All businesses have ups and downs and, while frustrating, it isn’t unusual.
Some days, weeks, and months are amazing! Your business is humming along. You feel great about the direction and services/products you offer. You can’t imagine doing anything else.
And then sometimes... everything feels off, business slows down, and you’re wondering what happened to your groove.
Obviously there are many chapters in any business’ story, but that doesn’t make it any less challenging when you're wading through a boring part in your business!
Here are my five suggestions for moving the needle in your business when you’re feeling stuck!
Don’t Neglect Your Current Audience
It can be easy to get sucked into the idea of getting in front of new people, but don’t forget the audience you already have is also waiting to hear from you.
Established customers have already proven to know, like, and trust you enough to give you money or join your email list. Don’t leave them out in the cold.
A few ways you can show some love to your current audience:
Send your email list a special offer or promo as a thank you for being there.
Consider a targeted ad to your Instagram or Facebook followers to re-engage them by offering them something special, too. Make sure you use unique discount codes on different email and social media platforms so you can track where your conversions/customers are coming from.
Show Up More
I’ve often said the secret to marketing is showing up. It isn’t a fancy statement, but it is true!
You don’t have to show up everywhere at all times. In fact, that’s a good recipe for burnout.
Instead, think about where your people are and where they hang out (online and off).
Are you showing up there enough? We haven’t met, but I can almost guarantee you’re not showing up enough because MOST people don’t.
Are you talking to your audience in ways they can understand and relate to?
Are you inadvertently using jargon or industry terms someone outside your industry may not understand?
Are you showing you understand their needs by using the same kinds of language and terms they use to describe what you do?
Are you being clear with your audience about the next steps they need to take to work with or purchase from you?
Are you talking/showing the benefits of your work/what you sell more than just the shiny benefits?
Reconnect with What You Love About What You Do
Our businesses are like a long term relationship - there will be highs and lows and times when you are ready to be done forever.
Sometimes this is a sign of burnout and sometimes you are just in a funky place with your business and you need to rediscover what you loved about it in the first place.
If you are feeling disconnected, read your review (which is really just people saying nice things about your business) and try to find the thread of why you do what you do.
If you’re still in a rut or feeling off about your business, you may need a break or a deep reevaluation of your goals (and you may need to find a coach or therapist for this piece, you don’t have to do it alone).
Get in Front of a New Audience
While you are showing love to your current audience, don’t rely on them to carry your business entirely.
Look for ways to get your product/services in front of a new-to-you audience.
If you tend to use the same types of hashtags on Instagram, it may be time to experiment with different ones.
Make sure you are engaging on social media, not just posting. Posting is broadcast media. Having conversations and asking questions is social media.
Do you need to start networking? Or dive deeper into networking you are already doing? Or branch out into new areas?
Do advertisements or sponsorships make sense for your business?
Take a Break
This may sound counterintuitive at first, but if you feel as if your business isn’t getting traction or seeing growth it may be because you need to slow down instead of constantly pushing.
If you are in constant movement or reaction mode - always going, always thinking, always trying to be one step ahead of what your customer might want - you aren’t giving yourself time to think, plan, adjust, or rest.
Not only do you run the risk of burning yourself out, you can also risk confusing customers if they struggle to understand what you do because you haven’t planned your messaging or it keeps changing.
Set some boundaries around your work time and your personal time.
Get a hobby - something that isn’t connected with what you do and something you won’t attempt to monetize
Take a break - a real break...when was the last time you didn’t think about work for an entire weekend? Giving yourself real space and time away from work can move you forward because you’ll approach your work with a different perspective, maybe have new ideas, and won’t be on the verge of burnout.
Depending on your circle you’re probably in one of these camps:
Let’s get the “what” out of the way and then we’ll dive into the “how do I use Clubhouse” part.
What the heck is Clubhouse?
Clubhouse is an audio only app that has virtual Rooms for Clubhouse members to connect and have conversations.
You might be thinking that sounds absolutely chaotic, but it tends to work very well!
First - how “audio only” is Clubhouse? Very!
There is no messaging feature within the app itself.
No comments to read.
No like or reaction button.
To be honest, the first couple of times I was on Clubhouse there was a learning curve partly because I’m so used to being able to access those features on other platforms like Facebook and Instagram.
But now that I’m used to it, I like being able to pop into a Room and listen to a conversation while I’m cooking dinner or doing the dishes, for example, without having to look at my phone. I also find it easy to follow along and take notes as needed without feeling as if I should be checking the comments for links or more content.
At this point, you might be thinking that a bunch of people talking at each other isn’t very interesting. And you're right! If they were talking at each other it would not be worth it. But this is what I’ve found in the Rooms I’ve listened to/spoken in - real conversation and real connection.
Getting onto Clubhouse
The easiest way to explain how Clubhouse works is to walk you through it as if you were a new user exploring Clubhouse.
First, you’ll need an iPhone to participate. Clubhouse is still technically in beta right now and only available on the iPhone. My understanding is that they are working on bringing it to Android soon, but don’t have a set date yet. (yes, I know that is annoying for those of you who use Android!)
Second, Clubhouse is invitation only. Which means that in order to get on the platform you need to know someone who is already there AND that person needs to have an invite available. Clubhouse gives new users a single invite to share, but distributes more invites as you use the platform. I have not found any list that says “these actions unlock invites in this order” but I’ve noticed I get invites the more I use the platform.
Even if you don’t know someone who has an invite to share with you, I suggest downloading the app and reserving your user name (again, you’ll need an iPhone to do this).
