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How to Make Steady Progress

How to Make Steady Progress

As freelancers, we sometimes get overwhelmed because we’re expected to juggle many different hats – business owner, writer, accountant, marketer, etc.

This causes you to lose momentum and, as a result, your business can suffer.

Today, I want to tell you how I went from being overwhelmed and frustrated to making real headway with my copywriting career.

When I first started my writer’s life, I found it very difficult to build my own business after spending the whole day working at my full-time job.

There was so much to be done, and because I didn’t know where to start, I found it easier to spend the evening procrastinating in front of the TV.

I didn’t know if I should build my website, write and send self-promotion letters, respond to job ads, put together a prospect list, study something, choose a niche …

It just kept building on me, and I seriously considered giving up.

But then I had a moment of clarity. I read somewhere to FOCUS (or Follow One Course Until Successful) and to do something daily to move closer to my goals.

I decided to follow the path of building my expert status in the “web writing for self-help companies” niche. The first thing to do was to create my freelance website.

After all, I could do all the promotion in the world, but if no one could find or hire me, everything else on my list, like sending out self-promotion letters and cold calling potential clients, went below finishing my website.

First, I made a list of only the most essential items.

I knew I would use a WordPress site, so my list looked something like this:

  • Write the copy for my home page
  • Write the copy for the about page
  • Find samples for my samples page
  • Buy a domain
  • Buy website hosting
  • Install WordPress
  • Find and install a theme
  • Add pages with my content

Then I organized my list in order of importance. I basically just went with my gut. If it had to be done to launch the site, it was high on the list. “Writing my copy” and “getting a domain name” were near the top. If it was an enhancement that could be done after launch day, it was lower on the list. Stuff like “tweaking the design” wound up low on the list.

To keep me going, I set a deadline, which was pretty easy considering my goal.

My goal was to submit it to the “Build Your Freelance Website in 4 Days” Challenge. The challenge had a specific deadline.

Once I had the deadline and the list, I broke it into chunks and added it to my calendar – starting with the deadline and working back. I wanted to do something every day so I didn’t have to cram it all in a small amount of time.

Previous to this new FOCUS plan, I had avoided building my website for months. It just seemed like so much to do. I never did anything because I wasn’t sure where to start.

When you have very limited time, it’s easy to look at a task and think it’s too big. But when you create a plan with bite-sized daily tasks, you know exactly what to work on each day and it makes it easier to jump in.

Since my website experience, I break all my major tasks into daily tasks. When I take on a client project, I schedule the entire thing, starting with the due date and working back. I schedule time for research, writing, revising, brainstorming, etc.

If you’re still struggling to get started, think about where you could be if you did just one tiny thing every day. Breaking down your big tasks will make them much more manageable and it will make you much more likely to take action. Go here to read an article where I explain how you can steadily move your business forward with just 30 minutes a day.

Even Michael Masterson uses tasks lists to structure his day. Check out this article where he explains how to plan your days to maximize progress.

How about you? How do you schedule your time and stay on track? What techniques do you have for moving your business forward every day? Comment below to join the discussion …

A-Level Copywriters Ask for Help

Before I jump into today’s lesson, I want to tell you something: I do not like asking for help.

I’m one of those people who would rather do it myself so “I know it will be done right.”

I like to come up with the idea, do the research, implement it, and get all the credit. (Yeah – I’m that person.)

All through college, I avoided group projects like the plague – even if it meant I had to do six times more work.

But now that I’m developing my personal skills, I’m realizing that’s a terrible way to go through life. It’s stressful, lonely, and more difficult – especially if you’re trying to break into writing all by yourself.

Through my research, I’ve learned that all the A-level copywriters reach out for help. They follow the paths other people have followed, they learn from others’ mistakes, and they ask for advice when they hit a roadblock.

I’d advise you to do the same. I am.

I’ve made a commitment to myself that I’m going to do whatever it takes to be an A-level copywriter. And that means swallowing my pride and taking cues from those who know what they’re talking about.

It also meant joining Circle of Success so I can get to the writer’s life faster, connect with others who are willing to share their advice, and get access to a whole slew of programs designed to give me help where I need it.

My first step after joining Circle of Success was to call AWAI Co-Managing Partner Rebecca Matter. In just one phone call, we were able to discover my niche – something I had not been able to do on my own for over a year.

