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Avoid Commodity Work

I’m going to ask you to stop doing commodity work as a solopreneur, it will kill your business.

What Is Commodity Work

It is products or services with a very low barrier to entry that can be created or offered very easily by lots of people.

If you make a flugelbinder in western Europe, it can be made much more cheaply in China, that is commodity work.

If you offer php coding in the states, it can be done for $5 per hour from India.

If you offer website logo design, you can whip up on your own from sites such as logomaker.com that’s a commodity.

They may not be the best products or services, but commodities are offered cheaply.

If you offer commodity services you will attract the bargain basement customers and clients, these are the types of people who will make you life hell.  Bargain hunters tend to be cheap, undervalue your offering and are always looking to drive down your prices through incessant bargaining, scope creep and other “business” methods.  They will pay late and give you an admin nightmare.

Just because everyone else is offering a commodity, doesn;t mean you need to join that market, yes the market is there, but it is already saturated.

Race To The Bottom

You are on a race to the bottom if the only thing that differentiates your business from another is price.

You need to offer valuable;e products or services that are not judged on price alone.  In other words de-commoditise.

There will always be someone cheaper than you, the college kid, the offshore contractor.  You will drive your business into the ground competing on price.

You Are Competing On A Global Market

I hate to use the term developing countries, India and China are not developing countries, they are global players now.  These countries can and do compete with Europe and North America.  You cannot compete with the cost of living in these countries if you are in Western Europe, the US or Canada, they can kick your arse every time on price and still make a good profit.

Compete on quality, on uniqueness or on service.  Be excellent rather than cheap.  Not only does that drive up your rates but it makes you

Build A Moat

In the excellent book Built to Sell: Creating a Business That Can Thrive Without You, John Warrillow quotes Warren Buffet when he says:

“Warren Buffett talks about the depth and breadth of the moat around a business he invests in”

What he was saying is make it difficult for other people to copy you and thereby make your work a commodity.

How To Be Unique

This should be a gradual process, I don’t recommend you dump your commodity products or services in a knee jerk reaction, here is what you can do.

You can add new products or services to your portfolio, but be careful to make them none-commodities, you can:

  • Specialise – if you are a vet, offer dog dentistry.
  • Narrow Your Niche – if you are a graphical designer, focus in on the ebook cover niche
  • Make it uniquely you – productise your experience, think of 4 hour work week and Tim Ferris, only he can tell his personal story

My Example

Over at wpdude.com I do my fair share of commodity WordPress work, but I have a few key areas I specialise in.  Existing clients are more than happy with my commodity services because I aim to deliver with excellence, but I focus on bringing in new clients for my specialised services.

I have the number one position in google for a number of crucial none-commodity WordPress related keywords.  If you search for multi langauge WordPress. I’m there, if you search for particular types of hack recovery I’m there too.  These are very specialised offerings that I can charge a premium for, that’s how I avoid the race to the bottom on price.

At solopreneurial, this is my personal journey, what I have learned as a solopreneur over time, that is definitely not something that is a commodity it is uniquely me.

There are two examples, how can you do the same?

How Are You Going To De-Commoditise

Think about your current business, are you selling a commodity product based on price alone?  How can you stand out and offer a unique service.

Leave me a comment on how you think you can achieve this.

If you would like some advice on stopping commodity work, check out my consulting page

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Work On Your Business Not In It

There is really good business book called The E-Myth Revisited: Why Most Small Businesses Don’t Work and What to Do About It, it’s all about how we go about building small businesses and is well worth a read.

One line in it really stands out where Gerber says:

“Work on your business, not in it”

What he is saying that we (as business owners) should be focusing our time on building our business and not doing the technical work that our business requires.  He says hire people to work in your business and concentrate on working on your business to build it.

I agree with this sentiment, but, how as solopreneurs can we put this into practise, we want to stay small and lean, and without us, the solo doing the technical work there is no business.

I want to rephrase the statement for solopreneurs and tell you how I think this idea can work for you.

“Work on Your Business Most Of The Time And In It Some Of The Time”

I would urge all soloprneurs out there to look at their business closely to see if they can spend more time building, marketing and growing their business and reduce the amount of time the spend servicing customers and clients.

If you can re-engineer how you work you can greatly scale your business and income.

Look To Your Business Model

This is the first thing I would ask you to do is look at your business model.

If your business model is supplying your time on a one to one basis to clients as a consultant, copy writer,designer or developer, then you need to be working in your business 100% of the time to generate any income.  You will come against the barrier of time and you will plateau at some point.  Yes you can increase your rate but that is not a sustainable model eventually you will plateau and there is only so much rate increase that the market will shoulder.

I have this problem myself with wpdude.com and it is something I am actively working on.  I’ve reached capacity with wpdude.com, I cannot work more hours in that business  and as a result my income has plateaued.  I spend most of my time in my business, but I am very aware of this and I am working hard to redress the balance.

What I did was add another income stream in the form of wpownersclub.com a coaching and support environment.  Using the same audience I have built up with wpdude.com, I can marketed this new service, which is one to many and also has my expertise captures as a product that can be sold with no time investment from me.  I spend about two days a month working in that business  but it provides me with a recurring income stream.

The inner circle  here at neil-matthews.com will be a replica of this business model on a new topic solopreneurship  I will work in my business creating and delivering coaching webinars, BUT these are recorded and made available in the members area and then become products rather than 1-1 services.  The webinars are delivered one to many not one to one as consultancy.  I can then focus my time marketing myself building and audience and funneling them into the Inner Circle as my premium offering. A very scalable system I hope you would agree.

