Leaving Work Behind

Always Be Ready When Inspiration Strikes

Written by Tom Ewer on November 30, 2011. 17 Comments

Nighttime

I am a terrible sleeper. I have struggled with insomnia for years. And although I am currently coping with it pretty well, I still have my moments.

You know when I tend to come up with my best ideas? At about 12:30am. In fact, I came up with the idea for this article at 12:37am exactly on 2nd November 2011.

I usually go to bed at around 12am, and it typically takes me about 20-30 minutes to get to sleep. So 12:30am is that time – when I am just about to fall asleep – that inspiration strikes.

It used to be the same with songwriting. I used to love writing and recording songs, and my best songs were always written in the middle of the night.

Be Prepared

Lightning Strike

Why am I telling you this? To make a point – that inspiration can strike at any time. Usually at a far from ideal time. And the worst thing you can do when inspiration strikes is not immediately stop what you are doing and get that thought down onto paper (or into a computer).

There have been plenty of occasions when I have come up with some wonderful idea and not made a note of it. Let me tell you a simple but irrefutable fact – if you don’t make a note of it, you will probably forget it.

And the whole concept of “if it’s worth remembering, I won’t forget it” is a load of rubbish. Have you ever forgotten anything important in your life? Yes? Need I say anything else?

Catalogue Your Ideas

Catalogue Your Ideas

There is another reason why you should always make a note of your ideas as and when they hit you. By cataloguing them, you are freeing up room in your brain to get on with more immediate matters.

If you are in middle of doing something and inspiration strikes, you are not being efficient by ignoring the idea and trying to get on with your work, because the idea will distract you. If you make a note of it, your brain will relax, knowing that the idea has been put to one side, but is not forgotten.

This is a concept I first learnt when I read Getting Things Done (not an affiliate link – why?). If you haven’t read that book and find yourself constantly overwhelmed by your workload, read that book. It completely changed my life – seriously.

EvernoteI personally use Evernote to record all of my ideas. It’s installed on my PC, iPhone and iPad, which means I can make a note that will synchronize across all platforms, regardless of where I am.

Whilst I would recommend that you use Evernote to catalogue your ideas, it ultimately doesn’t matter how you get it done. Just get it done.

Over To You

How about you – what do you do when inspiration strikes? How do you keep track of your ideas? Let us know in the comments section!

Creative Commons images courtesy of Brujo+, Andy Ciordia and Luz Villa

What Everyone Should Know About Growing A Blog

Written by Tom Ewer on November 28, 2011. 14 Comments
Foundations

Any blog is only as strong as the foundations upon which it is built.

When I first started this blog, I entertained a misconception that I believe is shared by most new bloggers, and some experienced ones too. I believed that all traffic is created equal. How wrong I was – and perhaps for more reasons than you think.

I have spoken on previous occasions about how targeted traffic is by far the most valuable to a blogger. That 10 highly targeted visitors are far more valuable to you than 100 “random” browsers. But it goes beyond that. The most highly-targeted of your visitors, what I like to call your “groupies“, are a rare asset when you first start blogging.

These guys and girls are the first to comment, the first to share, and the first to make contact with you. And if you want to build your blog upon solid foundations, you should treat them like rockstars.

Rockstar

Your fans need to feel this awesome.

Consider Your Own Blogging Habits

How many brand new blogs do you visit and get involved with? Probably not that many. By blogging’s very nature, you are far more likely to become attached to big blogs – ones that carry weighty social proof.

That is why it is so hard to gain momentum as a new blogger – the odds are stacked against you. Even if you produce stunning content, you’re still in for a struggle, as the social proof isn’t there.

So every single person that casts contemporary means of judgment aside and chooses to engage with you should become your new best friend. As I say, not all traffic is created equal, and one rabid fan in the making can potentially be worth 1,000s of visitors in the future.

Blog Growth

No such post would be complete without a generic graph depicting growth.

How So?

A few reasons. Each new “groupie” is likely to:

  1. Tweet out your new posts on a regular basis
  2. Heartily recommend your blog to others
  3. Comment on your posts

All three of these vital ingredients combine to make a delicious blog growth cake. They form the explanation as to why all traffic is not created equal.

Some visitors just bring themselves to the party. Others can bring visitors in their tens, hundreds, or even thousands.

So please – recognize each and every one of the “early adopters” to your blog for the valuable asset that they are. Help them as much as possible. If you can cultivate a group of highly-loyal fans, not only will you have a wonderful foundation upon which to build your blog’s exposure, your following should grow exponentially over time.

