Consider this: Facebook is the largest interconnected group of people that has ever existed in all of history. Without leaving your living room (a solopreneur’s dream come true), you’re able to reach a couple billion consumers. What an amazing opportunity for your business!
After all, your business runs on connections, right? Regardless of what type of business you run or what your primary form of advertising is, ultimately your sales are dependent on how many people you can effectively reach with your marketing messages. If you’re looking to make connections, then Facebook might just be the place to be!
Facebook’s algorithm and business
Now you might be thinking, “That’s great, except I can’t reach any of those people because of Facebook’s darn algorithm!”
If you’ve spent any time on Facebook in the past couple of years, you’re probably aware that their constant algorithm adjustments have consistently given business Pages less and less reach. In fact, at this point, posts from most business Pages reach only about 5% of that Page’s audience.
Understandably, this is extremely frustrating to many businesses who spent a lot of time attracting those Page fans. Many people feel that their effort to grow an audience on Facebook was wasted.
Also, many who haven’t already put in the work to grow their Facebook Page are now wondering if there’s even any point to doing so. If that’s the camp you’re in, then you’ll find the three ways to use Facebook for business below to be very interesting. (They show that Page likes aren’t necessarily required for you to get tangible results from FB…really!)
What Facebook really wants
Why is Facebook constantly changing? Why didn’t they just leave good enough alone and preserve the old, chronological feed that gave every post equal treatment?
Well, that’s effectively what Myspace did, and look where they are now. :/
In short, Facebook’s primary focus is to keep their customers happy and interested. The more time that people spend on Facebook (and the more they enjoy their time there), the more money Facebook makes.
It’s in Facebook’s best interest to keep their customers happy and interested, and they will always make the choices that support that.
The whole point of Facebook’s algorithm is to figure out what each user is most interested in seeing and serve them that content. This is determined through a variety of methods, primarily:
Keywords: Has the user responded well to posts with similar keywords in the past?
Broad categories: In general, FB users are most interested in the recent life events of their friends. Everything else (including promotional business posts) takes the back burner.
Engagement: Facebook serves each post to small segments of users at a time to be able to gauge their reaction and decide how many more people to show it to. Facebook knows that the more likes, comments and shares a post gets, the more interested people are in the content — and the more time they’re spending on FB as a result.
While the FB algorithm is incredibly advanced, it still takes shortcuts whenever it can — after all, there are billions and billions of posts for it to sort through, so it (they) want to give preference to posts that are more likely to do well.
At the end of the day, that means your business posts get mostly booted off the feed. Facebook knows that their users are generally more interested in the lives of their friends than they are in promotional posts, so they’ve made it a default for business posts to get very little reach.
How to make Facebook WORK for your business
All this makes it sound rather discouraging, doesn’t it? Facebook doesn’t want your posts and Facebook is in charge! Should we just abandon the platform altogether?
Fortunately, that is not called for. There are actually several ways that we can harness the power of Facebook and use it to drive sales in our businesses. Keep reading to find out how.
1. Start or participate in Facebook Groups
Facebook Groups are the equivalent of networking events, but so much more specific — plus, you can participate from the comfort of your own living room! (Again, living the solopreneur dream.)
There is power in being able to connect with your target audience and actually talk to them. Companies have spent millions and millions of dollars on A/B testing advertising campaigns because they don’t know exactly what resonates with their audience. The fact that you can just chat with your target customers is an amazing innovation of Facebook.
Facebook Groups are also the only way to connect with people on Facebook who aren’t already your friends. If you look at your News Feed, you only see the posts of those who you’re already connected to, but when you join a Group, you instantly get access to hundreds, even thousands, of new people who are all interested in the same, relevant topic.
Another advantage that FB groups have over traditional networking is the ease with which you can further connect with people on a more personal level. If you want to follow up with someone you met at a traditional networking event then you’d better bet that you managed to get one of their business cards. Totally not necessary on Facebook!
Really, you and Facebook kind of want the same thing — you both want to promote content that generates interest. You can work with Facebook (it helps to have the big guys on your team) by intentionally creating and promoting content that is more likely to spread virally.
