I’ve done a few ‘ask me anything’ style posts in the past, but I thought it was high time to do another one. I wanted to keep this one career specific, and so I asked my Facebook fans to hit me with their toughest questions related to running your own small business.
What are the best ways to keep motivated and keep on working when working for yourself? I’m at start up and suffer from a severe case of procrastination! – Kate Love
Pure, unadulterated obsession! I know it sounds like a terrible cliché, but I really can’t not blog, I love it to much! But I hear ya, and sometimes the day to day monotony of running your own business can be less than glamorous.
First of all, I think it’s perfectly acceptable to have a few days of procrastination now and again. Giving yourself a mental break is good for the soul, and will help your productivity over all, so don’t beat yourself up over it. OBVIOUSLY this should be a rare treat though, so if you’re finding that you’re wasting more time on Pinterest that anything else, something probably needs addressing.
I’m going to force you to ask yourself a tough question now: are you really doing something that lights you up? As I said, I can’t not do what I do. I love it so much, there’s nothing I’d rather be filling my time with. If you’re finding that you’re procrastinating more than you should be, maybe you just haven”t found your ‘thing’ just yet. This is fine, just keep on exploring until you do!
Here’s my biggest practical tip for beating the procrastination monster though. It’s all about breaking your tasks into super manageable chunks. If you’re still struggling after you’ve done that, break them down some more until the task is so small it’s super easy to get it checked off your list. It’s much easier to do, say, 5 minutes of emails, and then have a break, than tell yourself you have to tackle your inbox ALL MORNING. That seems like such a big, boring task that you’ll just keep putting it off.
Not every single job you have to do is going to be completely thrilling so doing this, and rewarding yourself after you’ve completed things (even if it’s just a cup of tea!) is a really great way to encourage yourself to begin. Good luck!
Do you have a schedule that you like to keep to or do you only publish stuff if you think you have the right story? Do you pre-plan? Do you write posts and then publish them later? – Emily Lewis
I have a schedule for myself and for the blog. Both are equally important I think, because as a small business owner, if you tell yourself you can fill your day with anything, you’ll undoubtedly never get anything done! I start working before 9am and do most of my writing in the morning, followed by emails. My afternoons I filled with more admin related tasks that require less brainpower. I usually clock off around 7pm.
In terms of the schedule for the blog, I post twice a day on weekdays and once a day over the weekends. One of the most vital things to growing and maintaining a blog is consistency. So even if you can’t, or don’t want to, blog as often as I do you can still grow your audience. If once a week works for you, that’s perfectly fine, the key is that you are accountable and you do it every week! Otherwise it’s just all too easy to get out of the routine.
The reason that being consistent with your posting schedule is important is because it let’s your readers know when they can come back for updates. Even if they’re not consciously aware of what day or time you post, if they come and visit your site at the same time each day/week/month, they’ll always know there’s going to be new content.
Having a regularly updated blog is the best way to grow your audience. There’s nothing worse than finding a new blog and seeing that it hasn’t been updated for months. You’re probably not going to bother going back.
In terms of pre-planning, I always try and work a couple of days in advance, ideally at least week. This is important for two reasons. Firstly, you’re never going to put out good work if you have to rush it, and waking up in the morning and thinking “crap I need an idea for a blog post NOW”, is never the best way to be creative. Also, writing something and sitting on it for a few days can be really valuable. When you go back and read it with fresh eyes you’ll be able to spot typos easier, and you might figure out better ways of getting your points across. Both are almost impossible to do if you need to bash something out and publish it immediately!
Extra reading: How often should I be blogging?
When you are a one person business, how and when do you take the leap to two people? Should you actually hire a person or does it make sense to outsource certain jobs? Melissa Welby
Hiring a full time employee is a huge step (not just financially) and most people who run a business on their own, will outsource individual tasks long before they take the leap to employing anyone.
My story is a little unusual because Gareth coming on board was less about me needing him to work with me full time, and more the fact that I was earning enough that he could quit his crappy IT job and have a much happier life! Over time, his role in the business got bigger and bigger, with him finding things within the business that he wanted to work on too.
I would recommend working with freelancers on the tasks you can’t – or don’t want to – do as much as possible, especially if you are still in the early years of your business.
Extra reading: Why you should be outsourcing
Is it important to try new things even if your current product mix is working? – Alison Nurton
Goodness, yes! My thought process has been that you never know what the future might hold and putting all your eggs in one basket is never a smart move. Even if its all working out great at the moment, pushing yourself to try new things will not only keep you motivated and creative, but it will mean you’re always ahead of the curve.
You don’t want to wake up one day and ‘have’ to figure out some new products because your old ones suddenly aren’t selling any more. It’s important to try things, keep on top of new trends and a close eye on what your customers want from you. If you don’t, you’re only going to get left behind when some new, enthusiastic upstarts come along with lots of brand new amazing products!
Extra reading: Is your business future proof?
