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CHUCK: Hey everybody and welcome to episode 147of the Freelancer Show. This week on our panel we have Curtis McHale.
CHUCK: Eric Davis.
CHUCK: I’m Charles Max Wood from DevChat.tv and this week we are going to be talking about consistency in marketing. Now, Eric you recommended this topic; is there a direction that we should go in first?
ERIC: I think a good thing is just to look at – a lot of people look at marketing as an activity like, “I’m going to go market”, or “I’m marketing at this moment,” and they don’t look at it as a process or a system. So it’s really easy to get busy or to think, “I just don’t have time for it.” And you just don’t do your marketing versus actually like, “Oh no, this is a system just like doing my books or brushing my teeth,” or anything that you have to do every day or every week. And I think that gets people started on the wrong path. And so they don’t market and then they get themselves in a lot of trouble like just not getting clients or not getting the clients that they want. And so I think looking at it from that point of view is actually good with where to start because that kind of wraps it.
CHUCK: Yeah, that makes sense. What kind of systems do you have in place? Is it just a matter of scheduling time to do it or are there more systems that you can put in place for this? I’m asking this question knowing that I have an answer to it, but I’m curious to see what you guys say.
ERIC: Yeah, I think that’s a lot of it is making sure you have time. Making sure you give it not just time, but actually your energy. So your end of the day – I get really tired, it’s hard for me to do like a lot of creative stuff. And delegating marketing to that time is actually bad like I’ve tried it, it just didn’t work. So I make sure like at certain times I give myself, “Okay I’m on my peak creatively I have a couple of hours set aside. This is what I’m going to be working on, whatever marketing campaign I’m doing.”
And the other part is just working at it as “I’m a building a system”. This might be a blog post I’m working on right here but this is going towards building a readership on my blog. Or I’m writing an email article and it’s not just I’m writing an email article so I could send it out. It’s – I’m trying to build relationships through my email list that I have content and share stuff. And so, how is this piece that I’m doing connecting to the larger whole that is my company, my brand?
CHUCK: Right. Now, I really like the idea, and this is something that I’ve started to doing is that my Mondays are my marketing day. So I wind up spending a fair bit of time on Mondays working on whatever it is that I have to be working on. So sometimes its marketing for a product and sometimes its marketing for my freelancing services and it seems to work out really well.
The reason I do it on Monday is mostly that I have a mastermind call on 9am and then I usually have something come up in the afternoon. And so it’s not a great work day for client stuff because it involves a lot of contact switching. But I have found that for the rest of things it works out pretty nicely just because when I’m working on marketing stuff, if I have an hour to stretch then that’s long enough for me to really get something done.
Then I can contact switch, in other words I can move on to a different task because the marketing tasks typically aren’t longer focused bouts of work in the same way that the client work is. And so I can jump in and I can say, “I’m going to write a blog posts from this time to this time then I’m going to do this other thing from this time to this time,” and I can time box the work on those things and make it work out for me.
ERIC: Right and this is a habit I’m trying to break. Every Monday I set aside two Pomodoros, so about two fifteen minutes of work time but it ends up about an hour of actual clock time. And that’s to write my newsletter, and then give it a cooling period, do some other work come back to it and then do editing on it, put in links and load it into my email program. And the reason I said I want to break this habit is I’m doing it on Monday because the newsletter is going out early Tuesday. And so I don’t get myself enough like actual slack time in between it. What I’d like to do is shift that process to a Wednesday and then be able to have my editor come in, do her edits on it and then get it loaded for the next week.
But yeah, setting aside an hour every Monday it’s been for the past few months at least it’s been just at the wire. And then I usually do a couple of other things on Monday, maybe I’ll get some blog post that I already have read and ready to go, load it on my blog with the big feature profile images, or maybe I’m doing some A/B tests and I’ll check that. But I’ll usually pick a couple of tasks that I’m doing that are all contributing to whatever my monthly marketing goal is.
CHUCK: Yeah, that makes sense. Now, I am a little bit curious. You mentioned marketing campaigns, and you just mentioned marketing goals, so you’re not doing the same kinds of things every week or every month? Or are you doing some things that are the same and then changing the focus on other efforts?
ERIC: So it’s a little bit of both. I have a certain consistent thing, I’m almost always writing on my blog and my newsletters and that’s because in the past I’ve found those produce really good results. The campaigns are more of either one–time events kind of what I talked about earlier, but they are larger than – I’m doing it, it might be a launch or something, or they might be like I’m experimenting with something.
One of the newsletters I run Freelance Chi for two and a half months, I think. I was experimenting with doing a podcast, where I was giving the editorial stuff in audio form instead of a text email and so I had a campaign. I was calling it campaign, I was trying it – I was trying to get the process going, see how it would work. And I ended up cancelling the campaign and stopping it because – it just the time and the cost and resources I was putting into it wasn’t paying back, and I felt like I could take that time and put it to something else. So I basically did that campaign for almost two months, figured it wasn’t producing the results so I scrapped it, took that time, put it to something else.
Right now, I’m doing a lot more of the content marketing, a lot more writing. I’m working with my editor more to get stuff out the door instead of sitting on my hard drive. And so that’s the campaign I’m working on. And if it proves to actually work really good or if I can find a good process or system from that, I might incorporate that into my daily or weekly routine, and then I’ll take up another marketing campaign. So the campaigns are trial by fire, like let’s put this in the practice, see if it works and if it works for me, keep it and then move on.
