You started a blog and have great content, but no one knows that it exists! How are you making sure your content is found by potential readers? The answer: social media.
Why Social Media
Bloggers are discovering that investing time for online networking can be very beneficial for brand awareness and increasing traffic to their blog. As a blogger, it’s very important to stay connected, since readers want to feel like they know you. Social media is a great opportunity to let readers into your life in a more casual environment than on your blog. It’s also great for engaging your readers in real-time conversations. Your blog will always be a home base, but building up social media channels helps drive people back to your blog.
Give Potential Readers Options
There are many social networks out there, but you don’t need to join them all. You should, however, figure out which ones work best for you and have options available for your readers; not everyone follows blogs the same way. Facebook may not be your favorite social network, but it might be a favorite of a potential reader. Another reader may only follow blogs on Twitter. You want people to be able to follow you where they are comfortable.
Be Creative & Conversational
Being a little creative, when it comes to sharing your blog socially, can go a long way. Tailoring your introductions for each social network really makes a difference. While Twitter is used mostly for posting links, Pinterest is a very visual site, and Facebook works well for both text and images. It’s important not to forget the “social” in social media! Social media is so powerful because it allows you to interact – take advantage of that! In addition to posting your own content, share other relevant issues and ideas as well.
I recently put together a series on the Alt Summit blog all about growing your blog through social media. So if you’ve ever wanted to know how to use Facebook, Twitter or Pinterest to grow your readership, make sure you check them out. And leave a comment either here or on the actual posts themselves if you have any specific questions you want answered!
Starting a Facebook page for your blog opens you up to one of the largest audiences on the internet. Sharing content on Facebook is so easy and convenient, especially since your readers most likely already use Facebook. Read the full post on the Alt blog.
Twitter is a great way to promote your content, share your expertise, and connect with like-minded people. It is a fast and easy way to give quick updates to followers. Read the full post on the Alt blog.
Social media is getting more and more visual, and Pinterest is a great example of this. If you take a little time to make your blog Pinterest friendly, it can end up being your number one traffic source. Read the full post on the Alt blog.
If you are anything like me, you struggle with saying no. Walking away from a freelance project feels counter-intuitive and just wrong. How can you turn away from a new client and some extra cash in your pocket? But when building your business, the projects you say no to can be just as important as the projects you say yes to.
Consider asking yourself the following questions before taking on a new project:
Does the project match your skill set?
This may seem obvious, but do not take on jobs that are outside your area of expertise. If you are strictly a print designer, be up front with your client and don’t promise a complete web design overhaul. Don’t claim to be a “social media strategist” when your only experience to date has been creating your personal facebook page.
It is far better to form strategic alliances with other freelancers who have complementary skills. Are you a designer who struggles with html? Bring in a coding expert to help on your next job. You can pass along the cost to your client, and in turn, the coding expert just might bring you some design work from his/her clients. Do what you do best; strategically farm out the rest.
Will the finished project be something you are proud to show in your portfolio?
In an ideal world, your dream clients would come running to you with an ample budget and projects galore.
More often than not, the “dream client” doesn’t have the cash. For example, say an up-and-coming jewelry designer needs a brochure designed for her new collection. As soon as you hear of the project, your mind starts reeling with innovative ideas to showcase the jewelry; but the client can’t afford to pay your full hourly rate. Do you take the project? Time allowing, you may consider taking on the project to build your portfolio and attract new clients.
Conversely, if a client comes to you with a project that you would most likely NOT show in your portfolio, don’t turn it down right away. Consider if the compensation would make it worthwhile. Could the profit you earn be used to pay for a continuing education seminar or allow you to attend an upcoming conference?
Do you believe in the product or service you will be promoting?
In your freelance career, you will be approached by a client whose business model makes your insides crawl. Maybe it is a cigarette company and your grandmother just recently passed away from smoking-induced emphysema. Or perhaps a specialty gun store approaches you for help with their marketing, but you are anti-guns. I recommend walking away from these kinds of projects.
As much as you try to separate yourself from the product or service, you will have difficulty giving the client your best work when you oppose their fundamental business principles.
Don’t worry. Another project will come along with a cause you are passionate about.
Have you recently walked away from a freelance opportunity? What factors did you consider before turning it down? Love to hear your feedback!
