10 Blog Topic Ideas for Portrait or Family Photographers

Blog Topics for Portrait Photographers

Through working with many photographers one-on-one and in group settings, I’ve realized that one of their main marketing struggles is brainstorming different types of content.

They don’t know what to blog about. And, because they don’t know what to blog about, they don’t know what to email their lists about (if they actually have an email list).

Often when I take a peek at their blogs, they’re posting the same content over and over, because they don’t know what else to share.

And, if I’m being honest, it’s the creative profession that I struggle the most with when it comes to helping them come up with different blog topics.

That’s why I sat my bottom in my chair and brainstormed 10 different types of blog posts for those of you photographers who need help with this. Let’s get started:

1. Highlight your favorite sessions.

Let’s get the most obvious type of post out of the way first. If you’re a portrait or family photographer, you want to show off your work on your blog.

But, the big mistake that some photographers make is that this is the only type of blog post they publish. Think about your ideal customer. Does she really want to wade through hundreds of posts of your family sessions? Is that going to grip her to her chair for hours, getting her to click on post after post?

Probably not.

That doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t post your sessions. You should, but you also need a variety of other types of content, especially if you’re using your blog to attract to your ideal customer and engage her week after week.

Pick your favorite session each month and highlight it in a blog post. That way, the first page of your blog always has one or two sessions featured, because some of your clients will click on your blog to get an idea of your style of photography.

2. Get personal.

One of the big objections that photographers get from clients is that they’re nervous about having their picture taken.

Moms are scared that their children are going to act a fool in front of you. Teenagers are nervous that they’ll wake up with a handful of zits on the big day. Couples are worried that the photos won’t show their love in a natural, fun way.

One way you can help your clients overcome this fear is through letting them get to know you. If they feel comfortable with you, they’re more likely to move past their own hesitations and work with you.

Come up with a monthly themed post such as ‘favorite moments from this month’ where you share your top five favorite photos and add a bit of story under each one or a monthly vlog where you show one of your days that month from beginning to end through video.

Do this for a year and then you’ve got 12 blog posts that you can: continue to promote and share on social media, link to on your about page and point people to when they’re thinking about working with you but want to get to know you better before they commit.

3. Flaunt your style.

If you’re a portrait or family photographer, you’ve probably developed your own style. Your unique style is what will attract the right clients to your doorstep.

Make sure you’ve got a handful of posts on your blog where you’re discussing: how you’ve developed your style, what makes your portrait photography different, and how clients can figure out whether you’re the right fit or not.

4. Write posts that’ll help upcoming clients.

We’ve already covered that your clients tend to get nervous about having their pictures taken. Think about those clients. What do they ask you about?

Do they ask you what clothes they should wear? Do they ask you about what a session looks like from start to finish? Do they want to know what will happen if it rains because all of your sessions take place on the beach?

Take each of those questions and turn them into blog posts. This gives you great blog content but it also makes your life easier because the next time you get a similar question, you can point the person to the blog post where you answer it.

5. Blog about your location.

Because you want to show up on Google when someone searches for a photographer in your area, you need to think about SEO.

You’ve got to write blog posts that include the name of the place you live in the title, tags and body of blog posts. Brainstorm ideas that’ll make this natural.

For example, if you’re a family photographer in the Virginia Beach area, you might write the following blog posts: a) Top 10 Places to Take Family Photos in Virginia Beach b) My Top 5 Favorite Spots in Virginia Beach c) My Top 8 Favorite Kid-Friendly Places in Virginia Beach d) 5 Family Photographers in the Virginia Beach Area (you would include yourself and other family photographers who have a much different style than you) e) My Favorite Virginia Beach Photographs (you’d share photographs you’d taken of Virginia Beach) f) Why Virginia Beach is a Great Place for Family Photo Sessions

Aim to publish a location-based post once a month for the next year and see how it helps your search engine ranking.

6. Film some of your sessions.

Set up a video camera so that it’s filming your next photo session (with your clients permission of course). If you have an assistant, ask her to peek at it every once in a while to make sure that it’s recording the shoot.

Edit it down to two to five minutes. Add some music to the background and you’ve got another way to share your photography.

