Mistakes, Blog

The 6 Biggest Blog Mistakes That Will Make You Lose Visitors (And How to Correct Them)

We're pretty sure that if we could write about all our DIY craft projects or latest house renovations, we would give up writing about business. But we KNOW we would lose valuable visitors.

Every blog is a little different, but there are 6 HUGE mistakes that a ton of people are making and, with our help, you can avoid them completely. Let's walk through them together.

 

Every blog is a little different, but there are 6 HUGE mistakes that a ton of people are making and you can completely avoid them. Let's walk you through them.  |  Think Creative Collective

Lack of Consistency

Every successful blogger has a regimented schedule. Whether your posts come out once a week on a Tuesday or whether you are pushing new content out all week long, you HAVE to be consistent. People need to know they can count on you. They need to know when they’ll see you next. Fail to deliver on this and people will forget to check in, or forget about you all together. So come up with a schedule and stick to it.

Need help making a plan - check out this awesome free tool to help get you on track!

Saying all the Wrong Things

Let’s face it, we all would much rather talk about ourselves. Well, maybe not ALL of us. It is so easy to fall into the trap of just talking about your life, what you had for dinner, where you worked out, et cetera. Don’t get me wrong, lifestyle blogs can be HUGE, but it is all about listening to your audience. What do they want from you? What do they gain by checking in on your blog? What sort of insight do you have for them? To give your visitors a reason to come and to stay they have to find some inherent value in what you have to say!

Not sure who your audience is? Try this awesome exercise to find your ideal muse!

Pretending Nothing Happened

I bet you all know someone who loves to write, and perhaps has been writing for years, but they never talk about it. You were shocked to find out they had this amazing blog and it was just lurking in dark corners of the internet. Chances are they just pretended that nothing ever happened. They wrote the post, pressed publish and then forgot about it until they next time they logged in. All successful bloggers have a marketing game plan. Many of them heavily rely on other audiences - such as Facebook Likes or Instagram Followers - to translate into readers. You HAVE to tell people that you wrote something or they won’t know to check it out.

Check out these 15 Essential Free Tools to Up Your Social Media Marketing.

Killing Keywords

You want to know why Google works? It is because people are predictable. People tend to use similar words over and over again to describe certain subjects. The more keywords built into a post, the higher it ranks in searches. If you are writing in cryptic metaphors, chances are that search engines aren’t recognizing your amazing content. Posts under 500 words? The short paragraphs aren’t seen as valuable as longer posts with more content. 

Try using this layout to not only create longer posts, but posts that keep visitors active on your site.

Missing the Picture

Every blog you ever write needs one feature image minimum… period. Images and headlines are the two quickest ways in which people decide whether or not to read your content. And if you think people don’t judge a book by its cover, think again! We can’t stress how essential images and headlines are for your continued success.

And just to nail it home even further, make sure you see the #1 thing you must do to every image on your blog!

People are Clueless

As smart as everyone would like to think they are, people don’t know what you don’t tell them. If you secretly would love them to follow you on Instagram after they finish reading your post, you’ll need to ask them or they will never know. Have something you want them to sign up for? Have a clear call to action (CTA) and tell them why they should - they will be that much more likely to say yes.

Not sure what say, we have 101 Irresistible Headlines just waiting for you in our totally free resource library


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Mistakes, Goals, Profitability

Entrepreneur Diaries: How to Get Paid to be Creative

Getting paid to be creative is a myth. Lately, we’ve heard this phrase being tossed around a lot. Heck, we’ve even used this exact phrase to describe our journey ourselves. But the phrase isn’t really accurate.

We aren’t getting paid to be creative. We’re getting paid because we are intellectual businesswomen. We take our business seriously and structure it to pay us. We are constantly strategizing new ways to bring in income and grow our business. We test new ways to market, make new sales processes, and offer new things in new ways. And we do it over and over again.

So if you’ve been thinking it’s impossible to get paid with your creative talents it’s because you’re right. I wish we lived in a world where we could just make pretty things and automatically get paid for it. But that’s not the case. You have to learn the business behind making money. The strategies that lead to success.   |  How to Get Paid to Be Creative  |  Think Creative Collective

So if you’ve been thinking that it’s impossible to get paid for your creative talents, it’s because you’re right. We wish we lived in a world where we could just make pretty things and automatically get paid for it. But that’s not the world we live in. You have to learn the business behind making money. The strategies that lead to success.

