The 10 Most Important Blogging Skills in 2016

blogging skillsDeveloping a few crucial blogging skills will make all the difference to your online business in 2016.

Building a blog isn’t just about tech skills. In fact, tech friendly blogging platforms like WordPress and Weebly make it possible to set up a blog in about ten minutes, even if you have a pretty basic knowledge of technology and no web design experience.

The blogging skills you need in 2016 include top-notch writing skills, sourcing great images, and networking like a pro.

The infographic below is from the lovely people over at Blogrepreneur.com. It covers ten of the main skills you need to develop to build a successful blog.

Don’t worry if some of your blogging skills aren’t up to scratch. There are some amazing tools to help you. I use free online sites like Canva and PicMonkey for photo editing, for example, and my trusty Yoast SEO plug-in (one of the few plugins I think are essential) to help with search engine optimization ( this book is a big help, too).

You don’t have to learn it all at once. You won’t become one of those famous bloggers who consistently earn big bucks from their blog overnight. But if you want to grow your blog over the next year or so, you’ll benefit from these ten skills.

Focus on these ten skills if you want to make money from your blog in 2016 and beyond. Click To Tweet

 

 Here’s exactly what to focus on while building your blog

The 10 Most Important Blogging Skills in 2016

Need to work on your content creation, networking, or productivity? Check out the Savvy Solopreneur guides.

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How To Craft The Perfect Opt-In Freebie, With Minimal Effort

In order to grow your email list, you need the perfect opt-in freebie, also known as a lead generation magnet. This is basically anything you give away (from a free ebook to an online course) to entice people to sign up to your email list.

People don’t hand over their email addresses easily, so you need to offer them an excellent resource: one they’d think was awesome even if they had to pay for it. In fact, since the other purpose of you opt-in gift (aside from growing your list) is to sell your other products and services, it should be uber high quality. It needs to be so good your subscribers want to spend good money on getting more and similar information.

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Writing an ebook, report or short course from scratch is hard. You can hire someone to do it for you (it’s actually one of the freelance writing services I offer), but that can get very expensive. A more affordable way to craft an excellent opt-in freebie is to use PLR content.

PLR (Private Label Rights) content comes with a license allowing you to legally edit and publish it as your own. This content is not unique. Other people will have bought the same content. So many people don’t want to use it on their blogs, but you CAN use it to create opt-in freebies.

How exactly?

Well, you won’t want to use it exactly as it is. You’ll want to give it a light re-write, add your own personality, perhaps add some anecdotes and examples. You’ll want to add links to relevant blog posts or products you have available. You’ll want to brand it with the name (and url) of your blog, your logo and/or a picture of you, a few relevant images, perhaps (get free ones from these sources) and your own website colors and fonts.

But you don’t have to create your opt-in freebie from scratch. Below I’ll show you three places you can get the basic template for your freebie. If you’re feeling productive, you can probably customize it in around an hour.

Creating the perfect opt-in gift in under an hour? That's GOT to be worth something, right? Click To Tweet

Just to be clear, these are paid products. You will have to spend out a little if you want to skip the work of creating your own opt-in freebie.

So why would you pay for something you’re giving away for free? Because growing your email list is one of the few things you can do in your business that will give you a way to make money for years to come. Every successful blogger will tell you that the money starts growing as the email list does. Your email subscribers are your potential customers, plain and simple, whether you’re already selling your wares online now, or plan to release your first big product a year from now.

So where can you find these practically done-for-you opt-in gifts? Right here:

CoachGlue.com

They’re called CoachGlue ‘coz they mainly serve coaches and they make your clients stick to you! They regularly release materials that allow bloggers and coaches to ‘teach their tribe’, with minimal effort. They produce planners, checklists, and even a webinar in a box.

At the time of writing, for example, they have this cool Instagram Marketing Planner (on sale) which is a great starting point for a freebie if you blog about social media marketing. You can sign up for their monthly program if you want to build a library of resources, run a group coaching program or build a membership site. (Yes, we’re talking about opt-in freebies in this post, but most CoachGlue resources come with resale rights, so you can sell them on to your own clients).

Not sure you want anything they have available right now? They’re always bringing out new stuff. Sign up for their email newsletter (and grab their current freebie) here.

White Label Perks

White Label Perks has some great options for opt-in freebies and content upgrades. Current offers I like the look of include this Productivity Hacks package and this  Persuasive Copywriting package.

Each package comes with several short stand-alone pieces of content, which they refer to as ‘blog posts’. Personally, I would either package them together into a downloadable PDF, OR (even better) send them out by autoresponder as a 5-part mini ecourse.

Bonus: Each of the above packages comes with ten editable social media graphics and twenty ‘social blurbs’ (pre-written quotes and snippets to share on social media).

Easy PLR

EasyPLR.com have a range of different content available that you can package into an opt-in freebie. They have ready-made reports as well as packs of articles on a set theme. Article packs may contain anything from five to thirty articles (and will be priced accordingly) so they’re great for those email autoresponder series/ecourse freebies.

What I love about Easy PLR is the range of topics and themes they have. Their content covers health, family, online business, food, tech, and finances. Just click on the topic that best fits your niche and see what’s available.

At the time of writing Easy PLR have a site-wide sale on and are selling many packs off for $5. That’s quite a bargain for the basis of an opt-in freebie that could help you grow your list to the point where you could be making thousands of dollars!

If you’re still not sure about using these PLR resources to create your opt-in freebie, or you’d just like to know more about PLR content, I’d recommend this FREE report, from the lovely Nicole Dean at EasyPLR.com:

Making PLR Make Sense – A Guide For Bloggers

No strings. No email required. Just click the link above and either download or read online.

You could also consider signing up for this online training: PLR to Profits. (Use the coupon code PLR2P at checkout to get a significant discount).

