Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Put Innovation On Your Calendar for 2014

In December's special report, "Make Your Resume Business Better," I talk about how to reignite your passion for your resume writing business. One of the ways to do that is to think about how you can introduce innovation and creativity into your daily -- or weekly -- routine.

Smart business owners devote at least a small portion of their working time to innovation and creativity. At big companies like Facebook and Google, employees are allowed to spend a percentage of their time on their own projects. This helps keep their creative fires burning, and some of these projects turn into major successes for their employers.  

You can do the same in your resume writing business. It is important to devote some time to coming up with new products and/or services or even delving into something outside of your comfort zone to take your business to a whole new level.

Here are some ideas to help you put this idea into action.
  • Dedicate time for innovation and creation. Just like you mark on your calendar the things you will do today, schedule a block of time devoted to "creation and innovation." You can do an hour a day, or 1/2 a day a week, or some other timeframe that works for you. But it’s important that it’s an actual calendar item and that you know how you’re going to devote that time to creative pursuits. This item on your calendar should be just as important as any other to-do item on your calendar. 
  • Bring in a creative partner. Sometimes a fresh perspective can open up doors you never before thought were possible to get through. You don’t have to bring in a permanent partner -- you can work on joint ventures with different people on just one project at a time. Start with something small and work your way up to larger ventures. Bringing in a partner will not only spark your creative side, but it will also make you feel challenged -- and maybe a little obligated -- to be a good partner. 
  • Change your location. One way to open the creative floodgates is to get out of your office. Go to the coffeehouse down the street; go to the park. In the summer, I like to work outdoors on my front porch. (And someday, I'm going to live in Arizona, so I can do that in December too.) Get unplugged and use a paper and pen instead of technology. Turn off the music, turn off the TV, turn off the noise, and get out of your comfort zone. Even a nice walk in the park with a way to record your thoughts can go far in helping you unleash your innovative and creative side. 
  • Let go of your fears. You might think you’re the only person with fears, but you’re not. Every business owner has expressed fear or felt fear. Even very famous people have had fear about doing something new or different. The only difference between them and you is they felt the fear and did it anyway. You can be just like them by just changing that one thing and just going for it. Just do it. Work through the fear. Channel that fear into motivation to succeed. 
  • Read industry news. You can use Google Alerts to search for keywords and you'll get an email alert when a story is published. Also join at least one industry association and read the daily e-mail list. Being up to date on what's going on in the resume writing industry can keep you from falling behind. While the resume isn't dead (yet!), that doesn't mean you can bury your head in the sand and pretend you know it all.
  • Study your competition. A really good way to get the creative juices flowing is to study what other resume writers are doing. I love looking at resume books — especially the Expert Resume series by Wendy Enelow and Louise Kursmark. You don't want to steal from other resume writers (no plagiarism, please -- even in designs), but it's possible something you see in one of these books will spark your creative energy in a new way outside of anything you’ve ever considered previously. 



By taking out time from your busy work schedule to be innovative and creative, you will create a long-term business that will fill your life with passion and profits while never becoming mundane and boring.

Monday, December 23, 2013

You Know What You Do ... But Can You Explain It?

© Studio-54
Do you know what you do?
That may sound strange to say. Of course you know what you do. Well, do you? If someone asks you what you do, are you ready with a 2-minute explanation of what you do? 

I find if I say, "I write resumes," people say, "For other people? You actually do that?"

On the other hand, if I say, "I help people find jobs," that prompts questions — which is a good thing. Usually the response is, "How?" or "Are you a recruiter?"

You should be able to answer the question, "So, what do you do?" With a list of problems that you solve -- the most direct one being the "I help people get the job of their dreams" or a similar response.

Define what you do in terms of the problems you solve and the benefits it gives your target audience and you’ll be ahead of the game. You’ll automatically release the passion of what it is that you do and why you do it. 

You can use this fill-in-the-blank formula to help you:
I __________ for/with ______________ so (my target audience) can ____________.

For example, a resume writer might say:
I write compelling resumes and LinkedIn profiles for jobseekers so they can get an interview for their dream job!

A career coach might say:
I work with people who are lost or stuck in their current job so they can figure out how to be more happy and fulfilled in their careers.

Remember — it’s all about them and what you do to make their lives easier and solve their problems. When you take the focus off the features of your service and place it on the client and the benefits you offer, it will actually make your resume writing business more enjoyable. It will become better because you’ll have a much better definition of what you’re doing and a better way to focus your marketing.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

No More Feast or Famine in Your Resume Writing Business



On yesterday's call for "Make 2014 Your Best Year Yet," I got a question from Laura in New Jersey about how to handle the "feast or famine" aspects of running your own resume writing business.

Laura: I’m a new résumé writer. I’m going into my third year. And many of my clients are getting jobs and getting hired and I’m so excited. But my biggest goal is just getting more business. That’s the key for me. I can do the work. It’s just getting the business and that’s, I guess, my biggest dilemma, my biggest goal.

Me: I talked earlier in the presentation today about CJ Hayden’s program, “Get Clients Now.” 

She has a book that you can work your way through, or I’ve actually been through her coaching program for it that’s a four-week class. And you put together a 28-day action plan that’s oriented around marketing activities like speaking and writing and referrals and those sorts of things. And like I said, her emphasis is on taking specific actions and doing them repeatedly because they’ll lead you to results. And that’s probably one of the biggest challenges we have as resume writers is that it’s kind of “feast and famine.”

So you’re like “Okay, right now it’s December and I need clients. I’m going to start working on these marketing things.” And then all of a sudden, we’ll get calls on Thursday, January 2nd, and your phone is going to ring off the hook for about 35 days with people who have New Year's Resolutions to get a new job, and you’re just going to be writing and consulting with clients and doing drafts and all this stuff. And then you’re going to get to the middle of February and there is a drought. And then you’re like “Okay, I’m going to get back on track with my marketing here” and then all of a sudden all the new grads come in April, wanting their resume. So C.J. talks about really creating the systems in place so that you’re just doing even 10 minutes of marketing a day to help even out that feast and famine cycle.

Laura: In other words, instead of waiting for the drought, market as you go.

Me: Exactly. She talks about creating a pipeline of prospects. And one of the big programs that I want to put together for 2014 from my side of things is list building because I’ve talked about this on a couple of previous calls and it’s one of my staples that I really emphasize to resume writers — building an email list of your clients and prospects so that you can turn on that pipeline when you need more business and then you can kind of turn down the volume of the flow. You always want to keep your pipeline flowing so that you constantly have existing clients coming back for updates and making referrals of new clients, but you want to have a steady flow of leads and prospects that are coming your way, and one of the easiest ways to manage that is to get them into your email system and provide them with information.

