Category Archives: Freelance Business

Big Ideas Begin with Writers

By Erica Dix, former BIW Writer

They say that you can do a lot of different things with a degree in English. Some routes are obvious to everyone, like becoming an English teacher, or going on to law school. However, many students choose English because they have a passion for writing. Of course, not everyone is cut out for writing the next great American novel, so what’s an English major to do?

The fact is, writers are in high demand, and bringing creativity to writing is a truly marketable skill. As an English major, the important thing is to know that your writing is valuable, and to explore where it will be valued.

I enjoyed learning about great literature and critiquing fiction, but I never guessed it would translate to the world of marketing communications. However, in English class, we are taught to come up with big ideas, create content from prompts, and analyze text for meaning and direction, which is exactly what is necessary to be an effective writer who can create engaging content for websites, blogs and more.

Enter Big Ideas Writing

While I was a student at DePaul, I was lucky enough to intern at my mom’s company, Big Ideas Writing, a marketing strategy and content marketing firm. I learned the basics of freelancing, and how to work independently.

One of the toughest skills I learned was how to focus myself and stay motivated even when the boss isn’t around, and you are working at home, surrounded by distractions. I learned to meet deadlines despite the allures of Netflix or the constant barrage of unanswered texts and emails. I also learned that people who are good writers have many job titles like Marketing Strategist, Social Media Manager, Project Manager, and Communications Specialist.

Every person with a liberal arts degree can turn those essay-writing skills into a great career in marketing communications if they are willing to learn a few things outside of the classroom. Here are some practical, tangible skills that Big Ideas Writing taught me, that many businesses are looking for right now.

How to write a press release. Like the iambic couplets I studied in Shakespeare class, I learned to write press releases within certain parameters to convey information in a specific way. Press releases are designed to provide information to the media, and they have to be as straightforward and informative as possible, all within a word limit. Being able to write within a very specific set of rules can be very rewarding, and hone your creativity.

How to create social media posts for business. Companies like writers who can put together a creative Facebook, Instagram or Twitter post. When you write for social media, you have to be brief, pointed, and keep your eye on the prize: increased exposure for your client. Like the essay outlines we are taught to create in English class, social media calendars and posts help us hit the objectives of our campaign and organize our ideas into relevant content.

What SEO keywords are and how to use them. Search Engine Optimization is not something that they teach in English class, but if you have a way with words, knowing a little about SEO can get your digital content found on the internet. As English majors, our attention to detail in grammar and style makes us experts at inserting SEO keywords in a natural way.

How to write a “share-worthy” blog post… like this one! In the classroom, the professor that we English majors write for is a captive audience. With a little creative problem-solving, writers can produce an informative, persuasive or disruptive blog that reaches the public and generates those views, likes and shares. Creating online content will bring your writing into the 21st century!

How to edit my own work. Everyone likes to imagine that their first draft is perfect, but anyone who rereads their first draft the next day will realize that it’s not. For many writers, that journey begins in college where professors have students rewrite essays. The novice writer is easily frustrated by revisions and criticism, but by graduation, English majors have the humility and patience that it takes to revise like a pro.

How to always look for new opportunities. Having no boss sounds like fun… until you realize that you have to become your own boss. If you’re too easy on yourself, you will never meet deadlines and strive to be your best. The only way to succeed in freelancing is to be disciplined and passionate. Never stop searching for your next project, always promote yourself, and think from the client’s perspective. Figure out what clients need, and make it available to them.

Speaking of looking for opportunities, I am currently on the hunt for my next big one. I sadly say goodbye to Big Ideas, but the skills that I learned while working there are ideal for work with a marketing agency or association, preferably one in science, medical or environmental issues. I have always had a mind for science, and minored in Environmental Studies, so I am especially interested in work that is related to science and health. I also live in Chicago and am interested in loop locations. You can check out my work portfolio here. I will always be thankful for the lessons I learned at Big Ideas Writing, and I am excited to launch a long and prosperous career in content writing and marketing.

If you are interested in referring me for a position working in content writing, please email me at

Taking Digital Content to the Trade Show

Recently a client of mine was attending a trade show for a selected group who could use his services. It was not an audience that was his “bread and butter” but a crowd that could help him seriously expand certain areas of his business. As usual, he packed up his display, business cards and brochure. But this year, he took something else along.

