Tag Archives: Copywriting

What to do when your freelance business seems stuck in a rut

Image by rawpixel from Pixabay

Ever felt like your freelance business is stuck in a rut? There seems to be no new work coming in, you don’t seem able to move forward with your work, or find any new clients. Perhaps you have been working for the same clients for some years and it’s feeling stale. You want to move forward as a freelancer, but you can’t see a way through. It’s time to think outside the box.

People in employment can feel stuck too. Perhaps they’ve been passed over for promotion, or they feel that their manager never gives them enough credit for the work they do. Either way, they feel stuck and unappreciated and wonder how to free themselves and feel better.

It’s important to understand that it is possible that your emotions will pass, and that all it’s going to take is a new freelance contact from a client, a new networking situation or even a project at work that has gone really well, but equally when you are feeling bored and struggling to get the work done though lack of interest then you need to take action.

Take stock of your situation

Give yourself some thinking time and some space. Choose a day when you don’t have a lot of deadlines coming up and write down 5 things that are good about your work, and 5 things that frustrate you. Be as specific or broad as you wish. What attracted you to your work in the first place? What has made it seem as though it is going wrong. Take a few days and add to the lists if you need to. See if you can work out where things are going wrong.

Decide to make a small change.

The worst thing to do is to keep on doing what you have aways done and expect the result to be different. Finding a way out is not easy, but it is worth trying to do. If you feel that you are fairly clear on where things have gone wrong, and you have an idea to try, then try it. You have nothing to lose and it may help. Decide to try it for a reasonable length of time and make a date in your diary to assess it and whether it has made any kind of impact on your  freelance work or how you feel. Be prepared: this small change may lead to another small change and another. Make sure that you can assess what difference they make to your business.

Ask for help

This can be difficult to do, but it may be the only option. If you are struggling to see what is going wrong, or what you could do to change things, then you may need some help. If you have a friend who is able to understand what you do, and whose opinion you trust, then it may be as simple as arranging to go for a coffee with them to talk things through. Some forums have places where you can ask questions – look for one for people who do what you do as they are more likely to understand your problems. You may need advice from someone who is further along in their business or who has done things differently.

Be accountable to someone

Find someone who you can be accountable to when it comes to getting work done. It’s a way of making sure you get things done when you work on your own. You could also help them to be accountable to their own business. You can decide to check in with them weekly, monthly, or whenever suits you both.

Find a mentor or coach

It may come to the point when you feel that you need more specialised help – and that it’s time to look for a mentor or a coach. Don’t just jump straight in: get to know someone first. Hang around their groups, do something small with them first and see whether their style fits yours. The coaching has got to be within your budget, but it also has to have similar aims to yours. You can take recommendations, or you might just come across someone through another group. It will need to be someone you trust, if you are going to pay them for their help, and you have to feel that you are getting your money’s worth. See it as money that you are investing in your business and use it wisely.

Be prepared to walk away

In the end, it all comes down to whether you can make peace with your freelance business and get it going again. You need to be able to work out what has gone wrong and what steps you need to take to fix it. If you are unable to find your love for your freelance work, then you need to be prepared to walk away and find something else.

It’s not an easy decision to make, but sometimes it may be the right one. Before making such a decision, talk to everyone that it will affect, and make sure that you have taken all the steps you needed to in order to try to make the business work. Businesses fail all the time, the important thing to do is make sure that your mental health does not go down with it.

Have you got to the point where you have felt stuck in a rut and not known what to do? What was your solution to the problem?

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Freelance Writing – How to Write Great Product Descriptions for a Website

One of the many freelance copywriter jobs available is to write product descriptions for a website.

Writing Tools by Pete O'Shea on Flickr CC
Writing Tools by Pete O’Shea on Flickr CC

This is a description for each product on an e-commerce site which describes the product, gives a potential customer information on the product, often including dimensions and colour choices as well as materials that it is manufactured from. There can be some scope for creative writing as you describe the product to enable the customer to make a buying choice. A product description will be required for each product on the website, so this job could potentially last a long time, especially if more products are added to the website.

