Saturday, July 4, 2015

10 Tips to Hire a Professional Freelance Writer

Though everybody should try to write for their own personal reasons, professional writing is a totally different ball game. One that takes up several years of wholehearted dedication and unrelenting practice to master! On the other hand, content marketing (a method of marketing a business or company through value-added content) requires creating an awful lot of content, day in and day out. Since you have multiple other important aspects of your business to deal with including operations, management, partnerships, sales and customer service among others – and also need to find some time to enjoy the fruits of your labor – you’ll sooner or later identify the need to hire one or more professional freelance writers for churning out expert content. The sooner you realize it, the better! What deciding to work with freelance writers does at the least is that it quickly takes the extra load off your shoulders while increasing your own business productivity.

Hiring a professional freelance writer is a high recommend because – > They know their stuff passionately well. > They are faster than you can possibly be. > They don’t cost you an arm and a leg. > They can identify missed content opportunities. > They can work with you off and on. The last reason is the most compelling of all. Since a freelance writer isn’t one of your full-time employees, you won’t be stuck with them forever. For example, you can hire a freelance writer to have a batch of 10 blog posts written, get them paid for it and tell them to wait for the next assignment. They won’t ask you for a monthly salary when they do nothing for you. But all of it boils down to this fundamental question – ‘Do you know how to hire a professional freelance writer that’s best for your specific needs?’ Unless you seek the help of a specialized staffing agency, finding the perfect freelancer for your business is not going to be as easy you may imagine. Since there are so many fly-by-nighters (while everyone claiming to be nothing less than the best) and you’d never want someone to fiddle with your own or your company’s reputation at any cost, you should always tread with great care. Don’t forget that content writing is one job segment where supply outstrips demand to a greater degree. Don’t panic, anyway! As someone who’s been a freelance writer himself (working with businesses globally) for around a decade and a half now while also carrying a well-rounded experience of once managing a team of content writers at IndiaMART, India’s largest online B2B marketplace, I hope you’d allow me to provide you with some practical tips on how to hire a great freelance writer. So, here are 10 tips to make hiring a breeze for you and find a professional freelance writer that’s a best fit for your needs – #1. Create a Job Description First of all, you should have a clear picture of what you expect of the freelance writer you’re planning to hire. Equipped with a well-defined job description or a position overview (not one of the generic ones obviously), it will be easier for you to avoid many types of discrepancies that might crop up later. Here’s what a typical description should include – > Company introduction > Job roles or responsibilities > Educational qualification > Technical qualification/skills > Any other specialties > Sample topics > Mode/frequency of payment > Application requirements > Contact details Additionally, I would also advise you to include a brief overview of your specific content creation process so that applicants get a fair idea of what exactly it will be like working with your company. #2. Decide the Budget Let me put it straight – ‘You get what you pay for’. Usually, freelance writers are paid by the word, by the article or by the hour. Depending on your individual circumstances, you can choose to go with any of these formats provided it suits the writer as well. But, it’s advisable to avoid the ‘by the hour’ option since you won’t be setting up a video surveillance system to track the minute-by-minute activities of the freelance writer you decide to work with. Apart from the payment formats, you should also bear in the mind the various levels of freelance writers. Broadly speaking, there are three categories – expensive, reasonable and cheap. Let me shed some more light on each of these categories – Expensive: The best of the lot, they’re well-skilled industry professionals. You’ll hire them to take your brand’s image to the next level. If you choose to work with this category of writers, you can be sure that you’ll have the writing assignments delivered in time. And, therefore, the best ROI is guaranteed! Reasonable: Unless you’re the CEO of a big brand or a popular movie star, this is the best choice for your writing needs. Proficient in English, they deliver sound quality while also strictly meeting the given deadlines. In some cases, you may need to acclimatize this category of writers a little to suit your individual needs. Many of these writers can be as good as the writers that fall into the ‘expensive’ category. It’s only that they’re charging reasonably. Cheap: Not quite adept in English, they’re a lure for many for their cheapest writing rates. Since the quality of content created by these writers may not be acceptable, there are maximum chances that you’ll need someone else (a more proficient writer) to get the content edited for quality. Moreover, you can’t be sure of a timely delivery of projects either. So, you’ll hire them at your own risk. Therefore, you should keep all these factors in mind while deciding upon a budget for your freelance writing projects. #3. Start the Hunt Once you clearly know what you want and how much you plan to spend, it’s time to start looking. There are both free and paid options to find a freelance writer of your choice. However, it’s advisable to use only reputed sources for the hunt so that you can get the best value for your money. Use one of these – > Contently > ELance > ODesk > Problogger Additionally, you can conduct your search through LinkedIn groups and Facebook groups as well as recommendations from some of your colleagues or friends who operate in the same industry as you. #4. Evaluate the Resume (and the Cover Letter) In a freelance writer’s resume, you’ll find essential details including the objective statement, educational qualifications, professional experience, skills, specializations, achievements etc. Each of these pieces of information will give you a good idea about whether you would like to communicate with an applicant further (and identify whether or not an applicant is a fakester). The cover letter, on the other hand, will give you added insights into their language/writing skills. But what’s more important, in this regard, is that you should be able to successfully evaluate a content