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10 Ways Multi-blog Authors Can Stay Creative and Generate Great Posts

This guest post is by Jo Gifford of Cherry Sorbet Creative.

Keeping fresh and creative is key to keeping on top of the game when writing different blogs across various sectors, and for various clients. Working with efficient workflows, time management and organization all help to keep that valuable information harnessed to be used when you need it, but how about making sure you can produce great content on time and on demand?

Keeping creative and informed means you are working efficiently to produce content that’s engaging, informative, and, of course, profitable for you. After all, time is money when you are managing a number of blogs and clients.

Here are my top ten tips for fueling that creativity, generating ideas, and managing your time and resources.

1. Make the info come to you—start mass reading

Working smartly is such a key part of working creatively. The brain loves to shoot out those genius ideas when it is free to do so, but cluttered working habits, information gathering, and idea dumping leave little space for those Einstein moments.

So, my first tip for working across blogs is to make the information you need for your different blogs or publications land on your doorstep with minimal effort. That means setting up Google alerts on your subjects of interest which are emailed to you as they occur.

Set up  journo request callouts on databases like Gorkana to allow PR pros to do some groundwork for you, and of course use #journorequest and #bloggerrequest on Twitter.

Use your groups on Linked In to source info, and set up specific RSS feeds grouped together in Feedly to get the blog posts and info you need at source. And of course, the old-school way of signing up for email updates from the right resources will see you right.

Speed up your fact finding, and you can concentrate on fueling great post ideas.

Okay,so now we have info flowing in, but an inbox filled to the brim. Well let’s sort that out too.

2. Filing it cleverly: Other Inbox

If you power your mails with gmail like I do, Other Inbox is your new best friend. I use gmail to ensure all my emails across blogs I write for and my design agency to come together in one place so I don’t miss anything.

OIB is an intuitive add-on app that actually learns where you file things over time, and does this for you. You can set up smart filing to send alerts and emails from certain sources, or containing particular keywords, to go where you wish. In this way, OIB makes that overwhelming inbox panic dissipate.

No creative genius can be cooking with gas when there’s a load of emails looking urgent. Get your inbox filed for you, check it when you need to, and carry on with the magic-making.

3. Dump it! Brain dumping for multiple sources

A wonderful part of working creatively to generate great posts is that those ideas can be trained to come. The problem is that we can’t always tell when they’ll hit.

Finding a brain dump system that works for you is key to keeping your ideas to hand for those moments when you can sit down and crack out the post that you need to.

Evernote is one of my favorite tools for mobile info dumping, and for grabbing info while browsing. I also use Simple Note and Google Docs to file useful ideas.

Designing a workflow that’s intuitive and works to your strengths makes life at work and—in the time away from it—so much more fun and a lot less stressful.

4. Getting creative

One of my favorite books around creativity is The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron. The book provides a 12-week, step-by-step process to unblocking creativity, and includes some fantastic tools and techniques for putting that grey matter to work.

I have gone though the process twice, both times with amazing results which have sent my business in unexpected directions that are aligned with my real aims and goals. Dip into the book. Even if you don’t do the whole thing, I’m sure you will find some of the daily tasks really useful to kickstart your creative thinking. Remember, innovation is just creativity and we can train it.

5. Find your zone and stay in it

In addition to getting your creative juices going, finding your zone to work in is so important. I wrote a post about it, the basic message being: whatever works for you, do it.

If you know that eating a banana and having a cup of coffee gets you in the zone, great, off you go. If it’s a run followed by two hours of great writing, replicate that and there you have a successful recipe. For me, it’s Daft Punk on the headphones, a coffee, and a set time limit to write with the reward of a run at the end. Find what works for you and use it to your advantage.

6. Map it!

Mindmapping is one of my favorite ways to get ideas out in a non-linear way that best expresses my thoughts. I use Mindmeister on my computer and iPhone to brainstorm business ideas and blog posts using imagery, colored segments and links, and all sorts of fun things.

I am even happier when brainstorming in real time with other colleagues or associates—it’s amazing to see ideas develop visually in a way that can be shared and presented so well.

7. Reach out

So often bloggers and freelancers work in isolation—in the ubiquitous PJs, of course. Make a point of having a few friends, colleagues of associates that you can brainstorm with, over a coffee in the big wide world, or using Facetime or Skype if you need to be surgically removed from your dressing gown.

Every genius needs to bounce around some thoughts from time to time and it’s a healthy way to get perspective, see things from a new angle, and just to ensure some human contact.

8. Step away from the machine! Illumination needs you

One of the best ways to let ideas flow is to step away from the screen. Illumination, one of the steps in the creative thinking process, needs space to happen.

I often have ideas when I step away to make a cup of tea, or to do some cooking; a process that isn’t taxing your mind or filling it with yet more information will let the ideas come for the next brilliant post you can write.

9. Unblock yourself on time

Despite our best efforts sometimes that white page or screen just catches out out. The cursor blinks, you try your best workflow habits, but nothing.

A good technique for creative thinking in a time managed manner when a deadline looms is to slice that time up into chunks of 15. Set your phone timer or computer gadget to a 15 minutes and make yourself write just a little.

You will often find if you start off, however clunky the writing is, you will get there. I wrote my MA thesis in a similar way, making myself do 500 words a day whether I felt like or not, was tired, slightly tipsy after work drinks, or just plain not in the mood. Slice it up and it will stop the panics from setting in and quashing any creativity even further.

10. If you are really stuck, go outside the box and freestyle

Try some creative thinking techniques such as random word association: auto-generate a word online or pick a dictionary page and see how that word or object makes you see your brief in a different light.

For example, a car: think of wheels, motion, driving, journeys … do these spark any ideas for your subject? Keep some tricks up your sleeve for the days when your genius is running a little slower than usual and you won’t fail to deliver.

Jo Gifford is a designer, writer, blogger, and founder of Cherry Sorbet Creative. Working primarily in the beauty, fashion and lifestyle industries her work spans graphic design for print and web, social media management and training, copywriting and editorial for on and offline publications. You will find her blogging as Dexterous Diva, and on Twitter bot ahs Dexterous Diva and Cherry Sorbet.

Feeling Lost? Let a Blogging Roadmap Lead You to Success

This guest post is by John Davenport of Phogropathy.com.

It’s been said countless times in the blogging world that in order to be successful we need a plan. But how do we create this plan in a way that will help us reach our goals?

