Archives for July 2012

How to Take Charge of Your Out-of-Control Small Business To-Do List

Small Business To Do List

If you’re a very small business or solopreneur, especially if you’re either A., just starting out, or B. struggling in your business, it can be challenging to know what to focus on first.

There are a million things you could be doing, but what is the #1 thing you should be doing — right now, today, to move your business forward and keep the lights on?

I know the struggle well, because as a solopreneur with an outsized to-do list, I often ask myself that very question, as in, “what’s the best thing I can do today to move my business forward?”

Despite using that question on a regular basis to refocus my energy, I still don’t have the problem completely licked. But I’m getting there.

What is the problem, exactly?

There are so many things to do in a small business, especially if you’re on your own, and the list of things you want to get done is really, and I mean really, long, and you’re not sure where to start or what to do next.

Sure, all the advice out there tells you to prioritize, but prioritizing seems impossible when everything feels like a high priority.

Just for fun, I’ll give you the short list of what I have on my “Priority Action Items” list right now:

Write next newsletter, write next blog post, put social media buttons on blog (at long last), update Twitter bio, update LinkedIn profile, client work for client A, client work for client B, do research and surveys for MVP (Minimum Viable Product), research for more guest blogging opportunities and contact blog owners, follow up with business owners/potential clients met at last networking event, create custom home page for blog, create Content 101 page, finish revising all newsletters with updated copy and new social media links, start drafting next offer, write mini-proposal for referred client lead, attend networking event on Wednesday, send writing samples to potential web copy client. . . and on and on it goes.

Sound familiar?

I keep a running list on a legal pad, and every time I think of something else I want to/need to do, I add it to the list. Just looking at it makes me want to break out in hives.

By now you’re probably thinking, get to your point already, what’s the cure for all this small business overwhelm?

I’ll tell you what it is. It’s a clarifying notion called “closest to cash,” which I learned from Naomi Dunford of ittybiz, and it works really well for me when I’m smart enough to apply it.

Here’s the deal. When you have 27 things on your plate and you don’t know what to do next, what you do, as Naomi says, is —

“Work on the thing that’s closest to cash.”

Now, if your business is established, you’re doing fine, and the greenbacks are rolling in like nobody’s business, good. Actually, great.

Or, if you’re still at your day job and doing something on the side for extra dough until you build your side biz into the juggernaut that makes it possible to leave your day job, and you don’t need to rely on the income from your side gig to survive, fine.

There are circumstances under which you don’t necessarily have to  start each business day with “closest to cash” as your guiding principle.


If you have to make your business work – now – because that’s what pays the bills and you don’t have next month’s mortgage payment, or if you just took the leap from a day job to doing your own thing and you need to get some income rolling in pronto or you won’t be eating dinner next week, then you can’t be thinking about getting the world’s greatest website designed, or how to get more Twitter followers, or the killer product or program you want to launch in the next 6 months, or even what to write about on your blog next week. (Unless these things have the potential to get dollars in your pocket sooner rather than later. Sooner, as in, not three months or six months or a year from now.)

This doesn’t mean you stop focusing on the business-building activities with long-term payoff, it just means that each day begins with your closest to cash opportunities, in order of what is the very closest, then working your way out from there to things that could get you cash in the next few weeks and so on. You don’t do the longer-term payoff things until the closest to cash things are taken care of.

I’m telling you, once I learned this technique (thanks, Naomi), everything got far easier and much less stressful.

For example, when I take a look at that long list of things to do from above, I see a whole lot of “want to do but won’t get me paid soon,” and a couple of “things to do right now that will.”

My top 5 closest to cash action items from the list above then, in order of priority are:

1. Client work for Client A (obviously, because I can bill for this within the next few days)
2. Client work for Client B (ditto)
3. Write up mini-proposal for referred client lead
4. Send writing samples to potential web copy client
5. Follow up with business owners/potential clients met at recent networking event

Aaah, sweet clarity. Seeing the list in order of priority gives me energy and focus, and stops the overwhelm.

