My Love Affair with Writing (And, how you can improve your copywriting skills)

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For this blog post, I’m supposed to talk about how I use writing in my business.

Well, it’s pretty simple. Writing is my business.

Almost everything I do within my business includes writing: blog posts, email marketing, Instagram captions, Facebook posts, sales pages, tweets, Keynote slides, workbook pages and more.

You might be one of those people who cringes when thinking about creating a business that’s based on that much writing.

I know people who’d rather lick their spouses’ toenails after a long hike than spend most of their days writing.

For me, writing is my happy place. It’s my meditation, and my second true love after my husband.

I set out to build a business around the things that I love: writing, teaching and creating. The result is Blacksburg Belle.

The funny thing is that writing wasn’t always something I loved or even enjoyed. In grad school, writing became one of those “ugh…pleeeeeease no more” kind of things. But, that was mostly because writing grad school papers was all about figuring out what the professor wanted you to say, not really putting into words what you thought or felt.

It took me about a year after graduating to realize that writing for pleasure made me extremely happy.

And, once I found my writer’s voice and stopped writing to get an “A” on a paper, writing became this wondrous thing that I enjoyed so much that I’d call in sick just to have an entire day to write.

My love affair with writing began.

I started a blog, landed a bunch of freelance writing gigs, and sought more and more ways to spend my time writing.

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You may not love writing as much as me, but if you have an online business, you’ve got to get good at it.

I’ve made as much as $10,000 from one email. The only reason I made that much money is because my words connected with my readers.

To get to that point, I’ve learned a lot about copywriting. Practiced what I learned. Learned some more. Practiced some more. And, so on and so on. (And, if you’re wondering what copy is, it’s writing in which you’re trying to sell something or get your readers to do something like email marketing campaigns, Facebook posts, sales pages and blog posts.)

There’s no easy way to learn how to write copy that drives your target market to do what you want them to do whether that be clicking the buy button or sharing your blog post on social media or leaving a comment.

But, there are some shortcuts. The best shortcut is to learn from someone who’s really damn good at writing copy. Instead of trying to figure all of this stuff out on your own, I recommend you read books and take courses that help you get there much quicker.

That leads me to the point of this blog post.

This post is part of Kris Windley’s blog hop to celebrate the launch of her writing workshop. She emailed me a week and a half ago asking if I’d participate and I knew I had to try.

I first “met” Kris when she asked thought provoking questions during my first CreativeLive course. From the questions she asked and the comments she made, I felt like she was someone I needed to get to know better.

You know those people that you instantly connect with?

Kris is one of those people for me.

When I signed my second contract with CreativeLive to teach another course, one of the first things I thought about was the studio audience. I wanted Kris to be in it. We emailed back and forth a few times. I kept encouraging her to do what she needed to do to get herself to San Francisco.

She came and it was so much fun to work with her.

At the end of those three days, my content producer said to me, “Kris with a K…she’s going places. I can’t wait to see what she creates.”

I have been nagging Kris over the past six months to produce some sort of writing course or digital product, because she’s got so much to offer and she’s extremely talented.

Guess what? Her writing course, Craft Your Voice, starts on May 25th.

I often don’t do this. I hardly ever write promotional posts for other people’s stuff, mainly because I want to keep most of my blog posts full of helpful tips and advice. But, I couldn’t resist this one. (Plus, it’s really cool that Kris is giving away a scholarship and want you to have the chance to enter. Details below!)

You should check out Kris’ writing process challenge and her upcoming course if you want help with writing better copy. And, remember, better copy equals more money in the bank.

I’m participating in a Blog Link-up with Kris (With a K), from www.withakwriting.com, because she wants to hear about the role writing plays in our businesses.

She is giving a Writing Workshop for entrepreneurs and bloggers, starting May 25th, and she wants to give away a scholarship to one of the lovely bloggers who participate in this link up. You can participate and get a chance to win too.

Just copy and paste this bolded text into the introduction of your blog post answering the question, “How has writing been beneficial to your business, and what do you want to Craft with your Voice next?”

Finally, go back to Kris’s blog on or after May 12th to add your link to the link-up party there, and you could win a scholarship to her new course: Craft Your Voice. She’ll be drawing a name on the 18th of May for a COMPLETE scholarship to the 6 week writing course, so you can write and link-up your post any time before then.

Have other resources for improving your copywriting? Leave them in the comments below. (This is one of those things that it’s the more, the better!)

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Adventures in Watercolor (And, of course, a few business lessons)

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I write, knit, make jewelry, and love spending the day behind my camera, snapping hundreds of photos.

But, I’ve always envied artists. I’ve spent many hours painting with acrylics, creating patterns in Illustrator and doodling in my art journal. And, while I enjoy all of those things and will continue to do them, none of them have felt like ‘my thing.’