I had been working with him for some time on his blog posts and I suggested that for this newer audience, we create a special handout featuring the content of the blog directed at this audience on how to select services they need. The article was not an advertisement, but a piece with valuable information that would help the trade show attendees compare my client against others they would meet. The one-page, 8-1/2” x 11” handout was branded with his logo, picture and contact information but the content itself was extremely objective. Nevertheless, by distributing the content, he established himself as the authoritative source on vetting service providers and competitors.

The client was happy to have something to give away other than marketing materials or a novelty trinket and those that stopped by his booth appreciated the forthright information in the piece. The best part for the client was that the content had already been created…on his site.

I think many companies fall prey to underutilizing the content they already have available to them, especially if they are going to a trade show and already have an amazing booth. The booth should say it all, right? Well, maybe, but most companies don’t change their booth as quickly as their industry changes. Your digital content, on the other hand, can keep up with regulatory changes, emerging trends, etc.

Before you head off to the trade show, take your marketing efforts a little further…

  1. THINK about what kind of information the trade show attendees will most be seeking from businesses like yours and what kind of information your company can specifically provide that will inform, surprise or impress them.
  2. SEARCH for the information in your digital cache.
  3. PRESENT it for display or distribution at the trade show in the most effective way, depending on the type of information you are working with.

For example, if you have a blog, you already have the fundamentals of a great addition to your trade show display or booth. You can repurpose selected posts by presenting or distributing them at the trade show…

  • As a branded, pdf handout
  • As a few, summarized main points on a banner, poster or novelty
  • As a brief guide, booklet, or handout for customers to use as a guide that summarizes a series of related posts
  • As a slideshare or powerpoint presentation that loops continuously
  • As a video presentation
  • As an infographic, on a table top display or banner
  • As your own particular novelty item, sharing your wisdom (ex., a deck of cards, a USB, a paperweight, work of art, flag, t-shirt, etc.)

Before or after the event, those related blog posts can even be summarized or “teased” in social media to interest the audience leading up to the event.

The moral of the story is to never forget the information you have out in cyberspace as you’re packing up for the trade show. You don’t want to miss the chance to tell the trade show attendees what they are wanting to hear from companies like yours.

Write Down Your Goals in 2017

So we’re already two months into 2017. How are you doing on your New Year’s resolutions?

I know that for myself, setting achievable, meaningful goals can give me a real boost. Whether it’s a diet or a marketing strategy, one thing makes a big difference in whether or not I achieve my result….writing it down.

It is proven that writing down your goals can improve your focus, prioritize things, identify where you can enhance your efforts and make realistic improvements. In fact, some studies have shown that you are 47 percent more likely to reach your goal if it is written down. This works the same for personal as well as business goals and the reason why is also explained in the study. Put simply, riting down our goals connects the imaginative and logical side of our brain, thus putting both to work on the job in our consciousness to achieve our goal.

That’s why it’s extra important in business to write out your goals, especially for marketing. Have a written plan for the year that encompasses your social media, advertising, and any promotional projects. Need some tips to get started? Try these!

  1. Plan six months ahead… or more. The idea behind writing down goals is to look at the big picture. That means planning beyond this week or next.
  2. Make your goals achievable and meaningful. These will keep you motivated and organized, to produce better results.
  3. Make sure everyone knows who is responsible for what…and when. Throwing something onto a plan without assigning a responsible party is like leaving a car running without a driver. You won’t get anywhere!
  4. Don’t overthink it. You don’t need a complicated plan, but make sure you include specific details that can act as milestones. A Microsoft excel spreadsheet, for example, may help to keep you organized and can be easily shared with others in your company so that they know what they are working toward.
  5. Find connections. Writing down your goals can help you see connections between projects, and streamline your plans for marketing. For example, you will be able to plan all your social media, eblasts, etc. in advance of any special events you may be planning.

For my clients who want to initiate multiple programs simultaneously, I always advise they put together a marketing calendar. This is a schedule of when you will release new content, post on social media about business, send out e-blasts, etc. where they can see connections.  I recently helped a client create a marketing calendar and have attached the marketing calendar template for your own use. Take a look and see for yourself how writing down tangible, focused goals for your marketing can be easy and effective.