Obviously one of the biggest benefits of the BeAResumeWriter.com Bronze membership is the content that I give you that you can use with these clients. And I have a lot of the Bronze subscribers who don’t put this stuff out publicly to the world. They’re not putting the content on their blog or their website. What they’re doing is packaging it and sending it to their existing email list. It might be excerpting it or it might just be putting a cover on it and sending it out as an e-book, but using that content to keep in contact with your prospects and your existing clients and the people that they have referred.

And again, C.J. talks about this a lot. You’re more likely to get business from people who know, like and trust you. And one of the biggest ways to do that is through content marketing because it establishes your expertise and it gives you a reason to be contacting you via email. I know that it’s hard to think, when you’re looking at your email box, “Oh my gosh. There is so much stuff in here.” But aren’t there some people that you really look forward to seeing what they have to say? And so, being that kind of person is going to help solidify that pipeline so that you’re keeping in contact with the existing clients and the past clients, you’re encouraging them to make referrals, and if somebody contacts you but they’re not ready to start working with you right away or maybe price is a barrier initially, putting them on that email contact list helps you develop that reputation as a credible expert and a trusted authority so that when it’s time for them to pull the trigger and actually have somebody work with them on their resume and LinkedIn profile and all that…

Laura: They’ll remember you.

Me: They remember you — "top of mind marketing." So I think you really might benefit from CJ’s book. And like I said, if you need a little bit more hands-on instruction, then you go through the course with a trained facilitator and a group of accountability buddies. I didn’t really talk a lot about accountability buddies today, but that’s a big part of it too is just having somebody on your team who is going to keep you accountable. That might be a colleague or it might be a friend or a family member — somebody who you can put this stuff out there to and have them make sure that you’re on track for your goals.

Laura: Thank you very much. And I do use the Pass-Along Materials. I put them in a binder when I send [the finished] resume out to them, but I’m thinking now maybe that should be an email marketing project.

Bridget: I would say digital use of it is probably more cost-effective. I love the value that you get when you send it out hard copy because it really has a high perceived value, but just from the standpoint of making them accessible to more people since you’re only sending them out to folks who are getting the finished documents, you might consider putting them in digital format too so that you can just either give them access to a special page on your website where they can look at [them] or excerpting them in the emails or just having a special folder on your computer where you’re like “Okay, I’m going to send people a link to this Pass-Along Material this month.”

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Six Questions Every Resume Needs to Answer

After listening to Wendy Enelow and Louise Kursmark on last week's "6-Step Process for Writing Extraordinary Resumes" E-Summit, I've identified six questions that every resume you write needs to answer.

These are six questions you must be able to answer before you write the resume, or ask yourself the questions after you've written the resume to make sure it will be effective.

The resume must answer these six questions:

1. Who are you?
2. Where have you been?
3. What have you done?
4. What can you do for me?
5. What sets you apart from everyone else?
6. What kind of job are you seeking?

The resume needs to answer these questions clearly and directly. The answers must be apparent in a six-second scan of the document, and also provide greater depth and detail upon closer review.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Certification or No Certification?

  


This is one of the most common questions I get asked by resume writers: Should I get certified? And, if so, which certification should I go for?

In the resume writing industry, there is no requirement that you get certified, but there advantages to investing in certification. However, I know some outstanding resume writers who have never pursued certification. And, unfortunately, there are some certified writers who aren't that great. And because some certifications don't require ongoing continuing education, someone who was certified in 2004 might not have the skills of someone who was certified in 2012. 

Certification itself does not necessarily indicate quality or proficiency (although you would think that would be exactly what certification would promise!). Ultimately the decision whether to get certified or not depends entirely on your own goals and needs.

There are a lot of experienced resume writers who do not believe that it's important to get certification. After all, they have demonstrated their competency through years and years of satisfied clients. A few of the existing resume writing certifications, however, are not "teaching" oriented programs — they only measure competency; they don't teach it. Instead of pursuing certification, you might instead take resume writing courses. Don't discount what you can learn by taking a really good course when it comes to resume writing. You might learn something that turns your entire business around.

As an unregulated profession, getting certification will make you look legitimate and may help you continue resume writing if ever certification becomes a requirement. You'll be ahead of the game. (I don't see the industry ever being that regulated, however, that a certification will be required.)

While it's true that some clients will be impressed by a resume writer who took the time and invested the money to become certified, it's also true that many won't even ask. And, because of the large number of certifying bodies and credentials offered, probably 99% of clients don't know the difference between a CPRW and an ACRW. But showcasing your certification (and educating prospective clients about the process involved in certification — especially the benefit to them from working with a certified writer who is committed to continuing education and knowledge development) can be something that sets you apart from other resume writers.

Ultimately, to be successful in resume writing, you don't need a certification. What you do need is:
  • An understanding of different types of career document writing (resume, cover letter, LinkedIn profile, bio, etc.)
  • Strong listening skills and the ability to gather information from clients effectively (whether through questionnaires, review of previous client documents, client interviews, or a combination of these).
  • Solid insight into the hiring process and how employers review resumes and assess candidates.
  • Knowledge of best pricing and billing practices (you won't stay in business long if you can't figure out how much to charge, and how to collect from clients!)
  • Understanding of tax and legal obligations, including structuring an effective contract
  • Proficiency in technology — with a focus on Microsoft Word
  • The ability to plan and implement marketing techniques to attract clients
  • A commitment to continuing education (this industry is always changing!)
What do you think about certification?

Monday, December 9, 2013

Starting a Side Business as a Resume Writer


Many resume writers get started in self-employment by launching a part-time resume writing business in addition to their full-time "regular job."

If you've been thinking about starting a resume writing business on the side, here are some ideas to get you started.

  • Capitalize on your skill set. 

When you start a resume writing business as a part-time venture, you may not want to be a "full-service" shop. So look at the small components of the business, and figure out how you want to work. How can you get a resume writing business started using your natural abilities and as little financial capital as possible?

For example, the component pieces might include:

  • Actually writing resumes (the full experience, including client interviewing/questionnaires)
  • Reviewing resumes and editing/revamping them (not rewriting).
  • Serving as an editor/proofreader for other resume writers
  • Writing resumes as a subcontractor for other resume writers
  • Get clients and subcontract out the actual resume writing
  • Focusing on LinkedIn profile writing for folks with existing resumes
  • Providing LinkedIn profile overhauls (new headline & summary only)
  • Conducting interview training and/or salary negotiation training for jobseekers
  • Connecting jobseekers with resume writers

  • Assess your specific situation.

These factors might influence what services you decide to provide:

  • How much time do you have to devote to your part-time business? If you only have 1-2 hours a day, providing a simple service might be best.
  • What is your specialty? Do you like to write? Coordinate? Edit? Proofread? Manage clients?
  • How much money do you want to make from your part-time business?


The easiest way to determine a direction is to do a little market research. Think about your prospective client and his or her needs. How can you best fulfill them? Have quick one-on-one chats with people — friends, family, co-workers. Ask them what they need and develop your services around that. Watch trends in the news or on social media to see popular topics. Try to figure out how you can get in on earning opportunities by helping to address any of those trending issues.

