Simple tips on succeeding as a service-based freelancer

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Welcome to the second Monday in April. We’ve had some nice weather lately. I scheduled an appointment to get a vaccination. The Toronto Maple Leafs are winning games. I expect some level of pain at the end of all of these events.

Random quote: How we spend our days is how we spend our lives.

I hope you enjoy this week’s edition of The Editor’s Desk.

How to succeed as a service-based freelancer

Success means different things to different people. Every freelancer – including writers – uses different criteria to determine when they have “made it” or when they can tell themselves they are doing well. I’ve put together a few strategies on being more successful as a freelance writer, as well as anyone who provides a service.

  • Offer what someone asks to pay you for – if you’re good at something, and someone will pay you to do that thing, then pitch your services for money
  • Choose a market to serve – become the best (or as good as you can be) at it
  • Create your own category – make your own niche
  • Forget about your ideas – leverage your assets
  • Turn competitors into collaborators – work with other freelancers to improve both your businesses
  • When you’re selling a service, you’re selling yourself – you are the product
  • Keep getting better at what you do – learn, study, practice, refine
  • Turn your clients’ problems into your problems – focus on your clients’ issues, understand them, and become an expert in solving them, which will make you better at what you do
  • When marketing, learn to optimize your conversations
  • Drive results for your clients – market their services and offerings
  • Be easy to refer – be very visible and collect social proof
  • Frame your services so that clients know what they are getting
  • Remove referral friction – ask for referrals when you complete a project
  • Ask for the sale and set a time limit – create a sense of urgency and be direct
  • Know your WHY – your reason will drive your business and your marketing

For more advice on the topic, check out these blog posts:

More from The Editor’s Desk

Here are a few articles and blog posts I found worth sharing.

  1. Spellcheck and your eyes alone don’t always cut it. You should hire an editor (like me). But if you don’t want to, check out Grammar checkers and editing tools from The Write Life to get a little techno help with editing your work.
  2. Whether you’re a newbie freelance writer or have years of experience, you’ll benefit from having someone spell out how to make money writing articles. Check out Getting paid to write articles from Make a Living Writing for a comprehensive series of steps on making more money as a freelance writer.
  3. Pictures are occasionally better than words, but pictures with words are even better. If you want to write more high-performing articles, then check out The content creation process in a flowchart from Orbit Media. Follow the boxes and lines – so nice.
  4. We all want to write faster to be more productive and to hit those deadlines. Check out How to write faster from SmartBlogger for a few strategies on increasing your writing speed.
  5. Great writing – and great art – comes from removing what does not belong, as well as including what needs to be there. Check out What to leave out and what to leave in from Austin Kleon for a lesson on addition and subtraction.
  6. When clients don’t come to you, it’s time to go out and find clients. Check out Creative places to look for new clients from Robyn Roste for a few ideas on how to add a few clients to your freelance roster.
  7. Marketing is an essential part of getting more clients for your business but many people don’t know how to do it or are not comfortable with it. Check out How to market yourself without marketing yourself from For the Interested for some ideas on how to improve your marketing efforts.
  8. I’ve read that writing blog posts on other people’s blogs is a good way to get more attention for yourself and your blog. If that’s something you want to do, check out Step-by-step guide to guest blogging from Content Marketing Institute for an easy-to-follow process.
  9. If you’ve written for agencies in the past, you’ve probably read a few briefs that were way too brief. Check out The ABCs of a great content brief from Content Folks; maybe you can pass the pointers on to some clients.
  10. I’m a generalist when it comes to writing, although I do write within a couple of niches. Finding the right niche can help writers be more productive and grow their business. Check out A process for finding your niche from Ungated for some ideas on how to find your niche.

Thanks for reading. If you liked what I wrote or think someone else would enjoy it, then please share it. And if you want to reach out, my email is contact@davidgargaro.com. 

David

Finding the right tone

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Welcome to the first Monday in April. The good news is that April 1st was last week, so there is no April fool’s joke. The bad news is that we could all use a good laugh right now and I have no jokes to share with you.

Random quote: When a vessel is empty, you can fill it up and empty it again. Is a vessel ever truly empty?

I hope you enjoy this week’s edition of The Editor’s Desk. It’s a bit late because of Easter and procrastination. I’ll try as hard as I did this week to make sure it’s not late again.

Finding the right (write) tone

Writing in the right tone for a new client – or even a current client – can be challenging and frustrating at times. Writers have ideas and styles that don’t always mesh with the client’s ideas and goals. However, there are some relatively simple strategies to help you get the right tone when writing a first draft:

  • Ask the client. They often know their audience better than you will, and the tone required to reach them. This will save the writer a lot of time.
  • Refer to the brand guidelines or style guide. If the client has a style guide, a lot of work and research went into it. Stick to the defined tone.
  • Ask for an example of desired tone. Sometimes, the client won’t know exactly how to describe the tone, but they probably know it when they see it in other work. Check examples and match the tone to them.
  • Ask for an example of what they don’t want. Clients will know what does not work, so the process of elimination will get you closer to what they do want.