I often suggest my clients reserve their user names on platforms just in case they want to use them at some point in the future. It is far easier to use one social media name for your business than several slightly different names because the one you wanted wasn’t available. For example, I’m @gmontoyapdx on Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, Facebook, and Clubhouse. Easy to remember and easy to find!
Once you have the magical combination of having an iPhone, reserving your name/setting up your account on Clubhouse, and knowing someone with an invitation, you’ll need to share your phone number with the person who will pass the invite to you.
They will put your number in their phone as a contact and will then be able to invite you from their contacts list.
You’ll receive your Clubhouse invite via text once they extend the invitation and you’re in!
But then what?
Setting Up Your Clubhouse Bio
As I mentioned before, Clubhouse is an audio only app, so this bio is your chance to let people know what you’re about, what you do, and how to connect with you. (Will random people be checking out your bio? Yes! I’ll explain why a little later).
You’ll need a photo. Can this photo be your logo? Sure. But I don’t recommend it. You are connecting with people on this app, so show your face! Don’t worry if you don’t have a perfect headshot - I’ve seen everything from amazing branding photography to selfies. Just start with a picture you don’t hate. You can always change it later.
You’ll need a bio. This is something that is incredibly easy to change, so don’t worry about getting it 100% perfect right away (I’ve probably tweaked mine about ten times!). One thing to keep in mind is that when you are in a Room and someone taps on your avatar/photo they see the initial three lines first so make sure those first three lines clearly state what you do and who you are.
If you are multi-passionate or have several different types of business, you might even consider creating different bios for your different focuses and switch them out as needed when you participate in different rooms.
You’ll notice there is no line break option when you are writing your bio. That’s ok! Just write your bio in your phone’s Notes, format it, and then copy/paste into your Clubhouse bio (this trick also works on Instagram!)
Speaking of Instagram - your Instagram link is one of two links that is clickable on Clubhouse (the other is your Twitter link).
How to Connect with Someone Off of Clubhouse
Since there is no messaging functionality on Clubhouse, if someone wants to connect or learn more about you - they will be going to your Instagram link or your Twitter link. So this is a great time to update any of the Linktree-like options you are using (I use a page on my website instead of a Linktree - www.gwenmontoya.com/social to keep traffic coming directly to my site) and make sure the content you are posting is aligned with the image you want to present.
If you have a great opt-in or helpful blog post, it makes sense to put that in your Instagram link so Clubhouse listeners can easily find it when you speak and mention it.
Everything I’ve mentioned for updating your Instagram account and bio also applies to your Twitter link. People WILL click on your links, follow you, and reach out if what you’re sharing is interesting.
When you're speaking and engaging with other users, invite them to send you a DM on Instagram to connect further if you have a resource to share or way to help them further.
If you’re participating in Clubhouse make sure you are checking your “Other” messages on Instagram and Facebook so you don’t accidentally miss a chance to connect and collaborate. I’m finding most of the messages I get from Clubhouse members land in the spam folder instead of my regular inbox.
At this point, you’ve set up your Clubhouse bio and linked your social media.
Navigating the Clubhouse Hallway
Once your bio is set up, navigate to the Hallway.
The Clubhouse Hallway is where you can see current Rooms to join, access the events calendar, see your notifications, and view any invites you may have to share.
The calendar is how you can see upcoming events and set reminders so you don’t miss them.
Your options are “All Upcoming” - meaning all upcoming events (likely based on your interests and activity vs. ALL upcoming Rooms on the platform), “Upcoming for You” - meaning upcoming events from Clubs and speakers you follow, and “My Events”- meaning Rooms you are hosting or Events you have saved to attend.
When you find an Event you want to attend, click on the name of the event. This will open dialogue that allows you to share the event, tweet the link, copy the link, or add it to your iCalendar. You can also tap the bell icon to create a reminder that appears on your “My Events” list. If the upcoming event is part of a Club (think Clubhouse’s version of a group), you’ll be invited to follow that Club and be notified when the event starts. If the event is not part of a Club, you’ll be invited to follow all speakers and be notified when they go live.
If you would like to schedule a Room you can do that in the upper right hand corner - look for the calendar icon with the plus sign. There is no waiting period or application process to host a Room, but I recommend attending a few first to see how they work.
Right now, there isn't a way to create re-curing events on Clubhouse, so if you plan to host something weekly, you'll need to create each event individually.
The Hallway is also where you can search for users, clubs, and topics that might be interesting to you. The words used in your bio and any Club you set up are searchable so keep that in mind as you set that up.
You can also let Clubhouse know about the kinds of topics you are interested in from your bio page. Just tap the gear icon in the upper right color and select “Interests” - you can take two approaches here. The first is to click on everything that might be interesting to you so you get a broader understanding of what is available. The other is to be very selective in your interests to help you focus on using the platform in a specific way. It is personal preference and you can also change your interests in the future. I suspect the Clubhouse algorithm also learns what you like from the Rooms you participate in and the people you interact with.
There are two other things you can do in the Hallway that may not be obvious at first.
If you swipe left, you can see the Clubs you are a part of (more on Clubs later) that have an active Room happening. Some of these you’ll see in your main Hallway, too, but depending on how many Clubs you are a part of and how often you interact with them - you likely won’t see all of them in the main Hallway. From this screen you can also see your active followers and invite them to a private Room to chat.
If you swipe right on specific Rooms, you can hide Rooms that aren’t interesting to you. As Clubhouse’s algorithms evolve this will help them understand your preferences and show you more of the kinds of Rooms you are interested in.
Clubhouse Rooms Breakdown
Let’s talk about Clubhouse Rooms and how they work.
