WordPress has always been my top choice when it comes to blogging. I love to be able to customize my blog to look however I want and have complete control over everything. I also love the variety of features and options that WordPress has, especially with their vast amount of plugins.
Some of my favorite plugins are ones that make my blogging life easier and even increase my productivity. So today, I thought I’d share my top three plugins that save me quite a bit of time and help me get more done!
No one has time to go through every post and page on their blog to verify that all of the links are still accurate. In addition, no one wants a reader to come across a post from a few years ago, try to click through the various links or videos within the post, and find out that none of them exist anymore- not to mention that these missing links are bad for SEO. Broken Link Checker solves both problems! Once the plugin is installed, it searches for missing images and broken links on a regular basis. Once it finds them, it notifies you that there’s an issue in the dashboard and you’re able to edit it. Really easy, really valuable.
Unfortunately, WordPress doesn’t provide an easy-to-use overview of your posts that allows you to see what’s coming up in the next few weeks or months. But the Editorial Calendar plugin does! Not only can you see when posts are scheduled to post (along with drafts and pending posts) within a monthly calendar overview, but you can also drag and drop posts if you’d like to change their posting date. Want to change the time, title, or tags? You can do that right in the calendar grid with the Quick Edit feature. Whether you have a co-authored blog or a single author blog, this simple plugin is a must for anyone who posts regularly.
If you post regular features (think: link roundups, interviews, or a blog series), Duplicate Post is a must-have plugin. It allows you to clone a post or a page and keeps all of the information within it, including tags and categories. You can also set the options to copy only certain aspects of the post or page, too. It’s a huge time-saver if you have regular features on your blog.
What plugins would you recommend for increasing productivity?
You’re blogging for your business, just like everyone says you should. You’re putting out this great content, but somehow you feel like it’s not drumming up the kind of connection that you hoped it would. What’s missing?
If you’re leaving your comment section totally unattended, you might be missing out on valuable community building through discussions on your site. Being active in your own comment section usually helps, but there are also a few plugins that can help grow your community and help things run smoothly once those comments start rolling in.
1. Comment Reply Notification: If you’re going to take the time to respond to comments in your comment section, you want people to be able to see it! This plugin automatically emails commenters to tell them when their comment is replied to. This is much better than a system where you have to opt in to get emails for all comments.
2. Add New Default Avatar: This is just a fun little thing to make your comment section prettier. Ideally, all commenters would have their avatar set up with Gravatar (and if you don’t, DO IT! I wrote about why it’s important here) but for those that don’t, it’s nice to have something branded to match your site as opposed to that boring mystery man.
3. CommentLuv: I don’t use this personally, but this shows a link to a commenter’s latest blog post underneath their comment, which encourages your community to check out other readers’ sites- and encourages them to comment, because they know their own blog will get some publicity. Pretty cool!
4. Akismet: Nobody likes spam. Akismet is the most popular spam plugin, and I’ve had good luck with it. Some bloggers use and like FV Antispam if Akismet isn’t cutting it for some reason.
5. Recent Comments widget: Okay, this isn’t a plugin. But by using this simple built-in widget in your sidebar, you can help generate discussion by drawing readers’ attention to the posts that are currently attracting the most comments on your site.
Last but not least, my favorite tip for generating comments on your posts is to directly ask your readers a question at the end of your post. A lot of times readers want to give you feedback and connect, and by asking a question you’re giving them something specific to talk about.
What is your favorite plugin for managing your comments section? (See what I did there?)
You’ve likely heard this shouted from fellow business owners everywhere: Pinterest drives more traffic to my website than any other social media platform!
Well, it happens to be true for me. I see growth in my email list daily, and I get consistent sales for my ebook, pretty much all thanks to Pinterest. But, of course, it wasn’t always that way. It wasn’t until I studied the ins and outs of Pinterest strategy — and made some strategic moves — that my website traffic, email list, and sales increased.
Today, I’m going to share one (very important) secret to getting loads of traffic to your site from Pinterest: How to create the perfect Pin.
It probably goes without saying, but Pinterest relies on visuals, so it’s extremely important that the Pins you upload look attractive and, well…pinnable.
Here are a few tips on creating beautiful, attention-grabbing Pins for your blog:
Example: If your brand is punk rock, then something light and airy with pastel colors wouldn’t be on-brand, but something edgy and bold with bright colors would be. Colors and fonts are a great way to express your brand so be sure to choose wisely!
Below are two Pins that are different, yet similar. The trick is to use the same colors and fonts, and use photos that have a similar mood.
2. Create a template (or two)
The easiest way to maintain consistency (see above) is by creating templates for your Pins. That way, you can simply plug in different titles and images while keeping the overall look the same. (Bonus: This also saves you time!)
I shudder thinking about the awful blog graphics I had on my first website. They were all over the place, with no consistency in font, color, or size. Now I create all my Pins using Canva, a free online graphic design tool. You can create your own templates in Canva or use the templates that Canva provides that already have the ideal size and proportions for an attractive pin.
3. Stick to vertical pins only (No landscape, please!)
Vertical images (tall, not horizontal or square — see One Woman Shop’s example below!) tend to get more clicks and repins. One main reason is because they’re easier to see. Most Pinterest users are on their mobile devices, so it’s important to make your Pins easy on the eyes.
Images that use the ratio of 2:3 or 4:5 are best. I make my Pins 600px by 900px and it works perfectly. When I upload the Pin to my blog it doesn’t look overly huge, yet it looks clear when viewed on Pinterest.
This tip is short, but not always easy: Make sure you use an easy-to-read text overlay. Remember, most people are on their tiny phones looking at these pins. If pins are difficult to read, it’s unlikely they’ll inspire people to click or repin.
Beautiful images are key. If you’re using your own images, make sure they look professional (even if they’re shot from your iPhone). You want to avoid anything dark, out of focus, or messy-looking.
If you’re using stock photos, be sure to steer clear of anything cheesy. (You know what I mean. We’ve all seen those goofy photos with fake smiles and garish colors. Leave the cheesiness for the infomercials!) You want something on-brand and inspiring that your ideal client will love.
Some of my favorite stock photo sites are Haute Chocolate, SC Stockshop, and Bloguettes. They’re not free, but their photos are worth it. Instead of wading through pages and pages of questionable stock photography to find one beautiful, on-brand photo, you’ll have lots of gorgeous photos to choose from.
Remember to always keep your target audience in mind and choose photos that both showcase your brand and appeal to your peeps.
6. Get strategic with your blog titles
Creating a snappy title is just as important as creating consistent-looking Pins.
Your title needs to be specific and communicate exactly what your audience is going to get out of the article. You want to stir up an emotion in them and make them curious enough to click through to read your article or repin it to their board to read later.
For example, if you’re a health coach creating a Pin about what you eat in a day, the title “What I Ate Today” isn’t going to get many click throughs or repins. It’s too general.
Instead, try a title like “What a Health Coach Eats.” That’s much more intriguing, because your reader probably assumes that a health coach is more knowledgeable on healthy eats than the general public.
For extra credit, include a tantalizing subtitle. For our health coach example, you can try “What a Health Coach Eats (It Might Not Be What You Think!)” That title suggests that perhaps the health coach doesn’t eat healthy all the time, piquing your curiosity even more as to what exactly they eat. Makes you want to click through and see for yourself, doesn’t it?
The Pin description is the text that shows up under the Pin.
Your description should include keywords and phrases relevant to your blog post and brand to help people find your Pin when searching Pinterest. Explain the purpose of the article without giving too much away and perhaps even invite the pinner to click through to read more.
For instance, if someone was looking for a yellow chair on Pinterest, they would search “yellow chair.” If your pin is a picture of a yellow chair but doesn’t have the words “yellow chair” in the description, it’s going to be very difficult, if not impossible, to find.
How exactly do you add descriptions to your Pins? When you upload your Pin to your blog post you’ll want to add the description to the Alt Text of the image. And if you’re using an SEO plugin like Yoast SEO you’ll want to write a description for the meta description, because sometimes this shows up on Pinterest too.
Once the Pin is uploaded to your site you can use your Pin It button to save to your Pinterest boards.
Make the most of your Pinterest presence
In addition to creating pinnable Pins, you’ll want to repin fresh content to your boards daily or almost daily (a mixture of your content and others’). Consistency is key! Pinterest rewards those who pin great content and often.
