What I’m working on this week (July 30 – Aug 3)

Well last week’s attempt to write 10,000 words per day on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday went pretty well. I didn’t hit 10,000 words every time but close… and I’m happy with that.

I also wrapped a project for a client about short term loans and payday cash advances. These types of loans get a lot of negative press because (like every other industry) there are those who give it a bad name. But these types of loans fill a need that traditional loans do not provide. I like the challenge of working for a client has an uphill battle to fight to win traffic in a highly competitive market AND to win respect in a market that doesn’t get a lot of respect.

This week, I have some articles I’m trying to wrap up for an income fund client. The company has had me on retainer since January and I’ve been providing them with content every month. But as I’ve become fully booked until 2015, I’ve had to carefully choose which clients I’ll continue with and which ones I have to stop working with. The income fund client, although a great client, didn’t make the cut so I’m wrapping up their articles as part of my contractual obligation with them. I actually hope to be done by Tuesday night but there’s a lot here so it might bleed over into the end of the week.

I also got a huge amount of positive feedback about my unofficial guide to using Launch.it. Check it out!

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The unofficial guide to using Launch.it

When something new comes out and you want to tell your friends about it, how do you present it to them? Do you use the press release format to announce the newsworthy event? Do you use an informational article format to explain what it is? Probably not.

You likely use stories. You tell your friends an enthusiastic, honest, hype-free, factual story about the product or service.

Launch.it is a place for you to tell those stories. It’s a place for new things to launch.

In this guide, you will learn about…

(Disclaimer: I am not affiliated with Launch.it in any way nor am I compensated by them to write this. I’m just an enthusiastic user. Also, please note that Launch.it is in beta so this information is subject to change.)
 

LAUNCH.IT: WHERE NEW IS LAUNCHED

Launch.it is a community platform that aims to be a searchable database of everything new. It is not just another place to create the same old content… they are pioneering a new way of communicating brands to the world.

  • On the publishing/promotional side, Launch.it is a place to tell stories about new products and services and ideas: It’s not another press release distribution site; it’s not another article site. Launch.it wants to be a “spin-free zone” where brands tell honest, fact-based, no-hype stories about whatever is new.
  • On the audience/readership side, Launch.it is a place where readers can interact with the brand in multiple ways. It can include sharing on social sites, clicking to the site to make a purchase or learn more, participating in crowdfunding, contacting the brand, and more.

Unlike press releases and articles, Launch.it stories (they call them “launches”) are more social, more focused on action, and they can be updated as facts change. I might not be 100% correct here but it feels like their site is aiming to be more like an engaging magazine that tells interesting, factual stories about new ideas rather than a newspaper that reports only the cold, hard facts.

As a writer, I’m interested in finding stories to cover. As an entrepreneur, I’m interested in telling the stories of new brands I develop. So here is an unofficial, unauthorized guide to launching your brand’s new idea from Launch.it.

LAUNCH.IT

The Launch.it homepage is made up of a few different sections…

  • Across the the top is a menu of high-level categories that launches are filed under — Technology, Consumer Electronics, Fashion, Media, Medical and Pharma, Services, Food and Beverage, Health and Beauty. (There are other categories you can file your launch under but they don’t appear on this list).
  • Below that is a section of the top ten launches. I’m not sure how this is sorted (although I’m guessing it’s by number of visits or number of shares). To the right of these top-10 featured launches is a sidebar that includes a ticker/”odometer” of the number of launches, a featured launch, and a link to Launch.it’s Facebook page.
  • Below that second is a section that lists 60 other launches in a 5 x 12 grid.

INTRODUCTION TO LAUNCH.IT

From the Launch.it homepage (http://launch.it)…

Click the “Sign Up” link to sign up (you can create an account or sign in with LinkedIn, Twitter, or Facebook). I created my own account.

From then on, click the “Login” link to get to the login page…

Once signed in, you’ll be directed back to the homepage but you’ll have two new links at the top of your page. These are the two main areas you’ll use on Launch.it: The Discoverer Dashboard and the Launcher Dashboard.

Here’s the Discoverer Dasboard:

Although mine doesn’t look very interesting right now (hey, I’m still new to Launch.it), this page is your dashboard to follow industries, writers, and brands, and to save launches for later viewing. Right now I’m following just one industry (Finance) and the launches in that category appear in my news feed.

