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Copyright

Posted on : 31-01-2011 | By : admin | In : Blog, Help with Writing

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Photo on Flickr by jcarlosn

Copyright laws can be strange and complex – there have been a few famous authors taken to court accused of stealing their story from another book – but the point made is serious. You can be sued for wrongfully using another person’s work.

Copyright is traditionally the way that authors can protect their own original work. It enables them to protect their writing from plagiarism which is defined as the work being used by other people who claim it as their own. This is particularly important on the internet, because it can be so easy to take someone else’s work by cutting and pasting it on your own website. This applies equally to graphics, photos and any other work that someone has created. Once you have created a piece of work then it is protected by law and another person cannot take it for their own use.

How do you ensure that the work you are using is legally unique?

You can write it yourself. If you take a subject and put it in your own words, then you own the copyright on that work and can do what you choose with it. Of course then you have to look out for someone else stealing it…

When you hire someone else to do the work, how do you know whether the work is truly written by them or if they have just copied and pasted it from another website? There is some free software out there to help you check out the writing, but you can also do a quick check yourself by searching for websites using your preferred keywords. The work is likely to come up on the first few pages if it has been taken.

You cannot copyright ideas – those are available for anyone to use. This can be difficult when two writers submit the same idea to a magazine. Sometimes that can be why they are rejected. The copyright is in the way that you write it using your own voice and style. Two people will write an article using the same title in two completely different ways.

Using photos and images is also subject to copyright. There are plenty of free sites out there. You can search Google images, looking for pictures that are available for commercial re-use if you use the advanced search. When you are writing for a commercial website, then you may be best advised to buy the right to use a photo from a stock photograph website. This gives you the widest possible choice so that you can find the photo you are looking for.

Even if you believe an image is free to use, you should always check that there are no limitations on how it can be used and it is polite, where possible, to let the owner of the picture know that you have used it and include a link for them to check it out.

If you are in the business of regularly providing content such as a website owner, a blog writer or email newsletters, do be careful that what you write is 100% unique content. That way you can be sure that you will not have a lawsuit landing on your doormat.

Photo Credit: Photo on Flickr by jcarlosn

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How to Write Good Copy – Landing Pages

Posted on : 28-01-2011 | By : admin | In : Blog, Writing Help for Businesses

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Photo on Flickr by Janos Feher

A landing page is where an advertising link should lead when it has been clicked. Your landing page should not be the same as your homepage. Your landing page should be designed to induce visitors to become customers in as few clicks as possible.

Here are my top five tips for a landing page:

1. Make the product simple and clear. Include photos if appropriate and a good description.Include all the information that the customer will need to know about the product.

2. Include a clear link back to your homepage.

3. Tell your visitors how purchasing this product will solve their problem. Give them a good reason to click on ‘buy’.

4. Make your buying and checkout processes as easy as possible to go through. Provide a variety of ways for customers to pay including Paypal, credit cards and pre-paid cards.

5. Make sure that your visitors can access store policies including shipping costs and return policies, preferably in a new window so that they do not transfer away from your buying page.

Building trust is key to getting visitors to convert to customers. By making your policies transparent and making it as easy as possible for visitors to buy, then you have a big advantage over your competitors. Getting good traffic to your website is important, but encouraging a high proportion of people viewing your website to commit to buy is the most important part for your business.

Photo Credit: Photo on Flickr by Janos Feher

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Why Do I Need Search Engine Optimization?

Posted on : 21-01-2011 | By : admin | In : Blog, SEO Help

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Photo on Flickr by crystaljingr

Search Engine Optimization or SEO has been a buzzword among internet communities for some time. If you own a company website, or even just a blog that you are hoping to promote and bring new readers to, then you need to know about search engine optimization. It all comes down to search engines and to Google in particular. The main search engine collects websites and categorizes them according to relevant content. This involves a complicated algorithm which is the subject of much debate among internet marketers.  The formula is regularly reviewed and the rules can be changed so that a website that originally did quite well in the rankings can take a fall and drop down the pages of searches. The list of websites is then organized in order of relevance to the original search term. If a page appears to be simply spam, then it will be removed. Those websites that are consistently seen as useful will therefore be promoted and brought to the fore in the listings. Google takes into account the age of a website and back links which lead back to a website. For most companies, to get on the first page of a search engine is highly desirable as it will bring your website to the attentions of clients searching for something that you can provide to them. To help achieve this, find the correct search terms that you want to be ranked for. Choosing searches that are often made can help you optimize your website more effectively and bring relevant, targeted traffic to your website. If you can get people who are searching for the kinds of products or services that you are offering to come to your website, then you will have a very effective marketing tool indeed.