Starting a blog always sounds like so much fun, right? And in the beginning, you’re so excited about posting, sharing and getting comments. But after the first few posts, you start to get a little lax – you either forget to post or feel like you’ve got nothing to write about. A month later, you’re not posting at all and you give up hope.
Sound familiar? Never again, my friend!
The key to starting a successful blog and keeping up with it is to 1) LOVE what you’re writing about and 2) have a plan of action.
Last month I shared with you why having a blog for your business is so important, and today I’m sharing with you how to come up with a ton of blog topics and a plan for how to actually get them written and scheduled – complete with a worksheet to get you started!
Coming Up with Content
First thing’s first – to blog consistently without the burnout, it’s important to love what you’re talking about. If you’re blogging for your business (and you’ve got a business that you love), you’ve already got a head start because you’ve already got lots of things to talk about.
To come up with content, start making a list on the worksheet (Coming Up with Blog Content Worksheet) of things you could write about when it comes to your business. If you use Pinterest often, take a look at the types of things you’re pinning and use those for inspiration. For example, if you’ve got an entire board dedicated to fonts and type, write that down as a topic you could write about. If you’re in love with layouts and have a ton of gorgeous spreads pinned, write that down too.
Another way to come up with topics is to think about the questions you get asked about your business. What questions are your customers asking? What do they need to know about your business? Turning those into blog posts creates awesome and sharable content for your readers, and it helps them get to know your business better.
Try to come up with a list of 15 to 20 topics to start with. Some of the topics may even turn into weekly features, like a weekly post about fun new fonts or a series on layout design – things like that make your topics go much further.
Actually Getting Posts Scheduled and Written
Now that you’ve got a list of topics, it’s time to get them written down on the calendar. Having a plan for your posts is so important because if you open your calendar and see what you’re going to be writing about, it’s so much easier to sit down and write than if you were going into it blindly.
It also helps with the roller coaster we go through with blogging – some days we want to post 46 times and other times we could go weeks without having anything to post.
Take out a blank calendar or open up your Google calendar. Start off by deciding how frequently you’d like to post. If you want to take your time and come up with well researched posts or share DIYs that take some time, start with posting once every week or every few weeks. If you’re more interested in sharing shorter posts, you can choose to post a few times each week. You can always change how often you post, but this will serve as a basis for getting them scheduled on your calendar.
Start writing your post topics down on your calendar according to how often you’ve decided to post. Think about different series or columns you could do, like a Music Monday or Font Friday. You can start with just jotting down the idea or an idea for a title; don’t worry about writing the post until later.
Schedule out all of your ideas and depending on how often you’re going to post, you’ll have enough content for a few months. Repeat this process each time you’re editorial calendar is looking a little bare, and keep a small notebook in your bag to jot post ideas in when they come to you.
When you’re in the mood to do some writing, take out your calendar and write a few posts. If you use WordPress as your blogging platform, you can schedule them to go live on a certain day at a certain time – this comes in handy on the days you feel like blogging but don’t want to post so much in one day. It’s also helpful when the holidays or vacation time rolls around – you can easily get your posts ready before your time off and schedule them to go live while you’re gone.
When you’re blogging about your passion, it’s much easier to stay consistent and grow your blog – you’ll beat the burnout and enjoy writing and sharing what you love.
We’ve all been there. You’ve promised your client concepts for their logo design. And you are stuck looking at a blank white screen. You are in a state of creative paralysis.
With a little preparation and a proper game plan, you can avoid what I call white-screen-itus.
Here’s my 7-step process for designing logos:
1. Creative Brief
Before you ever start designing a logo, you must do some fact-finding. I suggest having your client complete a concise creative brief. This can be done in a face-to-face meeting or submitted as an online form. You may consider including the following questions:
Who is your target audience? Who are your closest competitors? What type of product or service do you offer? What is your unique selling proposition? What is the exact wording to be used in the logo? What is your company’s slogan or tagline? Are there any specific images or icons you’d like to incorporate into the logo? Are there any specific colors you may want to use? Are there any colors or imagery you would like to avoid? How do you want your target audience to respond to your corporate identity?
