Ever wish there was a potion you could bottle and sell that would allow a blog to grow magically? Me too, but unfortunately it is not that simple. Growing a blog is like growing a tree-the gr…
You’ve made the decision, for whatever reason, that you want to make a living as a freelance writer. But how do you get that perfect gig and start to see money rolling in? It can be intimidating when you realise just how many writers – both good and bad – are in competition with you. Here are some tips to help you get started and avoid the pitfalls.
Mass Platforms. Inevitably, you will have checked them out. The big players, thousands of jobs and even more bidding on the projects advertised. Don’t get me wrong. I’ve sent proposals for projects on these sites, which have developed into regular work, but they’re few and far between.
As a newbie, you can spend half your day trawling through the ads – not making money – a lot of which are extremely vague. Don’t! If you must use them, only apply for jobs with a detailed brief. Clients usually want you to check out their website/blog to attract writers who can provide exactly what they’re looking for. “I need a Writer,” is a definite No No. Not only will you waste time applying, they will usually accept the lowest bid and a £5 article is never going to be quality work. ‘Paying peanuts gets you monkeys.’ Jargon, cliché, an old saying, yes. But true! Only apply for projects that you are perfect for, be it travel, lifestyle, legal. You can then show your skill, writing for that particular niche.
Develop a Niche. Niche markets are a great way to start. Not only are you writing about something you know about (always a help), but writing this way keeps you motivated and enables you to produce articles at a much faster rate. Who isn’t happy writing about something they enjoy? You usually don’t need to do as much research and you won’t get bored. Joining industry associations and forums are a great way to find work like this. Social Media is also a useful tool as you can follow companies who are in the niches you prefer.
Stand out from the Crowd. You’ve found the perfect job ad, but so have hundreds of others. How do you make the potential client want to work with you? It’s important to check out their style. Writers who apply for jobs using the same cover letter template are boring. Inject your personality into the pitch. Writing in the company’s style immediately makes you stand out and shows you have bothered to look at their online presence. This is your one and only chance to impress, so sell yourself, as well as the knowledge and passion you have for the subject matter (including examples of similar work) if you have them.
Be Professional. You’ve had a bid accepted, now’s the time to get a regular customer or a least, a glowing testimonial.
Reply to any communications promptly. Waiting days for you to get back in touch will not create a professional image.
Think about the questions you need to ask about the brief and send them in one email, not 26. Busy people don’t have time to spoon-feed you with information. It can be helpful to create a template for this, including word count, style, keywords etc. I also have a ‘looking to the future box’ so I can contact individuals/companies down the line with additional services.
Be clear on your rates from the beginning. If you are promoting a special offer, make it clear further work will be more expensive but don’t increase your prices because you think you’re on to a good thing. Finally, always produce your work to the deadline. Clients are not interested that your friend called round for coffee or your cat is sick. If you promise work for a particular time or date, make sure you deliver!
If you have a number of clients, keeping track of work is vital. “Oh, I forgot!” “Sorry, how many words was it?” will not win friends and influence people. Keeping track of clients also builds a database that you can frequent from time to time to see if they have more work.
Prices. It’s tempting when you see people offering cut-price work to try and compete. This makes you resemble a bargain basement outfit. Be confident in your ability to provide thoroughly researched and quality content. The client is working with a professional and that fact should be reflected in your rates. On the other hand, don’t be greedy, start adding extras and talking about increased prices before you have built a relationship with the client and provided them with the quality piece you have been commissioned to.
In conclusion, fishing in a small pond is more likely to hook a decent catch. After that, it’s up to you to provide reliable, engaging content, hopefully developing a sound relationship that ensures future work.
© Donna Hepburn 2016
The hospitality industry is one of the most competitive, therefore, marketing your hotel can be a minefield if you don’t know what you’re doing. It’s worth building an extensive database along with a comprehensive marketing strategy to maximise conversion rates. There are hundreds of options, but understanding these basics will get you started.
Before embarking on a complicated marketing campaign, you should have a conversation with your current customers, and ask these questions:
Who are the people who book your hotel? Businessmen, families, young couples? It’s no good using targeted marketing if you don’t know your target.
Where did they find out about your hotel? This information helps you gather information about which avenues are most lucrative and which need more work to improve conversion rate.
What do your guests value, and care about? Finding out this information can help you find your target audience and also help improve things if certain areas are lacking. Most hotels have guests complete a satisfaction questionnaire during their stay to collate this information. Always ask for an email address as you can update them regularly with news and special offers.
