Tag Archives: freelance writing

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.

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!

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.

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.

The Joys of Writing a Personal Bio

As a freelance writer who specializes in web content for business,  I often write about topics which I initially know little to nothing about. Sometimes these topics are even quite technical – like a series of web pages that I recently wrote for a company that designs and build data centres. I’m actually pretty comfortable writing about topics that I’m not totally comfortable with.

Recently, I was asked to write a short (under 200 word) bio about myself for a martial arts club where I am an assistant instructor. Easy, right? I mean, if I can write 5000 words about data centre design, surely it should be no problem to write 170 words about myself!

But the truth is that it was way more challenging than I anticipated.

I quickly drafted up a bio that described my experience and training. It was accurate and to the point. And it was utterly boring! It gave the “what” but not the “who”. It was clinical and without any of my personality – ugg!

For the first time in some time, I was experiencing writer’s block.

So I decided to consult Professor Google. In the search bar, I typed the question “how to write a personal bio”.  One of the first things that struck me was how many people – including professional writers – struggled with this seemingly simple task.

The second thing that struck me is how much conflicting advice is out there. Some people advised not to include unrelated hobbies and others said that by all means, you should include them! Some advised being serious and professional and others recommended using some humour. .

Since there didn’t appear to be one “right” way to do this, I started pulling out the advice that felt the most right to me. Some professionals say not to include anything unrelated to your core message (ie. no hobbies etc.) My opinion is that’s ridiculous – even for a business bio. If I can’t be a real person with a prospective employer or client, they are probably not the type of person I’d like to work with anyway. But make your own call on this.

After compiling the advice that I actually agreed with along with some sample bios that I really liked, it was time to try again. I started by jotting down some notes of things I might say if I were sitting face to face with someone and telling them about my marital arts training.

I then took these points and started to work them into my old boring version of my bio. The results were so much better!

See the difference for yourself:

Old boring version:

Kristen first started practicing martial arts during her early twenties. She spent several years training at a WTF-style taekwondo club in Niagara Falls where she earned her first degree black belt in 2003 and her second degree in 2005.

After moving to London, Kristen started looking for a new place to train. Eventually she came across Ryoku Seikido and has been here ever since. Since all of the ITF-style taekwondo patterns as well as the Aikido portion of the curriculum were new to her, Kristen once again moved up through the ranks, participating in belt exams until she earned her first and second degree black belts in Seikido in 2013 and 2014 respectively.

New more interesting version:

Kristen has been practicing martial arts since her early twenties. She enjoys all aspects of her training even though she wishes doboks were a bit more flattering.

She earned her first and second degree black belts in WTF-style Taekwondo while training at a club in Niagara Falls. This period of training included a 10 month stretch in which she was the only female in her class – nevertheless, she enjoyed the challenge of sparring with stronger and heavier opponents.

After moving to London, Kristen started looking for a new place to train. Eventually she came across Ryoku Seikido where she was introduced to the ITF-style Taekwondo patterns and Aikido. Instantly attracted to both the diverse curriculum and the supportive learning environment, Kristen remained at Ryoku where she earned her first degree black belt in Seikido in 2013 and her second degree in 2014.

When she is not busy teaching, training or drilling patterns in her living room, you can find her ballroom dancing with her husband, spending time in the garden or working on her freelance writing business.

Maybe it’s just me – but I feel like the person described in the second bio is more interesting don’t you?

I’d love to hear thoughts from others. Have you ever struggled to write a personal bio? What are your best tips for writing one?

My first blog of spring

It’s been a bit too long since I’ve posted anything here on my own blog. It’s not that I haven’t been writing lately, because I have. Just not here.

Over the past few weeks, I’ve written web content for a cosmetic surgeon, a physiotherapy clinic, and a renovation company as well as lots of articles about SEO, web design and re-marketing among other things.

I’m also writing again for Weather Democracy – a new social site where weather enthusiasts can test their forecasting skills.

