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What is a Brand Voice?

You’ve probably seen or heard this buzzword around lately in the content marketing space, especially if you’re an online entrepreneur. But this term is one that can be applied to any size business and is equally useful to brick & mortar and online enterprise.  If you’ve been finding it difficult to establish your brand voice, or you’ve seen the term around and can’t even with it right now, this post is for you.

What exactly is a brand voice?

Brand Voice is simply the style in which your brand communicates with your target audience. This includes the language you use, the writing/prose style, type of delivery method, how you respond to customers directly, and the tone of your overall message.

Still struggling to grasp the concept? It often feels vague on purpose, right? Think about your visual brand. Surely, you’ve seen graphic designers rant about how important a cohesive brand is. If you consider what your visual brand means (the look and feel of the visual elements including logo, colors, website, social media images, etc.) then your brand voice is just an extension of that. It’s the cohesion of the look and feel of your brand with your tone and communication method.

Why is brand voice important for my business?

The entire goal of branding your business is for instant recognition. What you really want is for someone to see an image from your social feed, or your logo or website, and think “ah, this is from this business/person. I know them, I like them, I trust them. Take my money.”

If you’re producing consistent, valuable content in the same voice, you’ll quickly become distinguishable from the rest. At least to your audience. They’ll be able to read a tweet, a Facebook post, a blog post, etc., and recognize it as yours. Just as you can easily pick out your favorite director or author or poet from the crowd because you recognize their style and voice.

If you’re putting out content that doesn’t feel consistent, people will be confused, especially if you sound different across platforms and delivery methods. While you will need to shift how you deliver your message depending on the platform you’re using, it should still sound like you or your brand.

Simply put, if your brand isn’t communicating effectively it won’t be successful. Disjointed brands struggle to resonate with audiences, and have a hard time maintaining long-term relationships.

Think of your brand voice like a personality for your business.

Now, if you are your business, as a solopreneur, service provider, coach, or consultant is, your brand voice (or “personality”) will ideally be your personality. Roughly. This feeds into that whole authenticity topic, which is something I’ll devote an entire post to in the future.

This still applies if you’re running a business or brand outside of yourself, as well. But you do have a bit more flexibility here. Instead of tailoring your brand and voice to who you are as an individual, you’ll tailor your brand/voice to your businesses personality. Meaning you get to establish what it is your brand stands for, represents, and values.

Important elements in developing a brand voice

Obviously, your brand voice should be unique to your company or business, otherwise, there’s no point. If your plan to develop your brand voice is to just copy the leader of your field I want you to slap yourself, take a jog around the block, sit in a shame corner, and come back when you’re ready to be a big kid.

Now, for those of you that are back, or didn’t have to leave in the first place, here are some important elements that your brand voice should include:

  1. Your target audience
  2. Tone/Style
  3. Messaging
  4. Platform
  5. Grammar/Usage

Remember, also, that your brand voice can (and probably should) shift over time. While your core values and messaging might be the same (like with big brands like Nike or Apple) the way you communicate with your audience, the things you say, and your audience itself may evolve and change. You have to be constantly evaluating how your communication is working and make necessary changes to maintain connection and relevance to your audience.

Consider a style guide

Ideally, this style guide will include guidelines and rules for your visual and written communications all in one document. Content informs design informs content informs design. These two elements need to be used in conjunction to build your brand. Don’t neglect one for the other, please. For the love of god.

So, what should your style guide cover? I got you, boo:

Design Aspects

  1. Logo style and usage
  2. Brand colors
  3. Branding elements (patterns, textures, etc.)
  4. Templates

Writing Aspects

  1. Your target audience
  2. What platforms you use and how often you publish to them
  3. The topics you cover/your messaging
  4. Goals for your organization/business
  5. Tone/style
  6. Grammar/usage
  7. Formatting

Check out my Branding Your Business board on Pinterest for style guide ideas:

Still struggling?

If you’re still struggling to identify your brand voice, perhaps it’s because you don’t have your brand story or messaging/purpose clear. I’m releasing a free training and workbook on September 9th to help you develop your brand story. This is a great starting point that will give you the clarity you need to nail down your messaging and content strategy.

