First and Goal

HeaderPhoto_preview.jpgBy Katie Elzer-Peters

How did THIS happen? And by THIS, I mean the fact that it is already December. Another year gone.

How do you feel about your year? Was it awesome? Stagnant? Are you exhausted? (I’m not gonna lie. It’s been a busy year. I’m a little exhausted.)

Tired or not, if, in between gift wrapping and running through airports, pretending you enjoy your partner’s boss’s jokes and moving the frickin’ frackin’ elf every night, you can spend a quiet few minutes working on your business, future you will thank you a lot.

Don’t try to crank out another blog post. Ease up on the Instagram. Pick up a pencil and get ready to plan next year. It’s time to start on the first with some goals.

Pencil & Paper: How Delightfully Old Fashioned

Listen, I live for the CW Pencil Enterprise emails even though 98.7% of my work is done on the computer. Goal setting is one time I actually get to use my fancy Caran d’Ache pencils instead of just looking at them in my pencil cup.

Research ( indicates a deeper engagement with material when it is hand-written.  If you write out your goals by hand you’re less likely to get distracted ( while working on them. Hand writing activates more of your brain than typing on a keyboard. You’ll literally be using more resources while you shape your next year if you hand write. You can also sit by a sunny window or out in the garden (if you live in Florida) and have some mental space from your current to-do lists.
The reason to slow down, think, and write is so that you’re physically committing to something.

Seeing those goals on paper will make you want to reach them.

Goal Setting Areas to Consider

Income & Finances: Specifically, look at how you’re making money. Do you like what you’re doing? Which activities provide a high return on investment? Which activities are low? What did you make this year? What do you want to make next year? What activities/ income streams can you beef up to meet next year’s goals? Are you saving for your quarterly taxes?

Be specific: I want XX number of monthly writing gigs. I want XX additional speaking engagements within 2 hours from home.

Technology: What are you really good at? Can you squeeze more out of your email list by segmenting it? Can you do more with Instagram to engage your followers and generate leads (inquiries for writing, speaking, or photograph sales)? Where are you lacking? Does MailChimp confuse you? Have you lost all of your website passwords?  Do you want to grow your audience using Facebook Live video but you don’t know how? What do you need to do in order to make sure you are comfortable and confident managing the technological aspects of your business? Are there classes you can take to help you be more efficient? What might you hire out?

Be specific. I want to create a digital product to sell. I want to learn how to use instagram stories to fill my speaking engagement calendar. I want to learn how to use MailChimp to sell more books.

Paperwork & Processes: UGH the boring part. Look at your contracts. Do you have contracts? Do they do what you need them to do? How is your bookkeeping situation? Is tax time a nightmare or is everything ship shape? How do welcome new clients into the fold? Do you have an onboarding process? When you write a blog post what do you do after you hit publish? What’s your process? Determine how you can iron out everyday tasks so they take less time and effort. Identify if there’s anything you can hire out. (I have a bookkeeper or I would be in jail by now for failing to file my taxes and sending out 1099s.)

Be specific: I want to make sure my books are reconciled at the end of each month or every two weeks. I’m going to hire a bookkeeper so I don’t have to worry about that. I’m going to draft a welcome packet for new clients so they have all of my contact information and working hours handy.


Marketing: For someone who does marketing for a LIVING I am THE WORST at marketing my services. However, if you don’t tell people what you can offer them, they can’t buy from you.  Period. End. In fact, I have gotten better in 2017 at marketing my services, mainly through my website, and GUESS WHAT? As soon as I started saying, “I can help you do XYZ,” I started getting people hiring me to do XYZ. Funny how that works. How can you market yourself better in 2018?

Be specific: I want to design a one-sheet to send to venues so that I can get speaking gigs. I want to reach out to XX number of businesses to inquire about helping them with writing. I want to query XX publications about feature writing.

Leisure time: oh HO HO! Leisure time IS part of your business. If you work all of the time you will be burnt out and you’ll produce crap. Evaluate your leisure time in 2017. Did you get some concentrated hours off? A vacation during which you did not check email? If you can’t remember the last holiday when you didn’t have to answer client emails, make some goals.

Be specific: I will take at least one weekend day off per week. I will shut off the computer by 6pm at least 2 nights per week. I will exercise/drink beer/ read a book at least XX times per week.

If you tackle one area per week, by the time January is half gone, you’ll be halfway to a more productive 2018. After all, well begun is half done.


Meet the Author

Katie Elzer-Peters is the owner of The Garden of Words, Katie Headshots-Edits-0013_preview.jpgLLC, through which she helps authors self-publish books, creates marketing materials for green-industry businesses, and assists speakers & writers with personal branding strategies. She also runs, a source of business tips and advice for solo-preneurs. (She hates that word. But she loves running.) Katie gardens in Wilmington, NC (zone 8) with her two dogs and her husband Joe, the Chief Watering Officer.

What GWA Members are Thankful for


By Carol Michel

What are garden communicators thankful for? Quite a bit! I recently asked garden writers on Facebook to tell me what they are thankful for. Their responses re-affirmed the many benefits we all get from being part of this community of writers, journalists, photographers, and gardeners who enjoy sharing about gardening with the world. Read for yourself:

Annelle Ammons:  “I’m thankful for all the great GWA friends I’ve made this year who remind me all the time that I’m not alone on this crazy plant journey I’ve embarked upon.”

Deb Wiley: “I’m grateful I get to learn so much about the life of plants, soil, and climate, as well as the psychology of gardening and its benefits. In other words, I get to learn more about LIFE!”

