Monthly Archives: July 2016

How to Overcome Writer’s Block

Overcome Writer's BlockHow to Overcome Writer’s Block

For years I have said there is no such thing as writer’s block, but today I’m going on the record as admitting that this is an issue for many people. Just because I have been fortunate enough to sit down and write over a million words since 2006 does not mean this is a simple task for anyone else.

Also, I write non-fiction almost exclusively, so the overwhelming majority of what I will share with you here will relate to this genre and style of writing on topics related to business and personal development.

So, if you find yourself blocked when you wish to write, what steps can you take to overcome your writer’s block? In a recently updated post by Henneke Duistermaat, entitled Writer’s Block: 27 Ways to Crush it Forever she shares some great tips:

“Talk to an Imaginary Friend

Whether you’ve 10 readers or 10,000, thinking about them makes writing a post daunting.
So, forget about your readers. Instead, create an imaginary friend.
Your friend is a real fan. He (or she) loves everything you write. He supports everything you do.
Give your imaginary friend a name. Create a little drawing or find a picture of a lookalike. Pin this picture on the wall above your desk.
Instead of writing a blog post, start a conversation with your friend. Or write him a letter. Discuss his dreams and challenges. Help him with whatever he is struggling with.
Be a good friend.”

This reminds me of a strategy I used as a child when making up stories in my back yard. My imaginary friend was named Tippy, and he was an elf. If only I had written down some of what we discussed over the years!

These days I do use this when writing email messages to the people on my list. I imagine that one of them is right beside me and asking for help in starting and growing an online business. Then I share my very best methods and techniques and recommend a product or a service that has been helpful to me.

Another tip shared by Henneke is this one:

“Be a Misfit

Being a blogger isn’t about conforming to the norms.
Don’t feel the pressure to be like your hero bloggers. You have to stand out on the web. You have to be YOU.
Accept you’re a misfit. Just like me. Just like Jon. Just like all other bloggers.
Be yourself. Enjoy yourself. Because your enthusiasm is contagious.”

This one really resonated with me because I had to find my voice when I came online and it was only when I decided to stop caring about what anyone else thought of me or of my writing that I truly took off as an entrepreneur. Like I stated in another post on technology and the economy:

People who value their uniqueness often find themselves in a position of great power and responsibility, while those striving to conform to society’s standards must be content with the status quo. Become a specialist in a world of mediocre generalists and the world will be your oyster.

The final tip I will share on the topic of how to overcome writer’s block is:

“Reread Your First Ever Blog Post

If you’ve been blogging for six months or more, you’ve written a lot. And you’ve learnt a lot.
Go back to your first few blog posts.
Find one you can rewrite. Add new insights, new arguments, and new examples.
Voila. You got a new post.”

I was not a writer when I first came online. Instead, I was someone who had always wanted to write but talked about it way more than ever taking pen to paper or fingers to a keyboard. Then I began blogging and found that I could write posts and publish my thoughts and ideas easily. Most of these early writings were incomplete and vague. Knowing that I can always go back to them anytime I feel the urge to update my posts with new insights and examples is a great feeling. If you are brave and have some time on your hands I invite to read my early posts and see why they are the perfect material to be rewritten.

What are your thoughts on how to overcome writer’s block?

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Technology and the Economy

Technology and the EconomyIf you Google the name Seth you will find that Seth Godin’s blog and some of his other sites are returned as six of the results on page one. That’s huge, and if you don’t believe me then Google your own first name and see what Google returns for you. I usually read his posts regularly and once in awhile one of them resonates with me in a way that makes it difficult to get the concepts and ideas he shares out of my head. Seth’s recent post entitled The computer, the network, and the economy did just that, and I’d like to give you my take on it if you will be kind enough to indulge me in a thinking out loud exercise about technology and the economy.

When I began teaching in 1986 Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak of Apple Computers had just begun a program of placing an Apple IIe into every fifth grade classroom in the state of California. I’d started using a personal computer several years earlier and quickly learned how to use this new operating system. The next year I wrote a grant that was chosen and received three additional Apple computers. As far as I know, mine was the very first classroom to have four computers in 1987 and I was able to incorporate this new technology into my daily curriculum. Over the next twenty years I advocated for technology to be included in classroom instruction on a daily basis, and considered this to be vocational training for my lower socioeconomic status students from around the world. Technology and the economy dictated how their future would be different from that of their parents, and how opportunities would only be available if they could be on a level playing field with their more affluent counterparts from a young age.