Do we scratch it onto a piece of loose paper?

Do we grab a crayon and write it on a napkin?

Do we create a text doc on a PC and save it in some folder filled with hundreds files?

No. We create a roadmap.

When I first started blogging I had one goal in mind: to grow my audience. I was a nobody (and still I pretty much am a nobody) in this busy world of blogging, but I want to be a somebody, someday. So I created a roadmap to get there. You should too!

Recognizing the problem most new bloggers face

What’s the problem we all face when we start out blogging?

Too many great ideas at once.

We’ve all been there, right? That first idea pops into your head, and then another, and then, oh my, you’re already thinking of redesigning the layout of our blog, but you also have that ebook you want to start, and you’re supposed to have a newsletter out at the end of the month! Your to-do list keeps growing and growing and there’s no end in sight.

Every new blogger who does any amount of research on how to gain blogging knowledge has certainly found themselves here at ProBlogger; the problem is that it’s too good a resource!

Every day there’s a new post telling us to do something with our blog. Maybe what to do if your niche blog fails to make money, or that you should have built a newsletter opt-in box before you published your first post.

Regardless of what we’re learning, these posts always will generate new ideas for us to apply in our own blogs—I mean, that’s what they’re there for, right?

When it comes to planning your blog’s future, we need to put all this information in an organized spreadsheet that we can glance at. This way, we’ll and know exactly what we need to get done in January and what will be done by October.

Creating a roadmap

Organization is probably the most vital skill in the blogging world. You might not have to have all your papers in line and all your photographs in perfectly named folders, but your plans should be organized.

This is precisely where a blogging roadmap will come in handy. You might ask, “John why do I need a roadmap? Won’t a simple to-do list do the same thing?” Here’s my answer.

A roadmap gives you:

  1. an organized layout
  2. a clear-cut timetable
  3. accountability (optional).

Let’s break this down a bit further shall we?

A list is a great way to start your roadmap, but ultimately you’ll want a plan that’s visual. When we have multiple projects spread across many months, if not years, a simple list can become an overwhelming thing to look at. At that scale, it’s definitely not informative.

So, sure, a list can be a great starting point, but at some point it’s necessary to break that list into chunks—I broke mine up by yearly quarters—that reflect the things we want to accomplish in a given timetable. To give you an idea, here’s a screen shot of my 2011 – 2013 roadmap for Phogropathy.com.

What you want to make sure you do when you create your roadmap is to spread things out. You don’t want to have a roadmap that ends next month: you’re building your blog for the future. So let’s make sure we plan things accordingly.

Once your to-do list is in roadmap form, you’ll have a few years of targets planned. Now you’ll be able to visually see how all your blogging efforts fit together and ultimately, that will help lead you to successful growth.

How? The clear-cut timetable gives you the ability to predict when you need to buckle down and get your work done on a specific project. For example, if you want an ebook ready to be published by Q3 of this year, you’d better start the final draft by the end of Q2, and the pre-marketing campaign sometime in early Q3.

I made accountability an optional advantage in the list at the start of this discussion, and that’s mainly because some people like to be more secretive about their overall plans. But if you do choose to publish your roadmap, your readers will know exactly what you’re planning and when these things will take place. This means that you’ll be more likely to meet your deadlines, so that you keep your readers happy. But regardless of whether you share the information or not, with a roadmap, you’re always accountable to yourself.

Planning ahead is key when you’re the only one driving your blog. You don’t want to get lost and you certainly don’t want to drive off a cliff. So make sure you create a blogging roadmap, and never leave home without it.

Do you already work off a blogging roadmap? What’s your major goal for 2012?

John Davenport is an avid amateur photographer and blogger. He shares daily photographs on his blog Phogropathy.com. You can also find him on Facebook and Twitter.

872 Subscribers in 24 Hours?!

This guest post is by Danny Iny of Firepole Marketing.

Could you get 872 new subscribers in just 24 hours?

Have 1,587 subscribers by the third day?

And 3,381 within three weeks?

I didn’t think I could do it either, but I did, and in this post, I’ll show you how you can do it too.

Those first 24 hours happened on November 29th…

November 29 was launch day

November 29 was the day that my new book Engagement from Scratch! officially launched to the public, in a massive, frenetic frenzy of launch promotion activities:

  • I had built relationships with all the major players that I could find…
  • Studied the successes (and failures) of the book launches of big name authors like Tim Ferriss, Guy Kawasaki, Jonathan Fields, and Seth Godin
  • Built a mini-site and two video trailers to promote the book…
  • Wrote 28 guest posts about anything and everything relating to the book (including one right here on Problogger called Why I Wrote the Kind of Book That I Hate)…
  • Ran a “nominate your engagement superstar” contest on the blog, that attracted dozens of nominations for the position (Adrienne Smith was the winner)…
  • Spent over $2,000 on postage to mail out hundreds of review copies of the book…
  • And then, to top it all off, I wrote the ultimate book marketing guide documenting everything that I had done for anyone who was interested.

The results were impressive; 872 people downloaded the book in the first 24 hours, 1,587 had downloaded it by the third day, and the book keeps getting downloaded (on days with zero special promotion, I’m averaging 30-50 new subscribers).

So, am I telling you that to get tons of subscribers you need to write a book and have a huge, fancy launch?

No, not necessarily.

You see, the truth is that it wasn’t really the launch itself that made it all happen…

It’s about doing it fully baked (and then some!)

The real lesson that I learned from the book, from my co-authors, and from the launch, is that it really doesn’t matter what your particular tactics are; whether it’s a book, or a launch, or a contest, or a round-up of expert opinions, or a video series, or whatever – what makes all the difference is whether you’re doing it all half-baked, or fully, beautifully baked to perfection.

Here’s what I mean—these are some examples of half-baked ways of doing things:

  • Releasing a book: Outlining and writing it over the course of a month, getting a cover designed, turning it into an ebook, putting it on your site, maybe making it available on Kindle, emailing your list about it, and maybe writing a handful of guest posts.
  • Doing a round-up post: Sending an email to a few dozen industry experts asking them for their number one tip on your subject area, pulling it all together into a post, and publishing it.
  • Running a contest: Writing a post with a question, and asking people to leave a comment answering it, with the best comment winning a prize.
  • Writing guest posts: Committing to write one guest post per week, and really writing two or three posts per month (about 30 posts per year).
  • Doing a survey: Outlining a survey, plugging it into SurveyMonkey, writing a blog post about it, emailing your list about it, sharing it on social media, and then writing a post about the results.
  • Creating a video series: Making a list of things that your audience would be interested in, turning on a flip camera and recording yourself answering the questions.

