What’s the Word: Creating a Theme For the New Year

This post is from Katy Tafoya, a teacher and a coach who finds joy in helping women claim their passion and expertise. She guides solopreneurs to make their lives and their businesses juicier, more fulfilling and more successful. She also leads the Val Gal quarterly networking dinners which are always open to the public and in the greater San Fernando Valley. If you’re ready to identify, claim and leverage your expertise and live your passion you can sign up for a a F.R.E.E. subscription to her weekly ezine at SuccessForSolpreneurs.com.

WANT TO SEE MORE ARTICLES LIKE THIS ONE? See Katy’s blog at SuccessforSolopreneurs.com/blog

“I’m a woman of very few words, but lots of action.” ~ Mae West

Happy New Year!

No, really, my wish for you is that this year you will discover and experience your HAPPY new year. So now that we’re a couple days in, how are things shaping up for you?

Have you made those resolutions? I’m not one for making resolutions myself. Like many folks out there, I found that I made these promises and within days, I’ve broken then. And then I feel crappy, like a failure for not being able to follow through.

So instead, I like to focus on setting an intention or a theme for the year. Following my mentor, Christine Kane’s advice, I choose a word (any word or short phrase) that can become the theme for my year. For example, in the past I’ve used, “let go,” “create,” and one year, “giggle.” I know others have used joy, love, peace, strength, bold, etc. The word can be anything that resonates with you, inspires you, makes you smile or motivates you.

I’ve noticed that for me, the word that I start the year with and the word that I end the year with, are not always the very same word. Take last year for an example…I started the year with “create.” My intention was to spend the year not only creating new products, new services and new business, but I also wanted to remind myself to BE more creative. I wanted to get out there and embrace my inner artist.

Well, about mid-way through the year, my word changed to “imperfection” (which I’ve no doubt you noticed as I wrote about it all the time). I realized that I couldn’t be very creative if I was always striving for perfection.

So to allow more creativity and moments of actual creation, I had to learn to allow imperfection. I had to just do it, and not stress how perfect it turned out. In my mind, it was better to have something out there imperfectly, than to have nothing out there at all because I was still stuck on making sure everything was perfect. This opened the world up for me. In fact, it brought me to this year’s word…expand.

This year I want to expand — my life, my relationships, my products and services, my presence and my business as a whole. I want to be BIGGER and BOLDER. I want to be more audacious and more approachable. I want to be the me I know I was put here to be.

At the same time though, I want to it to be easy and effortless. I mean why make it difficult, right? Which then brought me to the phrase — effortless expansion. This year will be the year for effortless expansion.

Will I change it up mid-way again? Quite possibly. It really all depends how things go and expand. Either way, I’m open to whatever sort of “expansion” the new year brings my way.

I encourage you to find a word that empowers you, brings you joy, has you feeling focused and in charge. It can be a short phrase. It’s not carved in stone, so don’t stress over this.

Get silent and see what comes to you. Then put that word up somewhere where you can see it throughout the day. Let it inspire you. Let it BE you. Then remember to live your life….with intention. And if all else fails, there’s always the 2012 Resolution Generator.

I’d love to know what your word or short phrase is for this year. Feel free to respond back to this newsletter or send me an email.

ACTION PLAN: Pick a word for your year and try it on for size. When it feels right, embrace it! 

I invite you to share a little about who you are, what you do and your successes as solopreneur by joining the conversation at the Success for Solopreneurs community.

I hope you enjoyed Katy’s post!
Amandah

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Monday’s Creative Writing Prompt Based on 2012

Happy New Year! It’s 2012, and according to the Mayans, it should be one heck of a year. I’m kidding. Who knows what happened to the Mayans and why they couldn’t finish their calendars. Anyway … Here’s a writing prompt based on 2012 and all of the whacky and perhaps not-so-whacky predictions.

Monday’s Creative Writing Prompt Based on 2012

You’re given psychic powers and can see what will happen in 2012, write a story based on your vision.

A Mayan shaman appears before you and says he has important information to share with you, what is it?

You’re outside one night gazing at the stars. All of the sudden you see flashing lights in the sky and a whiling motion. Did you see a UFO? If so, what does it look like? Write about your experience.

What predictions would you write for 2012?

Amandah

Freelance Writers Follow These 7 Steps to Write Catchy Headlines

I was supposed to attend Copyblogger’s Headline Clinic on Thursday, December 15, but I had a meeting regarding Event and Party Planning. Anyway … As a freelance writer, it’s important to write appealing headlines for your clients as well as personal projects such as blogs, newsletters, articles, teleseminars, webinars and so forth. Below you’ll find 7 steps to writing catchy headlines.

