It’s that time of year again. We’re all hibernating and taking stock, making plans, and considering New Year’s Resolutions. For entrepreneurs the end of the year is also generally the time we spend plotting the expansion of our empire in the year to come, hoping to ensure maximum potential for world (or at least, niche) domination.
I’m no exception.
At the end of every year I look back at the year that’s just gone, consider the goals I set and whether I’ve achieved them, and plan ahead for the following year.
To that end, I’m in the middle of batch creating all my content for 2018.
If that sounds like a terrifying undertaking, don’t worry, it’s actually easily done provided you’re organised and have a good system in place. I’ll be sharing my system and a peek behind the scenes at my own efforts very soon, for those of you who’d love to get a whole year’s worth of content done and dusted.
But before we get to that, I thought I’d share a few thoughts on how far my business has come in the last year.
It’s been a year of MASSIVE growth here at The Write Copy Girl, and it didn’t happen spontaneously. This time last year I was setting goals and making plans, and for the most part I’ve absolutely smashed them.
Speculating To Accumulate Actually Works
My annual income has more than tripled this year. I have more clients than ever. I’ve raised my prices. I’ll be launching Divine Blogging (the book!) in the New Year, swiftly followed by The Divine Blogging Academy, and in November I amassed 1000 new Twitter followers in just one month.
So what did it take to achieve that insane level of growth?
As I mentioned a few weeks ago, I’ve not invested anything in paid marketing this year, and my Content Marketing Schedule can take all the credit. But that content marketing strategy required a major investment in terms of time, and some financial investments too.
It’s worth noting those expenses were all due to vlogging, not blogging, and I could have created the same content (minus the video!) for free.
BUT, and I can’t stress this enough, the result would not have been nearly as good without my vlog.
Most of my major new clients this year signed up to my Divine Blogging service after watching a vlog. Not reading a blog, but watching a video, either on YouTube, Facebook, or directly on my website.
All bar one said it would have taken weeks or even months of reading blog posts to build the same level of trust achieved by one video.
Over half of them confessed they probably wouldn’t have read the written versions of my posts had the video not been available – they were too busy/tired to read, but not to watch/listen.
The moral of the story? Video is stupidly powerful and well worth the investment!
And video is set to become more important than ever in 2018. If you’re not already using video marketing in your business, and you’re looking for just one thing to do next year to seriously uplevel your content marketing efforts, START A VLOG.
That annoying expression, ‘You have to speculate to accumulate’ is totally true. BUT you can speculate time, rather than money, so please don’t feel vlogging is an expensive undertaking.
You can buy a lot of fancy equipment, but you should start where you are, with what you already have (check out my masterclass on the technical needs of vlogging for a full breakdown of the tech!).
At the end of that year though, when the time came to batch more content for 2018, I made some calculated tech investments to maximise my productivity and the quality of my videos…
Reflections On Starting A Business Vlog
A year ago I started my vlog with the bare basics, plus some stuff I already had. My camera and tripod weren’t bought for vlogging, I already had them.
If I didn’t have them, I’d have used my webcam or smartphone.
I borrowed a light from a photographer friend, but again, if I hadn’t had one I’d simply have recorded in daylight, in front of a big window!
Likewise, I already had Movavi for editing my videos. However, that’s the one thing I would have bought, if I hadn’t already got it, simply because it’s so much easier to use and produces my better quality video. That said, there are free options, so it’s by no needs a required expense!
I batched content for the first three months of the year over Christmas at the end of 2016, and managed to create consistent videos weekly for a couple more months after that. Then I got stupidly busy, and was doing my best to manage some fairly violent physical side effects of changing medication (more on that below), which led to several missed weeks.
Still, I’ve published 29 videos on the vlog this year.
My original intention was for it to be a regular weekly occurrence, which should have meant 52 videos, plus any behind the scenes or masterclasses I recorded. This plan was derailed slightly when, in a fit of irony, the universe decided that because my content marketing strategy was proving so successful at bringing in new clients, my productivity when it came to creating content had to take a hit!
Productivity Issues When Vlogging
As the year progressed I got busier and busier making me increasingly conscious of exactly how much time I was spending on the vlog.
I realised that my tendency towards perfectionism was once again sabotaging my efforts, largely because I was unable to write my content like normal, and record the written version. Without a teleprompter (or autocue if you prefer), I was doing everything off-the-cuff.
I’m not nearly as articulate when saying things as they pop into my head. And, unlike blog posts, you can’t read through what you’re saying and correct it!.
So I went wrong a lot, had to repeat things a lot, and sometimes ended up waffling at the camera for an age until I found what I really wanted to say.
