As part of a 12-blog post challenge issued by my colleague and friend, Blogging Badass Anne McAuley Lopez here is my first installment.
Blogging may not come easily for most business owners. Why? Because it isn’t your area of expertise. Your area of expertise is accounting, swimming pool service or making and selling widgets. My area of expertise is writing and blogging and overall content creation so I know it’s easy for me to say, “just sit and write.” but it may cause you to break out in a sweat and procrastinate until you’ve wasted an entire day.
Fear not. Here are blog tips for the busy entrepreneur that just might make it easier for you to tackle this beast! If, however, these don’t brighten the path ahead, email me. Let’s have a content strategy session and get your blogging, e-newsletters and social media up and running!
Are you a business owner who thinks, “I need to be blogging.” Are you a blogger who thinks, “I have to find ways to write more compelling content.” Are you a solopreneur who knows you need to create more content but just can’t imagine where to begin or how to find the time to do so?” If you answered yes to any of these questions, then I am here to offer you five ways to improve your writing.
There are no quick fixes to great, or better, content creation.
If you’re a writer, the words may flow easier for you than they do for the non-writer. If you’re a non-writer or if you struggle with content creation, you may want to work with a professional writer. This person can create content for your business on your behalf and help you build your brand and get your business ranking higher in Google searches. A content creator will work with you to put together a content strategy as well as an editorial plan that will cover your blog as well as your social media updates.
If, however, you’re ready to work on your own content, let’s get started:
Cats are weird. I say that with full conviction having been around them my entire life. The day after I got my first apartment, I got the first cat I had ever made the complete decision to adopt. She was a Siamese, named Skye. She was a talker, as many Siamese are. Skye was my first, but throughout my adult life, we have had anywhere from one to five cats living in the house with us.
Currently we have Parker, Jessie and Lucy.
Lucy is the weirdest cat I have ever lived with. My daughter sent me a picture of Lucy when she saw her on Instagram in a photo the shelter posted. Naturally, my curiosity was piqued and down to the shelter I went. She was odd from the beginning. I picked her up and snuggled her at the shelter and she went all limp and slinky-like lolling around in my arms. She looked into my face and started chattering – she was more of a talker than even Skye had been. She bumped her head against my face, nibbled my fingers and basically demanded that I bring her home – who was I to deny her?
There are several times a week when we play the “what doesn’t belong” game and it’s always Lucy in a space she doesn’t belong. We wonder how she even got in the space we’ve found her, but we have long ago given up trying to figure it out.
Currently Lucy reigns supreme. She chases Jessie away from the food. Parker will be driven off the couch if Lucy decides she wants the cushion he is lounging on. Henrietta doesn’t give in to her bullying and sometimes it ends up in an all out barking, meowing pet war.
Her weirdest behavior, to date, is her obsession with a blanket I bought. The first day I brought it home, she launched herself onto my lap and began kneading the blanket, sucking on one corner and drooling. Gross, but kind of cute. The next day I grabbed the blanket, carried it through the house with Lucy following along, like a puppy. I stopped to catch a snippet of something on the television and she howled and started clawing at me and the blanket. I sat down and she, again, went all kooky with the kneading.
Lucy always sits on my lap. It is almost impossible to read a book because she needs to be in my lap with her belly pressed to mine and her head under my chin. She spins in circles, flicking her tail, until she finally settles in. When the blanket comes out, though, she rolls around, makes odd, throaty noises, kneads and drools. The blanket has been washed. It’s nothing all that spectacular and we have softer, warmer blankets in the house, but for some reason Lucy has claimed this blanket as her own, has imprinted on it and brought her weirdness to it.
It’s become a joke to try and get the blanket out without her noticing it. Never works. She sees it and sprints through the house to claim her lap space. I’d like to think it’s my sparkling personality, wit and inherent ability to pet her for hours, but I believe it’s probably a “blanket thing.” Do your pets have any weird behaviors? I’d love to hear about it.
Your business story and knowing how to tell it and share it with colleagues is the talk of the Internet. Why? Who doesn’t like a story? Would you rather hear a story or a well-rehearsed elevator pitch? Give me a “Once upon a time…” any day of the week. Don’t take that too literally.
