Online Options for Daily Gratitude Journaling: Resources for Those Who Prefer Keyboards to Pens

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My best friend has the most beautiful handwriting.  It’s flowy and pretty and easy to read.  She loves to send cards and letters the old fashioned way, so for years I’ve been the lucky recipient of some of the most beautifully penned thoughts and sentiments.

I used to have beautiful handwriting.  But somewhere between grade school and college my handwriting slipped from award-winning to mediocre to hieroglyphic symbols.

“It’s like my brain moves too fast for my hand,” I say half-apologetically to the cashier as I furiously scribble out my check. “Believe it or not, I used to win penmanship awards in grade school.”

Sure, my horrible handwriting has had some consequences:

Text from irritated husband: “I can’t make out the grocery list. You want eggs, milk and what?”

Me (equally irritated):  “Bread, honey.  It says bread.”

But for the most part, the only person this flaw has affected is me, and in pretty minor ways.

Recently, though, I’ve been hearing more and more about the benefits of daily journaling.  Research ‘morning rituals of successful people’ and you’ll likely find that most of them incorporate some form of journaling in their daily routine (whether it be morning pages, gratitude entries or just a free flow of thoughts).  The following are some of the most commonly reported reasons for keeping a journal:

  • to clarify thoughts
  • to dream big
  • to set goals and intentions
  • to track and monitor progress
  • to become self-aware (through honest reflection)
  • to preserve mental energy (by expelling ideas and thoughts onto paper)
  • to express gratitude
  • to improve writing skills through the daily exercise of writing

(I highly recommend this article on Medium: How I Use My Journal to Create My Future and Achieve Goals by Benjamin Hardy)

It didn’t take me long to see the benefits, and I soon began drooling over which moleskin journal I would select to start chronicling my journey to success.  I imagined myself in a coffee shop writing life-changing affirmations in bold, black ink, reminding myself of who I am and who I’m working to become.

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And then I remembered my handwriting.

Rather than be stymied, I did what any self-respecting writer and former paralegal would do, I hit up Google:

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Fortunately, Google also serves as my spelling and grammar police:
2018-09-14 Post - Google search results
Why, yes.  Yes, I did.

Google’s corrected search produced the following page one results:

2018-09-14 Post - Google search results 12018-09-14 Post - Google search results 22018-09-14 Post - Google search results 32018-09-14 Post - Google search results 5

My personal favorite:
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Now, I’m a huge self-improvement advocate, but I’m not gonna lie, my handwriting is not on my list of Top 10 things to work on right now.

So I did some more research and found several online journaling resources. Here are a few, including brief descriptions of each in their own words:

Penzu
“Whether you’re looking for a tool to record your daily emotions and activities in a reflective journal, keep track of milestones in a food diary or pregnancy journal, or even record your dreams in a dream journal, Penzu has you covered. Penzu gives you all the tools you need to focus on the ideas you want to preserve, rather than the process of writing itself.”

JRNL
“JRNL offers a unique and enjoyable journaling experience while providing innovative tools that you are going to love.”

Online Journal
“Online Journal gives you a very private and free place to record your thoughts, feelings and ideas. We have tons of journal topics to help you get started. You can use it as frequently or infrequently as you would like.”

Five Minute Journal App
“There are plenty of benefits to journaling, whether you take time to write out your full thoughts or just spend a few minutes jotting down the things you’re most grateful for every day or lessons you’ve learned. The Five Minute Journal app makes this process easy enough to do on the go.”

All of the above are ways to record your thoughts online in a private way.  Of course, you can simply create a private blog.

You don’t need anything fancy.

In fact, my current online journal is simply a running Google doc in Google Drive.  Here’s the beginning of an entry from last week:

2018-09-14 Post - Snippet 5 (gratitude)

Nothing fancy.  It’s simple and uncomplicated.  I’m not limited in length.  I can copy and paste quotes, pictures, meaningful e-mails.  I can access it from anywhere.  I can print it off whenever I want to — even when it’s 300 pages long.  I don’t have to worry about losing it, or not having it when I want to journal. I can create a back-up or copy with ease.  And, most importantly, I can look back at my entries and actually read them.

I wasted weeks thinking about journaling, but once I convinced myself that it wasn’t “fake” journaling to type my thoughts into the computer, I started journaling right away and have been doing so almost every day since.

