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What I Learned From Blogging Everyday for a Month

29 May

During the month of May, I decided to participate in the 2011 WordCount Blogathon, which required posting once a day to ‘A Journey of Words’. For a busy freelance web copy writer, this was no easy task. First of all, I had to dedicate at least 30 minutes daily to writing a blog post. Secondly, I had to come up with topics that would be of interest to my readers. Lastly, I had to stick with something for an entire month, something I have struggled with in the past. But here I am, at the end of this challenge and I did it!

During this time, here’s what I learned:

1. Blogging can be a great way to connect with readers and meet new contacts. Throughout the month, I had the honor of getting comments from a huge audience of fellow bloggers, writers and business owners around the world. A few even agreed to be guest bloggers, which was such a treat. I have to say that the rewards of blogging are many.

2. Blogging teaches discipline as a freelancer. One of the biggest fears I had going into the Blogathon was that I would not have the time to blog daily. Instead, I found that the time I spent blogging taught me a lot about being committed to something bigger than myself. I became more disciplined and stopped letting things distract me from my purpose as a writer.

3. Blogging daily is a great source of free advertising. Over the entire month, I used Google alerts to track my success as a blogger, specifically to see if my name came up often through web searches. You may have noticed that there were specific keywords highlighted in most posts (but not all). These keywords helped my website to rank higher and I got a lot of Google hits on my name and my blog feeds.

Spending time on your blog daily, or at least a few times a week, can be a great way to build a steady following of people, make new friends and build awareness about your business or passions. I fully intend to use my blog as a tool to reach more people and share information in a big way this year.

Now it’s your turn to share – How do you benefit from blogging?

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Why Facebook Fans Matter to Small Businesses

26 May

Does your business have a facebook fan page?

Have you been trying to figure out how to use this social media outlet to reach more of your target market?

How can you use facebook to build a loyal following of customers?

These, and many other questions are on the minds of small business owners everywhere. Social media should be at the very top of any business marketing plan. Why? Because it’s a cheap and easy way to interact with people online from all walks of life. It’s also becoming the go-to place for consumers. Just in the last year, facebook saw a huge increase in the numbers of consumers who use this website to research businesses, shop for products and services, and connect with local merchants. Just since the beginning of 2011, there are some 600 million facebook users. Consumers love to share information about their favorite stores, restaurants and services with their networks, which can range in the thousands on facebook.

A growing trend in small business online marketing is using facebook as a primary platform to launch a new idea. Before even building a website or engaging in other marketing efforts, many small businesses are simply building facebook pages and trying to earn followers through good old-fashioned networking.  And this effort works wonders! I’ve personally worked with small business owners who have used this technique to pre-launch a business website, and they have amassed hundreds of eager followers who have converted over to customers within days.

Facebook fans matter a lot to small businesses who may not have the means to pay for other types of advertising. Many small businesses just use facebook as a way to talk about new products and services, using images and website links to invite others to explore more. Some use facebook as a way to research and find new customers online that fit certain demographics. Others use social media to share information and hold contests to help generate more interest.

Perhaps the best way to use facebook and other forms of social media for a small business is to generate more web traffic. Because facebook happens to be in the number 2 spot currently on Alexa’s Top 500 Global sites, it’s really hard to beat in terms of web traffic. Put a post on facebook, and within 24 hours you can expect your website traffic stats to go up as well. I’ve seen it work time and again with clients as well as my own business.

So, if your business doesn’t have a facebook presence yet, or you are not fully maximizing it with daily posts – get in touch with me so I can help you take advantage of this excellent small business resource. I will be happy to show you how to use facebook to your advantage and why facebook fans should matter to your business.

Blogathon 2011 Theme Day “My top 5 favorite places to write”

22 May

Well, here we are just ten days shy of the end of the 2011 WordCount Blogathon and I have to say that it’s been a blast! My blog has grown so much, I’ve met some wonderful fellow bloggers, and had a bunch of terrific guests share their insight here.

Today, as part of the Blogathon, I’ve been tasked with writing on a theme “My top 5 favorite places to write are…”, which really got me thinking! Does where I write have an effect on the type of writing I do?

