How To Talk To Family About Being a Solopreneur

“So you’re between jobs?”

“Don’t worry, something solid will come up.”

“Having a 9-to-5 is the only way to get a mortgage, you know.”

“Don’t you want job security?”

“I guess you’re on a journey of ‘self-discovery’, right?”

If these quotes sound like your last family gathering, then you’re not alone.

Explaining your solopreneur venture to your family can be like trying to explain algebra to a trilobite. (That’s an extinct marine arthropod, FYI.) The idea of talking work at Christmas, Easter, Thanksgiving or whatever it happens to be can fill solopreneurs with dread.

You haven’t got a “normal” answer. You can’t answer with a one word job title because you’re a saleswoman, a marketer, an accountant, a visionary, and an investor…all in one.

At best, being a solopreneur is brave, and at worst, it’s career suicide — according to family.

Explaining your vocation to your family will be different for everyone; no one family is the same. Levels of support vary and mindsets change.

First thing’s first: Take a deep breath. You aren’t alone.

Upsetting the apple cart

I know the struggle.

I moved to a place where there were no starter jobs. It was a place populated with the semi-retired. Moving again wasn’t an option and I spent months trying to land jobs that weren’t quite right for me. I had hundreds of rejections.

It was soul-destroying.

I knew in my gut that my writing ability was exceptional. I’ll be the first to admit that I haven’t got a mathematical bone in my body, but words? I can do that. I was also well-educated and published in several newspapers.

But I was never the right fit. Not enough years behind a desk. Not enough willingness to subscribe to the outdated keyword-stuffing SEO ideas that still run this city.

Despite this, my personal blogs were getting shared and commented on. I was the go-to for friends who needed something written, so why was the corporate world so dead set against me?

One day, I snapped. They didn’t want me, so I didn’t want them.

I discovered the world of copywriting, an industry I — somehow — never knew existed.

I realized this was my gig. I could rock this.

I hit the ground running and got my first few clients in the first month.

My family’s response?

“At least you’ve got something until a proper job comes up.”

I felt the confidence bubble deflate like a cartoon balloon. You could almost hear the sad whizzing noise.

It took me a while to realise they weren’t being mean. Of course they weren’t, they’re my family.

Understand their mindset

They wanted what was best for me and could only express that by chiding me, trying to nudge me in the direction of a safe, secure 9-to-5.

Remember…a lot of these naysayers — parents, grandparents, extended family — spent their working lives as small cogs in big machines. They could only achieve success by joining a company young and staying there until they retired, slowly climbing the rank ladder.

There was little room for career moves, and entrepreneurship belonged only to those who could afford to be idle. In other words…it only happened to other people.

They don’t get it. They’re not being malicious, they’re just confused and worried.

Be confident

The best way to assuage their fears is to be confident.

Know exactly what you’re doing and be proud of it. If you’re unflappable, they’re more likely to realize they don’t need to fret.

You never know. A cousin might be belittling your work because they’re envious of your bravery and wish they could do what you do.

Be honest

One of the biggest stigmas associated with entrepreneurship is the risk factor.

There’s no point tiptoeing around it. Working for yourself has pitfalls a normal office job doesn’t.

You write your own paychecks and that can either be the best thing ever — or the worst.

Don’t deny it. Acknowledge the risk and explain that you are confident in what you do; you’re thriving despite the fear factor. If you make it clear that you aren’t blind to the risks, or simply ignoring them, you’ll seem far more competent.

Be encouraging

Explaining your business in a single breath and then changing the subject can give off a vibe of uncertainty. You might sound threatened or hostile.

Be open! If someone has questions, answer them.

Channel a little of that saleswoman flair and sell your work.

Your Uncle Jim’s questions that were meant to cut you down might change to genuine curiosity. How wonderful would that be?

Don’t be afraid to ask for help

Reaching out for support from family might seem like you’re admitting defeat.