For the past six years, I’ve been on the hunt for my medium. Because I enjoy making art so very much, I kept thinking that I just hadn’t found the right format because nothing clicked and felt completely natural.

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Out of all of the options, watercolor was never on my list.

I thought I’d hate how unpredictable it is–how little control you have when painting with it. I avoided it, thinking that it was absolutely NOT my thing.

I don’t know why I finally decided to give it a go, but I told my mother-in-law that I wanted to learn how to paint with watercolors a little more than a year ago.

Since she’s an artist and taught art for many years, she gave me a lesson. I had fun that day, but it didn’t make me fall head over heels for watercolor. It became another medium that I enjoyed but didn’t adore to pieces.

I set aside the watercolors, not thinking much about it.

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Months later, I checked out Yao Cheng’s Beginning Watercolor class on Creativebug and something stirred in me.

I realized that the more traditional watercolor painting I created with my mother-in-law might’ve been the disconnect. I also figured out that while the inexpensive watercolor cake palette I was using was financially a good choice, the watercolor paint itself would make a huge difference to my experience.

Because I’m an all or nothing person, I decided to invest about $500 in the best quality paints, brushes and paper. I had this tugging in my soul that told me I was making the right decision while my wallet screamed, “don’t do it.”

When I painted my way through the activities of Yao’s course, my happy meter exploded.

I finally feel like I’ve found my medium–the one that I get giddy over and sweeps me up and away for hours at a time.

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I’m not a pro or watercolor artist by any means. And, I’m not trying to become a watercolor artist. Instead I’m using watercolor in areas of my business.

For example, I’m using many of my watercolor creations as the backdrop to workbook pages for my next CreativeLive course (eek! more details to come soon).

Throughout this process of trying to find my medium, I’ve learned quite a few things. Some of which might help you:

1) Play and experiment often.

You never know when you’re going to find your next passion.

2) Don’t dismiss things without giving them a try.

The thing you think you won’t like might be the thing you end up loving.

3) When creating your business, leave space for growth.

When I started Blacksburg Belle, I didn’t have a clue that it would include photography or watercolor or speaking engagements. I imagined business consulting and blogging. Thankfully, I didn’t box myself into a tiny casket with limited wiggle room. Although I don’t sell photographs or watercolor paintings (and I don’t think I ever will), I use them in my business. My photography is a big piece of my brand and I bet I’ll be saying the same thing about watercolor in a year or two.

4) Include all of you in your business.

So often I work with creatives who feel like they have to compartmentalize, leaving out parts of their personalities from their businesses. Your business becomes MORE unique when you put together more than one of your passions. I mean…I don’t know any other business consultant who has built her business around writing, teaching, photography and now watercolors. There might be another, but the more of ME I put into my business, the more unlike anything else it becomes.

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What about you? Have you segmented yourself for your business? Is there a creative way you could include another passion in your business? Have you already created something unique by combining your passions?

Share in the comments below!

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10 Business Lessons from Dancing With the Stars

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Up until this season, I haven’t been a fan of Dancing with the Stars. I always wondered what all the hype was about but never made the time to check it out.

Last season I watched a handful of episodes, because I thought it was interesting that one of the stars was a YouTuber.

The show pulled me in almost instantly.

And now I look forward to Monday nights, because Dancing with the Stars puts me in such a good mood. I can’t help but smile, sway in my seat and get excited when my favorite couples dance.

As I’ve been indulging in the show, I’ve noticed that there are a ton of lessons you can learn from it and apply to business. Whether or not you’re a fan of the show, these lessons can help you move in the right direction.

1. Practice is essential.

The stars who get the highest scores practice. A lot.

No matter what you do, if you want to succeed and be one of the best at your craft, you’ve got to practice. Then, practice some more and some more.

I’ve been sharing my watercolor experiments on Instagram over the past month, and the lovely Jenny Shih commented on one of my photos that she has a hard time making art, because she’s not yet good enough to display or use what she creates. She wanted to know what I did with all my play experiments.

I used to feel like this—like everything I created needed to be something I could use, display or sell. Now, I know better. If I don’t give myself room to create crap, I’ll never get to the good stuff.

Half of my watercolor experiments go straight to the trash and that’s okay.

2. Creativity breeds creativity.

The pros on Dancing with the Stars have to choreograph entertaining dances every single week. And, it seems like the dances get better and better each week, as if creating routines each week inspires more creativity.

When I tell entrepreneurs to give away their best stuff on their blogs, I can tell from the seat squirming and unsure stares that they’re hesitant. They think that if they give away their best stuff, that’s it.

Actually, when you’re sharing your best content and ideas, you’ll come up with more. Start to look at things from a place of abundance, instead of scarcity. Remind yourself that there’s always more where that came from.