CHUCK: That makes sense. What kind of things are you doing Curtis?
CURTIS: I do two. So I’m launching a product to have a specific campaign – actually Eric and I were talking about this yesterday. And for that – like for my coaching and my product size business – I will actually be doing like a tree of campaigns so we all initially sign up for my email list and get a one set of emails being the trunk and you can kind of pick the branch. So if you want to talk about client marketing or pricing then I’ll have an email thing for each one and that will take you to the end of a product.
But for clients I’m actually using Contactually, which I just started using probably about three days ago now. And it – I actually put all the freelancers in there so everyone, all you guys in the show, all the emails that I have are in there as well. I just ignore it when it tells me to email you because I talk to you weekly, because I have followed up with you in that and chat. But it reminds me to follow up with people all the time. It has already earned me about 14,000 dollars in the first five days in – yes, I know Eric ignores me, he says. Yeah, because it was a client that I – like a deal I had just let go and I hadn’t thought about in a while and it came up and it was like I forgot to email them. And I told them, I kept forgetting. I would have never remembered that without Contactually and it actually sets itself up very similar – or can be set up very similar to the not getting things done method, Michael Port’s book.
CHUCK: Book Yourself Solid.
CURTIS: That’s the one, Book Yourself Solid. So I have buckets for warm prospects. And warm prospects get followed up on every five days for a while and every ten days for a while unless they say no. And then they get moved back to prospects and then freelancers. Anyone who’s emailed me specifically, not just people that get on my email; that’s been everyone who’s actually replied me, emailed to me gets into my contacts. And then I follow up with them and just ask again.
And so that looks like – I was talking to someone that came that way like as a freelancer asking about how I do estimates and that looks like that would probably be a – I don’t know, we’ll say a 40-80 thousand dollar job maybe – I was just talking to him this morning about it. Again if I was to win that, I never would have followed up with this person and I followed up and asking about his estimates. If I was to win that, then Contactually would easily pay for itself for [inaudible 09:32] forever, right?
CHUCK: Yep. So I have to wonder, we’ve talked a little bit about having systems like Contactually and we’ve talked about scheduling time for some of this stuff but one of the things that I’ve been working on lately is – and this is more well let me back up a little bit. So it’s more along the lines of products stuff, but I think that there is something there for people who are trying to land clients, which I’m doing that too.
But I’ve been actually working out a system, like a kind of a marketing funnel but I don’t think it’s as formal as that. But really just the process I want people to go through to sponsor the podcasts. So just sit down and say, “Okay, well if they listen to the podcast and they come to the website, figure out how to sponsor,” then on the link there that takes them to this page then they see the openings then they can pick one, and basically sign up for without me having to be as involved. And so I’m working out the steps for it, if that makes sense.
And I’ve done the same thing with bringing people into my system, as far as finding clients. They find my website or they email me and so then I just know what the next step is, “Okay I need this information,” or email them back if they filled in the contact form. So I’m working out those kinds of systems so that I know what the steps are what – so I get everything done and do it in a way that makes it easier for them to vie for me, be at my time or podcast sponsorships. Do you guys have systems like that for different aspects of your marketing?
ERIC: I mean it just – it does sound like lead funnels but kind of mixing of processes then if that’s the case then [crosstalk 11:13]. I could think of its dependent on who it is or what they need or what they’re looking for. They’ll fall into different buckets or they’ll have different things. Some of that is even manual stuff, like I know I need to do this activity by hand. But it’s the idea of, “I have it documented,” so I know this is what I have to do. This is the next step; it’s not an ad hoc like, “I guess, you can just send me a check and we can work on it like that.” It’s, no – it’s here’s an invoice, if you like it, if you like to contract sign – it’s a step by step thing.
CHUCK: Can you walk us through one or two of those? Or are they secret sauce?
ERIC: They’re not that secret; it’s more of I’m just trying to remember what would be a good one that I would highlight. I guess basically one that’s probably the most valuable is how consulting clients come to me.
So either I’ll find them or they will respond to some kind of marketing thing I have, or through my email list they’ll reply and say, “Okay, I would like to do some work with you.” The first step depending on how I came across them and how – if there is a relationship there or if I feel like we need to build a relationship. I’ll base the start off a short email like the whole point of it is; “What’s the number one problem you’re trying to solve or what’s the big thing that’s causing you pain right now?” And then they’ll reply, “Our business isn’t just working as good as it could,” or something like that.
And then from there I’ll send another email, try to get them to refine it [inaudible 12:30]. And then usually be the third email I’ll have some questions then be like, “Hey I’d like to work with you. I’d like to have a call but first can you answer some questions for me just so we don’t waste time on the call?” And this is like, “Do you have a budget, are you – in a way are you the one who can actually sign the check?” But it’s phrased in a better way.
The basic qualifying questions that I have talked about before, you could find anywhere, if they reply to that fair–ably and answer the questions, then I send them a template email that says, “Okay, here’s my calendar, book a 30 minute session.” We’ll have what I call the intro call. They book that, the intro call is just either Skype or phone. We talk, I start out asking about their project. And then I get into if there’s any kind of questions like maybe they’re budget is low but it’s – it could work, we’ll get into that. And I’ll tell them about how I bill, what I think about their project, if they’re going to need more work than they have budget for that sort of idea.
And this whole process for this point is to see if they’re qualified, can I help them, do I have the skills to help them, would I want to help them, is there a fit between me and them. And then do they have the resources, could they pay me and also do they have the time, do I have schedule open for them that they need for a deadline.
