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!
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.
There’s something to be said about not jumping on business bandwagons.
Deciding to not join in on the latest “business trend” might mean you’re keenly aware of how the trend fits into the bigger picture and whether it would be smart to adopt, or maybe you’re not taking it on out of fear even though you know it would be helpful for your business.
That last one, the fear, is something I’ve found a lot of people are experiencing with the latest business trend: live stream video marketing.
At this point, calling it a trend isn’t even accurate.
According to Livestream, 81 percent of audiences on the internet and mobile consumed more live video in 2016 than they had the year before, and 80 percent of those people also prefer live videos over blogs, while 82 percent prefer consuming live video over social posts.
With stats like that, it’s not crazy to claim that you might want to make live stream video broadcasting a defined facet of your overall marketing plan. Here’s why:
It captures attention. People like seeing people, and we also are drawn to things that move and make noise. So, in a sea of static updates in a newsfeed, a piece of media that’s moving and has sound naturally captures attention. Of course, more factors go into keeping that attention, but we’ll get there in a minute.
It helps build your credibility and trust factor. The sheer inability to edit when you’re live-streaming gives you instant credibility. You’re not able to cut out flubs, you have to respond to live engagement off the cuff, and you’re making yourself available in real time. That level of accessibility is huge for displaying your expertise and allowing people to see your personality and know they see the real you.
It’s quick and easy. With live-streaming, it’s as easy as opening an app and hitting “go live.” No need to get graphics together or have an editor on hand. Live-streaming lends itself to being as easy to create as it is to consume, which is ideal for audiences with ever-increasing demands on their attention spans and business owners who want to see a good ROI with the time and money spent on marketing.
So, now that you know why you might want to be incorporating live stream videos into your content strategy, here are the main things you need to consider when determining how you’ll create videos that get watched and drive results for your business.
1. Your content
Beyond the fear of simply going live is the fear of “what do I talk about?!,” and there’s one important thing I want you to keep in mind: Just because you’re recording live doesn’t mean you can’t go in with a plan.
Although you don’t want to sound like you’re reading off of a script, there’s no problem with creating an outline and having some notes to keep you on topic.
Some things you can talk about or show on your live broadcasts include quick tips, behind-the-scenes of your business, peeks into your creative process, exciting announcements, simple hellos to your followers, something cool you think they’d enjoy, or education content based on your expertise.
And that’s just the tip of the iceberg, because live-streaming lends itself to sharing anything from super-short, fun glimpses into your day all the way to sitting down and having an in-depth conversation with your audience.
Start small and with some notes, and eventually, you’ll get more comfortable to the point where you don’t need to do any self pep-talks before going live (we’ve all been there), and you can speak to any topic on the fly.
Also, don’t forget to give a call-to-action in your video. Do you want people to sign up for your list, check out your latest items in your shop, or give you feedback? Tell them what you want them to do!
That’s how you’re going to see the tangible benefits of how live-streaming can benefit your business.
2. Your setting
Once you’ve got an idea of the various types of live stream videos you’ll want to create for your brand, you’ll want to give some thought to your filming locations.
Listen, as exciting and dangerous as it sounds, just because you can live-stream from the back of a motorcycle doesn’t mean you should. (Unless your business involves making custom hot rods in which case, carry on.)
Otherwise, it’s helpful to think of a few areas that you can consistently turn to as the backdrop for your live broadcasts. Maybe it’s a corner in your office or your back patio. Maybe it’s the awesome coworking space you go to a few times a week.
Then, of course, comes the scenario of live-streaming because you’re sharing the location you’re in and what you’re doing there.
In either case, there are a couple of important things to keep in mind: light and sound.
Try to find a well-lit area where the source of the light is shining on you and not behind you so that people can see your face. The best light source is diffused sunlight, so if you have a well-light room without the sun directly beating in, that’s ideal.
For sound, indoors is preferred so you don’t have to worry about being drowned out by gusts of wind or traffic. But if you can’t help but be outdoors due to the nature of your video, try to get as far away from sources of loud sound (like a street) or find a barrier that blocks some of the noise.
3. The right equipment
One of the beautiful things about live streamed video is that people don’t expect it to be perfect, which means that not having a DSLR camera isn’t an excuse for skipping out.
However, just because it’s unedited, raw footage doesn’t mean you shouldn’t take steps to ensure good audio and visual quality.
