3 Things Clients Want In Their Dream VA

Susan Drumm spent over a decade teaching companies like L’Oreal, Viacom and Conde Nast how to lead their teams towards multi-million dollar growth. Now she uses those same skills to help entrepreneurs grow their businesses to seven figure success. Your success as an entrepreneur depends on your ability to hire, inspire and lead team. Get her free ebook on hiring your dream VA here

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So you finally (finally!) feel like you’re getting this whole ‘self employment’ thing figured out. You can attend holiday dinners and discuss work with Nosy Aunt Ellen … and she might even understand what you do! You’ve got a nice roster of clients, a healthy profit margin, you’re even booked out a few months into the future. This is me, raising my glass to you.

What you don’t have a lot of?
Time.
Breathing space.
Wonderfully unscheduled afternoons for spontaneous coffee dates and reading in the park.

You need a virtual assistant.

I’ve helped hundreds of executives build sales-making, profit-multiplying, freetime-increasing teams, so I know a thing or three about hiring right.

If you’re ready to hire your first assistant – this post is for you.
If you’re interested in becoming a VA – this post is also for you!

Of course, every client and every job is different, but here are three things that will keep just about any client happy and just about any VA steadily booked.

1. Timely and honest communication

For clients
When you send your VA an email filled with instructions and tasks and a huge attachment, you want to make sure they actually, you know, received that email. You also want to know if they understood your request, have any follow up questions, or hit a snag.

When you’re interviewing candidates, rather than asking them how long it usually takes to respond to emails, ask them a more open ended question, like “what do you do when you receive an assignment?” and see what answer they volunteer. Do they mention that they confirm receipt and ask questions within 12 – 24 hours? You’ll get a more honest answer because they don’t know specifically what you are looking for and are more likely to tell you their true process/behavior. Follow up by asking them  what they’d do if a project was taking longer than they expected.

For VAs
Most clients will expect you to respond to their emails on the same day they send them (unless they send it after business hours.) Some clients don’t care – make sure you figure out which type your client is. If nothing else, most clients appreciate a “got it!” email with follow up questions in the next day or two.

Similarly, some clients would prefer that you spend an hour Googling a solution rather than asking them for help. Some want to know the minute you have a question. During your interview, ask your potential client about their communication ‘pet peeves.’

2. A basic grasp of 2-3 social media platforms and scheduling tools

For clients
Unless your business is completely offline, you’re probably on social media and you’re probably sick of spending hours writing tweets. You probably won’t find a VA who’s a bona fide expert in Facebook AND Twitter AND Pinterest AND Instagram AND Youtube (and if you do, they’ll probably be really expensive). It is, however, reasonable to expect your VA to have a good working knowledge of two or three platforms. They should understand how to schedule updates on those platforms and know some best practices associated with them.

For VAs
If you’re only proficient in Facebook, take some time to learn at least one other platform and definitely learn Hootsuite, Buffer, or Tweetdeck. If you’ve done social media work in the past, pull your analytics (average clicks per tweet, how much you grew a client’s profile, etc) and include that information in your resume.

3. A willingness to learn (like, really)

For clients
We all say we want to hire people who express a “willingness to learn” but when you’re working online it’s particularly important. Five years ago, Instagram wasn’t even a thing and seven years ago, blogging was a totally different animal. You’ll probably need your VA to learn new platforms and acquire skills that don’t even exist right now! When you’re interviewing VAs, ask them about the skills that they’ve learned in the last six months and what skills they plan to develop over the next six months? This way you’ll get a specific answer and get a good idea of where they’re all with these newly-acquired skills.

For VAs
Show potential clients that you’re serious about learning and improving; take classes, read trade journals and websites. Find a way to work this information about yourself into your interview!

The right VA (or the right client) can totally change your career. Hopefully, these tips will help you get a bit closer to finding one!

Have your ever hired a VA? Or worked as one? In the comments, I’d love to hear how you found your VA or your client!

Edited to add: this post was originally titled ‘3 things bosses look for in their dream VA’ but as many commenters validly pointed out, the relationship is much more client/vendor than boss/employee. Susan and I apologize for the ruffled feathers!

photo by jeff sheldon // via unsplash // cc

What to do when you feel ‘should-y’ about your business

what should i do with my business

I wish I could begin this post by telling you that I’m a human who is immune to jealousy, self-doubt, or second thoughts.