Income increases without too much extra work, and I can cut back on wpdude.com 1-1 services.

Another way to reduce time spent servicing clients is with a product/service hybrid.  Are there parts of what you do that can be productised?  For example if you are an SEO specialist and you get sites ranked well in Google, could you produce a training video which shows clients how to research their keywords?  Hand the video product over to the client, They could then present you with a list of the keywords they want to rank for, your product has done that part of the work, you now need to work in your business getting them the rankings they need.

 Automation & Reduction

Following up from the ideas I talked about in Kiss My A.R.S if you automate parts of your business you spend less time working in your business as you have a computer script working in your business on your behalf.

If you cut out the unnecessary fat from your business again you are not working in your enterprise on tasks that are no longer there.

This extra time allows you to work on building your business.

But I’m Happy Baking Pies

In the E-Myth Revisited a fictional business is portrayed that bakes pies, and the story unfolds about how the business owner extricates herself from the daily technical work of baking pies.  There is an argument that if you are happy baking pies then why would you not want to be baking pies all day long?

What I am suggesting to you here is that  if you add new income streams into your solo business that don’t require you to work in your business you can grow beyond your current availability limit.  You also have the ability to earn income when you are not working in your business (if you are on vacation or ill) and perhaps even cut back on your billable hours and de-stress a little, spend time with the kids and enjoy that business owner lifestyle your envisaged.

I wrote about this more in my post the Asset Snowball Effect.

Build a business not a job, because if you have a job as a solopreneur, your line manager is always a real bastard to you :)

Action Point

Hark me all dynamic and motivating.  I want you to spend ten minutes thinking about an activity that would allow you to spend more time working on your business and less in it, write about it in the comments below and I will act as your accountability partner.

The Inner Circle Coming To A Computer Near You Next Week

I’m launching the inner circle next week to a select band of founder members, join my email list if you would like advanced notice of what it’s all about.

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The Wrong Business Model

Sorry it’s been quiet around here for a few weeks.  The reason for that is a business decision I took several years ago.

I want to write a post that I ask you to take something to heart, and that is, that if you choose the wrong business model when you start your solo enterprise, you may regret it further down the line.

Sensible business model selection from the get-go can save you lots of headaches once your business has grown.

My project here at Solopreneurial.com has slipped because I have chosen the wrong business model for scale and growth in other areas of my business.

There is only you in a solo enterprise so if you attention is all going in one direction, you can only do that one thing.

Why I’ve Chosen The Wrong Business Model

Over at wpdude.com I run a 1-1 services business.  I supply WordPress technical support to my clients, but the take away point here is that if you sell your attention in a 1-1 scenario, that’s all you can do, your attention does not scale, you only have so much, and if you have sold 100% of your attention, you cannot get anything else done.  That’s why there has been no content at Solopreneurial.

You cannot develop your business, you cannot make plans to scale all of your time is gone.  You are firefighting for your clients and you have no energy to put into business development.

When you run a service business such as consulting, coaching, web development, graphical design … the list goes on, you are stuck on a tread mill selling your attention to make income – this is not a good business model once your business grows and your service becomes popular you very quickly become fully booked.

You may think I’m whining because I’ve got a popular business and that is good, but there are downsides to 1-1 and they are:

  • When you do not work, you do not earn.  There is no passive income.
  • I’m at 100% capacity,  my income has plateaued and I have no time to build other income streams
  • You are on a treadmill of finding and courting clients.
  • You can encounter cashflow issues if clients decide to pay late or not pay at all.
  • It’s not a business that you can sell except to someone with exactly the same skills as you.
  • The QA side of your work means clients come back for more of you attention after the job is done.
  • The only way I can scale my current model is to take on people, I’ve said I don’t want to do that here in the past, and I’ve looked into the idea over at wpdude with little enthusiasm.  Is this really the way I want to move that business forward?

Developing Passive Income Streams

I’ve known about this problem for quite some time and I have made a couple of false starts on creating a passive income stream.  I built the WP Owners Club, my membership site.

Guess what I’d built another time burden on myself, if I was not constantly building new content I could not serve my membership,  another poor business model. I was running around like a headless chicken serving tech support clients, I needed to take at least 2-3 days out of my schedule per month to build membership content and deliver it as a live webinar more attention gone.  I had no time for anything other than that.

Business Planning Session

This week I took a day off of client work (something I suggest you do and will be writing about soon) to sit down and have a good old business planning session.
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It was great, I took a big step back and looked at the business.  I got to look at it from 10,000 feet and see where it is not working.  I got a chance to plan what I want to build rather than the one I’m fire fighting with at the moment due to demand from clients (which is a great thing, but it’s leaving me frazzled).  Here are my take away points from my session:

  • I want to build solopreneurial.com into a truly great resource for solopreneurs.  I love writing about this topic, I love helping people build their own one person business, and for that I need to build traction, and for that I need to commit more time to the project.  I’ve allocated much more time to this site.
  • I’m going to be creating solopreneur consulting packages rather than a woolly buy my time for an hour and see what happens offering, more on that soon.
  • I’m going to build information products to solve the common solopreneur problems.
  • I have a burning urge to create an online magazine here at Solopreneurial, but that’s still in the planning phase.
  • I’m going to limit the number of wpdude.com clients I take on.  I’m 100% guilty of booking myself solid to get the money, no more, I’m going to build time into my schedule for longer term passive projects  which scale in a better fashion.
  • I’m going to productise my top six technical support requests from wpdude.com and turn them into information products so my wpdude clients can still get my expertise but in a scalable manner.
  • I’ve stopped doing certain less profitable work, for example I used to do a maintenance package which involved me paying for software which cut into my hourly rate, I’ve dropped that work.  It looks like I’ve lost some clients through this but you cannot please everyone.  There will be some pain when you change your business.