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Is It Ever Too Early To Monetize Your Blog?

Blogging has become really simple. You can now get a new blog set up in the same time frame it will take you to drink your morning coffee. You can potentially share your message with hundreds, thousands, or even millions of people, which means you can share your products, services and recommendations too. So, should you monetize your blog from day one, or build a readership first?

Is it ever too early to monetize your blog? Should you try and make money from your blog straight away, or build your audience first?

You may want to use your blog to help promote your books (like I do) your info products, or your services. You can also monetize your blog with advertisements, affiliate sales or sponsored posts, but should you start trying to make money from your blog straight away, or build your audience first?

Should You Try to Monetize Your Blog From the Beginning?

So, should you attempt to make money from your blog right away, or should you wait until you build a loyal following? There are pros an cons to both approaches.

Monetizing Your Blog From the Beginning

The simplicity of affiliate marketing means you can potentially start making money from your blog from the day you go live. You can also sell your own products or services, sell advertising or find companies that will pay you to write a sponsored blog post. So why not get started making money from your blog on day one?

If you attempt to monetize your blog from the beginning, your audience knows what to expect. From your very first post they understand there are going to be products and services offered. On the other hand, some brand new readers may be turned off by advertisements and other attempts to monetize your blog.

Some readers prefer to establish a relationship with you first, before they see any attempts to monetize your blog content. In many niches, developing a loyal, engaged following is more important than trying to make money immediately. In other niches, monetization efforts are rewarded immediately.

Let’s look at both options:

Building Your Audience First

Pat Flynn began his blog back in 2008. He created a fan base that loved his content before he ever tried to monetize his blog. When he did finally offer products and services to his followers, he was surprised at the level of success he had.

His audience came to know, like and trust him before he ever asked for them to spend a single penny. He’s now one of the bloggers who makes more than $10,000 a month from his blog, and his followers are some of the most devoted on the Internet.

Why you may want to monetize from day one

It is possible to make (a little) money from your blog very early on. When I launched this blog I followed my own advice and prepared a handful of posts in advance. They included a few affiliate links. Then I launched, with a small list I’d built up through the The Savvy Solopreneur Guides, and a lot of social media promotion. I have a fairly healthy social media following (especially on Twitter) so I started to see a little traffic straight away, and I made my first affiliate sale almost immediately.

Another good reason to monetize your blog posts from the beginning is that if you have a good content marketing strategy in place, you’ll be promoting those posts regularly in the future. Even if you don’t make any money in the early days (and you really shouldn’t expect to) you can build your following slowly over time and then send new followers back to those posts in the future. It’s as simple as adding your earlier posts to your social media schedule, or adding a PS to future emails to your list, with a suggestion to ‘check out this useful post on (insert interesting topic here) from the archives’.

If you do monetize your blog immediately, follow these simple rules:

Don’t overdo it. Sites that are a mass of ads are a turn-off for the vast majority of  readers.

Remember that you’re far more likely to make money from recommending affiliate products that you’re familiar with and can sincerely recommend, than you are my plastering your blog with ads.

Temper your financial expectations. A brand-new blog will take a while to attract traffic and conversions.

Keep it relevant. Offer your readers something that ties in with your content.

Promote your own products or services with a dedicated page on your site (such as this one where I showcase my ebooks or this one where I offer my freelance writing services).

And if you decide to build an audience first?

Get comfortable with the fact that blogging is time consuming and be sure you don’t mind putting in a fair bit of effort with no financial payback.

Plan ahead. If you plan to monetize at some point, build a readership who will be interested in your offers when you start promoting them.

Build an email list by offering a relevant free opt-in. Send your subscribers free information regularly. People are more likely to trust your recommendations if you’ve previously provided lots of value.

Start slow. Readers may be alienated if you start pushing products on them, never having previously done so. Start by recommending just one excellent product or service at a time.

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Six Reasons Network Marketers Need A Blog

You can’t scroll through a social media feed these days without bumping into a few network marketers. If they’re not already on your friends list, their carefully targeted ads will pop up in your feed every few posts. Social media marketing is an awesome tool and should definitely be a part of any content marketing strategy for network marketers, or any other marketer, but only a small part.

Network Marketers Need A Blog

If you’re one of the many network marketers or affiliate marketers out there,  or anyone else trying to market a product or service online, you probably need your own blog or website. Here are a few things you can do on a blog that you can’t on social media.

Own Your Audience

You don’t  own your social media profiles or pages. Facebook owns your fan page, and by extension your fans. Twitter owns your profile, and by extension your following.

New rules and algorithms mean you can lose your reach on social media overnight. Facebook has been particularly hard on some network marketers. An inadvertent breach of terms can get your page or profile shut down without notice. Setting up your own blog or website, on your own domain name, gives you a lot more control.

Shift Your Readers Mindset

People are on social media to be social, not to be sold to. They’re chatting, liking, posting and commenting. But as soon as they click away to read a blog post, they’re moving into a slightly different mindset.

Now they’re in ‘interested in the topic’ or ‘gathering information’ mode. This mode is one step closer to making a purchase. If someone is looking for information on a topic, they may be looking for a solution to a problem. Everyone loves a free solution, of course, but most people are willing to pay for one from time to time, too. If people are actively looking for a solution, they’re moving closer to buying a product or service that might provide it.

Pre-sell your offerings or opportunity

When you’re selling on social you don’t have a lot of space. 140 characters on Twitter. No more than a few lines on most other platforms (before people realize they’re being sold to and lose interest).

With a blog post or article you have a chance to pre-sell what you have to offer. Pre-selling is when you warm people up to an idea. Yes, they would like to lose weight, clean their home with green products, or improve their health and wellness easily. These tips you’re offering are great. Maybe they’ll try some. And oh look, a recommendation for a reasonably priced product that will help. Maybe they’ll click through and buy that.

