When Do I Quit My Day-Job and Start Speaking Full-Time?

When can you start speaking full time?I received an email recently which asked,

I feel the call of God to speak so strongly! I have a great message and I so want to share it. But I can’t do all the training and planning and practicing that I want to do while I’m still working full-time at 10 hour days. I feel like I should be willing to step out in faith and quit my job, but is that wise, especially when our family needs my income?

Excellent question, and one that I know many people struggle with! So let’s break this down and look at how to make this decision.

1. How Often Can I Reasonably Handle Speaking?

Before you quit, we have to count the cost and plan ahead. In Luke 14:28-32, Jesus tells us that we need to count the cost before we do something drastic and commit to something big.

So let’s take a look and ask: what income can I reasonably expect to make from speaking?

Well, that depends on how much you can charge and how often you speak. Let’s say that you’re able to set your fee at $500 for an engagement. To make $40,000 a year, you’d have to speak 80 times. That’s 1 1/2 times a week, every week, including all through the summer and around Christmas.

Now, if your fee were $1500 per weekend retreat, you’d have to do about 27 retreats to make $40,000, or roughly every second weekend.

Just a few thoughts about that: Speaking that often is extremely draining and extremely tiring. I’ve done the 8 weekends in a row thing in the springtime, when churches have lots of retreats, and it isn’t fun. If you have children at home, you can’t be gone every weekend, or even most weekends, assuming they’re in school. You’ll never see them!

If you speak that often, too, it’s likely that you’re traveling a great deal. There just won’t be that many speaking engagements close to where you live. So speaking will mean driving or flying, usually for several hours, and sometimes for up to a whole day.

So you have to ask yourself: assuming that I didn’t have a job, how often would I honestly like to speak? How much can I be away from my family?

2. How Likely Is It That I Can Fill My Calendar with Speaking Engagements?

You have a number in mind: I want to speak this number of times in a year. But can you get those engagements?

Remember, speaking requests tend to grow from word of mouth, not just from doing a ton of marketing. So your calendar will likely fill up only because you have already done some speaking. It grows exponentially from there.

A good rule of thumb is to ask yourself: how many speaking requests have I had in the last year? You may have had some you weren’t able to do because of time commitment problems, but include them. Now, if you went full-time, you can likely expect that amount to double if you spend some time cold calling local churches and networking. But it’s unlikely to triple or quadruple right off the bat.

Having engagements lined up, I believe, is one way that God confirms to us that this is our calling. If you have difficulty getting any engagements at all, then perhaps it’s better to spend some time honing your speaking skills before you take that leap. It may be that God wants you to share your story in a different way, and that’s not necessarily a bad thing at all.

3. Do I Have Products to Sell?

One way to boost your income when you speak is to have a book table. I tend to make more from selling products than I actually make from my speaking fees, which is a huge bonus. Thus, if you decided that you needed to do 27 retreats to make the $40,000, you may only have to do 15 or 20 if you have product to sell that can make you that extra income.

Having at least three things that you sell boosts your income quite substantially. My download on Creating Products to Sell When You Speak can help you brainstorm different products to sell–from traditional books to things you likely never even thought of!

4. Decision Time: When Do I Quit and Speak Full-Time?

My rule of thumb, then, would be this:

Do not quit your day-time job until you have:

  1. 2 items to sell on a product table, with at least one other idea that you could create quickly once you have time. These items must already sell well when you speak.
  2. Booking requests equal to at least one half of what you would need to support yourself for a year.

Even then, it’s still very risky. Another option is to stop working full-time but go to part-time work so that you can supplement your income, but still have more time to develop your speaking ministry.

Many of us have a passion to speak, but I believe that God wants us to be wise with what He has given us, including the family that we may have to help support. It certainly is easier to build a speaking ministry when you don’t have full-time job commitments, but before we make that leap, I think we should confirm with God that this is where He wants us to be, by looking at where we are now and asking if God has prepared us for this yet.

For most of us, that will take a few years–sometimes even up to a decade! That waiting can be hard. But if He is building this in you, then He knows the timing, and He will release you from your job when you are ready.

Let me know: what are your considerations for taking the leap and going full-time? Have you quit a job so that you have more time to speak? What advice would you give to others in the same situation?

7 Ways to Be Productive with Your Online Time

7 Ways Christian Speakers Can be Productive OnlineFacebook. Pinterest. Twitter. LinkedIn. Blogging.

There are so many ways to spend your time online, but how do you get the most bang for your buck? Where should you be concentrating your time?

Here are some thoughts to help you focus:

1. Decide Your Aim For Being Online

I’m a big believer that every speaker needs to have an online presence for one simple reason: When an event organizer is going to hire a speaker, the first thing they do is Google her name. They want to see what she has already done. You want to make sure that you have a website, blog, or something so that when you’re Googled, a page introducing you will come up–rather than a page from your old High School listing you as being on the reunion committee.

So being online is essential.

Spending all your time there is not–and, indeed, you shouldn’t spend all your time online! You have other things to do–reach out to churches, practice talks, write new ones. Even just spend some quiet time with God. And if you’re not careful, social media can start to take up all your time, making you feel productive without actually leading to more speaking engagements or helping you to carry out your mission.

