// strategy for creatives who mean business

Mobilegeddon is Coming For Your Blog. (Yes, YOURS!) Here’s How to Be Ready.

If you have a blog, website or online shop, we take it for granted that when someone searches for your online that your work will appear. That’s not necessarily the case, and if you stay uninformed your site could be in big trouble, but if you take two simple actions that I’ll share today, you’ll be ready for the changes.

Check Your Blog Before Google Wrecks Your Blog - Get Mobile Friendly Before the April 21st Deadline

So what’s with all the changes?

Search engines use complex formulas to decide what information is relevant and what isn’t. These are called algorithms, and they are how search engines are able to show helpful content written by real, knowledgeable people (yay! humans!) in first pages of  search results, while sites full of keywords and questionable links get less exposure.

The changes are happening because Google has announced that on April 21st it will adjust the algorithm to put more emphasis on sites that are mobile friendly.

Google’s past changes have resulted in significant traffic decreases for some sites, leading to developers giving the coming changes the nickname “mobilegeddon”.

This makes perfect sense – and since by some estimates 50% of google’s searches are mobile, if your site isn’t ready by April 21st you could lose a significant amount of potential readers, clients and customers.

 

The good news is that times of change are the best time to show up and shine.

This is the perfect time to set yourself apart, and if you’re someone who writes high quality, helpful content online, you’re already ahead of the game. With all of these changes Google is working to help make sure content like yours is easy to find.

Even better? You don’t have to be tech savvy to make your site is ready for mobile users. I’m going to show you exactly how to be ready, step by step.

 

First, Take the free test to see if your site is mobile friendly enough for Google:

  1. Visit the Google mobile friendly test site
  2. Enter your domain name, and click Analyze.
  3. If your site is not mobile friendly, don’t panic! Most won’t pass, but there are easy steps to follow below.

 

Next for WordPress Users: Install a Plugin

You can go mobile with the help of a plugin. It’s an easy process, and I’ve made a quick video tutorial that takes you from testing your site to passing google’s test with flying colours in under 10 minutes.

 

Next for Typepad Users:

Typepad hasn’t publicly addressed the upcoming Google changes yet, but their social media team has confirmed that their solution is in the works. And that’s a good thing, because the algorithm changes stand to put their entire network at a significant disadvantage.

Their answer is the Typepad Nimble Design Lab is a one and two-column responsive theme that lets Typepad users create themes that should pass the mobile friendly test. To gain access, Typepad users can opt into the beta team and start making changes.


Five Minutes to a Better Blog: Make Your Blog Bio Fascinating

There are a lot of things to keep track of when you have a blog, and over time something is bound to get lost in the shuffle. But when you’re the only person fanning the flames, when you leave any piece of your passion project alone for long enough, it will start to cause real problems!

Today I’m challenging you to jump in and take action: Take five minutes, right now, and make your blog better.

Five Minutes to a Better Blog - Fill in the Blank Blog Bio Challenge

Are you in?

In the five minute challenge today I’m going to teach you how to update the short bio in your site’s sidebar so it’s more fascinating to your ideal clients.

With a bio that’s strategically written with your reader in mind, when your right people find you online your writing lights up like fireworks signalling that they’re in the right place. It immediately jumps up, greets them, and puts your best foot forward- even while you’re re-watching Wes Anderson movies, sipping on craft beer or a new cocktail creation, or coaxing the kids into bed.

Why is your blog’s bio area so important?

Because your readers aren’t reading, they’re skimming – and fast. Your site is one of dozens of websites that they’ll see today, and most readers stick around for moments before they leave a site.

Your short bio is one of the first places your reader will glance to find out what your blog or website is about. That’s code for “making a split second decision about if you are right for them”.

Not sure what I mean by a short bio? Many blogs have this in their sidebar and they’re a perfect jumping off point to for your bios on any social media platform.

