When you’ve put a lot of effort into writing your blog posts, it can be difficult to lose them off the top page and awkward for visitors to your page to find and read them, unless of course, they found them through searching a specific topic in Google. So it is good to occasionally write a blog post review to search through your blog and find some of the highlights that may enjoy seeing the light of day again.
I have enjoyed searching through my blog and finding some of my highlights from recent years. Many of these were from a 30 day blogging challenge I undertook in 2016. Definitely think it’s time for another one!
I’m cheating here – there are actually 4 blog posts in one go: writing prompts and parts 1 and 2 of a story. I had fun creating this. Then I wrote a further blog post, explaining how I might edit the story, having read it back and analysed what I had written.
Creating a freelance CV or curriculum vitae is an important part of your business. It sets out your experience for potential clients and enables them to understand where your previous work could help them in their business. It can also help to establish you as someone who sees their writing as a job and not just a hobby.
There are plenty of websites that can help you write a CV, so do look around and read a number of author’s ideas on how a CV should look. There is no one perfect way to write one, although professional CVs should contain a number of things.
Include your personal details including address, email and a phone number by which you can be reached. You want the person who is reading your curriculum vitae to be able to contact you if they have some work for which you are a good fit. Make sure that your email and phone number are up to date and include Facebook business pages, Twitter account and any other social media accounts that you use for work. You should have separate accounts for private and business use.
Open with a statement that includes the kind of work that you have been doing and some of the strengths and skills you have. For example:
“Sarah has been a freelance writer for 7 years. In that time, she has worked with many clients and companies to create strong content that delivers interest and information. In her current role, she also manages social media on Facebook and Twitter, curating relevant content and interacting with other users on behalf of the company.”
Not everyone is comfortable using the third person, but some argue that it can look more professional. In the end, it is a personal choice. I have seen some great CVs that also write in the first person. The important thing is that you think about the client that you are approaching and include some work experience in the area that you are hoping to work in. How long should it be? As long as it needs to be. Some application forms seem to expect you to write a 2,000 word essay in support of your application, but I feel that this can be a bit much to wade through and also could be repetitive to write. Write as much as you need in order to explain what you do and how you could fit this role.
2. List out the relevant jobs that you have undertaken, together with a brief explanation of how you fulfilled them. If you have done hundreds of jobs, then you may need to choose the most relevant. If you apply for a number of different jobs such as editing, proof-reading or content writing then you may need to create a different freelance CV for each situation. You could also include links to content you have written if you wish.
3. Take a look at your CV each time you are preparing to send it out and make sure that it matches the client or job that you want to send it to. Be prepared to alter it to ensure that the client understands what you are offering and that it is relevant to them.
4. Include the highest level of education that you undertook and the qualification. You can also include any relevant courses that you have since done. Even though my degree is not strictly relevant to my work now, it is good that employers can see that I am educated to degree level.
5. Including a skills section can enable voluntary work to be included if it has not been included in the main work experience section. Make sure that the skills you include are relevant to the application.
6. Testimonials – ask previous and current clients for testimonials so that you can offer snapshots of what others think of your work.
7. References – if you have clients who would be willing to be a reference for you then include their contact details on your freelance CV but do ask them first.
Working from home sounds like the ultimate dream – no motorway car park to negotiate, no need to wear tight uncomfortable clothes – you can even work in your PJs if you want and you have 24 access to a fridge! However in order to stay focused and get your work done, you may have to be a little more organised.
Here are some top tips for getting on with work when you’re working from home.
1. Have somewhere to work. You need a clear space of desk, kitchen table or laptop stand to work. You need to be able to keep the things you will need close to hand, and you need to be able to use your printer or scanner when necessary. This means that you will also need access to plug points. It can be somewhere like the kitchen table where things get cleared away each day, or you might like to create a work station that can stay as it is for whenever you have some work to do.
2. Find a comfortable chair. Try to set up your workspace as ergonomically as possible to suit you and your needs. Make sure that you are not straining joints like wrists, that you are sitting with as good a posture as possible and that you take time to walk around at regular intervals.
3. Take time to exercise. There are a number of studies that point out that sitting still all day is not what the human body was designed to do. Do some stretches, go for a walk (or walk the dog) or take some other form of exercise.
4. Remember to shower and change into clothes. Tempting as it sounds to stay in your onesie all day, it does not help to put you in a work mood. In order to get work done, sometimes you have to take care of yourself and then get on with the day.
5. Check emails only once or twice a day. Three times if you’re addicted. Remember to turn email notifications off so that you can work undisturbed.
6. Turn social media off too. Social media managers get some leeway on this – it’s part of the job! However remember to keep on the client’s social media and away from your own unless you have scheduled it in.