If that works out by the end of the call I’ll do like a short pitch like, “Hey, what do you say with a week of work?” And then say, then it’s up to the next stage of the process is I send them a contract with which is my master services agreement, and my statement of work and also typically send an invoice for the first week and say, “If this looks good for you sign the contracts, send them back and you can pay the invoice either by check or by a link for a credit card”. And say, “Once that’s happened I’ll book the date that we talked about on the phone in my calendar,” and we’ll get started.
So that’s basically my entire process from like someone saying I want to work with Eric to actually getting to work with me, and there’s some more about when I get started but that’s I don’t want to take too much time on that. But the whole point of it is I can look at any lead I have and tell you where they’re at in the process, maybe they’re stuck at a place and maybe I’m following up and they’re just not responding and now I know like okay now they’re in this little sub-process and I just kind of keep following up with them either kick them out and say, “Okay, it’s not going to work out,” or maybe kick them forward or what I need to do but it gives me clarity so I can be kind of robotic at times, for the process part and save a lot of my energy to be more creative like maybe on the call when I’m talking to them or maybe in my sales email, take what they gave me and put a little sales spin on it to market it to them a bit better, instead of just some dry template copy.
CHUCK: Awesome. Eric you put in the chat that it sounds that Eric stole your process. Is there anything you do a little bit different than that or is that pretty much that?
CURTIS: Do you mean Curtis?
CHUCK: Sorry, I’m running on three hours of sleep.
CURTIS: [Chuckles] Aw, Chuck, Chuck, Chuck, more coffee. Anyway, I do pretty much the same thing. So every client has to answer my initial set of email questions which I talked about a bunch of times on my site.
I’m actually going to develop a product around them for release in March as well. And then they also go in – once they’ve respond to those questions I’ll put them in Contactually as well. And they go into a program which has that follow up sequence. And I more or less follow up until they say no. And if they don’t say no for a reason that sounds like they’re crazy, then I’ll put them into – well if they say no but it’s we just don’t have the budget for that right now, it’s not going to work or there’s other, another reason.
Then I actually put them in my prospects bucket there which has me follow up them, every 60 days maybe and I just ask, “How are things going?” And I ask them that every 60 days. Contactually also lets me add articles to it, so I’ll, say add an article and send it to a client that I’ve put into the e-commerce bucket because they had an e-commerce store. And say, “Here’s this, I just thought it would be interesting for you, for your site.” I’ve done some of these before, Contactually just lets me manage it better.
CHUCK: Gotcha. Now, one thing that I’ve run across is that – so I’ve been using Ontraport for a while. I don’t love it as much as I thought I would love it. But it has the option of either putting people into an auto-responder sequence or prompting me to email them back. And I usually opt for the latter, but I’m wondering if you guys have ever used the former? In the sales process rather than marketing but then, probably we should tie this back to marketing.
ERIC: I haven’t [crosstalk 16:49] but I’ve been really thinking about it. I recently, well recently – four months ago at this time I switched to Drip. I was doing a lot of that stuff with like custom scripts and Drip now those [inaudible 17:01] I’ll give a pitch about that later. But I’ve actually thought of setting up campaigns in Drip for past clients. And then for – like Curtis talked about his prospect clients that – they said no but they said, “No, not right now and not no, not forever”. But I thought about putting people on that and having some kind of automatic follow up every 14 days or so, and phrase it in a way where I can give them some value based on a certain topic. But it’s still, “Hey, if you’d like to work with me on this, I can help you.”
And so I’ve been trying to identify what are the core problems people come to me about or with. And starting of those just what would be the campaign’s topic about. Because I can do a lot of stuff and I don’t want to actually go out and just build 20 campaigns of all the stuff I do and only have three people in each one or something.
But another thing I was thinking about with Drip to try to do is connecting that – so say send out even a free resource of, “Here’s a white paper I wrote about making your Rails app perform better.” Try to track that in Drip so that Drip knows when they actually go to download it, and have Drip send me an email saying, “Hey, Curtis just downloaded that white paper”. And so I would know within every five minutes – let me email Curtis and ask him what he – you know like, “Hey I saw you downloaded it, are you still having performance problems?” You know or maybe a week later, follow up by hand and say, “Hey, I saw you download this white paper and then we talked a couple of months ago; would you like to have another phone call where I can talk about some of the stuff that we discussed?”
And it’s a way to have that personalized touch but still use software and still use automation to help the more tedious task of it instead of like its completely automated and people can tell like they’re working on software or robot, it’s not actually you doing stuff by hand. And so I’ve thought about that I haven’t done it yet, it’s more of just the time and resources to do that try to figure out what to do it on.
CURTIS: Yeah, and so for me in Contactually it does. As it moves people through the funnels it actually prompts me to move them to the next stage. So it’ll remind me to follow up but when I say downgrade them from a warm contact because we haven’t – they haven’t responded to me in say I don’t know probably like 90 days or maybe not that long and that it prompts me to move them back to prospects, and that I only follow up every 60 days or so. It’s got a little thing like if you don’t want to sound like a robot or whatever it’s got, you can make up your own templates so you can say “Hey, tell me what to say about the [inaudible 19:19] of their twitter profile and a bunch of other stuff.” So you actually I suppose so it looks like you’re interacting with them.
ERIC: It’s like software assisted personal interaction.
