How to Start an Online Business While You're Working Full Time, plus grab the free business plan template. I've got 10 ways to start a business and creative business tips to help you make money online. Side Hustle Tips / Creative Business Plan #startup #makemoneyBuilding an online business is hard work. There are a lot of moving parts and it’s on you to push them all forward so you can grow and scale quickly.

So you’re always on the look-out for marketing tools that can save you time and help you get more done.

Here are seven marketing tools that can automate many of the tasks involved in promoting your business. Read on for the best-of-the-best and start putting tedious marketing tasks on autopilot.

1) Blogger Outreach Tools

WHEN TO USE: FOR LINK BUILDING, SEO, INFLUENCER MARKETING

When it comes to growing your blog or business, blogger outreach can help you increase your SEO rankings, build backlinks to your website, and find influencers and joint venture partners to promote your products and services.

Problem is, link building and blogger outreach can take a serious amount of time. You have to do things like:

  • Find interesting blogs
  • Search for contact info
  • Write a personalized pitch (not a must, but you should)
  • Manage responses
  • Follow up with non-responders

Every single one of these steps can take hours, which is why a lot of people give up. For an outreach campaign to work, you have to reach out to hundreds of blogs and publishers. Without tools to speed up the process, it can be hard to hang in there and follow through to get results.

Outreach tools can help by automating the process of finding websites, scraping them for contact info, sending emails, and following up.

Try these tools:

Pitchbox

Pitchbox will help you find and send customized emails to bloggers, publishers, and influencers. Pitchbox pricing starts at $95 a month, so make sure you’re serious about blogger outreach before using it.

(Looking for a more affordable alternative to Pitchbox? Try Outreach Ninja.)

BuzzStream

BuzzStream is another outreach tool worth trying. It’s a relationship and outreach CRM that lets you manage and grow a huge list of outreach campaigns. Be ready for a learning curve though….it can take some time to master.

For more on outreach tools, read this complete review of best blogger outreach tools for marketers.

2) Social Media Tools

WHEN TO USE: TO BUILD A FOLLOWING AND DRIVE TRAFFIC

Social media marketing can be hugely effective in promoting your business.

If only there weren’t so many channels to tackle! Nowadays, people use at least three social media channels. To reach your target audience at the right times on each, you’ll need to be sharing on multiple platforms throughout the day.

But let’s face it, you’ve got more to do than be *social* all day…

Just imagine trying to manually post to Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, AND LinkedIn…every day. You’d have to create two to three posts for each channel. Plus, design each post to grab people’s attention quickly.

If you’re already sharing posts regularly, you know how hard it can be to find content that resonates with your audience.

That’s where social media management tools come in.

Social media management tools can make you look like a ninja marketer, sharing custom variations of your posts on each platform – around the clock.

Tools to try:

Buffer

Buffer is the perfect tool to use if you’re just starting out with scheduling.

And when you combine it with IFTTT, it can be a powerful way to fill up your Twitter queue with an endless stream of tweets.

What makes Buffer so popular is how easy it is to use. Want to rearrange your posts? No problem. Set a custom posting schedule? You can do that too. See which posts have the highest engagement? Head over to the analytics dashboard and you’ll see.

The best part is, Buffer is free for one account (up to 10 scheduled posts). From there, pricing starts at $15 a month for 8 social channels (100 scheduled posts per channel).

SmarterQueue

SmarterQueue is another popular scheduling tool that makes it easy to share original and user-generated content, all from one place. Import your Feedly bookmarks and RSS feeds, create categories for each type of content you share, and monitor your schedule with SmarterQueue’s weekly calendar.

SmarterQueue pricing starts at $25 a month (up to four channels).

DrumUp

DrumUp is a content curation and social media management tool that does the heavy lifting of finding content for you to share. If you feel like you’re spending more time than you have each week managing social media, DrumUp can save you hours.

Just enter a list of keywords and topics, and DrumUp will scour the web for interesting articles. From there, you can customize your posts and tweets with hashtags, emojis, mentions and GIFs.

Pricing starts at $15 a month.

3) Visual content creation tools

WHEN TO USE: TO CREATE BLOG AND SOCIAL MEDIA GRAPHICS

Many bloggers and entrepreneurs struggle to create stunning graphics – it’s one of those things that can really make you feel stuck.

Truth is, if you want to build a stand-out brand, your visual content has to have impact. You can’t get by with ho-hum graphics that blend in with the others.

And while there’s no simple workaround for creating visuals that make people want to swerve over, there are tools that can save you from hours staring at a blank screen, *gasp.

Tools to try:

Canva

Canva is an all-in-one design tool for creating social media graphics, ebooks, opt-in promo graphics, and more.

With Canva for Work, you can save branding elements, organize and manage projects, create shareable templates, resize designs, and more. Canva also has a huge library of elements, photos, and overlays to get your creative juices flowing.

Canva for Work costs $12.95 a month.

Psst…Check out these design templates and tutorials that will help you quickly create graphics that stand out and get noticed with Canva.

PicMonkey

PicMonkey is similar to Canva, minus the pre-made templates. So while you’ll have to start from scratch, you can quickly build a library of custom templates from your own designs.

What makes PicMonkey unique are the photo editing features. Need to tweak a photo to match your brand? No problem. Just use one of PicMonkey’s effects to change the color and create a custom graphic that is uniquely you (a great way to breathe new life into old stock photos).

PicMonkey basic pricing starts at $5.99 a month.

Want to see PicMonkey in action? Here’s a step-by-step tutorial.

PromoRepublic

Want to really speed up things up? PromoRepublic may be the answer.

It’s a content creation, curation, and scheduling tool with 100,000+ pre-designed posts for just about everything…motivational quotes, trends, holidays, events…and more.

All of the designs are done for you and ready to share. Just tweak your posts using the graphics editor, then schedule them to social media. PromoRepublic can even automate Facebook and Instagram promotions to help you generate more sales for your business.

PromoRepublic pricing starts at $9 a month.

Headline Analyzer

CoSchedule’s Headline Analyzer tool will help you improve headlines and titles so you get more clicks.

For example, my working title for this post started out as:

7 Time-Saving Marketing Tools Every Savvy Blogger Needs
(score of 57)

After plugging it into the Headline Analyzer and following their tips and prompts, it became:

7 Powerful Marketing Tools You Should Be Using Right Now
(score of 72)

The best part? Headline Analyzer is 100% free.

4) Content Promotion Tools

WHEN TO USE: TO PROMOTE ORIGINAL CONTENT

Creating engaging content is only part of the equation when it comes to building an audience and driving traffic…

The harder part is promoting your content and getting it in front of your audience. You need a strategy for how and where you share your posts.

That’s where automated content promotion tools can help.

Content promotion tools are similar to social media management tools. They allow you to schedule and post to multiple channels at different times for increased visibility on each platform. Plus, you can see what your competitors are posting and use that to inform your content strategy.

If you need to drive even more traffic, content promotion tools can point you in the right direction by showing you the types of content that perform best in your niche or industry.

Tools to try:

Quuu

Quuu is a content curation tool that hand-picks content for you to share on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.

It also has a sister site, Quuu Promote, that works in conjunction with Quuu by promoting your posts (as suggested content) through their community.

Quuu pricing starts at $15 a month.
Quuu Promote costs $40 a month for one piece of content.

Zest

If your niche is marketing, Zest is a Chrome extension that can boost your traffic. Just submit a post, wait for the Zest team to review and approve, and start promoting.

Zest is free to use.

5) Keyword Research Tools

WHEN TO USE: TO DRIVE ORGANIC TRAFFIC TO YOUR CONTENT

(not an automation tool but a must to grow your business!)

Since you’re already doing the hard work of creating content on the regular, it makes sense to take an extra step and optimize your posts and pages so that people can easily find you on Google.

Keyword research tools can help you optimize your existing posts, plus understand what your audience is actively searching for. You can use this intel to create future posts that address their queries.

In this way, keyword research is good not only for SEO, but for attracting more of your ideal customers to your business.

Tools to try:

Adwords Keyword Planner

The Adwords Keyword Planner has gone through changes recently but is still a strong keyword research tool, especially for bloggers who aren’t ready to spend money for keyword research (it’s free).

You’ll have to create an ad account and keep your credit card on file to access. Still, you can easily work around this by simply “creating” an ad campaign and pausing it.

Even when you add other SEO marketing tools to the mix, the Keyword Planner is helpful for finding related keywords to include in your posts.

KWFinder

KWFinder is a relatively new keyword research tool that is gaining popularity due to its ease of use and accurate data. You can also see the top ranking domains for each keyword on the same dashboard, which is convenient. Most paid tools offer keyword difficulty scores so you know what you’re up against, and KWFinder is no different.