That call enabled me to get my self-marketing messages put together, set up my website, and get my first client. Without her help, I’d still be struggling, trying to do it all my way.

Next, I started attending the weekly classes and diving into the projects designed to hone my writing skills. The first 12 weeks were focused on just headlines – that’s how in-depth Circle of Success is.

I went into the classes thinking I knew a lot about headlines, but I wound up learning more than I could imagine.

One tip I learned about the Big Idea cut my writing time nearly in half.

Since that breakthrough, I’m eager to continue my Circle of Success classes to see what else I can learn, reveal, and conquer.

Before I end for the day, I just want to say it’s really difficult to do this alone.

But even though I hate asking for help, I’ve decided it’s in my best interest to learn from those that have come before me.

Now when I have a problem, question, or concern, I send off an email or call someone and get help.

The writer’s life is so much more fun when it’s easy and you’re doing what others have done before. And it’s safer when you have a concrete path to stick to and people to bounce ideas off of.

Let me know what’s holding you back. Comment below to join the discussion …

The Sad Truth About “Experts”

The Sad Truth About “Experts”

Let’s imagine for a moment you were one of the first web designers on the scene when businesses realized they needed to get a website up to stay competitive.

Companies would have begged you to build their website – for any amount.

You could have worked hard for a couple of years and retired early.

There is a similar opportunity right now – and it will be around for several more years. I’m talking about social media.

Social media is a great freelance opportunity right now because it’s changing the way businesses market and reach their potential customers. And businesses don’t have time to learn everything they need to know about social media.

They need an expert who can take all the information and give them only the parts that are relevant to their business.

I’m talking about businesses using social networks (like Facebook, LinkedIn, Meetup, YouTube, Twitter, among others) to connect with people who might want to buy their products or use their services.

Not all businesses will need all social networks – that’s where you come in. You can create a social media strategy that tells them where to focus their efforts.

Another perk is your social media knowledge can mean big, long-term revenue for you because managing a client’s social media is not a one-time service.

Once you create their strategy and their social profiles are set up, they’ll need someone to keep their profiles up to date and interact with real people on a regular basis.

If they simply set up social profiles and forget about them, they’ll never reach enough people to build momentum and increase their client base.

Some businesses will hire you to consistently reach out to potential customers over time. They’ll want to increase their brand awareness and annual sales.

Others will want you to come in and create a social media campaign that will quickly increase their website traffic, leads, and sales. They might have a new product, and to increase its sales, they’ll launch a social media campaign. Depending on the network they’re using, they might have discounts, contests, prizes, or free samples.

The entire goal is to spread their message far and wide as fast as possible so they can sell a lot of their new product.

One example is the clothing store Gap, which used Groupon (a popular social buying site) to offer $50 worth of clothing for just $25. This social media campaign brought in $11 million in one day.

As you can tell, there are many options when it comes to social media campaigns. That’s why business owners are hiring social media experts to handle it for them.

As I said, the opportunity is now to get in on the ground floor of this trend. I’m putting everything in action to be one of the “lucky” ones. And I want to show you how I’m doing it so you can become a social media expert too.

Many people think it’s already too late, that there are already too many social media experts out there. But let me bust this myth for you …

Yes, it is true that the Internet is full of people claiming to be social media experts. But we all know that proving it is a completely different thing.

Businesses only care about results. They expect increased sales, more leads, and more visitors to their websites from social media campaigns. And only a teeny-tiny fraction of these so-called “social media experts” know how to get those results.

They don’t know anything about marketing, writing, or building relationships with potential customers.

I promise you, the majority of them will disappear quickly.

But you and I won’t.

Because once you know how to use social media to get results for businesses (like more visitors, more leads, and more sales), you’ll never have a shortage of jobs. That’s been my personal experience.

I recently consulted with a copywriting client who flat out refused to take an interest in social media. He wanted to stick with the old way of doing things. He thought social media was a fad that would quickly pass.

I really believe every business needs a strong social media presence, so I kept trying.

I finally convinced him to give it a try. I offered to spend just one hour on his social media strategy.

During that hour, I set up his Twitter account, followed several people interested in his niche, posted a few tweets linking back to his content, and engaged with potential customers.

And to make sure I proved the value of social media, I also made sure to create tracking links so he could see any sales that came in from Twitter.

Then I waited …

Within a few days, he had made almost $1,000 directly from Twitter. From just an hour’s worth of work.

