3 Ways to Find Great Bloggers to Work with You

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.

TL;DR?

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!

12 Freelance Niche Writing Markets You Probably Haven’t Considered

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.

Example of a niche website for application: MustHaveMenus

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.

Who knows where small niche jobs could lead you?

P.S. When that scarcity mindset kicks in again, look for the wiggle room.

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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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.

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.

How to Build a Content Plan to Support Your Product and Sales Funnels

reasons content sucks

reasons content sucks

If you’re anything like me, the first time you heard the term “sales funnels,” you envisioned a big Willy Wonka-esque contraption that takes random scrollers off the internet, works some magic as they move through the various whizzing parts of the machine, and churns out raving fans.

Although that idea is slightly valid because funnels are meant to work like a well-oiled machine, effective funnels are anything but random.

When you use sales funnels in your business, you’re sending your ideal audience on a journey through a series of carefully-curated pieces of content that eventually leads them to buy your product or service.

And since sales funnels are entirely dependent on content, you better believe you need to build a content plan with a solid framework if you want to see those dollars roll in.

Begin at the end and look at your goals

Like many things in life and business, starting at the end is the best way to plot out all the action steps you need to take to achieve your goal.

Here are a few questions to ask when beginning at the end as you build a content plan:

  • Am I selling a product or a service?
  • What is the price point of what I’m selling?
  • Is this something that will always be available for sale or will it be for a limited time only?

The answers to these questions will help you determine:

1. How many funnels you should create

If you answered the first question by listing multiple products or services that are not inextricably intertwined, you’ll need to create multiple funnels that lead your readers down the path to the offer that will be the best fit for them.

If you find that you have multiple funnels you need to create, start by focusing on one to test out what works and what you’ll need to change before creating all the content for your next funnel.

2. How much content you need

The higher the price point of your offer, the more content and lead time you’ll need in your funnel to communicate the value your offer holds in solving your audience’s problem or eliminating their frustrations. Being able to identify which stage of the buying cycle they’re at is helpful as you build a content plan — both in determining the volume of content as well as the type of content you need.

3. How much lead time you should allow for creating, scheduling, and publishing content

Having products or services that are only available for a limited time or have a specific number of spots available is a popular way to create scarcity around what you’re selling. However, the doesn’t mean every offer should be structured this way.

If you choose to create a funnel that supports a product or service that’s always for sale, you’ll be creating an always existing or “evergreen” funnel, which naturally triggers an automated system whenever your reader enters the funnel.

While a limited-time offer can also have automated elements, such as pre-scheduled emails and social media posts, it takes careful calendar plotting to make sure you’re giving your potential buyers enough time to learn about your offer, why they need it, and to make a decision before the doors close. Again, this factor will also depend on your price point.

Decide how you’re going to get people into your funnel

The initial goal for the first piece(s) of content your readers encounter in your funnel is to capture their email address. (Already have a list of subscribers you’re working with? You’re off to a great start!)

The best way to achieve this goal is by creating an opt-in offer or a lead magnet such as:

  • An additional piece of valuable content that corresponds to a blog post such as an ebook, PDF, or email series (aka a content upgrade) that people can only get by signing up for your list
  • Creating a mini-course that ties into the topic of your offer
  • A quiz with the results delivered via email
  • A webinar, online workshop, or Q&A session where people have to sign up to attend

You might find that you already have content you’ve created and you can repurpose for your funnel, or that you need to create something new that’s highly specific to the thing you’re offering.

If you’re stuck on the best opt-in to create, ask your people! They’ll be the best reference on what would be most valuable to them and which method they would prefer receiving your material.

Develop your framework

Before you start creating your content, it also helps to develop the framework surrounding how you’ll deliver your content or how your ideal customer or client will experience it.

Some of my favorite tools that make for fun and functioning funnels (say that five times fast) are:

  • WordPress or Squarespace – Your website and blog are arguably the best places to start with publishing the content that will get people into your funnel and to sign-up for your list
  • ConvertKit – ConvertKit’s “Sequences” feature is the ultimate tool to keep people moving through your funnel and on to the sale
  • Typeform – A clean and pretty interface that’s perfect for creating an opt-in quiz or for getting feedback from your audience on what content they would like from you
  • Teachable – If you’re creating a mini-course as your opt-in, Teachable offers the ability to create a free course on their platform, which is sleek and very user-friendly

Get creating

Alright, now that you know how to build a content plan to support your sales funnels, it’s time to start creating your content!

