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You can have fun with your blog - BlogHere’s the thing: we like to make business hard.

Harder than it probably needs to be. There are plenty of things about running a company of any size that are hard enough as it is. Taxes come to mind. Also, deciding whether and how to scale. And maybe deciding on your brand’s color palette, if you are a person who loves ALL THE COLOR.

The creatively entrepreneurial mind likes to complicate that which doesn’t necessarily need to be complicated. Partly, that’s because you’re gifted: you recognize the beauty of complexity, you appreciate nuance, you want to hold hands with context always and forever. These are traits that make you a natural born business owner, especially one that’s The Voice Bureau’s type of Right Person.

One thing that, perhaps surprisingly, should NOT be hard is figuring out what to write on your blog.

And how it connects to the big picture of what you do, why you do it, and who you’re doing it for. Yes, seriously.

Your blog should be like the (not so) secret diary of your business’s brain, heart, and spirit. It should tell your Right Person exactly what they want to know (but maybe didn’t know they wanted to know) about the very thing you do, believe, offer, value, create, sell. It should answer questions they didn’t even know they had, but really, the answers to these question are everything for them.

This may all sound intimidating, but the truth is, everything I just said in the paragraph above is already encoded into the DNA of your business. And you, my friend, made that DNA. You know it. You are it.

When you trust your business’s DNA — when you trust yourself — then blogging becomes fun (again. or maybe for the first time ever.).

If you follow what’s in your business’s DNA, blogging stops being hard. And it becomes more effective, because you’re catering to your actual Right Person, not some idealized version of who you think that is or who you want it to be.

We all enjoy conversations about our favorite themes and topics. You know that friend you just can’t wait to get together with because you get to indulge in your favorite discussions, AND you feel seen, met, heard, witnessed, and responded to? That’s how blogging can (and should!) feel, and that’s also how your Right Person feels when he or she reads your best and most DNA-aligned stuff: seen, met, heard, witnessed, and responded to.

Good blogging from a connected and aligned place is a form of delight. And delight is FUN.

Good blogging — FUN blogging — can and should be planful and purposeful, too. It’s all part of the same motion. When you own that your business’ DNA is exactly what your Right Person connects with, and when you stop fighting it and allow yourself to develop a plan that caters to who YOU really are, blogging is going to be easier, more fun, and more effective.

Our latest course, Run Your Business Like a Magazine, is designed to help you put a content strategy in place that honors your business DNA and makes blogging fun — for you, and for your readers. Enrollment is open through February 5, 2017. We’d love to have you with us in this 4-week, step-by-step, build-your-content-strategy-and-let’s-get-to-the-fun-already experience.

In the comments, I’d love to hear:

Is blogging fun yet? If not, what seems to be standing in your way?

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Copywriter Heal Thyself - Blog

When I’m talking to new business owners, one of my first pieces of advice is simply, “Get yourself out there.”

If you’re not tweeting or posting to Facebook or blogging or talking up your products and services on a milk crate out on the corner, no one is going to have a clue what you’re doing. And I don’t care if you’re the best darned financial-planner-who-maps-investment-strategies-using-astrological-charts on the market, if your Right Person hasn’t heard of you, your Right Person isn’t hiring you.

Almost five years ago, when I started working for myself (and, soon after, with Abby here at The Voice Bureau), I had great intentions. I would work 12 hours a day! I would have a gorgeous website, packed with interesting material! I would have signature offerings! I would blog every week! My social media presence would be consistent and clever and engaging!

I started off okay. Pretty soon, though, life happened.

 

A few months after I began working for myself, while I was still getting things off the ground, I accepted a temporary contract position at the Home Shopping Network as a digital content producer. And about three weeks after I started at HSN, I got pregnant. Suddenly, I found myself working a full-time job, writing and editing for a growing client base, and so freaking tired I could barely keep my eyes open for my twice-hourly trips to the bathroom. Fortunately, I managed to sidestep the morning sickness I’d heard so many horror stories about — though I did develop a sudden and powerful aversion to bananas for a few months — but even without puking my guts up, pregnancy wasn’t exactly the minor adjustment I’d hoped it would be.

