What baseball & poultry can teach you about handling SEO clients

How to apply concepts from baseball and poultry in handling difficult SEO clientsWhat do you do when you’ve got an SEO copywriting client with whom you don’t see eye-to-eye?

Perhaps you’re developing new content or maybe you’re just taking direction and making straightforward tweaks to existing copy, but at some point, your client asks you to do something you know is a bad idea.

Sometimes it’s because your client thinks she is an expert in not only her own business, but yours as well. Sometimes it’s because she’s trying to help but is simply misinformed or has information that’s out of date.

Either way, you know your ideas are going to be the more effective, but you don’t want to risk offending or angering your client by being rude about it.

Here are some tips on championing your own, superior ideas while making your client feel respected, comfortable, and enthusiastic:

If the idea’s a turkey

When the client’s idea is something that clearly won’t work but she is pushing you hard to do it anyway, vent to a disinterested third party before you address it with a client. This way you get to say all the snarky, insulting things you want, and get them out of your system so you can collect yourself before you ruin an otherwise perfectly good client relationship.

One funny example I can share with you is when a former client of mine really, really wanted to publish almost a dozen pages on his website that would feature “articles” brimming with relevant keywords.

He had no intention of publishing content that was well-written, useful, or necessarily relevant to his audience, and he didn’t even have plans to promote the content. He merely wanted to have the keywords all over the website so that, theoretically, the site’s Google ranking would rise.

Of course, anyone who’s read a little bit about Google’s Panda update knows that publishing low-quality content is pretty much worthless. It took me a few deep breaths not to yell about this particularly “fowl” idea.

Don’t be a lame duck

You may be just the hired help, but permitting a client to steamroll you even one time is dangerous because that will set a precedent for the client to do so all the time.

If you believe that the client’s idea will be detrimental to her business, steel yourself to say something. She hired you because she respects your expertise, so now is the time to show it off. Furthermore, you might be held responsible when things backfire down the road, so protect yourself by putting your reservations in writing.

Don’t be chicken either

You should be working on content that you’ll be proud to put in your portfolio, so don’t be afraid to stand up for it.

Your reputation as an effective copywriter could take a beating if you put out material that’s weak, not in keeping with best practices, or otherwise low quality. Don’t let a fear of upsetting your client deter you from raising the issue.

Show off your slugging percentage

Let’s say your client insists you use absolutely perfect schoolmarm grammar despite the fact that her target audience is unpretentious, regular people with average educations. You know that type of language will alienate prospects, so hit the books yourself.

Do your due diligence and provide your client with evidence from your own work with other clients showing how colloquial wording is more effective than flawless grammar.

Three strikes & you’re out

My rule of thumb for persuading a client to drop their bad ideas in favor of my superior ones is borrowed from baseball. You can argue – politely! – no more than three times for your ideas, but if you’re shot down all three times, you have to let it go. Either the client is too stubborn or you need to improve your persuasion tactics!

One last piece of advice: Always allow your clients to explain why they want you to implement their ideas because often the reasons they have can help you lead them to an understanding of why their ideas won’t work and which ones will.

When you know what their reasons are, you can come up with solutions to the problem rather than appear to be arguing for the sake of argument.


About the Author ~ Siân Killingsworth

Siân Killingsworth is a freelance copywriter, content curator, and social media manager. Based in the San Francisco Bay Area, she blogs about marketing for small business at www.sianessa.com and spends a lot of time studying various social media channels to guide her clients with best, freshest marketing practices. When Siân isn’t writing, she enjoys discovering elegant wine bars, traveling, and working on her lifelong quest for the perfect prawn burrito. Find her on TwitterFacebook, or email her at siankillingsworth@gmail.com.


photo thanks to allygirl520 (allison)

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Should you dive or wade into a freelance copywriting business?

High Dive Video Post : 031113Greetings and welcome to the final installment of Heather’s “how to start an SEO copywriting business” video series!

Last week, Heather discussed some questions you need to ask yourself if you think that you want to launch a freelance copywriting business. Today, she addresses how to make the leap!

Typically, freelance copywriters start up their businesses in one of two ways – by just taking the plunge, or by slowing easing into their new enterprise.

Here, Heather addresses the pros and cons of each approach. Tune in to learn which way makes the most sense for you!

