business

Have you ever thought of joining a writing group?

Hang on – do you know what a writing group is? There are several different types:

  • Writing groups – authors hanging out together and typing away
  • Critique groups – examine each other’s writing for tone, style, clunky passages and moments of brilliance
  • Commenting groups – for blogging, usually, where you read and comment on each other’s blogs
  • Review groups – swap reviews on Amazon.com or other online reviewing sites

So, back to my original question: Have you ever thought of joining a writing group?

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Here’s why you want to take a look at joining one or more groups:

Writing Groups

The Good:
Writing is a lonely business so it’s nice to get together with other people who are doing the same thing. It’s a lot like when I was in college and would head to a study room to work. I wasn’t studying the same subject in a group – like quizzing each other but rather working on my own stuff in a room of other people who were really focused. It always helped my concentration and focus.

The Bad:
These types of groups can quickly become a social event. Which is totally fine (and fun) UNLESS you’re really just there to work and everybody wants to chat. There’s also the challenge of hauling your materials to a location and hoping you have all your resources, research, and tools.

The Business:
Writing groups usually accept any type of author. They might not be the best place to make connections for clients or referrals but you can also be inspired by sharing a table with a novelist, poet, or playwright! Remember that the purpose of the group is to write – not to network so be respectful of the rules of the group.

Critique Groups

The Good:
It’s always a great idea to have somebody read over your work! Critique groups might focus on the technical aspect of writing (spelling, punctuation, grammar, etc.) but they usually are more of big-picture view looking at flow, rhythm, tone, plot, etc.

The Bad:
When you’re picking a critique group, it’s easy to fall into a group of writers who aren’t experienced. While I believe that everyone has something to offer, if you’re years down your writing training road, you might not get a lot out of a group filled with college students. Try to find a group with a mix of wanna-bes, trying to break ins, established authors, and career writers. Also look for a mix of ages – you’ll get a better perspective on your work. Also be wary of groups who ONLY tell you everything is wonderful – that doesn’t help you grow as an author.

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For the past few weeks I’ve been hard at work on a new gift to give to people when they opt-in to my newsletter list. I’d say 90% of my subscribers join my list BECAUSE they wanted the gift; the *ahem* great content in the weekly newsletter is a bonus. The other 10% find my blog, read a great article and decide they want more articles delivered to their inbox every Tuesday. So an opt-in gift is CLEARLY a really important thing to create and create well!

When I first started with email marketing, back in 2003, it wasn’t really much of a requirement to offer a free gift to encourage people to sign up. Emailed newsletters were still a novelty. (And in some industries they still are!)

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When I sat down to create my new gift, here’s the thought process I went through:

1. Who do I want to attract to my list?

My original opt-in gift was targeted to ANYONE who was interested in self-publishing. But over the course of a year since that gift was new, my target subscriber has been refined to be a coach, speaker, or author.

So when I created a NEW gift, I targeted it directly to who I wanted on my list.

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Last week I participated in a comment exchange party – each participant posted a link to a blog post that she wanted additional comments on and then OTHERS in the party would leave comments on the post.

Makes total sense, right? You get more traffic on a blog post, they get more links to their website, you get to read new articles, your name is seen by more people… It’s a win-win, right?

Well, maybe. There are a LOT of factors involved when it comes to commenting on other people’s blogs.

  1. MOST blogs have a nofollow policy which means that the link to YOUR website is listed as nofollow. Now, I’m not an SEO expert but I think this boils down to the link isn’t as valuable as an incoming link with a nofollow tag as it is without.
  2. People don’t always reciprocate. In an event like this, it’s completely possible I would comment on more blogs than would comment on mine.
  3. Time. Even if you skim the articles, it still takes time to read them. But the biggest time-overhead is the commenting itself. And sometimes it’s tough to even figure out HOW to comment!
  4. Finding something to say. There have been times I’ve been involved in comment-swaps like this and I knew NOTHING about the blog’s topic and had zero interest. Makes it hard to say anything that “Thanks! Great post!”
  5. Not all blogs delete spam comments, moderate snarky or mean commenters, or engage with their readers. Personally, I reserve the right to delete ANY comment on my blog.

