5 Action Words Every Solopreneur Needs to Act On

The only way to find success (however you define it) as a solopreneur is to take action. Being passive and hoping that potential clients happen to stumble upon you by chance won’t take you very far – if anywhere at all! Action is all about doing and here are a few action words (a.k.a. verbs) that solopreneurs and small business owners can practice every day to make sure they’re not keeping their businesses in an idle state.

Create
Let the eye rolls begin as I mention what you see and hear about 100 times each day. Content! Whether you’re in an inherently creative field or not, creating content in some way, shape or form to demonstrate your expertise in your industry is essential to expanding your reach. Producing – or not producing – your own content will differentiate you from your competitors. Your choice: create or become invisible.

Help
Every day, aim to do something to help someone else. Going the extra mile to assist a client, prospect or colleague doesn’t have to take up much of your time and it doesn’t mean you have to give your work away for free. Email an article that you know someone will find interesting or helpful, connect two professionals who seem to have synergy, refer someone looking for a service to someone you know who will deliver it well. It’s easy to help…and your good deeds will give you a reputation for being that professional who truly cares about others. That’s the type of professional I choose over others when presented with similar services – and I think most other people have that in common with me.

Interact
In this digital social world, it’s not enough to push your message; interacting is equally important. ALWAYS reply to comments on your blog posts and social media updates…even if just to say “thank you.” Also, when appropriate for your audience, reciprocate by commenting on and/or sharing others’ online content. And never let emails – particularly those from clients or prospects – go unanswered for more than 24 hours unless you’re on vacation. Social media has made it so very easy and convenient for solopreneurs to build good will, but it’s up to you to take action and harness that potential.


Reflect
In my opinion, this action is way underrated! While “reflect” seems passive, it’s anything but. As you work on building your business, take time regularly to review what is working and what is not.

  • Which social networks are providing the best exposure?
  • Which networking events and affiliations are leading you to the most prospects?
  • Which types of projects are delivering the best return?
  • What do you enjoy most and least about your work?
  • What process improvements can you make to serve clients better and use your time more effectively?

Adjust
Perhaps the most important verb all solopreneurs should put into practice is “adjust”! Clients’ needs and wants change, tools and resources change, the business climate changes…we change. To keep up and stay relevant in the dynamic world that is small business, you need to fine-tune your ability – and willingness – to evolve.

What other verbs do you think solopreneurs need to act on to be masters of their own destinies?

SEO for Solopreneurs: Common Mistakes and Practical Tips

SEO. The mere sight and sound of it makes some solopreneurs and small business owners cringe. Yes, we want our ID-10091654websites to be found by search engines. No, we don’t want to spend a gazillion dollars to make that happen. Yes, it’s all very confusing! So what’s a solopreneur or freelancer to do?

I’ve had the opportunity to get some answers to a few solopreneur-focused SEO questions from Ashley Verrill, Market Analyst at Software Advice. I think her insight and practical tips will give you a better understanding of SEO – and a firmer grasp on what elements of SEO are within your control.

In your experience, what do you think the biggest mistake solopreneurs/freelance professionals make with their websites from an SEO perspective?
I would say the biggest mistake I see is people not ensuring that they have the most relevant keywords in the right places in their website architecture — the most important (though not the only) being the Title Tag, H1, and meta description. These will dictate not only how Google, Bing and other search engines rank you; but also your click through rate. SEO is kind of a moving target, so what’s good today, might not be the best next year. So, you should definitely read-up on best practices for these website infrastructure attributes before committing to anything. You also want to make sure that the keywords you choose are not only relevant, but receive the most traffic. Google Adwords can easily help you with both of these things.
Another huge mistake I see is companies falling for these so called “magic link builders.” A lot of these black hat link-building kind of websites that offer free or paid link directories will actually damage you more than they help you. In fact, I would say they won’t help you at all, especially in today’s SEO climate.

What would you say are the top 3 things solopreneurs/freelance professionals can do on their own to improve their SEO?

Like I said, SEO is changing all of the time, and no one really knows “the answer” to cracking the Google algorithm. But there are definitely three things I can say are valuable for any website right now. These would be in addition to making sure all of the pages on your website are optimized for keywords that drive really relevant traffic, avoiding duplicate content, and maintaining the order of your website infrastructure.

