10 Must-Read Posts for Freelance SEO Copywriters

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?

Does your marketing make you think "yuck?" You're not alone...

Does your marketing make you think “yuck?” You’re not alone…

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

Feel like your clients are saying, “la la la la” while you’re giving them advice?

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?

Like this post? Why not subscribe to the SEO Copywriting Buzz newsletter? It’s the SEO writing info you need as a freelance or in-house writer.

Photo thanks to © Creatista | Dreamstime.com

Authorship: Google giveth and Google taketh away

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!)

9 (more) questions writers ask about SEO copywriting

Would being an SEO copywriter make you smile?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What kind of companies hire in-house SEO copywriters?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Are you sure this is fun?

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

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

How to charge for freelance copywriting services

Probably the most common question freelance copywriters ask me is “How much should I charge?”

I know what these folks are really asking. They want me to gaze into a crystal ball and reply, “You should charge $X per page. If you charge that rate, clients will love you and you’ll make lots of money. Now go forth and write.”

If it was only that simple.

Pricing for copywriting services will always be a challenge. When you’re just starting out, you don’t know what you don’t know – so it’s very easy to undercharge (or price yourself too high.)

When you’ve been in business for a few years, raising your rates can be a very scary experience. You’re afraid of losing the clients you already have (or not being able to land new ones.)

Of course, it doesn’t make sense to stay in business if you’re never able to raise your rates…so you’ll constantly be facing this dilemma.

Then, there’s always figuring out the best way to charge the client. Per page? Per project? Come up with a magical number and hope the client goes for it (yes, we’ve all been there!) ;)

If you’re stuck in the “how should I charge for services” quandary, here are some guidelines to get you through.

First, you’ll want to start by asking yourself four questions. These questions are applicable if you’re brand new to freelancing, or if you have an established business. In fact, you may want to revisit these questions every six months or so and confirm that you’re still on track.

Question #1: What are your income goals?

This is an incredibly important point that many freelancers ignore. I’ve seen freelancers charge $10 a page just to get business in the door – without realizing the long-term impact of that decision. Think about it: If you have a $750/month rent payment, that means that you need to write 75 articles a month just to make your rent. That’s not counting food, electricity, gas, taxes…you get the picture.

Do you really see yourself writing 150 articles a month just to make $1,500? Nope. I didn’t think so.

To come up with an income goal, you’ll first want to determine what your monthly expenses are (both business and personal.) Then, increase that number by 35% (which represents what you’ll want to set aside for taxes.) This is the base amount you’ll need to make just to keep your doors open.

I would recommend adding another 10% to that number, too. That way, you can put money aside for a new computer, travel, or any other business expense that may pop up. Better to put that money aside now than put a purchase on a credit card later.

Question #2: Who is your target market?

Is your heart with small, local businesses? That’s fantastic! Just know that small businesses have smaller budgets  – and if you’re expecting mom and pop businesses to pay you $300 per page – or $250 an hour –  you’ll need to adjust your expectations. However, if you’re working within a specialty niche market, it’s possible to charge much more money.

Question #3: What’s your experience level?

Here’s a reality check: If you are new to copywriting, your rates will need to reflect that. You are not going to start out making $500 a page, no matter how many books promise “huge profits” in your first few months.  Once you can show results (happy client testimonials, rankings, case studies, etc.,) you’ll be able to charge your target audience more money.

Experienced copywriters can (and should) charge more. Have you gone through specialized training (such as the SEO Copywriting Certification training?). Have you written a book? Are you the recognized copywriting expert in a certain niche? Are you a recognized speaker and trainer? These feathers in your cap can (and should) translate into a higher per-page rate.

Question #4: What are other writers charging?

This one is trickier. Some writers will share their pricing information. Others consider it competitive information. And sometimes, clients are very open about what other writers have charged in the past. Just remember – just because a writer is charging X doesn’t mean that you should charge the same thing.

So, now that you hopefully have a better idea of how to charge, let’s consider the various ways you can work with clients.

Hourly pricing:

Some freelancers love hourly pricing. On the surface, it looks like a great way to make sure that you’re getting paid for all of your research and writing time. However, this approach can backfire in a number of ways.

First, it works against you as a writer. When you first start out, it may take you five hours to write one page. A year later, it may only take half of that. That means that the better and faster you write, the less money you’ll actually make. You can compensate for this by raising your hourly rate, but the other challenge is…

…hourly pricing doesn’t showcase the value of what you offer. Since clients don’t know how much work goes into writing a page, they’ll often ask you to “only spend an hour” or “just a few minutes” to save time (and money.) That means you’ll be turning in sub-standard work and making less money. No fun.