Five Minutes to a Bio That Will Stop Your Ideal Reader in Their Tracks

1. What do you do?

Your visitors are savvy and moving fast! Let’s restate the most basic aspects of who you are to your website readers. Think your readers will read between the lines? Then include this because it also tells search engines and potential readers who you are, so you have a chance to show up when they search for what you do!

Make your answer as simple as possible! Answer in 3 words or less.

Fill in the blank:

I’m a                                               .

Examples: Horror writer, Fashion blogger, Print designer

 

2. Who is your ideal reader?

Think about generally who your readers are, in terms of the common thread they share. If they share similar ages, maybe they’re twenty somethings. If your readers are all seeking a specific kind of feeling or experience, they could be adventurers. If your readers share a common career, they could be lawyers or freelancers. What attributes do your readers share that’s relevant to what you do?

 

Fill in the blank:

My ideal reader is a                                               .

 

Examples:

Horror writer: My ideal reader is an avid reader, seeking some adventure.

Fashion blogger: My ideal reader is a twenty-something who’s stumped when it comes to fashion.

Print designer: My ideal reader is a pop culture geek.

 

 

3. What do you help them do?

What does your blog or website help your reader with, and how do you deliver that? The trick here isn’t to describe what you do – so steer away from job titles and descriptions of your skills or the product of your work unless you make something physical – and to describe the change you create for your readers or clients.

 

Fill in the blank: 

I             (what you do to create change)             that let / how to / that empowers my ideal reader to            (what change you create)            .

 

Examples:

Horror writer: I write stories that let my readers escape everyday life.

Fashion blogger: I teach fashion stumped twenty-somethings how to shop their closets for outfits and how to discover their personal style.

Print designer: I create posters that let fans and geeks bring their fandom into their homes.


Stuck on Pricing Your Work? Ask Better Questions

One of the questions that freelancers, creative entrepreneurs and microbusiness owners like us can get really stuck on is “How do I price my work?”. In fact, sometimes a few google searches can take you straight from that question to asking “What the heck do I even need to know so I can start pricing my work?!”.

There are no two ways around it, pricing your work is complicated. Not because it’s unknowable, but because it’s a loaded topic. It makes you think about what you’re “worth” and brings up all kinds of feelings about money. And I bet they’re not Scrooge McDuck’s feelings.

But if you consider a few key things, you can make sure your pricing catches your customer’s attention in a good way, and that you have a business that carries you toward your goals and dreams.

Today I’ve put together a few questions that are worth asking when pricing your work that can help you make sure you cover all angles when you’re working this out. You can use it for new products and as a way to check in with what you already offer.

But this isn’t just about earning less than you’re worth. Pricing your work intentionally can have a huge impact on your life.

When I started working as a web designer, I charged $350 for blog designs and $650 for a website designs. The pricing was based a little on time and a lot on how my partner and I felt we were worth. I was self-taught and designing part-time, and any money I earned felt like an exciting vote of confidence. (It still does!)

It was exciting to work for myself, so when my freelance work and other online income added up to a part-time income, I quit my day job and added more design work to fill in the new availability in my schedule.

But I didn’t adjust my pricing.

My business has never been a hobby, so I needed to make sure I could help with our monthly bills and mortgage payments. Because my prices were so low, I accepted a lot of projects and needed to work constantly. My overconfident and optimistic outlook on pricing quickly had me taking on too many projects, and feeling like I never saw my husband.

I quickly realized that I couldn’t double my output without needing more time to recharge and work on my business, and adjusted my prices to course correct, but I had already accepted a waiting list of clients expecting to pay my bargain basement prices.

Five years later I wish I could travel back in time and hug that younger version of myself.

Well, hug her and then make her spend an afternoon with me so we could take her enthusiasm and great ideas and turn them into a business that pays the bills and supports her sanity!

Since I got serious about business and pricing, the changes have been profound. Using the same skills I had when I started, in the last three and a half months I’ve made over $26,000 USD in sales.

That’s about what I made in my first year of working for myself. I had to pinch myself when I saw it.

