Tag Archives: freelance content writer

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 erica@bigideaswriting.com.

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.

 

Your Stance on the Oxford Comma: In or Out?

content-writing-oxford-comma

Do you embrace the Oxford comma in your writing or banish it? As a freelance content writer, I want to know.

The Oxford comma gained fame and recognition for its common usage at the Oxford University Press. For those of you who don’t know, the Oxford comma is the comma preceding the word “and” at the end of a list.

It looks like this:

                                                                         We brought hamburgers, hot dogs, and pickles.

Now let’s take it out:

                                                                         We brought hamburgers, hot dogs and pickles.

No harm done there. But if you take away the Oxford comma, we can have some pretty hilarious results, as shown by this clever cartoon from a  humorous grammar blog.

oxford-comma

Another famous argument for the Oxford comma is the following example:

“I would like to thank my parents, Ayn Rand and God.”

In the olden days when I was learning to write, I was taught to disregard the Oxford comma. My children in high school today tell me they are taught it is optional.  So do most people use it? Actually, a recent survey of more than 1,000 Americans showed that the results were close, with  57 percent of the vote loving that comma and the other 43 percent regularly hitting the delete key.

Today my freelance content writing and business writing is reviewed by many, many people before it’s posted or printed. …people from all different backgrounds and writing sensibilities.  Some bat for Team Oxford, others blackball that pesky comma.

In most cases, whether or not I use the comma comes down to the style I am writing in, and in many cases, the specific preferences of my clients, who may or may not be bound to the Microsoft Word grammar checker as their “punctuational mentor”.

Curiously, while the Oxford comma may seem trivial compared to other important world matters,  if you’ve ever created a business or internal publication with an eclectic team, you will find out quickly where people stand on its usage. If you are an Oxford-hater and omit it throughout the first draft of the company plan, then Tom goes comma crazy, putting in Oxfords everywhere he can on the Google doc, you find out quickly that Tom is an Oxford-lover.  And he obviously didn’t go to my grade school. .

If Tom is on your team, and your Microsoft Word isn’t catching places where you’ve overlooked the Oxford, remember that the setting can be easily changed.

Access  File>Options>Proofing, then selecting “grammar and style”.

oxford-comma-setting

Then select “always” to make sure Word always checks for the comma.  The default is “don’t check”.

Grammatical-writer

So, when a style is not specified, and someone else reviews your work and messes with your commas, you have the choice of fight or flight. So tell me, do you fight for the Oxford comma?  Is it worth fighting for? Is it better to go with majority rule, or is it purely a matter of circumstance?

Do you have a strong preference?   Leave me a comment and let me know. And be sure to give me a call if I can help you with writing something for your business…with or without the Oxfords!

WEB FRIGHTS: Four Things That Will Scare Away Your Visitors

web-frightIt’s Halloween, the time of year when we are surrounded by scary costumes, makeup, life-size sound or motion-activated spooks and unfortunately, bad web design.

It’s true that a bad web design can bounce your visitors away faster than a fake mummy hand reaching out to grab their bag of candy. As a freelance content writer, I work on a lot of websites and have seen the good, the bad and the ugly as far as design goes. Here are four elements that you should avoid unless you want to send your site visitors fleeing for the nearest competitor.

We’ll start with one of the most common ones…read on…if you dare…

FRIGHT #1:  TOO MUCH CONTENT

bad-website

Never mind that it’s in Norwegian…they will translate for you. But quick…what do they sell? How can you find what you want? If you can’t answer either of these questions in the first four seconds, you have a bad web design. And yes, this is a home page. I told you not to read on.

Still don’t want to turn back? Ok, feast your eyes on our next scare..

 

FRIGHT #2: TOO MUCH COLOR

website-mistakes

Whoa! This kind of thing should be kept in the sky on an infrequent basis after a rain shower. The designer attempted to use color to separate the testimonials but in doing so, he/she shattered all unity between them. I think the thought was to continue the rainbow from the header into the copy, but learn from this mistake. Too much color qualifies this as a scary web design.  Still not shaking in your shoes?  Step into this lair….

FRIGHT #3: IRRELEVANT OR UNATTRACTIVE IMAGES

web-site-fright

Ok, I never could track down what this website is about, but it really doesn’t matter. Unless the Creator in heaven has purchased a url (and really looks like this!) I don’t see how this could possibly be relevant to any business. If they were going for the “out of this world” look, I think they nailed it. However, if you don’t want to scare away customers, use attractive, relevant images that relate to your products and services.

