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Copy Writing 101: Getting Started as a Freelancer

23 May

Ever since I made the leap of faith to become a web copy writer over five years ago, a lot of people have asked me, “how I did it?”  To be honest, it was not an easy transition from being a corporate HR manager to that of a home based freelancer. There have been a few bumps in the road, but I knew if I stuck with it long enough I would see the fruits of my labor. And over the years, I have.

 So, if you are wondering if this may be a valid career choice for you, here’s some quick advice on getting started!

1. Keep your day job for at least six months. One of the biggest mistakes many work at home wannabee’s do is quit a perfectly great job right away. Not only is this foolish financially, but what if you realize you don’t really like being at home full time? Stay in your current job and write on the side for a while. During this time, develop your skills, pick up clients and learn the ropes of copy writing. Before long, your freelance work will outweigh your outside the home job and you can put in a notice.

2. Devote time to write daily. While you are working on building a nice career in copy writing, start developing the habits which will make you successful for the long-term. Most copy writers spend between 4-8 hours daily at their desks, researching and writing copy for a variety of clients. Many work longer hours to meet deadlines or manage multiple projects around other responsibilities. To do copy writing on a full time basis, you must LOVE writing a lot and you must be able to do this 30-40 hours a week or more.

3. Learn all you can about copy writing. One of the best ways to ramp up your career as a freelance copy writer is to learn from other writers before you. That means taking classes, participating in webinars, reading great books on writing, and studying the masters of marketing copy. A good low cost alternative to a college class is my 6 week freelance writing class where I teach you everything I have learned over the last 5 years as a web copy writer and how you can get started (and find paying work).

4. Select a writing mentor. Just as you would starting out in any other career, finding a good mentor is a critical aspect of becoming a highly compensated copy writer. A mentor should have at least five or more years of writing experience and be able to answer your general questions about freelancing, give you advice on locating work, and provide feedback on your written work. I can’t tell you how many times I have gone to my mentor(s) with questions and found the help and encouragement I needed to make sound decisions as a writer.

Well, that’s about all I can tell you about getting started as a copy writer. There is a HUGE market out there of businesses and clients who need supperb copy – so go out there and grab ’em!

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About the Author: Tess C. Taylor, Owner of Taylor Resources Writing, is a skilled web copy writer from Charleston, South Carolina who specializes in helping small business owners project the right message online. She has personally written over 2,500 articles, managed 100+ web copy projects and is regularly featured on The Chamber of Commerce, FindVenture, WiseGeek, US News, Yahoo and more as a business and careers writer. You can find out more by visiting HTTP://WWW.TRWRITING.COM today!

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The Importance of Web Copy Writing Contracts

18 May

Do you use contracts for your writing projects? If there’s one thing I’ve learned in the last five years as a professional web copy writer, it’s to always get it in writing. I learned this early on in my career when a client hired me to do some ghostwriting of a book chapter and then failed to pay me for about 15 hours worth of writing and research work. Although I later tracked this unscrupulous person down and reported him to the freelance website he was using to find writers, and finally got payment, this was an eye-opening experience for me as a writer. From that point on, I started getting everything in writing with clients.

Sure, in some cases an email can be recognized as a legal agreement between two parties, but oftentimes it’s not enough. A contract states clearly in black and white what is expected from each party. Additionally, it spells out in certain terms what work is to be performed, at what rate and when it will be completed. A contract is a legal document that gives both sides the chance to resolve and make claims for what is expected from the start. Without a contract, you are taking chances with your time, business and reputation as a freelance writer.

If you need guidance on what should be included in a freelance writing contract, here are some pointers:

1. Information for both parties should be included at the top of the contract. Get the actual name of the business, the responsible person’s name, the full address and contact information.

2. Provide a breakdown of the work to be performed. Be clear and to the point. Remember you can always modify this agreement if you choose to do more work for the client in the future.

3. Give a clear price list or hourly rate for your work. Do NOT offer discounts in the contract – those can be negotiated later via email or phone. Set clear payment terms as to any fees due upfront and when the final payment is due. Also state what will happen if the client fails to pay you on time.

4. Provide a disclaimer for your work that it does not guarantee any specific results or goals for the client. How the client uses your work after you submit it is up to them.

5. Request that you are granted the ability to include a link to any content published online in your personal portfolio. This gives you a chance to show examples of your work to future clients.

