Monday, September 28, 2015

The Ultimate Secret of Success

So, why am I telling you about the ultimate secret of success? I could lie to you and say that it's because I'm just a really nice person. It wouldn't be a total lie. I do what I can for people. I could give you a partial truth and say it's because I want people to be as successful as possible. Well, actually that would be entirely true and not just partially true. I said partially for this post because that's not why I'm doing it... So, then why am I posting the ultimate secret of success? Well, it's because I'm tired of whiners and people being victims of life. 

Here is the ultimate secret of success:

If you don't like how your life is going right now...if all you can do is complain about how your life isn't fair or how bad things always happen to you...then get off your ass and change the way you think, the things that you do, and the people you run around with. Yes, it really is that simple and that difficult. 

Don't like that you can't buy the things that you need and want? Get off your ass and change something. Work toward obtaining the knowledge you need to have the career that you want. Hustle and build your business. Never say die. Never quit. It is said that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again. You're doing it to yourself. Do something to change your situation. Someone else's success isn't a detriment to you. It should be a case study. Overnight success doesn't happen...someone may seem to appear famous overnight, but there was a lot about that person and their struggle that no one saw. 

Don't like your life? Change the way that you think. Suffering is a part of life. That's a Buddhist philosophy. More than that, it's the truth. We all have struggles. We all will face sickness and death. That's just the way the world works. So, if you feel like life is beating up on you, then you need to change the way that you think. You must come to terms that life is hard for everyone. The only person that can save you is you. The presence of a problem is also the indication that there is a solution. There is a solution for every's just that most people don't like the fact that the solution is usually them doing something different. The saying is that if you focus on your blessings or your problems that you will find an abundance. So, if you want to find an abundance of happiness, begin to focus on the good things in your life. Oh, and stop focusing and thinking about yourself so much. Go out and make a difference in the lives of others. 

Don't like being unsuccessful? Look at the people you're friends with. You should make it a habit to meet new people, meet people in the industry that you want to be in, meet other successful people, and not just talking to the people that have been trying to live like their life is a party for the last 20 years. If you're the smartest person in the room, then you need to find a different room.

So, yes. That's the secret to success. If you don't like depending on others, change something. Even if it is hard to do, change something. I didn't want to live in the ghetto as an adult. I decided that as a child when I had no choice other than to live there. So, I did the hard stuff...I studied. I didn't go out and party a lot. I didn't get to where I am by hanging around people with no vision, no goals, and no dreams. I got to where I am because I did what I needed to do...because I wanted a better life. 

If you want to be successful, that's what you have to do. You have to be willing to actually do something with your life. You have to be willing to not be like everyone else complaining about life isn't fair. You have to work for it. No excuses. None. Zero. Zip. 

Saturday, September 26, 2015

How to Pick Blog Topics

Even as a professional writer, it can be hard to determine what I want to write about here. Part of that is because I spend a lot of time editing online content, writing blog posts for others, and ghostwriting ebooks. So, sometimes I just don't have the time to mess with my own blog. One thing I am asked on a fairly frequent basis via Facebook is how to pick blog topics. So, I thought that I would walk you through my personal process for my own blog. I'll also be writing a business take on this (although many of the tips here will work for a business). Yes, there will eventually be a video and podcast discussing the topics. Since I've only had two hours of sleep, I figured blogging is the best place to start...because it's a hell of a lot easier to edit than a video or podcast. Let's get started.

For the sake of simplicity, I'm going to presume that you've already chosen your blogging platform, and that you have it set up. Oh, and one more thing...this isn't about how to get visitors to your blog. This is literally what it says - how to pick blog topics for your blog.

Take Time to Think About What You Want to Blog About

Taking the time to think about what you want to blog about is probably the best thing you can do to develop blog topics. One thing I will tell you about this is that you will come up with great ideas and some not so great ideas. Don't discard ideas because you think they've been done over and over again. If I took that approach, there are some topics (such as this one) that I would never discuss despite the fact that people still want to read about it. So, think about those ideas as more along the lines of you taking the time to explain to someone your process or your experience with something. Think about it in the terms of a hard school subject. Let's take math, for instance. It took a lot for me to understand math. In high school, I had some good teachers and some not so good teachers. By not so good, that doesn't mean that they were just bad teachers. It's more that the way they taught the concepts didn't quite make sense for me. My Uncle Gary...he was a tough man. Yet, he could teach me hard math concepts that I couldn't understand at school. It's not because he had a sparkling personality (although he was a brilliant business man). He just knew how to take concepts and relate them to the individual who needed that information. So, when (not if) you think that a blog topic has been done too often by others, do it anyway. You may say it in a way that helps someone understand an idea that they couldn't previously grasp.

As I stated in the last overly long paragraph (sorry - two hours sleep)...when you're brainstorming, you will also have some ideas that are less than stellar. You have a couple of options with these blog topics. First, you could just decide not to tackle that topic. I mean, sure this is my personal blog and maybe sometimes I talk about personal things, but I don't know crap about why would I blog about engineering? That would be a bad topic for me...right?

