One of the things that I think happens to a lot of us is we get stuck in worker mode. We are all basically brought up, trained, educated, at least here in the US, to get an education, go work for somebody else, climb the corporate ladder.
We're always taught that that's what is going to make us happy. That's what's going to fulfill us. For a lot of us entrepreneur types, we sort of find out that the opposite is true. That going to the office and working for somebody 50, 60, 70 hours a week...going to the grindstone and not really getting ahead, that we feel like we are missing out on life. We feel like we are missing out on our relationships, and more importantly missing out on our passions and the things that we love to do.
We always like to talk about how we can move and make that transition from the rat race into something for ourselves, that allows us to be fulfilled. My guest today is Angela Ford, who is a digital marketing strategist and author. What I love about Angela is that she is big into the self publishing and she's big into the relationship marketing.
I love the way that she pursued her passions. I wanted to have her on here to tell her story, get you caught up on where's she's been, how she got to where she is, and then we'll talk about some cool marketing stuff. Angela, I'm super excited to have you here. If you could fill in people with some of the gaps on how you ended up where you are at and maybe even give them a little glimpse into your publishing and the things that you are doing there.
Angela Ford: Great. Thank you so much Lance. There is a huge back story right there and now I'll try not to get too detailed with it. Basically I grew up as a creative person. My parents were musicians so naturally I took up music. I have four sisters so we had a band together when we were kids. Back when we were in high school, we toured around, played in different churches, we played battle of the bands, we played at theme parks. We just had a lot of fun with that. One of the big things that my parents really encouraged was learning and reading. They were huge on reading. Anytime we were bored, we never got to sit around and watch TV or play video games. It was always like it's raining outside so you cannot go out there, so here's a book to read. I just became kind of obsessed with stories. They take you to a different world.
Anything is possible
I really wanted to write my own stories to create a new fantasy world where anything is possible, where you don't have to say wait that person couldn't fly like that because that's impossible, that's not realistic. I wanted to do something that was crazy and insane and that did not necessarily rely on the normal rules of this world and gravity and all of that. That was my original dream.
I started writing when I was twelve years old. I wrote five novels. Then I stepped back and let them sit. They weren't that great but the storyline was fantastic. After that I kind of forgot about writing, moved on, did the normal things, graduated from high school, went to college.
I stayed with the more creative side and ended up studying music business, so I got a degree in entertainment and music business which was a really fun degree. A lot of great things happened in classes, it was a lot of fun. I remember one class we ended up watching music videos, because that was what we had to learn.
That was the fun side. On the other hand it was kind of funny because when I was looking at that degree I did not realize that it had so much business. I could go watch music videos and then my next class was finance.
But it all comes together full circle. After I graduated from college I worked in several different industries. I was in non-profit, I was in health care, I was in software. But I really wanted to get back to the things that I was passionate about, that got me excited, that made me want to stay up all night long and jump out of bed in the morning.
That's when I decided to pull out my old books from when I was twelve years old and rewrite them. That was a massive project, I worked on that. It took me about two years to rewrite the first one. It wasn't something that I did every single day but I decided to set aside time every single week and get to the point where I'm writing more. It started out where I was writing maybe 100 words, nothing big or exciting. Some days I would write a sentence, some days I write more. All of sudden it would be so easy to turn out 1,000 words. That turned into the book. I had beta readers that came in, read it and gave me recommendations. I had an editor who went through and did the editing for it. After that, I finally got through and officially published it. It came out September 9, 2015.
The reaction to that was phenomenal. I was blown away because it was a passion project. I really wrote that book for myself and for my sisters. That really was the initial audience so I wasn't too worried about marketability, and appearing to the larger fantasy genre. I wrote this book and I want it to be published. I want people to be able to say I want to read a copy of your book and I say here you go, you can read it.
Business is a Marathon
Lance Tamashiro: I have been fascinated as you've been talking and taking notes here, the first thing is how cool that you wrote a book, or a series of books at age twelve. You put it away and then got to come back to it later. I think that as adults we don't think like that. In a big way it's really sad that we lose that, but I mean how cool is that. To go back, relive that, write that, and have that thing documented. I just think that is so amazing.
On top of that, there was two things that just absolutely stood out as you were talking where you said, "I loved from an early age, I loved the crazy and insane, I loved the things that weren't possible, in the rules of the world." I think that as entrepreneurs and as business people, that's what it is that makes us different. We're crazy enough to think that we don't have to go work for somebody, that we can create something that will change the world, that might have an impact on someone else.