Sign-up and I’ll email you the training and workbook on Saturday.

 

What is a Brand Voice?

 

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How to Become The Expert Through Content Marketing

I’ll start off by warning you that I’ll be quoting an MMA fighter in this article. I’m not an MMA fan. I don’t typically look to athletes for business inspiration. However, Conor McGregor said something at the end of one of his fights that kind of surprised me. I’m sorry to note that I can’t remember what fight it was, or when it originally aired because it was a rerun and I wasn’t that invested until I heard this quote. And if it had been up to me, we would have been watching Gilmore Girls.

But, that’s beside the point. He said, “We didn’t come to take part, we came to take over.” I laughed a little, then I felt a teeny bit of Irish pride (they were in Dublin, and the crowd was going crazy, and I’m descended from Irish immigrant ancestors)… and then I was stunned. That’s an incredible sentiment, and it’s quite apropos for many situations, but I think it’s especially valid for businesses and entrepreneurs.

"We didn't come to take part. We came to take over." Conor McGregor

How does this apply to business and entrepreneurship?

I’m so glad you asked. I’m coming at this from a copywriter and content strategist’s viewpoint. I know, through my work in the corporate world and as a freelancer, that companies and individuals who produce consistent expert-level content quickly find themselves at the top of their fields. They become The Experts in their industry; they’re the go-to person or business.

So, if you’re a company that sells hard goods and you’re considered The Expert in whatever it is you sell, your customers will think of you first when they want to make a purchase. If you’re an individual who provides services or consulting, you’re the person that will be sought out by folks who are ready and willing to pay you whatever is required to get you and your services.

Bottom-line, being The Expert paves the way for partnerships, increased revenue, and other opportunities that aren’t available to middle-ground employees, businesses, and entrepreneurs.

Being The Expert sounds good. But what if you don’t get to the top?

You’ll get pretty damn close.

You’ll spend so much time building your expert status, learning new things, and working on developing and honing your skills, that you’ll eventually become one of the very best. Do you remember that silly poster in elementary schools that said: “shoot for the moon; even if you miss you’ll land among the stars.”? Aiming to be The Expert is essentially just like that poster. You may not be THE Expert, but you’ll be right up there next to them.

It’s important to keep in mind that there isn’t just one expert on any given topic. There are usually a group of experts and each one has a unique viewpoint or delivery system, and, therefore, a unique audience. And they typically shift positions from top expert to “one of the bunch”, like musical chairs. (I always destroyed my peers at musical chairs. That was my peak, though.)

You can absolutely be one of the best, but only if you’re willing to put in the work to do so, and only if that’s actually your goal.  

Being The Expert isn’t for everyone

I don’t believe that every person or business can be The Expert (obviously, that just doesn’t make sense), or that you’re somehow deficient if that’s just not your goal. However, for myself, and people like me who DO want to be known as the go-to person or business for X, McGregor’s quote and attitude is essential to success.

It’s not enough to just float along with the rest of the crowd and do what everyone else is doing. You’ve got to have the experience, knowledge, skills, and drive to become The Expert, but you also have to have a plan.

That’s where content marketing comes into play

Content marketing is a method popularized by Joe Pulizzi, Founder, and CEO of Content Marketing Institute. It’s essentially providing free published content to your target audience to build your reputation as The Expert, or the go-to authority on the topic. Then, after you’ve become The Expert, you monetize and can sell your product or service or solution to your loving and devoted audience.

Now, this content isn’t just thrown out with no plan. You’ve got to choose your expert topics or industry, choose your tilt, tweak your content to fit your audience, and plan for scalability. And you really do have to know what you’re talking about.

Companies that utilize quality content marketing see major successes. Consider these cases, and then think of your own. There are hundreds of examples.

