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How to Survive the Business Dark Times

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

The note said:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Are you tired of hearing the “helpful” whispers?

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Some positive steps that you can take right now are:

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

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

The Do’s & Don’ts of Partnering with Other Web Content Providers

I took a big step this week for my company – I closed its virtual doors.

But I’m far from being out of business. I’ve decided to focus on content marketing clients who are also working with a marketing company for complementary services like social media and inbound marketing strategy.

Working with partners – whether formal or informal – has helped me reach new levels in my business. And it can do the same thing for yours too. But you need to be careful you aren’t compromising yourself, your ethics, or your sanity when you strike up a partnership.

Here are some of the do’s and don’ts that I wish I’d had when I first started working with partners.

DO look for complimentary partners for your SEO copywriting services.

Fortunately, we’re working in a time where the demand for copywriting and content marketing is at an all time high. Anyone involved with providing web marketing services to clients – from web designers to social media consultants – needs to know great content creators. If they don’t have one they trust an email away, they are doing their clients a big disservice.

Start your search by finding complimentary providers on LinkedIn, exploring small business sites, or looking for freelancing blogs where similar, but not competing, providers might be hanging out.

DO learn about the different ways of partnering with other providers.

Partnership doesn’t have to mean going into business together.

You can work with other providers under a referral agreement or set up a deal where you provide a service as part of their company – but still retain your own clients. It all depends on what you and your potential partner decide to do.

Consider where you want to take your SEO copywriting business and then pick an option that works best for you.

DON’T jump into a partnership too soon.

Finding a good partnership is a lot like dating. You’re not going to run off to Vegas to get married the first night you go out. And if you do, you’re going to end up getting the partnership version of an annulment.

Network with other providers, but take things one project at a time until you get a good feel for how you work together. There’s nothing worse than getting into a contractual relationship with someone whose business practices you don’t respect.

DO evaluate your potential partner’s target market and marketing approach.

There are dozens of opportunities out there for working with another provider – so you can afford to be choosy.

Pay close attention to your potential partner’s own marketing. Who are they working with and speaking to? This is important for two reasons. Finding a provider that works with your own target audience will make it easy for you to create client content – and easy for you to create content for the fellow provider. Everyone needs blog posts and website copy, so chances are your partner will be looking to use your content services at some point. It helps to be familiar with their target audience and know who you’re writing to.

DON’T work without a contract.

No matter how friendly you may be with another provider, you’ll want to treat them just like any other client.

There needs to be contracts in place for each project or – depending on the nature of your partnership – for the length of time you’re working together. Even if you’re working with a fellow business owner it doesn’t mean that they have your best interests in mind.

DO pay close attention to their business practices.

Finding a good fit with another provider goes beyond the leads or projects you can bring one another.

Are you truly on the same page when it comes to growing your businesses? Case in point, after a single project with a particular SEO provider I came to realize his opinion of clients (that they were stupid and deserved to be duped) didn’t jive with the way that I want to do business. This isn’t always apparent based on their website, marketing and social media usage – so keep things low on commitment until you know more about their business practices.

DON’T explore partnership unless you’re sure you can handle it.

If you’re someone who prefers to work on your own, partnership probably isn’t for you.

For me, I found the life of a solo copywriter to be sort of lonely. I always found myself conferring with SEO providers, web designers, and social media marketers so I decided to make it official. Do some soul searching and figure out what you want your business to look like in the future.

Have you worked with referral partners or other partners? What was your experience like?

About the Author ~ Courtney Ramirez

Courtney Ramirez is an SEO Copywriter and content marketing specialist who creates clickable content for clients in both B2B and B2C markets. You can connect with Courtney on LinkedIn.

How to Fire A Writing Client

If 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, 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.

Discount Your Copywriting Rates? No Way! Try This Instead.

How many times has this happened to you:

You sweat and slave over a copywriting proposal. Finally, you get an email from the client. Success! They want to work with you!

And then you read, “Your copywriting rates are too high.  We were planning to spend about half that amount. Can you bring your price down?”

Ouch.

Now, you’ve got a dilemma. Should you discount your copywriting rates and get money in the door? Or should you hold fast to your price and possibly lose the gig?

