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Baby Steps to Bigger Plans – Project ABC Update
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I had a wonderful confirmation moment around mid-November.

I went to an annual Montreal event called Expozine, where regional zine makers and small press book publishers meet to show off and sell their wares. I poked around, talked to some interesting people and discovered that I was basically at a convention for my ideal customers.

Sweet.

It gets better – in one publication I actually found a comic strip expressing the exact pain I’m hoping to alleviate with Paying for Life. The exact one!

Confirmation like that doesn’t happen too often, and I am suitably grateful.

It also inspired me for an idea that I’m still developing – but that I think will be a killer Red Panda offering. I want to hash out the details, test for interest, and run it by Danny – but if all goes well, expect more details in January.

Red Panda content is something like Engagement from Scratch! - a super valuable, free piece of content that people will subscribe for, use, love and share; hopefully coming back to it again and again. A cornerstone of your blog, essentially.

The little moral of this story is to, no matter how frighteningly busy you are, go out in your community once awhile – ten minutes talking to human beings in the flesh can validate days and weeks of work.

Since my last post, I’ve left around 50 comments on blogs about the web, accumulated about 40 subscribers. I’ve also set up and run several split tests (results still pending) and sent out my first guest post pitches. At this point in the process, as so many of you know, the learning curve is pretty steep.

Here are some things that I’ve learned…

Some Things that I’ve Learned…

On Double Opt-Ins

Okay, so I have 40-odd subscribers – this is great. But when I went into my Aweber Dashboard to gloat over them, I noticed that I also had 6 people who started the subscription process, but didn’t finish.

It was pointed out to me in the last post, where I was talking about the double-opt-in process that this was a common phenomenon. So this wasn’t a total shock.

But wow – 15%. That’s pretty significant – so goodbye double opt-in!

On Editing and Snow Blindness

The wonderful Sophie Lizard from Be a Freelance Blogger very kindly pointed out a few of my editing misses in my first Opt-In Page, so I made those changes. I cannot stress enough how helpful it is to have fresh eyes on content!

Something that happens when you pour over copy for hours and days on end is a sort of blindness that prevents you from seeing the type of error you’d normally catch. Stuff like then or than, its or it’s, misplaced punctuation – this kind of detail that is so easy to miss, but damages your credibility.

This has always been a weak point for me – I either write and publish too quickly, or agonize so long over the minutiae that I can’t see the subject for the prepositions. Happily, there are some hacks you can use to stop yourself from looking like a lazy 8th grader. (Though some things will always slip by.)

One of them is fresh eyes – friends, colleagues, family – anyone who can read over your copy and give it an OK can be hugely valuable.

Another is Danny’s personal tactic – print out your finished draft, and mark it up in hard copy. Taking something from the screen to the page is enough of a difference (especially if you give yourself an hour or so of doing something else first) to let you catch the mistakes.

A third option is a web service like Grammarly. This is an online application that is really good at finding grammatical and contextual errors. You just copy your text into their editor, and it picks out everything it finds questionable.

On Split-Testing and What You Need to Make it Work

I also set up a split test on my second opt-in page utilizing some of Kimberly’s suggestions (see the comments) about going into more detail about the benefits of the opt-in offer.

I’m excited to see how it works – but I’m not getting enough traffic for a substantial analysis yet, so that means…

It’s Time to Start Guest Posting

Whooo-boy.

Write Like Freddy Students – I have a new respect for your bravery! As clear as the formula is, as much value as I feel I can add to the conversation – asking someone to share their audience feels like a huge imposition – and it’s totally intimidating.

The first thing was figuring out who to approach. I want to get some bigger names of course – my credibility needs the boost if I can get it – but I might like to start a little bit smaller – one, to practice, and two, so I have some guest posts to reference when I go after the big guys. I could, of course, send them to some of my posts here – but I’d rather show them something more on topic.

So I went ahead and pitched a few blogs of different sizes.

I’ve had quite a variety of responses.

Silence is a big one, so far, but it hasn’t been that long, really, so I think it’s only fair to give folks more time before I hassle them. (Not everyone makes 24 hour replies a thing.)

