How To Get Your Site + Shop Ready For The Holidays

holiday-shoppingIs my mention of The Holidays giving you an eye-roll headache?
(I know. Me, too.) 

But for forewarned is forearmed, guys. For a lot of businesses, about 20% of sales happen in December; if you spend the next few weeks shoring up your shop, I bet you could nudge that percentage even higher.

Which means a longer post-holiday vacation somewhere sunny and more fancy cheese snacks.

I’m so serious about helping you guys prepare, I even called in some help. My friend Roxie co-owns Frostbeard Studio, a pottery and candle-making shop here in Minneapolis. Last year, Buzzfeed linked to their Old Books candle and things got R.E.A.L pretty fast. She was kind enough to chime in with her advice for makers and brick and mortar folks.

On the internet

Start building your list TODAY
Why do you need an email list? Oh, a million reasons. It will help you stay in touch with previous and potential customers, it will help you share updates and new products, it builds loyalty with your people.

I use and love Mailchimp, though I’ve heard good things about Aweber and ConstantContact. Place your signup box somewhere obvious (when I moved mine under my header, I tripled my signups!) and give your people an incentive to sign up – a free ebook or a discount off their first order.

Get Thank You cards printed
If you’re sending out physical products I know you’ve already got your branded packaging game on lockdown, right? Like, pretty tissue paper, maybe a sticker, a signed note thanking them for their business, maybe a coupon for a future purchase? (When I sold cat calendars last year, I included a thank you note from my cat and cat-shaped confetti!)

If you’re looking for card design inspiration, here’s a roundup of some amazing designs.

Submit your products to blogs
Most major blogs are working on content (and gift guides) 1-2 months ahead of time, so now is the time to submit that book/necklace/thematic tarot set. Of course, read their submission guidelines carefully, address them by name (spelled correctly), tell them why you think this product would resonate with their readers and send through really gorgeous photos.

More info about how to pitch bloggers here.

Buy ad space for November + December
And make the most of it! I’d also suggest getting on this post-haste since big blogs fill up way ahead of time. (Of course, I’d love it if you bought ad space on Yes and Yes for the holidays!)

Make a blogging contingency plan
If you have a blog that you update regularly, either put it on vacation (here’s how) or write posts now and schedule them out for that busy time of year. Readers are usually a) busy attending ugly sweater parties b) pretty forgiving during that time of year.

I think’s it perfectly fine to just write a “Hey! We’re up to our neck in holiday orders – what a lovely problem to have! See you January 5th!” post and point readers towards your archives and social media.

In your studio or shop

Make more inventory than you think you’ll need
Crazy things can happen (like a Buzzfeed article!) that might throw your business into an uproar and if you just sell your usual, holiday amount? Well, you’ll have a nice healthy inventory for later.

Stock up on supplies so you don’t end up maxing out your credit cards
If you make + mail your goods, you’ll need all sorts of unsexy stuff: labels, padded mailers, yarn, jars. It’ll make things waaaay less stressful if you’ve got plenty of those on hand when the holiday rush hits.

Consider making a special holiday item in the gift price range (under $20)
Make it appealing, one-size, potentially gender-neutral. Highlight that product somewhere obvious (link to it on your homepage!) or create a page rounding up all your gift-price-friendly goods.

Hire help
Or at least reach out to people to see if they’d be available to help if stuff gets crazy. Good potential helpers: your freelancer friends, college-aged siblings who are home on break and want money, even parents.

Say “no” to things
Now is not the time for custom orders, a million craft fairs, moving studios, launching a new product. Keep things as simple and streamlined as possible.

Realize it’s okay to close down shop early or have items run out of stock
When Frostbeard’s candles went viral, they had to stop taking orders on December 7th and even then they were working 18-hour days!

Think they lost sales and momentum? No way. Even closing early they signed new wholesale clients and since then they’ve hired two full time employees and upgraded studios twice. If people like what you’re selling they’ll still want to buy it when it becomes available again. (And if you get them on your email list, you can let them know when those products are available!)

Try not to work on the weekends
Roxie warns me that she’s not particularly good at this but we all know that taking breaks leads to better, higher quality, faster work.

Have treats for yourselves & employees
Order in food for lunch, hire a massage therapist for back massages. Plan a vacation (even just a weekend to relax) post-holidays! There’s a reason you’re doing all this hard work and it’s spelled b-e-a-c-h.

Whew! How are you getting your online (or offline!) space ready for the holidays?

