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Book Review: Engagement from Scratch by Danny Iny of Firepole Marketing

Posted on : 04-10-2013 | By : admin | In : Blog, Enjoying Writing, Writing Help for Businesses

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Engagement from Scratch

Imagine sitting in a room with lots of successful bloggers. Your tiny little blog is small and insignificant to theirs – why would they want to take notice of you? And yet – something wonderful happens! Those successful bloggers begin talking about what they would do if they were to start up a blog again with the knowledge that they now have. They share their successes and failures, their best blog posts and how to engage a blog audience from scratch.

Buying this book is like sitting in that room. The book is divided up into sections: General Principles, Know and Love Your Audience, Why and How to Do Content, Why and How to Do Social Media, Be Your Passionate Self, Stories and Lessons Learned and finally Step by Step which asks successful bloggers to offer steps to building a successful blog.

There are not just one or two successful bloggers here, there are many and all of them have something interesting to say to the would-be blogger. I think the book’s strength is that it talks to so many people and includes many different ways to build a successful blog. The over-riding theme however is that it is important to care for your readers. Offer them valuable information and engage and respond with readers. Essentially a blog is nothing if it is not read by anyone.

Danny Iny from Firepole Marketing has put together the book. Some digital copies have been given away for free and if you are lucky enough to get one of these then you have something very valuable there. This book is worth paying for because you will refer to it again and again. It’s a great read.

I am not affiliated with Firepole Marketing in any way. I am reviewing this book as a helpful resource for bloggers.

The book can currently be downloaded for free from Firepole Marketing

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Set up Your Own Business When the Kids Go Back to School!

Posted on : 20-09-2013 | By : admin | In : Blog

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Picture: Autumn’s Leaves by Carsten Tolkmit. Licensed under Creative Commons.

Flickr_-_Laenulfean_-_autumn's_leaves

Well they looked smart on their first day at least! The house is quiet and their pyjamas have been left where they dropped them when they got dressed. The kids have just gone back to school.

What about you? What have you got planned for the week? Perhaps your little one has gone off to school for the first time, perhaps you already have a job, but you want something more flexible that will work around the children?

Many people decide to start off a new business because they feel it will be easier to fit around the children and childcare. Perhaps you bake brilliant cupcakes, you have wonderful craft and sewing skills or you are able to create websites and you wonder if your skill might transfer into a business that will enable you to be around for the children.

Build Your Own Business

It could be a great idea, but it is important to look into it properly and decide whether it truly is for you. Businesses, even small ones can mean a great deal of work and this will be in addition to all you do for your family. You will need your partner onside as he may have to help out more than usual, and money may be tight for a while as you put money back into the business.

If you are daunted by the thought of starting your own business, then I can understand that. It is scary. Things will go wrong and you will find some things harder than you think. However there are also some great rewards and there is nothing like the thrill of successfully landing a client who enjoys what you do.

Here are five tips to help you on your way to starting your own business:

1. Have a great idea

 Everyone has a dream job: something that they really feel that they could put their heart and soul into and make a success of. Often it can be linked to our hobbies or a skill that we feel we really excel at. Use the internet to find examples of people who are already using the skills that you have to make a business. Check out their websites, how they do things. Keep a notebook or folder on the computer and make a note of really attractive websites that would tempt you to look into hiring this person. Find things you like and things you don’t like, looking at the websites critically.

2. Check out the Competition

 If there are websites out there which already display your idea then there will be a market for it. The trick will be to decide who you need to market to and aim your marketing towards them. If for instance you bake great cupcakes, then start off talking to mums at school and offering to make birthday cakes. Take pictures of your creations and keep a folder of them which will serve as a portfolio later down the line. Marketing to people you know can be hard at first, but then so is running a business. Pluck up your courage and talk to your friends. They may be more encouraging than you thought. Talk to your partner about your ideas – he could also spread the word at work and help you find clients.

3. What Legal Information do You Need?

When you have your idea and you have some support and some evidence that your idea may work as a business, then you need to check out the legal side. What insurance might you need? Most home insurance policies require you to declare working from home, although some do now ask the question. Do you need any training? Making cakes in your own kitchen requires scrupulous cleanliness and the freshest ingredients. There are internet courses that you can pay for and take so that you have a certificate that will show you know how to use ingredients safely.

Find out about the tax laws in your country. Here in the UK, HMRC runs frequent courses for new businesses starting up so that they understand their obligations when it comes to self assessment. Keep good financial records, receipts and bills and if you need an accountant then find one. It is best to take a recommendation and there is always the possibility that you might find one at the school gate.

