Category Archives: Uncategorized

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

A woman wearing a hijab applauds

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.

Epic August Special Offer

It is no longer August so this particular special offer has, sadly, expired. However, there’s another freelance writing discount for you to enjoy here.


More and more, I see that my clients are looking for longer-form content for their blogs. Whereas 500-word posts used to be the norm, now clients are asking me to write content that is 1,500 words or more.

special offer design over gray background vector illustration

There is certainly a benefit to this. With longer-form blog posts, you can incorporate far more information and detail than you would if you only had 500 words to play with. You can take a really deep dive into your topic and demonstrate your knowledge and expertise to your clients and prospects. It will also have an SEO benefit, with long-tail keywords and snippets of searchable information inevitably making their way into the longer articles.

So, I’ve decided to make it easier for business owners who are looking to invest in some longer-form content but are yet to take the leap. For August 2018 only, I am going to take £100 off the fee of a 1,000-1,500-word article for any new client, so that it is 33% off.

My normal rates for a 1,500-word blog post would be £300 so, this month only, it will drop to £200. You can buy a maximum of two.

If you are interested in finding out more, get in touch. The offer’s good til the end of August 2018 or until demand gets overwhelming. It is for new clients only and you will need to choose between this offer and this one to see which works best for you.

Copy: new cloud storage alternative to Dropbox and Google Drive

ID-100249272 by Stuart MilesAs a freelancer, making sure your work and records are backed up is vital. Losing valuable documents can get you in trouble with everybody from clients and editors to the tax man. I tend to double up my backing up, using both an external hard drive and online cloud services. This may seem like overkill, but you only need one massive hard drive failure to leave you in a real mess.

The other great thing about cloud storage is that you can access your files from any computer, so wherever you are, you can find your work.

Google Drive is great for volume and reliability, but the user interface leaves a lot to be desired. It is not at all intuitive, and things can be difficult to find.

Dropbox is fantastic in many ways, but the free storage is very limited, and even if you successfully refer a new user you only get 500MB in return. It becomes quite expensive if you want to back up more substantial amounts of data, and as your business grows, Dropbox can become prohibitively pricey.

Browse      files    CopySo I was excited to see that there’s a new player in the market. Called Copy, new users get a vast 15GB free, and if you sign up through my affiliate link, we both get an extra 5GB storage space. It works in a similar way to Dropbox, in that when you install it on your computer you get a folder on your computer specifically for your Copy files, and you can copy or move files into it, which are then uploaded to the cloud servers.

It’s easy, and files are kept absolutely private by default, although they can also be shared with others easily. One particularly nice touch is that in folders you share with colleagues or friends and family, the storage space is divided between those who use the folder, rather than each user having to account for the entire amount.

It seems like it has taken all the best bits of Dropbox and made it much more accessible by offering storage space that equates more closely to the amount of data users have to back up nowadays.

I will no doubt continue using Dropbox for really crucial files, and Drive is essential to managing a lot of my collaborative work with others, such as the podcast. But for my more day-to-day backup needs, I’m pretty excited about Copy, and am keen to see how it develops from here.

At this stage it’s stable, has good privacy settings by default, and the free allowance is generous. 15GB to start is great, but make it 20 by signing up via this link. Go on, it’s definitely worth exploring.

(Image credit: Stuart Miles)

 

Podcast Episode 53: Get a makeover in a morning – very quick tips to transform your freelance business

Running a freelance writing business can be pretty hectic at times, and while there are plenty of tasks you know you should be doing it can be hard to find the time. In this podcast episode, Lorrie goes through some quick hits to boost your business in no time at all.

Show Notes

Boomerang for Gmail

Cam Scanner

ALBTM 51 – Essential Smartphone Apps For Freelance Writers

ALBTM 52 – Episode 52: The Freelance Writers’ Guide to LinkedIn Success

ALBTM 48 – How to stop your business losing money

ALBTM 50 – How to stop your business losing money

search.creativecommons.org

TED talks

Eventbrite

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Transcript

Hello and welcome to A Little Bird Told Me, the freelance writing podcast about the highs, the lows and the absolute no-nos of successful self-employment.

You can find us on the web at alittlebirdtoldme.podomatic.com, which is not only our podomatic HQ but a hive of handy resources and past episodes. Every link and recommendation we ever give in the podcast – ever! – is listed right there, along with all the links to our websites, social media feeds and subscription options so it’s worth having a nosy!

Subscribing is so worthwhile, although of course I’d say that, because there’s a new episode out every week, with new advice and topics covered in every single one. We don’t scrimp – we can talk the hind legs off a donkey, even when we’re doing solo episodes like this one.

I’m Lorrie Hartshorn and this week, my usual co-host, the lovely Philippa Willitts, is busy working away while I share a few drops of writing wisdom with you all. She’ll be back next week, though, so stay tuned and subscribe if you’re missing her as much as I am.

This week, I’m going to be talking about freelancing quick wins. Sometimes, running your own business can be overwhelming. There are so many things you know you ought to be doing, but where do you find the time when you’re busy working your way through paid projects from those hard-won clients?

If your time is limited, you need to work out which problem area to tackle first. In this episode, I’ve helpfully – and you can thank me later by cheque or bank transfer – split out these freelance mini-makeover ideas into different categories so you can decide which jobs to go for first.

The tasks I’ve come up with should take no more than about 5 minutes each and that’s the whole point – pick and choose from the list and decide which bits to tackle first.

So the first category I’m going to look at is creating a better workspace. Now, when you work from home, you can sometimes end up a bit cabin feverish. You’re stuck in the same room day after day, papers and books higher than your head and just you and your laptop in the middle of all that chaos. It can be quite disheartening so creating a better workspace is a really good way to improve your state of mind.

