Freelance writers are slowly becoming solution providers. They are participating in promotional strategies of businesses – offering complete solutions for marketing, search engine optimization, website content structuring, designing and writing, online/social media marketing, blogging and what not. This plethora of experience in multiple marketing techniques has given us the power to grow stronger with each additional client – gain even more experience and offer greater insights to the next one.
Why do we still struggle to acquire new clients?
We have the knowledge and we have seen it work for many of our clients too, but we never take out time to implement the same techniques to build our own brand. How many of us have a website registered in our own name/brand name? Ok, many of us do; but how many of us have spent some dedicated hours on thinking about branding our website, designing it, updating it frequently, optimizing it for the search engines, advertising it, and so on?
Marketing their own services online and offline is essential for freelancers. Utilize the tricks that you have put to use for many of your clients, for yourself. Show the same level of dedication while you work for creating a name. Many of us don’t get the time to invest in our own brand building as we are already occupied with work. But we must take out at least a few hours per week to grow.
Help your prospective clients to find you easily online. Make sure that if people are searching for writers in the domain of your expertise – then they must be able to locate you and feel the urge to contact you based on your credentials.
This can only happen if you come out of your shell and market yourself.
If you do so, you will never feel the need to hunt for jobs on the online job boards and low-paying bidding sites. And if you cannot do so, then it would be better to stick to your current job and wait till you gather some more experience before jumping into freelancing.
It seems like everyone is using social media today. B2B companies are a bit apprehensive about the results it brings but growing small businesses and B2C companies are utilizing it to their advantage. Increasing brand awareness, encouraging customer loyalty, boosting customer acquisition, promoting content, and search engine optimization are some of the benefits offered by social media. Today, you just cannot ignore it.
Here are some tips for you to keep in mind, which would help you in gaining an audience in online social media:
Birds of a feather…
There are many social media websites today, and you would need to choose the right fit for your niche. According to Chitika, an online advertising network – Twitterers mostly consume news, MySpace users want games and entertainment, Facebookers are into both news and community, and Digg’s audience has a mixed bag of interests. LinkedIn and many other niche industry-specific forums are being used for business networking and job search. Once you have found the niche that you like working on, you should use social media as a tool to network with people, and use it for enhancing your business.
So, the first step is to find the right social media outlet for your services.
Talk the talk
An important aspect to keep in mind while writing for social media is to understand the characteristics of the target group. Your language and message should change, depending on whether you are having a B2B or B2C audience. As Muhammad Saleem from www.CopyBlogger.com sums it up: “Start with the familiar; introduce the unfamiliar; and then connect the two.” Your content needs to be easy to understand and digest.
Talk with them, not to them
Seth Godin, the online marketing guru, says: “Social media isn’t about you, it’s about them.” So, make sure that you use the social media only as a discussion platform, and not your soapbox. Having a conversational style of writing has worked wonders. “My advice is “learn to be human again.” Many marketers tend to forget that each customer they’d like to attract and retain is a person. From using jargon in marketing literature, to creating blogs that are mere places to republish press releases — then tweeted as links — a B2B marketer can learn to be more spontaneous and make deeper/better connections with customers,” says Valeria Maltoni, www.ConversationAgent.com.
Become the solution superhero
As in life, so in social media, you cannot achieve much respect if you are not proactive on the message boards, discussion groups, etc. Of course, one needs to find out the fine difference between being proactive and overactive, but the fact stands that everyone loves when a problem is solved. Do not use the social media and their discussion tools just to start your discussions. Take some time out and read other discussions, see what the others want – you would be surprised how many people do not know what the best free invoicing tool is. If you know it, show it. Offering interesting content like how to articles, e-books, pod casts, videos, online offers, etc., go a long way in encouraging visitors to convert. “The internet (and social media engagement in particular) is really all about people power. It’s about making information, tools and techniques available to all who have access. If you’re not inclusive, if you’re not helping, sharing and imparting value and wisdom and deciphering jargon for folks – you’ll be left behind,” says Vanessa Nix Anthony.
One of the best features of social media is that you can say as little as you want to as much as you wish. With most social media tools offering one-line status updates, you can talk without thinking about having a complete article dedicated to that single thought. Or you can have a long whitepaper uploaded somewhere on the cloud that can be shared across social media with just a single line of text and link. Compelling headlines were never as important as they are now as headlines really do have to work hard to break the clutter and stand out.
Writing for social media is easy and difficult at the same time. It’s something that you will learn only when you dive in and participate. So, go on and enjoy.
We all start the same way – work in a regular job for a few years, get tired of the monotony, or a creativity-crushing boss, or a pay package that could be compared to peanuts for the amount of skills we have. But we finally take that step to become free. Working for multiple clients, handling a variety of jobs, getting paid for what we are worth, and of course, the satisfaction of ownership and being our own boss. All of these give a different kind of mental high.