To find clients, advertise via social media. Use popular social media sites to advertise your services (LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, even Craigslist).

Starting a part-time resume writing business is the easiest way to test the concept before you quit your "day job." But it's up to you to create a business that works for you and the clients you attract.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Four Ways to Get the Most Out of the National Career Summit Gold Package

National Career Summit Gold Package

I received an email Friday from a resume writer wondering if she should purchase the recordings for The National Career Summit. I told her that ultimately, that decision was up to her, but I had some ideas for how to use the content to increase her return on investment (ROI). I thought I'd share these thoughts with you too, because there are only two days left to buy the recordings at 80% off their regular price.

Here are some ideas on how you can use the recordings from The National Career Summit:
  • For your own training/education. As resume writers, I believe we need to invest in our learning, so we can stay on top of cutting-edge strategies to help our clients. I try to attend at least one resume writing conference each year (you can read my thoughts on that here), plus there are dozens of opportunities to attend virtual sessions (the NRWA telesummits, Wendy Enelow and Louise Kursmark's E-Summits, The Academies' Virtual Bootcamp, etc.). With 30 sessions featuring the top industry leaders (Martin Yate, Laura Labovich, Miriam Salpeter, Louise Kursmark, Lisa Rangel ... and on and on ... that's about $3 per session. That's an unbelievable price. Heck, I'd pay $97 EACH to learn from almost ANY of these speakers for an hour! But you can also use this information to help your clients. 

Here's how:
  • For ideas for content to attract prospective clients. (No, you can't share the recordings.) But you can listen to the recording, then look at the session description (especially the "take-aways"), and write blog posts covering the main points. Or post on social media (be sure to credit the speaker, and mention "from The National Career Summit," when possible -- including your affiliate link for readers to purchase the Summit recordings and/or book). Or write a review of the book on your blog and/or social media and include the book link (it's just a $20 purchase)
  • To educate your existing clients. Show how you are committed to continuing education (see bullet #1!) by sending a series of emails to your client list with key takeaways on the subject — including your own thoughts! — again, with an affiliate link to the book or the Gold package, and your contact information. These types of keep-in-touch emails can stimulate repeat business and referrals.
  • To increase your profile on social media. Take a quote from a session (again, crediting the speaker and The National Career Summit), and Tweet it, do a Facebook business page post on it, or post it on your LinkedIn status. If you want to get even more mileage out of it, hire a designer for $5 on Fiverr.com to turn it into a graphic (an image and the quote) and it might even go viral on Facebook. Even better, make your post something interactive. Like "Author Wendy Lipton-Dibner says you really have to WANT a job to invest time/effort to get it, and that your motivation to land the job will increase if it's difficult to land. Is this true for your job search? Have you invested the time/energy to secure your dream job?" Many of the session presenters include quotable statements or statistics in their presentations.
However, if you're not planning on investing the TIME to go through and listen to the audios (at least the ones you think are the most relevant to the clients you work with, or the prospective clients you want to attract) — and then do something with the content (even if that's just taking notes for yourself and thinking through how these concepts can be applied to your work), then don't buy it.

Due to schedule conflicts, I was only able to listen to four of the sessions live (the sessions were free if you listened live), but I found the content to be so valuable from just those four sessions that I personally purchased the Gold package myself. There were a few sessions that aren't applicable to the clients I work with, but there were enough that were that I made the investment. (Plus, I wanted the print book you receive with the purchase of the Gold package, "101 Great Ways to Compete In Today's Job Market.")

If you want to check out what you get with the Gold package, click here:
The National Career Summit Gold Package

But remember, the special price of $97 (80% off the regular price of $497) is only valid through today (November 25, 2013). And that includes a copy of the printed book, shipped directly to you. That's a $20 value itself. So if you're going to buy the Gold package, I suggest you buy it now!

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Why Have a Facebook Business Page For Your Resume Writing Business?

Why should your resume writing business be on Facebook? Because that's where the people (and prospects!) are! Both Facebook and Mashable put monthly Facebook visitors at 1 billion, from December 2012 to February 2013. 

Visitors spend an average of 28.8 minutes per day within Facebook’s portals, hanging out with friends and acquaintances, and looking for entertainment or news. Its daily reach is an enormous 43%, with use and popularity still on the rise.




But wait – just because it’s the most popular social network in the world, is that any reason to use it for business purposes? Isn’t it primarily social? Won’t your voice get drowned out amid all those millions of users?

Great questions. Let’s see exactly what Facebook can do for you and your resume writing business – and why you should use it for that purpose.

Facebook is a Community
For a staggering number of people, posting their daily status update and seeing who has replied to previous posts is the most important action of their day – whether or not they openly admit it. And that goes for some surprisingly outgoing people, totally busting the supposition that Facebook is for introverts. (One survey last year revealed that people rank Facebook friends on a par with their local, immediate friends.)

Facebook is here to stay. It is a part of our times. But what does this friendship connection mean to business?

Mainly that people nowadays do not buy on product value alone: They buy on the basis of social proof. Google states that 70% of American consumers don’t purchase until they’ve read formal or informal reviews.

As far back as 2010, Ecoconsultancy stated: “81 percent of respondents said they'd received advice from friends and followers relating to a product purchase through a social site; 74 percent of those who received such advice found it to be influential in their decision.”

Facebook Is Where The People Are
Facebook is part of almost everyone’s day. Stats site Alexa.com shows it as reaping approximately 139.2 million visitors per month – and that’s in the U.S. alone. (Mashable put monthly visitors at 1 billion in a February 2013 infographic.) 

Did you know that 82% more visitors visit Facebook from outside the U.S.? It’s the world’s most popular social community… with the longest engagement time per visit at an average of 28.88 minutes per person. When you stop and actually visualize this, that’s an astonishing thought. (For example, one documentary on Mongolia showed two young Mongolian schoolboys accessing Facebook in their felt-covered Yurt.)

There is no point writing about a product on your blog on Monday mornings if 99% of your entire online net base (including subscribers) are busy chatting away on Facebook. Well, there’s a point – you can write a more in-depth product review or point out more benefits on your blog… but first, use Facebook to drive people to that carefully crafted blog post.

Facebook Pages Are Versatile
You can do all sorts of things to help enhance your business branding. You can customize the Cover background, insert your Profile Photo, write a powerful “About Me” blurb. (That’s just for starters.)

Facebook Pages integrate with other social networks, via apps. You can add Facebook apps – and then make those apps appear as a menu choice by creating custom 111 pixel X 74 pixel tabs for your apps.

For example, here’s an easy way to install the Pinterest tab on your Facebook Page – just visit Woobox and click on the “Install Pinterest Tab” button.