This might help some of your nervous clients as well because it gives them an insider look into what a session actually looks like.

If you do this once a quarter, you’ve got four more blog posts each year.

7. Share other types of photography.

If you’re a photographer, I’m gonna guess that you love taking all types of photos. Your blog is a great place to share them.

Publish a post featuring your favorite photos from your latest vacation or the photos you took of your summer garden or the photos you snapped of your kids playing in the snow.

If someone stumbles upon one of these posts and falls head over heels for your photography because of it, she’d probably be a great fit as a client.

8. Highlight a testimonial.

Because you’re using your blog to market your photography business, you should absolutely share testimonials.

If someone sends you a great testimonial that’s more than a couple short paragraphs, you can turn that into a blog post.

Share the testimonial, pictures from that person’s session, a paragraph or two about what you really liked about that particular shoot and a link to where potential clients can find out how to work with you.

9. Write about something interesting to your ideal customer that has nothing to do with photography.

If you’re a family photographer and your ideal customer is a mom of young children, you could brainstorm blog topics that help moms of young children.

Here are some examples: 1) My Five Year Old’s Favorite Books 2) Three Kid-Friendly Museums in Richmond Virginia 3) Five Ways to Tucker Out Your Kiddos on Rain Days 4) Snow Ice Cream Recipe Your Kids Will Gobble Up 5) My Family’s Nighttime Routine with 3 Kids Under 5.

If you know who your ideal customer is, then you should be able to come up with content that’ll pull her in even though it doesn’t have anything to do with photography.

When you publish a post like this, make sure that you include your photography. For instance, if you write the blog post about your kid’s favorite books from above, you could include a photo of your daughter reading one of those books and a photo of the stack of those five books.

At the bottom of the post, you could write something like, “I’m a family photographer in the _____________ area. I blog about my photography sessions, raising young children and what moms should know when they’re looking to hire a family photographer. If that’s interesting to you, sign up below to get email updates straight to your inbox. Thanks for reading!”

10. Turn previous posts into helpful lists.

Let’s say you’re having a tough week. Your sick, your kiddos are climbing up your curtains because they’re snowed in or you just don’t feel like blogging.

One way you can still publish helpful content that your blog readers will enjoy is to make a list post out of previous posts you’ve published. All you have to do is compile those previous posts into a list.

For example, if you’ve published five blog posts featuring family sessions that took place at the same park, you could compile them into, ‘5 Family Sessions at __________ Park.” In that blog post, you’d make a list of those five family sessions, along with one photo from each and a short intro paragraph for each. You’d link to the full-length blog posts where readers can find more.

Then when a client comes to you and they’re thinking about doing their next family session at that park, you can send her to that blog post so she can find those five family sessions. That’ll help her decide if that’s the feeling she’s looking for.

Here’s an example of this type of post on my blog.

If you’re a portrait photographer, I hope this list of ten different types of blog posts has helped you fill in your content calendar.

Have other creative blogging topic ideas for photographers? Leave them in the comments below.

If you enjoyed this post and want more content on making your photography blog a success, check out my CreativeLive course, Build a Successful Creative Blog.

In that course, I cover everything from finding your ideal blog reader to monetizing your blog to marketing your blog.

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How to Easily Get to Know Your Ideal Customer

If you’re that entrepreneur telling yourself that if you could only get to know your ideal customer better your lonely PayPal account would finally see some growth, then today’s video is for you.

If you don’t invest time in learning about your ideal customer you’re going to struggle with:

1) writing sales copy that resonates with her

2) brainstorming blog content that she can’t wait to devour over her morning muffin and chai tea latte

3) using social media to attract the type of person who will click on your links, sign up for your email newsletter and eventually become a customer.

I’m not going to lie and tell you that this is a shortcut to learning everything you’ll ever need to know about your ideal customers. But, if you’re terrified of talking to your ideal customers in person or via Google Hangouts, this will get you started.

If you’ve already chatted with a handful of your ideal customers, this will give you a new perspective. Either way, it’ll help your business.

If you’ve been struggling with this whole ‘ideal customer’ thing, please let me know if this video helped you in the comments below. Thanks for watching!