P.S. Did you know that when you sign up for my newsletter, I’ll give your online space a once-over and send you three specific-to-you suggestions to make it tighter + more lucrative? What a good idea to prepare for that holiday traffic!

P.P.S. If you know a small business owner who stresses out every holiday season, send ‘em a link to this post!

photo by wikipedia // cc

How To Buy The Best Ad Space (And Make The Most Of It)

buy-the-best-ad-spaceSo you’re super serious about your site. You bought the domain name, you’ve got social media on lockdown, and you’re ready to buy ad space so you can piggyback off someone else’s traffic.

Awesome! But how does one make sure that’s money well spent?

I’m so glad you asked, friend.

1. Obviously, advertise on a site that’s read by your ideal customers and clients
If you sell artisan vinegars you should be advertising on a food blog, not a fashion blog. If you sell purses you should be advertising on a fashion blog, not an online marketing blog. If you’re a mommy blog, you probably don’t want to advertise on Rookie.  Generally speaking, lifestyle blogs are a decent fit for most products aimed at women and design blogs work for anything that’s style-y and homes-good-ish.

2. Look for (or ask for) testimonials from previous advertisers
What sort of traffic boost can you expect? How many new Twitter followers? How many new list signups? Hopefully, the site will post these sponsor testimonials (mine are here) and if they don’t make that information public, they should at least be able to tell you about an expected return on investment.

When possible looks for hard numbers. Things like “When I looked at site statistics for readers from Yes & Yes: the average (lovely) visitor from Y&Y stayed on my site for 3:22 minutes compared to an average 1:22, the bounce rate was 44% compared to the average 78%, and Y&Y was my second largest traffic source for the month.” Rather than “Sarah was really easy to work with!

3. Find sites that will include you in an actual blog post
Now, this is the proverbial needle in the haystack but if you can find a high-traffic blog that includes sponsors in real, actual blog posts, I so encourage you to work with them. I am, of course, biased because I include my sponsors in blog posts but I also speak from experience.  I’ve purchased sidebar ad space and sidebar + included-in-a-post ad space and they can’t compare.

Most people read blogs in RSS feeds these days so they never even see the sidebar! I couldn’t in good conscience ask people to pay $80 a month for an ad tens of thousands of people weren’t seeing.

4. Link your ad to a list of freebies, your ‘best ofs’ or your newsletter signup
So you’ve purchased your ad space. Are you going to link it to your home page? I totally understand the inclination, but it’s actually a lot smarter to link to your ‘best ofs’ (here’s mine), your freebies (like Danielle does), or your newsletter signup (like Laura did with her Yes and Yes ad space). 

Your goal with your ad space is to begin a long, loving relationship with your new readers. You don’t want those new readers to pop over to your site, read half a post, and then leave, never to turn their thoughts in your direction again. You want them to take action – download something, sign up for something, follow you on social media so you can keep in touch with them.

If you’re suuuuper ambitious, you can even make a page that’s specific to the readers of the site where you’re advertising and make sure that page is optimized to appeal to those readers.

5. If your ad links to a blog post(s) make sure they’re optimized + as awesome as humanly possible
What does that mean?  Optimized blog posts
* include in-text links to related content
* are related to your services or offerings and link accordingly
* have gorgeous, Pinterest-friendly images (here’s how to make your images more pinnable)
* you’ve written alt text and title text for the images (it’s not that hard)
* maybe you’ve even used the P.S. trick

I realize this sounds like one metric ton of work but if you’re going to spend money on an ad, you might as well, you know, benefit from it. If you’re interested in buying ad space on Yes and Yes, you can check out my rates and info here – my sponsors love it and I have tons of repeat business! 

Tell me: what other sites do you know that include sponsors in actual posts? Where have you advertised?

P.S. If you know someone who’s bought ad space and been disappointed or is thinking of buying ad space for the holidays, send ‘em a link to this post!

photo by  // cc

9 blog posts that will make your online space hum with awesomery

links for online businesses

Good reminders for those of us who work from home!
Get Out of Your HouseThe hardest part about working from home can be feeling a bit isolated from your community. So make it a point to get out a few times a week. I like meeting local clients and creative peers at my favorite coffee shop. I also like to get some fresh air with a morning walk before I begin my day. 

Hooooly useful. 50+ places to repurpose your content!

I’ve been busy circle-ifying headshots. Here’s how you can do it with Picmonkey – for free!

An insanely useful post from Paul Jarvis about how to grow your freelancing business. So much good stuff in there!
Start by getting into the head of the people you want to get hired by
Make a list of people that have hired freelancers that use the same skills as you have and have recently hired for it. Send them a quick email to see if you can ask them for their advice.