From the Hallway, tap on a Room that looks interesting. Don’t worry about choosing the “wrong” one it is easy to leave a Room, and joining and leaving Rooms is not at all disruptive to the Room, audience members, or the moderators.
At the top of the screen you’ll see the name of the Room. Above the Room name you may see slightly smaller text next to a little green house. That means this Room is part of a Club (more on Clubs in a moment). If you tap on the green house you'll be able to view the Club hosting the Room as have an option to join or follow that Club
The names/avatars at the top of the screen are “on stage” and have the ability to speak. Any avatar with a green star next to their name is a moderator.
A Clubhouse moderator has the ability to invite audience members to speak as well as move them back to the audience. A good moderator keeps the conversation on track and makes sure all participants are being heard (up to and including reminding other speakers to share the stage and coax shy speakers to talk).
Only those “on stage” have the option to speak, so don’t worry about anyone hearing you when you are just in the audience listening. However, if you raise your to be invited to the stage, be aware that your microphone is on as soon as you are invited to the stage, so be sure to mute yourself until it is your turn to speak.
A neat way to show that you agree with what a fellow speaker is saying is to tap your microphone on and off rapidly to simulate applause.
Below the “on stage” speakers, you’ll see “Followed by the Speakers” - these are audience members who are followed by the speakers. It isn’t more complicated than that.
Below that is “Others in the Room” - those are people in the general audience.
You can tap on anyone’s avatar (photo) to view their profile (no matter which section they are in within the Room), learn more about them, and go to their social media links without leaving the Room you are in.
In fact, you can even open other apps on your phone without being removed from the Room you are currently in.
At the bottom of your screen you’ll see a couple of options.
On the bottom left is “Leave Quietly” - this is one of the ways you can exit a room (again, leaving a Room won’t impact the Room in any way, so don’t feel as if you need to stay in a Room that isn’t interesting).
You can click “All Rooms” in the upper left corner to return to the Hallway to browse other Rooms without leaving the Room you are currently in. If you tap on another Room while you are in the Hallway, you will leave the Room you are in and go to the new Room you’ve selected. Because there is so much happening in Clubhouse you may not be able to find the Room you were previously in, so be careful when you are browsing other Rooms.
On the bottom right is a hand icon - this is how you signal the moderators that you would like to be invited to the stage to speak. Moderators have the ability to turn this option on and off depending on their needs and goals for the room.
Raising your hand does not automatically mean you’ll be invited to the stage to speak.
Between “Leave Quietly” and “Raise Hand” is a plus sign. You can use this plus sign to “Ping” someone into the Room. This means whoever you Ping gets a notification you have invited them to join the Room.
That’s it. Those are your basic navigation options when you are in a Clubhouse Room. It is incredibly simple, but as I mentioned above, I did feel as if there was a learning curve specifically because it is so simple.
What are Clubs on Clubhouse?
Clubs are Clubhouse’s versions of user interest groups. You can join or follow a group - depending on how the Club’s creators have set it up. Group members may have the option to create Rooms within the group (again, depending on how the creators have set up the group).
Some groups are open to all to join and some are closed.
Once you have joined a group, it is displayed at the bottom of your bio. This makes it easy for you to find your groups and people checking out your bio to see which groups you are in.
Interested in starting a Club on Clubhouse? Go to your bio, tap the gear icon, and then tap the FAQ/Contact Us option. This will take you to the Clubhouse knowledge center where the most up to date instructions can be found.
Followers and following people on Clubhouse
Do I have to follow everyone who follows me?
As a marketing consultant I get this question across all platforms and the answer is always the same. No, you don’t have to follow someone just because they followed you.
If you connect with someone in a Clubhouse Room and want to be notified the next time they speak, tap the bell icon in their bio to be notified.
To wrap up, I’ll share some thoughts and insight I’ve gained from using Clubhouse (all of the following is my opinion as a user and marketing expert):
Who is Clubhouse for?
Clubhouse is for anyone who is interested in learning, growing their network, making connections, finding potential collaborators, and meeting new people. I see a lot of coaches and consultants there, but I’m also seeing all types of people and businesses. Obviously, as a marketing nerd my focus is on how to use Clubhouse as a marketing tool, but that is just one lens.
Sunday Clubhouse has a religious/prayer bent as people interested in those topics create Rooms. I’ve also seen parenting support, book clubs, music appreciation, and even the entire stage musical The Lion King.
How can you use Clubhouse to grow your business?
In my opinion (and experience) - absolutely.
There are two big ways I’m seeing this happen.
The first is by learning and getting insight from marketing and business pros on the platform sharing their knowledge and resources. There is so much knowledge and so many resources being shared in Rooms. I think speakers feel more free to share information because nothing is recorded and it all disappears as soon as the Room closes.
The second is by sharing and connecting yourself. You can do this by creating your own Rooms, raising your hand and speaking in Rooms, or participating as a panelist in Rooms.
Although it can be intimidating to step up to the mic, from my perspective as a speaker, it is liberating to be able to share without worrying about the presentation piece . You don’t have to worry about having great lighting or a good camera - you are simply speaking and connecting. There is also something really unique about the voice to voice aspect because you can hear tone and inflection is a way that is missing in text.
Is Clubhouse worth my time?
It can be!
I'm not one to jump on the latest shiny thing, but I've been surprised by how much I like Clubhouse.
I’ve made some great connections and even found clients through Clubhouse.
But it can also be a huge time suck if you are curious and want to listen to all the neat conversations.
Since nothing is recorded and no two Rooms are the same, the temptation to spend too much time there is real.