writer’s resume. Right from beginning till end, you’ll need to take a microscopic look at each element of the resume. For example, a generic objective statement such as ‘utilize my experiences and skills to grow both professionally and personally’ should ring the bell. A professional freelance writer will take the time to tailor-make their objective statement to your specific requirements. #5. Ask for Published Articles or Blog Posts Chances are that you’ll find the portfolio – links to published articles or blog posts – in the applicant’s resume itself. If it’s not included, you shouldn’t hesitate to get in touch with them again for the same. Looking at the online write-ups of an applicant (carrying their full name as the author) is one of the best tips to follow when it comes to making a profitable hiring decision. While screening articles, keep an eye out for each of these - > Title or headline > Introduction (or the Hook) > Paragraphs, expression and flow of ideas > Format or presentation > Conclusion > Author byline It gives you a sound idea about the professional experience of a freelance writer, their style and their tone of writing. All in all, it will make you aware of the track record of the writer. #6. Get a Test Assignment Done In most cases, the portfolio of a freelance writer does the talking. To eliminate any kind of uncertainty that you may still have regarding the skills of a freelance writer in regard to a particular niche or topic, you’re always free to devise a trial assignment. In fact, many companies these days want applicants to do a test article or a test blog post or a test press release, for example, to clearly understand the range of skills the latter can bring to the table. It provides you with a big advantage of hand-picking those who suit your requirements best. Whether the trial write-up is on a par with what you’re looking for or not, always promise to pay for the effort. And keep your word too! #7. Schedule an Interview via Skype Thanks to the advanced video-conferencing technologies, conducting an interview from simply anywhere on the planet – home, office, smartphone and tablet – is no big deal. So, schedule an online interview via Skype so that you can talk to the applicant face-to-face and ask a couple of key questions that relate to the freelancing job position you’ve on offer. Ask some of these questions – Q. What industries or niches do you mostly write about? Q. What’s your specialized niche? Q. What’s your method of conducting research? Q. Which blogs, publications or online magazines do you read? Q. Which style guide do you adhere to? Q. What’s your process of editing a first draft? Q. Do you know how to optimize content for search? Q. How do you define social media? Q. What’s your typical revision cycle? Q. How much time will you devote to my project? Q. What’s your normal turnaround time? Q. What have you included in the price? Q. Apart from writing, what other services do you offer? Connecting via Skype will also make you ware of the difference in the timezone between you and the freelance writer you want to work with. In any case, don’t forget to recheck your Skype settings well in advance so as not to waste time. [Quick Tip: Watch out for the Skype account name of the applicant you’re interviewing. Even though some variations of the first and the last name are fine, something like ‘busybee’ or ‘thehappyguy’ isn’t professional at all and should be a reason to raise an eyebrow.] #8. Set Up Communication Channels (and Collaboration Tools) When you’re working with a freelance writer, regular communication takes centrestage. Whether you want to guide the writer with some essential tips through the course of an assignment or they have a question for you, steady communication is the only solution to make things hassle-free. The communication channels and other tools that you may use for collaborating with freelance writers should be set up quickly. Give the writer a clear call on how often you’ll need to communicate with each other. If the writer refuses to commit to the communication frequency or collaboration that’s essential for getting the job done well, you should quickly reconsider your decision of working with that particular writer. #9. Be Ready to Pay Well and on Time The freelance writers you hire have a mouth to eat (or feed multiple mouths if they’ve to raise a family) and bills to pay. Professional writers genuinely care about your business and its success. They labor consistently to make your company look good on the web and bring you more customers. Therefore, have faith in their hard work and pay their invoices on time. For writers that showcase outstanding performance, be a little more generous and keep them delighted with incentives from time to time for continued motivational influence. #10. Keep Nurturing I’ve noticed that nurturing a freelance writer (provided they’re a true professional) can produce a much better outcome. The writer that you hire may need a little more time to understand what you really want. After all, it’s your brand and your story. By devoting a few extra hours, every couple of days or every week, you could guarantee a better output from the writer you’ve hired. Never hold back any essential piece of information that would help the writer create better, value-added content. Understand that it’s always a collaborative process and so stay within easy reach of the writer. On the other hand, keep a close watch on the metrics. If you see that the writer is constantly underperforming, don’t take too long to call it a day. Speak your mind frankly without being resentful. Rinse and repeat all the steps mentioned above, move on, find a better writer. The world isn’t small. Reports (and success stories) about content marketing are making the rounds on the web quite frequently. Whether you operate in travel industry, fashion industry, healthcare industry, hospitality industry, retail industry, education industry or simply in any other profitable niche, you’ll certainly need high quality content to market your products and services. That’s why the demand for professional freelance writers is on the rise, day after day. As a matter of fact, even many successful writers themselves are hiring other freelance writers for help. If you’re sure it’s time to seek professional writing help to launch your content marketing campaigns for more profits, you shouldn’t waste any more time. [For advice on content planning and creation, feel free to hit me up on Skype or send me an email at hiobaid[at]] How did you like these tips? Please feel free to leave a comment or share an opinion in the space provided below. Related Posts : Essential Tips to Evaluate a Content Writer’s Resume Why You Shouldn’t Hire Writers with Poor Grammar Why You Should Hire a Blog Editor 1st Quality Content’s 10 Best Blog Posts of 2014 - See more at:

27 proven freelance marketing tips

Marketing matters. Even for freelancers. Especially for freelancers. Here are the things that work for me:

  1. Wake up! No marketing = no business. This realisation is the necessary starting point.
  2. Brand you. For freelancers, Tom Peters’ book The Brand You 50: Reinventing Work is fundamental. You are selling yourself as much as your time and services. Everything you do is marketing.
  3. The Trusted Advisor. David Maister’s book (The Trusted Advisor) is full of good marketing advice for freelance consultants and professionals.
  4. Allocate time. It’s really important to carve out time every day to do some kind of marketing activity. It’s also important to dedicate a day or two every month (more if you’re starting out). There’s are no big bangs in marketing but you can make the universe expand steadily. Getting up early can create extra time for marketing.
  5. Daily pitch. The daily pitch is something that worked really well for me when I was a journalist. I’d just email an editor with a story idea once a day. Now, I try to contact a customer or prospective customer every day in one way or another. I might try to set up a meeting, make a call, send an interesting link etc. Sometimes, it’s just about keeping the lines of communication open. It’s all about personal contact.
  6. Keep marketing when you’re busy. The biggest mistake I regularly make is to get so busy that I forget to market myself. When you’re busy, you need to be lining up the next deal so you don’t have any downtime. (It’s like the farmer with the leaky roof. When it’s raining it’s too wet to fix it and when it’s dry is just as good as any man’s house.)
  7. Meetings are marketing too. If possible, never turn down an invitation to a meeting. Sometimes, those tedious interruptions are your best marketing opportunities. Big companies love big meetings and they are a good way to meet new people at your existing clients.
  8. Don’t be afraid. If you have confidence in what you do, there is no reason to fear being thought ‘pushy’.  Marketing isn’t like selling second hand cars. You are trying to reach people who NEED what you have to sell and who would be customers if only they knew you existed and could help them. I think perhaps this reluctance is a peculiarly English phenomenon.
  9. Think about technique. I really like Chris West and Mike Southron’s Sales on A Beermat. It’s short (always good) and it contains really helpful tips about how to make a pitch and how to generate new business. One tip which is very good for initial contacts is to ask for a ten minute meeting to introduce yourself. There aren’t many people who can’t spare ten minutes if it might be useful to them.
  10. Try different things. When I started Articulate Marketing, I hired a PR company, started a blog and ran some seminars. The blog was fun and helped a little.  The seminars were fantastic and generated a lot of business. The PR didn’t help at all. There are no guarantees in marketing and the best approach is experimental and based on evidence.
  11. Keep track of pitches. I use Excel to track pitches and opportunities. I do this because I keep my accounts in Excel too (I know, my accountant wants to shoot me too.) But it gives me a single page where I can see my sales pipeline, orders, work in progress, invoices outstanding, VAT and tax liability. It’s like a business control panel. I get away with Excel because my business is relatively simple from a bookkeeping perspective.  (In my last business, I used Sage and had to employ a bookkeeper and a financial controller to tell me the same information and it was always about a month after the fact. Never again.) I reviewed three great customer relationship management (CRM) tools for freelancers.
  12. React fast. It’s vital to react quickly to requests.  A good reputation in my business comes from delivering good quality work, on brief, on budget and above all on time.  However, occasionally, my clients need me to pull a rabbit out of a hat. Delivering a 2,000 word article over a weekend can save a client’s skin and people remember that stuff. In practical terms, it means being constantly available by phone and email, returning calls and emails promptly and occasionally working over the weekend. Importantly, it means seeing all this as a marketing opportunity not a huge drag.
  13. Automate processes.  I have a template for briefs which helps me produce a good, detailed brief for my clients very quickly. It saves them having to write it and it helps me look efficient and thorough. It’s all about thinking through the process in advance and automating or streamlining as much as possible.
  14. Your obvious is your talent. An editor at Wired told me that if I wanted to write about everything, I had better be the best writer in the world. Better to be the go-to guy for aviation articles than a hack writing about every topic under the sun. As a freelancer, it’s really difficult to do everything well. Better to be a deep expert in one area and cultivate a network of agencies, friends and colleagues who can fill in the gaps.
  15. Seminars. I regular seminars and they are very effective ways to bring in new clients and new work. It takes a bit of organising and you have to talk about something that a) is interesting to an audience and b) lets you display your talents without being too commercial. I’m thinking of running the seminars again but perhaps with more focus on social media and blogging.
  16. Blog. My blog has only generated a small amount of work directly. However, it has been fun. It helped me refine and think through my ideas. It also helped establish my credentials when it came to pitching a couple of corporate blogs. It has also been a very valuable aid to search engine optimisation.
  17. Website. My website,, gets many fewer visitors than my blog but I guess people who go there actually want to know about my business. The first thing most people do when they get an email or a pitch from a company is look up a website.  Companies without a website (or for that matter their own email domain name) look like small beer.
  18. Follow-up.  “Is there anything else I can do to help?” Doesn’t hurt to ask?
  19. Add value. Setting up extranet to act as a library for deliverables and a way of sharing progress and deadlines with clients (I use Basecamp) is one easy way to add value. In my case, hiring a professional proofreader to check my paid-for work (but not my blog – I’m too cheap) and having proper professional indemnity insurance are two other ways.
  20. Become an expert. Spend the time to understand your customer’s products and services. For example, I bought and installed Microsoft Small Business Server 2003 before I wrote about it and I am now the owner of a shiny collection of HP kit.
  21. Upsell. Would you like to supersize that? There’s always some extra work or value you can offer. If they want a case study, why not offer a good deal on a PowerPoint ‘win card’ based on the same copy?
  22. Attach.  Would you like fries with that?  If they want some website copy, why not offer them a website review as well?
  23. Intra-company recommendations. My biggest source of new business is new people inside my existing clients. I don’t think it hurts to ask your customers if there’s anyone else they know who might be able to use your work. I find that the more work I do for a given client, the more connections I am able to make for them. For example, I can write about notebooks for HP but I can also link their services and so on because of other projects I’ve done for them.
  24. Get rostered. This is the key thing with big clients. Once you’re a rostered agency, it’s easy for new people inside big companies to hire you. If you have a unique and valuable service someone will find a way to add you to the roster of approved suppliers. Finding such a champion and offering such a service is the right way to go about it. Going via the purchasing department or as a subcontractor to another agency is a guaranteed way to slash your margins. In my experience, it also constrains your ability to do the kind of good work that the customer wants.
  25. Find a flagship client. I was very lucky to be hired by Microsoft for a project early on. A flagship client is like a passport to other companies.
  26. Find a better market. I used to do a lot of journalism. In many ways it was harder than the corporate writing I do now. For instance, I had to spend a lot of time developing and pitching stories.  Also, there was a lot of people who wanted to be freelance journalists so it didn’t pay very well. The biggest change in my life came when I decided that I didn’t want to play that game any more.  Instead of free-pitching magazine editors for badly-paid articles, I switched to a different market altogether.
  27. Stuff that doesn’t work: In my experience lots of stuff doesn’t help: fancy business cards, brochures, mail shots, random cold calling, PR.

6 Habits You Can Learn Right Now to Be a More Productive Artist for Life

Productivity for an artist or designer really isn’t that much different compared to any other knowledge worker. Tasks and projects can come in from others through traditional means, such as email or meetings. What it really comes down to, when determining your productivity, is how those tasks are handled.
A common misconception about productivity is that it equates to doing a lot of work. On the contrary, it’s actually about allowing yourself to focus on making sure the work you’re doing is the right work. This, in the long run, ends up meaning not only less work but also less work redone and, of course, less stress.
When it comes to productivity, a little bit of effort each day can go a long way towards building up habits that will help you become more organized, effective and, eventually, a more successful artist.

