Starting out as a Copywriter

Photo on Flickr by itselea

It seems such an easy job that the world and his wife could do it with one hand tied behind their back (not their writing hand, obviously) – copywriting!

How can you become a copywriter? If you have always wanted to have a go, then here are some of the steps that have got me here today.

Read. Yes, I know you want to write, but every good writer is also a reader. Find out all you can on the subject and keep reading. There is some really great information out there and not all of it is paid for. If you want to learn to write, then keep reading.

Write. Now, we’re getting to it – you have to write. What can you write about? The easiest way to start is to begin with a free blog. Pick a subject that you are reasonably knowledgeable about and set up a blog through Blogger or WordPress. If it is just for you, then it doesn’t matter too much about a domain name, but if you want to make money with it later, then you will have to buy a relevant domain name at some point. These free blogs offer some great themes which you can customise to your own design. You can use them to upload photos and videos too.

Bookmark some websites that you think are really helpful and keep going back to them. There are places that you can publish for free like Suite101 and Hubpages. These can be useful to form the basis of an online portfolio. A portfolio is a body of work that you can show a potential employer, and it is important to build up clips or articles so that you can prove that you can write. Don’t expect to make a lot of money with these two websites but they are great for teaching you the basics of Search Engine Optimisation or SEO.

You might like to read some writing magazines. These are really helpful with lots of ideas for how to get started in writing. One of the first ways they suggest is by writing a readers’ letter to those very magazines! Look for those that are available in your country. Some are available online.

The best way to get confident in your writing is to join a local writing class. Some are run from libraries, and some from colleges, but they are a great way to meet other writers and get some feedback on your writing. Your tutor will provide you with subjects to write on and if it is a general class, you will get to try out lots of different writing. Find out what kinds of writing you really enjoy and pursue it.

As your confidence grows, so might your wish to earn some money from this new-found skill. You can find job boards, search Google for jobs or approach potential employers directly. This all depends on the kind of writing that you want to be doing. Always be comfortable with the rate you are being paid – don’t accept work for free. You can try reviews for your local press or write letters to your favourite magazines. Start small, keep going and keep learning.

Photo Link: Photo on Flickr by itselea

 

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Should Your E-Commerce Website have a Membership?

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It’s a difficult one. On the one hand you want to collect email addresses for a mailing list (always giving your customer an opt-out clause) allowing you to send special offers, promotions etc. However there is evidence to suggest that the more screens that you send your customers to the less likely it is that they will buy. How often have you been frustrated by a retail website that insists on your registering with it even before they will check the stock for you?

At the most extreme case, one catalogue website insisted that they had the item in stock all the way to the checkout at which point it refused to process the sale because the item was out of stock in that particular colour. In itself that was annoying: I had registered purely to buy the item in question. However the icing on the cake was when the bills arrived! I had three or four bills, each announcing that I owed them precisely nothing! What a waste of paper! It has so put me off the website that I am most likely never to buy anything from them ever. However I remain a registered customer. At least I could unsubscribe from the emails.

This experience has put me off registering for websites and I am far more likely to buy from a website that allows me to buy as a ‘guest’ rather than a member. The majority of people have not had my bad experiences, though and if it is the only way that your customers can receive your goods or services then of course they are going to join.

You still need to examine your landing copy carefully and monitor the statistics from your website. If the landing page is not successfully converting visitors at a high enough level then you might need to tweak it so that it works more successfully. The thing to note is that you are unlikely to get it right straight away. The important thing is not to give up.

Some websites split test. They set up two landing pages and send traffic to each. They then monitor the results and go with the more successful page. If this is important to you, then this is a route that you may want to take.

It is not just the ad that is important, but the page on which the ad directs the customer. Make sure that the E-commerce side is simple for a user to navigate – a shopping basket which is visible and shows the contents, a list of items in the shopping basket and a big ‘Checkout’ button all help your customer to buy easily from you. Make postage and packing charges clear and transparent. Make sure that your customer can get all the information they need from the first page and ensure that any product photos are not only clear and easy to see, but include an enlarge option and even a 360° view if you are feeling extra techie.

