// strategy for creatives who mean business

Is Outdated Advice Sabotaging Your Blog?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)

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Wondering How to Credit Images On A Blog? A Simple Formula for Bloggers

How to Credit Images On Your Blog - A GuideThere are a some questions that always seem to come up in my conversations with my web design clients and blogger friends again and again.

Some of them are complicated. “How exactly do you make a living online?” is a question that needs more than a blog post to answer.

But they’re not all that complex, and “I’m not sure how to credit images on a blog” is one that I hear a lot, tucked away at the end of a conversation. It’s a throw away question, asked hesitantly.

And you probably already know why.

Many of the questions that nag at us are ones we feel like we should already have answered.

So let’s take a stand. Shame has no place in your blog or your business. (tweet it!)

That means we’re going back to basics today, with a quick and simple formula on how to credit images on a blog or website. Because we’re not going to let a little thing like this hold you back from success!

But let’s take a step back and ask: why should you care?

I’m not talking about know why you think you probably should care. I know that you know that people made those beautiful images! And not for bloggers to harvest out of google images.

One of my favourite pieces of dating advice is the campsite rule: to leave the people you date in better shape than they were when you met them, and frankly the Internet needs more people acting this way too. So start being one of them today!

If you’re a blogger, you’re creating content of your own, and it’s just as available to be copied or plagiarized as images are. And the bottom line is that if you wouldn’t want someone republishing your posts under their name, you’re doing the same thing when you use an image without crediting it.

There’s no grey area on this when it comes to copyright. There is no disclaimer in your sidebar that means you’re not liable. And as Author Roni Loren revealed on BlogHer in January 2015, even casual bloggers can be sued for thousands.

So, if you’ve ever used an image from Google Images, start removing them or deleting old posts. Even a few a day makes a difference.

And keep adding new posts using images that are the right side of the law.

 

Wondering How You Should Credit Images? Swipe My Formula!


How You Plan Your Days Creates Your Life, So Stop Settling!

Since 2008, one of my favourite things about January is has been making printable planning worksheets to make my life easier. I started out customizing store-bought day planners and agendas, and adding images to them that were more my style.

It was fast and simple, and I didn’t give it much thought. It was just a fast little project. No different than making dinner.

But as that first year went on I found that having something that I’d created live with me for a year was just different.

In a digital world packed with low value, high volume visual candy, a craft project that becomes part of your daily life for a year feels downright countercultural.

Part way through the year I adjusted my monthly planner, and made it work better. Then when January came around I made another, slightly different planner.

Somehow, among all the habits that I want to start and never keep up, I’ve been doing this every year since 2008.

This year, I’ve been thinking about why this project stuck.

This is a corner of it:


Set Blog & Business Goals for the New Year – Without The Hangover

My name is Kyla, and I’m an over planner.

It should come as no surprise that I love goals, lists, plans and filling binders with ideas for any project I set my sights on. I came thisclose to a career in stage management after all (think air traffic control for the entertainment industry).

I mean, I’m such a keener that I have an online course about designing your own day planner.

The appeal of setting big goals at the start of the year is visible everywhere. What’s not to like about dreaming big and turning over a new leaf?

The problem is the flip side to our accomplishment buzz is often a results hangover.

Expectation Hangover® is how Christine Hassler talks about this in her work, and it perfectly sums up my feelings about how I usually live out goal setting. Everything starts out fun, but in the end I’m disoriented and need to calm myself with a combination of breakfast foods and picturing the ocean.

Now you might have this all worked out, in which case, how dare you.

For the rest of us, deadlines and details and planning are tough stuff! Each year is filled with surprises of all sizes that knock us every direction.


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