If what you’re marketing is a high quality product with a good sales page, your job is to pre-sell (get your readers thinking about the idea) and then send them over there.

Build an email list

You can do this on social, of course. Major email providers like Mailchimp and Aweber allow you to get sign-ups straight from your Facebook page or put a link anywhere on social media.  And most network marketers, bloggers and solopreneurs do, but again, most people aren’t on social media looking to sign up to an email list.

A blog makes it easier. People are on your blog actively consuming information, so when you offer them more information by email they’re more likely to sign up. And when you have someone’s email address, you have a much more direct and personal connection with them.

Move from selling and advertising to content marketing

Content marketing is what you’re doing when you produce really valuable, in-depth content that also happens to market your offerings. Content marketing can be way more effective than paid advertising. It’s also more time consuming, but usually cheaper in the long run, in terms of return on investment.

When you offer great content for free, you build trust and relationships, making readers more inclined to buy from you. The content you post on social media is part of your content marketing strategy, but it’s hard to offer the level of content there that you can on your own blog or site.

Diversify the products and services you offer

Have you seen those network marketers who jump from one opportunity to another and keep pushing the latest one on Facebook? How do you feel about that? It kind of looks like they just want to make money from selling stuff, doesn’t it? And if they were selling one thing last week and now they’ve jumped to another it means the other opportunity sucked, right? Or maybe they just didn’t make enough money from it so they’ve switched to something else. They have no real loyalty or commitment to anything they recommend, and they don’t know what works, any more than you do. None of these conclusions make you trust that person or their current opportunity.

On a blog, though? You can easily recommend lots of different products, either in different posts, or in one focused post, as alternatives to the same problem. It doesn’t make you look flaky. It makes you look informed, and balanced. You’ve done your research. You’re offering different options, that may suit different readers. You’re NOT just pushing your product. You’re making product suggestions. Representing more than one company as an affiliate or network marketer makes you look more knowledgeable and experienced on a blog, but flaky and money grabbing on social media.

Look at this post I recently wrote on PLR content. I recommend a few different places to buy your PLR. That’s fine. I’m offering readers variety and choice. They can buy from any, all or none of those companies. I happen to be an affiliate for all of them. I’ve bought from all of them in the past, according to what my needs were at the time. If my readers buy from any of them, I get a commission. Blogging gives you a whole range of possibilities for promoting different opportunities and products.

Worried that starting a blog is hard? Or expensive? It’s not. Find out how to get one set up in the next ten minutes here.

Don’t know the first thing about creating content? I recommend this highly affordable content creation program Buzz Monthly, for ideas, content prompts and content creation tips. Check it out here. (Yep, that’s an affiliate link. Yep, I really do love that program.)

Have any questions about starting your own blog, or content marketing in general? Ask them in the comments.

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Clickable links on The Savvy Solopreneur may be affiliate links. Find out what that means here.

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Growing Your Email List With PLR Content

When it comes to making money online, growing your email list is key. It’s also harder than it sounds. Getting people to part with their personal email addresses is surprisingly difficult. Enticing people to sign up relies on providing a valuable opt-in gift. Keeping them there involves providing ongoing value.

Growing Your Email List

Opt-in incentives are getting increasingly sophisticated. There was once a time when people would subscribe just to get regular updates on a topic they were interested in. Then they wanted a free report or ebook. Now popular bloggers often provide a high-value ecourse or a whole library of free resources.

(I’m working on putting together a free resource library here at The Savvy Solopreneur. Subscribe to hear about it when it’s ready. See what I did there?)

Some incentives to join an email list could include:

  • A free report that teaches readers to do something specific
  • Exclusive member discount codes to products or services
  • Being the first to find out about your latest launches
  • Free PLR products
  • A free eBook
  • An eCourse (delivered in parts every few days via email) that teaches something valuable
  • A workbook (like the one I’m offering now), cheat sheet or checklist
  • A resource library you can add to regularly (like the one I’ll soon be launching here at The Savvy Solopreneur)


Nurturing Your Email List With Strategic Follow Up Emails

Although most bloggers and marketers will choose to give something away in the first email, as an immediate gift, they’ll also often schedule a sequence of email messages to automatically build up a relationship with their new subscriber.

When this comes in the form of an eCourse, this usually means sending out a new “lesson” every day, or every few days. Depending on your niche, your eCourse could be anything from “How to Build a Blog in 7 Days” to “How to Change Your Eating Habits in 30 Days”. It just has to be free information, and offer something of genuine value.

You can schedule your entire eCourse in advance using a simple autoresponder program (I’ve used both Aweber and Mailchimp and really like them both). Once you’ve it set up, it will start sending, in sequence, whether you get a new subscriber today or a year in the future. It allows you to ‘set it and forget it’ and take the time to focus on creating new material.

Warning: Review any emails you send out by autoresponder regularly. If you created them a year ago, they may contain outdated information or broken links.

Growing Your Email List With PLR

You may be wondering where PLR comes in. Or even asking what PLR is.

PLR stands for Private Label Rights, and PLR content comes with a license allowing you to legally edit and publish it as your own.

Here’s the thing: PLR is not unique. Other people will have bought the same content. That’s why it’s an interesting form of content to help with growing your email list.

Many people decide against PLR for their blog content because it’s not unique in the eyes of the search engines. But with an email list you don’t have that problem: the content is sent out through email, and search engines don’t index it.

This is why can be useful to use PLR for your eCourse, or as articles in your newsletter, as long as it provides excellent value, and is relevant to your readers. You can edit it to infuse it with your own personality, include your own links, and personalize it with your own intro and conclusion.