One, would be building links from highly-authoritative websites (e.g. big media) and websites that are highly-relevant to your market and industry. These links should be natural (a link in the comment section of an article doesn’t count). The second most valuable thing right now would be website engagement. So ensuring that a healthy proportion of your website visitors stay on site, click to other pages, and interact with things on the page (rather than immediately navigating away). This signals to Google that you are a real business, and you are providing information and services that people actually want. This is where blogs play a big role. Not only do they drive traffic, but they drive visitors that actually stick.

The last factor is social media signals, for a lot of the same reasons as onsite engagement. Every time someone shares something from your website, it’s like a vote to Google for your authority (similar to how they count links, but not in the same way, at least not yet). Again, this is another place where your blog (and other content, e.g. infographics, eBooks, Webinars, etc.) will really determine your success.

We all know that blogging can provide a lot of benefit with regard to SEO, how often do solopreneurs/freelance professionals need to blog for it to have a positive effect?

The frequency is not as important as the content. You can publish 20 blogs a week and never move the needle. You need content that is unique, valuable and relevant to your business. Google wants to see that you are driving relevant people to your website. If you’re just starting out, I would say do some keyword research around your ideal buyer’s biggest pain points, and use those as guides for finding the right topic. You won’t really know what’s successful until you have some data, so you’ll just need to start publishing. Watch your analytics to see which articles and topics get the most visits, shares, and time on page. Continue to write more about the most popular topics and make sure you’re adding to the conversation (not just regurgitating what other people have said).

Is “link building” still a valid way to build up your SEO mojo? What’s the best way to go about it?
Absolutely, but what we are learning is that it’s not about quantity of links as much as quality. The best way to get links is really just turning into good marketing. Create something valuable, promote it to key journalists, get a writeup, and that will organically produce links as other people read and share the article. We’ve had a lot of luck with original research. These are really easy to write about (people love data) and it’s natural to link to us because we are the source of the information.

Social media seems to play a BIG role in SEO. What recommendations can you make to solopreneurs/freelance professionals for optimizing how they use social media to improve their website ranking?
Make sure that you are participating in the the right communities and have relationships with the heavy hitters. Klout is great for finding the most influential people in your industry. Find them, and gather in the same communities they do. Sometimes the best method is to look at who’s doing it best in your community, then mimic everything they do. Also, you need ammunition, so again, really quality content is crucial. You need to give people a reason to follow you, and share your content. Also, return the favor. If someone likes your articles, find another time to go and comment on something they posted (and make sure it’s more than “great article”). You need to prove that you’ve actually read what they posted and have something insightful to say about it.

Ashley Verrill is a Market Analyst at Software Advice, as well the Managing Editor for the Customer Service Investigator blog. Ashley VerrillShe has spent the last seven years reporting and writing business news and strategy features, including articles for GigaOM and CIO.com. Her work has also been cited in myriad publications including Forbes, the New York Times and Inc. Previous to her current roll, she worked for five years as a Web Editor and Reporter for the Upstart Business Journal, the Austin Business Journal and the North Bay Business Journal. She also spend time in sales management and advertising with an Austin-based startup. She graduated from the University of Texas graduate with a bachelor’s degree in journalism.

You can follow her on Twitter at: @CRMAdvice

Image courtesy of stuart miles / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

How To Be a More Social Media Savvy Solopreneur

As a solopreneur, you need to market yourself…and, in my opinion, there’s no better way to build awareness and Like button in cloudnurture relationships than through social media. Oh, I’m a huge proponent of face-to-face networking, too. That’s also essential. But social media is likely to give you the most bang for your buck – and for your time. Plus, if you’re not on social media (or if you’re there, but totally ignoring your presence), you’re inevitably going to fall behind your competition. You need to be present, accounted for, accessible and active online. Social Media gives you the opportunity to be top of mind on a daily basis!

Cutting to the chase

Make no mistake, embracing – and engaging on – social media requires time, energy, trial, and error. But so does everything else that yields positive results for your solo-business. And like for everything else, you need to plan and put processes in place to incorporate social media into your routine. That’s right – you need to treat it as a part of your day-to-day operations, not as some secondary activity that you’ll get around to if you have a few spare minutes. You need to commit to it – and follow through.

Look – and think – before leaping

The worst thing you can do is jump on the shiny object syndrome bandwagon and set up profiles on every hip social network that’s out there. Solopreneurs have limited time for any single activity because we’re wearing all the hats in our businesses. You need to be choosy and select the platforms that provide the most opportunity and for which you’ll have time to manage them effectively.