Do these descriptions sound like viable strategies to you? Well, they aren’t—not even close. Here’s the fully baked way of getting it done:

  • Releasing a book: Research exactly what angle will most interest your audience, then do the work to create the best possible book that you can (reaching out to 30 industry experts and soliciting chapters from them if necessary). Get the cover designed, do the typesetting, get the book edited, and have it produced in paperback, PDF, and for the Kindle. Do an elaborate book launch with a minisite, two trailers, a contest, and dozens of guest posts.
  • Doing a round-up post: Spend hours coming up with three questions that your audience would just love to have an answer to, and will really get the contributors thinking. Then reach out to the experts with personalized emails explaining why you picked them for the project, and why their answers will help your readers. Assembling the answers into a series of posts, releasing them with as much promotion as you can manage, and sending personalized thank you emails to all of the contributors when the posts go live.
  • Running a contest: Choose a premise for the contest that will be valuable to contestants and to your audience, and come up with prizes that will be attractive and appealing. Put out and publicize a call for contestants, and then correspond with contestants over the course of a month and a half to get the best entries you can ready for show-time. Then display the entrants to your audience over the course of a month, and let them vote on the winners.
  • Writing guest posts: Committing to write an average of five guest posts per month, sticking to it, and ramping up to as many as 20 or 30 posts per month when you’ve got something big to promote, or that you want to spread the word about (writing more than 80 posts in a year).
  • Doing a survey: Come up with a series of questions to which data-driven answers would be valuable to your audience, and then crafting a detailed survey to gather that information. Then find over a dozen partners to help you spread the word about the survey, collect the data over the course of a week, do the statistical analysis to extract the results (or hire someone to do it for you), and create a report sharing those results with everyone who participated.
  • Creating a video series: Spend a month mapping out a detailed curriculum for your video series, and then scripting each of the videos. Carefully record and edit the videos, add music and effects, and create worksheets and resources to go with each and every one. Then show them to people to get feedback, and make them better before releasing them to your audience.

Do you see the difference? It’s the difference between doing just the bare-boned necessities of the strategy, and going all out, above and beyond to make it as much of a success as it possibly can be.

Half-baked implementations rarely work (believe me, I’ve tried), but fully baked implementations often do. Which begs the question…

Why is there so much half-baked stuff out there?

Near as I can figure, there are four big reasons why there’s such a huge amount of half-baked garbage circling around the interwebs and blogosphere, and those four reasons are laziness, lack of passion, bad advice, and fear…

The first reason is laziness

This is the guy (or gal) who’s bought the “internet lifestyle” routine hook, line, and sinker. They want to make tons of money without doing any work, and cycle through one short-cut scheme after another that doesn’t create value for anybody (except, they hope, for themselves).

This is the only reason for half-baked implementation that I have no respect for, and I wish the people who fit into this category would get out of the game, because they give the rest of us a bad name.

The good news is that there aren’t a lot of people like this, though—most of the people who might seem to be lazy are actually suffering from either lack of passion, or bad advice…

Then there’s lack of passion

This is much more common than actual laziness, because a lot of people confuse passion for their outcome with passion for the path that will bring them there.

In other words, they’re passionate about the lifestyle that their online business will create, but they aren’t passionate about the actual business—it’s just a means to an end, and they’re following it because they’ve been sold on the idea that it’s incredibly easy (which it isn’t). Unfortunately, if you aren’t passionate about the work that you’re actually doing, then you aren’t going to go all-out to make it all spectacular.

The solution to this is to find something that you really are passionate, and make your work all about that—because if it isn’t, you won’t be motivated enough to do the work that needs to be done.

There’s just plain bad advice

Yes, let’s face it, the internet is full of bad advice, and the particular piece of bad advice that I’m talking about here is the “don’t worry about making it good, just get something out there” idea that is flung around in action-oriented productivity circles.

The logic driving this advice is that doing something is better than doing nothing, but the truth is that if you’re doing something mediocre, it isn’t all that much better than doing nothing at all.

Just to be clear, I’m not saying that you should do nothing—I’m saying that you should brace yourself, take the plunge, and do something truly awesome. At this point, there’s usually one reason why people still don’t do it, and that reason is fear…

And then there’s fear

There are all manners of fear that keep us in the world of half-bakedness (to coin a new word):

  • The fear of failure (“What if I blow it?”)
  • The fear of success (“If this actually works, will I be able to handle it?”)
  • The fear of being judged (“Who am I to take on something like that?”)
  • The fear of being accountable and overwhelmed (“What if I tell everyone that I’ll do this, and then blow it?”)

These are all legitimate, serious fears that keep people from achieving greatness (or even taking the chance that they might achieve it) every single day.

A lot of people aren’t going to like my solution to this particular problem, but here it is:

Suck it up, and do it anyway.

Yes, we all feel fear. A week before my book launched, I was terrified, thinking “What if it bombs? The book is about building engagement—I’ll have zero credibility left!”

Well, that’s just tough—without taking risks, nothing of significance is ever achieved. And taking risks means that every so often, life is going to kick you in the teeth. When that happens, we nurse our wounds, pick ourselves off the ground, dust ourselves off, and try again.

So are you afraid? Probably.

Was I afraid? Definitely.

But I sucked it up, and so can you.

What about time? Isn’t that a reason, too?

The other excuse that people sometimes hide behind is time.

You’re working a full-time job, and doing your business on the side. You have a spouse, kids, parents, in-laws, and friends who complain that they don’t see you anymore.

In light of all that, is it fair to say that half-baked may be the most you have time to do?

Sorry, but no.

In the last year, I released a book, ran two contests, wrote 80+ guest posts, did a survey campaign, and created several video series… in addition to running my business, and planning a wedding.

Do you have to do all that to be successful? No, you don’t.

But can you pick JUST ONE campaign and throw yourself into it?

Yes, you can.

What will you throw yourself into?

Success is 10% inspiration and 90% perspiration—in other words, the ideas are easy, but then it’s the work that separates the successes from the wannabes.

