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Monday, August 18, 2014

*How much do (should) freelance writers

*How much do (should) freelance writers

*How much do (should) freelance writers charge?*

Getting to grips with #writing for the web presents those new to copywriting with a huge learning curve.

The rules seem to change daily, everyone’s offering good advice (whether you ask for it or not) and none of the jobs on the global freelance sites seem to match the topics you know about.

In addition, clients hardly ever want to pay more than…

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Friday, August 15, 2014

[A Copywriter’s Toolbox] How much does a freelance writer charge for quality copy?

My first answer to the oft-asked question “How much do you charge as a
freelance writer?” is always: not enough. That’s subjective to your
standpoint, of course.

However, one look at the EFA Table of Editorial Rates is often enough to
convince a client that I’m not over-charging them.

The problem is, every market has its parameters: the maximum it, or a
client’s budget, will bear. Likewise its troughs, low points when you
should walk away. Or should you?

That’s we’re going to look at, today. Are there times when you should take
a job, even if the rate falls below a perceived “minimum wage” that you,
the industry or acceptable society has set?

Writing as a pastime is not the same as freelance writing full time

Whilst we dream of being the next Stephen King or JK Rowling, the truth is
we have to be sensible about the rate we charge.

Okay. Let’s disappoint the aspiring freelance writer yet further. Their
rate, at least as a fledgling writer without portfolio and few contacts, is
rarely up to them at all.

Many would-be writers happen upon the craft not in a moment of divine
vocation, but as a way to make a little extra whilst holding down a full
time job. Or when they’re between jobs and every little extra helps.

pink sunglasses

When copywriting isn’t the sole financier of your standard of living, it
can lead to rosy-coloured-glass syndrome.

As a bit of pocket money, you perhaps don’t mind earning less than your
employed hourly rate. But, Be Warned!

That mindset can cast a hue over what your writing’s worth, at least
compared to the perceived value a full time writer places on their copy.

If you’re earning a full time wage, winning a job on a freelance site (or
getting a recommendation by your aunt to write a piece in the parish
newsletter) is all well and good.

There’s often plenty of time to complete the task. The pay isn’t always
great so clients don’t (always) harass you for the finished product. And
when payday comes, your fees get added to the holiday fund or put
towards ‘that treat’. Everyone’s a winner.

The game-changer is when you begin writing in a professional capacity. It’s
your only income and your clients have deadlines.

The upping in tempo, the pressure of the deadline and the realisation that
you’ve got to write otherwise there’s no Becks in the fridge this summer
drains the pinkiness from those glasses.

With the rose-frosted hue melted, you see the world of freelance writing in
its own garish, naked light for the first time.

Look away now if you’re easily frightened.

Global freelance sites are tremendously good value - for the client

There’s no subtle way of pointing it:
Unless you get lucky, you must build up a
happy clients) before commanding a liveable
the global freelance sites are where you’re hoping to earn your living. .

Fortunate may be shining upon you and your client finds you in the right
place at the right time. I put myself in this category, although my good
lady insists I positioned myself to be so fortuitous.

Alternatively, you may have graduated with a degree that opens doors. This
could be to an established magazine, journal or other recognised publishing

It’s usual for blue chip companies to demand at least some letters after
the names of their authors. Not debtors, as is the case with some lower end

The truth, though, for most writers is that they have to bid on jobs as a
freelancer to secure their first projects.

If you can land plumb on your feet at a magazine, you may command the
princely sum of £5.00/100 words. The higher-end the publication, the better
prospects you have of pushing that to £10.00 or £12.50/100 words.

As a fledgling freelancer, that’s living in the lap of luxury. Now compare
that to the cut-throat global freelancing sites where you’re up against
freelancers from countries whose cost of living is only fractions of that
in the UK.

Sit down and grab something stiff to drink if you’ve not yet seen the
delights on offer on global freelance sites like oDesk,,
People Per Hour, Fiverr and Elance.

shocked emotiguy

Many clients - the freelancers’ paymaster - have a set prices for the jobs
they offer. Whilst this is not globally the case, jobs regularly appear on
digital freelance sites at a rate of $1 or $2 per 500 words.