Freelance Writers Follow These 7Steps to Write Catchy Headlines

1. Know your target audience and write for them.

2. Write headlines that contain 40-80 characters.

3. Identify the problem and offer a solution in the form of a question. Example: How to Write a Newsletter in 5 Easy Steps.

4. Pay attention to headlines in the newspaper and online. See how they create a call to action or make you want to stop and read the post.

5. Use the headline formulas of Question + Problem = Solution or Question + Problem + Solution = Specific Answer.

6. Make a statement without making a statement. Translation: statement headlines can appear weak — use them in moderation.

7. Read gossip magazines (I know) to see how they write jaw dropping headlines.

Amandah

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What Advice Do You Wish You Received before Becoming a Freelance Writer?

Like many freelance writers, I jumped in the deep end of professional writing with my eyes wide open. I didn’t have anyone to coach or guide me through the sometimes murky waters of freelance writing. I admit that it would have been nice to have had some ‘solid’ advice about freelance writing before I embarked on this journey. It would have been nice if a ‘seasoned’ freelance writer would have given me solid information about the business of writing. Oh well! Sometimes, it helps to learn as you go and learn from your mistakes.

Here’s the advice I wished I would have received before becoming a freelance writer:

1. Freelance writing is a business. It’s up to you, the freelance writer, to run your business. No one else will do it for you. Unless, of course, you hire outside help so you can work in your business not on it.

It’s important to know who your target market is. Also, it may be easier to write for a ‘niche’ market than trying to be everything to all businesses. It’s important to be comfortable with sales and marketing. If you can’t sell you and your writing services, who will?

A freelance writer needs to know how to create quotes, proposals, and invoices. Lucky for me, I have an accounting background and creating these types of forms wasn’t difficult for me. But what do if you don’t know how to do this? You could do a Google search or find forms on the internet and ‘tweak’ them.

2. Learn about web design and HTML coding. Tweaking your WordPress theme may or may not be easy. If you can’t afford to hire a professional web designer, learn about web design and coding or barter with a web designer. For example, in exchange for a clean and professional website, you could write blog posts and articles for the web designer.

3. Choose your domain name wisely. Is it better to use your name or a business name? What are the pros and cons? It’s possible that you could choose a domain name only to outgrow it. Before you setup your freelance writing website, conduct a ‘domain name’ brainstorming session and choose the name that’s right for you. Bounce names off of close, supportive family and friends. It’s better to do this then purchase a domain name that you really don’t like.

4. Learn how to write and submit query letters the first time. Let’s face it; there’s a lot of advice online about writing and submitting query letters. Who’s right? Who’s wrong? Is there a right or wrong answer about writing and submitting query letters? It would have been nice to have been mentored by an experienced freelance writer who wrote and sent   query letters throughout the years. Fumbling in the dark doesn’t help.

5. How do you set freelance writing rates? This is another area where it’s completely gray. When you’re a new freelance writer, how do you know what to charge? What’s the ‘magic’ formula? Is there a magic formula? Most ‘seasoned’ freelance writers say there isn’t a ‘standard’ when it comes to setting rates. Personally, I think they forget what it’s like to be a newbie. New freelance writers could use guidance and solid answers when it comes to setting rates. It would cut down on the frustration of it all.

6. Where to find the right clients? This would have been extremely helpful. How did ‘seasoned’ freelance writers find their clients when they started out? How do they find their clients? Did they go through the yellow pages? Would a newbie go through Yelp? Did a ‘seasoned’ freelance writer drive through their local business park and write down the business names? What’s the 411 on this?

7. How to stick with freelance writing when you’re not earning what you expected to earn or don’t have a solid support system? What happens when you quit your job because you thought you could immediately earn the same amount of income or even more each month from freelance writing? What happens when you ‘jump into’ freelance writing without having a backup income? Are the ‘gurus’ who say, “You can earn a living doing what you love” wrong? Are they selling ‘pipe dreams? Are they doing a disservice to people? Ugh!

What happens when you don’t have the support of family and friends? How do you persevere and press forward? Connect with local writers through Meetup.com, the library or local bookstores. Sometimes, it helps to meet face-to-face with others who are experiencing the same situation as you. Of course, you can connect with other writers through forums along with Facebook, LinkedIn and other social media websites. Just remember — you’re not alone. There are other writers who probably feel the same as you do. All you have to do is meet them. Before you know it, you’ll have cultivated a network of writers and friends.