We have made many mistakes along the way and made many false assumptions. Let’s face it, we used to run our businesses as a side hustle. We added on crazy things like handmade cotton and leather hair accessories as an offshoot of our main business. It made zero business sense. Sure we had fun, and we sold to friends and family, but the journey really stopped there. It wasn’t until we stopped and took a good hard look at what wasn’t working that we were able to put the wheels in motion and turn things around.

We are constantly getting rid of products and services that don't sell. We continuously trim off the fat and focus on a brand that builds people up, and we work hard not to be like everyone else. Our business was far from perfect fresh out of the gate. It took making a lot of mistakes to get it to where it is today.

The 10 Biggest Mistakes We’ve Made (And Why We are Glad We Made Them)

Starting, growing and running a business is one of the hardest things anyone can do. Many of us make “big” mistakes, but today we want to share what we’ve learned with you, so hopefully you don’t have to make them too.

1. USING A FUDGE FACTOR FOR THE SAKE OF FIRST IMPRESSIONS

When we started our own business, we gave ourselves a fancy title. Every time we wrote about ourselves, we would use the 3rd person. We thought that by making someone think that we had a huge team they would believe in us more.

Now as part of a duo, we can see the value we bring together, but we never lie about it being any more than just the two of us. Two people help sustain and grow this business, while running it daily, and that’s something to be proud of!

2. DOING EVERYTHING TO TRY TO APPEAL TO EVERYONE

In the early days, Abagail offered pretty much everything that a large ad agency or firm would offer. You could get a website, billboard, and ads. Suggest practically anything you could come up with and she would do it. Generally, this just led to confusion.

We keep using the analogy of the cheesecake factory. You walk in and they hand you a 50-page menu. You flip through and some things catch your eye, but become so overwhelmed with all the choices you end up getting the exact same thing you always do. So we began to limit our offerings to be tailor made for exactly who we wanted to work with. Sure, we’re able to produce just about any marketing, advertising, graphic design, photography type thing you can come up with, but we don’t want to overwhelm our clients with too large a selection.

3. BELIEVING IN THE MYTH “BUILD IT AND THEY WILL COME”

We’ve made this mistake all too many times. We made it with our first websites. We put them out there and would check Google Analytics daily, as if something would change. All we got were crickets. But we weren’t giving anyone a reason to come, so why would they?

Abagail even created a whole new product offering of custom wedding invitations with the thought that wedding photographers could offer them as an add-on to their services. She put together pricing, packets, and even found photographers I thought were highly interested…. Again crickets. In this case it wasn’t what she was offering, necessarily, it just wasn’t mutually beneficial (enough) so they didn’t see the reason to bother.

4. LACKING CONSISTENCY

We would go through spurts where we would post to social media, or maybe 3 times a year we would write a blog post that we thought would help someone, but it wasn’t getting us anywhere. If we wanted to do this and do this right, we needed to be in it 100%.

Now, our level of consistency may be overkill for some, but we write and post a new article for the blog at least 3 days a week. It posts at the same time every day, 5 a.m. CST (don’t worry, that baby is scheduled, as we are most definitely still asleep!). Then we take it a step further and are present on social media daily. By being there and being there consistently, our numbers rise weekly and we have seen our audience continue to grow.

5. HOLDING BACK FROM SHARING OUR INSIGHTS, WISDOM AND KNOWLEDGE

We have always wanted to write and share our thoughts and knowledge, but something kept holding us back. Maybe it was for fear of failing, of misspelling too many words, or that no one would listen.

Since putting ourselves and our thoughts on growing a small business out there, the feedback has been nothing but positive. We get emails, text messages, and social media comments thanking us, sharing what we have to say, and telling us that we have an interesting perspective. Sure, we feel warm and fuzzy that people think we are great, but getting kudos really isn’t why we do it. We write to help people. We want to make a difference in the world and we have found even if our post helps one person every day, that is a dent that matters.