Collect reviews from your customers, family and friends, find out what works and implement it – these are the key ingredients for a successful E-commerce website.

 

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Do You Need a Mobile Website?

Samsung i900 OMNIA Smartphone on Creative Commons by Serv

The definition of a mobile website is one that can be viewed successfully by a mobile phone. Information or retail websites can increase their success by optimising for both Apple and Android mobile phones.

The use of mobile phones to surf the internet and look for information continues to increase and business websites need to update their websites in order to ensure that they do not lose customers to websites that are ahead of the curve and have already ensured that they look good on a smaller screen.

If you have a WordPress blog, then you can find a variety of plug-ins that will do the job for you. Some are as simple as installing the plug-in and it will automatically detect what kind of browser is viewing your website and adjust the image accordingly. If you are looking for something a little more customised, then some of the plug-ins come with the ability to choose your colours so that they will link to your usual website look.

It is even more important for e-commerce websites to ensure that they can be viewed by a mobile phone. The main use of a phone is to compare prices of products and your cheaper price may ensure that you get that sale. If, however, your product pictures are too small or your website too intricate to navigate then the customer is going to go elsewhere.

The features of a good mobile website include:

  • Clear easy to read font which will be big enough to read without squinting at a smaller screen
  • Large product pictures and easy to find pricing
  • Search facility
  • Back or Home button
  • Simple structure which enables the customer to navigate the website easily
  • As few clicks as possible to actually buy the product

If your website is designed by a web designer, then ask them to design you a mobile version of the website. Some programmes will automatically recognise that the browser is a mobile phone while others require that the visitor select the right version of the website. Make sure that your website is optimised for both Android phones and the iPhone. You might also want to consider how your website will look on a tablet computer as these are becoming more popular and create different ways of viewing websites.

Putting some thought into how users view your website can help to increase your traffic and convert visitors that are already finding your website. Catering for a wide range of browser traffic can only bring good results for your business.

Photo Link: Photo on Creative Commons by Serv

 

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Form Alliances with Fellow Small Businesses

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For small businesses, it can be difficult to have the skills to do all that your client may want you to. Your client may be looking for a web designer who also has graphic design skills, or they may look for someone who can design mobile apps as well as designing an e-commerce website.

You might not have the skills necessary to complete all the work, but do you know someone who does?

Teaming up with other small businesses can be a way to compete with bigger companies who can afford to have people specialising in different aspects of website work in-house. You both gain from the business and the client can have everything that they need for their website to work. You can have people who you go to for web design, mobile app design, graphic design, copywriting, in fact anything that you think may be required by future clients. The small companies that you form alliances with may also be able to reciprocate and send business your way too.

How do you find companies that you will be able to work with?

Business forums can be a good way to find business partners. Joining forums can be a good idea to raise the profile of your company and enable local people to find you, but it can be a place where all kinds of business people gather to answer questions posted and chat about business issues. You can normally get a good idea of what kind of person someone is by their replies. Many business forums allow private messages or pm so you can open a conversation with someone and find out their rates. It is best if their rates fit in with yours so that there is not too big a discrepancy.

You may also meet people when you contact companies to advertise your services. As you get to know people and work with them, you can get a good idea of whether or not you would work well together and whether you would recommend this company. This should encourage you to always produce your best work, as you never know who might recommend your company.

Business networking meetings can help you to meet people that you might be able to work with. It is preferable to know the person that you are recommending and that means spending time with them and getting to know how they work.

If you are a business owner, and particularly if you offer a service, then you cannot just wait for the opportunities to come to you. Mingle and meet people; you may never know when your next job is going to come along, but you will be in the best possible position to meet all of your clients’ needs if you can form some friendly networks with business people that you trust and that you know you can whole-heartedly recommend.

 

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Taking Gender into Account when Marketing

Just a short post today to point you to an interesting article that I read today at About: Marketing.com which is run by Laura Lake. Laura makes some interesting points about the differences in the ways that men and women use the internet.

