How to Break Free of Analysis Paralysis: Don’t Overthink Your Content

overthink

Many people get stuck when coming up with content marketing ideas.

They know they should be doing content marketing to build their brand, create awareness and community, engage with fans or customers, and drive major business results, but they often don’t know where to begin.

This is because they’re overthinking it. Don’t overthink or get bogged down and hung up on finding the right thing to post or share. Not every piece of content has to be a work of art that takes a lot of time to create.

In fact, some of the most consumed content right now is that which is live or feels current, in-the-moment, spontaneous, and voyeuristic. This is why short, disappearing videos, such as SnapChat and Instagram stories are so popular.

“But I don’t understand why people like that kind of stuff,” I can already hear you saying. “Who wants to watch me go about my day, doing errands, or working? I just don’t get it.

The good news is you don’t have to ‘get it.’ If your target audience gets it, then do it. It’s not about you, remember? It’s about your audience. Personal feelings are not what should drive content marketing decisions or larger business decisions as whole. To succeed, one must respond to the needs of the market and cast one’s personal biases aside.

And don’t worry about failure or looking stupid. Don’t pull your hair out trying to get your hair and the lighting just right for the video or scrutinizing every word of your blog post before hitting “publish” or “post.” If you doubt and second-guess yourself before publishing, you’ll never get anything done and stand in the way of your own progress.

Content marketing – like many things in life – only generates significant returns when done frequently and consistently. The results are cumulative and build over time.

Document more than you create.

Here’s a helpful tip if you’re feeling stuck: Document more than you create.

Not all of your content has to be your original thoughts or ideas. Share relevant updates, post trending news articles or videos about your industry featuring a brief caption with your own two-cents on the issue, or take people through a typical work day or project. Share tips, quotes, and insights as you learn them and provide the information with a source.

And if something flops, gets no response, or receives negative responses, don’t get discouraged. I’ts important to keep going.

From my own experience as a freelancer and entrepreneur, I know that it’s incredibly important not to dwell on rejection or failures. The only way to win and maintain the enormous amounts of stamina needed to succeed is to channel your energy productively. If something doesn’t work out, simply dust yourself off and move onto the next thing. Unless you’re relentlessly and continually putting out content, your efforts to get noticed will fail.

Share your growth.

Don’t be afraid of showing that you are learning and growing.

Besides fear of failure and “creator’s block,” many people worry that they are not yet an expert or “thought leader” worthy of sharing with the world.

The truth is, you are worthy of contributing to the conversation as long as you stick to what you know. Avoid the common mistake of talking about things about which you lack sufficient knowledge or expertise. It will be painfully obvious and you’ll sound like a jerk. Rather, take people through your process. If you tell your story with conviction and sincerity, your content will be more likely to resonate and find an audience.

When I learned this, it was a relief. I no longer felt the pressure to prove I was an expert on everything. Simply by sharing my journey and documenting my process of starting a digital marketing agency, I can create content that can educate, entertain, and inspire on a regular basis.

And here’s the best part:

It doesn’t take much time away from my other responsibilities, because all I’m doing is showing my work and sharing what I learn as I go. As long as you can do it in a way that will keep your audience’s attention and provide them with value, it will catch on.

Don’t get caught up on things like lighting, camera gear, and your hair. It’s more important your content has substance and communicates authenticity. Not only on social media, but in the world in general, authenticity is of primary importance. Being authentic builds credibility, trust, and ‘likeability.’

When you earn the trust and adoration of your audience, you increase the likelihood that they will want to support you and your endeavors.

That is how community and brand are built.

——

Examples of documenting instead of creating:

Note: All of the following can be done from your smartphone and most can be delegated to someone else in your organization. 

Wedding Planner: Produce short Facebook and/or YouTube videos with phone or camera featuring the couples sharing how they met. Capture the process of planning the wedding from the first client meeting to hiring a caterer to preparing the hall to the party itself.

