Category: writing

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

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

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

Asking questions before writing, dealing with procrastination, books for writers, and more

Photo by Suzy Hazelwood on Pexels.com

Welcome to the first Monday in February. I hope you’re doing well… but if you’re not, I hope things get better. Keep going.

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

Questions to ask clients before writing

Many clients don’t provide comprehensive briefs for writing projects. Some will provide a topic or title idea and some keywords to include, and that’s about it. As a writer, you need to get as much information as possible before writing a single word. This will help you get as close as possible to what the client wants, and will save you time in rewriting. You could ask a lot of questions, but here are a few to get you started:

  • Who is the audience for this content? What do they value, and what problems are they trying to solve?
  • What is the goal of the content? Are you trying to sell, educate, inform, convince, etc.?
  • What is the desired length for the content? You don’t want to write 2,000 words when they only need 500.
  • What sources are required, and how many sources do you need?
  • What tone is required for the content? Ask for examples of tone they want, and tone they don’t want.

Dealing with procrastination

If you’re a writer – or a human being – you have had to deal with procrastination at some point in your life. It often occurs when you’re staring at a blank page and dealing with a deadline, and you’d rather do anything else except writing. Patricia Allen at Craft Your Content wrote a blog post on the art of avoiding procrastination.

Here’s a great quote: If you fail to plan, you plan to fail. Rather than avoiding the task completely, organize your time into blocks. This will give you a clear plan to follow. Decide in advance what blocks of time you will allocate each week to family, entertainment, exercise, hobbies, and work. Your priorities will determine the order of these blocks of time, but making time for them all is the essential balance required. 

Books for writers

If you’re a writer, then you should also be a reader, and that includes books on writing. Farrah Daniel at The Write Life put together a list of the best books on writing. I know that “best” is subjective, but I own some of these books (including On Writing by Stephen King and Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott) and have to agree with them being on the list. Borrow them from the library or support your local used bookstore.

Virtual conferences for writers

Since we cannot go to physical events at the moment, we can attend virtual events to network with others, learn more about our craft, and have interesting experiences. Make a Living Writing put together a list of virtual conferences and events for writers. It’s worth checking out.

Creating a marketing style guide

Whether you are a one-person show or run a small business, you should create some rules around your marketing copy. Marketing style guides don’t have to be complicated. Nathan Collier at Groove published their marketing style guide, and it’s exactly what you need – all the basics on being consistent when publishing online. It covers voice and tone, headings and subheadings, punctuation, and a lot more

How to get better every day

Here’s a quote from James Clear:

“Improvement is a battle that must be fought anew each day. Your next workout doesn’t care how strong your last one was. Your next essay doesn’t care how popular your last one was. Your next investment doesn’t care how smart your last one was. Your best effort, again.”

What I wrote

Here’s an article I wrote for Business.com12 Best Ways to Use Business Texting.

What I read

Tim Ferriss is one of my favourite authors. In addition to his books, I enjoy reading his weekly blog posts and listening to his podcasts. He wrote an eye-opening blog post called 11 Reasons Not to Become Famous. I don’t expect to ever become famous, not to his level anyway. And given what I’ve read, I hope I never do.

What I watched

I watched this YouTube video on Kurt Vonnegut’s rules for writing a short story. As someone who wants to write stories, I was definitely interested. One great piece of advice: Write to please just one person.

What I listened to

I enjoy listening to The Pen Addict podcast. Mike Hurley and Brad Dowdy talk all things related to fountain pens, other types of pens, stationery, and things related to writing. If you’re into pens at all, or want to learn more about them, make sure to 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

Using grammatical metaphors, creating an antilibrary, extracting content from subject matter experts, and more

Photo by Element5 Digital on Pexels.com

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

Using grammatical metaphors to say more with less

I’m a fan of being efficient with writing. Keep your writing tight (unless you get paid by the word). Vinh To for The Conversation published a post on using grammatical metaphors to say more with less. Grammatical metaphors involve expressing one type of grammatical form (e.g., verbs) in another form (e.g., nouns). Nominalization involves turning verbs, adverbs, and other grammatical forms into nouns. It offers a number of key benefits, including:

  • Shortening sentences.
  • Clearly showing how one thing causes another
  • Connecting ideas and structuring text
  • Formalizing the tone of your writing

Here is one example of using nominalization to shorten text:

  • Before: When humans cut down forests, land becomes exposed and is easily washed away by heavy rain. 
  • After: Deforestation causes soil erosion.

