If I Had To Do Content Creation, Blogging, and Organic Marketing for My Own Small Business All Over Again…

I kid you not, I’d make fewer graphics. 

Just as I was thinking about writing a post about this, a milestone alert arrived in my inbox from Canva.

I’m proud of this achievement as a content creator. But… 

If you are just starting out and writing your first blog posts, you don’t need to worry about graphics! 

Unsplash is built into most sites for free now. Use that. Or use nothing. Here’s why. 

If I had it to do all over again, I’d start out even leaner than I did before. I originally began with the free Canva plan and spent years there. But what I did spend? A ton of time on creating graphics when my time as a sole proprietor could have been spent elsewhere. 

(Now I pay $13/mo for Canva and can’t imagine my life without it because it saves me time with resizing and background remover!) 

I think it’s easy to get into all the shiny objects when you start out. 

I started Destiny Architecture Life Coaching & Reiki in the summer of 2016 as I was working two jobs and completing my life coaching certification. I thought creating the perfect blog was my ticket to future business success. I had no idea what I was doing. 

So I spent a ton of time writing blogs that didn’t work, which I’ve since either deleted or edited. I also made sure to create my very own graphics. They had my personal stamp on them! They were special. They were pieces of me, just like those early blog posts that I’ve since realized weren’t helping me at all. 

I hope you’re rolling your eyes reading that last paragraph just as much as I was while writing it 😉 

What I should have done? I should have: 

  • Spent time editing blogs for readability, content, spelling, and grammar mistakes.
  • Spent time studying what successful bloggers in my niche were doing.
  • Spent time learning to harness SEO. For real, it counts. 
  • Spent time community building both on and offline. 
  • Trading links and guest posts—but that’s also part of optimizing for SEO. It’s also a vital part of business networking.
  • Been consistent in delivering content. 

What I’m glad I did: 

  • I hit social media from the start.
  • I also built my email list from day one. 
  • I created a mix of working online as a coach while also continuing to work within my local community. 
  • I never, ever gave up. 

Now, it’s time for yet another pivot.

I recently explored what happens when a writer and online content creator (me) makes the effort to be consistent. I wrote and published my work online daily for 190 days straight. I called the first 90 days of it “#ContentStorm” on Twitter. 

But it went so well, I didn’t stop until day 190! 

My break from daily shipping has lasted a few weeks now, but I’ve still been writing online nearly every day. I am a professional writer, after all. I write for my sites and newsletter. I write for the social media marketing agency where I work. 

It was easy to get into this discipline and lose sight of other business priorities.

For the past few weeks, I’ve been delving into my coaching and Reiki business again as I simultaneously work to complete my yoga teacher and meditation teacher trainings concurrently. I’ll soon hold my RYT-200 along with a 100-hour meditation teaching certification. 

Now is the time to lean out my processes, settle up on prices, and make my offerings easier for clients to navigate. 

That’s what I have devoted my energy to lately, rather than take up 30-60 minutes daily because, “I have to write and hit this quota.” The writing also was taking a backseat to the reason I started consistent shipping in the first place. That was so that I could use my online content as an organic means of attracting an audience to my work as a transformational life coach and Usui Reiki Master. 

In pursuing the goal of daily shipping for six months, I lost sight of what I was writing about.

Which brings me to the original story on how my online content marketing journey began. I knew I could write because I was a working journalist and content creator before it was cool. Before the word “content” was thrown around so often and casually that it became the trendy thing it is now, I was low-key creating content online. 

I’m talking about when the Internet was young, in the pre-9/11 times. 

Because I knew I had this skill—and because I was that absolutely broke journalist/social worker—I knew that if I was going to make it as an online life coach, I had to do it without paying for ads. 

So I spent the past six years learning how to reach my clients organically. 