Circling back to having good light and sound quality, Photojojo! has a variety of unique tools to help you improve your video quality that won’t break the bank. For example, their Pocket Spotlight is perfect if you need a little help bumping up the brightness of your video and The Mighty Mic will help you achieve crisper, clearer, higher quality sound.
In addition to finding a place with good lighting and low wind (if you’re shooting outdoors), it’s also helpful to have a tool you can use to go hands-free and keep your phone or camera stable.
Now available to anyone (Prior to late March 2017, only YouTube accounts with 10K or more subscribers could go live)
If your channel subscribers receive Youtube’s email notifications, they’ll receive an email when you start your live broadcast
Platform picking tips
1. Go with your primary platforms
Are you already active on Facebook? Have an engaged following on Instagram or Twitter? Start with the top one to two platforms you already use and have a greater following on. Then, if you find that you love live-streaming, you can branch out to creating live streams and building an audience on additional platforms.
2. Get crafty with “repurposing”
If you want to share content that you think your audiences on multiple platforms would appreciate, let your content stretch further and go live simultaneously. Of course, this will take a multi-device setup, but if you have a laptop and smartphone or smartphone and tablet, it’s totally doable.
Just make sure you’re letting your followers know you’re live in multiple places. That way if you reference the platform you’re on, your watchers on the alternative platform don’t get confused. Another benefit to this method is that you’ll be helping to cross-promote your other social media channels.
3. Take it for a test drive
One of my best social media secrets is that I have “test” accounts for my top platforms that I only use when new features roll out so I can test them and see how they work before committing to trying something new on my official page.
I don’t think everyone needs to try that method; you could just ask a biz friend to give you a quick tutorial, but I’m a visual, hands-on learner, so test driving features in that way helps me decide whether I’m ready to go public using a new feature.
You can start live stream video marketing today
As you can see, today’s digital landscape has made it inevitable for live stream video to become one of the biggest mediums for content creation. You’d be missing out on a big chunk of the marketing pie if you don’t consider weaving this type of media into your content strategy.
The key thing to keep in mind is to embrace the unpolished nature of live-streaming and just start.
As you gain more practice with each video and you incorporate some simple tools into your production, you’ll look like a pro and be consistently creating content you’re proud to promote in no time.
Content might be king…
but it doesn’t have to rule your world. Drop your email below to get even more great tips on content as a solo business owner!
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You’ve likely heard this shouted from fellow business owners everywhere: Pinterest drives more traffic to my website than any other social media platform!
Well, it happens to be true for me. I see growth in my email list daily, and I get consistent sales for my ebook, pretty much all thanks to Pinterest. But, of course, it wasn’t always that way. It wasn’t until I studied the ins and outs of Pinterest strategy — and made some strategic moves — that my website traffic, email list, and sales increased.
Today, I’m going to share one (very important) secret to getting loads of traffic to your site from Pinterest: How to create the perfect Pin.
It probably goes without saying, but Pinterest relies on visuals, so it’s extremely important that the Pins you upload look attractive and, well…pinnable.
Here are a few tips on creating beautiful, attention-grabbing Pins for your blog:
Example: If your brand is punk rock, then something light and airy with pastel colors wouldn’t be on-brand, but something edgy and bold with bright colors would be. Colors and fonts are a great way to express your brand so be sure to choose wisely!
Below are two Pins that are different, yet similar. The trick is to use the same colors and fonts, and use photos that have a similar mood.
2. Create a template (or two)
The easiest way to maintain consistency (see above) is by creating templates for your Pins. That way, you can simply plug in different titles and images while keeping the overall look the same. (Bonus: This also saves you time!)
I shudder thinking about the awful blog graphics I had on my first website. They were all over the place, with no consistency in font, color, or size. Now I create all my Pins using Canva, a free online graphic design tool. You can create your own templates in Canva or use the templates that Canva provides that already have the ideal size and proportions for an attractive pin.
3. Stick to vertical pins only (No landscape, please!)
Vertical images (tall, not horizontal or square — see One Woman Shop’s example below!) tend to get more clicks and repins. One main reason is because they’re easier to see. Most Pinterest users are on their mobile devices, so it’s important to make your Pins easy on the eyes.
Images that use the ratio of 2:3 or 4:5 are best. I make my Pins 600px by 900px and it works perfectly. When I upload the Pin to my blog it doesn’t look overly huge, yet it looks clear when viewed on Pinterest.
