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 ūüėČ 

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‚ÄĒbut 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‚ÄĒand because I was that absolutely broke journalist/social worker‚ÄĒI 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!

Check out this new feature from Anchor Podcasts in partnership with WordPress!

Anchor podcasts just launched a new feature with WordPress offering integration for podcasts. I meant to get to it all week, mistakenly thinking it was just some kind of new widget that would allow me to embed an anchor podcast into one of my existing WordPress sites with one click or no clicks ‚ÄĒ or whatever. I was so wrong ‚ÄĒ and that is so great!

I clicked a button on my Anchor dashboard and in mere minutes I had a full-on website for the Fearless 5 podcast! It automatically put all my podcasts online as a stand-alone site. Check it out.

This was something I had been thinking about doing somehow, but I knew it would be a ton of work to post them individually on the main website I plug during the podcast. Plus, imagine how much that could slow down the loading time. I also have more Fearless 5 podcasts now than I’ve actually counted. I started recording them in August of 2019.

I have been working on a re-launch lately; I got COVID in January and couldn’t record, making it the perfect time to revisit old episodes. I’ve created the podcast its own Twitter. I started analyzing its data. There’s more, but that will be for a later time. So imagine my pleasant surprise when I saw today that the Anchor/Wordpress integration was better than I had assumed it was!

Now I can purchase a URL for the new site I created and even turn it into a blog if I want to. I can link to the URL I just made from my main site to give my audience another option for consuming the podcast.

Will it help bring me results? Only time will tell… I‚Äôll let you know.

There’s also a feature for bloggers to use text-to-speech to convert written content into podcasts, so it works both ways.

Genius work from Anchor & WordPress! I‚Äôve enjoyed using Anchor for the past year and half as the host for Fearless 5. It does most of the work for me, hosting my podcast to eight different places. All I have to do is the fun stuff ‚ÄĒ create the podcast and record it. They make it easy for anyone to make a podcast even if you aren‚Äôt like me and have been editing audio for more than 20 years. This new feature makes me even happier I chose Anchor to host and distribute my podcast.

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

 

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 

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).

The power of blogging

I have this friend who has the ultimate slash career. ¬†He’s a teacher/radio DJ/wrestling ring announcer/wedding DJ/comedian/actor/small business owner/entrepreneur. ¬†He’s doing pretty well with his businesses but he has a new one he wants to spread the word about. ¬†But he says he doesn’t know how. ¬†I told him he needs to go online to market this new business, called Arizona Top Secret Chefs. ¬†I explained to him that a good blog with a few SEO tricks thrown in could help drive traffic to his site. ¬†I told him to get on Twitter and Facebook.

I also told him that blogging opens up a whole world of fun. ¬†You blog and people find you. ¬†You can blog about something obscure like CJD as I do. ¬†My Cure CJD blog has helped quite a few people get in touch with me as they lost someone to the disease or afterwards. ¬†Sometimes people comment on the blog, other times they email me privately. ¬†It makes me feel good that I can help someone else find answers and that I can share my experience. ¬†I shouldn’t have had to suffer through watching my mom die of that horrific disease for no reason; my words can help others. ¬†Emailing with complete strangers about the disease still helps me heal to this day.

Promoting my blog posts on Twitter, Facebook, or LinkedIn helps get some page views. ¬†But I find on my blogs that people come across them because they’re looking for a certain topic I have written about. ¬†It always amazes me what gets the most page views over a period of time. ¬†The analytics WordPress provides on each of my blogs are fascinating.

So I encourage anyone to blog about their business, passion in life, or just the life they live. ¬†One of my friends has a blog about expat life in Germany that I love to read because of her stories about adjusting to German life. ¬†She posts tons of travel information and great photos. ¬†You really get the feel for what her new life in the country is like. ¬†The blog also helps her to keep in touch with family and friends back home. ¬†Sure, you could post the same stuff on Facebook. ¬†But at the end of the experience, will Facebook provide you with the same kind of “scrapbook” a blog will? ¬†Probably not. ¬†Your photos and experiences will be buried in everyone’s Farmville and Mafia Wards updates.

I use my blogs to show that I can blog, that I do blog, and though it should be obvious — I know how to blog. Journalism pays the rent, but it’s not all I know how to do. ¬†I began blogging in my SEO content writing days with my first blog about CJD. ¬†I’m not just a journalist or a radio on-air personality. ¬†I’m a journalist and DJ who can blog too! But it doesn’t matter what line of work you’re in. ¬†You’ll probably find yourself blogging at some point. ¬†Maybe you’ll have to be the public, expert face your company puts on a blog. ¬†Maybe you’re like my friend who wants a new way to promote his business. ¬†But give it a try. ¬†It can’t hurt and you don’t need any prior experience to do it. ¬†Do you have ideas to share? ¬†Can you write and use spellcheck? ¬†Go for it!

