Entries by kmlashley

SCML 05: Jon Nastor, Host of the “Hack the Entrepreneur” Podcast

  If you’ve been thinking about starting a podcast to help build an audience for your business–or even if you haven’t (yet)–then you’ll LOVE this week’s episode of The Smarter Content Marketing Lab! My guest is Jon Naster, host of the incredibly popular Hack the Entrepreneur podcast and co-host of The Showrunner podcast. What You’ll […]

5 Reasons Writers Should Consider Launching an Online Course


Why Writers Should Consider Launching Online Courses

If you haven’t heard about the growth in popularity of online courses, listen to this: IT’S GROWING!! More and more people are turning to online courses as a way to learn about pretty much anything you can think of—from how to use a software program to training their dog to starting a business. I’m not only amazed at what people want to learn—but also that they’re willing to pay for this knowledge! After all, they can find a lot of it online for free, right? Yes—but here’s the thing: People would rather have the information gathered for them and presented in a way that’s easy to understand and follow. And this is where writers have a significant advantage when it comes to creating online courses because they:

  • Are naturally good explainers
  • Have a knack for organizing and presenting information in a way that's engaging
  • Know how to create communications that resonate with specific audiences

Why Should You Consider Creating and Selling Online Courses?

I’m a firm believer that writers should view themselves as entrepreneurs. Regardless of whether you’re a fiction writer, a freelance writer, or any other kind of writer, treating what you do as a business is how you put yourself on the path to success. And one thing many of the most successful entrepreneurs do is diversify their sources of income. They also constantly work at building their audiences—establishing tribes of raving fans. These are areas where creating and selling online courses can be of significant benefit to writers.

As a writer who has created online courses, I can say from personal experience that there are a variety of reasons—from income generation to audience building to professional fulfillment—why writers should consider adding course creation to their revenue-generating toolbox. Here are five of the most significant ones (at least for me!):

1. Creating and selling online courses can help you become recognized as an authority in your field. This is key because it can open the door to new work with potential clients and it can also help you develop more meaningful and trusting relationships with your current clients (which can lead to recurring work). You might be surprised at how much having an online course can influence how others view you. For example, if you were to create a course about how to build email campaigns that result in higher audience engagement, a client who wants to achieve this goal for his or her own company will be able to see that you actually teach others how to build successful email marketing campaigns. And that’s something that can differentiate you from other writers who might be competing for the same project.

2. It can be a very good and long-term source of passive income. Whether you’re looking for a way to supplement your fiction writing or focused on using your writing skills to become a true entrepreneur, creating and selling courses is a revenue stream that can help. Although there can be considerable time spend upfront developing a course, once it’s done—you’ve got a product that can produce a steady stream of income over and over again. But, it’s important to remember that—like most forms of “passive” income—you can’t just put it on autopilot and expect huge success. You still have to market your courses regularly to get them in front of customers who are interested in the topic(s) you’re teaching.

3. It’s a great way to build a following. One of the most valuable tools you can have as writer is robust and active email list. It gives you a way to stay in touch with people who are interested in the work you’re doing and who are potential customers for whatever you’re selling—whether it’s books, freelance writing services, or anything else that you’re using your writing skills to create. When you have an online course that you’re either selling for profit or that you’re giving away as a list magnet, you can request that people enter their email addresses in order to obtain access to the course.

4. It’s incredibly rewarding when you help others figure out how to do things that they want to do. It makes me feel good to teach someone a skill that they want to learn or to help them figure out a way to achieve a particular goal. In my opinion, there’s nothing more gratifying than being a part of that “aha” moment for someone. Even though the teacher is often the person who’s viewed as being the “giver” in the learning process, teaching is definitely a two-way street. In return for the knowledge and support you offer, you’ll receive a feeling of purpose and gratification that’s hard to match.

5. It’s fun! I love coming up with ways to make learning an enjoyable experience for my students. The process of course creation involves everything I love—from coming up with a plan for the course to determining what the creative execution will look like. As writers, we’re creative beings. And creating courses allows us to tap into a wide variety of creative tools.

