How to End Proofreading and Grammar Mistakes While Blogging

File:Dictionary discard2.JPGMost people think the hard part about blogging is coming up with blog topics. This isn’t the hard part. If you’re a decent writer, you can make an interesting blog post about a cup of coffee. The hard part is proofreading and grammar.

With the amount of noise from blogs increasing exponentially day by day, being a witty writer is not enough anymore. Your biggest fans (i.e. your mom and dad) may forgive the occasional typo. However, that same typo will cause a casual reader to write you off as a fly by night amateur not worth following.

The obvious way to overcome death by a thousand typos is to have a quality copy editor review your blog post before you publish. As we all know, unfortunately, this is a luxury most independent bloggers can’t afford.

That’s why I recently signed up to try a new product called Grammarly to help automate the tedious task of proofreading my blog. Grammarly is an online software tool that goes beyond the basic spell check you get in WordPress or within your browser. For example, Grammarly finds these often difficult to spot mistakes:

  • subject-verb agreement
  • bad word choices with synonym suggestions to improve readability
  • style mistakes such as run-on sentences and comma splices
  • plagiarism detection & citation help

Grammarly even has a Microsoft Word plug-in if you write your blog post offline before you publish. In addition, one of the features that I love is that, over time, it learns your most common mistakes and then helps you understand how to avoid them.

I started with a free trial to decide if I want to pay to use it as my full time proofreading buddy. You can start a free trial using this link. By the way, the free trial requires a credit card, but I think it’s worth it.

When progress is not measurable

File:Deep Thinking by Wissam Shekhani, ink on paper.JPGMost people think of “progress” as something measurable. Something that is quantifiable using a percentage complete. Something that is visualized with a progress bar or a pie chart.  For most of life, this is true.

When you’re making your way from elementary to high school, its easy to see your progress after each grade is completed. When you’re making your way through college, it’s easy to see your progress after each semester is completed.  When you’re working on a project at work, it’s easy to see your progress after each task is completed.

These are all examples where there is a clearly defined list of activities to complete, where there is a blueprint. But this isn’t your reality anymore because now you’re doing something that’s as clear as mud and has no blueprint.

Now you have no idea how much must be done to complete your goal. Now you don’t have anyone to guide you step by step. Now you don’t have a trail to follow. So how do you measure progress now?

In this situation, progress is not measured by crossing items off a list. As a matter of fact, progress is not measured at all.

Instead, progress is an expression of discovery.

Discovering what works and what doesn’t. Discovering systems and processes that deliver repeatable results. Discovering the time of day where you’re most productive. Discovering your strengths and weaknesses. Discovering, discovering, discovering…

Every time you discover something, you make a little more progress.

Breaking your addiction to free SEO and social traffic

File:DVP Congestion.pngYou probably run a website just like me. You also probably see your website as a critical component to get your business to take off.

The only thing you need is more traffic. More free traffic.  If you just could get a million visitors to your site every month and convert only 1% of that traffic to paying customers, you could retire.

It’s been done before.  Some obscure website comes out of nowhere to get ranked #1 for some hot keyword by Google or gets retweeted by some celebrity with millions of followers…and boom. A millionaire is born. That free SEO or social traffic changed everything.

So everything you do centers around getting free traffic using SEO and social media . Optimizing your website for the right keywords, creating viral content for YouTube and Facebook, building your followers, commenting on blogs, submitting press releases, etc., etc., etc…

All it takes is that one breakthrough viral video or blog post, that one breakthrough retweet, that one connection that delivers that winning lottery ticket.

I call it a lottery ticket, because that’s what it amounts to. Building a business that depends on free traffic for success is not only risky, it’s foolish. You shouldn’t do this just like you shouldn’t depend on a lottery ticket to pay your bills.

My advice is to build a business that doesn’t depend on free traffic for success. Since every web business is different, there is no cookie cutter solution that I can tell you about. I can tell you, however, it probably involves learning new skills and/or getting professional help.

Seth Godin’s Take on Business Models

File:STC New Wing CPK.jpgAs I shared a few weeks ago, I’m taking Seth Godin’s new online course titled The New Business Toolbox: Help Your New Business Do It Right The First Time. In the first session, Seth decides to start off by breaking down the idea of a business model in simple terms.

