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.

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

 

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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.

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 two PLR companies I personally use are EasyPLR.com and AllPrivateLabelContent.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. Scroll to the bottom of each 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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Relationship Marketing: Why You Need To Build Strong Networks

Relationship marketing is a way of building your business by focusing on relationships first, and sales second. It’s the concept behind the idea that instead of always selling and marketing your products and services, you can build an audience that wants what you have to offer, then simply show them what you have to offer.

Relationship marketing is all about building strong networks, nurturing your relationships with those in your network and then letting them know what you can do for them. If you love people but hate selling, relationship marketing is for you. There are ten simple concepts that will make it easier.

Relationship Marketing

  1. Make an Effort

Networking shouldn’t be something that just happens. Get organized and plan a schedule of attending events or other opportunities to network, along with following up and nurturing your new relationships. Networking online? You still need a plan and a schedule.

2.  Face to Face Is Better than Virtual

The internet makes it easy to meet people and stay in touch, but face-to-face contact in person is still the best. Take advantage of any opportunity you have to network offline and interact in the real world with your contacts.

  1. Know What You Bring to the Table

Before you start building those relationships, identify the skills, experience, expertise and other value that you bring to the interaction. Take a good look at your resources and skill set to determine what you can do for others. Approach the new people you meet with confidence and let this value show. Be committed to following through on whatever you promise.

Relationship Marketing: Commitment

  1. Get into Conversations

When you’re at an event networking to build your list of contacts, it’s better to meet fewer people but become more engaged with them than to meet many people who you only have a chance to say “hello” to. Try to get into a real conversation with someone even if it means you’ll connect with fewer people. This goes for online networking too. It’s better to have a hundred followers who love everything you do than a thousand who don’t even know what you do. Quality trumps quantity. Every time.

  1. Go for a Win-Win

Never form relationships based only on what others can do for you. If you make each relationship mutually rewarding so that it’s beneficial for everyone, it will be much stronger. The other party will be more likely to do things for you when they’re also benefiting from knowing you.

  1. Stay in Touch

A very important part of cultivating network relationships is staying in touch with those you meet. Whether you interact casually on social media or actually write formal follow-up letters, it’s important to stay on the radar of the people you meet.

  1. Follow Up with an Offer

For your first follow-up with new contacts, be proactive and offer to do something for them. Offer some kind of help they need that you can provide in just a few minutes. This is a great reason to follow up and keep in touch, and also boosts your relationship with goodwill. Your new contact will immediately see the value you have to offer.

Relationship Marketing: preparation meets opportunity

  1. Keep Records

Keep a file on your most important contacts and try to be aware of as much as you can about them. Note personal information such as their likes and dislikes as well as pertinent business information. This data can clue you in to their needs and ways you can make connections with them.

  1. Maintain Professionalism

Not all your contacts are your friends. Keep the appropriate level of professionalism. Always correspond with them politely and professionally. When networking on social media, it’s fine to be real and authentic, but try and keep any aspect of your private life that could make you look unprofessional off the internet.

  1. Pay Attention

Through each contact with your network, pay attention and listen closely. You need to recognize if your contact with the person is intrusive and whether or not it’s valuable to them. This is how you build a strong long-term relationship.

Relationship marketing: Your success is your responsibility

Relationship marketing is about giving value. Don’t make it all about what you need from them. If your contacts get great things by knowing you, they’ll be on the lookout for ways they can reciprocate and help you too.

Need more help building relationships? The latest Savvy Solopreneur book is out now:  The Savvy Solopreneur’s Guide To Networking. Check it out.

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

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Simple Steps To Help You Stop Procrastinating and Get Stuff Done

One of the biggest challenges to being self-employed and owning your own business is learning to stop procrastinating and just get your stuff done. It’s just so easy when you’re the boss to let things slide until they’re urgent, and you’re under pressure and frazzled.