6. UNDERVALUING CAPABILITIES

We have all been there. That dark place where you feel like you might as well be making minimum wage because no one cares. Get yourself right up out of there. QUIT IT! You are so worth it and you need to tell people about it. We spent years hiding behind our fees, or changing them at the last second because we thought someone would say no to what we were worth. But we bring something to the table, something different to what everyone else has. We have unique talents, experiences and skills. And SO DO YOU! So stop it.

7. HANGING AROUND THE WRONG KIND OF PEOPLE

You know exactly who we’re talking about. They are the negative talkers, the haters and the jealous ones. The people who tell you that you aren’t capable, that you are making a mistake and you should find a “normal” job. The people who put you down or put you out. For way too long we let these people creep into our lives, on and offline. Often they are very decent human beings, but they simply don't believe in us or our business. We shut those people down and we are proving them wrong day by day. Some days we want to rush back because they seem to have a bit more common sense, but really, most of them just play it safe; play life safe.

We are not going to reach our goals if we keep telling ourselves that we can’t. So we continue to find people (many of them strong women) to surround ourselves with. Many of them run their own businesses and have dreams even bigger than ours. They go after what they want. They refuse to listen to anyone who gets in their way. They make us happy and we are so glad to call them friends, peers and clients. Our people are what get us through, and we are so glad we found them!

Who you are today and who you become in the future has a lot to do with whom you choose to spend your time
— Author Unknown

8. NOT ASKING FOR HELP (OR LOOKING FOR IT)

We are the worst delegators ever. Probably something we inherited from our moms, and our mom's mother, but hey, you can’t help what you are made of. We have been “Yes” women from the get-go. We would tell everyone we could do it whether or not we had the time, resources or capacity to handle whatever it was. Sure, this was a tool to help us grow, but many times it also slowed us down. Now, when we know we are in over our heads, we ask for help.

9. EXPECTING OVERNIGHT SUCCESS

This really goes back to the “build it and they will come” mentality, but really expecting all the stars to align on your own timeline is totally unreasonable. The moment we lowered our expectations (and actually researched what was plausible), but also continued to put our all into everything we were are doing, we started to be surprised by the opportunities that have come to fruition in such a short period of time.

The process can be slow and sometimes tedious, but if you bite off a little bit each day you are totally capable of getting through it. The first step to achieving your goals is believing they are possible.

10. HIDING BEHIND WHAT EVERYONE ELSE WAS DOING

We were so afraid that no one would want to listen to us that we would try to mimic what other people were doing. We would try to write similar articles, about similar topics that we thought would attract people, and specifically the people we wanted to attract. But the moment we stopped trying to be everyone else and focused on being ourselves, people started to notice.


Making these mistakes hasn't been easy, but without them we wouldn't be where we are today. We hope, however, that by learning from our mistakes, you won't need to make the same ones in your business! If you are ready for guidance, clarity and structure to all the (amazing) ideas you have rolling around in your head pay attention. 

We want you to be able to dive in further into making your biz profitable. We want you to stop thinking this is a pipe dream and understand that there are distinct strategies that you can use to grow a profitable business. Before you get there you need a plan. Yes, an actual written down plan. Some might call it a business plan. We like to call it “Party in my Biz Pants, Because Now I Know What the Heck is Going On Plan”. Rolls right off the tongue, yeah?

We wouldn’t want you to head out to make this plan without some guidance. Heck, not just guidance, but we want to give you the freaking worksheet to make the plan. Oh, and it’s free. Happy day! We created The Easiest Business Plan Ever and you can grab your free copy by heading here. 

Pop in your first name and email and we’ll send it right over. Here’s what we DON’T want you to do: please do not go download it and love it but let it die a slow death in your “Downloads” folder. It serves you no purpose there.

Instead, go download it and PRINT it off immediately. Even if you can’t fill it out right this second at least have it sitting on your desk. Or taped to your fridge. Or the wine rack. Wherever you’ll see it the most and be reminded to do it.

Then just spend a half hour (seriously, don’t over think this) and fill it out.

And then we want you to call us when shit starts to go down in your business, because we told you so. Really. If you don’t call us at least email us. Heck, email us to call you and we will.

So stop reading this and get to printing. Right now. Tag us on Instagram (@ThinkCreativeCollective) in a shot of your blank piece of paper so we at least know you’ve printed it. Then we can hold you accountable.


