Successfully Start Live Stream Video Marketing (Yes, you!)

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.

The Smoovie Video Stabilizer and Gorillapod Mobile are both great tools that allow you to capture video on the go without the motion-sickness inducing camera shake.

Also, Facebook recently rolled out live streaming on your desktop to all users, so if you prefer the look your webcam gives you over your smartphone, you’ve got options.

But, at the end of the day, if all you have is your smartphone, you have everything you need to get started. Don’t let the idea of “perfection” hold you back from connecting with your audience and growing your business.

Finding the right live streaming platform

Now that you’ve got an idea of what you’d like to share through live-streaming and how you’re going to go about producing your video, now comes the big question, “Where is it going to live?”

There’s Facebook Live, Instagram Live, Periscope, and YouTube Live, and, like most things in life, you can’t do it all.

(Although you can be live in two places at once, so that’s one way to defy physics.)

Here are some of the key differentiators for each live streaming platform and a few tips on how to choose which platforms are best for you:

Facebook Live

  • Helps boost your post/update in the Newsfeed
  • Allows you to go live via your phone or laptop
  • You can post your live broadcast as a page post after your broadcast has ended
  • Allows for broadcasts up to four hours long (as of April, 2017)

Instagram Live

  • Your followers receive a notification that you’re live when they’re in the app
  • Your video disappears from the app once your live broadcast has ended
  • You can save your Live broadcasts to your camera roll

Periscope

  • It’s built entirely on the concept of live-streaming (unlike Facebook and Instagram)
  • Live streams can be recorded with mobile devices and watched on all devices either through the Periscope app or on Twitter

YouTube Live

  • 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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7 Steps to Create The Perfect Pin

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:

1. Get clear on your brand

First and foremost, get clear on your brand’s colors, fonts, and tone or “mood.” It’s extremely important that your Pins be consistent and look on-brand.

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.

Again, Canva’s Pinterest templates already have the perfect ratio so there’s no stress about getting the correct ratio. #loveyoucanva

4. Make it easy to read

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.

5. Choose eye-catching photos

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?

Still need help finding a catchy title? Here’s a great article to get you started.

7. Add keyword-rich Pin descriptions

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!

P.S. Get 7 steps to creating a consistent overall brand here.

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

Using SEO effectively can seem like a headache. Keywords? Links? Content marketing? I’ve been there. If you’re a small business owner, you have enough on your plate, and learning about SEO can seem like more trouble than it’s worth.

But SEO is so much more than a marketing strategy. SEO, or Search Engine Optimization, is simply helping Google understand your site so that you can easily connect with people who are already seeking the solutions you offer. It’s a necessary foundation for your brand or business, not an online “trick” that requires endless research.

In fact, according to Search Engine Land, SEO is considered one of the most cost-effective digital marketing practices to grow your business. And, let’s face it — you’ve likely invested hundreds to thousands of dollars on designing your brand and developing your website, but is it worth the investment if no one can find it?

Here are four quick ways you can utilize SEO to find your dream clients and elevate your business in an authentic, non-salesy way.

1. Keep a list of Frequently Asked Questions from your target audience.

Keep an ongoing list of questions that continuously pop up among your target audience. You could find these questions in Facebook Groups, past client consultations, in replies to your email newsletter, or even while taking a class at the gym.

Use these questions for content inspiration. Answer them on an easy-to-access landing page or turn them into blog posts. Pay attention to the specific language your potential clients use and the way the questions are asked. Word questions and your answers in a way that you could see your clients Googling them. If you have Google Analytics set up on your website, you can see which Google searches have led people to your website, and form questions out of those phrases.

2. Take time to use categories and tags effectively.

When it comes to that “tags” box you see when creating a blog post in WordPress, do you fill it with related terms you think of on the fly? Don’t worry; you’re not alone. But it’s time to get organized! Think of categories as the top level, main topics of your blog. Then think of tags as supporting keywords. Choose 5-6 main categories and only a handful of tags for each category. For example, a main category could be “Fitness” and supporting tags could be “muscle recovery,” “at home workout,” and “activewear.”

