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How to Survive the Business Dark Times

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Sometimes, I receive an email that’s so compelling that I need to respond right away. This is one of those times.

The note said:

“I’m a freelance online copywriter. I’m busting my butt to get clients and doing all the necessary marketing (email, networking, social media, article marketing, etc.). However, I’m still not getting the results I desire, but I see my colleagues who do the same exact thing that I do, and they are making a killing.

I don’t want to sound like, ‘Woe is me,’ because that’s not me. I’m dedicated, passionate, and a fast-learner. I guess the question is, have you experienced this kind of ‘stuckness’ when you were just starting out? If so, what did you do to get past this phase? Please note, that I’m managing social media for two clients a month as well.”

Ah, I call this phase “surviving the dark times.” And yeah, it’s tough. I distinctly remember going through this about 14 years ago and feeling so frustrated that I threw a wicker chair against a wall. I knew what I wanted. I could SEE it. I just couldn’t figure out how to make the money flow.

Obviously, I pulled out of it. That doesn’t make me smarter or better. I just had a vision, and I stubbornly held on to it – and eventually, everything worked out.

You may have seen this in your own business – whether you’re a freelance writer, a small business owner, or even a partner in a corporation. You’re working mondo hours and not seeing the money you want. You’re waking up at 3 a.m. thinking about money.

And there’s a little voice inside of you whispering, “Give it up. You can’t do this. Close down and start over.”

Are you tired of hearing the “helpful” whispers?

 

Maybe you subscribe to a few newsletters in the hopes that they get you back “on track.” But the newsletters almost make it worse. Every headline talks about how much money everyone else (except you, of course) is making. You read inspirational stories about people who make it big within six months of opening shop.

And that little voice inside of you whispers even louder, “Forget it. You’re wrong. Other people know the secret, and you’ll never succeed.”

Then you try talking to friends or to your spouse. They try to be supportive. They really do. But when they say, “Maybe this isn’t the right time…maybe you should get a real job,” it tears you up inside. You don’t want to talk to them anymore. So you close down and give up.

And that inner voice that used to be a whisper is now a full-force 3 a.m. taunt. You’re so burned out and demotivated that it’s hard to get up in the morning, much less work.

Here’s your compassionate reality check: This process is normal. It sucks, but it’s normal. And you will go through this many, many times throughout your career.

There are some great books on this topic (The Energy of Money is a great one) but here’s my take:

Running a business – like everything else – is cyclical. Some days (or months) you’re super-creative, motivated and in the flow. Other days, you wonder why the heck you decided to go into business for yourself. Some months (or years) you can’t keep up with requests for business. Sometimes, you happily talk to phone solicitors because – darn it – it was the first call you’ve received in weeks.

There is dark, and there is light. There is super-busy, and there is super-quiet. It’s all part of the process.

Your freelance writing business will ebb and flow like the ocean. You may as well relax and enjoy it!

Plus – and this is just my opinion – most folks quit too early. They hit the dark times, and they freak out. The fear is too much. They lose too much sleep. Instead of following their passion, they do what’s “safe.”

Granted, there are times you do what you have to do to live – and there is no shame or judgment in doing that. Just know that it’s one thing to let your dream die and give up. It’s completely another to do everything you can (even if that means taking a part-time job) to keep that dream alive.

I strongly believe that we are rewarded for being passionate. When we’ve done the planning and we can see the goal on the “other side” – we will eventually get there. The trick is – and I know that this is easier said than done – stay calm, manage by facts, and take care of you.

Some positive steps that you can take right now are:

