OK. First rule of indie marketing lab. Don’t write headlines like that ^^.
Today is the first day of a 30 day writing and marketing experiment. Perhaps less experiment and more public sharing of my mistakes and successes in launching and re-launching three separate, but interconnected online brands.
Let’s jump in.
The Back Story
A few months ago I found myself at a rather loose end. A long-time, 40-hour a week contract ended with my largest client and main source of income. My husband and I had been living and working on the road for the past year and a half. We had been toying with the idea of settling down for a bit so that he could get a job and with two incomes, pare away some debt and save up for a bigger, better rig than what we had.
When my contract ended, that settled our plans. We headed back east to Virginia where there was a job waiting for my husband and family and friends happy to see us. Our days of wandering the western states were over and we tucked into a teeny tiny studio apartment after searching unsuccessfully for a teeny tiny house.
We had, by necessity, become minimalists during our time on the road.
With a second income in the mix, I found myself free for some introspection. Since heading out on the road, my earning power was what carried us. My husband (let’s call him Jeff, since that’s his name) is an old-school sort and more rooted in the physical, not online world. Our location-independent lifestyle depended on my digital marketing skills.
All of a sudden, my income, while still super necessary, wasn’t the only thing keeping us afloat. I’d been feeling some angst for a few years in how I was making my money. Now I had a chance to re-build my ‘business’ to better reflect what I really wanted.
Seriously, could there be a more #firstworldproblem than marketing angst? Nevertheless, here’s what had been running through my head in varying degrees. These are the thoughts that were making me less-than-happy with my money-making life.
- Desire to have income based on creation, rather than services. I think this is common to a lot of folks in the online marketing, virtual assistant, and digital world. The work I was doing for clients was to build their business, launch their books. I wanted to have more income based on my content, not in marketing other folks’ content.
- Bad marketing. Ugh, this one drives me batty. While there are plenty of missing tools in my toolbelt, over the years I’ve managed to garner a fair bit of experiential knowledge in what works in online marketing. And there’s a lot of nonsense being sold out in the interwebs. Some ideas are flat-out not great in terms of results, but awesome money-makers for the done-for-you service providers (i.e. veering towards unethical). Some ideas are great and make for awesome headlines for how-to articles, but are presented as a one-size-fits all solution when they aren’t appropriate for authors and other content-producers with small lists and ad budgets. (Ahem, I’m looking at you retargeting ads.) I was sick to death of pasting on a smile and presenting marketing strategies that I knew were going to produce little to no results within the short timeframes I generally worked with clients. Mind you… these weren’t bad strategies. Just… long tail, low-reward strategies.
- Did I mention writing a book? This has been a ‘goal’ since… IDK. When I was a little girl, sitting in the hospital room waiting room reading the only magazine on the coffee table. The New Yorker. Dad never came home from the hospital, but those days in the waiting room cemented a life-long approval of picture-free literary efforts and a strong desire to be the maker of those words.
- Tired of feeling like a fraud every time Jeff told someone I ‘ran a marketing business’. Any of you who work online know the struggle is real and most of the folks in your life have no concept of what you actually do. It’s easier to just say I have a marketing business, when, real-talk, I’m just getting paid to do stuff. ‘Having a business’ implies a bit more strategy than the reality of my transactional-based, time for money, client relationships.
That’s what was making me feel… unfulfilled. I want to create things, I want to do excellent work, write a book, and build a business, not just establish for time-for-money relationships.
Decisions Time. How to Brand Unrelated Services.
So what’s the next step? That’s been swirling around a lot in my head over the last month. I went ahead and found a good time-for-money client that I like. I’m not so philosophical that I don’t get that money needs to keep coming through the door, angsty as I may feel. But there’s plenty of hours in the day and I’m determined, I mean, determined, to crack the code on this.
First step. Taking another run at the one-brand or many problem. Over the past few years, I’ve been working nearly exclusively with authors getting ready to launch a book. Most of these books were first-time, non-fiction, traditionally published works. Which meant most of the clients had attained some level of proficiency that helped them land the elusive book deal. Many of my clients had the same problem… is it better to keep everything under one ‘brand’ — usually the client’s name — or create separate websites and social platforms for different audiences?
I’m a big fan of one brand to rule them all. It’s HARD to keep just one website and set of socials updated… why make it harder on ourselves? And really, most folks don’t care/notice intricate branding distinctions. Your post will (or more likely will not) show up in their feed and they aren’t going to notice if the page is called Mr. Awesome or Mr. Awesome Author Page.