Pinterest is an amazing platform with tons of potential for driving high-quality traffic to your site. (And it’s so much fun!) Use these tips on how to create the perfect Pin and you’ll be on your way to growing your business using Pinterest!
Welcome to the third edition of 100 Best Sites for Solopreneurs.
As a solopreneur, it’s not tough to find solo business resources — but it’s a true challenge to find the very best resources that provide the insight, advice, and tips you need to build the business that makes you want to shout from the rooftops: “I’m a solopreneur!!!”
That’s what #100BestSites is all about — and because we’re so committed to you, the OWS community, we promise that it’s better than ever. (Read: more fun, more comprehensive, and more engaging. After all, the third time’s the charm, right?)
The biggest change? For one month, we gave you, our community, the chance to vote for your top resource across each of our seven categories. You’ll notice each winner highlighted at the top of each category below.
Another addition: This year, we’re marking repeat offenders appearances on The List. ** means this is the second time the site has been featured, while *** means the site is a 100 Best Sites stronghold, appearing on all three editions.
Dig in…and be endlessly inspired to better your biz.
The sites to visit for all things marketing: blogging, social media, SEO, building your list, and developing a website that works.
As one nominator put it, Meera “goes out of her way to help readers with exceptional content” — and we certainly don’t disagree. Her in-depth and actionable advice on both blogging and email marketing will have all solopreneurs feeling like digital marketing champs by the time they’re done here.
Alex is all about the ‘gram, coaching you through why you’re losing followers to how to make the most of Instagram Stories to how to monetize your Instagram account. And she speaks from experience: She created and monetized the @MenandCoffee Instagram account, generating over $100,000 in revenue in just 12 months. (We’ll wait here while you go check out that account. You know, for “research”…)
While we’re definitely fans of the ‘90s, that fandom stops when it comes to landing on sites that look like they’re stuck there. It’s why we love Mel’s mission to help others create “a prettier web” — and turn to her for all things WordPress via her free resources and the themes she creates for fellow boss and blog ladies.
If we had to succinctly summarize Bailey’s work, it would be teaching the ins and outs of virtual summits for “beginning and budding infopreneurs.” And she doesn’t just teach about virtual summits, she hosts them. Marianne, another #100BestSites winner, can vouch for them, saying Bailey provides “fantastic information on making money online, plus her virtual summits rock!”
Should I start a Facebook Group? Ah, the question that’ll likely come up for any solopreneur as they build their community. When it does, look no further than Caitlin’s site, where she shares roadmaps, tips, and stories on running Groups. As nominator Leslie said, “She’s an expert in growing your online presence and teaches it in a way that makes sense.”
Two words: Facebook Ads. It’s a love/hate relationship. #ThanksZucky Of course, the love is there because they work — when they’re used right. Thankfully, there are experts like Claire sharing all they know about how to use Facebook Ads, whether you’re an excited first-timer or a frustrated veteran.
If search engine optimization feels overwhelming (at best) or like a scammy marketing tactic (at worst), allow Meg to change your mind once and for all. In her words: “SEO amplifies your voice. Together we will build a megaphone for your business.” Bonus points to Meg for the “Give back” section on her website, where she outlines how she gives back through her biz. A girl after our own heart!
We’re all about aesthetically pleasing things (read: prettyyyy) here at OWS HQ. But we know that’s not enough; functionality matters too. Crafting Creative is about “content-first, goal-driven design.” In other words? Through implementing user experience best practices, she helps readers create websites that actually convert.
When it comes to finding “tools to help you stand out without selling out,” we’re all about it — and fortunately, Danielle is, too. When we’re not turning to her for expert (yet simple) SEO advice, we’re definitely referring to her as an example for content curation done right, given her epic Sunday Link Love roundups.
Marianne isn’t on this list just because we want to keep tabs on her enviable ex-pat life in tropical Costa Rica. (Though that doesn’t hurt.) Her design and branding tutorials over on DYOB are geared to those crafty DIY types out there who want to take charge of their branding, but need a little support along the way.
“Lord have mercy, I’m a little bit of a nerd.” ← When an about page kicks off with that, it’s likely we’re going to have fun poking around the site. In the words of nominator Ginny, “Jessica’s content is always spot on, and so helpful for entrepreneurs at any level.” Her positive vibes, southern charm, and in-depth tech tutorials make learning the tech of marketing fun — and if that’s not enough, she’s co-host of the All Up In Your Lady Business podcast, to boot.
Jess isn’t shy about her loves: sweatpants, Diet Dr. Pepper, and her pup, Morgan. What else isn’t she shy about? Helping entrepreneurs build better websites, create better systems, and attract better clients. From one nominator — fellow #100BestSites winner and OWS member Jessica — “Jess Creatives is a must-read for me! Her advice on design, productivity and business has proven invaluable.”
Mixology isn’t just for drinks anymore. Lara — a self-described Social Media Mixologist and cut-up (not to mention “badass digital marketer,” according to nominator Lee) — lands on this list partially because she shares our love for adult beverages and partially because she reels us in with blog post titles and GIFs that make us have to click. In all seriousness, she dishes up funny but insightful social media lessons and strategy over on her eponymous site.
Ask Nicole why she started her site and she’ll say, “Because nowadays, email marketing is everything.” Pretty much. Not only is Nicole “insanely passionate about creating email communications that can influence someone’s behaviour,” she’s also insanely qualified, given her experience as an Email Marketing Manager for Freshbooks. Isn’t it time you let Nicole help you learn to love email?
We love words, but we have a special place in our hearts for visual representations of information: flow charts, screenshots, Venn diagrams — you name it. Lucky for us, Miranda has mastered the art of presenting her incredibly thorough business tutorials alongside helpful graphics to make them even easier to digest and implement.
What do you get when you combine “video” and “marketing”? Video marketing, obviously. Jokes aside, you get Paige Media. With a promise that video content can be “FUN, engaging, and will increase your bottom line,” Paige Media helps you to stop hiding behind your computer screen and start showing your shining mug to the world.
A university-trained computer scientist, Chaitra started PinkPot Studio as a lifestyle blog when she moved away from her family and had some time on her hands. Fast forward a few years, and PinkPot is now a full-fledged photography and design studio, where Chaitra teaches solopreneurs everywhere how to shoot beautiful, Insta-worthy photos with their iPhones, curate beautiful feeds, and appreciate design in marketing.
Must learn to code. Must learn to code. Must learn to code. ← If you’ve been repeating this to yourself nonstop and hoping those coding skills just show up, then it’s time you head over to Skillcrush. Not only does this small but mighty company create epic Blueprints for learning to code, but they’re leading the way in content creation for freelancers and women in tech. #love
We’ll start by saying that the term “passive income” is a bit of a misnomer in the online biz world. But we’ll also admit that earning money while sitting by a pool, hiking a mountain, or taking a nap is pretty darn cool. Pat is one of the most popular passive income bloggers, and for good reason. Warning: Your jaw might hit the floor when you see his monthly earnings. Just promise us you’ll use it as inspiration, not a measuring stick.
What do blue and orange make? In this case, a stellar resource for all things WordPress. Alison and her team — that’d be her pups, Brutus and Pixel — are pros at WordPress development and security, and love sharing everything they know, with a dash of sass and sweetness.
With a killer track record of being the most nominated site two years in a row, you know WP+BFF has to be the crème de la crème. In the words of WP+BFF fan Jane, “It turned me from a dreamer to someone with her own functioning website.” Don’t love the tech side of running an online biz? All the more reason you need a new tech-savvy BFF. Meet Shannon.
Pinterest. Email marketing. Blogging. When it comes to crucial parts of a solopreneur’s marketing strategy, Sarah Morgan’s a pro at sharing both the high-level why and the uber-tactical what. She’ll dare you to blog; we’ll dare you not to get lost in her site.
Mariah’s been helping solopreneurs turn their blogs into “badass, profitable businesses” for years, and her suite of resources for building and launching online courses is key to helping them get there. From your first online course creation to your 15th, Femtrepreneur is the place to go.
Named the “Moxie Maven” by the White House Office of Public Engagement, Alexia’s the lady behind many-a-spotlight talk everywhere. She’s back on the list this year as she continues to reign supreme when it comes to helping women “step into their moxie” and establish their influence through speaking.
