When you want it bad enough, you will find a way.

nanowrimo_2016_webbadge_participant-2Isn’t it funny how, if we want something strongly enough, we will make it happen? November is always a fun month for me. No matter what is going on around me in life, this is the month where I participate in the National Novel Writing Month, the crazy event where participants write 50 000 words in 30 days. I am the most productive with my creative writing during this one month, than I am in the rest of the year.

This is my 15th year competing. I have completed this challenge for the past 14 years in a row, and I am a stubborn person, so gosh darn it I am going to do it again. As I write this, I sit close to 30 000 words. The story is going along well. There are conflicts, gun fights, murders to solve, aliens to frame for it. You know, all the usual stuff. Read more »

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Language Warning

photo-1431207446535-a9296cf995b1I love words. They have such power, can impart such meaning upon people. They can illicit hallucinations in your mind, imagining what it is you just read. Words can convince you to buy, to sell, to do things you would not normally do. They can make you happy, and angry, and often it is the same words which will do that to you.

Words are free. It’s how you use them that may cost you.” –Kushand Wizdom

I attended a conference this past week, the 8 Percent Festival, a place for creative entrepreneurs. I may have slightly misunderstood those two words, as I am a creative person, a writer, who is soon to be writing a creative novel. And as a sole trader with many ideas, I figured that got me a guest pass into the entrepreneur spot. However, I think it meant entrepreneurs, who have creative ideas and want to utalise that to make loads of money.

It was a good couple of days, and there was some workshops where we talked about gamification of education, and how I can bring games into the classroom to get my students engaged. But what was one of the best parts of the event, was when I got into a conversation about words.

The person I spoke with was an NLP practitioner, and uses words and voice to influence a person’s thinking and their mindset. I use words in the written form to do the same thing. For example, when you read the title, did you think- I wonder if he is going to use swear words?! How controversial, I must read more! Read more »

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Want to understand SEO and Target Markets? Watch Family Feud

survey-saysTrying to understand keywords, SEO Copywriting and target markets can sometimes be confusing. What words do I use to connect? What do they want to know from me? If someone wants to search for item X, what words do I need to attract them to that item?

A friend of mine, Mischa from Melbourne Fire and Safety  came up with an amazing metaphor for this problem. When it comes to SEO Copywriting, and target words to use for a question, there is no better example than… Family Feud.

Each round they ask one hundred people a question, and the top responses are displayed on the board for the contestant to guess. Top 8 responses from the 100 people asked. Read more »

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Breaking the rules does not mean you suck

This is my 3rd article in my series about how you don’t suck.

shutterstock_120210133_450You will make mistakes. You will have people tell you about your mistakes and tell you how you SHOULD do it better. You can handle that. You know that mistakes happen when you’re starting out, and as long as you haven’t accidentally ended the world, and if you understand that criticism, from the right people, can actually help you grow as a person, then you’ll be fine. Then you might come across omniscient 3rd parties who have set out ground rules, laws, ways things SHOULD BE DONE. And if you can’t do them, you might think- well I’m not good enough.

Wrong.

When I referee junior basketball, I always tell the parents that the only way you really learn the rules of basketball is by breaking them. No, you cannot take three or four steps in a layup. And no, that basket does not count. You learn, so next time down the court, you remember- only two steps. You might stuff the shot up (make a mistake), and some supporters will give you advice (criticism), but you learn the rhythm of the thing, and get better at it. You broke the rule, figured it out, and improved.

Some rules are worth breaking for the sake of learning. Others are worth breaking because, why not. Marketing is a great place to break rules. There is a rule that all tweets need to be 140 characters long. What if, you wrote an epic tweet, greater than 140 characters, but just as you reached 140 characters you had a cliff hanger, which they needed to click a link to finish the sentence and find out stuff? Read more »

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Business and Humanity

photo-1425421669292-0c3da3b8f529_500Being in business means you’re in business. That sounds like both a simple statement to make, and a rather silly statement to make. No kidding, you’re in business to be in business. However, I have discovered recently that doing business with people, especially entrepreneurs, people who own their own business, or are sole traders, has an entirely human aspect to the deal, which does not always mesh well with the idea of ‘business’.