Remember being a solopreneur is just that — solo. It can be very lonely and you don’t have colleagues to cheer you up on a bad day.

There is no shame in soliciting support from your family. Tell them how amazing your work is, but acknowledge that you sometimes go for days without connecting to the outside world. Admit that being your only advocate can be tiring.

When they realize how much you’re willing to sacrifice for your dream, they’ll be far more likely to offer a helping hand or a hug — without the whisper of, “I told you so.”

You’re in control, but you could use a sympathetic ear. That’s no different from someone in an office job suffering from burnout.

The uncertainty and quips about “real work” mostly stem from misinformation. If you break down that barrier in a calm, friendly way, you’ll never have to worry about awkward, talking-to-a-brick-wall moments at family gatherings ever again.

(Yes, they’ll still worry. They’re your family.)

But they’ll also be happy for you, and when you work for yourself, that counts for a lot.

P.S. Whether we’re willing to admit it or not, our family plays a huge factor in our solopreneur sanity.

4 Simple SEO Tips to Optimize Your Content and Attract Your Ideal Client

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.”

3. Use Yoast and fill in your metadata.

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.

Content might be king…

but it doesn’t have to rule your world. Drop your email below to get even more great tips on content as a solo business owner!

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Weekly Finds

Weekly Finds for the Solopreneur

Weekly Finds for the solopreneur

Welcome to One Woman Shop Weekly Finds – where we scour the web to bring you a curated list of posts, links, and resources that we think will help your business — and maybe even your life!

Is it possible to become exhausted by self-care? Despite being huge advocates of Solopreneur Sanity, we totally get where Alex Durand is coming from in her article for Thrive Global when she shares that her lengthy list of self-care priorities were gradually becoming a source of guilt — and it’s why we focus on just a few non-negotiables to start.

Ladies — Can we get a “hell yes!” for Iceland? The country’s putting regulations in place that’ll hold employers accountable for closing the wage gap between male and female employees in the near future. (Insert hands raised emoji here!)

Before you head to the bank: The online queen of money mindset, Denise Duffield Thomas (AKA Lucky Bitch) is back with a post that’s got fantastic biz advice, no matter your level…5 Ways to Avoid Taking Out a Business Loan.

A question we see in online business all the time: WordPress or SquareSpace? This time around, we’re turning to Marianne Manthey of Design Your Own (Lovely) Blog, and her epic breakdown of seven common blogger platforms.

Sanity + your inbox is possible…with SaneBox. (Seriously, it’s tough not to love that name.) SaneBox saves its average user 12+ hours/month on email through its unique filing and task system — and our friends there have offered us a $15 code to layer onto your free trial when you give it a go with this link!

Passive income. Passive income. Passive income. (Oh, it doesn’t work like Beetlejuice?) All joking aside, “passive income” is a popular term you’ve likely heard as an online business owner — but making it happen isn’t as easy as one might make it sound. That’s why we appreciate Farideh’s myth-busting article on passive income.

Despite being a huge perk of being a solopreneur, working from home can sometimes become…mundane. That’s why we’re loving this list of “universally-wining environment designs” from the IDEO team of designers, meant to “deliver a jolt of creativity.” (Yep — these are meant for corporate spaces, but there’s no reason we can’t steal ideas like #3, #9, and more for our home spaces!)

How to Write the Perfect Guest Post Pitch

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

Email:

Hi NAME,

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).

or

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.

Thanks!
Rachel

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,

Hi [Name],

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?

Thanks!
[Your Name]

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.

So remember:

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.

P.S. Did you know that One Woman Shop accepts guest posts? It’s just one of the ways you can be featured on the site.

Launch Like a Pro: 8 Steps to Beta Test Your Online Course Idea

Online courses: The possibility (and profitability) that comes with creating one can have a huge impact on how you run your solopreneur business.

In fact, most entrepreneurs and professional bloggers today agree that online courses are an important element for any solopreneur who wants more time to innovate, wants to be seen as an expert in their field, and who wants to shatter the revenue ceiling by creating a product once that can be sold many times over.

