The process behind creating and marketing G&L

I started working online as a freelancer. From there I followed a natural evolution until a few years later I achieved the 4-Hour Work Week. With an abundance of free-time on my hands, I decided to start a new project: Graduate & Live.




Ryan Astaphan

 

Building a business

In late 2015, I had an idea to create a guide to freelancing.

So I did just that. I wrote the guide and with the editing help of my friend and long-term freelance employee Ashley, it became a really useful resource. This was the product creation phase of what is now Graduate & Live.

But who the fuck was I and why would anyone care what I have to say about freelancing?

I’d need to develop a brand.



People don't buy what you do, they buy why you do it

Years ago there was a TED Talks presentation discussing Apple’s marketing strategy. My mom shared the link with me. The point I took away from the video was this:

Apple would market the feeling their product would give to the customer.

Apple’s ads were artistic, fun and stylish. In their iconic iPod commercials we remember colorful people dancing, white earbuds dangling from their head and good music being supplied by the iPod. What we do not remember is Apple discussing technical specs of the iPod’s hard disk or anything like that. That’s because Apple didn’t discuss that in their ads.

This whole lesson taught me not to be like every other digital nomad. Most competitors in this niche can’t articulate anything besides the benefit of location independence and how to achieve it.

All they really talk about is work, work, work. And who wants to listen to that? Sure, it can be exciting at first, but it gets boring quickly.

I would need to differentiate myself.

People become digital nomads not because they want to work, but because they want to travel and experience life.

Ashley and I discussed this and created Graduate & Live together. Following her graduation we would go on the G&L 2016 Summer Tour of Asia - experiencing culture throughout India, Thailand and Vietnam.

The goal was to create a travel blog that illustrated the experiences that could be had thanks to location independence. This is opposed to simply talking about the freedom of working online.

NOTE: This is called promoting the benefit of the benefit.

For instance, when talking about weight loss: one could promote exercise because it will have you feeling confident after losing weight, opposed to promoting exercise because it will burn calories.

Feeling confident is the benefit of burning calories and losing weight.

One quick little side note: Before graduating, I helped Ashley secure a full-time, location independent position with a client of mine. After our trip was over she would go on to work for them.





Ashley and I working on G&L in Dharamsala, India.




Back to business… I had already created a product, a brand name and an idea for a website. Next I…

I envisioned who the customer would be for both the freelancing guide and the website.

Reminded by the saying that “if everyone’s your customer, then no one is,” I decided to focus on a niche or two:

  • Backpackers, who would like perpetual travel and

  • College students and graduates in need of work.

By April 2016, I had a product (The Modern Guide to Freelancing) and a brand (Graduate & Live), a website (GraduateAndLive.com) and an itinerary for travel.

From May to July of 2016, Ashley, my girlfriend (Aom) and I traveled. We had a great time that I highly recommend you reading about later (bookmark this link so you can read it later).

Ashley took charge of creating content for the website. And I handled client work in order to fund the trip for the three of us (this was just before achieving the 4-Hour Work Week).

After two months of travel, Ashley had built an extensive travel journal and had taken a boatload of great pictures. Her journal and photos would go on to be the brand’s centerpiece for launch.

But before launching I’d have to develop the website and create a marketing plan.

 
Here’s a photo of what I was looking at while writing this post. The view is from my office complex in Chiang Mai.




It's time now to break down the Graduate & Live marketing plan, step-by-step.

graduate-and-live-marketing-plan
 

Okay let’s begin:

 

The G&L Marketing Plan

SEO keyword content creation

The goal of SEO is to get your website ranking near #1 on Google for a specific search query (keyword). The point of this is to get not only traffic to your website, but targeted (the right kind of) visitors to your site.

To do this you need to research what people are looking for. You can also learn how many people are making those searches and how easy or difficult it would be to rank for them.

TIP: Moz.com is a great, free resource to learn SEO basics.

What your keyword research essentially does is give you a list of topics to write about. If you write about them and follow basic SEO principles you can improve your chances of getting targeted visitors.

For Graduate & Live I have three keyword lists themed around

  • “digital nomad”
  • “how to freelance”
  • “college jobs”
 

Link building

When a website links to yours, Google treats this as an endorsement. The power of the link juice is weighted depending on the power of the site giving it to you. A simple example is that a link from CNN.com would have more influence than from a barely-visited blog.

Long story short, you want to get (good) links pointing to your website. Here’s my plan:

  • Press releases.
  • Blog outreach.
  • Directory submissions.
  • Online directories exist that organize the websites of the web. You can submit your site to them and if it’s relevant they’ll accept you and link back to your website.
  • Children International (Children.org) Children International is a charity I support and have a pretty good relationship with. Around the world I support nine kids, but in India there’s three that I’ve gotten the chance to meet. Ashley wrote a story about when she, Aom and I met them during The G&L 2016 Summer Tour of Asia. I’m going to reach out to Children International and see if the link to the story.

 

Public Relations

I have two public relations goals. The first is simply to get links from websites covering my story. This should help with SEO. The second goal is to get media outlets to cover a story involving Graduate & Live. This will hopefully drive traffic directly to the site.

 

Press Releases

A press release is a way the media receives news from outside sources. The actual press release is a specifically formatted one page document created by individuals or organizations trying to share a story.

Good press releases are distributed through paid services. I’ll be using PRWeb.com and selecting two of their packages: The $159 Standard service and the $369 Premium service.

Why two press releases?

The first and cheaper release will be used for SEO purposes. To take advantage of this opportunity, it’s important to include keywords in the release itself and in its title.

The second release will pitch a story that will hopefully be picked up by major media outlets. In theory this and the first goal could both be accomplished in one release. However, it’s easier for me creatively to separate them. An example story I may pitch is something like this: How a new generation is making a living while traveling the globe.