What to do if you’re just starting out as a content creator: 

  • Define your core audience and write to that person. Niche down hard. Then, go even harder. 
  • Use Typeshare + Twitter/Medium/LinkedIn to test and validate your ideas. 
  • Have a website, blog, and/or podcast if you must. But don’t expect anything to come of it. 
  • Invest in where people are right now. I see that in this moment to be TikTok and YouTube Shorts. 
  • Spend time on creating writing your readers find valuable, not on creating graphics. 
  • Keep your tech stack simple and lean. Find tech that works together. Look for freeware and free starter plans as much as you can. But don’t forget you will be charged more as you grow. Plan to scale over time! 
  • Find a mentor. 
  • Take risks.
  • Create a system in which you can plan, track progress, and self-reflect. 
  • Find ways to go paperless. Get and stay organized from day one. 
  • Realize you’re going to have to learn, grow, and change constantly. 
  • Know what the trends are, but be objective enough to know when not to follow them. 

I could go on all day, but I think there are a couple things worth noting. 

  1. Your mileage may vary. My niche and my audience may be very different from yours. 
  2. All of this is subject to change quickly in the world of digital content. 

My philosophy is to put yourself out there, test content, and then study analytics. Metrics are often my boss, but I never lose sight of the human beings I serve. 

Need help getting started? Seeking a content coach? Book a quick meeting with me on my calendar!

How I got my Instagram profile back after it was mistakenly memorialized

You know how Brad Paisley sings, “I’m so much cooler online?” Well, for a few weeks of August 2020, I was literally dead on Instagram.

How I got my Instagram profile back after it was mistakenly memorialized — and what I learned from the experience

Back in August of 2020, I posted a cool pic on Instagram of my feet and some candles. I was just being artsy. By the next morning, Instagram had “memorialized” my profile as though I was dead and locked me out.

They hadn’t consulted me first, they didn’t warn me, they hadn’t checked to see that I had just posted 12 hours prior. I was dead to them. Memorializing profiles was a new thing that came with the advent of the COVID-19 pandemic. Which is an appropriate idea for people who are actually dead. But I wasn’t dead!

What would happen when friends and family logged on and saw I was “dead?” What if a prospective freelance client logged on and saw me “dead?” More importantly, how would I get it fixed? The form to report myself as erroneously dead wasn’t working. Instagram/Facebook is a huge company…How would I get a hold of someone there?

I ended up getting in touch with someone by using the form to report the need to memorialize someone. I explained my profile was memorialized with no warning or recourse and their form to report what happened wasn’t working. They had me submit identification to prove I owned the account and fixed it, but it did take weeks to get it all worked out.

Instagram/Facebook ignored my concerns and didn’t answer any of my questions. I was a working journalist in the heat of an election cycle, so was I targeted? No answer. The most I got out of them was a, “Whoops, my bad, send us some proof you exist mmmkay?” (Not their literal response but they were so flippant, it may as well have been).

What I learned from having my Instagram profile unceremoniously memorialized

This was an excellent reminder that I don’t own my social media profiles and that they are run by giant companies that don’t care about little old me as a user. They want to glean my demographic information for advertisements and could care less about me as a person. This was also prior to social media platforms’ crackdown on misinformation.

I repeat: YOU do not OWN your social media profiles! If you learn nothing more from this post, learn that.

I had to question how much time I was spending building an audience on these platforms when it could be taken away from me at any time. Imagine if I had been promoting a product as an influencer when my profile was memorialized and locked. Or, what if I had been in the middle of holding a promotion or contest?

I did one influencer campaign for a skincare product and the people running it only communicated with me through my Instagram. I imagine if I’d been memorialized in the middle of such a campaign, they could have gotten onto my LinkTree and found my email address to get a hold of me. But I also imagine that could have gone very wrong and ruined a business relationship.

I did also worry about being targeted as my profile listed my news organization, so I privatized all my social media profiles more than ever before. I locked them all down and they are still locked down except for the Destiny Architecture Life Coaching & Reiki Facebook page. I decided to spend more time on building the one thing I can backup and take with me where I go — my mailing list.

It’s a cautionary tale I share with others who are working to build a brand via social media. it’s important to see the pitfalls of social media as much as the ways it can help. I’d spent years on Instagram — over a decade — building a following as a radio personality, then as a Reiki Master, and a life coach. As I work to complete my yoga teacher training now, I realize Instagram would be a great platform to share my yoga with the world.

