#TuesdayThrees: Keys to Being a Successful Ghostwriter

I’ve always considered writing to be my passion.

My mom taught me how to read and write when I was four, and the running joke of my life has been that no one has been able to stop me since.

However, it was never supposed to be a career path, especially ghostwriting.

When I went into law, writing would be a crucial part of my career, but to get paid to be a writer? That seemed utterly ridiculous. So ridiculous, in fact, I wrote under a pen name for the first part of my freelance career.

I wrote for content mills, for local real estate companies, and for agencies that paid me next to nothing for my work.

I was essentially a glorified ghostwriter, and ironically, there’s really no glory in being a ghostwriter. (more…)

Setting Fire to My Safety Net & Giving up a 6-Figure Contract

Today is my Monday.

More importantly, today is my last Monday with a safety net.

Let me explain.

I’ve been candid about my professional journey here. I’ve talked about my failures (often), and my biggest fear. My journey has been a twisted one, but no matter what, I’ve always had a safety net. For the majority of the past four years, I’ve had regular full-time clients to make me feel safe. I knew that every week, I was getting a paycheck to my bank account without having to stress about when my other clients’ checks would make it to my mailbox.

I’ve been working hard on building my business, but I haven’t entirely leaped. I’ve been a full-time freelancer, and I’ve been calling myself a solopreneur.

No, having full-time clients probably didn’t make me any less of an entrepreneur, but it’s held me back.

There’s nothing wrong with having a safety net until that safety net makes you feel complacent.

Here’s the part where I set fire to that safety net.

March 7, 2017, will be my last day with a full-time client. On March 8, 2017, I will only have my business (finally incorporated), a couple of clients, and an incredibly scary “unknown” staring me in the face.

Even writing that I’m shaking. I know this is absolutely the right decision for me and my future, but it also feels like the most reckless decision.

The thing is that while the experience I’ve gained during my work with Fluke, Google, and AT&T over the past few years has been invaluable, I always wonder about the opportunities I’ve missed because of those full-time commitments.

Maybe none.

Perhaps, that’s the best it’s going to be, and this is as big as my business gets. Maybe by the end of April, I’ll be reaching out to my recruiters, begging them to find me a full-time contract.

It’s possible that will be the outcome. I’ll figure out the lessons from the failure, get back on my feet, and write another “I’m leaping again” post in June.

I’ve always lived my life one big leap at a time.

I go after my passions. I dream too big.

I can’t sit still because there’s always more to do, more to experience. When it comes to business, there are so many stories waiting to be told.

I want to Amplify as many voices as possible.

This is the way Amplify Your Biz LLC came to life in the first place.

Who am I to hold myself back?

This all began in the back of a D.C. taxi, after being fired for the first time, and realizing my dreams were bigger than my fears.

When I started this journey, I was in an insane amount of debt, my personal life was shaky at best, and I was still feeling inferior because I hadn’t finished my degree.

But that brave girl leaped. She knew what she wanted, and she failed and failed again – but learned so much along the way.

How can I betray my journey and progress?

So, this is for that girl who dreamed too big failed even bigger, but kept going anyway.

*If you want to keep up with my journey, be sure to sign up for my newsletter!

*If you want to work with me (OMG HI, PLEASE WORK WITH ME), I’ll be focusing on content marketing strategy and execution, as well as writing projects. Let’s Amplify Your Biz together.  You can tweet me @BerrakBiz or shoot me an email at berrakbiz@gmail.com

The Importance of Defining Your Company Culture

The phrase “startup culture” brings to mind images of foosball tables, fancy coffee machines, and interns flittering around in the open office. Sure, that can be an accurate snapshot of a startup company, but that’s all it would be: a snapshot. The culture of a company isn’t defined by its perks – those perks are a side effect of the values instilled in the company culture.

When it comes to strategy at the beginning of a company’s journey, most entrepreneurs will focus on sales, marketing, and product development. After all, these are the most important strategies. However, the most successful startups will also have a well-defined strategy for the company’s brand. What are the values behind the product? Who are the people you want to attract to your workforce? Are you creating a positive and rewarding environment for your employees? These are important questions every founder needs to answer in a clear startup strategy.

Your company is built in your image.

If you want to begin to understand the culture of a company, look no further than its founder. Your values, your weaknesses, and your vision are what will become the foundation of your startup’s culture.

For example, if the CEO of a company is competitive, then the company will tend to be more aggressive and competitive. If the CEO is too analytical, it may mean that the startup may have a harder time moving as fast as it should. A creative CEO will bring a more design-focused attitude to the company.

Consider these questions as you evaluate your values:

  • What are my strengths?
  • What do I value about the people around me?
  • What leads me to make good decisions?
  • Which characteristics do all of the people in my life have in common?
  • What qualities do I dislike in other people?
  • What are my weaknesses?

“We’re all stories in the end. Make it a good one.” – The Eleventh Doctor

Fast forward to two years from now.

What do you want people to be saying about your company? At the beginning of a startup, the focus is on product development and growth, which is why it’s important to look into the future. There’s no crystal ball when it comes to how successful your company will be in two years, but there are a few things you can control about your story.

Your culture. Your values. The je ne sais quoi that helps you stand out among a sea of startups.

Think about the way you want your employees to talk about what it’s like to work at your company. You want them to have a twinkle in their eye, a passion in their voice, and most importantly, a defined story.

“When you have a well-crafted, specific, controversial company story, it can guide everything from who you shouldn’t hire to how you settle arguments,” says Molly Graham, who was brought on to build a shared vision for Facebook in 2008.