Would your blog posts be more engaging if you were using gifs? It’s easy to make your own with Giffysnap!

Have you ever failed at something? (Um, are you a human?) If you have, here’s how to get over it.

Before you contact a professional peer you haven’t talked to in ages and ask them to promote your stuff, read this.

I loved Jill’s post about how to get rich as a blogger.

A sneaky way to get more people to read what you write.

And some posts you might have missed: Collaborating your way to more traffic + clients and How to toot your own horn without being totally annoying.

Have you read or encountered anything super helpful lately? Leave links in the comments!

 photo by  //cc

6 Things Your WordPress Site Wants You To Do Every Month

This guest post comes to us from Norma Maxwell, founder and CEO of Connect Interactive, LLC, a digital creative agency that specializes in WordPress design, development and strategic online success building. Her passion is helping clients create a strategic online presence that not only connects with the right people, but resonates long after they have made their first contact. Connect with Norma on Twitter or Facebook. 

wordpress-updates

WordPress is like a car. It needs regular tuneups to keep running smoothly.

Having your own self-hosted WordPress website is a beautiful (and necessary) thing for any serious business owner or blogger. Unlike websites hosted on proprietary platforms owned and controlled by someone else, a self-hosted website is 100% owned and controlled by you.  It’s like the difference between owning your own car, or renting from someone else.  When you rent, you follow someone else’s (always changing) rules, and you pay a lot more money for the privilege.

But, just like owning a car, having a self-hosted WordPress website requires upkeep.  You keep the oil changed and schedule regular maintenance to make sure your car keeps running smoothly. In the same way, your website requires regular maintenance to make sure it stays up-to-date, secure, and runs like it should. You can change the oil and run the maintenance on your car yourself, or hire a mechanic to do it for you. Either way, you owe it to yourself to make sure your website stays secure and maintained, so you won’t find yourself broken down on the side of the Internet highway.

How to Keep Your WordPress Website Maintained + Safe

  1. Create a weekly or monthly (depending on how much content you stand to lose if you do it less often) complete backup of your WordPress database, images, and all content.
    You can do this by purchasing a backup plugin that will help you create the backup. I use the Backup Buddy plugin on my clients’ websites. Store the backups locally on your server and on a remote storage account (such as Amazon S3). Although some hosts offer backup plans, if something happens to their server, you’ll have a complete backup of your website stored elsewhere, which gives you peace-of-mind–just like keeping your important papers stored in a safety security box in a bank.
  2. Keep your WordPress software, themes and plugins updated.
    If you don’t, you run a real risk of your website getting hacked and infected with malware. Every time WordPress releases an update, it’s because the developers have discovered a vulnerability, or are making the software perform better in some way.  The same thing goes for themes and plugins you’re using on your site. You get an alert in your administration panel when an update has been released, and it’s a two-three click operation to update your software.  Whenever you log in, if you see a plugin, theme, or WordPress requires an update–just do it.
  3. Remove unused themes and plugins, and get rid of unnecessary plugins.
    Any extra software on your website creates risk. If you’re not using a theme, delete it.  Same thing goes for any disabled plugins on your site. If you have plugins installed on your site that aren’t absolutely necessary, get rid of them.Less is definitely more in this case because the most important thing you can do for your visitors is offer them a safe visit to your website, and maintaining a healthy, fast website is the best way you can do this for them. A bunch of plugins you don’t need = slow site performance. Slow site performance = lost visitors to your website and lost revenue for your business.There are thousands of plugins available for WordPress, but that doesn’t mean you should use them all!

    Any developer in the world can create a plugin which means the quality can vary a LOT.  Some plugins are great, and some not-so-much.  Check to make sure the plugins you use are supported and regularly updated by the developer.  Read user reviews to see if people are having positive results from the plugin.  You can find all this information on the WordPress.org page for that plugin (if the plugin you want to use isn’t listed there–it’s a red flag, so I would recommend you don’t use it).

