Feeling Stuck? This Might Be Why

I’m a firm believer in a positive attitude and attracting things into your life that you give your attention to. You might even call me an eternal optimist. This drives some people crazy and they pat me on the back and assure me that I am delusional. But I’m spending my days doing things I enjoy, on a schedule that I dictate, and surrounding myself with people that I love to spend time with.

I get frustrated with people who complain about their station in life, yet make really small safe goals for themselves and are resigned to things just being hard for eternity. It’s really one of my biggest pet peeves.

We are capable of so much more than that. so. much. 

I am not here to tell you that it’s always easy, or that success happens overnight.

I agree that success looks different for everyone. I am so cool with that notion. My idea of success has morphed over the years as I focus more and more on the type of life that I want to live and the types of things I plan to be doing every day. 

What I have a problem with when it comes to success and the pursuit of happiness is blaming external forces, comparing yourself to others, and complaining about your own circumstances in a way that implies that you have no control over the situation.

If you are not moving forward with your goals or are feeling like your dream life is so far away, below are a few reasons that you might be feeling stuck. I’ve done ALL of these at some point in my life and have to be constantly aware of my perspective in order to continue growing.

You’re spending too much time on social media.

Unless you are in the business of providing social media services, then social media should not be your sole focus. Social media is a fantastic marketing tool for your business. But in order to create a great body of work you have to focus on the work. Your success in business is not indicated by the number of followers you have on Instagram. It’s so important to be interactive in real life by attending events and reaching out for deeper relationships.

Building a substantial presence on social media takes a lot of effort, whether it’s creating amazing content and gorgeous photos, or being highly interactive on each platform (and usually it’s a combination of those things). Take some of that effort and focus on the What and Why in your business. And get back to work!

You’re not paying. for anything.

Saying things like “I can’t afford that”, or “But it’s just me doing everything!” to explain why you aren’t pursuing your business dreams is just plain lame. I was watching a Periscope broadcast by Chalene Johnson the other day and one of her followers said something along the lines of “I’ll never be able to afford [insert one of her coaching programs]". And you know what she said back?

"You are absolutely right, you will never be able to afford it."

Burn! Well, not really a burn, but she was pointing out that what you can and can’t afford or can and can’t do is a mindset problem. The solution? Change your mind! If you want something bad enough and you think it's a priority, you will figure it out.

You’re not talking about what you do and what you want out of life.

I remember the days when I started my Little Biz (that’s what I used to call it) and would rarely talk about it. I couldn’t bear being judged for my decision to pursue something other than the serious career I went to college for. It was painful to watch other people roll the idea of my Little Biz around in their heads and wait for their commentary. I didn’t know anything, who was I to start a business? 

You know what I discovered? As soon as I stopped treating it like my dirty little secret and started talking about my Business with confidence and all the passion that I actually had for it, people were completely cool about it. In fact, most people don’t care what you do nearly as much as you care about it. Unless, of course, they want to hire you or buy from you. In those cases, you definitely want to let your confidence and passion shine through.

Talk about it every chance that you get. You never know who is listening.

You’re not talking about why you do it.

Every person has a Why. Pretending like your Why is not as important as someone else’s is no bueno.

"But all I do is __________!"

Trust me, it’s so much more than just ________.
 
In my case, I was willing to give up a career in architecture to pursue my creative life on my own terms. The "on-my-own-terms" part is my Why. I used to think it wasn’t strong enough. 

I want to do something creative, something that feels easy to me. Something that is exciting and fun. THAT is my Why. And it pours into everything I create. I want to share that with other people.

Defining your Why doesn’t have to just be about other people. But when you define it, talk about it, and share it with others openly, I can guarantee you that someone is going to say “OMG me too!!”. And you’ve just helped someone else feel heard and appreciated. That’s where magic starts to happen. That’s when your Why is most important.

You’re not celebrating others’ success.

Have you ever seen someone in your field experience a big business breakthrough and felt instantly envious? Or jealous, like their success somehow said something about your lack of success? 

It’s normal. But it’s toxic.

Get in the practice of congratulating others and choosing to feel happy for their success. Because you know what their success proves? That hard work pays off. It proves that it’s possible to have big wins. Be a cheerleader for success.

You’re surrounding yourself with others who play small and encourage you to do the same.