What style elements go into defining tone?

  • Point of view = first person (I, we) vs. second person (you) vs. third person (he, she, they)
  • Sentence length
  • Paragraph length
  • Word choice
  • Marketing jargon
  • Em / en dashes
  • Sentence structure

Quick tip: If a client does not like a piece you’ve written, it often comes down to tone. Rewrite a paragraph (rather than the whole piece) in a different tone to get their reaction.

More from The Editor’s Desk

Here are a few articles and blog posts I found worth sharing.


Thanks for reading. If you liked what I wrote or think someone else would enjoy it, then please share it. And if you want to reach out, my email is contact@davidgargaro.com. 

David

Appealing to readers’ beliefs, feelings, and desires

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Welcome to the final Monday in March – that was a long month. It’s been a long 12 months for everyone. We should have asked for a refund.

Random quote: We suffer more in our imagination than in reality.

I hope you enjoy this week’s edition of The Editor’s Desk. If you want a refund, good luck on that because I don’t know how to refund free. That might cause a black hole or something.

Appealing to readers’ beliefs, feelings, and desires

When writing a blog post, article, case study or content with a purpose, one of your main goals should be to get the reader to feel something or reach in some way. There are many ways to do this, of course. One strategy for reaching readers on an intellectual, emotional, and personal feel is to understand their beliefs, feelings, and desires.

  • Beliefs: What does your reader believe? What is their attitude toward what you are writing about?
  • Feelings: How does your reader feel (e.g., nervous or confident)? What does the reader feel about major issues?
  • Desires: What does your reader want? What is the reader’s goal?

If you’ve been writing to your readers for some time, or have developed buyers’ personas as part of your marketing strategy, then you should understand your audience’s beliefs, feelings, and desires to some degree.

More from The Editor’s Desk

Here are a few articles and blog posts I found worth sharing.


Thanks for reading. If you liked what I wrote or think someone else would enjoy it, then please share it. And if you want to reach out, my email is contact@davidgargaro.com.

No one read this far last week or didn’t ask for a free copy of my book. I doubt you will either. But that’s OK. You read something.

David

Writing the call to action

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Welcome to the fourth Monday in March – there’s another Monday after this one! That seems like too many Mondays for one month. Something must be done about that – add another Saturday next month.

Random quote: The best way to find out if you can trust someone is to trust them.

This week’s edition of The Editor’s Desk is sponsored by no one. None of the previous issues have been sponsored either, so I’m keeping the streak alive.

Writing the call to action

Every piece of marketing content – such as newsletters and emails – needs a call to action. It tells the reader what you want them to do when they’re done reading your content. If you’ve done the job of writing persuasive marketing copy, and the reader has made it to the call to action, then they should know what to do… and they should want to press the subscribe button or reply to your question or do whatever it is what you want them to do.

So what makes an effective call to action?

  • It is an ACTION – Subscribe / Donate / Download / Email / Call
  • It has URGENCY – Use commanding words to imply the risk of waiting
  • It has VALUE – Download this free guide / Discover the power of XX / Book a demo / Start your free trial
  • It uses ACTIONABLE language – Get started / Reserve your seat today / Get it now
  • It reduces RISK – Download and get started today / Start your free trial
  • It makes it EASY to take action – One click to get started
  • It is EMPOWERING – Click here to get your free trial
  • It can be SEEN – Use white space and colour to make it stand out

Use these strategies when putting a call to action in your next email or letter of introduction. Let me know how it works for you.

More from The Editor’s Desk

Here are a few articles and blog posts I found worth sharing.


Thanks for reading. If you liked what I wrote or think someone else would enjoy it, then please share it. And if you want to reach out, my email is contact@davidgargaro.com.

If you’ve read this far and you’re the first person to SEND ME AN EMAIL with the words I READ IT, I’ll mail you a free copy of my book, How to Run Your Company… Into the Ground.

David

Guerrilla marketing for writers

Welcome to the third week of March – the ides of March! That means something to Julius Caesar or Shakespeare fanatics. To the rest of us, it’s just the middle of March and spring is around the corner.

I’m doing something a little different with The Editor’s Desk this week. We’ll see where it goes.

Guerrilla marketing for writers

Last year I read Guerrilla Marketing for Writers by Jay Conrad Levinson, Rick Frishman and Michael Larsen. I picked up the book at a library sale along with a bag of various works of fiction. I took some notes on what writers should know about marketing their writing and themselves. Although the strategies and the book is geared toward authors, there are some great suggestions for all writers. We all need do some form of guerrilla marketing.

