Just in case at any point this year you’re sitting around wondering if there's a unique weekend adventure you can embark on to help scale your business, I recommend bookmarking and saving this article. There's lots to come back to. And if you experience a slow point with your business, you can use one of these activities to make sure you're still growing and building.
If there’s one thing you and I know, with our extensive legal training (from watching The Good Wife, Scandal, and other legal dramas), it’s that when you cross-examine a witness, you need to lead them carefully with pointed questions that require specific, short answers. We want yes/no, or we want very brief sentences that confirm what we already know. It’s almost like we train witnesses to fall into our evil ploy. They can’t help but answer us exactly how we want them to, which is amazing, because when witnesses drop those courtroom shock bombs on you, it’s no bueno . . . at least, not for your side of the case.
And that, my friends, is (obviously) all related to brand statements. So much so that I bothered my brother (a lawyer) for several minutes trying to figure out if what I was saying was at least a smidgen factual. Actually he was very courteous with my questions; I’ll introduce him to you soon. And just wait, because if you think I’m a crazy person . . . but, moving on.
Brand statements and courtroom strategy.
We’d love to hear the connection Regina. Oh good. Because I really want to tell you. . . here it is:
If you answer the question, “So, what do you do?” with a trained, short, unengaging response, it might be time for a (new) brand statement---or even a new brand (but that’s a story for another post . . . In fact, answering this question like you're being cross-examined is the main, undeniable sign you need a new brand statement.
I wrote this post and developed a brand statement formula out of necessity really. I was so tired of answering, "I'm a blogger" with my head down, like it was something to be ashamed of or that it wasn’t a real job. Like it would take up SO much of a person's time to answer in a bit more detail. When we become embarrassed or complacent with what we do, or when we find it hard to proudly present our brand to the world, conversations go something like this:
Random person at a “networking” event: “So, what do you do?” You: “Oh, I’m a graphic designer.” Rando McGruff: “Wow. Cool.” The end.
Mr. McGruff will barely remember this graphic designer in five minutes, and tomorrow, no chance.
Why didn’t you give more detail?
“I design clickworthy websites + blogs for wellness entrepreneurs. I’m Fiona Reddington, FionasFitBrands.com. Slight cheese factor, I know, but that’s totally me.”
“I work as a wedding designer with women who want seriously non-traditional yet hip weddings on a budget. It’s the most fun ever. I'm actually finishing up work on The Ultimate Indie Wedding Planner, which is a 200-page planning binder. So excited.”
“I speak to college students about branding themselves and building a solid platform way before graduation. The market is not what it once was, and it seems more and more like people need something beyond, or something other than, a degree to find meaningful work.”
Sure, you have to judge the situation. Not everyone asking should get your full life story, but if someone answered you with one of the answers above when you asked the “What do you do?” question, would you be more likely to remember them? Or check out their website later? Or remember to mention them to a friend/colleague in need of services such as theirs?
Brand statements, yo.
Which are, statements that define a brand. Kinda like mission statements. Bite-sized collections of information that help people decide how serious you are about your brand, what your brand even stands for, why what you do matters, and how what you do is different from the 107 people they met (yesterday) who claim to do the same thing.
And. It’s not that the crafting of a brand statement is difficult (I’m gonna show you a formula below), it’s that we forget to do it. It’s that we don’t realize how necessary it is sometimes. It’s that we are all flailing about in business to a certain degree, figuring things out as we go, and sometimes we forget to go back and define what we’ve built.
Today is your day. The day you build a brand statement.
The day you stand up and stand out with your words---in a sea of people walking around with “I’m a graphic designer” responses.
Forgive me. I was so bored with that, I fell asleep just typing it.
What I’m about to share is neither rocket science nor business genius. It’s a simple exercise we can all do to make sure we have a solid brand statement on deck. To make sure we’re answering people as completely as possible when they ask us about our work. To make sure we give our brand a chance to form a strong, memorable impression. Just going through this process will give you more clarity on who you plan on serving, ideas about ways you can serve them (both free and paid product or services) and focus on what your priorities should be. >> In fact, this is a mini version of our free 5-day email course which you might want to check out right here.
And now, here's how to write a brand statement:
Get out four note cards. Or sticky notes. Or any moveable paper product. Write down the following things, one on each card.
1. Who do you serve?
Hint: Be more specific than whatever you just wrote down.
2. Why do you care?
3. What do you actually provide?
4. What do you offer that’s different from everyone else?
Once you have these items on notecards, all we have to do is move them around to the correct order, abridge some stuff, and make it work. I’ll show you what I mean. Let's use our crazy wedding planner as an example.
Who do you serve? Brides who want non-tradish weddings on a budget.
Why do you care? Because I was a 20-something with no money who met the love of my life and wanted to get married, without all the traditions that made zero sense to me. It was hard to plan my wedding. I want to help make it simpler for others.
What do you actually provide? Supportive semi-monthly check-ins + co-planning of a wedding.
What do you offer that’s different? Step-by-step guidance via DIY materials. Having pre-packaged materials helps me keep costs low while giving the bride control over the process. I’m still able to help tailor plans to a bride’s desires through check-ins.