Creating an antilibrary

I enjoy buying and eventually reading books. I keep all the books I’ve read in a library, and what I haven’t read yet is organized in piles next to my bed – I can’t yet bear shelving books I haven’t read yet. However, there is a lot to be said about doing just that. Anne-Laure Le Cunff at Ness Labs wrote an article about building an antilibrary, which is a collection of unread books. It’s not a new concept, as many learned people have built antilibraries over the years. The goal is often to collect books on topics you want to learn about, and having those books at the ready will make it easier to do so. Some might argue that the Internet contains all known information, but there is something to be said about being able to reach out and actually read a book on something you want to learn about.

If you’re a freelance writer, consider accumulating an antilibrary of books on writing, marketing, and topics in your niche. When you want to do research or get a different perspective on writing, you can just reach out for one of your unread books.

Quote: When an author mentions another book, check the exact reference and make a note of it. By doing so, you will have a list of all the relevant sources for a book when you are done reading it. Then, research this constellation of books. It is unlikely all the sources on the list will seem interesting to you. Sometimes, only a short passage of the source was relevant to the book you just read. But other times, you will discover a book that genuinely piques your curiosity. Add this book to your antilibrary.

Extracting content from subject matter experts

Have you ever interviewed a subject matter expert who is not the greatest at sharing their knowledge with you in a way that makes sense? For various reasons, it can be difficult to do so. I know I’ve been challenged to get answers out of experts when deadlines are looming. Mindy Zissman at MarketingProfs wrote an article about six ways to extract content from subject matter experts. Her tips include:

  • Booking an Abstract Day (a scheduled date and time to ask questions and get content ideas)
  • Reuse one of their presentations
  • Jump on one of their scheduled client calls
  • Do background research before talking to the expert
  • Ask the expert to record their answers
  • Do a writing workshop lunch and learn

Creating a landing page

There is a lot of information on landing pages to be found online. For those who don’t know, a landing page is a page on your website (or on its own) where you offer something interesting and valuable (e.g., white paper, ebook, newsletter) to visitors in exchange for their email address. CJ Chilvers wrote an interesting post on lessons learned about writing landing pages, which are described briefly below:

  • Remember the basics of what the landing page is about
  • Focus on benefits over features
  • Think in 5 second intervals of what is being read
  • Focus on one action you want from the visitor
  • Everything is a trade-off – something you add / leave out will drive visitors away
  • Every page on your website is a landing page
  • Focus on customers first
  • Test everything
  • Be diplomatic with other members of your team

Creating a marketing plan for your small business

A marketing plan will help you to know more about your customers and how to reach them so they business with you. Matt Gladstone at Flocksy wrote a great article on marketing plan tips for small businesses. He suggested the following five steps for creating your own marketing plan:

  • Create and focus on your goals and objectives
  • Define your target audience
  • Do your research
  • Effectively and efficiently execute your plan
  • Plan a timeline and budget

Check out my blog posts on creating a marketing plan:

Thoughts on writing

Morgan Housel, a partner at Collaborative Fund, wrote a few of his thoughts on writing. This one stood out to me:

Good ideas are easy to write, bad ideas are hard. Difficulty is a quality signal, and writer’s block usually indicates more about your ideas than your writing.

What I wrote

Here’s an article I wrote for Digital Privacy News: Saskatchewan Law Against Domestic Violence Raises Privacy Concerns.

