When you’re designing your website and writing blog posts to promote your business, there’s a term you need to keep in mind: search engine optimization, also known as SEO. Not sure where to start? Don't fret: Let's take a quick look at SEO for beginners.
There are entire books dedicated to mastering SEO, but the good news is you don’t need to be an expert to get started. Search engine optimization determines what page of Google or another search engine your website can be found on. A good SEO strategy can help your website get found by your ideal clients and customers. Here are 5 steps to set you on the right track.
1. Think like a client.
While optimizing your website and blog posts, it’s important to think like a client or whomever you’re trying to attract to your site. You might be familiar with some of the jargon of your industry (if you’re a freelance writer, for example, it’s common to see acronyms like SEO, B2B, CTR, etc.). However, your ideal customer might not be as familiar with the lingo that insiders use.
Let’s look at an example for a freelance writer: Put yourself in the shoes of a potential client. Would the average person know to search for those terms when looking to hire you? Chances are, while a small business owner might be familiar with those phrases, they would probably search for something much more simple when trying to find you, like “freelance ecommerce writers.”
If you’re a blogger, the same idea rings true. Think about how your ideal audience or followers might search for things related to your niche or blogging topic on Google. Whatever you come up with, see how much you can simplify it. That’s probably what people are most likely to search for.
Once you have a few terms in mind that your clients or readers might search for in order to find your site, we’re going to take them to the next level.
2. Do some keyword research.
When you have a good idea of what your clients are looking for, it’s time to get specific. Using tools like Ubersuggest, Google Analytics, Ahrefs, or Moz, you can see exactly what search terms you can use to maximize your optimization.
The exact process varies depending on which keyword tool you use, but essentially you’ll want to type a good, generic keyword into the tool to start. Any of the phrases you came up with in step 1 will work. If you make and sell crochet hats as a side hustle, it can be as simple as typing “crochet hats” into the search box.
Once you’ve done that, there should be a list of suggested keywords for you to view. The first thing you’ll notice is that the term “crochet hats” isn’t very specific, and a lot of people are using that term on their websites. It will be pretty difficult for a new business to swoop in and appear on the first page of Google for a term that broad.
However, you may also notice that it helps to be specific. A lot of the related search terms have to do with patterns for crochet hats and not hats for sale, so if you tweak your keyword to be “crochet hats for sale,” you won’t have to worry about the wrong people stumbling on your website.
The more specific you can get, the more likely you are to attract the right people to your website. Of course, it’s a good idea to sprinkle in some of the broader terms when they’re relevant, too. Make a good list of keywords to keep in mind as you write your web content, but don’t get started until you consider the next step…
3. Write with “user experience” in mind.
Throughout the years, companies have been using different strategies and techniques to improve their search engine ranking. But ultimately, Google’s algorithm boils down to this: What pages are going to be most relevant to a client’s search and what pages out of those are easiest to read, navigate, and use?
This means that although you have a list of keywords you want to target, you don’t want to force them into your text where they won’t make sense. The algorithm has gotten a lot smarter in recent years and it can tell when you’re trying underhanded tactics, also known as “black hat SEO” or “keyword stuffing.”
Use your keywords where they naturally fit but don’t overdo it. You want your content to be accessible and make sense to the humans that are reading it. Keep in mind that you’re writing for a person, not a robot.
Take this article for example. The keywords I'm hoping to rank for in Google search results are “SEO for beginners.” You might notice that if you do a page search for this (go ahead and try it if you're reading from a computer – click “ctrl + f” on a Windows computer or “command + f” on an Apple computer), you won't find that specific phrase more than once in the body of this text. That's because it doesn't really fit naturally.
The point here is to not force things, even if you're tempted to. Stick with a conversational tone and easy content. The Google algorithm will see right through any “old school” tactics.
4. Format correctly.
There’s more to SEO than just what you write. It turns out that your formatting matters, too. Using proper headings, breaking up big chunks of text with paragraph breaks and bullet points, including images and videos, and adding images and graphics where relevant can all make the page more visually interesting and appealing to readers.