Well, maybe not. Before you totally trash a topic I want you to do one thing...figure out how that subject ties in with the main theme of your blog. What is it about that topic that makes you want to write about it? How do those things relate to your overall theme? So, if we look back at engineering...and if you've ever read this blog may seem like a mismatch. I have a Bachelor's in Paralegal Studies. My Master's is in Forensic Psychology. Clearly, I don't know squat about engineering. However, what I could write about is how someone who is an engineer or an engineering student can benefit from learning how to write in a clear way.

Use OneNote, Evernote, a Word document, or even just an old fashioned notebook to write down every single idea...ideas...not blog titles. We will talk about how to write a blog title in a few minutes. Let's move on and choose the best keywords.

Choosing the Right Keywords for Your Blog

You may or may not know what SEO is...and that's okay. I'll talk about the ins and outs on another day. What you need to know is that SEO stands for search engine optimization. If some jackass ever offers to submit your blog to all the search engines for a $50 or more fee, tell them to kick rocks. You can do that yourself and you can do it for free. I understand paying someone to do it for you out of the convenience category, but don't get screwed. SEO changes a lot. The two things you should know (for now): quality content will always be Internet royalty and keywords are your friends unless you abuse them. The most common abuse is keyword stuffing. Don't do that. It will get you penalized by the search engines. Anyway...moving on...

There are two types of keywords. There are your regular keywords and long tail keyword. A long tail keyword is more like a series of keywords. For instance, I could write a series on "becoming a freelance writer." That would be a long tail keyword; "freelance writer" would be a regular keyword. See the difference?

So, the real question is how do you choose the right keywords for your topic? Well, there are a few ways. Actually, there are a lot of ways. What you see here will be my favorite ways.

Use Your Search Engine. It is your friend! Take your topic and open your favorite browser. Now, go to your favorite search engine. I use Google. Type your topic into the search bar. Don't hit enter. Just watch what pops up next to it (Google loves to finish my sentences) and under it. There. Now you have at least a few more refined ideas for your topic. When I do the videos for YouTube, I'll show you exactly how to do it via screenshare.

Use AdWords Keyword Generator. Make sure that you sign up for an AdWords account even if you never plan to use it. You'll have to still set up a mock campaign. I listed $1 as my daily budget. It doesn't ask for any payment info. Scroll down to where you can type in keywords. Put in your first idea. The number that pops up next to it when you hit enter is how many searches the topic receives (I think in a day, but I might be wrong). The higher the number, the more competition there is for that phrase...meaning it could be a little more difficult for you to rank organically in the first few pages (but that's okay - you can still do it). Now, when you place your mouse near the number, you'll see a little button that says "More like this." So, click that. You'll get some other related topics. Many of those topics will not have the same amount of competition. :) I'll show you how to do this when I record the YouTube video. This post is getting so long that it might end up being a series of videos!

Use Other Keyword Tools. There are other great (free!) keyword tools that you can use online. This is one of my favorites. The one by Wordstream isn't bad, either! I'll tell you this much...I love keyword research. Yes, I know I'm a freak...and I can lose a lot of time in the research process. So, if you love research, be careful.

Google Alerts! For certain clients, I use Google Alerts to determine what topics I should use in a blog. You don't have to save the alerts. You can just go to the Google Alerts page and then just type in the subject. You'll get an idea of other content that's out there. That can help you figure out what to write about.

When you write, you need to do it in such a way that you're not forcing the keywords to fit. I chose a couple of keywords for this piece, but frankly...content quality is more important. Quality content gets attention. It's more than keywords that raise your ranking in the search engines (organically).

How to Word Your Blog Title

Okay, so with any luck you know by now exactly what you want to blog about and the keywords you plan to use. So, now you have to develop a title. You, again, have three options. Your first option is to write your draft first and then settle on a title. I do this sometimes. I might have two good title ideas, but not know which one to use. Writing the piece usually solidifies which headline is more fitting.

Your next option is to look at the current trends in titles. "How to..." and "______ Hacks" are easy ways to get readers right now. Oh, and remember the listicles of 2014? And who could forget the "infograph" trend? That was one trend I was glad to see die out. So, think about the types of things that your target audience would want to read. Why do you think I chose "How to" for this blog title? I could have just called it "Choosing Blog Topics." I used "How to" because that's what people use in the search engine and that's what people want to click on through social media. So, I give you guys what you want.

The third (and yet a really good) way to word your blog title is to use a blog title generator. There are several out there that are very good. I'll show you some of my favorites when I do the video(s) for YouTube. Just search "blog topic generator" in your favorite search engine. Specifically, there's an article that comes up by Wordstream that is excellent and lists eight really good content title generators.

Ta-da. There you go. That's how you can pick blog topics, refine your keywords, and word your title. Please do me a favor and leave me a comment below if you have questions or if you found this helpful. Also, please share through social media!

