The Writer’s Website Often Goes Without Updates

The Writer’s Website Often Goes Without Updates

As a writer for hire, my personal website sometimes suffers … I seem to remember an expression about a shoemaker’s kids going without shoes. Let me Google that … Yes, here it is:

shoemakers-children-go-barefoot

I’m considering making a graphic with the quote:

A writer’s website often goes without regular updates.”

Yes? No? … Maybe you’d have to see it …

But, either way, in the interest of keeping my website up-to-date – while also moving client projects forward – I’d like to share a few articles I’ve written recently:

1. How to Make a Purple Cow: 12 Tips for an Unforgettable Business Website

Unforgettable-1-300x240I love the whole concept of the “Purple Cow” – coined by Seth Godin. Basically, cows are boring (according to Godin) and unremarkable. But, if you found a purple cow, that’s something you’d never stop talking about.

With that in mind, here are 12 ways to make your website unforgettable … even if you don’t have an interesting product, a dramatic story, an exciting image, or The Most Interesting Man in the World

Read the whole article here.

2. 8 Ways to Work Less and Earn More

work-less-and-earn-more-300x190This article, which I wrote for Bidsketch, got a lot of mentions around the Web.

Here’s the backstory: At the beginning of 2013, I wanted to double my hourly rate – for the primary purpose of having more leisure time.

Throughout the year I tested different techniques and strategies so I could work less and earn more. At the end of the year, I more than doubled my hourly rate and I worked less than part time (or 20 hours per week).

If you too want to work fewer hours – or increase your hourly rate – read this article for 8 ways to maximize your working hours.

3. Content that Converts: How to Turn Viewers into Buyers

content-that-converts-1This article was a lot of fun to write – and judging by the response, people found it useful.

If you spend any time at all writing and sharing content to market your business, this article will help you decide if you’re missing critical elements when it comes to your content marketing strategy. And – if so – how to combine entertaining content with content that converts (i.e. makes you more money).

Read the whole article here.

Also, be sure to check out the “Snellen Test” for copy (explained in the comments by fellow writer, Steve Maurer).

I guess that’s all for today …

As always, if you have any questions, please post them in the comments below. I look forward to hearing from you!

How Do You Find Time to be an Expert?

How Do You Find Time to be an Expert?

As writers, most of the ways we become known as experts involve writing. But it can be hard to find the time to pack more writing into your schedule, especially when you’re just getting started.

Time management is a subject mankind has always struggled with.

It’s been studied by the greatest minds of our time: Albert Einstein, Dwight Eisenhower, Dale Carnegie, and Isaac Newton, just to name a few.

We, as freelance writers, are especially interested in effectively managing our time because the time we use is all ours.

Many of us have the goal of living the writer’s life so we don’t have to directly trade our time for dollars like a regular day job.

Instead, when we work for ourselves, we can work more efficiently and increase our hourly income. We can set up systems to make money while we sleep. And we can raise our rates as our expert status increases.

When our time is ours – and we’re tasked with making the most out of it – we begin to realize how important our time actually is.

When you’re a freelance writer, you have to use your time efficiently, or you’ll find that your working hours bleed into your free time hours.

If this happens for too long, you’ll likely burn out and give up.

Over the past year, I’ve spent a lot of time studying how to use my time effectively. One of the biggest time management lessons I’ve learned is this:

It’s very difficult to force yourself to do specific tasks at specific times. Trying to stick to a specific schedule can be very ineffective.

When you force yourself to do something at the wrong time, your brain won’t be “tuned in.” It will take you longer to finish the task and it will be far more frustrating.

For example, many time management people will advise you to create a schedule and stick to it. There’s a problem with this.

Let’s say you write from 7-10 a.m. every morning. One morning, you wake up and you just can’t get into your writing. You struggle to get words on the page for your three-hour commitment so you can move on to your next assignment.

Those three hours were incredibility ineffective. You barely wrote anything and you probably won’t use what you did write.

But what if you had changed your schedule that day to work on something else from 7-10 a.m.?

Then you could have come back to your writing when you were in the right mood. Because you would have been focused and effective for the whole 3 hours, you would have less frustration and a bigger return on your time investment.

It can be done. In fact, I often switch up my schedule to get the most efficiency out of every working hour. To do this, I take on projects that involve more than just writing.