  • Research which networks your clients and target customers are using most.
  • Investigate how your competitors and others in your industry are using social media. Which platforms do they use? Do they seem to be getting interaction on them? What are they doing to get interaction from their fans? And if possible, find out how much time they’re devoting to them.

You’ll be far better off choosing one or two social networks and using them consistently (ideally every day!), than signing up for three or four and posting every other week. A neglected social media presence looks lazy and unprofessional. Not the look you’re going for!

Fitting it in

Indeed, finding the time while tasked with all other business activities is perhaps the biggest challenge facing solopreneurs when it comes to social media. And you’ll find that social media has different layers of responsibility to it:

  • Creating or curating content to share
  • Responding to comments and messages
  • Acting as a good social citizen and reviewing the news feed – and interacting with others
  • Reciprocating (when appropriate) if others share your posts
  • Adding connections to your network and following those (if it makes sense) who have followed you

How on earth can you manage all that? There’s no one-size-fits-all solution, but consider these tips…

  • Establish specific windows of time each day to tackle one or more of tasks associated with social media. (For example: From 8 – 8:30 am curate content and respond to comments/messages; from 11:30 – Noon, review your news feed and interact with others and reciprocate by sharing posts of others who have shared yours; 6 – 6:15 pm, add connections/follow back)
  • Use online tools to manage social media. Hootsuite, Buffer, Tweetdeck, Social Oomph, Sprout Social, and Facebook’s scheduling feature all let you pre-plan posts and schedule them to publish at a later time.
  • Pay someone to help you. What’s your time worth? It’s up to you to do the math, but maybe if you’ve got a lot of billable work on your plate, it might make sense to contract someone to help you manage some aspects of your social media presence. As a solopreneur, I really think that YOU should be the one interacting and responding to your followers’ inquiries and comments, but you might enlist the help of someone to curate links to relevant articles that you can use in your social media posts later. You might even ask them to develop a schedule for them. Finding good content and the right variety of content – and determining when to post it – can demand a significant amount of time. There’s no shame in asking for assistance!
  • Pay attention to, but don’t get too bogged down in metrics. Don’t get caught in “analysis by paralysis” and rely too heavily on metrics. Staying consistently active, keeping content relevant, and interacting to build relationships is what will drive success on social media. Do pay attention to which types of posts are resonating most with your audience and be cognizant of the topics and types of posts that get a lot of likes, comments and shares. As far as figuring out “the best time to post,” I wouldn’t pay much mind to that unless you’re posting so infrequently that you really, really need to make it count. Plus, people are accessing their social networks just about any time and almost anywhere via their mobile devices so the best time to post is likely to be a moving target. The most important social media metric for you as a solopreneur: the leads and conversions you get through your social media activities. And fortunately, that’s generally easy to keep tabs on since most solopreneurs (especially those in professional services) are dealing with a handful or so of warm leads at any given time.

Solopreneurs who use social media consistently and with concerted effort can’t help but find opportunities. I sincerely believe that. The very nature of social media makes it an ideal venue for solo-professionals to connect with the businesses and individuals who they can serve. People ultimately do business with people – and I think that gives solopreneurs an edge over bigger brands behind a logo on social media. Be yourself, pay attention to what your audience reacts to, contribute to the conversation, and make your social media presence a priority in your business …good things will happen!

Now you! What are you doing to fit social media into your day every day? Any tips to share? What’s most challenging for you when it comes to fitting social media into your daily routine?

Image courtesy of basketman / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

6 Ways to Make the Most of Working with a Freelance Writer on your Marketing Projects

Not everyone has the time or the talent to write their own marketing content for their businesses. When you’re running aPen and notebook small business, you’ve got multiple other tasks to tend to that aren’t quite as easy to outsource. And honestly, unless you really have the chops to write content yourself, it will pay you in the long run to farm your writing out to someone who does.

