The Bobby McFerrin Plan for Creating a Remarkable Business

Editor’s note: This article was Pamela Wilson’s first guest post on Copyblogger, published on March 25, 2010 — well before she joined our team as VP of Educational Content. Pamela had just completed Copyblogger’s flagship course, Teaching Sells, and was ready to expand her successful offline design business into new online territory.
I just returned from a Bobby McFerrin concert, and now I know how to run my new business.
No, this post isn’t about “Don’t Worry, Be Happy.” Bobby McFerrin is much more than that.
You see, I’m a little nervous. For 23 years, I’ve made my income the same way — in a service business, as a graphic designer. Clients come to me for design work. I create something for them, and bill for my time. Rinse, repeat, rinse, repeat for 23 years, and you have a career as a successful designer.
But that’s all about to change.
I’m venturing into new territory. I’ve started a blog. I’m putting together a course. I’m interacting with my readers. I’m supposed to let them guide me, respond to their needs, offer what they’re looking for, and everything is going to work out fine.
Except, I’m just a little terrified. How exactly is content marketing supposed to work? Who are these people I am serving, and how do I know it’s all going to come together?
And that’s where Bobby comes in
The first thing you notice when you file into the theater at a Bobby McFerrin concert is that the stage

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The Oddest Story About Overcoming Obscurity You’ll Ever Hear

It’s a monumental moment in the history of Rough Draft because we are going to break — for the first time ever — the monologue mold of Rough Draft.
In fact, we’re going to do it all week.
See, Demian Farnworth has four short interviews for you from four superb web writers. People who will teach you fabulous lessons on overcoming obscurity, finding your voice, choosing the right words, and rapidly expanding your audience.
Right now, you’ll hear from the lovely James Chartrand, a single mom with two kids who built a world-class design and copywriting boutique called Men with Pens.
But her ride wasn’t pretty. Her story is one of intrigue and forced anonymity. And downright sexism.
It’s one of unfair competition and writing $2 articles. But there are also inside jokes about dressing drag and being Canadian, and ultimately, a happy ending that culminated in a blog post on Copyblogger that blew all of our collective minds.
Demian speaks in superlatives because this story demands superlatives. And it demands your attention. Particularly if you feel alone and forgotten and like no one will ever notice you. Because the lesson is if this single mom can win the attention battle with these odds, so can you.
So pay attention …
Because in this roughly 20-minute episode of Rough Draft with Demian Farnworth and James Chartrand, you’ll discover:

Fab advice about getting noticed from a woman who chose to remain obscure
The icky environment James found herself in when

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The Disgustingly Simple Rule for Web Writing That’s Often Hard to Swallow

Editor’s note: This post was originally published on January 14, 2009. We’re bringing it back today because clear, concise writing on the web never goes out of style.
In 1964, Richard Hofstadter wrote a Pulitzer-prize-winning book called Anti-Intellectualism in America. This rich, thorough book exposed the thread of anti-intellectualism that runs through the culture of practical America.
For example, even though the founding fathers were sages, scientists, and men of cultivation, the Federalists attacked their curiosity and idealism as too trivial for important affairs.
Did you know there’s a thread of anti-intellectualism running through good web writing and design? In fact, web usability demands mindless writing and design.
Naturally, this makes some people want to vomit. That’s part of reason why I used the word “disgusting” in the headline of this blog post. So let me explain where I’m going with this.
The simple rule of web writing
Web users are mission-minded. Cramped for attention. Bent on standards. And uninterested in learning new navigation methods. What you have to remember is that people don’t go to the web to window shop.
They go there to drive 60 miles per hour — and look at billboards.
Thus, there’s only one good reason why you should learn how to write clear, concise and compelling copy for the web …
To get noticed.
That means when someone arrives on your website home page, blog, or article, they should know immediately what to expect. Everything — even your microcontent — should be

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What You Don’t Know About Copyright Can Hurt You

