This is Week 10 of a 52-week project/experiment in DIY marketing. Armed with nothing but a copy of the 2009 Grow Your Business Marketing Plan + Calendar and my bare wits, I'm applying the skills you need to grow a business in real time, day by day, and reporting on them week by week. You can follow along here every Monday; check in with my companion blog, A Virgo's Guide to Marketing, for additional links and information.
This week's suggested task is to "soft-launch" my website, getting feedback from a few trusted colleagues, clients and mentors. Because my site is up and running, I'm continuing to concentrate on adding pages and content that will make it a better, more useful destination for visitors, and a better marketing & promotional vehicle for myself. Also? I'm screwing up!
I set myself up with some pretty ambitious goals for 2009. They were all things I really wanted to do, but in hindsight, I had a fairly unrealistic view of the time that would be involved in doing some of them and of how taxing they might be.
For example, I write a lot. In 2008, I was already posting to the Marketing Mix blog (as well as managing it), writing for the Creative Freelancer Conference blog (and managing it), writing a monthly 750-word column for actors for a casting service and writing a monthly newsletter with…well, I'm not even sure of how many words. Again, a lot. And a picture, even!
With all of this other writing—plus my commenting on other blogs and vastly increased participation in social media—my regular blog posting had dropped to a sometimes-low once weekly. Not good: I knew my traffic went up when I posted more, and more (good) traffic means a bigger pool of prospects, readers, fans, and all the other good, ancillary benefits that a healthy blog can bring. So I committed to writing five times weekly on the blog for 2009.
Just because it ain't sweaty doesn't make it easy work
This might have been fine had I remembered a couple of things. First, that I'm no Seth Godin. Seth posts daily to his blog (pretty much, anyway), but he's been doing it longer and he's able to write shorter. My posts, like the rest of my writing, tend to be on the longish side, and even when I wail through them, take a while to write. (Maybe Seth Godin's do, too, but somehow, I get the feeling the guy is pretty good at tossing off the pithy without losing quality.)
Second, I'm no Ilise Benun. In addition to possessing that elusive gift of brevity, Ilise is able to gang up a few posts at once. I've never been especially good at that, nor does my blog's style lend itself to the practice. So I'm pretty much stuck with finding one or two or even three hours per day to write a post. Even someone as lousy at math as I am can see that's not going to work for long.
When every day becomes a burden rather than a help
Earlier this year, I wrote a little theme song to keep myself amused and inspired throughout what I figured might be a challenging 2009. (Warning: that link has a LOT of swearing, although if the comments are true, it's also pretty funny.) The nature of what we're doing is ongoing and yes, even relentless at times. But if I'm not having some fun doing it, and definitely if other parts of my life are starting to suffer significantly, it's time to take a look at the plan and make some revisions.
This week, a lot came crashing down: my health (and productivity) dipped as I hit a wall of exhaustion, and I got some strong feedback from people who knew me well that my mental health was a little shaky, too. (I think my shrink's exact words were, "I haven't seen you this wired for three years.")
That scared me enough to scale back immediately. I stopped working by six on Thursday and Friday, worked only a half-day Saturday and a couple of hours Sunday, to write this post. No, I didn't come close to getting everything on my to-do list checked off; yes, it finally dawned on me that if I couldn't get most of my work done in a working day, plus or minus a few tasks/hours, I had unrealistic expectations to begin with.
The beginning of balance
Knowing I couldn't keep this up, I was forced to start thinking of creative solutions. I didn't want to bail on everything, I wanted to keep up with my Big Marketing Task (right now, improving my website) and I had a five day trip to SXSW coming up this week which I wanted to clear the decks for.
When an email from another project I'd signed up for in sunnier days floated into my inbox, instead of wigging out or just deleting it (and I've been making extensive use of the delete key this past week!), I tried to find a solution in it. Then it hit me: I could celebrate Make-a-Referral Week, take care of my daily blog writing and create some content on my site that would help me out in the long run.
The solution was to gang up a series of posts full of referrals. That's the point of this week—to generate work for other entrepreneurs—and once I had pages up on my site, whenever anyone asked me for a referral, I could just refer them there, which would save me time in the future. Win/win/win!
I drafted one post to explain the week, and then a series of pages which would go live each day, each focusing on a different type of work: design, web design, coaching, copywriting and "grab bag." As of this writing, the main post and 3 1/2 pages are done; I should have the rest of the pages done well before heading out to Austin.
Now my blog stays topical, I've removed the burden of having to post while I'm away (although I reserve the right to if I feel like it) and I've done my marketing.
In the future, more productivity and less WORK
Here's what I'm doing this week to help get myself back on track:
- Committing to stopping by 6pm each night. With my current morning exercise schedule, I don't always start my day until 10am, plus I realize that Rome wasn't built in a day. "6" means I get a cushion until "7", which is my new "hard out." (SXSW excepted, and I plan to lean heavily on the disco nap while there.)
- Signing up for a little shot in the arm. My friends Jason and Jodi Womack, user-friendly productivity people, are putting together a 4-week teleseminar class of 1/2 hour per week check-in call, plus a little reading and daily reminders. It's a very reasonable $49, and I think it'll be a little inspiration to get me started, like Leo Babauta's 30-Day Challenge was for guitar.
- Getting in bed each night by 9:30pm. This is HUGE for me. I'm overdrawn on the sleep bank, and there's no federal bailout package for that.
This isn't meant to discourage anyone. We all have our blind spots, and mine is Eyes Bigger Than Stomach Syndrome, with a slight (ha!) predilection for overwork. I still managed to get a lot done this week (taxes, newsletter, five blog posts, follow-up calls with prospects, read one book I've been meaning to review, this blog and the podcast), and even falling a little behind, I still feel like I'm ahead.
I plan to use my upcoming travel time to think about how to revise my goals and my daily plan to be somewhat more realistic and accommodating of an actual life. And I intend to use my time at SXSW to pummel all my new friends with millions of questions about what they're doing, how they're doing it, and how we can help each other do it better.