You now have information and it’s time to decide where to spend your marketing budget. Online marketing is profit-driven and, if done correctly, it works. However, you need to focus your strategy and budget on platforms that bring in profit. The CEO is not interested in how many shares you have on Facebook, likes on Twitter, or how many emails have been opened. They are interested in how many bookings the hotel receives.
More often than not, Google is the starting point for anyone looking for a hotel. In that respect, AdWords can work really well in the hospitality business. You pick certain keywords that people use when searching for a hotel then create an ad using these keywords. Some are expensive so concentrate on those that emphasise your USPs (Unique Selling Points). Google have recently added new features to enhance this service for best results:
- Create a Google ‘My Business Page’ and make sure the hotel’s Google Maps is optimised.
- Join Google’s Travel Blog for travel marketers. Keep ahead of your competitors by being first to know the new features and relevant travel news.
- Highlight your features, special offers, and upcoming events. These should be highlighted in all your marketing but can be especially useful if, for example, someone is searching for a Christmas party or a naturist beach.
- Sign up for a Google Business View which Google promise to set up in five working days.
Google also has an invaluable tool for marketers within its AdWords service, which allows you to build a user list through its remarketing tag. This list can include:
- Visitors to your website made up of people who have clicked through.
- Visitors who took specific actions, either enquired or booked through the website.
- A similar user list can be automatically created by Google to target users with similar interests.
- Customer match email address lists. Hotels with a comprehensive CRM can upload bulk emails to create logical user email lists.
Email marketing and AdWords can also be extremely effective on social media platforms. The best way to engage people is to run a competition – the bigger the better! You incentivise engagement, with the opportunity to win a prize, and can generate hundreds – if not thousands – of email addresses and phone numbers with an optimised entry form. This can also give you demographic information so you focus your marketing in certain areas and generate leads interested in your hotel.
Targeting your Facebook ads to existing contacts allows you to engage with people, by name, who are aware and have interacted with your brand. All you need to do is encourage them to do so again and you can reward them by offering tailored discounts and special offers.
These are some of the simplest ways of building an email database. You can add to the list over time enabling you to remarket to previous guests as well as new contacts. Please feel free to contact us if you need help with any of your marketing content, blogs or articles.
© Donna Hepburn 2016
As a freelancer, I get paid for my time. Therefore, it makes sense to use that time efficiently. Whether I am writing an article for a client who has given me the topic or writing one on spec, I don’t want to spend hours penning thousands of words. With a business to run, along with daily life, I try to keep an article or blog post to under 30 minutes including research. There’s no reason to sacrifice quality either. Following these tips will ensure you produce excellent content in as brief time as possible.
- Keep it short
Around 500 words is best. There are millions of articles and blog posts on the Internet and no matter how interesting the subject, it’s best to keep it brief. I recently wrote a 1,500-word piece for a client about Mountain Bike Tyres and believe me, even the most dedicated cyclist would have struggled to reach the end. I certainly struggled writing it. I mean, how much engaging content is there about a sphere of rubber? Keeping an article short and informative encourages a reader to read and also increases the chances of a swift call to action.
- Bullet Points & Lists
I love a list and, it’s been psychologically proven that most of us do, so use this to your advantage. Not only are they easier for the reader’s eye to follow but they are much simpler to write as you don’t have to connect one idea to the next. This type of article is especially good as a sales technique, as we feel comforted buying something we know is approved by others so are more likely to purchase.
- Limit your research
When I first started this writing malarkey, I would spend hours trawling the Internet trying to find relevant information on the subject matter. By the time I started writing, I had forgotten most of it. Give yourself a time limit and stick to it. It is tempting just to rewrite what is already out there, so I collect all the information I need in a word document, work on the structure of ideas, then close the document and write the piece in my own words.
- Idea List
This is a great method if you write your own articles to submit to websites and magazines. Not only do I keep a list of whatever idea pops to mind, but I also spend five minutes researching and keep the information with the idea for later. When I’m pushed for time, I have the ideas to hand with no need for research and can churn out a quality article in around 15-20 minutes.
- Don’t Force It
You have an idea or a given subject matter and can’t find the right information or the words just won’t come. We’ve all been there – right? Leave it, make a cup of coffee, go for a walk, have a relaxing bath, work on something else. Let your head do the work instead of your fingers. Thinking about how to write something will give you different approaches and ideas making it much easier when you come back to it.
Following these tips will save you time without sacrificing content. You will work more efficiently and free up time, which every freelancer knows is precious.
PS I wrote this post in around 15 mins.
© Donna Hepburn 2016