Forget More Cowbell; Your Blog Content Should Have More Of This Instead

Thanks to the flawless comic delivery of Christopher Walken and Will Ferrell on Saturday Night Live, “More cowbell,” has become one of the most recognized modern one-liners.

 

While more cowbell might solve some problems, unfortunately, it won’t do much to help your marketing efforts succeed. You can bang out more cowbell until…ahem… the cows come home, but it won’t make your audience more impelled to read and engage with your content.

 

What does your content need?

 

Put down your bell and do more of these two things instead:

 

Let Your Personality Sing

Unless you’re writing a technical manual, an academic piece, or something that otherwise demands a heightened degree of stuffiness and formality, relax a little. Writing in a conversational tone helps readers stay tuned in and makes them better able to grasp your message. Write like you speak so your content sounds natural and genuine. In the process:

 

  • Include references to things readers can relate to (e.g., cowbell).
  • Share relevant personal experiences to help your audience connect with the topic and to you as the author.
  • Avoid too much jargon, and don’t use fancy-dancy words to demonstrate your intelligence.

 

Approaching your writing in a more casual, conversational way doesn’t mean you will forfeit professionalism. To the contrary, you’ll improve your professional image by putting out content that readers will want to consume and share.

 

The “You” Factor

“You” is one of the most powerful words you can use in your marketing content. It instantly makes your readers a part of the conversation rather than keeping them on the outside looking in.

 

Work more “you” into your writing rather than using third person references.

 

For example, if I had written the first two sentences under this bullet as shown below, it would lose its direct connection to the reader, “’You” is one of the most powerful words business marketers can use in their marketing content. It instantly makes their readers a part of the conversation rather than keeping them on the outside looking in.”

 

And “you” becomes especially important when you’re writing about your services and products. Rather than dominating your content with sentences that begin with “We can…” or “We will…” or similar “we” wording, shift the focus on the reader and the benefits they can expect. For example: “If you…” or “You will find…” or “You’ll discover…” bring your readers into what otherwise might sound self-centered and pushy.

 

Final Notes (“Notes,” Get it?)

While more cowbell won’t make your small business marketing efforts smash hits, paying attention to how you approach the voicecow with cowbell around neck of your content can help give you star quality. Infuse more of your unique self into your writing style and speak to (rather than at) your readers.

 

Your turn! What tips and tricks have helped you connect with your readers?

 

 

 

Where Has The “Friend” In “Facebook Friend” Gone?

Social media has been an ugly place lately.Sad-faced emoji

 

Spewing of vicious insults.

 

Pointing of fingers.

 

Drawing microscopic attention to every flaw and foible.

 

Dragging of friends and family into the fray.

 

What’s that? You thought I was talking about Hillary and Donald?

 

Sadly, no. I’m seeing all of those things happening in my Facebook news feed and on the timelimes of friends, business colleagues, and casual acquaintances.

 

I’m seriously astounded—and sorely disappointed—by the show of intolerance of others’ rights to their own opinions on social media. Disagreement over who should be elected President should neither be a relationship deal breaker nor a free pass to trash others. The POTUS will be in office for four (or maybe eight) years. Disowning relatives and removing friends from your holiday party guest list in the heat of the moment could become lifelong regrets.

 

We all have to do a better job at accepting that people will disagree with us. And we have to do much better at realizing we can’t accurately make assumptions about someone’s personal nature when they see things differently than we do.

 

On social media, it’s not so much whether we support Trump or Clinton that shines a light on our true character; it’s how we treat and react to others—even those who have decided to vote for the candidate not of our choosing.

 

Are you fed up with the less than friendly way your Facebook friends are conducting themselves on social media? Have you had fallings-out with friends and family because of disagreements over the upcoming election? Please feel free to share (or vent) here—respectfully, of course!

Crappy Day? Consider These 18 Ideas To Make It Less Crappy.

These past several weeks have been tough. My freshman daughter took a hit to her self-confidence after making it to call backs for young-african-american-girl-with-thumbs-upthe high school fall play but not getting chosen for the cast. We rescued a sweet Staffordshire terrier/Pitbull mix (Loki) and discovered that the fit won’t be a good one with our resident female pitty mix. And my last remaining grandparent was diagnosed with esophageal cancer; it could be just days or weeks before she departs this earth.

