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Land the Gig with These 7 Freelance Copywriting Proposal Tweaks

Tired of spending hours writing proposals that never result in a sale?

A couple weeks ago, I wrote about how to get clients to say “yes” faster. Since writing the post, a number of people have said, “Heather, where I’m really stuck is how to write proposals. What do prospects expect? I feel like I’m doing it all wrong.”

You’re probably not doing it all wrong. But there probably are some things you can do to increase your odds of success. Here are some things to think about:

– Are your proposals detailed enough to be a DIY guide?

You’ve included a keyphrase list, a competitive analysis and a detailed explanation of the pages you’d rewrite and why. This process took you hours. You spent the time because you want to land the sale. After all, everything you wrote showcased your expertise. Right?

Wrong.

Instead, your prospect could read your free proposal and easily do the work themselves.  Or hire a less expensive vendor. And yes. This happens.

Remember, the proposal’s purpose is to get the gig. Not give away your secrets. You may need to do some discovery to accurately bid on the gig. That’s cool.. Just save the meaty information for after you’ve cashed their check.

–  Do you include too many options?

Too. Much. Information.

Too. Much. Information.

Ever talk to a prospect and think, “Wow, there are so many ways I can help her.” That’s great. Just don’t put all 10 ideas in one overwhelming proposal.

Why? Your prospect won’t know what to choose, what to do – heck, they may not even read all of it. After all, who wants to read a 20-page document when all they want to know is what you’ll do and how much it will cost.

The key is narrowing your options list way down. Remember, YOU are the expert – so choose what you think the prospect should do and focus on that. If your prospect needs options, limit them to three. You can focus on your other ideas after you’ve landed the gig and proven yourself.

– Should you have written a proposal in the first place?

Did you propose a $5,000/month agreement when the prospect has $500/month to spend? That’s a bad mistake.

It’s crucial to prequalify the prospect and ask about budget before you get to the proposal stage. If the client can’t pay for your expertise, you can refer them to someone else before spending loads of time.

It’s true that many prospects don’t know their budget or don’t want to answer the question. One way to deal with this is by telling the client, “Most projects like this cost anywhere from $5,000-$8,500. Is that within your budget? If the prospect says, “yes,” you’ll know you can move forward.

– Did you include any testimonials or bio information?

It’s important to remember that the person gathering proposals may not be the decision-maker. In fact, your proposal may be emailed to multiple team members, all with their own ideas and agendas. You may not ever have a chance to talk to these team members or “sell” your services – so your proposal has to do it for you.

To put your best foot forward, create a “bio page” and include it in your proposal. I include mine as the last page. That way, if someone is wondering about my qualifications, they can turn to the last page and read them. They don’t have to visit my site or surf around (although I figure they do this anyway.) It’s a great way to sell yourself in an understated way.

– Have you explained your terms?

Um, what are you trying to say?

Um, what are you trying to say?

It’s easy to propose something like, “Instead of rewriting these pages, we can edit them for keyphrases.” Although that’s super-clear to you, it won’t be clear to anyone not living and breathing the SEO/online writing world.  The more questions that pop up during the proposal process, the easier it is to say no and work with the vendor who clearly spelled everything out.

Remember, even if your contact is SEO-smart, you shouldn’t assume everyone in the company (especially the decision-maker) has the same level of knowledge.

If your proposal is passed around to multiple people, you want to focus the discussion on how you can help – not cause a huge email thread asking you to define your terms. It’s important to speak your customers’ language and use terms they can easily understand. One easy way to do this is …

– Have you templatized your proposals?

Why, oh why, are you creating every proposal by hand every single time? Especially when most of your clients request the same services? An easy way to save time is to create template copy discussing your service offerings, deliverables (yes, define your terms) and general timelines. That way, creating a new proposal is as simple as adding the relevant information, proofing it and clicking send. Which reminds me…

– Does your propozal have some funky typos? <—yes, I did that on purpose!

Typos happen, especially when you’re kicking out a bunch of proposals at once. Prospects don’t dig typos, though – especially during the proposal process. And if you are using a template proposal, you better make darn sure that you erase the previous prospect’s name EVERYWHERE and replace it with the new client’s name.

I’m paranoid enough that I don’t rely on Word’s find and replace function. I hand-check that stuff.

