Ever click onto a blog that looked like it was translated from Swahili into English by a machine? Ever hit that browser “Back” button because the blog entry had nothing to do with the headline you’d clicked? It doesn’t matter how skilled you might be at your freelance profession–whether it’s web design or photography–sloppy blog writing makes potential clients think: If this person is so sloppy with their blog, how sloppy will their work be?
That doesn’t mean a blog needs to be written English Lit class-style. Au contraire! Blogging is a much more conversational form of writing. But if any blog entry is going to effectively promote a business and portray you as a trustworthy professional, it must be readable and understandable. And it must deliver the information promised in the headline.
Here’s how to edit a blog entry so it’s clean, clear, and convinces prospects that your freelance work is worth the investment:
1. Let it go. Let it go… [apologies for the earworm] The most effective editing happens after you take your eyes off the content for a bit. Ideally, a blog entry can simmer for a day or two before editing, but if time’s an issue, don’t fret! Take 5 or 10 minutes to walk away from any manner of glowing screen. Take the pooch for a quick walk or start a load of laundry–whatever you need to do to refresh your eyes so they’re better able to catch oopsies.
2. Make it a match. Check to make sure the entry’s headline matches the main topic, and then make sure the supporting points actually support the headline. For example, if you’re sharing tips to find effective keywords for a new website, cut sentences or paragraphs that tangent off into website color choice or how to build a newsletter mailing list. The reader clicked on that headline because they wanted to learn more about finding the money keywords.
3. Run spell check… but don’t rely on it to catch grammar errors, faulty word choice, or homonyms (words that sound alike but are spelled differently: bases vs basis). You’ll need to do a read-through to catch those. Not sure about a correct word or usage? There are plenty of good, free grammar websites that will point you in the right direction.
4. Read out loud. This is guaranteed to make you look like a dork–even your cat might look at you funny–but it just plain works. Reading aloud gives you the chance to listen for all those things that make a blog entry hard to read. You might find out you’ve used the same word or phrase over and over and over and over. Maybe you realize that a paragraph makes zero sense.
5. Check for inconsistencies. Have you used omega-3 in the first paragraph and Omega 3 mid-sentence later in the blog? It might not look like a biggie, but if you’re freelance nutritionist, that inability to settle on consistent spelling for a basic nutritional term could be the that teeny-tiny tidbit that nudges a prospect to hire a consistent competitor instead of you. Look up the accepted spelling (if there is one) and use it consistently. Make a cheat sheet if you need to for quick future reference.
6. Make the call. To action that is. A call to action doesn’t necessarily need to be a “Hey, buy my awesome book!” It’s anything that encourages your reader to interact with you or other readers of your blog:
- Action: Try these editing tips with your next blog entry.
- Question: Do you have editing tips to share?
- Relevant Links: Learn more by checking out these editing articles…
Off you pop! Try these blog editing tips with your next blog entry to let potential and current clients know you are THE MAN/THE WOMAN/THE LORD OF YOUR PROFESSION.
Holidays can be a test of patience for any of us, but freelancing brings its own set of stresses that can be compounded by an influx of loved ones (okay, some of them may be not-so-loved ones, but you get the gist…). The good news is you don’t have to devolve into Clark Griswold when you’re hosting family or college kids back from school. Here are tips for saving your sanity while trying to balance freelancing with the visiting hordes over the holidays:
1. Let them know your schedule.
Step away from the threshold…Freelancing is not a way of life in every family, so loved ones might have the impression you can be footloose and fancy free with your work schedule. Save sanity and keep the relative peace by telling folks ahead of time that you keep regular working hours.
2. Set work space boundaries.
Ideally you’ll have a work space with a door, allowing you to shut out Uncle Eddie, whining kids, and other holiday distractions. But some freelancers, like me, work in a common space, which is practically an invite for visiting guests to drop by your desk to chat about Aunt Mary’s toenail fungus (Sadly, I speak from experience…). Let family members know that when your butt’s in the chair, it’s work time. Politely remind them that the faster your to-do list gets done, the more time you’ll have later for needling your sister, arguing with dad, or watching The Year Without a Santa Claus.
3. Make time for them.
It’s very not cool for family to invade your work space and time, but it’s also not cool to hole yourself up in the office for their entire visit. Here’s how to give them the time they deserve—or, at least, the time they think they deserve:
- Plan activities. Sharing time with family is far more likely to happen when you put in on your calendar.
- Work ahead. If possible, identify projects you can finish ahead of time. For instance, I typically start advance-writing blog entries 2-3 weeks before a family visit. Does it extend those work days before the visit? Yep. But it pays off when it’s time to hunt with dad, prepare dinner with grandma, or take the kids to the overcrowded hell that is the line for Santa.
- Automate social media posts. There are plenty of simple tools, from apps to WordPress plug-ins, that allow you to schedule social posts in advance–find one you like and use it to get that holiday-happy face out from behind the smartphone.