7. Organise your paperwork. One of the most important things about working from home is to keep track of your income and expenditure, keeping paperwork filed and organised for those all-important tax returns.
8. Keep on top of your invoices. Set aside time to make sure that you generate and send invoices out. Don’t forget to chase any late payments.
9. Try and set aside definite times for work and times for housework. It can be hard to work with a pile of washing up behind you, so either get it done before you start work or agree with yourself a time to get it done. Sometimes I enjoy the fresh air and hang up the washing at the same time. House work can be done in small chunks as a way of getting away from the keyboard for a bit.
10. Connect with like-minded people through social media and find your own ‘watercooler’. It can seem lonely at home on your own if you are used to being in a busy office. However the internet is a great place to find other people who are doing the same thing that you are doing. Find your people and swap ideas.
Finally, the best thing about working from home is the flexibility. If the day is clear and you want to go out for a couple of hours and take your camera, you can do it! You choose your hours and as long as you get your work done, you set the pace and the schedule.
One of the many freelance copywriter jobs available is to write product descriptions for a website.
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.
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.
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.
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
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
I decided to go into freelance writing following a change in physical circumstances and a realisation that I needed something that meant I didn’t have to stand all day.
I have a steady but not spectacular stream of work and a supportive husband which enables me to keep freelancing. I have enjoyed talking to lots of different clients over the years but have only met 3 in person. I have always tried to ask for testimonials, but not everyone responds. However those who do are very kind and complimentary. My paid work is as a freelance copywriter, writing blogs, web content, product descriptions and anything else that my clients require. The variety of the job is the thing I love about it.
One of my first jobs was for a local website developer. I worked on blog posts and articles on a number of subjects. Lee Davies was a small business owner who built and developed websites local to me and he first asked me to do two articles – one on marble and one about granite. I asked him for a testimonial at the end of a job where he asked me to write some content for his new website and he kindly agreed:
“I have utilised the copywriting services of Sarah Charmley on numerous occasions, and have found that the standard of work has been excellent. Sarah has provided articles and web copy on a wide range of subjects, the content has been focussed and well thought out. Without exception, deadlines for the copy have always been met and in most cases arrived ahead of schedule. Highly Recommended.”
Lee Davies, WebPageOne Solutions Ltd
Thanks, Lee, I enjoyed working with you too. This recommendation has long graced my Portfolio page.
A number of people I have worked for, have never got around to putting pen to paper to give me a recommendation, although I usually try and ask. One who kindly did, has put a review up for me at freelancers.net:
Sarah has freelanced for us on a regular basis since the beginning of 2014 to create product descriptions for our ecommerce website. We have always found Sarah to be a diligent and speedy copywriter, who produces content to a consistently good standard. I would recommend Sarah without hesitation if you are looking for a reliable and good value freelancer.
I began by uploading product descriptions to the website, but was offered the job of social media manager for the website last year. I really enjoy the job, researching and writing regular blog posts on health and promoting them via social media.
I got some great praise about two months after I had started work. They had previously had an SEO company writing their blog posts for them, but they had to come up with the ideas for the posts. I research and write all the blog posts myself. I got this great praise passed on from their other director:
Btw our blogs are WAY better than before, i actually read half of them now, genuinely interesting…
To those of you out there who work with freelancers, if they ask you for a review, do take time to let them know you appreciate them – it can really make a freelancer’s day!
“A professional writer is an amateur who didn’t quit.” Richard Bach
The internet has opened up a lot of opportunity to writers to earn money from freelance writing. The beauty of freelance is that you don’t have to give up your day job and dive straight in, but that you can use your spare time to explore freelance writing to see if it is for you. One of the most important things you can do is to learn about your freelance writing style. This takes a little persistence and practice, so here are some tips to help you.
Find time to write. Keep notebooks in lots of different places so that you always have something on hand to write on, or use the notes on your phone. This is even better if you are able to sync your notes with your computer because then they will be backed up and you can work on them some more. Even 10 minutes can be productive if you come to it ready to write.
Write about what interests you. Write about an interesting event that has struck you or an interesting news story. Sometimes just a news headline can be enough to spark that creativity. Or you can write a description of an interesting character and put them in a story.
Read. Find out about writing styles. Learning how to structure your work is very important in freelance writing. Read up about how to write headlines and the differences between blog posts and articles. Look up different types of blog posts and work on examples of each type. Practise writing articles. When I began to write, I started by submitting content to a number of websites which would edit the articles before they went up. This was a great way to learn how to do things right.
Follow some writers who seem to be doing things right. You can learn a lot from other people. Be wary of bold claims from some people who just seem to be after your money, but there are some excellent freelance writers out there who give really worthwhile advice. You will also probably be able to follow them on Facebook and Twitter. You can get yourself known to them by commenting on their blog and asking questions. These people can offer a lot of experience and you can learn a lot.