So why are you online? Here are several reasons:

1. To develop a presence so that conference organizers can learn who I am

2. To uncover new speaking opportunities as people get to know me and ask me to speak

3. To branch out and start to speak online through webinars, etc.

4. To create a business that is also online–through earning advertising income with blogging, selling products, and other things.

All of those options are valid, but you need to know what you’re working towards. Currently I actually do make a decent income from blogging–my blog To Love, Honor and Vacuum gets about half a million hits a month, and I do sell products and advertise. And I reach a ton of people! But that was only after working at it extremely hard for several years. It isn’t easy.

Number two is also difficult, because the blessing of the internet–that it’s global and there are no borders–is also one of its drawbacks. If you’re spending a ton of time interacting with people on Facebook and Twitter, but none of those people live anywhere near you, getting asked to speak is unlikely. Once you get well enough known that churches are comfortable paying for airfare, it’s wonderful, but when you’re just starting out, that isn’t likely to happen.

Now #3 is quite possible, but just like #4 it requires having a very large reach and a very large audience in order to get people to pay for webinars, and thus will require an awful lot of work and time before you see fruit.

That’s why I really recommend that, until you’re able to earn a large fee that includes air travel, #1 is really your main aim.

So let’s look at how to do that effectively:

2. Focus on Creating Content

It’s wonderful to have tons of friends on Facebook. It’s great to have a Facebook Page that is liked by thousands. It’s a big ego rush to have 1000 followers on Twitter.

But none of that does you any good if your primary aim is to have event organizers learn more about you and be impressed with you and want to hire you. For that you need content.

That means that the majority of the time you spend online should be spent writing new blog posts or articles. These can then also be used in your newsletters that you send out to people who have already heard you speak (You are sending out newsletters, right? That’s the primary way to get bookings! Read more here).

3. Share that Content as Widely as Possible

Set up your blog or your newsletter so that it automatically shares on Twitter and Facebook. Create wonderful graphics that can be pinned easily onto Pinterest.

My favourite way to find free graphics? Wylio.com. It allows you to search flickr’s Creative Commons for royalty-free images, and then provides you with an image with the credit already embedded. If you’re not yet ready to spend money on a graphics subscription, this is a great option!

4. Keep Your Interactions to Specific Times of Day

If someone comments on your Facebook Page, you do not have to answer immediately. If someone tweets you, you do not have to respond right now.

I know we feel like it’s urgent, but it’s better to save three specific times of day when you interact with people than to respond to everything all the time. If you respond instantaneously, it’s also harder for you to get your real work done, because you’re switching back and forth between writing and Facebook. And then when you have writer’s block, it’s easier to just browse social media, thinking, “at least I’m still working.” No, you’re really not doing anything that will help you in the long run.

Instead, check after breakfast, at lunch, and before bed or before dinner, or whatever times work for you.

5. Set Quotas

I’ve used two methods to help contain my social media outreach, and I’ll share one as tip 5 and one as tip 6, but these are really either/or. Currently I do the quota thing: I tell myself that each time I check social media, I will respond to any outstanding comments, but I will also instigate 5 new comments. That way I’m reaching out to other people.

And if you tell yourself you’ll do 5, you’re usually quite fast at it, and then you know when you’re done and it’s time to get off. Think about it: if you interacted with 5 new people a day, that’s over 1500 a year. That’s a lot. So it may not sound like much, but do it regularly, and it adds up.

6. Set Time Limits

Get a stopwatch, or search for a timer online, and tell yourself, “I will spend 15 minutes on Facebook and Twitter and Pinterest now”, and then only spend that amount of time. When it’s done, it’s done.

7. Be Proactive with Influencers

And here’s an extra one: if you want to be most efficient online, keep your eye out for “influencers”–people who run women’s ministry programs; Christian radio personalities; other speakers. Make lists on Facebook and Twitter that are just of these influencers. These are the people you want to interact with most, because these are the people who are most likely to result in new speaking engagements.

So when you do have time to interact, make sure to include some influencers in your time.

There you go–7 ways to be more productive and efficient with your online activity, instead of letting social media suck all your time!

Let me know: what have you found that works? And is there anything I’ve said that you want more information on? I’m looking for new ideas for posts, and I’d be glad to elaborate!

Wondering how to start a blog? Get a Twitter following? Organize your Facebook followers? My e-course on Building Your Online Community is 50% off–only $37.50 right now!

My Speaking/Blogging/Scheduling Toolkit

MP900382971Last week I wrote a post going over my speaking/blogging/writing schedule. A number of you said you found it helpful, but then someone asked on Facebook, “Can you write a post just listing all the extra apps and web things you use to make this easier?” And so here you go!

Website

WordPress

I use a hosted WordPress site, which you can get for $18.00 a year. WordPress allows you to have a blog, but it’s also the easiest way to organize your website when you don’t know very much HTML.

HostGator for hosting

A number of sites offer really inexpensive hosting for your web domains (that means that if you want a domain in your name, like sheilawraygregoire.com, you have to buy it and host it somewhere. That’s where you’ll put your WordPress blog). Hostgator can talk you through this.

Editorial Calendar Plugin

Wonderful for helping you plan your blog posts!

