Archives for October 2012

5 Things I Never Expected When I Started My Freelance Writing Business

Small Business surprises

There are the things you plan for and the things you never expect.

Creating a business you love will definitely present you with a few things from each category.

When I started my freelance web writing and social media marketing business, there were things I knew to count on – the occasional flaky client who disappears into the ether and doesn’t pay; the high-maintenance client who expects the world on a silver platter, haggles over every insignificant detail and expects you to make yourself available for phone meetings at the ungodly hour of 10:00 p.m. on a Sunday night, when most sane people are enjoying normal activities like catching the latest episode of Mad Men; the feast-or-famine cycle that dogs you until you finally get your marketing right, and so on.

Then there were the things I never counted on, things I couldn’t have predicted.

Here are five that come to mind:

1.  That one of my best clients would come from answering a craigs list ad, and that I’d still be happily working for her over two years later.

2.  That people would offer $10 per blog post/article/piece of content with a totally straight face, then when you kindly object to working for such a rate, act shocked, haughty, self-important and stunned that you find this insulting. The corollary to this is people who will actually take those assignments.

3.  That I would have to subject myself to a drug screen, a breathalyzer, a TB skin test, a pertussis vaccine, having a vial of blood drawn, and a lengthy discussion about worker’s comp and who would cover me if I got injured on the job, for a freelance writing contract with a healthcare client.

4.  That people find it odd that I’m skilled in, a:  writing web copy, blog posts, email marketing campaigns, case studies, press releases and so on, and at the same time, b: social media marketing and strategy.  I don’t say this to brag.  It’s just that several people – including a few clients – have expressed surprise about someone being able to both write well, and plan and implement effective social media campaigns.  Yet I know many other people who have this same skill set.  Hmm, it’s a mystery.

5.  That the stories I wrote in 7th and 8th grade, and the “books” I made with handwritten content together with images torn out of a magazine as illustrations, would be turn out to be good preparation for one day launching a writing-oriented business in my adult life.

Maybe you have similar stories.  If you own a business, whether you’re a one-person show or a 10-person or more operation, you’re bound to.

If so, I would love to hear them.  Let’s all share, shall we?

Please share your story about an interesting or curious thing that happened to you as a small business owner or solopreneur that you didn’t see coming.

This should be fun.  ; )

[Hey there, gorgeous. Want more actionable tips, techniques, and how-to’s for marketing your small business online, delivered straight to your email inbox each Tuesday? You betcha! Sign up for my FREE weekly newsletter by entering your name and email address at the top right hand side of the blog now, and let’s get you glowing online.]

How to Write Your Twitter Bio To Get More Followers

Twitter Bio

When you’re on Twitter looking for new people to follow, how do you decide who makes the cut?

Your first step is to check out the person’s bio, right?  Yep, that’s what everyone else does too.

And since the short bio connected to your profile is easily visible and the #1 thing people use to determine whether to follow you or click on the links you tweet out, it makes sense to create the best bio you can.

So, what makes a good Twitter bio? 

The best Twitter bios are interesting, engaging and offer insight into your business and/or your personality, while conveying some benefit to following you.  And since Twitter is less formal than other social media platforms, it’s a good idea to lighten up a little and show some personality here. 

You get 160 characters to summarize your business and what you have to offer, so you’ve got to be strategic about what to include. 

In a nutshell, try to do following:  tell people who you are and why they should follow you, state the benefit of following you while using your best keywords, and include your website or blog URL. 

Keywords in your bio are important because that’s what gets your profile found – Twitter search engines look at these keywords when they recommend profiles for others to follow.  (You can use hashtags for the same purpose.  A hashtag is the symbol # placed before a relevant keyword or phrase in a Tweet, with no spaces, to categorize Tweets and help them show more easily in Twitter Search.)

And here’s a little tip not everyone knows – you can actually have two clickable links in your Twitter bio field.

There are a couple of ways to use this to your benefit:  you can place your website URL in both the Web and Bio fields of your profile so that it’s easily visible and accessible to your followers, or, you can use the second live link to promote something else you want to direct attention to.  For example, you could include the link to your Facebook business page or other social media profile, an email opt-in page, or an opt-in for an upcoming webinar, etc.

Let’s look at a few Twitter bio examples, both the good and the not-so-good, and talk about what makes them that way.  (These are all real examples I pulled from Twitter.) 

 

First we have what I call “The Laundry List”:

Personal Development, Body and Mind Fitness, Life Coaching, NLP, Smart Teaching and Learning, Travel, Yoga and Meditation

This is merely a string of semi-related words that don’t add up to enough strategic information about this person or their business to make folks want to follow.  How do we know which of these phrases relate to this person’s business and which to her personal life?  And what about a website link for more information?  This bio doesn’t pique my interest enough to make me want to click over to her profile for more info.

Next we have the hopelessly vague:

We love to Inspire, Motivate & help others around us to reach Success. Follow & Interact with us now & Please Like Us On Facebook.