  • Take time away from your business. Seriously! It may feel like the “worst time ever” to do it, but you need the perspective. You need to be able to look at your business with fresh eyes (and a calm brain) if you want to move forward. Otherwise, you’re going to burn yourself out and involve yourself in “busywork” that doesn’t move your business forward.
  • Take a hard, hard look at your business focus. Hindsight is always 20/20 – and for me, I know that a lack of focus can decimate my business opportunities. You may be an “online writer” – but who is your target audience? Can you picture what she/he would look like? What her hopes would be? Her fears? It’s so easy to do “anything” to get money in the door that we stray away from what we really want to do (and who we really want to work with.)
  • Spend time every day with “the end in mind.” Allow yourself to feel what it would be like to work with that company you really want to work with. Or imagine writing the check that pays off that last credit card. Or finally having enough money to take a “real” vacation. Keeping that excitement and vision alive is paramount.
  • Celebrate your successes. It’s so easy to say, “Well, yeah, I’m making money – but it’s not the money I want to make.” So what? You’re making money! Congratulate yourself and pat yourself on the back. You’ll never be able to break out of your funk if you never feel “good enough” to celebrate your successes.
  • Don’t believe everything you read and hear. Although your colleagues may say that they’re “raking in the bucks,” know that it may not be true. After all, it’s very, very hard for entrepreneurs to admit that they’re losing money (in our minds, we call it “failing” – even if that’s not the case.) It’s a whole lot easier to say that things are “great” rather than admitting “Yeah, I’m feeling pretty scared.”
  • Take care of you. At the risk of sounding melodramatic, you’re all you’ve got. If you get sick from the stress, you’re going to put yourself in a worse situation. If you ignore exercise because you “don’t have time,” you’re going to feel worse and be less productive. I would watch every piece of food you put into your body and focus on high-quality meals. The better you feel physically, the better you’ll be able to handle any situation. (After typing that, I’m feeling a little guilty that I just munched the complimentary chocolate they gave me on the plane!).
  • Recognize the voices in your head. The voices telling you that you’re a failure at 3 a.m. aren’t real. It’s your fear coming back to bite you. Notice the voices. Laugh at them. Learn from them. But do not let them get to you. They are not real.
  • Know that your hard work is not in vain. At this very moment, someone may be discussing hiring you – you just don’t know it yet. Your life and financial situation can change with one phone call.
  • Get support from other entrepreneurs. My support network is comprised of search folks and local Portland business owners. I love them. I can go to them hurting and scared and frustrated and come away feeling fantastic. It helps to know that you’re not alone (and you know that you’re never alone, right?) Other people have gone through this multiple times. They survived. You will too.
  • Ignore the naysayers. They do nothing but sap your energy and make you feel bad about yourself.  If you walk away from a friend feeling drained and tired, you may want to keep that friendship “on hold” until you’re in a better spot.  You don’t have time for folks like that.
  • Finally, recognize that this is, in fact, a phase. It’s the darkness before the dawn. It’s miserable and scary and…a little bit exciting too. Once you’ve gone through this a few more times, the process does get easier. You start to recognize what’s happening and move through it a little bit faster. It doesn’t make it “fun.” Heck, I go through this phase kicking and screaming (sometimes literally!) But at least you may not take it quite so personally next time.

If you’re going through this – hang in there. Know that things will – eventually – be OK. And let me know how it’s going. We’re all in this together.

Unhappy With Your Business? Try This

Have you ever had a <headdesk> moment when you realized your major business problem

Morning on the Middle Fork. I obviously love my coffee.

Morning on the Middle Fork. I obviously love my coffee.

was…you?

I just had this happen to me. In fact, I see this happening every day to writers and other entrepreneurs.

Let me explain…

I recently returned from a seven-day rafting adventure to the Middle Fork of the Salmon River. Unlike last year, when I was scrambling down 25′ Grand Canyon rock walls, this trip was relatively uneventful. No huge rapids. Nobody died. It was easy to let my brain drift away with the current.

Prior to leaving, I had a conversation with a couple organizations that wanted to purchase my company. This scenario is nothing new – when you’ve owned a business for almost 20 years, the occasional suitor is fairly expected. Although I have rejected suitors in the past (as well as outside funding,) I let myself imagine life if I sold my business and remained as a training figurehead.

  • I’d be able to let go of the irritating administrative work behind the scenes.
  • I’d be able to reach more people with my Certification training (and other training options.)
  • I’d have a bigger team of people helping me.
  • All of the up-and-down business insecurities would be gone. Poof.

(If you’re self-employed, you probably understand my pain. My work fantasies are far from common.)

As we floated along, I imagined myself as an employee of my business rather than the owner. I was fully immersed in the fantasy and imagining myself leading a relative life of leisure…

…until I was suddenly doused with cold water. We had hit a minor rapid, which meant I got very wet, very fast.

But with that momentary “ACK” reaction came a <headdesk> moment of clarity.

The only person holding me back was…me.

(Which, from an emotional standpoint, felt like another cold, wet wave hit me.)

