Protect yourself! 3 copywriting contract essentials

A formidable long-horned bison protecting her calf, representing a good copywriting contractHey there, freelance copywriters! Welcome to the next video in the how to start an SEO copywriting business series.

Today, Heather elaborates on last week’s video (on the necessity of having a freelance copywriting contract) with three crucial things you want to include in your copywriting contract.

While she is not an attorney and this video post doesn’t constitute legal advice, Heather has been reading copywriting contracts for a very, very, very long time!

In the course of her career, she has seen some excellent, airtight contracts as well as some that leave the copywriter wide open to litigation, not getting paid, and other bad things.

So tune in to find out what three stipulations you want to be absolutely certain are covered in your copywriting contract…

1. When will you get paid – and how much?

– How much is the deposit, and when is it due?

This first point is the one that all copywriters love and is about the money: when will you get paid and how much will you get paid?  Meaning, you will want to outline things like how much is the deposit?

This subject is covered in some detail in an earlier video, where I discuss the importance of having a retainer. In most cases, that retainer is due before the copywriter starts writing.

– When are other payments due?

If you’re splitting up the payments, then you’ll want to specify the dates those payments are due.

– Consider having all the money on your side of the table before you submit the final page.

For the final payment, consider having all the money on your side of the table before you release that last page or that last group of pages.

Otherwise, what can sometimes happen is that you release the work to the client, and then it takes a long time to get paid. So if you’re paid in full beforehand, you are sparing yourself the worry of chasing down a receivable after you’ve already completed the work.

2. When is a page considered “accepted” and done?

– You don’t want to wait…and wait…and wait for feedback.

We’ve all had this happen: you turn in a page, and then you’re pinging the client after three weeks saying, “Hey, did you receive it? Did you like it? Should I go on to other pages?” So…

– Consider giving your client a set amount of time for review. After that, the content is considered “accepted.”

This protects you and it prevents a gig from going on forever, or a client coming back three months later with, ”Yeah, I’m ready to finish up the contract now – I need it done by this week.”

In my agreement, it’s five business days. After that, the content is considered “accepted.”

Certainly there are exceptions for outstanding circumstances, such as the client being on vacation. You’ll want to accommodate them for that one time, but in general, I think it’s really important to stick to this deadline because it ensures that the client is accountable for checking out your work – in a timely manner.

3. What are you doing for the client?

– Outline your deliverables carefully.

– This helps to avoid “I thought this was included in the price” blues.

This third contract essential is to be really specific about what you’re doing for the client.

I have seen (and heard about) many instances where the deliverables in the contract weren’t defined very well, so the client comes back with “Well, what do you mean you didn’t do keyphrase research? I thought I was paying you for keyphrase research. You wrote the page without keyphrase research?”

It becomes a mess.

To avoid these freelancing blues, outline clearly: “it’s going to be up to three hours of this,” and “we’re going to provide this service,” and “we’re going to write this page with the title and the description.”

Being absolutely clear really helps the client, and it helps protect you as well.

The BEST advice?

Work with an attorney.  Really.

It will cost less than you think.

And save your bacon many, many times over.

I just had a really good conversation with my attorney around a copywriting agreement, and he made a lot of changes that served both my client and me well. Working with an attorney will cost less than you think. It really, really will – and it will save your bacon many times over.

So even if you’re brand new to the freelance copywriting business and you’re struggling to minimize costs, this is one cost that is very much worth incurring.

In short, I highly recommend finding a good attorney, and having him or her help with your agreement!

Thanks for joining me! Have a comment or question about this video? Or a suggestion for a video topic? Wonderful! Just zip me an email via, or track me down on Twitter @heatherlloyd.


photo thanks to Tony Fischer Photography 

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Do you really need a copywriting contract?

Hand holding a quill pen, representing a client signing a copywriting contractGreetings and welcome to yet another installment of Heather’s “how to start an SEO copywriting business” video series!

You’ll want to pay especially close attention to this one, because here Heather talks about the intimidating subject of copywriting contracts.

For new freelancers, getting a client to sign a contract can be a really scary thing. Here you are, so very close to getting the gig, and you’re asking the client for their signature. Thoughts race through your mind: are they going to sign the contract? Is something going to go wrong?

Tune in as Heather quells your fears and addresses the question of whether you really need to work with a copywriting contract…

Short answer: YES!

