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How To Spark, Nurture And Manage Your Creativity

Creativity is one of those things that’s really difficult to quantify. We all know it when we see it, but we’re never sure exactly how to describe it, and it’s different from one person to the next. Creativity is the thing that keeps you motivated, innovative. It keeps you moving forwards, constantly finding new and better ways of doing things.

If you’re an entrepreneur, creativity is vitally important to your business. Whether you have a creative business or a corporate business, it doesn’t matter.

The creative spark you have, the thing that made you want to start a business in the first place, is key to keeping everything going.

But creativity can be really difficult to find. Some days, it’s gone; your muse is rebelling. Others, it’s bubbling over; there’s so much you don’t have enough time to get all your ideas down.

As a writer, I rely on creativity an awful lot. Probably quite a lot more than the majority of other business owners, because my work is inherently creative.

Everything I write requires creativity.

How Do You Stay Consistently Creative?

One of the questions I’m asked most frequently is, “How do you keep those creative juices flowing?” Or. “How do you to write so much?”

I do write a ridiculous amount.

I spend all my time writing, and not just in work: in my spare time I write fiction.

So, creativity is something that I interact with on a daily basis.

I know for a lot of people, that daily flow of creativity can be really difficult to create. So I wanted to give you a few tips, from my own experience, on how to spark your creativity when it’s not flowing, and how to nurture it, to ensure flows in abundance, as much as possible.

Finding The Creative Balance

I aim always aim to find a good balance. The aim is to create daily inspiration, daily creative energy, and daily outlets for that creativity, but to maintain it at a manageable level.

I’m not sure whether this is a creative person’s ‘thing’ or whether it’s more to do with my bipolar, and the nature of my brain in general, but for years I really struggled with creativity.

It was either a flash flood of wild abundance, or it was just gone.

One extreme to the other.

That’s incredibly difficult to manage when you’re trying to turn turn your creativity into a viable business. You need regular income. To do set jobs on a regular basis. And you need to work on and in your business regularly and consistently.

Creativity comes in these big, huge bursts and flashes, that allow you to get loads done. But then it’s suddenly gone and you can’t do a thing for days, weeks, sometimes even months.

That’s just not conducive to running a business at all. Since I became and entrepreneur, I’ve worked hard to manage that swinging pendulum of creativity. I’ve created a few excellent habits that keep my creativity flowing consistently and steadily. Now, it’s usually there when I need it.

I say usually, because (as previously discussed) the Muses are fickle, feckless creatures.

There are still days when it’s just gone. They are normally days when I’m not feeling well. The rest of the time I manage to keep my creativity quite consistent and regular.

Daily Habits For Developing Creativity

These are some of the habits I’ve developed, which helped me create that consistency, and which spark my creativity when it’s missing, and I need to get to back!

Deep Thought Massage

One of the main habits that I’ve developed on a daily basis is what I like to call Deep Thought Massage. That may sound like a peculiar thing, but if you stop and, erm, think about it, how often do you actually think deep thoughts?

By which I mean, how do you take the time to pause and think about normal, mundane, everyday issues, situations, things you do, things you want? How often do you stop and really think about them in a way that goes far beyond a surface level?

And how often do you dig deeper and figure out exactly why? Why are you doing something, why do you want something? Or why are other people doing things? And how it is that certain situations arise?

This is a really useful technique to use if you are working on mindfulness, either trying to improve your mindfulness or just improve your self awareness.

Deep thought massage can be very useful for a lot of things, but I find it extremely useful for sparking my creativity. Simply taking the time to relax and think, helps me to tap into whatever part of my brain considers things in a peculiar way. The way that makes my ideas different way, that makes me creative, and causes my creativity to work in the way it does.

My creativity will not be the same as yours.

Nobodies is.

So it’s no good me telling you exactly what I think about.

But think about the time you spend in a day working, and doing various other things you have to do: running errands, doing the housework, etc. and how much time you spend relaxing.

Do you try really hard to avoid thinking when you are trying to relax?

The Avoidance Of Thought

Most people, when trying to relax, like to just switch off. You stick the tele on, read a mindless book, go out with your friends and have a few drinks. You have a nice conversation but you don’t really talk about anything important.

You try to keep things light and easy, nice and relaxing, because you’re trying to relax.

Thinking often isn’t conducive to relaxation. The more you think, the more stressed you get, the more anxious you become, the more worries creep up on you, the more upset you get about various things bothering you. And that makes existing take more effort, because you’re actually think about things properly.

That’s not really conducive to relaxing.

So most of us, when we’re trying to relax, don’t really think.

We actively avoid thinking.

If we catch ourselves thinking too much, we try and distract ourselves. We try to take ourselves out of the thought process and do something that makes us feel better. Because for a lot of people, thinking too much is not good.

Certainly, in the past, it’s been very bad for me (and anybody else suffering from depression or other mental health issues).

Spending too much time dwelling on your own thoughts can be really negative.

But you can turn it to a positive advantage if you start to purposefully direct your deep thinking process at things that are going to help you get creative.

Manage Your Creativity By Thinking Deep Thought

Deep thinking can do wonders for your creativity, not only in your work but in life generally. Say you’ve been wrestling with a problem:

  • A work issue.
  • A new situation, task or issue (personally or professionally), that you’re unsure how to handle.
  • A daily task (personally or professionally) you feel isn’t quite working right.
  • A problem (personally or professionally) someone else has told you isn’t working, or you’re doing wrong.

These area all scenarios that greatly benefit from a little deep thought massage. Sit down and really thinking them through. Doing this has real advantages, especially in business.

The process of giving yourself permission to really dig deep into things in empowering. Spend quite a bit of time thinking through all the variables involved, the possible solutions, the things you’ve tried in the past, things that you might try in the future, and the things that are most likely to work. That level of thought is something we don’t often give ourselves permission to do in business, because we always have so much to do.

You have a list of things a mile long. Half of them are problems that need solutions. Really, the only thing in your head, is to find a solution for each problem as quickly as possible.

Cross it off the list and move on to the next thing.

You have to, because there’s so much to do.

You will almost certainly find it very rare that you devote some truly deep thinking to your work. You give them enough thought to solve the problem, keep yourself moving, and keep your momentum going, but you never dig deeper than is necessary.

It’s time to start.

Give Yourself A Daily Deep Thought Massage

I found that picking one thing every day and actively thinking about it in a lot more depth than usual does wonders for my creative process. It’s also a great way of training your brain to think creatively on a regular basis.

Choose something to think about. It could be a problem or issue, but it could also be something positive – a goal, something you’re trying to achieve, or want to create. When I’m relaxing, or sitting watching tele, I’ll have a notebook handy, or my laptop out. I’ll decide what I’m going to focus on, and make notes as and when things occur to me.

I don’t sit there forcing myself to concentrate (I am trying to relax!), but I let it percolate in my mind. When a thought comes to me, I write it down.

This is a process I use for business work, fiction writing, and general ‘life stuff’. Everything from stuff I want to write about a particular topic (which usually ends up on the blog), to products and services I’m thinking of creating, to character profiles and blog outlines for my stories, and even outfits I want to get, or how I’d like to redecorate a room in the house.

This is all stuff you think about daily anyway, you’re just pushing yourself to go a little deeper than normal. Even if you’re already a generally deep thinker, dive deeper!

I find myself just scribbling ideas down on a particular topic for a couple of days, even a week. At some point, I realise I’ve actually got a quite a lot of thoughts on this. I’ll then sit down and go through them all systematically, making some kind of sense out of them. Then I do spend time focusing on it, working through it all and seeing what ideas I’ve produced. Seeing what comes up.

Do this on a daily basis. Always let your mind drift and think about things a little more deeply then you would normally. Get into the habit of constantly letting your head go where it will. And make a note of where it ends up, rather than letting it drift off into the ether. Do this regularly enough, and you’ll find that it’s a lot easier to do. It develops into a natural habit your brain just does that of it’s own accord.

Like autopilot.

Having that autopilot deep thought process in place makes it an awful lot easier to maintain creativity on a daily basis, because your brain is naturally doing half the work for you.

You don’t have to force yourself to think about things creatively. It’s just how you think.

It’s like getting up and brushing your teeth, or having a shower, or any of the things that you do every single day without even thinking about it. No longer a chore, just second nature.

Develop A Voracious Reading Habit

One absolutely brilliant way to spark your creativity is cultivate a voracious reading habit. This is something I did years ago, and many people do for the love of reading, rather than a need to be creative. Certainly when I first got into the habit it was for love of literature. But more than anything else, when people ask me how I came to be a writer, how I came to write the way I do, and how I know about so many subjects. There’s no trick to it, I just read a phenomenal amount.

Now, I research many different subjects for my clients. Before becoming an entrepreneur I spent a decade at uni, researching in academia. As well as all of that, I’m just generally interested in a lot of things. I’ve read an awful lot.

People will often hear me say something and they get this look on their face and I know the question is coming: “How do you know that?”

The answer I always give is quite simple: “I read.”

It makes me laugh, because a lot of people get quite offended by this. It’s not my intention to offend them, but the comment can sound like a criticism – as if I’m suggesting they’re illiterate! But it’s really not that at all. I do just read a ridiculous amount on an incredibly broad range of subjects. So, I don’t just read things that interest me. I read things that are important, but not necessarily interesting. I’ll read things related to my client work, which is extremely varied. From business coaches, to recruitment executives, jewellery makers, accountants, holistic healers, nutritionists, wooden floor specialists, bulldozer hire, digital marketers, techy types, lingerie designers, sex shops, I work with some fascinating people, all doing very different things.

And I read about all those subjects, as well as business in general. There’s also a slew of books in my house relating to the fiction that I write, including books on writing, books in the same genre, and research books I use to build my worlds.

Read What You Love, Read What You Hate

I read a lot of fiction the genres I write in (Fantasy and its various off-shoots). But I also read an awful lot of fiction in all the other genres even the genres I don’t like.

This is difficult for a lot of people. They’re like “Why are you reading a book you hate?”

Here’s the thing…In order to be a good writer, you need to know how to write. You also need to know how not to write.

It’s important to understand what other writers do that make you dislike their writing. Exactly what it is about different genres that you don’t like? It’s need to understand different styles of writing, and see different ways of doing things.

As a fiction writer, as well as a copywriter, reading a very broad spectrum was instrumental in getting me where I am today.

It helps me to stay on top of things creatively, keep the juices flowing, and keep myself trying out new techniques, or looking at things slightly differently.

And that doesn’t just apply to writers!

Cultivating a voracious reading habit. And by voracious I mean read every day.

Read a lot every day.

You’ll get through a book or two a week, if not more. I sometimes get through three of four.

Read anything. Everything. Read about things that relate to your work, your business and niche, but also read about other things that relate to business. Other industries that aren’t yours, but could perhaps help you with yours.

Read things that annoy you.

And particularly, read things that make you really angry. Things that make you think “God, that’s a terrible way of doing this.”

Don’t just read people you like. Read people you actively dislike.

You don’t have to do it a lot but make sure you do it. Read subjects that you wouldn’t normally pick up. Every now and again I’ll go into a bookshop, head straight for the fantasy section, choose something and head to the checkout when I pass Chick Lit, or True Crime, or something I normally don’t read.

I’ll think, “I should try something.” And I’ll find something that I think actually sounds as interesting as possible.

You don’t have to look for the most boring book imaginable and force yourself to read it. Find things you might actually like, but in a genre or subject area you wouldn’t normally read.

Do it in an area of business that you wouldn’t normally think about.

Read authors you would normally avoid, because you don’t like them personally, or you’ve read something of theirs before and you didn’t enjoy it. Writers are constantly evolving, changing, and growing. If you read something and absolutely love it, track down every single thing the person has written and read all of it, you will find things you hate.

Why I Read Shit Books

The best example I can give of this that I am quite famous among my friends for detesting certain books.

There are books I really hate. The Twilight saga? Don’t get me started! Fifty Shades of Grey? Don’t even mention it.

