Episode 178

How to build a thriving Facebook community around your business

A Facebook community can be a great way to build your audience online… but it’s not as easy as it looks - which is why many business owners give up too soon. 

In this episode of the Courageous Content Podcast, you’ll hear from Steve Folland, founder of the Being Freelance community - which currently has 3.6k members and is one of the most engaged (and engaging) Facebook groups I’ve come across online. 

Steve is a keynote speaker at my annual content marketing event Courageous Content Live which is happening in Newcastle on Nov 1 & 2 - so this is a chance to find out more about him, why he created the group and what you can learn from him at Courageous Content Live.


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Steve Folland’s website

Being Freelance Facebook community

Being Freelance website

Steve Folland on Instagram, Twitter, YouTube and LinkedIn

Create a thriving Facebook community for your business (podcast)

How to revive a dying Facebook group (podcast)

Liven up your Facebook Group with these conversation starters (podcast)

Janet Murray’s website

Janet Murray on Facebook

Janet Murray on Facebook

Janet Murray on LinkedIn

Janet Murray on Twitter

Janet Murray on TikTok

Transcript

IMPORTANT: THIS TRANSCRIPT IS AUTOMATICALLY GENERATED. WE GIVE IT A QUICK CHECK THROUGH BUT WE DON’T CORRECT EVERYTHING AS IT’S INTENDED TO HELP YOU FIND PARTS YOU WANT TO LISTEN TO AGAIN - NOT AS AN EXACT TRANSCRIPT. SO THERE MIGHT BE A FEW QUIRKY WORDS/PHRASES HERE!

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If you're the sort of person who is negative and snarky, even probably you're going to go elsewhere because there's clearly no soul place, right? Facebook community can be a great way to build your audience online. Well, let's get some water as easy as it looks, which is why many business owners give up far too soon. He can't just go in post once and then think,

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oh, okay. That didn't really work. In this episode of the courageous content podcast. You'll hear from Steve Folland founder of the being freelance community, which currently has more than three and half thousand members and is one of the most engaged and engaging Facebook groups. I've come across online. You put yourself in these communities, you participate in them and it's better than anything you ever had before.

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Steve is a keynote speaker at my annual content marketing event, courageous content live. So this is a chance to find out more about him, why he created the group, how he's grown it and what you can learn from him at greatest content live So Steve, you were once hand fed baked beans by phone Britton. Tell us, Oh my gosh. Do you know shockingly,

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this was like 20 years ago now. So from Britain, for those who don't know, she was really famous at the time she hosted, ready, steady cook. She did this morning, which is like Phil and Holly. Now, like one of the biggest TV shows in the UK, like ready, steady cook, which was a daytime TV shows on everyday was such a big show that even had theater tools,

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like it would go around and do live cooking. And I was at university in Bournemouth at the time doing student TV. And we, we got an interview with, from Britain backstage at the Bournemouth pavilion. I want to say, so the really big theater and bless her. She agreed to meet us. And so we had this conceit where the guy,

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I co-hosted it with had sort of given me a fiver to go off and buying ingredients, just like you did on the TV show. She hosted. And I came back and I'd spent it all on just valley bait beans and in a four pack of Guinness, it all my money basically went on on the beer and we expected from, you know, to laugh and think,

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oh idiots. But actually she went, actually, this is really good. She went, did you know? And then she opened the baked beans. Then she opened the Guinness. She went pour Guinness into intubate beans. She went, this will taste amazing. And then she, she scooped up baked beans, this, this past year in a British TV and fed me.

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On-camera like a baby bird. So out into the world, she's not wrong, actually. It's quite nice. It certainly makes value babies better. Where Did you stand on baked beans before where you were fun? Oh, I mean, I like the beans. Yeah. But who would think to mix skin intubate, but I still not quite sure where she got that idea for.

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Maybe she was making it up, but I was convinced and it was nice. So yeah. God bless from Britain. I totally forgotten about that until I know you mentioned that. So that was the start of your media career at boomer, Brittany. Yeah. Yeah. Well, I did student TV. They didn't have a student radio station. I wanted to do radio,

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but then they launched a radio station in our town. So I applied to them. I wrote to them and said, you know, you really should hire me. And they did. So I managed to get a show on the radio at the time it was called the energy. But I think they changed that name because a French radio station called lenders.