Many marketing studies have been done to determine exactly what causes some content to perform so much better than other content. In short, people are more interested (and more likely to share) content that they emotionally respond to. There are actually 10 different characteristics that viral content tends to have.
When you share content that has these characteristics, several key things happen. First of all, your posts will get more engagement. People will like, comment and share things that they feel passionate or intrigued by.
Second, every time your post is shared it will get exposed to that user’s friends — giving it even more opportunities to be shared further.
Third, when Facebook sees all that engagement, they will identify your post as one that their users (at least certain sectors of them) are finding interesting and give it additional reach.
Finally, all those likes, comments and shares will give your post a lot more social credibility. When additional users see your post and see that other people reacted to it, they will be influenced to believe that your post is, in fact, interesting. That makes it significantly more likely that they will also engage with your content.
Many people seem to have the idea that Facebook Ads are expensive or that they’re not sure if they can afford them. Really though, Facebook Ads are an investment, not an expense, and when done right, they will earn you far more money than they will cost.
What’s not to love about FB Ads? If you strategically use them to enter customers into your business’s sales funnel then you’ll be making money while you grow your brand. So long as they are earning you more than you’re spending, you have a perpetual machine to drive list growth, brand exposure, and future sales.
Don’t feel like FB Ads aren’t for you just because you have a small budget. Really. Even with just $5 a day you can start to scale. As sales come in, you can reinvest your profits into progressively larger campaigns.
Facebook Ads are the silver bullet of advertising, allowing you to drive traffic and close sales for pennies. You can get started by talking to an FB ads expert who can help you figure out the best strategy for your campaign.
The right Facebook strategy for your business in 2018
Any of these strategies has the potential to uplevel your social media marketing strategy, but probably one or two of them will give you the very best results.
If you’re still in the research phase or you sell big-ticket services (such as advanced consulting, web design, or large branding packages) then FB Groups are an excellent place for you to start. Connecting with customers one-on-one can allow you to develop mutually beneficial relationships that result in qualified referrals.
Viral content can be a powerful tool for any business, but generally works the best for content or service-based businesses that can teach something impactful to generate leads.
Facebook Ads can be effectively used for many different types of businesses, but create particularly amazing returns for product-based businesses. Whether you sell physical products (clothes, decor, etc) or digital products (especially courses), FB ads can double your sales overnight, exponentially growing your brand.
Considering these three powerful ways you can use Facebook to promote your business, I think you’ll agree that Facebook marketing is alive and well. Don’t miss out on this amazing opportunity!
Over to you: What’s your Facebook marketing strategy? Which of these three ideas would have the greatest impact on your business?
Jean’s coaching business is small but successful. She works with 5-7 clients every day, then spends time catching up on social media, emailing, blogging, invoicing and other business matters.
Her to-do list is never-ending, but she has what everyone in the online teaching industry desires — the state of being “fully booked.”
There was a time when “fully booked” was a phrase every online business owner coveted. Whether you’re a coach, an online teacher or a service provider, at some point Michael Port’s book was on your desk, and you wanted to “book yourself solid” for months on end.
And then, because (if you’re like me) you followed Michael’s every word, you indeed experienced what the “fully booked” means: several clients a day, follow up calls, invoices, social media and email marketing (no time to train anyone to outsource those), new clients, new projects (maybe), blogging or vlogging — all in that disrupted order, running the cycle without breaks.
Let’s pause. When we look up the term “fully booked” the first illustration comes from the hotel and restaurant industry to mean “no rooms or tables available at a particular time or date.”
One thing that our “fully-booked” heros forget to tell us is that we’re human beings, not restaurants and hotels and we cannot book all available hours we have in the day and give them to clients.
I find it ironic that the technology that “frees us” from the daily drudgery of business matters doesn’t help with the “fully booked” dream with to-do lists that don’t end.
I believe there’s a better way to work, make a living, and best serve the people with whom you work — without “fully-booking” your human capacity.
In order for this to happen though we need to start with some fundamental, mindset-shifting exercises.