Working with a freelance writer can save the day, and it can save you a ton of time. But before you outsource your marketing content writing, here are some things you need to think about and do to make sure you’ll get the most for your money – and give freelance writers what they need to do the best job possible for you…

  • Have a grip on your brand personality and your value proposition.
    If you’re not in tune with your brand’s value and what’s unique about it, now might not be the best time to bring in a freelance writer to help you with your projects. Some writers might have enough marketing experience to help you find your way, but not all are equipped to – or will want to – serve as your marketing strategist. If you’re struggling with your overall marketing strategy, there are free resources (like SCORE) and for-hire marketing consultants out there who can help you get on firm ground. After you’ve planted your feet is when you’ll be able to give a writer better insight into what  should be highlighted in your marketing messaging.
  • Share what you know about your customers.
    The more info you can share about your target market, the better your writer will be able to tailor the messages – and call to actions – to your audience.
  • Share what you want to accomplish.
    Though your writer will most likely not be the person managing and tracking the results of a marketing project or campaign, the more you can share with them about your goals, the better able they will be to craft a particular marketing piece so that it will fit into your master strategy.
  • Plan ahead and set a realistic deadline.
    Keep in mind that established and reputable writers will have multiple clients, and that means they probably can’t drop everything to work on a project that you didn’t plan far enough in advance for. If you’ve got a marketing project in mind, contact your writer as soon as possible to get a quote and make a commitment so you can get on their radar and their project calendar. Note that some writers will take on eleventh hour work, but prepare to pay extra for it.
  • Share any specific details that you want to include in the content.
    Tell writers if there are particulars that absolutely need to appear in the content. Don’t assume that a writer will just know what’s most important to you and your brand. Point them to web links with relevant info, email them a list of bullet points, and email them documents that give them the details they’ll need. And be sure that writers know (in advance of quoting you a rate and signing a contract) which pieces of info you’ll be providing directly to them and what elements they’ll need to research. Writers factor research time into their project quotes, so it’s important to be clear about what you can provide to them and what you’re expecting them to round up.
  • Provide timely feedback and communicate it clearly – via email
    To keep your project moving, try to review draft content and provide feedback as promptly as possible. Some writers will only honor revisions up to a certain amount of days after they submitted their initial draft to you. And some will commit to a limited number of revisions. To avoid extra cost and to address changes when your project is fresh in everyone’s mind, get back to your writer as quickly as you can and communicate change requests as clearly as possible so the next draft will be the final one (or very close to it!). And communicate changes in writing via email. Having a “paper trail” of what you discussed makes things easier for all!

By paying mind to these things, not only will you get the most for your outsourcing dollars, but you’ll also be setting the stage for a professional relationship that will give you great marketing content – and streamline your efforts – as it progresses. The more writers work with you, the greater their understanding of your business and your brand – which means they’ll consistently produce content that’s the right fit, and they’ll need less and less supervisory time from you on projects.

And now for what you think! If you’ve worked with freelance marketing writers, what other tips can you share to make the most of those relationships?

Image courtesy of maya picture / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Why Small Biz Owners Need to Make It Personal

Using social media to market a business requires a lot of time (no news flash there!) – particularly if you’re serious about Social Media Interactionmaking your efforts pay off. And it’s no secret that small business owners struggle with maintaining the consistency needed to really do social media well, so some delegate or outsource their posting and engagement to some degree.

While there’s no shame in getting a little help with your social media, it’s important that you, as the business owner, never ever divest yourself completely of being engaged. Even with someone managing your accounts, you personally need to stay in tune with what’s happening on your pages – and make it known that you are personally interested in interacting with others in your online business community.

So how do you show some love to other entrepreneurs and customers so you’re generating a steady supply of goodwill and stay in good standing?

Make sure that you – via your personal social media accounts – follow, like, circle, pin and connect with the same organizations and businesses your business social media accounts are connected with. And then follow through and interact with them as your own personal self.

And that’s important why?

You’re an ambassador for your brand.
As a small business owner, most people probably recognize you as the lead spokesperson for your brand. When you generate goodwill by interacting with other businesses, you’re projecting that goodwill on your brand as well.

You won’t overload your brands’ followers’ and fans’ news feeds with likes and comments on posts that may not be interesting to them.
This is particularly true with Facebook! I’ve already unliked Facebook business pages because they littered my news feed with that stuff. Friends of your personal Facebook profile, however, will likely have a higher tolerance for seeing your likes and comments. After all, most of their other friends are liking and commenting on posts in abundance as well.

Your personal endorsement means something.
Because businesses recognize that not all business owners are doing their own social media posting, a like, +1, or comment directly from you is more easily identified as genuine and real. The fact that you, the small business owner, took the time to personally interact demonstrates that you care. And that can facilitate stronger relationships online and offline.

