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5 Content Marketing Tips for Tough Financial Times

In-house and freelance writers are all asking the same question…

…what should I do now?

I get it. I do. As I talked about last week, this is a time of tremendous uncertainty. We don’t know how long this will last. We don’t know what it will mean to our income. Heck, we may not even be able to work in our “normal” office or enjoy a “normal” schedule anymore.

Everything feels up in the air. And that’s because it is.

Having said that, there are things that you can control right now. In fact, this time could (weirdly) be a huge opportunity.

Let’s talk about five things you can do.

Get yourself (virtually) out there

You know that confused, “what should I do next?” feeling you have? Your clients and prospects feel the same way. They are looking for a thought leader (like you!) to connect them with others and to help them navigate this weird time. 

One way to do this is by thinking about how you can help and serve your market. For instance, I wrote a LinkedIn post asking people to comment if they’re looking for writing jobs. The post is trending for #copywriting, it’s been reshared 24 times with over 2,500 views, and it’s brought together a community of freelancers.

That’s pretty darn cool.

You have a choice right now. You can choose to be THE person your customers can turn to during this weird time. Or, you can choose to hide in the shadows and wait until it’s over. 

What do you want to do?

Work on your value proposition

It’s easy to sell products or services when the economy is good. When resources dry up, so do sales — unless you know how to adapt.

NOW is the time to review your value proposition and make sure it’s still relevant for today’s new world. That may mean overhauling your sales copy to reflect the current times. It may mean changing the voice of your site so it’s more conversational. (Pro tip: people want to read personal-sounding copy right now.) It may even mean hiring someone who can see your site and content with fresh eyes — and show you how to fix it.

Pretty much every site out there can do something. Now is a great time to start.

If you’re a freelancer, consider building your skill set, revamping your site, and taking some online courses. No, it doesn’t have to be one you purchase from me. :) Just anything that helps show clients that you are the one-stop solution they need. 

OYDCP!

What does OYDCP stand for? Optimize your damn content, people! Although that seems like a no-brainer statement in a blog post about SEO writing, there are a lot of folks out there who haven’t taken this step.

News flash: you are out of excuses. Driving Google traffic is one way you can drive leads and make sales. It could even make the difference between making enough to make payroll or putting it on your line of credit. If you’ve avoided learning how to optimize your site or blog post because it feels “too geeky” and you’re not ready, get over it. Especially since there are so many people out there who can help you.

Get more mileage out of your existing content

Are you trying to squeeze every drop of ROI you can out of your content? Instead of reinventing the wheel and writing new content, why not repurpose the content you have? For instance,

  • You can add transcripts to the bottom of podcasts or videos. That’s great for Google — and great for people (like me) who hate watching videos.
  • You can turn blog posts into an e-book.
  • You can pull pieces of content from your blog posts and turn them into email copy.

The possibilities are endless! Here’s how to find easy content opportunities.

Review your social posts and sales emails

Raise your hand if you’ve recently seen an email that made you think, “Ouch, that seems a little tone deaf considering the current times.” Guess what, Mr. “let me help you with your IT solutions” dude — most folks are worried about their businesses right now. Not their VPN.

This doesn’t mean that you can’t sell or market right now. Just…be smart. Showing stock art photos of large groups standing around a computer monitor is dumb. Pushing for a meeting during a time when companies are trying to keep their staff employed is dumb. Pretending that it’s business-as-usual during a global pandemic is dumb.

As a side note, I just saw the first COVID-19-inspired commercial from Cadillac. Check out their “We have your back” ad. Personally, I can’t imagine dropping the funds for a brand-new Cadillac right now…but I’m not their target market. And if I was, I’d appreciate how I wouldn’t have to leave my house to buy a car.

Your readers and customers are watching you. Do you want to be known as the helpful company who brought people together? Or the slimeball who responds to every LinkedIn invitation with a canned, “let’s set up a a 20-minute time to chat about your financial needs” message.

I know what I want my legacy to be during this time. How about you?

What do you think?

Do you also want to scream, “Don’t you get it?” to all the spammers out there? How are you serving your audience during this challenging time? Leave a comment and let me know!

Are You Ignoring This?

Between you and me, are you ignoring “the olds?”

No, I’m not referring to your OK Boomer and Gen X readers — or anyone over 25 that may be considered “too old” to get it.

I’m referring to your old blog content that may be ignored, unappreciated and un-promoted — even if it’s still accurate and well-written.

You know, the content that makes up the majority of your blog (or, maybe even your site.)

I ask, because most content marketing articles you read talk about how to write and promote NEW content.

If I randomly check Twitter right now, I’m sure I would see at least a couple, “Hey, I just wrote this post — check it out” tweets.

