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Life Unexpected – It Ain’t Just a Hit TV Show!

A guest post by Cori Padgett from Big Girl Branding..

life-unexpected.jpgBeing self-employed, whether you’re a Ghostwriter like me, a ProBlogger like Darren, or a Funny Entrepreneur hating on cockroaches, things can be unpredictable. There are ups, there are downs, there are in-betweens, and there are twisted pretzels that have you walking sideways up long dark alleys. Echoing with all the things you’ve done, plan to do, or are thinking about doing someday. Whew.

Regardless of how well-intentioned your plans are, or how meticulously your create some sort of “schedule” for yourself, or how on fire you are to “do the damn thing”… there are always days your plans get thrown out the window or shot out of the sky and you’re left wondering what the heck made you think you could do THIS (whatever this is for you) all on your own anyway? Sheesh. You MUST have been crazy when you made THAT winning decision. (That was good-natured sarcasm btw.)

Working for your self can be lonely. As a freelance writer and “tadpole” blogger myself eighty percent of the time I’m pretty much immersed in my own mind and my own thoughts, left with my own company. And trust me, too much of my company is NOT a good thing. I get cranky. Everything falls on me in my business and if I don’t do the damn thing then it just doesn’t get done. Period.

The problem is… life happens whether you like it or not. Sometimes, regardless of whether it’s all on you or not life happens and getting it done just isn’t in your cards at the moment.

It could be an illness that strikes, a family emergency, or maybe just plain ‘ole lack of motivation and focus. It happens, and you just sort of have to accept that it happens, hitch up your socks… and keep moving forward.

Like this TV show…

Maybe you’ve seen this show, maybe you haven’t… either way, here’s the skinny.

A mom gets prego’s in high school by the school jock with a baby girl… never tells him and gives it up for adoption, then goes about her merry (or not so merry) way.

Fast forward 16 years later and the kids been in and out of foster care, bounced from crappy home to crappy home and the mom is a high-profile radio DJ. Oh, and the dad’s a loveable but overgrown man-child who runs a bar with his equally overgrown man-child mates.

The baby girl tracks down her biological units seeking emancipation so she can live with her foster buddies as an “adult”. Only instead of that happening the court awards the biological parents joint custody, denying emancipation. Ouch.

Long story short?

The two kids that “were” are now two parents that “are” to a 16 year old baby girl that isn’t a baby anymore… and none of them have a clue what to do next. Ready or not, parenting here we come!

Working for your self is a bit like becoming a parent. Expected and planned, or unexpected and unplanned, the only thing you can REALLY plan on… is nothing going according to plan!

Life unexpected. Ready or not.

So what can you do to cushion the blow when life doesn’t go your way, or business doesn’t stay on track, or your blog doesn’t seem to be going anywhere? Whatever your situation happens to be?

A few things actually.

Just because things rarely go according to plan, doesn’t mean you shouldn’t have one. That old saying “Fail to plan and you plan to fail” should be your MANTRA when it comes to your goals.

Write it on your white board, paint it on your wall, or stamp it on your forehead but never forget that while even the best laid plans can go off the rails… if you don’t have rails in the first place how do you know where you’re headed? And forget fixing it because you won’t know what’s broke.

Oh, and don’t count on the North Star either because guess what boys and girls? This isn’t a hike in the hills, not if you’re serious about your road to freedom. Financial freedom, personal freedom, freedom of speech… whatever.

This is your life and your business.

Make a plan, find a direction, create a goal. Then get to work and make it happen. Like Nathan Hagen says, elbow grease is how you succeed.

When you hit a roadblock go over it or around it or plow right through it if need be. Whichever suits your personal style but don’t let it get the best of you or beat you. Don’t let it derail you from what you want to accomplish. Do the damn thing.

So that’s first. Make that plan.

The second thing? Make a back-up plan!

Duh!

Sure it’s kinda boring making all these “plans” and maybe your more a “fly by the seat of your pants” guy or gal but trust me when I say… having a back-up plan doesn’t make you boring it makes you smart.

NOT having a back-up plan makes you dumb. Or lazy.