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You objected to the similarities in the name. So since then you've been making videos, video and audio for big companies. Also entrepreneurs, smaller businesses. I think I first met you. I might be wrong here at new media, Europe. Yeah. It was like the conference. We were both speaking at it. Weren't we? And, but we had also both not long since launched our podcast.

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So we're still going today, but yeah, I'd started the being freelance podcast and I was doing a live version of the podcast. So tell us about the Facebook group, the being freelance group it's now got, is it about two and a half, 3000 members? Yeah. It's about three and a half thousand. Now there's about 400 sitting in the wanting to join queue,

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but like I only let the ones in who take the time to answer the questions so I could have more. But yeah, I go for that one. Sounds like you're, you're picky about, If you can't be bothered to answer the questions, you can't be that bothered. I don't think about Jordan. I have the same militant for any free group that I ever have.

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So what was it that made you start the group? So you had the podcast and when did you start the group and what was the reason behind it? I started the podcast in 2015 and it wasn't till January, 2019 that I launched the community. And it was really because I was having conversations with people from around the world. Fields is from around the world and it was lovely.

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So people would get in touch with me. And I thought, it's almost a shame that they can't all talk to each other. And people had asked me, why don't you start a Facebook group? But I was like, oh, there's already Facebook groups. And they looked like a lot of work cause they are, but it was Frankie from the,

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doing it for the kids community who encouraged me in the end. And she sort of advised me and I set up. So I'm glad I did. I should have done it sooner. Probably. Yeah. And then the idea was to create community, connect people with each other because freelance life, as I know it can be quite isolating. You can feel like it's just you sitting in your office on your own,

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which is not always a bad thing. But I remember when I was freelance all the time, I used to actually organize meet ups. And I actually had a forum for journalists which still exists. And it was a network for freelance journalists because it was lonely at times. But I'll say sometimes you just need to be able to reach out and ask people a question like this person hasn't paid me for like six months and you know,

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what do I do? It was like having that, almost the people you could turn round to and ask the questions that you will be able to turn off. Isn't it feels like that's what you were trying to build. Yeah. I wanted it to be a place where you could meet other people and feel safe to ask what you might feel as a stupid question,

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for example, or just today, we've had some really great questions about boundaries. Somebody else looking for an accountability partner, somebody else is in the hospital. And it's sort of telling us their story and reminding us to, you know, think about the fact that you always think it won't happen to you sort of thing. I wanted it to be an extension of the podcast,

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but I didn't want it to be all about me. One thing that's really struck me about your grave. I don't think I've ever seen anyone have a fight or a disagreement and maybe I just haven't noticed it, but maybe there's a strategy behind it. We're not all one thing. So we're not all journalists. So you can be easy when you start out to feel like your other freelancers are the competition.

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Basically the sooner you realize they're not, that's a good thing. Like we're all there to help each other out. So that's one thing. But the other, I guess, from Frankie, from doing it for kids gave me the advice. Your group will be how you lead it. Your personality will sort of trickle down. So how you behave, how you post and things.

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So I didn't want it to be a place where you would be negative. And I didn't want a place where you might see a snarky comment against somebody else. You know, like how you adapt your behavior to who you're around. So like, you know, if you're around older members of your own family, then maybe you turn down your language and things.

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It's a bit like that. I think you see everybody being nice and supportive and friendly. And if you're the sort of person who is negative and snarky, even probably you're going to go elsewhere because there's clearly no sort of place. Right. And so it was interesting what you said there about the lack of competition, but there was still will be competition because there's a lot of creative freelances in your group.

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Isn't there that there are multiple copywriters or designers or work designers or whatever. Yeah. And I think supporting each other and you know, there's like people who are thinking of going freelance or who are really new and there's people in there who've maybe been doing it for 20, 30 years. And you realize as well as your more experienced freelance. So I guess it pays for everyone to help the newer freelancers,

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because first of all, it's a nice human thing to do. But also if they don't understand good ways of doing business or pricing or using contracts or boundaries and things like that, then it doesn't do anybody any favors because they're sort of like undervaluing and undercutting the whole kind of field or introducing bad habits to clients which ripple across everybody. So it helps us all to sort of raise everybody up.

