Carol Tice from Make a Living Writing wrote an article on the differences between writing an article versus writing a blog post. Basically, there used to be a firm dividing line between the two types of content, but the line has blurred as blog posts have become more like articles. It’s worth a read for anyone who is getting into writing either blog posts or articles, and even those writers who have been at it for a while.
Josh Spector wrote an ebook called The Secrets of Successful Creators. It includes “256 proven strategies from the world’s most successful creators you can use to produce, promote, and profit from your creations.” The summaries and links to articles and video were originally shared in Josh’s FOR THE INTERESTED newsletter. The ebook is pay what you can and covers the following topics:
This is probably the last blog post for 2020. I hope you have a great 2021. Thanks for reading. If you want to reach out, my email is email@example.com.
If you’re a freelance writer or run any type of business, and you have a website, you need an About Me / About My Business page. You might think most people ignore it or don’t care about you, but the About Me page gets a lot of traffic. Yes, customers care most about how you can help them solve their problems, but they also want to know about the person who will help them. If you don’t have an About Me page, your prospect might not trust you, as if you don’t care to share who you are, then why should they want to work with you?
So, you need an About Me page. There are many ways to do it right, but I’d like you to know what you might be doing wrong. Avoiding these mistakes will put you on the right path to creating a great About Me page.
You don’t have an About Me page. Or you call it something it different to be clever. Don’t do that. Make sure you have an About Me page.
You don’t list your name or credentials. Your clients and prospects need to know who you are. How will people refer you if you don’t mention your name, your credentials, qualifications, etc.
You don’t include a photo. People will be more comfortable working with you if they can put a face to the name.
Your writing is boring. You’re a writer, so show your skills. People tend to forget how to write when they’re writing about themselves. Use your best writing voice – the one that makes you money.
You only put in video, or focus too much on video. Video is great, as people like watching videos online. It’s great for rapport. But some people hate watching videos. It’s not for everyone, and can annoy some people. Keep videos short and interesting. Support your video with copy.
You go on too long. Storytelling is an effective strategy but don’t be long-winded and boring. Talk about what’s important to the reader, not every part of your life and experience.
You make the About Me page all about you. Focus on what would matter to your clients – the reader – and how you can help them achieve their goals, solve their problems, etc.
Need help with writing the About Me page or your website? Let me know – firstname.lastname@example.org.
Many successful businesses position themselves in a specific way to attract certain types of clients. As a freelance writer, you should do the same.
Think about when you go out to grab a coffee with your friends. Why do you choose to go to Starbucks or Second Cup or Tim Hortons or the local independent coffee shop? Is it because it’s the closest place? Maybe so. Or is it because you want to feel a certain way when you’re drinking your coffee. Very likely.
How you position yourself as a freelance writer will compel your clients to feel a certain way about you. How they feel about you will also affect how you present yourself to the world and do business.
There are different strategies for positioning yourself to prospects and clients. They can work together or on their own.
Build credibility through your marketing
You can develop your positioning – and build your credibility as a content writer – by regularly marketing yourself and your services. How you market your services is up to you, but here are a few ideas:
Blogging: Writing a personal or industry blog, publishing posts on LinkedIn, writing long-form articles in publications and newsletters
Speaking: Given webinars and talks on topics you write about or are an expert in
Passive marketing: Stating in your blurb or bio who you help and what they get from working from you
Social media: Maintaining a current and consistent presence on your social media pages (e.g., LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram)
Maintain your website
Your website is part of your marketing, but it is also its own entity. Establishing and maintaining your web presence is part of developing your positioning. Your website should do the following:
Communicate who you serve and how you serve them – be clear about your ideal client and what you do to help them
Use good SEO and keyword usage – it addresses your clients’ business needs, using language that they would use to search for your services
Ensure your website has intuitive navigation – it’s easy to use and find information, and it’s not overly creative
Include a call to action – tell your visitors what to do and where to go when on your website
Keep your site up to date with current technology (mobile friendly) and link to your social media profiles
Recognize networking opportunities
Right now, it’s difficult to network in person. When you can network in person through real events (or even if you’re doing online events), do the following:
Connect with the person you want to meet before actually meeting them – connect on LinkedIn, saying you’re reaching out because you will both be attending the event
Start an online discussion about the event you’ll be attending
Pre-Tweet or post about the event, asking anyone who is attending if they want to connect or chat
Follow people you’ve met at the event online
When you’re building your network, make sure to include the following types of people:
Current and past customers
Peers and colleagues
Cultivate your leads
To position yourself as a freelance writer, you need to develop relationships with people you want to work with. There are many different ways to cultivate relationships with leads – consider these ideas:
Create an email newsletter – include an opt-in and opt-out email list, write it regularly (weekly, bi-monthly, monthly), and provide consistently relevant information
Build a social media following – connect with leads online, follow them, share useful information, respond to comments
Write personal messages when doing outreach – reach out regularly to people who’ve responded to emails or social media posts, ask if they are ready to work with you
Blog posts on positioning your freelance writing services
Finding new clients for your freelance content writing business – or any business for that matter – is more important today than it has ever been. Many freelancers have lost clients due to COVID-19 forcing the closure of their clients’ businesses, as well as some clients reducing their needs for freelance writing. It’s also important for new freelancers who want to grow their business.