The first way: Take the plunge

The first way that people will approach starting up their business is to just take the plunge: they quit their job one day then start their freelance copywriting business the next.

This is the big fantasy about making your new freelance copywriting lifestyle happen. I did this with my business. I was working for a company and I quit with $100 in my pocket.

I started my freelance SEO copywriting business a couple weeks later. For me, taking the plunge was successful – but I was also younger, had fewer responsibilities, and there was a lot more going on at the time to where it stacked the odds in my favor.

For you, it may be a completely different scenario.

So first let’s consider the pros and cons of diving right in…


- You can focus 100% on building your business.

You don’t need to worry about having one foot in working at a “real job” and one foot in your business. You can focus.


(And these are pretty heavy duty cons…)

- You probably won’t have a stable income for awhile.

Although you will read ads that claim you’ll start making $20,000 in your first month, this is not a typical experience.

In a lot of cases, people are losing money for a few month before they make a profit, because on top of losing your steady paycheck…

- You will have expenses.

You may need to buy a new computer, you will need a website, you’ll need to contact an attorney, get business cards – all of those things that cost money that were covered in the last video.

- It will take time to build your brand (unless you are already established.)

Just because you’re new on the market doesn’t mean that everyone will be thinking “Oooo! I must work with him or her!” It takes some time…and…

This can be highly risky if you don’t have a financial safety net.

If you went through the questions to ask yourself last week (on planning for a successful launch), and thought “Okay, I’ve got money in the bank and I can ride on this for awhile”  – cool!

But if you’re already feeling pretty tight, taking the plunge may not be the best way to start off. Instead, you might want to…

The second way: Have a “real job” and freelance in your free time

As with diving right in, here are some pros and cons of wading into launching your business.


- You have a stable income while you build your business.

And that is wonderful! So even if your freelancing income goes up and down, you know that you’re getting a paycheck every couple of weeks.

- You can build your business gradually and with less stress.

One of the hardest ways to build your business is when you are scared to death that you’re going to be living under the bridge in a couple of months because you don’t have money to live.

So keeping your “real job” eliminates the stress of financial uncertainty and makes it easier for you because it is…

- Much less risky.

Now, a look at the cons…


- You will work long hours.

You’ll be working at your “real job” during the day, only to come home and handle client projects at night.

- It may be hard to communicate with clients.

There may be some clients that you won’t be able to work with because they’ll need to meet with you during your “real job” work hours.

And finally…

- Some employers will not let you freelance.

This is something you’ll definitely want to ascertain, especially if you’re already writing content for your employer.

Although it may be tempting to be sneaky and freelance on the side, figuring no one will find out, and it’s in violation of company policy…well, you could be fired and that’ not a scenario you want!

Ultimately, the option you choose is up to you.

You need to evaluate how much risk you can take, how much money you have in the bank, and how long it’s realistically going to take you to get up and running before you actually start generating the income you need.

Thanks for joining me! As always, if you have a question or comment about this video post – or if you just want to reach out and say hi – I’d love to hear from you! You can email me at heather@seocopywriting.com, or find me on Twitter @heatherlloyd.

image thanks to cliff1066™ (Cliff)

Learn more about how to successfully launch your own freelance copywriting business from 12 of the world’s experts! The next Copywriting Business Boot Camp starts April 1st

Launching your freelance copywriting business: plan for success!

You need to plan before you can successfully launch your copywriting businessGreetings! In today’s installment of the How to start an SEO copywriting business video series, Heather addresses the subject in the broadest sense. That is: how and where do you begin? What steps do you need to take?

In her preceding video posts about starting a copywriting business, Heather discussed how to: define a niche market, ask for a writing deposit, deal with writing revisions, stand firm by your rates, protect yourself with a contract (no matter the size of the gig), and hone in on the services to offer your clients.

Here, she zeroes in on the overarching question: I want to start a freelance copywriting business. What do I do now?

Developing a plan is crucial

The smartest thing that you can do if you want to launch your own business is to develop a plan before you do it.

I’ve talked to many copywriters who have literally quit their job one day and started their freelance business the next! And while many were successful eventually, it proved to be a huge struggle at the beginning because: they were trying to get income in the door, it was an expensive time as their business was brand new, and they weren’t clear about who they wanted to work with…

So by developing a plan first, you can help ensure that you’ll be more successful more quickly! Here are five questions to ask yourself:

– Do you have a financial cushion so you can pay expenses + extra?

