Archive for December, 2014

Success Story: Local Surge Media

Tuesday, December 30th, 2014

Local Surge Media, an online marketing agency based in Austin, Texas, provides a range of Internet marketing services that includes SEO, pay-per-click advertising, website design, lead generation, and customer outreach. While the company employs full-time writers, they often found themselves with a high volume of copywriting needs that their staff was unable to handle.

Aligning with the company’s needs

Local Surge Media needed a copywriting resource to provide reliable results on short notice when they had overflow situations. They set out to look for a skilled professional who could produce top-quality copy with a fast turnaround, and maintain their rigorous standards.

“Anytime we send work out to other contractors, we risk our reputation as a firm, so it’s important that the standard of work and professionalism is the same as what we have internally,” says the founder.

Finding a permanent copywriting partner

In searching for a freelance copywriting solution, Local Surge Media engaged in a process of trial and error. The company ended up rejecting several copywriting firms due to negative experiences—specifically, a lack of quality and failure to meet promised deadlines. With their client reputation on the line, they couldn’t afford excuses.

When the company contacted Words By Melissa through Elance, their expectations were exceeded and a long-term partnership was formed.

Saving time and preserving the company image

Our Cincinnati copywriting firm provides Local Surge Media with promptly written, high quality copy on short notice whenever they experience workload overflow. The company has saved a lot of time with a reliable copywriting solution that delivers work on-demand, with no excuses.

As the company states, “Your ability to learn and adapt to our expectations, as well as our clients, makes the process much easier than dealing with new firms every six months.”

Words By Melissa is pleased to help Local Surge Media maintain their industry-leading reputation by providing exceptional web content, blog posts, company bios, case studies, and other marketing content.

Tips for Managing Your To-Do List

Saturday, December 20th, 2014

todoTo-do lists can be a writer’s best friend. Making lists not only helps you figure out everything you really need to get done, but also provides a sense of satisfaction as you check off finished items.

On the other hand, the humble to-do list can also become a driving force that dictates everything you work on—if they’re not managed well, you can end up constantly working in reactive mode instead of gaining steady ground on your mountain of work.

How to-do lists evolve into taskmasters

It’s natural to group tasks on a to-do list according to urgency. In fact, one of the most popular ways to categorize to-do lists uses the “four quadrants” defined by Stephen Covey, author of The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. These quadrants create groups of tasks that are:

  1. Important AND urgent
  2. Important but NOT urgent
  3. Unimportant BUT urgent
  4. Neither urgent nor important

Most people assume that tasks under the first group, important AND urgent, should be tackled first. But Covey has stated that the second group—important but NOT urgent—should actually be a higher priority.

Why? When you’re focused on doing nothing but important, urgent tasks, you’re constantly in putting-out-fires mode. You only handle things when they absolutely have to be done, and as a result you fall behind on larger projects that have long lead times.

For a freelance writer, working on the most important and urgent tasks often means putting off that huge 10,000-word assignment that’s due in three weeks, because you have plenty of time and more urgent things to do—only to suddenly find yourself with just three days to write 10,000 words.

How to change your lists and master your tasks

If your to-do lists have gone from inspiring to daunting, a shift in your priorities can help you work more efficiently, stop procrastinating, and get out of rush mode more often. Here are some tips to help you tame a runaway to-do list:

  • Break it down: This is an elementary to-do list step, but many writers still skip it. If you have a big project, don’t write it down as “finish a 10,000-word ebook”. Instead, list smaller tasks such as “research ebook, write ebook outline, write 2 ebook chapters,” and so on, spacing the tasks out until the deadline.
  • Use a “WANT to do” list: Add a category of tasks you want to get done today to your lists. You’ll feel more motivated to get to them, and more confident when you check these items off.
  • Keep the “MUST” list short: If your to-do list has ten items under the “do this today OR ELSE” category, you’ll end up feeling demoralized and overwhelmed. Consider your musts carefully, and decide which 2 or 3 things really have to be done today—and which ones can be moved.
  • Make a “quick tasks” category: Add a list of things you can complete in 5 minutes or less, and tackle those tasks when you have a break—such as between phone calls, or in the middle of a larger assignment. Your lists will start showing more accomplishments, and you’ll feel like you’re making progress.
  • Consider outsourcing your optional tasks: If you have a list of things that would be nice to get done, but they aren’t important or urgent, think about outsourcing. There are inexpensive sources for overflow tasks, such as eLance and Fiverr—and if you have teenagers at home, they’d probably be interested in earning some extra cash.
  • Emulate the experts. Check out these 6 things successful freelance writers do every day.

With a few simple changes, your to-do list can be more manageable than ever. How do you tame your to-do list?

How to Sell Without Selling

Sunday, December 14th, 2014

Used-Cars-trailer-still

It’s right there in the name: The purpose of SALES copy is to sell something to the reader. But, as you may have heard, today’s potential customers don’t want to be sold to. So how are you supposed to write sales copy that doesn’t sell…but still sells?

Fortunately, it’s not as confusing as it sounds. Here are some tips to help your copy stop selling to your customers, and start making sales.

Don’t be “salesy”…

Shouting from the rooftops about how amazingly mind-blowing your product or service is, and why people need to buy it right this second, simply doesn’t work. An overly salesy approach makes grand promises (you’ll make a million dollars overnight!), pushes a lot of hype (this product will literally change your life!), and stresses urgency and fast action (act now, or gremlins will eat your grandmother!).