I recently did this exercise again, mainly so I could stop myself carrying on like the world’s coming to an end because I can’t get everything on the to-do list done today.

And “closest to cash” is how I made that happen. Now I get up each day knowing exactly what to do, and in which order, and I feel calm, happy, relaxed and productive.

And that’s what I got for ya today.

So how about you? What’s your productivity tip or trick for knowing what to do next when there’s a mountain of things to do? Please share your ideas in the comments below so we can all learn from each other.  : )

[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 to Set Up a Blog in 4 Easy Steps for blogging

That’s right, my creative friends!  Let’s get this get this piece of your marketing pie in place ASAP, so you can start sharing your brilliance with the world and educating your prospects and customers about what you have to offer.

We’ve talked on the blog many times about the benefits of blogging for business, so I won’t belabor the point here. Instead, let’s jump right to setting up your blog.

(Read more here about the benefits of blogging for your business if you still need convincing.  ; ) )

If you’re serious about creating a piece of online real estate which you own and control, and which can help build your brand online, then the method and resources below are what I suggest. Especially, use for your blogging platform. It’s simply the most robust and customizable platform out there, and proves you’re a serious player and not just a hobbyist when it comes to your business and brand.

There are just 4 steps to getting your blog set up (yes, it really is this simple), and they are:

1. Buy a domain
2. Get web hosting
3. Set up
4. Pick a theme

Each of these things are fairly simple and straightforward to do, and you DO NOT need to be “technical” to do them on your own. Seriously. If I did it, anyone can do it.

The link below will take you to 4 short videos on how to do each of these steps; all 4 videos together will take less than half an hour to watch. The videos explain, step-by-step, in simple language, how to get your blog up and running quickly.

(The videos were created by David Risley, who earns a healthy 6 figures a year plus from blogging, so he knows what he’s talking about where blogging is concerned. I took an intensive months long blogging course from David a few years ago which taught me much of what I know and use today.)

David Risley’s blog set up guide, in 4 Easy Steps:

Good luck, and Happy Blogging!

[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.]

Content Marketing for Small Business: 3 Articles You Need to Read Now

flickr photo by Rennett Stowe

Today on the blog, an OPC (Other People’s Content) Round-up of killer content marketing & strategy articles.

You’ll find thousands of articles about content marketing out there on the vast interwebz, but if you read these three now, you’ll be able to create your own content marketing plan (at least the 101 version) and start implementing it tomorrow.

Check ’em out:

Small business owners, get your content strategy ducks in a row for killer results. This article will give an excellent overview of how to make it happen:

Next, use these 10 content marketing templates to get everything organized. Templates for content planning, keyword tracking, sales communication, and more:

And finally, 3 things your content must do — be entertaining, strategic and shareable. Get the details here:

So there you have it, enough information to get you started on your own content marketing plan.

Leave your questions or insights on content marketing in the comments section below!

[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.]

Content Creation Case Study: Blog Topics for a Clothing and Accessories Boutique

Fashion - Clothing and Accessories Boutique

If you’re dipping your toe in the content marketing water, then you know that marketing online with killer free content is one of the most effective ways to up your business visibility, increase your search engine traffic, and establish yourself as the go-to person in your niche.

All of which, if done correctly, will result in more sales. And who doesn’t want that?

To make content marketing work for you, however, you have to commit to creating original content on a regular basis. Yet I see so many blogs and websites out there that I know must have started with the best of intentions, but at some point ran out of steam.

You know the ones – blogs that were posted to twice a week for a few months, then once every other week, then, oh, about once every other month, until the sad day when you visit the blog and you can see the blogger just gave up. Because all that’s left is the ghostly shadow of a blog that hasn’t been posted to in months.

Ahem . . . is that you?

Of course when you’re trying to run a business, creating killer content on a weekly basis can seem overwhelming. The complaint I hear most often is, “but I don’t have enough ideas to write about every week.”

