Five Tips for Getting the Best Out of Your Freelance Writer

Hiring a freelance writer is a great way to add a little extra oomph into your content. Whether you need someone who can provide regular blogs and articles, content for your website or a really great marketing piece, freelancers can provide top quality, engaging content for your business. And hiring freelancers is also usually less expensive than hiring new employees.

But if you’ve never hired a freelancer before, where do you start? Fortunately, there is no shortage of people out there trying to make their living by the written word. Check any online classified site and you’re sure to find at least a few. Additionally, you may want to ask friends and colleagues if they know anyone that they can refer.

Once you know where to cast your net, there are certain steps that will help you find and keep the best freelancers.

  1. Know what you want

In the world of freelance writing every project – and every client is different. A writer can only do their very best for you if they know what it is that you want.

  • Scope – whether you are looking for a long-term relationship with a writer or you only require a single article, it is important to set the scope. Make sure that your writer knows what you want in terms of word count, keywords, and deadlines.
  • Tone – to you want fun, conversational pieces, or do you want longer, more meaty articles that will require your writer to do extensive research?
  • Budget – how much are you prepared to spend – and over what period of time?
  • Deadlines – when do you need to have a piece completed by? If your writer is completing multiple articles, you may want to consider creating an editorial calendar.

3. Ask for writing samples

During my years as a freelance writer, I have come to recognize with fairly good accuracy who will and who will not become a client based on their very first email to me. When someone sends me an email and asks how much I charge (and nothing else), they are probably not going to be a client.

If cost is your primary (only?) concern, it is better to a site like Upwork and hire there. Mind you in doing so, you risk hiring someone with poor writing skills or getting a piece of work that is completely plagiarized, but hey – it’s cheap right?

On the other hand, when someone asks for writing samples, it shows they are putting a little more thought into the process. Even better if they ask for writing samples in a particular niche or that were written for a particular business sector!

This isn’t to say that pricing isn’t important. It is. And obviously, you have to stay within a budget that you are comfortable with. Just don’t sacrifice quality in the process.

3. Ask the right questions

In the same vein that it is important to ask for writing samples, it is also important to ask the right questions.

  • Do you write for SEO?
  • Do you write for User Experience (UX)?
  • What are your rates?
  • What is your turnaround time?
  • Can you input your writing into WordPress (or MailChimp or whatever platform you want to use)?
  • Do you provide images?
  • Do you provide social media support?

Ask any question you need to in order for you to feel comfortable working with the writer.

4. Understand what a freelance writer is not

It can be easy to pile all kinds of other duties on your freelance writer but most writers will not be able to design your website, or come up with a PPC campaign. If you need someone to take on these non-writing duties, you can certainly ask your writer if they have experience and if they are interested. Just understand that there is a good chance that they don’t and they’re not.

Also, understand that your writer is an independent contractor and not an employee. They have other clients besides you. In fact, they may even be writing as a side hustle and have a full-time job. This means of course, that they can’t be at your beck and call all the time.

You may wish to have daily or weekly phone calls with them, but chances are they will not. Most communication with your freelance writer can be done via email. And when only voice to voice will do, email or text and ask when a good time for a call would be

5. Be professional

When you hire a freelance writer you expect them to behave professionally. Remember though, that this is a two-way street. Your writer needs you to be professional as well.

This means communicating clearly and not withholding important information they may need to do their job properly.

It also means paying their invoices in full and on time. It’s sad that this last point even needs to be mentioned, but it does. Thankfully, the vast majority of the clients that I have worked for have been great – but a handful have not.

If you wouldn’t refuse to pay your lawyer, your hair stylist or your babysitter, then you need to treat your writer with the same respect.

Hiring a freelance writer can help you take your content to the next level. Just be sure to spend a little time doing your homework and interact professionally with your writer and it can be the start of a great relationship.

 

Productivity Hacks to Help You Find More Time for Your Side Hustle

Having a side hustle is a great way to start building your business while you still have the security of a job – or, if you love your job and plan on sticking around, it is a great way to simply make a few extra bucks. The challenge with working a full time job, plus having a side hustle, and having a life though is how you manage your time. For your side hustle to be profitable, you’re going to have to put it the time.

Two facts about time

  1. Each of us gets 24 hours in a day – how we spend those hours is up to us.
  2. When we say that we don’t have time to do something, what we really mean is that something else is more important to us.

For the next 30 days, try taking the words, “I don’t have time” out of your vocabulary. Instead say something like, “I have another priority” or “I have chosen to do such and such an activity instead.” This subtle shift in language will help you gain ownership over your allotted 24 hours each day.

Each day we make choices about how to spend our time, whether it’s being with friends and family, working on our side hustle, checking Facebook or binge watching the latest hit on Netflix. None of these choices are necessarily bad, but whenever you make a choice to do one thing, you are prioritizing it over another.