You’ve got your end goal in mind. You know your funnel’s “why.” You now know the time frame of your funnel and how in-depth it needs to go to adequately communicate your value to your ideal customer. Plus, you have some solid ideas for how to get the funnel party started, and all the tools ready to make it happen.

I’d say you’re ready to not only build a content plan, but to put your plan into motion and start selling. What do you say?

4 Reasons Your Content Sucks –– And How to Make it Better

reasons content sucks

reasons content sucks

Content marketing isn’t easy. Even spending a lot of time and effort on something that you think will be compelling can fizzle out like a dud. Sometimes it’s best just to face the facts and say this one thing out loud — “my content sucks.”

It’s a hard thing to say, and it’s definitely a downer when you first admit it. However, it’s not a putdown or a sign that everything you’re doing is wrong.

Instead, admitting this little fact is the opportunity to take a step back and examine why your content is failing to resonate with an audience. This introspection will improve your future content greatly. At the very least, the content you’re producing will no longer suck.

Here are some reasons why your content isn’t hitting the mark and how to make the improvements needed to grow:

You’re going at content marketing without a game plan

Knowing the audience helps guide your content strategies, but you still need a good plan in order to consistently deliver relevant content. This plan needs to include everything from how to approach each social media service to planning out an editorial calendar.

Just winging your content strategy is no way to build an audience. One great blog post followed by a bunch of filler posts won’t bring readers back to your site. The perfect tweet doesn’t mean much if it’s followed by dull, promotional messages.

This planning strategy is the blueprint to your future success. On paper, it might not look like much, but it leads to great things if it’s well-conceived and then reliably followed.

You can find lots of great resources online about how to come up with a comprehensive content strategy. (One Woman Shop even offers a course on it…) While they offer plenty of excellent information, it’s important to take what’s applicable to you and build off it. A unique strategy that uses some well-established best practices is the way to go.

You’re missing the right visuals

How many great writers go completely unnoticed on the internet? Your guess is as good as mine, but odds are the number is remarkably high. (The very nature of the question makes it impossible to measure, really.)

Good writing is an incredible asset that will never go out of style. However, the web is a visual medium. Sharp writing is enhanced by compelling visuals.

If you’re writing articles or blog posts that aren’t taking off as expected, then consider rethinking your approach to visuals. Studies show information seen visually is remembered much better than hearing or reading the same info. Knowing that, you need to put as much importance into choosing the right visuals as you would into writing a sentence.

If you haven’t used images in your written content, start adding them to the posts. One study found blog posts with relevant images almost double the traffic of posts with no images.

If you’re already using images, then seek out better ones. Boring stock photos stick out like a sore thumb. Go for something more memorable — and perhaps even less polished — to catch the eye of your audience.

You’re not clear on who your audience is

All the content you produce needs to be done with the audience in mind. If you don’t have a great idea of what your audience is like, then your content won’t go anywhere. Abandon your preconceived notions of who you think your audience is. With your mind clear, you can get a good idea of who you’re trying to reach and what they’re interested in seeing.

Not only is it important to keep your audience in mind when creating your content; it’s important to know what stage of the buyer’s journey they’re at. A labor-intensive white paper might look spectacular but may not be relevant to the audience if they’re only at the awareness stage. Instead, a short but catchy blog post could work.

Alternatively, pithy social media posts might not resonate with a more serious audience in the research phase. To know what will work and what doesn’t, you need to learn the ins-and-outs of your audience through analytics, surveys or possibly some outside perspectives.

And please, no matter what you do, don’t post SpongeBob memes if you’re trying to reach a professional audience.

You’re lacking authenticity

Beware the buzzword — but don’t ignore it. Sometimes all your content needs is a personal touch. Many marketers overlook authenticity, yet audiences are craving something genuine after being bombarded by all kinds of impersonal media throughout the day.

It’s a bit of a cliché to say this, but be yourself. A unique and personal voice can help reach an audience in a way that polished, overproduced content could never do.