Find an Organizational Method

Whether you’re working with storyboards or reference images, to start any project, you need to do some research first. Productivity is no different. Before you can expect to become a more productive artist, you need to figure out what that exactly means for you.
A great first step in this direction is to find a single way to organize all of the work that you do. Think of this like the storyboards to productivity. When creating an animation, the first step is to sketch out storyboards to decide on the sequence of events that are going to be in the final animation. The process of creating the storyboards help you get a better idea of what your end goal for the animation will be.
Similarly when you want to organize all of the work you do, the first step isn’t to jump in and start organizing everything. The first step is to take a step back and figure out how you want to organize everything. Would it make sense to group together things that need to be done this week? Or would it be better to organize things by your location (e.g., so you can see everything you need to do at work while you’re at work and everything you need to do at home while you’re at home, etc.)
Since this organizational method is for your purposes only, there isn’t a right or wrong way to go about this. In fact, don’t be surprised if you’ll need to make changes along the way. But it would be setting yourself up for failure to dive into trying to get organized without even knowing what “organized” means.
While you can try coming up with a system of your own, there’s no need to re-invent something that millions of other productive people around the world have already figured out. There’s a great post over at Lifehacker to discuss some of these popular productivity methods. Just like any experienced artist will tell you that beautiful art can be created with any software program, any experienced productivity specialist will tell you that the method you use doesn’t matter. Personal productivity is, after all, very personal and what works for you may not be what works for someone next to you. The key is that it is something that makes sense to you.
This might sound simple, but more often than not this is the “make or break” for why many people fall off the “organized” bandwagon and lose interest in productivity. The reason for this is simple: No matter what organizational method you use, it’s not going to be something you master overnight. As a general rule of thumb, it takes about 21 to 30 days to form a habit. That’s exactly what this is, so give it some time.

Don’t Let Productivity Stay at Your Desk

Do you find that you’re often thinking about a project outside of work? You’re not the only one. While this certainly isn’t a bad thing, when you’re not in a position to do anything about it that can cause mental strain that leads to unnecessary stress.
With the high-end software in the CG industry today, the hardware that is required to run that software is equally powerful. Costs have certainly come down in the past few years and technology is advancing, but we’re still a ways away from being able to really get work done with CG software from everywhere.
For example, if you’re a ZBrush artist you’ll really only be able to get work in ZBrush done when you’re in front of a system that can handle it. So until they find a way to port ZBrush for mobile devices (wouldn’t that be nice?), you can’t do much on your character sculpt when you’re on a train with only your phone.
But what you can do while you’re away from your desk is to jot down or sketch out any thoughts or notes about your sculpt so you can actually make those changes once you’re back in front of ZBrush. The same is true no matter what type of the pipeline you may be a part of. There will be times you’re away from your system and often times that may be when your creativity strikes.

Multitasking (Successfully) Is a Myth

While your computer may be able to multitask successfully, the human brain doesn’t really work that way. While this may be a controversial subject for many, if you really think about it, multitasking is nearly impossible to do successfully. To see this in action, below’s a little activity you can do.
You’ll need something to write with (pen or pencil), paper and a stopwatch.
On the paper, time yourself writing down the letters of the alphabet with the number just below it. So it’d look something like this:
1 2 3 4
Here’s what ours looked like:

Once you’ve reached Z 26, stop the timer and write down how long that took you to do.
Next, reset the timer and time yourself again. This time, though, instead of doing the letters and numbers at the same time write the letters first. Only after you’ve finished the letters should you write all of the numbers underneath the letters. Again, here’s what ours looked like during the second part of this little activity:

When you’ve finished, compare the time it took for you to write down the letters separately than the numbers. The end result is that you have the letters A – Z and the numbers 1 – 26. The results are the same, so why does it take a lot less time to write down the letters first and then the numbers? The reason is simple. The human brain works best when it can focus on one thing at a time.

Control Your System, Not the Other Way Around

Whether you leave work late in the evening or in the early hours of the morning, you probably have a really good idea of what you need to get done the next day. When you get your morning cup of coffee and sit down to work, checking email is actually one of the least productive things you can do. By doing this, you’re derailing the roll you were on the day before and allowing any tasks that come through email to control your day instead of starting the day by working on what you know you need to get done that day. A great way to overcome this is to find a system that works with your preferred productivity methodology you can check often.
The term “trusted system” is something you’ll find common among productivity experts, most notably those who use the popular Getting Things Done (GTD) methodology. No matter which methodology you find works best for you, a key part is finding a way to capture not only your tasks and reminders from other sources such as email, but any ideas or creative sparks you might have wherever you are. This needs to be done in such a way that you can not only refer back to it when you’re able to do something about it, but most importantly that will allow your mind not to stress about that idea or task from now until you’re actually able to do it.
While your system should be flexible enough to be mobile, it should be powerful enough that you can refer back to it when you need to. The goal here is to find a way to pull everything you have to do out of your head and dump it into some sort of a system you know will be there when you need it. It could be a computer program, an app on your phone, a notebook or even a system of folders.

Don’t Check Your Email Constantly

How often do you check your snail mail? While the use of snail mail has declined in recent years, it is still something that most of us will
check at least once a day. And yet when it comes to the electronic version, all too often we build up a habit of checking it almost constantly throughout the day either on our computers or mobile devices.
If you really think about it, though, the contents of most email really isn’t that much different than snail mail. Very rarely, if ever, will there be an email that would have immediate detrimental effects if you drop everything and work on whatever is asked of you in that email. If something is that important, there are other means of communication such as phone calls or even just face to face chatting.
As contradictory as it may seem at first, you’re likely to find that if you limit the amount of times you check your email throughout the day, the more productive you become. This is precisely the reason why you were able to write the letters and numbers faster on their own than together in the multitasking activity above. By blocking off times to focus solely on your email, you’re not only allowing yourself to focus on your email but you’re also avoiding the distraction email provides throughout the day. This will help you focus on doing what you do best: create art.
A great tool to get you started and block off your time is Google Calendar. Try creating a new calendar and set reminders for when to check email each day. Some common timing would be to check email once in the morning and once in the afternoon, but feel free to adjust it as you need. The key is to consciously block off time to check email instead of letting it become something that you do all the time throughout the day.