These simple tips can help you stop procrastinating and start being productive today, not tomorrow.

Stop Procrastinating and Get Stuff Done

Challenge yourself with something achievable 

Sometimes we procrastinate because the task seems too large to manage. Maybe you have an information product to create and just don’t know where to start. Rather than putting “create information product” on your to-do list, break the project up into several smaller steps. The first one could be, “outline information product” or “choose title for information product.”

These smaller, more attainable goals are easier to accomplish and you don’t feel as if you’re tackling an insurmountable task.

Reward yourself (with a day off)

When we work hard, we deserve to play hard. It’s actually good for long-term productivity to take regular breaks. Make a to-do list at the beginning of the week and promise yourself a day off, where you do something fun, when the list is complete.

It’s easier to commit to this reward if you involve other people. For example, if you make an appointment for a massage on Friday, you’d better have your task list done by Thursday night or you’re going to have to cancel on your masseuse. You make yourself accountable, even though you have no boss to answer to.

Identify distractions

Find out what you procrastinate with. Do you watch television? Run errands? Surf the net? Determine what distracts you. Spend a day or two working, or procrastinating, like you usually do and simply take note of what you do other than work.

Then eliminate those distractions. Once you know what you’re using to procrastinate then it’s time to get tough. For example, if you find that you often let household chores deter you from being productive, schedule a time for household chores. Give yourself thirty minutes at lunchtime to get a chore list completed and then go back to work.

Consider doing as Jurgen Wolff suggests in his book Creativity Now: Get inspired, create ideas and make them happen, and make a not-to-do list. Mine includes watching TV and internet surfing during the day, watching any TV I didn’t actively plan to watch (which eliminates trash and fluff and effectively limits me to films, documentaries and series I love), plus email and social media checking during work hours (I check in batches after the creative work is done).

Use tools to help you

Time-tracking tools, both online and off, are great for helping you stay on task.

You can use something as simple as an egg timer. Set it for thirty-five minutes. Work for thirty-five minutes and when the timer dings, give yourself ten minutes or so to stretch, walk around the block, put away the clean dishes or something other than work and then go back and set the timer again.

You can also use online tools like Eye Defender or Big Stretch Reminder to make sure you take regular breaks, but then return to work straight away.

Knowing that you are going to work intensely for a limited time can help you be incredibly productive. I find that by working in quick ‘sprints’ like this, I often achieve more in a few 35 minute sessions than I would trying to work solidly all day.

Get creative with these tools and ideas and use them to help you stay on task and stop procrastinating.

Finding Clarity In Your Business

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Twitter Marketing Tips: What to Tweet and Why

Effective Twitter marketing involves a couple of really straightforward concepts. You simply have to know what your objectives are, and which kinds of posts will meet them.

Today’s blog post is a brief excerpt I’ve adapted from The Savvy Solopreneur’s guide to Twitter marketing, my ebook Tweeting For a Reason: How (and Why) to Use Twitter to Market Your Business. If you think you’d enjoy the rest of the book, grab it here.

Twitter Marketing Tricks: What to Tweet and Why

Twitter, like most social media platforms, is being used, misused and abused in various different ways. If you’re not sure what to tweet just remember you really are tweeting for a reason, or a few different reasons. Know your objectives, and don’t post anything that doesn’t tie in with those objectives.

This doesn’t mean that if your objective is to sell more stuff you only post links to your sales pages. Twitter marketing doesn’t work like that. You’re going to have to be a bit subtle and a lot more creative. Keep your objectives in mind, but think hard about the tactics you need to use to reach them.

Let’s say you’ve written a book about keeping horses, or a series of books with a horsey theme, and your main objective is to sell a lot of copies. You could keep tweeting ‘buy my books about horses’, or you could tweet a lot of very interesting stuff about keeping horses, horsey news and events, pictures of beautiful horses, tack and equipment reviews, and inspiring quotes or stories with a horsey theme.