Unable to make it all better for my daughter, grappling with the feeling of failing Loki even as we have found a new loving home for him, and losing my 91-year-old grandma—all at once—has tested my strength and coping abilities. Very little of what has come our way has been in my control. I struggle with that.

Feeling sorry for myself and unempowered isn’t an option. And while I realize I can’t change the present circumstances, I know there’s always a way to make any situation better by doing something that you feel really good about. So after experiencing the mental after effect of giving a homeless man a $5 bill in downtown Lancaster last week, I felt inspired to tweet this the other day…

Tweet by Dawn Mentzer

Staying aware of moments when you can do something nice, no matter how small or seemingly insignificant, really can help restore some hope, happiness, and control when you’re at a low point.

And there are plenty of opportunities to make someone else’s day a little brighter or easier; we just have to listen beyond the noise and look beyond the dark veil of our own misfortunes to hear and see them.

Whether with friends, family, clients, colleagues, or complete strangers, you can help turn days around—for them and for you—with…

Simple and immediately uplifting random acts of kindness.

1. Buy them a cup of coffee.
2. If they’re sitting alone, ask them to join you.
3. If they drop something, pick it up for them.
4. Open the door for them.
5. Give them a sincere compliment.
6. Offer to push their grocery cart back to the cart return area.
7. Tell them you appreciate them.
8. Tell them you’re proud of them.
9. Help them with a chore or task.
10. Ask if they need someone to talk to.
11. Tell them they’re good enough.
12. Forgive them.
13. Listen with your full attention.
14. Tell them you understand.
15. Tell them they’re not alone.
16. Send a funny e-card.
17. Call them to just say, “Hi.”
18. Smile at them.

According to an article in Tech Times, research indicates people who perform acts of kindness may help reduce their stress level and improve their outlook.

Put simply, doing a random act of kindness can turn your crappy day around. And that’s a win both personally and professionally—for relationships, productivity, and ability to deal with whatever comes your way.

I’d say that’s a worthy investment of just seconds or minutes each day, how about you?

Your turn! What random acts of kindness have you done lately?

Image of young girl with thumbs up is courtesy of stockimages at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Get Over It: Why You Shouldn’t Feel Guilty About Using A Ghostwriter

It’s an ethical dilemma for some clients. Is it right to claim authorship for a piece of writing that you’ve hired someone else toGet Over It - Text write?

 

As a freelancer who ghostwrites blog posts and articles for clients, I find that’s prospects’ biggest hesitation about using a ghostwriter. They feel guilty about posting something as their own if they haven’t personally written it.

 

Does that sound like you?

 

Get over it.

 

There’s no shame in hiring a professional who can do the job better than you can. Many people simply don’t have the time or writing skills to craft a compelling, well-written blog post or article. And rushing to get to the finish line or forcing a skill that doesn’t come naturally can cost you in several ways.

 

  • Whether you’re submitting an article to a high-profile industry publication or posting on your own blog, creating a piece of writing that’s sub-standard can cause embarrassment and hurt your professional reputation. At best, prospects and customers will think you had a bad day. At worst, they’ll think you’re careless and incompetent.

 

  • Without the natural ability and skills, you might find yourself spending a half-day or more on a 500-word post. So much for productivity and effective use of your time! Yes, hiring a ghostwriter will cost you some money, but what’s your time worth?

 

  • You might miss out on valuable readership if your writing doesn’t have an attention-grabbing headline or doesn’t incorporate the information and keywords to help it become found by search engines.

 

Still not feeling comfortable about the idea of hiring a ghostwriter?

 

If completely turning over your writing to someone behind the scenes unnerves you, know that it doesn’t have to be all or nothing. You can still have a hand in the process when you hire a ghostwriter by doing one or more of the following:

 

  • Take an active role in brainstorming topics.
  • Contribute your expertise and experience by giving your ghostwriter specific key details you want to communicate.
  • Craft a very rough draft and let your ghostwriter flesh it out and refine it.

 

No matter what your involvement, make sure your ghostwriter understands your “voice.” The tone, wording, and style should sound like you, not the ghostwriter. Always review and read aloud what your ghostwriter has written and ask for a revision if the piece seems out of character. Even though you haven’t written it, the writing needs to genuinely reflect you.