Per-page pricing:

Most freelancers I know operate on a per-page basis. This structure is easy for clients to understand – they know that every web page you write is going to cost X.  It also allows freelancers to charge for the value of their work. After all, if you spend 10 minutes writing a page – and that page results in $10,000 worth of sales – charging $300 is a pretty solid investment.

The challenge with per-page pricing is that you need to have very clear boundaries. If your client asks you to “make just a few extra tweaks” (that weren’t originally in the scope of the agreement,) – you’ll “lose” money. Your contract should include information about how many revisions are included, how long you’ll spend on the phone with their team and what work is considered in and out of scope.  Be warned – a client who needs to chat with you 30 minutes a day to “make sure we’re on the same page,” will eat up your budget quickly – so make sure that you set expectations up front.

Project-based pricing:

This is also a popular way of pricing client projects. Rather than outlining your services and how much they cost, you’d quote a price for the entire project.  This can be an excellent pricing method if you’re afraid that the client will slice something out of the quote that you’ll need to do your job well (such as cutting out keyphrase research in order to save a few bucks. Yes. it happens.)

The challenge with project-based pricing is you may underestimate the time you’ll need to spend – so what you think will take you 10 hours may take you 25.  Sometimes, you can go back to the client and ask for more money…but usually only if you’re already addressed this in your agreement. Otherwise, it looks like a bait-and-switch.

Like per-page pricing, you’ll have to set some really clear boundaries. If this is your preferred pricing method, just make sure that the client understands what’s included – and what may trigger an additional fee (with the client’s approval, of course.) That way, you’re protected – and the client knows exactly what they’re paying for.

One final warning…

My final piece of advice? Don’t sell yourself short. You provide your clients an incredible amount of value — and that’s worth money! It’s tempting to charge a rock-bottom rate just to get business in the door — or be too afraid to raise your rates. As my father used to tell me, “If nobody is complaining that your prices are too high, you’re not charging enough.”

That’s excellent advice.

What about you? What pricing advice would you add?

Need even more pricing ideas? Fantastic — I’ve created a handy PDF guide just for you! Just sign up for my newsletter below and you’ll get access to it instantly.










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Photo thanks goes to 401K.

FREE is powerful, but dangerous

http://www.dreamstime.com/royalty-free-stock-photo-free-message-image22936345“Free” is a very effective power word. It grabs your reader’s attention and may even convince him to take that next conversion step.

However, if you use “free” incorrectly, it could cost you.

Does “free” remove value?

I recently witnessed the following scene.

A 15-year-old boy uses color ink to print the informational page for a PC that he wants to buy (Let’s not kid ourselves – that he wants his mother to buy). The printed description has a picture of the computer, so the printer definitely uses some color ink.

His mom sees the printout and says, “Next time, could you print something like that in grayscale so we can save the color ink?”

The son replies, “But it’s the free ink that came with the printer. It didn’t cost us anything.”

The discussion continued and it consisted mostly of his mom asking him to conserve ink and he kept stating that it was free. (It was quite fun to watch as a third party, but I digress.)

Although most of us are probably not trying to reach a 15-year-old demographic, the point is that he saw the ink as something that had no value because it was free.

Put a price tag on “free” products and services

It’s great to offer a free content marketing evaluation or to entice website visitors with a free product sample. However, be sure to include the value of the free product or service.

If you don’t include something as simple as “$200 value” or whatever the true cost of the product or service would be, why would your clients think it is valuable?

Including a waived price/value to the free item or service can:

  • Increase conversions because potential clients understand the deal they are getting
  • Keep clients from insisting you give them similar products or services for free
  • Give a glimpse into your prices and (hopefully) minimize the number of inquiries you receive from people who cannot afford your services or products – saving your time to focus on those who can.

Make sure it’s not always free

In addition to giving your service or product a value, be sure to limit your offer. If something is always free, it loses whatever value you assign to it.

Utilize the principle of scarcity to further entice your audience. By telling your website visitors that your free offer is only for a limited time, you are adding additional value to it – and encouraging an action sooner rather than later.

Keep “free” in your arsenal

Don’t remove “free” from your list of power words. By taking a few precautions and using it correctly, you can increase your conversions.

Speaking of deals, save nearly $200 on the SEO Copywriting Certification training if you sign up before April 30! Use coupon code UPDATE.

Photo credit: ID 22936345 ©  | Dreamstime.com

9 Experts Share Top Tips for Freelance Writing Success

freelance-writing-successAre you starting a new freelance writing business or trying to get ahead with your current one?

We’ve rounded up some experts to answer: What’s your top tip for running a successful freelance writing business?

Enjoy and happy freelancing!

Demian Farnworth, The CopyBot:

Avoid isolation. Arrange to get out of the house two or three times a week to work. Do lunch at least once a week. Video skype or Hangout at least with one person a day.

