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Archives for May 2009

Free Pursuits Blog Critique

Freepersuits is a blog about “Lifestyle Design”, or How to Live the Good Life Without Being Independently Wealthy or Retired

  • Find the flexible career you were meant to have
  • Manage your career to maximize your happiness
  • Make time for and pursue the things that really matter to you

What this means for you is a blog packed with content guiding you towards living the life of your dreams. Of course what this means for Corbett as a blogger is he is pitting himself up against Mr 4 Hour Work Week, Tim Ferris and the fantastic Non Conformist, Mr Chris Guillebeau.

This is two challenges in one:

  1. Most people do not know what “Lifestyle Design” is (you need to do some keyword research to find what people are really looking for and build lots of content around those items)
  2. Those people who do know what Lifestyle Design is probably turn to the learned gentlemen mentioned above.

Now all is not gloom and doom because in Corbett’s favor he has a great blog. Let me briefly outline some of the good points:

  • Well set up (WordPress + Thesis)
  • Nicely designed and usable, if not a vast departure from the default Thesis look
  • The content is well written and clearly readable.
  • Good emphasis on reader benefits, including running a survey to get insights
  • Beginnings of some peer-outreach

In fact this all makes my job of critiquing much harder. You can’t see this but I am shaking my fist at the monitor, heh.

So the blog is on good foundations, what is the answer to the aforementioned challenges?

Differentiate!

You must move past the template, both visually in terms of Thesis, and also direction as compared to the rest of the niche. How are you different?

First with the design, while it looks great and a lot of people would love to have a blog that looks as good, the niche is competitive and dominated by strong, well positioned personalities. You need to stand out from the pack by offering something richer, more impactful and most of all, yours.

As always the strategy, once you have moved past infrastructure, is to decide, and to effectively communicate, your positioning. What is your uniqueness, remarkability, or brand?

When you are not the first, not the biggest, and not the most well known, in any niche, you need to find ways to stand out on your own and cut through the fog.

One way I like to approach this is by using the following fill-in-the-blanks phrase:

Unlike other Lifestyle Design Blogs, Freepersuits ___________, which means for you __________.

The first part of the phrase identifies how you are different, the second part answers “so what?”.

You could be different by painting yourself green, but that doesn’t mean anyone should necessarily care :)

After you can answer this in a compelling way, then you can translate that into action.

Audience Focus

Your first port of call when differentiating outside of yourself is your audience. After all it is these folks you are aiming to serve. At present the blog aims to capture pretty much everyone interested in lifestyle design. This could be a tough struggle, better to focus and grow outwards.

For example David Hobby writes a photography blog, but instead of all of photography he focused on photography lighting using inexpensive strobe lights. Now he is a world renowned photography rock star :)

So what part of the overall audience can you most appeal to and help?

  • Beginners
  • Advanced
  • Freelancers
  • Travelers
  • Wealth-focus
  • Spiritual-focus
  • Productivity folks
  • Cubicle escapees
  • Passive income dreamers
  • Silver surfers
  • Eco-living
  • Families
  • … the list goes on

You will find if you focus on a sub-group then you will have more content ideas rather than fewer, plus nobody will be in competition and therefore everyone will be much more willing to help, link and comment.

Multi-Author

Rather than fixate on one smaller group, you could go the other way and make your blog (and you have a great name for this) into a multi-author blog. Think of your blog as Techcrunch or BlogHerald for the lifestyle designers maybe?

You could even bring in the existing lifestyle design personalities for regular or guest posts.

Grow Your Community

Of course the logical extension of a community of bloggers is a community forum, membership site or social network. This kind of connection and interaction is practically designed for lifestyle design and nomadic lifestyles as very often the old face to face networks become strained and a virtual socialization takes its place.

Perhaps Freepersuits could be the biggest community for the lifestyle designer?

  • You need to drive more people to comment using in-content call to action
  • Post polls
  • Drive people to comment with questions in Twitter
  • Draw people over from forums and Facebook
  • Find out where people hang out and interact there

In particular you will want to look in social bookmarking sites for what was popular previously.