The first product description writing job I got was in the early days of my freelancing career. I was required to write descriptions for a sports and workwear clothing company. The descriptions were written in an Excel spreadsheet which was useful to enable me to know if I had used the exact same description before. There were about 800 products to describe, so it was time-consuming and I had a deadline to keep. I managed to make the deadline, but only by getting up early in order to finish the writing. The vendor was pleased and I was glad that I had managed to finish, but it was hard work.

More commonly these days, product descriptions are written straight into a content management system or CMS. The person who hired you will tell you what they want in each field, so you should be given instructions as to what to write. The information can include a product number or SKU, a product name, manufacturer, and a description.

The description is usually what takes the time. Each description should be unique. It’s not enough just to copy and paste the same description over again. This product information is seen as updating information by Google – new content which encourages the search engine to search the website, so rewriting website product descriptions can be helpful to your search results. The descriptions should not match other similar websites so the more unique the content the better.

However customers need to be able to match the information to what they are looking for. As much information about the product as possible needs to be included such as dimensions and colour choices.

Using Photos

You might be asked to collect and upload photos. You need to make sure that the website owner has the right to use the photos as they may be copyrighted. You may need to own a copy of an image manipulation programme as many websites have been optimised to suit a particular size of photo. This may also mean always using a landscape-orientated photo as opposed to a portrait photo.

It takes time to get into writing and uploading product descriptions, but once it becomes second nature, it can be a great job. You will quickly find yourself becoming knowledgeable about the products that you are writing about. You will probably be asked to upload a few descriptions and have them checked out before continuing with the work. This is a good idea as you can check that you are doing things correctly before getting too far into the work.

It can take a little time for your boss to check over your work and let you know that you are good to go. They may have some suggestions for you to improve your work. Try and follow them as much as possible and if necessary, have them check over your work again. It is better to get it right from the start than find that you have been doing it wrong halfway through the work.

Pricing

Some companies are looking for a fixed price while others want to pay by the hour. Certainly by the hour will give you a more true idea of how long it will take. Some bosses will want you to achieve a certain target number of product descriptions an hour while others will want to negotiate a price for the whole project. Don’t undersell yourself. Writing product descriptions is hard work and slow going in the beginning while you are getting used to what is expected of you. Your hours will almost certainly be more than you expect.

So, DO

  • negotiate price before you begin
  • make sure that what you are doing is what the vendor wants
  • include the time it takes to resize photos and upload them
  • make every description different
  • act professional in your dealings with your boss

but DON’T

  • be late delivering your work. If a problem comes up then talk to your boss and let them know.
  • just plough ahead without checking that your work is ok
  • get upset if you don’t get things right straight away. Everyone needs to know whether what they are doing is right and this is particularly important in copywriting
  • expect it to be easy straight away
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Freelance Interview – Meet Kevin Carlton of WebsiteCopywritingServices.com

Kevin Carlton of Website Copywriting Services
Kevin Carlton of Website Copywriting Services

Name: Kevin Carlton

Website: websitecopywritingservices.com

Twitter: http://twitter.com/Write_Online

Google+: http://plus.google.com/+KevinCarlton

LinkedIn: http://www.linkedin.com/in/kevincarlton

Bio: Kevin is a freelance copywriter and blogger with a methodical and no-nonsense approach to writing copy. He is owner of UK-based SEO copywriting service Write Online, which helps businesses large and small get the most out of their online presence.

He also provides insider tips on copywriting, blogging and SEO at his blog Make every word work for you.

 

Writer Alias: None

How long have you been a writer? 7 years – although I’ve only been a full-time writer for about 3 or 4 years.

Rough idea of where you live: West Midlands.

Are your clients local, global or a mix? I have a mix of clients, although the majority are based in the UK.

  1. What is the first piece of writing that you remember doing?

Yeah, this was back in 2008 when I was a proofreader and editor for a local PR company. At the time, they were looking for someone who could write articles about SEO for a client website.

As I’d worked in the IT industry in my previous career, the company asked me if I’d try my hand at writing a few trial articles for them. It worked out really well and I ended up getting more and more writing projects through them.