As an instructional designer that worked for over a decade at universities and corporations and more recently with entrepreneurs, I’ve launched hundreds of online courses and educational programs in a wide range of topics. Throughout these diverse launches, I’ve found that one of the single most effective steps in having a successful online course launch that brings many of the aforementioned possibilities (and profits) is to beta test your online course first.

There are countless benefits to beta testing, or piloting, your course, including:

  • Getting to know your students more intimately before launching to a bigger audience
  • Witnessing the transformation that your course content actually causes in other people
  • Collecting case studies or testimonials
  • Determining how much interaction will be needed from you during the Big Launch
  • Getting cash flow in order to make additional purchases for the Big Launch
  • Increasing your profit margin during the Big Launch

As I’ve begun working with entrepreneurs, however, I’ve noticed that a surprising few add this critical phase to their course creation process. By skipping this beta phase, you might find that you have devoted all of your energy for days, weeks, or months building a product that nobody actually wants. I’m going to guess you don’t have time for that. Am I right? Keep reading to find out how to beta test your online course to validate your idea and launch like a pro.

How to beta test your online course in 8 steps

While there are no hard and fast rules for establishing successful pilot courses, I’ve found these eight steps to be quite effective:

1. Define your goals.
I don’t know who said it first, but one key to business is to “fail fast, fail cheap, and fail often.” Your beta test period is your opportunity to do just that, but you will need to define goals before you can decide if your course idea succeeded or failed.

Determining goals for your beta launch will depend on what success looks like for you. Are you hoping to get a certain amount of people to purchase, to make a certain amount in revenue, or to collect a set amount of feedback or testimonials? Take a few minutes and write specific goals you can use these to determine whether your beta test succeeded — and if you should continue with the Big Launch.

2. Define and build your beta audience.
Since the beta phase is a time to check and validate your course idea without spending a whole lot of time or money, you may choose to select an audience that you already have access to.

For example, if you host a podcast, run a community, or have an email list, then reach out to this audience — or a subset of it — first. If you don’t have an audience, consider partnering with someone else and working with them to pilot your course.

3. Create your timeline and outline content.
Consider keeping a short timeline. From what I’ve seen in the corporate world, the average pilot course is about 30 days, but it’s good to stay flexible during a beta launch. A successful pilot course usually strikes a balance between structure and experimentation. Be prepared to cut it short or expand the test phase as you experiment with what works.

As you plan the timeline, prepare a brief outline of what content will be covered as the beta progresses.

4. Create course materials.
If you haven’t already, now is the time to create the course materials that you will use during the beta launch. Some creators choose to build out the entire course prior to piloting it, while others choose to meet live with their beta testers each week to get feedback before continuing creation.

Whichever you choose, this is also the time to create any Facebook Groups, Slack channels, presentations, pre-recorded videos, or anything else that will be used to teach — and collect feedback — during the pilot.

5. Price and soft launch your beta course.
This is probably the piece that most people worry about when it comes to pre-selling their courses: the actual soft launch.

This involves packaging up your course idea, your promised results, providing an outline of the content to be covered, pricing your course, and creating a sales page that people can use to pay for and enroll in your beta. (Yes, I do recommend that you sell your beta course, even at a discount. This adds value to the experience and is the only way to truly know if people will be open to paying for your Big Launch.)

Does the thought of selling your beta test scare you? Don’t let it: Make it clear to your audience that this is a pilot; a pre-launch; a test course. Although they will expect value, they will not expect perfection.

6. Collect feedback.
Feedback from your students can be extremely valuable during the pilot phase. It can be used to determine what people are willing to pay, the most feasible length, or the additional training videos or worksheets that you need to create before launching your course.

