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Leaving your comfort zone

Comfort zone
Are you stuck in your comfort zone?

When you’re in business there’s a lot of talk about leaving your comfort zone as a tool for growth. I’ve realised that it’s a message that mostly resonates with women. A couple of weeks ago I shared the image below on my social media accounts and the response was greater than anything else I’ve shared this month. Then I realised that everyone who liked and commented, no matter which platform they saw it on, was a female business owner. It wouldn’t be the first time. It’s entirely possible that I’m living in a female centric bubble on social media, but it struck me that you don’t hear men talking about comfort zones. Maybe the ones who start businesses are just naturally confident and the rest get a normal job. Yet I meet loads of women who start up on their
own but lack the confidence to shout about what they do. I don’t say this as someone with all the answers because I struggle with it myself.

I’ve been trying to think of ways to get rid of the mind monkeys (thanks to Claire Mitchell at The Girls Mean Business for that phrase). Actually, since I’ve been watching Baby Chimp Rescue on BBC2 they’ve turned into cheeky chimps in my head. (Seriously, if you haven’t watched it, do. It cheers me up and makes me sob in equal measure.) Then I realised that I’ve already done something that lots of people wouldn’t do outside of a gap year adventure. When I was already a (supposedly) sensible solicitor I headed off to Argentina for a solo expedition. No organised tour, no nothing. Just a husband who’d gone to learn advanced skiing for six weeks and a self-planned itinerary. This is how I got the confidence.

Baby steps

When I told my colleagues that I was going to haul myself across Argentina with nothing for company but a good book (often the best kind of company) they looked at me as if I’d gone a bit mad. My friends and family, on the other hand, barely batted an eyelid. (Although the potential cost of international phone calls meant my mum finally learned to text.) This wasn’t the first time I’d travelled alone, although it was certainly the most dramatic. I had a habit of taking myself off to different cities to explore for the day and took a family history research trip to Edinburgh. By the time I landed in Buenos Aires I was ready. While big, dramatic leaps out of your comfort zone are sometimes necessary, it’s definitely worth getting warmed up first. 

Getting involved

The biggest shock of landing in a foreign country by myself was the fact that I was completely alone. It was scary and liberating at the same time. I could do whatever I wanted and didn’t have to negotiate with anyone else. Starting a business was much the same. The key (for me at least) to tackling both situations has been to get involved with something. In Argentina I booked the activities and got a table for one in the local restaurants. It’s amazing how many people talk to you when you’re by yourself. It’s the same in business when you find the right networking groups. I’ve built relationships with people that understand the life and my business (not to mention my head) is in a better place because of it.

Does all of this mean that I’ll never have to worry about leaving my comfort zone again? Of course not. Mind monkeys can strike even the most successful of us. It’s just reminded me that it is possible. If you’re reading this thinking that I’m braver than you, I’m not. I’ve probably just had more practice.

If starting a blog is outside your comfort zone, I’m here to help. My 5 day blogging kick start challenge starts on Monday and will help you go from a blank page to a finished blog. Sign up using the form below to join in.

Want more?

Claire Mitchell from The Girls Mean Business on squishing
your mind monkeys

Treat yourself to some real life baby chimps in Baby Chimp Rescue

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How you can write a blog stress free

Stress free blogging
The look on your face when blogging gets easier…

I’m going to hazard a wild guess that since you’ve clicked on a link about stress free blogging, you find blogging stressful. Is that a fair assumption? The source of your stress could be the idea of getting your blog started in the first place. It could also be that you’ve got started but are finding it tough to keep going. I get it. I’m fundamentally lazy and will only work hard at something if it’s absolutely necessary. For me, the only things that fall into that category are strategic planning, client work and keeping my accounts straight. Even writing for clients gets easier as I get to know them better. Writing my own blog is about as stress free as you can get.

The thing is, if something causes you stress you’re more likely to dump it sooner rather than later. (At least, I hope you are.) But blogging doesn’t need to be stressful. You might never love writing blogs as much as I do but there’s no reason why you can’t have some fun with it.

Remember who you’re talking to

Knowing who you want to reach with your blog makes it about a million times easier than going in without a clear idea. The reason I refer to it as ‘talking’ is because it is a bit like a conversation, if a very one sided one. Writing a blog when you know what your audience is interested in is like having a chat with someone you already know. Compare that to doing a talk to 500 people you’ve never met before = loads more stress.

If you can relax and imagine the kind of person you’re talking to, your stress level drops. You can write in a way that feels natural to you. 