A lot of my friends like these books. They are always, to a fault, shocked to discover I’ve actually read them.

“Why have you read them when you hate them?”

But really, how could I know I hate them, if I hadn’t read them?

How can I know that I don’t like a book, or judge it to be bad, before I’ve read it and formed an opinion?

It’s not uncommon for people to really dislike certain authors, entrepreneurs, celebrities, actors, singers…for whatever reason they’re just not your cup of tea.

If you’ve never heard somebody sing, you might not like them as a person, but you can’t comment on their singing. And if you’ve never read a writer’s books, you might think you don’t like them, but you don’t actually know.

You’ve formed an opinion based on them as a person, rather than as a professional. You may find them annoying, you may disagree with their position or options, and therefore don’t want to read their stuff, but unless you’ve actually read them, you really can’t say that you don’t like their writing.

You’ve never read their writing.

Read their writing. It might make you angry, but you will learn a hell of a lot in the process. Sometimes the best way to spark your own creative genius is to get seriously pissed off about someone else’s.

Make Like A Tree

One great piece of advice for nurturing your creativity is this: make like a tree.

It’s really easy to become stagnant in your thinking, your business, and your day to day life. When you do the same things day in, day out, or you’re so focused on building one particular aspect of your business that you neglect other areas, it’s so easy to get stuck. It’s important to keep pushing yourself (personally and professionally) to grow. To constantly push the boundaries, constantly push yourself outside your comfort zone, make yourself try new things and do new things.

Even if you do them and discover you hate doing them and never want to do them again.

Just the act of doing them will teach you an awful lot, giving you a new perspective on the things you already do, and things you might want to try in the future.

Growth is so important. It’s doesn’t have to be about always pushing for the next income bracket, always trying to make more money, or always trying to bring out new products and services. You don’t have to constantly change or increase what you have in order to consistently grow.

You can take what you already have and make it better.

Consider business growth from a personal development perspective. Personal development is all about taking what you already have and improving it. I like to think of my business in that sense. It’s good to get in the habit of thinking about what is working in your business (and life in general), and how you can make that even better.

Also, how you can replicate that success in other areas that aren’t working quite so well?

Release Your Inner Rebel

Another really useful thing to do to manage your creativity and boost your creative spirit is to rebel a little.

Go against the grain.

Shake things up a bit.

Take things you have and see how you can do them differently.

How you can look at them in a new way? How you can just revolutionise them?

That might mean looking at something that you’re already doing, that you know works, and works well, and seeing if there’s a different way you can do it. Not because it’s not working, just because a different way might work even better. People have a lot of resistance to this – the whole ‘if it’s not broke, don’t fix it’ thing.

But just because something isn’t broken, doesn’t mean it’s working as well as it possibly could.

Constantly challenging yourself to think of new ways of doing things, which could work better, is a great way to not nurture your creativity, and get yourself thinking about things more creatively. It’s a great way to constantly push yourself and your business forward, and do that wonderful growth we were talking about.

Indulge Your Inner Seeker

Following on from that, you need to indulge your inner seeker.

Both this point and the last tie into the archetypes I use in my signature service, The Divine Blogging Design. If you’re not sure about what the different archetypes are and mean, check out this post and pay particular attention to the Rebel and the Seeker.

The seeker is a really important element of yourself to nurture when it comes to creativity. Because the seeker is always (as evidenced by the name), seeking new things and experiences.

Just find new things to do.

They can be small things, like changing the way you walk to your friend’s house, or huge things like skydiving or something adventurous you’ve never tried before.

The more you try new things, the bigger your mind gets, and the more scope you have to think about things and form ideas. It nurtures your creativity, because trying new things gives you new perspectives. It gives you new ideas. It breeds creativity. The more you try (even if you just try it and discover you really don’t like it) the more you’ve added to your internal world, and your understanding of the external world.

Like reading outside your favourite genres or specialist subjects, trying new stuff does wonders for creativity.

Find Your Creative Medium

One thing that I love to do to spark my creativity is listen to music. I know a lot of people don’t like listening to music when they’re working, because the find it distracting. I’m often the opposite: I can’t actually get any work done at all if I don’t have music on.

This is what I call my creative medium. For me, it’s music. I listen to and play music every day. Not a particularly proficient musician, but I do play the piano. I love singing (again, not good at it!). But I love doing it.

Music, for me, is a way to tap into my creativity. Whether I’m listening to it, playing it, or singing, it helps me to open up creatively, let in the creativity and channel it into something productive, rather that a mess of incoherent noise.

Music might not be your thing, but most people have a creative medium of some description.

Most people have something they do that, for whatever reason, helps them get those juices flowing. It puts them in that creative mindset. It might be something you can do while you’re working, like listening to music, or something that you need to do before you work, or as a break during your work, like going for a walk or run.

That’s another thing I love to do. Getting outside and just wandering about in nature is very good for creativity.

Find whatever helps you feel more creative and get in that open and creative zone. Do that thing every day, without fail.

Stream Of Consciousness

If you’re really stuck and need to get creative fast, this is a great exercise for ‘on demand’ creative spark. It just gets you in the right head space. There’s a nifty little writing exercise called Stream of Consciousness that works wonders.

Sit down with a blank piece of paper and write whatever is in your head.

Don’t think about it.

You don’t have to think at all for this one, it’s the totally opposite of a Deep Thought Massage! You literally write down whatever pops into your head. Then keep writing.

Let whatever is in your head fall out onto the page.

The goal is not to create anything during the exercise. The goal is not for this exercise to produce something. You’re not trying to write a story or a journal entry, you’re not brainstorming stuff to write late, or jotting down notes on anything specific.

You’re really not trying to write anything at all.

Just get everything that’s in your head out.

So there is something about having a totally open channel between your internal thoughts, and what you’re putting out into the real world. Something about having that complete freedom to just let it all flow, that really opens you up and gets you in that creative space. I find this particularly useful to do first thing in the morning, before I start work.

I’ve just sat down at my desk and I’m still half asleep. I’m thinking “Ugh, I really don’t have it in me to write today”, or “I don’t know where to start with this!”, or “I don’t know what to do!”.

I pull out a piece of paper and write for five, ten minutes. Just whatever is in my head. It gets me in that creative space, which lets me get on with my work.

Start An Ideas Book

Another useful trick that you can use from the writing tool bag is an ideas book, which is exactly what it sounds like.

A notebook (I tend to make them very pretty notebooks, because that helps), that you have somewhere close at hand.

You might have it in your handbag, on your desk, in the kitchen, wherever. If you’re like me, you’ll and have one in every room in the house (including the bathroom!).

Whenever something occurs to you, write it down. You don’t have to go into massive detail, or do anything with it, but just make sure you always have a means of recording the things that occur to you.

Because you will always think, “Ahh, that’s a great idea! I have to remember that.”

Then instantly forget.

Just get in the habit of keeping an ideas book. You will soon find you have a new abundance of creative ideas and inspiration just sitting there.

If you get stuck, you can just flip through and read your various ideas. Reminding yourself of your own creative ideas can energise that part of your brain.

Have A Creative Hobby

Another thing that I find to be a great habit for creativity is having a creative hobby. It sounds like the most obvious thing in the world, but loads of people don’t really have a creative outlet outside of work. They get really creative when they’re working, but lack creative stimulation when they’re not.

If you’re a creativity junkie this quickly leads to burnout, because you end up doing nothing but work in order to get your creative fix.

This is very bad. If you’re a creative individual (or trying to become one) you need a creative hobby.

I write even when I’m not working, I play the piano, I draw, paint. and occasionally knit. Over the years I have amassed a vast collection of hobbies from jewellery making, to soap making, to candle making, to … I can’t even list how many things I’ve tried over the years. I’m currently in the middle of making a dream catcher.

Just indulge yourself with something that is purely recreational and yet still creative. It’s the perfect way to manage your creativity.

If you are the creative sort, you do this already. But if you don’t, you should definitely start. Even if you do, try and broaden it a little bit. Try new creative hobbies (because we’re indulging our inner Seeker, remember?).

Indulge Your Imagination

Finally, perhaps the best think you can do to help your creativity is to seriously indulge your imagination.

I have a very active inner world. So much so that I occasionally get lost in it, and prefer to spend time living in my own head then I do in the real world. It’s perhaps not the healthiest thing in the world, but it does make me a lot more creative, especially in my writing.

It’s extremely helpful because I’m at the point where I can literally put myself in my story world, or any situation in the real world, and imagine it in intricate detail. If it’s a fictional scenario, I become the character. I see the whole world, learn its sounds, smells, tastes, and appearance. Feeling what your character would feel makes you a better writer.

Picturing your business and the various elements related to it in that level of detail is similarly helpful. It’s a lot easier to create the success you want, and drive your business in the direction you want to god, when you know exactly what you’re aiming for.

It’s a great way of achieving goals. If you can imagine yourself having already achieved your goal, in as much detail as possible, it’s a done deal. It’s a lot easier to figure out exactly how to get there when you’re crystal clear on what ‘there’ looks like, and the various paths that lead to it.

I’m not a massive law of attraction fan. I know the basics of it and I do follow Denise Duffield Thomas, who is a money mindset coach. But that’s really the extent of my knowledge of it.

What I do know is that if you really want something, and you imagine yourself having already achieved it, getting there is a hell of a lot easier.

How To Avoid Burnout And Why We All Need Minions

You may have noticed there was no Vlog/Blog last week. There is no vlog this week either, although I am blogging. The reason for this is incredibly simple…

I lost my voice.

Totally.

I’ve been battling a nasty cough for about a month now. Last week I had to rearrange client calls because I wasn’t audible over the phone. I was so bad by the end of the week, I caved in and took Thursday and Friday off completely. Thankfully after two days followed by a weekend off to recover I’m feeling better. Unfortunately, my voice isn’t quite back to normal yet, the upshot of which is that the day I was planning to spend batching new content a week and a half ago never happened.

Which means there are currently no vlogs scheduled.

I could have avoided this sorry state of affairs were it not for one painful and seemingly unavoidable element of entrepreneurship: burnout.

Why We Burnout..

When you run your own business, everything rests on your shoulders. There are a million things to do and, if you are anything like me (i.e. a total control freak), you will dislike handing off most everything to people who could help you with it.

You do everything yourself.

Because it’s easier to do it yourself than try to explain what you want to someone else. This always seems to be true. Even when they already do the same thing for other clients. You’ll do a better job of it than they ever could (even if they’re a pro at that particular thing and you are not).

And there’s never enough time.

So taking time off (especially unplanned time off due to illness) isn’t an option.

Time is finite, and you already have too much work to fit into your days. If you take a day off – just one day off – that’s a whole day of work you somehow have to shoehorn into another day. A day overburdened with work of its own.

Besides, time off is for pussies and slackers, and you’re neither.

You’re a total boss.

Until of course you lose your voice, can’t record your content, can’t speak to your clients, and suddenly find yourself incapable of sitting upright at your desk without passing out on your keyboard, (which melts due to the waves of feverish heat rolling off you).

True story (keyboard melting aside).

How To Avoid Burnout…

Avoiding burnout would seem to be very simple: don’t work too hard.

It’s easier said than done.

For years I have struggled to spend weekends doing anything other than work. The fact I’m a workaholic, and I don’t have a family – no spouse, no children – doesn’t help. There’s nobody to claim my time, drag me away from my work, or give me something I want to be doing more than work.

It’s just me, Dexter (happy as long as he gets a walk and fed regularly) the Cat Mafia (a small army of cats who live in my neighbourhood and visit regularly).

I have friends and family I see, but I’m a terrible hermit and most of my friends live far away, so I’m lucky if I spend a day out every week with other people.

I also have the nasty habit of working every waking hour. I go from my bed to my desk, pause only to eat, walk and feed the aforementioned dog, before going back to the desk and from there directly to bed.

