Time is the entrepreneur’s input. It’s the petrol that fuels the ideas.
When you’re bootstrapping your own idea, it’s crucial to squeeze in as much time as you can to complete as many things as you are able to do.
Building the marketing assets for your business is not only something that anyone could do, I believe it’s something that all entrepreneurs should do.
You should build your own website, spend time learning how to use a few key features of a graphic design program, even video editing software to learn enough to make content that you can use to do your own marketing.
Educate yourself about analytics to provide feedback about whether you’re on the right track with your communications.
I’m not saying you need to be an expert in these things, but there’s tremendous value in being a little bit dangerous in each.
Here are the five most important marketing skills you should learn and execute.
1. Learn WordPress
Whatever business you’re building on the side, you’re going to need to build a place to transact with customers. This means a website.
In 2019, there’s no competitive advantage in building a website from scratch. I’ve encountered too many small and medium sized business owners who have spent upwards of $10,000 for someone to build them a basic site. (I always recommend people learn how to build their website themselves and take that $10k to spend on promoting their business.)
The world already has far too many good looking, expensive websites that no-one visits. Unless you’re trying to build the next ebay or Amazon, you can get your own nice looking website up for under $100.
When you learn how to build a website yourself, you get to work at your own pace. You work consistently, documenting thoughts as the ideas develop. In fact, writing website copy forces you to develop your ideas.
In contrast, outsourcing your website puts stresses and pressure on you to supply the words, decide on menus and images, because you’re working to the timeframe of your supplier. This is the wrong way around.
Don’t disregard the value you get from spending time to think and re-think how you’ll present your idea to the customer. It’s super important to get it right and there are far too many important decisions to outsource its creation to someone else.
Many of the decisions you make with your images, videos and words help inform you in developing your entire communications strategy, right down to your social media content.
What tone are you going to use? Are stock images really the right choice? (Hint: the answer is always “no”.) What menu structure make the most sense to define your product or service? Should you add a pricing page?
I cannot imagine developing any business idea without building the shop that faces the consumer. It’s literally the front line of interaction between your business and the outside world.
Now I’m not saying you need to learn C# or Java and start coding your own site. That would be a total waste of time and effort. But I would like to introduce you all to the idea that you can build a professional looking site pretty easily.
Even if you don’t end up launching with your own site and you end up paying a design firm to pretty up what you’ve built, I promise you that the exercise of building your site, thinking about the design, layering in the copy, images and other content, will help you immensely in expanding out your businesses idea.
I’ve added a 90 minute video below that steps you through the entire process of creating a WordPress site. At the end of it, your site will be up and running.
2. Learn How to Make Content
If you want to be noticed on social media, you have to publish valuable content on a regular basis.
I cannot over-stress the importance of creating content for marketing your business in 2019. It’s literally the price of admission to being relevant in today’s world.
It’s because of this that I recommend any entrepreneur learn how to create their own content, even at its most basic levels.
Content takes four basic forms – text, images, video and audio. Your website typically will have three to four of these elements. Your marketing need not cover all. It depends on where you’re most comfortable.
I prefer to write, so I focus my content on blogs and articles (like this one). Others prefer to talk so they use video and audio. It’s not important what medium you choose, but you should commit to a content plan that sees you publishing regular valuable content.
Words are the easiest for all of us to produce and we spend hours making them every day in text messages, emails, documents and so on.
If you’re about to start writing for your website, take a moment before you start typing to complete a bit of healthy research into keywords.
I use Google’s Keyword Planner tool. It’s free and it tells you which keywords get the most search volume in your industry. Once you know these, you should start writing out your website copy making sure to incorporate these words into your content.
Images are the next thing to consider and while there are loads of free and simple software available to help you make them, I recommend people learn Photoshop. Yes, that’s right. That massive, complicated Adobe software product that only graphic designers use. I want you to learn it. Why? Well, first, because it’s not actually that complicated.
And secondly, when you know how to make images, the digital world is so much easier to navigate. It’s incredibly empowering to be able to take an idea for a social media image post or a blog header and realise that idea by creating it yourself.
