All posts by Christin

Where to Find “Hidden Gem” Writers For Your Business

find writers for my businessDo you ever post a gig to a job board and get inundated with unrelated samples, replies in broken English and people who can’t follow basic directions?

Here are some frank truths.  Anyone can slap on the “writer” label and work as a freelancer.  Many of them have no real passion for writing and think it’s a quick way to make a few bucks generating generic regurgitated Google fodder for website content and blog posts.

These starving artist “writers” churn out streams of awful “5 dollar” content just to keep the lights on.  They have no interest in your success because you have no interest in theirs.  Harsh? Maybe, but honest.

If someone was only willing to give me five dollars for content, do you really think I’m going to do my best work and be grateful for that? Nope.  Would you?

Are you ready to stop wasting your time and find genuine, affordable talent?  Here’s how to find the hidden gems in your niche and stop wading through garbage to get the right content developers for your projects.

Here’s how to find the hidden gems in your niche and stop wading through garbage to get the right content developers for your projects.

Any old “writer” won’t do, trust me.  I say this as an experienced professional and hobbyist writer who has developed tons of content over the years – and then revised that content multiple times to keep up with current marketing trends and Google standards.

You get what you pay for.

Well written, informative evergreen content will pay for itself many times over.  Don’t think cheap and fast, think ROI.

Passionate, professional writers are not going to crank out 500-word blog posts for you at less than slave wages – sorry.  We spend time developing our writing and marketing skills and recognize our value.

Hidden Places to Find Great Writers 

Hidden gems are often found not on job boards, but in the real world.  Spend some time visiting blogs and niche sites.  Look for a writer who is engaging not only in their posts but in their comments.

Niche Blogs and Hobbyists

Look for related, but not identical websites to avoid direct competition.

Let’s say you own a dog grooming business, instead of looking up dog grooming blogs do a search for “blogs about Yorkies” or some other specific breed that requires regular grooming.

This search will yield blogs from passionate pet owners.  Their love and interest will come through in their writing – and that’s more important than perfect grammar, SEO titles etc.

You can get an editor or content manager to take care of that later or perhaps you’ll get lucky and find a Yorkie lover with a great eye for detail and SEO knowledge :).

Ask them how much they would charge you for an article or if they would be willing to guest post.  Not only are you likely to get amazing targeted content; it will be affordable.

Search Broad Interest Websites

Some of my best clients have found me through posts on websites like HubPages and their network of sites.  Yes, you can find a lot of crap there too, but you can also find some real gems and passionate writers.

There are several professional writers and bloggers who post content there to expand readership and earn residual income every month on material that doesn’t tie into their business or niche sites.  I earn a decent chunk of pocket money with evergreen content posted there and have enjoyed a few viral hits.

I earn a decent chunk of pocket-money with evergreen content posted there and have enjoyed a few viral hits also. My content there has generated millions of views and thousands of dollars.

I chose that platform to test different writing styles to see how readers engaged with it.

Those of us who went through and finished their apprenticeship program are well-versed in at least the basics of SEO and how to write natural, engaging content that is also Google friendly.

If you click a profile and see the apprenticeship alum tag; that’s a person who has been through some pretty intensive training on writing for the web.

You can also view comments at the bottom of articles and see how the authors are engaging with others.  Perhaps this is someone well suited to help you with social media and outreach also.  Use the “contact the author” feature and start a conversation.

Another Frank Truth About Content Development

If you are paying for substandard, adequate at best gigs at best, you’ll have minimal traffic and little growth.  At worst, you’ll have a negative response to your content that reflects poorly on your business and sends potential buyers to your competitors who do invest in solid content development.

What would you rather read? An engaging, knowledgeable piece of writing that answers your questions and solves a problem? Or pre-penguin and panda Google days generic sounding search engine fodder?  I bet your visitors feel the same.  Invest and give them the content you both deserve.

 

5 Reasons Why Your Business Needs a Blog to Thrive

Many small business owners never start a blog. They have so many demands on their time already, that blogging is either a distant priority or not even on the radar.  Who has the time to develop expert copywriting and social media skills when you’re busy trying to turn a profit?