Creative commons images courtesy of Simon Davison, John Seb Barber and HMCNews

A-List Bloggers Are Boring – 5 People Whose Blogs You Should Be Reading

Written by Tom Ewer on November 25, 2011. 40 Comments

A-List Bloggers are Boring

Many up-and-coming bloggers have quite a destructive mindset – they think that the only way to boost a burgeoning blog’s popularity is to piggyback on the success of a-list bloggers. Thoughts such as, “If I could just get a guest post at ProBlogger” or “if only Pat Flynn would re-tweet my posts” are not uncommon, as if they somehow hold the golden ticket to relative fame and fortune.

Now don’t get me wrong – the support of a-list bloggers can do great things for your blog. But “support” comes in many different shapes and sizes. And the fact is, support from your peers if often far more valuable than the support of those you look up to.

I have personally gone to great lengths to develop positive relationships with bloggers who are on or around my level. Why?

  1. I see myself in them, and I want to help them.
  2. I love getting an insight into how they go about their business.
  3. They are “in the trenches” with you, not giving out orders 30 miles behind the front line 😉
  4. It’s a lot more rewarding to grow with someone and share the experience, than try to wedge yourself into an a-lister’s already saturated network.

There is a lot to gain from looking around you, rather than above. After all, the up-and-comers of today are the a-listers of tomorrow. So in this post, I want to share with you five bloggers who you should get to know better.

Deacon Bradley – Life Stoked

Deacon BradleyThis guy doesn’t even teach people how to make money online! Shock horror! But Deacon does have boundless enthusiasm and a clear love for helping others. I couldn’t put it any better than his blog’s tagline: “Create a life you’re excited to live!”

As far as I am concerned, that is the most simple definition of what we should all be aiming for.

Tim Soulo – Blogger Jet

Tim SouloThere’s a lot to like about Tim. He doesn’t let the fact that English isn’t his first language hold him back. He has one hell of an ambitious target for his blog. And he uses more smilies than anyone else I know 🙂

Tim is tying to grow a blog from 0 to 100,000 visits (per month) in just six months. Given that my blog is already five months old and I got only 1,900 unique visitors in the last 30 days, he certainly has the beating of me 😉 If nothing else, his blog is a fascinating case study that anyone interested in blog growth should be reading.

Steve Roy – Ending The Grind

Steve RoyI first came across Steve’s blog when I was looking for other blogs similar to mine. Leaving Work Behind and Ending The Grind don’t sound too dissimilar, do they? But recently, Steve’s blog has taken a sharp change in direction and is becoming something really special.

There is no doubting that Steve is working through a pretty tumultuous patch in his life, and he intends for his blog to essentially take his readers through that journey. For anyone who is interested in quitting their job, his blog is a must-read.

I should say that Steve already has an well-established blog with a sizable readership. But I’m sure he wouldn’t claim to be an a-lister, and I wanted him on this list!

Conni Biesalski – A Life Of Blue

Conni BiesalskiConni’s blog launched just last week, but she definitely hit the ground running! I have been following her progress for the past few weeks as she meticulously went about planning her launch. If you are looking to launch a blog in the near future, Conni’s your girl – she put a damn sight more thought into it than I did!

Besides that, you would struggle to find anyone more genuinely well-wishing – Conni is an extremely enthusiastic person. She also brings true value in not being afraid to tell you that what you’re doing is rubbish! In as nice a way as possible, of course…

Gregory Ciotti – Sparring Mind

Greg CiottiGreg is last on the list, but by no means least. This guy has huge ambitions for his blog, produces awesome content, and to top it all off, is a genuinely nice guy. You may well have seen him in the comments section of my blog post. He is taking very deliberate steps to expose his blog to bigger and bigger platforms, for which I applaud him. He’s got a lot of drive and motivation and really seems to be executing his strategy very well.

You should follow Greg’s blog for two very good reasons:

  1. He writes great posts that are invaluable for any internet marketer.
  2. His blog doubles as a great case study of how to market your blog well.

Strength In Numbers

It was not deliberate, but I have picked five very different people, and five very different blogs. So you have an awful lot to gain from checking out each and every one of the bloggers above. What are you waiting for?

Creative commons image courtesy of s.alt

My First Authority Site: Update #1 – The Value of Experience

Written by Tom Ewer on November 23, 2011. 10 Comments

This is Part #2 of a series. A list of all the other updates can be found at the bottom of this post.

White Hat SEO

The gloves are off!

When I first introduced this authority site, I made a big fuss about how it was going to be an experiment in white hat SEO. Well, as I pointed out in my October 2011 income report, that experiment has ended.

I am now approaching this site with my usual aim of producing highly-optimized content complimented by top-notch onsite SEO, combined with a tried and tested link building strategy (i.e. the one that got me to #1 in Google for my first niche site).

Keyword Research & Content Creation

As I would always recommend with authority sites, I am targeting a few highly trafficked keywords. I have no ambitions to rank for them in the near future, but I do bear them in mind when I am producing content. What is far more important in the short term is the long tail keywords I can hopefully rank for without too much effort.