It’s throwing myself into the work that got those 80+ guest posts written.

It’s throwing myself into the work that grew Firepole Marketing into a recognized brand in just a year.

And it’s throwing myself into the work that got me 872 subscribers in 24 hours.

So if you were looking for overnight success, as in 24 hours’ worth of work that would get you a giant number of subscribers, traction, and money, then I’m sorry to disappoint.

But if you’re looking for the real secret to true success in business, life, and everything else, that you’re willing to put the time and energy into applying for real over the course of the coming year, then there you have it.

So what are you going to throw yourself into this year? What project will you take on, plan, work at, and build into something truly spectacular, and truly awesome? How are you going to change the world?

Find and answer to that question, and then get started.

Good luck, and godspeed. I’ll see you at the finish line.

Leave a comment and answer this question: what will you throw yourself into?

Danny Iny (@DannyIny), a.k.a. the “Freddy Krueger of Blogging”, teaches marketing that works at Firepole Marketing. Together with Guy Kawasaki, Brian Clark and Mitch Joel, he wrote the book on building engaged audiences from scratch (available on Amazon, or as a free download).

Why Most Bloggers will Fail, No Matter How Hard They Try

This guest post is by John Smith of WeightLossTriumph.

If you visit your favorite blogging tips and marketing tips blog today, you will come across a lot of tips, ranging from tips on writing well to tips on building an audience.

The reality is that a lot of new blogs spring up every day, and the majority of these blogs are bound to fail right from the beginning. It’s not because there is something wrong with their approach, but because they fail to neglect something really important: their wellbeing.

Do you know that blogging is not only a physical challenge? It is also a mental challenge.

There are a lot of things we bloggers go through every day that no amount of practice will help make easier, but by focusing on being okay in every aspect of our lives (mental, emotional, physical, etc.) we’ll find those challenges easier to deal with.

In this article I’ll be touching some subjects bloggers hardly discuss online, and I’ll be giving tips to help you deal with them.

Dealing with criticism

Do you know that one of the major dangers of being a blogger is being exposed to criticism? If you’re still a new blogger you might not have noticed it yet, but in over two years of blogging, I have seen several clear examples of blogging criticisms. In fact, I have seen bloggers been sent death threats, and I have seen several bloggers quit because of that. Why? Because they chose to give value to the world through their blogging.

If you think blogging is a bed of roses, or if you think everybody will be your friend, then you need to think twice. There are hateful people online hiding under the cloak of anonymity. There are also people who are ready to vent their anger on you as a result of some personal problem they’re facing. The best way to deal with this is to be prepared, and to get ready for the worst at any time.

Blogging has a great emotional connection to it, and a lot of bloggers these days are starting to pay the price of being celebrities. You need to realize that there are people that will come and vent their hate against you for no reason whatsoever, and you should be ready for them.

I’m not trying to say you should fight back. Instead, I’m telling you not to take it personally. You need to realize that their reason for criticizing you isn’t because you’re the problem. You should also know that not all criticisms are bad. Naturally, there are healthy and unhealthy criticisms, and it is your duty to be able to differentiate the healthy criticisms from the unhealthy ones, and to improve where necessary.

Dealing with failure

Another problem you have to deal with as a blogger is failure. It can get really tough when you plan to achieve something in six months and can’t achieve it in one year—especially when you see another blogger getting better results with what looks like little to no effort in the same time span.

The first tip I have for you is to try to avoid jealousy. You need to realize that failure is part of the game, and that we all have our own challenges and our ways of dealing with them. Don’t be jealous of another blogger’s success. Jealousy is always unhealthy. Instead, take a look at what that blogger is doing, what approach he or she is taking, and start viewing the person as healthy competition.

It’s also very important not to allow your fear of failure prevent you from trying. You need to realize that failure is part of this game, and that not everything is bound to work. If you’re afraid of failing, you will have a hard time succeeding. Your first step is to eliminate every fear of failure within you, so that you can easily try new things no matter what the outcome might be.

Eating well

Do you know that the food you eat can have a great impact on several aspects of your life, including how you think and solve problems, and how you react to emotional challenges?

Have you ever woken up and found it difficult to work hard or get motivated for the day, even though you had a normal sleep the previous night? While sleeping and resting regularly is great, it is very important for you to realize that the food you eat will to a great extent influence your physical activities.

Most things we do as bloggers require us to think and plan effectively, and we also have to deal with the results emotionally—whether good or bad—which is exactly why it is important for us to eat good food to help ourselves be more effective. In other words, eating junk foods makes you dull and emotionally weak, and as a result you will only create poor work that brings bad results. The results will also deal you a massive blow since you’ll likely be emotionally weak.

If you’re emotionally strong, you can easily turn even the worst of problems into a lasting solution, so being careful with what you eat should always be a priority as a blogger.

While you might think you will make a lot more money and get fast results by “saving time” by eating junk foods, you’ll often discover you find it difficult to focus and concentrate because you aren’t in the right frame of mind to do quality work.

Improve your diet, and you’ll be amazed at how much your blogging will improve.

Exercising regularly

Do you know that regular exercise has a lot of benefits, including helping you gain energy and making you more emotionally stable?

I have observed carefully what I can do on a day when I exercise compared to a day when I don’t. I’ve noticed I can get two times more work done if I spend around two hours a day exercising compared to when I don’t.

Are you in a bad mood after waking up in the morning? Do you want to get some serious work done in any given day? Spend at least one hour exercising every day, and you will be amazed at what you can achieve.

To be honest with you, exercising isn’t that easy if you haven’t done it before, so start with ten minutes a day, and then scale it up till you can do one hour a day. Trust me: you will want to do more of it when you see the benefits.

I think, as bloggers, we have a lot more to worry about than our content and marketing ourselves, and we also have to be taking regular measures to ensure we’re physically and mentally active. The above are a few tips that can help you! I’d love to hear your suggestions in the comments.

John is an expert weight loss blogger who teaches people how to lose weight on WeightLossTriumph. He also gives the best nutrisystem coupon code and medifast discount code on his blog.

Blogging With Kids: 9 Tips and Tricks to Keep You Sane

This guest post is by Marya Zainab of Writing Happiness.

Are you a blogger? Are you also a Mum with school age kids? Or a stay-at-home Dad?

