Keep Your Pants On! 3 Freelancing Tricks to Help You Stay On Task

freelance tricks for motivation

When you aren’t motivated, chickens will roost on you

Freelancing is hard work. It doesn’t matter if you’re a freelance writer, a freelance web designer, or a freelance tiger rancher, you’re going to run into problems keeping yourself motivated from time to time.

It happens because suddenly, possibly for the first time in your life, you no longer have a boss telling you what to do. You know you need to make money; you know you have to keep gas in your car, keep food in the fridge, and pay rent so you have a place to keep your fridge, but when it gets down to the day to day grind you’re having a hard time keeping your mind on the task at hand.

Working from home seems like such a faraway dream for so many people that they rarely stop to think about what that actually entails. In the blink of an eye your handsome, overworked shoulders are now the cushion for every financial responsibility in your life. It changes the way you budget, the way you pay taxes, heck, it even changes the way you sleep.

Not even taking into account the inherent distractions of working out of your home, the stress really adds up and, over time, it can actually physically damage the cells of your your brain. You heard that right. Stress is basically a really slow, really boring motorcycle accident.

stress

Just walk away buddy. Walk away

But others have already done a good job of pointing out the ups and downs of freelancing, so what I want to talk about is the solution.

And don’t worry; I’m talking about real, helpful solutions here. Solutions that will get you back on the right track with your freelance career. Solutions like…

For the sake of argument, I’m going to assume you’re not a nudist.

So you probably wear pants, shirts, other things. Suspenders? I don’t know.

When you start working at home, you are going to want to stop wearing those things. An entire life dictated by dress codes is going to slip into something more comfortable and leave you feeling like it’s perfectly alright to go to work in your pajamas or your underwear.

And here’s the catch: It IS perfectly alright to do that. It’s dandy. You work at home, man, and you can wear (or not wear) whatever tickles your fancy. It’s acceptable. Unless you live in, I don’t know, an elementary school, but we’re also going to assume you’re not homeless. For the sake of argument.

Because your pants need an education too.

So here you are, Mr. Freelancer, living the pantsless dream. But now you’re having trouble waking up early in the morning, so you start to sleep in later. That’s fine; you set the schedule, you set the rules! You also stay up later, usually working, sometimes not.

As this goes on and the initial hype of doing it slowly starts to wear away, you find yourself falling further behind on your assignments. That’s fine though, just need to muster up the energy and knock a few more things out of the way and you’ll be back on track. Only your motivation just keeps right on slipping, and you can’t figure out why.

We’re raised in a society that implants a certain mindset from a young age: There’s a time to work, and there’s a time to play. Interestingly, the clothes we’re wearing have a huge impact on the way our brains perceive the role that we’re filling.

It’s called enclothed cognition, and it causes our psychology to shift based on the way we dress. In the study linked above, students were given doctors’ coats and then guided through a few tests. The results showed that while wearing the coats they performed better on the tests and displayed an increase in selective attention.

And then, because scientists are jerks, they put the same coats on other students, but told them they were artist’s coats. The result? Test performance dropped significantly.

See, it doesn’t matter what you physically wear; it matters how you feel when you’re wearing it. The students who thought they were wearing doctors’ coats felt more intelligent, educated, and successful, and so they took the tests as if they were. On the other hand, the students who thought they were wearing an artist’s coat felt like they dropped out of business school and let down their parents.

So try leaving the pants on. Heck, put on a tie and a sportscoat if it makes you work better. Wear a dress, ladies. Imagine you’re a CEO of a massive company. The human brain is powerful.

This next entry might not apply to everybody. I work with clients, but I also devote a lot of my time to personal endeavors. I have a few blogs, I write crappy e-books, and I have to keep up with this website, a Facebook page, and a Twitter, to name a few. I do it all for the sake of my bank account, but even money isn’t enough to keep me motivated all the time.