Amandah

What advice do you wish you were given before you became a freelance writer? Share

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Freelance Writers: Rebranding Doesn’t Have to be Painful

Freelance writers are no different than companies when it comes to branding. We have to creative a website, a web presence, and logo; stay on top of social media, communicate effectively with clients, etc. The owners or board of a company will rebrand because it could be time to go in another direction. Other times, a company will re-brand if it’s suffered a publicity scandal. Ouch! In any event, I’m no different than a company and have decided it’s time to rebrand me along with my portfolio site Savvy-Writer.com. Change is good, and I anticipate only good to come from my decision. With that said … my new, balanced name is Amandah Tayler Blackwell (Amandah Blackwell); it has a nice ‘ring’ to it. For business purposes, I’ll use Amandah T. Blackwell as my signature.

I was surprised at how common it is for solo professionals to change their name. Let’s face it; most actors and actress change their name or use a stage name instead of their legal name. All of us know that Norma Jean became Marilyn Monroe. Marion Morrison is best known as John Wayne. I can’t imagine the movie poster for True Grit with the words, “True Grit starring Marion Morrison as Rooster Cogburn.” I don’t think so.

What’s this: Did you know that some freelance writers and authors use ‘pen names‘ instead of their ‘real’ names? Some of the best-selling authors don’t use their legal names and or publish under different pen names. Some authors have five or more pen names. That’s too many for me!

You may be wondering how I came up with Amandah Tayler Blackwell. Well … I contacted a company in Vancouver, B.C. that specializes in business and personal name changes. It’s not a decision I made lightly. In fact, I’ve been contemplating changing my name for quite some time. Family and friends may need more time to adjust to the change, but I believe it’s in my best interest and look forward to the new ‘energy’ around my ‘new’ name.

How to rebrand your company

1. Life is constantly changing, nothing is stagnant. Embrace change, and it will embrace you.

2. Re-branding can breathe new life into a business and or take it in a totally new direction.

3. What is your mission? Why are you in business? Knowing the answers to these questions can help you embrace rebranding your company.

4. Talk to your clients/customers. There’s a reason why companies conduct focus groups — they want to know what they’re customers want and or how to improve upon products and services. You may as well go straight to the ‘source’ and ask, “What can we do for you?”

5. Ask for help. If you’re in a ‘niche’ that’s saturated, partnering with other businesses is a great way to expand your market.

6. Rethink your target market. Can you expand your target market without having to introduce new products and services?

7. Consider renaming your company. Did you know that Pepsi was first known in 1898 as Brad’s Drink? The name was changed to Pepsi-Cola in 1903 and later to what we now recognize as Pepsi. Talk about an evolution! Pepsi is well-known throughout the world, with many satisfied customers.

8. Communication is the key. It’s important to show and tell clients and customers ‘why’ you’re rebranding and how it will benefit them. Create a video, infographic, etc. Change doesn’t have to be hard — it can be exciting and take you places you could have only imagined.

Thanks for tagging along on my journey. I appreciate everyone who reads and likes Savvy Writing Careers!

Best,
Amandah T. Blackwell

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How to Stop Writing Fairly Difficult Content

I received an interesting email from the assistant editor of the television network I write for. I was told I was a fairly difficult writer. I know what you’re thinking, “I thought Rebecca was professional; Rebecca doesn’t come across as a difficult writer; and I got the impression Rebecca meets her deadlines.” Of course, I’m professional! It’s my writing that’s fairly difficult to read. BTW: I almost fell out of my chair when I read that my writing is fairly difficult to read.

According to the assistant editor, “the formula uses a 100-point system based on the number of syllables per word and words per sentence.” An article that scores close to 100 is easier to read; the closer to 0 means readers will need a dictionary and other reference materials to help them understand the content. Adapted from Flesch, R. (1949). The art of readable writing. New York: Harper. p.149.

I had no idea that the network is using The Flesch Reading Ease Readability Formula. I never heard of this formula; I never knew it even existed. Apparently, “The Flesch Reading Ease Formula was created by Rudolph Flesch in 1948. He was an author, writing consultant, and supporter of the Plain English Movement. Rudolph earned a Ph.D. in English from Columbia University and advocated the return of phonics.” Who knew?

FYI: A score of 70 is estimated for readers with an eighth or ninth grade education. A score of 100 means content can be understood by readers with a fourth grade education. This isn’t ideal but it is what it is.