This was enough to convince him of the value in social media. Now I’m managing all his campaigns. I’m even training other people on his staff to pitch in.

The true potential in social media is the value you bring to the businesses you can help.

If you can create a strategy for a business that gets results, you will be their hero. Clients will be excited to pay you because they know you’ll get them a huge return on their investment. And they’ll recommend you to everyone.

Most self-proclaimed social media experts don’t understand that having a social media profile alone will do nothing for a business. It takes an actual comprehensive strategy to make social media work.

Learn why anyone who wants to live the writer’s life should embrace social media now, check out this article: “3 Reasons You Should Embrace Social Media Now.”

Do you have a social media success story, or are you just getting started? Comment below to join the discussion …

Are You an Expert?

Are You an Expert?

I’m dedicated to helping you live the writer’s life, make more money, and find more clients. Becoming an expert makes all those things easier.

You might be wondering, “How can I become an expert if I’m just getting started?”

Well, just over a year ago, I was barely known in this industry.

I had been copywriting for several years but was new to AWAI. As far as most people were concerned, I was a complete beginner.

But over the past several months, I applied the techniques I’ll share today to raise myself up to expert status. As a result, I got more paying jobs because potential clients who saw my articles and heard me speak started contacting me for work and referring me to others.

Now, let’s start getting your name out there.

Let’s start with a common myth about the word “expert.”

A lot of people think you can’t claim you’re an expert unless you’re the best in your niche or industry. This simply isn’t the case.

Caleb Wojcik, from ExpertEnough.com, tackled this topic recently, and what he said really resonated with me:

If you had to be the best to be an expert, there would only be one expert at:

  • Basketball (Jordan? Bird? Magic?)
  • Piano (Mozart? Beethoven? Chopin?)
  • Running a Tech Company (Gates? Jobs? Dell?)
  • Painting (Monet? Raphael? da Vinci?)

Hopefully, that’s enough to start breaking down some of your barriers to calling yourself an expert, but it gets better …

Wojcik goes on to dare you to pick the best out of those categories and say that the others aren’t experts.

Now, I’d like to challenge you to do the same in our industry.

Can you pick the best writer out of Steve Roller, Cindy Cyr, Mindy Tyson McHorse, Sean McCool, or John Wood?

I bet you can’t because each one is an expert in their niche and a great writer with their own style that works for them. Their expert status gives each of them the ability to live their own version of the writer’s life.

If you’re willing to put in some effort, you can join them.

Here are two things I did this past year that really brought me up to expert level in the eyes of my clients and my peers. You can do these things, too:

1. Write Articles

There is a blog, website, or newsletter for every topic imaginable. You could have the most obscure niche in the world and there will still be a publication interested in publishing your articles.

Start by doing a Google search of blogs in your niche. Spend some time evaluating the content on their sites and coming up with unique ideas that provide value to their audience.

As a side note: it will be easier to get an article published on a blog that specifically requests content from new writers or guest blog posts.

But it’s also a good idea to contact some blogs owners who don’t advertise that they’re looking for new articles.

Make a goal to contact several blogs each week. I prefer to send them a short email asking if they’re looking for guest bloggers, and if so, I suggest a few topic ideas. That should result in getting a few articles published each month.

This past year, my strategy was mostly centered on guest blogging and writing articles. After having just a handful of articles published, my work started to pay off.

Now, when I apply for jobs, they often recognize my name from the articles I write.

2. Give a Speech

If you’re like me, just reading that tip made your heart beat a little faster.

That’s okay. As much as I hate to admit it, I’m terrified of speaking in public.

But when I got the opportunity to give a speech at a local business group several months ago, I jumped on it.

I wasn’t sure what I would say (and I was terrified). But I needed to grow my business, so I did it anyway.

Luckily, I had created a lead-generating video series for my website. It was about getting clients to know, like, trust, and buy from you. I used my slideshow from the video series to create my speech.

During the speech, I felt pretty ill, but I actually received many compliments. And because I stood up in front of a group and gave a presentation, I was seen as an expert. I shared knowledge that could help them and networked with them afterward. As a result, I got several paying jobs from the half-hour of torture.

I’m not going to say it was easy, but it was worth it.