3. Stepping out of your comfort zone pays off.

Most of the stars who come onto the show aren’t dancers. They’re stepping way out of their comfort zones, but the growth that they experience over the course of the show is amazing.

All of the times I’ve experienced extreme growth in my business have come when I’ve leaped out of my comfort zone: hosting a blog series, speaking at the Etsy Success Symposium, pitching a guest post to Design*Sponge, teaching at CreativeLive.

What have you done lately to get out of your warm, comfortable bubble?

4. Mind over matter.

On one of the episodes this season the host asked Derek Hough (one of the pro dancers) if he was tired, because he’s been flying back and forth between LA and New York. He films Dancing with the Stars in LA but he’s got shows every week in New York.

When asked if he was exhausted, he said, “Mind over matter. Mind over Matter.”

There are going to be days that you don’t want to do your work. There are going to be times when you’ve got to push through and finish when you just want to hunker down in front of the television for a marathon of Friends.

A lot of people don’t know that the first time I taught at CreativeLive, I got extremely sick. We had to pause filming a few times so I could throw up, brush my teeth and get back on camera. Often, the CreativeLive team would ask if I needed some time to relax before hopping back on camera and every time I told them no. It was all about mind over matter.

5. You should always stick to your values.

This week, Allison and Riker received a sexually explicit song by Missy Elliot as their song to dance to, but they asked for another song because it didn’t work with who Riker is as a person. They lost two rehearsal days because of it, but I respect them both for it.

Whenever you’re asked to do something that you don’t believe in, like promote a product you’ve never used, always say no.

When I was teaching at CreativeLive, I asked the student audience why they pick me to learn from, because there are plenty of business consultants. I’m definitely not the only one around. One of the reasons they gave was because I don’t have ads or paid promotional posts on my website. Because of that, they enjoy being on my website more and trust me more.

I get asked by companies to put ads on my website or write paid promotional posts every single day. I always say no.

6. Your “fans” matter.

There are stars who get booted off the show even though they’re getting the highest scores, because people aren’t voting for them.

If all of you stopped giving me your attention, I wouldn’t have a business. I truly appreciate you!

In return for your attention, I try to provide entertaining, valuable content that helps you get closer to the creative business of your dreams.

7. When you lack confidence, we can smell it like eighty-seven rotten eggs.

Whether you’re dancing on national television or selling a product, if you don’t believe in yourself or your products, everyone can tell.

You’ve got to believe in your business or your customers won’t. If you’re not confident right now, what will help you build that confidence? More practice? Taking some classes? Working harder? Revamping your products?

Whatever it is, do it.

8. Relationships can help you succeed.

On Dancing with the Stars, the relationships between the stars and pros matter. If the chemistry is lacking, the dance isn’t as good. And, if a star is dancing with a pro with his or her own fan base, that can take the star far in the competition.

Relationships can do amazing things for your business.

When you’re connected to some of the “big names” in your niche, your social proof exponentially increases. When you have an accountability partner, you’ll be more likely to follow through. When you’re connected to other creative entrepreneurs, you can get crucial feedback and support when you need it most.

9. You should focus on your strengths.

The pros who focus on the star’s strengths and build dances around those strengths do best.

It’s the same in business. Instead of spending lots of time on your weaknesses, focus on your strengths.

If you love Instagram and connect with your target market there but hate Twitter, stop spending time on Twitter and spend extra time on Instagram.

If writing isn’t your thing, publish video blog posts.

If your sales copy sucks, hire an expert to help you. And, focus on creating—what you do best.

10. Personality matters. YOU matter.

On Dancing with the Stars, the stars who put their own flare into the dances stand out. They’re more fun to watch.

It’s the same in business. Don’t worry about alienating the people who don’t get you. Focus on the ones who do, the ones who love your personality and can’t get enough. Instead of trying to be everyone’s cup of tea, just be you.

For those of you who also enjoy Dancing with the Stars, is there something that I missed? A lesson you could apply to business? Share in the comments below!

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10 Tips to Double Your Instagram Followers in 30 Days

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When I announced the Instagram Inspiration Challenge a couple weeks ago, two things happened: I realized how many of you also love Instagram and that many of you are semi-new to the platform.

My partner in crime (and business), Mayi Carles, tried to persuade me to join Instagram when the hype started. My reaction: groan, grumble, groan. I didn’t want to join another social media platform.

But, I should’ve listened to Mayi right away and not waited another eight months before finally biting the banana.

Instagram is my jam.

Spending the day taking and editing photos is up there with an Anthropologie shopping spree for me—that’s how much I enjoy it. Plus, my target market (i.e., creative entrepreneurs…you guys!) is all about that Instagram.

Like anything new, I dove in headfirst. I don’t know how to just dip my toe into anything…it’s not my nature. Thanks for that, Mom!