Speaking Scheduling

Google Calendar

Great for scheduling speaking engagements. You can also upload files there. I find the easiest way to keep track of my contracts/talks, etc., is to upload them to my calendar. That way I just need to open a particular speaking engagement and all the contracts and my script are right there. You can also share your calendar with an assistant who does your booking, so that he/she can have access to all the files, too, or you can share your calendar with family members so that you can see what dates you have free and what dates you have family commitments.

Google lets you save your events in different colours, so I colour code everything. If it’s just tentative, it’s green. If it’s confirmed, it’s blue. If it’s family related, it’s purple.

Evernote

I don’t know why I’m putting this under “speaking scheduling”, because I use Evernote for EVERYTHING. I can put notes in there. I can send emails to myself there so that I save all my invoices for tax purposes and can find them at the end of the year. I store everything for each speaking engagement in there. Evernote makes it so easy to search, so instead of saving things in Word document after Word document, I use Evernote. Then I can search for a particular speaking engagement, and everything I’ve ever written is there.

I also keep copies of all of my talks in there, in case I’m ever away without my computer and can’t access them. Evernote is an online program that syncs with all of your devices, so that it’s always up to date.

Social Media

HootSuite

Allows you to schedule Facebook posts, Twitter tweets, and posts to your Facebook Page in advance, so that you can upload all your posts for a week at a time (or a day at a time, or whatever works best). It’s free for up to 5 social media accounts, I believe.

Buffer

Allows you to set times that tweets will appear. I use 10 different times throughout the day. Then when I want to tweet something, I post it to buffer so that my tweets are spread out, instead of coming all at one time. This way I don’t have to enter in the time over and over again.

Newsletters

If you’re a speaker, you need a newsletter! Collect email addresses everywhere you go and send out a newsletter on a monthly basis to keep people updated. Don’t make it just about you; feature other articles as well.

And the best newsletter program I have found is:

MailChimp

Design gorgeous newsletters, keep track of all your subscribers, and keep amazing statistics on who opens, who clicks, and who are  your biggest fans!

One of the best features for speakers: You can send out a newsletter JUST to people who live in a certain area. So if you’re wanting to plan a speaking tour in Ohio, for instance, you can tell it to send out a newsletter to everyone who lives in Ohio, announcing that you’re coming to the area, and asking them to pass your information along to their church (or to send you the email of the contact person).

Once your tour is booked, you can then send an email to people who live in a specific city, saying, “I’m speaking next week! Come on by…” or whatever it may be.

Best of all, MailChimp is free if you have 2000 subscribers or less. It’s so easy to get started!

Photo Storage

Flickr

Flickr now lets you have a terabyte of free storage! Upload all of your speaking photos to flickr so that people can find you. If you upload them in the original quality it will take a while, but you’ll never lose them. Then if you ever need to send a high quality photo to someone for a poster, you can just send them a link to the photo and they can download it themselves. It’s really easy!

DropBox

I use Dropbox to store photos and videos, too. Let’s say that I’m at a speaking engagement and someone is taking tons of pictures. How am I going to get those pictures? I simply ask them to send them to me via Dropbox. It lets you share large quantities of files without having to email them. And it’s free–for a while. But the free space lasts a long time! You’d have to fill it with lots of photos before you have to start paying.

I also store my speaking talks and my PowerPoint on Dropbox (I store the notes on Evernote, too, but I like to put them in a variety of places in case something goes wrong).

Then, about a week before I speak, I simply “invite” the church to my folder with my PowerPoint in it, so their tech guy can upload the PowerPoint, make sure the video and audio is working, and have it all ready to go before I even get there. I find this reduces the stress on everyone.

It’s very easy to use–just like another folder on your hard drive. The only difference is that once you save files there, it syncs them up online so that you can always access them anywhere. Join Dropbox! It’s awesome.

Speaking Tools

You need two things when you speak: something to record your voice, and something to keep you from going on too long.

Kitchen Timer

It can be your best friend! Get a magnetic one and it will stick to the music stand when you’re speaking. You can either count backwards or count up. Some people try to rely on the clock on the back wall, or on a watch, but I’ve never found that works well. If you rely on a clock, you have to remember to actually look at it and remember what time it was when you started speaking. If you don’t do that, how will you know when 45 minutes are up? It’s easier to just have a timer that you can see easily!

Digital Voice Recorder and Microphone

Don’t ever forget to record yourself speaking! You can turn those recordings into video clips, audio promos, and even CDs you can sell.

The best quality one that I’ve found is the Olympus recorder, that also connects to your computer via a USB port, so you can easily transfer the files and edit them. You’ll need to also buy a separate microphone that hooks onto your lapel, but this is such a great tool. Ipods and iPhones will also record now, but the sound isn’t as good quality. I wish they’d come out with better microphones!

I hope that list helps! If you have any other questions about what I use for something, ask away, and I’ll keep updating this so it’s a great resource post.

Growing your speaking ministry means investing in great tools and great training. See Sheila’s download Treating Speaking as a Business to learn how applying professionalism to your speaking will actually give you great spiritual rewards for the kingdom.

My Daily Schedule for Blogging, Marketing and Speaking

My Daily Schedule Blogging, Speaking and MarketingRecently someone on Facebook asked me, “How do you do everything that you do?” And she suggested that I share my daily schedule with you all so that you can see how I get stuff done!