It’s worth pointing out that the majority of such global sites operate with
the US dollar as their one and only currency. Take away the agency’s fees
and the forex rate and you’re taking even less home.

So, yes, you’ve read that correctly: $0.40/100 words is often the going
rate. And that’s before deductions.

Use your proposal - add value to up your rate

So, let’s break down what it takes to create a semantically sound article
in today’s world of search. And remember, we’re talking about writing for
clients who you may want to come back and order from you again. The
easiest, most cost-effective way to grow your business is from your
existing customer base, right? Darn tootin’!

For a start, someone offering to pay $2/500 words doesn’t even understand
thehat will help
Google rank a web page. You know when we said walk away? This is the bottom
of the trough.

A unique, quality, 700-word article can take up to an hour alone to:

absorb the raw data;
re-draft the piece in your head;
extract the bullet points you’ll use as headers;
re-write and repurpose the content into a legible article that adds value;
let it rest before you go back to edit it.

If you’re anything like me, the editing process will involve data
extraction. If you’re hoping to rank a client’s content, why wouldn’t you
be interested in seeing your assignment through the eyes of a search
engine? Yes, it adds time, thus cost.

But you want to be paid more. The client wants great value. Explain your
process to them in your proposal, justify your rate and you see if they
don’t snap your hand off!

Hang on; I feel an incoming soapbox moment: too many websites that talk
about copy and blogging are telling people to write for the click-thru.
Make your headline emotive.

I just want to temper that - not pish it! altogether. If you’re writing for
the social click-thru then, yes, you do want your headline to stand out
from the crowd. But what about SERPs ?

Think about this for a minute. When you search Google, the main traffic
source for any quality website, what type of headlines do you see? Do you
see headlines that tug at your heart strings? Or do you see headlines that
answer your question?

I’ll leave that thought with you, the next time you’re beating yourself
about a headline. If you want the social click-thru, make your headline
dramatic. If you’re good enough to write for organic search, write a
headline that both describes your article succinctly and the question
you’re looking to answer.

[gets down off soapbox]

Should I accept low-paying jobs?

You can see in an instant that the life of a freelance writer begins far
from the six- and seven-figure sums that best-sellers command for one small
book. Or even renowned copywriters themselves earn in a year. But that
doesn’t mean you won’t or can’t get there.

There will be contracts on freelance sites that are worth doing. Some of
the more technical writing projects, niche markets, white and academic
papers and articles for professional services can offer the aforementioned
magazine rates and more.

The harsh reality is that without a portfolio to back up your job proposal,
you’ll be lucky to even get a response from the client.

You have to decide whether to accept a few lower paying jobs to lay the
platform from which you launch your career. If you do, don’t make a habit
of it. Explain up front why you’re offering to complete their project at
such a competitive rate. Otherwise, they’ll expect that rate forever.

Or, you could sit there twiddling your thumbs waiting for the higher paying
jobs to come. Target your proposals to each of the higher paying jobs and
hope they’re willing to take a chance.

There is no right or wrong answer. Some people will harangue me for that,
but they’ve just forgot what it’s like to be sat there waiting for
responses with no ‘credits’ left to bid on more jobs.

What to do next

My advice to anyone looking to start a career in freelance writing is get
some experience before ditching the day job. But try to charge the rate
you’d expect if you writing was your only source of income!

uncertain future for man

If that snippet of genius has come too late and you’re sat there waiting
for responses from clients, get writing. Today.

Start your own blog. Start timing your words/per hour output. Not just
writing, but editing it, too.

Step out of your comfort zone. Not every project will be on a topic in
which you’re authoritative. Or even familiar. However, do write down those
subjects in which you are savvy. By knowing and practising them, you can
tailor your job search and subsequent proposals to match your specialities.

In a semantic world, with authority counting for so much, “Write what you
know” can’t be overstated enough.