  4. Perform regular security scans.
    Hackers are busier than ever wreaking havoc on innocent websites. It’s a fact of life that can’t be ignored because one malware infection can cause you to lose all of your website content, put your site visitors at risk, and potentially cause your website address to be blacklisted by Google. All of which would definitely NOT be good for business. You can monitor your WordPress website for malware by using a plugin like WordFence or setting up a subscription web service like Sucuri to make sure you’ll be notified of any vulnerabilities your site has immediately.
  5. I also recommend installing the iThemes Security plugin to give yourself an extra layer of protection against threat by hiding vital areas of your site, restricting access to important files, preventing brute-force login attempts, detecting any attack attempts, and notifying you by email if there are any issues with your site.
  6. Use a comment spam prevention plugin like Akismet to control comment spam.
    You can review any spam comments it catches in the admin section of your site.
  7. Create a secure username and password and change it regularly.
    A secure password is 18 characters long, and contains a combination of special characters, capital and lowercase letters, and numbers. You can use a free application like Passpack Desktop to help you generate secure passwords and store them securely in one place so you can always look them up when you need them.

I know it seems like a lot of work, and it does take some time, but if you take these steps, you’ll have a safe, secure website that runs like a charm and doesn’t stress you out.  Your website takes care of you in so many ways, so it makes sense that you need to take care of it to make sure it functions as it should.  If you’d rather have dental work than do this yourself, I have a Monthly Maintenance for WordPress package just for you.   I’ll take care of making sure your website is safe, secure, and running smoothly so you can focus on what you do best!

What updates do you run on your site? What are you favorite plugins? Tell us in the comments!

P.S. 7 ways to spring clean your blog and How to use Google Webmaster tools in a non-overwhelming way.

How To Host A Blog Crawl (spreadsheets! @mentions! organization!)

how-to-host-a-blog-crawl
If you’re just tuning in, dear reader, this is the last in a three-part series about hosting and coordinating your very own blog crawl. We’ve already covered why you’d want to do such a thing and how to find + woo people to take part in your adventures.

Today? Today, we discussing how one coordinates a jillion contributors, tweets, and guest posts without losing one’s mind. Here are five logistical things to consider while you’re making magic.

1. If your blog crawl is supporting a product launch, make sure your product sales page is live before the blog crawl starts
My blog crawl supported the launch of my Post College Survival Kit ecourse, so my sales page obviously needed to be up and ready when my contributors were posting and linking to me. This also means that I needed a permalink to that page waaaay before things went live. You’ll need to send your contributors a pre-written intro with links (that they can edit) well before the actual blog crawl starts.

Here’s what I sent my contributors:

Here’s an intro for the top of the post:
Notes To My Younger Self is helping spread the word about The Post College Survival Kit. We learned the hard way so you don’t have to! You don’t have to wait till your thirties for a better job, a cuter apartment, financial stability, better relationships + friendships. 

Of course, feel free to edit so it’s in your voice – all that’s really important is that it includes the link ;)

2. Create a big ol’ dorky spreadsheet for yourself
There’s a lot to remember and manage when you’re coordinating a blog crawl with 20+ contributors. I made myself a giant spreadsheet with columns devoted to who I approached, if they responded and how, which week they were scheduled to post, their email/url/twitter handle, and links to their post once it had gone live.

3. Make it easy for your contributors to promote each other’s work
At the end of each week, I’d send my contributors pre-written tweets linking to and promoting each other’s posts. I always made sure to point out that none of this was ‘required’ and they should feel free to write their own tweets and promote each other in a way that felt right. But most of us are busy and if I like you + trust you? I’ll probably be happy to tweet links to the smart, interesting people who are also involved in this project.

4. Ask your contributors to @mention you on social media when their post goes up so you can promote it
It’s hard to get 20 people to email you their blog posts ahead of time. It’s a lot easier to convince them to @mention you when a post goes up.

5. Make an ebook out of the blog crawl posts
Once your blog crawl has wound down, assemble all those amazing posts into a nicely designed ebook and give it to your contributors as a thank you. They can share it with their readers, use it to boost their own newsletter signups (like I did here and here) or just print it out and read it in bed with a glass of wine.

Of course (of course) I made just such a book out of all my contributors’ posts. You can get it (plus three of my most popular little ebooks) when you sign up for the Yes and Yes newsletter. (See what I did there?)

ntmysyoungerself

Whew! Are you completely overwhelmed with information? Convinced that your next launch needs a blog crawl? If you have any blog-crawl related questions burning a hole in your pocket, leave ‘em in the comments!

photo by death to stock photo // cc

Finding The Right People For Your Blog Crawl (and keeping them + your readers happy)

Last week, we solved the mystery of what a blog crawl actually is and why you might want to host one. Today, we’re talking about finding + wooing the right contributors.

blog-crawl-contributors

So I’ve sold you on the idea of hosting a blog crawl.
Yes, it’s a bit of an undertaking.
Yes, it’ll increase your readership and traffic by leaps and bounds. And I can tell from all the way over here that you’re not someone who shies away from a little hard work.

