Blogging offers writers great rewards. We get to share our words with others. We educate and entertain. If we’re really lucky, our blogs generate income or interest from book agents. To do any of this, however, you need readers, and in the early days of any blog, readers are hard to come by. [Read more…]
If you’re like most writers, you enjoy the part of your job that entails putting pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard). You’re probably, however, somewhat less fond of marketing. Many of us squirm at the idea of cold calling or attending networking events.
That’s why it’s so important to have a strong professional website. Once it is up and running, it can bring you a steady stream of referrals with little or no further effort you your part.
These are features that will help your website attract customers [Read more…]
The popularity of social media in today’s job market has made everybody believe they can talk their way to a job. It gives them an excuse to visit their favorite social media site and say they are doing it as a part of their job search. While freelancers and job seekers can find jobs on social media sites, it needs to be handled carefully to be successful.
When looking for freelance writing gigs, it is important to let people know you are open to receiving new clients. One of the benefits of social media is the people you are associated with know others and those people know more people. You never know who you can reach within your network on a social media site just by telling people you are looking for a freelance position. [Read more…]
With blogging, these two targets are easily obtainable – that’s considering you do everything ‘by the book.’
Blogging has proven itself to be a great method of spreading the word potential consumers and clients about your products or services. It’s also proven to be a great medium to connect business owners with their existing customers in a very “hands on” approach to customer service.
The technology behind blogging makes it super easy, and in some cases, automated, to spread information about anything you want:
– company news
– new products and services
– marketing campaigns
– special promotions
– customer loyalty promotions
Blogging also provides a medium that allows business owners a way to establish real relationships with the people who of exceptional value:
– potential JV partners
– media supporters
As a business owner, the key to having a successful blog is having a clear goal for every step of your blogging.
With this in mind, I personally recommend at least drafting a plan that may include:
– How often you will update
– How you will promote your blog
– How you will retain readers
– Will you feature photographs or video
This is a plan I use each time I begin a new blog.
What are some factors that may not be listed here that could be beneficial to others who are about to embark on blogging on a corporate or business level?
I recently came across a collection of stats as they pertain to social media and blogging. I found it to be a powerful collection of information to have. Especially while reflecting on old blog posts and considering future topics, social media goals and methods in which I can increase my traffic.
With this kind of knowledge you can customize a long-term agenda that will fit in line with some of the current trends.
When it comes to blogging and social media – now is not the time to get left behind.
- Social networking usage among seniors 65 and older grew 100% from 13% to 26%, and is expected to continue to increase (Pew Research Center)
- Twitter.com had 96 million unique visitors last month up 76% from the same period last year. The #1 spot being held by Facebook with 598 million unique visitors from the same period last year, up 54% from last year (comScore)
- 29% of Twitter users 18-24 years old use Twitter to follow their favorite companies
- 60% of web users visit social networks (PC Advisor)
- Two thirds of comScore’s U.S. Top 100 websites and half of comScore’s Global Top 100 websites have integrated with Facebook.
- The average Facebook user is connected to 60 pages, groups and events (Facebook press office)
- Twitter gets more than 300,000 new users every day (Twitter)
- There are more than 600 million searches on Twitter every day (Twitter)
- Over half of YouTube’s users are 20 years old (YouTube press center)
- 77% of internet users read blogs (Technorati)
I hope you find these stats to be as inspiring and thought provoking for you as they have been for me.
A freelance writer should:
- have a website
- maintain a blog
- actively participate in the online community
- participate in social media
- make marketing an everyday priority
To varying degrees, I’ve believed all of those oft-repeated recommendations.
Today, I’m questioning conventional wisdom.
I’ll spare you my long tale of personal navel-gazing and the various mini-epiphanies that led me to reconsider many aspects of my business model over the last few months. Let’s just say that I’ve decided to change a number of things and that decision forced me to take a brief hiatus from many of my usual online activities.