If you’re like me, you might find it really difficult to manage your time—and your life—to get some writing done. You are talented, you are persistent. If only you could be really productive, so you can get some work done.

And you can be! All it takes is smart use of your time. This is what I recommend. Feel free to take what gels and discard the rest.

It’s okay to lie to people who don’t “get it”

Have you ever tried to tell your son’s school teacher that the reason why you can’t volunteer at the latest fun raiser is because you have to blog?

Apart from the blank stare that you’d most likely get, you would then have to explain yourself, become defensive and go away feeling very guilty, or carry a list of stuff that you ended up saying yes to.

Try telling the teacher you have other commitments that you simply can’t get out of.

One of your not-so-close friends is having a casual get together? Tell her you have some work-related stuff to do.

If the world is going to pretend that I, as a blogger, don’t have kids, I am going to pretend I have imaginary work-related commitments.

Think of the whole process as trying to save yourself the guilt trip and spare others trying to understand what blogging is. Tell people who do understand, by all means; they probably will get it anyway.

Appliances are your best friends

I don’t have a dishwasher in my house. For one, I don’t have the space for it, but the real reason is that I really don’t mind doing the dishes. This is almost a mind-cleansing activity for me.

The fact that I don’t have to use my brain to wash the dishes keeps my hands occupied while I have the time to clear my head and sort through things. I often get my best ideas when I am doing the dishes, and often go away (happily at that) to jot ideas.

But you might hate it! And that’s even more the reason to get a trusted dishwasher, if you haven’t already. While you’re in the process, get yourself a dryer, a weekly cleaning service (if you can afford it), kids’ car pools etc. Do your grocery shopping online. Let kids become a part of the solution—assign them some basic chores.

Outsource as many things that don’t require you personally to get done. This can save you valuable time.
My most favorite—TV, of course! Although use it with caution, and use sparingly. A close second is take-away one week night so I don’t have to worry about cooking for that night.

Get some help from Dad

Nothing beats a hands-on Dad. Get his help with various chores and kids activities.

Get him to cook one night of the week. Ask him to take the kids for their weekend sports. Ask him to do the night-time-bath-and-story-book thing once a week. Is he naturally more chatty, more outgoing than you are? Swap roles of being a “school mum.”

Is he stronger than you? Of course he is—remind him of this when he is grumbling about mopping the floors!

Be flexible

The only way a mum can survive as a blogger is to be as flexible as possible. You will miss out on a lot if you don’t.

There will always be things related to your kids and your household that you would have to do first. You won’t be able to write if your four-year-old is screaming for Spaghetti Bolognese right now. You won’t be able to write if your kid is at home sick—or your partner is home sick behaving like one.

Making an occasional batch of cupcakes with your kids will earn you serious brownie points and will go a long way in creating a harmonious relationship. Hopefully, they will then take a long time to eat those cupcakes as you sit down to write.

Just relax and look at a problematic situation differently. And be flexible.

Live one life

If your blog permits it, bring your children in the picture. Let them sprinkle their magic on your blog.
Then turn around the do the same for them—let your kids see you work. Show them you are as proud of your blog as you are of them. They may not understand it if they are little, but they will get used to see you do other things beside cook and clean.

Just the other day, my four-year-old told his older brother, “stop blogging me!” That lead to great laughter all around. He might not know what blogging is—he probably thinks it a synonym for “blocking”—but at least he is aware of the lingo. Many adults still aren’t.

Put on your oxygen mask first

How many times have you heard that happy parents make for a happy household?

Well, that is in fact the truth. Taking care of yourself is just as important as taking care of others. Do the things that really make you happy. This doesn’t make you selfish. Think of it as an investment. When you invest in yourself, your family reaps the rewards.

If blogging inspires you, by all means do it. Remember that you would have to prioritize some time for yourself, otherwise you will never be able to get it done.

Every time I complete my blogging goals for the day, I feel on top of the world. I am a happier mum, I am a joy to be around, and my kids love me even more.

You don’t have to be a poster parent

Resist to be a contestant for the race of being the Best Mum in the world. There are plenty of things you can do without:

  • You don’t have to bring adorable, homemade snacks to your kids’ school. Realize that you can buy cookies from the supermarket and nobody will really care.
  • You don’t have to have your house in tip-top condition. Well in case nobody ever told you, kids are messy: they make a mess everywhere they go! Must you clean after them all day long? Avoid doing activities that lead to even more messes, especially when you are running short on time.
  • Ironing your family’s PJ’s? Hello!

A blogging parent and pedestal parent are not mutually exclusive. Stop comparing yourself with others. Aim for “good enough.”

Focus

It’s about the quality than quantity. Be present. Be truly present in the moment, whatever you are doing. Whether it be playing with your kids, or writing that next blog post that goes viral. If you are distracted and spread yourself too thin, you will end up totally exhausting yourself.

  • Plan your day well ahead of the schedule. If there’s one thing every blogger mum or dad needs, it is to manage their time. You have to become extremely organized and self-disciplined—and you need an organizer.
  • Create more detailed to-do lists.
  • Plan weekly menus.
  • Organize your outfits for the week if you work outside the house.
  • For a clutter-free house, give something away when you buy something new. It’s a great lesson to pass on to your children as well.

Take this advice, and you’ll have more meaningful time to spend with your family, and even some left over for yourself. Best of all, you won’t feel so guilty about the time spent blogging.

Find a great blogging partner

While it sounds fantastic to have some real-life friends who are mums and bloggers on top of it, it’s very unlikely you will magically discover them.

I am very lucky to have a best friend who actually encouraged me to take up blogging in the first place. She is the most wonderful person to talk about my blogging “habit,” as even my husband struggles be understanding sometimes.

Find yourself other blogger mums online, take your time time to get to know them and then befriend one or two as real friends—not just the networking sort of friend. You will sleep better knowing you have one person who “gets it!”

Blogger mums and dads, what tips and tricks can you add to this list? Share them with us in the comments.

Marya is a communicator of ideas – writing for bloggers, writers and content creators. Catch more of her posts at Writing Happiness. Grab her FREE 29 page ebook How to Write Blog Content that Works – Get Noticed Online (and elsewhere!). Follow her @WritingH, she is very friendly.

Writers Block? Try this Quick Tip

Recently on Twitter I was asked by a follower how to overcome an extreme case of writer’s block.

My answer was:

“Think about a problem you had three years ago and write a post that solves that problem.”

