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How I knew it was time to leave

time to leaveI’ve been along to a few different networking groups since I started my business. You meet an incredible range of different people with all kinds of businesses. These days I find myself speaking to a lot of people who have a job and a side hustle. Some of them want to turn the side job into the main business and others just want a bit of extra money every month. It all means that I’m hearing more and more conversations about the right time to leave a job.

It’s a tough one. Even when you’re unhappy in your work a regular, predictable income is hard to leave behind. How do you decide where the tipping point is? I made the leap so want to tell you about the things that helped me make the decision. If you’re teetering on the brink of a new business adventure I hope they help you too.

The good (but not great) job

I used to be a solicitor. After university it took me a while to get a training post, via a couple of legal secretarial jobs which introduced me to the right people. I qualified as a personal injury solicitor and got a job with a national firm. My team represented the companies that had been sued.

I really enjoyed it to begin with. When you deal with personal injury claims you hear an interesting story every time a new file comes in. I got to know lots of different people and learn about what made them tick. It’s hard for me to pinpoint when the dissatisfaction started to set in. All I know is that by the time I went on maternity leave with my first child, I’d started to wonder whether I really wanted to do this work for the rest of my life. I had ambitions to be a novelist but saw that as a long term prospect at best.

Crisis point

When I returned from my second maternity leave a lot had changed. There had been reforms in the industry which had started to affect the day to day work. I had a meeting with two of the partners who told me that I needed to think about applying for promotion as I was too senior to carry on case handling as I had been. It would have meant managing financial targets and other members of the team. I’d half expected it but somehow it was still a shock.

I went home and sobbed. There was no way I wanted to be a manager. I’d mentored people before and hated it. It was time for me to find something else.

Time to leave

On reflection, the decision to leave was pretty easy. It was a choice between leaving or going through a rigorous application process for a promotion I didn’t want. My husband and I sat down and worked out that we could survive on his salary while I built a business. Even if I’d decided to build the business on the side I would still have looked at the budget. We worked out how much we needed to cover the essentials first, then the things that weren’t essentials but which we weren’t prepared to live without. It helped me to work out what my priorities were.

I suppose that’s the one golden nugget I want you to take from this story. If you’re making the leap, be realistic. How much do you actually need to live on and are you making it yet? Are you at a point where you can’t build your business any more without cutting your hours or leaving your job altogether?

Whatever decision you make, good luck! Let me know how it goes. If you’re wondering why I’m telling you a story, this blog post will tell you.

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How long does your blog need to be?

how long blog postHave you ever asked yourself that question? I hear it a lot and it’s often from people who are hesitant about blogging. I suspect that there are even more people who don’t ask how long their blog needs to be. They assume that they need to write ‘War and Peace’ for every blog post.

The truth is that the answer is ‘it depends’. Sorry if that makes me sound like a lawyer, old habits die hard. There are all sorts of things you need to take into account when you’re writing your blog and before you start each post. There are plenty of experts who’ll tell you that anything under 1,500 or 2,000 words isn’t worth doing as it doesn’t offer enough value. Personally, I disagree. Some posts do need to be that long, or even longer. It doesn’t mean they all do. Here are just a few of the things I think you need to think about when you’re deciding on a word count for your blog.

What’s achievable for you?

Starting a blog is a steep learning curve. When your blog isn’t the main focus of your business you need to fit it in around all your other priorities. There’s no point spending hours slaving over a blog if it means you’re turning away paying customers. It’s also going to get exhausting very quickly.

Writing a regular blog can boost your search engine rankings as Google will index your website much more frequently. The key word is regular – there’s no point writing one or two then letting it fizzle out because you don’t have time. Google likes anything over 350 words (although there are rumours that might change). It’s far better to write a short blog once a month and keep it going.

What’s the subject?

The length of your blog will often depend on the topic you’re covering. I always suggest breaking topics down so you can focus on one thing at a time. Focus on a narrower subject means that you don’t need to write a lot to do the topic justice. It also helps you to stay on track without getting overwhelmed.

Some subjects will still need a longer blog to make sure you cover everything. This is particularly true if you’re offering an in depth guide or describing a process step by step. Often it won’t feel as long because your readers are dipping in and out for reference or following the instructions.

Would a blog series be better?

If you’re covering a big topic in depth, think about breaking it down into a series. I wrote a series of blogs about blogging which covered everything from coming up with topics to the final edit. I could have written one big post but breaking it down made it feel more readable. It also meant that readers who were only interested in one part of the process didn’t have to wade through the rest.

Doing it that way meant that I was able to invite people to subscribe to my mailing list to get the full series. I might eventually turn it into an eBook as well. There’s nothing to stop you doing the same.

What will your audience read?