There is still something so beautiful and classic about manually penning your thoughts and dreams into the pages of a notebook or journal.  After all, it’s been the primary means of expression for hundreds of years.  I suppose I’ll have to comfort myself with the knowledge that methods of self-expression have evolved since the beginning of time, and the importance is less in the mode, but in the expression itself.

Takeaway:  If your handwriting isn’t the best, or if you simply prefer typing to handwriting, check out some of these online journals, start a private blog, or just open a new Google doc and start journaling today.

Ditch any feelings that you’re not “doing it right”.

You’re 100 times more likely to stick with something if you choose a method that works for you.

Resources:

How I Use My Journal to Create My Future and Achieve Goals by Benjamin Hardy
Source: Medium (9/16/17)

Five of the Best Sites for Creating an Online Journal or Diary
Source: Blogging.org (1/18/18)

The 10 Best Journaling Apps for 2018 by Melanie Pinola
Source: Zapier Blog (1/4/18)

8 Reasons Keeping a Journal Can Help You Reach Your Goals by Joshua Becker
Source: Becoming Minimalist Blog

How to Become Ridiculously Self-Aware in 20 Minutes by Tom Kuegler
Source: Medium (5/29/18)

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Your Thoughts Will Make You or Break You

Post 8 - Your Thoughts Will Make You or Break You (Blog)Starting a freelance business is both exciting and terrifying at the same time.

I’m not talking about one foot in and one foot out– I’m talking full commitment, like ready to do whatever it takes to make this thing happen.

When you’re at this point, you will find quickly find that it’s your thoughts and your thoughts alone that will ultimately make you or break you.

You will ride highs – my website is up! my first post! my first follower!

You will ride lows – what was I thinking? what if I can’t get clients? what if I get a client?

And every hill and valley in between.

You will start reading and watching everything you can get your hands on to help you succeed.

Despite all you’ve learned, you will occasionally despair over all you still don’t know.

In the past, my thoughts were always my downfall — not my skill level, not my ability to learn and master new skills — but my own self-limiting thoughts.

While it’s common and normal to have moments of hesitation or fear, or even self-doubt, that’s not what we’re talking about here.

It’s the toxic ruminating and globalizing. It’s the endless cycle of telling yourself you’re not good enough. It’s the not letting yourself get too excited because maybe you’ve tried and failed in the past.

If this is you right now, take heed:

We are more than the sum of our past failures.

These are some things I do to keep the negative thoughts at bay:

  1. Post here honestly and regularly.
  2. Reach out and connect with other amazing people who happen to be writers.
  3. Do at least one measurable thing a day toward my freelance writing goals.
  4. Ask for help if I need it.
  5. Give myself permission to pursue my dream.
  6. Study the success paths of a few people in the business whom I admire and can relate to.
  7. Remind myself of number 5 often.
  8. Picture myself a year from now.
  9. Picture myself a month from now.
  10. Picture myself when I’m 50.
  11. Picture myself telling my kids their dreams are possible if they’re willing to gut it out and do the work – and them believing it because they’ve seen me do it.
  12. Invest in myself by taking courses like this one with someone who’s been in my shoes so I can make money as a freelance writer faster.
  13. Read time-tested books on writing and copywriting so I can improve my technique.
  14. Listen to educational and motivational podcasts on anything I find inspiring: writing, entrepreneurship, taking action, rising from failures, psychology of success, self-love, making the most of this one life, etc. (I’ve compiled a list of my favorite podcasts here)
  15. Tell myself repeatedly that reading and listening is no substitute for doing.
  16. Let myself have fun in the process.

Your turn.

Do you sometimes battle with negative self-talk? What kind of things have helped you move past these thoughts and stay focused on your goals?

Prioritizing the Actions that Will Lead to Your Goals

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Does this sound familiar?

You’re putting in a ton of hours to get your freelance business up and running, clocking in time before and after your day job, jotting down business ideas during lunch, maybe even getting out of bed in the middle of the night to tackle just one more thing on your to-do list.  You’re tired, but you feel good — as you should.  You’ve set your sights on big dreams and have been working like a boss to get things in motion.

But are you any closer to your goals?