If I pause to watch TV, it’s while I’m eating my meals (my nutritionist tells me this is not good for me).

The only time I ever actually stop working and switch off completely is when I’ve been at it so long I burnout, and there’s no other choice.

I have to stop.

By that stage, I feel like hell, and it takes me several days, sometimes weeks, to recover.

I know how to avoid this: have set working hours and don’t exceed them; rest rather than work during my off hours; take weekends off; go on holiday occasionally and have a whole week (shock, horror!) away from the business.

I haven’t had a week off all year. In fact, until last week when I took Thursday and Friday off, I hadn’t had more than two days off in a row all year.

The times I’ve taken two consecutive days off I can count on one hand.

Christmas was the last time I had a week off. I took two full weeks over Christmas and New Year, but I spent the second week batching content, so that doesn’t count.

Throughout the year I’ve been conscious that burnout was inevitable. It was looming. It was the unavoidable darkness on the horizon.

It’s not like I wanted it to happen, and did, in fact, make progress in staving it off, but it wasn’t enough.

I still work most weekends. I still work through the evenings on weekdays. Yesterday (Monday) was my first day back after being ill.

I was at my desk working until 11.30pm.

Why?

Because I took two days off last week, and I have client deadlines.

Why We All Need Minions…

I’ve spent the majority of this year trying to put in place the right people to support me in my business and ensure I’m not carrying the burden of everything. I started with all my technical stuff at the very beginning of the year.

The website and anything related to optin setup, sales funnels, etc. are now handled by the fabulous Simon Jennings and co. over at Roots Creative.

A couple of months later I hired a cleaner. They worked for an agency and turned out to be crap, so I sacked them and hired a BETTER CLEANER, her name is Nicola, and she’s often accompanied by Katie. These ladies are the bomb; I love them both to death. My house is spotless, my stress levels have plummeted as a result, and I never have to do anything to achieve this zen-like state of domestic bliss.

After months of searching for a good VA to handle my newsletter, I finally found Faye, of Faye PA, at the end of May.

I’m in the process of deciding who should be dealing with my social media and exactly what I want my focus there to be.

There’s a lot of work in my business that I have to do myself. The writing I do for my clients is all on me. But the other elements (admin, accounting, technical stuff, etc.) that I don’t need to do myself. There are other aspects of client work beyond writing (i.e. graphic design work, scheduling, etc.) that I can (and plan to!) delegate.

The key point here is really very simple: if you run a business, as an entrepreneur, solopreneur, mumpreneur, papapreneur, or the leader of a small empire, you need minions.

No, not the film.

I’ve never seen the film, I really should.

I mean actual living, breathing, excellent-at-their-zone-of-genius minions. And I use the term ‘minions’ with love. It’s not a derogatory statement; I view my minions as invaluable members of my team with demi-god-like status. I’m not talking slave labour here. In fact, I strongly advise you avoid the cheap options (like Fiverr) to fill positions that require regular work.
Get someone who is as good at their Zone of Genius as you are at yours. Someone who will do a bang up job, rather than a mediocre, just-about-passable job.

The aim here is to entirely hand off as much as possible to other people who will ideally do it better than you could. Expect to pay them appropriately. I have no qualms about paying all my minions the rates they ask for because I know they’re worth it. The time, stress and worry they save me make them worth it.
Avoiding burnout is worth it!

So, How Come I Burned Out, Even With Minions?

Simple: I don’t have enough minions yet.

It’s taken me seven solid months to find the right people and get them in the right positions. I’m now utterly delighted with my cleaners, but they’ve only been working with me six weeks. Before that, I had several frustrating months trying to find someone, hiring someone, realising they weren’t right, and starting the search all over again.

A similar thing happened with my VA. I’ve been trying to find someone to handle my newsletter for two years. I’ve hired four people to date. The first three didn’t work out. There were various reason for this, but I finally have someone who is reliable and does a good job, but that has also only happened in the last six weeks.

At present, I’m still carrying the burden of all the writing that needs doing in the business. Not only client work, but my own content marketing creation. When I’ve hit a particular milestone, I’ll be hiring another writer, to take over some of the writing for The Write Copy Girl itself, and also some of my client work.

I don’t intend to work a 60+ hour week indefinitely!That’s still a way off, but it’s part of the plan. I’ve realised that if you genuinely want to avoid burnout altogether, to never have to endure it again, you need to build to the point where one of two things happens:

  1. You have talented minions that relieve you of as much of that massive burden as they can.
  2. You structure your business in such a way that the majority of your income is passive and the actual work you have to do is limited to a manageable amount (i.e. you are not exclusively trading your time for money).

If you are exclusively selling your time for money (as I currently am), you will naturally end up working every hour available because it’s the only way to earn enough to live comfortably.

The only entrepreneurs I know who are an exception to this, are those with additional income sources – other jobs that provide a salary, spouses in full-time employment (who earn the bulk of the revenue for the family), trust funds, etc.

Money Matters, Burnout, And The Issue Of Troublesome Clients

An additional problem I’ve faced this year has come from the customer side of my business. I had two major clients vanish on me at the start of the year without paying their bills. I’d done the work (and in both cases, it was a lot of work), they’d paid a deposit initially and were due to pay in full on completion.

They completely disappeared.

Had they been small clients it wouldn’t have been a problem, but between them, they represented over £5K of lost income.

I did the work, but I never got paid for it.

That threw my cashflow into crisis, left me scrabbling to take on a lot of extra work on short notice to cover it, and also meant I had to postpone some work I was having done on the website while I sorted it out.

All of this added up to a lot of stress, a lot of extra work, and inevitably, burnout.

Since then, I’ve overhauled my payment system to ensure this never happens again. I have made up the missing money elsewhere. I’ve reached a point where that rather significant bump in the road is in the rear view. But it took its toll. It’s only in the last month that I’ve been able to breathe easier and slow down a bit.

And of course, the second I slowed down, I was hit with the mother of all coughs that stubbornly refused to go away.

Why Slowing Down Makes You Feel Worse

If you’ve been powering through for a while and you finally find a way to slow down, by cutting your workload, being stricter with yourself when it comes to taking time off, or hiring some much-needed minions, expect to crash and burn.
I know for a fact I actively perpetuate the problem by stubbornly refusing to slow down for as long as physically possible. I keep on powering through because as tired as I am, I know the second I stop (or even slow down) I’ll feel a lot worse.

The least I can expect is a severe migraine that lasts several days. The worst is a cold/flu that knocks me off my feet for a week or more. If I’m really unfortunate, I get depressed. None of these outcomes is desirable. In fact, I’d do anything to avoid them. So I just keep working.

My warped logic tells me that stopping will make me ill, therefore, I shouldn’t stop.

The reality, of course, is that if I managed to stop for short periods on a regular basis, I’d never have the problem to begin with.

In the long run putting such measures in place will ensure you avoid burnout. It will ensure you are much healthier and happier. This, in turn, will help your business prosper.
But if there’s one lesson this year has taught me well, it’s that getting to that point isn’t easy. You need to be willing to rethink how you do things. To try new ways and, if they don’t work, try, try again.

Burnout is an absolute bitch, and it’s no way to live. Endlessly swinging from the seemingly endless grind of the hustle to the exhausted catatonia of burnout, and back again, is exhausting. It’s terrible for your health (mental and physical), your wealth (it undermines your earning potential) and the growth of your business (you can’t do your best work if you’re constantly stressed or suffering burnout).

My mission in life has become discovering the perfect system of managing a flourishing service-based business without having to pay the price every few months.
I’ll keep you posted! In the meantime, if you have any tips or advice for avoiding or managing burnout, I’d LOVE to hear them!

How To Use Content Marketing To Start A Business When You Have No Experience

I recently had a conversation with a friend of mine who was suffering a real low point after a lot of work-related stress. She was really struggling with the 9-to-5 grind, looking for a way to break free and find a healthier work-life balance. She asked how I’d ended up starting my business, whether I enjoyed it, and whether it had given me the freedom she craved. My answer?

Absofreakinglutely.

When I started my business it was for very similar reasons. Creating my own business has enabled me to manage the stresses of life and work far more easily. Life is a lot freer and a lot more enjoyable, because I spend all my work time doing something I absolutely love, and I’m in total control.

I work when I want, where I want, doing what I want.

Really, it’s just been an incredibly rewarding and wonderful experience.

That being said, it has been a lot of hard work. When I told my friend this she said,

“Oh, well, it’s not something that I’m thinking of doing now. I want to do it in the future, but I need to wait for 10 years until I’ve got enough experience.”

She genuinely didn’t think that it was possible to start a business unless you had a lot of experience doing exactly what your business demanded.

My question to her was simple: “When did I spend a decade working in a 9-to-5 job as a freelance writer before I set up a business as a freelance writer?”

That confused her for a minute until she realised that you can’t be a freelance writer until you ARE a freelance writer.

You can work as a writer, in various roles, in 9-to-5 jobs and corporate settings, but you can’t work as a freelance ANYTHING without first become a freelancer.

It’s physically impossible to start as a freelancer saying you have X years of experience working as a freelancer.

Entrepreneurship is much the same. Running your own business is a completely unique experience, and the majority of us start out without any idea what we’re getting into. We have life experience and work experience, but nothing prepares you for the challenge, thrill and slight insanity of running a business of your very own.

And if nothing can prepare you for it, how can you possibly have a decade’s worth of experience?

The question that grew from this was really simply: how exactly do you start a business when you have no ‘official’ experience, or the experience you do have is ‘unrelated’ to the business you want to create?

The answer is ridiculously simple: content marketing.

Let me explain…

When I Started My Business…

When I started my business it was just after I finished my PhD scholarship. My entire career up to that point had been in archaeology. I’d gone to university, done an undergraduate degree, and a master’s degree, then spent two years working in corporate archaeology. I’d dug all over the country, and in Europe. I’d gone back to uni to study for my PhD. Throughout my post-graduate studies I taught at University, so there was nothing in my background that screamed, “writer”.

My official experience was as an archaeologist, teacher and student. When I started my writing business my ‘official’ writing experience was nonexistent.

Despite having no official experience I had been writing in various capacities at a high level for years. Just going to university teaches you write to a very high standard. I’d had papers published. I’d been writing fiction. I’d had fiction published. So I had been writing for a very long time, but I had no official experience.

I’d had papers published in international archaeology journals.

And I’d had fiction published and self-published.

But despite years of writing, I had no ‘official experience’.

Why Seemingly Irrelevant Experience Is Never Irrelevant…

A lot of people find when they start their businesses (or find themselves thinking they want to start a business) and they can’t don’t have any official experience. And it holds people back. Like my friend, it’s often the thing that prevents people from ever getting started.

If you actually stop and think about the experience that you do have, you will usually discover something quite remarkable. Because the ‘thing’ you want to build your business around is likely something you are passionate about, something that you love, something you know you’re good at, your background will reflect it in one way or another.

Even if it’s not in an obvious way.

My friend’s background is in anthropology. The study of anthropology is really just the study of people. Branding is all about people: understanding how people think, what people want, what people like or need. It’s all about crafting individual brands that are unique to a specific person while appealing to a wider group of people.

So my friend actually understands the theoretical side of things and the mechanics behind how brands work extremely well because she spent so long learning about people and what makes them tick. It may not be a formal education or a decade’s worth of experience in graphic design or branding, but it gives her a unique perspective.

There are various other elements to her background that actually inform her new purpose, the career path that she now wants to take, and the businesses she wants to start. The problem was, she was looking at it from the perspective of, “I have no experience”, rather than asking,”How is my experience relevant to what I want to do?”

How To Turn Your Experience Into Your Unique Selling Point…

We can’t live our lives, move through the world, age and grow without gaining experience.

We all have experience in something.

You may have only ever worked a part-time job, or worked in a job that you consider to be dead-end, or horrible, or a generic office job. Perhaps you’ve been a cubicle monkey or a checkout clerk. Whatever you’ve done, you felt your job lacked meaning. Perhaps you had a very rewarding, very good job, but you’re now looking to shift careers and you feel you lack tangible experince for what you want to do moving forward.

