Do you freelance for clients? Learn how to raise your rates, work with clients, and master SEO writing.

How to Fire A Writing Client

If you’re a freelancer, you’ve probably wanted to end a client relationship at some point or another.

There are so many reasons to do so: sometimes it’s as simple as a personality clash, and you have a client you just don’t click with. Maybe it’s your smallest client who pays a discounted rate and expects the most effort, so it’s not worth your time. Perhaps the subject matter is boring, personally objectionable, or the work will not advance your career.

You might even have a “bad” client who pays late or not at all, is abusive, etc. It might be your biggest fantasy to channel The Donald and yell, “you’re fired!” But in real life, that’s just not good business practice.

Now, obviously, if a client has seriously crossed the line in some way, such as throwing things at your head or screaming at you (let’s hope this never happens!), then ending the relationship is probably in your best interest.

However, assuming your client doesn’t exhibit those extreme types of behavior, you still may find yourself yearning for freedom. Before you tell them to take a hike, there are several questions you should ask yourself, and they fall into two categories:

1. What’s Really the Problem?

  • Is there a personality conflict?
  • Is there some sort of abuse happening?
  • Is the client’s upper management doing something to harm the relationship?
  • Do you believe the company is doing something unethical?
  • Is the work boring or unlikely to dazzle in your portfolio?
  • Are you getting paid in a timely manner?
  • Is the client crossing your boundaries around time management?

2. To Fire or Not to Fire?

  • What are the criteria you use to fire a client as opposed to trying to work things out?
  • Are there any ways to make improvements in the relationship?
  • Can the relationship be handled by other people?
  • Can the implementation of new systems such as editorial calendars or timesheets ease the stress?

If you can answer all of these questions and determine that ending the client relationship is your choice, here are some ways for it to be, if not a pleasant experience, at least one that isn’t unpleasant – for all involved.

Take Care of Yourself

Make sure that you suffer no serious or long-lasting repercussions as a result of ending the client relationship.

  • Try to replace the client with another so as not to dent your income.
  • Fulfill all remaining work on standing contracts. Even if you disagree with how the client wants it, you can put it in your portfolio with a companion piece indicating how you would have preferred to do the work.
  • Remain professional at all times. Even if you’re hopping mad, communicating in a calm and respectful way is the best way to keep the situation from worsening.
  • Don’t take it personally. Most of the time, the sins of the client occur because they’re stressed and under pressure, not because they’re trying to make you miserable.

Take Care of the Client

The way you treat the client will directly affect the way she feels about you after you no longer work for her. If you are able to keep things pleasant and relatively upbeat, you may escape with a glowing testimonial. She may even refer her colleagues to you.

  • Determine what is your responsibility. Complete all standing contracts, and don’t take on new work.
  • Offer to help find your replacement.
  • Agree on the appropriate way to transfer knowledge to a new person doing your job, and also agree on whether you charge for that time.

Breaking Up is Hard to Do

To make a clean break, do it in person if possible, or over the phone if you’re far away. Do not terminate the relationship over email or, God forbid, voicemail. Put yourself in their shoes: remember to always be professional, polite, and positive.

You needn’t get into your real reasons for ending it, especially if it’s not flattering to the client. You can say you’ve taken on too much work and you need to cut back. You can say you want to focus your work to cater to a different industry. You can say that you’re uncomfortable with the workload or schedule.

Another option is to look at personal relationship strategies. If it’s the case that you’re just not into them but you don’t want to go to the trouble of breaking up with them or creating a bad feeling, you could start exhibiting behaviors they don’t like. You might raise your rates, give them less attention, or even offload the work to a junior member of your team.

None of these is necessarily the single best option: each has benefits and drawbacks. You need to assess the situation and determine which tactic or combination of tactics will get the result you want.

One last thought: once you’ve decided to end the relationship, if you need help to muster your courage, you can’t do much better than this classic Bob Dylan song, covered by breakup experts Johnny Cash and June Carter Cash: It Ain’t Me, Babe.

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, 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.

Is SEO Copywriting the Career for You? 12 Questions, Answered

Have you thought about dipping your toes in the SEO writing waters, but you figured it was “too technical” to learn?

Or, have you shunned SEO writing because you’ve heard it was spammy, maddening and not worth your time?

Let me calm your fears…

SEO writing has been around for a long time — over 20 years.

A lot has changed over those 20 years.

No longer does Google reward keyphrase-stuffed, spammy writing (woohoo!)

In fact, quality, authoritative writing is what scores a sky-high ranking. You know, the kind of writing you already love to create.

Wondering if you should add SEO writing to your services mix? Here are the 12 most common questions I hear  — and my (sometimes blunt) responses. Enjoy!

1. I have zero copywriting experience. Can I still write SEO copy?

Yes…but…

There will be a learning curve.

You don’t have to be a technical wizard who enjoys coding sites in your spare time. But you do need to understand the SEO copywriting basics. Otherwise, you are doing your clients a huge disservice. 

Not understanding SEO best practices means you’ll miss important opportunities (or make mistakes) that can cost your client money.

(Fortunately, SEO copywriting skills can be picked up fairly quickly.)

You’ll also need to learn the basic copywriting ropes.

If you want to help your clients succeed (and that means helping them make sales,) it’s crucial that you understand how to create conversion-oriented copy. It will help you write better Web pages, improve your email campaigns – and even help you drive more traffic to your site.

2. I’m an established copywriter. Should I learn SEO writing, too?

Yes. SEO writing is a service you can offer established clients, increasing your profit margins.

Plus, why wouldn’t you want to help your client drive more traffic to her site? After all, if you don’t provide this service, your client may be forced to find another vendor who can.

 
3. Do I need to go back to school?

I don’t know of any universities that incorporate SEO copywriting into their curriculum. Some writers choose to get a certificate in ad or business writing — but it’s not required.

