Posts

Q: I want to start a website to gain followers and make money with my writing. I’ve identified a niche, but I’m wondering how to get started branding myself. -Trish

Andrea:

Understand Yourself & Your People

Before you do anything else dig down deep and articulate who you are and what the overarching themes will be.

Next, figure out who your audience and what they are in to on a deeper level. I’m talking micro, like what kind of food they like to eat (i.e. are they granola, or junk food). This will help you identify what they are into, where they like to go and what kinds of things they’ll want to read or see.

Develop deep knowledge and show it off.

I think the most important thing is knowing about your subject matter on a deep level. Demonstrating that you are a “go-to” person for your niche subject matter will help a lot.

I recommend making a list of six months worth of content ideas. Then break up those ideas based on how you want to write about them. For instance, some ideas might be better for blog posts while others might be best to pitch for publication. Blog posts are great for once people get to your website and can also be useful for SEO (search engine optimization), and getting pieces published elsewhere online can help drive traffic to your website as well as give you more credibility.

For the website itself:

If you don’t want to hire someone to create a WordPress site for you, depending on your technical skill, I suggest just setting one up yourself at wordpress.com, or setup a site with Squarespace, though I prefer WP.

Keep it simple, but make sure you have these elements:

  • clean design,
  • quality content (decide on that beforehand),
  • an email list sign up,
  • links to your social media,
  • SEO driven content (you can find a great guide to some of the most popular SEO plugins for WordPress by heading to the Victorious website).

Make Time for Your Brand

Next, schedule regular time for promoting yourself. Quality and consistency are the most important factors in building up an audience.

Collaborate with Others

When you’re first starting out and don’t have an audience yet, it can be really helpful to partner up with folks who have similar audiences that are already built. Whether it’s a podcast, a webinar, a guest post, or an event, you can build your audience by giving valuable content to sister audiences. Start reaching out to others that relate to your niche–people or brands who have a bigger audience and figure out ways to collaborate. And always make generosity a priority. What will they get from you, if they partner with you?

If you implement these things it will give you a great start on building your writer brand.


Do you have a burning question about branding your writing or creativity? The business or psychological side to pursuing your dream of supporting yourself with your creative work? Please email it to me. It just might get selected to be featured on this blog.


 

Q: For writers new to the idea of writing as a business, what are some of the mistakes to avoid when thinking about branding? —Gabrielle

Andrea: Great question.

One of the biggest personal branding mistakes is trying to be everything to everyone. A lot of this is based in fear–that if we have too narrow of a focus, we won’t appeal to enough people. But something important happens when we go deep on the things we truly care about: we gain clarity, and that makes us more appealing to others as well.

We’re often told that branding is all about our audience–not ourselves. In other words, we’re supposed to appeal to what they want in order to be successful. And while that is true to a degree, we also have to be true to ourselves.  I think that’s actually where we should start.

More and more, readers crave authenticity. You can’t have authenticity without deep self-knowledge. But you don’t have to share EVERYTHING either.

in general, writers should have a layer of separation between who they are as a person and who they are as a brand. You can use your voice, style, talent, personality, and knowledge to express the parts of yourself that you are willing to share publicly.

For example, you might be interested in a variety of subjects but most want to write about only one or two, in this case, your focus should be there. That’s only one example though, you can differentiate yourself from other writers in subject matter, approach, voice, and other ways.

Keep the focus on what you want to build your brand around, not being “all the things.” Zero-in on one primary throughline to your work and once you’ve established yourself there, you can always add new priorities/facets, down the line.


Do you have a burning question about branding your writing or creativity? The business or psychological side to pursuing your dream of supporting yourself with your creative work? Please email it to me. It just might get selected to be featured on this blog.


 

Q: My profile photo on Facebook and Instagram is my book cover. Should I keep it that way, or have a picture of myself? —Brian

Andrea:

Make it a personal photo for sure! People want to connect with a human being, they like books because books are about people. 😛 So upload a nice author brand photo of yourself as your profile pic.

It’s safe to assume that most people are in a hurry and are distracted. Make it as easy as possible for them to find what you want them to find. BTW, I suggest making your cover photo your book, along with one or two positive review quotes/blurbs, and then your profile should be your personal photo.

Remember, you’re building a career–one that won’t just be based on one singular book.

You can find more tips for building your author brand on social media in my article on The Write Life.