If you’re working at a real job now and you quit that job to start your own business, cool! But where’s the money going to come from?

Be realistic in asking yourself about this. Don’t set yourself up by thinking “Well I can cut expenses and only live on $500 a month.” If that’s not possible, that’s not possible! You’ll have to figure out some other ways to generate income while you’re launching your business. (We’ll talk about that more next week).

- Do you have funds for site design, business cards and other marketing materials?

In considering this question, you’re taking into account business start-up expenses, not just living expenses.

With business essentials like your website, you want to get them done correctly the first time. You don’t want to have to go the cheap route, thinking you’re going to learn to build your own site even if you don’t know what you’re doing, or get free business cards that have “printed free by X” at the bottom of them.

You’ll want to plan on having that money set aside so you can have a really nice, integrated branding strategy in place before you start.

- Can you launch with clients, or will you start from scratch?

I know some copywriters who have quit their job and then their ex-employer became a client – so they were able to start their business with a little bit of money coming in.

Other people are starting exactly from scratch, and so they need to figure out their target market, who they want to work with, and also how long it’s going to take before they get money in the door.

Which brings us to the next question…

- How much money do you need to make?

Do you need to replace your existing income? Can you possibly bring in a little bit less, or do you need to make even more?

Really give this question careful consideration, and again, be honest with yourself.

- Do you have a business/marketing plan?

If not, this is the time to create one!

Again, it’s about not starting out cold, figuring you’re going to be able to make thousands of dollars right off the bat.

The smartest thing you can do is first figure out what your target market is, what your unique selling proposition (U.S.P.) is, what kind of services to offer – all of those dimensions covered in previous videos – and then you will know what you’re doing, who you’re doing it for, and really be ready to rock and roll!

Thanks for tuning in!

If you’d like to learn more about how to start a freelance copywriting business, you can get free advice delivered right to your inbox by emailing write4income@aweber.com!

And as always, if you have any questions at all, please feel free to contact Heather via heather@seocopywriting.com, or via Twitter @heatherlloyd.


photo thanks to mathewingram (Mathew Ingram)

Want to learn even more about starting a freelance copywriting business? Check out the 6-week, intensive Copywriting Business Boot Camp!


What John Lennon can teach you about a lifestyle business

John LennonWhen I say that I’m OK, they look at me kind of strange…

Surely you’re not happy now, you no longer play the game

- John Lennon, Watching The Wheels

I recently watched a television show about John Lennon’s career trajectory. For years, he lived the hard partying, rock-and-roll lifestyle. Then, after a life-changing trip, he released Double Fantasy in 1980. People say that Double Fantasy reflected his new-found happiness and stability living the “family life.”

I totally understand where he’s coming from.

Once upon a time, I lived “the game.” I’ve discussed before how I would travel three weeks out of every month, mess up my body with multiple time zone changes and generally trash my life at the expense of my career. Was it fun? Hell yeah. Did it take a toll? Yes.

Can I work that pace anymore? Nope. Not because I can’t. It’s because I choose to have a lifestyle business.

Want flexibility and freedom? A lifestyle business may work for you…

What’s a lifestyle business? I’ve read a few definitions that say, “The entrepreneur sustains her income at X, so she can enjoy a certain lifestyle.” For me, I see a lifestyle business being synonymous with flexibility and freedom.  You may choose to forgo a six-figure job – but you do it because you’d rather spend time with your kids. You may miss out on cool travel opportunities – but you happily do it because you’d rather stay home with your partner.

Does having a lifestyle business means that you’ll never make (big) money? Not at all. I know quite a few “hardly working” people who are raking in a huge income. I know others who work like crazy a few months of every year so they can play for three months at a time.

(For a first-hand account of a lifestyle business and life, check out Jennifer Cario’s blog A Flexible Life. Jen is also the owner of Sugar Spun Marketing, the author of Pinterest Marketing: An Hour A Day and makes killer cinnamon rolls.)

For me, a lifestyle business means I can work out in the morning, work a few hours when I’m feeling highly productive, and spend my evenings reading and relaxing. I don’t feel compelled to hit every conference anymore, or be away from home more than a week a month. Or build a huge team of writers.

Could I make more money if I worked more hours and built a bigger business (or even worked for someone else?) Quite possibly. But I don’t think I’d be as happy.