What I read

Here’s a great quote I read from Barbara Tuchman (source: The Book, Bulletin of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, Vol. 34, No. 2 (Nov. 1980)) on the power of books:

“Books are the carriers of civilization. Without books, history is silent, literature dumb, science crippled, thought and speculation at a standstill. Without books, the development of civilization would have been impossible. They are engines of change (as the poet said), windows on the world and lighthouses erected in the sea of time. They are companions, teachers, magicians, bankers of the treasures of the mind. Books are humanity in print.”

What I watched

I’ve just finished watching the first season of Neil Gaiman’s American Gods. I read the book (and recommend it) many years ago, so I was pleasantly surprised by how much I did not remember about the story. I was able to enjoy it with fresh eyes, and I’m looking forward to watching season 2. And with season 3 here, I can catch up and watch it in “real time” instead of binging.

What I listened to

I watched this short clip of an interview between Polina Marinova Pompliano and James Clear on how to optimize your content diet.


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

Money habits for freelance writers, practicing every day, how to show value, and more

Photo by Skitterphoto on Pexels.com

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

Money habits for freelance writers

Alexis Grant with The Write Life published an article on money habits that freelance writers should adopt this year. It can be difficult to manage and organize your finances, so this advice should help. Here are some of Alexis’ tips:

  1. Separate your personal and business finances (I throw it all into a box… sort of kidding)
  2. Pay yourself regularly (I try, I try)
  3. Be smart about invoicing (my way is old school Word and Excel, but it works for me)
  4. Track expenses diligently (I learned this the hard way after my first tax return)
  5. Review profit and loss each month (my expenses are pretty fixed, so when I make less or more I know what’s going on)
  6. Create a monthly checklist

Practice to get better, not to get perfect

Austin Kleon wrote a blog post called 100-Day Practice and Suck Less Challenge. The point of practice should be to get better, not necessarily to become perfect. You’re not competing against anyone but yourself. The whole point is to improve yourself and your skills, and feel good about doing it.

How to show your value

Wes Kao wrote an article on how to instantly show your value of your product. Some of these strategies can be applied to showing clients the value of your writing, editing or other services as well. You can demonstrate your value by:

  • Using before and after
  • Showing, not telling
  • Not worrying about your grammar (that would be an issue for a writer)
  • Increasing desire rather than just decreasing fiction
  • Using a be / have / do framework
  • Aiming for “no brainer” status
  • Doing what makes their “eyes light up”

How to write a freelance proposal

Evan Jensen from the Make a Living Writing blog published an article on how to write a freelance proposal. Most writers will have to pitch to get work, or write a cold email to get clients – it’s how I find new clients as well. This article has some great advice on what your proposal should include.

Here’s a great quote:

When a prospect comes to you, this is going to sound terrifying, you try and talk them out of hiring you. You do that by having the “Why conversation,” which has three steps. Here’s what you need to ask:

  • Why do you need this project? What’s the purpose? Basically, you have them convince you they need this content to help them achieve a goal.
  • What’s the timeline? Why not put this off another month, another year? Why is this urgent? You’re looking for projects that are urgent. The tighter the timeline and risk involved if the client doesn’t get this project done, the more you can charge.
  • Why do you want to hire me? List off all the people who undercut you, charge less than you, including writers on fiverr and Upwork. If you believe what you do is good, now is the best time to raise those pricing objections, and they’ll see that you’re worth it. Once you get these questions answered, prepare your proposal and include their answers verbatim.

Setting goals

Elizabeth Grace Saunders at Fast Company published an article on setting goals for 2021. It is understandably difficult to set a goal when a lot of other things are going on around you and your mind is otherwise occupied. She talks about different types of goals to set and their purpose, including:

  • Schedule goals – common tasks that will repeat
  • Process goals – standardized results for achieving specific results
  • Action goals – doing what you say you want to do
  • Stretch goals – those extra goals to make life just a bit better

Five types of editing

I’ve been a copy editor for more than 25 years, and I know quite a bit about different types of editing. Clients tend to confuse the different terms and will ask for copy editing when they really want a structural edit. Sola Kihinde with Craft Your Content write a blog post about five types of editing for creating top quality content (you should also check out the Editors’ Association for their definitions of editing). The five types of editing discussed include:

  • Developmental editing – high-level view of the document
  • Content editing (also known as substantive editing) – reviewing content by section and paragraph
  • Line editing (also known as stylistic editing) – focuses on sentences and word usage
  • Copy editing – checking spelling, grammar, punctuation, capitalization, etc.
  • Proofreading – checking the final proof for errors

What I wrote

Here’s an article I wrote for ITPro.comHow to become a data scientist.

