Leaving Work Behind

How to Run a Successful Online Business From Home (in 5 Steps)

Written by Tom Ewer on March 26, 2013. 35 Comments

A cottage.Being your own boss is tough.

Transitioning from a 9-5 environment in which you are held accountable by others into one in which you are essentially free to do as you please can be a real shock to the system. I say that from personal experience.

Over the past 15 months or so I have learned a great deal about what it takes to effectively run an online business from home and in this post I want to share those lessons with you. Whether you are already working full time on your business or in the side-endeavour stage, you can use the following to help you work more effectively and efficiently.

5 Steps to Running a Successful Online Business From Home

Working from home presents a number of unique challenges that I have faced and overcome in the last year or so. In reflecting upon my approach I can see that it is made up of five key steps, each of which you must work on in order to get the most out of each and every day you sit down to build a better business. Let’s take a look at each in turn.

1. Direction

Setting and subsequently reaching deliberate goals is something that many of us fail to do and yet it is absolutely key to rapid progress. Without direction and focus our chances of success are severely limited.

That is but of course my opinion — there are people out there who will tell you that you are better off setting no goals at all. They will argue that goals limit you and serve only to kill your confidence. However, only an overly rigid and poorly executed approach to goal setting will put you down that path. If you feel that goal setting is for you then I recommend you read my post on the benefits of goal setting (and why I disagree with Leo Babauta on the topic).

On the other hand, if you are sold on the concept of goal setting then I recommend the following: How to Set Goals and Motivate Yourself to Actually Achieve Them. That post explains how to set goals in such a way that drive your business (and indeed your life) in the right direction.

Beyond that, I have some additional advice when it comes to ensuring that your business has direction:

  1. Ensure that you only bite off as much as you can chew. There’s nothing worse than dividing your efforts across multiple projects and working a great deal but ultimately getting nowhere.
  2. Allow yourself to complete each project in full — even if that means being totally sure of its failure. Giving up half way through projects is a terrible habit to nurture.
  3. Regularly audit your goals and your actions to ensure that you are still on the right track. Although you shouldn’t give up on projects readily, be ruthless in ensuring that what you are doing is in the best interests of your business.

2. Environment

In my opinion, few things are as important to the success of a home business than the environment in which you work. Creating a good working environment is a step that you must take at the outset of your business — it shouldn’t be an afterthought.

I say this from experience as I have tested any number of locations in an effort to find my productive “sweet spot”:

It is only now that I am finally arranging for my spare bedroom to be refurbishing into a home office. It won’t be cheap but it will provide me with a location in my house that is indisputably for work and nothing else.

I recommend that you create such an environment yourself — an area in which you only work. Conversely, that means that all other rooms in your house should be a strict no work zone. In the same way that insomnia can be cured by associating your bedroom with sleep and no other form of activity, your working productivity can be improved by associating a specific location with nothing other than work.

Personally speaking I am never more productive than when I am at my local library. I only ever go there to work so I tend to me in that mindset as soon as I walk through the door. Furthermore, there are no distractions such as TV to tempt me into slacking off. Although I am looking forward to working from my home office the vast majority of the time, I expect to still work from the library on occasion to keep me on my toes.

The best advice I can give you about finding a good working environment is to focus on yourself as an individual. Don’t let me or anyone else tell you what is a good working environment — only you can know what works for you. Experiment and discover for yourself.

3. Productivity

I am obsessed with productivity and have written more posts on this blog and on others than I can keep count of it. After all, each of us has the same 24 hours per day to utilize — it is how we utilize them that makes all the difference.

In the past couple of months I have been working to a system that has proven to be extremely effective in boosting my productivity. If you read my recent post on how to create an online business while you’re in a full time job you’ll already be familiar with it. Quite simply, I divide each working day up into four “blocks,” each of which is 90 minutes long. I take a short break between each block.

That gives me 20 blocks a week to which I assign each a task. By doing this I can plan out my week meticulously and always have a handle on how much work I am able to complete. It effectively shows me how quickly I can grow my business — once regular tasks have been allocated I will have a number of blocks left for projects that I can utilize for speculative projects. Furthermore, by planning a week ahead like this I hold myself accountable to complete those tasks.