 

So, don’t feel guilty about hiring a ghostwriter. It’s a wonderful way to eliminate the stress, preserve your valuable time, and ensure you’re presenting your very best professional image online.

 

Your turn! What has stopped you from using a ghostwriter for your blog or other writing? If you use a ghostwriter, what benefits have you gleaned from it?

 

 

 

What To Do When You’re Not In The “Write” Mind

It’s not easy to admit, but I confess that I’ve been in a bit of a mental and motivational slump where my blog is concerned. Oh, Pen with question marks implying writer's blockI’ve been writing plenty. Just not here.

 

In the past month, my work for clients included…

 

  • 16 blog posts
  • Copy for an email campaign
  • Content for a print newsletter
  • Project managing and editing a magazine for a local medical society
  • Brainstorming and writing abstracts for 10 posts of a “disruptive” nature
  • Content for two websites
  • Two press releases
  • Two industry editorials
  • A corporate retirement announcement
  • Two case studies
  • And a few other odds and ends to boot.

 

I haven’t been sitting around twiddling my thumbs or spending hours meandering around town playing Pokémon Go. Still, I’ve beat myself up about not following through with tending to my responsibilities here.

 

This post isn’t intended to show you how busy I’ve been, but rather to demonstrate that sometimes something’s gotta give. Occasionally, you might find you’re not in the “write” mind or you have put forth so much effort elsewhere that you have nothing left to give to your blog. Feeling guilty or less of a professional because of it won’t change the situation.

 

The moral of the story: Not having the drive and determination to write for your blog doesn’t make you a slacker.

 

Fortunately, my business hasn’t seemed to suffer as a result of my silence in this space, but if you count on your company blog to draw in traffic and produce leads the same might not be true for you.

 

So, what can you do if you’re overwhelmed with your other business obligations and undermotivated to write for your blog?

 

A few ideas:

 

  • Schedule dedicated time for the task. Just knowing you’ve planned for it and aren’t cutting into the time you should be doing something else might help you put your mind to it.

 

  • Pick a topic you’re pumped up about. When you’re enthused about the subject matter, it’s far more enjoyable to write about it.

 

  • Break up the work. Instead of sitting down for hours to write a post, do it in three shorter sessions: One for research and jotting down rough ideas; a second for organizing those ideas and writing a draft; and a third for editing and fine tuning.

 

  • Hire someone to write for you. If you know you absolutely won’t get to it or if you just plain aren’t “feeling it,” don’t force it. Your time will be better spent on other work that’s critical to your business success and you’ll have the posts you need to keep your marketing efforts on track.

 

The next time you find yourself in the midst of a blog writing slump, find some comfort knowing you’re not alone. It happens to all of us—and you have ways around it.

 

Your turn: What frustrates you most about writing slumps? How do you overcome them?

 

Three Sure-Fire Cost-Cutting Moves For Solopreneurs And Small Business Owners

Ever since I started my own solo business, something a SCORE mentor said during a startup workshop six years ago has stuck Dollar bills graphicwith me:

 

“Money is the language of business. For your business to thrive, you need to learn to speak the language.”

 

He didn’t mean that all that matters in business is the money, but rather that your business financials tell how effectively you’re running your business. You need to have some understanding of profit and loss and other accounting basics.

 

No business is too small to care about profitability. Even for a very small business like mine, a healthy profit matters.

 

But what if, like me, you only have so many viable options for increasing your revenue without adding headcount or complexity to your operations? How do you boost your profitability then?

 

I think you already know the answer: Cut costs.

 

Three Ways Your Small Business Can Cut Costs

 

Think Before You Spend

Is it a “must have” or a “nice to have”? Obviously, the “must haves”—the things you need to do your job and keep your business running—shouldn’t be ignored. But the “nice to haves” can usually wait.

 

Before you buy, ask yourself…

 

  • Do I need this to effectively create or deliver my products and services to my clients?
  • Will my brand be at a competitive disadvantage if I don’t buy this?
  • Can I make more money if I buy this?
  • Will I use this?

 

This applies to anything and everything—from business software to networking group memberships.