But also, be prepared. It can be demeaning, working ten, twelve hours a day
for little more than a take-away meal and a six-pack if that’s the way you
go. But boy, you’ll have earned it, if that’s what you choose to spend your
wages on.

Your reputation will grow. You will become faster and more adept at
creating and editing articles. That lifestyle you always hoped writing
could deliver is achievable and worth the sacrifice at the outset.

But you have to start. Somewhere. Every journey begins with a single step.
Just decide if it’s a small step you want to take or stride out like John

Once you get to the professional stage, the whole thing flips. Rather than
clients tell you what they’re willing to pay, you can choose the
best-paying jobs or tell the client what you’re willing to work for.

It’s not easy. It does require talent, doggedness and a very thick skin.
But learning perseverance, adopting a willingness to learn and practising
consistency will get you there.

As the Internet becomes more dependent on quality content, the need for
capable writers is only going to increase. So I ask you this: “How much can
freelance writers earn?”

The answer is very much down to your attitude. Good luck.

image credits, all from freedigitalphotos[dot]net:
> “Pink Sunglasses” by Teeratas,
> “Shocked Emotiguy” by farconville
> “Future Unknown Represents Unclear Uncertainty And Man” by Stuart Miles

Friday, August 8, 2014 Saturday, August 2, 2014 Wednesday, July 23, 2014 Saturday, July 19, 2014
What’s the DNA of a good #copywriter in 2014? | @FreelancerPlus #BloggingTips for #visibility

What’s the DNA of a good #copywriter in 2014? | @FreelancerPlus #BloggingTips for #visibility

Friday, July 18, 2014

[A Copywriter’s Toolbox] What makes for a good copywriter in 2014?

So, you’ve made your mind up - you’re going to be a copywriter. You’re handy with a keyboard and know your way around the dictionary and Thesaurus. Go, you!

What’s more, you’ve heard that setting up a blog takes mere minutes. You’ve identified a subject in which you’re confident (enough) to impart authority, add value and answer queries. Awesome! What next?

Before you carry that authority to #1 in every SERPs (hint: that’s not gonna happen, no matter what the ads tell you), there’s more to being a copywriter than writing.

For sure, go scribble monologues to your heart’s content. Release that angst in digital ink. But unless your parents conceived you on a four-leaved clover whilst holding a rabbit’s foot apiece, no one is going to find you online. Not today.

Posting your musings or diarytribe was, once upon a time, sufficient to ensure discovery. If you published on a regular basis and repeated [insert keyword here] often enough in your copy, you’d turn up in Search. After a fashion. Today, it’s not so simple.

What do clients expect of a copywriter at this semantic dawn?

The task of writing quality, authoritative content for clients is yet more demanding. You’re a copywriter first, but content marketer second.

Make no mistake, the client isn’t paying you out of allegiance or pity. Those 700 words you scribe constitute only a tiny part of their marketing strategy. Integral, yes. But not the be all and end all.

I digress. You know your trade, fair enough. But the client expects you to know theirs, too. As wrong an assumption as that may be, it’s more often than not the case. That’s why you must learn the importance of becoming not only a copywriter, but a niche expert. More on that in a later post.

Back to your client. They sell goldfish bowls. Go on then, Smart Alec. Create diverse content about 12” glass globes twice a week for a year. Not so easy, is it? And there are far more diverse and tech-savvy dependent niches than goldfish bowls.

The point is, as a freelancer, you must spend time honing your craft. Underestimate this element at your peril.

The demands of the digital market change on a whim, often led by changes in Google’s ranking algorithms. The Catch 22 is that time spent ensuring you remain ahead of your competition leaves less time to become expert in other fields.

Murder, She Wrote; Misery; Castle; Writers take the lead

The old saying “Write what you know” has cemented its place in editors’ lore for a reason. It’s even more pertinent in 2014 and beyond. Search engines rely on authority, extracted from various sources, to rank content.

Proven expertise may even trump links as a ranking factor in the not-too-distant future.

