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Build a Successful Creative Blog

Lesson 11 of 26

Exploring Different Voices

April Bowles-Olin

Build a Successful Creative Blog

April Bowles-Olin

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Lesson Info

11. Exploring Different Voices


  Class Trailer
Now Playing
2 Know Your Ideal Reader Duration:52:03
3 Put Fun Back into Blogging Duration:35:03
4 Best Practices for Success Duration:26:50
5 Developing Your Content Plan Duration:46:24
7 Your Unique Style and Voice Duration:31:49
8 Design Tips Duration:21:38
  Class Trailer
Now Playing
1 Writing in Your Voice Duration:34:10
2 Exploring Different Voices Duration:28:23
3 Copywriting 101 Duration:19:45
6 Visuals For Your Blog Duration:30:04
7 Photos For Your Blog Duration:55:35
9 Promoting with Social Media Duration:39:29

Lesson Info

Exploring Different Voices

I'm gonna share some examples for you of voice. These are voice on Twitter. The first one is from Alexandra Franzen, and she says, "Four years ago on this day I quit my job "and launched my own business. "Today I am working from bed with no pants. "Dreams do come true." So this wouldn't have been a great example if the with no pants hadn't been in there, right? But if you guys know Alexandra Franzen, this is perfect for her brand and her business. This is absolutely something that she would say, and it makes sense for her. This is another example, and this is from Ashley Ambirge from the Middle Finger Project. "You better scoot your fine ass to the edge of your seat, "because the sex appeal process is almost here." And she is talking about a product that she's releasing. She didn't just say, "You should be on the edge of "your seat waiting for my product," or "My product's coming out in a couple of hours," right? It's completely different. It makes you want to look at it. And she also ...