  1. What made you realise that you wanted to write for a living?

As it happens, I never actually had any ambitions to become a writer.

At school, I was stronger in the sciences and ended up doing a Maths and Physics degree.

When I graduated, I went into automotive engineering before moving into computer programming.

It was only when I decided to work for myself that my career took a completely new direction.

When I first started freelancing, I was a proofreader and editor for several academic publishers.

Then, when I got that all-important writing break back in 2008, I grabbed it with both hands. Instead of checking other people’s content, I much preferred writing it.

But I still also love doing some of the techie bits involved in writing for the web – such as HTML, CSS, PHP and SEO.

  1. How did you get your first client?

As I explained in my first answer, I started writing articles as a complementary service to an existing client.

That’s the thing about many careers – you don’t always get your foot in the door the way you expect.

  1. What do you wish that you had written?

I’m currently in discussions with a client about writing website content for a FTSE 100 construction company.

I’d love to get my teeth into that project. But I may have to decline it because of their working terms.

That kind of writing work is right up my street. So I’d really regret turning down such an opportunity.

  1. What is the one tip that you would give aspiring writers?

To make your freelance career a success you don’t necessarily have to the best writer. But you do have to be a good marketer and a good businessman.

That’s how you get well-paid writing work – by getting your name out there to the right people.

  1. What is your current project?

I’m currently project managing a football magazine website, which is due for launch in the next 2–3 weeks. I always get excited when a website I’ve been working on is finally going live.

 

If you are a blogger, freelancer or author and you would like to be featured on our email interview series, then please email sarahthecreativewriter[at]gmail.com and you could be next!

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Freelance Interview with Sarah Arrow of Sark e-Media

Sark e-Media Logo
Sark e-Media Logo

Sarah Arrow of Sark -Media has agreed to be my next interviewee. I hope you enjoy her answers as much as I did.

Name: Sarah Arrow

Writer Alias (if you are willing to let us know)

I have several, including Sarah Stanton, Danielle Stanton, Danielle Field and few others that I’d rather not mention.

How long have you been a writer?

Erm, I’m not sure. I’m not sure that I even like writing at times! However I just can’t seem to leave it alone long enough to allow something else to take over! Rough idea of where you live: I live in Essex approximately 12 miles from London. Which is close enough to love the City, but far enough away to breathe. My house is on a golf course and in the summer I write in the garden, watching the golfers play. The 8th hole is at the bottom of my garden, so the last 10 feet of it is a no-go zone when they play. Sometimes I sneak to the fence and throw a ball back onto the green when they’re not looking.

Are your clients local, global or a mix?

My clients are a mix of global and local. The power of the internet means we can do business anywhere that speaks English.

1. What is the first piece of writing that you remember doing?

My first piece (that I can recall) was an article on Henry VIII. I grew up in East London which is rich in history from the Tudor period. Roads are named after his first two wives and many of the landmarks are related. I found it compelling, yet gruesome to be a Queen in those times and I was thankful to be born now. I still have a fondness for Katherine of Aragon, and I often wonder how England would have looked if she’d have had a son. Did you know she was Regent of the country for a while and she martialled an army to repel Scottish forces? She won.

2. What made you realise that you wanted to write for a living?

It crept up on me! One day I was on maternity leave and playing with the children, the next day I was a blogger! I write prolifically as I’ve found when you do something more you get better at it.

3. How did you get your first client?

My first client came from a blog post and that fascinated me, I wanted to pick apart why that post worked, why the person contacted me to work with them… The rest they say is history.

4. What do you wish that you had written?

Where do I start! Harry Potter (for the money), I wished that I’d written that. I love how children worldwide started to read again with Harry Potter, proving that they don’t need dumbed down writing, but books that make them feel, and understand those feelings. I’d also loved to have written Philippa Gregory’s books, she writes very readable historical fiction. There are so many wonderful women writers, and I’m going to read Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel next and by the end of it I’m sure I’ll wish that I’d written that as well! If it was a non-fiction book, then Steven Pressfield’s The War of Art. It’s the book I read the most, I have it on audio and I pick it up at least once a day. I have a handbag edition, a car edition and an under-the-bed edition (for when I lack motivation). To write this book, I’d have had to live a full life and then share my wisdom, and that’s part of the reason I love it so much.

