As I mentioned it’s going to be a few days before I take my own picture …
But that shouldn’t keep you from seeing the giant check, right? :)
Here it is:
If you read any of my articles, you probably know I talk a lot about reaching goals and how thinking positive thoughts is one of the best things you can do. To help with that, I recommend creating a dream board.
Action Step: If your goal is to be next year’s $10K Challenge Winner, add it to your dream board today. I made it easy on you by removing my name and changing the date. Here are the simple steps:
Click here or on the image below to download a PDF of it.
Print it and write your name on it. (Or add your name with a computer program and print.)
Add to your dream board (or somewhere where you’ll see it often)!
Everyone says, “Content is king,” but what does that really mean?
There are two different views …
People who believe in this strategy say that the more content you write, the more website visitors you’ll get because of the sheer volume of keywords on your site. However, every time Google makes an update to its algorithm, this group loses search engine rankings and traffic. This group has to always worry about whether their business will weather the next Google storm.
I think there’s a better way …
Write the best possible content you can – even if it takes a long time. One thing that the most-trafficked websites have in common is that they create amazing, useful, unique content. The quality makes visitors know, like, and trust them. And it gets people talking, asking questions, taking action, or debating.
Corbett Barr, from ThinkTraffic, is an independent blogger/entrepreneur who runs his business while traveling the world, working from anywhere with an Internet connection. He often says the secret to his success is writing quality content. Barr says:
“From my own experience, my sites grow slowly when I produce average content, then they grow like bamboo when I pour my soul into a piece of content and make it as undeniably useful as possible.”
To write your own epic content, consider these questions when you’re planning an article or blog post:
Does this matter – or is this helpful – to my audience?
Would I read this, or better yet, would I bookmark this?
Will this be useful tomorrow or in five years?
Can this inspire someone to talk, ask questions, or take action?
Here are three tips for writing your own epic content:
1. Take your time.
It’s not quick and easy to crank out quality content (but it’s worth it).
Barr points out that Pat Flynn (who runs a popular site, Smart Passive Income, which he grew to over 15,000 people in less than two and a half years) uses a strategy based around “pillar content,” which people bookmark and come back to. Flynn often spends several hours on each post.
2. Write passionately.
There are two reasons you should only write about the things you care about. First, you’ll find it much easier to produce quality content. Second, if you don’t care, it will show in your writing.
Find clients that sell products you’re passionate about, or start your own blog about your interests. The great thing about the writer’s life is that you can position yourself to work with your interests and avoid boring projects.
If you love outdoor adventures, find clients that offer outdoor adventure trips or gear. Your passion for your subject will show in your marketing materials and your writing.
3. Write when you’re inspired.
We can’t always be inspired, but when you are, don’t let the moment pass. Grab your pen or computer and get those thoughts on paper.
If you need to produce inspiration at a moment’s notice, create an inspiration file. Save pictures, articles, songs, and other things that bring you inspiration for epic content.
So what inspires you? Does the thought of creating quality content get you excited or scare you? Comment below to join the discussion …
But first, some thoughts from Corbett Barr:
“Write things that make people think. Inspire people. Change lives. Create value. Blow people away with your usefulness.”
I always learn something new about myself from them. But they’ve never told me how to use the information to better my life.
It’s great to know that I’m “driven” and “talkative.” But without an action plan, it’s useless.
A few months ago, I finally chose my niche. Because it’s in personal development, I’ve been pouring through as many books on the subject as I can get my hands on.
As part of this process, I came across one in particular that really changed the way I view my communication style and my relationships. It helped me take action on what I learned from all those personality tests. It’s called First Steps to Wealth.
Dani Johnson, the author, has an incredible story. She was raised on welfare, pregnant at 17, and wound up homeless at 21. But amazingly, by 23, she was a millionaire.
In her book, she gives you the tools she used to improve her life. She focuses on relationships you have and how you deal with other people.
One concept she shares is Gems. These Gems are made up of Rubies, Sapphires, Pearls, and Emeralds.
Each represents a different personality type.
Johnson says, “You have all four Gem characteristics in you. Some people have a lot of two Gems and very little of the others. Others have quite a bit of each one in them, but they lead and communicate in one primary Gem most of the time.”
Becoming aware of the different Gems (think of them as personality types if this sounds a bit too New Age to you) and using them in your life will open all kinds of doors for you. You’ll be able to make connections with other people and understand their needs faster.
By applying the different Gem types, you can even impress your clients by communicating with them exactly like they communicate with you. Once you know their Gem type, you’ll know how they think and what type of information they need to make a decision – like hiring you.
So, which Gem are you?
A Sapphire loves socializing, they’re the life of the party, and they are motivated by fun. They like to be around a lot of people. They love variety interacting with others. They never see the negative side of a situation. They love recognition. In fact, they will work harder for recognition than they ever will for money.
