How I Lost My Voice Along the Way… and The Quest to Rediscover It - 16

By Christine | September 18, 2012

Somewhere along the way, I lost my voice. The irony… a degreed writer, a blogger, and the owner of two communication companies… a person without a voice — publicly that is. My personal life is a different story. That “self” has grown and flourished and found it’s own voice perhaps more than ever before.

But at the same time, my professional voice grew quieter. Eventually, I found myself living between a fragmented personal and professional self that I’ve found difficult to merge.

A couple of weeks ago I attended the Content Marketing World 2012 event. Something about the way the stars were lined up in my own life(s), layered on top of this event, changed everything for me.

I’ve been piecing together how exactly I lost my voice and then what it was that gave me the courage to use it again. Maybe if I can, someone else suffering in this quiet hell of being awake but paralyzed to speak, will be set free. I don’t think I’m the only one.
 

The Tale of the Rise and Fall…

When I started Self Made Chick, I was a solopreneur with a thriving copywriting business. I was on the recovery after losing pretty much everything in my life. An incredibly social person, I was meeting friends again through fellow bloggers after spending years in physical and emotional isolation. Life was great. Things were awesome. The sun was out again. I blogged because I needed an outlet for that story. Not for search engine rankings or visibility or to create a name for myself — I just wanted to get it out. In the beginning, it never really occurred to me that anyone would even be listening. There was nothing to lose.

But then something happened…

My business was growing so quickly that I could not even keep up with the inquiries nor possibly execute the workload. I was faced with a choice… raise my rates and cater to a handful of clients, or create a system that could provide quality copywriting services at affordable rates for as many people as possible.

One thing you might know about me if you’ve read any of my blog is that I have an immense love for the small business entrepreneur. The person that’s just getting started. The person with more passion than money. Being in a position to help that person is kind of what I’m all about. There was no way in hell I could possibly turn my business into something that served a small exclusive group and leave my kind of people behind. No way.

So I made what was perhaps the best decision of my entire life (personal and business included) and I formed a partnership with Tara Geissinger (who lives on the opposite coast of the United States from me and who I got to know solely virtually because of this blog) and we took this thing on together.

That meant giving up 75% of my income because of the way we reorganized everything.

There was no guarantee that I would ever get back up to my income — and as a single mom doing everything alone, that was kind of scary. But I had my morals and values — and those were (and are) to do right by the small business and provide the best quality services at an affordable price.

And if we don’t live by your morals and codes, than what are we really?
 

And This Is Where I Started To Choke…

Choke (verb):
a. To slow down the movement, growth, or action of
b. To block up or obstruct by filling or clogging
c. To become blocked up or obstructed
d. To bring to an end as if by choking
e. To be unable to speak because of strong emotion
f. To be seized with tension and fail to perform well

Synonyms:
strangle, stifle, suffocate, smother

So many times when I’m writing, I come to my senses and wonder — “why am I spilling my guts here???”

I guess it’s because I don’t think I’m the only one… And if anyone else is battling this right, I want you to know that you’re not alone.

After the partnership it wasn’t just me anymore. We had a “company.” I’m perfectly comfortable in my own skin and with my own voice, but now everything I said and did was a reflection of “the company.”

Do people that own successful companies have flaws and weaknesses? Do they publicly come clean about their insecurities?

Intellectually I thought, yes… they must. There were countless other examples of this being the case. But whenever I would start to blog, I choked on my own words. I made a commitment to myself when I started this blog that I would only write about first hand knowledge. But I was learning so much as I took on these new things. How could I give ‘advice’ on something without long term proof that it worked?

And there was another, more complex layer… With a nerve that is hardwired directly into my very soul. One that if damaged, might destroy me for good.

What if my next blog post is a total flop? What if no one cares? I made a promise to myself from the very beginning that this blog would address the human part of success. The part that’s missing from those motivational books that give a 30,000 foot view of where the subject came from opposed to where they are now, but don’t leave out the really hard stuff in between getting from there to here. What if I bared my soul and it turned out that people didn’t like it, or worse… didn’t care?

Add that to the fact that I was having my own personal “mid-life” crisis. Kicking ass in business, but in an after marriage relationship with someone that wasn’t in a place in life to value me the way I knew I needed be valued — just because I was too weak to be alone. Was I in any position to be giving “advice?” I made a promise to myself from the very start that this blog would be authentic… that it would reveal the stuff behind the curtain. But what if my “authentic” was not good enough?