Even though its February, you can still create a solid plan for 2017. If you need a marketing makeover, or help developing goals, strategies and priorities for your company’s marketing, Big Ideas Writing can help. Contact us at 630.778.6182.

Why Content Writers Create Great Marketing Strategy


I was speaking recentlyMagnet with the owner of an agency who helps companies with the creation and implementation of corporate marketing plans. We were discussing the possibilities of using my services to manage some of his marketing projects. As we discussed ideas, he said something I had never heard verbalized before: “You know, content writers make the best program managers,” he said.

I knew exactly what he meant.  Yet I had never put it that way myself. Then after thinking about it, I decided to think it through and it makes perfect sense. Why?

Content writers are all about the message.  Let’s face it, if you are creating a marketing communications piece, you want to send the right marketing messaging to the right audience. You can put out all the blogs, videos, etc. you want but if they don’t speak to your audience, nothing will happen. Content writers understand this, and it is the bread and butter of what we do. We craft the messages that get your audience to do something…and now!

Content is at the root of many a marketing program. When I started my business four years ago, I strictly sought editorial, content writing, editing and proofreading jobs. Now, at the request of my clients, I manage marketing programs that feature content like blogs, Eblast campaigns, social media campaigns and more. Content is at the heart of these efforts so a content writer should be too! This is especially key when a client has a need to broadcast one message across multiple communication  channels, like website content, printed collateral pieces, video content and social media. I personally do this by partnering with exceptional professionals who share my passion for creative communication. Seems like program management is a natural extension of my skills!

Good content writers can also spin a message on a dime. If the first headline isn’t working, we’ve got more waiting in the wings. Again, who decides if you need a change in, say, the headline? Probably your success metrics, as analyzed by the program manager. And if your program manager is also your content writer, well…you eliminate the middle man. How’s that for efficiency? Good content writers are a fount of creativity, flexibility and versatility.

Content Writers think conceptually. We content writers do more than write. We consider the effect our words have on others. We explore options of communication to get our point across, like different media channels, graphic design or sensory experiences. All that big sky thinking is essential for the success of an integrated campaign. And we’ve got it down pat!

I agree that content writers make the best marketers. Maybe that’s why I’ve grown comfortable in my role as the content writer-program manager. If you’re looking for a content writer with a flair for marketing strategy, let’s talk. Contact me today!

Social Media Prime Time: When Your Business Should Post

Social media is an incredibly important aspect of today’s business practices, and knowing when the best time is to post or update social media can be key to exposing your content to a wider audience.

Recently, I attended a presentation on this very topic given by Maria Ramos, an award-winning blogger and social media consultant.  Her website, A Savings Wow, is an eclectic mix of coupons, savings tips, and deals and giveaways. As a social media consultant, Maria helps businesses get the most from their efforts, and her presentation gave some concrete information on the best and worst times to post on some of the most popular platforms. I’ve put together this chart as a handy guide for myself (and you!) to schedule accordingly.

Social media Best time to post Worst times to post
Facebook 1-2 times per day, 1pm to 4pm ET Weekends before 8am and after 8pm ET
Twitter About 3 times a day, Mondays through Thursdays from 1pm to 3pm ET Every day after 8pm and Friday after 3pm ET
Instagram Mondays from 3pm to 4pm ET
LinkedIn 2 to 4 times a week, Tuesdays through Thursdays at noon and between 5pm and 6pm ET Mondays and Fridays between 10pm and 6am ET

Also, if you have active social media, make sure your customers and prospects know you’re there! There are many unusual places to put your social media icons that you may not have considered.

Experts will tell you that even if you don’t follow the guidelines above, the important thing is to post, get the word out and make social media work for you!

At Big Ideas Writing, we help clients with their social media content and page management. If you need some help with yours, contact us today!

Five Hidden Values of a Marketing Consultant


Marketing consultants are an amazing tool for small or medium sized businesses that need to expand their media exposure, reach a new audience, promote an award they have received, or accomplish other marketing goals. When companies have a need for marketing, they have two choices. They can use their internal marketing department (or even establish one) or they can hire an outside marketing expert. The decision usually depends on budget and resources, human and otherwise. Both internal and external marketing professionals can do a smashing job for a company. In general, however, marketing consultants, by virtue of their external perspective, can bring something even more valuable to the table, without charging an extra cent!