  1. Gary Vaynerchuk – did you know he used daily wine tasting videos for the “everyday person” to build his liquor store into a multi-million dollar franchise before starting a different company?
  2. Red Bull – Red Bull started Red Bull Media House to produce a print and digital magazine, and license video and photography to outside media outlets. Red Bull Media House is now a completely separate entity that makes more revenue than Red Bull does in drink sales.
  3. GOOP – Gwyneth Paltrow started the blog GOOP and it’s now a content marketing empire. In fact, a number of bloggers have seen this kind of success. They typically start a blog as a hobby, become the expert, and then scale the blog to a much larger company, producing higher-quality content, partnering with big stores or celebrities to produce and promote their products.
  4. Philip DeFranco – DeFranco started as a YouTuber and quickly amassed a huge following. He’s recently started his own media company and is producing political/news videos.  
  5. Marie Forleo – again, MarieTV was a youtube channel that combined Marie’s love of dancing, business coaching, and entrepreneurship into one entity. She used her personality and expertise to grow a huge following and is now one of the go-to resources for entrepreneurs.

Another real-life example, but Harry Potter themed, because I can

Let’s draw inspiration from the successes of Queen Rowling, who perfectly demonstrates content marketing. We’ll call it JK Rowling and the Harry Potter Franchise.  JK Rowling wrote a children’s book. It got published. She wrote a few more. The got published. And she made a ton of money. That was her content. That took years to do. But then she monetized and scaled.

She built her devoted following, my generation, who devoured book after book. Our parents bought us each copy when it came out, shelled out money for us to see the movies, and even bought us little Potter trinkets for Christmas. That was successful, and she amassed a fortune. But then she kicked it up a notch.

My generation grew up, and with our growth and maturity and Potter devotion, we also gained disposable income. So what does Rowling et. al. do? They build a theme park. Then produce spin-off franchises. They create a free website (www.pottermore.com) and sell the audio books. Then create quality (expensive) Potter paraphernalia, and we buy the crap out of it.

I won’t tell you how many Potter Pop! Dolls I have because I’m trying to be a professional right now, but let’s just say… a few. My generation will spend thousands of dollars to experience the wizarding world “for real” at Universal, and we’ll drag our kids along and slowly brainwash them to love everything Potter, as well.

And it all started with a children’s book. Actually, it all started with an idea on a train.

Content marketing, summarized

This is the power of content marketing. Rowling, Forleo, Oprah, Martha Stewart…Like them, you build your expert status through content. For businesses and service-providers, this means writing content relevant to your field and your audience and releasing it into the wild for free (or for a limited barrier to entry – like an email signup).

After you’ve built a large, dedicated following through your valuable content, and you become The Expert, you monetize. Now, this isn’t to say you can’t  monetize on a smaller scale before your content marketing game has made you The Expert, but you make the big money when you’ve attained expert-status.

Conclusion

If your goal is to create a business that does well enough to keep you where you’re at, then you probably don’t need to worry about becoming The Expert.

However, if your goal is to build an empire, you absolutely need to become The Expert, and the best way to do that is through content marketing.

So, my question to you is, are you here to take part, or are you here to take over? If you want to take over, read Content Inc. by Joe Pulizzi (I’ve dropped an Amazon affiliate link below, so you can pick it up. I’ve read it and I love it and I highly recommend it). 

 If you need help creating a content marketing strategy, or implementing one, reach out to me. It’s what I do.

What did you think of this post? Are you utilizing a content marketing strategy for your business? Let’s chat about it in the comments.

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5 Things you Need to be an Organized Blogger

Plus, enter to win a $100 Amazon gift card!

Pinterest Promo Image for the blog post

If you’ve spent any time blogging you likely know what it’s like to be an organized blogger and a disorganized blogger. I’m familiar with both. If you aren’t organized it’s stressful, overwhelming, confusing, and feels disjointed. If you are organized, your processes run smoothly, you can focus on long-term goals, and you have clarity and direction.

Organized bloggers use more than cool calendar apps, though. It’s something that takes just a little bit of effort but has a big, almost immediate payoff. I’ve compiled 5 things you need in order to be an organized blogger. And I’ve included an opportunity for you to win a $100 Amazon gift card (details below).

