How To Juggle A Blog + A Freelance Career + A Day Job + Life

Dear Sarah,
I am right now working on my own website and trying to cobble together a little freelance writing business. I was just wondering if you could speak to HOW YOU DO ALL THE THINGS? And HOW YOU DID ALL THOSE THINGS WHILE ALSO WORKING FULL-TIME?  I frequently look over my To Do List and there’s like eleventy jillion things on it. I mean, writing that list is exhausting enough. And then DOING it? And THEN trying to get clients to find me, let alone HIRE ME?!
- Lauren

Oh, girl.  I hear you.  For those of you who don’t know, when I first started Yes and Yes, I worked full time as an ESL teacher.  Back then I taught, blogged seven days a week, and took freelance clients.  Now I ‘just’ blog seven days a week and take freelance clients.  It’s way easier.  Here are some of the things I’ve learned along the way.

Write less, promote more
I blog seven days a week because I have So Many Things To Talk About, but you totally don’t need to! Set an editorial calendar (Tuesday and Thursdays at 6 am, for example) and stick to it.  Write two great blog posts each week and then promote the sweet bejesus out of them.  Because of the way we use Twitter, it’s possible to tweet about something three times a day for four days without anyone really noticing or getting annoyed.  But!  Make sure you’re writing different tweets each time.  This will keep your Twitter stream fresh and will attract different readers.

Stop writing everything on your blog yourself
On Yes and Yes, I have four post series that I don’t write myself - True Story interviews, Real Life Style Icons, Mini Travel Guides, and the occasional guest post.  And on this blog, I also host guest posts and will start doing interviews soon.  These posts cross pollinate my readers with my guest posters’ readers, bring in fresh content, and save me tons and tons of time.

Also!  If you write a blog post for someone else and it works with the content of your blog, re-post it on your blog a few months after they’ve used it as a guest post.  Of course, include a little intro noting that it was originally a guest post for So-and-So and that your readers should really go check out their blog.

Schedule everything
Devote a few hours at the beginning of the month to scheduling.  Write and schedule the blog posts for your own blog.  Schedule client invoices.  Use Hootsuite to schedule Twitter and Facebook updates.  If your email host offers the option (mine does) schedule emails to clients.   I love being able to schedule things months into the future and then forget about them.  Life changing.

Create boundaries
If you live with roommates or have a partner, make sure they understand what you’re trying to accomplish with your freelance career.  Don’t let them guilt trip you into a night out when you’ve got a deadline.  Don’t tolerate any “You’re no fuuuuuunnn!” BS.  Create a set of ‘collaboration guidelines’ for any on-going clients.  Mine are: limit emails to 2 a day, no unscheduled phone calls, pay 100% up front till we’ve worked together for three months.  Of course, make sure your client tells you how they work best as well, so you don’t seem like a terrible prima donna!

Get seriously productive
Make lists, use the Pomodoro technique, download Leechblock.  Turn off your phone and gchat.  If you remember an important task and it’ll take less than five minutes, just do it now.  It’s worth freeing up that brain space so you can stop thinking “Oh, right!  I have to remember to send a follow up email to that editor!”

Realize you’ll have to make sacrifices
Know that in order to make this happen, you’ll have to miss some parties.  You might have to pull some all-nighters.  Maybe you’ll have to give up your $5 coffees.  For the first two years of Yes and Yes, I spent every lunch hour, every weekday, networking with other bloggers.  That’s 45 minutes a day, 5 days a week, for 2 years.   If my math is right, that’s 375 hours that I did NOT spend picnicing in the park or trying the good Thai place down the street.   But now I get to picnic all I want!

Cut a few corners now and then
You’re going to be really busy getting your career going.  That doesn’t mean you should drop out of the rest of your life, but it does mean you might have to cut some corners.  Buy something at the deli to bring to the potluck, buy gift cards in bulk for Christmas, buy a case of wine so you won’t have to stop at the liquor store every time you’re invited to a dinner party.  Resist the urge to drink all the wine yourself.