 

Use Tools That Free Up Your Time

When you’re running a very small business, especially one that’s service-based, your time IS money. The more time you spend on the administrative and marketing aspects of your business, the less time you have to spend on revenue-producing work. Over the past several years, I’ve been using—and have seen others use—a number of online platforms and mobile apps that make various tasks far less cumbersome and time consuming.

 

A few you might want to check out include:

 

Quote Roller powered by PandaDoc – Online software for generating proposals and securing contracts

 

With Quote Roller becoming PandaDoc in 2015, the software also provides sales document management capabilities. I’ve been using Quote Roller for the past two years to send proposals to clients, which then become executed agreements when they sign off with their electronic signatures. With the ability to save pre-written text blocks to a library for future use, the platform makes it far quicker and easier to “roll out” proposals than crafting all pieces from scratch.

 

Trello – For coordinating efforts and managing projects

 

I’ve used several other project management tools when clients have insisted, and I have yet to experience one that is more streamlined and straightforward than Trello. The drag-and-drop interface and simple collaborative features have helped me keep projects with multiple moving parts and players well organized and on track.

 

QuickBooks Online* – For invoicing clients, recording all business financial transactions, and keeping tax information in one central place

 

I’ve used this for the past three years and I enjoy the intuitive interface in addition to the peace of mind that all of my financial data is automatically backed up.

 

Invoice2go – Mobile app providing the ability to invoice clients immediately onsite with a debit or credit card

 

Invoice2go can save entrepreneurs time and help them get paid faster by giving them a convenient, on-the-spot way to take care of business. I haven’t used this app because it’s rare that I would need to invoice clients at their locations, but I can see how it would save other small businesses a lot of time and headaches.

 

Hootsuite – Social media management tool for posting to and monitoring activity on social media platforms

 

I primarily use Hootsuite for keeping up with the fast pace of Twitter. It has saved me gobs of time, enabling me to see activity of users on my various Twitter lists through a single dashboard. And I don’t know what I’d do without the Hootlet browser extension. With it, I can compose and schedule tweets to share content directly from the web pages I’m visiting.

 

Shop Around For The Best Deal

I feel almost silly including this tip, but I know people who buy from the first place they find an item if the price sounds reasonable enough. As you’re equipping your office, whether it’s at home or at another site, look for sales and special deals in print and online. It just seems wrong to buy anything (especially big ticket items like copiers/printers, computers, etc.) at full retail price when there are ALWAYS deals somewhere at all times. Yes, it may take a little research and time, but what you save will likely make it well worth your while.

 

Frugality Pays Off  

Don’t confuse frugality with being cheap. There’s a difference.

 

If you’re frugal, you’re economically savvy and conscious of getting the best products and services at the best possible price.

 

Cheap means wanting whatever costs the very least regardless of quality.

 

Frugality will give you the wherewithal to cut costs without compromising your business integrity and reputation.

Is Your Blog Violating Other Websites’ Terms of Use?

With plenty written about the perils of accidentally infringing on the copyright of images we find online, most of us are well awareProceed with caution symbol: yellow triangle with white exclamation point in middle we should never use a photo unless the right to use and attribution requirements are crystal clear. And we all know it’s illegal to copy someone else’s content verbatim and present it as our own. But did you know that some companies have language within their websites’ “Terms of Use” that call for anyone citing or quoting any of their content to have explicit permission from them to do so first? Some terms of use even state that links to any other page other than their Home page are a no-no.

 

Of course, if you read the terms of use of every website you visit, you already know this.

 

Uh yeah…who does that? And websites don’t typically make it apparent that they even have terms of use (typically the links to them are discreetly positioned in small type at the bottom of websites), let alone language within them that restricts how you reference or link to their content.

 

As I was digging into this topic, I found very little about it from internet marketing experts or anyone else. Which leads me to believe a lot of people may not realize that mentioning statistics from certain companies or linking to a business’s blog post or extracting a quote from an article—even with attribution—could land you in some trouble.

 

So, I’ve asked Matthew Landis, attorney at Russell, Krafft & Gruber, LLP, in Lancaster, PA to share his expertise and thoughts on what we should watch out for and what the risks are if we violate—even if unintentionally—a websites’s terms of use.

 

Q1. How can companies be legally allowed to restrict people from mentioning their content or linking to the pages of their websites that they’ve made publicly available?

 

A1. The legal basis for these restrictions is twofold.