Your business story is what makes you unique. It shows a potential client what you bring to the table that the competition might not. Your business story is the real reason behind why you jumped into entrepreneurship. The business story is the impetus for everything you do. For example, prior to my breast cancer diagnosis, I worked 16-hour days, sometimes seven days a week and I still never seemed to get caught up. There was always some pressing task that I didn’t get to that day that I HAD to get to the next day. I didn’t sleep because I worried about how much I thought I’d left undone. I was in front of that computer all the time. To the exclusion of friends, family and my health.
Cancer came knocking and my life became consumed with oncologists, surgeries, treatment and bone-crunching and spirit-quashing physical and emotional roller coaster. What I learned during that time was that I had to work on the oncologists schedule, not the other way around. They didn’t care if I had a deadline or a client call. So, guess what?! I learned to work more efficiently. I got more work done in a shorter amount of time. I was more productive. I didn’t work 16 hours a day. I took weekends off. How did that happen? Because previously I wasn’t really working as hard as I thought I was. Oh, I was certainly working long hours, but they weren’t productive hours. There were days I got lost in Pinterest or on Facebook for hours to the exclusion of getting actual work done.
The bottom line.
My experience — my story — is what provides me a unique standpoint from which to talk with you about your time and goal management issues. It is what allows me to help you conquer the overwhelm. I have in-the-trenches experience.
How can you tell your business story?
Here are some items to consider when considering the power of story. Storytelling is the oldest and most long-lived method of communication. Is there any need to reinvent the wheel? I think not.
What will telling your business story do?
It will generate curiosity.
Just as writers leave you hanging at the end of a chapter so that you simply have to turn the page, your business story can do the same. It can leave a cliff hanger so your audience simply has to as, “What happens next?”
Share your differences.
Your story is as unique as you are and no two stories are alike. I have yet to work with a client who has the same business story as another client. Even though I know entrepreneurs who have had breast cancer, I have never met one who’s story is the same as mine. Your differences will set you apart.
Story telling is easy.
Okay, crafting your business story may take time and practice, BUT it’s easier to tell a story, I think, than it is to stand up and give an elevator pitch. An elevator pitch always feels very “selly-sell” to me and a story is more intriguing and less pressure to make me feel I have to buy.
Use your story as your brand.
Do you want to be known as the Storytelling Social Media Guru? Why not? Are you the Pet Groomer To The Stars? Love it! Do you consider yourself, “The Business Coach With The Midas Touch”? Tell us why and make it part of your business story brand.
Crafting Your Business Story
Storytelling is a strong business tool but you need to know how to use it with artful grace. If you’ve ever read fiction you know there are several elements that keep you reading even though you may not be consciously aware of those elements. When crafting your business story, keep these thoughts in mind.
Create a hero.
Your business hero doesn’t have to leap tall buildings in a single bound, but he has to be the person at the center of the story who overcame something and that is why he is where he is today. Whad did you do to become the hero of your small business?
What obstacles did the hero face?
Unless you won the lottery on your first time trying to play it, chances are you didn’t wake up to a wheelbarrow of money and, like the rest of us, you have had to struggle to get where you are today. Share that struggle. Let us know the conflict, struggle and strife your hero faced. Did he get fired? Leave a fantatic job to strike out on his own and live off of ramen noodles for a year? Did she have a family who didn’t support her dream but she persevered? Share that conflict. Make us root for the hero.
Make it relevant.
If you have a story that has nothing to do with the business you’re in, you may want to craft a new one. If, for example, you’re a dog groomer and your story is all about your struggle with depression and being homeless or failing out of college or losing all of your money in a stock market downturn, you have to ask yourself, “How does this story relate to where I am and what I am doing today? How does my story show the relevance between what I do for a living and how I can help you?” Spend time with this step in the process.
Tell a story.
Remember, a story is a sequence of events with a beginning, a middle and an end and hopefully it is intriguing and keeps the listener on the edge of his or her seat. You didn’t have to scale the Alps to have a riveting story. The way in which you craft and share your story is what makes it a riveting listen for the audience.