I cannot find the author to whom this quote came from, but it speaks to me right now:

Everyone you meet is fighting a battle you know nothing about. Be Kind. AlwaysRead more »

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Turning up and doing the work

shutterstock_242337691_550Being a writer, a creative, can sometimes be a joyous thing. Inspiration strikes, and words flow from the mind to the page in a dance of poetic wonder. But the other 99% of the time it doesn’t. Just like other professions out there, I have to turn up to work, even if I am not in the mood, having a bad hair day, or don’t really know how to write that day. Yeah, those days happen.

This week, one of my students admitted to me that he was struggling with the first assessment, which was overdue. And with the second looming, he was feeling the pressure. His spoken English is quite good, I have yet to read his written English, so I cannot determine his language skills, of if he is ESL, but that was not the point he was raising with me. He admitted that, because he was struggling, he avoids doing it. And avoiding it means he gets stressed because deadlines are looming, and so it goes. Read more »

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7 reasons you should have a blog for your business

1If you are in business today, wrapped in our hyper-connected world, then you have heard of the term ‘blog’. If you know me, and have read some of my articles, you know that firstly, writing blogs is one of the things I specialise in, and secondly, a blog is not always a blog. It can be a newsletter, an article in a magazine, a chapter in a book. You can read some more here.

One of the most common questions I am asked is- what is my return on investment? If I pay you to write a blog for me, where will I see that money, and then some, returned to me? Sometimes it can be difficult to measure, in black and white, the ROI for having blogs on your website. But let me give you some ideas on how you get a return on your investment for blogging. Read more »

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Taking Criticism

Starting out in business, in a new venture, in a new direction, you’re going to make mistakes. It is inevitable. I talked about mistakes in my last article, and how if you take the lesson from them, and if you can recover from them, and not hold onto them, then mistakes can be very educational to you. But what else happens when you start out? What other ways do you think you suck, when really, you don’t?

shutterstock_98139248_650If you make a mistake, and someone tells you off, and shows you what you did wrong, then you feel awful. Of course you do, someone said mean things and made you feel like crap. Why? Because they’re better than you and want you to know it. This is a crappy thing to think, but it is what goes through you mind. Let it sit there, digest it, and then wisp it away with a wave of the hand. So someone has an ego they want to shove down your throat. Let them. Not all the world is full of these people.

As a writer, I deal with editors a lot. And, as an editor, I have had to be mindful of what I say. However, my writing community is used to cutting commentary, editing which cuts and bleeds. As long as the edits and critique are constructive, as long as if you don’t like something, you say WHY you don’t like something, and as long as it is not personal and is open for rebuttal, harsh criticism is okay.

Unfortunately, outside of my writing community, such harshness is not really done well. People seem clumsy in giving criticism, and some people are unable to accept criticism. And that is okay.

You are not required to do either to be a good person.

Remember that.

However, if you can put aside anything personal from the criticism, and if chocolate or a tub of ice cream helps, then I am all for that, try and dig out the core of what the criticism is all about. If a person full of bluster attacks the logo you designed for them because it is just crap, firstly, that is not real criticism; but secondly, start to think why he might say that or believe that. What is it about that person who might not understand why you did what you did. If you’re working with someone who has loved black and white lettering in 18pt font for 20 years, and you give them something modern, and they hate it, perhaps catering to their needs, with smaller changes, might be more beneficial. Perhaps your vision, what you know to be awesome, is not the same as what THEY seem to think is awesome. And, if they are the client, then you should aim towards what they want.

What is the lesson to learn from all of this? Understand the client, how to work your magic into the boundaries of your client. Understanding who is open to new ideas, and who is not yet ready for the 21st century. It will teach you about PEOPLE, and how some clients work. It will also teach you the signs to recognise these kinds of people, and how to find ways to not work for them. Find the clients you WANT, not the ones you NEED. A business coach once told me that if a client comes along and rings alarm bells, make the price extraordinary. If they still agree, then it is possible the dollar figure may make up for the difficulty. In truth, I don’t think there is enough money in the world to handle 10 edits, of which we had returned to the second draft anyway, and this client just wanted to re-draft and provide feedback and want change, purely because they did not know what they wanted.