My desk is cluttered

My desk is cluttered (Photo credit: Rich Gibson)

So, first tip: clear out the crap – yes, I’m not mincing my words! Clear that crap out! Clean the dust out of your keyboard and out of the window, clear the unneeded books from desk and on to your bookshelf, test your pens and throw out the non-working ones.

Second tip! Go paperless – mountains of paper are an inevitable part of a freelancer’s life, unless you’re a very unusual freelancer. One thing you can do, though, is take five minutes to go through your utility bills – gas, electricity, water, phone, broadband etc. and choose the paperless options. This can sometimes save you a bit of money as well – although maybe only 10p a month!

Tip three! I’m going to stop numbering these because I’m going to lose track. So, next tip: storage solutions. Find some that work for you. You might be lucky enough to have your own office, or you might be working from the corner of a room. Whichever it is, make sure you have storage solutions! So whether it’s those stackable boxes under your desk or – I saw this recently – a dish-rack on your desk filled with folders, as a handy little in-tray, or one of those vertically stackable in-boxes so you’re not using up all your desk space. Grab something that will help you keep stuff out of the way and you’re less likely to get frustrated by all the junk on your desk.

Next tip: improve your lighting. There’s nothing worse (OK, there are plenty of things worse but we love a bit of hyperbole!) than terrible lighting for your workspace. It’s bad for your eyes, it can give you a headache, you can’t see what you’re doing and it’s a bit troll-like. So spend $10-15 on an LED bulb for your work area and you’ve got a light that will save energy and money – about £20 a year on one bulb. It reaches full luminosity as soon as you switch it on, so you don’t have those ten minutes of bzzzzzzz that you sometimes get with fluorescent bulbs, and they’re super bright.

If you don’t fancy switching to LED, set up a nice desk lamp: buy one, grab one from the garage, stick in next to the desk and make sure you’re working in a well-lit situation. It’ll make a use difference, honestly.

Next tip: improve your seating – don’t work on the bed! We’ve all done it and it’s bad for your back and neck. Plus, you don’t feel work-y – try and get a proper seat. Invest in the best chair you can; if you’re a bit skint, stick a cushion on the chair to stop you slouching. After a few aches and pains, it’ll improve your posture in the long-term.

Next tip: dust and vacuum, or mop. If you have two minutes, lift eveyrhitng off your desk, dust it, vacuum the carpet, clean the windows – just improve your space. It reduces the risk of asthma, breathing problems, skin problems; don’t sit there dessicating like some horrible troll in your own filth! Get yourself a damp duster and give everything a good clean.

Now technically, this next tip isn’t about your work space but it is virtually. Clear your inbox! If you’re anything like me, you spend a LOT of time in your inbox. I actually only see Pip, my co-host, quite infrequently. While we can easily reach one another, we’re a couple of hours apart. But Pip is like a little elf that lives in my inbox – she’s always in there.

Clear out your inbox and it’ll make you feel so much better. Archive emails you’re not going to need again, Boomerang any you don’t need to worry about until next week (if you don’t know what Boomerang is, I’ll link to it in the show notes) and answer as many as quickly and clearly as you can in five minutes.

Second category of tips: Create a better online presence. Now this is all about managing your online reputation – making sure that when people find you online, they get a positive impression.

Tip one: improve your website – proof-read it, chop out unnecessary or lengthy paragraphs, add some testimonials in – get some from your LinkedIn, add a new plug-in that shows your latest tweets (new content will always help your website ranking, even something as small as a tweet!), add a course to your training and development list (if you’ve got one – or start one if you haven’t!). whatever you’ve done to improve yourself and your services, do shout about it.

Tip two – I’m back with the numbers again! I’m going to stop again, as well. Improve your LinkedIn – make sure it’s clear, easy to read and error free! Do make sure it doesn’t let you down.

Make sure that you’ve included some keywords and search terms rather than just thinking of LinkedIn as a CV. LinkedIn is a search engine, so that when people search for “freelance copywriter Manchester” or “professional proof-reader Sheffield”, your name pops up. If you’ve not linked to your website and social media feeds yet, do it. Because LinkedIn is a high traffic website. We’ve actually done an episode on LinkedIn – I think it was actually our last episode, so I’ll link to that in the show notes.

Next tip: improve your Twitter – the same applies when it comes to keywords: make sure you optimise your profile information. You’ve only got a few words to deal with – it’s not hard, you can do it in five minutes. Forget the deep and meaningful quote as your header – let people know what you do and which services you offer. You can still be eloquent and dedicate some space to showing personality, because that’s good, but don’t forget the obvious, which is who you are and what you do.

Make sure you link to your website as well – it’s so frustrating when someone mentions their website and there’s no link there. I get bored really quickly – maybe I’m fickle or maybe I’m just a normal online browser. If I can’t find the info I want very quickly, my brain tends to switch off.

Next tip: improve your Facebook, same as Twitter and LinkedIn. Make sure everything’s filled in and all the content is optimised.

Next tip: improve your headshots. Make sure the picture you’re using isn’t rubbish! Be smart, well-presented. Make sure it’s well lit with an appropriate background. Make sure it’s clear, not blurry, and that you’re not doing duck-face. I’ve seen duck-face pictures on LinkedIn – just have a nice, up-to-date picture.

My next tip is hide the crap. We’ve had ‘clear the crap’, now we’re on ‘hide the crap’. Google yourself. If there are any half-baked, useless profiles you may have signed up to but not filled in, see if you can remember the password, sign in and deactivate them. Or, if you want to keep them, fill out those profiles and add links in. Make sure you’re not linking back to your site from a dodgy website, though, as it’ll only do you harm.