That is now my main recommendation when people ask me how they can be more productive. However, I go into a lot more detail in the following post: How to Be Productive.

I also love the idea of what I call “scalable small efficiencies.” These are little tweaks you can implement to make repetitive tasks slightly more efficient. Although the time saved carrying out the task may be trivial, the cumulative effect is great. I wrote about scalable small efficiencies (and included some of my own) in this post.

4. Accountability

This is perhaps the step that people avoid more than any other, perhaps because the reward is completely intangible right up until the point that you experience it. However, holding yourself properly accountable to your goals can make a huge difference to your success over time.

Accountability can take many different forms — we already discussed how planning out your week in advance can serve as a form of accountability. However, by far my favorite form of accountability is the mastermind group that I run with my friend Steve Scott. It basically shapes my working week and provides me with the kind of encouragement and motivation that I can’t create by myself.

I wrote a complete guide to mastermind groups that you can find here. If you’re not in one yet, now’s the time to make a change.

Other than that, there are other ways in which you can hold yourself accountable. For example, I used to keep a journal in which I noted what I had achieved in the previous week and set down targets for the following week. This was essentially a “solo” mastermind and wasn’t as effective, but if you’re struggling with the concept (or practicality) of a mastermind group then this mind be a good place to start.

To use another example, this blog is a huge accountability tool for me. I publish uncensored accounts of my goals and the progress I am making with my various projects and that encourages me to work harder so that I can report upon success (rather than failure).

In as much the same way that I encourage you to find a working environment that works for you, I encourage you to find a method of holding yourself accountable that works for you too. Having said that, I recommend that you strongly consider the mastermind route.

5. Rest and Recuperation

This final step in the process is one I have neglected for the longest and is still one I’m coming around to. I think it is something that all entrepreneurs struggle with — the concept of taking time off.

However, doing so can be of huge benefit to your business for multiple reasons. I’ll start with holidays, which typically serve as a huge source of inspiration for my business. Some of my best ideas have surfaced when I have been detached from the day-to-day running of my business — when I give my brain room to breathe, the effects seem to be extremely positive.

As I said in my post on finding inspiration in business, nourishing creativity and allowing yourself to think indiscriminately can take you down paths that you had not previously considered. I know I wouldn’t be where I am now without those reflective moments that enabled me to point my business in a new and exciting direction.

I also recommend that you give yourself time off from your “normal” business tasks and encourage a creative approach to your work. I’ve recently been experimenting with taking Fridays off and allowing myself either to work on whatever I want to or alternatively do nothing at all. This level of freedom enables me to get outside of a blinkered way of thinking that many of us suffer from.

It’s all too easy to get utterly buried in the running of your business and few things can be as dangerous for your progress for the long run. We live in an era of huge potential for living the kind of balanced lives that simply hasn’t been available to previous generations — do not waste that by toiling away mindlessly. With room for creative thinking and plenty of rest you will find that you can achieve more in less time. There are no prizes for working yourself into an early grave.

Over to You

Ultimately, the above process is about awareness.

It’s about knowing what you want from your business, placing yourself in an environment and state of mind in which you can work productively, hold yourself consciously accountable to your goals and give yourself the freedom of time to think creatively about your business.

Let’s recap the five steps to running an online business effectively from home:

  1. Direction: do you know what you want from your business?
  2. Environment: do you work in a suitable environment?
  3. Productivity: do you work efficiently?
  4. Accountability: do you hold yourself accountable to your goals?
  5. Rest and Recuperation: do you allow yourself the time to think outside of the box?

If you keep these five principles in mind and remember to ask yourself the above questions every now and then, you’ll be well on your way to creating a successful business from home. After all, who needs an office these days anyway?

Photo Credit: Nebojsa Mladjenovic

My New Kindle Publishing Strategy

Written by Tom Ewer on March 21, 2013. 19 Comments

Kindle eBook reader.When I released my freelance writing guide back in October it was always my intention to publish a Kindle version. If you’ve been following my Kindle publishing strategy to date then you will know that I pivoted sharply away from my original plans to publish an abridged version of the book on Amazon for $10 and decided instead to create a series of $3 mini eBooks that each tackled a specific topic relating to freelance writing.