I can still be profitable, but I’ve freed up more time, I will introduce more products, which will allow me to free up even more time (see the asset snowball effect for details) to work on my business not in it.

 Time To Re-Engineer or Engineer Correctly

If you are on the wrong business model, or are just starting out, I suggest you sit down and really think about your business.  How you will services scale, what happens when you become a success and people are demanding your attention.

Don’t get me wrong I think 1-1 services are great, they are an incredibly easy way to setup shop, all you need is paypal, a website and a sales page BUT I suggest you always keep in the back of your mind scaling and passive income streams, you attention will only go so far, you will hit a bottleneck and be consumed by building other peoples business not your own.

Listen to what people are asking you when you sell your services. If people will hire you to do a job, people will sure as hell pay money to learn how to do something, build products out of these ideas.

Build time into your schedule to build a business not just a job that makes you run around like a headless chicken.

You will thank me later.

The Beauty Of The Solopreneurial Enterprise

The beauty of being a one-(wo)man-band is that you can change course very easily,  there is no-one else to worry about so you can make dramatic about turns without considering anyone but yourself.

That’s what I have decided to do.  I’m building the business I want to run, not the one demanded of me.  After all you can have all the money you want but if you are not having fun pursing the projects and personal goals you the solopreneur have, what is the point?

Wrap Up

Have you built your business around a problematic business model?  Are you running up against bottlenecks and problems lets talk about it in the comments.

If you would like e consulting session about choosing the right business model, why not book my attention from my consulting page.

Image by crystalflickr

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One Man Multinational

I run a one man (read person if that term bugs you) multinational business, and we all can thanks to the leveling effect of the internet

Internet Has Brought People Together

The internet has brought people together like no other medium in the past, I can communicate with people across the planet at almost zero cost.  There are tools that allow me to provide services as if they were sitting next to me, and other tools to take payment in their local currency and deposit it in my bank account with almost no effort. In short the world is my market, I’m a multinational player not a local small business, and I think you should build your soloporeneurial empire in the same way so you can tap into a huge global audience not a small sheltered local one.

An Unusual Day

Let me tell you about an unusual day I had last week that sparked the idea for this post. I came to work in my home office in the UK, and my first task was to catch up with some emails to a client in Australia there is a small window when we are both online so I dealt with them as a priority so we could bat a couple of ideas back and forth before he turned in for the night. I took a 10am skype call from a client in Dubai, we had to juggle our times around his visit to the Mosque, but it worked out well, he gave me final instructions for a multilingual site we would be working on together. I went through my morning routine of sending out quotes to potential clients around the globe. Then I knuckled down and did some real work.  morning is my prime time, it is usually very quiet, but not today.  The majority of my work comes from the US. Early afternoon sees the east coast rise, and my inbox comes to life, I start shooting replies to queries, sending out invoice the usual day to day client interaction. As the afternoon wears on I can feel the rest of the states waking from their slumber, my last client interaction is from a Canadian on the Pacific coast. That evening I gave a webinar attended by people in multiple time zones, I always start my webinars by saying “Good morning, good afternoon or good evening depending upon your timezone”. I love the way my work seems to follow the sun throughout the day.

The Majority of My Clients Are International

The majority of my clients are not local to me in the UK, even though this could be beneficial to me.  I deliberately position myself as an international player. This allows me to tap into a huge global market, not just a local one. I don’t do local networking events (that leaves me cold) I’m  not hunting down local companies so I can physically pitch to them, rather I have a 24/7 website selling my wares to anyone who cares to call. When I run ads I target the english speaking world, where ever they may be.  I can and do service people where ever they may be, the internet has made global trade a very easy thing.

There Are Downsides

Of course it’s not all shiny happy people, there are downsides. Paypal kicks me in the nuts with exchange rates every time I draw down cash (bastards). Timezone limitations. many of which are self impose mean many potentially lucrative 1-1 consulting gigs drift off because I cannot or will not take a call at 10pm. I’ve been at the pointy end of Xenophobia and short sighted people who accept quotes then later come back and say they found someone local.  WTF this goes both ways people, you don’t need to search for mediocre local talent, you can hire from the global community as easily as you can the local community.

Go Global

How can you make your business as a solopreneur more attractive to a global audience, answers in the comments section please, if this generates enough discussion I may upgrade this into a live Q & A session via webinar. Do you want more tips and techniques on selling your services and products globally or are you just looking for local clients, lets talk about this in the comments section.

Reminder

If you are reading this before January 9th can I remind you of the webinar I am running entitled “Raising Your Rates” it’s a free sample of the work I will be doing with my inner circle members, I will teach you how I have been consistently raising my rates over the past 18 months without my client backlash. You can sign up for the webinar using the link below. https://www1.gotomeeting.com/register/220797400 <– click to register Image by toasty
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Holiday Entitlement

I’ve just returned from a weeks holiday (read vacation if you are in the states) and it just got me thinking about the old holiday entitlement I used to get when I was employed and how I was allowed to use my entitlement.

Holiday Entitlement

Read that again, this is the number of holidays I am entitled to.  I’m  not sure if it’s the same setup where you live, but in the UK a salaried position comes with a number of none monetary benefits and one of them is a holiday entitlement.  Ususally you start with 20 days you can take in a year and it may increased as a long serving bonus.  We don’t get medical or dental packages  or even need one, we love our free national health service, it’s brilliant, but we do expect a holiday package.