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Mistakes, Blog

5 Things I Wish I Would Have Known When I First Started Blogging

I may not have been blogging for years, but long enough to wish I could rewind and tell myself a few things before I got started. Whether you are a blogging expert, just starting out or perhaps still in the consideration phase, I hope you find the following 5 topics helpful.

5 Things I Wish I Would Have Known When I First Started Blogging  |  Think Creative

1. It Takes Time

I knew blogging would take time, but I had no idea that making it consistent and of the quality that I wanted meant I would spend between 2-4 hours to write, organize and prepare a single post. When you post 5 days a week, all of a sudden this new activity becomes one of both the most important and time consuming things you do. I now know I have to set aside time to do it, whether that means in the middle of the day or a late night. My advice to beginners would be to start lower, don’t come out of the gate expecting content 5 days a week. Plan ahead, write in advance, and take amazing pictures to compliment your post. Edit, edit again, schedule your post and share it.

2. People Don’t Notice Unless You Make Them

Blogs, as much as we would like them to be, are not Noah’s Ark. You can’t build it and expect a line two by two to be out the door. You have to invite people over, invite them in and give them a reason to stay. Writing and preparing good quality content takes time, but sharing it on social media in all the appropriate ways can take just as much time. Days I spend 15-minutes promoting instead of an hour or two can easily cut my traffic in half. And it doesn’t stop online. I make sure at every opportunity to mention my blog to new people I meet such as at networking events and in my social circles. Promoting doesn’t have to be in the typical ways. Just posting the title and a link to Facebook is likely going to get you nowhere anytime soon. You have to get personal, be helpful and offer value. Try these tips for Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest.  Or perhaps you just need to know how the heck to use a hashtag.

3. You Have to Be Yourself

It is so tempting to just look at the popular blogs and do our best to mimic the content we are attracted to. But being anyone else or focusing too hard on being something you think you ought to be just wears you out. Not to mention you come across a little too shut off. The moment you can be more transparent and put a little more you in your business, people will take notice. Not sure where to start? Try these practical tips in 5 Common Sense Ways to Live Your Brand. Or follow these 10 simple life commandments in Putting More “You” in Your Business.

4. Strategically Post

When I started my blog I had grand plans to make my content all over the board. I wanted to talk about business, marketing, design, my home remodel, DIY crafts and the list went on for days. After a week or two of random, I knew I needed to focus on creating content that attracted my ideal client. I needed to be insightful and helpful to small business owners. It was funny how the content I knew I needed more of was the content that naturally shined, got higher view ratings and would continue to have traffic come back days, weeks and even months after I had written and posted it. Creating content that is strategic and posting it in a way so it builds credibility for you and your business is hands down the best approach.

5. It Will Open Doors

Several people have questioned why I pour so much time and energy into my blog. It isn’t generating cash for my business and I have no plans to monetize that portion of my business anytime soon, so why do I just keep giving away ways for small businesses to grow, simplify their social media and enjoy life? Well first and foremost I do it because I enjoy helping people. And my mentality everyday is that if it helps just one person, I have done my job. I have gotten countless comments that have not only brightened my day, but give me a reason to keep doing what I am doing. I mean how can you not keep going when you get comments like “your business savvy + creativity is endless.”

I started blogging as a traffic driver to my website and to make more people aware of my design and marketing services. But what I didn't realize at first is that blogging can open doors to partnerships and exciting business opportunities you never thought possible. Keep creating and be amazed by the possibilities that come your way. 

For all of you seasoned bloggers, what do you wish you had known when you first started blogging? And for those of you who are just starting or are hoping to start a blog, what helpful topics would you like to read more about?

LinkedIn, Mistakes, Social Media

How to Raise Your LinkedIn Profile to the Top 2% in Under 30 Days

Several weeks back I talked about SEO for YOU and how to revamp your LinkedIn Profile in 10 easy steps to land your next job or client. I got lots of great feedback and have seen several of you embracing these changes. Today, I want to focus on how to take this a step further and really ramp up the amount of views you are receiving on your profile.

How to Raise Your LinkedIn Profile to the Top 2% in Under 30 Days  |  Think Creative

Since I have started putting more emphasis on the following steps, I have seen a 34% increase in my profile views in less than 30 days and now rank in the top 2% among professionals like me and in the top 4% among my personal connections.