Therefore, producing an unformatted 500-word article in MS Word targeting your (client’s) topic is not enough. A client expects you to:

  • understand keyword density, structure and/or research;
  • have a Copyscape (or similar) plagiarism checker account;
  • produce content that not only conveys their message, but ranks in search and attracts social engagement;
  • create an article that fits hand-in-glove into their content marketing

In short, niche-savvy content marketers are a much more sought-after commodity than a plain old wordsmith. The times, they are a-changing.

Practise perfection before you pitch potential clients

Wouldn’t it be awesome to land a job writing about writing or digital marketing. Why? Because learning your craft and then writing about it negates having to specialise in other areas. The problem is, the competition’s hot (damn hot!). Established copywriters already tenure the majority of those roles.

Given that you’re not yet ready to dethrone the experts, grab a pencil and jot down topics about which you could write from multiple angles. Conveying opinion is one thing; providing reasoned, unbiased argument elevates your writing (and authority) to dizzying heights.

Try these for size:

  • What jobs have you held, to date?
  • What are you passionate about outside of work?
  • What specialist knowledge have you trained for/acquired?
  • To which industry sectors could your content add value?

Before launching yourself on the unsuspecting blogosphere, research the different topics you identified above exercise. If you’re still at a loss, Hubspot published a great article about identifying content topics. Get a leg up there and I’ll be back soon with an article talking about coaxing the muse.

Photo credits (both FreeDigitalPhotos[dot]net):
Quill and Inkwell: Simon Howden
Poised Asian Lady: Feelart

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

[A Copywriter’s Toolbox] Extract Data From Influencers To Grow Google+ Engagement

Here’s a useful video by +Susan Finch to help us with Google+ circle management. At 4:50 minutes, it’s a must-see that will bolster your engagement in even less time than that*.

The short video teaches us how to extract data about people we follow on Google+ using a simple tool built into +Circloscope. We can then utilise that data to garner targeted, quicker engagement on Google+ (with just a little help from MS Excel).

Exporting circles data needn’t be complicated

The video shows +Susan ripping Google+ IDs into a .csv file, all whom had engaged on a recent hangout she’d hosted. Everything is available in one export tool in Circloscope, no fancy configuring required.

Next, Susan opens a new Excel worksheet and goes to the ‘DATA’ command tab. Using ‘From Text’, Susan imports that extracted .csv file info as text*. the final step is to delimit that data with the import wizard.

The final task is to paste the +Mention info into a new G+ post to thank her engagers in public. Google+ is clever enough to translate the plain text (+ sign prefixed to 21-character unique G+ ID number) into a Plus-Mention.

In the example for this blog post, I’ll share with you the screenshots for my project. It’s detailed below, but you’ll see the relevance.

Step 1: import circle data (mine shows 51 as me and my page are in there, too):

Export circle from Circloscope

Step 2: select properties to export from Circloscope and export* (only ID is needed for my project):

Allocate properties to exported profiles in Circloscope

Step 3: import .csv data “From Text”**

Extract text data from csv file into Excel

Step 4: use import wizard to delimit columns:

Excel import wizard

It may sound complicated; if so, sorry. It’s much easier to spend the five minutes watching the video, which proves even a numpty like me can use it. In any case, your machine, either in Circloscope or on your desktop, prompts you at every turn.

*Tip: just make a mental note of where your default download location is before you import from Circloscope.

**Tip: don’t open the .csv that you export from Circloscope. It will run amok with the long 21-digit ID/+Mention data. Yes, that’s a tip from me based on first-hand experience - D’oh!

It took takes less than two minutes to import and create such a database. I’ve just done something similar for another project, more of which below.

There is, however, a proviso. To achieve the import process in such quick fashion, you must already have a Circloscope account, with your circles pre-loaded. Depending on how many people you follow will determine how long they take to load.

Tip: it’s not that quick!

And, yes - this particular “Select All” feature does work on the freemium version of Circloscope. Awesome stuff!

What you can do with the Circloscope tool - an example

The possibilities are immense, from all manner of marketing angles. You can keep track on engagers of a specific event, as Susan did. This is a great way to build relationships.

