Category Archives: About Writing

A bit of background: an interview with… me

Last week, I was approached by Rebecca Wren, an aspiring writer. She was writing a university assignment about the career she wants to enter – writing – and wanted to ask me some questions to help to guide her in both her uni work and her path to her future career.

I answered her questions and it turned out to be quite an extensive piece of work! So Rebecca agreed that I could reproduce my answers here. I’m all about repurposing content, especially when it’s 1500 words long.

What inspired you to become a freelancer in different fields of writing?

I had a blog, which I started in the days when you still had to explain what a blog was! I then joined a feminist group blog, where my writing got more attention. Being disabled, I was struggling to work out how I could work in a way that I could manage and started to explore the idea of freelancing.

I knew that my writing was appreciated, so doing that in a freelance capacity was the ideal combination of work for me. I could write, which I loved, and I could do it on my own terms, which suited my health.

Could you provide a brief timeline of the different kinds of jobs you have done leading up to becoming a freelance editor?

Before starting freelancing I had done a variety of work, mostly in the non-profit sector.

How did you find the work? How did you go about establishing connections with people to work with/for them in the beginning?

if the only opportunities available will leave you broke and basically being exploited, then you can always do better elsewhere. Always.

In the beginning, I set up a website and set up social media accounts specific to my business (I have separate work and personal accounts on Twitter, a professional Page on Facebook, and a professional LinkedIn account. I also have an Instagram account that is mostly personal but bits of work sneak in).

Once I’d set up my website I kind of waited for work to come in but it quickly became clear that it wasn’t that simple! Instead, I had to start looking for work more proactively. I joined a few freelancing sites but they are mostly terrible, terrible places that want you to write extensively for very few pennies. So I quickly realised that wasn’t the way I wanted to go either.

I started reaching out to businesses in the areas I wanted to specialise in. Some of them hired me, and it started from there. In journalism, I had some connections from blogging so started pitching ideas to those people. With other publications, I just looked up who the editors were and pitched them directly.

Have you ever worked with publishers, etc. regarding your editing or do you work alone? If you have, how did you begin working with them?

With editing and proofreading literature, I mostly work with self-publishers but I have worked with three conventional publishers. They all found my website and approached me.

How did you get your name out there?

Social media, blogging, I started a podcast (like with blogging, it was in the days when you had to explain what a podcast was!), and directly contacting people.

Do you recommend doing some kind of apprenticeship after leaving university, if there are any?

To be honest, it depends. Definitely steer clear of anything that wants you to work for free because you deserve better than that. Ditto if the salary is tiny. However, if you can find an opportunity with a reasonable salary that can give you a great grounding in what you want to work in, then snap that up. Don’t expect to make £millions that way but grab the experience and contacts.

However, if the only opportunities available will leave you broke and basically being exploited, then you can always do better elsewhere. Always.

How long did it take before you felt like you could be a freelance writer full-time?

I did it a bit differently to most people in that I just launched and was full-time immediately. Obviously it took time to build up to a full-time income but I didn’t freelance on the side while still working a day job, which a lot of people do (and is probably more sensible when starting out).

If you’re going to freelance on the side to build up your client base and experience, then you’ll have an idea of how much you’re earning as a freelancer and how to build your business up but you should still have some savings before you take the leap. If you’re just jumping in with both feet, like I did, then you need at least one month’s expenses saved up, ideally around three months’.

Did you ever advertise your services on job sites, etc. or only through your website?

I did but with no results whatsoever so that’s a strategy I abandoned quite quickly. However that was only on sites that offered free advertising so maybe if you pay it’s better.

How did you land on a price for your services?

Pricing is an ongoing issue. I started off working for fees that were a bit too low but allowed me to gain experience and confidence. Once I had a bit of those two things, I started to increase my prices. I still change them pretty regularly, but never downwards. Always upwards!

I saw on your website that you specialise in writing about disability, health and women’s issues. What inspires you to write about these topics?

