As businesspeople, particularly owners, we’re always looking for ways to grow our businesses. One of the best ways to establish your authority in your field and open the door for opportunity is to publish a business book or ebook. The reasons for this are many and could be critical to the growth of your business. Let’s discuss the four things a book can do for your business that I hear over and over from the entrepreneurs and small business owners I work with every day.
A book, quite simply, establishes you as an expert in your industry. This will help you attract better (aka higher-paying) clients in line with the services and/or products you offer. Testimonials from clients recognized in their industries will do wonders for your credibility and make you sought after. People will begin to associate your name with the topic/subject of your book. If you stay top-of-mind, just imagine the referral business you could capture. In other words, your credibility is tied into visibility.
Have you ever seen an author featured on a news program as the subject expert on a story they’re running? So have I. Or how about an author who runs a business showcasing their product on a review/roundup on a morning show? Again, so have I. Think about it: That could be you! A book can give radio/TV personalities and producers, podcast hosts, print journalists, and other media members a reason to reach out to you. Being featured in the media can grow your audience because let’s face it, we trust those programs and program hosts. Media features will also provide you with, for example, an added blurb for press releases, starbursts on your next book cover, or a logo on your website that says “As Seen in Fast Company” or “Featured on CNBC.”
These opportunities build off of one another; it’s a snowball effect. As a reader, what does it make you think about an author when you see those starbursts and blurbs? You automatically think the author is a good resource on that topic. That author has credibility. That author is someone whose book you want to read and who you want to see speak. Again, with a book, that could be you!
Do you see how credibility and visibility are closely related?
Business growth is our goal as owners. Remaining stagnant doesn’t move the needle forward, right? A book can help you grow in so many ways. For example, once you have one book written and published, the credibility and visibility from that book builds the platform for writing your second book. One book can lead to another, which can lead to a discounted bundle price on your website, more back-of-the-room sales at speaking engagements, or perhaps a live workshop or a course based on your book. Think of your first book as a building block to grow your visibility and credibility (there are those two words again!). The possibilities are limited only by your imagination and the number of hours in a day—truly.
A book can help you gain a speaking platform as well, which is another way to grow. You’ll be paid to speak and also be able to sell copies of your book. Think of each speaking engagement as a new audience.
Wanting to earn a profit doesn’t make you (or me) greedy. This is a business after all. Money enables us to do so many things with our business—hire employees, scale, launch a secondary/new product or service, and more. As the old saying goes, you’ve got to spend money to make money. I tell my publishing clients this all the time. A small upfront investment to publish a business book can pay off in spades down the line, as a book is one of the original passive income streams, which are all the rage these days in the small business community.
When it comes to a book, from a business owner’s perspective, money is generally not the primary goal, but a secondary one. Your primary goal is to run the business that you have and use a book as a tool to scale that business. You’re not trying to write the Great American Novel or earn a spot on the New York Times Bestseller List; your book will be a tool to enhance your business.
Put On Your Thinking Cap
Think big and think deep about each of those four areas—credibility, visibility, growth, and money. How could a book help your business in each? Be specific here to help you visualize success. For example, don’t say, “I want to earn more money on the book than I spent to publish it.” Say instead, “I want to earn $5,000 in book royalties in the first year.” For visibility, don’t say, “I want be featured in two newspapers.” “I want be featured in the Wall Street Journal and Fast Company” is a stronger statement. Visualizing success breeds excitement and motivation, which can help propel you in the writing process.
But Wait! I’m a Business Owner, Not an Author…
Nonfiction business books do not need beautifully flowing prose. Fiction book readers read for an escape. They need strong characters, a logical plot, and beautiful writing to stay interested. Nonfiction book readers, by and large, want you to cut to the chase: They’re looking for information. While you certainly want a professionally edited book, you don’t need to be a professional writer to craft a great and successful nonfiction book. There are editors and coaches who can assist you with the structure of your book, transitions between topics, and the mechanical aspects as needed. Don’t let the lack of a label (author) stop you from taking this step that could take your business to the next level.
Tell me: Is 2017 the year you’ll write a book to help your business grow?
Jodi Brandon leverages 20 years’ experience in the traditional book publishing industry to work as a writing coach, publishing consultant, and book editor with creative business owners who want to scale their business. Jodi teaches them how to use a book to do just that, whether they want to self-publish or publish traditionally. Her business is Jodi Brandon Editorial.
GUEST POST from Kristi Brown, Creative Marketing Consultant with Significantly Successful
Guest blogging can dramatically improve your business’ visibility. It builds your authority and puts your business in front of a whole new audience. But many people wonder exactly how to go about getting guest blogging opportunities.
After about six years of working with clients from every industry imaginable, I’ve developed a five-step plan that always works to land great guest blogging opportunities and make the most of them.