One thing to point out with any tool, competition and search volumes for any keyword tend to be a moving target. So even though you may find a keyword with great ranking possibilities today, that may change tomorrow. Make sure you check each keyword in real time (vs. keeping a spreadsheet), so you know how much work you’ll have to do to rank your page or post.

KWFinder starts at $25 a month for 100 searches a day.

6) Email Marketing Tools 

WHEN TO USE: TO NURTURE YOUR SUBSCRIBERS

Almost half of all customers are more likely to buy from a brand that stays in touch with them through regular emails.

And of course, you’re not going to manually email your subscribers one by one! You’re going to use tools to automate your campaigns and broadcasts.

At their most basic level, email tools allow you to send different emails to subscribers based on their engagement and behavior.

But they can do much more…

More advanced email tools can integrate with your e-commerce platform and send emails based on purchase or browsing history. They can help you improve sales by segmenting your list and sending emails based on actions your subscribers take.

They can also show you statistics to help improve the ROI of your email campaigns (subscription rate, unsubscribe rate, open rate, click through rate, and more).

Tools to try:

MailChimp is a great tool if you’re just starting to build your email list. You can send up to 12,000 emails to 2,000 subscribers for free each month.

MailChimp is free for up to 2,000 subscribers.

ConvertKit has sophisticated features that allow you to create tags, rules, and segments for your subscribers so you can build highly targeted and effective sales funnels.

For a complete tutorial on how to use ConvertKit for your business, read this post.

ConvertKit pricing starts at $24 a month for up to 1,000 subscribers.

7) Analytics Tools

WHEN TO USE: TO MEASURE PAGES, POSTS + CAMPAIGNS

You may be thinking that one marketing strategy is all you need to grow your business.

Unfortunately, that’s not the case.

You need to test multiple strategies to find the ones that work.

The reason is that your customers’ behaviors and needs are constantly changing. What they want today may not be what they want tomorrow. And the platforms they use today may not be where they hang out tomorrow.

Which means that what’s working for you today may not be as effective tomorrow.

Automated analysis tools can help understand what’s working where, how people are engaging with your pages and posts, which channels are most successful, and where there’s room for improvement.

A good analysis tool will track and display things like conversion rates, engagement, sales, refunds, and more.

The idea is to provide you with a comprehensive overview of the success of your efforts so you can make decisions going forward.

Tools to try:

Mixpanel

Mixpanel tracks the actions or steps people take on your website, landing page, or sales page (watch a video, share a post, click a button).

Because it tracks more than pageviews and length of visit, it can help you learn which pages you need to optimize to drive more sales.

Mixpanel is free for up to 2 data points.

Facebook Ads Manager Tools

Facebook ads can burn a hole in your budget quickly, but with over 2 billion users, you can’t afford NOT to use them, especially if you host things like webinars and workshops.

To avoid exhausting your budget too soon, be sure to test your ad copy, images, targeting, objectives, and more.

Within the Ads Manager, you can create reports to measure number of leads, registrations, purchases, CPM, CPC, costs, and more.

LuckyOrange

LuckyOrange is a website conversion tool that will help you understand which pages people visit, how long they stay on your site, and where they drop off.  You can also use it to discover keywords and referrers that drive traffic to your site.

LuckyOrange pricing starts at $10 a month.

For a complete list of analytics tools across social media, read this post.

Wrapping it up

Why do the hard work when software can do it for you? Use the automated marketing tools listed here to free up your time so you can focus on everything else you need to do to grow your business.

What marketing tools are you using to promote your blog or business?

by

Wondering how to start a business while working full time? I've got 9 side hustle ideas to help you make money online as quickly as possible.Are you finally ready to launch your freedom business? I’m so excited for you! Entrepreneurship is one of the most enriching things you can experience in life, and I can’t wait for you to start your journey…

Now, I totally get that you can be wildly thrilled about starting your new business and STILL have a hard time staying motivated with a 9-5 gig weighing you down.

Maybe you’re wondering if it’s even possible to start a business while working a full-time job…

Or, maybe you’re wondering how to go about it in a way that sets you up for huge success today and tomorrow

Lately, I’ve been getting start-up questions from the wonderful members of my Facebook group (and from you guys). Here’s what I’ve been hearing:

  • How do I manage going to school, starting my business, and a social life?
  • I work a full-time job and then come home and spend time with my three children. By the time they go to bed, I’m wiped out. How do I squeeze in the time for my business?
  • I feel like I’m not getting anywhere with my business idea. What should I do differently?

Sound familiar?

If you’ve been struggling to launch your side hustle, you’re in luck! Today, I’m sharing strategies to help you carve out the time (and stay motivated) to make it happen, f’real.

Before we dig in, what I’m covering here can apply to just about ANYTHING you want to launch…a new business, a new product, or a new service.

So whether you’re just tossing around business ideas right now, have been at it for a while, or are gearing up for a new product launch, I’m hoping you’ll find something of value in this post. 🙂

#FULLDISCLOSURE My only stint as a 9-to-5’er was the year I launched my temporary tattoo business (my most successful business to date). I’ll be using that experience as a reference, plus what I’ve learned from starting up businesses while running a full-time business.

Believe me, I feel your pain. It can be hard to find the time. Hard to juggle everything. And, most importantly, hard to know when you should ditch the 9 to 5 for good.

Before we dig in, I created a business plan template you can use to create a roadmap for your new 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!

So let’s dig in and see if we can make heads or tails of it all, k?

1) First, hold on to your day job for as long as you can.

Ain’t no way around it, you need a cashflow. The last thing you want to do is to jump ship without having financial security.

You’d stop making money, *gasp.

What happens next is a train wreck:

  • You start feeling desperate
  • Go into “survival” mode
  • Make the wrong business decisions
  • Scramble to look for another job

And really, there’s no need to put yourself in front of that train. There’s A LOT you can do to set yourself up while you’re working full time. At a minimum, aim to have these things complete before you sign off on your day job:

  • Market research – make sure you understand your target audience and what they want
  • A working brand identity – the bare essentials are all you need (logo, business card, website)
  • An online presence – be active on at least one social channel
  • Your first 10 blog posts – you want to launch with a handful of posts
  • A minimum viable product – can be a physical product, digital product, or service offering

2) Next, save your money.

Try to put aside at least six months of income before you leave your day job. This will help you make objective decisions and give you enough time to navigate earning an income from your business.

If you can save a year’s worth, even better.

3) Start with the right business idea.

This one’s a biggie, guys.

In fact, it’s such a biggie that I’m going to create a workshop on business ideas – how to weed out the duds, sort through the noise, and choose the right one…

Here’s why:

Your business idea ALONE can literally make or break your success.

Take it from me on this one! I’ve been *around the world* when it comes to launching businesses and can finally tell the difference between a good business idea and a bad one.

The last thing I want is for you to put in the hard work upfront, only to lose your enthusiasm when the ROI takes longer than expected and you can’t sustain an income.

Besides, nothing spells buzzkill faster than not making money.

Let’s say you’re married with two kids and a demanding job – one that requires your full-on attention. At night, you like to spend time with your kids before they go to sleep, which gives you two hours to work on your business idea before you clock out. You decide to spend that time learning how to code so you can start your web development business.

Can you see what’s wrong here?

Starting a business is SOOO hard! Don’t make it even harder by learning a new skillset before you even start!

Here’s the thing:

You probably have about 15 hours a week to work on your business. In that time frame, you’re going to need to see REAL progress to stay motivated. Otherwise, overwhelm and defeat will start to creep up on you. Slowly at first. Then bam. Like a ton of bricks.

Yowzah.

It’s much easier to start a business based on what you already know. Look at your skills, research the market, and find the place where they intersect. That’s your success path.

4) Be all in.

Total immersion or bust, that’s my motto…

You’ve got to be “all in” on your business idea and make a conscious decision to succeed there (vs your day job). Then shift your mindset to make it happen.

Here’s how that plays out in the real world:

  • You stop being an over-performer at work.
  • Let others get promoted instead of you.
  • Work on your logo during lunch.
  • Design your website when you have downtime.
  • Set the alarm an hour early to get your creative juices flowing.
  • Write your business plan instead of reading emails and texts.
  • Create a Facebook page instead of “socializing.”

You get my gist. When you’re all in, every minute counts and you get to work…

5) Forget about Plan B.

Now, I know this may go against every grain in your body. But it’s true.

Back-up plans make you lazy. They keep you fearful and second guessing. They make you settle for so much less than what you were born to do in this world.

If you really, REALLY believe in what you’re doing, there will be a tipping point…

When every bone in your body screams I can’t do this anymore!!

When your future’s in limbo and you’re stuck between your day job and your biz…not getting anywhere with either one.