 

First, intellectual property rights such as copyright and trademark grant certain exclusive rights to the intellectual property owner.

 

Copyright protects original works of authorship that are fixed in a tangible medium of expression. Some examples of works covered by copyright are literary or written works, photographs, and graphic works. Copyright is automatically created when the work is fixed—i.e., when the words are saved or when the photograph is taken.

 

Copyright protection extends to the content on a website—specifically, the combination of words and structure that expresses the information, but not the factual information itself. Someone infringes on another’s copyright when they violate one of the copyright holder’s exclusive rights, such as the right to reproduce, distribute, or create derivative works. The fair use doctrine provides an exception, which allows others to use copyrighted works for certain, limited purposes.

 

Trademark law serves to protect against consumer confusion with a brand name or slogan and gives businesses the right to protect their commercial identity.

 

Second, the terms of use may be considered a binding contract enforceable against the user. A valid contract may be created by a user assenting to the terms by clicking “I agree” when creating an account for a website or by checking a box indicating that they have accepted the terms and conditions. Courts generally have accepted these methods of creating “clickwrap” agreements, which is a reference to the shrink wrap agreements that were made effective by a user indicating their assent to the terms printed on the label by breaking the wrapping of boxed software. A “browsewrap” agreement is typically posted on a website and does not contain an express manifestation of assent such as by clicking “I agree.” Courts are generally skeptical of “browsewrap” agreements, but the facts of each case will dictate whether an enforceable agreement has been created.

 

Q2. Are there any particular types of companies that are more likely than others to have policies restricting use of, referencing, or linking to their content?

 

A2. It generally depends on the business and its goals. Businesses that conduct research, sell information products, and creatives such as photographers and graphic designers often have some sort of policy in their terms of use that restrict a user’s right to use content hosted on their website.

 

Q3. Where can you find a company’s policy? Is it always under “terms of use” or could it be elsewhere on their website?

 

A3. Typically a link will be located in the footer of the site under “Terms,” “Terms of use,” “Terms and Conditions,” “Legal,” “Policies” or a similar link. I’ve also seen shorter statements relating to use of intellectual property (such as a Creative Commons license) or citation guidelines included in a site’s sidebar or included at the bottom of individual blog posts.

 

Q4. What do companies that restrict use of and linking to their content typically forbid or require?

 

A4. There are many ways to restrict use of content. First, as mentioned above, copyright automatically protects many types of content and there doesn’t have to be a policy or statement about it in order for the work to be protected. Often times a citation policy will include the exact way to reference the corporate entity that is the owner of the work in accordance with their branding standards. Some entities also refuse the right to use the work unless permission is requested and granted prior to the use.

 

Q5. Why would companies want to prevent others from referencing their content in their blogs? After all it’s free publicity, right?

 

A5. Content creators typically want to retain a certain amount of control over their work such as how and where it is used, and in addition often want to ensure that they are fairly compensated for their work.

 

Alternatively, if use of the work is being given for free, they want to ensure that they are quoted or referenced in a particular way so that users know the source of the information. It also helps the user identify the source of the work so if they wish to utilize the work, they can contact the owner and make appropriate arrangements to use the work.

Q6. What could happen if you mentioned a company’s content or linked to a company’s website without realizing they have a policy in place that forbids it or that requires you have permission first?

 

A6. It depends on a number of factors, including but not limited to whether any copyright or other intellectual property right has been violated by the use of the content, whether the terms of use constitute a binding contract, and the terms of use that you are subject to.

 

The first step is often a request to take down the material and a threat of legal action, however depending on the egregiousness of the violation or a company’s tolerance for impermissible use of their content, they may skip this step and demand financial damages or file a lawsuit for an injunction and damages.

 

The terms of use themselves may also state the remedies that are available to the company. The company often reserves the right to restrict or eliminate access to their services in the case of a violation of the terms.

 

If the content is being hosted by another service, such as a website provider or social media site, those terms of service will also apply to you as well. Use of these types of sites always includes a provision that you have the legal right to use all of the content that you post on the site, and in order to insulate themselves from liability, the provider of the service has a legal duty to take steps to remove content that is infringing or otherwise in violation of another’s rights.