It’s easy to get in panic mode and immediately offer the discount. But that may not be the best idea. Here’s why:

Reducing your copywriting rates reduces the value.  Let’s say that you charge $250 per page – and the client wants to pay $150 per page. If you meet your prospect’s price, you’re telling them, “I was padding my bid by $100 a page. $150 is the true value.” Not the best first impression.

–  An initial rate reduction makes it hard to charge full price later.  After all, if the client got you for $150 a page, why would they pay $250?  Would YOU pay an additional $100 a page if you knew that you didn’t have to? Yeah. I didn’t think so.

– It’s easy to resent your low-paying clients. And by “resent,” I mean “flake out because you have bigger, better-paying jobs.”  The client feels burned because they know that they aren’t a priority — and you feel burned because you’re doing the work for less money. Think this won’t happen to you? It can (and probably will.)

Fortunately, there’s a way to handle this situation so your client feels heard – and you get paid what you’re worth. Here’s how:

– Are you bidding on a large project? Offer a small discount if the client pays the contract up front. This solution is a nice win/win for all.  The prospect gets the discount they want – and you get a big check before you start!

(You DO get a deposit before you start work, right? If not, you’ll want to check out this video.)

– Offer to eliminate a deliverable from the agreement. Rather than reducing your copywriting rates, you could slice a page from the agreement, or reduce the consultation time. This strategy brings down the cost without having to slice your rates.

– Just say no.  Sometimes, the only thing you can do is explain to the client, “Because of the time it would take to complete your project – and the experience I bring to the table – I have to keep the cost as-is. Are you sure that we can’t work something out? I have had many prospects come back with, “We want to work with you, so I guess your rate is OK.”  Whew!

And if you do need to walk away, that’s fine. You know you’ll land another client soon – plus, get paid your full rate!

What about you? How do you handle it when a prospect requests a discount? Is there any time when you will offer a price reduction?

4 Ways Training Can Land You More Freelance Writing Gigs

As a freelance writer, you know that competition for writing gigs is fierce!

You’ve all heard the dreaded “everyone’s a writer” phrase, which devalues the work of really great writers.

But wannabe professional writers aren’t your only challenge.

Websites like Elance (yes, I’ve got a profile on there, too – *hangs head in shame*), pit freelance writers against each other in a race to the bottom of the pay barrel.

So, everyone can “write” – and usually, they’re all writing for peanuts!

Wow.

But that’s not all!

The freelance writers who do command more than pay-per-peanut rates aren’t “just writers” – they’re professionally trained as SEO copywriters, content strategists, graphic artists, and more. These talented people can measure the results of their work and make tweaks to improve its performance.

Are you panicking yet? Yes? You were already panicking about it before you read this? I know, sorry, BUT here’s the reality…

While you should be able to command higher pay based on your stellar, persuasive, always-on-deadline writing alone, that’s unfortunately not the reality we live in.

Thankfully, like your writing style, you’re adaptable. There is a way to stand out above the competition, and you can do it.

I know you’ve heard this before, but sometimes you have to spend money to make money.

I’m talking about training – where you get awesome knowledge, and often an awesome badge to prove it, in exchange for your hard-earned money.

I know, you’re probably thinking: But I regularly keep up on my training for free with all of the awesome resources available.

That’s what you’re doing on this site right now.

I thought the same thing.

But I broke down and paid for a training – Heather’s SuccessWorks SEO Copywriting Certification training, to be exact. (OK, before you get all AHA! on me, I’m not being paid to write this. Hear me out.)

Turns out you get a lot more out of online training than the structured knowledge that you paid for.

Sure, paid online training goes into much more detail than the stuff the experts give out for free (naturally), so you’re advancing your skills beyond what you can learn otherwise.

That’s great. You probably knew that.

But paid online training gets you ACTUAL PAYING WRITING JOBS. Like, for real. And not always in the ways you might think.

Here are four ways that purchasing online training can help in landing you more writing gigs.

1. The expert might hire you

If you purchase someone’s online training, that someone is more likely to hire you when they have an opening to fill on their content team.

They know you have the skills to do the job because they just trained you.

That’s what happened for me after I took Heather’s training.

She happened to have a Blog Editor opening on her SuccessWorks team just as I’d finished taking her SEO copywriting training, so she thought of me to fill the spot. I also happened to have an editorial background that helped land the gig.