When I first picked this niche, I quickly found that there were an enormous list of related keywords that could be used for individual articles. A lot of them only produced a handful of searches per day, but they would soon add up. And for many of the keywords, the competition amongst the top 10 is very low indeed.

Keyword SEO Competition

This is an example of a low-traffic keyword I am trying to rank for.

So I got to writing an article for each long tail keyword – I have published 20 posts so far. I will continue to write articles until the available keywords have dried up, but this will take me some time!

My approach here is markedly different from that of my first niche site. For that site, I simply wrote articles about the niche, without giving a second’s thought to long tail keywords. I ended up inadvertently ranking for many long tail keywords, but I have no doubt that I would have fared much better had I been more deliberate with my content creation. I am not making the same mistake again.

Additionally, this niche seems to offer up far more opportunities for article writing. In terms of multiple long tail trafficked search queries, the child model niche doesn’t offer a great deal. That is not the case with anxiety and panic attacks – there are a lot of different topics you can write about whilst also targeting specific long tail keywords.

Backlinking

My backlinking strategy, for the time being at least, is going to be very simple.

I am going to use BuildMyRank (not an affiliate link – why?) to drip-feed backlinks to my site, at a rate of 1-3 links per day. Each article I write for BuildMyRank will be on a site with a homepage PageRank of between 2-5 (typically) that is hosted on its own unique IP address. But that’s not all – BuildMyRank submits each article to various RSS feed aggregators and social bookmarking sites, so I should end up with indexed pages that feed quite a bit of link juice through to my site.

Given that my first niche site was slapped out of the rankings by Google because of my overenthusiastic backlinking campaign, I am being very careful with my anchor text this time around. I have a list of 15 different anchor texts (that target a mixture of various articles as well as the homepage) that I draw from, and I also throw in “click here” and other such random anchor texts. This should look far less obvious to Google than me hammering away with the same 2-3 keywords on a daily basis, as I was before.

The site is only indexed in Google for just over half of the keywords I am currently targeting. I expect this to change quite quickly as I build backlinks with relevant anchor text.

That is all I will do for now! Because I am targeting keywords that are not particularly competitive, I am hoping that I can get positive results just by using BuildMyRank.

Monetization

This is an easy one – the site is not currently monetized. Why not? Because monetizing the site at this point would be of no benefit to me. There is barely any traffic flowing to the site, so it will do me no harm at all to wait until I have traffic before implementing AdSense or any other monetization method. I would rather spend more time on content creation and backlinking at this time.

Some people fool themselves into thinking that implementing AdSense on their site will mean that the money starts flowing, but that is not the case. Worry about building up a decent level of traffic first, then concern yourself with monetization.

Progress So Far

I am currently ranked above 100 in Google for 5 different keywords:

Keyword RankingsI am pleasantly surprised by the fact that one of these (currently ranking #25) is one of the medium-trafficked keywords I am targeting (producing 5,400 exact match searches per month). I didn’t expect to be on the map for that one yet.

A web 2.0 site that I created a few weeks back is actually ranking for one of these keywords at the moment – I hope that my main site will overtake it in time.

The four other keywords produce approximately 5,500 searches per month combined, so if I can get good rankings for these, I will have a good base with which to build upon.

Looking Ahead

Given that I have been through this process before, I have certain expectations for this site. I hope to see encouraging results pretty soon. Ideally, I would like to be on the first page of Google for at least one of the low-competition keywords within the next few weeks.

I am also building backlinks to the higher-trafficked keywords (it’s never too early to start!), but I don’t expect to see anything too impressive from them this early on. Having said that, SEOmoz have discovered that links with related anchor texts can be very beneficial in ranking for more competitive keywords. So my long tail backlinking strategy may also benefit my long term plans to rank for more highly-trafficked keywords too. We shall see!

Read The Whole Series

Creative Commons photo courtesy of britl

How To Make Money Online Now

Written by Tom Ewer on November 21, 2011. 19 Comments

Make Money OnlineImaginative title, right? I bet you’ve never read anything with a headline like that before.

I kid. However, what I have to say here will share very little in common with those articles.

Unfortunately, I am not here to show you how you can create a passive income in three easy steps and just a few weeks. Sorry. That aint my bag, baby. When it comes to passive income, success is usually borne out of months (or years) of trial and error.

If you are a regular reader of the blog, you will know that I am a big fan of the concept of passive income. It is something that I am striving hard to create for myself. However, I also happen to be quitting my job in about a month’s time, so the need to generate an immediate income is rather pressing.

And that is what I am here to talk about today. How to generate a non-speculative income, in the short term, and on an ongoing basis. And furthermore, how doing that can ultimately lead to your passive income dream (as long as it isn’t wildly unrealistic).