So how DO you write a good comment on somebody’s blog?

Decide WHY you’re doing it. I’m usually looking to get my name out there and expand my visibility in the blog-o-world. And with most blogs not offering a ‘follow’ link back to MY site, SEO reasons aren’t my main consideration.

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Business Bloggers: This one’s for you!

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When’s the last time something really exciting happened in your life? They type of event that you recounted to everybody who came near you, if they had a pulse and ears, you were sharing your story? People start to grimace when you’re coming close because they KNOW you’re going to tell them all about it, if they want to know or not!

Now when’s the last time you wrote something for your business blog that had you that excited?

BTW: I’m not talking about the excitement around the launch of product, book, service, etc. I’m talking about the excitement that comes from:

I can’t wait to sit down to write about ABC and share it with my readers!

Um, did you just hear the clock ticking loudly as you tried to figure it out?

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Don’t worry! It’s okay and it happens the best of us. There are definitely times when I just have NO excitement, passion, or oomph for my blog. It happens.

But don’t let your blog become too much of a boring-facts-how-to-articles-not-really-FUN type of publication. Let your readers SEE your passion and excitement for your business, industry and topic shine through your writing!

Remember what you really LOVE about what you do and then begin sharing that passion and excitement with your readers! Remember that while you write is someone who is just finding you NOW, today, and that she needs to see your love of what you do coming through onto the page.

Here’s your assignment:

Find something you’re passionate about in your business (NOT a launch!) and then write a blog post about it. Bonus points if you then excitedly share the article on social media!

I know we’re all looking for ways to keep our blog content updated regularly. Regularly updated information keeps readers coming back, shows the world that you still exist, increases search engine visibility, and of course, can provide content for books later on. But the ongoing question is always HOW do I create all that content?

A great way to keep your blog fresh is to post content that is relevant to your industry RIGHT NOW. Here are five ways where you can be sure that you’re “in the loop” for what’s big in your industry right now.

 

1. Google Alerts

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Set up a Google alert for a keyword in your industry and have it deliver the content once per day. My trick here is to tell Google to give me EVERYTHING from every source it can; not just what Google deems “important”. This gives me insight into what is happening globally, in local markets, and far beyond the blockbuster news stories.

A word of caution here: your alert will ONLY be as good as your keyword! My keyword of “publishing” returns me TONS of results every day but only a small portion of the results are relevant. After a few weeks of scanning the articles, I was able to narrow and refine my alert’s keyword.

2. Troll Facebook

Now, before you tell me “But Kim, all my people hang out on LinkedIn” (or Twitter or Google+ or WHATEVER) just trust me on this one! Because I can pretty much guarantee that your competition or the biggest player in your industry has a presence on Facebook. So scan that fanpage regularly for what are they posting about what is happening in your industry. Then, you can follow the news back to its source to get the full scoop or do some digging about contradictory positions.

It’s okay to let somebody else do some of the research for you! Plus, they’ll also be sorting for what’s important and letting the fluff go by. Just be careful that you’re not just copying somebody else’s media strategy or opinion about what is breaking news!

3. Subscribe To Industry Magazines

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Online or offline, your industry will have a few key magazines. The real gold here isn’t always in the current editions but in the archives. As a subscriber, often you can access older issues for free or low cost. What you’ll see after a while is a pattern to when they’re timing their articles. So when you start to see that pattern of “They always have an article about THISandTHAT in March” then you know that this is a seasonal topic that you can research ahead of time and be ready to jump on board.

By the way, any regularly published industry “publication” will work. In addition to subscribing to two writing magazines, I also get three email newsletters about writing and publishing. Authors aren’t super big into podcasts since we like written words but if we were, I’d listen to the podcasts as well.