Now, I don’t have a specific date or milestone for you, but it will be sometime after you create a foundation (step #1 above). When you’re ready to make real money and can’t possibly do it in your current situation.

That’s when it will be time to leave your 9 to 5.

6) Establish clear priorities.

Starting a business takes deliberate focus and attention. If you back-burner it, you’ll risk not reaching the finish line.

But hey, when you really, REALLY want something, you don’t back-burner it, right? You make it a priority.

You inherently *get* that you won’t be able to have your cake and eat it too. Not today, anyway. So you start de-prioritizing other things.

Maybe you don’t go to every party. You hang with your friends less. Or, you enlist your husband’s help with the kids. Cut down on the number of hours you work. Heck, maybe you even look for part-time work rather than full-time. Or start freelancing.

Basically…

You say No more than Yes.

(I’ve been saying no for a looong time now, *wink.)

But you know what? You’re EXCITED to make the sacrifices today in exchange for your FREEDOM tomorrow.

#HEADSUP Your friends and loved ones may not be keen on your newly-found priorities at first. But if you can hang in there, they’ll get on board. Promise.

7) Develop a routine that you can follow.

Set a minimum number of hours each week that you will work on your business idea. Then use a time blocking calendar to set specific time slots each day.

(Don’t forget to look for “hidden hours” you can squeeze in, say, during or after work.)

Now, when it comes to sticking with your routine, I’ve got two strategies for you! These will be especially helpful on days when you feel extra stressed and ANYTHING BUT motivated.

First off, map out your week every Sunday.

When you’re crystal clear on what you will be doing and when – down to the tiniest details – you’ll be more inclined to show up and execute on them.

But when it’s Wednesday and your brain is fried already, THEN you have to figure out what the heck to work on, you know what happens?

You put it off ’til tomorrow.

And then…

You stop seeing consistent progress…

Which makes you less motivated to work on your business idea…

So you put it off again…

Then you’re off to Procrastinationville! Don’t go there, friend. Plan ahead and stay on track.

Psst…What can really help with time management is my time blocking template below. If you want, you can use it to create a *visual to-do list* and block out your entire week.  Include everything…work, kids, school, social, and your biz, so you know exactly how much time you’ll have to focus on your business idea each week. Totally helps beat procrastination because you can see how much time you really have available!   

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

Second, understand your work patterns and when you feel the most creative.

For example:

Instead of trying to do your deep work during the week, plan simpler tasks like:

  • Designing your logo
  • Creating a social media image
  • Drafting a blog post

Set aside Saturday or Sunday for projects that require more brainpower (like products and content).

It also helps to develop rituals and “pay-it-forward treats” to help you get in the mood to work.

Do you like meditating first thing in the morning? Staring at your computer with a cup of coffee? Watching TV? Give yourself that treat BEFORE you start working. During this transition time, visualize WHY you’re going to haul yourself up and work. Imagine what things will look like on the other side.

For me, listening to my music gets me all pumped and fired up to work.

What’s your thing? Think about what excites you to do the work, then do that every day before you get started. When you follow the same routine and consistently put in the work, you’ll be motivated to do even more.

8) Spend more time doing and less time planning.

It’s easy to fall into the trap of over-planning and under-executing.

To avoid that, give yourself a time slot for planning (preferably on Sundays). Leave the other time slots for doing. Then hold yourself accountable to show up and get them done.

It can also be tempting to think Since I won’t get much done in an hour, I’ll wait until the weekend when I have more time.

This is dangerous territory for so many reasons (step #6 above).

When you put it off today, the next thing you know you’re blowing off an entire Saturday or Sunday. I mean, if you didn’t make it a priority on Monday, why should it be a priority on Sunday, right?

Wrong. You’ve got to make it a priority e’erday.

Even if Monday morning all you do is stare at your laptop for an hour, the fact that you’re sitting there reinforces your commitment to your business. Plus, trust me. You won’t be able to stare at your screen for an hour! You’ll get bored in 15 minutes and start digging in.

9) Focus on the process.

It’s easy to feel defeated when things take five times longer than you expected (which ALWAYS happens!).

Instead of focusing on the end goal, focus on your daily progress. Keep a journal or use the time blocking template so you can feel good about what you’ve accomplished.

When you review your progress like this each day, something else starts happening…

You know what you REALLY need to work on the next day.

(which can look a lot different than what you planned on Sunday.)

More often than not, we *think* we can do A, B and C when we can really only do A. Then we get bummed and feel like we accomplished nothing!

Setting unrealistic expectations usually comes from being fuzzy about how long A, B or C will take in the first place. When you start tracking your progress daily, you’ll know how long things REALLY take and be able plan your time more accurately.

Then you keep on doin’.

10) Find ways to get less (other) stuff done.

There are things you need to do and things you don’t need to do.

For example:

When I get the urge to create a family picture wall in my hallway (something I’ve been wanting to do for some time now), I think about how long it will take. Then I ask myself if I really need to do it now. Or if it can wait.

Calculate how much time it will take you – door to door – to go shopping, run an errand, and so on. Do you have that time to spare? Does it really need to get done? What could you accomplish in your business in that time?

Plus, let’s be real for a sec. Every time you switch gears, your brain has to play catch-up. You’ve got this delay thing happening that turns four hours into six.

You know what your brain says next, right?

I’ll just work on my biz tomorrow…

And it’s off to Procrastinationville again.

The good news is, you can use these steps to get back on track quickly. 🙂

That’s a wrap! What strategies have you used to start a business while working full time? I’d love to hear them!

by

Have you found gorgeous styled stock photography to use in your blog? Need some inspiration to create branded blogging pictures? You’re in luck! I’ve got an amazing Picmonkey tutorial that shows you how to edit free stock photography to fit your brand so you really stand out on social media. It even includes a free downloadable set of ULTRA beautiful, creative photography you can start using today. stock photo resources / stock photography ideas / feminine stock photosBy Aminta Demadura

Have you ever come across styled stock photos you absolutely love, and then wondered how you could make them fit with your brand?

I wondered the exact same thing.

And as it turns out, adding your own branding to modern stock photos is really easy!

Branding and customizing stock photos is a super important step in creating a unique business that your readers and customers absolutely love. This type of branding helps your followers relate to you, form a connection with you, and in the end, purchase from you.

So it’s important that your visuals represent who you are and what you do.

In this post, I’m going to show you how to create social media graphics that stand out above the rest using styled stock photos (and my favorite tips to customize them and make them your own).

Before we get started, let me show you the original styled stock photo we’ll be working with below:

super high resolution stock photos

If you’re curious, styled stock photos are created with entrepreneurs, bloggers, and business owners in mind. I like to think of them as “startup stock photos.” They’re incredibly handy when you’re starting out and don’t have the time, expertise, or space to take your own photos.

Styled stock photography makes use of props (office supplies, household items, plants, stationery, flowers, mugs, and so on), and can range from flat lays, to mock-ups, close-ups, and still lifes. And with the rise of free feminine styled stock photos, there are new sources popping up every day.

Let’s have some fun and see how you can make this image fit your brand.

1) Use Fun Filters to Brand Your Photos

My favorite free image editor is Picmonkey. If you’re a Canva fan, that’s fine too (I won’t hold it against you!), but I find Picmonkey to be more intuitive, easier to work with, and I love that it comes with SO MANY features.

In the images below, I added a simple filter to each of the photos. Specifically, the Yester-year filter and the HDR filter.

how to create social media graphics free

As you can see, a filter can really change the mood and vibe of a photo, which is perfect if you’re trying to add your own style to a stock photo. Picmonkey has many, many filter and effect options, so spend a little time going through them and find out what works best for your style and the photos you have to work with.

(If Photoshop is more your style, you’re gonna love this tutorial.)

2) Use Effects to Make a Photo Instantly Unique

Have you checked out Picmonkey’s effects yet? If not, you’re seriously missing out. Effects are the fastest way to make bold changes to a photo that really makes it your own. In this image, I used the sunglow effect to add a radiant center with a vintage tint to the original image.

startup stock photos

I love using these types of effects for social media, especially Instagram. Trust me, there’s nothing worse than finding a ton of other accounts using the same feminine stock photos as you in their feeds (hint: It’s not good for branding!)

And if you want to get really wild? Try layering two or three effects and see what you get. Many combinations look really cool together.

Effects are the fastest way to make bold changes to a photo and really make it your own.Click To Tweet

3) Gradient Overlays Are In

Here’s a fun one. If you want a super fast way to add your brand colors to an image in a unique way, try adding a gradient overlay, like this:

free open source stock photos

 

I always hear bloggers complain about how hard it is to find styled stock images that fit their brand colors. But the truth is, it doesn’t have to be!

