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.

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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’

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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. 

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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

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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

3 Ways to Make Your Images Waaaay More Pinterest-Friendly

Meg Sylvia’s passion is helping bloggers & entrepreneurs self-publish eBooks by providing intuitive planning, contemporary design, and strategic marketing. Interested in growing your business by launching your own e-product? Click here to see how she can help you turn your idea into reality! Follow along on Facebook or Twitter.

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We’ve all heard that Pinterest can be used for increasing traffic to our blogs, but how many of us take the time to create images that are actually Pin-worthy?

Is it worth your time to put in the extra effort, especially if you’re not exactly comfortable with photo editing?

Not only can these photos be used to gain Pinterest traffic, but they can also be used across your other social media channels to increase click-through rates and build a sense of creative consistency across your brand. So, yes! It can definitely be worth the time. Let’s take a look at how simple this can be, and a few of my favorite ways to create images for your blog that are ideal for Pinterest sharing.

First, you have a few options for simple photo editing:

Photoshop.  
The most useful and commonly used photo editing software. If you don’t already have Photoshop, you can purchase it for $10 / month from Adobe.
Outsource.
If you have no desire to design images, outsource! Sites like elance.com and odesk.com offer a multitude of great designers willing to do one-off or contract projects for a fair price.
Free Software.
If you’re interested in creating your own images but don’t want to invest in expensive software, go for free. One of my favorites is called Pixlr.com – essentially a free and intuitive version of Photoshop.

Choose images that are high quality and Pinterest friendly
Vertical images take up more space on the Pinterest feed and since they stand out better than small horizontal images, they tend to gain more Pins. So, our first goal when searching for photos is to choose images that are vertically oriented. Remember however, that you can often crop a horizontal image into a vertical image.

Our next goal is to look for quality photos. I could discover the most helpful and informative blog post on the Internet, but if the image is poor quality, I simply refuse to Pin it. Pinterest snob Maybe, but Pinterest is literally based on interesting images, and images that aren’t visually appealing aren’t going to make the cut!

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(This image is a great example of Pinterest-friendly. Bright, clear photo: check. Vertical formatting: check. Bold, eye-catching, relevant text: check!)

Where can you find these beautiful images? Here’s the resources I use to find high-quality free images:

500px.com (My absolute favorite resource. You’ll want to look under Attribution 3.0 and Share Alike – you can use these as you please for free, as long as you credit back to the artist.)
FreeImages.com 
Morguefile.com
Flickr Creative Commons search
Use your own quality photos!

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2. Create a template to save time and ensure brand consistency
On my blog, I use the same format for all of my long-form articles images, and another template for my series articles. Not only does this make it much quicker for me to create images (I don’t have to think about what fonts to use, how to arrange the text, etc. each time I create a blog post), it creates uniformity that helps trigger my brand in readers’ minds when they see it across a variety of social channels.

Creating a template will be easiest if you are using Photoshop. In order to create the template:

Create a new document at 72 resolution, somewhere around 600px wide by 800px tall.
Place a sample image into the document.
Play around with fonts and layers until you have a setup you like. (I’d suggest carrying fonts and colors from your website branding into the template!)
Save this as a .PSD file, and when you want to create a new image, simply replace the image layer and type the new headline in the text layer.

3. Get creative with conveying a blog post as a graphic

Another way you can create images for high-sharing on Pinterest is to create an infographic or oversized visual of your blog post. These certainly require a bit of graphic design skill and time investment (or a small monetary investment, if you’re going to outsource it,) but these types of images are very popular across Pinterest boards. You don’t need to create brand-new content in order to make these – simply take the content from your blog post and shorten it down into key points.

Some examples of high quality, highly-shared graphics:

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Pinterest can be a useful tool for increasing traffic to your site if you put aside a few extra minutes to create a beautiful image to compliment each of your blog posts.

Your turn! What factors makes you want to Pin an image that others can apply to improve their blogging images?

P.S. Why having a disjointed social media presence is hurting your business and How to be amazing at social media without letting it consume your life.

8 links for bloggers + small businesses that are helpful like WHOA

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There are so many smart, helpful people writing smart helpful things on the internet! I rounded up some particularly amazing things for you.

Wait, what? Did you know you can track which of your posts get pinned? And how frequently? And by whom?

Co-signed. Stop using Twitter as a Facebook feed. It looks laaaaazy.

Gosh, but I love transparency. Pinch of Yum is a super successful food blogger and each month she and her husband assemble (and publish!) a traffic and income report. Just reading this made me consider several new income streams! Because if she’s making $23,000+ a month it seems like she knows what she’s doing.

More transparency: the reality of many sponsored posts.

5 tips you’d never think of for personalizing stock photos in social media.

More things I didn’t know about! 12 blogger outreach programs you should sign up for – especially if you’re a fashion, design, or food blogger!

In case you need to be reminded how to run a smart, engaging social media campaign.

If you’re a copywriter (or a writer of any sort) you’ll enjoy these 12 writing exercises that will transform your copy.

Have you read/learned/encountered/written anything good lately? Leave links in the comments!

P.S. Work happiness secret: track your efforts, not your accomplishments and 5 ideas for interesting, I-actually-want-to-click-that tweets.

photo by aleksi tappura // cc

8 Things You Can (and Should!) Do When Business Is Slow

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It happens to the best of us. Things are rolling along nicely – new clients! big meetings! money dripping into your account at a sweet and steady pace!  And then allofasudden, nothing but the sound of wind down a long hallway and an owl in the distance. Whoooooo! Whooooo!  Whoooooo are you going to live with when business dries up? 

For the first few days, you treasure the empty inbox. You go to matinees, grab long lunches with friends, and catch up on your Netflix.

But after a few weeks, you start getting a little nervous. Nervous and twitchy and compulsively checking your bank account balance – as though seeing that number is going to help at all.

Dude. Worry not. All of us – every single self-employed human – has gone through dry spells. At the risk of being a total Pollyanna, let’s try to reframe this downtime as an opportunity to get some awesome stuff done.

Here are eight confidence-building, business-netting things you can (and should!) do when business is slow. 

Update your permanent pages
Despite my years as a professional copywriter, I had the same About page for, oh, ever. And my old sales pages? Well, they’re gone now AND THAT IS NOT AN ACCIDENT. I regularly look through and update older, high traffic posts but it’s rare that I look at my own permanent pages – and I bet you’re the same. Seems a bit narcissist to read your own bio on the regs, right?

But other people are constantly reading your About page and Sales pages – my Yes and Yes About page has 50,000+ views! Here’s a 15-part tutorial to help you write better sales pages and here’s a post full of great ‘cheats’ to finish your About page.

Also – you know your About page should end with a call to action, right? Like, you (charmingly) ask them to follow you on social media and/or subscribe to your list? Yeah, I thought you already knew that.

Update and gather testimonials
In a perfect world, you’d have an automated system in place to help you gather testimonials a week or so after you’ve wrapped up with a client. I’m still working out the kinks in mine, but thus far it consists of an email that I schedule for two weeks after we’re finished with a link that takes them to a Google form. The form elicits all sorts of feedback and they let me know if I can use that feedback on my testimonial page.

Not sure what makes a good testimonial?
1. Data! How many more sales? How many more Twitter followers? How many dates? How much money or time saved? We want hard numbers, son.
2. Barriers to purchase that were overcome. “I always thought life coaches were for hippies, but then I hired Nancy.” “$1,500 seemed like a lot of money to invest in my engagement photos, but it was sooooo worth it.”

Contact previous clients and see if they need anything
It’s a million times easier to get repeat business than convert a new customer. Go have a good online stalk of all your previous clients and see if there’s anything you can help with. They’ve been tweeting about a big new project – do they need your help designing the website? She tweeted that they’re expecting a baby – do they need pregnancy photos? Send a sweet, personalized email reaching out and offering to help.

Optimize some of your older, high-traffic posts and re-promote them
Make the post images Pinterest-friendly! Make the posts more readable! Include links to other posts within this post! See if you can use them as guest posts on other sites!

Then re-promote these newly awesome-i-fied posts on your social media channels. Eassssy.

Pitch guest posts or offer yourself up for interviews
When I offered myself up for interviews, I got about 15 takers (!) over a month and a half. That means that heaps of new readers and potential clients heard and read all about me. Nice, right? You can do the same. Find podcasts that regularly feature people in your field and pitch yourself!

You’d also do well to bookmark sites that feature guest posters in your field. Some particularly great ones: Freelancers Union, Oh My Handmade, and  Designsponge’s Biz Ladies column.

Create a different form of your offerings
Can you turn a one-on-one offering into a group offering? Could you turn an e-course into a live workshop? Could you repurpose an old, no-longer-selling-that-well ebook into a series of blog posts? Or guest posts? There are innumerable ways to reinvent your wheel.

Learn that thing you know you should be learning (but have been putting off)
Like, A/B split testing. Or Google Analytics. Or starting a newsletter. Or making videos. Or creating a series of autoresponders.  You knooooow you should be doing these things (and by ‘you’ I also mean ‘me’). Let’s make a pact to finally figure them out. Ready? Go.

Schedule out a bunch of social media updates
I’m a huge fan of promoting other people’s work and I think it’s been a big part of my ‘online success,’ as counterintuitive as that may seem.  I squirrel away great posts and links that I find all over the internet and then schedule out daily ‘Fave Read of The Day’ tweets. (Are we Twitter friends? We should be.)  These pre-scheduled tweets send traffic to lovely people, entertain my Twitter friends, and help me connect with the people I’m promoting.

You can also pre schedule tweets that promote your products and services or link to older, now-optimized posts.

What do you do when business is slow? Leave your tips in the comments!

P.S. If you liked this and don’t want to miss future posts (and you want two free ebooks that’ll help your business), may I be so bold as to suggest that you sign up for my newsletter?

photo by scott robinson // cc

I Made Something New! (Other people liked it. You might, too?)

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One of the ‘Executive Decisions’ I made when I started working for myself was that I wanted to keep my clients close and my work personal.

I have absolutely nothing against bloggers who run workshops/mastermind groups/group course but that’s not really my style. My own blog is a bit not-by-the-books (even if there’s a lot of strategy behind it) and when I’ve taken group courses, so much of the advice I received was one-size-fits-all-blogs.

While I appreciate your advice, Other Professional Blogger, I don’t do makeup tutorials so no, I shouldn’t pitch Benefit.
And no, I don’t want to do sponsored Twitter parties.
And no, I don’t want to go to an all-inclusive resort in exchange for 57 hashtagged tweets.

Again, there’s nothing wrong with any of those things (they’re all money-makers!) they’re just very much not for me.

But one-on-one consulting is speeeeeendy. If someone knows what they’re doing, their hourly consulting rate usuallystarts at $200. And ad space on high-traffic blogs can start at $900!

I wanted to create something for micro-businesses, bloggers, or shoe-string-budget sites that would pair customized, just-for-you suggestions and strategy with ad space on Yes and Yes at a rate they could actually afford. 

Enter: Secret Weapon.
Price: $250.

Secret Weapon is a built-just-for-you checklist of 15-20 suggestions for your online space paired with traffic-rocketing ad space.

Depending on your goals + products, we can get you
* more sales + better conversions
* readers that stick around
* heaps more newsletter signups
* a bigger, more engaged social media following
* guest posts on big, high-traffic websites
* more retweets, pins, likes

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“I’ve only been had time to implement half of the suggestions Sarah gave me. But with just two months and seven changes, I’ve seen a marked increase in comments (three times as many as this time last year), 140+ new Twitter followers, 460+ new Pinterest followers, and readers are spending 52% more time on my site. My Domain Authority increased from 23 to 27, which from an SEO perspective, is amazing! Her suggestions with a good mix of quick fixes and more long-term enhancements that I know will lead to big things. Sarah gives you a phenomenal amount of insight and traffic for your marketing dollar.”
Erika Sevigny, All Things E

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Interested? Here are the details:

  • Click that ‘Book Now’ to let me know you’re ready for your Secret Weapon
  • Fill in this handy, dandy form with your  URLs, traffic stats, and business goals so I can properly stalk you
  • Within 2 business days, I’ll send you a packet with 15-20 specific-to-you suggestions
  • You spend the next 30(ish) days taking some (or all!) of that advice and polishing your online life till it shines
  • At the beginning of the next month, your 220×100 ad goes into the Yes and Yes sidebar and your images, products, and social media links are included in a sponsor post seen by all of my readers (even the ones reading in RSS feeds)
  • You bask in the glory of new clients, more traffic, and an online space you’re proud of


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“Secret Weapon helped me gain so many Instagram and Pinterest followers! I can pinpoint the sharp increase in Instagram and Pinterest followers to the day I started using Sarah’s suggestions on my blog. I went from gaining a few new followers per week to a couple dozen. And the ad space was great! My data-loving jaw dropped 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.  Alicia Johnston, Jaybird


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I really hope you’ll let me immerse myself in your online space, help you perfect it, and then introduce you to my readers. I just know that Secret Weapon will totally change your online life!

P.S. If you’re looking for your weekly dose of small business and blogging advice, check out my guest post post Coaching Blueprint about how to create a sane, sustainable editorial calendar!

 

Fix Your Time Estimates, Make More Money

This guest post comes to us from Michelle, who lives in Austin, TX where she teaches creative freelancers how to be more productive and organized and also does writing and content marketing for businesses. When she’s not working, she can be found hanging out with her Shiba Inu, watching an exceedingly nerdy show (or New Girl), and consuming copious amounts of dark chocolate and coffee/tea. 

make better time estimates

Service providers are often told to “productize” their services by creating packages – for example, instead of having editing services available at $50/hr, having a “blog post package” that includes editing of 5 blog posts (up to 1,000 words) and editorial calendar suggestions at a set package price.

There’s not a one-size-fits-all solution when it comes to freelancing, and this is no exception – billing hourly instead of creating service packages might be the best way for you to go. There’s definitely a few strong benefits to going the package route, though:

  • As you do the work, you’ll get faster at it – meaning that you’re making a better hourly rate per package without having to have the “I’m raising my hourly rates” conversation every other month,
  • Having set service packages can prevent “scope creep” syndrome (i.e. “Can you just do this one more thing?”) – clients may still ask for additions, but you have a clear set of services that you agreed to provide for them based on the service package they chose.
  • It makes monthly income goals easier and more attainable – “I need to sell five of this package and two of that one” seems a lot more doable than “I need to bill at least 80 hours this month at $X/hr.”

The main pitfall of going this route is that, as human beings, we notoriously suck at creating accurate time estimates. Our brains are just not wired that way, unfortunately – “accurately guessing how long it takes to write a blog post” was prrrobably a low priority compared to “knowing not to antagonize a saber-toothed tiger” and “ability to run quickly.”

Getting better at it takes practice, and you will improve over time – but I still regularly talk to freelancers who are several years in and figuring it out. Learning the trial and error way is long and hard and quite frankly, it sucks. Instead, today I’m going to teach you why you probably suck at time estimates and how to create more accurate ones.

Why you probably suck at time estimates

As mentioned, “creating accurate time estimates for abstract tasks” was probably pretty low on the totem-pole, evolutionarily. However, there’s another major culprit at play here, which is being in flow.

Most of the time you’re doing your work-work (writing copy or editing if you’re a writer, actually laying out design if you’re a designer, etc.) you’re in flow state – you’re totally engaged in what you’re doing, and you’re a little challenged but not so challenged that you’re frustrated. When you sit down to work, get engrossed in a project, and suddenly look up and it’s three hours later and oh yeah, you really need to eat something? 

That’s flow state.

There’s been several studies done on this and one definitive work. Being in flow state is a really good thing – it’s similar to meditating in that doing it regularly can help dial down anxiety and increase overall feelings of well-being. Not to mention if you’re in flow state, that means you’re creating higher quality work. The problem is that one of the defining attributes of the state is that you lose track of time – we literally have no concept of time while we’re in that state. Hence, bad time estimates.

The second thing that people forget about when creating time estimates is “switching cost.” This is what happens when you change from task A to task B, and you’re not quite engaged in task B yet, but you’re not working on task A any more either, so you have about 15-30 minutes (sometimes longer, but that’s about the average) where you’re much less productive than you’d normally be. This is one of the reasons that multitasking is supposed to tank productivity instead of helping it – you’re constantly going between tasks, so you’re not doing either thing to the fullest extent of your abilities.

Now that you know what’s going on behind the scenes, let’s talk about how to fix it. 

How to create an accurate time estimate for your service package:

  1.  Create a task list for the package. This list needs to include every. single. thing. that happens in between you receiving payment and the client getting their final product. The problem people run into here is that they say, “Oh, it’s simple! They pay me, I write the copy, we do a round of edits, and we’re done! So my task list is short.” Nuh uh. It’s more like: they pay you, you have to send the intake questionnaire, you book the first appointment, you have to review their answers and take notes before the appointment…you get the idea. Every single task, no matter how small, put it on the list. Administrative work, intake work, the process of them getting the deliverables and paying the final balance, everything.
  2. Once you have that task list, create a time estimate for every single task. Ideally, you’re basing this off of actual data you have, because you’ve been tracking your time. Less ideally and more realistically, you’re kind of spitballing it (but that’s okay, as long as you start tracking your time and check back to see how accurate your estimates were). Be as accurate as you can, and again, don’t forget to include things like email – how many emails do you send to a client on average? How long does it take you to type and send each email? And so on.
  3. Then, add 15 minutes between each task. This is to cover the aforementioned switching cost and make sure it’s not coming back to haunt you, come the end of the project.
  4. Add the time estimate up and then multiply it by 1.5.

You’re probably thinking that’s a lot of padding, and it kind of is. Part of the reasoning behind all the extra padding is that I have had freelancers do this exercise and then check back with me in a few weeks. And…they usually find that after tracking their time, the x1.5 estimate was, in reality, pretty close to how much time they’re actually spending.

Part of the idea is that not every service package is going to take exactly the same amount of time. Sometimes you just have a harder time nailing the design or copy or whatever – one client might use all the rounds of revisions, one might not use any. You need to account for both of those clients in your time estimates and create a range that you can use to double-check your pricing against – if you have a client who uses the amount of time in your high-end estimate, are you still making a livable wage? 

Crappy time estimates are a large contributor to “I’ve cut down my spending, I’m working way too much, and I’m still not making enough money – what gives?” syndrome. Which, personally, is a syndrome that I’d like to see eradicated once and for all – so do your homework and make sure your time estimates don’t suck!

Do you struggle with time estimates? What tricks have you used to get better?

P.S. An insanely basic plan for starting a business + working for yourself and How to juggle freelance + a job + a blog

photo by // cc

7 Crazy helpful links for bloggers + creatives + small business owners

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In which I round up incredibly helpful links for you! In the theme of self-employment, creativity, and small business!

I’ve hung up my copy-writing gloves (with the exception of this one client) but if you need guidance writing a sales page this 15-part blog series is SO INSANELY HELPFUL.

Is it just me or is Google Analytics ridiculously non-intuitive? Ugh. Never fear, Freelancers Union is sharing the basics with us.

I pour 90% of my social media effort into Twitter (are we friends?) so this super scientific breakdown of words to use (and avoid) is incredibly helpful.

You pre-schedule out your Tweets, right?  Are you using the Buffer app? And if you are, are you doing it correctly?

If work is wearing you down or you’re just having a tough time staying positive, here are five tips to staying happy even when you’re exhausted.

Did you know you can make your images more SEO-friendly?

Podcast recommendations for creatives and small business owners – I hadn’t heard of most of these!

And a few things you might have missed: Why you need to post consistently and How to blog if you don’t like writing

letterpress print by awkward ladies club

7 interesting, innovative blog posts ideas you haven’t seen a million times before

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It’s painfully easy to believe that there’s nothing new on the internet.
A vignette of adorable, striped clothing we can’t afford ? Seen it. 
A numbered list of ways you can improve something? I WRITE THOSE ALL THE TIME
Interviews? Dur. A bunch of curated links? Hell, I tell all my clients to do that (because those posts are incredibly effective.) 

But occasionally I stumble over something new and head-turning on the internet. Something that makes me think “Well, aren’t you clever?!  I think you might have just reinvented the wheel! Or at least framed something in a particularly awesome and new way.”

And then I add those blog posts to a folder titled ‘non-boring post inspiration.’

If you’re looking for a bit of motivation, or just some reassurance that blogging is more than product roundups and personal essays, look no further. Here are 7 I’ve-never-seen-that-before blog posts that might suit you and your blog, too.

1. Taking stock

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Posted by: Pip of Meet Me At Mike’s
Why it’s innovative: It’s community-building and meme-worthy. Lots of bloggers create posts that consist of their Instagram accounts or occasionally tell us what books they’re reading, but Pip’s 36-item list gives her readers an easy to digest but close look into her life – which readers usually love! It’s short, easy to read, and oddly fascinating. It’s also totally meme-worthy and I could see lots of other bloggers using this template and linking back to her.

Your spin on it: If you write a topic-specific blog you could create a list like this for you and your readers! If you’re food blogger it could be things like: currently eating, new recipe I’m trying, seasonal food I can’t wait to stock up on, latest kitchen purchase, cookbook I’m currently obsessed with, super unhealthy thing I love. You get the idea!

2. Links visually arranged by theme

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Posted by: Brittany of The House That Lars Built
Why it’s innovative: This is really just a link roundup (and you know how I feel about those) but it’s been framed in a fun, thematic way. Readers are much more likely to click on those links and showcasing other bloggers’ work in such a pretty, professional way is incredibly flattering.

Your spin on it: Wouldn’t this be a cute, click-catching way to arrange links for a topic-specific blog? If you’re a beauty blogger, you could round up DIY beauty treatments for hair, face, hands, and feet. If you’re a fashion blogger, you could round up accessories for head, ears, neck, wrists, and feet.

3. The world’s shortest, most engaging travel post

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Posted by: Amber of Code for Something
Why it’s innovative: It’s a short, engaging way to catalog memories of a specific time + place and share your travels (without boring your readers). If you’ve ever returned from a long, exciting trip and tried to tell your friends about it, you know that people have a verrrrrrry short attention span for travel stories. They weren’t there. They don’t care about squat toilets. The same goes for blog readers. They probably just want to see your photos and read the extremely abridged, bullet-pointed version of the trip. This post communicates novels of insight in just a few words.

Your spin on it: Tune into your senses when you’re someplace new. And then (succinctly) tell your readers about it.

4. A visual link roundup for an imaginary event

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Posted by: Kelly at Design Crush
Why it’s innovative: Again, it’s pretty much a link roundup, but it’s organized in a gorgeous way that’s helping readers accomplish something specific. Like, lots of readers probably saw this and thought “Oh, me too! I’ve been wanting to throw an appetizer party! And lo, now I have all the resources!”

Your spin on it: You could do this with just about anything – recipes, products, and resources that will help your readers plan an awesome camping trip. A roundup of useful things that would help someone with a cross-country move. A collection of things for new moms. Possibilities = endless.

5. 10-second video tour (using still photos) 

Posted by: Designsponge*
Why it’s innovative: We’ve all seen video tours of spaces or photo tours, but this is the first time I’ve seen still photos turned into a mini-video! It’s great for those of us with short attention spans and it’s a fantastic way to showcase something even if you’re not a super experienced videographer.

Your spin on it: The possibilities are endless: A tour of your space! Super simple DIYs! Recipes!

6. Audio-ified posts

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Posted by: Esme Wang
Why it’s innovative: Everyone and their brother has a podcast, but what about blog posts? If you’re an aural learner, dyslexic, or you like to cook and clean while absorbing lovely content, the audio versions of blog posts are super useful. It would be particularly fun to listen to blog posts read by your favorite bloggers who have regional accents!

Your spin on it: I’m not sure there’s a way to spin this – just give it a try! Maybe go through your archives, make audio versions of your best stuff, and then tell your Twitter friends to check out your new and improved blog posts.

7. Glorious promotional Instagram photos

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Posted by: Elise Blaha of Elise Joy
Why it’s innovative: Obviously, this isn’t so much a blog post as a way to promote blog posts – but it sure is clever, isn’t it? I’ve struggled to find ways to promote blog posts on Instagram, usually settling for one of the photos I use in the post. Which isn’t particularly engaging. This is so much more interesting!

Your take on it: Think about how you can use handwriting, actual photos, post its, tape, or even gift tags to create images that promote posts.

What are some of the most interesting, unusual blog posts you’ve seen lately? Leave links in the comments!

P.S. Need help coming up with blog post ideas? I can help with that!

photo by death to stock photo

How to take a summer vacation from your blog (without losing all your traffic or business)

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As the child of two teachers and an inveterate, unrepentant traveler I’ve developed a severe aversion to working during the summer
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What? Social media strategy? If by ‘social media strategy’ you mean ‘white sangria in my friend’s backyard.’
Can I do this conference call from the dock? Wrapped in a He-man towel? Because that’s what’s happening.

But since I spread my travel out over the whooooole year, taking three months off – smack dab in the middle of it – isn’t really an option. And I imagine you’re in a similar situation: wanting to slow things down a bit, but not quite ready/able to remove your foot from the proverbial pedal.

If you, too, would like to take a summer vacation of sorts from your blog (without falling off the face of the internet or losing all your business) here are six ways to do just that. 

1. Do a guest post swap
If you, like me, have been blogging for years upon years, you probably have some great content that’s accruing mold in your archives. And I bet your internet friends do, too. Why not ask them if they’re interested in swapping some particularly phenomenal older posts? New readers (and potential clients) will see your stuff and you won’t have to do any extra work!

2. Rewrite old posts
In those aforementioned moldy archives I bet you’ve got some great ideas that weren’t written or expressed particularly well the first time around. It’s okay! That’s the reality of blogging for years – you get shockingly, staggeringly better as you go. Dig through your archives and see if there are any low-traffic-but-good-idea posts that you can polish up, optimize, and repost.

3. If you have approval, post things you wrote for other blogs/websites/publications
Sometimes, when you write a guest post, you’re forbidden from posting that content anywhere else. If that’s not the case (triple check to make sure) repost it on your own site. To keep your karma clean, include an introduction that says something like “This piece originally appeared on Tiny Buddha but it got such a good response I thought you guys might like to take a peek at it, too.”

4. Reformat + repurpose old posts
THIS TIP IS WORTH ITS WEIGHT IN FINELY AGED CHEDDAR. All those clever, helpful posts in your archives? Take all the useful information contained therein and put it in a different format. My ‘How to get over a breakup‘ post is one of my most popular. I could turn it into an infographic, a podcast, a video, or create a worksheet to go with it, turn it into an ebook and use it to bulk up my newsletter list. Here’s an insanely helpful post about all the other ways you can repurpose content.

5. Schedule out posts and tweets into the future
If you’re super ambitious or reluctant to share blogging duties with anyone else, it’s totally possible to write all your own content and schedule your posts and social media weeks (or months!) into the future. When I’m traveling, I usually have 90% of my content scheduled and check in and update from time to time.

6. Just don’t post
Last summer, I made the executive decision that I wasn’t going to post on Fridays anymore on Yes and Yes. I felt like work was eating my life and that I was just doing a lot of things poorly and nothing very well. And you know what the response was? Good for you Sarah! Taking this time to do you will definitely help enhance all aspects of your life. Enjoy your summer!” and “You are one of the few bloggers I read who posts seven times a week. You deserve to do All The Things with happiness and ease. Cheers to playing outside instead of sitting at a computer! Happy Weekend. :)”

In the best and most loving way, let us remember that the world will turn even if we do not post. The internet will not break if we don’t post every day.

Are you taking a summer vacation from your blog or business? How are you managing it? Share your tips in the comments!

P.S. Want more super applicable advice like this – tailored to you and your business? Check out Laser Focus.

 photo by // cc