4. Get On Press Release Lists

Specifically the press releases for the key players in your industry. For my outdoor recreation business, I’m on the press release list for the local National Forest. For publishing, I read the press releases from Amazon.com and Barnes & Noble. Instead of waiting for the story to break in a huge publication and then cover it later, I get the information at nearly the same time the biggest news outlets do.

Here’s the ninja move though:
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Instead of JUST posting the press release to your blog (which can be okay) you can insert your expert opinion about what the update MEANS. For example, my article Why Traditional Publishing Isn’t Fair is based off an article I found but I didn’t just republish the article. I gave my expert opinion about what it means to us as independent authors.

5. Create The News

I know a ton of business owners who regularly submit press releases to their local papers or to distribution services but who NEVER post the content directly on their website! Or if they do, it’s buried under a Media tab. If you’re the one doing something newsworthy in your industry, toot your own horn and tell people about it.

Remember that the style and format for a press release is far different than a blog article! You can either post the press release directly into a blog article or you can take the same news and repackage it to fit the style and tone of your blog.

A word of caution about tips 1 – 4: be sure that you are fully vetting any source materials you use. You don’t want to perpetuate bad information or run the risk of looking like you didn’t do your due diligence to make sure that the facts are accurate.

It can take a lot of time to sort through the news. Even if you don’t end up using the information on your blog, it’s never wasted time because it helps you have a “big picture” look at your industry.

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A few weeks ago I got asked just HOW I organize the thoughts in my business journals so they were accessible and easy to find later.

Here’s the sneaky answer: I don’t. I hate to admit it but I can honestly say I’ve never really thought about it before. Usually, they’re one-step up from just musings. Or like the project I’m working on now; I’m jotting down full sections of writing that will later be typed into Word. I probably won’t need to go back to the journal once it’s typed up.

But there are times when I look back at a journal and realize that what I’m struggling with NOW was something I had solved, or even just started thinking about, weeks ago. So while I don’t organize my journals, I will now!

I got these steps from a business mentor of mine, Rodney Rich, in just a quick conversation we had last weekend. So huge shout out to Rodney: THANKS!

(Here’s his website and his Facebook page.)

(But the caveat on this system, I haven’t tried it yet. I’ll give it a whirl and get back to you!)

Steps:

  1. Leave at least 5 pages at the front of the journal blank. If you’ve already filled them in, this will work at the back as well.
  2. Number all your pages. (I recommend a lower corner. At least make sure it’s the same spot on every page!)
  3. Grab a package of stickies and a blank sheet of paper. On the paper, write down letters A – G on the left hand side. These are going to be your categories. Assign a category to each letter. Examples are Marketing, Client Mindset, Project A, Project B, etc.
  4. Go through the journal and put the corresponding lettered sticky every time the theme comes up in the journal.
  5. In the first few pages, you’ll transfer over your letter codes and the category name. Then, using the stickies you put on the pages, you’ll write down the page numbers of where you can find notes about that topic.

Some topics will be common across ALL journals (like marketing) and others may be more project-central and then only appear in one or two journals.

After years of keeping business journals, I know from experience that there will be repeating themes in ALL your journals. Marketing for sure, but also internal topics that you deal with all the time. I’m recommending that you ALWAYS assign these topics to the same letter.

On your computer, you can create a master index where you’ll generally index things like:

Notebook 1:
Marketing (A)
Client Mindset (B)
Blog Ideas (C)
Book Ideas (D)
Website Updates (E)
Notes from XYZ Event (F)
Video Marketing Project (G)
Telesummit Plan (H)

Notebook 2:
Marketing (A)
Client Mindset (B)
Blog Ideas (C)
Book Ideas (D)
Website Updates (E)
Book Launch (F)

Now, you can completely take this to the next level and create the index file on your computer so you might have notes like:

Marketing
Notebook 1: 5-7; 12, 15, 26, 31
Notebook 2: 56-71, 83, 100-103

Client Mindset
Notebook 1: 7-12, 33, 47-49
Notebook 2: 1-13; 57

Then, you can run a search in the file for every time you reference marketing. You can also break it down farther into more specific TYPES of marketing like video launches vs Facebook promotion ideas.