As writers, we are very protective of our own creations.
But when we perform research on a topic and come across the perfect passage on a website, or an image that perfectly captures the essence of the point we are trying to make, sometimes it can be tempting to just copy and paste it into our own content.
With that one move, however, you commit copyright infringement — which could cost you your reputation and your business.
Copyright infringement is serious
Since it can be difficult to determine whether or not you’re committing copyright infringement, you may violate someone else’s copyright even if you don’t intend to.
What if a website does not display a copyright notice? Does “fair use” allow you to use someone else’s copyrighted work?
If you use a copyrighted work without permission from the copyright owner, it’s infringement. Period.
It can be costly just to be accused of copyright infringement.
You may have to hire an attorney to defend yourself in court. If you settle out of court, the amount you might owe could bankrupt you or your business. Plus, it often takes a fair amount of time to resolve an allegation of copyright infringement.
Knowing how to proceed when you encounter someone else’s copyrighted work can help keep you out of trouble.
How to avoid copyright infringement
1. Don’t copy and paste someone else’s copyrighted work without permission from the copyright owner(s)
Permission to use a copyrighted work should be in writing, and should detail exactly what you can and cannot

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The Powerful Resource You Always Have When Presented with Creative Challenges

In the fall of 2008, I had every aspect of running my online copy editing business carefully mapped out — but the unpleasant reality that callously illuminated my pretty little map was that there wasn’t much of a business to run.
I had a few clients to keep me busy, but I put way too much hope in my bare-bones website.
At the time, I thought that the mere presence of a website would make clients flock to me and graciously ask for writing help. I’d have a steady flow of clients who were happy to pay me substantial fees, and to pass the time between copy editing work, I’d recline comfortably, eat bon bons, and file my nails.
I was incredibly disappointed and frustrated not only because that scenario was not my reality, but also because I didn’t know the most effective ways to promote my online business.
I pressed on and remembered that a former co-worker once mentioned a blog about online marketing called Copyblogger.
Customize your content marketing
After discovering that content marketing seemed like a great way to promote my online business, I realized I had a lot of work to do.
What was I going to write about?
If I just copied what other freelance copy editors wrote about on their blogs, my writing wouldn’t stand out.
I didn’t want to invest time creating content that would just be ignored.
As I carefully studied all of the online content I consumed, I discovered that you can observe and implement

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Revealed: The Perfect Blog Post Length

Here’s a million-dollar question: Is there a magical blog post length? In other words, should you aim for a word-count sweet spot?
The answer is no; there is not an ideal word count for a blog post. But there’s an ideal number of questions you need to ask yourself before you write.
And that magic number is 13.
Ask yourself these 13 questions and you’ll discover how long your article should be, whether or not it will be interesting, and if you even have the time to write a good article.
In this 8-minute episode of Rough Draft with Demian Farnworth, you’ll discover:

The first thing you must understand before writing
Why thinking you have to write could be killing your readership (this is for anyone who hates writing)
The mistake most web writers make about mobile
What to say when people tell you your article has to be short
Google’s idea of the perfect blog post length
Question 13 amounts to a majestic, fool-proof way of seducing readers

Click Here to Listen toRough Draft on iTunes
Click Here to Listen on Rainmaker.FM
About the authorRainmaker.FMRainmaker.FM is the premier digital marketing and sales podcast network. Get on-demand business advice from experts, whenever and wherever you want it.

The post Revealed: The Perfect Blog Post Length appeared first on Copyblogger.

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Clean Up Your Sidebar!

Does your sidebar look like a cluttered closet that’s stuffed to the gills with distracting ads, images, and text?
Time to unpack your sidebar, look at everything you’ve put there, and consider whether or not it’s pulling its weight.
The result of your efforts? A sidebar that’s good for business.
This week on Hit Publish, host Pamela Wilson invited three Copyblogger experts to share their best advice on cleaning up your sidebar once and for all.
Tune in to Hit Publish to hear from host Pamela Wilson, Brian Gardner, Rafal Tomal, and Brian Clark as they discuss:

Why the very best sidebar might be no sidebar
How your design approach should change depending on where your sidebar is located
The secret power of an “accent widget”
Why sidebars are such a minefield, and how to make yours the exception to the rule

Click Here to Listen toHit Publish on iTunes
Click Here to Listen on Rainmaker.FM
About the authorRainmaker.FMRainmaker.FM is the premier digital marketing and sales podcast network. Get on-demand business advice from experts, whenever and wherever you want it.