4. Set up a Website.

 If this is something that you are unsure of doing yourself then ask around – someone somewhere will know a budding web designer. Decide on a name for yourself and buy a domain name. There are companies that offer domain name searches and you can easily check what is available. You will need the name and somewhere to host it. The cost can be as little as £30 a year. Putting your website together may take a little time, but go back to the websites that impressed you at the beginning of your research and take the best bits of them. Choose a colour for your theme and take your web designer’s advice on what works.

5. Have some business cards made and start to give them out. Ask your friends to spread the word. Find new ways to advertise. You can set up a Facebook page for your friends to like and join Twitter. Link up to like-minded people but be yourself. Deciding to take the first step is always difficult and no matter how much work you put in there will be more to come!

How did you decide which business to start up? Let me know in the comments below.

 

Sarah Charmley is a freelance copywriter who would love to help you make your dream a reality. For great web content contact sarahthecreativewriter[at]gmail.com.

Connect with Sarah on Twitter @SassieC43

 

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Five Things to Keep in Mind when Composing a Guest Blog Title

Posted on : 08-11-2012 | By : admin | In : Blog, Writing Help for Businesses

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With visitors taking even less time than usual to stop by a new website and look around, it is really important to offer a great title when writing a guest blog. You can have written the most informative article in the world but if the title does not instantly grab a reader, then there will not be many people willing to read on. The title has to be worth their while.

Here is The Creative Writer’s guide to writing a great guest blog title:

1. Make sure the title reflects the article content accurately. Try and be too clever and you might leave a reader puzzled as to how the title fitted in with the rest of the article. An article on the ‘Five best Toddler Drink Cups’ is expected to have something on drink cups in there somewhere.

2. Make sure the language is suitable for the audience that you want to attract. A title aimed at a teenage audience is very different from one aimed at the small business owner market. You want your blog post to be authoritative and to offer information that your readers need. You should therefore choose your language carefully.

3. Puns are out! Well, ok probably not out completely, but a bad pun can put people off reading an article. Puns are plays on words that make you groan rather than laugh. People who are groaning may not read on.

4. Don’t be too clever if you play on words. It is easy to get carried away by your own brilliance and leave your audience puzzled. Some plays on words work, others should be cut in the edit.

5. You won’t always get the perfect title straight away. Sometimes you need to work on it a little. Using numbers can help – ‘Five Ways to-‘ or ‘Ten Perfect Blog Titles’ but it’s not always essential. It is more important that your title reflects your article and that it will encourage visitors to your site to read on.

Sarah Charmley is a UK-based freelance writer who offers guest blogs as part of her services. To discuss your blog requirements either use the contact form or email sarahthecreativewriter(at) gmail.com.

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Why Have a Guest Blog?

Posted on : 01-11-2012 | By : admin | In : Blog, Writing Help for Businesses

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website ideas

website ideas (Photo credit: Sean MacEntee)

Guest blog posts are becoming more popular as the demand for website content grows. Introducing a blog to your website can help increase your traffic and bring more customers to your business, but maintaining a blog can be hard work. It can be difficult to constantly think of fresh ideas and easy to put off writing your blog until the last minute. One solution to this problem is to have a guest post.

There are two types of guest posting: one where people get in touch with you and offer to post. This is usually the case with a very popular website such as Copyblogger which is big in its own right. My comments on posts on Copyblogger rank higher in the search engines than my own website. If you are getting offers of guest posts, then my guess is that you have a highly ranked website in a popular topic.

More usually you might offer to swap blog posts with a friend in a similar field. You exchange like for like in return for links that might bring more traffic to your website. If you don’t have anyone that you think would offer suitable links, then there is a Blogger Link Up newsletter where you can post your guest blog requirements and see if there are any you could offer.

Then there is paid blogging where you hire someone to blog for you, usually if you really aren’t finding the time to write and keep your blog up to date.

Paying a blogger to write guest posts for your websites will give you a ready supply of blog posts to keep your website updated. A professional writer does this for a living: they are able to write new and engaging content that your readers can identify with. A good guest blogger will be able to write using a style similar to your own so that your readers feel that they are still getting the information from you, and of course, the final say over the content is yours. You need to feel that the post could have been written by you and that you can relate to the writing that you are posting.

A paid blogger is often writing in your name. Yours’ is the byline – they just happen to have written the words. It is happening more and more and if writing isn’t your strength, then it might just be the solution you need.