I watched as many my blogging friends went on to do great things. To make names for themselves. I told myself it was ok because we were busy building companies — and those two things couldn’t coexist. You couldn’t be “a person” and “a company” at the same time. Right?
 

Enter Content Marketing World 2012

The title of this blog post was originally going to be “How Content Marketing World Changed My Freakin’ Life.” That’s how critical this turn of events was for me. On the day that I boarded the plane for Columbus Ohio for Joe Pulizzi‘s Content Marketing World event (Joe, you’re amazing), several important events had just taken place in my life that put me into a zone where I was open and ready for change.

1. I made a conscious choice to end a relationship that I felt in my heart wasn’t exactly right for either person. I took a stand that I would rather risk being alone forever than do something I didn’t feel was right. I was starting to design my life again, rather than just “letting it happen” to me.

2. I learned that if you have too many friends and stick to your code of ethics vs. trying to please everyone, that eventually some of those friends will weed themselves out of your life. I began to realize that it’s more important to believe in something and stand by it than to seek the approval of others. And sometimes it takes a lot of courage to take a stand for what you believe in and there’s no way to win without losing something or someone — and that’s never fun. As Brian Clark said in his presentation with Sonia Simone at CMWorld on the topic of not being afraid to rock the boat, “You don’t even need to be controversial. Just take a stand on something and watch the haters come in.”

In short, I was becoming more comfortable with ME. Step one.
 

Thank you Mary Lou and George…

After an amazing day of presentations at Content Marketing World all geared toward having a voice and purpose through content, Joe and the CMI team had a special treat for us — a free concert with Rick Springfield. I tell ya, internet marketing people know how to have a good time. In addition to the concert, the CMI team had set up a pre-party with an open bar in the expo hall, a BBQ dinner at the concert pavilion with an open bar, and then a post party back at the hotel with an open bar. Work hard play hard at it’s finest.

I met Mary Lou at the pre-party and we immediately hit it off fabulously. What an amazing lady. I’ve never really been into talking about the normal “fluffy” stuff people tend to talk about when they first meet (yawn) — I like to break the ice and get down to the human stuff. By the time we finished our cocktail, Mary Lou and I had already gotten way past that ice were fast friends.

The thing is, now that I wasn’t blogging… and because I work at home by myself pretty much all of the time, I really had very little interaction with my business peers any more. Would they like me for “me” the way my friends did? Could I talk about my businesses success and my misadventures in dating and about working my way up from being homeless in one conversation and still be taken seriously? My time with Mary Lou reminded me that I could.

On the way to the concert pavilion, we met George Passwater and we all hit it off immediately. By nature, people who communicate for a living are pretty easy to converse with — especially after a couple of free cocktails.

By the time we had sat down with our plates of delicious BBQ to eat, the conversation had turned to blogging. I shared my story of my fall from grace and about how mad I was at myself for totally abandoning my blog. I never revealed the name of it, but kind of shared the gist of it.

And then this moment happened…

George looked at me and said, “Wait… what’s your name again? I used to read your blog when I was just starting out!”

?!?!?!?!?!?!?!

George… whether you realize the impact of this or not, I’ll never know. But to find out that you, living on the opposite coast of the United States, remembered this blog from four years ago — and that it was one of the resources that helped you grow your now successful content company, was a life changer.

From my perspective, I’m sitting at my desk all alone having major anxiety over pushing the “publish” button. But it turns out, that once that content is out in the world, it may just reach someone that really needs to hear it.

From “how-to” tutorials, to stories that make you feel more human, I started to realize just how much I rely on information shared by others every single hour of every single day.

One could even argue that it’s irresponsible and selfish to be so wrapped up in being worried about putting yourself out there that you fail to share the knowledge you’ve collected throughout your life with others who may need it. And that’s how I’m looking at it now.

Over two days of fantastic presentations delivered by people that are my industry heroes, I heard the same message:

Tell your story.

We all need each other in this world. Whether it’s to figure out how to edit my settings on Facebook, or get an option on that campground, or to have a laugh, or to be inspired by a story when we’re feeling low, we all need each other.

And in today’s digital world, we give and receive that through online content.

It’s not about “marketing.” It’s about contributing the information you’ve collected in your life to the world so that we can all try to make sense of things better. And with so much noise out there online, it’s about doing it in such a way that is authentic and genuine and designed to be selfless rather than selfish.

Please, tell your story. It can be scary and hard to put yourself out there. But there are people in the world that need to hear it.