You feel your experiences haven’t given you anything you could use to start a business. They were either meaningless or meaningless in the context of the new business reality you are trying to create.

Nothing Is Meaningless…

It’s insane that people think that their experiences are meaningless. Nothing in life is meaningless.

All of our experiences have meaning. Everything that you have done in your life, everything that you have seen, felt and thought, every single thing has led you to your present situation, to this moment in time, all of it had meaning. Something along the way drew you to want to start your business in your specific field, your specific niche, doing one particular thing.

You would never have got to that point of thinking, “Yes, I want to start a business doing this!” if your experiences hadn’t driven you to it.

For that reason alone, everything you have ever experienced has meaning.

So no matter what your official experience might be, you do have experience in your field. You just don’t know it yet.

Starting a business when you’re not able to say (for example), “I have 10 years of experience working as a professional writer”, or “I have 10 years experience working as a professional branding expert”, or “I have 20 years experience working as a marketing specialist”, can be tough. It’s be difficult to find a way to establish your business and yourself as trustworthy and knowledgeable in your field. Citing X number of years working in a particular job or field is an incredibly quick and easy way of establishing you know what you’re talking about.

It’s one line in a mini-bio that immediately tells people that you know your stuff.

It’s Not All About The One Liner…

The thing is, people are not convinced by a line in a bio.

They are convinced by what you say, what you do, and the presence you have as a business owner.

That’s where content marketing comes in.

Content marketing immediately helps you establish yourself as an expert in your chosen field. It allows you to demonstrate your expertise by providing informative, interesting, funny, or just plain invaluable content.

If you are giving people things that are of value to them, that (far more than a line in a bio) will convince them that you are worth investing in. Your content will convince potential clients that you knowledgeable, capable of fulfilling your promises.

How To Use Content Marketing To Start A Business When You Have No Experience…

So how exactly do you use content marketing to start your own business? It’s actually a lot easier than you might think, but there are several key things that you have to do.

Find Your Niche…

The first thing I suggest you do is to niche down as much as possible. Really define your business niche. One mistake I made when I was first starting out in business was failing to clearly define what I was doing.

I started out happily doing editing, proofreading, writing, illustrations, helping people with their books, design elements…so many different things!

They were related to each other within a general sphere of ‘writing and books’. I loved doing them, and was capable of doing them, but result, unfortunately, was that nobody really knew what I did.

My business message was all over the place because I was talking about so many different things.

When I niched down, and really focused on the one thing that I wanted to do more than anything else (writing) things started falling into place really quickly. When I niched it down even further I realised I could get incredibly specific:

The one thing I do is create/teach the creation of blogs/vlogs to help business owners and entrepreneurs harness the awesome power of content marketing.

When I got that specific, suddenly everything fell into place.

My business started growing astonishingly quickly.

So finding your niche is the first thing you need to do in order to establish a business using the Content Marketing Business Model.

One thing I will say is this: when you think you’ve niched down, take a while to think about it. Come back to it later and look at it again. Because I can almost guarantee you that you will not have found a niche. You will have found a broad subject area, like ‘writing’, and thought, “Yes! That’s my niche!”

When you actually stop to think about it, you realise that what you’ve come up with isn’t really a niche, and it encompasses loads of different things. You want to drill down as far as you can to get ridiculously specific.

Exactly what are you’re going to be doing? How are you going to be doing it?

 

Find Your Ideal Client…

The next thing you need to do is figure out exactly who you want to work with. I know a lot of entrepreneurs make the mistake of saying, “I’ll work with everybody. I’ll work with everybody. I don’t mind who I work with, I just want clients!”

I can understand that impulse, especially when you’re first starting out. I did it myself! At that stage in your business, you really just need to get money coming in. You’re quite happy to take on any work, with any client, anytime, anyhow, anywhere. Just to get money coming in.

But if you can be really specific about the exact type of person you ideally want to work with, and target all of your content to that specific person, so that’s most appealing to them, you will find that the overwhelming majority of the audience you grow will naturally be the people you want to work with most.

It’s really important to know who your ideal client is so that you aren’t writing content that’s aimed at just anybody. If you do that, you will end up with an audience made up of anybody and everybody. Tailoring your content to a very specific type of client allows you to build an audience that’s predominately made up of people you really want to work with, who will be the most interested in what you have to offer, who will find the most value in what you have to offer, and who are most likely to buy from you.

For example, my niche is writing content for entrepreneurs and small business owners. I could have simply left it at that and said, “I’ll write for any entrepreneur or small business owner.” To some extent, that is true. I do take on clients from all walks of life. But I got a lot more specific than that and decided that my ideal clients are female entrepreneurs/small business owners in their 20s and 30s who are:

  • Building a business based on something they’re truly passionate about.
  • Looking to use content marketing as the heart of their marketing strategy.
  • Want to ensure they’re always selling in a soulful manner.

They are my ideal clients, and all my content is tailored for them. Your ideal client might be very different.

RECOMMENDED READING ON FINDING YOUR IDEAL CLIENT: DID YOU KNOW YOUR BUSINESS IS BELOVED BY THE GODS

Tailoring Your Content To Target Your Ideal Clients…

Niche down to a very specific audience, for your very specific niche, allows you to target your content at a particular sector of a particular industry. Not only that, it allows you to target a particular subset of the people interested in that particular sector of that particular industry.

You get very targeted.

The more targeted you are in your content creation the more obvious it is that you know exactly what you’re doing, who you’re doing it for, and how you can help those specific people.

Imagine trying to explain to somebody how you can help them, but you’re not addressing them as an individual, you’re words are generic, and seem to be designed to convince anyone that you’re right for them.

How can you be a good fit for everyone?

This is exactly what happens when you’re writing a blog post or recording a video, and you’re trying to explain exactly what you can do for the person watching, but you have no idea who they are.

They could be anybody. You end up saying a message that is very generic. It has to be generic because it has to appeal to everybody.

If, however, your message is directed at a very specific person, you can get really detailed on exactly what it is that you’re going to be able to do to help that person. You can be really clear on the exact way your product or service can fix the problems in their lives, make their lives better, help them in their business/personal lives.

The more specific you get in your marketing messages, the more effective your marketing will be.

RECOMMENDED READING ON WRITING FOR YOUR IDEAL CLIENT: 10 TIPS TO ENSURE YOU’RE ALWAYS WRITING FOR YOUR IDEAL CLIENT

How Specificity Demonstrates Experience…

Not only does content marketing allow you to target a really specific audience/niche and deliver a really specific message, all of that specificity demonstrates your knowledge, expertise, and experience. It proves that you are the person who is most capable of helping that group of people in that particular niche do that one specific thing.

Being specific proves you are the person most capable of helping your ideal client when it comes to that one thing in that one niche.

Content marketing is a way for you to demonstrate your experience in a tangible way. People can hear it, watch it, and read it. You can provide them with solid evidence of your experience and your ability follow through on your promises.

That is something that a bio can never do.

So if you’re worried that you don’t have anything to put in your bio to prove your expertise, there’s nothing to worry about.

All you need to do is put together a really solid content marketing plan that proves your value, worth, and knowledge.

The more effectively you can do this, the easier you will find it to build your business.

Why Giving Away Free Content Is The Key To Building Your Business…

It may seem like a contradiction to offer free content to people. You may be thinking, “I’m running a business, not a charity! Why am I giving this stuff away?”

But the thing is, creating valuable free content in turn creates a place that your ideal clients naturally want to be. It enables you to create a space they will naturally gravitate towards. People will learn that you are the person to come to for this specific type of advice/method or form of amusement/entertainment – whatever it is you’re offering.

They’ll learn that you’re where it’s at.

They will come to you.

They’ll spread the word.

More people will come to you based on their recommendations.

You will naturally grow a brilliant audience.

Once you have a core audience of ideal clients who are in love with your free content, they will naturally ask for more.

They will be saying, “Wow! If your free stuff is this good, how good much your paid products/services be? I want more of this amazing stuff and I’m quite happy to pay for it, because you’ve given me so much value for free – I know that you’re worth it. I know that you can do it. Here, take my money, just give me more!

RECOMMENDED READING ON THE POWER OF FREE CONTENT: The Cake Construction And How To Use It

That’s a very simplified version of how content marketing works. It takes an awful lot of work (I’m not going to pretend it doesn’t). Content marketing isn’t an easy or a quick fix. But it is a very effective way of building a business.

So if you’re looking to set up your own business, doing something that you love, and you’re holding yourself back because you believe you are lacking the experience required to do it, don’t worry. The experience that you have had in your life will feed into what you are doing in some way, because your experience is what led you to where you are.

Where you are, is at a point where you want to start this business.

You can start a business when you have no experience. You don’t need experience. You just need cracking content.

The Cornfield Paradox: How To Fix The Biggest Lie In Marketing

When I started out in business, I followed a few coaches and business/marketing experts. One of the things I came across more often than anything else was the notion that ‘If you build it, they will come!’

If you’ve ever seen Field of Dreams, you’ll understand why I call this The Cornfield Paradox. In the film, Kevin Costner plays the title role. He hears a mysterious voice talking to him in his cornfield one night, telling him, “If you build it, they will come.”

Deciding the voice is onto something, he builds a baseball diamond in his cornfield, and the Chicago White Sox appear, magically solving all his problems…

The basic gist of this (and its relevance to marketing) is the notion that by creating something wonderful, you will automatically attract people.

If you create fabulous products or services, people will naturally want to buy them.

And if you create wonderful content, people will automatically find it and read/watch it.

 

It’s a brilliant and wonderfully inspiring thought when you’re a fledgling business owner, just getting to grips with the myriad things required to get a business up and running. You pull yourself along with this belief that all you have to do is create your business, and customers will magically find you.

The problem with this concept, and why The Cornfield Paradox is the biggest lie in marketing, is that it doesn’t work.

Do any of these instructions sound familiar:

Blog regularly – preferably weekly.

Consistency is key – decide on a schedule and stick to it!

You need to blog for SEO, that’s how people will find you.

High-quality content is the secret to a good Google ranking.

This is all good advice, but when it’s coupled with an ‘If you build it, they will come’ mentality, it is fundamentally flawed.

Why?

Nothing good ever happens in a cornfield!

As many of you know, I’m a fiction writer. I’m a fan of fantasy, horror and various other genres, and I can tell you categorically that every time a cornfield appears, in any context, bad things happen.

Field of Dreams itself is a terrible film.

Cornfields are not where you will find the magical solution to all of your problems.

Cornfields are where you will find axe-murderers, aliens, cannibals, deranged lunatics, paedophiles, and innumerable other unsavoury characters and problems.

Nothing good ever happens in a cornfield, and this often-toted piece of advice coaches are so fond of is no different. THE BIGGEST LIE IN MARKETING is the notion that all you have to do is build it and they will magically come.

Here’s a truth bomb:

You can create the most fabulous content imaginable, but if nobody knows it’s there, nobody will read/watch it.

You can regularly produce blogs or vlogs week after week, be utterly consistent, optimise everything for SEO, and have a phenomenal Google ranking, and you’ll still get nowhere fast, because your content marketing method is based on a fundamental lie.

But don’t worry, all is not lost, there’s an easy fix… 

The Origins Of The Biggest Lie In Marketing…

I believe this mega myth of marketing originated in the early days of online marketing when the ‘If you build it, they will come’ model actually worked.

It’s not even that long ago since this wasn’t a lie, but a marketing true. When the internet was still relatively young, if you created a blog, and filled it with quality content, people would naturally find it, because there wasn’t the insane amount of content and information in the modern-day.

If you go back as little as ten years, Google something (especially something in a niche market) wouldn’t get that many results.

Now, you can Google exactly the same thing and end up with endless pages of results. Consequentlyt, even if you’re writing about a very niche subject, the likelihood of your specific blog post being the post that a large number of people find – enough to grow an audience organically – is slim. Simply writing good content just isn’t enough to get you discovered anymore.