This is another kind of Twitter bio that’s all too common.  It’s vague, and the benefit to following is not clearly defined.  More specific info on how they “help others achieve success” and/or what kind of success they mean would improve this bio.  Is it weight loss success?  Small business success?  Financial success?  If I’m going to follow this person, I want to know.

And then we have everybody’s favorite, the “Hashtag Stuffer”:

#Blogger, #entrepreneur, digital marketing #consultant and recording #artist. I make #money online and #teach others how to do the same.

The Hashtag Stuffer places as many keywords in the bio field as possible in hopes of being found through Twitter Search or similar. You want to avoid this, not only because it’s annoying to other Twitter users and considered bad form, but more importantly, Google views the overuse of hashtags much like spam, which means those tweets will be excluded from real time search results.

And then there’s The Deadly Dull, another very common approach to Twitter bios:

As a prominent author, speaker and coach, ______’s expertise is utilized to gain insight and to create change in leadership and communication.

The Deadly Dull bio gives us enough information about who someone is and what they do, but it’s not very compelling.  And the phrase “expertise is utilized to gain insight and to create change” is unwieldy and overly formal. This is Twitter, not a resume.  So please, ok?

And now for a few examples of interesting, engaging and benefit-driven Twitter bios: 

 

I use my punk-rock personality to create super fun tools that help business owners and entrepreneurs assault and trample their technical fears.

This bio works because it’s witty and shows personality, while at the same time clearly outlining the benefit of following her profile.  You get a sense of who she is – “punk-rock personality” – who she helps – “business owners and entrepreneurs” – and how she helps them – “assault and trample technical fears.”

Facebook Marketing expert Amy Porterfield’s Twitter bio is effective because it quickly tells us who she is and what she does, and provides two relevant links:

I’m a social media strategist who specializes in Facebook (http://AmyPorterfield.com/Webinar). Co-author of Facebook Marketing All-In-One for Dummies.

Here’s the bio for Sean Malarkey, an online business professional and Social Media Author and Speaker.

What’s interesting here is that Sean’s LinkedIn bio is much more formal and business-like telling us more about his business, while on Twitter he follows the protocol of less formal and more personal:

Blogger, Chocolate lover, Living a dream by living PT in Argentina, Retired Real Estate Investor. Husband, Dad, Good friend to many.

And last, we have the bio of a photographer who manages to get across in a very succinct and poetic way the benefits of using her service:

@AnnieVaiPhoto  Live the Moment. Inspire the Love. Capture the Memory.  Wilmington, NC http://www.annievaiphotography.com

And there you have it.

Use these guidelines and examples as a starting point to create your own Twitter bio – a compelling, strategic, benefit-driven masterpiece, all in 160 characters or less.

[Hey there, gorgeous. Want more actionable tips, techniques, and how-to’s for marketing your business online, delivered straight to your email inbox each Tuesday? You betcha! Go ahead and enter your name and email address at the top right hand side of the blog now to get my FREE weekly newsletter packed full of marketing goodnessand let’s get you glowing online.]

Your One Line Marketing Message: A Surefire Way to Talk About What You Do Without Sounding Like a Tool

One line marketing message

Would you like to hear about something I did a few months ago that saved me untold hours of networking agony and helped me clearly state what I do to potential clients without sounding like a complete tool?

I thought you might.

See, here’s what was happening.

When I first starting going to networking events a few years ago, it was uphill sledding.  I remember well how painful it was when people would ask me what I did. I fumbled, I hemmed and hawed, I felt wildly uncomfortable.

If you’ve gone to as many networking events I have, you know exactly what I’m talking about.

It wasn’t a matter of not having something of value to offer, it was more a function of being comfortable “selling” myself in a way that seemed authentic and conversational, in a straightforward, non-douchy way that potential clients could relate to.

That’s the part I had a hard time getting right.  Either I was waaaaay too wordy, my new contacts checking out half a paragraph into my spiel, eyes glazed over, planning their escape to a more interesting conversationalist, or I couldn’t get to the nut of what I did quickly enough, which I noticed made people very thirsty, as they couldn’t get to the bar fast enough.

I exaggerate slightly, but that’s what it felt like.

Then I thought, if I could just come up with a one-line marketing message, a succinct core message that describes what I do in a nutshell,  one I could easily change up based on the venue and circumstances of the conversation, I’d be set.

And that’s when I remembered something I came across from Brendon Burchard a few months ago (Google him – he’s the guy who teaches you how to get paid for your advice and expertise.  You’ll find free resources at his site to get you started).

It called a “Create Anything Framework.” It’s a concise 4 part framework for describing what you do, and here’s how it works:

Intro + I Help [your audience] Do [topic/message] so that [benefit to your audience].

I’ll give you an example using myself:

My name is Kimberly Houston, and I help creative small businesses create a persuasive online presence with targeted web copy, content creation and strategy, and social media marketing so they can get their message out into the world and get more clients, customers and sales.