Give your company culture room to evolve

Once you’ve identified your values and the story you want to be telling about your business, it doesn’t just live in a memo buried somewhere in your emails. Picture your culture as the literal backbone of your company. Just as your body allows your spine to grow as you age, you need to allow your company culture to do the same. There will be a natural growth, and once in awhile, it will be nourished by the conversations you have with employees and customers.

It should be omnipresent in everything you do, from emails to product descriptions to coffee breaks by the fancy espresso machine, and even job descriptions.

Tony Hsieh, CEO of Zappos, has this to say about commitment to culture: “Many companies have core values, but they don’t really commit to them. They usually sound more like something you’d read in a press release. Maybe you learn about them on day one of orientation, but after that, it’s just a meaningless plaque on the wall of the lobby.”

Be attractive to the people you want to hire

According to Rand Fishkin, CEO and founder of Moz, company culture “has a transformative power to create remarkable companies and inspire people to accomplish great things together.”

You want to attract the right candidates to bring your vision to life. Well, it’s a two-way street. Working in a startup is tough. It requires vigilance, a lot of long days, and a certain sense of passion for the company that you may not find in a corporate environment. You want your employees to feel ownership within the company (whether that’s a feeling or real stock options, that’s up to you), which also brings a certain sense of pride.

So how do you become attractive to potential employees? Think of it as your way of releasing professional pheromones to create the right kind of chemistry. When writing job descriptions, infuse your company’s story into it, and make it appealing to the person you want in that particular role. When reading a job description, a candidate should think “Yes, this job is perfect for me!” or “Oh no, I don’t want that job.”

Your company will succeed when you have a group of employees who share the same priorities, who are committed to your company’s mission, and most importantly, feel a sense of belonging when they come to work.

Think of it this way: You want your employees to be happy when they come to work? The numbers speak for themselves: Unhappy employees cost American businesses over $300 billion each year. So it pays to make sure your employees are happy.

When your employees and your customers are talking about your company years from now, it won’t be about the shipping mishap that happened on day 43.

Your values, your mission, the impact you have on the world around you – these are the stories that will stop people in their tracks and whisper, “Oh, you had me at culture.”

7 Ways to Be a Rockstar During Twitter Chats [Plus A Calendar]

Confession: I am obsessed with Twitter chats.

In my opinion, Twitter chats are one of the best ways to connect and engage with others on Twitter without having to leave your comfort zone. Even so, a Twitter chat feel intimidating if it’s your first time, especially because they can move relatively fast. I’ve been participating in Twitter chats regularly over the past couple of years, even having the honor of being a guest host on a couple of my favorites.

By the end of this blog, you’ll be armed with tips to help you become Twitter chat rockstar, a list of my favorite chats and a Google Calendar to bookmark, so you never miss your favorites.

First, the basics.

What is a Twitter chat?

You’re already familiar with hashtags on Twitter. A Twitter chat is a designated hashtag where a group of users meets a dedicated time to discuss a predetermined topic.

For me, it’s the perfect networking event: I don’t have to leave my comfort zone. It moves pretty fast. It’s on my favorite social media platform, and more importantly, I don’t have to bring a business card.

If you have just one hour a day to dedicate to Twitter, spend that time participating in a Twitter chat.

Why should you participate in Twitter chats?

The key to being successful on social media is engagement, and a Twitter chat is the perfect conduit for engagement. By attending Twitter chats, you will:

  • Increase exposure for yourself, your company, and your content
  • Display your expertise by sharing knowledge around a relevant topic
  • Create valuable connections with businesses and individuals within your industry
  • Have the opportunity to learn something new

Now, on to the tips.

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Content Marketing Begins with a Plan [Free Template for SMBs & Solopreneurs]

free content marketing plan template

It’s December, which means we’re all planning for 2017 in our businesses.

According to the latest research from the Content Marketing Institute, only 37% of B2B marketers and 40% of B2C marketers have a written content marketing plan.

This is baffling to me.

I know content marketing can feel overwhelming, especially as a small business owner or a solopreneur trying to grow your business, which is why it’s crucial to have a written plan you can follow throughout the year.

The first question I ask my clients when doing planning for the following year isn’t about their marketing strategy. The first question is “what are your business goals for 2017?” Once you have your business plan and your benchmarks set for the year, then you can create a content marketing strategy that will ladder up to those business goals.

Confession: I’m really good at executing this for my clients, but I let my own marketing fall through the cracks. I know this is a challenge a lot of solopreneurs and freelancers have. Which is why my business strategy for 2017 is to treat myself like a client.

For small business owners, one of the biggest challenges is not being sure where to begin with documenting a content strategy. How do you create an editorial calendar? What should be included on there? How do you measure success? Which dates should you be focusing on?

I’ve got the answer to the first two questions for you. While I’ll be releasing a full content marketing guide for solopreneurs and small businesses in the beginning of 2017, I’ve got a special treat for you today.

I’ve created a customizable content marketing plan template for you to get a head start on getting your content plan down in writing. It’s the same exact template I’ll be using for my own plan, and it’s the same one I’ve customized for my clients in the past.

And I’m giving it to my newsletter subscribers – for free. You’ll also be the first one to get a copy of the guide when it’s completed!

Want to be the first one to get a copy of the full content marketing guide when it’s ready? Sign up for my newsletter!

What’s your biggest struggle with content marketing?

Know someone who can use this template? Is this perfect for your Twitter audience? Click below to share the post and the love!