For example, when I officially started this blog in July, I put my dream out into the universe: to make a full-time living as a freelance writer in a creative and sustainable way.  I started this blog to hold myself accountable.  In my first blog post, I set two very specific short-term income goals:

  • Milestone 1:  Hit $2,000/month by Christmas 2018.
  • Milestone 2:  Hit $5,000/month by one year (July 2019).

Because my goals are income-based, I should be focusing on income-generating actions. When you’re wearing multiple hats, though, it’s sometimes challenging to know which right action you should choose to do next.

It’s so easy to get hung up on all the little details you think are necessary to start and run a new business.  As a solopreneur, you do it all: building and maintaining your website, networking, marketing, and, of course, your paid client work.

The lesson I’m learning time and again, though, is the critical importance of prioritizing (and completing) actions that will help you reach your goals, and fitting in the rest of your to-do list when you can.

I mentioned in a previous post that my social platforms of choice were Twitter, Medium and Pinterest. I have been prioritizing my Pinterest graphics and boards because I know Pinterest marketing, if properly done, can be instrumental in driving traffic to my blog. So even though I know I should update and optimize my LinkedIn profile, it will have to wait until my Pinterest business account is fully set up and ready to go.

While tying content creation to Pinterest marketing is a long term traffic generation goal, I should also be prioritizing actions that will lead to income generation now.  I should be actively looking for leads and pitching ways I can help on a daily basis.

If pitching is a numbers game, then submitting ‘x’ number of pitches should yield ‘x’ number of projects (on average). Conversely, submitting no pitches at all will almost guarantee a yield of no income.

Bottom line: if I want to achieve my income goals, I need to prioritize the things that will generate income.

Being accountable may require uncomfortable reflection.

Sometimes you find yourself concentrating on everything other than the items you know will move the needle toward your goals, and then you find yourself over-justifying your choices.

When I find myself over-rationalizing something I’ve done or not done, it’s often a sign that I’m letting myself off the hook for something important, and it’s likely rooted in fear.

That’s the time to break out your journal and start working things through until you get to the source of your behavior.  It would be easy to keep justifying and rationalizing why you’re not doing the hard thing you need to do, but doing so solves nothing and just prevents you from moving forward.

As we all know, inaction is where dreams go to die.

I’ve gone this route before.  It’s a lonely, soul-sucking, confidence-killing journey, and to think it could have been prevented by just taking action.

2018-09-03 Post (Photo #2) rawpixel-303966-unsplashSo when you get that familiar sensation that something’s off, or that you’re spinning in circles, trust your gut.  Step back for a minute and assess your actions objectively, with honesty and compassion — as you would for a friend. Then hold yourself accountable.

Accountability to yourself is as much about self-honesty as it is staying laser-focused on your goals.

Ask for help.

To a person building what seems an intangible dream, it’s sometimes easy to miss the forest for the trees. And sometimes if you’re too far gone, you can’t see your actions for what they really are.

Having someone you trust and respect check you and hold you accountable during these times is invaluable.  

Fortunately, I have people in my life who’ve been exactly in my shoes and get what it is I’m working hard to achieve.  And because they’re further along in their journey than me, they can sense the spinning when they see it.

Sometimes the quickest way over a stumbling block or setback is to seek outside help.  Reach out to a supportive online community like this one or hire a business coach you trust.

Whatever you do, recognize your fear-based behavior for what it is, and take action to move past it.  Every time you do, you’ll gain confidence in your ability to face the next obstacle.

Some help if you’re paralyzed by inaction

Sometimes you listen to something so powerful that you just want to share it with everyone.  I recently started listening to Amy Porterfield’s Online Marketing Made Easy podcast (highly recommended by Heather Deveaux of The Freelance Writing School), and I was blown away by this episode below:

If you can listen to the podcast, great.  I think you’ll learn a ton of valuable stuff — likely about yourself.  If you can’t listen but would love to know more, Amy posts a condensed summary of each episode (show notes) on her website. The show notes for the above episode can be found here.  She also includes downloadable transcripts of each episode at the end of her show notes.

For those of you who don’t know, Brooke Castillo is a world renown life coach expert and has hosted her own podcast (The Life Coach School Podcast) for years.  She talks about the power of mindset, and how changing how you think can help you achieve different results.  Interesting fact: Brooke launched her podcast several years ago. The title of her very first episode? Why You Aren’t Taking Action

If you need more motivation…

We can always learn from those who’ve gone before us.  I’ll leave you with these quotes from two people I greatly admire and respect:

Nelson Mandela: “It always seems impossible until it’s done.”

