what I read | 008

what I read in August

Oh my gosh, y’all! I can’t believe I’m saying this, but I read only three books last month! I started a fourth, but I never got around to finishing it as the last couple of weeks have been super busy. I have four books total checked out from the library, including the one I’m in the middle of, so I’m hoping I get some more time to read over our vacation home. I sort of doubt it, but we’ll see.

Anyway, here are my reviews from the three books I read this month –

How To Style Your Brand

YEAR: 2015 | PAGES: 204 | RATING: 4/5

So, the ever popular book on all designers’ (and maybe even a few bloggers’) desks right now. I liked this book, but it took me much longer than it should have to just read through it. I agreed with the majority of the advice outlined in the book, but I vaguely remember there being a few parts I didn’t agree with whatsoever. When it comes down to it, it’s just a difference in the way I work compared to Fiona. I think this book is meant for people who don’t really have a design background but don’t exactly have the budget to hire a professional to help get the branding they need. The target market on this is business owners, so while bloggers can get some out of this, the main focus is on business owners.

Uncle Janice

YEAR: 2015 | PAGES: 288 | RATING: 2/5

I was so disappointed in this book. I saw it on the new shelf at the library, and I decided to pick it up to see what it was all about. While the story wasn’t terrible, I didn’t like the book as a whole. When it came right down to it, it felt  like it took way too long to get to the point. When there are only 13 chapters (that are relatively short compared to other books), you can’t wait until chapter 10 to get to the climax. I will say I was satisfied with the ending, though.

Ten

YEAR: 2012 | PAGES: 304 | RATING: 4/5

This was a great book to read after the one above. I loved this book! I’m not sure how many of y’all are familiar with Agatha Christie’s And Then There Were None, but this had the same general outline to it except with teenagers instead of adults. If you’re not familiar with AC’s book, here’s the main story: 10 teenagers go to a party on an island, and one by one they’re picked off. This one definitely kept me on the edge of my seat, and I think I read it in just a few days because of that. I definitely didn’t see the end coming, which I love. If you like suspenseful young adult books, definitely check this one out!

Other books this month:
On The Rocks by Erin Duffy (audiobook)

Like I mentioned earlier, I’m really hoping to read more this month, but I suppose we’ll just have to wait and see! Have y’all been reading anything good? I’d love to hear some recommendations in the comments!

better blogging | 11

how to attract clients through your blog

The million dollar question among small business owners is, “How do I find more clients?” Going right along with that, a lot of people seem to struggle to figure out how to get their blog and business to work together in a way that attracts clients and conveys expertise.

For the longest time I struggled to get my blog off the ground and get the same attention my business was getting, and it’s because I couldn’t figure out how to link the two, just like so many more seasoned bloggers had done. I was blogging about design inspiration, creating random moodboards (when I didn’t really understand what they were for), and my numbers sucked. I wasn’t exactly blogging for my business, which means I wasn’t really gaining any clients through my blog.

I was doing it all wrong, and I think you might be as well.

Sometime a little over a year ago, it dawned on me that there was a better way to do things – a way that allowed me to market my services (and expertise) through my blog so I didn’t spend so much time tracking down work to keep me afloat. Here’s how I did exactly that:

Evaluate what you’re currently posting
When you first start blogging, chances are you’re talking about a little bit of everything. When you’re ready to get serious about your blog and start conveying your expertise with your readers, you’ll likely need to restructure your content. Like I said above, I was sharing mostly just things I liked with a tip or advice post here and there that showed just a little bit about what knowledge I had of blogging or business. While this is all good, after a while people don’t really care what you like. Those posts are fun to sprinkle in, but it’s not going to do you a lot of good to sustain your blog.

Brainstorm posts that share your knowledge
Once you’ve done a sort of audit of your content, it’s time to start taking time to figure out how you can share what you know. In case you haven’t noticed, most people are kind of stingy with their money. They don’t want to pay for something or hand their money over to someone if they’re unsure if they know what they’re talking about. This means you really need to be continually sharing what you know to help convey your expertise with your readers. Brainstorm a list of ideas based on what your past and current clients have needed help with. Think about how you can provide value to current and new readers who come to your blog.

