How to Stop Listening to Blogging Gurus and Stand Out Online

To become a successful business owner or blogger, you must know how to stand out online.

But here’s the real, painful irony: in pursuit of writing a popular blog or getting clients, so many of us (including me) get caught up in trying to use other people’s formulas.

It’s nearly impossible to avoid clicking on blog posts with titles like “5 Blog Post Templates That Will Knock Your Readers’ Socks Off” or “My Simple 7 Step Formula for Getting a Bajillion Email Subscribers in 2 Days.”

These posts promise quick results for little thought or ingenuity.

As fallible humans, we want results and success fast. So we do our best to imitate the strategies of others. Only to make blogs that are the same as everyone else’s.

And then we wonder why we’re not getting thousands of readers like the “gurus” we’re attempting to imitate. We’re left thinking there’s something wrong with us for not being able to use these formulas to catapult us into instant success.

But here’s the truth.

Formulas won’t make you stand out online.

Formulas won’t make you a success.

Formulas won’t bring you instant wealth and fame.

Only your own ingenuity, creativity, and intuition can make you stand out online. Only your inner wisdom, grit and determination will bring you the success you are looking for.

So throw out the formulas. Don’t expect someone else’s blog post or online course to give you the keys to the castle.

Want to stand out online? Be authentic.Click To Tweet

What you have inside of you cannot be replicated. It’s your secret sauce. Your magic juice. And no one else has it.

So, how do you access that magic juice and use it to stand out online? Here are a few ways. (No formulas included. I promise.)

1. Use your intuition to come up with blog post topics.

Throw out your lists of headline hacks and blog post templates, and instead, rely on your intuition to guide your planning.

In a recent episode of my new favorite podcast, Unthinkable, The Role of Gut Instincts in Content Marketing, Jay Acunzo and Tim Jensen explored the idea that your gut feeling or intuition isn’t some magic spiritual thing. It’s actually your subconscious mind, which is guided by your deep well of experience and knowledge.

You probably know a lot about your topic, your unique approach, and your audience. So you can trust yourself to use that knowledge and insight to inform your blog post ideas.

Sit down and do some deep thinking.

Feel into your intuition and ask yourself these questions:

  • What do my readers need to know right now?
  • What message am I aching to share?
  • What deep questions am I grappling with?
  • How have I profoundly helped someone recently?
  • What’s a simple thing I know a lot about?

Let your blog post ideas come from a desire to genuinely serve your readers and clients, rather than from an attempt to make something that you think people will like.

2. Reframe how you think about your online marketing

All too often, we think of our blogs like megaphones, our email lists like cash cows, and our online marketing activities like tentacles intended to draw people in. Ick.

Let’s reframe that.

Your blog is meant to be a conversation starter and an entry point for people to learn about you.

Your email list is meant to create a relationship between you and your readers. It’s a list of people whom you can serve and from whom you can learn.

Your online marketing is an opportunity for you to find ideal clients, collaborators, and mentors, and to build genuine relationships with them that are beneficial to both of you.

Even though you can’t see your readers or email list subscribers, they’re actual people. (If I sound condescending, know that I’m writing this to myself just as much as to you.)

So follow the same social guidelines you would in person.

Be helpful. Be curious. Be real. Be open.

Start conversations. Connect on an emotional level.

Forge genuine connections. That’s how you’ll stand out online.

3. Stop trying to grow your email list

Have you noticed that most bloggers are obsessed with growing their email lists and page views?

I get it. Believe me.

But the reality is most of your email subscribers and readers are on a bajillion email lists and read thousands of blogs. So seeing those numbers creep up doesn’t actually mean that much.

While everyone else online is trying to get more, more, more, you could be doing something truly remarkable: trying to get to know the people who already showed you they’re interested in your offerings.

Imagine you’re at a party, and you’re talking to someone who seems fairly interesting.

After a few minutes of conversation, he asks you if you want his business card and he takes yours in return. As soon as you pocket his card, he immediately moves on to someone else. The next day, you get a generic email from him that makes it clear he has no idea who you are (probably because you’re one of dozens of people he barely talked to at the party).

But at the same party, you meet a really nice guy who takes the time to get to know you. He asks you about yourself. He hangs out with you for awhile and asks some deep questions. After talking to him, you feel seen and heard. And when he emails you the next day, he mentions something you discussed the day before.

Which of these guys would you be more likely to hire or do business with? Probably the second.

Unfortunately, in the online world, most people are like the first guy. They want your email address, and they want thousands of other email addresses, too. But they don’t take the time to actually get to know you or what you need.

So, how do you stand out online? By being like the second guy. By inviting actual conversation with your readers. By getting to know them. That’s how you’ll convert visitors into clients.

Can you still grow your list to thousands? Of course.

But first, focus on understanding your current subscribers. Figure out what they want, what drives them and who they are. Then use that to grow.

4. Be realistic about what you can solve for your readers

Many online marketers will tell you to figure out what your readers are struggling with the most and then create something that solves their problem.

Which sounds good and all. But often, our readers’ greatest struggles are large and complex and can’t be solved with a free PDF or email course. (I know, I’m disappointed, too.)

But, ever the good students, we try to create quick solutions to problems that can’t be solved that easily. And our resulting freebies leave our readers feeling like failures.

So instead of trying to make something to solve your readers’ greatest pain point, make something that actually solves a small problem, instead.

My friend Kathy was struggling to grow her email list. Then she created some beautiful goal sheets for a talk she was giving in Sonoma California, where she lives. She decided that since she’d already made them, she would put them up online and see what happened.

Her email list grew by hundreds and then thousands. It’s 2 years later, and she still gets about 20 opt-ins per day. (Yeah, I know.)

She told me that she thinks people are downloading them in droves because she made them to be used.

What can you make to be used?

5. Trust yourself

What drives us to search for easy, quick formulas and solutions?

In my experience, it’s uncertainty, fear, and perfectionism.

This online marketing thing is hard. So is owning your own business.

It takes courage to write a blog post and put it out there, to email a group of people you’ve never met, and to ask for a sale. It’s freaking scary sometimes.

So we go on a search for the “right way” to do things for fear that we’ll make a mistake.

But making mistakes is actually a good thing. It allows us to learn and hone our craft. It is part of the process of making something truly unique.

When we try to take shortcuts, we end up short circuiting our creative process and making stuff that looks like everyone else’s.

But you don’t have to do that. You can trust yourself.

The next time you feel that fear, that doubt, that anxiety creep up, ask yourself, “How would I move forward with this? What’s my best solution right now? How can I get playful and creative in this moment?”

Trust yourself and make something that’s truly a reflection of you.

To stand out online, stop listening to the blogging gurus and listen to yourself, instead.

  • Use your intuition to guide your blog post ideas.
  • Reframe how you think about your online marketing
  • Instead of focusing on growing your list and page views, get to know the people who are already in your community
  • Be realistic about the problems you can solve
  • Trust yourself

Here’s one final thing to think about.

This is not just about learning how to stand out online. It’s also about giving yourself the permission to be real, to be creative, and to make genuine connections. Which, in my mind, is far more important.

How to Make a Creative Breakthrough With Your Blog

how-to-make-a-creative-breakthrough-with-your-blog-1

Do you remember what anyone wrote in your middle school yearbook?

I do.

Ms. Barton, the toughest, best teacher I had in eighth grade, wrote in my yearbook that I was the most creative student she had ever taught. I’ll never forget that.

Yet it’s all too easy to forget that unforgettable, unique blogs come from embracing your creativity.

Just take a look at most blogs about blogging or online marketing, and you’ll see that most posts are about making money, or metrics, or list building tactics.

It’s so easy to get lost in the rambling maze of “online marketing” and forget that thrumming core of ourselves that has driven us to create in the first place.

If you want to make a blog that bursts with energy and joy, a blog that your readers eagerly revisit again and again, stop looking for other people’s templates, and cultivate your own creativity.

10 ways to unleash your creativity and have a creative breakthrough with your blog Click To Tweet

1. Zoom out

One of the dangers of creating our own businesses and blogs is that we often get too close to them to be able to think creatively.

When you feel stuck, get some distance from your blog. Get an outside perspective, see if you can look at the issue from a different angle, or think about how you would feel in 10 months if you make a certain decision.

By distancing yourself from your blog, you will see all sorts of opportunities you wouldn’t have thought of otherwise. Blog post ideas will come bubbling to the surface.

This article by The Scientific American explains more about why psychological distance enhances creativity.

2. Get playful.

Have you ever noticed that kids are bursting with creativity? Especially young kids.

That’s because they live in a constant state of play.

When you are playful, you let your mind open to all different possibilities. Just as a stick can become a magic wand in a kid’s hand, your mind can more easily make surprising connections when you’re playful.

I tend to be waaaay too serious about my work. That’s when it stops being fun. That’s when innovation dies. But when I open myself to asking, What if? I’m able to create things that truly delight both myself and my readers.

Learn more about creativity and play in this article by Creative Something.

3. Do deep work.

In this fantastic podcast about deep work, Cal Newport talks about the importance of taking time to focus on higher level, creative work.

He says that we need to train ourselves to focus for intensive period of times, to give ourselves space for creative breakthroughs. And, big surprise, social media is one of the main enemies of doing the deep work he talks about.

So carve out times for intensive, deep work. Dive into your writing and creating without any distractions. Silence your phone. Ban social media. Get into the zone.

You’ll be amazed at what you can create.

For a closer look at deep work, check out Cal Newport’s book, called, unsurprisingly, Deep Work. (Affiliate link)

4. Commit and ritualize.

We creative souls just love to wait until inspiration hits. We like to see our work as a fickle, magical thing.

But waiting for a lightening bolt of creative energy isn’t going to help us produce truly original blogs.

What does work to make us more creative and innovative?

A rock hard commitment to doing the work day after day, week after week.

That doesn’t mean we need to blog everyday. Quite the opposite. Instead, find out what works for you, decide what you can commit to, and then stick to it like a dog to a pizza crust.

When we commit, and we set up structures for doing the work, it becomes habitual to cut through all of the fears and other bullshit that get in the way of creating.

In The Creative Habit by Twyla Tharp (Affiliate link), she writes that the first step to creativity is consistent hard work, and the way to that consistency is creating a ritual that lets you know it’s time to get down to business.

Hers is jumping in a cab and going to the gym. Other artists might light a candle or say a prayer.

The bottom line? Choose a schedule and a ritual that works for you and then do it religiously.

5. Tap into your “first thoughts”

My favorite type of writing is called Writing Practice, and it was invented (if one can truly invent a way of writing) by Natalie Goldberg.