1. Creative Solutions Born of Experience. An external marketing consultant may have experience in yours and other industries that can come in handy in unconventional ways. They may have seen marketing strategies before that have helped other clients. They may have tried a strategy in another industry that may work in yours too. They may have experience with technology and tools that can bring results, like electronic press release distribution systems and SEO keyword planners. Let their experience enrich yours!

2. A New Perspective. Employees in an internal marketing department are employed by the company and often see everything from the company perspective. They may be there to grow their career and become a lifelong employee or just as likely be there for the paycheck and be biding their time for a better opportunity. An outside force like a marketing consultant sees things objectively, and from a different angle. In their position, they’ve had access to many different types of corporate cultures, leadership styles and marketing strategies. They’ve seen what works and what doesn’t. Don’t be surprised if they propose something completely different to you that you’ve never considered before. It’s part of the hidden value of a consultant!

3. Resources. One reason you hire an outside marketing consultant is because you don’t have the time, experience, or manpower to handle the marketing for your company. Marketing experts have all three for your business, as well as access to marketing resources that you might not know about and knowledge of many different resources for promoting a business. There are always new ways that a business can use social media, networking, and promotional material that a business owner might need.  As a marketing consultant, I have connections with specialists who can produce e-blasts, search optimization, and other tools to help businesses reach a wider audience.

4. Publicity opportunities. Marketing consultants are always on the lookout for publicity opportunities. Everything promotional tool that crosses a good marketing consultant’s path is a possibility for their client. Awards programs, for example, are a great way to put your business in the spotlight while participating in the community. As a marketing consultant, I do a variety of work for clients, but I always keep an eye out for opportunities to do even more. Sometimes I am called in to proofread a website or write content for a whitepaper, but if I find other ways that a business can make itself more accessible, I’ll let my client know! A good marketing consultant knows that their client’s success equals their own.

5. Business Consulting. Being an entrepreneur can be lonely. Sometimes the entrepreneur may feel like they are the only one in the business who truly cares about the company’s success. It’s helpful to have someone to bounce ideas off of and talk to about other, non-marketing related issues. As a marketing consultant, clients often ask me about human resources, pricing, sourcing, etc. I always try to have the answer for them and hope that my advice has saved them hours of googling for information!

So when you need a helping hand with your marketing, remember that a good consultant brings more with them than just what it says on their business card. If you need an example of what that might be, feel free to contact me.


So You Want to Be A Content Writer?

WVHS Career Day (2)

This week, I had the opportunity to appear at my children’s high school on career day and present what I do as part of a panel of marketing experts. As I looked out on the audience of young, fresh faces, I thought back to my own high school days, when I had very little guidance on what I wanted to do in life, and actually started heading in the wrong direction.

Back then, I had no idea how to parlay my love of writing into any sort of job. When I graduated high school, “content writing” was not yet a career.  Nobody did what I do now.  When it came time to choose a college major, I was headed towards the health care field, and the only writing career major available was journalism. Through a twist of fate, I ended up taking journalism classes for my minor of public relations while I pursued a speech communication degree. However, I did not know where I was going.

When you’re a teen, figuring out what you want to do for the rest of your life is a daunting, yet necessary step before graduation.  Most undecided teens take a cue from their family history and follow in the footsteps of mom or dad.  However, I believe it’s very important to gain exposure to career options beyond the scope of your family’s history, because your talents and skills may be extremely different.  Nobody in my family had ever made a living writing, so I was breaking new ground.  How unfortunate it would have been to ignore my interest in writing and force myself to do something unsuitable to my skills.

Instead, I truly love what I’m doing and my days are filled with variety and new challenges, just how I like them!

present 2As I spoke to the students, I wanted them to recognize any of the qualities that would make them successful in the world of marketing and/or content writing.  What are these qualities?

A love of writing. Duh. Don’t be a writer if you don’t like to write but don’t be afraid to choose it as a career either.  Sure, you may never make Donald Trump’s salary, but in my experience it is more important to be happy with what you’re doing than rich and miserable with your life’s work. Ideally, both your talents and your paycheck will align spectacularly.