Spending time to freshen up your proposal is one of the smartest things you can do. If you’re stuck on what to change, it couldn’t hurt to hire a consultant to help. That way, an outsider can provide suggestions on how to take your proposal from so-so to spectacular – and you can land the gig every time.

Photo thanks to Doug Wertman (Proposal at the PBR)

Freelance Writers: Are You Making This Costly Mistake?

You answer emails within five minutes of them hitting your inbox.

You race to pick up the phone by the third ring, no matter what you’re doing (or writing.)

A client emails you Saturday night at 10:45 and you immediately return their note. Even if that means taking time away from your family.

And you’re always exhausted and wondering how you can work an 11-hour day with nothing to show for it.

Sound familiar? If so, quit it! You’re hurting your productivity by being so available (and hurting your business, too.)

Here’s why:

If you don’t value your time, why should your client?

Have you ever experienced the Friday “drop and go?” This is when a client emails you late on a Friday and writes, “I’m heading out for the weekend, but I need this first thing on Monday.

Ouch.  Suddenly, you realize that your weekend plans are now on hold until you can get the client stuff squared away.

No fun.

I’ve gone through this before. I actually had a prospect demand a proposal on Christmas Eve (really!). Did I do it? Yes. And the client didn’t look at the proposal until mid-January. Yeah. I learned my lesson.

The truth is, we train our clients how to treat us. If we’re always available and accommodating, it’s not the client’s fault for thinking we could handle a weekend project. Or a rush job. Or we’d drop everything so we could complete “just this one thing.”

That’s why setting client boundaries is so important. Yes, be available within reason. And yes, there may be those times when you do work a weekend to take care of a good client. But it shouldn’t be an expectation.

Being overly available kills your productivity

“I can’t get everything done” is a common freelance writer frustration. If this is a frustration of yours, here’s a reality check:

If you’re bouncing from email to client project to phone calls, you’ll never have enough time. It will take you ten times longer to finish a fast project. You’re doing it to yourself – even if it feels like it’s being done to you. You’re multitasking yourself into an unproductive frenzy. 

So here’s what to do about it:

1. Train yourself to NOT respond every time you hear the phone ring or your email ding. Turn off the ringer. Mute the notifications. Close the door. Do everything you can to give yourself some uninterrupted work time. It’s OK. People will leave a message. You can call/email them back.

2. Tell your clients when you are available.  Most clients don’t require (or expect) an instant response. They just want to know that you’ll get back to them within a reasonable amount of time. It’s even OK to write, “I received this and I’ll look into it later today,” so they know you’re on it.

3. Practice saying, “I’m happy to do this. There will be a rush fee of X.” It’s amazing how clients will suddenly value your time much more when they know there’s an extra cost involved. :) Plus, if you do work a rush job, you know you’ll be well compensated for your time.

Try implementing these strategies. I guarantee you’ll feel more centered, energetic and focused during the day. Plus, you’ll probably see a nice productivity spike – which could mean more money in your pocket. Bonus!

What do you do to keep yourself on track? Please leave a comment with your favorite boundary-setting strategies!

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!

Go Jump in the Ocean! Better yet, Take a Flying Leap!

Jumping in the ocean on New Year's DayIt’s my first post of 2014. I can’t believe we are a week into the year already. Let me wish you a belated happy New Year!

Now that we got that out the way, let me tell you to go take a flying leap!

Don’t take that the wrong way, I’m not telling you off; I’m offering inspiration.

Clean the slate

2013 wasn’t the best year for me (although it definitely had some good highlights). Just a few low moments included:

  • Breaking my nose
  • Ending my 10-year marriage
  • Having to dramatically cut my business to part-time and get a 9-to-5 job
  • Putting on a bunch of the weight I had previously took off (and kept off for several years)

I highlighted other not-so-great moments and some positive outlooks in my Not another thankful post, if you were curious.

Needless to say, I was ready to move on from 2013 and wanted to embrace 2014. I felt as though I was digging myself out of hole and needed to just give myself a new starting point.

I saw 2014 as that new starting point.

A little less talk and a lot more action

In my last post of 2013, I discussed setting goals instead of making resolutions. A couple of years ago, Heather outlined the same strategy, but got more in depth with how to apply this to your content marketing goals.

So once you set your goals, how do you flip the switch? Is having the goal enough to change your behaviors? Not always.

Sometimes you need to conquer your fears in order to make the next move.