At this point, I think a lot of you will be arguing “I can’t learn that. I haven’t got the time.” Stay with me, because I’m not saying you should become a graphic designer. I’m not even saying you need to take a course on learning Photoshop.
I am suggesting you should spend a few hours to learn the basics of the software which will set you up to create your own picture content for your website and social media.
The software is surprisingly easy-to-use to complete basic tasks. It’s also incredibly complicated when you want to do some super rad stuff.
I’m no expert in Photoshop. I’m 100% self-taught. I’ve gradually expanded my abilities building images for websites, social media, even old school brochures and posters.
I’m constantly learning too. If I don’t know how to do something, I’ll spend 5-10 minutes searching Google or YouTube and learn the skills as I’m creating the content. Practical learning – there’s no better way.
Video remains one of the most engaging forms of media.
If you’re comfortable on camera, I would strongly encourage you to get in front of one and hit the record button. For years, video has been over-indexing in terms of reach and engagement on social media and I see no signs of this changing any time soon.
Video is also incredibly easy to make loads of content quickly and easily.
To step up your video content, I highly recommend learning Adobe Premiere. It’s by far the easiest, yet most powerful editing software I’ve used.
I started using it because, years ago, I became obsessed with vertical video and this was the only option I felt confident I could use. (After Effects still feels a bridge too far for my editing skills.) If you’ve ever used iMovie, you’ll get the hang of Premiere in no time.
Before you rush out and buy a professional camera, save your money. Your smartphone will do the job. And if you’re worried about it being poor quality, remember, quality is subjective. It’s up to the viewers and my experience is they care about the story, not how it’s documented. (Oftentimes, the grainier, shakier videos feel more authentic anyway.)
You’re better off putting out one piece of authentic content than none. No-one really cares if the sound is a bit tinny or the quality is a bit grainy. Don’t put up barriers that will only serve to slow you down.
One final thought on content – don’t be boring. I see far too many businesses acting like everyone else. They put out content that’s 100% about their business, their history, their business. Here’s a quick reality check: no-one cares.
Before you start telling everyone why your product is so good or why everyone needs to listen to your founding story, first you’ve got to get their attention. That’s hard to do so you better make sure you’re posting something interesting.
Either educate your audience or entertain them. Without something that’s of value to your audience, you’re going to get scrolled past, fast.
3. Learn How to Promote Your Own Content
I spend nearly all my own advertising dollars with Facebook because it continues to represent the best value media buy. To be frank, none of the other platforms even come close.
You can easily boost your existing posts from inside the Facebook and Instagram apps. But if you’re serious about Facebook advertising, you need to move beyond the app and learn how to use Facebook Ads Manager.
(Note: The apps only lets you promote posts that you have run on your page. If you want to run dark posts where you show content that doesn’t live on your page to targeted audiences, you need to put the phone down, fire up Chrome on your desktop and head to Facebook’s Ads Manager.)
About six years ago, I spent an entire weekend learning how to use Facebook ads. At the time, the business I was working for had 1,500 followers on Facebook with ambitions to grow this number fast by creating relevant content that would appeal to their target audience.
Fast forward 18 months and their Facebook audience had grown to 1.2 million. Many of the videos I had created on Premiere reached over a million views and a couple of videos were watched over 30 million times.
I used no agencies, no graphic designers and no video editors. How did I do it? It was a pretty simple formula.
First I taught myself how to use Facebook’s ad product to discover what was possible. (It’s frighteningly powerful!) Then I made content and posted it organically. The posts that went well organically, I turned into ads. Then I built target audiences and ran ads to those people. I’d review the results, tweak a few things, then do it again. Rinse and repeat.
When I look back at all the time I’ve spent honing my digital marketing craft over the last two decades, I rate that one weekend as the single most impactful time I’ve ever spent learning anything, in my life. I’m not joking.
It was basically like deciding I wanted to go to the Moon on Friday and then standing on the lunar surface looking back at the Earth on Sunday night. (I went out and bought Facebook shares the very next day.)