How to make a video go viral

I guess I’m just in a marketing mood today. ¬†People were re-tweeting this piece earlier on Twitter about how to make a video go viral. ¬†As a budding video creator myself, my ears perked up. ¬†It’s an interesting take on the viral secrets of success. I’ve been making a few videos while on the air at the Peak, and I think mine fall into the “bored at work” category. ¬†They’re far from going viral though. ¬†So far, they’ve been good icebreakers on social networking sites with people I presume are listening to me. ¬†(In the very least, they’re following me on Twitter, where I tweet about being on the air). ¬†If nothing else, I am giving people another way to relate to me and get to know the station. ¬†I’ll work on that going viral stuff as I make better videos!

Twitter tips for journalists

140characters.com has a decent post about Twitter tips for journalists. ¬†I would add to it though. ¬†Not that there are forgotten tips here. ¬†When the list says to verify sources ¬†— ¬†something important for a story whether it involves Twitter or not, it doesn’t hurt to be more specific.

There are ¬†lots of people by the same name on Twitter. ¬†It doesn’t mean any one of them could be the specific one I am looking for. I write about music for my job, specifically pop music, but sometimes other genres I’m not as familiar with. ¬†But one thing I have noticed across multiple genres is how easy it is to get the wrong musician. ¬†You might think you’re reading a tweet by your favorite pop star. ¬†But instead, it’s actually a tweet from a fan or fansite.

Want to read the real Justin Bieber’s tweets? ¬†(Yes, I do. ¬†I write about him almost daily in pop music). Check out his official Twitter account:

http://twitter.com/justinbieber

See the Twitter-turquoise check mark badge on the upper right-hand side of the page?  That verifies that this is really the Justin Bieber.

Oh, and just because someone famous has a verified Twitter account doesn’t mean they are authoring their own tweets. ¬†Take a look at Sugarland’s Twitter account:

http://twitter.com/sugarlandmusic

It lacks the Twitter-turquoise verified check mark badge. ¬†But it does say it’s the band’s official Twitter account. ¬†Yet all kinds of people tweet on this account ¬†— ¬†they just sign their names on their tweets. There’s one signed by “Kristian,” which could be guitarist Kristian Bush. ¬†The Twitter page does lead to the band’s official website. ¬†But I can put up a Twitter account in two minutes that does the same thing. ¬†That official website does list links to the band’s MySpace and Facebook pages, but lists nothing for any Twitter accounts they may have.

I’m pretty sure it’s Sugarland’s Twitter account, at least enough to add it to my list of country celebrities I follow every day. ¬†But I doubt I’d ever quote it for a story. ¬†I’d use it for a story lead and report it out. ¬†But I wouldn’t live and die by it.

I’ve found Twitter is often best just for leads. ¬†It gives me a lot of story ideas and directions to go in that have saved me a lot of time.

The downside of sovereignty

Now that I’ve raved about the sovereignty of working for oneself as a freelance writer…let me tell you about the downside. ¬†The one thing that was lacking for me as a freelancer who worked at home was one of the most important: peers. ¬†Say what you want about your coworkers, but they are essential. ¬†Having a second opinion sitting one desk over from you is invaluable.

Can you recreate this experience as a freelancer?

It’s an important thing to ask yourself if you are thinking about going out on your own and stepping away from the corporate environment. ¬†A lot of people here in Phoenix like to go to co-working places and/or coffee shops. ¬†To be honest, sometimes I like working in coffee shops but other times, not so much. ¬†I guess it depends on the atmosphere on any given day. ¬†I most often like working in my own home office where I can control my own atmosphere. ¬†But sometimes it gets to feeling like an island and the coffee shop starts to become appealing again.

But as a writer, peers are so important. ¬†I work in a newsroom and can’t begin to tell you the importance of a second set of eyes on a piece of copy. ¬†When I work on my own I have to change my work habits to give myself extra time for revisions. ¬†I write and then let my work “cool” for a while before I re-read and revise. ¬†Without a coworker sitting next to me to serve as my second set of eyes, I can only depend on my own. ¬†So I come up with little tricks like letting a draft “cool” for a couple hours or overnight before I come back to it. ¬†(This method has really helped with a few Boston University papers, too).

Freelancing from home means I have to create my own peers. ¬†Twitter and Facebook are great for this. But so are instant messaging, email, and Skype. ¬†It never hurts to have someone you can call or IM for advice or a second pair of eyes when needed. ¬†I’ve met a few great freelance writers online and they have given great help over the years. ¬†It’s also great to keep in touch with others to see how their careers take shape and see how they market themselves. ¬†It’s so good to see how others succeed — it’s inspiring.

Sometimes that’s the most important thing. ¬†Do your coworkers inspire you? ¬†Do they make you better? Do they make you want to step up your game? ¬†Are they supportive? ¬†If not, maybe you would be better off creating a community of peers on your own.