Since I left the corporate world years ago to pursue web copy writing full time, I’ve written in all kinds of environments from a bedroom office to local coffee shops. The people and things around me must have some kind of influence on my work. Being a freelancer, I meet some wonderful people everywhere I happen to connect my trusty Dell laptop to the Internet. I often encounter other freelancers, small business owners and busy Mom’s who are building careers for themselves. These people share fresh ideas and perspectives with me, which are often the inspiration for new material. One would have to say then that the choices of where I love to write have a positive influence on my writing.

So, without further ado, here are my top 5 favorite places to write:

1. My queen anne style, vintage cherry writing desk. This desk is the center of my world as a Charleston web copy writer. I picked it up from an estate sale about 6 years ago, from a neiughbor who told me it was his mother’s cherished desk. It has been the place where I have sat many hours late into the night drafting new business articles, worked with clients on marketing plans, and just tried to keep it all together as an entrepreneur. Wherever I go in life, this desk comes along with me and it centers me enough to do my very best.

2. In my bedroom late at night. Sounds like the start of a great romance novel, doesn’t it? Well, to be honest, on days when I am seeking creativity the most, I take my laptop into the bedroom and get under the covers in my jammies to write. I love to write my blog posts there at the end of a busy day. I often write devotionals for my church ladies’ lunch group early in the morning when I wake up, before I roll out of bed to start the day. My bedroom is a safe haven where I ca express myself in any way I wish.

3. My little front porch. What can I say, except I am a real nature girl at heart! Ever since we moved into our dream home last fall, I have made my front porch into a mini oasis away from the stress of a work day. There’s lots of comfortable chairs, green plants and a nice breeze which refreshes my mind. During the times when I get a little burnt out from churning out articles, I relax on my front porch to have some lunch and scribble in my notebook.

4. Local Coffee Shops. Not only do they make great places to spend an afternoon with friends, the coffee shops in my hometown like Starbucks and Bigby Coffee give me a chance to write and collaborate with my clients. I often meet new clients there to go over ideas for web content, or share a quick bite to eat while brainstorming their social media strategy. When my Wi-Fi goes down, coffee shops give me a backup so I don’t lose contact with anyone or miss an important deadline.

5. The beach. Naturally, since I love the outdoors, one of the best places to refresh the soul and do some creative writing happens to be at the beaches here. In the middle of the week, I will sometimes grab my satchel, a pair of sandals, and my trusty notebook to spend an afternoon on the beach. There’s something about the sound of waves splashing against the sand that is so relaxing, and yet inspiring. Late afternoons after all the tourists and crowds have gone are the best time to write on the beach!

Well, there you have it…Please feel free to share where your favorite places to write ( or be creative ) are!

Why Every Small Business Needs a Skilled Copy Writer

20 May

Are you struggling with your online marketing strategy?

There is so much talk today about how small businesses can best stay on top of market trends and direct customers to their websites to drum up more business. With over 75% of customers spending their time researching companies online before even setting foot in a store, a small business owner should be taking advantage of this huge market of consumers. As a small business owner, you can do this effectively by harnessing the power of article marketing, social media outlets, and SEO web content creation.

But you don’t have to do this alone. Here are some reasons why you should partner with a skilled copy writer.

Save Time – You can shave a great deal off your To-Do list by allowing a copy writer to come up with content for your marketing efforts. There’s no point in taking hours to research and come up with good topics to write about, especially if writing is not one of your strong points. Let someone who can do this efficiently do the work for you and save you time.

Save Money – When it comes to making the best investments in your business, article marketing, social media and optimized web content should be at the top of your advertising methods. But you don’t want to pay a small fortune for this content – let an affordable web copy writer  in Charleston do this for you at a fraction of the price a big name content site may charge.

Get Better Results – That’s right, allowing a copy writer to do the work of researching top SEO keywords that will point those pesky search engines to your website is far more productive than trying to write some dry text yourself. Get more desirable results by partnering with an experienced copy writer.