Lisa Eldered Steinkopf:  “I am grateful to all the GWA friends who I could talk to as I wrote my first book and am still talking to about book signings and appearances and all that those entail. I am so appreciative of their willingness to guide me and for their knowledge and experience. Thank you to all of you and you know who you are!”

Diane Blazek: “Our two non-profit organizations, All-America Selections and National Garden Bureau were founded 85 and 97 years ago respectively, on the premise that garden communicators are THE link to the home consumer. Those garden communicators are the best avenue for getting good information out to current and potential gardeners. So I am thankful for all the many garden communicators we have worked with over the past 97 years!”

Chris Link: “I’m thankful for all of the amazing people I’ve met through GWA. Not only do I learn a LOT from everyone, but a lot of people have been gracious enough to help us spread the word about our new business,! If it wasn’t for this association, I do not think we would have tried to launch this business. So thank you so much!”

Mary-Kate Mackey:  “I am thankful to GWA for allowing me to present my quick writing techniques and fast fixes to a wonderful group of folks who grab the ideas and go. Those first workshops were the basis of what went on to become the book, Write Better Right Now–The Reluctant Writer’s Guide to Confident Communication and Self-assured Style.”

Tracy Blevins: “We are thankful for all the many ways we have connected with others through our passion for growing plants and sharing that with others. That led us to becoming members of GWA soon after launching Connecting People With Plants. I have met many people over the years that share this passion and we are thankful to help spread the word of other places and people that are growing an appreciation for a greener world with others. Thank you!”

Jessica Walliser: “I am thankful to have a job that allows me to work from home while we raise our young son. Freelancing isn’t for everyone, but it’s the perfect gig for someone with a young family. I’m also thankful to have found so many mentors, friends, and kindred spirits within the GWA community, all of whom support each other in a million different ways.”

Maria Zampini:  “I’m grateful that so many GWA colleagues are ready and willing to trial new plant varieties. And in return, if they perform well, are willing to help spread the word within their sphere of influence not only once, but over time as the plants grow, mature and continue to bring joy and beauty to their garden or landscape.”

Peggy Riccio: “I am grateful and thankful for the revitalized GWA which now offers Power Circles, webinars, more meetings, and many more ways to connect with others and to learn the craft.”

Debra Knapke:  “I am grateful for this beautiful home called Earth and all the lessons “she” has taught me about living with nature and not against; well, as much as possible.”

Katie Elzer-Peters: “I’m thankful for all y’all! You keep me on my toes.”

Patrick Ryan: “I’m thankful for the friendships and the inspiration from the great workshops and keynotes. I enjoy the trips, seeing new public gardens and gardens where people live. And I get to play music with some great people!”

Jo Ellen Meyers Sharp: “I’m thankful to GWA for opening a new career path for me, providing opportunity for education and income, friendships, beautiful gardens…my livelihood is garden communications. I’m eternally grateful.”

CL. Fornari: My blog recently featured a thank you note to my November gardens. This is a quote: “Thanks for once again coming to the party. Even if you got a bit loud, or celebrated so well that you became sick. Even if you brought a few uninvited, weedy guests with you. I’m even grateful for those party crashers who came so well dressed that I allowed them to stay. Thanks for getting along with all the others and for putting up with the sometimes less-than-ideal environment. You didn’t let the odd cool nights or dry periods dampen your spirits and for that I’m grateful. You’re always so willing to party on, even when the refreshments aren’t quite plentiful enough”

And I’m thankful for all the garden communicators who made this one of the easiest posts to write for GWA Grows.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Meet the Author

Carol Michel is an award winning freelance writer and the download.jpgauthor of Potted and Pruned: Living a Gardening Life. She blogs about gardening regularly at


Creating Your Personal Logo

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By Ann McCormick

When I first began to write about gardening over 20 years ago, I didn’t need much – a computer, lots of paper for writing and rewriting, and a growing collection of gardening books. As I began to have successes here and there, I realized it was time for business cards. They worked nicely as a means of passing my contact information to someone but I wanted something more. I needed a professionally designed logo. Continue reading “Creating Your Personal Logo”

What Are You Doing in Your Garden Today?

By Donna Balzer

I harvested radishes in thirty days, lettuce in 75 days and fully formed cauliflowers in 160 days. And I know the varieties I grew this year. I am not bragging and I am not some kind of gardening genius. I am reading all this directly from my garden journal. Continue reading “What Are You Doing in Your Garden Today?”

Tips from Globe-Trotting Garden Communicators

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By Carol Michel

Tapping into the collective wisdom of garden communicators is one of the many benefits of becoming a member of GWA.  Recently, I posted a request on the GWA Facebook page for tips for travelers.  Members jumped in from coast to coast with their best advice. Continue reading “Tips from Globe-Trotting Garden Communicators”

Domando el sol en las fotos de jardín

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Difusor utilizado sobre geranios para eliminar una amplia sombra

Por Mark Turner

Si tuviera mi preferencia, y una línea directa al dios Sol, ordenaría ‘nublado brillante’ o ‘temprano en la mañana’ o ‘crepúsculo cercano’ para cada trabajo de fotografía en un jardín. La luz tenue es agradable para la mayoría de los sujetos, pero en particular para las plantas y jardines. Desafortunadamente, no puedo controlar el tiempo. Eso significa que regularmente me veo forzado en tener que trabajar con la luz menos ideal. Continue reading “Domando el sol en las fotos de jardín”