Final tip in this section: comment on some interesting blog posts – this is a really quick and easy way to boost your online presence and drive traffic to your sites. Make sure you comment on some popular posts with real insightful comments. As Pip and I have said on here before, it’ll be obvious to the world and his dog if you’re just commenting for the back-links, so make sure you read the post and say something you’ve considered. It’s good to have a link back to your website so people can see more about you, but at the same time, “Great blog post – I said something about this on my site!” isn’t going to look good.

Next category: get new ideas. First tip: pick a new service to add to your offering. Maybe you’re a copywriter who could get into proof-reading; maybe you’re a proof-reader who could get into editing; maybe you’re an academic editor who could get into book editing. Diversifying your business can be great as long as you’re not spreading yourself too thin.

It could be something as small as press releases. Maybe you’re a copywriter who focuses on digital content, so blog posts, news articles, web content, research press releases and advertise that you know how to write them. And let clients know by email, too.

Coffee meeting [35mm]

Second tip: invite a writer or freelance you admire out for coffee – not in a sleazy or cheesy way, though. What I mean is pick the brains of someone doing well – someone you’ve seen and chatted to online, maybe. Or, if they don’t want to meet for coffee, see if you can arrange a Skype chat – and draw up some really insightful, intelligent questions you’d like to ask them about their success and just try your luck.

Next tip: sign up to some new email newsletters. As long as these aren’t clogging up your inbox, this can be really helpful for getting snippets of advice and information every morning or week and help to boost your ideas. It’s outside input in a job where you work a lot on your own. Emails are designed to be digested quickly, so it’s a good thing to do while you have your morning cup of coffee.

Next tip: listen to a podcast! Tadaa! You’re already doing this one, so well done. But seriously, have a look at our back catalogue, have a look at the topics we’ve covered – there are so many. There are also other podcasts; you don’t even have to listen to something work related – just get some human input, external contact and more fresh ideas.

Next tip: lie down on your bed – or even your floor – and have a meditate! Now this is one of the more artsy tips, so if you’re listening and thinking, “Mmm…not sure it’s a good idea!” then don’t do it, but you’d be surprised at what a massive difference it can make to physically remove yourself from your desk, lie down, close your eyes, do some deep breathing and pop some relaxing music on your iPod for five minutes.

Along the same lines, change your computer desktop wallpaper to a photo or saying that inspires you. Now, it’s pure cheese but if it makes life a bit more pleasant, then why on earth not?

The next category is get more money / clients. My first tip is sign up to PeoplePerHour and offer an Hourlie – what this is, is a set-fee project you can offer on PeoplePerHour that saves you the hassle of entering the fray and bidding for work. Now, I’m not super keen on freelancing websites like this. However, hourlies – I think – are a good thing.

Basically, you fill out your profile and say, for example, I’ll write a top quality press release and accompanying news story for X pounds. And if someone likes what you’re offering, they can click on it – there’s no negotiation, no bartering, you don’t have to compete with other people. Either they want it or they don’t; just have it there as another work option.

My next tip is to identify low-paying clients. Now there are two courses of action you can take, really, when you’ve identified clients who don’t pay as much as you like – decide whether to ditch them and spend the time on business development as you hunt for better paying clients or increase your rates.

Now, again, there are two options when it comes to increasing your rates. You can either increase your rate for that one client – which is often the way it’ll go. Or, if you don’t feel you could add enough to that client’s fee but you need more money overall, sometimes, a small increase to all – or several – of your clients can make a huge difference without one client taking the hit, but make sure your tiny clients aren’t subsidising your big ones! Big clients can generally afford to pay more than smaller clients. That’s not to say smaller clients aren’t worth it, though.

So yeah, if you need to increase your fees, either whack the increase in fees on one lower-paying client (and that’s not wrong – if someone’s paying less than you need them to, you’re entitled to ask them for more) or increase everyone’s fees by just a little bit, that’s a solution, although not every week, of course!

Next tip: check your income records and follow up on late payments by email. Pip and I recently did a two par episode – 48 and 50 – on how to stop your freelance business losing and wasting money and this came into it. It can be so easy to invoice people then forget to check if they’ve paid you. What I tend to do is pop a reminder in my calendar when I invoice someone, for a week after the deadline, saying, “Check invoice”. If you don’t do that already, start now – it’s a great way to remind yourself. If someone forgets to pay you £20 and someone else forgets to pay you £10, alright it’s not much, but it all adds up. Just make sure you keep your records up to date – even just in an Excel file – and tick off all those payments.

Next tip: check who last viewed your LinkedIn profile and email them to see if they’d like to connect in case they need a copywriter in future. This is a great way to drum up interest and dialogue: it’s nice to talk to people. It’s easy to connect on LinkedIn and never speak again. What I find helpful is to contact people who view my profile and invite them to link up with a bit of info on how we could help one another. It’s not cheeky – LinkedIn is a networking site, so don’t miss your opportunities on there.

Receipt

Receipt (Photo credit: skittlbrau)

Next tip for bagging more money! Dig out all your paper receipts from your pockets and wallets. Using a PDF app on your phone (Pip’s recommendation of Cam Scanner in episode 51 is a brilliant one – check the show notes), take a picture of every one of those business receipts, send it to your emails, or your DropBox or Google Drive or wherever, and file them with your accounts so you can claim your tax back at the end of the year. It makes a huge difference – 20% return on all those expenses! – and you can chuck the paper away afterwards!