This tip is short, but not always easy: Make sure you use an easy-to-read text overlay. Remember, most people are on their tiny phones looking at these pins. If pins are difficult to read, it’s unlikely they’ll inspire people to click or repin.
Beautiful images are key. If you’re using your own images, make sure they look professional (even if they’re shot from your iPhone). You want to avoid anything dark, out of focus, or messy-looking.
If you’re using stock photos, be sure to steer clear of anything cheesy. (You know what I mean. We’ve all seen those goofy photos with fake smiles and garish colors. Leave the cheesiness for the infomercials!) You want something on-brand and inspiring that your ideal client will love.
Some of my favorite stock photo sites are Haute Chocolate, SC Stockshop, and Bloguettes. They’re not free, but their photos are worth it. Instead of wading through pages and pages of questionable stock photography to find one beautiful, on-brand photo, you’ll have lots of gorgeous photos to choose from.
Remember to always keep your target audience in mind and choose photos that both showcase your brand and appeal to your peeps.
6. Get strategic with your blog titles
Creating a snappy title is just as important as creating consistent-looking Pins.
Your title needs to be specific and communicate exactly what your audience is going to get out of the article. You want to stir up an emotion in them and make them curious enough to click through to read your article or repin it to their board to read later.
For example, if you’re a health coach creating a Pin about what you eat in a day, the title “What I Ate Today” isn’t going to get many click throughs or repins. It’s too general.
Instead, try a title like “What a Health Coach Eats.” That’s much more intriguing, because your reader probably assumes that a health coach is more knowledgeable on healthy eats than the general public.
For extra credit, include a tantalizing subtitle. For our health coach example, you can try “What a Health Coach Eats (It Might Not Be What You Think!)” That title suggests that perhaps the health coach doesn’t eat healthy all the time, piquing your curiosity even more as to what exactly they eat. Makes you want to click through and see for yourself, doesn’t it?
The Pin description is the text that shows up under the Pin.
Your description should include keywords and phrases relevant to your blog post and brand to help people find your Pin when searching Pinterest. Explain the purpose of the article without giving too much away and perhaps even invite the pinner to click through to read more.
For instance, if someone was looking for a yellow chair on Pinterest, they would search “yellow chair.” If your pin is a picture of a yellow chair but doesn’t have the words “yellow chair” in the description, it’s going to be very difficult, if not impossible, to find.
How exactly do you add descriptions to your Pins? When you upload your Pin to your blog post you’ll want to add the description to the Alt Text of the image. And if you’re using an SEO plugin like Yoast SEO you’ll want to write a description for the meta description, because sometimes this shows up on Pinterest too.
Once the Pin is uploaded to your site you can use your Pin It button to save to your Pinterest boards.
Make the most of your Pinterest presence
In addition to creating pinnable Pins, you’ll want to repin fresh content to your boards daily or almost daily (a mixture of your content and others’). Consistency is key! Pinterest rewards those who pin great content and often.
Pinterest is an amazing platform with tons of potential for driving high-quality traffic to your site. (And it’s so much fun!) Use these tips on how to create the perfect Pin and you’ll be on your way to growing your business using Pinterest!
Using SEO effectively can seem like a headache. Keywords? Links? Content marketing? I’ve been there. If you’re a small business owner, you have enough on your plate, and learning about SEO can seem like more trouble than it’s worth.
But SEO is so much more than a marketing strategy. SEO, or Search Engine Optimization, is simply helping Google understand your site so that you can easily connect with people who are already seeking the solutions you offer. It’s a necessary foundation for your brand or business, not an online “trick” that requires endless research.
In fact, according to Search Engine Land, SEO is considered one of the most cost-effective digital marketing practices to grow your business. And, let’s face it — you’ve likely invested hundreds to thousands of dollars on designing your brand and developing your website, but is it worth the investment if no one can find it?
Here are four quick ways you can utilize SEO to find your dream clients and elevate your business in an authentic, non-salesy way.
1. Keep a list of Frequently Asked Questions from your target audience.
Keep an ongoing list of questions that continuously pop up among your target audience. You could find these questions in Facebook Groups, past client consultations, in replies to your email newsletter, or even while taking a class at the gym.
Use these questions for content inspiration. Answer them on an easy-to-access landing page or turn them into blog posts. Pay attention to the specific language your potential clients use and the way the questions are asked. Word questions and your answers in a way that you could see your clients Googling them. If you have Google Analytics set up on your website, you can see which Google searches have led people to your website, and form questions out of those phrases.