When I’m doing work for clients it’s easy enough. I do the work, and I get paid immediately. Some of this other stuff isn’t quite so formulaic. When I start something new I never know for sure if it’s going to bring in a paycheck or just waste hours of my time.

But the thing is, I know that if I never try any of these projects I’ll definitely never make money with them, because as far as I know there’s nobody out there paying for thoughts in my head.

“That’ll be $3000.”

So I set up systems for myself to stay motivated enough to carry my personal projects to fruition. One of those systems is developing the mindset that I’m my own client.

When a client gives me an assignment, it usually and/or always comes with a deadline. Always. Hi clients. When I make a plan for my own projects then, I give myself a deadline, usually breaking it down into a series of deadlines.

If I’m writing an e-book, for example, I’ll set a rough word count goal, then tell myself to finish a chapter every two days. And then I listen, because I like myself and want me to have respect for myself as a writer, which is easy because writer me respects client me and wants me to know that even though there was that tiger ranching thing I still like me enough to….you know what?  Let’s move on.

The point is, and again this isn’t something that applies to every freelancer, if you have a goal to complete, be hard on yourself. There’s nobody else out there holding you accountable, so it’s up to you to stick with it long enough to see results. This is a structure that works for me because I’ve based my entire career on meeting deadlines. For you it may be something different, and what you need to do is find that system.

Nobody reads my blog yet, so I can safely put this point on here. It’s a controversial thing to say, especially since freelancing as a career has more recovering alcoholics than Kentucky, but I’m only including this because science has my back (hi science).

Back in the day, drinking at work was sort of a thing. I say back in the day even though I wasn’t alive when this was really happening, but I’ve seen enough Mad Men to know that if you weren’t drinking, you weren’t really working.

Oh, but he’s just using something he saw on TV and calling it reality, I can almost hear you saying, as you chomp furiously on your third bag of Doritos and wonder when this post will end. Well, not so fast, imaginary internet reader!

That was a link, and specifically it was a link to an article in The Economist which takes a look at the onsite drinking habits of American workers, past and present. Between political pressure and an increasingly public eye centered on the workplace, fewer and fewer people could safely drink during working hours.

But isn’t that a good thing? I mean we’ve all seen the guy in the cubicle down the hall with the “water bottle” that smells like antibacterial hand soap flopping sideways in his chair like a salmon in a suit half an hour after lunch. How can that be conducive to a productive work environment?

“Would you like a shot with that shot?”

You’re looking at this the wrong way. Getting drunk every day is not going to power your motivation levels. A drink or two, on the other hand, can make you more creative and increase your ability to solve problems.

So maybe a few drinks every day won’t help motivate you for hours of tedious work, but once in awhile it may be able to help you get past a difficult problem that you’ve been beating your head against. And besides, you’ll live longer.

Famous People You Never Knew Were Freelancers

willie nelson famous freelancer

Some of us choose freelancing because we love the work and the lifestyle. Some people pick it up simply because they can’t find work anywhere else. And then you have the people who struggled with freelancing as a wobbly stepping stone on their way to something bigger and better, most of them never imagining the heights their careers would reach once they were finally recognized.

 

I had the pleasure of speaking with Marie Schmidt of Onlinecollege.org, where she recently published an entry entitled 25 Famously Successful People Who Started Off Freelancing. From recent sensations like Stieg Larsson (The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo) to classic authors like Charles Dickens, and yes, even a few musicians, freelancing has played an important role in the lives of many, many famous people.

 

So the next time you feel like your freelance writing job isn’t as “glamorous” or “exciting” as you would like it to be, remember that all of these people started out right where you are now.

 

You can check out the full list of famous freelancers here: http://www.onlinecollege.org/2012/07/24/25-famously-successful-people-who-started-off-freelancing/

Website Content- Hermes’ Tiger Postal Service

This post is a little throwback to the early days of HandleyNation, back when it was less “HandleyNation” and more “Andrew Handley Figuring Out This Whole Writing Thingy.” No, we weren’t always the best freelance content writing agency in the business, and every now and then I come across these little tidbits to show just how far we’ve come in the intervening years. In fact, now that I think about it we haven’t really come that far at all.