In addition to the formatting of the page itself, you’ll need to make sure any images you use are optimized as well. Each image needs an alt tag, which should be a brief description of the image that helps search engine crawlers know what the image is. While this won’t be seen by your readers, it’s an important step to remember.
5. Update old content.
The best part about SEO is that you don’t have to reinvent the wheel every time you want to boost your site traffic. Search engines like to see that content is timely and relevant, so if you’re stuck for new ideas, why not give some of your older content a refresh?
Adding new links, updating outdated information, including more images, and sprucing up the text are all things that show search engines your website is up-to-date. It’s a good idea to go back through your old content at least once per year to keep it fresh, but you can update it more frequently if your analytics show your page views dropping.
Although there’s always more to learn about SEO, the basics are more than enough to help you build your website and write killer blog posts that will help your business or website get noticed. With a little research and some strategy, you can put yourself lightyears ahead of your competition.
If you’re thinking about starting a side hustle or own a fledgling business, you might be so concerned with the day-to-day that you forget to plan for the future. But if you don’t have a road map in front of you, how will you know where to go? It’s important to set goals for your business to keep yourself on track, especially in regards to income.
Setting income goals for your business will help you achieve sales and find clients beyond what you ever thought possible. However, if you set random goals without strategic planning, you’ll risk throwing off your trajectory.
Here’s what you need to know about setting income goals for your side hustle.
1. Set business goals first.
Before you can set an income goal, you need to know what to expect from the business itself. Where do you see your side hustle a year from now? Five years? Ten years? There’s no shame in keeping a side hustle as just a hobby for a little extra pocket money, but if you want it to become your full-time job, you need to set some business goals as well as income goals.
In order for your business to grow over time, you’ll need ways to “scale.” This is a term that’s thrown around often in the entrepreneurial world and it’s often misunderstood. When we’re talking about “scaling” a business, we’re not talking about starting or even growing a business. “Scaling” means being able to take on more work without sacrificing much in terms of income or in other areas, like time management or working yourself to death.
Brainstorm additional products or services you can offer in the future as your business expands. If you anticipate hiring other team members or contractors, how many, and when? Will you want to offer any special bonuses to your team? All of these will factor into the income goals you will need to set in order to succeed.
2. Check your history.
Next, take a look back at your business’s sales over time, if any. How much money have you been making so far? What seems realistic to expect for next month or next year if things stay the way they are?
If your projected income based on your sales at this point isn’t as high as you hope, don’t worry. This is just an estimate of what you can expect if your business continues at the level it’s currently functioning at. Your goal should be to grow!
3. Factor in expenses.
For this step, we’ll need to look to your past as well as your future. What have your expenses been so far? Don’t leave anything out, no matter how small. Even the tiniest expenses can add up over time, costing you money and throwing off your estimates.
Now think about new expenses that you can anticipate as your business scales. Those new hires we thought about in step 1? This is where you’ll need to think about how to pay them. If you want to rent a spot in a coworking space, how much would that cost in your area? Do some research and pull up realistic figures so you’ll know what to expect.
4. Pick an end goal.
After you take those expenses into account, it’s time to think about the fun part: Profit! How much money do you want to be making from your side hustle per year in an ideal world?
Add your profit to your expenses and factor in some leeway for emergencies. Be sure to take year-end taxes into account, too, based on your country’s taxation laws. You’ll need to pay taxes on your earnings every year.
Add all these things up and the final figure is the amount you’ll need your side hustle to make each year in order to meet your goal.
5. Create milestones.
By this point, you might have an end goal so large that you can’t imagine ever reaching it. That’s okay! Even the biggest goals can be achieved if you just put one foot in front of the other. The key is to divide your end goal into smaller milestones that are easier to achieve.
You can choose quarterly goals, monthly goals, or even weekly goals if that’s feasible for your business. The key is to match up these income goals with your business goals so you’re growing your business over time. What can you do this week, month, or quarter to find more clients and boost your income?