With a little creativity you can take almost any image you love and customize it to suit your brand style. Make the gradient as light or dark as you want to get the right look, and know that if using a lighter photo, it may work best if you’re not going for that Lisa Frank look.

4) Take Horizontal and Vertical Crops of the Image

Depending on how detailed the original image is, you can easily squeeze another 10-20 images from it by cropping it in different parts of the photo:

feminine stock photos

Vertical crops are great for Pinterest and square crops are best for Instagram. You can also take horizontal crops like the one shown above to use in your blog posts and tweets.

On top of that, you can also create header images for Facebook, Twitter, and your blog by taking super wide but short crops of your image. How cool is that?

And if you want even more options beyond just cropping, try flipping, rotating, or changing the angle of your cropped versions.

5) Create Pinterest Pins that Stand Out from the Crowd

If we’re being honest, we all know it takes some amazing looking pins to really “make it” on Pinterest. They need to be bold, beautiful, and easy to read. They need to entice people to click through to your blog.

This is where making some savvy edits to free styled stock images can really help you make attention-grabbing pins.

how to create a pin in Pinterest

In the pin above, you can see that I added a filter to the cropped image to make it a little more artistic. Then I added a transparent white box, my brand fonts, and my logo to complete the pin.

BAM. You’re done.

6) Make Inspirational Graphics to Connect With Your Audience

Inspiring your audience and encouraging them to return to your blog over and over is a big part of any blogger’s job. You need to motivate and inspire your readers to really form that connection, and inspirational graphics can be a great way to do just that.

Thankfully, making inspirational graphics is easy and quick.

In the photo below, I simply added a darkening filter to the vertically cropped image that I extracted from the original. Then, I added a large white script font over the top of the darker areas to create a unique and attractive, inspiring image.

how to use PicMonkey for free

If you aren’t already, I highly recommend you try out this tactic on Pinterest and Instagram. Both platforms are super visual and people loooove inspirational images on them. Give it a shot – I promise you’ll see a little boost in traffic and engagement.

7) Feed the ‘Gram with Some Branded Squares

Does the thought of having to come up with yet another amazing photo for Insta ever give you a little anxiety? Yeah, me too. It takes so many photos to really grow a large Instagram following, and most of us just don’t have the time to plan, shoot, and edit that many photos.

If that’s your predicament, this tip will help. I recommend taking a bunch of square crops from different parts of your original styled stock photo (step #4, above).

Then, make them even more unique by flipping or rotating them in new directions, and adding filters and effects to really amp up the style. There are seriously hundreds of different possibilities you could make here, so spend about 30 minutes tinkering in a free image editor. You’ll be creating your own Instagram styled stock photos in no time!

8) Create Promotional Graphics that Make People Click

Once you have a product for sale, you’ll need to start spreading the word. Promotional graphics (used sparingly) on Pinterest, Twitter, Instagram, and other social media accounts will let your followers discover your new products and will help give you some social cred.

amateur stock photos

 

You can see from the image above that not only did I crop it, I also rotated it to a completely new angle. After that I added a pretty script font on top of an overlay to help promote the sale.

9) Make Twitter Images that Stop the Scroll

If you’ve been on Twitter more than once or twice, you know that tweets with pictures are waaay more noticeable than text-only tweets.

Standing out is an important part of gaining Twitter followers and encouraging your current followers to actually click through and read your blog posts. Images play a huge part in catching the eye and enticing the reader to click through. Not only that, but they also help to establish your brand and your professional image.

Lucky for us, making Twitter images is a cinch. I use Picmonkey’s Hub to save templates for each of my graphic types.

instagram styled stock photos

Once the template is there, all I have to do for each new image is go in and change the text and background image. Three minutes, tops.

Where Will You Go from Here?

Is your brain overflowing with ideas on how to doll up your own free styled stock photos? Once you’ve gone through the editing process a few times, you’ll quickly find that it’s really easy and makes a huge difference to the visual appeal of your business.

I highly recommend creating branded templates for Pinterest, Instagram, and Twitter using an editor like Canva or Picmonkey. Templates will save you so much time, and they’ll also help keep your branding on track. Good luck!

Before you go…

Don’t forget to grab your free styled stock photos pack right here! This pack is perfect for blog posts, Pinterest pins, Instagram posts, tweet images, and more. And of course, you can customize the photos as much as you’d like using my digital photo editing tutorial above.

Click the image below for your free high-resolution stock photos download:

free high resolution stock photos download

by

How to make your opt-in forms GDPR-compliant.Can we talk about the new European data protection regulations (GDPR)?

Because I think we need to.

I’ve been trying to put the whole GDPR thing off as long as possible, but it’s time to dig in, guys. And in case you’re late to the party like me, the regulation goes into effect this Friday, May 25th.

We have to catch up real quick.

Now, I won’t be doing a deep dive on what GDPR means for the future of email marketing or anything like that. I just want to help you understand what it is and share the changes I’ll be making so that my opt-in forms are compliant.

Disclaimer: These are only my interpretations of the regulations. This post is not legal advice. Please make sure you consult with your own legal counsel to help you make the right decisions about GDPR.

First off, what is GDPR?

GDPR isn’t really about email marketing, and yet it is…

Here’s why:

The GDPR is really about regulating how the personal data of EU citizens is handled. And since email marketing contains data in the form of email addresses and other contact info, GDPR most definitely applies to email marketing.

The regulations will give EU citizens rights about their data regarding:

  • What will happen with it (before they submit it)
  • Providing explicit consent before it’s collected
  • Knowing what data will be collected
  • Knowing why you’re collecting their data and how you plan to use it
  • The right to modify, update or remove their data completely

What do we need to do to be compliant?

For email marketing, the regulations translate to:

  • Tell people what you will do with their email address before they sign up
  • Let people see the data you’ve collected about them
  • Give them a way to modify their data and unsubscribe
  • Remove all data you have if they request it

Next, how can you make your opt-in forms compliant?

It’s no longer enough to say “Hey! Grab this awesome freebie” and then send people emails. That’s not GDPR-compliant.

The reason is that people are not explicitly agreeing to receive your emails. All they’re explicitly agreeing to is the PDF, so that’s all you can send them. And nothing else.

From here on out, we need to be more transparent with our opt-in forms and let people know we’ll be sending them emails.

Now, you could add a checkbox that says something like this:

[ ] I agree to receive the weekly newsletter.

BUT HOLD UP. What you can’t do with that checkbox is have it pre-checked by default! People will have to manually check it, which we all know is a pain.

Here’s what I’m doing to make my forms GDPR-compliant:

I’m not a big fan of checkboxes and prompts, so I’m going to tweak the copy on my forms instead. I’ll make it clear that people are signing up for my newsletter first and foremost, and the PDF as a bonus. Plus, I’ll add a link to my privacy policy.

As an example, here’s one of my current opt-in forms:

See how there’s no mention of a newsletter or regular emails? It’s all about the PDF.

Here are the changes I plan to make:

Here’s what makes this GDPR-compliant (as far as I can tell so far):

  • People know they’ll be “signing up”
  • My newsletter is mentioned in the text.
  • The main call-to-action is to sign up for my newsletter – the freebie is a bonus.
  • There’s a link to my privacy + terms.

A few other things I’ll be doing:

  • Adding a “modify my subscription” link next to the “unsubscribe” link in emails (so that people can easily update their info)
  • Double opt-in forms. It doesn’t look like this is required for GDPR…just feels like a best practice thing to do from here on out
  • Sending re-engagement emails to current EU subscribers
  • Applying similar copy changes to landing pages
  • Experimenting with the above form changes vs. segmenting EU subscribers (I may prefer to leave the opt-in forms as is, deliver the PDF, and ask for consent to my newsletter in the delivery email.

That’s it!

Again, this is just my interpretation of the regulations and how I plan to be compliant. I’m sure I’ll be tweaking my forms, landing pages, emails, and website as GDPR rolls out and things become clearer…

…and I’ll keep you posted on it all.

Over to you! What changes will you make to comply with GDPR? Are you all set? Or, is your brain still feeling a bit woozy from it all?

I’d love to hear your thoughts, feedback, and tips. Let me know in the comments so we can all benefit and make sense of the new regulation.

I’m off to change my forms. 🙂

by

Have you been wanting to start a Facebook Group but not sure where to start? This post is for you! I share my best tips for growing an engaged Facebook Group to build an incredible community and increase sales!Hi friends!

If you’re a member of Facebook Groups, you already know what sanity-savers they can be.

Now, I’m not talking about the kind of sanity-savers that drive incredible amounts of traffic or help you grow your business.

Yes, they can do that, but I’m talking about the kind of sanity-savers that make you feel connected to the universe again.