Whether you’re looking for a way to supplement your current writing income or trying to broaden your entrepreneurial reach, creating and selling quality online courses is an option to consider. And—as a writer—there’s no one better equipped to do it than you.

If you enjoyed this post--AWESOME! I'd love to have you join me for more cool stuff over at The Smarter Writing Lab. And be sure to check out my FREE Copywriting Crash Course that'll teach you how to develop content that will help you build your business!

If you haven’t heard about the growth in popularity of online courses, listen to this: IT’S GROWING!! More and more people are turning to online courses as a way to learn about pretty much anything you can think of—from how to use a software program to training their dog to starting a business. I’m not […]

What Brené Brown Taught Me about Being a Fearlessly Authentic Entrepreneur

The "friendly driving wave." That was the focus of Brené Brown's very first Facebook Live post. And it was HILARIOUS! But, in only a few hours, it was gone.

If you're a fan of Brené's like I am, then you know that she's a research professor at The University of Houston and does a lot of fantastic work surrounding courage, shame, vulnerability and authenticity. I discovered her when I was looking for videos on TED.com that I could use as examples of presentations that really connected with audiences. And the one she gave at TEDxHouston about the power of vulnerability was PERFECT.

Brené is known for dealing with a lot of really serious stuff. I mean, there's nothing innately funny about vulnerabilty or shame. So, that's why I was so surprised and DELIGHTED to see her Facebook Live post about the importance of NOT driving in the passing lane if you're not passing AND the courtesy of the "friendly driving wave." As a southerner, I grew up watching my dad give that wave to people we'd meet on country roads as we were going to my grandparents' house or to church. For him, the "wave" was typically just a lift of a couple of fingers from the steering wheel with a quick flick to the right. It was a simple, yet important, acknowledgement that said to the other driver, "I see you. I know you. I like you."

As an adult, I carry on the tradition of the "friendly driving wave"--typically throwing up a hand when someone lets me pass or lets me merge into a crowded lane. It's a quick way of saying thanks. And THAT'S what Brené was talking about on Facebook Live as she was driving back from giving a talk in Baton Rouge. Now--let's be clear--she WASN'T videoing herself or being unsafe in any way, shape or form. Her passenger was doing the videoing as Brené gave a short--yet ALL TOO FUNNY--lesson about the rules of courteous driving. I loved it and thought how nice it was to see her in a more relaxed setting, enjoying her day and letting her personality really shine through. It made me even MORE of a fan because she allowed us to see her as a real person. Cool, right?

Later than evening, I saw a new post from Brené pop up on Facebook. In it, she explained that she had taken the "friendly driving wave" Facebook Live video down. I was like, "WTF, Brené??" Evidently, some who had seen the video had commented that it was an example of distracted driving. So, because of that, Brené took it down--acknowledging that she wouldn't want her kids to do something similar. However, she went on to say that some other folks had commented that they don't follow her "for silly Texas driving tips." Instead, they follow her for "posts on serious topics." SERIOUSLY??? It was this next part of her post that endeared me to Brené FOREVER and that taught me an important lesson about being a more fearless and authentic entrepreneur. Here it is in her own words:

I deleted the post because it's probably not a great idea [to video while driving.] NOT because people didn't like it or jumped on me about it. If I took down everything that pissed off readers, this would be a very quiet neck of the woods.

A couple of people also commented that they don't follow me for silly Texas driving tips--they follow me for posts on serious topics. I'm really inclined to say, "too bad." I am a serious person who talks about serious things. But that's just part of me. If the other part of me doesn't work for you--that's totally ok by me. Seriously .