 

The following bit of absurdity is a page of mock site content I wrote years ago for Ayn Codina, a good friend and owner of ChromaCritter Web Design. We were both getting our businesses going at the same time, and where she needed a few mock sites to add to her portfolio, I was hungry to get anything I wrote up online. Together we came up with Hermes’ Tiger Postal Service. Unfortunately, the site isn’t online anymore, but you can read full text content in its entirety below.

 

 

 

Homepage v.2

Welcome to the website for Hermes’ Tiger Postal Service. We here at Hermes’ Tiger pride ourselves on being the fastest and most dedicated delivery service out there. When you ship Hermes’ Tiger, you can expect your package to arrive at its destination with very little damage.

Why are we the best? We are the globe’s leading delivery service because of one thing: Magical flying tigers*. That’s right, our tigers have wings on their feet and their only satisfaction comes from a job well done.

So choose Hermes’ Tiger Postal Service today, and we’ll show you why the Tiger is the true king of the jungle..

*Magical flying tigers will not protect you from dragons, mischievous leprechauns, or dark wizards. They only deliver packages.

Policies

*If your package is lost or damaged, please contact our support staff at 1-888-STRIPES. Restrictions apply. Read below.

-If your package is lost to sharks, contact animal control, not us.
-If your package is mauled by bears, you may have an infestation. We recommend purchasing a shotgun.
-If your package arrives damaged or with the contents missing, it was probably like that before we got it.
-If your package is lost, and you are a dark wizard, you’re on your own buddy.

*Concerning magical flying deliver tigers:

-If your child or livestock is eaten by one of our magical flying delivery tigers, call 1-888-STRIPES for three FREE deliveries!
-If YOU are eaten by one of our magical flying delivery tigers, please fill out the proper paperwork to have your delivery fee refunded. Signature required.
-If one of our magical flying delivery tigers falls asleep on your lawn and you find your wife/son/husband/mother playing with it, slay them immediately with an enchanted sword.
-If a moose is found putting on a one-moose production of Little Orphan Annie, we don’t believe it, nor do we intend to.
-If you are from Bosnia and your name is Yuri, stop calling. We don’t know where your wife is.

We no longer ship:
firearms
liquids
hazardous materials
vehicles
flammable or explosive materials
medications
boxes
other magical flying delivery creatures
trolls
the internet
Alexandre Aja movies
packages for dark wizards
anthrax
body parts
cats
drugs
objects that look a bit feminine
WMDs
peregrine falcons
inmates, orphans, or peruvians
paper
more drugs

*In loving memory of Ernest P. Weaber, we will no longer ship bees, amphetamines, and vanilla coke in the same package. RIP Ernest.

*WE NOW SHIP ALCOHOL*

*We are not responsible for war.

Hours of operation and holiday schedules:

We are open for delivery 24/7. Thanks to a dark wizard, our tigers no longer sleep!

We do observe several national and religious holidays.

We are closed for a week before and after:

Christmas
Easter
Martin Luther King Jr. Day
New Years
New Years Eve
President’s Day
Labor Day
Memorial Day
July 4th
Kwanzaa
April 20th
Black History Month
Opening Day for Iron Man 2
Chinese New Year
2012

***Now open Hanukkah!!***

Is Your Business Ready to Start Blogging?

 

when to start a business blogMost of the really popular websites out there right now are, you guessed it: Blogs. With sites like Open Forum snatching up a good deal of the internet’s traffic, a lot of small business owners are asking the question of whether they should get in the game before it’s too late.