5. What is the one tip that you would give aspiring writers?

To keep writing. The words are no good if they’re in your head. So write them down, type them.. Just get them out of your head and onto the page. Don’t be scared to experiment, don’t think you can’t self-publish as that’s not real writing (look at E.L James she did it and now lives in the centre of London in a fab home), you can do anything you want to do, but if you keep the words locked up… No one will ever know your brilliance.

6. What is your current project?

Aside from my 30 day blogging challenge, I’m writing an alternate history book about a famous English battle. I’ve mapped the book out, the characters and the basic plot and I’ll soon be ready to start filling the pages!

Sarah from Sark e-Media
Sarah from Sark e-Media

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

You can find Sarah at her blog, Sark e-Media where she is currently running a 30 day blogging challenge.

Thank you, Sarah for agreeing to be on my blog. There will be more author/freelance interviews soon so keep checking this page for more details.

Subscribe to the newsletter for up-to-date information on this blog.

If you would like to take part as an author/freelance interviewee then email me at sarahthecreativewriter[at]gmail.com

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Blog Review: About Freelance Writing.com

By Sarah Charmley. One of the first bloggers I found when looking for blogs on freelance writing was Anne Wayman’s About Freelance Writing. I found it to be full of information and helpful advice. Anne gave away a book which offered ‘3 Keys to Making Your Writing Pay’ when you subscribed to her newsletter and I downloaded it and found it useful. This book is still available for new subscribers today. Anne is very good at responding to people who comment on her blog. She is usually quick to continue the conversation and this suggests that she is online frequently. She checks her blog regularly and makes sure that no comment goes unnoticed. Anne used to offer freelance writing job listings, but no longer does so. She has however written an e-book which details the links that she used to create these listings. Some listings can be found for free under the tab ‘Jobs and Pay’. These are a great starting point when looking for freelance jobs, although looking through job listings can be time-consuming. The website hosts a ‘5 Buck Forum’ which enables freelance writers to meet and share experiences. This costs around $30 a month for joining a professional forum. It can be a useful way to meet others who do what you do and to learn from others. This is a great website for those who want to start a career as a freelance copywriter. The final tab offers a list of articles which will inform you all about the ‘Business of Writing’. Subjects such as what to charge clients, how to educate clients on what to expect from their freelancer and why freelance projects fail are all useful subjects that can help potential freelancers learn more about their ideal career. Anne’s newsletter always offers some interesting articles for freelance writers and she also runs courses. If you are looking for a blog owned by someone who is approachable, helpful and knowledgeable then Anne’s blog would come highly recommended by this writer. This review is based on the opinions of the author and is offered as free and unbiased. On Friday, Anne Wayman of About Freelance Writing.com will answer my freelance writing interview questions. Thank you, Anne.

Anne Wayman of About Freelance Writing.com
Anne Wayman of About Freelance Writing.com
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Five Good Reasons to Maintain Your Blog

website ideas
website ideas (Photo credit: Sean MacEntee)

Many businesses consider having a blog an essential part of their website. Blogging offers a chance to connect with your customers and enable them to see a little of what you do. Blogging brings fresh content to your website and that is a good thing when it comes to search engines.

Deciding to have a blog is a regular commitment. How often you update it is up to you, but updating it regularly ensures that visitors to your website can see that you use your website and that you still have a valid business.

1. Adding fresh content to your blog ensures that your website stays fresh and current. Coming across a website which has not been updated since 2007 says ‘I don’t care’ or even ‘I’m no longer in business’.

2. Finding new subjects to write about helps to expand your own learning and enables you to keep up with trends and learn more about your own business. It will also help you keep your brain active and engaged in your business. You might even get some new ideas to help your business.

3. Putting up a new blog post gives you the opportunity to promote your website and your business using social media. Keeping in touch with customers through social media is becoming increasingly important. You want your business website to be well-known through social media, although spam is not a good idea.