You can also import people alongside the circles into which you’ve placed them. This enables you to see at-a-glance if you need to distribute people to other circles, or delete them completely.

You can keep track on competition, see what they’re posting. Need to research a topic? Search G+ for your hashtag(s), stick those who post about it in a circle, then rip their data.

But here’s what I’m gonna do with it. I’ve created a Drive Sheet that lists
my top 49 Google Plus influencers. It came about because:

"I do so love it when Mr Jingles tells me there are 99+ notifications awaiting inspection. I click that bell and immediately check them all.”

Said no one ever.

G+49er's Schedule

This is my "Google Plus 49ers" circle, the circle formerly known as G+ on Steroids.

In the same way Susan extracted her engagers into a spreadsheet, I extracted this circle’s membership.

After cross-examining each of these individuals (not!), I lovingly loaded them, by hand, into a sheet of the workbook entitled “Top 50”. I pasted the info into a ‘Defined Name’ area in a second sheet in the workbook.

Why? Well, I can change these people often; the main page will only ever mirror the names in that area. Those changes could be based on relevance in G+ » People or just on a whim. However, it was updating the column to reflect the circle changes that used to be a pain!

I should have paid attention to +Mark Vang’s posts with more urgency! This post/video would have saved much of this labour, and some!

Monitor your industry, influencers and competition

Anyhoo, to the main sheet (and purpose) of the workbook. It’s a Weekly Schedule, designed to ensure I get around to each of my Top 50 G+ influencers. Or, should I say, “the 49ers”?

Yes, I’m in there, too, hence Top 50. Yes, the inclusion may play to my vanity, but not so much that I share my own posts (“For the evening crowd”, my eye!).

By extracting the data from Circloscope as Susan demonstrated, I copy and paste the Names and ID information into the “Top 50” sheet. They go into the named reference in Excel, so it’s important that membership numbers stay the same.

The front sheet, “Schedule”, pulls that name information through into a check-list (seen on the right beside the calendar, above). I then concatenate both a +Mention column each 49er’s G+ profile URL using the ID number and simple =CONCATENATE formulae. Both are simple enough to achieve importing only the ID number from Circloscope.

Concatenate formulae for G+49ers

I can then click through to each member’s profile to see what they’ve been up to right from the sheet. If I want to h/t them in a post - if I’m sharing through Hootsuite, say - the +Mention info’s to hand, too.

I’ve found this list handy when curating content from outside G+ via Hootsuite. Having an influencer’s +ID to hand saves loading G+ if I want to *Ping!* them about specific content.

Anyway, back to the weekly routine. Once I’ve found and shared an influencer’s post, I enter their name into the “Schedule” from the drop-down list.

Once their name appears in the weekly calendar, it’s no longer highlighted in the adjacent check-list. This helps highlight whose content I’ve got left to share for the rest of the week.


Many people, however, fear Microsoft Excel more than The Grim Reaper himself. If that’s you, here’s a video from Circloscope that demonstrates how to import the data as a .txt file right from within the tool itself:

Leverage influencers to help become known for [niche]

But the usefulness of this spreadsheet doesn’t stop there. Talking of ‘known for’ topics, how can we keep a record of the subjects about which we’re creating or curating content?

Why is it that people are following us? What do they expect from us as their half of the bargain? Because that’s what it is. When people circle us, they allow us to populate their stream with our content. Can we live up to our own billing?

And what about when we don’t know why people are following us? This could account for many followers, but who checks (or cares)?

We could have posted one Caturday image that attracted a significant number of new followers. But can we class those as relevant to our identity or goals?

Be ‘known for’ relevant topics

To help stay focused, I’ve created ten topics in which I’d like to become expert. Or at least ‘known for’. I’ve created the list in the “Top 50” tab, given the area a ‘defined name’ and it now facilitates the “Topic” dropdown list in the “Schedule”.

Choosing G+ user/author and topic in G+49er Schedule

You may want to create less topics and focus on specific niches. But I’d question aiming for more than ten. If you’re intent on covering a diverse range of topics, perhaps consider brand pages for a selection of them?