6. Get the contract signed and dated BEFORE starting any work for a web copy writing client. Failure to do this works against your efforts and can lead to trouble. If a client is reluctant to sign it, then run away quick as this can be a bad sign they are not sincere.

Here are some more helpful guides and resources to help you write a contract for writing clients, which you may find useful.

HTML Writer’s Guild Contract Guidelines and Templates

Sample Freelance Writing Contract

Simple Freelance Writing Contract

So, do you already use writing contracts? Why or why not? Please feel free to leave your comments below!

Small Business Bartering: Why it Works for Freelancers

17 May

This morning, I met with my group of Mom-trepreneurs at our favorite coffee shop in Summerville for our monthly business networking meeting. Our members include Mom’s of every type who have a wide variety of businesses, from party plans and creative services to travel agencies and cleaning companies. One of the topics that came up several times in conversation was how we, as small business women, can support each other’s businesses this Summer. During this conversation, several Mom’s expressed that they would like to achieve certain things, but had limited financial resources for a different of reasons. This is actually a common theme with start-up’s and entrepreneurs – no capital to fund ideas and needs.

So, what does a savvy business owner do when this type of scenario comes up? We barter for what we need! Yep, that’s right – the age old method of swapping services and products for what you want or need in life. Did you know that bartering was actually the way that most people exchanged goods and services, before the formal monetary system was established in developed nations? In fact, among the small business community, bartering is a thriving activitity that most freelancers can take advantage of to make a better living and develop relationships with like-minded business owners. Bartering is a win-win situation for everyone!

Of course, this does take some effort to network and seek out those who can provide the things you need, and connect with others who need what you offer. In my 5 years as a copy writer in Charleston, I have successfully bartered with clients for a variety of services and products including – massages, haircare, automotive repair, jewelry, artwork, and more! While it can’t pay the bills, it can take care of certain neccessities that would otherwise cost you a bundle. Think shopping for birthday gifts, taking care of personal needs, and having a car that gets you from point-A to point-B and you get what I mean, right?

You don’t always have to barter with local businesses either. As a freelancer, you have access to a world of bartering businesses that you can connect with online, in such places as free advertising sources and online community forums. Check out this eHow article about how to barter services online, and build your network at the same time. You can easily stretch your dollars further and improve your standard of living when you include bartering as part of the picture.

So, if you are a small business owner on a tight budget and you need something done for your business or personal life – consider bartering as a fun way to make new friends, expand your circle of influence and get things done – without the cost!

Small Business Local Networking Tips for Freelance Writers

13 May

As a freelance writer (or other freelancer), do you do a lot of local small business networking? You know, those fun gatherings of small business owners held at coffee shops or after hours at the Chamber of Commerce? Maybe you’ve been so buried by writing projects that you haven’t had a chance to get out there and explore what your local business community has to offer in terms of networking resources.

It’s easy to focus on starting a business and the work at hand, yet forgetting about marketing yourself to local business owners. However, if you ignore the great opportunities in your own back yard, you may be missing out on the chance to work with some great local companies who are eager to utilize your writing services! Here are some things I’ve learned as a web copy writer in Charleston, on how to get the most out of local small business networking:

Tip 1 – Have Plenty of Print Marketing Materials On-hand

If there’s one thing I’ve noticed about small business networking events over the past couple of years, it’s that people LOVE collecting business cards and information on local writers. So before you head out to small business networking event, be sure to have a ton of business cards, pens and other marketing tangibles on hand to give out to new people you meet. I recommend using Vista Print to get batches of business cards at least, which will set you back about 10 bucks at most. Use this LINK and get 25% off and FREE shipping off your order!

Tip 2 – Be Prepared to Give an Elevator Speech to New People

When meeting new people at a small business networking event, generally each person will be given a chance to give a 30 second introduction. This needs to be short, sweet, and to the point – yet compelling enough to give people a reason to talk to you further. This was a hard lesson to learn the first time I went to one of those small business mixers. I did not know how to say exactly what I did and how I could help others! So I worked on practicing a nice elevator speech and now I can confidently pitch my company to others. Want to learn how to develop your own elevator speech? Go HERE for some fun video tips on crafting your own!

Tip 3 – Stick to the Ten Minute Rule

One of the things that I encountered when meeting new people at small business networking events as a freelance writer was that people immediately wanted to tell me their life story and ask me a bunch of Internet marketing questions. A trap that can cause you to miss out on talking with others in the room is spending way too much time with one person. Before you know it, 30 minutes rolls by and people you haven’t had a chance to meet are already leaving. So to keep things fair, give each person 10 minutes of your time, then gracefully move on to other small business owners. Wrap up each meeting by asking when you may follow up by telephone.