Will you still work your butt off with a lifestyle business? Sure – especially at the beginning. Choosing a lifestyle business doesn’t mean it’s all bon bons and soap opera reruns. It means you make different choices about how you spend your time.

You define your success

It’s funny, though, how some people feel compelled to apologize for their business choice. “I have a ‘lifestyle business,”’ they’ll say. “It’s not like a big agency or anything.”

Here’s the thing: You are the one who defines your success – not society, not your family – YOU. If your lifestyle business makes you happy and makes you money, rock on.

It’s much better than the alternative. I know many entrepreneurs who feel like they built their own prison – they started an agency because they thought they were “supposed to,” and now they’re suffering.

I used to be that way myself.

(I love this post by A.J. Kohn that discusses not comparing his “entrepreneurial journey” with others. I highly recommend checking it out.)

If you think that you HAVE to build a big agency – or you HAVE to work 20 hours a day, know this: You are the architect of your life. You can build a business around the things you love to do. There are many people loving their lifestyle business – and you can love yours, too.

If that’s what you choose to do.

Do I “miss the game” (as Lennon mentions in his song?) Sometimes. I’ll have moments when I’ll think, “I would love to be on a plane right now.”

And then I think about my life. I have a wonderful husband. I have wonderful friends. I am the healthiest I’ve ever been. Things are calm and happy and fulfilling.

I’m just watching the wheels go ’round and ’round. I really love to watch them roll.




Your copywriting is served: what should you offer clients?

A waiter serving dinner, representing copywriting service offeringsGreetings! In this installment of her how to start an SEO copywriting business series, Heather discusses a topic that freelance copywriters struggle with all the time: what copywriting services should I offer clients?

When you first start out – and even after you’ve been in business for awhile – it is tempting to offer every service under the sun, from white papers to direct mail to web pages.

Then you end up burning out, because you’re doing a little bit of everything (some services make you more money than others), and you might not be writing the kind of content you enjoy.

Tune in as Heather discusses how to determine what copywriting services to offer your clients…

No, you don’t have to do everything…

The first point to remember – and one that is empowering to know – is that you don’t have to do everything. You don’t have to offer every copywriting service under the sun! Instead, think about what to offer clients in terms of:

What services are important to your target audience?

In defining this, you may find that in a lot of cases your clients might not need direct mail, but they will need an email newsletter. There you go! You can delete direct mail from your services.

I would encourage you to figure out what your clients need, and then streamline your service offerings around that.

- What do you enjoy writing and provides the highest ROI? Can you specialize?

You also want to consider what you enjoy writing and provides you the most profit, and if there’s a way you can specialize.

For example, I just spoke to a woman who loves writing e-books. She loves the detail work, she loves the fact that it takes a relatively long time, and she loves that it involves a lot of research – that’s just how her mind works. And her target market needs e-books! So she has become a go-to person for that particular target audience. It’s really pretty cool!

So this is something that you can think about for your own freelance copywriting business: is there something you do really well, like writing high-converting sales pages that you know your clients value, and that they can come to you for time and time again?

- What about partnering with another copywriter?

The third thing to consider is the option of partnering with another copywriter.

For instance, if you find out that you really enjoy writing e-books but then your clients need something else – such as an e-newsletter or a blog post – you might have someone else on your team that can handle that for you.

That way, to your client it’s still one source of services, they’re still getting all their copywriting needs met, it’s just that you’re not the one doing everything. You have other people on board who can help you, and are also writing what they love to write!

Again, I’m basing the “how to start an SEO copywriting business” on the Copywriting Business Boot Camp. So if you’re interested in learning more you can check it out right here!

Thanks for tuning in! As always, if you have any questions or feedback, I would love to hear from you. You can zip me an email at heather@seocopywriting.com, or find me on Twitter @heatherlloyd.

photo thanks to flickr4jazz (Jazz Guy)

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You are a writer

Some of my fantastic friends from Portland Adventure Bootcamp. I'm the sweaty one on the right.

Some of my fantastic friends from Portland Adventure Bootcamp. I’m the sweaty one on the right.

Have you ever struggled with something…and suddenly, everything clicked into place? Maybe a random conversation helped you see your situation in a different way. Or you read a passage in a book – and it’s almost like the passage was written just for you.

That just happened to me.