On the left side of the slide, I have a photo of Judge Marilyn Milian from The People’s Court. Judge Milian often makes the observation that many of the people who come to her courtroom are those who don’t have contracts – or don’t have good contracts. (She calls them “litigants”.)

– A contract spells out the terms and gets everyone on the same page.

– A good contract protects you and protects your client, too.

– If a client won’t sign one, consider it a huge red flag (and consider walking away.)

Even though a contract seems scary – and maybe even too formal, depending on your clients – they’re actually really good. They’re good for not just you, but they’re also good for the client because it protects both parties.

A good contract clearly defines what you’re going to be writing, when you’re going to turn it in, when you’re going to get paid, and what your policy is for revisions. All of that needs to be spelled out in a contract – and I’ll discuss more details on what needs to be included in a contract in a future video.

Sometimes a client doesn’t want to sign a contract. I have talked to prospects who say things like “Well I’ve been in business for thirty years and I’ve done everything on a handshake – and I’m not going to start signing contracts now.”

If you hear that from a client – and chances are you’re going to at least once in your freelance career – then consider that a big, huge red flag and consider walking away.  At that point, you don’t have much to protect you, and a lot of things can go wrong.

In fact, in the times that I’ve heard of something going majorly wrong with an account and the copywriter didn’t get paid are often when s/he didn’t have a good contract, or any contract at all…and that ended up coming back to bite them.

Should you sign your client’s contract?

This is another question I get that’s related to the first one. It is especially likely to come up when you’re working with larger brands: the client may have their own contract.

– Maybe – although it’s good to have your own contract.

– Don’t just blindly sign – no matter how excited you are about the gig.

– Always have your attorney review your client’s contract and make changes.

– See something you don’t like? Speak up!

Ideally, I would recommend that you have your own contract. Talk to an attorney and have him or her draw something up. I know it sounds expensive, but it’s really important and it doesn’t cost that much money.

So seriously consider having your own contract drawn up by an attorney – especially since you’re going to be attracting a lot of clients in your lifetime! You want to be working with a document that ensures both you and your client are covered.

That said, if the client presents his or her own contract, my advice to you would be: don’t just blindly sign it – no matter how excited you are about the gig!

I’ve seen instances where copywriters sign their client’s contract only to realize after the fact that it stipulated that they wouldn’t be paid for six months. True story.

Or, that they won’t get paid for something they’ve created if the client doesn’t use it. Another true story.

So really dig into the contract and read precisely what it is the client is saying. A lot of times these things can be negotiated, so if you spot language in the contract that you don’t like, speak up!

In a perfect world, you are sending client-drawn contracts to your attorney and having him or her review it and make any necessary changes. And again, while it may sound scary and expensive, it really isn’t. It typically takes an attorney maybe ten or fifteen minutes to go through and redline an agreement, and then you can be sure your interests are protected.

More often than not, when you send the amended contract back to the client, they sign off, everything is fine, and it’s a win-win for both parties.

So in moving forward with your freelance copywriting business, concentrate of finding an attorney you can work with and getting a solid client contract created. Or at least have an attorney review your current contracts to ensure you’re protected.

Thanks for joining me! As always, if you have any questions or comments about this video, or suggestions for a future topic, please let me know. You can reach me at, or find me on Twitter @heatherlloyd.

photo thanks to >WonderMike<  (Mike Wade)

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How to fire a writing client: it ain’t me, babe

A pier broken in half represents a freelance copywriter ending a client relationshipIf you’re a freelancer, you’ve probably wanted to end a client relationship at some point or another.

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

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

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

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


1. What’s Really the Problem?

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


2. To Fire or Not to Fire?

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

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


Take Care of Yourself

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

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


Take Care of the Client

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

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


Breaking Up is Hard to Do

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

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

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

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

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


About the Author ~ Siân Killingsworth

Siân Killingsworth is a freelance copywriter, content curator, and social media manager. Based in the San Francisco Bay Area, she blogs about marketing for small business at and spends a lot of time studying various social media channels to guide her clients with best, freshest marketing practices. When Siân isn’t writing, she enjoys discovering elegant wine bars, traveling, and working on her lifelong quest for the perfect prawn burrito. Find her on Twitter, Facebook, or email her at

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Promises, promises: the copywriting client carrot & stick(y) situation

Fingers crossed behind back, representing a possibly false client promise of "more work" for rate reductionGreetings! Welcome to the fourth installment of Heather’s “how to start an SEO copywriting business” video series.