LinkedIn has 187 million unique visitors monthly. Of all members, 40% check LinkedIn daily. (source) Harness these people’s connections and help them find you!

Update Your Profile

In the SEO for YOU post, I discussed in detail what and how to update your profile. Including a photo in your profile makes it 11x more likely to be viewed and a list of skills increases the odds by 13x (source). 

Grow Your Connections

You naturally meet people throughout your personal and professional life. As close to meeting someone as possible add them as a connection. I realize you have to start somewhere, so if you get behind make an evening out of it. LinkedIn can even automatically comb through your Gmail, Outlook, Yahoo Mail, Hotmail or AOL email service to auto suggest connections. I occasionally get behind in adding connections too. In March I added 49 connections and of those many were new people I had recently met and others I have known for awhile. 

Publish Content

For many, writing and creating original content is intimidating. For others, you are already blogging and sharing content on your personal pages frequently. How do you blend the two? The Pulse, LinkedIn’s version of a self-published news source, not only has great content for you to read and interact with, but also for you to create yourself. Since I already blog M-F, adding content to LinkedIn is a natural progression. I decide which articles I am writing are most suited for this professional audience and will publish the first several paragraphs of my blog post. I will then add a link at the bottom to “Continue Reading” that links directly to my blog. Not only does this let my page get more views due to LinkedIn’s algorithms, but it also drives direct traffic to my blog/website. In March, I wrote 21 blog posts but only 7 of those were published on the LinkedIn Pulse

Take Part in Groups

Participate in groups that are relevant to your industry or get connected to you school’s alumni associations. Adding relevant content to these group discussions or starting discussions of your own really adds to the likelihood that someone among the group will visit your page. Often, if the group is related, content you are publishing on the Pulse or on your blog is perfect content to share with them. It adds to your relevancy and professional appeal. 

Share Relevant Content 

Much like other social media sites you can share comments or content – referred to as updates. These can be links to outside news articles, photos or even just text. These are listed in a news feed style environment, similar to Twitter, but without the 140 character limit. You can even link your account to Twitter so when you post on LinkedIn, it also auto posts to Twitter! In March, I shared 18 updates

Gain Premium Access

I am in no way pushing you to take your profile premium, however it does get you access to things you wouldn’t otherwise see. You gain access to a full listing of who views your profile, specialized stats about your page and better rankings when applying for jobs. Just curious what’s behind the hood? Most of the time LinkedIn offers a free 30-day trial. (Although you must enter a credit card to sign up, as long as you cancel before your trial is over you will not be charged).

Upgrading to premium is how I was able to tell how my profile ranked among professionals like me. Curious how you rank? Visit Profile > Who’s Viewed Your Profile and then click the How you rank for profile views at the top of the page. Stats are under “Professionals like you”. The really awesome thing about this feature is you see the actual names and links to profiles of who they are comparing you to, whether it be your own connections or outside professionals. Find someone who is ranking much higher? View their profile and see what sort of things they are doing differently from you. 

Get and Give Recommendations

Having thoughtful recommendations on your profile is an instant indicator to others that your skills and expertise is backed up by a real person. The easiest way to get recommended is to first recommend others – perhaps your clients, co-workers or boss. Once you have completed that follow-up with them and ask them to do the same for you. Generally people are receptive. A million and one recommendations aren’t necessary, but a couple thoughtful ones per job are sufficient. In March, I gave and received one recommendation

What steps are you taking to improve your profile ranking?

Mistakes, Entrepreneur

7 Things We Did Not Learn in College

Today I thought you all needed a taste of a little collaboration. My husband, Jared Pumphrey, and I are both trained as designers. Sure we are in different fields (he is a Landscape Architect and I primarily work as a Graphic Designer), but when it comes to college we had very much a collective experience. I chalk it up to meeting him my VERY FIRST DAY on campus! 

So here is our version of “7 Things We Didn’t Learn in College”.

Like many, when we started college at Kansas State University it was one of the most transitional phases of our lives. Not only were we living on our own and becoming independent, we were also learning valuable skills in our applicable fields. Design school is like college on steroids where many late nights ensued and imagination was constantly tested. 

1. Grades Don’t Matter

You own your project and build your case to advocate it to a professor for a grade. Success or failure it is your project and beyond the classroom it has little real world implications.