One interesting response I got to a pitch was interest in the topic, but a request for a “sponsorship fee” if I included any links to sites that were not personal. This was now something I’d heard of before, and it strikes me as a little odd. I wrote back asking for a little more information about what the blogger meant, and was told that while (expensive!) sponsored posts were a possibility free advertising was not.  Needless to say, I was a little put off. Guest posting isn’t about getting something for free! I think we can all agree that it’s an exchange of value – but I didn’t believe that was a discussion that would end positively with this blogger, so I let it go.

I’d like to know – have you ever had an experience like this? Have you ever been asked to pay to provide a post?

One thing I wasn’t expecting was for so many sites to want full drafts. This slowed down my process somewhat, because I was assuming that most other blogs worked like Firepole Marketing does, and I’d spend more time pitching initially. (I should probably have guessed that wasn’t the case!)

It turned out to be a great thing though, because one of the full posts I submitted was accepted without so much as a revision. Woohoo! First guest post acceptance. I don’t know when it will go live yet – but I’m very pleased.

I’m hoping to pull in a little wisdom from the crowd on a direction I’m considering taking. One big, reputable personal finance site has open applications for writers to blog for them – a commitment of at least once a month. They don’t provide by-lines, but they do offer author bio pages, and the opportunity to say: “Hey, I write for ______!”

Credibility wise, I like it, but the application process is fairly intense, and it is a time commitment that I’m hesitant about. I’d love your input – worthwhile to go ahead with, or something I should shelve for the time being?

Time to Get Social

I’ve also started thinking about which of the myriad social media methods I’m going to employ.

Facebook is an obvious first choice, but I’m leery of the changes they’ve been making, and how that would affect the engagement I’ll be able to make. Does anyone have any experience with the new “pay to reach your fans” system?

Twitter comes next on the list, because, heck yes, my target market uses it. But there’s a  little voice in my head that says: “Come on! Not Twitter. You SUCK at Twitter!”

But that kind of resistance is, I think, just because I’m really unfamiliar with it – practice will make, if not perfect, at least effective. I’ve picked up a copy of The Tao of Twitter by Mark Schaefer – but does anyone else have any suggestions for good resources or further reading I can do to build a good strategy?

One platform I know for certain and for sure that I want to use is Pinterest. Pinterest is lovely. I’ve been reading Pinfluence, by Beth Hayden  lately, and feel like it will be a good way to reach “my people.”

Which social media platforms are topping your list these days?

Next Steps

So, next on the list of things to do is to get some more guest post pitches, and hopefully some finished posts out there.

Then I need to do the market validation on my Red Panda idea, and start reaching out to the people who will be involved.

Since I’m planning a soft launch for the end of January, it’s also time to start getting the rest of the bones of the main blog site together, and create a bit of a content runway to see me through the first few weeks or months.

Big, exciting times ahead!

What plans do you have for your businesses for winding down the year? Do you have big plans for the new one?

 

Megan
Megan
Megan Dougherty has been with Firepole Marketing since 2010, first as Danny's Assistant and more recently as Education Lead. When she's not working with wonderful students and readers here, she's building her own audience based business helping the young and underemployed handle their money at Paying For Life. You can drop her a line on Twitter or Google+.

21 Comments

  1. Tom Ross says:

    I think your post lands on a really common problem – it’s not as easy as the ‘experts’ make out. Building on an existing audience is fine, but starting from scratch with an audience or idea is incredibly tough, particularly in this niche.

    I do think a good landing page is key though. Blog traffic can easily come and go, but if you’re converting emails (even on a really small scale) then you can retain these people and engage them more directly.

    As for guest posts, personally it’s not something I’ve had much luck with. I think you essentially need to do a Danny and blitz every blog and write yourself into the ground. Personally I prefer to use that huge chunk of time for other stuff.

    • Megan says:

      I agree with you – building relationships and an audience is relatively simple – but far from easy.

      A good landing page is very important, indeed – it’s amazing how much of a difference tiny little changes can make, isn’t it?

      What do you use the huge chunk of time for? Do you have a strategy or a tactic that works better for you than guest posting? I’d love to hear about it.

