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Dust Off Your Blog for the New Year

unnamedimage via Chiot’s Run

Blogging is hard work. Sometimes you don’t know what to write about, you don’t have time, or you just plain don’t feel like it. Your blog gets neglected and, before you know it, it’s been 3 months since you posted something. Oops.

It’s time to dust off your blog for the new year. Instead of letting your blog sink deeper into your toolbox next to that weird wrench, let’s put it to work as an amazing tool for your business. Here are five tips to help make 2014 a fantastic year for your blog and your creative business.

1. Who are you blogging for?

I’m going to let you off the hook on this one and give you the answer. Blog for your customers. Not just the customers you already have, but also the customers you want to have.

Niche, ideal customer, tribe, target audience ”whatever you want to call it, that is who you should be blogging for.

If you need help with this step, read Who Are You Marketing To.

2. What is the main goal of your blog?

Your blog is a tool to help grow and improve your business, so it should serve a purpose. Attracting new readers is a given since you need them to accomplish any blog goal. But what do you want those readers to do once they’re on your blog?

  • sign up for your newsletter
  • visit your Etsy shop
  • like your Facebook page
  • follow you on Twitter

Obviously all of those things would be awesome, but what is the number one thing you want your blog to do for you?

I get the most sales and interaction from my newsletter, so my main blog goal is to get newsletter signups. You might have a killer Facebook page that gets you lots of sales, so your main goal might be to get people to like your Facebook page.

3. Brainstorm blog posts

Now it’s time to get more readers. Brainstorm blog posts that will attract more ideal customers to your blog.

If you sell baby costumes, your ideal customer might be working moms in their 30s. What could you blog about that those moms be interested in?

  • how to get your baby to sleep through the night
  • Halloween party recipes for kids
  • adorable photos of babies in costumes
  • tips for teething babies
  • how you make your costumes safe for babies
  • time management tips for busy moms

Once you start brainstorming, blog post ideas will start popping into your head at random times. Set up a system to capture those ideas. Evernote is great for this.

4. Make an editorial calendar

Figure out a blogging schedule that works for you. Be realistic here. It’s better to consistently post twice a month than randomly post four times one week followed by three months of no posts at all.

Make an editorial calendar. Editorial calendars have been used for centuries in the publishing world. They make it easy to keep track of your blogging schedule, blog post ideas, and holidays that might influence your blog topics. Editorial calendars don’t need to be fancy. You can use an online calendar, wall calendar, spreadsheet, yearly planner, colorful post-it notes arranged in rows, whatever works for you. If you have a self-hosted WordPress blog, there’s even a handy editorial calendar plugin.

Schedule 1-3 months of posts on your editorial calendar. Then start writing those blog posts. Some days you’ll feel like writing and some days you won’t. Take advantage of the days when you’re ‘in the zone’ and write several blog posts at once. Schedule those posts in advance according to your editorial calendar.

5. Tweak your blog to achieve your main blog goal

Take a good look at your blog with your main blog goal planted firmly in mind. What changes can you make to better achieve that goal?

Let’s say your main goal is to get more newsletter signups. Do you have a newsletter signup form at the top of the page where it’s the first thing people see, or is it buried down at the bottom somewhere? Does your newsletter signup form stand out from the rest of the page, or does it blend in with everything else? Could you add a newsletter signup form to the bottom of each blog post?

Have a few other people look at your blog. Without telling them what your main goal is, ask them to tell you the first thing they notice on your blog. If it’s not something that helps achieve your main goal, make tweaks to your blog until the main goal is the first thing they notice.

julia-sydnorwashi

 

Julia Sydnor – Pixel Frau

Julia Sydnor is the geeky gal behind Pixel Frau. She helps Etsy sellers and Creatives make kick-ass websites with WordPress. Want to craft a website for your creative business? Head on over to http://www.PixelFrau.com to get started.

Free Printable Blog Editorial Calendar

free-editorial-calendarGoing into my second (full) year of running my own successful creative business, I’ve learned a few things along the way.  One of the most important things to me is organization.  Instead of feeling like I’m always catching up and letting the business dictate where I have to go and what I have to do, I am now (finally!) in the position of actually being a boss and setting my own goals, deadlines and rhythm… and it feels great!