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And yeah, the freelancing community in general emerged online over the past five to 10 years is so supportive and friendly. I love it. Yeah. I found that by supporting newer people in the industry and try just to be supportive and helpful and remember where you were when you started. So has there ever been any fights You're looking for the fight? No,

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you know, there hasn't been, there was one, I didn't even know that reporting comments was a thing in a Facebook group. You can report a comment to the admin and I'm the only admin. So it was like weeks later I won at one point. So there was this, oh, what's, that is like a warning from somebody. But that was mainly somebody just trying to sell.

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There was one thing once where somebody was a bit off, but it kind of policed itself. People said, well, that's not helpful. Why would you sort of say that? And they kind of sorted it out. I didn't have to throw anybody out of the pub. And it was literally once and I even had a private message from that person.

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Sort of apologize. You can say, sorry, I didn't mean it to accidentally kick off. What do you post in the group? A lot of people have Facebook groups, for example, they'll say, oh, well, you know, it's like forgets in there. Why do I bother? Because people are just in there and nobody ever I'll send a thing.

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People post in your group all the time. Don't they, they they're starting conversations and asking questions. It didn't just happen by itself. How were you able to lead and make that happen? The sort of content that I create is I try to do like a hello video once a week, where maybe I talk about something, raise a topic, which has been happening on the podcast,

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for example, or pick up from some things somebody else said, I always do the non-employed a week awards every Friday. So that's like a regular live video. I do live Q and A's. We have a book club. So there's quite a lot of different things going on. When we first started, we did the mid-week mastermind, which I think I told you about before.

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The idea was that on a Wednesday you would ask this question and everybody would pull their resources to try and help you out. But I soon realized that actually people wanted an answer maybe on a Tuesday or Thursday, but having it just because midweek and mastermind or illiterate, if that's no reason to have it on a Wednesday. So of course I abandoned that and just let people post whenever.

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But that I think did encourage people to ask those questions. So if you see others doing it, then you're encouraged to do it as well. And I also have an email that goes out when people join the group, which encourages those new people to get involved. And it has, it has a quote from Kat

velos, who was on the podcast once talking about community and getting stuck in.

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And, but like the, the best way to get the most out of it, I'm going to misquote. But basically it's just to get stuck in that, as soon as you post or you start to comment, you kind of break that sale and then you feel confident to keep going back and then suddenly people start to recognize you and then they talk to you and then they're maybe following you on Instagram,

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something else off the group. And suddenly you found that community you've found that to be part of something. So it's, you've got to take that first step and then keep going. And then if you show and showing up, sorry, that's part of that thing showing up regularly. So you can't just go in post once and then think, okay, that didn't really work,

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but showing up regularly and taking a look and being part of it that helps us well, Here's cat, by the way, She is an American well freelancer, but author who writes and talks about community. And she started lots of communities as well for minority groups where she sensed, where she was working, where she was living, didn't have that community.

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And so she would kind of start it and then that inspired her as well to write a book about friendship and yeah, she's great. Do you feel you're quite a community minded person? Yeah. I get energy from the being freelance community, but also other ones that I'm part of, I can see the benefits to your work life, to how you feel about things,

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your mental health. Obviously we're all different. We all get energy in different ways, but to feel part of something that somebody told me that it feels like you've suddenly got the best colleagues you'll ever have. So it feels like when you're working for yourself as a freelance of it, you're just going to be by yourself. But actually you put yourself in these communities,

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you participate in them and it's better than anything you ever had before. Yeah. It's great. And how were you as an employee? Did you enjoy playing employee? Yeah, and I weirdly I had one job has in one full time job before I went freelance. I worked for radio station, but I worked there for, I don't know, 12,

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15 years later, I worked there a long time. So I was a good employee thing. Was that the question? It was, it's nice to have it work mates and it wasn't too political. That's something that can happen in bigger workplaces. You know, like the internal politics, because we were quite a small team and most of us were in the creative fields as well.

