Top 6 Tools For Marketing Your Small Business Online

Marketing is one of the most essential components of success for a small business. Unfortunately, it is also one of the most intimidating for those just starting out. All the marketing websites and advertising jargon trying to sell you the “perfect marketing strategy,” it can be overwhelming. There’s no reason to be scared of a little business marketing, and the right tools can make all the difference.

Canva


Let’s face it, humans are very visual creatures. The image you show to customers is vital to how they receive your product. Think about the popular films of the last several years. Imagine the epic blockbusters of the 2000’s and how their box office sales would be different if they had been filmed with 1960’s special effects. That’s the difference between a well-designed business website and a hastily thrown together web page. That’s the difference between a business card a customer will keep in their wallet and one that will get tossed. Canva is an invaluable design tool which allows you to design anything and publish anywhere. The massive collection of graphic and text tools offered by Canva provide you with everything you need to put the best face on your small business.

SEMrush

Analytics and statistical data may not be the most exciting phrases for most of us, but they are two of the most significant components of audience building and business growth. SEMrush is one of the most prolific players in the industry when it comes to analysis of web content and performance. Essentially, the SEMrush platform ties together SEO, social media marketing, content performance analysis, and traffic analytics to optimize your web presence for your target audience. SEMrush performance tools are so valuable that big names like eBay and Quora use them regularly.  

Optimizely

A unique approach in performance optimization, Optimizely incorporates experimentation and empowers ideas. Basically, the tools included with Optimizely allow you to customize all of your content with multiple variations and guage the performance of each to find what gets the best results. For example, the same article or blog post may attract more clicks with one headline than with another. Optimizely allows you to create alternate versions of one page to determine which headline performs better. Beyond this, though, you can experiment with all aspects of your site to find what works best for your business. To better illustrate the impact of this tool, see what computer powerhouse HP had to say about the benefit of experimentation and the use of Optimizely.

Evernote

Organization and planning can’t be stressed enough when building and growing your business. One component that is sometimes overlooked is the ability to take notes when inspiration strikes and incorporate them into your business strategy. Evernote is a tool for taking business notes and organizing them in a clear and useful way. The advanced programming allows you to keep track of ideas, plans, to-do lists, and anything else you might need to jot down. What’s really great about Evernote is that it organizes your notes from both online and hard copy sources. Simply clip from the web or document or PDF file, or scan a printed form or handwritten note. Evernote can read and search for keywords in 28 typewritten languages and 11 handwritten languages.   

Hootsuite

Hootsuite is a social media management tool designed to help businesses maintain an active social media presence across multiple platforms. The first major benefit of Hootsuite is the ability to post to all of your social media accounts simultaneously, saving you time. The scheduling feature makes it easier to keep your accounts updated daily while you focus on running your business rather than promoting it. Additionally, Hootsuite will measure the impact of your media posts and public response to ensure that your social media activity is delivering positive results.  

Trello

Strong team collaboration is one of the most important aspects of business success. The lack of effective collaboration is a great way to mismanage time and kill profits. Trello is a solution to the difficulty of project collaboration in the modern era. Much of the work performed today is carried out by teams who may not even be in the same time zone. In the past, email would be the primary means of communication. While email is great, a huge volume of back and forth emails is not the best way to keep ideas and insights organized and may lead to confusion and miscommunication. Trello provides a platform for collaborators to utilize shared access to a project so that everyone can contribute in one place. This is great because your team can really work together and remain organized even if you are a world apart.

Give these tools a try and see how it helps your business. Do you have any other favorite tools to add to the list? Share them in the comments.



Best Tips For Writing and Selling a Screenplay

Why Write a Screenplay?

There are many reasons a person might choose to write a screenplay. The idea of watching your words come to life on screen can be very exciting. Some writers are drawn to script writing because of a personal love for film. Some prefer the technical stage direction and dialogue to the flowery speech of a novel, or perhaps they are drawn to the perceived simplicity of writing a script. It is important to understand your reasoning before you take on a script. If you think it will be easy and something you can put little effort into and get a big check from Hollywood, you should probably stop before you get started. If, however, you know that you have an original story that needs to be told and only you can tell it, don’t hesitate. It doesn’t mean you will sell your script. It doesn’t mean that you will become a famous screenwriter, but if you have a story inside of you, there is no reason not to write it.

How to Sell a Screenplay.

After deciding to write a screenplay, the next logical question is “How do I sell a script?” Very few people write a screenplay without the intention of trying to get it produced. Furthermore, a little bit of research will likely not make you feel encouraged about your odds of success. Everyone is quick to tell you that you can’t get your idea to the big screen or the TV screen unless you have an agent, live in L.A, know the right people, and hustle for years trying to get your script in the right hands. Unfortunately, there is truth to this. It is very difficult to get your foot in the door and sell your script. Something to consider, though, the world of TV and movies has changed drastically. With all of the ever-growing streaming options and on-demand content providers there are more opportunities than ever. This is not to say that it’s easy. It isn’t, but it is not impossible either. What is important is asking yourself the right questions. Rather than asking how to sell a screenplay, you should be asking how to make your screenplay great. If you focus on quality, you may find success, but if you focus on trying to achieve success, your quality will suffer.