When I see someone with less experience than me charging twice my rates, I think “Cheers to them for having that much chutzpah!”

When I see someone launch a wildly successful online course in my own area of expertise I meditate on the ‘There’s enough success for everyone’ mantra and send them a congratulatory email.

When I read about creating a scale-able business or leading a mastermind group or creating in-depth, hands-on ecourses, I calmly think “That’s not for me.” AND THEN I NEVER THINK ABOUT IT AGAIN.

Just to be clear, none of the above statements are true.  

Like everyone else ever, I want my business to thrive. I read lots of business and blogging books and do my best to implement the tips that are the right fit for me + my business. I try my hardest to make decisions that will support a day-to-day life that looks and feels the way I want.

And yet.

That doesn’t stop me from struggling with ye olde “I see what they’re doing and it’s bringing them a lot of success and I know I could do it to and be good at it, I totally don’t want to do it but I know I theoretically could do it” neuroses.*

If you’ve never encountered this feeling – you are an amazing human and I’d like to be your friend.

If you have encountered it, you know what it looks like and how it feels.

It’s thinking you should publish new blog posts every day – even if you don’t like writing.

It’s thinking you should attend tons of conferences – even if you’re introverted, hate traveling, and have made tons of friends on Twitter.

It’s thinking you should launch a mastermind group – even if you prefer one-on-one client work and hate managing logistics.

If this sounds familiar, welcome to the club. I brought a cheese plate.

I brought this conundrum to my friend Laura and if it’s possible to cure someone of The Shoulds, I think she did.

Laura wisely pointed out that when we come down with a case of The Shoulds, we’re usually enamored of someone’s end result:  30,000 Instagram followers, a six-figure income, a book deal, a partnership with the big-name brand.

If you’re struggling with Shoulds (particularly Shoulds you know aren’t right for your) simply direct your gaze a few feet to the left, adjust your focus, and imagine the behind-the-scenes and day-to-day that went into creating those end results. Would you want to do the things necessary to get them?

Feel like you should be chasing a book deal? 
Imagine the weeks (or months!) that go into crafting the perfect proposal. Now imagine piles of unanswered queries or template rejection letters. Imagine getting your book deal and realizing that your hourly rate for this book would break down to about $2.

Feel like you should be creating an app like I did
Imagine 7 gajillion emails between your developer, you, and your designer and imagine you don’t understand the technical language in most of those emails. Imagine writing hundreds of short, inspiring snippets till your internal well runs so dry you look around your office thinking “Today, say yes to …. potted plants. calendars. lamp.”

Feel like you should be curating a beautiful, branded Instagram feed?
Imagine having a heart-to-heart conversation with a friend and stopping her mid-sentence so you can take a photo of your steaming soup. Imagine taking a sweet, meaningful photo of your travels but feeling like you can’t post it because the colors clash with your branding. Imagine strangers making snide comments about your hair/dog/choice of bedding.

I would never, ever dissuade you from going after something you truly want, something you know – in the marrow of your bones – is right for you. And the day-to-day reality of chasing any goal – even those we’re really excited about – is rarely glamorous.

But if you’re struggling to get past those should-y suggestions that leave you cold, take a minute to consider all the hard work you’d have to put into pursuing something you don’t even want.

Cured? Me, too.

Do you struggle with The Shoulds? I really feel like I ‘should’ be creating a course or a group offering, that I’m losing money by only offering one-on-one work. But I like one-on-one work! I don’t want to lead group calls or manage a Facebook group. What ‘shoulds’ are wrong for you? 

* Catchy name for a neuroses, right?

photo by Mike Lewinski // cc

7 things your business requests that you read, post haste.

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This Instagram pillow is adorable. Are we friends over there?

If you’re a blogger who offers sponsorship spots, this post is helpful and insightful.
The main thing I keep in mind with sponsorship is that, as a blogger, I have a responsibility to readers to remember that I’m vouching for each person whose blog I share. If I begin to share people and products who aren’t a good fit, the trust that I’ve established with readers begins to crack. I’ll stop being a source for quality posts and recommendations and risk losing readers’ interest and support.