used capitalization, too, which helped to sort of emphasize the words, like we wouldn't have known she wanted to say that that way. Absolutely, absolutely, the almost here part she emphasizes, yeah. But both of these examples, they match their businesses, they match their brand so very well. They're not thinking, Ashley didn't just put up in a couple of hours, here's my product. My product will be available. Or, my product's gonna be available tomorrow, which are the kind of tweets that we see all the time, and we don't pay attention to them. That's the kind of tweet that we pay attention to. Another example on Twitter is from Mayi, who we met in session one. Whenever an email comes from you, Blacksburg Belle, which is me, my default is hell yeah, I'll iron the superhero cape @CreativeLive and @WhenIGrowUpCoach. And this is when I asked her to do the interview, and to be a part of this workshop. And she put something up on Twitter when I said, thank you so much, I'm really excited you're going to be a part of this, this was her response. "I'll iron the superhero cape." Right? So it sounds very different than just, I'm excited to be a part of your workshop, thank you for asking me, right? And it sounds like her. We do want to get some clarification here. Green machine, and VCMG are talking about, sort of, English, as a, more in an academic sense, and the rules of writing, and what they were saying is that there's a special blend between being too descriptive and leaving something up to the reader's imagination. Can you talk a little bit more about that? Absolutely, absolutely. So, everything you write, you don't want it to be over the top. Everything that you write, you want, you absolutely want the reader to be able to imagine some things for themselves, yeah. Whoever said that, that's absolutely correct. You have to find that balance. You know, you can read through a paragraph and say, this is a little over the top, let me take some things out. Yeah. Natalie actually says, yeah true, you do need a good balance, not too descriptive, but descriptive enough to help the reader get in to it. Okay. And the reason I'm giving you this advice is because most of the times, the blogs that I read, they're lacking in this stuff. It's not over the top, there's not nearly enough personality. There's not nearly enough uniqueness in it. And so they need that drama, they need those metaphors and similes and things like that. Another example of voice on Twitter, from Michelle Ward is, "It's not so easy to look so adorable before 9 A.M., "people, off to Craftcation 14." And this was something that she was updating just to let people know that she was going to be at Craftcation, that she was on her way there, that's a conference. And so, instead of just saying, I'll be there in 10 minutes, she says something in her voice that's unique to her. That when I saw, I laughed, and thought, I get that, it is hard to look adorable before 9 A.M. Or, her second one. "I'm coming for you, Craftcation 14." Instead of just saying, I'll be at Craftcation, right? It's a just a different way, it's just a little bit different. There's more personality. Here are some examples of voice on Facebook, and this is another one from Mayi, because you guys, like I said, her voice is amazing. If you want to see somebody who has really developed a unique blogging voice, and pulls that onto her social media accounts, this is a great person to follow. So, she says, "Say what? "More salads in a jar, oh my. "This one's my favorite picnic salad with maple dressing. "Steal the recipe on my blog." So she's sharing recipes, she's coming up with a Life Is Messy Kitchen Cookbook that she's coming out with. So, to promote that, to get people excited about it, she's sharing recipes on her blog. And she had shared a few salads in a jar. So instead of just saying, here's another salad in a jar recipe, she says, "Say what, more salads in a jar, oh my." And then she also says steal the recipe on my blog. Right, that's very unique the way that she says that. Instead of, here it is, on my blog, come check it out, here's the link. Another example is from Studio Jewel. The person who runs this, her name is Lisa Lehmann, and she makes her own jewelry. And she says, "I like bacon and peanut butter, "but not necessarily together. "Pretty sure Facebook has put all of their changes "into effect, and unless you have clicked "the box on my page that says get notifications, "under my like button, "you will see nothing from me anymore. "So who cares if I talk about bacon, "or jumpsuits, or guppies, I'm officially invisible. "If you happen to catch this, click on get notifications, "otherwise hopefully I'll catch you around town, "in the peanut butter aisle, or maybe marshmallows, "or maybe dog food, I need that too." So, instead of just saying, you need to click on get notifications or you're not going to see my updates on Facebook anymore, she makes it fun, right. She's paying attention to every detail, because she could have easily have written, Facebook changed their algorithms again, if you want to get my notifications you need to do this to hear from me. But instead, she did it in this really unique way. An example of voice in a blog post. Anyone and their cat can take pictures these days. No expensive equipment or editing gear even needed. Of course, with great clicking power comes great responsibility to add something of value to this over populated photo centric verse. I might not know how to operate 95% of my Photoshop functions. Gosh, I don't even own a nice DSLR, but gimme photo tricks I can immediately set into motion and watch my Instagram go from zero to 12,000 followers in just 11 months, pow! And this is an example from Mayi's blog, heartmade. So, you can hear her voice in this. You can hear her talking about her Instagram, and one of the purposes of this was to get even more people from her blog following her on Instagram. And, showing you that it's easy to do. You can do this too. Another example of voice in a blog post. A website is never just a website. Your services are never just some services. Your book is never just a book. Your tweets aren't even just tweets. They're all opportunities to grab people by the back of the neck, and in your breathiest voice say, are you with me, or are you against me? And this is an example from Ashley Ambirge from the Middle Finger Project, who I bring up over and over again, because her copy is just