If you have completed your script and you are confident that it’s ready for Hollywood, The next step is to decide how and where to market it. The general rule is that you don’t send a pitch to studios because they won’t read them. The standard protocol is to find an agent who will promote you and your work to the studios. There are two things to consider. One: There is nothing stopping you from directly contacting a studio. Two: Finding an agent is actually pretty easy, but finding a good one is another story. If you are interested in finding avenues for submitting a pitch for your screenplay, I would recommend IMDB Pro. A Pro Account will give you access to production information for the entire library of film and TV on the IMDB site. What this means is that you can find and make contact with the people in the industry who you think would be a viable option for your script. Again, this does not guarantee that your query letter will be read or that the people you contact will ask to see your full script. This just means that there are more paths available to try than in the past.

Alternative Paths to Getting Your Script Produced

If you are serious about seeing your script come to life on screen, remember that we live in a very different and socially connected world now. Don’t limit yourself to old ways of thinking. The one word you need to remember is “faith.” A studio will not produce something that they don’t have faith will make them money. They don’t care how great you think your script is. They want to see a reason to believe it will find an audience and bring in a lot of revenue. This is why it’s difficult to get anywhere in the industry if you don’t have a name for yourself. Famous writers, directors, and actors are invited in because they have a built-in fan-base and a reason for the studio to have faith in them. You could write the best, emotionally gripping, powerful script out there, but if no one knows who you are, the odds are against you. Here’s the thing though, in today’s world, you don’t have to move to L.A and hustle to get recognition. Look at the influence of social media. If you have a script that will resonate with people, a story that people will connect to, a film that people will want to watch, build your audience first.

Think about it like this. Let’s say you have a genius horror/comedy script called Zombie Clowns From Hell and you pitch your idea to Netflix, they will see a lot of risk. If you have a popular website or blog: makezombieclownsfromhell.org with concept art, loglines, and an audience of people supporting the film, you have buzz which might make the studio take notice. If you have a YouTube account with teaser trailers and promotional videos for the film you want to make, you have a built-in audience. Take a look at the original trailer for Rob Zombie’s House of 1000 Corpses. The eventual theatrical release was far different from the teaser that was released years before the final film, what the teaser did, however, was generate interest in the project. It may sound backwards to try to promote a film and build an audience before making the film itself, but it actually makes a little more sense given the framework of entertainment today. It used to be that you would accomplish something to gain recognition. Now it is reversed, you gain recognition and leverage that to accomplish your goals. How many people have wee seen gain a large following on Instagram and Twitter and THEN get a record deal or a role in a summer blockbuster. Use social connection and worldwide communication to your advantage and use the buzz you generate to give the studio faith in what you are creating.

Things to Remember to Write and sell Your Screenplay

In Short, we could look at this system as following four steps. There are no guarantees in life, but if you keep these four things in mind, you might just make your dream a reality.

  • Tell your story, not the one you think Hollywood wants.
  • Focus on Sharing your story, not selling a script. Quality and passion will always show in your work.
  • Don’t be afraid to break the rules. Your work should not suffer from other people’s limitations.
  • Make your own rules and build your own success. Only by being the captain of your own ship, can you get where you want to be.

Thanks for reading!
Michael J. Snow
Blogger and Freelance Writer for hire

Show Don’t Tell: How to Become a Successful Freelance Writer

“Show, don’t tell” is a classic bit of wisdom and a solid piece of advice for fiction writers. In this context, the phrase refers to painting a picture in your reader’s mind rather than overloading your text with a boring description. This phrase, however, can also be used to understand one of the most important principles for a freelance writer.

Give Potential Clients a Reason to Hire You.

If you expect anyone to pay you for your work, you must show that it is worth paying for. Freelance writing can be a lucrative career, but it is also highly competitive. In addition to the other skilled writers you will be competing with, you have to also account for the less skilled and less motivated individuals who give freelancers a bad name. The industry is over-saturated with aspiring “writers” looking for a quick buck. Your job is to separate yourself from the people who think writing is easy money and turn in low-quality work to their clients. This can be a bit of an up-hill battle when you start out because most clients who have been around for any length of time have been burned by freelancers before. There are two sides to this coin, however. The large volume of people online claiming to be professional writers and delivering low-quality work means that you will have to prove yourself to potential clients. The good part about this is that once you show some proficiency with your writing, you demonstrate your value.   

