How To Save Yourself A Ton Of Time And Several Headaches In Your Business

You've heard it a million times: the key to a successful business is consistent communication with your audience.

In the words of Being Boss's Emily Thompson, "Consistency breeds legitimacy." If you are reaching out to your audience on a regular basis and providing them with super quality content that helps them succeed like hell in whatever it is they're doing, then you're on the right track. This is, of course, a work in progress. No one is perfect (I'm not perfect. My life has recently been turned upside down, and I missed sending my newsletter last week. Maybe I'll share more later, maybe I won't. Maybe I should have prepared my newsletter further in advance to prevent that, which, yes, I do recommend doing).

It takes time— a lot of time— to write good content consistently. A lot of the time, it's not our favourite part of our business. Sometimes I struggle getting what I mean into writing— I much prefer the visual communication of branding and web design (which is why it's my job!).

But it doesn't need to make you miserable, and it doesn't need to take you a bajillion hours a week.

Here is a simple way to connect with your readers without driving yourself over the edge:
 

1. THE NEWSLETTER

For me, this is where it all begins. The people on your newsletter list are your BFFs. These are the people who should be getting the best content, first. Sometimes people offer an 'opt-in' incentive, such as a worksheet or a planner in order to get their audience to sign up for their newsletter list. Others simply promising a bangin' newsletter packing with actionable info (like Paul Jarvis). Whichever method you choose, the fact remains that the people on your list are VIP and they deserve that little extra something.

When you're writing up content, start with the newsletter (as I'm doing right now). This is where I write long-form content (i.e.: longer than Instagram or a Facebook post), but not too long, because most people don't have time to read the world's longest newsletter anyhow. Make sure it's broken up into sections so your audience can skim!

This should be helpful content that is directly applicable to your audience, and instantly actionable.

It's a good idea to aim to release a newsletter to your audience once a week. The more often you're writing, the shorter they get— ain't no one got time to read 3000 word newsletters every day, am I right?
 

2. THE SOCIAL MEDIA

Yeah, I said The Social Media. Where you head next depends on where your audience hangs out. For me, that means I'm repurposing content on Instagram and occasionally Facebook.

Social media is where you're attracting potential new readers to your blog and newsletter with bite-sized content. While I release my newsletters on Monday mornings, I share that bit of newsletter related content a couple days before, usually on Friday. I'll share a snippet of the newsletter that acts as a hook, but remains useful and thought provoking to someone scrolling by, then let the reader know that I'll be discussing the topic more in my newsletter on Monday, and direct them to the link in my bio where they can sign up.

Ditto for Facebook!
 

3. THE BLOG

Google loves new content— and having frequently updated blog content is a great way to build trust with new readers (plus, you can pin each blog post on Pinterest with a nice vertically-oriented graphic and attract new audience members that way). A few weeks after an article goes out to my readers on the newsletter list, I'll put that content on my blog for anyone to read and put to use.

This way, I get to use the same piece of content at least three times without having to do three times the work. And the possibilities here are really endless. You could also take single newsletter and share it in a Facebook group, you could turn it into an Instagram story, or a live Facebook video. 


You might be wondering: won't people get sick of seeing the same content over and over again?

The answer is: most likely, no. 

Most people will not see all of your content except those absolute biggest fans (in which case, they won't mind). Think of some business you like to follow: do you see everything they share? It's very unlikely that you come across every Facebook post, Instagram post, Facebook live, and webinar in addition to reading every blog post and newsletter. You'd probably explode.

Get creative! With a little bit of careful organizing, you can make a single piece of content go an extraordinary way.

 
How to Turn A Completely Shit Customer/Client Experience Into A Business Transformer

If you're a freelancer you probably know two things:

1. Most of your business comes from sweet, sweet referrals
2. Sweet, sweet referrals come from really awesome client interactions and projects smooth as single malt scotch (which I still think is gross, but hey, the metaphor works)

When you deliver on-time, when you're pleasant to work with, and your work is good, you get good referrals. But what happens when unforeseen circumstances threaten to throw everything under the bus?

If you've worked in retail (hello, that's why we freelance), then you will also probably have heard that sickly saying 'the customer is always right". It could just be my experience, but this statement has never done anything but make me dwell on past abuse from customers, pile on the resentment, and leave me feeling less than empowered.

