Leaving Work Behind

How to Motivate Yourself

Written by Tom Ewer on September 23, 2013. 49 Comments

MotivationOne of the greatest challenges for people who want to leave work behind is finding the motivation to take action.

You may feel like you have the potential to create a successful online business, but what you don’t have is the necessary motivation required to get the ball rolling.

Put simply, when you get home from work, the last thing you want to do is more work. Although you feel you’re ready to make a major change in your life, you don’t have a fire burning within you.

In this post I want to help you to light that fire.

Dispelling the Myths of Demotivation

I get emails from people all the time telling me why they can’t succeed. They may not put it in so many words, but the general argument is always the same: “I can’t succeed because of [excuse].”

But here’s the thing: those excuses are never good enough. Never. Furthermore, they’re predictable and can be easily countered.

With that in mind, let’s start by dispelling what I like to call the three myths of demotivation.

1. The Time Excuse

TimeWhen it comes to finding a reason not to do something, a lack of time is the number one excuse.

But time can never be an excuse. People who say that they have no time to build a successful online business are lying to themselves.

How do I know this? You only have to observe what others are doing.

Whatever you want to achieve, someone has already done it with less resources. All over the world, people are reaching their goals and doing it in less time than you claim you don’t have.

Put simply, if you have the necessary motivation, you’ll make the time.

It’s not a case of, “I don’t have time” — it’s a case of, “I don’t want it enough.” Don’t confuse the two statements. One is an excuse, the other is an admission.

If you don’t believe me when I say that you have time, answer this question: if someone held a gun to your head and told you that you had to quit your job and build a successful business over the next twelve months, would you find the time to make it happen? Of course you would. Where there’s a will there’s a way.

I’m not saying that it’s easy to find the time. You will probably have to make sacrifices (from as trivial as less television, to less sleep, or even less quality time with friends and family). But necessary sacrifices in the short term that enable you to reach your long term goals are part and parcel of leaving work behind.

2. The Idea Excuse

LightbulbI get a lot of emails from people telling me that they’re ready to take action but don’t have an idea to take action on. But they’re wrong.

Everyone has ideas. We’re human beings: incredibly complex machines that are capable of thousands of thoughts every day. Don’t tell me you don’t have ideas running through your head.

Let’s go through a real simple idea production process. What’s your hobby? What do you love to do more than anything? Start a blog on that. There’s an idea.

In reality, you know that you have ideas. The real fear is that your idea is no good. To which I say this: failing at something is far more productive than doing nothing at all. The process of failure will teach you an enormous amount and you’ll be far better equipped to move onto the next idea. You will find a winning formula if you persist.

Don’t tell me that you have no ideas. Start something now.

3. The Experience Excuse

Finally, we have people who hide behind a perceived lack of experience or ability. Excuses like:

But I don’t know how to use WordPress.

I don’t know how to blog.

I have no idea how to launch an eCommerce store.

I have no freelancing experience.

First of all, there are people out there with less IQ points than you doing what you’re making out to be impossible. Seriously — creating a blog is not difficult if you’re willing to spend just a few minutes learning how:

The people who don’t use their lack of experience or ability as an excuse for inaction are the people who succeed. Sure — it might be harder for you to learn how to blog than other people. That doesn’t make it any less of a poor excuse.

There are people out there doing extraordinary things. Amputees running marathons. Adventurers traversing the Antarctic. A friend of my girlfriend is rowing from the Californian coast to Hawaii next year and half the team only started learning how to row recently. And you’re telling me you can’t figure out how to blog?

Don’t tell me you can’t do something because you don’t know how to. Figure out how to. Everyone in the world starts off not knowing how to do anything — if you’re lacking knowledge in a particular field, you just need to work to redress the balance.

Don’t shortcut the process either. If you have a knowledge gap that needs filling, you should invest in something of true quality that will help you to do so. Don’t fall into the trap of trawling the Internet to find the information you need — save yourself a whole load of time and effort and spend a little money.

Finding Motivation

Now we know that the most popular excuses for not taking action are just that (excuses), we have to dig deeper to uncover what’s really going on in those people who lack motivation.

Let’s consider what motivation is for a moment. The dictionary defines it as follows:

A reason or reasons for acting or behaving in a particular way

That definition couldn’t be any more relevant to us. Motivation is having a reason — something that justifies the necessary action to achieve your goals. If you’re truly motivated to do something then you make the time. You gain the necessary experience. And you do so with little in the way of negative thoughts because you have a compelling reason to do what you’re doing.

That’s why the whole gun-to-the-head trick is so effective — it gives you a reason. The whole “I must try to do this or I will die” scenario is a big motivator for most people. But how do you find that level of motivation (or something approaching it) without having someone actually put a gun to your head?

You need to find the most compelling “rewards” for meeting your goals. Those will be your reasons for doing what you do.

This is where so many people make their first mistake, because they believe these rewards to primarily be material. I have learned that the true rewards — those that will provide enough motivation — are rarely material.

Determining Your True Rewards

I'd like to live somewhere like this, but it isn't the reason why I do what I do.

I’d like to live somewhere like this, but it isn’t the reason why I do what I do.

Many of us dream of big houses and expensive cars. There’s nothing wrong with that.