There are many, MANY ways to find clients as a freelance writing business. To follow are four strategies that can work together to help you win new clients as a freelance writer.
Define your ideal client
Think about who you want to work with, or who you have worked with that was a great client. You enjoy the work and they pay well. Winning just a few ideal clients can make your business, and help you to enjoy the work you do so you’ll want to do great work.
Consider your goals – income goals, lifestyle goals, fulfillment of work – and match the clients to your goals.
So how can you classify ideal clients?
Clients within your industry or desired niche
Connections to others within your network
Mutually shared interests
Create a client acquisition plan
You need a way to find and acquire clients. The method depends on what works best for you, but here are some ideas:
Ask people in your network for connections
Attend local business events (online if necessary)
Join and search industry associations
Use LinkedIn, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, etc. – wherever you hang out online
Send out cold and warm emails, make phone calls, mail postcards, etc.
Whatever method you choose, commit to a repeatable plan. Stick with the methods that work for you, and repeat daily / weekly / monthly. Set tasks that you can repeat each week, and that will take a few hours of your week. Aim for bite-sized tasks that are easy to accomplish, as they will spur you to keep going.
Do what is within your control, and what you feel comfortable doing.
Sell solutions to business problems
You’re a writer (or whatever you happen to do). But your potential clients don’t really care what you do. The want solutions to their problems, not specific skills or services.
A skill is something you know how to do. A business problem is something you can solve using your skills. You can sell your skill set (i.e., say what you do, the experience you have doing it) to sell a solution to a specific problem. State the following:
I can help you do THING IMPORTANT TO CLIENT. I helped clients in your industry GET RESULT IMPORTANT TO CLIENT.
Create a sustainable business – repeat clients
The key to creating a sustainable business is to work with clients who will keep using your services over time. You don’t want “one and done” work … unless it pays very well and leads to referrals for more work.
This should be part of your client acquisition plan. Book strategy calls with clients every quarter or every few months. Discuss how you can take care of their work needs, as well as how you can help them to achieve their business goals.
Prospecting is an essential component of being an effective freelance content writer. Unless you have mastered inbound marketing or you have clients beating a path to your door, you must prospect. You must do the work to find and reach out to potential clients. It’s one of the key components of successfully marketing your freelance writing business.
However, prospecting is more effective when you follow up. It’s not practical to expect great results when you only reach out to prospects once. How many times you follow up is your call, but you must follow up at least once.
Why should you follow up to be more effective at prospecting?
It is necessary! Everyone is busy these days. Reminding a potential client that you can write their articles, blog posts, case studies and other content – or provide an essential service – is useful to your prospect, and a professional use of your time.
Things happen. Your clients might get busy or something could distract them to cause them to ignore or forget about your initial message.
So, how do you prospect more effectively?
Make it easy to get permission from your prospect to follow up again. Set a date for reaching out the next time, and the next steps at the end of your prospecting email or call.
Don’t force it. You cannot manufacture urgency that does not exist. Do not force motivation for the prospect to move forward.
Have a plan for long-term follow up. They might not be able to respond or buy right now, but they might buy in the mid-term future. Follow up over several weeks and months by sending something of value to show you are thinking of them. This could include links to an article, blog posts, ebook, web site, etc. This is known as lead nurturing.