So how do you decide if listening in on Clubhouse is worth your time? The same way you decide whether or not to listen to a podcast - is the topic interesting to you? Can you learn from it? Will it give you new insight?
How do you decide if participating on Clubhouse is worth your time? Do you have something of value to add to a conversation? Do you have questions or need feedback on a topic?
How do you decide if you should host a Room or join a panel on Clubhouse? Do you have something useful to share with an audience that is education focused vs. sales focused? Are you interested in collaborating with other experts? Do you have time to answer questions?
Is Clubhouse the next big thing?
I think it might be. (Although I reserve the right to change my mind about it as it grows and develops).
Is Clubhouse the thing that will end Facebook? Probably not.
Will Clubhouse replace podcasts? Definitely not. Podcasts are recorded and available to more people. I don’t see that changing. In fact, I’m using my Clubhouse presence to highlight my Adventures in Marketing podcast.
Is Clubhouse at risk of becoming a platform that is distrusted in the same way Facebook is? Or overrun with disturbing ideology the way Twitter has been in some circles? Absolutely. Any social media platform run by humans runs the risk of mistreating its users and doing shady things.
I am hopeful that Clubhouse’s development team is aware of the pitfalls and is working to minimize them. For example, I’m glad they are taking a strong stance against trolling, but that is just the first step.
There is an accessibility issue that needs to be addressed - there is currently no transcripts available for any of the Rooms - which makes the app unusable for those who need captions to participate. I don’t know what that would look like in the app, but it is a glaring omission.
That said the app is still new and there is always room for growth and improvement (as well as users holding developers accountable to follow through on their goals and statements).
But once Clubhouse is open to Android users and is made fully accessible via captions and other tools? I think it could be very, very big.
I originally shared a shorter version of this with my email list, but I wanted to share it here, too.
(click here to join my email list).
The past nine months have been hard for almost all small businesses. For some, these months have been brutal. Most of my friends and community are small business owners (of all types). I've seen them have to temporarily close their brick and mortar businesses, shift how they work with their clients, and essentially create multiple new businesses to stay afloat - in most cases without much support from programs put in place to help them.
There is so much uncertainty for small business owners right now, and I know it can feel overwhelming. My state is going into a new two week freeze to try to control the spread of COVID. Other states are doing similar things (or will at some point). I know there is fear, uncertainty, and frustration for business owners trying to keep their lights on and remaining employees paid long enough to survive COVID and rebuild on the other side (whenever that happens).
The financial impact of COVID has hit small businesses hardest (and women and minority owned businesses even harder).
If, as a small business owner, you're feeling overwhelmed and not sure what to do next, I wanted to suggest this quick guide to get you back on the best path for your goals.
S - Strategize - don't jump from one pivot to the next.
L - Look at what is working - even if sales are down, something has worked - do more of that.
O - Organize what you have - whether that is your content or your inventory - you need to know what your working with to move forward.
W - Work out your next immediate steps - here's the really hard thing right now - planning six months from now (or even three months) may have too many variables - but you can plan your next immediate steps. And then the ones after those. And keep going - one foot in front of the other.
D - Don't get stuck in a loop - "What ifs" and "If onlys" aren't helpful if they are keeping you from moving forward.
O - Outsource if you can. Whether that is meals, business tasks, or errands - if you need help, make sure you're getting support so you can focus on the bigger goals.
W- Who are your biggest fans? In any pivot, switch, or decision you make, remember who your fans are and how you can best serve them.
N- Say nay to the naysayers - there are plenty of Debbie Downers and scrooges out there - don't let them get into your head.
I've seen many articles and posts sharing great anti-racism and educational podcasts, but since I'm a marketing nerd I wanted to share some Black women led marketing podcasts to help you diversify your playlist while also moving your business forward.
Want to find more?
Search these hashtags on Instagram:
Crushing Chaos with Law Firm Mentor
Show Description: Law Firm Mentor is a business coaching service for solo and small law firm attorneys. We help you grow your revenues, crush chaos in business and make more money. The Crushing Chaos podcast will feature successful solos and companies that help us become/remain successful in business, discussing the tools and strategies needed to crush chaos in business and make more money.
Although this a niche podcast for lawyers, host Alison C. William’s guests and experience cross over to other kinds of businesses, too. The Business as Unusual episode talks about how to manage all the new changes we have to deal with since COVID started.
Jereshia Said Podcast
Show Description: "Having the courage to start your own business and actually sell your consulting services online can be tough. Look, it may not be easy but it can simple. In each episode, we take a deep dive into one core growth strategy so you can gain a solid understanding of what’s required to serve, sell, and scale your consulting business. All you have to do is listen to what Jereshia Said."
I loved her latest mindset episode - 7 Mindset Shifts I Had to Make to Earn My First Million. I liked it so much I listened to it in the car and then relistened when I could take notes - her points about separating yourself from your business were so insightful and helpful!
The P Word Podcast
Show Description: "Are you ready to The "P" Word Podcast, where we firmly believe that you can do anything you set your mind to take control and learn everything you need to know to take over and finally be the best version of yourself? If your answer is yes, then listen up as our host, Tiffany Brown takes you on a journey through all the crucial elements of The "P" Word."
Anyone who has ever dealt with unsupportive friends or family needs to listen to this episode - Your Passion Doesn’t Need Permission - it will give you a boost and keep you moving forward!
Savvy Social Podcast
Show Description: "The Savvy Social Podcast is for budding entrepreneurs who want to understand the “why” of social media marketing. Social media strategist Andréa Jones of OnlineDrea.com talks about all things social media, chats with other industry professionals about what has worked for them, and teaches you how to elevate your social media strategies through practical, proven advice."