3. Use Yoast and fill in your metadata.

Metadata is mostly behind-the-scenes data that helps a search engine understand and rank your site. The preview text that appears in search engine results when someone sees your site link is comprised of metadata. Take a few extra minutes to fill in the title tag, meta description and alt tags of your posts. The Yoast SEO plugin makes these updates, and therefore upping your SEO game, much easier.

4. Audit and update your old content.

If you’ve had a blog for more than a few months, chances are you already have a ton of content. In order to make sure your website is working for you, and not the other way around, go through your old content and see which posts and pages could be improved.

Find which posts are your best and make sure they’re properly tagged and categorized. Edit any content that is outdated or no longer relevant. Auditing your content will make sure your site is full of high-quality, valuable content for your readers. For more ideas, check out my post on 50 ways to give an old post new life.

SEO doesn’t have to be so hard

For many solopreneurs, SEO remains an elusive concept that’s just out of reach. But it doesn’t have to be. The four quick tips above are just a few examples of how you can optimize your site for search engines and make it easier for more of your ideal clients to find you.

Content might be king…

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

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How to Write the Perfect Guest Post Pitch

Guest posting is one of those things that everybody thinks they probably should be doing more of…but the whole process of putting a guest post pitch together can seem daunting. And the truth is, you can spend a lot of time and energy pitching guest posts that never pan out if you don’t know what you’re doing.

Good news: You can make the process much, much easier if you know how to write a decent cold pitch — and once you do start landing those posts, you can leverage those posts into a serious asset for your business.

It starts with knowing whether you should be pitching at all.

As you may have noticed, the Internet has become a much busier place these past couple of years. Which means that people don’t have a whole hell of a lot of mental bandwidth to spare.

You need to get a really good sense of whether a blog is even accepting pitches and guest posts before you take the time to write your pitch. There’s no particular secret to know here; most places that are accepting posts will have a page explicitly stating that.

If you can’t find it on their site, do a quick Google search along the lines of “[Site you want to guest post for] guest posting” and see if something comes up. Otherwise, check out their archives and social media feeds to see if they have any guest posts featured. If there’s nothing to let you know either way, then go ahead and pitch, if you really think that your idea is a fit. Just go into the process knowing that it’s a toss up.

OK, so you’ve decided it’s a go. Now what?

Now you write an email that gives them just enough information about you to know whether you’re a fit for their audience, piques their interest and shows off your expertise in the topic, and tells them that you’re not going to be a pain to work with.

Start out with a very clear subject line — something along the lines of “Guest post proposal — [your specific topic]”

Then (after you double extra check that you’ve spelled the person’s name right in your greeting), write a short intro paragraph where you talk about who you are and what your business is, as well as your particular reasons for being attracted to their business/blog/this chance to guest post.

Now that you’ve got their attention, add in a very short paragraph about why you’re a good fit for their audience. Here’s where you get to show off how great you are, plus how well you know their business and their audience.

Then introduce your idea. While it’s fine to pitch with just one idea, I usually like to include two or more and let them choose. This ups your chances of getting a yes and lets you highlight a couple different areas of expertise.

End by offering to provide alternative ideas just in case those don’t work, and give them clear next steps.

It’s all about making it as easy as possible for them to say yes.

You’ve got the pieces — now what does that look like, all put together?

Here’s an anonymized example of an email I pitched a while back that landed me a guest post within a few hours:

Subject: Guest post proposal — copy and content

Email:

Hi NAME,

I’m Rachel Allen, and I run the creative agency Bolt from the Blue Copywriting. I’ve had the biggest business crush on BIZ NAME ever since the first round of COOL THING YOU DID — the mix of lifting people up to be their best + the firmly grounded anti-bullshit stance really does it for me.

I write about voice, branding, copy, and content from a similar stance, and was wondering if you’re currently accepting guest posts? If so, I’d love to do one for you.

Here’s what I’m thinking:

A rallying cry for being a better human as you write (that also skewers the whole cottage industry that’s developed around quickie, template-based content).

or

A post about how access to other people’s brainspace is a privilege, with the main focus being on how you’re spam until you prove otherwise.