  • Quality of content is the most important part of the marketing equation.
  • Commit to your marketing program – believe in it and do it.
  • Marketing is an investment in your future – what you do now will pay off later.
  • Marketing must be consistent – make it a regular habit.
  • Make your potential readers confident in you and your abilities.
  • Be patient with your marketing – it’s like exercise.
  • Use an assortment of marketing tools – try them all and focus on what works.
  • Real profits occur after the sale – readers will buy more if they like your work.
  • Run your business to be convenient for others.
  • Put an element of amazement in your marketing.
  • Use measurement to judge the effectiveness of your marketing.
  • Create and sustain involvement between you and the audience.
  • Learn to depend on other businesses and encourage them to depend on you.
  • Develop the skills and resources to promote your work.
  • Get the consent of people you want to market to.

More from The Editor’s Desk


Thanks for reading. If you liked what I wrote or think someone else would enjoy it, then please share it. And if you want to reach out, my email is contact@davidgargaro.com.

David

Structuring your portfolio, finding your voice, organizing your writing life, and more

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Welcome to the second Monday in March. Sometimes the truth hurts, but it’s better than a lie that can hurt you in many different ways.

Here are a few things I’d like to share from The Editor’s Desk.

Structuring your writing portfolio

As a freelance content writer, potential clients always ask to see samples of my work. I have a website that includes samples of my work here and here, and I also have samples on my LinkedIn page. It’s important to have an online portfolio as it’s more efficient than having to send files to potential clients. However, you might not know how to structure the clips (e.g., work) in your portfolio to get the best results. Here are some suggestions for setting up a great writing portfolio:

  • Remember that the goal is to organize and highlight clips in your portfolio so that it makes sense and appeals to prospects in your desired market and niche
  • Regularly check your existing clips (remove any that don’t look good) and add new clips to keep your portfolio fresh
  • Put your high profile and most impressive clips first
  • Separate clips by categories – marketing, journalism, copywriting, etc.
  • Focus on the clips that your ideal clients would search for or want to see
  • Leave dates off the clips – it does not matter when they were done
  • Change the order of clips based on how many times they have been viewed – use page analytics to see the most viewed clips
  • Include brand names were applicable

How to find your voice

Many writers have difficulty writing in their own voice. Your writing voice sounds like you when you read it because it mirrors the voice in your head. That’s the voice you hear when thinking about what you will write before you write it. Sometimes that inner voice doesn’t make it to the page. We sometimes think we need to sound a certain way for our readers. Kayleigh Moore wrote a great blog post on how to write in the voice that’s in your head. She recommends:

  • Remove the filter
  • Add humour to your writing
  • Be brave and open to feedback

Here’s a great quote: Anyone can churn out another boring article. But if you can write with a voice that sparkles with charming personality, you’re doing something that truly only YOU can do. 

Note: I wrote a blog post about finding your writing style, which is similar.

Organizing your writing life

I consider myself somewhat organized when it comes to my business writing life. I keep track of my projects and have different notebooks for different projects. Ali Luke with Craft Your Content provides advice on ways to organize your writing life and be more creative. Some strategies include:

  • Having one notebook for each project (just like I said)
  • Keep your writing gear in a bag even if you only write from home (difficult to get out and write these days, but I like the idea)
  • Use one app or planner to track To Do items (I use a notebook and calendar to have multiple reminders)
  • Set aside blocks of time for different types of writing (I like this idea a lot)
  • Keep track of what you’ve submitted and where (this is how you run a business as a writer)
  • Have a foolproof way of tracking deadlines (I use a calendar and notebook)
  • Use an “end of day” routine to put everything back (I should do this)

Here is some great advice:

  • Today, gather your writing materials together. Find a bag or box—anything will do—where you can keep your essentials so that they’re ready for you. Then, spend no more than five minutes clearing a writing space where you have enough room to work.
  • During the rest of the week, set aside time to write and to get organized. You might want to schedule your writing for 30 minutes, then spend 5-10 minutes taking a simple next step to get more organized. 

Personalizing your B2B content

How often have you received an email or marketing message that felt generic? “Dear Sir”, “To the Marketing Manager,” etc. is a clear indicator that the person sending the email knows nothing about you. People connect with people. People buy from people. If you are in the business of writing B2B content, then you should learn to write to your reader rather than at them. Aaron Cullers at MarketingProfs wrote an article on writing more personalized B2B content, providing the following tips:

  1. Choose the audience you want to reach
  2. Relearn the digital context and competition within your buyers’ experiences
  3. Create personalized content building blocks for every buying stage
  4. Include messages and assets based on buyer behaviour triggers
  5. Test, measure, improve, repeat

Dealing with intrusive thoughts

I sometimes get stuck in my own head, as thoughts will get stuck there and bounce around, interfering with everything else I am trying to think about. I often thought that I was the only one who felt this way, but that’s never the case. Many people face the same challenges. Vivian Manning-Schaffel at Shondaland wrote a great article on coping with intrusive thoughts. Her advice includes:

  • Don’t push those thoughts away
  • Understand that you and the thoughts are not the same
  • Don’t overthink your thoughts
  • Take care of yourself

Here’s a great quote: Once you fully grasp that your thoughts are inconsequential and are unattached to any intention or outcome, they don’t matter as much. If they don’t matter as much, you stop worrying about them and stop anticipating that they will come back…

Quote on consistency

Here’s a great quote from James Clear on consistency:

Greatness is consistency. Meditating once is common. Meditating daily is rare. Exercising today is simple. Training every week is simply remarkable. Writing one essay rarely matters. Write every day and you’re practically a hero. Unheroic days can make for heroic decades.