The next category is “get more time”. It seems to be what none of us has enough of: time. Start your week off by planning your week. You might think you can’t because you have to take work as it comes in, but you can plan the stuff you do regularly: clearing your inbox, scheduling social media, doing some exercise, having lunch – there are plenty of things you know you have to do that you can easily plan. If you’ve got work that’s already come in, schedule that. The time left over is what you use for new work. You might need to be flexible and shift stuff around, but if you try and do this every week, having a bit of a plan can just help to order the chaos.

Make a to do list and split your to-do list into days or weeks. Now, this week and the week before have been absolute chaos for me and Pip. We’ve been swamped with so much work. This is a Saturday morning and I’m recording this podcast, and I still have loads to do.

What’s really helped me this week is to take the huuuuuge to-do list and split it into days. It can be really tempting to have a huge to-do list, start at the top and work your way down, but it’s not the best way.

What it’s better to do is go through, find urgent stuff and stick that on one list. I did it on Thursday this week – I chopped stuff that wasn’t urgent and stuck it on the Friday list: it was mostly internal stuff like invoicing people, paying invoices, chasing invoices, sorting my accounts, social media. It’s all stuff that needs to be done but it didn’t have to be done first. I got all my urgent work done on Thursday and all the non-urgent on Friday. And when work came in on Friday, if it wasn’t urgent, I said, “Sorry, I’m busy today – I’ll tackle it on Monday”. And that’s sometimes what you have to do.

The sooner you can split your list into days, the sooner it looks manageable. If you start on a Monday, go through your list, see when your deadlines are. Again, it can tempting to say, “I don’t have time for this – I just need to get started!” but calm yourself down, have a cup of tea or coffee and some breakfast, and go through your to-do list and decide what can be postponed until later in the week. You don’t have to do it all now. Just having that stuff out of the way – pinned up on your noticeboard and ready to pull down (and be ignored for now!) – can really help.

Next tip for getting more time: outsource. If you have regular work coming in that you have a really good handle on, say writing three blog posts a week for a long-term client, and you’re swamped, consider outsourcing.

You won’t get as much money as you’ll have to pay someone to do the work for you – but the time might be more valuable to you, either to work on something else, do some business development or just have a break. I wouldn’t suggest outsourcing complex work because it’s important not to let your clients down but if you do the same kind of blog posts every week, perhaps consider outsourcing.

Next tip: put your out of office on – it’s amazing how much you can get done when your clients aren’t expecting an instant response. When you’re stressed, it can be tempting to think “I have to respond to all emails NOW!” but you don’t.

Pop a concise note on there about how you’re in meetings for the afternoon, and use the time to catch up on that big piece of work that needs your full concentration. It doesn’t do your clients any harm, either, to think you’re meeting with someone else, either – you’re in demand!

Next tip: go through your list of blog posts that need writing up (most of us have one of these!). Taking time to go through them takes time. You can’t write them in five minutes, but why not prepare for them by coming up with titles and images? There’s nothing worse than a blank page, so get yourself ahead of the game. Come up with titles and images. Images help to boost click-through rates – people love pictures, so get yourself on a free image site like Search.CreativeCommons.org (link in the show notes!), choose some really eye-catching images and pop those – along with a title – in an individual file for every blog post.

Type in there, “Image by [name and hyperlink]; used under a Creative Commons licence” and then you’re sure to give credit where it’s due and shave off five minutes when you come to write the post up.

Next category – penultimate category! – is improve your skills.

First tip: watch a TED talk or YouTube video. Have a look on YouTube. As Pip reliably informed me the other day, it’s the second largest search engine online. Have a look at someone inspiring giving a talk on something useful or interesting to you. Spend five or 10 minutes learning something new.

Take an online course – of course, you can’t take a whole course in five or ten, but you can always do a few minutes on a short course.

Sign up to attend a local seminar – lots of local networking groups have talks. In the UK, we have Eventbrite.com and I often go and have a nosy for things in my local area that I can just pop to for half an hour.

Same goes for eCourses or newsletters – sign up to those!

Next tip: add five new writing blogs to your Feedly (and if you don’t know what Feedly is, it’s an RSS reader that allows you to read all your favourite blogs in one place). If you want more information on apps that can be useful for freelance writers, why not go and have a listen to episode 51, which was Pip’s last solo podcast and is on that very topic.

Read a book is my next tip: get down to your local library and read a book! Books are great – hold them, flick through, get away from your laptop. It’s all good!

Final tip: follow five or ten fellow freelance writers on social media. This isn’t about copying people, or stealing their ideas – by no means should you approach anyone’s contacts or clients! – it’s about getting inspiration for your own business. See how they pitch, take a look at their posts and their tone. Think of it as watching the lesser-spotted freelancer in their natural habitat!

My final category is improve your customer relations – just wee things you can do in five minutes to improve your customer relations.

First tip: make a list of your clients and put a sad, happy or neutral face next to them depending on how you feel the relationship is. Look through the neutral and sad faces and see if you can think of things that can improve the relationships.

Second tip: send a useful link to your clients along with info on how it could help them. I spotted the news about Facebook changing online promotion rules recently, and I remembered a client saying they wanted to run more contests. So I pinged off an email with some information and got a really positive response; I’m offering added value.

An extension of this: prepare an informative document for your clients as a freebie. I was in touch with a client recently who’d never sent out a press release so I sent them an email about how to prepare and send off the press release I’d written for them. Now, you often find yourself giving step-by-step advice to clients without thinking about it. What you can do is pull the information out, generalise it, turn it into a PDF and send it to your other clients because everyone loves a freebie. It shows clients that you’re not just in it for the money, and that’s a good thing.

What you can do is save the information as PDF and offer it as a white paper on your blog, which might help to get people signing up with their details to your mailing list. There are ways to get more use from content you might otherwise never look at again.