Aside from the wording, another popular “salesy” technique is to use big, bold font, colored type, capitalized words or phrases, and far too many exclamation points. This simply makes you look like you’re on the other side of the screen, jumping up and down and shouting at your potential customers like a stereotypical used car salesman.

…but don’t leave out selling entirely

Under-selling can be just as damaging to your marketing efforts as over-selling. It’s a tough balance to strike, but don’t tone down your sales copy so much that you forget to actually sell.

For example, let’s say that it’s National Hand Washing Awareness Week (which is a real thing—it’s the first week of December), and your company sells handmade soap. So you decide to write a sales email for your mailing list. You spend a lot of time putting together an informative piece with current hand washing statistics and interesting information, you send it off to your list—but no one orders any soap, because you didn’t mention selling it.

Even when you’re avoiding the selling tactics that turn customers off, you need to include a call to action. It can be something as simple (and non-salesy) as a sentence at the end of your email: “In celebration of National Hand Washing Awareness Week, we’re offering 50% off our most popular handmade soap bundle. Click here to get your discount and enjoy clean, fresh-smelling hands.”

Focus on their needs—not yours

You need to sell a lot of homemade soap. But your customers aren’t interested in helping to increase your profit margins—they just want clean hands. The best non-selling approach to sales is to identify what your customers want or need, and appeal to those desires in your copy.

One great way to do this is to identify your Unique Selling Proposition (USP)—the aspect of your products or services that set you apart, the benefit you can deliver to your customers that no other company can. This USP should be tailored to your target audience. For example:

  • If you have frugal customers, point out that your handmade soap is the most affordable on the market and offer to beat any competitor’s price
  • If you have customers looking for luxury buys, emphasize the heavenly scents of your soap and the all-natural ingredients that leave skin softer
  • If you have hard-working customers, explain how the scientifically proven formula of your soap removes the toughest grime

Find out what your customers want, and use your sales copy to meet those desires in a logical way that’s easy to envision. They won’t feel sold to—they’ll simply want what you have, and be willing to pay for it.

Resume Copywriting Tips to Stand Out from the Crowd

Tuesday, December 9th, 2014

resumeNo one likes resumes. Job seekers hate writing them, recruiters and employers hate wading through them—but they’re a necessary tool for anyone who’s looking to land an interview.

Unfortunately, there is plenty of competition among resume submissions, and you only have a few seconds to get an employer’s attention before he or she moves on to the next in the pile. In fact, Forbes reports that recruiters spend about 7 seconds reviewing a resume before they decide whether or not to interview—so they’re looking for a reason to reject. Some deal-killers for resumes include:

  • Typos and grammar mistakes
  • An unprofessional email address
  • Irrelevant information

Your resume must be letter-perfect, professional, and exciting before applying for a copywriting job. Use these copywriting tips to polish your resume to a high shine and catch the attention of employers — or consider hiring a freelance writer to wordsmith your draft.

Use structure to cut clutter

If you load your resume with “fun facts” about your interests and hobbies, employers will pass you by. All they want to know is whether you deserve an interview. Streamline your resume with a simple structure: Objective, Summary, Work History/Experience, and Training.

Keep it short and sweet

Concise, punchy resumes are a beautiful thing to employers. You don’t have to detail every single job responsibility and accomplishment to get attention—stick to the highlights, and if your job history is less than 10 years, keep it all on a single page.

Don’t try to use a tiny font size to cram everything in, either. A one-page resume should be about 700 words.

Weed out weak words

Certain words used on a resume can indicate either low achievement or a lack of experience, and both of those will turn off employers. According to a ZipRecruiter analysis of 3 million resumes, those words are: me, myself, learning, first, hard, chance, and need. If your resume contains these poor word choices, rewrite to remove them.

Pile on power words

On the other hand, ZipRecruiter identified a number of words that make recruiters and employers happy, so use them when you can. These include: development, skill, project, business, professional, experience, knowledge, team, management, and leadership.

Get creative with your summary

Your summary is the first thing employers read, so make it amazing. Come up with a powerful paragraph that leaves out clichés and reveals your achievements, experiences, and ambitions—while tying it all in to how you can do great things for the company.

Drill into details

When listing your experiences and accomplishments, avoid flat phrasing and general statements that read like a job description. Highlight your unique contributions and list the results you achieved, using numbers and percentages whenever possible. Proving your ROI as a candidate is a great way to get noticed.

Proofread backwards

A survey from CareerBuilder found that 58% of resumes have typos in them—one of the easiest reasons for employers to reject you, and one of the easiest to fix. Spending a little extra time proofreading your resume is one of the best investments you can make in your job search.

So, once you (or a skilled freelance resume writer) has transformed your resume into a streamlined, lean and mean interview-landing tool:

  • Wait a few days before proofreading. If you try to proofread immediately after you’ve worked on your resume, your eyes will see what you meant to write, instead of what’s actually there.
  • Ask someone else to read over your resume and look for grammar, spelling, and other mistakes or awkward spots.
  • Read every line backwards, one word at a time, starting from the bottom.

Keep in mind that a resume should not be a dry list of what you’ve done in your career. Instead, it should be an engaging snapshot of you as a candidate, with an emphasis on why the employer needs to call you right now for an interview.