So all that said… I’ve decided to work on three brands simultaneously. I have my reasons. Here are the two most critical:
- Different, existing audiences. I’ve been blogging in the home/sewing/vintage world for nearly 10 years and already have some following there. I know those folks aren’t going to be 100% interested in some of the content I’m going to put out there. This blog post, for instance.
- See Angst #2 above. I want to do great work. Focusing on building three different brands allows for focused experimentation. That’ll make more sense in just a few paragraphs.
Current Revenue Streams
Right now my streams of income are sadly based on one client. Which isn’t where I want to be. As a general overview, here’s the lowdown on how much and where my money’s been coming from for the last few years.
- $2000 — $6000 per month from client work. Previously, I worked with two clients, both on flat-rate contracts which was nice because my income was steady. I knew how much to expect every month. It ended up being not-so-great as the time needed on one of the contracts steadily increased from 40 hour weeks to 50-70 hour weeks without a raise in compensation #lessonlearned. As of now, I’m working with two clients, one on a small flat-rate contract and one on an hourly billing contract.
- <$10 a month from Google AdSense. This is income that I get because I have a few Google ads on heavily trafficked blog posts on my website www.pattybrower.com.
- <$10 a month from Amazon affiliate links. This is income I get because I have a few #vanlife posts with Amazon Affiliate links to gear we like also on www.pattybrower.com.
Here’s how I would like my streams of income to look.
- Book sales — self-published fiction and non-fiction books
- Course and content sales — income derived from content that I produce and sell via my website
- Affiliate income — income derived from traffic generated to my website(s)
- Subscription-based content — build on Patreon/related subscription-based services
- Sponsorship for audio content — this is a more ‘iffy’ one, but including it anyway! I love the idea of working in audio/creating a podcast, but I see that more as content-creation and less as a revenue stream
- Marketing client contracts — providing 1:1 and done-for-you marketing services for small business owners, authors, and creatives
Building an Empire. My Marketing and Brand Mix.
So here’s how I’m envisioning things. I’ll be focusing on building up the assets and content in these three areas over the next 30 days. And sharing what’s working and what isn’t. Obviously, 30 days isn’t very long, but… I mean the world was created in seven days, amiright?
Full disclosure. I don’t think the world was created in seven days.
The Patty Brower empire…
- Patty Brower — this is my core website with lifestyle brand posts going back for years. Since I already have some traction with traffic, I’d like to re-focus on this. I’m thinking the subject area will tighten up to minimalist content, living on the road, makers… pretty much the fun stuff I love. This may also be the ‘home’ for some non-fiction book releases (How We Lived In a Honda Odyssey and Didn’t Kill Each Other…. #hahahaha). This is also a place to capitalize on Amazon affiliate and Google ad revenue. Those areas aren’t huge, but it all adds up! Current assets include a website with around 2-3 thousand hits a month, a Facebook page with about 1,500 followers and a list that’s around 1,200.
- Patty Brower Communications — this is my marketing and client-focused home and where I can focus on course/content creation and, as with my lifestyle website, consider future non-fiction published works. Current assets include a website, a Facebook page with less than 30 followers and list that I just made the other day and just one name on the list. It’s me.
- PJ Brower — I’ve really gone back and forth on this, finally deciding to use a pen-name for my fiction. All of my ideas and plots fall in the paranormal/cozy mystery/fantasy world… witches as far as the eye can see! While I could write fiction under my actual name, I’m not sure there’s real cross-over between my lifestyle audience and the fiction audience. Just visiting the website could get confusing… come for the witches and find… a post about boondocking in Ajo, Arizona? #makesnosense! The final piece that broke me in favor of a pen name for fiction is that I may want to write non-fiction as well, and that makes a lot more sense to do under my given name, using my Patty Brower or Patty Brower Communications websites. Current assets for the fiction pen name include a Facebook page that I, literally, just made yesterday.
So that’s the plan! A long post, as it reflects some big ideas that I’ve been wrestling with over the past few months. Over the next 30 days, I’ll dive into the nitty-gritty and share my plans, what works, and what fails spectacularly with you!
In the meantime, I’d love to hear what has worked or has been a giant bomb in your business and marketing mix! Drop me an email. I love when I get emails.
And if you are an author, shopkeeper, or building your own online business, grab my Content Kit for a bunch of fun, free ideas to putting together a newsletter your customers and clients will love. This is one thing I’ve no doubts on… a newsletter is really, very excellent marketing!