How to Write a Business Plan | Plus why you need one and how creative entrepreneurs can rock your business just by getting all your ideas down on paper and in one place. It doesn’t have to be fancy or elaborate, just a simple road map for where your business is going so you know what to do and WHEN to get there faster.This blog post is about how to write a business plan for your blog or small business. And of course, why you need one and HOW to create one that you will actually follow and use to achieve your goals.

A business plan is important because it gives you a road map for your business, so you know exactly what to do and where you’re going. I waited two years to write one and definitely wish I had done it sooner.

Here’s why they’re important:

  • They help you visualize your future business. It’s kind of like writing a script for a third act in a play, and your business is the star. What role do you want it to play?
  • Validate your concept
  • Set realistic expectations about your resources and your budget
  • Give you a clear picture of how you will market your business and get to the next level
  • See the exact steps you need to take in your business so you can accomplish your goals
  • Foresee future challenges so that you can plan ahead for them
  • Develop repeatable processes for your business and your brand
  • Set a benchmark to analyze and evaluate your growth
  • See gaps in your business model and refine your strategy

There’s a lot in this list and it may seem overwhelming at first and that’s okay. Take your time as you go through each step and have fun with it.

What I do when I write a business plan is give myself a time frame to work on it, and what gets done is what gets done. Kind of like saying This window is open right now. At 5pm it’s going to shut and it’s not going to open again. Great way to make sure you don’t get stuck in planning mode too long. The thing that will stop you from achieving success faster than anything else is NOT STARTING, so give yourself a cut-off to get it done and move on.

Here are the steps to write an effective business plan:

1) Create a document for your business plan.

Before we look at what to include in a business plan, keep in mind that planning your business is a fluid process. The first thing you want to do is to create a document in your favorite computer program. Two important things to point out here:

  1. You want that you can modify the document throughout the year as you learn more about your biz, your goals, and your audience. You’re going to view your business plan every 3 months, because that’s how you’re going to work your goals and track your progress. So every 3 months you’re editing, tweaking, and updating your goals and steps.
  2. You definitely want to keep the doc somewhere you can easily get to it, like Evernote or Google Docs. Don’t tuck it away where you can’t find it again!

Is this what you want to say?

To make it extra easy for you, I’ve created a sample business template you can customize for your biz! Just click the button below to grab it.

free business plan template

PLEASE NOTE: In order to be able to edit and customize it yourself, when you’re viewing the template go to File and Make a copy, or you can simply download it as a Word doc or copy and paste it to your favorite program!

small business plan template

2) Client Summary

One of the hardest things can be identifying your one ideal customer. Everyone from solopreneurs to the biggest brands and corporations struggle with this one.

I think what makes it hard is fear:

  • Fear that if you focus on one ideal customer, you may actually lose business
  • If you let go of trying to be all things to all people, you’re going to wind up being one thing to no one
  • The customers you really want won’t want to work with you

But in reality, the exact opposite is true. When you zero in on your ideal customer, you naturally become a magnet for them. They know right away that you’re a good fit for them and start seeking you out vs you hunting them down.

You probably have a good idea who your target audience is. Most of my clients can say things like, “I’m targeting professional high income women with children.”

Well ok.

What do you do with that? You say it. Write it down on paper. Make a mental note of it when you need clarity. And then you completely forget about it. Because it doesn’t really MEAN anything.

If you’re going to catch the attention of your ideal customers, you have to be besties with them. That’s just the way it works. Beyond their age, title, gender and all the basic stuff, you have to know things like:

  • The way they see themselves
  • Issues they struggle with
  • Problems they have
  • How they feel
  • What their average day looks like
  • Things they want to achieve

For help with your one person, check out this video.

Need help with this? I’ve got a free customer avatar template right here that will walk you through exactly how to get clear on your ideal customer and the true value you provide!

sample business plan pdf Click here to download the customer avatar template so you can get clear on your ideal client!

3) Brand Summary

Now that you’ve gotten clear on your ideal customer, it’s time to create a summary of your business. You’re going to want to create two “statements”:

A vision statement (the long term vision you have your business)
A mission statement (how you plan to achieve it)

The vision statement is part of your strategic plan and it’s just for you. This is where you dream big. Where do you see your business going? What difference will you make for your customers and for your own life? Make it passionate and emotional. Visualize your success, what your day looks like, what car you’re driving, what kind of customers you have, all of it.

Here’s what mine looks like: My vision is to create a clear and direct path for business owners and entrepreneurs to build a profitable online business.

The mission statement is about how you’re going to achieve your vision statement. Here’s where you want to document why your business exists, meaning:

  • What specifically do you do?
  • How do you do it?
  • Who do you do it for?
  • What value are you providing?

My mission statement looks like this: I support this by providing education and training about growing an online brand, supplemented by creative and marketing support to achieve it.

Next steps
In case you want to know, your next step from here is to take these two statements and create a value proposition. Think of it like this: your mission and vision statements are for you. The value prop is for your customers. It’s your 30-second pitch and the message that gives people a reason to choose you over a competitor. If you need help with this, check out this post.

Here’s something I need to point out because it’s easy to get stuck when you’re writing brand statements:

Vision and mission statements will get you absolutely nowhere without the right product/market fit, which we’ll cover later on. People have to want what you have. What I mean by this is that your business will be shaped more by how people perceive it, not by how you perceive it. So until you test the waters, you won’t know if your vision aligns with what they want or need. Or you may realize that you have to adjust how you deliver your vision.

Point is, don’t spend too much time wondering how to write a business plan or perfecting “statements” until you validate your concept.

Brand look and feel
All strong brands are consistent and strategic with their visual identity. So think about how you want readers and customers to feel on your site. What do you want your brand to say about you? What voice do you want to write in? What will you show people? What types of pictures will you use? What graphic elements or fonts will you use? Take all those notes and turn them into a brand style guide, so people will recognize your brand. All your brand elements should have a cohesive look everywhere – blog, website, email, signatures, business card, sales pages, social — all of it.

4) Validate your idea and your market

Two things you need to dig into here:

Market size: The market you’re targeting must be large enough to sustain your revenue goals.
Product/market fit: There needs to be a sufficient demand within that market for what you do.

When you can place a check next to both of these, you’ve got market validation. If you can’t, save yourself the headache and move on to a different market. I’ll give you an example:

For my design business, I was all set to target health clubs. Since there’s literally a gym on every corner where I live, it seemed like a no brainer. The problem? Turns out that gyms don’t care so much about marketing. For whatever reason, it’s just a not a priority for them. So it would have taken me a ton of work to get even one gym customer. And since the market didn’t inherently value my services, I wouldn’t be able to charge enough to meet my revenue goals. What this means for gyms is:

Size of the market: Check.
Product/market fit: X.

You need to do the same for your business. Spend some time researching potential markets before you start going after them. You just need to know that there are enough people who need what you have and are willing to pay for it, so that you can meet your revenue goals in a time frame that works for you.

5) Competitive analysis

Whew! You’re doing great. We’re just about done creating a business plan step by step…

Now, this next step can pull you into a rabbit-hole if you’re not careful! Like the brand statements I mentioned earlier, the problem with competitive analysis is that the focus is on competitors instead of your customers. What I’ve learned is that there are a ton of people out there doing a ton of things, and how you stand out is really a matter of how much (and how) you put yourself out there.

Still, you want to be aware of who else is in your space. Who do you like, who you don’t like? Don’t copy other people, but even the best artists take inspiration from other artists and then make it their own. That’s what you should do with competitor analysis.

Take a look at their pricing, their offers, their processes, how they move people from the “get to know you” stage to becoming a customer. You can use what you learn to model your own offers and services.

Be careful not to compare yourself to your competitors. You’re starting out and they’re probably halfway to the finish line. Just take a look so you have a better idea of where you fit in the market and how you want people to perceive your brand.

6) Business Goals

So now it’s time to move past the warm and fuzzy side of planning and get your hands a little dirty. If you’re going to be in business, you need to know what breakeven and profitability look like.

How much do you need to make right now, so that you can be in business at all, and how much do you want to make tomorrow, when you scale your business beyond startup?

To figure it out, first make a note of all your operating and overhead costs (rent, utilities, supplies, support, hosting fees, cost of goods, travel, payroll, marketing, and so on). Yes, you need a marketing budget – doesn’t have to be huge, but you need it.

Write down everything you can think of around maintaining your business. You’d be surprised at how costs can creep when you’re not looking! Make a note of variable costs vs fixed costs. It’s good to know where the floor is and how much wiggle room you have.

What you’re going for is to establish a breakeven point first, and then project how much profit you want to make in years 2, 5 and even 10.

How will you hit your goals?
Now that you know what your financial story is, you want to map out specific tasks to achieve your goals. If you’ve ever tried to lose weight, you know there’s a big difference between saying I want to lose some weight and I want to lose 5 pounds in one month.

If you’re going to hit your goal, you need to reverse-engineer it. What specific tasks will help you achieve it? Hold yourself accountable and write down specific numbers. What exactly do you want to achieve and in what time frame? Do you want 20 subscribers? 100 Twitter followers? 3 new clients? In 2 months? One Year? You get the idea.

Click the button below to grab a copy of the business plan template so you can start reaching your goals!

effective business plan template

7) Services and Products

Making money online is all about having sales funnels. And the best way to create sales funnels is to have some idea about the products you are going to offer, both today and tomorrow. Ideally, you want to manage the way people experience your products and services, AND how quickly you meet your revenue goals.

What services do you offer right now? What about down the road, do you have ideas for that? Will you sell products? Make a list of your current and future products. Your goal is to tie both your content and your process together into a sales process that lets people get to Know, Like and Trust you, and then Try and Buy. Basically, you want to create a process for how people will experience your products and services.

A good way to do this is by bundling them into packages. For example:

  • Intro Package: Free Consultation, Strategy Call or Freebie. Your goal here is to introduce people to your brand with tons of free info.
  • Trial Package: Low-Cost Analysis, Masterclass, Bootcamp, Ebook – get them to commit to an inexpensive transaction with you.
  • Standard Packages: Basic, Premium & VIP based on scope, needs, and budget
  • Recurring Packages: Nothing beats guaranteed monthly revenue. What services/products can you offer on a recurring basis now and in the future?

Bottom line, different customers will have different needs, interests and budgets. A solopreneur or small business owner is not going to be able to afford the same price structure as a larger corporation. By lining up your packages ahead of time you can meet their needs and your goals at the same time.

8) Pricing

If anyone knows how crucial pricing is, it’s yours truly! In the early days of my design business, I was throwing estimates out there that were all over the place. Some were super low and some were outrageously high. What I did was start out with high pricing and then I’d just drop them for customers with smaller budgets.

There’s nothing wrong with this, except that I would deliver the same exact end product, regardless of whether my price was high or low. So most of the time I wound up doing way too much work for very little income. I didn’t think ahead for different price points and budgets.

Part of this comes from needing customers. There’s a tendency to do whatever it takes to make a sale, and when you’re on the spot a lot of times it can come down to price. Which is why you need those packages.

Each package reflects a different scope of work. Basic and premium packages will require less work than a VIP package and should be priced accordingly. Fewer people will have the budget for VIP and that’s okay. At higher price points, it’s not a volume play. What you don’t want to do is sell customers a basic and deliver a VIP.

Make sure you price each package so that it:

  • Makes both you and your customers happy (not just one or the other)
  • Accurately reflects the true value of what you’re providing
  • Has a decent profit margin so you don’t hit burn out
  • Provides you enough income to help meet your revenue goals

Another thing to keep in mind is how you’ll produce each package. Will you hire people or will you do it yourself? How long will it take to deliver and at what rate? What things will you outsource? What things will you do yourself? Factor those rates into your pricing.

9) Marketing Plan

The universe wants you to succeed! People want and need new services and products like yours. So when you think about it, all you need is visibility so the universe knows you exist.

I stumbled on this quote the other day and it’s so simple but sooooo true:

Startups don’t fail because they don’t have a product, they fail because they don’t have customers.

I’ve seen many people put time and effort into developing their brands, their products, throwing money at things like infrastructure, inventory, materials, and staff, and then have absolutely no plan for sales and marketing. Just a few months ago a friend of mine closed her fashion design business after years of developing her line, getting line sheets together, working with printers, the whole nine. In all that time, what she never did was contact stores, send samples to bloggers, blog, dig into Pinterest or Instagram. Nothing.

href=”https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Entrepreneurship”>Being an entrepreneur means you need to follow all the steps to starting your own business. And one of those steps is to become an expert at marketing. Period.

I’m not saying you have to become a full blown marketing expert or excel at every technique. But you do have to commit to rolling up your sleeves, testing out a few tactics, and then leaning on the ones that work. This post on 100 different ways to market your business will give you some great ideas to get started.

Think about how you’ll structure each day so that you carve out time for marketing and lead generation. Your mindset should be to split your time equally between product development/client work and marketing.

Quickest way to get customers today. How can you set yourself up for success today and in the long term? What will you do right now to spread the word about your brand? For example, you could email or call people you know, do local speaking events, connect with people on LinkedIn, join Facebook groups. Think about the easiest, fastest path to getting customers now. Write down every possible strategy you can think of, and then choose the least expensive, quickest path to test out.