Photo Credit: Photo found on Flickr by Crystaljinger

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My Guest Post is Up

Posted on : 23-11-2010 | By : admin | In : Blog

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This is a quick note to say that my guest post at #customerlove went live yesterday – and was quickly superceded by two others! Hey, you’re only at the top of the heap for a while!

You can read my guest post at the #customerlove website so do pop over and do that. It was a great experience writing a guest post and the layout of the website was very familiar to me as it was a WordPress site just like this one!

I didn’t choose the picture, LaVonne did and I think she did a great job. The challenge is nearly over now and things have not gone quite as planned for me, but I am hoping to get something up and running before the end of November.

If you have any questions that you would like me to answer on business writing or even starting a small business, then let me know either in comments or on the contact form.

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Why Your Business Needs a Newsletter

Posted on : 24-09-2010 | By : admin | In : Blog, Writing Help for Businesses

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Image on Flickr by Andrew Whitacre

It sounds like a lot of work. Collecting information, articles, even adverts together, formatting them together in an attractive format then, possibly the worst bit of all, printing and distributing them. Is there really any need for your business to have a newsletter?

I would suggest that it can be worth the effort for your business to have a newsletter and here’s why:

– It keeps your business in the forefront of your customers’ minds

– It can enable you to offer other companies you work with extra exposure

– It enables you to make special offers to your customers to encourage them to spend more money with you

– You can tempt your customers with new products.

– You can send an email newsletter rather than a paper one, avoiding the recycle bin and saving the planet!

– You collect details of your customers and know who they are.

There are lots of great reasons why a newsletter should be at the forefront of your mind. So how do you do it?

What Makes a Great Newsletter?

The elements of a great newsletter is great headlines, interesting and succinct articles and  graphics. You can include adverts for new products, news and information that is likely to be of interest to your customers and of course information on how to contact you should any of the offers be of interest to your customers.

There are some great publishing packages out there and if you are going to do it yourself, it might be worth investing in software that will help you set it out professionally. Being able to move graphics around easily and play around with the format can help the ease of putting the newsletter together.

Your newsletter can be as short as a page. If you are planning on printing a newsletter, bear in mind that for a folded format, you will need a minimum of four pages if there is not to be a large piece of blank space on it.

Fonts and Graphics

Make the font easily readable such as Arial. Times New Roman has also been traditionally used. At least 11 point will be easily read by most.

If you are printing, graphics quality is everything. Pictures do not come out so well on coloured paper and need to be as high a quality as possible. They also look good with a border to separate them from the text on the page.

Check Your Newsletter Well

Proof read everything thoroughly and preferably get a second pair of eyes to look over them to pick up mistakes you have missed. If your spelling and grammar is not as good as it could be, then use your publishing software hints to help you out and spell check the whole. Bear in mind that this will not pick up words spelled right but in the wrong place.

Make a commitment to getting out the newsletter weekly, fortnightly or monthly and stick to it. Make a commitment, block out some time to deal with it as appropriately. Get used to squirreling bits of information away for the newsletter and collect graphics.

Finally, if you really think it’s a great idea, but just don’t have the time, then hire a writer. Give them the information and ask them to format and produce it as a pdf or a printed book. Rates will depend on how much work will be involved in producing the newsletter.

If you wish to discuss starting a newsletter with me, then please check out my contact page.

Photo Link: Newspaper Icon

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Helpful Business Blogs

Posted on : 20-09-2010 | By : admin | In : Blog, Writing Help for Businesses

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I haven’t written a ‘helpful blogs’ post for a while, and I’ve been enjoying some new heights of helpfulness since my last one. If you’re running a business, then here are some blogs you may find helpful.

Photo by crystaljingsr on Flickr

I love Enterprise Nation! It has a great forum for asking questions, daily helpful articles and a twitter meet-up every day around the watercooler at 11 am.Particularly if you are a UK business, then do check it out.

I found Enterprise Nation from Startup Donut. Again it has a help forum and is particularly useful for information and help for newly formed businesses.

Karen Gunton’s blog, Build a Little Biz is a new favourite of mine. It is great reading for new business owners, or even those just beginning on the Internet. She writes well for Mum entrepreneurs but her advice would suit anyone looking for more information on running a business online.

Freelance Switch is a great site for web developers and designers, but it also includes writers in the mix. The articles are regularly added and very helpful, it has a great cartoon strip and advertises jobs. Well worth a look.

I have only recently begun following Freelance Folder. It is similar in style to Freelance Switch which is a clean professional look. The articles are just as good with lots of helpful hints and tips for business owners.