FYI: I’m a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program. This post contains Amazon affiliate links. This means that if you make a purchase through one of the links I’ve provided, I earn a small commission. You don’t have to pay anything extra, and it’s a nice way for me to buy Harry Potter paraphernalia and coffee. 

Read on!

Why worry about organization?

You value your sanity, don’t you? Get your shit together and save yourself from headache, frustration, and a deep, dark valley of blogging despair. It may seem difficult, but you can set aside an afternoon to get all of your systems in place. I can even all-caps yell at you over email if you need some motivation. Seriously, just hit me up.

Disorganized bloggers are more likely to:

  • Forget their brilliant ideas (they float in and float out… catch them)
  • Find it difficult to stick to a schedule. Consistency is key.
  • Experience writer’s block (because they aren’t planning content calendars)
  • Struggle to stay on-topic and on-brand
  • Feel overwhelmed and experience burnout
  • Give up and quit blogging (thus hurting their business, SEO, and reach)

5 Tips to help you become an organized blogger

  1. Keep a notebook to track all of your ideas, processes, client info, pricing, planning, etc. Personally, I used the Bullet Journal system and it’s amazingly flexible. It can be as simple or as fancy as you want with this system. In fact, I’ve collected a ton of BuJo inspiration on my Pinterest board. Here are some good notebooks:
  2. Create an invoicing system to track your invoices more easily.
    • Due is a free invoicing system that charges you per paid invoice (2.8% charge).
    • FreshBooks is a really popular choice. You can get a free 30-day trial and then it’s only a small monthly charge of $19.95.
    • Harvest is one I’m familiar with, and it works pretty well. Again, there’s a free 30-day trial, and then pricing starts at $12 a month for the basic package.
    • PayPal also offers invoicing, which is pretty convenient if that’s how you usually get paid. It’s free to send invoices, and then PayPal takes the standard fees (up to 3.4%).
  3. Set aside time to plan. Schedule it in your calendar so it’s a non-negotiable timeslot.You should aim to plan for 90-days, 30-days, and then weekly. So make your big, 90-days goals, break that into what can be accomplished each month, and then break that down even further into what can be accomplished each week. Make sure to review your plans at the end of each week and adjust as necessary. Your planning sessions should include new products and services, administrative things (processes, invoicing, hours worked, etc.), and make sure to include your social media marketing and blog editorial planning. If you don’t schedule this time as non-negotiable, something WILL ALWAYS come up. Trust me. There’s always something more fun to do. Planning can kind of suck. So just buckle down and do it, and you won’t regret it.
  4. Keep running lists of resources in one place. So, this is where that handy dandy bullet journal comes in (or Evernote, or whatever you use). You can keep lists of optimized titles, lists of ideas, lists of good hashtags to use, lists of resources you need to create, lists of requests from your current readers or clients, lists of bloggers to collab with, etc. The important thing is to get it all out of your head so it’s not taking up valuable real-estate.
  5. Stay on top of clutter (desktop and physical clutter). Clean up your desktop and computer files regularly (and for the love of god, back those suckers up). Come up with a system for naming your files so it’s easy to find what you’re looking for when you need it. I can’t tell you how many hours I’ve spent digging around for a file name that “only makes sense” only to find it named something completely different that “only made sense” when I chose the name. It’s the worst. Same goes for physical clutter. Make a filing system or box system or something, but keep paper stacks off of your desk as often as possible. If you’re anything like me, it’s hard to focus when your workspace is a mess.

So, those are my tips for becoming an organized blogger. What did you think of them? Do you have anything you’d like to add? Drop a comment below and let’s help each other become more organized!

Now for the giveaway…

I know that’s what you’re really here for, so without further ado, here are the details.

I’ve teamed up with a group of bloggers to run a giveaway for a $100 gift card to Amazon. You can use that gift card to buy some awesome notebooks, or a coffee maker (may I recommend a Hario pour over?) or some fancy pens or a Harry Potter mug or whatever you want. Just clickety-click the link below and enter in to win. And let me know if you win, will you?

The contest runs until June 13th at 11:59 PM. Enter to win a $100 Amazon gift card here! 