 

For example, if you produce a video that is hosted on YouTube and use a popular song as the background music, YouTube may take action against you in accordance with the Terms of Service that you agreed to when you created your account. These remedies include termination of your account and indemnification of YouTube for any claims that arise out of your use of their service.

Q7. Any other thoughts on what blog writers should watch out for and how they should protect themselves when using information they’ve found on other websites?

 

A7. Familiarize yourself with the basics of copyright and fair use for the purposes of protecting your own content and respecting the rights of others. The Electronic Frontier Foundation has some great free resources called the Legal Guide for Bloggers that contains an overview of the basics.

 

As a general rule, if you are not the creator of the content, then you don’t have the right to use it unless that right is specifically granted in a license or the use constitutes fair use. If you are using another’s content, familiarize yourself with their terms of service and take the appropriate steps to make sure that you are able to use the content in accordance with their terms and policies.

 

Final Thoughts

As with any issue of a legal nature, consider talking with an attorney to discuss your concerns about your terms of use or the terms of use of websites that you’re visiting. This blog post is for informational purposes only; it is not a substitute for legal advice specific to your situation.

 

Attorney Matt LandisMatt Landis is an attorney at Russell, Krafft & Gruber, LLP, in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. He is a creative and strategic thinker that works with business owners, entrepreneurs and individuals to prevent and resolve legal problems. Matt regularly writes about legal issues at the Lancaster Law Blog.

 

 

Four Common Email Shortcuts and Sidesteps That Could Cost You

When you have a crazy-busy schedule and not nearly enough hours in the day, it makes sense to look for ways to save time. As Email @ symbol and envelopeyou’re squeezing in everything you possibly can in the limited time you have, you might find yourself taking some shortcuts and sidesteps with mundane, everyday processes—like handling email.

 

While some of those shortcuts (such as setting up filters or a priority mailbox format) streamline and boost efficiency, others can potentially cause you to lose opportunities, put business relationships at risk, and…well…make you look like a fool.

 

Four Email Mistakes That Could Hurt Your Business

All of the below are oopses that I’ve made or that I’ve seen made first-hand. Are you guilty of any of them?

 

Never checking who has sent the emails that landed in your spam folder.

I’ve learned the hard way that emails from prospects and clients sometimes turn up in spam rather than my inbox. Don’t miss out on viable opportunities or important information by completely ignoring your spam folder or deleting emails in spam without checking who they’re from first.

Not double-checking (BEFORE you hit send) to make sure you’ve included only the intended recipients.

This can trip you up in many ways. You might send confidential information to someone you shouldn’t have disclosed it to. As a means of venting frustration, you might have written something not so favorable about someone and then inadvertently included that person in the distribution (This happened to one of my friends who is by all accounts an accomplished professional.)

Bcing (blind-copying) someone on an email.

This can set you up for another email faux pas. Under most circumstances, people Bc other people in emails when they secretly want to let those people know what they’ve sent to the “To” recipient(s). That’s fine and dandy until someone who has been Bced “replies all.” Yep. Awkward. It can destroy trust and create hard feelings. If you want to keep others in the loop, consider Ccing them so it’s all up-front or forward them the email you had sent to the recipient. The latter is more stealth than a Cc but less risky than rolling the dice with a Bc.

Thinking that you’ll remember to put a commitment on your calendar later.

Assume you won’t, and reserve the time as soon as you’ve responded to an email with agreement to a meeting, a task, or an event. If your brain is pulled in diverse directions at nearly all times, trust me on this—your memory isn’t as phenomenal as you think it is.

 

The Fix For These Email Faux Pas?

All it takes is a few extra seconds and some attention to make sure you don’t make any of the mistakes above. Your email communications have the potential to make or break your business relationships. Why risk missteps that could make you look unprofessional or alienate clients or project partners?

 

What other easily preventable email mistakes have you seen other professionals make? What’s the worst one you’ve ever made?

9 Questions To Answer Before Asking a Freelance Writer For A Quote

“How much would you charge for writing content for my website?”Question marks

 

It’s a well-meaning but far too general question if you’re interested in getting a quote on content writing services.

 

Just as contractors can’t give you an estimate on your kitchen renovations until they have taken measurements and learned whether you want a hardwood or linoleum floor, content writers can’t quote you a project rate until you’ve given them some detailed information.