4. You can use your blog post to promote special offers or to offer other promotions designed to increase business and encourage return customers. This can be a great way to use a blog post. Design it carefully so that links leading to products or services are visible and easily accessed.

5. Regularly updating your blog will help to reassure your customers that you are a trusted company for them to do business with. Trust is increasingly important on the Internet. A trusted company will bring more repeat customers.

Regular blogging can bring many benefits to you and your business website, so stop reading this post and go and get writing!

Sarah Charmley is a UK-based writer who offers blogging as a speciality. If you would like a carefully crafted blog post on a topic of your choice, use the contact form to get in touch or email sarahthecreativewriter (at) gmail.com.

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How to Save Your Website

Have you ever done this?

Found a bright shiny website with whistles and bells, looking pretty and inviting.

So you decide to stay and look round. Then you discover that although it looks like it will be informative, the website content lacks something…you cast around for the word…what is it again? Oh yes, I know. It lacks INFORMATION!

Welcome by Claudio Matsuoka on Flickr CC
Welcome by Claudio Matsuoka on Flickr CC

The content is lacklustre and the information is badly written, poorly punctuated and there’s a few spelling mistakes for good measure. There are some keywords, but they seem to have been sprinkled liberally rather than used sparingly and in context. Perhaps the owner of the website has written it for themselves, or perhaps they have relied on a web developer to write it for them. After all everyone can write, can’t they? We all learn to write at school. It’s just a matter of stringing a few sentences together and bunging it up on a website.

What’s the result of this cobbled-together content?

Visitors don’t stay around. If you’re selling something, then they may not bother to see what it is. They may proceed to buy, but then they were going to anyway and if they’ve seen it cheaper on another website then they won’t bother. There’s no interest to keep them here, nothing to learn and no real information that they can use.

What lessons can you take from this as a business owner?

  • Bright shiny websites are all very well, but it’s the content that keep people around
  • Everyone might have learned to write at school, but only certain people have kept in practice
  • SEO is an art which is learned. Just adding keywords here and there will not do the job of carefully crafted content which has been optimised for SEO
  • The website has ten seconds to attract a visitor’s attention. Give them something interesting to read and keep them for longer

Talking to a copywriter can help save your website. Organise your information, create interesting content on relevant subjects and your website will instantly improve. Copywriters can create landing pages to entice visitors further, sales pages to help pitch your products and informative articles which can help to sell for you.

If your bright and shiny website also has sparkly and exciting content to match, then your website visitors are going to come back again and again.

Sarah Charmley is a freelance copywriter who specialises in making web content bright and shiny too. Contact her using the form for a personalised quote to save your website. 

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Improve Your Website: Update the Content

If one of your resolutions in 2012 is to raise the profile of your website, then have you considered updating or increasing the content to be found on your site?

Providing useful and informative articles are a good way to keep visitors clicking around your website and encouraging them to spend money with you. It also helps your website look fresh and new. You might want to update your ‘About’ pages, your portfolio or your business information if you provide a service. You may want to improve product descriptions and make them more imaginative.

It’s not enough just to have a large amount of articles and stuffing them with keywords does not make them interesting enough to keep your visitors interested in looking around your website. These articles have got to be the real deal – interesting and full of information on the subject that is your business. Choose an eye-catching headline that reflects the body of the article. If you have a long article, then break it up using relevant sub-headings so that it is easier to digest.

Laura of About: Marketing has written a blog post on this very subject. She knows the value of good content for any website. She enjoys writing and her articles are always useful.

But all this planning and writing takes time. You might have many calls on your time at the moment and the writing gets put off and left to one side – perhaps even left altogether.

Don’t underestimate the value of freshly written content and don’t put it off any longer. Why not outsource it to a copywriter? They are used to creating content that is rich in information, context and professional. Then you can get on with the million and one other jobs that are jostling for your attention. Using your resources effectively can help your business to really take off this year.

Know your strengths and if writing has never been one of them, then outsourcing that particular job might be the best decision you ever made.