From Sapphires, we can learn to not be so serious and that life can be fun if we let it.
However, Sapphires can improve by understanding not everyone is as positive as them. Sapphires often hurt other people’s feeling by seeming to not care, when really they’re just looking at the positive side of things.
For a Sapphire to enjoy the ultimate writer’s life, they should focus on working with companies that offer recognition and praise. Fundraising or speech writing might be a good niche for a Sapphire.
If your potential client is a Sapphire, make a point to praise their previous successes and always have something positive to say.
All the Gems want to help people. But helping is the prime motivator for a Pearl. They are not motivated by money. They usually have strong convictions and are called to action by a cause.
They are thoughtful and patient. They love to serve others and do not like to argue.
A Pearl loves to talk about their family. They are okay with sharing personal information while they are getting to know someone. If a Pearl senses that someone is a fake, they will lose trust in them.
Pearls, like Sapphires, love people and being around them, but not in large noisy groups.
Pearls prefer long-term relationships. They’ll be your best friends for life. They are good listeners and prefer talking to someone one on one. They are trustworthy, loyal, and true to their word.
From Pearls, we can learn the importance of helping others and keeping our word.
However, Pearls often get walked on and taken advantage of because they are so helpful. They can improve their own lives by being a bit more selective in how often they help others. It’s okay to say no if it’s not in their best interest to be helpful in a certain situation.
If you’re a Pearl, try to avoid doing too much “free” work. It might make you feel good, but it will delay your progress on your real goals.
To appeal to a prospective client that is a Pearl, use real stories (remember, they can detect if you’re fake) about your previous clients and how you’ve helped them.
Emeralds are motivated by facts and figures. Everything is black and white.
They are often weak in communication and they are judged as insensitive and cold-hearted – but they’re not. They are articulate. They are very clear with their speech so they won’t be misunderstood, and they always ask, “Why?”
Emeralds are problem solvers who come up with multiple solutions to each problem. They spend a lot of time on research to evaluate each possible solution to make sure they pick the right one. They also tend to be perfectionists and want to figure it all out before starting.
Emeralds can teach us to be more true to our word and to become more organized. They know it’s important to follow through, follow up, and do the tasks to the best of their abilities. That is something we should all strive to do.
If you’re an Emerald, you might be stuck in the learning phase. You can move past it by choosing one niche and getting started in just that area.
Also, to avoid missed opportunities, you should focus on making decisions faster.
If you have a potential client who is an Emerald, be sure to give them a lot of proof of your abilities. Include specific facts and figures about the results you’ve been able to get for other clients. Don’t leave them with lingering questions. Emeralds will do their own research, but if you give them what they need, you’ll impress them and win a sale.
Rubies like to win. They are motivated by challenges, but if they can’t win, they won’t play. They like to have the best of everything. They like to be unique and stand out. Rubies constantly have to be striving for a goal, a next step, or another challenge. Rubies are often business owners and entrepreneurs because they like to lead.
Rubies are often missing sleep and skipping breakfast because they are incredibly productive and get more done in one day than anybody else.
Rubies are proud of their accomplishments and want to tell you about them. They are also blessed with extra confidence and they’re not afraid to take a risk. They are direct and to the point, even if it hurts someone’s feelings.
If you’re a Ruby, you’re probably applying for every job that comes along, but by narrowing your focus and putting more effort into a few proposals, you’ll get better results. Also, Rubies typically need to work on their communication skills with the other Gems and learn to be more sensitive to others’ feelings.
If you have a potential client who is a Ruby, you can impress them by being an idea generator, making yourself available so they can be more productive, and by not getting offended if they hurt your feelings.
Deciding on Your Gem
As you read the above Gem types, did any stand out to you? It’s okay if the answer is no. I recommend having someone else – someone who knows you well – read the types and help you decide which one you are.
I had my husband help me out, and we determined I’m mostly a Sapphire. I’m also an Emerald when it comes to making decisions about my business and a Ruby when it comes to my goals.
Dani says when you’re able to identify your primary Gem and others’ primary Gems, you will understand who you are and how you can relate to others in their environments.
All the Gems explain things a little differently. If you know this and you can recognize others’ Gem types, you’ll be able to speak their language and build better relationships that lead to success in your life and business.
Which Gem are you? Comment below to join the discussion …
We’ve all been taught to start with the basics and build a solid foundation, no matter what goal you have in mind. But a common mistake is wanting to cover the basics and move on to advanced learning too quickly.
In order to write great copy that turns readers into buyers, you must know and master the basics – like how to write a good headline, how to write conversationally, and how to get your reader to take action – first. Speed through the basics, and you won’t absorb them well.
The best symphony musicians practice their basics every day. When they sit down to practice, they don’t start with the piece they’re learning or the most advanced music they know.