Keep reading below because I’ll share some ideas about what you can use this dashboard for!

The other dashboard is the Launcher Dashboard…

On this page, you can see at a glance a number of stats about your launches — how many launches, how many views, how many comments and followers, how many stars your launches have earned, plus there are links on the lower half of the page to your launches, to analytics, and more.

Next, I’m going to show you how to launch content on Launch.it. If you are already familiar with that, skip this section and check out some ideas to use Launch.it to find stories or ideas to use Launch.it to launch your own news.

HOW TO LAUNCH ON LAUNCH.IT

From the Launcher Dashboard, click the great big button in the middle that says “new”…

And the next page you’ll get to is the page to create your launch story…

On this page…

Choose your byline from the drop-down menu. (It might be you or it might be other writers you’ve created, for example if you have several on staff who are sharing the same account).

Choose your brand from the drop-down menu. You can select your own brand (if you’re writing stories for your brand) or you can add new brands (if you own several brands or are a marketing firm).

Write your headline. Although the title can be pretty long, I would suggest that you try to keep it short because only the first 34-37 words will be displayed if your launch becomes featured. Check out the example below to see what I mean. Notice how the title is cut off a little? It’s not the end of the world, of course, but I think it would be more powerful if someone could read your entire title. So 34-37 words is the rule of thumb.

Write your subheading. Your subheading isn’t a reiteration of your headline but should instead provide additional information or context. Also note: Your subheading only shows up when someone views the blurb on its own page (it doesn’t show up in the condensed view on the home page) so make sure that the information is helpful but not essential to understanding your launch.

Write the body of your launch. This is the main content. I’m not sure how much space you have but presumably you have enough to get the story across. I would suggest aiming for a minimum of 400 words and a maximum of 1500 words. Too little and you’ll end up not getting your point across; too much and you’ll lose your readers. For more information, Launch.it provides a brief but helpful guide.

Note: Another important thing to consider is the length of your first paragraph. If your launch becomes one of the top ten featured stories, they will post the first part of your first paragraph (about the first 40 words or so) so make sure you create good content in that first paragraph. Check out the first paragraph of the launch below as an example:

Select your industry. There are several to choose from. Pick one that makes the most sense.

Write your key message bullet points. These will appear in the sidebar of your story. I’m not sure how many you get to write. I wrote 3. I’ve seen 5. I think 3-5 is a good, digestible number for your readers.

Upload your lead image. Make your image 680×490. The image will appear in different sizes but always in that ratio. In some places, the image will be only about 27% of of the larger size (approximately 186 x 132) so make sure that your image is recognizable at that size too.

Add advanced features. Definitely add advanced features if you have them! These include video, links for buying/fundraising/contacting you, more images, etc. The more you add, the more visually attractive and engaging your content becomes. When it comes to interaction, select as many as you can — Give them a place to click to visit your website and a way to contact you.

Once you have filled everything out, you can save, preview, and publish your launch story and it goes immediately to the home page of Launch.it. Later, you can always go back to review and edit your launch story from the Launch Dashboard.

HOW TO EDIT YOUR LAUNCH

Once you have a launch launched, you can edit it. I love this feature of Launch.it because (unlike press releases and some article publishing sites) information changes and you should be able to go back and update it. To edit your launch story, go to your Launcher Dashboard and at the top of the page, click the button labelled “Launches”…

(Note: There are other places on the page where you can click to view your launches but as of this writing, this is the only button that gets you to a place to edit your launches).

On this page, you’ll see the launches you have published, as well as links to edit, view, unpublish, and get analytics.

IDEAS TO USE THE DISCOVERER DASHBOARD

The Discoverer Dashboard is useful to filter the growing number of launches to keep track of what is important to you.

I love the idea of being able to follow industries, writers, and brands. I’m planning to use the Discoverer Dashboard in the following ways:

  • As a business, finance, and real estate writer, I’m going to follow related industries to pay attention to what’s going on in each space. The dashboard gives me the ability to filter by industry so I can quickly scan on a regular basis to find new ideas and trends.
  • As a writer, I’m always interested in connecting with other writers and learning how they are covering stories. This will give me a chance to meet experts in specific fields.
  • As a writer, I want to follow specific brands to see how they grow. They might be part of a story or trend I’m following or a competitor for one of the businesses I own, or the next big thing that I want to learn more about if I’m looking for a great idea for an article.