Now at this same time technology and all of its perceived benefits were taking hold across the United States. ATM machines had replaced almost fifty percent of bank tellers and many activities, such as banking and income tax reporting, were far more prevalent then ever before. It was obvious that many jobs would continue to be replaced by machine and systems not even imagined twenty to thirty years previous, even though many people still objected to this reality. Seth Godin states…

“The good jobs I’m talking about are the ones that our parents were used to. Steady, consistent factory work. The sort of middle class job you could build a life around. Jobs where you do what you’re told, an honest day’s work, and get rewarded for it.

Those jobs. Where did they go?

The computer ate them.”

Yes, the computer keeps eating the jobs that you and I grew up assuming would still be around when our grandchildren entered the work force, and we have to face the fact that they are gone forever.

We can’t long for the future without erasing at least some of the past, and this is a prime example of that concept.

Seth goes on to explain the three-part shift brought about by technology…

“First, if you (the owner of the means of production, the boss, the industrialist) can find a supplier who can make a part for less, you will, and you did.

Second, once you can parcel work among your employees, you can measure them ever more closely and figure out how to maximize what you get (and minimize what you pay).

Third, computers make patient, consistent, cheap workers. When you can train a CNC machine or a spreadsheet to do a job better than a person can, odds are you will.”

 He goes on to explain how the public school system plays a part in this scenario and how we must be willing to shift gears and think differently if we are to thrive in this new world.The solution, as I see it is to make yourself indispensable, a theory expounded upon by Godin in a number of his writings. People who value their uniqueness often find themselves in a position of great power and responsibility, while those striving to conform to society’s standards must be content with the status quo. Become a specialist in a world of mediocre generalists and the world will be your oyster.

If you’re familiar with the opening scene from a film called Lonely Are the Brave, when Kirk Douglas looks up in the sky to see a jet streak across the sky as he is perched upon his horse in the California desert, then you understand the magnitude of this situation. The only question is “Are you willing to leave some of the past behind to embrace the future?”

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Writing Online: Write What You Know

moon-pieWhen I first came online and started a dozen blogs I made the mistake of thinking that I could write on a variety of topics, most of which I knew very little about from personal experience. Writing online is no different from any other type of writing in that you will do best when writing about what you already know well.

Writing coach Suzanne Lieurance discusses this topic in her recent article, entitled Write What You Know. In it she says:

“If I Can Do This, You Can Do This!

Ever since I left the classroom after being a full-time teacher for many years, I’ve been making a living writing about all sorts of things. The best part is, most of these things are based on my own life experiences.

For example, when I was a child growing up in the South, every day I saw my grandmother pack my grandfather’s lunch for work, and that lunch always included a Moon Pie. Years later, I thought about those Moon Pies and sold an article about the history of the Moon Pie to an educational publisher.”

This reminded me not only of my days of eating Moon Pies but also the idea that we all know so many things based on our life experiences that make excellent and enjoyable reading for others. This is what I recommend if you are struggling with writing online to start your business…

Spend thirty minutes each day writing about anything you know about. This can be current events, stories from your childhood, or something related to a job, vacation, or other experience you have had. This is non-fiction writing, so keep it factual and interesting. Over time, make a point in your writing that is related to what you will be writing about for your online business. I have said for many years that I can turn any topic or situation into a marketing lesson, and this holds true to this day.

Imagine how easily people will get to know, like, and trust you if you continue to share stories with them about subjects and situations you know well. I still enjoy telling stories from my days as a classroom teacher and while I was in real estate. Remind to tell you about the time I was alone on the yard with over a hundred elementary school students when a little girl had a grand mal seizure. Or the time I hosted an open house in an empty home and two escaped convicts ran through the back yard. You just can’t make this stuff up…

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Get Organized: Your Success Depends on It!

eliminate clutterMy very first mentor was Raymond Aaron, a man for whom I have the highest respect and am still in touch with to this day. The year was 2005 and he instructed all of his mentees to “clean up our messes!” Whether these were piles of papers all over the floor or desk or relationships gone awry, Raymond advocated spending time on a weekly basis to eliminate the messes that conflicted with your ability to achieve your personal and business goals.

Recently I was reading a post by Cynthia Charleen entitled Clutter or Organizing – Which is Your Challenge? and it brought back memories of the work I had done with Raymond all those years ago. Here is an excerpt from that post:

“Is your problem clutter or organizing? Clutter is having too much. Whether it is physical items or the untouchables such as too much to do, they are both clutter. Organizing refers to having these items where they fit best. Stuff needs a place to call home and needs to be there to be organized.

Do you have more things than you need to live a normal life with reasonable comfort? I work with clients on a regular basis whose main issue comes from having too much stuff. Consider clearing out the excess and sharing with people who don’t have enough.”

