get your biz off the ground Archives - Kristen Kalp

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Behind the scenes: every product and service I use to make magic happen.

For some reason, I adore behind the scenes round-ups of the tools and programs and services people use to make their livelihoods work.  Thus, I rounded up my own list to share with you!  When in doubt, assume I’ve tried 3-7 versions of a thing before settling on the thing I’m recommending.  Brand new additions to the tech team are *not* included, as they haven’t been time-tested and I don’t want to steer you wrong.

Free programs and services

For writing: Open Office

When I’m drafting blog posts, working on anything business-related, or editing for ghostwriting clients, you’ll find me typing away in Open Office. Much like Microsoft Word, this software is free and does everything I need on ye olde MacBook.  (Sometimes I even downgrade and use TextEdit because I’m so committed to being distraction-free.)

*** MVP

For recording interviews: Zencastr

You can record up to 8 hours a month FREE with this bad boy, which saves the audio directly to the computers of the people having a conversation, then uploads and syncs it after the fact automatically!  No more of that weird Skype-is-failing noise ever again!  (Hear this program in use with this Kim Anami interview.)

For e-mail: Gmail

I love G-mail, adore all its features, and prefer to keep it simple.

For surveys: Google Docs

Google Docs is really easy to use for creating and keeping client surveys. I used to pay $39 a month for this service from Constant Contact, but Google Docs does the same thing for $0.00.

For stock photography: Unsplash

If I need a landscape photo or a hipster-friendly image for any reason, Unsplash helps me out at no cost.

For blogging: WordPress

This platform allows a world of design, templates, plug-ins, and technical goodness to live on top of it.  It’s one of the world’s best free things.

For page design in WordPress: Elementor

This breathwork teaser (save 25% on classes for being on board before launch!) was whipped up with ease in under 30 minutes using a free plugin.  Insane, no?

For keeping all my files in one place in the cloud: Dropbox

We both know those files aren’t organized, but they’re all there!  That counts for something, right?

For offering a forum-type alternative to Facebook groups, since I quit Facebook: Mighty Networks

Steer Your Ship peeps can meet up and talk in a Mighty Network without having to dodge clickbait and political headlines!  Huzah!

For recording my podcast: Voice Memo

YAH I’m embarrassed, but I tried amping it up and making it more complicated and ‘going pro,’ and either way I got the same number of e-mails, comments, and downloads per episode, so I went with the way that feels most natural to me.  I also use…my phone’s built-in mic with the Voice Memo app that comes standard on every iPhone.

To further this confession: there are canned wine spritzers in my refrigerator at this moment.  YOU WILL NEVER BE FANCIER THAN ME.

For delivering my Fuck Yah Club goodies to peeps: a password-protected WordPress page.

Again, SO FANCY.  If you haven’t yet gotten access to all my book excerpts and two free sessions from M-School, my magic school for entrepreneurs, now is the time!

For eliminating repetitive tasks and connecting bits and bobs automatically: Zapier

If you’re like, HOW WILL I POSSIBLY GET X TO TALK TO Y WITHOUT TEDIOUSLY DOING THIS JOB MANUALLY EVERY DAMN DAY — Zapier probably has the answer.  It connects apps, where apps are your teaching platform, your shopping cart, your e-mail list, and/or your social media accounts.  I use it to automatically connect those who purchase a class through Samcart (like M-School) with their Teachable login information.

Worth-every-penny programs and services


For getting rad travel deals to speaking gigs: Pomelo Travel

For $3 a month — THREE DOLLARS A MONTH — I get amazing flight deals to locations around the world.  This service has saved me over $800 on tickets this year alone.

*** MVP

For e-mail: Convertkit

Pricing varies greatly depending on the size of your list, so you only pay for what you need.  ConvertKit is also the only company I know of that will magically and wonderfully MIGRATE YOUR LIST for you, thus eliminating 84% of the dread associated with the techy side of having a list in the first place.  My open rate has skyrocketed since I switched e-mail companies, and it also plays nicely with SamCart and Teachable.

Related: 15 minutes to an e-mail list of your own.


For selling: SamCart 

::cue angelic voices and unicorns::

I switched to SamCart when my other shopping cart shit the bed and lost me about $13,000 in sales. The e-mails were going out, all NOW IS YOUR LAST CHANCE and registration is closing, and people were clicking, and the cart was all, NOPE I’M NOT WORKING.