Finally, if you are looking for either a creative job or for creative workers, try CrowdSpring. It is a simple website that posts projects for a set amount, allowing simply the best proposal to stand out. There are jobs for graphic or web design or for writers. Check it out if this sounds what you are looking for.

We all have different websites that we regularly visit and enjoy. Recommend your favourites in the comments below.

Photo Link: 3D People and Internet Symbol

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A Quick Style Guide

Posted on : 22-07-2010 | By : admin | In : Blog, Help with Writing

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When you are producing your piece of writing for a client, it is best to be consistent with grammar and spellings, particularly when using headings. Here are some of the most common things to look out for.

Headings

The beginnings of words in a heading should be capitalised unless they are small words such as ‘and’, ‘is’ or ‘of’. It is sometimes helpful to bold the heading to make it stand out from the rest of the text. Make sure that if you decide to do this, that all the headings are capitalised and in bold.

The Main Body of the Text

Start with your opening paragraph which sums up what the article will be about. Keep it short and succinct. It does not need a sub-heading over it – in fact your first sub-heading should be at least one paragraph in.

If you are writing for the web, then keep paragraphs short and to the point. There should be two to three paragraphs underneath each heading and of course they should be relevant!

Consistency, Checking and Counting Words

Photo by Martin Hagberg and used under Creative Commons licence

 

When you are writing your first draft, then just get the ideas down and let them flow. Write until you have finished, Then go back over it and read through. Check for spelling errors (be aware of the differences between American and UK spelling and use one consistently throughout). Also keep an eye out for grammatical problems and check out the word count.

Clients are usually very definite about the amount of words used in a piece of writing, but it is important to write in a focused way on the topic. Beware of fluff or filler. Take out any words that are unnecessary, read your work aloud to check for flow and ensure that your sentences are short and to the point rather than long and wordy. This makes them much easier to read.

End your writing with a strong point or call to action. Revise it again and again until you are happy with it.

Finally when you think your work is done, put it away for at least 24 hours before getting it out and reading it again. The distance is important: it allows you to view your work with fresh eyes and improve it.

Consistency and care is the key to producing strong work which you can be proud of and which is more likely to please your client and bring in more work commissions for you.

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You Got a Writing Job – Now What?

Posted on : 09-07-2010 | By : admin | In : Finding Freelance Writing Jobs

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Photo on Flickr by Camera Slayer

The answer came back to your carefully crafted email, letter, query etc and it was positive. You have got a writing job!

Now what?

The natural reaction may to be panic! You’ve achieved the first step on the rung of a very long and high ladder, but now you have to fulfill your promise and do the work.

You are welcome to run round in circles, punching the air or any other kind of victory dance that you may wish to do. When the first excitement has died down, turn your focus onto what it is that you will need to do.

The first thing to do is to make contact with your new client. The contact may be through phone, Skype or email. It is fine to make the first contact – they chose you for the job which means that they must want you to do it.

Try and think of any questions you may have. This first contact is important. You need to know what your client is expecting you to deliver. You need to clarify deadlines. You need to clearly understand what the job will entail. Approach any phone call with a notepad and pen to hand.

Once you have spoken to your client and understood the work, then plan out what you are going to do and when. You may have to do a small sample and send it back to your client to check that he is happy with what you are doing.

Once you get your client’s OK, then you can begin. Do your best work and try to impress them to keep any ratings high and enable you to receive recommendations from them.

You may have to send regular status reports if you got the job through a bidding site, but this is generally just giving the client an idea of where you are up to with the job so that they can be satisfied that you are getting on with your work.

Once you have finished your writing work, give it a final proof-read and polish before sending it in. Make sure that you are finished well before the deadline to allow yourself time to check it thoroughly.

Once you’ve sent your work in, be prepared that there may be small changes that the client wants to make. This is where you may have to be a little assertive.

Some writers will allow small changes or one rewrite, but if a client is getting too fussy then it may be best to negotiate an extra rate. This involves talking to your client and keeping them updated on your progress.

It’s time to invoice your client. Work through a jobs board will have a set up where invoices are generated automatically. If you use a system like Escrow, then the funds have already been made available and the system will release the funds to you once both parties are satisfied with the work.

It is a good idea to set up a Paypal account as this is easiest to administer when dealing with clients through other countries. Many of the jobs boards deal in US dollars when paying contractors.

Finally remember to keep track of your jobs and earnings using a spread sheet for tax purposes.