The writing, editing and revision process that I’m so used to doing on the page happened on-camera. This led to monster recording sessions of a couple of hours, for a video that ended up being fifteen to twenty minutes long.
This wouldn’t have bothered me – it’s about as long as it takes me to write a 2500 word post – except it also necessitated a lot of extra work.
The videos all had to be edited, and given how often I went wrong, jumped about, and generally cocked it up, that ended up taking HOURS.
There were days I spent three or four hours editing a single video.
On top of a couple of hours spent recording.
In addition to that, I then had to pay to have the videos transcribed, so I had a written version of the post for the blog and my social media.
This added expenditures to the process (the only expenditure in my first 12 months). Granted, it wasn’t a massive amount as I use Rev for $1/minute, but still it all adds up.
Worse still, that pesky perfectionism kicked in again, and I had to edit each transcripts to turn my spoken waffle into something resembling my usual standard of writing.
The result was that, rather than spending a couple of hours writing a post and about half an hour recording it, I was spending several hours recording, several more editing the video, and even longer editing the transcript.
Upgrading My Vlogging System
All told for every video I created for 2017 I spent the equivalent of a full day or more working on it.
With my ever-increasing workload that simply wasn’t sustainable.
I realised at the end of August that it had to stop.
The Divine Blogging Design has more clients than ever before, and I took a break from creating my own content for a little while to make sure my clients got my full attention.
When I got back to it, I stuck to blogging alone for the rest of the year.
It occurred to me that if I did that, the money I saved on transcribing weekly videos would pay for a teleprompter, and I’d have enough time to properly prep all of 2018s content for a mass batching session at the end of the year.
That would ensure next year’s content was completely consistent, written ahead of time (to my exacting standards), and was time-efficient. No more wasting days on one video. I could spend a couple of hours writing, half an hour or so recording, and five minutes doing the minor edits needed.
It would simultaneously ensure I didn’t have to spend time on the creation of content week-to-week (unless I wanted to create something extra).
Instead, I’d be able to spend that time finishing Divine Blogging the book (see below!) and working on the eCourse version, both of which will be launching next year (very exciting!).
By this point in the year I’d seen the amazing hike in income that had resulted from vlogging, so I was more than happy to invest some of that extra cash back into the vlog to make it better, and the whole process easier and less stressful.
Upgrading My Vlogging Technology
The teleprompter I got was exceptionally good value, although it works with an iPad, which I didn’t have. Getting it meant buying a new iPad. If you already have an iPad, this won’t be a problem, but if you’re like me then it’s a substantially greater investment.
Despite that extra expense, I wasn’t even remotely bothered.
I’ve been without a laptop for several years and confined to my desktop computer. So I was very glad to have another option, and got a nifty little wireless keyboard and case to work with the iPad. I can now write on the go without the need to type up notes later, or try to tap everything out on my phone.
Ahead of batching the content for next year, I also took the opportunity to upgrade some of my other vlogging equipment. I bought a new camera tripod which is sturdier than the existing one, and a lot taller. This means I can now angle the camera down while filming, which I wasn’t able to do with the other one even if I sat on the floor. Now I can take much more flattering angles, and have a lot more range when photographing.
I also bought a second tripod for my new iPad, mainly so I could keep it steady while doing Facebook Live. Finally, I bought a pair of photography lights. This is much better than the single one I borrowed, which worked very well, but didn’t let me create even lighting. Two lights allows you to ange light in from both sides, avoiding shadows and creating good balance across the shot.
Total Vlogging Investment For 2017
|Recording Time:||60-70 Hours|
|Video Editing Time:||90-100 Hours|
|Transcript Editing Time:||30+ Hours|
|Uploading (Blog Posts, YouTube & Facebook):||c.15 Hours|
|Apple iPad Pro 9.7″ 32GB:||£494|
|iPad Case & Keyboard:||£27|
Total Time Spent:
c. 200 Hours
Total Money Spent:
Investing In My Craft
Aside from the rather heavy investment in vlogging (and content creation in general) I made this year, I’ve also been investing in my craft.
By which I mean, the craft of writing.
Throughout the year I’ve been working on my new novel, Death Becomes Me, which will (fingers crossed!) be submitted to Angry Robot’s open doors by the end of December.
It’s been a fabulously successful year for me but it’s also been tough, both professionally and personally. Writing fiction has always been my escape and my salvation, and I’ve taken a great deal of pleasure in penning this novel.
It’s taken about 3 years in total, and a lot of field trips to various cool places in the name of research, but it’s finally something I’m really proud of. Far more so than Chasing Azrael or any of my other published works. (Wish me luck finding a new publisher!)