I’m not saying we can make arguments for every single person who follows us. Rather, by concentrating our content curation topics, we’ll ensure that new followers are relevant.

So, beneath the author whose post I’ve shared, I allocate a topic from a second drop-down list, too. A counter beneath the calendar tots up how many posts I’ve shared from any given niche. Again, this helps focus on a rounded week.

There’s a progressive data-bar to help us identify what topics we’ve shared week-to-date at-a-glance.

As you populate the Schedule, the data-bars will represent the given topic as a percentage of everything you’ve shared.

Yes, it’s a lot of work. I could just break down the circle into seven smaller ones and name them Sun-thru-Sat. However, that would mean breaking up the main circle into seven, compromising my UX. That sort of defeats the object of the spreadsheet.

Also, allocating set days would mean best-guessing when each influencer would publish a shareable post. Could I guarantee that by pegging each to a specific day they’d come up trumps for me? You know the Law of the Sod, right?

What is a good idea, if you don’t mind separating your main circle into two, is this:

  1. Load up your main 49-ers circle at the start of the week in G+;
  2. pick the seven most relevant stories you want to share for day one;
  3. as you share, remove the person from the main circle into a ‘done’ circle;
  4. when next you load the 49-ers circle, only people whose stories you’ve not shared will appear listed;
  5. to save you having to move everyone back at the start of the next week, just work in reverse.

Why go to such length to share other people’s content?

That’s a fair question. When you’re struggling to promote your own content, why engage on other people’s posts?

First, this is a great way to confirm whether you’ve got a relevant following. If you’re seeing little engagement, you need to begin ‘social listening’. Find and engage with those who’ll help spread your message
further and vice versa.

In addition to keeping tabs on a Plusser’s profile and topics, I also record the time. Overall, this gives us the ability to test our G+ marketing strategy, by qualifying:

  • whose posts are resonating most with your followers;
  • which topic does engagement suggest you’re most known for;
  • what time is best to post for maximum engagement and when G+, for you, becomes the ghost town about which we hear so much.

And that’s what G+ is all about: relevant engagement. It’s not about sucking up. It’s not about screaming for attention. I stopped that last month. No, this exercise is about:

  • crafting a circle and system that prevents (me and) my posts being too 1-dimensional;
  • keeps me up-to-date with each of the industry topics in which I’m interested;
  • introduces my influencers to a new audience (my 20,500+ following);
  • and (touch wood) keeps my followers in the manner to which they’ve become accustomed.

If there are ways I can improve this process, I’m all ears. Please do drop your comments and questions in the applicable space, below.

As an aside, I ripped the template straight from those proffered in MS Word. I then modified it to cover the actual week, not the working one. As a freelancer, they are one and the same.

If you want to modify a copy for your own schedule, there’s a downloadable version of my spreadsheet on OneDrive.

To make that spreadsheet work for you:

  1. make a circle on G+ with your top 49 influencers;
  2. install Circloscope (free) if you don’t already have it;
  3. load up the people you follow on Google+ into Circloscope (automatic, but may take a while);
  4. rip and import the ID info from the circle (like in Susan’s video, but “ID” and “Name” properties only);
  5. paste the Names into Column A (below A1 [Plusser]) of the Top 50 tab in your downloaded spreadsheet;
  6. paste the 21-digit numerical reference in Column B adjacent to the plusser’s reciprocal Name;
  7. I’ve copied “relevance” from Circloscope, too; this is in Column D in the downloadable spreadsheet. If you want this information, too, choose the “relevance” tag in Circloscope as per Step 2, above, then paste into Column D, again in the same row as your Plusser;
  8. overwrite my ten topics with those you want to follow/be known (Column F [Topic]);
  9. do NOT type anything into Columns C, E, G or H as these contain the formulae for profile URL and +Mentions;
  10. save the spreadsheet as a template then start curating!

Remember, the intention is to share 7 posts across 7 days, one from each of your influencers. Build a relevant following by becoming expert in targeted areas. Your followers, Google and perhaps one day your bank manager will thank you for your diligence.