2. Research/Gather Inspiration
Research may sound boring, but this can actually be my favorite part. This is where I take some time to gather design inspiration. I also examine the branding of my client’s competitors (to make sure I properly differentiate my client from competing business) and study the logo examples that the client liked. Here are some of my favorite resources for identity inspiration:
I also make a point to notice things around me. I may be inspired by the typography on a Panera bag or the imagery and color palette in an Anthropologie catalog. Some designers find it helpful to compile their inspiration into a mood board.
I have a bad habit of racing to the computer before I am adequately prepared. I have found that I am much more successful and efficient if I first pull out my sketchbook and manually explore typographic layouts and symbols. I can quickly determine from a basic sketch whether a design is worth developing.
After sketching out LOTS of ideas, I can then pair down which designs I should bring to the computer to execute. It is a good idea to work on your designs in black and white initially, adding color later. I find that if I include color too early in the process, I can be attracted to a logo because of the color alone, not necessarily because it is the strongest design solution.
5. Step Away
This part is important. I prefer to work on a logo in small chunks of time – an hour here, a few hours there. I find that if I walk away from the computer, even for a few hours, I am able to return with fresh eyes and work with more efficiency.
6. Review and Refine
Now it’s time to look at your work with a more critical eye. Throw out the weaker logo designs. Take some time to refine your strongest concepts. Look closely at kearning, positioning, etc. Are there small variations or changes that may strengthen the design? Look back at your creative brief. Do your logo concepts communicate your client’s brand effectively?
When I deliver my logo concepts, I like to review them with the client. Sometimes this is done in-person. Other times on the phone. What is important is that you have an opportunity to discuss the variations in the logos, your thought process and ultimately how the different logo designs communicate your client’s brand. Pull out points from the original creative brief and explain how your logo designs achieve their objective. From here, you and your client can collaborate and decide what logo best represents the company’s brand. I have found that if I follow these 7 steps, I can minimize revisions. Happy Designer. Happy Client. It’s a win-win.
Hey guys, Ciera here. Thanks for an amazing post Lauren! This is the same process that I use for logo design but just wanted to chime in with one additional tip: When you deliver the first round of concepts, don’t include too many options. This tends to overwhelm and confuse the client. I think that three strong concepts is a good starting point. And don’t include a design that you are not happy with, this will always, without a doubt, be the version the client decides to choose, and that is always a bummer.
How about you? Do you have any logo design tips to add? What does your process look like?
When you start your business, you may think a website and Facebook page are sufficient enough for your online presence. The truth is – while you need both of those – blogging consistently will help grow your business much quicker. Here are three reasons why:
1. Blogging Helps with Search Engine Optimization
Search engine optimization (SEO) is important for a small businesses because the higher your site ranks when someone searches for you or your area of business, the more likely your site will be visited. Blogging helps with SEO because site links are a very important aspect of ranking. When you blog, you will most likely be sharing some links to other sites, and eventually people will be putting links to your blog on their site. The more links you have (without going overboard), the better chance you have of being ranked higher in search engines.
Blogging also helps with search engine optimization because you are writing about things related to your niche. You are also tagging your posts and giving them categories, and the more keywords related to your niche you have on your site or blog, the higher your site will be ranked in search engines.
2. Blogging Helps Grow Connections with Customers
When you’re reading through a website, you might be able to catch a little bit about the business owner’s personality or style but you can’t form much of a connection by reading their list of services.
When you add a blog to your website, you are sharing your life, your thoughts and your ideas with anyone who comes across your site. They get to know who you are and what your interests are which helps them form a connection with you. People don’t connect with static websites, they connect with feelings, emotions and experiences. Sharing yours on a blog will help you form better connections with your current and potential customers, which will lead to more sales in the long run.
3. Blogging Makes You an Expert in Your Field (Or Look Like One)
If someone sees your business name and Googles you, the more stuff that shows up in the results, the more professional and well known you look to them (if that stuff is good stuff). As I mentioned earlier, having a blog will help you increase your search ranking and results. People will more likely choose your business over someone in your niche who has very little results in a search listing because you look like the expert in your field.
Another way having a blog makes you look like an expert is the free content you’re providing to your potential customers. If you make jewelry and write blog posts about how to keep your jewelry organized, how to clean it and what the hottest jewelry trends for the season are, potential customers will most likely choose you over someone who just has a static website or Etsy shop. You’re giving them free advice, and people appreciate that.
