Archive for September, 2014

Copyright Terms Every Freelance Writer Should Know

Tuesday, September 16th, 2014

copyrightRegardless of the capacity you work in as a freelance writer, at some point you’re likely to end up signing a contract—or multiple contracts. While a good contract will protect both you and your clients from any confusion over the rights to the work, the contract itself may cause some confusion.

It’s important for freelance writers to truly understand what they’re signing before they agree to a job. Poorly worded or unfavorable contracts can end up limiting or erasing your rights, or even damaging your reputation down the line.

Here are some common copyright terms that often appear in freelance contracts, and what they’ll mean to you.

License: Who has what rights?

In terms of contracts, license is a very broad term that covers the rights being granted to a work. Copyright is actually a series of rights that automatically belong to the creator of a work, so a license lets clients exercise some—but typically not all—of the rights to the work, for which they’re paying you.

Granting a license means that you’re not giving away all the rights to your work. Your contract should specify which rights you’re surrendering to the client, and which you’ll keep for your own use.

Exclusive vs. non-exclusive: Who else gets the rights?

Exclusivity, or a lack of it, is an important element of a license in a contract. If you grant an exclusive license to a client, it means once you’ve completed the work, only the client can use it in the capacity specified by the license. Neither yourself nor your client can sell exclusively licensed work to someone else, and you need permission from the client to display the work on your own website, such as in your portfolio.

With a non-exclusive license, you are legally permitted to use the work yourself, or to offer the same non-exclusive license for sale to others. Keep in mind, however, that selling a piece you wrote for a specific client to someone else is usually considered poor taste, even if you technically have permission with a non-exclusive license.

Sublicensable: The client can sell the rights

If a work has a sublicensable license, this means the client can resell or re-license the work to others, and still use it themselves. An exclusive license is automatically sublicensable, since the client has sole rights to the work. If it’s non-exclusive and sublicensable, both you and the client can re-license the work.

One thing to note here is that with a sublicensable contract, the client doesn’t need your approval or permission to re-license the work to others—including sites you may not want your work to be associated with.

Transferrable: The client can give away the rights

Similar to sublicensable terms, a transferrable license lets the client give or sell the rights to the work to a third party—with the difference being they will no longer hold the license themselves. The license is transferred rather than shared, and the client has given up all rights to the work.

Once again, with a transferrable license your work could end up owned by a site or party you’d prefer not to be associated with.

Derivative works: The client can change the content

A derivative work is a new work based on an original. In freelance contracts, derivative work rights are usually requested so the client can either edit the work, or modify content to fit in an allotted space.

However, a derivative works clause can also permit the client to create translations, videos, and other modified formats of the work, if there are no restrictions on the right to create derivative work spelled out in the contract.

Attribution / moral rights: The client doesn’t have to credit you

Attribution or authorship rights in the United States deal with your rights as a content creator to be credited and given a byline for your work. Outside the U.S., this type of rights is often called moral rights.

If you are ghostwriting for a client, waiving your attribution or moral rights is often a standard contract clause that allows the client to claim credit for the work. However, if you’re expecting to be credited and receive a byline, make sure this clause doesn’t appear in the contract.

Additionally, moral rights can sometimes include the right to not be attributed if you choose not to be associated with the work, or the right to object to offensive uses. Read the moral rights clause carefully, if one exists, before signing.

Copyright transfer: The client retains all rights

Unlike transferrable licenses, a copyright transfer means that you are giving up any and all rights to the work, and the client will retain sole control and discretion. This can be an acceptable contract term—but only if you’re absolutely sure it’s what you want, and you feel that you’ve been adequately compensated for the work.

Keep in mind that in the U.S., copyright can only be transferred through a written contract, for which any freelance contract would most likely qualify.

Have you run across any unusual contract terms in your freelance writing career?

5 Things Successful Bloggers Do (That You Should Too)

Tuesday, September 9th, 2014

blogIf you’re actively running a blog, whether it’s to promote your business or support your personal passion, chances are you want it to be successful. You want a high search engine ranking, a loyal readership, and some return on your investment—whether that’s increased visibility and profits for your business, or a revenue stream that buys you more than a cup of coffee every month.