Future growth. What else will you do in the next 6-12 months to spread the word out about your brand?

Social media/content strategy. Based on what you know about your ideal customer, what are the best channels to reach them? Write down what your strategy will be for each. For instance, you could write something like, “spend 10 minutes a day liking, interacting and comment on Pinterest and post at least 1 pin a day.” Look at how other brands are presenting their content and think about what types of content you’ll share. Do you notice some posts that stand out more than others? Write down how frequently you’ll blog and what you’ll write about. You should check out this post for some great ideas!

Your email list plan. If you don’t have a list, it’s time to start growing one! Start making a plan to grow your list. Think about things like content upgrades, webinars, email marketing providers. This post will help you get started with building your list.

10) Workflows

Workflows, baby, that’s where it’s at. They’re such a time saver! With so many things to juggle, setting up systems and workflows will help you automate those tasks that you do over and over. You might be tempted to skip over this, but please don’t. It will save you pain and frustration down the road, plus it’ll make things run smoother, I promise!

Automating tasks. Think about things that you do over and over again, like email marketing, outreach, billing, presentations, proposals, blog title images, editing photos, social media, blog posts. Walk through your workflow for each of these. Can you create templates for your photos, proposals, and presentations? How can you schedule your posts ahead of time? If you’re emailing prospects, what software can you use to automate it so that you can reach more people quicker?

Social media + blogging. Come up with a plan for blogging and posting on social media. How often will you post? What will you write about and how frequently. Consistency here is what’s going to make your readers trust you and help you build an audience.

Your process. Branding your processes is a huge time saver in the long run and ensures consistency. Take some time to write down each and every step of your different processes. Examples of processes include how you onboard a new client, and the exact steps you take with them from start to finish.

Your schedule. Consistency and taking action are really important for growing your business! Try to schedule your day so that you’re doing the same things each day so you get into a routine. For instance, schedule time for client work, time for marketing, blogging, and time to develop future products. Try to stick to it as closely as possible.

There you have it! I hope these steps cover everything you want to know about how to write a business plan. Remember, don’t get stuck. Keep movin’ forward! Time to build a life you love and enjoy the thrill of being your own boss!

Grab the business plan template below to get started!

free business plan template small business plan template
by

Create blog contentA while back, I asked you guys what you were struggling with most in your blog or business. And wow, your answers surprised me! Turns out, many of you (like me) struggle to work on your blog consistently.

Here are some of the things I heard:

  • I have trouble finding time to write with a full-time job and a 7-month old
  • The hardest thing is regularly creating blog content
  • I’m overwhelmed with decisions, so I don’t make any
  • It’s hard to find the motivation to sit down and write for an hour with two jobs
  • I don’t know what to write about
  • I have a lot of blog topics but don’t know where to start, so I don’t finish
  • I’m so tired by the time I get home that I just want to veg for an hour then crawl into bed
  • My family thinks blogging isn’t a real job until I make money, so they keep interrupting me

So in this post, I’ve got some tips to help keep our momentum going.

First, I’m going to drill down on time management and motivation. Then, I’ll share blogging systems that will help you maximize every hour you spend on your blog.

Ready? Let’s dig in.

CREATING BLOG CONTENT PART 1 –> PRIORITIES AND MOTIVATION

Step 1. Is blogging a priority right now?

If you’ve been trying to blog consistently but can’t seem to get there, hold the phone. Depending on your business model and growth, blogging consistently may NOT be your main focus right now, and that’s perfectly okay.

Let me explain…

>> Business growth

If you’re familiar with my DIY Your Biz Blueprint, you know my four phases of building a successful online business:

  • Phase #1 (The Launch Phase) – create your website and brand identity
  • Phase #2 (The Hustle Phase) – drive traffic, build your platform
  • Phase #3 (The Growth Phase) – generate leads and sales
  • Phase #4 (The Profit + Scale Phase) – automate sales processes, build your team

I go into loads more detail and cover specific milestones for each phase in this post.

BONUS: If you want, you can grab the Online Business Roadmap so you know exactly what steps to take. It’s broken down into 4 easy to follow sections with prompts, milestones, and goals. Plus, you’ll have the resources and tools to help you reach them. Just click the image below to download it.

Get the Online Business Roadmap from ConversionMinded

Roughly speaking, the closer you get to phase #4, the less frequently you’ll be blogging.

(at least for a stretch)

Last year, I switched my focus from regular blogging to creating new products, webinars, and sales funnels. Every month, I could only manage to bang out a post, if that. And every month I’d stress about it! First off, I know that blogging is a non-negotiable for my business. Plus, I can’t wait to share everything I’ve learned this past year. It’s killing me!

But here’s the thing:

I spent two years (in phases #2-3) building my platform, gaining visibility, driving traffic, and generating leads and sales. Now in phase #4, my focus is on sales systems and automation. So that’s what I’m doing.

As entrepreneurs, we like to think we can tackle everything, all at the same time. But there are only so many hours in a week, and we have to learn to say No to things that we desperately want to say Yes to (more on that below).

Bottom line, if you’re at the tail end of phase #3 or the first part of phase #4, you may need to pull back on blogging until you have sales funnels and automation in place.

>> Business model

There are two ways to build an online business:

Way 1: From the ground up – Build your platform first and worry about money later
Way 2: From the top down – Start with a product first and build your platform later

Which one should you choose?

Great question! I’ve been mullin’ this over for a bit. And the answer is that it comes down to timing and pricing.

Timing

How quickly do you need to make money? If your business is a side thing right now, you may have time to build from the ground up. In that case, #1 could work best.

On the other hand…

If your goal is to make money within a specific time frame, or if you want to leave your 9-to-5 by a specific date, #2 is the way to go.

Pricing

This has more to do with HOW you build your platform than which model you choose, but it’s something you need to consider. So let’s take a look.

If you sell low-cost products (under $500), you’ll want to start from the ground up and go all-in on organic growth. By that I mean, blog your little tush off and forget about Facebook ads!

If your products cost $500 or more, I would focus on Facebook ads and webinars before you even think about blogging. At that price point, you can absorb the cost of ads and still make a killer profit.

Keep in mind that there are always outliers. Depending on your niche, you may do very well with Facebook ads and lower-cost products. Just sayin’. One never knows. 🙂

These business models aren’t exclusive. We’re talking about where to place your focus FIRST.

Even if you build from the ground up, you should set a goal to create a minimum viable product (or service) within, say, the first six months. For more on this, check out this post.

Bottom line, if you sell low-cost products and/or you’re building your platform organically, blogging should be your main focus right now. If you have high-cost products, Facebooks ads and webinars should be your main focus right now.

Step #2. Find your motivation

Motivation has a huge impact on productivity. When you can’t find your ‘why’ and don’t see the reward for all your hard work just yet, it can be hard to justify putting in the time.

I mean, who cares if you’re not bangin’ away at your blog when there’s no payoff, right?

Off the top of my head, I can think of three reasons we lose motivation:

Reason #1: Lack of support
Reason #2: Confusion + overwhelm
Reason #3: It’s not working

On some level, these all come down to fear but let’s drill down on each.

Reason 1: Lack of support

If your friends and family are 100% in your corner, high five! That’s amazing! You’re incredibly lucky to have their support.

Many times, it doesn’t go that way. As much as you want and need it, your loved ones may not support you in your entrepreneurial journey.

To them, the hours you spend banging away at your laptop probably seem like a colossal waste of time. And I’ll bet they think your business is just a hobby, to boot.

They might show you their “un-support” in different ways. Like all the times they interrupt you while you’re working because, well, you’re not really working, are you? It’s amazing how a simple question like, Do you know where I put my wallet? can throw you off track and shake your confidence.

BOUNDARIES!!

Maybe your family is even more un-supportive and wants you to quit entirely.

I can relate to this one:

For the first two years of my business, my husband begged me to stop blogging. Every week, I heard some version of, “The blogging thing is cool and all that, it’s just not going anywhere.”

Finally, by year #3 things started to change. I was making money. Once I earned enough to replace my income, my hubby was all-in.

(he even comes up with blog ideas for me now!)

See:

The early years of any business are hard. There’s this mountain of stuff in front of you. You feel overwhelmed and fed up. And you forget why you started your business in the first place.

But you know what?

Your belief is what’s going to carry you through the storm. In my case, it didn’t matter what my husband said. I knew my business was going to work, and I wasn’t about to back down. Every time he’d challenge me, I’d work harder and longer. At some point, he got tired, and I won. 🙂

But if I’m completely honest, I felt like quitting ALL the time. It’s hard to stay strong, no matter how much experience you have.

Here’s what helped me keep going:

  • Experience with start-ups – For better or worse, self-doubt is part of the entrepreneurial journey, in my book.
  • Knowing my why – Every time I doubted myself, I’d tap into my vision and purpose.
  • Having a buddy – I check in with my pal Taughnee every Friday to chat about our goals, what we’ve accomplished, and so on. That time is pure gold!

Bottom line, your loved ones may or may not support you in the beginning. Either way, don’t leave the future of your dream business up to them. Build your own support system. Hire a coach, join a mastermind, find a buddy in your niche…whatever you need to do to stay motivated.

Reason #2: Confusion + overwhelm

You can’t take the next step in your business if you don’t know what that step should be.

When things are fuzzy, and you’re working two jobs plus taking care of a family, it’s nearly impossible to carve out time for your new business. You don’t know what you’re carving out time for!

Even so, I think there’s a deeper truth here.

Confusion and overwhelm creep up most when you’re unsure if your idea will work. Maybe you half-started (or will start) your business and now you’re wondering if you chose the right niche. Or, maybe you don’t know if you have the passion and will power. Or, you wonder if you’ll be able make money.

That’s when it’s nearly impossible to make decisions. Heck, even when you’re crystal clear on your niche, there’s still no guarantee it will fly.

And that’s just it:

There’s no “flying” or “not flying.” There’s only DOING.

The business you start today will look much different than your actual business. What I mean by this is, it will take on a life of its own as you evolve and learn more about your audience, yourself, and where you want to be.

That’s why it’s crucial to take action. Your future business is at stake here!

Now, you may be thinking, Sure, Sandra, but what if I make the wrong choice?

I hear ya! It’s totally normal to have fears like that. Making your move is a scary step. But when it comes right down to it, the only *wrong* choice is not taking that step.

Or to fool yourself into thinking you’re taking action when you’re not. I call that the Maybe Mindf*&k.

Maybe I’ll do it later…

Maybe I’ll try to get a client…

Maybe I’ll write that post…

Giving yourself an out keeps you stuck in a revolving door of indecision.

These days, I’m more afraid of not making a decision than making the wrong move. And believe me, I make A LOT of wrong moves.

Think of it this way:

Every question that stays in your head holds you back. Period. What you need, and quick like, are answers. You want to shove those questions behind you as fast as you can. Turn uncertainties into certainties, good or bad.

Here’s an example:

Somehow, I got myself in a jam by trying something new with a recent promotion. I had just signed up some affiliates and wanted to give them swipe files so they could share the sale with their audience.

Problem was, I didn’t have time to create the swipe files. It took me three days to get them together, which left me very little time to prepare stuff for MY audience.

Now, I wouldn’t run a promotion like that again. But I’m glad I followed through. Know why? Because I answered one of the biggest questions I have right now:

Should I invest time in affiliate programs?

Turns out, the answer’s no. And that’s perfectly okay, because I know what to focus on now.

Bottom line, if you’re not sure if your idea will fly, take action. Go back to your business plan (you have one, don’t you?), evaluate your choices, and give yourself a deadline to make a decision. Then run with it.

Reason #3: It’s not working

At some point in your blogging journey…

You’re going to be doing everything right…creating content like it’s your job, sharing it everywhere, showing up everday bright and cheery…and nothing will be working.

You won’t have the page views you expect, or the subscribers you want, or the customers you need.

And you’ll be thinking, Why am I spending time blogging? It doesn’t work! 

I feel your pain! Whether your blog is your business or you’re blogging for your business, if you’re not getting results, you need a better content strategy.

Maybe you’re not covering topics that truly resonate with your audience (see “research blog topics” below). Or, maybe your blog format doesn’t convert subscribers and customers. Maybe you’re even a bit all over the place wth blog topics and need to narrow your focus and niche.

The good news is:

When you hit this road block, you’re officially out of Launch Phase and into Hustle Phase! High-five!

Now it’s time to get serious about every word you write. Keep readin’ for content strategies that will get you big results.

CREATE BLOG CONTENT PART 2 –> SYSTEMS AND WORKFLOWS

Step #3. Block out time for your blog

It’s easy to feel stuck when you’re juggling work, a family, and a social life, *gasp.

But if you want to change your life, you have to change your behavior.

Unfortunately, it’s not enough to say, “When I have time…” 

You really do have to MAKE the time.

The good news is, you can get a lot done in just a few hours when you focus on the right things. So if you find yourself wondering, “Should I even bother to write? I only have an hour right now!”

Absolutely! If an hour is what you have, make it work. Whatever you do, don’t look at blogging as one of those “all or nothing” things, like I used to do. Small chunks of time add up to big results!

