Tuesday, July 7, 2020

Are You Using the Wrong Freelance Copywriter? Here's How You Can Tell

"Freelancers are flakes." How many times have you heard that warning from colleagues who got burned by a project that ended up costing twice the anticipated amount, took a year instead of a week to complete or just ground to a halt mid-job? 

People sometimes cut freelancers a weird amount of slack that they wouldn't give their own employees, especially the ones who perform creative work: "Oh, those right-brain eccentric artists, they march to a different drum and we're just lucky they come down to Earth once in a while to help us regular folks." But freelancers aren't flakes, or at least they don't have to be. The successful ones take their freelancing seriously and run it as a business instead of a lark. They tend to stand out, if only by outlasting the dilettantes. Unfortunately, the serious ones still suffer from the flakiness of the less-serious ones who give the profession an apparent case of terminal dandruff. 

Watch out for these red flags when dealing with a freelance copywriter:

The unknown price tag. Beware the freelancer who refuses to give you a firm quote for a job before starting work. For many of us who charge flat per-project rates for most of our jobs, this issue never comes up. But even if your freelancer bills by the hour, you should still insist on a realistic estimate of what you'll pay, even if that estimate falls into a range. a freelancer who has no clue what a job will cost probably has no clue how to go about it efficiently either.

Excuses, excuses. There's always a good reason not to get a project done on time, and some freelancers want to make sure you hear all of them. "Sorry this is a month late, but my dog came down with mange and my kid's having attitude problems and I had to get my tires rotated and the recent spell of bad weather has deprived me of Vitamin D and...." Some of these excuses may even be legitimate. But even if there's always a reason the work is always late or sub-par, the end result is still late or sub-par work.

"My way or the highway." Ideally, your freelance copywriter knows a great deal about how to achieve the results your business wants and needs -- possibly more than you do, in fact. It's great when you find an expert who can give you a fresh perspective on your marketing content. On the other hand, you don't want a know-it-all who insists on an approach that simply doesn't feel right to you. Ultimately the client is the boss, for better or for worse. If your freelancer doesn't understand that, go find another one who does.

So what should you look for in a freelancer? A portfolio of strong samples, a solid track record, recommendations from satisfied clients and clear ground rules. Always ask about the freelancer's billing and work processes, turnaround times and availability. If they're booked solid, they should tell you so. (Of course being booked solid counts as another a promising sign, and even if you may have to wait a bit, the freelancer should be able to tell you about the next available opening.) 

Get hard numbers and hard deadlines, and hold your writer to them. The good ones will make every possible effort to deliver as promised. As for the flakes -- well, you don't put up with dandruff, do you?

Tuesday, June 23, 2020

How to Keep Your Marketing Positive (Without Sounding Stupid)

If you're like many people who encounter a flood of marketing and advertising content on a daily basis these days, any phrase that begins with "In these uncertain times..." may prompt you to retire to a darkened room or throw a brick at your computer/TV/radio. Businesses are understandably struggling to capture the right tonal mix of sympathy, reassurance, realism, and optimism in their marketing messaging during the current pandemic. How do you keep your target market engaged, positive, and enthusiastic without sounding like Pollyanna or sounding totally ignorant about the current state of affairs?

This question doesn't just apply to the current scenario; it's something that comes up time and time again. From terrorist attacks and declarations of war to epidemics and financial collapses, businesses have to find a way to market their brand, products, or services successfully if they want to survive. So how might you present a clearly positive message that transcends the times without trivializing or denying them? Here are some tips that may help.

Adopt a Can-Do Attitude


People facing tough situations often experience a stressful lack of efficacy, the feeling that they can't fight back against whatever's threatening their well-being, especially during a global challenge such as a pandemic or a world war. But recall famous wartime images such as Rosie the Riveter. A strong, positive, can-do attitude can help your audience feel more empowered to seek answers, solutions, and workarounds instead of falling onto a state of confused helplessness.

Lead by Example


What steps can your organization take to send positive ripples out through your community? Can you sponsor food drives, health awareness webinars, job fairs, or other helpful activities? Can you produce blog articles, email blasts, videos, or other marketing content that offers clever, practical ideas and advice for combating various challenges? By taking action in this manner, you not only provide genuine assistance to those in need; you also show your brand taking strong, positive steps against negative circumstances. People respond to that kind of inspiration.