As I slogged through the last month, I was a little worried about not having a fully operable website (it’s still awaiting completion and a re-launch as I write this). I worried about not blogging. I wondered what a dramatic decrease in community involvement and social media might do. Mainly, I wondered how in the hell I was going to make a change if I wasn’t actively marketing myself in the process.
My decision led to a very rough patch as I moved from one set of policies and procedures to another. There was a major cash flow hiccup as I moved from Model A to Model B. Not pretty, but temporary.
Now… Well, things are good. Hell, they’re better than ever. And that’s happening even though my domain currently points to a little Blogger.com blog that says, “I’ll be back soon”. It’s happening even though I haven’t been blogging. It’s working without much professionally oriented social media utilization, without spending a great deal of time interacting with the freelance writing community and without an intensive marketing effort.
Don’t get me wrong. It’s not as if things are just magically happening. I still work. I just haven’t been involved on those fronts lately and it really hasn’t had a negative impact on my business. If anything, my abandonment of the conventional wisdom is making me money right now by providing me with more time to focus on writing.
It’s possible that I’m an exception to the rule. The conventional wisdom may be conventional because it’s true for most folks. I realize that I started in this field a few days after YouTube launched and that I have a network of contacts that new people don’t have. If I was starting today, what I’ve been doing probably wouldn’t work.
All I can tell you is that I basically took a month off from this “world” and nothing horrible happened. I had a brief and pronounced cash flow dip (which I could have avoided if I had enough patience to roll with Model A for an extra month), but it was brief.
I’m here to tell you that there’s no law requiring you to blog twice per day. There’s no rule demanding a professionally designed website. You can live without Twitter and Facebook if you’d like. You don’t need to comment on this post to show that you’re a part of this community in hopes that will somehow put money in your pocket.
Everything is optional.
Maybe I’m just really slow. Maybe I just wandered off into some very high weeds and became slightly lost . This post may seem like common sense to many of you. This whole learning experience has been eye opening for me, though.
I’ve long laughed at conventional wisdom, but I’ve held close to it in many ways with respect to building my business. Not anymore.
I’ve decided it’s about my/your plan and not THE plan. Again, everything is optional.
This realization has been liberating. Now that the world is spinning a little slower, I can get back into the things I love and I can ignore the rest without worrying that I’m going to somehow doom myself. I know better. I slammed on the brakes for a month and lived to tell the happy tale.
When I get my site fixed to my satisfaction, I’ll slap it up there. I do have some blogging plans. I do plan to be active in certain discussions. I’m making those choices based on what I want to do, however. I’m not making them because I think they’re essential.
A good plan is a good plan. Even if it runs contrary to conventional wisdom.
In a previous post I said I wasn’t too on board with the whole making a separate Facebook page for your blog (or pages for your many blogs as the case may be). However, after Facebook introduced “Like” vs. “Fan” I felt better about pages in general and finally created my very own blog page. Yikes.
Why the change of heart?
One was because of the “Like” issue – something about the term fan rubbed me the wrong way. Secondly, I thought it was time for a page because my blog’s page views have shot up and I’m writing there more often (i.e. I have way more links now). Plus, I wanted to secure my blog’s name before someone else did.
Mostly though, I created a dedicated Facebook page so I could separate myself from my topic. I write about environmental topics – which is my dream job. Back when I first started blogging I wanted to write about green issues all the time but often, in order to make a living, I didn’t have that kind of choice. I’d write about anything – computers, architecture, budgeting, bullies and more and that was fine, but really I would have rather been writing about green issues.
Fast forward a few years and I’ve managed to carve out a niche for myself by working hard and becoming much more well known in my topic field. Now all my gigs (minus two) are related to the environment and oddly sometimes I get sooooooooo tired of thinking about green issues. Don’t get me wrong I LOVE eco-issues and I know that I’m hyper lucky because I do get to write about a topic I adore day in and day out but honestly, I need a freaking break. Some days I don’t want to have to care about organics and water conservation and energy and greenwashing. I don’t really want to see my personal Facebook page peppered with green links – you know?