You can also buy PLR reports, or package PLR articles into reports, to send out as extra value gifts to your subscribers.

Here are my favorite places to buy quality PLR content:

WhiteLabelPerks.com

NetPLR.com

AllPrivateLabelContent.com

EasyPLR.com

Note: EasyPLR.com are currently having an end of season sale and offering all PLR article packages on their site at $5 each. Packages typically contain around ten articles on a specific topic. That’s excellent value (and an easy way to create a ten-part ecourse).

These companies all supply great, high quality PLR content that needs relatively little editing.

If you’re still not sure about PLR, or don’t know exactly how you’d use PLR content, I’d recommend this FREE report, from the lovely Nicole Dean at EasyPLR.com:

Making PLR Make Sense – A Guide For Bloggers

Just click that link and download (or read online). There’s no opt-in for that one. It’s a no-strings-attached free gift.

If you’re really interested in learning more about growing your email list (and online business) with PLR you might want to consider signing up for this online training PLR to Profits.

Hint:  Use the coupon code PLR2P at checkout to get a significant discount.

I talk more about the pros and cons of using PLR in my ebook The Savvy Solopreneur’s Guide to Content Creation. If you haven’t read it yet, check it out here.

Clickable links on The Savvy Solopreneur may be affiliate links. Find out what that means here.

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Attract More Clients Easily with the Perfect Freelance Portfolio

If you work as a freelancer, you need an online freelance portfolio that attracts clients while you sleep.

Whether you’re a writer, designer, virtual assistant, social media manager or photographer, the perfect freelance portfolio should show off the skills you have and the services you offer.

Freelance Portfolio

I devote a whole chapter in my book Ten Commandments For The Thriving Writer to building a freelance portfolio. It’s called “Building a Body of Work You Are Proud Of”. Your freelance portfolio should be just that. A chance to showcase your best work: the projects you are really proud to have been a part of.

Your portfolio is perhaps one of your biggest selling points. It’s a solid demonstration of what you’ve done and an indication of what you’re capable of doing in the future. Without a strong portfolio, your website can look like a lot of empty promises about what you would, could or might do, given the chance. And there’s an obvious problem with that:

“You can’t build a reputation on what you’re going to do.” – Henry Ford Click To Tweet

 

What to include in your freelance portfolio

Depending on the type of service provider you are, you’ll want to put a few different elements into your freelance portfolio. Here’s a list of some items to include:

Samples

If you’re a graphic designer, a writer, or some other type of artist, potential clients want to see exactly what you’re capable of. This may include scanned copies of articles or graphics you’ve done for the print industry.

For example, samples can include an article you’ve had published in a magazine or graphics you did for a local company’s brochure. It may also include image files of websites you’ve designed and PDF files of content you’ve written for other companies. If your work isn’t available online, you can save it as a PDF and password protect it so it can’t be copied.

Links To Websites

If you’re doing the majority of your work for online markets, you’ll want to be able to showcase your work by linking to it. This demonstrates that you’ve done professional work and adds credibility to your portfolio. If you’re a graphic designer, you can link to websites where you’ve designed the logo, the website template, header, and so on.

If you’re a writer, you can link to website pages where you’ve written the copy or content. And if you’re a virtual assistant you can link to websites of entrepreneurs you’ve worked with. Depending on the projects you handle, you could also link to work you’ve done online. For example, if you created a form for a website owner or wrote content for them then you can link to that.

Testimonials

Good testimonials go a long way. Even if someone doesn’t see exactly what they’re looking for in your freelance portfolio, quality references may be your foot in the door.

Testimonials can attest to your professionalism, flexibility, and quality of work. They’re an excellent tool to motivate a potential customer who is trying to decide if you’re the right choice. You may want to have a separate page for testimonials on your website or blog. Just make sure that page links back to  your portfolio. Here’s my testimonials page on my freelance site. There’s a link from that page to my portfolio page. And there’s a link to both those pages on my home page.


What to Do with Your Freelance Portfolio

There are several ways to get your portfolio in front of your prospects.

Put your freelance portfolio on your website

Make sure it is either a page on your site, or there is a link to it on your website. This way, as potential customers hear about you from friends and associates or through their online search, they can review your portfolio immediately.

Email your freelance portfolio to potential clients

Email your portfolio (or a link to it) along with a cover letter to people you’d like to work with. If you have a company you’d excited to work with, don’t be shy. Send them a cover letter, resume and your portfolio.

Share your freelance portfolio with partners

If you have friends and associates who are not direct competition, consider collaborating with them. Send them your portfolio, or a link to it, and ask them to send it to people who might need your services. You can even give your friends and associates a referral bonus or reward for anyone they send your way.

Promote your freelance portfolio on social media

Feel free to share your freelance portfolio on your social media platforms occasionally too. Or put a link to it in your profile if your main objective on social media is to connect with new clients.

Building Your Freelance Portfolio

Everyone has to start somewhere. Build your freelance portfolio from the very start of your freelance career if you can. There are a few simple steps that can really help.

Ask clients for testimonials

Do this as soon as you’ve finished doing (excellent) work for them, and make sure you mention that you’d like to use the testimonial on your website (most will be fine with that).

Tip: If they give you a great testimonial, now is probably a good time to politely mention that you appreciate endorsements on LinkedIn. LinkedIn makes it easy for clients to give you a quick endorsement and its a great place to make contact with new potential clients. I have a significant number of endorsements over there, and even though I’m not that active on the site, I still get clients approaching me via LinkedIn.

If you and your client connected through a freelance site you could also ask them to write a review or rate your work there if there is a system that encourages that.

Consider using Contently (it’s Free)

Contently.com is a great place to build a visual portfolio of written work you’ve done around the web. You can then link to it from your website, social media profiles or bios. Here’s my freelance portfolio over there.