But can I trust social media as a means to build my platform?

No matter how much I may like and enjoy social media platforms like Instagram and Tik Tok — I will never own those profiles. They can still be locked or shut down at any time. My content can still be shadow banned for whatever stupid reason. (I see people complain about being shadow banned every single time I log into Tik Tok). The algorithm is in control, not me. I think this “user beware” perspective is important to have.

Other pitfalls of placing too many eggs in the social media basket

Posting a link to a new blog post on social certainly always drives traffic to it. While upping my page views and unique visitors to my site is a goal — it’s not the only goal. I don’t want to just drive traffic to my site; I want to drive the right traffic to my site. I want to super-serve my niche to attract the type of clients I really want.

There have been blogs I’ve posted that were epic at driving traffic, like this one, “How To Get Unstuck.”

But for all the people that evergreen subject drives to my site — how many will really get sucked in and become to type of clients I really desire? I really want to find the women who want to do the work, so whether they meet with me as a coach for three sessions or three months, the outcome will be the same. They will really manage to change their lives and become more fulfilled. They will follow-through, they will make the effort, they will make difficult decisions, and really challenge themselves.

No coach wants to work with the person who just reads, “How To Get Unstuck” before moving onto the next shiny object. I want to work with the person who makes the effort to put each point of that blog post into practice. I don’t just write content for clients to read; I write content for clients to do.

This why pulling random eyeballs off social media for page views isn’t what I want to do. I want to serve that niche of women who are really into self-study and self-improvement. Those women are the ones who will sign up for my mailing list as a warm audience. They will let me build trust with them over time as I deliver my content tailored specifically toward them, ultimately becoming that customer who I can — and will — really help.

A little book-spiration…

I checked out “The Essential Guide to Getting Your Book Published” from my local library.

I didn’t have the intention of reading the whole thing. I’m hardly at a point where I am ready to get a book published. I’ve got at least three fiction novel ideas swimming around my head. I am actively working on three and allowing the cream to rise. I feel like one will want to be written more than the others, so I am giving my work the time and space to emerge.

Without my own book even close to ready to be shopped around, this book had to come home with me from my local library. I read through some of it and came away with two things:

  • According to the authors, I have one solid habit of a good writer. I read. I visit the library at least every other week (gotta get those 14-day loans). I also download books on my library’s e-reads system. I make good use of the library too, always getting put on the best-seller hold list. Hopefully, I’ll get to read “Nest” before Christmas… I scour what’s hot on iBooks as well as the New York Times‘ Best Seller list. I have a very good writer’s reading habit according to “The Book Doctors,” which is comforting, maybe since my coworkers love to tease me for my overzealous library habits.
  • I’m not worried about my social media game. A lot of writer’s books preach the importance of social media, creating a platform, strategy, promotion, SEO, how to tweet — the works. I’ve been on Twitter forever, though it’s not the same platform it used to be. I’ve been an early adapter of all social media. Perhaps it’s  my years of radio broadcasting and journalism.

But there is something I need to do. I need to blog about writing more. Like most writers, I like to write in the shadows. I write privately, all alone. I hate to share what I am up to with my writing, although I do let a friend read what I’ve got once in a while.

That may be a habit I should let go of in order to promote my work. So I’ll have to work on that.

IMG_1019

Such the book fiend I am, my friend brought me this flyer so I took a photo of it to put it in my phone as a reminder… I’m trying to cut back on buying books! I swear! I keep giving them to friends and trading them in. But we all know…there will always be more books!

If you love books and writing too, follow me on Twitter, @heatherlarson

 

This week — music news only for Inside.com!

I feel like a kid at Christmas unwrapping that Red Rider BB Gun. I’m writing music news — and only music news — all this week for Inside.com (and the Inside app for Android, iOs, and Blackberry). Follow the news feed here.