An honest mistake in a changing celebrity news landscape

This Q&A with John Mayer by New York Magazine’s pop culture “Vulture” was pretty dang funny, to say the least. ¬†I only happened upon it after one of my Twitter followers sent out a tweet that Mayer had threatened to sodomize female journalists. ¬†As both a fan of Mayer and as a radio professional who has played his records since the beginning, I had to click on the link in her tweet. ¬†As I started to read the Q&A with Mayer, I began to realize the joke, but my Twitter friend hadn’t and instead was upset with Mayer. ¬†She had taken his words literally when he said, “I’m going to forcefully sodomize your editor.”

Here’s what might have happened.

An editor gave her writer questions to ask Mayer that were absurd. ¬†But how absurd are they really? ¬†In an age when what we post online is driven by page views and how much audience we can gain, the NY editor didn’t really make a mistake here. ¬†The Q&A has me blogging about it and, earlier in the week, my twitter pal was up in arms about it. ¬†So that’s two people driving traffic to the NY Mag site.

It seems to me like the editor thought she may get Mayer to say something controversial and newsworthy about Obama winning the Nobel Peace Prize. The questions asked seemed like attempts to snag something newsworthy to drive traffic to the site by asking serious questions. ¬†We see TMZ.com do it all the time in their videos. ¬†But the plan doesn’t always work when you ask a celeb a question like this. ¬†Usually, they have no opinion or nothing newsworthy to say.

C’mon, editors, like you’re really going to get well-coached stars to say something to give you a hot story? ¬†Mayer would rather say something smart ass about sodomizing you than take a Nobel question seriously. ¬†He’s got a record to promote, so he’s not going to say anything to piss off his red state or blue state fans. ¬†To me, this just seemed like an attempt to compete with TMZ gone wrong.

We’ve hit the saturation point with celebrity news and gossip. ¬†How are we going to do it differently?

By not falling victims to trends or by copying what everyone else is doing. ¬†But there’s also one vital thing to do. ¬†If you’re going to cover celebrity news for a living, it doesn’t stop ¬†when your 40 hours a week are up in the newsroom. ¬†You don’t walk up to Mayer and ask him dumb questions like he’s a stranger you have no respect for. ¬†Do your research. ¬†And when I say “research,” Google doesn’t count.

You have to live this stuff.

You lifestyle has to be celebrity/entertainment news 24/7/365. ¬†You can’t miss a thing. ¬†Mayer fans know he’s a smart ass with dry, sarcastic, rude humor. ¬†The fans also know he loves to liberally dish out his unique humor to journalists. ¬†The editor and her writer would have known this if they’d been fans, or had at least watched Mayer on some TMZ videos verbally sparring with paparazzi and journalists. ¬†The guy’s current single is about, “who says I can’t?” ¬†Well, what do you think you’re going to get when you hit him up with your tape recorder at a party or on a red carpet? ¬†Who says I can’t smart-ass this journalist chick who didn’t do her homework on me?

I’ve got clients to serve who want news on Mayer’s new album. ¬†I’m not going to waste 2 minutes with him by asking him lame questions. ¬†Tell me about “Battle Studies.” ¬†(She did at least ask about that after asking a bunch of questions that annoyed him. ¬†Way to go to build rapport…)

You never know where a conversation will go anyway.

I talked to Mike Kennerty of the All-American Rejects last week about how the band was getting back on the road after Tyson Ritter had emergency knee surgery. ¬†Somehow we got to talking about a few different subjects, which was really cool and unexpected. ¬†It wasn’t an exclusive; a lot of us got to do press over the phone with members of the band. ¬†So we all had the story about them going back on tour. ¬†But I know I got a couple of other tidbits out of him that will be exclusive to my Westwood One clients only.

I get what I get from people by doing my own thing and not trying to be like everyone else out there. ¬†I treat artists with respect. ¬†In Kennerty’s case, he was calling from London on a day off. ¬†How would you like a bunch of strangers asking you questions for a few hours on end on your “day off?” ¬†Exactly. ¬†This is why you get so much more as a journalist just by being cool with people.

Anyone can put up a blog and start trying to compete with TMZ or Perez Hilton or whomever in online celebrity news and gossip you idolize.  Some of us were doing celeb news before it grew to what is currently is online, which is a massive echo-chamber.  I did it in radio first and I still do it for radio.

How do you do entertainment news today and stand out from the crowd? ¬†How do you not fall victim to the echo chamber trap? ¬†How can you do music news and still compete with countless blogs all writing about the same thing at the same time? ¬†Should we even call it “news” any more?

Disclosure: I am a “New York” magazine subscriber and long-time fan of the online site. ¬†Opinions expressed on this blog do not reflect that of any of my various employers. ¬†I have also bought every John Mayer album I’ve ever had.