Halley isn’t for the faint of heart, but she is for those who want to do business while braless on the couch. (So it’s no coincidence that her podcast is called Braless on Couch.) If references to cockblocking don’t phase you, hop over to Evolve + Succeed for wisdom on being booked out, writing effective sales pages, and mastering the art of free consulting sales calls.
Launching. Facebook Ads. Songs. Wait, what? Yeah, those are the three things we turn to Farideh for. If she’s not helping solopreneurs avoid “launch surprises” or showing them how to use Facebook Ads in said launches, she’s likely jamming on her ukelele or recording songs with her band, Rosie & the Riveters. (We might just be her online groupies.)
Justine has carved out a valuable niche for herself: Providing guidance on launching and scaling your own affiliate program. Her content helps you increase revenue in order to get your products into the hands of customers through engaging loyal ambassadors of your business. In her words, “I take this unique approach to customer acquisition because it works well with companies of any size, in virtually any industry.”
Kathryn Hocking is your “eCourse secret weapon,” coming at you with everything from e-course idea generation to design to organization. Lest you be fooled into thinking e-course creation is all facts and evidence, Kathryn’s tongue-in-cheek “woo-woo” category name on her blog will change your mind. Bring on the woo!
We love Kyla for sharing our philosophy that launching (and running a business) isn’t one-size-fits-all. She’s here to combat the idea that there’s magical formulas for anything in business and to encourage you to fit your launching strategy to you. (That’s right — no more falling into a launching comparison trap.)
Take note, fellow rule breakers. Built to serve “rebels with a cause,” the top rebel herself (Courtney) is a consistent source of fantastic content and advice on everything from writing the launch copy that’s going to sell out your next course to quick website tweaks you can make to land your next batch of clients.
If there’s one thing Sabina Knows (we’re sorry, we couldn’t help ourselves), it’s how to make quite the grand entrance onto the 100 Best Sites for Solopreneurs list. With the second highest number of nominations, this new-to-us PR site was a no-brainer to include. Her many nominators describe her as fresh, gregarious, fun, positive, and supportive, just to name a few.
The sites to visit for tips on designing and wordsmithing the brand and content that tells your biz story.
Category winner: byRegina with Regina Anaejionu***
One look at Regina’s website will leave you wondering “How does she do it all?” And she doesn’t just do it — she does it with humor and grace. With a biz school called “Business School for Humans” and a Twitter bio claiming that she’s a “Stage 5 clinger to #business and healthy living,” Regina is the natural pick for fun-loving infopreneurs in need of resources.
If there’s a place to turn for storytelling that tugs at your heartstrings, it’s the articles written by Alex Franzen. Her personal stories and anecdotes drive lessons in writing, business, life, and love. (As she channels her spirit animal, Mr. Rogers.) Her nominator and fellow #100BestSites winner, Veronika, declares Alex “the most authentic voice on the Internet,” and we won’t disagree.
You’ll recognize Kathleen from the duo behind Being Boss, but here she teams up with her sister, Tara, to throw down insightful advice on brand and business design for “entrepreneurs and purposeful businesses.” As nominator Hillary put it, “This is a site you can lose yourself in for days and come out feeling like you’ve been to Boss University with actionable, unconventional, and wholly fresh insights & guidance!”
From how to create a consistent blogging schedule to what to blog about as a VA, freelance writer, or (insert profession here), Ashley tops the list of go-to resources on blogging and content strategy how-tos. We can’t help but want to “cozy up on the front porch” and cheers our iced mochas as we learn from this content pro.
While the world is focused on content marketing, Lacy’s focused on the strategy behind it — and the results it can garner. If you like a touch of mystery and a solid reminder of Carmen San Diego, The Content Direction Agency is the place to go to unlock secrets to effective content marketing.
Veronika’s many nominators call her site creative, unusual, sensible, direct, authentic, savvy, and fresh. An anonymous nominator said “When Veronika’s emails come into my inbox, I know I have to drop everything and read her blog post because I will come away with inspiration, knowledge or advice” and nominator Luciana adds, “It shows you it’s possible to have your own voice on the internet.”
When it comes to working smarter, not harder, Elena’s your girl — especially if you’re ready to take your teaching online. While we appreciate that this “mother of two precious trilingual kids” is a “kids-nap-time-teacherpreneur”, the site’s nominator, Luciana, calls out Elena’s ability to “teach others how to focus and think strategically” in online teaching.
We couldn’t say it better than nominator L’Oreal: “Kayla is #BloggerGoals.” She adds, “She’s down-to-earth, personable, and kind. When you interact with Kayla, you know it’s a real person behind the screen, not automated emails.” (We’re going to give partial credit to Kayla’s Midwestern roots for that.) Whether you’re looking for visibility, connection, or expansion (the three paths you can take once you land on Kayla’s site), she’s got you covered.
When someone gets their start designing Myspace pages in college, you can’t help but appreciate how far they’ve come. That’s Maya, now a coach, speaker, and content strategist helping business owners get more clarity and earn more money through content marketing, product creation, and more.
We couldn’t help but laugh when we read Kimberly’s clever mission: “Opening hearts, minds, and wallets with writing.” Ultimately, isn’t that what every solopreneurs seeks to do? If you’re open to getting “real, vulnerable, and sometimes a little edgy” in your copywriting, Kimberly is your girl.
From marketing to blogging and freelancing to publishing, The Write Life is a one-stop shop for all the things that make word nerds swoon. Whether you’re looking for tips on how to improve your freelance writing business or publish your first novel, we’ll warn you now: It’s tough not to fall down the rabbit hole.
We’ll let Jorden intro herself: “Black-clad Writer. Musician. Chihuahua enthusiast. Gamer. Leading the Writing Revolt against low pay and content mills.” Her nominators say “Jorden has on-point, no-BS advice for freelance writers” and her site is “jam-packed with useful, on-target information.” The thing nominator Kat likes best? “She gives it to us straight.”
When a podcast earns itself a review calling it “The ‘This American Life’ of Marketing Podcasts,” you can’t help but want to listen. Then, you dive into Jay Acunzo’s episodes, where he is all about exploring intuition — you know, the unthinkable — to create better work and exceptional content, and you can’t stop listening.
When she’s not devising her own business strategies for challenging the status quo and stepping outside of cookie-cutter approaches, Tara’s interviewing others doing the same on her podcast, Profit. Power. Pursuit. From marketing to business models, she’s a go-to on all things “running and growing a company in the New Economy.”
Declaring her mission to “teach people how to start blogging, in plain English, no technical experience required,” Amy provides that and so much more in her weekly email, The Useletter®, packed with tips on all things systems, productivity, and more. (Okay, so this isn’t a site per se, but this one’s worth breaking the “rules” for!)
Arianna’s site welcomes mompreneurs everywhere with open arms — as she puts it: “Consider this your official welcome to the world where business and babies collide.” When you’re done picturing businesses and babies colliding (sorry, had to), get ready to learn how to plan for maternity leave and take care of yourself postpartum — without letting your business fall by the wayside.
We may as well call her Devon “Negotiation” Smiley, since successful negotiating is at the core of all of Devon’s offerings and resources for entrepreneurs. The goal? Helping business owners develop the skills they need to get what they want, need, and deserve in business. And we say you deserve to know about Devon’s site.
It’s not very often that you get a true, behind-the-scenes look at someone’s solo business. (We’re not talking about trumped up, out-of-reach income reports here.) From detailed posts on how exactly Jess scored each of her current clients to the “brutally honest truth” about trying to combine your passions into one business, you get it here. More reason to check out her site? Brittany, another #100BestSites winner, says “Jess’ blog is the one that originally got me interested in starting a side hustle.”
While we celebrate solopreneurship daily here at OWS HQ, we love that Mallie Rydzik encourages you to “go from solopreneur to CEO.” Her reasoning? “We should be approaching our businesses like CEOs. CEOs think big picture, take big risks, and work strategically.” OWS member Danielle praises this CEO mindset, calling it “something that makes her content feel really unique and speaks directly to me…as opposed to broader business advice.”