So there you have it – three reasons why you should start a blog for your business. Next month I’ll show you how you can come up with a ton of ideas for blog posts and how to make sure they actually get scheduled and written.
Blogging is an amazing way to grow your brand and get your business out there, but in the beginning it can be very difficult to get people to start following your blog. Today I’m sharing two ways to get your business out there when you’re just starting out and how to get readership when you’ve got no fans or followers.
1. Guest Posting
When it comes to guest posting, you can either guest post on other blogs or have others contribute to your own blog.
Guest Posting on Other Blogs:
Posting on other blogs has some great benefits. It puts more links to your blog out on the web, which makes it easier for people to find your site in search engines like Google or Bing.
Another way guest posting helps grow your following is by positioning you as an expert in your field. Once you post on another blog, you can add a link to the article and a short description of what you wrote in the Publications section on your LinkedIn profile. You can also add a logo from that blog or link your article to a Press or As Seen On page on your site.
When looking for blogs to guest post on, look for blogs outside your niche that might need help on the topic you’re an expert in. For example: If you’re a graphic designer, try posting on a blog for crafters on the topic of the importance of good logo design.
Having Contributors on Your Own Blog:
Having other people guest post on your own blog can also help publicize your site. When someone posts on your blog, they will most likely share links to the post on their social networks, so your blog is being publicized to their following in addition to yours. Any extra eyes on your site can help grow the number of followers you have.
2. Collaborations with Other Bloggers
Collaborating with other bloggers, both larger and smaller, on a project is a fun way to grow everyone’s following. Brainstorm some ideas for a project you’d like to work on and make a list of bloggers who might be able to help the project.
Once you have all of the details ironed out, reach out to the bloggers on your list to see if they would be interesting in the collaboration. If they say yes, make sure you take care of all of the details for them to ensure that it is as easy for them as possible. If they say no, thank them for their response and move on to the next person on your list.
For example, you could coordinate a blog series on blogger’s favorite DIY projects. Each blogger you collaborate with would be assigned a week, and you would both promote the post through your social media pages. Then when the blog series is over, you could combine each of the DIY posts into an ebook and give it to each of the contributors to give to their following.
This helps each person in the collaboration because their content is being shared with new audiences as each person helps promote their post.
When you focus on these steps to grow your following, you’ll also notice relationships and friendships being formed with the people in your collaborations, which can lead to bigger opportunities down the road.
Guest posting and collaborations will help you go from zero fans and followers to a growing fan base and a growing presence in the online world.
So you’ve been going at this freelance thing for a while now. And you are left wondering, “How do I keep my clients coming back for more?”
It’s no secret that it is far easier to obtain additional business from current clients than to acquire new clients. To increase revenue, business strategists encourage the practice of upselling or cross-selling. I hate those terms because they allude to selling your client something they don’t need. For example, I never want to “sell” my client on a fancy, cost-prohibitive, printed brochure when their business may reap more rewards from investing in a website redesign.
Instead of “selling” your client additional products or projects, how about focusing on selling yourself as an asset to their team?
Here are 5 practical ways you can keep your clients coming back for more:
1. Listen more than you speak
Take the time to truly listen to your clients. Ask the right questions. You may find that what they think they need is very different from what they actually need. Show them that you are looking out for their dollar, and they will value you and your work for years to come.
2. Underpromise; Overdeliver
This is key. Allow me to give you an example. After receiving a signed quote for a logo design, I sent my client a specific production schedule outlining when to expect the first draft, revisions, etc. I allowed 14 days to develop my first round of concepts. It may take me far less than 14 days to design the logo, but this way I build in some cushion for the what-ifs (my child gets sick, a family emergency comes up, etc.). Luckily for me, no “what-ifs” erupted so I was able to deliver the logo concepts 2 days earlier than promised. Result: A pleasantly surprised client. Don’t put yourself in a position where you can’t reach deadlines or are delivering sub-par work. If you set realistic expectations and communicate clear deadlines, your clients will be willing to wait for quality work.
And no, I’m not talking about the app. You can accomplish a lot over phone and email these days, but nothing develops a business relationship as effectively as in-person communication. Schedule a coffee date to introduce yourself and brainstorm. Your client will not only be invested in the project. He/she will be invested in you.