Making a page for my eco-links works out better for me in terms of sanity. I get a green break when I visit my own profile page.
Still there are cons though…
- Deb’s post on driving community away from your blog is something you should seriously consider before making a Facebook page.
- Creating a good Facebook page is a little time consuming IMO. I know not everyone agrees, but after managing Facebook pages for clients, I still think managing a page is work. Especially when you run into lame little glitches such as, how to “Like” another page as your page, not as your profile (frustrating). PS I figured that out with some help.
- It’s somewhat difficult to track if a Facebook page is successful. Yeah, you might have 20,000 fans but how does that translate to better traffic, sales, or other perks at your actual blog. I’m sure for some bigger companies the perks are obvious, but for a blog I think it’s harder to track those perks.
Being the hyper anal list-maker that I am, I researched making a successful page before I made mine. You should too. There are many helpful guides out there to help you create a kick-ass vs. mediocre Facebook page. Keep in mind though that your page doesn’t have to start out awesome, it will evolve over time and you should still be yourself. Following are some helpful links.
- How to set up a winning Facebook page
- 5 Tips for Optimizing Your Brand’s Facebook Presence – great help if you’re looking for info about how to size your Facebook page profile image
- How To Develop A Facebook Page That Attracts Millions of Fans – such a loaded lame title IMO, but this post does offer some excellent tips
- The Freelance Writer’s Guide to Facebook
Beyond reading some tip guides I checked out all my favorite pages looking for pros and cons. This is a great tactic when planning your own page because you already know which pages you visit and why. You shouldn’t copy other people’s pages, but gathering ideas is smart. Here are five pages I really like…
Freelance Writing Jobs – NO I was not bribed by Deb. Deb’s page is not flashy and there are no images (something I like in a page) but this is honestly the page at Facebook I visit the most. Why? Because Deb draws me in with fun questions and casual conversation. It’s always a fun page and offers me an awesome break in my day.
The Thrifty Mommy – money saving is a pet topic of mine so I already know a lot. That said I don’t visit this page for tips much BUT if you were a mom looking to learn some money saving tips you’d be all over this page. Karen not only updates frequently, but has a killer profile image that’s cute and attractive and also adds little perks for the community like coupons and recipe images.
Village Free School – this is the page for my son’s school and not a popular page at all. However, what it does well is build a sense of community among members who do have kids at the school and gives a nice sneak peak at what it would be like if your child did attend. There are frequently updated pictures and events and if you’ve got a small local business this is a good page to mimic. One thing I’d suggest – if you have a page like this I’d amp up the conversation; post little questions, like Deb does.
Tremendous News – I LOVE the Tremendous News blog and the Facebook page for said blog is equally as fun. Many of the questions offered up here make little to no sense and sometimes the owner of this blog is hands down rude but he’s always hilarious. This page makes me laugh and this guy gets pages of comments so he must be doing something right.
Local Harvest – this Facebook page isn’t all that interesting in terms of funny content or bling apps but what it does well is delivers what the community wants day in and day out. There’s no going off topic here. If you’re looking for up-to-date info on food news and safety, organics, local food programs and so on, you’re guaranteed to find it here. This is something to keep in mind. You want to offer what your specific community wants. Going off topic often is a little sketchy in terms of a news-minded site.
Of course you can also check out some really popular pages:
Now, will having a Facebook help me out or just give me more to do? Who knows. I know it’ll get those green links off my personal page. I’ll let it fly for a month or so then I’ll come back here and write an update to let you know how it’s going and if I’ve run into any issues.
PS of course, if you’re into green living you can join my page.
Tell me how your Facebook page is doing – OR are you considering starting one? Why?
I miss the pre-social media world sometimes, back then ignorance was bliss.