Make it dramatic, if you have to

Some people can just make a decision then take action. Other people need to be guided through the process (read: dragged into change). And still other people just need something to spark the change.

I like that spark – even if it is symbolic.

SkydivingSeveral years ago, when my life needed a shakeup, I jumped out of an airplane. That year, I quit a job that I hated and started my freelance copywriting business. It was freeing and wonderful. Jumping out of the plane was the symbolic change I needed.

To kick off 2014, I jumped into the ocean (dove in head first) on New Year’s Day. It was my way to wash off all that I didn’t want from 2013, so I could start 2014 clean.

Things didn’t magically change with diving in that ocean, but I had the spark I needed. In less than a week from jumping in the ocean, I ran a 5k (I haven’t been running in months!) and I joined a gym (with a gym partner to keep me motivated).

Where’s your spark?

What’s it going to take to get you moving? What can you do that will get you motivated and excited to take that first crucial step? Whatever it is – whether it is symbolic or a concrete step (like renting an office space) – go for it.

Make 2014 your year to shine! Happy New Year!

Has Blogging Become A PITA?

Raise your hand if you’re feeling pressured to blog all the time.

Blogging is fun when you first start out. Then, for some people, blogging starts to get old. Writer’s block sets in. You learn that your 300-word posts won’t cut it in today’s Brave New Google World, so you have to write more. Your posts go up to 500 words. Then 700.

You start to get tired.

You read that it’s not enough to just blog anymore. You have to create standout content that truly differentiates yourself from the competition. Now, the magical blog post length is over 1,000 words.

And you don’t know how you’re going to do it (or pay for it) all.

My contrarian advice: Quit blogging so much.

I did. And it didn’t hurt my conversions one bit.

I went through the same blogging burnout a couple years ago. Once upon a time, my blog was publishing four days a week. My blogging editor was finding sources to interview and curating content, while I was writing posts, recording videos and developing the editorial calendar.

Suddenly, everything stopped. My blog editor quit and I realized I had an opportunity. I could stay on the content creation hamster wheel. Or I could jump off and try my own thing.

I took the leap.

About that time, I discovered Derek Halpern and read about his 80/20  blogging rule. Derek says, 20 percent of your time should be spent writing, 80 percent should be spent on promotion.

So I gave it a try. I sliced the blogging schedule down to once a week, I wrote longer, more in-depth posts and I spent more time on LinkedIn Groups and Twitter promotion.

The result: My conversions have actually increased.

For me, blogging less is actually better than blogging more.

I think this is happening for a couple reasons:

  1. I think the extra time I’m spending on content creation is paying off. The content is higher quality and clicks more with the reader. People enjoy reading it. It makes them want to sign up for my newsletter. It’s working.
  2. Extra promotion time means I’m driving more traffic to the site.

I mention my experiences to you, because you may be feeling the same blogging burnout. You may be cranking out blog posts for clients that fit their magical “write 750 words on X” requirements…but you know the posts won’t convert.

Or, you may work in-house and feel stuck. You may not have the budget to hire a full-time blogger, but you feel the pressure to blog constantly.

I’ve been there. If blogging less and promoting more sounds like a smart idea, consider these steps.

– Check your analytics 

You need to know exactly what to slice if you’re going to drastically reduce your blogging schedule. For instance, I’ve worked with firms that got a great response every time one of their engineers blogged. On the flip side, posts written by their PR department would fall flat (surprise!).

The results you find may be surprising. For instance, my content curation posts drove great traffic, but they didn’t help with any conversion goals (for instance, getting people to sign up for my newsletter.) They were also extremely time-consuming to produce. My decision: get rid of them.

–  Figure out a realistic blogging schedule

Now that you have a “do-over” chance, figure out what blogging schedule works best for your company. For my company, blogging once a week was perfect. For yours, you may need/want to blog more often. It’s OK to slice your blogging schedule down in baby steps to see what works.

– Consider how you can reallocate your time/resources to make your posts even better

Now that you have the additional blogging time, use it to create spectacular resources your readers need. Take a hard look at competing sites (whether local or national,) and consider how you can step up your blogging game. Can you write in-depth reports? Can you interview industry experts? This is a great time to check your keyphrase research, plus look at Quora and LinkedIn groups for content ideas.