4. So, if I can’t go to school to learn SEO copywriting, how will I learn the ropes?


You have a few options.

Unlike some careers, don’t figure that you’ll “learn SEO copywriting” in a few months – and that’s all you’ll need to do. I’m still learning. I’m still researching. It’s a never-ending process.

If you enjoy learning in a conference environment, events like Pubcon and Search Marketing Expo run content panels. AWAI runs web writing workshops. Occasionally, there are local workshops too – you can always check with an SEO copywriter you like and see if he/she is running anything in your area.

If you prefer to learn from the comfort of your comfy couch, there are online training classes (such as my SEO Copywriting Certification training.) Going through a training course can even help land you your first gig.

What should you avoid? Learning the ropes from message boards (where the information could be wrong) and books (where the information may be outdated.) Stick to constantly-updated resources and you’ll be fine.
 

5. What about working with a mentor? Can I learn that way? 


Some folks prefer a mentor/mentee relationship, where the “master” SEO copywriter reviews your work, answers your questions and helps you learn the art faster and easier.

Some mentors will work with writers for free — but that means you’ll probably be paying in other ways (such as helping your mentor with tasks.) Other people will charge money.

Although “free” is a great price, don’t reject a paid mentor relationship if you have the funds available. You’ll probably be able to work with an SEO copywriter faster (and receive more consistent feedback) if you’re able to pay.

6. I’d rather learn on the job. Will anyone hire a newbie SEO copywriter?


Yes! Although most companies prefer to hire folks with some experience, you can work as an assistant at first — and gradually work on writing projects as your skills improve.

A recent 2016 study found that the average web writer salary is $77,500 — so the income projections are excellent.
 

7. Won’t what I learn go out of date in just a few months?


Yes…and no. It’s true that Google keeps changing the rules. Having said that, many of the basics (like write for your reader) are the same.

It’s crucial to stay educated in this fast-moving field. If you love to learn, SEO (and SEO copywriting) is a great career choice.

8. How can I find SEO copywriting work?


That depends — do you want to work in-house or freelance? If you want to freelance, think about business owners you know (for instance, your hairdresser, a restaurant owner or a plumber.) Is there some way that you can help them?

You can also work with advertising agencies, SEO firms, copywriting agencies and even web design companies. In short, freelance SEO copywriters have lots of options.
 

9. How much should I charge for SEO copywriting services?


That depends on a lot of things, including your experience level, your local area (assuming that you are focusing locally,) and the types of clients you want.

If your heart is with small business owners, it makes sense to charge small business prices. If you love working with corporations — and you have some experience under your virtual belt — you can charge much more.

I know some SEO copywriters making 20K a year – and others making over 200K. It all depends on your income goals.

Here are some things to think about when you’re setting your freelance copywriting rates.

10.  Can I be a part-time SEO copywriter?


Yes. Many people when they are first starting out have a “real job” during the day – and work on SEO copywriting assignments at night. Working part-time can be a great way to build up a client base while having the security of a regular paycheck.

11. How can I get paid more money?

That’s up to you. Top notch SEO copywriters understand how the search engines work, and keep up on the latest and greatest algorithmic changes.

Plus, they’re researching topics like NLP, neuromarketing, consumer psychology — anything that will help them write better copy faster.

The more you know, the more you can get paid.

If you love learning and uncovering the latest search engine burp is fun for you, you can look at expanding your skills into content marketing, social media and even consulting and training.

Some SEO copywriters even take on full-scale SEO projects, handling everything from technical to analytics and everything in between.

If this is the route you plan to take, know that you’ll need to spend a lot of time educating yourself. As I mentioned earlier, your lack of knowledge can hurt a client, so be very honest about what you can do – and what you can’t provide.

12. The most important question of all: Is SEO copywriting a fun career choice?


Yes, SEO copywriting is a darn fun career choice.

Some folks choose to turn SEO copywriting into a lifestyle business, where they fit in copywriting gigs around family, fun, and other responsibilities.

Other people dream of having a full-fledged SEO copywriting and content marketing agency, complete with employees, downtown office, and signage.

Still others would rather work for an agency and be part of a fantastic team.

If SEO copywriting is your desired career choice, you have the freedom to create the work environment you’ve always wanted. And having that kind of freedom, combined with doing the work you want to do, is a great gig. :)

Freelance Writers: How to Tame the Client from Hell

Your client schedules meetings one hour before the start time.

When you tell her a job takes two weeks, she’s demanding her deliverable two days after you start.

Your client doesn’t show up for meetings (even if she scheduled them.) Sometimes she has a (poor) excuse as to why she didn’t show up. Other times, she completely blows you off without any explanation.

It’s easy to call this person the “client from hell.” She has unrealistic expectations, doesn’t respect your time and expects your best work for free. At the end of the workday, you’re cranky and filled with complaints. “I’m a professional. Why does she keep doing this to me?”

Here is your reality check. Your “client from hell” isn’t causing your unhappiness. You are – by letting it happen.

It’s tempting to put up with the behavior because, hey, it’s a client – and who wants to lose money? The issue is: setting boundaries with clients is extremely important. If you haven’t been 100% crystal clear with a client, it’s time to put your big girl (or boy) pants on and deal with the situation head-on.

Here’s how to change the situation:

– Know it’s OK to say “no”

Just because a client wants to meet right now doesn’t mean you have to accommodate them. It’s perfectly acceptable to say, “I’m afraid that I have other obligations at that time. I do have availability tomorrow at X or Y time.” If they want a deliverable earlier than promised, simply reiterate your expected delivery date. Being friendly yet firm can go a long way.

– Yes, you can charge for meeting time

This will change your life. Clients will respect your time much more if they know they’re paying for it. Just make sure that this is in your contract (and yes, you really do need a contract.)