Flash forward to graduation and the start of your career doing what you thought you went to school to do. You just spent 4 years (maybe less if you decide to take summer classes to finish early, i.e. Abagail) or more (if you go for advanced degree, i.e. Jared).  The reality sets in that the project you just obsessed weeks or months over has little to do with reality. Sure, it may get you an interview, and maybe that first job, but beyond that, no one ever looks at your grades. 

Well, unless you are that idiot who lied on your application that you had a degree and upon running a background check it came back as false. Needless to say, he never got hired (true story). Be real about your experience, people value honesty.

2. Budget Limitations

There is an easing in period at your office of choice and you gradually start taking on more responsibility to manage your own projects. Projects for various clients start to become part of your everyday thought process.

You are excited because you have this toolkit that you picked up in school to be a wiz at using the computer or putting together presentations. You’re teaching new tricks to senior folks in how to be more efficient using various software. You’ve spent several weeks on a project, vetting what you believe is the right solution to your client’s problem. But then BAM – in an instant everything changes.

The money runs out, the client changes direction or the whole project gets scrapped. Unlike school where you have a definite deadline and no teacher is just randomly going to take away a project, in the real world you could pour your heart and soul into something for weeks or months and then it is snatched away in an instant.

Don’t let it get personal, just go with the flow.

3. Managing Up & Self Advocating

In school you probably had many chances to work in a team environment. Inevitably you were that kid working diligently into the night, while your partner was out drinking like there was no life left to live. In the corporate waters, in general, we have both had less issues with peers and more issues managing up. What does that mean exactly? Well, you know an assignment will take you X number of hours. Unfortunately your boss, or more likely their boss thinks you own a magic wand and can whip it out in half the time. Jared and I both have learned you have to self advocate. If something is going to take longer explain why. Demonstrate understanding of their need and mitigate future risk by setting a new deadline with them. Generally the BOSS (i.e. your boss’s boss) is open to it and just needs a little educating.

All too often we have seen people over promise and under deliver. You are way better off down playing your capabilities and then knocking their socks off later in the board room. 

4. Time Management

In school Jared and I procrastinated, definitely not as significantly as our peers, but it still waited. Or even if we had started on time we were such perfectionists we would work late into the night, often sleeping in studio. Jared’s preferred method – Yoga mat under his desk. Mine, snoozing in the abandoned Lazy Boy Chair, only to be awakened at 5 a.m. by the cleaning crew. 

I don’t know about you, but now I would much rather go out with friends for a glass of wine or hang out on the couch with pizza and the dog than be at work. It is 100% your responsibility to manage your time. This means finding methods that work for you. 

5. Personal Project/Process Management

It is highly likely the real world will grant you a Project Manager, Team Lead or some sort of person holding you accountable to deadlines – or if you run your own business than the rest is 100% more necessary. These people are not your teacher and they are definitely not your mom. It is up to you to create tools to help you get your job done. Jared and I are both list makers. I can’t tell you how many notepads, sticky notes and notebooks I have gone through since I started working full time. In school, I had that one handy planner and maybe 1 pad of stickies, but now we both live and breathe by our lists. Need help defining goals or creating a plan to complete them, check out this article

6. Trust Must Be Earned

Jared and I are 100% Midwestern blood. We are kind hearted, benefit of the doubt kind of people. At work, unfortunately not everyone is built the same way. We both have run into situations that are less than ideal. Trust used to be handed over the moment we would meet someone, but after a few too many burns and scars later we have learned it is best to test the waters first. Trust must be earned. This is true with co-workers, vendors, and sometimes even clients.

7. Sales & Negotiation

Some people are naturally born to be in sales. Jared and I are definitely not in this category. Selling yourself, our work, capabilities and skills never have come naturally. In school we were often teachers pets, which led to lots of resentment and negativity from our peers. This came because our teachers saw our work ethic and skill. Unfortunately, no matter how talented you are that doesn’t automatically sell you or your product. Over the years, we have honed this talent and Jared and I have developed very different approaches. Jared is the charmer, which generally works best with the older audience. I on the other hand take a more honest approach. Much like managing up I try to under sell and over deliver. This leads to happier clients, bosses, and even friends. 

What did you learn in the real world that you wished would have been taught in school? Comment below.