But when you're in business for yourself whether you own a small business (or a large one), or you're a freelancer, the shitty customer interactions that make you want to crawl into a cave of shame and never come out are actually situations that give you power, not take it away.

They're opportunities for you to make something awesome happen in your business. It might be hard (it will almost certainly be hard), it might be uncomfortable, and it might even temporarily disadvantage you, but in the long run, you win.

If your customer or client isn't happy with something and it is within your power to make it not just better, but to go unbelievably above and beyond, THIS IS THE GOOD BUSINESS DECISION ALMOST ALWAYS.

I was reading a story on Reddit the other day about a guy who had the most outrageous amount of good reviews for his product he sells on Amazon. When a customer's wallet split at the side, he not only refunded her the purchase price, but sent her MORE WALLETS FOR FREE. Not begrudgingly, not just a refund, but made that experience SO DAMN MEMORABLE.

It's easy for us to remember bad experiences, because they're usually not the norm. Shitty events stick in our head because they're exciting and different (you know how you stub your toe in the morning and then declare this entire day is garbage and the universe hates me? ). Your clients and customers are not very likely to remember an average interaction. They're absolutely going to remember a crappy one, and for far longer than you'd like (and they're going to tell people about it).

So when the situation gets a little hairy, make it so awesome the inciting incident will be scoured out of their brains by Customer-Service Wondermoments™. They'll absolutely tell people about it, and that word-of-mouth singing your praises will be well worth the extra few hours of work, or the cost of a product or two.

 
Blogging & BusinessDanna Rowan
How Excuses Are Killing Your Business (and what to do about it)

Being told that you are making excuses— that you are standing in the way of your own success— is never easy.

I was recently told that it seemed like I was making an excuse for my own struggles, and you know what my knee-jerk response was to that?

You betcha. Another damn excuse. It's like they show up without being asked for, a little army of reserve excuses, ready to head out (except p.s., they're not doing you any favours).

Sometimes taking action is absolutely scary. Getting out of your own way and chasing down success means that you have an opportunity to fail. If you're telling yourself you can't do something, it's not scary, because there is no opportunity to fail. Ditching the excuses means you're vulnerable. It means that you're now giving it your all, and if things don't work out— well, that's on you.

But there's a way around the excuse-making I've been thinking a lot about lately, and it comes in the form of a question.

What if you're wrong?

Yes, that's it. What if you're wrong? What if your assumptions about yourself, your abilities, your situation, your future—what if they're wrong?

I might say: I really can't do this because I just don't have time.

Well, what if I'm wrong? What if I can make the time and make my desires an actual priority? We all have the same 24 hours.

I always struggle with getting things done on time because I'm so disorganized.

What if you're wrong? What if you tell yourself you're actually an organization master, you just haven't found the right way to organize for you?

Often I even hear people discrediting themselves before they even try.

I'd love to make a comic some day, but I sooo can't draw.

And when I ask if they'd ever really tried drawing, if they spent time practising every day, they said no. So why believe that they don't have any ability to draw? Why not choose to believe they can draw, they're just a little out of practise?

Your thoughts about yourself, the things we think we know, are beliefs— and they're not necessarily any more right than what someone else might think. They are not unshakeably true simply because you're the person thinking them.

The next time you find yourself putting up excuses for why you're not chasing down your dreams, for why you can't make it work, ask yourself:

What if I'm wrong?

Why Your Word is the Most Important Thing You Have As a Business Owner

As a business owner, your word is the most important thing you've got.

That might sound a little old-fashioned, and maybe it is (I've been known to knit and drink a lot of tea), but I think it's still very important, especially in this magical land of online business in which so many of us operate. 

It all comes down to trust. Can your customers or clients trust in you? Are they confident that you're going to follow through, to provide what they expect, to give them a fantastic experience?

Developing that trust is upholding your word, honouring your word. When you say you're going to do something, you do it. When you imply that you're going to do something, you do it. 

Even if it's hard. Even if it's time-consuming. Even if it's awkward— hell, even if it means you lose out a little, if you lose a some profit in refunding a purchase, or spend a little longer on a project to make sure it's absolutely right. Why? When you honour your word, you don't lose out in the long run.

You become known as a person that can be counted upon. As someone who gets shit done. As someone who is strong. As someone who will make it right even when it's not the easy thing to do.