2. Take time to use categories and tags effectively.
When it comes to that “tags” box you see when creating a blog post in WordPress, do you fill it with related terms you think of on the fly? Don’t worry; you’re not alone. But it’s time to get organized! Think of categories as the top level, main topics of your blog. Then think of tags as supporting keywords. Choose 5-6 main categories and only a handful of tags for each category. For example, a main category could be “Fitness” and supporting tags could be “muscle recovery,” “at home workout,” and “activewear.”
Metadata is mostly behind-the-scenes data that helps a search engine understand and rank your site. The preview text that appears in search engine results when someone sees your site link is comprised of metadata. Take a few extra minutes to fill in the title tag, meta description and alt tags of your posts. The Yoast SEO plugin makes these updates, and therefore upping your SEO game, much easier.
4. Audit and update your old content.
If you’ve had a blog for more than a few months, chances are you already have a ton of content. In order to make sure your website is working for you, and not the other way around, go through your old content and see which posts and pages could be improved.
Find which posts are your best and make sure they’re properly tagged and categorized. Edit any content that is outdated or no longer relevant. Auditing your content will make sure your site is full of high-quality, valuable content for your readers. For more ideas, check out my post on 50 ways to give an old post new life.
SEO doesn’t have to be so hard
For many solopreneurs, SEO remains an elusive concept that’s just out of reach. But it doesn’t have to be. The four quick tips above are just a few examples of how you can optimize your site for search engines and make it easier for more of your ideal clients to find you.
Content might be king…
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Guest posting is one of those things that everybody thinks they probably should be doing more of…but the whole process of putting a guest post pitch together can seem daunting. And the truth is, you can spend a lot of time and energy pitching guest posts that never pan out if you don’t know what you’re doing.
Good news: You can make the process much, much easier if you know how to write a decent cold pitch — and once you do start landing those posts, you can leverage those posts into a serious asset for your business.
It starts with knowing whether you should be pitching at all.
As you may have noticed, the Internet has become a much busier place these past couple of years. Which means that people don’t have a whole hell of a lot of mental bandwidth to spare.
You need to get a really good sense of whether a blog is even accepting pitches and guest posts before you take the time to write your pitch. There’s no particular secret to know here; most places that are accepting posts will have a page explicitly stating that.
If you can’t find it on their site, do a quick Google search along the lines of “[Site you want to guest post for] guest posting” and see if something comes up. Otherwise, check out their archives and social media feeds to see if they have any guest posts featured. If there’s nothing to let you know either way, then go ahead and pitch, if you really think that your idea is a fit. Just go into the process knowing that it’s a toss up.
OK, so you’ve decided it’s a go. Now what?
Now you write an email that gives them just enough information about you to know whether you’re a fit for their audience, piques their interest and shows off your expertise in the topic, and tells them that you’re not going to be a pain to work with.
Start out with a very clear subject line — something along the lines of “Guest post proposal — [your specific topic]”
Then (after you double extra check that you’ve spelled the person’s name right in your greeting), write a short intro paragraph where you talk about who you are and what your business is, as well as your particular reasons for being attracted to their business/blog/this chance to guest post.
Now that you’ve got their attention, add in a very short paragraph about why you’re a good fit for their audience. Here’s where you get to show off how great you are, plus how well you know their business and their audience.
Then introduce your idea. While it’s fine to pitch with just one idea, I usually like to include two or more and let them choose. This ups your chances of getting a yes and lets you highlight a couple different areas of expertise.
End by offering to provide alternative ideas just in case those don’t work, and give them clear next steps.
It’s all about making it as easy as possible for them to say yes.
You’ve got the pieces — now what does that look like, all put together?
Here’s an anonymized example of an email I pitched a while back that landed me a guest post within a few hours:
Subject: Guest post proposal — copy and content
I’m Rachel Allen, and I run the creative agency Bolt from the Blue Copywriting. I’ve had the biggest business crush on BIZ NAME ever since the first round of COOL THING YOU DID — the mix of lifting people up to be their best + the firmly grounded anti-bullshit stance really does it for me.
I write about voice, branding, copy, and content from a similar stance, and was wondering if you’re currently accepting guest posts? If so, I’d love to do one for you.
Here’s what I’m thinking:
A rallying cry for being a better human as you write (that also skewers the whole cottage industry that’s developed around quickie, template-based content).