Tip 4 – Always Follow Up With People You Meet at Small Biz Events

If you are going to take the time to start networking locally as a freelance writer, then you definitely need to take the time to follow up with people you meet there. As soon as you can get back to your office, log all the business card contact info into your address book that you’ve collected. Then send everyone a prompt email letting them know how much you enjoyed meeting them at the event and if they might have a moment to speak with you via phone or over coffee in the coming weeks ahead. Give them a couple of days to respond, and then pick up the phone to speak to them personally. You’d be amazed at how many people respond favorably to this invitation and this gives you a chance to expand on what you can offer them as a freelance writer. I have personally ended up with some great clients and friends by doing this!

So, where do you find these small business networking groups, you may ask? Check your local newspaper events calendar section, contact your local Chamber of Commerce and Rotary club, or do a search on Meet-Up online. You will most likely find a great deal of like-minded small businesses in your area who will value the writing and marketing support you can offer right in your own community!

Saying Good Bye to a Copy Writing Client

9 May

Have you been contemplating walking away from a copy writing project? If so, then you are not alone.

One of the most difficult things to do as a freelance copy writer (or any freelancer for that matter) is saying good bye to a client. While this doesn’t happen all too often, once in a while through no fault on either side, it’s better to move on to greener pastures. Since I’m not one to give up easily, this kind of scenario doesn’t happen too much to me. But sadly, that’s what occurred recently with a client whom I worked with for about 2 months.

Here’s what happened, in a nutshell:

  • Client and I clicked well during the first couple of weeks.
  • We worked together to come up with a goal for content marketing.
  • I started working on the goal with client weekly.
  • Client suddenly changed mind asking for something else.
  • I tried to get the client back on track with a revised plan.
  • Client blew off my phone calls and emails.
  • Project put on hold due to client’s lack of followup.
  • Gave client option to return to project.
  • Client changed mind yet again.
  • I said good bye and good luck.

You see, what transpired was a lack of interest or commitment on behalf of the client. After jumping through a lot of hoops, despite my best efforts this person was still not “getting it” and working towards the ultimate goal. So, I had to make a decision on whether or not I would continue to let this client’s flip-flopping nature sabotage the project, keep switching gears to suit the client’s whims, or just move on. I spent an inordinate amount of time trying to appease this client, to no avail. Until this person knows what he/she wants, there is nothing I can do that will actually matter. In this case, it was better to just say my good byes and wish the client well. Perhaps later on the client will be ready to commit to working with me, who knows?

So, on what conditions would you keep working with a client like this or move on? Please feel free to share your feedback or comments on this tale of good byes.

3 Steps for Maintaining Balance as a Web Copy Writer

8 May

If you are a freelance writer, do you often find it difficult to find that perfect balance in your life? Are you continually feeling guilty about not having enough time to do it all? A while back, I wrote a post about maintaining balance as a small business owner, which provided some helpful tips for anyone struggling in this area. Now I’d like to address the writing community out there specifically, to talk about some of the ways to find a better balance between writing work and a personal life.

First, let me start off by saying that being a full time web copy writer is by no means an “easy” job, like some of my corporate counterparts like to think. They seem to imagine me as this free-spirited person who has all the time in the world to dream up content for websites whilst I relax in my pajamas eating bon-bons all day. I suppose it’s because they wonder what it is that I do from 9-5  in my little home office. When I tell people I write for a living, I often get that puzzled look and then a question like, “So what books have you written?” My response is then, “Well, actually I don’t write books, I create website and print marketing copy that helps small business owners get their message out there more effectively.” Then it makes better sense and people realize that I work HARD all week long.

When I first started out in this biz, I had the same set of expectations which included: being able to roll out of bed when I wanted to, work on the projects I chose, and deal with clients on my terms. Instead, I found out very quickly that I had a lot of hoops to jump through as a service provider. If I didn’t spend time daily looking for new opportunities, they wouldn’t exactly be banging on my door. My world quickly got out of balance as I spent more and more hours glued to my computer.