Pay Attention to Your Verbiage


Your choice of words, phrases, and writing mechanics can affect your marketing tone in subtle but meaningful ways. Want to grab people's attention with a no-nonsense attitude? Use short words and sentences. Want to sound more optimistic? Keep your sentence structures positive, avoiding words like "don't," "won't," can't" or "never." Avoiding opening with well-meaning but Debbie Downer phrases such as "In these uncertain times" or "Times are hard right now." Even if you quickly pivot from there to a more positive place, you've already cast a pall over your marketing content. Tip your hat to the times, yes, but couch the realism in a positive context. ("Do you want to have a fantastic, unforgettable evening without risking public contact?" etc.)

You can excite and inspire your audience in just about any situation as long as you find a clear-eyed but positive way to market what you do and what you're all about. Contact me if you'd like some professional help getting the (right) word out!






Tuesday, June 9, 2020

3 Reasons You Need More Than One Marketing Content Writer

You've always counted on your faithful go-to copywriter to provide your business with a steady supply of web content, blog articles, video scripts, press releases, sales letters, and print marketing content as needed. Whether that marketing content writer works as an independent contractor or occupies a place on your in-house payroll, you've got all your bases covered -- or have you?

In reality, most organizations can benefit greatly from reliable access to more than one copywriter. Let's look at three compelling reasons why.

1. Your Regular Copywriter Might Not Be the Best Fit


When a business owner tells me that he has a regular freelance or in-house copywriter, I always say, "You do? Great! How's that arrangement been working out for you so far?" You'd be surprised how many times the business owner confesses that not every writing assignment gets done on time or yields the desired results. I had a client who used me for various assignments but resisted asking me for blog articles on the grounds that "We get those for free from our web developer." After the client finally got tired of paying me to rewrite those woefully inadequate articles, he finally starting hiring me simply to draft good ones from scratch.

Even a copywriter who routinely produces high-quality work isn't always the best fit for every kind of job. Some writers naturally excel at short-form marketing content, for instance, while others really hit their stride with marketing plans or e-book manuscripts. When you know multiple copywriters, you can match them up with what they do best.

2. Your Regular Copywriter Might Get Swamped


Most copywriters know how to manage their time reasonably well and churn out decent content faster than the average bear. Even so, any worker (in any field) has a maximum workload, beyond which projects will inevitably get backed up. As your organization expands its client base, products/services list, and marketing reach, you'll work your current copywriter or copywriting team harder and harder. Sooner or later, something's got to give -- and when it does, your marketing suffers.

When you have some extra freelance copywriters in your Rolodex, you can always expand your writing bullpen whenever necessity requires it, such as the preparation of a major rebranding effort or new marketing initiative. You can then go back to your usual writing setup until the next big seasonal push or new campaign calls for a larger pool of creative talent.

3. Your Regular Copywriter Might Disappear


Like other employees, copywriters can come and go. Your staff copywriter might need to ask for maternity leave, take weeks or months off for a medical procedure or family emergency, or even quit altogether to pursue some other line of work. Freelance copywriters can also pull a powder from time to time for whatever reason. What do you do when you suddenly have nobody on hand to keep cranking the marketing content machine?

Even if you have a top-class writer who always comes through for you, it only makes good sense to know another writer, or several writers, who can bail you out when and if a sudden change shakes up your talent roster. A freelance copywriter can leap onto the scene and help you out until you find another in-house writer -- or indefinitely, for that matter.

Do you need to beef up your marketing resources and capabilities? Start up connecting with freelance copywriters like me!

Tuesday, May 26, 2020

4 Ways a Freelance Copywriter Can Help You Land More Clients

When times are tough -- and even when they aren't -- every business wants and needs more clients/customers. Your client list might look satisfactory right now, but attrition can and does happen, so you've got to have a constant stream of new prospects that you can convert into buyers. If your client list doesn't look so satisfactory, you need to make some serious changes to turn that trend around, and sooner rather than later.

How do you get the word out more effectively? You beef up your marketing. How do you beef up your marketing without also beefing up your in-house payroll? You engage a freelance copywriter on an as-needed basis to provide you with all the content you need. Here are four ways a freelance copywriter can help you grow your client base.

1. More Persuasive Messaging


The most obvious benefit of hiring a professional freelance copywriter involves the persuasiveness of the marketing content you're putting out there. Anything worth doing is worth doing right. Unfortunately, many businesses spin their wheels to produce lots of content with only a minimal return on that investment of time and energy. When you assign the work to a skilled, experienced freelance copywriter, you can rest assured that the writing you get back will make the points you want to make in the most compelling manner possible.