I really like where I am now. I’m happy and incredibly grateful. But there are some things I could do to take my business to the next level and have even more fun.

Where my realization hit. Just imagine a big wave crashing over me.

Where my realization hit. Just imagine a big wave crashing over me.

As writers and entrepreneurs, it’s easy to get into a learned helplessness mindset. For instance, have you ever said (or thought) something like this…

  • I’d need more time to make more money. My clients keep me too busy to think about that right now.
  • I’d love to hire help, but I don’t have the cash flow right now.
  • I’ll start business planning after I make X. Right now, I’m just trying to make ends meet.
  • I don’t have time to work on my business right now. It’s all I can do to finish work and meet my obligations.
  • I. Am. Exhausted.

My thoughts tend to come from the “too busy” excuse mindset. I don’t “have time” to plan. I’m “too busy” with other things. I’ll “get to it later” (and later never comes.)

At the same time, real life wasn’t matching my thought process. For instance, I had to shove two weeks worth of deliverables into the week prior to my trip. On top of that, I needed to rewrite two chapters of the SEO Copywriting Certification training. To say I was busy was an understatement.

Is it any wonder that having a benevolent overlord running my business sounded attractive?

What’s striking is — despite the stress, I finished all my tasks. I got out the door with a minimum of drama.

The problem wasn’t because I was “too busy,” or “too stressed” or something external.

The problem was with me. I could obviously get everything done. I just needed a plan.

I was holding myself back.

How? Instead of focusing on big-picture items, I spent my time on mindless minutiae.

  • I would pay bills, but not pay attention to long-term financial goals.
  • I would personally handle tasks (like writing and formatting emails,) that someone else could easily do for me.
  • And, perhaps the absolute worst thing…instead of contacting influencers, I focused on clearing my email every day.

WHY was I focused on email when I have other, more cool, opportunities to consider? As Ramit Sethi said in a recent email discussing this very thing, “Screw that. I decided to grow, so I’m going to do what I have to do.”

(And thank you, Ramit, for sending that email the exact moment I needed to read it and confirm my thought process.)

In short, I needed to take control. I needed to be more proactive rather than reactive.

Brainstorms and “satori moments,” as Dr. Wayne Dyer calls them, are all well and good. The important thing is taking action. So what does that mean?

  • Blocking off at least a half day (preferably a full day) where I do nothing but long-range planning, contacting influencers and working on my business. I do this on a more sporadic basis, so this is an easy tweak.
  • Finding people who can help me with minor tasks I shouldn’t handle myself. Heck, that may even be reading and responding to my email. I get over 500 emails a day…so you can imagine the time investment. That also means figuring out what I can outsource. When you’ve done it yourself for years, finding those opportunities is harder than you’d think.
  • Setting clear and measurable financial and business goals that I work towards in an organized fashion. I do this now, but I can tighten up my process.
  • Scheduling time for rest, relaxation and general rejuvenation. My husband, who has worked for Starbucks for over 20 years, gets six weeks of vacation. Shouldn’t I, after 20+ years of self- employment, give myself the same benefit? (Um, that answer is not just “yes,” but “hell yes!”)

In short, it’s time for me to separate myself from the business minutiae, organize a more cohesive team and focus 100% on what really matters. It’s not about working even harder (we all do that.) It’s about working smarter.

In short, I can be my own benevolent overlord. How cool is that?

If you’re in the same boat, I challenge you to figure out how to be your own benevolent overlord. What would make your business life easier? What do you need to do to make it happen? As you’re brainstorming, know that excuses will come up. It’s easy to think, “I can’t,” and “not right now,” and “this isn’t the best time.”

Here’s the deal: You can. Just pick an “official” time to start. Then, keep yourself on track, no matter what. Do what you need to do to keep yourself accountable. Maybe that means hiring a coach or participating in a mastermind group. In the words of Nike, just do it.

When is my “official” start date? July 1, 2015. I have some traveling to do beforehand, and a customized SEO copywriting training to give. After that, my time is more “mine” again…and I don’t have any excuses.

Isn’t it time to take control of your business and finally get it on track?

Who’s with me?

 

 

[Updated] Freelance SEO Copywriting: The Ultimate Guide for Beginners

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New to SEO copywriting? This guide will help.

New to SEO copywriting? This guide will help.

Thinking about starting a career in SEO copywriting?