Divine Blogging: The Book!
In addition to writing the novel, I’ve been writing Divine Blogging (the book version of The Divine Blogging Design) this year. I usually spend November immersed in writing my fiction for National Novel Writing Month (an annual challenge to write a novel of at least 50K words in November), but this year I dedicated it to Divine Blogging.
I’m extremely glad I did this, and completely psyched to be sharing that book with you soon (I’m still finishing it, but expect it around the end of February!), but it was tough.
Giving up NaNo and a whole month of obsessively writing fiction (especially when I was trying to get Death Becomes Me ready for Angry Robot submission) was a lot harder than I anticipated.
Mentally, it was seriously tough.
NaNo is something I do to relax, recharge, and really indulge my inner fantasist. After a year of working phenomenally hard, having health issues to contend with, and not taking any time off beyond weekends (and even then not a single one that was a full two days), I could really have done with the break.
In the end I bit the bullet and consoled myself with the promise of doing Camp NaNo next summer as well as the full NaNo in November 2018.
It was well worth it to get the book version of my signature service written and (mostly) ready to go!
Financially the biggest investment I’ve made this year has been the new website. When I first launched The Write Copy Girl I created my own website from scratch. I built it myself, and my technical skills are limited, to say the least.
There are a million things I hate about the (current) site, from the layout to the fonts to the way the homepage doesn’t automatically update the most recent blog posts.
I have to do it manually (seriously, every damn week!).
It also doesn’t easily support my list-building activities (a really rather major element of my content marketing!), and completely lacks the ability to support a lot of awesome content I have waiting to help you learn Divine Blogging (including the new Ideal Client Archetype Quiz, and the FREE Divine Blogging Challenge, as well as the Divine Blogging Academy, all of which will be launching next year!).
So top of my list this year was having a bespoke site designed and built.
One that was effortless to use, didn’t stress me or frustrate me, and was really user friendly. I wanted one that did everything my growing business needed, and looked great to boot.
I teamed up with Simon Jennings and his team at Roots Creative at the end of 2015 to arrange the work, spent all year paying for it on an installment plan my cashflow could cope with (thanks for that Simon!), and by February will finally have the beautiful, highly functional website of my dreams.
But here’s the thing:
The website I wanted when I first started my business isn’t the one I need now. Investing then would have been a really bad idea! Initially I needed basic functionality and the time to figure out exactly what my site needed to do, BEFORE I dropped a load of cash on it.
Total Website Investment: c. £2,000
In addition to (and in conjunction with) the website overhaul there are been some huge system upgrades for me this year. Arguably the biggest one was CoSchedule. I’ve been using CoSchedule for years for my own blogging, and since I started offering The Divine Blogging Design to my clients I’ve used it for them too.
CoSchedule offers full scheduling of both blog posts and social media and as such is completely invaluable (especially as it comes with functions like reporting and rescheduling). But you need a separate calendar on CoSchedule for every blog you manage. I have two of my own (The Write Copy Girl and my author blog), along with one for each Divine Blogging client who has social media and blog scheduling as part of their monthly package.
That meant paying $60/month/calendar, which was fairly steep!
As I took on more clients it was getting rather ridiculous. Fortunately, this year CoSchedule launched a new pricing system that offered an Agency Pack, which I jumped on the second it was available. I now pay £215/month, which gets me unlimited calendars with all the bells and whistles, and full access for my whole team (also new this year, see below!).
In June I officially incorporated as a Limited Company, which was a big step for me, but very cool. In addition, the website was a major investment in my branding, and I took the opportunity to do a general brand refresh and update.
In November I made the further investment of a brand photoshoot. This was largely to ensure there were ample on-brand images for the new website, but they will come in useful for a lot of other things too.
The current/old website uses professional photography of me, but it was from an author shoot done a couple of years ago for my fiction writing. The images were never intended for a website. The portrait shots are awkward when used on the site in terms of size and shape, but also aesthetically they didn’t really represent The Write Copy Girl brand, so much as who I am as a person.
They are also outdated in terms of my hair (which had almost completely fallen out when they were taken, so I was wearing a wig). I have my own hair again now, and it’s a kind of reddish brown colour. Since I’m so visible in my vlog, this was a glaringly obvious inconsistency.
Beyond that, I may be the face of my brand but there is a lot more to my brand than just my quirky personality. There are also a lot more quirks in my personality than I necessarily want to be part of my branding.
My business has a function: it provides vital services.
None of them come across in my author images!