Interviewing Skills. I spend a lot of time gathering information to write pieces, and 80% of the time it involves talking to people. To me, the term “interviewing skills” means listening as well as talking. Some people don’t need questions..they just ramble. I can glean so much from them by listening to the words they use to describe their business and the way they organize their thoughts. Putting together a list of questions is important but there are so many more tips to become a skillful interviewer. Watch for an upcoming blog devoted specifically to this subject!

Interested in Research. When I have an assignment, any information I cannot get from my interview subject I must defer to Google.  If you enjoy researching on different topics, content writing may be for you.

Proofing Skills. If you think English teachers are mean about misspellings, extra spaces and “minor” writing infractions, just wait till you are a professional, writing for clients!  As a writer, you have to be perfect in this respect.  Be prepared to be concerned about such things if you write for a living.

Editing Chops.  Remember in school when you had to write a two-page paper and didn’t have anything to say and used tricks like extra spacing, wider fonts, etc. to make the paper longer? It’s the opposite when you begin writing professionally. Words cost money to publish. Say what needs to be said, and nothing more. Editing is an essential skill, and it’s important to be able to edit your own work. I tell clients I am a heartless editor, to my own work as well as to others. Even when work seems “finished”, editing is usually possible. Usually when you write content you also have a word count limit. This makes editing an even more important skill to have.

Natural Curiosity. Every day I am writing about something different and at any time I am serving companies from vastly different industries simultaneously. For example, right now I am writing for an ice cream shop, a railcar leasing company, a private aviation company, a commercial fire protection service, a world-class optometrist, a group of Latina business women, a law firm and more. Who knows what I’ll be writing about tomorrow?  My own curiosity carries me through my discussions and interviews with people in all these industries and helps me formulate questions and explore ideas with them.

I wish all high school students good luck when planning their future, but also the professionals out there who may feel like they need a change.  If you look at this list and feel it speaks to your personal qualifications, maybe you’d make a good content writer. If you need any help or want to learn more,  contact me.



Business cards I just ordered new business cards. For me, it wasn’t just a necessity. It was a victory.

When I first opened my door as a freelance copywriter with four small children, I didn’t get out much. People would have had to storm my office to get a business card. I mainly worked for my clients in Michigan who knew me as a former employee, and only knew my company name because it was on their invoices.  I had business cards made, but somewhere I probably still have half a box of them after eight years of sporadic work on marketing projects for those special few clients.

Flash forward to 2010. I “got serious”, changed my company name to “Big Ideas Writing” and got a website. I ordered 250 cards, thinking it would take another decade to get through them.  I began to network, which is where most of my business cards went, and some of those business card recipients are now my best clients. I depleted my box of 250 and am now awaiting the printing of my new ones.

For me, having to order new cards is symbolic of my professional growth. The differences between my original and my new card communicate the wonderful changes I have gone through since I opened the doors of “Big Ideas Writing” as a freelance content writer  Just as my business has changed, my cards have as well. 

This time around, I did things differently, including enlisting the help of my friend and colleague,  Melissa Noto of Melissa Noto Design Studio See and compare! 

BC-old for blog


Here’s my OLD ONE-SIDED BUSINESS CARD DESIGN. Designed by me. Boring. Cramped. Ho hum. Served the purpose but check out my job title. This gets filed under “what was I thinking?” It took days of consideration before I chose my job title for my next card, and I finally hit upon “communication strategist” because it perfectly expresses everything I do from content writing (always for a purpose) to putting together full marketing plans.

So, I’m so happy to have a….

BC-new for blog

 TWO-SIDED BUSI-NESS CARD  I’m so glad I left the design to a pro! The new design gives me two sides to tell my story and more white space to make my logo (which I love more and more each day) stand out more prominently. A big shout out to  Melissa Noto of Melissa Noto Design Studio! Graphic designers always make everything they touch more beautiful and I love the elements she introduced.  I also like to think that the continuation of my card on the second side represents the growth of my business over the past few years. Maybe one side just can’t contain me!

Finally, I also have social media icons!  While I’m still getting my feet wet with the other channels, my Facebook is solid and I have a killer LInkedin profile.