Great idea. So today I think I shall.

Now, I need to let you in on something first. My schedule changes every few months. Sometimes I find one method of organization works for me; and then all of a sudden it just doesn’t. So about two weeks ago I started my new schedule. How long this one will last, I don’t know, but I shall share it with you now since I’m doing it!

One of my problems that God has really been speaking to me about lately is that when you work from home it’s all too easy to let your work invade every aspect of your life–and never be able to shut off. I was finding that I was at my computer ten or eleven hours a day. Not always productively (sometimes I was just checking stats or sales, etc.), but I was there.

I had a hard time turning away from the computer because I kept thinking of things I should be doing.

But then I realized an important lesson:

There are always more things to do.

You will never be “done”.

And so if I will never be done, no matter how hard I work, then it’s important for me to put my family first.

So I’ve instituted a “stopping” time for my work. I now stop work at 12:30 and get lunch, and then spend the afternoon checking over my teenage daughter’s schoolwork (we homeschool), cleaning the house, running errands, and generally just living.

So here’s what my day looks like:

Blogging, Social Media, Newsletters, etc.

7-9 a.m.

I get up at 7, shortly after my husband does, and while still in my p.j.’s (and often while still in bed :) ) I make sure my blog posts are good to go for that day, tend to all my emails, and schedule all my social media. I also check up on any orders that came in yesterday, update all my reports (I never used to do this; it made tax time a nightmare, so now I write everything down everyday as it happens), and check on new subscribers to my newsletters.

Let me boil that down a little more.

My main blog is To Love, Honor and Vacuum, where I talk about marriage, sex, and parenting. I get about 300,000 unique visits a month, so it’s quite a large blog, and it takes a lot of upkeep.

I write a post daily. I like to have most of these scheduled in advance, so I’m not working on today’s post in the morning, but working ahead. I try to post one guest post a week to cut down on my writing time, and then I post my weekly column on Fridays. On Saturday I answer a reader question. I get TONS of emails everyday from readers, and I just can’t answer them all. I’ve had to learn to say no. But I do take one email and turn it into a post.

What helps with this: WordPress Editorial Calendar plugin. It’s amazing! It lets me schedule posts ahead of time, and even just write in the title of a post that I want to write coming up, even if I have no content yet. Great to plan your blog!

During that 7-9 period I also try to update any outstanding advertising I have to take care of (I have to bill people for advertising, and recruit people to advertise in my newsletters, and there are always multiple emails going on about that).

Social media is the big task that many of you may wonder about. What do I mean by “scheduling”?

Well, let me detail it for you exactly:

1. I post four times a day to my Facebook Page.

  • First thing in the morning I post my “From the Older Post that Was Pinned Last Night Files”, and post something that was pinned. This helps people see my older posts.
  • Around noon I post a question. This tends to get lots of answers, and the more people engage with you, the more likely your posts show up in their newsfeed.
  • Around 3 I post a link to my blog post.
  • Around 8-9 I post a graphic.

I’ve been playing around with those times a bit, but that seems to be what works.

But I don’t actually POST at those times. I schedule them. I go into Hootsuite and post all four things at once, so that they’re all set to go on autopilot. Hootsuite helps you schedule your Facebook updates so that you can send them all at one time.

2. I post 10 times a day to my Twitter Account

I have a list I keep called “Tweets to Buffer”.

What’s Buffer? It’s a really cool Twitter app that lets you decide what ten times you want to tweet throughout the day. Then you just “add stuff to your buffer”, and it sends it out at those times. What makes it cool is that you don’t have to keep loading in the times you want things to go out; you just put the next tweet in, and then the next tweet, and it’s scheduled for you.

In Evernote (a great place for storing notes or lists or anything you want to have handy that’s super searchable) I have a list of about 100 tweets that I want to go out fairly regularly, talking about different products, or highlighting neat quotations. So I add my post for the day into Buffer three times, to go out throughout the day, and then I just cut and paste seven more.

The whole thing takes maybe 3 minutes.

3. Pin some posts on Pinterest

Then I try to go into Pinterest and repin a few pins, and pin today’s post. But sometimes I do that later in the day as well because it’s actually more effective to pin in the afternoon. So I do cheat on that one.

Breakfast, Shower, Etc.

9-9:30

Then, to the tune of March of the Bumblebees in my head, I try to have a shower, make my bed, get dressed, and grab some breakfast. I can usually do this in half an hour.

I used to try to do my devotions during this time period, but it never seemed to work. I couldn’t concentrate because something was always pulling at me, or the kids were just getting up. I’ve now switched it so that I read my Bible last thing at night, and then hubby and I read something together. I’m not sure if that will work long term, but it’s one of the new things I’m trying!

Big Task for the Day

9:30-12:30

Now I have a three hour blog to get something big done. On Mondays I write my weekly column (though I try to only take about 45 minutes to do that. You can read this week’s here.)

On Wednesdays I try to write my guest posts for that month. I used to write a lot of guest posts; I’m now a regular contributor at two different sites (Happy Wives Club and The Unveiled Wife), and I’m going to stop regular writing gigs at other blogs. I just don’t have the time. But guest posts are a great way to get known and to reach outside your niche, so I try to reach out to other websites every week.