So part of my pay and conditions was a certain number of days I could take out from the normal 9-5 and do my own thing.  Those days off are paid holiday.

Here is the rub, you have to jump through hoops to get the thing you are entitled to.

Book Your Holidays With Your Manager

I needed to book in my contractually agreed holidays with my managers to make sure my entitled time away from the company was agreeable to them.

If it is not agreeable with their plans (not my plans, their plans) they can reject my holiday request.

So the time I am entitled to can be denied to me.  I come to work for my salary and benefits not for the fun of it.

If they withheld salary for comapny reasons, there would be uproar, but the can mess with my time off.

Overworked Run Up

The days or weeks leading up to your holiday are fun filled, people realise you will be absent and they come a calling with all sorts of requests and demands.  These demands can probably wait but it doesn’t fit their personal agenda to wait till you return, it must be NOW!

As a result you are stressed to hell, overworked and drained.  A brilliant position to be in when you are leaving for time away with your family.

Two Weak Break

I heard this line in the Four Hour Work Week, you get your break and it’s over in a flash two weeks seems like too weak a time to be spending away from the corporate grind.

The overworked run up probably means you have dropped a couple of balls and there is always a nagging doubt in the back of your mind that you will get into trouble when your return.  Not a mindset conducive to sipping cocktails by the pool.

Shit Storm When You Return

When you get back from your break you are landed with a shit storm of requests and follow ups.  People know when you are due back and they come a calling.  The stress mounts and it’s as if you have not even been away.

You Need Time To Re-Charge

Even if you love the work you do, you need some down time, some time to recharge the old batteries.  A couple of days away from the grindstone with friends, a weeks holiday with the family or even a couple of days off to paint your stairway.

Work cannot be the centre of your life unless you want colleague only turning up to your funeral. ( and they are only there for a day off).

Your Time Belongs To Someone Else

When you work for someone other then yourself, you have sold your time 9-5, Monday to Friday and unless you want to lose your position you have to give that time willingly like a drone.  If they want to mess with your holiday plans they can, unless you say no.  If they want to mess with your weekends, they can until you say no.  It’s time to claim back that time and use it as you see fit not as a corporation sees fit.

It’s up to you to make the choice, if you take their money they own your time.  You are the only one that can change the game.  They are not, it’s not in their interest.  All they want is to move X units of widgets in as cheap and effective manner as possible.  You are a line on a spreadsheet that can be marked in red at will.

Never Having To Ask For Time Off Again

The point of this rant – working for yourself as a solopreneur means you never have to ask for time off again.  You never have to jump through anyone else’s hoops only the ones you set for yourself.

If you design your business wisely as I will be showing you hear at solopreneurial.com you can even pack up your business in your suitcase and take it with you.

This is a rallying call to step away from the stifling corporate world and strike out on your own.

Do You Want Take Time Off When You Want?

Stick with me, join the mailing list and I’ll give you tips and techniques how to build your own solo business.  Check out the inner circle for premium training or book a coaching session.

What Got You As An Employee?

What else has rubbed you up the wrong way as an employee?  Anwers in the comments below.

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Give Them What They Want Not What YOU Think They Want

If you are planning to launch a new product, service, coaching program, software service or physical product the best way to do this is to give them what they want, not what you think they want.

The Sound Of Crickets Chirping

If you launch what you think they want without the input from your potential customers first, you are likely to be greeted by the sound of crickets chirping when you launch.  Zero or few sales and a lot of time down the drain.

It could be the greatest offering ever, but if it does not touch on the problems your people have, they will never get what you are trying to do.

You may spend hundreds of hours building that membership site or writing your e-book only to find that it does scratch the itch that your people have.

If you want to hit the correct nerve every time, get feed back from your people BEFORE you go and create your thing.

Remember my core lesson, time is THE most important limiting factor as a solopreneur, if you spend lots of  time on a project that no-one buys that is time you will never get that time back, time that could have been spent in billable activities.

It’s All About Them

If you are creating a product you need to get into the mindset that it is all about them, not that it is all about you and what you can do for them.

You may think you have a great idea (and you probably do) but if it is not packaged in a way people want to consume it then it is a none starter.

Even if you still give them your original idea, it is packaged in a way that you tailored for them you have made it about your people not about you.

Makes It Easier To Sell

Say you have an e-book in mind, and you have the rough idea for the content, if you go to your audience and say I’m going to write an e-book about marketing your widgeting business, what are your problems?  They come back to you with their issues, your audience is telling your their problem they are also inadvertently telling you what to put in your sales copy.

If  lots of people say “I have difficultly showing photos of my widgets” then you can write “I will show you how to display crisp widget images on your website” in your sales copy.  You are on their wavelength already.

This is not sleazy underhand internet marketing, this is solving people’s real problems and packaging them in such a way that they understand how you can help them.

How Do You Give Them What They Want?

Ask them, simple as that.  Send out a survey or an email asking what their problems are.  Take time to analyse the responses and then go back to your people, saying this is what you said, I think you want X from me is that correct.

Again responses should come back if you are on the right track take the next step.

Announce you are going to create product or service X and ask for early adopters to buy your thing at a discount.  This is the litmus test, if they buy, your service or product is a go-er.

Six Step Process To Pre-Sell Your Thing

  1. Ask your people in a survey, email or blog post
  2. Analyse the response looking for patterns
  3. Go back to your people with your findings seeking confirmation
  4. Create an outline of your offering (not the real offering)
  5. Pre-sell your offering at a discount
  6. Create your thing and ship to your people.