  2. I’m still very interested to learn more about pitching guest posts, as this is something we really haven’t done yet. That said, we did have a similar experience to you, where we’d spent days researching and designing an infographic titled “What Kickstarters Million Dollar Plus Projects Have in Common” (http://kickstartershq.com/articles/million-dollar-kickstarters). We sent it out to a bunch of places, had a bunch publish it, but had one place – who had previously published a Kickstarter infographic, write back asking for $50 because it had our link at the bottom. Mindblowing. Needless to say we passed, too.

    • Megan says:

      Great info-graphic!

      I know, right? Maybe it’s because we teach guest posting over here, and have such a different attitude towards guest posts – but I can’t even imagine writing the email asking someone to send me some money after they’ve already pretty created a piece of content on spec.

  3. Hey Megan, you’ve been busy! I’m hanging on every word of your Project ABC posts because they’re always packed with useful info.

    I’ve come across blogs that charge a sponsorship fee when I’ve guest blogged on a client’s behalf rather than for myself, but I’ve never been asked to pay for a link to my own website!

    Another thing I’ve noticed lately, though, is that some blogs now charge a “review fee” or “admin fee” on guest post submissions. I’ve seen more than one blog charging $50, non-refundable, to look at guest contributions. That’s even if they don’t have any links in, even if they never get published… it’s pretty shocking.

    Meanwhile there are other blogs that treat all guest posts as a freelance writer’s work and pay you for guesting even if you would happily have done it for free! I’ll pay $50 for a guest post on BeAFreelanceBlogger.com, and run one or two each month. Huge hat tip to Carol Tice at MakeALivingWriting.com for that advice!

    • As soon as you have launched I’d like to propose a topic idea to you, Sophie! We definitely share similar interests and it’d be good to work together on something :)

      I listened to your interviews the other day by the way; very informative and inspiring! I bet you can guess which one was my favorite of the three, being a freelance blogger myself…

    • Megan says:

      Thanks Sophie!

      I’m finding the process of sorting through what I’ve been doing and turning it into these posts really fascinating – and I have been so, so helped by the feedback everyone provides!

      A fee for just submitting? That sounds suspiciously like college applications. I wonder if this means that there are camps forming out there in the internet – people who charge for access to their audience, and people who share and help each other… Interesting.

      I haven’t decided one way or another about paying for guest posts , on Paying for Life yet, but the idea really appeals to me – I loved Carol’s article about that as well. I also think it’s fair though to simply have an exchange of value – access to audience for awesome content. This might be something to look into more closely…

  4. Exciting times, ain’t it Megan?

    I agree that the daunting task of pitching for guest posts are quite intimidating, especially when starting out and the author of the blog have never heard of you.

    Today I consider myself a little easier positioned if I may because I have a nice portfolio of 25 or so guest posts published on 5 different sites. I still use my one and only post here on Firepole Marketing as a reference on a regular basis, especially when the proposed guest post topic is on marketing and engagement! ;)

    I have to admit that I have been giving it a little slack the past few weeks and I think you and Danny will agree, writing a guest post once every few weeks is not worth totally nothing but contributing on a more regular basis certainly ups the potential of staying in the loop and on the minds of those audiences. I think it’s about time I get back into the mix of things.

    I remember a couple of months ago I was given the go-ahead by Georgina Laidlaw over at Problogger for a topic idea I had in mind. That was supposed to be a case study which is not happening any longer since I laser-focused my niche. Then again, a new case study has begun at my newly-launched site so maybe all is not lost quite yet? ;)

    All the best of success with your guest posting! Love your niche too and if freelance writing wasn’t higher on my list of passions, I’d choose Personal Finance any day!

    • Megan says:

      Very exciting!

      25 posts on 5 blogs – that is not too shabby at all. Great job!

      I do agree – I think every post is valuable, but a whole bunch at the same time really gives you the spike in attention. I’m working up to that myself.

      A case study on Problogger would be a coup! Congrats! And thank you for the kind words.

  5. Otiti says:

    Whoo, go, Megan! Work it, girl! :D I’m so pleased things are turning out well for you in your biz.

    I’d suggest a trial period of contributing to the big financial blog. Credibility always helps, no? Especially if the subject matter interests you. Will there ever be enough time to do all you want to? Probably not, but that’s life. Go for it and see what happens.