I’ve learned a lot about what works and what doesn’t. What grows a following and what stifles it.

And, I want to share it with you, because if you’re a creative entrepreneur, you really should be using Instagram to grow your brand. It’s the place to be nowadays so bite the banana and let’s do this.

Over the past thirty days I’ve nearly doubled my following on Instagram and you can easily do the same if you spend some time improving your presence. You with me?

Drum roll….

Here are the ten tips that will help you improve your Instagram account and double your followers in one month:

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1. Keep it cohesive.

Out of all of the tips I give you, this one is the most important.

When I started my Instagram account, I was all over the place with the type of pictures that I was sharing: lots of sad selfies, flowers I found on walks, smoothies and doggies gone wild. That might’ve been fine if that represented my brand, but it didn’t.

If you scroll through my profile, you’ll see the exact moment I sharpened my focus. I recognized that if I wanted you to follow me on Instagram, I needed to get very clear on what you’d get from me if you did.

This doesn’t mean that I can’t share all different types of photos but they all need to feel like they belong. For me, that means I needed to combine two things in every photo: my distinct photo styling and editing. When I blend those two things, each photo has a similar “feel.”

The other themes for my Instagram account are: soft, white space with pops of color, and the combination of vintage and modern. Do you get that when you look at the most recent forty photos of my account? I sure hope so.

Those forty photos are how I’ve doubled my following in about thirty days.

There are tons of ways to make your account feel cohesive. You could focus on family and fabric or fashion and florals or patterns and color.

Whatever you decide, give yourself enough room so that you don’t feel creatively suffocated but focused enough that all the photos feel like they should be there.

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2. Edit your photos.

After building a cohesive page, editing your photos is the second thing you need to do before adding each photo.

On Instagram it’s obvious what stands out: beautiful photos. You don’t get that by publishing unedited photos.

My favorite apps for iPhone photos are: Facetune for selfies (see the magic that happens when you whiten your teeth, give your lashes a bit more detail and smooth over your crow’s feet) and Afterlight for everything else.

I find beauty in photos that are more natural, but even those photos often need a little tweaking whether that be boosting the light or getting rid of the bluish tint.

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3. Edit what you share.

Stop sharing every photo you take. Like my friend Mayi says, “You shouldn’t share the photos that only Granny really wants to see.”

Remember that you want to build a cohesive account.

For every photo you see me share, there are at least twenty that don’t make the cut. Keep those for your family albums.

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4. Take lots of photos so that you have lots to choose from.

When I’m sharing a selfie, I take at least twenty different options, trying out lots of different angles and light. You want to share your best self.

When I post a photo of vase of flowers, I can guarantee that I took at least fifteen different options and usually it’s more like thirty or fifty.

If you want people to follow you, you’ve got to work for it. Give them a reason to add your account to their feed by taking this seriously.

And, remember that your Instagram account is a reflection of your brand. You want it to be a positive reflection or what’s the point?

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5. Don’t just settle for the photos you take on your phone.

Another thing I did that made a huge difference to the quality of photos I share and helped me gain a lot more followers is posting photos I took with my “real” camera.

You don’t have to have a DSLR or anything fancy, but don’t just use photos you take on your phone. Use your camera to take photos for your Instagram account, edit them on your computer with Photoshop or Pic Monkey, email them to yourself, open the email on your phone, save the photos to your camera roll and then you can pull them up via Instagram. It sounds like a lot of steps but it isn’t really, especially when you do this in batches.

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6. Be social. Engage with your followers.

I get so frustrated when someone tells me that a social media platform isn’t working for her and I take a look and she isn’t social on it. Are you kidding me?

Instagram is a social media platform. Social being the operative word so get social. I spend about ten minutes a day clicking on the profiles of people who like and comment on my photos and like and comment on some of their photos. Spread the goodwill and it’ll come back to you tenfold.

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7. Write thoughtful captions and use hashtags wisely.

Even though photos on Instagram take top priority, your captions matter. The better the caption, the more likes and comments you’ll get. Take a few minutes to write something that’s filled with your personality instead of rushing to post. I promise you’ll see a difference in engagement.

You also want to take some time to think of the hashtags you use for each photo. That’s how people who aren’t following you will find your photos. When deciding on hashtags, try to think in specifics.

For example, if you use #pancakes for your hashtag, it’s gonna get buried much faster than if you use #blueberrypancakes #blueberrypancakerecipe and #glutenfreepancakerecipe.

Did you know that one of the top reasons people unfollow others on social media is the misuse of hashtags? It’s true. We don’t like spammy people who are just trying to get people to click on their photos. Only use relevant hashtags unless you want to irritate your followers.

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8. Join an Instagram challenge.