The next tip in improving customer relations is just to ask them how they’re doing! Catch up on the phone for a chat about how the work is going and how they’re doing. Ask them appropriate questions about how life is. Be a voice on the phone; it humanises you more than an email would.

Final tip: take five minutes to thank your recent social media followers and ask if they need a writer – trust me, it works! I’ve won business from this quite frequently. Thank people sincerely for linking up and it can start dialogue as long as you add more stuff in there.

So those are my five minute mini makeover top tips for freelance writers. If you’ve got five minutes and you want to make a big difference to your freelance business, those little tips will do you no harm at all. Small things can make a big difference.

Habits are hard to introduce all at once, so just try and introduce one at a time – squeeze just a bit more out of your business, and it’ll make a world of difference.

So, it’s now time for the infamous A Little Bird Told Me Recommendation of the week. My recommendation this week is a list of free audio books on a site called Open Culture, which does what it says on the tin. It tags itself as “the best free cultural and education media on the web” and there’s all sorts on there. There are language courses, films, e-books, text books, kids education, video sites, something entitled “Life Changing Books” and the list of free audio books is over 500 long, so there’s a good selection.

What inspired me to start looking at free audio books was my relatively recent disappointment with Audible, who refused to engage with concerns of people over violent images appearing on their Facebook page. People put pressure on lots of companies, asking them to pressure Facebook to remove these kinds of misogynist, pro-rape pages. Lots of companies were really pro-active and Facebook have reviewed their reporting abuse buttons.

Bringing it back to Audible – big, big company – refused to do anything. They just weren’t bothered. Loads of customers engaged them but they did nothing. It’s put me off them for life.

Now, Audible is a great service but it’s also pretty expensive when all’s said and done so if you like to listen to audio books, why not try Open Culture’s list of free audio books. Good selection on there, great if you want to read a new book but can’t quite face another day in front of written words!

Another good option to try is Librivox.org, which is a project that aims to get every book in the public domain recorded and available as an audio book. And if you fancy a new challenge, you can sign up as a reader as well! It’s great for people with visual impairments, and for people who just don’t have it in them to read another written book. You can download all these files, subscribe on iTunes or elsewhere, and maybe listen to them for five minutes during the little meditation session I mentioned earlier.

So, that brings us to the end of this episode of A Little Bird Told Me – the freelance writing podcast to end all freelance writing podcasts! I really hope you’ve enjoyed this latest episode – if you have, why not go and have a nosy through the other episodes at alittlebirdtoldme.podomatic.com. With me being a more bookish sort of person and Pip being a tech and social media wizardess, there’s bound to be something right up your street. And if there isn’t, let us know and we’ll sort that out!

Do make sure you subscribe – our episodes are weekly, and you’ll get a notification as soon as the latest one is out. Come and have a chat to us on our Facebook page or our individual social media feeds – we’re nice and friendly, so let us know if you have any feedback, questions or ideas for future podcasts.

In the meantime, I’ve been Lorrie Hartshorn, thank you again for listening and Pip and I will catch you next time.

Podcast Episode 43: Keyword research for SEO writing

It will often be expected of you, as a freelance copywriter, to be able to not only carry out keyword research but also to know how to use it in SEO copywriting. In this episode I talk about the basics of undergoing keyword research, and also provides information about writing for SEO in a way that does not alienate site visitors.

 

 

This episode also contains a first – a custom-made video especially for A Little Bird Told Me listeners. Find out how to carry out keyword research using the free Google AdWords Keyword Tool at http://www.socialmediawriter.co.uk/keywordvideo

 

 

Show Notes

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Audio transcript

Hello, and welcome to episode 43 of ‘A Little Bird Told Me’. The freelance writing podcast, about the high’s the lows and the no-no’s of successful self-employment.

I am Philippa Willitts and I’m here doing a solo episode today, without my usual co-host Lorrie Hartshorn and today we’re going to be talking about how to do key word research when you are doing SEO writing.

First though, a little reminder of how you can find us, we are generally based at www.littlebirdtoldme.podomatic.com and from there you will find links to subscribe to the podcast, whether you want to do that on iTunes via RSS or whether you prefer Stitcher smart radio. You can also find links there to our Facebook page, so come over and say “hi” to us there and also links to my and Lorrie’s websites, Twitter accounts, LinkedIn pages, all that kind of thing. So do come over, subscribe so you never miss an episode and say “hi” because we’re friendly, mostly. Also before we get started, I want to mention and thank Susan Johnston from Urban News Writer, who recommended ‘A Little Bird Told Me’ in a blog post about five podcasts for free for freelance writers.

We were so excited and really, really, pleased and were also in some great company along with Grammar Girl, The Accidental Creative and so on, so I will put a link to that blog post in our show notes. But if you’re not already a reader of the Urban News, do head over there. Again, I’ll link to it from the show notes because it’s got some amazing resources, I’m a long time subscriber to that blog and its very, very, good for any kind of writer, I think.

English: Effective keyword competitive analysis

English: Effective keyword competitive analysis (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

So anyway, as I said today we’re talking about key word research. Now lots of clients will expect you to already know how to do this. You might be asked to do it when you’re preparing some website copy or you might also want to know how to do it so you can improve the success of your own website or your own blog. There’s a lot of confusing information around about key word research and so what I want to do is really just get it down to the basics, what it is, how to do it and how to make a start. If you want to know more from there, there are plenty of resources about the very, very, very, detailed information you can glean, but what I’m doing today is, a general coverage of how it works and how to do it. I’ve also made a video, which I will mention later on that will help you to use a free key word research tool.