If you happen to blog for your creative biz, like I do, then one of the most important tools you can have (and USE) is a blog editorial calendar. It gives you guidance & deadlines, it gets those creative juices flowing and allows ample time to get those posts written when you’re actually feeling creative!

I set mine up a month in advance, which gives me time to change some things up if I happen to want to post something time-sensitive and relevant for any given date.  It really is like a puzzle and seeing it all laid out in front of me helps fit all of the pieces together.  Then, once I’ve written the posts and scheduled them, voila!  One more thing I can cross off of my To-Do List 😉

free-editorial-calendar-downloadSo, here’s a version for you to start using and become one organized blogger!  I’ve even included some bonus worksheets to help you, such as a GIT’ER DONE List and an AWESOME IDEAS sheet.

I hope you enjoy it and it helps you in your creative blogging journey 😉

Geribiowashi

Geri Jewitt — The Languid Lion

Geri Jewitt is a graphic designer gone rogue from Corporate who now owns The Languid Lion, a design studio focused on branding for small businesses and helping them stand out from the madding crowd.  Recently adding custom letterpress design + printing to the studio, she loves working on custom projects, such as wedding stationery or branding collateral! She is also the editor of The Lion’s Den, a blog where she writes about owning a small creative biz and offers tips, tutorials, templates and design inspiration.

The Languid LionCharlieBoy Press – FacebookTwitterPinterest – Instagram

 

Your Opinion Wanted: To Blog Or Not To Blog

yowjanLast week Megan’s post about blogging was a big hit and provoked a lot of conversation. This week we are taking a different look at blogging for your business. When I read this question from Joi Hunter of Sew She Stitches I had a feeling she is not the only one who feels this way. Joi and I both agreed we should share the question with you.

“I have a question about blogs. I’ve been told that I should have one as a crafter. I’m ready to make a go of my business but I don’t see myself as a blogger. I just want to put my goods out there for people to enjoy. I am not that great of a teacher for blogging tutorials. Do you have any suggestions for someone like me? Are there other ways of gaining ‘followers’/potential clients than a blog?”

Please share your opinion, thoughts, answers and questions in the comments! Also, if you know of any helpful articles share the links too!

p.s. Looking for more questions answered? Check out our past Your Opinion Wanted posts here or submit your own to kerry@handmadesuccess.com.

The Business Blogging Break-Down

craft

There is a lot of information out there regarding blogging. The sheer vastness of it can be overwhelming and confusing. While many marketing gurus will tell you that you should blog, they aren’t always specific as to the why, the how, and the what your content should contain. If you are running a product business, as most handmade sellers are, much of the blogging guidelines set for life coaches, information product sellers, service providers, and beauty bloggers doesn’t seem like the right fit. So let’s cut through the confusion and the wealth of information to do a simple, comprehensive blogging breakdown for your handmade business.

1. Why you should seriously consider blogging for your handmade business:

Unlike other methods of online marketing, blogging allows you the space and resources to really let your potential customers get to know you and your products. When there are so many online businesses out there, its vital to set yourself apart and build trust with your potential customers as much as you can. When your blog readers like what they see and read, they’ll be more likely to purchase from you than the other guys selling similar products. In fact, the more loyal they become as a result of your blogging content, the less relevant the “other guys” become.

A blog containing helpful and/or entertaining content is more likely to be found in search, gain followers, and get shared. It also provides the means to engage your potential customers with what you want them most focused on: your products.

2. Where you should blog:

There are several platforms to choose from. If picking a platform is holding you up from getting started, then here are my quick recommendations:

If you have your own website, then you will want to host your blog on there. You want your content attached to your site so that all incoming traffic from your posts can easily explore the rest of your site (and buy!) If you don’t have a website and solely sell on marketplace sites (or not online at all) then the next best choice is a self-hosted WordPress.org site. When you self host, you get as much control over your blog as you could ever need, unlike the hosted version of WordPress.com or Blogger. You may not think you need all of that freedom, but you might not know now what you’ll be wishing you were allowed to do in the future. Setting up a self-hosted blog from your website or WordPress.org allows you to build a blogging platform with unlimited potential.