When you do writing practice, you sit down and you write for a certain amount of time. You don’t stop writing until the timer sounds. And you give yourself permission to write whatever comes up.

Goldberg writes, ““If you are not afraid of the voices inside you, you will not fear the critics outside you. Besides, those voices are merely guardians and demons protecting the real treasure, the first thoughts of the mind.”

Often, your first thoughts are what’s really true for you. They come from the core. But it’s all too easy to doubt and question and change – to shy away from those truths.

Sometimes, your first impulse is the best one. When it is, you can feel it. Don’t be afraid to follow it.

For more on writing practice (and to have your life as a blogger utterly transformed), read Natalie’s book Writing Down the Bones. (Affiliate link)

6. Brainstorm

While tapping into your first, deep, true thoughts is hugely important, sometimes it’s coming up with many ideas that will help you find the one that works.

Most copywriters write 20 or 30 headlines for every single ad, sales page, and blog post they write. Often, the first few that you come up with are stale and overused.

By forcing yourself to keep going, you push yourself to be more creative, and you often come up with ideas that you never would have otherwise.

The next time you are trying to come up with a blog post headline, an opt-in freebie, a product, or anything else for your audience, don’t accept the first one that comes to mind.

Instead, set a timer and write down as many ideas as you can. Then go back and choose the idea that looks the best.

For more on creative brainstorming, read this excellent article from Inc. about 10 longtime brainstorming techniques that still work.

7. Have adventures

Have you ever noticed that getting out of your box helps you think out of your box, too?

Adventures help you see things in a new light, get distance from your work, and invoke that sense of play you need to be truly creative.

And you don’t need to leave your city to have an adventure. Go explore a neighborhood you’ve never gone to before. Take yourself on a food tour. Even explore a different route to a place you often go.

While you’re on your adventure, be present. Notice the new smells and sounds. Take photos. Look for beauty. When you come back to your laptop, your creative juices will flow.

This article in the Atlantic shows the link between travel and creativity.

The author Brent Crane writes, “New sounds, smells, language, tastes, sensations, and sights spark different synapses in the brain.”

So…if you can travel far away, do it. If not, give yourself a new sensory experience in your own backyard.

8. Procrastinate.

One of my favorite TED Talks argues that procrastination is one of the key habits of original thinkers.

I am an implementer. I get an idea and go for it.

But I’ve found that by doing that, I frequently create things I don’t love – or build business structures I don’t really want. (Oops!)

So idea marination doesn’t just boost your creativity – it can also prevent you from spending time and energy on ideas that don’t go anywhere.

If you’re struggling with an idea or a project for your business, give yourself the time and space to let your idea marinate. What comes out may just be a lot yummier than what you had originally planned.

9. Work within a structure

I have long had a love-hate relationship with marketing and blogging formulas.

On one hand, formulas are irresistible. “You mean all I have to do is follow these 5 steps, and I’ll have a wildly successful blog? Sign me up!”

On the other, they don’t work on their own.

In fact, when I was thinking about creativity versus formulas, I initially decided that creativity and formulas were mortal enemies. Much like Harry Potter and Voldemort, “Neither can live while the other survives.”

But then I remembered my college days as a poet. I loved poetry forms, because they gave me a structure to push my creative thinking. They forced me to write more melodically. Many of the poems that came out of structures were better and more interesting than my free verse creations.

So I had to look at formulas a bit differently. I had to admit that often, they do work. Following what another blogger has done to build her business is a good way to build your own.

But. The only way to make a formula work for YOU is to infuse it with your creative ideas. Use the structure. Understand the underlying purpose for it. And then take a step back and think about how you can make it your own. And be ready to toss it if it’s not working.

For more, read this Forbes article on the interplay between structure and creativity.

10. Take leaps and be courageous

Let’s be honest. Creativity is risky.

It starts with an idea. An idea that may or may not work. It may even be an idea for a blog post. Or a webinar.

And in order to learn and grow as a blogger and a creative human, you must put it out there. You must let your curiosity and desire to share outweigh your fear that it won’t work.

Whenever I create something new, something that makes me a little uncomfortable, I first Google the hell out of it. I watch webinars on how to do it. I listen to podcasts about it. I read blog posts about it.

Part of it is a thirst for knowledge. But part of it – I admit – is out of fear.

And what comes out isn’t as original as what it could be.

My webinars come out sounding a lot like other webinars. My videos sound like other videos.

But in my blog posts, where I don’t have that fear, I let my creativity loose. And what emerges are original ideas that resonate with people.

So my final suggestion to you?

Take the leap. Do your thing. Dare to be different.

how-to-make-a-creative-breakthrough-with-your-blog

The next time you feel stuck with your blog, do this:

  • Zoom out.
  • Get playful.
  • Do deep work.
  • Commit and ritualize.
  • Tap into first thoughts.
  • Brainstorm.
  • Have adventures.
  • Procrastinate.
  • Work within a structure.
  • Be courageous.

How to Write Content That Both You and Your Audience Love

How to Write Content That You and Your Audience Love

Bloggers must walk a delicate tightrope.

On one hand, you started blogging because you had something important to say. Your blog topics must feel relevant to you and tied in to what you care about the most. Otherwise, you won’t want to keep writing.

On the other hand, you want your blog to connect with an audience -if you didn’t, you wouldn’t be sharing your writing with the world. And if you want that connection, you need to write content that your audience craves.

So…how do you do both?

1. Get clear on your values and your superpowers.

First, look inward.

What do you care about?

This is something that’s woven through your life like a vibrant thread. You can look back and see it stitched into all different parts of your life.

Ask these questions:

  • What do people always come to me for that I also love helping them with?
  • What can I do for hours and not even notice the time passing?
  • What commonality ties together some of my best memories?
  • What would I stay up until the wee hours of the night doing?
  • If someone introduced you with, This is my friend. She’s amazing at _____, what would go in the blank?

Write what comes up and DO NOT judge it. Do not let yourself think, Yeah, but everyone is good at that. or Yeah, but that’s not a good idea to focus on. Or, Yeah, but everyone is writing about that.

Or, think those thoughts. And then let them go. Because they aren’t true.

Half the battle is figuring out what you have to offer, and the other half is feeling that you’re worthy to offer it.

2. Define your audience.

Your audience isn’t everyone.

Your audience isn’t even 50% of the population. (Sorry if you are thinking, My audience is women.)

Your audience are just the people that you would absolutely LOVE to hang out with.

If you’re still not convinced, think about your high school cafeteria. (If you’re thinking, Aww, really, do I have to? I totally get it.)

How many of the people in that cafeteria would you want to hang out with? Probably not that many.

Think of your blog as your table at the cafeteria. Who do you want to sit with you?Click To Tweet

Don’t make the mistake of thinking that you’re not going to be hanging out with your audience; that they’re just going to be reading your blog. Because to create content your audience truly loves, you need to get to know them as well as your BFF. And that means you’ll be spending a LOT of time with them.

So imagine the people you want sitting at your table now (because let’s be real, you might not want to sit with the same people you sat with in high school).

Here are some audience-defining questions for you:

Imagine you’re going out for a drink with your audience member.

  • What kind of place does she suggest you go to?
  • What is she wearing when she meets you?
  • What is she drinking? Eating?
  • What kind of jokes does she crack?
  • What is she obsessing about right now?
  • What does she ask you for help with?
  • When you offer help, what is her reaction?
  • What is she going to do when she leaves?
  • What are her weekend plans?

Get as clear as you can about who she is and what she cares about.

3. Get to know your audience.

Once you’ve defined your audience as clearly as you can, it’s time to get to know them and see what they want to read about.

Here’s the process I recommend for learning deeply about your audience:

  1. Survey them.
  2. Interview them.
  3. Find meaningful themes in their responses.

A few tips as you go through this process:

1. Make sure to only survey/interview people who are truly in your ideal audience.

If you let anyone take your survey, you will end up with results that don’t reflect what your audience actually wants to read about.

Also, if you give your survey to people you wouldn’t want to hang out with, you will feel like you have to start creating content you also wouldn’t be that excited about. Don’t fall into that trap.

2. The purpose of this process is to get to know your audience well.

Ask them open ended questions. Don’t give them multiple choice questions.

Asking multiple choice questions where you have preselected the answers is like asking a friend if they like you better in the red dress or the black one. It’s still about you, not them.

So frame your questions in a way that gets them to open up about what they care about.

3. Actually interview them.

Yes, I know the survey is easier. And less scary. But the only way to get to know your audience members is to talk to them. You wouldn’t email your BFF a survey to ask for her in-depth opinion on something, so don’t stop there with your audience, either.

4. Create a content plan based on what you’ve learned about yourself and your audience.

Now that you know what you care about, who is in your audience, and what they care about, it’s time to create a content plan.

Please, please, (for the love of all that is good in the world), do not base your content plan on posts that you think people want to read but that you’re not that excited about.

Take your survey results and your notes from your interviews, and then pull out common themes and struggles. Break them down and identify how you can help your readers accomplish small wins in the different areas.

Example:

Audience: Busy moms of young kids who want to get fit and love the outdoors.
Common theme: Wanting to get outside and exercise regularly but not having the time to do it.
Possible blog post ideas:

  • How to work out with your kids without them driving you crazy.
  • How to fit exercise in when you have no time.
  • Why taking time to exercise isn’t selfish – it’s a gift to your family.

Want more on how to brainstorm blog posts? Read this.

5. Write irresistible content.

Write your blog posts.

Make sure they have great headlines.

Add drool-worthy blog graphics.

Format your posts so that they are super-readable by busy people. (Because we’re all busy when we’re online.)

Want more on how to do this? Check out The Blog Makeover.

How to Write Content That You and Your Audience Love

To recap, to write content both you and your audience love…

  • Know yourself
  • Identify your audience
  • Get to know your audience as well as you know your BFF
  • Create a content plan
  • Write irresistible blog posts

Your turn…

What do you do to get to know your audience better? Share in the comments below.

How to Never Run Out of Blog Post Ideas

How to never run out of blog post ideas (1)

One of the hardest parts of blogging is coming up with consistent blog post ideas.

When you’re new to blogging, it’s hard to know what people want to read about. And when you’ve been doing it for a long time, you start to feel like you’ve written every single thing about your topic already.

But the good thing is, there are always more ideas lurking in the shadows. Here’s how to make them come out into the light.

1. Get focused.

Do you worry that if you get focused, you’ll run out of ideas to write about?

Actually, the opposite is true.

When you have a very wide range of topics to choose from, it’s easy to get overwhelmed and struggle with pinpointing a topic to write about.

But when you get more specific, suddenly, you can see ideas that were hiding before.

It’s kind of like zooming in on Google Maps.

