Category Archives: Freelance Writing

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.

Should You Write Your Business Blog or is Outsourcing the Best Option?

Business owners focus on operations, management of employees, finances, building new products, brainstorming services, and improving the overall health of the business. As a business owner, you have a lot on your plate. When you include social media marketing, website development and management, and other marketing requirements, the workload begins to be overwhelming and daunting. Business owners need a team of professionals, whether in-house or outsourced, that support the business.

Producing blog content is not just about writing. There are a lot of factors involved in content writing, including, but not limited to; SEO keyword research, managing the blog platform, and social media management.

In order to have a successful blog, there is a significant time commitment required to publish consistent and creative content. Business owners can attempt to manage their web and blog content on their own or they can outsource dedicated professional writers to produce blog content for the business.

Benefits of Writing Your Own Business Blog

  • If you have an in-house staff member that can take on the additional responsibilities of blog writing and content management, costs are typically lower than outsourcing. However, ensure the staff member can accept the time commitment required and their primary role with the business will not be affected. Also, make sure the staff member is a qualified writer. Poorly written content will destroy a blog’s chance for success. Be available to train the staff member in social media management and SEO analysis for the most successful blog posts.
  • Blog posts that are created in-house tend to be more personable and can sometimes provide higher quality content. The staff member has a vested interest in the business and can directly relate to the reader more easily.
  • The in-house writing representative can feel a sense of authority and trust by the business owner, which can lead to better employee performance. The staff member is now responsible to be the “voice” of the company and will benefit from the writing experience and content management experience, furthering their portfolio.

Benefits of Outsourcing Your Business Blog Content

  • Time is one of the most beneficial aspects of outsourcing your business blog needs. Content writing takes significant time and when you include social media management the time requirement greatly increases. Outsourcing your blog writing and management will save your business large of amounts of time and subsequently a lot of money.
  • The majority of freelance blog writers are experienced and provide high-quality content with a quicker turn-around than a novice writer. Constant revisions will not be necessary; just a simple review process. Also, many outsourced blog writer professionals are knowledgeable in SEO keyword analysis and social media management. You will only need to hire one well-trained professional for all your blog content management needs.
  • No one knows your business better than you. However, to gain interest and increase traffic to your blog, you will need a fresh and unique perspective. Overfamiliarity can cause blog content to sound dull and boring. An outsourced freelancer provides a new fresh look at your business and bring a sense of excitement to your content.

Why Companies Outsource Content Writing

When explaining my business to someone recently, I was asked how do I convince companies to outsource their content writing. After pondering this for about half a second, I realized that outsourcing content was not something I had to convince companies to do. They are already doing it. The only thing I ever have to do is show them a writing sample and quote my rates. If they like my writing and accept my rates, it’s simply a matter of determining whether we are a good fit for each other.

Still, I was curious about the question. Why do companies outsource their content writing? I had my own theories of course, but like most good freelance web writers, I decided to consult with Professor Google. Naturally, I found lots of theories, but one very interesting fact that I discovered was that 74% of tech companies outsource their writing.  And not surprisingly, a large percentage of my own freelance work comes from tech companies.

But suppose, your business is not a tech company. Are there reasons for you to outsource your writing as well? Here are a few reasons that you might like to consider it:

1. Every business should be blogging! As I wrote in an earlier post, creating regular useful and engaging content is not only good for your SEO, but it will give potential customers reasons to come back to your site. In their minds, you become the authority. Then, when the user is ready to buy your goods or services, there is a much better chance that they will give their business to you and not to your competition.

2. Writing takes time and effort. Even if you or someone else in your company is a very good writer, adding regularly to a company blog is one more thing on your already full plate. Outsourcing to an experienced writer saves you time.

3. You run out of blog ideas. An experienced content writer can take even the most boring business, and find ways to come up with engaging content.

4. You aren’t getting results. Even if you have the time and the talent to write amazing articles every week for your website, if you aren’t getting your desired results, it may be time to change tactics. An experienced content writer, knows a thing or two about keywords, article length and creating the right call to action.

5. Your competitors are already outsourcing. It is estimated that anywhere between 64-72% of all companies outsource their writing.

Four Strategies for Better Web Content Writing

For many of your prospective customers, your website is the first impression that they will have of your business. It’s safe to say that you may win or lose your prospect based – at least in part – on the strength of your web content writing.

So whether you are doing your own writing in-house, or whether you are hiring a freelance writer, here are a few content strategies that can really help your website to sing.

Strategy 1: Write content that is easy to read in electronic format

When writing for a website – you have to remember that you are “screen writing” – no, you are not writing a Hollywood movie script, but you are writing content that is intended to be read on the screen of a computer, tablet or smartphone.

Anyone who reads often will tell you that reading a print book or magazine is not the same as reading from an electronic device. For one, screens are harder on the eyes. According to a study by Neilson Norman Group, we actually read screens 25% more slowly than we do print.

So when “screen writing”, we need to use strategies that make our content easier and more efficient to read.

  • Break up your content with short paragraphs and sub-headings
  • Avoid being overly wordy – get to the point
  • Use bullet points for lists

Strategy 2: Write efficiently

When people read website copy, it’s usually because they are looking to do something such as research a product, make a purchase, or find an answer to a question.

The same descriptive language that might draw a reader into a novel and make them fall in love with the central character, might only serve to annoy the reader who is browsing your site to purchase a product or learn whether the service that you offer can help them with their problem.

Write your content more efficiently by:

  • Getting to the point – tell your reader who you are and what you can offer them.
  • Use plain language.
  • Have a clear call to action – indicate how your visitor can make a purchase or get more information.

Strategy 3: Write for SEO

That’s right – as much as you have to write for your reader, you also have to write for the search engine spiders. The reason why SEO (search engine optimization) is so important is that 93% of web traffic comes through search engines.

And if people can’t find your content, they clearly can’t read it.

To write effectively for SEO, use the following tips:

  • Use keywords – do a bit of research to find out what keywords your potential customers are searching and make sure you incorporate those words in your headings and content.
  • Don’t overuse keywords – keyword stuffing used to be an effective technique for giving your website a good ranking in the search engines, but now it can get you penalized.
  • Make your content sharable – when others share your writing on social media or it is linked back to in blogs and professional articles, it helps your SEO.
  • Write often – new content in the form of regular articles and blogs will let Google and the other search engines know that you are still relevant.

Strategy 4: Write for People

In addition to writing for SEO, you also need to remember that you are writing for people. But not any and all people – you are writing for your customers and prospective customers. Your writing should be targeted to them.

  • Write quality, useful content – If visitors to your website find what you write helpful – even if they are not ready to buy today — they will be more likely to return to your site when they are. Writing helpful and relevant blogs and articles is a great way to establish yourself as an expert in your industry.
  • Structure your writing in a way that makes sense – just as your website’s link navigation should be easy to follow, it should be easy to follow your writing from one point to the next. Clear headings and subheading are a way to accomplish this.
  • Keep your content up to date – don’t let your readers think you have gone out of business or simply don’t care because you have old, irrelevant content.
  • Be action oriented – make it simple for your reader to find and follow your call to action.

Writing compelling and effective web content does take some time, but your readers will appreciate content that has been written with them in mind – and your efforts will pay off if you keep at it.