– Build promotion into your editorial calendar

It’s not enough anymore to upload a post and watch for the Google results to roll in. Think about where you can promote your posts to get the biggest bang for your buck and set up a promotion schedule.

For instance, I post on various LinkedIn groups, Twitter and my Facebook page within a couple days of publication. If I cite an industry influencer, I make sure that I’ve mentioned her on Twitter or Google+. That way, she’ll (hopefully) share my post with her audience — and, yes, drive traffic to my site.

– Obsessively track your analytics

Confirm what’s working, what’s not and tweak your campaign accordingly. For instance, I like to track my weekly newsletter subscription stats and see how they relate to a blog post topic. If I get a lot of newsletter signups based on a blog post, I know I have a winner.

A special note for freelancers…

If a large part of your income comes from blogging, you may be thinking, “I can’t write fewer posts! I’ll lose money!”

That’s a fair point.

Instead of blogging more often, blog better. Consider offering your clients longer, more in-depth posts and pair those posts with some promotion. That way, your clients will see better results, and you’ll maintain your blogging revenue stream.

Do you love advice like this? I give away even more actionable SEO writing advice in my weekly newsletter. Why not sign up, today?

Photo thanks: © zenwae | Dreamstime.com

4 Ways SEO Copywriters Can Increase Their Income – Fast!

Do you want to build additional profit centers for your SEO writing business?

Why not up your game and help companies with the strategic side of SEO copywriting?

You’ve probably found that many clients are looking for more than “just a writer.” Maybe that’s because they’re not sure what content they should produce. Or perhaps the internal writing team is new to SEO and they don’t have a content plan.

That’s where you’d come in.

Companies like these need an SEO content strategist. Strategists comb through the client’s site to pinpoint new opportunities and set the strategy. You may work in tandem with an internal or external SEO team. Or, you may set the complete strategy. You’re at the center of everything SEO content-related, directing other team members what to do and when.

Yes, you may still be doing some writing. But at least half of your time would be spent planning, evaluating and watching the work flow.

Intrigued? Here are some additional strategic services that clients really need.

Content audit

Do you look at some of your old blog posts and cringe? You’re not the only one. There are thousands of sites with old (and bad) content, missed SEO opportunities and minor boo-boos that need fixing. Instead of sweeping those old blog posts under the rug, content audits help you pinpoint what needs to be done page-by-page.

Things you would evaluate during a content audit are:

– Are the pages optimized (especially the blog posts.)

– How are the Titles? Are they keyphrase-rich and compelling?

– Should some posts be updated?

– How is the writing? Does it resonate with the reader, or fall flat?

– Are the sales pages written to convert? Or is there room for improvement?

– Are the keyphrases appropriate for the page? For the site?

Be warned – content audits are time intensive, so you won’t be able to knock them out in a couple hours. Your deliverable would be a report outlining what needs to be done Although your client could conceivably take your content audit and run with it themselves, they’ll often need some implementation help. And yes, you can certainly help with the implementation, too.

Content strategy

Sure, companies know that they “need content.” But they often don’t know what that means. Should they publish five times a week? What should they write about? And how can they make sure that their content is hitting their audiences’ pain points?

Companies that need a content strategy may already have in-house writers on staff. What they don’t have is an SEO content expert that can tell them what to do and when to do it. Or, a company may be looking for someone to handle the strategy and the implementation (bonus!).

As a content strategist, you’d be developing a sustainable publication schedule for your clients. You’d dive deep into their target audience, match keyphrases to the buyers’ intent and suggest content that answers reader questions. This would mean developing blog post ideas (BuzzSumo is a great tool), setting up the workflow and checking the metrics. If you also created the content audit, you’d prioritize what needs to be fixed and set up a plan to make it happen.

Content recycling

Have you ever run across an old blog post you wrote and thought, “I forgot about this one. This is still a really great post.” Guess what? Your clients have that problem all the time. Content recycling helps clients leverage the power of the content they’ve already produced.

Instead of writing brand-new content all the time, you can dust off your old content, recycle it and make it shiny and new again. Some writing is often involved, especially if you’re creating a roundup post or blog post.

Some things you’d evaluate include:

– Can you combine blog posts into an ebook?

– Can you highlight a few related blog posts and create a “roundup” post?

– Can you pull tweets/LinkedIn updates from an old post and link back to the original post?

A content recycling plan often goes hand-in-hand with an overarching content strategy.