When you’re zoomed out, you can see the entire world, but each location is indistinct. And then, the more you zoom in, the more you can see individual countries, then states, then cities, and then streets.

Choosing a specific focus is like zooming in and seeing the streets – your ideas become clearer and more tangible. (And you also feel like you’re not trying to capture the entire world in each blog post.)

2. Stay close to your audience.

When you stay close to your audience, you will constantly find new blog post ideas that they want to read about.

The best blog post ideas come from the intersection of your ideas and your audience’s desires.Click To Tweet

How do you stay close to your audience?

First, know who they are.

Then, hang out with them in Facebook groups. Survey them. Call them up and have a conversation on the phone.

Go out and meet them in person.

Ask them about the challenges they’re facing.

Learn what they’re obsessed with. Listen closely so that you can find the deep emotion behind their words.

Become an idea sleuth. Consciously pull out blog post ideas and write them down for later.

Which brings me to the next point…

3. Keep a library of ideas handy.

I use Evernote to keep track of all my new blog post ideas.

Whenever I have an idea for a blog post, I:

A. Write a new note with the blog post title as the note title
B. Write a few bullet points in the body of the note
C. Tag the note with “Blog Post Ideas”

Then when I want to write a post and I can’t think of anything, I just search for that tag, and I have dozens of ideas to choose from.

4. Approach the same topic in different ways

Do you worry that you will bore your audience if you cover the same idea more than once?

If so, I’m going to let you in on a little (not so) secret.

Are you ready?

Most people aren’t reading all of your blog posts. You (and maybe your mom, or your partner) are probably the only ones reading all of your posts.

Sad. I know.

But guess what? That means you don’t have to worry about covering the same topic in different ways. You won’t bore anyone. In fact, you will actually serve your audience, because different kinds of messages resonate with different people.

Writing about the same thing in different ways serves your audience. Don't be afraid to go deeper. Click To Tweet

By covering the same topic from different angles, you will also establish yourself as an authority on that topic. Which is kind of the point of blogging to begin with.

If you’re ever struggling to come up with blog post ideas, look at your analytics, see which old posts have been popular, and then ask, How can I approach this in a new and fresh way?

5. Learn from others in your niche

Beyond knowing what your audience cares about, there are loads of other ways to research and come up with new blog post ideas.

First, set a timer. (That way you won’t get lost in the black hole of the Internet, never to return.)

Search for your topic on BuzzSumo. You’ll find the most shared posts on your topic. Then take them and put your own spin on them.

Check out which books cover your topic in Amazon. Look at the table of contents. Can you write a blog post on the same topic as one of the chapters?

Create a Pinterest board of posts on your topic. Then refer back to it whenever you feel stuck.

You don’t need to (and you can’t) come up with a totally unique blog idea topic every time. Don’t be afraid to learn from others in your niche.

6. Write thematically

One of the easiest ways to come up with a lot of blog post ideas is to stay with a specific theme for a period of time. (I call this “dating a topic.”)

Choose a theme and commit to writing about it for a month or more.

Then see all of the different angles you can take on it. Write a broad blog post on your topic and then a more specific one.

For example, let’s say you had an art blog and you chose to write about how to do watercolor paintings.

You could write about…

  • The tools you need for watercolor painting
  • How to use water effectively
  • The different types of brushes and how to use them
  • How to paint a sunset
  • The differences between watercolor and oil painting

Then you could offer a free watercolor painting challenge and link to it in all of your posts. BOOM!

You’ve come up with dozens of blog post ideas AND grown your email list. (You can thank me by sharing this post. Wink, wink.)

7. Get inspired

Sometimes it helps to go outside of your blog (and away from your computer) to find inspiration.

I get inspired by…

  • Taking a shower
  • Working out
  • Going to good movies
  • Listening to podcasts
  • Reading books
  • Having conversations with friends
  • Exploring new places
  • Meditating

What are you doing when you get the best blog post ideas?

Make sure to do that regularly.

8. Write the things you want to write but are afraid to

It’s really hard for me to write when I’m resisting an idea.

An idea will come to me, but then I’ll think, No one wants to read about that, or That’s too risky to write about or I’m afraid to write about that because I don’t feel like I’m an expert.

(Don’t you just love imposter syndrome?)

So I will try to come up with a different idea to write about. I’ll look into my Evernote folder and try to get inspired.

But no matter what I do, I can’t force myself to write.

That’s because the idea won’t let me. It needs to be written, and until I give in and write that tough post, I can’t write about anything else.

I’m guessing I’m not the only one this happens to.

So if you have an idea that you are avoiding, just go ahead and write it.

You don’t even have to post it on your blog. Just get that idea out of your head so that you can move on with your life (and your blog).

9. Have a writing practice

Writing practice means that you write on a regular basis, just for yourself.

Here are Natalie Goldberg’s rules of writing practice:

Set a timer, and then…

  • Keep your hand moving the whole time.
  • Don’t think.
  • Lose control.
  • Don’t worry about punctuation, spelling or grammar. (You can even write off the sides of the page if you want.)
  • Feel free to write the worst junk in the world.
  • Be specific.
  • Go for the jugular.

Writing practice helps you get used to writing. It kicks writer’s block in the butt by forcing you to get your thoughts on the page.

Even if you never use anything from writing practice in your blog, doing it helps you tap into your deepest truths. And when you get those out, you’ll unleash a torrent of blog post ideas too.

Want to banish writer's block? Give voice to your deepest truths.Click To Tweet

How to never run out of blog post ideas

To recap, you’ll never run out of blog post ideas if you…

  • Get focused
  • Stay close to your audience
  • Keep an idea library ready
  • Approach the same topic in different ways
  • Do research
  • Write thematically
  • Give voice to the tough topics
  • Commit to a writing practice

What do you do to come up with blog post ideas? Share in the comments below.

8 Reasons You’re Not Getting the Blog Traffic You Want

8 Reasons You're Not Getting the Blog Traffic You Want

If there’s one thing every blogger wants, it’s more traffic.

You spend hours lovingly creating blog posts, only to put them out there on Facebook and hear…crickets. Sure, your mom and her friends might write a comment or two. Which is nice. Kind of. But…not really the point of your blog.

Many bloggers say it’s all about the promotion.

They say you’re not getting traffic because you’re not putting it out there enough.

And yes, you do need to tweet and retweet your posts. You do need to pin them to group boards on Pinterest. LINK You do need to create a strategy for getting your stuff out there.

But what if you’re promoting the heck out of your blog posts and you’re still not getting the blog traffic you want?

It’s really frustrating. I know.

And it may have less to do with promotion and everything to do with your content.

So…here are 8 things that may be keeping the traffic away from your beautiful blog.

1. You don’t know who your audience is and how you are serving them.

If you’re blogging with the hope of growing an audience, you must know who that audience is. Period.

(“Women from the ages of 25–55 who want to lead happy lives” is waaaaay too broad, by the way. Narrow it down. A lot.)

And you need to know them as well as you know your BFF. You need to know what they think about in the shower. You need to know what they’re excited about when they get up in the morning (other than their cup of coffee).

Otherwise, how are you going to create content they love and share and come back to again and again?

And the other thing?

You must know how you are uniquely going to help your people.

What about you and your blog is going to make them want to devour every one of your posts?

These two things – your audience and your focus – are sooooooo important. SO IMPORTANT.

Without having them in place, you can spend hours upon hours promoting the heck out of your stuff without building momentum and traffic. Because how can you get traffic – and more importantly, the right traffic – if you don’t even know who you want to read your blog?

Want a little guidance on figuring out your blog focus? Read this post.

2. Your post topics aren’t interesting to people.

So, you have a specific audience and a focus that lets you shine. You get to work writing a bunch of posts you think that audience will love. And then? Crickets.

Crap.

Why is this happening, again?

It’s because you forgot one small, insignificant, hugely essential step.

Talking to your audience.

Getting to know them and what they want to read about.

Your blog is a conversation between you and your audience.Click To Tweet

It’s not a monologue, it’s a dialogue.

So get out there, and ask them what they want to read about. Go into Facebook groups where your people hang out and ask them what keeps them up at night. Ask them what they’re excited about.

And then write your posts based on what you already know people care about. I guarantee you’ll get more traffic.

Note: You should also make sure you’re still writing what you care about, too. That’s kind of the whole point, right?

3. Your headlines aren’t clickable.

I get emails from bloggers every single day who want more visitors, more followers, more engagement on their blogs. And the first thing that often emerges is their lack of great headlines.

Rules for writing great headlines:

  • Your headlines should get people excited.
  • They should make people curious to read the rest of the post.
  • Even someone who has never seen your blog before should be able to tell, after reading your headline, what they’ll get from reading your post.

Far too often, I see bloggers write headlines like “Motivation Mondays #21” or “What We’re Reading Now.”

Those are fine headlines…if your blog is meant to be a personal journal.

But if you want people to click through and read your blog posts from Facebook, Twitter, etc, you need to make your headlines grab people’s attention.

I use the Coschedule Headline Analyzer for every single headline I write. And you should, too.

4. Your images don’t command attention.

Last year, I tripled my blog traffic – twice – by creating beautiful branded images for my blog posts.

It literally launched my blog and put me on the map.

Every single time you share your post on social media, you should have a gorgeous branded image to go with it.

(Yes. Every. Single. Time.)

And that image must be…

A. Eye-catching
B. Well designed
C. True to your brand

…and have your post headline and your logo or URL on it.

The web is a visual place. When you create a gorgeous image to go with each post, you give people more of a reason to click through and read.

And when you establish a consistent visual brand, you become recognizable to “your people.” So they will click through and read your posts. And share them. (Thus bringing you more traffic.)

5. Your posts aren’t readable.

I am a reader. I love sitting with my Kindle and reading for hours upon hours.

I don’t even mind that novels have no headings. Or subheadings. Or even (gasp) click to tweets.

But when I read blog posts, I come to them with a completely different mentality. I want to quickly skim through them, get the gist, and then, if I’m really interested, I will go back and actually read the post.

That’s how most blog readers are – they’re not there to spend a leisurely Sunday morning sipping coffee and reading every word of your blog post. They want to get in and out quickly.

So when your posts are just a long block of text, they click away. And never come back.

Make your posts very readable by adding headings and subheadings. Use bullet points, and bolded words. If someone can’t tell the main points of your post in less than 5 seconds, you will lose them (and the potential for more traffic, as well).

6. Your writing sounds like everyone else’s.

Not to make it even harder for you, but your posts shouldn’t just be readable – ideally, they should be a representation of you and your unique voice, as well. (Yeah, I know, I’m “shoulding” all over you right now. Sorry about that.)

Develop your own unique writing style and you’ll get people to stick around.