If this video got your buns toasting and you want more, I go through two creative activities that I haven’t shared anywhere else (and a lot more) that’ll help you break down those ideal customer walls in my latest CreativeLive course, Double Your Followers with Creative Marketing.

“I’ve listened to other Creative Live courses and even bought a few of them, but this is by far the best I’ve experienced so far! As a visual artist and jewelry designer, I love the visuals in every presentation and April’s delivery of information is so pleasant that it feels like I am in the live audience even though I’m usually listening to the rebroadcasts late in the evening or on the weekends. I don’t buy often, but just an hour ago, I hit the buy button because this is a course I will want to revisit often as I build my own creative business. And, of course, I didn’t want to miss out on any of those great bonus materials!” -Charmaine

Join the 12,600+ students who’ve already revamped their marketing plans with this course.

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Why I Don’t Care About SEO

Why I Don't Care About SEO

I’ve taught four classes at CreativeLive and each time I’ve gotten questions about SEO which stands for Search Engine Optimization.

It’s basically how you rank when someone searches for you or businesses like you on a search engine such as Google.

Let’s say you’re a modern jewelry designer. If someone pulls up Google and searches for ‘modern sterling silver necklaces,’ your search engine ranking determines if she’ll see your shop listed on the first few pages of results.

People always want to know how to rank higher—how to be found when people search for keywords that relate to their businesses.

When I get questions on SEO, I always say the same thing:

I don’t pay much attention to SEO. I use two plug-ins to do the job for me: Scribe by Copyblogger (which is no longer available for purchase) and the All In One SEO Pack (which is a free plug-in with WordPress).

And, if I’m being honest, half the time, I don’t even plug in the necessary information for these plug-ins to work for me.

I know….bad blogger.

But here’s the thing: SEO doesn’t really impact my business much.

As long as people can find me when they search for my name or the name of my business, I’m good.

You might wonder why I don’t put much effort into SEO. Some might say that I’m losing out on lots of potential business, because I’m not trying to rank higher. I disagree.

My Top Three Reasons for Not Giving an Owl’s Hoot About SEO

1. It’s not how my most loyal customers find me.

If you’re a long-time reader of Blacksburg Belle or have bought from me more than once, you probably didn’t find me by searching for “marketing” or “productivity” or other keyword phrases on Google.

You probably found me through a guest post on another blog or one of my CreativeLive courses or my talks at the Etsy Success Symposium or an interview on another website.

Through the years, I’ve realized that the people who stick with me don’t find me by accidentally landing on my website when they search for something on Google. Those people tend to read the blog post they came for and then leave.

As entrepreneurs, our greatest resource is time. If we waste it on stuff that doesn’t really help our businesses, we’re limiting our own success.

I know that only a tiny percent of my loyal blog readers and customers find me through SEO so why would I waste time on it when I could devote that same time to teaching another course at CreativeLive or answering interview questions for another blogger?

2. I don’t want to sound robotic.

We’ve all read blog posts that were written for SEO purposes and they sound kind of robotic. You see the same phrase being used over and over.

That’s not my style.

People aren’t going to stick around to read my blog posts and sign up for my emails if they don’t connect to my writing. And, I can’t write with personality when I’m focused on SEO.

When people buy from me, it’s usually because they find me through one of the avenues I mentioned previously and then they spend lots of time reading my past blog posts.

I can’t tell you how many emails I’ve received from readers who say something like, “I just spent the past eight hours reading all of your blog posts and taking over twenty pages of notes. I needed even more so I just bought your _____________.”

Those people wouldn’t enjoy my blog posts as much if I were so focused on SEO instead of personality and they probably wouldn’t get sucked into my blog for hours upon hours.

Also, hiring a business consultant is very personal. If I want my business to be successful, I need to do a really good job of sharing my strengths and showing potential clients who I am and how I can help them.

The majority of people who come to my site from search engines aren’t going to be the right fit. But, if someone watches my online course for five hours and then checks out my website and signs up for my emails, she’s probably the exact right fit.