And then there’s my gardening articles that I’ve been doing for close to a year now … I was recently congratulated by that client because I was successfully able to come up with enough season-appropriate topics related to gardening (albeit sometimes loosely related) to make it through the winter. Now that it’s spring again, writing about gardening should be considerably easier.

And now that it’s spring (the first full day of it in fact) it’s also a good time to take a few moments and post something for myself. I for one, am very happy that we are starting to see some sun and warmer weather – and I feel sorry for the folks in the Maritimes who have snowstorms again in the forecast this weekend.

For me, the first full day of spring was spent with my husband and in-laws. We took them out to the Pinecroft for lunch at the Green Frog Tea Room, stopping en-route to purchase some honey from Clovermead. If you live in the London area, I highly recommend both of these places. Pinecroft is incredibly beautiful and romantic and Clovermead is the only place we get our honey.

This weekend also happens to be the last weekend of March break for schools here in Ontario. Now as far as work goes, this means nothing to me – I still have to work at my day job. What it does mean though is a week long break from Seikido (my martial arts class). And that meant free evenings – something I don’t have very often. It was a great break but I’m definitely ready to go back.

And it was the ideal time to have a break too because this coming week at work promises to be especially busy with two major events, a board meeting and a strategic planning session.

And I’ll be back to martial arts.

And I’ve got lots more freelance writing to do.

But spring has sprung, the days are getting longer – and hopefully soon, it will be warm enough to do at least some of my writing el fresco while enjoying the sights , sounds and aromas of springtime.

Marketing yourself as a writer

So yesterday, I did something that I’ve been meaning to do for awhile now. I ordered business cards for my writing business. Yes, I know – I could have done it cheaper and created them myself, but I figured that whenever I market my writing business, I should do it right. So I ordered the cards.

Do I need business cards? I honestly don’t know. I have done well gaining clients through sources like kijiji and elance and even by referrals. In fact, most of my clients have hired me before ever even meeting me in person – so I would not have had the opportunity to hand them a business card.

Still – I wanted the cards. If they turn out to be useful, that might be a topic for another blog post.

As my business has grown from a casual hobby to a respectable side gig, I have taken a number of steps to better market my writing business.

I’ve advertised on kijiji which has been very successful.

I hired a contractor from elance to create my logo.

I’ve made a point of making regular posts on Facebook, Twitter and Google +.

I’ve started this website and blog.

And now, I will soon have business cards which I can hand to people when they ask me what I do or when I am at networking events.

It’s not always easy or convenient to promote my freelance writing. There are times when I get so mired in work from clients, that I tend to focus on that to the exclusion of my personal marketing. But I know that it’s something that I do need to work on.

I’d be curious to hear from other freelancers. How to you market yourself as a writer?

Writing with distractions

A quick question for my fellow bloggers – when you sit down to write, is it always sitting properly at your desk, free from distractions? Or do you prefer to write in a more relaxed manner? Like listening to music or even watching a movie (which I am doing right now).

Since I started my copywriting business, I’ve been pretty disciplined in setting aside time each day and aiming for a minimum word count goal that I’ve set for myself. I usually treat this like “a job” to get the most out of my writing time.

But sometimes… sometimes… words just  seem to flow better when I’ve got my laptop literally on my lap – leaning back on the couch – and in my case, right now, watching Hope Springs.

Your thoughts? Do you find a change of environment – or even distractions help with your writing?

How to write SEO friendly content (and human friendly content) for your business blog

There are many advantages to writing a regular blog for your business – not the least of which is that it can help with your website’s search engine optimization (SEO). Done correctly, your blog will not only attract customers, set your business up as an expert in your industry and improve your search rankings.

Done incorrectly however, you can alienate potential customers and actually get penalized by Google and the other major search engines.