So how can we stop time from simply slipping away from us and take more control? Here are three productivity hacks that will help you find more time for your side hustle.

Hack #1: Track your time

The first step to controlling where you time goes, is to know where it is going. By tracking your time, you will begin to see where you are spending disproportionate amounts of time on any given task. After all, how can you improve if you don’t know where you need improvement?

Tracking your time can be as easy as setting up an Excel spreadsheet but there are also lots of handy apps you can use such as Everhour or RescueTime. Doing this will make you more aware of how you are spending your time – therefore making you more productive, and it will also give you a record of your regular tasks.

Once you’ve got a pretty detailed outline of your daily tasks (this should take about two weeks), review them to see what you can eliminate, what you can do in a smarter, more efficient way and what you can delegate to someone else.

Hack #2: Write tomorrow’s to-do list today

Sit down each night and write down your priorities for the next day. This should not be a list containing every minute detail (because that would be a time waster!) but rather focus only on your top two or three priorities. Ask yourself, if I only got three things done tomorrow, what would I want those things to be?

Then, when you wake up the next morning you will know exactly where to focus your time and will be less likely to be distracted by other things that might pop up.

Hack #3: Do ONE productive task fist

Instead of checking Facebook; instead of opening your inbox do one productive task for your side hustle before you do anything else. More often than not, this should be one of your three items you wrote down the night before.

Doing so, will help you set the pace for the day and be more productive.

Remember, you have the same 24 hours as everyone else. Start using these hacks today to get the most out of them.

Six reasons why quality still matters in content writing

Adding fresh content to on a regular basis to your website is important for a number of reasons. Blogs, articles and other updates work to help keep your SEO healthy – allowing your site to rank better with the search engines and thereby attract a greater amount of traffic.

But how important is it that those articles actually be good? Well-written? Informative? Original? Is simply churning out a high volume of articles enough or does quality still matter?

I was recently confronted with this question meeting with a prospect who was interested in having me do some content work for him. The prospect represented a marketing agency who was looking to outsource some of their work to me.

He said, “My clients don’t care about quality. We can take existing articles and spin them for two dollars a piece.”

I politely wrapped up the meeting know that this prospect and I would not be able to reach an agreement. But I should actually thank this prospect because he really got me thinking about what differentiates quality writers from spinners and content mills.

The quantity argument

Let’s start with the argument for quantity and why some companies choose it over quality for their websites.

As I’ve mentioned before – regular content – sometimes even poor content can give you a boost in your Google or Bing ranking. The natural result of this will be more traffic to your website.

Spinning articles (that is taking someone else’s work and changing the wording just enough so that it does not appear to be plagiarized) is one way to produce a lot of content in a short amount of time. It’s easy – and it can be relatively cheap. There are even software programs that can do it for you – albeit rather poorly.

But hey, if you can get lots and lots of articles for your site and do it quickly and cheaply, why not right?

It’s a tactic that might just work – for some businesses.

So why would a company choose to spend more and hire a content writer who produces high quality and engaging content?

Here are six reasons why I would argue that quality is not dead:

  1. Quality content shows your reader that your company is an authority. When people do Google searches, they are looking for answers. If your site contains a blog that is truly able to answer their question and not just repeat what has been said on every other site, that can make you their go-to expert next time they have another question about your industry.
  2. Engaging content helps you build an audience. There are so many company blogs out there that merely rehash what’s already been said hundreds and thousands of times. Engaging content stands out. If your business has a blog that makes people think; or that entertains them; or that challenges them on some level, they’ll be more likely to return to your site or start following your business on social medial.
  3. Quality content writers will learn to speak your company’s language. It is more important than ever before for businesses to distinguish themselves through brand image. Do you want to portray an all-business get er done kind of image? How about a quirky fun image? Or perhaps an image that appeals to a certain gender or age group? A skilled content writer can work those goals into the “voice” of your articles.
  4. Quality attracts your niche customer. While putting out hordes of low quality content, may boost SEO and bring more traffic to your website, it may not be attracting the right audience. What’s the point in attracting visitors to your site who never do business with you? The best articles are the ones that attract, engage and eventually convert your target customer.
  5. Google’s algorithms are continually evolving. Many spammy tactics that were used only a few years ago to draw traffic to websites have now been dubbed “black hat” by Google. Using these same tactics today can get your site penalized or even banned by search engines. Google’s spiders already have algorithms to detect quality – and they are getting better all the time. Sheer volume of poorly written content will not give companies an SEO advantage for much longer. Businesses that choose quality now are ahead of the game.
  6. Readers are demanding better content. Let’s face it – the internet has become polluted. Anyone and everyone can post whatever they want and there is a lot of crap out there. There is also a lot of really good content. And your readers know the difference. Companies that wish to keep their readership have to recognize that the modern business website is about giving just as much as it’s about getting. Sure, they want to “get” traffic and conversions – but they are also expected to “give” value to those that visit their site.