What I read

Late in 2020, I read The Midnight Library by Matt Haig. I’ve read several of his books, so I was eager to read his newest book. This book entertained and angered me at the same time, which is probably the mark of a good book. The writing, story and characters were great. What angered me was the premise. I’m not spoiling anything, as the description is on the back cover – the main character gets to see what she could have done differently in life to deal with her regrets, and find a life that makes her happy. Don’t we all wish we could have a do over?

What I watched

I finished watching the first (and only?) season of The Queen’s Gambit. The story behind how this show finally made it to air is pretty fascinating, and it’s an interesting show.

I also watched the third (and final?) season of Ozark. It’s just so good – so much lying and intrigue. But it looks like it’s not coming back for season 4 – what a shame.

What I listened to

I listened to a great interview with Tim Ferriss on his own podcast, where Guy Raz interviewed him on how he built what he has today. I knew some of what he discussed, but it was fascinating to learn about how he wrote his books and built his podcast.


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

Making time to do your best work, becoming a content machine, writing the best call to action, and more

Photo by Kevin Menajang on Pexels.com

Welcome to another Monday. If you’ve been a regular reader, you might have noticed a change in what and when I’m writing. I’ve decided to publish just on Mondays instead of twice a week. I might publish on the occasional Thursday if I write something that I want to stand out. Otherwise, it will be once a week. This will let me provide more information in each blog post. I’ve also changed the format a bit so you can learn more about what I like. Nothing is set in stone, but let’s see how this goes.

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

Make time to do your best work

Do Lectures published an article on seven ways to make time to do your best work. Strategies include:

  • Saying no to things that take time away from what you want to do
  • Committing all of your attention to your work
  • Mastering the ability to be patient
  • Finding something that you love doing
  • Getting rid of your ego
  • Identifying your purpose
  • Going for big wins

Here’s a great quote: “To change that you will have to learn how to say ‘No’ to things. Saying ‘No’ will allow you to have more time to do things well. You can’t do everything to the best of your talent. But you can do a few things to your highest ability.”

Becoming a content machine

Luk Smeyers from The Visible Authority published an article on becoming a content machine in just one day per week. He takes a three-step approach to generating and promoting his content. They include:

  1. Identify your content inspiration sources. 
  2. Create a content hub that will centralize all your content efforts.
  3. Set up a system for promoting your content.

He also tells you four things you can start doing tomorrow – I love instructions that include things you can actually do. Those four things are:

  1. Gather insights about your audience. 
  2. Centralize your content.
  3. Collect and assess the data.
  4. Schedule and automate your content production and distribution.

Writing the best call to action

Ann Handley published an article on writing the best call to action. She gives an example from North Carolina’s Currituck County Economic Development home page. The CTA is different, personal, and effective.

Quote: “The most effective copywriting reflects who you are, not just what you sell.

If you want to learn more about calls to action, read my blog post, Begin at the end: The call to action.