outstanding. And, I thought this was a great example, because we're talking about websites, and we're talking about tweets, and why they're never just that thing. They really are a way for you to say, you're with me or against me. You're on my team, you're part of my followers, you're part of Blacksburg Belle. Or, you don't like me, and that's cool too. Another example of voice in a blog post. The context of this, is I was blogging about blogging, and I say, it's all yours. You can think as big or as little as you want. You can share personal details, or keep them to your private self. I'm wearing a cheetah print tank top right now as I type this. It has sequins on it, don't be jealous. So I'm telling people, you can decide how much you want to share. It's up to you. And then I share something personal that's going on for me right in that moment, and I really was wearing a cheetah print tank top with sequins on it. And so, I put it in there, right. So that adds a little bit more personality. That adds a little bit more to the post. So, thinking about this, do you guys struggle with making your posts personality filled? Do you struggle with branding the things that you put on social media? Do you have problems with that, do you feel stumped sometimes. Do you guys? Yeah, I mean I know the chatroom has been chiming in about this. They definitely understand this, they love that idea of having that creative voice. But this question comes from Moody Suza, and she says, "I love writing like this, but the time required "to be so eloquent with your words "makes writing a blog post go from "one hour to four hours for me. "But, now, I still have to edit and resize photos, et cetera "in addition to making the words sound creative. "So do you manage your time, but still write in this way?" Absolutely. So, that's also about figuring out how much you can really do each week, or each month. Because you want each blog post to be like this. You want it to be branded and in your voice. If you're writing it, and it's not, then what's the point. Because people aren't going to fall in love with it. They're not going to want to say, I need to buy from this person right away. Or, I want to keep reading this person's blog. They're not going to be obsessed and in love and so excited about it. Yeah. What I would say to that person in the chatroom that, that the first time it's going to take four hours, but the more you do it, the easier it's going to become, so. Add or allot that extra time in the beginning, but then it, hopefully it should just get easier. Absolutely, that is very true. And also, I just, I know I have to go back and just change all of my blog posts. No. But, but there is something I'm thinking about, I don't know if this is helpful or not, but I just spent so much time focusing on the visuals, and now I have to go back into all the wordsmithing, it's just like, putting on a different hat. So it's like you have to be a photographer, you have to know typography, and the writing. So it is a lot, you know, it's a big, it's a commitment. But you know, that's what we choose to do. Yeah, absolutely, yeah. Your blog, there are so many pieces that go into it, and we're going to talk about also why you have to promote it, and why you have to market it, and why you have to have a plan for that kind of stuff. And why all of that is really important, and that takes up time, too, right. Posting on social media takes time, writing guest posts takes time, asking for an interview and then doing the interview takes time. All of this stuff build into it. One thing that I have found that helped me, especially with the time piece, is I read the book by Steven Pressfield, Do The Work, and he really talks about working and editing being two separate things. And I would find myself writing and editing at the same time so I would write a sentence, I'm like, oh I don't like the way that sounds, so I'd delete it. And it would take me literally an hour just to have like five sentences on my screen. So, I got into the habit of, I'm just going to sit down, I'm going to open up a text editor, so I'm not even doing any kind of formatting on the text, no bold, nothing. And just, literally, just do, just a stream of consciousness that comes out of me and just onto the screen, and that's helped a lot, because I can just sit down for 30 minutes and do that, put it to the side, maybe come back to it, to another day, and then go back and through the editing process and stuff. So that's really helped me quite a bit, when I don't have to, you know, think that I have to sit down and just do it all at one time. Yeah, that's an absolutely helpful tip. And, when you look at it with fresh eyes, it's easier to edit, as well, I have found. Do you find that to be true, too? Right, it is, because you're so much into your own words and you just see the same thing over and over again, and I think this also talks to our blogs too, because we're always looking at it, and we've talked together that, you know, we have this certain idea about our blog, but when we ask other people, it's just like, they have a different opinion about it. But I feel like, because we're constantly in it, we're constantly there looking at it, writing the blog, whatever, that we don't have a really good perspective on it until we take that step back, and have, you know, the fresh mind to look at it. Yes, definitely. And, I don't want you to get stuck in this everything has to be perfect mindset. So I'm showing you these great examples, but I'm showing you these people, their best examples that I found while I was looking, right. So I'm not showing you the examples that I think, eh, that could have been better. You know, that person could have done a little bit better on that. I'm showing you the best examples I could find, so that you can see, oh, okay, I could take this idea and apply it to what I'm doing. So I don't want you to feel like every post I write has to be perfect. I don't want you to feel like every social media update you make has to be perfect. Absolutely not. In fact, if you do that, you're going to take way too long to do this stuff, it's going to be unrealistic, and it's gonna feel overwhelming and awful. It's not going to feel good, right? So, instead, like when we talked about the blueberry and we did the blueberry exercise. Everybody already sounded different, everybody did, right. So you already have that unique voice. What I want you to