If neither of those ring your bell, I’m happy to come up with alternative ideas. If one or both does sound good to you, I can also send over outlines (or a completed article) if you want to move forward. I could have the article to you next week or an outline tomorrow.

Let me know what you think, and of course, if you have any questions don’t hesitate to ask.

Thanks!
Rachel

So…what do you do if you don’t hear back?

Give it a little time. Like I said, people are busy. If it’s been a week and you haven’t heard a word, then it’s time to follow up. Keep it short and low pressure, just checking in like the responsible guest poster you are. Something along the lines of,

Hi [Name],

Hope you’ve had a great start to your week! I wanted to follow up on my guest post proposal from last week. Did you have any questions or need any more information from me?

Thanks!
[Your Name]

What do you do if you do hear back and it’s a no?

It’s always disappointing, but it’s not the end of the world. If you do hear back and it’s a no, it’s totally fine to email back thanking them for their time and either giving a short alternative pitch or asking them if there’s a similar idea they’d like you to post on.

This does not mean that you ask them for feedback on your pitch, get upset and say weird things to them, or badger them to reconsider. Remember, people are busy, and nothing will get you mentally blacklisted faster than coming into this process with a sense of entitlement.

A few final do’s and don’ts:

  • Do triple check that you’re sending it to the right person and you’ve spelled their name right. If they have pitching guidelines posted somewhere, follow them. You’d be amazed at how many people ignore them entirely, so if you can get this simple thing right, you’ll have already made yourself stand out.
  • Don’t use hesitant language — anything along the lines of “just”, “I think”, “sorry”, etc. If you struggle with this, this is the plugin for you. And it goes without saying, but don’t have typos in your pitch, don’t pitch something you can’t follow through on, and don’t be a jerk if the answer is no.

So remember:

When hoping to land a guest post on a dream site, start off by figuring out whether you should be pitching at all. Follow any and all guidelines they give you to the letter. Write a concise, convincing email that makes it as easy as possible for them to say yes. Check in if you need to, and don’t take it personally if the answer’s a no — because it might not be a no forever.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How to beta test your online course in 8 steps

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Launch like a pro

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

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

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

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

You have a creative business, which means, most days, you feel like you’re on top of the world. You can work when you want to, with whom you choose, and take vacations on a whim because hey, you are boss like that, right?

Unless, of course, you’re not feeling confident with your income. That changes things a bit.

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

The feast-or-famine mindset is real, and can leave you convinced that searching job boards may be a better choice than trying to keep at this ‘“own-my-own-business” thing. We get these feelings in months where we have way less clients, our course sales dip or our Creative Market income has been dryer than Schweppes ginger ale.

Yet many service-based businesses are leaving a ton of money on the table, solely focusing on services, courses and product creation that they ignore affiliate marketing and how it can complement their small biz income.

But wait, affiliate marketing is dead…right?

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

But, I’m seeing two things:

1 – Some solopreneurs I’ve spoke with tell me the earnings don’t amount to enough to spend their time on it.

2 – Other say that affiliate marketing is dead.

Oh contraire!

Neither of these could be further from the truth. Think about all of the products and services you use every single day while running your business. Now, consider all of the frequent purchases and investments (the online courses, ebooks, business tools). And how about that one “thing” you always recommend for every single one of your clients to help them get from ABC to XYZ?

If you do the math, you’ll probably feel a bit queasy at how much money you could have been making, just by simply adding an affiliate link to the products and services you love and trust to people who already love and trust you.

#facepalm

Where to start with affiliate marketing

The next greatest hesitation I hear is that people simply don’t know where to start without feeling like a car salesman. Fret not; there are so many great ways to not be cheesy OR greasy.

Without further ado, here are five authentic ways to add a bit of padding to your service-based business by using on-brand affiliate marketing…minus the ick factor.