However, the act of leaving work behind is not about that (at least, not primarily). Leaving work behind is ultimately about happiness. While material possessions can make you happier, they do not represent the core of true happiness.

The following things bring happiness:

  1. Security
  2. Relationships
  3. Freedom
  4. Material possessions

When it comes to motivating yourself, you need to focus on how quitting your job and starting an online business will affect those areas of your life.

The immediate implications may not always be positive. For instance, you may be concerned about the impact of quitting your job to your financial security. But on the flip side, quitting your job will give you the freedom to work as you please and spend time with your friends and family whenever you want. Furthermore, in time it may enable you to earn more money than you ever did in your job and give you a level of security that you couldn’t have previously dreamt of.

An Example of a True Reward

I received an email a couple of weeks ago from a LWB reader that perfectly described a compelling motivator. Unfortunately I can’t find the original email but the crisis was obvious: this father of two felt that he was spending all of his time working and barely seeing his kids grow up.

I answered a few of his questions but left him with one key statement: you’re already half way there. His motivator is so strong that the chances of him succeeding are immediately higher than average, regardless of his abilities or ideas.

Me, Jack and Maggie (one of my nephews and my niece).

I can’t imagine what it must feel like to know that you are not spending as much time with your kids as you would like. I am sure it is similar (but far more intense) to how I feel about only seeing my nephews and niece a handful of times a year (as they live in a different country).

The drive such a motivator can give you cannot be underestimated. In fact, one of my motivators to earn more is so that I can fly out to Texas to see my nephews and niece more often.

Motivators that involve deep human emotions — that affect you on an intrinsic level — make all the difference.

My True Reward

When it came to quitting my job and building a successful online business, my biggest motivator was to prove that I could do it. That may not seem like such a big deal, but it was to me.

I spent my whole childhood expecting to become a successful entrepreneur. Then, five years into full time employment, I suddenly realized that it simply hadn’t happened. More than anything else, I wanted to build a successful business so that I could prove to myself (and others) that I was capable of doing it.

My biggest motivators have been pride and a desire for achievement. My actions have been driven by the desire to create something. A legacy. Something that I can point to and say, “I created that.”

Those are the kind of motivators you need to find.

Negative Motivation

Another way you can motivate yourself is to tell yourself what would happen if you didn’t achieve your goals. I call this “negative motivation”.

Think of all the things you dislike about your job and your life in general and remind yourself that these things won’t change unless you take action. For instance, if I had stayed in my job I would have been resigning myself to a lifetime of working for someone else. I would have been handing over nearly one third of my prime years to someone else. I would have been giving up my lifelong ambition of creating my own business and would have proven to myself that I wasn’t capable.

I couldn’t bear that outcome. It would have destroyed my ego and left me feeling pretty worthless.

Furthermore, I wanted freedom. I’ll be honest with you — I’m terrible at dealing with authority figures. I don’t like people telling me what to do. Spending the rest of my life having 8+ hours of my working days controlled by someone else was something I couldn’t handle.

Individually, these motivations were powerful. When combined they were unstoppable. Find your own unstoppable negative motivators.

Reminding Yourself of Your Motivators

A lot of self-help types recommend that you put reminders of your motivators up on your wall, on your fridge, and so on. If you want to do so then go ahead (it certainly won’t hurt), but realize this: if you need reminders to keep your motivators at the forefront of your mind, they’re not compelling enough.

Your motivator needs to drive your thinking and your actions — to practically become an obsession. Does that sound pretty full on? It is — but that’s not surprising given that you’re planning on making one of the changes to your life that you will ever make.

Think about other major events in life: moving house, getting married, having kids. Each of these go a long way towards taking over your life. Many of your day-to-day decisions become influenced (consciously and subconsciously) by your consideration towards that major event. Why should leaving work behind be any different?

This kind of commitment does come at a cost. I believe that quitting your job and building a successful online business can be just as psychologically impactful on your life as moving house or having a kid. I never said that it was easy, but if you have strong enough motivators, the work won’t be so gruelling and the outcome will be life changing.

Secondary Motivators

Finding your key underlying motivators is one of the most important things you can do to help you in leaving work behind. However, there are other things you can do that will help no end in terms of boosting your motivation and keeping you honest.

Read or Watch Success Stories and Inspiring Speeches

Commit to watching three minutes of the following video — I reckon the majority of people who start it won’t stop watching until the end:

Or how about one of my all-time personal favorites from the always awesome Derek Sivers:

Although I don’t think video or audio is the optimum medium for learning and taking action, it can be extraordinarily powerful in terms of getting you fired up and ready to take on the world. Discovering how other people achieved what you want to achieve can be practically useful and deeply inspiring.

If you can feel your motivation flagging, videos like the ones above are exactly the kind of things you should watch to help get yourself back on the wagon.

Hold Yourself Publicly Accountable

I originally launched Leaving Work Behind as an accountability journal to chronicle my own journey to quitting my job. I wanted to tell the world what I was planning to do so that going back on my public intentions would be all the more difficult.

It was very effective, which is exactly why I recommend you do something similar. You don’t have to launch a blog, but you could for example get involved in a forum or start reaching out to other people who you can share your journey with.

Whatever you choose to do, the key is that other people must know about it and there should be repercussions for you going back on your stated intentions. If people expect you to try your damnedest to succeed, you’re likely to put far more effort in.