CURTIS: Yeah, and I had like – so I honestly – I even do this for people at my church which sounds like lame because you think, “Hey, you see them on Friday,” but like I’m just never going to remember it. And the fact that – so I had a few people who have said it gets lame that I do that but I’m never going to remember it. The fact that – I want to stay in touch with you and so I’m going to put you in a way, in a system that I know will help me do that. I actually care to follow up with you that is why you’re in this system or else, I would just never remember because kids get sick and life happens or whatever.
CHUCK: Do you guys automate anything in your marketing processes like social media or things like that. I know Eric’s using Drip, so he’s probably doing some email automation but I’m curious about some of the other systems if you’re using like IFTTT or anything like that?
CURTIS: I use Buffer to keep my social media stream filled up with relevant articles because I read a lot of them. And so like I could dump 20 articles one night or I could spread them out over four weeks. So that’s what I do for that. That’s really my only automation piece though. I suppose I also use Co-schedule and that allows me to set up over the next couple of months, it’ll keep adding an article to Buffer for me so that it continues to get added there. And I do three tweets on one day about a new content.
And that’s all through Co-schedule it adds it to Buffer for me, and it adds it to Buffer a week later, a month later, 60 days later, 90 days later, 120 days later for me. Then after that then I have to manually go back in and do it, but that’s all. The initial set up was all automated and I can sit down and say schedule out all the social updates for a week for posts.
ERIC: Yeah, I think that’s important. That’s something I’ve been working on or trying to work on different aspects is I have a lot of stuff automated where even actually do the public publishing. So I have a lot of social media automated, my blogs are automated; I have my email stuff automated. So if you’re looking at it from the outside, it’s like regular updates. It’s like every day, every week, or every few hours depending on what it is. But in reality, I don’t work like that.
I spike on things, I get energy and I just want to write. And I’ll write three email articles, or I’ll write 6000 words of just different blog posts or ideas of essays. And then I won’t do anything for a week or two weeks. And so what I found is instead of fighting it and instead of like trying to force myself to write a blog post every day and to do social media updates every day and all that stuff. I actually put a lot of energy and when I have the energy for something. And basically fill up my queue or like a buffer of stuff. And then take that and let the software manage like it dripping out.
And so I have these really spikes and peaks in my energy of doing things but the software kind of makes it consistent. And so if you look, I have a newsletter for freelancers that come out every week where I’ve been against the wire – why write it every Monday? But for a time there I wrote I think for two months’ worth of content, loaded it up then forgot about it for a little while. I think it was when I was writing a book, my email stuff – I write the actual – the other newsletters. I’ll write a lot of that in a week or two load it up and then don’t touch it for a few months.
And my social media stuff – the tools I’m using now it’s a lot like that tool Buffer what Curtis talked about but it’s actually reuses things. So like if it’s like good content like you want to keep sharing again and again, it will actually automatically schedule it for you. So right now I have that set up so I do – I think its ten maybe 11 or 12 different social media updates that I do every day, like every weekday. And that’s all coming from a library of I think 300 or 400 or maybe even 500 updates that I’ve created.
But the thing is you don’t see the updates happening but once every four weeks. So even though it’s kind of regurgitating things in a way, its regurgitating good content, good things that I want to share. And you don’t see it frequently enough to actually notice, unless you can actually see behind the scenes. And that works because I’ll go off on a tangent and basically go through my Instapaper queue and read like 20 articles. And instead of sharing them all today on a Tuesday, those 20 articles will slowly come out over the next two or three weeks.
And so I think software and automation and even standard processes really help that because it smoothes over any rough spots, and you can have the software and be consistent for you. And I think that’s an important thing.
ERIC: Yeah, I mean I actually do our shows, especially the really, really good ones that I love, that I think [crosstalk 24:15] – it’s not just like, “I’m here so it’s a great show,” it’s like no. This is actually something that if I wasn’t on the panel I would probably keep and listen to it every few months. I share those out in the same system. Someone might not see it when I share it now but they might see it next month.
CHUCK: Yeah I’m not going to be cryptic. The tool that I have been using is Edgar, meetedgar.com.
ERIC: Yeah, same for me.
CHUCK: Yeah, I was going to say, “I think – I’m pretty sure it’s the same for you.” And I am just getting into Drip and I’m really digging the way it manages all that stuff. But anyway it’s really interesting to see how it all works out. And the nice thing that I like is that I actually have a set of questions that I’ve put into my social media library so it’s like, “Hey, what’s your favorite Ruby Rogues episode? Or what coding practice does–?” I got a bunch of those questions and so I trickle those out every day. I like having interactions with the audiences of the shows, but I don’t want to stack a whole bunch of questions on top of each other.
So I can get the interaction that I want and then when they reply to those questions then I can interact with them during the day on those particular things. And so there’s just a lot there that you can do with this stuff that opens you up to talk to these folks.
ERIC: And one thing I think about too is – especially with social media – you’re on a schedule, I’m on a schedule like I’m Pacific Time. And actually I start work later because I have a run in the morning and then I might – I don’t work nights or any of that stuff. So if I was to interact with east coast people, like people on the east coast that are leads or clients or maybe just interested in my stuff, it’s a very narrow window between when I start work, they stop work and lunches. But by using tools and using scheduling I can have stuff come out six o’clock Pacific time, so that’s nine o’clock East coast time that’s going to be more likely to reach them. And I personally, I have a lot of international clients and people who aren’t in the US so there’s times when they might look at my stuff and not be able to interact with me without like a big 12 hour time delay. And so by using some of these tools, using especially email automation, I can still have this kind of a start of a relationship, start of an interaction with them and in almost every single case, there’s a way for them to jump out of the automation stuff and get to me directly. So they can reply to an email, they can reply to me on social media and get that – you know it’s an actual one on one interaction at that point. But it’s these starting of those conversations like it’s kind of automated.