I have been freelancing for a long time now and have had the good fortune to come across lots of fellow freelancers: beginners as well as experts. Based on my experience, here are the top five things that really annoy clients, more than you can imagine. Sit back and think – are you doing any of these career-damaging actions:
1. Not replying back to client’s mails/phone calls and not following up:
If you were working in a company, a boss would always be sitting on your head and monitoring your actions. You have a higher level of accountability and responsibility there. When you are freelancing, you have to maintain that same level of accountability. Nothing delights clients more than prompt replies to their emails. You don’t have to wait for your clients to revert; when you think it’s time to hear from them, it’s best to send a gentle reminder. Many companies fear hiring freelancers because of the mindset that they are irresponsible and might vanish any day, which brings me to the next point.
2. Taking uninformed offs:
Freelancing offers you tremendous scope of working anytime from anywhere. But that doesn’t mean that you switch off your mail box in the middle of the week and take off for the weekend to a place where it’s hard to catch mobile signals. Most freelancers get the maximum work and the major part of their income from long-standing clients. It takes time and effort to build that reputation. Even if you are going out for a day, you must inform your client about it – in advance.
3. Not delivering the work on time:
If you promise something, you must deliver. I have a hard time understanding why some freelancers commit to deadlines that they cannot follow. If you cannot get something done in a day then don’t say that you can. Most often than not, if you explain your workload to your clients, they will understand. When you are giving your work timelines to your client, add an extra day if you think that you might not be able to complete the work in time. If in case, you get delayed, inform your clients yourself – don’t wait for them to come to you.
4. Not maintaining a work sheet:
I always encourage fellow freelancers to maintain an Excel sheet or online worksheet to update the status of the tasks that they are doing. If you manage your work well, you can get it done in time and plan out like professionals. You can have several columns in your worksheet: client name, job, status, author, payment received, payment pending, internal deadline, client deadline, remarks. In the status you can put – to write/design, to edit, to do final review, to send to client, sent to client for approval, waiting for approval, to be uploaded, to be tracked, done, and so on. Highlight the tasks in different colors based on priority. When you have multiple jobs going on simultaneously, it gets hard to track them in your brain so it’s best to use Excel as your pensieve.
5. Not practicing what you are preaching:
You are a writer but you don’t have a blog/website; you are a designer but you don’t have an online portfolio; you are an SEO specialist but people can’t find you on Google; you call yourself a social media specialist and you have just tweeted thrice in your own name – these are things that you should take care of. If you are writer, take out time to maintain your own blog. Do for yourself what you are doing for your clients. This shows your authority and grasp of the work that you are doing.
Veteran freelancers might not be doing any of the above and that’s why they have reached where they are. This article is meant for beginners who don’t pay attention to such nuances and as a result are unable to sustain clients for long and return to normal jobs after a short stint as freelancers.
Have you ever wondered why only some of your childhood memories are still stuck in your brain while the others have vanished? Why do you wish to see more of LOST (famous TV series by Spielberg)? Why are some stories, articles, and websites hard to forget? It is because they all have a high Recall Quotient.
Today, the web is full of content posted just for the sake of search engine optimization. Millions of writers worldwide make a living out of rewriting old content and posting the same at several places. But, you must know this – One good article can make up for 1000 or more boring articles. If the content has value your readers would willingly share it.
So what goes into writing content that people would love to read and remember?
To begin, think about a story that you can narrate to anybody right now. It could be a book, a TV series, a movie, an advertisement, or just a blog post that you read recently. Now think why you remember it so well. You will come up with following answers:
- Emotional connect: I still remember an episode of “I shouldn’t be alive” on Discovery where a bunch of teenagers get lost in the Grand Canyon without water, food, or shade in the blistering heat. Now, why do I remember it? Because I have a kid and I can feel the pain when I see any child in trouble; because I have had an experience in my life where our team ran out of water and it was a long time before we could each get an unfulfilling sip. Although, we were waterless for just a couple of hours, I can still imagine how it could’ve been for those kids. What I am trying to say is that if the content strikes the right chord, it will hit the audience emotionally. So the most important aspect of good writing is understanding the problems and challenges faced by your audience and portray it vividly. That brings me to the next point, which is…
- Vivid presentation: A dramatic representation and good use of persuasive language, pictures and videos is essential for today’s online audience. Can you recall the first time you read or watched “Jurassic Park”? You are right, great content must be backed by greater presentation. But, I am sure that you do not remember the second and third part as well as you do the first one? The reason…
- Originality and element of surprise: You are more likely to remember something more when you see/read it for the first time. That’s why web content writers should always think of unique ideas and ways to write. J.K. Rowling has done it pretty well with her famous series of books: “Harry Potter”. Each part has a never-been-told-before story, an element of surprise as well as a flow that smoothly shifts from one part to the next – and yet each book is somewhat complete in its own way.
I know this list is incomplete. There are many more factors that go into building compelling content, and one of them is “conversational writing” style. I invite you all to please share your ideas about what goes into writing compelling web content.