Spread out your follow-up attempts using a defined process (calendar apps, scheduling software, CRM tools, etc. are good for this). Set your own rules for when and how you follow up. Adjust your methods when you learn what works and what doesn’t.
Be graceful and professional if the prospect says they’re not interested. A “No” now does not mean a “No” forever, and they could still become helpful down the road.
People are drawn to great stories. Who doesn’t like reading a great novel? But you can – and should – tell compelling stories when writing articles, blog posts, case studies, and non-fiction books.
Keys to telling a good story
According to Wes Kao, there are five keys to telling a good story. He dissects a story to identify those elements, which include:
Focus on the reader so that they can envision themselves in the story.
Build trust with the reader so that they feel understood.
Use words that make the reader feel something.
Create space for the reader to fill in the blank.
Create a visual to set the scene.
Non-fiction writing techniques for captivating readers
Want to make sure your next work of non-fiction is non-boring? Check out Alexander Limberg’s post in The Write Life for five nonfiction writing techniques that will captivate readers, which include:
Tell a memorable story, which will have more impact than facts, formulas or concepts.
Bait your audience – begin with a personal story, ask a question, or start with an interesting or funny thought.
Use emotionally charged language and words to create a reaction.
Say it simply – break down ideas in digestible bites and simplify the language.
Surprise the reader by being imaginative and creative where it is not expected.
Write like Anthony Bourdain
I’m currently reading Kitchen Confidential by Anthony Bourdain, which is a fantastic book. He’s an amazing writer, and I will probably pick up his other books as well. Daniel Marriott provides five tips for writing like Anthony Bourdain, which include:
Start with a bang – grab the reader’s attention from the first sentence.
Speak in your own voice, and write how you feel.
Keep it simple (again!) and do not overcomplicate things.
Say what you feel, and show your passion.
Give readers something to digest – teach and share knowledge.
Need help with writing articles, blog posts, case studies, white papers or website content? Let me know – email@example.com.
Full disclosure – I prefer writing to tell. I tell my clients’ stories through articles, blog posts, case studies, and web content. I like leading the reader through a story about what a company is doing to help their clients, or describing the best way to achieve a certain goal.
However, it’s important to know how to write to sell – yourself, your company, your products and services, your specific solutions, etc. So, how do you sell with your writing?
Focus on benefits over features
Too many people focus on the features of a product of a service, and overlook the benefits. People buy based on how the product or service will benefit them. They don’t really care about its characteristics – they care about how it solves a problem.
What’s the difference between features and benefits?
Features describe what a product is or has (e.g., This device has three ports).
Benefits describe what the product does and how the user will gain as a result (e.g., This device enables users to connect three devices for greater efficiency).
When describing a product, list a benefit of every feature:
Use the most important benefit as the main heading, and support it with the copy.
Include the next 3-5 most important benefits in your copy.
Use a motivating sequence
When writing copy to sell, use a motivating sequence that pulls the reader in and gets them to buy or contact you to learn more.
Get attention. Use the headline to focus on the strongest benefit. Include visuals to attract attention as well.
Show a need. Show the reader why they need your product using the headline and supporting copy.
Satisfy the need. Position your product as the solution to the need.
Offer proof. Prove your product can do what you say it can do – discuss the benefits, use testimonials, compare your product to the competitors, cite evidence, show reliability of your company, etc.
Ask for action. Tell the reader what to do next – send in a coupon, visit your website, email their order, etc. Give an incentive to respond now.
Create a unique selling proposition
To get people to buy, you must show how your product has a major benefit not offered by your competitors. This is your unique selling proposition.
How do you do that?
Make sure your headline offers a benefit.
Differentiate your product from similar products.
Ensure that the differentiator matters to the reader.
Do you need help with writing to tell or sell? Let me know – firstname.lastname@example.org.
Whether you’re a novice copywriter or content writer, or have years of experience in the field, you should prepare before doing any writing. Writing by the seat of your pants – without preparation and research – might work in some cases, but it’s not a recipe for success. You’ll often miss the mark with the client, and will have to write the draft again, possibly from scratch. If you totally miss the mark, you might annoy or lose the client, which is not a way to run your writing business.
Follow these four steps when preparing for a copywriting project (you can apply these tips for content writing as well):
Get the client’s previously published material on the product.
Ask the client for material before attending any briefings or writing any copy.