1. Identify Blogs
Start by making a list of the best blogs in your niche. Do a little research on the ones that stand out. See if the voice and tone is a match to the way you communicate.
Search Google using terms like “your topic or niche + write for us” or “your topic or niche + guest post.” You’re looking for blogs that have a loyal readership and/or a decent social media following.
In general you want sites that:
- Have an authoritative link profile
- Are related to your site/business
- Post high-quality content
- Have a sizable and/or avid following (check Twitter, Pinterest, and Facebook for follower numbers and engagement levels)
- Can bring you targeted traffic (use Compete and Alexa)
- Don’t bury a guest poster’s link in a bio far below the content
You can also look at sites like GuestCrew to get a boost if you are just starting out in the blogging space.
Once you’ve found a site for which you’d like to guest blog, get to know it and its audience. Determine what the blog and its audience want and need. This will come in handy when you reach out to the site. You can show that you know who they are, who their audience is, and what they focus on. This is vital to getting a request returned.
2. Get Noticed
How? I have you covered:
1. Engage on Twitter: One of the fastest ways to get your name etched on a blogger’s brain is to interact with them on Twitter.
For example, here’s something Andrew Youderlan of eCommerceFuel did to get published on Shopify:
2. Comment on the Blog: Take a few minutes to write a legitimately insightful and helpful comment or two on their site, and you’ll be their BFF.
3. Email Them: (Use cautiously) If you’re feeling bold, email the site owner a week or two before your pitch just to tell them how helpful a specific piece of content was to you.
3. Do Research
Look at the site’s other guest posts. You want to gain an understanding about the types of topics covered by guest bloggers. This will enable you to come up with both a worthy topic and a creative approach to that topic before you ask to guest post.
You need a topic that will fit their audience perfectly.
4. Send a Pitch
Start by picturing the daily life of this blogger. They have posts to write, emails to answers, perhaps a team to manage, social media to post on—the list goes on and on. When you reach out to them you want your email to be specific and to the point.
Here’s a proven-to-work email template to use:
I’m a long time reader/fan/follower. You may have noticed my comment on your post on name of post (awesome article by the way).
I’m writing you because I’d love to contribute a guest post to name of blog.
I’ve been brainstorming some topics I think your readers would get a ton of value from:
I’ll make sure the piece overflows with information that can’t be found anywhere else.
To give you an idea of the quality I’ll bring to your site, here’s a link to a guest post I recently published on blog name.
Here’s what makes this email template so effective:
- It’s specific and it’s about their site.
- It’s short, direct, and sweet (aim for 150 words or less).
- It gives them several specific topics from which to choose.
- It’s a soft sell with proof that you’re a good writer and have done this elsewhere.
After you have landed a few amazing guest posts, you want to keep the opportunities rolling in. Here’s how you do that:
5. Follow Up
Here are some things you can do to get the most from every guest post:
1. Actively Respond to Comments: Take the time to respond to comments on your guest post as they appear.
2. Promote Your Post Via Social Media: This is a win-win-win. The blog you guest-posted for gets traffic, you look like a published expert, and you’ve shared something of value with your tribe or audience, too.
3. Send a Thank You Note: I usually send a quick follow-up email to the blog to show appreciation for the guest posting opportunity. This also keeps you in line for the next time they need guest posts.
If you follow these tips, quality guest posting opportunities will start rolling in. Want more on the topic of guest blogging? Check out these amazing articles:
Kristi Brown is a creativity catalyst with expertise in business growth and creative marketing strategies. She teaches companies how to perfectly package and take their value and brilliance to their perfect customer, resulting in an increase in visibility, customers, and revenue. Her experience includes working as a Digital Marketing Director for Disney and being on the launch team for Living Social, launching 67 cities and 400 small businesses. She offers her services at SignifcantlySuccessful.com.
Recently, a writer in a Facebook group for creative entrepreneurs shared something that ruffled my feathers. A client wanted her to write “easy” 500-word blog posts for $25 each; she didn’t have time and wondered if anyone was interested in the project.
After 20 years as a professional writer and 11 owning my own freelance business, I’ve witnessed a slow but steady decline in pay rates for my profession. Landing assignments for $1/word (an average rate just 15 years ago) is now nearly impossible.
Writing is no longer valued, and the Internet is to blame.
Anyone can start a blog and call themselves a writer. It doesn’t matter if they have education or experience, or whether they understand grammar, ethics, or storytelling. In the last decade, these self-proclaimed writers have been competing for freelance writing gigs alongside professionals like myself.
When you’ve been writing for fun and for free, $25 for a blog post may sound like a big payday. When you make your living as a writer, however, $25 is a slap in the face.
