We all know when you start a new business, it takes a while to get the hang of things and learn the ropes. Of course, that means making a bunch of mistakes along the way. Luckily, some of those mistakes are avoidable. If you want to save yourself time, money, and lots of headaches, learn from some of my biggest blunders. 

1. Don't start a blog until you can market it
It's all well and dandy that you finally have a blog with great content. But it means absolutely nothing if nobody is reading it. And how do you get people to read your content with snappy titles and informative tips? You market it! Making your blog a success story takes time and lots of work. Unless you have the time to dedicate to perfecting and marketing it, you are just wasting time by creating it in the first place. 

2. Don't wait till you want to start a newsletter to begin collecting e-mail addresses. 
I beat myself up about this almost every day. The amount of time it takes to build up a thorough mailing list is definitely much longer than I would like. But of course, I was stubborn when someone suggested that I start an email list. I refused because I had no plans to send out newsletters or promotions at the time. However, about a year ago I decided to send out newsletters and I found myself hunting down email addresses where ever I can find them. It isn't easy! Save yourself the trouble and post a link to sign up for newsletters on your website. Cost an issue? MailChimp is free for the first 2,000 subscribers. I highly recommend it!   

3. Never work without a contract
This one seems like a no-brainer, but you'd be surprised to hear how many people tell me they took up a project without a contract. No matter how good your friend's friend may know this client, or how definite the project seems, always get that contract. Even if you don't like the formality of an official contract, at least send an email with terms of the project that you both agree to. Which leads me to my next point...

4. Don't stop marketing until you both sign the dotted line
Things fall through all the time. The last thing you want is to block off time in your schedule for a specific project and then be left with no other prospects if the first client backs out. Trust me. It is not a fun situation. Continue marketing your services until you are absolutely certain that the project is a done deal and you have the contract to prove it. 

5. Avoid non-competing contracts like the plague
Sometimes when you are working with big clients, they may ask you to sign contracts with a non-compete clause. The problem is they almost never work in your favor; especially if that specific industry is your specialty. Try negotiating for three months if the contract states six months. Or you can make it work in your favor by asking for more money when items such as these exist in contracts. Otherwise, you may want to prepare yourself for some downtime in advance. 

6. Never believe a contract is non-negotiable
I don't care what anyone says. Everything is negotiable- even contracts. The only thing non-negotiable means is you have to fight a little harder to get what you want. Be prepared to bend a little more in certain areas. 

7. Don't cash the check and disappear
As you already know, business is about building relationships. So please don't vanish into thin air once you get the check. After all, you never know what referrals or projects this client can bring your way. Try asking how they are doing every once in a while, send cards, and thank them for their business. Let's not forget, repeat business makes the best business. It's something that I once ignored way back when I first started out.

8. Don't follow up too much
You may be anxious to close the deal, but following up too much just may drive your prospect away. Aim for once every two weeks and try to have new information to include. For example, mention a new promotion you have coming up. Or send links to samples that you forgot to send the first time around. This tactic helps stay on the prospect's mind without coming off as pushy. 

We all know creating meaningful relationships is definitely a big help when it comes to building and maintaining a business. It's the customer relations that keep them coming. Luckily, showing clients that you care is as easy as  logging into your Outlook Calendar (or purchasing a planner if you're old school). Why do you need a planner or calendar? - To pencil in special milestones and events in your clients' life, of course! They really appreciate it when business becomes more than just contracts and the exchange of cash. Letting them know that you remember their accomplishments says a lot. 

Believe it or not, getting the information isn't as hard as you may think. All you need to do is pay attention! People love to talk about themselves. I'm sure if you listen closely enough it will only be a matter of time till that client mentions her high school reunion coming up, an anniversary, daughter's graduation etc. As soon as you hear it, schedule a reminder to follow up on the date via email or card. Show sincere interest. Not only will they be impressed that you remembered, the gesture might nab you a loyal customer and a few referrals. 
Taking the plunge to start a blog can be scary;especially when brainstorming hot topics on a consistent basis is expected of you. Don't worry, you are not the only nervous one. Professional internet marketers and business bloggers, break a sweat over it all the time. However, don't expect this feeling to last. I've got a feeling that after reading this post you may never stress about finding blog topics again. Here's my list of ways to keep the great ideas flowing:

1. Create a series
A series is the perfect way to keep the topic train rolling. This way you can create a different spin for the same topic multiple times. One of the easiest series I can think of has to the do with the alphabet. For example, a series called the ABC's of Wedding Planning could have posts about what ever topic begins with the next letter on the list for that week. You're guaranteed 26 different topic ideas! 