 FRIGHT #4: BAD SEO

Scary websites hide in the shadows. Their bad search engine optimization (SEO) scares away Google’s little automated crawlers that index web content. So, their url, content and images can’t be found, or even indexed. People who search the web for their site may never find it.

The scary thing about these websites is not their appearance at all. On the outside, they look just like everyone else, with attractive graphics and content. But underneath their pretty mask, their search engine optimization is frightening. Their content contains no keywords and neither does their coding. Their title tags say things like “home” and their images are labeled with numbers rather than keywords. In some ways, websites with bad SEO are worse than the scary websites that you can find.  The scary websites lure people to their door, but the people flee when they see what answers. The ones with bad SEO don’t even get the visitors to their door because you don’t know where they live!

This Halloween, check your website for these four frights. They can cost you your business reputation, your potential customers or even your self-respect. If you need some help organizing your content, or just want a check that your website is not so frightful, feel free to call me to discuss at 630.778.6182.

Pare it Down: Why You Need a Content Writer

Edit-ContentI was recently at a lovely meeting of WESOS (Women Entrepreneurs Secrets of Success). We we were given the opportunity to give our “elevator speeches” to each other, then were asked to perform a gesture that best expressed our business. I was truly impressed by the creativity in the room, and surprised that my gesture came to me immediately. I held both arms wide, indicating a large amount, then brought my hands in quickly, just a few inches apart, to indicate a small amount. Why? Because as a content writer, this is what I do for many of my clients.

For most businesses, they don’t come to me to figure out WHAT to write for their business..they usually have a plethora of information for me. The problem is, they need it to fit into a certain space as succinctly as possible.

For example, they may need to encapsulate their business model into a catchy tagline.

They may need website page copy that is short, to the point, but does a good job of converting the customer.

Their linkedin profile may be too short or too long. I can help them make it just right.

They may need their typically used 250-word bio condensed to a 50-word introduction for a special event or speaking engagement.

They may need a press release written from the pages and pages of information they have about their project.

Their resume is four pages long and they don’t know what to cut.

They need brochure copy developed from their lengthy website content.

These are just a few times when a content writer can come to the rescue….in a flash.

Why?

Content writers are ruthless editors. Don’t misunderstand. A content writer worth their salt will always retain the information that puts you, your company and your products and services in the best possible light, but when they are not the author, they can be completely objective. In fact, usually content writers have developed the skills to be completely objective when editing their own work.

We’re used to working within constraints. Remember when you were little and you double-spaced to make your half-page paper into one-page to meet the requirement for your English essay? Well, content writers don’t usually have that problem. For example, first drafts are usually too long because chances are there is too much to say about your wonderful business! But there is always a word count, an appropriate length that needs to be respected, and content writers see these as surmountable challenges, not constraints.

Content writers have a thick skin. We’re used to being pared down. Yes, there are times when I tear up inside because my client tells me the beautifully eloquent product description I just wrote is no longer necessary because they are not going to release that product version anymore, but in general, experienced content writers can take any editing parameters that the client can dish out. It’s part and parcel of the job.

Content writers care about the words. People who don’t like to write, don’t care about words. Writers think about words a lot. They pay attention to them, look up definitions and am intrigued by usage. Then they put their passion on paper, which is hopefully evident to the client.

Do you have content you need “pared down?” Pass that mighty content potato, eyes and all, over to Big Ideas Writing and let me pare it down for you. Contact me for your next project at 630.778.6182.

THE JOY OF NEW BUSINESS CARDS

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!

 

 

 

The 5 W’s of Writing a Business Blog (Including 10 Why’s)

 

http://www.dreamstime.com/royalty-free-stock-images-five-ws-signpost-image25139199

When reporters write a story, they  use the “5 W’s”  (Who, What, Where, When and Why) to make sure they cover all of the important information.

Coincidentally, the same 5 W’s should be considered when setting up a blog!

What does it take to set up a blog? Assuming you already have a website, you may want to discuss the logistics of adding the blog to your existing webpage with your webmaster. However, before you sit down at the keyboard, let’s get the 5 W’s of your blog straight.

 THE WHO: Who will write the blog?  If you decide to have a blog, someone must write the posts. The answer to this question will depend upon your resources and your ultimate goal.  You yourself could do the writing, you could assign it to an employee or you can outsource it to a freelance content writer. I myself provide blog posts for several clients upon request or on a regular basis. Sometimes they provide me technical information which I fashion into an “audience friendly” post or I concoct a piece from an interview source provided by the client.  Sometimes, clients write some of their own blog posts and have me craft more complex ones.  Since blogs should be done consistently to develop a relationship with the audience, it is important to have a plan for continuity of posts.