Let’s say I’m creating a website for a client. There are many tasks to complete for that project. My technique is to divide the project up into the different types of work: (1) planning and marketing ideas, (2) writing, and (3) design.

In the mornings, I like to write, so I spend that time on the copy. Afternoons are usually when I’m in a strategic planning mood. Usually at the end of the workday, I’m in a crafty mood. That’s when I do the design work.

If you only handle writing assignments for your clients, you might break your writing into the following tasks: (1) research, (2) outlining, (3) writing, and (4) editing.

If you have several clients at a time, you’re likely to always have a project that is in one of these stages.

Of course, if you have tight deadlines, you may have to buckle down and get something done, even if you don’t feel 100% into it. That’s why it’s important to realize you might want to shake things up a bit and agree to deadlines that allow you to do so.

Remember, you’ll work more efficiently in the long run and make more per hour, so it’s worth the extra planning in the beginning.

I’m still getting the hang of it, but I’m getting closer to my perfect schedule every day.

What about you? Do you use this technique, or do you have another tip for making effective use of your time? Comment below to join the discussion …

3 Reasons You Should Embrace Social Media Now

3 Reasons You Should Embrace Social Media Now

You may have heard that social media is the hottest opportunity of 2012, but you might still be wondering how businesses use social media … and how it can be your path to the writer’s life.

Social media is basically a group of websites that provide a place for their users to share messages with their friends, colleagues, or even strangers. The most popular social media sites are Facebook.com, Twitter.com, and LinkedIn.com.

The thing that makes social media so unique – and such a big opportunity – is the ability to connect with virtually anyone around the world and share your message with them.

Right now, social media is being embraced by all types of businesses because they can use it to their advantage to reach out to people like they’ve never been able to do with offline media, like print, TV, or radio. Social media really is changing the world.

But businesses need a social media expert to show them the most effective ways to use social media – and they are willing to pay very well for this expertise. Many social media experts charge each client $2,500–$12,000 per month – and they’re having no trouble finding clients.

So why should anyone who wants to live the writer’s life embrace social media now?

Here are the three main reasons I’m giving it a try:

1. Work from anywhere – literally.

We all have the dream of working from anywhere at any time, but honestly, technology limits us a bit. I personally do not want to take my computer to the beach. And I find it a tad difficult to type a 14-page sales letter on my iPhone.

But a Social Media Expert has a whole different life. They can do most of their work from their smartphone. With all the social media apps now available, they can check and update their clients’ accounts, follow people, and tweet right from their phone from anywhere with Wi-Fi or cell phone reception.

2. Have a lot of fun and get paid for it.

I don’t know about you, but I think social media is a lot of fun. I check my social media accounts several times a day – even if I’m not getting paid. I don’t just follow the goings-on of friends and family. I also network with clients and work colleagues and keep up with industry trends in my niche.

But when I am getting paid for it, I’m still having a great time social networking with people on behalf of clients. For my clients, I use Twitter and Facebook to search for and answer customers’ questions and share quality content. This extra attention helps my clients get more loyal customers.

I even enjoy training my clients’ staff to handle social media. It’s fun to show them all the benefits of these social media tools and watch them grasp how powerful this form of marketing can be.

Most people know just a small percentage of what social media can do for their business. They have no idea it’s a sales machine, networking goldmine, and customer loyalty generator. Showing them this side of social media gets me really excited.

3. Help businesses succeed.

When I first became a copywriter, I chose to specialize in writing for small businesses. I saw a need there. I knew I could help them increase business with direct mail, a better online presence, and a few other tricks I have up my sleeve.

But after pounding the pavement for months, it became clear that my mentors were not kidding. Small business is a hard niche because the majority of them do not understand direct marketing, do not have the budget for it, and, honestly, just don’t care that much.

I decided to switch niches and cater to the personal development industry. I love it, but I still yearn to help small businesses. That’s just one more reason I’m so passionate about social media …

Because social media is so popular right now and so many businesses are seeing such great results, small businesses are eager to give it a try. The investment isn’t huge (much less than one direct mail campaign), so they can get up to speed quickly and stay within budget. It’s trackable, so they know if they’re making it. And it’s exciting to get their name out there, connect with customers, and then see them in the store.