Plastic Surgeon: Have someone film Instagram stories that show you operating  (with patient permission) as you narrate what you’re doing and talk with the staff.

Real Estate Agent: Use Snapchat stories to show yourself walking around neighborhoods while you educate people about them. Host a virtual open house. Feature photos of new listings and film yourself interacting with buyers.

Financial Advisor: Tweet short, helpful financial management and money saving tips between meetings and paperwork (or schedule them in advance). Go live on Facebook or Instagram (or have someone in your office do it) once a week for 5-10 minutes answering common finance-related questions that crossed your desk over the past few days.

Plumber: Show short (15-30 sec) video clips and photos for Instagram, Snapchat, and/or Facebook that show you solving tough plumbing problems. Walk people through how you fixed the problems. Show the scene before you started the work, a couple quick video clips during the repair, and a photo of a job well done. You could title your show something humorous like “Bathroom Impossible.”

Animal Shelter: Share short video clips of you and your staff interacting with the dogs, telling the stories of how the dogs arrived to the shelter, and showing people purchasing the dogs and giving them a new home. Keep a short diary of these events and showcase it on the blog.

B2B Technology Software: Quickly jot down hiring, recruiting, and management challenges you yourself encounter as they happen and later convert them into short blog posts that can eventually be co-opted into ebooks or white papers. Host a once per week 20-minute podcast where you talk about recruiting or management best practices.

 

 

Advertisements

The Real Thing Holding Many of Us Back

action

We all have ideas.

Dreams.

Hopes.

But unfortunately, we also have excuses. If only X were different or if I only I had Y, I could bring my ideas to life and succeed.

Most of us know that ideas are nothing without execution. So, why don’t we act on our aspirations? Why do we put things off?

There are probably innumerable reasons why we aren’t attacking what we want, ranging from practical considerations such as financial or family obligations to poor habits such as procrastination and laziness. The specific reasons will vary depending on the individual.

However, I think for many of us it’s fear of failure.

This could lead us to overthink our next move, paralyzed with inertia. Eventually, we get consumed with the pressing issues of our everyday lives and then, in our spare time, we lose ourselves in distractions. Before you know it, another week, another month, another year has gone by and we have still not taken any steps closer to our dreams.

And our ideas remain just that.

Ideas and nothing more.

just-do-it-hed-2013

Perfectionism is a killer. Overanalyzing and overthinking is anathema to progress.

A great leader of the past century, Rav Menachem Mendel Schneerson, used to say: “Action is the main thing.”

And famous entrepreneur and hustler extraordinaire, Gary Vaynerchuk, often says: “You have to do.”

One of my friends and mentors, Shlomo Zalman Bregman, is a definitely a do-er. When I started freelance content writing, he pointed out to me that I tend to get stuck in my own head. I was doing a lot of pondering, but my wanting things to be perfect was keeping me from getting more done than I could have been doing.

Over the past year, I have learned first-hand that everything the three people quoted above said about getting things done without waiting for things to in perfect alignment, is absolutely true.

Instead of anticipating a negative reaction or asking yourself “what-if” questions, just get it out there. Try things. Do things. If it doesn’t work, move onto something else. If you wait for things to be perfect or “just right” before you execute, you’ll never get anything done.

Furthermore, the execution itself or the act of getting something done will build your confidence. The momentum created from accomplishing one task can get you to attack the next project without second-guessing yourself.

Obviously, it’s important to think things through. I’m not suggesting recklessness. But, often it’s a tendency to overthink that is standing in many people’s way.

Maybe your next project, pitch, or attempt will fail miserably. Maybe people will laugh at you or criticize you.

So what?

Don’t dwell on it. Dust yourself off and move onto the next one.

As Seth Godin says, “the one who fails the most, wins.”

Virtually, all of the people we think of as winners or achievers have had failures. Sometimes, many failures. We may remember them for the hits or for their ideas that took off, but between all those victories were many defeats and attempts that bombed.