What I wrote

Check out this blog post I wrote for SellerantHow to create marketing personas for your business.

What I read

I just finished reading The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky. I had never seen the movie and had heard great things about it. I don’t usually go for books written in diary or letter format but this was enjoyable, and I was surprised by the shock reveal. I will have to check out the movie to see if it holds up.

What I watched

Upon the recommendation from a friend, I watched The Hunt with Betty Gilpin and Hillary Swank. It’s a commentary on the divide between groups in today’s society. It’s also an enjoyable view with some gruesome deaths and memorable lines.

What I listened to

I listened to the Tim Ferriss podcast episode #501 with Steven Pressfield, who talked about the artist’s journey, the wisdom of little successes, shadow careers, and overcoming resistance. Steven is a great author, who has written a fantastic book called The War of Art – a must read for freelance writers.


Thanks for reading. If you liked what I wrote or think someone else would enjoy it, then please share it. And if you want to reach out, my email is contact@davidgargaro.com.

David

Learning to write faster, turning away clients, compelling introductions, and more

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Welcome to the first Monday in March. I pulled a muscle in my side, which made me think I hurt my kidney somehow. It’s still painful after about a week, but I can still roll out of bed, so I have that going for me.

Here are a few things I’d like to share from The Editor’s Desk.

Learning to write faster

If you are a freelance writer and get paid by the hour, you probably don’t want to write faster than you already do. You actually lose money being a faster writer. However, for most other situations (especially when facing deadlines), it can pay to learn how to write your content more quickly. To follow are some quick tips on increasing your writing speed:

  • Write a bad first draft. There’s no need to be perfect with your first draft. Get the words on the page.
  • Walk away from the writing. Taking a break can re-energize you and make you faster when you return to the keyboard.
  • Write in your head. Think about what you want to say, how you want to say, how you want to organize your sections, etc. before putting the words down.
  • Find the best time of day to write the first draft. Some people are great in the morning, others work best at the end of the day or after lunch. You’ll know when you’re most productive.
  • Write to the quality of the project and the client’s needs. Some projects require more effort and quality than others. Don’t spend the time to write a thesis when you’re writing a blog post on the top 10 best pizza places in your city.
  • Outsource some of your tasks. Hire a virtual assistant to handle the administrative work while you spend time on writing.
  • Write about familiar topics. If you’ve written a few articles on one topic, you’ll be able to write more quickly on related topics because you already know the terminology and main issues.
  • Write blog posts in batches. If you have a calendar of assignments, or a plan to write blog posts on similar topics, bang them all out one after another when the words are flowing.
  • Reduce revisions. Don’t edit or revise when you’re writing. Limit the number of revisions that clients can make – charge more for each one.
  • Write longer pieces. Having to start a new project takes time. Writing long pieces keeps you immersed in the writing, and you’ll work at getting it done more quickly than starting something new.

PS. I wrote a blog post about being a faster writer here.

Turning away potential clients

As a freelance writer – or any self-employed person – there will be times when you need to turn clients away. It’s actually a way to grow your business. When you turn away the wrong clients, you make room for the right clients. It can be scary to turn down paying gigs, but there are a number of reasons why you should turn away potential clients:

  • The (hourly) rate is too low. It might be a “good” project rate, but the amount of work involved could reduce the hourly rate below minimum wage.
  • It’s a one-off assignment. If you have to choose between regular work and a one-off, it usually makes sense to turn down the one-off assignment because regular work just keeps bringing in money and opportunities. Of course, some one-off assignments are worth it, especially if they give you experience in a new industry.
  • The work is not in your niche. Again, if it’s a market you want to be in, it’s good experience for the portfolio. But if you don’t plan to work in this niche, pass it along to someone else.
  • Your writing style does not match the brand voice. Yes, you can learn to write in a new style or voice, but if it’s very different from you usual style, it will be challenging for you and a bad fit for the client.
  • The client is likely to be difficult. Stay away – the pay is rarely worth the grief.
  • The client’s desired strengths and requirements are different from yours. Don’t try to fit your square peg into their round hole.
  • There’s a mismatch of personalities. You work with people, not just words, so you need to be able to get along. If it’s not a fit, everyone will be unhappy, especially you.
  • You have a bad “feeling”. Trust your gut. If it does not feel like it’s right, walk away.