Well, with three published Kindle books under my belt I thought the time was right to let you know about my progress to date and what I have planned for the future. One thing is for sure — my experiences to date have definitely changed my perspective on how to make the most of the Kindle publishing platform.

My Progress So Far

I had no real expectations going into “phase two” of my Kindle publishing strategy — my plan was to publish all of the books then take stock. I originally planned to release nine books although that increased to ten with the release of my guest posting guide.

If you’ve been keeping up to date with my income reports then you will know that I have made just over $200 so far from my Kindle eBooks — not anything to write home about but not disastrous either. Last week I made a total of $37.34 on Amazon.com (i.e. excluding international sites such as Amazon.co.uk) which equates to just over $160 per month. I’m not complaining but I hope and expect for those numbers to rise.

There’s just one issue with my planned approach — my heart isn’t in it. Publishing ten books is a huge commitment and as I have dug into my work I have found that my phase two plan wasn’t perhaps as practical as I first thought. With that in mind I have decided to pivot and adjust my strategy once more.

My New Strategy

At this point I plan to publish just two more Kindle books. I do this for two reasons:

  1. As I just mentioned, my heart’s not really in Kindle publishing. I need to take the core of what I have and demonstrate its potential before pouring more effort into the process.
  2. In reality some of the mini eBooks I had planned simply aren’t justified in terms of the quantity of content I am practically able to provide.

This is the thing: I have discovered that success in Kindle publishing is all about the market. In the same way that you have to pick a decent keyword to succeed in niche site publishing, you have to pick a decent market in order to succeed in Kindle. And while my loyal readership of freelance writing enthusiasts have helped to get my first few books off the ground they are not likely to start selling by the shedload any time soon. As such I don’t want to pour huge amounts of time into an endeavour that may not offer a suitable return.

My new strategy can be split up into three stages. Once I have completed those stages I will step back, analyse the results and decide how to proceed.

Stage 1: Finish Publishing

The first thing I want to do is finish the last two books in my series on freelance writing and publish them on Amazon. The two titles are:

  1. Freelance Blogging Success: How to Find Clients that Will Pay You $100+ Per Article
  2. Freelance Writing: How to Set and Negotiate Rates Confidently

These will complement the already published books on writing great blog posts and creating a blog for freelance writing success. Although there is more that you should know about becoming a successful freelance writer, these are the “sexy” topics that are likely to be most successful.

As per usual, each newly published book will be made available free of charge to those who subscribe to my Kindle email list. You can subscribe by entering your email address in the box below and hitting “Subscribe”:

Stage 2: Cross Promote

This second step forms the crux of what I believe to be a winning approach in Kindle publish — cross promotion.

By this point I will have five books published — all in the same niche of blogging/freelance writing. A person who reads one is likely to be interested in at least one of the other books and $3 is a low enough price point to make a purchasing decision relatively easy. The key therefore is in making the reader aware that other books of a similar nature are available. In this way one purchase may turn into two or three.

I will cross promote my books in two ways:

  1. By including an “Other Books by Tom Ewer” section at the beginning of each book
  2. By mentioning other books when it makes sense to do so within the content of each book

Stage 3: Further Promotion and Requests for Reviews

Although choosing the right market is vitally important, publishing in the most lucrative market will be of little use if you don’t get a generous selection of positive reviews.

Therefore, once all five books have been published I will selectively make each book available free of charge to my Kindle email list on a regular basis, so that people who missed out the first time around can grab a free copy. I know that some of you are thoughtful enough to leave a positive review by way of thanks which is greatly appreciated (and vital to the potential success of my books).

My Thoughts on the Future of Kindle Publishing

At this stage I am extremely doubtful that my existing line of books (including the two that are to be published) will generate more than a few hundred bucks per month at best. While I am certainly not going to turn my nose up at that it would not represent the kind of return that I was hoping for.