CHUCK: Uh hmm. The thing I want to get to though is that we’re not just putting stuff out there just to get interactions, I mean we are but ultimately I want to be able to drive the people who I’m interacting with, especially those who I can really help back to my website or back to that place where they can get the information they need so that they can do whatever it is they need done, so they can get coaching or they can get custom development or whatever it is that I offer.
And so there is somewhat of a foul but it’s not – and I do have systems around a lot of this stuff or at least formulating them right now. But it’s not so – I’m not afraid to break out of them a little bit in order to really understand the people that I’m interacting with. I’m curious though with some of these systems so Edgar does the scheduling and stuff. You can also do that with Buffer and some of these other systems out there for social media and email. I want to go a little back to blogging; is there a process that you guys have for blogging? I know that both of you blog regularly.
ERIC: I sit down and write.
CHUCK: Okay, but do you [crosstalk 27:47] –?
ERIC: [Chuckles] Yeah, has not been helpful.
CURTIS: Next question please.
CHUCK: Yeah, so let me back up a little bit. I’m going to start scheduling a time because I want to start blogging more often. So I’m going to start scheduling a time where I sit down and write blog posts. But in some cases the blog post that I’m working on isn’t something that I can finish in the hour or two hours that I set aside. And I want to be able to release something on a regular basis like every week or something. So is there a process that you go through to make sure that you are blogging on a regular basis you want to? And the other question that I have is, is there a process you go through to write a blog post?
ERIC: Well, you need a buffer, kind of like what we talked about a minute ago. If you’re trying to do like weekly posts but you don’t have anything available right now, you’re going to have to create it and get it done. And it’s a huge amount of stress and anxiety versus if you have – I mean you could start blogging now but you don’t have to publish anything for say six weeks. You can create a buffer a post and if it takes you two weeks to write a post you can see like well weekly’s going to be hard, my buffer’s going to shrink.
There has been times where I would sit down and I’d be like, “I need to write this week,” and I would write a post but I wouldn’t get it down. I’d be like “Okay this should actually be a white paper or this should be an email series or this is a great thing I’m happy I wrote it but this shouldn’t be public like this is not something I really want to share.” And by having a big library that I can draw from, I can smooth over the ups and downs and I actually still publish publicly on a regular schedule.
Right now as of this recording, I’ve been doing weekly blog posts for at least a few months consistently. Those are actually from my email newsletter that I wrote last year. I haven’t written anything and put it on my freelancing blog probably in three months. This is all content that I wrote that has gone through my publishing system already because I’m saving energy and I’m putting a lot of energy into writing for my consulting business.
And that was the choice I made, I need to get the consulting business to a different point. So I’m going to use this good content that I already have, put that in the buffer for the freelancing site and work on the consulting stuff. But if you don’t have that buffer, you don’t have the flexibility, you don’t have as many options or free time to do what you can.
CURTIS: Yeah, I got three articles in final proofing stage. I’ve got probably 38 articles in progress, which means they’re more than just a point to note that this would be a good topic. And so I’ve written – I think I’m looking at one 1700 words but there are still some stuff to write about it, still have links to do. And then in my ideas folders I probably got 150. This is just the point that would be interesting to write about with a link to why I think it’s interesting. And I spend 30 seconds brainstorming and that’s it.
And I’ve got the same for my agency site as well. Now I had to start that with no buffer because I haven’t been doing very good. [Inaudible 30:41] been doing any writing so that’s what I mean by not very good, not, not very good. But with that, I actually just started put the foundation [clear 30:49] they’re going to ask when they come in for an e-commerce solution to me, “Well, which one should I use? How much is it going to cost? What’s the ongoing maintenance?” And so I just blocked out over the weekend, probably 30 posts. I put them all in the in-progress at this point because there’s no buffer yet. Thirty points to write about that are all fairly easy topics for me to address that I can [inaudible 31:13] the time it would take me to write some say one other one where I do a bunch of research on and then get them out and build up that buffer for myself.
And then I schedule out on my personal side, I’m schedule out until – I think I can do posts going into March now when I finish this and I schedule that out to Fridays. I put up new posts for the whatever week is currently upcoming and blank.
CHUCK: So if you guys [crosstalk 31:36]
CURTIS: That also gives me – like if stuff happens, I don’t have to write for three weeks if stuff happens [crosstalk 31:41].
CHUCK: Right. But in three weeks you have to like build that buffer right back up, right?
CURTIS: Yeah, it’s very true but again my buffer is so full. Like say I have a 1700 word article on some of the hardware that I use and currently I need to write about the chair, which I could skip because there’s nothing fancy about my chair really. And that’s about it really, and put some links in. And for me to finish that off is not that big of a deal right? [Crosstalk 32:06] I need content and I want to stick that out. I can delete the chair say – or even say I didn’t write about my chair, because it’s retarded. Done, right?
There’s nothing to write about that, then put in some links and that is out. So I could turn that around in probably eight minutes to have a new chunk of content out. And I already have four that have gone through all of my own editing and read a couple of times and rewritten a little bit and then so honestly I only need this one post to fill up the next week if I had just touched this up and finished it off.
CHUCK: Oh, okay.