A couple of the stories I curated today -- Miley getting tracks readied with the Flaming Lips and good old CB getting in trouble again. Also, Iggy Azalea responds to Spears song leak; George R.R. Martin is a Deadhead; Joni Mitchell lands court-appointed conservator; and Vegas pool party brawl for Ludacris (whom I have met and he's really short btw)
A couple of the stories I curated today — Miley getting tracks readied with the Flaming Lips and good old CB getting in trouble again. Also, Iggy Azalea responds to Spears song leak; George R.R. Martin is a Deadhead; Joni Mitchell lands court-appointed conservator; and Vegas pool party brawl for Ludacris (whom I have met and he’s really short btw). 

I have found myself in a music journalism position over and over again in life. If I hadn’t found one, I created one. I remember being on the air for mornings at KZZP — well before the Internet got all fancy and we had Facebook, social media, even video. I didn’t even know what a CMS was back then. I probably only had five things online to log into and one was Hotmail… So things weren’t very far advanced. But I decided I would somehow create a “celebrity guestbook” feature on our website since we had so many famous people coming through our studios. I was met with resistance so it never came to be. I remember my morning show host bitching at me, “You’re wasting your time with this web stuff! It’s not going anywhere!” Now it’s 2015 and we can add that to the list of “I told you so’s” I’ve given him over the years. He also thought “My Big Fat Greek Wedding” would be a flop and wouldn’t let me play my interview with Nia Vardalos and John Corbett on the air! Ha!

Times have changed and I am happy to change with the times. It’s 2015 and I have 16 years of radio under my belt, a liberal arts degree from Boston University, a journalism certificate from Paradise Valley Community College, actual print/web/online journalism experience, and just basic life experience. (Yes, I have been blessed with much life experience most wish they never have to have). I think I’m just so happy to keep my journalism skills going right now. I’m also happy to be back in love with writing again.

Thanks for checking out my blog and progress this year. I have a freelance writing career as well as a creative writing practice that involves three novels in progress as well as much poetry… There is a lot more to come!

Soon to be writing for Inside.com!

I am proud to announce you’ll soon be seeing my name pop up on Inside.com and the Inside app (for iOs, Blackberry, and Android). Time to put that news writing and journalism experience to work!

I made this video about it because I’ve been making lots of videos for my Wichita radio listening audience on my Facebook fan page since I’ve been off the air in January. Making videos and talking to my listening audience on social media has been tremendously creative and healing for me in my time of unemployment — which I now consider the greatest adventure of my life.

This has been a great opportunity to return to writing. Period. I’m back to working on novels and poetry. I’m taking The Artist’s Way course. I’ve landed four freelance writing gigs so far in just three months. I’ve gone to work part-time as a Peer Mentor in Training at the Substance Abuse Center of Kansas’ Crossover Recovery Center. I’m also still running my Reiki practice out of White Dove. I’m busy doing such a ton of creative things that life is a joy!

So thank you for reading this blog, watching the videos, liking the page, and otherwise just coming along on the journey!

Follow on Twitter @heatherlarson 

A couple advancements in my writing career

The word of the year for me so far is “reinvention.” 

I’ve always been a writer. From horrible teenage journals in the 1990s to the journalism courses of my early 20s…there’s always been pen and paper in hand. Over time, my habits and talents have evolved. There was the SEO content writing period. Then there was my needing to be a journalist to legitimize myself as a “writer,” because if you aren’t getting paid it isn’t real, right? It doesn’t count…I think this is covered in the part of The Artist’s Way I’ve already read. Class begins Sunday and I’ve read up to chapter two already.

Let’s do this.

I went through my screenwriting phase — which I’d like to get back into by the way. If only my bills can pay themselves so I can do all this non-stop 24/7 with absolutely no balance, right? haha.

Here’s what’s next! 

I’m excited and feeling like I’m giving birth to more of a stable and exciting writing career than ever before. I’m finding new ways to build my platform and segue into being more of a healing arts writer. More on that to come. I’ve also found an exciting new opportunity I can’t yet talk about. Yes, I’ve written about health before as well as general interest articles for magazines and websites. It’s time to get back into that.

If you’re interested on what’s going on and what’s happening, keep checking back.