One of my favorite quotes sums up this scenario perfectly:

“Good fortune is what happens when opportunity meets with planning.” – Thomas Alva Edison

For me, and probably for most of you, it’s a dream come true to work for someone you really admire and whom you consider the utmost authority on the topic you’re studying.

Not only can taking their training help you get a gig with them, having that impressive gig on your resume and those writing samples in your portfolio will land even more writing gigs.

2. The expert may recommend you

This ties in with number one.

When you take an expert’s online training, that expert may recommend you for work. That’s huge!

Why do they do that?

There are a few reasons:

  • They now have proof that you know what you’re doing.

As mentioned above, you taking their course proves to them that you have the skills necessary to rock at whatever you trained for. Now they know that you won’t embarrass them if they recommend you to colleagues.

Another bonus for them – they’re now a resource to businesses for quality writers. That adds value to their own business offerings. Recommending you actually helps them keep and generate business.

  • They want you to succeed.

Boy, that’d be super embarrassing if you offered an online training and none of your trainees succeeded in landing freelance or in-house writing work.

It benefits the instructors offering online training for potential customers to see you wildly succeed. That generates more online training business for the instructor.

  • They want to give back.

Your guru may want to give back to you for purchasing from them.

One way they do that is by sending writing jobs your way.

For instance, Heather has an email list for her SEO Copywriting Certification grads. It’s chock full of good stuff – including the occasional paid writing opportunity!

Copyblogger has a page on its site that recommends their Content Marketing Certification grads to businesses that need a content marketer. I’ve received a lot of inquiries through this site. They also occasionally include writing jobs in emails to certification grads.

3. Potential clients see evidence of your skills

Badges! Yay!

I love badges. I think everyone loves badges. Honestly, who doesn’t love badges?

Anyone considering selling online certification training shouldn’t even bother if they don’t offer a certification badge that graduates can display proudly on their site – if not on their foreheads.

More than just an ego-boost, badges are a quick way to draw attention to your skills and can help business owners and managers decide who to hire.

Otherwise, who knows if you’re credible? You’re just these guys.

If a marketing manager who knows and loves HubSpot (there are a lot of them) needs some content help, they’ll gravitate toward a writer who has that HubSpot Inbound Certification badge on their site because they know that you know the inbound methodology that they use to create content.

As you know, you really shouldn’t write anything online (except maybe your personal blog that you hope nobody finds anyway) without SEO writing skills, but it’s hard to prove those skills to potential clients without formal training. Badges offer quick proof.

4. New skills land you more clients — and higher paying jobs

So maybe this should’ve been number one — but it’s also the most obvious.

When you spend the money and take the time to keep up with your writing skills and learn new ones, you’re qualified to take on new types of work, can offer more services and can CHARGE MORE MONEY for the value you’re adding to freelance writing clients.

With advanced SEO writing training, you can prove your skills to potential clients to land more gigs and charge them more for that service. Keyword research and other SEO copywriting techniques adds a helluva lotta value to clients, especially when (don’t we know it) they’re often optimizing for the wrong keywords.

Maybe you’re an awesome blogger with mad SEO skills, but you’re missing a huge chunk of potential clients because you don’t know persuasive copywriting techniques. AWAI offers a well-known copywriting certification course. Writing copy that sells brings in big bucks for you and your clients.

Get that training and get writing – plus, a bonus!

Now that you know how purchasing online training can land new freelance writing gigs, get to it!

Do some research and find out what skills would help you the most.

Maybe you’re awesome on the writing-skills front and just need to learn how to find more clients. Well …

That leads me to my bonus way that paid online training leads to more writing gigs.

There are paid online trainings (SuccessWorks and AWAI offer two of them) that teach you how to find freelance writing clients! Instead of going it alone, you can learn how to ramp up your business faster — and make more money, more easily.

Yes, training is an investment. Yes, you will need to spend time to go through the course and complete the exercises.

Yet, the benefits are well worth it — and you’ll be able to take your freelance writing business to the next level.

Have you experienced other ways that paying for online training has helped you land writing jobs? Let’s talk about ‘em in the comments below!

Connect with Tracy on Twitter and LinkedIn

Photo credit to LeanForward If | Flickr.com

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!

Winter of Your Discontent? 6 Steps to Fighting Freelancer’s Funk

February’s a hard month.

You start to have doubts about seeing through your new year’s resolutions . . .