Build a Support Network

One of the greatest things you can do in terms of boosting motivation is start a mastermind group. If you don’t already know, a mastermind group is simply two or more people who get together periodically to discuss their business and set goals.

I cannot understate the value of being in a mastermind group. I attribute a great deal of my success so far to being in masterminds and know that I wouldn’t be where I am now without them. If you’d like to know more about mastermind groups, read my comprehensive guide.

The Other Side of Motivation: Making Things Easy Enough

Having said that, you should work to ensure that your path to leaving work behind is as easy as possible. After all, achieving your goals isn’t just about how motivated your are — it’s also about how challenging what you set out to do is.

For instance, if quitting your job and building a $100k per year profit business were as simple as signing a piece of paper, I am willing to bet that you would take time out of your day to make sure that it got signed. The effort of putting pen to paper would certainly be worth it. But if you were told that by working 100+ hours per week for three years you would get $100k per year for the rest of your life, would you do it? I doubt it (and even if you tried, you would fail).

So don’t just look at your motivators — examine the methods you are employing to reach your goals. Are they working? Is they too difficult? Do they still make sense to you? Do you truly believe that your actions will bear fruit?

Taking some time every now and then to answer these questions can provide you with valuable information.

For example, making “passive” income from a blog is tough, yet many people try it. Most fail, then give up on making money online altogether. If instead they tried something like freelance blogging, they might land their first client within a couple of weeks. Now they’re making money and can see where it could lead.

At that point, the motivation is far more powerful than the work required. Success breeds confidence, and confidence breeds the motivation to achieve more (tweet this).

So if you’re struggling for motivation at the moment, perhaps you need to adjust your goals. Don’t try to jump chasms rather than step over cracks. Work on taking a small step forward and use the confidence and motivation gained from your progress to achieve more.

Leaving Work Behind Isn’t for Everyone

There’s a reason why most people are employed — running your own business is not for everyone.

I’m not going to pretend that every single person reading this article will quit their job, because many of you will not. Many won’t find a strong enough motivation and life will simply pass them by. Before they know it, they’ll be at retirement age, wondering where their best years went.

You might weigh up the potential benefits of (and motivators for) quitting your job and realize that it is not worth the perceived risk and effort. You might discover that while your job is far from perfect, you’re not (yet) at a point where you feel truly motivated to make a major change.

There is a chance that you’re not motivated enough because you don’t have anything that serves as a strong enough motivator.

But lacking strong enough motivators doesn’t bring you to the end of the line. It may not be time for you to leave work behind yet, or you may not yet have come across an opportunity that truly excites you. You may not take action now, but perhaps you’ll keep looking and your outlook will change in time.

Just remember this: nothing beyond your outlook will change if you don’t take action.

Remember Your Key Motivators

Leaving work behind isn’t about getting rich (although it certainly can be a motivator). Not appreciating that key principle is what trips so many people up and prevents them from achieving their goals.

More than anything, leaving work behind is about finding those things that will bring you true happiness. They are typically aligned with the relationships you have and things that are deeply personal to you.

Find those motivators and you will have all the drive you’ll ever need to achieve your goals.

Photo Credits: Work Life, Wikipedia, Chuck Coker and Caitlin Jean

The (Un)Importance of Optimization

Written by Tom Ewer on September 18, 2013. 58 Comments

Conventional WisdomOver the past two years or so I have spent a good chunk of my time railing against the majority of what most make money online “experts” advise. Generally speaking, doing so has worked in my favor.

For example, it was only when I turned my primary focus onto building a service-based business (and away from passive income endeavors) that I was able to leave work behind. Furthermore, I decided to put my full efforts into building a freelance blogging business when most freelance writing “experts” claim there is little money in blogging for pay. That worked out pretty well too.

I created a successful blog in the make money online niche when just about anyone was ready to tell me that it is already far too crowded to prosper. Not only that, but I managed to do so without bullshitting a single human being (which is all too rare).

With the above in mind, in today’s post I want to focus on one particular action (or inaction, more specifically) that I feel has benefitted me (and my audience) more than most. As you might expect, it goes completely against what you are typically told to do.

The (Un)Importance of Optimization

Optimization is a buzzword in the blogosphere. If you’re not optimizing, you’re not making the most of the opportunities available to you.

Optimization can take many forms. There is Search Engine Optimization (SEO), sales copy optimization, conversion optimization, and so on. But they all share one key characteristic: squeezing more out of what you already have.

By practicing SEO you intend to drive a greater volume of traffic to existing content. By optimizing your sales copy you intend to generate more sales from the same number of leads. By converting say a sign up form, you intend to gain a higher ratio of subscribers from the same number of visitors to your blog.

In my opinion there are two things that are fundamentally “wrong” about optimization:

  1. It rarely benefits the end user a great deal
  2. It can distract you from more important matters

Let me explain to you what I mean with some examples.

How Optimization Has Benefitted A-List Bloggers (Or Not)

Steve Kamb

Steve Kamb

The idea for this post first came to me when I was watching an interview with Steve Kamb on Fizzle.

For those of you who don’t know, Steve is the founder of Nerd Fitness — an enormous health and fitness blog/community with monthly visits in excess of one million. He also happens to be one of the true good guys in the blogosphere — someone who is still happy to reply to emails from readers (with no apparent expectation of potential reward) despite the astronomical growth in his blog’s popularity over the past few years.

