Category: Portfolio

Starting a business blog

Main Street Vs. Wall Street

As a writer and blogger, I’ve come to realize over the years that my passion is working with other small businesses. I enjoy helping them market their companies online, especially via blogging.

Blogging, to me, is as natural as speaking. And when small businesses speak to their potential and current customers, they build brand loyalty and increase sales.

Even if a business hasn’t made sales online in the past, marketing online makes a difference, even in the “face-to-face” world. Many customers research companies online before deciding to step into their store. I know I do.

Small businesses may not have huge marketing teams (obviously…they’re small businesses), but that doesn’t mean it’s necessary to miss out on the online sales opportunities. If you have a small business, start a business blog. You’ll be amazed at the benefits it brings.

Can you restart an old blog?

Blogging can be a journey (like this one), a passion, a hobby, or a business. And everything in-between. But sometimes life happens and your blog can wind up the last thing on a long “to do” list. That’s what happened to me and one of my old blogs.

Marana Unwrapped was a blog about the town I lived in, just northwest of Tucson, Arizona. I started out pretty interested in it, some people subscribed to it, and I even got added to the town’s email group for the press. But then I moved out of the town of Marana, and somehow thought I should let the blog move into oblivion.

I let the domain name expire and that was that. But something kept nagging at me over the past couple of years. I knew that blog had potential, and it makes no sense to turn down the opportunity. After all, trying to restart an old blog may be worth it. I checked to see if the domain name was still available (it was), and I re-bought it.

It seemed reasonable to sit on my decision and think things through first. I decided a new WordPress theme was essential, and I got to work on that. I changed some categories, updated and added a few pages, and tried my hand at some CSS/PHP code tweaking. It’s still not perfect (I need to Photoshop some of the heading’s pictures), but it’s ready to reintroduce to the world.

With the restart of an old blog comes decisions about how to drive traffic to it. Word of mouth and Twitter may be the best way to jumpstart it. Local blogs have the advantage of being extremely targeted. Later I may go on to create a Facebook page and maybe even submit articles to submission sites. Getting traffic is always a fun adventure.

If you get a chance, take a look at the old content on Marana Unwrapped. Even better, if you’re a Tucson reader, feel free to send me story ideas and news. Let me know what you think (here or there). I’m all ears.

Have you ever made the decision to restart an old blog? What plan of action did you take?

Comment spam control

No spam

I love getting comments on my blog posts, so if you’re thinking something while reading my posts, please let me know. One thing I have noticed recently, though, is comments that make no sense. What’s funny is that they have some elements of the post in them, but overall they’re gibberish.

Part of being a “do follow” blog is dealing with comment spam. In case you don’t know, “do follow” means that when you comment here, my site provides a link to your website (assuming you put that information in the comment form). That’s great for building Google PageRank, so I guess a lot of sites comment here just for the links. It doesn’t hurt that my page has some PageRank juice to give out too.

For that reason, I have my comments on moderated status. If you see your comment hasn’t been approved in a couple of days, please feel free to email me. It’s possible I didn’t get to it yet, or it might have wound up in my spam folder. I generally don’t weed through the hundreds of spam messages I get for one or two real comments.

One type of comment spam that’s hard to catch is the “repeat everything” comment. This is where the comment is actually an exact duplicate of some snippet from my posts or from others’ comments. They sound real, and it requires my delving into my memory to realize that it’s something I’ve seen before.

Another common type of comment spam is the “great post” comment. Those are just annoying, but they’re fairly easy to spot. They might say, “Nice blog,” or, “I agree with you,” or other non-specific comments.

Luckily, the Akismet spam catcher thingee does a good job of keeping out most comment spam (like the ads for viagra).

What kinds of comment spam have you had to deal with?

Writing rituals

Music Band 1

Do you write for a living, or spend a lot of time writing? For some, writing can be a way to relax and unwind. Others may write because their boss pays them to do so, and still others make money and relax at the same time.

Like other routine tasks, having a ritual can be helpful (or even essential). I like to turn on my saved music list (formerly Imeem, now MySpace Music). It’s not random music like the radio, so I can get into a groove and block out outside distractions. I do find myself singing along, but because I know the songs so well, it doesn’t require any mental energy.

What about you? Do you have favorite songs or a favorite radio station, or does music distract you too much? Maybe you have a special chair or perfect time of day. I also usually have a cup of chai tea before I write…it seems to calm my mind and get it ready to focus.

Maybe your ritual is more eccentric. Do you hop on one foot three times and spin in a circle before you settle down to the task at hand? This cool article from the National Writing Project discusses a few interesting things some writers do before they start writing.

What are your writing rituals?

What good are ideas?

Innovation

Are you the kind of person who’s always coming up with great ideas? The next “big thing”? I certainly do, and I really do have some off-the-chart, awesome ideas. But what good are they if I never do anything with them?