(For those of you new to the series, you may want to check out her three preceding video posts: Niche copywriting for love & (more) money, Make your freelance copywriting pay – every time!, and How to handle writing revisions – without going insane!)

Today, Heather addresses a somewhat tricky situation that you will likely face many times throughout your freelance copywriting career, and that is: Should you provide a discount on your rates now, if the client promises “more work” later?

Tune in to learn how to handle this touchy scenario…

What the prospect says…

This situation can be really touchy, because you might have been talking to this person for awhile, you’re really excited about the gig, you work hard on your proposal, you turn it in, and you hear: “Yeah! We want to work with you, but…”

And those “buts” typically turn into statements like:

– We want to “try you out first” before giving you a lot of work.

– We need you to “work with us” this one time.

– We know we can push a lot of volume your way.

So here you’ve gotten all excited about the possibilities, and now you’re thinking “Aw geez, now what kind of discount am I supposed to give to get that future work?”


Suddenly, your brain starts working overtime

You focus on that “future work” statement and think:

“Wow, I could use a bunch of new work! This is exciting!”

And then the business side of your brain kicks in and you think:

 “What if I don’t discount my rates? Will I be walking away from a super profitable freelance copywriting client?”

And then there’s always that little bit of:

 “I wonder if this person is lying to me?” 

(…and they’re just trying to get a discount this one time, and then I’m never going to hear from them again…?)

And sadly, that third scenario seems to be the one that happens more often than not.

So, here’s what I suggest you do in that situation…

Stay calm and carry on (with your normal copywriting rates.)

– Don’t get paid peanuts – hold to your rates.

– Unless the client is willing to commit to the additional work in writing – and you can offer them a volume discount – don’t do it.

Keep your copywriting rates as is – don’t get paid peanuts, and don’t discount your rates for a first-time client that you have absolutely NO history with whatsoever, and especially with no real guarantee of work!

Now what you can do to turn it around is suggest the client sign a monthly retainer agreement.

You can simply say: “Hey, if you expect that there’s going to be a lot of work later, then why don’t we sign a monthly retainer agreement, where I agree to create five pages or ten pages for you a month. Then I can provide a bulk discount, because I know that you’re going to be on a retainer and I know that you’re going to be pushing a lot of work my way.”

Now, if the client agrees to that, bonus! That might be something that you can work with. But if the client doesn’t feel right about signing a retainer contract with you, you might want to really consider if that “extra work later” is real – or just something that might happen.

For more discussion on this client payment conundrum, check out Heather’s latest post: “Discount your copywriting rates? No way! Try this instead.”

Thanks for tuning in! If you have any questions about this video, or suggestions for a “how to” topic, you can reach Heather at her email addy:, or on Twitter @heatherlloyd.


photo thanks to discoodoni (Carmelia Fernando)

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Make your freelance copywriting pay – every time!

Time is money: don't invest your time in a freelance writing project until you secure a deposit. Greetings! Today Heather presents the second video of her series, How to start an SEO copywriting business, with a topic near and dear to any freelancer’s pocketbook: how to make money.

Whether you’re new to freelancing or have been doing it for awhile, this is a very important subject. In order to make money, you need to know how to ask for it before you start a writing project. In other words, you need to know how to ask for a writing deposit.

Tune in to learn about this business-building (and money-making) essential!

Many new copywriters are afraid to ask for money…

– They’re afraid that the client will be “put off” by the request.

– They’re afraid that they’ll ask for too much up front and lose the gig.

– We’ve been brought up to believe that asking for money is bad.

But here’s what can happen if you don’t ask for a deposit: you can do the work, put in all the time to compose a killer blog post or web page (and you know how much time it takes to produce quality content), only to get stiffed by the client.

The other scenario is that you do get paid by the client, but ever so slowly. Instead of receiving your money in a couple of weeks as you expected, you don’t have the money in hand for a couple of months.

So setting up that deposit really protects you. And by agreeing to pay a deposit, the client is showing that s/he is serious, and wants you to do the work – after all, s/he’s already fronted you some money!

Now let’s talk about how to make that happen…

Reality check: Always get a 30 – 50% deposit before starting work

Always, always, always, always!

– Setting up payment terms is perfectly reasonable and OK.

You’re not asking for anything weird or different or out of line. Requiring a deposit is good business, and it is something that you should do! Otherwise, in essence, you’re extending the client credit: you’re doing all of this work for free, on credit, until they pay you.

Sometimes clients will say things like, “Oh, well, I don’t quite have that money now, but I will have it in a couple of weeks…can you just start now and then we’ll settle it later?”


