Kicking Off the New Year With a Bang – Project ABC Update

Happy New Year everyone!

I guess it’s almost cliche to talk about how crazy the holidays are, so I won’t get too into that – but I will say here and now that I will, if at all possible, never move houses in the week between Christmas and New Year’s directly before a product launch and while trying to start a business ever again.

I will just say no.

Suffice it to say, I spent slightly less time working on my business in December than I had initially planned for.  That means January is going to be full-steam ahead, with extra hours and lofty goals.

And that’s something I’d like to talk about for a few moments – goals.

This time of year, the blogosphere is full of talk about New Year’s resolutions – are they good? Are they bad? Do they work? Are you making any? Will you keep them?

I don’t know the answer to any of those questions. But I am making, if not a New Year’s Resolution, a list of things I want to accomplish in 2013, since the world didn’t end, and all. One of them is relevant here:

I’m going to get Project ABC to a point where it’s earning an income, and set to become a long-term, sustainable, audience based business.

And I don’t think for a single second that I’m going to be doing this alone.

You see – we’ve got a big, new thing coming at Firepole Marketing, and we’re going to be taking on a whole lot of new students who will all have dreams and ideas and goals and things they want to accomplish.

And we’re going to be doing it together.  2013 will be the year of the audience business – and I think you should get in on the action.

If you haven’t seen the RSA video we put together in December – take a look at it now. It will give you a little taste of what is to come, and I hope it whets your appetite for more, because we have some incredibly exciting free training coming up this week.

Okay – back to the update!

Getting Out There

I haven’t seen too much of a subscriber or traffic jump yet, but that’s pretty fair, as I’ve only had two guest posts go live so far.  It feels very, very cool to have my writing out there on other people’s blogs – and each with an invitation to come back and write again, and I am up to about 70 subscribers. Yay small victories!

I quite recently made the application for that larger site, and here’s hoping that it goes well. Since it’s just finished being holiday season, I won’t stress out about rejection for a little while yet – it’s for that same reason that I didn’t press the non-respondents on my guest post submission checklist too hard. I enjoy relaxing with my family this time of year, and I figure plenty of other people do too.

With two successful guest posts behind me, and potentially a regular spot on a large, reputable site, I’m thinking that I’m about ready to start writing for bigger blogs in my niche – or at least screwing my courage to the sticking place and going for it.

With the New Year also comes my resolution to really and truly make getting out there on the social media part of my schedule.

To that end, I’ve narrowed down my social media options and created an actual schedule that I intend to follow most days. I’m focusing on Twitter and Pinterest for starters, and over time will be adding Facebook, Google+ (for the search goodness!) and Tumblr.

The scheduled time for “work blocks” are appointments I’m making for myself to sit down and do bigger tasks, like writing, blog fiddling and big picture planning. This is stuff that, for me anyway, is easy to push aside and procrastinate on, but I think if I can schedule the time specifically for it, I’ll work it in more regularly. It’s getting to that time where it’s more critical.

  • Blog Commenting, Mon-Fri  8:30am -9:00am
  • Twitter,  2x 15 minute blocks, Mon-Fri
  • Pinterest,  2x 15 minute blocks, Mon-Fri
  • Work Blocks,  Mon-Fri  9:00am -10:00am

Ideally, I’ll get some time in on the weekend as well, but that, by necessity, is more catch as catch can. One does need to see their spouse once in a while…

Generally, I find it harder to prioritize work on my own project then, say, work I do for Firepole Marketing, but I’m working on being firmer about the time I spend on Paying For Life each week. I want this to go somewhere, and as we tell our students (not in so many words, of course) you’ll never get anywhere if you don’t do the work!

Do you have a set schedule for working on your business? What does it look like?

Testing Ideas

I tested my red panda content idea with a focus group of my target market. It was all very professional, and definitely not past midnight after 3 hours of hot spiced wine. ;-) Hey – in vino veritas – right?

The reaction was pretty good, overall, and I got some feedback as to how to make it more interesting.

Basically, what I’m planning to do is create a personal finance coloring and activity book. You get the book (either as a free download or a paid hard copy, a la Engagement From Scratch!), go through the different pages filling in the information (and coloring the pictures!) and at the end: Boom! You’ve done a budget and identified ways to make and save money. Congratulations.

I’m hoping to have a variety of people to contribute to this project, and am very excited to start reaching out to folks.