– It’s OK to charge for missed meeting times

I’ll stay on the line for 15 minutes. If the client doesn’t show, I’ll bill them for the time. (I’ll waive the fee if there was an emergency and that’s why the client couldn’t make it.)

– Rush jobs = more money

Many freelance writers charge a 20-50% premium when the client needs a fast turnaround. That way, your time is covered (especially since you’ll have to move your schedule around to accommodate your client,) and your client gets what she needs.

– Out of scope = additional charges

It’s great when a client wants more work. It’s not so great when they don’t expect to pay for it. If the client requests something out of the original project scope, send them an email asking them to authorize the additional charge. Wait until you receive their approval before you start.

Will your client from hell kick back? Maybe. But if they do – and your client is truly driving you nuts – it’s OK to let them go. You’ll find another client to replace them soon.

Here’s what typically happens instead: Meetings are more streamlined. Rush jobs may still happen, but the client is prepared to pay for them. Your “client from hell” transforms into one of your favorite clients.

That’s a wonderful win/win for both parties.

What else would you suggest? How have you handled your own clients from hell (we’ve all had at least one …)

(Special thank you to the LinkedIn SEO Copywriting group for the post inspiration!).

[Updated] Why Do Freelance Writers Hate SEO Copywriting?

“SEO copywriting is low-paying, demeaning work.”

“SEO copywriting is synonymous with unethical projects.”

“[Much of this] SEO content is written by non-native speakers.”

In the words of Liz Lemon from 30 Rock, “What the what?”

I was amazed to read such angry posts in a LinkedIn group.  I knew SEO copy had a bad reputation in some circles. But I had no idea that some freelancers HATED the concept of SEO copy.

The sad thing is, their hatred is fueled by misconceptions. It’s true that spammy copy is out there. It’s true that some clients (still) insist on keyphrase-stuffed content (and will only pay $10 for 500 words.) And if you’re trolling Upwork or job boards for SEO copy gigs, well, you probably won’t find the cream of the money-making crop.

But here’s the thing: SEO content is good content, period. It was never – ever – supposed to be synonymous with spam.

Plus, profitable client relationships are out there. If you’re only getting paid $5/post, that’s not the industry’s fault — that’s on you.

Here’s how I responded to the “I hate SEO copywriting” LinkedIn comments…

First, I totally understand the feeling that some folks have about SEO copy. Companies like Demand Media have cheapened the concept and has given it a horrible reputation. It’s true that you’ll see ads promising $5 for writing 500 words – and those 500 words are mindless drivel, at best. It’s sad.

It sounds like what you call “SEO copy” is what I call “spammy copy.” *Real* SEO content writing – the type that Google likes (and doesn’t bounce out of its index) – isn’t like this. It’s always been about writing quality content for readers. Yes, you have to do certain things to help the page position in Google. At the same time, “certain things for Google” doesn’t mean copy that reads like, “Our cashmere sweaters are the best cashmere sweaters online. Buy our cashmere sweaters now for the best cashmere prices.”

Good SEO copy doesn’t read like this. It’s good copy first – and good for Google second.

I’ve been talking about SEO copy for 14 years – and I was a freelance copywriter before I entered the SEO space. It drives me NUTS when I see overly-optimized copy. Or I hear about clients who will only pay 10/page and they want something that’s keyphrase-stuffed.

Fortunately, Google is (slowly) bouncing those kinds of pages out of their index. The Panda update targeted thin, low-quality content – and sites like Demand got hit. That was a huge wake-up call for clients, SEO companies and writers. They were suddenly put on notice that bad content is…well…bad.

So please know that I’m with you when you talk about spammy copy. Also, please understand that there are many instances of good SEO content – Brookstone’s site is a prime example. Companies of all sizes have benefitted from good SEO content – I’ve seen it increase conversion rates, drive more traffic and help companies make significantly more money.

And there are many (quality) writers who are able to attract good, high-paying gigs. If it were all 10/page jobs, I would have boogied out of the industry a long time ago. :)

So, please know that not all SEO content is bad or spammy or repetitive. There are some “good guys” in the industry, too. :)

–Update–

Fast forward to 2019, eight years later.

A lot has changed since the Panda update.

Google got smarter, content marketing continues to be the hot marketing strategy, and SEO writers are being tasked with creating quality, 10X content.

In fact, the 2019 updates to Google’s Search Quality Raters Guidelines discuss content quality AND author reputation, showing that content is more important than ever. Yes, keyphrase research is still an important component of SEO writing, but you also need to know how to (intelligently) use those keyphrases in the content.

In short, we’ve come a long way, baby.

Yet, the misconceptions are still out there. A well-known freelance writing expert said SEO was on its way out — unless someone wanted to work for $5 a post.

No, no, no, no.

Clients WILL pay more than $5/post. Keyphrase research-based writing is still important (check out this Whiteboard Friday for Rand’s take on keyphrase research.)  The success stories from freelancers and end clients are out there.

I’d love to share some success stories with these folks – they’ve obviously only seen the “dark side” of SEO content. Let’s show them the light.

If you’re a business that has benefitted from SEO content, please tell us how you’ve benefitted. Did you make more money? Increase the number of leads coming to your site? How has SEO content helped you?

And if you’re a freelance SEO copywriter, I’d love to hear from you too! These folks need to know that it’s not all $10/page, offshore work. There are real writers making a real living as an SEO content writer.

C’mon guys. Let’s show the haters that SEO content (that is, GOOD SEO content) is a smart business move. You shared some great success stories in the comments when I originally published the post. Let’s do it again!

(And I’m looking forward to your comments – thanks!)

Quit Obsessing Over Your Freelance Writing Niche. Do This, Instead.