But, I probably won’t see anything like, “Hey, I wrote this post 10 years ago, but it’s still accurate and good and helpful. Read it!”

Why?

Because we often downplay the value of our old content and focus on new, shiny posts with more recent date stamps.

And that’s sad.

Here’s the thing…

Not all of your old content is worthy of new promotional efforts.

The article may be out of date. You may currently focus on slightly different topics, so republishing an old post would feel off-brand. Or, your old writing style makes you cringe a little inside.

(Hey, we’ve all been there.)

Having said that, most site owners have some old content that they could polish  up and make shine.

And really, it (normally) doesn’t take that much time. Maybe 10 minutes a post.

Here’s my process…

To make things easy, I have a huge Google Sheets document that outlines every post I’ve written since 2009, if I’ve updated the article, and when I’ve published it on social media.

I’ll quick-scan my list, pick an “old” post, and make some standard changes:

  • Replace the header image
  • Check all the links
  • Review the information — is it still accurate? 
  • Make any necessary format changes
  • Push “update”

A “last updated” date stamp appears below the original, showing readers that I’ve made some changes since the original publication date.

Done! From there, I freely promote my “old” posts — yes, even posts that are 10 years old — on LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook.  

In fact, some of my older video posts are some of my most popular — and many of them are from nine years ago.

Granted, some posts take more updating — such as my big authoritative posts like this. Others need slightly more than 10 minutes to make them shine. That’s OK.

But, the majority, like my 23 amazing tips post and this one about spicing up B2B content, took virtually no time at all.

Nice.

Why else is this important?

Because it’s just darn wasteful to spend time and money creating fantastic content — and then toss it aside because it’s perceived as “too old.”

Let’s face it: even if your followers are glued to your social media feed, they aren’t going to read everything you post. Nor remember every post you publish.

Republishing old posts helps your posts get seen (and shared) by more people — and, it’s one of the easiest ways to increase your content’s return on investment. Especially posts that don’t perform in Google, but do pull well on social.

Can you help your clients with this?

You bet!

Chances are, your client doesn’t remember (or recognize) that her “olds” content is still hot. Instead of leveraging her “deep cut” content, she may focus all her promotional time on writing and promoting new posts.

Just imagine how she’ll feel when you tell her that her old content can drive new traffic. This saves your client time (she doesn’t have to keep creating new content) and money.

Pretty cool, eh?

What do you think?

Is your “olds” content gathering dust? Or, do you update it, promote it, and give it a new life? Leave a comment and let me know!

Does Your SEO Client Suffer from UGE?

I receive such a positive response every time I write a rant-filled post —  so I thought I’d do it again!

What am I ranting about now?
Clients who insist that a page “deserves” a top ten position — even if the keyword intent is all wrong.
I call this UGE — Unrealistic Google Expectations.
Chances are, you’ve worked with a client who suffers from this affliction.
No matter what, they insist they can achieve a Google position — despite the search intent or what their consultants say. They have UGE goals and UGE strategies. They spend oodles of cash and time pushing for a result that’s not going to happen.
Grr. Here’s what I mean.
Recently, I’ve stumbled upon a bunch of folks who tell me a similar story. It goes like this…
“I sell accounting software that gets great reviews. We spent a lot of time creating and optimizing our product page, but I can’t get it to position top ten for [best accounting software].”
I do a quick search for [best accounting software] and what do I see? Third-party review sites, Hubspot, and technology publications.
No product pages. The only sales-oriented listings were ads.
What does this mean?
It means that Google has “decided” the search intent for the keyphrase [best accounting software] is informational — not transactional.
More specifically, this means that the client is never going to position their product page for [best accounting software]. Ever.
Spending additional time and money on trying would be foolish.
It’s as simple as that.
The reality is, Google is “the decider” when it comes to search intent. You may think that Google should position your sales-focused page for [best accounting software] — but what you think doesn’t matter.
It’s up to Google.
Adam Heitzman talked about this in his article, “What to Do When Google Is Ranking the Wrong Pages for Your Keywords.” I recommend you read this article and save it for later. It will be an excellent reference for when your client or boss says, “Are you sure we can’t position for that keyphrase?”
This will happen to you someday. Trust me.
But really, Heather, are you sure there’s nothing you can do?
Yup. I’d drop it like a hot potato and switch my strategy.
That means pivoting away from that particular keyterm goal and looking at other terms that would drive better ROI.
It’s not just me saying this. As Adam says in his article, “…you need to shift focus away from this keyword altogether or understand what you are dealing with to better align.”
Alignment is crucial.
Sometimes, it takes a while before companies “get” this concept. You can say, “But, check out the Google search results,” until you’re blue in the face, yet the client (or boss) will still insist positioning is possible. You’ll hear things like, “Maybe if you just added a few more keywords in there.”
No.
There’s no reason to beat your head against a Google wall when there are scads of other topics (and keyphrases) waiting for you.
Why not go after those?
What do you think?
Does your client (or boss) suffer from UGE (Unrealistic Google Expectations)? Share your pain and leave a comment below!