Of course, it’s virtually impossible to implement these suggestions unless you’ve captured this feedback in some way. Many course beta testers create Facebook Groups, or record webinars and video chats to capture this feedback. Be sure to prepare succinct questions to ask your betas to collect the information that will prove move valuable to you in your Big Launch.

7. Document results.
When purchasing a course, there are very few elements that are as convincing as seeing proof of the results promised. The pilot course is the perfect opportunity to gather these results.

Are you promising an increase in blog traffic; an increase in revenue; a faster, easier way to get the results they want? Have your pilot students document before and after pictures, graphs, screenshots…any proof points that show their results, and secure their permission to use them as testimonials and case studies for your Big Launch.

8. Evaluate your pilot.
Based on your original defined goals, you can determine if your pilot course was successful or not. If the beta is successful, prepare to relaunch the course with the new insights you received from the pilot. And even if the beta is not seen to be successful, there may be even more useful lessons on how to improve or refine your future initiatives.

Launch like a pro

Once you have completed these steps, or some version of this, you’ll be able to gain a good pulse on the type of student that’s best suited for your course, the amount of time an average dedicated student will need to complete the activities, and what results might be expected — all fantastic information for nailing your Big Launch.

The benefits that come when you beta test your online course don’t end there, though. With targeted feedback to improve your course, you’ll likely be able to raise your prices, launch with raving testimonials, and secure confidence that your course will have a real transformational impact on the lives of those who take it.

P.S. If you create it, will they pay for it? Get even more on beta testing here.

100 Best Sites for Solopreneurs, 2017 Edition: Nominations Now Open!

100 Best Sites for Solopreneurs

100 Best Sites for Solopreneurs 2016 nominations now open

As you know, we make it our mission here at One Woman Shop to provide solopreneurs with the best possible tools, resources, and community they need to recognize that “going it alone doesn’t have to be lonely.”

And we know we’re not the only ones on that mission. In fact, in 2015, we proved it when we opened nominations for our first edition of the 100 Best Sites for Solopreneurs, and they started pouring in. Let’s just say it was a tall task to get the list down to 100 when there are so many fantastic websites out there serving solo business owners.

We also know that new sites are popping up every day, and old favorites continue to provide an incredible amount of value — so without further ado, let’s hear your picks for the 2017 edition of 100 Best Sites!

What’s your favorite site for solopreneurs?

We’re looking for the best sites that provide rich, consistently-updated resources for solo business owners on the various elements of starting and running a business. The sites you turn to when you need advice on solopreneur finances. The blogs populating your RSS feeder for when you need launching or email marketing wisdom. The links you visit on the daily for the inspiration to quit your day job, build your side biz, or become location independent. Heck, even the sites you love to visit to give your brain a break so you can come back to your work stronger.

Speak now, fellow solopreneur!

Use the form below to nominate. Numerous nominations are encouraged! Simply submit the form, then choose “Submit another response.” (Oh, and self-nominations count!)

Editor’s note, 3/31/17: Nominations for the 2017 edition closed on Friday, March 31st. Now, we’re behind the scenes compiling your top 100 picks (there were more than we can count!) into a mega list of resources. Stay tuned!

To another year of celebrating a fantastic solopreneur community!

Hygge & Grit: How Nordic Principles Can Inspire Solopreneurs

Let’s hygge-fy your business. What exactly does that mean? Hygge is a Danish word and Nordic ethos that evokes a cozy, safe sense of home — and it’s a phrase taking the world by storm, for good reason.

In fact, this Nordic mentality might just be able to help you run a better business, solopreneur. Read on and prepare to be inspired.

How can you adopt the hygge mentality in business?

Hygge (pronounced “hooga”) translates most closely to “coziness” — but a cozy, safe sense of home doesn’t have to be taken literally. Hygge is an ethos that can apply to life, home, business, selling, and more.