CURTIS: I have to – really when I write about my chair it’s going to be like, “It’s just a chair.” And I got say 20 posts that are in varying degrees of that. Some of that will be almost done, right? I need to just put in links or I need to do it a final read and then I move it up to the final proofing. And then I send it off – my editing into WordPress. So, I have the buffer of 20 articles that are very close to being done.
CHUCK: That makes sense. I don’t feel so bad now about the half written articles that I have in there.
ERIC: Oh, you should see my list.
CHUCK: [Chuckles] so what’s your process for publishing articles to your blog?
ERIC: So I want to touch on two things first,
ERIC: One – I mean Curtis might disagree because Curtis is very much in the WordPress world and they have – and they’re very heavy on publishing counters and stuff. But one thing is there is no real – okay there is real – but you don’t have to have a consistent publishing count; you don’t have to put something out every week. If you like it – like it works for me, I enjoy it so I do it but you don’t have to do that. On my actual consulting site, I don’t publish every week, I publish when I get around to finishing stuff. And I actually will try to schedule time every week to do the writing, but that doesn’t mean that there’s actually something that goes on there.
And that’s what I mean–I might have tried to write an article but it ended up being a long thing that I want to expand on into a white paper or maybe even a full email course instead of just a one item. And so with that I give myself the – you know I was kind to myself – like I don’t have to actually put out my newspaper, whatever you would call it every week. Some weeks I can do four, five, some I won’t do any at all, some would be just a bunch of white papers stuff, some will be email stuff. But the point is I still have a consistent amount of or I used to – I fell off the wagon from the holidays. But I have a consistent time every week of sitting down and doing some writing whether it’s one Pomodoro of like 25 minutes or a couple of them.
And I think if you’re trying to get started that might be the best way. Before you commit to doing weekly blog posts, commit to doing a regular writing session. However long you can make it, however often but build that habit first and give yourself the freedom of whatever you write in that session you can just trash like you can say this isn’t going to be published or this isn’t something good. I’m going to – in editing I’m going to throw away eighty percent of this and I think once you’ve start doing that, you’ll start producing better and better stuff, and you’ll improve your writing skills so that the actual publishing site, getting in the public eye is going to be a lot easier.
CURTIS: Last year my goal was to write Tuesdays and Thursdays. And by the end of the year, I have been writing so much that I was just filling up most weeks. And so this year, I said I’m going to write five days, or have content five days a week because one day is a video. But it felt like an effort at the beginning of last year like having extra content is easy now. All the bunch of the articles that I have ready to go were actually written – and I could have put in last week into that one week that is blank at the end of my chain right now.
ERIC: Yeah, and I was going to say that I’ve tracked like how I’m writing, what topics I’m writing on and how fast I’m writing. And I – I’m very sporadic, at times. Like I said if the energy levels – but I talked to a writer friend, he writes – that’s his business that’s what he does and I was telling him over the past whatever year or something this many words written, I’ve read at this speed. And he said, “Wow, that’s actually writing fast.” And I was looking back through my history and found that I’ve been slowly speeding up. So not only am I getting better and more comfortable writing, but I’m getting faster, and so, I think the first step is just get started and get that base line.
Figure out how much content you can produce, how good it’s going to be, what topics you can write on. Once you have that, then you can see about making it into marketing strategy. And that’s what I was saying earlier – I would do a campaign, up to 3 months of let’s start writing about like [inaudible 36:29] certain problems of e-commerce companies, or picking e-commerce systems. But see what you can do in a month of that. After a month, evaluate the content, the body of content you created; do these work as blogs posts? Or should they be email stuff or should it be a book or a free PDF white paper you can give out?
See where that fits with and then the second month focus on those decisions you made and do your writing, and see if you can actually write with a timeline and see if you can do every week and put out a white paper. It might be this week you write it, next week you edit it, third week you publish it but you have three of those in the buffer at any time. And give yourself a month to three months to go through this and I think you can – you’ll be amazed with what you can change and how much you can get those up in that sort of timeline.
CHUCK: Yeah, I’m really doing the ideas you guys are throwing out.
CURTIS: So now I spend like two hours maybe three hours a week writing but I usually fairly easily do 1000 words an hour at this point or more. Certainly [inaudible 37:30] we do a 2000 words sometimes in an hour. But that’s after a year and even before that I was writing just not as focused.
ERIC: I’ll try to put it in the show notes; I’m not going to say his last name because I don’t remember how to pronounce it – Leo from Zen Habits. Zen Habits is a really large site, a lot of traffic. I think he writes daily, he started something – I don’t know if he’s still doing it but he called it Frictionless blogging. The idea was instead of having a process around like, you write it, you let it sit, you edit it, you change stuff around, you don’t like it, you hate yourself, you get drunk, you wake up the next day rewrite it, edit it, publish it – instead of that standard writing process most people have, he would write something, publish it actual like and this is now public on the internet. And then he would go back and edit it.
And so he was actually putting out a lot of content, some of it was really bad at first but he would come back and have the pressure of “its public, I need to edit it.” Do a quick edit and he would continuously edit it a few times after that. And as well as his readers would edit it or send in stuff. And that actually freed him from having that procrastination of making it perfect. He was just putting out like basically an unfinished product and was refining it in public.
And so if you have kind of perfectionist tendencies or you feel like you have this huge amount of writing you’ve done but it’s never been published, that type of idea might work for you. I’ve started trying to go through my back articles that I have of that; I think is written but needs some polish or edit. And seeing of these, what could I put out there that actually has a concise thought that would actually be valuable just to spur me to get it out there? It’s not doing anyone any value sitting here privately, if it’s out there, even in a very bad edit form that’s going to give it a little more value than if it’s just sitting here privately.