This is what a Facebook App Tab looks like…


From your Facebook Page, you can also:

  • Run contests 
  • Feature quizzes, surveys and polls 
  • Feature your website URL in your “About Me” section 
  • Gather “Likes” 
  • Claim and operate under your vanity URL, making it easy for your Page – and business – to show up in Facebook search results 
  • Install custom app covers to your tabs, showing anything you like 
  • Run sponsored posts 
  • Watch people share your posts (and sponsored posts) – unsolicited! 

And that’s just a taste of Facebook power!

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

How to Create an Awesome "About Us" Page For Your Resume Writing Business Website

When creating your "About Me" or "About Us" page on your resume writing business website, you must remember that this is part of building your brand. It is your chance to tell your story to potential and current customers. It’s also a chance to tell your story to people who might want to partner with you in the future (for example, career coaches, therapists, recruiters, etc.). Most website visitors click on the "About" page. Some experts suggest that over 80 percent of all website visitors look at and read the about page. It’s important that you use this real estate to its full potential.

Making a great "About Us" page is as easy as answering these six questions: Who, what, when, where, how and why.
  1. Tell the reader who you are. Your clients and potential clients want to know exactly who you are. Let them know. The trick is to tell them, while remembering who you are talking to. Knowing who your target audience is will help you tell your story.
  2. Tell the reader what you do. Be clear about what exactly it is that your business does for its clients and customers. Remember that they don’t really want to hear that you write resumes — they want to know if you can help them get interviews! What problem do you solve? Answer that.
  3. Tell the reader why you do what you do. Part of your reason why, is to solve the problems that your clients have. But there is more to it than that. It can be very personal to you about why you decided to offer your products or services to others.
  4. Tell the reader when you started doing it. By giving the details about when you started doing what you do, you will eventually establish your longevity, but even if you just started, it’s good to share where you are in your journey with your readers. Describe how you came to became a resume writer.
  5. Tell the reader where you are. It’s perfectly fine to mention your locality. Even if you serve people all over the world, be proud of where you are now and talk about it. Part of what makes your business what it is, is where you came from. You can also use the "where" to talk about where you fit into the careers space — for example, if your "area" of expertise working with financial services professionals?
  6. Tell the reader how you solve their problems. This has been mentioned throughout these seven tips, but it can’t be said enough: Customers want to know what’s in it for them and your "About" page is a perfect place to tell them. After all, to the client it’s all about them, including when it’s about you. 

Once you develop a great “about us” page, you can use the information you created there for many other marketing materials. The information can be in the form of a brochure, and some of the information can be expanded to be included in various blog posts, articles, and social media updates. You can expand your brand in a consistent manner across all marketing channels as you develop your branding narrative.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Why YOUR Resume Writing Business Needs a Business Plan

I've owned my resume writing business for 17 years, and I still use my business plan. Well, it's not the same business plan I wrote in 1996. I refresh it every few years (because things change), but it's helpful for me as a self-employed entrepreneur to have a master plan to work off of.

For most self-employed folks, business plans are an essential element to starting and running a successful business. It doesn't matter if your business is large, small, online or offline — having a solid business plan is a key indicator of future success. The part of the business plan that is helpful is that a business owner is forced to study the market, develop products and/or services for that market, and then use the figures discovered to determine in advance whether or not the idea has a chance of success. You can also benchmark your progress against your business plan. I love the phrase, "What gets measured, gets done." If you're projecting $4,000 in revenues this month for your resume writing business, and it's November 14 and you're only at $1,300, you know you have some work to do!

What Should Be In Your Business Plan
Believe it or not, you can write a one-page business plan that will be effective. I'd recommend adding a bit more detail, but starting somewhere is critical.

Your business plan should include the following components and cover 3 to 5 years of projections:
  • Executive Summary. This is first, but it's written last because it is simply a summary of all the major points below. This usually covers less than two pages. For some small resume writing businesses, this one page is enough to help you get started on the right foot.
  • Company Overview and Description. Describe your company's mission, unique differentiators, and the opportunity you are filling. Describe what gives your company an advantage, and describe everything you can about management and operations.
  • Market Analysis. Include a study of your competition, describe your customers and your industry as a whole, and how your business will measure up to each area that you cover. This is where you identify your target audience down to a specific persona. (Sign up to receive the "Profile of a Professional Resume Writer" special report for some competitive data to use in your market analysis.)
  • Service or Product Descriptions. Detailed descriptions of the resume services you will provide (updates, new resume development, LinkedIn profiles, bios, cover letters, etc.) and products you will sell (ebooks, membership programs, DIY courses, etc.). Describe your products and/or services and who exactly will be using them.
  • Sales and Marketing Strategy. How will you get the word out to potential clients? Describe in detail each and every aspect of sales and marketing, including what type of payment systems you will use (merchant account? PayPal? Shopping cart software? Authorize.net?). Also describe how you will market, such as via social media, print advertising, television and more. The little details matter!
  • Financial Review and Projections. Your current finances should be included, such as your income statement, balance sheet, cash flow statement, and budget. You should also include probable income projections based on projected future sales.
  • Plan of Action. Include a step-by-step plan of action to make each of your objectives and goals come to fruition. Including a time line of actions is helpful. Start from the projected date of opening and work your way backwards until today to create a realistic plan.
Taking the time to prepare a business plan will save you a lot of work later down the road. You might even avoid serious problems through analyzing the marketplace on paper, creating an environment where your business will be able to overcome serious errors before actually committing them. By doing your due diligence you'll set yourself up for success. You know the saying, "Failing to plan is planning to fail."

If you're looking for a great resource for business planning and goal setting for your resume writing business, check out "Ready, Set, Goal: Business Planning and Goal Setting for Resume Writers."

Friday, November 15, 2013

Blogging Basics for Resume Writers

Starting a career-related blog can be a great way to increase your profile as a careers industry expert, allowing you to attract new clients and driving traffic to your website. However, deciding to start a blog is a commitment. The more you publish, the more you'll get out of your blog. Here are some things to think about as you consider publishing a blog.


Where Most Resume Writers Go Wrong With Their Blog
When you're blogging, you're building your brand (or destroying it, in some unfortunate cases). Having a social media presence online is important for the majority of resume writers, since more and more resume prospects find their resume writer through online sources (it's second only to referrals as the source of new business for most resume writers). You can use your blog to build your social media following (Twitter, Facebook Business Page, LinkedIn, etc.) and you can also use your social media following to increase readership of your blog.

To get the most out of your blog, you'll need to deliver a certain number of blog posts per week (usually a minimum of two), and you should also consider finding guest blogging opportunities (where you can blog elsewhere and link back to your main blog). Blogging "for fun" is different than blogging to build your resume writing business. Don't confuse the two. It's fine to have a personal blog (I'm really enjoying resume writer Barbara Safani's "Across the 59th Street Bridge and Back" blog), but a personal blog has different objectives than a professional blog. You can tie in personal experiences on your career blog (Julie Walraven does this quite well, as does Jacqui Barrett-Poindexter), but make sure there is a lesson to be shared when you do!