3. How your blog should look:

If you aren’t a designer and you want a personalized, branded look and feel to your blog, then I recommend hiring a designer. If you aren’t up for doing that yet, here are a few basic tips to keep in mind:

  • Simple is usually better.
  • White space is your friend.
  • Dark fonts on light backgrounds are easier to read.
  • Larger fonts are easier to read.
  • Images are good.
  • Simple navigation is appreciated.

4. What you should blog about:

When you find yourself searching for ideas for blog topics, remember why you are blogging in the first place: to attract potential customers and get them to buy your products. That may sound a bit drab, but the concept will open up a never-ending flow of ideas for your blog.

First of all, define who your potential customers are. Having had previous customers helps with this part, but if not, do your best to define who you want your potential customers to be.

After that, think about the range of things these potential customers are interested in, whether they are directly related to your product or not. For example, if you sell bridal jewelry, then your potential customers are also interested in picking out the right music for their wedding, DIY centerpieces, and methods for keeping their stress levels down right before the big day. These same potential customers are also interested in figuring out what jewelry pieces would go best with their dress’ neckline, pieces for their bridal party, and gifts for the mother-in-laws (this is where your products come in.)

If you run a rotating mix of content that includes your products and content that does not (but refers to topics that your potential customers are still interested in), then you’ve figured out the basic formula for a successful business blog. This is the simple, broken down version, but it should give you the gist to get yourself started.

5. How often you should blog:

If your goal is to attract more search-engine traffic, than more often is better than less when it comes to pumping out content for your blog. However, you don’t want to be blogging so much that you burn yourself out (or start to annoy your followers), so there is a middle ground. I recommend 1 or 2 posts a week, but what you officially decide is completely up to you. There are successful business bloggers who post more than once a day, while some only come out with new content once or twice a month. What you decide on may depend on what your particular products are, and how you think your potential customers would best respond (bridal customers, for example, will probably want more content come wedding-planning season, while Christmas shoppers will be eager for lots of gift ideas in November.)

Once you decide on a frequency for your posts and have a brief list of blog posts ideas, it’s time to set up an editorial calendar.

If you have your future posts mapped out ahead of time, you prevent yourself from procrastinating or struggling to come up with content ideas at the last minute. Plus, you can write your posts in advance, scheduling them far into the future so you never have to worry when short-term emergencies occur. (This also comes in handy if you just don’t feel like blogging on a certain day.) Also, when you’re plotting future posts directly onto a calendar, you can envision where certain content will fit among your product releases, holidays, or other special events, making your content-generation even easier as you get the hang of it. Whether you plan your posts 3 months or 36 months out is up to you, you can always change the order or the frequency later on (no one will know you did it but you.)

6. Figuring out the rest:

If you still don’t think you’re ready to start blogging for your business because you aren’t sure about how to manage comments, find your writing voice, or understand how to optimize for SEO: RELAX. You know what the best teacher is? Experience.

Once you get started and going, you’ll figure out all of those details along the way.

Your posts will probably be clunky at first, and that’s okay. It’s all part of the learning process. What’s more important than how well you construct prose or disperse transitions is how well you are providing content to aid your potential customers in finding you, and learning why they should buy from you.

meganbio

Megan Petersen – Megan’s Beaded Designs

Megan designs and creates unique beaded jewelry for http://MegansBeadedDesigns.com, and writes articles to help her fellow handmade sellers at http://BeadingForBusiness.com.

Links for Thanksgiving, Business and Holiday DIY

Hi! Just popping in to share a few goodies with you!

diyguidesmall100 DIY Holiday Crafts and Gift Guide – be sure to check out last year’s guide for inspiration and tons of ideas for crafting and gift giving!

handmadebusinessebookThe Branding, Blogging & Social Media Series for the Handmade Business – the lovely Janet Walker from Best To Keep It Simple created an ebook for you from her recent series of blog posts from herself, Megan Eckman, Jess Van Den and myself.

gratitudecardssmallFree Gratitude Cards Printables – this time last year I reflected on what I was grateful for (you being one of them!) on my personal blog and created some cards that you can use at Thanksgiving or as journal prompts to reflect on what you are thankful for. There are two different sheets.