How to Hire a Good Freelance Blogger

Blog posts, articles, and random acquaintances are all telling you how much you need to be blogging for your small business. That sounds nice and all, but who has time to write regular blog posts? And if everyone else is doing it, why would anyone bother to read what you write?

When Blogging Isn’t Worth It…

The fact is, all those sources harping on the benefits of small business blogging aren’t wrong, but they’re not always telling the whole story. If you start a blog to start a blog, that’s just dumb. Blogging without a strategy is a huge waste of time and energy.

Even if you do somehow manage to put out posts once a week, getting it done isn’t enough. Unless your blog posts offer valuable information to the people you want to be reaching, and more importantly, actually get read by them, you’re not getting anything back for the work you put into it.

…And When It Is

If you’re going to start a blog for your small business, you want to do it right. Your posts need to be approached with a specific goal in mind. You need to ask yourself:

  • What do I want to get out of the blog?
  • Who do I want my posts to help?
  • What do they need?
  • How will the blog, and each individual post, represent my brand?

How to Find the Right Blogger

Your time is valuable and running a small business means you’ve got a lot on your plate. If you do want to branch into blogging for your small business, but don’t want to personally take on the time obligation, you need to find a good freelance blogger.

It might be tempting to head to one of those sites that offer a few hundred words for pocket change, but we’ve already established that this isn’t worth doing unless you’re going to do it right.

You want to work with someone that will take the time to get to know your brand (bonus points for prior expertise in your industry), knows how to write for the web, and understands the importance of appealing to your target audience.

A good freelance blogger will insist on:

  • Understanding your small business blogging goals.
  • Learning all about your business and products.
  • Getting a clear picture of your target audience.
  • Learning what kind of questions and issues concern them.
  • Developing a blog strategy focused on providing value to your specific audience (e.g. prospective customers).
  • Discussing some kind of strategy to promote the content and get it in front of the right people (although expect this part to cost more).

Basically, if you just want posts up so you can say you have a blog, go ahead and hire a content mill for $20 posts. If you want a blog that serves as an actual marketing tool, look for a freelance blogger with the chops and online marketing know how to push for everything described above.

5 Key Takeaways for Freelancers from Content Marketing World 2013

freelance content marketingThe whole concept of content marketing is  changing how businesses value and approach many of the skills we freelancers most excel at.  While the Content Marketing World conference is definitely not put together with freelancers top of mind, it provides a good glimpse into what our clients and potential clients are thinking about, the directions they’re moving in and the best ways we can provide the value they’re seeking.

As a freelance writer, the tips I’ve shared below definitely lean towards lessons useful for freelance writers specifically, but many of these can be easily applied to freelancers working in any capacity related to content marketing. The growing importance of images and videos was a hot topic, and the need for well-designed websites has always been a crucial issue in content marketing.

Without further ado, here are 5 key takeaways for freelancers from this year’s Content Marketing World:

1) Marketers consider creating enough good content a big problem.

In advance of the conference, the Content Marketing Institute performed a survey to get a clear idea of what marketers are doing, and what tactics are working for them. 55% of those surveyed ranked producing enough content as one of the largest challenges they face.

Couple that number with the 58% planning to increase their content marketing budget over the next year and we’ve got some ripe conditions for quality freelancers to help fill in the gaps businesses are experiencing.

An important distinction here is that word “good” – marketers are bringing increasingly high standards to what constitutes content worth publishing. As the web becomes ever more saturated with content, we have to be able to bring our A-game to the clients we work with to help them develop the kind of content that helps a business stand apart from the crowd.

2) Content strategy is key for effectiveness.

This was another takeaway from the survey. The businesses that jump into content marketing without a plan get less out of it than those that develop a strategy.

While freelancers are often just one part of the larger content strategy for businesses, this is an important piece of information for us to impress upon any clients that aren’t thinking strategically. If we help them develop awesome content, but it’s not used effectively, we’re not really helping. Not to mention, we risk becoming a line item easy to cut out of their budget if our work doesn’t help them make money.

If we want to add value (as we should), we must urge clients to approach their content marketing with a bigger picture in mind.

3) Help out non-customers, even if you don’t see a direct benefit.

This point was emphasized again and again in different talks and sessions at the conference. Jay Baer, whose talk was one of the most popular there, urged the audience to “make marketing so useful, people would pay for it.”

Obviously, if you’re doing freelance work for pay, you’re already thinking that way 🙂

One of his other really meaningful points was to always think about how to help people in your audience, even if they’re not your customer. Good content marketing means thinking about offering value first, and making sales later.

Hilton created a Twitter account devoted to proactively giving travelers advice on different cities they visit – even people staying at other hotels. Lowe’s shares useful tips via Vine for people interested in home repair and gardening – including one that shows people how to make their own watering can (a tool Lowe’s sells).

Is it crazy to help your competitors’ customers, or tell people how to make the products you sell? Nope. It’s just good marketing.

4) Many businesses are looking for content that’s as good as journalism.

Bill Haggin and Nancy Pardo talked about their successful strategy running a blog for PTC. They made the recommendation to a crowded room of marketers to hire journalists for their blogs. This means:

a) Businesses are placing a value on blogging at a higher level than ever, and

b) They’re willing to pay good writers for journalism-level work.

This doesn’t just apply to writing, David Germano talk about treating your marketing like a media company. Andrew Davis compared content marketing to his previous profession creating kids shows. You have to think like the editors and media professionals whose job it is to entertain and educate an audience.

Having content doesn’t make businesses more competitive, having content that’s more helpful and informative does. We need to be thinking at that level in the work we provide clients.

5) Have personality!