How to write compelling introductions

People will often decide to read an article or blog post based on the heading. However, a strong introduction will keep them reading. Kayleigh Moore wrote a great blog post on how to write compelling introductions. She breaks it down to three steps:

  • Step 1: Distill the point of your content into a single, concise sentence.
  • Step 2: Tease out the most interesting aspect of your sentence.
  • Step 3: Write three to four short, conversational sentences based on the first two steps.

Here’s a great quote: ... the short, abbreviated intro gives the reader a chance to warm up to you, your writing voice, and what you’re about to share with them. It doesn’t make any assumptions about the readers’ problems or concerns—and it’s conversational and light.

Editing mistakes to avoid

I know some writers hate editors because they don’t like other people changing what they wrote or commenting on their perfect words. (I’ve been there, and have developed an objective approach to writing for clients.) Unfortunately, too many writers will take to editing their own work, which can actually make it worse than before. Sola Kehinde at Craft Your Content wrote an article on six editing mistakes to avoid as a professional writer:

  • Depending on self-editing alone (we never see our own mistakes)
  • Asking family and friends to edit your work (I hate showing them the finished work!)
  • Not understanding the different types of editing (there are BIG differences between them)
  • Doing different edits in the wrong order (that can cause so many problems)
  • Hiring one editor for different types of editing (not always an issue)
  • Thinking of beta readers as editors (they have a specific role, and it’s not editing)

Here’s a great, self-serving quote: To ensure you get objective and honest feedback about your writing so you can achieve your writing goals, always choose a professional editor or an editing agency instead of family and friends who may only tell you what they think you want to hear. 

How to read more

Finding time to read can be a challenge. How much I read from year to year will vary, but I have been trying to make time to read – keeping books by my bed, turning off the TV to read, bringing a book with me during appointments, etc. Elaine Meyer at Doist wrote a blog post on how to read more. There is a lot of great information in this post, including how to build a reading habit:

  • Make it easy to start
  • Start small (this goes for everything you want to do)
  • Read at a certain time of day
  • Multi-task with audiobooks
  • Make time
  • Create a distraction-free environment
  • Try visual cues
  • Take notes (I’ve started keeping a notebook where I wrote two pages about the book I read)
  • Write reviews
  • Put down a book you’re not enjoying (YES!)
  • Make reading an enjoyment, not an obligation

Here’s a great quote: One of the most effective ways to spend less time on habits like social media, online shopping, or playing video games, is to build “friction” into how you access them. You can also use the friction principle the opposite way for reading. Reduce your reading friction by making it as easy as possible to read books. Plan how you’ll buy or borrow books and the tools you’ll use to read, like e-readers and audiobook apps.

Resource: How to create a profitable eBook and course

If you want to create your own eBook or mini-course, check out Felicia Sullivan‘s step-by-step guide I Created a 201-Page Profitable eBook & Mini Course in One Month. It is published on Medium so you might need a membership to read it (I have three free views per month, as should you, so choose wisely). The guide covers:

  • Selecting a topic
  • Building an outline
  • Pre-selling the book
  • Writing the book
  • Publishing the book

What I wrote

Check out this article I wrote for Nom Nom DataThe Impact of Turnover on Small Teams.

What I read

I just finished reading How to Pronounce Knife by Souvankham Thammavongsa. It’s a collection of short stories on different people, mostly Laotian immigrants, occupying the same world. It was a great read, as the stories flowed and the characters were interesting and real.

What I watched

My daughter and I watched the movie Finding ‘Ohana. It’s about two siblings from Brooklyn who go to Oahu with their mom to help take care of their grandfather, where they learn about their heritage and seek a mysterious treasure. It’s a fun family movie.

What I listened to

The Build Your Copywriting Business podcast, episode #15, described the 11 traits of the most successful copywriters. It’s an informative episode, so check it out.


Thanks for reading. If you liked what I wrote or think someone else would enjoy it, then please share it. And if you want to reach out, my email is contact@davidgargaro.com.

David

Setting your rate, stopping procrastination, the T-shaped information diet, and more

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Welcome to the last Monday in February. I hope that everyone is staying warm and safe. My dog woke me up at 1:30 in the morning two days in a row. Anyone want a free dog? I kid – my daughter would never let that happen.

Here are a few things I’d like to share from The Editor’s Desk.

Setting your freelance writing rate

Many freelance writers dread when they hear clients ask, “What’s your rate?” The most common fears are:

  • Set your rate too high and you lose the client.
  • Set your rate too low and you’re losing money.

It’s usually preferable to have the client provide a rate so you can decide whether it’s worth your time. It also gives you a base from which to work, and it’s the minimum you’ll make, so you can quote a higher rate from there.