Content editor/project manager

Some marketing departments don’t want to learn how to research keyphrases and write optimized content. Instead, they want an experienced strategist to make the SEO tweaks for them.

This can be a cool ongoing gig, especially if a company is producing a lot of content. Typical content editorial tasks include:

– Conducting keyphrase research

– Optimizing posts after they’re written by the in-house staff.

– Creating compelling Titles and descriptions.

– Checking for typos and other mistakes.

– Ensuring the content workflow is followed and posts are being uploaded on time.

– Developing a best practices content creation document.

In short, all the content runs through you. You may not be doing the writing, but you’re the content gatekeeper who makes sure everything is perfect.

Can you see how all of these roles work together? The right company will need help with everything:

The content audit showcases the site’s opportunities and the challenges.

The content strategy sets the stage for what needs to be done when.

Content recycling helps companies use old content in new, exciting and traffic-driving ways.

– The content editor makes sure that all the content is being produced on time.

The good news is, many clients need all four of these services. Suddenly, you’re transformed from being “just the writer,” to being an indispensable part of their marketing team.

That’s a pretty nice place to be.

What SEO content strategy services are you offering your clients? Talk about it in the comments.

Photo thanks to: © Aluha | Dreamstime.com – Small Circle Of Diverse Photo

What Is an SEO Copywriter? 23 Questions, Answered

23 SEO Copywriting Questions, AnsweredAre you wondering what an SEO writer is, how much you can make and if taking the career plunge is right for you?

I’ve answered 23 of the most common questions I hear about the SEO copywriting profession. Enjoy!

What is an SEO copywriter?

An SEO copywriter writes content with two end-goals in mind:

  • The content is strategically written to position well in organic search.
  • The content must “click” with the target reader and help her accomplish her micro-moment search goal. For instance, the reader may want to learn something new (“I want to know,”) or find something to purchase (“I want to buy.”)

SEO writing contains keyphrases — words and phrases a reader would type into a search box to find the information she needs.

What are some other common names for “SEO copywriter?”

You’ll see terms such as:

  • Digital writer
  • SEO writer
  • SEO content writer
  • SEO content strategist
  • Web content writer
  • Web writer.

Does “SEO copywriting” mean “repeating the same words over and over?”

No.

A common misconception is SEO copywriting equals keyphrase stuffing. Although some (uneducated) clients and employers request this kind of writing, it’s not effective in Google — and keyphrase stuffing is not considered SEO copywriting best practices.

Good SEO copy is good copy…with just a few (strategically placed) keyphrases here and there.

Where do SEO copywriters work?

SEO writers can work in-house or freelance for clients. Some writers do both — they have a full-time job, and freelance on the side.

What skills should SEO copywriters have?

analyticsAt the very minimum, SEO writers need to know how to include keyphrases into their copy according to best practices (which do change over time.) Other important skill sets include:

  • Keyphrase research
  • Google Analytics
  • Title creation
  • SEO article writing (more commonly known as “blogging.”)

More advanced SEO writers (sometimes called SEO content editors or SEO content consultants) also understand:

  • Schema
  • Content strategy
  • How to conduct a content audit
  • Landing page testing
  • Advanced analytics
  • Setting the editorial calendar
  • Influencer marketing
  • Some programming (and/or have some technical expertise.)

What other tasks do SEO writers handle for clients/their employers?

It depends on the organization.

Many freelance SEO writers handle all content production for their clients. This can copywritinginclude:

  • Newsletter copy
  • Email content
  • PPC ad writing
  • Sales pages
  • SEO article writing/blog posts
  • SEO content strategy.

In-house writers typically write web pages (including product pages and blog posts.) They may have other writing duties as well.

What knowledge does an SEO writer need?

At the very minimum, you’ll need to understand how to intelligently add keyphrases into the content. Some writers learn this by taking an online SEO copywriting course. Other writers may receive one-on-one guidance from an experienced writer. In many cases, the more training you receive, the more you’ll be able to write content that outperforms the competition.

There are some SEO writers who learn via online guides and blogs. As SEO writing is extremely dynamic — and things change all the time — this method is not recommended.

What kind of tools does an SEO writer need?

The main tool you’ll need is something that will help with keyphrase research.

An SEO writer can easily start out using Google’s free Keyword Planner — just know that it’s not ideal. Eventually, you’ll want to invest in a subscription-based tool, such as SEMRush, Wordtracker or LongTail Pro.