Maybe weekdays won’t work, but what about Saturdays and Sundays? Can you get up an hour earlier? Ask for help with the kids?

How about these time-sucks…

  • Texts
  • Emails
  • Instagram
  • Facebook
  • Netflix
  • YouTube

…can you shut those down?

If you take an honest look at your daily routine, you can probably save a few minutes here and there. Block that time out now, friend.

Once you’ve set aside specific times for blogging, the next step is to maximize your productivity. Here are a few of my favorite blogging systems and workflows to help you get loads more done in less time.

>> First, don’t overthink things

Too often, we spend more time dreading than doing. We imagine things as monumental tasks that will take FOREVER to complete. Know what happens then? We get stuck before we start.

Overthinking leads to procrastination.

In reality, progress comes from baby steps. All you need to do in the beginning is to get your blog up and running, and write your first posts. They don’t have to be fabulous works of art. In fact, your first posts will probably be crappy, and that’s perfectly okay.

The first time you rode a bike, you sucked at it, right? But you kept getting back on until one day, it was easy.

It’s like that with blogging.

When I look at my first posts, I literally cringe. Even now, I look at stuff I wrote three months ago and cringe (and I will probably look at this post and cringe, too!). Your audience may not love your first posts. Stick with it anyway.

Blogging is a journey of discovery. At the end of the day, it’s just something you do. Write words on a page and let the rest evolve.

>> Research blog topics

When I get writer’s block and don’t know what to blog about, I put off writing until I have more time to brainstorm ideas.

Sound familiar?

No matter what phase of business you’re in, bangin’ out blog posts is hard. First off, you have to come up with topics in the first place. Then you have to narrow your ideas down to the ones that are most relevant to your expertise and audience. Then you need to develop the idea and start writing (see below).

Instead of leaving it to the last minute, set aside the first Sunday of every month to research and brainstorm ideas. Open up Google Sheets and dump your ideas into a blog idea library.

Try to organize them in themes that make sense for your audience.

For example:

My audience is interested in business, social media, and blogging, so those are my categories. Every idea needs to fit into one of the categories to “make the cut.” If not, I move on to the next idea. This is a great way to rein in your ideas, zero in on your focus, and avoid overwhelm and confusion.

When you have a library of ideas to pull from, you’ll be much more likely to sit down and write at the end of the day.

>> Start with an outline

There’s a structure to writing blog posts, much like there’s a structure to writing songs. Verses lead to pre-choruses, and pre-choruses lead to the main hook (or chorus). In our case, paragraphs are verses, content upgrades are pre-choruses, and the call to action is the main hook.

Here are the five main sections to a killer post:

  • The headline should make people want to click in the first place
  • The intro should hook people in and make them want to keep reading
  • The main points should help people achieve a specific outcome
  • Content upgrades should help people take the next step in each section
  • The outro (or conclusion) should wrap up the main points with a call to action

When you use the same structure for every post, you’ll save loads of time. And you won’t feel like a slacker, staring at a blank screen wondering what the heck to write!

How do you develop a great blog post structure?

Good question! The answer is pretty simple: Start with an outline. 

And outline goes beyond loose planning. This is where you get a bird’s eye view of your post. Develop your blog idea, brainstorm any details you want to include, and ensure that each point makes sense. No more going off on tangents!

Over time, you’ll develop a skill for training your thought process. Every post should have a specific goal.

Ask yourself:

Why am I writing this post? What do I want to convey? How will it help my readers? How will it support my business and sales goals? Is there more than one idea in here?

Some of my outlines are comprehensive, 1,000-word posts all on their own. Others are loose ideas and bullet points. Those usually start as offshoots of the main post, where I’ll jot down any secondary ideas that come up. If I can flesh the ideas out into a full outline, I’ll move forward with it. If not, I’ll ditch the idea and move on.

If you’re curious, here’s what to include in your outline:

  • A working headline
  • An intro – one to three paragraphs
  • 3-5 main points you want to cover – with subheadings
  • Up to five bullet points for each subheading
  • Content upgrades you want to include
  • An outro, or conclusion
  • The main call to action – what do you want readers to do next?

>> Batch-write blog posts 

Once you’re in the zone of writing, you’ll likely find that one blog idea will inspire other ideas. Take advantage of that *zone* by writing several posts at once.

Batch-writing posts works best when you take one blog topic and turn it into several posts. Every time you write a new post, ask yourself:

  • Does this idea make more sense as two posts instead of one? (aka: am I going off on tangents?)
  • Is there a specific section that would work beautifully on its own? (aka: can I offer more detail in a separate post?)
  • Can I turn this post into a series (aka: can I take people on a journey from one post to the next?)

Can you see how writing this way is a win-win! You create more content, save hours of time, and feel encouraged by all the progress you’re making. And these types of posts can easily be repurposed as a content upgrade or digital product. Brilliant!

>> Use ghostwriters

Sure, it’s better to write original posts that are infused with your unique voice and perspective. But some weeks you just can’t squeeze in the time. Don’t let limited resources crush your momentum. Find writers who can help.

(that’s what I did with this post!)

Now, I know it’s not ideal, but it works in a pinch. Ghostwriters save time, which is what you need most.

And yes…

You’ll have to edit and refine their posts. The role of ghostwriters is not to replace you as a writer. It’s to help you write faster. It’s a lot easier to edit an existing piece of *anything* than to start from scratch, in my book.

At the very least, a ghostwriter (or a guest blogger) can outline your idea, research important details, and flesh out the main points so you have a foundation from which to work.

Need help finding ghostwriters? Try Content Runner.

>> Blog less frequently

Who said you have to blog once a week?

If you’re really strapped for time, don’t stress. Reduce your blogging frequency to biweekly or monthly.

Be careful, though. Keep your readers in the loop when your schedule changes. Let them know when to expect new content now.

Here’s an example:

It’s been a while since my last post! A lot has been brewing lately, and I can’t seem to catch my own shadow these days! Just so you know, I’ll be blogging less frequently over the next few months so I can focus on sales funnels and webinars. I can’t wait to share everything I’m learning with you! Good news, I’m kicking it all off today with the five phases of profitable webinars to help you make more sales.

When people know what to expect and feel connected to your journey, they’ll keep reading.

>> Use an editorial calendar

Once you have a blog idea library, the next step is to plan a month’s worth of posts. Some bloggers like to schedule three months of content or more. I find that too overwhelming. Honestly, I have a hard time planning four posts!

Create a Google Sheet that includes:

  • Blog titles
  • Target keywords
  • Blog images
  • Word counts
  • Keyword competitions
  • Writers (if you’re working with at team)
  • Notes (this will help you with the outline)
  • Content upgrades you want to include
  • Due dates
  • Publish dates

Quick Tip: Use Trello to set due dates, gather blog assets, and images, and manage your schedule.

>> Have 2-3 content upgrades ready to go

Relevance is king with content upgrades. You want to give readers multiple opportunities to subscribe as they read through your post.

What I mean is:

Include more than one content upgrade if you can. Content upgrades work best when they are directly relevant to a specific section.

But that doesn’t mean you have to create a new content upgrade for every post!

Start with one or two that are most relevant to the topics you write about. If you have them handy, you can quickly grab them and add them to the appropriate section.

(just like I’m doing below!)

BONUS: If you need help creating freebies and content upgrades, this lead magnet template pack may help! Just click the image below to get access. 

Download the Lead Magnet Template Pack

That’s an example of a content upgrade I created ahead of time. I keep an Evernote note with Thrive Leads shortcodes and descriptions for all my content upgrades so I can grab them quickly.

One last thing:

It’s super important that your opt-in graphics stand out from other images in your post. Use different colors, fonts, and sizes to make them pop. Make sure they show up well on mobile because that’s where 80% of your traffic will likely come from.

>> Don’t compare your blog to others

Ever read someone else’s blog and wonder if you’ll ever catch up?

It used to drive me nuts!

It’s sooo easy to feel discouraged by other bloggers who seem to have it all figured out…a brilliant blog design, epic content, clever phrases, seamlessly flowing language, beautiful graphics…all of it. Argghhh. They make it look so easy!

Here’s what I’ve learned:

We can’t compare our start to someone else’s finish.

Bloggers who are *ahead* of you in their blogging journey simply started before you. That’s it.

The only thing you should measure is your own progress. What did you achieve last week? Are you blogging more consistently? Have you carved out specific time blocks that will work for you, where you won’t fall prey to distractions and interruptions? Did you create an editorial calendar? Did you write that post you were supposed to?

And remember this, friend:

Your audience wants to hear from YOU. They want your voice, your inspiration, your insights, and your expertise. Most of all, they want you to help interpret all the conflicting information out there in the blogosphere. That’s all you need to do.

That’s a wrap! Now I’d like to turn it over to you. What helps you create blog content on the regular?

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Weekly planner printable and tips to help you increase productivityThe other day I reached for my notebook and realized something big:

I’m 100% notes-free!

I don’t write things down anymore. I don’t scribble frantically the way I used to. And I don’t make to-do lists.

It happened organically. It wasn’t like I had an Aha moment where I thought I’m not using lists anymore. More like I just got tired of my list.

It always seemed like I added things to it faster than I could check things off. I was tired of feeling overwhelmed by what I needed to do. I just wanted to feel good about what I DID do.

Plus, my list was seriously messing with my focus.

I’d sit down to write a blog post, bang out the first few sentences, and then off my mind would go to a lesson I needed to create for my online course.

Then, while I was working on the course, I’d remember a video I wanted to record. When I switched gears to work on the video, I’d remember a pin I needed to create for last week’s blog post.

The struggle is real.

You’re all set to dive into a given task. Then your brain goes into overdrive on your list. Gotta shoot Michele an email real quick. Oops, forgot to regram @PinkDiaries. Lemme text Blake about dinner while I’m thinking about it.

Let’s flip the switch on all that! Let’s take back control and plan a week that plays out exactly the way we envision it, where we feel calm, centered and in control. I want to help simplify your schedule and free your focus so you can spend more time doing the work you really want to do.

My hope is that this design will make you feel excited and energized about the things you’ve already accomplished and the things you can’t wait to do.

Now, if lists are still your thing, I’ve got you covered! These posts will help you manage your list and plan your week effectively:

Bonus: If you want to get a jumpstart on planning, you can use the 90-Day Planner I created. It’s got sample milestones, goals, and tasks for each stage of your biz. Click on the image below to access.

Use the 90-Day Planner to create goal themes and milestones so you can get to your next stage quickly.

PREPARATION

1) Tap into your Passion Zone.

Your Passion Zone includes those things you can do relentlessly, effortlessly, and repeatedly with a big smile on your face.

To help you tap into this, think about the tasks that make your heart soar. What in your work are you most passionate about? What sets your spirit free?

Once you know what those things are, your next step is to clear out your day so that you can spend more time in your zone.

Head’s up: It may take planning to weed out the tasks you shouldn’t be doing so you can open up your day for the right things. Start by putting the wheels in motion to outsource, delegate (or even drop) tasks that lie outside your Passion Zone. You may be surprised at how quickly things drop off your list as your re-prioritize.

2) Give yourself permission to focus.

Want to know what my success formula used to be?

Juggling a million things at once. In fact, the more things I had up in the air, the more successful I thought I’d be.

In reality, success comes from tackling one small task at a time.

The reason is that even the smallest tasks require intense focus, depth, and concentration to complete. You need to go all in to reap the rewards of your hard work.

But going all in can be scary, right? It takes moxie to focus on one thing and forget about everything else.

Here’s where a little faith can go a long way. Give yourself permission to be wildly, amazingly brilliant at one thing (and one thing alone) this week, k?

I’m pretty sure all the other stuff will be waiting for you next week. 🙂

3) Be present.

When you’re in the middle of writing a post and can’t stop thinking about the images you need to create for it, or the landing page you have to design, it might be time for a gut check.

Is writing a post really your top priority today?

Maybe not. It might be on your calendar, but your gut could be steering you toward something else, say, that course you started.

It’s hard to be present with your work if you’re fuzzy about what you should be working on in the first place.

When this happens, there are two things you can do:

First, trust your instincts.

Feel something tapping you on the shoulder? It’s a good thing, friend! Your instincts are like an inner guide nudging you in the right direction.

Gentle nudges usually mean big things. Maybe you’re ready to take a huge leap in your business. Or, maybe it’s time to shift gears and start a new project.

Whatever that big thing is, go with it. Your inner voice is talking to you and it wants you to listen.

Which brings me to:

Follow your instincts.

We’ve all done this.

We play a game with ourselves where we ask the same question twice, hoping to get a “no” instead of a “yes” the second time around.

If writing a blog post passes your gut check, you’ve got your answer. Time to roll up your sleeves, put your head down, and follow through with it.

You’ll be on to your next task before you know it. Pinky swear.

 

ROCK THE FREEDOM WEEK

4) Throw away your list!

This is what I’m talkin’ about. No to the lists, yo.

My hunch is that to-do lists are doing us more harm than good by blocking our ability to stay in our Passion Zone.