3. My keywords and phrases are highly competitive.

The topics that I help people with (marketing, productivity, blogging) have so much competition that I don’t want to play the ‘what can I do to squirrel my way to the top’ game. It’s not worth my time and even if I tried, I’ll probably never beat out the biggest names vying for the top listings.

Who Should Join the ‘I-Don’t-Care-About-SEO’ Bandwagon

If you’re a service-based business like me or a product-based business with a ton of competition, SEO probably won’t do much for your business.

I recently worked with a jewelry designer who used to make a living from people finding her when searching the web, but in the past few years, the competition has grown so much that SEO no longer does much for her business.

Email marketing, social media, interviews and features will be much more effective in getting the right people on your website and getting them to buy.

This doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t put in a little effort when it comes to SEO, but a plug-in or two could do the trick for you.

Who Should Focus Marketing Time on SEO

SEO isn’t evil. And, even though it doesn’t do much for my business, it might for yours.

If your business is location-based (like a wedding photographer in the Orlando area) or is a very specific niche product-based business (like handmade ceramic animal planters), you should pay attention to SEO.

If you’re a wedding photographer in Orlando, you want people to see your website pop up when they search for “wedding photographer in Orlando” or else you’re going to lose out on a lot of business.

These types of businesses need to learn how to use SEO to get their businesses in front of potential customers.

Interested In Learning More?

If you’re interested in learning more about SEO, I’m not the person to help you. But, I can research, so I’ve compiled some resources that will get you started.

1. SEO Copywriting: The Five Essential Elements to Focus On

2. SEO is Dead: Long Live OC/DC

3. The Idiot-proof Basics of Writing SEO Pages

4. 10 tips for an awesome and SEO-friendly blog post

5. A Visual Guide to Keyword Targeting and On-Page SEO

Have another great resource to get people started with SEO? Leave it in the comments below.

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21 Creative Marketing Ideas to Promote Your Business

21 Creative Ways to Promote Your Business

Are you trying to do things differently this year?

Maybe you’re looking to strategically plan your marketing, get ahead and make sure that your business makes money this year? And, maybe you need more creative ideas for promoting your business throughout the year?

That’s what I’m here for.

I’ve got 21 suggestions to get you started:

1. Vlog your week, highlighting interesting things about your work and business.

2. Blog about your best-selling product of 2015, including a link of where readers can buy it.

3. Tweet about what kind of information you include in your email newsletter and link to your opt-in.

4. Feature one of your loyal customers on Facebook.

5. Host a caption contest on Instagram.

6. Send a coupon to your email list.

7. Pin ten new things on Pinterest, including two of your own items.

8. Look at your statistics to find your most clicked-on blog post and write another on that same topic.

9. Host a webinar, teaching your target market.

10. Periscope a tour of your studio or office, sharing details about how you work.

11. Pitch a guest post to a blog that your target market regularly reads.

12. Send hand-written thank you notes to your most loyal customers.

13. Leave a thoughtful and helpful comment on a blog that your target market regularly reads.

14. Re-write your about page, focusing the first few paragraphs on how you help your customers.

15. Create an infographic that you think your target market will share.

16. Host a video contest, requiring people who enter to publish their videos on YouTube using the same title and description.

17. Add a product comparison guide to your website, showcasing what makes your product different.

18. Offer product samples to potential customers.

19. Pitch an interview to a blogger who regularly posts interviews.

20. Add an unobtrusive pop-up to your website—one that pops up in the lower corner and doesn’t obstruct your readers’ view of your website.

21. Publish a list post on your blog and email your subscribers to let them know about it.

Need more inspiring marketing ideas? Check out my all-inclusive course, Double Your Followers with Creative Marketing.

Have another idea? Something that worked really well for you? Leave it in the comments below!

If you enjoyed this post, you might like these:

How to Use Facebook to Market Your Creative Business (and whether or not you should delete your page)

10 Tips to Double Your Instagram Followers in 30 Days

5 Things You Can Do This Month to Make More Money with Your Business

Comments { 16 }

Top 15 of 2015

Top 15 of 2015

As I close out the year, I spend time reviewing the past year.

I look at the blog posts I wrote, the books that I read, the projects I completed, the goals I met or didn’t quite reach and more.