When faced with an overwhelmingly large to-do list and rapidly decreasing energy reserves, I did what seemed the most rational: I evaluated my list and cut out anything that seemed unnecessary. Cooking? Eh, my husband is an excellent cook, and he didn’t retch at the smell of browning meat. Housework? That’s an easy one; I wasn’t supposed to touch most cleaning products anyway. Promoting my business? While I was certainly open for business, adding more clients to my shrinking schedule wasn’t exactly top priority.

Fast forward to today. I now have two amazing little girls who keep me up all night. I’m at the helm of The Voice Bureau. I’m still tired, but it’s just sort of who I am now. Check back in 18 years.

This is the part where I promise to blog more, where I take my own advice, get back on that horse, and tell the world via a weekly missive just how much I love good SEO, what tired buzzwords you should cut from your vocabulary, what one simple marketing tip will cut inches from your waistline and add inches to your wallet.

Copywriter, heal thyself. Or don’t.

Because you know what? While I may intend to share my thoughts more regularly, I don’t want to feel guilty when a surprisingly engrossing client project or a crying baby keeps me away from blogging. Sometimes, I just want to do the work.

So what’s a writer to do? Well, I’ll tell you.

Sometimes — just sometimes — you skip the blog post. You find other ways to connect, and you make it work, and you try again next week.

Maybe you focus on networking for a little.

Okay, I am the introvertiest introvert who ever introverted. The idea of attending one of those schmooze-and-drink mixers literally makes me want to close up shop and get a day job that involves never seeing a human during business hours again. Rare jungle animal researcher. Desert island cartographer.  Professional hermit. But that doesn’t mean that I don’t value human connection.

I really love our clients. They (you) are awesome. And they know people who are awesome, too. That’s why referrals are literally the best.

Try reaching out to your previous clients from time to time (or, better yet, stay in touch). You never know which amazing client has an amazing friend who needs you.

And don’t underestimate the power of testimonials. It’s like having a wingwoman on hand at all times. “Oh, The Voice Bureau? They’re great. You should go out sometime.” (I’ll be taking my own advice on this with a new page soon, I swear.)

Or maybe it’s time to try a different medium.

So maybe I’m feeling burned out on the blog format.

Okay, what about speaking engagements? I played Flight of the Bumblebee backed by a combined group of every band in my high school. I laugh at stage fright. Bring it. Podcasts? Why not? Video series? An excuse to brush my hair on a weekday? Look how fancy I am!

Think outside the blog. There are other ways to get your message out there.  Like social media.

(Before you get too excited, you probably shouldn’t ditch your blog for Pinterest.)

 

But when you’re just not feeling up to writing out that long blog post, maybe a few pins, a handful of tweets, a catchy Instagram meme, and a mini Facebook rant would be more your speed.  Nurture those audiences, and when the day comes that you cannot blog another blog, they’ll be happy connect with you where you are.

A note to remember: social media is great for growing your audience and connecting in bite-sized pieces, but it brings the added challenge of inviting readers back to your place afterwards, and it doesn’t help establish your website’s search rankings. Podcasts and videos can help, assuming your Right Person likes those (and you’re hosting them on your own site), but if they’re looking for a good read on their lunch break, they may not be interested in something they have to listen to.

However you decide to get around it, though, you can’t ignore your blog forever.

Maybe you take a week off and try something new. Maybe it’s easier the following week. Or maybe one day you look up and realize you haven’t blogged in six months, and Instagram isn’t doing crap for your SEO.

If you don’t feel like you can get back on track on your own, you might want to get some help.

So where are you feeling stuck? Are you not blogging because you’re too busy with admin work? Maybe it’s time to hire a VA.

Having a hard time organizing your thoughts? A copywriter can help with that. (No, it’s not cheating. Yes, getting help with one or two posts might be all you need to get the process down. Yes, we do offer this.)

Not enough hours in the day? Maybe you need a housekeeper or a nanny or a dog walker or a grocery delivery service. Sometimes, you’re stuck because all you’ve done since your last blog post is work. Get someone else to pick up the slack and go get yourself some ice cream or go for a bike ride or play a video game. A change of scenery might just be the spark you need to figure out what you want to say.