Sadly, this mindset is a huge mistake that costs a lot of small businesses because they never consider the full benefits of blogging for marketing.

So what is the importance of blogging for small business? Here are the top 5 benefits.

Search Engine Rank

Websites with current, high-quality content rank higher in search engine results without the need to pay for traffic.  Google in particular loves websites filled with regularly updated, useful content.

Not only that, but proper on-page SEO within your blog posts can help you rank for long tail keywords and give your business the opportunity to gain higher levels of organic search traffic.

Expertise

Gimmicky sales pitches and bland, stale website content drive potential customers away.  Today’s discerning consumers want answers to their questions posed in a conversational, easy to digest format.  They’re not only looking for “just the facts”, they want them delivered with a humanized touch.

Blogs are great for anticipating the needs of your visitors, answering their questions and building relationships.  If your competitors are blogging and interacting and you aren’t – you ARE losing business.

Improves Sales and Conversions

Your blog demonstrates to visitors that you are engaged and devoting energy to your business.  Nothing is quite as alluring as a business that is passionate about helping people and loving what they do.

In fact, active blogging and social media posts provide a great ROI, you’ll get much more out of it over time than what you invest up front because an active blog sends this signal loud and clear to your visitors.

Consider also that your top-notch content is more likely to be shared, placing your brand and your experience/expertise in front of new people who wouldn’t have otherwise known about you.

Opens Up Communications

Have you ever had a question about a product or service, but didn’t really want to pick up the phone and call?  A blog is not only a great way to speak to your potential customers, it provides a very easy way for them to communicate with you through comments.

I write numerous articles on subjects I’m passionate about.  Many of my pieces have questions and comments because it’s easier than clicking the “contact the author” button and composing an email or picking up the phone.

Enhances Social Media

Developing your own content makes social media work harder for you.  Sure, you can share other people’s content and that’s great.  People like social media pages that aren’t all just shameless self-promotion.

If other content is all you share, however, you are losing the opportunity to drive traffic to your own products and services.  Social media works best when you share a variety of content and that includes your own.

If you’re a small business, chances are you have concerns with both time and monetary investment when it comes to a blog and social media management.

Those concerns are certainly understandable, sometimes there just aren’t enough hours in the day, but you also must consider what your business may be losing by not taking advantage of blogging and a strong social media presence.

Fortunately, there are freelancers available that can help you take on these tasks and ultimately grow your business.  If you’re curious about making the investment into your website, please contact me for a free quote.

Even if I can’t help you; I’d be happy to direct you to other resources or even give you some tips on how to start blogging on your own.

 

 

My Step-by-Step Process for Creating Incredible Content

creating content that sellsI’m a bit of a perfectionist when it comes to my writing and I love to create content that I can feel proud of – even when my name isn’t on it.

I do a lot of writing for a variety of clients and also for my own niche sites and blogs.  Every website or blog will have a different image or voice.  The first step is to get a feel for that website.  What story is it trying to tell? How do the readers respond?  What works and how can I capitalize on that in the content I am developing?  Is there something that could be improved I can mention to the client?

Analysis is the first important step, next is the nitty gritty.

Tracking Trends

First, I use Google Alerts to stay on top of current trends for my client niches.  This shows what’s trending and what people are likely to be talking about. Staying current provides the authoritative, up to the minute edge that will grow my client’s business.  If they aren’t already doing this I ensure that I am so  I can forward this valuable information or make suggestions.

I don’t believe in just cranking out a piece and getting paid.  I take the extra steps to ensure my clients are putting my skills to the best use.  If I see something trending that looks exciting; I’m not shy about sharing that information.  My client can then decide if they want to run with it or not.

Keyword Analysis

Once topic ideas are generated or a working title is assigned; I use a few different software products and plugins that assess strong keywords and phrases.  Working these into a piece allows potential searchers to find the page.