Here’s why:

Having a list = spending time managing it = less time crushing it.

See where I’m going here?

We spend so much time managing lists and juggling all the tasks on them that list management is about all we have time to do. You wind up with a list that gets so long you can’t get to everything. Then, instead of feeling great about the things you ARE accomplishing, you feel like you’re failing.

This is why I think lists are slowing us down instead of driving us forward.

So go ahead, friend. Do it. Right now! Toss your list in the garbage.

Done?

Great! Let’s keep going…

5) Pick 3 priority tasks for the week.

Three is the perfect number to set your week free.

I started working with three tasks when I quit my list, and let me tell you, it’s magic. No more clutter. No more noise. No more hopping around from task to task. Just a wide-open canvas and a huge playing field to do my deep work.

You probably know a handful of things that you (and only you) should be working on that will:

  • Have the biggest impact on your business
  • Keep you in your Passion Zone
  • Make you feel energized about your work

You’ve just designed your Freedom Week. Bump. Without a huge list of things to do, your mind will now be free to dive into the work you love to do.

6) Commit to one hour.

This one’s pretty powerful.

When I go running, the first mile is always a bear. I want to stop. Turn around. Go right back inside and call it a day.

But, if I hang in there and get past the start, I can tap into a zone and forget about everything else.

Tacking projects that seem overwhelming is like waiting for that runner’s high to kick in. You have to give yourself enough time to get past your own resistance and into your zone.

Give each task one uninterrupted hour.

That means no email. No Facebook. Shut them down. No texts and no calls. If you have to, turn off your phone.

You may find that your first 20 minutes has you staring at a blank screen. Keep staring, even if you start feeling squirmy at this point. It takes at least this long to context shift, which is a fancy pants way of saying “task shift”. Your brain needs time to shift away from previous activities and process the task at hand.

Whatever you do, please resist the temptation to go do something else! When we have big projects or things that overwhelm us, we tend to want to do things like:

  • Run to the girl’s room real quick
  • Clean up your desk area
  • Poke around social media (a HUGE one for me)
  • Check your email
  • Count your Instagram followers
  • Text a friend
  • And more

One hour, friend. That’s all you need to get past your resistance. After that, you’ll be fully immersed and crushing it.

7) Develop a routine.

My husband and I went on vacation this summer and after four days, I couldn’t wait to get home. I missed my routine.

Sounds boring, right?

There’s something about doing the same thing every day that gives you a sense of purpose and reaffirms your ability to achieve your weekly tasks.

Here’s my daily routine:

Every morning I get up, make a cup of tea, straighten up my apartment, and get myself together. Doing these simple things every morning gives my brain time to gear up for the day.

I take a half hour to read through email before I dive into my deep work, which is most often content creation.

Mondays, Wednesday, and Fridays, I go for a run around lunchtime to shake off the morning and gear up for the afternoon.

Later in the day, I meet with my team to coordinate projects. Then, I recap where I’m at so that I can pounce on the next day.

From there, it’s rinse and repeat.

See how doing things repetitively like this can give your day a sequence? There’s little room for guesswork because there’s not a whole lot to think about.

Doing things habitually is like strength training for the mind, in my book. Because your brain already knows what to expect, it can fire on all cylinders right away.

How’s that for a super productive week?

Don’t forget to grab the 90-Day Planner so you can start crushing your goals:

Use the 90-Day Planner to create goal themes and milestones so you can get to your next stage quickly.

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After months of experimenting and preparation with social media and blogging, you’re finally starting to get some traffic to your website!

A Seriously Simple Website Tweak That Will Double Your Website Revenue | Feel like you’re spinning your wheels with marketing? It’s not your fault! Your message just needs some tweaking so that it grabs the attention of your perfect clients and readers. Here’s a simple, effective way to make your website work harder to bring in leads and sales. Click through to find out how!Whether you’re a veteran or just starting out in the online business world, increasing sales on your website can be challenging even with increased traffic.

Aside from creating quality content regularly, leveraging social media and using the highest quality images for your blog, often times we need a little something more to give us a boost.

Luckily, there’s an easy way to give potential customers that push. And it’s a simple tweak you can make right on your home page.

Here’s an example:

Let’s say you want some advice on how to manage your money so that you can save for the future and still enjoy all the things you want to do today, like go on vacations.

So you decide to look for someone who can give you some guidance. You search Google for “financial planner” and find these two websites:

Weak Value Proposition Example

 

Strong Value Proposition Example

Which one makes you want to find out more about what they do?

I’ll bet it’s the second one. Because the reason to do business with you is the first thing you see, with an image that reinforces the value you’ll experience.

Contrast that to the first one, where the first thing you notice is their logo and then some bullet points about them, followed by a lot more text about them.

Now compare these examples to your own website. When someone arrives on your home page, is it immediately clear what your business is about? Will visitors know right away the value they can expect?

So many entrepreneurs overlook this step when they’re building their websites. And then even though they start getting traffic from organic search, social and email campaigns, that traffic doesn’t translate into more leads or customers.

If you find you’re getting decent traffic but no targeted leads, it’s the message (or value proposition) on your home page that may be at fault. In this article, I’m going to show you how to create a strong value proposition that will convert clients and bring you more sales.

Here’s what I’m going to cover:

  • What is a value proposition?
  • What goes into creating a value proposition?
  • How to create a winning value proposition
  • An example of a strong value proposition
  • A value proposition worksheet

What’s a value proposition?

Using the earlier example, if you’re a financial advisor and someone searches Google for “financial planner” and they land on your site, you want them to stay.

So this is your chance to communicate your value in 30 seconds or less and pull them deeper into your content.

Your value proposition tells people why they should do business with you. It should clearly state what you do, who you do it for and how it helps.

Being very clear on these three things is what’s going to convince people not to hit the back button and search for another trainer.

In a nutshell, a value proposition is a clear statement that

  • explains how your product solves customers’ problems or improves their situation (shows relevancy),
  • delivers specific benefits (aspect of value),
  • tells the ideal customer why they should buy from you and not from the competition (point of differentiation).

It should pass the word of mouth test

Your value proposition should be so simple that even a 10-year-old can tell his friends about your offer and how they would benefit.

But it shouldn’t be so simple that it forgets the value mention. A statement like “We provide financial advisory services,” doesn’t mean anything to people. There’s just not enough information here for people to remember you, let alone tell their friends.

On the other hand, a value proposition that people can’t understand enough to explain to their friends what your offer is and how they can benefit is equally damaging.

Take this example:

Bringing together military and industry veterans in the relentless pursuit of our clients’ success. We understand that the financial industry is first and foremost a service industry and we seek to be consistently recognized for exceptional client service resulting from teamwork and living by our principles.”

Do you have any idea what they do? Ready to run and tell your friends about it? Didn’t think so.

Your value proposition isn’t the place to impress people with how smart you are. Technical jargon-propositions like this will kill your chances of converting clients. Stay away from them at all costs.

Remember to keep the focus on your customer:

  • What do they want?
  • Why are they here?, and
  • How do you help?

Use the right language

Your value proposition needs to be in the language of your ideal customer and join the conversation that is already going on in their minds. You need to speak in the words your customers use to describe your product and how they benefit from it, not your own.

Don’t try to guess what that language is. The way you speak about your services is often very different from how your customers describe it. You need to find out by either interviewing your customers and your sales team or through social media.

What goes into a value proposition?

The value proposition is usually a block of text (a headline, sub-headline and one paragraph of text) with a visual (photo, hero shot, graphics).

While value propositions come in many forms, here’s a basic formula you can use:

  • Headline
  • Sub-headline or short paragraph
  • List of key benefits or features
  • An image

The headline is your attention grabber and the most important part of the value proposition. It’s what people will spend the most time looking at. Give them one short sentence here summarizing the end-benefit you’re offering.

You sub-headline is where you add more detail about what you do, who you do it for and why it is useful. This should be no more than 2-3 sentences.

Use bullet points to show benefits and features people can expect.

An image is worth a thousand words, so be careful which image you choose.  Show your product or some image that emphasizes your main message. An irrelevant picture will confuse people and won’t do much to emphasize your message.

Evaluate your current value proposition by checking whether it answers the questions below:

  • What product or service is your company selling?
  • What is the end-benefit of using it?
  • Who is your target customer for this product or service?
  • What makes your offering unique and different?

Use the headline-subhead-benefits-visual formula to structure the answers.

How to create a winning value proposition

The best value proposition is clear: what is it, for whom and how is it useful? If those questions are answered, you’re on the right path. Always strive for clarity first.

If your value proposition makes people squint their eyes and tilt their head, you’re doing it wrong. If they have to read a lot of text to understand your offering, you’re doing it wrong. Yes, a sufficient amount of information is crucial for conversions, but you need to draw them in first before you get in to all that.

Here are some steps to help you come up with a winning value proposition:

1) Create a Customer Avatar

You need to know what motivates your ideal customers in order to craft a message that’ll make them take notice.

The best way to get this kind of insight is to create a Customer Avatar, which is a profile of your ideal customer.

Do you have a favorite client that you love working with, one that just happens to be a highly profitable client? Use that profile for your customer avatar.

If you don’t have clients yet, think about who would value most from your products or services. Why would they want to choose you over someone else? Think about what problems they have and how you can uniquely help. Then just update your avatar later one when you know more about your ideal clients.

Here’s what you need to include in your profile:

  • What do they do?
  • What are their basic demographics: background, age, income, gender?
  • What’s the biggest challenge they face?
  • What are their aspirations?
  • What would make their job/life easier?
  • Are there any other people involved in the decision-making process (spouse, boss). If so, you’ll need to create an avatar for each.
  • Have they used other products or tools similar to yours, and how did they like them?

You may discover some things you didn’t expect.

Don’t be afraid to focus solely on this one profile. You really want your avatar to reflect highly profitable clients only, and let the others fall off. It’s time to get laser-focused on your ideal customer (the ones that are super easy to work with, love what you do, and bring in the most revenue).

(NOTE: Want my easy 3-step process to create your customer avatar? Get my Customer Avatar Worksheet.)

Download the Customer Avatar Worksheet to get clear on who you're selling to.

 

2) Define what makes you truly unique

When I think about what separates me from other marketers, the first thing I think about is why clients pick me.

And then I think, “I’m good at what I do, I have a great service and I provide a great value.”

But here’s the thing. These are the same exact things that everyone else can can say. Service and value are a given today and something that customers expect. These claims will get you a seat at the table, but they’re not tipping points.

You really need to reflect on the one aspect of value that you excel at over your competitors. This is the secret to creating a strong value proposition, especially if what you sell isn’t all that unique.

In my case, I’ve learned that my tipping point is that I’m a marketing team in-a-box, kind of like a CMO on steroids. When clients work with me they don’t have to shop for a separate writer, designer, business strategist, SEO person or IT person. So my real value is that I make marketing easy for companies by saving them time and energy and holding their hand through the process.

You might discover that it’s the little things that really matter to customers, like all the things you overlook and are already doing that absolutely thrill them. For instance, as a remodeler it might be how clean and tidy you keep the project site that matters most to your customers and not your craftsmanship or attention to detail.

Knowing these little things will make all the difference in the way you market yourself. When you clearly communicate them throughout your website, you’re going to immediately attract the exact customers who want to work with you.

Here’s an example of a great value proposition

Check out Wix’s homepage:

Wix value proposition

There are tons of website builders out there, so how does Wix stand out from the pack?

They focus on how easy it is to create a beautiful website.

Which makes sense, because if you think about it many people looking to build their own website are entrepreneurs like you and me who have a million things on their to-do list.

Chances are their background isn’t in technology, so being able to easily build a website is super important to them.

Do you know what’s super important to your customers? Make sure they see that message right away.

If you’re saying too many things, or you’re saying them in ways that confuse people or don’t convey value, it means your value proposition is unclear. And if it’s unclear to you, it’s definitely going to be unclear to visitors.

Value proposition template

It can be tricky to know where to start writing your value proposition, so I’ve provided a template to help get your creative juices flowing. First write out your responses to these questions. Take your time and try to answer them as completely as possible.

  • What product or service are you offering?
  • Who is your ideal customer?
  • What do they need or desire?
  • What problems do they have?
  • How do you solve their problems?

Then plug in your answers here (you don’t have to follow this template exactly, but it should have these basic components).

For_____________________(your ideal customer)

Who____________________(what does your customer seek or need)

(Your product) is a ________________________ (describe you or your product)

That____________________(your solution/key benefit)

 

Examples:

For non-technical marketers
Who struggle to find return on investment in social media
Our product is a web-based analytics software
That translates engagement metrics into actionable revenue metrics.

For businesses and enterprises
Who want to stay ahead of the competition
Sales Cloud is the world’s #1 sales application
That helps salespeople manage accounts, contacts, and business opportunities, and collaborate instantly from anywhere on any device.

 

A good way to test your value proposition is to create two home pages and run Google ads to see which one performs better. You won’t be able to test your actual ad conversions this way because there are other factors involved, but you’ll be able to tell which value proposition is stronger. Keep testing and refining your message and product/market fit until it’s solid.

(NOTE: Want my easy 3-step process to create your customer avatar? Get my Customer Avatar Worksheet.)