Other than those two regular features this is the time where I get my big projects done. Some examples of things on my to-do list for the next few months during these hours, for instance, would be:

  • Updating my shopping cart system on my blog
  • Editing CDs and videos of talks I’ve given over the last four months to turn some into products and some into YouTube videos or clips
  • Writing a book proposal based on one my blog posts that went viral
  • Writing the second edition of To Love, Honor and Vacuum (my first book, it was published in 2003. The publisher just sent me a contract to update it).
  • Writing an ebook that I want to launch in the fall
  • Organizing all of my notes for speaking engagements that are coming up and making sure that I have enough inventory for the book table

Other things I’ve recently used that 3 hour block to do:

  • Launch a new newsletter. I’ll be telling you about that in an upcoming post!
  • Redo the design on my blog

What don’t I do?

You may notice that there’s nothing in there about booking speaking engagements. That’s because I’ve just hired an assistant who takes care of all the incoming speaking requests and coordinates things for me. She follows up and sends out the contracts, and saves me a lot of time.

When I know I’m going to be in Michigan, for instance, I ask her to contact all the MOPS groups in the area and see if they want to hear me speak. And I have her send out an email to everyone on my list who lives in Michigan to see if they can get their church to have me speak so that I can turn it into a tour. So everyday I send her out tasks to do, but I don’t do them myself anymore.

I also don’t have anything in there about writing my newsletters, and yet I send out about 6 different ones a month. I’ve hired a different assistant who does my newsletters, makes my graphics if I need more, formats my column post and my reader question post and any guest posts (I send her the text, she uploads it all for me), and other things like that.

Again, she saves me time.

It’s been expensive having assistants, but I’ve also found that in the time that I used to spend doing some of these tasks I’ve instead looked into creating more products and getting more advertising, so I’ve been able to use my time for more effective things.

Afternoon–Family Time

Then I just quit. At 12:30 the computer goes off. I do check email throughout the day because I have to; often there are emergencies or quick questions (especially from my assistants) that I just have to answer. But I don’t work anymore.

The work will still be there the next day.

And I’ve been finding that by having a deadline–I know I have to stop work at 12:30–I get so much more done.

So that’s it–that’s my daily schedule! What do you find works to organize your time? Or what app do you find has been the most helpful? Let me know!

If you want to try to get a better handle on where you should be spending your time, my audio download Treating Speaking Like a Business can help. It enables you to prioritize, tells you how to make goals and measure them, and gives you a system for figuring out where your time would be most productively spent. Check it out here.

I’m Back–And I’d Like to Help You Build Your Speaking Ministry

Sheila Wray Gregoire speaking

Hello, everybody!

It’s been almost a year since I’ve posted in this blog, although lots of you have still been reading posts! I’m sorry about that. I’ve been busy with two book launches in 2012, and building up my marriage blog (I went from 10,000 monthly visitors to 350,000 monthly visitors last year), so my life has been a bit crazy.

But speaker training is a passion of mine, and so now that I’ve got things on autopilot a little bit more over there, I’d like to spend more time here, hopefully publishing a post or two every week on how to build your ministry, and be more effective at that ministry.

I already have quite the archives on this blog, but I’ve had a backlog of questions on Facebook I want to get to, like how do I get organized to build up a speaking ministry? I’m already busy, so I’m afraid to market in case I get too many requests. How do I figure out how much to share, when my story involves so many other people? Or just how can I get people to think of me as a speaker?

I’d love to tackle some of those coming up!

I thought first, though, that I’d let you in on some of the changes that have happened in my life, so you can also know where I’m coming from.

For years I’ve been doing the typical speaking ministry: you start with single night events, like outreaches, or women’s dinners at churches. You move on to do some weekend retreats. And then it grows from there, as you get bigger churches, and bigger retreats, and denominational conferences.

In 2008 I joined the team at Girls Night Out, hosted by World Vision, and that was a blessing because they did the booking! I’d do the same event and the same talk in different churches, but it was all coordinated for me. I felt really spoiled! But I fell in love with doing an “event”–a night that you bring to churches which looks pretty much the same, but is professionally done.

Girl Talk backdropThis last year my life has changed again. My book The Good Girl’s Guide to Great Sex came out with Zondervan, which is a major Christian publisher. My blog grew. And I decided it was time to create my own event, where I spoke about sex. And so this year I’ve concentrated on a very different kind of speaking. Instead of general inspiration speaking, I’ve done a targeted night.

In some ways I miss sharing my complete testimony, but in others I’m excited about the new opportunities coming my way.

But I’ve also learned this year, for the first time, that I really need to invest in myself. For years I’ve gotten by on minimal marketing, generating word of mouth when I speak (and I still absolutely believe that this is the best route to build your speaking ministry!) At some point, though, if you want to grow, you sometimes have to actually invest. And so I’ve hired people to help with booking, and I’m in the process of designing a backdrop and tablecloths and other accessories to make my whole night streamlined. This is really far out of my comfort zone–I HATE spending money on marketing (hence why I’ve always tried to teach you all to do it for free!). So I’ve had to open up my wallet and trust that God will bring the investment back.