Guest blogs offer a painless way of bringing fresh content to your website and keeping it updated. Whether you accept guest blogs in return for links or money, they can offer a fresh perspective, a new voice and further opportunities to link up with other small business owners and increase your social network.

Sarah Charmley is a UK-based blogger who offers interesting blog posts for your website. If you would like to discuss your guest posting requirements with her, then please use the contact form or email sarahthecreativewriter(at) gmail.com.

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Five Good Reasons to Maintain Your Blog

Posted on : 25-10-2012 | By : admin | In : Blog, Writing Help for Businesses

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website ideas

website ideas (Photo credit: Sean MacEntee)

Many businesses consider having a blog an essential part of their website. Blogging offers a chance to connect with your customers and enable them to see a little of what you do. Blogging brings fresh content to your website and that is a good thing when it comes to search engines.

Deciding to have a blog is a regular commitment. How often you update it is up to you, but updating it regularly ensures that visitors to your website can see that you use your website and that you still have a valid business.

1. Adding fresh content to your blog ensures that your website stays fresh and current. Coming across a website which has not been updated since 2007 says ‘I don’t care’ or even ‘I’m no longer in business’.

2. Finding new subjects to write about helps to expand your own learning and enables you to keep up with trends and learn more about your own business. It will also help you keep your brain active and engaged in your business. You might even get some new ideas to help your business.

3. Putting up a new blog post gives you the opportunity to promote your website and your business using social media. Keeping in touch with customers through social media is becoming increasingly important. You want your business website to be well-known through social media, although spam is not a good idea.

4. You can use your blog post to promote special offers or to offer other promotions designed to increase business and encourage return customers. This can be a great way to use a blog post. Design it carefully so that links leading to products or services are visible and easily accessed.

5. Regularly updating your blog will help to reassure your customers that you are a trusted company for them to do business with. Trust is increasingly important on the Internet. A trusted company will bring more repeat customers.

Regular blogging can bring many benefits to you and your business website, so stop reading this post and go and get writing!

Sarah Charmley is a UK-based writer who offers blogging as a speciality. If you would like a carefully crafted blog post on a topic of your choice, use the contact form to get in touch or email sarahthecreativewriter (at) gmail.com.

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Newsletter now Available

Posted on : 25-09-2012 | By : admin | In : Blog

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A newsletter sign-up has been added to this blog. High time too! The newsletters will be on writing, business website help and SEO. To sign up fill in your email and details and press send.

I am of course my own first subscriber! Come and join me so I don’t feel lonely.

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Five Things to Consider before Networking for the First Time

Posted on : 13-09-2012 | By : admin | In : Blog

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If you want to be a successful freelancer, then finding more like-minded people to join your network is essential. One way to achieve this is to go to one of many networking events set up round the country every month.

I went to a Big Circle event in Worcester which was fairly local to me. Your local Chamber of Commerce runs events, there is also breakfast networking and other organisations set up to facilitate networking including some that are women only and others that only allow one of each profession into the group. Some people feel that they are the best way to get referrals while others find them difficult to do, especially if you are a quieter type of person.

I am fairly outgoing. I have been known to do some cold calling on the telephone and I enjoy meeting and talking to people. Even so I was a little unsure of myself as this was not something I had done before. However I really wanted to make the effort to get away from my keyboard for a while and give myself the opportunity to meet some new clients.

I found the Big Circle event to be friendly and small. It was billed as having 300+ people booked in to attend, but there were only about 20 exhibitors. There were however lots of people milling about. The event lasted for a morning: between 9.30 and 1.30 which allowed people to get there in time and to get back to the office if they need to. The refreshment stand was quite expensive considering I only wanted a hot water because I drink decaf tea and take my own teabags – they still charged me £1! I decided not to ask about any of the snacks!

I met some great people at the Expo. I would like to say hi to Natalie of Nutcracker Design, Rosie of Revmarketing, Richard and Ian at Charles Design and Adrian of Clarify Copywriting. I also met a friend there who had gone quite independently. I enjoyed my time and gave out some of my (new) cards (thanks, Beanprint!).

So if you are thinking of going to your first networking event, here are five things that you should bear in mind:

1. Know where you are going. Obvious, right? I’ve gone past the stadium a few times, but I’ve never gone in before. I ended up going round the wrong way before I found my way in and I was already late because I didn’t…

2. Allow plenty of time to get there. This is not always easy when you have a family to get out the door as well. Then you get on the M5 and it is crawling at 20 mph due to roadworks! I was not on time yesterday, but I didn’t give up and made sure that I did eventually arrive at the exhibition.