Megan’s tagline, “Run your business like a mother” isn’t just a funny call-to-action. (But it is that, too.) Megan is a consultant for Mama CEOs, helping them recognize and embrace what she calls the “Mama Advantage” — the idea that motherhood and business ownership can feed each other, not detract from each other.
Mission: “Turn your business into a well-oiled machine.” Result: With Megan’s help, your biz will be humming along gracefully. The systems pro and half of the duo behind the #Femtrepreneur podcast (with fellow #100BestSites winner Mariah Coz) is the lady to turn to for help setting up systems, tracking the data in your business, and building a website that works.
Designed for designers; applicable to the general solopreneur population — that’s Nesha’s site in a nutshell. An anonymous admirer of Nesha calls every one of her posts “gold” and nominator Chrys praises her “design process and organisation” resources. Project management tips, marketing advice for freelance design businesses, and portfolio building strategies? She’s got it all.
Just because we’re solopreneurs doesn’t mean we can’t benefit immensely from corporate best practices. Ashley gets that. She delivers her corporate HR knowledge to creative entrepreneurs to help them “hire, train, and lead a thriving team.” (Red tape and business suits, not included.)
Brittany might as well go by the “Queen Bey” of automation, as she serves up epic advice on streamlining, automating, and — as one nominator put it — “how to do the biz things, better.” But don’t for a minute think that all this talk of robots is boring…Brittany’s a pop-culture guru whose personality never stays hidden. Visit her blog to work brighter — and grab some solid advice on content creation, to boot.
You might initially visit Michelle’s blog to grab some free advice on budgeting and paying off debt — but with nearly 300 pages of archives, you’ll walk away with so (so) much more. With endless ideas for bringing in extra income to an inside look at how she runs her blog and business, we love the mix of aspirational income reports that help us dream and solid financial advice that helps us make it happen.
Amy’s goal is to “take the accounting stress out of your business” — and if you didn’t think that was possible, we suggest you head over to her site, first. Whether you’re wondering how, exactly, to track your mileage or if you can deduct Starbucks as a business expense (aren’t we all?), Amy’s short video tutorials and blog posts have the answers.
Annette’s site promises “Easy legal solutions for entrepreneurs.” Easy and legal in the same sentence? Sold. Since we’re all about quickies (mind out of the gutter), we especially love her Legal Quickie podcast episodes, with topics like website privacy policies, having multiple companies under one LLC, and filing trademarks.
We never thought we’d be intrigued enough by a lawyer’s site to consider diverting our precious podcast listening time to a legal show. Autumn changed all that with her site and her Legal Road Map™ Podcast. As OWS member Danielle says, “She provides so much great content around the legal side of online business (that I know I can trust!)… [it’s] well-explained and fun to consume.”
Legalese is so fun…said no one, ever. Which makes us ever grateful for the resources Kiff, “the friendly legal eagle behind the artist’s J.D,” provides. Whether you’re just getting your biz started and need to know what to have in place or you’re looking to prioritize the legalities as you level up, Kiff’s got your back.
“The business world has a language of its own. We translate the legalese and handle the fine print.” (Cue big sigh of relief from solopreneurs everywhere.) Jamie and Danielle — the duo behind Businessese — are here to help you protect #1: you, and #2: your business. (Both pretty important assets, if you ask us.) Nominator Jenny says, “Businessese takes the essential but often tedious aspects of business and makes them simple and approachable.”
Carrie took a life-changing success story (paying off $14,000 of debt in two years) and turned that experience into a resource business owners everywhere can learn from. From streamlining your business finances to budgeting, and day-to-day bookkeeping to annual taxes, Carrie’s one of the few people who can distill finances down and make us feel like we aren’t alone.
With a bold call to action like “Invest Like a Woman,” Ellevest had us hooked. While we love other sites on this list for their practical tax time advice for now, Ellevest is the shove we need to remind us that we also need to financially prepare for later. (Even if it means one less latte.)
“I love figuring out health insurance and I especially love paying for it” said no solopreneur, ever. Luckily, Stride Health is here to make the decision and buying process slightly less painless for independent business owners. Think of it as the intersection of taxes and health insurance.
Denise — a.k.a. DDT — is our go-to Money Mindset Mentor. She provides high-level, mindset-shifting advice to help you remove your money blocks and stop your self-sabotaging money habits. She says, “I’m like a gateway drug to a life-long love affair with money.” We say, “Bring on the drugs.”
Perhaps best known for Project 333, a minimalist fashion challenge Courtney first wrote about in 2010 that invites you to dress with 33 items or less for 3 months, Courtney’s a minimalist go-to for all things clutter, work, health, lifestyle, and more.
What do mason jar salads, luxury vacations, and intentional posture have in common? They all contribute to solopreneur sanity — and are recent Best Kept Self post topics. Here’s to “self-help for the self-employed,” one mason jar salad at a time!
Everything on Cerries’ site makes us nod along vigorously. Like this declaration: “I believe solopreneurs should come in all shapes and sizes.” Us, too. And this question: “Can’t seem to commit to anything?” Guilty. But most of all? Everything on her manifesto page, which will make you want to print it out and hang it in your home office. (Lucky for you, that’s an actual option.)
Sometimes, we praise sites for delivering bite-sized insights and mindset shifts. (See: Seth Godin.) But if you’re looking for in-depth, thought-provoking blog posts that provide you with concrete action steps to shift your behavior once and for all, look no further than Clarity on Fire. Brownie points to Rachel and Kristen for including audio versions of their blog posts for those who do best with auditory learning.
In the words of one of Danielle’s nominators, “Mixing psychology with coaching gives her a unique edge to helping business owners.” We can only add that we love how Danielle tackles issues that are important to solopreneurs but aren’t often talked about in the context of business. (Think: creating healthy relationships, romantic and otherwise, that don’t drain you.)
Design*Sponge isn’t just an epic resource for designing a home you love; it’s a celebration of women entrepreneurs who are designing lives they love. Once you make it past the articles showing off inviting interiors (save those for later), you’ll discover a robust Life & Business section highlighting business tips and the ladies doing it right. (Fun Q&As with people like Nick Offerman don’t hurt, either.)
If you’ve ever tried to adopt a new habit, you know it takes more than 21 days of wishful thinking. Enter: James Clear, the prolific writer who believes that you can change your habits to change your life. Through research-backed and psychology-based writing, he demonstrates how often we stand in our own way, and what we can do to get out of it.
The overwhelm of the online business world is real for introverts, everywhere. That’s why we love the resources created by Katherine, who dedicates her work “to all the introverts, wall flowers, quiet achievers, and sensitive souls,” and believes that “everyone shines given the right lighting.” #preach
From the minute you land on Caroline’s site, there’s a 99.9% chance that your day will get better. After all, her content lives up to her brand, delivering thoughtful letters to shift creatives’ mindsets with bright, vibrant personality. Whether you’re looking for a pick-me-up or a thought-provoking question, you’re sure to find it here (and it’ll look pretty darn nice, too).
“Your success doesn’t have to be a source of suffering.“ (Amen.) If it is currently, hop over to Melody’s site for her advice on coping with the “unique set of emotional challenges” that top performers encounter. We’re looking at you, you “haven’t-taken-an-actual-vacation-in-years” solopreneur, you.
Much-loved by the mompreneur community (and therefore heavily nominated!), The Mogul Mom is dedicated to the women building businesses as they raise their babies. Covering the gamut from branding to marketing and money to blogging — with a side of family, always — expect a plethora of advice from moms everywhere on this multi-author site.
You can think of Puttylike as the “Home for Multipotentialites” and Emilie as the OG Multipotentialite. Emilie is here to show current and future Puttypeeps that building “dynamic, multifaceted lives, in practical and sustainable ways” as multi-passionates really is possible. Bonus points for her tongue-in-cheek book title, How to Be Everything.
Get your magnifying glass ready and join Vanessa, “behavioral investigator” and “recovering awkward person,” as she shares insights into human behavior that just might have a positive impact on your solo business. Be prepared for “funny, science-based, sometimes life-changing articles about the science of people.” (Beaker and lab coat sold separately.)
Once again (like last year), you might wonder how Seth — a kingpin of digital marketing — ends up under Mindset + Solopreneur Lifestyle on this list. And once again, we go back to this: Seth’s daily posts continue to completely shift our mindset — often in 200 words or less. The brain behind the man with the yellow glasses is extraordinary, and he often makes us think twice about commonly-held beliefs in business and life.