So that’s where I’ve been. And I’m excited about the new phase in my life, but I also want to get back to helping others grow their ministries, because truthfully, there just aren’t enough women who are engaging and inspirational and speak well. So let’s learn together, and let’s turn the world on fire for Him!

As I launch forward and start writing this blog again, I’d love to know what you want to hear more about. So if you could answer this question for me in the comments, it would help me a great deal in planning future blog posts that will actually be helpful to you all:

The most frustrating thing about my speaking ministry is…….

Thank you all so much!

And if you want to learn how to get more bookings WITHOUT spending a fortune on marketing, my webinar How to Get Better Bookings can help!

Should We Wait for God to Open Doors For Us To Speak?

I received this email recently, which is quite typical of the questions I often get:

I’ve done a lot of speaking at women’s events in my church and other local events, and have always been very well received. I’m comfortable leading and teaching women, often using stories from my own life, what God’s teaching me through the messes I’ve made, and just the challenges of everyday life. My kids are grown and I want to use my time and talents to minister, as you say on your website, strategically.

What’s holding me back is that I’m wondering if the Lord should confirm this desire through an opportunity or invitation, as He has in the past, or if I should move forward and start making things happen, myself? A mentor of mine, who has published a couple of books and speaks/ministers widely himself, once said that he has always allowed the Lord to open doors to ministry.

Waiting on the Lord for direction is foundational, but I also believe I’ll be called to account for the talents I’ve been entrusted with, however great or small they may be…would you have any insights to share with me on this?

Here’s my quick answer:

That’s a tough one, and I know where you’re coming from. I guess the way that I’d think about it is this:

If God has seriously given you a message to share, then He wants you to share it. And you can’t share it unless people know about you. So you have to get the word out.

Should God be solely responsible for getting the word out? If we leave it entirely to Him, then it’s as if we’re saying, “I don’t really want to participate with You in this, Lord. You have to do all the work, or else I won’t step out in faith.”

So you’re basically doing a Gideon thing, asking God to prove Himself. But if God has really called you, then He wants you to go forward.

God has opened many doors for me, but they have usually come after I have also stepped forward in faith that this is what God is calling me to. When I received a book contract, for instance, it was only after approaching an agent, writing a book proposal, and praying a lot. I didn’t wait for a publisher to come to me.

I understand people who say that God should open all doors, and that is the way that it works for some. But in my experience, we also should play a role. God wants us to step forward in faith, and if He has a message for you to share, He wants you to share it.

What do you think? Let’s talk!

What Does Trusting God with Marketing Look Like?

'Signs on the former Megabowl, Pershore Street, Birmingham - Wimpy - sign' photo (c) 2010, Elliott Brown - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/I have a confession to make.

I’ve always been a wimp when it comes to trusting God with marketing.

You probably are, too. Most of us suffer from this illness. We sit back and say:

I trust God to grow my ministry.

How is that wimpy, you say? Well, let me illustrate by telling you a story.

I started my main marriage and parenting blog in March of 2008. I decided it was time to get on the blogging bandwagon if I wanted to build a platform for my writing in the area of marriage. And so I began to blog. Pretty soon I was getting around 200 readers a day. But then, about two years into blogging, I hit 400 readers a day. And I couldn’t budge it. Occasionally I’d get a big surge where I hit 700 readers, but that was it.

At the beginning of November, I attended a marketing conference with my agent. I asked, “how many readers do publishers want for a blog? What should our traffic be if we want our blog to be considered a good platform?” And the answer came back, “1000 a day. Or 30,000 a month.

30,000 a month? That was huge! I was excited when I hit 12,000. And I had a book coming out in March (The Good Girl’s Guide to Great Sex). I wanted to get up to that point by March. But how could I do that? That’s more than doubling my traffic in just three months, when I had spent years trying to get my traffic going. I had guest posted. I had left comments at other people’s blogs. I had participated in link ups. And nothing.

But I decided to try something radical. I decided to pray for actual numbers. So I said,

God, I need 30,000 people by the end of February. I don’t know how you’re going to do it, but I pray that you will bring me that traffic.

In December I was discovered by reddit, a bookmarking site. I had 60,000 visitors in December.

But that was a fluke, I thought. I’ll never hit anything like that again!

Here’s my traffic since then:

Now, if you’re trying to simply get speaking engagements, you absolutely do not need 1000 people on your website a day. I needed it because I was trying to build a platform to sell a book, and that’s something different.

But here’s what I learned, and this is what I really want to impress on people: Sometimes we mistake the wimpy for the godly.

For instance, which is more godly to say?

I put my marketing entirely in your hands, God. I know you have my ministry in Your hands, and so I trust you.

Or,

God, I believe you have brought me to this place. I believe that You want me to grow my ministry. So I pray that you will bring people to me, and that you will give me opportunities to reach more and more. I pray that I will have (3 retreats this year, 2 paying engagements, a book contract, whatever it may be for you), and if that’s not Your will, reveal it to me soon, because I want to spend the time that you have given me in the best way for Your kingdom.

You see, I prayed the first prayer for years. But what I was really doing was giving God an out. I was saying, “If you want me to grow, I will, but if You don’t, I won’t.” It wasn’t a prayer of faith; it was a cop out.