Writer's block

Image copyright JRB - Fotolia.com

The reason I find this technique helpful is:

  • It identifies a real need that someone will have—if you have had the problem others will have it too.
  • It identifies a topic that you have personally had, which makes your post more personal and empathetic.
  • It identifies a problem that you’ve overcome or at least have some wisdom on, so hopefully your post is constructive and helpful.

Try it today—identify a problem that you’ve had and then solve it with a post. Once you’ve done it, share a link to your post in comments below. I’d love to see the problems that you solved today!

A Quick and Dirty Guide to Your First Guest Post

This guest post is by Neil Patel of KISSmetrics.

You can’t really turn anywhere these days and not hear somebody telling you that in order to grow your blog, you need to guest post.

I know you’ve heard that before, but have you actually done it?

Or are you looking for somebody to tell you how to actually go about creating a guest post content strategy, finding the right blogs to guest post for, approaching that blogger and actually writing that post? If so, then you’ve come to the right place.

Develop your guest writing strategy

Your first step is to create a content strategy. There are a couple of decisions you need to make. Listen: guest posting is not easy work. If you have a full schedule and your own blog to keep up with, you now need to find the time to write posts in addition to your regular guest posts.

There are two common approaches:

  1. Slow and methodical: This is very strategic and targets one, maybe two blogs and dishes out guest posts for them at least once a month. This is a really great way to ease into the habit of guest posting. You’ll stay sane with this method, but results will build up more slowly over time.
  2. Fast and furious: The other method is simply to write as many guest blog posts as you possibly can in a short period of time. The way to make this happen is to blast an announcement to your social media sphere announcing that you’d like to write a guest post for anyone who signs up. You’ll be surprised how many takers you’ll get. People are desperate for content. Next, set aside large chunks of time … like every night of the week from 6pm to 10pm, or devote your entire weekend to it. Then write non-stop. This was The World’s Strongest Librarian’s approach when he wrote 42 blog posts in a seven-week period. It’s one that may make you go nuts, so don’t over commit.

Which approach you choose will determine the quantity and quality of your guest posts, so choose wisely.

Brainstorm for fresh, relevant guest posts

It doesn’t matter which approach you chose above, the following brainstorming ideas will help you come up with ideas for your guest posts.

  • Mind mapping: Mind mapping is the concept of starting with a central idea and then branching out from there into subsets. FreeMind is an open source program that will help you do that. It even allows you to add images and hyperlinks so you can track all your ideas.
  • Time machine: Another creative way to brainstorm unique ideas is to pretend you step into a time machine. From there imagine how someone from the 70’s might solve a particular problem. Or look to the future and make a prediction about how particular problems could be solved.
  • Push the envelope: One of the reasons I like to guest post is because it forces me to push my boundaries of thinking. It’s a great way to see how far you can go with an idea. When you think you found an idea’s limits, take it farther.
  • Role play: You can do this either alone or with a partner. Alone, all you need to do is just put yourself into someone else’s shoes, like a child or client, and try to imagine how they would approach a particular problem. If you have a creative partner, ask him or her to play the devil’s advocate and have a conversation about your topic idea. Take note of all the ideas that pop up.
  • Hot potato: This is a great one to use when you are hanging out with a bunch of friends. This brainstorming technique basically involves someone starting an idea … and then passing it on to the next person. Use a timer and some kind of object to pass around so you can keep track of whose turn it is. This technique is great for getting everyone to pitch an idea.

Build a social media presence

If you choose to go the slow and methodical way, then when it comes to guest posting, it’s helpful if you build your reputation with the blogger you hope to write for before you ask to guest post. The best way to do this is to start following him on Twitter, Facebook or Google+ and interact with him. Here are some other things you must do:

  • Comments: Start to leave thoughtful comments where you are asking questions and engaging with the blogger on his site. But don’t ignore everyone else. Answer questions that other readers leave. Busy bloggers love it when someone comes along and starts answering questions that allows him to not to worry about following up on every comment.
  • Join forums: If there is a forum to join, join that. Subscribe to his email newsletter if he provides one, too. Occasionally it’s a great idea to reply to his or her email newsletter. Do it from your inbox so he or she will see your email signature, which should have your blog address on it. Hopefully they’ll take the time to look at it. I’ve had a few bloggers invite me to write guest posts for them after exchanging emails.
  • Email: At some point you should directly email the blogger. It doesn’t have to be about guest blogging. It could be just to ask a legitimate question. For example, you could compliment them on their writing and then ask where they learned how to write. You want to build that relationship.

Of course, some blogs like problogger.net have guest posting guidelines that you can follow and skip the above process, but most don’t. And don’t think of this as a waste of time just to get the guest posting opportunity. This is really about building long-term relationships, so it helps to do it whether they have a policy or not.

Master the components of a guest post

Is a guest post different than a post you’d publish on your own blog? The answer is yes. See, when you are posting on somebody else’s blog, you need to put your best foot forward. Your hope is that the guest post will generate some subscribers to your own blog, so you better be on top of your game.

Here’s what you need to think about:

  • Links: Bloggers like it when you write a post that has links in it, both internal links and external links. When you create a blog post that links to the blogger’s own content, it shows that you’ve done your homework. And he or she appreciates the external links because that builds his credibility with those bloggers.
  • Advanced blog posts: The jury is still out about whether you share your best stuff or not on guest blogs, but my view is that you write a damn good post no matter what. This means give the host blogger something unique to his sight. This won’t work if you’ve decided to write fast and furiously, because advanced blog posts take time.
  • Create a conversation the audience: Your post must answer some question relevant to the host blogger’s audience … not yours.
  • Demonstrate you are an authority: Don’t be afraid to casually mention the reasons why the audience should listen to you. You won’t be bragging if it’s true and part of the conversation.
  • Hook headlines: Although there is a good chance the host blogger may change your headline, give him or her the best one. Yet, give them three to choose from. And remember, a great headline is unique, useful, ultra-specific and urgent. They’re the four Us. Use them!

Conclusion

That’s it. If you follow those steps, you should be on your way to your first guest post gig in no time. All you have to do is start pitching bloggers.

When pitching bloggers make sure you play the numbers game, as everyone won’t say “yes.” What other tips do you have for guest posting?

Neil Patel is the co-founder of KISSmetrics and blogs at Quick Sprout.