Then I started taking a real hard look at my business and set up a 3-Step Plan to get myself back into focus and create a more reasonable work-life balance for myself (and my family). Here’s what I came up with:

1. Establish standard business hours. Without a clear schedule and work hours, it’s easy to let things get out of balance. The lines between work and personal time begin to blur. In addition, clients begin to think that you will be available at their command, any time of the day or night. When you get a call from a client at 4 AM on a Sunday, you know you have a problem with balance. So, I decided what work hours work best for my clients and I, and then I set them into action by stating them clearly on my business website.

2. Allow goof off time or mental health days. One of the ways that freelance writers get out of balance is by not allowing themselves time to relax. Spending 12 hours in an office chair  6 days a week is not a healthy way to conduct a business or produce quality copy. So now, I allow myself at least one hour of “goof off” time during the day, and take a mental health day off twice a month. I also frequently plan on-site client meetings and go to business networking events to get out of my home office. Getting away from the desk refreshes my mind and helps me to focus on work when I am in the office.

3. Learn to ask for help when needed. The biggest lesson I had to learn as a web copy writer in Charleston was getting help from other writers or creative professionals when the project called for it. The personality of an entrepreneur is to try to do everything yourself. But this is also an indicator of being a complete control freak! If a big project comes in, I quickly assess how much time it will take me to do my part, and then I get in touch with a couple of trusted entrepreneurs I have in my network to help out. This has created more balance in my business and life.

So, whatever you find yourself dealing with now in your writing career or as a home based business professional, know that you CAN find a better balance for your life. The key is to learn what your priorities are and establish clear boundaries so that you can focus on what’s most important to you. Don’t wait – do this now and save yourself a lot of stress and frustration.

How do you find balance as a freelancer?

How to Avoid Working Weekends as a Web Copy Writer

7 May

The thing about web copy writing is that it’s one of those careers that has endless work coming in. Combined with clients who want everything “yesterday” and you have a recipe for stress. When I first started out as a Charleston web copy writer, I often found myself taking on way too much work and trying to meet unrealistic deadlines in an attempt to impress my new clients. While I have always prided myself on fast turnaround, sometimes I bit off more than I could chew and found myself working on the weekends to catch up. After a few months of this, I was ready for the looney bin! So I decided to take a step back and figure out why I wasn’t able to get the work done during the week.

Some of the reasons I often ended up working weekends were:

  • Too much work and no one to help out.
  • Deadlines too close together on multiple clients.
  • Bad habits from when I worked full time and wrote in the evenings/on weekends.
  • Procrastinating on big projects until I was days away from deadlines.
  • Too many distractions in my life – the phone, email, facebook, family, etc.

So after going through this scenario over the course of a year of writing, I started to feel majorly burned out. My family was also getting pretty mad at me for spending every waking hour on my laptop banging out articles and web copy. My house was a disaster zone from all the housework and laundry piling up. I had next to no social life and was getting very pale from being stuck in my home office for weeks on end. Something seriously had to give!

Finally, I came up with a little system which has worked for me ever since. Here’s what I recommend for any web copy writer who wants to avoid working on weekends:

Make a schedule and stick to it. I use my Google calendar A LOT. If something comes up, I check my calendar first before I tell a client when I can meet for coffee, have a project done, and other things that take up my time. Clients are generally understanding that I have other projects on my plate so they are willing to wait a reasonable amount of time to get quality results from me.

Be realistic about what you can do. Sometimes I have thought of myself as super-woman and have taken on projects that were a wee bit too technical for me. I like the challenge apparently! When this has happened in the past, I have spent way too many hours trying to figure something out for the benefit of a client, because I always bend over backwards for people. That means I probably didn’t make a real profit on some of that work. Instead, now I take on projects I know I can do a great job on and pass others onto colleagues who are better at things I cannot do.

Ask for help when needed. One of the biggest pitfalls of being a freelancer is having the sense of responsibilty for everything. When I accept a project, I do it 100% to the best of my abilities. This can lead to stress, however, when life’s little emergencies happens. That’s when someone close to me suggested “why not ask for help?”. So I found a couple of fantastic freelance writers and have asked them for help on occasion. That keeps me from doing overtime on weekends.

Reduce self-defeating habits from my week. Perhaps the biggest reason I used to work a lot of weekends was because I goofed around on the computer all week, chatting with friends, checking out community forums, and basically procrastinating. So, I started using a timer and working in chunks of time, without distractions or allowing myself to surf the net. Once the work is done, then I have time to play a little. I find that I spend less time working on weekends when I remove these self-defeating activities from my work week.

What are some other suggestions you can think of that will help you be more productive during the week so you spend less time working on weekends? Please leave your suggestions and comments below!