Clutter is no longer a problem for me. I live in two cities and travel extensively as well, so I’ve become accustomed to tossing anything I won’t use again and do not need. If something does still have value I donate it t one of the charities I work with. Organization can still be a challenge as I change the way I file and continue moving towards a totally “paper free” business.

Cynthia states that “you will discover productivity and focus increase when you work and live in an organized space that is free from excess and clutter.” I agree completely with this statement and will take it one step further…

Eliminate clutter in your home and office environment, get organized to the point that others call you a “neat freak” and enjoy renewed creativity and higher level thoughts that will catapult you to success. This is all related to your “inner game” and how you approach every situation in your life. Yes, that’s how important this topic is and I’d love to hear about your own experiences in the comments below.

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Content Creation Marketing to Build Your Business

Content Creation MarketingWhen I came online in 2006 I had no idea that I would need to become a content creation marketing machine in order to be successful as an online entrepreneur. I was not a writer, and the very thought of writing a two hundred fifty word article to submit to the article directories terrified me. As a former classroom teacher I thought that I would be judged by what I published on the Internet. But I was determined to succeed and began writing an article every single day to get into the habit of writing. I even challenged myself to write one hundred articles in one hundred days…and accomplished my goal within seventy-eight days!

Recently I was reading a post by Pam and Dexter Montgomery. Their post, Create Content That Clients Value! made some excellent points.

“Content Should Be Easy To Understand

Whether your content is a blog post, information product, or podcast it should be easy to understand. If your product is in writing, it should also be easy to read.  A few key ways of making your writing easy to read and understand are to:

  • Use one main theme per content piece
  • Use subheadings to break up your points
  • Use simple formatting like bullet points, numbers, and short paragraph

Content Should Be Conversational

When you are creating your content, remember to use your personal and unique voice. Write content as if you were talking to a trusted client with whom you have developed a deep relationship. Write and talk like you are having a conversation with a peer or a really good friend. To accomplish this goal, that means you will not be using industry jargon.  You will also clearly explain any new concepts that you introduce.”

I especially like what they say about remembering to use your personal and unique voice. People have told me that when they read my daily email messages they sound like me. I take this as a great compliment in that I always want people to find me approachable, even if that is virtually. Content creation marketing is your opportunity to allow your community to hear your voice and receive your message through your content.

Be sure to check out my training course on Really Simple Content Marketing if you would like to pursue content creation to build your business.

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Some Excellent Reasons to Publish a Book

Reasons to Publish a BookReasons to Publish a Book

When I published my first book in 2010 my business changed completely. But that wasn’t the only of many reason to publish a book that came soon after my book was available. My confidence was renewed and I was perceived in a different way.

I’d like to share an excerpt from a post by copywriter and content marketing strategist KeriLynn Engel on the 5 Reasons Bloggers Should Self-Publish a Book

“Establish Yourself As An Expert

The publishing industry is in upheaval thanks to the self-publishing boom. That’s great news for bloggers who want to write a book!

Even just 5 or 10 years ago, self-publishing was still looked upon as “vanity” publishing; the last resort of a talentless writer sick of rejection letters. For a long time, authors couldn’t be taken seriously if they didn’t have the backing of a big publishing company.

Successful self-published authors like Amanda Hocking changed the industry forever.

Successful self-published authors like Amanda Hocking changed the industry forever.

But thanks to some highly publicized success stories, the public is now more aware of the possibilities of self-publishing:

  • Amanda Hocking famously earned millions of dollars from her paranormal romance novels before being approached by the publisher St. Martin’s Press.
  • John Locke was the first self-published author to sell over 1 million e-books on Amazon.

And now, even established professional authors have begun to experiment with a mix of traditional and self-publishing, such as famous New York Times bestselling author Kristine Kathryn Rusch, who blogs about the industry at KrisWrites.com.

Today, self-publishing is respected, even admired and applauded.

By authoring and self-publishing a book on your niche topic, you can position yourself to be recognized as an expert on that topic. When you’re a top author in your niche, that’s a huge differentiator so you can stand out from other bloggers.

This is not only a nice ego-boost, but it’ll also help you to grow your blog’s audience and power your other monetization efforts, such as if you sell products or services from your blog. Being seen as the expert in your niche can enable you to set higher prices for those product and services, and be more in demand.

There’s a reason for the idiom “wrote the book on it” – it means you’re the go-to expert on the topic: Positioning yourself as an expert can also lead to other opportunities such as speaking engagements, interviews, media appearances and more.”

KeriLynn makes some excellent points here and encourages us to self-publish a book. In her post she also shares how we can grow our list, generate passive income, and publicize our blogs by becoming a published author. I have done this more than a dozen times now, and my Hunter’s Moon Publishing company has helped many entrepreneurs to get their message out to the world in the form of a book.