Find Your Asset

The key is in finding your asset. I strongly believe that almost everyone has a particular skill or talent that is valued by others. It may not in fact be anything you consider particularly impressive. For instance, I have always considered myself a decent writer, but until recently, had never considered it something that I could actually make a living out of.

But don’t let me lead you down the writing path. A freelance career can take multiple forms:

That is a very brief list, which could in reality be very, very long. It is truly amazing how people can leverage seemingly prosaic talents and turn them into viable businesses. We live in an age where that is more achievable than ever.

Keep It Simple and Non-Speculative

Keep It Simple, Stupid

I should make something clear at this point – I am not proposing that you establish a business whereby you sell a service direct to the masses. That in itself is a highly speculative venture (although not one that you should necessarily avoid in the long term). I am talking about having a skill that is in demand, and that people will pay you for, on an ongoing basis. If your initial endeavors are successful, the next natural step is trying to exploit that same skill through some sort of service provision.

For instance, if you are a good graphic designer, you can look to get some regular paying jobs with design companies that perhaps have more work than their fixed staff can handle. In time, you can generate a healthy income from this, and produce your own video course and accompanying resource pack, entitled “How To Find High-Paying Design Jobs”. That in itself could become a source of passive income.

Finding your asset and figuring out how you can monetize it can be more than just a step towards leaving work behind. It can be the step.

I am not saying that what you do now has to shape your whole future. That’s the beauty of working for yourself. You can freelance for six months, and if it isn’t working out for you, you can look to step into something else. You can reduce your hours down in order to give yourself more time to focus on more speculative business ideas. You can afford yourself the kind of flexibility that a “normal” job would rarely give you.

In short – you are in control of your destiny. Once you have set up a basic means of generating an income on an ongoing basis, you can then customize your workload as much as your bottom line permits.

Not only can freelance work present you with a viable means of quitting your job right now, it can also give you the flexibility of time to accelerate your speculative business endeavors far beyond the rate at which you are currently going.

Can anyone say “winning”?

Charlie Sheen

This guy sure as hell can.

So What Now?

In this article, I am stripping the process right back to bare bones. In the future, I plan to go into more detail as to how you can accomplish each step. Having said that, I know that you don’t need me to hold your hand. I know that you are fully capable of using your own initiative to figure out these steps on your own.

1. Assess Your Talents

In a nutshell – what are you good at? You should list absolutely everything – regardless of how trivial it may seem. Your most “trivial” skill may in fact be the most commercially appealing. I didn’t give my writing skills a second thought, but I can actually leverage them to produce a full time income.

2. Consider Monetization

Now that you have your list of talents, you need to figure out how you might monetize them. As mentioned above, we are not initially talking about speculative business ventures. We are talking about finding people who have an immediate and ongoing need for your talent. Once you have established a base income, you can look to see how you can further exploit your skill for higher rates, or passive income.

A good place to start is online job boards. Although I wouldn’t necessarily recommend it in terms of sourcing work, Craigslist is a great way of finding out what people are in need of. Simply Googling your talents and seeing what comes up is also another great method – after all, if other people are making money in such a way, why can’t you?

Start3. Start

This is the true beauty of getting started with freelancing. There’s no sitting around, waiting for your speculative efforts to come off. You source jobs and you start. That represents a very solid step in the right direction.

Isn’t It Just Another Job?

Yes and no. It is another job, in the sense that someone is compensating you for the provision of a service. But it is not “just another job” in the sense that you are in full control of what you do and don’t do. If you want to scale back your freelancing hours so that you can spend more time on your speculative business ventures, you can. And if you want to increase your hours because Christmas is coming up and you could do with some more money, you can do that too.

Not only that, freelance work will set you up with invaluable contacts. If you decide in the future to move on from freelancing, you will come out the other side with a highly-developed skill, a reputation, and a platform with which to base your business upon.

Employment vs. Self-Employment

Advocates of employment will talk about health care, sick pay, and other such things. And they would be right to. But that is all they have. The net upside to self-employment, in my opinion, is huge.

As long as you are employed, you are not in control of your destiny. You may think that if you do well enough, you’ll get a promotion, which will give you x, but there is not guarantee of that. You are, to all intents and purposes, powerless. When it comes to advancing your career, you are fully reliant upon the whims of others.

Self-employment, meanwhile, is all about you. To a far larger degree, you get out of it what you put in. I learnt the hard way that putting all of those extra hours and weekends into your job doesn’t necessarily give you anything extra. Not so with self-employment. If your hourly rate is x and you do more hours, you’ll earn more money. And if you invest your time sensibly into your business, you will see a return.

I’ll throw away the benefits that employment brings in a heartbeat to be in control of my own destiny.

What about you?

Creative Commons images courtesy of gingerbydesign, quimby, Andrew Magill, Jegi