and do what you set out to do anyways.  

During my teacher years, I noticed that I have a natural affinity for educating kids, but even more so, for mentoring and coaching emerging teachers.  As a young professional myself, who was I to teach best industry practices?  But when I recognized my desire to help other teachers with professional development, I had to face my fear of caring what others think, fear of failure, and a bit of fear of success in order to create a series of workshops, team building meetings, and one-on-one mentoring relationships.   

Truth: Pursuing your passion comes with learning to embrace your fears and face any resistance.

Passion Lie #3: “I need to turn my passion into profit.”

It’s certainly a noble goal to turn your passion into profit, but it’s a personal choice.  There are many  business owners who got to where they are today because they were good at something, helped people, and figured out a way to make it into their full-time living.  That’s what happened to me.  I got bit by the coaching and mentoring bug and wanted nothing more than to coach as as many people as possible.  

The thing to keep in mind is: there’s a difference between being a passionate creative/service provider and being a savvy business owner.  Meaning, I am a great coach but being a great boss lady requires a different skill set.  One that includes marketing, selling, product development, management, etc.  So, if you’re passionate about something, you get to choose whether or not you want to go through the learning curve of business building, or just keep it as a creative outlet.  Both are fine choices.    

Truth: Turning your passion into profit is a personal choice.  There’s a difference between being a passionate creative and a savvy business owner.  

When you pursue your passion, it’s important to recognize the hard work, the fear and the resistance, and the learning curve of new skills in order to continue to do work that matters and live a life of contribution and purpose. The truth is: passion starts with who you are, where you are.  You have the choice and the ability to infuse it into everything you do.  

If you're working on turning your passion into profit, then my 1:1 3-month "From Calling to Clients" business coaching package will help you lay a solid and sustainable foundation for your business.  Apply for a discovery call today to chat about if this is the right opportunity for you to receive the support to reach your BIG business goals.  

With joy, 

5 Must-Read Life + Business Books

Dear leader who’s a reader,

In this week’s letter, I wanted to share with you 5 of my favorite recent reads on life and business, as an addition to my recommended reading list.  I believe there’s nothing more powerful than connecting through story, and I’m pretty obsessed with learning more about psychology, personal development, and making more money.  I’m so grateful for these authors who share their knowledge and wisdom in such an accessible way.  I consider authors to be a form of “passive mentoring” because their books are a great way to learn from their experiences and expertise.  So, without further ado, here’s my list of recent favorite reads!  

1. Braving the Wilderness by Brene Brown

Brene Brown has SUCH a gift of articulating complex emotions and experiences so you can *finally* identify the truth of what’s really going on.  In Braving the Wilderness, Brene talks about how true belonging extends from connections and having the courage to stand alone.  She shares about her early experiences of not feeling like she belonged in her family and the impact that had on her.  As women, as entrepreneurs, it’s so relatable when we find ourselves in situation where we feel different and not worthy of belonging, but this book gives you the tools to be able to find the courage to stay true to you.   

On a political note, there have been so many divisive issues so this book helps you to navigate how to have tough conversations in a civil way.  I believe you can apply this same concept to your business because it’s important to stand up for your values AND respect other people who may differ from you.  We have so much we can learn from each other.  

She also breaks down the components of TRUST so you can have the language to know how to build better relationships with other people AND yourself.  For example, when a boss tells you that “she doesn’t trust you”, that’s a HUGE claim and not helpful feedback in knowing what you change.  So, her 7 components of trust is super helpful in knowing what area you can improve upon.  It’s actually what inspired me to choose “Trust” as my word for 2018 (and given me a framework on how to build it).  If you’re a Brene Brown, read this book!  

2. Profit First by Mike Michalowicz  

When it comes to business finances, we’ve heard that Income - Expenses = Profit.  But when we spend MORE than what we make, we’re just hoping that we’ll make a profit.  In this book, Mike Michalowicz challenges you to put profit FIRST so your Income - Profit = Expenses.  This books is a super helpful (and funny) guide to help you take control of your business finances.  It’s like Dave Ramsey’s envelope system for your business so you have a plan for your income, expenses, profit, paying yourself, tithe, and taxes.  

It’s one of my goals this year to fully implement this system, and so far, it’s helping me feel like I have MORE freedom in my finances because of this type of plan for my money.  I also like how he gives examples of how this works for different types and sizes of business, and how flexible it can be to meet you where you are currently and help you work towards those goals.  If you’re looking for a business book for your money, I’d recommend this one!    

3. The Road Back to You by Ian Cron and Suzanne Stabile

I’m pretty much a personality type junkie, so I become obsessed when a friend told me about the Enneagram.  It’s an ancient personality typing system with a spiritual bent to it.  It’s different than the Myers-Briggs or StrengthsFinder because it’s based on 9 different personality types, and describes each type in terms of what truly motivates you, what sin you struggle with, and how you behave when you’re healthy, or unhealthy.  

This book is an introduction to the Enneagram and gives a description to each one so it was helpful in giving more insight to my personality (I’m a 7!).  If you’re interested in learning more about your strengths and shadow side, then go read this book!  

4. Building a Story Brand by Donald Miller

Want to get more effective with your marketing?  Donald Miller shows you how to incorporate the elements of storytelling into your brand message so you’re clear on how to communicate the value you provide in the eyes of your customers.  I’d HIGHLY recommend this book, especially if you’re a service-based solopreneur who has trouble answering the question, “What do you do?”

It’ll help you hone in on your message, help you to see yourself as the guide (and not the hero) of your client’s story, and know how to simplify your words so it makes sense and makes sales.  

5. Girl, Wash Your Face by Rachel Hollis

With the tagline, “Stop Believing the Lies About Who You Are So You Can Become Who You Were Meant To Be”, how can you go wrong?  After reading this book, I’d definitely want Rachel Hollis to be MY life coach.  She’s a successful entrepreneur of a media company and mama of 4, so I loved how real she was about her journey to get to where she is today and dispelling the lies she *used* to believe.  

I could definitely relate to ALL of the lies but the ones the stand out to me are, “Something else will make me happy,” “I’m not good enough”, and “I’m should be further along than I am”.  She lovingly (and hilariously) shares her embarrassing stories and talks about things we’re all thinking but afraid to admit, so I found it really refreshing to read this book.  She's been through some TOUGH stuff (rough childhood, brother's suicide, fostering kids) and still has a perspective on life that will encourage you to take ownership of it and rise to its challenges.  She also includes tips on “what helped her” with practical tips to help you chase your dreams, raise a family, let go of fear and get out of your own way for YOUR life.  

These are my favorite business books that I've read recently that covers the span from mindset, money, marketing, and leadership!  I'd love to know YOUR favorite books in the comment below. 

Don't forget, if you would like support in building your business to change your life and the lives of your clients, then book a discovery call with me to chat about how I can help you reach your business goals!  

With joy,