Some people naturally have a flair for harnessing the power of the written word. Some are born salespeople, and could sell ice to the Eskimos. However, there are some pitfalls that even a great writer needs to be on the lookout for.
Poor Copywriting Grammar, Spelling, and/or Punctuation
There are some hard and fast rules learned in English class. Others are a matter of style, and won’t get your paper covered in the teacher’s red ink At least you’ll have the “matter of style” defense to rest on if you get points off for a difference in style. On the other hand, the black and white errors that accompany spelling and punctuation stand out to the well-trained eye like the commission of an English felony. With sirens blaring, the spelling and grammar police will penalize you harshly.
I remember a client of mine who had horrendous spelling. It was as if a five-year old as trying to phonetically spell the words. I have to admit that I made an assumption and judged his intelligence based upon his poor spelling habits. It seemed to me that anyone whose spelling was so poor couldn’t be very bright or well read. As I got to know him better, I discovered he was very sharp and did read quite a bit. Not just his child’s bedtime stories either, he read lengthy literary works on various non-fiction topics. While it changed my assumptions about those who are spelling-challenged, I still cringe at certain spelling errors.
Ignoring SEO Best Practices
SEO best practices encompasses many factors. While the techniques involved are constantly changing, there are some constants to keep in mind.
- Use original content. If you spin an article and it doesn’t pass Copyscape, you can get penalized. It’s not enough to just change some words around. While your time may not allow you to write articles from scratch, you need to properly reword your article when rewriting existing content. If you have doubts about originality, Copyscape is a good investment a 5 cents a search. There are also free plagiarism checkers available online.
- Add images. Caution must also be used with images. If you don’t create your own, be sure you use royalty-free images or follow proper royalty and copyright rules. Your images should be interesting enough to catch the audience’s eye and properly optimized with alt tags and meta descriptions.
- Find the right keyword balance. Currently, keyword stuffing should be avoided, it may get you penalized. Your language should flow naturally and not use keywords awkwardly. Your top keywords should be used in headings and as close to the beginning of sentences as possible.
- Write an effective headline. The headline is what motivates your audience to click on the link and read further. If the headline isn’t compelling, the rest of what you write won’t matter, since it won’t be seen. There are various techniques used in headline writing, such as creating intrigue by posing a question, using strong adjectives, offering tips / how-to’s, and others.
I’ll be following up with some further tips in a future post. In the meantime, if you’d like to share some of your pet peeves, please feel free to sound off below.
There are some online marketing strategies that I find highly irritating. Am I the only one? It sometimes seems that way, since they must be getting results if they appear so often. The following are my top offenders:
The Half Hour Audio Teaser
They’re going to share their secret to fame, fortune, happiness, success, etc. with you. How they lost 10 pounds in two days, the stock that’s set to skyrocket 100 times in value, how to make every person of the opposite sex fall at your feet. You’re dying to hear the big reveal, but first you have to listen to thirty minutes of a spiel that’s designed to prime you for the final pitch. If you have the time and patience to listen to the speaker drone on, he’ll keep leading you on with promises about how he’s going to get to the point and share the valuable secret soon. (Who is this guy anyway? The same annoying voice seems to be used in all of these things. They probably never show his picture because he’s afraid of death threats.) If you’ve got the stamina to hang in there until the end, you wind up feeling like you did when someone in your early dating years strung you along with empty promises. You’re wearing a big “S” for sucker on your forehead when you finally find out that in order to get the top secret information, you’re going to have to pony up the price of a subscription to their newsletter, buy their book, or buy a membership to join their group. I don’t understand how someone can still trust them to deliver information that lives up to it hype after they just spent all that time stringing them along with their teasing.
Online Marketing Daily Spam
One of my very first followers on my blog was from a guy who lives a “location-free lifestyle.” Okay, so he’s a homeless guy with a computer, but I was impressed that he was able to make enough of a living with just his laptop to travel the world. To show my appreciation, I reciprocated and signed up for his newsletter. That’s when I found out the hard way how much time a homeless guy with a pc has on his hands. I started getting tons of emails, sometimes more than once a day. If people are nice enough to subscribe to your newsletter, don’t abuse their email address. I shouldn’t be hearing from you more often than I do my family members and closest friends.
These are just some of the online turnoffs I encounter most. Feel free to sound off and rant about yours. Maybe I’ll even seem less crabby when you do.
Freelancing is challenging and it’s easy to make mistakes in getting hired. These mistakes can harm not only your income, but freelancer reputation as well. I hope the following advice will help you avoid some of the bumps along your road to success.
Freelancing Lessons I’ve Learned the Hard Way
Research Your Client – Many sites that post freelance jobs, like Elance and Freelancer, will display information about the employer, such as feedback from other freelancers, number of paid jobs, total amount paid, etc. This can provide valuable clues about their integrity and potential for future work with this client. It can also raise red flags, such as when they have no payment history, the payment method isn’t verified, or they have a number of unpaid jobs.
Don’t Communicate Off-Site About Freelancer Terms – If the site has a method for describing job terms, make sure to include all the details regarding the tasks involved, deadlines, and payment terms in the form provided on the site. Even if you’ve discussed terms through messages on the site, repeat them in the main page that evidences acceptance of the job proposal.