6. Write it down.
It’s no secret that actually recording your goals somewhere makes it more likely that you’ll actually work toward and achieve them. In fact, it’s science.
Once you’ve gotten much of the background information worked out, write down your goals. I would even go as far as encouraging you to literally write them somewhere you can see them. In this day and age, it’s easy to record something digitally on a spreadsheet, in a Google doc, or an iOS note. I’m particularly guilty of this myself.
But physically writing things down helps us to better remember whatever it is we’re trying to remember and give it more power.
Putting these things somewhere you’ll see them often will further reinforce those goals in your mind. You’ll be even more likely to put in the work needed to make things happen. Trust me – it’s made all the difference for me in my business.
While setting income goals for your business can feel overwhelming at first, the key is to do your research and use real numbers in order to project the final figure. No goal is too lofty to aim for.
As the saying goes, shoot for the moon! Even if you don’t hit your goal, striving for greatness will lead to more success than you could otherwise achieve.
Let's play a compare and contrast game – a contract vs. a letter of consent. Are they the same?
If you’re new to the world of freelancing, you might come across the term “letter of consent” while negotiating an agreement. A letter of consent is one way for freelancers to document an agreement with a new client, but is it the best one? How does it measure up to a legal contract?
Here’s what you need to know.
What is a letter of consent?
A letter of consent is an informal agreement between two parties. Where contracts are legally binding, letters of consent, or agreement, are not.
Letters of consent are common in situations where there needs to be only a casual acknowledgment of agreement that something is taking place, usually when the stakes are low.
For example, a letter of consent for a freelance writer might contain the names of both parties, the nature of the tasks assigned, and the method of compensation.
Usually, letters of consent are not used in a setting where money is changing hands. While it helps to have an agreement in writing, the client is not legally obligated to follow through on the terms, so you could very easily end up not getting paid for your hard work.
If you’re a freelancer and a potential client wants you to agree to a letter of consent rather than a contract, think twice. The terms of a letter are not enough to protect you if the working relationship goes south or your client refuses to pay. If you intend to get paid for your work, you should consider a contract instead.
What is a contract?
A contract, on the other hand, is a formal agreement between two parties that lays out the terms and conditions of an agreement. Legally, a contract must contain several elements: A purpose or offer, mutual acceptance of the agreement, the promises each party is offering, and the material terms and conditions, such as payment and deadlines.
The contract must also be signed by freely consenting adults in their right minds. While a contract must follow a much more specific format than a letter of consent, it’s also legally binding, meaning it offers you recourse if your client does not fulfill their end of the bargain.
There are many templates online to help you draw up a contract if needed. Contrary to popular belief, a contract doesn’t need to be written or approved by a lawyer to be valid. Of course, if you can have one look it over before you sign, that’s awesome! If not, just be sure to read through anything a client sends you carefully to make sure you agree to the terms.
A Contract vs. Letter of Consent
Letters of consent are okay when you’re doing pro-bono work where no money is being exchanged. As long as there are specific parameters in place to determine the amount of work, type of work expected, and what is being offered in exchange, a short letter between the two parties should be fine.
For example, if you agree to do some work for a client in exchange for promotion or a good reference, a letter of consent is likely all that’s needed. There is still a possibility that one party will not follow through with the agreement, but there is much less at stake than there would be with a paying job.
When we're talking about actual work for money, however, the safest bet is to go with an ironclad contract that explicitly lays out the work being done, the timeframe it will be done in, whether or not there will be edits made, and how those edits can be requested and returned. You should also cover consequences for nonpayment, such as a late fee for missing an invoice.
If a client doesn’t pay, you’ll have wasted valuable time that could have been spent on other, more lucrative projects. Even worse, one missed payment can be the difference between paying bills or struggling to get by for some freelancers.
At the end of the day, contracts offer much more protection for freelancers than letters of consent. As much as we all want to trust our clients, nonpayment is unfortunately a very real issue for freelancers across a variety of industries. Always insist on a contract when completing client work. It’s better to be safe than sorry!