I got to thinking about this because of this really cool blog plug-in called Post Ideas. Whenever I think of a nice blog post to write, I add it to my Post Ideas. The problem is, I never get around to actually writing these posts.

So here’s the first of the post ideas that have been sitting around collecting dust. My library of ideas is full, and I have no excuse to keep you wondering when I’ll next write a post.

Also along the lines of big ideas, feel free to contact me if you need an idea for something. I have a million of them. Just the other day I thought of a really sweet music video. If you’re a friend of N.E.R.D or any other band, let me know. It’s a hit (I don’t have music or lyrics, just the concept for a video). I don’t mind sharing my brilliance if I wasn’t planning on using it myself anyway.

Do you have a storehouse of ideas? What are your plans for them?


Get it in writing!

To Sign a Contract 3

Recently I agreed to do an editing project for an acquaintance of mine. We agreed that I would be getting paid for my services, and I agreed to work for less than I usually do.

This may not be a problem on its own, but I made the HUGE mistake of not getting a written contract. Or even a spoken contract. I trusted the acquaintance and thought that I’d at least get paid a fair wage for my work.

I couldn’t have been more wrong. And I know the damage is done.

Being a nice guy is great, I suppose, but if you want to get paid properly you really need to get some kind of contract. By just letting things fall where they may you set yourself up to be used. You can be a nice guy by giving your friend, family member, or acquaintance a “nice” contract to sign. It may seem harsh, but it’s the only way you can (sort of) protect yourself.

Even with a contract there’s no guarantee you’ll get paid. This is one reason it makes sense to get some type of deposit up-front…at least you get something for your work. But without a contract you set yourself up for getting nothing at all.

What kind of contract should you write?

The simplest (and maybe nicest) contract is an email exchange. After you talk on the phone or in person and iron out the details, send a short email summarizing what price and terms you’ve agreed to. I did do this with my last client, but I didn’t do one more crucial step. Before you start working on the project, WAIT for your client’s emailed response. In that responding email the client should clearly concur with your summation.

Another method is to write up a general agreement that outlines your terms and the price you’re charging. You should sign it and then give it to your client to sign. Either make a copy of the signed agreement or just have two agreements for the each of you to sign. Once you have that in hand, go ahead and start working on the assignment.

Contracts that are spoken — oral agreements — are legally binding, but they’re difficult to prove and, therefore, difficult to enforce. Don’t feel like you’re being a bad guy by running your business properly. As a benefit, you’ll start finding that clients treat you with respect when you command it from the beginning.

What kinds of contracts have you used for your freelance work? Do you have any horror stories?


It’s all in the follow-up

Remember 1

Follow up. We hear it a thousand times. If you go for a job interview, make cold calls, or deal with a business for just about anything, it’s apparently crucial that you follow up.

Why?

Well after that initial contact — that initial great impression — the person you met with gets busy doing their everyday thing. And unfortunately, they start to forget things. Even that amazing conversation they had with you. Or even if they don’t forget, they get a follow-up call/email/letter from another candidate, and your brilliance suddenly becomes out-of-sight and out-of-mind.

Here’s a quick and easy follow up method. Hopefully it will work, even for the laziest among us:

  • Before you head to the interview or appointment, address and put postage on your thank-you note’s envelope.
  • During your appointment, start thinking about what you’ll say in your personalized follow-up note. For more ideas on how to accomplish this, take a peek at this Freelance Switch article on following up.
  • As soon as you get home, write a personalized handwritten or typed note. If your initial communication was via phone, write a follow-up note before the end of the day.
  • Using some type of reminder system (Outlook, tickler files, cellphone, calendar), set a date no more than a month in advance to send another follow-up note. This one will be similar to the first “thank you” note, but it should mention how excited you are to eventually work with them.
  • If you’ve gotten no negative remarks, go ahead and schedule another note that goes out during a holiday or something similar. The point is to stay on your prospect’s mind in case a gig becomes available.

In my experience, the most difficult thing about following up is committing to doing it. If you’re pretty good at following up with potential clients, what’s your secret? Do you have a different method to share?


A little bird told me…

coloured chick

I started Tweeting almost one year ago. And boy, has it been an interesting journey! Twitter is a fascinating tool, and I’ve met cool people and learned new things. One of the things I love most about it is connecting with people in my local area. It’s also great for marketing your blog and, by default, your business.

There’s a lot of power to harness with Twitter, so if you haven’t yet given it a try, you’ve simply got to start! Here’s what you do. After you sign up, start following a few interesting people you know (like me), and take a look at who they’re following. Follow a few of them, and also start looking at some local people (like a local radio or news station). You’ll start getting followers as you start following. And be sure you actually Tweet too.

For more ideas, check out my first post on the subject of Twitter.

If you’re not already following me on Twitter, go ahead and do so. There’s a link to my CrayonWriter account under my picture.

Do you use Twitter a lot? How do you use it?