Now, let’s try a brand statement in a few different orders:
I help brides who want non-traditional weddings, like the one I had when I had no money but needed to put something together in five weeks. I want other brides to have a simpler, guided process, so I offer DIY planning materials and tailored check-ins to help people through their indie wedding planning. [who you help >> why you care >> what's different + what you provide]
I’m a non-traditional wedding planner. As in, I help brides plan non-traditional/indie weddings on a budget, but I also do it non-traditionally through DIY materials to keep costs low. It’s the service I needed but didn’t have when I got married. [what you provide/do >> who you help >> what's different >> why you care]
I use DIY wedding planning materials and tailored check-in meetings to co-plan weddings with non-traditional brides on a budget. It's the guidance I wish I’d had when planning my own indie wedding in five weeks. It was crazypants, and I don’t want other brides to have to go through it. [why it's different + what you do >> who you help >> why you care]
In 2 - 3 sentences you can stand out, be firm about why you do what you do, show some personality, and clearly define your brand and who you serve.
I’m listening. Leave me your brand statement in the comments of this post, or come talk to me on social media. I want to hear. And hey, if you want to get really clear about you who serve (or want to serve), we highly suggest you sign up for our free 5-day email course on building your email list with the right people. . . AKA people who will actually buy from you.
Here’s the truth. You can launch (and start to grow) a blog on a budget. Like an epic, baller blog. As with many of our posts, we dive deep, so you may want to grab a tasty beverage and get comfy because what you’re about to learn can be the foundation for starting (or relaunching) a beautiful blog with a small (or non-existent) budget.
There are 10 main sections to read through, each with resources (free, inexpensive, mid-range, and high-end --> if you want to ball out in certain areas) and tools you can start using today.
If I may say, before we get into the blog launch guide: Launching a successful blog, whether on a slim budget or super duper budget, takes a lot of work. When launching on a budget, you're going to have to get a smidge more crafty, research-y, and DIY-y than the next person, but the process of learning and doing will be valuable because you'll then understand the ins and outs of your site and strategy. Every popular + useful blog takes a huge investment, whether it's almost all time, almost all money, or a healthy mix of both.
Also, this guide is more like a class on how to start your blog (with a small budget) than it is a blog post. I just want to warn you that this is probably best for people who are really serious about starting/re-starting a blog, because it's intense.
Here’s your table of contents:
1. Planning // 2. CMS or Platform // 3. Brand Identity // 4. Domain + Hosting // 5. Blog or Theme Design // 6. Images // 7. Style Guide // 8. Making Money While Your Blog is Still New // 9. Plugins + Extras // 10. Promotion
1. Planning Your Blog on a Budget
Planning is your new BFF. Saving money/stress/headache/time on your blog launch will require good planning. There are a lot of decisions to make when you get into the details of launching or relaunching a blog that you hope to truly start #winning with. We'll address many of these important topics in this post, but . . .
There are a few crucial things to plan out first: your topics or niche, your blog's ideal audience, your blog categories, the types of posts + content you will create, and your blogging frequency. I recommend waiting to finalize the name of your blog until you've done the "ideal blog reader survey" activity and formed your "ideal reader brief" linked in the DIY Tools and Tips of this section because this often influences what name would appeal to your reader.
If you want to get started on planning the items above now, feel free to download, print, and fill out the simple "getting started" Blog Planning Cheat Sheet directly below. Also check out the questions below the worksheet to get you thinking.
Some questions you may want to answer:
What are your goals and desired outcomes of this blog for your life and lifestyle?
What are your goals and desired outcomes of this blog for your readers?
If you were breaking down what you will blog about into 3 - 5 categories, what would they be?
What are five example posts you might create? (Just the title or gist of the post will do.)
Do you want to set your blog up so that you can make money from it? If so, how much would you ideally make per month from it in the future?
Is the idea "worth it" to you if it doesn't make any "real" money for the first nine months to a year?
How often do you see yourself posting to your blog?
What is the amount of time you can reasonably expect to commit to writing for, promoting, tweaking, and improving your blog each week?
What is your ideal timeframe to launch your blog?
What does success look like to you with your blog? "I'll feel my blog is successful when __________"
If you plan well, and can give an honest answer you feel good about to the questions above, then when it comes time to make all the other decisions you have coming up, you'll have a lot more clarity. Can you try to trust me on this one? Me who has done it the very disorganized and unclear way in the past? Thanks.
How to Decide What to Blog About via Amy Lynn Andrews +
Personalized coaching + blog planning from a blog coach (Sarah Von Bargen, or
XOSarah.com, or moi)
DIY Tools + Tips
>> Create a Blog Business Plan
>> Check out some books on blogging: Blog, Inc.: Blogging for Passion, Profit, and to Create Community + Blogging for Creatives: How designers, artists, crafters and writers can blog to make contacts, win business and build success
2. Picking a Blog CMS on a Budget
Since you're planning to blog regularly, a CMS will make your life happy. A CMS is simply a content management system (in other words: a way to easily manage your blog content without knowing code). Your blog's CMS is also often referred to as its platform.
Each blog platform has its own advantages for different types of bloggers and blogs. There isn't one platform that is always the best solution for everyone. I used to actually believe WordPress could solve every problem and fill every need. Don't judge me. I was in love. Actually, I'm still in love and it's what I use (screenshot of the WordPress CMS below), but there are other great platforms out there. View the posts in the "Tools + Tips" section below for some well-explained overviews of the benefits of each of the main CMS platforms available.