Tips for developing your writer’s voice:

  • Check out my Define Your Blog Voice Course. In 5 days, you’ll be 100% clearer about how to shape your writer’s voice so it’s uniquely yours.
  • Listen to yourself speak. What phrases do you say a lot? Incorporate them into your writing.
  • Go back to old posts and see if you can add some humor or unique words into them.
  • Create a language for your blog. (My friend Dre of the Branded Solopreneur does this really well.)

How does having a unique voice help you get more traffic?

Because people start to fall in love with you and your voice. And then they share your blog. Which brings in more readers.

Who then share with their followers.

7. You haven’t made it easy for people to share your posts.

Speaking of sharing, please make it really easy for people to share your posts:

  • Include click to tweets in every post. (For an example of some great click to tweets, check out my friend Karen’s blog, One Salty Kiss. She’s a click to tweet rockstar.)
  • Install social sharing buttons to make it extremely easy for people to share on the platform of their choice. (I recommend Social Warfare if you’re looking for a great WordPress plugin.)
  • Make sure you set up your blog posts so that when people do share, a correctly sized image gets pulled up with the post. (Social Warfare  makes this really easy to do.)

8. You’re not building an email list or a community.

I’ve known quite a few bloggers who had a post go viral.

And you know what happened the week after?

They went back down to their normal traffic. They didn’t make any money from that spike in traffic, and apart from it being really cool to have that much traffic, they didn’t actually benefit from it.

Yeah. I know. Not what you wanted to hear.

But here’s the thing. Traffic is great (unless you’re on the highway in Miami, in which case, it sucks), but it doesn’t mean all that much unless you have a plan in place to convert your visitors into fans and customers.

I’m not talking about plastering your blog with ads on the off chance one of your posts goes viral.

I’m talking about having a plan for getting your blog visitors onto your email list so that you can start building relationships with them.

Because once you’ve built a relationship, they will come back to your blog. They will share your posts.

And, instead of being another number, they’ll become a friend, a fan, and, ideally, a customer. Which is kind of the whole point.

8 reasons you're not getting the blog traffic you want

So…

  • Get clear on your audience and your focus.
  • Create content that really matters to people.
  • Write great headlines and create gorgeous graphics.
  • Make your posts readable, uniquely yours, and brainlessly shareable.
  • Have a plan in place to grow your email list and create community.

…and then worry about SEO, social media, guest posting, etc.

You will get more blog traffic. I promise.

How to Create Powerful Transformations and Get More Blog Fans

How to Create Powerful Transformations and Get More Blog Fans

Think of your favorite story.

Now, tell me this. Does it include some kind of transformation? I am betting it does.

There’s Harry Potter’s transformation from scared kid to powerful wizard.

There’s Katniss Everdeen’s transformation from poor District 12 citizen to world-changing heroine in The Hunger Games.

And what about Frodo Baggins change from homebody hobbit to savior of Middle Earth in The Lord of the Rings?

(Yes, I like fantasy movies. How could you tell?)

And guess what? The reason we’re so drawn to transformational stories is because we as human beings also go through experiences that transform us into different (and hopefully better) people.

When someone reads your blog, they are doing so because they yearn for transformation.

It may be a tiny transformation they’re seeking – like knowing how to cook something they’ve never made before.

Or it could be a huge one – like losing 50 lbs.

They key to getting more blog fans and followers is intimately understanding what transformation you are giving your readers – and where it fits into their journey as a whole.

That’s why so many of us (myself included) choose ourselves as our target audience – we deeply understand the journey our audience is on because we’re on it as well.

Once you map out the transformational journey of your audience, it becomes easier to help give them mini-transformations with your blog posts – and to create products based on what you know they want.

Ideally, every blog post you write, every opt in freebie you create, every paid product you make should be informed by your audience’s transformational journey.

Every blog post you write should create a mini transformation for your readers.Click To Tweet

Mapping Out Your Audience’s Transformational Journey

The parts of transformational journey include:

  1. The starting point
  2. The inciting event
  3. The goal
  4. The obstacles
  5. The transformation

1. The starting point: before the journey begins

The starting point is the status quo. It’s what life looks like before your reader decides to make a change. (Think about Harry living with the Dursleys and not knowing Hogwarts even exists.)

If you’re a food blogger, your reader could be feeling bored with her typical meals, and ready to explore new things.

If you’re a life coach, the starting point could be feeling dissatisfied with her life and wanting a change.

If you’re a homeschool blogger, the beginning of your reader’s journey might involve wanting to start teaching her kids but not knowing how and feeling overwhelmed.

Why this step matters

Often, the beginning is the most confusing part of the journey. But it’s also the time where there’s a lot of motivation to create change.

Understanding where your readers are coming from in the beginning can really help you write in a way that shows them you “get” them.

You can build trust and excitement by choosing blog topics that help your readers in the very beginning of their journeys. (And that lead them on the path to more of your content.)

2. The inciting event – What makes your reader want to change?

Often, people don’t make change until they experience something that spurs them into action. (Think Katniss’s sister getting chosen as tribute in The Hunger Games.)

For your readers, it might be finding out they have Celiac Disease and have to go gluten free.

Or it might be jumping on the scale and finding out they’ve gained 30 lbs since the last time they weighed themselves.

Or maybe it’s having their kids turn 5 and realizing they don’t like any of the public schools in your area, thus deciding to homeschool.

Why this step matters

Knowing why your readers want to make a change will help you get to the core of their desires and build a connection with them.

When you have an idea of what started your specific reader on her journey, you can also create content tailored to her particular circumstance.

For example, if she decided to lose weight because she’s getting married in 6 months, you can write posts on weight loss and wedding prep. But if she decided to lose weight because she gained the freshman 15 in college, your posts would look very different.

3. The goal:

Once your reader realizes she wants to make a change, she will probably choose a goal for herself and start moving towards it.

Goals may include losing 50 lbs, cooking more interesting meals, changing careers, learning how to teach, starting an online business…and on and on.

There may be smaller, incremental goals in the middle, like losing the first 5 lbs or cooking one impressive dish, but the important thing to focus on right now is the big hairy audacious goal at the end of the journey for your readers.

Why this step matters

When you really get what your reader is trying to accomplish in her life, you can help her make the changes she needs along the way to achieve that goal.

And if you can walk your reader over the bridge separating her starting point and her goal, she will trust you forever.

4. The obstacles

In movies like Harry Potter and The Hunger Games, the obstacles create drama and excitement. They’re why we actually care about the story.

If there was no friction or difficulty – if Harry beat Voldemort in the first book – there wouldn’t be much of a story.

And in real life, the obstacles are what provide a real sense of accomplishment at the end of the journey.

Plus, without the obstacles, your readers wouldn’t really need you. They would just walk over that bridge on their own.

Think about all of the hurdles your reader has to overcome to lose those 50 lbs. What makes it hard?

Maybe she eats out of boredom, or has trouble saying no to food at parties. Maybe she’s holding onto that weight out of fear. (If you’ve ever watched The Biggest Loser, you know what I mean.)

What about creating more interesting meals? Why is that difficult for your reader?

Maybe she lacks confidence in her skills in the kitchen. Or perhaps she doesn’t have time to meal plan.

No matter what audience you blog for, your readers have loads of obstacles to overcome on their path to greatness (and lucky for you, you’ve already overcome them).

Why this step matters

Knowing your readers’ obstacles and struggles can help you generate years’ worth of blog posts.

Most people read blog posts to solve their most pressing problems. When your blog posts are based on your readers’ pain points, they will be read more, shared more, and loved more.

5. The final step: the transformation

When your reader accomplishes her big goal, her outer world changes.

She may be thinner and healthier. She may have a life that’s more aligned with what she cares about. Or maybe she is able to teach her children and watch them have aha moments.

But it’s not just her outer world that has changed. It’s her inner one, as well.

She may feel more confident and sexier. Maybe she trusts herself more than she ever did before. Or perhaps she’s just proud of herself for learning something new.

Why this step matters

It is essential to understand the inner and outer transformation you’re creating for your reader, because when you have a true sense of the feelings she would like to have, you can create them in your blog posts and tap into them on your sales pages.

You know how you felt at the end of the last Harry Potter book? I don’t know how you felt, but I felt a sense of accomplishment and satisfaction.

Ultimately, that’s what you want for your readers. You want to write a blog that helps them transform.

Because once you do that, they’ll never forget you.

And you’ll have a fan for life.

 

How to Make People Fall in Love With Your Blog

 How to get people to fall in love with your blog

At its core, blogging is about wanting to be loved.

Before you roll your eyes, hear me out.

When you blog, you put yourself and your ideas out there for the world, and that means you want to be seen and heard. You want people to read your stuff and think, Wow, this chick is amazing. You want people to fall in love with you. (Feel free to argue with me in the comments if you disagree.)

I’ve never been the type to go after the guy all the girls wanted. In middle school, I picked the most nerdy, quiet guys to obsess about, because there was absolutely no competition.

But when you blog, you’re basically competing with the entire internet to get people to love you. And it feels really hard.

Just like you don’t have to get every man (or woman) to love you, you don’t have to get everyone on the internet to love you either. Just your people. The people who were meant to find you.

And here’s how to make them fall helplessly, hopelessly in love with you and your blog.

1. Really listen to them.

Have you ever been on a date when the guy actually listens to what you have to say, instead of going on and on about himself? It almost makes you fall in love on the spot. (At least I did. That’s one of my favorite things about my husband.)

You want to be the person that really hears what your audience is saying. And you become that person by finding them and listening to them. There are SO many ways to do this. Here are a few:

1. Facebook groups

Join them, actively participate, and PAY ATTENTION to what people struggle with. You can even be audacious and ASK them.

When I was just starting this blog, I went into a couple of my favorite groups and asked them what they struggled with in their blogs. So many people responded “being consistent.” And guess what? My posts on blogging consistently have been the most popular. (Shocking, right?)

2. Surveys

Every once in awhile, I ask my readers to fill out a survey in which I ask them what they are struggling with in building their blogs. The insights I get from reading their responses are unbelievably helpful.

If you don’t have readers (or a mailing list), you can go back to those trusty Facebook groups and ask people to do your survey as well.

3. Interviews

Actually talking to people is the most powerful way of getting to know them. (Shocking, right?) You can ask your survey respondents if they’re willing to talk to you over the phone, and you can straight out ask people you know in person or online if they could chat with you as well. I use a tool called Calendly to schedule the conversations.

After you’ve listened to your audience, show them you’ve listened by writing posts that directly answer their questions and speak to their concerns. When they see that you’ve not only listened, but acted on what you’ve heard, they will start to trust you. And trust is a foundation for love.