Or Pinterest (also free)

You can also use a Pinterest board as a visual portfolio. I suggest you make a Pinterest board that showcases your work, anyway, even if you have a professional freelance portfolio elsewhere online. Here’s mine. It doesn’t hurt to have more than one freelance portfolio up online working away for you.

Link to the websites or projects mentioned in your testimonials

This helps to further emphasize your skills and professionalism. For example, I link to books I’ve edited under testimonials from their authors, to demonstrate those books have great reviews on Amazon. Here are a couple of examples of testimonials from clients I’ve done editing work for. They’re taken directly from the testimonials page on my freelance site:

“Special thanks to my wonderful copy editor and proofreader, Karen Banes, who arguably did more for this book by taking words away than I did by adding them! I’m extremely grateful to Karen for going above and beyond because of her passion for the subject matter, and I look forward to working with her again.” 

– Kirsty Stuart, Author of How To Start A Travel Blog And Make Money

“Karen has been amazing to work with. She really spent time with each paragraph, making sure it was readable from an outsider’s point of view. She even took time to help me out after we had finished working together. Karen really cares about your work and your success, and that’s what you need, I believe, to make life easier 🙂
Thanks!”

– Dr Ameet Aggarwal ND, Author of Feel Good: Easy Steps to Health and Happiness

Keep your Freelance portfolio up-to-date

Websites go out of business or move articles around, or update their graphics. Make sure you’re not sending clients to error pages or pages that now showcase someone else’s work! If you’re a writer or content creator and see that your article is no longer live, it might be time to re-purpose it and submit it to another site. I’ve noticed there are a few dead links in my freelance portfolio. I’m off to do just that right now!

Finding Clarity In Your Business

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The Five Best WordPress Plugins For Your New Blog

Today we’re looking at some of the best WordPress plugins to help you get subscribers, encourage engagement and keep your site loading fast.

We explained last week how to set up a blog on WordPress in under ten minutes. We’ve also talked about the few things you need to prepare in advance. It helps if  you’re ready to hit the ground running with a new WordPress blog (or any blog).

Today we’re looking at five of the best WordPress plugins to get installed on that new blog. Remember to install one plugin at a time and check it hasn’t interfered with any of your blog’s other functions. Then move onto the next. Do the same when you update them, just in case there’s a glitch with the new version. These plugins are well-tested and reliable, so you’re unlikely to run into any issues, but it’s best to play it safe.

Best WordPress Plugins

Akismet

The Akismet plugin is a huge time-saver. It will filter out the spam comments left by bots  on your WordPress blog. Without it you’ll be overwhelmed by spam comments and quickly lose the will to moderate. It’s not perfect. You’ll still get spammy comments, because some spammers are human and know how to get round Akismet, but it will really help.

SumoMe

SumoMe has both a free and paid version and, as with any ‘freemium’ plugin, there are a lot more features with the paid one. The free one is sufficient for a brand new blog, and you can always upgrade to the premium (paid) version later if you need it. As far as freebies go, I’d say this is one of the best WordPress plugins for a new blog, and the paid versions offer pretty good value too.

Even the free version of SumoMe includes a whole suite of web traffic tools. They’ll help with everything from social media marketing to list building. It’s great for letting you encourage subscribers by adding a few features to your site. You can use anything from a discreet bar at the top of your site, to a small pop-up in the corner of your home page, to a full-page ‘Welcome Mat’ to ask people to sign up to your newsletter. You may notice a few SumoMe features on this site.

You can also do simple but uber-useful things like adding those little floating social media share buttons alongside every blog post, as well as adding share buttons to your images.

While I can’t guarantee this will get you a lot of social media shares, I can speak from experience and simply say I am MUCH more likely to share a post with those buttons. It just makes sharing something of value a no-brainer. I’m also more likely to share to more sites if the site icon is right there to remind me. So I’ll share something to StumbleUpon or Reddit, rather than just my staple favorites, Twitter and Pinterest.

Yoast SEO

Search Engine Optimization is complicated and ever-changing (though this book provides a good overview, if you want to dig into it). Yoast SEO is the best WordPress plugin I’ve found  to optimize your site. Once you install it, it will show up below every post while you’re composing it in your dashboard.

Simply put in a keyword or phrase for each post, and it will alert you to any SEO problems and how to fix them. So it will tell you, for example, if you’ve forgotten to use your keyword in your url, meta description, image name or first paragraph, and will also work out your keyword density.

If this doesn’t mean too much to you, don’t worry. Yoast SEO simply gives you green, amber or red dots to let you know how well you’re doing with each element. Then it suggests  how to improve anything without a green dot. It’s kinda satisfying when your dots all go green and the plugin tells you your post has a good SEO rating, especially if you’re SEO stupid and wouldn’t have known otherwise.

Don’t get me wrong. SEO is complicated and there’s (a lot) more to it than this, but using the Yoast SEO plugin is a great start. Combine it  with creating useful content that people read, react to, and share, and your SEO ranking will slowly improve.

IMSanity

This is one of the best WordPress plugins you’ll ever use, that appears to make no difference to your blog whatsoever. It’s a simple little plugin that doesn’t change the look of your blog, but works away behind the scenes. It can help save you time and increase load speed.

IMSanity resizes any oversized images that you try to put on your blog. I wish I’d had it from the beginning because my site refused to accept certain images that were oversized and I had to resize them individually and re-upload them (time suck!) It also resizes images that your uploader would accept but that are still too big.

Having correctly sized images is important because readers LOVE relevant images and you should have at least one in every post, but too many oversized images will affect your blog’s load time. And there is nothing like a blog that’s taking it’s own sweet time to load for encouraging those would-be visitors to hit the back button.