As I thought about this past year, I thought it’d be fun to share my top 15 favorite things of 2015 with you.

The video is a bit long, so let’s just jump right into it. Brew a cup of tea or pour yourself some eggnog and enjoy:

The list:

1. Volcano candle by Capri Blue

2. Fresh Cream lotion by Philosophy

3. Throat coat tea

4. Necklace by Elizabeth Stone Jewelry

5. Periscope

6. Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert

7. Me Before You by Jojo Moyes

8. The Middle Finger Project

9. POPSUGAR Must-Have Box

10. Polka Dots

11. Kate Spade notebook

12. Winsor & Newton watercolor paints

13. Where Women Create

14. Statement Lip

15. Dr. Jart Water Fuse Water-Full Hydrogel Mask

It’s your turn! What are some of your favorite things from this past year? I’d love to know your favorite book if you were lucky enough to read some really good ones.

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3 of My Favorite Illustrator Tools

You seemed to enjoy my post on how I “sketch” within Illustrator, so today I’m sharing my top three favorite Illustrator tools.

If you’re an old pro when it comes to Illustrator, you’ll probably know all about these tools. But, if you’re newer, I hope these three tools will make the software even more fun for you.

Check out the video below to find out what I use most within Illustrator:

Now it’s your turn! What’s your favorite tool in Illustrator?

Happy holidays!

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5 Questions to Plan Your Best Year Yet (Plus, a FREE Worksheet)

5 Questions to Plan Your Best Year Yet

Before you know it, the whirl of holiday shopping, gingerbread lattes and ugly Christmas sweaters will lead into the New Year’s countdown and the ball dropping.

I’m wishing you warm snuggles by the fire, golden champagne and the best kiss of your life at midnight. What a way to bring in the New Year, amiright?

And, then comes the first day of the New Year.

The air is crisper and everybody has an extra pep in their step, because you get a clean slate. Time for goal setting, list making, new planners.

You tell yourself that it’s going to be different this year. You’re not going to sleepwalk through the year, wondering what the heck happened when December creeps up on you.

If you really want to feel proud of what you accomplished when you sit down with your chai tea latte to review 2016, you’ve got to start now with a solid plan.

It’s needs to be doable but exciting in that way that you don’t know if it’s actually possible because you’re pushing yourself out of your comfort zone.

The difference between going through the motions and getting things done is intention. You can do so much if you start with a clear intention.

These five questions will help you figure out what changes you should make in the next year and what you should focus on.

1. If you only reach ONE big goal by the end of 2016, what would you want it to be?

This gives you a clear indication of how you should spend your time. Huge to-do lists never get accomplished. Instead, figure out what you really want and focus on it. Make sure you put one task that will get you closer to that goal on every daily to-do list and by the end of the year, you’ll be able to cross that goal off your bucket list.

2. What tasks do you want to stop doing by the end of 2016?

To grow your business, you’ve got to delegate. Hiring team members will not only increase your happiness (because you get to focus your work time on stuff you love) but it’ll help you get more done and make more money.

You may not be able to hire an entire team by the end of next year, but if you really want it, you could hire at least one person. Would you want that person to clean your house? Do all of your accounting? Reply to your emails and schedule social media updates?

3. What would you change about how you spent your time in 2015?

The greatest asset you have as an entrepreneur is time. We all get the same amount—24 hours. And, we can all fall into the rabbit hole of making poor choices when it comes to how we spend our time.

Look back on this past year. If you could do it all over again, what would you change?

If I got a do over, I’d start each day by writing. I know that I do my best writing in the morning, but this year, most days I didn’t write until the afternoon. I should’ve blocked out at least an hour at the beginning of the every day and that’s how I’m starting 2016. I guarantee it’ll help me be more prolific and improve my writing.

4. What would you like to invest in next year? How will it help your business?

We’ve all heard the saying that you’ve got to spend money to make money.

Starting an online business is usually inexpensive, but if you want to grow, you’ve got to invest in yourself and your business. Getting your website professionally designed makes a difference. Investing in the best materials for your products makes a difference. Finally buying that new camera makes a difference.

When you invest in your business, you take it more seriously and so do your customers. You can increase your prices and spend less time on marketing.