In this post, I offer my 12-step recovery program for the fully-booked online coach, teacher, and other service-based business owner who finds themselves in the trap of no more time available.
Step 1: Acknowledge that you’re a business owner first.
“Oh, I’m not a business owner. I’m just a teacher.” If this is you, don’t run a business — go work for a school. But if you want to work for yourself, call yourself what you are.
The difference between a hired employee and a business owner?
A business owner focuses on the system, realizing that providing the service is only a part of the entire puzzle whereas a “just an XYZ” tries to ignore the entire system, thinking that the service alone is going to be enough to make the business sustainable.
Step 2: Identify your main strength and develop it into your superpower.
We’ve all thought at some point that we can do everything. We’ve exhausted ourselves working on projects we didn’t like and we’ve wasted our creative energy without making an impact.
Niching down isn’t some basic, feel-good advice designed to make us miserable. It’s our thriving code.
In Opted Out of the *Real Job* we write, “…focusing on a real problem puts you in a position where you can solve the problem — and that’s how you opt out of the illusion of helping people and move into the reality of helping people. Which one do you prefer?”
We begin impacting clients only when we use our superpower, not our average skillset.
Step 3: Identify your dream client and connect with her only.
When I started working online in 2009 I used to think that I was skilled enough to work with anyone. I believed that if a client didn’t like me, I could change that. I believed “the client was always right.”
That mindset brought nothing but turmoil and disappointment. We’re not a “Walmart-type” business. Hence we can only work with specific clients to ensure transformative results.
Step 4: Focus your content to help your dream client solve a specific problem.
“Perfection is achieved, not when there is nothing more to add, but when there is nothing left to take away.” – Antoine de Saint-Exupéry
It’s easier to add to what we already have than to focus on what works, dig deeper into it, and eliminate all the confusing noise. Eliminating the noise and focusing in on what matter takes courage and security in our brand, but it allows us to offer services that make a greater impact.
Some of us resist setting up automated booking buddies because we want to provide the “special human touch.” So we dig ourselves into a hole of being overwhelmed with email and client onboarding process.
We’re afraid to delegate. It’s our baby, and people can mess things up. We think it’s not a big deal. We never have enough money to delegate.
But when you do have *enough* money you won’t be able to afford to train someone and wait until she learns your process. Waiting will cost too much. So rethink your budget now. Delegate draining tasks.
Step 7: Recruit your fans.
The best people to work for you are your fans. You can find some hired workers on crowded marketplaces, but it’s likely not the best long-term strategy. The people who comment on your posts, engage in discussions, or respond to your emails — start there when looking for someone to work for you.
“When people realize that they are not a cog in a machine, an easily replaceable commodity, they take the challenge and grow. They produce more than you pay them to, because you are paying them with something worth more than money.” – Seth Godin
Step 8: Identify the 1:1 people and everyone else.
As coaches/online service providers, we think everyone needs the 1:1 format of what we offer, but it’s not true. Some may not be in a position to hire us, but finding a way to engage with and transform them in a one-to-many format is something your business can benefit from.
Step 9: Create one product/program to help your audience members achieve their goals independently.
In the spirit of the one-to-many formula, create one product to offer to people who aren’t ready to invest into working with you. Can you offer a book? A series of videos? A short online course? A program?
I love Breanne Dyck’s post on how to (finally) create a product. (It made me realize writing a book isn’t as scary as you may think, especially if you have a blog.)
Step 10: Set up boundaries to your “fully-booked” schedule.
Even though there’s no assigned rule that helps us figure out when we reach our “fully-booked” mark, I believe each one of us knows when we stop giving our best to our clients.
When you turn from a human coach into a coaching machine, or a human (insert-expertise-here) into a (insert-expertise-here) machine, you know you’ve reached your limit. Set up your boundaries that will keep you from getting there.
Join professional forums (editor’s note: like One Woman Shop!) to build the network you need to create partnerships and refer work to your partners. New brands will thank you for the referral, and you will minimize your overload.
Step 12: Take breaks to foster your creativity on a regular basis.