Make Blogging Part of Your Routine
This is the part I have the most difficulty with. All the blogging experts say you should be consistent with your blogging. They say that it's better to to write one post per week — every Friday, for example — than to blog haphazardly. More power to you if you can do that! I just can't. Sometimes I get in the mood to blog and sometimes, it's at the bottom of a lengthy to-do list.

The good news is, blogging is something you can do anytime — in the morning before work, on your lunch hour, after work and on the weekends. You can even write your blog posts in advance and schedule them to post. (I should do this.)

Like writing resumes, blogging is a real business when you start pursuing it for financial reasons. Yes, it gives you much in terms of happiness — but when you’re making money doing something you love, it’s very rewarding.

And, as I mentioned earlier, your blog can also establish you as a leader in the career services industry. One thing that’s important is that you make sure that you love writing about career industry topics. You should want to wake up every day, eager to get to your computer. Don't start a blog because you feel like you "have to" — do it because you "want to."

If you dread it because it bores you or it’s depressing, then you won’t help your readers and the blog won’t "work" for you.

Make a list of possible blog topics before you start. If you can't come up with at least 10 ideas, don't start until you do. You can set an entire editorial calendar for your blog where you choose which topics are presented to your readers. You also get to pick the tone for the blog pieces.

Developing a Relationship With Your Blog's Readers
Having a relationship with your readers means they value your blog and they share the link to it with other people. You want that type of connection because as a professional, the traffic and branding that you gain will be priceless.

When blogs have a loyal readership, they enjoy a fantastic word of mouth traffic flow. While many bloggers are out there buying links back to their site and paying people to help them get traffic, you can do it all for free.

First, pick topics your readers want to know about. Part of your job in relationship building is to listen to your audience and meet their needs. There are many ways you can do this.

Do some preliminary keyword research to find out what people want to know in your niche. Visit some of the job search-related groups on LinkedIn and see what people are talking about.

This is known as a sentence starter — and it gives you some insight into what type of blog post you might want to do, such as:
  • If someone is unemployed for a long period of time, how can they get back in the workforce?
  • How to find a job that allows telecommuting
  • Top three reasons you may not be getting called for interviews.

You can also simply invite your readers to submit questions to you. You can do this on your email autoresponder opt-in form, or have a special contact form on your blog where people can engage with you that way. Or you can ask them to post their questions in the Comments section under each post.

Whenever someone emails you with a question, you can assume there are more people out there who are wondering the same thing. Use those questions as fodder for your blog topics.

When you start blogging about all of these things, it makes the audience feel like you’ve really got your finger on the pulse of the marketplace — like you have great instincts.

Next, write in a highly conversational style and end each blog with an invitation to connect. People need to feel like you’re speaking just to them.

When you write, make sure it’s conversational and not stuffy like you’d write for a professional publication. If you make a video blog, look right in the camera and be casual and relaxed, not stuff and nervous.

When you end a blog post, you can ask a question or invite people to share their own $0.02 about the topic in the comments. Make sure that whatever comment system you’re using, it’s easy to find — because some are almost hidden.

Participate in the conversation that goes on in your blog comments. If people are kind enough to take you up on your invitation, then make an effort to have a dialogue with them.

Thank them for their comment, call them by name, and open up a discussion about what they had to say.

Making Money From Your Blog
While there are several ways to monetize your blog, the easiest — and most common way — is to turn blog readers into resume clients. This can happen naturally as they recognize your expertise as a career industry professional (be sure to give a "call to action" on individual blog posts or on your page so they know how to get started working with you), or you can invite them to opt-in to your email list, where you can share more resources, and convert them from a prospect into a client.

Speaking of lists, build a list from your blog so that whenever you have a new blog post, you can notify people about it. Also have an RSS system set up for people who use RSS feed readers to get notified of your new content.

Whenever you have a list, it gives you a certain amount of power — the power to instantly communicate with your target audience when you are selling or promoting your resume services and related products (webinars, teleseminars, workshops, membership programs, and other information products).

Another easy way to derive revenue is using Google AdSense. You can put different sized ad banners on your blog, from buttons to skyscraper ads. You can include images or go with just text. Don't expect to get rich from AdSense, though.

You can also sell ad space directly on your blog. You can arrange a specific area of your blog for ad space that people rent on a monthly basis, paying the ad revenue to you directly. If you go this route, make sure you have specifics in place to control what kinds of ads can get placed on your blog — all the way down to the colors and whether animation is allowed on it, if you want.

One thing you have to remember whenever you place any ads on your blog is that yes, it gives you some money when people leave your site for somewhere else – but in leaving, it also means someone else is capturing their name and email address and selling something to them, not you.

Promote products as an affiliate. You can sign up as an Amazon Associate and promote anything they sell there that they offer a commission on. Digital products can be found at sites like ClickBank.com. You can sign up for free and get a hoplink (affiliate link) where you earn around 50% for each sale.

Create your own products and sell them from your blog. You don’t have to promote other people’s stuff. Why not create an info product (ebook, video, or audio course) and teach something you blog about in more depth — or in a more comprehensive manner?

Offer your resume services from your blog. Coaching is also something you can offer. Many people pay top dollar for one-on-one coaching sessions via Skype or even email!

Blogging can be a very fun and very profitable venture if you approach it correctly. Don’t make the mistake of flying by the seat of your pants. If you do this, your blog will be scattered with topics, have no set monetization plan, and you’ll end up unhappy with the effort you’ve put in.

With proper planning and enthusiasm, you'll attract a steady stream of readers (prospective clients!) and new business. In fact, you might be the one putting out feelers for a professional blogger to come onboard and help you with your content needs!

Monday, November 11, 2013

How to Decide What to Charge Resume Clients

Deciding how much to charge is one of the biggest challenges for resume writers. The vast majority of resume writers charge based on the project, not by the hour. That's because jobseekers may be reluctant to commit to having their resume developed without having a specific price quote. 

Another factor to consider is how your clients feel about hourly rates versus project rates. If you're just getting started, you can do a few tests to see how your clients respond. I can tell you that, after 17 years as a resume writer, clients prefer flat rates, not hourly pricing. And remember, if you can get most of your work down to flat project rates, you'll actually end up earning more money in the long run. The reason is that the more you do something, the faster you get at it.

With an hourly rate you're often being punished for being fast. But, you can get into trouble with flat rates too, if you underestimate the time required for the project. 

There's also the question of whether you should you offer pre-set packages, or quote project individually? It's up to you. If you have pre-set levels (like "Professional" and "Executive,") sometimes you'll run into clients who get a package rate who will suck every single hour of every single day out of you for a small package rate. Don't allow that to happen. Keep your contracts very tight, and your duties very clear when you create a package rate. Make sure clients "fit" in the level they're choosing. 

Also, in order to create a solid package rate you need to understand how to write a good contract and properly price packages. 