    Now let’s see you make some shit happen. ;)

    • Megan says:

      Challenge accepted, Otiti!

      Great point – there’s never enough time, so you may as well just do it, and a trial period certainly wouldn’t hurt. I’ll report back in January’s update.

      Thanks!

  6. Hi Megan,

    Way to go Megan, great progress you’re making! (Thanks for the shout-out for my previous suggestion about adding more detail to the benefits of your opt-in offer, by the way. : ) )

    And thanks for pointing out grammarly.com — as much of a punctuation and grammar geek as I am, I can’t believe I’ve never heard of it! Going to check that out right away.

    About Twitter, I seriously doubt you “suck” at it, as you say. ; ) You can teach yourself alot of what you need to know to use it strategically by just getting in there and paying attention first for awhile before you start tweeting things out. I say this with confidence because before I got on Twitter, I was terrified I’d do something “wrong,” or that I just wouldn’t get it and make a big ass of myself. And it did take some time to understand Twitter’s peculiar language and and how people interact there, but I learned a ton by spending time “listening” and observing before tweeting things out. Now I can’t imagine not understanding how Twitter works, or being afraid to just dive right in. : )

    For Twitter resources, I love Laura Roeder’s training — both the free and the paid stuff is awesome. And someone else I’ve been following lately who’s a great Twitter resource is Alicia Cowan. And then for a truly comprehensive Twitter resource, there’s always Darren Rowse’s TwiTip blog.

    Good luck on your progress, can’t wait to see what the new year brings for you!

    • Megan says:

      Always so much helpful info from you Kimberly! Thank you.

      I’ll definitely check out those Twitter resources and I think try to make it a usual part of the day – at first “listening” to how other people use it – great piece of advice.

      Grammarly is amazing, especially because you can choose what style you want your piece to be checked over in. Academic, Blog, News… I’ve started using it pretty regularly.

      (By the way – love your recent post – aisle cloggers drive me bonkers, too!)

  7. Peter Wright says:

    Nice progress report Megan and congratulations on your guest post.

    Like you and Kimberley, I was worried about starting with twitter. I thought I would be tweeting like an inept twit when I first started on twitter back in December 2008. I started slowly by just listening then following a few people I wanted to follow because of what they tweeted, not who they were.

    My twitter strategy is tweeting about 15 inspirational quotations each day, thanking all retweeters, using the #FollowFriday to increase exposure of, and followers for, my followers. I do tweet a few sales type tweets with links each day and tweet links to my own and my guest blog posts. I also curate news items that may be of interest to my followers.

    That strategy has let me accumulate nearly 11000 followers without any aggressive following activity from me. In fact I rarely follow anyone except those that follow me first.

    I get more visitors to my blog from twitter than any other social media site except stumbleupon.

    I spend 10 minutes on twitter in the morning and again in the evening to engage with followers, all the other activity uses a variety of tools.

    For me, an awkward old boomer, twitter is more fun, more effective and less irritating than Facebook.

    • Megan says:

      11000!

      Wow. (*takes notes*) Thanks for the advice! I will absolutely apply some (or all, you know) to my Tweeting, and hopefully avoid the Twitdom. ;)

      You really do make it sound miles better than Facebook.

  8. Tom Bentley says:

    Megan, I just read aloud an entire novel that I’d already edited on screen, and I was amazed at how many more errors I found, outright typos as well as sentence rhythms and flow.

    Not sure I’d trust something like Grammarly with pieces of writing where you play with language and structure in a piece of writing, because formal conventions will often flag as errors things done with sly intent or deliberate misstatement, but I can see where it could help with basic mechanics.

    Good luck getting your stuff out there!

    • Megan says:

      Amazing what you miss onscreen, right?

      I’m always surprised.

      Was it your own novel you just read aloud?

      I find Grammarly is best for pointing out things that I need to think about. I don’t agree with their rigid comma rules (I splice! I know.) but they often catch my mistaken words.

      Thanks for the encouragement!

  9. [...] my December Project ABC update, I mentioned that I’d discovered blogs that charge other bloggers for the opportunity to [...]

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