Down the line, you can look at investing in other tools, such as HootSuite or Buffer (for social sharing,) CoSchedule (for editorial calendar creation,) or BuzzSumo (highly recommended.) You could also invest in content optimization tools such as Optimizely.

rp_Smart-Mouse3-Skills.jpgHow easy is it to learn SEO copywriting best practices?

“Easy” is relative. Most people pick up on the foundational SEO copywriting best practices fairly quickly. Keyphrase research tends to take more time to learn — but most writers master the process (and actually enjoy it!)

Once the foundational best practices are mastered, you can learn other aspects of SEO writing, such as Schema, strategy and more.

I’ve heard that things change quickly. Does this mean I have to relearn everything?

Not necessarily. It’s true that SEO copywriting best practices have changed over time. Having said that, many of the fundamentals have stayed constant.

The best SEO writers keep up with Google’s ever-changing algorithm and “rules.” This way, when things change, you’ll able to tweak your tactics (if needed,) advise your clients and leverage current strategies.

Is it easy to break into SEO writing?

If you have some writing experience, breaking in is fairly easy — but it will take time.

If you’re a freelance SEO writer, “breaking in” typically means “landing a client.” The speed-to-market depends on many factors, including your niche, your experience level and how hard you hustle.

Some writers apply for in-house junior SEO writing or account management positions to get their foot in the door. More experienced writers can apply for SEO editorial jobs.

I’m a print copywriter. How easy is it to transition to SEO writing?

It’s fairly easy. There is a learning curve (especially around keyphrase research.) However, once you “get” it, SEO copywriting will be easy and almost second-nature.

briefcaseI don’t have any writing samples. Can I still get hired?

Yes, but you’ll need to show your prospective employer (or client) something — otherwise, they won’t be able to evaluate your work.

Ways you can generate samples include:

  • Volunteer for a non-profit and rewrite some of their content
  • Ask a business owner if you can write an article in exchange for a testimonial.
  • Find a mentor, ask her to offload some writing your way, and write for free (in exchange for feedback and training.)
  • Create a “hobby blog” and write about one of your passions.

What kind of companies hire in-house SEO copywriters?

The employment possibilities are endless. All types (and sizes) of companies, including B2B, B2C, and publishing companies, hire SEO writers.

Can someone specialize in SEO writing even if they’re not “technical?”

Yes!

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.”

I’ve heard freelance SEO writing = content mills and low pay. Is that true?

Not necessarily. It’s true that some companies will pay only $10/article. However, many companies pay freelancers anywhere from $50 – $300/hour. How much a freelancer gets paid depends on his knowledge levels, his niche and how well he markets himself.

tombstone_png_by_camelfobia-d5ichmgI’ve heard that SEO writing is dead. Is that true?

No. It’s true that Google has gotten smarter, which is a wonderful thing. Things are shifting to more conversational search, which means that it’s easier to “write naturally” and include synonyms, related words, etc.

Having said that, keyphrases are still important — and without them, a site may not position. Here’s proof that SEO is far from dead.

What are some typical freelance SEO copywriting rates?

The per-page rates are all over the board. I’ve heard of writers charging $25/post — and companies paying over $1,500 for a single page. Some freelancers barely clear $20,000 a year. Others make six-figures.

The factors that influence a writers’ income include:

  • Her experience level
  • The types of clients she serves. In many cases, B2B copywriting pays more than B2C (but not always!).
  • Her business savvy. For instance, is she building relationships with companies that could send her work?
  • Her past results. SEO writers who can show ROI are often more in demand (and are paid more).
  • How much she hustles for work.

Here’s some information about how to set your rates.

moneyHow much can in-house SEO copywriters make?

According to Glassdoor, experienced SEO writers can earn over $50,000 a year (of course, the salary depends on experience and the company location.) I know a few SEO writers/editors who are making around $75,000 a year (plus benefits.)

What are characteristics of successful SEO copywriters?

SEO writers love to write, love to research, love to learn and love working online.  They also tend to have a high tolerance for change – which is good, since Google (as well as other providers) love to mix things up on a regular basis.

Higher-paid SEO writers tend to have some “technical geek” characteristics. Those geeky characteristics help them understand the more technical elements of SEO writing — and liaison more successfully with an IT team, an SEO provider, and analytics experts.

