Archive for April, 2014

Business Writing vs. Creative Writing: How to Balance Your Job with Your Passion

Thursday, April 10th, 2014

Saying that you’re a writer can mean so many things. There are all types of them, from the occasional hobby writer to the award-winning journalist to the best-selling novelist. You may be a blogger or a freelancer, an article specialist, a short story writer, or the author of non-fiction books.

But if you’re writing professionally today, there’s a good chance you’re overlapping several of these categories. Maybe you’re a freelancer trying to finally get that novel finished in your spare time, or you write articles for pay while trying to get your blog about your life’s passion off the ground.

Whatever your particular blend of writing disciplines, it can be hard to balance everything.

How can you satisfy the business side of your writing life, and still find the time and energy to indulge your creative pursuits? With some planning and discipline, it really is possible to do it all.

Find your rhythm

Most people have a certain time of day when they’re more creative. For one person, it may be when she first sits down to work, while her mind is still clear and refreshed, and the day’s stresses haven’t started piling up. Another might have creative periods in the afternoon, once he’s handled a few pressing projects. Someone else may be a dedicated night owl.

The first step in balancing business with creative writing is finding YOUR time. When do you produce your best creative work? Pay attention to your output for a few days, and you’ll discover your natural power hours—this will be the time you’ll dedicate to your passions.

Creativity on a schedule

While it’s okay to follow your creative muse, it’s also important to understand that sometimes your muse needs motivation. If you wait until the “mood” strikes you to put in creative writing time, you may never get started. Or you might interrupt your business writing groove and never get it back.

Once you find your optimal creative time for the day, schedule your passion projects for that time—just as you would schedule assigned work. Muses are fickle, but if yours knows the clock is ticking, it will do you the favor of showing up for work more often than not.

Care and feeding of your creative side

When you’re constantly writing, either for business or pleasure, your well of creativity can run dry. One of the best ways to maintain balance and enthusiasm is to give yourself time to recharge.

Choose something you enjoy doing that doesn’t involve sitting in front of the computer, and make it a regular activity. Go for a walk, curl up in a chair with a book and a cup of coffee, or have lunch with friends. Once you’re refreshed, the work will be there waiting for you.

Embrace all of your writer hats

A lot of professional writers who are working on creative side projects choose to keep their passions under wraps. This can actually be a disadvantage. First, it’s exhausting to keep secrets—and second, many of your clients will actually be impressed with your creative pursuits, and may value your work even more.

How do you handle your varied and rewarding writing pursuits?

Spring Cleaning for Your Social Media Presence

Wednesday, April 9th, 2014

Spring cleaning isn’t just for your house, home office, or business location. Whether you’re a freelance writer in Cincinnati or a bicycle shop owner in Poughkeepsie, your small business can benefit from a good spring cleaning of your social media presence. It shouldn’t take much time — and when you’re done, you’ll have bright, shiny social media profiles that are ready to work for your business, make an unforgettable first impression for your brand, and keep you connected with your audience.

So set aside a dedicated day, or an hour a day for about a week, and implement these spring cleaning tips for your social media.

Delete social channels you don’t use (or need)

There is a prevailing idea that when it comes to social media marketing, the more channels, the merrier. Combine this with constant introduction of “the next big thing” in social media, and many small businesses end up signing on to every social channel available in an attempt to increase their potential audience.

The problem is, it’s impossible to keep that many social profiles active and up to date, especially for a small business. You often end up with a trail of half-finished, rarely used pages across the Internet that reflect poorly on your business.

With social media, the most effective marketing plan is to concentrate on the few networks that bring the best results, and to delete the rest. Focusing your efforts on select social channels will give you a stronger brand, and a higher ROI, than diluting your business with multiple, weaker social outlets.

Freshen up your profiles

It’s easy to think that once you create a business profile or “about” page, you’re done with it for good. But your business is always evolving—and social media is evolving even faster. When’s the last time you updated your social profiles?