Right this minute, someone out there is wondering, “how can I find my perfect freelance writing niche?”

(Maybe even you.)

I receive heart-wrenching letters every week from writers trying to find their true path. These folks have heard they need to “find a niche” — and that’s where they get stuck.

Because people aren’t focused on finding a niche. They want to find THE niche. The one thing they should do that will be fun and satisfying and most lucrative and feel almost effortless.

And, let’s face it, there are a lot of people selling their “best writing niche” ideas. You can buy training courses on how to write for small business owners, how to write B2B copy and how to write white papers that sell for 10K a pop.

There are books and blogs and webinars, all screaming the same tune. THIS IS THE FUTURE! LEARN THIS NOW! YOU’LL MAKE SO MUCH MONEY!

It gets confusing.

So, people go from blog post to blog post, and purchase training course after training course, trying to find that one thing.

That one copywriting niche that makes their life complete.

via GIPHY

In the meantime, they don’t write. They don’t start anything. They’re…stuck.

(Feel familiar?)

If this sounds like you, I want you to stop and take a deep breath.

It’s OK you haven’t found THE copywriting niche for you.

Why?

Because there’s more than just one niche for you out there. Good, profitable, fun niches.

Your job isn’t to pick THE niche. Just A niche.

Let’s talk about how to do that.

It all starts with high school…

Remember taking career aptitude tests way back in high school? They were a way to supposedly tell us what we should be when we grew up.

There was all this emphasis on “what are you doing after high school” and “what will you major in?” At the tender age of 18, we were supposed to have our lives figured out for us. Many of us dutifully went to college, chose a major and made a future career choice. Mine was “psychologist.”

Did I know anything about my career choice, other than I would have to go to graduate school? Not really. But, I had to choose something…right?

Let’s face it: most of us had no idea what we were doing back then. The only exception I know is my high school boyfriend. He wanted to be an accountant like his dad, and he worked his way up to a Big Six accounting firm. He’s done well.

The rest of us, well, we’ve bumbled around some. I’ve owned a video store and art house theater, worked as a secretary, worked as a recruiter, dabbled in marketing for a plate freezer company and even tried my hand at accounting. I discovered the world of writing and SEO in my 30’s.

Chances are, you’ve lived a similar job trajectory. You’ve tried different things and stayed with some more than others. Maybe you’ve been in the same profession for awhile, but, there was a time when your career choices were more flexible.

News flash: Finding our copywriting niche takes a lot of fumbling around. It’s learning what you like, what you don’t, and how you best work.

You may be one of those rare folks who know exactly who you want to work with, and what you want to offer (if so, I envy you!). But, most folks need to circle around and get cozy before committing.

What’s more, you have the aptitude for multiple niches inside of you! I’m not talking so-so niches, either, I mean good, meaty, fun and profitable niches.

Just like we can look back at our high school selves and say, “How can anyone be expected to choose a career at 18 years old?” we should give our current selves the same compassion.

How can anyone be expected to choose the one true freelance writing niche for them when they are first starting out?

But wait…don’t you have to start somewhere?

Yes. Here’s how

I got this idea from reading Designing Your Life. The authors, both Stanford professors, discuss how there’s not one true “perfect job.” Instead of focusing on finding THE job, the authors recommend prototyping out three job alternatives and choosing the best one.

That way, you get to design the job (and life) that works for you today — and you know how to focus your efforts.

(I highly recommend reading the book if you’re stuck and need direction. The book goes in-depth about how to prototype your career choices, the importance of a workview, and more.)

Think about the author’s advice in terms of choosing a niche. There’s a remarkable amount of freedom in knowing there’s not ONE niche for you. Your career (and interests) will naturally flow from one thing to another. Opportunities will pop up. Clients will come and go.

Your “job,” right now, is to think about three possible niches that sound fun. To you. Not what makes a “10 best freelance writing niches” list. Or, what your favorite mentor copywriter is pushing.

Just pick three writing niches you would enjoy. No pressure. No judgment. It’s all up to you.

Research your niches for three months or so. Check out the freelance copywriting competition. Look for possible clients. Break down the pros and cons. For instance, small business owners may be your passion — but they typically don’t have much money to spend. You may be fine taking on more clients so you can help small business owners. Or, you may want to work less and make more.

Pretend you’ve made a choice and live one day as an “industrial B2B copywriter,” or a “health and wellness freelance writer.” Or, you can choose to be the “newsletter maven,” and market your business to all businesses, big and small. How does it feel?

You’ll often learn everything you need to know just by noticing how you feel.

via GIPHY

The important thing is to take action every day — however small — towards researching your freelance writing niche. You may not feel that “checking out blog posts” is helping you accomplish your goals. However, even the smallest action steps put you that much closer to making a decision.

Once you’ve made a decision, commit to it for at least six months. You may have regrets and doubts and want to second-guess yourself. That’s normal. Know that you’ve done the research and you’ve evaluated the options. Worst-case scenario — you dump choice A for choice B after six months and go for a different target audience.

It’s OK. This is your life and your business. Many business owners (and companies) reinvent themselves and pivot in a slightly different direction. You can, too.

So, quit worrying about THE perfect freelance writing niche for you. You have many perfect niches inside you.

Just. Start. Your. Business. Already.

It’s time.

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Discount Your Copywriting Rates? No Way! Try This Instead.

How many times has this happened to you:

You sweat and slave over a copywriting proposal. Finally, you get an email from the client. Success! They want to work with you!

And then you read, “Your copywriting rates are too high.  We were planning to spend about half that amount. Can you bring your price down?”

Ouch.

Now, you’ve got a dilemma. Should you discount your copywriting rates and get money in the door? Or should you hold fast to your price and possibly lose the gig?