4. Check in
Don’t be a fair weather friend. Check in with your client a few weeks/months after project completion and ask how things are going. Ask if there is anything you could have done to make the project more successful. Show you care about more than a paid invoice.
5. Blog Regularly
You knew this one was coming. Regular blogging will not only do wonders for your website’s SEO, it will enhance your client relationships. I am amazed at how my “mommy blog,” Letters From LaLa has increased my freelance design business. Your clients want to know you as a person, not just a designer.
A few months ago, I wrote Design Tips for Facebook Pages, stating that customizing app icons are a must! This tip lead to some confusion since many people had trouble finding and installing an app in the first place… not good. So today, I’m going to show you how to find and install some of the same apps that I use on Ciera Design’s Facebook page! Finding and installing apps on Facebook is not as easy as it sounds. The Facebook search feature is not very good and since apps are developed by third parties, steps to install them vary.
- Find the app here. - Select your page from the drop down menu. - Enter your RSS feed url. This will usually be http://yoururl.com/feed OR your Feedburner url if you use Feedburner. - Check Publish to wall if you want this app to automatically post to your wall. - Choose your preference for the additional options. - Click Save and you are done!
Etsy Showcase is great for an Etsy shop tab. This app can also show your shops about information, policies and feedback.
- Find the app here. - Click the Add To My Page (FREE) button. - Select your page and click Add Etsy Showcase. - Click the app now on your Facebook page and add your Shop Name or ID and click Update. - Now your Etsy Showcase will be one of your app tabs when you visit your page!
I use Woobox for my Twitter tab. This app can also publish tweets to your page automatically.
- Find the app here. - Select your page from the drop down menu and click Add Page Tab. - Enter your Twitter username and fill in your preferences. I like to “Hide Tweets that start with @” and “Hide background image from Twitter profile”
I use Pinterest Page App for my Pinterest tab. This app can show pins from selected pin boards.
- Find the app here. - Select your page and click Add Page Tab. - Fill in your setting and hit Save Settings. - Now Pinterest will be one of your app tabs when you visit your page!
- Find the app here. - Select the page on which your Instagram feed will be added and click Add Instagram feed Tab. - Sign in to your Instagram account. - Now Instagram Feed will be one of your app tabs when you visit your page!
To add other apps not listed here, use the Facebook search bar and select an option that shows up under the APPS header. That will bring you to the apps profile page. Remember, that besides the stock Facebook apps (Photos, Videos, Links, Events and Notes) any other app you install will be a third-party app, which means that it is not necessarily reputable or may not work at all. Each app works differently, so it can be a bit confusing. Now that you have your apps installed, highlight what’s important and customize your app icons!
Note: This was published October 19, 2012 and updated on February 2, 2013 and August 6, 2013. Facebook tends to update things frequently so if you see that anything is out of date, or you have any questions, please let me know and I’ll update this post!
I bet a lot of you guys have heard of the Altitude Design Summit. If not, it is a conference for design-minded folks. Bloggers, lifestyle brands and the companies that want to connect with them — get together to network, discuss theory and love on all things design. If you’re obsessed with lifestyle, food and fashion blogs, fantastic images, smart ideas and great design inside and outside — all wrapped up with a social media bow — Altitude Design Summit is the place to be!
I’m sure many of you, like me, can not make the financial commitment to attend this event (as amazing as it would be)! So, in an attempt to meet the needs of those who cannot make the trip, Alt has added an Alt Channel to make Alt Summit available to everyone, everywhere, all year long! Mind. Blown. Each week you can take classes from blogging and social media experts, the same kind of high-quality topics and content that you’ve come to expect from Alt Summit! I have attended a few of these classes and they are absolutely amazing and only $15, yep!
Alt also has a new blog! They have been busy at work building great content about business, blogging, photography, design and all kinds of useful information to help you do better, what you do! Pretty much every post on the blog is super helpful but I’d like to share some of my favorites!
Your blog is constantly being visited by search bots (a.k.a. spiders, crawlers, robots). Their job is to read your content, and determine what you’re writing about. That information is then added to the databases of search engines, and pulled up in search results when relevant. Read more…
I’ve had a few readers ask how I developed a blog readership and for some advice on getting their names out there, so I wrote up this list with some tips and actions to take!