Demonstrate Quality Work

No one wants to hire a freelance writer who is going to deliver poor quality work. To take it another step, no one wants to hire a freelance writer who cannot demonstrate high-quality work upfront. If a client can’t see that your work is worth your fee, they are unlikely to take the risk. The reason I say “show, don’t tell” is because literally anyone can set up a blog or website and say that they are a professional writer. Nothing is stopping you from pitching to companies and telling them that you are the best writer out there and they should contract you right away. You can say whatever you want on the internet, but if you can’t show it, it doesn’t matter. If you are going to get anywhere, you need strong writing samples. Prospective buyers need to see what you can do. Whether you write some guest posts on a blog, start your own website or offer your services on a site like Fiverr or Peopleperhour, you have to have something to show your quality of work. Furthermore, since I brought up sending pitches, this is another area that requires thought and attention. If a client sees that you didn’t put effort into your pitch, they have no reason to believe you will put effort into writing for them.  

Focus on Quality Writing Whether You’re Getting Paid For it or Not

Applying for a writing job or offering your services as a freelancer with typos and grammatical errors Is the fastest way to shoot yourself in the foot. Keep the same thing in mind when communicating with a potential client, even if it is a casual email or message. If I’m looking for someone to write a professional SEO article with topic research and source citations, and you hit me with “bruh, i can right that 4 you,” I’m not going to think twice about rejecting your offer.  When you have a rapport with a client, casual is fine, but ignorant is never a good idea. 

Show Professionalism and Compassion

It’s easy to understand that if you are selling a service, you must show your professionalism in performing the work. There is another component, however, that should not be ignored. To be successful as a freelancer, you need to establish solid relationships with clients. A big part of this is being respectful of your customer’s time and their needs. You have to communicate clearly and respond quickly to your clients. This demonstrates that you care about their project and will work harder than someone who is just collecting a paycheck. Always remember that you are providing a service, not a product and you have to always deliver One-Hundred Percent.

The Key to Improving Your Life

There is one simple thing to remember every day to make positive change in your life.

Do one thing…

One thing to make someone’s day better. Your life is not just something you experience, but something you actively create through your thoughts and actions. You live in the world you create and if you strive to make it better for others, you ultimately become the architect of your own dreams.

Two Tiers of Success

Success can mean many things to many people, but in general, it can be divided into two categories. On one hand, a person with a steady income, a place to lay their head, and a supportive social circle can certainly be considered a success. On the other hand, For some, success is more than these basic achievements. For some, it is not enough to have a good job and steady income. For these people, success is measured in excellence. Whether your success goals are to simply be good or to be the best, to truly get where you want to be, you have some questions to ask yourself.

How do you define success?

Whatever your goal is, you need to determine the level you are reaching for. Let’s say that you want to write and publish your own novel. Maybe you just want to share your passion with others, maybe you want to pay the bills doing something you enjoy, or maybe you want to be the next J.K Rowling achieving fame and fortune beyond your imagination. You must identify at the beginning which of these is most true for you because the path to each is vastly different.

Personal Goals Versus Community Goals

Consider the section above to be the “What” part of the equation and this to be the “Why.” You have to identify your goals and then recognize your motivation for them. Using the writing example again, do you want to write a novel for the reader or for yourself? Are you looking to entertain the masses or to tell your story? There is no wrong answer but it is important to know the difference. This applies to any form of success you pursue be it artistic, business, or otherwise.

How Much Time and Effort Will You Put In?

Time management is crucial to any task, and no one reaches their goals without putting forth the effort. What you have to decide is How much time and hard work you are willing to give. This is directly linked to the “What” and “Why” above. Understanding that you will get out what you put in, you have to make sure you know what you are working for. If your effort is in tune with your goals, then there is no reason you can’t be successful.

What is your Direction?

I realized the two tiers of success from an unlikely observation. I recently had two plumbers come out to my home on two separate occasions to do work. The first was older and clearly more experienced. The second was less knowledgable. It occurred to me that each was a success in their field. Each one was educated and had learned a trade in an industry that will provide for them and their family. One, however, demonstrated excellence rather than just basic ability.

From this, I determined that there are two tiers of success and the difference between the two is where you set the finish line. If your goal is to “become” something, you can achieve your goal, but you will never excel. If your goal is to not only become but to become great, you will achieve excellence. In my example of the two plumbers, the less experienced and knowledgable man is not less successful. He is less developed in his career and that is fine. What is important, is that he can decide to learn and grow and become more knowledgable than what he is now, or he can decide to stop because he has already achieved his goal.

If your goal is to become a lawyer, once you pass the bar, you will have achieved your success, but you will never become great. If your goal is to be a musician, once you make an album, you will have succeeded, but you will never be exceptional. If your goal is simply to become something, you will never become everything you could be. Ask yourself “What is my path?” If you want to achieve greatness, your path cannot lead to a destination, but rather, it must be a road of learning and growth always seeking to be better tomorrow than yesterday.