Keep Learning

As long as new technologies are created by CG artists around the world who continue to push the envelope, there will always be the need for artists to stay up-to-date on those tools and techniques. Similarly, the number of tools and techniques people around the world, from all walks of life, utilize to get stuff done is ongoing. There are millions of people around the world that use any number of techniques to be productive. The chances are pretty good that you’re not alone in overcoming any sort of challenge as you embark on your new productive lifestyle.
Just as it’s a good idea to focus on learning one application at a time, as a general rule of thumb, it’s a good idea to focus on improving one aspect of your productivity at a time. For example, are you getting swamped with emails? Focus on methods for clearing out your inbox. Once you’ve mastered that technique, find another area that you can improve.
This constant improving process is something that will be a lot easier to do if you set aside some time each week to find new tools and techniques for learning productivity. For each of those new tools or productivity methodologies will come plenty of communities of other users who are using them. Join those communities on your favorite social networking platforms and start interacting with others. As you have questions, you’ll have some places to go ask those questions right away without much effort. This will help you focus your precious time on finding the answers to your questions without wasting extra time finding where to get those answers.
If you have some productivity tips of your own that you’d like to share with other artists, we’d love to hear about them in our forums.

How To Be A Successful Freelance Artist

Becoming a freelance artist isn’t typically something decided overnight. There may be many reasons why you’re considering taking this route with your career. A couple of common reasons could be that you’re tired of jumping from studio to studio to work on the next project or you’re a recent graduate and feel you can make it as a freelance artist instead of going for a studio job.
While it may be tempting to work at home in your pajamas, becoming a successful freelance artist is not an easy task. It takes lots of hard work, preparation and determination. This article will cover some very important tips any freelance artist should consider in order to be successful.

Be Prepared

This might be the most important tip for you to consider if you want to be a freelance artist. As you just start out, don’t expect to have clients lined up waiting to have you work on their high-paying project. Your first several months can be spent just trying to find clients. This can mean a long period with no source of income.
That is why you shouldn’t quit your job or suddenly dive into freelance work if you aren’t prepared. Before you ever take the plunge, you need to have a safety net established. You should have at least four to five months of living expenses saved up; this includes everything from rent money, food, gas, etc. Basically everything you need in order to live.
It can be hard to be creative when you’re worrying about where your next meal is coming from, so being prepared with some money up front can help. You can spend your time searching for clients and not have to worry about not making rent on time. Remember, once you get your first client that doesn’t mean they’ll keep falling in line either. At any point there can long periods of time before you find another client, so you should always have this type of savings set up as a fall back.

Set a Schedule

As a freelance artist you’re pretty much you’re own boss, so it’s up to you to keep yourself accountable. One of the best ways to do this is to set a schedule for yourself. How many hours a day do you plan on working? How much time do you want to spend per day searching for new clients? You should also establish the times when you want to start working and when you want to stop. Of course, it can be nice to wake up at ten and start working at eleven, but this can be a bad habit to get into. Instead, try to set a normal work schedule for yourself; this will help you stay on track. Remember, your clients will often have regular work schedules and will probably expect you to answer your phone if they call first thing in the morning.
You can even take this a step further and find a time clock application on your computer or mobile device. If you want to work eight hours a day, start the clock when you start working and be sure to pause it for any breaks you might take. This way you’re able to break procrastination and keep yourself inline to stick to a typical work schedule. Using a time clock can also help you manage your billable time spent on different clients.

Don’t Sell Yourself Short…or Not at All

Steer clear of, “I can’t pay you for this, but if you do a good job there will be lot’s of work in the future.” This is something most freelance artists out there have probably encountered at some point in their career. It may be worded slightly different but it usually means the same thing: the promise of lots and lots of money and work down the road. Of course for this particular project, there isn’t any money in it, but as long as you prove yourself the client is going to have so much work for you in the future!
As tempting as that may sound it usually isn’t true. You need to make a living and doing free work isn’t the best route to take. Of course, that isn’t to say a client is lying or purposely trying to be hurtful, but you shouldn’t sell yourself short. Being an artist is just like any other job that requires a lot of hard work. You should be compensated for your effort.

Expect to Make Less When Starting Out

A common misconception when beginning to freelance is that you’re going to be making big sums of money as soon as you start. However, when you’re just starting out you most likely won’t have a huge client base or large portfolio, so don’t expect to make as much as the more experienced freelance artists out there right away.
In order to get more work, you’ll need to bid much lower on a project compared to the more experienced artists, simply because you don’t have the experience they do. Sure, you may be just as talented, but from a client’s perspective you’re brand new. You might have to make those sacrifices in order to make yourself more appealing.
As you gain more work and experience you can gradually start charging more for each project, but don’t come right out of the gate charging the same amount as the freelance artist who has been doing it for years. If you do, you will find it very difficult to get work.
Remember, too, that as a freelancer you’ll need to pay for things that are often covered by a studio, like insurance. These additional costs can come out of your bottom line making the amount you bring home seem like even less.

Be Persistent

As a freelance artist you’re inevitably going to run into clients who simply don’t pay you for your work. You may have agreed on a price but now they aren’t paying. Unfortunately this is a situation that’s too common, so you’ll need to be tough and persistent in order to get what’s owed to you.
This could mean calling, emailing or whatever it takes to get the client’s attention. This isn’t to say every client is going to do this. In fact it’s probably an extremely small amount. As you gain more experience this will be less of an issue for you, but it’s still important to keep in mind especially if you’re just breaking into the freelance world.

Avoid Distractions

In order to stay productive and keep on schedule, you need to eliminate anything during your work time that might be a distraction for you. As mentioned before it’s up to you to keep yourself accountable. Working from home is nice, but it can be very easy to slip out of the schedule you established for yourself. For instance looking at Facebook for “just a moment” can quickly turn into an hour spent away from your work. Just like most studios out there won’t allow you to surf Facebook during work hours, you should keep the same mindset for yourself.
A great way to stay on track and avoid procrastination is to act the same way you would normally if you were working in a studio environment. You may be in your own home, but if you were at a studio would you take a quick break to surf the web or catch something on TV? Probably not.

