Are you a consumer or a creator?

areyouaconsumeroracreator

Guys, I am drowning in business advice posts.

Drowning.

It seems like everywhere I turn there’s a “How to brand your business authentically“, “10 reasons you should be using periscope RIGHT NOW (or your business will fail – seriously)”, “I did THIS and I lost 5 clients, don’t make my mistake” clickbait style posts.

I follow quite a lot of people in my market, that is: people who want to serve the creative community and want you to buy their products or services. One of the most successful ways of doing that is content marketing, giving away their knowledge for free and keeping you coming back for more. I mean, that’s what I do with this blog.

But jeez, I’m seeing so much more regurgitated content on blogs and over the past few months the whole thing seems to have blown up!

The thing is, every time I see a retweeted, pinned or shared blog post, I automatically think I need to head off and read it. There’s probably some piece of information in there that’s going to change my entire business. Right?

Are you a consumer or a creator?

I’m totally at risk of being hoisted by my own petard here, I want you to read my blog posts after all, but I’m also not in the market of peddling bullshit. If you’re reading something here I want it to be actually valuable to you and your business. I don’t want to waste your time.

There’s are too many blog posts for you to read. Too many.

You and I won’t read them all, and yeah, you might learn a little something from each post, but is that tiny little snippet of brand new information worth the time you spent trawling through the post? Is there something you could’ve been doing instead of learning the top ten ways to increase your instagram following? (I dunno.. like, taking some instagram photos and connecting with people on there?)

There comes a point where you’re so busy consuming blog posts that you forget to create stuff of your own. You can get so caught up with the idea of business development through learning new information, that you don’t have the time to put that in to practice.

Quit the knee-jerk

How do we get around this addiction to consume information without losing out on actual, valuable tips and advice that could benefit our business?

Firstly, let’s set aside some time for consumption, an hour or so each week to read through a consolidated list of interesting posts that we’ve collected over the past 5 working days. I don’t know about you but Fridays in my office are generally a time for sending out invoices, tidying up my inbox, and generally just putting my business “house” in order. Setting aside an hour on a Friday morning and visiting the links I’ve saved over a coffee sounds perfect! I like to use Pocket to save links that I’d like to read later, if I see a post shared somewhere then I’ll click on it, check out the blog itself (if it’s not one I’m familiar with), read the first paragraph and decide whether to save it to pocket for later.

Secondly, take notes. Don’t just idly read blog posts, your brain is pretty much as useful of a sieve at retaining information by just reading through the 500-700 words that a blog post includes. Actually use the information that you’re learning, take notes, extend the notes into how you’re going to make this work for your business. I really love to take notes during Amy Porterfield‘s podcasts, which I can have on in the background when I’m making jewellery.

Thirdly, beware the blog-xpert. That is, the blogger that professes to have a level of expertise with what they’re talking about, but not much to back it up. I sometimes used feel a bit weird when I posted about business stuff, was it really my place to be sharing this information? I blog about small creative business, I’ve run my own “side gig” since I was 21, and I quit my day job over 4 years ago. Before then I worked for 4 years as a web developer in a studio environment. I’ve tripled my income, worked with upwards of 50 clients around the world, and I still really fucking enjoy what I do. Still, all I can offer is what’s worked for me and my business. I can offer advice on what I’d do in certain situations, and I can give strategies for social platforms that’ve been working for me. It really grinds my gears when I see people peddling advice and “you must do this” type posts when they’ve only been in the game for 6 or so months. Just because you have a business and a voice doesn’t make you a fucking expert.

Finally, remember that you will not develop your business through osmosis. Reading blog posts, books, listening to podcasts and watching Youtube videos will not magically improve your business. It is way more valuable to your business if you read ONE high quality blog post a week and put into practice the things that you’ve learned than to read 15 blog posts and do nothing. Don’t confuse consuming information as actually working on your business.