2. Define and refine your unique voice.

Even if you’re writing about topics that people are super interested in, they won’t fall in love with your blog if it sounds like everyone else’s. You need to craft your unique voice, your unique way of expressing yourself.

And it’s not hard. First, answer these 3 questions:

  1. Which adjectives do I want people to use when they talk about my blog?
  2. What type of place do I want people to feel like when they’re reading my blog?
  3. What words do I frequently use that can convey those adjectives/place?

Here’s an awesome “voice board” from one of the students of my Define Your Blog Voice course.

Lisa's blog voice inspiration board

You can check out her blog here.

Then get to writing. Use your answers to these questions to guide you. And don’t afraid to be bold and different. No one falls in love with a copycat.

3. Be vulnerable.

That’s right. Show your true self. When I was in college, I dated this guy for one and a half years. I thought I loved him, yet I was COMPLETELY MISERABLE the entire time.

Why? Because he couldn’t allow himself to be vulnerable. He would never open up and show me that he needed me. It really sucked.

So…to be truly lovable, you have to show people that you’re human, and that you care, and that you need them just like they need you. That means being vulnerable. That means sharing your struggles and opening up about things that might be hard to write about.

Be vulnerable by sharing personal stories. Be vulnerable by acknowledging when you need help. Be vulnerable by showing your human side, even if you’re writing about marketing tactics.

Vulnerability makes you lovable. Truly.

4. Keep showing up.

The people I love the most are the people who I can count on NO MATTER WHAT.

The same goes for your blog. If you blog consistently, you show people that they can rely on you to be there.

You show them that you’re in this for the long haul. And you give them more and more opportunities to fall in love with you.

For more on blogging consistently, read this.

How to get people to fall in love with your blog

It may not be as scary as standing on the sidelines at a middle school dance, waiting for someone to ask you to slow dance with them, but blogging is about wanting people to want you. And to fall in love with you. Here are 4 ways to make it happen:

      1. Listen to your audience.
      2. Define and refine your voice.
      3. Be vulnerable.
      4. Keep showing up.

It’s not the size of your email list that matters. It’s how you use it.

List building

Who else is tired of hearing about the size of people’s email lists?

Maybe it’s just me, but it almost feels like being told the size of someone’s…ahem…you know what.

It’s just TMI.

And it’s also TLI (too little information), because when you hear those numbers, they don’t mean anything. Not really.

It’s not the size of your email list that really matters.

It’s the relationships you have with your readers.

It’s whether your readers feel like they’re your BFFs or just…well..email subscribers.

And it’s whether your readers actually share your stuff and buy from you or not.

So many people focus on growing their email list because they’ve been told it’s what they need to do.

And yes, in order to have a successful blog and business, you probably need an email list.

But in order to make your list actually matter, you need to build it – and use it – the right way. Here’s how.

It's not the SIZE of your email list. It's how you use it. Click To Tweet

Step one: Grow your email list

Get the right people on your list.

How do I grow my list? is an incredibly common question.

But a more important question is How do I get the right people onto my email list?

Why are you building your list in the first place?

It’s because you want to connect and build relationships with your people. The people who will love everything you put out there. The people who you can truly serve. The people who will share your content around and make sure all of their friends read it, too. And the people who will eventually pay you for your expertise.

So if your list is filled with people that aren’t that into your stuff, it’s not going to do much for you.

When you think about growing your list, ask yourself the following questions:

  • What can I offer that will really and truly help the people I’m trying to attract?
  • What small wins can I help my ideal readers achieve? (If you don’t know who your ideal readers are, that’s a whole other box of stale cupcakes.)
  • What can I offer as a freebie that would make my ideal readers jump up and down for joy?

That’s what you should focus on creating to get people on your email list.

Create freebies that invite interaction.

So, an ideal reader finds your site. She downloads your delicious freebie. Now what?

If you set up your freebies to invite interaction, you can start building a relationship with your new reader right away. If not, they might download your freebie, use it, and then disappear forever. Or they might download your freebie, plan to use it, and then disappear forever.

Or, in the best case scenario, they download your freebie, use it, and then go out of their way to connect with you and thank you.

But you never want to make your email readers go out of their way. You have to be the one to build the relationship.

Here are a few ways to set up freebies to invite interaction:

  • Have a link in the freebie that they can click to share their learning in a private Facebook group (or in an email to you).
  • Create a free challenge or course with a social component that motivates them to connect with you and your community.
  • Tie your freebie to a challenge or contest. For example, if your freebie is a recipe printable or art project, create a competition where people can share a photo of the recipe they made or their art project in return for a mention on your blog (or maybe even a real prize).

Step two: Build relationships with the people on your email list.

It’s important to remember that your email list is full of people with whom you could potentially build relationships.

If you get the right people on your list, and approach each of them as a potential friend, collaborator, or customer, you don’t need a huge list to make money.

So…how do you build relationships with your email subscribers?

Set up a welcome email that invites them to connect with you.

As soon as someone gets on your email list, you can set up your email provider to send out a welcome email that is specifically designed to help them connect with you.

The first email that gets sent out to all of my new subscribers tells my story, and then invites them to email me and share their story.

This accomplishes 2 things:

  1. They feel like they know me.
  2. They are given an opportunity to reach out and connect with me.

When someone joins your email list, they are more excited about you than they ever will be again. They’ve just chosen to get to know you better, and it’s your chance to reach out and build the relationship.

Your first email can be all it takes to turn a subscriber into a friend.

Set up a longer series of emails to automatically go out to new subscribers

If you want to get really fancy, you can set up a sequence of emails that is designed to build trust and showcase your best stuff.

If you’re selling something, your email sequence should lead people to want to buy from you.

But even if you’re just trying to get people into your tribe, you can send out a few emails that help them find your best blog posts and give them access to your most valuable freebies.

Here’s a sample series to give you an idea of what I mean:

Email 1: Welcome – your story & a request for an email back with your subscriber’s story
Email 2: Name the top struggle you see your readers face and give them a blog post to help them with it
Email 3: Show new readers what is possible when they accomplish their goals in your niche
Email 4: Give them a list of your best blog posts about a specific topic or an exclusive download
Email 5: Invite them to connect again (or buy your thing)

Of course, the email content will vary depending on your niche and your goals for your subscribers.

Regularly connect with your readers

There are many ways to regularly connect with your email subscribers.

You can send them a weekly or monthly newsletter, you can email them your newest blog posts, or you can just check in on a regular basis and let them know what’s going on in your world.

It’s important to email your subscribers often with helpful, valuable content.

The more familiar people are with something, the more they like it. So when they see your emails on a regular basis, they start to feel like they know you. And the more they know you, the more they will like you.

Lots of bloggers struggle with this.

They worry that they’ll be annoying people.

They worry about losing subscribers.

They worry that they don’t have anything valuable to send.

I know, because I used to worry about these things, too.

Every time I sent out an email, I would feel like I was sending my self-confidence along with it. I stressed about un-subscribers. I felt like a failure when I had a low open rate.

But I’ve gotten over all that.

Because I know that the people who are truly interested in what I have to say will love to get my emails.

So…stop stressing and email your subscribers regularly.

Because if you don’t, you’ll lose out on building relationships with your ideal readers. And your list won’t really be all that valuable if your subscribers don’t know who you are because you never email them.

A few things to send your subscribers:

A weekly or monthly newsletter.

It doesn’t have to be long or complex.

You can give them a teaser of your most recent blog post. You can send them a picture of your dog, an update on how you’re doing, and a few quick tips about your niche. You can even send a short and sweet note with one action step to take that week. (I did that in my last blog, and it was very well received.)

Whatever you choose to send, make it your own. Infuse it with your brand and your voice. Get creative. (My newsletter goes out every Thursday. It is called Cupcake & Coffee, and gives something sweet and something strong for your blogging journey.)

Random love notes

One of my favorite people to get emails from is Jordana Jaffe. She sends out emails that always feel like a cozy (her word) dive into her life. They are full of insights and depth. And they make me feel like I know her.

She doesn’t send them out at the same time each week. But every time I get one, I open it.

Exclusive downloads

Every so often, create something for your current email subscribers. A PDF checklist, or a template, or even a free course. Send it out like a little gift in their inboxes.

Step four: Turn subscribers into customers

If your end-goal for your blog is making money, at some point, you will want to turn your subscribers into customers.

You can do this as soon as people join your list, through a well written email sequence, and you can do it over time, through occasional promotions and launches.

The key is to balance great, helpful content, with compelling promotions.

It isn’t easy to sell online (despite what many online marketers would have you believe).

But it’s a lot easier to sell to your list if you’ve already done the work of building trust and creating relationships with your subscribers.

I won’t go into all of the details of how to sell to your list here. (There are entire courses on the topic.)

But the important thing to remember is that before you can sell, you must build trust and convince them that they need what you’re offering.

Email list

It’s not the size of your email list that matters. It’s how you use it.

And that means…

  1. Filling your list with the right people
  2. Creating freebies that invite people to engage with you
  3. Building relationships through email sequences and regular communication
  4. Selling to your list AFTER you’ve created trust and excitement

10 Blog Designs That Will Make You Drool

10 Blog Designs That Will Make You Drool

Have you ever had a blog crush?

Not to weird you out or anything, but I kind of have crushes on all 10 of these blogs.

They are so beautiful, they kind of make me drool. But they’re not just gorgeous – they are packed with style and personality. They’re not just blogs – they’re experiences.

So…are you ready to fall in love with these ladies’ blogs, just like I did? Let’s jump in.

1. The Middle Finger Project

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Why I love it:

The moment you land in Middle Finger Project world, you know you’ve found something special.

From the Snark Mode/Censored toggle at the top, to the “word shitlist” footer area on the bottom, and everything in between, you feel immersed in Ash’s world – a snarky, irreverent, witty wonderland.

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It feels like every single thing on the blog was put there intentionally. And you immediately feel like you not only know Ash, you want to get to know her better.

Instead of being a bunch of content on display, The Middle Finger Project is an interactive website.

The opt-in area looks like a MadLibs workbook for adults:

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The contact form has dropdown menus, which include options such as “You can reply to me at [insert email address] as long as you promise not to A. Give my email address to Satan. B. Write back in a fake British accent. C. Use all capital letters. D. Send me an automatic reply.”

Who knew that filling out a contact form could be so fun?

What every blogger can learn from it:

Interactive, immersive blogs are the best. Can you find a way to make your blog more interactive?

Every component of your blog – from your footer to your sidebar – can be filled with your voice and style.

2. Wonderlass

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Why I love it:

Wonderlass is full of bright colors, pretty pictures, and free resources.