It might take some playing around with this a bit to get your marketing message just like you like it (I tweak mine often), but it’s a great exercise, both for honing in on what you offer and who you serve, and for getting clear on the value your products and/or services provide.

Once you get that one sentence down, it’ll come in handy not only at live networking events, but anywhere else you want network your business.

You can expand on it for your website’s “Work with Me” page, use it to guide your newsletter content or social media updates, or even as the starting point for a sales page highlighting your product or service offerings.

I highly recommend you set aside some time to do this powerful little exercise yourself, then start using the crystal clear marketing message that results at your next networking opportunity.  And beyond.

Let me know how you do.  : )

[Hey there, gorgeous. Did you know you can get my FREE weekly newsletter, with actionable tips, techniques, and how-to’s for marketing your business online, delivered straight to your email inbox each Tuesday? You betcha! Go ahead and enter your name and email address at the top right hand side of the blog now, and let’s get you glowing online.]

How High-Quality Content Drives Sales: A 3-Point Primer

Creating High Quality Content

I talk a lot on the blog about creating regular high-value content each week so your business gets noticed online and you get more clients, customers and sales.

Actionable content geared toward helping your audience solve their problems will drive targeted traffic to your site, help you get seen as the go-to person in your niche, get more people on your email list, and get more warm bodies in your bricks-and-mortar business.

How does this happen?

 

In a nutshell:

1.  When you offer unbiased and valuable information on your topic through your blog or website, your newsletter, and your social media outlets, you earn trust with those who interact with your content. Increasing the trustworthiness of your brand helps increase business.

2.  In terms of SEO and search traffic, the more content you create, the more search engine traffic you’ll accumulate because you’ll be increasing your longtail search visibility. Plus, well written content gets linked to, and backlinks are key to better search engine rankings.

3.  Consistently creating compelling content gives people a reason to return to your site again and again to sample your expertise. Which gives you multiple opportunities to potentially sell to them. The more often potential customers engage with your carefully crafted and high-quality content, the more open they will be to a sales message from you at the right time.

Creating amazing content for your site and your newsletter, posting it on a reliable and consistent schedule, and following a strategic plan for sharing it on social media will get more people interested in your products and/or services and increase the number of client and customer inquiries you get.

 

And that’s the down-and-dirty Cliff Notes version of how excellent content, consistently posted, can help you in your small business.

Since I know one of the biggest challenges is coming up with ideas for blog posts and newsletters on a consistent basis, I’ve linked up 3 articles below that outline some dead-simple and effective strategies for coming up with loads of killer ideas.

Check out this post for 3 Killer Resources for Sparking Dozens of Content Ideas.

Go here for 3 More Resources for Easy Idea-Gathering.

And check out this simple but highly effective strategy for creating EXACTLY the kind of content your audience wants to read.

Do More in Less Time With These Three Productivity Tools

Productivity Tools

When you’re a small business owner, you have to get darn good at prioritizing tasks, especially if, like me, you’re a solopreneur.

Because those blog posts and newsletters and social media status updates aren’t going to write and post themselves. And the 78 other things on your to-do list aren’t going to take care of themselves either.

I’ve written about how to prioritize your small business to-do list before, but it also helps to have a few go-to online tools to help with planning, organizing, and project management.

Today I want to share three online productivity tools that can help you leverage your time to get more done. All three are free (or offer a free version).

1. Toodledo

Toodledo is a sortable online to-do list. Features include a “hotlist,” which is a list that automatically figures out what’s important to you right now; alarms, which remind you about tasks that are due soon and can be delivered via via email, sms, twitter or iPhone; and even a scheduler, which analyzes the details of your tasks to determine the best use of your time.

Check out Toodledo here.

2. Workflowy

WorkFlowy is an organizational tool that allows you to manage all the information in your life in one place. You can use it for brainstorming, note taking, keeping a journal, organizing big projects, and even planning a wedding or other big event. Visit the link below and scroll down to see what other people say about the power of using Workflowy, and watch the 45 second demo video while you’re there for a great overview of what Workflowy can do.

Check out Workflowy here.

3. Wrike

Wrike is an online platform for managing projects and teams. Team members can collaborate and get things done efficiently all in one place, with features that let you schedule, discuss and track progress in real time.

When you go to the link below you’ll see details about the paid versions of Wrike; there is a free version, you just have to dig for it.

To do that, go to the website and click on the “pricing and signup” tab at the top. Then under the 4 pricing options you’ll see “Don’t need premium features right away? Continue with our FREE version: Key features for up to 5 users and unlimited collaborators. Switch to the premium plan any time later.”

Check out Wrike here.

And there you have it. Check out at least one of these three tools today and see if you can put one of them to work to organize your tasks and increase your business productivity.

[Hey there, gorgeous. Did you know you can get my FREE weekly newsletter, with actionable tips, techniques, and how-to’s for marketing your business online, delivered straight to your email inbox each Tuesday? You betcha! Go ahead and enter your name and email address at the top right hand side of the blog now, and let’s get you glowing online.]