Inexpensive: WordPress.org, self-hosted, which is free software that will need to be used with an inexpensive hosting account (explained in Section 4)
High-end: Shopify (if you'll be selling a whole lot of items, this is a highly useful platform)
Tools + Tips How to Choose the Best Platform for Your Blog Best Blogging Platforms (which does not include an overview of WordPress.org, so please view the article above for that) WordPress.com vs. WordPress.org
3. Creating Your Blog + Brand Identity on a Budget
So, not only does your brand identity need to match your style, match your audience, and match the type of content you'll be sharing (as in, you don't want your fun lifestyle blog to have a corporate/bank feel), but your blog identity should also be something that you won't have to change twice a year. It should be long term, beautiful, and functional for the foreseeable future.
Want more help with branding? Check out The Epic Brand Identity Workbook.
Free: DIY (obvs), but CreativeLive's classes are free while they're live, so check out their great lineup to learn how to DIY. Thanks Jon King for making me aware of this resource.
Inexpensive: These Skillshare classes >> Beyond the Logo: Crafting a Brand Identity
Mid-range: 99Designs.com or a graphic designer who is still establishing themselves.
High-end (but amazing): A professional, established graphic designer.
4. Getting a Domain Name and Hosting Account for Your Blog on a Budget
As one of my BFFs always says, "Your domain name is like the street address of your house (so people know where to find you), and your hosting account is the plot of land that allows you to build your house (and hold all your digital files)." Makes sense, right? You need both a domain name (ex: byRegina.com) and a hosting account (through a company like the ones I share below) to hold all the code, files, or friendly CMS goodies necessary to make your site work.
Choose something memorable, brandable, and that allows some wiggle room (room for growth). Then make sure your name passes the following tests:
The name sounds good to my ideal readers. Ask trusted friends, clients, business people, and anyone you know in your target market.
The name is not already a registered trademark. Use the United States Patent and Trademark Office electronic search system to check this: www.uspto.gov/trademarks
There is not already a similar brand/company with a similar name. Use Google or Bing to search this.
There is not any other brand/company with a similar name that has a bad reputation, a pending lawsuit, or products I don’t want to be associated with. Use Google to search this.
There is not already a related or unrelated brand/blog with a similar name that dominates the first two pages or more of search results. Use Google to search this.
My brand name passes the "radio test." It’s preferable to have a name that is easy to spell upon hearing it.
My brand name is globally and socially appropriate. Make sure your brand name doesn’t mean anything negative in slang or in another language.
My brand name is available as a domain name, or there’s a good alternative if not. Use a service like smallbusiness.yahoo.com/domains to search for available domain names.
My brand name (or a good variation) is available in the social media accounts I want. Use a service like namechk.com to check multiple social media accounts at once.
If my brand will be an official business, the name is available for registration in my state. Check your secretary of state website or state’s commerce division for current business entity registrations.
The quality of your hosting account has an effect on user experience, SEO, readership, and even sales (if your blog is down for several hours, you're not making any money from it). This is one area I recommend you invest in. Choose a host that has good reviews, minimal downtime, and happens to be super secure. My current favorite option is "managed hosting," which is a type of hosting where the host checks for malware (hackers and whatnot), makes daily backups of your site, keeps your site loading at a fast speed (good for SEO and users), and keeps your software updated (if you use WordPress, for example).
P.S. An exceptional and/or managed hosting account will be your best friend if your website goes viral or mini-viral. With regular host servers, spikes in traffic can cause your site to crash or go verrrrrrry sloooooooowwwwwly. Check out the high-end hosts below ($20+ per month) for managed hosting.
Free: any of the free blogging software such as Blogger, WordPress.com, or
High-end (but lovely): WPEngine (I host four sites here--for WordPress only) and Media Temple
Tools + Tips It's okay to start with one host that's more affordable for now and move to a premium host when you see that your blog is growing, but either way you go, always, always have a system in place to get regular backups of your blog. You'd never want to lose all your content, and yes, it has happened to real people before. Lastly, make sure you are the one who owns your blog's domain name and hosting account (don't leave that to your blog designer or developer). You always need access to your files.
5. Getting a Blog or Theme Design on a Budget
With blog design, you have the option to completely DIY, or hire someone else for everything, or do a mix (ex: you buy a pre-made theme and modify it yourself or you have a designer create a blog header for you and you plug it in to a free theme within your CMS). Below are some basic layouts to have in mind as you plan your blog, but don't forget to poke around the web and view samples of what you like. What features will you want to incorporate? Do you like how others lay out their sites? Take notes as you research. Take screenshots as well or pin some items in Pinterest.
There are four main options (with many variations) you can choose from for your website and blog's home page layout:
Traditional (London Lane, below): Best for blogs/brands that want to highlight their services or core message + visuals before anything else.
Blog integrated with home page (WifeMomSuperwoman): Best for sites that want to show visuals and snippets of helpful/informative blog posts (and optionally highlight a service or two) immediately.
Blog as home page (the old byRegina.com): Best for blogs/brands that want to provide information and resources as their “selling point,” hoping clients will explore the other pages after viewing the brand’s utility. Also good for blogs that are "strictly blogs" with no services for sale.