Of course, this is a good time to mention that a solid content strategy — one that takes into account who you are and how you like to work — will make blogging a whole lot easier.

If you are super clear on what you’re saying and to whom you’re saying it, that blank Word doc is a lot less overwhelming. Your editorial calendar should have built-in failsafes so you’re not stuck blogging when you’re not feeling it. You should even be able to batch-write some posts so you’ve always got one ready to go.

That’s what Run Your Business Like a Magazine is good for. It’s happening soon, and I’ve cut the price pretty dramatically (just this once) because I really want you to check it out. Because great content attracts great clients. And great clients make all of this craziness worthwhile (sleepless nights and everything).

 

In the comments, I’d love to hear:

What do you do when you’re feeling stuck on a blog post? Do you just skip it and hope for the best the following week (or month)? Do you find some other way to connect?

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Why Your Blog Isnt Making You Money - blog

So you sit down at your laptop, latte in hand, brilliant idea burning in your brain.

You’ve got your focusing candle, you’ve done your breathing exercises, you’re wearing your lucky underpants. You know just what to do.

Step One: Write a great blog post.

Step Two: Hit “Publish.”

Step Three: Profit.

 

That’s what’s supposed to happen, right?

I mean, if blog posts didn’t bring in sales, why would we write them? It’s an awful lot of time (and, let’s face it, sometimes quite a bit of angst) to write something just for the sake of writing. If I was spending a couple hours every week writing for fun, I might actually finish that novel I started back in 2011. (Don’t judge, I’ll get there.)

So why is it that you can blog and blog and blog your little heart out and not see an uptick in people buying what you have to sell? Well, there are a few things you might want to consider.

 

1st: Who are you writing for?

You might get hundreds of views every time you write a new post, dozens of insightful comments, a bevvy of newsletter sign-ups. But your sales page? Crickets.

This can be a tough one to reconcile, because it seems like you’re doing everything right. But your Right Person reader and your Right Person client…may not be the same person.

At The Voice Bureau, we have three main ways of working with our clients: through done-for-you copywriting, deep brand voice consulting, and info-packed courses that cater to the DIY set. This opens us up to a few different types of clients, and we can meet them where they are.

But what if we didn’t offer those DIY courses?

If we were blogging about tips for writing great copy, we could get hundreds — thousands — of views…but then what? If you want to learn about how to write great copy, there’s a pretty good chance you’re not looking to hire someone to write it for you. Our blog would be a great resource, and we could see fantastic traffic, but if we’re not selling something to the DIYers, writing for them doesn’t translate into sales. Obviously.

The Fix:

This is really an opportunity in disguise. You’ve got tons of DIY readers but no products for them? Make them some products. Not your jam? Then start writing for the people who do buy from you.

 

2nd: What are you writing?

This is sort of an extension of the first question, but it goes a bit further. Are you writing something that interests you, rather than something that relates to your business? You may have the best damned chocolate chip recipe on the planet, but if you’re a tarot reader, your blog isn’t reaching the people it needs to reach, and it’s not buying you credibility in your field.

That’s not to say the occasional post-because-you-love-it is a bad thing — giving a little hint of who you are is a great way to develop a human connection with your readers, both for the purposes of sales and, less cynically, in order to build a community. But if every post is off-topic when it comes to your business, you might as well be working on that novel.

The Fix:

Not to harp on the editorial calendar…but get one. At the very least, make a record of your posts and try to flag every time you’re writing something that’s not related to what you do with your business. Every post doesn’t have to explicitly tie in to a product that’s for sale, but most of them should be supporting the idea that you, as a brand, know what you’re talking about in your field. Otherwise, get yourself a lifestyle blog and tell us all about those cookies. (My secret is a sprinkle of smoked sea salt on top after they’re done baking. You?)

 

3rd: Where are you writing?