Believe it or not, if your blog loads slowly enough that it causes a high bounce rate (that’s people hitting the back button) it will also affect your SEO over time, so it’s worth installing a plugin that increases load speed.

CommentLuv

I have a love/hate relationship with comments, to be honest. Many people will tell you comments are vitally important as a sign of engagement, but I get way too many comments that are spammy (or just not contributing much to the conversation) often with links to low-quality sites (even after Akismet has weeded the bots out).

When I work with content creation clients, I sometimes advise them to turn comments off completely. And while I still publish, and reply to, meaningful comments here at The Savvy Solopreneur, I’d rather my readers committed to an ongoing, two-way connection with me by signing up to my email list or following me on social media. That way we can really get to know each other.

Nevertheless, genuine comments from other bloggers trying to forge a connection (as opposed to people who want to drop a link to a sales page) should be encouraged. That’s where CommentLuv comes in. It encourages other genuine bloggers to comment (and comment regularly) by highlighting their most recent post on their own blog. CommentLuv is one of the best WordPress plugins to install if you’re looking to increase engagement and start conversations with other bloggers.

So now you have five of the best WordPress plugins installed, and they didn’t cost you a dime (unless you decided to go with a premium version). How are things going with your new WordPress blog? You did get it up and running, right? If not you may want to do so in the next ten minutes by following these simple steps.

Finding Clarity In Your Business

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How To Set Up A Blog On WordPress in Under Ten Minutes

Many people have no idea how to set up a blog on WordPress, but they assume it’s a pretty involved and time consuming process. They put it off, because they think they need to set aside at least a day to get their blog set up. That’s simply not the case. As long as you have a few things prepared, you really can set up a blog in around ten minutes.

How To Set Up A Blog

Read this post to see the four things you need to start your blog, then get it set up with the following simple steps. These steps will show you how to set up a blog on WordPress.org, with your own paid hosting, and at the time of writing, this will cost you less than $10 (that’s US $) a month.

This is how most professional bloggers set up a blog as it gives you a huge amount of control and lots of options to monetize (something that can be difficult to do with a free blog). If you do want a free blog for now, WordPress.com is a good bet. Blogger and Weebly are also easy, user-friendly options.

Still happy to use WordPress.org and pay a few bucks each month so you can have complete control and monetize your blog easily? Great. Pay attention. This is where you’ll learn how to set up a blog, step by step, in the next ten minutes.

How To Set Up A Blog On WordPress: Step By Step

Choose Your Web Hosting

WordPress.org itself is free, but you will need to pay for hosting. I recommend Bluehost and so does WordPress. It’s reliable, affordable and, at the time of writing, includes a free domain name. And once you have your Bluehost hosting you can install your WordPress blog with one click.

Click on over to Bluehost now (that link will open in a new window so you can switch between windows to follow these steps).

Choose the plan you want. The basic plan is probably sufficient for most beginning bloggers. It usually costs around $7.99 but occasionally Bluehost have sales and it can go even lower. It should currently be showing at $7.99 or less for each month’s hosting, including a free domain, free site builder and 1-click WordPress installation.

Choose Your Domain Name

When you click on the plan you want, you’ll be taken to this screen.

How To Set Up A Blog

Simply put in the domain name you want. The site will tell you if that name is available and make suggestions for similar ones if it isn’t. If you already own a domain name, pop it in the second box. You’ll be able to redirect it to your new blog once it’s set up.

Order and pay

You’ll be taken to a screen where you can create your account, place your order and make payment by credit card, debit card or Paypal.

Install WordPress

Once you’ve paid for your account, you should be taken to your Bluehost dashboard where you’ll find a button that says ‘Install WordPress’.

How To Set Up A Blog

Click that button.

You’ll see a green install button on the next page. Click that.

You’ll be asked to confirm the domain name you chose. Then you should see a message that says something like “OK, We’re setting up WordPress for you.” Soon (t really should be within a few minutes) the message will read ‘Your Install is Complete’.

You’re done. You have a WordPress blog.

Next steps

Go to your WordPress admin area

The url for your WordPress admin area will be your domain name followed by /wp-admin/. So it will look something like MyAwesomeBlog.com/wp-admin/.

Get Started

There will be a Get Started section that looks like this.

How To Set Up A Blog

I suggest you do as WordPress encourage you to and add an About page straight away, along with posting your first blog post. If you took my advice and got prepared in advance, you already have the content ready.

Play around a bit

It’s daunting for new bloggers, but the best thing you can do is play around with your site a little. WordPress really is fairly intuitive. Click around to see what things do. Try some different themes. Experiment with the customization. Add an image or two. See what it looks like. Don’t worry. Nobody’s watching. Wait until you’re (somewhat) happy with your new blog before you start promoting it, or even sharing it with friends.

You’ll notice there are plug-ins and widgets and settings to play with. With blogging, as with so much in life, less is more. Don’t go too crazy. Add one widget or plug-in at a time. That way, if something causes a problem with the site you’ll know there’s a good chance it was the last thing you installed or added. Remove it. See if that helps. Take a good look at your blog at every stage. See whether you like the last change you made before you move on to the next.

So now you know exactly how to set up a blog, what next? First, get those first five posts loaded. Then come back next week when I’ll be blogging about the five best WordPress plug-ins to put on your new site. Or subscribe for free, and I’ll let you know when that post goes live.

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Four Things You Need To Have Before You Start A Blog

It’s stupid simple to set up a blog in 2016. It takes minutes. This means people throw up blogs all over the internet without giving it much thought, which is a shame. A blog (any blog) has potential. It can be the beginning of a business, a profitable side hustle, or a base for a community.

So it’s important to have a few things in place before you start a blog. I’ve come up with four. Just four. That’s not many. So take a little time to get them in place. Right now. Then go start your blog.