The final thing that really just stood out to me was when you went back to write this book, you said that you started out writing 100 words at a time and that was all you could write that day. I think that so many of us are so obsessed with the success, whatever that means. For most people getting started that's how big they can grow their company, how many sales they can make, that they forget that this is a marathon. This is something that you have to go through everyday and it is hard. I thought it was such a great metaphor where you're like, "I started by writing 100 words, and that was hard, and all of a sudden it was 1,000 words."
I was thinking about my business as you were telling that story and I'm thinking that's how it was for me. I wasn't writing a book, but everyday I got a little bit better, a little bit more comfortable doing the things that I do. I think that so many people go, if I cannot sit down and write a book in a whole sitting then screw it, I must not be good or it must not be my thing. That's when they get this overwhelm and they're jumping from thing to thing. I love the way that whole story fits into this entrepreneurial journey that we all take.
Angela Ford: That is exactly right. I don't know if you've seen the meme with the iceberg and it talks about the success, and then you see how big the iceberg is under the water, and you're like, oh yes, all of the work that goes into it. That is so true. It really is. Those little small steps that you're doing consistently every single day that make that huge difference. When people say, I grew my business by up and I'm making 7 figures now, I mean that's great, but that took them a lot of work, time, and energy. They really poured into that. It's not something that today we're here and tomorrow we're way over here.
Everyone Is An Overnight Success
Lance Tamashiro: It's funny because everybody sees the overnight success but they only see the overnight part and forget about the years or however long that went into that big launch or that big thing, and none of it just happened the day before. I've never really heard that other than lottery winners ...
Your book, what's the name of your book? Four Worlds?
Angela Ford: Yes. It's the first book in the Four Worlds series. The first one is called "The Five Warriors." My plan is to release one book every single year. I'm working on the one for the release of this upcoming September. That will be it. It will be a five book series. What I really wanted to do was really establish my own world, so it is fantasy but you won't find any dragons, wizards, or elves. I really created my own world entirely. It is quite different, but there are some similarities, of course, to humans, because I can only be so creative.
Lance Tamashiro: This a book that got picked up by distribution. How did you go from I've got this book that I wrote to people reacting to it, knowing about it, or even getting it in the hands of anyone?
Angela Ford: It really started with putting together my marketing plan. This is where it really comes full circle. I was thinking about the book and the launch date. I really wanted to launch it on my birthday because that's a cool date because everyone's already paying attention to me in the first place. I wanted them to really pay attention to the book, so I could say it's my birthday, but my book came out, and what I really want you to do is just buy my book. That's all I want.
I put together a timeline for that, and I put together different marketing initiatives. What I actually did was publish the ebook and paperback book through Amazon. Amazon has CreateSpace which is their print on demand service for paperbacks. The nice thing about that is it's free. You do have to format the book correctly or it will end up a disaster. I ended up working with a professional designer to do my book cover because the truth is people really do judge books by their covers.
My whole plan was really doing the online marketing. I wanted people to look at it and go let me check this out a little bit more. I didn't want them to gloss over it and go that looks like every other book out there. I just really wanted it to pop.
I ended up working with a professional designer who could format the book according to the specs for both the paperback printing, and then the ebook online. I went through the, Amazon has a Kindle direct publishing platform, and that's what I went through for the ebook, and they pushed that out. One of the things that really benefits from that is that ... Amazon, of course, is huge but they have this exclusive program, if you only publish your book through their platform. I ended up using that because with very exclusive platform, they allow to do different book promotions, which helps get the word out even more about the book. If my book is free for five days, that's massive, because people go download it like crazy.
The thing that benefits me is that I also have people who are reading it, and then they're leaving reviews, and passing it on to other people. It really is that visibility. Anytime I've ever done a free promotion it's been amazing because it pushes my book to the top, and then after that people are just buying it like crazy, and they stay, even though it's not free anymore. That's really cool.
Lance Tamashiro: One of the things that I love that you mentioned, you said you wanted to market this online so you came up with your marketing plan. I've never heard of anyone doing this. What you do is absolutely genius, by building up the launch on your birthday.
Rush of Sales
You know this obviously, but what a lot of people might not realize is a great way to get to the top, besides the free promotion and all of that, is getting a bunch of people and sales, buying your book in the same day or time period. One of the things, all of us, as new entrepreneurs, many of us don't have a list, we don't have traffic, we cannot afford Google ad words. All of these things that people tell us that we're supposed to be doing.
What you did to launch your product is genius. On Facebook, every time I log in, it says it's so and so's birthday and I look and there's a thousand people saying happy birthday to them. When you launch something like this, first of all people are going to want to go buy your book because they are going to want to support you on your birthday. But you also get all of them buying in the same 8-10 hour period, which skyrockets you on Amazon, which gets you more buyers. What a genius marketing plan, I mean, fantastic, I love it.
