Author Archives: Philippa Willitts

British freelance writer and proofreader.

Fixing the Mistakes Made by Hiring Cheap Writers

euro-870757_640I’ve lost count of the number of times somebody has approached me about my writing services. They complain that they hired somebody to do this work already but, well, it was awful and now they need someone to fix it or to start again from scratch.

Invariably, they paid that person around $5 for 500 – 1,000 words and the content they show me is an unmitigated disaster.

So, they hire me. I do the work they need, and they pay me. They’ve paid out twice for writers when, if they’d only bitten the bullet and paid fair fees in the first place, they would have saved themselves both money and time, all the while reducing their stress levels as an added bonus.

Those of us who charge higher rates do so because we are confident that the additional training and experience we have gained over years of full-time freelancing make the extra £££s worth paying. We’ve navigated our way around many different types and formats of writing, and we’ve negotiated the most weird and wonderful content requirements with a range of clients.

So if you pay cheap writers on Fiverr for an SEO-optimised article, you will get 500 words that do, indeed, contain your target keywords. But – most frequently – you won’t get much more than that. How on earth can they really take the time to research your topic if they have a matter of minutes to write your blog posts (they need to submit a large number of posts per hour / day to get a decent amount of pay to go home with)? How can they possibly proofread your work when they have 30 more articles to write today? How can any of those articles have the unique, special touch you are so keen to display in your content?

I feel confident in the fees I charge because I know I deliver great value to businesses and editors who are looking for insightful, unique, well-informed and engaging work. The effect this will have on a business’s customer engagement cannot be overestimated.

This is why punctuation is important

An unfortunate video from BBC News demonstrates the importance of full stops.

Need a proofreader?

I Get 30 Press Releases a Day. Here’s How to Get Me to Open Yours…

30 press releases a day

As a writer, I do a combination of commercial content creation and journalism.

As part of the commercial work, I write press releases for businesses that want to gain some press attention. As a journalist, I get an inbox full of unsolicited, mostly terrible press releases from PR companies and brands.

I open maybe 10% of the press releases I receive, and I follow up on maybe 10% of those… so, if you are hoping to attract a journalist’s attention, what do you need to know to be part of that 1%?

Press release dos and don’ts: what this journalist needs you to know

  1. Do have a good subject line. This is probably the most important factor in whether a journo will hit ‘open’ or hit ‘archive’. It must intrigue the reader so they need to know more, and contain a useful indication of what the release is about.
  2. Don’t put the subject line in all caps. It makes it stand out, but for all the wrong reasons.
  3. Do tailor who you send the PR to. I write about SEO and social media, health and disability, and women’s issues. Fascinating as your news about garden implements or a new restaurant might be, it’s not relevant to what I write about and I won’t get it into the papers for you.
  4. Don’t share the content as an attachment. As you have seen, the chances of getting your email opened at all are pretty slim. If you’ve got that elusive open, don’t make us click on risky attachments to find out what you want us to know. Include the text within the body of the email.
  5. Do follow the format of a traditional press release. A good press release tells me what it’s about in the first sentence and then gradually expands on it as it goes on. Don’t make me read three paragraphs before I know what you’re promoting.
  6. Don’t go on and on and on. I got a press release from a famous self-help guy that totalled about 4,000 words. Much of the text was incomprehensible and it felt more like a poorly written, overly long blog post than a press release. Sum everything up in a couple of paragraphs, with links to more information at the end to provide extra background details or theory. Choose each word carefully and don’t go on any longer than you really need to.
  7. Do proofread the press release before sending it. Receiving a PR that’s peppered with errors looks unprofessional and mistakes will be caught by eagle-eyed journos who will not be impressed. I’ve seen many a discussion on Twitter after a handful of journalists received the same press release, with the same mistakes, at the same time. That’s most definitely the wrong kind of attention.
  8. Don’t send a press release for the sake of it. Don’t bore journalists by sending out releases when you’ve hired a new sales guy, had a staff day out or got a new Facebook Page; we won’t believe you have anything newsworthy, even when you do.
  9. Do back up your claims. If you’re the number one product for x, or the highest ranking seller for y, show me how I can verify that that is true. Many PRs are full of exaggerated information that we just can’t put into a newspaper without qualification.
  10. Don’t forget to include quotes from relevant members of staff within your organisation or experts outside of it. This makes our life a lot easier and gives us a good place to start.
  11. Do personalise your approach. Use my name. Definitely don’t use ‘Dear Sir’.
  12. Don’t use jargon without explaining it. You might know what your industry’s specific terms mean, but I may not. Expecting me to do homework just to understand your PR means it’s likely to fall between the cracks. I just don’t have time!
  13. Do reply to questions. It’s amazing how many companies take the time to send out press releases then ignore responses. I’m definitely not going to cover something if I can’t get a decent response to a simple query.
  14. Don’t be late. If you want a story covered on Tuesday, it’s unreasonable to send your media release that morning. Use embargoes to make it clear that you don’t want coverage until a particular date, giving journalists time to research and write stories about your news.