It’s easy to get in panic mode and immediately offer the discount. But that may not be the best idea. Here’s why:

Reducing your copywriting rates reduces the value.  Let’s say that you charge $250 per page – and the client wants to pay $150 per page. If you meet your prospect’s price, you’re telling them, “I was padding my bid by $100 a page. $150 is the true value.” Not the best first impression.

–  An initial rate reduction makes it hard to charge full price later.  After all, if the client got you for $150 a page, why would they pay $250?  Would YOU pay an additional $100 a page if you knew that you didn’t have to? Yeah. I didn’t think so.

– It’s easy to resent your low-paying clients. And by “resent,” I mean “flake out because you have bigger, better-paying jobs.”  The client feels burned because they know that they aren’t a priority — and you feel burned because you’re doing the work for less money. Think this won’t happen to you? It can (and probably will.)

Fortunately, there’s a way to handle this situation so your client feels heard – and you get paid what you’re worth. Here’s how:

– Are you bidding on a large project? Offer a small discount if the client pays the contract up front. This solution is a nice win/win for all.  The prospect gets the discount they want – and you get a big check before you start!

(You DO get a deposit before you start work, right? If not, you’ll want to check out this video.)

– Offer to eliminate a deliverable from the agreement. Rather than reducing your copywriting rates, you could slice a page from the agreement, or reduce the consultation time. This strategy brings down the cost without having to slice your rates.

– Just say no.  Sometimes, the only thing you can do is explain to the client, “Because of the time it would take to complete your project – and the experience I bring to the table – I have to keep the cost as-is. Are you sure that we can’t work something out? I have had many prospects come back with, “We want to work with you, so I guess your rate is OK.”  Whew!

And if you do need to walk away, that’s fine. You know you’ll land another client soon – plus, get paid your full rate!

What about you? How do you handle it when a prospect requests a discount? Is there any time when you will offer a price reduction?

5 Steps to Building a Powerful SEO Copywriting Business Network with LinkedIn

After 2-3 years of trying several different social networks for my SEO copywriting business, I had a breakthrough.

In the past six months, most of my biggest web projects came from one source: LinkedIn.

I’ve come to realize that my LinkedIn connections have been more fruitful for my business, BY FAR, than any other marketing method I’ve tried. Here’s why I believe it’s a terrific resource for you too:

  • Your LinkedIn connections are truly business-focused connections.
    People are using LinkedIn primarily for business conversations, sharing business tips, finding business contacts and opportunities, and asking questions about business success. I have not found this to be true with the other social media.
  • LinkedIn connections are often from companies with decent marketing budgets.
    The clients who reached out to me via LinkedIn were mainly from companies looking for a skilled SEO copywriter to help improve an existing website or launch a new site. This work was in their marketing budget for the year and they were ready to go. They were happy to find me and were willing to pay my fees for quality SEO copywriting. The same can happen for you too.
  • LinkedIn connections represent all types of opportunities for your business. Over the last couple of years, I’ve connected with more than 600 people I know personally from my career and my school days. I have connections with former colleagues, associates I met through business groups, college classmates and friends, high school friends, graphic designers, web developers, ad agency people I’ve met, fellow copywriters, industry leaders like Heather, and many, many other types of people. Any one of them can be a great source of referrals or business. You never know!

It’s not just me that’s having better luck with LinkedIn than some other social networks when it comes to finding business clients. HubSpot’s 2011 State of Inbound Marketing report shows that, “the effectiveness of particular social media channels varies according to the type of business.”

In a survey of over 600 professionals, they found that “LinkedIn is clearly more effective (than Facebook) for B2B businesses.

So why not try it and see for yourself? It’s incredibly easy and it’s FREE. Try these five ways to dive in and create a powerful network for your business, all from the comfort of home:

Create an optimized profile of yourself.

For example, include the phrase “SEO copywriter” in your SUMMARY and in the description of current business. Include all past work you’ve done as a virtual resume under EXPERIENCE, but be sure to showcase the work you’ve done that’s relevant for today’s potential clients.

You don’t need to do it all at once, but eventually you’ll want to create a robust profile with relevant content in each prompted section.

Start connecting with the most obvious folks on your list.

This will include current employers (if you’re still working at a company), current colleagues, past colleagues, college friends, local business folks you know… anyone who comes to mind. You might make a big list on paper and then search for those people in LinkedIn’s SEARCH area.

When you send a request to connect, always add a little personal note to say “hi” and let the person know what you’re doing. Here’s an example:

“Hey Bob! Great to see you here. Just letting you know I’m now a Certified SEO Copywriter focusing on improving website performance for clients. Perhaps you know someone who could use my help? In the meantime, I’d love to add you to my LinkedIn Connections. What are you up to these days? Cheers, Pam”

Continue connecting with “People you may know.”

As you begin building a network of connections from all your past jobs, etc., LinkedIn feeds you a list of people who you may know based on your new connections. This list is a goldmine, so make the most of it!  You’ll find people you completely forgot about or you haven’t seen in years. With a quick invitation to connect, you suddenly strike up a new relationship that could lead to a great referral or project.

I check out the “People you may know” at least once a week and send out at least 10 invitations each time. It adds up quickly.

 Join Groups that are relevant to your business.

If your SEO copywriting work is for a particular niche market (which I highly recommend), join groups in that market. For example, I’m focused on the pet industry, so I’ve joined Pet Business groups and Veterinary groups.

Joining groups helps you keep track of questions and topics that are important to your specific market, and when it makes sense, chime in on a discussion (without promoting your business of course, because no-one likes spammy participants).

Be an amazing contributor.

Whenever you can, use the “Share an update” box on your home page to post helpful tips, links, ideas, questions, answers, sources, industry news, etc. that your connections may find helpful. Try not to be overly promotional. Just be helpful. That’s the simple rule of thumb for all your social media efforts.