Start A Blog

An objective

Some people would say you need a plan, or (even loftier) a strategy before you start a blog. They may be right, but at the very least, you need an objective. Why do you want to start a blog? Do you want to make money? Spread a message? Inform or educate people? Showcase your writing skills? Your objective can be any of the above, or a combination of them. Just make sure you have one. It will make the process of starting and running your blog easier, more fun and more worthwhile.

A niche

Your niche can be broad (fashion, beauty, health, travel, business or parenting) or narrow (organic skincare, upcycled fashion, or productivity) or even narrower (making your own stuffed animals). Just please don’t start a blog about nothing. It worked for Seinfeld. You are not Seinfeld. Your blog should be about a specific topic, and your visitors should be able to spot what that topic is fairly quickly.

A name

What is your blog called? Hint: It really helps if your blog name is one of the things that allows your visitors to spot what your topic is fairly quickly. Again, there are exceptions (anyone heard of BoingBoing?) but most blogs have a name (and tag line) that helps rather than hinders new visitors, who will be trying to ascertain if the subject matter of this blog interests them.

You may or may not have a domain name (that’s your actual web address or URL: Eg www.TheSavvySolopreneur.net) picked out and purchased. If you go with a good hosting site like Bluehost (and I suggest you do) you will get a free domain name included in your hosting package, so you may want to finalize that as you set your blog up. Check the domain name you want is available, and (if you’re not buying it straight away) have a few variations you’re prepared to use, in case someone else snaps up the one you want.

Some content

Some people start their blog with a boring, wishy-washy ‘welcome to my blog’ type of post. Perhaps they say what they’re going to blog about. Or worse, if they haven’t niched it down, they admit they don’t know what they’re going to blog about, but tell their readers they ‘hope you’ll stick around and enjoy what I have to say anyway’. (Guess what? They won’t, unless they’re a personal friend or relative).

As Henry Ford once said ‘You can’t build a reputation on what you’re going to do’. Click To Tweet

So don’t tell people what you’re going to do. Start doing it. Create some content before you launch your blog. At the very minimum you need some content for your about page, your contact page and five high-quality, entertaining, relevant-to-your-niche blog posts.

Make those first five blog posts answer or address five specific questions or problems people interested in your niche may have. Post them within the first week of getting your blog live, interlink them, and THEN start promoting your blog. Then visitors will have some stuff to browse through when they get there.

So now you have what you need. Four things. No more. Got them all lined up? Go set up a blog.

Clickable links on The Savvy Solopreneur may be affiliate links. Find out what that means here.

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The Super Useful Online Business Tools I Use Every Day

Today I’m sharing with you the exact online business tools and resources I use every day and couldn’t live without. Everything I’ve listed here is something that has helped me grow my business and make money. Oh, and I believe in keeping overheads low to maximize profit so everything here is super affordable (and some of it FREE) to help you find that sweet spot where you start making money from your business as early as possible.

A bad workman blames his tools. A good workman gives his tools the credit they deserve. Click To Tweet

Super Useful Online Business Tools

Disclosure:  This post contains affiliate links.  This means I might earn a commission if you click through and purchase a product or service I recommend.  Find out more here.

The basics

WordPress & Weebly

WordPress is where all the big boys (and girls) blog. It has a lot of cool functions, clean, attractive themes (even the free ones) easy to install plug-ins, widgets, and more functionality than most other platforms. It also integrates easily with almost any other program you might want to use and finding advice and tutorials is always easy, because it’s so popular.

The Savvy Solopreneur is a WordPress blog. I’d never recommend you run a blog that you hope to make money from anywhere else. So why have I even mentioned Weebly?

Weebly is a basic WYSIWYG (What You See Is What You Get) platform that makes building a professional looking website even easier than WordPress. It doesn’t have the plug-ins, widgets, SEO capabilities and integration features of WordPress, and I don’t recommend it for building a blog that you hope to make a lot of money from.

I, however, set up my ‘big business card’ style freelance writing site KarenBanes.com on Weebly years ago and I love how low maintenance and intuitive it is. Everything is drag and drop and I never have to spend time updating plug-ins (because there aren’t any). If you’re looking for a ridiculously easy website to showcase your portfolio, for example, and you’re really not a tech wizard, you may find a use for Weebly in your bag of tricks.

Hosting and Domain Names

I’ve used all the big hosting sites (some for myself and some while working with clients) and I recommend Bluehost for hosting your WordPress site. It’s recommended by WordPress too, and it can take less than ten minutes to set up. It’s super affordable, reliable and simple to use. You can get your Bluehost account up and running in no time and then install WordPress with the click of a button.

Bluehost are currently offering a free domain with their hosting, which you can register while you’re setting up your blog. But if you already have one, it’s easy to use that as well. I bought TheSavvySolopreneur.net from GoDaddy a while ago (when I started writing The Savvy Solopreneur ebook series and knew I’d want a domain to promote them some day). When I set up this blog it was super simple to log in and redirect the domain to point to my brand new WordPress site.

Mailchimp and Aweber

You’ll need an email program to build your list of potential clients and communicate with your audience. I use both Mailchimp and Aweber for my own lists  and when working with clients. They both work just fine. Aweber probably has a little more in the way of functions BUT Mailchimp is free for your first 2000 subscribers, which can be really tempting if you’re on a budget. The free version doesn’t allow for an autoresponder sequence though, so if you want that from the start, go with Aweber.

Social Media Sites

Social media marketing is vital to grow a thriving online business, and it’s (mostly) free. Yes, you may end up paying for ads to increase your social media reach, but you can start building an audience on any social media site for free. You’ll find me on Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, LinkedIn, Google+ and, most  recently, Instagram.

I advise you to at least have a presence on all the big sites. If you don’t use a particular one often make sure your profile says what you do and who you serve, and includes a link to where potential clients can find out more about you and get in touch.