Remember that you have a life outside of work - and your work will probably suffer if you drop out of your life
As busy as you are, make time for your friends + family + partner.  Get outside.  Unplug.  Go to art galleries and concerts and costume parties and stupid movies.  If you don’t give yourself a chance to recharge, you won’t have any energy to take over the world.

How do you guys juggle it all?  Any apps/platforms/techniques I’m missing?

P.S. Did you know that when you 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 more polished, trafficked, and money-making?

original image (without text on top) by art photos diana, for sale here.

5 Things To Do Before You Launch Your Blog

A version of this post appeared on the Small Business Bonfire blog. Pop over and paw through their archives for tons of great info!

If you’re looking to launch a sweet, personal blog in which you post photos of your cat and cocktail recipes
a) please send me the link so I can read it
b) disregard this post because this ish is for Serious Small Business Blogs

With that said, here are five things you can do to make sure your business’s blog launch goes off without a hitch, gets lots of return traffic, and is professional + polished like whoa.

1. Create a backlog of content that corresponds with your posting schedule
Because you know that posting consistently is really important, you decided you’ll be posting twice a week, on Tuesdays and Thursdays, at 6 am.  Before you even tell anyone about your blog, you should create the equivalent of a month’s worth of posts and backdate them appropriately.  In this case, you’d write eight blog posts and backdate them for the previous Tuesdays and Thursdays.

Why?  Once you announce to your friends + family + customers that you have a blog you’ll have a big ol’ traffic spike as everyone pokes around your site.  And you want to make sure that there’s plenty of content for them to read.  And you want them to think “My goodness but she is a reliable + professional individual!  I bet if I hired her, she’d do a great job!”

2. Schedule at least a month’s worth of posts
Life happens.  You might get busy or uninspired and you’ll feel way, way better if you know you’ve got at least a month’s worth of editorial buffer.  And you want to retain the trust you’ve built with your readers by continuing to post regularly.

3.  Make sure your social media profiles are as awesome as possible
When you tell everyone about your blog, you’ll inevitably get new Facebook and Twitter followers as well.  Are your profiles up to snuff?  Do your Facebook and Twitter profile photos match?  Are you using the new Twitter layout?  Have you added apps and custom app icons to your Facebook page?  Do you have a custom background on your Twitter page?  Do your social media icons match?  Are they easy to find on your blog page?

4.  Write an email to introduce your blog to everyone you know
I know it’s hard to resist the siren song of ‘BCC all’ but this is a situation where personalized emails work wonders.  At the very, very, very least create a different email template for your friends + family, for professional peers, and for present/former clients.  Alex Franzen includes a great script for launches in her Five Scripts To Fill Your Client Docket ebook.

5. Make sure your professional goals are reflected in your blog content
Well, that’s a big one, isn’t it?  Before you started on this road to bloggery, surely you had a big think about what you wanted to accomplish, right? RIGHT?  If you want to sell more products, write promotional posts that don’t feel gross.   If you want to get hired for speaking gigs, post vlogs in which you are painfully articulate and clever.  If you want to be viewed as an expert in your field, write crazy helpful tutorials.

You’ve got a bit of work ahead of you, but if you can tick off this checklist, you’ll have a blog worth sticking around for.

What did you do before you launched your blog? Tell us in the comments - let’s build this list!

P.S. Did you know that when you 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 more polished, trafficked, and money-making?

original image (without text on on top) from NASA Goddard Space Flight, for viewing here

How To Find Your Writing Voice (And Not Sound Like A Robot)

This guest post comes to us via Tara Swiger, author, maker and Starship Captain. She leads creatives on explorations on her site and squeals about geekery, vegan pies, and hot pink on Twitter.

So you know you need a blog, and you know what to do if you don’t wanna…but what if your blog comes out sounding awkward or stiff?
The good news is: it’s not you.

Well, it is you, but it’s not that you don’t know how to write. It’s that you’re uncomfortable. If you can get comfortable, you can get flowing, friendly posts written (I promise).

How to get comfortable and sound like a real person:

1. Talk TO a real person.
Instead of thinking of your “audience”, pick just one person. If you have a passel of friendly clients, pick one that really gets you and what you do. Now write your post like you’re having a conversation with her.