Pick your topic

It’s a good idea to come up with a few potential topics before you plan to start writing. You can find some suggestions for ways to do that here. Then just mull it over for a bit. Which topic would benefit your customers? Is there something you particularly want to tell them about? Could you remove an obstacle that’s preventing someone from becoming a customer?

When you’ve chosen a topic, break it down. Take your time and put yourself in your customers’ shoes. What knowledge do they already have and what don’t they know? Break it down into smaller subsections. Doing it this way means you can tackle each section at your own pace, which means, you guessed it – less stress.

Get fired up

When it comes to actually writing, stop being logical and just write. Your blog is your chance to talk about something that really matters to you. Enthusiasm is infectious so get excited and let people know why they need to know about this stuff. You might be thinking that the results of writing from your gut might not be too professional. I won’t say it doesn’t matter, because it does. If you want people to trust you as a professional you can’t be completely chaotic. But professional, or even formal, does not mean dull. Churning out bland content will only get boring for you and the reader. You don’t get the results you want and wonder why you’re going through all this stress for nothing.

The key thing to remember is that you can always edit. Write your first draft without putting any restrictions on yourself, then read it back. If there’s anything that won’t work for your audience, you can change it and no-one else will ever know.

If you want to get started blogging put need a push in the right direction, you can sign up for my blogging challenge using the form below. Over 5 days I’ll take you through 5 simple tasks that will leave you with a stress free, finished blog by the end of the week.

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How you can get started blogging

Blogging for beginners

If you run a small business it’s likely you’ll have been
bombarded with marketing advice from various sources (including me). It would
be completely incredible if blogging hadn’t featured somewhere. Blogging isn’t
the only way to market your business but it’s a good one. There aren’t many
businesses that a marketing blog wouldn’t suit. (There are some, but that’s for
another post.) A blog helps you to build trust with your audience and offer
useful information that shows you know what you’re talking about. It’s also
recyclable – you can take one blog post and use it in lots of different ways.

If you think this all sounds great but you have no idea how
to get started, this post is for you.

Choose your blogging platform

Technically, you don’t have to have a website to blog. You
can write mini blogs on Instagram or Facebook or articles on LinkedIn. The risk
of doing it like this is that those social media platforms don’t belong to you
and could, in theory, be taken down. When you blog on a website you’re in control.
If visitors to your site spot something else interesting you still have their attention
but that won’t necessarily happen on social media.

There are loads of website providers to choose from. I’m on
WordPress as it’s easy to maintain and the self-hosted option means I have my
own website address rather than one with WordPress in it, so it looks more
professional. Choose something that works for you.

Choose your blog topic

There are loads of different ways to choose topics for your blog. There are a few ideas here. One of the simplest ways to start if you’ve already had some customers or enquiries is to write a blog answering a frequently asked question. This works on the principle that if prospective customers are asking you when they get in touch, they might be searching for the answer online as well.

Keep your topic quite specific so you’re not overloading
people with information. If I were to include every possible way of coming up
with topics in this post you’d be reading all week. Choose a few simple ways of
answering the question and break it down so you cover a little bit in each
paragraph. That helps you to keep things structured and to the point as well.

Start writing (or talking)

Blank pages can be completely terrifying. If you sit down
and find that your mind empties at the sight of a blinking cursor, there are a
couple of ways to deal with it. If you want to stick with the paper, type or
write your paragraph headings then jot down some notes about what you want to
cover. They don’t have to be perfect sentences, just enough to give you
something to work with.

Alternatively, record yourself. This takes practice, but
works if you find it easier to explain your subject when you talk to people.
Record what you say and get it transcribed, then you can edit the notes to turn
it into a blog.

The finishing touches

When you’ve got a blog post down on paper, read it back. You
might cringe but you can spot typos and it will also help you to see bits that
could work better. Getting feedback from someone you trust can also be really
helpful. I’m in a few Facebook marketing groups and they can be a good place to
share for support if the rules allow it. The main thing is to get it out there
as you only start improving once you do.

If you’d rather get a professional involved, I can help too.
I polish and edit blog posts and other stuff for all sorts of businesses. Of
course, if the whole thing is making your head hurt I can write them for you as

Have you already written a blog? Share a link in the
comments if you have, I love to share!

Further reading

For more about putting the finishing touches to your blog posts, read this.

If you’d love to get some brilliant marketing and blogging tips straight to your inbox, sign up to my mailing list using the form below. I don’t spam and I will never share your information with anyone else. (Guide’s honour.)