5. What’s the dream?

You’ve got to know what you’re really working towards if you want to build your business intentionally. Otherwise, you could wind up creating something that you resent or dislike.

Each business decision you make needs to come from a place of intention. That’s how you build the dream. So, what’s your dream?

What does your dream day entail? What’s your dream vacation, workspace, team? How much money do you want to make?

You might not achieve the dream by the end of next year, but you can take lots of steps in that direction.

I hope these five questions help you jumpstart intentional planning for 2016.

And, here’s where you can download your free worksheet to get started.

I’d love to know the answer to one of these questions. You pick the question and leave your answer in the comments below. Let’s cheer each other on!

Comments { 43 }

Use Photographs to “Sketch” in Illustrator

The holiday spirit has swept me away.

Here in the U.S. we’re getting ready for Thanksgiving tomorrow which means I’ll be decorating for Christmas this weekend. YAY!

I thought that I’d break the pattern this week with my blog post to show you something more creative, since I’m feeling inspired. I’ve spent lots of time watercoloring, sketching and knitting.

When I’m in that creative place, I tend to lose hours on my artistic projects. But, there are plenty of times that I hit a creative block and most of the time, it’s in the midst of sketching.

I don’t consider myself an artist in the traditional sense and I’m not always happy with my sketches. Because of that, I’ve learned how to use Illustrator to take a photo and turn it into a sketch that I usually work with to make a watercolor painting.

To help those of you who struggle with the same issue, I’ve created a tutorial on how I use Illustrator. I hope it inspires you!

Do you use Illustrator like this? Have any tips to add? Have any questions about this process? Leave them in the comments below.

For those of you in the United States, Happy Thanksgiving!

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12 Tips to Bring The House Down at Your Next Speaking Engagement

CreativeLiveTypewriter1

It was the day of my first big speaking engagement.

Etsy flew me to NYC to talk to makers about marketing and goal setting.

I had on my newly purchased dress and stilettos covered in silver glitter.

The countdown was on. I had 15 minutes until the next break was over and it was go time. I panicked. Full on ‘everyone looks blurry and all I can hear is a loud buzzing sound’ panic.

I half walked-half sprinted out of the room with my handbag, pulled out my cellphone and called my husband.

Me: “I can’t do this. I’m leaving.”

Him: “What? Aren’t you supposed to go on in minutes?”

Me: “Yeah, but I can’t do it. I’m too nervous. I think I’m going to vomit all over the first row.”

Him: “You can do this. You’re ready. You’ve practiced so many times I know your speech.”

Me: “I’m staring at the elevator and I think I’m just going to get on and leave.”

Him: “Don’t you dare. I promise you’ll be fine.”

I hung up the phone and placed it back in my handbag, my hands shaking and covered in sweat. I promised myself that I’d never accept another speaking offer. This was it. I never wanted to feel like that again, but I’d already committed.

I trudged back into the room, walked to the front and waited to be introduced.

For the first ten minutes of my speech, I shook so bad from head to toe that I wondered if everyone else could see it. But, I hit a stride after that first ten minutes and by the end, I was riding high on adrenaline and pride.

Etsy had loved both of my presentation ideas so much that they asked me to do both of them. My second speech was at the end of the day.

When I stepped up to the mic for the second time, the nerves had disappeared and all I could feel was excitement.

That day I found my love for public speaking and I haven’t looked back.

I recently shared five tips for landing your first speaking engagement and today I’m sharing twelve tips for improving your speeches and presentations.

CreativeLiveTypewriterKeys

1. Know your audience.

Ever have to chug lattes (hello stomach ache!) to keep from nodding off at a conference? It might’ve been that the speaker was a dud but it could’ve been that the content wasn’t relevant so it didn’t engage you.

Don’t make this humongous mistake as a speaker. Tailor each of your presentations to your audience if you want to engross them and, even more importantly, actually help them.

If you’re talking to a group of beginners, you’ll lose the audience if you use terminology that only experts know. And, if you’re teaching a bunch of experts, you’re not going to want to focus on beginner skills unless you want your attendees looking for a fire alarm to pull just to get out of there.