Enjoy Support – You are not in this alone. When you select a copy writer to take on your most important material for your business, you not only make a friend, but a partner who will be there to back you up along the way. Copy writers care about what they do and they care about your success too!

Ready to work with a web copy writer who has a track record for helping small business owners achieve success with online marketing? Tess C. Taylor, owner of Taylor Resources Writing in Charleston, South Carolina is an experienced web copy writer ready to make your online marketing goals a reality. Contact her today for a free, no obligation quote or just to chat about your business goals!

Jennifer Oakes of J. Oakes Photography Shares Her Story of Balancing Career and Family

19 May
Readers, you are in for a treat today! I am very pleased to introduce you to a fantastic guest blogger who just happens to be my younger sister and a very talented photographer from upstate New York . Would you please help me welcome Jennifer Oakes of J. Oakes Photography!

Jennifer has been successfully working from home for a couple of years as an on-site portrait photographer, while simultaneously raising two beautiful children. What’s so wonderful about Jennifer is that she is able to experience a career that allows her to have more balance as a wife and mother, plus do what she loves best – capturing once in a lifetime images of people’s most cherished memories. From maternity and baby photos to stunning family and wedding portraits, Jennifer is making a big name for herself by giving others a glimpse into her point of view. Today, let’s read more about how Jennifer got her start in the world of photography and what inspires her….
I started taking photos of friends and family members when I was about 11 years old. I remember using those wind up disposable cameras and buying a new one every week when I got my allowance. I loved photographing my friends on the playground and the different ones dating in junior high. I also have many memories of the sleepovers my girl friends and I had, dressing up in silly ways and trying to become the next model for “Glamour” magazine. What fun we had!
Friends and family members would comment along the way as I laid out my scrap books from the “old times” and continued into the present years with photos of my son and husband. “What a great shot,” they would say. Well, I never thought anything of it. I just loved being behind the camera to capture these moments I wanted to remember. There is one photo of my son’s second Easter (one of the first he began to understand), that particularly stood out to me. That is when I really started thinking, “hey, I could do this for other people.”
Now, I would be lying if I took all the credit for my idea to go pro. I was greatly influenced by an old high school friend of mine who had been performing private photo shoots for fellow army families. Brianna A. Showerman was stationed in Colorado with her soon-to-be deployed husband and their one year old son. I envied the work she performed and her amazing editing skills.
So, I began to ask questions.
I figured out real fast that coming up with a professional name, setting up a web page, doing research for photo ideas and poses, taking the photos, and finally editing them, was the easy part! It was finding the free time between working as a certified nursing assistant at a local nursing home, my husband’s work schedule as a logger and forester (never having set hours), and taking care of my toddler.
In October of 2010, we got the added news of a new baby on the way. It was then that I knew something would have to change! After the birth of our daughter in June 2010, I went back to work part-time at a local mini-mart thinking I would take on just enough hours to help our income. WRONG! So, to keep a long story short, in January 2011, we made the decision for me to become a full-time stay at home mom.
It’s been tough, but being able to be home with my two children has been the greatest blessing God has given me. Adding to this blessing is the time to concentrate on my business, J.Oakes Photography, and having the extra free time to perform more photo shoots for families around the area. It has been great and I have begun to expand into a wedding photographer as well. I couldn’t be more thankful for the opportunities that I have received through my love and passion of photography.
The future is bright for Jennifer as she continues to grow her home based business and expand her portfolio, but the main thing is that she followed her true passions and talent to build a business from scratch. I’ve had the priviledge of watching her blossom over the last few years, as a photographer and a young mother. What impresses me the most is that she has dedicated herself to learning all she can about her craft, pours her heart and soul into her photography, yet always remembers to prioritize her family life.
If you would like to learn more about Jennifer Oakes at J. Oakes Photography, you are welcome to visit her at   http://www.joakesphotography.com   and you can also find her on facebook ! Right now she has a special deal going on (but hurry as this is a limited time only offer) for a FREE framed 5×7 photo when you book a photo shoot from now until 8.31.11!

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!