 

The good news is that there doesn’t appear to be a “too late” anywhere on the horizon – blogging as an industry and social networking tactic is still on the strong upswing. It’s an excellent way to increase brand awareness, strengthen your main site’s SEO, and most importantly bridge the gap between yourselves and prospective clients.

 

That’s a strong list of benefits to be sure, but it doesn’t mean that every small business is in the right position to begin their blogging career. Here are a few signs that might mean you aren’t ready to enter the blogosphere quite yet.

 

You want results, and you want them now

 

Patience is an important part of blogging, especially during the early stages. More specifically, you have to trust in the content itself to deliver results in the long run. If you take steps to perform proper keyword research and implement it effectively, you can see a quick traffic boost, but it will be awhile before the actual sales come in from your blog. Sometimes the blog is a hit but you still can’t pinpoint any specific sale that came out of it. The goal isn’t to use your blog for direct lead generation, but to use it as a platform to build your reputation in the industry.

 

You only want to sell, sell, sell

 

The fact stands: Content is the most important aspect of a successful blog. People read blogs for informative content, not a long string of sales pitches and product releases. If you only try to promote your business through the blog, you’ll see a trickle of traffic at best; at worst you’ll fall right off the radar and never be heard from again. People don’t want to read about your company all the time – that’s what your online store is for. You have to be able to focus on what your audience wants in a blog, not what you wish they wanted.

 

You have trouble relinquishing control

 

If every single post has to be reviewed and evaluated by you directly, you’re going to have a hard time building a smooth flow for the blog posts. To really see benefits from content marketing, you have to be able to give up some of the control and just let your writers do what they do best. This ties in with the last point: You’ll often post content that you feel is useless because it doesn’t deliver a sales pitch, and you’re more likely to shoot that down if you are fully entwined in the blogging process. Just let it go and trust your people to do what they feel is right.

 

You refuse to link to your competitors

 

This is an iffy one, but it definitely bears mentioning. From time to time, you will have to link over to your competitors and show some love for something that they provided. It’s important to show your readers that you respect the competition, but it also comes down to SEO. Google likes to see links to authority domains, plain and simple. This will also give you a boost as an open minded thought leader in your industry.

 

Of course, if none of these apply to you it might be high time you set up a blog and ran with it. From there you can decide whether you want to write the content yourself or hire a freelance blog writer.

 

If you liked this, share it with your colleagues using the buttons below. We don’t want anybody rushing into this before they’re ready!

4 Simple Ways to Avoid Getting Screwed By Your Freelance Content Writer

screwed by a writerMost of the posts on this blog talk about the positives of hiring a freelance writer for your website, blog, or marketing copy – and to be sure, there are a lot of benefits to sourcing your writing work – but that’s not to say that there aren’t downsides as well.

 

I understand more than most that you’re putting a lot on the line every time you hire a freelance writer.

 

I’ve worked on both sides of the formula, being hired myself and hiring other freelance writers, and I could share some real horror stories that came out of it all.

 

Now, I won’t share them, because the last thing I want is to scare you away from making the decision to hire a writer, but what I want to do instead is point out some ways you can protect yourself when you choose a freelancer so you don’t end up getting screwed in the process.

 

The truth is, many business owners and professionals are understandably wary of trusting their content to a new writer.

 

There are risks aplenty, and you’re right to worry that the writer will:

 

  • Provide poor quality
  • Fail to deliver by the deadline (a disaster when it comes to press releases and pre-sales material)
  • Just take the money and disappear
  • Overcharge for services

 

These are all legitimate concerns; I’ll be the first to tell you that.

 

What can you do to ensure that this doesn’t happen to you? There are 4 simple ways you can keep yourself safe from those unscrupulous freelance copywriters. They’re an amoral, soulless bunch, trust me. ;)

 

How to Avoid Getting Ripped Off By a Freelance Writer

 

 

 

frustrated lady

#1 Check out Their Writing Samples

 

Writing is a craft like anything else. You would never hire a contractor to build your house without looking at some buildings they’ve built in the past. Ask for writing samples up front to get an idea of the writer’s skill level. A lot of people think they can write well, but in the end it just doesn’t measure up. It doesn’t hurt to ask for some references either. A good content writer will not hesitate to let you talk to previous clients because he/she knows the quality of the work.