If you quote each project individually, you'll also be estimating the amount of time you'll spend on a project. Package rates are really based on hourly rates. Don't have an hourly rate? You should. You can use this worksheet to calculate your hourly rate.

If you know what you want to earn hourly, then you simply estimate how long the project will take you if all goes perfectly, multiply by your hourly rate and that is your base project rate. But you're not done yet. Nothing ever goes perfectly, right? Take that fee and multiply it by 1.5. You now have your project rate. 

Then add in some conditions to the contract, such as how many times you're willing to edit the project (most resume writers include one revision), or how many hours you're willing to put into the project. Be very specific about what your responsibility is to the project and the client's responsibility to the project. Be very clear on when deliverables are due from a client and from you. Your contract cannot be too specific; leave no ambiguity. A sentence such as "Any work outside the scope of this project will be billed at my normal hourly rate of $50 per hour" can help alleviate many problems.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Nine Ways to Show Your Resume Clients That You Care

Is customer service dead? It sometimes seems that way, doesn't it? Some businesses don't seem to appreciate that they wouldn't exist without their customers. But for most resume writers, I find that customer service comes first. If this is your mindset, here are nine ways to show your customers that you care.

1. Loyalty Discounts. You often see new customer discounts, but what about giving your long-term customers a loyalty discount? It drives me crazy when my cable company offers new customers an introductory rate that is 1/5 of what I'm paying, and I've been a loyal customer for YEARS! So consider offering existing customers a special offer when you roll out a new service or information product. And make sure you position it as a loyalty discount. ("Because you are a valued customer of ABC Resumes, I'm giving you my best discount on my new LinkedIn Check-up. New customers will pay $99 for this comprehensive profile analysis and development of a targeted Headline, but because you're already a customer, you get it for just $59.")

2. Thank You Notes. Writing thank you notes seems to have gone out of vogue, but you'd be shocked at how much a nice handwritten note will mean to your customers. You will stand out to them and next time they need their resume updated, they'll think of that note.

3. Remembering Special Days. If you've collected information on your customers such as birthdays, anniversaries or other special days, drop them a card in the mail. It's also a good time to give them a birthday discount. You can also give them an anniversary discount each year (on the anniversary of the day they started working with you!) This ties into tip #1 too.

4. Referral Rewards. Your happy customers will likely tell others about you anyway, but why not encourage the process by offering referral rewards. You can offer a percent off future services or a free gift; it's up to you. Some resume writers offer a Starbucks gift card or Amazon gift certificate. Or you could gift them a free copy of one of your ebooks. All will be appreciated.

5. Prompt Service. Another way to make your customers feel cared for is to offer very prompt service. Treat their work as if it's your sole priority and get it done on time or early. They will notice how you treat them.

6. Going the Extra Mile. You've heard the saying to "under promise and over deliver" before, but it cannot be said enough. If you can go the extra mile for your loyal customers, they will notice. Even if it's just something really small, they'll notice and feel cared for.

7. Ask for Feedback. People love giving their opinions about things. But, often they will not do it if they're not asked. At least quarterly, send your customers a survey to ask them how you're doing and how you can do better. But don't ask for feedback about things you're not able to implement. (Don't ask them if they want access to workshops or teleseminars if you hate to speak, for example!)

8. Be a Resource. Sometimes we can't be all things to all our clients. Perhaps they need something we cannot deliver. Therefore instead of just saying no, say yes by recommending someone who can give your client what they need. When you become a resource to your clients, they'll become loyal to you because they know you care about more than the almighty dollar.

9. Give Extra Value. Speaking of resources, jobseekers crave information. Be an information resource for your clients. Provide them with ebooks, special reports, teleseminars/webinars and other content. (This is easy to do using Pass-Along Materials that you can publish "as-is" with your name on it!)

People have so many other options available to them today that they really don't have to patronize your resume writing business. Remember that customers can and will go elsewhere if they are not happy. It costs a lot more money to find a new customer than to keep one. Therefore, you should go out of your way to keep good customers happy by showing them that you care.


Friday, November 1, 2013

Finding Your Focus as a Resume Writer

One of the major keys to success for any business owner is the ability to become laser focused on a specific audience, developing solutions for them, and building expert status. But, how do you find that place where you want to put all your focus as a resume writer? How do you determine where you want your focus to be?

Be Mindful of Dissatisfaction Cues
If you get a nagging feeling in the back of your mind that you're not happy with where you are going, pay attention to it. It's not healthy to go through life pretending to be happy when you're not. The trick is to figure out why you're not happy, then work toward changing those circumstances. Perhaps you're working with executives because that's where the money is, but you prefer working with moms returning to the workforce (but are having a hard time charging them what you need to, because you want to help them make the successful transition back to work). Pay attention to that feeling and find a way to bring that excitement to your business. You might not be able to charge returning-to-the-workplace moms $900 for a resume, but you could offer a group coaching program with a do-it-yourself component for $297 for participants, and if you have 2-5 attendees for each session, you're making money! (Plus, it's a program you can deliver over and over again!)

Determine Where Your Gifts Lie
What are you good at doing? Maybe you like writing resumes, but you hate the sales part of it. Consider being a dedicated resume sub-contractor! You write the resumes while your contracting writer sells the packages and services the client. It's important for you to figure out how your gifts align with a business that you'll love. 

Write down your skills (whether you have fun doing them or not), then write down the things you're passionate about. Give it a few days to consider how these things can relate together.

Be honest with yourself about what you really will love doing, compared to what you've been told you will make money at. Making money is essential to your life, of course, but money will not cure misery if what you're doing doesn't bring you happiness too.

Talk to Someone
It can be helpful to find someone to talk to about what kind of resume writing business you want to start before doing it. A business life coach can be very helpful in weeding through all the questions and getting to the right answers for you. However, don't employ a life coach if you're not willing to think outside yourself, and let go of fears. A life coach can only guide you; you're the one who is going to be doing all the hard work. If you're not ready for hard work, the coaching will not be successful.

There is no reason why your passion cannot also be a way to make money. You just have to figure out how to do it. Be creative, think outside the box, and before you know it, your business will fill your bank with money and your heart with joy. If your business is aligned with your values, and offers you the ability to do things that you're good at and enjoy, you will be successful.

Even if you can't go all the way as in the example above, perhaps you can focus your business in some way. The sky is only the limit if your imagination ends there.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Make Money Publishing Your Own Book


This month's special report in the BeAResumeWriter.com membership site is on self-publishing. So I thought I'd also blog about it today!

Everyone who publishes will not make a lot of money, regardless if they self-publish or choose the traditional publishing route. It's just a fact of life. About two percent of all books published, regardless of method, become "best sellers." But your book or information product doesn't have to be a "best seller" to make a decent amount of money. If you could make $100 a week, or $500 a week from self-publishing, wouldn't that add up over time! Even $100 a week is an extra $5,000 a year!