One of the main reasons I started the Instagram challenge for this month is to help all of us creative Belles find one another on the platform. And, it’s working! Not only have many more of you started following me, but you’ve also started following each other by searching for the hashtag #BelleInstaInspiration.

My husband is participating in the challenge because he’s just that awesome and supports his wife. Swoon. And, on the first day, I remember him saying that he got more likes and comments on his photo than any of his previous photos on Instagram.

It’s a social platform so you’ll be more successful if you join social things and connect with others who have similar interests and values.

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9. Plan things out. Start a content calendar. Be consistent.

I recently told a lovely creative entrepreneur that she should plan out the content she’s going to share on Instagram and I could feel the eye roll in her response.

Here’s the thing: when you plan this stuff out, it actually makes it easier.

It might sound like a lot of work at first, but it will actually cut down on the time you spend on social media. I pinky promise.

If you’re serious about growing your Instagram following and using it to promote your business, I suggest posting one to three photos a day. That way, people start to take notice of your photos and pay more attention to them. You build trust with your followers and that’s everything when it comes to marketing your online business.

I’ve set a rule for myself to post one to two pictures a day. But, I don’t take new photos for Instagram every single day. That wouldn’t be a good use of my time. Instead, I’ll spend thirty minutes twice a week taking photos for multiple days.

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10. Do something worthy of sharing.

The other big way to grow your following fast is for others to share your handle/profile and photos (regram) with their followers. If you want others to encourage their followers to follow you, you’ve got to do something worthy of sharing.

That could mean that you have a beautiful profile with gorgeous photos that people can’t wait to share. It could mean hosting your own Instagram challenge. It could mean that you give people a reason to use a hashtag and search for that hashtag to find others. It could mean hosting a giveaway—giving away something that everyone wants (like a Life is Messy Kitchen cookbook!).

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There you have it, my ten tips to improve your Instagram game and double your followers in one month.

I know this might seem like a lot of work, but if you want people to add you to their feeds and give you their attention, you’ve got to give them a good reason to do so. We’re all busy and everybody is vying for our attention.

Stand out among the clutter instead of adding to it!

I’d love to hear from you. Is there a tip that you’d add that I didn’t cover? What have you done to grow your Instagram following? Have you done any of these things and if so, did it work? Leave your thoughts in the comments below.

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Instagram Inspiration Challenge for the Month of April

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One of the questions I get asked over and over is: what type of content should I be sharing?

What should I blog about? What should I email my list about? What should I share on social media?

Sometimes we make this stuff way too difficult, because we’re overthinking it. It shouldn’t be that hard.

To get you inspired to share more photos on Instagram, I’ve created an Instagram Inspiration Challenge for the month of April. Creativity explodes when you’re given constraints. When you’ve got a focus, you’ll see that you come up with a lot more ideas. That’s the idea behind this challenge.

And if you want more people to follow you, you’ve got to be sharing new content regularly. Daily is even better.

Here’s how you participate:

1. Upload a photo on Instagram inspired by the phrase of the day. (Example: For April 1st, you want to publish a photo on Instagram inspired by “Life is Messy” and on April 2nd, you’ll publish a photo inspired by “Black and White.” And, you’ll continue throughout the month.) Do as many as you can…it’s okay to miss a day or two or more.

2. Include the hashtag #BelleInstaInspiration in the description of your photo so that we can find each others’ photos and follow each other!

3. Connect with the other women participating by searching for the hashtag #BelleInstaInspiration and like and comment on their photos. This challenge is about more than uploading content–it’s about connecting with each other and finding other creatives to follow on Instagram.

4. Download and print (right click and select “download linked file”) the list to keep at your desk as a daily reminder.

5. Comment below to let us know that you’re participating with the link to your Instagram profile.

And, because I want to make this challenge even more fun, I’ll be selecting a winner on May 1st.

That winner will receive: A Life is Messy Kitchen bundle ($67 value) that includes the digital kit, an artist signed copy of Life is Messy Kitchen and an exclusive coloring book with bonuses!

I’ll be picking the winner based on the person who participates the most and gives it her all. I’ll announce the winner right here on May 1st.

I’m publishing the list early in order to give you time to start planning and taking photos. I hope this challenge sparks your creativity.

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10 Most Frequently Asked Blogging Questions Answered

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I get emails every week with questions about blogging, so I’ve compiled the ten most frequently asked questions and answered them below.

1. How often should I blog?

There isn’t a perfect rule for this. You do NOT need to blog every day or three times a week, especially if your blog isn’t your business which it usually isn’t. If your blog is a tool to market your business and connect with your target market, try once a week.

Always choose quality over quantity.

2. Does my blog design really matter?

YES! You’ve got seven to ten seconds to make your first impression. Within those seconds, each person decides whether to spend more time with you or leave.

If you don’t hire a web designer, I recommend that you find a theme for your website that is simple and classy. And, do not add a bunch of clutter—less is more.