Angela Ford: It was so much fun but yes, it was amazing. It really was a lot of relationship marketing came into play. I was just starting, there was no email list for that book, no social media set up. There was nothing. It really was ground zero, just starting. Started out by building up the website, and okay, we're going to start.
Lance Tamashiro: You've got this book out there ... Now I know you do some coaching, you're obviously a great strategist, all of these other things. How do you go from, I've got this book to I want to help other entrepreneurs do stuff online?
Angela Ford: Even with the book ... The book is just something I do, so normal, so natural to me. The other thing that I love doing is helping out other entrepreneurs and small businesses to really get visible online. I actually started freelancing back in 2013 when I was still working full time. I found I really enjoyed it. I got to work with an entrepreneur, he had a book that was coming out, and he needed someone to manage the content for that. I worked with him, and it was amazing. I learned so much from him. It was really different from working with a traditional employer because the relationship. He never talked down to me, and he never saw me as anything other than being this amazing person who is handling his content. He was always so thankful and so grateful. I was like why don't I work with people like this every single day. This is great. I love working with him.
I kept doing that. I kept finding more people to work with, more entrepreneurs, more small businesses. The relationship was always quite different as a freelancer. I never had to work with people that I was like, I wish they would go away.
Lance Tamashiro: You get to pick who you are working with.
Angela Ford: Yes. And the other thing that was really crazy was that the starting out rates for a freelancer ... I put my rate up because I really didn't have a lot of time to invest in freelancing, and I had nothing to lose because I had a full time job. I put my rates up but people responded to it and were definitely willing to pay for it. I was like, wow this actually could be a full time gig, I just need to work up to it.
I spent about two years just really doing that and freelancing, building my name and reputation before I even published my book. Then, when the time came, I was able to quit my full time job in April 2015. From there it was awesome because I had so much time to devote to my writing, my book publishing, and doing the promotion and marketing for that. I had plenty of time to do that. Then I also had plenty of time to work with other entrepreneurs and small businesses, and spend maybe 20-30 hours working on those projects, then another 20 hours just doing things I love.
Taking the Leap
Lance Tamashiro: I love this story. The one thing that I really like is you put yourself out there with a rate card, and was like, what's going to happen. But I love that you did this while you had the job. You said you had nothing to lose other than throwing it out there. It's nice to take that risk when you have the parachute behind you.
Can you talk a little bit about what it was like leaving full time and start working for yourself, and how did you decided that today is the right day that I am going to go do this for myself?
Angela Ford: It was one of the scariest things I've ever did. When you're working full time, you can always expect to have that paycheck. If I walk in the door and I do this good work, I'm going to get a paycheck. If I'm on vacation for 7 days, I have my PTO, I'm going to get my paycheck. The financial situation is just kind of, just very scary to me. I wanted to go full time back in 2014, but I was just too scared about the safety net. I was like I don't know if I can do that. But it was early on in 2015, I woke up one day, and I just really did not want to go into the office. There were some clients I was dealing with, and I just did not want to deal with it.
I thought to myself, if I am doing this five years from now, will I be happy with the choices I made in my life. I thought about it and I honestly couldn't say that I would be happy. I was like, I think I will be really upset with myself.
I was like, I'm going to go ahead and quit. I love listening to podcasts so I was actually listening to one about not being afraid to take a risk and do it because the biggest thing that you can regret living with is the regret that you did not do everything that you wanted to do. I was like, if it blows up in my face, ends up being terrible, I cannot find clients, and it all falls through well then I can get another job, it's not the end of the world.
I went ahead and quit, took that leap. It didn't fall apart. I still had funds coming in. I was like, this is not so terrible.
Lance Tamashiro: Its similar to my experience and how I went to it too. I think that ... I watch a lot of people that sit on the fence, maybe for too long, about jumping into their thing. By any means, if you're not ready don't do it, but what I know is true for me, is that taking that jump. It got to the point where I was earning more online, my freelancing side job, than I was from my employer, and I got to the point where I was thinking I'm losing money by being here at work for you today. Yes its safe, and yes all of these other things ...
Looking back on it, if I didn't make that leap, and just say I do realize I'm going to have to figure out things that I never had to think about before. I have to figure out how to do book keeping, I have to figure out how to pay for insurance, there's all of these other things. If I hadn't just thrown myself to the fire and put my back against the wall, I don't think I would have ever done it. I think I would have sold myself short. I think that you have to get to that jumping off point and do it. Where that is for you, that's for you to decide, but I do see at some point, if you're going to make it on your own, you have to jump in with both feet.