With her motto “If you crave it, you can create it,” Susan has helped ”women who crave ‘more’ out of life” both visualize and reach their goals for a decade. Don’t let her bold approach to business and life fool you, though — this is one woman who knows what fun is all about. Grab a serious dose of mindset reframing right alongside “fun Friday” content.
If you want to play small, Tara’s not your gal — but if you’re looking to change the world, this might just be your new home. Tara claims her work was born out of both frustration and hope, and we’re betting One Woman Shops like you are where that hope comes in. Start with her manifesto, 10 Rules for Brilliant Women, then dig into her archives for the shoves you need to push beyond your self-imposed limits.
It should come as no surprise that we have a serious girl crush on Arianna Huffington. (We love anyone who tells us that midday naps are not only acceptable, but healthy.) So it’s also no surprise that we love her new online home, Thrive Global. The tagline? “More than living. Thriving.” We’re onboard.
On the list of reasons we love Val, her ability to appeal to our “inner Humanpreneur” might just be at the very top. Providing “simple solutions for overwhelmed business owners” — from her Gmail School to her “Dinner Party Strategy,” Val shines a light on introversion and helps entrepreneurs everywhere feel more sane in business.
The site name says it all…Women Digital Nomads is for our wanderlust-filled solopreneur friends who crave location independence. Complete with city guides, resources and tools for working while traveling, and inspirational interviews, Women Digital Nomads is a site after our own heart. After all, celebrating location independence has been part of OWS’ mission since the beginning.
Not to toot our own horn, but we know the work that goes into running a high-quality, consistent, multi-author online platform. (We never said modesty was our best trait…) Which is why we know how to spot ‘em. Props to Think Creative Collective, which, in the words of OWS member Danielle “always approach[es] digital strategy and business growth from a fresh and fun perspective.”
“Do the work. Be boss.” Kathleen and Emily — the team behind the Being Boss blog and podcast for creative entrepreneurs — bring both “‘you got this’ confidence, and ‘let’s get real’ advice” on the regular, between their own stories and the guests (fellow bosses, of course) they chat with. Ladies after our own hearts.
We’d like to say she had us at the mention of “a Ross and Rachel kinda love” on her home page, but the truth is, we’ve been referring to this Blacksburg Belle for years for reliable advice on digital strategy, creativity, and now, the inside scoop on running a membership site. It’s what’s made April a shoe-in as a 3x winner and a must-have in our All Around category.
While “freelance” and “freedom” sound great together, to achieve them together is easier said than done — which makes the Freelance to Freedom Project ever more necessary. Leah’s multi-author blog and plethora of resources provide a well-rounded look into the freelancing life — and its ups and downs — for the newbie and veteran freelancer.
If you think ittybiz is about playing small, think again. Naomi’s been helping “turn smart, quirky people into smart, quirky entrepreneurs” since 2006. Her blog is a treasure trove of honest advice and actionable tips for battling “normal, human things like self-doubt, second-guessing, resistance and procrastination on the inside – and information overload on the outside.”
The All Around category was created with Ms. Forleo in mind. Just when you think she’s all about productivity and mindset, she throws sales advice at you. When you think she’s all about launching and publicity, she hits you with biz growth and digital marketing wisdom. And just when you think she’s all about business, she breaks out in a hip hop dance. No surprise that she’s our woman crush, shiny hair inspiration, and a stronghold on this list for the third year running.
It doesn’t matter if she’s riffing on business, on travel, or heck, on the wine she drank last night — Ash Ambirge is all about the truth, and nothing but the truth. (Even when it hurts. Or makes you pee your pants, laughing.) This girlboss defines unf*ckwithable, and leaves no topic unturned — making her the perfect fit in the All Around category.
Paul sums up what he does best: “I help nice folks build resilient & sustainable companies of one.” That’s you, One Woman Shop. Paul’s been around for a while, and his knowledge of freelancing, serving clients, and creating products runs deep. Between his Sunday Dispatches articles and podcast, there’s no shortage of things to learn — and ways to do it — from the leader of what he deems his “rat people.”
Don’t let the name fool ya — the insights found on Psychology for Photographers can be put to use by just about any solo biz owner. (Hence Jenika’s subtitle: “And other creative professionals.”) With a tagline of “Understand people, be a more successful creative professional,” suffice it to say this is a more fun and relevant version of your college psych class.
If one-night stands are your thing, no judgment. But Rebecca’s here to fight against them — in business, that is. Her goal is “Mixing business and pleasure into more than a one-night stand.” If you’re ready to run a business chockful of pleasure, head to her site. (But be prepared for some hefty doses of no-BS reality checks coming at you, too.)
Hop on to the landing page for the She Did It Her Way podcast interviews and you’re sure to recognize a familiar face — or ten. Tune in as new episodes are released or spend some time digging through the vault of interviews to hear a diverse cast of online biz’s leading ladies talk about how they’re doing business their way. (Cue Frank Sinatra’s My Way.)
Running a solopreneur biz is about more than accounting, marketing, and branding — you know this. These sites and apps provide just a little something more for the solopreneur who wants to develop personally, give back, and decompress.
Our eternal thanks to Team Calm for providing us a free meditation app and corresponding mindfulness wisdom that gets us through launches (ahem, #100BestSites), stressful client projects, and day-to-day life as as solopreneur. And also? For making us feel okay about uber-short meditations. (We’re looking at you, 2-minute meditation.)
Earning a profit in your solo biz is great, but reinvesting some of that profit back into your community is even more rewarding. Our giving platform of choice? Kiva. Not quite charity, not quite investing, Kiva is the perfect blend of both, making it the gift that keeps on giving. Like we said last year, “You lend; you get repaid; you re-lend. It’s that easy.”
NPR lands on this list because their podcasts consistently make us just a little bit smarter, a little bit more empathetic, and/or a little bit happier — traits that serve us not only in business, but in life. From enhancing our storytelling abilities to providing us with fascinating psychological insights to helping us understand economics (in a fun way, no less), NPR is the home of a large percentage of our favorite podcasts.
It’s tough to find a site that tackles physical wellness quite as thoroughly as POPSUGAR Fitness. Whether your exercise drug of choice is yoga, HIIT, weight lifting, running, or Pilates, you’ll find research-based articles, quick tips, helpful instructional videos, and upbeat playlists to keep you motivated and remind you that physical activity is essential for your body and your mind as a solopreneur.
If you’re a solopreneur who wants to stay informed about the world — without cutting too far into your most productive morning work hours — theSkimm is your new daily read. Combining millennial humor, a daily subject line that references a famous movie quote, and easy-to-digest world news, theSkimm will make you the girl sharing the news, not the one pretending to know the news.
Using SEO effectively can seem like a headache. Keywords? Links? Content marketing? I’ve been there. If you’re a small business owner, you have enough on your plate, and learning about SEO can seem like more trouble than it’s worth.
But SEO is so much more than a marketing strategy. SEO, or Search Engine Optimization, is simply helping Google understand your site so that you can easily connect with people who are already seeking the solutions you offer. It’s a necessary foundation for your brand or business, not an online “trick” that requires endless research.
In fact, according to Search Engine Land, SEO is considered one of the most cost-effective digital marketing practices to grow your business. And, let’s face it — you’ve likely invested hundreds to thousands of dollars on designing your brand and developing your website, but is it worth the investment if no one can find it?
Here are four quick ways you can utilize SEO to find your dream clients and elevate your business in an authentic, non-salesy way.
1. Keep a list of Frequently Asked Questions from your target audience.
Keep an ongoing list of questions that continuously pop up among your target audience. You could find these questions in Facebook Groups, past client consultations, in replies to your email newsletter, or even while taking a class at the gym.
Use these questions for content inspiration. Answer them on an easy-to-access landing page or turn them into blog posts. Pay attention to the specific language your potential clients use and the way the questions are asked. Word questions and your answers in a way that you could see your clients Googling them. If you have Google Analytics set up on your website, you can see which Google searches have led people to your website, and form questions out of those phrases.