When you go back and look at some older blog posts that are maybe just so-so, do you delete them or keep them in the archives anyway for people to go back and read (if they are so inclined!)? – Scarlett Ballantyne
It’s funny you should ask that, because when I went back and re-read the old posts I’m linking to in this article I cringed a lot! But really, each post is part of the journey of blogging and so for the most part I keep them up, even it if it pains me!
I’ve only ever deleted a couple of posts. A couple of weddings that I’ve been asked to remove, and maybe one other article that when I looked back on it a few years later it wasn’t something I was comfortable being online any more.
The other thing is that most of my content doesn’t date. A wedding is still going to be interesting and inspiring to people finding it today as it was the first day I published it (same goes with the advice pieces). This is a big reason why you should always strive to write evergreen content. Many of my old, popular posts still continue to get a lot of traffic by people finding them on Google.
Are there any big mistakes you feel you have made with blogging or your business that you have learned from? – Scarlett Ballantyne
Yes! I once published a guest post that in retrospect I didn’t really think though. It was a very opinionated piece and I didn’t realise the implications of what we’re being said. I didn’t ever consider what an impact something I published could have.
While I stand by what the guest writer wrote (and the post is still in the archives) at the time it caused a HUGE amount of controversy and I experienced some of the worst internet hate (from people within the wedding industry!) that I’ve ever experienced because of it. While I don’t regret what happened one little bit, it did provide me with a powerful reminder that everything you say or do is up for criticism and that it will happen if you make a stand for something, especially if it goes against the grain of what’s usually said out loud.
I also learnt very quickly how truly horrible people can be when they’re angry. At the time it was hard to deal with, but looking back it was the most valuable lesson I’ve ever learnt.
Extra reading: Dealing with online negativity and haters
I’m looking to expand my niche (I currently write about youth theatre and am looking to expand onto other topics); how can I do that without losing my current audience? – Kerry Hishon
This is something we discuss a LOT at The Blogcademy, but the crux of it is that you need to figure out who your ideal reader is and write for them.
While my ideal reader is, of course, getting married, she’s interested in so much more than just weddings. She loves tattoos, cats, coloured hair, alternative fashion, Etsy, music… the list goes on. I can write about all of these topics if I wanted, and it would work because my ideal reader is also interested in those things.
I do think if you have a niche blog (in my case alternative weddings) rather than a more general lifestyle one, you need to remain true to that core interest of your readers though. I always try and relate whatever is it I’m talking about back to weddings in some way, otherwise it can be a little be jarring. It would be super odd, for example, if I only blogged only one thing about weddings a week and everything else was random!
There’s no reason why you can’t slip in the odd article that comes a bit out of the left field though, it’s actually a good thing to do to keep your readers on their toes!
Do you design and maintain your website yourself or do you pay for help with website management? – Sarah Jane
Goodness, no. I am not a technically minded person at all! I really lucked out by marrying a geek! Gareth does all that back-end techy development stuff for me. I also work with Branch for all my design. I really do have the dream team.
I’d strongly recommend working with a developer if it’s not something you’re comfortable doing yourself. That stuff can be very stressful and can take up a lot of your time. Ask some of your blogger friends who they’ve worked with, or email bloggers you admire. If they’ve had a good experience, it’s likely that they’ll be happy to recommend who they’ve worked with. Gareth is not for sale though, sorry!
If you’re not in a position where working with a developer is possible (although a lot of them work by the hour) I’d recommend getting yourself a copy of WordPress For Beginners by Reeta Krishna. It’s an awesome book that breaks down a lot of the scary, intimidating technical aspects of running a WordPress blog.
I would love some advice on a proper marketing regime to get the clients you want. Should you advertise in just one place or multiple places at the same time? What sort of a budget should you be dedicating to marketing/advertising? Any other advice please? It’s an area I am totally clueless about!! – Sarah Wayte
You should totally check out my Blogcademy Home School module on PR and marketing. In it, I go into a lot of depth about this subject and share some of the things that have been successful for my business. There are also worksheets to help you figure out a marketing plan that will work for you.
However my short answer would be that you should determine the target market that you want to appeal to (alternative, traditional, budget etc) and then aim to get a presence on blogs, websites and magazines that those ideal clients engage with. Advertising is a great place to start, but you also need to layer that up with editorial features too.
Is your ideal client on Facebook? If so, think about doing some advertising or a campaign on your own Facebook page. Are they picking up local wedding magazines? Then send them some submissions. Is there a particular wedding blog they read? How about running a special offer through that site?
There really are so many things you can do, and its often a bit of a case of trial and error. There also isn’t really just one thing you can do that will bring you a million new clients. It can be a gradual process so you need to have a strategy. Don’t be disheartened if the first thing you attempt isn’t a stonking success on it’s own. It’s all about getting those building blocks in place, each thing you do will add to your overall visibility to those clients you really want to work with.
I hope you’ve found my answers useful, and remember, if you ever have any questions about business, blogging or wedding planning you can always drop me an email! While I can’t promise to reply to them all individually, I may well use your question as the basis of a future blog post.
- Photography: Shell De Mar Photography