I’m not gonna say this will take your business to the next level, ’cause we know that shit doesn’t exist, but it will take you to the Stop Beating Yourself About the Head Because Shopping Carts are So Complicated realm.  Which is nice.

SamCart allows me to have one-time and recurring products for sale, is downright beautiful — no really, look at this checkout page for Introverts at Work and lets me see who’s abandoned their cart to send follow-up nudges to those peeps.  It’s easy to set up and costs either $99 or $199 a month, depending on how many features you require.

⚡️Get your free 30-day trial of SamCart right here!

For connecting with peeps live: Crowdcast

This monthly subscription allows me to hold Q&A calls, lectures, and live presentations (i.e. webinars) with just a few clicks.  It’s stream-lined, simple to use, and has all sorts of lovely features built right in so that you can get peeps to attend with automated e-mail reminders, then follow up with the recording and a buy-some-stuff-now call to action after your event.   Simple, lovely, and $49 a month.

This one *is* new, so take with a grain of salt.  I had Instant Teleseminar for a bunch of years and only made the switch when I fell in love.  Failed to meet my standards in between making the jump: Zoom, Google+, Facebook Live, and YouTube Live.

For understanding WTF is going on with my web traffic and stats: GoSquared

I know that Google Analytics is free, but DAMN is it ugly and clunky.  (Totally discussed at length in this interview with Alison Monday, my behind-the-scenes tech helper person.) GoSquared helps me see where my traffic is coming from, where it’s sticking around, and which articles are the most popular.  (This article is still the most viewed of my entire website.)

For submitting my work to literary publications and contests: Literistic

These lovely humans scour the internet for upcoming literary deadlines, then share a reasonable number of places to submit each month without being overwhelming.  IT’S A GODSEND.  There’s a free version, but the premium version is longer and well worth the additional few bucks.

For keeping my shit together: Breathwork

This simple exercise, completed once a week for about an hour, has kept my emotional foundation from crumbling in the face of my two dearest friends’ simultaneous divorces, a dear one’s mounting financial debt, the Trump administration’s daily insanity, and a frustrating business challenge or seven that’s gone down this year.

I’m a certified breathworker releasing classes and 1-on-1’s soon, click here to be notified when they’re available!

For hosting WordPress without fear of gremlins eating my website: Flywheel

Dedicated WordPress hosting, automatic backups, and killer customer service for $28 a month. Since I make my living exclusively from my website, thias is my payment for peace of mind.

For backing up every single file on my computer: BackBlaze

$5 a month to back up my hard drive, which gives me the ability to both sleep at night and restore my every file within a few hours should disaster strike?  Yes, please!

For completing follow-up via e-mail: Boomerang

I use the Boomerang app for Gmail to both schedule messages in the future (of *course* I remembered to ask about that very specific thing 30 days from now!) and for keeping my inbox clear of client back and forth.  When a message boomerangs into my inbox, it gets my attention and I follow up with the human on the other end, easy peasy.  This rings in at $4.99 a month.

For hosting and publishing my podcast: Podbean

There are free ways to publish and host your podcast, but this $9-per-month solution keeps That’s What She Said online, on time, and uploaded to the iTunes podcast app like magic.

For class teaching: Teachable

Should you enroll in Ballsy or in M-School, you’ll quickly find yourself using the Teachable interface.  It’s clean, intuitive, and allows for the clear organization of content at a reasonable $39 a month.

For bookkeeping: Outright

This online software keeps my accountant from breathing down my neck — but because it’s online and attached to my bank account, it automatically updates most expenses. It automatically labels recurring fees after you’ve labeled them the first time, so it “learns” as time goes on.  $9.99 a month.  (Also it’s been bought by Go Daddy, so it’s in this awkward phase where it’s The Service Formerly Known as Outright, like when Prince was The Artist Formerly Known as Prince.)

For scheduling Instagram so that it’s not exclusively photos of my dog: Tailwind

Since Instagram is mobile-only and I write exclusively on my laptop, not my phone, I schedule posts that make reference to business in any capacity.  Tailwind helps me do that with hashtag searches and all the bells and whistles you can imagine. $9.99 a month.


For sorting photos quickly: Photo Mechanic

This one-trick pony loads, categorizes, and renames photos in a snap. I use it to cull and rename files.  One $150 purchase and you’re saved from slow-loading Adobe options forever.