Tell me, am I the only one who gets geeked about new business cards? I’d love to hear your personal story of business card joy!






freelance-copywriter-thanksgiving-client-appreciationAt Thanksgiving time, we usually reflect on how much we appreciate our family, friends and loved ones in our lives, but as a woman in business, this year I found myself adding my clients to the gratitude pile.  As a service provider of freelance copywriting services, I am truly grateful to the clients in my life who have touched me both personally and professionally.  If you are a service provider with clients, you know what I am talking about. As you perform your service over time, you get to know them on a personal level.  The relationship is one of give and take, and hopefully, a harmonious one.

It’s easy to take clients for granted and never show them how appreciated they are. I’ve been guilty of this. We even have those days when we hit a bump in the road with our clients and the relationship turns sour. In solid relationships however, disputes get resolved and the relationship continues, but at that moment it is easy to lose sight of all they give us besides fair (or sometimes what we perceive to be unfair) payment for our services. 

This Thanksgiving, however, I am looking back at a prosperous year with true gratitude to my clients who have made it happen.  I even was inspired to send some handwritten Thanksgiving cards with notes to them and as I did so, I reflected upon the many ways they have helped shape my life. I discovered my client relationships provide much more than a paycheck.  What, you may ask? Well, there’s the obvious ones…

Referrals. Chances are your client has already referred you to at least one other business whether you know it or not!

Validation.  Your service is good and you know it because your clients pay for it. You are undisputedly a professional!

Portfolio/Resume Growth. Clients give us challenging projects that provide the opportunities to succeed. In other words, they are directly responsible for our bragging rights!

Credibility by Association.  When you are servicing a well-respected client, it reflects well on your own business and your expertise.

But on a deeper level, clients can give you so much morejust as mine have!

 Professional Growth.  Clients offer the opportunity to try something new, learn a new technique, or break new ground in your skill set.

Personal Fulfillment.  I’m happy with my work as a professional freelance copywriter. I’m doing what I love to do and I’m grateful for the clients who allow me to do it!

Mentoring.  Ever learn anything new from a client?  I have. I’ve asked them questions, listened to their seminars and read what they write. Their collective knowledge is impressive!

Participation in your mission. Often, it’s your clients who come to your ribbon cutting, comment on your social media post or invite you to an important networking event. They support you by participating in your mission.

Friendships.  Not always, but sometimes, the business relationship reaches a new level. I have a client that I’ve worked for since the 90s.  At this point, we’re definitely more friends than business associates!

What ways have your clients touched your life?  Thanksgiving is the perfect time to pause and be thankful for them.  And feel free to leave me a comment if there are any other reasons you’re thankful for your clients this Thanksgiving!

Have a beautiful, gratitude-filled Thanksgiving holiday!


Best_Business_AdviceAs a professional freelance copywriter, I try to network when I can. At a recent meeting of my women’s networking group, as we rose one by one to introduce ourselves, we were also asked to share “the best piece of business advice I’ve ever received.”  That day, our little group of 40 or so women entrepreneurs created a true treasure trove of positive inspiration that I felt I just had to share on this blog!

Here is the top ten pieces of business advice that I received that day.  I believe in each of these and try to practice them daily, although some of them are definitely a challenge for me!  How many apply to you and your business?

1. Say yes to opportunities.  Even when it’s scary or you have to figure it out to succeed, say yes. Opportunity may indeed only knock once!

2. Growth only happens when you step out of your comfort zone.  If it’s hard to do, it’s probably going to change you in some wonderful way.

3. Don’t undervalue yourself and your services.  It’s easy to do when you’re hungry for business but in the long run, you’ll just end up resenting the client, and working too hard for too little.

4. Don’t try to do everything yourself.  Delegating the non-essential tasks of your business can save a lot of time and hassle.

5. Say thank you.  Thank those that help you succeed on a regular basis. This includes co-workers, referral sources and clients.

6. Stay in touch with clients.  Get personal. When you read something or see something of interest to them, take time to share, even if it does not directly relate to your business.

7. Cultivate referrals.  When you’ve satisfied a customer, ask if they know anyone else who may be in need of your services. The worst thing they can do is say no.

8. Learn from others.  The world is filled with people who know more than you. Find out who they are and follow them online, read their books or go to see them speak.

9. Be strategic.  Create a mission statement.  Run your business the way you do for a reason.  It will give you focus and help you succeed.

10. Surround yourself with positive people. Seek out others who can encourage and help you in your journey. Network and flourish.

What’s the best piece of business advice you’ve ever received?  Leave me a comment and let me know!