A post about how access to other people’s brainspace is a privilege, with the main focus being on how you’re spam until you prove otherwise.
If neither of those ring your bell, I’m happy to come up with alternative ideas. If one or both does sound good to you, I can also send over outlines (or a completed article) if you want to move forward. I could have the article to you next week or an outline tomorrow.
Let me know what you think, and of course, if you have any questions don’t hesitate to ask.
So…what do you do if you don’t hear back?
Give it a little time. Like I said, people are busy. If it’s been a week and you haven’t heard a word, then it’s time to follow up. Keep it short and low pressure, just checking in like the responsible guest poster you are. Something along the lines of,
Hope you’ve had a great start to your week! I wanted to follow up on my guest post proposal from last week. Did you have any questions or need any more information from me?
What do you do if you do hear back and it’s a no?
It’s always disappointing, but it’s not the end of the world. If you do hear back and it’s a no, it’s totally fine to email back thanking them for their time and either giving a short alternative pitch or asking them if there’s a similar idea they’d like you to post on.
This does not mean that you ask them for feedback on your pitch, get upset and say weird things to them, or badger them to reconsider. Remember, people are busy, and nothing will get you mentally blacklisted faster than coming into this process with a sense of entitlement.
A few final do’s and don’ts:
Do triple check that you’re sending it to the right person and you’ve spelled their name right. If they have pitching guidelines posted somewhere, follow them. You’d be amazed at how many people ignore them entirely, so if you can get this simple thing right, you’ll have already made yourself stand out.
Don’t use hesitant language — anything along the lines of “just”, “I think”, “sorry”, etc. If you struggle with this, this is the plugin for you. And it goes without saying, but don’t have typos in your pitch, don’t pitch something you can’t follow through on, and don’t be a jerk if the answer is no.
When hoping to land a guest post on a dream site, start off by figuring out whether you should be pitching at all. Follow any and all guidelines they give you to the letter. Write a concise, convincing email that makes it as easy as possible for them to say yes. Check in if you need to, and don’t take it personally if the answer’s a no — because it might not be a no forever.
Online courses: The possibility (and profitability) that comes with creating one can have a huge impact on how you run your solopreneur business.
In fact, most entrepreneurs and professional bloggers today agree that online courses are an important element for any solopreneur who wants more time to innovate, wants to be seen as an expert in their field, and who wants to shatter the revenue ceiling by creating a product once that can be sold many times over.
As an instructional designer that worked for over a decade at universities and corporations and more recently with entrepreneurs, I’ve launched hundreds of online courses and educational programs in a wide range of topics. Throughout these diverse launches, I’ve found that one of the single most effective steps in having a successful online course launch that brings many of the aforementioned possibilities (and profits) is to beta test your online course first.
There are countless benefits to beta testing, or piloting, your course, including:
Getting to know your students more intimately before launching to a bigger audience
Witnessing the transformation that your course content actually causes in other people
Collecting case studies or testimonials
Determining how much interaction will be needed from you during the Big Launch
Getting cash flow in order to make additional purchases for the Big Launch
Increasing your profit margin during the Big Launch
As I’ve begun working with entrepreneurs, however, I’ve noticed that a surprising few add this critical phase to their course creation process. By skipping this beta phase, you might find that you have devoted all of your energy for days, weeks, or months building a product that nobody actually wants. I’m going to guess you don’t have time for that. Am I right? Keep reading to find out how to beta test your online course to validate your idea and launch like a pro.
While there are no hard and fast rules for establishing successful pilot courses, I’ve found these eight steps to be quite effective:
1. Define your goals.
I don’t know who said it first, but one key to business is to “fail fast, fail cheap, and fail often.” Your beta test period is your opportunity to do just that, but you will need to define goals before you can decide if your course idea succeeded or failed.
Determining goals for your beta launch will depend on what success looks like for you. Are you hoping to get a certain amount of people to purchase, to make a certain amount in revenue, or to collect a set amount of feedback or testimonials? Take a few minutes and write specific goals you can use these to determine whether your beta test succeeded — and if you should continue with the Big Launch.
2. Define and build your beta audience.
Since the beta phase is a time to check and validate your course idea without spending a whole lot of time or money, you may choose to select an audience that you already have access to.
For example, if you host a podcast, run a community, or have an email list, then reach out to this audience — or a subset of it — first. If you don’t have an audience, consider partnering with someone else and working with them to pilot your course.
