Last December I made a decision. A terrifying, riveting, exhilarating decision that changed my lifestyle and my perspective of what's possible. I quit my day job and started a creative business...without experience, know-how, or a clear idea of where I would end up.
Crazy right? Absolutely. Certifiably nuts. As an organized, Type A, planner this kind of dive-in-and-go-with-the-flow approach has never been natural for me. In fact, if you had told me two years ago that I would take the plunge into the unknown without a solid plan, I probably would have laughed and said I would never do that. But I did, and here I am!
A year later and Writing It Wells only exists, it's growing. As more time goes on and the more I learn, the clearer the vision for the bigger picture becomes. Each day I wake up motivated to take the next step, to achieve the next goal, and to revel in the freedoms that come with being able to decide for myself what needs doing.
On the flip side there are days where I feel completely overwhelmed, at a loss for what to do next (or for what to do first, as is often the case), and exhausted. Burn-out, a steep learning curve, and having to play multiple roles every day can be incredibly difficult. Finding a work-life balance helps but takes time to build and perfect.
You may be sitting here reading this and thinking- how the heck did she manage to build a creative business in these uncertain times? You may even think I'm crazy for trying or you may be sighing wistfully because you're in a similar boat and share similar dreams/challenges.
Whatever the case may be, I wanted to share what I've learned and the tools I've used to help me get started so that your journey can be a little less confusing. Whether you're a creative entrepreneur, an author looking to build your audience, or you're looking to expand your business's reach online, these strategies and resources can help you achieve your goals quicker.
How I Started & What I Use:
When I first started blogging, I knew very little about the reality of maintaining a blog. I thought it would be fun to write about writing whilst I wrote my book, and soon envisioned a profitable revenue stream. My goal was to create a space where I could connect with other writers and potential readers, to have a platform for future business endeavors, and a place to host my personal works as well as share my passion for teaching others how to write.
I signed up for Wix (which is where this website is currently hosted), bought my domain from NameSilo, and then happily began creating my blog using the easy-to-use editing program. Through this editor's function you have many choices for your website from easy templates to building it from scratch.
Here's what my original site's layout looked like:
Looks good right? I liked the overall vibe being on the darker, more masculine side with bold headlines and unique fonts. I created it from the image that was in my head but didn't really think to draw inspiration from elsewhere.
Recently I began a revamp project where I'm applying what I've learned to my website. If blogging has taught me anything, it's that you have to study what is working for other people online and then through a process of trial and error, test it out for yourself. There are many variables when it comes to what works and what doesn't. It's a process of exploration and growth, not a sure-fire approach. When you allow yourself time to research and absorb new ideas, you'll find success under your own terms.
This is a sneak peek of the new improved version thus far:
I've created a banner that's personal to me, yet has the same "feel" of the old website, added a new menu bar that's more efficient and organized, added a place to write news and updates for those not on social media, attached my Instagram feed, and then of course kept my blog posts front and center.
One thing I could not have survived the first year of blogging and writing full-time without is my organizational arsenal. This came in handy with content for the blog, when creating works and posting them on social media, and with keeping track of the daily/monthly tasks that came with running my own business. I can't stress enough how important this stage of planning is. There are so many moving parts that come into play each week and about a thousand things to remember to share, talk, or post about online that keeping an editorial calendar is a MUST. I don't know what I would do without mine now, but I can guarantee that without it, I wouldn't have made it this far.
Organizational Tools I Use...
Planner: I can't live without this one. There's something about a physical planner that sits right with my soul. It may be because I'm a writer, it may be because it makes me feel more in-control. Whatever it is, this little baby comes with me wherever I go. I use it to keep track of my month and my daily tasks as well as to record short-term reminders or random thoughts. Some people prefer online alternatives, and that works well too, but this is my personal preference.
I love this brand in particular. The covers are cute, they are well-organized inside, and it's big enough for all the changes I make over and over again throughout the week. It makes me happy whenever I see it and you can make it your own in so many ways with stickers, colored pens, bookmarks, etc. Whatever helps you stay on track.
Colored Pens: I use colored pens in my planner for a couple reasons. One because they're bright and cheerful, and two because it makes it easier to differentiate between tasks. I organize things in categories and assign a color to each. Then I follow through and use the same color throughout the week to make it easier to tell blog content notes from social media posts and daily chores, etc. G2 pilot is a hardy brand that will give you smooth ink when you write, a quick drying time, and overall they last when you do a lot of writing.
White Out: Can't live without it! I'm the type of writer who is constantly adding to my notes, and I hate clutter. When life gets in the way or I change my mind about my plan for the week (which is often), I grab this convenient pen and erase until my heart's content.
Notebooks: May seem like the obvious choice for a writer, but as a blogger nothing is more vital. I now have several notebooks filled with ideas, notes, spreadsheets, layout changes, tips and advice I found online- the works. These are the dumping grounds for creativity, change, and knowledge.
Notion: If you're unfamiliar with this online organizer, introduce yourself to it ASAP. I recently learned about this from a fellow writer and it is heavenly. Working on multiple projects? Then this is the app for you. You can make multiple categories, lists, check lists, collect and save information- pretty much anything you can think of and could ever want to do you can do here. Best yet, it's free and you can use it both online and on your mobile devices.
Check it out here!
Asana: Another online organizer, this one is best if you manage a team or if you're working on long-term bigger projects like a blog or a book. I use it to help keep all my blog-related and book-related projects on track. Once you create your project and choose the layout that works for you, you can add categories, notes, a timeline, updates, etc. I like that when I'm done with a particular task I can "check it off" and it will record when I completed it. I also love that I can switch between calendar, board, and timeline views to see the whole project in different ways.
