Sharon Haver is the Founder and Editor-in-Chief of FocusOnStyle.com.
WHAT LED YOU TO START WORKING IN DIGITAL/MEDIA PUBLISHING?
Let’s just say that working in digital/media publishing wasn’t a direct path. I started out in PR and soon found my way into being a New York fashion stylist. The idea of working on photo shoots sounded very intriguing. I always felt more confident growing up when I was in touch with my style but my parents were pretty insistent that I would not have a fashion education but a business one. That BBA degree in Marketing was probably one of my smartest moves that have allowed me to transition and grow in my entrepreneurial journey.
After 15 years of styling photo shoots, from everything to Vogue covers to making polyester sweats look so good that you would actually want to buy them, I felt that although I had what appeared to be an enviable job, I really wasn’t helping the everyday woman feel good in her skin — the reason I liked fashion so much in the first place. I knew I had to create my next opportunity to help real people like me feel great about themselves rather than amping a brand image by way of a carefully crafted photoshoot.
I launched my website FocusOnStyle.com back in 1999 (way before blogging was part of our daily culture) and continue to call it my own home on the internet today. But as much as I would like to think there was a grand plan to go digital, I kinda just fell into it.
I had a fashion advice column called Focus on Style that was distributed to 400 newspapers on the Scripps Howard News Service. When I was pregnant with my son, I decided to move my column from the wire to a syndicator. Let’s just say that syndication deal didn’t turn out as promised.
Long story short, I had a newborn baby and rather than being on maternity leave, I had newspapers thinking they would receive my weekly column. I was able to successfully get out of the bad syndication deal and created FocusOnStyle.com as a B2B holding site to eventually find a way to distribute my column.
But the site took off on its own and eventually became my online home for the past 19 years. I never thought I would ever be techy, let alone a web entrepreneur, but I love (almost) every minute and have since aligned my brand message from straight up stylist advice to helping other entrepreneurs stand in their star power to magnify their brand image.
Having my own online business has been a wonderful opportunity where I get to consistently use my education in business and marketing with my abilities as a style expert — it’s the perfect marriage of style + success. Plus, I’m allergic to the idea of commuting to an office so a digital business lets me work from wherever.
WHAT DOES A TYPICAL DAY LOOK LIKE FOR YOU?
A typical day always starts with coffee! I usually skim Facebook first to see what’s happening in pop culture and glaze over emails while I watch the news on TV and on several newspaper sites. My office is in my New York loft which is a very open concept so I like to do my early morning surfing on my laptop while sitting on the living room couch. It feels less formal until I relocate to the desktop in my office.
I leave all the emails that need attention and get to them once I get dressed and start my day. I block a workout in either morning, lunchtime or early evening depending on whether my husband is joining me or not.
I usually check in with my virtual team about 11 AM so we’ve had ample time to do what we need to do to start the day. Then depending on what’s on the agenda, I like to chunk out my workflows so it feels more consistent and is more productive. So I’m in a writing zone, video zone, podcast recording zone, social media zone, big picture zone, marketing zone, funnel zone, planning zone, client zone, whatever. The more I’m concentrating on one-ish type of work chunk, the more productive I am.
When I have a client or mastermind virtual meetings, I try to schedule them midday to keep the flow going. I try to make it out of office meetings later in the afternoon so I can mozy back and take in the city.
I have a terrible habit of losing track of time when I enjoy what I’m doing. So Mr. Poodle saunters up with his pleading eyes and I know It’s time to go out and take him for a walk. I use these breaks to clear my head and stroll around the neighborhood to look for inspiration– that’s the beauty of living in downtown Manhattan, there’s always something to take in.
We also have a vacation place in Jackson Hole, WY where my poodle walks are more about nature and spotting the local moose. Either way, the break energizes me to look at the rest of my day with fresh eyes.
WHAT’S YOUR WORK SETUP LOOK LIKE? (YOUR APPS, PRODUCTIVITY TOOLS, ETC.)
Apple all the way! I held out on PC’s for what felt like forever but switching to Apple was one of my best moves — so much easier and more streamlined. I have a MacBook Pro with the touch bar that’s made me a bit emoji happy. There’s my 27” iMac desktop in my office that’s due for an update. I have my old MacBook Pro, and an older iMac as backups or when assistants work on site. Two iPads with keyboards, my iPhone X, and an iPhone 6 for attempting to do livestreams on Facebook and Instagram. Smartphones, tablets, and newish computers are awesome ways to take amazing headshots, videos, and website promo art without having to schedule a photoshoot — it’s what I recommend to students in my Simply Amazing Headshots program.
Since I move around a lot and travel, I love iCloud and Messages because I can grab any one of my devices and pick up where I left off.
I have two softbox lights and ring light for videos, as well as a few mics, including lavaliers. In today’s video age, a more than decent light and audio set up is paramount, as well as knowing how to quickly do your hair, makeup, and styling to look good on camera, even if it’s a Skype or Zoom meeting. I have to say that one of the secrets that I love about recording the 7 Days to Amazing podcast, besides interviewing fascinating guests, is that it can sometimes be a minimal makeup day.
