Focusing my business: Want to help?

Writing services specifically - Notebook, pen and inkI’ve been juggling a business site and this blog site for YEARS (along with a couple other specialty blogs that have come and gone along the way). I was also blogging over on Active Rain for quite some time and I’ve recently picked up a bit of involvement in Facebook and Twitter (I just LOVE twitter!) and I’m getting more involved in Linked In and more interested in Squidoo.

As a result, I’ve started dropping some of the “balls” I try to juggle. My business site has not been updated in ages. That’s pathetic. I’ve quit doing submissions over on Active Rain (since putting them on my own blog and putting them over there causes duplicate content issues and I don’t have time to do both right now). I’ve not even been doing much blogging for lately.

I’ve also determined:

  • Research required to stay in step with all the latest in online marketing trends is time intensive and goes far beyond what’s required to write targeted, SEO-friendly web copy
  • Successful online marketing hinges on two things: excellent, relevant copy for organic SEO ranking and intuitive navigation that makes it simple for visitors to get what they need quickly and easily. The rest is all black hat/white hat stuff and changes from hour to hour
  • Splitting my concentration between multiple sites and services keeps me in front of my computer too many hours a day and my participation in the social web model needs to be managed more effectively
  • I spend too much time staying on top of the latest in technology, encouraging clients to regularly call on me to serve as tech support – not a service targeted in my business model, but one that just happened
  • I don’t want to maintain two “main” sites, it’s giving my marketing a split personality (and me a headache)
  • Branding one URL will be more effective and easier than branding two, even if it makes me slide backwards a bit in Google while I get it done (and a few months thereafter). Howdy, sandbox!
  • The overall SEO benefits of combining my blog with my business site are compelling

On the down side, moving my business and blog sites to another domain will damage the branding I’ve been building since 2002, when I switched over from my first business name to my current one.

Gradual changes

Being the “go to” person for a slew of clients is great for the ego, you are constantly in demand, constantly on call — but it’s hard on anyone attempting to have a life. It gets old quickly, and I’ve been in this business for a lot of years now.

I’ve been trimming my client list for the last year to offer better service to fewer clients. I’m now ready to try taking on writing project work. Until now, I’ve avoided “project” work. I preferred to build relationships with my clients. I treasure those I’ve built — both past and current.

Over the past couple of years, I’ve started sending my own favorite clients to other providers for services that aren’t my specialty. At first, that was scary. “What if they don’t come back?” I wondered. But I’ve not lost one yet.

This approach offers a better service to my clients, makes me the resource person for the services I don’t provide, allows me to help other outsourcing folks to gain access to fantastic clients, builds my professional network, and reminds my clients that I’m doing what’s best for them — even if that means referring them to someone else.

I want to keep my favorite long term clients through this transition and will only be trimming one or two more from my new better-sized list. Accepting project work will help me continue to expand the writing portion of my business — and writing makes me happy.

Sweeping changes

So the time has come to make some pretty drastic changes in my business model. I enjoy writing more than any other aspect of my business so that needs to be my marketing focus. It’s crazy for me to continue to perform all these other non-income producing research and learning tasks to support the services I offer that are NOT my favorites. What have I been thinking?!?!

I’m a geek, so some of the research will continue. I love it. But, I no longer want to “fool” myself into believing that it’s all business. When I’m working, I want a better billing ratio than 1 billable hour for every 3, 4 or even 5 hours of time spent. That ratio simply sucks.

Making the gradual changes has helped some; the sweeping changes will help even more.

Following my own advice

I’m doing for myself what I’ve been doing for clients for years — helping to organize and focus the business model and spend less time working and more time living — while improving the bottom line.

My whole life, I’ve been great at helping others, but not-so-great at doing the same things for myself. I have serious “do as I say, not as I do” tendencies — just ask my kids (for instance, when I send them to bed because they need sleep and I stay up all night working on the computer). Being honest to myself, about myself, isn’t always painless. It’s much easier to help others “fix” themselves!

I’m still working out the details of this next evolution in my business, but I know that there will (most likely) be a name change, there will be a merging of this blog and my business site, and there will probably also be a new site redesign, new logo, and LOTS of 301 redirects to try to help visitors find what they seek and to send old links to their new locations.


It will be a tremendous amount of work, and will have to be done in stages. I believe these changes will (in the long-term) make my life better, my workday shorter, and my business more focused on my best (and most enjoyable) services. Can you imagine only one site to maintain for the business? I can’t… but I will!

I may add other specialty blogs later, if/when I have time and energy… but the business site will be a singularity.

I’ve resisted this to date because I get “personal” on this blog. I often wander great distances away from business topics here. I’ve finally decided that’s ok. I’m not a big business, I’m a freelance writer who does small business consulting for a few choice clients. My personality IS part of my business. They really can’t BE separated. Like Popeye says… “I yam what I yam and that’s what I yam.”

Building good relationship with clients means having a common ground with them. I work best that way. So, the better we know each other in the beginning, the more likely we are to succeed in a mutually beneficial relationship.

I cross-promote my blog on my business site, so there’s really no reason to hide the fact that I write about a variety of topics on my blog. Anyone who clicks on the blog link already knows the “other side” of my story. Besides, I get more feedback from my blog right now than I do from my business website. (I’m sure that has NOTHING to do with the update ratio on each site *rolls eyes*)

With the all-in-one site, I’ll simply find a way to “highlight” the more “business-y” posts on the index page (maybe using a tag filter) and permit full blog access one click away from my index. I’ll be sticking with the WordPress content management system because I love it. It gives me enough control to do my own thing — without doing more HTML than I can easily handle or requiring me to call in my favorite programmer too often to extract my butt from the programming mess I’ve made.

Most of the issues I am still ironing out can be handled in the design and function of the website. I just have to figure out the particulars.

What I’ve learned

Since starting to serve clients online in 1999 and subsequently launching my first website in 2000, I’ve learned many things.

I know that simple websites are better than complex ones. Sounds easy, but knowing something and applying that knowledge are two different things. I like my blog better now with the current, cleaner look. The older layouts were too “busy” and less effective.

I’m a writer, so the text (not the photos) should take center stage. Graphics and images should only support the text, even if I like pretty pictures for their own sake.

I prefer simple, impactful logos. My logo incarnations over the years have often been too complex. They tried too hard. I do like the one for WickedBlog — even better than my business logo — despite that fact that it’s the only one I actually designed solo. The others required professional design assistance. It just proves that playing around with concepts works wonders. Sometimes when you try too hard, you lose the advantage of whimsy.

I may work toward a similar look for my new business logo.

Need your help

At this point, there are several contenders for the new name. I know that I want to keep my “wicked” branding. I like it. I’ll retain my purple and green colors. I like those too. These feel comfortable to me. They feel right. (They will also help with the branding transition and will permit me to keep my branded “wicked” 800 phone number.) I’ll have to replace all my pretty (and expensive) business cards, but I may replace them with a sleek mini card style.

Right now, the business name topping the list is Wicked Writer. I own the URL (and have for several years — which may reduce the time I have to spend in Google’s sandbox). A few other names are still under consideration. Since I haven’t gone through and cleaned out my domain name collection yet (yes, it’s on my list), I still own all the contenders as well.

I’d appreciate any feedback from my readers on using Having a second, third… or even 20th opinion would really help me in this process!

It may be a couple months (or more) before I can get this transition completed. But it’s starting!

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