Every Wednesday morning, rain, shine (or snow,) I jog with a remarkable group of women. I don’t mean easy, flat jogging. We’re sprinting up big hills, going fast and running stairs.

I’ve done this workout for over three years, and almost gave up a number of times. I was that person who was always in the back, while I watched my friends jog effortlessly way up ahead. We’d run timed miles twice a month, and my time would stay the same. I would tell people, “I’m not really a runner. I’m pretty slow.”

Needless to say, I was frustrated. I was trying so hard and seeing (what felt like) zero results.

Three weeks ago, Mary, my friend and trainer, said, “Heather, you are a runner.”

I actually disagreed with her. I even listed reasons why “I wasn’t a runner.” I wasn’t very fast. I didn’t like it very much. I felt like I held up the group. You name it, I was insecure about it.

Then she repeated, “Heather, you are a runner. Keep telling yourself that you are a runner.”

As I was driving home, I had that “click” moment. I am a runner. I am really a runner. I run Mt. Tabor every Wednesday. I’ve completed one 5K and entered another.

I am a runner.

Suddenly, the hills got easier. I felt stronger. I didn’t want to puke quite as often. :) My timed mile time started going down. Plus, I found myself jogging just for fun. Why? Because I am a runner – and runners run.

This story parallels what many freelance writers go through. When you first start (and sometimes, even if you’ve been writing for awhile,) you feel like you’re not a writer because:

– You haven’t been published.

– You have been published, but not in a well-known publication.

– You’re a copywriter, and a copywriter isn’t a “real writer.”

– Your novel/short story was rejected.

– You’re not making your income goals

– You’re not (fill in the blank.)

See the similarities? You may be busting your butt and writing 10 hours a day, but you don’t see yourself as a writer.

If this sounds like you, here’s your challenge.

Stand in front of the mirror and tell yourself, “I am a writer.” Repeat this over and over (it sounds silly, I know – but it works.)

When people ask what you do, tell them “I am a writer.” Period. Don’t say, “Well, I’m a writer…but I haven’t been published anywhere you’d know about..” Don’t make excuses. Just state the facts: You are a writer – and you’re damn good at what you do!

When things aren’t going like you want and you don’t feel like writing, tell yourself, “I am a writer, and writers write.”

You will be AMAZED at how quickly things will transform:

– You’ll feel better and more confident

– Your new-found confidence will help you land bigger and better clients

– You’ll have more job opportunities

– You’ll look forward to writing and your words will flow effortlessly

– You’ll approach challenging tasks with ease and a sense of fun.

In short, your entire writing world will change – quickly.

So remember, you are a writer – and writers write.

Now go out there and make things happen!

(Special thanks to Mary Drinkhouse for the inspiration!)

I’m running a 5K for the Oregon Humane Society on May 11th, 2013.  If you want to donate, you can do so here. Thank you!



A freelance copywriting contract for a quick & dirty gig?

Three fountain pens representing a freelance copywriting business contractGreetings and welcome to another installment of the how to start an SEO copywriting business series!

In this video, Heather builds on her previous two posts speaking to the importance of having a freelance copywriting contract. Specifically, she answers a question posed by a reader/viewer asking whether a contract is still necessary for small copywriting jobs.

This is an excellent question, and one that will come up many times in your freelance copywriting career.

A client will need some work done and after looking over the scant requirements, you’ll think “Oh, I can knock this out in a few hours.” Then you’re presented with the question of what to do about a contractual agreement, knowing that dealing with that would actually take more time than it would for you to do the work.

In this commonplace scenario, do you still need to send the client a contract? Or can you just do the work, call it a wrap, and get paid already?

Tune in as Heather outlines some options for you to consider…

Short answer: YES!

You may recognize this first slide from Heather’s original video post discussing how crucial it is for freelance copywriters to work with a legal document.

While contracts may seem like a pain and a huge hassle, they’re a necessary evil for two compelling reasons:

-  A contract spells out the terms and gets everyone on the same page.

-  A good contract protects you – and protects your client, too.


Here’s a possible option…

That said, here are some things to consider when you’re in that position…

- Is it a NEW client? Have them sign the agreement. Consider getting the money up front.

If it’s a brand new client, even if it’s a fast job, have them sign the agreement…because they’re unknown and you’ve never dealt with them before! The client is not familiar with your terms, either, so a contract gives them an opportunity to review them and determine whether they still want to work with you.