The most important ingredient in your blog crawl pizza? All the outrageously awesome contributors, obviously. If no one’s partaking in your blog crawl, it becomes less ‘blog crawl’ more ‘me hopping in one place while my quads start to cramp.’  So let’s talk about how to find the right people for your blog crawl and  keeping them (and your readers) happy.

1. Approach people with whom you already have a relationship
This isn’t the time to email a huge blogger you’ve never talked to before. This is when you email that internet friend you’ve partnered with three other times. Or your designer. Or your client. Or your once-monthly coffee partner. When you’re putting together a blog crawl, you’re simultaneously asking people for a pretty significant favor and introducing them (with your endorsement) to your readers. You don’t want to take a chance on someone who will flake out or write something so deeply unlike you that your readers will question your judgement.

If you’re not sure how to go about befriending people on the internet, here’s a good start.

2. If you’re launching a product, partner with people whose audience would benefit from your product
If you’re blog crawling in promotion of a product launch, you (obviously) want to partner with people whose readership might like said product. My blog crawl was in promotion of The Post College Survival Kit, an ecourse designed to help 20-somethings navigate career, finances, dating, and domestic life after college.  So I left my fashion and food blogger friends out of it.

Before you invite someone to take part in your blog crawl consider their readership’s age, income, interests, and needs. If it doesn’t seem like a match for your product, keep moving.

3. Approach people who have a similarly-sized readership
As previously noted, this isn’t the time to email Jenna Marbles. Huge bloggers are less likely to partake in blog crawls and if you’ve got 6,000 Twitter followers (like me), someone with 38,000 followers isn’t really going to see a huge increase in traffic.

Reach out to people you know to have a readership that’s similar in size to yours. You can also use your blog crawl as an opportunity to point the internet in the direction of small, amazing, unsung bloggers. If you like someone and you know your readers will too, invite them. Period.

4. Make sure your contributors benefit from the blog crawl
Let’s make sure our blog crawls aren’t the internet equivalent of the friend who only calls when she needs a ride.  You can make your blog crawl extra beneficial to your contributors by tweeting each of their posts, sharing their posts in your newsletter, or aggregating their posts into one that you share on your own blog (like I did here).

5. Don’t ask your contributors to stick to a script
If you liked these bloggers enough to ask them to contribute to your crawl, surely you trust them to write their own stuff, yes? If you give them a pre-written intro, encourage them to edit it to fit their own voice. Don’t ‘require’ them to post a ‘badge’ or use graphics that don’t match their branding. Give them a loose outline of what you’re looking for in post (“300-500 words + helpful”) and let them create something that works for them + their readers.

6. Chose the right post topic
This, my friends, is the million dollar baby. When you’re asking your friends to write something for your blog crawl, consider topics that
a) compliments the subject of your blog or the product you’re launching
b) would be interesting/helpful to anyone who reads it – regardless of whose blog they usually read or if they’re the target market for your new product
c) is customizable to match your contributor’s voice/area of expertise

I chose ‘Notes To My Younger Self‘ because it’s something evvvvveryone can relate to and all my contributors could put their own spin on it. Rebecca McLoughlin put an interior decor spin on itBraid Creative put a business spin on it.

Next week, I’m talking about the logistics + nitty gritty of running your blog crawl. Pre-scheduled emails! Spreadsheets! Auto responders!  If you don’t want to miss it, sign up for my newsletter and I’ll send it right to your inbox.

photo via death to stock photo // cc

What the eff is a blog crawl? And should you host one? (Only if you want more traffic + sales + subscribers)

blog-crawl

The first time someone asked me to be part of a blog crawl, my response was probably:
a) That sounds like a lot of work/vaguely annoying.
b) With a name like that, it can’t be good. Pleeeeezzze. My blog can hop, skip, and drop it like it’s hot. We do not ‘crawl’ in this house.

And then I got the eff over myself, took part in Molly Mahar’s ABCs of Self-Love blog crawl, gained heaps of new readers + boosted my mailing list by a bajillion. Which is how, dear readers, I discovered what a blog crawl was.

Merriam Webster style:
Blog crawl (n) 
A tool used to drive traffic from on blog to another. Contributors post on a specific topic, each linking back to a main page and also to each other. Online traffic flows between the main, host site to contributors and from contributor to contributor through blog posts and social media promotion.

If you’ve been following along on Yes and Yes as I’ve launched by latest ecourse The Post College Survival Kit, you’ve probably seen the blog crawl in action.