3. Should I start on a free platform or should I start with WordPress?

If you want your blog to look professional and you’re blogging for your business, you need your own website.

I recommend using WordPress. That means you need to: get a domain ($10+/year), pay for hosting ($5+/month) and pick a theme.

4. What theme are you using for your blog?

I use Canvas by WooThemes, because it’s completely customizable. I love it.

5. How do you deal with spam?

I use the plug-in, Askimet. It catches 99.9% of my spam comments. I have to delete about two spam comments a week which isn’t bad considering I would have to delete hundreds if I didn’t use Askimet.

6. How can I monetize my blog?

I spent an entire segment on monetization in my CreativeLive course, Build a Successful Creative Blog, because this a HUGE topic. To get you started, ads and promoted posts aren’t the way to go unless your business model is built on promoting other businesses.

If you’re a creative entrepreneur selling your own products or services, don’t include ads or promoted posts on your blog because it takes away from your business and that’s what you want your readers to focus on. Instead, use your blog to give your readers an inside look into your business and talk about your products in creative ways.

7. Can I use pictures I find online in my blog posts?

If they aren’t your pictures and they don’t have a creative commons license, you shouldn’t use them unless you get permission from the photographer. Don’t pull pictures off of Pinterest and use them on your blog unless you want to put yourself in a precarious legal position.

8. Where can I find pictures to use on my blog?

I suggest using your own pictures. It’s a way to strengthen your brand. If you don’t enjoy taking photos or don’t want to learn how to take good quality photos, you can purchase stock photos, find creative commons for commercial use photos, higher a photographer to provide photos or use free stock photos like the ones on Death to Stock Photo.

9. Do I need to pay attention to SEO?

SEO stands for search engine optimization and is the process of affecting how your website is found with search engines like Google. Yes, you should pay attention to SEO, because you want people to find you by searching for keywords online but you don’t need to spend a ton of time on it. I use plug-ins (All in One SEO Pack and Scribe) to help me with SEO.

10. What are the best ways to get more readers?

First, publish high-quality blog posts that your readers love and can’t get enough of. If your blog posts are good, your readers will share them for you!

Second, you have to market your blog like you do your products and services. You can’t build it and expect that they’ll come. The things that brought me the most readers have been: guest posting, speaking engagements, interviews, hosting blog tours and using social media to promote my posts.

Want more information about blogging? Check out my CreativeLive course, Build a Successful Creative Blog. I cover everything from what you should blog about to how to build a loyal readership to how to make real money from blogging.

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Operation World Domination: A B-School Mastermind for Creators and Innovators

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B-School has once again taken over the internet.

Lots of well-known entrepreneurs are saying the same thing: buy B-School from me.

They’re shouting from the rooftops about B-School for a couple of reasons: 1) They know how great it is. 2) They get a commission from each sale.

Even though Mayi and I get a piece of the apple pie if you buy B-School through our affiliate link, there is no way we’d promote it if we didn’t believe in it.

Three years ago, we both invested in B-School, spending nearly two thousand dollars each when neither of us were in a position to be investing that much money in a course.

Neither one of us regrets that decision for a second. We’ve both moved from barely paying the bills to living the dream with the help of Marie Forleo’s B-School.

If you’re here trying to decide wether or not to jump on the B-School party bus, I want to help you decide if it’s the right decision for you. Mayi and I are hosting a happy hour to discuss all things B-School on February 25th at 4pm EST. You can reserve your spot and get a reminder email right here.

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We know that it’s a big investment. We also know that it isn’t the right fit for everyone. Join us on that call, and we’ll help you figure out whether or not it’s the right time for you to register for B-School.

Because we know how much B-School can help creative entrepreneurs, we put together a bonus package to make your decision easier and your B-School experience even better. It includes a membership to our mastermind: weekly live calls during the program, a B-School survival guide, access to a private Facebook group and the coolest mug in the galaxy.

We wanted to recreate the cozy, sisterhood experience we had when we went through B-School. Because the program is so successful, there are thousands of members in the B-School community, making it overwhelming at times. Mayi and I loved how much personal attention and support we got when we went through course and wanted to give that to anyone who purchases B-School through our affiliate link.

You can find all the details of our bonus package, Operation World Domination, right here. If you have any questions, email them to blacksburgbelle@gmail.com and I’ll be happy to help you in your decision process.

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Five Tips for Maximizing In-Person Events + Retreat Schedule Announced!

I get giddy with excitement before a big event. Even though I’m an introvert at heart, I enjoy pushing myself out of my elastic waist pants comfort zone at least once or twice a year for a conference or retreat.

When I attend an event in person, either as a speaker or attendee, I always come away inspired and electrified. The feeling, a bubbly excitement, can’t be replicated by anything else. It takes meeting new people, learning in person and experiencing epiphanies with other creatives.