The way he explained it really made a light bulb go off for me.  He describes a business model in terms that helped me create this equation.

V x L = R

With V being Value, L being Location and R being Revenue. Godin explains in so many words that when assessing your business model, location is more important to revenue than the value you are selling. To explain his reasoning for this, I will use an example of a pizza shop’s business model to keep things simple.

Most pizza shops offer a similar value proposition – tasty pizza at an affordable price. Assuming all things being equal in terms of taste and price (no pizza entrepreneur starts off with the dream of making the most expensive bad tasting pizza in town), then the differentiating factor between pizza shops is all about where that pizza shop is located.

If it’s a pizza shop located in the mall, the business model is simple…sell pizza to the people who come to the mall.  If the pizza shop is located in a city’s business district, then its business model is to convert foot traffic during lunch time into customers. If the pizza shop is located in no man’s land near a sprawling suburb, then its business model is delivery.  As you see, the factor that impacts the business model more than anything else is the location of the pizza shop. It impacts the price they charge, their marketing, their operating hours, the type of people they must hire, and how they handle customer service.

That’s why pizza shops located in the mall don’t deliver. It’s also why you can argue over the best pizza in town all day, but most people won’t drive across town for that great pizza when they can get decent pizza 5 minutes away.

We’ve all heard the real estate mantra LOCATION, LOCATION, LOCATION. Well this is an obvious concept to apply for brick and mortar entrepreneurs who sell in local markets, but not so obvious for everyone else.  What Seth Godin did in his first session is explain why you should apply this simple concept to any business model using location as a metaphor for a customer acquisition strategy that scales.

If you haven’t already, you can sign up for Seth Godin’s course and get a $10 discount using this link here.

To-do lists as menus vs. scheuldes

File:Joey K's daily specials.jpgTo-do lists are an essential part of a productive day for many people. I tend to prefer a to-relax list over a to-do list as I explain here. However, when your plate is full with menial tasks that just have to get done, to-do lists are still the best way to get focused.

Unfortunately, I’ve had a lot of menial tasks on my plate to start the year so I’ve been using to-do lists pretty often. One of the things I noticed is that based on how much time I “think” I have, I will create my to-do list differently.

On the days I allow myself time to sit and really think about my day, I set-up my to-do list like a schedule. I look at the hours I have in the day, the tasks I have to work on, and how long each task will take. Then I create the to-do list with time blocks assigned to each item.  As a result, hour by hour throughout my day I know exactly what I should be working on and if I’m falling behind schedule.

On the days I feel I have to rush to get working, I just right down everything I have to do in no particular order as fast as I can. Then throughout the day I pick and choose what to work on like I’m selecting items from a menu.

As you may expect, I always get more done on the days I take the time to implement my to-do list as a schedule. I spend less time procrastinating, less time surfing the web, and less time mindlessly snacking.

I now realize that rushing through the day is costing me the time I thought I was saving.

With that said, my conclusion is simple. Slowing down to plan out your day allows you to get more done than rushing to start.

Can an old dog really not learn new tricks?

File:9 month old dog.jpgAs I get older, I often think of the old saying you can’t teach an old dog new tricks. It usually comes to mind as I start doing something a certain way because that’s the way I’ve always done it. Then I remind myself that I don’t want to become an old dog.

I say this because becoming an old dog has nothing to do with age, instead it’s all about your mentality.

If you do something the same way every time and never investigate if there is a better way, then you’re an old dog.  If someone ask you why you do things a certain way, and you respond by saying that’s the way it has always been done, then you’re an old dog.

The reality is you can not teach an old dog new tricks. So the trick is not to become an old dog.

Calling for death to the daily blog

File:High Wood cemetery, France.jpgIs the rise of the daily blog hurting the internet? Being that I am both a blogger who publishes daily and an advocate of the practice, I stopped in my tracks when I read a post from Atlanta entrepreneur Mike Schinkel saying as much.