What surprised me in the interview was the lack of focus Steve had on optimization. He admitted that he knew next to nothing about SEO and that he had only recently brought someone on board to work on split testing. This is the same guy who makes a very healthy income from a well-respected blog in a highly competitive niche.

Watching the interview brought me back to a guest post I read on Think Traffic over two years ago. It was entitled What Happens When Gizmodo Unleashes a Flood of 42,000+ People on Your Blog and was written by (you guessed it) Steve Kamb. In that post, Steve revealed how an article he wrote on Nerd Fitness was syndicated by Gizmodo (which is an enormous blog for those of you who don’t know), which resulted in a huge burst of traffic to his site.

The cause of all the traffic: one blog post.

The cause of all the traffic: one blog post.

At the time Nerd Fitness was attracting around the same number of visitors as Leaving Work Behind does at the moment and was about two years old (sounds like I’m about ready to get syndicated by Gizmodo, right? ;-)).

Upon reflection Steve knew that he should have done more to convert the traffic, but he wasn’t big on optimization and missed out on an opportunity. Yet, just over two years later, his blog has gone from attracting ~800 visitors per day to perhaps ~30,000. He has managed to prosper without an overarching obsession with optimization. It is no small coincidence that he also happens to produce quality content on a consistent basis.

I’ve known about Steve’s relative lack of concern with optimization for a long time but I only recently learned my lesson from his story.

My Obsession With Optimization

I have spent a large part of my time as a blogger obsessed with optimization. In fact, my obsession only came to an end relatively recently.

I had spent over a month in search of someone to work on the copy of the sales page for my freelance blogging guide. I felt that the existing copy didn’t fit my “voice” or reflect the Leaving Work Behind brand well (I hadn’t written it), plus I thought it could convert better. However, I didn’t want to work on the page myself as I don’t consider myself to be a talented copywriter.

Then I had a small epiphany: I didn’t need a copywriter. I realized that when it comes to growing the Leaving Work Behind brand and doing my best to help people, I was the best person to write the sales page — whether or not it resulted in a higher conversion rate.

My new and improved (albeit still very basic) sales page.

My new and improved (albeit still very basic) sales page.

Once I had given myself the freedom to create my sales page copy on the basis of how well it informed the user and reflected my brand, writing it became a piece of cake. Although I haven’t finished with the sales page yet, I think it is far better than it was. Most importantly, I think it better serves people who are potentially interested in my freelance blogging guide than it did before. And incidentally, it converts better than it did before. I consider that a natural side-effect of working hard to best serve your visitors.

This led to a number of optimization-related obsessions crumbling to dust about me. No more fretting over SEO. No more making decisions based upon whether I feel something will “convert” better. Instead, my sole focus is on making Leaving Work Behind better for the people who visit it. And believe me, approaching my blog from that direction is wonderfully invigorating.

While my course of action may not result in me leveraging the potential of the blog to its fullest, I spend zero time agonizing over the vagaries of optimization and more time working to help people. That is more rewarding than a higher conversion rate could ever be and leaves me with a clear conscience. Furthermore, I expect it to benefit the blog in the long run.

You Don’t Need Optimization to Succeed (But It Can Help)

I am not here to tell you that you shouldn’t optimize your website. But I am saying that you shouldn’t allow it to distract from the most important thing: serving your visitor/reader/subscriber/customer.

If more bloggers were less obsessed with getting their AdWords perfectly placed or their sales page perfectly optimized and more obsessed with creating something of true value, people would have a whole lot more quality content to surf through around the blogosphere.

This was one of the driving factors behind the decision I made to reduce the number of posts I publish here on Leaving Work Behind. These days, I don’t publish a post because an editorial calendar tells me to — I publish a post because I feel I have something of value to say. Something that can benefit other people.

In short, I don’t let thoughts of optimization cloud my judgment. I do what I do because I think it is best for this blog in terms of how it can serve my readers. Everything else falls in line behind that.

From a more practical perspective, I’ll point to the evidence that the a-list bloggers do not get to their giddy heights by focusing primarily on optimization. The Steve Kambs of this world succeed because they have an overruling desire to create something of true value. That’s what enables them to build blogs that attract readers in their hundreds of thousands (and even millions). By contrast, optimization is a bit-part player.

How this Relates to Leaving Work Behind

New readers of this blog may not know this yet, but the act of leaving work behind means so much more than just quitting your job and creating a successful online business.

Ultimately, it’s about being happy. The further I travel in my journey the more I appreciate how little wealth (beyond what we need to put food in our mouths and a roof over our heads) matters when compared to happiness. I work to be happy and wealthy, but only if the act of obtaining wealth does not affect my happiness.

I don’t pretend to be a selfless blogger. I don’t think true selflessness is actually possible (but that’s a philosophical debate for another time). This blog exists for two reasons:

  1. To make money
  2. To help other people

The benefit to me of the first reason is clear. But the second reason benefits me too — it makes me happy to help people.

There are few things more rewarding than the emails I get from people thanking me for helping them. I am delighted to help people because it is rewarding. To do this and make money from it is a blessing I try very hard not to take for granted. And that has nothing to do with optimization.