See note 2 above. If you surround yourself with people like that, it might rub off. Negativity is contagious. Which brings me to...

You’re blaming your family and friends for why you're not going for it.

Okay, listen. Your family and friends may never fully understand what you do (or what you want to do) and that’s okay. Seeking approval from people who can’t offer you the type of support you need is a fruitless effort, and allowing that mental and emotional struggle to dictate your happiness will get you nowhere. You’ve gotta find supportive people who get you. Tap into communities that can fill that role in your life, and allow your friends and family to remain friends and family.

I’ve also heard people blame having kids as a reason for not pursuing something that they want, mainly because doing so would mean having to sacrifice time with their family, or having to spend money that is not abundantly available. This is really about priorities and boundaries. If you really want something, you will find a way to make it happen that supports both your and your family’s needs. It may not be conventional. You may even piss someone off. But you have to decide if it’s worth it. If it’s not, then you can only put the responsibility for that decision on yourself. 

You’re blaming your day job.

Trying to grow a business or switch gears in your career is really challenging when you have a full-time job. But it’s not impossible. The more you focus on the “side hustle” the easier it gets. This comes back to priorities and boundaries. You have to give attention to the things you want in your life, even when the things you don’t want are taking up most of your time. Start making little shifts over time.

Once you allow the “side hustle” to become your main hustle, it’s easier to give it priority. Let your decisions in life—and in that day job—support your dream.

You’re not allowing yourself to dream bigger.

People. Get your freaking hopes high. Dream big. Like, really big. I used to be afraid to want something that felt out of reach. What if it didn’t happen? Then I’d feel like a total dumbass! But at some point I realized that someone on the planet was out there living the life I wanted, and I just couldn’t not join them.

I have yet to feel like a big enough a-hole to stop pursuing the life I envision for myself. And you wanna know why? Because every time I dream big and take action, I’m closer to a life that I used to think was a fantasy. 

Part of venturing off on your own and pursuing something big and scary and NEW is letting the fear in and telling it to take a back seat (I totally stole this analogy from Elizabeth Gilbert. Go read Big Magic). What is the worst that could happen if you let yourself believe you deserve more? You fail? So what. Try again.

I once heard Oprah speaking (on her own radio station, by the way) about how she always knew she was meant for bigger things, even as a child. One time, she was watching her grandmother hang laundry for the family she worked for and she told Oprah to watch closely because that would be her job one day. Oprah was like: Nope, I’ve got other plans. She just knew, and she never stopped pursuing the life she imagined for herself.

Sometimes we talk ourselves out of really exciting things because it might be hard, or take a long time, or might not work the first time, or might be so outside the realm of our current existence. These are all relatively minor obstacles. You are resilient enough to deal with them. Promise.


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Casey Sibley runs Casey D. Sibley Art + Design, a studio specializing in vibrant pattern design for textiles and a lifestyle brand of accessories and home goods in a happy, modern style. Her business was started out of a desire to do more of what she wanted in life (and maybe even make a buck while doing it). 

Before starting her business, the idea of pursuing a career centered around her artwork was unfathomable. So she chose a stable, responsible, practical career and quickly realized that something was missing. She believed the starving artist myth, at least until she actually started selling her artwork.

Casey recently launched and funded a Kickstarter campaign to release her new fall collection of products at the NYNOW trade show. Check our her beautiful, fun and functional designs here.

THE TRUTH ABOUT INSPIRATION: INSPIRATION IS OVERRATED.

I know, I know... I'm an artist, right? I'm not supposed to say that.

I get asked from time to time: "What inspired this piece?" and I'm supposed to come up with a great intellectual explanation. I've attended workshops and art seminars on storytelling, and artists are rightfully advised to sell our work always with "the story" behind it. Be it fact or fiction, we must relay some sequence of events, preferably starting with obscurity to sudden clarity, as if that can somehow give rhyme or reason to a finished painting.

Can I be completely honest with you? I'm not really fond of the question. Not because I lack inspiration, but because my art practice is not a linear one. I paint in cycles. Often working on several canvases at once. Some end up in the proverbial trash bin, and others make it to the other side. And guess what? I have no idea which pieces will be the successful ones.