You may also want to consider getting paid before you begin work, because it is a quick job and getting 50% now and 50% two days from now may not make sense.

-  Is it an EXISTING client who has already signed your agreement? Spell out your terms in an email. Tell your client you’ll need written confirmation before you start. 

If it’s an existing client – you have a history, they pay their bills, everything’s gone fine – you may opt to just outline your terms in an email.

So while you’d still spell out your terms (i.e., what you’ll be doing, when you’ll send it to them, how much it will cost, and when payment is due), you’d simply let your client know that you’ll need written confirmation from them before you start work.

What I’ll do is write an email reiterating my terms, and then ask “is this ok?” at the end of the message. Then I wait for the client to respond with “yes, this is ok” before I’ll start the work.

-  Ask your attorney about a master services agreement.

This is another option – asking your attorney about a master services agreement.

Again, I am not an attorney and none of this constitutes legal advice. I highly recommend all freelance copywriters to work with an attorney to figure this stuff out, because it is so important!

A master services agreement is something that your clients sign once, and then you’re done with it. At that point, all the terms have been negotiated, they’re set, and then you’ll be able to work with email – or whatever paper trail you and your client prefer – for future jobs.

Thanks for joining me for this installment of the how to start a freelance SEO copywriting business! I really appreciate that reader/viewer question, and I know that other people have lots of questions about how to successfully run a freelance copywriting business.

So if you’d like some free advice, you can simply send an email to write4income@aweber.com, and you’ll receive a series of tips delivered right to your inbox! And you may also want to check out the Copywriting Business Boot Camp for more intensive training.

And for real SEO copywriting tips I’d encourage you to sign up for my newsletter. You have the option of receiving daily updates or a weekly summary of the daily blog posts each Tuesday.

As always, I welcome your questions, suggestions, and feedback! You can leave them below in the comments, or email me at heather@seocopywriting.com. You can also find me on Twitter @heatherlloyd. “See” you next Monday!


photo thanks to Keith Williamson

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Protect yourself! 3 copywriting contract essentials

A formidable long-horned bison protecting her calf, representing a good copywriting contractHey there, freelance copywriters! Welcome to the next video in the how to start an SEO copywriting business series.

Today, Heather elaborates on last week’s video (on the necessity of having a freelance copywriting contract) with three crucial things you want to include in your copywriting contract.

While she is not an attorney and this video post doesn’t constitute legal advice, Heather has been reading copywriting contracts for a very, very, very long time!

In the course of her career, she has seen some excellent, airtight contracts as well as some that leave the copywriter wide open to litigation, not getting paid, and other bad things.

So tune in to find out what three stipulations you want to be absolutely certain are covered in your copywriting contract…

1. When will you get paid – and how much?

- How much is the deposit, and when is it due?

This first point is the one that all copywriters love and is about the money: when will you get paid and how much will you get paid?  Meaning, you will want to outline things like how much is the deposit?

This subject is covered in some detail in an earlier video, where I discuss the importance of having a retainer. In most cases, that retainer is due before the copywriter starts writing.

- When are other payments due?

If you’re splitting up the payments, then you’ll want to specify the dates those payments are due.

- Consider having all the money on your side of the table before you submit the final page.

For the final payment, consider having all the money on your side of the table before you release that last page or that last group of pages.

Otherwise, what can sometimes happen is that you release the work to the client, and then it takes a long time to get paid. So if you’re paid in full beforehand, you are sparing yourself the worry of chasing down a receivable after you’ve already completed the work.

2. When is a page considered “accepted” and done?

- You don’t want to wait…and wait…and wait for feedback.

We’ve all had this happen: you turn in a page, and then you’re pinging the client after three weeks saying, “Hey, did you receive it? Did you like it? Should I go on to other pages?” So…

- Consider giving your client a set amount of time for review. After that, the content is considered “accepted.”

This protects you and it prevents a gig from going on forever, or a client coming back three months later with, ”Yeah, I’m ready to finish up the contract now – I need it done by this week.”

In my agreement, it’s five business days. After that, the content is considered “accepted.”

Certainly there are exceptions for outstanding circumstances, such as the client being on vacation. You’ll want to accommodate them for that one time, but in general, I think it’s really important to stick to this deadline because it ensures that the client is accountable for checking out your work – in a timely manner.