And I’m doing it by working less, having a great life I look forward to every day, and genuinely helpful people who want to build amazing online businesses and to learn how to build a healthy business for themselves.

I’m not saying that there’s a shortcut to success (it’s taken me years) but there are definitely potholes you can avoid that will make your journey more direct.

 

Want to dig into pricing? Get your free worksheets!

Free downloadable pricing worksheets for bloggers, coaches & other daring creatives
To help make pricing easier, I’ve made you a book of worksheets that helps you ask & answer strategic questions about:

  • What you should take into account when pricing your time
  • How to tell if your idea is in a tested & true area for business.
  • How the journey your customers are on should affect your prices.
  • What experiences you’re creating for your clients & how that

Is Outdated Advice Sabotaging Your Blog?

Want to know something that drives me crazy? A lot of the advice you’re getting about how to grow your business and how to grow your blog is old. Really old.

Old advice lurks at conferences, in online courses and in blog posts your favourite bloggers write. It means well and is offered by smart people – sometimes whole panels of them.

This has been a pet peeve of mine for years, and I’m in good company. Last week it came up on the Marketing Over Coffee podcast, on a business coach training call I was in, and just the other day Shenee Howard’s posted about it on Facebook.

What’s the big deal? A lot of people groan about how new freelancers and coaches claim the title “expert” before they have the experience to back that up. The thing is we’re all pretty savvy! Those people are easy to sniff out. But how do you figure if well-meaning advice from people you look up to is just plain wrong?

You need to learn if you want to protect yourself from damage, and avoid the traps that block smart bloggers and business owners from the success they want.

 

Wait, why are blogging experts giving out old information?

Learning a skill, building a blog, and making your way to conferences takes time. It takes time to cultivate a reputation and to be invited to speak at events, and during that time a lot can change.

Things change fast.

When Google changes its algorithm, your website can lose hold of it’s search engine placement literally overnight. When social media sites add new features and adjust their search, your referrals or viral growth can evaporate. Tactics can have “best before” dates on them, and needs adjustment or to be scrapped as they’re more widely used.

For bloggers and professionals, the problem is that after your blog or website reaches a traffic tipping point, everything is a little easier – but it also gets fuzzier. With a popular blog or business, crafted with skill, consistency and care over time, you have more invested fans who are ready to receive your work. But in practical terms, while you’re doing a lot right, you also have a larger margin for error that doesn’t sink your business. And with more people exploring your website at any one time, you have a built-in higher chance to succeed.

Most of us never get there, and we look up to the people who do.

But when you don’t have to be as strategic or precise to get people to take action, you feel like you’re great at it. So you might drift away from reading up, tracking and adjusting your performance and keeping your skills sharp. And soon enough, you’re selling online courses or are speaking, teaching blunt techniques that may work alright for you, but that aren’t going to change things your readers and students.

“There is nothing quite as effective, when it comes to shutting down alternative viewpoints, as being convinced you are right.” – Ed Catmull in Creativity Inc.

And of course this happens. We all have blind spots, and most of us fell for doing the work of what we love. We didn’t fall for A/B testing the specifics of how we present our work.

(Though if you did, we should be friends.)

 

So how do you win?

I think you the key is being open but critical, testing things out on your own, and seeing what the person’s track record is. Do other people hire them for their results? Are they curious and engaged? Do they walk their talk? Ever mention training or research on social media? I’m betting you have great radar for this already.

And I’m not special! I’m subject to all of this, too. I’ve been blogging on a weekly basis since 1998 and started my current site in 2008.

That means that in internet time, I’m a fossil.

And I ran day-to-day business as an owner of a business partnership for the last five years. In internet business time, I’m a relic!

Especially because the majority of microbusinesses fail within their first three and a half years, with more women leaving their fields than men in America. (from most recent global entrepreneurship monitor)

By my argument, you should be suspicious of me! And being critical about the advice you take in is amazing, so test for yourself if the “big picture” of my advice rings true for you.

 

To win online you need two ingredients: passionate curiosity and the scientific method.