Here’s a reality check.

Making a living as an SEO copywriter (whether you work in-house or freelance from home) is hard work.

First, there’s a learning curve – it takes some time to master SEO copywriting best practices.

Second, you’ll need to keep up with (and understand the ramifications of) Google’s ever-changing whims.

Plus, you need to know how to write. Well.

But you know what else?

Working as an SEO copywriter is incredibly fun.

Once you master the best practice basics (and yes, you can do it!) you can work from anywhere, choose your clients and make a darn good income. Prefer to work in-house? According to MarketingProfs, Web editors (which often requires SEO content skills) can make upwards of $90,000 a year.

If you love working in a fast-moving industry filled with brilliant folks, SEO copywriting is a perfect choice. I’ve been working as an SEO copywriter for over 17 years. It’s been a blast.

Wondering if SEO copywriting is the right career for you? These 25+ posts will give you a small taste of the SEO copywriter’s life. Enjoy!

Considering a career in SEO copywriting? Check these posts out first:

Want to be an SEO copywriter? Check out these FAQs. Here’s a list of the most common questions I get about launching an SEO copywriting career. Good resource for folks who want to work from home or in-house.

What does an SEO copywriter do, anyway?  Learn how SEO copywriters are an important part of SEO and social media success.

Want to be an SEO copywriter? Here’s how to do it! If you’re new to this field, this post can help you figure out what to do first.

7 tough love tips to boost your freelance income. Don’t make the same mistakes I did. Learn from them instead. Please.

SEO copywriting vs. social media writing: What’s the difference? Do you love blogging and feel so-so about writing sales copy? Use your SEO copywriting skills to write for social media. Here’s the difference between the two writing styles.

Why do freelance writers hate SEO copywriting? The SEO copywriting industry has its haters. Learn why and what the misconceptions are (there are a lot of them!).

9 questions writers ask about SEO copywriting. Have a question? There’s a good chance I’ve covered it here.

It’s all about the Benjamins! Ways SEO copywriters can increase their income.

How to make money as a freelance SEO copywriter. Wondering what to charge for your freelance writing services? Let this video be your guide.

The business side of starting a freelance SEO shop. You may know how to write jaw-dropping online copy. But if you don’t have the “business side” of your business sewn up, you’ll leave money on the table.

Discount your rates? No way! Try this instead! Learn why bidding low can work against you in many ways.

How to charge for freelance copywriting services. Wondering how to charge? Here are some tips.

Quit getting paid peanuts! Making money is the name of the game. Here are some income-boosting things to consider.

How to wow your freelance copywriting clients.

When should you hire newbie SEO copywriters? Brand-new to the industry and wondering what your clients want? Here’s more information on what to expect.

When to hire intermediate-level SEO copywriters. Looking for higher-level SEO copywriting work with higher per-page fees? You’ll need certain skills to command a higher rate.

How to land more clients with a killer proposal. The better your proposals, the more work you’ll get through the door. Check out these client-grabbing proposal guidelines.

Freelance copywriting proposals: 10 questions to ask first and 4 types to write. Long headline. Great article.

Your client is wrong. Now what? Your client is asking for something that you know will hurt their SEO copywriting campaign. Here’s how to handle it.

Don’t assume your clients need you. News flash: you are not irreplaceable no matter how good you are.  This great guest post by Amy Teeple tells you why.

Are you making your clients fire you? Don’t sabotage your success! Learn what not to do when you start your SEO copywriting shop.

How to fire a client. It’s never fun when you have to fire a client, but it will happen. Someday. Here are some survival tips.

Are you a content strategist or an SEO copywriter?  Yes, there is a difference between the two (hint: strategists make more money.) Learn what the differences are and why they matter.

Your secret to landing great clients. It’s one thing to land a client. It’s another to bring on a client who you love and who pays you well. Here’s how to score more of the second type.

Living the freelance online SEO copywriter’s life has it’s ups and downs. Here’s a reality check.

Climb out your comfort zone. What does crawling down a rock wall have to do with your business? A lot. Read this post if you’re feeling stuck.

Surviving the business dark times. Running a business can be scary. Here’s some perspective.

3 cures for freelance writers burnout. For those days when the thought of writing another blog post makes you want to stick pencils in your eye.