think about is channeling that when you write your blog post and when you do your social media updates. Channel those aspects and think, okay, could I just change this up a little bit to make it more me. Is there anything I could do to make it a little bit more detailed, or a little bit more personality filled. Do we have any other questions along that realm? No, I mean, I think a lot of people are agreeing with that statement, and I think the gist of it is that your rough drafts can be very rough. Like, even when it comes to something like a blog post. A lot of people might feel that way when they're writing something more formal, but even a blog post, just get it out there, have it be as rough as it needs to be, just to get something on that page. Right, done is better than perfect, we talked about that yesterday, right. (laughing) Yes, it absolutely is, it absolutely is. And I know that looking at these examples you can feel overwhelmed, and feel like, I'm not doing good enough. Or like you said, I have to go back and change all of these blog posts. No, you don't have to go back and change everything you've already done, don't do that. Just try to improve each step of the way. Just try to get a little bit better each step of the way. In order to do what we love, whether we are woodworkers, legal-aid attorneys, emergency room physicians or novelists, we must first know ourselves as deeply as we are able. And this is a quote from Still Writing, by Dani Shapiro. And this goes to my point of start journaling. The better you know yourself, the more that you're writing, the more that this stuff is gonna come naturally to you. So when you go to update Twitter, you're not going to have to think about, doe this sound like everybody else, or does this sound like me. The more you write, the more you figure this stuff out. And you trust your voice. Now, most of what you write when you're journaling is not good, is not stuff that you're going to use. But that's the point of it. It's the space that you give yourself to say, it's okay for this stuff to be kind of cruddy. And that's all right. For my journal, I probably pull out, definitely less than 10% of it, for sure. And, I don't do it every day, even though it would be a good idea to do it everyday, if you have time, when you have time. Even starting the morning off with 10 minutes of journaling and a cup of tea, or whatever it is that you really enjoy and like. Don't censor yourself. So when you're journaling, put your pen to your page, do not pick it up, and just write whatever is happening in your mind. Whatever's going on, from sentence to sentence. You will come up with some gems, you will come up with some ideas, and the ones that I do pull out of my journal are very popular, are almost always really good. But I only pull out the best stuff. Journal about everything, the runny eggs you ate for breakfast, the way your husband gently kisses you on the forehead when he leaves for work, a topic that fires you up, or the tiff you had with your mom. And I have tons of journal topic ideas in the Done For You resources pack. In fact, I had so much fun putting together these journal topic ideas. I spent a little bit too much time on it, because I was having so much fun. So there are lots of ideas just to get you started. If you're feeling like, I'm sitting down to a blank page. Another thing I do with my journal a lot of times, is I'll write a question at the top, and then I'll journal the answer, just whatever is coming to mind. So if I'm stuck on something, especially creatively if I'm stuck on something, and I'm trying to do some problem solving, I will write that question at the top, and then try to come up with some sort of answer in my journal. And it often works, especially if I do it day after day, sometimes it doesn't happen on the first day. So, what do you do when your writing feels stiff, because I will tell you, sometimes I'm working on a blog post, and I will feel like, this just is not working. This is just, it feels stiff, no matter what I'm doing, it doesn't feel like me, it's not my voice, I don't even know what to do to change it, it's not working out. So step away from the computer, is my first tip, especially if you're sitting at the computer typing and it's feeling this is just not working. Journal about it first, set a timer, write the topic at the top of the page, and just go for it. Another thing you can do, is record yourself talking about your topic. And use the actual words that you said as a starting point. This is a really helpful one for those of you who get hung up with writing, and who are really passionate about the topic that you're talking about, just record yourself. And then use that transcript as your starting point, use those words. Because those are the words that you would actually use. Don't get so caught up in it. So if you're saying that it takes me four hours to write this blog post, try that first. Try possibly talking about it, using that as your starting point, and going from there. Do any of you guys journal on a regular basis? Sage, yeah. And does it help your writing? Yeah, absolutely. It definitely helped me find my voice, and figure out the things that are worth sharing with other people. And do you use a small percentage of it for sharing? Oh, yeah, very small percentage. Yeah, yeah. And something to keep in mind is that each blog post is a moment in time. So you would write that blog post differently if it's a week from now, a month from now, a year from now, you're not going to write it the same way. So, when you go back to those blog posts, especially the ones that make you feel like I can't believe I said this three months ago, that was, you know, I would totally write about this completely different now, that's okay. Because you're in a different space, and allow yourself that. So don't go back to those blog posts and feel like I have to edit every single thing I have done. So we do have some questions. There is a lot of crossover in blogging between the personal voice, the business voice, and also creating the online persona. Can you help, can you help distinguish what the purpose of the exercise is, especially if you're doing business blogging, and they don't want to know what you had for breakfast. (laughing) Right, right, so you're not going to share what you had for breakfast on your blog. That's for your journal. That's just so that you are developing your voice, so that you