I am aware of people who are doing very well indeed out of Kindle publishing by targeting lucrative markets but it is not something that I necessarily want to get involved with. There are some aspects of Kindle publishing that remind me all too readily of niche site publishing — the somewhat arbitrary nature of it, the sole reliance on one source of traffic, and so on. The going may be good now but I am unsure of Kindle publishing’s long term viability.

Having said that I am making no commitment to my future involvement (or otherwise) in Kindle publishing at this stage. I want to get my five books out into the open, make sure that they are well-optimized for cross promotion and observe the results of my efforts. Only then will I be better informed to make a decision as to how I should proceed.

What are your thoughts on Kindle publishing? Have you experienced success or failure? I’d love to know your thoughts — fire away in the comments section!

Photo Credit: johncatral

How to Start Blogging: Everything You Need to Know

Written by Tom Ewer on March 18, 2013. 51 Comments

Words relating to blogging.This is my 200th post here on Leaving Work Behind. When I started back in June 2011 I had barely read a blog before, let alone created one of my own. And yet through application, persistence and surely some luck, I have managed to create a blog that helped me earn (directly and indirectly) nearly $7,000 last month. This is despite me picking one of the most crowded niches (making money online) out there.

I don’t say any of this to boast. After all, there are plenty of other people out there doing far better than me and I don’t consider myself special or innately talented in some way that few other people are. The fact is that there is a lot of money to be made in blogging and the barriers to entry are so small as to be non-existent.

With that said I want to take this opportunity, at a milestone for my own blog, to share with you my thoughts on how to start blogging to earn a sizeable income.

There are affiliate links in this post. If you purchase a product through one of them I will receive a commission. It will cost you nothing extra. I only ever endorse products that I have personally used and tested extensively. Thank you!

The Key to Successful Blogging

Most people will tell you that in order to start a successful blog you must pick a lucrative niche and come at it from a unique angle. While doing that can make a huge impact on the success of your blog, I actually consider more fundamental aspects to be the real key to success.

A keyboard.A good analogy for this is learning piano — something that I started recently. In order to become better at piano (or any musical instrument for that matter) you need to focus on two things:

  1. Consistent application
  2. Quality practice

To put it another way, you need to practice regularly and you must make sure that your practice is actually improving you. It is all too easy to sit down for thirty minutes and play pieces you already know for fun, and while that is fine and I wouldn’t discourage it, you must also include “deliberate” practice. You must challenge yourself with more technical pieces and push the boundaries of your current ability. If you don’t do that you will never improve. On the other hand, if you consistently apply yourself in learning piano, practice deliberately and seek to expand your technical ability each time you sit down to play, improvement is inevitable.

The exact same thing can be said for blogging. I know of no blogger that consistently applies themselves and seeks to push their boundaries that isn’t progressing with their craft. The bloggers who have spent a year without growing are just like the pianists that play the same pieces over and over again and wonder why they’re not getting any better.

So above all else remember this when committing to blogging: you cannot fail if you apply yourself consistently and always seek to push the boundaries of your abilities (tweet this). It may take six months, a year or more, but ultimately you will hit a point at which it all falls into place and you start making the kind of money that you set out to make when you first started.

Setting the Foundations

Typically speaking, when you start blogging the last thing on your mind is which hosting provider to go with or what content management platform to use. However, making the right choices at this stage will save you a lot of headaches in the future — I can tell you that from personal experience.

Take web hosting as an example. I started out with Bluehost because a lot of bloggers say that they’re awesome. It turns out they have an awesome affiliate program too, which perhaps explains why so many people sing their praises. I soon found out that Bluehost’s service leaves little to be desired and finally threw the towel in when my site went offline for two whole days and I got the distinct impression from Bluehost’s customer service that they really couldn’t care any less.

WestHostAfter hopping from one provider to the next I finally found WestHost: the best domains and hosting company I have come across by a mile. They offer a 60 day money back guarantee, free backups and awesome 24/7 support from guys that really know what they’re talking about. And after transferring from Bluehost, I found that this blog’s load speed increased by 10%. All of my sites are with WestHost now. Get 30% off Westhost by clicking here and using the discount code LEAVING30 on checkout.