4 Key Criteria to Build Your Dream Blog

This guest post is by Matthew Setter of The Dreamers Manifesto.

Have you wanted to start a blog, a website or an online business, but you’re not sure where to begin? Are you already putting in the hard yards to build one or the other or both, but you’re not sure if it’s going where you want it to go?

The reader puzzle

Image copyright FotolEdhar - Fotolia.com

Building blogs and online businesses is very exciting, but it’s a very challenging endeavor as well. Whilst the excitement helps, some days it’s never enough to prepare you for just what it takes to be successful, as always there’s so much to do.

Here’s a common list:

  • the epic content that you have to write, both for your blog and for the guest posts for other peoples blogs
  • the work to build a social media presence on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Google+, StumbleUpon, and Reddit—amongst others
  • the SEO research that you have to perform, from keyword research and analysis to implementing SEO in your post titles, excerpts, links, images, headers, and meta data
  • reviewing your site statistics and analytics on a regular basis, so that you know how you’re going
  • establishing and building a growing mailing list of people who want to be more actively involved with your community
  • the time you need to take reaching out to fellow bloggers and networking with people so they even know you exist
  • searching for and getting in touch with affiliates and partners (i.e., checking email).

Even reading this list can leave you feeling a bit exhausted. Whatever happened to “build it and they will come”? Well, I’m sorry to say it, but as exciting as it is to do all this—you have to work to build your dreams and make them come true.

But I’m not going to dissuade you—heck no! Today, I’m going to share four key pointers that will help you build your dream blog sooner than you’d anticipated with less time and effort wasted.

1. Have a dream

The first and most fundamental thing you need is to have a dream. This is something dear to my heart, it’s something very important. You need to know what you’re setting out to achieve. Whether that’s a legacy, an achievement, a journey, to continue a tradition, to gain satisfaction, to leave your job, or whatever. No matter what you do, you need to know why.

Without the why, you may soon find yourself questioning your motivation and your resolve as you have to write yet another post, make a tweak or design change to your blog, search for affiliates, comment in forums, and do solid keyword research.

When you have a clear dream, a clear why, then you are better prepared to handle these times of question and doubt. Without it, you may end up like the majority of blogs with a handful (or less) of posts that eventually get left to wither and die on the scrapheap of the internet super-highway.

2. Have clear goals

After you have your dream firmly formed in your mind, you need to step beyond that and set  SMART goals. I stress SMART goals as there’s no time to be general or vague about this. You need to know how you’re going to achieve your dream—your fantastically high-traffic, super-dooper blog using these characteristics:

  • Specific
  • Measurable
  • Achievable
  • Realistic
  • Time-based

Through these criteria, you  set clear goals so that you know what you’re aiming to achieve, you’ll have a clear action plan and targets to strive for. With clear goals, you’ll know why you want to achieve your dream, what you’ll feel like, think like, act like, and so on as and when you get there.

What’s more, you’ll be able to tell that you’re getting there, you’ll know if you’re getting closer, getting further away or just plain stagnating. And lastly, you can enrol people to help you, to keep you honest and accountable to achieve your stated aims.

3. Focus your time and effort

After you’ve established your dream and your vision, and you’ve set a series of targeted, specific, and measurable goals to guide you to building your dream, you need to get to work to do the day-to-day, week-to-week, activities.

But oh my, there’s so many things to do. What’s that, it’s 6pm and it seems like you’ve gotten nothing done today? But how could that be?! You sat down to work at 8am and you’ve been in a flurry of activity ever since.

How is it that day after day, despite finishing days that stretch between ten and 12 hours, you seem to just end up tired and the traffic’s not growing much? For all that activity, where are the results?

Well, I can’t give you a silver bullet solution to ensure that the action you take will manifest itself in the results you desire? But what I can tell you is that just because you’re taking action and are “busy” all day, that doesn’t mean you’re being effective. That’s right, there’s no clear correlation between busyness and productivity.

Don’t kid yourself that just because you’re doing things, you’re achieving.

Look at the key tasks that you need to do, then work out a regular pattern that you can keep to to achieve them. For example, for me, the key tasks that I need to do are:

  • Keyword Research (Google Analytics, Twitter research)
  • Content Research and Creation (Writing, writing, writing)
  • Content Promotion (Social Media, Blog and Post commenting, telling friends and family)
  • Blog Management (Is the design right, is the content linked and described properly)
  • Manage email and correspondence

Now, it’s easy to get lost in the latest gadget, service, technology, product, podcast, screencast, and so on. It’s easy to think you have to check your voicemail and emails every 20 minutes—or worse, respond to them the second that they alert you that they’ve arrived.

It’s easy to think that it’s important to be on LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter multiple times every day. After all, everyone seems to say they’re the places to be. But stop attempting to multi-task. You may believe that you’re a computer, that you’re so good that you can do multiple things on the go, but I disagree.

So does Douglas Merrill the former Chief Information Officer at Google. In a 2010 post, entitled Getting organised the Google way, Mr. Merrill said,
“…trying to juggle or multi-task is a complete waste of time, not a display of organisational prowess.”

I am probably not unlike a lot of people with two computers on my desk, a tape machine with an interview I am listening to, two landlines, my mobile phone, a TV in the background, and a radio on low. Then there are Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn beeping in every time a status update drops. And depending on what time of day or night it is, I have my four-year-old and partner vying for attention.

“Multi-tasking is a waste of time and effort. It just doesn’t work,” says Mr. Merrill.

“When you multi-task, you’re interfering with your brain’s efforts to put information into short-term memory—a process that is fragile enough to begin with. And if the information doesn’t make it into short-term memory, you won’t be able to recall it later.”

When you cut between so many tasks, frequently, you break your concentration, you break your attention and make it harder to do a few or even one thing well. So I suggest, as does Darren in his book 31 Days to Building a Better Blog, to get an action calendar.

Determine a pattern for how and when you’re going to do the essential tasks. For example, I:

  • check email twice a day; once in the morning, once in the evening
  • review Google Analytics once a week in my regular Monday morning house-keeping session
  • have a plan for post production
  • have regular times each week that I check in on and participate in social media
  • and so on…

4. Take a break

We’re almost there, so it’s only right that the last point is the least intense. You can only work for so many hours—productively—every day. Yes, you can eat super-foods, do meditation, and take power naps; but you’re only really productive for a limited time each day.