Certainly, it does require some time to take inventory of the key companies and organizations your business accounts are connected with on your social media channels, but after some initial effort to align your personal accounts with them, keeping on top of it won’t be quite so bad. If you’re strapped for time – as so many small business owners are – identifying those connections is something that can very easily be delegated or outsourced. But from there, you’ll need to let your own personal sense of social savvy be your guide. There’s no satisfactory substitute for you and your voice when it comes reinforcing your personal commitment to building relationships for your small business in the professional community.

Your turn? What brand benefits have you discovered by connecting personally with other business on social media?

Image courtesy of AdamR / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Easy Money or Bad Deal? What You Might Put at Risk by Posting Paid Links in your Blog Posts

Last week, I received an email with this message…Links and shadow

Hello and Good Afternoon,

 I represent a client who is interested in purchasing a link advertisement on a new or upcoming post on your website, The Insatiable Solopreneur. I feel as though it is relevant and a great fit for your site! You can be as creative as you like when it comes to relating the link to your readers. Please let me know if this is something that may interest you or if you have further questions. I look forward to your response.

 Thank you in advance.

 

Sounds like easy, passive income for the earning, right? Accepting pay for posting links is legal and apparently not at all uncommon. But with Google’s refinement of its algorithms to identify (and give ranking priority to) quality, relevant content, you might want to weigh the risks and rewards before saying “Yes” to opportunities that cross your path.

Walking the Fine SEO Line

In case you’re approached with a similar opportunity, I’ve found several posts by SEO-savvy folks that share more insight about what might be at stake.

My take away from these is that you can include links for pay in your blog posts, but do so at the risk of your site’s own SEO well-being. The sites that the paid links connect to are apt get a slap from Google if the links are deemed “unnatural” (aka there purely for the sake of improving rankings). And as the publishing site, a particular blog post or your entire site might get also get penalized with lowered rankings on the SERP (Search Engine Results Page).

Penguin 2.0 Forewarning: The Google Perspective on Links by Eric Enge via Search Engine Watch

Google: That Paid Links Thing Goes For Google News Too by Chris Crum via WebProNews

Google Admits To Penalizing the BBC, But Only Granularly by Barry Schwartz via Search Engine Roundtable

Why You Should Fear Paid Links by Dustin Wright via Collective Publishing Company, Inc.

Tossing Credibility to the Curb

As scary as taking an SEO hit because of posting paid links might be, would you want to risk losing credibility with your readers? Your blog readers follow you faithfully because they trust you and find value in what you share. Start adding links to your posts for the sake of money rather than for the benefit of your readers and you’ll shatter your credibility. Unless the links are explicitly related to the content in your posts and add depth and additional information, it really won’t take very long for your followers to figure out that you’re a sellout.

What about you? Have you been approached about publishing links in your posts for pay? Or do you pay to have links to your posts published on other blog sites? I’m always open to alternative points of view and friendly debate, so I welcome you to comment here and share your thoughts!

Image courtesy of Carlos Porto / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Learn First. Blog Second. How to Turn “On the Job” Lessons into Posts that Appeal.

Consistently pinning down blog topics that will provide value to readers presents a challenge to busy solo professionals. Blog keysIn fact, it’s one of the main reasons why many of the solopreneurs and small business owners I know haven’t started to blog.

We put a lot of pressure on ourselves. We think that unless we’ve got something monumental or expertly detailed to share, we won’t be providing anything worth reading. Fortunately, most readers aren’t looking for us to leap over tall buildings and solve all of the world’s – or their businesses’ – problems in a single post. What most are looking for is genuine advice, guidance, and information garnered from walking the walk and lessons learned.

As a solopreneur, does a day go by when you haven’t learned – or realize that you need to learn – something new or something more? Of course not! So, if you’re struggling to come up with compelling topics for your blog, start thinking about…

  • What you’ve learned “on the job” as a small business owner in your industry.
  • What you’re continually learning and the skills you’re developing every single day.
  • What you need to learn to run your business better or provide better services or products.

Keep in mind that you probably won’t need to go into great technical detail (unless your audience is very technically adept), and you don’t have to make your posts all-encompassing to include anything and everything on a topic. The key is to stay on point and inform, educate and even entertain by sharing what you know through your own efforts to learn more and do business better.

So what types of stuff might you focus on?