This was very fascinating to me, and I decided to test one of my articles from Savvy Writing Careers with Rebecca. I used the free online readability test from Readability Formulas.com and the article I chose scored an 80. It scored an 80 because it was the ‘typical’ list type of blog post which is very easy to read. 

BTW: I was told by a writing coach to write my screenplays for a ‘general audience’ that has at least an eighth grade education.

How to Stop Writing Fairly Difficult Content

1. Write more list and ‘how to’ articles and blog posts.

2. Always write content for the target audience; make sure you know who the target audience is.

3. Most people ‘scan’ articles instead of reading them. Keep blog posts and articles to the point and use shorter sentences.

4. Forget about using 50 cent and $1 words — use simple language

5. Use bold headings and sentences, bullet points and blurbs.

FYI: Did you know that newspaper reporters write their articles to be understood by readers with at least a fifth grade education?

Some writers may be shaking their heads from reading this blog post, but the fact-of-the-matter is this is reality right now. Some readers aren’t that skilled in English and grammar or they don’t have the time to read lengthy blog posts or articles. Always keep your target audience in mind when you write and most importantly, keep your freelance writing clients’ target audience in mind when you write.

*Statistics on this blog post are as follows:

Passive sentences 14%
Flesch Reading Ease 63.2
Flesch-Kincaid Grade Level 7.5 (readers with at least a 7th or 8th grade education can understand this content)

Rebecca

How difficult is your content to read?

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How Authors and Freelance Writers Brand Themselves on LinkedIn

Authors, freelance, ghost and creative writers would benefit from listening to Greig Wells‘ (owner of Be Found Jobs) webinars on creating your brand on LinkedIn. Many business professionals use LinkedIn to find employees, contractors and freelancer writers. Linked In is the ‘go to’ website for professionals. If you’re uncertain as to ‘how to’ brand yourself on LinkedIn, follow the steps below.

How authors and freelance writers brand themselves on LinkedIn

1. Create a hook. As a writer, you’re familiar with writing a ‘hook’ when you submit a pitch or query letter to editors. It’s important to catch the eye of potential clients/customers/readers in 30-seconds or less.

Greig’s three-step process to writing a hook that works is as follows:

1. You know how a <Company> is always looking for <Insert the biggest problem in your industry>.

2. I solve this.

3. I do this by Unique Way #1 and Unique #2.

Here’s an example for a Freelance Writer:

You know how business owners always struggle to write optimized web content that converts visitors to customers.

I solve this.

I do this by writing unique, compelling web content using your keywords and phrases which lands your business on the first page of Google and draws visitors to your website.

2. UVP Power. This stands for Unique, Value and Promise. What makes you a unique freelance, creative or ghost writer? What makes you a unique fiction, non-fiction or YA author? What value do you bring to clients? What value do you bring to readers? Do you keep the promises you make? For example, if you promise to meet deadlines, do you actually meet them? If you promise to deliver a thrilling novel that takes readers on the adventure of their life, does your novel deliver?

3. The Proof. What proof do you have that you’re an expert in your field? Do you have testimonials from clients? Do you have testimonials from readers? Do you have testimonials from other authors in your genre? Remember, actions speak louder than words. This may be difficult for writers to read, but it’s the truth.

Other tips are: create a word cloud; connect with ‘Super Connectors’ (people with 500+ connections), have a solid call-to-action, and post relevant status updates that people will comment on. Join pertinent groups where you can share your expertise; voice your thoughts, beliefs and opinions.

What is branding? Through the use of your name, symbol, term, sign or combination of these, you create a ‘brand’ that clients/customers recognize as a resource that solves their problem. Remember, you’re in business to solve problems and market your products and or services. Therefore, your brand should reflect this.

As authors and writers, you’re familiar with tapping into the emotional side of writing. You can do this when you create your brand as well. For example, let’s say you’re an expert author on dating after divorce. You could use words such as pain-free relationships, self-esteem, self-confidence, independence, frustration, etc.

According to Greig, “The biggest mistake is building a brand that no one wants. Get to the core of the biggest problem facing a company or client.”

The advantage authors and writers have with branding is they know how to write. However, sometimes it can be difficult to create a ‘brand’ for your author website or freelance writing business. Think about hiring someone else to do this for you so you can concentrate on growing your writing business or finishing your first novel. Check out Greig’s profile on LinkedIn and see how his program could help you, even though it’s marketed to job seekers, branding is still branding. I’ve learned a lot from listening to Greig’s webinars. Check them out today!

Rebecca

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