Full screen home page (Bottom left theme): Best for blogs that have strong visuals or video, which will entice potential readers and clients to explore the rest of the site. These images should be compelling, stunning, engaging, or should cause great curiosity.
Inexpensive: For DIY, try these Skillshare classes >> Build Your Own Website Using WordPress for Creative Professionals // Intro to Web Design: Friendly Design for Startups and Small Business
For professional, pre-made themes try CreativeMarket.com.
Mid-range: Blog/web designers who are still establishing themselves may charge moderate prices but still provide good quality to you. Once you decide on what platform you might like to use for your blog, do a search for "[insert CMS type here] blog designers" >> Take a good look at their portfolios, terms of service, and response time to make sure they'll be pleasant to work with.
High-end (but amazing): A professional blog/web designer with super nunchuck skills, such as ELEMBEE
Tools + Tips >> 10 BLOG DESIGN DOS AND DONT'S via Amy Lynn Andrews
6. Finding Blog Images on a Budget
Your blog's images can make or break your blog's popularity and "shareability" on the web. Your images include post photos, photos of you, sidebar graphics, product images, and more. You have the option to take your own photos, hire a photographer, illustrate your own work, hire an illustrator, get stock photography and/or add elements and graphics to your photos.
Unsplash: Beautiful, high-resolution images for you to use. This is our favorite resource for high quality free and safe to use images.
Pixabay: Free public domain images including some icons
Flickr Creative Commons: Free images under the Creative Commons License
Inexpensive Stock Photos:
Fotolia: Quality stock photography
Photo Dune: Quality stock images
Creative Market: Quality, beautiful images
Death to the Stock Photo: Amazing images at a low monthly fee (or emailed out monthly for free)
High-end Stock Photos:
"Embeddable" Photos: Allows you to embed many Getty images into your blog/site or social media for free
Free Photo/Graphic Editing Software:
Canva: My favorite graphics creation tool outside of Photoshop
Fotor: Love it. So easy to use.
Pixlr: Advanced, online photo + graphic editing software
PicMonkey: Photo and social media image editing software
Keynote: This is our favorite way to design without using Photoshop! It’s a surprisingly easy way to create a Visual Theme Kit for your brand (which btw, we teach in Visual Arsenal 3.0)
Inexpensive Graphics and Designs:
Fiverr: Everything starts at $5, even logos
99Designs: Affordable logos and other designs
GraphicRiver: Design and image templates
Tools + Tips Study the most effective images you see in use on Pinterest, blogs, and other social media platforms, then head to the next section and create a style guide for your blog.
7. Creating a Style Guide for Your Blog on a Budget
In order to create and maintain a cohesive blog that engages readers, you may want to consider a style guide for your blog. A style guide is a document (PDF/binder/digital file) you create to keep you consistent on important blog elements like fonts, colors, and image styles.
Inexpensive: Here's a Skillshare class on Creating a Style Guide.
8. Making Money When You're Just Starting to Get a Readership
When your blog's readership is still growing, you have to be very purposeful and creative about earning money from your blog. I plan to make this topic into a full post of its own soon, but for now I'll recommend that you choose monetization methods that don't rely solely on high traffic, such as:
Selling your own services; and
Selling your own high-end information products;
Partnering with an affiliate program that allows you to earn a significant amount per sale
With affiliate programs, you'll want to make sure you create useful resources around them, instead of just linking aimlessly or posting random pictures/ads in your sidebar. Let's take a beauty blogger for example, and let's also say that you make a small commission every time you link to products on Site X.
Here are some ideas of posts that you can create around Product Y that is sold on Site X:
A video tutorial on how to use Product Y, with your link included of course.
A challenge for readers and friends to participate in that includes the use of Product Y.
A text + photo post on "10 Ways to Use Product Y."
An epic DIY project using Product Y with tons of pretty pictures.
A giveaway of Product Z, that pairs well with Product Y (again, include your link).
9. Adding Plugins + Extras to Your Blog
As you search around for inspiration for your blog, you may run across cool features and extras you want to include in your blog. Depending on your CMS, these extras might range from free to expensive widgets, plugins, or hand-coded functionality.
Some of the things you may be looking for are:
social media integration in your sidebar
a rollover "pin it" button to encourage people to share your images on Pinterest (example below)
a way to sell products or services on your site
a way to integrate ads in your sidebar
a way to make sections of your site a "membership" site so you can teach private classes
Free (if you're using self-hosted WordPress): Check out their library of plugins here
Inexpensive (for multiple CMS platforms): CodeCanyon plugins and scripts
Mid-range to high-end: Search for "Premium [insert name of function you desire] plugins or widgets for [insert your CMS name here]"
10. Promoting Your Blog on a Budget
When you first launch, you probably don't want to spend half your life savings to promote your blog and start to grow your readership. I get that. So let's get creative.
For ideas on promoting your blog and getting your products in front of clients, check out our guide with 35 Ways to Find Your First Clients.
Tools + Tips
MailChimp for free, beautiful emails.
ConvertKit for smart tagging and creating segments so you can customize the email experience for your audience.
How to Create the Perfect Social Media Post via Peg Fitzpatrick
Also, if you used Bluehost for your hosting, claim their free $50 in Facebook advertising.
So, if that post wasn't log enough for you, feel free to read it one more time. That's a joke my friends. Which of the topics above should I turn into its own post first? Any questions? Any resources you'd add?