This initial research also helps show how successful a post or page is likely to be.  Evergreen content is always a good choice, so I try to get a good blend of that and current trends.  Google loves both the stability of evergreen material and up-to-the-minute content, so it’s a balancing act.  The best websites have both.

Outlines and Mind Maps

The next step is to outline the page or post.  I often use mind mapping software for this process.  Freemind is a fantastic free software that makes pre-writing simple.  Use it to generate a workable structure for any content type.

Writing & Citing

Next, it’s time to write the content, ensuring the use of credible sources and tracking them as I go.  Many times content doesn’t require this, but certain topics that Google refers to as “Your money or your life” must be backed up with credible sources.  Websites that ignore this are at risk for deep penalties and no one wants that.

Do you find source citation cumbersome? Fortunately, there are citation websites that make it easy.  Easybib is my favorite because it’s free, fast and does citations in the 3 major formats: MLA, APA and Chicago style.

Proofreading and Editing

Once I’ve compiled the piece and cited my sources, it’s time to check for grammar, spelling and proper title case.  I use Grammarly, which not only find mistakes, but makes recommendations for improvements.  Paper Rater is another fantastic free option.

Creating a Working Title or Headline

My final step is always the title or headline.  What is going to grab the readers attention? The sheer amount of information overload on the net makes this the most important step in the process.  A title must do two things: tell the reader what the piece is about and make them want to read it.  This is, by far, the hardest part of the job for a content developer.

Formatting, Uploading and Other Extras

Ok, the content is developed, everything is proofread and it has a great headline.  Now what?

Most clients take the original files and have their webmaster upload and format the content.

Smaller businesses that use WordPress sometimes want their content uploaded directly to the platform by the author.  This is simple enough and I am happy to do it.  I even use their plugins to generate the meta descriptions, rich snippets etc. if needed.

Photos & Visual Content

Every client has different needs. Some of my clients need help seeking out good images to use for their posts and copy.  I’m happy to source images and to rework them in Photoshop.

I like good shareable pins.  These days, everything is visual, so posts without featured images don’t do as well.  Most of my clients have separate editors and graphics people, but smaller businesses may need help in that regard and so I try to be open to meeting the varying needs of different clients.

Sharing to Social Media

Again, most clients will have social media managers that handle this, however, I have done social media work as an extra service.

Some smaller clients have confided to me that it can be nice to have one person who can handle the multiple aspects of content development.

It’s less work for them to track everything and having one “go to” person simplifies life when you have questions or concerns.

Other Considerations

As a freelancer, it’s important to ask what a potential client needs if they aren’t sure.  Prices quoted vary depending on the depth of the task and amount of work required.  For example a simple blog post, content only will be less expensive than developing content with extra requirements.

This is why I have a free quote feature on my website.  It helps ensure that I and my potential clients have a full understanding of one another’s needs and what to expect.  It’s vital for a strong working relationship.

So, there you have it, a brief overview of what I do to ensure the content I develop is top-notch and my clients are satisfied.  If you are a fellow freelancer feel free to mention anything else I should add that I might have missed!

Are you a business seeking content development? Contact me now for a free quote.  I’m currently for hire and accepting new clients!

Great Post Recommendation for Editors & Marketing Managers

I just read a very compelling post today.  It was so good, I had to stop what I was doing and share it.  Writer Patti Podnar discusses the important role editors and marketing managers have to play when it comes to developing stellar content and how to avoid some frustrations as well.

A couple of great points: Be forthcoming about your needs and don’t beat around the bush.  Yes, we writers, especially the new ones, can be a sensitive bunch.  Often this means editors and content managers trying to be too nice.  This often translates to being vague leaving the entire team frustrated.

As a content manager, have a plan, know what you need, and state those needs clearly.  Writers run the gamut, but when you find a talented, experienced and confident content creator, you can rest assured he/she will listen to your plans and take constructive criticism in stride.

The beauty of better up-front communications for your business is less time spent editing, revising and otherwise wasting time that can be better spent growing.