Thank you hot spiced wine.

So getting this off the ground is… intimidating. My first step will be creating an outline for the thing, and an overview of what I want it to include, so I’ll report back next month on how that goes.

What do you think? Cool or crazy idea?

Hmmmm. Research

I was having coffee with a good buddy of mine shortly before the holidays, and we were talking about some of the folks we knew, and gradually, we came around to the topic of money. My friend posited the question: “Why do some of our friends always have money, and some never do? We all make roughly the same amount – what’s up with that?”

The personal finance stock answer: “Because they’re bad with money” doesn’t really do much for me. There must be reasons, identifiable reasons, that this is the case. Now, every personal finance blog in the world has their theory as to why, and most of them work off of the model where the reason you’re broke is because you make bad choices.

I’ll not weigh in in, yet, on whether or not this is true – but I do think that more information will help me do a better job in helping people out of the situation.

I’ve started reaching out to a few people I know and a few that I don’t and asking them to complete a short survey, track their spending for a week, and then fill out another survey.  While this is costing me a significant outlay in home-baked bribes, and is possibly the least scientific study of all time, I think it’s going to be really interesting to see what people end up revealing about their spending habits.

The takeaway here is that conventional knowledge isn’t terribly helpful when you’re trying to differentiate yourself. If you think something is true, then it’s up to you to find the proof that you’re right.

Readers – where do you get your information from? Have you ever polled the masses to prove a point?

Going Live

On January 31st I’m going to be launching the Paying for Life blog officially, not with a roar, but with a whisper.

Yep – I’m doing a soft launch, and not an explosive one.  For the time being it’s only going to be offered to the wonderful folks who have subscribed – but it will be available to people to come and see and take a look at, if for example, they’re considering a guest post or are my mom.

There’s a few reasons for this:

  1. It’s important to me to start putting content out there on my own space. I know that getting tons and tons of subscribers before launching the blog is possible, effective, and arguably the better tactic. But it’s important to follow your own comfort levels too – and I want to have it live so I can start seeing my posts accumulate.
  2. Several of the sites that I really want to guest post for, only accept posts from bloggers who have current sites. I totally respect this, and would like to meet their criteria.
  3. I’m still learning engagement through email and auto-responder sequences, but am very comfortable with on-blog engagement, so for the time being, I want to play to my strength.

I’ll still be directing new people to my landing page, of course, but I’m really, really excited to get something live happening.

What are your thoughts on soft vs. hard launches?

Next Steps

  • I will actually start paying close attention to my metrics. Because I have not really been watching them, and that is cause for shame. Next month, you will get all the juicy numbers. Brownie’s honor.
  • Draft a proposal and outline of my collaborative project to reach out to potential sponsors with.
  • Structure social media activities, at least into some semblance of a regular schedule.
  • Get the blog ready to go live!

That ought to be enough action points for the time being!

Do you have any big plans or changes you’re going to be making for the new year? Did you make a business-related resolution?

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+.

Comments

  1. Tom says

    Updating a blog does take time especially if you have more than one. My new blog is a work in progress. Most of that time has been answering potential clients. Normally I have time in the morning from 5 to 6 and then again in the evening from 8 to 10.

    • says

      Wow – lack of time due to clients is a pretty awesome problem! 5am though… that’s pretty harsh. I don’t know if I’d be able to get up that early on a regular basis!

  2. says

    Happy New Year Megan, great article. I’ve got similar goals and have spent some time over Christmas working on a clear mission statement for my business, vision statements for different activities, and goals, and am now reviewing these daily to keep me on track.

    I’m also using time boxing to organise myself and so far it’s working really well. I tend to organise my to do list into blocks of 30 or 60 minutes, put the timer on, and focus on nothing else until the time’s up. As a result I’ve been more creative and productive over the past few days, than in certain whole weeks in the past (when I’ve let email and social media distract me from my priority tasks).

    I’m naturally a “go with the flow” person and the thought of using such a structured system was a big no no for me. But I’ve realised that although I might not like the idea of goals/time boxing/structure, I need it to be the best I can. Can others relate to that?

    Guest posting is one of the best traffic generating strategies (despite what the gurus will tell you about all the shortcuts!) so also with you on that. I’m aiming to be Freddy Krueger in my niche this year!