Allison isn’t afraid to be brutally honest with you, and she also isn’t afraid to shower you with gorgeously arranged photos, checklists, and helpful tips for your blog.

Plus, she wears black and white striped leggings in her photo. Pretty badass, if you ask me. (Not to mention her favicon is a donut.)

You can tell that Allison puts thought into every photo, worksheet, and blog post she puts out.

There are so many bright, gorgeous colors, and so many enticing freebies, that every time I visit her blog, I find myself thinking, Wow, I really need to up my blogging game.

You can spot her branded photos a mile away (which is how I found her on Pinterest. Check out her pinboard below).

And looking at her blog just makes me happy, because she’s so genuine, friendly, and all around awesome. (Yeah, I will probably overuse that word in this post. If you don’t like it, mentally insert your own variation.)

What every blogger can learn from it:

  • Make your freebies as enticing as a donut covered cupcake.
  • Include pictures of your actual worksheets in your opt-in boxes.
  • Choose a color scheme and stick to it. (We’ll cover that in the free 10 Day Blog Makeover Challenge. Click here to sign up.)
  • Take your own photos when possible.
  • And don’t be afraid to wear striped tights.

The Uncaged Life

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Why I love it:

Every part of the site makes it clear who Rebecca serves and how she serves them.

Just like The Middle Finger Project, it’s a customer focused, immersive experience. Notice the checkboxes above? If you click any one of them, you get an opt-in offer specifically tailored to you and your needs.

Scroll down, and you’re presented with another 3 options:
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Scrolling over these reveals Rebecca’s packages, created specifically for the 3 types of customers she serves.

What every blogger can learn from it:

Know who is in your audience. And, more importantly, be crystal clear about showing your readers whether they’re in the right place.

(Don’t worry about turning some people away – you want everyone – perfect fits and mismatches – to know instantly whether your blog is for them or not.)

Be crystal clear about showing your blog readers that they’re in the right place.Click To Tweet

4. The Late Bloomer Revolution

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Why I love it:

The Late Bloomer Revolution makes you feel like you’re in a garden, full of blooming sunflowers. Everything, from the header area, to the subscribe box on the bottom, is wrapped in cute, friendly, illustrations.

What really comes to mind for me is Michelle’s attention to details. Scroll over the top menu, and a branch with leaves follows your mouse.

In the “This is where the magic happens” section, every graphic is “alive.”

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Move your mouse over the E-courses graphic and the spoon changes directions. The paper in the typewriter rises, and the sunflower gets just a little bit taller.

Her bullet points are little sunflowers. And each and every page has a beautifully drawn, unique but clearly branded header image.

What every blogger can learn from it:

  • Pay attention to the small details.
  • Ask yourself, How can I delight my blog visitors in a unique way?
  • Those little things do make a difference.

5. Yoneco Evans

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Why I love it:

Yoneco’s site is simple but very beautiful. She used Bali as her inspiration, and you can feel that warm yet exotic touch on every page of her website.

Flowers, paper lanterns, and bright and colorful photos are dotted beautifully throughout, making you feel like you’re on a mini-vacation with a trusted friend. And they are nicely balanced with lots of white space, unique fonts, and a clear brand.

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What every blogger can learn from it:

Yoneco’s site was built on the Genesis framework. She built her own blog, using free stock photos and Canva/Pic Monkey. Pretty amazing, right?

You don’t need to hire a professional to build your blog from scratch – you just need to have a vision for how you want your blog to feel for your readers. (If you’re interested in learning more about how to shape your blog around your unique vision, check out the 10 Day Blog Makeover Challenge. It’s free.)

Also, simpler is better.

8. Forest North Books

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Why I love it:

Forest North Books is built on Squarespace – a super easy platform to learn, from what I’ve heard – by my friend Brenda.

Like Yoneco’s site, Brenda’s site is simple but beautiful. Her theme is trees, and nature, which you can see throughout her website.

Her blog feels like a comfortable place to rest before going back out into the world. Her branded graphics are simple and profound, and they just make you smile.

(Like this one)

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Above all, I love Brenda’s blog because it gives you room to breathe, and dream. You don’t feel like she’s trying to get you to do something, just inviting you into her world.

What every blogger can learn from it:

As noted with Yoneco’s blog above – simple is better than cluttered every time. Brenda doesn’t have sidebars, her logo is extremely simple, and there is more white space than anything else.

Include only the essential elements in your blog design, and leave everything else out.

9. The Branded Solopreneur

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Why I love it:

The Branded Solopreneur was designed by the most badass designer I know – Dre Beltrami.

Dre’s site uses a color palette of grays and yellow, which is consistent throughout. All of her graphics are beautiful, catchy, and different. If you see one of them on Pinterest, you know it’s hers. (One of my favorite parts of her graphics are her little flourishes, from frames, to watermarks, to flags.)

Her voice infuses every inch of her site, from her post titles to the language she uses in her posts. And you can immediately find what you’re looking for, whether that’s a branding mini-course or a chance to work with her on your branding.

What every blogger can learn from it:

Above all, be consistent. Stay consistent with your colors, consistent with your fonts, and consistent with your voice.

Be intentional about your branding, and stick with it.

10. Nashadka

Why I love it:

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Nashadka is the blog and website of one of my Have Your Cupcake members, Natasha Nashadka.

Natasha is an incredible artist, and her blog design perfectly highlights her art. Every blog post is accompanied by a gorgeous original painting, branded by her tastefully done logo/watermark stamp.

You can ogle at her original paintings, or you can watch a relaxing time-lapse video of her painting them.

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What stands out for me is that Natasha knows her superpower – her artistic skill – and every part of her blog celebrates that incredible talent.

What every blogger can learn from it:

The key to designing a memorable, drool-worthy blog is knowing what makes you unique, and then using all of the design elements – fonts, graphics, colors, etc. – to showcase your superpowers.

10 Blog Designs That Will Make You Drool

In all of the blogs listed above, one thing remains constant.

Even though they all look different, feel different, and appeal to different audiences, they are all a clear expression of the blogger’s unique voice and personality.

When you visit any of these 10 blogs, you feel like you really know the blogger. You feel invited in.

That’s what I want your blog to do for your readers, too.

Get The Blog Makeover and come out with a blog that celebrates you and your voice.

Why You’re Not Making Money From Your Blog (and How to Change That)

Why You're Not Making Money From Your Blog (and How to Change That)

I didn’t really want to write this post.

In my loving, creative, writer’s heart, I believe that blogging is about being true to yourself, about telling your story, about connecting with others.

So I was reluctant to write a post about why, if you want to make money from your blog, you can’t just blog for the sake of getting your story out in the world. Why you need to actually focus on making money.

But.

The cold, harsh reality is, most bloggers don’t make money from their blogs.

And the other truth is that blogging isn’t just a labor of love. It’s labor. And it makes me so sad and frustrated to see so many bloggers busting their butts and not making any income from it.

Because I know that they want more – for themselves, for their families, and for their lives.

That’s why I wrote this post.

1. You’re not making money from your blog because you’re not selling anything.

There’s this myth in the blogging world that if you just blog long enough, put in your time, create incredible content, you’ll get a gigantic flood of traffic and start making lots of money.

Yeah. That’s not going to happen.

You have to have a plan in place to make money. Aka, you have to sell something.

That something could be your own products or services. That something could be affiliate products. But if you want to make money, you have to sell something.

Many bloggers think that they’ll sell something once they’ve built up an audience. Which makes sense in a lot of ways.

But you don’t need a huge audience to sell something. You just need one person who wants what you’re offering.

So if you have an audience of at least 15 interested people, you can sell something to one of them.

2. You’re not making money from your blog because you don’t know your audience well enough.

The second thing many bloggers and business owners do is try to sell something that they think is really cool, but that they haven’t taken the time to research and see if people actually want it.

So they put their thing out there, and don’t make any money. Which hurts. And really, really sucks.

The amazing thing is, though, that in the world of social media and blogging, there are a bazillion ways to do market research.

Want to make money from your #blog? Get to know your audience as well as you know your BFF.Click To Tweet

I’ve been re-watching Tara Gentile’s course on Creative Live about How to Market, Launch, and Sell Your Next Big Thing. And in the course, she says something that is absolutely brilliant.

She says, “The key to grabbing your customers’ attention is unlocking the door between before and after.”

As in, once you know your readers’ before [where they are now] and after [where they want to be], and you determine how to help them unlock whatever is holding them back, you can make money.

But you need to actually know what their before and after is. You need to know how they feel now and how they want to feel. You need to get in touch with what they’re experiencing, worrying about. You need to know, in your bones, what their deepest desires are.

And before you can know all of this, you have to:

A. Know who your readers are in the first place.
B. Talk to them.

There are sooooo many ways to learn about what your audience wants and needs.

Survey them. Interview them. Facebook stalk them. Tweet to them.

Get to know your audience as well as you know your BFF. And then make something you know they want, not something you think-they-might-want-but-you’re-not-sure.

3. You’re not making money from your blog because you’re not willing to spend any money.

Yeah. I said it. (Well, more like wrote it, but you get the gist.)

You don’t want to spend money for a URL and hosting so you’re really limited as to what your blog can do.

You don’t want to spend money for email marketing so you’re sticking with a free Mailchimp account, which means you can’t set up any autoresponders to build relationships.

You don’t want to spend money to take any courses, so you waste time searching for blog posts and free webinars that will help you, but you end up confused.

And why don’t you want to spend any money?

Because you don’t see your blog as a legitimate business. Because you don’t believe that you can actually make money from your blog – or you tell yourself that once you start making money, you’ll start spending money.

In any other business, it’s assumed that you have to invest first in order to make money.

Even a hot dog stand owner has to buy his stand before he can sell any hotdogs.

When you invest money in your blog, you are telling yourself and the universe that you believe in yourself and your ability to make money with your blog. Just do it.

Here are the best investments I’ve made in my blog, if you’re interested.

4. You’re not making money from your blog because you’re not thinking outside of your blog.

The first thing that really grew my blog audience was Pinterest. I jumped from 1,000 page views per month to closer to 6,000. Still not huge, but it was a lot to me.

I was growing my email list by about 120 people per month, which felt great.

But then I did the 15 Day Blog Makeover Challenge. (Now the Blog Makeover. You can grab the guide here.)

I decided that I wasn’t messing around. I invested in Facebook ads to help people find the challenge.

And in less than a week, I got 300 subscribers. Not only that, but they were exactly the kind of bloggers I wanted to connect with.

Then I did the challenge 3 more times. Altogether, I’ve gotten about 1500 subscribers from doing the challenge. My Facebook group has grown from less than 100 people to over 3,000. Now I have a real, legit community online.

Blog posts are great. They’re powerful (when done right). But they’re just one tool in a huge arsenal.