Somewhere along the way we got busy and stopped being creative. We told ourselves “we’re not the creative type,” and it became our comforting story. And yet it’s creativity that helps us find the most unique solutions to solve our clients’ problems.
So find the time to be creative. If you’re too busy to do that, it’s hard to create anything customized because customized takes creativity.
My advice to you: Become available
We don’t have to be busy all the time to feel like “we’re working hard.” We don’t have to fill someone else’s work quota to validate ourselves. We don’t need to be fully-booked on someone else’s terms to prove that our work is valuable.
I propose that we strive to become available. It’s an oxymoron for someone who has chosen to opt out of the standard, 9-5 job and its demands, but it doesn’t take us long to realize that the same standards we ran away from still rule our days.
To paraphrase Brené Brown, let’s not wear our busyness as a badge of honor. Try being available for a change. It’s the key to recovering from the fully-booked syndrome that’s stifling the sanity of coaches and other online service providers, everywhere.
You know the struggle when you’re first learning something?
One moment you’re vigorously trying new ideas from your entrepreneurial gurus. And the next? You realize you wasted three hours and you can’t tell if you accomplished anything.
That’s how I felt every day when I first started doing publicity.
Everything was hit and miss. My days got swallowed into the computer screen. I was driving myself crazy — and not seeing results.
Of course I learned a ton, but I wished someone could have said, “Here’s a way to break things down into bite sized pieces!”
That’s exactly what this post is about.
After several years of refining my own routine, I’ve reduced my weekly schedule into simple chunks. I got rid of the time-gobbling fluff and focused on tasks that bring about tangible outcomes.
This one-woman schedule is easy, actionable, and totally results oriented.
Once you get into the rhythm, you won’t spend more than 30 minutes per day on generating your own free publicity!
Read three articles from blogs or magazines you want to be featured on.
As you do:
Take notes on what you think about the article. Keep this in an easy to access place like an Evernote notebook or a Google Sheets spreadsheet.
To really make your presence felt, leave a thoughtful comment on the post. This will notify the writer or editor that you actually care about their work. It’s a great way to introduce yourself to someone you will eventually want to send a pitch to.
If they don’t have a comments section, feel free to send a quick email thanking the writer for the post. Don’t try to pitch or sell anything to them. You’re literally just there to acknowledge the value of this person’s article.
To take things a step further, spend a few minutes scheduling reposts for these three articles on your social accounts throughout the week. This shows bloggers that you care about their work and giving them exposure, too.
Pitch three writers you’ve connected with in the past.
Unless you have a last-minute time constraint, I don’t recommend that you pitch someone upon first contact (that’s why we read those articles and took those actions on Monday!).
Previous contact can include anything from connecting on social to getting a warm introduction from a mutual connection — but giving it at least a bit of time to marinate is key.
Ahh hump day. Everyone’s feeling the weight of the week today, which makes this the perfect time to check in with your network!
Message a few of your business connections and check to see how they’re doing.
Comment or share some new blog posts from a few of your entrepreneur friends.
Hit up online networks on Facebook, Slack, Mightybell or even Quora and answer questions about your field.
I can’t count how many times I’ve gotten collaborations, new clients, and PR opportunities just from checking with with the people I’ve met online.
Follow up with three people you’ve pitched.
If anyone you pitched on Tuesday clicked links in your email, but didn’t get back to you, today is the day to follow up. Come from a place of helpfulness in your follow up. For example: Do they have questions you can answer?
If there haven’t been any clicks in this week’s outreach, let those sit. Instead, take this opportunity to follow up with the people you pitched last week. (It’s now been nearly 10 days!)
Add three new outlets to your media outreach list.
Woo! It’s Friday, which means it’s the perfect time to prepare for the coming week. Today is the day to do some maintenance and add new publications to your media outreach list.
When thinking about adding a new media outlet to your outreach list, consider this:
Do your customers naturally gravitate toward this publication/website?
Is it a place they return to over and over again?
Can you provide obvious value to the publication’s audience?
Make sure you save the link to an article about your niche — this saves you time on Mondays!