Once people are on your site you need to keep them around, and there are two main ways your site is ideal for this

  1. Build a real email list now, not Feedburner but with a service like Aweber – this will enable you to send out interactions and alerts, along with free reports and other exclusive content. It also allows people to reply and know they will get a human being.
  2. Create series posts on “big ideas”, and perhaps collect them into reports that you can give away

I also find conversions much better when I use an obvious email form rather than a sign up link.

Sell the Dream

Any lifestyle blogger needs to remember that the majority of the people reading will not make the full leap. You need to sell the dream, give vivid pictures, video, audio. The full multimedia life stream. Use flickr, youtube, twitter so people can live your life via proxy. Show Don’t Tell.

This is also

  1. An excellent way for your audience to get to know you better
  2. A way to introduce other prominent folks from the niche and network with them

Consider a blogtalkradio show? I imagine Webinars/Teleseminars would be a huge draw (and profitable if you wanted to charge)

Fix Real, Compelling Problems

So we have talked about how you can stand out, and we have briefly looked at community. Both of those are going to aid you getting more visibility and traffic, while branding your site.

The biggest impact you can make though is if you take the overall “dreamer” aspect of the niche and turn around and solve real, pressing problems for the people who really need to make a change.

Interact with your audience, on forums, in social media (particularly Twitter and Facebook) and find out the real challenges that people are coping with and can not find an answer to. Once your audience grows, make it obvious and easy for people to send you their problems.

Most of my best content ideas are from consulting clients or reader questions. You can not top the inspiration and good feelings that come from actually helping people with real issues.

A great example for how to gather reader issues is over at CopyBlogger … sometimes how people do something is more instructive than what :)

One of the problems with “Your guide to lifestyle design” (other than “what’s that?”) is the “That’s nice dear” effect. You know, when you tell someone something really cool and they just smile and say “That’s nice” rather than get as excited and passionate about it as you are?

So work out the real problem your blog solves on a macro level and for each post aim to solve a problem on a per-article basis also. A real problem that people can solve with your help. If possible use the exact phrasing that your audience uses.

Summary

Freepersuits is an excellent blog and has been given a great start, and is now ready to be taken to the next level.

Check it out now.

Over to you – what do you think about Freepersuits? What would you do differently? Do you disagree with what I have said here? Give the benefit of your thoughts in the comments …

Interview With Naomi Dunford and Sonia Simone

Today I had the pleasure of interviewing two very cool internet marketing gurus, Naomi Dunford and Sonia Simone of Marketing for Nice People. We talked about lots of interesting stuff in this fun interview, but there are definitely some strong lessons for all of us contained in this interview. Play the interview Download the MP3 […]

Social Media Success Summit Competition Winners

Did you win? 🙂 Wow! I knew this Social Media Success Summit was generating a lot of interest, but when I had the idea to hold a competition to win tickets I didn’t realize how much it would take over my Twitter stream and test my web hosting to the limit!

UsefulTools Critique

UsefulTools is described as … … a web magazine for people who love web tools and apps. There are new and exciting applications being developed all the time. We sift through the abundance of technologies available to you, and help you find the most useful tools. Right away you might be thinking this puts them […]

Win Tickets to Social Media Success Summit 2009!

Social Media Success 2009All around the world people are very excited about Social Media Success Summit 2009 — the first major online event dedicated to helping you successfully market your business with sites like Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn. More than 500 people have already registered.

Now you have the exclusive chance to win two valuable seats to the event for no cost!

I am not bragging when I say that the line-up is an all-star cast (well… maybe a little).

Presenters include bestselling authors and social media marketing experts such as Gary Vaynerchuk (Wine Library TV), Darren Rowse (Problogger), Mari Smith (Facebook guru), Jason Alba (wrote the book on LinkedIn), Ann Handley (MarketingProfs), Brian Clark (Copyblogger), Denise Wakeman (BlogSquad). Oh, and me.