Take your time to learn about freelance writing. If you are interested in building up a career in it, then it is worth spending the effort to research it and find out more. There are some good email courses available but always check out reviews before committing to buying a course.
Some people just find writing hard work. The physical effort of putting pen to paper or fingers to keypad just does not do it for them. They are unsure that what they are doing is correct and they find the very act of writing a chore. Other writers love it. They enjoy the physical act of writing, whether it’s on a computer or with a favourite pen and paper. They love the feeling of the words flowing out from the brain and onto the page.
Does that mean it’s always easy? No. Writers’ block is very real and it can sometimes be difficult to find just the right word for the sentence, or to work out exactly what it is that you want to say next, but the enjoyment of the physical act of writing just doesn’t go away, no matter how many words you write. If this is you, then you have the potential to be a freelance writer. Here are some more qualities that you will need:
You enjoy learning about new and different things
If you want to write for a living and get paid for it, then you learn to write about many different things. Sometimes Writing Gurus suggest that the best way to get paid is to find a niche and become an expert writer in that niche. If in a previous life, you were an accountant or an insurance agent, then you might well have a niche if you can blog about your knowledge in an accessible way. Most of us do not have that background, however, so we need to discover what we enjoy writing about, and most importantly, what we can write well about. The ability to discover new, reliable sources as knowledge for what you have been asked to write is a very important part of being freelance writers. A future niche may grow out of that work, if you are engaged to write a lot of material in that area.
You have confidence in Your Writing
Writing confidently is part of writing well. Knowing what you want to say and making sure that it reads well is important to a freelance writer. Offering your work through an editor can help you gain confidence in your writing. It is important that you let others read your work, as they can spot errors that you might not.
You can Proofread Your Writing
On the subject of errors, it is important that you can spot simple grammatical and spelling errors. Spellcheck is a great tool and even those freelance writers who are confident in their writing, use it, but sometimes it will miss a homophone, or a word that sounds the same, but is spelled differently and has a different meaning.
You can Take Criticism
Most freelance writers who have had any clients have not always produced every piece of work perfectly. Quite often a piece of work will be returned with requests for revisions. It’s how you take it which is important. Your client knows what they want, and if you are lucky, they will ask for it. It’s your job to write what they want so no matter whether you disagree with them or not, you should write to their specifications. Always be professional and polite because these clients are paying you to do a job. Always turn in the best work that you can do.
If you think that you have to be a perfect writer to be a freelance writer, then think again. Many of the most successful freelance writers do not consider themselves to be perfect, just good at what they do. Many of them bring other skills to their work, such as the ability to network or to research quickly. So what skills do I think you need to become a freelance writer?
Persistence is the number one attribute a freelance writer needs. You need persistence to finish a blog post, you need persistence to keep reaching out to people and companies who need your services and you need to be able to keep going when it seems that you are getting nowhere. You will never know where your next job is going to come from. Persist and you will eventually break through.
Good sense of voice (or able to write consistently in one voice)
This is important if you are going to sell your work. Your ‘voice’ is the tone in which your work reads. Some books are very literary in tone – they use long descriptions, unusual words and it can take a long time for any action to happen. This is a style which some readers like and other readers don’t. Other books can seem easy to read: the action bounces along in quick succession, the characters are sketchily drawn and they do not always take the trouble to draw the characters thoroughly. Neither is right nor wrong and most of us fall in the middle. Both kinds of writing draw readers.
Where do you think you are?
Read a piece of your writing and see if you can discover where you are on this scale. The most important thing is that your voice is consistent – it’s no good starting out literary and ending up friendly and jolly. Developing a consistent voice will help you as a freelance writer.
Grammar and Spelling
Contrary to popular opinion, your grammar and spelling does not have to be perfect, however it is useful to have an idea of how it works. Word processing can pick up most of the problems, but it is not always helpful if the spelling is right, but the word has the wrong meaning, or you don’t know which of the options to choose.
If you are very under-confident in using spelling and grammar, then make sure that you always have a link to a dictionary such as Merriam Webster. Don’t be afraid to google sentence structure to make sure that you are getting it right if you need to.
The best way to make sure that you are getting it right is to ask another pair of eyes to look over it. Even the best writers can make mistakes and we all need someone looking over our shoulder to check that what we are producing is right.
The best advice that I can give to a freelance writer starting out is to suggest that they undertake some writing assignments either on a website or real life which requires an editor to check over their work, before it is published. It is the best way to learn writing styles and to ensure that your writing will be polished and ready to sell when you start taking on clients.
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!
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.
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If you would like to take part as an author/freelance interviewee then email me at sarahthecreativewriter[at]gmail.com