If you do the latter you’ll soon build up a following of people interested in horses, and when you do tweet about your book(s), you’re much more likely to make some sales.

Here are some things you definitely want to Tweet:

Links

People browse Twitter looking for links to interesting stuff. By all means post links to interesting articles and posts on your own site or blog, but post links to other people’s sites too. Curate articles that are interesting to your target market to grow your following.

Some people get on Twitter and just promote themselves. They don’t seem to want to ‘waste’ their Tweets talking about other people. This shows a fundamental misunderstanding of the way Twitter works.

People follow accounts that share a lot of great information. Tweeting great stuff other people have created is actually like having someone else do the work for you. You’re seen as the source of the information even though you didn’t write or create it. People will follow you to have access to what you share. Twitter is often referred to as micro-blogging, but whereas people will only follow your blog if you create great blog posts, people will follow your Twitter stream even if all you do is share other people’s content.

Special offers

Now you’ve got everyone’s attention, and they see you as a source of quality information, share something that’s of benefit to your followers. A discount, special offer, free sample or contest/giveaway with a cool prize. This way you start to sell to your audience but they still feel like you’re giving them something, because you are.

Freebies

People on Twitter love freebies. Free reports, audios, ebooks and videos in your niche will attract attention. Obviously this is where your bigger marketing plan comes into play. Ideally your freebies should stand alone but still be incomplete, to encourage a sale if the customer likes the free offering. Good examples are the first ebook in a series, or a report or video tutorial that teaches you to reach a level of basic competency in a certain area (an area you offer further training in, obviously).

Your stuff, other people’s stuff

I’ve heard it suggested that for every self-promotional tweet you post you should post ten other tweets promoting other people. This will certainly stop you looking as though you are selfish, spammy or self-obsessed, and it may be a good guideline. But keep your objectives in mind. Don’t post random stuff from other people just to meet this ratio. EVERY tweet should be working for you.

When you post other people’s stuff, questions to consider are:

  • Is this attracting my target market, to help build a relevant following?
  • Will people retweet this, to get my name in front of new people and attract more followers?
  • Does sharing this information make me look like I know a lot about my niche and share good information on it, which will make people pay more attention to me on Twitter?
  • Is this tweet interesting and relevant enough that people will check out my profile and tweet stream, and maybe click through to my site/blog/sales page?

Remember you can look like you’re tweeting other people’s stuff, but still have a hidden benefit in there for yourself and your business.

Images

Images are becoming much more important on social media in general and on Twitter in particular. So it’s a great idea to post pictures as part of your overall Twitter marketing strategy. When you click on the ‘compose new tweet’ box on your profile page, you’ll see a camera icon. Click on that icon to upload a picture. You can post images from your blog or website, infographics or picture quotes.

One affordable and very efficient way to get hold of new images every month is to subscribe to Image Monthly. This is a great time-saving service that offers a monthly subscription to help you with image creation and sourcing. It includes 25 exclusive royalty free stock photos, 10 conversation-starting quotes and 10 giant background textures each month. Check out the details at Image Monthly.

Need some straightforward (and very affordable) Twitter marketing strategy tips? Tweeting For a Reason: How (and Why) to Use Twitter to Market Your Business is available from Amazon stores worldwide. Feel free to grab your copy now.

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Best Times to Post on Social Media

The time of day you publish your posts and updates on social media can make a huge difference in terms of reach and interaction.
Whether you’re a fan of Twitter, Pinterest, or LinkedIn, this infographic provides some basic guidelines, but every niche is different. Experiment and track to see when your posts get most attention. 

If you’re building a brand and marketing your business on social media, you might be able to use a copy of my new book Tweeting For a Reason: How (and Why) to Use Twitter to Market Your Business.

It’s a great guide to building your brand and marketing your business, blog or book on Twitter. Grab your copy here.