Curious bloggers are on the lookout for answers. They dabble, read up,


Want to sell a product or service on your blog? Do this first!

Lately I’ve talked with a lot of friends from all different walks of life, and in all different points in their lives and careers, about how they can start to sell a product or service on their blog, or make money from their existing lifestyle blog.

Now, granted, if you and I spoke in person the conversation will eventually turn to two things:

  1. My undying love of all things Joss Whedon.
  2. How frustrated I get when I see talented makers, artists and coaches pouring their hearts into their blogs without being able to make a full or part-time career for their efforts.

If you’re new to my blog, you might not know that I started freelancing when I was twenty-three years old, I left my cubicle for good at twenty-five, and this year I’m turning thirty.

I’m incredibly passionate about this because I vividly remember how big and unknown it all felt when I was starting out. I remember feeling like the only way I could make a normal job work was by putting a “realistic” ceiling on what I wanted my life to feel like.

Being on the other side of that, I know that it’s not as hard or complicated as I assumed it was. And working for yourself can feel just as certain as a day job – but you have to start out to get there right.

And that’s worth talking about.

So what’s the first step when you want to add a product or service to your blog?

It’s a lot like learning a new skill, or adopting a new pet.

This summer one of my best friends, horror writer and editor for hire J.H. Moncrieff, let me know that an abandoned hedgehog was on our Humane Society’s website. Being a crazy animal lady, I was ready to scoop her up for my own before I even saw her.

When I brought her home, Ramona needed some special TLC and wasn’t quiet about it! Being naturally shy critters, she was on high alert and everything panicked her.  Any sound around her cage, movement or new scents and she would go into a ball and make distressed chirping noises to warn off predators.

Ramona the Hedgehog before and after adoption

I didn’t know anything about hedgehogs, let alone how to help one who needed special care. But I had great resources to draw on so I didn’t have to guess.

I needed to know what she ate, so I asked the staff at the Humane Society. (High protein cat food! That was easy.)

I wasn’t sure what kind of habitat they like, so I searched online for “hedgehog habitat pictures”. (They love places to hide and tunnel, and guinea pig cages and accessories are a perfect fit.)

If you break it down:

  • I had a conversation with an expert;
  • I searched online for cages or habitats so I had context for what other people use;
  • I became a careful observer of her behaviour so I could respond to her better;
  • Then I put in a lot of time with her, and;
  • I consistently demonstrated that I was reliable and trustworthy in many small ways.

What does this have to do with your hustle? First of all, it means that you already have the skills to succeed. (Woo!) And second, that’s a small-scale version of how you can learn how to help the people you want to serve with your offering, and then how you build trust them.

I bet you never thought you could tweet this: “My last business lesson was from a hedgehog on the internet.” (click to tweet it!)

Often when we create a new product or service that people might buy, we approach them with less real world information than we do when we problem solve in other areas of our lives.

That’s a little crazy, right?


Holistic Time Management Strategies for Business Owners

As a creative person, a lot of the strategies for getting more out of my time make me want to hide under my desk / roll my eyes. If this sounds familiar, we should probably be friends.

When you have a passion project that you love, or if you work for yourself all or part of the time, your time is both important and scarce. The thing is that gimmicks, “hacks” and scheduling yourself within an inch of your life isn’t a long term plan.

After working for myself for five years, I wanted to share my holistic time management strategies, or a few ways of managing my time that have really, truly helped, when everything else has stopped helping.

louise bourgeois illustrated quote by josh lafayette

illustration josh lafayette via cardboard cities

A lot of things have changed in my work over the past few years, as I’m sure they have in yours too. I’ve worked in local studios, started taking fewer clients to do more strategy work and group teaching, and left my business partnership at the end of 2014.

It’s still early days of working on my own, and on top of that big change, right now I’m working on several long term projects that are slow going and challenging to balance next to my weekly client work. Last Friday I found myself sitting in my office, frustrated that I wasn’t farther ahead, and I felt overwhelm start to creep up my spine and take over.