But, they didn’t let those set-backs get them down. They just kept at — creating, doing, and trying. Eventually, something worked and it put them on the map.

If all they did was ponder and strategize and worry about what others might think of them, they would never have made it.

So, don’t think so much.

Do.

Attention Freelancers: Please Stop Charging By the Hour

1-man-show

If you exchange your time for money, you’re communicating that what you do with your time is not worth any value.

Of course, this couldn’t be farther from the truth. The work you do is extremely valuable! So, why are you charging for your time and not for your work?

If you’ve been charging by the hour until now, do not worry. It’s not your fault. Most jobs in the workforce are pay-by-the-hour. It’s so normal that one cannot be blamed for thinking it’s the only option.

Also, if you’re a new freelancer, you may be stymied about how much to charge or mistakenly believe that people will not use your services if you charge by a metric other than hourly.

Now, this may not be feasible depending on your industry, but if you’re a freelancer, I strongly caution you against charging solely for your time.

Here’s why you shouldn’t charge by the hour:

You’re punishing yourself for getting the work done faster.

There’s no reason a freelancer should be penalized for being efficient. The better you get, the more likely it will take you less time to get things done.

Charging by the hour works against your client’s interest just as much as it works against you, the freelancer. Since finishing things well in a short amount of time adds more value to both you and your client, it makes no sense to take a pay cut for getting something done quickly. When you charge by the hour, it’s no longer in your interest to work efficiently.

You’re severely limiting the amount of business you can do.

Your time is finite. It goes without saying that if you charge for your time, the amount of clients you can take on at once will be far more limited than it would be if you charged by a less quantifiable metric.

Charging by the hour also ensures that clients will have to pay for inevitable distractions. Even the most diligent, ethical freelancer using a timer or an app such as Toggle will not take herself off the clock every time she spaces out or her attention wanders.

You’re saying you’re replaceable.

If you wish to make a living from freelancing and you’re not doing it as a hobby or side-hustle, then you need to charge with your best interests in mind. There are different levels of labor. If what you do requires very little skill and can essentially be done by anyone willing to do it, then it makes sense to charge for your time. The market will view you as a simple commodity easily exchangeable for someone or something else.

But if what you do takes uncommon skill and provides greater market value, charging by the hour makes no sense at all. It’s more than likely that what you do is not something that anyone with a spare X number of hours can do just as well you can. So, don’t make yourself a commodity! Let prospects and clients know right off the bat that you can’t be easily substituted for someone else.

It opens you up for miscommunication and  conflicts.

Let’s say your client decides to pull the plug after only a couple of hours and you had expected it to take up to five or ten. That leaves you with far less pay than you hoped, which will leave you frustrated and in urgent need of a new client to make up the difference.

There is also the chance your work will take longer than your client expected. Unless you and your client specified a capped number of hours or a fee limit in the beginning, this will likely result in frustration for the client and resistance toward paying you the full amount.

Time that could have been spent collecting your pay and moving onto the next target will now potentially be lost in negotiation and argument. You may then have to compromise to save yourself anymore lost time or money.

The length of time it took doesn’t necessarily have anything to do with quality.

When purchasing a product, such as a work of art, a useful tool, a gadget, or a music album, the amount of time it took to create it often doesn’t determine its value.

For example, the price of a Van Gogh is the same price whether the painting took him 3 minutes to complete or it took him 3 years. The same is true for a painting by a new, unknown artist.

If Drake cuts an album in a week, his label will sell for the same price as it would had the album taken over a year to complete. And consumers have no problem paying the same price. This is because the time it took is irrelevant to the cost.

The same goes for many services and if you’re a freelancer, the service you provide is your ‘product.’ Don’t cheapen it by charging by the hour rather than by a factor more closely related to the actual work, such as the market value of the deliverable.

time-430625_960_720

Here’s what you should do instead:

Dictate your own financial outcome. 