For sales pages and opt-ins: WordPress and these Bluchic templates

Um, holy shit guys, you don’t need to pay $xxx a month for opt-in pages! If you’ve got a WordPress theme and a few minutes to spare, you can make gorgeous pages like this one for Introverts at Work and this one for Calling to the Deep with a one-time purchase of $67.  This breathwork page was also created with the same template!  HUZAH!

For snail mail: Hello Happiness Card Co.

I have Josh over at Hello Happiness make me custom cards full of swears, then send them with tiny glitter packets and confetti to all over the globe.  (The postal services worldwide means sometimes they take months to arrive, but that has nothing to do with Josh.)  If you want his positive and good stuff, boom.  If you want the secret swears and dirty stuff, EVEN BETTER. From $4.

For all your photo editing and graphic design needs: Photoshop

I still have a copy of Photoshop on my laptop from before it went all monthly subscription, and I’ll run that program into the ground.  No shame in my photo game!

Calling to the Deep book photo
For all my headshots: Love Knot Photo

Alicia Bruce, Steer Your Ship alumni and artist extraordinaire, keeps my headshots updated annually and is responsible for the vast majority of images you see on this very website.  She’s basically a miracle worker and will squeal with delight if you suggest anything even remotely interesting for your photo shoot!

P.S.  Alicia is also responsible for the imagery on the covers of Introverts at Work and Calling to the Deep.  Pick up a book of mine here!

Let out your meows.

I’m teaching at a conference and I want to try an experiment. The premise is simple: “Tell me something you believe to be unique to you in all of human experience.”

People look around awkwardly. I’m concerned that Ryan Gosling has just appeared in leprechaun form to do a tap dance on the shoes of each student, their boots are suddenly so interesting. The room is absolutely silent in the way only a classroom about to mutiny against a teacher can be. Yeeeeeeears pass.

Finally, a raised hand! “Ok, great! What’s unique to you in all of human experience?”

“Sometimes I want to die.”

Way to start off with a bang. Wow.

“Who else has had that feeling,” I ask. Hands shoot up around the room. The secrets these peeps have tucked into the hollow place inside themselves have been seen, and suddenly they’re not so scary. Suddenly, they’re not alone. Volunteers for sharing are now plentiful.

The list of unique-to-me universals goes on and on: people who hate their clients, people who can’t stand some aspect of their bodies, people who feel the unbearable heaviness of being alive. For each careful revelation, there’s a corresponding uprising of hands.

Every single I’m-sure-this-only-applies-to-me statement is met with nothing but understanding by the hundreds of people in the room.

It’s working, I think. We’re all united by the human condition! We all get to say “Me, too!” to these statements!

And then. A tall, blond gentleman stands. He’s clearly scared shitless and has the skittish look of someone who’s got a massive secret on his shoulders. I ask him to tell me what’s unique about him in all of humanity, and he says, “I talk to my wife in meows. You know, like a secret language.”

Nope, I don’t know. OH GOD MAYDAY MAYDAY. How did I ever think this was a good idea!? What will I do when no one raises their hand for this guy???????? Stupid Kristen, you didn’t even CONSIDER that someone would say something that isn’t universal aggggghhhhhhhhhh…

I have no poker face, so I’m sure the group sees my dismay. There’s no way we have two meow-talkers in the same room, right!? I throw his statement to the group anyway.

“Anyone else talk to their partner in meows?”

A single hand shoots up in the front of the room.


The first meow talker goes to sit by the second, and they launch into what I can only imagine is the best and most intimate conversation of their entire lives.

What does this story have to do with you, fair reader? If that guy can be brave enough to out his meow talk to a group of complete strangers, you can be brave enough to share your whole self with clients. (Related: come to the Brave workshop.)

When you’re afraid that you can’t take the shot (or you can take the shot but are scared to show it to clients).

When you’re obsessed with perfection and are bound up in how weird or wrong you’ll get it if you even try.

When you see other people’s work in your head and try to recreate them.

When you can’t find a way to express your voice and when you dread picking up your tools.

When all originality seems to have fled your work.

When you’re scrolling through social media and despair at your utter and complete lack of talent.

Let out your meows.