    Hope your plans come on well. I’m looking forward to keeping up with your progress as the year unfolds.

    • says

      Hi Cassie,

      Sounds like you’re using a version of the Pomodoro technique – I’ve heard really good thigns about it, and it’s cool to hear that it works.

      I can definitely relate to the need for structure – and the impulse to shun it. New Years resolutions may be doomed to fail – but I really like the “fresh start” aspect of this time of year as well.

      Keep up the hard work! I’d like to be filled in on your progress too.

  3. says

    Hey Megan..

    What a fun post. I felt we were sitting over coffee.

    Had to laugh when you said you’re focusing primarily on Twitter & Pinterest. Me too! While I only have 175 Pinterest peeps I have built Twitter up to 6000+. FB and the others? Nada, zip.

    I actually coach online business owners to grab their name on all the social media platforms, BUT only focus on one, or two at the most. We can build community faster that way.. not to mention more impressive social proof.

    I’m with ya on the guest posting. Definitely the way to go.

    darlene :)

    • says

      Thanks Darlene! That’s so nice to hear. :)

      Another on Twitter and Pinterest! What a treat – I wonder how many there are who make that choice? Good idea to stake out properties on all of the social media sites – may have to devote a little time to that this week.

      Cheers!

  4. says

    Megan, I love your red panda idea! Getting your readers’ hands dirty with some colouring and fill-the-box worksheets will really help the information to sink in.

    Also, I’m a fan of the quiet ninja launch strategy – it’s way less intimidating, which is good if you want to build up confidence and a solid crew around you before you start waving flags and dancing naked for mass attention! If you’re interested in my thoughts on this, they’re here: http://www.invisiblogger.com/2011/11/launch-that-blog-ninja-style/

    • says

      Thanks! I think so too, and it’s goofy enough that I hope to avoid the death knell that is “talking down” to a twenty-something..

      Great post, Sophie – I almost spit out my coffee laughing over “Get a load of THIS!” Also – really good information – I think Invisiblogger is going to be a very big success. Thank you for sharing that!

  5. Carol Gyzander says

    Hi Megan,

    I enjoyed your post – what a friendly style you have! I look forward to seeing your blog – and the topic sounds like something that is well-needed – I’ll be promoting it to my college-age son and his friends.

    I am also a supporter of using a time block approach, as we all know that it is way easier to do the tasks that we like (blog browsing and commenting) than the others… so it’s good to limit time for the fun stuff and enforce time for the less fun. And with that in mind, I also use the timer as Cassie mentioned above and set alarm to remind me when to start a new task.

    I think it’s also important to look at the timing of when we do what. If there are a series of blogs that we follow, for example, it may be a good idea to note what time they typically publish their new posts – always nice to be one of the first commenters rather than number 93!

    Also sympathetic to the soft launch approach. I’ve been doing the same for my scrapbooking blog, as I wanted to get the infrastructure set up and get a body of info up on there first. Baby steps before we run!

    Carol

    • says

      Thanks Carol – I really enjoy writing these updates, and I’ll madly appreciate the sharing!

      Consensus seems to be that time blocks – with alarms are the way to go. May have to invest in an egg timer.

      Great idea about noting the time of posts – very, very clever.

      I think the soft launch is definitely right for some people – baby steps for the win!

  6. says

    Hi Megan,

    I love the idea of a financial planning workbook/coloring book. By the time we get to be adults, we usually forget the very real benefits of play. I’ve been working on a complete overhaul of my site and have also found time blocking (with a timer) to be very helpful. I’m also looking at a quiet ninja launch by the end of this month. Can’t wait to see more from you, keep up the great work!

  7. Paul Roberts says

    Megan,
    Keep on posting. I enjoy reading them. As sonmeone who moved houses twice and my office once during the last 14 months, yes moving is pretty darn disruptive.
    I am needing a more disciplined approach so the idea of time/day blocks is appealing. We’ll check in with each other in a four weeks and see how we are both keeping up, by measuring direct progress, deal?

  8. says

    Hi Megan
    I’m commenting particularly on the Red Panda idea…it could be a real winner over here in the UK where we are just on the cusp of understanding that if we grow up with no idea of budgets and personal finance we’re going to live to regret the next fifty years of our lives..(I only got to grips with the concept of money when I started my own business at the age of forty eight ( sad I know but true) a concept like the colouring book could open up many possibilities.

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