Learn more: Editors and Marketing Managers: Your Content Writer’s Success Starts With You

A Guide to Writing a Great Hook

writing great hooksDo you fear your content is not delivering results? How do you ensure your writing can grab a reader’s attention and  hold it long enough to get your message across?

It’s all in the “hook”. Master it and your readership and conversions will increase – guaranteed.  Writing a great hook is the most important writing skill there is.

A hook is useful in all forms of writing. It consists of the first sentence or two which tell a reader to “drop everything and pay attention to this!” Of course, the hook accomplishes this indirectly by evoking emotion, asking a question or instigating an action.  Hook writing is also an excellent way to customize search engine results and make people click through to your content.

The first step to developing a hook that works – know your audience. For example, a blog post is more informal and conversational, but if you are writing a marketing proposal for a major corporation; you would obviously want to avoid being too casual.

Next is understanding the goal of your piece. Are you solving a problem? Sharing information? Trying to get people to buy something? Your goals also determine the type of hook to develop.

Once you know the goal of your piece and your audience; you can create a hook that speaks to your customer.

Solving Problems

If your article provides a solution, immediately state the problem and invoke feelings of empathy for the reader. Let them know you understand just what the problem is and how it feels to have that challenge. This develops an immediate connection and sense of trust.

Example:  Do you have problems falling or staying asleep? Does your mind race uncontrollably, keeping you from being able to relax and enjoy a restorative sleep? You’re not alone, according to XYZ study from the Institute of Sleep Research, millions of people struggle with insomnia caused by stress.  Fortunately, SleepEasy has been designed to help relieve the anxiety that keeps you lying awake, watching the minutes tick by.  Wouldn’t it be great to fall asleep peacefully and stay that way until morning? With SleepEasy, you can be well-rested by tomorrow.

The hook above appeals to your reader’s emotions, lays out the problems, cites an expert source and names a solution all in the opening paragraph.  It also appeals to the chronic impatience of most people by stating this problem can be solved today.

If your piece is informational? Sometimes opening with a question is best. Ask your reader something thought-provoking.  Your reader likely has ideas in mind already, but will want to see how their notions align with yours. Questions pique curiosity and draw people in.  We all have an innate desire to see if our line of thinking matches others.

  • “Have you ever wondered why…?”
  • “Do you ever feel..?”
  • “How do you handle …?”
  • “Have you considered…?”
  • “Did you know…?”

The questions above all pique curiosity.  Once you have done that, then state what your piece is about.

Use Captivating Words

Use captivating words and for Heaven’s sakes don’t be boring…. “In today’s article I will discuss..” zzzzzzzzzzzz Don’t make it about you! ALWAYS write for your reader – no matter what type of writing you do!

Make that intro pop.  Solve a problem, ask a question, pique natural curiosity.  If it suits your brand, start with a controversial statement (not recommended for most, but it does make people read!)

So, there you have the basic components of what makes a great hook. Practice makes perfect and this is one skill you want to hone.  It will benefit you in every aspect of your career, from marketing yourself, to pitching queries to editors and more.

Did I miss anything? What are your tips for creating great hooks?

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A Simple Foolproof Tip to Persuade Your Readers

persuade readers tips

Need a foolproof way to grab your reader’s attention? It can be easy to get lost in a sea of other writing, so little things like trigger words make all the difference.

Here are a few words to use more because it will ensure that your readers are more compelled to act – whether that means buying products you are endorsing, or simply reading more of your work.

Your words should incite emotion: 

Empower and Overcome – are two great words to encourage others to resolve a problem for example.

Learn to trigger empathy.  Express frustration with “tired” or “exhausting” – things people can relate to when faced with stressful situations.  These should be followed up with the very solutions your post or product provides.

Make your readers take action with words like “now” or “hurry” – see how those words evoke a sense of urgency? This is known as a call to action.

Appeal to the laziness in all of us with words like “Easy” and “Quick”.

Tap into your reader’s natural sense of curiosity with great headlines and opening hooks.  There is a reason “click bait” works.

