365 Days

Victory fingers Dec 2 14Today is a high-five, way to go, milestone day in my life. I"™m not looking for accolades, congratulations or any such thing from you, my readers.

This blog post is my thank you to me.

It"™s been 365 days, or 8,760 hours, or 525,600 minutes since I last smoked a cigarette.

Frankly, I don"™t know how I achieved this milestone as I resisted even contemplating quitting for 40+ years. I expended a lot of energy in fighting for my right to smoke and honed my argumentative skills by furiously debating with those who urged me to quit. (more…)

How Are You Showing Up In Your Business?

Last week while speaking with a prospective new client, towards the end of the conversation she said something that caused me to pause in the middle of my sentence. I had been explaining to her the process of how I performed editing/ghostwriting and my general business practices when she said, "œWow! It sounds as if you"™re a very honest and ethical person!"

After digesting what she"™d just said, I responded, "œWell"¦ isn"™t that the way that everyone should conduct business?" to which she responded, "œNo, unfortunately, not everyone is as upfront as you are."

Later that afternoon as I was winding down for the day, I started reflecting on the words she"™d said to me, hence the reason behind this posting.

How are YOU showing up in YOUR business?

I am a solopreneur, so I get to wear all the hats in the running of my business. Yes, I"™ve contracted out the tasks that I don"™t particularly like doing, like accounting, (thank goodness for my long-time buddy and number-cruncher, Sandra Drisdelle), and anything that has to do with the back-end working of my website, (Jef Keep, I am SO glad you"™re my best "˜virtual"™ friend), but all of the business decisions fall on my shoulders. It"™s me who must take full responsibility for securing new clients, ensuring that my existing customer workload is performed on time and correct the first time round, and generally making sure that my business continues to thrive.

I only have so many hours in a day in which to activate my three working brain cells to produce stellar copy, or magnificently manipulate syllables and syntaxes in manuscripts. I really don"™t have a lot of time to waste, so I tend to be "˜up front"™ and "˜out loud"™ as the saying goes with all my clients.

Let me explain where the honesty part comes into play with me. If a client asks me to do something that is out of my realm of expertise, I politely tell them that I"™m afraid I can"™t help them, but I do offer names of other qualified people who might be able to assist them. What do you think would happen to my reputation of being expedient if I said, "œSure, I"™ll take care of that for you!" and then had to spend 5 hours of billable time, wasting my clients money trying to figure out how to install a widget on a whatcamacallit. Imagine the "˜sticker shock"™ they"™d experience at month"™s end when they received my invoice. Can you say "œOuch?!" Can you also say "œGoodbye client?"

Let me give you another quick example. I"™m often asked to give estimates on how long it will take to edit a full manuscript. I usually ask authors to send me a sample chapter (which I edit for free) and then try to calculate how many hours it will take to whip their musings into shape. However, (here comes what I refer to as the "˜honesty +integrity cocktail"™) I always tell them upfront that I cannot guarantee the number of questimated hours as chapters often differ in a book, then I offer to give them periodic progress reports so they"™ll know how many hours of time I"™ve used at any given time. This way there are no hidden costs, I"™ve reduced my client"™s level of worry about billing, and I make doubly sure I keep in constant contact with them throughout the process. A happy client equals a very happy Marlene.

So, how do you run your business? Do you make an effort to inform new clients of exactly how you operate, or do you "˜assume"™ that they should feel privileged just to have you as a supplier or service provider and not question your business practices? Do you over-promise and under deliver instead of the other way around? Or are you still using the sales pitch mantra of the "˜70s"™, the "˜BBB"™ method? You know, the good old "˜Bulls%*t Baffles Brains"™ theory? (Good luck with that!)

I"™m known for not having much of a "˜filter"™ between what I think and what I say, and for me that works just dandy. I definitely "˜walk my talk"™ and when I make a promise, I do my utmost to keep it. I learned a long, long time ago that it"™s easier, safer, and so much less stress-inducing to be upfront about what I can or cannot do for my clients.

Ask yourself this week if there are certain new practices that you can implement into YOUR business to create winning partnerships with your clients. Try adding larges doses of honesty mixed liberally with integrity into your client relationships. Perhaps, like me, some of your favorite customers just may also become a few of your absolute best friends!

Does Your Content Match Your Market?

j0309615As a writer and editor, it"™s my job to research many different websites when preparing content for my clients. While I"™ve seen some beautifully designed and executed sites in my searches, it never ceases to amaze me that when reading some of the content, I"™m left feeling slightly puzzled and perplexed. And do you know why? It"™s because their words leave me with two major unanswered questions, namely, "œWhat do you do?" and "œWhat are you offering me as a potential consumer?"Â 

In a lot of cases, the owner, (or content writer), of the website material hasn"™t taken into consideration the actual target market or audience they need to reach in order to engage them in the buying process. I once asked a client who their target market was and they responded, "œWell, everybody!" and looked at me as if I"™d grown a second head. 

"œEverybody" is not your market. You need to separate the "˜body"™ from this word and get specific about who will want to do business with you. By answering these top 3 questions before you write your content, you"™ll be much closer to attracting the perfect clients to your business and ultimately increasing your bottom line. 