Topics: Risk Taking | 16 Comments »

The Results of the $20,000 Passive Income Challenge - 29

By Christine | February 23, 2009

Dave and Christine Face OffLast February, Dave Navarro and I put each other to a challenge… he put my ebook on how to start a freelance business to the test in a Freelance Smackdown to see if he could make an extra $1,000-$2000 per month in his spare time. Within a month, he had made that goal. Then I challenged his 30 Hours a Day Program to see if I could use it to make an extra $20,000 in passive income that year.

The very awesome Melinda Brennan of WAHM Biz Builder recently asked… so how’d it go? I’m happy to announce, that this challenge has had an incredible positive financial impact in my life. But not exactly in the way I’d imagined…

In order to devote time to my new goal, I would have to free up some time. I have never been so aware of and so in awe of the power and consequences of time spent until I began working for myself.

Two Paths Diverged In A Yellow Wood…

There was a critical choice that had to be made in order to free up that time… a choice so pivotal that it would change the course of my future. It’s a choice that every freelancer faces, whether or not they realize it to be a choice. One choice would be a fast path, the other a long haul.

Should I continue on as a solo freelancer? Or should I turn my freelancing gig into a company?

The Solo Freelancer Path

As a solo freelancer, my work was fairly stress-free. I was fluent at what I did. I worked with a handful of steady clients and project management was fairly straight-forward. Really, my solo freelancing career had turned into a stable work at home job.

My life was predictable and safe. I lived in my favorite place in the world – a place that I finally felt at home after years of moving around the country. It would have been so easy to just maintain that predictability and safety by cutting back a little on freelancing and devote that time to building my passive income stream.

The Living Company Path

Having taken this path, I can say that making the shift from solo freelancer to full-fledged business owner is not the simpler route. The path is riddled with fears, obstacles, tests, puzzles, and quicksand. Instead of being financially responsible for just yourself, you are now financially responsible for the people that work for you.

There may be times when there are just not enough funds in the coffer to pay yourself after you’ve paid everyone else and your overhead. There is training that must take place, organizational systems to set up, and more paperwork to manage. There are systems to develop to ensure that quality and deadlines are met. And all of these things demand a great deal of time.

That is why you may have noticed my blog posts becoming more infrequent during certain months. Although I consider myself a person that can juggle a LOT of tasks and, throughout my life have taken on more than what most people would consider sane, I was still hammered for time. Many times, my life felt like a game of Tetris with all of the blocks falling so fast and capacity running out. But I’m glad I chose this path.

There are upsides of course. One is the possibility of creating something larger than yourself – a legacy that can live on without you – fulfilling one of the most primal human desires. Another is the ability to serve more people with work that you are passionate about. A third is the possibility that one day, the company can grow to a point where it operates almost on it’s own, but generates revenue for years to come.

A lot of people have had amazing results keeping their business solo or almost solo while building massive income streams with info products. I mean, look at Naomi raking in the bucks with her products (and with damn good reason – the chick is a rock star). Look at Ray Edwards and other master copywriters who charge tens of thousands of dollars for copy and make money giving classes and seminars.

Sadistic or Smart?

So why go the business building route when so many others are making bank by staying solo? Perhaps I’m self-sadistic. Perhaps it’s some sort of sick sense of low self-esteem or a refusal to let go. Perhaps it’s the lust of wanting to have my cake and eat it too. Whatever it is, it’s the road I took and I’m glad I did.

I like to tell myself that it’s because I love what I do, I love serving customers who are passionate about growing their online businesses but may not have tens of thousands of dollars to spend. I like to tell myself that it’s because I want to be able to scale to serve more of my clients in the same capacity.

After busting a$$ for a very long time, free time to work on the ‘big picture’ is within view. Just this month, we hired a personal assistant and are hiring a full-time project manager. This gives me the opportunity to create even more systems to help the business scale and to pursue other ventures, produce some products that have been on my mind for quite a while, begin offering consulting – and all while serving more of the customers that I love.

So Did I Make the $20,000?

I can say that yes, I have made $20,000 in ‘passive’ income last year. But it wasn’t as passive as it would have been if I were to have created a product or automated service.

Instead, I created a system within my existing business that worked to produce income from projects with minimal hands on involvement from me. I worked my a$$ off creating systems that can continue that trend year after year.

Either way, I thank Dave for asking me the tough questions to get my butt into gear. Dave and I worked together on the phone during coaching sessions (which at this point he’s not offering so the next best thing are his audio programs and ebooks).