My point is this — make the right choices up front and you’ll save yourself a lot of headaches down the line. There are just two vitally important things you need to concern yourself with up front — here are my recommendations:

  1. Domain name/hosting: WestHost
  2. Content Management System (i.e. what you will build the blog with): self-hosted WordPress (find out how to install WordPress on WestHost here)

Go with these two and you’ll be set for years to come — I can say that from personal experience.

How to Start Blogging

By this stage you have everything you need to start blogging — a domain name, a hosting account and a WordPress installation. Life need get no more complicated at this stage.

If you’re interested in reading more about the likes of email marketing services and themes for your site then I’d recommend my Beginner’s Guide to Blogging but in this post I want to keep things extremely simple. After all, at this stage you’re probably already overwhelmed with an enormous variety of questions:

My answer to all of these questions is just three words: keep it simple. Don’t sweat it. I launched Leaving Work Behind with little direction and can testify to the effectiveness of this approach in helping you to retain your sanity and remain on course.

The beauty of blogging is that you can pivot at any stage and completely change your design, content, promotional strategy, and so on. Nothing is permanent. Sure — it would be difficult to morph a blog about cooking into a blog about technology but even if you decide to scrap your first blog and launch a new one you’re not starting from scratch. On the contrary, you bring to that new blog the huge wealth of knowledge you have accrued from working on your first blog.

The fact is that any blog can make money. A blog that gets 500 visitors per month will make a minimum of $5. That may sounds like an utterly trivial amount but I’m assuming the least profitable form of monetization and a trivial amount of traffic (anyone can attract 500 visitors per month, trust me).

Focus on the Right Reward

"No Money" graffiti.When getting started, worry less about how much money you make and more about enjoying what you are doing and writing about something that you have a passion for. Few bloggers make good money from day one (or month one, or quarter one) so making that your number one priority makes little sense. Focus instead upon blogging being an enjoyable hobby — fuel your accrual of knowledge with enthusiasm for what you are doing, not the hope of what might be. Take pleasure in every visit to your site, every comment and every share.

Consider this: Leaving Work Behind makes me about $65 per hour (if you divide the total monthly income by hours invested), but my freelance work makes me nearly $100 per hour. That’s a $35 deficit per hour, yet I still post here twice a week without fail. I still communicate with my readers via email, Facebook and Twitter. I still pour my heart and soul into this blog.

One might argue that I would be far better off spending less time on this blog and more time on my freelancing work — I’d certainly make more money that way. But I don’t. Do you know why? Because Leaving Work Behind offers me so much more than money. It gives me a forum on which I can publish my views and plans and get feedback from an attentive audience of intelligent and thoughtful people (that’s you guys). It allows me to help others in achieving their goals in leaving work behind, which is endlessly rewarding in a way that money never can be.

If you want to be a successful blogger then put your passion first. Start a blog that means something to you — not something that you hope will make money down the line. While you may succeed with such an approach, it’ll be a hell of a grind. Don’t make life hard on yourself.

What Defines a Successful Blog?

I’ll leave you with the key to starting a successful blog: content. That’s right — content is still king, no matter what you may read.

Let me put it this way — if design aesthetics disappeared tomorrow and the web reverted to plaintext, people would still surf. But if we lost our content and the web was just a huge network of beautifully designed empty shells, the Internet would become redundant.

So if you want to create a successful blog you must focus on content above all else. Not just on your own site though — you should aim for your content to be everywhere: on other blogs, social media, popular directories, search engines, forums, and so on. The web is made up of countless cliques — the key is for your content to be an ever-present in the ones that will care about what you have to say.

It’s not rocket science — it just requires a lot of hard work and faith that your hard work will pay off. Like I said near the start of this post, you cannot fail if you apply yourself consistently and seek to push the boundaries of your ability and expertise.

I very deliberately titled this post “Everything You Need to Know” because although I’ve not given much in terms of actionable advice, you should now have everything you need to start blogging. In understanding the real priorities of getting started with blogging you are far better equipped than the vast majority of people out there.