I love the interview style and deep dives into specific types of businesses and their social media marketing needs. Social Media for Real Estate Agents - there is lots of great information in this episode, so listen even if you’re not in real estate.
Freelance Friday Podcast
Show Description: "An inside look at the world of freelancing, featuring tips, tricks, and interviews with people who are doing it right."
The Balance, Boundaries, and Avoiding Burnout episode has so many real life, actionable examples of ways you can create and protect boundaries and avoid burnout. Start with this episode, because everyone needs to hear it.
Empirenista Business Success Podcast
Show Description: "The Empirenista Business Success podcast that reaches women entrepreneurs with weekly motivation, business strategy, stories of real life no fluff biz situations and fun girl chat. The Podcasts focuses on how to Position Yourself so that You Can Stand Out as the Authority in Your industry, Make More Income and Grow Your Business. Listeners leave feeling empowered, educated and confident that they can and will grow the businesses of their dreams while raising their kids without sacrificing their happiness.
I so appreciate that someone is saying Don’t Bank on Social Media because it needs to be said! There is more to business growth than just social media.
What’s Next Podcast for Women
Show Description: "This is an empowerment podcast. Inspire 6 figure fierce women to conquer their What Ifs to go after their What’s Next."
I appreciate the How Geni Works Her Side Hustle While Working in Corporate episode because there are so many women who are splitting time between their day job and their side hustle. My absolute favorite takeaway from this episode is “Think of the ‘why” not the ‘why not’” - that’s such a simple powerful statement to change how someone looks at a challenge.
I want to address something that I've seen come up in a a couple of different places that is horrifyingly tone deaf - well-meaning white folks who are trying to figure out how anti-racism and Black Lives Matter fits into their overall business marketing.
You can’t make a social media post and move on feeling like you’ve done your part. You must put action behind your words.
You can’t fold it in like you are trying a new brand color or font. Don’t say you are anti-racist until you can back it up with action and plans.
If you’re new and just finding your voice, know that speaking up will likely cause you to lose customers.
You’re going to do or say something wrong. Be willing to listen, reflect, and correct without involving your ego or hurt feelings (yeah, it can be hard, do it anyway).
Read, educate yourself, hire someone to help you. There are lots of resources at this blog post (which I also wrote) - https://www.themobnation.com/blog/want-to-do-better-but-arent-sure-where-to-start-start-here and some important questions to ask yourself here - https://www.themobnation.com/blog/10-questions-business-owners-could-and-should-ask-themselves
If you have a business with employees, hire a DEI (Diversity, Equality, and Inclusion) trainer to look over your hiring practices, handbook, etc and make it better - that isn’t something you can do on your own because you’re going to be too close to see the issues.
If you want blogging to be a part of your overall marketing strategy, you need to create high quality blog posts that appeal to your audience, and an important part of that is how the blog posts are set up on your website - and that’s what I’ll be covering in this blog post - how to set your blog posts up for success!
But before we get there....
(If you already have a blog, you can probably skip this next part)
First, if you’re completely new to blogging and don’t have a website yet, you’ll need to choose a home for your blog. Which is the best website platform for blogging? That is open to interpretation. You can read more about it at the link, but I think the most important feature is that you are comfortable with the platform and feel confident in creating and uploading new blog posts as well as updating old blog posts if necessary.
Second, a common question for blogging beginners is “How do I make money with my blog?” This is also called monetizing your blog and, while it is an important question, it often comes too early in the process. Blogs can be monetized in a number of ways, but the first step is always creating good content for your readers. And, as a marketing strategist, this is where I say that having a business plan and overall marketing strategy is important, too. Making money from your blog involves more than finding your niche, writing blog posts, adding affiliates, and holding contests.
Third, if blogging doesn’t come easily to you, for whatever reason, you’ll want to establish a blog writing process that works for you (and you may need to develop more than one or change it as you develop your style). I like to be upfront about this - I am not a fast blog post writer. I do not churn out six blogs a week. I could, but it would be the only thing I do. I spend a lot of time thinking about the topic before I start, I usually have one or two sentences or examples I want to share, and then I go from there. I don’t always start in the beginning and I rarely finish a blog post in one setting. The key to my own success is giving myself a deadline and working in focused bursts without distractions (if possible).
Now that we have all of that out of the way, let’s jump in!
What exactly is the anatomy of a good blog post?
Whatever your writing style or niche is, once you have the words out, how do you present them in a way that will have the most impact on your reader? What will make what you write even better?
Choosing the Right Title for Your Blog Post
The title of the blog post has three distinct, but important jobs to accomplish - all at the same time. Of course, it should say what the post is about. It should also catch your readers eye. That’s why blog titles like “5 Ways to …….” and “Reasons You Should…..” and “The Secret to….” are pretty standard these days. The third task, depending on your overall goals, is to help search engines find your blog post and understand that it is the best response to a search.
If I titled this post “The Best Ever Chocolate Chip Cookie Recipe” I would have confused bakers scrolling for the recipe (which, by the way, is in the footer of this page. And it really is the best!).
Instead, I’ll title this blog post something helpful, clear, and that uses the words I think my readers would use to search for content like this.
When choosing blog post titles think about the specific actions or information your audience wants to know. If you’re not sure, go to google and type in how you would search for what you are going to write about. Google autofill should jump in with some helpful suggestions. Still not sure? Scroll down to the bottom of the search page of your search and you’ll see a list of related search terms that will be very helpful.