Of course, there is a lot more to the science of choosing the right words. The good news? You can learn this art in-depth and improve your writing by reading this hub: How to Write Words That Captivate Your Readers

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Defeat Career Killing Bad Writing Habits

defeat bad writing habitsThere are several bad habits that may be sabotaging your writing career.  Fortunately, as with all bad habits, acknowledgement and being proactive can help you overcome them.

Do you have any of the following self-sabotaging behaviors or beliefs when it comes to your writing?

Procrastination

It comes in many forms: avoidance, distraction, and the worst of all – waiting for inspiration.  If you always find yourself waiting to be inspired; you’ll never do enough writing to reach your fullest potential.

Your muse is like a muscle; it grows with proper feeding and regular exercise. 

How to Defeat Procrastination

Even if it goes against your free-spirited nature; develop a schedule.  Create a set time of day that you write, or if you need more flexibility, write in specific time allotments.  There is a great

I use a great free desktop timer. It’s non-intrusive and sits in the bottom corner of the screen.  Set it for 15 or 30-minute intervals.  During that time, you should only write – no editing, researching, or other distractions.

This is both diet and exercise for your muse.  When you do this, you become a faster, better writer.

Distractions

Do you find yourself constantly distracted, stopping to check email and social media multiple times per day? When you are trying to get words down, are you suddenly compelled to go do laundry or some other task?  Distraction is probably one of the biggest hurdles to writing for most freelancers.

When you are trying to get words down, are you suddenly compelled to go do laundry or some other task?  Distraction is probably one of the biggest hurdles to efficient writing for most freelancers.

Defeat Distractions

Kill the habit of checking social media constantly.  If you use Firefox; consider the free addon I use called “leechblock”.  It’s very effective and versatile. You can set what sites it blocks and when. You can make it easy to override or set it for the “nuclear option” that you can’t undo – so tread lightly :).

This little add-on is a major life changer.  If you don’t have a quiet office setting; invest in a set of noise cancelling headphones.  I like my dual-purpose headphones that can be set to cancel noise or not.

You Edit While Writing 

If your inner critic becomes a drill sergeant every time you sit down to write, is it any wonder why you struggle with speed and quality?

This is a bad habit pushed in traditional writing classes and it’s one of the hardest to break.  When you liberate yourself from this mindset; you’ll see your writing improves beyond your wildest imagination.

How to Defeat the Overzealous Editor

Give your inner grammar Nazi a set time and place.  Free write often. Once your ideas are all spilled out on the page, then allow your inner editor to go in, clean it up and organize.  This is how you get both halves of your brain to cooperate, instead of do battle against each other.

I cover this in greater depth (for free) here: Simple Exercises Guaranteed to Improve the Quality and Speed of Your Writing.

Paralyzing Perfectionism

Writer’s are usually their own worse critics.  Do you find you compare yourself to others constantly? Do you feel like your writing will never measure up, so you use that as an excuse to not put in the effort?

If so, you aren’t alone.  Creatives tend to have this issue a lot.  Sadly, this defeatist mindset leads to a lot of undiscovered talent.

Beating Perfectionism

There are some things you can’t ever fully rid yourself of.  Knowing and understanding this is the key to beating self-sabotage in all areas of your life.

When people wait until they aren’t afraid of failure (which is what perfectionism is at its core); they never move forward.  Why? Because fear is a part of life.  It cannot be beaten into submission; it is conquered by developing positive new habits and working around it.

Self-Sabotage is a very real struggle for so many and it comes in many forms.  You can learn more about how to defeat all the habits, beliefs, and behaviors that are holding you back here:

Both are hubs I’ve written on the psychology of self-sabotage and learning how to overcome it and live life on your own terms.  Enjoy!

Like this blog?  My aim is to help other writers thrive.  If you have any questions or suggestions for topics you’d like me to cover, please feel free to comment or contact me.

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Use These 10 Simple Tips Now to Instantly Improve Your Online Writing

10 writing tips to improve writingEver feel like you’re drowning in an ocean of information overload and that no matter how hard you work, you just can’t seem to get your articles or blog posts on the radar?

If you develop content for websites or write a blog; you depend on people sharing your work to grow your brand and business.