Now is a great time to review each of your profiles, and make sure they accurately reflect your business as it is today. Look at your business descriptions from a customer’s point of view—do they accurately convey who you are and what you do? Can customers tell from your profiles what kind of value they’ll get when they engage with you on social media?

You should also review your visual assets on social profiles, and consider updating aspects like header and cover images to give your pages a fresh, new look.

Check your links and content information

Just like business profiles, links are not necessarily a set-it-and-forget-it task. The Internet is in a constant state of change, and if something you’ve linked to has vanished, you might have dead links lying around that can annoy your customers and negatively impact your business image.

Take some time to check your website, email signature, and cross-promotional social media links. Prune out links to any social channels you’ve deleted, and replace dead links with correct, working ones. Finally, make sure you double-check your contact information and mail-to links on all your social media pages, especially if your business has moved or you’ve changed email addresses.

Spring cleaning your social media channels is a great way to keep your small business brand fresh and effective online. How will you spruce up your social media for spring?

Draw Readers In: 4 Formulas for Writing Magnetic Headlines

Thursday, April 3rd, 2014

Whether in Google searches, on blogs, or on your Facebook page or Twitter feed, you’ve seen linked headlines that you practically felt compelled to click on and read more. Most people don’t spend a lot of time thinking about why certain headlines attract—but if you understand what makes an article or title intriguing, you can write powerful headlines that readers won’t be able to resist.

Here are four strategies for crafting magnetic headlines for your blog, guest posts, and feature articles.

Work in some numbers

Lists, statistics, big figures—numbers are a great way to grab attention. Lists are an especially popular headline format, and list-based posts or articles also encourage commenting and interaction as people share their own opinions of what should or shouldn’t get ranked.

Some ideas for number headline formats include:

  • Top X or Best X… (example: The Top 5 Little-Known Uses for Household Sponges)
  • X Ways To… (you can substitute other words for “Ways,” such as “4 Formulas” in the title of this article)
  • X [Group] Are… (or do, or have; example: 1.5 Billion People Own Smartphones, or There are 42.5 Million Dog Owners in the U.S.)
  • Percentages (example: Nearly 10 Percent of Americans Work from Home)

With the Groups and Percentages example, you can add a subhead that ties into your small business blog post or article. For example, if you blog about telecommuting, you might say: “Nearly 10 Percent of Americans Work from Home – Here’s How You Can, Too!”

Tie into current events

When something newsworthy happens, there are millions of people looking it up on search engines. Tying your headline to a current event will not only increase visibility, but also garners higher click-throughs and reader engagement.

Holidays are a popular tie-in. Of course, there is Christmas and Valentine’s Day, Mother’s Day and Father’s Day, and all the popular holidays—but those don’t happen every day. How about tying into Car Care Month (April) or Pet Appreciation Week (June 1 – 7)? There are plenty of little-known holidays that can make compelling headlines.

You can also tie into breaking news, big sporting events like the Olympics or the Super Bowl, and anything that’s making the rounds in the news.

Ask a question

Question headlines encourage readers to empathize with the question, want to know more, or find out the answer. For example, an article in Psychology Today asked, “Do You Close the Bathroom Door Even When You’re the Only One Home?”

A popular headline format is to ask a question that most readers will say yes to, but don’t want to answer that way. These articles or posts should explain how they can change their answer. Examples include “Are You Paying Too Much for Your Car Insurance?” and “Do You Spend Too Much Time at the Office?”

Make a statement

Headlines that take a stand—for better or worse—attract readers. From the intriguing to the controversial, statement headlines get people interested in what you have to say, and why you’d make such a strong statement. A few examples:

  • The Best Chocolate Chip Cookie Recipe, Period
  • Stress Relief in Just Five Minutes a Day
  • Save Hundreds on Your Monthly Grocery Bill

Of course, with any of these headline formats, it’s essential to follow up with compelling, well-written copy that matches the spirit of the title.

Do you spend enough time thinking about your headlines? What are the best or most effective headlines you’ve ever written?