Sessions include:

  • How to Create a Mega-Following and Mega-Sales With Social Media Marketing
  • Building a Loyal Facebook Following for Increased Profits
  • How to Grow and Engage an Audience on Twitter
  • Using the Power and Reach of LinkedIn to Grow Your Business
  • How to Productively Engage in Social Media Marketing
  • Five Reasons You Need to Be on Twitter (and Tools to Help You Manage)
  • Social Media Start Up: 3 Key Tools to Build Your Social Media Marketing Plan
  • How to Attract Tens of Thousands of People in Mere Days
  • Using Social Bookmarking for Improved Traffic, Links and Visibility

Go here to see the full details of all 11 sessions …

This event does not require any travel (no hotel, rental car or wasted time). You simply attend sessions online and meet the experts and network with peers from the comfort of your home or office. Pretty cool, eh? :)

Contest Prizes

There are two prizes:

  1. Twitter Prize: Valued at $497
    One ticket to Social Media Success Summit 2009
  2. Grand prize: Valued at $1,693.90!
    Two tickets to Social Media Success Summit 2009 (one for you and one for a friend)

PLUS

  • A social media marketing consultation with Michael Stelzner (Michael will spend an hour with you, helping you get your plan in order)
  • A blog critique by me (I will identify actionable steps you can take to improve your blog)
  • A copy of the Problogger book by Darren Rowse and me
  • A copy of the book Writing White Papers by Michael Stelzner

Just think how your business or online efforts could be boosted by this package. Just the consult with Michael is priceless; he after all put this whole summit together.

How to Enter

Step 1: Enter for Twitter Prize

Simply post a Tweet on Twitter using the button included here, or simply copy and paste the below Tweet message. This automatically qualifies you an entry into the prize draw to win a free seat at the summit. You may tweet up to 5 times between now and 21st May 2009. The tweet must contain “#smsuccess” to qualify. We will select the winner randomly on the 22st May 2009.

The Tweet:

Win a FREE ticket to Social Media Success Summit 2009: http://cli.gs/Grq8RX #smsuccess

How to Win the Grand Prize

To win the grand prize, write a blog post (no longer than 1,000 words) explaining why you want to win a seat at the Social Media Success Summit 2009. Have your post published by midnight 21st May 2009 (GMT). So we are notified about your post you will need to leave a trackback on this blog post or comment with a link.

Remember the grand prize includes two summit tickets, social media consultation, a blog critique and two awesome books, so it is well worth getting your friends on board. The more friends who enter the more chances you have of getting a seat yourself :).

Good Luck!

The winners will be selected by Mike and I and announced right here on this blog on the 22st May 2009.

Good luck, and tell your friends!

Just Like Breathing?

What is so natural to you that it is like breathing? What aspect of yourself, which behavior, skill, activity, talent, is so part of you that you could not imagine yourself without it?

Answer this question and you could make yourself so much happier and successful, ignore it and you could be making yourself and those around you miserable.

This is something I have been pondering since my recent trip to SOBCon. Something strange happens when Terry Starbucker and I get together. It seems we have an unwritten rule that all our conversations must in some way fix the world. This was one of our many short but deep conversations.

Why is this question important to you and your productivity (maybe, life)?

Find Your Purpose, Discover Your Joy

In striving to succeed, day to day or for long term goals, we overlook what comes naturally to us. It’s easy to dismiss what we find easy, natural and fun. Many of us are raised to believe that work should be hard.

“No pain, no gain”.

Sorry, but that is rubbish.

There is no rule that we should suffer. No law that you can only spend your days waiting for a whistle to blow at 5.30pm.

Do What Comes Natural

If you look around, you will find the people who are most happy in their work and lives are the people who are in flow. They do what comes naturally. You might say they have a “gift”, or you might just think they are happy that their work is what they love to do. Or perhaps they don’t work, and they spend their leisure time doing whatever brings them the most joy?

My Mum is a natural at nurturing people. She nurtures regardless, whether people want nurturing or not. So she has spent most of her working life looking after people, from special needs schools to residential homes for people with learning difficulties. The times when she has deviated from being in a caring role she has been miserable.

Nobody that knows my mother would ever think of her not trying to help, comfort, or simply feed someone. It’s in her nature that if there is not someone around who needs some care she will go looking. That’s what she does.

Now we should not be tricked into thinking that people are given one role in life and that is what they have to stick to.

My Dad has had three careers, and excelled at all of them. His first career as a printer he did to please his own father. What seemed to suit him best though was when he was rescuing folks from fires and mangled cars.