get comfortable writing. So when you're talking about the runny eggs you had for breakfast, that's just for your eyes only. That's not for you to post on your blog or to share on social media, that is just to get you comfortable writing on a regular basis, and to feel like you can trust your voice. So that when you go to your blog, and you're writing about a business topic, that your voice just naturally comes out, because you're doing it on a regular basis. The more you write, the more you journal, the more likely it's going to happen more quick, quickly, you know. And I think that there's a shifting voice, I mean, maybe you agree or disagree, but there is more of a conversational tone in the way that business is done these days anyhow. I mean, nobody wants to feel like they're doing business with a cardboard box, you know, Absolutely, yes. That is a big one. Sometimes we feel like we have to be really stiff and really professional. And I showed you photos in the last session of where I was in a tutu in the playground, because it worked for that brand and that business. Of course you have to figure out what's right for the brand and business that I have. It's not going to work for everybody. But, conversational tone works so much better, when it feels like you're sitting down with your friends and having a cup of coffee, and that's the top of blog post you're reading, that works so much better, even if you're a business blogger. Right, I help creative entrepreneurs improve their creative businesses. But my tone on my blog post is very conversational. I don't say, do this, do this, do this, do this. I include examples, things from my life. I include stories about how my husband had to ride home with the big red balloon hanging out of the car because it wouldn't fit in it, and I wanted to take pictures with it, right. So, people buy from people that they know, like, and trust. And you want to build that with your blog. You want people to feel like they know you when they read your blog. Especially if you are one, a service based business. So if you're a photographer, I want to know what that photographer is like if I'm going to hire her, right. So if I'm going to hire Kimberly, I want to know what it's going to be like to work with her, what that session is going to be like. And if I can figure that out from her blog, I'm much more likely to hire her than somebody else. So people like that. Also, even if you make jewelry, I want to know a little bit about the maker. And if I know you as a maker, I'm much more likely to buy from you, because I can trust that I'm getting the product that I think I'm going to get, because we all still hesitate when we buy online, even though we do it all the time. We hesitate because we don't know if we're getting exactly what we think we're purchasing, especially if, let's say, it's a new shop, and there aren't a lot of reviews, that's one way you can help people know that they're going to get what they think they are, and a way to get to know you a little bit better. And of course, you have to decide how much of that to share. How much of the personal stuff to share, and that's really based on your ideal reader. So what does your ideal reader want to know about you, as opposed to what they want to know about your business. Sometimes, the majority of content is business content, and that's good too. That definitely works, especially if it makes sense. Yeah, that's very helpful. And there's a lot of unconditioning happening. Manila Girl worked as a corporate trainer for so long, and they're now just beginning to find their creative voice. And Green Machine and Curioser are talking back and forth and this book, The Little Red Book of Selling, I've read that book, it's really cool. They were just talking about take aways. And Green Machine says, "More professional will definitely get sales, "but the friendly, personal salesman will outsell him." So, you know, it's just a matter of perspective. I mean, of course you'll get sales with the straight on tone, but maybe you could even take that to the next level, and make it a little bit more authentic. Right, absolutely. And easy, in a way. Yeah, no, we had a question come up here about personality and how much should be coming through in your blog writing, and this comes from Morbid Cafe, and they say, "Still wondering though. "What if my most passionate, humorous, "and authentic descriptions when I'm talking to my friends "contain a happy amount of profanities." Now you know, it's kind of something that we can joke about, but sometimes when you're with friends, you speak differently than you would if you're actually writing it down. So, they say, "I have never felt I should use that profanity "in my writing, but now after hearing this, "I'm questioning it." Like if that is their true self, is that something that they should be writing about? It depends. It really depends on your ideal reader, and your ideal customer. If you go to Ashley's blog, The Middle Finger Project, it's called The Middle Finger Project. She's gonna have profanity. And you'll see that she doesn't have, it's not in every other sentence. And it's not in every single blog post, however, it is there, and she does use it, because that's her personality, and it makes sense for what she's writing. And it makes sense for her ideal customer. I don't use, I may have maybe once or twice, that would be tops that I have used profanity on Blacksburg Belle, even though, I've got a little bit of a potty mouth, otherwise. You know, when I'm with my friends and with my husband, but for my ideal reader, it's, less is more when it comes to that. However, it could work for your business. It's really based on your brand and your ideal reader. And now, these tactics should also be applied to social media, the same way? Yes, absolutely, yeah, absolutely. So, just to wrap up this part about every blog post is a moment in time. Your mood, your surroundings, your knowledge, your experiences, they all affect your posts. And, especially as creative entrepreneurs, we learn new things and new techniques, and we wouldn't have done things the same way before, and that's okay. I cannot tell you how many emails I get from people that say, I'm switching things up, I'm moving in a new direction, do I have to delete all of the posts that I've already written. And usually, the answer is no. Unless you're going for a completely new angle, completely different direction.