1 – Blog about what you know
I think the most important advice I can offer for someone wanting to grow their blog is to focus on what you love and what you are passionate about. Blogging about what you know insures that you will have valuable content.
Tips & Actions: - determine the purpose of your blog and stick with it - don’t feel the need to do it all or try to imitate somebody else - post quality content frequently - don’t post what you think people want to hear - teach a webinar or create a blog series focused on your talents
2 – Get personal / Be real
People want to know YOU, the person behind the blog. People will read your blog if they like what you have to say, that’s all there is to it.
Tips & Actions: - enjoy what you’re doing and don’t get wrapped up in the details - share something personal (this can be as simple as sharing your favorite book) - write the way you speak - don’t take yourself too seriously - be true to yourself and what it is you want to share with the world - add a photo of yourself to your about page - be accessible (either list your email address or add a contact form)
3 – Create a space worth following
Not only is your content important but your actual blog design is too! Maybe it is just the designer in me, but I am drawn to simple layouts with big pictures.
Tips & Actions: - have a blog design that you love and that feels like “you” - use images in your posts (preferably original imagery) - develop your own style and have a consistency to your design, writing style, content and photography - only have pertinent information in your sidebars (too much information tends to confuse readers and takes the focus away from your main content)
4 – Invest time for Online Networking
This is a huge one! Online networking allows you the opportunity to engage your readers in real-time conversations and let them get to know you a little better.
Tips & Actions: - get active in online discussion groups and chats (Better Blogger Network is a great community) - comment on other blogs (but only if you have something to add to the conversation). Those comments make people’s days, I speak from experience on that one! – respond to comments on your blog - never leave a mean comment (you would think this goes without saying but I have seen some mean things out there) - get to know your readers - blogging is a community – support one another, make blog buddies, have conversations and collaborate - participate in blog hops(also know as link ups) - try not to auto post – tailor your introductions for your post for each social network
5 – Learn from the best
This is something that I did in the beginning. I spent time researching my favorite blogs and I still make sure to follow other blogs that inspire me.
Tips & Actions: - don’t be afraid to ask others for help (but be careful asking other bloggers to post something on their site – this can put the person in a tough spot) - find 5 bloggers similar to you and study how they use networks and learn best practices from them - reach out to bloggers you admire
6 – Guest Post and Sponsor
“Guest posting” means writing and publishing an article on someone else’s blog. There are three main perks to guest posting: it introduces you to new communities, builds relationships with other bloggers and it’s great for search engine optimization. Guest posting gives you the opportunity to give new audiences a little sneak peek into your blogging style and content. Advertising (often called sponsoring in the blogging world) is also a great way to promote your blog to new people. Many blogs offer ad spaces in their sidebar and will introduce your blog to their readers throughout the month. Some bloggers even include guest post opportunities in their sponsorship packages.
Tips & Actions: - sponsor one of your favorite larger blogs - sponsor a few blogs with similar readership numbers (I recently switched my sponsoring over to Passionfruit and they have a great marketplace of bloggers using their network) - trade sponsor spots (this is a great option if you don’t have money to spend on advertising) - ask a blogger that you are friends with to guest post
7 – Give your readers choices
I think this is something that is easily over looked. You may assume that everyone reads blogs the same way you do, but that is not the case! For instance, I have never followed a blog through Google Friend Connect since I’m not on Blogger. I usually subscribe to an RSS feed (and read in Google Reader). Someone else may only follow blogs on Facebook, so you need to have these options available and easily accessible.
Tips & Actions: - give your readers more than one way to follow you and add easy to find links on your site - starts an e-mail newsletter - put links in your email signature and wherever potential visitors are likely to see it
8 – Network Offline
A lot of times we get so stuck on networking online, we forget that we can promote our blogs in real life!
Tips & Actions: - conferences are great for connecting with others who have similar interest - if you have extra time try to join a non-profit organization. A lot of small business owners/professionals are involved in them and you meet a lot of people out in the community - make sure you have business cards and hand them out when you meet someone new - find some local groups to join through MeetUp.com - create an elevator pitch (a 30-60 second short summary to quickly and simply define your blog, business, what you do, etc.)
Great blogs are products of a passion for life and a lot of hard work! Don’t let others fool you, blogging takes time. If you write about what you love and grow yourself first, your blog will follow!
If you have any other tips please leave them in the comments!