How to Convince a Clueless SEO Writing Prospect

How can you convince an SEO writing prospect that you can help her land the search positions (and conversions) she wants?

Well, it depends…

I received a great question from one of my newsletter subscribers (thanks, Steve!). Here’s a quick excerpt:

“I usually ask a prospective client ‘do you have a website?’ If the answer is yes, I then ask ‘how is it working for you?’ Their answer is usually, ‘It’s not working. No business and the website doesn’t show up in top Google searches!’

Hmm, client is wasting money on the website with no business! How can you convince them of the need for SEO?”

(Raise your hand if you can relate.)

I’ve seen this scenario play out time and time again. Some prospects are convinced that SEO “doesn’t work” because they don’t understand it, they’ve tried before (and worked with a bad consultant,) or they figure they don’t need it.

When the reality is, their content is bursting with low-hanging fruit opportunities. Just a few tweaks and their site’s SEO potential would explode.

If only we knew the magical words that would convince them.

What are those magic words?

First, let me tell you a story…

Years ago, I used to nag my husband about integrating stretching into his hockey routine. He’d go from playing three hours of hockey to coming home and sitting on the couch.

I’d show him studies about how stretching would help…and nothing.

I’d warn him that he was going to hurt himself someday…and nothing.

I’d ask if he wanted to stretch with me…and, well, you know what happened.

In fact, he didn’t stretch or foam roll at all…until he was injured on the ice.

Going to physical therapy for seven weeks showed him the importance of stretching and taking care of his body. And now, he stretches all the time.

You see, he wasn’t ready until he was ready — no matter how many times he heard he “should” do something. 

We humans are strange, irrational beings. We let fear, apathy and doubt block smart decisions. No amount of convincing will teach us to eat our vegetables if we don’t like vegetables. Or, that exercise is important if we hate breaking a sweat.

So, why should SEO be any different? 

After all, when’s the last time you convinced someone to do something they were dead-set against? It’s almost impossible — unless the person feels pain and is motivated to try something new.

That’s when they’ll be ready.

What should you do with “hard-to-convince” SEO writing prospects?

My first step is to go into question-and-education mode. I ask questions about the lifetime value of their customers, the keyphrases that are important to them, and what percentage of their visitors convert. That way, I can combine my educational tidbits with specific, measurable benefits.

It’s one thing to say, “you’ll see an increase in search traffic.” It’s another to say, “even a 5 percent bump in search volume converting at your current rate could mean over $460,000 in income.”

That’s education done right.

But, what if your prospect still isn’t convinced?

This will sound harsh…

Don’t waste your time.

Let them go. Set them free. If it’s meant to be, they’ll come back (you’ll be surprised by the number of times that happens.)

Like my husband and stretching, if they aren’t ready, they aren’t ready. 

Sure, it’s OK to stay in touch and to check in. Sometimes, the buy cycle moves glacially, and a lead may not convert for years. 

Just don’t spend time trying to convince someone to love SEO. It won’t work, and it’s time you won’t get back.

Besides, as my mother used to say, there are plenty of fish in the sea. Why waste time trying to convince someone when you can find clients who DO understand your value?

The (good) clients are out there. Really. You just have to find them.

What do you think?

Have you had your share of indecisive prospects? What did you do to unstick their decision-making process? Let me know in the comments!

How Freelance Writers Can Survive the Upcoming Recession

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Right now, a lot of people are afraid.

Maybe even you.

They look at the news and at past economic cycles and say, “See, a recession will happen any day now. What will happen to my job/business/livelihood when it does?”

Scary stuff.

I get it. I do. For many people (including me,) the last recession was devastating. Sure, many folks are doing 1,000 times better now than they were before 2007, but that fear, uncertainty and doubt remain.

It’s like we’re suffering from an economic-based PTSD. Sure, the worst probably won’t happen. But that doesn’t help us when we wake up at 3 a.m. worrying about stuff.

I learned a lot from the last recession and from talking to other business owners who survived (and yes — even thrived.)

Here are some things to think about:

– A recession does NOT mean you’ll automatically go out of business. 

It’s easy to think that a recession = we all lose money. In fact, many businesses did well during those dark recession years. And yes, even freelance writers. 

It’s important to get your mindset straight NOW, before the other financial shoe drops. If you go into a downtime thinking you’re going to flounder — guess what’s going to happen?