This doesn’t mean speaking with a faux-folksy tone or adding a conversational tone to where it doesn’t belong. Play it smart and see what works with some experimentation. (Here are a few places to start.)

Taking your content from good to great

Let’s put it bluntly: Everyone sucks from time to time. Even the most well-staffed and deep-pocketed companies consistently fail at what they do. The smart people, however, learn from their mistakes and improve upon what they do. Take that message to heart — and to your content — and you’ll see a marked improvement on your content marketing.

Your Editorial Calendar on Display: 5 Ways to Visualize Your Content

editorial calendar

editorial calendar

It happens to the best of us. We’re going through our day, when a great idea for a blog post pops into our head. And that’s when we tell ourselves the biggest fib of our blogging careers…“I’ll remember that later.”

Ladies, don’t do it.

Write down all of your magical ideas in a notebook as soon as you think of them, whether it’s a physical notebook, a bullet journal, or something digital like Evernote.

Even better than getting them in a notebook? Putting them down directly in your editorial calendar. When you assign a date for your idea (even if you change it later), it suddenly takes on a whole new level of importance. It becomes less of a scrawled thought, and more like you’re writing an article for your very own magazine.

But what to use for an editorial calendar? Like anything else in life, this is a super personal decision. Ask a dozen bloggers, and you could get a dozen answers…it’ll vary by personality, work style, and a million other variables. But just to kickstart your thoughts, I’ll go over some of the ones I’ve tried:

1. Simple notebook

I’ve done this by just assigning a notebook page for each month, and writing 1, 2, 3, 4…or however many posts I wanted to do that month. You can use fun notebooks from makers like Erin Condren and May Designs, or hit up the $1 section at your local office supply store to get a basic pad.

2. Post-It calendar

You can buy this from several places, but I picked mine up at Target. There are a few limitations: each page is only for a week, and there are less than 52 pages, but it’ll get you a decent way. And because each page is for a week, the squares are a great size for writing in. Plus, you can easily rearrange the Post-It notes.

3. Door full of Post-Its

Speaking of easy rearranging, in the early brainstorming phases, I have been known to paper the back of my door with all of my ideas on Post-Its. I’m a visual person, so it makes it easy to look at all of my ideas in just a few moments, and figure out which one is really grabbing me.

4. Year-at-a-glance calendar

I know I’m on a Post-It kick, but really this works quite well with the smaller Post-Its. You can scribble down an idea, slap it on the calendar and rearrange it to suit your needs. It makes it easy to to figure out where your posts need to fit in coordination with holidays, launches, and other major events in your business.

5. WordPress plugin

Tada! This one has nothing to do with Post-Its at all. And, it’s digital! There’s a WordPress plugin that’s simply called “Editorial Calendar.” It lets you create draft posts and schedule them out, so you can see what you’ve got coming up that you’ve finished writing, or still need to work on. They even set it up to enable you to drag and drop the posts, so if you realize that something is trending, or you accept an interview, you can easily reschedule one of your upcoming posts by scooting it to a different date. Cool, huh?

Of course these aren’t the only options, and some people use a combination of these and/or other methods. But with a plethora of easy options, there’s no excuse for not getting started.

Tell us: What’s your favorite way of organizing your editorial calendar?

6 Email Marketing Mistakes That Scare Subscribers Into Unsubscribing

email marketing mistakes

email marketing mistakes

You work hard at growing your email list. You created an irresistible lead magnet and optimized your website to capture leads. But when did you last take a close look at the emails that you’ve been sending out?

While growing your list is important, it’s equally important to take care of your existing subscribers and provide them with a wonderful brand experience. The last thing you want to do is push your subscribers to unsubscribe from your mailing list.

Now, getting unsubscribes is a natural and healthy aspect of email marketing, but not if you are unknowingly making mistakes that leave subscribers with no choice but to unsubscribe.

Here are six email marketing mistakes that you should nip in the bud to build trust and nurture a lasting relationship with subscribers:

#1 – You make them ask “Wait, who are you again?”

Your subscribers do not have the faintest clue as to who you are.

If you have not been consistent in emailing them and have been missing from their inbox lately, you need to re-establish your relationship with them.