 

Before asking a freelance writer for a quote, prepare to answer the following questions:

 

1. How many pages will you need content for?

This matters to writers because it gives them a feel for the volume of content they’ll need to write. Obviously, a website with five pages will take far less time and effort than a 30-page website.

2. Which pages will you need content for?

The specific types of pages make a difference, too. Crafting an “Our Services” page requires more time than writing a catchy blurb for a “Contact Us” page.

3. How will the pages be structured?

A website’s layout and design elements can affect the amount of time a writer will spend on writing your content. Some websites’ home pages have a slider and small content boxes which link to specific pages, some sites are designed as a single page on which visitors scroll to get to different sections, other sites are laid out in other ways. When estimating the work involved, it helps writers to know how content will fit on the various pages of your website.

4. How will you collaborate and exchange information?

Email and easy-to-use online collaboration tools like Trello and Evernote make the process more efficient. Face-to-face meetings require more time, especially with a commute factored in.  And if you prefer to provide information via phone calls and expect the writer to take notes, that’s more time consuming for a writer, too.

5. Will you/your team provide all the key details that need to be included or will outside research be required?

Online research and phone interviews add hours to projects. Most writers will want to factor that into their pricing.

6. How many levels of approval will there be?

If one person is the first and final stop, the revision process will typically be smooth and short. When content needs to be approved by a marketing manager, a top-level executive, and a board of directors, things can get drawn out.  The writer could face multiple revision requests as each tier of approval has its own ideas of what content should say or how it should sound.

7. If you’ll have an “About Our Team” page, how many staff members will be featured there and are there existing bios to draw from?

The number of team members you feature will affect the amount of time a writer will spend on this page. And if those team members don’t have existing bios or LinkedIn profiles with key details, your writer will need to spend time gathering that information from them.

8. If you’ll have “Products” or “Services” pages, how many products or services will need descriptions and how extensive will those descriptions need to be?

The quantity of products and services and volume of content for each can dramatically affect how much work a writer faces. Expect to provide this information upfront. If you’re not yet sure about the quantity of products and services, you might instead ask the writer to quote this page on a per product or service basis. I.e., the writer might quote you $125 per product description, and your cost for that page will then depend on how many products you finally decide to include. For example: 4 products = $500.

9. When is your deadline?

If a writer won’t be able to accommodate your timeline, what’s the point of getting a quote from her? Sharing your content deadline upfront can save both you and the writer from wasting time. And if you’re expecting the writer to meet a rush deadline, expect to pay more—especially if your writer is in demand and will need to either adjust her project schedule or work above and beyond her normal project load.

 

The writers you connect with may ask some of these questions or all of these questions, and they might have other questions as well when considering what to charge for writing your website content. Regardless, you’ll get a more accurate quote and avoid added expense later if you’re prepared to provide as much information as possible about your project from the get-go.

Your turn! If you’ve worked with a freelance writer on your website content, what questions did they ask when pricing your project? If you’re a writer, did I miss anything? What would you add to the list?

 

 

Image provided by Dawn Mentzer/purchased via Canva

 

The Difference Between Writing, Editing, And Proofreading

Writing.Writing, Editing, Proofreading. Oh My!

Editing.

Proofreading.

 

No. They. Are. Not. The. Same.

 

Someone who is good (or even exceptional) at one doesn’t mean they’re decent at the others.

 

So, what’s the diff?

 

Writing

One of the definitions Merriam-Webster has for writing is, “the way that you use written words to express your ideas or opinions.”

 

The way I see it, in the simplest terms, writing is the process of stringing words together to communicate a message and make an impression on readers. In practice, it’s a far more complex activity than that because it requires the capacity to think through how to get from point A to point B, to choose effective words, and to structure thoughts in a way that strikes a chord with readers.

 

Writing requires creativity and the knack for connecting the dots to pull ideas and bits of information together and communicate them coherently.

 

A writer’s personal style, the type of assignment, and the audience the writer—or a writer’s client—wants to connect with will flavor the tone and formality of writing.

 

Editing

“Prepare (written material) for publication by correcting, condensing, or otherwise modifying it” is how Oxford Dictionaries defines “edit.”

 

Most writers I know often edit their own writing to fine-tune how it flows, eliminate wordiness, and modify sentence structure and word choice. For me, it’s part of the process to ensure the end product I’m delivering to a client is as close as possible to what it needs to be. And of course, editing (typically in the form of minor tweaks) after getting feedback from clients comes with the territory, too.