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We all seem to go on quite nicely. Yeah. I didn't go self-employed because I couldn't bear, you know, taking demands from somebody above me. But then that one, I feel like you're, there's something you're not saying like you laughed when I asked you that question. No, I'll tell you what I do. Like what I love about being self-employed is that when you work really hard and you put in extra hours,

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you get rewarded for it. You've chosen to do it yourself, but also you will get rewarded for it. You'll get rewarded financially for it and you might get praised for it. I swear. I get much nicer comments from clients when I ever got from any bosses. And that's not even having a go at my particular bosses. I think it's probably just the way most bosses are.

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Yeah. I quite like being praised. I quite like having thank you. I quite like that financial reward as well. If I choose to put in the extra work. And would you say you're unemployable now? No, actually possibly before COVID I would have said yes, but post COVID, if you can call it a space COVID I do think there's that shift in working remotely working flexibly,

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but I'm seeing that may be would mean I could work for someone if you see what I mean. Like, because I do think I love being able to choose my own hours. I love being able to work when I work and not have to answer to people. So yeah, maybe I am unemployable, but if anything, the more flexible world that we live in would suit me better today.

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But also I do love the variety, but being self-employed it gives you rather than working for just one company. And is there anything you're such a nice guy? Like, I can't imagine you ever saying anything, not nice, but do you ever see people talking about trying to build with communities and thing? Oh, what are you up to there? What sort of grind your gears about Facebook groups that you've been in,

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like practice that you don't think so great or moons that people have when they're trying to build groups Or they think, oh, why would you start a community? And actually I think there is power in small communities, like very niche ones. There's somebody in the community. It just started. I think it's called the female copywriters Alliance. Forgive me if I've said that wrong,

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but you see what it is. So they have spotted a thing, not just within the copywriting community, freelance copywriters, but within the female copywriters, I, that's a great thing. They've spotted something that doesn't exist and they're creating that space for themselves. But what I would say is that it is a lot of work, So I wouldn't necessarily recommend starting a community because you think it's part of your business for example.

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But if you feel that something is lacking in the world then to create that is great. I think one of the reasons to being freelance community kicked off so quickly was because there was this legwork is common ground of the podcast, which has existed for years beforehand so that everybody came in and they already felt like they knew me and they know the tone of the podcast or the videos as well that I was creating on YouTube.

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So it's cheesy as it is. It's like, there's this common friend between us all, but it's introducing us. Or, or that we all kind of get the language of what this group is. Whereas if you start with no audience and no previous content, then people are like, okay, well, what is this? And so maybe that's harder.

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And actually it's quite a lot of work involved. It does take time. Sometimes you have to test out don't you and try different things out to see whether things are going to work. And sometimes you can't even explain what's working. Can you, it's difficult to put your finger on it. What's actually working. I think sometimes it looks easy to people.

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And so they put in a few weeks of building a group and maybe they don't appreciate all the work that's gone on in that legwork, particularly in the first few weeks and evolving it over the years as you have done Well, if they do think that they're going to have a shock, But if it doesn't work out, then you've tried apps. And I don't think there's anything when we've letting it kind of like fizzle out or close it,

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put your energy where it's best spent. But if you're starting something for the right reason, then the white people are coming and finding you and it's worth, then the rewards can, it feels great during the, I mentioned it like those, those two years in particular, especially that first year and Denver, it was the community like spending time in the community.

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Even though I didn't have much time because I'd spent so much time teaching my kids and looking after the house and all of that in such a pressure cooker kind of time, but it was creating and spending time in the community, but gave me energy and made me realize, actually I wish I could do more of this. And I'm kind of limited because it's free.

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So obviously I have to spend time doing things that pay me. But yeah, if you get a community, right, it can really just top you up, I guess, like volunteering in the real world rather than online. It fulfills you in other ways. I, sometimes I see people say, man, I'm starting a Facebook group, but I don't want to spend much time.

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And I want to outsource it to somebody to lead a great, you have to enjoy people. You have to enjoy the conversation. I want to get involved and enjoy connecting with people online in that way. If I sometimes come across people who hate Facebook groups and they're like, but I want to start a Facebook, but I don't like them. And I'm not even that kind of thing.

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It makes sense to lean into what you enjoy. Doesn't it? Why would you start something that you don't like? There's plenty of ways to build a business, grow a business, connect with people. Yeah. I wouldn't suggest you do something if you really don't enjoy them. So what are you going to be talking about at courageous content live? Well,

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I'm going to be talking about all the stuff that I do regularly in the Facebook group, all around it as well, because some of it is off, off of Facebook in order to draw people into it or love it into the community. Basically all of the regular things that I do, but also the ad hoc kind of, I don't want to give too much weight off the,

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you know, like when sometimes something will grab my attention and I'll kind of run with it. There's those kinds of moments as well, which are quite magic Without giving too much away. It's about building a, like a content strategy for your grief. Well, what kind of content to post, how often to pose and building that audience, building that community,

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you was going to talk a little bit about monetization. I know you've said to me in the past that I don't think you'll get to retire on it as it were, but you've created Merck haven't you? And certainly you've generated guidance and referrals by the group. So you'll talk a bit about that as well. Yes. I wouldn't say I'm going to get rich or much,

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but there's an element of marketing about it because if people are wearing it or sharing it, if it's like a picture of their mug, I see so many being freelance monks on Instagram. It's amazing. I don't always get tagged. I just happened to be viewing and see them. So there's an element of marketing about it, but it's also the element of community of belonging is a bit like owning the football strip to your favorite club.

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If I was football inclined, It's not that my identity, isn't it as well being part of a group feeling part of something. Yeah. Yeah. So there's a print on the wall behind me, which was like a collaborative print that we did within the community last Christmas, raising money for charity. So it wasn't even making me money if you see what I mean,

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but it's more than the merge is more than the thing it's about that collective spirit of seeing something happening and then all get behind it. Yeah, no, that is really powerful. And last thing, what might surprise people about what you share in your talk? Well, it might be the fact that I'm there to talk about my content strategy for being freelanced on Facebook.

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When I didn't realize I had a content strategy for being freelanced on Facebook until you pointed it out. Okay, well, I'm glad you're going to be sharing the, But sometimes you can, you can pull things apart, can't you and realize, oh, actually that is a thing, but maybe I just didn't realize I was doing a thing, but that We do have a strategy and I'm glad you're going to,

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so thanks very much, Steve. And we are looking forward to seeing you at the event. So I hope you enjoyed this interview with Steve. If you'd like to join the being freelance group, there is a link in the show notes that go alongside this episode alongside all Steve's other socials. And of course I'd love you to join me at courageous content live.

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If you haven't got your ticket yet, I'll also add a link in the show notes. But as far as I'm aware, it's the only content marketing event of its size happening in the UK in 2022, it's happening in Newcastle and the Northeast of the country. And it's two days of learning and connection for small business owners, content marketing, social media,

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marketing, email marketing, you name it. We cover it at courageous content live and we have a lot of fun. It's here. You'll hear from some of the world's leading content marketing experts. You'll be able to take part in practical workshops and just get out and spend time with other business owners talking about the things that you're really passionate about. I'm really excited to be able to bring the events in person.

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Again this year we've been online for the last couple of years and I can't wait to get back in person. And of course, if you are a fan of my greatest content planner, when you attend the event, you're the first to get your hands on the latest planner. And I can't quite believe it, but that will be our 2023 courageous content planner.

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So if you'd love to join me at the event, you'd love to meet Steve and all the other amazing speakers that we've got at the event, then do follow the link in the show notes, if not Google courageous content line, and you will find a status page there.

About the Podcast

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Courageous Content with Janet Murray
Content marketing advice for small businesses

About your host

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Janet Murray

I’m Janet Murray and I’ve helped thousands of coaches, creative and entrepreneurs learn how to create engaging content – so they can build their online audience and make more sales in their business.

I’m also a podcaster and keynote speaker who has spoken all over the world about content marketing and building online audiences.

Work with me and I’ll teach you the strategies I’ve used to grow a multi six figure online business, selling digital products (including Ebooks, online courses and two membership sites). And launch a physical product – the Social Media Diary & Planner, which has sold thousands of copies, all over the world.