Don’t get me wrong, this will be a pretty big undertaking. I would recommend starting with your current journal and then working backwards. There will (probably) come a point when the notes and thoughts you’ve jotted down are just too old to be relevant to your business now.

And I fully recommend that you DON’T try to index the journal as you go along. If I was worried about making my notes and thoughts fit into my main categories, I know it would severely limit my creativity and thought process.

For this business, I really only have only filled two dedicated journals so I’ll be going back and working through the indexing process. I’m also planning on cross-referencing this to the course books I’ve received at some awesome conferences lately.

I take all my notes AT the conference in their provided course book but then I find that the ideas I’m implementing I write about a lot in my journal. So I’ll be adding the cross reference from course book to journal into my system as well.

Now remember, I JUST learned about this system this past weekend. I’ll be implementing it over the next few weeks and I’ll get back to you. In the meantime:

How do you index or categorize your business journals?

I do a lot of consultations with entrepreneurs who are looking to write a book in their niche. And this is a GREAT idea since it can help you really get your message out there, increase your reach, credibility and perceived expertise.

But sometimes these same entrepreneurs admit to me, rather sheepishly, that they have ANOTHER book project they’d just love to work on. Something that has NOTHING to do with their niche, business, or expertise. I really think they’re looking for permission to branch out and do something that really won’t forward their business at all.

Except that these “other” projects really DO help you forward your business!

Take for example, Pastarelli. I’ve written about him in a few articles. This book has NOTHING to do with writing and publishing blogs and books or with the other niche I write in, outdoor recreation. So why does this completely different project make me a better business owner?

Because Pastarelli is a passion of mine. And while I know that I need to keep the main thing the main thing, I’ve found that by doing something different has really increased my passion and creativity IN the main thing. But taking a break and writing something completely different is another way to re-charge your batteries and keep things fresh.

I’ve got two projects in the works that are completely out of my normal writing scope (and one is completely out of my comfort zone!)

Project #1:

I have sponsored events and had trade show booths a LOT throughout my professional career. And I’ve created a ton of tricks, tips, idea, and checklists that I really want to share. This book has nothing to do with anything in my current business. BUT the information keeps rattling around in my brain looking to get out.

I haven’t quite figured out how to turn this into a list-building exercise but I think the possibility is there. See, I have these GREAT checklists for trade show booth setup and I would like to offer this as a bonus to people who buy the book. What I’m not sure about is if THOSE people would be interested in a newsletter about writing…

(I’d LOVE your thoughts on that!)

This is a pretty small project. Like a rainy Saturday afternoon when it’s too nasty to hike and I’m too brain dead to really work.

Project #2:

A novel. Yep, I’ve been slowly outlining and planning a novel. I started in November, actually, collecting ideas and beginning my research. A novel is COMPLETELY out of my comfort zone and I’ll admit I’ve been a little freaked to even start writing. Jotting down ideas and doing research is WAY easier than actually beginning.

And I’ve been a little bit let off the hook because I refuse to start such a monumental project when I’m still in the middle of the LAST monumental project I’ve started: video.

But the video project should be launching in the next 10- to 14-days so I’m rapidly running out of excuses about the novel.

Now here’s the thing with BOTH of these other projects. I will be spending time, energy, creativity and effort on them. But I know that neither is really my MAIN THING. But both are side projects that will help with my overall creativity!

And, the novel is a goal of mine for 2014: Write Something That Scares You

So here’s the advice that I give to all those sheepish entrepreneurs who ask me about the “other” project they have brewing. Go for it! Enjoy the process but know when you need to come back to the main thing.