Key word research looks at the search terms that people type into Google or Bing or wherever and uses those as a way to boost the popularity of their own website. The general idea behind it is that it helps you to find the exact search terms that other people are using, because if you don’t take into account the wording and the questions that people ask, you’re going to miss out on traffic, basically. It’s a form of market research really, it gives you an idea of how many people want to know about a particular thing and the precise language their using. So if you’re selling/writing for a client who sells clothing, then key word research can show you the precise words, phrases and questions that people are typing into Google, which will help you then to write that website copy in a way that people can relate to.

SEO writing is basically a way of writing, which helps websites to improve their SEO, SEO being search engine optimization. Now there’s a lot of good and a lot of bad in SEO but, from a writer’s point of view, the things you need to know are basically about how and when to use keywords and how and when not to, that’s just as important. There are a lot of myths, you’ve got to use a key word three times per paragraph and you just end up with ridiculous copy then that makes no sense. If you’re looking to buy a blue dress then we sell blue dresses because lots of people like blue dresses and blue dresses are attractive and we sell cheap blue dresses because cheap blue dresses, you know, it’s stupid. If you click on a web page like that, you quickly click back because it looks spammy and its ridiculous, but equally if you want to buy a blue dress and you come across a website that doesn’t mention them at all your likely to skip past it and go to another one.

English: seo block

English: seo block (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

So SEO writing when done well and when done correctly, is a way of keeping search engines in mind when you’re writing but still primarily focusing on news ability, focusing on the user experience and actually writing for people because there’s no point writing exclusively for search engines, if you get to the top of the search results but people can’t relate to what you’re saying when they click through. Plus Google recognizes, it’s called key word stuffing, if you use a key word, you know, too many times. Google recognizes that now, so even if in the past it did help to improve your rankings, these days it’s more likely to damage them actually.

So if you read about SEO writing you’ll find lots of contradictory information, some people say that key words have to make up a certain percentage of the overall text and there are tools where you can input your key word and your copy and it will tell you what percentage you’ve used. But really, that kind of thing often overlooks that you are writing for people with search engines in mind, that’s how good SEO writing works and I will keep repeating that all day, because people don’t always get it first time. It can be a good idea to use the key word in your page title. It can be a good idea to use it early on in the copy. It can be a good idea to use it towards the end as well.

But what’s most important is inserting the keywords and key phrases in a way that is natural, in a way that doesn’t sound out of place and in a way that reads well. That key word research is still incredibly important even with all the changes with Google alga rhythms and Panda and Penguin, Penguin 2.0, which has just recently come out. A lot more people have found themselves losing, losing their position in Google because of bad SEO practices. But keyword research remains useful for both SEO and making sure you reach the peak that you want to reach.

When you carry out the key word research you find out a lot about your customers, or your clients’ customers. You might want to know how many people search every month for blue dresses but you might be pleasantly surprised to see that theirs actually a very low competition key word you could also use that could really help you to rank the website highly. The other thing that Keyword research does is it kind of qualifies for visitors in some degree. It goes beyond just numbers of site visitors what keyword research allows you to do is make sure you get the right sort of visitors, which might be visitors who are ready to buy, or visitors who are interested in a very specific niche area. The days of just having a visitor counter on your website and everybody impressed by a high number are long gone really. What matters now is getting the visitors that will be useful or more to the point, getting the visitors that you can help with your business or your clients business.

So, how to go about carrying out keyword research, first thing you need is a bit of common sense. Ask yourself what you would search for if you wanted the information you’re providing. Take out of your head the thoughts of what you have already done, think of yourself as the position of somebody who wants a blue dress, and think “what would I search for if I did?”, it’s a good place to start.

Now bear in mind the importance of what’s called ‘Long tail keywords’, now these are, it’s like a string of words really, a phrase that people search for usually when people search for a very specific thing. Now there are a lot of cases where you might have a keyword in mind but you have no hope of getting to number one in Google for that keyword. If you do a search for that keyword now and find that number one in Amazon, at number two is Tesco, you know it’s possible to beat them to the number one spot but it’s very, very unlikely.

And this is where long tail keywords come in. These are phrases that people use to search for something and the thing about long tail keywords is that they have a lower search volume, which means that not as many people search for them. However they often have low competition, which means that not a lot of other websites are targeting that key word phrase in particular and that you have a higher chance of rising through the search engine positioning’s. So long tail keywords are really useful for instance, you might not be able to rank for the word ‘teapot’ but you might be able to rank ‘small blue teapot with a red lid’ or if you can’t rank for something like ‘cheese’, you might have a chance with ‘best Lancashire local organic cheese’. Looking for the long tail keywords that people are using that people are genuinely searching for, looking for how many people search for that phrase each month, and I will show you how to do that in the video I mentioned using the free Google tool.

You have a much better chance of getting those exact customers who search for that if you do your SEO correctly once you’ve finished your keyword research. Another thing about long tail keywords which is really interesting, is that people who study this kind of thing, have found that long tail keywords are often better converters because they, the people using them are more likely ready to buy. So if somebody searches for, oh I’m sick of the blue dress what else can we be searching for, ‘new laptop’ they are probably researching and wondering if they search for ‘best price for new HP laptop’, which is a long tail keyword they are much closer to buying it suggests at that stage by looking for prices, they know what they want. So that’s another reason that long tail key words are good to be aware of.

Now the tool I’d recommend you start with, with key word research is called the ‘Google Adwords Key Word Research tool’. I will put a link in the show notes to it; it’s a free tool that anybody can use. If you have a Google account you can sign in, but you don’t actually need one you can use it without. Now I have made a video, which shows how to use the Google Adwords tool, in the video you will find out how to conduct a search and what the different results and numbers and figures mean. It can look, when you first open it, a very confusing tool but hopefully the video will show you how to find what you need to know, how to download the Google Adwords key word results to your computer, to a spreadsheet so you can analyse them further if you want to. It’s actually a very good tool, especially given that it’s free, and it’s not perfect and people want a lot more information for which there are much more specific tools, but for basic key word research you do get a good amount of information.