Friday, September 11, 2015

5 Reasons Freelance Writing Will Change the Way You Think About Everything

Tomorrow, September 12, I will turn 37 years old...or, as I like to refer to it: it is the fifth anniversary of my 32nd birthday. :) Actually, it doesn't bother me at all to turn 37. I just think every woman needs a good joke about her age. I've written in one capacity or another since I was about 8 years old. My first creative writing exercise that I can remember was in third grade. I wrote a story about a dog. By seventh grade, I was called the next Stephen King by my peers. I do have a bit of an evil streak that is found in my fiction writing. In eighth grade and on through high school, various people would pay me small sums to write poetry, apology letters, and other small written things. That was my first introduction to writing for money. Fast forward to now, I've been a professional writer for the 18 months or so. It's not because I'm in between jobs. It's because I love writing (even when it annoys me), and, even more, I love getting paid to do it. Here are the top 8 reasons freelance writing will change the way you think about everything.

You Learn That What You Offer to the World Has Value

As a freelance writer, you learn that what you offer to the world is a valuable commodity. Now, that doesn't necessarily mean that everyone will value what you do in the same way. So, instead of relying on other people to determine the value of your services, I encourage you to define it for yourself. Do I sometimes adjust my prices for people? Sometimes. I don't do it for everyone. I'm of the opinion that if you've determined that you need a professional writer that you should properly budget for one.

Once you work with a few amazing people, it won't bother you when people don't see the same value that you know that you offer. Let's face it: if writing were so easy and not worth the money that a professional writer should be paid, then folks wouldn't be looking for a freelance writer. They would just do it on their own, right?

Seeing your value as a freelance writer will begin to affect other areas of your life. You'll start to see that you are a valuable person and that you deserve to be treated with respect.

You Learn How to Manage Your Time

If you learn one thing by becoming a freelance writer, it is how to manage your time. This is particularly true if you work from home. I work from home. My husband and I have three children. One is 17. One is almost 15. One just turned six. The almost 15 year old plays football. The six year old has multiple appointments during the week on top of school. We rely on one vehicle. For myself, there are days when I'll be in the truck for three or four hours per day. So, you take that and add in my professional responsibilities and the things that I do around the house (and yes, people, my husband does help despite the fact that he works 12 hour days).

If I didn't know how to manage my time, I couldn't work as a freelance writer. I'm really not working extremely odd hours (although there was a time or 12 when I've done that). It just becomes a matter of determining a schedule to write and edit for my clients around the needs of my family.

Note that in my last sentence I said 'needs.' I'm not going out of my way to do errands for others or watching the children of someone else simply because I work from home. When you work from home, you must enforce your boundaries or you will never be successful. You'll be far too busy doing everything for everyone instead of focusing on your business.

You Have the Ability to Learn Anything

Freelance writing has a bit of a learning curve to it. Then again, I'm sure that most professions have some sort of learning curve. I know of very few people who come out of college or high school or tech school (or whatever) and gone straight into a job knowing exactly what they should do (unless perhaps they worked in the industry as an intern). As a freelance writer, you get new things thrown at you on a regular basis. You realize, after your daily panic attack, that you have the ability to learn anything. This transfers over and gives you more confidence in other areas of your life.

You Can Never Have Enough Knowledge

There's a big debate in marketing and sales in general that tends to infect the freelance writing profession. That is the idea of information overload. What people fail to realize is that information overload is subjective. It depends on the person receiving the information. We do our clients and our target market a grave injustice when we assume that too much information will overwhelm them. It's all about the way that information is presented.

Think about it: when you learn something new, consider how you like to receive your information. When you want to make a decision, don't you want all of the available information? It's not about how much information is thrown at you. It's about how that information is presented to you.

It's the same with freelance writing. You can never have enough knowledge. You will become an expert or a professional, but that doesn't mean that you know it all. It doesn't mean that you have all of the answers. You may be like me and write great nonfiction work for your clients. I don't write a lot of fiction for clients although I have in the past. It takes me longer to do fiction than it does for nonfiction...even though my nonfiction is quite amusing and creative. Although I write a lot of nonfiction, I don't do a lot of sales based writing (although this is now changing). So, although I know a lot about how to present great information, I have a lot to learn when it comes to writing with sales in mind. You can never have enough knowledge as a freelance writer.

It Is Okay to Have Fun

As a freelance writer, I've found that it's easy for me to lose myself in my work. You might think that's not such a bad thing. Well, when you get a bruise on your ass from sitting too much you will think otherwise. Honestly, I can go weeks and sometimes months without contact with others (in person) aside from my family. Frankly, that aspect doesn't really bother me. Yet, when I walk outside and wonder what the giant fireball in the sky is for, then it is time for me to make some arrangements to get out of the house. I'm getting better at doing this on a regular basis. For instance, this week my husband and I had lunch together during his lunch break. I also went to the bookstore. Monday is our anniversary. So, we will either have lunch or dinner (after our boy's football game). It is okay to have fun and go against the grain and buck your schedule once in a while.