There is no perfect rate – what works for you won’t work for other people. Consider the following advice on how to set your freelance writing rate:

  • Some clients like hourly rates – it’s easy to measure. However, others might get turned off by your hourly rate because they might not see the value in YOUR hourly rate.
  • Hourly rates penalize more experienced writers. If you’ve been a writer for a while, you probably write faster and more efficiently than a less experienced writer. If they both worked on the same project, the less experienced writer would make more money using an hourly rate.
  • Many writers and clients like per word rates – you know the word count and can easy calculate the final cost. But they are not great for every situation. Given equal per word rates, 1000-word blog post with very little research and no interviews would pay the same as a 1000-word article with three interviews, extensive research, and two rounds of revisions.
  • The ideal pricing method is the project rate. You determine the cost of the project based on how long you think it will take (using YOUR hourly rate, plus a buffer for extra work). The client gets a fixed price, so they know how much the project costs and the value of your services.

How to stop procrastinating

Every writer who tells the truth knows about procrastination. We will often find almost anything else to do when we are faced with a blank page and cannot get the words to come out. Ayaz Nanji at MarketingProfs put together an infographic on how to stop procrastinating and become a joyful writer. The three tips are:

  • Practice getting started
    • Break the process into chunks
    • Set small, easy-to-reach goals
    • Build a bridge to tomorrow
  • Avoid mid-writing distractions
    • Identify your triggers
    • Determine how your behaviour makes you feel
    • Replace procrastination with a good habit
    • Set a timer
  • Dance with your feelings
    • Acknowledge your resistance
    • Devise tactics to get around it

The T-shaped information diet

According to Nick DeWilde at The Jungle Gym, the best way to grow your abilities is to “build a shallow understanding across a breadth of domains and a depth of expertise in whichever domain is most relevant to your profession.” This is known as the T-shaped information diet. The key is to curate information streams that deliver high-value insight. When evaluating information to add to your diet, you should consider the following sources:

  • Popular vs. undiscovered information
  • Open access vs. gated content
  • Institutional vs. individual publishers
  • Primary vs. secondary sources
  • New vs. old ideas

Here’s a great quote: By subscribing to a mix of individual thinkers and institutional publications, you receive a holistic sense of the conversation. Individuals give you early access to unfiltered insight while institutions can help you identify which ideas are making their way into the mainstream.

Building confidence

Many writers have a problem with impostor syndrome. We never believe we’re good enough in our writing, especially when starting with new clients. The key is to develop confidence in your abilities. Linda Zhang at Product Lessons wrote an article on how to build confidence using five landmarks:

  • Raise belief capital
  • Start with limited expectations
  • Find an unfair advantage
  • Normalize your heroes
  • Make transforming experiences 

Here’s a great quote: Growth should be uncomfortable, but not fatal. The best way to keep growing is to stay in the game, so if you’re on the brink of quitting, pick a more narrow lane that you feel confident in. As you grow your confidence and skills, you’ll be ready to take on bigger challenges. 

Rules on creating

Bob Lefsetz wrote 28 rules on creating in 2021. Here are some of my favourite:

  • Perseverance: It takes longer than ever to make it. If you are not in it for the long haul, don’t even start.
  • Your goal is to be self-sustaining.
  • You’re the only one on your team.
  • The Internet is the means. You create the end.

Quotes on writing

Denis Johnson put out a list of quotes on writing – here is the free PDF. I’ll let you discover your favourites on your own.

What I wrote

Here’s an article I wrote for Sellerant: Automating the Process of Moving a Prospect Through a Marketing Funnel.

And here’s a blog post I wrote two years ago – Three steps to get referrals.

What I read

I just finished reading The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky. I had never seen the movie, other than some trailers, so I wasn’t sure what to expect. It was a great read with a pretty shocking reveal. I’m not a fan of diary / letter format books, but I liked it quite a bit. I’m definitely going to check out the movie to see how it translates to the screen.

What I watched

My family and I watched the movie The Greatest Showman with Hugh Jackman, Michelle Williams and Zac Efron. We all liked it – the songs were extremely catchy, the cinematography was beautiful, and the performances were great.

What I listened to

I recently joined Clubhouse. It’s interesting, as there are some great rooms on writing and marketing. There are also a lot of rooms of no interest, but that’s no different than most networking events, seminars, and parties I would not attend or be invited to. Based on what I’ve heard, seen, and read, some people have really jumped into Clubhouse as a strategy to grow their business. It’s like any other tool or app – success depends on how you use it. If you’re on there, come find me – @davidgargaro.

I also have some invites, so if you have an iPhone, the first email I get will receive an invite. That will show you actually read this far, which is pretty impressive.


Thanks for reading. If you liked what I wrote or think someone else would enjoy it, then please share it. And if you want to reach out, my email is contact@davidgargaro.com.