Brené Brown

This. Was. AWESOME!! I was like, "PREACH, Brené!" But, even more than being STOKED about her response, here's what it taught me:

  • Live Your Brand AUTHENTICALLY. Brené writes about and talks about and promotes the idea of being authentic. But that can be tough to do as an entrepreneur. There's a HUGE risk that comes with showing others who we really are. Will they like us? Will current customers stick with us? Will potential customers be turned away? If people don't like you or your business when they see who you really are, then--as Brené said-- "TOO BAD!" Not everyone is going to love you or even like you. What you're offering isn't going to be something everyone can benefit from. And that's perfectly okay. Because, in the end, the people you want to join you on your entrepreneurial journey are those who get you, who dig what you do, and who connect with you because of who you really are. Trying to be someone you're not in order to get and keep customers isn't only going to be exhausting--it's also going to be an exercise in futility. We are our brand--and we have to decide how we're going to live it.
  • If Something Doesn't Work, So What? This was Brené's first attempt at Facebook Live. And she ended up taking it down after some blow back. But she didn't just go away into a corner and tell herself "NEVER AGAIN!" Instead, she used it as an opportunity to connect with her audience by being completely transparent about what happened. And guess what? Her audience LOVED it. There were so many comments about how Brené was living her own life the same way she encourages others to live theirs--courageously. Being an entrepreneur is one of the scariest things in the world. But we have to face that fear every day and try new things. Some will work. Some won't. And if they don't--it's not the end of the world. Because it's ONLY through taking those risks--large or small--that we move toward the life we're meant to live.
  • Don't Forget the Friendly Driving Wave. A little sign of kindness and appreciation goes a long way. By letting others know we appreciate what they've done makes us all better human beings. Whether it's throwing up a quick wave to someone who's let us in a crowded lane on the highway or thanking our customers in small--yet unexpected--ways, it makes a difference. And isn't that why we're entrepreneurs in the first place?
  • So, speaking of showing appreciation, THANK YOU, BRENÉ BROWN!  I'm throwing up a metaphorical "friendly driving wave" to you. Your first foray into Facebook Live was more successful than you might have imagined. It's inspired me to be a more courageous and authentic entrepreneur--and it's also reminded me to NOT DRIVE IN THE PASSING LANE IF I'M NOT PASSING!

    If you enjoyed this post--AWESOME! I'd love to have you join me for more cool stuff over at The Smarter Writing Lab. And be sure to check out my FREE Copywriting Crash Course that'll teach you to how to develop content that will help you build your business by connecting more authentically with your audience. 

The “friendly driving wave.” That was the focus of Brené Brown’s very first Facebook Live post. And it was HILARIOUS! But, in only a few hours, it was gone. If you’re a fan of Brené’s like I am, then you know that she’s a research professor at The University of Houston and does a lot […]

5 Signs You Might be a Marketing Scaredy Cat



"You're going to have to do things differently."

Hearing this is enough to send cold chills up the spines of many business owners. They want more customers. They want to be noticed. They want to increase sales. They want to make a difference. But they want to do it by marketing their businesses in one or more of the following (and very PREDICTABLE) ways:

  1. By being cautious so that they don't risk any negative perception.
  2. By going broad in an attempt to appeal to EVERYONE.
  3. By talking about EVERY. SINGLE. FEATURE. their product or service offers.
  4. By talking about what THEY do, what's important to THEM, what THEIR focus is and freakin' awesome THEY are.
  5. By doing what their competitors are doing.

Any of these sound like you? (Don't worry. No one's looking--so you can nod sheepishly to yourself.) If they do, then you (da-da-dum) might just be a marketing scaredy cat. And THAT can hold your business back from reaching its full potential.

Truth be told, most of us have been marketing scaredy cats at one time or another. It's hard to do things differently--because with that comes risk. Risk of missing out on perceived opportunities. Risk of the unknown. Risk of failure. But here's the thing:

Marketing courageously--daring to do it in ways that are more thought-provoking, more awe-inspiring, more head-turning--is what will get your business noticed in our very busy and very noisy world. And that will put you on the path to the success you're seeking.