THE WHAT: Purpose of the Blog  What will your blog look like?  What is its number one objective? Do you want to promote upcoming sales and promotions or educate your readers about your products? Will you position yourself as a thought leader on a particular topic?  Will you express your viewpoints about developments in the industry?  Whatever your purpose, keep it consistent so your readers know what to expect every time they log on.

THE WHEN: Frequency of Posts Some companies start out with the best intentions. I’m going to post a blog every week, they say, and it turns out to be every month. It’s important to set the bar high for yourself, especially at the beginning. Write it down and try to stick to your goal. Just like setting a goal for dieting or exercise, you may fail along the way, but at least you know what success will look like.

THE WHERE: Editorial Calendar  The “where” of your blog refers to the platform it will “live”, either your website or a hosted site like blogspot or wordpress. It also refers to your editorial calendar, which determines where your blog will take your reader. Wherever the destination, having an editorial calendar is like a roadmap to get you there. Create a chart with the desired posting dates for the calendar year, then take some time to develop ideas.  The calendar does not have to be set in stone. For example, if there is a development in your industry that warrants a post, the topic can supersede the originally scheduled piece. The purpose of the calendar will tell you where you are in your blog plans and where you will post throughout the month.

WHY Why Do I Need a Blog? When I tell clients they need to add a blog to their website, often they want to know “why?” After all, blogs are a lot of work and to be honest, the ROI can be difficult to calculate. Yet, there are many reasons like these below that can make having a blog on your website a very important part of your overall marketing strategy. I actually came up with 10 great reasons to have a blog.

#1 Reason to Have a Blog: To Drive Website Traffic!!  This is perhaps the most important reason to have a business blog. Hubspot reports that businesses that blog get 55% more website visitors than those that don’t!  This is how it works: if you are clever enough to write on an edgy, very desirable topic, those searching for information on the subject will stumble upon the keywords as they google for information, and be brought right to your blog post on your website to learn more. That’s why it’s also a good idea to include keywords in your blog that will take readers to your relevant interior web pages. 

2. To increase search engine optimization. Adding a blog actually improves the quality of your site in Google’s eyes. In the rankings, Google favors websites that post fresh content on a regular basis, as well as those that are visited more often.

3. To position yourself as a thought leader. The words “as I say in my blog,” say a lot about your expertise and your commitment to your industry.  Your blog posts become intellectual property that can be used to educate and motivate others.

4. To leverage the information.  Sometimes, blogs become the basis or informational outline for something greater—a book, a presentation, a white paper or downloadable report. Writing a book, rather than simply a blogpost, is the next step to becoming a “thought leader” on a particular topic or building awareness of the business you operate.

5. To answer your customer’s questions. One trick to coming up with blog topics is to answer those questions you get continually from your customers. These answers demonstrate what information customers may be searching for on the internet. If you provide them in the blog, the result will be increased website traffic and potential new business.

6. To share on Social Media. Always announce your blog posts on your social media, even if it is just on Linkedin. Include a link to the post and watch your website traffic stats rise.

7. To use in  your newsletter. Many customers use their blog post as the lead story in their corporate newsletter. A snippet, included with a “read more” link to the website, will bring the subscriber onto the website for further interaction with your company.

8. To use as an emotional release.  As long as the emotional tirade is appropriate, a blog can serve as an emotional outlet for the writer (and/or the reader!) about a certain, industry-related topic. It’s completely ok to espouse a strong corporate opinion in a blog, especially if your position is controversial. Just be ready to reply diplomatically to all the dissenting comments that are sure to follow!

9. To invest your employees in the company.  Depending on your situation, allowing employees to participate in the blog can give them a feeling of “investment” in the company.  Provide a small bonus to the worker for each post and you will have a more willing participant!

10. To build your brand. If you’ve determined what your company stands for, the blog is a great place to drive this brand awareness forward. Writing dedicated posts about the way you do business and why can bring the reader closer to your business.  Try blogging about your business process or your core values as they are applied to the industry.

So there you have the 5 W’s of putting together a business blog.  As a freelance content writer I regularly help companies come up with editorial calendars and stick to them with custom creative content creation. If I can help you with your blog, please contact me at 630-778-6182.

 

 

COPYWRITING AND CONTENT WRITING–WHAT’S THE DIFFERENCE?

CopyContent

For years I used to introduce myself as Karen Dix, freelance copywriter.  Lately, though, I tend to introduce myself as Karen Dix, web content writer.