There is always opportunity. You just may need to think outside of the box to find it.

I know business owners who made a bunch of money during the recession and weren’t worried about cash flow at all. (Shocker, I know!) Just because the news is telling you, “Everything is horrible everywhere,” it doesn’t mean it has to be true for you.

– Working in-house won’t necessarily protect you.

Sad, but true. There was a time in 2008 when every. single. one. of my client contacts was fired in the same week. None of them saw it coming. This doesn’t mean your employment is hanging by a thread, but it does mean you’ll want to come up with a plan B — just in case.

Heck, according to this salary survey by Carol Tice, part-time freelancing is the norm. Maybe now is the time to test the waters and to build your writing business.

 – Being “too busy to market yourself” will bite you in the butt.

I hear you. You’re already working long days, and you’re constantly busy. Sure, you mean to update your LinkedIn profile and to contact possible prospects, but who has the time? 

You do.

Instead of waiting for work to come to you, get out there and hustle. Maybe that means connecting with a few LinkedIn contacts every week. Or going to a networking event. Or creating some video tips. Anything you can do to connect with future clients is a good thing, especially if your current reliable client pipeline dries up. 

 – Examine new markets, new skill sets, and new ways to stay competitive.

It’s time to be more than a one-trick pony. Think about new services you can offer your clients (or even your employer.) Stretching your wings, offering different things, and billing yourself as an SEO content marketing consultant makes you more marketable and gives you profitable options.

This is also the time to take a hard look at your target audience and to ask, “Is it worth it?” If you’re constantly underpaid, find a client (or industry) that WILL pay your rates. If you love your niche, think of ways you could expand it. 

– Save money whenever and however you can.

Even a small nest egg will give you a huge sense of control. I use Digit.co to transfer small amounts of money out of my checking account into savings — and it’s been amazing. The amounts are so small that I don’t notice, and I now have a nice chunk of “just in case” cash. 

Some people save X percent of every contract as “just in case” cash. Others transfer money into savings every week or month. Find what works for you and do it — even if you’re only saving $10 a week.

– Can’t save money because things are too tight? Raise your rates.

Freelance writing does not mean “working for less than minimum wage.” Yet, so many writers undervalue themselves because they think they aren’t worth more than $10 a post. You can make at least $50 an hour — and more than $100 per hour — just by positioning yourself and knowing your value.  Especially since there ARE writers making good money.

This is ALL about mindset and marketing. You CAN make more money doing exactly what you’re doing now. 

Want more inspiration? Check out this survey of top-earners (scroll to the bottom of the page to see it.)

 – You’ve got to spend money to make money.

Do you need a business coach to help improve your productivity and to change your mindset — but, you keep saying, “It’s too expensive”? Have you wanted to attend a conference that’s chock-full of prospects, but you’re afraid to spend the money?

Get over it.

NOW is the time to get your mind and finances right for what we all know is coming. Sure, it’s scary to spend money when (1) you’re unsure of the ROI, and (2) you’re already feeling vulnerable. I’ve been there. At the same time, not spending $1,000 now could actually COST you money later.

 – Build a supportive business community and share your story.

When the last recession landed, I felt like I was the only one who was hit so darn hard. I felt horrible about myself (and my business,) and I was afraid to tell my friends how things were really going.

Then, I attended a conference along with some long-time SEO friends. We collectively let down our guard and shared how much things sucked. One friend lost a million dollar contract. Another was thinking about taking a job at his local newspaper. One friend had to lay off his staff and was still dealing with the guilt. This happened to some of the top names in SEO — not just the stragglers.

That dinner years ago was the most cleansing, therapeutic thing that could have happened for me. It normalized my situation, gave me hope, and made me realize I wasn’t alone. 

Create your own community of business/writer friends who “get it.” Think of them like your own personal mastermind group who keeps you happy, sane and focused. You may want to go it alone — heck, that’s typically how I roll, too. But, having folks around you will make things so much easier.

You can enter the upcoming recession feeling confident, secure and prepared. Or, you can fail to plan — and let the financial news (and reality) hit you like a truck. Again.

You have a choice. 

I know what I’m going to do. How about you?

What do you think?

Did Carol’s salary survey results surprise you? Are you ready to take the plunge and to start your own freelance copywriting business? Do you walk around saying, “I ain’t afraid of no recession”? (If so, I applaud you!) Leave a comment and let me know!

7 Tough Love Tips to Boost Your Freelance Income

Freelance writers receive a lot of happy-crappy “how to increase your income” advice.

There are thousands of  blog posts online outlining tips like:

“Charge more money.”

“Find your niche.”

“Package your services.”