4. Take some shortcuts.
No one is going to take away your Mom or Dad card if don’t make dinner rolls from scratch. Give yourself freedom to take some shortcuts when balancing freelance work with family life during the holidays. For me, that means when it’s time to make cookies for the family (and Santa!), I roll out handmade sand tarts using a recipe my grandma got from her high school Home Ec class in the 1930’s. But when it’s time to mass produce cookies for the little guy’s class “winter celebration,” I slice and prep a Pillsbury dough roll. Choose your stresses, folks!
Have you freelanced from home while in-laws, siblings, or other assorted loved ones visited? Any scars, war stories, tips to share?
Pic via thethoughtexperiment.wordpress.com
This post was first published on amygwrites.com, my freelance writing business website. My original audience was freelance writers, but the tips are gotta-knows no matter what your task, whether it’s graphic design or virtual assistance.
Job bidding sites are a smart way for people like you and me to find good freelance jobs without mortgaging the house to pay for advertising, marketing, and back-office support. But over the years I’ve heard many freelancers (writers, graphic designers, etc.) talk about how challenging it can be to win that first proposal. And while it’s not rocket science (which is good for me considering I know nothing about rockets or science…), there are strategies that will make your proposal stand out. Check out these 5 tips for winning your first project via online job marketplaces like Elance, Guru, Odesk, and others:
1. Be flawless.
Never underestimate the power of a perfectly-spelled, grammar-oops-free profile. Too often on freelance job sites I’ve seen writers post profiles rife with genuinely horrid misspellings or grammar mistakes. Part of me wants to do a happy dance–“Yay, you’ve just made it easier for me to get this job.” Part of me wants to cover my face in shame–“Please log off and stop making the rest of us freelancers look bad. Twit.”
Review your profile carefully, several times. Enlist a business friend to review it before it goes live too. Ask “Would you be comfortable hiring a person with this profile?” Listen to their feedback and incorporate the changes that make sense.
2. Read the job description/request for proposal.
Word. For. Word. First, reading the entire description will reveal little checks some clients add to see who has their listening ears on. For example, the client might include “Please type the word “Balloon” at the start of your proposal.” Sounds weird, but it’s really a decent way to pinpoint the freelance writers conscientious enough to read and understand directions, which in terms of the upcoming project could indicate the client won’t have to deal with the hassle of unnecessary revisions. It also weeds out freelancers who use blanket, automated replies.
The second Very Good Reason to read every blessed word is that it can clue you in to hooks you can use to further convince the client that your services are best. If the job description asks for the blog entry to be written in British English, for instance, specifically address that in the proposal: “The content will be in British English, as outlined…” This is a more professional way of saying: “I won’t deliver in American English or Australian English or Klingon…because I hear ya’. You need the language of lorries, loos, and snogging–I’ve got this handled like a boss.”
3. Show specifics.
A project-winning proposal is more than simply saying you’ll deliver the project for X dollars within Y days. To boost your chance to win the bidding process, give details. Let the potential client know what the price includes, such as additional research or number of revisions. Consider including a specific date and time for the deadline (rather than a default proposal setting, like “within 1 week”). The more guesswork you take out of the process, the better the client understands what they’re investing in–and the more likely you are to win the project.
4. Provide samples.
No one will give me a job if I have no samples of previous work…but how can I show samples of previous work when no one will give me a job?!
This is one of the biggest snags for new freelancers–but there’s also a fairly simple fix: create your own sample. If you’re applying for blog writing jobs in the tech industry, write a couple of sample entries about current events or a new technology. When you attach the entries to the proposal, just note that they’re from your sample portfolio. If the potential client asks about who you wrote the content for, tell him or her it was written on spec and is available for purchase.
5. Keep calm and submit on.
It took a month+ to get my first job through an online job marketplace. It’s taken longer for other freelancers who are now successful. If you’re going to give up after a few weeks or a couple of months, then maybe freelancing isn’t your gig. Continue to submit clean, error-free proposals for freelance jobs for which you’re suited–and be patient!!
What’s been your experience with winning your first project on job bidding websites, like Guru, Elance or others?
For some freelance professionals, like photographers, Pinterest seems a natural fit for promoting business. For others, including us pen-monkeys*, the visually-oriented social site’s uses aren’t always as clear. This list will help jump start those creative juices so you can start using Pinterest to promote your small business. Over the next few weeks and months, I’ll post more in-depth info on some of these uses and how to make them work for you.
- Share blog content, photos, or other images
- Promote physical products
- Post tutorials, tips, or how-to’s for your products/services
- Promote events or contests
- Advertise sales or deals
- Share relevant infographics
- Share customer images or tips
- Spotlight clients, employees
- Compile relevant how-to’s, tips, & tutorials from other sources
- Perform market research
- Find inspiration for new products or services
- Interact with clients & customers
- Scope the competition
- Collaborate with team members using the private board feature
Already using Pinterest to market your freelance business? Let us in on how you’re using it.
*Totally not diggin’ the “pen-monkey” thing. My older son suggested pen-pig. Which is why 8 year olds aren’t biz consultants. Perhaps pen-cougars? Pen-leopards? Got a suggestion?