3. What are you doing for the client?

- Outline your deliverables carefully.

- This helps to avoid “I thought this was included in the price” blues.

This third contract essential is to be really specific about what you’re doing for the client.

I have seen (and heard about) many instances where the deliverables in the contract weren’t defined very well, so the client comes back with “Well, what do you mean you didn’t do keyphrase research? I thought I was paying you for keyphrase research. You wrote the page without keyphrase research?”

It becomes a mess.

To avoid these freelancing blues, outline clearly: “it’s going to be up to three hours of this,” and “we’re going to provide this service,” and “we’re going to write this page with the title and the description.”

Being absolutely clear really helps the client, and it helps protect you as well.

The BEST advice?

Work with an attorney.  Really.

It will cost less than you think.

And save your bacon many, many times over.

I just had a really good conversation with my attorney around a copywriting agreement, and he made a lot of changes that served both my client and me well. Working with an attorney will cost less than you think. It really, really will – and it will save your bacon many times over.

So even if you’re brand new to the freelance copywriting business and you’re struggling to minimize costs, this is one cost that is very much worth incurring.

In short, I highly recommend finding a good attorney, and having him or her help with your agreement!

Thanks for joining me! Have a comment or question about this video? Or a suggestion for a video topic? Wonderful! Just zip me an email via heather@seocopywriting.com, or track me down on Twitter @heatherlloyd.


photo thanks to Tony Fischer Photography 

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How to raise your freelance copywriting rates

raise your freelance copywriting ratesYou know it’s time.

You’ve gathered some great case studies. You have fantastic testimonials. You’ve studied your craft, taken classes and honed your skills.

So, why is it so hard to tell your clients, “I’m raising my freelance copywriting rates?”

I get it. I really do. The good news is – your clients (probably) won’t tell you to jump in a lake. The bad news is – you may lose some folks, especially if you don’t raise your rates the right way.

Ready to take the plunge? Here are some things to consider if you’re thinking of raising your copywriting rates.

1. Should you raise your freelance copywriting rates? Or change your target market?  Are your current small business clients paying you $75/page – and you think your rate should be closer to $400/page?  There may be a disconnect there. You may be worth every penny – but your small business clients probably won’t be able to afford you. If you’re looking at a major rate hike, carefully consider your current niche. Will it be able to generate the income you need? Or is it time to consider a new target market with deeper pockets?

2. How much more do you want to get paid? Clients tend not to care much about small, graduate rate increases. If you want to raise your rates 30-50+ percent, you may receive some kickback. That doesn’t mean that you would never get a 75 percent rate increase. It does mean that will need to clearly demonstrate your profit-driving expertise – and how you’ve made your clients’ lives easier.

3. Ask yourself – would YOU give you a raise? If you’ve missed deadlines (even if you had a good reason,) had repeating quality issues or had any weird “stuff” happen, a rate raise will be touchy. In this situation, your client will not remember all the wonderful things you’ve done for them. They will remember exactly how and when you’ve screwed up. Best case scenario, you ease into a rate raise very slowly and have a few glitch-free months under your belt first.

4. Consider who you’ll lose. You may have a wonderful small business client that you love with all your heart. But, their micro budget can’t pay your bills – and you honestly can’t afford to work with them anymore. It’s always hard to “fire” a client that can’t pay your new fee. But know this –  you’ll have to let them go if you want your business to grow.

5. When would the rate raise become effective? Never send a client an email that says “Just so you know, I’ll be raising my copywriting rates next month by 25 percent.”  No client likes a rate raise (even if they think you deserve it!). They’ll like it even less if you don’t give them time to plan and budget.  It’s good to give your clients three months notice before your rate change becomes effective. (Working with a new client? Why not charge them your new rate now?)

6. Keep your “I’m raising my rates” email professional.  You may have a huge IRS bill, need more money to make your bills and have tons of child-related expenses. Don’t use your personal life as the reason to raise your rates. Your clients won’t care – and bringing that stuff up makes you look extremely unprofessional. And for goodness sake – don’t beg for a rate increase or say, “I really need the money.” That’s a sure way of getting fired…for good.

When you’re ready to take the plunge, write a very straightforward and friendly email. Recap your successes, outline your new copywriting rates and when they’ll take effect. Will you lose some clients? Sure. Will it be OK? Yes.