How to tackle the big project

Kate McKean, publisher of the Agents & Books newsletter, wrote an article on how to tackle the big project. Here’s some of what she had to say:

  • Read it all the way through one more time. I really feel it necessary to have a good lay of the land before I start a big project, but admittedly this step takes a lot of time and you might not have that time. Still, a read-through will give you an idea of what the most pressing issues are (soggy middle? unconvincing ending? prologue you need to chop off?) so that you can prioritize. This is especially helpful if you haven’t read it through in a long while. If you did it recently, you might not need to do it again.
  • Don’t do the small stuff first. It might be tempting to do your Find > Replace Joe to Joey, but tbh, do that last. You’ll likely just be editing stuff that will be cut after you do the big stuff, so don’t spin your wheels. 
  • Do the big stuff first. Do the biggest thing first. I know that is daunting and you would rather ease into an edit, but you have to take all the furniture out of the room before you replace the floors. (That metaphor works, right? How many metaphors can we use today!!!!) If you know the ending isn’t working, go in and fix the ending, which may mean fixing the beginning. If you feel like the stakes aren’t high enough, go ratchet up those stakes! When you do the big thing first, the rest feels so easy you’ll glide right through it. Also, the big thing usually ripples throughout the whole manuscript, so there’s no point in going in and changing the tense on a section you may just have to cut anyway.
  • Next do the medium stuff. Do you need to change the tense? First person to third? That’s what I consider medium stuff. It can still be pretty big! But after you have most things in the right places, then you can go in and make changes that affect the global template, so to speak. Again, do these after the big moves, even though it’s tempting to do them first because they’re easier to wrap your brain around.
  • Then do the small stuff. I know this seems obvious, or at least simplistic. But I also know that the overwhelm caused by an impeding huge edit can really cloud one’s judgement. Save the little things for last. Name changes. Checking timelines, weather, dates, consistency. These will feel like a piece of cake after the other two steps, so enjoy that relative ease!

The benefits of a morning writing routine

Naomi Pham from Craft Your Craft wrote an article on six profound benefits of a morning writing routine (and how to build one yourself). I’ve toyed with a morning journal and writing notes in the morning but it has not stuck with me yet. I understand the benefits, and the article lays them out very nicely, including:

  • It frees your mind of clutter
  • It helps you become more self-disciplined
  • It can help with your well-being
  • It enables you to take advantage of your best state of mind
  • It will help you avoid willpower depletion
  • It allows you to enjoy distraction-free writing

Getting ideas onto the page

Kayleigh Moore wrote an article about getting ideas out of your head and onto the page. This is a common problem for many writers, as they get stuck in their head and can’t translate their thoughts into the written word. Or they just don’t know where to start writing. Here is what Kayleigh suggests:

  • Identify your motivation – why do you want to write what’s on your mind?
  • Be OK with sharing something that is not perfect
  • Get over the mentality of “Why bother?”

She also provides some steps on executing the process of putting your thoughts on paper.

What I wrote

Here’s an article I wrote for the November/December 2020 Issue of RHB Magazine2020 Taxation Report: Understanding the inequities in the taxation of multi-residential properties.

What I read

I finished reading Anxious People by Fredrik Backman. He is one of my newer favourite authors whose books I plan to continue adding to my bookshelf. It’s a story about a bank robbery gone wrong, which turns into a hostage situation at an apartment viewing. It’s more than that, of course. But to say more would take away the joy of reading and discovering what happens next.

What I watched

I finally got around to watching the movie Tenet. I’m a fan of Christopher Nolan, and this one messes with your mind. It involves moving backward and forward in time, the past is the future, etc.

I also watched the movie Palm Springs. To say anything more than it involves two people who meet at a wedding would be giving away the crux of the movie. I’ll let you discover that nugget for yourself.

What I listened to

Some of the podcasts I listened to this week:


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

Creating a habits scorecard, tips for a better life, and taking a 31-day challenge

Photo by Samson Katt on Pexels.com

Welcome to the first Monday of 2021. I hope you’re doing well. Here’s a few things I’d like to share with you from The Editor’s Desk.

Creating a Habits Scorecard

James Clear, author of Atomic Habits (currently in the to-read pile next to my bed), published an article (it’s an excerpt from the book) on creating a Habits Scorecard. This exercise will help you to discover what habits you should change. He discusses “pointing and calling” your habits so that you become more conscious of them. The Habits Scorecard enables you to list your habits, and rank them as positive, negative or neutral.