Make what you do known
Have you taken a look at your analytics recently? Do you know how many new visitors you’re getting each month? Regardless of how many you’re getting, it’s important that those new people know a) what you do and b) where to go to hire you. You can’t expect people who aren’t familiar with your blog to look at every single page and find out what you do and then hire you. Instead, you should make it easy for people to find the pages where you can be hired. Feature a “Hire Me” page in your navigation, and if you don’t have a separate site for your business (like me), you can also feature a Portfolio page right on your blog. Don’t be afraid to share some sort of mention in your sidebar!

Share when you’re currently taking on projects
I’ve talked to a few of my peers who feel uncomfortable marketing something like their services in their blog posts. Here’s the thing, though, if someone’s on the fence when it comes to hiring you (maybe they don’t have the funds just yet), if you’re not at least somewhat regularly sharing that you’re taking on new projects, they’ll probably forget they wanted to work with you altogether. You certainly shouldn’t beat someone over the head with your reminders, but casually adding a “P.s. I’m currently hiring!” is a great way to get people thinking about hiring you – even if they haven’t been on the fence. While what posts you write will help you with your marketing, it’s still important to do a little bit of extra work to gain the interest of your readers!

Friends, I’d love to know: how do you use your blog to gain clients?

free wallpaper / september

free september desktop wallpaper | by kory woodard

Whew! I feel like I was literally just sharing August’s wallpaper, and now we’re already looking at September. I don’t know about y’all, but I’m so ready for the cooler weather. We’ve had a little taste of Fall over the last couple of days, which is getting my even more excited about the coming season. We’ve already been burning some Fall scented candles, and there have even been a few mornings where we’ve been able to open the windows for just a few hours. This may sound crazy, but I just can’t wait to have a candle lit, windows open, coffee in hand, and Game Day on tv. Anyone with me?

Since last month you guys seemed to like the calendar style wallpaper, I figured I’d carry it on into this month! Click to download your new wallpaper!

2560 x 1440 | 1650 x 1050 | 1440 x 900 | 1280 x 800 | iPhone

how to use inspiration to craft your brand

Today’s post features an excerpt directly from my latest ebook: Craft Your Brand. The first step I take with all of my clients is inspiration because it can do so much when you’re working on crafting your brand. Many people aren’t really sure what to do with everything they like or moodboards, so this selection is for you. Oh, and if you’d like to purchase your own copy of  Craft Your Brand and start developing a powerful brand for your blog, you can do so here. Now on to the post!

how to use inspiration to craft your brand

When you’re getting started in developing your style, it can be incredibly easy to get overwhelmed by everything that’s out there online. There’s such a variety of design styles within the blogging community, and if you just start looking at everything that you love one of two things will happen: you’ll end up accidentally copying one or a few styles that you’re particularly fond of or you’ll end up stuck with the amount of decisions on what styles you could put into effect with your brand.

The main point of the research stage is to simply start getting ideas of what you like the most and what will work for your brand. It’s not simply about taking a look at what you like, but also asking yourself the difficult question: why do I actually like that design style or element? It’s also a good idea to ask yourself if the style or element would provide the impression of your brand that you actually want to give to current and potential readers.

Note: the most important thing when working on your design is to make sure that you’re creating something that’s unique and authentic to your brand. While you’re doing the research and collecting inspiration, you may end up finding yourself wanting to replicate certain elements or even the majority of the design that someone else is using. If you start feeling this way, throw up the red flag for yourself. Instead of simply replicating the elements that you’re responding to, get critical and ask yourself why you really like the element? Would this create the right impression of your brand that you’re going for? How can you create a similar yet unique element for your own brand or blog design?

While you’re collecting your inspiration, try to answer these questions:

• What about this element / overall design do I like?
• Why do I like this element / overall design?
• What impression am I getting from this?
• Is this impression and style relevant to the style I’m trying to create?
• How can I take this and make it my own?

The more you can say about the element or overall designs that you’re collecting, the more defined of a style you’re going to be developing for your brand. It’s one thing to say that you like certain fonts and colors and another to know why you like them and how you can bring them together for your brand. When just starting out, most people are just using elements that they’ve seen other people use that they like, which is why most blogs that haven’t been designed by a professional often look like a mishmash of styles.

HOW TO MOVE FORWARD WITH YOUR DEVELOPED STYLE

Now that you have your design style figured out, it’s time to start creating your design. You may be doing a total overhaul or just a few minor tweaks. As you’re working on your logo make sure you have your brand words, values, and newly created moodboard beside you so you can reference them while you’re working. While you’re working on your logo and other elements for your brand, compare what you’re doing with the notes you took on your inspiration.