Best of luck, and ’til next time,

Morgan

 

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How to Side Hustle and Avoid the Burnout

7 Tips to Help you Rock your Side Hustle and Maintain your Sanity

If you’ve spent any amount of time in the freelancer, entrepreneur, or mompreneur corners of the internet then you’ve probably come across the term Side Hustle. It’s basically just an exciting way for boring people like me to say, “I work a day job and I also work even more at night because I have goals, man.”

I started a Side Hustle the minute I graduated from college because I knew corporate life (and technical writing) just wasn’t for me. Is it mellow-dramatic for me to say that I felt like dementors were sucking the soul out of my body every time I swiped my little ID badge to get into the R&D portion of the building? It is? Well, it’s true. I kept looking to the skies for Buckbeak to save me.

Fortunately for me, I realized that I could be my own Buckbeak, and started a Side Hustle (namely, freelance writing and design).

I spent four years side-hustling my buns off (and getting very, very burned out), and I can tell you that if you aren’t careful, you’ll lose your mind. It’s really, really hard to maintain a life of almost constant work, even for the biggest workaholics (holla!), so I’ve compiled some tips to help you keep up that Side Hustle and avoid the burnout. Because burnout sucks. 

  1. Set a schedule and stick to it. 

    So one of the biggest challenges of the Side Hustle is actually doing the damn thing. I’d go through these phases where I worked on my Side Hustle constantly and then would drop it for a few months (yes, months) at a time. This was definitely because of burnout, but also because I didn’t have a schedule.

    You don’t have to pour every spare second into your Side Hustle, but you should decide how much time you need each day to work on it and mark that time in your planner. Make it non-negotiable time so you aren’t tempted to neglect it. 

  2. But also schedule breaks and days off.

    Hey, you know what else you should make non-negotiable? Days off. And breaks. Also bubble-baths and mimosas.

    I think the single-best way to avoid burnout is to remember to take breaks. You’ll need to be honest with yourself, here. Some people work better in 20-minute increments with 5-minute breaks. Others work better in batches (a few hours or writing or editing or designing). Still others function really well working the traditional work week with 2-day weekends, and others will be super-productive working 10 days on and 4 days off.

    Experiment, look at your past habits and be honest with yourself regarding your limitations. It’s also important to be flexible and change things up as soon as you realize they aren’t working for you.

  3. Make sure you enjoy hobbies and a social life.

    If you’re building a business around your passion and/or hobby then you might think “oh, painting is my hobby, so my art business is going to be 100% fun.” While your business pursuits will be much more fun than not, you’ll still need to have hobbies and enjoyment outside of your business.

    I was like you, once. I thought, “hell, I love writing, reading, and designing things. To be happy I don’t need to do anything else.” And while it’s true that I very infrequently grumble about work, and am more than thrilled that people pay me to write and draw, business is still a business and I still need something outside of the business. And so do you.

    For me, it’s writing speculative fiction, reading books, watching movies, and taking pretty pictures out-of-doors. I also like to meet friends for drinks or coffee every now and then.

    You don’t have to turn yourself into a social butterfly if you’re not one, or choose a hobby you have no interest in. You just need to find a life (even a tiny, small, quiet life) outside of your Side Hustle and the skills you need to complete that hustle. 

  4. Don’t let your Side Hustle bleed into your day-job. 

    I’ll quietly and shamefully admit that I sometimes found myself putting finishing touches on Side Hustle projects during my downtime at previous day jobs (I shall never admit which one, though, you can’t make me!).

    Not only is that not fair to your full-time employer, it’s also not fair to you or your clients. You’re wasting time that you’re being paid for by someone else, and you’re going to be so nervous about getting caught that you’ll be half-assing your way through that project.

    If you’re getting so much work in your Side Hustle that it’s impossible to complete it all outside of day-job hours (woo! What a great problem to have) perhaps you should consider cutting back your hours at your day job, if possible. Or, if you like your day job and are just side-hustling for fun (and don’t plan on making it your full-time gig) you need to cut some of your workload.  