My other blogs: 

I’ve also got a couple other blogs I’m writing if you’re interested. One is about my work as a Reiki Master, YouDeserveReiki.com. The other is one I’ve had for years that encompasses all that I do — the writing, Reiki, radio, food, hobbies, music — whatever. Since it’s the grab bag of all I do it’s called Everything Heather.

Check me out on YouTube: 

I’m also starting out on YouTube. What’s great for me about this art form is I’ve made enough videos now since I’ve gotten off the air that I’m telling a story. It’s not a screenplay, poem, short story, or novel. It’s not a blog post. It’s an arc of videos I’ve been putting out since the first week of January. I’ve got (to my surprise) quite a loyal following of those who’ve listened to me on the air in Wichita for the past four years. I decided why not take them with me into my new, post-radio life? As I take risks and make journeys, I’m bringing people along in this story. As I make changes and start new, I’m bringing along an audience. It’s amazing how YouTube can do that for you. This is also helping me broaden my social media skills. It’s my personal opinion all authors can benefit from that.

As soon as something is published, I’ll post about it here!

Some of the old writing I've been sorting through lately. Yes, I wrote for "Veg News" back in the vegan days!
Some of the old writing I’ve been sorting through lately. Yes, I wrote for “Veg News” back in the vegan days! I even framed my article. 

 

My first freelance writing gig is in!

I am once again writing SEO copy as well as social media updates. The last time I wrote SEO copy, we didn’t have social media to contend with, so that’s one change. I started working on this type of writing in 2006 when I took a job at SEO firm Submitawebsite.com. Back then, we could write any kind of horrific copy as long as it was keyword heavy. That’s changed. Now too many keywords are spammy (you think?) and the “articles” I am writing actually need to be compelling so as not to be penalized by the search engines. That’s so much better for clients’ websites, so that’s awesome. Plus, it allows me to be more creative in the content I create.

When I worked my last job at Entercom Communications, I was a morning radio personality. I’ve been on the air since 1998, which means two things:

1. I am a survivor.

2. I have witnessed and endured many changes in traditional broadcast media over this span of time.

When social media burst into the “old media” scene years ago, I jumped into it. I’d gotten into Twitter and Facebook the last time I was a freelance writer between 2006-2008. I incorporated my social media skills into my on-air shifts at 98.7 The Peak in Phoenix and then at KDGS-Wichita for the past four years. I am one of those “old school” jocks who chose to embrace social media.

I am looking forward to embracing more change in social media and SEO — two industries that live and die by algorithm changes. I’m happy to be a part of both!

This is not Heather Larson. This is, however, her cat. His name is Alcatraz and he is pretending to be useful. Or perhaps he's dreaming of being a writer when he grows up. Which will never happen (on both counts).
This is not Heather Larson. This is, however, her cat. His name is Alcatraz and he is pretending to be useful. Or perhaps he’s dreaming of being a writer when he grows up. Which will never happen (on both counts).

I’m re-starting my freelance writing business!

Great news! I am re-starting my freelance writing business!

I gave it up in January 2008 to return to full-time corporate American living when I took a job as a digital editor at Westwood One Metro Source in Scottsdale, Arizona. I worked a morning shift updating news feeds for what ultimately became 98 radio station websites. Then I moved over to the Entertainment News desk and was assigned pop (CHR) and AC music stories as well as television stories about sitcoms, actors, and reality shows.

So yes, I wrote about Justin Bieber for Westwood One when he was a new YouTube phenomenon and the Jonas Brothers before Nick Jonas became an ab-slinging “Jealous” singer. I interviewed all those “Survivor” cast-offs (whose names I can’t remember now though it was fun) as well as some pretty cool actors from shows I actually liked — like the people from NBC’s “Community.” There may actually be audio of me interviewing Donald Glover on somebody’s aging hard drive somewhere…sigh…

Now he’s Childish Gambino and I’m doing morning radio on Power 93.5 in Wichita, Kansas playing his music! Life is full circle sometimes.