5 Reasons Why You Should Start a Side Business in 2016

Every day, more and more people step out into the world of entrepreneurship – and many of these folks do so while still working full time. Some call this a side hustle and others call it chicken entrepreneurship but there does seem to be some evidence that business owners who start their venture while still having the security of a paycheck tend to do better than those who don’t.

Of course there are pros and cons to doing it each way, but if you need some encouragement on why you should get your side business started in 2016, here are a few compelling reasons:

  1. Security – Take a quick poll of your co-workers and most of them will probably tell you that working full-time in a salaried job is more secure than striking out on your own. And yet, chances are they all know of someone who was blindsided by an unexpected layoff. If the financial crisis of 2008 has taught us anything, it is that jobs are not as secure as we had been led to believe. Of course, there is no guarantee in business either, but if you are building a side business while still working full-time, you’ve got an added layer of security.
  2. Money – If you are like most employees, chances are that annual raises have not even kept pace with inflation. Operating your own side business can give you that extra bit of breathing room and even allow for some luxuries. Who knows, you may even find your side gig paying out more than your regular employer!
  3. Sharpen your skills – Should you decide to start your own business, chances are you will be doing something in which you already have some level of skill. In some ways, starting a business is a bit like taking a course – skills will be developed as you go along. At the start, you could find yourself undercharging for your services, but as your confidence grows, you’ll target specific types of customers and start charging what you’re really worth.
  4. Develop new skills – Starting a business will also inevitably involve developing some new skills. Negotiating contracts, keeping track of payments and invoices, or creating a simple website may not be your core business but they may all be necessary to get your business off the ground. Eventually, you may want to hire these tasks out, but if you’re low on capital at the onset of your business, you might just learn to do them yourself.
  5. Make new contacts – Most business owners really can’t have a successful business unless they get out there and promote themselves. Networking either in person or via the Internet can help you build valuable connections that can benefit you not only in business but in other areas of your life as well.

If you’ve been contemplating the idea of starting your own side business while still working full-time, then 2016 may just be your year. Why not commit to taking one step today to making your side business a reality. Whether that step involves placing an ad, creating a business card or simply doing a bit of research – get out there and get started !

Why flexible working from home is awesome and why more employers should offer it

More and more, technology is allowing many of us to do our jobs from home – or at the very least, telecommute on occasion. I am fortunate enough to be one of those lucky few that can work from home once in awhile as much of the software that I use is web based, and due to the wonderful fact that I can log in to my work computer remotely. While, it hasn’t quite got to the point of working from a SUP camp in Costa Rica, I haven’t given up hope.

Lately, with my freelance business growing the way that it is, along with my martial arts training, I’ve been thinking that if I could spend even more time working from home, it would really amp up my productivity in all areas. It would also help to provide some of the work life balance I’ve been missing lately.

To give an example of how this can work to everyone’s advantage,  I’ll tell you a bit about the last time that I worked from home. I was suffering with a migraine. Had I been at the office, I would have just suffered through. I would have looked at my phone, made idle chit chat with co-workers, and I would have spent some time starring at my computer screen trying to look busy because frankly that’s all I would have been capable of doing at the time. But working from home, the story goes a little bit differently. I got up and took a hot shower – felt better and got back to work.

Which scenario sounds more productive to you?

But if you require more objective evidence that more employers should offer flexible work arrangements, then consider some of the proven benefits to both employees and employers.

Benefits for the employer

  • Working at your own pace, without distractions like office gossip is more productive. A recent study conducted by Stanford University found that not only did the majority of employees not slack off while working from home, their productivity level actually increased by 13%.
  • It allows employers to recruit from anywhere. Since distance is no longer a barrier, employers can recruit the best and brightest no matter where they happen to be located. Looking at my list of clients that I freelance for, none of them are in London. The closest is Tillsonburg followed by Burlington and Toronto. I’ve also done work for clients in the United States, England, Germany and Australia. This simply wouldn’t have been possible if I had had to meet each one in person.
  • It encourages creativity. Let’s face it, looking at the same four cubicle walls day in and day out doesn’t provide a lot of inspiration. But when you stop segmenting “work life” and “real life” – when you’re not constantly weighing whether you are on or off the clock, it allows you to have more inspired ideas for the benefit of your employer whether your at your home office, your local Starbucks or on a tropical beach somewhere.
  • It’s cutting  edge. Despite the advantages of being able to work from home or on a flexible schedule, very few companies actually offer it. The idea came into the spotlight again about a year ago when Richard Branson announced that Virgin employees would now reap the advantages of this model – Branson even goes as far to offer unlimited vacation provided employees get their work done. But this didn’t originate with Virgin. Branson got the idea from Netflix.  That’s not to say that Virgin and Netflix employees can do whatever they like – they operate on a principle called Results Only Work Environments or ROWEs. Cali Ressler, co-author of “Why Work Sucks and How to Fix It” emphasizes that companies should be looking at the results that employees produce and not the face time. The fact that only a select handful of employers actually offer this type of arrangement can give those employers a distinct advantage – allowing them to attract and retain the best talent.