And when we pray like that, I think we’re less likely to actively market ourselves, because we figure that God should do it for us. And if God doesn’t, then it wasn’t meant to be. But what if it was meant to be, but God needed you to wrestle through, and trust Him, and step forward?

I think it demonstrates far more trust in God if we step forward in faith in our ministry, believing that God has brought us to this point, than if we hide in the back, and say, “God will make it happen if He wants it to.”

This is not a “name it and claim it” thing I mean, because I don’t believe in “name it and claim it”. But I do believe that if God has called you to something, He wants you to do it. He wants you to be a full participant. He wants you to believe in that calling. And if He hasn’t called you, then it’s good to wrestle that through and figure that out anyway.

Lately I’ve been so busy with the release of my book that I haven’t posted very much, and I’m sorry about that. I’m hoping to get back to things soon. But I thought that I would leave you with these things that have been spilling around my head, and ask you: what do you think? What does trusting God with marketing mean to you?

 

Use Your Words: Networking to Build Your Women’s Speaking Ministry

'Women's Business Social 051' photo (c) 2011, Jodi Womack - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/

I’m a little late getting up the recording for my Use Your Words show last week, where I talked about how to network to build speaking engagements. Sorry about that!

But here are some key thoughts that I gave:

1. Don’t Ignore People you Know in Real Life

Talk to your friends. Chances are they know people who are influential in large churches in your surrounding area–even if they don’t go there themselves. Make a list of all your friends and figure out who, among your friends and acquaintances, knows the most people. And then ask for introductions! The more you meet people in real life, the more likely it is that people will hire.

Speaking of real life, network with those who minister to the same niche you do, even if they don’t speak. If you want to speak to teenagers, for instance, get to know the people who run Youth For Christ in your area. Get to know youth pastors. Get to know the person who does the youth show on your local Christian radio station. Meet for coffee, and keep in touch. That helps keep you fresh in people’s minds.

2. Remind your Facebook Friends that you Speak

Every so often, put out an update announcing that you’re working on a new talk, or that you’ve just landed a speaking engagement, or that you’re looking for a speaking engagement in a particular town. The more those you know in real life think of you as a speaker, the more likely they are to recommend you.

3. Use LinkedIn

LinkedIn is very useful for professional contacts. If you get on LinkedIn, you can find other speakers, women’s ministry leaders, denominational leaders, Christian media personalities, and more. Those are the kinds of people it’s good to get to know. Join LinkedIn groups they’re in. Participate in conversations. Keep track of those you really want to get to know better, and when you find something online that may interest them, forward it.

There’s lots more in the actual show, so make sure to listen in!

Use Your Words: How Effective is Social Media in Getting Speaking Engagements?

'' photo (c) 2009, Alex - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/

Every Tuesday when I’m not away speaking I try to host my Use Your Words BlogTalkRadio show at noon EST! And today’s topic was suggested by Jamie Blahun, who commented on my Facebook Page, asking how to manage the time that you spend on social media. You can listen to the thirty minute show right here.

Here are some highlights:

1. Think About Your Goal

If your goal is to get speaking engagements, then you need to devote your time online to the things that are most likely to do that. And remember the path that people usually take when booking a speaker:

  • Someone’s name is suggested
  • They Google that person
  • They read their information and watch videos
  • Then they contact them

In other words, the vast majority of speaking engagements will be secured because someone mentioned your name, and then they checked you out online.

If you do not have a good website that explains what you speak about, and that has a lot of photos of you speaking, it is unlikely you will be hired.

Thus, your main goal is to create a website that is likely to get you speaking engagements. The best way to do that is to create a high quality one that includes video, and to keep in contact through newsletters with people that have already heard you speak (so as to get referrals).

2. Facebook and Twitter are Really Peripheral to this

Yes, everyone needs to be on Facebook. Not everyone needs to be on Twitter. But when it comes to speaking engagements, if you have a limited amount of time to devote online, the priority really should be in getting your website top-notch and then in keeping in contact with people that you have spoken to through newsletters.

The problem with both Facebook and Twitter is that they are not geographically specific, and when you are looking to get speaking engagements, geography matters, especially when you’re starting out, because few churches have the money to fly someone in. So you want to get well known in a small geographical area. That’s not really Facebook and Twitter’s forte.

Does that mean that you can ignore them? No. But I certainly wouldn’t put so much time into Twitter and getting thousands of followers that I neglected to put up good videos on my website. Honestly, videos come first, along with keeping in touch with those who already know you. Getting to know strangers is helpful, but it’s secondary.

3. When You’re On Twitter and Facebook, Remember the Purpose

If you do want to spend time on Facebook and Twitter, make sure that you do so with an eye to creating your “brand”. If you want to be known as a women’s speaker about deep spiritual issues, don’t dedicate your Twitter feed to how hard it is to housetrain your new puppy. Don’t put lots up on Facebook about your family’s move, or the trouble you’re having with your new kitchen renovation. These things may be interesting to you, but they aren’t to people who don’t know you personally, and they will cause those people to tune you out.

The key to social media is not to confuse people. People will pay more careful attention to you if they know what you tend to talk about. They start to expect, “oh, she’ll have a pithy thing to say about doing your devotions”, or, “I know she’ll say something neat about prayer.” If you come out and talk politics, you’ll throw them off.