Angela Ford: Exactly. I love that ... It is different for everyone. Some people the right time is now, some people the right time is in six months, in a year. No matter what, there will always be a risk. You cannot get rid of that one.
Lance Tamashiro: With your clients, what type of people do you mostly ... What does your typical client look like?
Angela Ford: I tend to work with entrepreneurs, small business owners who have teams less than ten people, and a lot of them have teams that work remotely. Maybe a couple of them might be in the same city but a lot of people that they employ are working remotely. They're not all necessarily working full time. They are doing different projects. One person might be a social media strategist, and they're focused on the social media, and that's what they do, but they don't work full time, because for a smaller business, they really don't need someone to be there 40 hours a week, they just need things to happen. That's really what I am all about, making things happen. Not necessarily sitting around going let me bill 40 hours to this person. Because that's not effective.
Lance Tamashiro: And it doesn't last long. It might work the first time, but it's not a long term plan.
Angela Ford: Exactly. That's one of the things most of the people I work with, they're all focused on that action, and making things happen. If it takes you five hours to do this, then spend five hours doing that every single week, if it takes you ten, do it ten, if it takes you two, do it two. But it's not necessarily that whole huge this is a working environment, you have to show up, and make sure you do that. They're all very flexible. A lot of my clients, one of the cool things about them, is a lot of them travel, so for three months or six months out of the year, they might be in a completely different location. That really doesn't change our working relationship at all, they're just in a different location, and that's a lot of fun.
Lance Tamashiro: It's crazy, I'm thinking about it and I'm thinking, she leveraged this book launch, which I think is a brilliant idea, and then she started freelancing, but now I'm starting to look at the timeline on this, and that's not how that happened. You started freelancing before the book was launched, before a lot of these people knew that this book was even going to come about. Is that right?
Angela Ford: Yes. That is completely true.
The First Client
Lance Tamashiro: I know you're big on the relationship marketing thing ... I'm sure somebody listening was thinking the same thing as me, she had this big launch, she did this amazing thing. It's easy to go to a company and say look what I did, and here's some of my techniques, but that's not how you built your business. I know you're big on the relationship marketing thing. Can you talk about some of the things you did to get those first couple of clients because it's always the first client, that's the one you need to find, or the next client, that's always the hardest to get.
Angela Ford: What I did was start making myself visible online, so I started a blog. I actually started my blog a long time ago and I had no purpose in it at all. I just wanted to write and publish things online, and get attention. I remember my first post was a sunset from when I was in San Diego. I thought this is beautiful so I just posted it up and I started getting followers. That was just it. It was just this random blog. I took a thirty day blog challenge. I was looking at it and I thought I need to find a focus for my blog and I want to be more inspirational to entrepreneurs, businesses, more creatives who are really starting.
I started out with the blog, then I got on social media. Then after that I set up profiles on the freelancer sites. In that day there was elance, odesk. I got on there and I had links over to my blog but I remember people telling me, even before I had any credibility on the site, they were like, I see you're a writer. They'd say I read your blog and I really like the passion behind your words, and I want to work with you. That really was the starting point because at that time, I was more learning. I would go to people and say let me write these blog articles for you, so I started out with the writing. Then after that I graduated up to social media marketing. After that, I started doing more with concept marketing.
The whole time I was seeing my blog grow, what worked, and didn't work. That really helped with bringing in the clients. Just being visible, and being willing to learn and grow with them.
That lead me up to the point I'm a freelancer, but I'm more of a strategist now because I worked with these people, I've had this experience, I did this launch over here, I worked on this virtual summit. That experience just really lead me to where I am today with my business.
Is Anyone Paying Attention?
Lance Tamashiro: Along the social media lines ... First of all, my experience is kind of the same, when you have a blog or whatever, you're like nobody commented, nobody re-tweeted it, and then all of a sudden you go somewhere and somebody's like, I saw you this, I read your thing on here. And you're like, somebody read that. And I think that's one of the hard things, especially when we're starting out that people don't realize, is that there is a heck of a lot more people paying attention to you than you probably think. I have the same experience, where you go out and somebody's like, I saw that you did this ... And I'm like, really, I thought I was talking to myself all of this time. It's funny that people will find you through all of that.
I think today, which didn't exist when I was getting started, not nearly on the scale of this idea of social media, and being able to make sure people see stuff, kind of like your launch. What platform do you focus on, in social media? Or do you focus on a platform?
Angela Ford: The big platform that really got me going was Twitter, actually. That really is my focus. I started a Twitter account in 2009. I was on there, not really doing anything, just posting random things.