The presell is an important step, people may happily say yes I want this, I need this help, but until they click add to cart you don’t know if  your offering is profitable or not.

I Need Feedback

You guessed it, this is more than just a blog post I want your feedback on the direction I need to take with this site.  I’m building a community of solopreneurs with my free blog posts and I will be building a members only platform in the inner circle.  Can you please take a moment to complete the survey at the bottom of the post

What I Will Do With This Information

I’ll use your feedback to tailor my blog posts and how I offer the inner circle coaching program.  This is step one of the six step process I’ve discovered to create products and services,  I’ll publish the other steps in future blog posts.

Oh Yeah, One More Thing

You’ve probably noticed I’ve changed the name of this site from neil-matthews.com to solopreneurial.com.  I was reading a great e-book called the Renaissance Business and part of what Emilie Wapnick was saying is that personal branding is great, but if your name is not associated with a  field i.e. solopreneurship it can cause confusion with first time visitors.  So I’ve gone for soloprenarial while I’m building this new business.

Being a solo is great for agile changes like this.

Wrap Up

Here is stage one of the finding what your people need process, stage two will come soon once I get your feedback together.
Image by timparkinson

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How I Blog For My Business

Originally published at wpdude.com

I’m not a problogger by any stretch of the imagination, I blog to support the WordPress Technical Support business I run here at WPDude.

After four years of blogging I’ve been able to switch off all paid advertising and support a team of two (soon to be three techies) in more work than they can handle, all because of blogging.  This post talks about how I’ve done this.

It’s Sure As Hell Not Get Rich Quick

Flip back to the previous paragraph.  Four years of blogging to get where I am.

If you think blogging is going to generate a ton of leads overnight, I’m sorry to upset you, blogging is a slow but sure marketing method. Once you get traction, and the search engines have a body of work for you, it’s a very low impact, always on and free form of marketing.

Blogging is passive (except the actual writing part) so I can market to people without actively being engaged, I can prove the expertise of me and my teams in WordPress through my posts and hopefully be in that persons mind when they need to engage a team to help with their site.

You need to be into blogging for the long haul, if you are still with me then please read on.

Blogging And SEO

As I write this I have 299 posts published on WPDude, that’s 299 chances to lure people into my site with a bite sized piece of my knowledge and a chance for me to expose them to my sales page.

I’ve written about a broad spectrum of WordPress topics so I can bring people into my sphere of influence and hopefully help them with my free content, and if they need it, help them on a paid basis too.

The large number of posts match to a large number of search queries and a wider range of people’s WordPress problems.

I have a couple of posts that bring me a lot of traffic, but I also have many many posts that bring a small trickle of traffic.  I’m pretty sure that the large body of work I have has contributed to my sucess with the search engines.

As I have blogged for such a long time, I’ve established authority with Google (I think – who really knows what they think) and it looks like I get good rankings for most things WordPress I talk about.

I’m not going in depth about seo in this post other than to say I use WordPress SEO by Yoast.  I write for people first then tweak slightly for search engine happiness.  Which leads me nicely to …

Who I Write For

Whenever I write a new blog posts I’m always thinking “Will this benefit the type of people who buy my services?”.  So for this posts for example I’m thinking, my clients have blogs, but they also have businesses, so they are using blogging as a lead generation strategy, bingo a match I can provide you free useful information and keep my name at the front of your mind.

I made the mistake in the early stages of this site of writing technical articles about WordPress, I was getting great traction with the WordPress development community, but they are not the type of people who want to do business with me, they can fix their own sites.

If you have one take away from this post, always think about your client when you post a blog.

What I Write

I write about things that will keep my clients informed about WordPress, show them what can be done with their sites and keep them abreast of the latest developments.

I always write from experience.  This is important, everything I write about I’ve used or done for real in my business of for my clients.  There is not theory, it’s all experienced based.

I like to write plugin reviews of new and interesting plugins I find that may be useful to my audience.

I also write articles on fixing the types of problems I see in the field, I call these case studies and they are great. They showcase my expertise while informing the reader, an under the radar marketing technique.

I write how to articles which will step you through fixing a problem.  These are good for showing your expertise and also showing your reader what can be done on their site.  If it is slightly technical it also shows your reader their knowledge gap, a gap they might like to plugin with expertise for hire,

I write direct sales articles when I’ve got a course or a special offer on.  This is where investing in you blog pays off, you have an audience willing to read your stuff, then when you have a sales or offer to give, your people will be engaged.  For example every year I run a holiday sale.  I’m based in the UK and we don’t celebrate Thanksgiving so I run a sale to plug that gap when I usually don’t get any work.

I also go off topic sometimes and write about online business, something I’m passionate about.

Blogging And Email Marketing

My blog feeds my email list too.  It makes being on my list a worthwhile thing.  I send out free updates to inform and educate then once in a while I send out a marketing offer.

Another thing with email and blogging is that it keeps your name and business in the fore front of peoples minds, Whenever I send out an email broadcast about a new posts I usually get a reply asking for a quote or two to fix a problem on someone’s site.

Guest Posting

I blog not only on my own site,  but I guest posts on other people sites too in an effort to increase my profile.  If you guest posts for someone with a bigger audience it’s a great way to expand your reach.  Busy bloggers or business owners are always happy to accept a high quality guest post.

This is something I’ve picked up again with a passion, tapping into someone else’s already established audience is a great way to boost your own profile.

I also accept guest posts here if you are interested.

Exposing Your Sales Funnel Through Blogging

This is where I’m spending a lot of my time at the moment, I’m analysing my traffic and finding ways to introduce people new to my blog to my sales page (It’s up at the top right in big red letters Hire Me, just in case you were wondering.)