Miranda Miller:

Networking and professional development are incredibly important, especially when you’re working alone and often specializing in one or two areas. It’s helpful to keep up with what’s going on in the writing industry, what new tools you should be learning, copyright issue, etc. It’s just as helpful to socialize with and get to know other writers, too. I get great referrals from other writers and pass on a lot, too – we probably all get offers that just aren’t a great fit for us. Conferences, online groups and networks, and smaller events are fantastic tools for learning, developing your skills and expanding your network. Freelancing is like any business; you have to invest in it (and yourself!) to succeed and grow.

Glenn Murray, Divine Write:

Don’t undervalue yourself just because clients do. When you’re starting out, it’s tough. You’ll have very few contacts, and the reality is you’ll do almost any jobs that come your way. At almost any price. But don’t believe that’s what you SHOULD be earning. You’re better than that.

This is particularly pertinent right now. Everyone’s on the content marketing bandwagon, so they’re all after someone who can write them lots of quality copy. Trouble is, they don’t value it highly enough. They accept that they have to pay the big dollars for TV, radio and print advertising, but for some reason, they think the web is a free lunch. So they want to pay peanuts. But we all know what you get when you pay peanuts …

There’ll be times when you have to take peanuts. The important thing is that you never believe you’re a monkey.

There’s a lot of money out there, and a lot of good work for copywriters. If your invoices don’t reflect your skills, keep believing in yourself, and keep pushing.

John Carlo Sola, Millenniafy:

Key is getting organized. Lots of opportunities in this regard for any business. But with Freelance Writing, the biggest challenge in process flow is in making sure fulfillment does not go through too many unnecessary steps. You’d rather be doing more lead generation for your business rather than emailing back and forth to confirm and explain writing briefs, etc.

What do you need to get this part of the your business system squared? A task management software and a work tracker.

For task management, I use Asana. This is where I define who does which task and is also where assignees upload documents.

For work tracking, I personally use spreadsheets in Google Drive. It works very much like Excel and it allows for real-time collaboration with everyone in my team–editors, writers, project managers, and designers. Column headers I use, among others, are Task Code, Working Title, Research Links, Word Count, Task Owner, and Notes/Remarks.

Heather Mueller, Mueller Writing:

If you want to be seen as an expert, you must stay up-to-date on your craft and your industry. Take a course, earn a certification, join a membership-based program, invest in materials that will help improve your writing. It can be tough to part with hard-earned income when there’s no employer to cover the cost of professional development, but it pays off ten-fold when you impress a great prospect and land a dream client.

Ilise Benun, Marketing Mentor:

Don’t Go It Alone. As a freelancer, you are essentially on your own, especially if you work from home. That’s why it’s essential to build a network of resources, partners, collaborators and mentors, to bounce ideas off of, get help from or sometimes just to vent!

Kevin Carlton, Write Online:

Remember that a smaller amount of work that pays well is infinitely preferable to a larger amount that pays badly.

So stay away from content mills and job-bidding sites. Instead focus on clients that understand the freelance writing market and appreciate the value of your work.

By following this approach, you’ll have more time on your hands to market to bigger and better-paying clients.

You’ll also free up time to develop your business, such as setting up a writer website. These days, you can’t expect to look professional without one.

Adam Barone:

As a freelance copywriter, you must find a way to put yourself in the position to deliver spectacularly. Aim to exceed your clients’ expectations. They’re not just hiring you to write something they could have done if they had the time. They’re hiring you to bring out the stories that elevate the value of their products/services and to connect to an audience with those stories. Mind fiercely the quality of your own product. Make sure you have a clear understanding of expectations, what you’re writing about, who the audience is, and get an idea of the market landscape and what competitors are saying. Write and then edit until you can edit no more. Quality is so important because delivering quality of a memorable quality is what gets people to recommend you to their colleagues, and that is one of the best ways to grow your practice.

Heather Lloyd-Martin, SuccessWorks:

My biggest tip is to make sure the business part of your business is tight and wired. That means having a good contract (not one you download from a site), setting aside money for taxes, understanding your target audience, figuring out how much you need to make, etc.

I’ve seen many super-talented copywriters leave the freelance life because they weren’t making any money. They didn’t charge enough to live on, their client work was sporadic and taxes ate up what they did make. Instead of hiring help (like working with a smart accountant,) they decided to do things on their own. That’s when bad things can happen – like getting stuck with a 10K tax bill, having to rewrite a page 10 times because there was no contract in place and slicing rates just to get money in the door.

If you know you’re not good with business stuff, it pays to hire a coach or consultant who can help. Or, you can take a class – you just need to make sure that you follow the advice given and go through all the steps. The point of being a freelance writer (and being self-employed) isn’t to work 12+ hour days. The point is to have a business and life you love AND makes you more than enough money.