IDEAS TO LAUNCH ON LAUNCH.IT


The Launcher Dashboard is where you create content to engage with your audiences about your new idea, brand, product, service, or whatever. So here are some ideas you can launch with:

  • Launch your new brand
  • Launch each product or service
  • Launch new versions of products and services
  • Launch the latest version of your website
  • Launch your mobile app
  • Launch your new store
  • Launch your new Facebook page, Twitter profile, etc.
  • Launch a news story about you (Remember: This isn’t a press release but you can still create a story about what’s new at your business)
  • Launch your email newsletter
  • Launch sub-brands
  • Launch partnerships and joint ventures
  • Launch your blog
  • Launch individual blog posts (within reason, of course! I’m not suggesting that you spam Launch.it but there are times when an individual blog post is worth launching)
  • Launch a free report
  • Launch your ebook
  • Launch your print book
  • Launch your new location
  • Launch a story about that big project you landed
  • Launch when a new executive joins your team
  • Launch when you develop a new innovation
  • Launch a story that you hope to get some exposure about (we writers are watching!)
  • Launch your latest project for which you want investors/crowdfunders

So go Launch.it!

QUICK LINKS

Website: Launch.it
Twitter: @Launch_It
Facebook: LaunchItNews

The Business Model Canvas — a tool to help you understand and grow your business

I stumbled across a really cool tool that I thought you’d like. It’s called the Business Model Canvas and it’s a way for you to analyze your business model and create/innovate new ones.

The Business Model Canvas is divided into 9 parts:

  • Customer Segments (see the right side of the image) are the demographic groups you serve.
  • Customer Relationships are a description of how you relate to the people you’ve just listed in Customer Segments.
  • Value Proposition (see the center of the image) is the value you offer to your Customer Segments.
  • Channels is how you communicate your Value Proposition to your Customer Segments.
  • Key Partners (see the left side of the image) are the vendors and suppliers you do business with.
  • Key Activities are the things you do to make your Value Propositions happen.
  • Key Resources are the things that your Value Propositions require to be completed.
  • Cost Structure (see the lower left side of the image) is how you pay to run your business.
  • Revenue Streams (see the lower right side of the image) are the ways you make money.

Here’s a slightly more in-depth overview of the Business Model Canvas

HERE’S HOW TO USE THE BUSINESS MODEL CANVAS

  1. Start by filling out the Business Model Canvas for your company as it exists today.
  2. If you are just starting a business, this is your opportunity to create your business model from scratch. Explore how others are operating in each of these model segments and see if you can do things differently. A slightly different Customer Segment or a slightly different Value Proposition, for example, can be the differentiating factor you need.
  3. Have others in your organization fill out the Business Model Canvas and see how their version is similar or different than yours.
  4. Compile a company-wide canvas that everyone can agree on and get excited about.
  5. Use the same Business Model Canvas to do competitive analysis and see what other people in your industry are doing well (and where you can create a competitive advantage).
  6. Create metrics for each section and measure team performance on their contribution to those metrics. For example, did they improve customer relationships? Did they increase revenue streams? Etc.
  7. Periodically, examine ways to innovate in your business by choosing one of the sections and asking yourself questions like: “How can we do this section more effectively?” and “How does our competition excel at this section?”
  8. Combine the Business Model Canvas with another tool like Blue Ocean Strategy. Use these 9 Business Model Canvas sections as 9 elements for Blue Ocean Strategy.
  9. Use the Business Model Canvas to inform your development of your sales funnel – Customer Segments and Value Proposition help you know who to talk to and what to say, while Customer Relationships and Channels help you know how to move your Customer Segments through the sales funnel. Key Activities and Key Resources are used (usually at delivery but also at other times in the sales funnel).

To use the Business Model Canvas, visit BusinessModelGeneration.com where you can download a free PDF of the Business Model Canvas for yourself, as well as access their foundry and app store.

What I’m working on this week (July 23 – 27)

Yikes! I can’t believe it’s nearly the end of the month already. They say “time flies when you’re having fun” and I’m having a blast. I love what I do: I write stuff that is interesting to me, I have great clients, and I get to hang out at home with my wife all day long (we both work from home). It really doesn’t get better than that.