Always Nail Down the Price – Some job postings are vague about payment terms. Always get a written agreement that defines precisely how you will be paid, including:
- Amount – This might be fixed price or hourly. If it’s hourly, make sure to agree on the number of hours authorized. If it’s an incremental or piecework rate, define the rate and amount of work to be performed. For example, a blog post assignment might be paid on a per word basis, so define the amount per word and the number or range of words to be written.
- Payment method – Specify whether a credit card, Paypal, etc. will be used if the payment method isn’t already defined. If there are associated fees, be clear about who will be responsible to incur the fees or additional charges.
- Time of payment – Will you be paid in a lump sum, incremental amounts as milestones are achieved, and on what exact date(s)?
- Never work on spec – The client should have an opportunity to see your work portfolio prior to hiring you for the job. If they’re satisfied with the examples, they shouldn’t have a problem with paying you to get a job done. Escrow arrangements can resolve any doubts about delivery, and Paypal protection may also apply.
- Don’t Give Your Work Away – Some employers will try to get you to submit an initial project at a greatly reduced rate or even free, with the promise of future work. This is usually a scam, and simply a bad business practice that you shouldn’t agree to. It may be tempting when you’re having dry spell, but don’t set yourself up to get used by an unscrupulous employer this way. Look for employers who have integrity and the financial backing to pay a fair price.
Written by Dana Altman
A copywriter must to use the most effective strategies to get viewers to click and continue reading. With so many sites competing for the limited attention of online viewers, you need a way to grab a reader’s attention and avoid having them click away before reading your message. Some essential copywriting guidelines to follow are listed below.
Copywriting that Gets Results
- Write an effective headline. – The headline is key for grabbing a viewer’s attention. It needs to be compelling and intriguing, your viewers need to want to click and find out more. Spend time putting thought into your headline. This is the most important part of your copywriting. If your headline doesn’t motivate the viewer to click on the link and read on, the rest of what you say won’t really matter.
- Use visual, rich media and alternative content display to grab users’ attention. – Using videos has been shown to be an effective communication tool, but images and graphs are also useful. The key is to present information in a novel, unexpected, and visually appealing way. Be careful not to use media that takes too long to load on the page. Studies have shown that even one second can make the difference between a viewer clicking away from the page or not. It’s been estimated that a third of viewers will abandon the page between one and five seconds if it has a slow load time.
- Be informative. – Your content should offer something of value to the reader. With so many sites begging for online attention, your content needs to reward your viewers’ attention with something of benefit to them.
- Be relatable. – This goes beyond just writing in a way that’s easy to read. While it’s important to use the right tone in speaking to the audience you’re targeting, you also want to make it easy for them to identify with what you’re saying. The use of personal narrative is an effective way of allowing the audience connect with your message.
- Use keywords effectively. – Don’t overstuff your content with keywords. Use them in a logical way that flows naturally with the delivery of the information being presented.
Online consumers are bombarded with messages trying to grab their attention. You need to keep their limited attention span in mind. Getting viewers to click is the initial hurdle. After that, your words are the magic glue that keeps them from bouncing off of the page. With properly crafted content, your words will convert your viewers into customers.
Written by Dana Altman
Have you ever worked for a friend? Are you still friends?
Written Contracts – Are They Always Necessary?
A fellow blogger and close friend recently asked me to do a small freelance job and I accepted her offer via email. I helped her out for free when I was steadily employed, but told her I can no longer work for free now that I’m getting my freelance copywriter business off the ground. I’ve thought of this friend as a sister for several decades, due to the history we shared in our youth. I didn’t think it would be necessary to sign a formal work agreement, especially for only fifty dollars.
I thought about how many times I’d told others to always have a contract signed. Suddenly, I felt like a big hypocrite. I imagined what would happen if my dear friend decided to stiff me. While content writing isn’t making me rich at the moment, I’d be upset about more than money. Failure to get paid would be more upsetting because of the statement it made about our friendship. It’s frustrating to waste my valuable time and efforts, but I would be deeply hurt and demoralized to be used by a friend that way. Many others out in the business world- government agencies, corporate entities, etc. already mistreat me, I sort of expect it from others now. However, I still cling to the belief that I can count on my friends to value and respect me. It would really throw me for a loop to be taken advantage of by someone I considered a best friend. I’d hate to think she valued saving fifty dollars more than she valued our friendship or me. While I don’t value myself according to how others do, but it would still sting.
Drawing Boundaries in Business
I decided rather than risk losing a good friend or my faith in humanity, I should just refuse to work for a friend again. If someone offers me a job, I will accept only if the money is more important to me than the friendship. That’s just how it’s going to have to be now. I’ve learned over the years I must set healthy boundaries. Pain has been a motivating factor in setting up boundaries, I’ve established more than a surveyor’s map by now. I prefer to erect boundaries before, rather than after the suffering, but don’t want to become isolated inside too many barricades either. If you’ve been burned by a friend and have since set the same boundary, please share. If you think I’m going overboard, I’d like to hear from you too.
Written by Dana Altman