We talked about blogging, content marketing, search engines, web design, freelancing, creativity, The Blogsmith, and her projects with Maddy Osman.
Our guest today is Maddy Osman from Denver, CO, USA. She is the Founder of The Blogsmith. She helps businesses grow traffic and sales with content marketing. She is working with various businesses to optimize their online presence with specific goals. She is a talented copywriter, SEO content strategist, and blogger.
Welcome to Worth Of Web Academy!
Please tell our readers about yourself. We would like to learn more about your background and your life before starting your own company.
It all started with a childhood nerd hobby—web design. I was self-taught at age 11, and was able to turn the skill into a job upon entering college. I eventually developed a passion for content creation. The intersection of these two different fields happened when I started to look into SEO as a way to promote a blog I was working on. After two corporate sales jobs out of college, I found myself fed up with waiting for someone to give me a chance in a marketing role, and quit to freelance. A year later, I made things official by incorporating my business as The Blogsmith LLC.
Could you tell us more about your company? Which services does The Blogsmith provide? Do you have a team or do you work alone?
The Blogsmith LLC is spearheaded by me, but I employ contractors to help with various tasks to help keep things running behind the scenes. The services I provide tend to fall under the following main categories:
It’s hard to put my services in a box, as I’ve also been hired to do things like optimize LinkedIn profiles (mine gets a lot of compliments), and create a Pinterest SEO strategy (with amazing results in just the first few days of launch!).
There is a street art concept on the website and social media channels of The Blogsmith. Is there a story behind this graffiti-inspired look?
It all started with a trip to Europe, my “grand tour” after graduating high school. I was taken in by the street art styles ever-present all over Spain. I furiously snapped pictures all over the country, and did some research regarding the most prevalent artists. After studying abroad in Barcelona, traveling to Berlin and moving to Chicago, I found myself constantly joining in on (or creating my own) street art tours.
There’s something about this form of art that really speaks to me. It’s raw, it’s real, it’s edgy, and it’s beautiful. By aligning myself with street art, I hope to associate these qualities with my personal brand.
What does a typical work day look like for you? Which projects are high-priority?
The short answer? There is no typical day! And I tend to go opposite the typical productivity advice of starting with the most important deliverable first. More often than not, I procrastinate by doing a bunch of other things first, but making sure that I don’t go to sleep until the important but difficult things have been completed to satisfaction. Probably not the best strategy, and not something that works for everyone, but it works for me!
At any rate, a “typical” day might involve writing a few articles, pitching for a few new projects, and jumping on sales calls with people who’ve indicated an interest in working with me. I try to spend some time working on my personal brand, but that’s definitely not an everyday thing (as much as I wish I had the time!). Sometimes there’s a networking event or physical meeting I’ve committed to attending thrown in the mix, but in general, this represents a good snapshot of what I deal with on a regular basis.
“Gain trust, build credibility, and become an authority in your niche.” This is a common piece of advice, a good one but hard to achieve. You have an email course called “Using Content Marketing to Build Thought Leadership”. How to be a thought leader in your field using content marketing? What to expect after you become an authority, what are the benefits?
For all the answers to this question, you’ll have to subscribe to the course. 😉 But to answer your question regarding the benefits of becoming an industry authority, they are numerous. Here are a few to pique your interest in the subject:
- Ability to grow social following more rapidly
- An ease in connecting with other industry influencers to find collaborative opportunities
- Building trust with your target audience (necessary to invoke buying behavior)
You have another course on Skillshare: “How to Write a Kick-Ass Blog Post”. Could you share some secrets from the course? What does it take to write a great blog post?
It all comes down to having a process in place that you follow zealously, for every article you write. Being tempted to cut corners will result in a totally not kick-ass blog post, so know your own weaknesses. As stated above, for the full run down (and access to some helpful templates that I use for my own projects!), you’ll have to enroll in the course!
“I don’t think all successful bloggers understand SEO, which might seem crazy, but many bloggers get by on building their audience through their social platforms. If you’re a hit on social media, you don’t need to worry so much about SEO best practices. I can’t tell you how many of my blogger friends stare back blankly when I share tactics for effective on-site SEO.”
– Maddy Osman
I believe creativity can be a problem for even the most talented copywriters and bloggers like yourself. You are producing content for various companies regularly. Are there days when you feel not creative enough? How to overcome writer’s block?
I think I feel a lack of creativity more often than not. Sometimes I work too hard, and that takes some of the joy out of my passion. Whenever I start to feel this way, I recognize that it may be necessary to step away from work for awhile and get a new, fresh perspective. Oftentimes, when I give myself that break, I come back to my writing refreshed and ready to go!
But part of beating writer’s block relates to not coming to a project empty handed. My team helps me with research and outline preparation, and I’m constantly tracking ideas for various clients and topics on Trello.
You taught yourself basic web design at age 11. How much has the web design and development landscape changed since you started? What are the current trends that caught your attention? What is on top of your to-do list when your clients want you to create/develop a website?
When I first started using the internet, it was dial up and Netscape. I think it’s safe to say that the entire field has completely changed since I first taught myself HTML and CSS! For example, I used to code websites on Notepad, and upload files on Dreamweaver. Now, I’m more apt to use a content management system to streamline my efforts. As far as design, the focus is now on minimalism instead of flashiness.