  5. Track milestones and celebrate your successes! 

    It can be frustrating to work on something and feel like you aren’t getting anywhere. Trust me, I know. I would frequently get upset that my Side Hustle wasn’t bringing in as much money as I wanted, or that I wasn’t at the place that X blogger or Instagrammer was at.

    That’s why I enthusiastically encourage you to track milestones and celebrate your successes. I, for one, celebrate even small milestones or successes. I got a new “like” on Facebook today? *Small happy dance* I booked a new client? *audible whoop* I sold something on Etsy? *Dance + audible whoop

    Celebrating even the smallest victories will help push you forward when you’re feeling frustrated, and show you that all of that work you’re doing is getting you somewhere.  

  6. Remind yourself what you’re working toward (and that it’s worth it)

    Are you feeling down about your Side Hustle? Are you discouraged and wondering why you’re bothering to bust your buns if it’s not doing anything? Well, are you? Me too, sometimes. In fact, that feeling is completely normal. So let me ask you something…

    Why did you start?

    Think about it; why did you start your Side Hustle? To pay off debt? Save for a vacation? Build your skills and further your career? Grow a business so you can quit your day-job?  Ditch your icky boss and be your own boss?

    You’re working toward something. Say it out loud: “I’m working toward something.” Now write it on your wall, or make an inspiration board, or tattoo it on your forehead. Whatever it takes to remind yourself not to get discouraged. 

  7. Surround yourself with like-minded people (even if they’re only internet people)

    Sometimes we don’t have very supportive networks IRL. I’ve found it difficult to connect with like-minded individuals in my smallish town. People often think freelancers or creativepreneurs are crazy-pants. However, you and I know that’s not entirely true. 😉

    I’ve been able to connect with and draw inspiration from people online. Join Facebook groups or follow awesome people on Instagram or join twitter chats or watch Youtubers. Just find people like you who “get it”, who will encourage you, who will challenge and inspire you, and who will support you when you need it. 


I’m not sure that it’s possible to completely avoid burnout. You might still get tired, discouraged, and feel unmotivated. For those moments, I recommend you take a break for a week or so and come back to it.

However, if you follow the 7 tips I shared with you today I think you’ll find your Side Hustle much more manageable. What do you think of the tips I shared? Is there anything you’ve done that has helped you avoid Side Hustle burnout? I’d love to hear about it so I can share it with others.

‘Till next time,

Morgan

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How to Practice Creativity

10 tips to help you think outside the box

10 tips for thinking outside the box, even if you think you aren't creative.

Have you ever heard someone say, “I’m just not creative.” Maybe you’ve been guilty of saying that about yourself. Well, I call bullshit on that. Maybe you’re not particularly creative right this second, but there’s no reason you can’t be. Why? Because creativity comes with practice. Yup. I said it. You have to practice creativity.

You’re probably thinking, “Why do I need to worry about creativity?” or maybe, “creativity doesn’t apply to my business or career”. Let’s set a couple of things straight, shall we?

  1. Creativity applies to every business and career. Think about it. If you’re not solving problems creatively, or using creativity to develop new products or services, you’re making yourself obsolete.
  2. Creativity does not equal artistic. I know lots of people think of painting or drawing or creating music when they think of creativity. But that’s a limited perspective. Creativity applies to the use of imagination or original ideas.
  3. If you think of any successful business or entrepreneur in the last 20 years, what do they have in common? Usually, they approached a problem, industry, or technology creatively. In other words, they were innovative.

According to this article by Business News Daily, “companies that actively foster creative thinking outperform their rivals in revenue growth, market share, and competitive leadership, according to the report.”

Bottom line, no matter your industry, business model, or expertise, creativity is essential to your success.

So, what do you do if you aren’t creative?