If you don’t have any clients (yet), picture your ideal client. Why does she come to you? What do you help her with? Spend a few minutes writing a loving description of your new best friend, and then write a post as if she already loves you, and you’re talking to her.

2. Write in your zone.
Kelly Parkinson has this awesome (free) assessment to figure out where your zone is. Do you like thinking about systems and applying logic? Or are you a big dreamer and picture-painter? No matter what your zone is, you can find a way to write in it…even if it means you don’t write. You can get that content out of you in a zillion ways: “write” via voice memos in your phone (and transcribe them later), have someone interview you, record a video or a podcast, take photos. Find your most comfortable way of communicating, and blog with it.

3. Check yourself, before you wreck yourself.*
Once you’ve got some words on the screen, don’t hit publish just yet. Let it sit, and come back to it. Writers insist that writing is rewriting. Even the most jumbled ideas can be edited into a clear, concise  friendly blog post with some patient editing. While you’re editing, check your language. Are you using words your customer understands? Even if they’re in your field, skip the industry-speak and go straight to the point. Use words you use in actual conversations. Use words they use in actual conversations about your product.

Hey, look at that! You sound like a real person!

Congratulations!  Do you feel stilted and awkward when you write? How do you find a human voice for your blog posts?

*Just like Ice Cube taught us

original image (without text on top) by maureen dai, for sale here

Three Ways To Get People To Sign Up For Your Email Newsletter

We’ve talked about why you need an email newsletter (keep in touch with prospects! share important updates!  build trust!) but how do you get people to sign up for said newsletter?

Friends, here are three ways to entice readers and potential clients to invite you into their inboxes.

1) Give them something free + awesome in exchange for signing up for the newsletter.
An ebook!  A downloadable workbook!  A podcast!  A collection of videos!  The important thing here is that this freebie?  It’s so awesome and valuable that they can’t wait to get their hands on it.

This is also a great opportunity to showcase your expertise.  If you’re a stylist, give them a downloadable workbook about organizing their closet.  If you’re a dance studio, your readers might like a collection of videos on mastering complicated moves.  Online shoe retailer?  Maybe an ebook about pairing different flats/boots/heels with different outfits?

Examples of great freebies: Michelle Ward gives you access to her whooooole VIP library when you sign up.  Amy Schmittaur gives you a great Ultimate Twitter Guide.  Danielle Dowling gives you a blueprint to get anything you want in life (!).

You can sign up for my small business newsletter over on the sidebar and get the above ebook for $0.  Just sayin.’

2) Give them a discount code for signing up
This is particularly useful if you’re selling something that’s a bit expensive.  Who wouldn’t want a 15% discount on a $200 dress?  Crazy people, that’s who.  Set up your auto-responder to include a discount code that they can use on one purchase.  You can also set up Twitter auto-responders to offer discount codes to new followers!

Examples of people/companies who use discount codes: H&M give you 20% when you sign up, American Apparel gives you 15% off,  Blowfish Shoes gives  you 10% off.

3) Unique, not-on-the-blog content
If you write and post almost exclusively about your area of professional expertise, or don’t share much personal information, your readers might like a peek behind the proverbial curtain.  If you usually write in a super polished, professional tone, they might like hearing your ‘real’ voice.  Or if you’ve got some content or ideas you’re not ready to share with the world wide web, test ‘em out on your most devoted fans.

Examples of not-on-the-blog newslettersKathleen Shannon sends out her Letters for Creative Entrepreneurs.  Amanda Genther includes unique content in most of her email newsletters.

And if you’re feeling reaaaaally ambitious (and generous) you could do all three!

Do you have an email newsletter?  How do you get people to sign up for it?  How often do you send it?

7 Posts You Should Read If You Take Your Blog Seriously

One of the things I tell my clients on the regular is “OMG link round ups should be part of your blogging plan.”  Also: “Fortheloveofpete, please change your Twitter background.”

Yes, link roundups can be a bit time consuming to assemble.  And, yes, if you’re a greedy traffic hoarder it can seem a bit counter intuitive to be directing your readers elsewhere.