Of course, there’s another thing to consider: What if your Right Person client doesn’t read blogs? You could be saying all the right things, but the people listening aren’t who you need to talk to. In that case, you need to figure out where they are. Does she listen to podcasts on her way into work? Is he addicted to Facebook? Is she a Pinner?

Or does she love blog posts, but hasn’t found you yet?

The Fix:

If your Right Person isn’t making it to you, you need to go to them. Try a variety of approaches: Pinterest, Instagram, Facebook, podcasts, in-person networking events, speaking, guest posting or cross-posting with sites that have a broader reach. Either you’ll find your audience (and a new medium) or they’ll find you.

 

4th: Have you given it enough time?

This is tough, because it’s hard to find the line between waiting it out and spinning your wheels, especially early on. And even if you’ve been at the grind for years, there’s a good chance you’re not going to see a spike in sales every time you publish a new blog post.

So how long do you wait to see results?

The Fix:

Put on your scientist hat. There are lots of things to try (see #1-3, above), and all sorts of possible variations. But the more you try, the more you’ll know about your Right Person client, and the more directly you can speak to her. There is no “magic number” for how many posts you need to put out there before you start getting traction, but if you’ve been at it for months without a single inquiry, maybe it’s time to mix it up a bit and try something new. 

 

We’ll be opening sales soon for the upcoming cohort of Run Your Business Like a Magazine: our four-week online course where we’ll dive deeper into discovering your Right Person, where to find her, and how to create an editorial calendar that speaks directly to her (and encourages her to buy from you). If you’re interested in exploring how you can turn your content plan into sales, make sure you’re on our mailing list to be notified when registration opens. To celebrate the start of a new year and my new role at the helm of The Voice Bureau, we’ll be offering a special discounted rate for this round — you don’t want to miss out!

 

In the comments, I’d love to hear:

Do you see a direct tie between your blog posts and your sales? If not, where do you think you’re getting stuck?

 

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So 2016 is finally over.

Look, I had a pretty amazing baby in June, so I’m not going to call the entire year a wash, but let’s be honest: when the general consensus is “dumpster fire,” I don’t think any of us are really mourning the auld lang syne this time around.

But I’m not here to complain about what’s been and gone. There were, of course, good points to the year. If there’s anything that 2016 has taught me (and, I hope, many of us), it’s that we need to get it together and do better next time around. Obviously, not everything is avoidable. (If I’m 100% honest, I may never get over losing David Bowie, and I’m okay with that.) And I’m not one for “New Year’s Resolutions.” If I’m going to lose weight/get more sleep/be more mindful in my parenting, it’s going to be because I’ve made a conscious decision to change parts of my life that aren’t fitting with the narrative I want to be telling, not because a ball dropped in Times Square and wiped the slate clean. But there’s nothing like turning that last page on the calendar to kickstart a little bit of introspection.

Of course, taking ownership of The Voice Bureau was a big change for me in 2016, and a huge driver of how I’m approaching 2017. I have big, exciting ideas for what I want to do in business this year, and you don’t tackle “big and exciting” without a bit of “planned and intentional.”

So here’s what I’m planning for 2017.

No resolutions; just a little bit of thinking ahead. (I’d throw in a little, “If you fail to plan, you plan to fail” here, but gag, right?)

1. I’m going to ask for help when I need it.

This is a big one for me. I have a bad habit of trying to do everything, all the time, for all the people. But with two young kids, The Voice Bureau to lead, a home that is a study in entropy (see the bit about the kids), and, er, the occasional bit of sleep, there simply aren’t enough hours in the day to get it all done and maintain my sanity. I’d rather have time to spend with my girls than time to spend updating plugins, which is why I need to just hire that out and move on. Yes, Katie, I know you know how to do these things. That doesn’t mean you have to be the one to do them. Let it go.

2. I’m going to get a better feel for what people want to hear from me.

When Abby started this business, she had a pretty good handle on who was reading her blog posts, taking her courses, and hiring her for web copy and consulting work. It’s been a while, and we’ve definitely seen some shifts in our demographics, but we haven’t really taken stock. It’s time. That’s why you’ll be seeing a reader’s survey sometime soon — I want to make sure I’m giving people what they want, both here in the blog and in our services. We get fantastic feedback from the people we work with, but are we doing enough to align what we’re doing with what you need? I want to work smarter, and the first step in doing that is to make sure I’m focusing on the right things.