I lose track of the amount of software and apps we use at FocusOnStyle.com, which is very content heavy, but the list seems endless sometimes. Off the top of my head, the desktop software that I consider my “can’t live withouts” are Google Calendar, Google Drive, Google Docs, Infusionsoft, WordPress, Canva, PhotoShop, PicMonkey, Meet Edgar, Vimeo, Leadpages, SoundCloud, Acuity, Instant Teleseminar, Quick Time, Dropbox, and Wishlist Member for our programs. We go back and forth with Basecamp and Trello, but sometimes a Doc to cross off or an old-fashioned written to-do list is more effective than futzing around in PM software.
WHAT DO YOU TO GET INSPIRED?
I’m a very visual person and lucky enough to live in one of the most stimulating cities, so I take to the streets of New York to get inspired. Sometimes it’s just the nuance of something you see in a store window, on a person, in a museum, a movie, the general buzz, architecture, or nature that triggers a flow of new ideas and different viewpoints. I also believe in living and working in an environment that inspires you. For me, my immediate surroundings must be beautiful and interesting so I’m heavy into the design of my homes and office. Afterall, that’s what you see every day so it may as well get your juices going.
WHAT’S YOUR FAVORITE PIECE OF WRITING OR QUOTE?
One of my favorite quotes is Diana Vreeland’s “the eye has to travel,” every well-composed visual has to tell a story that keeps the eye moving in the most intriguing way. Then, of course, there’s my book, StyleWORD: Fashion Quotes For Real Style that’s the ultimate cheat sheet to upgrade your look with beauty tips, style snippets, and fashion quotes for solid image advice and motivation to elevate your everyday chic style whether you need introductory stylist advice or a wardrobe refresher.
WHAT IS THE MOST INTERESTING/INNOVATIVE THING YOU HAVE SEEN ON ANOTHER OUTLET OTHER THAN YOUR OWN?
There’s no doubt that the power of a smartphone, a great personality, and a captivating slice of life spearhead some of the most interesting/innovative trends. I’m fascinated by the organic way Trinny Woodall did her launch for her new Trinny London makeup line with live phone videos that were a mix of madcap and informative and mostly shot in her bathroom. It’s incredible how much engagement, community, and brand loyalty you can develop from just a smartphone. Chalene Johnson continues to be the queen of engaging smartphone lives — she even filmed a good part of her PiYo TV infomercial on a smartphone.
WHAT IS THE PROBLEM THAT YOU’RE PASSIONATELY TACKLING AT THE MOMENT?
They didn’t teach me about style in business school, but I made a three-decade career out of style from so many different vantage points. I’m passionate about helping fellow entrepreneurs be seen as a success so they can make the money to have the life they love on their terms. As I started to work with more entrepreneurs, coaches, and people transitioning from their old jobs to launching a business where they are the face of their brand, I noticed how difficult it was for so many otherwise savvy and smart people to stand out in a crowded market. They were cherry-picking all the business tactics that they could glom onto but avoiding the obvious — their visual message. And avoiding that alone can be like shooting yourself in the foot when we live in a time where visual positioning is the new currency.
The internet has made it so that we live in a visual world.
Research shows that people form opinions about how competent you are from how you look. How we authentically show up and how we are perceived is paramount to our success. In an instant, your headshot and visual message speak volumes as to how you are perceived. Over the years, this piece of knowledge helped me step into my own unique star power, and authentically be the best at being me in front of the camera.
I call this stepping into your authentic star power and have created a free Star Power Flash Kit to help you discover that within yourself, here.
As entrepreneurs, our photos are in the same feeds as celebrities, influencers, thought leaders, and industry leaders – which makes it tricky to confidently stand out as the star of your own brand. There’s no hiding behind a dated photo or kooky off-brand image anymore.
I know personally how scary it could be to stop hiding behind my business and stand out as the face of my brand, even though I had professionally done just that for others over the course of my three-decade career.
When it was time to design my StyleWORD book cover, I needed a series of new headshots, let alone new branding images for FocusOnStyle, promotion, and social media. I dreaded “the photo shoot” just as much as everyone else — don’t forget that I was a fashion stylist on photoshoots for 15 years so I picked up a ton of tricks from being on the other side of the camera. But now, I was the “star” of the shoot and it freaked me out a little bit.
So I took everything I knew with the equipment I had on hand and created a library of headshots for myself, by myself. Taking my own photos became effortless, as it should be. Your headshot is the Trojan Horse for not only your photos, but the basis to set up your videos, the conduit to your brand message, the litmus test for how you are perceived and how you really think about yourself, there’s no hiding anymore.
I’ve picked up some pro tricks to help make stepping into the spotlight and marketing your brand less scary and more effective, whether you DIY your own headshots like I do or know what to look for when hiring a photographer.
I’m launching a course called Simply Amazing Headshots – a way for entrepreneurs to own their image and become the face of their brand. Additionally, I created the free How to Look Great in Photos Cheat Sheet that I invite you to grab, here.
DO YOU HAVE ANY ADVICE FOR AMBITIOUS DIGITAL PUBLISHING AND MEDIA PROFESSIONALS WHO ARE JUST STARTING OUT?
When you are just starting out as an entrepreneur or reinventing your brand, what always works for me and how I help my clients is to listen to what’s true to you, pay attention to your gut, finesse what it takes to be the best at being you, and if you do something every day learn to do it right before you farm it out to others or simply ignore it. It’s your brand, it’s your business, play by your rules and learn the ways to make your job easier and more successful.