PS. I went ahead and made my own brand new personal lifestyle blog, which you can follow along with over on adventurish.com – hope to see you there!

Do you love this? Don't miss a thing, sign up for email updates!

I need your help…

I’m struggling with a decision and I need your help.

So, this here blog. The one you’re on (or reading via a feed reader) right now. You like it, yeah? I mean, you’re reading it. What are you here for? My business tips? My quick witted banter? My charm? There must be something.

You see, recently, I think this blog has taken more of a turn towards business tips, advice & musings, and stepped away from being a place where I blog about personal things. I blogged about my adventure walking across the country, and I recently blogged about my skincare routine. I’ve also blogged about the books I’m reading each month, and various other bits and pieces. Part of me thinks they don’t really fit here anymore. I’m not 100% sure it’s what you come here to read.

Help me make this decision. There’s just one question (and a couple of follow up questions), and please answer in the comments so that I can get to the bottom of this once and for all.

Should I focus this blog purely on Creative Business and create an entirely new blog for my posts about fitness/hiking/my house/travel/my pets? Yes or no.

I’d also love to know what you’d like to see more of here (no matter whether you answered yes or no to the  main question), let me know which posts you’ve enjoyed most, what you’d like to learn more about, and any other content requests you have.

Happy hump-day guys! Bake-off tonight, UKers!

Do you love this? Don't miss a thing, sign up for email updates!

Your About Page Sucks – Let’s Fix It!

youraboutpagesucks

Be honest now, how long did you spend writing the About Page for your website?

An hour? Two? Not even that?

The About page is one of the first pages a new user will visit when they get to your site. It’s where they learn who they’re listening to, find out what’s in it for them, and make their all important first impression.

You need to spend time on your About page. It’s really important.

Let’s walk through what should be on your about page.

You’re a human, not a machine!

You need to engage with your audience. They’re on your site for a reason, and generally that reason is a) what you’re talking about, or b) what you’re selling.

You are the defining factor. And the last time I checked… you’re human, not a machine. So why does your about page sound like the generic description of a kitchen appliance?

Throughout your About Page you must use your personality. Talk as though you’re talking to a friend, tell jokes, be sincere, be engaging. Talk like you’re trying to take your audience out on a second date. 

Once upon a time…

… there was a girl, fresh from university, with bright eyes and a thirst for business. For months she trawled to the ends of job applications, hoping to find her place in the dark and misty world of web design. One day, she happened upon the job of Junior Web Developer, and (armed with a Macbook Pro) began her long quest of making websites for the most courageous of people – the creative entrepreneurs. 

One of the most engaging copy writing or marketing tactics is to include stories in your copy. I really had you going with that snippet, right? You were with me, walking through Mordor-like hills and battling beastly Web 2.0 demons.

I’m not saying your stories need to be totally in the style of the Grimms, but have fun with them, eh?

Recounting stories of how you’ve worked with past clients, your experience in your profession, or your own endeavours really helps your reader connect with you. It gives them a much needed window into your world, and helps you stand out from your peers.

Who the hell are you?

At some point on your About Page you’re going to have to go into a little more detail about who you are, where you came from, and what you actually do. You can mix some of this in with the other copy, or create a separate area for that information.

Having already explained that I’m a web designer, and told my reader how I got there & what I can do for them, I tell them a few more bits about me towards the end of my about page…

I’m based in Huddersfield, UK, but don’t let that put you off – we still have the internet in Yorkshire. I live with 2 crazy cats, 1 hyper golden retriever and 1 astrophysicist. I design and make things under the name of Finest Imaginary, which I work on 50/50 with Kim Lawler Creative  (or, you know, sometimes 80/20, or 100/100 when I’m stupid).

I prefer whisky to vodka, have a serious relationship with gherkins, and leave a trail of shoes around my house.

Nothing too in depth, pretty brief, but it gives my reader a little more of a connection with me. Who doesn’t leave their shoes around the house?