And don’t forget to use relevant keywords in your posts! This helps potential clients find you in LinkedIn search.

Bonus tip: Ask for recommendations and give recommendations.

LinkedIn makes it very easy to reach out to folks and ask for a personal recommendation of your work. By clicking on the Recommendations button, you can send a simple request via email. Be sure to add a personal message and offer to return the favor.

Not everyone will stop and write a recommendation, but it’s great when some people do take the time. I’ve accumulated a nice list of testimonials through this feature.

This gives you a solid start on making the most of LinkedIn. There are many other ways you can make the most of this free resource once you get your foundation going.

Keep linking and good luck!

Connect with me on LinkedIn

Pam Foster is the director of copywriting training for AWAI. She is also the author of  The Web Copywriter’s Clear Path to Profits, a Certified SEO Copywriter and Sr. Content Marketing Consultant at ContentClear Marketing 

4 Ways Training Can Land You More Freelance Writing Gigs

As a freelance writer, you know that competition for writing gigs is fierce!

You’ve all heard the dreaded “everyone’s a writer” phrase, which devalues the work of really great writers.

But wannabe professional writers aren’t your only challenge.

Websites like Elance (yes, I’ve got a profile on there, too – *hangs head in shame*), pit freelance writers against each other in a race to the bottom of the pay barrel.

So, everyone can “write” – and usually, they’re all writing for peanuts!

Wow.

But that’s not all!

The freelance writers who do command more than pay-per-peanut rates aren’t “just writers” – they’re professionally trained as SEO copywriters, content strategists, graphic artists, and more. These talented people can measure the results of their work and make tweaks to improve its performance.

Are you panicking yet? Yes? You were already panicking about it before you read this? I know, sorry, BUT here’s the reality…

While you should be able to command higher pay based on your stellar, persuasive, always-on-deadline writing alone, that’s unfortunately not the reality we live in.

Thankfully, like your writing style, you’re adaptable. There is a way to stand out above the competition, and you can do it.

I know you’ve heard this before, but sometimes you have to spend money to make money.

I’m talking about training – where you get awesome knowledge, and often an awesome badge to prove it, in exchange for your hard-earned money.

I know, you’re probably thinking: But I regularly keep up on my training for free with all of the awesome resources available.

That’s what you’re doing on this site right now.

I thought the same thing.

But I broke down and paid for a training – Heather’s SuccessWorks SEO Copywriting Certification training, to be exact. (OK, before you get all AHA! on me, I’m not being paid to write this. Hear me out.)

Turns out you get a lot more out of online training than the structured knowledge that you paid for.

Sure, paid online training goes into much more detail than the stuff the experts give out for free (naturally), so you’re advancing your skills beyond what you can learn otherwise.

That’s great. You probably knew that.

But paid online training gets you ACTUAL PAYING WRITING JOBS. Like, for real. And not always in the ways you might think.

Here are four ways that purchasing online training can help in landing you more writing gigs.

1. The expert might hire you

If you purchase someone’s online training, that someone is more likely to hire you when they have an opening to fill on their content team.

They know you have the skills to do the job because they just trained you.

That’s what happened for me after I took Heather’s training.

She happened to have a Blog Editor opening on her SuccessWorks team just as I’d finished taking her SEO copywriting training, so she thought of me to fill the spot. I also happened to have an editorial background that helped land the gig.

One of my favorite quotes sums up this scenario perfectly:

“Good fortune is what happens when opportunity meets with planning.” – Thomas Alva Edison

For me, and probably for most of you, it’s a dream come true to work for someone you really admire and whom you consider the utmost authority on the topic you’re studying.

Not only can taking their training help you get a gig with them, having that impressive gig on your resume and those writing samples in your portfolio will land even more writing gigs.

2. The expert may recommend you

This ties in with number one.

When you take an expert’s online training, that expert may recommend you for work. That’s huge!

Why do they do that?

There are a few reasons:

  • They now have proof that you know what you’re doing.

As mentioned above, you taking their course proves to them that you have the skills necessary to rock at whatever you trained for. Now they know that you won’t embarrass them if they recommend you to colleagues.

Another bonus for them – they’re now a resource to businesses for quality writers. That adds value to their own business offerings. Recommending you actually helps them keep and generate business.

  • They want you to succeed.

Boy, that’d be super embarrassing if you offered an online training and none of your trainees succeeded in landing freelance or in-house writing work.

It benefits the instructors offering online training for potential customers to see you wildly succeed. That generates more online training business for the instructor.

  • They want to give back.

Your guru may want to give back to you for purchasing from them.

One way they do that is by sending writing jobs your way.

For instance, Heather has an email list for her SEO Copywriting Certification grads. It’s chock full of good stuff – including the occasional paid writing opportunity!

Copyblogger has a page on its site that recommends their Content Marketing Certification grads to businesses that need a content marketer. I’ve received a lot of inquiries through this site. They also occasionally include writing jobs in emails to certification grads.

3. Potential clients see evidence of your skills

Badges! Yay!

I love badges. I think everyone loves badges. Honestly, who doesn’t love badges?

Anyone considering selling online certification training shouldn’t even bother if they don’t offer a certification badge that graduates can display proudly on their site – if not on their foreheads.

More than just an ego-boost, badges are a quick way to draw attention to your skills and can help business owners and managers decide who to hire.

Otherwise, who knows if you’re credible? You’re just these guys.

If a marketing manager who knows and loves HubSpot (there are a lot of them) needs some content help, they’ll gravitate toward a writer who has that HubSpot Inbound Certification badge on their site because they know that you know the inbound methodology that they use to create content.

As you know, you really shouldn’t write anything online (except maybe your personal blog that you hope nobody finds anyway) without SEO writing skills, but it’s hard to prove those skills to potential clients without formal training. Badges offer quick proof.