 

#2 Don’t Pay 100% Up Front

 

As a freelance writer myself, it pains me to suggest this, but it’s undeniably important to only give partial payment up front the first time you work with a new writer. Otherwise, there’s nothing stopping them from taking the cash and hitting the road. A 50/50 deal usually works best. And remember, no writer will work without an initial deposit either. We’re just as wary of new clients as you are of new writers!

 

#3 Give Them All the Information

 

If you have a specific goal or style for your content, you have to let the writer know at the beginning of the project. Many writers have no trouble adjusting their style to match the needs of a client, but they still need a direction before they can do that. Make sure the writer knows the subject, word count, keywords (for SEO writing), and tone before you let them write the first word.

 

#4 Sign a Contract

 

I’ve personally never had an issue with a writer or client who didn’t sign a contract beforehand, but it’s something both of you should consider. The contract should state the details of the project, the timeline, the number of edits included in the price, and any other pertinent details. Read over the contract and have both of you sign a copy. This is a formality that probably won’t be necessary for multiple projects, but it’s a good starting point to be sure you’re both on the same page as to what’s expected. After the first 2 or 3 projects, my clients usually just email me the new project guidelines and I email back the work.

 

If you want to stay away from those other unscrupulous writers out there, contact me to talk about your project. I promise, my scruples are squeaky clean.

 

If you have a horror story of your own from hiring a writer in the past, post it in the comments below.

The State of Business Blogging in 2011 (Infographic)

It’s good to see that business blogging is on an upward trend. One of the things I’m passionate about here at HandleyNation is the idea that businesses should be blogging more frequently, more consistently, and more appropriately. I say “appropriately” because too many small business owners start out with a focused blog and then slowly veer away from their main theme.

 

Staying focused in your blog niche is important because it gives your readers something to expect every time they visit your blog. We all like variety, but nobody gets excited when their main source for freelance writing tips starts talking about how well the aloe vera plant is doing in their office.

 

Now, onto the infographic; a lot of the statistics here are to be expected:

 

The majority of companies (72%) blog to share expertise rather than to simply bring in new clients. It’s a strategy that works because establishing yourself as an industry expert builds the trust that new clients need to hire you anyway, so it all loops back to the same thing, but in a more stable long-term approach.

 

Only 19% of blog content is written by freelance blog writers. To me that came as a shock, but I admit I’m biased in that respect. For the most part, blog owners are writing their own content, but you have to keep in mind that these figures take into account “hobbyist” bloggers, the guys that just do it for fun, and not solely business or commercial enterprises. The corporate side only accounts for 21% of all the blogging that’s going on (counting entrepreneurs).

 

business blogging infographic

Source: blogstar.co.uk

Leave a comment with your thoughts on business blogging and where it might go in the future, and follow us on Twitter for more news and updates!

How to Keep Your Business Blog Focused

keep your blog content focusedOne of the biggest problems that I see with business blogs is that they stray off topic way too often.

 

You always have to remember that no matter what your ultimate goals are for your blog (sales), the most important factor is keeping your audience happy. For that to happen, they need to know what to expect every time they visit your blog.

 

It’s an easy trap to fall into: You start a new blog, you have a short lineup of amazing blog posts you want to publish, and after a few weeks that enthusiasm fizzles out and you’re left with no new ideas.

 

When that happens, the first direction most of us turn is to change up the content a little. After all, there’s only so much you can write about any single niche. The problem is when you take a radical shift in your content and throw your readers for a loop.

 

What Do Your Readers Want?