Note the name of the publication, the author’s name, and their direct email address. If you need help, use free tools like Hunter and Big Picture’s Email Finder to track down almost any email address in seconds.
There you have it. A week’s worth of publicity work in only 30 minutes per day, and you’re set up to do the same next week!
Your turn: What first step will you take to kickstart your publicity efforts?
How many times have we heard all the things we “should” be doing when it comes to our business? My guess is: an awful lot.
And it’s no different when it comes to content marketing:
Facebook has said that writing is dead, while others insist you write a 2,500-word blog post (with a content upgrade!) or you’re wasting your time.
Everyone’s in raptures about live video.
And anyone who’s anyone has a podcast.
I’m not saying that any of these content types are wrong or that you shouldn’t do them. (Heck, it’s your biz. You do what works for you.)
What I am saying is that the landscape of content marketing is changing.
Here’s the TL;DR: There’s no one content marketing strategy that works. And there’s no one template to follow.
Why? Because the solopreneurs who want to stand out are getting sick of hearing all the shoulds and need-to-do’s when it comes to creating content for our businesses — and some of us are rebelling.
A content revolution is underway and it’s all about doing content your way.
The good news? This is your first-class ticket to unique content that stands out, serves your audience, and is fun to create. (How many wins is that?!)
So if you’re fist pumping (yes!) while doing a happy dance (possibly to this song), then your next question is probably: Okay, cool. So how exactly do I do content my way?
Well, my friend, one of the easiest ways to do content your way is to let your personality shine through. But how?
Your 3-step plan for adding more personality to your content
1. Give yourself permission to do things your way
The first step is to rethink everything you think you know about creating content for your biz. And that means that you need to transform the way you think about content (and the stories you tell yourself) so that you can allow yourself to do content your way.
Because here’s the thing. You don’t need:
To do what everyone else is doing
To force yourself to write
To heed another tactic from a 6-figure guru
You’re the only one who can give yourself permission to do things your way. So no more blinding yourself to the possibilities, okay? All options are open.
Read your writing and feel like it’s stilted, boring and doesn’t sound a thing like you? Then it’s time to rediscover your voice.
And yes. I said “rediscover” on purpose. Your voice is already there and we just need to bring it out.
My favorite way to do this is to record yourself speaking. Hit record on the voice memo app on your phone and just start talking. Talk about your message, your passion, an idea for a blog post, what you hate about your industry.
Talk it out. Then listen back to the recording.
Listen for particular words, phrases, explanations and examples that stand out to you. What expressions do you use all the time? What do you say that if a loved one heard the words they’d immediately know it was you?
Use your ears to your advantage — you’ll know when it sounds like you.
3. Share what you love (especially if it’s non-biz related)
People buy from people.
We trust people that we know and like (hence: “know, like and trust” factor). Sharing that you’re a coffee addict, or that you buy every paper planner you can get your hands on, or that you always work at a cafe are the little details that make you relatable and human.
And human = someone we can get to know and trust.
Practice sharing your story, and weaving different elements of your personality into your website content, services, sales pages, blog posts, on social media and for free email challenges.
This step is where the fun really
Example 1: My mentor, Melissa Cassera, is a business strategist and screenwriter who loves binge watching new series on Netflix and catching up on celebrity gossip. She reflects her personality in her signature program, OBSESSED, and in Game of Thrones-infused blog posts.
Example 2: A biz buddy of mine, Maggie Giele, recently revamped her entire business to showcase her love of Harry Potter, magic, and all things geek. (Her signature service is called Slay Your Strategy. I mean…come ON. How cool is that?!)
Example 3: I recently created the Jane Austen inspired Content Her Way revolution. Sure, this could have been just another content strategy project, but where’s the fun in that? Adding a Jane Austen flavor (someone who I believe completely embodies the philosophy of Content Her Way) has made the project more fun and has brought fellow Austen lovers in my community out of the woodwork.
Remember: There’s no one content marketing strategy that works. And there’s no one template to follow.
Content marketing is changing and I think that change is for the best. No more shoulds or need-to-do’s. More quirks and personality.