2. Take time to use categories and tags effectively.
When it comes to that “tags” box you see when creating a blog post in WordPress, do you fill it with related terms you think of on the fly? Don’t worry; you’re not alone. But it’s time to get organized! Think of categories as the top level, main topics of your blog. Then think of tags as supporting keywords. Choose 5-6 main categories and only a handful of tags for each category. For example, a main category could be “Fitness” and supporting tags could be “muscle recovery,” “at home workout,” and “activewear.”
Metadata is mostly behind-the-scenes data that helps a search engine understand and rank your site. The preview text that appears in search engine results when someone sees your site link is comprised of metadata. Take a few extra minutes to fill in the title tag, meta description and alt tags of your posts. The Yoast SEO plugin makes these updates, and therefore upping your SEO game, much easier.
4. Audit and update your old content.
If you’ve had a blog for more than a few months, chances are you already have a ton of content. In order to make sure your website is working for you, and not the other way around, go through your old content and see which posts and pages could be improved.
Find which posts are your best and make sure they’re properly tagged and categorized. Edit any content that is outdated or no longer relevant. Auditing your content will make sure your site is full of high-quality, valuable content for your readers. For more ideas, check out my post on 50 ways to give an old post new life.
SEO doesn’t have to be so hard
For many solopreneurs, SEO remains an elusive concept that’s just out of reach. But it doesn’t have to be. The four quick tips above are just a few examples of how you can optimize your site for search engines and make it easier for more of your ideal clients to find you.
Guest posting is one of those things that everybody thinks they probably should be doing more of…but the whole process of putting a guest post pitch together can seem daunting. And the truth is, you can spend a lot of time and energy pitching guest posts that never pan out if you don’t know what you’re doing.
Good news: You can make the process much, much easier if you know how to write a decent cold pitch — and once you do start landing those posts, you can leverage those posts into a serious asset for your business.
It starts with knowing whether you should be pitching at all.
As you may have noticed, the Internet has become a much busier place these past couple of years. Which means that people don’t have a whole hell of a lot of mental bandwidth to spare.
You need to get a really good sense of whether a blog is even accepting pitches and guest posts before you take the time to write your pitch. There’s no particular secret to know here; most places that are accepting posts will have a page explicitly stating that.
If you can’t find it on their site, do a quick Google search along the lines of “[Site you want to guest post for] guest posting” and see if something comes up. Otherwise, check out their archives and social media feeds to see if they have any guest posts featured. If there’s nothing to let you know either way, then go ahead and pitch, if you really think that your idea is a fit. Just go into the process knowing that it’s a toss up.
OK, so you’ve decided it’s a go. Now what?
Now you write an email that gives them just enough information about you to know whether you’re a fit for their audience, piques their interest and shows off your expertise in the topic, and tells them that you’re not going to be a pain to work with.
Start out with a very clear subject line — something along the lines of “Guest post proposal — [your specific topic]”
Then (after you double extra check that you’ve spelled the person’s name right in your greeting), write a short intro paragraph where you talk about who you are and what your business is, as well as your particular reasons for being attracted to their business/blog/this chance to guest post.
Now that you’ve got their attention, add in a very short paragraph about why you’re a good fit for their audience. Here’s where you get to show off how great you are, plus how well you know their business and their audience.
Then introduce your idea. While it’s fine to pitch with just one idea, I usually like to include two or more and let them choose. This ups your chances of getting a yes and lets you highlight a couple different areas of expertise.
End by offering to provide alternative ideas just in case those don’t work, and give them clear next steps.
It’s all about making it as easy as possible for them to say yes.
You’ve got the pieces — now what does that look like, all put together?
Here’s an anonymized example of an email I pitched a while back that landed me a guest post within a few hours:
Subject: Guest post proposal — copy and content
I’m Rachel Allen, and I run the creative agency Bolt from the Blue Copywriting. I’ve had the biggest business crush on BIZ NAME ever since the first round of COOL THING YOU DID — the mix of lifting people up to be their best + the firmly grounded anti-bullshit stance really does it for me.
I write about voice, branding, copy, and content from a similar stance, and was wondering if you’re currently accepting guest posts? If so, I’d love to do one for you.
Here’s what I’m thinking:
A rallying cry for being a better human as you write (that also skewers the whole cottage industry that’s developed around quickie, template-based content).
A post about how access to other people’s brainspace is a privilege, with the main focus being on how you’re spam until you prove otherwise.
If neither of those ring your bell, I’m happy to come up with alternative ideas. If one or both does sound good to you, I can also send over outlines (or a completed article) if you want to move forward. I could have the article to you next week or an outline tomorrow.
Let me know what you think, and of course, if you have any questions don’t hesitate to ask.
So…what do you do if you don’t hear back?
Give it a little time. Like I said, people are busy. If it’s been a week and you haven’t heard a word, then it’s time to follow up. Keep it short and low pressure, just checking in like the responsible guest poster you are. Something along the lines of,
Hope you’ve had a great start to your week! I wanted to follow up on my guest post proposal from last week. Did you have any questions or need any more information from me?
What do you do if you do hear back and it’s a no?
It’s always disappointing, but it’s not the end of the world. If you do hear back and it’s a no, it’s totally fine to email back thanking them for their time and either giving a short alternative pitch or asking them if there’s a similar idea they’d like you to post on.
This does not mean that you ask them for feedback on your pitch, get upset and say weird things to them, or badger them to reconsider. Remember, people are busy, and nothing will get you mentally blacklisted faster than coming into this process with a sense of entitlement.
A few final do’s and don’ts:
Do triple check that you’re sending it to the right person and you’ve spelled their name right. If they have pitching guidelines posted somewhere, follow them. You’d be amazed at how many people ignore them entirely, so if you can get this simple thing right, you’ll have already made yourself stand out.
Don’t use hesitant language — anything along the lines of “just”, “I think”, “sorry”, etc. If you struggle with this, this is the plugin for you. And it goes without saying, but don’t have typos in your pitch, don’t pitch something you can’t follow through on, and don’t be a jerk if the answer is no.
When hoping to land a guest post on a dream site, start off by figuring out whether you should be pitching at all. Follow any and all guidelines they give you to the letter. Write a concise, convincing email that makes it as easy as possible for them to say yes. Check in if you need to, and don’t take it personally if the answer’s a no — because it might not be a no forever.
You have a creative business, which means, most days, you feel like you’re on top of the world. You can work when you want to, with whom you choose, and take vacations on a whim because hey, you are boss like that, right?
Unless, of course, you’re not feeling confident with your income. That changes things a bit.
The feast-or-famine mindset is real, and can leave you convinced that searching job boards may be a better choice than trying to keep at this ‘“own-my-own-business” thing. We get these feelings in months where we have way less clients, our course sales dip or our Creative Market income has been dryer than Schweppes ginger ale.
Yet many service-based businesses are leaving a ton of money on the table, solely focusing on services, courses and product creation that they ignore affiliate marketing and how it can complement their small biz income.
1 – Some solopreneurs I’ve spoke with tell me the earnings don’t amount to enough to spend their time on it.
2 – Other say that affiliate marketing is dead.
Neither of these could be further from the truth. Think about all of the products and services you use every single day while running your business. Now, consider all of the frequent purchases and investments (the online courses, ebooks, business tools). And how about that one “thing” you always recommend for every single one of your clients to help them get from ABC to XYZ?
If you do the math, you’ll probably feel a bit queasy at how much money you could have been making, just by simply adding an affiliate link to the products and services you love and trust to people who already love and trust you.
Where to start with affiliate marketing
The next greatest hesitation I hear is that people simply don’t know where to start without feeling like a car salesman. Fret not; there are so many great ways to not be cheesy OR greasy.
Without further ado, here are five authentic ways to add a bit of padding to your service-based business by using on-brand affiliate marketing…minus the ick factor.
1. Create a resources page
A resources, or tools, page is an effective way to help your visitors help themselves to the tools, courses and services you rely on to run your business. Get creative by adding images and banners, or simply use shortcodes and columns to create categories and embed your affiliate link into each resource.
Link to your resources page from your blog posts, include it in your email footers, and write social posts highlighting each resource on the page.
2. Make recommendations to your clients
You may be a web designer, virtual assistant or accountant who’s always getting asked what you recommend for solving your clients’ problems. You may also have certain things your client must purchase before you can start working with them (such as a theme or hosting, if you are a web designer).