Today I’m going to take you through the exact process I use when working with a client to brainstorm blog topic ideas and create a content plan, using a fictional Clothing and Accessories Boutique as an example.

**The examples below are somewhat generic; if this were a real client of mine, I would suggest much more specific blog topics based on their particular brand personality and target audience.**

For blog content brainstorming, I use the process I outlined in “3 Content Creation Hacks That Work Every Time,” and “How to Generate Blog Post Ideas, Part 2.”

Essentially the steps are:

1. Keep an “Ideas” file and set aside an hour or two each week to brainstorm topic ideas

2. During that time, go through the resources below and “idea gather,” adding the best ideas to your ideas file

3. At the beginning of each week/month/quarter or whatever time increment works best for you, review the ideas in your file and plan out your content for the week/month/quarter, etc. How you plan out your content will depend on your goals, products or services you’ll be rolling out in the coming weeks and months, and any sales, events, promos and so on you have planned.

The resources from which you will gather ideas are: magazine headlines, Alltop, Amazon, Google Alerts, blogs in your niche, and HARO queries, to start. (For more information on these resources and how to use them to generate blog topic ideas, read the blog posts linked up above.)

Let’s take this fictional Clothing and Accessories Boutique through the paces, using just two of the resources above:

From Magazine Headlines in the fashion industry, I noted these ideas for blog posts:

The Best _________ for Every Body Type (swimsuit, dress, etc.)

How to Look Like You Hired a Stylist (Even When You Didn’t)

Best Colors to Wear Now

Hot Trends and Amazing Accessories for Every Budget

5 Minute Styling Tricks

The One Accessory Every Woman Needs Right Now

How to Dress for Your Body Type/to Flatter Your Body Type

From Amazon Book Chapter Titles, these ideas surfaced:

How to Shop Like a Stylist

Top 5 Fashion Misconceptions

10 Glamour Essentials Under $100

How to Shop for Vintage/How to Wear Vintage

How to Go from Demure to Daring with a Signature Wow Piece

15 Must-Own Accessories

3/5/7 or 2/4/6: Guide to Understanding Clothing Sizes

How to Personalize Your Look with Vintage

How to Camouflage with Color

The One Must-Own Item That Complements Every Body Type

10 Wardrobe Staples Every Woman Should Own

(That’s 18 blog topic ideas, and that bit of brainstorming took me less than an hour to do. Once I used the magazine headlines and book chapter titles shortcuts, the ideas below also came to me. )

A series of Fashion 101 Posts would make a great category for a weekly blog post:

Why You Should Spend More on the Basics

5 Investment Pieces Every Woman Should Own

Steps to Developing Your Personal Style

How to Shop: Dept. Stores

How to Shop: Sample Sales

How to Shop: Vintage and Second-Hand and/or Consignment

How to Shop: The Internet

How to Shop: Catalogues

How to Decide if a Trend Works for You

A series of Definition Posts would also work well:

Haute Couture


Sample Sale

And how about a “Style Icons” category for this fashion blog?

The Grace Kelly Guide to Looking Sexy in Pearls

The Jackie O Guide to Finding the Perfect Pair of Sunglasses

The Marilyn Monroe Guide to Dressing Like a Bombshell

The Betsey Johnson Guide to Creating Your Own Signature Style

That’s 34 total ideas for blog posts; if our fashion blogger posts twice a week, that’s over 4 months worth of material. And I only used the Magazine Headlines and Book Chapter Titles shortcuts to come up with these 34 ideas — if I finished out the exercise using the 4 other resources mentioned above, I could come up with enough ideas for an entire year.

The same will happen for you: once you get into this process and let it flow, you are going to come up with many of your own killer ideas for blog posts, whatever your topic happens to be.

**I don’t suggest using the headlines you find on Amazon verbatim; instead, use them as writing prompts — you’ll want to tweak them for your specific business and target audience.

Now you try it. Go ahead, let your creative freak flag fly, baby!

[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.]