It’s not that the advice is wrong (heck, I’ve discussed those tips, too.) It’s that the advice only goes so far.

“Charging more money” doesn’t mean anything if you don’t know your numbers. And there are a lot of writers out there making six figures without a niche.

So, how do freelance copywriters boost their income?

Over the past 20+ years, I’ve learned a lot of hard business lessons the hard way. Sometimes, I was warned about a course of action, and I stupidly did it anyway. Why? Because I’m stubborn. Did it work out? No.

So please consider this my tough love writing advice to you. If you want to increase your income, you have to get your business process tight and wired.

Here’s what to do.

Fire the clients who no longer serve you.

It may be the client who pays you late every single month. Or the client who sends you work Friday at 4:30 and expects it to be finished by Monday. Or the client that likes to call and “check in.” A lot.

Or, sadly, this can be your very first client. You outgrew them years ago, and they pay you far below your normal rate – but you have a hard time letting them go.

Let them go. It’s time.

Your clients may not bring you joy every single day, but you should at least enjoy working with them and feel respected. If you keep clients on who drive you nuts and suck up your available bandwidth, you won’t have time to help future clients you’ll love.

Here’s some more information on how to fire a writing client.

Ruthlessly budget the time you’ll spend on a project.

How many times have you calculated your hourly wage after completing a project and realized you could have made more working at McDonalds?

Yeah. We’ve all been there.

Yes, it’s OK to spend a little extra time polishing a project. But if you find yourself spending hours more than you originally budgeted, you have one of two problems:

– Your client is demanding additional work than what was originally contracted for (and you’re not kicking back as you should.)

– You need to stop being a perfectionist and get work out the door faster.

Remember, you cost yourself money every time you spend too much time on a project. It could be a few dollars. Or a few hundred. Either way, this is something you’re doing to yourself.

If your client wants something that’s out of scope, tell them that it’s an additional charge and ask if they still want to proceed. Easy. Here’s the difference between “out of scope” and a revision.

If you’re taking too long to write something, it’s time to tighten down your process. Remember, your copy is never going to be perfect. No matter how many times you tweak it. Really.

Know your numbers and stick to them.

Quick: How much money do you need to make to cover your monthly bills, including your insurance costs, vacation time and taxes? How many pages do you need to write every month to make that happen?

If you can’t immediately answer that question, that’s a huge red flag.

A huge mistake freelancers make is pulling pricing numbers out of the air without thinking about their hard monetary needs. Sure, you can charge $15 a blog post. But if your monthly expenses are $1,000, you’ll have to write an average of 17 articles a week just to break even.

The purpose of owning a business is to make money. If you’re constantly stressed about cash flow, your life will be a very unhappy place.

Remember, as a freelancer, you are responsible for everything – your own retirement, your own vacation, your own salary and your own health care. If you set your hourly rate at what you used to earn as a full-time employee, you’ll come up short every month. Carol Tice outlined the expenses you’ll need to cover in her pricing-savvy blog post.

Think out of the box

You don’t have to offer the same services as every other writer. One competitive intelligence secret top writers use is to talk to people in their target market (yes, on the phone) and ask them what their main challenges are. A quick 15-minute conversation can provide you a wealth of insider information you can use to craft future service offerings.

Need other ideas? Here are four ways you can increase your freelance income – fast.

Focus on your business first.

How many hours a week do you spend on your business? Not just administrative stuff like paying bills – but profit-driving things like setting up your marketing plan, connecting with influencers, planning new services and making your website shine.

For many writers, the answer is, “I don’t market my business.”

And that’s a huge mistake.

Your most important client is you. Period. That means you need to set aside time every week to strategize and plan (you know, just like you do for your clients.) You can set aside a half day to make it happen (Fridays tend to be good days.) Or, you can spend 30 minutes a day on business planning.

Do this. Do this now. Even if you think”you don’t have the time.” If you go out of business because you didn’t plan correctly, you’ll have plenty of time on your hands. But that’s not really what you want, is it?

Are you so overwhelmed with must-do tasks that you can’t figure out how you’d even find 30 minutes a day for marketing? The next tip is for you…

Let go of your need to control.

As freelance writers, it’s easy to believe that we have to do it all. We write the content. We research the keyphrases. We handle the back end of our businesses, like marketing, bill paying and invoice-wrangling.

Is it any wonder that balls get dropped?

Give yourself permission to think about tasks you could delegate to someone else. For instance:

  • You can bring on another writer and supervise their work. This strategy works to your advantage. You can make more money for much less work.
  • You can outsource tasks you don’t enjoy (like bookkeeping or keyphrase research) to someone else.
  • You can hire someone to post on social media for you (and yes, you can approve the posts first, you control freak you!)
  • Do you hate sales? Consider bringing on a commissioned sales person.
  • Is client communication driving you nuts and eating into your time? Bring on a part-time project manager.
  • Is your day taken up by administrative tasks? Hire a VA for a few hours a week.