2. More Precise Audience Targeting


Some new business owners, when asked about their ideal clients and prospects, will reflexively answer, "I'll take anybody." In reality, however, you have one or more specific target markets, pockets of prospects with clearly identifiable personal demographics, locations, and industry segments. Marketing content that simply sprays a generalized message like water from an emergency sprinkler system may land a few drops on the right people while drenching plenty of the wrong ones. A freelance copywriter knows how to write content designed to appeal to specific buyer personas. This professional can employ the perfect combination of style, vocabulary, tone, and selling points to aim your message at the people who most want to hear it.

3. More Fuel for Your Marketing Channels


The never-ending demands of today's marketing world can make you feel like you're feeding a black hole. A seemingly endless array of social media channels beckons to you for attention and content. Even after you've narrowed down your social media strategy to focus on a few key channels, those channels need material on a regular basis. Your future clients live much of their digital lives here, constantly checking their favorite streams or coming to your channels because Google searches led them to you. The more actively you can populate these channels with relevant, interesting, persuasive content, the more new clients you can add to your list. A freelance copywriter can take on much of this burden for you.

4. More Room for an Expanded Client List


How much time and work would you say goes into marketing content creation? If you've ever sweated bullets to produce a blog article, you know that writing consumes both brainpower and billable hours. Yes, you can land clients from these efforts -- but once you have them, you've got to meet their needs if you actually want to hold onto them. When you delegate the heavy lifting of content creation to a freelance copywriter, you free up time that you and your team can use to cultivate more clients, close new deals, and search for new opportunities.

Don't let your client list lie stagnant or wither away. Find out for yourself how a professional freelance marketing copywriter can help you grow!

Tuesday, May 12, 2020

Need Creative Input? Brainstorm with a Copywriter


I received a call not long ago from one of my regular collaborative partners, a firm that specializes in marketing strategies and campaigns for small businesses. The owner of the company was trying to come up with some fresh branding for one of her clients, but the combination of COVID-related distractions and an overly-busy schedule had left her feeling the need for a boost in the creativity department. Could I please give her a call to brainstorm slogans and angles with her for an hour or so? Well, sure I could.

Marketing agencies recognize the critical value of teamwork, even when they don't maintain a full team on the payroll at all times. Today's trend toward more nimble business models has encouraged agencies to subcontract content writing, graphic design, SEO, and other important pieces of a marketing project. Perhaps even more critically, it gives them as-needed access to a variety of specialists, with all the accumulated experience, skill, wisdom, and insight that those professionals possess.

Think of brainstorming as just one more service that a skilled marketing specialist can bring to your creative table. As early in the process as it may be, the brainstorming stage can produce some extraordinary forward leaps. Whether you need help with a current marketing campaign or a long-term approach to client promotion, you may find that hiring a writer to provide this early-stage input removes a lot of obstacles between you and your goals.

If you're business owner and you don't have your own marketing firm or department with whom you can knock ideas around, then you might find a creative consultation immensely helpful for your own campaigns and projects. I'm not a full-blown marketing strategist -- but as you see from the example above, even marketing strategists can use a second set of frontal lobes on occasion. Brainstorming with someone who employs a high degree of creativity for a living can help you dislodge old ideas, free yourself from inertia, and help you confirm that you're on the right path.

I've posted before about how business owners can sometimes lose perspective on their own products and services. If you find yourself in that situation, it's time to call in a third party -- preferably one who can look at your marketing with both objectivity and a certain level of professional insight. You'd be amazed at how well a simple comment such as, "Oh, so this what you're really trying to say" can suddenly bring your branding and messaging into sharp focus. Clear concepts permit clear planning and effective implementation.

Maybe what you need from your copywriter doesn't fall neatly into a category. Maybe you could really use a set of tag lines, or ten different metaphors for the same idea, or a fabulous punch line. Maybe you don't know what you need -- you just know that you need something

Contact an experienced freelance copywriter and borrow his brain. He'll be happy to rent it to you for a reasonable rate. Just give it back to him when you're done.

Tuesday, April 28, 2020

3 Strategy Questions to Ask Your Freelance Copywriter

As an experienced freelance copywriter, I've handled countless questions from clients and prospective clients regarding what their marketing content should do and how it should do it. Some of these questions were best referred to other kinds of marketing specialists, while others had a direct impact on what kind of writing I deliver.