How could they? They’re photos that were taken before TWCG even existed!
The new brand shoot was very focused on highlighting my Wordsmithery (yes, that’s a word).
But there was another reason I wanted to update the branding of the business as a whole.
I’d fallen deeply out of love with the existing visual branding about halfway through 2017. This may have been largely a result of health issues (see below) that literally made me see the world differently. It could also have been due to the internal shift in perspective that happened as the business really took off.
This year I suddenly became successful.
Not staggeringly astonishingly successful, but certainly more successful than I’ve ever been in my life before. I’m earning more than ever before, and the vision I had for the business is finally taking shape.
The really big impossible dream that seemed totally implausible only a year ago now feels doable. Possibly even doable in the next 12 months.
When I realised that the world seemed to open up around me. Everything felt so much more positive and bright and cheerful. One day I was updating the blog and thought, “Urgh, this is so oppressive.”
Looking at it depressed me.
It already hurt my eyes because of the stupid fonts, but now it was more than that.
I hated everything about it
. That reaction was partly due to the brand colours and logo:
Purple and turquoise are my favourite colours so it was natural for me to use them in my branding. They also carry the creative vibe that needs to come from a writer, and they’re not too ‘girly’ (anyone who knows me knows I’m quite a tom boy in some respects). Yet the branding as a whole was very dark and dramatic.
The site suddenly felt cluttered, the brand colours too glaring and in-your-face.
In addition to this I had a tendency to use quite punky and dark images, and they were all put through the ‘Drama’ filter on Canva. It gave them a wonderfully consistent look.
Unfortunately that look was really dark:
This is very much in-keeping with my slightly gothic/punk personality, and my brand as a fiction writer, but for TWCG I wanted something cleaner, simpler, bright, airy, positive and…cheerful.
Not supercalifragilisticexpialidocious cheerful, but lighter.
There’s always been a slightly vintage feel to me in addition to the darker elements, so I decided to shift the focus to that, and play up on the vintage style to soften the overall look of the brand. I tweaked the shades of my main brand colours and added some neutral colours. This really helped me refine the look. I still wanted to include my quirky slightly gothic/punk vibe, but without it being overwhelming:
I also updated the logo from turquoise and gold to blush pink and rose gold. Bizarrely, making that decision was the most difficult of all of it, I think because the pink feels very girly! Despite that, I absolutely love the new logo:
My Brand Photo Shoot
Aside from the cost of the photoshoot, it was really more of a time investment, and I have no idea how much time I spent. There was collaboration between myself, Adele and Chris (website designer and developer, respectively, from Roots Creative), and Robyn (my new technical assistant) when it came to deciding exactly what kind of photos were needed from the shoot.
But most of it was just me, trawling through Pinterest to find images I liked as inspiration for the shoot. I raided my house for every notebook, crystal, and piece of jewellery in my brand colours.
The majority of the stuff you will see in the photos is just my stuff I had at home, but there were a couple of things I bought for the shoot: some peonies, a gemstone bracelet that included stones in the new brand colours, and a crown.
All the rest, from the typewriter to the books, notebooks, clothes, gems and jewellery, is just my stuff. We ended up using Stephanie’s macbook rather than my iPad in its case with keyboard for the shoot, simply because it looked better on the day. Other than that I was very keen to have an authentic ‘me’ vibe to the images as much as possible. I did my own hair and makeup, and wore my normal clothes!
With the brand and website update and the growing scope and needs of the business, the new photoshoot had several really important jobs:
- Capture the essence of my Wordsmithery
- Demonstrate the services I offer and teach (i.e. writing, content marketing, corporate storytelling)
- Capture a feeling of light, bright, airy, positive, cheerful abundance
- Establish the updated brand colours while retaining my vintage/slightly punk style
I’m really pleased with the results and have just recorded a vlog for next year detailing how I went about planning and executing the whole thing, so stay tuned for that! Here’s a sneaky peek…
Total Branding Investment
|Professional Photography Shoot:||£350|
|One Day Photo Shoot + Untold Hours On Pinterest And Canva!|
Investing In My Mind, Body And Self
I’ve mentioned a few times that it’s been a tough year.
I’d been on two very powerful meds to treat my bipolar disorder since 2011. After years of recovery, therapy, and learning to manage my condition, I was finally well enough to come off them.
This was a HUGE relief as the side effects are intense and varied, from the extreme weight gain of over 13 stone since 2011, to acne, hair loss, and a perpetual, draining lethargy, compounded by the fact they completely knocked me out for 12 hours.
Running a business when you’re sedated half of every day isn’t easy!