So what you need to do is go over to www.socialmediawriter.co.uk/keywordvideo, all one word, no dash or anything. www.socialmediawriter.co.uk/keywordvideo and that will redirect you directly to the YouTube video that I have uploaded for this episode. So do head over there to find out how to get the best out of the tool and it can really help your SEO writing, whether that’s for your clients’ or your own site.

So I’m assuming now, it may or may not be true, but I working on the assumption that you have paused this, gone over and watched the video and are now back. So you’ve got all this data from the Keyword research tool, you know which terms, which search terms have a high competition so maybe more difficult to rank for. You also know those that have medium or low competition so it may be easier to get to the top of Google for. However those that have low competition may have only twenty searches a month so spending a lot of time and effort to rank for a search term that has low competition but that so few people search for might be waste of your time. Similarly if you find something that 45,000 people search for but it’s got incredibly high competition that may be just as much as a waste of time, or it might not be, it just depends it really depends but often where people start is search terms that Google identifies as having medium or low competition. And which have, now the actual search numbers really vary for niche websites like AdSense websites or that kind of thing, you might just want say, 200 searches a month, or you might want 1,000 or 2,000. If you’ve got a big e-commerce site you might want 10,000 or 15,000. It very much depends on the context, but if you’re unsure and if don’t want to spend tons of your time doing SEO then something with low competition and a decent numbers of searches is probably the best place to start.

Now Google tells you generally whether something low, medium or high competition but you want to do a bit more study than that, and the obvious thing to do is to do Google searches of your own. So, say you choose twenty key words to target or key phrases the next thing to do is too search for each of those in Google, see what people find if they search for it already. If you’re very lucky you will find search results that are vague not that relevant, where you think you can really rocket to the top of the results in no time. Other times you’ll find results that you think I just can’t compete on this, at this stage there are too many good, big, well optimised sites in the first ten results that I wouldn’t be able to get on the first page let alone to number one. So get an idea of what results are coming up with the keywords you’ve chosen. Another thing to look at is the PPC ads, the pay per click search ads that pop-up in the right hand side column of the search results and at the top and the bottom of the search results. If there are lots and lots of search ads this suggests that this is a keyword that lots of people are really trying to target.
So it could feel that the competition is too high in that case or alternately it could mean well this is clearly a very lucrative keyword I really want to get to the top for this one. It also suggests that this is a keyword that converts well and that other people have done their keyword research and that this is a prized one. So again judge it based on the time you want to spend on SEO, judge it on how much you want or your client wants to invest in SEO copywriting, if it’s a lot, if they really, really, really want to dominate the search results for their entire sector then this is, these are the ones to target. If it’s a minor site that just wants to rank for a few small things then ones that are highly competitive are probably ones to avoid.

So as you can see keyword research isn’t 100% cut and dry, it’s not a matter of choosing the keywords that have 4,000 local searches per month with low competition. First of all there are fewer and fewer of those around because so many people do key word research. But also it very much depends on your or your client’s aims and goals for the site. When you have found your keywords and your writing, maybe, articles or blog posts or category pages on e-commerce sites then don’t use the keywords to a ridiculous degree write something that’s worth reading not that’s just good for the search engine robots. Write well, use the keywords there’s no point doing all the research if your then not going to use them at all, try and stick one in the title early on in the copy but really focus a lot more on the people that will be reading it while incorporating the keywords in a sensible, realistic way. If you haven’t yet watched the video head over too www.socialmediawriter.co.uk/keywordvideo and all will become clear.

And now it is time for The Little Bird recommendation of the week. Lorrie and I have talked a lot over the past 42 episodes about people asking writers and other freelancers to work for free. Now my recommendation this week is a stunningly good response form a writer who was asked to work for free. She was invited to contribute some writing for a company called Equal, which makes some kind of artificial sweetener. Now this woman Katherine Devani, found out that the company behind Equal, had a revenue of $232 million last year as so wasn’t too impressed with being asked to write for nothing. So this is how she responded:

‘Hi Ann, great to get your email and when I say great I mean hilarious. Just one question why would I work for a multinational chemical company for free? Do you? How incredibly unprofessional to develop an advertising budget where you do not pay for the content and how rude to ask people to work for nothing. Did you pay the graphic designer, the web developed, the Internet provider? Do you pay for the petrol in your car, the hairdresser?

“This is my job and, joining the debate about the choices women make, here is the choice I make: not to work for multinational companies for free or any businesses. I am a single mom and I pay every single person who works for me. Women are 50% of the population, do 2/3 of the work, earn 10% of the money and own 1% of the property and you have the gall to frame this opportunity to work for free as some kind of feminist jamboree. And while we are on gall, promoting a dieting aid with feminism, excuse me while I throw up in my mouth, sorry what? It’s about health, lifestyle and choices? No its not! It’s about selling to dissatisfaction and self-loathing; I think you’ve picked the wrong girl. You don’t give a rat’s about women and if you did you would not ask them to work for free, you would pay them. How patronising and unprofessional.’

She goes on ‘I will make sure everyone in my network hears about this – exposure don’t pay the rent, I look forward to your response’. Now I loved this when I read that far, but what’s even better, she has published the response she got which reads:

‘Hi Catherine, you’re right and I apologise for offending you and not being fair. I totally agree with your comments below, I do care about women and no one should work for free. I will let my client know that were being patronising and unprofessional. Every person who works on this project has to be paid fairly, I will also contact the other women I have reached out to and apologise. I will let them know they will be paid. It is my mistake for asking I’ll let you know how things progress’.