  • Trends in customer preferences and demand for the types of services or goods you sell.
  • Rules and regulations that affect your industry and their impact on what you sell, how you sell it, and what they mean to the consumer.
  • Technology tools that you’re using to improve the quality of your services & products.
  • Technology tools that you’re exploring to help build customer relationships.
  • Up and coming developments in products and services within your industry.
  • Services and products that are complementary to yours – and that will enhance the customer experience.
  • Upcoming events where prospects and customers can learn more about products & services in your industry (and ideally where they can connect with you one-on-one).
  • Credentials and expertise that customers should look for in a business within your industry.
  • Ways that customers can maximize the value of the products and services that they buy from you.

Basically, if you want or need more information about an industry topic, provided there’s a customer angle in there somewhere, you’ll have the makings of a blog post that can attract readers and give them a worthwhile takeaway. Just be sure that while you’re sharing what you’ve learned, you make the post about them. The “What’s in it for them?” needs to shine through in the finished product each and every post.

What types of things have you learned “on the job” that translate well into blog post topics? Please share your ideas!

Image courtesy of Idea Go / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

9 Ways Solopreneurs & Small Biz Owners Can Juice Up Their Marketing with Twitter’s Vine App

I really want it, but I can’t have it yet. – says this Android mobile user with dismay. But if you’ve got an iOS device (e.g.

As an Android user, I need to wait to harness the marketing potential of Vine.

As an Android user, I need to wait to harness the marketing potential of Vine.

iPad, iPhone), you can – and if I were you, I’d start experimenting with Vine.

What is Vine?
To bring you up to speed if you haven’t read about it yet, Vine is Twitter’s new app that gives you the capability to make short and sweet 6-second video clips (or shorter clips strung together to create a 6-second video) and share them via the Vine app, Twitter and – with some additional effort – Google Plus. (Note that in theory it should work with Facebook, but users have been experiencing some issues. No doubt they will resolved before too long.)

Though I don’t have access to it yet, it’s captured my attention because I believe it offers solopreneurs and small business owners a way to really spice up their marketing efforts. As you face the pressure to consistently create relevant content to engage – and keep the interest – of your audience, Vine offers a way to quickly generate short unedited blips of content and share them. From what I’ve read, Vine has some – what I’ll call – “technical bugaboos,” but surely those will be worked out and it will only get better.

How might you use Vine to add some pizazz to your marketing? Check out these ideas…

  • Share breaking news about your biz.
  • Show off new product packaging.
  • Announce a new client (with their OK first, of course!).
  • Announce a new project.
  • Demonstrate your [tasteful] sense of humor.
  • Generate buzz about an upcoming event.
  • Give quick tips to your audience.
  • Give a shout out to another professional or a business.
  • Make a call to action for folks to visit your blog or website.

What I’m excited most about is the down-and-dirty opportunity to mix things up. If you’ve primarily generated text content for your business and steered clear from doing video because you found it cumbersome, Vine provides a fast and easy way to do it.

Keep in mind that Vine videos are brief – the 6-second window doesn’t allow for anything very substantive – so depending on what you share, you might need to follow up with additional details via a blog post, newsletter, etc.

Want to learn more about Vine? Here are some helpful posts from various sources…

Vine for Twitter, and what it means for you on Android by Phil Nickinson via AdroidCentral – A rundown of some quirks you might encounter with Vine.

How to Share Vine Videos to Google Plus by Mark Traphagen via Virante Orange Juice – A handy step-by-step for uploading your Vine videos to Google+.

Watch as Vine becomes the next great news-gathering tool by Daniel Terdiman via CNET.

Why Vine’s Going to Grow Into Something Huge by Mat Honan via Wired Gadget Lab.

Have you tried Vine yet? I’d love to hear about your experience! What ways are you using it to enhance your marketing efforts?

Confounded by Content Marketing? Think: “Is There a “Takeaway?”

There’s no shortage of articles and points of view on the growing importance of content marketing in today’s SEO Contentenvironment. Of course, you’ll find a lot of hype as with any hot topic, but there’s no denying that the content you share with your audience has the potential to get you noticed, set you apart from your competition, demonstrate your expertise, and strengthen ties with your customers. Compelling reasons to put some dedicated thought and effort behind it!


Confused about Content?

“Content,” as pure and simple as it seems, has become a buzzword of sorts. Fact is, it entails everything your small business puts out there that’s building the perception of who you are and what you bring to the table through the eyes and ears of your prospects and customers. Print – by the nature of economy – is more static and less changeable. But online, solopreneurs – just like larger businesses – need to approach content dynamically and consistently. Most importantly, your content needs to provide value to your audience.

Think “Takeaway.”