But here’s the thing.  Link round ups:
a) are insanely popular with readers
b) provide helpful information to your readers and customers whom you love
c) help build relationships between you and the people you’re linking to

That’s a win/win/win.

With that said, here are seven super helpful posts that will help you (and your business and blog) kick ass.

If you’re building your own site, attempting your own branding, designing your own ebook, y’all need a nice color palette.   Here are 19 (!) color palette generators that will help you design like a pro.

Writing an ebook?  Here are 100 ways to make it more awesome.  (But don’t do all of them!)

Just doing one little thing every day can have a huge impact on your business and blog.  Just one thing!

Do you have the new Twitter layout yet?  I do.  Here’s how to get it.

30 Ways To Promote Your Blog Posts (again, don’t do all of these!)

Do you (or your business) use Instagram?  Here’s how to tell your story and take great, engaging photos.

An incredibly useful (and super cheap) set of scripts to fill your client docket.  There are five scripts here - they’ll help you launch your blog/business, pitch for guest posts, get testimonials from clients, and donate your time to an organization you’d like to work with later.  For $15!

If you’ve encountered any particularly helpful apps/platforms/posts/blogs lately, leave links in the comments!

original image (without the text on top) by a bit of whimsy, for sale here.

Why You Need An Email Newsletter

This guest post comes to us via the lovely and talented Amanda Genther, designer and brand developer.  In addition to helping creative entrepreneurs better their brands, she has the single best Facebook page I’ve ever seen.  Like, I want to copy every aspect of it.

you need an email newsletter

Choose one of the following. Are you:
A. A small creative business who provides creative services
B. A small creative business owner who provides products
C. A small creative business owner who provides services & products

Well, whichever you choose, the answer is the same. You SHOULD have a monthly newsletter  for your small creative business.

I can’t stress to my clients enough how important it is to be providing an opt-in box to your readers, clients and customers.

A monthly (at least) newsletter is key to staying in communication with the people who want to keep up with you! There are probably a good group of customers out there who want to know when you’re new product line launches. Or they want to know which conference you’ll be speaking at next. All items that continue to build a relationship with your audience. KEY!

Here are my top 5 reasons why your creative business should have a monthly newsletter:

Continually putting your business name in front of your prospects is the most important way to ensure that you stay in business. Your newsletter should be thought of as another marketing tool, but a marketing tool that your customers ACTUALLY signed up for, so obviously they want to see it.

Do you have a seasonal product line launching soon? Are you moving your business to another state? One key way to make sure that your most loyal customers and clients are up-to-date is to announce it in a newsletter.

The best way to provide valuable information in your newsletter is to expand on a topic of interest. This is your opportunity to go into more detail than you would on your blog, and give your readers the nitty-gritty of the subject. Make sure you communicate this benefit of signing up for the  newsletter, because you want to give people a reason to sign up.  Another way to increase sign-ups is to offer a product, such as an e-book download on the topic of your expertise.

The more you can get your brand style in front of people, the more often they’ll recognize it’s your work without even seeing your name.

Because your email newsletter is delivered straight to your reader’s email, it emulates a more personal form of communication than any of your other marketing tools.  Use this opportunity to build your relationship with your clients and prospects.

Do you have an email newsletter?  What’s stopping you?

photo by  // cc

How To Blog If You Don’t Like Writing

I originally wrote this for the Vianza blog.  Vianza is a platform that connects designers + wholesalers + retailers and removes approximately 99% of the stress and hassle of doing business.  Check out their blog for super helpful small business tips!

So we’ve established that your business probably needs a blogBut what if you don’t actually, um, like writing?

 Fear not, friend!  There are ways around it!  A few tips and tricks:

 1) Realize that your posts need not be Shakespeare
Grammatically correct? Yes.  Accompanied by attractive visuals?  Yes. Of a readable length with easily scannable bits?  Yes.  Pulitzer-worthy prose?  No.   Really, there are some very, very successful bloggers who are (in my opinion) non-awesome writers.  But they’ve got gorgeous photos, their lovely personalities come through in their writing, and the information they’re sharing is helpful and useful!  Done and done. Write the way you talk, be conscious of spelling and grammar mistakes, and be brave enough to try.  That’s about it.