Yeah, you already know that social networks, from LinkedIn to Twitter, can be essential to making the connections that get you work and keep you in prospects’ minds. But is Pinterest a good fit for your freelance business? Whether you’re a graphic designer or writer, here’s a super-basic guide to why this virtual bulletin board site might be worth the time investment.
1. Pinterest drives traffic to your website.
When something from your website is pinned to a user’s board, Pinterest provides a link that goes directly to that source webpage creating inbound traffic. For example, on I pinned this image from a blog entry on my freelance writing business blog:
The image on Pinterest provides a link to that page, allowing the person pinning it image to go directly to the blog to read the full article.
2. Pinned content is the Twinkie of social media.
Content on other social networks, like Facebook or Twitter, only “lives” for a few minutes to an hour before it’s pushed down a user’s feed by other news and information. When it comes to pinned content, that lifespan is far, far longer. Tailwind Analytics found that one engaging pin was shared 66 times over a 32-week period before it was discovered by a Pinterest influencer who shared it with his 1.5 million followers—who in turn repinnned it more than 2,300 times.
Will every pin live long and prosper just so? Of course not. But the example should provide a sense for how Pinterest is different than other social spaces.
(And if you’re like me you were wondering, too: a Twinkie’s official shelf life is 45 days, although there’s anecdotal evidence of much longer spans, according to NPR. That means, technically, Good Pinterest Content > Twinkies.)
3. Pinterest connects you to audiences.
This social site is the 12th most visited site in the U.S., according to ranking firm Alexa, and the 2nd most active site when it comes to social referrals (Facebook being in the top spot). That means there’s a good chance at least some of your audience is using Pinterest to find solutions, get ideas, and source inspiration. One way to discover if your peeps are on Pinterest is to ask. Send a survey or chat with clients to find out if and how your audience uses the site.
4. Establish your authoritah.
Bonus points if you heard that in Cartman’s voice! Sadly you win nothing except my nerdy respect for your pop culture cred. Now to the point…You’re an expert in whatever it is you do: you’re a badass writer or a web design guru or a photography phenom. Pinning allows you to establish your expertise and know-how. For example, a freelance marketer sharing helpful original content as well as repinning *credited* useful content is saying “I’m your go-to person.”
Is Pinterest the right tool for every freelance business? No. There’s never a one-size-fits-all strategy. If there was, running a small business would be waaaaay easier and we’d all be bajillionaires with garden sheds shaped like Tardises. (Or wait, maybe that’s just me…)
This post was originally published as How to Write Emails That Won’t Make a Client’s Head Hurt- 4 Simple Tips on my freelance writing business website, amygwrites.com. I’m sharing it here because it’s relevant to any freelancer or business pro.
I send whopping big emails.
To friends, anyway.
Those poor folks know all too well that I’m capable of sending ridiculously long messages filled with anything from movie reviews to fiction ideas to flat-out nonsense.
Business emails are another animal. Professionals are busy, so I assume when they see an email in their inbox they’ve already got at least four tabs open and who-knows-how-many additional incoming messages. Send a long, ugly thing and the recipient’s eyes are likely to roll as they force themselves to slog through every blessed syllable, or they’ll put it off until they have the 10 minutes it’ll take to read–which could be tomorrow or next week. If an email is going to be read and clearly understood it needs to be short and sweet.
Some productivity experts recommend limiting emails to five sentences or fewer. While I’m not a slave to that limit, I’ve learned that shorter business emails are more productive. Here are tips for writing emails to prospects, clients, and colleagues:
1. Be easy on the eyes.
Getting the recipient to take action, whether that’s granting a request or answering a question, is really the second half of the battle. The first is getting him or her to actually read the email…and that won’t happen if the message looks like it belongs in a dusty ol’ novel (Henry James, I’m lookin’ at you). Big blocks of text turn readers off before word one.
Don’t be a Henry James–at least not when you’re emailing. Use bullet points or numbered lists to make the message easy to read.
2. Just the facts, ma’am.
In an Entrepreneur article, business guru and author Guy Kawasaki recommends writing emails so they deliver “just enough” info to answer these essential questions the recipient will have:
- Who are you?
- What do you want?
- Why are you asking me?
- Why should I do what you’re asking?
- What is the next step?
3. Make it a one-topic show.
It’s tempting to cram all of your issues or requests into one email, but the chances of it being read (and, hopefully, acted on) increase when you stick to a single topic. Emails littered with multiple topics become too long, making it easy for the recipient to find something else to do—like watch clips of all the deaths in Game of Thrones Season 4—which somebody has compiled because they APPARENTLY WEREN’T TRAUMATIC ENOUGH THE FIRST TIME.
4. Know when email isn’t enough.
Dealing with nuclear fission? Muddling through a business crisis? Debating Twilight vs. Hunger Games? Some topics can’t be contained within a short and sweet message. Send key points or a summary via email and then expand the topic over the phone, in a meeting, or within a report or memo.
Do you have tips for writing emails that won’t make a recipient’s head hurt?