Delivering value means something different than pushing a special deal or discount. It means putting yourself in your prospects’ and customers’ shoes and thinking about what they need and what they can relate to – in the context of your industry. Your content needs to give them a takeaway each and every time you post to your blog or social media channels. Seek to provide content that:

  • Answers a common question.
  • Helps them manage their time more effectively.
  • Makes them laugh.
  • Helps them save money.
  • Helps them make money.
  • Gives them a new perspective.
  • Motivates them.
  • Saves them from making a mistake.
  • Inspires them.
  • Gives them courage to try something new.
  • Connects them with resources for professional and personal development.

Realize that your audience might benefit from takeaways not mentioned here, so make sure you consider who you’re sharing with and what topics, issues and challenges resonate with them. If you don’t know, ASK!!! Also be prepared to experiment – sometimes it takes a period of trial and error to find the right combination of ideas and information that your followers and fans will grab onto and interact with. Above all, stick with it! It takes time and consistent effort to build an engaged and interested community around your content.

Your turn! What challenges have you faced in your content marketing efforts as a solopreneur? What has worked for you? What hasn’t worked?

Image courtesy of markuso / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

4 Sure-fire Ways to Boost Your Freelance Business

Starting out as a freelancer is exciting – but it can be scary, too. When you’ve got specific income goals you want – or need – to meet, you’ve got to find ways to effectively get the word out about your services. And you’ve got to prove yourself. The pressure is on!

Fortunately, you have it within your power to give your freelance business the boost it needs to move it onward and upward.

  • Don’t be shy! When you decide to enter into the world of freelancing, you need to come out of your shell. It’s up to YOU to raise awareness of your services to everyone you know and then some. Tell everyone you come in contact with (friends, family, doctors, your kid’s teachers, fellow gym rats, former work colleagues, your pastor, the guy in line behind you at the grocery store, and on and on) what you’re doing and that you’re ready to serve clients. Seriously, prospective clients sometimes come from the most unexpected places. For example, I met three clients through taking Kung Fu classes at a local martial arts studio. You just never know – so view every interaction as a potential opportunity.
  • Beef up your portfolio with pro bono work. If you’re just starting out as a freelancer, volunteering your skills and talent can help you build a repository of real world samples to share. Even as an established freelancer, a portfolio is essential to show prospects what you’re capable of. But as a new solopreneur, it’s even more important because you won’t have a long-standing reputation to back you up. And doing pro bono work can also help you garner testimonials from prominent people within your business community. Just be sure to temper the time you spend on volunteer endeavors – if you over-commit, you’ll find it difficult to focus on growing your business.
  • Link up with LinkedIn.  And for goodness sake, complete your profile! LinkedIn is the most powerful professional social network online. Yes, it takes some upfront time to set it up, but it’s easy, intuitive and FREE. With a profile that’s well-written and full of relevant information about your experience, skills and capabilities, you increase your chances of getting found by prospects looking for a professional in your field in your geographic area. For me, my time on LinkedIn has absolutely paid off. 15% of my clients have come directly through LinkedIn – most of them are local, but they also include a mobile-app development company based in NYC who found me via a search for a freelancing marketing content writer geographically located in the Lancaster, PA area. Yes, LinkedIn can be a freelancer’s best friend.
  • Spend a little – time and money. To make it as a freelancer, you’ve got to invest yourself to the cause. That means spending time on establishing your personal brand. Social media networks give you a phenomenal opportunity to do that. The key to success is to consistently put forth the effort to build a loyal following around your professional persona. And consider putting some cold hard cash toward making yourself known in your local business community. Local chambers of commerce and networking organizations provide all sorts of face-to-face meeting opportunities that – over time – enable you to develop strong professional relationships that lead to new clients. Just remember, what you get out of memberships to these organizations directly reflects what you put into them. Don’t expect to attend just one mixer all year and walk away with a dozen leads. Besides the promise of new business, I love my chamber membership for the opportunity to maintain a personal connection with existing clients and other wonderful people in our local community. Though I’m a huge fan of social media, nothing beats talking up close and personal.

Above all, be diligent in all of your efforts to build your freelance business. There’s no fast track to success. Developing your reputation, assembling a respectable portfolio and making the right connections will take not only time, but also a heck of a lot of energy. Remember to keep your eye on the prize – a career of flexibility, variety and limitless possibilities – and you’ll stay motivated to move forward.

What strategies and tactics have helped you build your freelance business the most? What online and offline networking efforts have delivered results?