3. Create your timeline and outline content.
Consider keeping a short timeline. From what I’ve seen in the corporate world, the average pilot course is about 30 days, but it’s good to stay flexible during a beta launch. A successful pilot course usually strikes a balance between structure and experimentation. Be prepared to cut it short or expand the test phase as you experiment with what works.
As you plan the timeline, prepare a brief outline of what content will be covered as the beta progresses.
4. Create course materials.
If you haven’t already, now is the time to create the course materials that you will use during the beta launch. Some creators choose to build out the entire course prior to piloting it, while others choose to meet live with their beta testers each week to get feedback before continuing creation.
Whichever you choose, this is also the time to create any Facebook Groups, Slack channels, presentations, pre-recorded videos, or anything else that will be used to teach — and collect feedback — during the pilot.
5. Price and soft launch your beta course.
This is probably the piece that most people worry about when it comes to pre-selling their courses: the actual soft launch.
This involves packaging up your course idea, your promised results, providing an outline of the content to be covered, pricing your course, and creating a sales page that people can use to pay for and enroll in your beta. (Yes, I do recommend that you sell your beta course, even at a discount. This adds value to the experience and is the only way to truly know if people will be open to paying for your Big Launch.)
Does the thought of selling your beta test scare you? Don’t let it: Make it clear to your audience that this is a pilot; a pre-launch; a test course. Although they will expect value, they will not expect perfection.
6. Collect feedback.
Feedback from your students can be extremely valuable during the pilot phase. It can be used to determine what people are willing to pay, the most feasible length, or the additional training videos or worksheets that you need to create before launching your course.
Of course, it’s virtually impossible to implement these suggestions unless you’ve captured this feedback in some way. Many course beta testers create Facebook Groups, or record webinars and video chats to capture this feedback. Be sure to prepare succinct questions to ask your betas to collect the information that will prove move valuable to you in your Big Launch.
7. Document results.
When purchasing a course, there are very few elements that are as convincing as seeing proof of the results promised. The pilot course is the perfect opportunity to gather these results.
Are you promising an increase in blog traffic; an increase in revenue; a faster, easier way to get the results they want? Have your pilot students document before and after pictures, graphs, screenshots…any proof points that show their results, and secure their permission to use them as testimonials and case studies for your Big Launch.
8. Evaluate your pilot.
Based on your original defined goals, you can determine if your pilot course was successful or not. If the beta is successful, prepare to relaunch the course with the new insights you received from the pilot. And even if the beta is not seen to be successful, there may be even more useful lessons on how to improve or refine your future initiatives.
Launch like a pro
Once you have completed these steps, or some version of this, you’ll be able to gain a good pulse on the type of student that’s best suited for your course, the amount of time an average dedicated student will need to complete the activities, and what results might be expected — all fantastic information for nailing your Big Launch.
The benefits that come when you beta test your online course don’t end there, though. With targeted feedback to improve your course, you’ll likely be able to raise your prices, launch with raving testimonials, and secure confidence that your course will have a real transformational impact on the lives of those who take it.
You have a creative business, which means, most days, you feel like you’re on top of the world. You can work when you want to, with whom you choose, and take vacations on a whim because hey, you are boss like that, right?
Unless, of course, you’re not feeling confident with your income. That changes things a bit.
The feast-or-famine mindset is real, and can leave you convinced that searching job boards may be a better choice than trying to keep at this ‘“own-my-own-business” thing. We get these feelings in months where we have way less clients, our course sales dip or our Creative Market income has been dryer than Schweppes ginger ale.
Yet many service-based businesses are leaving a ton of money on the table, solely focusing on services, courses and product creation that they ignore affiliate marketing and how it can complement their small biz income.
1 – Some solopreneurs I’ve spoke with tell me the earnings don’t amount to enough to spend their time on it.
2 – Other say that affiliate marketing is dead.
Neither of these could be further from the truth. Think about all of the products and services you use every single day while running your business. Now, consider all of the frequent purchases and investments (the online courses, ebooks, business tools). And how about that one “thing” you always recommend for every single one of your clients to help them get from ABC to XYZ?
If you do the math, you’ll probably feel a bit queasy at how much money you could have been making, just by simply adding an affiliate link to the products and services you love and trust to people who already love and trust you.