Finding Clarity In Your Business

 

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Why Habits Matter More Than Motivation or Willpower

Motivation is big these days. Motivational quotes, tips and articles crowd our social media streams. I love them. I produce them, consume them and share them. Motivation is important, but there’s something that may be much more important,  and that’s habit-building.

Why Habits Are Better Than Willpower

Ever noticed that it’s harder to make decisions toward the end of the day? You’re too tried to even decide what to have for dinner or what to watch on TV, never mind which important projects to focus on. That’s because we all have a finite amount of decisions that we can make in any given day.

Knowing that helps us prioritize. We can cut out a lot of decision making by implementing daily habits and routines. That way we save our finite decisions for the important stuff.  This frees brain space for more creative and productive thinking. Habits and routines are a great tool that simplify our lives and cut out a lot of our daily stress.

The main thing you’re doing when you create strong, healthy habits is you’re removing the need to motivate yourself. You’re removing the need for willpower, and that’s really important.

The Inverse Relationship Between Habits and Willpower

It’s hard to keep up willpower for any length of time. Yes, we can do exercise we hate for a while, until we run out of willpower. We can work on our new online business by firing ourselves up with motivational quotes, but until we develop good work habits it won’t feel effortless.

Tasks become habits when they are so ingrained in what we do and who we are that we do them without thinking about them. We don’t consider skipping a day or a week. We don’t have to make a conscious decision each day to brush our teeth, shower or drive the kids to school. It’s just what we do – a habit.

Habits don’t require motivation or willpower. In fact, there is an inverse relationship between habits and willpower. When you first want to build a new habit, it takes a lot of willpower to get it done day in and day out. As you start to establish that habit, it becomes easier and easier to do until you’re on autopilot and you don’t require willpower any more.

Just being aware of this process helps us stick it out. We know we won’t always have to make such a big effort to write this week’s blog post, do our marketing chores, or call our clients. There’s light at the end of the tunnel. We know eventually it will become a habit that won’t involve effort.

While we’re in that transition from willpower to habit, there are a few things we can do to help stay on track. Once we’ve formed those habits, willpower becomes unnecessary.

How Long Does It Really Take To Create A New Habit?

There’s a common belief it takes 21 days to create a new habit. But we all know it’s not as simple as that. It doesn’t take that long to form a bad habit. And sometimes no matter how hard we try it takes us a lot longer to form a new habit.

So how long does it really take to create a new habit? The answer is, it depends. It depends on your mindset and it depends on how big of a change it is from what you are doing now. If you’re writing one blog post a week and you want to up it to two, that’s easier than deciding to post every day.

When we ask that question, what we really want to know is how long do we have to tough it out before it gets easier. When will this new behavior become automatic?

While it will be different from one person to the next and from one habit to the next, there are a few things to keep in mind.

  • It’s easier to change a habit than to break one. Whenever possible, try to replace an old habit with a new one. For example if you’re wanting to give up coffee, brew a cup of herbal tea in the morning and throughout the day when you would usually reach for your cup of Joe. If you’re trying to only check email twice a day, resolve to start brainstorming ideas for your blog or business every time you feel like opening your inbox.
  • Habits will form faster if you stick to the same time and environment each day. Instead of going for a walk whenever, keep your sneakers next to the door and schedule your walk every day at 6pm, right after dinner. Instead of writing or working on your website when you feel like it, do it every morning, as soon as you get to your desk.
  • A constant reminder of why you’re trying to change your behavior is also helpful. Put up a picture to remind you that you’re working to develop good habits in your online business so you can one day purchase your dream home. Keep your reason why you’re changing front and center and then be prepared to stick it out. Yes it will take some time to make new habits and replace old ones. But it will be well worth it in the end.

Using habits rather than constantly trying to find willpower and motivation will really impact your productivity long-term. Talking of productivity today is the last day The Savvy Solopreneur’s Guide To Productivity  will be on sale for just 99 cents. Grab your copy now.