The post Clean Up Your Sidebar! appeared first on Copyblogger.

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Use Internal Cliffhangers So People Never Stop Reading

So your visitor loved your headline. Will she read the rest of the article? One of the best ways to increase your chances is by using internal cliffhangers.
A cliffhanger is a scene in a book, movie, newspaper story, or TV show that holds something back from the reader or viewer.
More than likely, you’re familiar with the cliffhanger on the macro level, which is designed to keep a person emotionally connected to the content until the next post or episode is shipped.
These cliffhangers are external to the content, like the buckle between two train cars. The promise is that if you keep reading or watching, you’ll eventually be rewarded with what you want to know.
And you can create this same kind of tension inside your content as well.
In this 7-minute episode of Rough Draft with Demian Farnworth, you’ll discover:

The two kinds of curiosity: the one that kills and the one that doesn’t
One thing you can do at the end of a paragraph to make people stick around
The internal cliffhanger that can backfire if you get it wrong
How to make your reader think, “Is she about to do what I think she’s about to do?”
The turn of phrase that people love to hear
And more!

Click Here to Listen toRough Draft on iTunes
Click Here to Listen on Rainmaker.FM
About the authorRainmaker.FMRainmaker.FM is the premier digital marketing and sales podcast network. Get on-demand business advice from experts, whenever and wherever you want it.

The post Use

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Why #VanityMetrics Are Worthless (and What Really Matters)

It’s been a bad couple of weeks for Web 2.0.
The original queen of mommy bloggers, Dooce, is retiring from blogging. And blogging’s original crown prince, Jason Kottke is having similar thoughts. For no other reason than what used to seem like a decent business model (ad-driven, independent blogging) isn’t so much anymore.
Across town, Twitter just lost billions of dollars in market cap, for pretty similar reasons — Web 2.0 just isn’t as valuable a place to spend time as it used to be.
At least, not for people hoping to make money.
According to McKinsey, “email remains a significantly more effective way to acquire customers than social media — nearly 40 times that of Facebook and Twitter combined.”
My own email marketing experience using MailChimp with my company, Gapingvoid, would confirm this. Seth Godin also backs this up, citing the new online course he was selling recently:
I just looked at the stats for my course. 22% of the traffic came from my blog. 74% came from email and RSS. 4% came from social media. I think showing up in a trusted way, regularly, is priceless.
And don’t talk to me about the advertising business
“It’s not the same anymore,” my very smart-but-jaded advertising friend, Jeff recently told me. “We used to want to change the world. Now we just spend our days optimizing industrially-farmed content across different platforms. Nobody actually cares. Nor should they.”
It’s utterly tragic how so many people (and businesses) hope to get rich just by getting

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Why Your Mom Was Right About Blogging

It’s a good thing your mom taught you everything you need to know to become a well-respected, successful blogger, isn’t it?
What’s that?
Your mom never taught you anything about blogs? Because blogs didn’t exist when you were growing up?
I beg to differ.
I’m going to bet that she really did teach you everything you need to know. She just may have forgotten to say “when blogging.”
Let’s take a look.
Choose your friends wisely (when blogging)
Did your mom ever tell you she didn’t like your friends? Maybe it sounded something like this:
Be careful about who you spend time with. Your friends should be a positive influence on you. Don’t pick friends who will lead you down the wrong path.
Yes, blogging is a relatively new phenomenon. And there are a lot of people online who want to teach you how to blog.
But you have to choose your teachers wisely.
There’s the first tribe: the cool kids. They’re the touchy-feely, “profit is evil” types, who don’t believe you have a right to make a living from blogging.
Then there’s the second tribe: the yellow highlighter crew. The ones who only talk about “monetizing your audience,” as if they were piggy banks you can squeeze coins out of.
Then there’s us. We’re the third tribe.
We believe there are many, many strategies you can use to make a living from blogging and content marketing, and none of them should make you feel like you need to scrub with soap and hot water after doing them.

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