I’ve decided to couple my social media training with my copywriting services to offer more services to more businesses. I made this decision mainly because I’ve already invested a lot of time and energy into copywriting, and I already have some steady clients in that niche. My social media work will provide a nice side income for me – plus I love the work.

But you can easily make a full-time living – working just part time – running social media campaigns for clients. The demand is there. And businesses are willing to pay.

I recently attended a networking event where the guest speaker was a “Social Media Expert.” She passed out a form to sign up for her social media training class and said, “We had 20 spots, but there are only 10 left.”

By the time the meeting ended, the remaining spots were sold. At a rate of $297 per seat, she made $5,940. (More than most people make in a month.) I attended the class to get an inside view of what it took to be a Social Media Expert, and I was impressed by the amount of new clients she got from the class.

Most of the attendees decided they couldn’t handle social media and they hired her to do it for them. Considering she could charge $2,500–$12,000 per month, she’s making a good living.

The point of this story is that social media – and finding social media clients – is not difficult. As a writer, you already have most of what you need, the ability to write. The only thing you might need to learn is how to use social media to help businesses achieve their goals.

I’d even venture to say it’s probably the fastest, easiest, most fun way to start living the writer’s life.

What do you think? Comment below to join the discussion …

3 Ways to Profit as an Expert

3 Ways to Profit as an Expert

As I told you yesterday, gaining expert status is one of the quickest ways to succeed as a freelancer. You’ll attract more clients, get more projects, and as a result, make more money.

In short, you’ll be living the writer’s life, with the ability to set your own schedule, pick and choose your projects, and more. And today, I’ll show you how to boost your expert status even more to make living that ideal life a reality.

1. Money-Making Websites

A money-making website is an informational website on a topic you’re interested in. It’s created to attract visitors who are searching the Internet for information on your topic.

Once these visitors find your website, you get paid when they buy the products mentioned on your site. And it’s passive income, which means you make money even when you’re not working. All you have to do is the initial setup and add content on a regular basis – which is as simple as writing a short article here and there.

I once heard it explained as, “Like a paid vacation.” I thought that was a great analogy. If that appeals to you, you might consider a money-making website.

Another benefit of a money-making website is you’ll be seen as an expert in that niche.

Let’s say your money-making website is on marketing. Because you’ll write blog posts every week to grow your marketing website, your visitors will view you as the expert.

This expert status can then turn into more passive income through more visitors to your money-making website, or you can use it to get clients who need marketing help … or both.

There are a lot of options when it comes to creating a money-making website. You could pick a niche that has nothing to do with writing – like growing tomatoes.

Or you could pick a niche that is all about writing – like how to get your book published.

Either way, your money-making website will bring in passive income for you and function as an impressive case study of your expertise.

And the more you write, the more you’ll grow as an expert.

2. Self-Publishing Info Products

Another way to enhance your expert status and make money writing is by creating your own information products and self-publishing them.

An information product (or info product) is a book, e-book, CD, audio recording, or video that provides advice and information. They can be anything from a few-page report to a several-hundred-page course, complete with worksheets and video lessons.

I’ve been creating info products for my clients for years – on topics ranging from social media to building WordPress websites – and I’ve decided it’s time for me to write my own info product.

Having your own info product will give you expert status in your niche, but it’s also a great standalone way to live the writer’s life.

Like a money-making website, self-publishing your own info product is a way to make passive income because sales will come in whether you’re working or not.

With low overhead, low investment, and minimal time required to capture your own expertise into an info product, it’s also a fantastic way to take advantage of (and show off) your writing skills.

3. Copywriting

Copywriting is, in my opinion, the best way to live the writer’s life. If you want to be a freelance writer who makes a killer living doing what you love, I encourage you to spend some time learning the art of persuasive writing.

Copywriting is a huge industry, with businesses hungrier than ever for writers who can produce results. They need all kinds of copy … and they’re looking for experts who can help them with their specific needs. That’s why specializing in a certain type of copy will help you gain expert status and propel you to success even faster as a freelancer.

You could become an expert in one of these areas:

Web Writing

As a web writer, you would use the same skills as a direct response copywriter, but you would use those skills to sell products online.

Types of web copy include landing pages, squeeze pages, autoresponders, emails, sales letters, headlines, blog posts, articles, press releases, and even complete websites.