There’s too much information on the internet, too many competing sites, too many posts discussing the same topics you are, and until people have actually read or watched your content and got to know you a bit, they won’t have any reason to favour your website other all the others on the same subject. Your Google search ranking helps with this – getting on the first page of Google will make it a lot more likely you will be found, but this isn’t as easy as it sounds. It’s not a simple case of optimising everything with keywords because everyone is optimising everything with the same keywords.

SEO Isn’t Enough…

You’re not doing anything unique with your SEO, what is unique about your content is YOU.

SEO can’t convey your ideas and prove they are better (or at least different) to everybody else’s; why your methods are superior; why your products are unique or better than everybody else’s; why your services are better than everybody else’s; why your take on the world is worth them coming back and reading/watching over and again. It’s only once they’ve experienced you, come to know, like, and trust you, and bookmarked your site, that they’re going to automatically come to you when they see you’ve written about a subject.

Your Google ranking is important, I’m not saying SEO is not important, it is.

It helps you get visible, it helps you get found, but the problem with SEO is that there is a perception that all you have to do to create a successful business is have a website and create good content that’s SEO-optimised, so people find you on Google.

Just build it, and they will magically come…

It does not work.

There are three things that you have to do to make sure that your blog is successful (check out my post on The Golden Trident: Three Magic Steps For Kick-Ass, Killer Blogging for more info).

The third step for kick-ass, killer blogging is that you have to HUSTLE!

It’s not enough to write good content, you have to get out there and tell people about your content. Share your content, spread it to the four winds, so that as many people as possible become aware of your content.

If you do that, then they will come, but they won’t just magically come wondering out of the cornfield and find you simply because you’ve written something.

The Cornfield Paradox…

The paradox occurs because so many people who decide they want to start a business buy into the biggest lie in marketing. They get interested in business, they get invested, they start learning about marketing, and they come across all these coaches telling them that all they have to do is ‘build it’, and people will find them.

So they build it, and they wait.

And they wait, and wait, and wait, and…TUMBLEWEED!

Nothing happens. And a great many people in this situation, when they reach this point, conclude that the reason blogging isn’t working because content marketing doesn’t work.

They reach this conclusion fairly quickly.

They start blogging. They keep it up for a few weeks, maybe even a couple of months. At the end of that couple of months, they’ve poured their heart, soul, blood, sweat, and tears into a weekly blog post. They’ve published at the right time, consistently, and sent out a newsletter to their list.

Nothing is happening.

The reason nothing is happening is that they’ve just started out. Their list consists of their friends (who aren’t really interested in their business), and a couple of people they know who genuinely are interested in business, but aren’t necessarily interested in the specific part of business that these blog posts are discussing.

Becuase they’re so new, they basically have no list. The few people on it aren’t their ideal clients, and they aren’t reaching anyone new.

They’re writing great content, but they’re just writing it and leaving it there. They’re expecting people to find their content, because they built it, and when nobody does, they conclude that blogging doesn’t work.

It’s not a viable marketing option, so they stop blogging.

I understand why this happens, but the mistake (and the paradox) is that if you’re not blogging, nobody will find you, but blogging, on its own, is not enough to make people find you., okay? So, if you stop blogging, nobody will find you. If you blog, but don’t do anything to promote your blog post, nobody will find you. So, you’re missing a key part of the puzzle here, in that if you build it, and tell people about it, they will come, okay?

If you stop blogging, nobody will find you.

If you blog, but don’t do anything to promote your blog post, nobody will find you. So, you’re missing a key part of the puzzle here, in that if you build it, and tell people about it, they will come, okay?

If you’ve bought into the ‘If you build it, they will come’ mentality, you’re missing a key part of the puzzle: if you build it, and tell people about it, they will come!

How To Fix The Biggest Lie In Marketing…

You have to get out there, share your content on social media, build your online networks, advertise your content when needed, and comment on other people’s blogs. Take the time to read their posts and leave a genuine comment; let them get to know you. Get them interested enough in you and what you’re saying that they click through to read your own blogs, and comment in return. Tweet out your posts, share them on Facebook, Instagram, and any other platforms you have.

And here’s the important part: you don’t just need to share your blog posts specifically.

You need to spend an awful lot of time simply building an online presence.

Whether you do it yourself or pay somebody else to do it for you, you need to be an active online presence. You need to be a person who more than just their blog posts.

At the time of writing this, I am personally failing in this regard and have been for a couple of months. I’m sharing my posts, but nothing else. Why? I don’t have time. Business suddenly got a lot busier this year, my workload has more than doubled and I had to let a few things go for the sake of my sanity. I’m in the process of outsourcing everything I no longer have time for, but in the interim, my social media marketing is next to non-existent.

And it shows.

The massive growth I saw in the first quarter of this year stalled in the second. And it’s all because of a very simple question I guarantee your audience is asking…

But What Else…?

You can’t constantly say, “I wrote a blog, read it. I wrote a blog, read it. I wrote a blog, read it,” because people get bored.

Even if your content is absolutely fabulous if you never say anything other than, “Read my blog post!” at some point they’re going to stop because they are over-saturated.

This is especially true in business.

If you have a personal blog, it’s a bit different. The very nature of your blog posts means the information you’re sharing differs vastly; you’re sharing an insight into your life, sharing quite a lot about yourself. Your topics will change from week to week, and it will always be of interest to your followers because that’s why they’re following you. You might have a lifestyle blog, and they’re interested in your specific lifestyle, or a hobby blog and they’re interested in your latest creations, or it could be a photography blog and they’re dying to see your new photographs.

If you’ve got a blog that constantly has completely fresh content, this it isn’t quite as true. But if you’re writing a business blog and blogging about a specific niche subject in business, or you’re a coach blogging about business in general, and all you’re doing is telling people to read your blog posts, they’re going to hit a wall. They’re going to shut off and stop reading, because they’re thinking, “I’ve read five posts about this, and they’re great and everything, but what else?

This is the awful truth about the nature of our consumerist society.

People are always thinking, “Great, but what else?”

It’s the buy one, get one free mentality. You buy into something and expect to get something else as well for free.

You say, “Read my blog post!”

They say, “Sure! Great! I’ve read it. What else do I get?

This is how we evolved into a system in which list-building hinges on giving away freebies and opt-ins, because it’s not enough to write a post and at the end of it, say, “If you want to read more of my blog posts, sign up for my newsletter!”

Because the response will always be, “Great, I’d love to read more of your blog posts, but what else?”

There will always be a “but what else?”

The Golden Ratio…

The “but what else” where the cornfield paradox is concerned is telling people about you, and your business, and your blog, in such a way that you’re only expecting them to ‘buy’ into it a small part of the time.

The golden ration is 80/20.

80% of the time, you should let them get to know you, seeing what you do, and gain insights into your daily life.

You might ask them questions, share behind the scenes snaps, useful information beyond your own blog, inspirational quote or memes. You want to build engagement and get a conversation going. Craft a living, vibrant relationship with your online followers, so that they actually know you quite well outside of what you write in your blog.

If you can build that kind of relationship with your audience, and grow an engaged audience, they will happily read your posts week after week and you’ll reach a point where you don’t need to tell them you have new posts for them to read. They will learn what day you post on and go looking for them.

For example, there is a blog I read religiously, The Bloggess, and she doesn’t have to email me to tell me that she’s got a new blog post, because I automatically check her site weekly. I know new posts will be there and I know they’ll always be funny.

There’s a video reviewer that I follow, who puts out three or four videos a week. I’m not even on his newsletter list, because all his newsletter does is send me a link to his new videos, and I know what days he posts them, so when I’m sitting having my lunch on those days, I automatically go to his site to watch the videos while I’m eating my lunch.

The same is true for my favourite channels on YouTube: I know what days Denise Duffield-Thomas, and Marie Forleo‘s videos come out every week, so I go and look for them.

Why The Biggest Lie In Marketing Is A Paradox…

The Cornfield Paradox is paradoxical because it does and doesn’t work.

If you create content, if you’ build it’, people will come and you will develop an audience, but only if you go the extra mile and tell people you have built it. Tell people enough about yourself and what you have built to ensure they are interested enough to keep coming back and remain engaged, interested and reading/watching the content that you’ve put out.

Are You Struggling With Your Content Marketing?

If (like me) you find there simply isn’t enough time in the day to get everything done, and you’re at the point where you need to delegate some essential elements of your business, don’t worry, I totally get it. Content Marketing isn’t for everyone. It’s time-consuming, often tedious, and requires a phenomenal amount of time, effort, and expertise.

Why not let me do it for you?

Unsure about hiring a copywriter? I totally get that too. That’s why I offer all new clients a totally free blog post to test run my services before they decide whether to invest. Grab your free post (no string attached!) now!

8 Ways Content Can Grow An Insanely Powerful Tribe

If you’ve been following the vlog for a while, you’ll know I spent quite a lot of time talking about content marketing and how powerful it can be in your business. Content marketing is a brilliant way of growing a tribe, but a lot of people ask me, “Exactly how does content marketing grow your tribe?”

It’s a really good question. How exactly does producing high-quality content grow your tribe? Well, it’s a two-part answer…

The Mechanics Of Using Content Marketing To Grow Your Tribe…

Content Marketing can grow you a tribe of people who are interested in your specific Zone of Genius, your specific niche, because you are actively putting out content that is about that one specific thing.

People are looking for information about your Zone of Genius because they’re interested in that specific subject. They find your content and therefore they find you. They become a part of your tribe, and the more content you put out, the more people find you and the bigger your tribe becomes.

It’s a simple concept, but it take a lot of careful planning to get it right.

How To Target Content To Grow Your Tribe Of Ideal Clients…

The second part of the answer and the part most people are really interested in: exactly how do you get your content to grow a true tribe; a group of people that you are specifically targeting.

We’re talking ideal clients.

What people really want to know is not ‘How does content marketing work?’ but ‘Exactly how do I use content marketing to target the right people, to form a tribe that is right for me and my business?’

That’s really crucial. If you don’t have a strategy, if you don’t have a plan and a really clear idea of the tribe that you’re trying to build, you can end up with a generic tribe that won’t do you any good.

Generic Tribes…

A really good example of how this happens is publishing content on lots of different topics that you are interested in. You just like writing about lots of different things. That’s great. If you’re running a personal blog, an interest blog, or a hobby blog, that’s a brilliant outlet for your creativity. You can write about whatever you want. But if you’re running a business, changing your topics around and talking about lots of different things week to week lacks any kind of cohesion. It lacks consistency. And it also makes it incredibly difficult to grow your tribe, because the people coming to your blog are always going to be very varied.

One week attract one type of person, the next you’ll be attracting a totally different type of person. The people you’re attracting also aren’t necessarily going to be interested in your business. They might be interested in what you’re talking about in a particular blog post, or even several blog posts, but that doesn’t necessarily mean they’re going to wanting to buy what you sell. And that’s the name of the game: building a tribe who want to buy exactly what you are selling.

8 Ways Content Can Grow An Insanely Powerful Tribe…

Today I’m going to go through eight ways you can use content marketing to grow your tribe by being crystal clear and strategic about who you target with that content. A huge part of this is knowing your ideal client. I talk an awful lot about ideal clients in other blogs, so I’m not going to go into that today, but do check those out. Certainly have a look at how I use archetypes to hone down exactly who your ideal client is so you know what you’re aiming for. So for these eight tips to work, you need to know who your ideal client is, okay? So this is assuming you already know that, all right?

Passion…

The first way to use content marketing to grow your tribe of dedicated ideal clients is one a lot of female entrepreneurs use: passion.

If you share your passion for the very specific thing you do, and you share it in such a way that ignites that passion in others, you will quickly grow your tribe of like-minded individuals, who are equally passionate about the same thing. The key is to ensure the passion you’re pouring into your content is a passion for your very specific niche, so the people you’re attracting are people who will be really passionate about what you can do for them, and they will therefore want what you have to offer.