Download the Customer Avatar Worksheet to get clear on who you're selling to.

 

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Online Business Blueprint | This post includes a blueprint to help bloggers and entrepreneurs prioritize and focus your time on the specific things you should be working on right now to grow your business. Click through to see the blueprint!

If you’re a bit stumped with what to do right now to grow your blog business, this post is for you! I break down the exact things to focus on so you know what to prioritize and when. Click through to see the blueprint!Hi friends!

We’ve been tackling so many aspects of making a full-time income from a blog, I thought it might be cool to take a little breather.

I really want you to step away from the minutiae of DOING for a minute. Let’s look at your business from a different perspective so you can see where you’re at right now, and more importantly, what your unique success formula looks like moving forward.

No specific action steps today. More like a bird’s eye view, k?

Here’s what I’m covering in this post:

  • How to know what you should be focusing on now
  • How to “work” your stage to get to the next level
  • Setting high-level goals for each stage
  • Breaking those down into bite-sized goals

Let’s dig in…

What should you be focusing on now?

This is a great question! It’s so easy to feel a kind of push and pull between what you think (or even know) you should be doing, what the experts say to do, and what other brands and competitors are doing right now.

Should you be doing those things too?

It depends.

First things first, you need to pinpoint what stage of business you’re in.

This is massively important because there are certain things you need to focus on at each stage of your business. Knowing where you are right now will help you build a platform for your next stages. Think of it as a road map for getting from Point A to Point Z with your blog biz.

Now, you’re probably wondering about these stages of business. I’m going to break them down for you right now.

Bonus: If you want to get a jumpstart on the stages below, you can use the 90-Day Planner I created with sample milestones, goals, and tasks to help you get started. Click on the image below to access.

Use the 90-Day Planner to create goal themes and milestones so you can get to your next stage quickly.

Stage #1 – The Launch Stage

FOCUS ON: BUILDING YOUR BLOG + PLATFORM

Time to get your blog up and running. Your focus is on narrowing down your passion/niche, validating your profitable idea, laying the foundation for your brand, and getting your first few subscribers. This means writing your core message, identifying your target audience, designing a logo, launching your social networks and writing your first posts.

Whew! It’s a lot. You’ll definitely need some time to implement everything.

In case you’re curious, you’re in the Launch stage if…

  • you’re still in the process of validating your business idea.
  • you’re a bit unsure about how to pursue your idea and turn it into a business.
  • you don’t have a website or social presence just yet.
  • you’re on a tight budget and need to launch your biz as affordably as possible.

If you feel a bit flustered and overwhelmed during this stage, that’s completely normal, so don’t worry. This is a time of major uncertainty. You have ideas about what to do and are battling with a little bit of fear about whether it will all work out. This is perfectly ok and how you should be feeling right now (even though it’s not fun)! If you hang in there with me, your vision will come together. Promise.

 

Stage #2 – The Hustle Stage

FOCUS ON:  GROWING YOUR AUDIENCE + TRAFFIC

High five! Your blog is up and running and you’ve built a platform for your business. Now it’s time to hustle.

While you’re in the hustle stage, you’re going to be building your audience, driving traffic, and generating initial sales. You’ll want to focus on social media, building a following, growing your email list, and of course, creating original content on the regular.

You’ll also want to follow these steps to optimize your website so that it generates leads, subscribers, and sales. Psst…You can also grab the handy Lead Generating Website Checklist below:

Want to know how to drive and convert incredible amounts of traffic to your business? Download this web optimization checklist so you can turn your website into a 24/7 sales machine!

How do you know if you’re in the hustle stage? I’m glad you asked!

You’re in the Hustle stage if…

  • you have 2-5k email subscribers.
  • you’re publishing original content on your blog or video consistently.
  • your combined social media following is between 100 – 10,000.
  • you’re generating revenue (or close to generating revenue) but it’s not enough to replace your salary just yet.

If you really want to build your traffic and grow your social media following, grab my blog promo plan. It will help you create a plan for what to share and where, and how frequently you should share your blog posts to get the most traffic to them.

In the Hustle Stage, focus on building a following, growing your list, and creating original content.Click To Tweet

 

Stage #3 – The Growth Stage

FOCUS ON: CREATING COURSES + FUNNELS

This is where you’re really going to start seeing some traction in your business, where all your hard work spent building your platform and audience will start to pay off.

During this stage, you’re going to focus on streamlining your sales process, building funnels and setting a foundation for scalable growth. Your goal now is to move beyond selling 1-to-1 services and toward a “1-to-many” business model. The best way to do this is to create online courses and digital products. These will allow you to free up your time and prepare your online business for success, which is up next in stage #4.

You’re in the Growth stage if…

  • you have more than 5k email subscribers and your list is growing on autopilot.
  • you’re starting to generate enough revenue to sustain yourself and pursue your biz full time. Woo!
  • your business is gaining momentum month after month.
  • you have more than 10k social media followers.

 

Stage #4 – The Profit + Scale Stage

FOCUS ON: AUTOMATING YOUR BUSINESS

You’re ready to take your biz to the next level! In stage #4, your business is growing consistently, and it’s time to add more team members and implement even better business systems. Buut, you may not have the resources just yet to do all that. You may need to increase your revenue first.

I’ve got the solution right here!

In this stage, your goal is to start scaling the things you’ve already created so you can generate even more revenue and profits from them. Your focus is on automating your sales process and offers so you can sell more with less effort. You also want to start streamlining and organizing the work you’ve done, so you scale with ease.

You’re in the Profit + Scale stage if…

  • you have 15k email subscribers or more.
  • you’re generating at least 50k a year.
  • you’re selling courses and offers that free up your time every day.
  • you’ve completely moved away from offering 1-to-1 services.
  • you have 2-3 sales funnels that are converting consistently.
  • you’re ready to hire at least two staff members (even if they’re part-time).

 

Next up, how to work the stages

Here’s where you start identifying what you should be working on right now so that you can get to the next stage as quickly as possible. Before we dig into specific goals though, we need to know what we’re aiming for.

For example, let’s say you’re in Stage #1 and just launching your blog. Or, maybe you’ve been at it for a while but want to shift your blog’s focus, which means that your blog is “new”, inasmuch as you’re rebranding or charting a new path with it.

What you want to do is to create high-level milestones that you plan to achieve during this stage. I love working in 3-month time chunks because that is far off enough that I have something to work toward, but not too far off that I can’t see my end game, make sense?

Here’s what your milestones for stage #1 might look like:

  • Launch blog and brand
  • Publish 9 blog posts
  • Complete social media profiles
  • First 100 subscribers
  • 500 combined followers

This means that at the end of stage #1, you will accomplish each of these milestones. If we look at it another way, these are going to be your focus areas until you get to stage #2.

Phew! Now we’re getting somewhere. From here you’re going to specify goals and tasks that will help you accomplish them.

Don’t forget to grab my 90-Day Planner – I’ve even got a sample plan you can follow. Woo!

Use the 90-Day Planner to create goal themes and milestones so you can get to your next stage quickly.

 

Next, create high-level goals

Now it’s time to break the milestones down into goals. We’re not getting super granular with these just yet. Right now all you need to do is set high-level goals for the next few months. Make sure you account for each bucket in our Blog Profit Plan:

  • Content
  • Traffic
  • Subscribers
  • Profit

Now, I know you’re probably thinking How am I going to get it all done? I have a hard time focusing on just one of these buckets!

I get it.This is one of those things where not all of the buckets will have an equal focus each month. Still, it’s important that you try to address each bucket, ev’ry month.

Why is this so important?

The reason is that addressing each bucket will give you a direct route to your next stage. Think of it as if you’re driving down a superhighway going 100mph. It’s a beautiful sunny day…you’ve got the sunroof down and there are no cars, lights, or speed bumps up ahead to slow you down. Just you and your destination.

That’s how we’re gunnin’ here. We’re tossing all four buckets in the backseat and hittin’ the highway. The point here is to get into a habit of constantly juggling the buckets.

Using our same example above, here’s what your goals might look like:

  • Evaluate my niche for profitability
  • Finalize logo
  • Pick a theme for my blog
  • Write my first 5 blog posts
  • Create my social profiles
  • Share content each day on Pinterest, Instagram, and Facebook
  • Choose an email marketing platform
  • Send my first 5 broadcast emails
  • Create one freebie
  • Create my first welcome email sequence

Your goals may look different than this depending on which stage of business you’re in.

 

Finally, break down your goals

This part is pretty straightforward. Usually, one goal will precede another, meaning that in order to tackle the next goal, you need to do “x” first. For example, if you’re in stage #1, your order of things may be to tackle these first:

  • Evaluating your niche
  • Researching products
  • Setting up your blog
  • Writing your first few posts
  • Choosing brand elements – logo, colors, fonts

Then move on to:

  • Creating social profiles
  • Sharing content each day
  • Creating your first freebie
  • Setting up your email marketing platform

In the two examples above, the items listed would be your priorities for the month. What this means is that no matter what else is happening, these things get done. When other things pop up, you reschedule them or put them aside to make room for your must-do items.

This is easier said than done, I know! But there’s a way to make sure you stay on track, and that has a lot to do with how you manage each week and each day.

Here’s that 90-Day Planner again:

Use the 90-Day Planner to create goal themes and milestones so you can get to your next stage quickly.

I like to use the planner with this time-blocking template to help prioritize my time each week.

Trust me, this dynamic duo is a powerhouse for helping you stay on track, avoid distractions, and ultimately, rock your to-do list.

What’s your plan for your blog biz? Have you created one yet? Let’s hear it!

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Time Blocking Tips for a Super Simple Weekly Schedule | Feeling overwhelmed by all the things you have to do? Not sure how you’re going to get them all done? This post will help! It includes 12 productivity hacks for entrepreneurs and bloggers to help you simplify your week and get tons of stuff done, PLUS a free time blocking template. Click through to see all the tips!

Weekly Time Blocking Template for a Super Simple Schedule | Feeling overwhelmed by all the things you have to do? Not sure how you’re going to get them all done? This post will help! It includes 12 productivity hacks for entrepreneurs and bloggers to help you simplify your week and get tons of stuff done, PLUS a free time blocking template. Click through to see all the tips!You know what every entrepreneur has in common? We all use a weekly schedule. We also have a gazillion things to put on the schedule and not enough time to get to everything.

But feeling scattered, flustered, and generally overwhelmed can be one of the worst feelings, especially when you feel like you’re doing everything *right* to take your business to the next level.

Having a to-do list that crushes you – instead of you crushing it – is just not going to work.

A while back I shared the block scheduling template I use to organize my week and get things done.

Hands-down, that is my most popular post to date. So if you feel like you’re juggling too many things, you’re not alone, sister.

So today, I’m sharing a handful of things that will help you get the most benefit from the time blocking template and block scheduling in general. My goal is to help you get everything done in a way that makes you feel calm, centered, and in control of your week.

Now, you may be thinking That’s easier said than done, Sandra! Been there, done that.

I hear ya. There’s a way to make sure you stay on track with your schedule, and a lot of it has to do with how you manage time blocking, which I’m going to show you how to do that right now!

Click here to download the time blocking template and start planning your week.

[ SETTING GOALS AND TASKS ]

First things first, we need to set some goals so that we have a clear focus:

1) Create a high-level plan

Before we start time blocking, it’s important to have high-level goals and milestones in mind for what you want to achieve. If you’ve followed my last post, you already have or are working on your 12-month plan (at a minimum, your 3-month plan). This will make is so much easier to plan your week, because you’ll have clearly-defined focus areas and priorities.

When you’re creating goals and milestones, there’s no need to be super specific. That will come later. What you’re aiming for here is to get a bird’s eye view of your business and the general things you should working on.

2) Make a list of tasks

Next up, break down your big vision goals into weekly tasks so you can start achieving them.

Yep. I’m sayin’ it again because I really want you to get this. Make sure you set tasks for each of the four buckets from our Blog Profit Plan (content, traffic, subscribers, profit).

Beyond that, the most important step here, and what you can’t forget to do, is to prioritize the tasks on your work schedule template. Some things on your list will be a high priority and others not so much. Your high priority tasks are the ones you MUST do, no excuses! That means when other things come up, you postpone them or put them aside so you can address the things you absolutely have to get done.

I know, so much easier to say than to do! This is one of those things that will make a world of difference if you can stick to it.

Essentially, you’ll be breaking down your tasks like this:

  • Must-do: will take over 2 hours
  • Must-do: 1-2 hours
  • Must-do: 15-30 minutes
  • Nice-to-do: over 2 hours
  • Nice-to-do: 1-2 hours
  • Nice-to-do: 15-30 minutes

If you want, you can use different colors for must-do vs nice-to-do tasks so you can differentiate them.

Let me clarify one thing that will help you get the most benefit from time blocking:

Nice-to-do tasks are just that: it would be nice if you can get to them. That means it would be a major perk if, once you complete your must-do’s, you have extra time to crush these too.  If you don’t get to them, no sweat. You’ll simply roll them over to the next week (I’m going to show you how to do that next).