Do Blog Post Descriptions Matter?
A blog post description can be an easy thing to forget to do, but it does matter. Your website builder may call it a meta description and you may need to look for it. If you can’t find it, the quickest way to find where it is will be to Google “How do I add meta description to ______ blog” - just fill in the blank with whichever website builder you use.
Why do they matter?
Think of your blog post description as a one or two sentence advertisement for your blog post - what will the reader learn? How will they benefit? What will they find at the link?
When you, or someone else, shares your blog post on social media or your link appears in Google search, a good description tells future readers what the blog post is about. You have around 150 characters, including punctuation and spaces, to make your blog post sound appealing and worth reading.
If you don’t specifically set up a blog post description, search engines will most likely scrape the first sentence or two of the blog post and use that as the description. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t - and wouldn’t you rather be in control of how your blog post appears?
Make Your Blog Posts Easy to Read
Obviously, if you’re going through all of the time and effort to create a blog post, you want someone to read it, right?
One of the often overlooked (and easy!) ways to make your blogs more readable is to make sure you’re including enough “white space” on the page. “White space” is the blank space between paragraphs.
Why does it matter? White space makes it easier for the reader to read and absorb your words.
Without white space, our eyes don’t have a place to rest. We’re subconsciously trying to focus on too many things at once. Adding white space to your blog posts means your readers aren’t overwhelmed with text. Have you ever looked at a crowded store counter and gotten lost in the options? Or the sense of frustration you feel when you are looking for something on someone else’s cluttered desk? Or the very annoying realization that the keys you have been looking for are in plain sight, but you didn’t notice them? Or maybe you’ve been skimming this paragraph because it is long, and the words are all running together.
I know, I know. Your high school English teacher had specific ideas about what was and wasn’t a good paragraph. Conventional English grammar says short paragraphs and too much space is all wrong. But we aren't in the print world anymore, we're in the digital world. New world, new rules. But grammar still matters. Please don’t ditch the grammar!
Put Your Subheadings to Work
These mini-headlines not only introduce each section of your post, they do a couple of other neat things, too! Since online readers tend to skim what they are reading, your mini-headline helps them find the information they are looking for and works well with white space to create an enjoyable reading experience.
They can also help search engines better understand the content you are sharing, so this is a good place to use keywords and phrases that you think your audience might be searching for.
Your subheadings can be statements or questions – just make sure they are related to the paragraph beneath them. To make them stand out, your subheadings should be a slightly larger font size, underlined, bolded, or even a different color - but use good judgement since a visually busy page can send readers running.
Images Add Pop
Images help illustrate your post, add visual appeal, and one image will become the preview image for your blog post when it is shared on social media. So make it interesting.
Most rely on stock images for their photos (link to stock photo blog). I’ve gathered a good resource list for stock photos at the link. You can’t use any random image you find during on the internet or through a search. You also need to be aware of the usage rights when you use free or paid stock images.
Adding alt text to your image will make your blog post more accessible to all readers, so don’t forget to add a line or two describing the image you’re using.
You’ll also want to compress your images so they load quickly for your reader. You can use “save for web” if you are using Photoshop or this online resource is one I like. (image stomp link)
What Happens After Someone Reads Your Blog Post?
Do you want your reader to do something after they are done reading your blog post?
Should they share it?
Should they respond by leaving a comment or contacting you?
Should they sign up for your newsletter?
Do you have something else they should read?
Do you have some bonus content they can receive?
This next step is often called a Call to Action (CTA). You have someone’s attention, so what you want them to do next clear - just don’t sound like a used car salesman.
How Long Should a Blog Post Be?
There are all sorts of experts citing the exact, perfect length for a blog post. Should your blog post be long or should it be short?
My answer – it depends.
On your first pass, write until you feel as if you’ve said everything you need to say.
On your second pass, you may find yourself adding clarifications or removing parts that don’t work. That’s ok. It is part of the editing process.
Your blog post should be as long as it needs to be to say what you want to say.
However, from an SEO perspective, longer blog posts (800+ words) tend to mean the user is spending more time on your website. Time spent on site is one of many signals search engines use to determine the value of a website. It also means you are using all sorts of different word combinations to talk about your subject (which will help users and search engines find your content).
Creating a longer, and hopefully more useful blog post, means you are providing valuable information people will want to read and share.
From a user perspective, reading short, dull blog posts that pretend to have good information, but are really just a shallow swipe at a subject are annoying. They also don’t give you a chance to show you know what you are talking about.
This blog post will likely end up around 2000 words. There is a lot more I can say on this topic, but I’m trying to keep it as concise and streamlined as possible.
If you’re nervous about length, don’t be! When I first started writing blog posts, I thought 300 words was a big task (and it was!). But since I regularly write blog posts, my average range is around 1200-1500 words and that seems to be the amount of words I need to say what I want to say.
Before You Go
Here are some other resources that would be helpful.
You’re home, your kids are home, maybe your partner is home...there’s a lot going on, but you still need to run your business. Or maybe you’re used to working on your business and keeping some form of routine and presence in your business is important to you.
Whatever your motivation, these ideas will help you keep your business moving forward in under ten minutes.
Brain Dump - Out of Your Brain & Onto Paper
The first place to start is with a timer and a blank piece of paper. Spend ten minutes writing out everything you want to work on, everything you think you should work on, and everything you feel like you should be working on. At some point you may feel as if you’ve listed the most important things and are done, but keep going.
Why it maters: Getting it all out of your brain and on paper means you can look at everything objectively.
Then set it aside and come back to it later. The pause of an hour or two will let you look at your list more objectively than if you jump to the next step without a break.