My Write.Publish.Prosper. training course takes you step by step through the process of outlining and writing your book, and I will also provide you wish an ISBN number from my publishing house when you are ready to publish.

What other questions do you have on this topic?

 

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Content Curation Marketing to Grow Your Online Business

Content Curation MarketingContent Curation Marketing

I first heard about content curation from my good friend and colleague Marlon Sanders back in 2010. He was sharing his results from a course he was promoting on this topic, and frankly, I didn’t get it. It was my mistake not to spend some time discussing this with him to learn what he knew that I did not. Eventually I understood the concept and now content curation marketing is a regular part of my online business strategies.

Recently I was reading an excellent post from Steven Rosenbaum is the CEO of Magnify.net, a real-time video curation engine for publishers, brands, and websites. He’s also the author of Curation Nation. His post, 5 Tips for Great Content Curation, really got me thinking about this important topic. In in he shares his five best practices for content curation marketing:

“If you’re a curator looking for some boundaries in what feels like the Wild West, here are five best practices to consider.

1. Be Part of the Content Ecosystem

Be part of the content ecosystem, not just a re-packager of it. Often, people think of themselves as either creators or curators as if these two things are mutually exclusive. What a curator really should do is embrace content as both a maker and an organizer. The most successful curators include sites like The Huffington Post, that embrace the three-legged-stool philosophy of creating some content, inviting visitors to contribute some content, and gathering links and articles from the web. Created, contributed, and collected — the three ‘c’s is a strong content mix that has a measurable impact. Why? Because your visitors don’t want to hunt around the web for related material. Once they find a quality, curated collection, they’ll stay for related offerings.

2. Follow a Schedule

Audiences expect some regularity, and they’ll reward you for it. It doesn’t need to be a schedule that you can’t keep up with. If you want to curate three new links a day, and write one big post a week, that’s a schedule. Make sure to post at the same time each week. This is so readers know when to expect new material from you. Consistency and regularity will also bring you new users, and help you grow a loyal base of members who appreciate your work. A good example of someone who gets why a schedule makes a difference is Jason Hirschhorn via his MediaReDEF newsletter. He never misses a publish date.

3. Embrace Multiple Platforms

It used to be that your audience came to you. Not anymore. Today content consumers get their information on the platform of their choosing. That means you should consider posting short bursts on Tumblr, images on Pinterest, video on YouTube, and community conversations on Facebook. And don’t leave out established sites and publishers. If your audience hangs out on a blog, you may want to offer that publication some guest posts or even a regular column. Essentially, you have to bring your content contributions to wherever your readers may be.

4. Engage and Participate

Having a voice as a curator means more than creating and curating your own work. Make sure you’re giving back by reading others and commenting on their posts. A re-tweet is one of the easiest ways to help build relationships with fellow bloggers and curators. And your followers will appreciate that you’ve pointed them to good content. One word here, I never hit an RT without clicking through to read what I’m recommending. You can also lose followers if you don’t put in the effort to recommend material that you really think merits their attention.

5. Share. Don’t Steal.

Take the time to give attribution, links back, and credit. The sharing economy works because we’re each sharing our audiences, and providing the value of our endorsements. If you pick up someone’s work and put it on your blog, or mention a fact without crediting the source, you’re not building shared credibility. You’re just abusing someone else’s effort.”

The first and second of these “best practices” resonate with me the most; think of yourself as more of a publisher of content and then it doesn’t matter who wrote it originally, as long as you give proper and due credit when it was someone else’s idea. Also, sticking to a content curation marketing schedule will ensure your readership never goes more than a week or so without receiving additional content from you.

When I began teaching my Really Simple Content Marketing training course I made sure to spend enough time on content curation marketing so that my students would be able to get their content up and published with ease on a regular basis. Once you get into the flow of curation you’ll never want for content and people will think of you as an authority on your topic. Also, an added bonus is that they will tell you they see you “everywhere” on the Internet.

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Team Building for Entrepreneurs

Team BuildingTeam Building for Entrepreneurs

When I began my online business back in 2006 I hadn’t a clue as to how to manage a team. Building the right group of people eluded me and the result was that I attempted to do everything myself. When I did bring an outside person aboard my skills as a team leader were weak and ineffective. Finally, I started outsourcing some of my tasks, specifically technical and clerical ones, to those who were more experienced in these areas than I would ever be. My time was better spent on the few activities I was good at, which included mentoring new online entrepreneurs, writing and publishing, teaching and training, and creating information products. Everything else would be accomplished by one or more of my team members.