It’s no good having a ton of traffic if people are completely missing the fact this is a business blog not a hobby blog or a pro-blog looking for advertising clicks.

Here are some of the techniques I use.

  • Constant reference, in a subtle way to my service.  I’ve done this in the first paragraph.
  • Differentiated menu items.
  • In posts ads.  I’m testing a plugin at the minute that inserts ads after x paragraphs.
  • Banner ad at the bottom of my posts.
  • Sidebar banner ads.
  • Reference to my services in the email update I send out about posts.  I have image banners.
  • RSS footer links to my sales page.
  • Hello bar, popups and welcome gates oh my (these may or may not be active when you visit due to split testing)
The idea is to provide people free content but also alert them to the fact they can hire me and my team.  Don’t be shy, this is a business.  It makes me shake my head when I see business blogs with nothing but a lonely services link at the top of their page.

Frequency Of Blogging

I post once per week, and a little more if I’ve got some sort of launch on.  That’s all I need.  I’m not running a magazine style site where I need constant eyes on my sites for advertisers, I need a constant trickle of people into my sales funnel to keep me and my team busy.

I like to write longish posts so it takes me a couple of hours to write up, check and send out an email alert about a new posts.  Not a bad time to results ratio in my opinion.

Blogging Mistakes

I made a couple of blogging mistakes in my early days, here are a few:

RSS over Email – I just presumed that because I like RSS over email that everyone else will too, and I put off starting an email list for about 18 months (fool of a wpdude).  Get your email list up and running now.

Losing momentum – as the work starts to come, blogging gets dropped off, I had too much work for clients and my blogging efforts dropped off, big mistake. When the projects are done I had to turn back to paid advertising rather than have a steady stream of leads ready to turn into projects.

Blog on home page – I know I’m still making this mistake but your home page should advertise your business not your blog.  I’m working on this at the minute.

Giving a damn about non-clients trolls - I used to get caught up in criticism about my blog posts from people who would never buy my services (other techies for example) or from out and out trolls.  You need to spend your time on clients, not these type of people. Actively direct them away from your blog, these are not paying your way they are wasting your time.

I would love to hear you blogging mistakes in the comments.

Wrap Up

All of my business comes from new clients finding me via my blog or from referrals from people who have used my services,  this is a great place to be in.  It takes a long time and perseverance, but it’s well worth the blogging journey.

Can I leave you with a tongue in cheek quote

Advertising is Like Sex: Only Losers Pay for it. – Chris Guillibeau $100 Startup

 

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A Digital Investment For Your Kids

This post was originally published at wpdude.com

Many people are more than happy to squirrel away tens of thousands in investments for their kids education, but are you also thinking about digital investments for their futures?

I own jenny-matthews.com (live) and faye-matthews.com (currently parked).   I bought and host these domains for my daughters as a digital investment for their future.

In this post I want to talk about my thinking behind this investment.

Why I Think Personal Domains Will Be Important

The ability to own you own digital identity and use it to further your personal goals will be huge in the future.  I call it a digital persona.

If you can build a platform to support your work and life goals that you control and that can move with you through life regardless of which company you work for, or if you are self employed will be huge in the future.

You can use it as a digital resume to build authority and show you have expert knowledge in a field.  This in turn can help you to get postions or clients.

I think more and more people will move away from the broken corporate model and work for themselves.  If you can use this platform to sell you wares you are ahead of the comptetion.

If you can do all this and associate yourself and your personal brand through yourname.com you will be seen as a thought leader.

An Example In Personal Authority Building

Say my daughters love fashion design and they go to university to study in that arena.

At the same time they are running a personal site where they discuss current trends  upload videos or images of their work in progress and generally build a multi media profile showing that they understand the fashion business.

When t0 comes time to look for work, their personal site jenny-matthews.com or faye-matthews.com is indelibly linked to fashion.  They show their love for the work, their knowledge and their competence.

But They Are On Facebook/YouTube/New Site Yadda Yadda

I rant till I’m blue in the face about people claiming they are on-line because they have a Facebook page or twitter profile.  Here it comes in bold capitals.

<rant>YOU DON’T OWN ANY OF THE CONTENT, PAGES, PROPERTIES,. USERS OR ANY DIGITAL ASSET ON SOCIAL MEDIA SITES </rant>

You need to have a home base and outpost mindset,. Create your digital home base on joe-bloggs.com and then distribute your work on outpost sites such as Facebook, twitter et al.  Own you homebase and make forays into other peoples sites in an effort to attract them back to your homebase.

Imagine you are using Facebook to build an online persona, and bam! They disable your account for some spurious reason, all your hard work is gone, you have no recourse, they own the game and can kick you off at will.

Domain Scarcity

As I’m sure you know domains are scarce, if you can get a high quality domain for your children they will thank you (perhaps :) )

Registering and keeping hold of your children’s name on a dot com is a great investment.  I’m offered versions of my name.com on a regular basis and people are asking thousands of dollars, get it now for ten dollars.

The scarcity is only going to get worse do you really want your kids to be using me@mynameversion12312312312312.co.west.some.other.town.

Good domain names are a luxury item not a commodity.

Educational Aspect

I think it’s great to teach your kids about the technical side of the internet.  My kids have taken to online life with ease.  They browse the net, use my iPhone and are pretty savvy tech users.

They can use the internet but have no concept of the underlying technologies.  I hope building their own sites will give them an understanding of these technologies.

I’m 100% sure that sites such as Facebook will obfuscate all technology from people in the future, making them tech illiterate and at the mercy of internet giants instead of having the skills to make their own little online paradise. They will be stuck in the online eqivalent of the projects with no way out.