Class Description

There are over 200 million blogs on the Internet, so how do you cut through the noise and stand out in the crowd? A quality blog boasts great content, a powerful voice, and relevant, useful information. The problem is, putting all of those pieces together, understanding how to find the right audience, and marketing your blog is no easy juggling act.

Join the founder of Blacksburg Belle and author of Marketing for Creatives April Bowles-Olin for a comprehensive course dedicated to teaching you how to write, create, and market a successful blog. Drawing on the same methods she’s used to help successful entrepreneurs around the world grow their online presence, April will teach you how to find your own voice and get more comfortable writing like yourself. You’ll learn how to develop a strong editorial strategy, attract the right readers and write engaging headlines that will drive traffic to your site. April will also explore some of the key problems that hold bloggers back -- from writer’s block to boredom to insecurity about what you’re writing -- and explain how to overcome them. Best of all, April will teach you how to save time and have fun while contributing to the success of your blog.

After just three short days with April, you’ll possess the perfect foundation for better copywriting and creating a powerful, traffic generating blog.



This course is absolutely amazing. April is so enthusiastic and inspiring. It is clear she has spent a lot of time preparing for this course with a wealth of useful information in the videos and the workbook and the resource pack. Having just launched my new photography website, I have been looking for ideas and help with the blog- a new area for me. This has made me feel excited about my business. It's helped me plan my blog posts for the coming months and highlighted the importance of a good blog for keeping a website fresh. I found myself excited for each new video and sad when it was all finished! I've purchase a few courses through Creative Live but this is my favourite so far and April has a lot to do with that.

Kristina Zambrano

Where to start? ... Um I took my blog to the groomer ha! you guys must be thinking how on earth you take a blog to the groomer pretty easy actually you just go and click where it says "Build a Successful Creative Blog with April Bowles and you are taking it to the groomer. Now leaving my pet-related talking if you are creative and have no idea where to start in blogging this is your place to start she (April) will teach you everything about the blog world with a touch of joy, fun and creativity. She will take you from Zero, Nada, Nothing to Something or better say to a brand new groomed blog. And if you need more to convince you to get this workshop you just read April Bowles "26 post you gotta read - blog tour" and if that doesn't make you get it, then you are totally not ready to Blog. Thank you so much April for everything you shared with us.


This course gave me both the impetus to begin the blog whose domain I was sitting on for nearly a year and the skills to do it well. April was - and still is - supportive and helpful to all of the people who participated in the course. It became a community of people, supporting and helping each other to follow through with the amazing instructions that she gave us during the course itself. The resources she gave us are still useful, and the connections I made on her site and the sites she pointed us to have made my blog successful in only a few months. AWESOME course!