And then, if you have someone who has been in business for 20 years, come back to you and tell you why what you provided does not work for them, and they express it in a way which is constructive, you will still feel awful for not making it right the first time, however, you can use this feedback on how to make it right. There are people out there who understand that first draft is just that- a first draft, that you will not hit the mark on the very first go. Work with these people, absorb their feedback, adopt it to your work, and LEARN.

If you never received feedback, if someone never criticised you, then you’ve never ever found boundaries and rules with which to guide you. You need some reality checks, so you don’t begin to believe that you can do anything and people will still love you.

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Mistakes were made, that’s okay

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Starting anything is difficult, hard, time consuming, ego destroying. And the older we get, the more aware we seem to be that we suck at things. Do you remember how long it took for you to learn to walk? No? You tried, you stood up using tables and chairs. You wobbled on your feet and then fell on your bottom. And after a while, you’d take three steps and fall over. Then five, then ten. And soon you were running around, causing all sorts of mayhem.

But, to begin with, you sucked at walking. Crawling? You were ace at that, but you even had to learn that. There is an old cliché saying there, if you look hard enough. But you did not think about how much you suck at walking, which made you give up. Nope. You kept on going until you got it. Your determination to do a thing trumped any feelings of inadequacy, any failings you had, any thoughts you had that you were not good enough.

So why is it, now that we ‘know better’, we are so damn hard on ourselves when we can’t do a thing? Why must we only come out into public with a skill, when we have perfected that skill so we get 10’s from all the judges, including the Russian judge?

We all compare ourselves to others in a variety of different ways. We use the benchmarks of other people to inspire us, to encourage us, fire us up to be like them. We use the examples of others to compete against, as a thing you want to be as good at, if not better than. Or, to be just like them. And if we’re not, in our own mind, then we’re not good enough.

And it is in our own mind where all this bad stuff, the self-sabotage, really takes hold. Someone can tell us they really like our writing, and we can smile and say thanks, but the inner critic starts going- did they just say that to be nice? Do they think it sucks and theirs is better? Am I supposed to say nice things about them now? Is their fake compliment really an indictment on my fashion choice?

Okay, fashion, possibly not, but crazy thoughts like that often do happen. Do they not like my stuff because of who I am, what I represent, what I am wearing? Throw in anger, anxiety, the need to be wanted and belong, and a whole mess of other things. And we end up just stopping, just quitting what we tried to do, without even breaking through that barrier of learning.

So what kind of things do we do to ourselves which make us think we suck, and what can we do.

Firstly, you’re going to make mistakes. This is inevitable. You are not going to be 100% proficient in what you want to do, right from the get go. I write copy for real estate companies. I did this four or five years ago, and then the market dried up for me. Late last year, I made a connection, and got back into it. I quite enjoy it. I visit a house, walk through and decide if I would want to buy it, of course. I speak with the owners, find out what they like about their place and why they are leaving, and get a story behind the whole thing. Then I go home, write it up, in an hour, send it off, and huzzah! Pocket money, spending money. It’s good, I like it a lot.

However, when I did my first two or three, there were issues. Missing data which I was supposed to have collected, parts of the template not filled in; one particular property, which had 5 bedrooms, and a study and a rumpus room and, and, and…. The copy did not resonate very well. Luckily I had a client who would give feedback, but inside me, I was kicking myself thinking- how is it I mess things up, such simple things?

Now, I have put processes in place, have tweaked the template to autofill certain fields, and took on board the idea of walking a person through the home (not house). Things like this. I learnt from MY mistakes. It is always better to learn from other people’s mistakes, but if you can LEARN from yours, if you can work on the mistakes and how to not do them again, you will improve, get better and more confidant in how you do what you do.

Reffing junior basketball, I watched an under 10 boy make the mistake of shooting the ball in the opposition basket in the second half of the game, because he forgot that you changed directions at half time. The coach asked him- you know what you did? The boy nodded, was quite embarrassed, he did perform this feat in front of a lot of people. But he came out and scored twice after the time out.