Content doesn’t have to be time consuming and soul draining. It can be efficient, effective, fun and fulfilling.
The key is to do it your way.
Join the revolution.
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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Maybe you’re expanding your own business and are ready to start building a team of bloggers. Maybe you’re looking to fill up your guest posting roster. Or maybe you’re managing a project for a client and they’ve decided that they want some blog posts — only you’re not really a great writer.
Whatever the reason, you need to find great bloggers to get on board, like, yesterday.
But where do you find them? What do you say? And how do you avoid getting inundated with a bunch of applications from people who don’t know their Oxford comma from their elbow?
Deep breaths — let’s break this down.
When it comes time to find great bloggers to work with you, you’ve got three approachable options: referrals, social media posts, and direct email pitches. But no matter which route you’re taking, you’re going to need to do a few things first:
1. Know exactly what you’re looking for.
If you’re not clear about the logistics of what you want people to do for you, there’s no way you can communicate that in your ask. So make sure you write down exactly what you’re looking for, whether that’s a one-off blog post for a client with a deadline of five business days, an ongoing series of guest posts of 500-1,000 words on XYZ topics, or a working relationship with a team of bloggers that you can contract work to, ad hoc.
2. Create a hiring page that includes tests.
Once you’ve figured out the details you want to share about the job right out of the gate, create a hiring page to direct people to. You don’t have to include every single detail about the job — for instance, you might want to keep information about rates back until you talk with people directly if you’re hiring, or you might be willing to negotiate deadlines for guest posts on an ongoing basis — but do include any dealbreaker-level things.
Also, make sure that you build in a couple of tests on your hiring page to help you filter out the people you really don’t want working with you. This is going to vary depending on the specifics of the job, but as an example, if you really need someone to be detail-oriented, then put out a list of things you want them to send you, from their social media handles to their rates to the answer to a specific question. It may sound arbitrary, but if someone can’t be bothered to get the details right when they’re pitching to you, they’re damn sure not going to bother when they’re working for you. (Here’s an example of what this can look like in real life.)
3. Think about what the next steps are, and do what you need to do to make that work.
Finally, make sure you’ve figured out a structure to manage what happens after you start getting applications, because these can spiral like you wouldn’t believe. The best way to figure out what this should be is to walk through the process in your mind step by step, thinking about what you’ll need at each point in the process.
A couple of things to think about include: scheduling links for follow-up calls or interviews, a spreadsheet or project management software to keep track of progress and deadlines, accounting software and legal agreements if you’re paying people, working guides or onboarding guides so people know what’s expected of them, information about your email hours, and of course, a backup plan in case you end up working with someone who really screws up and you have to salvage the project.
If nothing else, I recommend setting up a spreadsheet to keep track of who’s applied, whether they meet your criteria or not, any notes you have about them, and a record of your correspondence with them.
Now let’s talk specifically about how to put out the ISO (in search of) call for referrals, social media posts, and direct email pitches.
Tactic #1: Referrals
Always ask for referrals first. You’ll likely get your highest quality leads this way, and it’s really easy to write a quick email asking people for recommendations. Keep it short and simple: Start with an intro paragraph telling people that you’re looking for recommendations for bloggers. Follow up with a couple of bullet points that hit the highlights of the project, with the link to your hiring page for more info. Finally, thank them for helping you out. It’s simple manners, but a lot of people just don’t bother, so it can make a big difference in how the exchange plays out.
Tactic #2: Social media
If you get what you need from your referrals, great! If not, try putting out the call on social media. Facebook Groups are fantastic for this, but do know that you may get swamped with pitches. (That’s why it’s so very important to have your structure in place before you start!)
Make your post short and to the point. Start out with a headline that makes it really clear who you’re looking for, then, just like in the referral email, include your bullet points and hiring link. Make sure that the tone in your post is going to appeal to the type of people you want to work with. For example, if you want really serious grant writers, then write your post in more academic language. Or if you’re looking for sparky young bloggers, then keep your tone light and a bit irreverent.