My job is more about implementing strategies than concocting them, but the most successful marketing writing always employs smart strategies aimed at achieving specific results. Here are three important strategy questions you should consider asking your copywriter (me, hopefully) whenever you're requesting marketing content.

1. "Who Else Will I Need on This Project?"

Some copywriters claim to do a little bit of everything, while others focus on what they know they can do especially well. I fall into the latter category. That's why, when a client starts asking me high-level strategy questions such as "What's my brand?" or "What marketing channels should I make use of?", I always point them toward the necessary marketing strategists, web developers, graphic designers, and social media specialists who can help them put those pieces of the puzzle of the puzzle together. After years of networking and project collaboration, I can help you connect with a skilled team of marketing pros and then interact with them to create the most effective marketing machine possible.

2. "Which Web Pages Should Hold What Content?"

Here's another question I would want to address in collaboration with a professional web designer, but it's definitely right down my alley. Once I have some idea about the proposed sitemap, layout, and user experience, I can point out where we'll need me to compose specific pain statements, benefit statements, product/service statements, and background information. This content needs to work hand-in-hand with the website's overall SEO and sales funnel strategies, so a certain amount of adjustment and compromise between the writer and the website provider is part of the process. Some pages may not require much in the way of written content at all, while others may be completely driven by the written message.

3. "What Tone Should I Employ?"

Once your marketing strategist has helped you flesh out your buyer persona, you'll find it much easier to figure out exactly who you want to receive and respond to your marketing message. At that point, we need to think about how tone and style will affect the written content. Do you need to reassure worried seniors, motivate entrepreneurs in a particular industry, or create something fun and engaging for kids? Are you primarily addressing residential consumers or business clients? What level of language best sells your product/service, professional qualifications, or vision and values? An experienced copywriter knows how to use many different voices to address many different audiences.

Now that you know what to ask your copywriter, all that remains is the asking. Contact me so we can discuss your marketing project in detail!



Monday, April 13, 2020

Marketing Technologies May Change, but the Message Remains the Same

I feel betrayed. Here we are in 2020, and I still don't have my flying car.

Years of Jetsons reruns somehow gave me an overblown expectation of what "future" transportation might offer. But even as I write this, self-driving cars continue to undergo thousands of miles of controlled driving tests, with computer brains that can learn how to cope with countless real-life traffic predicaments. Driverless cars have been a staple of science fiction stories for decades, so there's one example of a prediction that may actually come true when/if all the bugs are worked out.

Even when the futurists get it right, they may have wait a long time for their dreams to come true. For instance, you might understandably assume that some genius recently dreamed up the whole remote home automation thing. But just the other day I saw a clip from a Bell Laboratories promotional film about technologies for operating your oven or air conditioner via telephone. The date of the film? 1962.

Think about how today's technology has altered the marketing landscape in ways few businesses might have predicted. 20 years ago, YouTube and Twitter didn't exist. When Facebook first launched, it was just a way for Harvard students to interact online. Go back to the late 1990s, and you'd be hard pressed to find any blogs online, or anyone who knew what the word meant. Dial it back a few more years, and you've arrived at a world without a Word Wide Web. How did companies market themselves without these channels? The same way they always have, and always will -- by creating and distributing compelling content.

I sometimes wonder what kinds of writing services I'll be offering a few years from now. Will I still be writing blog articles and web page content for businesses, or will new developments make these strategies obsolete? Will I be writing content that gets beamed directly into people's brains? Will I be creating billboards that appear magically in the sky to anyone wearing the appropriate technology? Will I be putting scripted words into the mouths of holographic spokespeople who approach potential customers in the street? I can't possibly say -- and frankly, it doesn't matter.

There will always be a great new marketing method on the horizon, but we can't plan our marketing approaches around something that doesn't exist yet. All we can do is make intelligent use of the tools we have right now. Many business owners say, "We need to be on Facebook," or "We need to be on Twitter," but being is not doing. What matters is the message you deliver, not the delivery method.

Yes, you need to get your message out there via the tools your target audience relies on every day. But even as those tools change and evolve, the objective remains the same -- to motivate your audience to buy. That's why I'll always have work as marketing content writer, no matter what the future of marketing holds.

Let's face it -- even the flying car dealers of the future will need to get the word out!