I’m disabled, I’m a woman and a feminist. They are passions that consume me and that I was already reading and writing a lot about, so writing about them professionally made sense.

How do you make your writing engaging and distinctive, especially when writing about things like garden machinery or health and safety that you might not have initially had much knowledge about?

It’s easy to be engaging when you’re writing about something you care about. When you’re writing about garden machinery or lanyards or health and safety… yeah, it’s harder. I guess I try to write as if I’m having a conversation with somebody who’s really interested in the topic, I re-read out loud what I’ve written so I can see where it sounds awkward (or tedious), and I research as much as I can so that I can find snippets of info that are genuinely interesting even in a somewhat boring topic.

Do you believe a social media presence is essential in this line of work? How do you attract a following on the sites that you use?

I think at this point it’s pretty much essential to have some kind of social media presence. Obviously there will always be outliers who have succeeded without, but social media is a great way to make connections with people who would otherwise be difficult to reach.

You can also use it to demonstrate your expertise or your specialisms in a way that will make other people say to a potential client “Oh, I don’t write about that, but XX does” because they’ve got to know what you’re interested in.

Do you have any tips on how to make a successful website?

This isn’t my area really. My website is pretty successful but I don’t know which bits of it make it so. It’s kinda messy, it’s overly full, and I daren’t take anything away in case it breaks the spell!!

There are specialists in how to design websites to encourage success, and I’m not one of them!

I saw that your website was on the first page of a Google search for freelance writers. I’m guessing this has to do with SEO? What are your skills in that area?

Yes, SEO. I started to learn about SEO when I started out so that I could improve the chances of my website being seen. As a result of learning about it, I realised I was quite interested in it in a geeky way. This led to me learning more and ultimately now it’s something I write about for other clients, such as writing blog posts for companies that offer SEO services.

Do you have any tips on how to write a successful blog?

Find out what people want to know and answer those questions.

Do you have any other advice for people who are only just beginning their writing careers?

People say you have to not have a fear of rejection if you’re going to be a writer. I find that’s not so much the case; instead, you have to get over the frustration of never hearing back from someone. That does happen a lot!

You need a bit of a thick skin in this career but perhaps no more than most other careers. Writing is great, especially as a job, and it’s hard too. But it’s not as hard as working at a fast-food shop or on a building site or on the Customer Service desk in a supermarket at Christmas. People over-romanticise writing when, in reality, you quickly learn it’s just a job. You dream of sitting with your laptop in Starbucks and creating but you also have email backlogs and spreadsheets and invoices and difficult clients and editors who ignore you.

My best advice is to build relationships with other writers as well as trying to connect with clients or editors. I gain so much more from mutual collaboration than I ever would from feeling like I had to view everyone around me as competition.

 

Blog post pricing special offer

A notepad on a desk

A notepad on a desk

This sale has now expired. However, don’t despair. There is another special offer for you here.

When B2B or B2C clients are looking for a freelancer to write blog posts for them, they don’t just want a couple of one-off articles. Generally, they want one or two a week on an ongoing basis, as this makes the most sense when blogging.

Blogging offers a myriad of benefits for all businesses. Regular new content keeps Google keen, while providing extensive written information adds new conversational keywords to their website content and ongoing posts provide content that can attract buyers, answer prospects’ questions and create a sense of recognition or familiarity.

Because of the importance of ongoing new blog content, I recently created some packages for new clients to choose from when they hire me to write their blog. These packages are:

  • The Daisy Package: 5 x 600-word blog posts per month – £540
  • The Tulip Package: 5 x 600 – 1,000-word blog posts per month – £980
  • The Rose Package: 10 x 600-word blog posts per month – £1060
  • The Sunflower Package: 10 x 600 – 1,000-word blog posts per month – £1850

These are already at a discount when compared to buying blog posts individually. But, until the end of June 2019, I am going to discount them further! You’re welcome.

So, if you are a new client and you hire me to create blog content for you until the end of June, pick the package that suits you best and take off a further 15% discount for your first order. If you are interested in this special offer, contact me and we will make some exciting plans.