 

Speaking on Podcasts About Disability Issues

radio-543122_1280

In recent weeks, I have appeared on two disability-related radio shows.

Firstly, I spoke on Contact, a Canadian radio show, about an article I wrote on the weird phenomenon of non-disabled people telling disabled people we’d be better off dead.

Then, last week, I appeared on the Disability Now podcast, The Download, with four other disability rights activists. We talked about the upcoming General Election and what the parties have to offer disabled voters; we talked about accessible housing; and we talked about the representation of disabled people on TV.

I thoroughly enjoyed both of these experience. My podcast experience with A Little Bird Told Me gave me confidence, and my knowledge of disability issues and current affairs meant I felt happy talking on all the subjects that arose.

To find out more about my writing on disability issues, do take a look at my burgeoning new Disabled Writer website, where I aim to demonstrate my specialism and let clients and editors who are specifically looking for a health and disability writer to check out my content specific to those niches.

 

5 Common Mistakes This Proofreader Sees on CVs and Resumes

5 Common Mistakes This Proofreader

When applying for a job, it is vital to make a good impression. Most openings have many applicants, so you need to stand out from the crowd.

I proofread a lot of CVs, resumes and covering letters and, because I have hired staff, I also know what employers want to see. Here are some top tips to make sure your job applications stand out for the right reasons!

  1. Avoid spelling, punctuation and grammatical errors. It is really hard to proofread your own work – your brain reads what it thinks you wrote, rather than what you actually wrote. Having somebody else (e.g. me!!) proofread your work can help to make sure you don’t send out your job application documents with any embarrassing typos.
  2. Think about the length of your documents and, where possible, shrink them down. Prospective employers don’t have the time or the inclination to scan eight pages of your work experience, however fascinating it may be.
  3. Make your application specific to the post. This can be difficult when you are applying for lots of jobs, but being too general can lead employers to believe that you are not specialised enough for a position. If you are applying for jobs in different industries, have two or three CVs prepared so that you can send the most suitable one in each case.
  4. Show, don’t tell. If you want to demonstrate that you have great leadership skills, talk about an occasion when you led a team successfully. Just saying ‘I have great leadership skills’ doesn’t tell the employer very much at all.
  5. Avoid big blocks of text. Breaking up the information on your CV with bullet points, headings and white space makes it much easier to digest.

Above all, be yourself, and share your best self.

If you need help with CV or job application proofreading, please get in touch. I would be happy to help.

Create a New WordPress User Account for your Freelancers

How to Add a New User in WordPress

 

When I create content for clients, I offer to provide that content to them in the way that suits them best. Sometimes, that is a Microsoft Word or Open Office file or a Google Doc, and other times I add the content directly to their website’s CMS; this is usually WordPress, but sometimes it’s Movable Type, Blogger or something else.