When you’re sitting at your kitchen table in sweats and a t-shirt bangin’ away at your laptop, it’s easy to feel disconnected. And being able to pop into your favorite group, get feedback, share tips, ask questions, and partner up with other members makes you feel like part of something bigger.

(Fo’sure, there’s the dark side of Facebook groups. But that’s for another day!)

Many of you have asked me how to create and grow a Facebook Group, and today, I’m sharing the strategies that have worked for me to help you do the same.

I’ll be drilling down on the art side of creating and promoting a group. For the techie side of how to create a Facebook Group, Neil Patel has a step by step guide for you.

Ready? Let’s dig in.

First, why should you start a Facebook Group?

Well, for starters, you’ll have the opportunity to meet amazing individuals with similar interests and goals. Just like you can in other groups.

But here’s the difference:

In your own group, you have center stage. It’s much easier to be visible as a group owner vs a member because people HAVE to notice you. It’s like networking on steroids.

Here are some other perks:

  • You can reach a broader audience with your posts – you’ll likely get more traffic than other groups
  • More comments on your posts – you can use these to fuel other posts and threads
  • Draw attention to your freebies – pin them to your group for all to see
  • Announce your courses and programs – increased sales
  • Showcase your expertise and build trust – hold Q&A sessions and challenges

Of course, I wouldn’t write about building a Facebook group without pimpin’ my own. 🙂

If you want to network with other professionals and have multiple opportunities to promote your business, I’d love for you to join my Facebook community!

Before you create a Facebook Group

You’ll want to spend some time researching, taking notes, and creating brand assets before you set up your group.

I recommend creating a Google Spreadsheet (or Word doc, Evernote, Excel) so you can keep your ideas in one place. Here’s what mine looks like:
The first step on how to grow a Facebook group is to start with a worksheet to keep track of daily threads.

I create multiple variations to keep my daily threads fresh and new. Then all I have to do is put them in rotation in SmarterQueue. No last-minute wondering what to post. It’s all ready to go!

1) Decide what type of group you want to create.

Here’s where it pays to “think it forward.”

What level of engagement do you want your group to have?

Do you want it to be a promo group where people can sell their products, a group for sharing ideas and tips only, or a mix of both?

And what types of daily threads will you have?

For example:

If you have a wedding planning group, your thread may include the wedding planning highs and lows, best wedding plans, tips, budgeting, and finding photographers, bands, florists, invitations, caterers, and so on.

What about location? Will it be a local, regional or global group where members can buy and sell old wedding items and advertise their services?

As a rule of thumb, sharing groups have higher engagement than promo groups. Buut, it may be easier to get members if you mix it up. Just sayin’.

2) Create a group description.

Take the ideas you have from the previous step and create a group description.

Make sure you include the purpose of your group, who it’s for, and any group rules you have so that everyone can see.

For example, here’s my description:

Promote Facebook Group

See how I include a link to my free resources and my website? Boom.

3) Create a cover photo.

Doesn’t have to be anything fancy. Just a photo of you or a graphic image with the group name.

If you want, you can take it up a notch and brand your cover photo with colors, a logo, and other elements. It’s really up to you.

What size should your cover photo be?

Great question! I’ve got Facebook group cover dimensions and a free template for you.

4) Create daily thread images.

If you plan to run the same threads each week, creating images and scheduling them in advance will save tons of time and headache. This way you can have your group running on semi-autopilot.

Here’s a 1020 x 800 template I use:

Facebook Group daily thread image example

 

Related: How to Use Photoshop to Create Branded Social Media Images

The last thing you’ll want to do before you create your group is to gather up some Facebook friends and invite them to join. You need to add at least one person (besides you) in order to create the group.

Remember, you can always remove them later!

how to grow a facebook group

Next, it’s time to promote your Facebook Group and get some members!

5) Invite Twitter followers to join.

I send new Twitter followers a message to thank them for following me. In that message, I include an invitation to download a freebie or join my group.

When you do this, make sure you frame your invitation around what’s in it for them. Don’t just ask people to join your group!

Be authentic and human, strike up a conversation. Then let them know about the group and why they should join. What’s in it for them? More sales, networking, support, encouragement? Whatever it is, put it out there!

Whatever you do, don’t send people messages like this:
Grow your Facebook Group using Twitter direct messages.

Ick. What a buzz-kill.

Make sure you make it about them and not you. With me?

6) Invite email subscribers to join.

Don’t forget to email your subscribers! They’re your biggest fast and will likely get the most benefit from joining.

I always include a shout-out at the bottom of my emails, like this:

-P.S. Want your marketing questions answered? I’d love for you to join my Facebook Community where you can network with other professionals, share tips, join forces, and have multiple opportunities to promote your business. Join Online Biz Superheroes.

You can mention your group wherever you prefer – at the beginning, middle, or end of the email.

I like to keep the focus of my email on-topic and close with the group link. Too many buttons and links in the body of the email can be overwhelming, in my book.

7) Include a link on your website.

I just added my Facebook Group to my site navigation. So every time people visit my site, they’ll see the link which will redirect them to the group.

The way I see it, it’s just one more way to make the group visible.

More visibility = more people who know about it = faster growth.

Hmm…sounds like the formula for anything we want to promote, no?

Anyway, we’ll see what happens with it!

8) Mention the group in autoresponders.

When people opt-in to your list or sign up for a freebie, include a link to your group in the Welcome sequence.

Something like:

Hey there! Here’s the link to download the Guide to Wall-Hanging Art.

If you’d like more free resources like this, plus tips to design and sell your wall hangings, join my Facebook community [link].

If you include this extra line in all of your welcome sequences, everyone who signs up for your free offers will have an opportunity to join. And it’s all happening behind the scenes.

The best part is, the more opt-ins you have on your website, the more members you’ll likely get.

9) Add to social profiles

This one sounds like a no-brainer, but it’s easy to overlook. And really, it’s not hard to add a link to your group in your social profiles.

What IS hard is deciding how many calls to action (CTAs) you should include. After all, Instagram, Twitter, and even Pinterest don’t give us much real estate to work with, friend. It’s up to us to choose our primary CTAs.

My picks? My free resources and Facebook Group. Here’s how I include both in my Twitter profile:

Promote a Facebook Group from your Twitter profile.

What about you?

Are you looking to promote a new course or program? Get more subscribers? Or are you all about your group right now?

Psst…Curious about that fancy URL for the group?

You can do it too! Just create a branded domain (through GoDaddy) and have them forward the domain to your group.

I came up with the idea when I started my YouTube channel. There’s no way to create pretty links in YouTube descriptions, and this is my workaround.

#SHAMELESSPLUG Subscribe to my channel! It’s brand new and I can really use your support to help grow it. ✨ You’re the best!

10) Invite members of other Facebook Groups

This one has worked well for me. If you’re in a number of groups, you can direct message people who seem like they may be a good fit.

#WORDOFCAUTION You have to be careful with this strategy. Make sure you follow the group rules. If they don’t allow direct messaging or promoting groups, don’t do it.

And don’t go crazy inviting 100 people a day or anything like that. Maybe ten people every other day, you get the gist.

As long as you mention the benefits of your group (and follow through with your promise), people should be receptive to your invite. Most people have thanked me for inviting them…

11) Invite people who sign up for webinars.

This one I haven’t tried and am so excited to test for my upcoming webinar:

When people register for the webinar, instead of redirecting them to a Thank You page, send them to your Facebook Group. Simple.

I’m going to try this one soon and will keep you posted on my results. If you get to it before me, please let me know in the comments. I’d love to hear all about it!

12) Pin a post or a tweet to your timeline.

This is another one of those things you can put into rotation with other promotions.

Create a post/tweet about your group, then pin it to your Facebook and Twitter timeline. It will be the first post people see when they land on your page.

Pin a group post to your Facebook Page.

Pinning a post is super easy. See those three dots in the upper right of the post?

You can boost the pinned post and reach a bigger audience.

(I’d keep the budget small, say $5-10 a day for a week, and see what happens.)

Even if you boost another post and people visit your page, they’ll see the pinned post first. Woo!

13) Create an Instagram Story about it.

Instagram Stories work! I easily 2x my Instagram traffic every time I create a story.

The best part is, they’re fun and easy to create. Record a quick video or create a graphic about your group and use Instagram’s editing tools to add colors, text, hashtags, and more.

If you enable Save to Archive in your settings, the story will appear on your profile until you remove it, so new followers have a chance to see it.

 

Create an Instagram Story about your Facebook group.

 

14) Share your Facebook Group on social media.

You know what? I ALWAYS forget to promote my offers.

It’s terrible! I had to create a product promo worksheet to force myself to get into a routine of promoting offers in the same way I promote blog posts.