Must-do tasks get scheduled first. Nice-to-do’s get put on the calendar next. With me?

3) Start time blocking

Nothing makes you feel more defeated than when you have a million things to do and at the end of the day you haven’t gotten to one of them. No more of that noise with time blocking, k? We’re going to know how much we can really get done on any given day so that we can feel pumped and excited!

How do we do it?

Great question! First off, we’re going to create time blocks for each task.  Then, we’re going to get very specific with what we plan to do and make sure we account for every minute of our workday.

HEAD’S UP. You want errrrthang in there. Even personal tasks.

So if your daughter’s play date is on Wednesday at 3 pm, make sure you block out time for it. Dropping shirts off to the cleaners on Tuesday? Block it out, baby! You’d be amazed at how much you can get done when you put it ALL on your calendar.

It you want, you can use my time blocking template to create your weekly schedule. Click the image below to download it.

Download my Time Block Template to help you increase productivity and get even more stuff done each week!

 

I want you to be super successful with time blocking. In the next steps, I’m sharing productivity hacks and tips that will help get the most benefit from it.

Let’s start working the template.

[ HOW TO WORK THE TIME BLOCK TEMPLATE ]

4) Schedule must-do’s when you’re most productive

This one’s a biggie: Schedule must-do tasks during your most productive hours.

Are you a night owl? Block out time to create content at night. Do you like to do your deep work before the world wakes up? Make sure you use that time to do the things that ONLY YOU can do. Don’t waste it on checking your email or Instagram.

5) Schedule tasks at the same time each day

Let’s say you like to create content in the morning, break for lunch at 1:00, and manage client projects and meetings in the afternoon, and workout at 6:30pm.

These are called recurring tasks. Try to block out the same time for them to give your days structure and help you get into a routine.

For instance, I spend ten minutes on social media in the morning, and another ten minutes at night when I’m catching up on Hulu. I also like to coordinate with my team in the morning. I spend the rest of the day creating content and working on client projects.

I recommend planning everything on your weekly schedule template like this, even those events that involve other people (that you can’t reschedule or cancel). Think of them as “recurring events” and plan them at the same time.

6) Include everything that might pop up

This is jumping off from the previous step.

What derails my schedule more than anything else are the things I forget I need to do. Like running to the bank, working out, picking up a prescription, going to Home Depot. I call them the incidentals.

Incidentals need to be on your schedule. Otherwise, you’ll think you can write that entire blog post today but whoops! You can’t really. That oversight bleeds into the next day, and the next, and so on.

Once you start getting off track like this, it’s easy to feel defeated. Better to plan for everything and set yourself up for success.

7) Focus on one task at a time

Whatever you do, stop multi-tasking. Right now! There’s no way you can email a client, jump on Facebook, create an Instagram image, schedule your social media, and write a post at the same time.

So stop thinking that you can, friend!

Instead, focus on one thing at a time. It’s on your time schedule template, which means you’ve made it a priority and identified that it needs to get done. Now it’s time to follow through with it. This is where done means done (not “almost done”, not “about to start”). Force yourself to finish one task before you move on.

And if you don’t get to the next task for two weeks, that’s perfectly okay.

8) Give yourself enough time to complete tasks

Some of your two-hour tasks will wind up taking you eight hours. Heck, you may not even finish them today.

Those gaps that can mess up your schedule and make you feel defeated, even when you’re crushing your to-do list.

The best way to avoid this is to be as accurate and realistic as you possibly can. Make sure you block out enough time for each task. Then pad in some wiggle room.

For instance, if you plan on spending two hours to create a lead magnet, block out four hours for it. If you don’t know how long something will take, triple your time estimate. Let’s say you need to schedule time to outline your first course. Instead of blocking out two hours, block out six hours.

Whatever you do, don’t trick yourself into thinking you can get an eight-hour task done in three!

I speak from experience on this one:

I’d block out three hours to write a post because I wanted to write it in three hours. To this day, my posts take me between five and six hours to write. And I’ve tried so many tricks to speed things up. Never happens, friend!

Point is, by wishing I could write my posts faster I would load up my schedule with more tasks:

  • Write post: 3 hrs
  • Social media graphics: 1 hr
  • Lunch: 1/2 hr
  • Create a freebie: 2 hrs
  • Record a video: 2 hrs

Can you see how going “overtime” on any one of these tasks can throw out your week, in a minute?

Try to be realistic when you’re using the time blocking template.

9) Turn off your cell phone and email

Like the plague!

Let’s face it, it’s waay easy to get distracted. I even find myself LOOKING for distractions.

I’ll check my junk mail, Pinterest, Facebook, Instagram, anything I can get my hands on. I’ll remember the eggplant lasagna recipe I want to try. That I forgot to text Laura. That I need to call John real quick.

We’re all victims of shiny object syndrome, especially with new tasks. When it’s too far, large, hard, confusing to tackle, we start reaching for busy things so we can feel like we’re being productive.

Being busy does not equal being productive.

So close your email, turn off your cell phone, and log out of Facebook and Instagram (yep, even the apps).

Don’t turn them on until you get your deep work done. You need to focus on what’s in front of you so you can get it done.

Your texts and emails will be there later. Promise 🙂

10) Review and reschedule

There will most definitely be tasks you can’t get to. You can count on that. 🙂

Whatever you do, don’t get flustered by it. That’s why we’re throwing a time blocking party. Woop Woop!

At the end of each day, review what you got done and reschedule anything that you didn’t. This way, you’ll wake up fresh the next day, ready to pick up where you left off.

Psst…Make sure you block out time to review your schedule. It usually takes me 15 minutes at the end of the day to review my schedule and shuffle things around for the next day.

11) Train your friends + family

You have your week schedule template, but let’s be real. You’re a one-person team, and only you know when and IF you need to get something done.

Remember, you’re answering to yourself now. Your friends and family may not think the time spent on your blog biz is valuable. Or, maybe they think working from home means you can run to the dry cleaners anytime you (they!) want.

(This is especially true if your biz is new and you have yet to earn money from it.)

Here’s where you have to play two roles:

Role one: Employer
Role two: Employee

As the employer, you decide which tasks need to get done. As the employee (hey there, that’s you too!), it’s up to you to get them done.

The only way you’re going to reach your goals is if you make them happen, so say no to random asks that interrupt your schedule.

You’ll likely get push-back here. But if you say no long enough, the asks will stop coming and this step will get a whole lot easier. Pinky swear.

12) Organize your workflow

This is a biggie. Much bigger than I thought initially.

Where do you keep all the ideas that pop in your head? Do you use Evernote?

How do you manage projects/team/tasks? Do you use Trello or Asana?

What about your files? Are they in Dropbox, and if so, how well are they organized?

Having a cluttered desktop is the enemy of an effective weekly planner template, including the time blocker. I know this to be true.

I’m notorious for creating a new Word doc for every new idea (gotta jot it down quick, right?). When I see them on my desktop the next morning, I’m instantly overwhelmed and flustered. It’s a whole different ball game when I take the time to place the docs in folders that make sense, with names that I recognize and understand.

I recommend coming up with standard workflows for all things administrative – right down to naming conventions – so you have what you need, where you need it, and when you need it (not a minute before). This will help you approach your day with a clear head so you can knock items off your list quickly.

If you want, you can use the time blocking template I created to help you plan your weekly schedule. Click the image below to download.

Download my Time Block Template to help you increase productivity and get even more stuff done each week!

There you have it! What’s your favorite time management tool? Have you tried time blocking?

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How to Plan Your Schedule with Time Blocking (Plus a Video Tutorial!) This post includes time management tips and time blocking template, plus a step by step planner and video on how to use time blocking to plan your schedule and increase productivity. Click through for the template! #timeblocking #timemanagement #productivityHey there, friends!

You know what we all struggle with as entrepreneurs?

We have way too much to do and not enough time to do it. It gets even harder if you’re juggling a full-time job, school, a family, and other *life* things on top of running your online business.

So today, I’m sharing five quick time blocking tips to help with time management. This post is a follow-up to my original post on time blocking, where I explained:

  • What time blocking is
  • How to use a time blocking calendar
  • A simple process to break down high-level goals into smaller ones

Here’s a link to that post in case you need a refresher:

How to Increase Productivity and Get a Massive Amount of Stuff Done

If you’re curious, time blocking is a process where you create a visual calendar of your to-do list. Here’s an example:

The Time Blocking Template

Now, since my original time blocking post still seems to be popular, I know you’re like me and wrestling with a growing to-do list (probably tired of feeling defeated by it too, amirite?).

So in this post, I’m sharing simple time management tips to help you use the time blocking calendar effectively.

I made mistakes at first and had a hard time sticking to my schedule. A few of those mistakes are:

  • Underestimating how long things would take
  • Planning too many tasks back to back (aka task-shifting)
  • Trying to get everything done in a week

My hope is that these tips will help you follow through and feel excited about everything you’re getting done!

If you want to use the Time Blocking Template I created for you, you can download it right here: 

Download my Time Blocking Template to help you increase productivity and get even more stuff done each week!

These tips will be super quick…you can probably do them in less than 10 minutes each…

1. Plan your week ahead of time so you can hit the ground running.

You know what will make you feel great on Monday morning?

Having an action plan and a clear focus on what you need to get done.

So every Sunday, set aside some time to plan your week.

It won’t be set in stone, don’t worry. Think of it as more of a high-level view to make sure you can get everything done. And that you’re focusing on the stuff that matters.

You’ll be updating things as you move through the week…

2. Focus on 1-2 work-related tasks a day.

If you’re using the time blocking calendar the way I recommend, you’ve got EVERYTHING on there…biz time, family time, school, work, meals, errands…all of it.

And that’s great! They need to be in there.

But sometimes we think we can do things faster than we can.

(Write a post in an hour, anyone?)

And you may be tempted to schedule more than you can do – partly because it looks good on paper, partly because you’re not sure how long it will take, and partly because you just want to get it done.

But there’s only so much time in the day! We can’t get to everything…

You may even have a full-time job or family to take care of outside of running your online business! And there’s nothing worse than feeling like you’re falling behind on things. Bleck.

So don’t try to be a superhero when you plan your week. Schedule just one or two “work” things a day and then immerse yourself in getting them done.

Oh, and make sure the things you plan will grow your business, not just eat up your time.

Which leads me to…

3. Cross off things that eat up your time each day.

When you think about it, there are only a handful of things that will really impact your business. Those are things like:

    • Creating content (free and paid)
    • Client projects and meeting
    • Creating products
    • Planning workshops and events

Sounds pretty straightforward, right?

Ahh, if it weren’t for those sneaky time-crushers…

The Facebook ping you have to check…
A message you forgot to send…
An email that just popped in…

But let me ask you a question:

When is the last time you read an email that positively impacted your business? (except for mine, *wink)

The thing with emails is, most come with their own agenda.

So if we’re being totally honest, you only need to check it 1x a day, and that’s just for sanity’s sake.

Which means you can block out time for email + admin stuff, say, on Fridays. Or first thing in the morning. Or whatever.

Then after that…

Shut it all down and get to work. Don’t let distractions stop you from growing your business.

4. Take 15 minutes to plan your day tomorrow.

Make sure you block out 15 minutes a day to review your progress.

(should be the last thing you do each day)

That’s when you cross off things you got done, reschedule things you didn’t, and update tomorrow’s schedule so you can crush it again without wondering where the heck you left off.

And here’s the REAL magic of reviewing your day…

Once you see what you achieved (vs what you planned), you start to become a ninja planner. The best part is, you get real about how you’re spending every minute of your day.

For example:

Sometimes I’ll *pretend* to start working at 8:30am but not really do much until 11.

That’s two and a half hours, friend…

We can’t waste time like that!

5) Quick Recap

Plan your week on Sundays. Then, at the end of every day, review and update tomorrow’s schedule.

Cross off things that are time-suckers. And don’t worry if you don’t get to something. Or if something needs to drop off your list completely

Because the goal of time blocking is to help you get better at:

  • Estimating how long things will (really) take
  • Planning enough time for complex projects
  • Squashing multi-tasking
  • Working in your passion zone
  • Getting more of the right stuff done

One last tip before I sign off, make sure you block out 15 minutes between tasks. Every time you switch gears, your brand needs time to catch up, and that will help. 🙂

Here’s the Time Blocking Template again if you want to grab it: 

Download my Time Block Template to help you increase productivity and get even more stuff done each week!

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10 Businesses You Can Start for Less than $1K | Wondering how to start an online business so you can make money from home? Make sure you choose the right niche! Here are 10 side hustle ideas plus a step-by-step business plan template to help you get started. #startup #businessideas #onlinebusinessLooking for new business ideas?

Back in the day, the only way to achieve your dreams was to:

  • Find a job working for a company
  • Stick with it through long hours and hard work
  • Save up your paychecks until you could fund your dream, whether it was buying a home, traveling, or retiring altogether?

Fortunately, technology has changed all that. The internet has opened several pathways for brave and resourceful people to work toward their dreams by starting their own business.

If you’ve ever thought about being your own boss or living beyond paycheck-to-paycheck, this may be the perfect time to go for it. You don’t even need much capital to start an online business today.