Knowing he was constantly putting himself at risk scarred us all witless. I still can’t understand what malfunctions in a persons brain that allows them to run into danger when everyone else is screaming away in the other direction, but we are all proud of him that he did it, and did so well at it.

My brother stuck to an office job for a long time until one day he couldn’t take any more. Next thing we knew he had moved down to London and enrolled at a guitar institute. Rocking out in front of huge crowds of adoring, sweaty music fans is what brings him joy, and he is visibly more at home now than he ever was.

All of them do, or did, what came naturally to their personalities. They didn’t just get handed their dream role of course, and it took my Dad thirty some years to find his purpose. The point is there is something you are meant to be involved in that just fits.

Finding What You Were Meant to Do

  • What brings you joy?
  • Can you identify something in your personality that is “so you”?
  • Are there things you find yourself doing almost subconsciously?

These are potential candidates. You might not see the traits as fundamental, or obviously lead to a career or income, but they will hint at what you are meant to be doing.

Liz Strauss is a natural connector. She connects people and it just happens when she is around. For Liz it is not “doing”, it is “being”. Through her career I am sure whatever her role on paper, I bet she has been connecting people. Of course she would create something like SOBCon.

For many of us, I think deep down we know what we are meant to be doing. We just fight it or fear making the changes necessary to go with it. My brother spent many years in a job just paying the bills. He was in the wrong place, doing the wrong thing. He was good at his job and conscientious, but it was hardly his ambition.When he is on stage rocking out his guitar he comes alive.

Others, like myself, find it a little harder to discover what we are meant to do.

Until I left school I had planned to be some sort of cartoonist or illustrator. I quickly realized though that while I liked to doodle, I didn’t like it enough to put in the hard graft to be good enough to earn a decent living. At the same time I had decided I could not afford to go to University either. I was “good with computers” and decided to do that.

What you are good at is not necessarily what you are meant to be doing. I learned that the hard way.

In fact, in a way, I discovered something I found really really difficult was what I was meant to do. Perhaps, like me, you will work out what you were meant to do by process of elimination?

For the first half of my life I was painfully shy. To fix this I took a teaching course. While the course did not actually tell us how to teach, it did force us to speak to groups. For me this was like an arachnophobic type person going to the zoo to hold a tarantula, I am still shy but not half as bad as I was. The best part was it seemed to enable some kind of dormant circuit in me. I teach, that is what I do.

Standing in front of groups at talking to them is now something I do with alarming regularity, and I find it intimidating and nerve wracking. Considering my deep seated terror might suggest that I have this teaching stuff wrong, but actually that is just one type of teaching you are seeing. In fact through my blog, social media, articles, books and in person, I am teaching all the time. That is what comes naturally to me and what is like breathing. So obvious I miss it. I learn, process, and teach it back.

Remember I enjoyed doodling? I get to use that part of myself in my teaching, either directly with whiteboard doodles, or indirectly by adding cartoons or creative layouts to my articles and materials.

When I write I can get into the flow. Time seems to distort, my brain turns to sweet mush, and the words just arrive on screen. Programming was never like that for me, I am a darned good programmer, but it was always an effort that would give me brain ache.

That’s the key, it’s not just what you are good at, or what people expect of you – what do you do automatically, easily, and would do regardless?

There are so many opportunities now to utilize your whole self, you do not need to overhaul your life if you don’t want to. People outlet their creative side by blogging, tweeting, photography and, a recent discovery for me, scrapbooking. You can even earn good money if that is important.

Once you know what your nature is then you can choose how you express it. The most important thing is to delve into the deepest folds of your brain and work out how you were programmed, what kind of mission were your circuits built to do? :)


Important Note: Talking about teaching, Mike has asked me to remind you that if you were interested in the Social Media Success Summit that the early bird discount ends Thursday so you had better get in now if you want to save …

Thursday is the last day to secure your seat at Social Media Success Summit 2009 at the early bird discount rate (a $200 savings, 40% off the regular price!). This is THE online event for businesses (big and small) that want to grow using tools such as Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn.

Grab your seat at this online event before they’re all gone.

Go here now!