And to this day, I haven’t shared a single post about my group on social media (except for the pinned post, step #8 above).

So, friends, I’m off to start sharing!

Here’s my plan:

  • Create three Facebook/Twitter images
  • Create three IG posts
  • Create one pin

Hook those bad boys up in SmarterQueue, post them to my “freebies” category, and let them loop.

Curious about how to schedule posts with SmarterQueue? I’ve got a full guide for you right here.

That’s a wrap! Those are my tips on how to create a Facebook Group (and how to grow it to get more customers). What tips do you have to share?

by

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.

by

Simple productivity systems for busy bloggers to help you streamline and scale your business! It includes time management tips, goal planning ideas, goal planning tips for bloggers, business goal setting, and productivity hacks to help you get more done in less time, plus a free goal setting planner.Have you tried time blocking to help with time management?

I was introduced to it a while back, and let me say – total game-changer.

Just seeing what I had to do each day, down to the minute, made me feel like a productivity goddess.

I finally had an intelligent way to organize my list and a system that accounted for everything, even things I always forget (exercising, breaks, errands, and so on). I even got into a routine of blocking out time for similar tasks, which was like, whoa. I thought for sure that would 10X my productivity right there.

Problem was, my perfect time blocking calendar still didn’t translate into a perfect 40-hour workweek.

I still had more to do than I could manage and was bouncing all over the place trying to get it all done. I’d go from writing a post, to working on a project, to meeting with clients, to working out, to writing my blog post again.

Sound familiar?

Most of us know that multi-tasking doesn’t work, but it’s hard to stop trying!

I think I finally nailed it this time, though.

I figured out why time blocking isn’t the answer, and why we need a whole new productivity paradigm. In fact, today, I’m putting our entire concept of productivity under a microscope and giving it a face-lift.

Here’s what I’m covering:

  • Redefining what productivity means
  • The power of short-term “sprints”
  • The right way to drill down on your goals
  • How to stay in your Passion Zone (more on that in this post)
  • Life-saving systems that you can’t do without

Let’s dig in.

Step 1: Time to redefine productivity.

The standard definition of productivity is some variation of: a measure of output per unit of input.

Now, this input/output formula might work for machines but not so much for humans. It’s turning us into robots, y’all! All we care about is getting more done, and quick like.

I’m a huge fan of productivity but we seriously need to flip the switch on all this.

Imagine what it would feel like to spend LESS time getting MORE done! That’s what we’re shooting for. And the best way to do it is to establish criteria for our to-do lists.

Time to shrink ’em down, friend.

I know you may be thinking How can I even think about trimming down my list? Things need to get done and I can’t just drop them!

I’ve got you covered! We’re going to create a plan to find your freedom and increase productivity at the same time. I want you to be able to work in your sweet spot 24/7 and still get incredible amounts of stuff done.

What we’re aiming for is a better process to manage your workweek, so that when tasks pop up (and they always do!), you run them through these four filters before adding to your calendar:

  • Is this something YOU need to do?
  • Does it need to get done AT ALL?
  • Is it a priority?
  • How can you outsource it?

These next few steps will give you a framework to do just that.

Step #2: Set short-term goals.

Everything starts with goals . . . the trick is to set the right ones.  Here’s a quick exercise to help you do it:

Grab a piece of paper and write down five things that ONLY YOU can do for your business. These are things you can’t outsource even if you want to desperately!

I’ll bet sharing posts on Facebook and creating images aren’t top-of-mind, amirite? The reason is that when we dig deep, we know the difference between busy work and real work. We just need a little structure to help us act on it.

That’s where goal setting comes in.

In my mind, the best goals are short sprints over a period of, say, three months. Far away enough to allow you to focus and really dig in, and close enough to see the end goal.

Here’s why I say this:

As a short-distance runner in high school, I’d leap ahead of my teammates and sprint straight to the finish line. But longer races? Eeeks, I was a mess. I’d either run out of breath after the first mile or drop back because it kept going and going, with no end in sight.

I thinking building an online business is a lot like running. We need to see the finish line to keep our momentum going. Three months is a perfect sprint. 🙂

So my question for you is: What sprint are you in?

If you’re a bit stumped with what your goals should be right now (most of us could use a nudge to validate and act on our instincts), it may help to look at your business in sprints, like this:

  • Launch Sprint: Launch your website and brand
  • Hustle Sprint: Get traffic, subscribers, and clients
  • Growth Sprint: Create courses, products and funnels
  • Profit Sprint: Automate and scale

Each sprint has its own strategic focus and priorities (more on this in my DIY-Your-Biz Blueprint).

For example:

If you’re in the Hustle Sprint, your goals are to get traffic, subscribers, and clients. Everything you do in this sprint needs to support your goals. That means when other things pop up, you put them on a waiting list or delegate to a team member.

Bonus: I created this simple planner to help you put what you learn into action and clarify the goals for your next sprint. Click on the image below to get started.

Use the 90-Day Blog Planner to set goals so you can get to your next level quickly.

What if you need to rerun your sprint?

Great question!

That’s perfectly okay . . . Rome wasn’t built in 90 days. In fact, I ran the Hustle Sprint for the better part of 2017. I’d run it over and over until I hit my traffic and subscriber goal.

Today, I’m in the Growth Sprint and have to admit, feeling a bit out of my comfort zone. I’m creating courses instead of blogging and have less time to develop infographics and content upgrades. And it bugs me to see my traffic fluctuating when I know I can easily increase it.

I also know I can catch up to it later. I read once that women can have it all . . . wonderful kids, an abundant career, amazingly supportive family . . . just maybe not all at the same time.

That applies to building a business. One sprint at a time, yo.

Step #3: Drill down on your goals.

Here’s where you start getting specific. In the Hustle example above, your goals might be to:

  • Get 5,000 subscribers
  • Hit 10,000 pageviews
  • Win three $10K clients

From here, it’s time to figure out the specific projects and tasks that have to happen to hit your goals. If we break these goals down, your individual tasks might look like this:

  • Write blog posts
  • Create share images
  • Create infographics
  • Share on social media
  • Join and share to Facebook Groups
  • Share to Pinterest Groups and Tribes
  • Create content upgrades
  • Do keyword research
  • Add keywords to blog posts (on-page SEO)
  • Look for guest post opportunities
  • Create YouTube videos
  • Start a Facebook Group
  • Message potential customers in Facebook and LinkedIn Groups
  • Join and share to LinkedIn Groups
  • Host a giveaway
  • Do a webinar
  • Make connections on LinkedIn
  • Create email sequences, landing pages, and opt-in forms
  • Create cold email sequences to potential customers
  • Find stock images (or take original photos)

Phew! This quick list just keeps growing – I’m sure it can even double from here.

Can you see the problem here? Even when you use amazing tools like the time blocking template below, you’ve got two things to add to your list for everyone one you check off.

Not anymore, you passion-zone-goddess, you! You only have to choose five tasks. My picks would be:

  • Write blog posts
  • Create content upgrades
  • Host a webinar
  • Do keyword research
  • Add keywords to blog posts

I chose the first three because content needs to come from you. Those last two, keyword research and SEO? Every entrepreneur should know how to optimize content for both organic search and social media. Traffic is the lifeline of your business, and the last thing I want is for some SEO’er to get your site penalized by Google.

If you want, you can use the time blocking template I created to put this new productivity paradigm to the test. Click the image below to download.

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

Step #4: Next up, what can you outsource?

A wonderful member of my Facebook group was having a hard time staying consistent with social media, especially sharing to Facebook Groups and Tribes.

Sound familiar?

When this happens, you’ve got two choices:

  • Create systems and workflows (step #5 below)
  • Hire a virtual staff to assist

Now, you may be thinking It’s too early on to hire an assistant! I still have a full-time job and am not even monetizing my site yet!

I hear ya! It can be hard to bite the bullet. This is one of those things you should do early on in your entrepreneurial career. Hiring virtual assistants is the smartest move I ever made. They are life-savers! If you don’t have one on your team yet, stop what you’re doing and hire one.

Generally speaking, virtual assistants fall into these roles:

  • Video editing
  • Web design
  • Graphic design
  • Social media management
  • General VA (GVA)

First of all, that last one is the person every single employee should have on your team. My GVA is the person I lean on day to day in my business, and she helps me more than any other employee!

The other thing I’ve come to respect and acknowledge is that no one person can wear every hat. To maximize the potential of your team, you want to keep every employee working in their Passion Zone.

It’s best to hire a general assistant for daily admin tasks, a graphic designer for all things graphic, a video editor for courses, screencasts, and YouTube videos, and a social media manager.