In a blog post he titled The Web Needs You To… STOP BLOGGING! he pleads for several prominent daily bloggers to stop the practice for both their own good and the good of the community, to include Atlanta’s startup guru David Cummings and renowned venture capitalist Fred Wilson. Schinkel also cites four reasons why the practice of blogging daily is bad:

  1. Daily blogs lack depth
  2. With so many people now writing daily blogs, there is way too much noise in the blogosphere
  3. The content in daily blogs lack excellence
  4. Writing a daily blogs takes up time that could be used for better things

It’s hard to argue with any of Schinkel’s points head on, as much of what he states is true. Especially the point he makes about writing daily vs. publishing daily, advocating that daily bloggers should instead write every day on the same post, going more in depth before they hit the publish button.

I can honestly say reading Schinkel’s post has swayed me from advocating so hard for others to start blogging daily, but it won’t stop me doing it myself.  For me, blogging daily is a personal journey rather than some external sound box. It’s the perfect tool for introspection. I would even go as far as calling it medicinal.

So when it comes down to it, when you blog daily for internal fulfillment rather than external validation, most of what Schinkel argues becomes irrelevant.

 

What if a habit is not an addiction?

File:Brain-Computer intrusive.jpgIf a habit is not an addiction, then it’s not a habit. It’s just plain old will power.  It’s discipline. It’s self-control.

A habit is the opposite. It’s something you do instinctively. Something you do effortlessly without much control.  It may even be something that causes you some degree of pain when you don’t do it. Something that requires will power to stop doing, not to start doing.

For some reason, however, we only apply this thinking to bad habits. It’s common to acknowledge that bad habits sneak up on you without much effort. Think about it, who works hard everyday to create a bad habit?

Yet, when the discussion of habits is on building good habits we lose site of this.  The reality is that “good” habits aren’t habits at all.  If they were, there wouldn’t be so many people out there still trying to figure out how to create good habits.

It doesn’t matter if you do something for 21, 30, 60 90, or 365 days in a row.  Unless you become literally addicted to the activity, you will still need will power, discipline and self-control to do it again the next time.

The #1 reason NOT to start blogging

File:Worn ATM.jpg
So you want to blog for money? Be warned, blogging is far from an ATM.

Today I read a fantastic blog post by design blogger Colleen Eakins titled I Want to Blog to Make Money. In this post Colleen recaps a discussion she had with a friend in which she stated the following:

Saying “I want to blog to make money” without any other goals, purpose, etc behind it, is like saying “I want to randomly make a commercial to air on tv.” 

I thought that this statement was the perfect analogy.  Just as Coleen suggest, broadcasting a commercial is not a product just like blogging is not a product.  They’re both valuable communication tools that can sell products if you reach the right audience with the right message.

Yes, established businesses can make money from using these tools. However, it’s very rare for individuals to personally benefit.  This is why the need to make money is the #1 reason NOT to start blogging.

I can think of much better ways to write for money other than blogging. First of all, you would be better off doing some freelance writing project via a site like Fiverr or Odesk if making money is an immediate need.

Don’t get me wrong, blogging is a valuable branding, marketing and overall communication tool when you have altruistic motives. However, if you’re going to blog primarily for self-serving purposes, then you should just forget about it.

Excited about the chance to switch to solar power

I’ve been thinking about switching my house to solar power for at least 5 years.  I’ve been looking at several companies across the U.S. vying for this emerging market, but there is one company in particular that really excites me named SolarCity.

SolarCity is the nation’s largest provider of rooftop solar systems. In the one year since it went public in December 2012, the stock price has grown to more than 5 times its IPO price.  Needless to say there’s a lot of momentum and excitement behind SolarCity.

The way SolarCity works is that it allows homeowners to get rooftop solar systems for little or no upfront cost, then it sells the power to them on a monthly basis promising that their overall utility bill will be noticeably less than it was. This payment model is perfect for homeowners who want to use a renewable energy like solar power, but don’t want to pay the upfront cost.

I really like the idea of being able to switch my house over to solar power without having to shell out tons of cash up front.  Today I went to the SolarCity website to check to see if they were operating in my zip code.  As it turns out, they’re not in Atlanta, yet.  For now, I just scheduled a solar consultation with them to ask a few questions.

You can check if SolarCity is available in your city here.