B2B (or Business-to-Business)

Another big area of copywriting (both in size and income potential) is the business-to-business (or B2B) industry.

If you go this route, you would help companies market their products and services to other companies.

B2B is a great niche because your clients are usually large companies with large budgets. Because they use your copy to generate huge streams of revenue, they’re already aware of the value you bring to their business. This means a higher project fee for you.

Grant Writing

Grant writing is a niche I wish I had known about when I first started. It involves writing on behalf of an organization to obtain large amounts of funding from government programs and private donors.

There’s a lot of research involved, but it’s also extremely rewarding because you can help organizations you care about get the money they need.

A few months ago, I met a copywriter who wrote grant proposals for fire departments. She was extremely proud of each department she was able to get a grant for. She loves her freelance career.

If you have a cause you care strongly about and you would like to help them while living the writer’s life, you might consider becoming a grant writer.

The specialties and niches I mentioned today are just a few ways you can further cement your status as an expert and live the writer’s life.

Of course, there are probably thousands of other ways I didn’t list here.

There are hundreds of industries and countless ways to niche yourself within each industry.

For example, your niche could be baby products, pet supplies, kitchen appliances, green energy, or anything else you could come up with. You could write all copy or just some types of copy for your niche.

I’ve niched myself both in the type of writing I offer and in the industry I service. My niche is web writing for the self-help industry.

Plus, niches can even be combined, making unlimited possibilities.

For example, Copyblogger.com combined the blogging industry and the copywriting industry to make their own niche: copywriting advice for bloggers.

Let’s say you want to write for the baby industry, but you think that’s too broad. You could combine it with the green industry and write only for companies that offer environmentally safe products for babies.

The options really are limitless, but my advice for beginning writers is to pick a niche, one that gets you excited, and get started today.

Don’t waste time analyzing every inch of a niche.

If other people are able to live the writer’s life doing it, you can too.

I’d love to hear what specialty or niche you choose – or if you’re still deciding, maybe I can help. Comment below to join the discussion …

How to Write an Article in 30 Minutes or Less

How to Write an Article in 30 Minutes or Less

An Article in 30 MinutesIf you have your own blog or website, you’re going to need to write content regularly. Fresh, new content on your site can bring you more traffic, make you look like an expert, and as a result, increase your income.

But a lot of people put off creating their own content because they think they don’t have the time to write quality articles or blog posts.

How would you feel if you could write 500- to 800-word original articles for your blog or website in just 30 minutes each?

If you have a money-making website and you’re dreading the process of writing hundreds of pages of individual articles for it, or if you’re trying to make a quick, big splash in your niche by contributing articles to industry blogs and newsletters, this article is for you, too.

It’s an easy, step-by-step process:

Think about what you’re going to say

Time: 5 minutes
Goal: 200 words

Before you write anything, spend a few minutes thinking about what your article will say.

Get your head clear and find your message. Ask yourself …

  • What is the argument that I am trying to make?
  • What is the problem I am solving?
  • What action do I want my reader to take?

Remember, your article should be on a topic valuable and relevant to your readers.

If you’re writing to potential clients, for example, a good article topic might be “Why You Should Hire a Copywriter” or “7 Things a Copywriter Can Do to Make Your Life Easier.”

A great way to come up with topics is to review questions you’ve had from previous clients and answer them in a post. If you don’t have any past clients, you could look for questions on forums or in social media and answer those.

The fastest way to write an article is to write about a subject you know a lot about. But keep in mind, it should also be of interest to your readers.

If you’re studying something, for instance, how to increase traffic to your website, you could write about that because it’s fresh in your mind, you’ve spent some time thinking about it, and because your prospective clients are trying to increase their profits, they would probably be interested in learning about increasing their traffic.

Another example: let’s say a client asks you how to optimize their site for SEO. You might need to spend some time researching, but you could double your efforts. You could charge your client for your advice, and you could write an article (or several) to build your credibility.

Also, think about how tips from other industries can be applied to your niche to help your reader.

Then start writing. Write the one thing your article will cover at the top of your page.

Next, quickly write down keywords you want to craft your article around and any quick thoughts that come to you. Don’t worry about formatting or clarity at this point.

Just dump all your thoughts onto the page.

If you find you need to do a lot of research on your topic, maybe it’s not the right topic for a 30-minute article.