On WordPress in particular, it is betrer for the client to create a new user account for me than it is to just give me their login details. Specifically, this is a good practice for the client’s own security.

Recently, I was doing some work for a client who was not very confident with the tech side of things, so I made this video to demonstrate how to go about adding a new user to WordPress. This comes up a lot, so I figured it made sense to share it here, on the website, too.

This post originally appeared on my tech, SEO and social media writing site.

Escape from Content Mills: Tell Me What YOU Need to Know!

So many freelance writers feel trapped in the under-paying, soul-destroying ‘race to the bottom’ freelancing sites and content mills.

I have escaped from that depressing hole, and I want to help other writers to do the same! But to do so really effectively, I need to know what the barriers are that you face so that I can guide you to smash them and thrive with your own, private clients!

What are the obstacles that trip you up when you try to escape from the content mill trap? Do me a favour and fill out this survey. You can also use it to sign up to the email list that I have set up for this purpose, specifically. And, if you have friends or colleagues in a similar situation, please pass it on, too.

I look forward to hearing from you!

 

Run, Don’t Walk, Away From Content Mills: Secret Sneak Peak!

One of the questions I get asked the most by fellow freelancers is how they can escape from writing for mass freelancing sites with low pay and a ‘race to the bottom’ mentality.

The fact is that even if all your current work is underpaid and undervalued, even if you are doing some kind of ad-based revenue share that earns you 22 cents for an article you spent three hours writing, even if you are currently producing work that you know is under par because you need to write four articles an hour to break even, and even if you have never had a private client of your own, it is possible to escape from the content mill, but it takes some focused work to get your foot in the door.

It *is* possible for freelancers to escape the content mill trap!

I have an upcoming, exciting project that will help you to drop those exploitative sites and create your own income and I don’t want you to miss out on this incredible opportunity. If you are interested in learning how to make more money as a freelancer, how to find potential clients that could be a great fit, how to approach them, and how to seal the deal, leave your first name and email address below.

I want to know how to escape low-paying freelance writing work!

* indicates required


I look forward to hearing from you!

Keyword Stuffing, Video Style

Thanks to this post from Convince and Convert, I’ve discovered a video that made me laugh like a drain.

If you ever wondered what the outdated practice of keyword stuffing would look like in video form, Mike can show you here and now.

I get the distinct impression that he buys golf clubs. Legend.

Book Recommendation: The Freelance Writer’s Guide to Making $1,000 More This Month

Bookshelf

Bookshelf (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

You may remember Mridu Khullar Relph who I interviewed on the podcast recently. Well, she’s written a book. And it’s really good.

Full disclosure: Mridu and I are friends and she gave me a free copy of the book. However, if I thought it was terrible I would simply have never mentioned it again. Instead, having read it and been inspired, I actually can’t recommend it highly enough.

Firstly, her credentials. Mridu has years of experience in journalism and counts the New York Times and TIME amongst her credits; this shows in her writing. The Freelance Writer’s Guide to Making $1,000 More This Month is packed full of tips to get more work and improve your income and these tips are not vague, they are specific, with clear instructions.

So, when Mridu recommends pitching magazine editors, she links to 21 pitch emails she has sent that resulted in a commission. When she talks of Letters of Introduction, she shares the one she uses. So much of the professional advice we see consists of gems like ‘make more connections’ or ‘raise your prices’, whereas, in this book, Mridu tells you exactly how to do the things she advises, step by step.

And all for under three quid!

The Freelance Writer’s Guide to Making $1,000 More This Month is aimed at freelancers with some experience who want to improve their fees or up their game, however anyone from a complete newbie to a highly experienced writer is bound to pick up numerous tips that can help them to improve their success rate and earning potential.

Tips that you can go away and do, right away.

And this is the real genius of the book – the fluff has been stripped away and what is left is pure freelancing gold.

You can get The Freelance Writer’s Guide to Making $1,000 More This Month by Mridu Khullar Relph on Amazon.co.uk and Amazon.com.