Remote jobs are the way of the future, and there are currently more opportunities to work from home than ever before. Whether you’re a stay-at-home mom looking for a reliable side hustle or a digital nomad who dreams of world travel, there are plenty of reasons to give remote work a try.
One of the most visible remote jobs on the market right now is that of the social media manager. This job is ideal for anyone with a finger on the pulse of online trends.
What is a social media manager?
I talked a very little bit about this in my article about virtual assistants, but let’s dive a little deeper.
The title “social media manager” gets thrown out all over the web – both by people who truly understand social media and casual feed-scrollers alike. Because of this, it can mean a lot of different things depending on who you ask.
For the most part, though, we can agree that a social media manager is the voice of a brand. This person is in charge of growing a business through social media by directing strategy, often writing content and engaging with followers along the way.
In many businesses, especially smaller ones, one person is responsible for managing all of the brand’s social media platforms, from Facebook to Twitter and everything in between. Larger brands might have specialized social media managers to focus on one platform at a time.
What does a social media manager do?
A social media manager’s duties will fluctuate depending on what the brand needs. In general, you can expect to do the following in your day-to-day work:
- Research your competitors
- Brainstorm content ideas
- Determine a posting strategy
- Plan out a social media calendar
- Write and schedule posts
- Engage with your audience
- Provide customer support
- Track analytics and regularly report on growth
- Manage a team, depending on the size of the company
- Collaborate with other departments on promotions and initiatives
- Build relationships with other influencers and brands
- Keep a consistent brand voice across all channels
If this all sounds too good to be true, know that it’s not an easy job.
Depending on your level of involvement with the brand, it might be hard to maintain a work-life balance. Some social media managers report feeling like they need to be plugged in 24/7 in order to respond to comments and keep up with the latest trends.
Regardless, if you’re passionate about social media, this career promises a fulfilling way to help a brand grow, all from the comfort of your own home.
How do you become a social media manager?
Social media is a competitive landscape. After all, who doesn’t want to get paid to scroll through Instagram all day? Fortunately for you, though, there’s so much more to being a social media manager than just that. If you can demonstrate that knowledge, you’ll be ahead of the curve.
First of all, you’ll have a better chance of landing a social media manager position if you can show that you have actual experience with growing or maintaining a social media channel. Your personal accounts aren’t enough unless you have thousands of followers.
Instead, start small. Do you have a friend or colleague who’s struggling to grow their small business? Offer to take over their social media duties free of charge while you learn the ropes.
Keep track of the numbers: Follower count, conversions, engagement levels – you name it. If you can show that you’ve grown a channel over time, it’ll give you a leg up when applying to social media manager positions. Put together a portfolio of your most successful posts to show off when the time comes.
Another way to get ahead is to specialize in one or two social media platforms rather than trying to be a jack-of-all-trades. Every website has its own rules and requirements about content, not to mention different audiences. What works on Pinterest won’t necessarily work on LinkedIn, and vice versa.
If you become an expert in seeing success on one platform, you’ll be a much more valuable asset than someone who only has a general idea of how to work the different websites. Focus on becoming the best at what you do, even if what you do is only a small piece of the social media pie.
While becoming a social media manager isn’t for everyone, it’s a lucrative career path that will help you develop widely applicable skills for remote work as a whole. By delving deep into the world of social media, you can build a successful career, wherever you are!
As an expat English teacher or military spouse, your options for making a little extra money on the side can be limited due to your visa agreement. That being said, it’s not impossible to start a successful side hustle while living abroad.
One of the easiest ways to get started with your own online business is to become a virtual assistant. There are myriad ways you can help other entrepreneurs handle tasks for their businesses without taking on a full-time job or even leaving the comfort of your own home. It’s all completely remote and completely up to you on what kind of specialties or services you provide.
What is a virtual assistant?
A virtual assistant (also called a “VA”) is a person who remotely provides specific services to other businesses without being an actual employee of that business.