So, I'm just going to call B-S on the whole inspiration thing, and here's why:

And that inspiration, man, when you find it, you'll know. It's like love. And just like love, if there's anyone out there trying to give you a roadmap or formula, know that they're drinking their own Kool-Aid or straight up just making this stuff up. I reject the notion of a singular idea leading to a singular painting. That some genius idea grabs hold of us and doesn't let us rest until we execute it to completion, and then we are out of work until the next big idea strikes. 

Perhaps Chuck Close says it best:

So in the spirit of showing up and getting to work, I wanted to leave you with 5 ways to consistently cultivate your creativity so that you'll be equipped the next time you find yourself slipping into artist block.

1. IN THE PROCESS

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Cultivate your creativity in your process. Painting is one big playground. Give yourself permission to get out of your own way, relinquish control, and just go for it. I'll be the first to admit, painting a lot of times is just experimentation. When I'm painting, my subconscious chatter probably sounds like: "I wonder what would happen if I place this color here, or scratch out this layer, or add in this texture?"

So many times, I am just so inspired by the process itself. I'll have a song stuck in my head, or a line repeating from a book I'm reading, or I'll be in the flow and random memories will just pop up into my consciousness. And then, BOOM! There's the title for my next piece. There's the feeling I'll want to convey, or the end result starts to form and I'll know what to edit out and what to take up a notch. I guess what I'm trying to say is, painting is fun. And I don't have to have a reason to do it every time. Sometimes, just being with my paints on a white surface, a good cup of coffee, on a sunny studio floor is all the inspiration necessary.

2. IN THE HOPE

Cultivate your creativity in your hopes and dreams. In speaking of inspiration, another misconception is that the way a painting looks is how the artist was feeling at the time. Gosh, wouldn't that be convenient? If, happy paintings came from happy people. I deliberately use happy colors in my work and people often assume, "Oh you're so happy to create work like that." This couldn't be more further from the truth.

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I've created some of my cheerful happiest paintings when I was depressed. Not always, but the two do not depend on each other. And what a relief it is to know that my work doesn't have to depend on my emotional state. I can tell you that if it did, my body of work would be all over the place because that is the human experience. We're not consistent. But I believe our deepest, core desires are. We all want to feel joy. We all want to be connected to the world around us. We all want to be loved. And so we can let that define our work, continuously and always about: love, connection, humanity. You don't have to paint what you feel, but you can use the process of painting to be a healing one, and arrive at a piece of art that will lift your spirits by the time your are finished. And that, in my opinion, is the most empowering thing about being an artist.

3. IN THE REST

Taking refuge in Bali. April 2016.

Taking refuge in Bali. April 2016.

Cultivate your creativity in the rest. It seems counterintuitive, but pulling back and allowing yourself to live outside of the studio is very important. Go out. Travel. Spend time with family. Spend time with yourself. Watch a season of something ridiculous. Chill. It may not give light to a new idea, and that's okay. You might run into Stephen Colbert at your local Whole Foods instead. I've learned that creativity is a muscle, and while challenges like painting 30 in 30 days and showing up regularly can definitely build your endurance, you can overwork it. Rest from being so damn inspired. Rest from art. And searching. And feeling so fricking much. Because, man, are we a sensitive bunch.

4. THROUGH YOUR PREVIOUS WORK

Cultivate your creativity through your previous work. This is super key. In fact, this should probably have been #1, but here we are. As an aspiring artist, in the beginning you're trying to find your style and your voice. And naturally, so much of that is looking externally. But a key turning point in your art practice begins the moment when you start to look inwardly. Truly inward. Your work starts to speak to each other. Especially if you're painting on multiple canvases at once (highly recommend), one painting informs the next. This is when you're truly independent as an artist. And the freedom that you feel in that moment, even if just for a day, is one of the best feelings in the world. You're feverish with ideas. And you can't paint fast enough because you're just so into your own journey. You don't have time to second-guess yourself. You're too busy painting your heart out.

5. VIA YOUR PEERS

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This is a controversial, one. But yes, cultivate your creativity via your peers. I love Austin Kleon's book "Steal Like an Artist". I highly recommend you read it, but in the meantime, allow me to digress for a bit. 