Here are a few ways you might use the hygge concept to inspire your business:

  • Reach people where they are at their most genuine. How does your brand intersect with what people really believe? If you always appeal to people’s business side, rather than their personal beliefs, or vice versa, you might be missing out on some great customer relationships.
  • Build an honest sales and marketing strategy. Try to get people to feel empowered about using your product or services, rather than bully or persuade them into it.
  • Practice self-care. Knowing when to switch off and snuggle down brings hygge to our personal self. Your brand (and you) could probably do with doing this every now and then.

Sold on incorporating hygge into your business? Here are some other Nordic-inspired business mantras that might inspire you and your one woman shop:

Balance

The Nordic countries live very balanced lives. They advocate for local produce, natural products, and enjoy healthy lifestyles that allow plenty of space for personal growth and exercise.

This balance, both personal and professional, is crucial. Here’s how you might be inspired by it:

  • Balanced lives make for better business decisions. Being stuck on a hamster wheel of stress makes for uninspired entrepreneurs and uninspiring products. Learn how to disconnect to reconnect. Thanks to their short summers, Nordics embrace their summer to the max and go out into the wilderness to play and relax.
  • The Nordic aesthetic is all about harmony: balancing local materials with ergonomic design. Embrace this same simplicity in your product development – less is sometimes more. (Wasn’t it Coco Chanel herself who told us to get ready, and then remove one item?)
  • Bring a dialogue with the natural world into your business. What green values can you get behind? Do you fully understand the materials you work with? Be explicit and open with customers about your choices.

Confidence

Nordics know all about being a #girlboss.

Living in egalitarian societies, Nordic women are encouraged to stand up and speak confidently about their aspirations. Here’s how you might be inspired by it:

  • Remember that seeking confidence is often a lifelong journey. Don’t become disheartened when you find yourself doubting and questioning yourself. Focus on shifting your internal monologue so that you aren’t putting yourself down, and remember to be kind to yourself in your quest for confidence.

Minimalism

The famous Nordic aesthetic is all about muted tones and textures. (Think: natural shapes and colours on a white, light-filled background.)

This aesthetic goes beyond just style – minimalism is a habit you can adopt to keep your life clean and decluttered. Here’s how you might be inspired by it:

  • Keep your office and digital space clean and uncluttered. Being more minimalist will allow you to take back control of your life.
  • Selling online? Design a store that fits a minimalist aesthetic. Customers will appreciate a high-end, streamlined design that gives your products more space. Shopify has some awesome Nordic-style minimalist themes; or, you could get a freelancer to make one completely bespoke for you.

Sisu (grit)

No English equivalent exists for this Finnish word, but sisu is all about striving and succeeding against all odds.

Rooted in a stubborn and defiant mentality, embracing grit is something all entrepreneurs need from time to time. Here’s how you might be inspired by it:

  • Dig deep when the time calls for it.
      Don’t get snowed under by other people’s expectations. Persevere and move through the hard stuff with style and grace.
  • Sisu isn’t necessarily about being stoic. Sometimes it’s okay to admit that something is hard…but that you’re going to get through it, anyways.

Cooperation

Nordic communities know when it’s time to pool resources and knuckle down for the tough season ahead.

Embrace cooperation to make the most out of the people around you, and forge new collaborative relationships. Here’s how you might be inspired by it:

  • Don’t always see other suppliers as outright competition. There’s usually enough space in the market for everyone. Conferences and knowledge days are a great way to get together and discuss industry trends.
  • Share the love and you’ll get more back.Give back to the community around you with insightful emails, supportive membership groups (like One Woman Shop) and plenty of old-fashioned social media interaction.

Last, but not least: Quality

Quality over quantity is (sometimes) the way to go.

Nordics can’t compete on volume, so they tend to opt for quality instead. Here’s how you might be inspired by it:

  • Focus on what you do best, rather than trying to frantically run after growth or new ideas. By refining your current offering (and perhaps upgrading it), you’re going to develop new products and business ideas in a much more cost-effective way.
  • Build a VIP version of your product or service. Offering an exclusive version of what you do can encourage people to spend more with you.
  • Focus on stating clear value propositions. It’s okay to be more expensive that your rivals if you’re actually offering more. Just make it clear to customers why (and what) that is.