These services can range from creative help – like making images to writing content – to technical assistance – like writing special code for websites or troubleshooting issues with online store software – to administrative and/or management roles.
There are literally dozens of ways VAs help business owners. There are general VAs, specialist VAs, and VAs that fall somewhere in the middle of those two groups.
Where you fall on the virtual assistant spectrum is totally up to you! Below, I’ve listed several things VAs are known to do but this is by no means an exhaustive list. The possibilities are practically endless!
Here are 11 things you can do to get started as a virtual assistant.
The term “social media manager” gets thrown around a lot in the online entrepreneurial world and, understandably, it can mean a few different things to different people.
Basically, though, it means an individual (the “manager”) handles a company’s or brand’s entire presence on social media. According to Sprout Social, one of the best social media management platforms on the web, “[S]ocial media managers grow [a] business through social networks.”
Often, a social media manager handles all the social profiles for a single entity across multiple platforms – Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn, and possibly others.
While you might take on the title “social media manager,” you could decide to specialize in something specific (which is a great idea for a number of reasons), such as Facebook group management, Instagram management, or Pinterest management (more on this below).
Making yourself super-well informed and an expert on one or two platforms is the best way to separate yourself from other general social media managers and ultimately make more money. 😉
2. Email Marketing
You know when you sign up to receive emails from a blogger you like, a company you enjoy buying from, or to receive updates from a brand you follow? Somebody has to put together all those emails that drop into your inbox.
Yes, I’m telling you that one person is responsible for all of those annoying Bath & Body Works emails you get 80 times a week! 😆
You could be the person to actually write the copy (the words) that goes into those emails or you simply set up and execute the design – sourcing and placing images, deciding where the copy should go in conjunction to those images, and choosing the size of the text and possibly which fonts to use.
Then, those emails have to be scheduled to go out via an email management platform like MailChimp, Mailerlite, ConvertKit, or others.
Designing these email campaigns, deciding on special emails that should go out to subscribers, and sending them out can be super bankable, even if you’re not the one writing the content in the emails.
3. Customer Service
Smaller companies that offer products or services to their customers often don’t have the resources to hire a staff of customer service reps to work for their business full-time. Instead, they outsource to VAs who handle answering customer questions, emails, and even phone calls.
Customer service is a big task for any business and as a customer service VA, you’re helping solve a major need. This often doesn’t take a lot of training other than learning the ropes of how your new client runs their customer service process. In special cases, you may even be hired on in the beginning stages of a client’s development and play a role in helping them create a system.
Either way, it’s an easy gateway to get started as a virtual assistant and possibly even learn a few things on how to handle clients as your VA business grows.
Copywriting is often not thought of as a virtual assistant-specific job, but if you’re a strong writer, this is a great VA service to offer.
There’s a lot of opportunities out there for freelance copywriters! Blogging consistently for businesses is highly lucrative, especially because it typically means recurring work. Copywriting, though typically a one-off opportunity, is still a great way to build your portfolio and work your way up to higher- and higher-paying jobs.
5. Online Store Management
From shops on Etsy to actual shop setups on individual websites, online store management is a big job. Whether you’re listing new products, helping with customer service (see above!), or handling returns and refunds, there’s a lot that goes into managing an online store.
If you’re close to a “brick and mortar” business location and they sell actual products, and if you can help physically with shipping or returns, this could be an even bigger opportunity for you (that is, should you want to be involved at that level).
Additionally, virtual stores may use a number of different systems to operate their enterprises, including WooCommerce, Shopify, or other platforms. Knowing the ins and outs of these systems and how to keep them running smoothly is a big job and always in high demand.
6. Email Management
This is different than the email marketing we talked about above because it doesn’t involve designing email campaigns but instead, it means helping a business owner manage an email inbox.
Business owners and entrepreneurs get dozens of emails every day, potentially hundreds every week. Some people hate keeping tabs on their inboxes (understandably, right?!) and want someone to handle weeding through all the stuff that gets sent their way.