Make it personal.
Many times when I am sharing my business story I will shift it a bit so that I gear it more toward my audience. If, for example, I am speaking to a group of business people about how to blog, then my time management and productivity story probably isn’t as relevant. However, my story on how I pursued the editor of the local newspaper until he gave me a chance to be a staff reporter and how I have been a writer for decades would be relevant. Make certain you have a story to fit the situation.
Do you have a business story?
Have you considered your story? How did you get to be the hero of your business story? What is it in your story that sets you apart from the competition? If you need help crafting a business story, drop me a line and we will find out what makes you the hero of your business and why people should work with you!
Are deadlines your nemesis? Does the week come to an end and you can’t for the life of you put a finger on what you accomplished? Do you get your client work done but your blog remains unloved and unfulfilled?
What is your blogging routine? Do you have one? Do you need one? Do you think that a blogging routine might just help you be more productive on the projects that are for your own business? My short answer is: Yes, you need a routine.
How can you get one?
If you don’t know what your priorities are, you will fail to miss the target, almost every time. Priorities will help you focus on the Important, the Crucial and the It Can Wait A While. Remember, not everything can be Priority One.
I recently started paying attention to which paw Henrietta used. Why? Bored? Intrigued? Let’s go with intrigued and curious as to whether my poodle is left- or right pawed. I found, after somewhat careful observation that she appears to favor her left paw.
How did I come to my oh-so-scientific conclusion?
- When I stop petting her she will scratch me with her left paw
- When I get her dressed to go out, she always comes to my left side
- When getting dressed, she always lifts her left paw first to be put into her pajamas
- When she sleeps she sleeps on her left side
- When she sits on my lap she leans on me with her left side
- More importantly in my scientific study… when she loses a treat under a chair or her food dish, she digs with her left paw
I know Henrietta always takes top billing in the blog. Why? Because she is demanding, and a diva, and I let her. Spenser, however, was always happy to toil away in almost obscurity. He was a loveable lug who didn’t need or crave the spotlight. Now he is front and center and will be forever missed.
As our son, Nicholas, shared in a Facebook post, “RIP Spenser. Had 12 great years together. You were one rambunctious beast of a dog that was terrified of vacuum cleaners, you will be missed!!” Our daughter, Alexa, tried to sum up in hers, “I lost my best friend today and I feel like a piece of my heart went with him. I love you so much and miss you already, Spenser Elizabeth.”
We lost our beloved Spenser yesterday, January 14, 2016 to cancer. I’m afraid it will be a date whose anniversary we will mark with tears for many years to come. My husband, Tim, marked Spenser’s passing over the Rainbow Bridge by posting a selfie — he’s a man of few words.
We rescued Spenser when he was a tiny puppy. Our neighbors owned him but neglected him. They had this tiny puppy tied to the bumper of their car with a chain around his neck in the cold, rainy month of October. We would go over and feed and pet him. It got to the point — after not too many days — when I couldn’t take it any more. I went over and yelled at them for mistreating him and threatened, “I’ll either call the cops or take him home if you don’t take care of him.” They responded, “take him.” Gulp! What?! We hadn’t planned on a second dog. There had been no family discussion on getting a puppy. We weren’t prepared. But, take him I did. What did we have ready for a new puppy? A family with open hearts and a love of animals.
It took us a few days to come up with his name, Spenser. We named him after a character in Robert B. Parker books. He was, as Nicholas stated, rambunctious. Spenser never outgrew the “puppy” stage. He enthusiastically greeted anyone who came to our door. When the kids’ friends came over, Spenser would shove himself between their legs and they’d be lifted off the ground. Not sure if he was trying to be a pony, but they all seemed to get rides from him.
Because of his breed — a husky-lab mix — he blew his coat many times a year. It was a never ending battle to keep the hair off the couches and our clothes. Running the vacuum sent Spenser into a frantic race around the house; it terrified him.
We tried the crating route when he was a puppy. No matter what kind of crate we tried, he could dig or shove his way out of it. After having purchased more than a few to try and contain him, we gave up. He did destroy our carpet when he was a puppy by digging to get into a room with a closed door, but other than that he never made a mess or destroyed anything.