Constantly Search for Work

Most freelance artists will probably tell you a majority of your time is actually spent searching for clients and trying to get that next project lined up. Even when you’re working on a project, you should still schedule yourself some time to be searching for your next client. The end of a project can sneak up on you very quickly and before you know it you’re finished without another client lined up. This translates to no income for a while.
To help avoid this you should constantly be searching for new work and new clients. Join Linkedin, forums, job boards, etc, anything you think will help get you noticed, because most often you’ll need to find the clients and not the other way around.

Have a Professional Attitude

Clients want to know their project is in the right hands. You should be maintaining a professional attitude throughout an entire project, whether it’s through email, video chat, phone calls, etc. Even if the client may be difficult to work with it’s still important to keep a professional attitude.
Keep in mind too that one of the best ways to gain more clients is through word of mouth. If a client enjoyed working with you, they might recommend you to a friend or colleague. So try to leave a good lasting impression on each one of your clients.

If you’re ready to make that next step into becoming a freelance artist, make sure you take these tips into consideration. Freelancing certainly isn’t for everyone as it can be a very difficult path to take. However, if it’s done right, it can be very rewarding as well. If you want to make your work even more appealing to clients check out the Demo Reel Tips and Portfolio Tips to help you present your work in the best way.

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Basic SEO Tips And Tricks For Bloggers

Okay, before you go thinking about SEO too much, just remember that there’s a lot of old advice out there that doesn’t work anymore in 2014. You could waste millions of hours on dumb ideas. So don’t.
Just write. Keep writing.
That said, it’s important to know what people are searching for. You might be using a particular phrase over and over, when most people search for a slightly different phrase. That would be truly annoying.

Basic SEO For Your Domain Name

You also will want to get a domain early on so that any backlinks go to your domain and not And when you buy that domain for your writer platform blog or niche topic, it’s worth thinking about SEO first. Also keep in mind the overall topic of your blog and any books you’re planning on writing within that niche.
As a writer, basic SEO is just a small piece of your overall marketing strategy, but understanding SEO is important for choosing domain names. Once you’ve read this post you’ll see why.

Finding Keywords For Search Engine Optimization

Your first and most useful beginner keyword tool is to simply type things into Google and see what it suggests. This is what people really search for (and sometimes the results can be a shock). These are the words that need to appear in your blog somewhere. For the big obvious search terms, you might want to incorporate the words into your domain name, your tagline or a short “about” section in your sidebar. This way it will show up in all of the pages of your blog.
Now, to rank for a particular keyword, that keyword generally has to actually be in your blog, or someone else needs to be linking to you with those words in the anchor text or SEO title of their post. The quickest way to get those keywords linked to you then, is to do it yourself.

If you have a tennis blog, the first things you see in the search when you type tennis (and wait to see what Google suggests will follow) is “tennis warehouse” “tennis rankings” “tennis results” “tennis court lyrics” “tennis elbow”. If your blog is about Tennis, it’s not so difficult to think about a post about tennis elbow. But WHAT about tennis elbow do people search for? Type in “tennis elbow” and wait to see what Google suggests. The results include tennis elbow exercises, for one. That’s a good place to start. Note that some people would call this a keyphrase, but most people call it a keyword, despite there being multiple words.

It’s worth checking even further to find the long tail keywords. You see, as a beginner blogger you’re not likely to get to Google’s page 1 for “tennis” anytime soon, or even “tennis elbow” at a guess. But you might get to page 1 for “tennis elbow exercises therapy” if you write a great post about it.

Note, there are lots of advanced keyword analysis techniques out there that involve checking the competition for those keywords. There are also tricks such as using LSI keywords (Latent Semantic Indexing Keywords), which you’ll automatically do if you’re a writer with a good thesaurus in your brain. You’ll get to all that later, but for now just stick to the basics.

Write Posts For Your Keywords

For each keyword you find that is relevant to your blog, write a post specifically that uses the keyword so that you have your on-page SEO sorted. For this, you have to think a little like a robot. Not for your writing, but just for a minute or so before you start. You see, for best results we need the words “Tennis Elbow Exercises” to appear together a few times. Writing “I love the new exercises for my tennis elbow” is not as effective as “My physio showed me a bunch of new tennis elbow exercises that are working really well” when you are targeting “tennis elbow exercises”. Strangely, because this is a robot we’re talking about, you can add punctuation in between the words and it won’t affect things (last I heard, anyway). For instance, “I hate my tennis elbow. Exercises every day are a complete drag” will still be useful. There is some intelligence behind the robot behaviour though, so don’t force things and get unnatural about it. Natural language and placement is key these days.
You also need your keyword to appear in certain places in your post, such as:
  • In the title of the post (and the slug).
  • In a heading or two (H1 and H2 tags).
  • In anchor text to a relevant website.
  • A least once in the actual body of text (don’t overdo it).
  • In image titles and alt image tags.
Note that the slug (the bit of your post URL after your domain) should be keyword-rich rather than some generated link that makes no sense. It should also be brief and to the point.
It’s for this reason that you also want your blog’s domain name to have some relation to your primary keywords. If your domain contains “tennis” that’s a start. If your domain is “Tennis Elbow” you could soon be big in the world of tennis elbow rankings. If your upcoming book is about tennis elbow too, you’re onto a winning idea. Now you get it? Check out NameCheap to get your domain sorted.

Getting Ranked For Words That Describe Your Blog

There is a slight hitch when you want to get ranked for something you are, rather than something you’re likely to write about. For instance, if you were a blogger wanting to get into the results for “tennis blogs”. Robots want to see the words “tennis blogs” on the blog or they want to see someone linking to your blog from a post about “Tennis blogs”.

People seem to be searching for “tennis blogs on Tumblr”, so why not write a list of your favourite tennis blogs on Tumblr? Obviously, make note of your own blog in the list! This approach is useful for a lot of reasons:
  • You get to use those keywords.
  • You get to show off your favourite bloggers and make some alliances.
  • Those bloggers might share your post.
  • Those bloggers might write their own list with you in it (which gets those keywords coming back to you too).
  • You get seen as an authority or interesting blog to read on a given topic.
  • More bloggers might share the subsequent posts.
  • List posts by nature are likely to be popular.