Communicating Back Then
Growing up in the 70’s meant no cell phones or Netbooks. We sent all our correspondences via snail mail and any phone calls came to the house or office. Most of us had one phone in our homes, but some of the more well off families had extensions upstairs, and even separate phones for the kids. No one ever called during dinner hours or after 9:00.
We received our news from newspapers, magazines or one of a half dozen television stations and always had to wait for the designated hours for updates. If there was an emergency, the news would break into our regularly scheduled programming but that was extremely rare. We weren’t always connected and didn’t feel the need to be. In 1977, I was 13 years old. If you had offered me a phone to take everywhere with me, I would have thought you were crazy. Why on earth would I need to call people that much? Yet now, at least where I live, most 13 year olds are connected via cell phone and email.
We had penpals. We wrote to them now and again, usually when our parents reminded us. We sent handwritten “thank you” cards and Christmas cards and everyone marveled at our good manners. We didn’t need to know what all our friends and relatives where doing all day, every day, and that suited us just fine, thank you very much. Today, we know which of our friends are at the airport, what our cousins are having for dinner and who is checking in at the supermarket. Though I’m very proud of being the Mayor of both Stop N’ Shop and Saladworks, I couldn’t give you one good reason why you even need to know I’ve been there.
When I asked my husband for a smart phone for Christmas I thought it would be kind of convenient to have for occasionally checking email or the odd Twitter update. Who knew it would be come a total extension of me? If you see me and I’m not checking Facebook or Gmail, there’s a good chance I’m about to. I went to a family reunion last fall and everyone under 50 sat in silence for about an hour as we checked our phones for updates. We finally interacted as we began befriending each other on Facebook.
You want to know the funniest thing about all this connectivity? All the social media people (including me) are insisting it’s all about the conversation. Yet we go to conferences and meet ups and sit at tables talking to people online instead of each other. We attend speaking engagements and tweet updates instead of concentrating on what is being said at the podium. In the real world talking while someone else is talking is considered rude. In the social media world, we’re updating people and building trust via conversation.
It’s not a secret that I love my Facebook and Twitter, and couldn’t live without blogging. I wonder though, are we going too far? Do you care that my dog chewed the couch or that my son hit a home run? How does it help my business for you to know we’re barbecuing over the weekend? There was a time we would never let anyone know where we lived or what we do when we’re offline, for fear of our safety. Now, there are whole social networks designed to track our every move.
I know we all use the various social networks and social media tools differently, and we’re all in charge of how much information we put out there. However, in our fun I hope we’re also being careful. Communication is cool and all, but there’s such a thing as too much information. It’s why you’ll never see me mention my husband or son’s name, and why the only places I check into on FourSquare aren’t located near my home.
I love my social media, but there’s something to be said about not be connected to every network. No one needs to know that much about someone else.
What do you think? Are we too connected?
Image via Brandon Eley
Just a quick heads up. Today, Facebook decided that “Like” is a better wording choice than “Become a Fan.” Interesting news because we JUST discussed this here; with me and others noting that, “The wording, “Fan” is off-putting.” In fact this wording is one major reason I haven’t felt compelled to create a separate page for any of my sites. Currently I only have a me page.
What Facebook says…
“Introducing the Like button – Starting today people will be able to connect with your Page by clicking “Like” rather than “Become a Fan.” We hope this action will feel much more lightweight, and that it will increase the number of connections made across the site.”
Facebook also noted that they hope this will improve user experience and promote consistency across the site, plus they believe this change offers a more standard way to connect with people, things and topics in which you are interested.
In any case this is good news if the prior wording was annoying you. I know I like the change. What do you think?
While many FWJ readers may write primarily for print, I know that many others (like me) have businesses built primarily on writing for online markets. This post targets those of us who make a living online, so to speak.
The Big Question
Why do people pay you to write?
Is it because…
- You’re so damn talented?