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Get More ReTweets, Shares and Likes With This Simple Tool

When I wrote my book Tweeting For A Reason: How (and why) to use Twitter to Market Your Business I included a whole chapter on what I called ‘my secret weapon’ for getting more ReTweets. It’s no longer a secret, because a LOT of industry leaders and niche influencers are using it.

A lot of new bloggers aren’t, however. And they probably should be. So I’ve shared the details here, along with screen shots to help you get set up quickly. This is a FREE service. There is a paid option you can upgrade to later if you absolutely love it OR if you want to really go to town and promote something heavily. But it’s free to get started and you need never pay a cent if you’re happy with the free version (I am!). So here’s what you need to know.

Get More ReTweets

Just Retweet is a social sharing platform dedicated to helping you get more Retweets,  +1 shares on Google+ and Facebook Likes . It’s NOT some automated system that automatically gets you a ton of extra exposure. You WILL have to put some time into it, but I put in ten to fifteen minutes a day, a few days a week, and see real results.

Just Retweet has some strict rules:

  • No auto-Tweets
  • No auto-follows
  • No spam

It’s a fast way to boost your “social proof” and get new eyes on your blog or website. What’s more, Just Retweet suggests that “active users of the site will automatically gain more followers”. That has definitely been my experience.

Get More ReTweets

JustRetweet has its own requirements and rules, but they’re pretty simple:

  • It works on a “credit” system. You start out with 100 credits and earn more by Retweeting other JustRetweet member messages
  • Only posts containing URLS can be Retweeted
  • You cannot request Retweets for “sales pages, direct affiliate links, squeeze pages, homepage links, and other overly promotional or low quality content” (they’ll be deleted)
  • You are allowed to submit a maximum of three Tweets in twenty-four hours. You can use multiple Twitter accounts – but you cannot post Tweets to the same URL from your other account.  (Think of it as one URL per twenty-four hours)

Happy with these rules?  Right.  Let’s begin.

There are three easy steps you’ll need to take, to get up and racing out of the starting gate:

  1. Sign up
  2. Post your Tweets
  3. Acquire more followers

Let’s talk you through it.

Step One:  Signing Up and Signing In

JustRetweet is based on a “credit” system – but these are not paid credits.

First, you have to log in using your Twitter account from JustRetweet’s home page. Press “Sign in with Twitter” button in the top right corner.  (Don’t worry:  JustRetweet won’t be able to see your password.)

More ReTweets

Enter your Twitter name and password.

Get ReTweets

You will be directed to a “Welcome” page, where you can create your account by entering your email address.

Get ReTweets For Free

You’ll be immediately redirected to your Dashboard, where you can see different sections accessible by tab.

Twitter Followers – Here’s where you can find Featured Members, as well as other types of Twitter Followers:

  • Top Submitters
  • Top Influencers
  • Top Promoters

Note that, using a drop-down menu, you can filter these Submitter types by time frame (E.g.: “Last 7 Days”.)

Begin selecting a few members to follow straight away, so you’ll have someone to Retweet your posts – starting with JustRetweet itself.

Activity Summary – This is going to be a tab you’ll use a lot, once you’ve got a bunch of Tweets posted via JustRetweet. You can filter the results by day and activity type:

Get ReTweets with JustReTweet

You won’t have any activity to filter or look through, so go ahead and submit a Tweet.

You already have 100 credits. You can get more by retweeting others content, or by buying credits. If you share a lot of content from the site, you’ll NEVER need to buy credits. If you decide you want to promote something heavily, you always have that option. For now, use your free credits.

Settings – This is an extremely important section. Here’s where you set up your blog URL and specify other things you want to add to your profile, or change within your JustRetweet account.

Get More ReTweets

Fill in your email address, and use the drop-down arrows to select your country and the interval at which you’d like your Tweets to be Retweeted.

Leave “Credits Per Follow” at the default “2” for now, until you start getting a feel for what works and what doesn’t.