Is hosting a blog crawl a lot of work? Yes.
Will it pay off? Like, a lot? Also yes.

If I haven’t convinced you yet, here are four reasons you should consider putting together a blog crawl. 

1. It’ll bring you (and your contributors) lots of traffic
This only makes sense, right? When coordinated correctly, everyone involved in the blog crawl promotes each other’s work. That means heaps of talented, lovely people with clever, engaged followers linking to your stuff. Between everyone who took part in my blog crawl, we had a combined Twitter reach of 100,000+! So many exclamation points!

2. It’ll introduce your readers to other awesome people they should know about
When you (carefully, strategically, lovingly) chose the right contributors, you’ll be introducing your readers to hidden gems and new RSS feed favorites. Do you know a new or underappreciated blogger who writes about stuff your readers would love? Are you on a one-person mission to tell everyone about That One Blog? Well, you should obviously invite that blogger to take part.

I can’t speak for the rest of the internet, but I struggle to find blogs I really like and when I do find one? I’m going to read the archives till my eyeballs fall out and send the links to my friends. Really, a blog crawl is just a slightly more civilized version of that. It’s a win/win for everyone involved!

3. It’ll strengthen your relationship with your contributors
I’m a big fan of good karma and spreading good will + traffic all around the internet (one of the reasons behind my most popular weekly post). I will so, so happily lend a hand to any of my contributors. Need another pair of eyes to check out that new ebook? Sure! Just want to commiserate about writer’s block or snarky, anonymous comments? I’m there. And if I’ve got a client who needs what my contributors are selling – I’ll be sure to pass ‘em along.

When you work on a project with anyone, you get to know them a little better and strengthen your friendships. And friendships are what make the world – online and off – go ’round. 

4. If you’re using a blog crawl to launch a product, it’ll increase your sales like whooooaaa
The most obvious benefit to blog crawling? You’ll bring in heaps more traffic, which will bring in heaps more sales. Instead of overwhelming my 6,000 Twitter followers with a million tweets about my product, my friends and contributors built up the buzz between their 100,000 followers. 8,700 + (!!!) people downloaded the free, 27-page sample of The Post College Survival Kit.  I gained 5-15 new Twitter followers every day of the blog crawl and I introduced contributors to my own 11,000+ readers and 4,000+ newsletter subscribers.

More importantly, my readers enjoyed the posts and other bloggers started writing their own ‘Notes To My Younger Self’ posts!

notes1notes2notes3

notes4

notes5

Over the next two weeks I’ll be sharing all the behind the scenes, how-tos, and ‘best practices’ of creating and managing your own blog crawl. If you want to make sure you don’t miss out, sign up for my newsletter and I’ll drop all the goodies right into your inbox.

Have you ever been part of a blog crawl? Or hosted one? What worked? What didn’t?

P.S. Why having a personality on the internet is good for business + How to befriend bloggers

How To Get Booked Out 6 Months Into The Future

Halley Gray is marketing strategist over at Evolve & Succeed. She focuses on getting creative freelancers booked out in advance (plus booming in business). She does this by using a specific combination of science experiments, content strategies and sales techniques. Read more about how getting booked out makes your life more fun.

get-booked-out
Even Batman PJs can’t keep away the crushing fear of debt and unpaid bills.

I tried.

As snazzy as I may have looked, my life was unbearably hard and I was hustling fiercely for very little money.

Once I turned that around (and am now booked out for six months) I was elated. Life was like a great massage, lotto win and high-five rolled into one.

I make custom strategies for my clients (which gets them booked out from 1-8 months over and over again) but there’s definitely a pattern that you can follow too.

So let’s skip the suffering for you and fast-forward to the exhilaration of being booked out in advance.

I’m assuming the following:
* You know what you wanna do (and it’s one thing.) You’re not changing from copywriter to designer to consultant every week.
* You have a pretty and functional website.
* You have worked with clients.
* You want online clients.

Yes? Entre vous!

1. Most people forget that what sells is a human connection. Not direct pitching. Leave out the  “Buy my package because it’s the best!” line but focus instead on “Hey, how’s your website coming along?”

Takeaway: Go find places where people are being people online. FB groups, Google + Communities, Twitter and start talking to them and getting to know them. Extra points if you can find people you really like and want to work with.

2. Instead of talking about what you’re selling, use your blog posts to sell. Answer questions that people have around the product/service, or possible obstacles they have from buying, or your best tips to help them take their first step in the right direction.