One of the important things to remember when writing for you business blog is to write content that is both SEO friendly and human friendly. SEO friendly content will help search engine crawlers to find your content and in turn, give your site a better ranking.

Human friendly content will help to ensure that visitors to your site have a great experience. Content needs to be well written and engaging.

The following are a few tips to make your blog appealing both to search engine crawlers and your future customers:

1. Think about your content (and keywords).

What are your potential customers searching for? If they don’t specifically know the name of your business – or haven’t heard of you – what are they typing into their internet search bar? Think about these keywords and write a blog that incorporates them. Just don’t overuse them – not only does this make your blog harder to read but it looks spammy and it can actually hurt your SEO. Generally speaking, keywords should only be in about one to two percent of your content. (And don’t forget to include them in some of your subtitles and tags).

2. Be an original

Sorry but copy and paste is not going to do it here. When you were in school, this was called plagiarism. In SEO world, duplicate content is going to get you Google-slapped. You need to make sure that your content is original.

3. Length matters!

Blogs should be long enough to be informative – think articles rather than tweets! Your article length will also help with your SEO. A minimum of 300 words is recommended.

4. Keep Writing

The whole point of having a blog is to write regular content. As more people discover your business blog, they will begin to follow it – or start returning regularly for updates. Search engines will notice return visitors and your ranking will increase.

5.  Make your blogs sharable

When your site visitors read a blog that they find fascinating, they will naturally want to share it on Facebook, Twitter etc. When they share it, this will naturally create backlinks on those sites – once again improving your SEO.  Use share and tweet buttons to make sharing easy!

6. Link to your other blog posts

As you write more and more posts, topics will naturally start to overlap – so link to your previous posts where it makes sense to do so! This will help your readers move easily between posts that interest them – and Google likes it too!

Five Reasons Your Business Should Be Blogging

A common question of entrepreneurs is whether or not they really need a blog for their business. These days it’s almost impossible to have a discussion about marketing your business without hearing the phrase – content marketing. And there is good reason for this.

As the internet becomes a more and more social place, through platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram etc. businesses are realizing that they are now part of a two-way dialogue with their customers and prospects.

Still, you may wonder whether blogging is really relevant to your business. After all, shouldn’t you be focusing more on selling your product or service than writing a blog every week? I mean, what does banging out 500 or more words of content actually add to your bottom line?

Glad you asked!

There are some good reasons why businesses should have blogs:

1. They help with your SEO – Search Engine Optimization – that’s another phrase you can’t escape these days. Regularly adding relevant content to your website, earns you major points with search engines such as Google. As a result, your search engine ranking improves – meaning that more people will able to find your site. Of course, you need to make sure that you write in an SEO friendly manner, but that’s a post for another day. But more people to your site potentially means more business and more sales.

2. It helps you to position yourself as an expert. When people want to know something about the service or product that your business provides, many will search for the answer on the internet. They may not be looking to buy anything then and there, but if you’re site regularly provides them with great information – when they are ready to buy – they will think of you. Surveys conducted by HubSpot and others have found that businesses who blog on average, do more business than those who don’t.

3. Blogging is sharable.  When you create really interesting content, it is only natural that people want to share it on Facebook, Twitter and other social media platforms. Try placing a share or tweet button on your blog to make this as simple as possible for your audience. And more sharing means… more traffic!

4. It’s a cost effective marketing tool. Whether you do your own blogging or pay someone else to do it, this is a cost effective tool when compared to other forms of marketing. And when others share your blog through their social channels, it’s like expanding your reach for free.

5. You’ll get to know your audience. When you advertise through traditional channels such as print or radio, it can be hard to know who is hearing your message and what they are getting from it. Blogging however comes with analytics tools that you can use to find out how many views, click-throughs and conversions you are getting. Allow for likes and comments, and it can help you start a dialogue. It can give you insight into what the popular topics are and what resonates with your audience and help you plan future content.

Does your business have a blog? Share your thoughts in the comment section below!