So remember, mistakes happen. They are all a part of the process of learning. Even after taking 3 steps, you, as a baby, fell on your bottom. But you got back up, and you did it again, learnt that after 3 steps, you can make a fourth, and a fifth.

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When is a blog not a blog?

shutterstock_2782658_550Everyone who knows anything about marketing says that a content marketing plan is key to your success. You need to have a blog. Great. What is that? After reading many definitions online, the general consensus is a blog is a web page, written in a casual and conversational style, often a news piece or information piece, specific to the industry the person is involved in.

It is kind of like a diary, or a journal. What happened today in the world of Widgets? Let me tell you. What is going to happen tomorrow in the world of widgets? Have you seen this cool thing I can do with widgets? Write something about widgets, and then post it to your website. And to whit you have a blog.

Seem a little bit simple? I think so. When I am asked what I do, one of the things I say is- I write blogs. If the conversation goes deeper than that, I then say how the word ‘blog’ is so restrictive. I write content. The same content you wrote for your blog, can also be used on LinkedIn. While they have what could be considered a great blogging platform, they refer to it as ‘publishing a post’. This is deliberate, as the content you feed into LinkedIn posts can be eligible for publication in their electronic magazine- Pulse. Hence the terminology of publishing, and post.

This same piece of content you’ve written about widgets can also be used for newsletters. Publish it into your newsletter which you send to your list. Or, if you’re a subscriber to Widget Monthly, see if you can become friends with the writer or editor of their publication. You could potentially have your thoughts about widgets included in their magazine or newsletter. Suddenly, your voice of widget authority is spread to a new, LARGER list of people who share your interest. You go up a level in the expertise level.

Do some of these people also have a blog about widgets? Can your content be shared on their blog, can you be a guest blogger for them?

Can this blog now be used for an offline, print magazine? Is there a widget magazine? Is there a publication which can include widgets, such as a home renovation magazine, a hardware magazine?

Now, your blog has become a post, a newsletter, and a printed article. But wait, there’s more!

Vodcasts, vlogging, doing short videos for your customer, is a great way to have digestible content delivered with not much effort required by the viewer. Can you stand in front of a camera and confidently speak about widgets for around 2 minutes? No? Then why not read your blog? It now becomes the script for your educational video.

Before you even begin blogging about widgets, you downloaded my 12 month blogging planner, so you know what you’re going to be talking about for the next 12 months. You’re a little shy, and not too confidant you can say a lot about widgets, except in October when there is the International Widget Convention, so you’ve chosen only one blog per month.

Time passes, at the end of 12 months, you were diligent and published a blog about widgets every month. Fair enough, a few of them were a couple of days late, but well done on sticking to the 12 month plan. During that 12 months, you got some ideas for more you can write on Widgets, and you kept these ideas ready for the next year.

But lets pause for a moment. If you look at the past twelve months of blogs, could it be that you have 12 chapters for a book about widgets? But wait, you say, they can just read my blog and get all the information for free. Why would they want to buy a book about it? Well, that’s when you include chapters about those ideas you had during the year, chapters which they can ONLY read if they buy your book.

But wait, there is even more! The idea of having a book is a great idea, but lets morph that idea for a moment. Don’t think the book is going to make you money. You’re not going to make too much off the book. But you can make some good money because of the book. A value-add to the workshops you’re going to be running. A value-add to the series of webinars you are producing which people subscribe to. Sign up for my 12 week course on how to make widgets and I will give you my free book.

If I had a choice between signing up for a course, and a course with a free book, I would lean towards the book. Plus, people really appreciate it when you give them free stuff.

So, what do we have at the end of all this? A blog, a newsletter or two, a guest blog, a printed article in a magazine; a post on LinkedIn which could get circulated through their magazine- Pulse. We have a script for your video or pod cast, and we have a book which can be sold, or be used as a value-add for the next level of marketing you are going to be doing.

And all of this is derived from the same, singular piece of content- the blog. So, when I say- I write blogs, it is actually so much more than just a blog.

What ideas can you come up with?

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