Takeaway: Every time you write a post make it valuable to your reader. Don’t withhold information in the hopes that they’ll buy from you that’ll only spook them. Have one crucial nugget (at least) to help them work towards the goal your launch is selling.

3. The crucial factor to anything selling well is the sales page. Have you checked it? Updated it? The sales page is a living organism.

Takeaway: Not sure how to improve your sales page? Ask people you’d like to work with what’s missing and for feedback. That also can result in sales.

4. Set the bar. Figure out how many clients you actually need to get booked out.

Takeaway: Once you have a number making a goal is that much easier. Plus it helps to remind people that you’re in demand and the number of people you can serve is limited. Limited availability whips desire up.

5. Show results. It’s important that you show people behind the curtain. Are your clients getting the results you’re promising? Make sure to also talk about how you’re getting clients and that spots are going. No one knows if you’re getting hired but once they hear that you are? BAM! More clients come walking thru the door.

Takeaway: Tweet it out. Facebook it. Don’t keep your awesome results quiet. People need to hear about that to gain confidence to hire you.

6. Guest post. It might seem like a lot of work but being featured on a peer’s blog? Priceless. It keeps new traffic flowing in and allows you to be the popular kid online.

Takeaway: Invest the time into guest posts. You need new blood coming to your website to keep it healthy.

FAST FOOD STYLE: If you only do one of these do #4. People have been telling me that by having a number to focus on they have been able to get booked out faster and feel less stressed.

How far in advance do you want to be booked out and why?

The One Thing I Should Have Been Doing To My Blog Photos All Along

Doing this will make your photos a million times more pinable!

Because I don’t really use Pinterest (except to make snarky joke boards about over-priced designer clothing) I’ve never paid much attention to the image-based marketing juggernaut. I put 90% of my social media efforts into Twitter and a lot of the things I publish aren’t particularly Pinterest-friendly. I mean, who’s going to pin an interview with a former stripper? Or a list of things that are annoying unless you’re the one doing them?

But I created several of my post series with the express purpose of publishing more Pinterest-worthy content. Pinterest loves fashion (like my Real Life Style Icon series) and food ( like Read // Eat and Kitchen Globetrotter) and pretty, travel-y stuff (Like the Mini Travel Guides).  And then I proceeded to learn nothing about Pinterest.

It’s time for you to learn from my mistakes, friends. Let’s talk about editing the title text of your photos.

Here’s the deal.
When someone hovers over a photo on your blog and clicks that ‘Pin it!’ badge, the description box on Pinterest will auto fill based on the information you’ve provided. Of course, people can edit that info into something clever and helpful, but most of us are lazy and will just click ‘post.’

Which means if you didn’t fill in the title text on your image, someone just pinned a boring, poorly described image from your blog and not many people will feel moved to re-pin.

changing-blog-photos-alt-textchanging-alt-text-on-blogger-photos1
And here’s the great part: it’s insaaaanely easy to edit the title text on your photos.

Here’s how to edit these in Blogger:

1. Upload a pretty, Pinterest worthy photo (Here’s how to make images more Pinterest-friendly.)
2. Make sure you’ve saved the photo with an obvious, Google-friendly name. “Girl holding cheese” not “79340_hyl.jpg”
3. Right click on the photo, then click on ‘properties’

changing-alt-text-on-blogger-photos
4. In the ‘title text’ box write something engaging and descriptive that would look good under a pin.
5. In the ‘alt text’ box describe the photo, again using obvious, Google-able terms. The alt text is helpful to assistive screen readers. 

changing-title-text-in-blogger

You can edit your title text in WordPress by editing the ‘Image Title Attribute’ under ‘Advanced Options.’

That’s it! Now people are about a million times* more likely to repin that content you worked so hard to create. 

Now excuse me please, I’ve got to go back and edit every post ever.
(Just kidding!)
(mostly.)

What belated blogging epiphanies have you had? Share ‘em in the comments!
*approximate estimation.

P.S. How to get more blog advertisers + keep ‘em happy once you’ve got them and How to make your blog look professional without going broke.

How to deal when people unsubscribe/unfollow/troll your blog

how-to-deal-when-people-unsubscribe
A few months ago I discovered ads.twitter.com.

In one handy dandy space you can see how all your tweets are faring.
Which ones are the most popular (this one was retweeted 13 times and favorited 9 times)
How many clicks they get (this one only got six)
And, rather horrifyingly, how many people unfollow you.

In case you were wondering, that’s the sound of me developing a complex about the 96 people who have unfollowed me over the last three months. Sure, 467 new people followed me BUT WHY DO THOSE 96 PEOPLE HATE ME? Do they really think tweets about about cranberry moonshine are that offensive?