What I was eating, doing, this TV show that I was watching, just really random things. Then, once I started getting more into the blog world, I would read other peoples blogs and I would Tweet them. That started getting some momentum. I started seeing my Twitter was growing, people were following me, people were re-tweeting me, and I was like, it's because I'm sharing all of these other peoples content.
Then I was writing, so I always shared whatever I wrote. Then I started sharing it more than once, because I used to just write a blog post, and share it on the day I finished writing it, and that was it. Then I started sharing it the day I wrote it, a few days later, and just kept sharing it multiple amounts of times. I have this whole backlog of content that I could keep re-sharing. And people started flooding to it, started re-tweeting. I actually have a cool group of people that they re-tweet almost everything I put out. Found each other's blogs, started following each other, started sharing each other's content, and that's really how it began. Now it's just massive.
Lance Tamashiro: There was two things in there that I love the idea. The first is that you sort of built your network and got to know people by sharing their content. I'm assuming you weren't just like so and so made this blog post and I liked it. I assumed you were reaching out to them at the same time, maybe they didn't answer right away, after a while they're like, this person keeps talking to me, and eventually you got to know them. Is that sort of what happened?
Angela Ford: That did happen in a couple of cases. Sometimes I was just Tweeting stuff that I liked to read, stuff that resonated with me. Then all of a sudden I realize that they were sharing my content back and I was like, hey we should talk.
Lance Tamashiro: Awesome. The second thing that you brought up, that brings up a couple questions, but mine is the whole idea that you don't have to Tweet something once, is genius to me. I'm really big into email marketing, and that's what I always tell people, promote the same thing that you've been promoting. Why would you promote it once and be done with it. All of a sudden I'm thinking, I've never Tweeted the same thing twice. My question around that is do you have a tool that manages this? Are you scheduling stuff out, like I haven't Tweeted this in a while, I'm going to go do that.
Angela Ford: I actually used two tools. For my blog, I used Cold Schedule.
Lance Tamashiro: C-O-L-D?
Angela Ford: Yes. Cold Schedule.
Lance Tamashiro: Okay.
Angela Ford: It's a, coldschedule.com, it's a great editorial calendar, actually, that you can use on it's own, or you can use it, it interbreaks really well with wordpress. It's a pay tool, you have to pay for it. I invested in that last year and started using that to re-share my content. It keeps a list of my popular blog post, most shared blog post, so it just really lets me know this is the kind of content that's really resonating with people. I can look at it for different time frames. Of course there are some blog posts that are really old, so they have a lot of views, but the later ones, I can see how popular those are as well. That's really helpful.
I'm also using Buffer, buffer.com. Just buffering that post, and sending those out.
Lance Tamashiro: Awesome.
Angela Ford: For a lot of the re-tweeting, I will manually get on Twitter and just spend some time just interacting, Tweeting people, responding to things. Another way to get noticed, an awesome way to get noticed, is to join Tweetchats, which is kind of a huge networking group that's happening on Twitter, instead of in person.
Lance Tamashiro: You mean there's like live, people are talking about different topics, is that ... ?
Angela Ford: Yes. It would be an hour long, it will have a hash tag, they'll be the moderator, we will ask questions, and you answer, interact, everyone's sitting there talking. A great way to organize, just to keep from going crazy with it because it's just massive Tweets all of the time, is to go to tweetchat.com and you can just find different Tweetchats that are going on, that are happening all of the time.
Lance Tamashiro: Nice. I love it. You're ideas are like ... I mean, I love it. Because it's different stuff that I haven't heard of. Your marketing plan, I think if anybody is launching anything and you're brand new, really consider this type of thing. It probably doesn't even have to be around, I'm thinking this is probably not real nice ... My wife, when she posts it's our anniversary, my birthday, it's my thing, and I'm thinking she always tags me in those, what a great time to launch a product. I'm not saying you have to do that, but these event based things, where people are really paying attention to you.
I never thought of marketing one of my books, one of my anything to my friends and family. You write a book, the people that care the most and want to support you the most, especially when they're all thinking about you, are your friends and family. I absolutely love that idea that you came up with. Then the whole idea of re-tweeting, and tweeting stuff more than once. Duh, right in front of me, you know. I absolutely love that.
If somebody's listening, they're really connecting with you, they love your message, and they want to find out more about you and the services you have, and maybe even your book, where can people find out more about you?
Angela Ford: I am online. I am everywhere. But if you go to angelajford.com. That is the hub. You can find all of my social media, all about me, my services, my book. Everything is on that site, my blog, just everything. That is the place to go.