Organize your thoughts

Time: 5 minutes
Goal: 100 additional words

Spend the next five minutes organizing everything you dumped on the page in the first step. Lump ideas that go together into parts of your article.

For example, if you have several pieces of advice on your topic, you can format it into a “tip” article, like “5 Ways to Get More Sunshine.”

Fill in any missing parts with questions your reader might have. For the above example, they might ask, “Why do I need more sunshine?”

Once you have a message or big idea, an outline, and some questions to answer, you’re ready to move on. Get ready to write.

Write fast and furious

Time: 5 minutes
Goal: 300 additional words

For the next five minutes, write (or type) as fast as possible. Move through your outline filling in each part with anything that comes to mind – as long as it’s relevant.

This is completely about getting the words on the page as fast as possible. Don’t put any thought into the quality of your writing. This is purely about the quantity of words that you can get down on paper.

If you pause to consider what you’re saying, you’ll lose your momentum and slow down the process.

This might be very difficult the first few times you do it, and it might even take you 10, 20, or 30 minutes. But the more you do it, the faster you’ll get.

Remember, you don’t need to be long-winded because people have short attention spans anyway. Say what you have to say and say it quickly.

After you have written for a solid five minutes, just letting it come out without thinking, you should have upwards of 300 words or so.

It may be difficult at first, but with practice, you’ll be able to increase your writing speed and good ideas will come much faster.

Now, you’re almost done.

Clean it up

Time: 10 minutes
Goal: 200 words

You may be wondering how you can edit an article with just 10 minutes left on the clock. But the magic is, if you let yourself write without thinking, you should have less to edit. You have captured your natural voice, and your writing is already conversational and friendly.

Spend half your remaining time elaborating on your ideas and cleaning up anything that might not be clear.

Then use the last half of your editing time to check spelling, grammar, and punctuation.

Craft a headline

Time: 5 minutes
Goal: 5-10 words

When you’re writing copy designed to sell a product or service, you should spend a great deal of time on the headline.

In fact, you should write a lot of headlines, sit on them a while, revise them, come up with more ideas, attend peer review groups, and do everything you can to get the best headline possible.

But when you’re writing content for your blog or money-making website, you don’t need to stress quite so much.

Look at your big idea and see if you can work it into a headline that will grab attention. You can even pull words directly from the article.

Ideally, you can quickly choose a headline because you’re familiar with your topic and message. You just spent 25 minutes writing your article, so coming up with a headline for it shouldn’t be too difficult.

Just make sure you use your keywords in your headline and that your headline is compelling enough to make someone want to read your article.

If you want to spend more time on your article, I recommend spending it on your headline. After all, if your headline doesn’t grab their attention, they won’t read your article.

So to review, here are the steps again:

Step 1: Spend 5 minutes thinking about what you’re going to say.

For example, let’s say I’m writing an article on social media. That’s really broad, so I’ll spend five minutes coming up with my exact topic. I remember that I had one client ask me what times of day were most effective to update their status, so I decide to write about that. I’ve already done the research, so I know what to say.

Step 2: Spend 5 minutes organizing your thoughts.

Next, I would quickly outline my article. I know I’ll have an introduction, body, and conclusion, plus I’ll want to list out the best times to update social media profiles and why.

Also, I think it would be good to include a few tips on how to batch and pre-schedule updates.

Step 3: Spend 5 minutes writing fast and furious.

The next five minutes I would write down everything I can remember about how often and when they should update their social media profiles. I would talk about how it’s important to know when you’re audience is active and how they can find out and take advantage of it. I would also list the most popular times for social media activity – the times when their posts are most likely to be seen

Step 4: Spend 10 minutes editing your article or cleaning it up.

Then I would spend 10 minutes editing my article. First, I would make sure all my points are clear and probably look up a couple of statistics to prove my points. Then I would make sure there aren’t any spelling errors and that it reads well.

Step 5: Spend 5 minutes crafting a headline.

Finally, I would quickly come up with a headline. Possible headlines for this example could be: “The Best Times to Update Your Social Media Profiles” or “Your Customers are on Facebook Wednesday Afternoons – If You’re Not, You’re Losing Money.”

So how did you do? Did you finish your article in 30 minutes or less?

What other tips do you have for writing quickly? Comment below to join the discussion …