3. It actually doesn’t matter if you’re late. I missed a speaker and it took me a little while to organise myself, but as I arrived, people were leaving and others were arriving. People were working to their own timetables and that’s the nature of business. At least I had arrived and I was giving myself that chance to network.

4. You don’t need to do everything straight away. I decided not to take part in the speed networking and I missed the speakers. I arrived too late to hear one speaker, and I was enjoying talking to one of the exhibitors during the start of another one. It would be interesting and next time I might factor in one of the speakers. I might also decide to speed network, but I met some interesting people and still got to chat.

5. Remember your business cards. I had some new cards made because my last set did not have my website on. I have also changed since I last had some cards done. I enjoyed swapping cards and it’s a great way to pass on your details.

I would recommend taking the plunge and starting to network as a way of increasing your freelance business. Freelancing can be lonely and it is great to get out of the office and talk to like-minded people and make new contacts. I will definitely attend one of these events again. It could get addictive.

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Circle Events Network Big Expo September 2012

Posted on : 06-09-2012 | By : admin | In : Blog

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One of my goals this year was to try a network event. I have decided to go to the Circle Events Big Expo at Worcester on 12th September. Maybe I’ll see you there.

It’s not too far away, it’s a morning event and I can fit it into my schedule. I’m hoping to meet with lots of business owners, introduce myself and talk to prospective clients. It’s the first time I’ve done something like this, but I’m hoping that it will enable me to increase my client base. It will also be interesting to see what is going on in the business world.

Let me know if you are going, or what kind of business networking events you have attended. What kind of advice would you give to someone going to one of these events for the first time?

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Experiencing the London 2012 Olympics

Posted on : 06-08-2012 | By : admin | In : Blog

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London Olympics 2012

London Olympics 2012 (Photo credit: Andrea Vascellari)

If you have just come out from under a rock, or been hibernating in a cave then you might not be aware that the UK is hosting the Olympics this year. I think most people might know.

I don’t live anywhere near London, but even my family has taken a trip, paying extortionate money to sit high up in the gods and watch an hour of swimming heats. We enjoyed being greeted by a horde of cheery volunteers, even at an ungodly hour of the day. We were processed quickly and efficiently through security and then we were free to enjoy the park.

The atmosphere inside the Aquatic Centre was electric. Everyone was there to cheer on the athletes and have a party. Each row of swimmers was greeted with loud cheers and if there was a Team GB swimmer in the group then the cheering raised the roof. For just over an hour, heat followed heat in rapid succession; each enjoyed and cheered by the crowd. At the end of the session, the audience was given time to take photos and enjoy their time but all too soon it was over.

After the world’s longest queue in the world’s largest MacDonalds, our family enjoyed lunch before heading off to the Tate Modern for the afternoon. After all we had been provided with Oyster cards so that we could travel in London for the day.

When we got back to our hotel at the end of the day, we were exhausted, but we all agreed that we had had a great day.

What have been your experiences of the London Olympics this year? And have they done anything for your business?

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Back to the Basics of Your Business

Posted on : 25-07-2012 | By : admin | In : Blog, Writing Help for Businesses

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I’ve been doing some decorating recently. Our living room or lounge needed a complete rethink and redecoration. The ceiling had some water damage from a previous leak but because asbestos had been discovered in a another room it was not considered the right thing to do to strip it out. We hired a plasterer to re-board over our lounge ceiling and put some new decorative coving round. It has been a great opportunity to discuss every piece of furniture and whether it will have a place in our newly decorated lounge. We are not finished yet – in fact we have only just begun.

Sometimes it can help to examine your business minutely – strip it back to the bare bones and see where it is that you intended to go. Look at your marketing – is it achieving all that you hoped or do you need to refresh and refine it and make sure that it is fit for purpose? What about your website? Does it carry out the right function in giving customers the information they need to make a sale? Think about the processes your business uses – do they work correctly and efficiently, enabling your business to make the most of selling to your customers and your customers to acquire all they need.

It’s been ten years since we moved into this current house. It was in good repair at the time and we saw no need to change what had been done – we just added touches of our own. Now the wallpaper is fading, the moisture marks have begun to annoy us and it was definitely time for a change.

Knowing that it’s time to look at your business afresh is not always an easy choice but it is worthwhile. Stopping to look again at the things you have taken for granted will enable you to ensure that your business remains a solvent business and one that can continue to grow.

Photo Credit: Office Repaint by Kelly K.

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