Overcoming the overwhelm monster. Being busy is a good thing, but it can also cause you to burn out fast. Here’s how to avoid feeling overwhelmed in your freelance copywriting career.

4 ways SEO copywriters can increase their income – fast.  Sometimes, you need to make lots of money fast. Here are some ways to do it.

SEO content writers’ manifesto.  You are more than “just a writer.” Much more.

What resources would you add to the list?

Want to start your career in SEO copywriting, but need specialized training? Check out the SEO Copywriting Certification training course.

Photo credit to © Iqoncept | Dreamstime.com – Tips Tricks Helps And Advice Gears Words Help Assistance How To Photo

Are You a Content Strategist or an SEO Copywriter?

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Are you undervaluing your work — and selling yourself short?

I’ve talked to many freelance and in-house copywriters who claim that they’re “just” a writer. Sure, most of their time is spent writing copy. But they’re also setting the editorial calendar, using tools like BuzzSumo to find new topic ideas and even explaining Google’s latest updates to their clients or team members.

To me, it sounds like these writers made the leap from “writer” to “SEO content consultant.” They just may not know it yet.

Read more

4 Ways SEO Copywriters Can Increase Their Income – Fast!

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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

10 Must-Read Posts for Freelance SEO Copywriters

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Want to improve (or start) your SEO writing business? Grab some coffee. There's a lot to read here...

Want to improve (or start) your SEO writing business? Grab some coffee. There’s a lot to read here…

Running a freelance SEO copywriting business means wearing many different hats. You’re in charge of business development, marketing, client relations…and oh yeah, you’re also the one writing the content.

It can be a little…overwhelming…at times.

These 10 posts will help you write better copy and navigate the business-building waters with style.  Enjoy!

9 Questions Writers Ask About SEO Copywriting

Wondering if SEO copywriting is right for you? Here are nine of the most common questions I’m asked (including how much people will pay for content.)

9 (More) Questions Writers Ask About SEO Copywriting

Want to freelance? Or is working in-house more your style? Here’s how to launch your SEO writing career.

How to Land More Clients with a Killer Freelance Copywriting Proposal

Proposal writing can be crazy-making. It’s hard to know how much detail to include, what to say and how to write it. This guest post by Derek Cromwell outlines some time-tested tips.

Freelance Copywriting Proposals: 10 Questions to Ask First and 4 Types to Write

Need more proposal-writing help? Check out this great post by Ilise Benun, owner of Marketing Mentor.

How to Charge for Freelance Copywriting Services

Confused about how much you should charge? You’re not alone. If you need some general pricing guidelines, this post is for you!

Promises, Promises. The Copywriting Client Carrot and Stick(y) Situation

Ever heard, “If you could discount your rates this one time, there’s more work for you down the road.” Yeah. We all have. It may be tempting, but beware! This post outlines things to think about–and what you should say.

Smart Freelance Writing Tips – in Haiku

Tired of boring freelance writing tips? This post delivers some time–tested wisdom, Haiku style.

Quit Getting Paid Peanuts: 10 Tips for Freelance Writers

Does it feel like you’re working 12 hours a day, yet you’re barely keeping your financial head above water? It doesn’t have to be that way. These tips will help you make more money (and find clients you’ll love!).

Freelance writers: How to Tame the Client from Hell

Is a client driving you insane? You can tame your client from hell–and even turn her into your favorite client! This post will tell you how to make it happen.

Do You Suck at Marketing Your Own Site?

When clients need you RIGHT NOW, it’s easy to ignore your website (and your marketing.) But this can be a very, very bad idea. Here’s what to do and how to fix it.

 Photo thanks to: © Studiobarcelona | Dreamstime.com – Coffee Cup Photo

Do You Suck at Marketing Your Own Site?

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During client meetings, your smart marketing ideas fly around like popping popcorn. ::POP::  There’s another brilliant idea!

Your clients’ files, marketing calendars and upcoming posts are organized, color-coded and scheduled.

You are a marketing ninja when it comes to your clients.

Your own site…not so much.

It’s funny how we neglect our own sites. We know how to help our clients. We can instantly see new opportunities and break down exactly how to make the necessary changes.

Yet, our own marketing goes untouched. There’s nothing in the sales pipeline. Our marketing collateral is outdated. And bigger projects – like performing a content audit on our own site – seem insurmountable.