When you onboard your clients, include a list of your favorite tools with your affiliate links in your welcome packet. Alternatively, if you send your clients a goodbye package, include a list of resources that will be helpful on an ongoing basis.
More than anything, they will appreciate that they can trust your recommendations and that they aren’t stuck having to Google for answers.
3. Build affiliate mentions into your editorial calendar
If you have a blog that complements your business, I imagine you are already sharing high-quality posts that position you as an expert in your niche, so why not turn these posts into money-generating machines?
Some of my best performing blog posts that have affiliate links are resource roundups and tutorials on how to do something that others often struggle with. Review posts of products you have tried and compared are also a good way to introduce your audience to amazing assets while helping you earn more money.
Pro tip: Content is key, but don’t ignore your images. Include high quality, pinnable images for people to share. Add keyword-rich descriptions in your images’ alt text if you want to tap into Pinterest for referral traffic.
4. Complement your newsletters
Dedicated emails about products you love can make you feel like you’re always trying to sell your audience something.
To avoid that, try sharing your experience with them. For example, if you took a totally ah-mazing course that skyrocketed your website traffic and you’re now an affiliate of, share the story of how your stats increased.
You can also write your newsletter content as usual and include links to some of your most recent affiliate-rich posts. Likewise, if you know your affiliates are having a sale and you genuinely don’t want your peeps to miss out, use a PS note at the bottom of the newsletter or within the content itself if it’s relevant.
An example: If you’re writing to your audience about how they can choose the best theme for their business and you happen to know that Bluchic* is having a sale, share it. Don’t be random. Weave it naturally into what your readers know you for.
5. Enhance your infoproducts
You may already have some great infoproducts (ebooks; worksheets; email courses) in place that help you grow your list or populate your shop. What if I told you that there is a way to monetize your free goodies and help you earn more with your paid offerings? Hold the phone, sista!
With on-brand affiliate marketing, it’s totally possible. When crafting your offering, you’re likely linking to tools and resources that are helpful for those who are downloading or signing up for your product.
By using affiliate links, you can make more money while continuing to deliver your high-quality content for free or increase your earnings with your paid products. For example, I have an email course that helps new bloggers or businesses set up their very first blog on WordPress. Even though it took a ton of hours and energy, I was able to justify giving it away for free because there were so many opportunities to earn money from the free course by mentioning amazing affiliates for WordPress hosting, themes, styled-stock memberships, and more.
But FIRST, here’s what else you need to know about doing affiliate marketing right
When adding a slew of affiliate links to your site, you can consider adding “no follow” links in place so that you aren’t oops-ed by Google (though there is a debate on whether it’s necessary or not). You also want to make your links cleaner with a plugin like Pretty Link Lite, or bit.ly.
Most importantly, and I can’t stress this enough: DO IT LEGALLY. (Caps + bold, necessary.)
You have to have disclaimers on your site that let your visitors know that they may be clicking on affiliate links. You have to share in your newsletter that links are indeed, affiliate links. You have to give a heads up about affiliate links even if you are just recommending a product to someone in a Facebook Group. Recommending something to a client? Gently let them know that they are clicking on an affiliate link.
When in doubt, remember this: Any time you drop a link, drop a hint!
Evaluate your current affiliate strategy and choose one of these methods to start or improve upon today. Need more of a nudge? Sign up for Affiliate Crush, my free, 5-day email course that helps you get started in choosing the right affiliates and helps you create a strategy, track your earnings and lots more.
*Some of the links contained in this post are affiliate links. (See what we did there?) As always, we only promote products and services we trust and believe in.
Welcome to Shop Talk! While we love providing you with jam-packed, actionable posts, we also wanted to share quick, thought-provoking snippets here and there — from our brains to yours.
Here’s an important lesson that we seem to learn and relearn here at One Woman Shop: Just because we don’t behave in a certain way doesn’t mean others don’t.
(Did that sentence confuse you? Us too. Keep reading, it gets better.)
We’ve been working hard to run Facebook Ads more strategically lately — which means running multiple versions of each ad to see which performs best. (This could mean mixing up the graphic, the copy, or the audience — but only one at a time in order to have a control. Hello, #highschoolscience.)
We started by testing three different graphics for our Road to Solopreneur Success ebook. One explained what the ebook is, one used the term “free ebook,” and one said “free download.”
This test stood out to us for a reason: We were both hesitant to include the word “free” on the graphics, because those aren’t the kinds of ads we tend to click on ourselves.
Of course, that’s why we experiment: The two ads with “free” on them far outperformed the other one.
Lightbulb moment: We never would have known this if we had only acted in accordance with our own biases. The lesson here? Just because you behave one way as a consumer doesn’t mean all other consumers behave the same way.
Case in point:
Just because we might not use the “Pin it” buttons on websites we hang out on doesn’t mean we shouldn’t install a Pinterest plugin and then optimize our images for maximum pinning — because other people do use these buttons.
Just because we might not follow brands on Instagram doesn’t mean others don’t — so we should consider actively updating our Instagram account and mentioning our latest product and service launches.
Just because we might not watch videos doesn’t mean others don’t love them. So we might host regular shows for those in our community who do love video.
We have found that this trap is especially tricky when you’re in the target market that you’re serving — it’s easy to feel like you speak for your whole audience, but often you don’t.
As usual, a caveat: We’re not encouraging you to do anything that you feel uneasy or icky about. If you have a strong opposition to something, go with your gut. But if you have a sneaking suspicion that your personal preferences may be hindering your potential reach, it might be time to think outside of that box.
Do some market research. Ask your solopreneur friends about their experiences. Heck, ask your community what they like and dislike. Go forth, friend, and get creative.
It happens to the best of us. We’re going through our day, when a great idea for a blog post pops into our head. And that’s when we tell ourselves the biggest fib of our blogging careers…“I’ll remember that later.”
Ladies, don’t do it.
Write down all of your magical ideas in a notebook as soon as you think of them, whether it’s a physical notebook, a bullet journal, or something digital like Evernote.
Even better than getting them in a notebook? Putting them down directly in your editorial calendar. When you assign a date for your idea (even if you change it later), it suddenly takes on a whole new level of importance. It becomes less of a scrawled thought, and more like you’re writing an article for your very own magazine.
But what to use for an editorial calendar? Like anything else in life, this is a super personal decision. Ask a dozen bloggers, and you could get a dozen answers…it’ll vary by personality, work style, and a million other variables. But just to kickstart your thoughts, I’ll go over some of the ones I’ve tried:
1. Simple notebook
I’ve done this by just assigning a notebook page for each month, and writing 1, 2, 3, 4…or however many posts I wanted to do that month. You can use fun notebooks from makers like Erin Condren and May Designs, or hit up the $1 section at your local office supply store to get a basic pad.
2. Post-It calendar
You can buy this from several places, but I picked mine up at Target. There are a few limitations: each page is only for a week, and there are less than 52 pages, but it’ll get you a decent way. And because each page is for a week, the squares are a great size for writing in. Plus, you can easily rearrange the Post-It notes.
3. Door full of Post-Its
Speaking of easy rearranging, in the early brainstorming phases, I have been known to paper the back of my door with all of my ideas on Post-Its. I’m a visual person, so it makes it easy to look at all of my ideas in just a few moments, and figure out which one is really grabbing me.
I know I’m on a Post-It kick, but really this works quite well with the smaller Post-Its. You can scribble down an idea, slap it on the calendar and rearrange it to suit your needs. It makes it easy to to figure out where your posts need to fit in coordination with holidays, launches, and other major events in your business.
5. WordPress plugin
Tada! This one has nothing to do with Post-Its at all. And, it’s digital! There’s a WordPress plugin that’s simply called “Editorial Calendar.” It lets you create draft posts and schedule them out, so you can see what you’ve got coming up that you’ve finished writing, or still need to work on. They even set it up to enable you to drag and drop the posts, so if you realize that something is trending, or you accept an interview, you can easily reschedule one of your upcoming posts by scooting it to a different date. Cool, huh?
Of course these aren’t the only options, and some people use a combination of these and/or other methods. But with a plethora of easy options, there’s no excuse for not getting started.
Tell us: What’s your favorite way of organizing your editorial calendar?