How I Launched a Blog (From Scratch)

Written by Tom Ewer on September 11, 2013. 52 Comments

Healthy EnoughI get a lot of emails from LWB readers asking me how to get started with blogging.

My answer is usually the same: take action. The blogosphere is a pretty forgiving place for the beginner blogger — today’s false steps and screw-ups are forgotten by tomorrow. But for the blogger, those false steps and screw-ups offer valuable learning opportunities.

However, observing how other people have successfully achieved what you hope to achieve can sometimes be as valuable an experience as what you learn from your failures, which brings me neatly to the subject of this post.

Today I want to give you an in-depth insider peek at my latest blog project because I am certain that many bloggers (beginner and intermediate alike) can learn a great deal from both what I have done so far and what I plan to do in the future. If you want to know how I took a brand new blog from initial concept to launch and beyond, read on.

An Entrepreneur’s Curse

In my experience, the more successful you become, the more ideas you have. That can both a blessing and a curse, as your future success is defined less by whether or not you have good ideas, but by which ideas you choose to execute on.

I have no problem in coming up with ideas these days. Here’s a few I have on the back burner at the moment:

The above list is just the tip of the iceberg. Collectively speaking, I have spent hours fleshing out these ideas and deliberating whether to execute on them. Some of these ideas are over a year old and have remained on the back burner, subordinating over and over again to fresher ideas that I felt held more promise.

The unusual thing about my latest blogging project, Healthy Enough, is that it went from the idea stage to launch in a matter of days. How did Healthy Enough as an idea set itself apart from all of the “competition” and why did I feel compelled to start on it immediately?

The Birth of a Blog

If you are a regular LWB reader you may recall that I had a go at the P90X program a few months ago. Unfortunately my progress was halted mid-way through by a shoulder injury and all of my hard work essentially came to naught.

In the end all that I was left with was a blog: P90X Journal. However, with my journey coming to an end the updates on that blog also came to an abrupt halt.

4 Hour BodyIt wasn’t until several weeks later that my thoughts came back to health and fitness. My weight was approaching 210lbs, which is the point at which I stop my eat-what-I-like regime and start dieting. On a whim I opened up an old copy of Tim Ferriss’ 4 Hour Body and re-read the chapters on his Slow-Carb Diet.

After just a few minutes I could think of nothing other than two things:

  1. I was going to give the Slow-Carb Diet a go
  2. I was going to launch a health and fitness blog for normal people

The concept for Healthy Enough came to me almost fully formed: a health and fitness blog for people who were more interested in maintaining a healthy weight, enjoying their food and exercising for fun rather than compromising their quality of life to attain a body that would turn heads.

I loved this idea for two reasons:

  1. I was seriously passionate about it — I knew that the blog’s content could be written for me as much as anyone else
  2. I felt that the idea hadn’t been fully explored by anyone else in the blogosphere

It was mainly the passion I had for the idea that led to me jumping on it so quickly. Although I have become pretty good at holding back and letting ideas “breathe” for a while before taking action, I couldn’t want to get started on this. I felt that it was a great idea from the word go and my feelings on that front haven’t changed since.

In short, I was good to go.

What Happened Next?

One of the most important things I have realized from over two years blogging is that in order to resonate with your readers, you need to ask yourself who you are speaking to and how you should speak to them. Therefore, my first step in planning Healthy Enough was to provide answers to those two questions.

Defining My Target Reader

First, I knew that I needed to define my target reader, which I did within Evernote:

Target reader

Seems super-specific, right? I consider this vital to the process. When I’m writing for the blog I want to have the picture of my target reader crystal clear in my head. In my experience this produces fantastic results in terms of people resonating with your content and makes the writing process far easier.

It is important to note that although my target reader is very specific, writing purely for him does not necessarily lead to the exclusion of others.

Let me explain what I mean. Imagine that the engagement of your readers is coded from red (high), to yellow (moderate), to green (low). You can split potential visitors to your blog into three groups thus:

  1. Red: your target reader.
  2. Yellow: people who share one or more of the key characteristics of your target reader.
  3. Green: people who share none of the key characteristics of your target reader.

In terms of 100% of people on the Internet, the groups (and according level of engagement) might split up into percentages like this:

Pie chart

Less than a quarter of your potential visitors being moderately or highly engaged may seem like a low number, but here’s what happens if you try to create a blog for everyone:

Pie chart

I know which pie chart I prefer.

You may be wondering what drove me to create my particular target reader. My thinking was to create a person that represented (a) me and (b) a large bulk of people out there who would be interested in my topic. If you know me and you examine the target reader, you will see many similarities. However, certain things are different (such as the nationality and age of the reader) to allow me to target a greater group of people than I would if I made the target reader entirely like me.

In doing so I think that I have the best of both worlds: I am writing both for myself and for a relatively large section of the population.

Creating Style and Content Strategies

Once I knew who I was writing for I needed to figure out what I was going to write.

This to me means two things: coming up with a style strategy and a content strategy. They are joined at the hip.

Here’s what I came up with:

Blogging style and content strategy

The blogging style side of things was easy to come up with — it’s me all over. You see a lot of it here on LWB, but I hold back on some elements because it isn’t really appropriate to the subject matter. But on Healthy Enough I feel comfortable in letting loose with all manners of immature jokes and references because I know that my target reader will find them just as amusing as I do. And that is of course the key — to engage with your target reader.