Well, as established, I call bullshit on you not being creative. You’re just rusty. I pretty firmly believe that creativity is an inherent trait of most humans, and all it takes is a little practice to get it out. (Creativity was probably stamped out of you at one point… )

Creativity is intelligence having fun. – Albert Einstein

As a creative business owner, I’ve found that my creativity and ability to look at things differently waxes and wanes with my practice of it. When I’ve taken day jobs to help pay the bills while I’m building my own business, my creativity frequently decreases. My brain gets foggy, I find it hard to write and think, and it’s frustrating as all get-out. BUT, it always comes back when I take the time to practice.

Great. How do I practice creativity?

I’m so glad you asked! I’ve compiled some tips from my own personal practice and from the practice of other creatives I know. You can try to implement some or all of these into your creative practice. Just be consistent and go easy on yourself.

10 Tips for Practicing Creativity

  1. Read more fictionI know, lots of entrepreneurs and business owners hate this idea, but you have to read more fiction. Self-help books are great. Non-fiction is great, but it doesn’t always force you to use your imagination, and imagination is key to creativity.If it’s easier, get some audiobooks and just try to imagine the scenes or the what the characters look like. This just helps your brain start working (plus, reading is cool).
  2. BrainstormI’m talking grade-school style spider webs and shit. Or, make tons of lists. The key here is that you just let your brain go without checking it. We love to stop ourselves when an idea or thought isn’t practical or logical or doable. That stifles creativity.I recommend using actual pen and paper, but if you think faster than you can write, then a Google Doc works just as well. Just set a timer for 10 or 15 minutes, and choose a broad umbrella topic (i.e. Customer Satisfaction). Then, dump everything out of your brain onto paper. It can be ideas about how to increase customer satisfaction, how to measure it, incentive programs, internal training, whatever. Don’t censor yourself, and don’t judge yourself.

    I do stuff like this a lot (probably once a day at least) and I’ve come up with some of my best ideas while dumping things onto paper.

  3. Try connecting unrelated topicsI know this seems weird, but it honestly does help. I do this a lot for storytelling, but it applies to any form of creativity.Choose 2 seemingly unrelated topics (i.e. unicorns and trains). Now, come up with a series of sentences or ideas that can connect the two (no, you can’t just jump to “a unicorn is riding a train”). I’m forcing you to storyboard this thing. Try to come up with 5 or 6 separate sentences that will be able to creatively connect the unicorn to the train. It can, will be, and should be nonsensical at first.
  4. Be comfortable with suckingI know. It’s hard. Personally, I find it very easy to quit when I’m not automatically good at something. In fact, I struggle with that a lot. It’s something I have to continually work on.Like my friends in the military say, “embrace the suck”. You are probably going to be so bad at this at first. And that’s okay. We forget because we’re humans, but we were bad at everything before we got good at it. Walking? We sucked. Talking? We sucked.
  5. Schedule it and stick to itAs with any practice, you need to set aside time to do it and be consistent. You don’t have to devote hours a day to your creativity practice, but starting with 15-20 minutes daily is a good idea.
  6. Don’t compare yourself to othersThis is the fastest way to discourage yourself and give up. Comparing yourself to other people (especially other people who are years ahead of you in their career or creative practice) doesn’t do you any good. It’s always a good idea to keep an ear to the ground and be aware of what people are doing around you, but berating yourself because you aren’t exactly like X person is senseless. Don’t do it.
  7. Trust your instinctsIf you’re drawn to a specific niche, technology, style, or thought, trust that. Take that road and see where it goes. It doesn’t always go somewhere useful, but it may lead you to a life-changing realization.
  8. Be comfortable with evolutionI’m not talking Darwinism, here (see what I did there? I’m so funny…) Being creative will lead you to a lot of ideas and techniques and solutions. And, often, you’ll find yourself somewhere you didn’t necessarily mean to go. I did this myself. I started out as a technical writer dabbling in design and copywriting on the weekends, and look at me now. I’m building an entire business around graphic design and copywriting, and I love it.The point is that you shouldn’t be so stuck to an idea or image of yourself that you’re unwilling to make natural shifts as they occur.
  9. Choose music to fit the moodThe right music can help set your frame of mind for your brainstorming session. I rely on this a lot when I’m working on creative writing or creating new art pieces. I try to stay away from music that has lyrics (sometimes those lyrics sneak into my work, haha).
  10. Step away from your work and get outYour brain needs breaks to process data and solve problems. That’s why it’s vital that you take a break from your work and let your mind process your problem in the background.Do your due diligence; research, brainstorm, plan, and think. After that, though, you need to be able to let it rest for a few hours or days before you start working on it again. This doesn’t mean neglecting your daily practice in creativity, but rather not spending all of your time focused on one problem or thought.