If your “easy” blog post takes an hour to write, that’s $25/hour, right? Not exactly. As a business owner, I must pay self-employment taxes of 15.3%. I’m also responsible for paying 100% of my health insurance. That alone takes the rate down to $19/hour, and that’s not accounting for marketing expenses, computer repairs, continuing education, and other costs of running a business.
Also, it would likely take me more than an hour to write this so-called “easy” post. I take pride in my work. I research my topic, write the story, and then edit, edit, edit. I’m unwilling to churn out subpar work to up my hourly rate.
So, your “easy” $25 likely works out to less than $10/hour, which is nearly minimum wage. Unacceptable, even for someone just getting started as a freelance writer.
Whether you’re a seasoned professional or new to the business, your work should be compensated based on the value it provides.
When a company offers ridiculously low pay, it’s saying it doesn’t value your work. By accepting that rate, you’re saying you don’t either.
Even worse, when you work for peanuts you lower the bar for the entire profession, and contribute to the continuing devaluation of writers and degradation of wages for all.
(This pricing discussion cuts across all creative industries, by the way. Professional photographers, for example, are suddenly facing competition from anyone with an iPhone.)
I understand not everyone can charge $1 or more per word. I know my education (two degrees in journalism) and experience (20 years in newspapers, magazines, and corporate communications) put me at a different level than a beginning writer. I know it’s difficult to land the first paying client or to establish yourself as a writer (or designer or photographer, etc.).
The answer, however, is not to sell yourself short by accepting inhumane wages. Instead, spend more time honing your craft. Get better by taking writing courses, reading the work of more advanced writers, writing for your own blog, or finding and learning from a mentor.
Your sense of pride will be even greater if your first assignment comes with a living wage.
Circling back to that Facebook post that inspired this long rant…
I eventually posted a response (below) that I hoped would be persuasive but sensitive.
I was relieved when the original poster thanked me for my response and agreed that $25 was unacceptable (despite receiving interest in the gig from others in the group).
Even better, she emailed asking for tips on how to earn more money. I happily shared advice. She fired some clients and began charging more. In the two months since, I’ve also subcontracted to her several writing projects at 5x (or more) the rate offered in her post.
A simple change in mindset has helped her feel better about herself, her business, and her bottom line.
That’s the point of me sharing this with you. It’s not intended as a rant, but rather a reminder that we all need to stand up for ourselves and start charging what we’re worth.
Chances are good you’ve read an email newsletter or blog post with content that left you scratching your head. Why did they bother with that? What did any of it have to do with me? Why do I care?
Unfortunately, far too many marketing professionals (and small-business owners doing DIY marketing) send out content that isn’t interesting, actionable, or in anyway useful to their target market. Why? It’s not malicious, of course. Instead, it’s typically just a lack of understanding about content marketing.
What is content marketing?
Simply put, content marketing is the act of sharing information that will educate, entertain, and connect with prospects and customers. The term usually refers to digital/online assets, including blogs, white papers, case studies—pretty much everything on your website or that you share via social media. This high-level definition is fine, but it fails to truly drive home the most important aspect of content marketing.
[Tweet “Content marketing is about your customers, not you. “]
And that’s where far too many businesses fail. They think content marketing is an opportunity to sell, sell, sell. Why would you share a message with your target market that doesn’t explain what you do, why you’re the best, or how they can buy from you?
There’s a good answer to that question but before that, here are some basics.
Marketing is a business’ comprehensive strategy for reaching prospects and customers. It includes a variety of tactics, two of which are advertising (paid self promotion) and content marketing (see above). Each of these tactics is different (in both intent and execution) and each is valuable. Too often, though, people treat all marketing efforts as advertising and that’s a mistake.
Advertising is an important awareness-raising tool that can have short-term benefits (ie, you see an ad for Taco Bell that gets your mouth watering, so you go grab it for dinner. You regret it later, of course, but damn that crunchwrap sure looked tasty on TV!).
Content marketing serves a distinctly different and equally important role. Its aim is to establish the business as a trusted authority in its industry.
When people learn about my career, they often ask how they can become a freelance writer themselves. My advice? Don’t. Okay, I’m usually much more gentle, but that’s the gist. The truth is, it’s not easy to become a freelance writer, at least not a financially successful one.
To clarify, by freelance writer I’m referring to people like myself who are paid by publications or corporations to create informational or marketing content. Becoming a novelist is another story, and not my area of expertise.
Before jumping in with both feet, ask yourself these questions that I always pose to wannabe freelance writers:
- Do You Understand the Job?
Many people who ask how to become a freelance writer don’t really understand the gig. More often than not, they think I don’t really work. Yes, my job is flexible—I can work on the couch in pajamas at the hours I find most productive—but that doesn’t mean it’s a cakewalk or a hobby.