What does this look like? It looks like:

  • responding to those people that reach out to you in a reasonable amount of time
  • owning up when you've made a mistake
  • following through on promises and commitments to others
  • following through on promises and commitments to yourself (this one is very important. Running your own business is tough shit, and to see success you're gonna have to hold fast to commitments you make to yourself, even when you feel completely hopeless).
  • putting out consistent content
  • getting honest, even when makes you vulnerable— especially when it makes you vulnerable
  • using your voice to stand up for others who need your support, notusing your voice to knowingly spread hate or misinformation


Honouring your word is often hard. It means facing your struggles over and over again, and coming to terms with the parts of yourself that you might want to run away from. But it's transformative. It's powerful. It keeps you learning and growing, understanding and questioning.  

And that's the kind of fuel that will keep your business going long beyond the first spark.

How to Pick Great Stock Photos for Your Content

We've all seen them.

You know, the websites that have gloriously awful stock photos (woman smiling eating garden salad, anyone?), stock photos so bad that you can't look past them to what might be great written content. Worse yet? People actually pay for these abominations. 

As bloggers and business owners who want to produce great content, attract your dream readers and clients, and of course build a successful brand and business, the last thing you want to be doing is scaring away your future audience with off-putting and off-brand graphics.

The good news? These days there are some really quality stock photos out there that look nothing like the awkward corporate robots grimacing at the camera that we're used to seeing. With determination and a little know-how, you can get gorgeous stock photos for your content and use them in a way that helps build your brand and enchant your audience— without spending a cent. Here's how.

 

1. KNOW WHERE TO GET QUALITY STOCK PHOTOS FOR FREE

There are lots and lots of places out there that will charge you good money for good stock photos, and lots of places out there that will charge you good money for bad ones. Spending money on good stock photos isn't a bad idea, but it's not always feasible when you're just starting out— in fact, I still publish a digital quarterly magazine using all free stock photos, and it's gorgeous

FREE: 

PAID:

 

2. UNDERSTAND WHAT MAKES A GOOD STOCK PHOTO

So here's the important thing: not all stock photos are created equal. In fact, the vast majority of them are awful, and scream stock photo. When you're picking a stock photo, one of the main things you want to keep in mind is that you don't want your stock photo looking like a stock photo. What does this mean?

  • your photo doesn't look overly staged
  • your lighting is natural, over artificial
  • you're avoiding too many bland smiles, or unnatural emotions

 

Which one Of these would you rather see?

Yes, all stock photos are staged, but the one on the right does a much better job of capturing an authentic moment, of showing a scene how it may have actually played out. Your goal? Seek out stock photos that look as though they're giving you a snapshot into a real moment, a window into a real scene playing out somewhere in the world— a great candid photo that was taken by accident, rather that a posed photo where everyone was told smile.

 

3. CHOOSE LESS LITERAL IMAGES

So you're writing a post about money, specifically, finding money for your blog or business why it seems like you have none. Your first instinct might be to find a stock photo of money, right? Because you're writing about money. That's when you often end up with this.

This image, while portraying a delicious suitcase of cash, does nothing for your post. It doesn't put the image in context, it does nothing to humanize the content, and it's cheesy as hell. Instead, take a step back from the most literal interpretation of your topic, and think of some related concepts that you might be able to capture in a stock photo. What else comes to mind when you think of money? Stress, papers, notebooks, spreadsheets, calculators/general desk imagery, etc. So rather than a boring suitcase of money (okay, it's the image that's boring, not the concept. A suitcase of money would be anything but boring), you have a realistic image that helps place your reader in the scenario about which you're writing.

 

4. CHOOSE PHOTOS CONSISTENT WITH YOUR BRAND

When you're sourcing photos from many different websites, it's important that the general style and mood of your photos remains the same, creating a consistent brand feel. It's helpful to think of your brand as a season.

Your photos might be bright and colourful (spring)

 

They might be muted and romantic (summer)

 

Earthy, dark and mysterious (autumn)

 

Or dramatic and crisp (winter)

 

5. CROP IMAGES CREATIVELY

Alright, so it's just part of the bargain when using stock photos, especially free ones: they're not unique. Every day I run across another blog or even published book that has some photo that I've used before. However, that doesn't mean that you have to look exactly like everyone else!

Most reputable stock photo sources give you images with a high resolution, often as much as 4000x6000 pixels. This means you have a decent amount of wiggle room when it comes to cropping the image uniquely.

 

For example: this photo? Shows up everywhere.

 

But this one? Helps disguise the original just enough to keep things interesting.