As an email manager, you might handle a business owner’s main inbox or a special inbox set up for specific email campaigns. For example, every email management system, like MailChimp, Mailerlite, and others, requires the sender to provide an email address to serve as the “from” email. Often, businesses set up separate accounts and invite subscribers to reply to or send emails to that special “from” email address. Therefore, someone has to open, read, and reply to or pass on the important messages.
Believe it or not, depending on the size of the business, a VA could devote a few hours a week solely to email management.
7. Online Advertisements
This should come as a no-brainer: Creating, setting up, and running online ad campaigns is a great way to make money.
Whether you specialize in Facebook or Instagram advertising, Google Ad Words, Pinterest ads, or other online ad campaigns, there’s a lot of money to be made – both for your client and for yourself.
The more practice you get and the more you learn about the different types of ad campaigns and what works and what doesn’t work, the more money you can charge clients to help them advertise their products or services.
I separated Pinterest from the social media management section because it’s a horse of a different color. Pinterest is, first and foremost, a search engine. While it does have some social media-like qualities, including “likes” and messaging, its main function is to help people searching for specific information find what they’re looking for via keywords and images.
At its core, Pinterest helps online bloggers and businesses direct more traffic to their websites, build brand awareness, and gain additional fans and followers.
Like specializing in advertising, specializing in Pinterest management is a great way to separate yourself from other “manager” VAs who may not be as well-versed in running Pinterest campaigns.
“SEO” – also known by its full name, “search engine optimization” – is a big online buzzword. It’s an important part of running a website and a successful blog: If a site is properly optimized, it increases the site’s visibility and ranking on search engines like Google.
Think about when you go to Google and search for something. You might type in a few words or even a full sentence into the search box. Once you hit “submit,” the search engine presents you with a page of results. Usually, the ones at the top of the page will be your best bet. It’s probably rare that you look past the first page of results, but there are actually hundreds of pages of results you could weed through if you really wanted to.
So how do websites end up on that first page of search results? By using SEO best practices.
SEO specifically deals with using keywords in the content on a webpage – in the copy itself, in image alt text, in a page’s meta description, and in article sections, called headings. SEO beginners and experts alike start by making lists of main keywords that their ideal audience might be searching for or find interesting. The trick is to use those keywords to develop blog posts and/or informational pages that will ultimately get picked up by Google and, hopefully, pushed to the first page of search results. The closer to the top of the page, the better.
Business owners are always looking for help with SEO and if you’re a freelance writer, this is another great way to increase your perceived value to your prospective clients.
10. Business Organization / Online Business Manager (OBM)
Plenty of business owners need help keeping their business organized – it’s not everyone’s strong suit! Some biz owners may also want to hand off management roles to someone else so they can focus their efforts on other things. As a business organizer or online business manager (OBM), you can help do either or both.
You might excel in helping businesses organize files or systems; you could create systems for them, such as standard operating procedures (SOPs) on how to handle tasks in their business; or you might help manage other assistants that work in various areas of the business.
These kinds of opportunities often require more experience. However, depending on what kind of professional work experience you have before starting your virtual assistance business, you might fit the bill even without extensive VA experience.
11. Content Editor
There are plenty of folks who want to handle the bulk of a writing project on their own but loathe the idea of running back through the work and looking for mistakes. If they’re wise, they’ll seek out an editor before publishing or printing any materials.
If you’re a strong writer, you’re probably also a strong editor. Other writers and professionals of various industries seek out freelance editors for publications like white papers, professional articles, professional journal publications, ebooks, and more. These jobs tend to be one-off opportunities or, for those that are ongoing, there may be significant amounts of time between editing projects.
Editing is a great addition to offer clients if you’re marketing yourself as a freelance writer or any kind of content management VA.
There are so many ways to get started as a virtual assistant – these are just a few ideas. While it may be tempting to try and offer as many services as you can, you’ll be more valuable to business owners and have the ability to make more money by narrowing down your offerings.
Look at the list above and consider what things interest you most. Start by researching those services to see what skills you already have and what you need to learn to jump-start a VA business.