CURTIS: And now that I have an editor too, I reread it to make sure it sounds like I [inaudible 39:19] but I just basically hand it off to her and I don’t have to touch it again once it’s up. A lot of what I write about, I get fired up about and I’ll even block out like I take – I have 20 minutes to write about this. How much can I write in 20 minutes? And I write a lot in 20 minutes and then I’m coming back to a post that is mostly done and needs a bit of organization or fix my poor spelling as I type super fast, because I had 20 minutes only. And now I literally just set in a Pomodoro cycle for that. And that’s it – that’s all the time I have to do it and then I just close the editor and walk away and keep doing what else I was doing.
CHUCK: Awesome, I’m trying to think through exactly how I want this process to work for me.
CURTIS: Like Eric said, the first thing you need to do and the people that I’ve got to start blogging on their agency sites is block out an hour a week.
CHUCK: Uh hmm.
CURTIS: Take yourself somewhere else if you need to – to the coffee shop –and write for one hour. And do that for four weeks and then start setting up a publishing schedule.
ERIC: Actually, do 15 minutes.
CURTIS: Yes, start it as small as something you can commit to I suppose.
ERIC: Yeah, make it 15 minutes. Because even at that you could actually produce a small-ish article and that is – that’s something to be proud of. One of my favorite blogs of all the years of Seth Godin. Some of his blog posts is a sentence long, you know. It’s more of what value can you provide in that short of time.
And actually a 15 minute budget would actually kind of make you focus a lot more. If you had an hour, you would meander through what you’re writing or what you’re thinking about, but if you had 15 minutes, provide value for your potential customers, that would be razor sharp honing.
And I actually started journaling this year I actually use an app on my phone to do it. And so I have to write two sentences up to maybe 50 words, five minutes of writing. And I found that writing on the phone, because it’s so hard and cumbersome, I’ll just write something. I don’t care about it being perfect or sounding right because it’s so hard to go back and delete. And so giving yourself some of these constraints might actually make it easier or better for you to write, so maybe its 15 minutes.
I know there’s a thing called Morning pages. I can’t remember the book but the idea is you wake up and the first thing you do after you go to the bathroom is you write out four pages front and back on paper. Whether it’s a book you’re working on whether its articles you’re writing or just a stream of consciousness journaling. You just write it out just to get it out of your system. And you can reflect on that like I think like six months later, but the process of writing will get ingrained in you and get you better in writing. But I would say start with 15 minutes, do it every week at least every day would be a good one especially if that’s short.
CURTIS: Yeah, you’re not writing the next great American novel right?
CHUCK: Yeah, that’s true. [Crosstalk 41:58]
CURTIS: Yeah, we answer basic questions, you think, “Oh this is so basic, who’s going to ask this?” Your clients are going to ask that right?
CHUCK: Well, and the other thing is, is that I’ve had blogs in the past I’ve just been mostly focused on podcasts these days but a lot of the more popular posts that I put out there were the three paragraph, “I got this error, here’s what it meant, it wasn’t clear, here’s what I did to fix it”. Somebody else comes along and Googles that error code and, “Oh, that fixed it for me too.”
CURTIS: Yeah, the big thing there is to figure out what market you’re writing for is that for your clients, is that for your colleagues? On my agency site I write about some very similar topics – on my agency site what I write on my personal site. But I think I’m writing is for some specific clients. I’m thinking of and how would they want to talk about these, very similar business problems that they have. And then I mention some software solutions in there that could be assumed by the larger readership of my personal site because they all – most of them work on WordPress right?
ERIC: And it’s also a bit of Meta you can do, I have it on my site but pretty much I think any consultant can do it too. It’s like, why should you hire a consultant instead of hiring an employee, what are the costs of a consultant versus an employee, if you do remote stuff, why would hiring someone remote be a good idea versus local, standard objections that every freelancer consultant gets from clients. I spent two weeks in a row [inaudible 43:28] and just put them on my site. And it’s the idea of all clients had these questions or have these concerns and I’m addressing them up front.
And I’ve actually, I considered putting them into a PDF, not a white paper like, “Hey, you want to work with me, here’s a bit about here’s how I feel, here’s what you might be going through.” I feel like more of a way to handheld them at least at the beginning of a relationship.
CURTIS: Uh hmm. That’s why I’m going to do with my foundational articles, I’m going to put up two different products, one for membership sites and one for e-commerce sites. And here are some of the top questions you’ll have as you’re starting this to get them into the top end of my marketing funnel.
CHUCK: Well now I want to go write blogs, let’s end the show, I’m just kidding [chuckles].
ERIC: Cancel the podcast, it’s all writing now.
CHUCK: Yeah, that’s right.
ERIC: I mean but that’s the point – we’re talking about writing because I mean Curtis and I do a lot of writing but you can do this in audio, you can do this in video. You could even make your consistent marketing being every Friday night at a certain coffee shop you have a business event where it’s kind of like not networking thing but that sort of idea. The point is that you have something that you’re doing to help your clients, your potential clients, your leads, help them, educate them, give them value and not convince them, show them that working with you would be a good thing to do. Basically you’re marketing and just however you want to make it consistent. That’s what you need to do.