So what are you waiting for? It’s time to get started!

Photo Credit: Kristina B and Alina Sofia

9 Steps to Writing Blog Posts Quickly (and Making Much More Money)

Written by Tom Ewer on March 14, 2013. 47 Comments

Hands typing fast.The following post is adapted from one of the five exclusive articles packaged with my freelance writing course, Paid to Blog.

Having the ability to produce blog posts quickly can have a huge effect on your freelance earnings. It can be the difference between your freelance blogging being a part time “hobby” or a full time living.

Having spoken to a lot of freelance writers in my time I am well aware that many of us spend literally hours on posts, agonizing over every detail and never feeling totally comfortable with the quality of the piece.

I know one person who would spend six or more hours on just one $100 post — equating to an hourly rate of just $20. If he had written that same post in two hours he would have been earning a far more healthy $50 per hour. That’s the power of speed at play.

What is Fast?

The question of speed is of course a subjective one, but I would say that if you can knock out a 1,000 word blog post in an hour or less you are working to a good rhythm.

However, bear the following mind — your speed will be dictated in part by the complexity of the piece you are writing. In writing my freelance blogging guide I could usually get through 1,000 or more words per hour because I had a good idea of what I wanted to say. Meanwhile, if I am writing a flow-of-conscience piece for Leaving Work Behind I might write nearer to 2,000 words in an hour. On the other hand, a more involved 1,000 word piece requiring in-depth research or similarly disruptive elements might take me closer to two hours.

Ultimately it is up to you to decide whether or not you are happy with the speed at which you produce blog posts. Either way, I would suggest that you take a close look at the following process — regardless of your current speed it may well offer you something extra.

Worried About Quality?

Freelance writers often fret about producing work quickly — they fear that it will affect the quality of their work. It is a fair concern but in reality you can produce posts in less time without 
it affecting the quality of the end result. Greater efficiency doesn’t have to lead to an inferior product.

Furthermore, one of the golden rules of freelance writing (that many writers do not consider) is that you should write to the client’s standard, not your own. If you are just starting out as a writer and have the capability of writing top quality posts, don’t go to great lengths to produce $50 per hour work for a $20 per hour client.

I’m not saying that you should produce poor work, but don’t expect a low-paying client to fully recognize your skills and give you a big raise because you put far more effort into their pieces than the pay warrants. Write to a standard that they are happy with — if that is below your full potential, so be it. You’ll produce the work more quickly and as a result make more money and the client will be happy.

My 9 Step Process to Writing Blog Posts Quickly

I believe that just about anyone can improve the time in which they produce blog posts by reading and applying the steps below. The improvement may be subtle (if you are already a quick writer) or dramatic (if you are currently quite slow).

I have listed the steps in chronological order — i.e. the order in which they should be followed as you write a post. You will find that your speed will increase as you become more comfortable with each step. Having said that, the full application of my process should also yield immediate results.

Step 1: Have a Topic Ready

Thinking of topic ideas takes precious time — time you cannot afford to lose when it comes to writing a post. In reality these ideas will come to you at all hours of the day and as such you should always have a list to refer to when it comes to creating a post.

I recommend that you use a tool such as Evernote to create and store topic ideas. It doesn’t really matter what tool you use as long as you have the ability to write and collate topic ideas from anywhere (a notebook will do just fine if you want to keep it low tech).

Even if you struggle to think of topic ideas, you will be far better served by thinking of them in batches rather than individually. Sitting down for 15 minutes to brainstorm several topic ideas is likely to be far more productive than trying to think of one topic then writing a post based upon it.

Step 2: Plan (Or Don’t)

This is perhaps the most controversial step in the entire process — depending on what you are writing, planning may or may not help your speed.

My rule of thumb is as follows — if you are intimately comfortable with the topic and know exactly what you’re going to say, don’t bother with a plan. In any other situation you should have a written plan in hand before you start writing the post. Either way, you must know what you are going to say before you say it — this includes any references that you plan to quote or link to.