It’s when bills pile up . . . deadlines start to loom . . . your belly flab hasn’t shrunk noticeably . . . and colds and flus catch you unawares.

The sparkle of the holidays has disappeared and you feel a little deflated.

And – ah yes – Valentine’s Day brings a bittersweet reminder of both the loves in your life . . . And the challenges to loving and being lovable.

It’s an easy time to get lost in a funk. And this can be particularly tough if you’re a writer.

  • Once a funk starts brewing it can chase away your Muse, seep into your freelance business and bring it to a standstill.

Writing requires you to put your whole mind into it. It’s pretty hard to transfer words to page when a whole bunch of unruly thoughts are knocking around inside your mind and tugging at your heart.

When life’s distractions start to occupy your mind, it can suck up your productivity like a black hole.

I know – I’ve been there. See, I recently went through a pretty good funk.

All the discipline and structure I’d set up to keep my freelance health copywriting business and larger life clipping along at a good pace went flying out the window. I was unable to keep my focus on projects or get work done effectively. It felt like I had hit the Everest of writer’s block.

I kept plugging along but eventually I had to pay attention to this messy stuff that didn’t fit into my neat business plan and calendar. And I needed to take care of it.

The distractions were not business related – personal baggage, family stuff and concerns about my mother’s health. Nonetheless they had everything to do with my freelance writing success since they made it impossible for me to work with the focus and pace my business demanded.

In essence, taking care of them had everything to do with taking care of my business.

  • Here’s what I did, step-by-step, so that within a couple months I was back in gear.

And here’s the beautiful thing: Despite the fact I had to defer some jobs while I sorted through things, my business benefited in the long run.

I was able to return to writing with a clear head and a stronger voice.

I was energized and ready to go back to work full throttle. Which meant that – thanks to some aggressive marketing – I was soon booked solid several months in advance.

Best of all, I had regained solid ground with my children and spouse. I was healthier and trimmer. And I had been able to help my mother make some much-needed changes that made her safer and happier.

Fight The Funk Step #1 – Take a step back from business as usual.

Get away from distractions and let your mind ramble a bit. And I really mean get away from distractions.

We rarely give ourselves “empty space” and time to let our thoughts surface. It’s so easy to distract ourselves with all our electronic information.

  • Clear some headspace.  Even if you just take half an hour to sit with your eyes closed and ponder what’s eating you.
  • And ease off the gas a bit. You still need to discipline yourself to keep things going at a reduced pace. You still have to slowly increase the pressure on the gas pedal as the weeks go on – even when your heart isn’t ready for it.

But prioritize and cut out what you can. Clear some time to listen to the internal mumblings that are fast becoming insistent yells.

  • I guarantee: The productivity you lose now will come back in a roaring flood once you’ve taken on the source of your funk.

Fight The Funk Step #2: Hone in on the problem and reflect.

  • Ask yourself: What’s getting to me? What issues have come up that I shoved to the back of my mind and replaced with work?

Also, make sure you reflect on the good things in your life. Often enough when you look at the good things, the tough things become less daunting. This is not about being Pollyanna-ish. But perspective can help you keep your energy up and focus it where it’s needed.

Reflect and take notes. But don’t get stuck here. Too much reflection can be counter-productive.

  • Action restores a sense of control and positive momentum.

Fight The Funk Step #3: Brainstorm your solution.

Figure out how you can solve the problem or issue and create a step-by-step action plan. What action can you take to solve it? Do you need to enlist some help? Do you need to confront someone? Do you need to make some changes?

  • Focus on moving towards action and change.

And even if you feel the problem can’t be solved by you, there usually is some action you can take to live more effectively and comfortably with the problem.

  • Figure out what you can do to regain some control. How can you gain the peace of mind that you did your part to resolve things?

Brainstorm. Be creative. Don’t nix any potential solutions outright. Allow yourself to look at different options.

But keep moving forward. Turn this into . . .

Fight The Funk Step #4: Create an action plan.

Starting with your desired outcome, go backwards and map out step by step how to get there.

Make the steps doable. Think about what you need to put in place to get from one place to the other.

  • Most importantly, make sure it starts with something you can do just about immediately so you can move into the action phase of getting out of your funk.

Fight The Funk Step #5: Schedule your action plan and commit to it.

Use a calendar or a list to schedule your steps. And then commit.

  • This is key.