4. New skills land you more clients — and higher paying jobs

So maybe this should’ve been number one — but it’s also the most obvious.

When you spend the money and take the time to keep up with your writing skills and learn new ones, you’re qualified to take on new types of work, can offer more services and can CHARGE MORE MONEY for the value you’re adding to freelance writing clients.

With advanced SEO writing training, you can prove your skills to potential clients to land more gigs and charge them more for that service. Keyword research and other SEO copywriting techniques adds a helluva lotta value to clients, especially when (don’t we know it) they’re often optimizing for the wrong keywords.

Maybe you’re an awesome blogger with mad SEO skills, but you’re missing a huge chunk of potential clients because you don’t know persuasive copywriting techniques. AWAI offers a well-known copywriting certification course. Writing copy that sells brings in big bucks for you and your clients.

Get that training and get writing – plus, a bonus!

Now that you know how purchasing online training can land new freelance writing gigs, get to it!

Do some research and find out what skills would help you the most.

Maybe you’re awesome on the writing-skills front and just need to learn how to find more clients. Well …

That leads me to my bonus way that paid online training leads to more writing gigs.

There are paid online trainings (SuccessWorks and AWAI offer two of them) that teach you how to find freelance writing clients! Instead of going it alone, you can learn how to ramp up your business faster — and make more money, more easily.

Yes, training is an investment. Yes, you will need to spend time to go through the course and complete the exercises.

Yet, the benefits are well worth it — and you’ll be able to take your freelance writing business to the next level.

Have you experienced other ways that paying for online training has helped you land writing jobs? Let’s talk about ‘em in the comments below!

Connect with Tracy on Twitter and LinkedIn

Photo credit to LeanForward If | Flickr.com

5 Questions That Will Make the SEO Writing Process 5 Times Smoother

It doesn’t matter whether you’re new to writing online or you’re a vet who was writing back when keyword density was at the top of SEOs’ minds. There are few things more satisfying to a writer than successfully negotiating a new project with a new client. Agreeing on a price to produce new content lets you know that you’re a pro and people see you that way.

But while it’s gratifying to see a proposal or pitch pay off, that rush usually dissipates once you focus on actually writing. And whether or not the time you spend at your computer is fruitful usually depends on how much info you gathered before you started.

Starting with a new client can be difficult, because something that may have left one client smiling might make your new one completely indifferent. In order to get a feel for your new gig, there are a few questions you need to ask in order to produce your best work and prevent frustrating hang-ups.

1) What Is The Goal?

This may seem simple, but writers frequently tap away at their keyboards with only a vague idea of what the client hopes to accomplish with a particular piece of writing. Should the page drive sales? Will it be shared on social media? If so, will the piece be promoted primarily on a brand’s Facebook page, reddit, or some other social network? Or should the piece make your client’s site look authoritative?

Knowing the goal will shape how you create the piece and help you nail the first draft. If you need to drive conversions, then you’ll know to include strong, active language. Social media content will be punchy and fun. And content that’s designed to boost a site’s authority will have a longer-than-usual word count and links to respectable sources.

2) Who Is The Target Audience?

Every product is different, every audience is different, and every client has slightly different tastes. Considering all that, it’s nearly impossible to write your piece in a way that will satisfy your audience if you don’t know who they are. You might as well guess what their favorite flavor of ice cream is without knowing anything about their favorite foods.

To focus your writing your next question should be: who are you writing for? All writing is a conversation, and an important part of conversation is context. You speak to your friends differently than your family and co-workers, and writers speak to different audiences in different ways depending on their values and experiences. Knowing who your audience is and understanding their age, education level, hobbies and other demographic facts will help you tailor the piece to your readers.

3) What Are Some Of Your Favorite Or Most Successful Pieces?

A quick way to know what your client likes is by examining their personal favorites. If you ask what kind of pieces your client really respects and which pieces were the most successful (however it is defined), then you can begin to understand what the client is looking for. If your client has done their due diligence by paying attention to their content analytics, they should know what works for them and what doesn’t.

Do they like long-form articles, or pieces that are brief and to the point? Do they like lots of bolded words and bullet points, or do they prefer well-structured paragraphs? Do they appreciate fanciful wordplay and clever turns of phrase, or would they prefer the writing to be more direct and clinical? All these questions, plus more you haven’t even thought of can quickly be answered by reviewing your client’s greatest hits.

4) What Is Your Editorial Process?

This can vary wildly from company to company. In some smaller operations, the editorial process will just be the owner reviewing the piece and giving the final thumbs up. In larger companies, the piece might be reviewed by an editor, then the director of marketing, and finally whoever is in charge of operations before it can finally be approved for publication. This question lets you know who and how many people you have to impress. Don’t be caught off guard if you suddenly find your inbox filling up with editorial notes from four different people.

5) What Is Your Editorial Schedule?

Time is money, so you should know how your new client likes to work at each stage of the writing process. What is the deadline for submission of the first draft? When should you expect notes and revisions (if any)? When do they expect another draft? Do they have a hard date when they’d like to publish it? Some companies have a very loose, free-form schedule, while other editorial departments are run with the efficiency of an assembly line. Either way, knowing how they work will get you on board with the person (or team) you’ll be working with. Plus, it will allow you to properly manage your time, giving you the ability take on more clients.

Information Is Power

Starting your piece without knowing what to do and how to do it is like throwing a basketball at a hoop with your eyes closed. There’s a chance you might hit your target, but you’ll increase your odds of success if you keep your eyes open and get all the important information before you make your shot. By asking the right questions, you’ll leave lots of happy clients in your wake and a lot more, and higher-paying, gigs in your future.