Could changing your password change your life?

More life-changing happening in this post: The one simple habit that changed my entire business and life

Reading too many lifestyle blogs almost prevented Kyla from making money online. Are you struggling with the same thing?
By building on what my audience responded to I built a craft and lifestyle blog that got 40-50 comments per post, around 2000 views a day, monthly advertisers, and was publishing five days a week. Sounds successful, right? As a blog reader, I would have thought it was a booming, successful blog. At the time I was thrilled. But was also never going to make me a living.

Everything Quicksprout publishes is ridiculously helpful. This post about content creation strategies is no exception.

Yup. Your blog is your resume.

You’ve probably already read this. I have. I feel like I need to read it once a week for the rest of my life.
You Are Here: Blogging Advice.
Over and over, women sat down in front of my table – weary eyes with a single, fading spark – and said, “I want to be here, at X, but I just heard that I should be arriving here, at Y. What do you think?”
Run from the Y, I’d say. Run far, and fast, in the opposite direction of the should. Because the should – the Y – is a path that is not yours. It is a path for someone else, a path that very likely offers reward, but it is not your own. You found your own when you said “I want to be here, at X,” and isn’t that half the battle?

And a few posts you might have missed: How to create a style guide for your blog + 4 ways to reboot your business after a break. 

If you’ve recently read or written anything particularly helpful, leave links in the comments!

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What should I blog about? (Disclaimer: this is not a copy-and-paste list)

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Have you already read a million blog posts about blog posts? Copy and paste, SEO-friendly lists of ideas?

Me, too. Here are three good, helpful posts like that:
32 of the most popular blog post ideas
New year blog post ideas
70+ ideas for any blog’s editorial calendar

This post will not give you copy and paste titles. This is not where I suggest starting a meme-worthy post series like “what’s in your purse?”
(Not because I don’t want to know what’s in your purse because I totally do. What’s your stance on those round chapstick ball things?)

These are more start-of-the-brainstorming-session, open-to-your-interpretation suggestions. They’re a great place to start when you’re sitting down to plan out next month’s content.

With that said, here are five questions to ask yourself when you’re filling in that editorial calendar.

Am I working on any projects or offerings that I want to build buzz for? Can I give my readers a sneak peek of any upcoming stuff?
If you’re working on a brunch cookbook, write a post about the magic of brunch, link to your favorite brunchy recipes, tell people you’re working on the book, and tell them they can join your list so they’ll be the first to know when it comes out.

If you’re writing an ebook about getting over a break up, share a story about one of your breakups, what you learned from it, tell readers what you’re working on, and invite them to join your list. You get the idea!

Am I trying to grow my Twitter/Instagram/Pinterest followers this month?
Think about what you can write that pairs nicely with each of those platforms. If you’re trying to grow your Instagram following, do a roundup of Instagrammers you think people should follow (Kaelah does a nice job of this). @mention them so they know you’re talking about them and remind your readers that they can follow you.

If you’re trying to grow your Pinterest following, create content that relates to some of your best, most popular boards. Tell readers if they like this, then they’ll really love your Pinterest board on the same topic. (P.S. I have a whole board of blogging tips.) 

Is there anything happening this time of year that’s particularly important to my readers and clients?
Do your readers care that it’s tax season? That it’s New York Fashion Week? The shoulder travel season in Europe? Chinese New Year?

Think about the events that matter to your people and write content that helps them prepare and enjoy those events. During college graduation season I wrote about how to be a grown-ass woman and during the holiday shopping season I wrote about how to prepare your shop for a deluge of sales and customers.

Have there been any Big Deal developments in my industry or community that I should talk about?
What does it mean for your clients and readers when Facebook changes their policies? When gay marriage becomes legal? When there’s a polar vortex? When Apple releases a new phone? When New York makes Airbnb illegal?

I’m sure you stay up to date on the news and big developments in your industry and I’m sure you’ve got capital O Opinions. Share those with your readers! And if the developments are challenging or troubling, share any ideas about how to deal with them.

Have there been any big changes (good or bad, big or small) in my life that lead to epiphanies that would help my readers + clients?
Of course, if you blog exclusively about food it might be a bit weird to blog about your cat-ownership realizations. But most epiphanies aren’t industry-specific! I mean, I wrote about the business lessons I learned from creating a cat calendar.