Ideally, you should also create a graphic with the bare bones of what you’re looking for in it, since it’s much more eye-catching. Here’s a simple example of what that can look like:
Tactic #3: Email pitches
These are great for situations where you have a specific blogger in mind that you really want to get on board for a particular project. If you’ve connected with them before on their blog or via social media, so much the better, but you can also successfully cold pitch to bloggers if you know how to do it right. (Read: in a way that doesn’t make you come across like a high-handed jerk.)
The great thing is, you can reuse a lot of the text from your referral email for your pitch email. The bullet points are all the same; just change out the first paragraph to tell them a little bit about you and why you thought of working with them specifically. (Honest flattery can help!) Then include your bullet points, link them to the hiring page for further details, or invite them to email back or set up a call to chat about the specifics of the project.
Here’s what you need to know:
Get clear on the details of the project before you ever talk to anyone else.
Use your hiring page as a secret way to sort people so you don’t get stuck filtering through a bunch of unqualified leads.
Think about what happens next before this thing balloons on you.
From that foundation, you can tailor your request for great bloggers for each medium: referrals, social media posts, and direct emails — and watch the pitches flow in!
Create an operations manual. It’s probably business advice you’ve heard on more than one occasion. If you’re like most solopreneurs, it’s one of the things you skip — maybe because admin tasks just aren’t what you got into business for, or perhaps because you’re not sure what it is or why you need one.
We’re going to fix that today. Even if you’re just starting out, you can benefit from creating an operations manual! Let’s start at the beginning…
What is an operations manual?
Think back to the last time you started a job. You probably received a company handbook. That handbook laid out the company’s mission, rules, and procedures. They’re a required read to learn about the company’s expectations for you as an employee.
That document was the company’s operations manual. They built it over time as the company grew, likely adding to it as they found information they need to reference and relay to other people. It helps ensure the people they hire know what to expect and do while at work.
Even if you’re a one-woman show today, an operations manual can save you time, money, and headaches down the line.
Why create an operations manual for your solopreneur business?
There are a few reasons an operations manual might be a wise addition to your solo business.
1. Increase productivity. As your business grows, you’ll find your responsibilities do, too. Keeping track of every task you need to do will become impossible if your brain is your only storage system. You’ll inevitably start to miss steps in tasks you do on a regular basis. You’ll spend hours looking for a document because you don’t remember where you saved it. Soon you’ll find you’re spending more time fixing mistakes than moving on to the next task. Creating an operations manual will ensure you never miss a task or a step to complete things, saving you time and unnecessary stress.
2. Get organized. Organization should be a top priority as your business grows. It’s inefficient to have the tools you need to run your business scattered across a variety of platforms, apps, and devices. You end up wasting precious time trying to remember where the thing you need is, then searching for it across all the places you use for storage. By creating an operations manual, you build a central hub where things are all in one place and easily accessible.
Prepare to grow. Your business goals include growth right? While growth comes in many forms, many times it means bringing people on to help you. These people could be employees, freelancers, or collaboration partners. An operations manual will help you bring them up to speed quickly on what your business is about and how you run it, saving time (and money) in the onboarding process.
Your operations manual can be as simple or as robust as you’d like. There’s no right or wrong answer here. Keep this in mind, though: As your business continues to grow, it is much easier to implement new ideas if there is already a record of how things are currently done.
I know getting started can be hard so I’ve put together a few suggestions to help you out:
The options for items to include in your operations manual are endless. Decide what’s important to keep your business running in top form and put it in your manual.
Where to create your operations manual
I recommend creating your operations manual in a system you already use. I like to access my operations manual from anywhere, so I built mine in Trello. You might find Google Drive, Evernote, Asana, or some other system works better for your business. If you prefer to use a non-electronic operations manual, a binder with dividers is easy to update and copy.
Start building yours today
If your business plan includes growth, it’s never too early to start creating an operations manual. Next time you write and upload a blog post, for example? Take note of all the steps you take. It may seem like a lot of work, but an extra hour or two now can save time in the long run — and who doesn’t love saving time?
Your days, back in your hands.