If you’re worried you’re not enough of an expert yet, I’d like to refer you to something Bob Sands said in a recent article, “You already have the necessary knowledge to speak on your topic. Don’t wait for someone else to label you as an ‘expert.’ Go out and claim that mantle for yourself! If you make each talk practical, relevant, and solution based, those who need the services you offer will be asking you to contact them.”

Start at a small venue and work your way up. I spoke to a local small business group, but there are probably many places in your city that would love to have a guest speaker. You can try the chamber of commerce, a small business group, like I did, or even the library.

Remember, the majority of people know very little about marketing and copywriting. Pick something you’ve been learning about from AWAI, and you’ll be the biggest expert on that topic in the room.

Those two things are where I focused the majority of my expert status building last year.

This year, I plan to:

1. Start a Blog

Blogs are great for building your expert status and getting traffic to your website – whether it’s a freelance website or a money-making website. Also:

  • A blog gives you a place to share your knowledge, connect with a large audience, and position yourself as the expert in your niche.
  • A blog will keep your website new and interesting so people will have a reason to come back again and again.
  • A blog makes your website more SEO friendly because new content will help your website rank higher in search engines.

2. Write a Book

Last year, I went to a book-writing workshop to learn how to quickly write a book to increase my expert status in my niche.

Writing a book on a topic that shows you have knowledge in your niche will give you instant credibility and open doors that would otherwise be closed to you.

For example, if you’re a copywriter, you could write about increasing sales with direct-response writing. If you’re an SEO expert, you could write about optimizing your website for the search engines. If you’re a web writer, you could write about how the Internet is changing the way we consume information.

Although it’s been a year since I attended the book-writing workshop, I still don’t have a published book. That will change this year because one of my major goals for 2012 is to write and publish a book.

To learn how you can write – and finish – your book this year, read this article I wrote called, “A Step-by-Step Guide to Writing Your First Book.” I also share how you can overcome negative beliefs you might have that are holding you back, and I’ll give you my 5-step process for quickly finishing your book.

Even if you don’t feel like an expert right now, I encourage you to do at least one thing each week that will build your expert status in your niche. Fake it until you make it.

And think of this quote from ExpertEnough.com when you’re doubting yourself:

    “You don’t have to wait for permission, and you don’t need anyone else to grant you status.”

So what do you think? How are you building your expert status?

Comment below to join the discussion …

How to Think Yourself into Success as a Copywriter

I realize there is a lot of controversy surrounding the Law of Attraction, which says that your positive thinking can “attract” whatever you want in life, and the film, The Secret, that explains this phenomenon.

But when I watched The Secret, my path to the writer’s life changed forever.

To my surprise, a great deal of the movie, and the belief behind the Law of Attraction, is dedicated to taking action. The “secret” might just be recognizing opportunities, taking advantage of them, and putting in good old-fashioned work. But there’s a catch. In order to get those opportunities to come to you, you have to think positively.

Whether you deny or embrace the power of The Secret and the Law of Attraction, I think we can all agree that positive thinking is much more beneficial than negative thinking.

Positive thinking lifts you up, while negative thinking tears you down. Positive thinking energizes you, while negative thinking makes you want to crawl back into bed.

But doubt, fear, and worry are hard to avoid, so we may need some help training our brain to be positive. Here are 8 ways you can practice positive thinking – even when you don’t feel like it:

1. Recognize negative thoughts and turn them around.

Most of us don’t even realize when we’re thinking negatively. Maybe you’re worrying about your bills or an upcoming doctor’s appointment. You’re not actually thinking “negative” words, so you don’t recognize the effect it’s having on you. But most of the time, you can easily see when negativity has taken hold.

When you have a negative thought, evaluate what you truly know. Are you confusing your fears for facts? Most of the time, we create problems in our head that just aren’t true. For example, are you telling yourself the writer’s life isn’t possible? If so, what evidence do you have? I can show you story after story that proves it is possible on the AWAI Wall of Fame.

Next time you get a negative thought, turn it around. Get the proof you need to convince yourself your negative thought just isn’t true.

The more you think positively, the more it will come naturally, and you’ll find things go more smoothly and you’ll be less worried.

2. Force yourself to think positively about your business for at least 15-20 minutes two times a day.

During this time, only think about how wonderful your business will be once you’ve accomplished your goals. Think about how your life will be when you’re living the writer’s life. Don’t worry about your website or finding clients or what you don’t know. Just focus on the good.