1. What is the age range of your ideal client? This may seem like an odd question to ask, but it"™s an extremely relevant one. If you"™re selling a cutting edge new trendy jewellery accessory that you know your 24 year old niece loves, then write your content accordingly. Use current "˜hip"™ wording that applies to that generation "“ something that will pique their interest and make them click further into your site to see your offerings. Using phrases such as "œOur bling will make you sing" or "œFeeling alone in the crowd? Wear Bling Things and stand your ground!" clearly states that it"™s for a younger crowd. 

2. What are your ideal client"™s habits? Where do they shop? What are they currently reading, and what programs are they watching on television? The more you know about what your prospective clients do in their spare time can definitely influence your marketing collateral and website content. If you"™re uncertain about their actual habits, consider sending out a short survey with tailored questions to people whose opinion you value before you write your content. As the old saying goes, there is no such thing as a stupid question, so go ahead and ask before you start writing. 

3. What does your ideal client look like? I can imagine a few of you are thinking to yourself, "œWhy should it matter what my client looks like? I don"™t care about superficial things like that!" Wrong! You do need to care about what your ideal client looks like and I"™m not referring to whether they"™re wearing a black pinstripe suit or sweat pants, (although that image certainly helps if your target market happens to be people who own clothing businesses or are CEO"™s of Fortune 500 companies!) You need to have a clear vision in your mind of the person who will want your products or services. Be precise on the demographics as possible: what type of car/house do they own; where do they work; what type of food do they like to eat; do they shop at high-end boutiques or at chain retail stores; are they employed full-time, part-time, or stay at home mothers etc. These and at least 50 other questions come to my mind that you need to answer before writing your content. 

I"™ve only listed 3 of the many questions you need to know the answers to before writing winning website content and marketing collateral, but I"™m certain you"™re now armed with enough information to decide once and for all exactly who that "˜body"™ in "˜everybody"™ is. 

Match your content to your client and you"™ll create followers and ultimately sales. Because frankly, you"™re in business to do business, aren"™t you?

Something to Think About on A Chilly Friday

Sunset in Cap Pele, 2009I was doing my morning reading from a wonderful book of inspirational poems, and today"™s excerpt was called “High Flight.” I"™d read these words before but had never known who was the writer, so like any self-respecting internet junkie, I did a search to find out who the author was and discovered it was John Gillespie Magee, Jr. But there"™s a story behind this sonnet, and a rather interesting one as well.

According to Wikipedia, Magee was born in Shanghai, China, to an American father and a British mother who worked as Anglican missionaries. In 1939 he moved to the USA to live with his aunt in Pittsburgh and attended Avon Old Farms School in Avon, Connecticut. He earned a scholarship to Yale University – where his father was then a chaplain – in July 1940 but did not enroll, choosing instead to enlist in the Royal Canadian Air Force in October of that year.

He received flight training in Ontario at Toronto, Trenton, St. Catharines, and Uplands and passed his Wings Test in June 1941. Shortly after being awarded his Wings and being promoted to Pilot Officer, Magee was sent to Britain and was posted to No. 53 Operational Training Unit (OTU) in RAF Llandow, Wales to train on the Supermarine Spitfire. It was while at #53 OTU that Magee wrote High Flight.

Magee was killed at the age of 19, whilst flying Spitfire VZ-H, serial number AD-291. The aircraft was involved in a mid-air collision with an Airspeed Oxford trainer from RAF Cranwell, flown by Leading Aircraftman Ernest Aubrey. The two aircraft collided in cloud cover at about 400 feet AGL, at 11:30, over the village of Roxholm which lies between RAF Cranwell and RAF Digby, in Lincolnshire. Magee was descending at the time. At the inquiry afterwards a farmer testified that he saw the Spitfire pilot struggling to push back the canopy. The pilot stood up to jump from the plane but was too close to the ground for his parachute to open, and died on impact. Magee is buried at Holy Cross, Scopwick Cemetery in Lincolnshire, England. On his grave are inscribed the first and last lines from his poem High Flight, which is what I read this morning.

Here"™s this amazing piece of prose that started off my morning:

“Oh! I have slipped the surly bonds of Earth

And danced the skies on laughter-silvered wings,

Sunward I"™ve climbed and joined the tumbling mirth

Of sun-split clouds "“ and done a hundred things

You have not dreamed of "“ wheeled and soared and swung

High in the sunlit silence. Hov"™ring there

I"™ve chased the shouting wind along and flung

My eager craft through footless halls of air.

Up, up the long, delirious, burning blue

I"™ve topped the windswept heights with easy grace

Where never lark nor even eagle flew.

And, while with silent, lifting mind I"™ve trod

The high untrespassed sanctity of space,

Put out my hand, and touched the face of God."  

Magee is buried at Holy Cross, Scopwick Cemetery in Lincolnshire, England. On his grave are inscribed the first and last lines from his poem High Flight:

“Oh! I have slipped the surly bonds of Earth –

Put out my hand and touched the Face of God.”

What a wonderful epitaph for a man who gave us all such a glorious sonnet.

Something lovely indeed to ponder on a very chilly December Friday morning on the windswept East Coast.

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