When we’re emotionally drained it’s hard to muster up the energy to get things done. By scheduling actions you save yourself tons of energy.

You just do it. No debate. No internal quizzing about whether you feel up for it. Just do it.

Fight The Funk Step #6: Keep yourself fueled.

Your best bet for taking care of business (and I mean everything – family, emotional, writing, and more) is to have the physical capacity to do this.

Make sure you make healthy habits a part of your day:

  • Get some exercise in every day. Even if it’s just some jumping jacks every few hours, exercise will give you energy and shift your mood.  Making exercise part of your morning routine is an especially good way to get a little action in. It sets the tone for the entire day and gives you a burst of can-do attitude.
  • Eat well. Caffeine, sugars and too many carbohydrates will just drag you down – emotionally and energy-wise. Snack on good proteins, lots of vegetables and fruits.

The work of writing requires substantial brain food. (Notice how you get the munchies when working on a project?) Your brain uses up about a ¼ of your total calorie intake – more when you’re concentrating hard. So make feeding your brain right a priority.

Remind yourself that each bite is an act of regaining control over your situation.

And enjoy your food. Use mealtimes to relax and recharge.

  • Get your sleep. When I got dragged down by a funk I was pushing it in terms of sleep. This only contributes to a short wick and inability to focus. Do what you can to get 7-8 hours of snoozing in.

Fight The Funk And Get Back To Work!

You can find all kinds of tricks and techniques for conquering writer’s block. But sometimes none of them will do because something deeper is getting in the way.

All too often we’re told that we’re being irresponsible, undisciplined or lazy if we step back from business a bit to restore our focus. But as I’ve found – and you will too if you follow this plan – stepping back can help you leap forward.

Put this plan to use and you’ll be able to restore your business and your enthusiasm for your work as a writer.

 

About Sarah Clacher

A proud graduate of the SuccessWorks’ SEO Copywriting Certification training program, Sarah Clacher  has combined her expertise in health and her experience running a freelance health copywriting business into a special resource for home biz owners, freelancers and solopreneurs. Her website, Your Healthy Home Biz, provides inspiration and a system for transforming your workday so you can run your home business without running yourself into the ground.

Did you enjoy this post? Do you want more details on how to energize and transform your work day?  Get your FREE Fight The Funk Action Kit and special report, The Simplest Most Important Thing You Can Do For Your Business, Your Waistline And Your Life at Your Healthy Home Biz: Fight the Funk.

3 Cures for Freelance Writer’s Burnout

Guest Author, Tom McSherry

If you’re still fairly new to freelancing and you’re bursting out of bed every morning ready to hit your desk and start on another ludicrously productive day – great. I envy you. This post probably won’t have any relevance for you yet, but it will at some stage.

Any freelancer who has been in the business for more than a year or so is likely to have gone through a period of listlessness and lack of interest in the job, otherwise known as “burnout.” Having recently come through a period of burnout myself, I’d like to take a look at what I think causes it and how you can best avoid burnout and get through it when it strikes.

Working Too Much

Obvious but true, trying to push yourself too hard in the short term can ultimately hurt your productivity in the long term. It’s important to set a sustainable working pace for yourself. Of course, as a freelancer you may feel you have limited control over this: you work when the work is there and get a break when it’s not.

This highlights to me one of the most essential reasons to have a bit of a “cash buffer” in your bank account at all times. It’s not just for a rainy day, in case work dries up for a week or two – it’s so you can give yourself permission to take time off or turn down a project whenever you want. That’s a lot harder to do if your next meal depends on you saying yes to whatever projects come your way.

Lack of Purpose in Your Work

This is what did it for me. Previous to becoming a freelancer, I worked at a conservation park. The money was terrible and the job was repetitive and boring, but I was at least able to tell myself I was doing some good in the world, helping (in a small way) to prevent endangered species from going extinct.

After a couple of years as a freelancer I started to miss that in a big way. I eventually got over it by reminding myself that I am doing good in the world: by serving online business owners I’m helping people get out of the rat race and enjoy a much greater degree of freedom in their lives. On top of that, the more I earn the more I can donate to causes I care about. So to avoid burnout in the long run it’s important to keep an eye on the wider picture of what you actually do for the people you serve.

Now, just realizing this stuff might not be enough to help you avoid burnout, kick the blues and carry on in your chosen career path. In that case, I have three Burnout Cures to suggest.