3. I’m going to be better about communicating with our readers.

I’ll be the first to admit, this has fallen by the wayside a bit lately. I’m ready to do a few things about it. First of all, I’m going to practice what I preach and create a real editorial calendar, like I teach people how to do in our course, Run Your Business Like a Magazine. (By the way, that’s coming back very soon, and at a celebratory rate to kick off my first year of ownership — keep an eye out.) And I’m also going to be gentle with myself. Sometimes, you just don’t want to write that blog post, but there are other ways to maintain a connection with your community. I’ll be writing more about those ways in a blog post coming up, but trust me: there are other options. (Do I recognize the irony in writing a blog post about not needing to rely solely on blog posts? Yes. Yes, I do.)

Full disclosure: I will probably continue to suck at maintaining social media for a while. I’ll get there, just give me some time.

4. I’m going to stand by my convictions.

We’ve always danced around politics a bit here, which isn’t particularly unusual for a business. But the world we live in is increasingly politicized, and not taking a stand is taking a stand. So I want to be explicit here: we stand for the marginalized and repressed. We will not tolerate hatred or bigotry. We want better for our world, and the world we leave future generations. Black lives matter. Love is love. We’re better together. We all belong here.

So that’s the bulk of it, for me.

Of course, I have some personal plans, too. (Sleeping more than three hours in a row is pretty high on that list, but that one’s not exactly up to me.) But as the new year sees me stepping into the lead at The Voice Bureau, a lot of what’s on my mind is how to take this to the next level — to help more people find their own voices, to help more businesses connect with the exact Right Person for them, to do a better job of using what I’m best at to provide just the right sort of help for those who need it. I hope you’ll help me do that. I think we can do a lot better in 2017, don’t you? We’d almost have to.

In the comments, I’d love to hear:

Do you have any big goals for 2017? How did you bid a fond farewell to that dumpster fire on December 31st?

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Hi. It’s Abby, Founder of The Voice Bureau and creator of the Voice Values paradigm for branding.

A while back, in the midst of some big life changes, I found that my relationship to creativity had changed. And, after years of full-time creative self-employment, so had my relationship to work and livelihood. That changed profoundly.

In a tight nutshell, creativity became more important to me. Not in an abstract sense — not creativity “as a birthright” or a concept or a practice. But creativity in a concrete and vital way: my personal creativity and my capacity to explore it. I became very interested in my bandwidth for my own personal creativity, aside from anything that was tied to earning income, meeting expectations, or packaging work for market. I became greedy for more time and more freedom to explore my personal creativity, separate from business.

At the same time, my relationship to livelihood changed. After a decade of full-time creative self-employment (first with a store, then with a freelance copywriting business called Abby Kerr Ink, then with the agency that is The Voice Bureau), I began to question the gestalt of creative self-employment, for me.

The last stop on this self-exploration around creativity and livelihood, for me, was this:

I no longer wanted my livelihood to be tied to the most personal expression of my creativity that I had bandwidth for.

I wanted to separate art and earning.

I decided that I wanted to earn a good living using the following criteria MORE than I wanted to be self-employed:

  • work that left my deepest, most exhilarating, personal creativity largely untapped
  • work that occupied about 40 hours a week and rarely, if ever, more
  • work that stayed out of my nightly dreams and my weekend musings
  • work where I could be an individual contributor, but not the face of the brand, the driver of the business, or the heart and soul

After so many years of completely running the show, I realized that what I wanted now was a job, not an empire.

In short, my priorities changed. As they do, for most people, over time. I was 27 when I first became fully self-employed. I’m nearly 39 now. I want different things, in a different way than I once did. My vision of fulfillment and success has changed.

So a while back, I decided that the right next step for ME was to separate creative desire and work-for-pay. (I know — I might’ve once thought this was blasphemy.)

