If you’ve been stuck thinking there just aren’t enough clients in the world, it’s time to turn that scarcity mindset around. Reframe it like this: As a solopreneur, you’re a problem solver. And it’s likely that there are more people experiencing that problem than you might initially realize.
For the purpose of this post, let’s pretend you’re a freelancer writer. (Or maybe you are!) While you might be serving the same types of clients over and over, maybe you’re seeing the well dry up — or you’re just looking for a new project to invigorate your love of writing.
It’s time to open yourself up to niche writing markets you may never have considered.
Here are 12 niche writing markets to get you started:
1. Menus: Not every restaurant needs you to write highly creative and exciting descriptions, but they all need menus. You’ll need to be able to make any meal sound delicious and worth ordering. If you know your food, this might be your new favorite market.
2. Writing prompts: Good at brainstorming? Try writing prompts for budding authors. Everyone needs some inspiration from time to time, and you could be just the person to provide it. Try sitting down and thinking up as many story seeds as you can for your favorite genre — come up with enough, and you could become popular with fiction writers.
3. Resumes: If you’ve had a lot of success with your own resumes, why not try writing them for other people? It’s easy to find work as lots of job seekers are struggling with writing theirs. With the right set of info, it’s easy to get started.
Example of a niche website for application: Resumention
4. Product descriptions: Anyone can open an online store these days, but they need an expert to really describe their products. That’s where you come in. If you can position their products in a way that sells them to their ideal audience, you could be worth your weight in gold to any seller.
5. Academic writing: Great at essays when you were at university? Don’t let that skill go to waste now. There are plenty of sites that allow you to sell your writing to students that need it — especially if you’re a specialist on the subject needed. (And you don’t have to pull an all-nighter like you did back then!)
Example of a niche website for application: Essayroo
6. Event programs: Strike up a relationship with a local printing company, and you could be referred to anyone who needs an event program. Ideas: Couples getting married, theatre companies, tradeshow attendees, event hosts — they all need a program to let people know what’s happening.
7. Content for educational portals: A lot of what you know as a writer can be translated into advice for students. Education portals like Australian Help are always looking for people who can write grammar guides, explain what plagiarism is, or just write advice on how to complete assignments.
Example of a niche website for application: Academized
8. Instruction manuals: Often called ‘technical writing’, instruction manual writers can explain how to do something clearly and concisely. If you’re good at getting instructions across, this could be a good source of revenue for you.
9. Proofreading: Writers can always use an extra set of eyes. People who have written pieces but don’t want to proofread them could send them to you. A lot of writers find proofreading easier than writing itself, so it could be an easy way to make some extra cash on the side.
Example of a niche website for application: UKWritings
10. Greeting cards: The verses inside greetings cards are called ‘poems’, and you can make a tidy amount selling them to greeting card companies. Be aware that they will buy them, but they’re not always going to use them. They do happily accept unsolicited verses though, so it’s well worth a try.
11. Band bios: Passionate about music and know the music scene well? Welcome to your new favorite market. Bands need help with bios, websites, and pretty much all marketing for shows.
Example of a niche website for application: Bandzoogle
12. Editing: Along the same lines as proofreading, you could offer your editing services. (A more involved form of proofreading that looks at the developmental side of things rather than just grammar and spelling.) This is a good idea if you have an eye for what works and what doesn’t in any text.
Example of a niche website for application: BoomEssays
Hey, solopreneur: Think outside the box
This is just a small sample of the niche writing markets that freelancers could branch out to in order to shake up their normal routine, secure new clients, and perhaps renew their love of writing.
Whether you’re a freelance writer, designer, coach, speaker — you name it — don’t be afraid to think outside the box niche.
Unicorns are iconic. Emblematic. They symbolize the effortless realization of dreams.
The thing is, dreams are real, but unicorns are not.
That seems like a despondent note to start on, but it’s actually kick-start positive.
Having dreams is healthy. It gives you goals and ambition — a driving force for all that you do. It reassures you in the face of failure and encourages you when you’re out of ideas. Solopreneurs often have no one to rely on but themselves. We all need an inner unicorn.
But business success isn’t magic, no matter how much we might wish it to be. Reality has a nasty habit of making dreams slow and difficult to realize.
Here’s your first reality check: Nothing is impossible.
Businesses are bedfellows with the Internet now. It’s almost impossible to launch a business without a website to match.
Getting your dream domain, setting down a design (either yourself or with a professional) and launching it makes it all official.