 

Business blogging, and blogging in general really, hinges on the fact that readers come to you for a very specific type of information. Once you establish what that is, it’s hard to break into something new without losing a lot of readers. The option is always out there to outsource your writing work to a freelance blog writer, but you’re still stuck with the same problem unless your writer can come up with new topics on his own.

 

Take Inc.com, for example. They stick to a pretty narrow focus of business news and tips for entrepreneurs. They may move around within that niche pretty freely, but you’re never going to find crockpot recipes on Inc, or a guide for changing your brake fluid in your car. It’s just too far outside the realm of their established niche.

 

Similarly, your blog should reflect the same type of content with every post. Now, keep an eye out for an upcoming post on posting with variety, because you don’t want to become too embedded in a single topic, but there are ways to get variety without straying from your main niche.

 

4 Ways to Keep Your Blog Posts On Topic

 

 Start by thinking about which goals are most important to you in your blog. Write them down if you need to, but figure out what you really want to accomplish with this blog of yours. Some people want to increase sales, while others are more interested in getting their brand recognized. Some bloggers just want to offer useful, informative advice. Whatever your motivation is, get a handle on it first before going further.

 

 Research a short list of keywords that are most relevant to your company, industry, or products. Usually that will help you narrow down your focus, and it will give you a guide for the future to make sure you don’t start straying.

 

 Stick with what you know. If you’re particularly proficient in a certain aspect of your industry, make that the focus of your blog. Writing from experience is honest, and it gives you plenty of material to work with. If you hire a freelance website writer, you can still give guidelines for how you want this content to be written.

 

 Above all, keep your audience in mind. When you have a business you’re usually looking for a specific type of audience comprised of people who are most likely to turn into customers. What do they want to read about?

 

Always remember that the quality of your content is more important than anything. In my opinion, it’s better to not post at all than to post something cheap, rushed, and low quality.

 

If you want a professional content writer to manage your blog, get in touch with me at HandleyNation to talk about your specific blog’s focus.

 

Business Blogging- How Often Should You Publish?

how often to publish blog postsBuilding a business blog is one of the most important steps for establishing an online presence and increasing qualified leads, but the question remains: How often should you publish new blog posts? While there’s no specific answer since a lot depends on your niche and what type of audience you’re targeting, there’s plenty of research on the subject to give us an idea.

 

The Problem: Not Publishing Enough

 

One of the biggest problems that business blogs face is infrequent or inconsistent publishing. We’ve fallen victim to that pitfall ourselves here at HandleyNation, and that’s because it’s hard to get enough content written to keep the blog going. Most business owners look at their blogs as a secondary responsibility, with the main business operations taking priority, and there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that. You could hire a freelance content writer, but there are other ways to manage it as well.

 

However, you could still be hurting your business and leaving money on the table by not keeping up with your blog. Here’s why:

 

Hubspot recently came out with a report titled State of Inbound Marketing 2011, which said that businesses that put up new blog posts at least 20 times per month are likely to generate almost 4 times as many leads as businesses that don’t blog at all.

 

Furthermore, businesses that publish those 20 posts per month bring in more than 5 times as much traffic as businesses who publish 4 posts per month or less.

 

That means that those weekly posts you’re rushing to get published aren’t offering nearly as much benefit as you might have thought.

 

Do You Have Time to Write 20 Blog Posts?

 

Twenty blog posts each month is a lot of work, but you don’t need me to tell you that. While you may not need 20 specifically, keep in mind that the amount you publish and the leads generated from the blog are in a direct corresponding relationship.

 

Publish more, and you get more traffic, which turns into more leads and, subsequently, sales.

 

Publish less, and the opposite happens.

 more blog posts more traffic more money

Now, if you’re like most business owners you probably don’t have a lot of time to sit down and write that many posts per month, especially if you’re running a one-man show.

 

Make a Commitment

 

If you’re serious about maximizing your blog’s potential, you have to make the commitment to stick with it and get each post out on time, every time. Your readers won’t expect anything less. It helps to sit down at the beginning of each month and plan which days you want to publish a new blog post. Write down the topic as well so that you will have an easier time when it comes time to write them.