The truth is, I am both. And I’ve never met a company that at some point or another, didn’t need both copywriting and content writing.

Many people outside of the industry wonder, however, what exactly is the difference between a copywriter and a content writer?

Although there are several differences, the biggest is the overall OBJECTIVE of the writing. If you ask yourself if you need copy or content, you’re asking yourself if you need the words to primarily sell or inform.

COPYWRITING is as old as advertising. Because that’s what it is: the art of producing intelligent, sometimes clever but always persuasive or motivating text for the purpose of selling something or calling the reader to an action. Good copywriting addresses features and benefits of the product it is trying to sell.

Copywriting is subjective. It boldly expresses opinions, makes an argument and takes a side. The subject of the copy is unequivocally, “the best” and the definitive answer to the problem for the reader.

Copywriters write the words to sell products both online and offline products through:

online iconONLINE

Advertisements (PPC)
Eblasts
Website
Catalog Descriptions
Directory Listings

offline iconOFFLINE
Print brochures
Direct Mail
Flyers/Brochures/Marketing Collateral
Advertising (Print, Outdoor, TV, Radio)
Presentations

We’ve all seen examples of ad copy. It takes many formats:

1) Headlines. These brief lines pull the reader into an ad to tell you more and hopefully, sell you something. The ideal headline is targeted at an audience, as brief as possible, attractive to read and makes the reader want to know more. Headlines work in concert with graphics to create an overall impression that captivates the reader. Here’s an example of some advertising headlines that might just keep you reading…

THE BEST JUST GOT BETTER.

INTRODUCING A NEW WAY TO WASH YOUR DISHES.

EAT THIS TO LOSE WEIGHT!

2) Taglines. These are used to describe a company’s services, or identify their brand. Can you guess what company goes with what tagline?

I’M LOVIN’ IT

IT’S WHAT’S FOR DINNER.

DON’T LEAVE HOME WITHOUT IT.

3) Body Copy  One of a copywriter’s specialties is selling a product in as few words as possible. Printed selling pieces such as brochures, advertisements, sell sheets, direct mail, marketing collateral, websites and even exhibits have space constraints and need concise text. Therefore, copywriters choose their words very carefully.

Good copy attempts to speak personally to the reader. It can appeal to their senses and invoke a longing for the product or service.

Here’s a sample of body copy I recently wrote for a Christian summer camp in Lake Geneva:

Conference Point is located in William’s Bay, WI on Lake Geneva, a summer playground for young and old alike. Comfy cabins feature porches with views of the lake and cool breezes off the water. Together, couples and families enjoy a retreat from the hustle and bustle of work, home and children’s activities and spend time enjoying each other and God’s great creation.

Or just take time for yourself. Settle back in one of the many Adirondack chairs around the grounds and enjoy an afternoon read. Let the sounds of the waves and the rustling trees soothe your mind and soul.

Feeling hungry? Our dining hall has delicious, hearty meals all ready for you, each guaranteed to please every palate in your party.
Conference Point is the perfect, restful getaway!

My body copy was written to inform, but you could tell by my word choice that I was trying very hard to sell the place. My objective was for the reader to see the features (comfy cabins, views of the lake, a respite, dining, etc.) while I alluded to the benefits (time for yourself, soothing natural wonders, time with the family, no meal planning necessary). While I explained, I sold. There was nothing objective about it because the purpose of the copy was to motivate you to make a reservation. The audience for this piece will also be “captive.” If they bother to read the brochure, they are already somewhat open to going there.

CONTENT WRITING has seen an explosion with the millennium. The purpose of content writing is to educate, bring value and as a result, build relationships. If you have a website that imparts valuable content, you can make friends with all kinds of prospective customers who appreciate the information you give them. The purpose is to keep your company name at the forefront of their mind when they need your products and services.

Content is objective. It does not advertise, but offers valuable information that comes from a reliable source. Producing good content can be part of a strategic marketing plan and set the author as an authoritative source in their field.

Content, for the most part, is written for the digital medium and comes in a variety of formats such as:

online iconWebsite Content
Blogs
Digital Press Releases
Social Media Posts
Online Profiles and Biographies
Case Studies
White Papers
Enewsletters

Content is created to be shared. My copywriting example above, which was produced for a written piece, could be shared if the client posts a pdf on their website or social media. However, the original intention of the text or “copy” was to sell the conference within the printed brochure. Chances are it will only be shared (or accessed) by those directly interested in the product, which is in this case, a venue. Copy then, has more of a “captive” audience than content.