David

Controlling the client’s revisions, creating a rate card, writing a manifesto, and more

Photo by Maria Orlova on Pexels.com

Welcome to another Monday in February. Did you get something done today? Good for you. If not, try again tomorrow.

Here are a few things I’d like to share from The Editor’s Desk.

Controlling the client’s revisions

Have you heard the expression, “Give a weed an inch, and it will take a yard.” (That’s a gardening joke.) The expression applies to clients of content writers and copy editors. The number of requested revisions can get out of hand if you let clients control the process or think that they can make unlimited revisions.

Here are a few tips for reducing (or controlling) the number of revisions that clients request when you provide the first draft:

  • Be clear on the client’s expectations and project scope
  • Ask the client questions before writing so that you can be as clear as possible on what they need
  • Include the number of revision cycles in your contract
  • Have all stakeholders sign off on a completed project review and the first draft
  • Write an outline and show it to the client before writing
  • Ask for consolidated feedback from all stakeholders
  • Request reviewers to use Track Changes when making comments
  • Set a deadline or limit for revisions

Creating a rate card for your business

For some part of my career as a freelance content writer and copy editor, I had a rate card that showed my rates for different services. These days, I will provide quotes based on the client’s description of what they need. Jennifer Goforth Gregory at The Content Marketing Writer wrote a post with five reasons on why to not publish a rate card:

  • One rate does not fit all situations (very true!)
  • Sometimes, it makes good business sense to take a lower rate (some clients are worth it)
  • You do not want to underprice yourself (the client may be willing to pay more than you typically charge)
  • Clients have to reach out to you to ask about your rate (that is inbound marketing)
  • You lose the chance to charge more for difficult clients (some clients are not worth working with, no matter how much you charge)

Writing a manifesto

I’ve never thought of writing a manifesto, although I’ve read a few interesting ones in my day. Rather than writing a list of goals, which many people will do especially when starting a new year, you might want to consider writing a manifesto, which provides direction and guidance for big changes. Amy Stanton with Minutes provides some direction on writing a manifesto, which includes these three steps:

  • Shift your thinking from being externally focused to being internally focused
  • Connect emotions to the various responsibilities you have in your life
  • Create an accountability plan

Here’s a great quote: Remember: a manifesto is not a checklist of goals. This isn’t about our normal Type-A “how fast can we achieve our goals and cross the finish line.” This is about the journey and how we want to act, think, and feel along the way.

Marketing without social media

Social media marketing can be a very effective strategy for promoting and growing your business as a freelance writer, or for any solopreneur. However, there are many other ways to market your services. Alexandra Franzen wrote a post on 21 other ways to engage in marketing without social media. She has some great suggestions – here are some of my favourites:

  • Do a “45 in 45” email challenge.
  • Add info about your product or service to your email signature.
  • Circle back to previous clients and customers via email. Say hi. See if they’d like to hire you/purchase from you again.
  • Start a newsletter and send it out consistently.
  • Gently remind clients that you love and appreciate word-of-mouth referrals. Encourage them to send new clients your way.

What to ask before you quit

Have you ever wanted to quit on a company, client or project? If you haven’t, then you’ve either never worked for someone or you have led the most charmed life. Anisa Purbasari Horton at Fast Company wrote an article on four questions to ask yourself before quitting something:

  • Why did I pursue this in the first place?
  • Why do I feel the need to quit?
  • Have I done everything I can to make this work for me?
  • What do I have to gain by quitting?

Here’s a great quote: We don’t like to think about limits, but we all have them. While grit is often about stories, quitting is often an issue of limits–pushing them, optimizing them, and most of all, knowing them.

How to improve

Here are some tips from James Clear on how to improve:

  1. Lots of research. Explore widely and see what is possible. 
  2. Lots of iterations. Focus on one thing, but do it in different ways. Refine your method. 
  3. Lots of repetitions. Stick with your method until it stops working. 

What I wrote

Check out my article from the November 2020 issue of RHB Magazine2020 Taxation Report.

What I read

I just finished reading The Best of Me by David Sedaris. It’s a collection of fiction and non-fiction stories from his life, some of which was published in other works. Sedaris is a funny author, who keeps a daily journal of what he sees, hears, and thinks, some of which while picking up trash on the side of the road.

What I watched

I watched the movie Hotel Artemis featuring Jodie Foster, Dave Bautista, Sterling K. Brown, Jeff Goldblum, and others. I enjoyed it – if you’re into movies about criminals with a code, you might like it too. It scratched my itch at that time.

What I listened to

I listened to a podcast episode from Freakonomics Radio called “Can I ask You a Ridiculously Personal Question?” It covered the issue of asking sensitive questions. According to the research, most people are not actually afraid to discuss questions on money, sex, politics, and other “sensitive” issues. I guess that depends on who you ask.