But since I’ve been here doing radio since January 2011, I’ve let the freelance writing fall away. Where did it go? Well, radio keeps me busy. Then I started my own Reiki business as I am a Reiki Master. That means I can practice on you as an energy worker as well as teach you the traditional Japanese art of Reiki.

But it’s time once again to hang up the “freelance writer” shingle outside my door. I used to write for CNET’s Webshots.com, reviewed a Mana concert while sitting front row (best sound ever), and created a kickin’ music festival podcast for the new defunct MelodyTrip.com… Actually, most of the sites I wrote for are now gone. It’s been seven years. I also have some journalism experience in print publications, especially in community magazines. There was a time I even wrote SEO copy. Jane of all trades…Master of…well, Reiki!

Check out my clips here on my Contently.com page.

Here’s what I would be fantastic and experienced at writing about for new clients: 

*Holistic health & wellness.

*Reiki, Quantum Touch, Massage, Energy work, energetics, angel healing, polarity, cranial sacral, animal Reiki, Seraphic Wisdom, metaphysics, meditation, spirituality, chakras, health spas, yoga, and more.

*Music, entertainment, and pop culture (often with an extra dose of snark and great quantities of humor).

*Gluten-free, allergen-free cooking and living.

*Concert, album reviews, and band interviews.

*Press releases, social media, and marketing materials.

*Commercial ad copy for radio spots.

*Guest blogging and ghost writing blogs for your company.

*Conducting interviews to either transcribe into Q&A for your website, or to use to create articles and original content for your company webpage. (I have years of experience conducing interviews with non-profits for radio public affairs shows as well as A-list celebrities for live on-air purposes as well as experience in conducting interviews for journalistic articles).

*Coaching and tips for those who are about to be interviewed by the media.

*Traditional and new media subjects; changes and trends in media.

Now to find my first freelance writing job! I was inspired this morning after a friend needed a rush job on some proofreading. Here goes nothing!

Introducing, me! The newest (old) freelance writer on the block!
Introducing, me! The newest (old) freelance writer on the block!

Please let me know how I can meet your writing needs via email at everythingheather [at] gmail [dot] com.

Every writer needs one of these!

I completed my quest to find a FREE place to park my clips with Contently. I am not entirely impressed with its overall look. This is simply because it is laid out as a page of mostly black and white text in grid form. It’s not spectacular. However, due to current time and budget constraints, I am fine with it.

I lamented to a writer friend that I wanted a new place to post my clips. The great thing about Contently is that it didn’t take me that long to post most of my work on it considering I had all my work backed up in Dropbox. My friend told me I should just put up a website, like a HeatherLarson.com or something. I’d have to get a domain name, deal with some hosting provider’s CMS, take time uploading and categorizing dozens of writing clips…I just don’t have time. (Fun fact: HeatherLarson.com is usually not available, one time I could have gotten it for the bargain price of $700 so I said, “forget it!”) 

But I did find something awesome! 

I’m not sure how I found it, but About.me is amazing. See the photo of me to the right along with quick bio information and chiclets for all my social media accounts? I didn’t do that. About.me has a WordPress widget that loaded all of that in for me in a minute. It looks slick and professional. You get a set of FREE Moo cards too. I ordered some and only had to pay for $5.50 for shipping. Even the cheapest set of business cards I ever ordered through those online sites cost me at least $10-15. We’ll see how they look when they arrive. But this About.me profile has me very impressed so far. It lists all my pertinent info and current photos. Want to know my Facebook and Twitter addresses? They are there. So is my TrustCloud Score, which sounds dorky like Klout is. But I actually like TrustCloud because it shows I’ve been on social networking sites since before they were cool — and I am good at it too. 

The point is you don’t have to spend a ton of money to have a “website.” You don’t need to spend a fortune in time and money on creating your online presence. And you must have an online presence today. All those business cards I have bought before? I never once gave them all out before the information on them was outdated. I’m not buying a domain and paying a monthly fee for something like my awesome About.me profile. I used to pay a monthly fee to have what About.me provides for free! 

I almost feel like a sucker now. I wish this stuff had been around in 2006 when I started freelancing full time from my apartment on a prayer and a shoestring.