Embrace the hygge mentality in business

Nordics have learned how to carve out successful societies in harsh, unforgiving conditions. When you feel like life or business is getting you down, connect with your inner Nordic spirit.

These values are for everyone and can be endlessly adapted. It’s all about taking something you connect with and making it work for your business.

Tell us below: What Nordic principles are striking your chords?

P.S. As we love to preach…business isn’t one-size-fits-all.

Stop the Overwhelm: How to Get People to Email You Less

When you’re running your own gig, email is a blessing and a curse. On the one hand, it’s rapidly becoming the next voicemail — nobody wants to look at it, it’s clumsy to use, and for God’s sake, why don’t you just text? And in light of the 205 billion+ emails sent every day, it makes sense that Inbox Zero is a thing (that deserves caps).

But on the other hand, you need to be in contact with your clients, prospects, contractors, and anyone else who helps keep your business world spinning.

What most small business owners don’t realize is that you have so much more control over the amount of email you get than you think. In fact, if you’re getting overrun with emails, chances are it’s mostly your own fault.

So how can you get people to email you less, while still being able to keep up with everything you need to keep up with? It’s all about boundaries + clarity.

If you don’t want people to email you, don’t set up situations where they feel invited to do so.

For instance, if you’re routinely asking for responses in the emails you send out, you’re going to get emails back. If you’re really open and casual on your social channels, people are going to feel more comfortable getting in touch out of the blue. If you’re sharing vulnerable stuff in your blog posts, chances are you’re going to get people with that same flavor of vulnerability emailing you and sharing their experiences.

And that can all be good, as long as it’s in line with your branding and your business goals.

But to keep it from becoming overwhelming, you need to have some solid boundaries in place, and you need to give people a way to connect with you without getting all up in your inbox.

The first thing to do is to implicitly and explicitly state your boundaries. Take a look at the way you’re connecting with people. Are you being a little too open? Do you need to dial it back a little bit, become a little less accessible?

Think about ways that you can (nicely) discourage people from sending you emails. For instance, putting something as simple as “We love design. We hate long emails. Keep it short and sweet and we’ll love you, too!” can make a world of difference.

Finally, think ahead about how people are going to want to connect with you, and give them an outlet to do so that doesn’t involve email. This means making sure your social media pages are up and active, your blog’s comments section is working, etc., and directing them to those places with a pre-written email. (More on that in a sec.)

When it comes to clients…

Clients who get email-clingy typically do so because you haven’t shown them that they can trust you to lead this process. The way to avoid this is to set expectations up front, to watch your language, and to make yourself explicitly clear in every single email. (Sensing a theme here?)

When people first start working with you, make it clear what your hours are and your policies for responding to emails. It doesn’t have to come across as rude or standoff-ish — you can easily keep this in line with your branding. For instance, in my client onboarding guide, I have a section about email that says:

“We don’t spend all day watching the inbox because quite frankly, we’ve got better things to do. (Like writing your copy.) So don’t freak out if we don’t get back to you in seconds — you’ll always get a reply within 24 hours on weekdays.”

When you do have email correspondence with clients, keep up that leadership tone by avoiding hesitance, jargon, and uncertainty. Watch out for phrases like “I just…”, “Sorry to bother you…”, or “I think I might…” — all of which imply that you’re uncertain, which makes them feel like they have to lead. If you really struggle with this, here’s a great free app to help you out.

Finally, use the last sentence of your email to explicitly state what you’re going to do, what’s going to happen next, or what you want them to do. This way there’s a clear structure, you can easily refer back to it if they still manage to get confused, and they’re not left wondering whether they need to check in with you.