As I pick out my outfits, including giant polka dotted skirts and comfy sweaters, prepare my talk on creating your own success, and chat with the other women hosting the event about the food, surprises and details for The Movers and Makers Summit, I can’t help but count down the days.

There’s still time to join us but there aren’t many spots left so if you’re interested, I’m elated to share the official Movers and Makers Summit retreat schedule which has just been announced.

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Whether you’re joining us for The Movers and Makers Summit or attending another event this year, I’m going to share the five biggest tips I’ve learned while attending my fair share of conferences.

In person events are amazing for finding like-minded entrepreneurs and establishing solid connections with them. This is where you can meet an accountability partner, a group who forms a mastermind, or even a business partner.

Or maybe you find that person who you mesh with so well that you become true friends who chat about business and life each week. You could meet your Mayi. You never really know.

When you invest in a retreat or conference, you want to make the most out of it.

1. Connect before you arrive.

Don’t wait until the day of the event to start developing connections. Reach out to others attending on social media or via email. And, if you can tell that you like someone, ask if they want to have lunch with you one of the days, if they want to grab a cocktail in the evening or want to meet for coffee before it begins.

If you’re introverted, this can help to reduce some anxiety before arriving at a conference or retreat.

For The Movers and Makers Summit, Lisa created a Facebook group so that the hosts and attendees can start to learn about each other’s businesses and chat well before the start of the event. It’s been really fun getting to know the women joining us in Charleston.

2. Quality over quantity!

Don’t worry about meeting everyone in the room at a conference of 100 women. Don’t freak out about the amount of business cards you trade. And, don’t push your products on people.

Instead, get to know the people you really click with so that you leave with quality connections.

When you just trade business card after business card, you often don’t follow up with those people. You probably won’t even remember what you talked about for the two minutes you chatted three weeks later.

When I attended Marie Forleo’s conference, I spent a lot of time with Mayi. We ate lunch together each day, we talked during some of the breaks and our relationship grew so much because of it. I met some other women who I still keep in touch with but that was because I wasn’t trying to meet every single woman in that room.

3. Make the most out of your time.

If there’s an option to come thirty minutes early to mingle and drink tea or coffee, do it. If there is a meet and greet the evening before, attend it. During the breaks, take care of business and then connect with attendees and speakers.

Take notes and stay 100% present during the presentations. Put your cell phone on silent (cause that’s good manners) and stay off of it (so you don’t get distracted).

Move during the breaks so that you can focus during the talks. Ask another attendee to walk around the block with you. Stand up and stretch a bit. Go into the bathroom and have a one-minute dance party. Do what you need to do to stay comfortable and attentive.

4. Follow up within a week.

You know those really great, meaningful relationships that you worked so hard to build during the conference or retreat? Don’t drop them. Use the person’s business card to find her website and follow her on social media.

Send her an email saying how you enjoyed meeting her. Follow up with something she said or brought up while you were chatting. Maybe she mentioned a fun restaurant that you tried out before you left? Thank her for the suggestion. Maybe she talked about how she was struggling with social media? Send her a link to a blog post that you found helpful for dealing with social media overwhelm.

Show her that you were listening and your relationship will grow. Then, suggest that you catch up on Skype next week. You can both share things you did after returning from the conference and give each other feedback.

5. Act right away.

One of the biggest mistakes I see entrepreneurs making after they attend a retreat, conference or course in person is that they wait and wait and wait to start acting on what they learned. They make excuses for why they’re not ready or why they can’t possibly start for at least two months.

When you get home from an in-person event you should be inspired and energized. Use that inspiration to make big changes to your business in a short amount of time. Then, you’ll have developed some amazing relationships and possibly paid for your trip through the growth in your business.

I hope this helps you have more success when you attend an event. Have a tip that I didn’t mention? Leave it in the comments below. 

And, if you want to join us for The Movers and Makers Summit coming up at the end of February, you can get more details and reserve your spot right here. There are only a few left!

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The Trendy Lie You Shouldn’t Believe

Truth about Marketing

Lately I’ve noticed a trend among entrepreneurs slightly bragging about how they’re successful without marketing.

And, every time I read one of those blog posts or hear someone say it in an interview, it makes me really uncomfortable.

Because it isn’t true. (At least 99% of the time it isn’t true.)

Most of these entrepreneurs who are telling you that you shouldn’t have to promote your business in order to be successful do the exact opposite of the advice they’re giving you.

They are writing and publishing blog posts every week. They are emailing their lists. They are growing their lists through interviews and speaking engagements. They are updating their social media accounts regularly.

That’s marketing, people.

Just because you don’t have to spend lots of time promoting every single product or service you offer doesn’t negate all of the time you’ve spent blogging, emailing your list and updating social media. Those people who are following you and reading your blog didn’t just appear out of thin air.