Whether it’s products, services, coaching, whatever you’re doing, make sure you find a way to work in your passion in such a way that it gets them really fired up about what you have to offer.

A really good example of this is one of my favourite female entrepreneurs, Denise Duffield-Thomas.

Denise is astonishingly passionate about the topic of money and making money and manifesting money. It really shines through in all her content: she cares, not just about the topic of money, but of the actual process of making more money for yourself and living the life of your dreams, whatever that life may be.

As a result, Denise has quickly been able to build a phenomenally powerful and dedicated tribe of followers who share her passion for manifesting money, and who are interested in exactly what it is she is teaching.

Just like her, they want to be able to release their money blocks, and find a way to manifest the money that they need to live the life of their dreams. Denise has used content marketing absolutely perfectly to grow a powerful tribe of her ideal clients, and it’s resulted in a multi-million dollar business.

That’s what you’re aiming for.

You don’t have to be teaching money, you don’t have to be teaching anything. Just find a way to tie your passion for what you do into your ideal client’s passion for what you sell.

Be The Inspiration That Motivates Them…

The second way to use your content to grow your tribe is to actually be the inspiration that motivates people. If you are, for example, a dieting expert, a health coach, a nutritionalist, if you’re teaching people how to live healthier lives, eat better, lose weight, or increase their fitness, it’s really helpful if you’ve already been on the journey that they are about to embark on.

Ar Weight-Watchers meetings or Slimming World, the leaders of the groups are very often people who used to be dieters. They started off as the average-Joe, walking in off the street, wanting to lose weight. They got on board with the system, lost a shed-load of weight, and were so invested in it that they went on to set up their own business, teaching other people how to do what they did.

I’ve been to Weight-Watchers meetings and even a few slimming world ones, and they very often have before and after photos of themselves, right there at the front. It screams loud and clear: “This is what I used to be, this is what I am now. This is how I did it, you can do it too!

So you actually become the inspiration that motivates people. That’s really important, especially if you’re doing something like fitness or health, or anything involving a particularly difficult personal journey. That can be anything really. Building a business of your own is a phenomenally difficult journey. But if you can be the thing that inspires your ideal clients, that actually motivates them to get started and to keep going, that’s a phenomenally powerful way to grow your tribe.

People need motivation and they need inspiration; if you can be both at the same time then you’re golden.

Phases…

You can also grow your tribe by using your content to tap into a particular phase in life your ideal client is going. We all have stages in life, whether it’s childhood, adolescence, young adulthood, middle age, menopause, there are age-related phases, mood-related phases, mentality-related phases, and phases that relate to your career, hobbies, or what do in your spare time.

So, for example, new mums are going through a phase. I don’t mean that in a condescending sense, I mean the period of being a new mum is a phase in your life. Changing careers, that’s a phase. Anything that requires you to experience a particular thing for a set period of time.

Phases are things that happens in your life for a finite amount of time.

During that time you often need a lot of help, people who understand what you’re going through and have been there, and can relate and can support you.

If you can tap into a phase your ideal client is experiencing, that is very specific to your ideal client, and related to your products or services you’re selling, then you can grow your tribe based on that need for community.

The need for support, familiarity, and people that know what you’re going through and can help you through it.

Life Events…

Life events are a lot more specific, and usually a lot shorter-lived than phases. Think weddings, birthdays, promotions, retirement, pregnancy, the birth of a child, the death of a loved one.

Are your ideal clients are experiencing a major milestone that has quite a profound effect on you? Things like graduating from university, your first job, or a change in career.

In a very similar way to phases, if you can hone in on a specific live event your ideal client is going through that’s an excellent way to grow your tribe.

Not everybody will have one. My ideal clients do not have a common life event I can tap into. It doesn’t work for everyone. These methods don’t work universally for all ideal clients, so you need to find the one that suits you. But if, for example, you are a wedding planner or a wedding photographer, or a wedding cake maker, then the obvious life event your ideal clients are sharing is weddings.

You can grow your tribe by tapping into the fact they are planning their wedding.

Say you make wedding cakes. Most of your ideal clients aren’t going to want to know exactly how you make wedding cakes. They like seeing the pictures of the finished cakes, but they’re not really that bothered about how you get there most of the time. What they are interested in, however, is absolutely everything else related to weddings.

They’re planning their wedding, they’re looking for caterers, photographers, tips, the perfect dress.

So make your content focused on weddings, and how to have the perfect wedding, and you will rapidly grow your tribe into a community of people who are planning their wedding, and looking for somebody to make their wedding cake. And there you are, just sat there waiting to do it for them!

The thing I will say about this form of tribe though, it’s transitional.

So if you build a tribe based solely on an event like a wedding, you have a very high turnover in your tribe because people really only want a wedding cake once in their lives. Unless something goes catastrophically wrong and they end up getting married again, it’s going to be a one-off thing. They’re only going to buy it from you once.

You might keep them in your tribe because they follow you out of interest or nostalgia, but they’re never going to buy a cake from you again.

You need to be aware of that if you’re basing your business on a life event. You need to engineer your content in such a way that it’s constantly current, it’s constantly ”now’, so that it’s always attracting new people who are newly interested in the event that you’re dealing with, who will be newly needing what you’re selling.

Build A Community Around A Product Or Services…

The fifth way is to use your product or service you are selling as the core of your tribe. You then build your whole tribe around that product or service.

The best example I can think of for this is Leonie Dawson’s planners.

I discovered Leonie Dawson a few years ago when I was first starting out in business. I was looking for help setting everything up and getting going. I was really learning about how you run a business. One of the first things that I invested in, in terms of my own development as a business owner, was Leonie Dawson’s planners. This was several years ago now, but I’ve bought one every year since.

When I first bought it, it was just one book, now it’s three. I get all of them. Every year. Without fail.

If that’s not a genius marketing strategy, I don’t know what is.

I pre-order it as soon as it is available.

I’m a member of the Facebook group.

I have been to get-togethers with other local entrepreneurs where we’ve sat around with our planners planning stuff.

Leonie has built a fabulous community that is specific to her ideal client, which is creative entrepreneurs building a business, but is focused on one small product, rather than her academy training course.

The majority of her marketing isn’t geared towards getting you to buy into the academy, it’s geared towards getting you to buy a planner. That’s a much easier sell!

I think they cost me about £30 this year for the whole lot, but you can get them individually for about £10-£15.

It’s a very small investment to make, and with that investment you not only got a really powerful tool to help you in your business, you got this massive community of like-minded individuals who can support you, and travel with you on your journey as you plan your business.

That’s really what’s made Leonie so successful, her huge dedicated tribe of planner addicts. But a side-effect of all of that, is that a lot of the people buying her planners go on to do the academy, and that’s a big-ticket item.

As a business model this works really well. If you can find a product, especially a low-ticket item that you can get people really fired up and interested in, and that you can build a community around, your content should be geared to that product and helping people with related subjects. You can get people doing group activities and having conversations about it.

If you can do that, you will build a tribe a lot more quickly than you would if you were trying to get people interested in an abstract concept, or a very expensive item that they’re not sure they’re ever going to be able to afford to buy.

Tie Your Content To Your Geographic Location…

Number six is geography. I don’t mean that in the boring sort of schoolroom sense of what you learned in school. I mean that in the literal sense. If your business is local, so specific to a very small area or a particular region, then the easiest way to focus and build your tribe is to target people in your specific area. Now you need to be a bit clever with this one, because if you’re not careful you end up with a group of people who are all from one area, but they’re not all interested in what you have. So I don’t advise you using this one on its own, I advise you tying it in with one of the others. But you can still very easily target people who are specifically interested in what you’re doing, but are also in your geographic region. And the way to do this is to actually tie your content into local events, local places, local things that are of interest to people.

For me, I don’t actually do this at the moment because I don’t work locally, I work internationally, but if I were going to do it, I’m just down the road from Knutsford, and Knutsford has a phenomenal number of things that happen like the flower show, it’s got Tatton Park, it’s got farmers markets and all sorts of things like that. So if I were ever to niche down and target just local people to me, I would tie all of my content into what was happening locally, and news events and things like that. So that when people were searching for non-business topics, they ended up reading things that were tangentially related to business because they were looking for news about the local area.

The good thing about that is that people will automatically filter themselves out, so it can be a bit of a spray and pray technique, geography, but once you’ve got people who are in your local region interested and looking at your website and reading your stuff, they’ll very quickly realise what you do, or at least they should if you’ve got your branding right, realise what you do, and if they’re not interested in what you do they will just count themselves out. They’ll take themselves away, and that’s done in a very nice, non-negative manner. It’s just a case of, “This is me, this is what I do and this is what I’m going to be talking about” and they’ll automatically go, “Oh well, I’m not interested in that” and go. So you won’t end up with a load of people who are local to you but not interested in what you’re doing, because they will automatically count themselves out, but they will only do that if you tie the two together, okay? So you have to tie what you’re doing to your geographic place.

Target Demographics…

Number seven is demographics, and this works a lot like geography in the sense that you have to tie the demographic or demographics that you’re using to something that is very, very specific to what you’re doing. Probably the best example of how people do this is to say that they’re going to target female entrepreneurs. So that’s a very specific demographic in the sense that one, they are entrepreneurs, and two, they are female. Now you might niche that down even further and say, “I’m going to target female entrepreneurs between the ages of 20 and 40.” Or 40 and 60. You might decide you are only going to target a particular nationality of female entrepreneurs between those ages, because your product or your service is of particular value to them.

This is one of those things where you really have to know who your ideal client is. You need to know exactly what kind of things they’re interested in so that you can target them based on their interest, but you must, must, must, must, must tie it to what you do, okay? You really must.

Target Generations…

The last one is generations, and no I don’t mean the really crappy Star Trek film. Hello. Yes, yes, [Creambum 00:20:30] we don’t like the ice cream then do we? No.

Generationally speaking, people have very different attitudes, very different values, very different lifestyles and stages of life, and if you know that your ideal client is in a specific generation. So for example, the majority of my clients are millennials, like me. So that makes it very, very easy to target them because there are certain things I know about millennials that can be targeted. Like we are very interested in technology. We tend to be liberal and very tolerant. We really like our music and our pop culture, and we also tend to be quite interested in clothes. I don’t know why, but we are. So if you’re targeting millennials, and for the record that’s anyone born between 1977 and 1995, you can use that knowledge of how millennials think and what they like to actually target your content to them and build your tribe around the specific things that they are really, really interested in.

Now the topic of how to target generationally is absolutely massive and there is no plausible way that I can go through it all now, but really what I just wanted to do was demonstrate how you can draw distinctions between age groups. You can actually tailor your whole brand and not just your content, but your whole brand to target your ideal client. So you can see the way I am, is clearly targeted at my generation. That’s not to say that I don’t love working with people from other generations, I do, it’s just the majority of my clients are from my generation, so my branding and my content is aimed at that particular age group, at that particular generation and the demographics that go with them.

And Finally…

There you have it, there’s my eight ways to grow your tribe using your content, and I hope you’ve enjoyed that and you found it useful. If you have any tips of your own on how to grow your tribe, I would love, love, love to hear them, and if you have any questions then do please comment below, or email me, or head on over to the website and have a look at the other content that I’ve got there because that might help you out. Also do please like and share this post and don’t forget to subscribe to my YouTube channel to ensure you never miss a post…

8 Ways Content Can Grow An Insanely Powerful Tribe (4)

8 Lessons About Being An Entrepreneur Writing A Book Taught Me

I’ve been writing and publishing books for years now, but last year marked a new mile stone for me: I published my first non-fiction book. The Uber Author Planner is very different to anything I’d done before, and I caught the bug. I wanted to write a business book, dedicated entirely to my specific niche, my zone of genius: writing. How I write, blog, and publish is my own particular brand of awesome. There’s nothing unique about being a writer, or a blogger, or having a book or two out. But nobody does it quite like I do, which means there isn’t a book out there that can teach you the things I know. So I decided to write one. I also though I’d share the lessons about being an entrepreneur I learnt in the effort…

Writing is my passion. You might call it my obsession.