 2) Podcasts
If you’re funny and articulate with a great speaking voice, podcasts should be your jam.  You can natter away on your topic of choice for 15-30 minutes, edit it a bit in Audacity (free!  easy to use!), write up a wee summary and, voila!  Blog post!

 3) Image-heavy posts
This method is best for certain types of businesses - photographers, designers, style or fashion-related businesses, etc.  Probably not a headhunter.  Or a life coach.  But if your business is image-based, your readers want to see what you’re up to!  So use Picmonkey (also easy! also free!) to create a nice layout of that kitchen you redecorated/that wedding you shot/the fabric for your next line and then add 100 words explaining the project and you’re done.

 4) Product round ups
If you’re a consultant or own a shop that carries multiple products that address specific needs, your readers and customers would probably love a roundup of this-is-life-changing-you-have-to-buy-it products. If you’re a interior decorator, how about your favorite wallpapers? Or colorful throw rugs?  These posts only require a short intro and product description.

 5) Videos
If you like podcasts (and you don’t mind seeing yourself on camera) vlogs can be a great option.  And they don’t even have to crazy professional!  JennaMarbles has made an entire career out of super funny but not-particularly-polished Youtube videos.  Marie Forleos blog consists exclusively of super professional, once-a-week videos.  Both approaches work!

 6) For the advanced: hire a Virtual Assistant
If your hourly rate is more than $50 and you really, really, really hate writing, it might be worth your time to hire a Virtual Assistant with writing chops.  You can record your thoughts or dictate a blog post and then have your VA transcribe it and shape it into a blog post.  How fancy!

Do any of your really, really hate writing?  How have you managed while having a blog?

image by life refocused, for sale here

How To Blend The Personal With The Professional

This guest post comes to us via the lovely Kathleen Shannon!  She’s  is an art director turned free-spirited champion for the small creative entrepreneur through her business show co-owns with her sister, Braid Creative & Consulting. She’ll follow a whim from painting larger-than-life stripes in her living room hallway, to trekking the foothills of Mount Everest – just to have a good story to tell.

A lot of times we try and maintain a work/life balance by separating who we are and what we do. But when it comes to being a solopreneur living in the overlap is pretty much essential to a thriving business. A personal brand is what makes you memorable. And for creative entrepreneurs it’s often what gets you hired.

So what exactly is a personal brand? On the surface it could be the way you fashion modern trends with vintage finds or your signature hair style. But it’s more than that. It’s the intangible things about you that won’t change even as styles do. It’s what you know and create - but also how people feel after interacting with you. A personal brand is the packaged and definitive you - both the surface-y things and the deeper stuff, too.

Here are 4 tips on how to bring a little more personality into your business:

1. Recognize that business is personal.
When your client gets to know you as a person your expertise is more likely to be trusted. And on the flipside - when you see your client as a human being you’re trying to help, you’re more likely to listen to their needs and effectively solve their problems.

2. Pick the social media platform that is right for you.
If you hate writing maybe a YouTube channel is a better fit for you than a traditional blog. Or if you prefer curating and collecting, Pinterest might be a great way to share that talent. And if you are great at one-liners or quick quips of advice then Twitter might be your gig.

3. Write (and speak) like you really speak.
Ditch the industry jargon and just say what you mean. Try this: write a list of words you say all the time. Start peppering those into your small business interactions online and off. For me that means saying “rad” and “hotshit” - even in front of clients. And they love me for it.

4. Share your process with your client.
It’s easy to be authentic in business when you let your clients in on a little bit of the magic behind the curtain. Show your clients how you’re meeting their needs as you go. Removing a little bit of the mystery can go a long way in getting your work enthusiastically approved.

Kathleen is currently offering a Braid ECourse on Personal Branding: Blending Who You Are with What You Do from Oct. 29th - Nov. 4th. Sarah Von Bargen readers are invited to take this course at a discounted rate of $65 using the promo code: YESANDYESOCT2012.

3 Self-Promotional Blog Posts That Don’t Feel Gross

I originally wrote this as a guest post for the awesome Michelle Ward, of When I Grow Up fame.  Pop over and check out her blog full of helpful, crazy useful posts about business, self-employment, and dream fulfillment.