Photo thanks to Stephen McCulloch

Land the Gig with These 7 Freelance Copywriting Proposal Tweaks

proposalTired 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. I’ll talk more about a proposal bio page in a future blog post.

– 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?

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)

Want to know how to get writing gigs without needing a proposal? Ivana Taylor spills her secrets in the Copywriting Business Bootcamp training. Now, you can save almost $100 if you use coupon code BOOTCAMP (though April 14th.) Sign up today!

 

 

 

 

10+ ways your freelance writing site sucks (and what you can do about it.)

Sad dog

Does your site copy make you sad?

Does your freelance writing site have some…sucky… elements?

If you’re a freelance writer, there’s a good chance your answer is “yes.” You may be able to transform your clients’ content into marketing gold. But your own site…not so much.

Writing copy for your own site is hard (really!). I’ve seen super-talented writers make major blunders on their site – mistakes they’d never make with a client.  Unfortunately, those blunders are probably costing them money.

Wondering if your site suffers from the same problem? Here are some ways your freelance writing site may suck:

– You don’t have a site.

So what are you waiting for? If you want to write for online clients, having your own site is a must. It helps with lead generation; it’s a place to showcase your clips and testimonials – plus, clients simply expect it. If you don’t have a site, you need to make it happen. Right now. Otherwise, people will not take you seriously as an “experienced web writer.”

sad t-rex

Nooooo! Not “welcome to my site!”

– Your headline reads, “Welcome to my site.”

This is wrong for so many reasons. From a copywriting perspective, your headline is valuable real estate. Instead of wasting it on a “welcome” statement, you’re better served with a hard-hitting benefit statement. From a prospect’s perspective, saying “welcome” won’t make you stand out from the crowd. I will hit the back button on any site where I see “welcome” as the headline.

– Your home page preaches to the choir.

Your home page is not the place to explain why your prospect needs an experienced copywriter. They know this already. That’s why they’re on your site. Instead, you want to grab your prospects’ attention and compel them to click deeper into your site. That’s where they’ll find the information they need.

– You designed your site yourself. And it shows.

There’s nothing that screams “amateur” like broken links, an ancient design and bad stock photos. I know site design can be pricey. I get it. But this is one place where spending a little extra will go a long way. A professionally designed site will show your prospects you’re a serious business person. Besides, who has time to design their own site? You should be hustling for business instead.

– You talk about yourself way too much.

Words

Quit. Talking. About. Yourself.

Many freelance writers go on about the classes they’ve taken, the seminars they’ve attended and the newsletters they subscribe to.  Unfortunately, your prospects don’t care. What they do care about is what’s in it for them. Sure, you can address some of this stuff on your “about” page. Just focus your services pages around how your can help your prospects overcome a problem and make more money.

– Your blog hasn’t been updated in a long, long time.

You don’t have to publish a new blog post five times a week. What you do need to do is stick to a blog publication schedule. Maybe that’s once a week. Maybe that’s once a month. The key is consistency and writing the best possible post you can. If you prospect notices a neglected blog, she may wonder if you’ll neglect her copy the same way.

– Your copy doesn’t connect with your target audience.

To paraphrase an old Diana Ross song, “Do you know who you’re writing for?” You want your target reader to know that you “get” her, you understand her pain points and you want to help. That means the tone and feel, what you write – even the information you put on the page – is laser-focused on your reader. If you’re writing general copy, you’re going to get general (read: so-so) results.

– You don’t practice what you preach.

If you are an SEO writer, you better make darn sure that your site is optimized. That means a clickable Title, fantastic content and well-researched keyphrases. Prospects will judge you if your site isn’t up to SEO-snuff.

– All your text is below the fold.

Where's the content?

Where’s the content?

You may have fallen in love with the WordPress template with the fancy sliders and big images. But if your text is all the way below the fold, your prospects may not scroll down to see it. They may get hit with your slider and immediately surf away. Remember, you’re a writer. Text sells. Not fancy sliders. (Thank you +Chris Simmance!)

– Making your copy all about Google – not your reader.

Concerned about your rankings? You may think that writing content “for Google” (read: stuffing it full of keyphrases) is a smart move. But it’s not. Not by a long shot. Not only is this considered spam, but it’s really bad for your readers. Don’t do it.

Want more tips? You can follow along with the Google+ discussion.

If you’ve put off working on your site because you’re “too busy” or it’s “not important right now” – it’s time to get to it. Fixing these extremely common issues will help you land more clients, command more money and generate leads more easily.

In short, it’s worth the time.  Now, don’t you have some site tweaks to make? ;)

Need a second opinion on your writing. The SEO Copywriting Certification training now offers content reviews and feedback. Learn more about the training.

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