To make it extra easy for you to get started, I’ve created a business plan template you can customize for your biz! Just click the button below to grab it.

Grab Your Creative Business Plan Template

PLEASE NOTE: In order to be able to edit and customize it yourself, when you’re viewing the template go to File and Make a copy, or you can simply download it as a Word doc or copy and paste it to your favorite program!

Grab your Creative Business Plan Template so you can get started mapping out your freedom biz and reaching your goals!

Here are ten new business ideas you can start for $1,000 or less:

1. Consulting Services

A consulting business can be lucrative once it takes off. And it’s the perfect type of business to start if you have expertise and skills to share.

Many businesses rely on consultants to supplement their in-house staff, provide organizational training, or identify problems and provide solutions. Businesses aren’t the only ones who need consultants either. Consumers also seek out expertise.

Some high-demand niches include:

  • Accounting, taxes, and payroll management
  • Marketing and advertising
  • Home design and color
  • Gardening
  • Green living
  • Spatial organization and efficiency
  • Career counseling
  • Human resources
  • Insurance
  • Public relations
  • Home security

Since you can perform consulting from home, or even your smartphone, there isn’t much overhead involved.

Depending on the type of consulting you’ll do, you might need specialized software, or samples to show your work. If your niche requires certification, be sure to obtain it before launching your business.

So think about the marketable skills you have and offer up your knowledge. The opportunities for consulting are endless!

2. Dropshipping

Imagine that you want to start a business selling T-shirts online. You might think that you’d need to own a warehouse filled with inventory first — but if you use the dropshipping approach, that’s not necessary.

Instead, you buy products from third-party vendors, sell them via your website, and have your vendors ship the merchandise directly to buyers.

Dropshipping doesn’t require a lot of startup capital; in fact, you can build and run it from a laptop. This booming business model offers a number of benefits, including minimized risk, lower costs, and the ability to offer your customers greater convenience and a wider array of products.

There are downsides, of course. A lot of preparation is required on the front end to build sales infrastructure and market the business to potential customers. You also might need to try several methods to locate wholesale suppliers, like contacting product manufacturers, ordering from the competition, participating in trade shows, or even using a good old Google search. Networking is paramount, especially at the beginning, so start connecting!

Related: How to Start an Amazon FBA Business: A Step by Step Guide

3. Blogging

In the early days of the internet, blogging was looked upon as a hobby. Today, bloggers can make a full-time living and support their families and lifestyles. Other bloggers use their blog as a side gig to bring in extra cash.

Blogging takes both time and effort, and the payoff may not come overnight. So don’t quit your day job just yet. Wait until you get a better feel for blogging and your niche. Then see if you can gain enough traction to turn it into a full-time gig. One huge advantage of blogging is, you can start one for less than $50.

Related: How to Start a Business with No Money, a Laptop and An Idea

4. Pet services

Many people need someone to check on their furry companions while they work or travel. So they hire pet sitters to come and feed, walk, and/or groom their dogs and cats.

To get started in the pet care business, you’ll need to ask yourself the following questions:

  • What services do I want to offer?
  • Will I need office, storage, or kennel space?
  • What licensing or certifications are needed in my state or county?
  • Do I need or should I obtain insurance?

You can typically get started for around the $1,000 range. One plus about a pet service startup is that it can start small and grow as demand or services require, making it the perfect business for either a full- or part-time commitment.

It’s also the ideal business for animal lovers. What could be better than getting paid for doing something you love?

5. Tutoring

A great low-overhead business is tutoring. If you have strong math or language arts skills, you can tutor children or college students. Want to share your music, art, or craft talents? These are subjects that students of all ages want to learn.

A tutoring business doesn’t require much capital or logistical prep to get going. You can do this in your home, from a rented space or online.

6. Jewelry design

Do you spend your free time designing and making jewelry? If so, for under $1,000 you can start your own business doing what you love! You’ll have to put some effort into marketing, but you can showcase your work in a low-cost fashion by setting up a website and/or opening a shop on Etsy.

Make sure you create a strong social media presence on Instagram and Pinterest to help spread the word.

And remember: Protecting intellectual property is a necessity for designers, artists, craftspeople, and other makers. Before you put your designs out into the world, be sure to protect your legal rights to them.

7. Handyman services

If you’re comfortable with tools and have a knack for fixing things, why not turn it into a business?

Take advantage of apps that can help you with bidding, scheduling, and invoicing. Get visible on online forums and social media to promote your services. You can even use your smartphone to film and post tutorial videos of the work you do. Virtual help is another viable avenue, using video chat to coach DIYers through their own jobs.

8. Event planning

Do you love throwing parties? Use your passion for it to build a business.

Most people think of wedding planners when they think of event planning. But there other events that a cool head and methodical mind can help make happen.

For example:

  • Educational conferences
  • Artistic and cultural events
  • Corporate seminars or shareholders’ meetings
  • Any large social gathering

Keep in mind that events can take up space. If you don’t have room to store things like tables, chairs, gifts, tableware, and other miscellaneous items, you can always rent a small storage unit and write off the cost on your taxes.

9. Graphic design

A lot of businesses and organizations need professionally designed marketing materials. If you’re familiar with the latest graphic design software, and are good at creating graphics in a reasonable time frame, you’ll likely always have clients.

If you currently have a full-time job, you can always test the waters first with freelance work. Reach out to friends and family and let them know you’re interested in picking up some extra work. You never know who they know!

As with any business, you’ll want to start with a clear business plan to identify target markets for your graphic design biz before you jump in full-time.

10. Virtual assistant

If you’re conscientious with details and great at prioritizing, you could try your hand as a virtual assistant. The range of duties can include scheduling, social media, research and data mining, email marketing, and much more. Use your accounting, technical, and marketing experience to provide administrative support for executives and companies.

There you have it…10 new business ideas you can launch for next to nothing!

There are so many different types of new businesses to start, and so many ways to get started. The first step is to decide what you excel at and love, and then see how you can make money as an independent.

So if you get a windfall this year in the form of a bonus, insurance settlement or other *gift*, take it as a sign. Launch your new business and experience the thrill and freedom that comes from being your own boss! In most cases, you can run your biz right from your laptop.

Psst…don’t forget to grab the business plan template so you can narrow down your new business idea! Just use the button below to grab it.

Grab Your Creative Business Plan Template

Grab your Creative Business Plan Template so you can get started mapping out your freedom biz and reaching your goals!

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How to Optimize Posts for SEO | If you're ready to get more blog traffic but a bit stumped with where to start, this post shows you how to write SEO friendly blog posts to help more people find your content through Google. It includes a free printable SEO checklist too!

The Ultimate Guide to SEO For Bloggers and Entrepreneurs | This post includes easy non-techie and semi-techie ways to optimize your posts for search engines. It includes a free printable SEO checklist too!

Search engine optimization is a big topic that can easily trip you up.

It definitely threw me for a loop! I was never quite sure what to do, where to place keywords, or how long my posts should be.

Sound familiar?

It’s hard to know how crazy you need to get with SEO. So if just hearing the word makes you feel flustered and overwhelmed, don’t worry. I’m going to clear up any confusion you may have around it right now!

For starters, on-page SEO is just a fancy way of saying Let’s create content that people want to read.

And then…

Let’s tweak it so that more people can find it.

I like to think of it in two parts:

  • The non-techie SEO: creating great content
  • The semi-techie SEO: tweaking your content for search engines

Not to worry, the semi-techie part isn’t all that techie. If you’re absolutely determined to go crazy on search engine optimization, focus on the non-techie part. After all, you’re in the content business. 🙂

Lucky for you, content is the name of the game for Google and other search engines. Every time you write an epic post, you’re creating an asset that will work like an employee for your business. Plus, you can always go back and make it even more SEO-tastic later on.

My take on SEO, algorithms, indexing and all that

If you’re curious to know what SEO really means, I’ll take a crack at it but please understand I know only what I need to know. Anything more than that and my creative brain gets woozy. Here goes…

Let’s say Jane decides she’s done with skinny jeans and wants a pair of “faded bell bottom jeans”. So she searches for them and waits for Google to crawl different websites and show her the jeans she wants.

Now, you happen to be a fashion blogger and know a thing or two about faded bell bottom jeans. And you want Google to show your blog to Jane.

So how do you do it? Basically, you use every opportunity you can to tap Google on the shoulder and say, “Hey this site is about faded bell bottom jeans”.

We’ll drill down more on this in the semi-techie part.

First, let’s dive into the non-techie part because this will be intuitive stuff and easy for you to execute. It’s the perfect place to start. The steps I’m sharing here are interrelated, meaning that the first step flows naturally into the second and so on. I’m structuring it this way so that you can get your head around what to prioritize when it comes to SEO.

Let’s take a look at my top SEO tips for bloggers.

Before we dive in, I created this SEO Checklist to help put what you learn into action.

basic seo checklist

PART ONE: THE NON-TECHIE SEO STUFF

1) Write great content

Yep, I’m saying it again. Creating great content should be the hallmark of your SEO strategy. Write content that engages your readers. Make every post epic. Put your heart and soul into helping your audience, which I’m sure you already do. So we can check the box on this one, awesome blogger.

When you write great content, you’re going to check the box on a few other things at the same time:

  • Long-form, well-written content
  • Includes multimedia – graphics, charts, video
  • Predominantly text-based

If you forget about these and just focus on writing great content, you’re probably going to address them without even realizing it. What I mean by this is, you’ll be writing SEO content with very little effort.

Let me explain how that’s so:

  • Long enough: First off, it’s going to take you some time to create a really valuable post – and by time I mean words. So right there, your post will be long enough.
  • Well-written: How can you create a highly valuable post without writing it well? You won’t. Because it’s not going to happen.
  • Multimedia: Next, because you’re all about creating remarkable content, you’re going to include multimedia wherever you can. Things like videos, images, charts…anything you can think of to make it easy for people to digest your message.
  • Text-based: That last one is a no-brainer. Blogging = Writing = Text-based. Done and done.

How’s that for SEO-friendly content?

See how focusing on just one thing took care of all those others? I’m pointing this out because sometimes we get caught up in minutiae and forget the bigger picture. Let’s go forth and write epic, remarkable posts.

I have just one other thing to say before moving on from this: the most important ingredient to creating truly great content is You. I’ve worked with so many clients and brands over the years who get a little nutty about “differentiating their brand”. What I think they miss, and what we can learn from that, is that brands are built from the inside out. Your brand starts with you.

Other bloggers will likely have covered your topic. But that doesn’t mean there’s nothing for you to add.

Maybe you’re BFFs with your topic. Or, maybe you’re out on your first date together. Either way, that’s the inside scoop that readers want. They don’t need you to regurgitate the same content they can find on 20 other blogs. They’re looking for you to help them interpret things and make sense of them. Make sure you infuse each post with your experience and perspective.   

Okay, with that out of the way…

If you’re wondering how to make your posts even more valuable so you can really rock this whole “SEO for bloggers” strategy, there are a few things you can do.

I’m sure you understand your audience and have an editorial calendar full of blog ideas. Still, we can all benefit from knowing more about our readers. That’s where a little research can be your friend. It’s pretty easy to get inside the head of your audience if you have the right tools.

These are my favorite research tools:

Social media

Spend some time hanging out on the same social media sites where your readers hang out. When you see posts that get shared a lot, you know you’re on to something.

I’ve found Pinterest can be an invaluable resource here. When I first started my blog, my posts were pretty off-target, meaning I was kind of circling around my audience but not quite landing on the sweet spot. I decided to spend some time looking at popular pins around my niche, really trying to understand who my audience was and what they wanted/needed. I recommend doing this kind of research on Pinterest, Instagram, even Facebook, and Twitter.

BuzzSumo

BuzzSumo is a content analysis tool and a powerful research platform where you can find the most shared content around a topic, niche, niche, or even industry. So let’s say you search for the topic “photo effect tutorials”. You’d be able to see which content performed well and where it performed the best – Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Pinterest or Google+.

qualitative content analysis - Buzzsumo

 

The idea behind BuzzSumo is to find popular content and then beat ‘em. Write something better, more epic, more detailed. Use more photos, a better design, more points, you get the gist. But I digress, because you’re already doing that :).

BuzzSumo is also useful if you need help finding out where your audience spends their time. When you see posts related to your niche are viral on Twitter or Pinterest, you know that’s where your audience is. Check out this post for more on BuzzSumo.

Google Keyword Planner

Let’s look at another way to research using Google’s free keyword research tool, Keyword Planner. Just so you know, this is a useful all-around tool that will help you brainstorm different blog ideas PLUS find keywords to include in your posts, which is one of those semi-techie things I’ll get to next.

For the non-techie part, Keyword Planner will help you understand what terms people are searching for on Google. Let’s say you want to write a post about SEO but aren’t sure which subtopic to focus on. You can use the Keyword Planner to get some ideas.

Let’s say you want to write a post about SEO but aren’t sure which subtopic to focus on. You can use the Keyword Planner to get some ideas.

What I love about it is that you get back hundreds of other ideas that you can use for future posts too. So in addition to being a powerful keyword research tool, it’s also a great brainstorming tool.

keyword research tool - Google keyword Planner Now that we have the non-techie SEO tips covered, let’s get into the semi-techie stuff…and remember, you got this!