This type of income is possible if you follow the proper steps.

Create Your Information Product — The first step, of course, is to create your information product. What problems does your target audience of jobseekers need to solve? Research and brainstorm the topic, create an outline, write it, or have it written by a ghostwriter. It's always helpful if you can back up your information with quotes from professionals, case studies, and proof that your solution works.

Proofread and Edit Your Information Product — After you think you're done with your information product, let some other people look at it to proofread and edit it. It is still up to you to accept the critique or not, but it's always a good idea to let others see the product before you launch it. Does it flow well? Is the sentence structure readable? Does the grammar make sense? Are there any common misspellings or misuse of punctuation? You are too close to the product to do this yourself if you wrote it. Let someone else do this part.

Format Your Information Product Well — How your product is formatted depends on how you plan to distribute it. Are you going to sell it via Kindle, PDF, in print, or another method, or all of the above? If so, you'll need special formatting for each case. Formatting is essential for reader enjoyment and even lends to understanding of your concept. Don't hold back on on this area because it is an essential element to create a successful information product.

Create an Awesome Book Cover — If you're not a designer, please hire one. (I recommend Vikiana on Fiverr.com) Your book cover and your title are the two most important aspects of your information product to get someone to buy it. Yes, the inside content needs to be awesome too, but the inside can be a work of art never seen by anyone if book cover is not professional and the title doesn't speak to your target audience. 

Don't Skimp on Marketing — Some people who claim that information products didn't earn them any money didn't finish. They didn't market. Marketing should start before the official launch of each new information product that you publish. Marketing is an ongoing process that will garner you sells anytime you want them, if you keep doing it. Establishing and maintaining relationships with your target audience is an essential component of business success, including publishing. Don't be fooled into thinking once the book is published you're done, you're only just beginning!

If you want to make big money with information products, follow these tips and you'll find that you will enjoy the kind of success that you always wanted. People are hungry for information and answers to their problems. You have the answers, and the means to get the answers to them right at your fingertips.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Why a Niche Can Help You Sell More Information Products

Before you begin selling information products online, you want to make sure you’re targeting a niche that will be profitable for you in the short and long-term. A niche is just a fancy term for your "target audience."

Some niches, as you’ll discover, aren’t as profitable as others. You need to look at your audience and see if they’re willing (and able) to spend money for the solutions they’re seeking.

For instance, executives are often willing to invest significant sums in their career development tools, like LinkedIn, or their resume. Many of them also understand the value of having third parties advise them in matters of personal advancement and career.

But another niche, such as new college graduates, might not be willing to pay $67 for an information product showing them how to get their first job. Sometimes it depends on the solution itself. Targeting this same niche of college students, you may find that their parents are willing to make an investment in their kids, paying $197 for them to take a three-session program on finding a job.

One good place to find your niche is with online groups and forums. LinkedIn is a great place to conduct research. Search their Groups offerings and find a couple that target the niche you're interested in.

You’re not just looking for a broad group of people to cater to – you’re looking for those with a lot of problems. When you start creating your information products, you’ll want to build an empire of products that all focus on the same niche, allowing you to market to existing, loyal customers who buy from you time and time again.

Sometimes, you’ll find one large niche and then realize you need to build your information product line around a more targeted, narrow niche of people. For instance, take college students. Instead of targeting all college students, pick one major -- for example, engineering students. You can help them with creating a resume for an internship, landing an internship, creating their online presence (and online reputation management), networking their way to their first real job, and negotiating their first salary.

Just remember that an information product is not really a product at all — it’s a solution, so it needs to be marketed as something that will improve lives. You're not teaching them how to get an internship — you're giving them skills to land their first paying, productive job.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Mining Your Own Virtual Goldmine

When you have information that other people want, you have a virtual goldmine at your fingertips. Information products line the shelves at bookstores nationwide in the non-fiction section, but they're also online 24/7/365, catering to the needs of millions of jobseekers who are hungry for advice and insight at all hours of the day -- and night!

As a seller of non-fiction information products in the careers industry, you can build an empire of profits targeting a single niche of jobseekers (for example, moms returning to the workplace, or IT professionals). Or, branch out and offer solutions to a multitude of people who need guidance (anyone who is looking to ask their boss for a raise).

While the traditional print publishing industry only gives authors a small portion of the proceeds after subtracting agent and publishing house fees, if you sell information products online, you’ll get to charge more and keep almost 100% of the profits for yourself.

Typically, a non-fiction book at Barnes and Noble would cost the consumer an average of $9.95 to $29.95. But when you’re selling information products ready for instant download online, you get to price it higher, because the selling point usually begins at $37 and rises up to $97 or even more.

Plus, your overhead costs are low. There's no printing costs, shipping, storage, or shelf placement fees. There's only the cost for the shopping cart (I use Payloadz for instant sale and delivery), transaction costs (Payloadz ties into my PayPal account), and maybe a website domain and hosting for the sales page for the product (although that's not necessary).

Why are jobseekers downloading information products? This is the age of high-tech development. Your readers may be sitting in an airport, accessing your ebook from their laptop.

They want information now, not the next business day. If they need to practice their interviewing skills before a job interview the next day, they can't drive to the bookstore at midnight to get a self-help book — but they can log onto their computer and download your Interview Success Guide, putting your advice into action in mere minutes. 

Another reason information products are hot commodities online is because they often come with money-back guarantees, giving the consumer added trust.

If you create information products for sale yourself, then you want to make sure you produce top-quality deliverables and urge your readers near the end to start taking action with what they’ve learned to keep refund requests low and demand for your products high.

Done right, it's like having your own personal goldmine that you can tap anytime you want!

Friday, October 11, 2013

Congratulations to the 2013 TORI Award Winners!


Career Directors International has just announced the winners of the 2013 TORI (Toast of the Resume Industry) Awards!

Winners include:

Best International Resume
1st Place - Kimberly Mohiuddin, Movin' On Up Resumes
2nd Place - Brenda Bernstein, The Essay Expert LLC
3rd Place - Cheryl L. Simpson, Executive Resume Rescue
Best New Graduate Resume
1st Place - Victoria McLean, City CV Ltd.
2nd Place - Michelle Riklan, Riklan Resources
3rd Place - Laura Smith-Proulx, An Expert Resume
Best Creative Resume
1st Place - Michelle Lopez, One2One Resumes
2nd Place - Rosa Vargas, Career Steering
3rd Place - Miriam Cha, Metro Resumes
Best Re-entry Resume
1st Place - Sandra Ingemansen, Résumé Strategies
2nd Place - Gayle Howard, Top Margin Career Marketing
3rd Place - Christine Robinson, Professional Designs Writing Service
Best Information Technology Resume
1st Place - Laura Smith-Proulx, An Expert Resume
2nd Place - Maureen McCann, ProMotion Career Solutions
3rd Place - Diane Murphy Goldstein, MG Resume & Coaching Services
Best Executive Resume
1st Place - Cheryl L. Simpson, Executive Resume Rescue  
2nd Place - Sandra Ingemansen, Résumé Strategies
3rd Place - Amy L. Adler, Five Strengths Career Transition Experts
Best Sales Resume
1st Place - Laura Smith-Proulx, An Expert Resume
2nd Place - Kimberly Mohiuddin, Movin' On Up Resumes
3rd Place - Tom Albano, All Star Career Services
Best Healthcare/Medical Resume
1st Place - Kimberly Mohiuddin, Movin' On Up Resumes
2nd Place - Ann Baehr, Best Resumes of New York
3rd Place - Laura Smith-Proulx, An Expert Resume
Best Cover Letter
1st Place - Donald Burns, Donald Burns' Career Defense
2nd Place - Sandra Ingemansen, Résumé Strategies
3rd Place - Michelle Lopez, One2One Resumes
2013 TORI JUDGES & AWARD DIRECTOR
  