I realized that through all the changes in my work life, one maddening constant is that what works for me now will only work for a few months. 

Sound frustrating? It is! But the up-side is that it also means that no matter what your work style, I probably have hands on experience with something similar.

Luckily, I remembered a few secret weapons up my sleeve that have always helped me, and I wanted to share them in case you need some extra – gimmick free – help.

Holistic Time Management Strategies for Business Owners & Bloggers

Life Moves Fast, so Take Notes.

I have a dedicated notebook where I write things that work in my personal life, and another dedicated notebook for things that work in my work life. When I hear a helpful piece of advice, learn a lesson that I never want to re-learn, or find a strategy that works that I want to remember for the next few years or decades, I pick up my notebook and write it down. A few times a year, I read it cover to cover.


10 Ways to Get More from Blog and Business Resources You Already Have – But Are Underusing

I don’t know about you, but I’m always tempted by new solutions. New software, services and devices are everywhere and promise a life of ease – and all the benefits under the sun down to shiny, manageable hair – on the other side of a “Buy Now” button. I’ve always loved trying new things, but as the owner of a small business that’s run through my blog, my love of new has definitely escalated.

get-more-from-blog-and-biz

And it’s not just me – my friends and my website design clients (usually bloggers, coaches, photographers and passionate creatives) are always finding new ideas and solutions, and get inspired by taking online courses through each year.

I get it. Learning is important – and more than that, when you have big goals it’s hard to feel like you’re doing enough to actually meet them. And that feeling can wear you down! A new shiny solution is tempting. Especially when they’re designed to look like perfect oases from our problems.

It’s important to remember that new isn’t the only – or even the best – answer.

After all, if you can get more out of what you’ve got, you get to be less stressed and might not even need to the next shiny new solution you find!


How Reading Lifestyle Blogs Almost Stopped Me From Making A Living Online

When I started blogging I remember seeing other people getting dozens of comments on their posts, making a living online from their blogs, and wondering “How can I get in on that??”

Sound familiar?

As bloggers and creatives who want to make a living online, to try to get to the answer we research, explore, try new things and try to figure out what resonates with the mysterious people who are reading our posts. And when you do find something that people respond to? We hold onto that, tight! We start trying to recreate that experience. We feel lucky, talented, and a little pressure to recreate that.

The problem is that it’s easy to confuse attention with success and end up off track with a blog that doesn’t make you a living.

How everything I knew as a blog reader almost stopped me from making a living online - Kyla Roma

When I started this blog it was all personal. I wrote about my life, recipes, craft projects, and shared lots of pictures about my life. I was (and still am) deeply passionate about storytelling, loved working with my hands, and experimenting with photography. That mix of skills made me feel like blogging was just right for me, and my craft project posts started to get some attention online. So I followed that momentum, and built a blog around those posts.

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.


Does finding your blog niche feel limiting? Do this instead.

Alarming fact of the day: I’ve been blogging on a daily, and now weekly basis, since 2002 which means I’ve spent all of my adult life with the question “what should I post about next?” floating around in the back of my mind.

When you have a strong direction for your blog you can answer this question with systems that capture your ideas. You can pop open Google Docs or Evernote and you’re ready to go! But if you’re still wondering “what is my blog about?” then figuring out what to post becomes a very sticky part of your life.

Finding your voice as a blogger is even harder when you’re constantly told to find a blog niche and hold onto it for dear life.

Again – great advice! But for business owners who are struggling to feel comfortable with starting a conversation around their work, or for bloggers still finding their voice it creates pressure and anxiety.

Pressure and anxiety are fine if you’re racing to a nuclear fallout bunker in the event of the apocalypse (in which case, please stop reading this post and focus on your escape) but they actively shut down the part of our brain where creative breakthroughs and higher decision-making happens.

Finding your blog niche shouldn’t feel like sealing yourself in a fallout bunker! (Tweet it)

.


<< older posts