It doesn’t matter if you don’t have your product ready to go yet — having a mesmerising landing page and opt-in form is a great way to get the ball rolling.
Work on amassing a stellar email list. Spread the word about your product. Send your loyal subscribers some high-quality newsletters or mini e-books with actionable, unique takeaways. Write a blog to underpin the product.
Is this quick list a lot of work? Yes. Is it worth it? 100%.
Think of it as laying the groundwork for your main product. You wouldn’t leap into a marathon without any training. If you build up a solid audience then market your product well, the launch will be far more lucrative and you’ll see a positive ROI much quicker than delving into a cold market.
Ongoing: Love your stumbles
Learning from your mistakes is one of the best qualities in any business person, particularly a solopreneur.
As a one woman shop, you can’t handle everything all at once without occasionally slipping up. Take the falls on the chin, make a note, and work to ensure it doesn’t happen again. Likewise, figure out what does work and stick to it.
Ongoing: Pen Pencil and paper
People change as they grow. You might suddenly want a tattoo, or a cat. Your dream of a skyscraper studio apartment might morph into a cottage with land to keep miniature donkeys.
Dreams can change, too. They might shift into something bigger, something with a new end game, targeted to a different market.
That’s okay. That’s natural.
Don’t feel you’ve failed. Pencilled dreams can be rubbed out and altered, whereas dreams written in pen are final and can only be crossed out.
Keep an open mind. There’s more than one way to achieve success.
Ongoing: Value your critics
That might seem self-destructive, but your naysayers act as free consultants.
It might be difficult to see the faults in your program because you’ve invested so much of yourself into it. An outside opinion could actually be beneficial.
There’s a difference between someone trying to cut you down and someone trying to cut you a break.
Listen to them. Think of what your product will look like if you implement their changes. Don’t be too proud and reject outside help, whether in the form of assistance or criticism.
View critique as a free screening. If any glaring errors are found, you’ll be glad you listened to your cynical friend.
Ongoing: Embrace your inner unicorn
Be bold. Be brave. A unicorn is a mythical creature that has stood the test of time, despite being literally impossible.
You can do the same. Know the difference between dreams vs. reality in business, then be like a unicorn and never give up on that dream. It might take a little longer than a day but you’ll get there so long as you stick to your plan, maintain your work ethic, and learn as you progress.
Keep a clear head and a focused goal. Don’t be afraid of change and criticism.
And know that when — not if — when you get there, you deserve every bit of it.
There’s something to be said about not jumping on business bandwagons.
Deciding to not join in on the latest “business trend” might mean you’re keenly aware of how the trend fits into the bigger picture and whether it would be smart to adopt, or maybe you’re not taking it on out of fear even though you know it would be helpful for your business.
That last one, the fear, is something I’ve found a lot of people are experiencing with the latest business trend: live stream video marketing.
At this point, calling it a trend isn’t even accurate.
According to Livestream, 81 percent of audiences on the internet and mobile consumed more live video in 2016 than they had the year before, and 80 percent of those people also prefer live videos over blogs, while 82 percent prefer consuming live video over social posts.
With stats like that, it’s not crazy to claim that you might want to make live stream video broadcasting a defined facet of your overall marketing plan. Here’s why:
It captures attention. People like seeing people, and we also are drawn to things that move and make noise. So, in a sea of static updates in a newsfeed, a piece of media that’s moving and has sound naturally captures attention. Of course, more factors go into keeping that attention, but we’ll get there in a minute.
It helps build your credibility and trust factor. The sheer inability to edit when you’re live-streaming gives you instant credibility. You’re not able to cut out flubs, you have to respond to live engagement off the cuff, and you’re making yourself available in real time. That level of accessibility is huge for displaying your expertise and allowing people to see your personality and know they see the real you.
It’s quick and easy. With live-streaming, it’s as easy as opening an app and hitting “go live.” No need to get graphics together or have an editor on hand. Live-streaming lends itself to being as easy to create as it is to consume, which is ideal for audiences with ever-increasing demands on their attention spans and business owners who want to see a good ROI with the time and money spent on marketing.
So, now that you know why you might want to be incorporating live stream videos into your content strategy, here are the main things you need to consider when determining how you’ll create videos that get watched and drive results for your business.
1. Your content
Beyond the fear of simply going live is the fear of “what do I talk about?!,” and there’s one important thing I want you to keep in mind: Just because you’re recording live doesn’t mean you can’t go in with a plan.
Although you don’t want to sound like you’re reading off of a script, there’s no problem with creating an outline and having some notes to keep you on topic.