I’m slowly but surely showing them things like linking to other sites, uploading YouTube videos and embedding them and swapping out themes.  I’m not the pushy parent type but if they show interest in something I will show them how to do it.

Remember the Geeks shall inherit the earth and the Jocks will be hacked into silence.

Online Security

My daughters are young, so I want to protect them from the darker side of the internet, so I have put a number of security controls.

disabled comments – there are no comments on Jenny’s site, I have used this plugin to disable them site wide http://wordpress.org/extend/plugins/disable-comments/

All emails come to me – all domain emails are setup to redirect to me so I can monitor all activity.

No contact forms or other inbound communication – this is very much a push website for Jenny, there is no two way traffic until she is a little older and understands trolling, grooming and other insidious acts that go in in the dark corners of the net.

I review the content – I make sure she is not sending out personal information to the www.

I’m pretty low key about all this, I have put theses controls in place, but I let my daughter do what she likes on her site.  I’ll talk about the darker side when she is older, but for now exposure to cialis comment spam, trolls and other nastys is something she can do without while writing cute stories about Hansel and Gretel.

Future Google Juice

The online land grab will continue for years to come, there will be more sites, more people and more noise. It will be increasingly difficult to sort the wheat from the online chaff. This is the real reason I’ve made the digital investment for my kids.

If they can start to build a site, gather some low key links and make inroads now,  into the beast that is Google, when they really need it in the future it will be a platform for their life’s work.

Some of things that are thought to help SEO are:

  • Age of domain – their domains will be 10+ years old by the time they are in their late teens
  • Amount of content & regularity of updates – if they slowly build up a series of posts this will contribute to their archive
  • Links – a link is a link, even if it’s their school chums linking to party photos or story this helps to build momentum
  • Social links – this will become huge in the future, if someone is liking a post on social this will become part of the algorithm and this is something kids will do naturally.

Neil-Matthew.com & Daughters

I have a little dream of my own, and that is for one day to take down the digital shingle at neil-matthews.com and upload a new banner neil-matthews.com & Daughters.

If we can bring together three digital properries in one e-family business that will make me a happy man.  Cross promotion and building onlne businesses as a familyrather than having them start from a blank canvas.

This is probably content for a future post, but it is something I am thinking about.  Why make your kids struggle in the corporate world when they can become online entrpreneurs.   If you can give them a leg up by giving them access to your digital audience I think that is eNepotism in the best fashion.

This is all new territory, there has always been a route to bring kids into bricks and mortar businesses, but how do you bring them into an online business.  Time will tell.

Wrap Up

WordPress may not be around when my kids eventually start ploughing their digital furrow, but I’m pretty sure some other product will be that does a similar things.  Digital ownership of their name where they can show authority will be a huge thing in the future employment marketplace, be it self employed or as a candidate at corporations.

Are you planning for your kids digital future?

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Earn Back Time

I was reading an excellent book recently by Colin Wright called Start a Freedom Business.  In it he talks about not only earning money from your business but earning back time.  It’s well worth a read, and at 77p for the Kindle edition it’s a steal.

In this post I want to talk about business design for the solopreneur and how you can earn back time something that really resonates with me.

Lifestyle Design

As a solopreneur you are ideally positioned to not only design your ideal business, but your ideal lifestyle.  If one of the things you would like from your solopreneur business is more time outside of your business to have a life then this is the site for you.

I’ll be talking about this extensively and I will be documenting my progress with some of my other very time intensive businesses as I re-engineer them, you’re welcome to come along for that ride.  I want a fulfilling business but I don’t want to work 14 hours a day, seven days a week.  I’ve been earning back time in many areas.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not lazy, I work really hard for my clients, but I think there is more to life than work, and if you work for yourself you are in the ideal position to get that balance correct.

The first thing you need to know is that selling your time on a 1-1 basis is never going to allow you to earn back time.  You need to think about how you can sell your expertise and skills passively so your business is generating income whilst you enjoy your earned back time.  Work On Your Business Not In It 

You need to leverage technology and systems to free up your time, time that is now earned back.  Remember this is your business, you can design it as you please, there is no face time for the solopreneur, if you don’t have to work, you can free up that time.  You don’t have to sit in that seat from 9-5.

This took a little getting used to personally.  I found myself free from work at 3pm, and I was looking around for other things to do, busy work to fill the rest of the day.  I felt a little guilty not working a full day.  Then I realised if I have met my income goals and have clients in the pipeline then it’s okay to goof off for the rest of the day.  I have learned to love the feeling of picking up my daughter from school happy in the fact I don’t have to go back to work and we can mess about, watch a DVD or do anything we damn well please.

How To Earn Back Time

Here are some of they ways you can earn back time.

Productise Your Knowledge – package up your expertise in such as way that it can be bought like a product, you can package up your knowledge as an ebook, video course, membership site, physical book or DVD.  This can then be sold without you giving over time.  What is more it can be sold over and over again.  As an aside read the Asset Snowball Effect to see how releasing time with products allows you to create more products and a snowball effect happens.

Sell other people’s knowledge – if you don’t have any products of your own, then the next best thing is to  sell other people’s knowledge as an affiliate, I’ll talk about affiliate marketing at a later date, but essentially you sell related products to your clients and get a commission.  For example over at wpdude.com I recommend premium themes and plugins to my clients, if they buy them through my affiliate link I get a commission.  This is not a huge income stream for me, but I regularly earn a couple of hundred dollars per month via affiliate systems, this adds up to a couple of hours that I don’t need to bill and is earned back time my my book.