Of course, the key consideration has to be your audience and what they have time to read? Their needs can vary. They might want shorter blogs most of the time but something longer when they want to learn a new skill or research a topic in depth.

My blogs generally end up at around 500-600 words. That doesn’t just help me to cover the topic properly. I’ve had more than one reader tell me that they read my blogs when they’re drinking their tea. A 600 word blog is just the right length for that so it helps me attract readers. When it comes down to it, that’s the whole point of writing a blog.

Do you need some help and inspiration for your blogs and social media posts? When you sign up to my mailing list you’ll receive a free copy of my eBook ‘Stop hiding your business! 5 ways to be seen online’. You can unsubscribe whenever you like and I won’t share your information with anyone else.

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Why you need to know your customer

Know your customerI’m going to say something that might make you go a bit twitchy. When you’re marketing your business you need to decide who you want to target then focus on them. It sounds fairly logical, doesn’t it? Yet small business owners everywhere get very nervous when they hear it. They say things like ‘but I might make someone feel excluded’, ‘what if I lose a customer because they don’t think it’s for them?’ or ‘but I can sell to anyone’. I understand the worry. As small business owners we need to work hard to attract new customers and build trust. The idea of putting people off just seems counterintuitive. However there’s another important factor to consider. We have limited time so we need to spend it wisely. When you get to know your customer you can do just that.

You can’t market to everyone

A lot of people get hung up on the idea that they can sell to anyone. Mainly because it’s true. You can sell to whoever you like, but it doesn’t mean you should market to everyone. The main issue with ‘everyone’ marketing is that it doesn’t actually speak to anyone. It just sounds bland, generic and boring.

Good marketing tells people that you can solve their problem or provide something that makes their life better. It gives them a lightbulb moment because they’ve finally found someone who not only understands their challenges, they have the solution as well. Potentially it can also have them knocking your door down begging you to take their money. When you get to know your customer you’re not excluding anyone, you’re just focusing on the people who really need you.

Know your customer

How do you get to know your customer? If you’ve got a few already that can make it easier. The product or service that you offer makes a difference too. Think about who you work with now, or who your repeat customers are. Are they male, female, old or young? Are they at a particular stage in their life where they need what you offer? You can also think about who you love working with. The customers who come back time after time because they love the service or the quality of your work. Are there any common features?

It also helps to think about what challenges you can help with, or what your customers aspire to. It helps to focus on what’s happening in their life generally. This can really help when you’re talking about something your customers may not have thought about before. For example, maybe you want to encourage people in their 40s or 50s to make a will. They might think they’re too young but they’ll almost certainly have something that they want to protect. Think about what those things are and your marketing will be much more effective.

Get to the details

Hopefully you’re starting to get a bit of insight into who your target audience are likely to be. You’ve probably got some idea about their gender and what age bracket they’re in. Depending on your business you might also have worked out a bit about their lifestyle, for example their income level, whether they’re homeowners or have children. Next, you need to think about the details.

I’m not a big believer in creating an overly specific profile for your ideal customer. By that I mean the sort of thing that says ‘my ideal customer is called Sophie, she’s 25, works in a shop and only drinks green tea.’ If that works for you, great, but it’s just a bit too detailed for me. However, there’s a lot to be said for working out what types of things your audience are interested in. Do they love fine dining or do they prefer takeaways? Out every weekend or in their pyjamas by 8pm? Who do they follow on social media? Is their parenting style #soblessed or #fml? (if you don’t already know what that stands for I’m not telling you…). Knowing all of this helps you to talk to your audience using language they can relate to which makes them more likely to trust you.

Do you need some help and inspiration for your blogs and social media posts? When you sign up to my mailing list you’ll receive a free copy of my eBook ‘Stop hiding your business! 5 ways to be seen online’. You can unsubscribe whenever you like and I won’t share your information with anyone else.

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How you can find blog topics at networking events

Blog topics networkingThere are three questions I always hear when I talk about blogging. One of them sometimes isn’t a question at all, just a statement. “I would write a blog but I don’t know what to write about.” (The other two questions are ‘how long does my blog need to be?’ and ‘how often should I be blogging?’ – we’ll get to those another time.) When it comes to finding topics for your blog, there are hundreds of different ways to go about it. I’ve written about a few in this blog, but this time I’m going to be focusing on how to find new blog topics when you’re networking.

Ah yes, networking. It can strike fear into the heart of a business owner who just wants to be left along to do the work. We’ve all heard the horror stories and probably experienced some as well. In a nutshell, the right networking group with events that suit you is a truly wonderful thing. You’ll meet people like you and get great support, as well as business and referrals along the way. It will also help you to come up with new blog topics. Here’s how.

Getting to know your customer

Networking lets you meet lots of other business owners and find out what makes them tick. If you’ve already identified the kinds of businesses you want to work with you can seek them out. You can find out what their challenges are but also learn more about their life in general. That helps you to get your marketing message where they’ll see it.  You can also find out who would be a nightmare to work with so you can avoid them.