Andrew Davis gave an example of a woman who built a massive following and successful makeup brand out of making short videos that had personality. Lauren Luke’s brief makeup tutorials on YouTube became massively popular. She didn’t spend any money on the videos, just brought a little time and personality to them.

You want people to care about and relate to your brand, which is harder for them to do if it feels like an entity without actual people behind it. Don’t be afraid of humor. Don’t be afraid of using a tone that’s more personal than professional.

If clients tend towards dry industry speak and buzzwords, try to steer them back around to the kind of language their customers actually speak. And don’t ever think any subject’s too dry or dull for some humor, Tim Washer shared some examples of companies that made dull subjects humorous. Who knew router hardware could be so fun?

 

As a final note, it’s worth mentioning that I came across many people who exclaimed “we really need more good writers!” or some variation of that phrase. While I hear many freelance writers concerned about finding good clients, those good clients are out there trying to figure out how to find us too.

The Danger of Going “Too Broad”

I thought I had a pretty good idea of how to communicate my services, when I found myself fumbling recently over the question of my specialty. When you’re talking to people who work in different fields, an elevator pitch that offers a fairly general description of the work you do is usually good enough. But, in a room full of people who do similar work, it becomes important to know how to identify and articulate just where your strengths fit in.

The lesson reminded me of a conversation I had with a professor in college. I was trying to pick out a subject to focus a paper about Absalom, Absalom on and as I kept listing off topics, she kept saying “too broad.” After a fair amount of listing, I finally came up with a focused enough subject for her approval. I ended up writing over 15 pages on one particularly notable scene in the book. She was right, anything more broad would have made for a behemoth of a paper.

I started off freelancing thinking I had to be good at a long list of specialties to make it work, and spent the first few months learning what my professor had taught me years earlier: the importance of having a focus.

You can either be mediocre at a lot of things, or really good at a few.

Having a specialty or niche has a number of benefits:

  • It gives you the room you need to become an expert at something. No one person has the time to be an expert at a long list of skills and subjects, but any one of us can get a lot closer to that title a lot faster by honing in on a particular specialty.
  • It makes it easier to find your target audience. Whether you’re a freelancer or a business, looking for customers and clients from a massive audience is more challenging than being able to focus on a target group. A writer with experience working with oil and gas clients knows who to target, and can make a more persuasive pitch for why she’s the right pick than one casting a wide berth for any client at all.
  • You can become a part of a community. In any field, who you know is important. There’s a wide world of people out there and if you can focus your efforts on making connections with people in a few select industries, you can get more out of the relationships you have.

If you can pinpoint a focus that best fits your skills, you can approach your marketing with much greater efficiency and get more out of the time you spend on the work you do.

Introduction to Content Marketing for Small Businesses: An Austin Copywriter White Paper

introduction to content marketing for small businesses whitepaper

Are you a small business owner interested in learning more about content marketing? If you’ve heard that content marketing is a good way to promote your business and improve your brand reputation, but want to learn more before you get started, this white paper lays out some of the basics.

Content marketing allows your business to attract new customers and develop relationships with current customers by offering something of value to them.

With this white paper, An Introduction to Content Marketing for Small Businesses, you can get a feel for whether or not you’re ready to get started developing and deploying a content strategy for your business.

If you have questions, feedback, or would like some help developing quality content to promote your business, feel free to contact me at kristen@austin-copywriter.com.

How to Make Your Procrastination Productive

Productive procrastination might sound like an oxymoron, but with the right approach you can make those unfocused hours work for you.

We all have off days. There are times when our minds are intent on focusing on just about anything that’s not the main item on our to do list. If you’re stuck in one of those periods where your brain just will not listen to reason and face the task you need to tackle, think strategically about how you can still get something accomplished during your distracted state.

1. Switch to one of the lower energy items on your to do list.

It’s rare that everything you need to get done requires the same amount of mental energy. Maybe you have some accounting you’ve been neglecting, or a spreadsheet of contacts you’ve been working on filling in. If there’s something you can work on that requires less active thought than the main work you have to do that day, focus on it first. Once you’ve actually gotten something else done, you might find that your mind is more prepared for the larger tasks you weren’t previously up for.

2. Spend that time on research and social networking.

You can always be learning more, regardless of what kind of work you do. If you spend a little time on your favorite business blogs, or interacting with professional contacts on your social networks, you can do something useful that actually feels a little like procrastination. Just don’t let yourself get stuck on Twitter or Facebook focusing on things that don’t relate to your work. Set a timer to let you know when it’s time to switch back over to other forms of work.

3. Find a way to get started on that intimidating, looming task without diving right in.

Maybe you’re trying to write an article and instead are stuck staring at a blank page. Stop unsuccessfully trying to get that intro paragraph down and focus instead on working up an outline, or just writing down some sloppy, brainstormed ideas to get the juices flowing. Often the biggest barrier to getting started is the sense of just how much you have to do. If you can find a way to ease into starting, you can overcome the main psychological barrier keeping that page blank.

4. Plan your days to get the most out of your active hours.

Sometimes we have off days, but most people also have certain times in each day that they’re less mentally alert. For me, it’s usually the hour or so after I eat lunch. Maybe for you, it’s the beginning of the day when you’re still waking up, or late afternoon when you’re just itching to be done. Pay attention to your work habits and, once you’ve identified your weak period, leave some of those lower-energy work items to focus on at that time.

5. Take a break to let yourself think.

If I’m overwhelmed by a project, facing it directly doesn’t necessarily work. To think more clearly about it and how to best approach it, I need to walk away for a little while. Whether that’s a literal walk, a long bath, or spending a little time cooking or cleaning, I’ll often find that by spending my time doing something that leaves room to think, I’ll come back to work with a better plan for accomplishing what I need to.