Get weird. Get weird in your posts, in your updates, and in your images. Admit to your likes, your dislikes, and your quirks. Tell people what you care about, and yes that includes politics, movements, resistance, and organizing for a cause.

Get weird in your work, too. If there are children present, they’ll be weird with you. Start dancing or meowing or jumping on the couch with genuine joy, and not a child in the room will be able to resist. If there aren’t children present, don’t be afraid to make an ass of yourself, or at least to poke fun at yourself.

Joy begets joy.

Vulnerability begets vulnerability.

There’s no other way.

Back to your work: you can preface your ideas with nuggets like, “This might be weird, but…” or “I have this crazy idea, want to hear it?” if you’re feeling too vulnerable to announce the next step in your plan outright. More often than not, at least the kids in the group will say “YES.” Mothers who are dying to have a moment of happy family zen on camera will go along with you just to save themselves from the despair of a family photo ‘failure.’ Fathers who hate everyone in the tri-state area will be distracted by their kids using them as a jungle gym or their partner making out with ’em as the kids run in circles and will give in to your plan despite themselves.

Let out your meows.

Throw leaves and jump in the pile instead of taking the posing-in-front-of-foliage shots. Risk making mothers-in-law and grandmothers unhappy with the final shots. (No stiff upper lips? No perfectly posed staring at the camera? How COULD you, the angry grandmothers rage.) Delete the photos you’re not 300% proud of, even if it means you’re only showing a family 18 images. Include the quirky images you love but that you’re sure your clients will reject.

Do you like it?

Is it interesting?

Does it contain any meows?

These questions will take your work to far more interesting places than:

Is it perfect?

Will it get the most likes on Instagram?

Is it sharp as a tack and perfectly exposed?

The quirky, the weird, and the vulnerable bits that come out in your work are vital to your growth as an artist. When you stuff them, suppress them, or shut them down, your work loses its living elements.

The work of every artist you admire is deeply and completely ALIVE. I guarantee it.

Alive is vulnerable. Alive is honest, alive takes chances, and alive is growing.

If you find that your work has stagnated, ask yourself when you last listened to that weird-ass, completely vulnerable meowing impulse. How have you incorporated your vision and your joy into your work? How have you consciously shaped a story that your client will-probably-but-might-not approve? How have you taken risks in your work, and how can you continue to do so? How have you taken steps to stop hiding?

In other words: how are you growing?

Not learning from others growing, but experimenting with ideas growing. Not joining a Facebook group and copying techniques growing, but playing in your down time growing. Not following a 7-step formula growing, but finding your voice growing. Not taking no chances and keeping a lid on your life growing, but making mistakes and tossing the majority of your work growing. Not seeking the next level growing, but steady exploration growing.

That point when meow guy stood up and shared his secret? It was vulnerable, it was scary, and it was deeply alive. Your work can’t be any of those things if YOU are not any of those things. Again…

Your work cannot be vulnerable, risk-taking, and deeply alive if YOU are not being vulnerable, risk-taking, and deeply alive.

So. Let out your meows.

Let your heart be seen, even when you can’t guarantee that a corresponding heart will meet it in the front row. Risk being the one to go first, to be weird and alive, and please promise to enjoy the ways your work shape shifts and surprises you when you do.

Psst!  This is an episode of That’s What She Said, my weekly podcast! You can listen to all the episodes or check out the top 10 episodes here.

P.S. This is big, vulnerable work, and if you want to dive into it further, let me send you the first chapter of Calling to the Deep!

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Photo by Love Knot Photo // that time I met a porcupine named Cuddles during Steer Your Ship (my peeps love animals, it’s one of my meows!) and cried at how soft his ears were.

Stop the overwhelm.

Sometimes you feel completely overwhelmed and don’t know where to start your work, so you sink under a mountain of emails and quietly, calmly wave a white flag at your own life. Here’s a really freaking helpful question to move you out of overwhelm and into action:

What will your future self thank you for?

The answer to this question doesn’t have to be a big deal or a major life decision. In fact, your future self will probably be more grateful that you did 10 minutes of meditation today than that you committed to go on a silent one-week retreat six months from now.

Here a few always-on answers to keep on tap from your future, ever-so-thankful self!

Keep marketing. Continuing to market far past the point where you’re comfortable is hard, hard work — but it’s worth it. Stay on it. Whether it’s making a marketing calendar, starting an e-mail list, actually communicating with the people on that e-mail list, letting out your weird, holding a sale, or simply being consistent with showing your work on social media, marketing is one of those things that future self never regrets.