Click to share this tweet with others, please: . . . and that's the complete guide on how to launch a blog on a budget!
Okay, let's be serious for a moment, ninja friend. Whether you're an introvert, extrovert, or ambivert, the act of going out and "pushing" your products and services on a stranger is not necessarily your favorite activity. Sure, to "get your name out there" some active recruiting methods may be necessary at first, but you're probably also interested in setting yourself up with a long-term strategy of clients coming to you. I feel you. So, the list directly below shares 15 ways to get your first customers through active recruiting; the second list below shows 20 ways to begin to get customers to come to you.
Active Ways to Get New Clients
1. Get the word out to family and friends in a meaningful way.
I had a friend launching a business + blog who chose a method that I now love to use and help other people use: she wrote (actual) personalized + purposeful messages to each person. This may sound very "duh" to you, but make sure each time you reach out, you include:
a personal note that lets someone know this is not the same canned email/message 300 other people got; make a connection on a hobby, interest, desire, or need of theirs
a brief description of the type of work you are doing now and why it's so important to you
the ways in which your friend/contact can help you (Do you want referrals if your friend knows someone in need of your services? Do you want people to share your message?)
a clear way for people to practically do what you're asking/hinting (for example: if you're asking for people to share your brand on Facebook, give them a brief description and picture "if they so choose to use it" . . . or if you're asking for referrals from a good friend, give them an idea of what they could email out to others--and perhaps even give them a sweet freebie to distribute)
a sincere "thank you" for the person's time in reading your message and in helping you any way they see fit
Are you at a loss for where to pull personal connections from other than your phone's contact book and Facebook friends list? Think of people you may know through:
volunteer work you do
organizations you belong to (clubs, a church, associations, sports)
your spouse or family connections
friends of friends
former school buddies or connections
In general, people have a desire to help you in whatever ways are understandable and convenient for them. Your close friends will probably even desire to help you when it's not convenient. Either way, give people as many tools as possible and show how grateful you are for their time and whatever action they may be completing on your behalf.
2. Create a social crowdfunding campaign.
Why? Friends, and even people who don't know you, are motivated to share your brand and your campaign if they connect with something about it, or to simply support small businesses that provide something meaningful. You can use one of these sites to launch/re-launch a business, a book, a product, a product line, a creative project, really almost anything. 90% of the projects that I've supported are by people I don't know at all. Crowdfunding campaigns have a way of bringing out strangers and making them friends.
Crowdfunding even allows you to get out there and start providing consulting services if you want to. Two examples for ya: (1) A woman here in Austin "sold" $1000 consulting packages as some of the prizes for supporting her book release. No seriously, look at this thing. She raised almost $12,000. (2) A couple here in Austin who also listed $1000 consultations, among other prizes, for the release of their book raised over $10,000.
3. Team up with an established brand/provider in the same field to tackle a larger project together.
Offer your services up to them as an independent contractor. For example: if you're a WordPress coach/developer, work with another WordPress consultant who may be able to use your help on a huge upcoming project.
4. Team up with an established brand in a complementary field.
If you're a social media strategist, team up with the WordPress coach in the example above to help clients with a full online presence.
5. Pro bono part of the project.
So, you want your clients to pay you, obviously, but what about making part of the project free? If you're teaching someone how to use social media for their business, why not charge for crafting the action plan and report you develop, but make all your check-ins and scheduled calls free for one month. Or, if you're coaching clients through home births, how about creating the plan for free and recommending the equipment they'll need, but then charging for the day of delivery?
Doing work pro bono is not a long-term strategy, simply a way to get paying/reviewing/excited initial clients in the door; people who will spread the word about you and help you add to your portfolio.
6. Do some good ol' fashioned advertising.
Facebook and Instagram ads (which can be targeted to a person's location, habits, interests, and preferences)
swag and promotional items such as vehicle magnets, if applicable
7. Search Craigslist for people looking for a service in your area of expertise.
Don't just use Craigslist to list your services, use it to find people already looking for someone like you. A lot of the work people need can be done virtually, so search a few cities.
8. Contact past people you’ve done similar work for.
At a past job, or for a friend, or as a part of a former business idea, you've likely done work related to your current passion. Contact the people you've done this work for and check for three things:
referrals (to others that may pay you for your services)
testimonials (that you can add to your website or other materials)
new work from the person you're contacting (you can always phrase your communication as if you're only seeking referrals or testimonials, but you can also let your contact know what you currently do and show off your shiny new website and packages or free download in the hopes that they'll hire you for something new--you can also just outright ask if they need any new work done)
9. Update your personal social media circles in general.
So maybe you don't feel comfortable sending a personal message to everyone you know. Maybe you're like me and overwhelmed by the thought of emailing mere acquaintances about your new business. Well, update your social platforms with status updates viewable by anyone. Include a snippet of what you do, who you serve, and why you do it, along with pictures, freebies, and links to related resources and services on your website. Do this with the following platforms:
personal Facebook page
personal Twitter profile
. . . and so on
10. Consider joining "online deals" or "specials" sites and programs.
Most sites like the ones above will send out discounts/deals to your products and services to a targeted list of consumers (who've expressed interest in your category of "stuff" and/or who live in your area). Make sure to include constraints on your offer such as a limited quantity so that you’re not overwhelmed by the response.