Your subscribers’ inboxes are crowded. If they see a name that they are not familiar with, they aren’t going to think twice about deleting your email or unsubscribing from it.

Drop a line in your email introduction or email footer telling them where and what they signed up for. This jogs their memory about you and your brand. Start to plan and schedule your emails so that you get into a routine and your name stays fresh in your subscribers’ minds.

#2 – You ask for the sale (too quickly)

It’s not wrong to put yourself out there and ask for a sale. Don’t get me wrong. But you have to ask yourself if the subscriber is ready to act on that call to action.

Your subscriber goes through several stages before she is ready for a sale. Here’s how a typical customer journey is like:

  • Unaware (don’t know who you are)
  • Read your blog post
  • Come across a compelling lead magnet or content upgrade and sign up
  • Start to get aware of your brand
  • Get value from you and your brand
  • They start to see you as an authority figure and trust what you have to say
  • You educate them on the problem they need to solve
  • You allay their fears by removing objections for using your product or service
  • You instill desire for your product or service and paint a vivid picture of how it could solve their problems
  • They purchase your product
  • They get results
  • They become fans and spread the word about your brand and products

The percentage of subscribers who are very engaged with you and your brand and may not require that many touch points before they are ready for a sale is small.

For the majority of subscribers, you need to gain their trust, educate them on the problem and remove any mental objections they have before you ask for a sale.

When you ask for repeated sales too early on in the process, your subscribers will lose trust in you quickly and even unsubscribe. Before you hit send on any email, ask if it is self serving or audience serving.

#3 – Your emails render weirdly on their devices

It’s becoming harder to determine exactly what devices your subscribers will use to access your emails. And when you use image-laden email templates, you cannot ensure that your emails will show up exactly as you would want them to on different devices.

Marketing Agency Brafton reported that “75% of Americans will simply delete an email before reading it if it is not optimized to be viewed on their screens.”

Plain text emails have the highest chances of rendering in the same way across different platforms. Strip your emails off unnecessary sidebars, and graphics. (Editor’s note: It’s one reason why ConvertKit emails have higher open rates than other providers’.)

Your subscribers will be more likely to perform that single call to action without all the unnecessary distractions. Your emails will also look a lot less commercial.

#4 – You use clickbait subject lines

We know the importance of a subject line to grab attention and instill curiosity to get your emails opened.

But when you over-sensationalize your subject lines and your email copy doesn’t live up to the buzz that your subject line has created (#clickbait), you are going to lose trust with your subscribers quickly. They are less likely to open up your future emails because of the previous letdown they had.

Here are some simple tips you can follow:

  • Use symbols: Symbols work because they jump out at you in the inbox. Start by including one at the start of the subject line to replace a word. Example: ⬆ your sales, with this one simple sales page hack
  • Add the recipient’s name in the subject line: Personalization in the subject line compels you to open up. Seeing your name in the subject line gives a sense of familiarity and makes you respond. Example: Have you written that ebook yet, Meera?
  • Show results: Add specific numbers and a promise to let the reader in on a strategy or tool or process. Example: The best $55.68 you will spend on your business

Remember to appeal to different sides of your subscribers rather than sticking to a single type of subject line just because it works.

#5 – You confuse them and provide little direction

Subscribers are not sure if you want them to comment on your post, click over to the sales page, share your post on social media or buy your ebook.

You pack several calls to action in your emails and give your subscribers too many decisions to choose from. And when you give people several choices, it overwhelms them and results in decision paralysis. They end up not acting on any of your suggested actions.

It’s best to keep to one call to action per email. But should the need rise for you to have a few, give clear instructions and the order of the actions you want them to take. Bold the most important action for emphasis. Number them or place them prominently in your emails.

#6 – You write mini-blog posts

Your emails are long with big paragraphs and rows and rows of text.

Keep in mind that more and more of your subscribers are accessing their emails from their mobile devices. According to a survey by Litmus, 33% of email opens occurred on an iPhone.

When readability becomes an issue, your subscribers aren’t going to scroll to the end of your email no matter how much value you provide.

Build a solid relationship through email marketing

The main purpose of email marketing is to build a relationship. While it takes time to experiment with and find out the types of emails your subscribers will engage with, you don’t want to sabotage your list building efforts by making any of these six email marketing mistakes.

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