Related: How to Create a Content Strategy for Your Blog

PART TWO: THE SEMI-TECHIE SEO STUFF

2) Add the keyword to your post

It’s time to level up your post with keywords!

Let’s say you just used Keyword Planner to find some keywords. The next step is to add them to your post.

For example:

This blog post is about SEO for bloggers, so that’s the keyword I’ll use. And all that really means is, I think that you as a blogger might search for that phrase.

Psstt…Just so you know, a keyword isn’t a word. It’s a bunch of words strung together into a “keyword phrase”.  If I had targeted the word SEO as my keyword instead of the keyword phrase SEO for bloggers, I’d likely show up on page 357 of Google.

Ok, let’s move on…

So now that I have my keyword phrase, here’s what I’m going to do next (and what you should do too). I’m going to add it to my post in seven places:

1) The blog title

If you only have time to change one thing in your post, make it your blog title. Make sure it includes your keyword and aim for 55  characters. Any longer and Google will cut it off.seo title tag

2) The meta description

Meta descriptions are less about SEO and more about grabbing people’s attention in search results.

seo meta descriptionBut they’re still important! Include your keyword and keep the meta description at about 160 characters. Google will bold any keywords in your description so they stand out.

3) Throughout the post itself

Add the keyword to your intro and outro and a few times throughout the content. Be careful not to over-stuff your post with your keyword, though. Google’s onto that trick, *wink.

If you use Yoast SEO, follow the prompts and you’ll be on the right track.

4) Subheadings (H2 tags)

Headings are your friends. They streamline your posts and make it easy for people to follow along and keep track of what they’re reading.

If it makes sense, go ahead and add the keyword but don’t force it. For example, here’s what NOT to do:

  • Blog Post Checklist #1: Use a Featured Image
  • Blog Post Checklist #2: Optimize Your Posts
  • Blog Post Checklist #3: Add Internal Links
  • Blog Post Checklist #4: Add a Content Upgrade

Yep, I tried that and paid the price (what did I know?). Google caught on and dropped me from page 1 to page 7, quick like. So be careful and only use the keyword if it sounds natural and organic. Even then, limit it to just one subheading.

There are plenty of other places to include your keyword.

5) Image alt text

Yes, it true! People can find your content through image searches. In fact, my fashion designer friend gets most of her customers that way.

So what images are we talking about? And what the heck is “alt text”?

I’m going to clear it all up for you right now!  In terms of images, there are two kinds:

  • The featured image
  • Secondary images

The featured image is your main blog image and the one that’s shared on social media. Now, since you’re an epic blogger, you likely have images within your post too. Those are secondary images.

Next up, the alt text…that’s the text that would show in place of an image if it can’t load. It’s also a web accessibility thing.

From Moz:

“Adding alternative text to photos is first and foremost a principle of web accessibility. Visually impaired users using screen readers will be read an alt attribute to better understand an on-page image.”

Bottom line, Google takes alt text seriously so we should too. In WordPress, this is where you’ll find it (while you’re there, go ahead and add your keyword to the image title):

seo friendly images If you want to be extra clever, make your alt text something elaborate and descriptive for Pinterest so that when people save your pin, the description goes with it.

Update: Some experts say that alt text should describe the image, and that’s it. They argue that pin descriptions doubling as alt text can hurt your SEO rather than help. So if you want, you can use Social Warfare or Tasty Pins to separate pin descriptions from the alt text.

Either way, just know that your target keyword goes in the alt text of the featured image. Use related keywords for the alt text of secondary images.

6) Image names

Same thing for image names. All those images I mentioned above should include your keyword in the name. What I like to do is use the blog post title for the featured image name. And for secondary images, I’ll use different variations of my related keywords.

For instance, the alt text for my main post image might be something like:

12 Blogger Plugins That Will Skyrocket Your Blog | Here’s a list of plugins I use on my blog and what I use them for. I’m hoping that a few of them will be useful for you too. Click through to see all the plugins!

And my image name would be:

blogger-plugins-to-skyrocket-your-blog.jpg

7) In the post URL

We’re almost there. The last place you want to include your keyword is in the URL of your post (for WordPress, this would be your permalink).

seo friendly url See how the URL for my SEO for bloggers post is conversionminded.com/seo-for-bloggers/, and not some strange set of numbers, like conversionminded.com/2017/5/6/, or even conversionminded.com/p25?. That’s what you want yours to look like.

Note: If you need to change your URL after you publish your post, use this redirection plugin to redirect people to your post’s new home instead of a Page Not Found.

 

Phew! You made it. Glad we got that out of the way. I bet you’re probably thinking That’s great, Sandra, but how do I get my keyword in all these places?

Stay with me, friend, here’s how:

3) Install the Yoast SEO plugin

Luckily, you don’t have to remember all of these SEO tweaks on your own! If you use WordPress, the Yoast SEO plugin is indispensable and tops my list of bangin’ plugins for bloggers.

Once you install it, you’ll see a section beneath the edit window where you can enter your keyword, edit the SEO title, and write a meta description.

wordpress seo by yoast From there, the Yoast plugin will give you a checklist of things to do, including keyword prompts for your content, permalink, images, headings, and other places we covered above. You’ll know Yoast is happy when you scroll up to the Publish section (top right) and see the green “SEO Good” icon. 🙂

Related: 14 Things to Do to Every Blog Post Before You Hit Publish

4) Link to related blog posts

Links to your website are good! They send signals to Google that your content is popular and tell it to start paying more attention to your website.

Problem is, it can be hard to control external links (from other websites to yours). You know what you can control though?

Internal links.

Those are the ones that link from your post to related blog posts on your website. They help Google understand what your post is about, make you look popular, and increase your average visit time. All of this is good stuff, friend!

Plus, readers will spend more time hopping around from post to post. That’s another one of those things that tells Google, Hey people love my content. Gotta boost it now. *wink.

This right here is an example of interlinking.

5) Check your site speed

Google is all about the user experience and knows that people peace out when sites load slowly, so site speed is a HUGE ranking factor.

You can actually be penalized for having a slow site, which means that your posts won’t rank as highly as they could.

To check how quickly your site loads, use GtmetrixPingdom, or Google Pagespeed Insights. Aim for under 3 seconds.

If your site runs slow, what should you do?

Great question!

Site speed can get pretty techie but one thing you can do is to make sure your images are optimized and compressed. I use TinyPNG to reduce the file size of all my images and I highly recommend trying it out.

It’s super easy to use. Just upload your image and download the compressed version of it. Sometimes it will compress your images by a lot and other times just a little. Every little bit counts. 🙂

SEO for Bloggers tip

6) Social media

It’s true, social media doesn’t have much to do with on-page SEO. But I’m throwin’ it in here anyway!

I’ve found social media to be a huge traffic source. So not to stress you out, but if you don’t have a social media following you may want to start. You’ll get more traffic from both Google and social media. And you’ll likely get indirect traffic as more people link to your content on social media. It’s a win-win, in my book.

There you have it! That’s my ultimate guide to SEO for bloggers.

What SEO tips are working for you right now? Let’s add them to the list!

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Step by Step Guide to Amazon FBA for Beginners | Want to start a business from home, or just looking for side hustle tips and ideas? In this post, I’m breaking down the steps to all things Amazon FBA. Click through to learn the best ways to get started, source products, and brainstorm Amazon products ideas so you can start an online business that makes money. #makemoney #makemoneybloggingWant to know how to get started with an Amazon FBA Business?  Looking for a good Amazon FBA course?

Have I got a surprise for you guys!

Today, an amazingly talented member of my Facebook group, Paige Cole, is giving you a peak behind the curtain of her Amazon FBA course.

Amazon FBA whaa?

It stands for Fullfilled by Amazon and is an e-commerce business model for selling products on Amazon.

We’re talkin’ real, physical products. Things like cups and pens and magnetic clips and holders. Remember those? 🙂

Here’s the perk:

Instead of you warehousing and shipping out products one by one, Amazon will store your products in their fulfillment center and ship them out to customers as they order.

In a nutshell, an Amazon FBA business entails:

  • Sourcing products
  • Private labeling / branding
  • Storing products in Amazon’s fulfillment center
  • Marketing and selling

Read on for Paige’s guide on how to set this up.

This post contains affiliate links, which means I may receive a commission if you click a link and purchase something that I’ve recommended.

————————–

It’s been said that 2018 is the year of private-label products.

In fact, Digiday and CNBC both posted articles about 2018 as the breakout year for private label.

I began private labeling on Amazon last year!  So, you could say I jumped in before the craze. After experiencing my own trial and errors in launching private-label products, I’m breaking down how to get started with Amazon FBA step by step.

1. Rifle through the Amazon “Under $25” bin

The first step is to decide what to sell on Amazon.

You know that “under $25” bin some retailers have? Amazon FBA has its own version. If you enter any ‘ole search term in the Amazon search engine, you will be presented a list of products. Mozy on over to the left of the product list and you will see a list of categories and subcategories.

Let’s say Liza is an up and coming Amazon seller. She enters a search term to narrow her search.  Let’s say she is starting from scratch, though, and is selling based on niche market and opportunity.  In that case, she hits “Today’s Deals” under the search bar.

A list of items will pop up running the gamut of kitchenware to electronics. Liza clicks “Under $25 on the left hand column under “Price.” PRESTO! Now her search is limited to items that are more generic and less brand-name oriented.  She scrolls a couple of pages and finds yoga mats. There’s a lot more that goes into selecting products to sell on Amazon. You can read all about it here.

You can buy an inventory order of yoga mats, on the cheap, and give them an edge over the other Amazon yoga mats with your specialty design.

VWALLAH!  You have a private label product. But wait there’s more . . .

2. Contact a manufacturer

If you are selling a high volume of product for an affordable price, you are going to need to negotiate with an international manufacturer.  Why? International manufacturers simply offer exponentially more competitive prices for affordable goods.

Alibaba.com is the most common platform but here is a list of some additional manufacturers to check out:

You’ve heard the term “fake it til you make it?”  Even though you’re a first-timer, just express confidence and remember to come across professionally. Remember this is a business relationship we are trying to build.

3. Branding is everything

Let’s face it, you are selling something generic. The way you bring value, then, relies on how well you brand yourself and design your product. Let’s return to the example of Liza and the yoga mats for a moment. Liza is selling yoga mats. A lot of people are selling yoga mats. The way Liza can add value, is to hire a designer to create specialized graphic designs for the yoga mats or maybe choose a softer more padded slip resistant material.

If she is creating seasonal yoga mats, she might have a graphic designer add a personal touch to summer, winter, spring, and fall themes (which she can stamp or sticker onto the yoga mats along with her logo).

Fiverr is a great place to hire a freelance designer. Freeeup.com is also a hidden gem because of the level of vetting the company does. With FreeeUp, you get personalized attention throughout every step of the hiring process, and its still affordable!

4. Create an Amazon FBA  listing

An Amazon FBA listing is the last step between the product and the sale. It should deliver four high-value touchpoints:

  • Upload high-resolution product image
  • Include product specifics
  • Deliver a unique value proposition
  • Create a company page

What is a unique value proposition?

A value proposition is marketing speak for “answer these 4 questions”:

  • Why is your brand better and different than the competition?
  • Who specifically does your product target and what type of specific topics, words and phrases appeal to them?
  • Where did your company come from & how does your company’s context put you in a unique position to provide this product?
  • Why should the customer trust you to be an expert in this particular category of product (aka niche)?

You should write the answer to these four questions out in paragraph form and then use them to inform your crisp, bulleted product description and paragraph on your brand page describing your context and vision. Remember to incorporate your targeted keywords here as well!

5. Link up with Amazon

Thanks to the boom in private label business, Amazon offers Fulfilled by Amazon as a service. They’ll do everything from packaging to providing special exposure to the Amazon prime market.

FBA covers:

  • Customer delivery
  • Returns
  • Customer service

This will save you much sweat and furrowing-of-brow as some of the intricacies of the delivery process are curated for you!

6. Spread the word

There are 3 main ways to promote your products:

Amazon advertising

You can sign up for Amazon advertising here.  By integrating your advertising directly on the Amazon site—you will reap the benefits of special access to built in resources, exposure, & analytics you wouldn’t otherwise.  Also—experience shows that ranking increases with use of the Amazon advertising platform.

Email marketing

Email marketing via ConvertKit gives you higher status in the Amazon ecosystem by bringing leads from the interwebs back to Amazon!  You can send a welcome e-mail when customers sign up for your newsletter or buy a product. Then follow up with a drip campaign that shows off your expertise in your product niche! Here’s a complete tutorial on ConvertKit to help you get started.

Social media marketing

It’s free to set up an Instagram & Facebook account. Reaching out to Instagram influencers via Direct Messages and email is a great way of raising awareness for your product. And hey, add-on tools like ShopTab (only $10 a month) make a storefront with clickbacks to Amazon immediately available and visually appealing on your Facebook page.

???? Ready to start selling on Amazon? Click here to find out more about Paige’s Amazon FBA course.

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