When you charge by the hour, you give your clients the power to determine your wages. This puts you at the mercy of others, increasing the likelihood that the outcome will not be in your favor.

Knowing exactly what you will be paid before you start the project will help you to work with a clearer mind, and likely produce higher quality work. Your client will also rest easier knowing there will be no surprises.

Setting a concrete fee allows you to set the terms, which gives you leverage in a negotiation and puts you in the driver’s seat. As renowned freelancer and best-selling author, Seth Godin, says: Being a freelancer means you get to pick your clients.

So, why not pick your own prices?

Charge for more than just time. 

As a content writer and social media marketer, I completely empathize with any freelancer who feels stuck when it comes to pricing. In the freelance world, and certainly in the freelance copywriting and content writing world that I navigate, figuring out what to charge can be especially difficult, because there is such a wide spectrum of pricing. For example, there are many content writers earning less than $20 for every 500-word blog post while others may charge $0.25/word. Still, some will charge $1,500 for one guest blog post!

Figuring out what to charge for your work can seem absolutely daunting when you are getting started. This is why so many of us default into hourly wages.

Allow me to please suggest an alternative:

When pricing, don’t saddle yourself with doubts about what you’re “worth.” Speculation about self-worth is a waste of time. Just as you should never say no for the prospect, you also shouldn’t negotiate your own value down to a lower price point before the prospect attempts to do it for you.

Remember, you can always come down from a higher initial offer than you can from a lower one.

To get a good idea of what to charge, a good place to start is finding out what your competitors charge. What are most people in your target audience paying them for the same service?

You can also base your price on elements such as the number of words, the number of pages, the weight of the products, or the amount of finished products created within a given time period. And yes, you can even factor in the time it took to produce the work! But keep two caveats in mind: a) Don’t make time the only factor upon which your price is based and b) You are not obligated to tell your clients that time is a consideration in the overall fee.

In fact, let me let you in on a juicy, little secret.

You never have to tell prospects or clients what your pricing is based upon! Once you do, you leave yourself open for negotiation.

The best piece of advice I received regarding pricing when I started freelancing full-time was as follows:

Decide what you want to earn in a year and work backwards.

Simple as it sounds, these words of wisdom, passed onto me from a veteran freelance copywriter, changed my perspective and enabled me to see things much more clearly.

Reverse engineer everything back to your desired bottom line. Figure out what you want to earn each month to achieve your desired annual income and come up with an accurate estimate of how many clients you can realistically serve at one time. This should give you a very clear idea of how much to charge per client.

Of course, market conditions must be taken into account and your pricing has to be grounded in reality, but it’s far better to reverse engineer based on your desired bottom line than to timidly price yourself lower before your prospects attempt to do so for you.

While there are, of course, a variety of factors every freelancer must take into account when pricing, the best thing you can do to put yourself in a position to win is think with the end-goal in mind.

 

 

People Don’t Buy What You Sell. They Buy What You Believe.

mlk-meme

Whether you are selling a message of peace, justice, and equality for all or you’re selling a product, remember that people don’t buy what it is you “sell.” They buy, because they share your belief.

If you want to make a positive change in the world, your message needs to reach those who believe what you believe. But that can only happen if you first have the courage of conviction to believe in yourself.

And even if you believe in yourself and you believe wholeheartedly in your message, you still have to effectively communicate your belief to others. If you cannot communicate it in a way that touches and inspires others, your message, no matter how noble, will fail reach the hearts and minds you wish to reach.

On #MLKDay we remember Martin Luther King, Jr., a man with a dream and a vision that forever changed the world for the better. Let us have the same courage of conviction to continue the progress he helped start.

I credit the ideas in this post to a book I recently finished called Start with Why by Simon Sinek. This book is an absolute must-read for anyone who aspires to be a leader in any capacity. 