When you come back to your list, highlight or circle the tasks that can be done in under ten minutes. Then pick the one you want to do the least and get it done.
Why it matters: This method ensures the worst task you have to do is done and it took less than ten minutes!
Maybe your task list doesn’t have any ten minute items. Maybe everything you need to do is more involved - that’s ok. The next step is breaking down those larger tasks into smaller chunks that can be worked on in ten minutes.
For example, if getting your inbox under control is on your list, you can’t do it in under ten minutes. But do you know what you can do in under ten minutes?
And then move on to something else. Your inbox isn’t going anywhere and it will be there when you circle back to work on it for another ten minutes.
Why it matters: You don't want to miss an important client communication or opportunity because your inbox is a mess.
Keeping Up with Social Media
Write the captions for two social media posts.
Or find the images for two posts.
Does that still feel like too much? Jot down some ideas of what you’d like to share or themes you’d like to address. If you’re sharing your computer with your newly homeschooling child, jot your notes and ideas on a piece of paper or put them in the notes section of your phone. Progress & flexibility over perfection.
Stumped about what to post in general?
Start with this question “How can I serve my people today?”
Why it matters: It can be tempting to pull away from sharing on social media about your business during times like these, and I have advised against promoting business during national disasters or tragedies in the past. But because this will be an ongoing situation that impacts us long-term it doesn’t make sense to stop responsibly promoting your business. It is one thing to hold off posting for three or four days and something else entirely to not do it for three or four weeks (or months). Be a good person, do it with integrity, and come from a position of serving your people in the best way you can.
Break up your day
Go for a walk. Have a dance break. Do some yoga. Involve your kids (or just do it for you). One of the strangest things about this pandemic that we are all experiencing (together, but separately) is that days run into each other and we’re all suddenly living in the movie Groundhog Day. Get some movement.
Why it matters: It's good for you, you’ll feel better, and it will add variety to your day.
Update Your website
No, this isn’t something you can do in ten minutes! But you can work on small pieces of it in ten minutes at a time.
Here is your action plan:
This task can quickly turn into a big project and may even leave you feeling as if it is time to scrap the entire thing and start over. Save that for a future project when you have more time. For now, keep your focus on the quick changes.
Why it matters: Business owners often put up websites, but often forget to keep the site updated and reflective of the current work they do.
Look at your routine
Whether you are several weeks into staying home or you’re still going out every day for work, you have a routine. The question is whether or not it is a routine that still works for you.
Take ten minutes and think about if your routine is still serving you. If not, what is one thing you can change, add, or subtract to make your life easier and more satisfying?
A few weeks ago, I realized I was spending a silly (to me) amount of time on a game app. I decided I wasn’t using it as much for fun as I was for distraction to the point that the app itself became a distraction in my day. So I deleted the app.
Why it matters: Maybe you have something else in your day that isn’t working anymore. Change it up and see what it improves.
Connect with your people
Do you have an email list? When was the last time you sent them an email?
If it has been awhile, now may be a good time to share an update on what you’ve been working on and send them something useful and helpful (whatever that looks like for your business).
If you don’t have an email list, now is a good time to choose an email provider and get it set up.
If you’re not sure which email provider to use - ask your business friends what they use. Many have a free level that should work for most people. If you’ve been less than thrilled with your email service provider, now may be the time to investigate other options.
Of course, none of these tasks can be done in ten minutes, but it is something you can start and come back to when you have another ten minutes to work on this project.
Why it matters: If you're building your business on social media and have no way to contact those who are interested in what you do you in other ways, you're are not only missing an opportunity, you're risking your entire business. Social media accounts get deleted and algorithms change.
To blog or not to blog?
One of the reasons I’m writing this blog is because I want to use some of this time to create more blogs (as well as podcasts and other content). Again, you won’t be creating an entire blog post in ten minutes or less, but you can bring the framework and layout for the ideas you want to share.
If you’re feeling stuck, start a list of things you’d like to talk about with your audience. List three ways what you or sell can help them right now. Or in the future. Or in their everyday life. Or in their business.
Still stuck? Try listing three reasons why someone should work with you or buy from you.
Now take ONE of those reasons or ways and expand on it. Add four to eight sentences and you have the beginnings of a blog post.
Come back and work on this the next time you have ten minutes. Keep expanding your ideas and you’ll end up with a blog post.
Why it matters: If blogging is a part of your marketing strategy, you need to put effort into creating blog posts (or hire it out).
Will you always have a whole ten minutes to work? No. Sometimes you’ll have more and sometimes you’ll have less.
The key to working in short bursts is managing your own expectations of what can be accomplished in the time you have as well as keeping a running list of things you want to be able to work on when you have those minutes.
You may have heard the phrase “Content is king” – which means content is where it is at if you want to grow and promote your business.
Which sounds awesome and its easy to remember, right?
But the challenge business owners have is this:
When are you supposed to have time to create the content to attract clients who will fall in love with what you?
My goal with this blog post (and the accompanying podcast) is to take some of the stress and overwhelm out of the content creation process by showing you how much you probably already have and how to reuse and repurpose it to save yourself time.
The first step is to pause and think about all the content you've already created.
You might be muttering “Gwen, I don't make content because I don’t have time.”
Here’s the thing – I think you probably have more than you think you do!
Here are some examples of content you’ve probably already written:
Once you start making your content list, you’ll probably discover you have much more than you thought! You may have even just remembered some things you’ve created and put aside. We’re so busy working on our businesses, serving clients, and juggling everything that it can be easy to forget what we’ve already done.