If you are the kind of person who gets bored easily, SEO copywriting is a great gig. You won’t get bored. At all.

What’s the one thing an SEO copywriter MUST always do?

The scariest type of SEO writer doesn’t update his knowledge and uses out of date techniques. If you want to be in this industry, you MUST keep up with Google’s ever-changing whims. Today’s best practices could be borderline spam tomorrow.

How can an SEO writer make more money?

There are typically four ways:

  • Improve your craft — learn everything you can about neuromarketing, direct-response writing, SEO, etc.
  • Be able to showcase demonstrable results. For example, case studies and testimonials can help position you as an expert.
  • Offer more content writing services (for instance, here are some to try.)
  • Ask for more money. About 75% of the time, writers aren’t getting paid what they want because they set their rates too low. If you work in-house, you can ask for a raise.

In-house writers may also want to freelance on the side.

What’s the job horizon? Will this still be a “thing” in two years?

Yes.

Besides, even if Google was suddenly able to read our minds and immediately understand the searcher intent, content will still be a “thing.” Someone will need to write those web pages, landing pages and blog posts.

Why not you?

Want to know some of my favorite SEO writing tips ? I save my best stuff for my newsletter — here’s how to sign up.

Image thanks: Question / ID 3534516458 © Marco Bellucci / Flickr.com

Briefcase / ID 8613058100 © shmectorcom / Flickr.com

Analytics / © Komal Bhesaniya / Wikimedia.org

Tombstone / ID 333146680 © camelfobia / deviantart.com

What Wild Cherry Can Teach You About Your Business

Remember the Wild Cherry song, “Play That Funky Music” No? Let me sing some lyrics for you…

Yeah, they was dancin’ and singin’ and movin’ to the groovin’

And just when it hit me somebody turned around and shouted

Play that funky music white boy

Play that funky music right

Play that funky music white boy

Lay down the boogie and play that funky music till you die.

(Now do you remember? Thought so!)

What most people don’t know is that Wild Cherry started out as a hard rock band. The song represents a true story about how audiences during the disco era wanted them to “play that funky music” instead of their normal set. So, they changed their musical style – and voila – they had a huge hit on their hands.

In short, Wild Cherry listened to what their audience wanted – and they changed their music accordingly.

In the business world, this is called “pivoting” your business. It’s a change in strategy without changing your vision (check out this great Fast Company video for more information).  The term was coined by Eric Reis, and describes how some companies drastically changed their business course before they saw great success. For instance, did you know that YouTube originally started as a video dating site? It’s true! And look at them now…

They successfully pivoted their business model – and everything opened up for them.

Although the term is used in terms of startup businesses, any business could benefit from a pivot.  Chances are, your business – like your best relationships – will change over time. What worked five years ago may not work today. What your customers wanted five years ago may be a “be there, done that” today.

So you, as a business owner, have a choice.

You can keep on doing what you’ve always done.

Or you can pivot your business and give your customers the “funky music” that they really want.

If you’re not quite seeing the business results that you want to see, put your ear to the ground and confirm that you’re giving people the right services (or products) at the right time. Are people asking for new and different “things?” And if so, are you listening to them – or are you putting them off figuring that, “That’s a good idea, but we don’t have time for that right now.”

The thing is, the right pivot can keep your business constantly relevant. It doesn’t need to be drastic (such as changing from a rock band to a disco/funk one.) Nor does it mean changing your entire business model.

It’s simply taking what you know and meshing it with what your customers want today – not last year.

Consider ways you can pivot your own business. You may find that a slight change in strategy can bring you incredible amounts of success.

Now, get on with your bad self and keep playing that funky music. You’ve got a business to run.

5 Freelance SEO Copywriting Business Tips (+ Video!)

Welcome back to another “slice of Heather,” featuring the best of her best blog posts grouped by theme.

Last week, we covered small business freelance copywriting, which had to do more with the personal struggles we as small business owners face in trying to cobble together a viable career for ourselves.

Today…we cover the same topic, but from a decidedly different angle: so get ready for another slice of Heather, focusing on the strictly business part of small business freelance copywriting!

1) How to spend less time writing proposals (and still get the gig!)

In this reader favorite, Heather delineates 7 specific strategies for getting that client to say “yes!” without spending precious hours laboring over a proposal. Learn how to save yourself time, energy and grief by simplifying your client proposal to give your prospects what they really want!