Special thanks to CDI's Director of Awards for coordinating the TORIs this year:
Robin Schlinger, Robin's Resumes®
Special thanks to 2013 judges for their hard work this year: 
Barb Poole, Hire Imaging, LLC
Darlene Dassy, Dynamic Résumé Solutions  
Laura Labovich, Aspire! Empower! Career Strategy Group
Susan Guarneri, AssessmentGoddess.com  
Audrey Prenzel, Resume Resources
Marty Weitzman - Gilbert Resumes
Jennifer Hay - IT Resume Service
Jeri Hird Dutcher - Workwrite
Grant Cooper - CareerPro of New Orleans / Strategic Resumes
Kimberley Bethke - Surcorp Resume Solutions
Norine Dagliano - ekm Inspirations



Friday, October 4, 2013

Don't Steal Your Graphics

You wouldn't dream of walking into a store, picking up an item, and walking out without paying. Yet people do this every day with online content -- especially graphics. But using images you "find" online is not only stealing, but you could potentially be sued by the owner of the content.

In yesterday's blog post, I recommended Fotolia.com, a website where you can purchase photos, illustrations, cartoons, graphics, and even videos. Depending on what you want to use the graphic or photo for, the cost can be as little as $1 per illustration.

In contrast, if you "borrow" a graphic online without paying for its use (or making sure you have the rights to use the photo), you can be sued for thousands -- even tens of thousands -- of dollars.

Don't think it can happen to you? It happened to my brother-in-law, who is a web designer. He received a demand letter from Getty Images for $1000 because Getty Images had discovered a graphic on the previous version of a website he was working on that they did not show as being licensed to the website's owner. (The illustration in question was on the client's old website; he was revamping the website for the client, but he was the one who received the letter.)

Graphics and Plagiarism
How many times have you heard someone say that, "since it was on the Internet, it's public domain, so I can use it?" I suspect a lot. Well, in case you didn't know, this is not true. Even if some images are available for free online, they are free with limits. It's important to read the fine print to ensure that you don't inadvertently plagiarize someone else's work. In some cases, even when you pay for an image you can still commit a violation if you use it for an other-than-intended purpose.

Graphics and images help make your website, blogs, and other online content stand out. In fact, if you choose images that match the content, it can even make the content more understandable. This is especially true when creating infographics. But, you cannot just take the graphics from any website and use them for any purpose without permission. 

Read the Fine PrintWhen you download a graphic from any place online, whether free or paid, read the fine print. It is likely that much of what you buy or get free on the net cannot be used for producing a "logo" without buying a higher level of rights to the image. When using free images, some sites say that you cannot use it on any product for profit.

Fair Use
There are some exceptions to the basic copyright and plagiarism rules called fair use. Essentially, it's okay to use someone else's work if you transform it enough to make it original. The definition of transformative though, varies with different courts. Or, you simply use the idea of the image to create your own unique image.

For instance, maybe you like a black and white portrait of a baby where the colors pink are highlighted? Then you use that idea to do a family portrait. Or if you are commenting on and reporting on a story and use the image to report on the story, that is fair use.

One thing to remember is that words can be plagiarized but images cannot be. However, you can infringe on someone's copyright when you use images without permission or outside the parameters of legal use described in the fine print of purchased images. Also, there are always exceptions to everything. Be very clear on the differences before you use any image. 

Save yourself the hassle -- and time and money -- by making sure the images you use are properly licensed.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Do Your Blog Posts Suck?

Blogging can be a great way to attract new clients, increase your online presence, attract media attention, and educate/inform your clients. However, if you want to write effective blog posts, you need to know who your audience is and target every post to them. You also need to create a plan of action for your blog posts, both individually and as a whole. For instance, you might start your blog posts with general themes, moving toward more specific advice and information as your audience becomes more informed. 


While all that is important, let's get down to the nitty-gritty about what should be included in each blog post.
  • Blog posts need a great title. The days of puns in titles are over. It's important to create a blog post title that tells the reader what's inside the post. This is why they'll click through to read it. People do not like being tricked and will be more focused on the trickery than the post if you're not clear in your titles. If you're looking for a free online resource for coming up with titles, check out Jim Edwards Wizards (click on the tab for "Free Wizards"). I LOVE these.
  • Catch their interest with your first paragraph. Your first paragraph is very important in terms of blog posts. You only have seconds, one or two sentences at the most, to capture your audience's attention. This is where understanding your target market comes in. Create a compelling first sentence and first paragraph that catch the reader's attention.
  • Give readers a glimpse of your personality. Nobody wants to read dry blog posts stuffed full of keywords that ultimately say nothing. While it's true you want to include keywords, show the reader your personality inside of your blog post. Let them know a little bit about your story, and how you think.
  • Create an informative body message. If you've planned out your post well, with an outline, you will be able to create the body message easily. The body message is the meat of the message that you want to deliver.
  • Provide a conclusion in the last paragraph. Nothing is worse than reading something and feeling like it's left unfinished. Remember to make some conclusions in your last paragraph that ties everything you said together. Then ask your reader for feedback. Ask them a question about the content and invite them to answer.
  • Don't forget the CTA. Always include, within that last paragraph or directly under it, a specific and clear call to action (CTA). Do you want them to respond, to share, to buy? What do you want them to do? Tell them how and why to do what it is you want them to do.
Aside from these factors, it's important to also be concerned with headings, bullets and plenty of white space. Your headings need to be keyword-rich headings that make sense for what is about to be read by the reader. By using bolded headings, and larger text for headings, the headings will stand out better. By using bulleted points the same thing occurs. It just makes it easier for your reader to take in what is being said. People read by "scanning" and a blog post with bullets, headings and plenty of white space makes it easier.

Images that you include should be relevant images. If you're looking for blog images, check out Fotolia.com. For about $1 each, you can get great graphics to illustrate your blog posts.

By taking into account all these factors in your blog posts, you'll create effective blog posts every single time. In other words, your blog posts won't suck!

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