Editorial Calendar: If you do any sort of online content, this one is a must-have. I use it to plan out my month for the blog, recording things like topics for blog posts, release dates, updates and posts for social media content, and how long I have to work on a specific task. I love that this one has a different color and design scheme for each month!
Editorial Planner: Another great resource, Meera Kothand's Create editorial planner is a god-send for anyone looking to blog or grow a creative business. Packed with helpful worksheets, templates, and exercises this planner helps you identify and develop a content plan for the entire year. If you crave direction and structure in a career choice that doesn't have much of it, definitely check this out.
Connecting and Engaging
Armed with the right tools to plan and full of ideas, I tackled the world of full-time writing with the exuberance of a child let lose after eating candy. I felt like the sky was the limit and the possibilities were endless. There was just one problem...I didn't exactly know how to accomplish what I wanted to do. Without experience or knowledge, I couldn't get very far and that's when I turned to social media to connect and engage with other writers.
My initial goals were to create an online presence, connect with other writers, learn how to maintain a successful blog, and to keep going! I had hopes of keeping the blog going for a year and hopefully finding that it would thrive and take on a life of its own.
That did happen! But not without long hours, hard work, and many ups and downs. The biggest lesson I learned this year was to not overthink social media. That sounds silly, but it's true. Diving in and trying new things helped me find out what works and what doesn't for me. Putting myself outside of my comfort zone and sharing who I am, what I'm passionate about, what makes me unique, pieces of my poetry and book, along with blog posts I write has given me a place to express myself and promote my business. I never thought that as an introvert I could have a strong presence online, but that was another myth.
Feel free to connect with me and peek at my socials linked below!
Here are some tips to help you get started on your own socials:
1. Start where you feel most comfortable: If social media makes you cringe, don't worry! You don't have to do everything on every site. Start where you're most comfortable. Like posting occasionally on Facebook? Great! Start there by joining a couple groups relating to your interests (in my case it would be writing groups). Happier posting Live on Instagram? Get on and regularly and talk to your followers about what's relevant to you.
2. Grow with small steps: You may think that the only way to grow your online audience is to go big and attract a lot of attention from the beginning. While this has its advantages, it isn't the only approach that works. In my experience, I've had more success being consistent than I ever had trying to make a ruckus. This is due to site algorithms and the fact that going viral is actually pretty rare. The great thing about a slower growth rate is that there's plenty of room to make mistakes and learn without being in the spotlight.
3. Focus your attention on one social media site at a time: Honing your attention on one or two sites at a time can lead to a better work/life balance. Social media can be draining and time-consuming. Most of us aren't able to spend hours online every day posting and answering comments. That's okay! You don't need to join every single social site created to run a successful creative business. It's all about quality over quantity. I've spent the majority of my time focusing on Instagram, which is why my follower count is higher there than on any other social site.
4. Reach out to 5 new writers per day: Reaching out to five new people a day can make a huge difference overall. Engagement is what social media is all about. Virtual networking involves introducing yourself through sliding into their DM's rather than shaking their hand at a bar or work conference. Being friendly, available, and initiating the conversation by commenting, liking, and sharing their posts will help you make friends online and will then lead to career opportunities in the future.
5. Learn and use relevant hashtags: Hashtags are a fun one to sort out. Probably the most confusing element of social media, these tiny tags pack a lot of power. Simply put they allow your posts to be categorized in a relevant way so that people interested in said topic can find it. Super nifty. The trouble comes when standing out in the crowd. Best bet is to pick hashtags with lower posting numbers that are specific and relevant to your post. Example: For a thriller novel, find hashtags that speak to your particular story's plotline versus just labeling it a thriller.
Learning & Growth
The only way to defeat the learning curve is to- drum roll please- learn! I know. Shocker. The good news is that learning on the internet is as easy as clicking your mouse. The biggest challenge I faced was finding information that was reliable and not super expensive. It seemed like everything out there was either guarded by a high price tag or jumbled together amongst the free crap. Thankfully this post will save you time in this department.
Here are some excellent places to learn without breaking the bank:
Skillshare: An online learning community where you can learn about a variety of topics such as photography, writing, art, marketing, social media, etc. You can sign up and learn as much as you want, with the ability to stop/start lessons to fit your schedule. For more information click the banner below. This is one of my favorite places to learn because the options are so vast, the courses are verified and held to quality standards, and it's affordable.
Amanda Creek Creative: My personal friend and mentor, I met Amanda on Instagram through my engagement efforts. She's a genuinely sweet person who knows everything about starting and growing a creative business. She's helped me immensely since I've started with both her advice, willingness to guide me through any topics I ask her about, and through her courses that she sells. I highly recommend visiting her website Amanda Creek Creative if you like a more personalized approach to learning and the availability of a one-on-one instructor.
Beyond that, I've learned largely by talking to other writers and bloggers. Gaining new insights, tips, and asking how they've gotten where they are has been a huge help along the way. What I love most about the #Writergram community on Instagram is that everyone is ready and willing to connect, share, and build you up. If you haven't gotten involved already I highly recommend it.
This post is a little longer than my usual ones, but I was so excited to share all of these tips and tricks I've learned with you! I hope you've found it helpful! In my next post on 12/29 I'll be sharing my writing resolutions for 2021 with you all so stay tuned.
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