Instead, they start with the basics every time. Basic scales and exercises they learned the first day they picked up the instrument!
This practice is how they became successful. You can do the same – with writing – to propel yourself into the writer’s life.
Make a commitment to focus on mastering the basics first, really get them down, and apply them to everything you write before moving on to more advanced topics.
Once you have learned the basics and you’re able to put them into practice, you need to review them often. Keeping them fresh in your mind makes using them easier. And with new, fancy tricks emerging every day, it’s more important than ever to remember the basics.
The best way I’ve found to keep the basics in front of me while I’m working is AWAI’s Professional Writers’ Alliance poster. It’s a free bonus to members when they join, but it’s been invaluable to me.
It includes great tips on how to be a better copywriter, such as, “Your Headline Must Grab the Prospect’s Attention” and “The more informative your advertising, the more persuasive it will be.”
You can also create your own poster or reference sheet. Go through AWAI’s Accelerated Program for Six-Figure Copywriting and write the basics on your own poster, note cards, or even on a sheet of paper.
The important thing is that you make reviewing the basics a habit. This will make you a top-notch copywriter sooner than you think.
Here are the basics I review often:
The Power of One
I think this is the most important lesson I’ve learned from Michael Masterson and AWAI about copywriting. Keep these four points in mind when you think about the Power of One, and your copy will produce killer results.
Stir one big emotion – Pick one emotion (like fear or pride) for your project and use only that one. Trying to appeal to more than one emotion will cause your reader to get mentally jumbled up.
Emphasize one good idea – We call this the “big idea.” It’s an idea the reader can absorb immediately. It should hint at solving the reader’s biggest problem. Read a great article on the big idea by Sid Smith here.
Tell one captivating story – One main story should exist throughout your entire copy, whether it’s a sales letter or an email. Having just one story that relates to your big idea keeps them engaged. But multiple stories usually distract from the big idea. An example of a story you might tell is how the client came up with the idea for their product or service.
Direct your reader to one inevitable response – Your copy should have one goal. Example goals might be to get your reader to buy something, click a link, sign up for a newsletter, or even contact or visit the company. Be sure to keep that one goal in mind while you’re writing.
Call to Action
The call to action is so important because if you don’t ask your reader to take action, the copy won’t achieve the goal. The call to action usually comes at the end after you’ve written the letter and spoke to the prospect like a friend. You’ve told them about the product (including the benefits) and given them the proof they need to make a purchase. Now you just need them to take an action. You can read more about how to write an effective call to action here.
People don’t like to be “sold,” and if your writing leads them to believe they are being sold, they’ll stop reading. Picture the reader sitting in front of you, and write like you’re talking to them. People have conversations with their friends and people they know. If they feel like they know you, they’ll be more likely to trust you – and buy from you.
People Buy for Emotional Reasons
I have to remind myself of this often, but people, in general, don’t buy for rational reasons. They buy a product or service that appeals to their emotions (fear, greed, etc.). Then they back up their decision with reasoning and facts.
An example might be a security system. Sure, it makes sense to get a security system, but most ads sell them by using fear (an emotion). Then they back up your decision by telling you how much money you’re going to save.
Don’t Forget Benefits
Features are easy. They’re the material details of a product, usually given to you by the client. Automatic transmission, 28 MPG, and 10 airbags are all features.
Benefits are a little more difficult, and many new copywriters often forget about them and fail to add them to their copy. Including benefits will get better results, so it’s important to take some time to understand them. You can find benefits by asking, “So what?” after a feature.
For example, a car has 10 air bags. So what? It will be safe for your entire family.
The car gets 28 miles per gallon. So what? You’ll save money on gas.
The above are just a few of the basics that copywriters should know. Review them before every project, and you’ll find the words come easier and your copy performs better.
As writers, most of the ways we become known as experts involve writing. But it can be hard to find the time to pack more writing into your schedule, especially when you’re just getting started.
Time management is a subject mankind has always struggled with.
It’s been studied by the greatest minds of our time: Albert Einstein, Dwight Eisenhower, Dale Carnegie, and Isaac Newton, just to name a few.
We, as freelance writers, are especially interested in effectively managing our time because the time we use is all ours.
Many of us have the goal of living the writer’s life so we don’t have to directly trade our time for dollars like a regular day job.
Instead, when we work for ourselves, we can work more efficiently and increase our hourly income. We can set up systems to make money while we sleep. And we can raise our rates as our expert status increases.
When our time is ours – and we’re tasked with making the most out of it – we begin to realize how important our time actually is.
When you’re a freelance writer, you have to use your time efficiently, or you’ll find that your working hours bleed into your free time hours.
If this happens for too long, you’ll likely burn out and give up.
Over the past year, I’ve spent a lot of time studying how to use my time effectively. One of the biggest time management lessons I’ve learned is this:
It’s very difficult to force yourself to do specific tasks at specific times. Trying to stick to a specific schedule can be very ineffective.