The Best Way a Freelancer Can Attract New Clients

freelance-hustling

“How do you get clients?”

This is probably the question I’m most frequently asked.

Many new freelancers get stuck when it comes to finding new clients. Acquiring clients can certainly be challenging, especially when you’re starting out. If no one knows who you are, how are you supposed to get new business?

Since I started in May 2016, I’ve experimented with several methods of getting clients. A new freelancer should certainly try every possible tactic at his or her disposal. However, I have found that the best way to get new business is to create and share content online.

Create content to get noticed.

Rather than trying to find the clients, let them find you!

Create content that attracts and pulls them in rather than spend so much time and money on pushing your wares on people who may not be interested.

In an age where people often tune out ads and ignore interruptive, outbound forms of marketing, creating content that informs or inspires is a great way to catch the attention of prospects in the marketplace. Not to mention, creating great organic content online is often much cheaper than spending money on advertising.

This is great news for those of us who are a bit more introverted and have a harder time being outgoing. Creating content such as blog posts, whitepapers, videos, podcasts, photos, or infographics that educate, inspire, or in some way provides value can set you apart from the crowd and go toward growing your brand equity. Building a personal brand will keep you from becoming a commodity and allow you to get paid what you’re worth.

Be on social.

Social media is the primary medium of sharing content and communicating with others. Essentially, social media is the Internet. Learn how to navigate popular platforms, such as Instagram, Facebook, SnapChat, and Twitter as well as emerging ones such as music.ly and Houseparty. Get good at creating content related to your work that is native to each platform and earns shares, retweets, repins, or likes.

Be consistent in order to build an audience.

When you frequently and consistently churn out content that provides value, your efforts will not go unnoticed or unappreciated. People like doing business with people they know (or feel like they know). By giving people things that add value to their lives on a daily basis (a laugh, a dose of motivation, knowledge about an industry or niche market), you will slowly build a relationship with your audience.

Investing the time and effort necessary to create a relationship with the prospect before going in for the ask is well worth it. If people feel like you produce content for their benefit and in their best interests and not only for your benefit and in your best interest, they will be much more open to accepting your offer when you go in for the sale.

Besides helping to establish yourself as a “thought leader” (a cliche term that makes me nauseous just thinking about it), great content can truly help your audience filter the vast amount of information out there into something useful to them.

Find Make the time. 

The challenge for some freelancers is making the time to create content on top of the work they must do for current clients. It’s sometimes too easy for freelancers to be satisfied with their current workload, but a viable business requires a steady flow of leads and sales. You cannot rest on your laurels! That’s why it’s important to create a content schedule and set aside time each day or week to come up with content that will attract qualified leads.

Not necessary to reinvent the wheel.

Creating content doesn’t have to be extremely challenging or difficult. Not all content has to be original. About fifty percent of it can be curated i.e. content you share from elsewhere, but always make sure to provide your own two cents or thoughts on what you share.

Most of your content can consist of simply documenting your journey. Take people through your work process, show them how things are made, and share things you are learning along the way that can be of help to others. And if you can do all of this creatively or with a sense of humor, the results will be fantastic. Imagine you have your own reality show “day in the life of a freelancer,” and make it interesting to watch or read about.

If you become prolific at sharing helpful and interesting things online, you will build a brand and stand out in a sea of competition. While it takes a ton of patience and hard work, the results of content marketing is cumulative and, if you are good, it will eventually pay  off.

Now, it’s true that I am a content marketer and may be slightly betterat creating content and building a brand than your average freelancer. However, that doesn’t mean you can’t do it too. If you’re passionate about whatever it is you do (e.g. sewing handbags, fixing appliances, graphic design etc.), it will shine through and resonate with your audience in a powerful way.

And if you need any help with figuring out your content strategy, you know that you can always send me a message.😉

***

Have any questions or suggestions regarding building a personal brand, creating content, or closing new clients?? Feel free to comment below!