Eleanor Roosevelt: “You gain strength, courage and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face…You must do the thing you think you cannot do.”

Photos via Unsplash

How Podcasts Can Help With Mindset and Productivity [Including My Top Recommendations]

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I’ve written about my love of podcasts here, here and here.

They enable you to continue your career and self-development journeys and tackle the non-business things that need to get done in real life.

Those career-inspiring stories you’ve spent hours reading on your laptop?  You can catch those on podcasts.  Those writing and marketing posts you’ve been devouring?  Yep, there’s a podcast for that.

With over 500,000 podcasts on Apple Podcasts alone, there’s literally a podcast for everybody, in every genre.

Chances are, some of your favorite bloggers and writers have their own podcasts, or at the very least have been interviewed on one.

Another plus? The podcast medium is more flexible, which means those motivational interviews and stories can get really deep.

So while sometimes I’d love to have just another hour or two on the computer, a forced break can be rejuvenating.  Plus:

Podcasts help me get things done.

→  While folding laundry, I can learn exactly how to start a freelance writing business.

→  While whipping up a stir-fry, I can learn ways to overcome fear and self-doubt.

→  While doing dishes, I can listen to empowering stories of every day people like you and me who’ve pushed past great obstacles to create the lives they love.

When I’m cooking or cleaning, I like to connect my phone or iPad to this portable bluetooth speaker. That way I can hear the podcast over the sounds of cooking (or my kids) and, if needed, carry the speaker with me from room to room.

What’s more, when I return to my computer, I can resume my work with a feeling of accomplishment and a freer conscience.

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I use travel time for self-development as well.

I’m in my car for about an hour a day.  If I’m driving alone or just waiting for my kids, I’ll look for podcasts that address my specific needs or worries at the time, whether it be online marketing, social media, or help with SEO.

If I’m in my car, I’ll put my phone on speaker and place it in the cupholder or on the console so I can listen hands-free. Some people like to pair their phones to their cars via Bluetooth so they can listen through the car speakers.

Cool tip: Don’t have a portable speaker? Try sticking your phone inside a large cup or bowl. While not as good as a speaker, you’ll be amazed at the boost in volume. Placing the phone speaker sound down allows the audio to bounce off the bottom. For other cool DIY speaker tips, read this article from Cnet.com.

Need a break from self-improvement?

Maybe you want to use the time away from the screen to break free from work-related topics or self-development.  Maybe you’d like to laugh, listen to sports talk, or find out what’s in the news.

There’s a podcast for that, too.

If you’re new to podcasts or maybe don’t exactly know what’s out there, Concordia University-St. Paul created this really interesting infographic called the The Podcast ExplosionIt gives great insight as to the demographics of the listenership, how and why people listen, and what they’re listening to.

View the It’s a Podcast Explosion infographic from Concordia University St. Paul Online
Source: Concordia University- St. Paul

But the most important reason I listen to podcasts?

Mindset, pure and simple.

They remind me to embrace growth mindset versus perfection.

They remind me to use failure as a stepping stone.

They remind me that true success means sharing– that rising tides lift all boats.

They remind me that all success stories begin with that first courageous action.

They remind me that everyone is afraid–no one feels they always know what they’re doing.

They remind me that nothing is scarier than a lifetime of regret.

Your turn.

Would you like to try a podcast, but aren’t sure where to start?  I created a tab called Podcasts I Love with a list of my favorites.

If you’re already a podcast fan, what are some of your favorites?  Recommendations from colleagues are some of the best ways to learn about amazing new resources.

When The Domain Name You Want Is Taken: Lesson Learned

2018-08-26 Photo of Kittens on Eleanor and Jane Blog
Meet my unfair competition: Jane and Eleanor from the blog, The Adventures of Eleanor and Jane

See this picture?

This what happens when you wait too long to register your domain name: it gets scooped up by your competition.

And since no one can resist cute, cuddly kittens, particularly a pair of orphaned sister kittens who were given a second chance at a happy home, I’d say they have a rather unfair advantage.

Let this be a lesson to you.