This usually entails learning a bit about the audience you’re addressing. Many conference organizers have audience members fill out surveys before the event, so ask the organizers if they have any background information on the audience.

2. Practice, practice, practice.

Even though this tip couldn’t be more obvious, so many people wing it when it comes to speaking at conferences or teaching online. Just because you’re an expert on the topic doesn’t mean you don’t have to practice.

The only way to get more comfortable come game time is to run all the routes over and over. If you want to step onto the stage confident, you’ve got to practice. The more you practice, the better you’ll do. I pinky promise.

And, just in case this isn’t clear, practicing alone isn’t the same as practicing in front of people. Before my first speaking engagement, I practiced in front of my husband and mother-in-law to get used to speaking to actual human beings.

Before my last CreativeLive course, I taught some of the material to the studio audience in the weeks leading up to it via group Spreecast calls.

3. Be yourself after an espresso shot (or two).

It doesn’t matter whether you tossed and turned barely getting two hours of sleep or a solid eight hours the night before. You need to be energized.

We’ve all been at a conference or watched an online course where the person’s monotone performance ruins their speech. You do NOT want to be that person.

You also don’t want to say things that you’d never really say in order to sound cool or smarter. Be your creative, beautiful self.

Bonus Tip: I have a pre-public speaking playlist that I jam out to while getting my hair and makeup done (or while I’m doing my hair and makeup). This helps to get my adrenaline flowing and keeps me from focusing on what could go wrong.

4. When something goes wrong, laugh at yourself.

90% of the time something goes wrong. You blank out mid-sentence. You say something silly, something you would never say if you’d had time to think about it. The powerpoint doesn’t work. You accidentally skip two slides ahead.

It happens to every speaker. As long as you don’t take yourself too seriously, neither will the audience. If you laugh at yourself, they’ll chuckle and you’ll move on.

If you panic or freak out, it’ll make the audience uncomfortable and can throw you off for the entire presentation. And, that’ll be the main thing the audience remembers.

5. Pause or take a breath instead of using filler words.

You can avoid the dreaded ‘um’ ‘uh’ ‘ah’ filler words that are distracting to the audience if you pause or take a breath instead.

The first time I taught at CreativeLive, my content producer was amazed at how little I said ‘um’ or ‘uh.’ In fact, he wanted to know how I avoided them. Easy. I didn’t try to fill every single space. (Oh, and I practiced until filler words were a thing of the past. PRACTICE please!)

6. Give them an action item.

Keep the audience engaged well after your speech by giving them a bit of homework. Don’t completely overwhelm them. Instead, give them one thing they can do that day to improve their lives.

You get bonus points if that one thing gets them to your website and signed up for your email list.

7. Don’t be afraid of answering questions.

The first time I spoke at a conference, I was nervous about audience questions. You can’t really prepare for them and that’s scary. However, I quickly found that audience questions can add more than anything else to a speech or course.

My CreativeLive courses would NOT be the same without the amazing studio audience members. Embrace the power of the audience instead of fearing it.

8. When you don’t know something, just say so.

When someone asks you something that you don’t know the answer to, don’t stammer out a vague answer or worse, an incorrect answer. Just say that you don’t know. Peoople don’t expect you to be an expert at everything and you’ll be more likable and respected if you’re honest about what you know and what you don’t.

9. Lead with your best stuff.

If you capture your audience’s attention in the beginning, they’ll be more likely to stick with you.

What’s your best story related to the topic? Lead with that.

10. Know your contingency plan.

Let’s say the worst happens. What will you do?

When I spoke at the Etsy Success Symposium, I had a couple worse case scenarios in mind: 1) I trip in my high heels. 2) I draw a blank and can’t remember what I wanted to say.

I decided that if I tripped in my sparkling stilettos, I’d laugh and keep going and if I drew a blank, I had notecards with the main points I wanted to cover just in case. I didn’t want to rely on my notecards, but they were there if I needed them.

Give yourself a safety net, especially if you’re nervous.

11. Dress to impress.

This is not the time to pull out your well-worn sweater and leggings. You want the audience to take you seriously and you want to feel confident.