Beyond news release services, I have four PR strategies to pursue: Hometown news, University newspapers, National Geographic Traveler and Tim Ferris’s podcasts.

 

Hometown news

Maybe the local magazine, newspapers and new stations will cover a story involving a local person (me). So after grabbing their email addresses from their websites I will just go ahead and pitch them a story directly.

 

University newspapers

College students are people I want to connect with. Wikipedia has a nationwide listing of University newspapers. I’ll pitch stories to each and every one of them and see what happens.

TIP: Email marketing.
If you’ve just been paying attention, you just learned email marketing.
Step 1) Find or create a list of people to target.
Step 2) Email them.
 

National Geographic Traveler

It would be so cool to have a story mine published by Nat Geo. That’s reason enough to want to write for them. If I am lucky enough to write for them, it may also help build my brand.

The trip I’m thinking of suggesting to them is “Survival in the jungle: exploring the wilderness with a Thai soldier.”

 

Tim Ferris’s podcast

Tim Ferris is author of The 4 Hour Workweek. His podcast gets a huge amount of listeners. Since I can be considered a success case of his, maybe he’d be interested in having me on. Via social media I hope to improve my odds, which I’ll talk about later.
 

Blog outreach

This is simple, the first step here is the actual blog outreach. I’ll use Google to find blogs related to what I’m doing (travel blogs). Then I’ll check out the sites and sign up for their newsletters. If something interesting pops up, I’ll join in or start a conversation with the blogger. If at some point it feels right I can let them know about my website and hopefully they’d choose to link to it one day.

The second step is to look for and enter blog contests. Hopefully I’ll win and get new viewers and links. The third and last step would be to join in any relevant forums/message boards. For me that would be digitalnomadsforum.com and nomadforum.io.

 

Social media

That brings us to the last step of the marketing plan and the last part of this blog post: social media.

The G&L 2016 Summer Tour of Asia produced a lot of great content. I have an abundance of really nice travel videos, stories and pictures. A good way to make use of these is to share them on the proper social media channels.

 

Instagram

Branding your account

Artistically, my goal is to make a unique and entertaining Instagram account. A$AP Rocky is someone I look to for inspiration here. You can see his account here. See how the row and sections (row groupings) take priority over any individual picture? Stylistically I decided to copy this approach.

Adding quality content

I was so excited to launch the IG profile because it gave me a chance to share some unique content. Using a website called Magisto I’ve created 15 awesome music videos using travel footage. These will be posted along with a bunch of great photos.

Sticking to A$AP Rocky’s IG style, I am going to use the videos to tell a story of traveling through Asia.

Getting Followers

And lastly, I’ll follow people who liked images of certain hashtags. I’ll be doing this because following people is maybe the best way to get followed yourself.

 

Imgur

This image sharing site is great for getting images to go viral. In the past I’ve gotten tens of thousands of views from just a handful of galleries and individual images that I have posted.

As part of the G&L marketing strategy, I’ll publish about 100 posts to Imgur. I actually already have a spreadsheet made detailing the post titles and image(s) to use. These aren’t just any old images either; these are the top 3% from over 7000 travel pictures.

In these posts I’ll include a link to my website with a call to action, like “if you want to see more travel stuff then check out my website, graduateandlive.com.” Honestly I don’t know if Imgur users will even click through, but at worst it will be cool to see that hundreds of thousands or millions of people have seen my posts.

 

Reddit

Reddit is my favorite website and the best place I know of for things to go viral. The most important thing here is to follow Reddiquette and the rules of individual sub-reddits.

What I’ll be doing on Reddit is posting the same content as on Imgur, but without a link to my website and without a call to action, as those are against the rules here. Hopefully other Redditors will take interest and spark up natural conversation of what I’m doing in the comment section. This would then then allow me to share my info with them.

On Reddit it’s key to find sub-reddits that suit you. I’m mainly going to share with r/travel, r/digitalnomad, r/solotravel and r/pics. Although there are two posts I hope to make on other sub-reddits.

r/GetMotivated
The goal here is to motivate people with a story of mine. This really has nothing to do with G&L, but it would be cool if people get motivated. Plus it may help me get more known on Reddit.

r/IAmA
This is the ask me anything sub-reddit. I hope to post a “IAmA (I am a …) 4 Hour Workweek success story, AMA (ask me anything)”. If it gains some traction, maybe that could help get me onto Tim Ferris’s podcast.

TIP: Stick to social media platforms you’re familiar with. I’ve never been a Twitter person, so even though it’s a large platform I’m going to avoid it.
 

YouTube

Using clips from the trip, I've created a mini-travel series. Most of the videos are long by YouTube standards. And to be quite frank, it's asking a lot from a first-time viewer to invest more than a few minutes in a video, so to address this I've created trailer that's less than a minute long.>

 

Facebook

Facebook will be the place where people I actually know follow me. Maybe this will prove to be helpful in spreading the content (through likes and shares).

I’ll be treating FB as a social media headquarters for G&L. In order to tell a story (of G&L, the trip to Asia, and working online), some unique content will be created for this platform. Otherwise the FB page will be used to share content created for the website and other social media sites.

Off the actual page, one method of gaining likes is by joining other communities and conversations. So I’ll look out for travel pages and interact with them way makes sense.

That’s a wrap for the marketing plan.

 


And that’s it for this post too. I’d obviously love it if you bookmarked Graduate & Live and Like our pages. It would really help me if you shared this post across your social media accounts. And if you’d like some help with FREElancing, pick up a copy of the Modern Guide to Freelancing.

Until next time,
Ryan Astaphan

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