My background is in Sociology. Fun fact, as an undergrad, I completed an honors thesis (literature review, data collection, worked on it for 3 years, and all that, y'all). I thought I wanted to get a Ph.D. and I still indeed love social research. But anyway, much of my training still affects how I think today. One idea that sticks is this concept of a "unique contribution". Every thesis candidate and research student knows this. Essentially, it's the idea of synthesizing all of the existing work out there, weeding through the noise, and deciding what's missing. What can be remixed or reworked for the greater good.

And so for that reason, I recommend looking at other art, especially in the beginning and look to not only what catches your eye, but the gaps, and what you think you could do better. That's where you can find your place. And that's how you steal like an artist.

This was a very long blog post. But I guess the simple message is this: If you're like me, you're probably still learning and enjoying every minute of it. You don't have time for lofty ideas about art. You've got nothing to prove but the work itself. Let the art stand on its own. And if people connect with it, it will be instant. And if not, that's fine. You'll move on to something else that lights you up inside. Because that's the thing, when it's real, you don't need an explanation.  You feel it. That's inspiration. That's the je ne sais quoi, and no one owns it. Not even me.

What are your thoughts on inspiration and how do you cultivate creativity in your day to day life? Tell us in the comments below or on The Collective's Instagram page.

Amira Rahim is a passionate abstract artist on a mission to make the world a more colorful place.

"Painting is my way of honoring my time on earth. It’s my way of paying homage to the human experience. And it’s a process that moves me every day."

Check out her website for more beautiful, colorful inspiration. 

 

8 Self-Care Strategies You Can Steal Right Now.

Recently, someone called me “The Self-Care Queen.” It’s one of my favorite compliments I’ve ever received.

Self-care is absolutely necessary if we want to have the bandwidth to fully show up for others. As a chronic migraineur, I have to be especially vigilant about my self-care because if I ignore it, I will end up in the pain cave, of no use to anyone (and, y’know, in pain).

I was inspired to create this list after reading this awesome one on the Yes and Yes blog. I hope my list A) gives you permission to make self-care a larger priority for you and B) gives you some inspiration for your own self-care.

Here are 8 self-care things I do that fill my tank, without spending lots of money or spiking my blood sugar.

1. I light tea candles before I hop in the shower. 

Sometimes I do this because I’m sensitive to light (#migraines), but sometimes I do it just because it feels indulgent and luxurious. Shower time? More like spa time.

2. I make dates for walks + talks. 

I’m an extrovert who spends several days a week working from home. That isolation sucks for my mood. So I schedule dates with friends for us to chat on the phone or Skype while I walk around Central Park. That connection + exercise is dynamite for nurturing my joy.

3. I tell my doctor what I need to be comfortable. 

Every two weeks, I get nerve block injections in my face, head, and shoulders. I have a strong preference for getting the face ones first because they hurt the most and I want to get them over with. Sometimes my doctor forgets my preference for this order, so I gently remind her what I like.

Now she’s started asking other patients in what order they prefer their injections. Sometimes advocating for your own self-care paves the way for others.

4. I set my phone to Do Not Disturb from 8pm-8am. 

You know that little moon symbol on your iPhone? That’s a self-care feature built right in.

I enjoy taking responsibility for how much communication I receive at a time. I’ve got friends and clients in many time zones, and I love that they can text or call me whenever, without worrying about whether it will wake me up.

5. I know where the migraine-friendly coffee shops and restaurants are. 

If I have a work meeting or a friend date, it becomes much more likely that I’ll be able to follow through if the café isn’t loud or fluorescently lit. I have my favorite places starred in my Google Maps app for later reference.

This map notation has helped others too. I once had a work meeting with some researchers I hadn’t previously met. It turned out that one of them was hearing impaired, and she was enthusiastically grateful that I’d chosen a place that was quiet enough for her assistive listening device to work. Again, sometimes your own self-care strategies enable others’.

6. I keep a “noticing” journal. 

When I’m feeling stressed, I take 5-10 minutes to just jot down everything I’m noticing about my emotional state. It’s a kind of active mindfulness meditation, and I find it super helpful for managing my feelings as well as anchoring my gratitude.

7. I say “no” to a lot of things. 

For work-related requests, I’ll sometimes say, “Thank you for the kind offer, but my plate’s a little too full right now.” Or sometimes, I’ll ask someone to circle back in a few weeks. I love when people ask me to circle back because I can trust I’m contacting them in a way that makes their life easier.