The most successful freelancers I know work with a team of smart, talented people. Bringing on team members is not a sign of weakness. In fact, it’s the complete opposite – you are so laser-focused on your strengths, you recognize there are things you shouldn’t handle yourself. Yes, this is money that’s out the door. But you will make more money – and have more free time – if you bring on the right people to help. Trust me.

Think bigger

When I first started my SEO copywriting career, I’d look at the SEO cool kids like Danny Sullivan, Detlev Johnson and Shari Thurow and want to be just like them. They were speaking at conferences. They were working with major clients. They had some major SEO street cred.

My goal back then was to push myself out of my comfort level and speak on the national circuit. And yes, I made it happen!

Am I happy where I am today? Yes. Do I think I can do even more? You bet. I just set a big business goal for myself today – one that, yet again, pushes me squarely out of my comfort zone. I’m not sure how I’ll make it happen yet. And I have a feeling I’ll need to find help. But hey, that’s part of the fun!

Consider how you can take your business one step beyond. Maybe you want to make 50% more this year. Maybe you want to double your newsletter subscribers. Or maybe, you want to work your tail off ten months out of the year so you can vacation for the other two. Don’t let yourself think, “This sounds fun…but…” No excuses. Your mind (and your intentions) are much more powerful than you think.

Now get out there and start making some of that Internet money (thank you, South Park!).

5 SEO Client Types to Avoid at All Costs

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Do you instantly hit the “ignore” button when you see a “special” client’s name come up on caller ID?

Do you write “please shoot me” notes during client calls?

Choosing the wrong clients is a slow, sure path to insanity. Fortunately, these folks throw up some pretty obvious red flags during the sales process. The key to business success is noticing those red flags in the moment — and not deluding yourself into thinking you can “fix” the client (yeah, right!)

Here are five common SEO writing client types to avoid at all costs:

– The “Taylor Swift” client

“All of my past SEO providers did me wrong, and I want to tell the world!”

If a prospect is outlining her grievances about every SEO writing firm she’s worked with — and this is your first phone call — you may want to steer clear. It’s true that people can make lousy SEO-provider decisions. And it’s true that there are bad SEO companies out there, and you may need to repair some legitimate damage. At the same time, you’ll want to proceed with caution when you notice that blinking neon chip on her shoulder. Especially if the prospect is ranting about her SEO exes instead of discussing the project.

With a “Taylor Swift” client, the real problem may not be “bad” SEO companies. Instead, the client may have some … issues. Just know you will never be her SEO knight in shining armor. No matter how well you perform, you too will “do her wrong” eventually – and she’ll add your story to the mix.

Do you really want to get involved with that hot mess?

– The mullet master

“I know a lot about SEO writing. I need doorway pages and article spinning.”

Does your prospect’s site scream 1999? Are they talking to you about doorway pages, keyphrase density and submitting to article directories? Your client could be so stuck in the SEO past that educating them will be a full-time job.

Assuming they listen to you.

Justin Timberlake may be able to bring sexy back, but you won’t be able to bring keyphrase density back. In a perfect world, you’re able to educate your prospect — and she actually listens to you and takes your advice. Unfortunately, many SEO prospects who are stuck in the past stay that way. They like it there. And they’ll keep calling providers until they reach someone who says, “Article directories? I love it! Yes, I can help!”

The “Yeah … but” prospect

“Yeah … but are you really sure that will work? My mother’s uncle’s cousin said I should try something else.”

Feeling like you’re talking to a brick wall? Do you have tiny bald patches from ripping out your hair? You’re talking to the “Yeah … but” prospect.  This person will shoot down any idea you have, even if they called you for help.

Unfortunately, this prospect is so pessimistic that making a decision is impossible. You’ll send proposal after proposal, but none of them will be “right.” Follow-up calls won’t help. Client education won’t help. This prospect is stuck in a deep hole of indecision, and there’s no way to dig them out. Nor will you probably ever sign a gig with them. Walking away is the safest thing you can do for your sanity (and your bottom line.)

– The “Wimpy” client

“I don’t pay deposits. I’ll pay you the entire invoice when the job is complete.”

This is the client who would gladly pay you Tuesday for SEO writing work you do today.  When asked about paying a retainer, their flat answer is “no.” Maybe it’s because they’ve been “burned by a bad SEO provider” (see my earlier point above.) Perhaps it’s not “how accounts payable does things.” That puts you in an uncomfortable situation. If you want the gig, you have to trust that the client will pay you. And pay you on time.