In terms of the content strategy, I knew that it would be very important for me to set myself apart from the myriad number of health and fitness blogs already in existence. Although it isn’t actually stated in my Evernote notes, I had already decided that I would write in-depth articles of 2,000-3,000 words and even beyond, which immediately separates me from over 90% of the content out there.

After that, I knew that there were three different types of articles that I wanted to write (stated above). In the blog’s short lifetime I have already written two of the three types:

Personal case studies will follow in due course.

The Launch

A lot of “expert” bloggers will tell you that you need to make a launch a big deal because you never get the opportunity to launch again. However, I take a much more relaxed approach.

Healthy Enough was launched with no fanfare and just one post: Welcome to Healthy Enough. I followed that up with 10 Ways You Know You Should Be a Healthy Enough Reader to quickly establish who the blog is for.

Yep -- it's for people who think stupid faces are funny.

Yep — it’s for people who think stupid faces are funny.

I consider this a pretty good way to launch a blog: introduce it and tell the readers who its for. Most people will tell you that the next step should be to publish some truly epic content. While that is true, I don’t like the implication that not all of your content should be epic. I made a decision very early on with Healthy Enough that I would only publish truly epic content (or content that directly supported the epic content) and I believe that  many bloggers could benefit from adopting such an attitude.

It’s the same approach I decided to take with Leaving Work Behind just a few weeks ago and I haven’t looked back since. When it comes to my own blogs, I will only ever publish content if I am positive that it is (a) amongst the best work that I can do and (b) unique in some way.

There’s another benefit to not making the launch a big deal: it helps you to avoid a great deal of anxiety. A lot of beginner bloggers put their launch on a pedestal and dream of what could be, only to be let down by reality. My advice is to relieve yourself of the stress and simply start writing. The posts that you write aren’t going anywhere — they’ll be as epic tomorrow as they were today. You can always draw people’s attention back to them in the future (or even re-publish them).

I don’t think a blog’s “real” launch should take place when you hit Publish on that first post. No — I have a different approach. More on that shortly.

Promoting My Blog

I haven’t done a great deal to promote my blog yet.

I announced it to my email and social media subscribers and have started reaching out to a few health and fitness bloggers, but nothing of any real note. Although I am aware that a blog’s growth is often directly linked to how much effort you put into the promotion of content as opposed to its production, I am always drawn back to the passion I have for content creation.

At the end of the day I am not particularly marketing-minded and I don’t pretend to be. I believe in the concept of creating a strong brand and great content and getting to know people within your niche then waiting for the magic to happen. It’s not the most forceful or effective way of promoting your blog, but I’m comfortable with it and it gives me plenty of time to work on great content.

I hope and believe that the quality of the content I produce for Healthy Enough will be enough to give the blog the kickstart it needs once I decide to open the doors formally. Speaking of which…

Plans for the Future

Although I am not a huge fan of marketing, I do have a strategy in mind for promoting the blog when I feel it is ready. My criteria for “ready” are as follows:

When my blog has a striking design, a manifesto (that also acts as an email signup incentive) that clearly outlines what the site’s all about and a load of existing content for new visitors to explore, I know that it will be ready for a “hard” launch. Until then I will just keep beavering away.

But when the blog does reach critical mass, my strategy will be simple: reach out to as many bloggers as I can in an effort to either (a) guest post on their site and/or (b) get them to share my manifesto.

By that time I hope I will have a number of established contacts within the health and fitness niche — people who will only be too happy to give me a helping hand in formally launching my blog. Furthermore, I will have benefitted from a “dry run” period in which I will have honed the finer points of my blog and really crystallized the message of my blog (and how it should be presented).

If I time the launch well and get my ducks in a row, this formal launch should elevate my blog above the 95% of blogs out there and into the 5% (the metaphorical sweet spot where you can start to make money from your blog).

Oh — did I not mention that I intend to make money from this blog? While that is my intention at the end of the day, I am currently having far too much fun creating content to even think about it. I think that is something that a lot of beginner (and established) bloggers miss out on — in my opinion, before anything else, blogging should be fun. Not just for your own benefit but for the benefit of your readers. If you enjoy writing your posts, it will shine through.

In reality, firm money-making plans are a way off yet — probably comfortably into 2014. However, I am confident that the Healthy Enough brand is one that can sustain a profitable business in the long run.

So What Next?

Well, I’ve already revealed my rough future plans to you. At this point my primary focus is on creating content for the site — a minimum of one post per week. I also have a friend helping me with the design, which I hope to update sooner rather than later. This is not something I am in a rush with as I want to get it right. In time I have much bigger plans for the blog, but I am taking things one step at a time.

Beyond content creation I will continue to reach out to bloggers in my niche in the hope that some will respond so that I can start building relationships. My experience with LWB has demonstrated to me that relationships are key. The more people you get to know within your niche, the greater a chance you have of opportunities coming your way in time. It’s not necessarily something that can be forced, but it should certainly be encouraged.

So that’s it for now! I will of course be furnishing you with further updates on Healthy Enough as the blog develops. In time I hope to be able to show you how I developed a successful blog from the ground up. If you have any questions or comments then please do not hesitate to leave them below!