I’d been tapering off one of them before moving back out on my own at the end of 2015. I was ready to come off completely then, but with the big change of moving out, and the need to maintain my workload without interruption, I waited.
And kept waiting.
Really I could have started the process in the spring/summer of 2016, but I was afraid.
The thought of reverting to the state I was in before diagnosis and treatment still haunts me.
Yet despite the fear, I had to do it. I was fully aware that I wasn’t as creative and productive as I had been before taking them. Even while i was on them, I knew I wasn’t myself.
But the difference in my personality and worldview when I came off them though, was completely unexpected.
Among other things I suddenly remembered I was vegetarian, and developed a bizarre obsession with Taylor Swift (I usually only listen to Classic Rock and Symphonic Metal!).
Consequently it has been a year of upheaval and change emotionally and mentally. Yet it’s all been for the good. I feel a lot happier and healthier than I have in over a decade.
This may well be what prompted my sudden abhorrence of the existing branding in the business.
But despite the positives it’s also been physically very difficult. I came off the last dose of the first medication without incident, waited three months as per my doctor’s advice, and slowly started tapering off the other one.
At that point I discovered antipsychotic withdrawal is the same as heroin withdrawal, but rather than lasting a week, it lasts months.
The side effects lasted from the beginning of April to the end of September, and the insomnia still hasn’t abated at the end of December.
So I’ve also been investing in myself this year. Taking the time needed to go to therapy each week, get regular exercise, eat as healthy as I could manage, and spending time doing things I love (I just finished an archery course!).
You may be wondering why I’m telling you this on a blog about business investments, but here’s something that a lot of people (especially women, I’ve noticed) really struggle to wrap their heads around:
When you’re ill there’s nobody to cover. When you’re burnt out, rundown, or drained of your creative energy, your dream grinds to a halt.
Hiring A Cleaner Is Totally A Business Investment!
As well as the time I spent looking after myself this year, I’ve also made some changes in lifestyle. These would never have been possible previously, as I was on a fixed income. But the massive growth of the business this year has afforded me certain luxuries.
That’s also been an adjustment! But if there’s one thing I have learnt from the fabulous Denise Duffield Thomas it’s that you can’t let fears about what other people will think of your new success hold you back.
So I hired a cleaner.
I arranged for weekly grocery deliveries so I didn’t have to go to Tesco once a week.
It’s also freed up a massive amount of time. Some of this got put back into work, but a lot of it I’ve kept for myself. I cook a lot more from scratch, and no longer have ready meals in the house. And I’ve reclaimed my evenings. I’ve started seeing my friends a lot more. I’ve spent more time reading, writing, walking with Dexter, playing the piano, and even started going swimming twice a week with my brother and best friend.
When Within Temptation (my favourite band) announced a new tour next year, I bought tickets immediately.
I’ve not been to a music concert since I was doing my undergraduate degree!
I’ve been working damn hard at upleveling my business, but I’ve been working just as hard at upgrading my personal life and ensuring I don’t actually have to spend so much time working!
Hiring A Personal Assistant And Social Media Manager
With all the new clients, work and success that has come this year, I finally had to admit I wasn’t capable of doing absolutely everything myself. Since June I’ve been slowly building an amazing team.
This began with Faye, my personal assistant, who has taken over my newsletter. After that I hired Liz as my new Social Media Manager. This allowed me to hand over all the social media content creation and scheduling, as well as blog post scheduling (both for myself and my clients) to someone else.
That gave me more time to write.
Words cannot express how happy that made me, and I say that as a person who earns her living crafting words in ways that perfectly express all the subtle nuances of the human condition.
Hiring A Technical Wizard
Next to join the team was Robyn, who will be completely overhauling my sales funnels in the New Year. The addition of Robyn has not only allowed me to fully instigate The Divine Blogging Design in my own business (which wasn’t previously possible due to my own technical limitations when it comes to hooking up optins and creating email sequences). It’s allowed me to make technical integration an optional extra on The Divine Blogging Design for my clients, which means if you’re as crap at tech stuff as I am, you no longer have to deal with it!
We’re not all tech monkeys, and having someone handle every single element of your content marketing strategy and sales funnel is like the sun rising after an endless winter spent battling the Night King.
I’m super excited for all the new stuff I have coming your way next year. If you’re wondering how all this was possible for me, check out my post on Why You Should Make Content Marketing Your Top Priority, and if you’d like to invest in your own business next year and replicate my amazing results you can leave all your content marketing to me and my team fabulous team. Book a FREE Discovery Call for The Divine Blogging Design now!
Happy New Year from me and Dexter!