Spenser was the kind of dog you could offer a piece of food to and he would take it so gently you’d allow a baby to feed him. Unlike his sister, Henrietta, who we have to say, “take it nice” about a dozen times and even then it’s a crap shoot on whether you will come away with all of your fingertips.
He was also the family “bone-breaker.” His enthusiasm and strength also lead to my having a broken foot and to having screws in it. I was taking him out before bedtime about eight years ago, he dragged me and broke a lot of bones in my foot when I fell. After my surgery for that I was too nervous to walk him again. Tim usually did have walking duties so that wasn’t a big deal for him. About five years ago Spenser dragged Tim off the porch and that lead to Tim having a broken collar bone. No matter all of that though, he was a gentle giant. He rarely barked, but when he did you know it was for a legitimate reason, not for a leaf blowing across the yard (hint, hint, Henrietta!) Even though I was home with Spenser all day, he was “Tim’s dog” and followed him like a shadow, slept by his side of the bed — always — and looked to him for attention. Spenser loved all of us, but he was definitely Tim’s best friend.
Every time I walked the Hen, day or night, Spenser would position himself in the living room window and watch us. I always felt safe with him there, guarding us. He loved walks and loved meeting new people every time we were out.
When he wanted attention, he would come and lean on you. When a 100+ pound dog leans on you, you pay attention!
For some reason, and it was one of his quirks, he did not like if you pulled your sleeves down over your hands. He’d pace back and forth, shove his nose into the sleeve and generally seem upset until you popped your hands back out again.
It’s odd how your routines change so quickly. Only one dog to feed. I am now responsible for turning off the outside lights and locking the doors because I will be the last one out when I walk Henrietta before bedtime. Not a big deal in the scheme of most people’s lives, but a huge shift in the routine of the past 12 years.
We were with him when his soul left his body.
He loved fruits and vegetables just as much as he loved steak and chicken.
He loved riding in the car.
He loved lying out in the snow in the winter and reveled in the cold.
He loved lying with the cats.
He loved putting his head in our laps when we sat on the couch.
He loved us. We loved him. He left a space in our hearts that will never be filled. Run free and without pain on that Rainbow Bridge, Spenser.
Henrietta, the diva poodle, has the life. She sleeps when she wants. Gets love when she needs it. Eats kind of on the schedule I set for her but with vegetables and fruits in between. After having some down time this past week and fighting a cold or some such bug I watched how Henrietta, the cats and Spenser approach their days. When I did that I came to the realization hat I want to live my life like my poodle does. What does that mean?
Every day is the best day ever.
This is the time of year when many of us have great resolve to set resolutions for the New Year. Before you get too heavily into that I urge you to reconsider. Statistically, more than half of us abandon our resolutions before the month of January is out. Why? It’s simply too much pressure to put on yourself. That’s the first reason. The second is that many of us set vague resolutions such as, “I want to blog more.” In order to help your resolutions — scratch that — your New Year’s Intentions work they need to be S.M.A.R.T. intentions. What is S.M.A.R.T.?
S – Specific
M – Measurable
A – Attainable
R – Realistic
T – Time based
The example above, “I want to blog more” doesn’t fit the SMART goal pattern. Why? It’s not specific. Saying I want “to blog three times a week” is better because it’s Specific. “Blog more…” more than what? More than whom? More than… see it’s too vague. When you add in the “three times a week” you have made it Measurable. Is it Attainable? Only you will know what your bandwidth is. Is blogging “three times a week” Realistic for you? Again, only you will know for sure. “Blogging three times a week” is definitely Time-Based especially if you mean a seven day week.
Now you can see that “I want to blog more” is not a SMART goal, but “I want to blog three times a week” is.
As we kick off 2016 one of my SMART goals is to “blog once a week” on my own blog. My client’s blogs get so much attention and so many new blog posts, that I am like the cobbler whose children have holey shoes. This year my blog will be loved as much as my client’s blogs are.
What SMART goals are you setting for yourself? If they have to do with time/task management, please reach out and let’s see how we can work together!
What do you need to help your business grow to new heights in 2016?