Michael Hyatt has recently written a post called Camels vs. Stallions: Knowing the Difference Can Eliminate the Friction on Your Team where he addresses the issue of team members being either managerial or entrepreneurial and how to help make your business run more smoothly by utilizing everyone’s specific skills. In it he says…

The trick is making sure they’re both going the same direction. Success requires integrating their unique contributions.

How can we do that? Here are three steps that enable the manager-enterpreneur distinction to drive success instead of frustration:

  1. Recognize. It doesn’t take a zoologist to tell that camels and stallions are different. But organizations sometimes try to see managers and entrepreneurs through the same lens. The truth is they’re different—usually all the way down to basic temperament. Because they’re different, they both make contributions unique to them.
  2. Appreciate. Next, we need to value these unique contributions. Appreciation is a critical factor for team success. Without managers, entrepreneurs don’t have anyone to hold down the shop. Without entrepreneurs, managers don’t have business for the shop. Until each can appreciate the other’s contribution, they’ll work at cross purposes.
  3. Mobilize. Recognition and appreciation should lead to empowerment. It makes no sense to force stallions to carry freight or camels to race ahead on scouting missions. Success is only possible when teams mobilize members to do what they do best at least the majority of the time.

Managers and entrepreneurs are both prone to different mistakes. Managers may be tempted to see business as serving their rules. Entrepreneurs may be tempted to pursue business that ultimately hurts the organization.

I recommend that you read through Michael’s post and absorb the wisdom he shares there. I can speak from experience when I say that everything changed in my own business once I had my team building skills working for me. Currently I have fourteen people in half a dozen countries helping me to achieve my goals, and they each work to their strengths in the overall scheme of things.

What have been your experiences with team building as a small business owner or entrepreneur?

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Road Trips to Enhance Your Small Business Perspective

Road TripMy small business perspective was recently enhanced. Earlier this summer I took a road trip across the country. Over the course of twenty-one days I covered six thousand three hundred miles and traveled through seventeen different states. What began as a convenient way to meet with clients located far and wide became a case study in how small businesses operate in different regions of our great country. I highly recommend that you do something similar, even if only on a small scale to get the benefit of interacting with business owners and customers in a variety of situations.

My first stop was at a Cracker Barrel restaurant located in Flagstaff, Arizona. It had been years since I had patronized this chain and I longed to see if it was as I remembered it from more than twenty years ago. When you first enter the building you find yourself in their country store, filled with items from the past. As you work your way towards the restaurant it’s apparent that everything has been strategically placed to make you feel right at home.

From the employees dressed in clothing from a hundred years ago to food that is both delicious and reasonably priced, Cracker Barrel bends over backwards to make customers feel like family. It made me question my own methods of doing business online and in person and made me think twice about my small business perspective. Do my own clients fell like family or more like paying customers?

My next stop was at a Motel 6 in Winslow, Arizona. I had not called ahead to make a reservation, nor had I gone online on my smart phone to see if they had a room available for that evening. I was met at the front counter by a woman who greeted me with a smile. She not only made me feel at home, but asked if I’d like an accessible room or one closer to the office.

Also, she offered to let me look at the room first before committing to it. This motel was located right next to the railroad tracks, as many Motel 6s are, and she assured me there would be no noise once I had closed the door to the room. She was correct. Considering my total bill was less than sixty dollars for that night’s stay, I was quite satisfied.

These experiences continued as I crossed the country over the next three weeks, and I came to expect the very best in customer service and amenities. I was disappointed at a Super 8 motel in Sapulpa, Oklahoma, outside of Tulsa and left a one star review on their website within the following twenty-four hours to share the details. In this day and age of social media and review sites businesses simply cannot afford to offer less than acceptable goods or services.

The Kroger grocery store I shopped in Knoxville, Tennessee also went out of its way to provide me with a superior experience. And when I was in need of a prescription in Memphis, it was the kind and helpful people at the Walgreen’s pharmacy who made my day one to remember. And the gas station in Charlottesville, Virginia had employees who washed my windshield and offered help with directions to my next destination. This was yet another reminder that we do business with people, not with companies or corporations and that these people can make or break the reputation of a business one transaction at a time.

This was such a valuable learning experience for me that I plan to take another road trip next summer. There is nothing like putting yourself out there to see exactly what it’s like to do business in unfamiliar locations and surroundings. When I came home I had a small notebook filled with ideas as to how I can improve my own business practices.

By now you can see that seeing the U.S.A., whether in a Chevrolet or another make of vehicle can be an excellent way to get an up close and personal view of how business really works. Make a plan to take to the open roads and observe your own experiences so that your own business will benefit when you return.

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