Some tasks you can outsource:

  • Social media
  • Moderating Facebook groups
  • Content promotion
  • Graphic design and images
  • Adding tags and images to blog posts
  • Publishing blog posts
  • Proofreading posts
  • Ebook design and layout
  • Opt-in form design
  • Promoting Facebook pages
  • Monitoring Twitter accounts
  • Sharing to Tribes
  • Sharing to Facebook Groups
  • Creating spreadsheets and worksheets
  • Miscellaneous tasks
  • Creating and editing landing pages
  • Outreach on social media
  • Research guest post opportunities
  • Invite LinkedIn connections
  • Researching user-generated content
  • Scheduling to Instagram

Where can you find virtual assistants?

Great question!

Upwork, Facebook Groups, and online marketplaces like onlinejob.ph are places where you can find extremely talented employees.

Pro tip: Effort in = effort out when it comes to building your team. Be explicit with what you expect and provide clear job descriptions upfront. Whatever you do, don’t expect employees to figure out what to do on their own! Record training videos, hold weekly Skype calls, and use time tracking software. Thank me later. 🙂

 

Step #5: Create systems and workflows.

If you can create a system for what you want to achieve in each sprint, you can reach your end goals a lot faster, and stay in your Passion Zone for the entire race.

And the best part is, you can rinse and repeat over and over again to keep hitting massive goals with your next sprint.

Kick-butt systems = Insane time-savers

Funny, even the simplest system can make big tasks seem small. Here’s an example:

 

Duh, right? Seems like an obvious thing to number your Dropbox folders.

Alas, only in hindsight! I picked this gem up from Amy Porterfield. You’ll be amazed how fast you can breeze through folders when they’re organized like this.

Here are other business systems I use every day:

Google Spreadsheets

My secret weapon! I use spreadsheets a million times a day.

Anything you can do in Excel you can do in Google Spreadsheets  . . . format text, merge cells, freeze columns, clip text, customize fonts, import colors, create formulas, add borders, add/delete rows . . . and then some.

But what really sealed the deal? I can instantly share spreadsheets with my team and track what they’re working on, what needs to get done, and who’s slackin’ off (kidding).

Here’s how we use spreadsheets:

We have one master marketing sheet that includes multiple spreadsheets for everything we do, including:

  • Tribes tracker
  • Facebook Group promo threads
  • Blog Promotion
  • Product promotion
  • Pinterest keywords
  • Keyword Research
  • Blog ideas
  • Sales funnels worksheet
  • Hashtag worksheet
  • Pinterest Groups tracker
  • LinkedIn Groups
  • Images to create
  • Old blog posts
  • Online Biz Superheroes threads
  • Best pins / tweets
  • Affiliate programs
  • Income tracker

Want to see spreadsheets in action? I created this blog promotion worksheet you can start using today:
Download the Blog promotion worksheet to get traffic to your blog.

Every project or task gets its own spreadsheet where my team and I collaborate, track progress, and brainstorm new ideas.

For example:

Once a month, we grab quick stats on Pinterest Groups and Tribes and document them on the sheet. Then, we use that data to drive our pinning strategy and track share dates to each group/tribe.

Can you see how much time that saves?

No more scratching your head wondering why or when you shared a pin. And the best part is, you’ll only be sharing to tribes or groups that drive traffic.

Same thing for keywords and hashtags. You want to have them at your fingertips, ready to post. When your GVA asks which hashtags to post on IG, just point her to the spreadsheet. Check.

Templates, templates, templates!

You need them, friend. Alot of ’em! The more templates you have, the faster you and your team can get things done.

I recommend you keep templates for these on hand:

  • Landing pages
  • Opt-in buttons and forms
  • Share images
  • Social media profile images
  • Ebooks and printables
  • Email marketing

What tools should you use to create them? My vote is Canva or Photoshop for image templates, Canva or InDesign for Ebooks and printables, and hands down, ConvertKit for email marketing.

Related: How to Create Branded Social Media Images in Photoshop

A Content Calendar

Having a hard time figuring out what to post on social media?

Wish you had a system to plan your content so that you always have something to share?

A content calendar is a tool I’ve come to appreciate BIG TIME. One thing’s for sure, a content calendar will help you post consistently, organize your blog ideas, set monthly social media goals, plus gather images, keywords, publish dates, and deadlines all of your content.

The best part is, you get a high-level view of every piece of content you plan to share so you can coordinate it with important events, promotions, and products.

If you want, you can download this free content calendar template and start using it right away.

That’s a wrap! Hope you guys have your best sprint ever!

 

by

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, yo.

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.

Seriously?!? No more lists?

Yep. It happened organically, really. No Aha moment here, where I thought I’m not using lists anymore. More like I simply got tired of lists.

It always seemed like I added things TO them faster than I could check things off. And I so wanted to feel good about the things I was accomplishing instead of feeling defeated by words and lists.

Plus, my lists were 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.

Sound familiar?

You’re all set to dig 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.

Let’s flip the switch on all that, friend. Let’s take back control and plan a Freedom Week that plays out exactly the way we envision it. I want to help simplify your schedule and free your mind so you can spend more time in your Passion Zone (step #1 below).

Freedom Week = A Week With No Lists.

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.

PREP FOR FREEDOM WEEK

1) Tap into your Passion Zone.

Your Passion Zone includes those things you can do relentlessly, effortlessly, and repeatedly with a big huge smile on your face. All those things that you get excited about doing.

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.
by

My first stab at Facebook ads was a simple Page Like campaign. I remember feeling nervous and scared about it, and maybe a little dewy-eyed at the same time.

I had no idea what I was doing, what type of ad I should run or why I was even running an ad in the first place. My Facebook ad strategy left a lot to be desired.

It all started with my clients throwing me curveball questions like What type of ad should I run? Where should we direct people? How do we track the ads? How do I get people back to my website?

Uh…no idea.

Want to sell more products AND grow your list at the same time? I’ve got a Facebook ad strategy for bloggers and entrepreneurs that leverages sales funnels. Time to put rocket fuel on your list and product sales using other people's money to pay for ads. Woo!

I finally broke down and asked my business coach for help. Together, we created my very first campaign. All the while, I wondered why we were spending so much effort, time, and money on Likes (like…what’s that about?).

Vanity, I guess. Wanting to impress my clients. Or, maybe fear that if my page had fewer than 1,000 fans, I wouldn’t be one of the cool girls.

Fast forward a few months later and my Facebook ad campaign strategy turned out to be a success, in more ways than one.

First off, my page got over 1,000 likes. Woo! More importantly, I learned a valuable lesson:

You need a Facebook ad strategy that’s bigger than Likes.

In this post, I’m sharing some hidden gems I’ve discovered since then that will help you use Facebook ads the right way – to build your list and get more sales.

Before we dig in, there are three main components to Facebook ads:

  1. Ad creative – your ad copy, image or video, and call to action
  2. Ad targeting and budget – how much you want to spend per day and who you want to reach based on interests and audiences
  3. Your landing/sales page – Where you direct people once they click your call to action

Much of what we’ll cover has less to do with the creative/techie side of things and more to do with sales funnels. I want to put #3 under a microscope and drill down on where to send people once they click on your ad.

Specifically, should you send them…

  • To a sales page where you ask them to purchase right away?
  • To a separate landing page with a free offer?
  • To no page at all (gasp)?

To help answer these questions, let’s look at two common mistakes people make with Facebook ads:

Mistake #1: Asking for a sale right away

Driving people directly to a sales page and expecting them to dish out on a first date is tricky business.

Let’s use Harry as an example (Harry is a fictitious name based on a real person). Harry has a nutrition program to offer and is eager to bring it to market. He’s been working on it for months and thinks Once this product is finished, I’m set. This is so great, everyone’s going to want it! All I need to do is run an ad, send people to my sales page and then sit back and watch the money roll in. (not)

HOLD UP. Can this strategy actually work?

Sure it can. IF Harry has seed funding and a fat checkbook.

He’ll have to run his ads long enough to figure out: 1) who his target audience really is, and 2) if they love his product as much as he thinks they will. Plus, he’ll have a high customer acquisition cost (aka: huge ad spend) because he’s going directly for the sale.

Doesn’t matter where he runs the ad either. Harry can use Facebook, Google, Pinterest, Instagram, or Twitter for his ads and get similar results. His cost of acquiring customers will most likely be higher than he anticipated and higher than his budget. In my opinion, this is not the best Facebook advertising strategy.

#TAKEAWAY: Don’t send people directly to a sales page.

 

Mistake #2: Asking for nothing

This is the mistake that I made. Page Like and Brand Awareness ads keep people within the Facebook platform rather than driving them to a page on your website. Basically, asking for nada.

Sound familiar?

Based on my experience, what’s typically at fault is a lack of clarity around what you’re trying to achieve with your Facebook ad strategy.