Burnout Cure #1: Commute

If you live in a big city, nothing will make you appreciate the self-employed lifestyle you’ve built for yourself like joining once again in that great pilgrimage of the rat race: the daily commute. Wake up nice and early to an annoying alarm tone, get in your car and join the trek into the city center.

It’s healthy to remind yourself just how good you’ve already got it compared to a lot of other people. This is something I think we tend to lose site of the longer we’re self-employed.

(The beauty of this one is you don’t even have to do it. The thought alone is usually enough.)

Burnout Cure #2: Watch People with “Real Jobs”

Similar to Cure #1, this is about reminding yourself of everything that forced you to seek the freelance lifestyle in the first place. Go somewhere and simply watch people working in unpleasant day jobs for half an hour. The closer it is to closing time the better, because you get to see the full eight hours or drudgery etched on their face.

If possible, go watch people doing whatever job you used to do before becoming a freelancer. This is a great way to get another taste of that sense of freedom you had when you first broke free from the rat race and started freelancing.

Burnout Cure #3: Rebalance Your Life

This ties in to this first way to avoid burnout I mentioned: don’t work so much. It’s possible that you’re simply putting unrealistic expectations on your work output. Time to take a step back, take a holistic look at your life and ask yourself what’s really important.

Chances are you have been neglecting an important area of your life in the name of getting more done: health, family, relationships, etc. Remember, although it does take work and commitment to build a self-employed lifestyle, that’s ultimately an exercise in futility if you leave your sense of freedom and verve for life in the process.

Pick up an old instrument. Start writing that novel. Go see your sister who you haven’t talked to in six months. You get the idea.

About the Author – Tom McSherry

Tom McSherry is a professional SEO copywriter and the founder of Premium Online Writing. His website contains over 100 articles providing tips and insights for online business owners and other freelance web writers.

Interview with SEO Copywriting Certification Grad, Kellie Craft

SEO Copywriting Certification Grad, Kellie Craft

Kellie has always had a passion for helping others. For years, she has volunteered at her daughter’s school, writing monthly newsletters and articles for the newspaper, hoping the information she provided would be useful and helpful to others.

After spending over 25 years in the corporate world, the dreaded day had come. The company was sold out to a foreign organization that came in and shut down 90% of the U.S. operation. They moved it overseas. Right then she knew that she had to do something different.

About that same time, AWAI found her. Over time, she took some of the courses…ok, a lot of the courses, and determined her path. What better way to help others? Providing businesses with the correct information they need to become successful online!

So, in 2010, Kellie founded Frog Communications, an SEO-web copy consulting firm, and more recently, Frog Online, Internet marketing strategy and social media management.

With business taking off, Kellie has the opportunity to successfully help others while spending time with her husband, beautiful daughter, and German Shepherd.

What got you interested in SEO copywriting?

I am a very technical person. I spent over 15 years working as a Network Administrator. Making the right adjustments to obtain the best results is what I do naturally, at least when it comes to the Internet!

One day, I was invited to a webinar hosted by AWAI, and presented by Heather-Lloyd Martin. I attended and was fascinated by the information I heard. I especially remember her talking about a certification course she was putting together, but wasn’t ready yet. I knew instantly this was for me. I ended up purchasing a course she has with AWAI, and eventually purchased the web-writing and site audit courses that Pam Foster has with AWAI as well.

What do you consider to be your biggest “take-away” from the certification program, in real-life terms?

I know so many people who “require” a piece of paper or a seal of approval before they will do business with a person. To them, this shows that person has dedicated themselves to taking the time to properly learn what it is they do.

For me, it’s my “seal of approval.” Having this certification brings me self-assurance that I know what I’m doing (which I already knew), and that I’m doing it ethically and correctly.

A big plus – I enjoy having the seal on my websites so my visitors will see that I am a professional and the service they are receiving is genuine.

What SEO copywriting projects are you working on now?

I am currently working with a client who has decided to completely rebuild their website on a different platform so they can manage the content and uploads personally. So, I set them up with a WordPress expert. This is phase 1. Phase 2 is completely re-writing the website; I could not find them anywhere up to page 10 on Google (I stopped looking after that). I am providing a complete SEO and web copy package.