Dropbox

I store all my work in progress in Dropbox (online cloud storage) allowing me to access it from any location and any device. This is the one tool that helps me be truly flexible, highly productive, and effectively location independent in the way I run my business. It’s also really useful for sharing files with my team and my clients. And the basic version is FREE. (You can upgrade to a paid version if you have a ton of files to store and need more space). Find out more here.

Content Creation

Microsoft Office

Many freelance writers and professional content creators use all kinds of fancy writing software. Not me. I stick with Microsoft Word. Word documents are easy to work with, universally accepted by editors, and easy to convert to other formats (such as PDF) using a free online conversion tool (I use this one).

I even write my books in Word these days. It’s easy to convert a Word document to a Kindle book or to an EPub format which is what you need to sell on iBooks, Kobo and other ebook retailers.

With Office you also get Excel which is what I use to track freelance submissions, income and expenses.

The Co-Schedule Headline Analyser

I use this free online tool on every headline I write, whether it’s for my own blog, my content creation clients or my freelance writing pitches. I’ve started using it to test out future book titles too.

Grammarly

Your personal online proofreader, Grammarly can proofread everything from a blog post to a book. I’m not saying you should always skip paying a human editor/proofreader (it depends on the project) but for your day-to-day content, Grammarly is great. If you’re launching a book, course or information product, you might want to perfect it by employing a professional copy editor and proofreader, but you can still save money by using Grammarly to improve your content before handing it over to an editor.

Yoast SEO

This free WordPress plug-in optimizes every post I write, both for myself and my content creation clients. If you’re still not sure how to use Search Engine Optimization, this book does a great job of explaining it, but if you use Yoast, you’ll need less of an in-depth knowledge, and more of a basic understanding.

PLR

PLR (Private Label Rights) content is content you buy in to adapt, personalize, monetize and use on your site. PLR articles are usually written by a ghostwriter and sold to several website owners. This means that you (and a limited number of other bloggers) can edit the articles and publish them without being required to link back to anyone or give anyone credit for writing them.

Using PLR is a little complicated, but once you get the hang of using it, it can save you a ton of time. Grab this free report How to Use PLR Content.

The PLR companies I personally use are:

EasyPLR.com

AllPrivateLabelContent.com

WhiteLabelPerks.com

Bonus tip: I rarely buy PLR at full price. Sign up for the newsletter at the above sites and they’ll let you know when they have discounted PLR packages or site-wide sales. That’s when I stock up. Sometimes they’ll even send you free content you can re-brand and use in your business. (You may need to scroll to the bottom of the page to find the sign-up box).

Coachglue

My best resource for ‘Done-For-You’ content. Coachglue sell ready-made templates, planners and coaching kits you can adapt and rebrand to use in your business. They mainly serve business coaches, providing kits they can use to coach their clients and organize their business, but some of their resources work in various niches. I use their planners (such as the Book Brainstorming Planner and Amazon Author Page planner) to coach other writers.

At the time of writing, Coachglue are offering a FREE new client kit to help you onboard new clients easily and efficiently. Grab yours while they’re available and test out their resources for free.

FREE IMAGE SITES

Images are really important in my online business, but I don’t spend a lot on them. I mainly use these free stock photography sites to source images, combined with the resource below.

Canva

Simple to use image editing software that has a basic free version. I only occasionally use the paid elements and you can do so on a pay-as-you-go basis, spending as little as $1 at a time if you want to use a premium image or graphic.

Social Media Marketing

Just ReTweet

Just ReTweet has long been my  favorite free way to drive traffic to my blog posts and online articles. It enables you to get a lot of genuine ReTweets, Google shares and Facebook likes very quickly, and helps you attract new followers on Twitter at the same time.

As an extra bonus, this site is also a great place to go to find fresh content to curate and share with your readers.

If you have a Twitter account, you can simply go to JustRetweet.com and sign up. I wrote a whole post about JustRetweet here.

COPROMOTE

I also use CoPromote to boost my Twitter posts and get more traffic and social shares. I’m not sure it’s as effective as Just ReTweet, but I use the free version so I’ve got nothing to lose.

Sumome

SumoMe is actually a suite of web traffic tools that help with everything from social media marketing to list building. There’s a free and paid version. If you blog on WordPress, at the very least get the free version of SumoMe. Then you can do simple but important things like add those floating social share buttons to your posts. They make it a no-brainer for visitors to share any content that’s useful to their audience.

Other

Fiverr

I use Fiverr.com to outsource easy one-off jobs like designing a simple cover for an ebook or info product, keyword research or techie stuff (like moving a blog from one platform to another or making a new domain point at an old site). These are things I could do myself but as I don’t do it on a daily basis it would take me a while to work out (or remember) how to do it. I can outsource it for as little as $5 so… Why not?

Bigger, more important jobs I outsource to trusted professionals who have been recommended by people I know and respect. Not familiar with outsourcing? This Outsource Monthly course will teach you EVERYTHING you need to know about it.

AMAZON KDP & SMASHWORDS

I use Kindle Direct Publishing to publish my ebooks on Amazon, and Smashwords to push them out to other retailers like iBooks and Barnes & Noble. I also log onto those platforms daily to monitor sales and promote my books.

The Biz Plan Book

Lastly, everyone needs a daily planner. You can get one from the dollar store, but I think planning is by far the most important daily task for my business, so I treat myself to a proper business planner. Currently I’m loving The Biz Plan Book, created by Natalie Collins.

My online business planner is the last tool on my list, and the least technical, but probably the most important. Planning daily is a huge part of how I get clarity around my long-term business goals. Need more clarity? Consider grabbing our free workbook below.

Finding Clarity In Your Business

 

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