 

If other work duties leave you with little time on your hands (it happens to all of us), you might want to consider sourcing your blog posts to a freelance blog writer who can help handle some of the workload.

 

Contact us at HandleyNation to talk about what would work best for your business blog, so you can stop leaving money on the table and start roping in more qualified leads.

5 Ways for Freelance Writers to Use SEO in 2012

freelance writing seo 2012For most freelance writers, the trend is turning more towards web based content than physical publications as more companies move into the digital realm with websites and social media.

 

While this doesn’t mean that the core of high quality writing should change in any way, there are some key differences between writing for the web and writing for traditional venues like newspapers and magazines. The biggest difference is the need to optimize the content for search engines, a process known as SEO.

 

This more than anything is starting to determine the value of a piece of writing, because its effectiveness is generally gauged by how many people are able to access it and find what they’re looking for.

 

Regardless of what specific type of web content an article is meant for, a basic knowledge of SEO is now critical for any freelance content writer.

 

However, as we roll farther into 2012 the specific SEO techniques are changing, not in the least due to the Google Panda updates that were put into effect in 2011.

 

It’s important to remember that SEO content isn’t about stuffing keywords in at random in an attempt to throw in a certain phrase as much as possible – that’s actually a good way to get your content ignored by Google completely.

 

With these changing SEO trends that we’re dealing with it’s a good time to take a step back and look at the most effective ways for freelance content writers to use SEO in 2012.

 

1. Use As Much Detail As Possible

 

In general, the longer and more detailed a post is the better it will be seen by the search engines. Google seems to have a love affair with lengthy posts that fully explain a topic. Content writers in the past have used 250-300 words as a good limit for articles and blog posts, but now a good upper limit is closer to 600-700 words.

 

The reason is that longer posts provide Google with more content, which in turn helps it get classified with greater accuracy. A comprehensive, in-depth 1,000 word article will be given more authority over a brief 250 word blurb, and as a result the page on which it is located will have a better chance of sitting higher in the rankings.

 

2. Optimize the Title Tag

optimize title tag

There’s a lot of responsibility given to the title of an article. It needs to be catchy and exciting to snatch a reader’s attention. Most people browsing the web have a tendency to skim. When something leaps out and grabs them, they click through to that article.

 

Online writing requires yet another layer – the title has to be optimized so that search engines see value in it too. That means that you need to find the line between what’s captivating to a human reader and what’s relevant for a search engine. Search engines always like to see the main keyword for the article in the title.

 

3. Use Short Paragraphs with Headings

 

The behavior of the majority of the people on the internet has made a huge difference in how content needs to appear if it’s going to be read. Most people won’t take the time to peruse a giant block of text anymore – instead they skim through to find the specific information they’re looking for and jump back out just as quickly.

 

Breaking up your content into short blocks of information is the best way to ensure that more of it gets read. Even more effective is putting a bold heading at the top of the paragraph. This works like miniature titles throughout the article; a reader skims down through the page and stops at each heading because it grabs their attention for a second.

 

Search engines also give some weight to the <h2> or <h3> tags used to denote headings, but be sure you don’t abuse them. Some webmasters simply place their main keyword inside heading tags periodically throughout the page with no real relation to the paragraphs below them. Google dun’ like this, and they’ll slap you down hard if they catch you doing it. Use headings when they’re appropriate, but don’t go overboard.

 

4. Increase Your Social Media Presence

 

So you spend 2 hours writing an incredibly detailed, informative blog post, followed by another hour formatting it just right with an incredible title and short, spaced out paragraphs to keep your readers moving along. Whew! Time to sit back and admire your handiwork. Well, not quite yet…

 

Social media plays a huge role in the popularity of web content, which means you need to optimize for the Facebook and Twitter crowd now too. It’s no secret that the Google search algorithm has been going through a number of changes, and they recently announced that they are going to place more weight on links generated through social media sites when determining rankings. Freelance content writers have to keep this in mind when writing in 2012.