How To Grow Your Business From Solo Operation to Business Operation

The details of growing a business from solo to a fully operational team could certainly fill a book. Instead writing an obscenely long blog post, I’d love to open up the comments section to stories and questions about growing your home-based business without going into debt by using creative, strategic methods.

Growing and Marketing Your Business in A Tight Economy

Free Telemarketing SeminarIf you’re really serious about growing your business, I highly recommend Melinda Brennan’s upcoming free business marketing teleseminar, Marketing Biz Brainstorm, taking place live on March 3rd at 2:00pm EST. I’ve been invited to be a panelist on this call with Melinda of WAHM Biz Builder and Kelly McCausey of WAHM Talk Radio.

One of the goals of this teleseminar is to answer of your personal questions on small business marketing. When I say your questions – I mean it! The call is very much directed by the questions YOU submit when you register for free. So think of some good questions and ask them here – because this is a great opportunity to get your questions answered for free!

If you’re in business for yourself, you’re in a state of constant flux… where are you now? What challenges or fears do you face in terms of growth? Do you have any tips to help others scale? I’d love to hear from you!

Topics: Business Development, Freelancer Tips | 29 Comments »

The 7 Deadly Mistakes of Press Release Writing - 25

By Christine | January 27, 2009

How to Write a Press Release(BTW – it’s free!) Since launching our press release submission site, Tara and I have learned something truly important – many people are making some major mistakes when it come to writing and submitting press releases! To help others learn to write more effective press releases, we put together this free downloadable guide to writing press releases.

The book highlights the 7 deadly mistakes we see in a surprising majority of the press releases submitted. With just a few little tweaks, most of the press releases we receive could be transformed from so-so, to great! It doesn’t just cover the writing of search engine optimized press releases, but how to submit them so that they look great online.

This e-book is a quick and easy read, filled with lots of graphics and no B.S. tips for writing and submitting better press releases.

How to write and submit press releases online

Why Is It Free?

A few reasons:

#1: Because, I’m more concerned about giving you the tools you need to write better press releases than I am about making money off of this. Times are tough for a lot of people right now and submitting press releases online is a great, low cost way to get the word out about your news and to build quality backlinks to your site that ultimately help it rank higher in the search engines.

#2: Online PR News is a new site, and we want more people to know about it! Our goal over the next few years is to make this the best and most affordable damn press release submission site online – a site that truly connects people with news to share with those looking for new things to talk about. If you find the ebook useful and you’d like to share it with others, feel free to direct others to Online PR News where anyone can take their free copy.

To download your free copy of the press release writing e-book, just head over to Online PR News and you’ll see the download link right on the homepage.

Wishing You Success,
Christine ~

Topics: Marketing | 25 Comments »

How I Ranked A Brand New Site In Google & Yahoo’s Top 10 Within 3 Weeks - 34

By Christine | January 7, 2009

ranking #9 in GoogleThree weeks ago, Tara and I launched a brand new free press release submission site – Online PR News. Today, 3 weeks later, it is ranking in the #9 spot (update, it is now in the #6 spot) in Google for one of our target keywords (competitiveness of the keyword is: 1,380,000), the #13 spot in Google for another target keyword (competitiveness = 2,180,000), the #10 spot in Yahoo for yet another target keyword (competitiveness=8,360,000), and in various other spots for a variety of other keywords.

Some SEOs that I know won’t touch a brand new site – one that I know won’t work with any client if their domain hasn’t existed for 3 years or more. Reason: it can sometimes take months for a site to even be indexed by search engines let alone rank on the first page. But who has time to wait? I’m moving at the speed of business and my clients are too. Over the years, we’ve developed strategies to get rankings quickly – and I’ll show you exactly how we did it in this post.

Factor #1: LOVE and PASSION

This probably sounds ridiculous to some, but I don’t care. I believe that love and passion for any site that you’re promoting is critical. I even bring this into our business practice. When I take on a client, I make sure that I can have the same level of love and passion for their site as we do our own – otherwise, things just don’t work out as well.

I’ve tried building sites based on money and not passion. They never got anywhere – and it all stemmed from me. Building and promoting them seemed like work. Coming up with ideas for content was like pulling teeth. I didn’t know enough about the target audience to really connect with them. I didn’t like the way I felt about the whole thing… so why would anyone else?

Many years ago, I decided to stop relying solely on all of the rehashed trends and strategies I was hearing out there. I decided to read Sergey Brin and Larry Page’s college paper titled PageRank Citation Ranking: Bringing Order to the Web. What I learned is that no matter what loopholes internet marketers find, Google’s goal is to rank the most useful and authoritative sites at the top of the rankings. So I’ve made a commitment to producing what I believe are the most useful sites to real people.