1. Create a resources page

A resources, or tools, page is an effective way to help your visitors help themselves to the tools, courses and services you rely on to run your business. Get creative by adding images and banners, or simply use shortcodes and columns to create categories and embed your affiliate link into each resource.

Link to your resources page from your blog posts, include it in your email footers, and write social posts highlighting each resource on the page.

2. Make recommendations to your clients

You may be a web designer, virtual assistant or accountant who’s always getting asked what you recommend for solving your clients’ problems. You may also have certain things your client must purchase before you can start working with them (such as a theme or hosting, if you are a web designer).

When you onboard your clients, include a list of your favorite tools with your affiliate links in your welcome packet. Alternatively, if you send your clients a goodbye package, include a list of resources that will be helpful on an ongoing basis.

More than anything, they will appreciate that they can trust your recommendations and that they aren’t stuck having to Google for answers.

3. Build affiliate mentions into your editorial calendar

If you have a blog that complements your business, I imagine you are already sharing high-quality posts that position you as an expert in your niche, so why not turn these posts into money-generating machines?

Some of my best performing blog posts that have affiliate links are resource roundups and tutorials on how to do something that others often struggle with. Review posts of products you have tried and compared are also a good way to introduce your audience to amazing assets while helping you earn more money.

Pro tip: Content is key, but don’t ignore your images. Include high quality, pinnable images for people to share. Add keyword-rich descriptions in your images’ alt text if you want to tap into Pinterest for referral traffic.

4. Complement your newsletters

Dedicated emails about products you love can make you feel like you’re always trying to sell your audience something.

To avoid that, try sharing your experience with them. For example, if you took a totally ah-mazing course that skyrocketed your website traffic and you’re now an affiliate of, share the story of how your stats increased.

You can also write your newsletter content as usual and include links to some of your most recent affiliate-rich posts. Likewise, if you know your affiliates are having a sale and you genuinely don’t want your peeps to miss out, use a PS note at the bottom of the newsletter or within the content itself if it’s relevant.

An example: If you’re writing to your audience about how they can choose the best theme for their business and you happen to know that Bluchic* is having a sale, share it. Don’t be random. Weave it naturally into what your readers know you for.

5. Enhance your infoproducts

You may already have some great infoproducts (ebooks; worksheets; email courses) in place that help you grow your list or populate your shop. What if I told you that there is a way to monetize your free goodies and help you earn more with your paid offerings? Hold the phone, sista!

With on-brand affiliate marketing, it’s totally possible. When crafting your offering, you’re likely linking to tools and resources that are helpful for those who are downloading or signing up for your product.

By using affiliate links, you can make more money while continuing to deliver your high-quality content for free or increase your earnings with your paid products. For example, I have an email course that helps new bloggers or businesses set up their very first blog on WordPress. Even though it took a ton of hours and energy, I was able to justify giving it away for free because there were so many opportunities to earn money from the free course by mentioning amazing affiliates for WordPress hosting, themes, styled-stock memberships, and more.

But FIRST, here’s what else you need to know about doing affiliate marketing right

When adding a slew of affiliate links to your site, you can consider adding “no follow” links in place so that you aren’t oops-ed by Google (though there is a debate on whether it’s necessary or not). You also want to make your links cleaner with a plugin like Pretty Link Lite, or bit.ly.

Most importantly, and I can’t stress this enough: DO IT LEGALLY. (Caps + bold, necessary.)

You have to have disclaimers on your site that let your visitors know that they may be clicking on affiliate links. You have to share in your newsletter that links are indeed, affiliate links. You have to give a heads up about affiliate links even if you are just recommending a product to someone in a Facebook Group. Recommending something to a client? Gently let them know that they are clicking on an affiliate link.

When in doubt, remember this: Any time you drop a link, drop a hint!

Your turn

Evaluate your current affiliate strategy and choose one of these methods to start or improve upon today. Need more of a nudge? Sign up for Affiliate Crush, my free, 5-day email course that helps you get started in choosing the right affiliates and helps you create a strategy, track your earnings and lots more.

*Some of the links contained in this post are affiliate links. (See what we did there?) As always, we only promote products and services we trust and believe in.