My Monthly Income Report — August 2013

Written by Tom Ewer on September 2, 2013. 43 Comments

Twenty BucksAs you will know if you read my last income report, July was a month of major change for me. I made the transition from a “traditional” freelancing model to a sub-contracting business model in which I hire writers for much of my client work.

The thinking behind this was simple: I could earn say 60% of the income in just 10% of the time. Given that I had so many other projects that I wanted to work on (that could in the long term make me even more money), the idea was too tempting to pass up.

So I dove in at the deep end and made the switch. I launched Clear Blogging Solutions and set about attracting new clients. My aim was to surpass my record earnings of $6,206 within the following 2-3 months.

But as is often my wont, plans have changed rather drastically since then. My outlook on what I want my business to look like is clearer than ever. That strength of clarity is only matched by my optimism for the future, which is at an all-time high. Read on to find out why!

What Happened in August?

August was a month for getting down to business. I had a lot to do.

The One Hour Authority Site Project Failure

I finally decided to call time on my One Hour Authority Site project in August.

Bye bye FODA...

Bye bye FODA…

I was more relieved than anything else — I had known for months that this project would never pan out as I had hoped, but I was determined to give it a good run. I did just that and it didn’t work out.

Fortunately I learned a huge amount from the experience, which I immediately poured into my next blogging project: Healthy Enough. More about that later on!

Changing My Successful Freelance Writing Online Sales Page

I’ve never liked the sales page for my freelance writing guide. Someone had written it for me free of charge, and while I was extremely grateful for that, it did not “sound” like me at all. Quite simply, I would never say something like “I was a total wet in the ear newbie,” and reading it back makes me cringe. For my voice, the copy was overly “salesly” and sounded false.

I’d been intending to change it for months but had never got around to it. I had hired someone to work on the copy for me, but he changed his mind after agreeing to do it. He was going to help me find someone else but then I didn’t hear back from him.

I took all of this as a sign and decided to have a go myself. Here’s the outcome. While I’m not 100% happy with it yet (I want to add a few more details and a sample chapter as well as some design tweaks to make it a little less plain), I think it’s a massive improvement. Most importantly, I believe that it is far less salesy than it was before and sounds much more like me, which is what I wanted to achieve above and beyond simply making more sales.

I went to Twitter and Facebook to get some feedback, which was largely positive, with exception to Captain Killjoy here:

Captain Killjoy

Hmm…

Obvious Troll

The greatest irony was that my re-doing of the sales page was off the back of a realization that everything I do now is primarily about (1) being happy and (2) helping others as much as I can, rather than actually making money.

I didn’t think much of the comment because it seemed less constructive criticism and more trolling. I would love to get your feedback on the new sales page though — what do you think?

The Birth (And Death?) of Clear Blogging Solutions

Clear Blogging SolutionsI officially launched Clear Blogging Solutions on August 1st via a post here on LWB. In that post I revealed the thinking behind my radical change of direction from freelancing to subcontracting:

[Freelancing] isn’t scalable. I only have so many hours available, and quality writing is mentally taxing work that you can only do so much of before you burn out.

Not only that, but I was compromising my other projects in an effort to squeeze every last penny out of my freelancing business and keep breaking income records. Not a good recipe for long term growth. I was obsessed with numbers (I broke my income record four months running) and had lost sight of the bigger picture.

I felt that the new business had a solid structure:

  1. My writers communicate with the clients directly.
  2. Their work goes through me and I act in an editorial role to ensure that everything is up to scratch.
  3. Clients pay me directly and I pay my writers at their desired rate.
  4. The writers can talk to me if they have any questions or need any further assistance. Similarly, the client can talk to me at any point if they so desire.

However, I soon discovered that the above approach wouldn’t work for me.

Problem One

The first rude awakening came via one of my writers. He was due to submit a couple of pieces on the Monday, so when I hadn’t received anything by that evening I emailed him to ask what the story was. I woke up on Tuesday morning to a response that the cynic in me was expecting:

Email

Just like that, I had a big hole in my editorial calendar. I scrambled to reassign the work and managed to have things straightened out by the end of the day, but I had just been exposed to the inevitable reality of relying on other people to help keep your business running.

That experience made me realize that having my writers communicate directly with clients simply wasn’t practical. For starters it was plain embarrassing to have to tell one of my clients that this writer had disappeared overnight and wouldn’t be working with him any more, but more importantly it represented a level of professionalism that was way below the standards I had worked hard to set throughout my freelancing career.

So I decided to revert back to a model in which I would act as a middleman between my writers and clients, ensuring that my clients experienced a seamless service even if chaos was reigning behind the front lines.

Problem Two

The second issue I faced was less of a “problem” as such and more of a realization.

It had been about three weeks since the launch of Clear Blogging Solutions. I had a spreadsheet packed with prospective client details — there had been no shortage of enquiries.

However, I hadn’t taken on any more clients through Clear Blogging Solutions in the month. I had started working for Flippa and WooThemes, but those jobs had come through existing connections.

This gave me cause for both concern and puzzlement, given the number of enquiries that I had received. So I decided to take a look at those enquiries in aggregate to see if I could spot anything.

Two clear patterns practically screamed out at me. I discovered that most of the prospects:

  1. Were after relatively generic content
  2. Ran small blogs or would be re-selling the content to their clients for a profit

It then dawned on me. By launching Clear Blogging Solutions I had wiped out my key selling proposition as a writer: me.