For social invitations, I have to keep in mind that my migraines tend to be worse in the evening. I will rarely accept invitations for events that go past 7pm at night because it’s more likely that I’ll have to cancel. My friends know I’m a brunch-and-tea date kind of gal.

8. I maintain empathetic relationships.

One of the best self-care strategies I know is reaching out to someone who will just empathically listen, without offering any unsolicited advice. I nurture relationships with folks who can do this for me.

For some of my relationships (particularly family), I’ve taught them how to be more empathetic. When I support them, I model what that kind of listening looks like, which makes it easier for them to add it to their communicative toolbox. I teach a workshop on this kind of communication too.

What does your self-care look like? Tell us in the comments below or on The Collective's Instagram page.

 

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Kate McCombs is a NYC-based sex & relationships educator, community-builder, and maker of puns. 

Her work is about helping people feel more comfortable talking about sex and feelings. She believes that meaningful conversations + accurate information can help us create a healthier and more joy-filled world.

Check out her website and get her free guide 10 Sexual Communication Tips Every Human Should Know. 

  

 

HOW I QUADRUPLED MY WEBSITE TRAFFIC AND SALES OVERNIGHT

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When starting a new business or a new blog, I've found the biggest hurdle was to drive traffic to my website and get people to hear about my brand. I remember googling over and over again, 'how to drive traffic to my website'. Everything I read took SO MUCH time... which is fine. But, I'm really impatient and I wanted something FAST.

So I decided to take matters into my own hands. I remember a friend of mine at the time had recently started a blog and got featured on Buzzfeed. That day she tripled her traffic and gained about 4,000 new Instagram followers overnight! My eyes were huge with envy... I wanted that! I wanted to not just triple, but quadruple my website traffic and sales overnight. So I was on a mission. I made a goal to be featured on a major website as soon as possible, whatever it takes. 

Guess what? It happened not once...but twice! Today I'm going to show you the exact steps I took in order to quadruple my website traffic and sales overnight not once, but twice yo! P.S. I've used this strategy for my product based business as well as my blog. It freaking works!!!

Okay, the first time this happened was on the Oh Joy! blog (named one of Times 30 most influential people on the internet) . Just 3 months after I started Lot801 I attended a conference where Joy Cho from the Oh Joy! blog was speaking. At the time she was pregnant with her first daughter and I knew I had to get her some of my clothes. So what did I do? I put together a nice gift box for her and took it with me to the conference in case I was able to meet her face to face. 

Well, luckily I brought it because after she spoke, I met her out in the hallway and we chatted for a bit and I was able to give her my gift. She was super sweet and thought it was so nice of me to even think about giving her a gift for her little one on the way.

I remember checking her blog everyday for a few months... just in case she happened to mention Lot801. A few months went by with nothing. Until one morning I woke up, checked my email and noticed I had a TON of sales flooding in already and it was only 7AM. I was like what the??? So I checked where my traffic was coming from and sure enough, it was from the Oh Joy! blog where she wrote THIS post. 

I was so excited I could hardly contain myself. Within the next 30 days, my traffic and sales quadrupled!!! The best part was that people were finally hearing about my brand and buying my products. I can never thank Joy enough for including me in her post.

Lesson Learned: Go after what you want. I could've showed up to that conference with nothing in hand because I felt stupid... but I didn't. Come prepared when you know you're going to meet someone you look up to or someone that's influential in your niche. Take that extra step and have a clear intention.

The second time this happened, I was featured in The Huffington Post. Yup, I made my first goal a dream come true.... holler! Keep reading on to see exactly how I made that dream a reality:

1. I WROTE DOWN A SPECIFIC GOAL, WITH A SPECIFIC PUBLICATION, WITH A SPECIFIC TIMELINE

This one may sound like a no brainer, but trust me, don't skip it. Once you write it down... it's out the for the universe to help make happen. I wrote this down on a piece of paper, "Lot801 will be featured in The Huffington Post by the end of the year", and I taped it on my computer where I could see it and read it every single day. 

So instead of thinking.. oh I want to be featured on The Huffington Post... and not really giving it any thought after that, I kept it at the front of my mind every single day just by writing it down and putting it somewhere I could see everyday. This is more powerful than you think... trust me!