You don’t need to do all of these things right out of the gate. In fact, if you’re anything like me, you shouldn’t do all of these things right out of the gate. You may overwhelm yourself and decide it isn’t for you.

Instead, pick a few that sound doable and just do them. Then add more as you go. Pretty soon your brain is going to be oozing creativity and you’ll think “huh, when did this happen?”

Do you have any tips for practicing creativity? Any stories about how creativity helped you in your business? I’d love to hear them and chat about it in the comments.

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How to Write a Call-to-Action that Works

In the world of marketing, the call-to-action (CTA) is what actually causes your viewers or audience to pull the trigger and buy your product or hire your services. Setting up a website that’s missing a CTA is essentially turning potential customers away. If there’s no clear way for your potential customer to contact you, hire your services, or otherwise engage, they’ll go to a competitor site and never look back. Ain’t nobody got time for that!

Each page on your website should have a specific, clear call-to-action. You don’t need to create a different CTA for each page but you do need to think about the ultimate goal: what do you want your customer to do when they visit your site?

Before you sit down to write a Call-to-Action answer these five questions:

1. Who is your visitor?

What are they looking for? Can you list their goals or objectives? Do you know what they need from you? What actions are they willing to take to get what they want?

2. What do you want them to do on your site?

Do you want them to log in, sign-up, call you, fill out a form, subscribe to a newsletter, make a purchase, or something else? Think about the action you most want them to take when they come to your site. It’ll probably involve sales in some way.

3. What is the objective of this action?

So what comes out of their following the action you require? Does your customer make a purchase? Do you increase your sales funnel? Do you build your email list? Is your network expanding? Whatever you want to get out of this is your objective.

4. What will your visitor get from following through?

What’s in it for them? Will they get an exclusive whitepaper or case study? Do they receive a coupon code or free item? Can they download an awesome freebie? You need to reward them in some way for following your CTA. I guess you can say it’s sort of like a bribe.

5. How does this fit with their objectives?

It’s not useful to offer a download for a child’s birthday invitation if your audience is professional golfers looking to improve their game. So how does your CTA plus your “bribe” fit in with your customer objectives?

If they’re looking for tips to improve their golf game and you want them to hire your services, then you need to show them that following your CTA is the only way for your potential client to reach his or her goals/objectives.

Put it together and what have you got… an awesome call-to-action!

Let’s walk through the process so you get a better idea of how it all works.

We’ll go with the golf example I started above. So, you own a coaching business geared at helping semi-pro and pro golfers improve their game. It’s a niche market, so your CTA has got to be even better to net sales.

  1. Your ideal visitor is a semi-pro or pro golfer who wants to perform better in tournaments. They have the money to spend to improve their game.
  2. You want them to learn about your services and contact you for a 30-minute Skype consultation. You’ll gauge their wants/needs and see if you’re a good fit.
  3. The objective is that you convince them to hire your professional services.
  4. Your visitor will get an improved golf game, thus performing better in tournaments.
  5. Your visitor will earn more money from tournaments and improve his or her golf game, which is his or her main objective.

So, what would our example CTA look like?

I’ve helped semi-professional and professional golfers earn $2,569,345.00 in the last 12 months with my coaching techniques. Contact me to set up a free 30-minute Skype consultation.

In the example we wrote, we’ve addressed each of the five points and created a CTA that will encourage visitors to act instead of remaining passive on the website. Without a CTA you’re leaving potential customers and revenue in the dark. Instead, you can guide site visitors to act in a way that will help both parties reach their goals/objectives.

Are you missing a call-to-action on your website? Having trouble coming up with one? Let’s chat about it in the comments.