Promoting Yourself Online

You’re a clever, engaged, self-starting type of person.  So you obviously have a blog for your small business or consulting practice.  And you use it to network with your peers, showcase your expertise, and share juicy behind-the-curtain secrets of your work.


You don’t quite know how to actually promote yourself and your goods/services on your blog.  You’ve tried and it just comes out sounding like hard-sell malarkey.  Which is totally not your jam.

No worries!  Here are three ideas for blog posts that will promote you + your stuff without making you blush.

1. The ‘Why I Charge This Much’ Post (For: Everyone)
Gosh, but we all love transparency.  And we love it even more when it comes from someone whose prices are a bit more than we’re used to paying.  But the general public doesn’t understand the scope of the work that goes into photographing a wedding/sewing a dress/creating a logo.  Share your work process, your time frame, and – most importantly – all the benefits they reap from working with you.

 2. The ‘How This Works’ Post (For: Coaches, therapists, consultants)
If someone hasn’t worked with a coach or consultant before, the entire process can be really intimidating and weird.  “Do we just talk on the phone?  What’s the deal with this group class?  How is this different than talking to my best friend?”

Ask a favorite client if you can record – either on video or audio – one of your sessions.  Potential customers can see and hear how the sessions work and witness first hand exactly how awesome you are.

3.  The ‘These Are My Products In Action’ Post (For: Everyone)
People want to know that if they’re giving your their hard earned money, they’re going to look amazing/find their dream job/have a perfectly organized closet.  Of course, you have a testimonials page that says all that, but photos and links speak louder than adjectives.

If you’re a fashion label that specializes in easy-wear dresses, assemble a photo post of customers wearing your dresses while traveling.  If you’re a dating coach, you could craft a post filled with photos of happy couples you helped unite.  Designer?  You need a post of your five most recent logo designs.  A business consultant can write a post devoted to all her clients’ new offerings and business accomplishments.  And as always: add a call to action at the end of the post, linking to your services page.  But you already knew that, right?

See?  That wasn’t too painful or embarrassing, was it?  Now get out there and start (classily, cleverly) self-promoting!

How do you promote your products + offerings in a way that doesn’t feel gross? Tell me the comments - we’d all benefit from sharing our best stuff!

P.S. Did you know that when you 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 more polished, trafficked, and money-making?

image by Black Apple, for sale here

How To Make Your Blog Post A Million Times More Readable (Slight Exaggeration)

blog post more readable

Which of the above blog posts would you be more likely to read? The left one, correct?  I mean, unless you’re into huge blocks of unbroken copy and a total lack of images.  If you are, then congratulations!  Your attention span is triple that of mine.

Here’s the thing about blog posts.  You can write a smart, funny, helpful blog post that subtly showcases your talents or products that will (probably) attract new clients.  But if that blog post isn’t formatted correctly?  Nobody is going to read it.

Here are a few easy ways to make your blog post much, much more likely to get read.

1) Keep it short
Less than 500 words for sure.  Less than 300 is even better.  Seth Godin’s posts are a paragraph long!  Nobody is ever not going to read your post because it’s too short.

2) Add an image
We all like pretty pictures.  They make your posts Pin-able and if you label them correctly, they increase your SEO. Here are 53+ resources for free images!

3) Add the title to the image
You can use  Picmonkey (free! easy!) to add the title to any image. Again, it makes your post a lot more Pinterest-friendly and engaging.

4) Use headers/bullet points/numbers/bolding judiciously
People’s attention spans are verging on non-existent.  Make things easy for them by making your post scannable.  Highlight major points with bolding or break up topics under headers.  Then they can scan for what interests them and read the details if it pertains to them.

 5) Write awesome titles
If you’re not sure how, this headline analyzer is your new BFF as is this long list of ‘emotional’ title words.

6) Keep paragraphs short and use lots of white space
Don’t be afraid to use white space judiciously. When we see huge blocks of texts we get overwhelmed and click away. But lots of visual breathing room and short sentences? Doable.

What makes you read a blog post?  Did I miss anything?

photo by  // cc