Tell the client: “I’m perfectly happy to wait a couple of weeks until you get that deposit in, so not a problem!”

– If a new client won’t give you a deposit and set up terms, walk away. Don’t start before the check is cleared.

If a new client refuses to agree to your terms, you’ll probably want to walk away – that can be a very big red flag. I’ve talked to many copywriters who have said that the times that they didn’t get paid are the times that they didn’t get an initial deposit.

– Small (quick) job? Get all the money up front.

If it’s a new client and you know that you can turn the writing project around in less than a week – and it might be a small amount of money – ask for the entire amount up front.

It’s not unreasonable to do that. In fact, I know many copywriters who will ask for the money up front even on larger jobs. And if you’re sufficiently established and you’ve worked with enough clients, that’s definitely something you can go for as well!

But if nothing else, be sure to get a 30- to 50-percent deposit, and try to get all the money on your side of the table before turning in the final page. That way, you know for certain that you’re going to be paid the entire amount owed you!

Thanks for tuning in! As always, your comments and questions are welcome. You can write them below, or contact Heather via email ( or on Twitter (@heatherlloyd).

Be sure to check in next Monday for the third video of the series, when Heather will discuss how to handle revisions of your work. See you then!


photo thanks to Tax Credits


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How to stop worrying about Google updates…

…and learn to love writing really great SEO copy!

Greetings & welcome back! In today’s SEO copywriting video how-to, Heather discusses a most timely topic since Matt Cutts’ recent, ominous-sounding pronouncement that the next Google Penguin update will be “jarring” to SEO’s and Webmasters – and that is, how to stop worrying about Google updates and start writing really great SEO copy!

Tune in and learn how to set yourself free…

Fear is counterproductive

The thing is, around all the Google updates and the stress that comes with them, that fear is really counterproductive.

  • Get out of the learned helplessness trap!
  • Google updates are not an excuse to stop writing content.
  • Think of this as an OPPORTUNITY. Good content is still good for Google.

What this fear of Google updates does is get a lot of companies stuck in this learned helplessness trap: they don’t know what Google is going to do next and so they use that as an excuse to stop writing content. They completely freak out within the organization!

But instead of being all fearful about what Google is going to do next, think of what’s going on as an opportunity: Good content is still good for Google.

I know that it’s not sexy news, but there are a number of sites out there that never got penalized by either Panda or Penguin – they came through just fine! And that could be you.

The key is to focus on what your customers and readers are looking for, and stop focusing so much on what you think Google might want!

Focus on making your content better

So think of ways you can focus on making your content better, and this will help you ride through those algorithmic updates. Ask yourself these questions:

  • What questions do our prospects/customers ask? Do we answer them on the site?

That’s a great way to be able to get folks to come to your site that might not know anything about you! You might also want to ask…

  • Does our content really represent our company?

I’ve talked with a number of people who’ve said: “Yeah, we don’t really love the content that’s there – it doesn’t really sound likes us – but it’s what we have, so we’re stuck with it.”

No! You’re not stuck with it! If it doesn’t represent your company, then change it!

  • How can we create quality content within our organization?

If you’re not satisfied that your website copy represents your company, you can change it either in-house, and write that quality content within your organization, or if you are maxed out internally and that’s not an option – then outsource it!

Find someone you can trust to work with: just last week, I talked about how to find a (Google-savvy) SEO copywriter.

  • Do we have low quality content on the site that we need to fix?

You might also want to evaluate your site and see if you have low quality content that you need to fix.

On the lower left-hand side of the slide there is a link to an article written by Jill Whalen about other types of low quality content – those things you might want to evaluate on your own site to see if it’s something that you might want to tweak.


  • You also want to look at your analytics!
  • Think of ways to increase your conversion rates!

Wouldn’t it be better to focus on “how can we drive more sales?” and think of ways that you’re able to do so, rather than “Oh my goodness, what is Google going to do next?”

Because at the end of the day, Google does not pay your bills – your customers do.

So if you can figure out how your content can make your site more money, then that is a much better discussion to have than “Oh my goodness, what is the next update going to do to our site?”

Focus your content around your readers, and when the next update rolls around, then you are probably going to be much more relaxed about it, because you’re coming at it from a different angle – rather than trying to tweak your content to fit what you think Google wants today.