Some things you can talk about or show on your live broadcasts include quick tips, behind-the-scenes of your business, peeks into your creative process, exciting announcements, simple hellos to your followers, something cool you think they’d enjoy, or education content based on your expertise.
And that’s just the tip of the iceberg, because live-streaming lends itself to sharing anything from super-short, fun glimpses into your day all the way to sitting down and having an in-depth conversation with your audience.
Start small and with some notes, and eventually, you’ll get more comfortable to the point where you don’t need to do any self pep-talks before going live (we’ve all been there), and you can speak to any topic on the fly.
Also, don’t forget to give a call-to-action in your video. Do you want people to sign up for your list, check out your latest items in your shop, or give you feedback? Tell them what you want them to do!
That’s how you’re going to see the tangible benefits of how live-streaming can benefit your business.
2. Your setting
Once you’ve got an idea of the various types of live stream videos you’ll want to create for your brand, you’ll want to give some thought to your filming locations.
Listen, as exciting and dangerous as it sounds, just because you can live-stream from the back of a motorcycle doesn’t mean you should. (Unless your business involves making custom hot rods in which case, carry on.)
Otherwise, it’s helpful to think of a few areas that you can consistently turn to as the backdrop for your live broadcasts. Maybe it’s a corner in your office or your back patio. Maybe it’s the awesome coworking space you go to a few times a week.
Then, of course, comes the scenario of live-streaming because you’re sharing the location you’re in and what you’re doing there.
In either case, there are a couple of important things to keep in mind: light and sound.
Try to find a well-lit area where the source of the light is shining on you and not behind you so that people can see your face. The best light source is diffused sunlight, so if you have a well-light room without the sun directly beating in, that’s ideal.
For sound, indoors is preferred so you don’t have to worry about being drowned out by gusts of wind or traffic. But if you can’t help but be outdoors due to the nature of your video, try to get as far away from sources of loud sound (like a street) or find a barrier that blocks some of the noise.
3. The right equipment
One of the beautiful things about live streamed video is that people don’t expect it to be perfect, which means that not having a DSLR camera isn’t an excuse for skipping out.
However, just because it’s unedited, raw footage doesn’t mean you shouldn’t take steps to ensure good audio and visual quality.
Circling back to having good light and sound quality, Photojojo! has a variety of unique tools to help you improve your video quality that won’t break the bank. For example, their Pocket Spotlight is perfect if you need a little help bumping up the brightness of your video and The Mighty Mic will help you achieve crisper, clearer, higher quality sound.
In addition to finding a place with good lighting and low wind (if you’re shooting outdoors), it’s also helpful to have a tool you can use to go hands-free and keep your phone or camera stable.
Now available to anyone (Prior to late March 2017, only YouTube accounts with 10K or more subscribers could go live)
If your channel subscribers receive Youtube’s email notifications, they’ll receive an email when you start your live broadcast
Platform picking tips
1. Go with your primary platforms
Are you already active on Facebook? Have an engaged following on Instagram or Twitter? Start with the top one to two platforms you already use and have a greater following on. Then, if you find that you love live-streaming, you can branch out to creating live streams and building an audience on additional platforms.
2. Get crafty with “repurposing”
If you want to share content that you think your audiences on multiple platforms would appreciate, let your content stretch further and go live simultaneously. Of course, this will take a multi-device setup, but if you have a laptop and smartphone or smartphone and tablet, it’s totally doable.
Just make sure you’re letting your followers know you’re live in multiple places. That way if you reference the platform you’re on, your watchers on the alternative platform don’t get confused. Another benefit to this method is that you’ll be helping to cross-promote your other social media channels.
3. Take it for a test drive
One of my best social media secrets is that I have “test” accounts for my top platforms that I only use when new features roll out so I can test them and see how they work before committing to trying something new on my official page.
I don’t think everyone needs to try that method; you could just ask a biz friend to give you a quick tutorial, but I’m a visual, hands-on learner, so test driving features in that way helps me decide whether I’m ready to go public using a new feature.
You can start live stream video marketing today
As you can see, today’s digital landscape has made it inevitable for live stream video to become one of the biggest mediums for content creation. You’d be missing out on a big chunk of the marketing pie if you don’t consider weaving this type of media into your content strategy.
The key thing to keep in mind is to embrace the unpolished nature of live-streaming and just start.
As you gain more practice with each video and you incorporate some simple tools into your production, you’ll look like a pro and be consistently creating content you’re proud to promote in no time.
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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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!
“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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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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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.
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.
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.
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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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.)
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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