About the Author

Logan Strain is a writer who regularly contributes to Instant Checkmate’s blog, a father, and a podcast addict. When he’s not browsing reddit, playing with his daughter, or binge-watching Netflix, he’s creating top-notch web content. Follow him on Twitter @LM_Strain.

Creative Commons licensed photo thanks to Martin Pettitt.

9 (more) questions writers ask about SEO copywriting

Would being an SEO copywriter make you smile?

Wondering if you’d be happy as an SEO copywriter?

In a previous blog post, I discussed 9 common questions writers ask about SEO copywriting. But what about SEO copywriting as a career choice? If you’ve wondered how you could find a job as an SEO copywriter – or how you can start a freelance shop – this post is for you.

I originally wrote this post in 2012 and I’ve updated it to reflect other questions I answer every day. Enjoy!

I’m a print copywriter.  Are you sure that I can learn this? Or can an old dog really learn new tricks?

Yes, this is a skill that you can learn and master (check out Lynda Goldman’s interview for a real-life success story.)  Online writing is much different than print copywriting – so there will be a learning curve. At the same time, if you know how to write and connect with your audience, that’s half the battle. The main challenge I see with print copywriters is that they think that SEO copywriting is too “technical” to learn. Here’s how I answer that question …

I’m not a really technical person. Can I still do this?

Yes, you can. It’s true that the more you know about the “techie” side of SEO (and SEO copywriting,) the more opportunities that you’ll have. I highly recommend reading everything you can about SEO (including how to code) and upgrading your skills. Having said that, there are many SEO copywriters who partner with SEO firms. The copywriter writes the copy – and the SEO firm takes care of the “techie stuff.”

There seems to be a lot of SEO copywriters online. Is the market too saturated?

Nope. Granted, if you want business, you’ll have to learn how to market yourself – and ideally, you’ll choose a niche. But there are still many opportunities to make money.

But I’ve heard that SEO copywriting is dead. Is that true?

Nope. Certainly, the SEO writing “rules” have changed. And it’s more important than ever to keep up. But companies (and clients) are still begging for smart SEO writers who can help make them money.

What kind of companies hire in-house SEO copywriters?

All types of companies, including B2B, B2C and publishing companies. If you’re looking to work in-house, think about sites that produce a large amount of content every month – and consider those companies possible employment targets. For instance, ecommerce sites are constantly updating their product pages and blogs. A publishing company may require you to write SEO-optimized articles. Some in-house writers may also create newsletters, emails and white papers. Others focus just on SEO copy. It depends on the employer.

I’ve seen job titles like “Web content writer,” or “SEO content writer.” Is that the same thing?

Yup. There are quite a few different job titles for SEO copywriters. The main thing is choosing a job that fits your skill set. For instance, if you love blogging – but sales pages aren’t fun for you – you’ll want to choose a job that’s more social media related. If you can write high-converting sales pages, you may want to look at jobs that allow you to write landing pages, product pages and service pages.

Can I find a job that can teach me this stuff?

Yes, but don’t expect to get paid a lot. Many companies are looking to turn this over to an “internal expert” – so you’ll make more money if you have training, experience and fantastic clips. Having said that, starting out as a “copywriting assistant,” can fast-track your knowledge. Some of the best copywriters I know had someone helping them expand their skills. The pay may be lower, but the experience will be fantastic!

How can I find clients (or someone who would hire me full time?)

If you’re looking for an in-house job, you can certainly check out online job boards and see what’s out there. However, I recommend getting out there and actively networking – especially within your local community. Many writing jobs are “insider hires” that aren’t posted. The more you can connect with people, the more you’ll learn about secret opportunities and can position yourself as the perfect candidate!

Networking (whether it’s local or on social media) is also important if you want to freelance. In a perfect world, most of your clients come from referrals and you have a steady stream of business. Many freelancers love LinkedIn for copywriting leads. Pam Foster has said that LinkedIn “has been more fruitful … by far, than any other marketing method.” Why not give it a shot?

I want to be my own boss and work as a freelance SEO copywriter instead. How do I do that?

Read my “Ultimate Guide for Beginners.” it will tell you everything that you want to know.

I’ve heard that SEO writing is a low-paying gig. Tell me why I’d want to do this.

It’s true that some companies pay a paltry $5 per blog post. Having said that, some companies pay $250 or more per post – especially if the writer is truly top notch. I know many SEO writers who are happily writing content and making a fantastic living. You won’t make 100K starting out (whether you freelance or work full time.) But you can find clients (and employers) who value great writing. As your skills improve and you can demonstrate results, you can make more money over time. That’s pretty cool.

Wow, I’m sold! I want to quit my job tomorrow and freelance full time. What do you think?

Um, don’t do this. Not unless you have a pretty flush savings account, have clients already lined up, or have other income coming in. No matter how “hot” SEO copywriting is as an opportunity, it takes time to get your business off the ground. Having said that, learning everything you can about running a successful copywriting business will help you make more money, faster. For instance, check out my Copywriting Business Bootcamp classes for all of the topics that you’ll need to master.

Are there other ways I can use my SEO writing skills?

Heck yes. If you ever want to launch a side business, your SEO skills give you a competitive advantage. You’ll know how to drive more traffic and convert it into paying customers. Want to help out a friend who owns a business? Yes, you can do that, too. I’ve even heard of SEO writers bartering their skills for Pilates lessons, haircuts, landscaping … you name it. Plus, if you ever write a book, you can easily build an author platform with your SEO know-how.

Are you sure this is fun?

Oh yeah. It’s really fun. If you enjoy a fast-paced career – and you love working in an ever-changing industry – you’ll love SEO copywriting. If it wasn’t fun, I wouldn’t have been doing this for the last 16 years. :)

Want step-by-step SEO-writing training and personalized help? Check out the SEO Copywriting Certification training!