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As any seasoned solopreneur knows, customer referrals are critical to growing your business. Whether it’s finding the right first hire or getting traffic through the door, having a trusted network endorse your business is what inevitably leads to success. It’s time to start paying attention to your network of referrals, if you haven’t been doing so already!
Referrals, sometimes called word-of-mouth marketing, are the most powerful form of brand building out there. Measurement firm Nielsen reports that “92% of consumers believe recommendations from friends and family over all forms of advertising.”
The power of referrals isn’t limited to friends and family, either. Wouldn’t you rather eat at a restaurant rated 5 stars on Yelp by 435 people than pick one off the street and hope it’s a great meal?
Of course, it might all sound like a great idea — but the idea of generating customer referrals might leave you with a few questions: As a small business owner and entrepreneur, how can you harness the power of referrals? What’s the best way to activate your loyal customers to speak on your behalf? And, most importantly, how can you be sure your referrals are being seen by the people who matter most: your target customers?
Keep reading, one woman shop: I’ve got a few ideas to get you started in mastering customer referrals.
1. Lead with your personal reputation
People want to buy from businesses and causes they believe in. Millennials especially want to buy from brands and companies they can feel proud to support. Marketing firm Cone LLC discovered that “an astounding 94 percent of consumers would switch brands if one carried a cause and another did not.” That good cause can be as simple as supporting an entrepreneur or strong female business owner they believe in.
Bottom line? Customers (read: millennials) want a personal relationship with the businesses they support. The best way to build that relationship is to lead with your personality. Infuse your brand with your own vision, passion, personality, and vibe. Communicate what you’re about and why you’re excited about what you do! This will help others who relate recommend you like crazy.
Where’s the single best place to start in building your reputation? Start by asking your friends and family to recommend you to others. They know you best and can speak to your personality and strengths. From there, it’s about connecting, not collecting: Follow up and start to build genuine connections with the people your family and friends refer. You can start to grow your referrals from those few initial contacts.
2. Show the good with the bad
Part of building your personal brand is recognizing that you’re not perfect. (Fact: No one is.) Referrals are strongest when they’re honest. That’s why sites like Yelp and TripAdvisor offer the opportunity for companies to respond to a negative review. Research shows that a company that responds to a negative Yelp review will see more positive marketing than sending a direct mail ad to their local area. It is so powerful to take the time to correct a wrong or own up to a mistake.
“Responding to negative reviews shows both the reviewer and potential customers that the business cares about its customers, and is willing to make things right when mistakes are made,” says one expert in the Huffington Post. Moreover, millennials trust companies that are transparent and authentic. They’ll be more likely to refer you and your business if you’re not trying to fool them by looking perfect all the time.
Once you know your own personal brand and have activated your friends and family to recommend your business, it’s time to start a more formal referral program. We suggest reaching out to your most loyal customers. According to the New York Times, “When you are clear about describing the recommendations you want, you make it easier for your referral partners to identify prospective customers for you.” If you’ve taken the time to make meaningful connections with the people you connect with regularly, then this ask should feel natural.
Should your referral program involve incentives? This is tricky: You don’t want it to seem like you’re bribing customers for a good review. One blog suggests forgoing your referral incentive for a customer loyalty reward: “The type of incentive you offer must fit with the kind of business you run. It could be a discount, service credits, an upgrade, a free item, or some other trigger that will entice clients to provide referrals.”
If you’re not comfortable with directly asking for referrals yet, find or build a system that makes it easy and seamless for your customers to leave you feedback. Over time, you can choose to broadcast these reviews or build connections with the clients you know have had a positive experience with your brand.
4. Activate social media
Make it easy for people to refer you! By hosting reviews on your Facebook Page or on a site like BULLIT, you’re really becoming your own reference when you post on social media.
It’s tough to argue with the power of referrals: Most often, you’re not only building a reputation that precedes you and takes significant weight off your need to market your business — you’re also getting in front of people who you’ll enjoy working with, because they’ve been referred by people who know you best.
How can you get started today? Head to BULLIT.me to build a free profile where you can start to see referrals work for you right away.
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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