- They can’t do it themselves?
- You can make the content creation process more efficient?
- Clients love your website and/or pitches?
- You have a special skill or area of expertise?
Those may be reasons why clients choose you over other writers, but people come to the marketplace in the first place for another reason. They think they can use what you produce to turn a profit. They want to make money.
Sometimes I wonder if too many online writers spend way too much effort thinking about how to get work now and how to compete for gigs while spending far too little effort thinking about that bigger, core question. I wonder if many web-based freelancers may be setting themselves up for future struggles because of it, too.
A Change is Gonna Come
That’s not because I foresee a sudden drop in the demand for online content. On the contrary, I think that a variety of new and even lucrative opportunities is on the horizon. However, I do question the longer-term viability of many markets upon which writers are building businesses. I wonder how many writers will survive and/or react as the Internet and the way we use it changes.
In order to protect yourself and your business, it’s important to delve into the reason why demand for writing exists–the profit potential of the output. That means having both a solid understanding of the strategies clients are employing in pursuit of revenue and the greater trends that will undoubtedly force changes to those strategies and to the marketplace as a whole.
For instance, any writer who isn’t thinking about inevitable changes in the nature of search engines is making a mistake. The search engines don’t stand still. Google and its smaller competitors are constantly refining their approaches and there are a number of reasons to believe that they’ll be forced to make some major adjustments in the relatively near future.
Those changes could have a major impact on what are “bread and butter” for many writers. Traditional article marketing and the mass production “content mill” approach will have a difficult time thriving in an improved search environment.
Last week I posted an interview with SEO Kieran Flanagan here at FWJ. He made a point of discussing both the changing face of link acquisition for SEO and the growing role of social media in his business. The days of using 500-word articles at a pre-ordained keyword density level and fueling them with a series of easy-to-acquire, low-grade links is on its way out. At the very least, the writing is on the wall.
At my blog, I recently posted about the less-than-rosy long-term future of low-quality content mill work due to market forces within the search sector and the increasingly untenable hypocrisy of Google in terms of how they’ve “banned” paid links yet are allowing other intentional methods of subverting their search algorithm to have an impact on SERPs.
You don’t need to agree with my perspective to recognize that there’s a lot boiling under the surface in the way people find and use information online. No matter how you think it all might unfold, you can be certain that, in the words of Sam Cooke, “a change is gonna come.”
Preparing for Change
We often talk about the need to spread risk when developing an overall approach to building a freelance writing business. That need is usually expressed in terms of “not putting all of your eggs in one basket.” That’s rock-solid advice–in the short run. In the longer run, it’s just as important to have a sense of what future eggs may look like and if there may be new ways to store them. Hell, the eggs we gather today may be poisonous before too long and we might all be laughing at the antiquated notion of using baskets.
People pay writers because they want to make money. Writers who aren’t sufficiently prepared to transition their talents and to apply them to new contexts aren’t going to be in the best position to help clients make money. Writers who have over-invested in strategies that seem to have a limited lifespan could be setting themselves up for a more difficult future.
That doesn’t mean anyone should abandon any part of his or her business that’s currently producing a nice stream of revenue. Make hay while the sun is shining. However, one should probably do that with an awareness of the need to move on to new markets and new approaches once the limitations of those activities start to become increasingly visible. Otherwise, you might find yourself well behind the curve while other writers profit from being ahead of it.
The Moral to the Story
Continue to focus on being a badass writer who offers the world’s greatest customer service. Continue to work on distinguishing yourself in the marketplace and do everything you can to become the best choice among those who are looking for a writer.
At the same time, look ahead. Make a point of learning more about why potential clients are looking for a writer in the first place and study the hell out of the marketplace and the kind of changes in advertising, search, social media, and all of the other things that are going to force changes in the way people conduct business and information acquisition on the ‘Net.
If you’re going to focus on online markets, be smart, nimble, well-informed and an expert in larger trends.