Storytelling for Business: 5 Unique Stories Solopreneurs Can Tell

We live in a world where our days are filled with email newsletters, social media updates, how-to blog posts and Facebook groups. And as a business owner, you’re probably using many of these channels — if not all of them — to get the word out about your product or service.

But what if there was an even more effective way to use these channels to build awareness of your brand?

There is, and it’s called storytelling.

Storytelling is at the heart of every successful public relations and communications strategy. And when it’s done well, you can cut through the clutter using channels like blogging, social media and press releases to tell your story and make a connection with your audience.

So now you’re probably wondering, “What kind of story do I tell?” Well, I have you covered! Here are five unique story angles to tell about your business in your next blog post, press release, or social media update:

1. Share your journey to entrepreneurship

One of the best, most interesting stories you can tell about your business is how you got started. Everyone’s entrepreneurship journey is unique, which is why it presents a great opportunity to tell the story of how your business came to be.

The best part of telling your entrepreneurship journey is that it doesn’t matter where you’re at in your business. Whether it’s talking about how your started an apparel brand in your basement or left your comfy corporate job to freelance full-time, your entrepreneurship story is an opportunity to share with the world what inspires you most, your mission, and the lessons learned along the way.

2. Talk about a unique partnership or collaboration

Have you recently partnered with another brand or company to launch an exciting project, such as a Facebook group or e-course? This is a great opportunity to share a story about the power of collaboration.

Give your audience a behind-the-scenes look at this partnership by writing a blog post or creating a video describing the process behind your collaboration. In your story, talk about why the partnership was successful or what brought the two of you together. This is a fun way to show your audience how you successfully work with other brands. And who knows, maybe it can spark more opportunities for future collaborations and partnerships!

3. Explain how you give back to your community

Stories about philanthropy or social responsibility can help you tug on your audience’s heartstrings and make an emotional connection. From volunteering to charitable giving to different ways your business is good for the environment and your employees, tell a story about how you’re making an impact in your community or touching the lives of others.

For example, did you donate a percentage of your profits to a nonprofit organization during the last holiday season? Share how much you raised in a recap blog post and explain what the funding will do. This is a great way to look back on the holiday season while showing your audience that you care deeply about your community.

4. Tell a story about overcoming a challenge

Did you ever go a Christmas without a paycheck because you had to pay your employees first? Was there a time when your product didn’t ship on time? While these aren’t the most glamorous stories to share with your audience, these are stories that will help you connect with your audience on an intimate level.

Sharing a lesson learned is a powerful way to highlight the ups and downs of running a business. They can illustrate how you’ve transformed your business into the success it is today, how you’ve grown as an entrepreneur and ultimately, make your brand more “human.” Plus, you will build more trust with your audience by being open and transparent and even inspire others to share their stories of success and failure.

5. Highlight a unique or quirky client project

Want to make your audience feel good? Make a list of your recent projects and determine which ones seem a little quirky or stand out from the norm. For example, if you just completed a branding project for a new unicorn-inspired cafe, you could turn this quirky project into an entertaining and interesting case study or press release. This is an opportunity to make people connect with your brand in a lighthearted way while also illustrating the success of your work.

When a story is emotional and authentic, it’s much easier to make a connection with your audience. By taking your own unique approach to these story ideas and staying true to your brand’s voice, you will have no problem cutting through the clutter and getting your story heard, no matter the channel you choose.

What type of stories have you shared about your business? Share your stories in the comments below!

P.S. Need inspiration? Here are stories from the road to solopreneur success, told by your fellow solo biz owners.

Shop Talk: Looking Past Your Own Biases

d: biases

d: biases

Here’s an important lesson that we seem to learn and relearn here at One Woman Shop: Just because we don’t behave in a certain way doesn’t mean others don’t.

(Did that sentence confuse you? Us too. Keep reading, it gets better.)

We’ve been working hard to run Facebook Ads more strategically lately — which means running multiple versions of each ad to see which performs best. (This could mean mixing up the graphic, the copy, or the audience — but only one at a time in order to have a control. Hello, #highschoolscience.)