In order to grab readers and hold their attention, it’s important to remember a few key concepts that are less about what you write, but more about how you present yourself and your work!

It’s hard to gain followers, get social shares and to compete with the millions of other articles out there. Here’s how to get an edge!

1. Have passion for your subject.

Share a few personal stories as they relate to the topic.

Let’s say you just love to knit. It’s a hobby you know well and have learned through trial and error. You decide that a niche blog might help your business.

Your passion and expertise matter and they need to SHINE through your writing. Fortunately, when we are passionate about a topic, that enthusiasm  shines through like a beacon.

2. Illustrate what you are talking about!

If you write tutorials, don’t just share a still shot here and there with lengthy explanations. Pull out that iPhone and do a few short videos. Clarify your point, make your content more digestible for your readers and improve SEO all in one shot.

3. Look at your page.

Don’t just edit the writing, look at the layout. Are the paragraphs short enough to be easily viewed? Long walls of text are hard on the eyes, particularly on mobile devices.

Do you break up your text with bullet points, the periodic call out or even tables to break everything up into easily digestible chunks?

4. Vary your sentence lengths and read your work aloud before posting.

It helps immensely if readers find your writing to be engaging. A large part of readability is the rhythm of sentence structures. Short sentences are great. They should be used alongside longer sentences like this to create a more melodic flow. Short sentences are ok. They can start to sound choppy. Be sure to break them up. (can you hear the difference in your head as you are reading?)

5. Use a good image to make your content more likely to be shared.

Infographics and eye-catching title images get shared on social media and bring  increased traffic.   I also write for the  HubPages network of sites.

All of my articles have great title graphics. Top-notch content, coupled with strong images have brought me more than 3 million page views.

Approximately 60% of that traffic is from Pinterest.  Flipboard is another up and comer that generates great traffic to my articles because of strong images.

6. Write for your reader – not yourself.

When you are writing online content; you are there to entertain, answer a question or solve a problem for your reader. If your reader is unsatisfied, it doesn’t matter how well you write; you will fail.

Readers expect a lot from you as a writer.  Deliver it – or die.

7. Expand your horizons!

I am currently moving out of my comfort zones and learning to develop online courses that use video to supplement my texts/lectures.

It’s a big stretch for me, but with challenge comes growth. As an online writer; you want to reach as many as possible. Find different venues to do this.

You’re not tech savvy? Learn WordPress anyway and develop your niche blogs on your own terms.  Do you find social media intimidating? Pick one or two platforms and master them – far easier than trying to keep up with 20 different platforms.

8. Allow your work to be critiqued by other writers and accept the critiques with grace.

I see writers on many forums who ask for help, but then refute every helpful tip they are given. If you remain defensive, you can’t be objective enough to be successful.

I wish I had been more open to asking for critique when I was new to writing. That being said, unless it is asked for, don’t be a critic! Unsolicited opinions are not necessary.

9. Share, but do NOT spam.

One great way to get your work seen by like minds is to join social media groups on Facebook and Google+. Be sure when you join that you are a full participant and not merely there for self-promotion.

Share good works that others have written and they will be more inclined to reciprocate. If you find your work is rarely or never shared; it may be time ask for a critique.

People are picky about what they share since it can be seen as a reflection of them to their peers. Would you share something ugly or rife with grammatical and spelling errors?

10. Let your personality shine through your work, but don’t make it all about “I”.

When you address your readers, it should be addressed to them. That doesn’t mean you can’t interject personal stories here and there to highlight a point. Do this, but don’t overdo it.

Your reader isn’t there for your autobiography; they are there to learn something or be entertained. If your anecdotes are not educational, remove them from the piece. The harsh truth is as a reader, I want to learn to make those muffins, not hear about your kids or your pets.

So, there you have it.  Ten tips that are guaranteed to improve the quality of your content.  Do you have any to add?  Feel free to comment.

Want to learn more about great blogging, content writing and freelancing?  Follow me on Facebook for all the latest and even some bonus tips and inspiration!

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