If your domain name is available, register it now.  Seriously, it’ll set you back $15 – $20 at most.  That’s less than a half a tank of gas or two Chick-Fil-A value baskets.

Even if you aren’t ready to pay for hosting yet, register your domain name. Or better yet, if you haven’t launched your website or blog yet, make sure the name you want is available before you go all in — and then, register your domain name.

It will save you the hassle of possibly having to rename everything in the future.

Back when I started this website, my goal was to just get it up and running.  And so I did.

I launched it on a free WordPress.com account. I chose WordPress.com over other free content platforms because I thought if I couldn’t have a .com site yet, a .wordpress.com site would look better than a .blogspot.com site.

So my official URL was (and is): www.EleanorandJane.wordpress.com 

My goal was to save for hosting and a domain name, and then to ultimately migrate this website to the self-hosted platform, WordPress.org.  I even went so far as to check the domain registry to see if EleanorandJane.com was available.  At the time, it was.

Then life happened, time went by, and I left this space dormant for some time.

When I returned fully committed to my writing career, I resurrected this blog. I soon realized that if I wanted to be taken seriously, I needed to switch to a self-hosted WordPress blog because that’s where all the professionals hang out.

I began researching hosting packages and design elements for my website.  Everything was coming together until, on a hunch, I decided to make sure my domain name was still available.  I typed www.eleanorandjane.com in the address bar and, bam!

In my absence, two kittens had hooked their teeny tiny claws into my space.

Never mind that one kitten was also named for Eleanor Roosevelt. (The other kitten, Jane, was named after Jane Ives of the TV show Stranger Things, not the literary great Jane Austen)

And never mind that the blog is written in the voices of Eleanor and Jane — yes, the kittens. Here’s the blog tagline:

Just two mischievous tabby cats that love to run and play. Here are our adventures through the eyes and voice of our family.

You couldn’t manufacture this cuteness if you tried.

I’m not gonna lie.  It was easy to get woo-wooed by their adorable furriness. I got sucked into their sad backstory and read every post.

After all, I’m not an evil supervillain.

Truth be told, I know Eleanor and Jane doesn’t exactly shout, Kari Watterson, Content Writer for Hire.  I chose the name for the women they represent, and partly for the way it rolled off my tongue,“What do I do? Why, I write for Eleanor and Jane.” 

I know conventional wisdom says your website name should clearly reflect your personality and brand. You should know by the name exactly what you’re going to find.  So while Jane Austen is a writer, it’s an abstract (albeit deeply personal) connection.

So it’s back to the drawing board for me.

I may decide to rename this blog and still migrate it to WordPress.org.

I may keep the name and just keep writing here on WordPress.com.

Either way, I’ve learned my lesson.

I’ve taken the plunge and set up hosting and a domain name for an entirely different project. It’s an idea I’ve been nurturing for some time.  It’s still in its infancy.  When I’m ready to share, I’ll post about it here.

My first two domain name choices for this new site were already taken.  Frustratingly, the names don’t even match the content, but I’m happy with the name I finally chose. It sets the framework for everything I’ll be doing, and one I’d be proud to promote.  It will take a bit of time to build this new website out, but at least I’ve preserved the name.

As for the other Eleanor and Jane, the supercute kitten duo that unknowingly stole my name and my heart, I wish them and their human family all the best.

What I’ve Learned in 7 Weeks of Blogging

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Hi there.

I just realized this blog is officially 7 weeks old. (I’m counting from when I officially relaunched in the beginning of July)

Seven weeks sounds like an infant in blog years, but it’s enough time to take stock of how things have been going so far. Since I did this with my freelance writing business in my last post, I will focus today’s post just on my blogging efforts.

Here we go:

Blogging for blogging’s sake is easy; intentional blogging is harder.

For the record, blogging is not as easy as you might think. It’s not just writing what you want, when you want, how you want.  Now, if you don’t care about numbers, then that’s just fine.  Keep doing that.

But if you want more readers than your mom and your best friend (and I hate to tell you but your friend is likely too busy to read your blog), then you need to approach your blog with focused intent.

It’s sharing what you want to share in an honest, open and authentic way without sounding like you’re trying too hard.

It’s trying to perfect the no make-up make-up or the messy-hair-don’t-care look, but in the blogosphere.