11. Send old fashioned and attractive mail.
If you are marketing to businesses or neighborhoods that you can easily look up addresses for, consider some purposeful and attractive mail pieces--flyers, invitations, offers, letters, a brochure/book of your services, etc. Below are some mail pieces I designed for this exact purpose.
12. Ask for feedback when the answer is “no.”
If people decline your services, asking "why?" can allow you to clarify anything they're fuzzy on or present a more compelling case (or talk to a better audience) next time. But, you'll often find ways to make a sale (even if it's a less expensive package) to people who are hesitant to try something new at first.
13. Find online forums, sites, and groups where your ideal clients hang out and strike up conversations with them or answer their questions.
Forums like Quora, Facebook groups, and LinkedIn groups are a smart way to answer questions and provide value to your ideal clients, as well as to expand your network.
14. Email people with an "openable" subject line.
"I want to work for you for free," and "I'd like to give you a free website assessment," or a less-spammy version of the same, will likely grab someone's attention. Once they're interested, or once they have their free product/service in hand and love it, why would they not want to hire you?
15. Give free consultations at a local coffee shop or your potential client’s place of business.
Once you get "the sit down" with a potential client and prove you know your stuff and can think of ways to help them, you'll get more and more paying customers.
Ways to Set Yourself Up So Clients Will Find You
16. Give away a lot of value.
Whether you're attaching some freebies/downloads to your emails in #14 above, responding to prospect emails, writing a post on your blog, drafting a tweet or an Instagram post, or creating an epic image for Pinterest, build in a ton of free value. It is the stuff that makes people remember you; it is what makes people want to share you; and it also makes people want to buy from you instead of someone else who doesn't create as much value.
"If he/she is this helpful for free, what would their paid products be like?" <-- Is what your audience will think. Giving away value is your best marketing tool and best way to turn onlookers into participators and buyers. Not only does this make smart business sense in the long run, but it’s also just a great way to be a helpful human.
17. Create social media accounts and connections for your business or update your online presence for the ones you already have.
Having a branded Facebook page, Instagram account, and Google+ page is way different than overwhelming your friends with constant business posts on your personal profiles. So, you know, make it happen.
If you already have business pages/profiles, write some new more compelling social media bios and descriptions, spice them up with professional graphics, make sure they all work together cohesively.
For your personal social accounts, update your bios, create/add new pictures, a new email signature, a new LinkedIn job/position, a new Gmail chat status, a new Twitter background, etc.
Be active socially. Be where your clients are and don't be silent. (pssst. We teach how to create these graphics in our epic Visual Arsenal 3.0, which is only available to our SERVE Academy members.)
18. Add "shareability" everywhere for your brand.
Use services like ClickToTweet.com (which makes it simple to pre-compose an exact tweet for a reader, for free), or encourage people to "pin a post for later," and add simple share buttons on your blog site so that people will be reminded to share and will have an easy time sharing your brand. For WordPress users, you can also use the premium plug-in Social Warfare to make it even easier to share (and track shares for social proof).
19. Give free/affordable seminars on your topic at local colleges, community centers, meetings, or other venues of your choice.
I originally started doing seminars as a way to share my passions, but I started getting lots of referrals and clients from people who attended these events.
20. Give free online trainings in your area of expertise.
Bonus points if you subtly make it gateway content into some of your valuable packages or paid products. Consider using Zoom and/or YouTube to host these for free.
21. Build an email list and send regular, helpful emails.
You know, the kind where you give tips, encouragement, and resources that people aren't really going to find elsewhere . . . or that people won't find elsewhere in such an organized and humorous format. Writing regular emails that people actually want to read is one of the best time and skill investments you can make. Building an email list with a smart, human way with people who will actually buy from you is so important that we created a whole free 5-day course about it.
22. Create some online listings for your business.
Consider free places such as:
. . . also consider paid sites in your niche (if you think they'll be effective, but remember to track this through actual website analytics), or other free sites where your clients are likely to look up service providers or businesses.
23. Host a challenge/competition that gets people motivated to make strides on a goal that's in your area of expertise.
Make a group (on Facebook, Google+, or some other network), or host a challenge from your blog. Give participants resources, encouragement, and camaraderie as they accomplish their goals. If you're a personal trainer, think "ab challenge," or a diet coach might do a "cleanse group" while a social media manager might do a "Twitter Superstar in 30 Days" activity.
24. Host a plain 'ol giveaway.
This will spread your brand name, awareness of your services, and provide you with a lucky recipient who may hire you once they receive their free goodies and love you.
25. Guest post on related blogs and sites where your clients hang out.
This helps you reach an audience that you might not have otherwise gotten to speak to. When your audiences's favorite bloggers start to host you on their blogs, people are probably inclined to trust you (at least a bit at first) and like you.
26. Craft and release a social press release.
27. Attend conferences and classes your clients are likely to go to.
It's certainly dandy to attend conferences where you meet people like you and get to grow and learn with others in your field. It can help you meet people for points 3 and 4 above, but, your clients typically aren't hanging out at these places. Go to the conferences your customers will be at.
28. Join associations or meetups your clients will be a part of.
Ditto above. The benefit is, you'll usually be the only person in your field who is at the meetup.