That said…if you have questions about what Google wants and are looking for a checklist for evaluating your content, simply sign up for my free weekly SEO Copywriting Buzz newsletter, and/or choose to receive daily blog post updates, and receive my free “How to write for Google” whitepaper!

Thanks so much for tuning into today’s SEO copywriting video how-to!

As always, if you have any questions at all, or if you are interested in the SEO Copywriting Certification training, please let me know – I’m happy to help! I can be reached via, or via Twitter @heatherlloyd.


photo thanks to marklarson  (Mark Larson)



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And remember – you have absolutely nothing to lose! Everyone who enters receives 20% off the certification training, plus 10% off the Copywriting Business Bootcamp training, through September 7th!








Is your B2B content choking on red tape?

One of the biggest challenges facing B2B marketers today is content creation. Long term SEO success demands a consistent creation of quality, informative content—blog posts, articles, white papers, webinars and so forth.

Since most B2B marketers seem to constantly struggle with content creation, many are worried their industry might be too “boring” to write much about: it doesn’t make sense to make your content marketing efforts any more complicated and convoluted by adding layers of red tape and multiple chains of command into the process.

I was speaking with an SEO client of mine the other day who is the Marketing Director for a software company. While she completely understands the importance of content and how it helps propel a B2B SEO campaign forward, her management (that doesn’t come from a marketing background) isn’t always on the same page.

Like most higher-ups in just about every company, they want to see the right numbers:

  • How many visitors is their site getting each month?
  • Where is the site ranking for priority keywords in the SERPs?
  • How much new business can be attributed to SEO?

It’s difficult for my client to explain to her management that without a strong content marketing campaign to help push their SEO along their efforts are going to plateau.

Since content creation isn’t a high priority for her management, both her and my hands are kind of tied behind our backs. Their content funnel had dried up to the point where I offered to have my SEO team write blog posts for them, using old white papers and webinars as a guide, which she could have her team approve and publish.

While she was completely behind the idea because it saved her time and effort, it actually added another layer of red tape to the situation. Since my writers aren’t experts in their industry, her management was concerned about the validity of the content; they wanted to be sure we didn’t write anything untrue (even though we were using their previously published material as our source).

So every blog post my team created had to go up various chains of command, get tweaked and edited (a process that sometimes took weeks), then kicked backed to us for revision. Once we made the necessary changes the process began again.

It was taking weeks, if not months, to get a single blog post approved! Since they weren’t publishing content on their own this meant their content marketing efforts were essentially non-existent and their SEO was hurting because of it.

While I completely understand that most businesses have a chain of command, you can’t let that interfere with your content marketing efforts so much that it brings your campaigns to a standstill!

I had a startup client that was so concerned with making every blog post “perfect” that nothing ever got published. Since they were in a demand generation mode, a strong content marketing campaign was critical to helping introduce not only their brand but also their terminology to their target audience.

Without consistent content creation their brand wasn’t getting the attention it deserved. I kept telling this client, at some point you have to let your content out the door. Even if it’s not “perfect,” if it’s well-written and informative it’s worth publishing.

Content marketing is so important for not only your SEO, but also your social media marketing and online marketing efforts as a whole, that you can’t afford to let red tape hold you back! There are enough obstacles to SEO success to overcome without having to worry about internal politics holding your content marketing efforts back.

About the Author ~ Nick Stamoulis

Nick Stamoulis is the President of the Boston Massachusetts SEO firm, Brick Marketing.  With 13 years of experience, Nick Stamoulis shares his knowledge by writing in the Brick Marketing Blog, and publishing the Brick Marketing SEO Newsletter, read by over 150,000 opt-in subscribers. You can find Nick Stamoulis on Twitter at:  and

Would you like to learn more about SEO copywriting & content marketing? Heather Lloyd-Martin’s SEO Copywriting Certification program is the only online training offering certification, and independently endorsed by the SEO industry!

Photo thanks to frankh (Frank Hebbert)  

The SEO copywriter’s guide to dealing with clients

Greetings and welcome to another “slice of Heather”! This slice is especially yummy if you’re a freelance SEO copywriter dealing with, ah, difficult clients, or otherwise facing any of those tricky client relation issues that require patience, understanding, anger management, and some client education.

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


How to explain SEO copywriting to clients

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

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


Your client is wrong. Now what?

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

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


8 ways to handle the haters

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

Follow these steps for dealing with the discontents.


6 ways to handle it when a client changes your copywriting

“Talk about frustrating.