Whole industries have been built on teaching people like us how to start and grow our blogs the right way so we can stop hitting ‘refresh’ every 30 seconds to see if anyone’s liked or commented on our posts. There’s definitely skill and expertise involved.

How do I know this? 

Because I’ve consumed countless video tutorials, podcasts and blog posts on this very subject. 

As a freelance writer, I know there’s a real need in the online space for well-written, consumable content.  I’m learning as much as I can now so I can add as much value as I can later for my prospective clients.

A good blog post includes at least one really good, relevant visual aid or photo.

Whether we like it or not, aesthetics play an important part in how others view us in the online space.

We all know really good content keeps readers on our sites, but fantastic images help get them there in the first place.  That’s where many of us get stuck.

We see the beautiful Pinterest-ready or blog-ready images, but don’t know quite how to turn them into what we want. I’ve used Canva before and have been able to crank out fairly decent images with basic text overlays, but I’d love to know how to do it really well. Pictures and graphics are a huge time suck for people like me who know what they want, but presently lack the skills to bring their visions to life.

Goal:  Start learning the basics of graphic design with Canva. Design a business logo and learn to create beautiful, branded blog images, social media graphics and infographics.

Value:  Increase blog engagement and readership experience with visually appealing pictures or graphics. Build brand awareness through consistency in brand color palette, logo and choice of fonts and images. Help stand out on more visual platforms like Facebook, Pinterest and Twitter.  Add value to work for prospective clients.

Tools:  For free design programs: Canva, possibly PicMonkey (free versions); For free stock photos: Canva Free Stock photosUnsplash.com, Pexels.com, Burst.shopify.com

Links to more great resources:
21 Amazing Sites with Breathtaking Free Stock Photos by Chris Gimmer

Source: Snappa Blog (3/28/18)
URL: https://blog.snappa.com/free-stock-photos/

8 Data-driven Tips for Using Images With Blog Posts by Neil Patel 
Source: HubSpot Blog (Originally published 10/31/14, updated 8/26/17)
URL: https://blog.hubspot.com/marketing/images-in-blog-posts-tips

Social media and online networking is critical to gaining traffic.

You can write a good blog post, but what’s the point if no one knows it exists?

I have to remind myself of this whenever I write something new.  Bloggers write to be seen or heard by others, or we’d set our blogs to private or write in a journal instead.  Since I’m using my blog to help build my online presence, I make it a point to share my posts on Twitter and, on occasion, in re-purposed form on Medium.  While I don’t have a ton of followers yet on either platform, I do get a couple more every time I post, and even more when others engage in what I’ve written.  It’s easy to see how social media — when used effectively — can really drive traffic to your blog.

Right now, though, I’m still deep in the learning curve and have made a few rookie mistakes.  Take it from me, know your settings on your various platforms.  I’ve sent duplicate tweets about the same article because both my blog and Medium accounts were set to automatically tweet whenever I published new content.  I’ve tweeted links to posts without any pictures or descriptions (which, unless I’m Tony Robbins or J.K. Rowling, is akin to launching your work into a gaping black hole). I’ve tweeted without hashtags which, again, may be fine if you already have your loyal following, but if you’re just starting out you need all the potential engagement you can get.

Beware, though.  As you start ramping up your online efforts, you may run smack dab into a thing called social media FOMO.  With Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, Tumblr, Snapchat, and multitudes of other lesser known platforms, it’s easy to spread yourself so thin in your attempt to be everywhere that your content quality suffers simply because you’ve run out of gas.  Choose a platform or two that makes most sense for you and what you’re trying to accomplish, and don’t worry about the rest. Remember, a Jack-of-All-Trades really is a master of none.

I’ve chosen to expend my energy on Twitter, Medium and Pinterest.  Technically, Medium is an online platform to share writing and Pinterest is more of a search engine (akin to Google), but both require time and intentional cultivation, so I’m including them here.  I’ll save my reasons for focusing on Pinterest for another post, but it has to do with the long half-life of a pin (for marketing purposes), traffic generation, and the set-it-and-forget-it marketing strategy.

This means I’m currently not actively engaged on Facebook, Instagram or LinkedIn, all powerful social and networking platforms for freelance writers.  I plan to update my LinkedIn profile in the near future. I’ve also considered starting a Facebook group for freelance writers or bloggers, but there are so many great ones already with engaged followings that it may be more valuable to join one of those existing groups than to create a new one.