Check out the client’s website for published materials.
Ask the client questions about the product.
What are its features and benefits?
What does the client consider most important about the product?
What competitors’ products exist, and what are their features and benefits?
What are the product’s applications?
What typical problems does it solve? What about secondary problems?
Ask the client questions about the audience.
Who uses the product?
Why do they use it?
What are their main concerns?
What do you know about their persona?
Identify the objective of the copy.
Build brand recognition?
Support marketing efforts?
Once you’ve collected this key information, you can start writing your copy. Ideally, the client will provide a brief that includes this information, but you should ask for at least this much before writing your first words.
Need help with writing content? Let me know – email@example.com.
One key goal of writing is to communicate with the reader. You might want to discuss an important topic, sell your product or service, talk about your company, describe strategies for reducing costs, or some other purpose. Whatever your goal, it is important to write clear copy that the reader will understand.
Follow these 10 strategies for writing clear copy:
Put the reader first. Address the reader directly (e.g., You will find…). When writing the copy, ask yourself:
Will the reader understand what is written?
Does the reader know the terminology?
Does the copy say something new or useful?
Would the copy persuade the reader to do something?
Organize your selling points. Write all key points in order, and order them in the copy in a logical order. The headline should state the main selling proposition. The first paragraph or two should expand on the main point. Secondary points should follow under subsequent subheads.
Break content into shorter sections. Cover each main point in its own section. Use numbered points if sections contain ordered content. Use bullets if order is not an issue. Break each main section up with subheads. Keep paragraphs short.
Use short sentences. Try to keep sentences under 15 words. Break long sentences into two or more sentences. Use punctuation (dashes, ellipses, etc.) to break up sentences. Vary sentence length to create interest.
Use simple words. Avoid long and complicated words. Simpler words will help to get your point across more effectively. avoid technical jargon unless most readers will understand the terminology or it precisely communicates your meaning.
Be concise. Remove unnecessary words (e.g., that, in order to), redundancies (e.g., small and tiny), run-on sentences, wordy phrases, unnecessary adjectives (e.g., very, really), and passive voice.
Be specific. Include and describe facts and information. Avoid vague copy.
Get to the point. Start talking about the key points in the opening paragraph. Sell from the first line of copy.
Write in a friendly, conversational style. Write the way you talk – use a conversational tone. Imagine yourself speaking to the reader. Use pronouns (e.g., I/we, you, they). Use colloquial expressions and contractions.
Avoid sexist language. Use plurals (they) instead of he / she. When using he / she, alternate the use of he and she, or write “he or she”. Rewrite copy to avoid reference to gender. Create an imaginary person to set the gender. Replace sexist terms.
Do you have your own suggestions on writing clear copy? Need help with writing clear copy? Let me know – firstname.lastname@example.org.
The first thing that the reader sees when they come across your blog post, article, press release, case study or other marketing content is the headline. The headline is more than the title of your content – it has a job to do. Actually, a headline has four functions:
Grab the reader’s attention – if they’re not interested in the headline, they won’t read the rest of the content
Select the audience – you want to appeal to people you want to reach, and screen out people you don’t
Deliver a complete message – make a complete statement, including a selling promise
Draw the reader into the body copy
Types of headlines
You can write headlines in a nearly infinite number of ways. Most headlines can be classified under the following eight categories:
Direct headline – state your selling proposition directly
Indirect headline – make your point in a roundabout way, arousing curiosity and raising questions answered in the body copy
News headline – provide news about a product or service, such as the release of a new product, improvement in an existing product or a new application
How-to headline – show how to do something, and promise good information, sound advice and solutions
Question headline – ask something that the reader wants answered
Command headline – tell the reader what to do
Reason-why headline – list what will happen or what the reader will learn
Testimonial headline – relate what a customer experienced and how they are satisfied with your business
Formula for writing headlines
When writing a headline, consider using the four Us:
Urgent – give the reader a reason to act now
Unique – say something new or in a different way
Ultra-specific – tease the reader with a mystery
Useful – offer a benefit
Eight ways to create engaging article titles
Esther Ilori from Craft Your Content wrote a great post on eight ways to create great article titles that will engage your audience. She suggests doing one of the following:
Highlight a solution to a problem
Employ the AIDA (attention, interest, desire, action) method