Action Item: Write down your specific goal and tape it somewhere where you'll see it every single day.

2. I DID A BIT OF "STALKING"

Okay, so I'm not a complete stalker, I just really did my research first before taking any other steps. I wanted to make sure I knew I shit. I thought of it like a job interview... would you take the guy that came in and already knew about your company and what it was about... or would you take the guy who was completely clueless in what you even did? Yeah, thought so. 

I made it a point to read The Huffington Post every single day. I would read the Parents section, the Fashion section... anything really that I thought might apply to me. 

I took notes on what kind of stories they liked to feature and who was writing those stories. I wanted to know which stories were making the cover page of that section and which stories weren't. Which stories were shared on social media a lot and which stories weren't. Which stories had a lot of comments and which ones didn't. 

This gave me a clear understanding of what was popular, what people wanted to read about and what The Huffington Post was most likely to publish in the future. I'm pretty sure this step helped me out the MOST in getting featured.

Action Item: Make a list of all the sections of the publication you want to get featured in that apply to you and your niche. Now read those sections on the daily and get familiar with the stories written, the ones making the cover, the ones being shared on social media a lot, and who's writing them etc.

3. I DID SOME SOCIAL MEDIA "FRIENDING"

For some strange reason, not manny people are taking the time to do this step... why? I don't f*cking know?!

Seriously, it's a major step in getting noticed and getting your emails read yo! I found the editors writing these stories and I friended them on Twitter and InstagramSide Note: if their account was private, I didn't request to follow them. I figured they wanted to be left alone and their social media accounts were for friends and family. I didn't want to be a pest.

Once I started following them, I supported them. I would tweet out their latest story or share it on Facebook and tag them. I would write genuine comments on their posts when they popped up in my Instagram feeds. You may think this is a tiny step, but it's NOT! These guys took notice. They replied to my comments, often times followed me back, would start conversations on twitter thanking me for sharing their stories. A little went a long way.

Action Item: Start following the editors on social media and converse with them!

4. I SENT THEM AN EMAIL

Alright this was the fun part. I finally emailed them a story idea or a pitch. You might think... sounds nice Linds but how in the world did you get their email address?

Ha, guys it's so easy. Most major websites like Buzzfeed and The Huffington Post have a bio section. Each story has and editor or writer that wrote it, if you click on their name it will take you to their bio and most cases than not (that I've found) their emails address is listed right there for you. If not, try a simple Google search.

Now here's the juicy part... I noticed that most stories that were making the cover and getting shared weren't solely "featured" pieces. Meaning they weren't written about one specific company or blog... they were interesting topics and stories with a list of companies or blogs that applied to the topic. 

I really think that was my golden nugget. So instead of pitching a story idea just about Lot801 and how cool my brand was, I pitched a story that I thought parents would be interested in. Something like, "11 Cool Kids Brands your Little Ones Will Love". I even listed out 11 brands (including Lot801 of course) for the editor so she didn't have to come up with the other 10 on her own. I made it as simple as possible for her to say yes.

About a month later I was checking my Instagram like I do every morning and noticed I gained 1,000 new followers over night and my website traffic was cray cray. Sure enough, that morning THIS post went live on The Huffington Post. Whoop whoop!

I literally jumped on my kitchen table and danced like I was Beyonce lol. Now this happened WAY sooner than I had expected. Remember how I gave myself till the end of the year to get featured? It actually happened in JULY... 5 months prior to my goal. 

The best part here is that when I sent the email, the editor knew exactly who I was. Instead of cold pitching her and this lady not having any idea who this person is that's pitching her... she was already familiar with me and my brand because we connected on social media.

Action Item: Send your pitch. Take some time on figuring out your pitch and creating your story, don't half fast it, be strategic. 

PRO TIP: 5. THANK THE EDITOR FOR FEATURING YOU

DON'T skip this step. When you get a mention or feature, make sure you share the story everywhere on social media tagging the writer. They love the fact that you're helping their work get exposure and will be more likely to feature you again in the future. 

Lindsey, a professional gangsta boss and founder of Lot801 and Lot801Marketing, helps small biz owners and bloggers grow their brand through social media and free publicity. Follow her on Instagram@lot801 and visit her website at lot801marketing.com.