If you’ve been beating yourself up about not marketing your business properly, know that you’re not alone.

And also know that it’s time to snap out of it and get to work.

Here are some common challenges freelance copywriters face – and how to fix them.

If your problem is…

You’re trying to be Superman (Or Superwoman.)

You’re handling all your bookkeeping, administrative and web duties yourself. Installing a WordPress plug-in can suck up half a day. Invoices aren’t getting sent because you don’t have time. You keep meaning to blog, but there are templates to update, client work to complete and emails to answer.

Your solution…

Hire a virtual assistant, fast. No, it’s not a luxury. It’s a business necessity. Hiring a VA can take the busywork off your plate and let you focus on more important things. You know, like completing client work and making money.

You’re stuck.

You know your marketing isn’t “right,” but you’re not sure how or why. What you do know is you don’t like your site, you’re not thrilled with your web copy and your messaging is across the board. You don’t have a niche. You don’t have an unified message. You’re in your own head all the time and you can’t figure out next steps.

Your solution…

If you’re in this space (and yes, I’ve been there,) It’s time to shake up your thinking and do something different.

Here’s a reality check: If you are this stuck, you won’t be able to figure out a solution by yourself. Your brain is officially tapped out.  Instead, you’re going to need some outside intervention. Talk to another freelance writer and see how she can help. Work with a marketing consultant or take a training that offers group coaching.

It’s amazing how another person can instantly pinpoint what’s wrong with your marketing and come up with fast solutions. You know, just like how you help your clients. :)

You don’t have a plan.

You’re kicking out your marketing in spurts, but nothing about it feels cohesive. You haven’t researched your keyphrases in ages, you’re never sure what to blog about and you have no guest blogging ideas. You have fantastic marketing brainstorms, but they never get past the idea stage.

Your solution…

It’s time to get anal about your time management techniques. It’s important to get those ideas out of your head and on paper. Try setting aside non-negotiable planning time. My favorite technique is to hang out at a favorite cafe one day a month and map out my marketing. Plus, it almost feels like a “day off” – which is a huge bonus.

Resist the temptation to reschedule your marketing appointment because “something came up.” Something is always going to come up. Take the time anyway. Besides, the break will do you good.

You don’t set aside implementation time.

You’ve got a marketing plan – great! But the implementation is what’s difficult. Client work sucks up your available time. And, wow, the email – it’s like you can spend the entire day just responding to messages.

Your solution…

You know how you schedule client work in your calendar? Good. Do the same thing with your projects. You may dedicate one hour every day to your marketing. Or, one day a week (and no, don’t work on client work that day.) Remember that you are your most valuable client. If you get in the habit of handling your marketing from 12-1 every day, you’ll always get something done and will see some fun financial rewards.

You need accountability.

You’ve tried scheduling. It hasn’t worked. Now, you’re behind, you feel guilty and you think you’re worst freelance copywriter in the world. You have no problems hitting deadlines for your clients. Why can’t you hit them for yourself?

Your solution…

Find an accountabilibuddy. It could be a coach, a friend, your partner or another writer. Write down all of your marketing tasks (including the deadlines) and send them an email outlining your progress. If you don’t hit your deadlines, give them permission to call you on it.

Studies have shown that accountability, commitment and writing down goals will make you more successful, more often. And besides, it’s nice to have someone in your corner who cheers on your success.

What about you? What techniques to do you use to keep yourself on track?

Clients Ignore Your Advice? Here’s What to Do

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After I read my client’s email, I had to hold myself back from beating my head against my laptop.

“Heather, we agree with what you’re saying. But I think we’re going to go in a different direction and try something else first.”

AAAARRRRRGGGGHHHHH!

Whether you work in-house or freelance, you’ve probably had moments like this. You spent hours carefully crafting a strategy, web page or idea. You have reams of paperwork supporting your recommendations.

And then the client goes in another direction. What? If they always planned on doing their own thing, why the hell did they hire you in the first place?

Yeah. It’s frustrating.

And there’s (generally) nothing you can do about it.

The good news is: Your client’s decision is typically not about you. They reached their decision based on a host of other factors.

Here’s why your client may be ignoring your advice:

– The boss believes that his/her strategy decision is the better one  (whether or not that reasoning is correct is irrelevant.) There is nothing you can say to change his or her mind. The decision has been made.