In addition, I have two prospective clients, my chiropractor and my daughter’s dentist. Their websites need SEO revisions and their social media strategies are, well, lacking.

What do you enjoy doing in your free time?

Simple, spending time with my family. I don’t care what it involves – watching a movie, jumping on the trampoline, walking outside with the dog, or going to dinner together. We always enjoy our annual trip to Colorado in August to visit my brother and his family, and go way up in the mountains to enjoy the cooler weather! We love the Telluride area. Our crazy schedules don’t allow for a lot of free time together, so we value it when it happens.

Any words for those considering enrolling in the program?

To quote a famous company (Nike), “Just do it!” This program gives you all the information you need to be very successful with SEO. This is true white-hat SEO copywriting. You will learn how to develop a smart keyphrase strategy and how to apply it to any website, with excellent results!

Heather is the SEO expert – your go-to resource for anything SEO. If you are truly interested in SEO, then this is the course for you. Success loves speed…what are you waiting for?

Boost Your Conversion Rates with This One Simple Technique

Ready to write your web copy (Sure!).

Want to boost your conversion rates (heck yeah!).

This proven technique doesn’t cost any money, require you to download an app, or even require that you hire a consultant. It just requires two skills that can completely transform your writing.

The secret?

  • Ask smart questions
  • Shut up and listen to the answers.

Simple, yes. Sometimes, really hard to do. But when you ask good questions – and shut up and listen to the answers – amazing things happen.

You’ll start to “see” your target customer much more clearly. And that clarity will help you write some kick-ass copy.

Good online copywriting – the kind of writing that gets people to pull out their wallets – means telling a story. It means conversing with your target customer like they were your best friend. It means knowing as much as you can know about your audience so everything you write meshes with what they need to read.

That means creating a very targeted tone and feel, highly-specific benefit-oriented messaging and a writing layout that helps your reader take action.

The thing is, you can’t dial-in kick-ass, top-converting copy and expect it to perform. You have to ask a lot of questions and weave those answers into your writing.  In fact, I would run screaming from any writer who said, “Yeah, I can write that,” and proceeded to do so without a client interview. That kind of copy (and you see it everywhere) is flat, lifeless and dull.

Who wants that? Not you – not your client – and not your company.

If you’re working fast and furious, the client interview seems like an easy step to skip – especially if you work in-house (after all, you work for the company – why should you ask questions about the market?). The answers you receive, however, will help your writing sing. You’ll be able to position your client better in the marketplace, focus on the benefits that are really important and overcome objections more easily.

In short, asking questions will make your job easier. Plus, your new and improved copy will see a new and improved conversion rate bump. It’s an easy win/win that you shouldn’t ignore.

Here are some questions to ask:

What to ask your client:

  1. Who is your main online competition. Please provide their URLs. (It’s always smart to check out the competition.)
  2. What (services/products) do you offer that your competition doesn’t?
  3. What’s your Unique Selling Proposition?
  4. Why do your customers say that they buy from you? (Ask for testimonials.)
  5. What are common questions that your customer service department receives?
  6. Who is your target audience?
  7. Do you have multiple target audiences?
  8. What are specific characteristics of your target audience(s). For instance, are they male or female? How old are they? Where do they live? What do they do for a living?
  9. (For technically-based clients.) Do you have visitors coming to your site tasked to gather information who aren’t the main decision makers – but are crucial to the conversion process? For instance, an assistant may look for vendors for his boss to vet.
  10. What online and offline marketing initiatives have worked in the past? What has not worked?

(Note: As I mentioned, these questions still apply for in-house folks. Even if you think you “know” the answers, it’s worth having a meeting with all involved team members and discuss the responses. It’s very possible that some team members view the answers very differently. If people aren’t on the same marketing page, settle the issues before you start writing.)

If you’re planning your editorial calendar, why not do something totally radical and ask your customers what they’d like to read about. For instance:

  1. What topics are interesting to you?
  2. Do you prefer reading articles? Blog posts? White papers?  All of the above?
  3. What was your favorite (article/blog post) that you read this month? This year? Why did you love it?
  4. What’s one thing about the content that you absolutely love?
  5. What’s one content-related task that we could improve upon?
  6. Is there anything new that you’d like to see in the future?

The more questions you ask – the better your writing. Better writing = higher conversion rates. It doesn’t get easier than that.

What questions would you add to the list?