Quote from the article: “As you create your Habits Scorecard, there is no need to change anything at first. The goal is to simply notice what is actually going on. Observe your thoughts and actions without judgment or internal criticism. Don’t blame yourself for your faults. Don’t praise yourself for your successes.”

100 tips for a better life

Conor Barnes of ideopunk wrote an article called 100 Tips for a Better Life. Here’s a few that I liked:

  • Establish clear rules about when to throw out old junk. Once clear rules are established, junk will probably cease to be a problem. This is because any rule would be superior to our implicit rules (“keep this broken stereo for five years in case I learn how to fix it”). 
  • When googling a recipe, precede it with ‘best’. You’ll find better recipes. 
  • Learn keyboard shortcuts. They’re easy to learn and you’ll get tasks done faster and easier. 
  • Done is better than perfect. 
  • Exercise is the most important lifestyle intervention you can do. Even the bare minimum (15 minutes a week) has a huge impact. Start small. 
  • Discipline is superior to motivation. The former can be trained, the latter is fleeting. You won’t be able to accomplish great things if you’re only relying on motivation. 
  • Things that aren’t your fault can still be your responsibility. 
  • Compliment people more. Many people have trouble thinking of themselves as smart, or pretty, or kind, unless told by someone else. You can help them out. 

Taking the 31-day challenge

Austin Kleon created a template to help you follow a 31-day challenge. Basically, you pick something small and you do it every day. I would like to write something in a journal or notebook every day. I write for other people most of the time, so it would be nice to write something for myself.

Google Docs add-ons

I use Google Docs to write articles and blog posts for some clients because that is what they prefer. I’m OK with it, but I still prefer writing in Word – it’s just what I’m used to doing. However, Google Docs does have its advantages, like being able to share and enable comments with others (this can be a disadvantage as well). Farrah Daniel wrote about Google Docs add-ons that can help to make you more efficient with your writing. The ones that look most useful to me include:

  • GDoc SEO Assistant – it generates relevant SEO suggestions and related keywords based on the keywords you provide
  • i should be writing – it allows you to set a timer or word count to motivate you to write
  • OneLook Thesaurus – find synonyms, related words, adjectives, rhymes, and more

Grammar and editing tools

For those of you who need more help with your grammar and spelling, check out these grammar and editing tools from Write Life. Grammarly seems to have a lot of fans. I don’t use any of these tools, but you might like them.

What I wrote

Here’s something I wrote recently for Business.com7 Most Effective Lead Nurturing Strategies.

What I read in 2020

I track what I read in Goodreads and in a notebook; when I’m done reading, I write two pages about the book. According to the Goodreads annual review, I read 36 books in 2020. Here’s a list of some of my favourites (in no particular order):

What I watched

Over the holidays, I watched a lot of TV shows and movies – actually, I always watch TV shows and movies, it’s a thing I do. Here’s a bit of what I enjoyed watching:

  • Ozark (Season 2)
  • Wonder Woman 1984
  • The Mandalorian (Season 2)
  • The Queen’s Gambit (Season 1)
  • Roald Dahl’s The Witches
  • Writing on the Bathroom Wall

What I listened to

I listen to podcasts while I work. Sometimes I’ll select random podcasts when I’m all caught up on my subscribed episodes. One of my recent favourites was the Jerry Seinfeld episode on The Tim Ferriss Show – I’d recommend subscribing just for that episode. My newest podcasts are Build Your Copywriting Business from Filthy Rich Writer and Wait Wait… Don’t Tell Me! from NPR.


Thanks for reading. Feel free to share it with people you know who you think would enjoy it.

David

Six ways to take notes, how to use a semicolon, and creating an effective landing page

Here’s what I read this past week.