My current stance on totally embracing a j-o-b doesn’t jive with the ethos and mythos of creative entrepreneurship, a stage on which (theoretically) you should find a way to package what you love to do so that you can do it in a way you feel good about, and earn good money at it.

After 10 years of self-employment, I decided that I no longer wanted to pursue this goal.

And yes, I know that many of my creatively entrepreneurial friends cracked their own code on work-life balance, mastered organic systems, and productivity-hacked their way to fulfillment. Work-life balance is something I’ve always massively struggled with (as my close friends both inside and outside of entrepreneurship know), and I’ve made my peace with that.

So I got a traditional day job. And then a different one. As I write this today, I’ve been full-time employed in the traditional workforce for about a year and a half. I have a job description and a salary and benefits and a manager and co-workers and an office I go to about eight days a month.

I also have evenings and weekends almost always free from income-generating work, and time on my calendar to pursue not-for-pay creativity (hello, fiction and cooking and home design) and relationships and fitness pursuits and SLEEP and travel and hobbies and just all the things I always demoted out of guilt when I was self-employed.

I work a day job so that I can use my creative energy outside of work hours to pursue art that isn’t imminently for pay, and possibly never will be.

I’ve separated art and money, for myself. At least for now, and for the foreseeable future.

But this isn’t the end of the story.

I’m happy knowing that The Voice Bureau can still thrive and is on page one of a whole new volume.

Even though life has moved me into a new season, and I’m no longer self-employed, this business I started 8 years ago is continuing on.

The Voice Bureau is moving into a brave new season of its own. This work that captured my heart and engrossed my imagination for so many years will go on.

I’m so happy to announce that the business has a new owner, the inimitable Katie Mehas.

If you’ve been part of our community for long, or if you’ve been a client of ours over the past 4 years, you already know Katie, the person who’s been running The Voice Bureau alongside me. If you hired us for copywriting or consulting from 2012 onward, Katie’s been your main point of contact throughout the life of the project, and on the blog you’ve gotten to hear her perspective on seeing what’s unique about you in business, hearing your own brand voice, and thinking like an editor about your own brand.

Katie has helped build The Voice Bureau into something even stronger, especially the backend in terms of operations, infrastructure, and organization. She’s a natural born writer with a very distinct voice, style, and point of view, a love of wordplay, and client management super-prowess, so it’s been easy to share decision-making with her over these last few years.

That’s why the decision to hand this nearly 8-year-old business over to her, officially, has been easy, too.

Recently, Katie and I signed the papers that would transfer full ownership of The Voice Bureau to her.

So yes, this is an official announcement that I’m moving on. I’m no longer the owner of a brand voice development and copywriting agency called The Voice Bureau. But the amazing Katie is — and I can’t wait to watch how it flourishes under her aegis.

Like most of the incredible people in our clientele and our readership, Katie is very much invested in remaining creatively self-employed — and she’s going to be even more engaged than ever in working with others who want the same.

She’s been involved with The Voice Bureau long enough to have internalized everything this business stands for. She’ll be carrying on the core tenets of what it stands for — working with values-driven businesses, tapping a business’s innate Voice Values for website and offer language and symbology, helping businesses and brands to discover and use their own unique voice in a way that draws their Right People to them. All the things that I (and that she and I) have created will continue to be a part of that.

It’s true that I won’t be the face of The Voice Bureau any longer. But the work I created for it, namely the Voice Values, are still very much the soul of it.

I’ll be keeping an eye on things from a distance and popping in from time to time with a blog post. I didn’t pour myself into building this business for almost a decade to just walk away without a backward glance.

To you, the casual reader who’s recently discovered us, and to you, the devoted reader who’s been following my entrepreneurial journey and the work of The Voice Bureau for years — thank you. Getting to work with you, your dreams and visions, and your amazing repertoires of talents and skill sets, has been creatively rewarding and personally affecting.

I’m so proud of what we’ve built, and what you allowed us to build through entrusting us with helping to bring your brand voices to life online.

I look forward to seeing what’s next for Katie and The Voice Bureau. She’ll be in touch very soon with a post of her own, a post heralding the start of her first ownership year, and letting you know what you can look forward to.

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