We started by testing three different graphics for our Road to Solopreneur Success ebook. One explained what the ebook is, one used the term “free ebook,” and one said “free download.”

biases

biases

biases

 

This test stood out to us for a reason: We were both hesitant to include the word “free” on the graphics, because those aren’t the kinds of ads we tend to click on ourselves.

Of course, that’s why we experiment: The two ads with “free” on them far outperformed the other one.

Lightbulb moment: We never would have known this if we had only acted in accordance with our own biases. The lesson here? Just because you behave one way as a consumer doesn’t mean all other consumers behave the same way.

Case in point:

  • Just because we might not use the “Pin it” buttons on websites we hang out on doesn’t mean we shouldn’t install a Pinterest plugin and then optimize our images for maximum pinning — because other people do use these buttons.
  • Just because we might not follow brands on Instagram doesn’t mean others don’t — so we should consider actively updating our Instagram account and mentioning our latest product and service launches.
  • Just because we might not watch videos doesn’t mean others don’t love them. So we might host regular shows for those in our community who do love video.

We have found that this trap is especially tricky when you’re in the target market that you’re serving — it’s easy to feel like you speak for your whole audience, but often you don’t.

As usual, a caveat: We’re not encouraging you to do anything that you feel uneasy or icky about. If you have a strong opposition to something, go with your gut. But if you have a sneaking suspicion that your personal preferences may be hindering your potential reach, it might be time to think outside of that box.

Do some market research. Ask your solopreneur friends about their experiences. Heck, ask your community what they like and dislike. Go forth, friend, and get creative.

Business Myth: You Need a Client Avatar

client avatar

client avatar

Welcome to Business Myths. Here’s the deal: We often hear business “truths” and accept them as true without stopping to question them. We’re chatting with solopreneurs and freelancers who have learned the hard way that these commonly accepted facts may not, in fact, always be true. In this case, Rachel Allen shares her (expert) take on why your client avatar is useless, and what you need to know to really resonate with your readers, instead.

Every industry has its must-have tools. And while those change pretty frequently in the fast-paced, online, small business world — “Webinars are the future! No, Periscope! No, Facebook Live!” — one that’s held steady since the beginning is the client avatar.

You know how it works: You sit down, sketch a stick figure, and write out whether they’re a cat person or a dog person, what they like to do on the weekends, and of course, what their favorite breakfast cereal is.

Just one problem…

When it comes down to it, you still have no idea what to say or how to sell to this person. Funny enough, knowing someone’s cereal preferences doesn’t help you communicate with them in a way that really resonates. Because, just like you, your business, and your brand, your clients are complicated. Multi-layered. And very, very human.

The truth is, most client avatars are absolutely useless.

They’re intended to give you a clear idea of who you’re working for, but they almost always give you a sanitized, surface-level, pod-person version of your audience. And you’re not working with pod people, you’re working with people people, those contradictory, irrational, gloriously-difficult-to-pin-down beings.

It was never about the breakfast cereal.

Client avatar exercises ask you questions about the surface level things in a person’s life as a way of getting at the deeper things about them. But somewhere along the way, the search for that soul-level stuff became conflated with the surface-level stuff — and we started thinking that knowing whether someone owns a cat or a dog can somehow give you insight into what they want, when very often people don’t even really consciously know it themselves.

Why client avatars don’t work

When you do a classic client avatar exercise, you’re primarily focusing on demographics — those quantifiable, external things about a person. But when people fall in love with branding, become a fan of your business, or make a decision to buy, they’re doing that from a place of identity, not logic, and certainly not demographic indicators.

…and that’s why you need psychographics

If you really want to get someone’s attention, develop a relationship with them, and make them want to buy from you, you need to approach them in a way that confirms their perception of their identity. (Which is such a powerful force that people will actually act against their self-interests rather than do something that goes against their identity. Homo economicus, you’re out.)

And to tap into a person’s identity, you need to get a sense of their psychographics — their beliefs, feelings, and assumptions, and why they have them.