29. Use the power of social search to find people looking for the things you offer.
Search Twitter for a few key phrases and start interacting with (and helping) people who are saying these things. If you're a business consultant, you might search for people saying, "I need to start my own business," or "I hate my job," etc.
30. Develop a well-designed and well-written services page and PDF (to attach to emails or print out for potential clients) that clearly explain the benefits of working with you.
31. Build your testimonials collection and portfolio, constantly.
32. Write an informative and attractive blog post on your new services and/or your new business direction.
33. Become a sponsor of a blog or two that your audience frequents.
Bloggers will often promote you through unique posts (like DIYs), links in their sidebars, posts from their social media accounts, their newsletters, and even their videos.
34. Sponsor related events or events that your clients are likely to attend.
They'll get to see your brand name and meet you. Bueno.
35. Make a big deal out of your launch.
Throw a party, write a blog post, host a giveaway, do a month-long special sale and online event, put on multiple webinars, create stunning graphics for all your social media accounts, etc. Just be the big deal you are, okay?
P.S. The methods on this second list work so well to begin bringing customers to you because these actions are items that:
prove your willingness and strong desire to help others
show that you're an effective educator
prove you are a giving person and likely an enjoyable person
establish your expertise
get people excited about your paid products
give people joy in sharing such a useful resource
Whereas you want to use some of the methods in the first list above that lead directly to paying clients, you'll also want to establish a long-term strategy of building a brand that makes people come seek you out, that pops up in people's social feeds (in a good way), and that sticks out in online searches and accounts that your clients regularly use.
Is this a post where I get straight to the point rather than explain a business principle through a witty and entertaining example of an action movie story arc? Why, yes. Yes it is. Because it’s time to get serious about blogging. Ready?
1. Think long & hard about your blog categories.
Your categories are the main sections or “magazine columns” that you feature on your blog. They should appeal to your target audience. They should be logical for you. You should like talking about them.
2. Design your site to be appealing and easy on the eyes, for long amounts of time.
Oh, and yeah, I had a sweet male reader let me know that he loved reading even though I mainly use pictures of women in my posts. But, I don't want you guys to feel left out, so I made some secondary images you can feel free to pin to your boards. I mean, this is probably not what you meant, but I sure like these:
3. Be Ugly Betty.
And by that, I of course mean: pretend you’re an actual magazine publisher and plan out each piece well, invest time into each piece, edit and format your posts, add great designs to your posts, write in a natural tone your readers will be drawn to, and publish regularly. If your favorite magazine missed a few issues, you’d eventually find a replacement. If you aren’t blogging regularly, your readers might find some replacements. HarshTruthsAboutBloggingLife.com
4. Share each post into infinity. Also, beyond infinity.
You write and publish something once, but who's to say you can't share that post once per month on Twitter, or twice a year on Facebook, or every other month on Google+, or on multiple boards on Pinterest (spread these pins out for maximum effect). Due to the "timeline" nature or most social media platforms, if you only share something once, it will only be seen by a smaller than small percent of your followers.
So, if your content will still be relevant in a month/year, take some time to schedule out multiple posts using a service like Buffer.
5. Make sure you know exactly who you’re talking to.
Want a free guide on how to do that? I wrote a little post with an ideal reader survey for you.
6. Make sure you know what those people want and need.
Your readers/clients have specific questions, desires, and needs. You can start to figure out these needs by the ideal reader survey above, by asking people, by paying attention to their comments and social media interactions, and by putting yourself in their shoes. What did you want to know when you were first starting out? What tools can make things simpler for your fans and customers?
Use the free worksheet in this post to begin to plan out posts and products that fit your readers' needs.
7. Make an actual blog business plan.
What major, important things in your life do you do without planning? Your wedding? Nope. A business? Nope. Saving for a house? Probably not. Yet the stars are supposed to align for our blogs, without planning, without thought to its setup, purpose, audience, or uses. C'mon Son!
I highly recommend making a blog business plan. Here's a template and instructions.
8. Find 3 - 5 sites to follow for blogging tips, 5 - 10 sites in your niche to follow, and 3 - 5 sites not in your industry to follow for inspiration.
9. Post frequently + consistently, with quality as your best friend.
I mean, actually frequently. Once a month is for the birds. There's no magical formula, but most pro bloggers agree that at least once per week is necessary. As you get to know your readers better, you'll begin to understand what they want, need, and expect. Try to cater to them while maintaining your brand goals and sanity.
10. Invest in your blog.
The things you spend money on are the things you want to get value out of. The things you spend money on are the important things that you care about. The best things in life are free, but some of the things that help you create your best life cost (a smidgen of) $$. → Tweet that one for me. It might not even make sense, but just go with it. It feels right.
Some small investments you can make: logo and header design (I'm investing in this right now--coming soon), blog design, software to make your life easier, books on blogging, a sweet home office setup, and premium tea to help you think. That last one is legit, right?
11. Format your posts to be read by busy, slightly lazy humans.
You know, things like numbered lists, bullet points, bold titles or headings (when necessary). You're smart. You feel me on this one.
12. Create a content calendar.
I used to use a planner that simply included suggested post dates and categories (colorful picture below) and the Editorial Calendar WordPress plugin (picture below) because I like a visual representation of when I should post. Now I use my EPIC BLOG: One-year Editorial Planner + Workbook (below). Whatever you use, make some type of content plan.