Take them behind the curtain

Depending on your type of business it can be cool to show a little “behind the scenes” on your about page – photos of your studio, an idea of where you create your magic, maybe even a brief “day in the life”. Take the reader on a bit of a journey into how your business looks outside of your pristine website.

On my Finest Imaginary About Page, I often swap out photos from my making desk, showing half-finished pieces and a peek at how my jewellery comes together. These photos are often the ones that end up being used in publications (they’re pretty interesting!).

Now What?

Don’t forget your calls to action! After reading your About Page you need to direct your reader to what  you want them to do – is that visit your contact page? Your social media links? Sign up to your newsletter? Make sure you’re pointing them in the right direction!

So go, rework your stale copy, make your About Page fun to read, and connect with your audience!

If you liked this, you might be interested in a little something I’ve got up my sleeve. Make sure you’re signed up for my Newsletter to be the first to know. 

Do you love this? Don't miss a thing, sign up for email updates!

The Truth about Competition

the-truth-about-competition

If you’re running any kind of business chances are you have competition (unless your business is so incomparably niche that you’re totally on your own… there’re very few companies making literary inspired dog hats!).

I have “competition” in both parts of my business, from people creating awesome websites for creative entrepreneurs & small business owners, to other fantastic designers making jewellery and homewares.

Some of my “competition” achieves much greater sales and success than my business, and some is where my business was a couple of years ago. (Always someone in front, always someone behind). Most of my immediate “competition” is pretty much playing in the same league as me, though.

Competition is a made up concept to create mistrust, secrecy and dirty tactics in business.

At least that’s the way I’ve come to see it.

I don’t like the word or concept of competition. I don’t like seeing fledgling businesses thinking that “competing” with other businesses is the way to make their business stand out. And I REALLY don’t like archaic idea that your competition is your enemy.

Flashback Time

*Read this with a sepia filter*

A few years ago, when I first started doing craft markets and fairs for my jewellery, there was a bit of a culture of traditional competition rising in the ranks. People were very secretive with information, especially regarding on-the-day sales and how well they were doing. People would out and out lie to their “competition” about how well they’d done on the day. It made me uneasy. I didn’t know why back then, but I do now – it’s totally skeazy and such an old-hat way of doing business. They were trying to make other businesses, who they viewed as their competition, think the following…

“If they did so well and I didn’t, does that mean that my product isn’t as good as theirs?”

“Maybe I shouldn’t have bothered coming…”

“It’s obviously not a good fit for my product…”

“I should just leave it to them”

Trying to eliminate your competition does NOT increase your chance of sales.

Lying about how well they did on the day doesn’t stand to make them any more by way of sales, all it does is remove the discussion of “damn, if neither of us did very well, what can we do to make this better for both of us?”.

In the long run it just stands to harm what could be a thriving community of small businesses.

Luckily, I see this happen a lot less nowadays. People have started having each other’s backs again, and it’s fucking awesome.

Rearrange your view of Competition

Here’s how I like to view “competition”…

  • Competition is not the enemy, that’s number 1. Sure, they might be aiming at the same people, but there’s plenty to go around.
  • Competition increases your chance of business. Every piece of marketing they do for their business puts your industry in front of people’s eyes.
  • Competition helps you up your game. Can you imagine how complacent you’d be in your business if you didn’t have other people to look up to? It would be shit. You’d still be dragging your knuckles.
  • Competition helps you serve your audience. Your competition is you, you’d probably get on like a house on fire, what can you do together to serve your audience better?
  • Competition helps you understand your audience better. Seeing your audience interact with another business is enlightening, you can learn so much from them.
  • Wouldn’t you rather build your business based on value and awesomeness than competition? Being the best at what you do clears your field of traditional “competition” and lets you enjoy working alongside a bunch of equally successful and interesting businesses.

I’m not into woo-woo stuff, but I still believe that you’ll get so much more out of making friends rather than enemies. 

 

Do you love this? Don't miss a thing, sign up for email updates!