Embrace nutrition. The long journey to the body inevitably means paying closer attention to what makes you feel good (chia seeds and coconut oil, woot!) and what makes you feel crappy (sugar makes me weep exactly 3 hours after consuming it. My scientific research involves making sure of this at least once a week, just to be certain nothing has changed). Your future self will also thank you for having sex, which releases a gorgeous cocktail of hormones that brighten your mood and make you a whole lot more fun to be around.

Create and hold boundaries. These ordinary, everyday decisions create a structure that prevents overwhelm, makes room for your truest work, and keeps your phone from taking over your life. Boundaries also keep clients who insist on texting you and Facebook messaging you and e-mailing you at 3am from expecting an immediate response. More about reclaiming your time and energy through boundary-making here.

Change your sheets. Especially when you leave for vacation, and then you get to come back to that deep blissful ‘sleep in my own bed’ delight.

Embrace stillness. When you get in touch with your interior continent — the parts of you that no one else can know unless you explore and express them — you’re more closely connected to your intuition and more likely to make decisions that your future self will enjoy. Stressed-out, hasn’t-had-a-minute-to-breathe-in-a-week-you isn’t likely to make the decisions that end in deep fulfillment and unbridled joy.

Move. Not run-seven-miles-to-punish-yourself-for-eating-a-cupcake-that-one-time move. Just move like, be in your body and see how it feels. Maybe that’s yoga, maybe that’s running, maybe that’s Qoya, maybe that’s taking a long walk around the neighborhood. Maybe it’s going to a class at the gym, and maybe it’s swimming in the ocean. How can you connect with your body without punishment and without making yourself wrong for being human? Can you view your body and its current state with something like tenderness?

Show your work. Maybe you think your work isn’t ready to be seen (hint: no one does), or asshole brain says you need a new website before you can show anyone anything you’ve done, or you’re planning an epic 52-day blog series to showcase every single thing you made during every single week of last year.

Start now.  Right now.

By the time you would have started, you’ll be halfway through your next project, and future self can high five you from six months on via time machine.

Stop the ‘busy’ overwhelm.  Make ‘busy’ a bad word, right up there on the forbidden list with racial slurs and hate words. ‘Busy’ is the box you can put your whole life into when you don’t want anyone to question what’s inside. It hides all the pieces you’d rather not sort through, like time’s junk drawer, and it means you remain unseen by others and by yourself under cover of endless scheduling and obligation.

‘Busy’ makes you tired, makes you sick — quite literally, as it means you’re running your body into the ground — makes you resentful, and weighs you down with obligations.

‘Busy’ and ‘focused’ are not the same.

Someone who’s ‘busy’ for 10 hours a day at work won’t necessarily accomplish as much as someone who’s ‘focused’ for 4 hours a day at work. It’s the difference between having browsers open and scrolling through Facebook and turning off the internet entirely, or going to the grocery store with a time limit and a shopping list instead of wandering the aisles in search of sustenance.

You don’t have to describe yourself as ‘busy’ ever again, even when your days are full and your life is brimming with activity. You don’t have to throw yourself onto the heap of drudgery that is your overbooked schedule and pretend to care.

When in doubt, do less. You can turn off your phone notifications. You can power your life, your phone, or your laptop down for at least an hour a day. You can create space to hear yourself think and feel. It’s not easy, and it’s certainly not what most people seem to be doing, but it does mean that you regain intimacy with yourself and your own thoughts — your interior continent and what lies within.

Steer Your Ship at sunset
Stop the overwhelm is the first of the four tenets of Steer Your Ship, my 6-month-long program that starts with a retreat in Santa Monica, California, and ends in Asbury Park, New Jersey. We span the coasts during our time together and also work 1-on-1 to get you from wherever you are — I’m guessing it’s some form of stuck, overwhelmed, spinning, and vaguely hopeless — to wherever you’d like to go. (Focused, effective, and connected with yourself are places I assume you’d like to end up.)

Read all about Steer Your Ship here, or drop a line to if you’ve got any questions whatsoever.

4 of the 6 spots are already taken, so please don’t do that ‘I’ll save this for later’ thing. 😉

P.S. The ‘next level’ for your business doesn’t exist.