If you don't believe me, then maybe you'll believe master marketer Steve Jobs. Check out this 1997 commercial that featured one of his most famous quotes about the power of thinking differently:

Approaching marketing differently doesn't mean that you do it without thinking or by ignoring proven fundamentals. That's not being a fearless marketer. That's being a careless one. Instead, the businesses out there who are ROCKIN' it are differentiating themselves and winning against companies MUCH bigger than they are by doing doing really smart things like this: 

  • Knowing what they stand for and not being afraid to go with it. Think Quest Nutrition. The protein bar industry is HUGE and packed full of major players. But this company--one that wants to make "clean eating fun" and whose focus is on ending obesity--is doing protein bars differently. Customers responded (in DROVES!), sales increased and now Quest is expanding its offerings to other food choices.  Check out the Quest story:
  • Focusing on serving a specific audience EXTRAORDINARILY well, instead of underserving an audience that's much too broad. Think Blue Apron. So, do you have any idea what the significance of the name "Blue Apron" is? Well, according to the company's website, "chefs around the world wear blue aprons while learning to cook." And that's PERFECT for this company, considering that it's mission is to "make incredible home cooking accessible to everyone." It's not trying to put itself out there as the food home delivery company for everyone no matter how well you can cook. Instead, it's focusing on those who probably aren't going to be hosting their own show on The Food Network anytime soon. Check out what some of their raving fans are saying:

  • Refusing to be like everyone else--and having fun in the process. Think Ben & Jerry's. When I was growing up, the most "out there" ice cream flavor was Rocky Road. And when you bought ice cream, well--you were just buying ice cream. But Ben & Jerry's changed all of that back in 1978 when they opened up their first scoop shop. They made buying ice cream an experience. Personalities were defined by what flavor you liked. Cherry Garcia®? (YES, thank you!) Phish Phood®? Chocolate Therapy®? And Ben & Jerry's also became known as a company with a conscience.

  • Avoid "feature fatigue." (Seriously. It's a thing. Check it out here.) Think Uber. Here's what Forbes had to say about it: "When the service launched, would anyone had cared if they had a slightly better taxi experience, but could also make deliveries? No, that would have just been them trying to do too much and, most likely, doing it all poorly. Instead, people care about Uber because it is way, way better and way, way more convenient than riding a taxi. Uber focused on one thing—being a great transportation app—and devoted all its resources into doing that one thing really, really well." The lesson here? Find your one thing and do it better than anyone else.

If you have a great product or service or cause to sell, don't shortchange it by being a marketing scaredy cat. Be brave. Be bold. And be willing to push beyond what feels comfortable. That's where you'll stand out from all of the noise--and that's where the world will be waiting for you.

START TELLING THE WORLD ABOUT YOUR BUSINESS MORE EFFECTIVELY TODAY--FOR FREE!



Take the guesswork (and PAIN) out of writing great copy that sells what you're offering! Get this easy, step-by-step FREE guide that teaches you a simple and proven formula for writing copy that sells whatever you're offering. All the cool kids (and REALLY successful businesses) are using it! So get it today!

“You’re going to have to do things differently.” Hearing this is enough to send cold chills up the spines of many business owners. They want more customers. They want to be noticed. They want to increase sales. They want to make a difference. But they want to do it by marketing their businesses in one […]

Are Your Words Lightning Bugs or Lightning Bolts?



"The difference between the almost right word and the right word is really a large matter--'tis the difference between the lightning bug and the lightning."

Mark Twain

We've all been there. We know what we're trying to say--but we just can't figure out how to say it. So, how do we go about finding those words--those lightning bolts--that make the hair stand up on the back of the reader's neck? That are so powerful they leave us awestruck? That elicit a desired emotion with surgical precision? And that--far too often--seem so very elusive?

I wish I had a magic something-or-other to give you that would be a foolproof way of grabbing the right word out of thin air every single time. But I don't. What I CAN do, though, is suggest two different--yet complementary--approaches. One is practical. And one is tactical. So, here goes:

PRACTICAL ADVICE FOR LIGHTNING BOLT HUNTERS

Explain It to a Kid (or Your Grandmother)

If you have a child or if you're around children for any length of time, then you're very familiar with questions like these:

"But, why??"

"What does that mean?"

"How does it work?"

If you're like me, these moments often leave you saying something incredibly intelligent. Something like, "Well, uh, you see, it's like--uh..." It's not that we don't KNOW the answer. (Well, at least we know it MOST of the time.) Instead, we find ourselves struggling to explain something that seems so obvious to us--but so mysterious to this curious child standing there looking to us for the answer. But just because something seems obvious doesn't mean we understand well enough to explain it. A quote often attributed to Albert Einstein says:

"You do not truly understand something unless you can explain it to your grandmother."