How incredible is that! Catherine Devani says underneath these texts, that she was tempted to take her post down before; she posted her letter on her blog before she got this incredible response. And so when she got the response she was tempted to take the post down because it had been responded too, so incredibly well, but actually she’s decided to keep it up on her website because she wants to show what she thinks of working for free. But she also wants to show what can happen, if you challenge somebody. And she says she wants to show what an excellent corporate response looks like. She says that in previous years she was offered paid work, and she refused it on the grounds that others were not being paid and the company changed their tune and paid everyone.

So what this goes to show, this blog post, first of all a great examples of a writer responding to a request to work for free for a profit making company. But what it also shows that sending these responses and refusing to work for free and demanding pay can actually change things, so I will put a link in the show notes so you can read the entire thing but I really liked it, not just her email which was very good but also the fact that it had such a positive effect. So big yay to Catherine Devani there, I loved it.

I really hope you have enjoyed this episode, don’t forget to head over to www.littlebirdtoldme.podomatic.com and subscribe. Next week it will be Lorrie and I doing a joint episode and you don’t want to miss it. I have been Philippa Willitts and I will see you next time.

Video Transcript

This is a video from The A Little Bird Told Me freelance writing podcast, find us online at www.littlebirdtoldme.podomatic.com.

So in this video we’re going to look at the basics of how to use the Google Adwords Keyword tool. So we’re going to use the example, of having a keyword of ‘blue teapot’. Now the first thing you want to do is change the match type from ‘broad’ to ‘exact’ and then click search. If you find you don’t have enough results you might want to change back to broad, but exact is better if you can get that to work.

I'm a little teapot...

I’m a little teapot… (Photo credit: Joming Lau)

Now the first results you get will be under this tab called ‘add group ideas (beta)’ and what this does is group together different categories that it spots from the different keywords you’ve offered. So if you’re selling a blue teapot you want to look down and see which of these matched the most, and I’d say ‘tea set’, so click on that and it gives you suggested keywords: ‘tea set’ ‘tea sets’ along with the number of global monthly searches, local monthly searches and whether it’s high, medium or low competition.

So tea sets for sale have a high competition, flowering tea gift set has a higher competition; they all have a higher competition frankly. If you want more detail then head over to the keyword ideas tab instead. Now this gives you lots and lots and lots of keywords to look at. It shows you the phrase ‘blue tea pot’ itself has a high competition with 260 global searches. Now it looks at lots of other options and for each of them tells you whether it’s a high, medium or low competition, how many searches there are, and whether that’s globally or locally. And in this case there are 675 results it’s given you, so there’s plenty of data to work with.

If you want to order them in terms of, the highest searches then click on ‘Global monthly searches’ and it will order them so that the first result has the most. So it’s showing you that ‘Tea pot’ has 27,000. If you click it again then it goes to the opposite, it shows you the lowest and here you have lots and lots of options, fewer than 10 searches a month, which is pretty much a waste of your time really. Similarly, you can scroll through the results and find that it’s gone up to 12 global monthly searches here, so still not much use for you, and so on.

Now if you want to prioritise by the most local monthly searches, again, you just click on local monthly searches at the top of the column, we’re still three pages in there so, we need to go back to the first page for the highest results. And we see here that ‘tea pot’ has 4,400, ‘tea pots’ 3,600 and so on. You can also see that a few there have medium competition, so it may be worth looking at.

You might want to then, start selecting ones that seem relevant to your business or your client’s business. So here were selecting ‘tea gifts’, ‘flowering tea’, ‘tea pots’, ‘glass tea pots’ for instance. And if you click on download, you’ve got the option of downloading either my keyword ideas, which is the ones you’ve just selected or alternatively you can download all of the results you get, choose the format, click download and there you are.

Introducing the Writers Helping Writers Collective

Spreadsheet email

Spreadsheet email (Photo credit: Christopher S. Penn)

Last night, on Twitter (follow me @PhilippaWrites), I got into an interesting conversation with @thewritesprite. She followed me, and I told her that I liked her username. She joked about how difficult it had been to choose one, and we started to talk about how, despite writing for other people for a living, writing for ourselves can sometimes be hard.

There are, of course, other times when another writer’s input can be very valuable – for instance it is nigh on impossible to proofread your own work. You are too involved with the text and it often takes a fresh pair of eyes to spot mistakes. And sometimes a writer can craft a catchier Twitter bio about somebody else than they can about themselves.

We talked about how great it would be if there was a way for writers to help each other out in these circumstances. My imagination took flight and now the Writers Helping Writers Collective exists.

The way it works is this:

  1. A writer joins the Writers Helping Writers Collective google group.
  2. They then have access to the WHWC spreadsheet.
  3. If a writer needs help with something, they fill in 4 columns of simple information in the spreadsheet.
  4. They then post about this to the google group (by email or on the site).
  5. Another writer, who wants to help out, goes to the spreadsheet and fills in 4 more columns of simple information.
  6. They then email the original poster directly, and the help happens.

It’s that simple. Members are asked to help out another member before asking for help themselves, although while the collective is establishing itself this won’t be enforced too strongly, because most members will be new. Overall, members are asked to help one or two people for every help request they submit.

Are you a writer who wants to join a new, exciting community? Are you aware that there are some tasks that you struggle to do on your own website? Do you want to offer help to fellow writers on small, manageable tasks?

Join the Writers Helping Writers Collective now and help to build a vibrant, co-operative community for writers online.

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