Ditch the commute – work from home and ditch the hours you commute, I remember when I was working in offices, a couple of hours of my day were given over to sitting in a bus as I commuted into a large city centre in the UK.  Wasted hours that can be earned back.

Automate, Reduce and Systemise - I’ll not go on about this as I wrote about this over at Kiss My A.R.S, but if you reduce certain activities from your schedule you can earn back hours.

Limit Liabilities – a small lean business with low overheads needs to earn less meaning less hours

Right size your business – if twenty hours a week billable covers your expenses and allows you to fund the lifestyle you want then only put in 20 hours.  I’ve got a minimalist streak to me, I look around me and I have everything I need, I don’t need any more toys. I know the amount of income I need to sustain this lifestyle, if my business can generate my income requirements on a part time basis I’ve earned back my time.

Increase your rates – I’ve been experimenting with this extensively and I’ve got a stack of techniques to increase your rates without putting off clients, join my solopreneur mailing list to keep up to date on this topic.

Design Your Business

This is just a 101 intro to lifestyle and business design.  I want you to think about this when building your solopreneur business.  Get it right sized, don’t just focus on income, focus on quality of life too.

Want To Learn More Techniques Like This?

I’ll be teaching you how to design your solopreneur business so you can build not only the business, but the lifestyle you want in my  Solopreneurians coaching program.  In this weeks session I will show you “Why Webinars Work” an excellent way to market your business and deliver services in a smart way that can free up some of your time.  I’m offering a 14 day free trial membership of the inner circle, why not take advantage of that and learn all about webinars.

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Password Protect Your Time

I want to talk about  the idea of password protecting your time.

If you are with me for the long haul you are going to hear me bleat on about time a lot, I’ll say it again, but a solopreneur has limited time, use it well and guard it from time bandits (completely unrelated link to the Time Bandits film),  people who will steal your time and give nothing in return.

One thing I do is password protect my time, you need a user ID and password to get access to my time.

What’s The Password

Kerching, money, only give away your time to your clients in exchange for cold hard cash.  Think about your time as you do your computer, create logical/financial access controls to your time.

As a solopreneur you will always be battling competing priorities marketing, finances, service or product delivery, the list goes on and one.  Getting access to you on a one to one basis is something you should charge for.

Guard Access To Your Time Jealously

Orders are nobody can see the Great Oz! Not nobody, not nohow! –The Wizard Of Oz

I’m not saying you should shut yourself off from your clients or customers like the Wizard of Oz , rather getting access to your time on a one to one basis should be considered a premium offering not something your customers can grab on demand for free.

Set Expectations

Let your clients or customers know that you have resources and offerings that can be accesses at any time for free from your website an FAQ for example, publish your expertise in blog posts people can refer to create videos etc., but if someone wants one to one time from you they have to pay for it.

Give Access On Your Schedule

If you are happy to give away access, don’t give away access on demand, don’t let people call you at any time during the day which will break your flow and stop your productivity, disconnect and create a firewall to your time and give access when you want, not when the demanding customers want you.

Give Away Smart Time Not 1-1 Time

If you really have to give away free time for marketing purposes for example, use smart tools to do this.  If you need to give product demonstrations, give a webinar for a dozen clients rather than doing it one to one.  Record the webinar and use it over and over again.

Productise Access

You can also create a product of your access, this may sound a little weird, but if people ask you the same question time and time again, why not create a short video as an answer and point people to that.  They get your access and your attention but in a productised manner.

Examples Of Guarding Your Access.

If potential clients want to get on the phone with you to “pick your brains” before signing up, that sounds more like a free consulting session to me.  I’ve been guilty of this in the past, getting on the phone, giving people an hour of my time in the chance I might get a gig, only to find they exhaust my expertise and waltz off into the night.  Politely tell them you are fully booked and can you write up their queries in an email that I can answer at a later date.

Instant messaging requests, the old “Can we have a quick Skype chat”  usually degenerates into a 30 minute back and forth session, the instant nature of chat software is a huge distraction, once they have you, they have 100% of your attention, log out of AIM sessions.

Being reactive in your inbox is anther way people (sometimes unintentionally) get instant access to your time.  Once an email lands it becomes your problem and we are conditioned to respond.

Techniques To Guard Your Access

I don’t publish a telephone number any more, and the one I have is a Skype in number that goes to my skype account.  Using this technique I can block out calls or simply mark myself as offline.   I don’t answer my mobile phone unless I know who it is.

Disable chat utilities.  I always log out of Google chat and Skype to stop people IMing me.

Something I don’t do well but am desperately trying to get to and that is checking email once or twice a day.  Once you get into your inbox, other people’s problems suddenly become yours and they get access to your  time via email replies.  Email is a terrible time suck.

If you get hundreds of comments on your blog posts, disable comments.

Don’t get me started on the black hole of time that is social media that’s a horse of another colour (two wizard of Oz references in one post, not many people can say they get to do that for a living).

Want My Password?

Two ways to login to my time are via my coaching services or theInner circle.  Buying my access this way gets you an instant login ID and password.

I may come over as cold and calculating in this post, but you will find giving away your time for free builds resentment in you, devalues your time in the eyes of your clients and it not great long term.  1-1 access should be premium. not something clients and customers have for free.

Are People Hacking Your Time?

How are people hacking into your time?  Emails, phone call, IM, Text messages, social media pokes, it’s time to change your password and setup the firewall.

Further Reading

Okay class, I’d like you to read chapter II – E is For Elimination from the The 4-Hour Workweek before next weeks lesson please.

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Building Online Business