While there is no “secret” to being a successful blogger, there are common habits shared by every blogger who’s living the dream. If you emulate these habits, you’re likely to find yourself with a growing blog that’s on track to reach your definition of success.

1. Successful bloggers love what they do

The idea that being passionate about your particular subject fuels success is such a cliché that many people have stopped considering it. Passion is supposed to be a given—of course you’re passionate about your business (or you wouldn’t have started it) or animal shelters, or vinyl records, or nanotechnology (or you wouldn’t be blogging about it). But do your readers know how passionate you are?

For successful bloggers, that passion shines through in every post, on every social media account, and with every guest blog or article. Your core readers will share your passions and love coming back, again and again, to find out what else you have to say.

2. Successful bloggers blog a lot

Once again, this “secret” should be obvious—but many bloggers don’t realize just how important it is to be prolific. The first benefit to writing a lot of blog posts is that the act of writing makes you better at it. The more you write, the more your craft will improve, and the higher quality of your writing draws in more readers.

Another advantage of prolific bloggers is on the search engine front. The more content you have, the more frequently your blog is indexed by search engines—and a continual supply of fresh content also gives more algorithm weight to your posts. Every time you post something new, search engines consider it more important. It’s a cumulative effect.

Finally, regular blogging—whether your schedule is daily, Monday through Friday, or just one or two posts per week—tells your readers that they can expect new content at certain times. This makes them more likely to come back and find out what’s new with you.

3. Successful bloggers are concise

With this habit, keep in mind that “concise” doesn’t necessarily mean “short.” You don’t have to restrict your blog post length to tweet-sized comments in order to be successful—in fact, long-form content can boost your search engine rankings and conversions (or subscription rates).

So, what is concise? It means making every word count, leading with a killer intro, and arranging content in an easily digestible format.

Successful bloggers mix long-form and short-form content, and break up longer content with short paragraphs, intriguing subheads, and bullets or numbered lists. Concise content delivers what readers are looking for without the fluff, in a way that keeps even 1,000-word blog posts engaging and fast-moving.

4. Successful bloggers stick to the plan

Blogs that are scattered, random musings on whatever the author happened to be contemplating that day rarely succeed—unless it’s the blog of a celebrity or notable industry guru, who can get away with saying anything because people will hang on their every word. For the rest of us, the path to success involves choosing a topic and sticking to it.

The best bloggers will relate everything to their core topic, even if it seems to be about something completely unrelated at first. What’s more, successful bloggers have a long-term plan, and they don’t let minor details get in the way of the big picture.

5. Successful bloggers are always learning

The biggest reason there are no secrets to blogging success is that things are always changing. There are always new rules, new formats and platforms, changing audience tastes, new SEO strategies, and myriad factors that grow and evolve along the digital frontier.

Successful bloggers love to learn and try out new things. It keeps things fresh for their audience, and interesting and challenging for them. They’re always on the lookout for the next big thing—and they’re willing to evolve with the times.

So if you’re passionate, willing to work, and ready to plan for now and the future, you can be a successful blogger. What habits have you found most effective for growing your blog?

I’m Not That Kind of Writer

Friday, September 5th, 2014

GhostwriterIf you’re a freelance writer like me, you’ve probably had some version of this conversation before:

You: I’m a writer.

Friend/Relative/Stranger: Really? What books did you write? Can I read one?

You: I…don’t write books. Yet.

Non-writer: How can you be a writer if you don’t write books?

You: I’m a freelance writer. I write web copy, blog posts, articles, white papers…

Friend whose eyes are glazing over: Are you going to write a book? I never could, but I have all these great ideas for books. Hey, you could use them, and we could split the money! Writers are rich, right?

You: Well, I do get paid for my writing.

Oblivious stranger: It’s easy to get rich if you write a book. Everybody’s doing it. Why don’t you?

You: The thing is, I really like what I do.