Sarah Charmley is a freelance copywriter, editor and proofreader. For a copywriting quote that has been tailored to suit your business, email sarahthecreativewriter@gmail.com

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What to Do with Your Business When Life Gets in the Way

Guernsey_island
Image via Wikipedia

It’s been a while since I posted.

We’ve had Easter Holidays and a Royal Wedding in the UK. Then our family had a French student for a week, a week in Guernsey then two weeks of working frantically to catch a deadline or two. It’s been a busy time and this blog has suffered as a result. I have genuinely not found time to update it. So today’s post is all about what you can do when life gets in the way.

For me, I need a way to kick start my marketing again. The summer holidays are around the corner. The advantage of summer holidays is the lack of need to get out of bed too early to take the kids to school. The disadvantage is the fact that the kids are at home!

As a UK copywriter, working from home, I do need some semblance of peace and quiet. It is easy to get distracted from your work by the children. Finding some work-life balance can be even more difficult. Thankfully, my children are old enough to amuse themselves for a short while. I normally trade with them – a morning’s work for an afternoon of fun and we make sure we get out and enjoy ourselves. Any work that I do not complete in the morning I finish in the evening when the children are in bed and this seems to work for us.

After a long time when you have been snatching hours here and there to keep up with your business, it can be difficult to organise your thoughts and decide what to do first. A copywriter’s business is mainly marketing in order to find new and existing clients that need some work doing and it can be difficult to carry this out in bits and pieces.

I enjoyed reading this post by Laura Lake at About: Marketing today. I am subscribed to her newsletter and always enjoy her posts. She suggests a 90 day marketing plan to help keep you on track. This time period suits as it will take you through the summer holidays and out to the other side. Check it out and see what you think.

Could a 90 day marketing plan help you?

Do you have any tips to share about working at a small business during the summer holidays?

 

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How to Ensure that Your Message is Understood

girl, writing
Image via Wikipedia

This week I have an extra teenager in the house: a French exchange student. She has been here for one night and is obviously finding the whole situation very strange as she does not speak a lot of English. There is a lot of laughter, a lot of pointing and many mispronounced words and she has gone off to school this morning, no doubt looking forward to sharing her experiences with her friends in her own tongue, but it got me thinking. How often do we make sure that our message is coming across clearly and succinctly? Or is our message misunderstood?

Naomi Dunsford of Itty Biz wrote a blog post last autumn. She suggested that small business owners needed to ensure that their customers knew what they were selling and that it was important that they check that they get their message across. This led to a post on this very website where I made sure that I explicitly explained what my message is and what services I offer.

Check the Message of Your Website

It can be a bit difficult to examine your own website and promotional literature subjectively, so you might wish to enlist the help of trusted friends. Ask them to look over your work and check it through while considering the following questions:

What is the message of this writing?

Is it clear from the writing what is being sold?

Can you easily find which company is selling the product on the information and can you find their contact details?

Do you have any questions about the product or service that have not yet been answered?

The answers may surprise you. Use their responses to inform your work when you next redesign the leaflet or website. Add information, make sure that the contact details are clear and ensure that your message is coming across loud and clear.

Writing Emails

Just as important as your website and promotional literature is how you come across when writing professional communications. I had a message from a potential client recently. He had been contacted by several copywriters after he posted about a job on a forum. He had chosen to answer me because some of the communications he had received from other people had contained spelling and grammatical errors. If you are a copywriter, then your work must always be proof-read and checked thoroughly. Even I let errors go occasionally, but I do my best to ensure that the work is as perfect as possible.

Emails can seem impersonal, brusque or even rude! If you have a tendency to write short emails, then it is best to have someone to check over them that you have got the tone right. There are probably more misunderstandings over emails than anything else. Don’t forget to use a spellchecker, but always read through yourself as well – spellcheckers do not pick up words that are spelled correctly but in the wrong place.

Pick your words with care, check that what you have written is as grammatically correct as you can make it and proof-read before sending out email will all help to ensure that your communications are professionally produced.

Make sure that your company is sending the right message to your customers to ensure that there is no misunderstanding about what you can offer them.

 

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