One final thought on social media: Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest are all extremely visual — another nod to why it would be a wise investment of time to learn to create those click-worthy images and graphics that stand out and make people want to engage.

Goal:  Really understand how Twitter posts are circulated and how they show up in users’ feeds. Learn how to use hashtags to get content in front of a target audience. Learn Twitter etiquette and the life cycle of a tweet (including retweets, likes, comments).

Additional great resources:

Creative Revolt with Jorden Roper: https://www.creativerevolt.com/twitter-for-freelance-writers/

Make a Living Writing with Carol Tice: https://www.makealivingwriting.com/writers-win-social-media/

The Writing Cooperative on Medium (Angely Mercado): https://writingcooperative.com/how-i-use-twitter-to-help-my-freelance-writing-3ab878cd0f30

Your website or blog is your business card.

We live in a digital era, and, in the freelance industry anyway, our primary contacts are no longer limited to those in our local community.  As our networks become more global, our websites and blogs have become our digital business cards, conveying to the world who we are, what we do, and what value we have to contribute to the online marketplace.

The good news: we have the ability to make amazing connections with people and businesses all over the world.

The bad news: the space is incredibly saturated with people vying for the same attention as us.  What this means is if we have, let’s say, only three to five seconds to make a decent impression on our blog, then we need to take care that our content really hooks and grabs, and that our site is as visually pleasing as possible.

In addition to publishing new content and tweaking the old, I’ve been trying to create a more inviting reader experience by customizing my WordPress theme. Since I’m limited to what I can do with the free themes, I’ve been experimenting with the side bar widgets, the site pages on the menu bar, and the font types of both the headings and paragraphs (for readability).

By adding the ‘Recent Posts’ widget to the sidebar, I hope to boost my site’s stickiness factor by showing readers there’s more good stuff to read other than the post that originally brought them there.

Since the ‘Recent Posts’ only lists the blog titles, I know I need to make them as interesting and catchy as possible to entice readers to click and read. If they read a couple posts, maybe they’ll ‘like’ the posts or even choose to follow my blog.

Increased engagement = valuable social proof to prospective clients that my writing could boost their audience engagement as well, which may convert to more subscribers and lead to potential sales.

Blogging as a powerful promotional tool for your business.

So where does that leave us?

Blogging is more of a business tool than I ever imagined.  Initially, I thought blogging would be a way to build community with other freelance writers and to showcase my writing skills, but the more I learn the more I understand the power of a forward-thinking, value-laden blog.

While I still see value in sharing parts of my journey as I continue to build my freelance writing business, I want to take care that each post includes a valuable lesson or takeaway that will help others — otherwise my post is just a confessional and I’m only serving myself.  While writing to work through struggles is an extremely valuable practice, it may be best reserved for private journaling or morning pages.

I’m excited to see where this blog leads.  I’m even more excited to share what I’m learning with you.

The Power of Momentum: How One Action Toward Your Goal Motivates You to Take Another

Post - Power of MomentumI know it’s been some time since my last post.  I haven’t given up.  I’ve been taking consistent, intentional action to build my freelance writing business.

Here’s what I’ve been up to:

1. Working through Heather Deveaux’s course, How to Confidently Start and Run a Freelance Writing Business. (See previous posts for my thoughts on Heather Deveaux’s blog, podcast and freelance writing course). I’m currently on the seventh module – creating writing samples. Be prepared to roll up your sleeves and spend some time on this section, as it is easily one of the most valuable. You will work through exercises designed to sharpen your online writing skills. Heather provides topics, minimum word count and keywords to hit. By the time you complete the exercises, you should have a diverse portfolio of writing clips to show to prospective clients. Heather even offers to review your samples and give pointers on how you can improve.