The next step is to divide your content pieces into different areas so you can keep track of where it is and how you’d like to use it.
I suggest you create a list of written content, audio content, and visual content. Using this method also helps you see how you can reuse the content you already have.
Now that you know what you’ve already created, let’s look at the types of content your audience wants. No, its not magic or mind reading – it is just paying attention to what they are already asking for and being aware of where they are struggling.
Look at the common themes that come up over and over again. If you are answering the same questions via email or messenger or in groups or wherever you're spending your time then that is content that your audience wants – so create something you can share easily.
You can also use your FAQ to lead your audience. Sometimes an FAQ will have an odd or unexpected question. That is usually written because the business owner (or copywriter) wants you know that specific bit of information. What kinds of questions do you wish your audience would ask? What information do they need know that they don’t know yet?
Next, look at ways you can repurpose what you’ve already created:
Whatever piece of content you have, you can probably repurpose it five different ways (at least!)
When you approach your content this way, you’ll find that you always have something you can use, and instead of starting from scratch every time, you’re building on work you’ve already done.
How to Promote Your Content
Of course, just creating content isn’t enough. The next step is promotion. If you aren’t promoting what you do/create, nobody will see it.
In addition to your list of content you’ve created and how you can repurpose the different pieces, I’d also like you to create a list of ways you can promote what you create.
This can mean creating ads around it, but it is so much more than that!
How will you share what you’ve written or recorded in what way is will you make your audience aware that you've created this really cool thing?
Ways you can promote your content:
Finally, there is one more step to this content audit.
You need to create a plan to share what you’ve created again. And again. And again.
The content you share won’t always land the first time. Maybe the timing was off, the algorithm gods were having a bad day, or what you created didn’t resonate with the right person at the right time.
That’s why making a plan to reshare is so important.
There is so much information and content flying around that if you only share it once, you’re not doing yourself any favors. However, if you share something three or four times over the course of a month, you’ll start to see people understanding what you are sharing and responding to it.
Which brings up another benefit of knowing what content you’ve creating and making a plan to share it – You give yourself LESS work!
By creating several pieces of content and sharing them on a regular basis you won’t need to create as much since you’ll be filling your content calendar with reshares and repurposed content.
For example, creating 15 fresh Facebook or Instagram posts a month for 12 months means you need to create 180 new posts per year. That’s a lot.
However, if one third of what you share is brand new, one third if reshared content, and one third is repurposed content then you have far less work and stress.
You’ll also have several buckets of information to pull from to create content that looks new and feels new but is actually something that you've already done most of the work!
When you put yourself "out there," you are making yourself vulnerable.
It is hard enough at networking events that are limited to a set number of people. But putting yourself "out there" on the internet with a potentially much larger audience is even scarier.
You feel open and exposed.
What if someone is mean?
What if someone thinks you aren't talented?
What if someone thinks you are making it all up?
Does changing and hiding to appease "someone" out there bring you closer or further from your goals?
Does knowing that someone out there won't like what you are doing make you want to quit?
Is blending in with everyone else your goal?
I talk about pricing with my clients often. Some are happy with their prices, but a large number are undercharging to the point of not making any money at all. Which is a weird way to run a business, right?
What I'm going to say next can apply to lots of businesses, but this post is especially for photographers.
Your $50, all edited images included package is not sustainable.
Please, please, please look at your actual time investment in these sessions - travel time, editing time, communication time with the client - how many hours of your life is that $50 session costing you?
Let's be super conservative and say you don't have to pay to rent studio space and your drive to and from the location is only 10 minutes each way (lucky you!)
And, again, being conservative, let's say you only spend ten minutes (total!) in communication with your client.
Finally, let's say your session is exactly thirty minutes, no more, no less. No one is late, the kids are photogenic angels, the weather and light cooperate.
Congratulations, you're making $50 per hour!
But before you break out the bubbly, remember that 20% or so needs to go to taxes. So you made $40 per hour.
That's not bad, right?
But what about getting the photos from your camera to editing?
How much time does that take? Just a few minutes? (I guess? I'm not a photographer)
Great! But watch out, those minutes add up.
How much time do you spend selecting the best photos?
Doing some light editing?
Maybe an hour total? (I suspect it is more - photographers, educate me!)
Now you've made $20 hour. Still better than minimum wage, right?
Not so fast.
Do you pay for editing software?
Do you pay for a website?
Do you pay for insurance?
Do you pay fees for a business license?
Do you run ads?
Do you seek ongoing training?
Do you pay to belong to networking groups or attend functions?
What about your camera? How much did it cost?
How frequently will you need to service it? (or replace if it is damaged?)
Camera-related equipment? Bags, stands, flash, all of those things.
All of the above are part of your cost of doing business and you MUST understand that and factor that
into your pricing.
Let's go back to that $20/hour you are taking home at the end of the day.
You aren't making $20 every traditional working hour of the week, right? You don't have 40 hours paid at $20/hour.
Sure, there may be some times when you are able to book 2-3 people back to back, but that is the exception, not the rule.
You aren't booking four hours of photography work 5 days a week, every month.
And more importantly, that $20/hour doesn't come close to touching on the value of your unique skill, client connection, or producing great photos - it just addresses (poorly) your base time.
I just called a national chain store that offers photography services.
Their sitting fee is $10 PER PERSON.
No photos included.
No thirty minute session in a beautiful spot.
Most importantly, none of that special something YOU bring to your art as a photographer.
Look at your pricing.
Look at how much it costs you do to business.
Respect your skill and talent so others will, too.
Musings about marketing, social media, and small business.