Don’t just create one new logo and call it a day. When I’m working on new designs for my clients, I often can create up to 15-20 different styles before I start narrowing in (similar to how we did with the inspiration images to get to the moodboard) on what would work best for that brand. Play with fonts, colors, patterns, shapes and more. Give yourself plenty of time to work on this. I like to take several days to a week to get started with logos, then slowly begin to narrow in. By creating, stepping away, and then coming back, I’m able to look at both what I’ve created and new ideas with fresh eyes.

Ultimately, your goal is to make sure you’re collecting inspiration in the best, most beneficial way for the process and then really referring back to your notes, your brand words, and your moodboard while you’re creating your new branding. You have to start strong to finish strong, so don’t just create a Pinterest board full of things you like. Be intentional about the process and you’ll be much more successful in creating the best design for your brand.

WebinarImage_7

In case you missed the news, this Saturday I’m co-hosting a webinar with Jessica where we’ll share our top 5 quick and powerful steps to creating a winning brand for your blog. We’ll be sharing things like figuring our your why, and why that’s important, how to define your ideal audience, crafting an awesome and cohesive visual identity that converts one-time readers into major fans, and making sure you get your branding right, which has been truly instrumental in our success as bloggers. Click here to join us and 80+ other amazing bloggers to learn how to rock your brand!

create a plan for your email list

creating a plan for your email list | with a free worksheet to help!

Back in June I shared some tips on how to create an editorial calendar for your email list. In May I talked about why you don’t necessarily need one. However, what if you’re ready to start a list or take charge of the one you’ve been halfheartedly building for a while? There are a ton of posts online about how to grow your email list “fast”, but those posts are skipping the important first step: creating a plan.

As with anything, when you’re ready to get your email list in control (or started), you have to have a plan of action. There are several questions just like with blogging to ask yourself in regards to your list before you can just start collecting addresses and sending emails. Since everyone’s sort of skipping this part of list building, here are a few important questions to ask when creating a plan for your email list:

Why are you starting a list?
Because everyone says I should have one” isn’t a good enough answer here. You really have to think about why you’re starting one before you get going. This will help you get an idea of what sorts of emails you’ll be sending, how often, and even what style of template you may need to use. Your response might be something like, “to send my blog posts via email,” “to promote my services / products,” or “to build a community”. Any of these are fine, but be honest with yourself on why you’re starting a list. Don’t just do it because it’s an internet “rule”.

Who is your list for?
Before you can start sending emails, you have to know who you’re creating your list for. If you’re starting a list to send your posts via email, this question isn’t ask important because obviously your list is for people who want to receive your posts in their inbox. If you’re starting for any other reason, really dig in to who your audience is or who’s already on your list. Send a survey to your readers / subscribers and get to know them. To provide the best content, you have to know who your audience is and what they need from you, which leads me to:

How will you provide value?
I’d like to beat around the bush here, but I just can’t: if you’re emails how no value, no one is going to stay on your list. You have to figure out how you’re going to share valuable content with your list if you want to start or grow your list. My two favorite ways to do this are: through my free opt in incentive + exclusive content. For a while I struggled with my email list, but since I’ve started writing exclusive letters, I’ve seen my list grow and my unsubscribe rate slow down.

When + how often will you email your list?
One of the other keys to maintaining and growing your list is consistency. I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve subscribed to a list, not received anything for months, then randomly get an email and immediately unsubscribe. If you want people to stay interested in what you have to say and sell, you have to be consistently writing to them! If you’re just starting your list and can’t imagine adding more content writing to your schedule, plan to write 1-2 times per month. If you’re a seasoned blogger with lots to share, write once per week (at most). After you’ve figured out that side of the schedule, experiment with what day and time your letters will go out to see what works best for your list.

Taking charge of your email list is not impossible, and it’s also not impossible to start a list and see some killer growth in your first couple of months. It’s all about having a plan in place and following it to see success!

Need help creating your email list plan? Download the free worksheet below + receive a bonus list of 7 tried and true ways to grow your list whether you’re a seasoned writer or a newbie to the newsletter world!

Click To Download The Email List Plan Worksheet + get your free bonus!