My post plans are typically made up of a list of sub-headers with bullet points under each. It doesn’t have to (and really shouldn’t) be any more complicated than that.

Step 3: Write the Headline Last

Most writers will tell you to write your headline first but I disagree — that takes up vital time. Whilst you should know what the main message of your post is and draft a rough header before you start writing, you should complete the post before finalizing the headline.

My thinking behind this is straightforward — once you have finished writing the post you are likely to be in a far stronger position to quickly come up with a good headline. In fact, it might hit you as you are in the process of writing.

Step 4: Type Fast

This is another no-brainer: few things can help your speed as much as improving your typing ability.

According to Wikipedia the average rate for transcription (i.e. copying something) for “average” computer users is 33 words per minute (WPM). The average professional typist usually types in speeds of 50 to 80 wpm. I would say that you should aim for a typing speed in the upper “professional” range.

Start by testing yourself here. The “Rules of Baseball” test reported my adjusted rate as 98 WPM but I was never formally taught to type and cannot really offer any insights in terms of technique. Having said that, when it comes to improvement I would advise that you get hold of a well-reviewed product such as TypeRightNow (please note that I have not personally used this product). It could be well worth the investment.

Step 5: Minimize Time Sucks

There are several things that can slow you down when it comes to writing blog posts, most notably:

  1. Media (images, video, etc)
  2. In-depth research and planning
  3. References (such as statistics, quotes and links)

You should minimize these time sucks as much as is practically possible. Having said that, such time suck can also add a lot of value to a blog post, so a balanced approach is important. Remember — work to the client’s standards, not your own.

Step 6: Don’t Fact Check Mid-Flow

There’s a real satisfaction when you get into a good flow of writing and few things are more frustrating than when a good flow is interrupted.

With that in mind, if you miss something out during the planning stage wait until you are finished writing to check it. Just leave a clear marker (like “CHECK”) and carry on writing. It’s far better to check multiple things in one batch at the end of the process than individually as they present themselves.

Step 7: “Write Drunk, Edit Sober”

One of my favorite writing quotes from Ernest Hemingway serves as excellent advice for anyone wanting to make a living from writing.

Whilst it can be tempting to edit your work as you write it, nothing could be less efficient. Instead, write with little regard for the fine details — just get your thoughts down. Once you are finished you can then go back and smooth the rough edges. Clearly delineating the two stages of writing should result in a marked improvement in speed.

Step 8: Leave Formatting Until the End

A good blog post can be elevated by selective formatting (i.e. bold and italics). Key passages should be highlighted in bold and specific words should be emphasised in italics.

However, both of these measures should only be implemented once you have finished writing and should be done as part of the editing process. There is little value in formatting as you write only to find that the work you have done has been rendered obsolete by changes made in the editing stage.

Step 9: Time Yourself

We’re all competitive to an extent — especially when it comes to beating ourselves — which is why you should set a time target for every post you write and attempt to beat it. You might be surprised at how this galvanises you to work more quickly.

Be realistic with the targets you set — your focus should be on efficiency and speed, not rushing to meet an arbitrary goal. And if the particular piece you’re working on becomes bigger than you originally thought it would be, don’t beat yourself up about not meeting your target. It’s there to encourage you, not to demotivate.

Over time you will get a good idea of how long it takes you to write posts of all different lengths and styles. That will enable you to price more accurately for work and schedule more effectively.

Practice Makes Perfect

The above process may seem rather overwhelming at first but it needn’t be. Just print out a copy and work from it the next time you write a post. Read the whole process to refamiliarize yourself with it then work through each step in turn. You may notice an immediate improvement in speed.

Obviously some of the steps require separate application (like coming up with topic ideas and improving your keyboard speed) and you should put time aside to focus on them. Everything else will develop naturally as you write more and more posts with the process in mind. Good luck!

Photo Credit: The Life of Bryan

How to Succeed in Business (and Life)

Written by Tom Ewer on March 11, 2013. 39 Comments

Pyramids.I am aware that the headline of this post promises a great deal. However, I honestly believe that what I’m going to share with you today can enable you to achieve just about anything you put your mind to (within reason).