So, what am I working on this week? Well, let me tell you story: Years ago, when I was first starting out, I got paid per word… and I didn’t get paid very much. So my goal was to write as much as I could to pay the bills and get lots of experience and earn my chops. It was no problem to hit 10,000 words per day pretty frequently… and I was motivated to do it because I needed the money!

Things are different today. My business is busy. I have only a few clients. I get paid a lot more and the metric I am paid on is not per word. As my business changed, I got away from writing a large quantity. (That’s not necessarily a bad thing because it’s easy to burn out with that number of words). But I lost something along the way: I loved waking up and thinking: “I’m going to hit 10,000 words today”. I loved those focused days of writing. I loved the big, audacious goal of 10,000 words. I’m a writer and I’m at my very best when I’m pounding away on my keyboard.

(Note: Please don’t make the mistake of thinking that there is a spectrum between quality and quantity and my 10,000 words sacrifice quality for quantity. There are other factors at play to ensure that I still write quality content — I do a lot of planning and I have review/edit cycles at the end).

So, I realized recently that I wanted (NEEDED!) to get back to what my business was truly about — writing — instead of getting caught up in the busyness of other things. So last week I set a goal for 10,000 words and although I had a couple of interruptions later in the day, I was able to work late and finish.

And I had a lot of fun doing it. It felt old school! So this week I’m doing it again. My goal is to hit 10,000 words on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. That leaves Tuesday and Thursday to do the other things that my business requires, as well as to actually act on the content I wrote on those focused days (i.e., edit the content, send the content to clients, plan the next 10K day, etc.)

So this week’s 30,000 words will include some content for an income fund that needs some marketing (my contract with them is finished as soon as I can complete their work), a real estate investor client, a credit repair expert, and a whole bunch of writing for my own business — blogs, articles, etc.

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How to be an Olympic-level entrepreneur

Later this week, the 2012 Summer Olympics will begin with an opening ceremony. Then, we’ll watch as athletes from around the world compete over two weeks in competitions like wrestling and track and BMX cycling and badminton. (As a Canadian, I’m pleased to see hockey in there, although I’m not sure why it’s included as a summer Olympic sport).

As we get ready for these events, I am reminded of what it takes for an Olympic-level athlete to earn the right to compete in the games: This isn’t a competition among weekend hobbyists or junior-level enthusiasts. The winner of the gold medal in each category can proudly call themselves the very best in the world. THAT’s an achievement!

And just like there are different levels of athletes, there are different levels of entrepreneurs — from the wannabes who sit on the couch and dream to the hard-working amateurs who grind it out everyday to the top-level masters who train relentlessly and can truly be called the best in the world.

During the 2010 Olympics, I created a list of 31 qualities that make up an Olympic-style entrepreneur and I’m listing them below. If you’re an entrepreneur, what level are you playing at right now? What level do you aspire to be? And what are your plans to get there?

To be an Olympic-level entrepreneur…

  1. you need to remember that there is a right time for training, parading, competing, and reveling.
  2. you need to be ready to leverage your success.
  3. you need to trust your teammates to perform at the expected level.
  4. you need to pick yourself up after failure.
  5. you need to sign up for the whole package.
  6. you need to work at a higher energy level.
  7. you need to be willing to fail.
  8. you need to be willing to go where you need to go.
  9. you need to ignore the competition.
  10. you need to slow down only after you’ve crossed the finish line.
  11. you need to control as many factors as you can.
  12. you need to recognize that things will be different after… then prepare for it.
  13. all of your life centers around this moment.
  14. you need to play fair to win.
  15. you need to love what you do.
  16. you need to overcome obstacles and use them to grow stronger.
  17. you need to have the right gear.
  18. you need to understand and embrace the extreme risk/reward relationship.
  19. you need to go when the starter pistol fires.
  20. you need to be single-minded while competing.
  21. you need to decide to be an Olympic-level entrepreneur.
  22. you need to find your optimal competition zone.
  23. you need to always be training.
  24. you need to make improvements, however small.
  25. you need to make sacrifices.
  26. you need to be part of a team.
  27. you need to know your competition. Really well.
  28. you need to climb the proficiency ladder.
  29. you need to understand and accelerate your processes.
  30. you need to be confident in your delivery.
  31. you need to master one thing.