Your response to this type of client should be something along the lines of “No freakin’ way.” Paying a deposit is a standard practice that shouldn’t freak out a possible client. If it does freak them out, that’s a huge red flag. Essentially, the client is asking you to extend them credit and take on all the risk. If things like paying rent and eating are important to you, always get a deposit up front.

The “shiny objects” client

“I need help with my SEO copywri … Look! A squirrel!”

One day, your prospect is pumped about Pinterest. The next, she’s talking about adding new blog content. The following week, she’s changed her strategy entirely and feels it’s time for a redesign. In the meantime, you find yourself sending multiple proposals and spending hours chatting about your prospect’s “cool idea.”

On the positive side, these prospects are incredibly excited about the SEO and marketing opportunities. On the negative side, they often want to implement them all. Right now. And then change their minds.

Shiny-objects clients are notoriously difficult to help. Sometimes, you can pin them down and get them to sign a contract. Just be prepared for lots of forwarded emails promising to “submit your site to 1,000 directories” or “help your guest posts get more exposure.” If something new catches their eye, you’ll be the first to hear about it.

What other SEO writing client types would you add to the list?

“SEO Content Marketing Is Too Expensive.” Now What?

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How many times have you heard, “We can’t rewrite the web content right now. It’s too expensive”?

Or…

“Revising the SEO content is going to take a lot of manpower. We have other priorities.”

Yeah, I’ve heard it too.

Sure, the content may be horrible. But, the thought of changing it (and paying for it) is too overwhelming.

Even if it’s holding a business back from SEO (and sales) success.

The disconnect between expectations and reality

Many prospects (and in-house teams) are surprised at how hard it is to create good SEO content. In their heads, it will take just a few weeks and cost less than $2,500 for the entire site. They won’t need to allocate manpower to it, or have to pay for “extras” like competitive intelligence or keyphrase research.

The content will just…happen.

When they get the inevitable reality slap of “yes, this costs time and money,” it’s easy for the prospect (or manager) to back away, reprioritize, and choose to do something different.

Sure, they know their current SEO content is underperforming. But, the thought of change is too overwhelming. Too expensive. Too….everything.

If you get kickback, or hear “not now” from the powers-that-be, the first reaction is often to get angry or feel discouraged. After all, it’s easy to go down a path where you can feel like, “they don’t care,” or “they’re just trying to lowball my pricing.”

Instead, take a deep breath…

Here’s what you can do

Remind your prospect/boss that content marketing is not a sprint — it’s a marathon.

A marathon you can eventually win, even if you take baby steps.

Is it ideal to comb through all the content at once and switch it out? Sure. But most teams can’t accommodate that workload (and the up-front price tag for outsourcing would be hefty.)

Instead, look at what you can realistically do every month. For instance, maybe the first month is checking out the competition, reviewing the keyphrase data, and creating the editorial calendar.

Month two, you could rewrite a couple important “money” pages (the ones that drive the most revenue) and track performance.

And go from there…

You’re still getting everything done — and the client is still paying the same amount — but it’s all happening in baby steps. You can take your time, see what’s working, and adjust accordingly.

The baby step approach is often much less overwhelming to the prospect (or boss.) She can budget X hours (or dollars) every month to get to the goal.

Plus, a baby step strategy allows everyone to see some nice wins along the way. The wins may not happen quite as quickly as doing everything at once, but they do happen.

Will you still get some kickback, even with a suggested baby step approach? Possibly. If so, put your curiosity hat on and ask the client, “how much is it costing to not improve these pages?”

Or…

“How many leads could you generate if these pages were performing?”

This helps shift the prospect’s attention from, “oh, crap, this is expensive,” to “oh yeah, it’s costing us more to NOT do it.”

This shift doesn’t guarantee your boss will say, “You’re right. Let’s start today!” You may still get a “not now” response. That’s OK. At least you’ve helped her think about the situation in a new, realistic, and less scary way.

9 Reasons Why You’re Losing Freelance Writing Gigs

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What are the most frustrating words you can hear (or read) after spending hours writing a proposal?

“You’re too expensive. We’re going to go in another direction.”

ARGH!

But, here’s the thing…

We’ve all gone beyond our budget and spent more than we’ve expected.

We buy a slightly more expensive car because it has better safety ratings.

We buy organic produce because we feel it’s better for us.

We splurge for an expensive night out, because it’s been ages since we’ve dressed in something other than yoga pants.

(OK, maybe that last one is just me.) :)

The point is, companies set budgets (sometimes, highly unrealistic ones) limiting how much they’ll spend.

But, like us, companies will make the call to spend more than expected — IF they think the value is there.