Here’s where we can learn from Harry. Even though he’s misguided with his approach, he is crystal clear about his end goal: to sell a product. He simply needs to incorporate a sales funnel (more on that later) that will “pull people into a sale” rather than “push a sale on people”. Make sense?

Now, you’re probably thinking Okay then, where SHOULD I take people who click on my ad? And what should I ask them to do?

These are both great questions! The best ad strategies are ones that direct people to a landing page. First, I want to help you get crystal clear on what you want to achieve with Facebook ads.

#TAKEAWAY: Be very clear about what you want to achieve and make sure you send people somewhere.

Be very clear about what you want to achieve with Facebook ads before spending a dime.Click To Tweet

 

Facebook ad goals and objectives

You probably have many things you want to achieve in your business, such as:

  • I want more coaching clients
  • I want more consulting clients
  • I want to sell a digital product
  • I want to grow my email list
  • I want more sales on all my courses
  • I want more sales on my new products
  • I want to grow my Facebook engagement
  • I want to grow my Facebook group
  • I want more followers
  • I want more traffic to my site
  • I want to be known online

Whew! It’s a big list. To make it even more confusing, there are as many Facebook advertising options (or objectives) to choose from:

  • Boost post – promote your blog post to increase reach
  • Brand awareness – increase visibility of your brand and name
  • Reach – get your ad seen by as many people as possible
  • Traffic – drive people to a blog post of podcast
  • Engagement – engagement on your ad (like, comment, share, reactions)
  • App installs – get people to download your app
  • Video views – get people to see videos you uploaded
  • Lead gen – get people to sign up for your opt-in right on Facebook
  • Conversions – drive people to a page where they take a specific action (sign up, download, buy a product)
  • Product catalog sales – for e-commerce stores to promote their products
  • Store visits – for local brick-and-mortar businesses to reach people nearby

The trick is to choose the right goals from the first list and the right objectives from the second list. We only want goals and objectives that will help us increase sales.

If you’re confused by all this, I’m going to clear it up for you real quick…

First of all, forget about every ad objective except Conversions. Bump.

Now, from our goals list, let’s call the top six (in bold) our Power Goals. These are the ones that will directly impact sales and business growth.

The bottom ones…those leading to more followers, traffic, brand awareness, and visibility…are lacking muscle, meaning that they won’t have a great impact on your bottom line. Since these Wimpy Goals will likely happen as a result of your Power Goals anyway, there’s no need to chase them down with Facebook ads.

I’ll go so far as to say that Wimpy Goals will leave you thinking that Facebook ads don’t work. After my first Facebook campaign, I steered clear of Facebook ads for a looong time. They’re a total waste of money I thought. Which, of course, they were because I’d set out with a wimpy Page Like goal.

Don’t do what I did!

Next up, remember those sales funnels I mentioned? Time for a funnels throwdown, yo.

#TAKEAWAY: Always aim for a Power Goal with Facebook ads.

Aim for a primary goal with Facebook ads – your secondary goal will likely happen as a result.Click To Tweet

 

What is a sales funnel, anyway?

A funnel is simply a sequence of events you set up, where your target audience is first pulled into your content via a free training or awesome resource you offer, and then “gifted” additional content pieces that serve two primary purposes:

  • To educate them about said topic
  • To help them take actionable steps toward achieving something
  • To lead people to a purchase

Essentially, funnels take people on a scenic route to their destination, which is your solution for them.

Even though your funnel has one business goal, the most heart-felt funnels will provide amazing value that potential customers would gladly pay for…only they don’t have to because you gift it to them. This means that if at any point they drop off without purchasing, they will be taking with them actionable steps to help them achieve a mission-critical goal.

Here’s what a basic funnel looks like:

The best way to advertise on Facebook is to use salse funnelsIf funnels sound open-ended, as if you’ll be giving away the farm, I get it. Creating content takes a lot of time and effort. I’m five hours into writing this post and not one word has come easy, friend.  🙂

Still, I’m happy to do it! You know why? Because I get this little factoid:

People need a deeper relationship in order to buy from us.

Today, face-to-face networking is a ghost in our past, which means that the subtle innuendos and gestures we pick up on in person are missing. We have to rely on our content to fill in that gap and communicate who we are and where our expertise lies. Bottom line, gotta keep showing up, creating, and publishing.

#TAKEAWAY: Free content pieces should provide extreme value and lead to your end goal.

Sales funnels should include free content that helps people achieve something and leads them to a purchase.Click To Tweet

Side note: What should Harry do?

Harry should shift his strategy from pushing a sale to pulling people into his content. Focus on building relationships with people first. THEN, after he’s provided value and earned the trust of his audience, he can gently introduce his product.

Here’s what Harry’s funnel might look like:Facebook ad campaign strategy includes a sales funnel

Now, let’s put funnels to work for your ad campaign…

How to create your own sales funnel

First, work backward from your end goal. Think about what it would take for you to reach that goal.

Step back. Even further. Step waaay back from your product. Imagine that you’re no longer the creator. You’re no longer YOU. You’re a complete stranger who will be discovering said product for the first time.

Now, ask yourself What would it take to get me excited about this? What would be most helpful to me at this point in my journey?

Next, put on your inventor hat again. What content pieces can you create that would be most relevant to your product? What would organically lead people to a purchase?

By looking at your product from both angles like this, you can bridge your free content pieces to your business goal. Don’t limit your content to blogging and Ebooks here. Mix it up with videos and/or podcasts to give your people a sense of a one-to-one interaction with you.

For example, let’s look at what it would take if your Power Goals are to:

  • Build your email list
  • Sell an introductory product

A SUPER SIMPLE LIST-BUILDING FUNNEL EXAMPLE

You’d start with a funnel that includes these pieces:

  • A product – it can be a low-cost Ebook or workshop or a higher-priced course
  • A free course or resource – relevant to both your audience and product
  • A Facebook ad – with a conversion objective
  • A landing page – where people can sign up for your free resource (use LeadPages)
  • A thank you page – with an option to purchase the paid product
  • An email provider – ConvertKit is my new fav (read this post for how to set it up)

Can you see how this type of funnel would put rocket fuel on your list AND increase sales at the same time?

Let’s do some math. Say you spend $100 to test your Facebook ad. The ad gives you 20 new email subscribers, three of whom buy your ebook for $40. You make $120 in revenue and $20 in profit.

If we play this out for a minute, here’s what would happen if you ramp up your Facebook ad strategy and spend $100 a day:

  • 20 new subscribers a day
  • 3 new customers a day
  • $120 in revenue a day ($20 profit)

In one month, you’d have 600 new subscribers, 90 customers, $3,600 in revenue and $600 in profit. Bigger budget = more subscribers = more revenue.

So, how do you make this work?

The formula above uses a 20% conversion rate on ads and a 15% conversion rate on new-subscribers-to-customers.

I’m not going to lie. Hitting those numbers will take some work! First of all, you will need to create the content pieces. Then, you’ll need a winning combination of ad + landing page + free offer + paid product.

On the art side of the equation, you’ll need to have a deep understanding of what your audience most wants or needs. This is a biggie. If you jump into a full-blown ad campaign without solving a specific problem for people, it’s going to be hard to get results.

This is why starting with a small budget is so crucial. What you’re aiming for is to test your ads until one outperforms the others and yields a 20% conversion rate.

Don’t stop there…test your product, free gift, and landing page too.

I know you’re probably thinking This sounds like a ton of work!

I hear you. If you hang in there and stick with it, your investment will pay off as you get more subscribers and customers and see higher profit margins on your ads.

#TAKEAWAY: Use this funnel to supercharge your list and sell your products without spending money on ads.

 

What if you don’t have a product yet?

That’s perfectly okay. You can still dabble in FB advertising. You’ll be looking at a longer-term play and a different Power Goal, which is to fill your list with people who may be interested in a future product. (Psst…want to know my top 4 list-building strategies? Check out this post.)

In this case, I recommend driving traffic to:

  • A standout blog post with a free offer
  • A landing page with a free offer

Since your ad revenue here will be future-based, stay with the small budget and plan on gradually building your list until you’re closer to launch. By then you should know which ads are working and where to invest your dollars.

Include content pieces in your funnel that prime people for your product AND offer amazing education and value. Remember, we’re killin’ two birds with our funnels.

If you’ve been following our Blog Profit Plan series, you’re already blogging around content themes and it will be easy to gather valuable pieces. Then, all you have to do is to gift these resources to your audience in a natural, organic, and sensitive way. Easy peasy.

#TAKEAWAY: Use a small daily budget if your Power Goal is to build your email list and you have yet to create a product.

There you go! Funnels are hands-down the best way to advertise on Facebook. Have you created one yet?

by

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 get your hustle on.

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!

by