Six great ways to take notes

Mai Duy Linh from Craft Your Content wrote about the six best methods of taking notes. I take notes after reading books, doing interviews with clients, and when I want to get some thoughts down after consuming some great content. Everyone has their own way of taking notes so that they are easy to recall for future use. Here are six different ways to take notes:

  1. Structured online method: This is a traditional type of notation and most people are familiar with it. It’s a simple and quick way to take notes.
    1. Write down each topic: Main idea => Subtopic or key concept => Supporting details.
    2. Record information during class or when reading a textbook.
    3. After finishing the class, check the notes; if necessary, write them down.
  2. Cornell method: This method is ideal for revision. Divide the paper into three parts: 
    1. Cues: Write down the main points of the test or questions that may be included in the test. 
    2. Notes: Write all the ideas in a system.
    3. Summary: Abstract the main idea of ​​the whole lesson.
  3. Mind map: This method gives you a way of thinking about the material by gathering main ideas and sub-ideas when writing an essay or reading books. 
    1. Select a central theme, using a drawing or keyword in the middle of the blank paper.
    2. Choose keywords for main ideas and draw them to the central topic with lines or roots.
    3. Split branches for additional ideas.
    4. Check for gaps and links.
  4. Flow notes: This “unstructured” method involves jotting down the most important parts in whatever way makes most sense to you. 
    1. Write the information in your own words.
    2. Use diagrams and images to represent new ideas.
    3. Connect ideas backward, between topics, and with what you already know.
  5. Structured analysis method: Take notes and analyze them at the same time to save time later.
    1. Divide the page into two parts: Notes and Remarks.
    2. Write notes on the left column.
    3. Adding reviews and analysis to the right column to deepen your knowledge.
  6. Bullet journal: This method is effective for recording work and plans. It’s suitable for those learn with visuals with images.
    1. Create a table of contents.
    2. Create a diary for the current month. Fill in deadlines or events you have this month.
    3. Open the next blank page for journaling today. Write the date, jot down day events, notes for yourself, and work you want to accomplish.
    4. At the end of the day, create a diary for tomorrow and move unfinished tasks into it.

How to use a semicolon correctly

Meghan Moravcik Walbert from LifeHacker wrote about how to use a semicolon correctly. Many people misuse punctuation marks, and semicolons are one of the most poorly understood. You can use a semicolon:

  • To connect two independent clauses in one sentence instead of using a period to make two sentences (Frank had pasta for dinner; his no-carb diet is out the window.)
  • To separate items in a list instead of commas (Once the pandemic ends, I am going to eat baguettes near the Eiffel Tower in Paris, France; eat some paella on the boulevard in Madrid, Spain; and have some wood oven pizza in Napoli, Italy.)

Create an effective landing page

Matt Maiale and Julian Shapiro from Demand Curve wrote about how to create a more effective landing page. They provided examples of how to write headlines, add hooks, and speak directly to your audience. The first section of their guide discusses the section above the fold (ATF), which included the headers, subheads, and call-to-action buttons. They focused on three steps:

  1. Identify how users get value from your product
  2. Add a hook to get them to keep reading
  3. Speak directly to customer personas

Need help with your writing? Let me know – contact@davidgargaro.com.

David

Following a checklist when writing articles, blog posts, and other content

Photo by Natasha Fernandez on Pexels.com

I’m the type of writer who usually likes to write first and figure out whether I’ve hit all my requirements later. If I missed a keyword or some key points, I’ll work them in somewhere in my rewrite. It’s partially a symptom of needing to get writing projects done quickly when deadlines are looming.

Having an outline and a writing plan are great for being organized before you write. You want to measure twice and cut once, so to speak. A writing checklist can help on the back end as well. Once your writing is done, you can go through your checklist to make sure you’ve done everything you need to do before sending it to the client or publishing it for yourself.

Here’s a checklist of questions you should ask yourself before you consider the writing done. It will work for most types of content. Your perfect checklist may differ, but you can use this one to get you started.

Checklist when reviewing your article, blog post or other copy / content

  • Does the content fulfill the promise of the headline?
  • Is the content:
    • Interesting?
    • Easy to read?
    • Believable?
    • Persuasive?
    • Specific?
    • Concise?
    • Relevant to the reader?
  • Does the content flow smoothly?
  • Does the content include a call to action?

Do you need help with writing your articles, blog posts, and other content? Let me know – contact@davidgargaro.com.

David