My fictional books are my darlings, but it was time I put my mind to creating a different kind of baby: one that would teach you how to do what I do. Things I learnt through trial and error, success and failure. They’re methods born of creative imagination, a classical education, considerable teaching experience and a bipolar brain that is never, ever quiet.

Early this year I started planning my book. It was a good time to be doing it. I was in the middle of a re-brand, shifting the focus of The Bookshine Bandit so that I was centred on helping business women with their blogging and corporate stories. These two topics intermingle, but exist as separate entities. I needed one book for each, so the project was split in two.

The Tao of Corporate Storytelling is now well underway and will be unleashed on the world in the new year (if you’d like to be the first to read you can sign up to get Chapter One, free, ahead of the launch here!). The second book, The Divine Blogging Design is planned, and will be written once the first book has been released.

I was surprised by the number of lessons about being an entrepreneur that I’ve learnt so far. As my first full-length non-fiction title (academic papers not withstanding) I expected a fair few lessons on writing, but I got considerably more than I bargained for…

Lessons About Being An Entrepreneur

#1 Refuse To Settle

Early on in the process I sketched out eight chapters for The Tao of Corporate Storytelling. The narrative of the book centres on an old Chinese proverb about a dragon and a phoenix. Each chapter focuses on one element of the lesson drawn from that proverb. I knew I wanted illustrations. I had in mind beautiful, traditional water colour images that depicted the various stages in personal and professional development that the book guides you through.

I love art, but water colours are not my thing. This was well outside my skill set, so I set about looking for an illustrator. 

With a fixed budget for the illustrations I immediately ran into trouble. All the illustrators I wanted were too expensive. I needed eight illustrations and could find nobody I liked who worked for less than £150 per image.

This was beyond my budget, and more than I was willing to invest in an element of the project that was pure indulgence on my part – I didn’t require illustrations. I just wanted them.

I’m a fantasy author and there was talk of dragons and firebirds, what can I say, I’m a slave to my inner fantasist.

Eventually I found a wonderful artist who did pen and ink images of animals that I absolutely loved. She was very enthusiastic, and her prices were very reasonable.

Jackpot.

Or so I thought.

Except it didn’t work out.

Disappointed, I looked again, and finally got hold of an illustrator friend. We discussed it, he asked what I’d been paying the first illustrator, and agreed that was fine.

Sorted.

Except it wasn’t.

Back to the drawing board AGAIN. Thoroughly pissed off by this point, I spent a full day researching and reviewing portfolios and finally contacted a German artist through DeviantArt. Her prices were more than my budget could handle, but she was exactly what I wanted and not as high as they could have been.

I ordered two of the eight illustrations I wanted, and low and behold she delivered perfection. 

The Lesson

There was nothing terribly wrong with the first illustrations, but the artist wasn’t the right fit. Everything was wrong with the second, but by that point I almost felt compelled to accept them because of the time and effort I’d already wasted. Fortunately, like Goldilocks, I found the solution on the third try. The artist was a perfect fit, the art was how I wanted it, and the level of professionalism displayed couldn’t be faulted. Lesson learnt.

Never settle.

Even if it means trying some mediocre porridge until you find a bowl that’s just right.

Even if it means reassessing your priorities and deciding to get a smaller amount of a much higher quality.

Never. Ever. Settle.

I have two illustrations rather than the eight I originally wanted, but they’re gorgeous, and two quality images are infinitely better than eight of poor quality, or the wrong style.

Waking the Dragon, Illustration from The Tao of Corporate Storytelling by Hazel Butler, Copyright Hazel Butler 2016 - Copywriting, Business Narratives, Content Marketing, Soulful Selling lessons about being an entrepreneur

When the Phoenix Dances, Illustration from The Tao of Corporate Storytelling by Hazel Butler, Copyright Hazel Butler 2016 - Copywriting, Business Narratives, Content Marketing, Soulful Selling lessons about being an entrepreneur

#2 Always Speak Your Mind

My experience with the illustrators led to a bit of an epiphany. I had reservations about the first when I saw the concepts, worrying that her style of art wasn’t suited to what I wanted after all. I quashed my fears and forged ahead.

In hindsight, I should have listened to that reservation. The artist herself later said she’d harbored exactly the same concern but, like me, had forged ahead instead of speaking her mind.

There was no issue with the concepts from the second artist, the problem was his professionalism. I’d worked with him once before and he’d been impossible to get hold of, missed every deadline (though he set them himself). I never felt I could voice my concerns, because he’s a friend. I worried on hiring him that I’d have the same problems again, but this time, he was the one with an issue with me. He felt I wasn’t paying what his work was worth. I’d have paid him more had he asked, but he didn’t, instead choosing to do a poor job.

The Lesson

All the stress and disappointment with the first artist could easily have been avoided had either of us brought up our mutual fear: her style wasn’t suited to the job. She was an excellent artist, it just wasn’t the right fit. In the second instance, the problem would have never arisen had the new artist told me the problem and asked me to pay him more. Which leads me to lesson number three…

#3 Pay People Their Worth

The lack of communication with the second artist was a two way street this time, as the issue arose from the amount I was paying him. He had asked what I was paying the first illustrator and I had told him, expecting him to ask for considerably more. He hadn’t. I assumed he was giving me mates rates as a favour and, knowing how much he loves to draw, didn’t think it an issue. He, however, resented it from the start, and reached a point where he decided I wasn’t paying enough to justify the time spent, so he half-arsed it. The result was appalling. He knew it, I knew it, but it wasn’t until he gave the me first image and I was forced to raise my concerns about the quality that he finally told me what was wrong. By that point it was too late – neither of us wanted to work together. Knowing why he did it, I almost can’t fault him for it, because he was right – I wasn’t paying him anywhere near enough. Yet he had every opportunity to tell me the problem so we could solve it, and he didn’t…which of course leads back to Lesson #2.

The Lesson

Pay people their worth.

I’m not saying offer people a shed load more than they’re asking for. Assess the job you need doing and get a realistic idea of the amount it will cost for the level of skill you want. Expect to pay that price, possibly a little more. Then look for someone with the level of skill you want, in the price range you have predetermined is fair, and affordable.

Don’t complain when you have to pay what someone is worth, because that’s what you want. You’re in control, you decide the quality and quantity of what you ask for.

If you want quality, you have to pay for it.

#4 Value Yourself As You Would Others

The money train is a two way street. Just as I learnt that I needed to pay people their true worth, so too did I suddenly comprehend that I was guilty of doing exactly what my friend had done. I knew the value of my work, yet my rates at the time did not reflect that value at all. My rates were a third of what they should have been based on my skill level and experience. And I resented certain clients for paying me below the odds. I felt they were being unfair, yet what else were they going to do? I’d never asked for more. I’d never told them they were getting a special price. They were not experts in my field and had nothing to compare it to.

The Lesson

Value yourself, your skills, and your time, for what they are truly worth. Expect to be paid that amount. Ask for that amount. People will either pay it, or they won’t. When I finally found my artist, I understood her value. I didn’t run at her prices because I knew she was worth it. Paying her was a no-brainer, she was solving a huge problem for me and doing it in style. When I put my prices up, I flinched. I didn’t put them up to where they should be, but met them half way. Still, they felt terrifyingly high.

“Nobody’s going to pay me that!” I thought. “I’m not worth that much.” All evidence points to the contrary – my years of experience, my glowing testimonials, my list of happy clients etc. yet still, even now, there is a voice in the back of my head telling me, “You’re not worth that much.” That’s a really difficult voice to silence, or even ignore. Believe me, I know, I’m really trying to kill it.

But the thing is, when my prices went up, nobody batted an eyelid. I didn’t have a single complaint, not one word was said on the subjects. I simply notified existing client what the new price would be, and when it would take effect, and introduced new clients to my services at my new prices.

Ridiculously easy.

Totally painless in fact.

Why the fuck* didn’t I do it years ago?

Here’s the thing: the people who understand your value will pay what you ask them to pay. Ask for what you are worth. The people who tell you you’re too expensive, or try to wrangle you into giving them a lower price, do not understand your value. It doesn’t matter how low you go, they will always think you’re over priced. So do yourself, and them, a favour – send them on their way.

They’re not a good fit.

#5 Get Out Of Your Head

I got really stuck in my own head on this project. I’m ridiculously pleased with how the written content of the book turned out, it’s exactly as I envisioned it, but the rest… well…

I had a really clear idea of what I wanted for illustrations. I had a really specific, narrow view of how my book would look. Sometimes clarity of vision is a godsend. Other times, it’s a curse. On this particular project it was a double edged sword. My clear vision for the book allowed me to write it exactly as I wanted, and the end result is something I’m very proud to claim as my own. But the creative elements – the illustrations, the cover design, even the title… these things were problematic.

You see, I’m a fantasy author. I’ve been writing fiction a lot longer than I’ve been writing non-fiction. I only started blogging and professional non-fiction writing in my early twenties. I’ve been writing fiction for as long as I’ve been able to hold a pen (or a crayola). The Tao of Corporate Storytelling is the first full non-fiction book I’ve ever written. The Uber Author Planner has written content, but it’s sparse, the majority of the book consisting of planners, templates, outlines, and writing aids.

The Tao of Corporate Storytelling is a full length non-fiction piece, and the only creative elements in it are the cover, illustrations, and title.

And if I’m honest it doesn’t need illustrations. The addition of traditional water colour illustrations was a pure indulgence on my part, especially as I was illustrating the story element of the book – the fantasy – and not the factual element. But to me, this made sense: it’s a book about storytelling, about the creation of narrative in a business context. The odd juxtaposition of the fantasyesque illustrations and the corporate content was fitting.

But I was stuck in my own head.

My head is a fantastical place full of dragons and firebirds and magic. It is not the typical mind of a business person. Most entrepreneurs are extremely creative, but not that many are fantasy authors.

Which means not that many will appreciate the high fantasy elements I was bringing to the book.

The original title for the project was Copywriting for Female Entrepreneurs: Soulful Selling Through Stories. The more I wrote, the more I came to hate that title. The book is about finding yourself, your stories, finding your magic and power. My personal strength and stories are drawn from fantasy, and I really riled against the sensible nature of that title.

It bored me.

And thus I assumed it would bore everyone else.

So I changed it, to When the Phoenix Dances: Soulful Selling Through Stories. I loved this title, and merrily went on writing, ordered my illustrations, and when the phoenix image finally arrived, happily created my cover.

Then I got The Fear.

Because something I should have realised much sooner had suddenly become blindingly obvious: it looked nothing like a business book.

I posted it on social media and asked for opinions, only to have my suspicion confirmed: everyone either thought it was fiction, or was simply confused by it.

Had it been a fiction book I could possibly have got away with confusing them – enigmatic covers are often appealing to fiction readers. But this isn’t a fiction book, and the impression the cover was giving was the exact opposite of what I wanted. In my quest to not be boring I’d come across as something I wasn’t, and I was presenting the book as something it wasn’t.

Hardly in keeping with the spirit of authenticity.

But I was so stuck in my own head, I just couldn’t see it. 

The Lesson

Even if you are 100% convinced you’ve nailed it. Even if you’re completely certain you’re on the right track, that what you’re doing is exactly what your ideal clients want, that it’s going to go down a storm and make you millions.

We are not omnipotent. We are not our ideal client. We are not the answer to life the universe and everything. We are but individuals, one, not many. The view of one is narrow, the view of many is broad. GET FEEDBACK.

#6 Be A Duck

Accept criticism and comment, even if you disagree, even if it makes you fuming mad, even if it makes you vomit. Accept it. Let it run right off you, the proverbial water sheeting down upon the back of the equally proverbial duck.