 


Do you have a burning question about branding your writing or creativity? The business or psychological side to pursuing your dream of supporting yourself with your creative work? Please email it to me. It just might get selected to be featured on this blog.


 

​There are two stickers in my office that I received at last year’s Craft + Commerce conference which say, “Create Every Day” and “Teach Everything You Know.” I find these two mottos so important to how we writers and creatives establish ourselves and how we go about being the champions of our own work.

Teach Everything You Know.

Teaching is a great way to help others. But I find that teaching is also good for your own creativity and confidence. Not only do you help others with the knowledge you’ve gained, but in teaching you come to realize that you likely know a lot more than you thought you did.

But there’s something especially vulnerable about the “everything you know” part of the above declaration.

teach-everything-sticker

It can seem scary. Because if you teach everything you know, will there be any use for you in the market? Shouldn’t you keep some stuff for yourself? As protection against becoming a commodity?

 

And herein lies the sleeping monster. The inadequacy monster. The voice inside that says, don’t tell them what you know, they’ll steal it. They’ll do better than you. They’ll steal everything you’ve built. But this line of thinking stems from the sub-level belief that you’re just not good enough, or you’re just inadequate.

I know that voice intimately, though I’ve learned how to better tell it to shut the hell up. Not always of course, I’m human. And I have my triggers. But the point is, there’s hope for muting that voice.
[bctt tweet=”I’ve found that when your worth is based on the amalgam of who you are and not just what you do, that’s something no one can take away from you.” username=”andreamguevara”]
Now, I’m not saying you should tell everything to everyone. Obviously, if you have an idea you want to protect that’s fine.

Maybe I’m wrong, but the “everything you know” part is more about sharing the breakthroughs you have, or the methods. Or even choosing who you want to teach that “everything” to.

Think of authors or artists you admire. Even if Mary Karr taught me everything she knows, I would not become her. Even if I knew all of her philosophies and methods, the work I’d produce would either be a bad copy of her work, or something uniquely my own built using methods she shared. You can bet if Mary Karr wanted to teach me, I’d be there, ready and willing, but always with the knowledge that I still have to do the work and that I still have my own voice in the world.

Now of course there are those who are just copycats, who steal and duplicate. And it stings when they do it to you because it is a wretched thing to do. But they will never BE you. They will never have your dare I say god-given talents, perspective, and creativity.

They operate from a place of lack (lack of resources, lack of confidence, lack of ethics). And when someone steals from you, it’s normal that the inadequacy monster screams in your ear to get back at them, or do the same. But you don’t have to. Because there’s more to you than that.

[bctt tweet=”Imagine what would happen if we creatives spent a bit less time worrying about losing our worth and channeled that power into deepening the value of our work and who we are.” username=”andreamguevara”]

We would be more successful. We’d create work that is uniquely ours, untouchable by other hands.​

This is the heart of my philosophy when it comes to branding, selling, or marketing yourself: the more deeply rooted you are in the healthy soil of your own craft and self-worth, the easier it will be for others to see it and be attracted to it. And that’s where the create everyday comes in.

what to do when you feel inadequate

Create Everyday

create-every-day

I also have a t-shirt from the conference. 😉

While we may not always have time to write or get creative EVERY. SINGLE. DAY. It’s still an important habit to strive for–even if that creativity doesn’t exactly have to do with your designated projects.

I think it’s especially important to indulge in creative play every day, whether that’s dancing, or writing free-form stream of consciousness stuff you’ll never publish, or painting ceramics, or planting in your backyard. These types of unfocused creativity can be mindful practices. And mindful practices open up space for us to make breakthroughs in creative work.

Some would even say that it’s in that regular practice of our creative work that our muse, genius, or best ideas come.

And that’s when another voice shows up, your own untouched soul voice, the one that is unphased by life’s barbs, the one that says, great job, this is good, this is important, you were put on this earth to do this. The more this voice is active, the better and more ‘you’ you become.

It’s a powerful thing to fulfill your purpose(s).
[bctt tweet=”There’s a feeling like no other that comes from sloughing off the dark death of inadequacy and lack and moving about in the light, flexible warmth of doing the work you’re meant to do.” username=”andreamguevara”]
I hope you’ll spend some time thinking about that. Maybe even sit down in a quiet place and make a list of the things that you like about yourself and your work, and then another list of what you want to get better at and possibly a third, of ideas of how you could make creative play a bigger part of your life.

In the end, we have a short time on this planet and I don’t know about you, but I want to make the fricken’ best of it.