 

And that’s the key point.

Those companies that say “no” aren’t necessarily saying, “you’re too expensive.” They’re saying, “I don’t see your value, so you aren’t a good fit.”

​​​​​​​It’s true that some companies will only pay $6/post, and expect you to be THRILLED with that amount. I’m not talking about these folks.

I’m talking about folks who have money, and are ready to spend it…but they aren’t spending it with you.

Sound familiar?

If your proposals are falling flat, here are 9 things to check:

  • Are you bidding too low? Believe it or not, your low prices may be what’s causing prospects to run away.
  • Should you bid a monthly retainer rather than per-post? Many SEO copywriters brand themselves as “content marketers,” and handle the entire content campaign. Content marketing rates range from $1,250 – 10K+/month, so it may be worth upgrading your skills.
  • Are your proposals professional-looking and typo-free? Consider having another writer check out your template and make suggestions.
  • Are you bidding too high? Mom-and-pop businesses can’t spend $200 per post, even if you’re the best writer in the world. You may need to adjust your pricing for the market — or change markets.
  • Are you providing too much information? Do you feel compelled to brainstorm a complete strategy and include it in your proposal? Stop it! Your prospect hasn’t paid for your brainpower…and you run the risk of your client using your strategy without paying you. This happens all the time.
  • Are you getting too personal? Writing, “I’m a new mom who really wants to work from home,” or “I just quit my job,” screams “I’m a beginning writer who isn’t quite serious yet.” Leave the personal information out. Focus your proposal on what you can do for the client, instead.
  • Do you sound desperate? “I could really use this job” is a sure way to get your work ignored.
  • Do you sound inexperienced? If your SEO knowledge is old or you were never trained adequately, shore up your knowledge before pitching clients. I can’t tell you how many pitches I’ve read with the term “keyword density” in them.
  • Are you showcasing your value? What can YOU bring to the table that other writers can’t? If your prospect can’t see what makes you a unique and cost-effective hire, it’s easy to move on to another candidate.

What do YOU think?

Did you think, “Yup, I do that” after reading the list? It’s OK. We’ve all messed up a proposal or two (or more!) The question is — what will you do differently next time? Let me know in the comments.

 

What’s Your Copywriting Superpower?

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Have you seen the latest Marketing Profs 2018 Marketing Salary Guide?

The 2018 salaries for brand and agency content positions blew me away!

The forecasted salary range for a content strategist is $60,000 – $115,000.

A web copywriter? $47,000 – $104,000.

In fact, there was nothing under $40K a year.

Nice, eh?

This is great news for content writers like us. (Congratulations if you make this — or even more than this — now!)

But, what if you’re not making that kind of money?

It’s easy to look at salary surveys like this and think, “Everyone else is making way more money than I am. What’s wrong with me?”

I assure you that is NOT what’s going on.

In fact, after I wrote about this in my newsletter, I heard from many writers — both freelance and in-house — who ARE afraid of algorithms taking their jobs.

They’re floundering around, taking low-paying gigs, and suffering with slow-paying clients.

Maybe you feel the same way.

For instance…

A friend of mind was stressing out because she had a “feast or famine” business. When she was busy, she was too busy to think — but when things were quiet, she’d wake up at 3 a.m. and worry about money.

What’s funny is this woman is brilliant at product launches. She can write the emails. She can set up the back end. She can project manage the process. It’s a huge skill set.

The challenge is, she didn’t think of her skill set as a superpower. She didn’t realize she was charging way too little for the knowledge that was in her head.

Because that’s why clients pay you, you know. It’s because of your superpowers.

One SEO Copywriting Buzz reader summed this up beautifully when she responded to my “will machines take our writing jobs” email. Her note?

My copywriting superpower is being a CPA steeped in direct response. I don’t see my big clients looking to AI to write for them. They’re willing to pay me for what’s in my brain.

YES, YES, YES!

So, what’s your content writing superpower?

What do you do every day that seems easy to you — but, blows your clients’ or boss’ minds?

Do your blog posts get more likes than cute cat videos?

Do you have influencers at your fingertips, ready to help get the word out?

Can you write highly-technical content that only an engineer could understand?

Your superpower skill set is what propels you from, “I’m worried about money and clients don’t pay me enough,” to “I’m on vacation and I’m not taking on new clients right now.”

Knowing the value you bring to the table gives you the confidence to negotiate a much higher writing salary (plus, it allows you to work on the stuff you really find fun.)

It’s all about what’s in your brain. The information in your head is worth more than you know.

What do YOU think of the salary survey?

Is it inspirational? Depressing? Do you know your writing superpower, or are you still discovering your hidden talents? Leave a comment and let me know.

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