Notes on March

Cherry blossom

Cherry blossom

I sometimes wonder whether I should populate my blog with updates on how work is going. After all, it gives readers and potential clients an idea of what I’m up to.

So, I’m giving it a try this month and will see how it goes.

A particularly interesting part of March’s work was proofreading two books for a French agency. The books had been translated from French and I was proofreading the resulting translation. They were grammatically very good but needed some work on occasional areas of wording that didn’t sound quite right. As I have a degree in French Studies I have done my fair share of translation so am familiar with the way it works and the problems and challenges it can cause, so I felt at home fixing these texts.

March also saw the end of a long-term mentoring relationship that I had had with a client who was a keen writer and wanted mentorship on writing and some personal issues that we had in common. We had worked together for several years and the time came for us to part ways. It was quite sad to see them go, but also a proud moment for me that this client was able to move on to new things.

I also had enquiries about being a disability sensitivity reader for an upcoming book. That is not confirmed yet but should be an interesting project if it goes ahead.

Other than that, I have been writing weekly / twice-weekly blog posts for a range of companies that recognise the benefit of ongoing blogging but don’t have the time or expertise to do it themselves. These are usually focused on either tech / digital marketing or health / disability, which keeps things different and interesting while remaining in my areas of specialism.

Finally, my weekly column at Global Comment has seen me cover Brexit, a Tory leadership election, LGBT teaching in schools and the social model of disability.

Special offer for Equal Pay Day: freelance writing, proofreading and social media management

A woman wearing a hijab applauds

This sale has now expired. However, don’t despair. There is another special offer for you here.

This weekend marks the date when Equal Pay Day takes place: it is used to signify the last day of the year that a woman would receive pay, when taking the gender pay-gap into account.

Enjoy this (NSFW) video:

It is important to remember, when noting this day, that today is the day after which averaged-out women work for free. In fact, Black women and disabled women and other minority groups get even less equity in their workplaces and white women do considerably better than BAME women.

Because of this, I want to encourage the world of work to do better. And I believe that one path towards “better” is having women at the top.

So, from right now until 31st December 2018 – the time women will be working for free according to Equal Pay Day – I will give a 10% discount on all work for any company that has a female Managing Director, C-Suite member or Chairperson.

If you would like to take me up on this, reference this post to prompt me to discount the 10% on your next invoice. Include a link to your company structure and the named woman or women and I will be glad to make a start on your work!

This applies until the end of the year, after which normal pricing will resume. It is valid for both new and existing customers, because I’m a good egg, and you can take a look at my pre-discount pricing here. You can’t mix this with any other offer. To find out more or request some work, get in touch today.

Special offer for new clients: copywriting, blog-post writing, freelance content creation

Piles of coins with plants growing out of them

Piles of coins with plants growing out of them

You can have brilliant ideas, but if you cannot get them across, your ideas will not get you anywhere. – Lee Iacocca

 

Everybody loves a discount and, if you are looking for some commercial copywriting, you’ve just found one.

I offer blog-post creation services (blog posts are one of the best ways to market your business and get the word out) and copywriting for static webpages. I also write eBooks, white papers, press releases and case studies for clients.

I have been a full-time freelancer in this business for nine years so I use my wealth of experience in my work. I create content that will attract attention and new customers, providing you with great work to share on social media and attract that gorgeous SEO juice. I specialise in writing about digital marketing, health and disability and women’s issues, but I have written for companies as diverse as those selling garden furniture to those selling car mats.

Copywriting special offer

My fees are public – I believe in being upfront – but I am currently offering a 20% discount for any new client’s first writing purchase. You might want a single blog post or 20, a press release or an entire book, but no matter what you need, I will discount it by 1/5.

This is a special offer that comes and goes; I switch it off and on! But whenever this post is available, so is the discount.

If you are interested in finding out more, get in touch.

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.

 

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!

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I look forward to hearing from you!