What’s more, your blog, whilst being very important to you, is not all of you. Don’t neglect your health, friends, family, relationships, and balance in your life, no matter how much importance you place on your work.

Your brain is similar to your muscles,so perhaps it’s best to sum up it up as my old gym instructor did:

“It’s not when you’re working out that you’re growing, that’s just preparing you for growth. It’s when you’re resting (in this case—sleeping) that your body has the opportunity to act on the investment you’ve made and build up your body’s muscle content.”

So it is with your mind in so many ways. You can sit there and do a lot of work, do research, talk with people, and email, but often, it’s only when you’re away from it all, from all the noise, attention and distractions, that you get your best inspirations, ideas and thoughts.

So remember, take time out, disconnect from it all, and recharge.

Winding up

I hope that this helps you tighten up your approach to successfully building a great blog, whilst maintaining your creativity and perspective. I wish you all the very best in the pursuit of your dream blog. Set goals, be focused and go create your beautiful blog. I hope you’ll tell me about it soon.

Matthew Setter is a passionate goal-setter, writer, educator and solopreneur. He’s also the founder of The Dreamers Manifesto, dedicated to helping you learn how to define and achieve your goals in a fun, engaging and informative way.You can connect with him anytime on Twitter, Facebook or Google+ anytime.

When Should You Launch Your New Blog? [Complete or On the Go?]

I’m regularly asked this question by PreBloggers: “How much work should I do on my blog before I launch it?”

  • How many posts should it already have live?
  • How many posts should I have in reserve and ready to go?
  • Should I have a customized or premium theme, or just start with a default one?
  • Should I invest in a logo before I launch?

The list of questions goes on, but they all boil down to the same thing: how complete should a blog be before it’s launched?

Launch day

Image copyright Byron Moore - Fotolia.com

There’s no real right or wrong answer to this question. I asked my followers on Google+ about how they launched their blogs recently and the array of responses was huge.

Some spent considerable time (and money) in preparing for their launch, while others launch very much “on the fly,” and made improvements as they went.

Do what I say … not as I do

I remember writing a post on this at some point in the past, and creating a list of important things to do before launching a blog. However the reality is that with the blog I launched after writing that post, I managed to do almost the exact opposite—I launched it almost completely on the fly.

I guess there’s an “ideal” launch scenario, and then there’s the reality. The ideal is to give your next blog launch careful consideration and plan out a great strategy. The reality is that when you’re launching a new blog, you’re often really excited about it and want to get it out quick while you have momentum and energy.

The other element of this is that sometimes the strategy and planning can almost kill the idea. As Shareef Jackson called it on Google+, “analysis paralysis” can kick in.

Here’s what I’d aim for (the “ideal” blog launch)

So with the admission that I don’t always put a heap of planning and strategy into the launch of a new blog, here’s what I “ideally” would aim for when launching a new blog. I’ll attempt to note the importance of each point.

Brainstorm post topics

I think this one is really important—essential, even. I would generally do a brainstorming exercise before I even commit to the idea of starting a blog to see if the topic is a viable one. If I can’t come up with a list of 20 or so post topics in a five- or ten-minute brainstorm, that indicates to me that it’s just not a blog topic that will be sustainable.

Having a list of brainstormed post topics is also so helpful after you’ve launched because finding a topic to write about is often the big stumbling block for many bloggers, and leads to the dreaded “bloggers block.”

Write ten blog posts (three published and seven drafts)

I really like to have at least a few posts already published before I launch.

Some bloggers like to have more than three (when I was working with b5media we used to have ten already published), while others think that one published post is enough. My theory is that if you at least have a few published posts, you’re showcasing the type of content that you’ll be publishing in future to those first readers who come to check you out.

These posts should be typical of the types of posts you’re going to be writing in the future in terms of topic and style. Evergreen content is good too, as it’s this content that will be useful to people today but also in months and years to come (some call this “cornerstone” content).

Also I think it’s important to at least have a few posts written up as drafts that you’ll be able to roll out in the first week or so of your blog. Having some in reserve to draw on in this way is good because it gives you a little more time in that important first week or so to do other activities like promote your blog, write guest posts on other sites, and so on.

Have a unique(ish) design

There’s a variety of approaches that you can take with design.

At one end of the spectrum, you can go with the free, default template that comes with your blogging platform.

At the other end is a custom design, where you get a designer to come up with something completely unique for you (though of course this can be expensive).

In the middle is the use of a premium theme: you pay a smaller amount for a design that is professionally designed, and customizable but not completely unique.

I have tried all three approaches with my own blogs over the years.

Ideally, I would love to advise a custom design for your new blog, but the reality is that most of us don’t have the budget for this for a brand new blog—particularly when you’re sometimes not even sure if the blog will be something that works out in the long term.

As a result, I tend to advise people to look at the premium theme option, but to customize it where they can by tweaking the colors, layout, and even adding a unique logo.

As someone who is “design-challenged” myself, I know that this can be a little daunting. You might like to have a go at it yourself, or perhaps engage the services of someone to help you get set up.

Don’t worry if the design isn’t perfect when you start—while your design does create an impression, you can always put more time and resources into improving it later. All of my blogs have evolved in their designs over time, and most started with what I considered to be temporary designs.

Set up an email newsletter

Today my biggest source of traffic and income generation on my photography blog is the emails that we send to our community. Fortunately, on that blog I began gathering email addresses of readers from day one. However on other blogs, I’ve not set newsletters up until much later. In doing so, I feel like those blogs could have been much bigger if I’d taken that step earlier.

I’ve written extensively on the why and how I use email newsletters here, so won’t rehash it all except to say that setting this up would be on my list of new blog essentials.

Set up social outposts

High on my list of priorities for a new blog would also be setting up social media outposts.

My approach to social media as it relates to my blogs is that my blog is my home base, and around it I try to set up outposts, which are places where I have a presence as a way of supporting my home base. I’ve written more on home bases and outposts here.

The outposts will vary from blog to blog, depending upon who I am trying to reach and what social media networks they use, but in many cases this would be about setting up a Twitter account, Facebook page, LinkedIn Group, Youtube Page, and so on.

I may not be highly active from day one on these accounts, but at least reserving an account and promoting it a little when I am active can pay off if I do it early on.

What would you add?

What do you like to have done before you launch a new blog? I’d love to hear your own suggestions and stories below.