When you only write blog posts and ignore all of the other marketing tools out there – like webinars, challenges, Facebook ads, email marketing, etc. – you’re essentially crippling your ability to grow your audience.

It would be like having a state of the art kitchen and choosing to only use your toaster oven.

You might say, “Well, I’m just figuring out this whole blogging thing, and now you’re telling me I have to do webinars, too? Geez Daniela. I thought you liked me.”

I do like you. And that’s why I’m challenging you to maybe write only one blog post a week instead of 3 and spend your extra time creating something different and fantastic. Something that people can’t ignore.

5. You’re not making money from your blog because you’re afraid to sell.

You have a product people really want.
You have taken a leap and invested in your blog.
You have taken a chance and created a Facebook group and a free course.

But you’re still not making any money from your blog. Why? Because you’re afraid to sell.

Maybe this is just me and I’m projecting onto you, and if so, I apologize.

Because I was really, really afraid to sell in the beginning.

I don’t want to bother people, I would think. Or, What if they get annoyed that I’m selling something and they unsubscribe?

I was so concerned with people liking me that I was afraid to sell to them.

The first time I launched Have Your Cupcake, my fabulous blogging membership site, I got scared and didn’t send out half of the emails I had planned to send.

Don’t be afraid to sell. When you sell something to people who really want it, you are actually helping them out.

Think about it. When you buy a new shirt that you absolutely love, you are really happy to have made that purchase. When you take a course and you get a ton out of it, you are delighted that you spent the money, because you’ve learned so much as a result.

Your potential customers are the same way. They actually want to buy from you.

And I’m assuming that what you’re selling is really freaking awesome. So not giving people the opportunity to buy is actually doing them a disservice.

6. You’re not making money from your blog because you don’t know how to sell.

So you’re finally ready to sell something. You know it’s amazing, and you’re actually excited to get it out there. So you put up a sales page, add a Paypal button, and hold your breath.

3 weeks later, you’re still holding your breath, because no one bought your thing. (Except your mom, and that was to test the button to see if it was working.)

I’m not saying I’m an expert in selling.

But I’ve learned a few things about how to sell. I’m not going into depth here…maybe in a future blog post. But here are the basics:

  1. Selling is about building relationships. People buy from people they trust. You build trust through your blog posts, emails, and interacting with people online.
  2. Selling is about getting people curious. Don’t just release something out into the world. Let your readers know it’s coming. Get them excited about it. Or, if you’ve already released the thing, give people little tastes of it so they can tell it’s for them.
  3. Selling is about urgency. Help your potential buyers decide to buy by showing them it’s important they buy now, either by doing a sale, offering a bonus, or closing the cart.
  4. Selling is about good copywriting and marketing. You have to know how to draw them in. (Here’s a really fantastic book on copywriting. (Affiliate link) I suggest you buy it right now and read it. Seriously.)

Why You're Not Making Money From Your Blog (and How to Change That)

You know what has absolutely nothing to do with why you’re not making money from your blog?

Your worth as a human being.

Your worth as a human being has nothing to do with why you're not making money from your blog.Click To Tweet

You are valuable. You are worthy. You are completely capable of making money from your blog. I promise.

So…

  1. Invest in your blog.
  2. Think outside the blog to grow your audience.
  3. Talk to your audience.
  4. Create a product that unlocks the door between their before and after.
  5. Learn everything you can about selling, and then sell the heck out of your awesome product.

I’m not saying it’s easy. But you can do it.

How to Plan for Your Blog So You Actually Make Money

How to plan for your blog so you actually make money

If you’re like me, you decided to blog because you loved writing, and you felt that you had something important to say.

And maybe at the back of your mind (okay, let’s be honest, the front of your mind) you had an idea that you wanted to make money, too.

You looked at the income reports from successful bloggers, saw that they were making thousands of dollars from their blogs, and thought, Hey, that would be nice.

The thing is, those successful bloggers aren’t some special alien breed. You, yes you, normal, everyday you, CAN make money from your blog. If you plan it right. Here’s how.

1. Decide how you want to make money.

There are lots of ways to make money with your blog, including…

  1. Selling affiliate products/writing sponsored posts
  2. Selling your own products and services.
  3. Running ads.

But wait…

HOLD ON A MINUTE

Before you go picking one of the monetization strategies, really stop and think about you, who you are, and what makes you feel all jazzed up and excited about life.

Often, bloggers choose a monetization strategy based on what they think is the easiest, or on what OTHER PEOPLE want, instead of based on what makes them feel all happy inside.

So let’s take a look at the different monetization strategies for a sec.

1. Selling affiliate products and/or writing sponsored posts

Do you love talking about other people’s products and how much they’ve helped you?

Are you constantly sharing resources with people?

Do you feel happy when you think about creating product tutorials and reviews? If so, selling affiliate products and writing sponsored posts may be your thing.

You can even sell affiliate products without a blog – just write really great social media updates.

However, if you’re not into writing reviews and tutorials, you may want to look elsewhere.

2. Selling your own products and services.

So this one is a bit huge. Let me break it down a bit.

Products can be anything from physical products (i.e. selling your art) to digital courses, to ebooks.

Services can be freelancing services, coaching or offering therapy, doing VA work, and so much more.

If you want to sell your own products or services, think about what you love to do.

Do you love creating things? If so, you may want to open an Etsy shop.

Do you enjoy teaching lots of people at once? Then you might want to create an online course or membership site.

Do you love working with people one on one? How about coaching?

You don’t need to know your exact strategy right now, just ask yourself some of these questions.

For example, I started my membership site, Have Your Cupcake about 7 months after I started blogging. I knew that I wanted to teach, but I didn’t know my audience well enough to understand what that teaching would look like.

After blogging for awhile and building relationships, I had a better handle on where my expertise and my audience’s desires matched up, so I could create a learning experience tailored for my community.

And because I started blogging with the knowledge that I wanted to sell courses, I was all set up to make it happen.

3. Ads.

Ads may seem like an easy way to make money in the beginning. Just fill your sidebars with ads, and you’re good to go.

But the reality is, Google Adsense brings in very little money per click, and by putting them up there, you are inviting people to leave your site to go buy whatever they were looking at online earlier. Plus they clutter up your site.

If you want to use ads as your main source of revenue, I suggest building up your audience to 20k plus page views a month, minimum.

For a detailed breakdown of the different ways to make money from your blog, check out Melissa’s post on The Nectar Collective, 11 ways to make money from your blog.

Another helpful way of looking at monetization is to think about your business archetype. Fizzle put out a incredibly helpful podcast on this topic, which you can find here.

Here’s a quick and dirty list of the archetypes:

  1. The Teacher
  2. The Thought Leader
  3. The Mediapreneur
  4. The Freelancer
  5. The Coach
  6. The Artist
  7. The Maker
  8. The Curator
  9. The Engineer
  10. The Retailer

Learning about these archetypes will give you deeper insight into who you are and how you can use your blogging superpowers to make money.

2. Choose a focus and stick to it.

So…now that you know how you want to make money, it’s time to start building momentum with your blog.

In order to do that, it is very important that you choose a focus.

Why do you need a focus?

Because without a specific focus, readers won’t have a reason to come back to your blog. If you are all over the place, people might come and read one post and then never come back. And you don’t want that.

The good news is, there are lots of ways to find your focus, including by:

Topic
Audience
Angle
Voice
Delivery Method

For more on this, read my post Why It’s So Hard to Find a Focus for Your Blog (and How to Do it Anyway)

3. Set milestones for yourself.

So…you know how you want to monetize, and you know what your focus is. Now it’s time to create milestones for yourself.

What do I mean by milestones?

Milestones are specific dates when you want to have a certain goal accomplished.

I will cover 2 types of milestones here – creation milestones and growth milestones.

Creation milestones

Creation milestones are content that you want to create, whether that’s blog posts, courses, etc.

When I started my blog, one of my first milestones was to offer a free course in the second month of blogging. I knew that I wanted to eventually get paid to teach, so I set a goal for myself to start teaching early on, even if it was free.

I got 30 people to sign up for my first free course, Define Your Blog Voice in 5 Days.

Then, 3 months later, my milestone was offering a larger course. I did The Blog Makeover which had 300 participants in its first round. (Altogether, ove 2000 bloggers have done the course so far.)

After that, my next milestone was creating a paid membership site.

See how that worked?

No matter your money making method, create milestones where you can do a small action, and then lead to larger ones.

For example, if you want to make money through affiliate marketing, maybe your first milestone is creating a thorough tutorial post for one of the products you are selling.

The next milestone might be making a 5 day, in depth course on the same product.

If you want to write sponsored posts, your first milestone might be writing a free post about a product you really love.

Your next milestone might be contacting that company and getting free products to review, and the next one would be to actually be paid for a sponsored post.

Growth milestones

In addition to setting goals for what you are creating, you also want to have goals for how much growth you want to see in your blog audience.

You can set growth milestones for:

  • Number of followers on social media
  • Number of people on your email list
  • Number of page views per month
  • Number of buyers

Don’t get too caught up in the stats, but do set goals for yourself and try to reach them by a specific date. That will help you stay on track.

Check out this epic post on how to actually make money from your blog!Click To Tweet

4. Understand the different parts of blogging how they work together

When people say to me, Oh, you’re a blogging coach. Isn’t blogging just writing? I want to laugh.

There are so many different parts of the blogging process, including…

Writing and design
Social media
SEO
Email marketing
Your offers

If you want to monetize, it’s important that you understand how each of these pieces fits into your larger marketing plan.

Here’s a handy graphic to give you an idea of how these things can work together.

Blogging as part of a content marketing plan

In brief…

  • Your blog posts are there to build traffic, authority and trust, and to get people interested in your email opt-in freebies.
  • Your email marketing is intended to deepen your relationship and show readers what you have to offer, so that they can make an informed decision about whether they want to become fans or customers.
  • And social media is there to get eyes on your blog and to build relationships.

You need each of these components in order to grow your audience and eventually monetize your blog.

5. Make yourself the CEO of your blog.

I, like so many bloggers, am a thoughtful and emotional person. And it’s SO easy to see my blog as a part of me. But that kind of thinking is exactly what prevents most bloggers from building successful blogs.

When you see yourself as the CEO of your blog, you stop looking at it as a part of you, and a measure of your worth as a human being, and you start seeing it as a separate thing – an engine to build relationships and grow an audience.

As the CEO, you need to…

Set specific goals

Take the milestones from step 3 and break them down into specific, achievable goals. Then hold yourself accountable for making them happen.

Be strategic

Don’t just write any post that comes to your mind. Plan ahead. As I wrote earlier, know what your milestones are, and plan your blog posts and other content accordingly.