Readers love to learn more about you and your life; they’ll probably enjoy hearing more about you while learning something useful.

What do you do when you’re drawing a blog post inspiration blank? I’d love to hear your solutions in the comments!

P.S. These are the questions I ask my clients for my new Blog In A Box offering. I’ve actually quietly been offering this for four months but it’s been so successful I only just now had the time to write the sales page!

photo via death to stock photo // cc

How To Host Your First Workshop

This post comes to us via Lauren Caselli,  a retreat and conference planner who works with creative entrepreneurs that want to get out from behind their computer screen and in front of their dream clients LIVE. If you want to host an event in 2015, she can help kickstart your planning process. Looking for some event-spiration? Follow along on Twitter and Instagram.

host-your-first-workshop
Hosting a workshop is a lot like hosting a well-planned dinner party. You want to get together with a heap of your best client pals, talk about The Things That You’re All Really Good At and Love to Do, and encourage each other on ways to become even better at your business and life.

But it all seems so overwhelming. Where do I start? Do I pick a date and then a space? How to I set up my agenda?

First things first.

Decide on your ‘Take Home’ idea

This is the most important step, and it’s the one that will set the tone for the rest of your event as well as the agenda.

Wanting your attendees to go home having set up their online mailing lists and gained each other as subscribers? You’ll probably want a creative studio with ample projection solutions, and WiFi to keep everyone working all day long.

Teaching a photography + styling workshop to brand-new photographers? You’ll want an open airy loft with lots of light, and lots of space to set different styling scenarios.

Hosting a mastermind style workshop where everyone gets to know each other’s businesses intimately? Think about a cozy hotel space or an inviting yoga studio during off hours.

Search for a venue

This is my super secret trick for finding unique, budget-friendly venues:

Google ‘Event Space + (your city)’. Google ‘Coworking Space + (your city)’ and see if they offer event rentals on weekends. Google ‘Best wedding venues + (your city)’.

(That last one is actually so I can get a list of hotels or unexpected venues that have ballrooms that might also have small, funky conference-style spaces).

I also always check out Evenues or Air BnB to see if those spaces are cheaper (and if your event isn’t going to be huge).

Once you get the venue sussed, you can set a date and start selling tickets!

Sort your budget

Once you’ve got your venue picked, you can suss your pricing structure. If the venue includes tables, chairs, and audio visual, I’d say that should be about 50% – 60% of your budget. Other things to make decisions on are:

Food: If people are there for longer than 2 hours, give ‘em a snack and some coffee. Longer than 4? Lunch would be so nice!

Swag: Treat your guests like gold with a little goody bag! Either use it as a way to brand yourself with pens, mugs (especially if you’re serving coffee at your event), a journal, and something pretty like a motivational art print or your favorite industry magazine.

(PRO TIP: You can also reach out to your community to see if they’d contribute swag as a form of sponsorship!)

Decor: If budget allows (and you’re up for it), a few fresh blooms in some mason jars are an instant space spiffer-upper. If the tables you’re using need a covering, consider renting or buying white table linens to make the space look clean and neat.

Host your event

Pretend you’re in school (but way more fun!). Take breaks often (every 60 minutes – 1.5 hours), leave plenty of space for chit chat, and don’t get too overwhelmed if people are asking more questions than you anticipated. It’s all a part of the process!

I highly recommend bringing a Hype Girl, aka a trusted friend who is a tiny bit Type A to help check people in when they arrive, call the space manager if the projector blows a bulb, and set out lunch for your guests while you’re wrapping up the morning session.

Have you ever hosted an event or workshop? I’d love to hear your tips in the comments!

P.S. How to blend the personal with the professional and How to get your customers to gossip about you.

photo by Juhan Sonin // cc

8 Things Your Business Wants You To Read

 

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Guys! I rounded up the best of the internet for you! Also, this awesome internet cat poster

Want to write an ebook? Here’s a 16-part (!) blog post series on just that – from writing to distribution to marketing. I’ve written three ebooks and now I realize how much more I could have done!