It’s extremely frustrating to see successful (or at least seemingly successful) entrepreneurs pretend that you can sit back, produce good products and earn a full-time or six figure income without marketing.

As if they didn’t spend a lot of time, at least in the beginning, spreading the word about their businesses and products.

When I sat down to write today’s blog post, I wasn’t planning to write about this.

But I got sidetracked, like we all tend to do online, and stumbled across more than one post on more than one blog in which marketing was bashed.

Normally when I see something that I don’t agree with, I just move on to another blog that I gel with more but I couldn’t this time. Especially since I’d heard more than one entrepreneur gloating about their lack of marketing in interviews in the past couple months and this trend is irking me to no end.

I feel like I have to clarify that I’m not at all into the “look at me, look at me” marketing where it feels like the person is yelling at you to buy their stuff.

You know the kind of marketing where you can imagine the person standing on the curb with a poster screaming to come and get your $5 pizza?

That’s what my mind conjures up when I see those blogs where post after post is a picture of a product with a link to buy it online and not much else. Or those Facebook walls that are filled with the same thing: here’s my product—go buy it.

That type of marketing doesn’t work and it gives marketing a bad name.

Good marketing makes you feel excited to buy a product. And, great marketing doesn’t feel like marketing at all.

But for entrepreneurs to claim that they’re successful without spending a good chunk of time promoting their businesses is confusing and deceptive to new entrepreneurs looking to them for advice and guidance.

It encourages the “if your products and services are really good, you shouldn’t have to spend time on marketing” fallacy.

One such blog post I recently read was written by someone that spends a great deal of time on marketing: writing and publishing blog posts that sell products, emailing one’s list regularly, using social media to connect with one’s target market, etc.

So, the next time someone says that you can succeed without marketing, take a look at how much marketing that person does.

Once you get to a certain stage in your business, marketing should become easier.

At least, it has for me and many entrepreneurs that I’ve worked with.

Instead of having to pitch interviews and speaking engagements, people come to you asking to interview you and requesting you to speak at their events.

Instead of crossing your fingers and wishing upon a star that twenty people will sign up for your next online course, your course sells out within two weeks due to the amazing testimonials on your sales page and the three well-written blog posts you wrote to get your readers excited about it.

Instead of having to tweet about your latest blog post ten different times, you tweet about it once or twice and twenty-four of your followers retweet it, helping you gain lots of new readers.

Sometimes, something big will happen that completely changes the game for you.

You get featured on a blog with hundreds of thousands of readers and make more money in a week than you did all of last year. Or, you land a speaking engagement that gets you in front of the right market and helps you fill up your consulting spots for the entire year.

It doesn’t mean that you never have to work on marketing again, but it does make things easier.

However, for most of us, the beginning looks like this: one comment on the blog post you spent six hours writing and editing, twelve likes on your business Facebook page, and one sale within the first week of your product launch (that may or may not be from a friend who felt bad when you told her how upset you were that your launch didn’t go as expected).

That’s normal.

And if we pretend that it isn’t and that you don’t have to work hard to get your products in front of the right people, especially in the beginning, we’re doing a disservice to all those passionate entrepreneurs who are just getting started or have been at it for six months and are still struggling.

Most of the time, success doesn’t fall at your fingertips.

It’s okay want to learn about and spend time on marketing. It’s more than okay—it’s necessary.

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Discover Your Super Power + Clarify Your Vision

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I truly believe that business should be fun.

When you’re enjoying yourself, you power through the hard moments (like your website crashing and refund requests), you feel energized–not drained–after working really long hours and your customers feed off of your enthusiasm.

It’s obvious that my friend and business partner, Mayi Carles believes this, too (example: these dollar sign glasses)  She makes learning about business and working on your business feel like play–not work.

Mayi has this gift of engaging people by turning boring business topics into something intriguing.

The reason I’m telling you this is because Mayi has put together a free, five-day series: Life is Messy Challenge, and it’s filled with ways to improve your business while having a really good time.

It includes free printables (her printables are the best!), stories from her own business and life and really cute visuals. I’m hooked and it’s only the third day.

I’m not sharing this because I get anything out of it. I’m not using any affiliate links and this series is FREE. Mayi is launching Life is Messy Bootcamp soon and this in celebration of that…but you can get so much out of participating in the challenge without spending any money. You don’t even have to fork over your email address for access. There aren’t any strings.

This is a great way to start your year:

Day 1: Discover Your Super Power

Day 2: Clarify Your Vision

Day 3: Turn Your Dreams Into Reality

Day 4: Get It All Out of Your Head

Day 5: A Trusted Calendar System

There is a lot involved in this series, so brew a cup of tea or coffee, grab a snack and enjoy.

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