It could be something simple like a monthly webinar or something you do every month but the fact that it’s there every month and that they can understand and know that it’s going to be coming up, that’s I think a good thing to do. Yeah, or it’s more of a longer term thing. I think if you can get to that in the long term then it’s good. Just start out the consistency, I think it’s important to have consistency in your own habits, and then you can build the consistency publicly. Like what we talked about with the writing, write to build a buffer, and then work on having a consistent schedule or whatever.
CHUCK: I like it. So are there other areas that you can be consistent in, in your marketing approach that we haven’t talked about yet?
ERIC: Your messages could be consistent, I think that might be a whole another show but if you have one ideal client, what are their problems how you’re going to talk to them, how you’re going to address them versus like being scattershot all over the place like talking to small businesses or providing software solutions. It doesn’t really get focused, it doesn’t really tell them like what’s the value you provide. And then do you provide them value by helping them increase their profit or do you create expenses or expand? Or I think you can have consistent messages of, “I help small software startups grow their user base so they can get acquired.” If you have that as your consistent message and you write or you create all your stuff all your marketing centered around that value proposition, that would be a lot stronger than just being the scattershot approach.
CHUCK: Alright, I don’t know if I have any ideas of things people can do. Mostly we’ve talked about it just with scheduling and then using software to smooth things out so that you can get the most mileage out of what you’re doing. Should we go ahead and do picks then?
CURTIS: Yes Ma’am.
CHUCK: Alright Curtis, do you want to start us off?
CURTIS: Sure, I’ve got three picks today. First one is a podcast that Brennan Dunn was on from Bootstrapped Web and he talked a lot about getting leads and how he marketed his former agencies, whether it was – it’d be in person at the pub or following up and everything. It’s a really good episode based on what we had.
My second pick is, I just released a free e-book, called NO is not a Curse Word which is a manifesto about running an awesome business. You can get that from my site off my email list for free. And then my third one would be Contactually which we picked, I guess I talked about a few times so that’s a pick today because that’s a very good client follow-up solution.
CHUCK: Awesome. Eric do you have some picks for us?
ERIC: Yes, so I found that post I was talking about by Leo – it’s on the Write To Done blog; it’s called Frictionless Blogging: Removing the barriers to publishing. It’s an interesting one, you could probably – if you Google frictionless blogging, you could find a lot of people’s ideas or how they actually put it in place.
Another one, I found this the other day it’s an older article from the Harvard Business Review called Performing a Project Premortem. So postmortem is basically when the project’s done like reviewing like what worked, what hurt the project, what might have killed the project that sort of idea. The premortem on the other hand is actually having that kind of meeting up front and trying to look at like; we’re going to start this project what could hurt it, what could kill it, what could be – what are the risks involved. And that’s interesting because I have never done that and I think some of projects I’ve worked on if we did that upfront, we would have had an idea going into it and been clear about like we need to really make sure we address issues in this one area. And I think if we knew that upfront we would have actually made better decisions or made better decisions that could have helped the project.
So I basically gave you the most of the description but the article goes into it in a bit more detail. It’s an interesting tactic; I’m considering doing it during my kick-off meetings with clients, when I start working with them on a project. Schedule in a bit of time in for that just to make sure we’re all on the same table and it might be something semi-unique I can offer.
CHUCK: Awesome. I’ve got a whole bunch of picks this week. The first one is I picked up an iPad mini which has been really nice for me to be able to manage my to-do list and my calendar and things like that. What’s nice is that I have OmniFocus on there so I can just manage my to-do’s like I said, but all of the other stuff so I can make sure that I’m getting all of the things that we talked about done. And it has been really nice, to just have something that’s got a little bit bigger screen than my phone just wasn’t quite enough for that and anyway it’s been really nice to have.
I also picked up an OtterBox defender case, and the thing that I like about it is one, it comes with like this heavy duty case that you put your iPad in, it include a screen protector and everything on it’s just part of the thing and they guarantee it against all kinds of damage, which is really cool.
And then I just want to mention a few other things that we brought up during the show – Drip. I actually got an email from Rob Walling who’s the founder of Drip giving me a whole bunch of ideas on how to do stuff with Drip and I have to say that it really is kind of the power tool that I need for my email. And Meet Edgar is kind of the same thing for – oh well – it’s not the same thing in the sense that it manages email campaigns for your social media but it does the scheduling and stuff and we have talked about that.
And finally I was talking about this idea on Entreprogrammers and those guys pushed me to put up a landing page so here’s the basic thumbnail of the idea; I’m putting together a monthly I think it’s going to be monthly subscription where you get a box of stuff for developers. So if you’re a programmer then basically it’ll include books, t-shirts, desk toys, USB, stuff for your computer, all kinds of things that I’m looking at. I’m working things out with several publishers and stuff so you should get a pretty good deal of all the stuff I’m putting into it. And if you have any ideas of things you would like to get every month or every few months, depending on what we’re putting into the box and what the theme of the box is going to be, then by all means go to devboxclub.com and check it out.
I’m only going to open up 50 boxes for the first run, just to gauge interest and see what the logistics are of doing that many boxes. In that way I can figure out how to scale up and what’s it going to take to service many people that want them. So you’re going to want to get over there pretty fast, get on the mailing list so I can tell you when I’m opening up the sign-ups for the subscriptions. And those are all my picks.
So this is a really fun episode to do and it’s pushing me along the same vein that I’ve been going in so I’ve got some ideas on how I can make my process better.
Alright, we’ll wrap up the show I guess we’ll catch on next week.
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