When it comes to contractors + coworkers…

The same thing applies in terms of setting expectations and watching your language, but the issue of clarity becomes even more important. Nobody wants to get caught up in a long email chain, so clarify your expectations up front — everything from expected response times to CC etiquette to what to do in an emergency — and then stick with it.

When you do sit down to write an email, pause for just a second before you start typing and make sure you’re clear on why you’re actually sending the email. Do you need information, and if so, what specifically? Are you looking for a decision, and if so, does the person on the other end have all the info they need to give it to you? Does this actually need a response at all? You’d be surprised at how many emails you can adequately respond to with a simple “Got it — thanks! EOM” in the subject line.

Finally, you can avoid loads of back and forth with some simple, pre-written emails.

To avoid getting sucked into endless email chains, have a think about the types of questions prospects, clients, and contractors tend to email you about repeatedly. Then, pre-write emails in response to them, leaving blanks for the name and the specifics, and save them in drafts or load them into a tool like Gmail’s Canned Responses.

This includes things like answers to common questions about what you do, “I’ll get back to you with a quote in 24 hours” emails, emails with your scheduling link, emails encouraging people to share on your social media or comments sections instead of via email, and responses both accepting and declining guest posting/product reviews/speaking opportunities. Then, when you do get inquiries, just mad-lib your way through your templates and you’re good to go.

Remember: boundaries + clarity = happier clients + contractors + way fewer emails for you. (And that means way more time to actually run your business.) Win, win, and win.

Streamline more. Stress less.

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5 Ways to Make More Money Using On-Brand Affiliate Marketing

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.

As glamorous as being a solopreneur seems, we all know that working with clients can often times be unpredictable and stressful.

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.

But wait, affiliate marketing is dead…right?

You probably already know what affiliate marketing is (if you’re shaking your head no, start here), and may have even explored it a bit and earned a couple of bucks.

But, I’m seeing two things:

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.

Oh contraire!

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.

#facepalm

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!

Your turn

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.

Weekly Finds

Weekly Finds for the Solopreneur

Weekly Finds for the solopreneur

Welcome to One Woman Shop Weekly Finds – where we scour the web to bring you a curated list of posts, links, and resources that we think will help your business — and maybe even your life!

Did you know? In 1967, stockbroker Muriel Siebert became the first woman to own a seat on the New York Stock Exchange. Today, Ubiquity Retirement + Savings is proud to be the only 401(k) provider to have more women in leadership roles than men. (It’s just one reason we love them and their SingleK retirement options for solopreneurs.) #FinancialFeminism

FEBRUARY. It’s all too easy to lose the new-year motivation and fall into the winter slump (for us northern hemisphere-ers, anyway). That’s why we love turning to classic reminders to stay motivated like this one from Marie Forleo. (Hint: Focus on what you’re doing, not what you’re trying to achieve.)

First reason we love this timeline of his business from Matt Giovansci: It’s clean and fun to read through. Second: He’s brutally honest about the “overnight success” his “mildly-successful” business achieved in just 14 years. Like everything Matt does, his transparency and humor always get the best of us.

If you’re like me (Sara) and left Hidden Figures completely inspired and hankering for more crazy awesome stories like it, you’ll love this list of must-reads from Brit & Co.

Adding products to our online businesses an appealing way to generate alternative revenue streams. Of course, it’s easier said than done. That’s why we were psyched to see our friends at ConvertKit curate an issue of articles on adding digital products to your biz last month — with thorough posts on the many faces of online products, the complete guide to e-commerce platforms, and much more.

Do you struggle with pricing? (Let’s be serious…who doesn’t?) Well, stop and read this insight from Seth Godin — and maybe you’ll realize that price isn’t the thing you want to be working on right now, anyway.

List-building is all the rage, and while we’re all out studying the best welcome mats, content upgrades, and software providers, we’re often overlooking the obvious: creating a dedicated opt-in page on our site that makes it easy for subscribers to find, and easy for us to link to. Alison Monday of tiny blue orange has us covered in her latest nerd alert column.

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