It’s been over three years since I did that and I still regard Facebook as the single greatest advertising platform that’s ever been created.
4. Become Self-Sufficient to Discover if Your Strategy is Working
Don’t get caught up in the content hamster wheel where you’re publishing constantly but not taking time to assess whether your content strategy for social media is working or whether your website content is generating traffic.
The most important thing you can do is regularly check in with your posts on social media to check it’s getting engagement.
Below is an example of the metrics available to business on Instagram which help identify content that’s engaging. These metrics belong to a popular post that has strong engagement across likes, comments, shares and saves. It’s also generated 6,185 profile visits which as you see below has led to 648 follows.
When it comes to your website, it takes a bit more effort to discover what’s working and what isn’t.
Once your code is added and you have a few days worth of data, you’ll end up having a look at your stats inside of Google Analytics but end up walking away without any real idea of what to do next.
I have a lot of empathy for people in this position because I’ve felt it too. Your first 10 minutes in Google Analytics is like trying to drink from a fire hose when you’re thirsty. You struggle the entire time, only to walk away frustrated, wet and still thirsty.
Let me help by highlighting what I use to work out whether my digital marketing efforts are working.
a) Google Analytics
I keep things very simple and try to answer these questions:
- How much traffic am I getting?
- Which pages are getting the most traffic?
- Where are people going after they hit the home page?
- Are people spending time on my pages or leaving quickly?
All these metrics are available within Google Analytics.
b) Google Search Console
It still surprises me how few people know about Google Search Console. It’s an amazing product and it’s free.
I’ve seen clients charged thousands of dollars a month from scammy SEO suppliers to give them a report straight out of Search Console.
Search Console gives you a view of your website the way that Google sees it. It shows you where your website traffic is coming from. It shows you which keywords are generating impressions for you and which pages are the most popular.
There are a few things that I look for.
- Are my pages being indexed by Google? This is basic but important. There’s no point writing blog articles if there’s a technical error that’s preventing it from being seen by Google.
- What keywords are being given the most impressions by Google? Here I look for what pages have a large number of impressions but a low click through rate. These opportunities basically mean Google is giving you the chance to generate free traffic but either your headline isn’t matching the search term or it’s just not convincing people to click. A quick change of a headline and even adding some content to the page can skyrocket your traffic.
Let’s take a look at an example.
The image below shows some key opportunities for a very special client of mine who operates an interior design business in Sydney.
As you can see, Google has given her 1,104 impression over the last three months when someone searches for “interior designer sydney” but only 1 person has clicked. It’s even worse when you include “interior design sydney” which has had 897 impressions and 0 clicks.
This insight would lead me to that page to make some changes to the page and the headings to try to lift the click through rate to attract more visitors to her site.
5. Get Social
Your own opinions about social media are irrelevant to the marketing tactics of your side hustle. The fact remains that roughly half of everyone’s online time is spent on social media. Social media is the current state of the internet.
This infographic shows the trend is only going in one direction. We’re spending an average of 2 hours and 22 minutes per day on social media.
This means it’s important for you to know how the social media platforms work. And to work that out, you have to taste it.
If you’re working on your side hustle, don’t wait to start up your Facebook or Instagram page. Start on today and start posting content every day. See which content generates the most engagement. Use that data to help inform you what to make next. Engage with everyone who engages with your content.
You need to be a little big dangerous in marketing to make your side hustle work – even if it’s just to hold your suppliers accountable.
With so many tools available to us, there’s nothing holding you back from taking an active role in creating your marketing assets. You’ll need to commit to a few hours of learning how to build a website, creating content and promoting on the social media platforms.
I encourage you all to get your hands dirty. Aside from being easier than you think, it’s also a lot of fun.
Even if you end up outsourcing the work later on, the insight and experience you will gain from learning these tools will allow you to hold your suppliers accountable.
No-one cares more about your business than you. You’ll 10x your efforts when you learn the skills that amplify your message, generate awareness and sales for your side hustle.
Do it right and you’ll soon be able to turn your side hustle into your main event.