Don’t Blog Alone

You might be writing your blog all by yourself, but the blogger world is bigger than you. Consider the point above for a second and you’ll soon see why this is one of the best SEO tips for bloggers: you need friends and allies for SEO purposes. It’s more than that though. You need conversation and peers to keep you going. If you think you’re alone you might stop blogging altogether. And besides, learning what other people know and chatting to people who share the same interests as you is fun.
Make sure you respond to your own reader comments, as multiple comments show search engines that your content is generating conversation. It also builds relationships with those commenters, so that’s win-win.
It’s easy to get trapped into thinking about backlinks and social media when you’re considering SEO for blogging. But don’t focus on it. Just get out there and make some blogger friends. If one of your blogger friends happens to have a following already, consider writing a guest post for them. You might be surprised by how many new visitors your blog receives after a guest post!
When you’re winding down from a day of blogging, hit the forums, visit your favourite Facebook groups, browse some relevant hashtags on Twitter, check your RSS feed and make a few comments on other people’s blogs. You’ll eventually make some good friends and the rest will fall into place naturally. When real people like your content, more real people will find out about it.

Linking Within Your Blog

Another SEO tip to keep in mind as a beginner blogger is that you should always link to your own posts. If you have nothing relevant to link to, write it later and then update the post with links to your new content.
Think about it from a reader perspective. They may browse your blog by tag or category for a while, but they will almost never browse by date. How are they going to find all the other great content you’ve written? Well, you have to tell people it’s there and link to it. Also, from an SEO point of view, this tells the robots which posts are related to each other. And if you choose your anchor text correctly, it will tell the robots what the post is about.
For instance, if you’re linking to your post titled “The Tennis Elbow Exercises My Physio Recommends” you might link to it from another article using a sentence like “By the way, here are the tennis elbow exercises that my physio recommends”. But you wouldn’t link to it using the anchor words “my physio recommends”, but rather the words “Tennis Elbow Exercises” because then the robots following the link know what it’s actually about. The reader probably won’t care which words are used to link as the whole sentence tells them what to expect. The better you can merge the two goals of linking the better your blog will become. Do it with every post and you’ll appreciate the benefits in the long term.

Improve Your Load Time

If your page takes ages to load, your SEO will suffer. So, if you’re self-hosting your blog, make sure the host is a good one! We use SiteGround for our forum and recommend them, so check them out.

Try A Plugin

Self-hosted blogs can try plugins like the ones by Yoast to help out with SEO-related tweaks. This is fantastic if you have no idea what you’re doing, and even better if you do.

Update Your Blog With Quality Content

Write for readers and write often. For starters, have a decent blog design for your blog. If you use WordPress, check out Themeforest for professionally designed themes. Also make sure that your navigation is sensible, and that you use great images in your posts.
Getting found in search results is all about the content, so keep writing quality content on a regular basis. These days, 300 words is considered an absolute minimum, but many SEO experts vouch for 1500-3000 words as an ideal blog post length. Also, you should proofread your post. Readers and robots alike consider decent spelling to be a quality indicator.
Whenever you publish a blog post, you’re essentially telling search engines that your website as a whole is still current. If every post is of a decent length and features a decent article, you’re already well above a lot of the blogs out there. Plus, you’re giving your fans something new and interesting to read. And you write for them, don’t you?

7 SEO Tips And Tricks That Will Get You Ranked In 2015

There is no better spot than number one. Second place, in life or within Google, doesn’t cut it. You need to ensure that you are aiming for the spot of top dog in 2015. SEO has been the way to do this for years. There is no sign of that changing anytime soon. But, now it’s time to get your eyes on the prize. Number one and higher rankings are the way forward in the coming year. Of course, every business, marketer and digital expert all have their eyes on the lucrative prize. But, there are some savvy ways that you can ensure SEO success. Whether you are new to the game or a world hardened marketer, there are some excellent tips and tricks that you can use. This is imperative when honing your new SEO strategy for 2015.

Entrepreneurs, bloggers and marketing gurus all want to know two fundamental things:
  • How can I achieve more traffic?
  • How can I make sure that I don’t get attacked by Google’s animals? Namely, Penguin, Panda and Hummingbird?

SEO Tips And Tricks

Avoiding penalisation and securing the top spot within Google doesn’t have to be a difficult task. On the contrary, there are some savvy ways to reign supreme within Google. You can ensure maximum success. But, do be prepared to put in the legwork. This will take time and success cannot be attained overnight.
Let’s take a look at seven SEO tips and tricks that will guarantee rankings in 2015.

1. It’s Time to Hit More Traffic and Focus on the Local

In life, no one wants more traffic, aside from the SEO whizz. So, now it’s time to make sure that you are focussing on attaining more traffic to your site. Your website needs to be optimised for success. This means that you need to include your location on your site. Hit directories. Use citations. These are all fundamental ways of growing your business and making sure that you are getting on board with local SEO. Local SEO is one of the best ways of making your rank higher. What is more, it’s going to be a key way to ensure higher rankings going into 2015.

2. Optimise Your Site With Mobile in Mind

Mobile optimisation is not just user-friendly, it is Google friendly too. So, if you want to make sure that you are ranking higher than before, you need to devise a strategy with mobile in mind. Apps and responsive design are vital to your success. Google has stated that it loves responsive design as it feels that it has the customer in mind. Google has a number of mobile-friendly tests that you can take to ensure that your site is hitting all of the right notes. If your site is not as responsive as it should, or it does not pass the Google mobile-friendly test with top marks, it’s time to devise a new site. Yes, this can be expensive. But, it’s a keen way of ensuring success in 2015. Do bear in mind that mobile traffic is paving the way to a brighter future.

3. Don’t Forget About Bing and Yahoo (Yes, Really)

Okay, so coveting the top spot on Google is the ultimate dream. But, you need to think outside of the Google box. With this in mind, consider the other search engines. Yes, there are others. Bing and Yahoo are used widely by a lot of people. Yahoo is going to be the default search engine within Firefox. What is more, the Google deal with Safari is drawing to an end in 2015. While Google is a great place to start thinking about rankings, you need to make sure that you are thinking about the other search engines too. These options are becoming more commonplace with internet users, so don’t alienate a potential customer or viewer base by solely focussing on Google.