If you don’t have love and passion for what you are doing and for the people who will be utilizing your site, it will be an uphill battle to do all that is necessary to truly produce a great site and hence, get visibility for that site.

We created Online PR News because we wanted to provide the most feature-rich, best looking, most affordable press release submission website. We created it because we use PR sites constantly and wanted to combine all of the features WE desired in a press release like anchor text, image uploading, pull quotes, and an iFrame so that we readers can navigate to the publisher’s site right from the press release. (Take a look at this sample press release to see those features in action)

Sure, there are exceptions to this ‘love and passion’ rule, but in general, if you are not passionate about the site that you are promoting, it just won’t get as far.

Are you truly and honestly passionate about what you do? Do you LOVE waking up in the morning to get to work on building that business? If not, there is time to find that thing you love and let the passion of it fuel your fire…

Factor #2: Resource Building and Diversified Publishing

For any product or service, there are a limitless number of resources that can accompany it to help others to use the product or service better or to use the product or service to enhance their lives. If your products or services – and the people who use it are something you are truly passionate about, it isn’t difficult to come up with a wealth value added resources.

They key however, is in publishing those resources. Many people publish their info on only a handful publishing resources such as their blog or website. But there are so many different places to publish content. If you choose those places wisely, many of them will offer a backlink to your site (which helps it to rank higher in the search engines) as well as visibility of that resource for the search terms.

Some of the types of content I publish are:

  • Different resources ranking in 3 spots in YahooHubpages – leverage an authority site to like Hubpages correctly can help bring your presence to the forefront quickly.
  • Article Marketing – I write articles that designed to help people build their businesses and syndicate them to a wealth of article directories
  • Press Releases – publish press releases on sites that offer search engine value
  • Free eBooks – promote them on eBook directories
  • Blogs – both by blogging and by reaching out to other bloggers whose readers could truly benefit from the services I offer
  • Social Networking Sites – We’ve scoured the web to find the best business networking sites that offer not only a useful service, but backlinks as well
  • Directory Listings – Not all directories are great… but there are a handful that are
  • Wikis – while the links on sites like Wikipedia, Wikihow, and eHow are often ‘nofollow,’ the exposure can be dramatic
  • Forums – helping others to solve their problems on blogs and forums can go a long way. I interviewed a wonderful entrepreneur, Chris Hanisco, aka, The Dippy Chick, who was found by the news media because of her active presence on a popular enterprenuer’s forum.
  • Email Marketing – reaching out to current clients and people who have expressed interest in our products and services to get the word out
  • Twitter – Thank you Angie (one of SEO Content Solution’s awesome writers and an online writing coach) for Tweeting about the new press release site!
  • Friends – Give friends and contacts to review your site and, if they like it, to give it a Stumble or recommend it to their contacts. Offer an incentive to review your site and invite them to link to it in their upcoming posts. For example, if you would like to review and link to Online PR News, I will gladly offer you a free SEO press release upgrade. Just send me an email with a link to your post and the title of your press release and I’ll pay for the upgrade :)

Are you spending too much time on any one particular blog, social media site, or other resource when you could be diversifying? It’s GREAT to have a few that you focus on more than others, but you could be holding yourself back by not tapping into all of the many options out there.

Factor #3: Strategic Keyword Planning

As an SEO copywriter and online marketer, one of the very first things I ask a client about is their keywords. Establishing the keywords you need to bring traffic to want is one of the most critical factors of a strong search engine ranking.

I’ve used a lot of keyword tools, but my favorite by far is Google’s keyword selector tool. With this, you can see how many people are searching, the level of competition, and be introduced to related keyword phrases that you may not have considered.

Keywords are essential in everything from writing title tags, to writing your on page content, to titling articles, to the anchor text you’ll use in your published resources. You’ll want to keep your list of keywords handy and use them consistently in all of your publications.

Factor #4: Treat Others With Genuine Compassion and Fierce Loyalty

Business is an ecosystem. Like any ecosystem, one organism depends on the other organisms in the ecosystem to survive and flourish. This is a lesson I learned well when hitchhiking across the country and during the days that I lived in a tent. If you want to survive, you have GOT to be fiercely loyal to your pack, to share when you have something to share, and to create relationships of unconditional trust.

Being genuinely kind, helpful, and reliable to others without necessarily expecting anything in return goes a long way. The ethic of reciprocity may be cliché… “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you” – but so true.

Topics: Marketing | 34 Comments »