 

Some editors are really good writers, but not all are and they don’t necessarily have to be. When editing, you don’t have to create the story and message; you’re improving upon the writing so it’s as effective as possible. Editors need to have proficiency in making changes that will ensure writing makes sense, uses proper grammar, has effective sentence structure, and uses the right words. They need an ability to both pay attention to details and look at a piece of writing from a birds-eye view to make sure all parts of it are effective parts of the whole.

 

The extent and degree of editing can depend on the type of writing, quality of writing, and length of a written piece. If you’re looking for editing assistance, you might see the various levels of editing referred to as:

 

  • Copy editing – Focuses on grammar, punctuation, and proper word usage.
  • Line editing – Focuses on the sentence or paragraph level rather than the broad scope of the piece.
  • Substantive or heavy editing – Goes beyond the two above and polishes sentences to improve clarity and flow. It will eliminate overuse of passive voice, repetition, awkward wording, and run-on sentences. This type of editing also involves checking facts and rearranging or reworking parts of the writing if necessary.

 

Some characteristics of editing (copy editing in particular) overlap with those of proofreading.

 

But they are not the same!

 

Proofreading

Proofreading comes after writing and editing.

 

Dictionaries.com defines it as: “to read (printers’ proofs, copy, etc.) in order to detect and mark errors to be corrected.”

 

It involves a final check of a piece of writing before it’s published to catch minor mistakes in spelling, spacing, punctuation, inconsistency in indentation of paragraphs, etc.

 

Contrary to what you might assume, not all writers and editors are capable proofreaders. Proofreading requires a skillset all its own, and it’s never ideal for people (writing and editing professionals included) to proofread writing assignments they’ve been working on. Sometimes (depending on how heavy my workload is), I’ll ask a proofreader to review what I’ve written and fix any errors I might have made.

 

When you write or edit something, you’re too close to it, and it’s far too easy for your brain to trick your eyes into seeing perfection where it doesn’t exist. For example, you might not catch an extra “the” where it doesn’t belong or an incorrect “they’re” where there should be a “their.” We’ve all seen published blog posts with those sort of oopses. They can happen to the very best writers—because writers aren’t proofreaders. Yes, writers will do their best to make sure what they write is as clean as possible (and often it will be error free after they’ve reread it a couple of times to catch sneaky mistakes), but a second set of eyes on a piece of writing (yours or a pro proofreader’s) can further ensure perfection.

 

Writing, Editing, Proofreading – Which Do You Need?

It depends.

 

If you answer yes to any of the below questions, you might benefit from asking a writer to help you with your content.

 

  • Do I have trouble formulating topics and ideas that will captivate my target audience?

 

  • Do I struggle writing thoughts, information and ideas in a way that makes sense to others?

 

  • When I write, does it sound stilted and unnatural rather than genuine?

 

  • Do I have trouble getting to the point when I write?

 

  • Would I rather have a root canal than write a blog post?

 

If you’re considering working with a freelance writer, keep in mind that rarely are writers skilled at all types of writing projects or a good fit for all industries.

If you answer yes to any of the below questions, you might need an editing professional’s touch.

 

  • Am I good at formulating topics and ideas and writing them in an understandable way, but do I have trouble varying the structure of sentences so they sound less boring?

 

  • Does my writing sound monotonous and lack variety in word choice?

 

  • Do I creatively convey my message when I write but struggle with organizing the content so it flows logically for readers?

 

  • Do I find that I repeat myself or become long-winded when I write?

 

  • Do I enjoy the creative process of writing but not going back to fine-tune what I’ve written?

 

If you answer yes to any of the below questions, you might need a proofreader’s help.

 

  • Am I good at writing clearly and coherently, but I make a lot of silly mistakes in grammar, punctuation, capitalization, etc.?

 

  • Do I have time to review what I’ve written with a fine-toothed comb to make sure it’s error free?

 

  • Do I loathe attention to detail?

 

Writing, editing, proofreading…they’re different yet all extremely important when creating and publishing content of any type. If you don’t have all three skillsets in-house, consider getting the help of professionals who can make sure your content consistently puts your business’s best foot forward.