She suggests that these differences should have an impact on the way you market your business. Effective marketing is about narrowing down your target market and aiming your sales message directly at it. Laura is suggesting that gender should also be taken into account.

What do you think? Do the differences between men and women indicate that their gender should be taken into account when planning marketing campaigns?

Is this something that you already do? Let me know in the comments below.

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Regular Blogging Can Make a Difference

 

Photo on Flickr by lumaxart

OK, time to get back to a regular service after all that chocolatey goodness!

 

When you start a blog, you post a few times and sit back and wait for the visitors to come.

You can wait a very long time.

Bringing organic traffic to your blog without using backlinks or article submission websites can prove very frustrating. The golden grail of getting to the top of Google can prove insurmountable for some people. I have tripled the traffic to this blog using one simple strategy which I will share in a minute.

First of all, check that your website has a sitemap and that you have submitted it to Google. This ensures that your website will be indexed more quickly. If you have a WordPress website, then you can use a plug-in to create your sitemap. Submitting it to Google involves signing up for a Google account and posting a bit of code on one of your webpages. This enables Google to check that your website is genuine and being maintained by a real person.

You are also best to have a privacy policy if you have a comments section or intend to run a mailing list. If you intend to monetise your blog with Adsense, then you definitely need a privacy policy. You can find lots of examples of privacy policies out there on the internet if you search for them.

Your website is now well set up: you have a sitemap and Google knows you are there. You have a privacy policy which ensures that visitors to your site know that you are not going to run offer and sell their email details to the first company that asks.

Now for my strategy:

I decided that I would start to blog regularly.

For me that was three times a week.

That’s it. Simple, isn’t it? I taught myself to schedule posts and try to write them in advance. I scour business forums and faqs for ideas for posts and I have managed to keep it going (with occasional hiccups) thus far. It is working. Choosing to blog so regularly is bringing traffic to my website and I am pretty pleased with it.

What about you? Would you like more traffic to your website? Do you think you need to blog more regularly?

How often you choose to blog is entirely up to you. Some people prefer to blog five times a week, others every day. Some people prefer to blog once a week. The more often that content is added to a website, the more Google will like it. However as long as content is added regularly then visitors will increase.

Of course, article submissions, forum and blog comments and backlinks all help too. But it has amazed me how such a simple strategy as making a resolve to blog regularly and consistently could bring such results.

Photo Credit: Photo on Flickr by Lumaxart.com

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The Chocolate Tasting Club


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I know we usually stick to business articles here at The Creative Writer but having recently become an affiliate at The Chocolate Tasting Club,  I just had to let you know about their lastest deal as it’s nearly Easter.

So, put your feet up, relax and allow a smooth velvety chocolate to slowly melt in your mouth while you read this. You can click on ‘Join Now’ on the sidebar or use the banner above this article.

‘Each month we create a brand new selection of chocolates including cutting edge, new recipes and timeless classics alike – all made with passion, flair using only the best ingredients and no artificial colours. Our members get to discover and taste chocolates across the full spectrum, from velvety pralines and melt-away gianduja, to silky cream ganache and so many more.

Every selection comes with a full menu and detailed tasting notes, as well as a scorecard so you can have fun telling us exactly what you thought of each chocolate – although that’s entirely optional! And the best thing is you can TRY the No.1 Introductory Collection for just £7.95 including delivery SAVING £10 (usual price £17.95), and there is absolutely NO obligation to take further selections.’

To join The Chocolate Tasting Club, simply click on the link and wait with anticipation. Mmmm.

 

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What to include in your email newsletter


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Emailing a Regular Newsletter is Good for Your Business
Keyboard Keys with Light on Creative Commons by Ysangkok

A previous article on this website gave reasons why you should have a business  newsletter. Here are some more ideas of what to include when writing your newsletter.

 

Collecting an email list is a great idea from a business point of view. Allowing people to opt in means that you are gathering a list of people who are expressing an interest in you and what you do which can only be good for your business.