Advantages to the employee

Clearly not every job is suited to working from home or working on a flexible schedule. Retail and dining establishments come to mind. According to research from Global Workplace Analytics, the average employee who is permitted to work from home at least 50% of the time is 49 years old, has a college degree and works in a non-union, salaried, management or professional role. Over 75% of these earn at least $65,000 a year.

But those lucky few who can work from home and on flexible schedules tend to be happier and healthier because they have a greater work-life balance. Research from Penn State University also shows that these workers get an average of 8 additional minutes of sleep each night and have better sleep quality than those who must go into the office every day.

Employees who work from home may also feel more freedom to get up and move around once in awhile. Taking a five minute movement break every 25 minutes may well help them avoid certain health problems later on in life.

All this isn’t to say that working on a flexible schedule doesn’t have some drawbacks. It turns out that out of sight can sometimes also mean out of mind. And it’s not uncommon for work from home employees to be overlooked for promotion. But for the 36% of us who would choose working from home over a pay raise, the other cumulative benefits may well be worth it.

Why (just about) everyone should have their own business

Kristen Duever Writing Services

Starting a business is not for everyone… or is it? I’ve come to the conclusion that if it is not for everyone, then it is certainly for most people. I’m not talking about necessarily starting the next Apple or even running a small local Mom and Pop shop for that matter. But I do think that most people should be running their own show independent from their employer (even if they love their job and wouldn’t dream of leaving!)

I’ve gained a bit of a reputation recently in some circles for helping others get jobs (or, at least interviews). My day job brings me in contact with a lot of business owners, so when a position becomes available, there is a pretty decent chance that I will hear about it. But when someone tells me that they are looking for a job, I almost always ask them why they don’t go into business…

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My Top Ten List of Websites for Freelancing Productivity and Inspiration

Over the past several years as I’ve built up my writing business I’ve found a number of helpful online resources and have served either to help grow my business, give me inspiration or both. The following is a list of the top ten websites that have proven useful to me in my freelance writing career:

Getting new clients:

Kijiji.ca – I once had a business coach ask me how I went about getting new clients to write for. He seemed a bit surprised, when I told him that by far the most useful website has been Kijiji. I use the site both to post my own ads and well as to respond to job postings of those who are looking for writers. Since I can write for anyone anywhere in the world, I don’t limit myself to searching within my own city, but rather conduct searches on whole provinces at a time. At the moment, I don’t have any clients based in London, but have quite a few in the GTA.

Elance.com/Upwork.com – When I first started offering my services as a freelancer, I found several clients through Elance.com which is now becoming Upwork.com. This is a great resource, especially for a new freelancer to find work. While I still have one regular client that I work with through this format, I now primarily use it to hire other freelancers.

Freelancewritingjobs.ca – A job board for writers on which I occasionally find new clients.

Promotional:

WordPress.com – While I find that I don’t greatly NEED a website for the work that I do, I really like having one and understand that owning www.kristenduever.com may prove useful someday as I build my freelancing empire! WordPress.com is a fairly easy to use, free website building tool on which I can advertise my services and write blogs which will hopefully prove useful to at least some of my readers. One day however, I may have to convert it over to a wordpress.org site or even have it more professionally designed.

Unsplash.com – This is a really cool site that I discovered recently. Its purpose to provide free high quality photos to pair with my blogs.

Linkedin.com – While I’ve never received any business directly as a result of Linkedin (yet!), I’ve frequently referred prospects to view my Linkedin Profile along with the several positive recommendations from past and current clients.

Administrative

PayPal.com – Most of my clients, I have never met in person. I even have a few clients who I haven’t even spoken with over the telephone. PayPal is a convenient method both for sending invoices and receiving payments.

Inspirational

Sidehustlenation.com – I stumbled across this site within the last year or so while I was searching for resources about running a business while working full time. The site has many useful blog postings and tips but I especially love listening to the podcasts.

Liz Ryan on Forbes.com – while Ms. Ryan tends to write mainly about employment related issues and not self-employment related issues, I find her posts fun and engaging. On a deeper level, they are about enjoying your work – whether it is in the form of a job or your own business.

Sir Richard Branson on Linkedin.com – While I don’t always agree with his politics, I really admire Sir Richard’s approach to the business world – can we say “No Dress Code” and “Unlimited Vacation” anyone!? I always find his blogs and posts very inspirational.

Do you have your own side business (freelance or otherwise)?

I’d love to hear about some of the sites that you’ve found most useful!