Two of the reasons I have been so successful as a freelance writer are that I have been backed by (1) the Leaving Work Behind brand and (2) a seemingly ubiquitous presence all over the web: from FreelanceSwitch, to ManageWP, to Mashable, to Lifehacker and beyond. In Clear Blogging Solutions I was inadvertently diluting my value and distracting potential clients from the greatest benefits of working with me.

It certainly wasn’t the direction I wanted to head in. I wanted to work with only the highest-quality clients — those who were on the same wavelength as me; those who operated in niches that I found interesting. I had no need to make any more money from my writing business, which meant that the direction I went in was all about enjoyment and fulfilment. I had realized that CBS wouldn’t offer me that.

I’ll leave you with that cliffhanger for a moment, as it is high time that I revealed my earnings for this month. July was my lowest income month since 2012 (due largely to the drastic reduction in freelance income). How did I fare in August?

Monthly Income Report — August 2013

  1. Freelance writing:
    • Income: $6,961.45
    • Expenditure: $1,242.49
    • Profit: $5,718.96
  2. Websites:
    • Income: $8.43
    • Expenditure: $298.83
    • Profit: -$290.40
  3. Affiliate Marketing (Leaving Work Behind):
  4. Information Products:
    • Income: $1,270.74
    • Expenditure: $103.04
    • Profit: $1,167.70
  5. eBooks:
    • Income: $39.38
    • Expenditure: $0
    • Profit: $39.38

Total profit for August 2013: $7,248.34

This is a marked improvement on July’s income on the surface, but the story is even better when the figures are examined more closely. I had a fairly substantial amount of one-off expenditure this month (including hosting) — the gross profit was my highest ever (and only a few hundred bucks shy of $10,000), as was my gross freelancing profit.

All in all, it’s great to see the income moving in the right direction again, but I was never worried about the “blip” in July — after all, I have transitioned to a completely different business model that now takes only a fraction of my time!

All Change

So what next? Well, I’m not one to rest on my laurels — I’ve got a lot to be getting on with.

Clear Blogging Solutions

Further to my experiences with Clear Blogging Solutions in July (covered above), I came to the decision that it isn’t right for me. I believe that my trusty old “Hire Me page” model is as good an advertisement for the type of client I want to attract as it ever has been. As such, the link to CBS in the navigation bar has been changed back to a link to my Hire Me page.

While I have seriously pimped out the page in an effort to make my services more attractive to prospective clients and to account for the fact that I now work with a team of writers rather than solo, the key selling points of old are still there:

  1. I’m the named writer and the person you deal with
  2. We write only on topics that I have experience in and am known for
  3. Clients can tap into my social media networks to promote their content (when relevant)

However, Clear Blogging Solutions isn’t deadthe site is still up and running. My decision is entirely reversible — in effect, all I need to do is change the link in my navigation bar and in my bylines on client sites. But I do feel like my return-to-the-old approach is the right one for me. I want to continue working with the Flippas and WooThemes of this world — not clients who are looking for a bargain.

Healthy Enough

The death (or to be more accurate, the coma) of Free Online Dating Advice left a gap in my “blogging projects” slot that needed filling. Just a couple of weeks ago I was rather suddenly inspired by a re-read of Tim Ferriss’ The Four Hour Body to launch a health and fitness blog with a difference.

I decided to target people like me: people who are relatively fit and healthy and really love their food. People who hate exercise for the sake of exercise (rather than for fun). People who would like to have six pack abs but just aren’t motivated enough to do the necessary hard work.

And so my new blog was born: Healthy Enough.

Currently featuring my mug quite prominently.

Currently featuring my mug quite prominently.

Over the coming months I’ll be publishing personal case studies, well-researched and comprehensive pieces on health and fitness topics and informative and actionable articles.

I’m really excited about this project. I think I have nailed down an approach that people like me will find really appealing, and I think I’m in a position to create compelling content. I will of course be writing plenty more about this blog here on LWB in the future, so stay tuned!

What’s in Store for September?

I’m now  well settled with my writing business and have a lot more time on my hands than I did previously. That means that I’ve got a lot in store for September.

First of all, I plan to publish three or four posts on Healthy Enough. Each on will be heavily promoted and I am hoping that I can start with a bang. We shall see.

Secondly, I am currently working on a major re-launch of my guide, Successful Freelance Writing Online. In my humble opinion, it is going to be the best guide to freelance blogging available by an absolute mile.

This is no minor update — we’re talking about a completely new course that takes the original guide and creates something far greater. I’m really excited about it and the launch is in just a few weeks!

If you’d like to know more about the upcoming re-launch then enter your email address below and hit “Sign Me Up!”






I’ll also be working on something even bigger that I plan to reveal in October. That’s all I have to say on that right now, but you’ll find out more soon enough!

I don’t know how I will fare in terms of income in September. I doubt that my freelance earnings will be as high as they were in August, as the month was a “perfect storm” of some high-paying jobs coming together at the same time. However, I hope to at least sustain my earnings.

Looking at what I’ve got planned, it’ll be the last three months of the year that’ll really determine (a) how financially successful 2013 was for me and (b) how successful I will be in 2014. I’ve got a big few months ahead and you’ve got a front row seat!

Photo Credits: Jason Starcraft and Bossi