If you find yourself struggling with the assignments, Heather encourages you to reach out to her directly.  I did, and she offered some great, actionable advice:

  • Just start writing: Heather says to resist the idea of a perfect first draft. What’s important is putting pen to paper. “Allow yourself to write something awful if that is what it takes to get on with the process.”
  • Avoid the research rabbit hole: It’s easy to get derailed by the sheer volume of information available on any given topic. If information overload is hindering your writing, Heather says, “Don’t worry about the research. I know that is like telling a banker not to count the money before they put it in the vault, but trust me. Pick one. Pretend you know everything there is to know about it and pretend that whatever you put on the paper is the God’s honest truth.” Then, with draft in hand, go back and do some focused, targeted research and add substance where needed.
  • Choose to add value:  After you’ve done some research, you’ll need to decide what information to include in your final work. Heather offers this suggestion: “I constantly ask myself: what didn’t I know before I started reading this? Because you know more than you think and many readers know more than they think, so lead with a question that draws out the most important information first.”
  • Stay on point: “Before you sit down to write something that you have researched, come up with the working title and then refer to it numerous times asking the question, ‘Does this information contribute to the answer of that question or fulfill the promise of the title?’ For example, if I am writing about how to improve SEO in a blog, I need to be careful to only include information that answers the question, ‘How can I improve SEO in a blog?’ and that helps filter out all the other crap.”

2. Publishing content on the online writing platform, Medium. My reasons for doing this are six-fold: 1) To exercise my ‘discomfort’ muscle by putting myself and my work out there; 2) For a sense of community as writing can be isolating; 3) To sharpen my writing skills by occasionally writing on topics unrelated to my blog; 4) To start building an online presence on an internationally read platform; 5) To push traffic to Eleanor and Jane; and 6) To read others’ work.

Stephen King wrote in his memoir, On Writing, “If you want to be a writer, you must do two things above all others: read a lot and write a lot.”

Medium is a fantastic place to do both.

3. Building social engagement. I know that networking and online engagement are critical to increasing traffic and growing an online business. I’m a fairly private person, but I’ve found that commenting on particularly informative or well written posts or articles allows me to contribute to the community and connect with my fellow writers and readers without the in-your-face feel of other engagement efforts. Sometimes I’ll comment on a blog directly; other times I’ll tweet a link to an article on Twitter. Word of mouth marketing is powerful. If I feel a specific blog or podcast would be right up a person’s alley, I don’t hesitate to share.

4. Revamping the Eleanor and Jane website. I actually started Eleanor and Jane a couple of years back, when I was thinking about writing for a living. At the time, the only thing I really knew about WordPress was that anyone who was anyone used WordPress for their business website or blog. So I signed up for a free WordPress account, uploaded a free, basic theme and wrote a couple posts.  Then I left the blog dormant for a good year or two.

More recently, I posted a couple of articles on the technical side of starting an online jewelry business on Etsy. I mistakenly thought that any content was good content for Eleanor and Jane, so long as it was informative and somehow touched on any aspect of building a freelance business. It was only after I started sharing Eleanor and Jane with others that I realized my website was all over the place. I knew I needed to streamline my content in order to reach a more targeted audience. Although I was proud of my posts about my Etsy business, I decided to take them down.

Fast forward to last month. When I fully committed to making a living as a freelance writer, I went back and tweaked my first post, added another, and switched to what I thought was a more professional-looking theme. I still didn’t want to spend too much time on website design — I really just wanted a place I could direct people so I could start establishing my online presence as a freelance writer. I figured that, in time, I would register my preferred domain name, switch to self-hosting and hire someone to redesign my website so it would match the vision in my head. (More on what’s wrong with this line of thinking in posts to follow.)

When I first started writing on Medium, I did not include a link to Eleanor and Jane on my Medium profile. I realized it was because I was not proud of my website. And since exposure to my blog was one of my main reasons for joining Medium in the first place,  I spent last week revamping my site until I was happy enough to add the URL to my Medium profile.

I wanted a minimalist, clean website. I went with a different WordPress theme, switched fonts, added a short bio, added a sidebar widget to showcase my blog post titles, and, most importantly, added a Work With Me page with my services and contact information.

Is my website perfect? No. But it’s better than it was and now readers and prospective clients have a way to contact me.

5. Next steps

In the near future, I plan to transition to a self-hosted plan which will allow me to do so much more with this blog. I’m excited to learn about the popular plugins, in particular Yoast SEO.

I’m looking forward to learning more about the backend of WordPress. Understanding the technical aspects of blogging will allow me to offer a more valuable package to prospective clients.

I’ve recently started looking into registering my domain name. I hit an unexpected (but not uncommon) snag which may result in me having to rename this blog unless I want to keep it on WordPress.  That’s a story for another post.  One step at a time.

Your turn.

What have you been working on lately?