So stick to your brand, no matter how passionate  you are about other things. And then find other people who speak about the same things, and follow them and participate in conversations. As you grow relationships, you’re more likely to get recommendations.

4. Don’t Ignore LinkedIn

As we talked about last week on the show, LinkedIn can be  useful for getting to know people who work in women’s ministry and specifically want more women’s ministry ideas. If you can find groups on LinkedIn to join that have to do with evangelism to women, women’s ministry, women’s retreats, or anything like that, and then you participate in those conversations, you’ll get better known. But if the group is huge, and only two or three people ever participate anything, then chances are that group isn’t worth your time.

5. Set Parameters

Finally, take a look at your social media efforts and decide how much time it’s reasonable for you to spend a day. Then get a kitchen timer and set it for that amount of time, and count down. When you’re done, you’re done. No more feeling guilty.

Another thing that can help are the automatic scheduling programs. Hootsuite, for instance, can schedule your Tweets and Facebook updates to appear throughout the day, so you can schedule everything in the morning and then leave it for the day. That can save you tremendous time!

Look, everyone is on Facebook and Twitter and LinkedIn and Pinterest, but they’re on it for different reasons, and those reasons don’t always add up to helping you get speaking engagements. So judge what really would be the most useful, and what your goal is, and concentrate on the areas that will bring you the best rewards! Listen in the whole show here.

If you want some more help in marketing your speaking ministry, my teleseminar, Treating Speaking as a Business, helps you prioritize your efforts!

Use Your Words: Marketing Your Book

'Bookstore' photo (c) 2009, Martin Cathrae - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/

Every Tuesday at noon EST when I’m not speaking, I host a BlogTalkRadio show dedicated specifically to speaking! This week we went off the reservation a bit to talk not just about speaking, but also about how to market your book.

Normally I just do a condensed version of the show on the blog, so that people can catch what they missed listening to, and I’ll try to do that here, too. But I’ve got to tell you, this show was packed with really useful ideas, and so you really need to listen!

Here, though, is the nutshell version:

The key to marketing is not to create an audience for your book. It’s not even to bring the audience to you. The key to marketing is to figure out where your audience already is, and then go and stand in front of them!

You basically have two main circles of influence to do that in. You have those people that you know in person and will meet in person, and you have the online world. You can’t ignore either sphere. The people that you know personally you have a deeper relationship with, and you’re more likely to be able to sell to them. But they’re such a small proportion of the population. You also need to reach out to the masses. So you need a wide reach on one hand, and a deep reach on the other. Let’s look at how to handle both these groups:

A. Marketing to Your Personal Spheres of Influence

1. Ask your friends for help

Send out an email to your friends announcing your new book. But don’t JUST announce your new book. Figure out who the main reader of the book will be, and what their main problem is. Is it young Christian moms? Is it recovering alcoholics? Is it men who have just been through a divorce?

In your email, say this clearly, like this:

“I know single, Christian women will really appreciate this book. Can you do me a favour and forward this email to FIVE single, Christian women that you know? Thanks so much!”

Ironically, naming a number, like five, makes it far more likely that the email will be forwarded. If you just say, “forward this email to single, Christian women” people won’t do it, because they don’t have an easy way to measure how big a task that is. Specify a number, and they’ll do it!

2. Figure out Where People Meet

What is the main problem your book is addressing? Or if it isn’t addressing a problem (let’s say it’s a women’s devotional), then think about the key people in your niche, and ask what problems they have.

Here’s why: people are more likely to meet to solve a problem then just to be together. So you have support groups for everything under the sun. Figure that out, and then contact those groups.

B. The Online World

The online world works on RELATIONSHIPS, not on marketing. If you start a blog, or start a Facebook page or a Twitter account where your main goal is to sell your book, and you make this obvious, you won’t be successful.

For your presence to be felt online, you have to participate in conversations that are already occurring. So start a blog where you talk about the problems your niche group faces (again, people are more likely to go online looking for answers to problems).

Then find people on Twitter who talk about those problems. Identify two or three good influences, and look at who they follow. Chances are they will follow people similar to your niche. Follow them, too.

Then just start participating in conversations. Share great YouTube videos. Retweet people. Put up interesting content.

Yes, you can share your book, but it is actually better to develop a relationship first, so that you stand out in the crowd and you build goodwill.

For instance, I once saw a tweet from a woman who was looking for a specific knitting pattern. I knew where to find it, and I tweeted her the link. It took me about 45 seconds. Now I love to knit, but my books have nothing to do with knitting. But that woman was so grateful, and she remembered me, that now she retweets almost everything I post about marriage. I made a connection by doing something helpful.

That sounds like a lot of work, you say. Yep. It does. But that’s what online marketing is. Try to schedule a little bit of time everyday to read through people’s tweets and respond, and to post interesting stuff on Facebook. If people think of you as someone who collects information in your niche, they’re more likely to listen to you when you talk about your book!

That’s the quick synopsis of the show, but there is so much more there. So listen in to this 30 minute recording, and take notes!

And if you want to know more about how to build an online community, my download, Build Your Online Community, is invaluable!

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 960 other followers

%d bloggers like this: