Category Archives: Freelancing

Finding a Good Content Writer for your Business

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Let’s face it, your customer doesn’t care about you.

They don’t care about your products, about your logo design, about your workload or your website, about your two point four children,  your staff or your ingrowing toenail.

They don’t care that your Skoda just got pranged by a Porsche. They don’t care that you want to save the environment, they don’t particularly care that you work 17 hours every Monday through to Sunday, and they certainly don’t care you haven’t pulled a sickie in the last ten years.

They don’t care that you prefer red wine to white, have a dog called Boo and your favourite colour is taupe or that you treat your staff with respect.

They’re selfish. They care only about themselves. That’s all. Nothing else.

Nada.

Only when you realise this can you begin to make sense of the purpose of content marketing.

Okay, we may have gone a little overboard here with the pathologically selfish thing. We’re talking about your customer in relation to your product or service, not their entire lives.

The point is this: You customer comes to your site to get something.

They gotta have it…right now. Right here. Okay?

What is good content writing?

There’s content and then there’s good content. You can fill your web pages with all sorts of wonderful stuff. You can wax lyrical on every topic under the sun.

But does it really give your customer what they want?

According to the Content Marketing Institute:

Content marketing is the marketing and business process for creating and distributing relevant and valuable content to attract, acquire, and engage a clearly defined and understood target audience – with the objective of driving profitable customer action.

And just so you’ve got it, this is what WebSiteDesigns.com say about it:

Your audience don’t care about you, your products, or your services. They care about themselves, their wants, and their problems. Content marketing is about creating interesting information your audience is passionate about, so they seek you out and actually pay attention to what you have to say.

Why you think you don’t need a content writer

You know how to write. Of course you do. You’ve been doing it for years – writing letters, emails, even the odd tweet now and again. You’re proficient at it.

Before we go any further: Yes, there are business owners who are good writers, know exactly what content marketing is all about and can deliver it without breaking into a sweat.

But there are plenty who aren’t good content writers. They fill their pages with too much stuff, confuse their customers with badly constructed sentences and half the time don’t even bother to check grammar and spelling. Then, to cap it all, they publish it to the web without even a hint of a proofread.

There are plenty of reasons why you might want to write your own content:

  • It’s cheaper.
  • Who knows better how to make your online pitch than you…the entrepreneur.
  • People don’t actually read that stuff anyway.
  • It’s just for show, right?

The benefits of hiring a good content writer

Notice I said GOOD content writer there. It’s an important point. With every indie writer and would-be marketing guru thinking they have the skills to write great copy, the major problem business owners have is sifting through the rubbish to find that one content writer who delivers quality work on time.

Here are the benefits if you manage to do just that:

  • You get better written, more focused copy for your website.
  • You get the right balance between features and benefits for your product or service.
  • You get expert opinion on what works and what doesn’t.
  • You get someone who has worked at their craft and knows what they are doing.
  • You get quality, okay?

If you want your business website to look professional and attract and retain more customers, then you need to employ the services of a content writer who can deliver.

Take some advice from copywriter Susan Green:

In today’s media-rich world, there’s no shortage of messages competing for your customers’ attention.  You don’t want to lose out because your copy is ineffective. Quality content written by a professional copywriter may cost you money up front, but your return on investment in sales should make it well worth the expense.

What you want your writer to do

You want your content writer to work with you closely and produce the kind of copy that attracts customers and keeps them coming back for more.

Business owners often worry they haven’t filled enough of that digital space with content – it leads them to throw everything but the kitchen sink onto each web page. Rather than making it easier for customers to buy their product it merely confuses the hell out of them. A good content writer can focus and pare down your content so that it is fit for purpose.

Another problem you find on many websites is that they are so feature rich it’s difficult to find the benefits. A good content writer will be able to look at your product and see it from the customer’s point of view – that old marketing mantra What’s In It For Me?

It’s not what’s on offer but how it can help transform your customer’s life that helps you sell and you need to bring that across in your online content.

Where to Find Your Content Writer

There are plenty of platforms that showcase freelancers available to work on projects for your business, including People Per Hour and Elance. Most platforms provide customer feedback and star ratings so you can find out who’s good and not so good, though it makes sense to start off with a small job before you part with too much of your hard earned cash.

Another way to find freelancers is to do a local search on Google, especially if you want that personal contact which is often lacking in the online world.

However you do it, our advice is to build a strong relationship with your chosen content writer and treat them with respect. Good ones are hard to find and even harder to replace.

The Difference Between Site Content and Blog Content

There is a world of difference between your main site content and the stuff you put into a blog.

Content marketing for your product needs to be slick and to the point, designed to give the customer what they want and not distract them with information that doesn’t matter. It’s about pushing the benefits of doing business with your company, not discussing the pros and cons of trout fishing or listing the top twenty things to do with a bar of soap.

When it comes to your main site the mantra is quick and easy to understand: KEEP IT SIMPLE STUPID.

Your blog on the other hand is less about selling and more about providing value added extra information. It’s a key tool in attracting customers to your site with entertaining and enlightening articles.

They may not buy from your straight away (see the Moz video below) but they’ll keep coming back because your information is so darned good. And if they do that, they’ll eventually engage more profitably.

According to The Guardian:

The key to a successful business blog is giving your readers valuable content. That is how you establish your website’s authority in your industry. In addition, if you give your readers valuable content, they will reward you by becoming return visitors and also parting with their money.

You Get What You Pay For

If you are a business owner then you should know the old adage: You get what you pay for. Low cost jobs generally deliver low cost results and bad writing can be catastrophic for your business.

I’ll leave the last word on that to Contender Content :

In an increasingly content-centric industry, copywriting can be the decisive factor in determining the efficacy of your marketing efforts. Business blogging, website copy, landing pages, email copywriting and asset creation are the building blocks of a successful marketing campaign – and your copywriter has a huge hand in the creation of each. If corners are to be cut, content is not the place to do so.

Finally, if you feel like turning the concept of content marketing on its head and see how it really works then check out this video from Moz.

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How to Write Freelance Articles Quickly

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Producing constant good copy can be difficult, especially when it comes to blog and article writing for the internet. The freelancers who succeed are the ones who can do it quickly, efficiently, and, most importantly, engagingly.

Here’s the Feckless guide to fast copy that doesn’t cut corners on the quality.

Don’t be so precious

You’re not writing the next War and Peace. Nor are you going to be hailed as the next Stephen King. Sometimes you don’t even get a polite thank for your efforts. Pouring over every word and examining every sentence with loving care may seem like the right thing to do but can cost you hours every week in lost time that could be spent producing more work.

Know when to stop and send your copy to the client.

Care about your subject

No one forced you to be a freelance writer. Take some interest in the subjects you write about even if its accountancy practices in Woolloomooloo. If you don’t care, people will notice. Whether it’s the latest Hadron Collider developments or how you choose a kitchen worktop, show some spirit. It counts for a lot in the big bad world of blog and article writing.

You will come across subjects that are as dull as dishwater (my personal favourite is the tax advantage of moving your business to Malta) but try to care.

Start with a little research

Research helps to set the ground for your article. As you become more proficient you will be able to spot the important title areas that can help structure your piece. You don’t have to delve that deeply into the subject area but you do need to light a path to follow. Mostly this comes from experience and an eye for the pertinent facts and you need to make sure you glean your information from a reputable site.

Break down your post with headings

You don’t have to use these in the actual post, but setting headings is a great way to speed up your articles. I generally use one for every 100 words or so to act as markers for the post I’m writing. It’s easier to write short chunks of text quickly rather than try to fill a whole 500-600 word article with one block of text.

Write quickly and with passion

Even when writing a review for a kitchen appliance, put some energy into it. Try not to stop, even when you reach a block, simply push on through to the end of the article. It should take you no more than 30 minutes to write a 500 word article if you have a good following wind and a clear head.

Have your spell checker on

They may not be perfect but having a good spell checker actually helps when you are trying to get blog posts out quickly. One word of advice: Don’t take them as gospel, especially when it comes to sentence structure. When you are writing quickly, editing can be a pain in the butt because you are often too close to the text – so take any help you can get to iron out those typos and spelling mistakes.

Review straight away

I say this because most of your ideas will be fresh in your head and for a subject you don’t know well this is important. It’s not a proof read for grammar and spelling, you can do that a bit later, it’s about ensuring the text makes enough sense to satisfy your customer’s needs.

Final proof

Depending on how long your deadline is then leave the text as long as possible to give you mind as much time to forget about it. That may well be only a couple of hours if your client is hungry for copy but the longer you leave, the fresher your approach will be. If you are short on time then try reading the text backwards to pick out spelling mistakes.

Client amends

Finally, your client may well come back with comments and criticism. It’s part of the job and shouldn’t be taken personally.

I had a client for a renewable energy company recently who wanted a technical article about solar cells written. A few weeks after it was written someone posted a reply over mistakes in the article (it happened to be a competitor of the gentleman in question) so I needed to rewrite. It happens. One of the first clients I wrote for came back to say that my style was a bit too glib for her business blog and asked me to rewrite. I did so and I’m still writing articles for her a year and a half later.

Client amends are part of the business – you aren’t going to get it right 100% of the time.

Of all the tips included in this little blog, probably the most important is not to be so precious. It’s something that writers are naturally prone to and generally leads to procrastination. Being less pedantic doesn’t mean you don’t care, far from it. If you want to succeed and get enough business to earn a living then you need to be able to write your freelance articles quickly. It goes with the territory.

Feel free to leave your owns tips on how to write freelance articles quickly in the comments section below. In the meantime, here are a couple of alternative takes on writing that all important blog post:

How to Write an Awesome Blog Post in Five Steps

How to Write a Blog Post in Just 30 Minutes

Bad SEO Can Damage Your Site

Bad SEO links kill trafficBad SEO can make you jump up the rankings one minute but then drop like a stone the next. The Feckless Goblin explores why so many small businesses opt for the cheaper option and get into trouble.

There are people who believe search engine optimisation (SEO) is dead. There are those that don’t. There are those who think SEO is all about keywords and are too idle or too in love with the concept to let it go and there are those who have long known that it is a little more complex than that.

There are those who wouldn’t know a Google algorithm if it stood up and kicked them in the toosh. Oh, yes, they mention it to their clients every four or five seconds, but they don’t have a clue what it is or what it does. Yes, I’m talking to you Bad SEO man (or woman) with your penguin stuffed up your shirt and list of keywords written on your arm.

Here’s the first tip for your business: BEWARE, SEO IS EASY TO BLAG.

To Blag: v. meaning to get by clever talk or lying.

For businesses trying to do the right thing and maximise their brand presence online, it is tempting to put your trust in the first SEO expert who comes along. Unfortunately, there have always been some worrying trends in the world of SEO and the people who are catching the brunt of it are SMEs who don’t quite know what they are looking at.

The Simple View of SEO

There are particular keywords that relate to your business. If you put those keywords in your web content, Google will wet its pants and throw you, with a scream of “LOOKY-SEE”, to the top of the search engine rankings.

This is largely a bunch of old tosh. If an SEO expert is telling your business that all you need is to stuff in enough keywords and your ranking will explode, then take out a gun and shoot him or her.

Want to know why? SEO is more nuanced than that. If you want to take an alternative view, SEO as we know it, or has been popularly presented, has been dying out for a while now. Take a look at this article by Parker Schultz in Marketing Weekly and you’ll begin to see what I mean.

Okay, here’s my first serious gripe of the day. I was asked to write some blogs for a site recently. The owner said he had got someone to sort out the SEO, they’d produced a report and it suggested having regular blogs.

Fine. That’s a good start, isn’t it? Blogs are good nowadays. Doesn’t everyone say so? They’re top of the marketing to do list.

Then I read the report.

It was brevity personified and not too revealing (contained a few typos as well) and included a very short list of keywords that I could have produced in a few seconds without any research. The suggestion was that the proposed blog articles should utilise these keywords. The sweeping naivety of the report got me wondering.

I read the website content that was already there. It seemed to me that whoever had written this rubbish was intent on getting that narrow set of keywords in every sentence, sometimes twice, more often than not at the expense of coherent prose. It looked like it had been written by a four year old who had been asked to practice using certain words by their teacher.

Now get this: The person who had issued the SEO report said that he expected there to be a ‘significant’ improvement in ranking within the next week or so. Not only did this make my heart sink but it also made me worry about what else this person had been up to in his capacity as an SEO expert.

The kind of SEO this person was up to has given it a bad name and hastened rumours of the demise of the industry. There is a reason why this kind of bad SEO has been consigned by more diligent marketers to the garbage bin of online faux pas. Not only does it not work, when people do visit your site they will be presented by the most appalling written content.

The result: Are you going to buy something from a site that is poorly written? Are you going to trust them with your credit or debit card details? Do I really need to answer that?

Why Businesses Opt For Bad SEO

So, why do people offer a service like this? And more importantly, why do businesses buy into it?

There are those who provide an SEO service but have never bothered to update their skills. They live in the past where keyword stuffing was a valid, if slightly unseemly, practice. There are others who know it is wrong and still do it because it is easy and people are still willing to buy.

I’ll quickly diverge here and just mention link building in an attempt not be too one dimensional. There’s no doubt that quality links to your site are a good idea. The important word here is ‘quality’. Linking is a whole industry in itself and has led to some real bad SEO spamming practices.

Take this advice. If someone offers you ‘quality’ backlinks on the cheap, run. Run as fast as you can. Check the video out at the end of this piece for more information on why and how you should be building links, especially if you are a start-up business.

Anyway, back to the point. Businesses buy into bad SEO primarily because it is cheap and, on the surface, sounds like a good idea. It’s easy to sound knowledgeable about SEO and many businesses get fooled.

But it’s also laziness on their part. You can find out the basics of SEO and then make a valued decision about what you are getting for your money. There are plenty of good articles and videos out there that are easy to understand and will give you an informed platform to start off from.

The worrying thing is that there are so many of these people still about, giving internet marketing a bad name. In the end, it comes down to a number of individuals who don’t care about the service they offer. Outsourcing to freelancers is taking off big time; it’s useful, especially for SMEs on limited budgets.

And it’s often something businesses spend too little time thinking about.

I’m not one of those who says SEO is dead. Keywords have their place but they are only a small part of a more complicated process that involves combining good content, sound site structure, and linking it all that into social media.

And it takes time and hard work to put together.

Too often cheap and bad SEO is being used to attract visitors without regard to the integrity of the content. In other words, the SEO is overbalancing the content. It should be there to complement your site, another facet of your online persona. It is not the be all and end all of online marketing.

Do something for me small business person: Before you settle on someone to do your SEO, take a look at this short video from SEO MOZ. It explains clearly the aspects of SEO that you should be looking at and nurturing and those bad SEO practices that you should be avoiding.

It may end up saving you and your burgeoning business a lot of heartache.

SEO Expert: How to Fail Big Time

The essence of an seo expert

I’ve lost track of the times an SEO expert has asked me if I am an expert in SEO copy writing.

See what I did there? I did some basic SEO content stuff. Which is basically…repeating stuff.

Oh, they didn’t tell you that?

If you want to be an SEO expert, you need to do this kind of thing. All the while, you smile like a drug soused whore and tell people you are an SEO expert and they believe you…well, hell, who would lie about such a thing? People lie about being secret agents or having a love child or liking Marmite, they don’t lie about being a marketing SEO expert.

See what I’ve done there? See?

I’ve done the SEO expert thing again in the hope that it will get me to the top of the search tree and make my post popular, even though what I’m writing is about as useful as a broken leg at a line dancing contest SEO expert twinned with other SEO expert people party (head explodes and out pops an evil hamster).

See how tempting it is? To just put the search term “SEO expert” into the mix and forget about anything like a coherent narrative?

I bet this gets me lots of hits. Hang on, I better say SEO expert a few more times. Well, not say it, write it. Because writing is fun and creative isn’t it and us SEO expert types (see how I winged it when most people would have put an ‘s’ on the end) are so fecking creative?

The difference between me and an SEO expert

I have a life.

Hey! I’m shouting it from the hilltops. I HAVE A LIFE!!!!!

First of all there is a lie perpetuated here. There are no SEO expert people (see, I did it again!). There are just people who can randomly repeat the same words or expressions over and over and over and over and over and over and over over over over and over and over and over and over and over again.

That’s not a skill. It’s a recipe for a nervous break down.

You want your business to succeed on the internet?

Avoid these denizens of mediocrity. They will tell you anything to get your money. They are the biggest marketing scam going. Sure, SEO expert fecking dumb feck used to be useful. See, I threw SEO expert into there without you noticing. Know why? Because you’ve stopped reading by now and SEO expert feck who cares…

Let’s be honest. They are the dregs of the Earth. And that’s with a capital E. That’s not just earth you pull out of the ground, it’s Earth where we live, man! Wake up and smell the SEO expert coffee!

Here’s the point.

There’s a point?

You got this far, okay? You want a point.

People like to read interesting content. They like to be informed. They like to be entertained. What they don’t want is some SEO expert repeating the same feck awful content over and over again.

I’m going to bet you a tonne of poop in a handcart that this gets to the top of the “SEO expert” list. I’ll bet you, because probably you won’t be reading it otherwise. But what has it said? I’m up to over 500 words now. I have waffled (mainly because I’m drunk) and just repeated the same stuff. What I’ve said is:

Don’t trust people who profess to be an SEO expert.

Repeating the same stuff over and over again is idiotic.

That’s 20 words people. 20 words!

Think about it.

Don’t you want to say more about your product than that?

I have just finished drinking and decided to put a bullet through my head and my last thought is this: SEO expert please just get a life. It isn’t as important as you think.

And neither is it as interesting.

So stop.

Stop now!

Take up tapestry or interior design or squirrel juggling but, for god’s sake, do something useful with your life.

For those looking for an SEO expert: Look in the mirror. What’s the difference between you and them? You care about your customers and hopefully you care about what they read too. An SEO expert doesn’t.

All he cares about is…well, you know the answer to that, don’t you?

Okay, rant over. I’ve said my piece.

While you should stop writing spamming content, there are other SEO techniques you also send to the recycle bin in the sky. Try Neil Patel’s informative 5 SEO Techniques You Should Stop Using Immediately for an update.

 

 

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People Per Hour: How to succeed as a freelance

People Per Hour

For those who don’t know, People Per Hour is a freelancing site that boasts around 4 million users, both employers and those hawking a variety of skills and services. I joined the site just before Christmas and thought I’d give you the benefit of my experience – particularly to those few on Twitter who contacted me recently and said they are yet to receive a job from the site.

There are two ways for freelancers to get work on the PPH site:

Bid on jobs

The first is to bid on jobs offered by employers. They post requests and freelancers say what they can offer and for how much. I’ve had little success going down this route (1 job in three months), but I have to admit that I haven’t tried terribly hard. The average number of bids appears to be around 15-30 which strikes me as bad odds, so I’ve opted for posting hourlies instead.

Post an hourly

An hourly highlights a service you offer as an individual freelancer. For instance, one of mine states: “I can write an engaging 500-600 word article or blog post for £10”. People visiting the site can choose to buy it and it’s the easiest way, I think, to get work. On PPH you can find a range of skills offered in this way from digital art, copywriting and web design to administrative and virtual PA services. This approach works for me and I’ve received longer term jobs following the purchase of a single hourly .

What does People Per Hour charge?

PPH charge 15% for the first £175 you earn in a month and after that 3.5% (both excluding VAT). Transfers of your hard earned money can receive a further 1.9% charge if it goes to PayPal but is free if it goes direct to your bank account.

You can choose to have your hourly featured (advertised) for 7 days or have your bid placed at the top of the queue for around £10.00. While some may baulk at this additional cost, it has worked for me.

Ratings on PPH

As with most freelancing sites, your work is rated 1-5 stars. Customer ratings add to your overall rating – PPH recently changed this to a Cert rating which, the higher you go, should mean you get more work (in other words, you become a trusted supplier). I’ve been there since December and I’m already on Cert 4 (out of 6).

How to increase your chances of success on People Per Hour

While this is not meant to be a promo for the site, I like People Per Hour because it’s simple to use and, so far, has been successful for me. That doesn’t mean work is going to drop like confetti into your lap – you have to put in the effort, and sometimes the money, to make it work for you.

  1. Write a good profile that gets straight to the point. While what you have done in the past may seem more important, try to concentrate on what you can provide. To use a time worn cliché: What are you bringing to the table?
  2. Have some samples. Provide customers with a selection of your work. Make sure it is of good quality and error free. If you are a writer put up 5 or 6 blog posts. If you’re a designer add jpegs of your work.
  3. Consider promoting your hourly. Yes, it’s an extra expense. No, it isn’t a con. When I first began it was tempting to sit there and just wait for the work to come rolling in. Unfortunately, no freelancing site works that way. I began to get work when I featured my hourly.
  4. If you land a job do it well and do it on time, no matter how small it is. Do I need to add anything to that? It’s obvious, right?
  5. Communicate. Some customers will give you all the details you need to complete a job, others may require a little prompting. Don’t try to use the force to complete a job, it rarely works. Ask for more details or clarification.
  6. Be customer focussed. If you get it wrong, offer to put it right and do so quickly. I have got it wrong once when a customer said what I’d written was too flippant for her audience. I swallowed my pride and rewrote completely and have since had 7 further jobs from the same customer.
  7. Be prepared to research and write on any subject. This week my brain hurts because I’ve had to write on currency transfers in China (which I know nothing about) and have just received an order for 4 blog posts on e-greeting cards (which I know even less about).
  8. Don’t sell yourself cheap. It may seem like a good idea to offer rock bottom prices to get yourself going. Resist the temptation – most people will equate low price with low quality work. Charge a reasonable price. If an employer expects you to work for peanuts then they are not worth your time.
  9. Be reliable. Here’s the good news: There are plenty of unreliable people out there, check some of the reviews on the site. If you provide a good service and bring it in on time and at the right price, customers will choose you again and again.
  10. Be patient. For the first couple of months I found the work patchy even after paying to feature my hourly. The work is now starting to build quite nicely. I have a good selection of 5 star reviews and a body of recent work with which to impress prospective clients. I’m not earning ga-zillions but I’m doing alright.

I’ll end this post with a gratuitous plug for PPH. If you click here you can go enrol and see if it works out for you. I wish you every success.

If you have enjoyed reading this post, please take the time to leave a comment below on any aspect of freelancing. We’d be interested to hear what you have to say.

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On Becoming a Freelance Writer

Becoming a freelance writer

Every pen monkey has thought of setting up as a freelance writer at one time or another. You get the best of both worlds, don’t you? You love to write, why not become a literary gun for hire? It’s in your scribbler DNA. You can’t resist.

For some, it’s simply a thought that passes as easily as it came. Other, more deluded types, take a breath and dip their toes into the freelance waters, encounter little or no success and return to their fantasies of becoming the next Stephen King or J R Tolkien. A few hardy souls bite the bullet and decide to become fully fledged freelance writers.

They do! Yes, they do! (Sound of trumpets and general hurrah-ing).

So, here’s your first of several freelance writer hard truths: It generally sucks.

Strangely, I don’t mean that in an unkind way. What I mean is that it’s not all fun. You won’t be sitting with your favourite pen, waxing lyrical as you sip nice French claret and dig into a box of Thornton chocolates while dressed only in yesterday’s vest and pants.

Oh, wouldst that it were dear scribe. Then, we would all be doing it.

A freelance writer works hard

For those thinking of quitting the day job and giving it a try, be warned. You may currently work eight hours a day, five days a week and all for a set wage. You may hate your job, the travel each morning and evening, your evil boss, your pointless work mates, your work chair, and the stupid executive toy on the edge of your desk. But, listen my friend, you have a lovely set income flying into your bank account each month and you have a pretty good idea how and when you’re going to earn it.

As a full-time freelance writer you will be working longer hours, probably for less, and your pay packet is going to be highly uncertain, at least in the beginning. You will have to hunt for jobs and you will have to compete with other, equally skilled, writers for your share of the freelance pie. And, through all this, you will have to provide a consistently high standard of work.

Still haven’t put you off?

Okay, it’s a good idea. I agree. Should I mention tax returns now? No?

Besides, you’ve decided you’re going to keep the day job and simply freelance part-time.

Good for you! Just for you here are:

6 qualities a freelance writer needs

Commitment: If you are going to do it, commit to it. You will have deadlines, meet them. You have to spend time writing, do it. Do it all at 100%. Don’t sit and think: I’ll have a go at it later or I’ll crack through that tomorrow. It doesn’t wash in the wonderful world of self-employment. You are a freelance writer: Write!

Competence: Your writing has to meet the standard. You must have above average literary skills and that includes being able to edit your own work effectively. If you are still throwing in redundant adjectives and adverbs and your editing consists of a few flighty red ticks in the margin of a page, the freelance writer life is probably not for you. It’s a skill, not an art form. You need to produce good quality work, quickly.

Determination: Not the same as commitment but an ugly cousin twice removed. You have to get out there and find work each day, every day, seven days a week. You sit down each morning and say: “I need to earn some money.” Find it. Hunt it down with grim determination. Trap it. Kill it. Well, maybe not kill it. Maim it slightly. Chain it to the desk. Make sure it doesn’t get away.

Consistency: Your work must be of a uniformly high standard. No exceptions. If you’re lucky to get business from a freelancing site you will generally receive a customer rating of between 1 and 5 stars after you finish a job. Hard truth #2: For you, a 1 star rating is catastrophic. Your writing credibility immediately goes south and people think twice about hiring you. If you are consistently good you will consistently get 5 stars. If you are poor for just one second, you might do irreparable damage to your reputation.

SEO awareness: A number of your clients will want work that is SEO friendly. If you don’t know what that means, or why keywords are seen as important, then find out. It’s not difficult and you need to be able to incorporate it into your writing.

Adaptability: You need to be able to write across the board. In my short time as a freelance writer, I have put together articles on Chinese social media, storage spaces, car specs, features and benefit selling, dental hygiene, office cleaning, and football. Get yourself comfortable with researching your article, it comes with the job. There are only rare moments when someone asks you to write something you are completely familiar with.

Still interested?

In the next part of The Freelance Writer I’ll be talking about my own personal experience with freelancing platform People Per Hour and I hope you’ll join me for that. In the meantime, if you have any thoughts on going freelance then please jot them down in the comments section below.

Guest Blogging is Dead – let us rejoice!

Guest blogging is deadThe year started with a little panic as SEO marketing bods everywhere ran around like headless chickens screaming that guest blogging was dead. Or, as the spam bloggers would have us believe: Git bogging is dud.

“Ultimately, this is why we can’t have nice things in the SEO space: a trend starts out as authentic. Then more and more people pile on until only the barest trace of legitimate behavior remains. We’ve reached the point in the downward spiral where people are hawking ‘guest post outsourcing’ and writing articles about “how to automate guest blogging.’” Matt Cutts, head of Google’s Webspam team.

They have finally gone and done it, those pesky marketing people. In their endless quest for SEO dominance, they have filled the internet with their relentless link-bound spam articles and caused the demise of the beloved guest blog.

RIP come the cries from marketing gurus whose voices must be heard and heeded above all else. Guest blogging is dead! We have killed it!

But is the guest blog as dead as they would have us believe? Was it not just a case of mistaken identity?

The “this is an ex-blog” guest blogging camp

The raison d’être for guest blogging quickly became about getting quality backlinks to improve search engine performance – it was about blog volume and the number of links and not about quality. They even invented programs that could generate the copy on auto and so provide it cheaper.

Soon the blogosphere began to fill with countless, and largely pointless, articles. Meanwhile, search engines like Google are continuing to evolve and are expected to produce even more advanced algorithms that reward good content and not links.

To be frank, it is hard to call the type of blogging that grew out of the rabid desire to link build as anything but spamming. If you printed off all the articles written for this cause and stuck them end to end, they would no doubt reach the moon and back.

Guest blogging in the end became spam blogging and like most marketing practices something that started off as legitimate and highly valued was taken over by the illiterate, often automated, mass producing marketing packs; faceless, talentless individuals who sit in large offices and churn out crap 99% of their day.

These minions of marketing devilry have killed the guest blog.

So say the gurus. So it must be true.

The “it’s just pining for the fjords” guest blogging camp

Actually, it would be truer to say that this is the “a case of mistaken identity” camp. Lumping pure guest blogging in with spam blogging is just plain wrong. Sure, the endless stream of links-on-steroids garbage that passes for content nowadays may have had its day. We live in hope. But guest blogging, in its unadulterated sense, should, and hopefully will, remain and thrive.

The pro-survival guest blogging camp is of a view that spam blogging is evil and that the sooner it shuffles off this mortal coil the better. Proper guest blogging is quality, well-written content that is valuable to its target audience.

To this camp, the world will be a better place once busy marketing executives come to their senses and see guest blogging as more public relations than gratuitous link building. A high quality guest blog can still reach a new audience, gain brand exposure and offer something more in this ever changing world of internet marketing that we have all come to love and cherish.

Guest blogging is not dead

And it’s an encouraging time for the good freelance writers out there who have seen their value degraded in recent years. Good quality sites still use good writers and expect well-composed, engagingly written content from them.

That’s the way it should be in an ideal world.

The star of the guest blogger could be set to rise higher particularly for those who have the ability and the knowledge to spread their views eloquently and entertainingly. For those who have been doing it on the cheap, throwing a few misspelt and badly punctuated words and sentences onto the net alongside a copious strew of links, maybe their time is done.

And that can only be a good thing.

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Keyword Combinations for Writing Blogs

keyword combinationsThe use of carefully thought-out keyword combinations can help drive useful traffic to your blog.

The demise of search engine optimization (SEO), where writer’s can improve the chances of getting their blog to the top of search pages using specific keywords, has been greatly exaggerated.

It’s more difficult, for sure. But with a little clear thinking, incorporating keywords and keyword combinations can make a significant difference to the relevant traffic coming directly to your blog from search engines.

The other day, I noticed that one of my blog entries is far more successful than any other. 20 tips for writing the perfect horror story has had around 27,000 views and 32 comments. That got me thinking (I do a lot of that). This is just one blog post, not the whole site. How would it be if all my posts had a similar response?

Was I missing something important?

I have mostly relied on social media such as Twitter and Facebook, which have thriving writing communities, to drive traffic to my site. It works up to a point, but I wondered whether I was losing out in not properly optimizing for search engines.

Keyword combinations have value

What is search engine optimization (SEO)?  Simple: It’s using keywords in your site text to get you to the top of the search engine listings. So, when someone types in “writer’s blog” you appear on the first page (if you’ve done your job properly). There are no prizes for coming on the second page here. It’s first page or nothing.

The problem is that all the good words in SEO are taken and have been done to death. That means it is difficult, well-nigh impossible in some cases, to get to the top of the search engine listing for one of those keywords which have high volumes of searches every month. Too many sites have got there before you.

That’s where keyword combinations come in. Most content SEO nowadays is about finding keywords that, used together, bring enough relevant traffic to your site, combinations that haven’t been so over-mined that you stand a chance of getting on that front page.

And, if you look hard enough, there’s a good few still out there.

You should find keyword combinations that have a small but significant usage. For instance, the search term “e books” has over 4 million searches on Google per month. You won’t have a chance of making it to the top of the listings for this keyword. Horror, writing, short, story keyword combinations, however, give me first page billing with a cumulative search of around 2,000 per month.

Do you see where I’m going with this?

By careful choice of keywords you could be driving a significant amount of relevant traffic to your site. And the important bit here is “relevant”.

Google Adwords help you find keyword combinations

How do you find out whether these keyword combinations are worth the effort? Google Adwords provides a free keyword search tool. You can type in all sorts of combinations and it will give you the number of searches per month.

How do I use keyword combinations?

As a simple rule of thumb, once you’ve selected your keywords you need to incorporate them into your blog entry. Use them in the title, and the first few lines of the blog and the last few, and don’t forget to put them in the tags.

Be careful not to overuse throughout the text so that it sounds like you’re spamming and don’t be afraid to give the blog a tweak every so often to see whether that makes a difference to your page ranking.

Be warned: This is not a cure-all panacea. Search engine optimization doesn’t happen overnight and you may not always succeed. Check your search terms every so often to see how you are doing.

So, to recap: Remember, my search engine listing was for just one blog entry. Imagine if I can optimize, say, another ten posts on my writer’s blog. That would make a significant increase in relevant traffic.

And we all love people visiting us don’t we?

A useful article on SEO keyword searching for writer’s can be found on Rachel Reuben’s YA fiction site.

If you have any useful comments or tips for optimizing your writer blog, then please share in the comments section below.

Does Freelance Writing Pay? By Monica Marier

freelance writing

“What’s it pay?”

I cringe every time someone asks me this. I’ve been doing freelance writing for over three months now and it’s a lot like an elementary experiment in stone-age economy. There’s a different currency on the internet and sadly, it’s not recognized by Tesco. Online the currency is “promotion”.

I do “The Fat Diaries” column and comic on obesity for a prestigious online newsletter whose meager profit margin comes from donations and their vanity shirt store. They don’t make money, they get publicly lauded by celebrities and politicians (like Stephen Colbert). Their goal is to post their ideas and get people to listen to them. So needless to say, they don’t pay me and they aren’t alone in this.

More and more these days the web is becoming a media phenomenon that has 10 times the power and capability of the nineties internet bubble, but with only a fraction of its net profit. Guest writers and regular writers get paid in pennies or not at all. Even the most accomplished of journalists are forced to host giveaways and all of them have that gaudy yellow paypal button.

So the big question is if there’s no money, WHY DO IT? This of course brings us back to my first statement about currency. It’s for the promotion.

My bosses aren’t paying me a cent, but they’ve promised to promote my book that’s coming out this fall. Other sites I’ve written for host links to my webcomics and blog. My publishers promote my site, and their authors promote me, while I in turn promote them.

It all seems middling sometimes, but each fan, each pre-order, each site that tells everyone that “Monica Marier is a great author/artist/person and you should buy her book/read her comic/give her money” is advertising I didn’t have to buy! It’s the old “you scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours,” bit, warts and all.

I do have my dark days where I toss my hands up, pull at my hair and moan, “what’s it all about?”

That’s when I step away from the computer and go for a walk, or play with my kids or do anything other than write. Eventually the need will seize me, or the deadline will remind me that people are counting on me, and I get to work again. This is a job. A REAL job, even if I’m not being paid physical money right now.

And I’m so lucky that I get to do the job I love, even if occasionally it drives me bonkers.

It’s not easy, as I’m sure you all know, but hell, if I was going to pick an easy life, I’d have gotten a job folding shirts at the GAP store.

Monica Marier is a caffeinated stay-at-home mother of two. She writes and draws 3 comics for Tangent Artists and writes “The Fat Diaries” a weekly comic/article on Obesity in America for FrumForum. Her first published novel “Must Love Dragons,” a Fantasy comedy, is being published this fall by Hunt Press. Monica lives in Washington D.C. with her husband Joe.

You can follow Monica on twitter @lil_monmon and her visit her blog.

Do you have experience of freelancing? Let us know in the comments section below.

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