Person looking for someone else to talk to: Well, tell me when you write a book. I’ll definitely read it. Can you give me a free copy?

I’ve learned that it’s best to be patient with folks like this. They usually mean well. It’s just that if you’re not working as a freelancer, or working with freelancers, it can be hard to understand that while all books are writing, not all writing is books.

People who aren’t writers don’t think about the simple fact that every word they read, every day, had to be written by someone. When you’re reading a shampoo bottle, someone got paid to tell you that this shampoo is specially formulated to remove oils and gently detangle, leaving your hair clean and silky smooth. When you’re on the checkout page of an e-commerce site, someone got paid to explain where you should enter your credit card details, and how you can calculate your shipping costs.

And if you’re a freelance writer reading a shampoo bottle, you’re probably thinking that it’s lousy copy, and someone should’ve paid you to do a better job.

No credit? No problem.

Another concept that’s hard for non-writers to grasp—and even some writers of the fictional persuasion—is the idea that you usually write content that ends up giving credit to someone else. For most freelance projects, your clients hire you as a ghostwriter. You work hard to craft a compelling and well-researched article, or an entertaining blog post, and it’s published under another person’s name…usually your client’s.

What’s hard to convey is that you’re okay with that.

Ghostwriters are well-compensated for their efforts, because they get paid. It’s nice to have public recognition for a piece of great writing, but it’s even nicer to pay the bills, put food on the table, and occasionally see a movie—all without having to leave your house and suffer through commutes, office politics, and Casual Fridays.

So the next time someone asks what you do for a living, tell them you get paid to make other people look good. They’ll probably think you’re an image consultant or a vice president, and the conversation will move on to less confusing things.

Meanwhile, find other freelance writers who get what you do, and make friends with them. Then you can compare notes about which shampoo bottle copy sucks the most, and how you could totally write something ten times better.

Why You Don’t Necessarily Need to Hire an Industry Expert as a Writer

Wednesday, September 3rd, 2014

gandhi_writing_1942In an increasingly crowded online environment, content marketing is the most effective (and trendy) way to draw attention to your business. Of course, you want to maintain credibility and deliver rock-solid content through the articles and blog posts you publish to various channels—but you don’t have time to write them yourself. So you should hire experts to provide the content, right?

The truth is, working with experts in your industry is not always the best means of getting great content. You’ll often fare better hiring a well-rounded freelance writer with great research skills, who can become an impromptu expert in your field and deliver accurate, engaging content your audience wants to read.

Writers do it more

The main reason to opt for a skilled freelance writer over an industry expert is the quality of the writing. Experts certainly have in-depth knowledge and a nuanced understanding of what you do in your business—but not all of them can articulate their expertise in writing. Some very smart people are actually terrible writers, simply because they don’t write regularly.

Freelance copywriters, on the other hand, live and breathe writing. They understand the craft, the process of engaging readers, and the strategies that help you increase traffic and boost search engine rankings—such as how to incorporate SEO keywords naturally into the flow of a piece. Readers won’t realize they’re seeing strategically placed keywords, and search engines weight content with natural keyword placement higher than blatant keyword stuffing.

Writers don’t need credit

Often, the “cost” of hiring an expert includes attributing your content to the expert, along with a bio and back links to their personal or business website. While this can give you a slight boost in name power, it doesn’t help to establish you personally as an expert in your field.

When you hire an experienced freelancer, he or she typically works as a ghost writer. You’ll receive high quality, well-written content, and you become the owner of that content. You can add your own name, bio, and website link, and benefit from increased visibility, recognition, and traffic.

Writers are fast learners

Experts might know every last detail about an industry or subject, and they can be excellent resources if they’re willing to share that knowledge. However, if an expert doesn’t already know how to write, you can’t teach them.

Writing is a unique skill in that the underlying craft can be applied to virtually any subject matter. Regardless of topic, the same techniques can be used to achieve great results. Strong writers can research your industry or topic and get a handle on the subject matter, so they can produce credible, relevant web content or blog articles.

Do you have experience working with experts or freelance writers for content marketing? Share them in the comments!