Where to start with affiliate marketing
The next greatest hesitation I hear is that people simply don’t know where to start without feeling like a car salesman. Fret not; there are so many great ways to not be cheesy OR greasy.
Without further ado, here are five authentic ways to add a bit of padding to your service-based business by using on-brand affiliate marketing…minus the ick factor.
1. Create a resources page
A resources, or tools, page is an effective way to help your visitors help themselves to the tools, courses and services you rely on to run your business. Get creative by adding images and banners, or simply use shortcodes and columns to create categories and embed your affiliate link into each resource.
Link to your resources page from your blog posts, include it in your email footers, and write social posts highlighting each resource on the page.
2. Make recommendations to your clients
You may be a web designer, virtual assistant or accountant who’s always getting asked what you recommend for solving your clients’ problems. You may also have certain things your client must purchase before you can start working with them (such as a theme or hosting, if you are a web designer).
When you onboard your clients, include a list of your favorite tools with your affiliate links in your welcome packet. Alternatively, if you send your clients a goodbye package, include a list of resources that will be helpful on an ongoing basis.
More than anything, they will appreciate that they can trust your recommendations and that they aren’t stuck having to Google for answers.
3. Build affiliate mentions into your editorial calendar
If you have a blog that complements your business, I imagine you are already sharing high-quality posts that position you as an expert in your niche, so why not turn these posts into money-generating machines?
Some of my best performing blog posts that have affiliate links are resource roundups and tutorials on how to do something that others often struggle with. Review posts of products you have tried and compared are also a good way to introduce your audience to amazing assets while helping you earn more money.
Pro tip: Content is key, but don’t ignore your images. Include high quality, pinnable images for people to share. Add keyword-rich descriptions in your images’ alt text if you want to tap into Pinterest for referral traffic.
4. Complement your newsletters
Dedicated emails about products you love can make you feel like you’re always trying to sell your audience something.
To avoid that, try sharing your experience with them. For example, if you took a totally ah-mazing course that skyrocketed your website traffic and you’re now an affiliate of, share the story of how your stats increased.
You can also write your newsletter content as usual and include links to some of your most recent affiliate-rich posts. Likewise, if you know your affiliates are having a sale and you genuinely don’t want your peeps to miss out, use a PS note at the bottom of the newsletter or within the content itself if it’s relevant.
An example: If you’re writing to your audience about how they can choose the best theme for their business and you happen to know that Bluchic* is having a sale, share it. Don’t be random. Weave it naturally into what your readers know you for.
5. Enhance your infoproducts
You may already have some great infoproducts (ebooks; worksheets; email courses) in place that help you grow your list or populate your shop. What if I told you that there is a way to monetize your free goodies and help you earn more with your paid offerings? Hold the phone, sista!
With on-brand affiliate marketing, it’s totally possible. When crafting your offering, you’re likely linking to tools and resources that are helpful for those who are downloading or signing up for your product.
By using affiliate links, you can make more money while continuing to deliver your high-quality content for free or increase your earnings with your paid products. For example, I have an email course that helps new bloggers or businesses set up their very first blog on WordPress. Even though it took a ton of hours and energy, I was able to justify giving it away for free because there were so many opportunities to earn money from the free course by mentioning amazing affiliates for WordPress hosting, themes, styled-stock memberships, and more.
But FIRST, here’s what else you need to know about doing affiliate marketing right
When adding a slew of affiliate links to your site, you can consider adding “no follow” links in place so that you aren’t oops-ed by Google (though there is a debate on whether it’s necessary or not). You also want to make your links cleaner with a plugin like Pretty Link Lite, or bit.ly.
Most importantly, and I can’t stress this enough: DO IT LEGALLY. (Caps + bold, necessary.)
You have to have disclaimers on your site that let your visitors know that they may be clicking on affiliate links. You have to share in your newsletter that links are indeed, affiliate links. You have to give a heads up about affiliate links even if you are just recommending a product to someone in a Facebook Group. Recommending something to a client? Gently let them know that they are clicking on an affiliate link.
When in doubt, remember this: Any time you drop a link, drop a hint!
Evaluate your current affiliate strategy and choose one of these methods to start or improve upon today. Need more of a nudge? Sign up for Affiliate Crush, my free, 5-day email course that helps you get started in choosing the right affiliates and helps you create a strategy, track your earnings and lots more.
*Some of the links contained in this post are affiliate links. (See what we did there?) As always, we only promote products and services we trust and believe in.