Or maybe just overwhelmed, which is totally OK as long as you know that you NEED to get that back-up plan in place and it’s on your priority to-do list.

For instance, I recently had a client that pretty much kept me busy for 7 months straight with fairly large projects that paid my bills quite nicely. I got comfy and lazy and stopped marketing the way I did before and guess what? That job came to an end and I was stuck with no back-up plan in place. Bills unpaid, stress and worry, hard lesson learned.

Or an even more recent moment… just this past week I was sick as a dog. Which meant no writing got done and my blog mojo I’d been trying so hard to keep flowing dried right up because I didn’t have anything planned for when I wasn’t up for writing. No blog mojo= no blog visitors= no blog growth. Equals BIG bummer.

So make that back-up plan, whatever it needs to be.

Finally?

Get some support. Find some friends.

Build some relationships that can help keep you going through hard or scary or exciting times. Build a network that can help you leap over those roadblocks and set-backs and kick your butt into gear should you need said butt kicking.

Stepping out on your own is an amazing journey. Working for yourself and nailing it is a special kind of freedom you have to experience to fully appreciate. And doing it yourself gives you a killer feeling of satisfaction. But you can’t do it completely alone.

Look at it like this.

Sure it’s fun and exhilarating to parachute out of a plane all on your own, especially if you’ve never done it before. You’re “The Man”! (Or “The Woman”!)

But me?

Maybe it’s common sense, maybe it’s the mom in me. But the first time I step out of a plane, I plan on going tandem… not on my own!

Life unexpected ain’t got nothing on me, how about you?

Warm regards,

Cori

Cori is a freelance ‘ghost’ for hire and the creative brains and dubious brawn behind her blog Big Girl Branding. She’d also like to note that ‘big’ does not mean what you think it means. It was meant to indicate being a grown up. Sigh… Of course you probably didn’t get that, and it totally loses its effect when she has to explain it. So I guess she’ll just have to put on her ‘big girl’ panties and deal with it. She’ll feel better about the whole misunderstanding though if you just visit her and say hello. Don’t be shy!

4 Classic Mistakes I Made In My First Year of Blogging [and How I Got 1000 Subscribers Anyway]

Guest post by Annabel Candy from Get In the Hot Spot

Like a lot of people I set up my blog as an experiment. I wanted to raise my profile as a writer and build up a blog which publishers would see as a useful marketing tool.

Realising how important it was to commit to blogging I vowed to blog for a year and, because I work best with a goal in mind, I set myself the challenge of getting 1000 subscribers after a year blogging with my deadline the end of March 2010.

I picked 1000 subscribers as my goal because I read somewhere that this is the amount of subscribers a writer needs on their blog to get publishers interested. I know 1000 doesn’t sound like a lot when you look at Problogger’s RSS count, but I thought it was a number that was both achievable and challenging.

The point of an experiment is to find out what works and what doesn’t and from that point of view my experiment has been a successful one.

I started blogging in about March 2009 and there are a lot of mistakes I made during my first year of blogging that I’ll do differently next time I set up a blog.

My Classic Blogging Mistakes





1. I changed my topic after 4 months


Although I spent a lot of time thinking about what to write about in my blog I still got it wrong. In the beginning I focused on writing a blog for people who want to move overseas but I soon ran out of steam. It was a subject I knew a lot about and loved but after about 4 months it just didn’t interest me enough to keep me writing about it three times a week.

In the end my blog topic really chose itself broadening naturally to self improvement with the focus on helping people live their dream. Since many people have the same dream of travel and writing as me I had a good angle and since I’ve been interested in travel, writing and self improvement for as long as I can remember it wasn’t something I’d ever lose interest in or run out of things to write about.

As you can see from my Feedburner stats even after about 6 months of blogging in August 2009 I’d only got about 43 subscribers.

feedburner-stats.jpg

It was depressing but I’d made a promise to stick with blogging so I persevered. I even wrote a guest post for Problogger called Getting Over The Blogger’s 6 Month Itch telling other bloggers why they needed to stick with it too.

2. I only got my own domain name after 6 months of blogging

Because my blog was an experiment I didn’t buy my own domain name or host the blog myself, it was just hosted by WordPress.