Regardless of who said it, the big idea of the quote is true. Sometimes when I'm having trouble finding the right word, it's because ​I'm not fully understanding the concept I'm trying to write about. It's not clear enough in my mind. But, once I gain a better understanding of WHAT I'm writing about, then I become much more clear about HOW to write about it--including finding just the right words to do it. 

Write Like You Talk

One thing I see when working with writers is that they often try to write in ways that sound NOTHING like how they (or their audience) talk. So no wonder they struggle to find the right words (or ANY words, for that matter)! It's almost like they're writing in a foreign language that they can't speak and certainly don't understand. They use a word like "notwithstanding" instead of just saying "regardless." Or "furnish" instead of just plain ol' "give." Or they've picked some word out of a thesaurus that sounds smart--but they flub up the usage of it. (Remember--just because a word is listed as a synonym doesn't mean it conveys the meaning you're looking for.)

When you write like you or your audience talks, words start flowing much easier. Give it a try.

TACTICAL ADVICE FOR LIGHTNING BOLT HUNTERS

The following are some free online resources that can help you track down that lightning bolt of a word  you're searching for. Check them out. Play around with them. And see which of them works best for you.

Thesaurus.com

You probably already know about this resource. If you do--GREAT! Use it. It's pulled me out of some tough spots on many occasions. If you're not using it, USE IT! Why sit there struggling with how to say something when the answer might very well be right at your fingertips. ​

One Look Thesaurus

Although this is a thesaurus, you don't use it in the same way as you do a typical one. Instead, you type in the phrase that describes what you're trying to find a word for and it helps you find that word. Pretty cool stuff!​

RhymeZone

In addition to helping you find rhyming words, RhymeZone can also help you find things like descriptive words, lyrics that include the word you're researching, and even PICTURES that represent the word. All of these are incredibly helpful in getting the creative juices flowing when ​you're looking for just the right way to say something.

Lexical FreeNet

This tool is great for helping you find connections between words. For example, when I type in "football" (the American version of the game), it gives me connections like "quarterback", "league", "players", "coach" and--yes--"soccer." 🙂

alphaDictionary

When you're writing about something in a specific area--like food or construction or even dinosaurs--this tool provides easy access to dictionaries for these various topics. Need to know the lexicon of parrots? Terms used in folk dancing? ​The name of a dress style from the Baroque period? I'd start with alphaDictionary.

Words by Grammarly

I really like the interface of this tool. You not only get synonyms and definitions listed on the same page, but you can also see the WordScore--which gives you information about how often a synonym is used in comparison to others.

Power Thesaurus

This tool is SO cool! It's a crowdsourced thesaurus built by writers for writers. ​And our fellow wordsmiths are adding to it all the time, so it's a living, breathing resource. You can also see what words people are looking for in real time--which is a fun feature in and of itself if you're a word geek like me.

We're All Storm Chasers

As writers, we spend a lot of time chasing down the right word. Why? Because we know the power it has to make a difference in the impact our writing will have. It can be SUCH a frustrating search, though. We KNOW it's out there--but where?

Being a great writer--not merely a good writer--means that we have to accept that we'll always be storm chasers. We'll always be on the hunt for that lightning bolt that will transform our writing into something magical. Something that people don't just read--but actually feel. And it's up to each of us to figure out the best way to approach the hunt. But, regardless how how you hunt, the most important thing is to never stop searching.

It's okay to have some lightning bugs sprinkled through our writing. Because, after all, great writing has a rhythm to it. But for those certain parts --only a lightning bolt will do. It's out there. Go get it.

If you like this, then you'll like the other stuff we're doing over at The Smarter Writing Lab! So, join us!

“The difference between the almost right word and the right word is really a large matter–’tis the difference between the lightning bug and the lightning.” Mark TwainWe’ve all been there. We know what we’re trying to say–but we just can’t figure out how to say it. So, how do we go about finding those words–those […]