As my father used to say, “If you don’t ask, you don’t get.”

Isn’t it time to finally make the money you deserve to make?

Do you really need a copywriting contract?

Hand holding a quill pen, representing a client signing a copywriting contractGreetings and welcome to yet another installment of Heather’s “how to start an SEO copywriting business” video series!

You’ll want to pay especially close attention to this one, because here Heather talks about the intimidating subject of copywriting contracts.

For new freelancers, getting a client to sign a contract can be a really scary thing. Here you are, so very close to getting the gig, and you’re asking the client for their signature. Thoughts race through your mind: are they going to sign the contract? Is something going to go wrong?

Tune in as Heather quells your fears and addresses the question of whether you really need to work with a copywriting contract…

Short answer: YES!

On the left side of the slide, I have a photo of Judge Marilyn Milian from The People’s Court. Judge Milian often makes the observation that many of the people who come to her courtroom are those who don’t have contracts – or don’t have good contracts. (She calls them “litigants”.)

- A contract spells out the terms and gets everyone on the same page.

- A good contract protects you and protects your client, too.

- If a client won’t sign one, consider it a huge red flag (and consider walking away.)

Even though a contract seems scary – and maybe even too formal, depending on your clients – they’re actually really good. They’re good for not just you, but they’re also good for the client because it protects both parties.

A good contract clearly defines what you’re going to be writing, when you’re going to turn it in, when you’re going to get paid, and what your policy is for revisions. All of that needs to be spelled out in a contract – and I’ll discuss more details on what needs to be included in a contract in a future video.

Sometimes a client doesn’t want to sign a contract. I have talked to prospects who say things like “Well I’ve been in business for thirty years and I’ve done everything on a handshake – and I’m not going to start signing contracts now.”

If you hear that from a client – and chances are you’re going to at least once in your freelance career – then consider that a big, huge red flag and consider walking away.  At that point, you don’t have much to protect you, and a lot of things can go wrong.

In fact, in the times that I’ve heard of something going majorly wrong with an account and the copywriter didn’t get paid are often when s/he didn’t have a good contract, or any contract at all…and that ended up coming back to bite them.

Should you sign your client’s contract?

This is another question I get that’s related to the first one. It is especially likely to come up when you’re working with larger brands: the client may have their own contract.

- Maybe – although it’s good to have your own contract.

- Don’t just blindly sign – no matter how excited you are about the gig.

- Always have your attorney review your client’s contract and make changes.

- See something you don’t like? Speak up!

Ideally, I would recommend that you have your own contract. Talk to an attorney and have him or her draw something up. I know it sounds expensive, but it’s really important and it doesn’t cost that much money.

So seriously consider having your own contract drawn up by an attorney – especially since you’re going to be attracting a lot of clients in your lifetime! You want to be working with a document that ensures both you and your client are covered.

That said, if the client presents his or her own contract, my advice to you would be: don’t just blindly sign it – no matter how excited you are about the gig!

I’ve seen instances where copywriters sign their client’s contract only to realize after the fact that it stipulated that they wouldn’t be paid for six months. True story.

Or, that they won’t get paid for something they’ve created if the client doesn’t use it. Another true story.

So really dig into the contract and read precisely what it is the client is saying. A lot of times these things can be negotiated, so if you spot language in the contract that you don’t like, speak up!

In a perfect world, you are sending client-drawn contracts to your attorney and having him or her review it and make any necessary changes. And again, while it may sound scary and expensive, it really isn’t. It typically takes an attorney maybe ten or fifteen minutes to go through and redline an agreement, and then you can be sure your interests are protected.

More often than not, when you send the amended contract back to the client, they sign off, everything is fine, and it’s a win-win for both parties.

So in moving forward with your freelance copywriting business, concentrate of finding an attorney you can work with and getting a solid client contract created. Or at least have an attorney review your current contracts to ensure you’re protected.

Thanks for joining me! As always, if you have any questions or comments about this video, or suggestions for a future topic, please let me know. You can reach me at heather@seocopywriting.com, or find me on Twitter @heatherlloyd.

photo thanks to >WonderMike<  (Mike Wade)

Want to learn more about copywriting business contracts? Check into my Copywriting Business Boot Camp classes, where legal expert Bob Ellis discusses just that! The next Boot Camp begins in a week, on Monday, Feb. 11thregister now to reserve your place!