4. Take a Look at ROI Metrics

Keywords are vital. But don’t forget to take a look at your ROI metrics. In the coming year, this is essential that you do this. You need to ensure that you are looking at metrics, so that you can see what is working for you and what is not. This means that you can look more closely at conversions and viewership. Then, you can ascertain whether this has seen a definite return on investment. You can then hone and adopt new keywords to ensure that you are targeting the right people.

5. An Integrated Social Media Approach: Make Social Media Your Focus

Social media is so much more than merely sharing content. Of course, we should never forget the importance of content. But, you need to make social media your focus in 2015 if you want to get ranked. According to Jacob Maslow, social media is a positive marketing channel. But it can also be used as a customer service focal point. You need to engage with your brand and talk to your clients and viewers. Without this, you are just another faceless business. It’s time to get personal. Focus on the main social media sites. Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. Don’t sign up to every social media site under the sun and spam relentlessly. A loyal customer base is vital. But, you can also generate more revenue from doing this.

6. Earn Your Links

Earning links is now going to be the best way of ensuring that much-coveted number one spot. Inbound links are essential. You need to ensure that you are earning your links. This should be done on high authority sites. Do ensure that you are not spamming or using too many links all over the place. This is not the way to achieve success. What’s more, you may incur a Google penalty in the process.

7. Keywords, Keywords, Keywords!

Keywords are still a mainstay for SEO experts. But, you need to ensure that you are researching your keywords in a more robust way. You need to understand traffic patterns, buying habits and purchase patterns. This helps you target people in a more robust way. What is more, you can guarantee more success from using this kind of in-depth keyword research.

Blogging Tips And Tricks You Can Implement Today

It can be hard to get a new blog up and running. Anyone can make a blog, but separating yourself and becoming unique is the hard part. However, if you'd like to discover how to make your blog rise above the rest, keep on reading. The tips in this article will help you take your blog to the next level.

Don't stuff your blog posts with keywords and don't overload your blog with Adsense ads, plug-ins or large images. Doing so will only get you flagged by a search engine, and it will erase all of the hard work that you are trying to do. Write naturally, and make sure that your blog posts are easy to read.

When you set up your blog, it may be wise to buy a domain name instead of utilizing a free site. Acquiring a domain name is inexpensive and will ensure a professional appearance. This will allow users to find you more easily, and it will also help when it comes to search engine optimization.

Make sure that your blog is unique. Readers flock to content that they can't find anywhere else. Visitors will also be drawn to rare material. Write about unique experiences or hobbies. Provide specifics of how widgets are made. You need to give readers a reason to visit your blog if they are searching for information.

Always strive to be real. Don't pretend to know everything. Honesty, transparency, and openness are critical qualities to convey. This must be done consistently. This will help your blog to stand out as one that it individual in nature and easy to read. Don't waste time being a perfectionist. View this as a work in progress. It is not the end of the world if you make a mistake, and post something that is incorrect. Ultimately, people will want to read your content because of the unique spin you put on it.

Lists make great blog content. Whether you're blogging about romance novels; the ingredients required to make a recipe; or how to repair a refrigerator; a list is very important. By incorporating lists into your blog, you allow readers to quickly find relevant information.

Include navigation buttons on your blog, so that your readers can reach you through social media. Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and many others social networking sites are highly advantageous to your success and author recognition. You can easily reach more readers and followers with these web portals.

While trying to build a blog following, stay patient. It takes time for online viewers to come across your blog. Also, it will take time to build up the content base that readers expect from a quality blog. The longer you stick to blogging, the more content you'll accumulate, and the more readers will be interested in it.

It will make your blog have integrity if you stick to a schedule that is regular. Your readers have plenty of blog-reading options, and they may as well take advantage of a different one if you post inconsistently. Holidays are one exception, but you should be consistently posting to your blog.

Once you have established a well-written and unique blog, you can sit back and wait as the visitor count increases. Use these tips to bring in more readers than you ever thought possible.
Blogging on a subject that you love can be fun and even lucrative. You have just found a helpful resource that you will be able to use to improve an existing blog, or starting a new one that reflects your own interests. The following article will offer ideas on things you need to learn about if you are going to be blogging in this day and age.

A good way to get more traffic to your blog is by making comments on other's blogs. Keep a folder in Google Reader for your competition and check it daily. Comment on those blogs whenever you have something interesting to say about the topic.

Keep in mind there is a world outside of blogging. Not allowing yourself a break now and then can result in burnout and fatigue. Take time out for a walk, visit with friends or just take a five minute break. By getting away, you will be able to come back and produce something great.

When writing a blog post, strive to provide information that will really intrigue your readers. Don't blog about daily chores that everybody does like washing dishes or making beds. Unless you present this common information in an interesting way, people may not really care. Instead, write about something that will attract a lot of interest. Your goal is to have a unique idea that will cause people to come to your blog and stay.

Be authentic and real. Don't appear like a "know-it-all." Let readers know that you are honest and appear to be transparent. Make this your goal. Blogging is known to be the best way for a person to express their individuality. Attempting to ascertain perfection is most often futile; you should devote your energies to improvement instead. If you are incorrect, then you are incorrect. This will help to keep your blog unique and interesting, so that there is not another one just like it on the web.

Keep your blogs as clear and concise as possible. While depth and details are important for certain subjects, posts that are too lengthy or wordy may turn off your readers. Readers who are seeking information through blogs probably aren't expecting Shakespearian treatment of relatively mundane details or topics. Readers want to get essential information from blogs; they are not concerned with fancy extras like long words or poetic descriptions.

Embed pictures into your posts. There is a reason that a picture is worth so many words. This is particularly true about blogging. Images have a lot of power when added to words. Thus, always ensure that images are used as often as possible.

Maintain your blog diligently. This means you are performing all necessary maintenance and changing little things here and there. This will help keep readers from thinking your site is dull and that no one is having any problems accessing the blog.

You have now learned a great deal about blogging. It is normal to feel like you have absorbed a lot. It's worth it to run a blog, although it can be difficult. Reread this article as needed to help you keep your blogging on track for success.