Do I 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.

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?

P.S. Three Ways to Get People To Sign Up For Your Email Newsletter

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.

How To Write 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.

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. 7 Reasons You’re Not Getting Featured In The Media

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

How To Make Your Posts More Readable - By About A Million Percent

Sarah Von Bargen teaches small business owners how to make blog posts more readableSo let’s say I’m in the market for a life coach or GRE tutor or web designer.

I go a’googling and happen up the website of someone who looks like a perfect fit.  Her portfolio is great!  Her references look good!  And she looks super friendly and sweet in her headshots.  I click  the blog tab in her menu bar and this is what I see:

Three blog posts.  One from 2009.  One from 2011.  And one from two months ago.

Now, I might be a hard ass (spoiler alert: I totally am) but this Does Not Impress Me.  Why, fortheloveofpete, am I going to give my hard earned money to someone who doesn’t have their act together enough to update their blog regularly?  Or doesn’t take enough pride in their online space to delete an outdated blog?  Why would I trust someone with my mind/GRE score/website when they can’t even be trusted to handle a blog?

I wouldn’t.  So I move on to someone else.

Of course, one could argue that a super successful, super busy life coach/ GRE tutor/ web designer might be too busy to update their blog.  But have you met Nubby Twiglet?  Or Marie Forleo?  Or Danielle LaPorte?  Girlfriends are buuuuuusy with client work and consulting but they manage to keep their blogs updated on the regular.

And if you really, actually don’t have time to update your blog?  Or you find it to be an unpleasant chore?  Delegate it to an intern/VA/consultant (*cough*me*cough*).  Or delete it!  There are plenty of other ways to connect with clients and customers and peers.

How often do you update your business’s blog?  And if you don’t, what’s your excuse? 😉

P.S. How To Get Featured In The Media Without Resorting To Slimy, Spammy Tactics