Sounds great! So how do I figure all that stuff out?

It’s not as easy as going through a checklist, and there’s no foolproof, six-step template for it (see: “not pod people”).

But that doesn’t mean that you have to fly blind, trying out thing after thing until you finally hit on that magic combination of words and ideas that light your people up…because they’ll tell you, if you know how to listen.

Start with some empirical research

One of the biggest mistakes you can make in trying to figure your target market out is doing it in a vacuum — this guarantees that whatever you come up with is going to be biased towards your own perceptions. Instead of working from the inside out, starting with your own guesses about your clients and learning the hard way whether they’re right or not, start with some objectively verifiable data.

Find out where your people hang out, both online and offline, go there, and <em<listen

And by this, I mean where they actually spend their time. Not relatively general Facebook groups, not generic Twitter chats. Find places that are going to be incredibly specific to them because of their industry, their problems, or where their clients hang out — because chances are, you’ll find them there too, pitching.

Once you’re there, don’t fish for business, or post things like “Hey XYZ-type people, I’m doing some research on my client avatar, what are your problems?” Just listen to what’s being said both explicitly and implicitly, and track any topics you see coming up again and again. This is not a one afternoon thing — you want to do this for at least two weeks to gather enough data.

Once you have an idea of the lay of the land, analyze your repeat topics through three questions:

1. What is this really about?

Try to get below the surface and figure out what this topic is really about for your people. For instance, if you’re constantly seeing people post about wanting a VA, is it because they feel overwhelmed, or because all their business friends are getting one, or because they think they need a VA, when really they need an accountant? What’s the bottom line of both the reality and the belief behind this issue?

Knowing this will help you figure out the language you need to use to share your message and services with them, and makes a great starting point for an about page.

2. Where does it come from?

What beliefs, assumptions, and needs underlie these issues? Are they actually true? If so, where do those needs overlap with your message and your services?

This gives you insight into their beliefs, the chance to debunk false assumptions (and show off your expertise), and guidance on how to tap into your clients’ aspirations.

3. What are the stakes?

What happens to your people if they solve this issue? What happens if they don’t? What do their life and business look like next month if this issue persists? What about next year? And how do you fit into that equation?

Knowing this not only helps you focus on the things your people really need help with, it also gives you a starting point for talking about these issues in sales copy.

It all comes down to this

Genuinely effective business communication is a balancing act between your message and how your audience needs to hear it. To figure that out, you need to know your people inside and out.

It takes time. It’s not a simple process I can upsell you in a 45-minute webinar. But it’s worth it. Because ultimately, you don’t need a client avatar. You need a human-to-human relationship — and there’s just no way to get that from a stick-figure sketch.

All Things Automation (ConvertKit Webinar at 3pm EST Today!)

One Woman Shops:

There are a lot of things you could be doing when it comes to your email marketing.

You could be setting up multiple lists for each and every product or service you offer.

You could be manually moving your customers from one list to another after they buy.

You could be spending hours each week combining lists, setting up segments, and testing to make sure you’re getting the right messages to the right people at the right time.

But then, that would leave less time for wine, popcorn, and Gilmore Girls…and that’s just not cool. (Feel free to fill in your own guilty pleasures there.)

We want you to have all the time in the world for your guilty pleasures.

That’s why we’re especially excited for our workshop happening today, 11/17 at 3pm EST with Darrell from ConvertKit, where we’re going to be jamming on connecting with your audience — and saving time and money while doing so. (Heck yes!)

Here’s what he’ll be sharing in today’s (free!) webinar:

  • How to use simple automation tools and strategies that’ll save you multiple hours each week
  • One simple trick to segment, teach and pitch your customers automatically (and without coming across like a weird used car salesman)
  • Exclusive behind-the-scenes access to learn how to automate your sales funnels like Pat Flynn (in fact, Darrell is going to show you Pat’s exact funnel)

Can’t make it live? No worries — there will be a replay!

Click here to register!

Oh — and if you have any questions you want to make sure we cover ahead of time, feel free to email us. 🙂

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