You’re ready to start your solo business — you’re craving the freedom, the versatility, and the chance to put your passion into play — but you’re not quite sure where to start. You’ve come to the right place. In our So You Wanna Be a… series, we highlight entrepreneurs who’ve built successful businesses doing what they love.
(Editor’s note: The terms designer + developer are sometimes used interchangeably. The women interviewed here each have their own specialties, which you’ll notice in their responses. For a breakdown of the differences between designers and developers, check out this post.)
So you wanna be a web designer/developer? Here’s what you need to know…
Tell us exactly what a person in your role does.
Sarah: A freelance web designer helps people accomplish amazing things. No really, we do! There are thousands of people out there with life-changing ideas, but they stop and give up when they shudder at the idea of creating a website. Web designers are here to eliminate that website-building barrier and help people use their saved time to focus on their strengths.
Aleia: I am a freelance Web Developer who focuses on Front End Development. As a Front End Developer, I build the parts of the website that you can see. I also have a design background so I frequently handle projects from design to development. That includes figuring out how a site can have maximum impact for the client.
Alison: I’m a WordPress developer, so that means I create custom themes for WordPress based on designs that my clients have from working with a designer. I also input site content (blog posts, pages, etc.), run site updates, and do on-going maintenance/tweaks. Long story short, I spend all day being super nerdy with code + servers.
Mel: I help women tackle WordPress! I spend about 70% of my time with content creation — I test out plugins, write blog posts, create videos, create visuals collateral, PDFs — anything to share information that I think will be helpful for bloggers and online business owners. I have two WordPress themes that I sell right now.
How did you get your start? What are other ways someone else can get started?
Sarah: I got my start back in 2014 when I enrolled in a Skillcrush Blueprint for web design. I took the leap and paid for my first ever course, and I was totally blown away just a week in. It was super easy to learn, and my classmates and instructors were amazing. I highly recommend to someone starting out to take a high-level, paid course like Skillcrush. Before then, I just played around with free courses and never really learned much before my interest faded.
Aleia: I got started by taking a Web Designer course with Skillcrush. It was an intro course that catapulted my love for all things design and development. I definitely suggest taking a structured course to get your feet wet and determine if development is your path and what part of development you like.
Alison: I started out as a designer but loved bringing my own designs to life by coding them. All of my designer friends thought I was crazy because they hated coding + felt completely limited by it. The more I started helping them, the more I realized that I was happiest coding themes that others had designed.
Mel: I was working as a software programmer when I started my first WordPress blog, back around 2002! I really wanted to learn how to “tweak” the look and feel of my site so I taught myself HTML & CSS with whatever resources I could find online. Then, I took a part-time degree in Graphic Design from a local college. I’d spend some money and invest in a good course.
Is there a certain kind of person that would thrive in your role?
Sarah: You’ll thrive if you 1) love to create things and can get in the flow and 2) can communicate well with people. I know a lot of web designers who love to create and get in the flow but have a hellish time communicating. You can be the best web designer in the world, but if you can’t make your client happy and translate their words into design, then you’re actually the worst web designer.
Aleia: A person who loves learning would do very well as a developer. There are always new technologies and tools. The learning never stops.
Mel: People who are creative would thrive doing design work. As for the tech side, I think it requires some persistence, resourcefulness and enthusiasm. It’s easy to tell right away if tech is going to frustrate you or motivate you.
What do people need before they can get started in your industry?
Alison: If you have a way to write code, technically you can get started. I don’t think it’s necessarily required, but I’m happy as heck that I have business insurance, a legal business entity + a lawyer that I can send questions to. I’d suggest making sure you have a solid agreement/contract template to protect both you + your clients. Aside from that, you’ll typically need Adobe CC or Photoshop as most designers work in that.
How do you currently seek out clients or customers? What are some ways you’ve considered seeking out clients or customers that you haven’t tried yet?
Sarah: The traditional way to attract clients is to seek them out on job boards, whether through Upwork, Craigslist, or other markets. The non-traditional way to attract clients is to join Twitter chats and Facebook groups of your target audience. Someone in a group is going to be asking for web design advice and you can swoop in to save the day—and impress the rest of the group!
Aleia: I currently use word of mouth, but I’d like to step it up and make more effort in marketing my services. I am looking into building an email list and ramping up my blog game by providing useful content to prospective customers.
Alison: Because of how long I’ve been doing this, most of my customers come via word of mouth or by clicking my site credit link at the bottom of a site I built. In the past, I’ve done a lot of sharing/helping in Facebook groups. I also reached out to mentors who in turn would send work my way that was a good fit for me but maybe too low of a budget or not complex enough for them.
Mel: Everyone that has purchased my themes has either found me through my website, social media or on Creative Market.
How do you normally work with clients or customers?
Sarah: I work with clients 1-on-1 in-person or through video chats. I strongly believe in spending important decision-making time face-to-face. What a client says to you in-person vs what they may say they want their website to do in an email can sometimes be two different things.
Aleia: I generally start and end client engagements with 1-on-1, in-person contact when available, especially when working with non-tech clients (i.e. small business owners). During the project, all of the communication is online — Google Hangouts and emails galore. When our lines get crossed, I will hop on an impromptu phone call or Hangout to get us back on track.
Alison: I typically work with clients online in a 1-on-1 or small group setting. There are times where I work directly with the designer and don’t interact with the client much at all, but I’m happiest when the designer, final client, and I are a small team. That way questions are directed to the right person.
How did you decide how to set your pricing when you were starting out?
Sarah: Pricing is a mystery to early career freelance web designers. We sort of shake the eight ball of arbitrary pricing. After a while, we then start to research the market and get a better understanding of our work quality, how price affects what type of clients we get, how it all fits into our finances, and the going rate in our area.
Aleia: I played around a lot. I didn’t want to under or overcharge and ended up doing a lot of free jobs before I eventually started charging. While learning I preferred to charge flat fees instead of hourly rates to take into consideration the time that I would spend looking things up that a more seasoned developer would already have a grip on.
Alison: I used the AIGA survey on industry pricing based on my area to set my base hourly rate. As I did more and more projects, I tracked my time and figured out approximately how many hours I spent on each site build. From there, I created a flat fee so that I benefit from being faster and clients know exactly what to expect on their invoice.
What is an industry-specific tool that you couldn’t live without?
Sarah:Inspect element. (Click that link to get a preview lesson from my course that describes how to use it.) Looking at what’s behind the website and making live changes is amazing.
Aleia: Git [a version control system] & GitHub [online project hosting]. I love being able to keep track of and share my code without needing to keep hundreds of versions of a project on my desktop.
Alison: I know everyone has a preference, but I can’t imagine coding outside of espresso. It’s my absolute favorite software for writing code.
Mel: Photoshop, Sublime Text [a text editor] and WordPress (of course).
What are some great resources for people looking to learn more about your industry?
Aleia: Twitter is a great catch-all for information, especially if you follow the right accounts. It’s an awesome place to learn of new tools, tips, and products. There are also a few great resources to stay current on all things development: A List Apart and its counterpart A Book Apart, Webdesigner Depot, and of course the Skillcrush blog!
Alison:Codecademy is a great website for learning code. I got my most “hands-on” learning by taking existing WordPress themes (especially the ones made by WP) and making changes to them. Create your own child theme (‘cause that’s a great first lesson too!) and then start changing things. You can learn a lot by breaking and changing something that’s already built. I also love Codrops for tutorials, CSS-Tricks for ways to rock CSS, and Google for searching for specific tutorials + problems.
What is something that someone getting started in your type of business would be surprised to hear?
Sarah: The #1 thing brand new freelancers are surprised to hear is that their pricing dictates the kind of clients they receive. If you have cheap pricing, then you’re more likely to have someone who tries to barter with you, or give you major scope creep. If you have high quality work and high prices, you’ll mostly get people who are extremely appreciative of your time.
Alison: I’m still surprised by the fact that simply replying to emails sets me lightyears apart from others in this industry. “My developer fell off the face of the earth” is something I hear every single week, without fail. Life/things happen, but to me it’s about being respectful to those that are paying you.
Mel: You don’t need a degree to make websites – you can learn it all online!
This post contains affiliate links for resources mentioned by those we interviewed. Anything you purchase may net us a bit of money, which helps us further our mission of supporting One Woman Shops across the world. Thank you!