Knowing who you’re talking to helps you to choose more relevant blog topics.

Talking about what you do

I know that standing up in front of other people can be scary. It’s worth doing because you get to tell people what you do and how you can help them. I’ve stood up and talked about writing blogs for businesses in front of people who had no idea you could pay someone to do it for you. Equally, you’ll never get any business if people don’t know you exist.

Finding out what surprises people about your business means you can write a blog to educate them.

Hearing about challenges

Alongside the bits where everyone stands up and introduces themselves, there’s the more general chat. That’s where you get to find out what people are struggling with and what’s going well. It could be an opportunity for you to pitch your services, but there’s more to it than that. Your blog doesn’t just have to be about your services. If they’re struggling with something that you’ve experienced too, write about it. It helps you to build a relationship with your audience as they can see that you understand their lives.

Social media

I’m a member of a couple of face to face networking groups that also have active Facebook groups. Of course, I’m also part of quite a few Facebook only groups. They’re a really useful source of blog topics because people can ask for advice outside the regular meetings. Answering questions is a great way to show your expertise, but you can also answer the question in a blog post.

It’s worth remembering that if people are asking a question in person (or in a Facebook group) there are probably others who are typing it into Google. If you’ve written a blog post with the answer they could be finding their way to your website.

Do you need some help and inspiration for your blogs and social media posts? When you sign up to my mailing list you’ll receive a free copy of my eBook ‘Stop hiding your business! 5 ways to be seen online’. You can unsubscribe whenever you like and I won’t share your information with anyone else.

Further resources

If you want to take a more technical approach to topics and improve your SEO, Ubersuggest is a fab free tool.

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Are you making one of these blogging mistakes?

blogging mistakesBlogging is wonderful as a business marketing tool and a creative outlet. If you’re writing a blog to promote your business it’s important to know what’s going to appeal to your audience so you can tailor the content to them. You can also air your personal views via blogging. There’s loads of scope to talk about whatever you choose.

What you write about (and how you write it) is completely up to you. There are still a few cardinal blogging errors that you’d be better off avoiding unless you want to attract a whole heap of trouble.

Ranting

Its fine to tell a story about something that went wrong in your business. This is especially true if you learned something from it or handled it well. It could be a story that helps your customers understand why you do things in a certain way, or if they can learn from it too.

By contrast, a full on rant is never going to go down well. All it does is show your potential customers that you’re petty, possibly vindictive and prepared to blame anyone but yourself. Your audience don’t have enough information to know whether you’re in the right and could start wondering if they’re going to be your next target. Don’t write until you’ve calmed down and got some perspective on the situation. You never know what you might learn.

Blogging swearing (possibly)

I almost didn’t put this one in. Some people love edgy content and don’t object to a bit (or a lot) of swearing. Unless you want to be deliberately confrontational from the outset, approach with caution. I write blogs for a lady whose speech is peppered with the F word but I’m still not going to put it in her blogs. There are other ways to express your personality. You can be full on and confrontational without pulling people up short with an expletive.

If you want to go for it, it’s up to you but I reckon you need to be very sure of getting a positive reaction before you try it.

Plagiarism

In other words, don’t steal other people’s work. You might be lucky and avoid getting sued for pinching someone else’s copyrighted work, but do you really want to take the risk? If the original creator has a decent online network you could find your social media posts being bombarded with comments where they share the original work for comparison. You’ll get great reach but all it will do is make you look silly.

Read other people’s blogs for inspiration if you must, but don’t copy and paste them outright. If you want to share, give credit where it’s due. Blogging is hard work as it is without someone else pinching your work.

Boring blocks

Paragraphs are a wonderful thing. Subheadings are even better. It’s a sad fact that a lot of people won’t read every word of your blog. They’ll just skim it to find what they need. If they click on the link to be confronted by one big blob of text they won’t hang around for long. Even people who want to read every word will find it daunting and give up.

Subheadings and proper paragraphs make everything easier to read and your

Too much jargon

If you know you’re writing for an audience of industry professionals who use all the same acronyms as you, carry on and use them. If you’re a specialist writing for the general public, keep the jargon out of it. It doesn’t make you look clever. All your potential customers will see is someone who wants to look clever whilst blinding them with science.

A blog is meant to make you more approachable. Share your expertise in language that your customers will understand. You still get to look like an expert and your customers will know that you’re not going to pull the wool over their eyes.

Do you want some help avoiding these cardinal blogging sins and getting some personality into your marketing? Sign up to my mailing list and receive your free copy of ‘Stop hiding your business! 5 ways to be seen online’. You can unsubscribe whenever you like and I won’t share your details with anyone else.