Feel your emotions but don’t let them dictate your actions

If you told your boss at work that you were feeling sad and didn’t want to come in, what would she say? She would probably tell you to get your butt over there and do your job. When it comes to blogging, you need to treat yourself the same way.

Even if you don’t feel like it, do it anyway. That’s the only way to grow.

Want to make money from your blog? Think like a CEO.Click To Tweet

6. Talk to your audience and learn how to best serve them.

When it comes down to it, making money comes from giving people what they want.

How do you do this? By talking to them. Survey them. Interview them. Talk to them on Twitter. Ask them questions on Facebook.

Write your posts based on what you know they really care about.

When you do that, you will notice your readers coming back for more, because they know you care about them.

This also helps tremendously in deciding what to sell to your audience. If you have a deep knowledge of their struggles and desires, you can create or sell something that they will absolutely love to have.

7. Build strategic relationships with other bloggers.

One of the best ways to grow your blog audience is to get in front of larger audiences. You can do this by building relationships with other bloggers in your niche.

My friend Andrea Beltrami of The Branded Solopreneur and I recently did a mini course together, in which she told the audience and me that she wrote a list of 20 people she wanted to build relationships with in the coming year.

Then she shared those people’s blog posts in her own blog. She tweeted their stuff like crazy. She purposefully built relationships with them by being generous and showing them she loved their stuff. Now a lot of those bloggers (including myself) are her friends and advocates.

Make relationship building – both with your audience and with other bloggers – a part of your plan. It will be more than worth your time.

To watch the mini-course and hear Dre explain her whole strategy, click here.

8. Create blogging success habits, systems, and routines.

A money making blog is built one day at a time, through specific habits that will help you grow your audience and meet your goals.

What habits and routines can you commit to doing every day or every week?

Create blogging habits in the areas of:

Self-care – What will you do to keep your spirits up so that you can keep creating on a continuous basis?
Promotion – Create systems and habits for promoting your blog posts.
Relationship building – What consistent actions will help you build relationships with your audience and with other bloggers?
Content creation – Decide how you write and create the best, and make it an automatic habit.
Data analysis – It’s important to check your stats regularly and evaluate how you are doing. Decide when and how you will do this.

When you commit to doing these habits, systems and routines regularly, you will build your blog on a daily basis.

What routines do you do that build your blog on a daily basis?Click To Tweet

9. Plan when and how to invest in your blog.

Ah, investing in your blog. Such an uncomfortable topic for so many.

I believe that if you want to make money from your blog, you need to invest money into it.

This may sound woo-woo, but when you invest in your blog, you are telling yourself and the universe that you believe in what you are doing. And that has powerful ripple effects.

Aside from all that, though, there are areas where investing has a HUGE pay-off.

A few of the big ones include:

Going self-hosted.

Aside from not seeming legit when you have blogspot or wordpress in your blog URL, going with one of those platforms limits your monetization options. Just shell out $10 for your own URL, and less than $100/year for hosting. Trust me, it’s worth it. Want to know how to set up a self-hosted blog in a snap? Read this.

Social media automation.

If you are serious about building your blog and making money, don’t waste your time manually repinning and posting, when you could be spending that time creating and planning. Think about it. The CEO of a business doesn’t spend hours a day on social media. Neither should you.

Coaching/courses

When it comes to learning how to blog, there is tons of free information out there.

However, if you invest in a coach or in blogging courses, you will be able to figure it all out much more quickly. It took me 4 years to get my shit together and build this blog. That’s 4 years that I could have spent growing my audience. Don’t make the same mistake.

If you’re interested in joining the best blogging membership site around, click here.

10. Don’t feel bad about selling.

Many bloggers (including myself) get so caught up in providing free content, that we actually feel bad about making money. We want to make money, or at least we think we do, but we feel guilty about asking people to pay us.

Look. You are spending hours and hours building your blog, writing incredible content, building relationships, etc. Why shouldn’t you be paid for it?

If you feel weird about selling things, consider this – would you go to your day job without being paid for it? Of course not. And you are probably working just as hard at your blog as you have at any day job. You deserve to be compensated. You really do.

If you feel bad about selling, do it anyway. You aren’t forcing anyone to give you money, or to click your affiliate link. They are only doing it because they believe that what you provide is valuable and they want to give back.

How to plan for your blog so you actually make money

That was a lot, so let me recap. To plan to actually make money from your blog, you need to:

  1. Decide how you want to make money and make sure it fits you and who you are.
  2. Choose a focus and stick with it.
  3. Set milestones for yourself.
  4. Understand the different parts of blogging and how they fit together.
  5. Make yourself the CEO of your blog.
  6. Talk to your audience and learn how to best serve them.
  7. Build strategic relationships with other bloggers.
  8. Create blogging success habits, systems, and routines.
  9. Plan when and how to invest in your blog.
  10. Don’t feel bad about selling.

Making money with your blog takes time and effort. But you can do it.  I promise. Just start with step #1 and go from there.

How to Write for Your Audience Without Losing Your Voice

How to Write for Your Audience Without Losing Your Voice

How do you stay authentic, but also write for your audience?

How do you write what really matters to you, but also stick to a specific focus with your blog?

How do you tell your stories, while still making your blog useful to your readers?

Blogging can sometimes feel like a balancing act, with no clear answers to the questions above.

Last night in our Mastermind call for members of Have Your Cupcake, the sweet blogging membership site I run, one of the new members said that she felt lost. I connected with this, because I recently wrote a post about my experience of losing my blogging voice and then finding it again.

When we dug a little deeper, it came out that she wanted to change what she was writing about, but she was afraid that she would lose her current audience members.

As we talked through it, many of us on the call had different suggestions for her on how to reclaim her voice, despite her fears of losing her audience. Here’s some of what we came up with.

1. Write for readers who “get” you.

Do you remember middle school? It was probably the worst 3 years of my life. For years after, whenever I felt depressed, I would cheer myself up by thinking, Well, at least I’m not in middle school anymore.

Part of why middle school sucked so much was because I was so concerned with being popular. I really wanted the popular kids to like me, to understand me, to notice me. But, unfortunately, they preferred to torture me instead.

For high school, I transferred to an arts school, filled with quirky people like me, and suddenly I felt okay being myself.

When you write your blog posts, don’t worry about writing for people who don’t “get” you.

Blogging often feels like a popularity contest. You want everyone to love you and think you are amazing. But you can’t make everyone like you.

And if you try, if you give up your quirky, authentic voice in the pursuit of popularity, you’ll just end up being boring (and miserable).

Instead, write for your best friend. Write for your people. Trust that the people who connect with you and your message will find you. Forget about everyone else.

2. Talk to your readers.

This month in Have Your Cupcake, our focus is on learning about our readers so that we know how to best serve them.

If you don’t talk to your readers, you may be making lots of assumptions about them that aren’t true. You may think that they want you to write in a certain way, or about certain things, when really, they couldn’t care less about those things.

When you talk to your readers, and have real, true dialogue with them, you find out that they’re just humans like you, and that they want you to be real, and different, and yourself.

So get out there. Survey your readers. Ask them out for coffee (or for a Skype date where you both drink coffee in your own homes). Talking to your readers changes them from numbers in Google Analytics to actual people.

When you have conversations and learn what people really care about, you’ll find all sorts of things to write about that matter to you as well.

3. Realize that no matter where you are on your journey, you can still teach and inspire people.

In this crazy blogging world, it’s easy to feel like you need to be an expert in order to help people.

But the irony is, the more of an expert you become, the harder it is to remember what it was like to be a beginner. Often, beginners need to learn from someone who is just a few steps ahead of them, who still remembers what it was like to be brand new.

I believe that part of being real, part of owning your voice, is being completely honest about where you stand. And no matter where that is, it’s a perfect place to write from.

4. Don’t try to “hold on” to your current readers.

As bloggers, we get so caught up in looking at our numbers. Traffic stats, email subscribers, social followers, etc. And we want those numbers to keep going up and up.

So it’s easy to feel like we need to hold on to each and every reader we already have.

But here’s the thing: The readers who are truly going to connect with you and your writing, the readers whose lives will be touched by your blog, are going to stick around no matter what.

And the readers who aren’t, the readers who are meant to read a few of your posts and move on, will move on no matter what.

When I was in college, I had a HUGE crush on my friend Nik. I wanted him to be with me SO badly. So much so that I felt trapped in my own desire. I didn’t know what I could do to make him want to be with me, and it was driving me crazy.

Then my mom’s friend Nora gave me advice I’ve never forgotten. She said, If he’s meant to be with you, he will be. If he’s not, no matter what you do, he won’t be. So just let go and see what happens.

I did let go. And we never got together. But I didn’t feel quite as miserable anymore. And I was able to open myself up to other people.

So…it’s the same with your blog. Don’t feel like you need to hold on to your readers. Because, to be completely honest with you, they’re not yours to hold on to, anyway.

And, when you focus on writing what’s true for you, instead of trying to please your readers, you clear a path for new readers to find you, as well.

5. See yourself, and your voice, as sacred.

You can’t hold on to your readers. But what you can nurture, and feed, and guard, is your powerful and unique voice.

You can’t hold on to your blog readers. But you can nurture your powerful and unique voice.Click To Tweet

When you focus inward and see your voice as a precious thing, you will feel much better, and your writing will become even more dynamic and engaging.

You can’t control what others think of you, but you can control what you think of yourself. So say nice things to yourself. Take time to notice and appreciate yourself. Write from a place of personal power.

When you do that, your readers will notice. And the ones that love you already will love you even more.

6. Let your writing guide you where you need to go.

One of the things I love most about writing is that it teaches me what I need to learn. It gives me the courage to do things I never would do otherwise.

In the beginning of 2015, I barely had a blog. Now I’ve built a Facebook community of 2600+ incredible bloggers, I’ve created a membership site where I get to teach and learn from women I truly respect, and I feel happier and more fulfilled than I have in years.

Why? Because I let the writing light my path. As I wrote what was true for me, I gathered others who felt the same. And then they taught me where I needed to go next.

When you trust your voice, you are giving your writing permission to take you on a journey. And even though you don’t know where you’ll stop along the way, as long as you are true to yourself, your path will take you to incredible places, and your soul-mate readers WILL find you and want to walk with you.

How to Write for your Audience Without Losing Your Voice

The bottom line is this:

You started blogging because you had something important to say. And the only one with your voice, and your story, and your journey, is you. So if you’re not going to write your story in your voice, no one else will.

Be brave. Let go of everything other than what you can control – writing what’s true for you. When you do that, magic happens.

Let go of everything other than what you can control - writing what’s true for you.Click To Tweet