The most important part of your outfit, hair and makeup is remain true to who you are and your style. If you never wear dresses, you’ll probably feel awkward in a dress.

If you love polka dots, rock those polka dots. You want to show up as your best version of yourself.

12. Don’t let them see you sweat.

No matter what happens, remain calm. You’ve practiced. You’ve got a backup plan for the worst-case scenarios. You can do this.

And, often the audience doesn’t know when something doesn’t go according to plan. Remember that this is the first time they’re seeing your presentation. They don’t know if you missed a point. They have no idea that you spilled soup on the cuff of your shirt and had to roll your sleeves up to hide it (that actually happened to me).

As long as you stay calm, so will the audience.

I hope these twelve tips help you take your next speech from so-so to can’t-get-enough.

Have something to add? Leave it in the comments below. I’d love to hear from you.

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5 Tips for Landing Your First Speaking Engagement

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Are you one of the few who gets a little spark of excitement thinking about speaking in front of a live audience?

Many people feel their chests restrict and palms perspire just from thinking about stepping out on a stage, lights shining in their eyes, with the task of teaching and entertaining a group of strangers.

The more speaking engagements I tackle, the more questions I get from brave (or slightly crazy) creative entrepreneurs with similar dreams. And, the most common question I receive is: How do I get started with speaking and teaching?

That’s why I’m going to share my top five tips for landing your first speaking engagement (and hopefully many more).

1. Give away your best content for free.

Whenever I give this advice to a group of creatives, their faces turn into blank, dazed expressions. And, then the next question is always, “If I give away my best stuff for free, why would people pay for my products and services?”

If you’re giving away high-quality content, your target market will ache to devour more. They’ll pay, because they know they can trust you. If they’re already getting a lot out of your free content, they’ll assume they’ll get even more when they buy from you. It’s the best way to build trust with your readers and subscribers.

When you share your best content, it has a much better chance of getting in front of the right person, maybe the person who chooses the speakers at your favorite conference. And, when that person checks out your blog and sees that you’re indeed an expert, she might just reach out to you and invite you to speak at the conference of your dreams.

If your content is crap, what are the chances you’ll receive that invitation? I’m gonna go with zilch.

2. Use video to show that you can speak about your topic eloquently.

Something I’ve learned through working with people who are ones that invite entrepreneurs to speak at conferences or on online platforms is that they like to know that you can talk about your topic in a way that engages people.

If they come to your blog and find only written posts, they can tell that you can write about your topic but that’s very different than discovering that you can talk about your topic.

You can use video to show off your expertise in talking about your niche or you could use a platform like Periscope.

3. Get the dish from past speakers or instructors.

If you know that there’s a particular platform or conference that you want to speak at, you should connect with someone who’s already spoken with that company or at that conference.

Reach out on social media. Build up a relationship over the course of a few weeks. Then email the person, letting her know that you’ve been thinking about speaking at ‘xyz’ and you’d love to know a little bit about her experience.

Getting some of the inside scoop could help you know exactly what they’re looking for or who you should talk to or email about your interest. It never hurts.

4. Build your speaking resume by saying yes to smaller opportunities.

Don’t start by pitching your dream conference. If you don’t have any experience speaking in front of a live audience, they’ll be less likely to say yes. And, if they do say yes, you’ll be less likely to do a great job if it’s your very first time.

Instead of starting with speaking engagements, say yes to (or pitch) interview opportunities. Speak at an online summit. Once you’ve had the opportunity to talk about your topic a bunch of times, you’ll be much more successful when you’re teaching at your dream retreat or conference.

5. Send in your pitch.

Eventually, you’ve got to hold your breath and send in your pitch.

Many conferences and online platforms have submission guidelines. Follow them, highlighting your previous experiences (even if that means a handful of interviews) and pointing to examples of where they can see you speaking (which might be a page of videos on your blog).

They’re looking for speakers and you could be just what they’re looking for. You’ll never know until you try.

If you’re hoping to land some speaking engagements in the upcoming year, use these tips to get started.

Have other questions about speaking engagements? Ask them in the comments below and I’ll answer them in a Periscope sometime next week.

Have a tip that I didn’t include? Share it in the comments below!

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