2) What to do when you don’t get the gig

So what happens when you don’t get the gig? Facing rejection sucks, especially if you’ve spent hours examining a prospect’s site and writing up a detailed (and what you thought, a killer!) proposal (see above). However you’re taking the news, what’s important is what you do next. Here, Heather shares 10 actions to take to move on when you don’t get the gig.

3) Are you charging enough for your time?

As a freelancer and small business owner, you know that your hours are precious. But you may be stuck in a place, especially if you’re new to the online writing market, where you don’t dare charge more than mere peanuts for your hard work. Heather declares: stop it! And encourages you to consider if you’re perhaps not selling yourself short with 5 clearly illustrated scenarios – and dares you to believe in yourself.

4) Are you making your clients fire you?

In this post, Heather warns you to remember that your clients’ needs come first: they are paying you to make their problems go away, and timely and responsive communication is the way to keep them happy and yourself employed. If you’ve been “fired” by a client, here are some things to keep in mind so that it doesn’t happen again.

5) Your SEO is not the problem

Sales slow? Don’t be too quick to blame your SEO, link builders, competitors or Google. It’s your content. All the marketing and optimization in the world can’t save you from bad content. Here, Heather discusses 4 common bad content issues, and suggests to be highly mindful of them when writing your site copy.

photo thanks to Better Than Bacon

The SEO Writer’s Guide to Dealing with Clients

Does dealing with clients get you down?

These are some of my favorite video posts for any freelance SEO writer dealing with, ah, difficult clients, or otherwise facing any of those tricky client relation issues that require patience, understanding, anger management, and some client education.

From explaining SEO copywriting to clueless clients to handling their mangling of your best writing, here are sage tips from someone who has been there and back. A few times.

How to explain SEO copywriting to clients

“Clients – both small and large businesses – may think of SEO copywriting as “keyword spamming” and want nothing to do with it. Sure, they know they need good content. But where they get confused is what good SEO copy looks like. Maybe that’s because all they’ve seen is bad copy. Or maybe that’s because although content is crucial, it’s not necessarily valued: “We love what content does for us. But we want it cheap.”

Savvy tips to help you explain what GOOD SEO copywriting is to wary, misinformed (or cheap, or otherwise difficult) clients.

Your client is wrong. Now what?

“What should you do if your client insists on their suspect SEO strategy after you’ve tried to talk them out of it? You may want to walk away from the gig. Or, if the strategy isn’t too bad, you could still work the gig and do your best. The way you deal with it will depend on the client and the situation.  It’s never an easy decision to make – especially when you know that your options are “walk away” or “I’ll never be able to include this work in my client portfolio…”

Here are some smart strategies to deal with this thorny situation.

8 ways to handle the haters

“Dealing with unhappy clients can be scary, frustrating and maddening. But remember, if you handle the situation quickly – and take the time to really hear your client’s needs – you can save the gig. Plus – like what happened to me 15 years ago – you may even get more work because the client liked the way you handled the situation. What a great way to transform a stressful problem into a profitable, happy client relationship!”

Follow these steps for dealing with the discontents.

6 ways to handle it when a client changes your copywriting

“Talk about frustrating.

“You thought what you wrote showcased your best work ever. You expertly followed your client’s content marketing strategy. You chose good keyphrases. And when you finished writing your SEO copywriting masterpiece, you could almost hear the harp music playing softly and feel the sunshine on your face.  Your copy didn’t just sound good.  It sung.

Then a week later, you see what the client actually uploaded. All of your tricky turn-of-phrases were gone. Your Title was changed from a compelling statement to a list of keyphrases. And your headline…you can’t even look at what they did to your headline. You aren’t just mad. You’re hurt. How could they destroy your copywriting baby like that?”

Sound familiar? Here are six ways to handle the head/heartache.

3 ways SEO can ruin content

“Smart SEO doesn’t ruin good content. It enhances it, in fact – making it easier to be found in search engines and shared via social media. If you’ve mastered the art of online writing for both engines and people, you have a very valuable skill set. On the flip side, yes, stupid SEO will ruin content. And your conversions, too.”

Avoid these three glaring examples of truly bad SEO. Please.

photo thanks to Pink Sherbet Photography (D. Sharon Pruitt)