Without a plan, you’ll get around to that one post about that one thing on the 10th of NeverEver.
13. Now that you’ve created a content calendar, add in promotion & maintenance tasks.
Like what Regina, what promotion and maintenance tasks? I'm glad you asked friend. Try the ones on my free checklists as a starting place. Add or cross off whatever you need to.
14. Establish a writing routine that gives you time to think.
A post may seem epic when you first plan it, and most likely it is, but I always recommend outlining, then writing, then editing and publishing, at separate times. You'll likely think of ways to add more value, and often times you'll think of whole new posts that are necessary before the one you're planning in the moment. Just trust me on that one if it hasn't happened to you yet.
15. Find a blog buddy. Or five. Five is fine too.
Here are some tips for finding your BBFs (best blog friends). I've made like 28 since writing that post, and I love you all--you know I'm talking about you Erika, Naomi, Maru, Jon, "Gweb" and Bunny. Okay, so I've only made six. Whatever. Who's counting?
16. Get better images . . . probably.
Or at least, get more pinnable/shareable images.
17. Learn some basic coding . . . super basic . . . don’t freak out.
It will help you in so many places --"the blog stylist" killed it with her HTML cheat sheet for you.
18. Let people know how to help you.
Non-bloggers won’t understand what the heck you’re doing, and they won’t necessarily know what SEO is, or how they can help yours, so, inform your friends who want to help what actually constitutes as help.
19. Be you. We won’t like you if you’re being someone else.
I once made a quote about that. Okay, you got me. Oscar Wilde said it and I simply made it into a pin. Semantics, my friends. Semantics. But below is the board on which you can find my (and Oscar's) quote.
20. Get a good SEO plugin/tutorial and learn how to optimize your site, posts, and images.
If you're using WordPress, I recommend SEO by Yoast, along with these other plugins.
21. If you plan to monetize your blog, start preparing for it now.
22. Remember social media is whack and utterly useless for bloggers.
Oh man, I crack myself up. Just checking to make sure you're still paying attention. There's so much great stuff out there on social media. I'll simply leave you with my Pinterest board to start discovering some resources:
23. Get high quality photos of yourself, yesterday.
Don't simply crop yourself out of your picture with seven friends, champagne glasses raised in a toast, in a dark-ish restaurant. I can't stomach any more of those pics as your "professional" headshot. Don't do it to me. More importantly, don't do it to you.
24. Audit your blog regularly.
That post you wrote three months ago? It totally needs a link to the post you published earlier this week because they’re heavily related and your readers will be happy to have guided/quick access to both. Always keep in mind that no matter what order you write things in, any post or page on your website has the potential to be the first post a visitor sees.
P.S. Blog audits are also a great way to make sure you’ve included your affiliate links and product/service links in all the organic ways possible.
25. Learn some basic design skills.
You can use free software and free/inexpensive phone apps for this. You probs won’t always have access to a designer who can help you on your schedule so you might as well save yourself a few dollar bills and learn to add text, filters, and "decorative elements" to your images. On a computer, I recommend Canva. On your iPhone or iPad, you’ll go crazy for Rhonna Designs (I mean crazy!).
26. Double check yo self before you wreck … okay, you get it.
Grammar be your best friend. Good grammar are good for you, so if you don't be good at it, get Grammar Girl’s book, check for spelling errors, read your posts backwards, etc. A few typos can be forgiven in the blogosphere, but a post littered with errors, that post are be hurting your credibility. Check out Grammarly.com too.
27. Be available + interactive.
No one likes a person who never responds to anything. Granted, you may be so "big time" that you can't get to every blog comment or tweet, but none of them? I'll accept that when you become the President of the United States (but as we all know, even our President makes time to tweet), and even then, you can hire some people to help you out.
28. Pay attention to the questions your readers ask.
There may be a new blog post, new eBook you can sell, problem you can fix, or service you can offer, lingering in those questions. Also, you're showing yourself as available and interactive when you answer those questions and provide great tips.
29. Pay attention to the comments your readers leave on all channels (your blog, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, email).
Refer to the point above for the “why.”
30. Guest post like a champ.
Once you have a small to medium collection of quality content to lead people back to, pitch some sites that fit your brand (or that are frequented by your ideal readers) to do a guest post. Think about larger online magazines and websites as well. These guest posting opportunities will help you build relationships and will lead new readers back to your site.
31. Accept guest posts like a champ.
If someone else is willing to say some valuable and entertaining stuff on your blog, let them IF it fits with your overall brand and brand goals. Make sure each post fits your blog, fits your readers, and is the type of quality content you want your blog to be known for. Make sure to promote your guest authors and show them love. They will likely spread word of their guest post, which can potentially give you lots of new readers.
32. Don’t neglect your business tasks.
You know, the things like accounting + filing taxes, and learning how to be awesome at business. This is where your blog business plan (#7 above) will come in handy.
33. Don't let "creative flex" distract you from building your #1 brand.
I'm talking to you. You who allow other shiny new projects to distract you from the main one you need to focus on. You who are like me. You who need professional help because there are so many ideas racing through your head. Use these steps to minimize your crazy.
Photo of man working out: © iko - Fotolia.com Photo of man in suit: © GooDAura - Fotolia.com