Feedback is water.

You are the duck,

Ducks don’t sweat water, they love it.

Be the duck.

You will resist what people are saying to you at first. Even if they’re being nice and very helpful, even if they’re agreeing with you or saying they love what you’re doing. They will say something, use some inflection, phrase, word, or emoticon, that convinces you they hate you. Or they think you’re shit. Or they think you’re stupid. Or maybe they’re stupid. 

All this is normal. 

All this is water.

Be the duck.

After you’ve been kicking around in the pond for a while you’ll start to see patterns forming, ripples. These are SHARED OPINIONS. If the shared opinion of your ideal clients is that your title is misleading, your cover is confusing, and you need to scrap both and start again, you’d damn well better listen.

The Lesson

They won’t care if you ignore them. 

Really, they won’t.

But they’re your ideal clients, you want them to love your stuff, and they’re telling you, very clearly, that there’s something about it they don’t love. Something not quite right. If you listen very carefully they will tell you exactly what it is and how to fix it. But if you’re so busy squawking about the fact you’re getting wet you won’t be able to hear them!

BE THE DUCK!

#7 It’s Okay To Change Your Mind

No matter how far you get into a project, no matter how much you’ve promoted it, no matter how much people have seen of it, it’s okay to change your mind. I made two huge changes to this project off the back of the wonderful feedback I received. One was to change the title to The Tao of Corporate Storytelling: A Guide to Copywriting and Business Narratives. The other was to completely change the cover. 

At this point nobody but my friends and people in a business group or two on Facebook had seen the cover idea I originally had, so that wasn’t a big deal.

The title on the other hand…was.

For weeks I’d been tweeting quotes from my book, sharing them on Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest, all with the title included, all with the hashtag #WhenThePhoenixDances. It wasn’t a minor tweak to the title, it was a total change. Aside from ‘the’ and ‘through’ every word had changed and the entire feel of the title had changed.

That was good.

That was needed.

It was also bloody terrifying!

The Lesson

But it’s okay. It’s okay to decide something isn’t working and change it so that it is.

It’s okay to decide a project just isn’t right for you at all, and give it up as a bad job. Shelve it. Put it on the back burner. You can always come back to it later, if you want, but it’s better to stop, not waste any more time, or worse still release something into the world that’s totally wrong for you. 

Change is good…

When The Phoenix Dances: Soulful Selling for Female Entrepreneurs by Hazel Butler lessons about being an entrepreneur

The original cover and title.

 

The Tao of Corporate Storytelling: A Guide to Copywriting and Business Narrative by Hazel Butler lessons about being an entrepreneur

The revised cover and title, based on feedback from my Tribe and potential ideal clients.

 

*You must forgive me the occasional F-Bomb. It’s my way. I have a terrible potty mouth. I keep a lid on it most of the time for work, as I know some people find it offensive, but just occasionally it’s necessary for emphasis. If you’re wondering, no, I don’t swear while writing other people’s copy – unless they specifically ask me to, in which case they are usually pleased by the extensive range of expletives in my arsenal.

Book of the Week: Feminine Capital by Barbara Orser and Catherine Elliott

This week I’ve been reading yet another book on entrepreneurship! This one’s a little different from most and I’ve appreciated the change of pace. As a female entrepreneur with a background in gender research, Feminine Capital by Barbara Orser and Catherine Elliott has been on my To Read pile for a while. 

The Curse of the Cover Judgement

I’m not sure why it took me so long to get to it. Perhaps it was the rather harsh, corporate image on the cover. To my mind, the front clashed with the bright pink spine. The silhouette on the front is as masculine as a silhouette can be, while sporting a skirt suit with a fiercely fuchsia collar. I’ve spent too long studying gender and feminism not to recognise the hallmarks of a die-hard, man-hating feminist. I have nothing against hard-core feminists or man-haters, but I’m more of a feminista myself. I don’t need the hard sell where equality is concerned. I already know what I’m capable of. I also know this is not contingent upon the contents of my knickers.

It’s unfortunate the cover gave me such a negative impression of the book. It’s far from old school feminism, and I wish I’d read it sooner!

As an author, I’m well aware we judge books by their covers. This book really drove the point home. This is new wave feminism with facts.

Here Comes the Science Bit…

Case studies, statistics, detailed breakdowns of theories and how they’re reflected in practice. It bowled me over (in a good way). I absolutely loved this book. It’s in keeping with my view that women are not suffering in business due to gender, but thriving. The gender differences that once set us apart and made people assume we were less capable are the very things that are enabling us to approach entrepreneurship with a fresh attitude, a different view, and a unique set of skills. 

As Feminine Capital makes plain, there are over 200,000,000 female business owners world-wide, many of whom enjoy phenomenal success. Barbara Orser and Catherine Elliott have an academic approach to the topic that I greatly admire and often find lacking in this type of book If you’re looking for a woo woo book about embracing your inner goddess and listening to your spirit guides, this aint it. There is absolutely nothing wrong with that form of female empowerment, none at all, but if you struggle with a more factual, research-based approach, fair warning, this may not be the book for you. 

I’m from a very academic background. I spent ten years at university. I like an academic, analytic approach. I like writers backing up their theories and suppositions with copious amounts of research. I truly appreciated the forty years of serious research that supports each and every word. 

Practical and Insightful

Feminine Capital is a wonderfully practical look at the ways in which women are doing business. Orser and Elliott’s insights into the manner in which gender influences decision-making in business is insightful and inspiring. Their findings confirm my own theory: women are wired differently. That difference allows us to excel in certain areas, leaving our male counterparts in the proverbial dust. The crafting of a distinctive brand is something many women do exceptionally well. Finally I have a better understanding of why that is. This book is a must-read for women in business – it tackles a lot of myths and misconceptions that undermine women. It also provides practical advise and examples of how to improve our skills and business ventures.

Highly recommended!

Feminine Capital: Unlocking the Power of Women Entrepreneurs Book Cover Feminine Capital: Unlocking the Power of Women Entrepreneurs
Barbara Orser and Catherine Elliott
Entrepreneurship
Stanford Business Books
March 25, 2015
Paperback
240

Today, there are over 200,000,000 women business owners around the world. Many of these entrepreneurs are not doing business as usual, nor are they simply leaning in. Rather, they are tapping into feminine capital—the unique skills and sensibilities that they have cultivated as women—to create enviable successes.

Drawing on four decades of award-winning research, Feminine Capital reveals how women are harnessing different approaches to doing business. Barbara Orser and Catherine Elliott detail the pillars of feminine capital and offer new insight into the ways that gender can influence entrepreneurial decision-making. They find that leveraging feminine capital can help women to create distinctive brands, build new markets, and drive profits—all while leveling the playing field in business. In doing so, women are changing our social and economic landscape, one venture at a time.

Dispelling myths and misperceptions that can undermine women-owned ventures, this book takes a fresh look at how female entrepreneurs can leverage their skills, knowledge, and values. Case studies of women entrepreneurs bring key concepts and lessons to life, while learning aids, diagnostic tools, and checklists help readers to construct innovative business models, refine start-up plans, and hone growth strategies.

My Kind of Crazy: Entrepreneurship And Mental Illness

The link between entrepreneurship and mental illness is well established. Personal experience has lent me a rather unique insight into the subject, as I have found life as an entrepreneur to be a double edged sword where mental health is concerned: if I’m not very careful it damns me just as easily as it saves me.

I wasn’t always a freelancer.

In fact, I wasn’t always a writer, not professionally at least. 

I was originally an archaeologist.

I studied archaeology and ancient history at A Level, before doing a BA (Hons.) in both subjects, followed by an MA in Celtic Archaeology. I thought throughout my postgrad studies and continued to teach evening adult classes in archaeology after my MA ended. I spent almost two years working as an excavator in corporate archaeology and a summer working in Austria. I published papers in international archaeology journals, and finally went on to win a PhD scholarship to study my favourite topic: Gender Dynamics in Iron Age and Early Medieval Britain.

That’s about the point it tripped me up.

I fell into a pit of depression so deep it was impossible to claw my way back out. Despite my outward success internally I was a wreck. I was suicidal, and attempted to take my own life more than once. This had been an issue on and off since my early teens. I had been diagnosed with depression when I was sixteen and bulimia at nineteen, but the only attempts to medicate me had made me considerably worse. I’d given up on doctors, I’d given up on myself, and I’d pretty much given up on life. 

At length I was diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder, and so began the long, long road to recovery.

Part of that road was accepting I could no longer function in the world of academia. It was too much pressure, too much stress, and once I was undergoing treatment I found the extremely strong medication I had to take fogged my mind: I simply couldn’t function at that level anymore.

Another part of my journey involved signing on to JSA and enduring the humiliation and frustration of desperately trying to find a job – any job – only to be repeatedly told that I was, of all things, overqualified.

I was, it seemed, unemployable.

So I decided to employ myself. In 2011 I started freelancing and set up my own business. Gradually I gained experience as a copywriter, and in the interim I published several pieces of fiction, including a novel, and a novella. 

I quickly found that life as an entrepreneur suited me very well. It gave me the freedom to work around my illness and my natural creativity and passion for writing fueled my efforts. The more I learned about the entrepreneurial lifestyle the more I came to understand that it was common for individuals with mental illness – not only bipolar, but many other conditions – to end up working for themselves. There is a creative spark that often comes with mental illness (also well-documented), which lends itself to founding, building, and running a business – especially one that revolves around something like writing, which is inherently creative and involves a lot of imagination. 

Working for myself is freeing in so many ways – I can indulge my passions while earning my paycheck; I can achieve wonderful things; I can help far more people by offering my writing gifts (my particular Zone of Genius) to other business women who aren’t as confident or skilled with a pen, or simply don’t have the time to write their own copy; I can work around my illness and balance my work and my health; and I can spread the word about mental health issues and raise awareness through my writing.

Truly it is a dream come true.

But there is a flipside… isn’t there always?

The stresses and strains that come with running a business are numerous and unending. From worries over income and cash-flow, trouble managing accounts, and the myriad of administrative tasks that have to be completed, life as an entrepreneur can be incredibly stressful.

And stress is not good for mental health, regardless of what illness you have, or whether you have an illness at all – even those who are perfectly healthy can crack under the pressures of running a business.

Knowing this, I consulted mental health coach, writer, speaker, and advocate Sharon Chisholm on the best ways to care for your mental health as a female entrepreneur. Here’s what she had to say…

Sharon Chisolm mental health peer coach, writer, speaker and advocateTop Mental Wellness Tips For The Female Entrepreneur

  1. Love yourself – Treat yourself like you would a dear friend. Listen to your own needs, rest when you need to and plan days off and holidays.
  2. Don’t listen to the mind monsters – Tell those little voices in your head to go away when they start telling you that you can’t do something. They are just trying to keep you within your comfort zone.
  3. Trust your gut instinct – Listen to your inner wisdom as it usually knows best. This “knowing” comes from your past experiences.
  4. Sleep is sacred – Getting enough sleep is vital to the management of your mental health. Set yourself a sleep routine and stick to it wherever possible.
  5. Eat for life – It’s easy to fill up on junk food and snacks when you’re busy, but that won’t give you the energy to be consistent in your work and could mean that you are more susceptible to sickness, meaning time away from your business.
  6. Limit the sugar – Our minds and bodies don’t like the roller-coaster of sugar highs and lows.  Sugar is a well-known trigger for emotional upheaval and afternoon energy drops.

Sharon Chisholm is an award-winning coach, mental health advocate, writer and speaker living on the east coast of Australia.She works with female entrepreneurs based all over the world, helping them with a variety of challenges from low confidence and self-esteem, through to mind health issues such as anxiety and depression. Sharon writes for a number of publications and regularly speaks about her own lived experience with mental illness, as well as hosting her own podcast called the “Mental as Anything Podcast”. She also facilitates workshops on mental health in the workplace and advises government bodies on how they can better support the small business owner living with mind health issues.

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