When you force yourself to do something at the wrong time, your brain won’t be “tuned in.” It will take you longer to finish the task and it will be far more frustrating.
For example, many time management people will advise you to create a schedule and stick to it. There’s a problem with this.
Let’s say you write from 7-10 a.m. every morning. One morning, you wake up and you just can’t get into your writing. You struggle to get words on the page for your three-hour commitment so you can move on to your next assignment.
Those three hours were incredibility ineffective. You barely wrote anything and you probably won’t use what you did write.
But what if you had changed your schedule that day to work on something else from 7-10 a.m.?
Then you could have come back to your writing when you were in the right mood. Because you would have been focused and effective for the whole 3 hours, you would have less frustration and a bigger return on your time investment.
It can be done. In fact, I often switch up my schedule to get the most efficiency out of every working hour. To do this, I take on projects that involve more than just writing.
Let’s say I’m creating a website for a client. There are many tasks to complete for that project. My technique is to divide the project up into the different types of work: (1) planning and marketing ideas, (2) writing, and (3) design.
In the mornings, I like to write, so I spend that time on the copy. Afternoons are usually when I’m in a strategic planning mood. Usually at the end of the workday, I’m in a crafty mood. That’s when I do the design work.
If you only handle writing assignments for your clients, you might break your writing into the following tasks: (1) research, (2) outlining, (3) writing, and (4) editing.
If you have several clients at a time, you’re likely to always have a project that is in one of these stages.
Of course, if you have tight deadlines, you may have to buckle down and get something done, even if you don’t feel 100% into it. That’s why it’s important to realize you might want to shake things up a bit and agree to deadlines that allow you to do so.
Remember, you’ll work more efficiently in the long run and make more per hour, so it’s worth the extra planning in the beginning.
I’m still getting the hang of it, but I’m getting closer to my perfect schedule every day.
What about you? Do you use this technique, or do you have another tip for making effective use of your time? Comment below to join the discussion …
If you’re just starting your journey to the writer’s life, you may fear there are a million things to learn. I certainly did.
But the truth is, there are only a handful of things you need to know to get started. The rest can be picked up as you work with clients and build your business.
Don’t fall into the trap of letting the things you don’t know hold you back.
This week, I’ll take you on a journey where you’ll discover the basics you need to know to take action towards living your own writer’s life.
But before we get started, I want to put your mind at ease by saying you can never know it all.
Once you have the copywriting basics down, a new technique or technology will come along. And each client will have a different product and a different set of challenges. There’s no getting around doing research for every client, even if you already know a lot about his or her niche.
Being able to ask the right questions is also key. You should also have a go-to resource, like AWAI, for when you get stuck and need some help.
Once you have a good understanding of the basics, you can take a page from Nike’s handbook. Their “Just Do It” slogan explains what it takes to succeed in just three simple words. Don’t spend all your time preparing. Just do it.
Michael Masterson really brought this concept to the writing world with his book and philosophy Ready, Fire, Aim.
What is Ready, Fire, Aim?
It’s a practice you can use to move past hurdles that keep you from making progress with your business. You move forward with your plans and take action, even if you don’t have every little detail worked out.
The little details are what keep us from getting started. They allow us to procrastinate. Plus, even when you have the “perfect” plan, life often throws a kink in it, requiring you to make adjustments.
I have personally paid the price for too much planning without action, and I would hate to see that happen to you too.
I have always tried to make everything as perfect as possible before sending it out into the world. Naturally, I balked when I first heard of Ready, Fire, Aim.
But because I make a point to follow the advice of experienced people, I gave it a try.
My first experience using the Ready, Fire, Aim principle was when I launched my own copywriting website.
I wanted to compete in the “Build Your Freelance Website In 4 Days” Challenge, and it had a specific deadline. Because of this deadline, I was forced to do only the essentials.
Sure, I wanted to spend more time on the layout. I would have agonized over the copy. It would have been great to launch with a full blog and pages describing each of my services.
But all those things would have held me back from actually launching my site.
Instead, I did the essential and launched it into the world. I won the competition, even without spending all the extra time.
After that experience, I live by Ready, Fire, Aim.
Before we go on, it’s important to realize I’m not saying to do mediocre work. I’m saying don’t agonize over every detail – especially when it comes to preparing for something.
Take your own promotional materials, for example. Would it be better to follow the advice of other copywriters, write the best letter you can, and send it? Or would it be better to change the font 10 times and agonize over every word?
The sooner you get something out there, the faster you’ll know if it works or not. If you find it’s not performing, you can write another version and test it against your original. This allows you to improve as you get results rather than simply guessing what you could do to make it better.
So what about you? Are you procrastinating or practicing Ready, Fire, Aim?