I’m self-employed (no vacation or sick days, no discounted insurance, no every-other-week paycheck) and responsible for all elements of running my business. I must find clients (sales and marketing), keep them happy (customer service), send invoices and pay taxes (accounting), maintain this website and keep my laptop operational (IT), and much more.
I enjoy writing and get to do it for a few hours most days, but I also spend just as much time on business tasks I don’t love. Plus, a lot of my research and writing is about topics I find downright dull. Not to mention all the frustrating time spent waiting for creativity to materialize, or the more miserable time when I must soldier on without it.
Freelance writing isn’t the worst job ever, but for most of us it’s also not the easiest or most glamorous either.
- Are You a Good Writer?
This is a question best answered by someone other than yourself. Most people think they’re good (or even great) writers. The truth is, most aren’t. Plus, there’s a big difference between writing a dazzling email and writing a 1,000-word research-based article.
If you want to be a writer for hire for magazines or corporations, you must understand grammar, have research and interview skills, and be able to present complicated information in an organized, simplified, and interesting manner…all while meeting strict deadlines.
I promise, it’s easier said than done.
Not sure if you fit the bill? The best way to find out is to start your own blog and write like a journalist, not a personal essayist. (Here is a great primer for anyone wanting to better understand basic news writing.) Then, ask people whose opinions you trust for honest feedback.
- Are Your Expectations Realistic?
I can’t count the number of people who’ve asked me about becoming a freelance writer because they think it’s a quick way to make extra cash. For most people, it takes a lot of time to make a living as a freelance writer.
I went to j-school, worked at a newspaper and magazines, earned my master’s in journalism, and did some freelance writing while working full-time. When I decided to become a full-time freelance writer, I already had 10 years of experience and an established network of editors ready to hire me.
For most people, selling the first story requires a hefty investment of time. Making the process even more difficult is increasing competition from dime-a-dozen bloggers and journalists who’ve lost jobs following the continued collapse of traditional media outlets.
More writers also means lower pay rates for everyone, and often leaves those with no experience fighting over jobs that pay peanuts. (I regularly see people offering $10 to $15 per blog post. Given that a decent post easily takes 30 minutes to two or more hours to write, that’s not even minimum wage.) Be prepared to spend months or more before consistently snagging jobs that pay $.50-plus per word (or $50 or more an hour).
Still think you want to become a freelance writer?
If you answered “yes” to my questions above, then I’ll gladly answer any questions you have and offer whatever advice I can (just shoot me an email or reach out via LinkedIn).
In the meantime, I’ll break down the basic steps of getting started:
- Write for free—on your own blog, in your company’s newsletter, for local newspapers—to create a portfolio. Without clips, most established publications and business owners won’t pay for your work.
- Research your target publications or corporations, hunt down the name and contact information for the editor or marketing manager, and look for shared connections in your professional and personal network.
- Email a lot of queries (letters outlining a story idea and showcasing your experience) to editors knowing you’ll often get no response or a pat rejection. Or, in the case of writing for corporations, beg marketing managers for meetings to discuss writing opportunities.
- Take your first assignment on spec, which means you don’t get paid unless the editor or marketing manager accepts the work.
- Rinse and repeat…over and over until you start getting well-paying repeat work.
It’s been six months since I last posted on this blog. Clearly, I need a swift kick (of inspiration and motivation) in the butt. Today, I got it in the form of a tweet. Katy Palmer, a screenwriter I recently started following, posted on Twitter this morning about
a 100-Day Challenge she’s using to generate story ideas. It’s a riff on a similar idea from artist Elle Luna. Palmer will spend the next 100 days writing one logline each day (that’s something screenwriters use to summarize story concepts).
What a fun way to jumpstart creativity!
Katy’s project got my creative juices flowing. Although I think it would be insanely cool to be, I’m not a screenwriter and have no real need for loglines. That doesn’t mean, however, that I can’t join her 100-Day Challenge by tweaking it into something that works for me. That’s exactly what I intend to do.
Yesterday, I happened to begin a daily exercise called Morning Pages. The brainchild of bestselling author Julie Cameron in her book The Writing Diet, it’s the art of putting pen to paper each day and using stream-of-consciousness writing to conduct a brain dump. You can write about anything and everything, but you can’t stop until you’ve filled three pages. It helps clear your mind of clutter, which is critical for a hyper overthinker like myself.
My plan is to combine Morning Pages and the 100-Day Challenge, by excising the most interesting bit from my freeform writing and sharing it via Instagram. I’m hoping this challenge will keep me writing and get me excited about the good stuff I sometimes create.
You can keep tabs on our 100-Day Challenge by following us on Instagram (@bmollenkamp and @bykatypalmer). Even better, join us! Find your own way of making this challenge into something that works for you and share the results with us–just tell us what you’re doing and where you’re sharing in the comments below.