Fill in your website Title, URL and a brief description containing your keywords.

Press “Update”.

You should now see a notification in bright green that your update was successful.

Step Three:  Write Your First Tweet

Now you’re ready to start submitting Tweets with URLS you want shared – and Retweeting other peoples’.

  1. Get started by pressing the “submit a tweet” link. (Note that your 100 free credits shows up here.)JRT9
  2. Go to your Activity Summary Tab. Write a Tweet that (a) you’d really love people to share (b) includes your  URL. Be sure to check the boxes for social networks you’d like to allow access via JustRetweet.  (Twitter will already be pre-selected.)Note also that your submitted tweet “will be moderated before going live on site”, so you will have to wait a while to see what your new Tweet shared via JustRetweet looks like.

Step Four:  Retweet Other Members’ Tweets

And here’s the really important part – share other members’ Tweets.

  1. Go to your Dashboard Tab and scroll down. You’ll see a tasty selection of Tweets you can choose from.

More ReTweetsNotice that you can:

  • Find optimized Tweets using the drop-down categories and keywords; or enter your own unique search
  • Weight your Retweeting decisions based on the number of credits being offered for a Retweet. (But don’t worry too much about this. Sharing quality content that your audience will love is more important than how many credits you’re earning.)

When you are ready, simply click on “Schedule Retweet” and JustRetweet will take care of this automatically, based on the criteria given by the Tweeter in his or her Settings.

You can also choose to “Like” the Tweet you’ve selected on Facebook, as well as pressing the “+1” button for Google Plus.

That’s it. You’re done. Remember to check in regularly to share great content you find, and submit every new blog post you write. Oh and follow these tips for optimum success.

Ten Tips for Just Retweet Success

  1. Choose your Retweets carefully. Check every link to make sure you really want to share this.  Use aids such as keywords, categories and custom search parameters to make sure each Retweet you schedule is well-suited to your own audience. Only ReTweet quality content.
  2. Make sure you share your highest-quality content. If you want others – especially other influencers in your niche – to Retweet you, make sure you’ve got something worth Retweeting.  This is your fastest way to becoming one of the top influencers yourself – delighting not only your own audience, but that of people who Retweet your content.
  3. Don’t Retweet suspected spammers. IF a spammer gets through, they’ll be weeded out pretty quickly. In the meantime don’t be tricked into sharing their content.
  4. Use hashtags. Vary your own Tweets by using relevant hashtags .
  5. Tweet others. That’s obvious, of course – but sometimes it’s easy to get carried away and neglect this vital part of using JustRetweet. If you share regularly you may never run out of credits.
  6. Study the list of posts in your Dashboard. You can get a feel for:
  • What appeals to you
  • What repels you
  • How many credits people offer on average.
  • Types of posts to Retweet
  • Types of posts that are missing – ones that you would like to Retweet. (Then go write them!)
  1. Consider paid options. This is not necessarily a recommendation:  Some people find purchasing options fast-tracks them; others set great value by building relationships naturally.  But do be aware the option is always there.
  2. Consider becoming an affiliate. if affiliate marketing is part of your business model, you can sign up for the affiliate program (I’m a member. If you sign up through my link and later upgrade to the paid platform I’ll get a small commission. Remember you DON’T have to do that. The free version will help get you started and you need only upgrade if you LOVE the platform and can see clear benefits to signing up for the premium service.)
  3. Follow JustRetweet Members, as well as Retweeting their Tweets. There are credit rewards to do so and you can keep an eye on your favorite Tweets from these particular bloggers.
  4. Remember everyone on here is a real person. And some of them are real influencers in their niche. It’s actually a great place to find people in your niche to follow and you can ReTweet them (earning credits as you do) which will get their attention if you want to work with them in the future!

Need the link one more time? It’s here: Just ReTweet

Need more information on using Twitter? You might want to check out Tweeting For a Reason.

S

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