Thanks for reading. If you liked what I wrote or think someone else would enjoy it, then please share it. And if you want to reach out, my email is contact@davidgargaro.com.

David

Following up with clients, sending a short email, starting a newsletter, and more

Photo by Steve Johnson on Pexels.com

Welcome to another Monday in February. Sometimes, a setback is a great way to move forward.

Here are a few things I’d like to share from The Editor’s Desk.

Following up with content marketing clients

I’ve written blog posts on following up with clients here and here. It’s important to stay in touch so clients know you are invested in working with them, and it keeps your name top of mind. Jennifer Goforth Gregory with The Content Marketing Writer wrote a great post on five unique ways to follow up with content marketing clients. She suggests doing the following:

  • Compliment the client about something client or editor has done recently (I’ve used this technique)
  • Send a link to a relevant article (I’ve done this as well)
  • Provide a thoughtful comment on their blog post or social media page (do this repeatedly for greater impact)
  • Follow up on an event mentioned by the client (Who is going to events these days?)
  • Engage with the company on social media (a good strategy at all times)

The nine-word email marketing strategy

I will occasionally send cold emails and letters of introduction as a prospecting strategy – it works better than you think. The key is to write targeted emails to the right people with the right message at the right time – simple, right? Jessica Lunk at Benchmark One wrote a great article on implementing a nine-word email as part of your marketing strategy. The concept comes from Dean Jackson and uses a very simple formula:

  • Subject line: First name
  • Body: Question that addresses customer pain point (e.g., Are you still looking for help with creating new content?)

That’s the whole email. If you get a response, you know they’re interested.

Reasons to start a newsletter

I’m a fan of reading newsletters, as they provide useful content that I enjoy. They also showcase some great writing with personality. Britany Robinson at The Write Life wrote a post on why you should start a newsletter. Her reasons include:

  • It’s easy to start (relatively speaking)
  • It forces you to create a writing routine (so true)
  • It’s a home for your voice (you write what you want)
  • You build credibility (absolutely)
  • Nobody can take it away from you (only you can do that)
  • You can monetize it if you want to (true, but the other reasons are more important to me)

Adding personality to digital content

Nick DiLallo published an article at UX Collective on writing digital products with personality. If you’re involved in UX writing at all, these are some great tips for writing more effective and interesting copy. His suggestions include:

  • Build a brand voice from the start
  • Consider how you use vocabulary 
  • Look for small moments
  • Begin with clarity

Process goals, performance goals, and outcome goals

Hollie and Terrell Johnson at The Half Marathoner published an article on three types of running goals. Why am I talking about running goals? Because these goals also apply to writing. The three types of goals are:

  • Process goals – the training you do to achieve your writing goals (e.g., writing a certain number of words in a day)
  • Performance goals – the goals you set to achieve that are under your control (e.g., writing a manuscript by the end of the year)
  • Outcome goals – the goal you want that is outside your control (e.g., having your book picked up by a major publisher)

Check out what Ron Hogan had to say about outcome goals:

Nearly all writers, I think, start with outcome goals: I want my memoir to be published. I want to write a bestselling novel. I’d like to be able to support myself with my writing. I want people to recognize how talented I am. … If we cling too strongly to these outcomes, though, we may forget that we cannot make them happen on our own. A publisher has to decide to publish our book. Consumers have to want to buy it. People have to make up their own minds about our talent.

Choosing a name for your blog

I came up with name of my blog pretty simply – I’m an editor, I sit a desk, it worked. But you might want to use a different tactic to name your blog or podcast. Matt Gladstone at Flocksy wrote a post on coming up with the name for your blog to help it succeed. He suggests the following:

  • Focus on your niche (important if you’re in a niche)
  • Do your research
  • Consider the message you’re sending
  • Use a name generator (lazy, I like it)
  • Look to your target audience
  • Focus on your brand
  • Make it easy to spell and find

What I wrote

Check out what I wrote for SellerantCreating a Strategic Planning Process Model for Your Startup.

What I read

I came across a great online magazine called SULTURE Magazine. Check it out – it’s well written, has beautiful imagery, and it’s free.

What I watched

I watched the first season of Emily in Paris on Netflix. Honestly, I was hooked from the first episode. The main character is so likeable and engaging. I also learned quite a bit about Paris and Parisians, and a little about fashion and social media. I’ve been wanting to visit Paris for a few years, as has my daughter. Once it’s clear to travel again, Paris is near the top of the list of places to go.

What I listened to

Normally, I listen to podcasts while I work. Sometimes I want to pay attention to what they’re saying, and I can’t do that if I am seriously engrossed in my writing or I need to be motivated. I discovered this YouTube channel for “deep concentration and studying.” It seems to work, even though I don’t listen to a lot of music these days.


Thanks for reading. If you liked what I wrote or think someone else would enjoy it, then please share it. And if you want to reach out, my email is contact@davidgargaro.com.

David