 

Putting the content out there is the first step to bringing social awareness to a page. The role of social media is on an upward trend that doesn’t appear to be leveling off anytime soon, so it’s imperative to keep this in mind when writing web content.

 

5. Keep Your Content Fresh

 

As a freelance writer myself, I know that most of us follow the same pattern with articles or web content – write it, and forget it. Google is on the lookout for fresh content, though, so for SEO purposes it pays to go back periodically and update your content.

 

Wikipedia is an excellent example of this; within hours of a huge event, the Wikipedia page is up to date with new content about what happened. It’s not surprising that they are near the top of most Google searches.

 

If you’re writing for an online news publication, it doesn’t hurt to keep your stories current when something new affects or changes what was written initially. Doing this just gives Google more content to use in their ranking determinations.

Quick Tips for Getting Started as a Freelance Writer

Freelance Web Content WritingWhen I talk to budding writers who are just getting started in freelance web content writing, I sometimes realize how much I still have to learn about this profession. Even though I’ve been doing it for awhile I still lose track of some of those basic tips that you need to get your startup on the road. Here’s a look at some of the advice that I received when I first started, and some of the advice that I wish I had been given that would have made the journey a whole lot easier.

 

Follow Your Passion 

This is the type of feel-good advice you hear so often from cheesy self help guides, but the truth is it’s still one of the best bits of advice anyone can get when it comes to starting up their own business.

When you work for yourself, you have to put in a lot of grueling hours, often with no outside source of motivation, so it’s absolutely crucial that you love what you’re doing. If you want to become a web content writer but have no interest in writing, the journey’s going to be much tougher than if you have a passion for writing.

I’m not saying it’s impossible, just that the already steep hill is going to look more like a cliff.

 

Narrow Your Niche 

The biggest factor to success isn’t what you decide to do, it’s choosing something that nobody else is already doing. The narrower your niche, the less competition there will be, and the faster you’ll be able to become an authority in that particular facet of your market.

If your niche is really narrow, it’s also a good idea to be able to explain it succinctly in just a few seconds; otherwise your potential clients may not realize the value of the niche. As you get better at your craft, you may want to expand or even change niches, both of which are perfectly fine. It’s all about being flexible, evolving to meet your clients’ needs. Take a note from Bruce Lee and become like the water.

 

Your Website is Not Your Business 

A lot of people focus first on the website and then on setting up their actual business plan. I believe that having a website is a must for freelance web content writing, but it’s not the whole of your business. When I first started I took most of my clients from social networking sites and some freelance writing sites, and it’s only recently that I got a website up devoted entirely to my business.

 

Keep Recurring Costs At a Minimum 

It’s almost unbelievable how many services are available these days for nothing or next to nothing. You can almost always find a free version of something you would otherwise pay for, so take advantage of it! When I say that I don’t mean go find the pirated software; I mean in the sense that there are email marketing services that charge $10 or $15 per month but then there are companies like MailChimp that offer the same services for completely free. Speaking of which…

 

Build Up an Email List 

Emails aren’t as hot as they may have been 3 years ago, but email marketing is still an excellent way to get the word out about your business. Some people build up a whole business using nothing but a newsletter and a few powerful email marketing strategies.

 

Just Do What’s Comfortable

Should you hire a staff of employees or should you work completely by yourself? Different people have different answers, but the main thing is to just do what’s comfortable – that’s where you’ll find the most success. I started my freelance writing business from the beginning with a partner I trusted because that just sort of came naturally to me.

If you work better with a group of people, bring in a few employees to spread the workload around. I can’t name the number of times I would have been less stressed if I had a few extra people on my team, but in the end I’m just more comfortable with me and my partner behind HandleyNation.