2. Change format
Writing content in the same old format week after week can get very dull. Switching it up every once in a while just might be the inspiration you need to churn out some eye catching topics. Post a video one week, a slideshow the next week, and a list for another week. Not only can the change help keep you motivated, but your readers may truly appreciate how you spiced things up. It's a win-win situation.

3. Join a forum
Want to know what your readers have questions about? Join a forum pertaining to your target audience and answer their questions in a blog post. Your readers will truly appreciate it. 

4. Read industry news
If the purpose of your blog is to be seen as an expert in your field, you should definitely be keeping up with industry news. Sign up for Google Alerts and newsletters for industry associations to have hot button topics sent to your inbox. Then give your expert opinion or write a summary about the latest trends or headlines. 

5. Follow what's trending
Got a Twitter account? Those trending topics on the side of your screen can tell you a lot about what people want to know about. Go through them, pick out a topic that is relevant to your blog and write about it!
I may be good, but I'm no magician. No matter how well I write your blog, newsletter, or website content, readers are not going to magically read your writing unless you market it. That means you have to actually put in the effort to make sure it is seen and hopefully well-received. Otherwise, all the time and money spent on perfecting that content will all go to waste. Yes, I know you are busy handling those sales and basically running business. Luckily, I've come up with 25 simple ways to market your writing. Here they are: 

1. Add blog link to your email signature
2. Create a Facebook page for your blog
3. Purchase your own domain name
4. Add the blog link to your Twitter profile
5. Make sure your blog is listed on business cards
6. Comment on other blogs within your industry
7. Submit link to various directories
8. Write guest posts for other blogs
9. Be featured in a podcast
10. Network with other bloggers
11. Participate in online forums
12. Add tags to your posts
13. Submit your blog to search engines
14. Link your blog to your Linkedin profile
15. Write blog posts frequently
16. Update your Facebook status with news of recent blog posts
17. Include a link to your blog in newsletters and brochures
18. Sign up for HARO and respond to reporter queries
19. Participate in Twitter chats
20. Write press releases to announce your blog
21. Practice SEO
22. Add share buttons at the end of all posts
23. Include an RSS feed
24. Write reviews and include a link to your blog
25. Utilize trackback features

Thought of some I missed? Let me know in the comments or shoot me an email! 
In case you haven't noticed, the headline of a web story, blog post, newspaper article, newsletter or even the crossword puzzle is the first thing you see. Your decision to proceed is usually based solely on those first few words. In other words, your headline can mean the difference between having 200,000 views and 200 views. As a result, many professional writers spend more time crafting a headline than they do writing the body. Even I'm guilty of this sometimes. 

The most effective headlines are the ones that promise something to the reader. What do I mean by promise? The perfect headline must guarantee news, a revelation, insight, or explanation in exchange for reading the content. Don't write a vague headline that doesn't give the slightest inclining to what your story will be about. (Although, sometimes vague headlines pique curiosity and lure in more readers if done correctly.)

Your headline and content also needs to be easily found so it can be read. So if it's online, it must be easily searchable. Of course, we know that easily searchable translates into major keywords. Headlines are the perfect place to insert top searched keywords. You can get an idea of what those are by visiting sites such as google.com/trends. But remember, your readers aren't stupid. They are going to notice if you stuff the headline and body with useless keywords just to increase search rankings. Don't insult them and assume readers won't notice your repeated use of the word target and Justin Bieber in one phrase. They will. You can only use the same words so many times in a small grouping of words. 

Of course, this means you should keep headlines short. Otherwise, they wouldn't be headlines. Although you want to make sure you send a message that summarizes the story through the headline, you need to do it as concisely as possible. In my experience, the most effective headlines tend to be 12 words or less. Once you exceed that readers may tend to lose interest. However, you can get around it by using short words and breaking your headline into multiple lines.

Examples of effective headlines
  • How to : How to headlines go straight to the point so readers know exactly what they are getting when reading your content (i.e. How to lose weight without giving up carbs)
  • List or reasons why : List or reasons why headlines are used when your body consists of a bullet points, tips, or features written in the form of the list. This type of headline is almost always a winner. (i.e. 10 jobs that didn't exist 10 years ago or 5 Ways to get him to propose)
  • Testimonial or recommendation headline : The testimonial or recommendation headline instantly proves your content has value from an outside source. It almost guarantees your readers won't be disappointed. (i.e. "Drinking orange juice is the best way to stay healthy, "Dr. Oz.)