Ultimately, sharing your life and insights on the internet is going to lead to a good dose of rejection. People will unfollow and unsubscribe. You’ll probably get troll-y comments and you might even get written up on that One Website That Shall Not Be Named where strangers will call you a ‘forever teenager.’

I’ve spent the last six years attempting to develop a (slightly) thicker skin when it comes to internet rejection. Here are five things I’ve been doing to help combat the inevitable crisis of self-esteem that comes with unfollows. 

Know that it’s an unavoidable professional hazard
If you’re a carpenter, you go into your career knowing that at some point, you’re probably going to pinch a finger in something. If you’re a chef, you realize you’ll work nights and weekends. If you’re a social worker, you know you’ll have a engage in a lot of self-care and maybe therapy to counteract the emotionally challenging aspects of your job.

Internetting isn’t any different.

If you’re online, people will leave less-than-lovely comments on your blog. You’ll get lots of ‘Dear Blogger’ emails from P.R. companies. People will unfollow you on Twitter/Facebook/Instagram and unsubscribe from your mailing list. You’ll get spammy comments. There are lots of wonderful things that will happen too, but it’s important to know what you’re getting into when you start putting your thoughts online.

Realize that in order to be successful, you’ll probably have to do things that annoy (some) people
I spent a long time approaching sales with a “Hey, I made this thing and it’s over here if you want it and this is the only time we’ll ever talk about it” mentality. Not surprisingly, this lead to very few sales.

It’s totally, 100% possible to promote yourself in non-gross ways. However. You will have to write a sales page. You really should gather testimonials. And you’re going to have to promote your services on social media – multiple times. You’re doing a disservice to yourself and the awesome products you create if you don’t.

I (somewhat controversially) tweet about each of my blog posts three times and I know there are people who think that’s overkill and have unfollowed me because I do that. I tweeted about this post at 8:05 pm (20 clicks), 1:05 pm (36 clicks), and 9:19 am (24 clicks). I’d have missed out on 50 clicks if I’d only tweeted once! It’s a post I’m particularly proud of and I’m glad I gave more people a chance to see it.

Notice when YOU’RE unsubscribing and take note of your feelings
I subscribe to verrrry few newsletters (one that I always open? Paul Jarvis’s).  I’ve joined several and then unsubscribed. When I do that it’s never with a ‘You are useless human and I hate having you in my inbox!’ thought process. It’s usually more of a ‘Ahhh! I feel overwhelmed by my inbox and this is how I’m dealing with it!’ thought process.

I’ll unfollow people on Twitter when their stream is a series of complaints about local bars or they’re just bantering back and forth with their friends. Complaining about the quality of a martini or sharing inside jokes doesn’t make you a bad person by any stretch of the imagination. I just don’t need to follow that.  I try to imagine a similar mindset when people unfollow me. They don’t hate me, they just don’t need to see photos of my cute new shoes.

Separate the constructive criticism from the trolls
When my ’31 Things I’ve Learned in 31 Years‘ post went viral, a lot of strangers happened upon my blog and some of them felt moved to leave unpleasant comments. One told me I wrote like a 14-year old. Another told me that I looked like I was 37. While these comments are deeeeeply annoying
a) they’re not true
b) I don’t know these people – why should I care what they think?

When I mentioned in  a blog post that I’d dressed a Dios de los Muertos girl for Halloween, a reader (articulately, kindly) pointed out that dressing up in the theme of another culture’s religious holiday maybe wasn’t in the best taste, I listened, agreed, and thanked her for her input.

Sometimes you’ll get trolls, sometimes you’ll get thoughtful input from people who know you can do better. It’s important to be able to separate the two.

Keep a ‘smile file
Are you dying from how cheesy that name is? I don’t care, it totally works. Whenever a reader emails me to tell me a specific post really resonated with them or that the Network of Nice helped them meet their new best friend, it goes in the email folder labeled ‘smile file’. When an advertiser tells me their traffic increased by 1200% or sells out a workshop – into the ‘smile file’ it goes.

As humans, we all suffer from negativity bias - the tendency to recall more negative memories than positive ones. With that in mind, I’ve been building up a bunker of kind, supportive emails to help me get through the inevitable unfollows and trolls.

How do you deal with unfollows, unsubscribes, and snarky comments? Share your tips – I’m sure we’d all benefit!

P.S. Why having a personality on the internet will help your business

photo by Holly Victoria Norval // cc