– Internal politics (that you typically know nothing about) are what’s driving the final strategy decision.

– The internal team is already overloaded. Instead of doing what’s hard (and more effective,) they prefer to do something easy and more within their control.

– The powers-that-be don’t trust your strategy because you’re an existing team member. Having said that, if they were to hire an outside consultant who said the same thing, your boss would implement those recommendations immediately.

– The internal team is arrogant, pure and simple. No matter what you say or do, they will always have a “better solution.” I highly recommend firing clients like this as soon as you possibly can.

– Your client is working with an SEO who is telling them something completely different. In some cases, the advice may be completely incorrect. This situation is extremely frustrating.

Your smart recommendations just got dissed. Now what?

– Resist the urge to call or send an email saying, “Why should I bother doing everything I’ve done for you if you’re just planning to blow off my advice.” Punch a pillow instead. Scream at your television. Hand write a nasty letter and rip it up. But for goodness sakes, do not let on that you’re frustrated, mad or feel slighted. If you do, the situation will not end well.

– While you’re punching your pillow, try to remember that their decision isn’t about you. They aren’t judging your expertise and finding it lacking. Their decision is all about them.

– When you’re calm – and preferably the next day – send an email outlining your suggested changes  and ask why your client decided to take a different direction. You need to do this (in writing) for a couple reasons. The first reason is a fact-finding one. If your client has other “things” going on – and they are willing to share – you can possibly adjust your recommendations accordingly.  The other reason is purely CYA. If your client’s “great” idea blows up, you don’t want to get blamed for it. And yes, this happens. A lot.

– Ask yourself if this is an ongoing pattern, or a one-off. If it’s a one-off, it’s typically no big deal and you can go back to business as usual. If your client always ignores your advice, ask yourself how you feel about that. Some people are able to shrug it off and merrily go on with life. Other people get frustrated, hurt and angry – no matter what the reason. If you fall into the frustrated camp, you may want to consider firing your client (or finding another job.) Things aren’t going to get any better. Believe me.

Unfortunately, this situation will rear its ugly head no matter where you work (or who you work with.) The key is to be as emotionless as you can about the situation. You can’t force a client to implement your recommendation, even if they’re paying you. Nor should you get offended when they don’t.

When things get tough and screaming into your pillow doesn’t work, just remember four wise words:

“You can’t fix stupid.”

It won’t make the pain go away completely, but it may make you feel a little bit better.

What about you? What do you do when a client ignores your recommendations?

Authorship: Google giveth and Google taketh away

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Looks like Google’s taking away something else…

Bottom line: Should you continue producing content now that Google Authorship markup is dead? Is blogging and guest posting still worth it, even if you won’t see your shining face next to the search results page?

The answer: Yes.

Many writers freaked out when they heard the Google Authorship news. These folks wrote great content, went through Google’s somewhat confusing Authorship instructions and built a nice author platform on Google+. Heck, some writers wouldn’t have even joined Google+ if it wasn’t for the Authorship benefits.

Now these folks feel scammed – especially writers who were riding the Authorship wave. One person said the announcement was “devastating” to web writers.

To that I say “Hogwash” (and how often does one get to say “hogwash?”)

If you’re freaking out about Authorship, relax. I know it’s frustrating that it’s suddenly gone (although we did have some warning.) But that doesn’t mean that you stop creating commanding content. Besides, although Google may not support Authorship anymore, Author Rank is not dead (as Danny Sullivan explains in this post.)

To those new to the web writing world, know that Google (and content marketing) existed long before Authorship. People have always written articles to establish themselves as subject matter experts. In the old days before Google, we wrote for print trade publications to establish expertise. Before Authorship, we still blogged, created ebooks and wrote white papers. The byline is still alive and well.

To paraphrase the Talking Heads, today’s content marketing world is the “same as it ever was.”

The reality is, Google giveth and Google taketh away. We used to have keyword search data and now we don’t. Authorship markup was in our lives for a short time – and then it disappeared. The only constant in SEO is that the field (and the rules) are constantly changing.

Despite what Google is doing this month, the important thing is to keep writing. Build your author platform. Get your name out there. Build your brand.

Because although Authorship may have gone away, good content never goes out of style.

Get out of your own head and work with a freelance writing coach instead! Pay by the month or by the minute. Learn more!)

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

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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.