In August 2009 I got my own domain name and started hosting my blog there. That month I doubled my subscribers from 37 on August 1st to 83 on August 30th. Maybe readers started taking my blog more seriously now I was.

3. I never invested in graphic design

My husband and I threw together the look and feel of it based around the invitation for a leaving party we had in 2007. We’re now working with a graphic designer to get a professional look for the blog. It will be interesting to see if that helps convert more subscribers but I’ll never know how many potential readers and subscribers I’ve lost this year by not investing in graphic design at the beginning.

4. I used Feedburner for my email newsletters


There were two main problems with using Feedburner for email subscriptions. First it sent an email every time I posted which was overkill when I was posting three times a week. Secondly the emails were unbranded and ugly.
This February I switched to a different way of managing my email subscribers. If you look at the Feedburner graph that’s when there’s a drop off in subscribers because the email subscribers were being recorded on MailChimp. It lets me send out branded emails and is free if you have less than 500 email subscribers. I have a feeling choosing MailChimp could have been another mistake as all the professionals recommend Aweber so once again my penny pinching could have cost me subscribers but at least my email newsletters only gets sent when I want them to, not every time my blog is updated. I can always switch to Aweber but if that happens I’ll probably waste a of time changing over.

So How Did I Get 1000 Subscribers?

Well, actually I’ve only got 923 so far (575 by RSS feed and 358 by email) at the time of writing I still have 16 days until my self-imposed deadline. I’m fairly confident I’ll make it to 1000 and if I don’t I believe in rounding up so anything over 950 will do the job.

Here’s how I did it:

  1. I kept going for the whole year even when it looked as if I’d never make it.
  2. I wrote guest posts.
  3. Even when my guest posts were rejected by my blogging heros I wrote more posts and tried again until they accepted one. I finally succeeded in November 2009 with guest posts on Problogger and Zen Habits. If you look at the graph again you can see a huge jump in subscribers from 117 on November 1st to 478 at the end of the month because of that.
  4. I kept learning about blogging and improving my writing and my blog layout but although my subscribers rose over the next 3 months progress was slow.
  5. I started posting once a week instead of three times a week on my own blog so I had more time to write guest posts for other blogs because that proved the best way for me to find new readers.
  6. In March 2010 with my deadline looming I went all out and had guest posts on five major blogs including Problogger, Zen Habits and Write to Done.
  7. I believed in myself and ignored people who said it was a waste of time.
  8. I worked hard and kept my goal in mind.
  9. Once I did set my blog topic I focused on it 100%.
  10. I wrote my heart out and really helped people by giving them the most useful information I had on how to make their dream come true.

If I can do it anyone can. I own a business, work from home, have three young kids and run a busy household but in 12 months I still managed to set up a blog I’m proud of.

Over the next year I’ll be continuing the process of improving my blog by setting up the new design, adding incentives for subscribers, possibly offering a free e-book, writing more guest posts, working on my search engine optimisation and setting myself a new goal.

In March 2011 I’d like to have 5000 subscribers. But I worry it’s too low. Over the last year I’ve increased my subscribers 1000 times so if I do that again next year I should be aiming for 10 million subscribers but that ridiculous. Somehow I need to work out how many subscribers I should aim for after two years of blogging and then get on to it.

My ultimate goal is to make money from my blog. I have a few ideas on how to do it but there’s still lots of work to be done, experiments to be made and challenges to overcome. I’m looking forward to it.

What have your worst blogging mistakes been and how do you measure your blog’s success?

Further Reading: Check out ProBlogger’s Guide to Your First Week of Blogging.

For information and inspiration to help you live your dream read Annabel Candy’s self improvement blog, Get In the Hot Spot. Please subscribe to the RSS feed or choose email updates to stay posted on the latest articles.

11 Ways to Add to the Conversation of the Blogosphere and Stand Out from the Crowd

One problem that I see a lot of bloggers falling into the trap of doing is simply writing what everyone else is writing about on their blog – and doing it in the same way everyone else is. The term ‘echo chamber’ comes to mind.

I think we’ve all done it (or have been tempted to) – a news story breaks, we report the news, perhaps with a quote and link from another source and we’re tempted to leave it at just that.