Does that mean the copy does not have to be written as expertly as does content? Absolutely not. It must be written just as well, for a different audience and a different purpose. Some folks would argue that the copywriter is under fire for RESULTS since their job is to directly call the reader to action. The content writer, however, produces a piece that indirectly calls the reader to action. They produce their valuable, informative piece of content and release it into cyberspace in hopes that it will be exponentially shared. It could have a call to action, but the real goal here is sharing.

Every day, people share millions of blogposts, social media posts, etc. over the internet with an audience that appreciates the value of the information each contains.

So while both kinds of writing—copy and content—benefit a business, the big question a client has to ask is if they need words to sell or inform. If you’re in business, chances are you could use one or both in your advertising and/or marketing efforts. If you’re looking for a solid, all around writer who is experienced in both copy and content, look no further.  Contact me today.

WHY HIRE A WEB CONTENT WRITER?

A graphic designer recently told me that her clients are often reluctant to hire a freelance content writer for their website.  “Hire-Web-Content-WriterMost of the time, my customers write their own web content,” she said.  I was taken aback, but certainly understood what she meant.  Few clients have the graphic design chops to create their own website, but since everyone “writes”, many business folks conclude that they can write copy for their own website.  And, from the number of poorly written websites out there, it seems this is exactly what is happening.

A freelance web content writer can help you grow your business in many ways and website content creation is just one of them.  So if you can put a sentence together, why hire a professional web content writer to write your website?  From all the possible answers to this question, here are my top 10!

 1. Organization.  As a freelance content writer, I would say 80% of my job is organizing content for my clients. Most web content writers are masters at organizing information.  They should be able to help you create a site map that will make sense to your readers, then use techniques to break your content into easily digestible pieces, like using bullets and subheads.

 2. Focus.  Before they sit down to write, a good web content writer will ask you important questions about your website and your mission that will help focus their words.  They will ask you to identify your target audience and your message.  What do you want them to do? Why should your prospects choose you over your competitors? All the information you give will help shape the copy into a piece that will present your business and its mission as attractively as possible.

 3. Your Personality.  A versatile,  freelance content writer should be able to write in different “voices.” Their work may be very formal for a law firm’s website, ethereal for a faith healer’s website, or fun and playful for a recipe blog.  They recognize that part of their job is finding the right tone for your content and they will work to produce content with your particular brand voice.

 4. SEO.  Search engine optimization means using different techniques, including strategic keywords, to get your website found in the search engines.  Good web content writers will know how to incorporate these keywords into your content and may even be able to help you with keyword selection.

5. Pizzazz.  Some business owners know their website copy is missing something—someone may even have told them so–but they just can’t put their finger on it.  Often, they are just missing a professional’s touch.  A solid writer can provide exciting work that flows, is easy to read and engages the reader.

6. Brevity.  You could say, “It is important to write succinctly in a website because writing that is too abundant in words could negatively affect how well the website visitor reads and reacts to the content written therein.”  Or, you could say, “Concise content is more likely to convert website visitors.”  An experienced web content writer will always use the least amount of words needed and get straight to the point so that the reader understands the message and also wants to keep reading!

 7. Clarity.  Freelance content writers are first and foremost, communicators.  They take the message you want and present it in an effective, understandable format that gets results for your business.  

8. Speed.  Since freelance web content writers are experts at what they do, chances are they can do it more quickly than you can.  Even if they are charging a large hourly wage, or substantial lump sum, think for a minute about the cost of your own time.  How long will it take you to do the writing?  What will it cost to have you or an employee engaged in website writing instead of your normal activities?  When will you be able to get to the task? By hiring help, you could stay focused on your core business and get a higher-quality result in a shorter period of time.

9. Feedback.  Ok, most web content writers aren’t graphic designers, but part of their job is to integrate image and verbiage so it wows the client.  Writers pay attention to design, just as designers pay attention to headlines. If asked, your web content writer will be able to offer valuable feedback on your graphic design direction and offer punchy headlines and sidebars that will work best with the design template.  Also, sometimes when we do something ourselves, we cannot evaluate it objectively.  A good web content writer can do that as well.

10.  And most importantly…Conversion.  Let’s face it. The real reason you want people to come to your website is to do something, whether that’s call for an appointment, make a donation or order a product.  Are you sure you know the best way to present information about your products and services that will motivate them to take the next step?  A good freelance content writer can choose words and structure phrases that motivate and inspire.

Ready to write your new website?  Or give your website copy an overdue facelift?  Contact us today for a consultation.