Demian Farnworth shares his content strategy and more – like why he digs vacuums

Demian FarnworthYour LinkedIn profile says “I’ve figured out a predictable way to help websites and blogs gain recognition, build traffic and capture subscribers.” So … like … what is it?

It’s really no secret: create meaningful content that stands out. It begins on your blog, extends to your guest contributions, and proliferates on the social web.

That’s the strategy. And of course there are standard tactics. The execution, however, depends upon the talent. Her experience, creativity, work ethic, patience and personality.

For example, my post on “10 Reasons Your Humdinger of a Headline Won’t Save the Catastrophe That Is Your Blog Post” has been a successful blog post in terms of traffic, social shares and links. The bulk of that post is not original ideas. But it’s how I positioned it that made it stand out. And I did introduce a new curve that tapped into a current sentiment.

To get there takes hard work, namely, relentless research. Observation.

One post alone, however, does not a star make. You have to do that repeatedly over time. Otherwise you become a one-hit wonder.

You’re a recognized authority on content. How did you build your following?

Thank you for the compliment! I sort of unwillingly answered this question in the answer above. I built that following by following my own advice (which is really advice that has always been out there).

Mind you, I’ve been at this for fourteen years. Lots of mistakes, lots of one step forward, two steps back. This is where patience comes in. You have to be willing to wait for a lot of things. The good content to accumulate, the bad content to go away.

You have to be willing to try again when an experiment doesn’t work. You have to be willing to accept mediocre results. You have to be willing to keep trying.

Getting recognition is a long game. As it should be. It rewards those who are willing to work hard for little. The consumer wins in the end because great work comes out of that crucible.

Finally, you can’t be afraid to self-promote. Even if that means you re-frame what self-promotion means. Tim Grahl at Outthink has a great post about this. It’s called “I hate self-promotion.”

You need the courage to send that email to an influencer, publish edgy content, elbow your way into the crowded social web.

You dig vacuums? Not that this requires an explanation or anything, but we’ve all gotta know what’s up with that.

Yes, of course. I like a clean house. So, to me, a vacuum is a symbol of a clean house. Here’s a little story that will add some depth to what’s going on here.

When my wife and I married, we moved into an 800-square-foot apartment. I vacuumed that apartment every day. I loved the lines it left in the carpet. Like corn rows in a farmer’s field. When those lines were upset, I was upset.

I inherited this obsession from my mother who would clean out ashtrays as my dad was smoking. After moving into larger homes and having two children, I no longer vacuum every day. But there is a vacuum less than ten feet away from my desk in case I get the urge. :D

I love your How to Put a Bullet Through the Head of Job-Loss Anxiety post, and I’m sure our readers will, too. What’s your most important piece of advice for starting a freelance writing business?

Oh my gosh. Build a community. Get into community. My biggest mistake was to do nothing about the isolation that freelancing causes. Find ways to talk to people throughout the day. Face to face.

Who’s your biggest writing inspiration and why? How about life inspiration?

So I go back and forth on this one. I don’t really have any writing heroes. William Faulkner, Jonathan Swift and Tolkien, however, wrote some of my most favorite books. But it was Hemingway who (along with the art of direct response copywriting) influenced how I write.

Regarding life, there are a lot of people who inspire me, namely, my wife, children, and anyone who is bold enough to admit they are struggling.

You were a Managing Editor. What advice do you have for content managers on managing and training a copy team?

Know the strengths of your writers, develop those strengths, and then get out of their way. From a people perspective, this was probably one of my most satisfying times of my life. Developing talent among so many different personalities and levels of experience was a satisfying challenge.

How I developed that talent was threefold: first, set a goal. Here was my goal: in two years any of my writers should be able to walk out of that office and work as a writer at any top-name magazine.

Two, train them. I met with each writer face to face once a month, ran weekly workshops, and used each assignment to critique with the goal to improve.

Three, go to bat for your writers. Fight for them. They will fight for you.

You’ve gone from freelancing to full time and back again. What do you say to freelance writers who are struggling with needing to take up a full-time gig?

Don’t be ashamed. Some people are cut out for freelance, some are not. I wasn’t. And consider everything we do is done in seasons. You might work a full-time gig for four years, quit, and freelance successfully this time around. It’s about maturity and wisdom.

Why did you choose the ocean picture for The Copybot homepage?

Glad you asked. It’s symbolic of drowning. The POV is at eye level. Drowning in what? Web content, of course.

You went from poet to real estate marketing. I felt my creativity die a little just writing that. And not just any real estate marketing – you were an “award-winning blogger for a real estate marketing company,” according to your site. How did you not just survive, but thrive at writing about real estate?

I guess my competitive spirit. I want to be the best at what ever I do. So all my energy goes into that task (until I get bored). This is why I don’t have a multi-dimension life. My interests don’t extend far beyond books and writing.

This is why I don’t play guitar yet. I don’t have four hours a day to invest in learning how to play it really, really well. I understand how unhealthy that sounds. How insecure it sounds. I’m okay with that.

I can’t even play Scrabble with my wife AND NOT WANT TO BE THE BEST AT IT. “Play just to have fun” is a command my software doesn’t understand.

So if you are going to do something, in this case write for real estate marketing, in my mind that means being the most competent person in that arena. And doing whatever it takes to get there.

Like you, lot of copywriters began their writing journey with other plans. In A Quick and Dirty Guide to Killing Your Life-Long Dream and How I Was Cured of Ever Wanting to Write Poetry Again, you talk about giving up on your other dreams. How can other dreamers find passion in something more down-to-earth?

That’s a great question. I guess the answer is to realize that to reach your dreams you have to do a lot of down-to-earth things. Let’s say you dream of being the President. The road to that office is paved with ordinary, dull tasks. Lots of ordinary, dull tasks.

Here’s another example: Steve Jobs’ realization of his dream (Apple) happened because of lots of dull, ordinary things. Even on a show like American Idol, where every contestant has a dream, what you don’t see is the hard, dull work it takes to be an idol.

And here’s another thing: our dreams never match our reality – even when we reach them. The successful people are those who can cope with that; who are proud of their work and grateful for any success they get.

About Demian Farnworth

Demian Farnworth is Chief Copywriter for Copyblogger Media. Follow him on Twitter, Google+, or The Copybot.

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