Simple Opt-In is Best

Make it easy for potential customers to opt in to your newsletter: include a big opt-in at the side of your blog posts. You can offer free giveaway e-books to encourage subscribers, or offer email courses. Do include some form of validation to ensure that the sign-up is genuine. This can include ‘Captcha’ code which asks the person subscribing to type in a code. This is in order to exclude automatic web crawler programs. Other forms of checks can include your email program asking the subscriber to click on an emailed link to complete their subscription.

There are some great email programs out there such as mailchimp and feedburner. This article is more about the kinds of things that you can include on your email newsletter.

Items to Include in Your Subscription Newsletter

The idea of the newsletter is to keep your business to the forefront of your customers’ minds. Use your logo at the head of the letter and keep it easy to read in an email window. Use a clear font which is a reasonable size. You can post a short contents section with links at the beginning. Include any special offers fairly quickly. You can offer vouchers to print off or special coupon codes which can be used at checkout. You want to encourage people to visit the website and buy.

Next include some hints and tips. It can be a brief article about some aspect of your business – something that adds content value to your newsletter. You can talk about new products coming soon and perhaps mention an exclusive introductory offer for customers receiving your newsletter. Do include low resolution photos which are clear and self-explanatory. No customer will wait forever for a newsletter to load and they may get impatient if it is blocking the rest of their email, but pictures can add extra interest as well as demonstrating the product.

Encourage Feedback on Your Service

Finally, you can encourage customer feedback by posting a survey and asking for client recommendations for your website. Including client recommendations on your site helps to validate the site and offers encouragement to other potential customers browsing.

You should always include an opt-out clause on any newsletter and your privacy policy on your website should clearly state what you do with the email addresses that you collect. The email programme that you choose to use will offer you more information on how these programmes work and how you should use them. You should never use them to spam your customers. Nothing is more likely to put them off your business.

Photo Link: Photo on Creative Commons by Ysangkok

 

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SEO Basics – Using Backlinks

 

3D Full Spectrum Unity Holding Hands Concept by thegoldguys

When you are trying to promote your business blog or your website there are several things that you can do in order to increase the search engine optimisation or SEO. You can add content to your blog regularly and research and aim for keyword phrases. You can also pay attention to writing good headlines, ensuring that your chosen keywords are used.

 

Keywords and content are only one of the ways in which Google assesses what a website is all about. The search engine also looks for backlinks from external websites that are similar in content in order to verify that the information is useful and in context.

There are different ways to build backlinks to your website. It should be noted that over time, organic or natural backlinks should occur where other people find your website and link to it because of the great content. If you have a new website and want to bring it to the attention of other people then there are other ways to go about it.

Comments on Forums and Blogs

Visiting other forums and blogs and commenting on other people’s posts is a time-honoured way to get links to your website. Choose popular blogs with plenty of comments and check that they are relevant to your website. When you comment, leave a link to your previous post. Make sure that you add value to the blog when you comment. Blog owners will delete blog comments if they are obviously spam. Getting involved in forums is a great way to meet people in a similar field to yourself. You can either join a general business forum or a more specialised forum for your line of work. You can build a profile and get involved in the discussions. Not all forums allow links in the signatures of free members, but it is worth a free membership to see if you want to get further involved.

Flickr

I find that using photos from Flickr is also a way to bring links in. I often use photos from Flickr that have been labelled for reuse. There is a previous blog post about this. I always leave a comment on the photo owner’s page to let them know that I have used the photo and where they can view it. I have not had anyone ask me to take them down, but I have had traffic from Flickr.

Internal Links

Building internal links to other articles also helps convince Google that the website is real. When you write a post, you can include links to other articles that you have written, if they relate to the material. This enables you to highlight old posts which disappear from view as the website gets older and also can save you writing the same information over and over again.

Submitting Articles

Finally people use article submission websites to help to build back links. These websites have been knocked back recently in the Google algorithm change but they will come back because they are such a useful tool. There will be further information on them in another post.

These are some of the ways in which search engines categorise your website. Getting it right will help to drive traffic to your website from outside which can help to bring it up the pages of a search. Enabling potential customers to find your website can only have a beneficial effect on your business.

Photo Credit: Found on Creative Commons by thegoldguys

 

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