In this video I share 11 ways to add to the conversation happening in the blogosphere by adding something extra to the topics everyone else is reporting on. In doing so you add something unique and raise yourself and your blog out of the echo chamber.

Watch this video at full size at How to Add to Conversation in the Blogosphere.

Google Aquisition of ProBlogger – April Fools Day Recap

I think most people worked out that my last post (ProBlogger Acquired by Google) was an April Fools Joke – however I wanted to make sure.

It was an April Fools joke!

It’s been two years since my last April Fools Day prank – last time (in 2008) I issued a press release announcing that I was starting a new company – Pay Per Tweet. Of course back then the idea of sponsored Tweets had not happened and it caused some outrage – all I can say is that I hope this year’s prank comes true too! :-)

The idea for this year’s joke started with a dream – a real dream where Google actually did buy ProBlogger for a new blogging platform for professional bloggers. I tweeted the dream and it got such a good reception (including from a few people who work at Google/Blogger) that I filed it away as an idea for April Fools Day.

Yesterday I decided to go for it and wrote the press release announcing the acquisition. I even went so far as to register a domain for my next business venture – FoolsMedia.com and setup a twitter account for it (funnily enough that Twitter account is already getting followers and is featured on at least a couple of Twitter lists).

Of course running an April Fools Day post on your blog has some benefits and risks.

On the negative side – some people fall for it, and fall for it hard. Today I’ve had a lot of emails, DMs, comments and even a few phone calls congratulating me on the ‘acquisition’ (and a few accusing me of selling out). I even took a call from a family member (who was very happy for me) and another from a reporter (who wanted to run a story of me selling my blog). I’ve had to follow up with a few people to make sure that they realized it was a joke – although I have to say most got it.

On the up side – the joke was a lot of fun, caused a nice ‘buzz’, was retweeted a lot (actually I think most people who were fooled were on Twitter where people just saw the headline and started RT’ing like crazy without reading the post) and even got a few incoming links from other sites who pointed it out.

A big thanks to a few people for making this possible. Firstly to Google/Blogger for their inactive part in it (although guys…. if you ever want to buy a blog about blogging…. you know where I am), secondly to Lara who had to moderate the comments when my last post went up… and lastly to everyone who read and responded to the post (whether you were fooled or not) – thanks for playing.

ProBlogger Acquired by Google

Press Release: For Immediate Release
1 April 2010

MELBOURNE, Australia. (April 1, 2010) – ProBlogger, the web’s #1 Blog Tips site, today announced that it has been acquired by Google.

This acquisition will be a part of Googles extension of the ‘Blogger’ brand and a precursor to their new professional blogging suite of applications – ProBlogger.

“Blogging continues to grow in popularity, not only for personal use but by entrepreneurs and businesses around the world. Once seen as a ‘fools game’ – blogging has now grown up.” said a Google representative today. “Google’s new professional blogging suite, ProBlogger, will put an amazing array of tools into the hands those wanting to take their blogging to the next level.” said a Google representative today.

“What better brand to align these new tools with than ProBlogger, a blog that has consistently produced blog tips for professional bloggers for just under six years.”

“Some have called me a ‘fool’ for even considering selling ProBlogger,” said founder of ProBlogger Darren Rowse, “but I’d be a fool not to allow the ProBlogger brand to be developed by one of the world’s most innovative companies. I’m excited to see where Google will take ProBlogger going forward.”

The acquisition of ProBlogger will allow Darren to concentrate on his other projects including his main site – Digital Photography School – and an upcoming project – FoolsMedia.

Darren Rowse will remain a part of ProBlogger over the next 331 days where he plans to to begin a series of posts entitled ’331 days to Build an Even Better Blog’ – a follow up to the successful 31 Days to Build a Better Blog.

About ProBlogger

ProBlogger is a blog about blogging. Kinda sad really but not as sad as having a blog about Tweeting… or a book about blogging… that’d be sadder! ProBlogger was founded by Darren Rowse on September 23 2004. Since that time Darren has published 5,356 posts and the blog has received 178,448 comments. A Foolish endeavour? Maybe – but perhaps not as foolish as this press release!