And here’s the key – imagine it as though it’s already happened. Say, “I’m so grateful I’m a well-paid copywriter,” and not, “Someday, I’ll be a well-paid copywriter.” See the difference?

When I first started this, I did my positive thinking in the morning, in the shower, and at night right before I fell asleep. Now I find myself thinking positively all the time. And when a negative thought comes, I stop, refocus, and spend some time thinking about the positive aspects of my business.

3. Read success stories of other people who have been where you are now.

Whenever you’re feeling down and you think you’ll never reach your goals, it’s a good idea to read stories of people who have been where you are and overcame the odds to become successful.

The AWAI Wall of Fame is full of stories like these.

You could also read biographies of famous writers and other people you admire. The goal here is to fill your head with thoughts that you can do anything you set your mind to.

Then you can take this a step further and post positive thoughts, quotes, and success stories where you can see them often. (I have mine on the lock-screen of my phone, and on my computer, fridge, wall, desk, and notebook.)

4. Network with people who are positive about your goals.

Don’t overlook the power of surrounding yourself with positive people. Make a point to call or get together with someone who lifts you up at least once a week.

Also, keep this time all about the positives. Everyone has problems and needs to vent occasionally, but when you’re seeking out positive reinforcement, leave the complaints at the door.

Another thing you can do is to find someone who can help you banish negativity. You should be able to come to them when you’re having negative thoughts and say, “Hey, I’m in a slump today and thinking negatively about my business. I’m not sure if I can do this. Can you help me turn these thoughts around?”

Some of the best places to find inspiration, positive thoughts, and guidance are AWAI’s forums. I’m personally a member of Wealthy Web Writer, The Professional Writers’ Alliance, and the Circle of Success forums. These forums are essential to keeping me focused, on track, and positive.

5. Limit the time you spend with those who bring you down.

If there is someone in your life who never has anything positive to say, limit the time you spend with him or her.

I’m not saying to completely cut friends and family out of your life, but consider your goals and how important achieving them is to you. Share your goals with your family and friends, and tell them you need them to be on board and to limit the negative words around you.

Hopefully, they’ll recognize how important positive thinking is to you and they’ll be considerate. If they’re not, make sure any time you spend with them is counteracted with double the amount of positive thinking when you get home.

6. Be grateful for what you have and what you’ve accomplished.

Set aside time each day to be grateful for what you have in your life. Maybe it’s your family, your home, your writing ability, or something else. There are probably hundreds of things. I’ve been a lot more grateful lately, and I’m seeing many positive changes in my life, attitude, and business.

Also, recognize your success, how far you’ve come, and what you’ve already accomplished. Whether it’s completing a module in AWAI’s Accelerated Program for Six-Figure Copywriting or getting your freelance website up and running.

Take this a step further and keep a journal of your success and the things you are grateful for. Not only will you have a record of your success, but you’ll also have another opportunity to practice writing every day.

7. Set goals.

You can’t achieve goals … if you don’t set them in the first place. Think about what you want in life and break those “dreams” into yearly, monthly, weekly, and daily goals.

When you begin to think more positively, you’ll also begin to believe in your ability to accomplish your goals. Pursue your goals! Put everything you have into them and never give up.

When you have setbacks, recognize them, but don’t let them stop you. Think positively in spite of any difficulties that may come up. Know that you have it in you to achieve your goals – no matter what.

If you need help setting goals, check out this article: “From Welfare to Billionaire: How One Simple Secret Can Help You Achieve Your Life’s BIGGEST Goals.”

8. Believe in yourself and the knowledge you’re gaining.

As an AWAI member – and reader of The Writer’s Life – you have taken a huge step towards achieving your career goals. You take your success seriously and realize you need help learning all the tricks of the trade. So you should never doubt your growing ability. AWAI has all the tools and resources you need to become a six-figure copywriter and live the writer’s life. You just have to believe you can do it, think positively, and put in some good ol’ fashioned work.

Even you haven’t gone through the program already, I recommend starting with AWAI’s Accelerated Program for Six-Figure Copywriting. That’s where I started, as did most of AWAI’s successful copywriters.

Remember, don’t think “Someday, I’ll be a six-figure copywriter.” Instead think, “I am so happy and grateful now that I am a six-figure copywriter.”

You will get there. I believe it and the people at AWAI believe it. But you have to believe it, too. Comment below to join the discussion …