11 Ways to Skyrocket Pinterest for your Creative Business

11-ways-to-skyrocket-pinterest

This week I attended a talk about Pinterest in Manchester, hosted by the lovely & super knowledgable Lizzie Sibley from Pinterest UK. I’ve used Pinterest for a while, but I’ve always been a little lazy with it, only recently have I really started putting any proper effort and strategy in my pinning. I learned so much stuff I didn’t know about Pinterest, so I thought I’d share it with you!

1 | Follower count doesn’t mean as much as you think it does. The majority of traffic on Pinterest is engaged with the search function rather than what’s on their home feed. Instead of concentrating on how many followers you have, concentrate on how accessible and search-friendly your pins and boards are. Pinterest is not a social media platform, it’s a “visual discovery tool”.

2 | Pinterest uses your board names, pin names and pin descriptions in its search. Be thorough and useful when writing your pin descriptions. Don’t be spammy with a multitude of hashtags, instead, write something meaningful and descriptive. You’re not restricted to 140 characters, so write away! Take care when writing your board descriptions, use plain English but be specific: “Casual Chic Style” would be more searchable than “Keeping it casual” and more specific than “My Style”. Always consider what people would be searching for when writing your board names.

3 | 80% of Pinterest users are using the app on their mobile or iPad, so if you’re trying to generate traffic to your website via Pinterest, then you’d better be damn sure your site’s mobile optimised (but we’ve already talked about why your website should be mobile optimised, haven’t we?).

4 | Don’t delete boards, just move them to the bottom of your profile. Some people might only follow one of your boards, so you don’t want to lose their engagement. Similarly, don’t delete pins — rearrange them, rename them, change their descriptions, and even their links.

5 | If you want to track your analytics on Pinterest (and why wouldn’t you?) then you need to register for a Business account. Don’t worry, you don’t technically need to be a business to use that service, and it’s totally free (just like Pinterest is and always will be!).

6 | Instead of just re-pinning content, be more active in pinning new things and creating new content to be shared on Pinterest. This is something I definitely need to get better at! It’s sooo easy to repin things, and even to change the description to fit with that you want to pin the image as, but it’s harder and therefore more valuable to pin brand new things.

7 | Start your “holiday boards” early — start pinning for Halloween in July and Christmas in August. Move these boards to the top of your profile during their active seasons, and to the bottom of your profile when it’s not their time to shine (remember, don’t delete them!).

8 | Make use of services such as Buffer to spread out your pins. This way you can avoid annoying your followers when you go on pinning splurges! You can also use services like this to un-annoyingly pin the same thing more than once, to different boards.

9 | Make sure that your site is Pinterest ready by using the variety of Pinterest tools available (such as the pin it button) and enabling Rich Pins on your site. If you’re using WordPress, so long as you have a decent theme and the Yoast SEO plugin installed then you should be good to go. If you’re on Shopify you’re also good to go. You simply need to follow the instructions on Pinterest to validate your site for Rich Pins.

10 | Vertical images perform much better than horizontal images, so make sure you’re creating your pinnable content with high impacting images. Using text on your images does deliver a higher pin-rate, but make sure it doesn’t look like a banner ad. List style posts & how-tos work really well when pinned on Pinterest!

11 | Don’t just pin your own content, that’s rubbish and boring, and totally not what Pinterest is about. I kinda like the Gary Veynerchuck way of marketing on social media (jab jab jab, right hook) and I think that works really well on something like Pinterest (maybe more like 9 jabs to every hook, though!).

And to help us all even further, I’ve started a brand new Pinterest board where I’m gathering useful articles related to Pinterest use. Click here to go straight to it if you can’t see it under this post… I’ll be adding content to this board regularly, so do let me know if you have a Pinterest article you’d like me to add there!

Let me know your Pinterest links in the comments so that I can follow you!!


Do you love this? Don't miss a thing, sign up for email updates!