When it comes to starting a new website project with a client, it starts with a thorough needs discovery. From there, I can suggest design possibilities and other information regarding implementation.
We need to write content both humans and search engines love. Do all successful bloggers have in-depth knowledge of search engine marketing and optimization? What are some best practices and common mistakes in SEM and SEO?
I don’t think all successful bloggers understand SEO, which might seem crazy, but many bloggers get by on building their audience through their social platforms. If you’re a hit on social media, you don’t need to worry so much about SEO best practices. I can’t tell you how many of my blogger friends stare back blankly when I share tactics for effective on-site SEO.
The same could probably be extrapolated for a brand trying to be effective with content marketing. A great social presence can make it possible to find success without SEO. That said, why not incorporate SEO best practices into your content marketing to give it extra wings? Optimizing for SEO also helps to capture searchers in different areas of a buyer’s funnel, based on their keyword use.
As far as best practices with SEO (and fixing common mistakes), my articles for Search Engine Journal go in-depth on a number of important topics.
“The biggest piece of advice I can give to someone who wants to start their own business is to plan out your exit well ahead of it happening, and making sure you have some money to fall back on if it takes awhile to build up your client base. Ultimately, if you have the hustle, you’ll find a way to make it work. If you’re not motivated, it may all explode in your face.”
– Maddy Osman
Are you using any digital marketing and productivity tools? Any apps which are indispensable for you? Do you have any special methods and techniques to increase your productivity?
I wrote a complete guide on all the tools I use, and how I use them: 150+ resources for starting an online business.
Who are your biggest clients and which services do you provide to them?
For my biggest clients, the service usually has to do with content marketing in some way. Some of my biggest clients include Sprout Social, Search Engine Journal, GoDaddy, Adobe, AT&T, and WPMU DEV.
What were the worst moments of your freelancing career? Any client horror stories?
One of the biggest pieces of advice that I can share for aspiring freelancers is to always have an ironclad contract before starting work, and to get a downpayment on an assignment or project. This helps to “train” the client that you mean business, and that non-payment is not an option.
This advice stems from some of my own client non-payment issues. To read about two that really ruined my week awhile back, check out this post I wrote on LinkedIn Pulse called How to Argue Eloquently.
That said, some of the worst moments of freelancing have to do with clients who unexpectedly terminate their contracts, without much explanation, and with nothing that can be done on my end. It can be hard to bounce back, but I actually wrote an article about that, too!
What about highlights of your freelance adventure: the proudest moments?
My proudest moments are associated with being able to work with big names in digital marketing, and achieving awesome results on the content I create and the projects I take on. If I bring success to my clients, I’m also associated with that success.
Imagine the first days of your freelancing career; what do you wish you had done differently? What do you recommend to someone who wants to be an entrepreneur?
The biggest piece of advice I can give to someone who wants to start their own business is to plan out your exit well ahead of it happening, and making sure you have some money to fall back on if it takes awhile to build up your client base. I detail some of the steps I took (and also some steps I wish I had taken) for Sophie Lizard in my piece about quitting your job to freelance full-time. Ultimately, if you have the hustle, you’ll find a way to make it work. If you’re not motivated, it may all explode in your face. It helps to test the waters with a low-risk side gig before committing to full-time freelancing.
“It all comes down to having a process in place that you follow zealously, for every article you write. Being tempted to cut corners will result in a totally not kick-ass blog post, so know your own weaknesses.”
– Maddy Osman
You have a lifestyle blog for young urbanites on a budget. Please tell more about this project. It was first called “Chicago Cheap Ass”, then you rebranded it as “Urban Cheap Ass”. Why did you decide to change its name?
Chicago Cheap Ass was my first real foray into content marketing. Besides writing, it was an experiment in my ability to promote the project. It served as the catalyst to help me go full-time as a freelancer. I eventually renamed it to “Urban Cheap Ass” because of a move to Denver. Not knowing where the future would take me, I chose a location-agnostic name so I wouldn’t ever have to rebrand again!
Which events do you attend or help to organize? How to network effectively and get the most out of an event?
Networking effectively is an art developed over time, but check out this piece I wrote for the Freelancers Union about how to get excited about a networking event.
You have a new eCommerce project called “Tanks That Get Around”. What is next for you? Any new ideas or projects to pursue?
I really want to see Tanks That Get Around become something. E-commerce is a new area of focus for me, but I’m confident that my well-rounded digital marketing knowledge can help guide me through the ups and downs!
In addition to a focus on e-commerce, I’m also looking more into course creation. A lot of freelancers and aspiring freelancers reach out to me with questions, and I’ve acted as an unofficial mentor to many. I want to take what I’ve learned in building a successful business, and help others to do the same. Besides my Skillshare course, my first “big” course is going to be called “Teach Me How to WordPress”, which will teach new users how to create and update a basic WordPress website!
Is there a book, movie, event, workshop, etc., that changed your life? Any suggestions? Do you have mentors, idols or role models?
My mentor is Brent Jones, a freelancer turned author. His guidance and motivation convinced me to take the leap from corporate life to full-time freelancer. I don’t know that I would be where I am today without him!
As far as a book that changed my life, I can’t help but think of “How to Win Friends and Influence People” by Dale Carnegie. Regardless of your professional or personal life, there are lessons that can apply to anyone.