Related: an incredibly helpful post from Anna Watson who printed + published her own cookbook AND did a book tour AND all the promotion!
I reached out to the marketing department at Volkswagen on a whim, to see if they would be up for lending me a car for the trip. Amazingly, they said yes, and lent me a brand new silver Beetle Coupe. It was such a fun car to drive, and they let me just drop it off at LAX when I flew to Seattle. (I then flew back to NYC.) The whole trip lasted just under one month.

To help cover food costs, I reached out to Whole Foods (again, cold-calling the marketing department) and they agreed to cover the food and wine costs of the trip. GoPro also gave me a camera to document the trip – we got great footage, but I still have to learn to edit it so I can share it on my

Kyla rounds up a bunch of super helpful platforms and tools to help make your online business run more smoothly. I hadn’t heard of lots of these!

12 ways to get more people reading & sharing your blog from my girl Alex.

Do you have an auto-responder series?  It’s about half way down my internet to-do list. Here’s how to do it when we’re ready.

BOOKMARKBOOKMARKBOOKMARK. 23 Phrases Every Stressed Out, Strung Out, Well-Meaning (Yet Irritable) Business Owner Needs to Memorize TODAY.

“Though my hands are tied on this one, here’s what I can do:____________.”

“As a courtesy, I wanted to go ahead and send over my new rates for your records. (It’s such a blessing to be in demand.)”

“Thank you for the note, and the much-appreciated explanation regarding your position. Now let me help you understand a little bit about mine.”

Want to stay healthy while staring at a screen all day? These six stretches will help.

A cute home office is a productive home office, right? Here are 23 brilliant ideas to decorate and organize yours.

A couple posts you might have missed: 20 minutes to a (much) better business and Using Twitter lists for fame and fortune (or, you know, time-effective networking)

If you read/found/wrote anything awesome lately, leave the links in the comments!

4 Mistakes Just About Everyone Is Making Online

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Doesn’t that title seem alarmist?

Here is the  giant asterisk that should accompany it:
* And I was totally making these mistakes for years and only figured them out through working with hundreds of clients and I’d be remiss if I didn’t tell you about this so you can be smarter than me and not screw this up for years, too.

But that’s a pretty big asterisk, right?

If I’ve given your site a free once-over and sent you three suggestions (available to anyone on my list) or if you’ve purchased a Secret Weapon, there’s a good chance I’ve made these suggestions to you – because they’re super common! Thankfully, they only take a few minutes to fix. If you’re feeling ambitious, you can set aside a few minutes every day to work through your archives and tweak old posts or you can just do this for all your future posts!

1. No call-to-action on the About page
Call-to-action is copywriter speak for telling your readers what to do next. Your About page is your most visited page – the page people read before they hire you, buy your products, or sign up for your newsletter list. So shouldn’t we be telling them (politely) where they can buy our stuff, how they can work with us, how to sign up for our newsletter, and where they can find us on social media?

Here’s how I do it on my Yes & Yes About page:

Are you a yeasayer, a world-traveler or someone who needs helps making their online space amazing?
If you want, you can…
* Be friends on Facebook or Twitter (I promise to share photos of my cat in costume)
* Sign up for my non-annoying newsletters (Yes and Yes newsletter // Small Business newsletter)
* Buy a travel ebook to make your next trip waaaay more awesome (Adventures In Lady Travel // The Wanderlust Workbook)
* Book a Secret Weapon with me to shape up your online life
* Buy these jeans, this lipstick, these ballet flats, these packing cubes and thank me later

2. Not using  images in tweets
Did you know that image-based tweets are 94% (!!!) more likely to get retweeted? Crazy, right? I can certainly see this with my own tweets. (If you want to see how your tweets are performing, go to ads.twitter.com and click on ‘tweet activity.’)  Images should be 440×220 and you can even pre-schedule them with Tweetdeck!

Is it a hassle to create images specific to Twitter? Yes. Is it worth it? Toooootally. It’s particularly worth it for pretty, design-y posts like this or posts with titles too long for 140 characters.

3. Not making posts Pinterest-friendly
I only realized I needed to do this when Meg wrote this guest post for me! For a long time I ignored Pinterest because I couldn’t figure out how to “leverage it for my brand” (puke) but that’s sort of not the point. Even if you don’t use Pinterest, your readers probably do and they’ll be more likely to pin your posts if you’re using tall, long photos with appropriate title text. This is particularly important if you blog about food, fashion, DIYs, or design.

4. Not linking to older posts (or services or offerings) within blog posts
So many of us tuck a ‘hire me’ or ‘services’ tab into our menu bar and call it a day or we’ve got one of those archive widgets in the sidebar. But it’s a lot more engaging and clickable when we link to related posts within the text of a new post or write posts that relate to our newsletter opt-ins.

If you’re not sure how to work older posts into new posts in a natural-sounding, organic way just use ye olde P.S. trick. It’s an established (and crazy effective) copywriting trick to drive people towards your archives and it works a lot better than that those ‘related post’ plugins. You can see how I use it the P.S. trick here and the write-for-the-opt-in trick here.

What are some of the mistakes you made when you first started blogging? And if you’ve got a suggestions for how I could improve my site or blogging I’d love to hear it!

P.S. 6 more oddly obvious mistakes you might be making

photo by Daniel Novta // cc

13 Ways To Grow Your List You (Maybe) Haven’t Thought Of

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Of course, of course, of course by now you know that 

1. You need an email list or newsletter (it’s where most of your sales come from!)
2. It benefits you to have as many people as possible on that list

And you also probably know all the best, biggest ways to get people on that list. Yes? Yes.
You’ve got a clever opt in. (Mine’s two free ebooks and a free once-over of your site)
You guest post on big-deal site (like this)
And you regularly remind people about said list (LIKE THIS VERY POST THAT I AM RIGHT NOW WRITING)

But over the years I’ve discovered lots of little tweaks and tricks that slowly add up to more subscribers. None of these tips are going to net you 700 new subscribers in one day and I suggest you spread them out over the course of the year so you don’t annoy your readers. But added up? They’ll bring you more subscribers and more sales.

1. Post your signup in multiple places.
I’ve got mine in three places: below my header, in the footer, and on my About page; I noticed a huuuuuge difference when I did added the signup to more places. Most of my opt-ins come from the signup box that’s below my header.

2. Add the image of a book cover next to your signup box.
It’s a lot more engaging than a string of text; I noticed I started getting a lot more signups when Kim added the image.

3. Create pretty images related to the opt-in and use those on social media.
Use tall, long images for Google+ or Pinterest, 440×220 images for Twitter. You can see how I did this here.

4. Create images with pull-quotes from your opt-in and @mention the people who gave you those quotes.
They might re-tweet you! Also: we all love sweet photos with clever quotes. You can see how I did that here.

5. Periodically remind people about your opt-in on social media.
If you’re not doing it already, you can add a widget to your Facebook page so fans can sign up right there. Use Mailchimp’s lead generation cards so followers can sign up right on Twitter.

6. Write blog posts that relate to your opt-in and link to your signup form in those posts.
Is your opt-in a collection of gluten-free recipes? Link to it every time you post a gluten-free recipe. Is your opt-in about building a following on Instagram? Link to it whenever you include a lot of your Instagram photos in a blog post. You can see how wrote content that matches my opt ins  here and here.

7. Allow for the possibility of a popup.
Are popups annoying? Yes. Do they work? Super yes. I’m using an IP-sensitive popup right now. That means once you close my popup, you won’t see it again until you empty your cache or use a different IP.  I like to believe it’s not tooootally annoying ;)

8. When you write a guest post for someone or buy ad space, rather than just linking back to your homepage, link to your newsletter signup page.

9. “P.S. sign up for my newsletter!”
As you’ve probably noticed, I love a good P.S. It’s an old copywriting trick and it works like a charm! Occasionally, at the bottom of posts, do something like ‘P.S. Don’t want to miss the good stuff? Join my list and I’ll send you my best writing once a week!’

10. When people say nice things about your newsletter, be sure to retweet them or post about it on social media – and include a link to the signup page.

11.  If you haven’t already done it, customize your opt-in page, thank you page, and confirmation email.
They should all feel unique, personal, and on-brand. I regularly get compliments on mine!

12. Link to the opt-in in your email signature

13. Link to the signup page in your Twitter bio
Hilary Rushford does a good job with this!

That’s it! Those are all my slowly-but-surely, no-longer-secret tips!

Now tell me, have you done anything special or surprising to grow your list? I’d love to hear your tips in the comments!

P.S. If you’d like more awesome insights like this – but customized for you and your business – you might like my Secret Weapon. I tripled a client’s signups in two months!

photo by Hannah // cc

5 Ways To Really, Actually Enjoy Networking (Or At Least Hate It Less)

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This guest post comes to us via
Alexa Fischer, a communication coach who helps her clients feel confident and comfortable speaking anywhere – in presentations, at networking events, on video. You can get free admittance to her Public Speaking 101 course here or follow along on Twitter and Facebook.

 

Did you put ‘Attend more networking events‘ at the top of this year’s list of resolutions?
Make awkward small talk with strangers while shoving my business card in their direction‘?
Wander around hotel ballrooms while avoiding eye contact‘?

No? Now I find that surprising. ;)

Most of us think we hate networking. We think it’s a necessary evil and if we do it at all, we probably do it with a healthy dose of grumbling and side eye. Regardless of your industry – coaching, photography, copywriting, or a brick and mortar business – your business will benefit from networking.

And it’s really, actually possible to do without dying inside. Here’s how.

  1. Stop telling yourself (and anyone who will listen) how much you hate networking events

If you spend 20 minutes complaining about networking for every 10 minutes you spend actually networking you’re not going to get any closer to liking it. We all do things we don’t like that are good for us in the long run (I’m looking at you, 6 am spin class). It’s part of being a successful adult. It’s okay if networking isn’t your new hobby, but commit to stopping the complaints.

  1. View networking as an opportunity to help + connect people (rather than just promote yourself)

This is the biggest, best thing you can do for yourself and your business. Can’t you just feel your shoulders relaxing at the thought of it?

Instead of feverishly prowling the room looking for people to pitch, what if you just approached someone with a friendly face and talked to them like a human being? And then when they mention that they’re struggling with social media, you can tell them about your beloved Twitter guru. Or when they say they need a virtual assistant for 10 hours a week, tell them about yours.

If they’re buying something you’re selling or need help with something you know about, by all means tell them about it! But don’t worry or rush or force yourself to ‘always be closing,’ just be the kind, helpful human that you usually are.

  1. Don’t limit the conversation to business stuff

You’re more than a web developer or a wedding photographer – and so is everyone else at this networking event. Go ahead and ask people what they did last weekend, if they’re doing anything fun this winter, what they’re reading. Their answers will give you insight into their personalities that a job title won’t and you’ll be a lot more likely to connect when you discover you both love winter vacations to Utah.

  1. Invite people to join your conversation

Don’t you hate hovering at the outside of a conversation circle, doing that thing where you nod and make eye contact and devotedly hope that someone will include you? Be the person who invites others in.

Include them by telling them what you’re talking about and inviting them to contribute. “We were just talking about our post-holiday plans and our obsessions with Park City, Utah. Are you doing anything fun to get through the rest of the winter?”

  1. If you’re really, truly shy, don’t force yourself to stay for three hours

If you’re introverted or really uncomfortable in groups don’t force yourself to network for a million hours. Give yourself a goal (talk to three new people, stay for 45 minutes) and when you’ve met that goal, head home to your Netflix. Maintaining your sanity is a lot more important than exchanging one more set of business cards.

How do you feel about networking? Share your best tips in the comments!

P.S. How to befriend bloggers

photo by Rex Roof // cc

A Holiday Break + 5 Of My Best Posts

It’s December! Which means it’s time for egg nog and ugly thematic sweaters and being simultaneously excited about the holidays and stressed out.

In an attempt to create some of that work/life balance I’m always banging on about, I’m taking a break from my small business blog for the month of December.

But I’ve rounded up five of my most helpful archived posts to keep you busy. I’ll still be tweeting about gummy vitamins that don’t taste enough like candy and posting photos of my strange travel destinations, so you can always follow along there.

And if you’d like the holiday gift of a teeny, tiny consult – sign up for my newsletter and send me your URL. I’ll give your site a once-over and send you three specific-to-you suggestions to make your online space leaner, cleaner, more lucrative + traffic-ful. 

Happy holidays, guys!

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