I’m not about to offer you some spectacular shortcut to success and riches — I’m just going to tell you the mental outlook you need to adopt in order to succeed. Everything else falls in line behind that. I developed this outlook only in the last year or two — I didn’t start my journey to leaving work behind with it but I certainly needed it when the time came to build a successful online business.

Believe in the Inevitability of Improvement (tweet this)

The basis for succeeding in anything is believing in the inevitability of improvement. Or to put it another way, believe that if you apply yourself to a particular discipline effectively, you will get better at it.

Once you truly accept that consistent application results in improvement you will understand that there are a world of possibilities out there and that the only thing blocking your way is your willingness to apply yourself.

Check this out:

Obviously I don’t post this here to boast 😉 I know that my technique is not exactly flawless to say the least. But I do post it to underline my point. I started learning piano less than five weeks ago and I’ve gone from not being able to read music to this stage in that time. I am of course no virtuoso but this is a good example of how one can improve in a short space of time with application.

If you wanted to become better at playing piano there’s nothing to stop you (assuming you can get your hands on an instrument). You can start developing your skill today and in a week’s time you’ll be better. In a month’s time you’ll be able to string a tune together like I did in my video above. And in a year’s time, if you’ve applied yourself properly, you will be an accomplished player able to really wow any non-musician with your ability behind the keys. The only thing stopping you is you.

Just About Anything in Life is a Process

The real mental breakthrough for me was in realizing that I can achieve many awesome things if I just embrace the process. Most people want to skip the steps to success and arrive directly at the end goal, which is the kind of attitude that results in failure and giving up. If on the other hand you embrace the process and focus on each next step, your progress will be quite remarkable.

This approach was encapsulated beautifully by James Clear in a post on consistently achieving goals:

In my experience, a better way to approach your goals is to set a schedule to operate by rather than a deadline to perform by.

Instead of giving yourself a deadline to accomplish a particular goal by (and then feeling like a failure if I don’t achieve it), you should choose a goal that is important to you and then set a schedule to work towards it consistently.

I love this approach. If you shift your focus from the end goal to the next step necessary in the path to achieving that goal, your outlook changes entirely. Getting to that next step is likely to be relatively straightforward, even if the end goal is way of out sight. Why punish yourself for not achieving the impossible when you can reward yourself for consistent progress towards an ultimate goal?

Seek Personal Growth

Many people set goals to increase material wealth and I have no problem with that at all. But personal growth is more valuable than anything else, regardless of your goals.

Let me explain by means of an example from my past. For the first six months or so in my journey to leaving work behind I was a serial failure. If you check out my old income reports you can see that it took me six months to make any money. I completely failed in terms of achieving material goals.

However, I had succeeded in building my skill set and learning an awful lot from my failures. In the following six months I made over $11,000 and was on my way.

If I were to try and visualize my income growth versus knowledge growth it would look something like this:

A graph depicting income and knowledge growth.

As you can see, at the beginning my knowledge growth outstripped income growth dramatically (after all, I was losing money). Although I was a “material failure,” I took solace in the fact that I knew my skill set was growing all the time. It took time for my income to catch up and reflect my increased knowledge, but the improvement came.

As you can see from the last point on the graph, I believe that my knowledge potential now outstrips my actual earnings considerably. The main limiting factor on my income is now the time I choose to devote to my business, not my ability to earn more.

A Challenge

Progress through consistent quality application is an inevitability, not a possibility. This applies to absolutely anything you turn your mind to within the limits of your physical and/or mental capacity. And let me tell you, when it comes to your goals, they’re more likely to be within your limits than outside of them.

With that in mind I have a challenge for you. It’s quite simple: embrace a process. Think of a particular ability you would like to be proficient in then start getting better at it. It could be anything: learning French, improving your curve ball, building a successful blog, and so on. Set your mind to improving yourself. Focus on personal growth rather than material wealth. Reward yourself when you can recognise improvement.

If you apply yourself in this fashion you will get better — it is an inevitability. If you can truly believe that then your potential to achieve spectacular things is huge.

Photo Credit: Ed Yourdon