Photo Link: Fireworks#1

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Applying for a Writing Job

Posted on : 27-06-2010 | By : admin | In : Finding Freelance Writing Jobs

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Photo on Flickr by Soapbeard

You’ve checked out the jobs boards, you’ve trolled the best sites and you’ve found a job that you are reasonably confident that you could do. Now what?

Now get up the confidence to apply for it! No job ever applies for itself and if you don’t try then you will never know if you could have got it. Here are a few pointers when applying for a writing job.

Send Your Best Writing


This sounds obvious, but its amazing how many writers don’t think of it: if you are applying for a writing job, then you need to write at your best. This is not a time for spelling mistakes or glaring grammar errors!

If you are applying to a job advert, then read it carefully. Some employers put instructions in the ad to ensure that applicants have read it thoroughly. Follow the instructions: if they ask for a CV then write a CV. If they ask you to call, then call; email then email. If they ask you to put “buckaroo” in bold in the middle of your CV, then do it! (They were probably testing you to see if you read the application thoroughly or not!)

Email as though You Were Writing a Letter

If you are applying through a jobs board, then the first contact is likely to be an email. Although these are usually informal, it will do you no harm to approach this as though it were a formal letter. Begin with ‘Dear’ and the client’s name and end with the appropriate ‘Yours Sincerely’ or ‘Yours Faithfully’. It sets you out as a business-like person. It creates a good impression and sets you out from the rest.

Explain why you are suited to the job and why you should be considered for the role. Keep it brief and relevant – no major life stories here. At the end of the letter, say that you look forward to hearing from them and sign off.

Include Contact Details

Make sure that you include full contact details so that any prospective employer can get in touch with you quickly.

Leave your email for a while before sending it (some people recommend 24 hours – but give it as long as you have got). Read it through again and correct any errors. Reading out loud will help.

Attach your CV if required. Send the email. Jobs boards usually have a closing date, so you could have a week or more to run before notifications are sent out. Keep an eye on the site to see if the job closes early.

If you have written on speck, then you may get a reply quite quickly. It may be “no thanks, I’ll keep you on record”, in which case keep applying to other people.

If you got the job, congratulations.

If there is no answer, don’t wait on it forever – get on with the next application. As previously stated: the more applications you send in, the more likely it is that you will get a ‘yes’.

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Finding a Writing Job Part 1

Posted on : 16-06-2010 | By : admin | In : Finding Freelance Writing Jobs

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Photo on Flickr by Mobile Edge Laptop Cases

I’m from the UK. I live in a town in the Midlands. I have started to write for a living. I have been researching about freelance writing on the web for a number of months now. Then I decided that it was time I did something about it.

What Did I Find Out?

I found a lot of great websites out there. Many are helpful. Some just want to sell you something. In there, however there are some gems that will help you learn to take on freelance writing as a job.

Where can I find jobs?

There is the traditional way of writing a letter to an Editor of a publication which is known as a ‘query letter’. You are selling yourself through words – something you need to learn to do when you want to make a living that way.

The law of averages says that if you send out enough of them, then you must get a job eventually. You will also get a lot of rejection letters too. It helps you to develop a thick skin but does not necessarily pay the bills.

Content Mills

You can apply to become a member of a content mill. The name says it all: writers churn out a high volume of articles of mixed quality which are then put up on the web usually alongside lucrative targeted advertising which makes the company that owns them money.

Most offer writers some of the advertising proceeds, some will pay writers a nominal sum, still others pay a little more. The process is not perfect and you are not adequately compensated for your time. They could be considered a way to learn your craft.

Jobs Boards

There are websites out there that offer jobs and a way to apply for them on email. They offer free memberships which are restricted as to the number of  jobs you can apply for, or paid memberships which offer better access to jobs. Taking a free membership is a great way to see what is out there.

Apply Yourself

If you have a strong sense of what you are good at: if you can write well and are confident in what you can do, then ask around companies by you and see what jobs you might be able to do for them. This is the best way to find a job that will pay the bills, but it can also be the most scary.

Resources

If you want to put a query to a magazine, then find out the person you need to write to. You can do this online. You might also like to check if the magazine has any guidelines that need to be adhered to before submitting.

Bear in mind that magazines usually work at least six months ahead, so seasonal material will need to be submitted well in advance of the actual holiday.

Content Mills are places like Demand Studios, Associated Content, Suite101 among others. You need to check up on them, read through what they require before deciding to submit to them.

Jobs Boards include www.Elance.com and www.guru.com

They will give you an idea of the kinds of jobs out there, but don’t bid for peanuts just to land a job. That is not the way to get a career going.

I will cover these subjects in more detail over time.

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