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

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

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


3 ways SEO can ruin content

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

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


Looking for low-cost SEO copywriting training? Learn more about the SuccessWorks SEO Copywriting Certification Program, designed for in-house marketing professionals, agencies, SEO shops and copywriters.


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



On the business of freelance SEO Copywriting

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

3) Are you charging enough for your time?

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

4) Are you making your clients fire you?

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

5) Your SEO is not the problem

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

Bad, fluff-stuffed marketing subscriptions got you down? Cheer up! Sign up for the SEO Copywriting’s free daily or weekly newsletter, lean with industry news, expert interviews, and otherwise meaningful content, and receive Heather Lloyd’s How to write for Google whitepaper free!


photo thanks to Better Than Bacon












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

Are you spending hours on your proposals and still not getting the gig?

Maybe it’s time to give your prospects less to think about.

I received this email from a frustrated freelance copywriter:

“When clients ask me for a proposal, I spend at least 3-4 hours working on it. I review their site, run keyword research, make a list of how I can help, etc. The end result is a 15-20 page proposal that looks great. I’m not getting the jobs, and now I’m wondering if I have to add more information? Help!”

If proposals are a part of your business, you understand this woman’s pain. It’s like spending hours to get ready for a date that never shows up. You’re sitting there looking pretty, and find out that your prospect decided to “date” someone else (assuming you hear back from them at all!) Ouch!

Plus, from a business perspective, that’s three to four hours of billable time out the window.  ::poof::

The answer?  Give your prospects less information packaged in a different way. Here’s how to “dumb down” your proposals and give your prospects what they really want.

Rule #1: Don’t give it away.  

It’s common for new freelancers (or anyone new to the proposal process) to blur the lines between “proposal” and “billable work.” Proposal-time is not the time to figure out a strategy, run a bunch of time-consuming research and outline your process. At best, you’ll overwhelm the prospect with your reams of material. At worst, the prospect has no reason to hire you – after all, you’ve already told them exactly what you’d do and how to do it. If a prospect needs strategy in addition to hands-on work, explain that it’s a separate deliverable.

Rule #2: Try to set up a phone chat before you create a proposal.

Email only goes so far – so take the time to set up a quick, 30-minute chat. This gives you the opportunity truly understand the project’s scope before you develop a proposal. Otherwise, you may include services that the customer really doesn’t want. The end result? The client may feel that you “don’t understand their needs” and look elsewhere for a provider.

Rule #3: Ask the prospect what he needs to see (and make sure that you deliver exactly what they ask for.) 

I’ve had (many) prospects tell me, “I don’t need anything fancy. Just a short email outlining the deliverables and deadlines is fine.” And that’s exactly what I give them.  Be warned:  don’t try to out-think your prospect and throw in a bunch of extra stuff that you’re “absolutely sure will seal the deal.”  You don’t want your prospect to think, “If she can’t follow directions now, what is she going to be like to work with later?”

Rule #4: Keep it simple and short.

This is a mistake that I made early in my career. I would sit down and create 20+ page proposals until my eyes bled. What I didn’t understand is that I was making my prospects’ eyes bleed as well. Think about how much time you have in your day. If you saw a 20-page proposal waiting for your review, would you hungrily tear into it? Or “accidentally” round file it? Yeah. Me too. Shorter proposals are definitely better.

Rule #5: Don’t forget to include benefit statements.  

Your prospect may be sold on why your services are so important. But remember, your proposal may be passed around to multiple team members – and they may not quite understand your brilliance. Don’t forget to clearly outline how your services can help your client boost her bottom line. While you’re including your benefit statements, don’t forget to…

Rule #6: Remind your prospect why they should hire you over your competition.

Don’t lose the sale because you didn’t make your unique sales proposition clear. A quick reminder of your expertise is a smart idea, especially for team members who aren’t familiar with you. You don’t have to send them your extended resume.  But a few statements like, “I’ve written for catalogs for over 15 years, and have increased conversion rates 67% or more. I’m confident that I can achieve the same results for your company” can go far.

Rule #7: Try to review your proposal with your client.

It’s tempting to push “send” on your proposal as soon as you finish. However, try scheduling an appointment with your prospect so you can review the proposal together. I learned this trick from Denny Graham (one of my instructors in my Copywriting Business Bootcamp,) and it’s increased my close rates tremendously.

What about you? What are your favorite proposal-writing tips?

Looking to save a little bit of cash? Remember that the SEO Copywriting Certification training prices goes up May 15th. Start your training today for the best price.