Archive for the ‘Blog’ Category

Success Story: Informatix

Sunday, March 1st, 2015

informatixlogoInformatix is a full-service digital marketing agency based in Australia, with expertise in multiple core areas and clients around the world. The agency specializes in providing clients with advanced, customized technology and automation solutions, and helping them gain a competitive edge in a crowded digital landscape.

With services ranging from market research and email marketing, to website design and SEO, to comprehensive online systems, Informatix understands that content is still king. As the agency’s copywriting needs grew along with the company, they sought an external solution to provide the same results-driven level of service they offer their own customers.

Knowing the material

Informatix had a copywriting solution in place, but it was too inflexible and generic for the company’s evolving needs. They sought a copywriter who could handle a more personalized and informative writing style across all of their target markets, in a way that would educate and inform clients and prospects about who they are and what they do.

The agency’s criteria for a copywriting solution included prompt and timely turnarounds, the ability to follow marketing briefs, and the skills and knowledge to write informed copy across multiple industry sectors. Quality and affordability were also crucial considerations for a new external copywriter.

Delivering results

After testing several copywriting firms, Informatix decided to work exclusively with our Cincinnati copywriting firm for their copywriting needs. We provide concise, on-message, quality marketing material, delivered promptly and on tap, which helps Informatix generate interests from prospects and close more sales.

By using our copywriting services, Informatix says, “Open rates have improved, feedback from our database has been positive. They like reading our stuff.” Words By Melissa has helped this agency dramatically improve their SEO ranking with organic search engine results—and ultimately saved the company time and money.

As experienced marketing copywriters, we’re thrilled to help Informatix achieve stronger SEO, higher open rates, and improved visibility and sales.

 

How to Handle a High-Maintenance Client

Tuesday, February 17th, 2015

thMost freelance writers find that the majority of their clients are great to work with. But just like any other industry, there will always be a few who turn out to be a little more challenging. They may be hard to please, contradictory, overly involved and demanding, or hyper-concerned about results to the point of micro-managing projects.

Regardless of the particulars, dealing with high-maintenance clients can be frustrating for a freelance writer. These tips will help you tackle the occasional but inevitable difficult client, so you can emerge with your professionalism and sanity intact.

The best defense is a good offense

One of the best ways to handle difficult freelance clients is to not work with them in the first place. Of course, it’s practically impossible to spot every potential challenge, but a proactive strategy for identifying and avoiding high-maintenance clients can go a long way toward alleviating issues.

Here’s how to set up your freelance writing business so you’re less likely to pull in difficult clients:

  • Charge professional rates. Keeping your rates low can be a competitive strategy, but rock-bottom fees tend to attract the type of client you don’t really want to work with. Low-budget clients aren’t likely to respect your skills as a professional, because they view you as cheap labor—which can actually make them more demanding than high-paying clients. They’re also not very invested in a project they’re not paying much for.
  • Allow yourself to say no. Beginning freelance writers often feel they can’t afford to turn down any client, even if they know the client is going to be a nightmare to work with. Strive to be in a financial position where you’re able to turn down some projects down. This may mean working another part-time job until you’re established—but focus on quality over quantity, and build your freelance practice in a way that allows you to be choosy with clients.
  • Build relationships with regulars. Repeat clients are gold to a freelance writer. The more steady, reliable clients you have, the less you’ll need to take on difficult clients. Developing a solid working relationship also benefits your clients, since they don’t have to seek out a new freelancer every time they need content.

Despite taking precautions, you’ll still end up with the occasional challenging client. Here’s what to do when you find yourself in these situations.

Stay in touch

It’s a natural instinct to want to avoid contact with a difficult client, but this is exactly the wrong approach. The situation will actually be better if you communicate frequently. High-maintenance clients typically need to feel like their concerns are being addressed, so as long as you’re speaking regularly to them about the status of their project, they’ll believe you’re on top of things—and will be less likely to get frustrated.

Instead of asking what’s wrong, ask what’s right

A common problem freelance writers have with difficult clients is the “make it better” routine. You turn in a project, and they’re not happy with it—but they don’t say why. The extent of their feedback is “just make it sound better.” When pressed for details, they either can’t or won’t articulate what they don’t like about the content.

In this case, you may be able to get more insight by asking the client what’s right about the project. Use open-ended questions to find out what they think would make it sound better, or whether there’s a particular way they want something phrased. Listen to the responses and give them exactly what they’re asking for.

Request a reference or example

There are many freelance clients who can’t articulate the type of piece they want. If you’re struggling to understand why they’re unsatisfied with a particular project, or if the initial instructions are vague and unclear, ask the client to provide specific examples of the type of writing they envision.

Don’t accept a list of business authors or a noncommittal “it’s kind of like this, with some of that” here—instead, request links to websites that have a similar tone and style to what the client wants. This can help you pinpoint the issue, even if the client can’t.

Stay professional

High-maintenance clients can test even the friendliest and most patient freelance writers. When a client complains endlessly, yells at or berates you, or generally acts in an unprofessional manner, it’s tempting to give back what you’re getting. But staying professional in the face of less-than-cordial behavior not only helps you manage your stress levels, but can also help to defuse a potentially explosive situation.

Fire the client

This should be a last resort. If you’ve tried and failed to come up with something the client is happy with, and you’ve used every trick in the book to figure out what they really want to no avail, then it’s time to part ways. Again, keep it professional—simply tell the client that you’re obviously not a good match, and you’re withdrawing from the project.

How do you handle working with difficult clients?

Success Story: RTV

Sunday, February 1st, 2015

rtvlogoEstablished in 1999, RTV is a leading provider of virtual tour technology and maintains the largest full-service virtual tour and property marketing network in the world. In addition to providing premium self-service virtual tour software, the company maintains an extensive network of virtual tour providers—entrepreneurs who operate their own virtual tour companies using RTV’s software and extensive resources.

In order to keep in touch with their vast network of customers and providers, and to expand their customer base, RTV needed to produce more high-quality content, in a short amount of time. They were also redesigning their primary business website and looking for fresh, new content that reflected the quality of their service offerings.

Searching for a great copywriter

As RTV’s focus shifted toward managing their growing network and developing new products, the company sought a reliable copywriting service that could produce great content quickly, and match the voice they’d established. Their criteria included unique, affordable content with a dependable turnaround.

After trying out a few different services, RTV contacted Words By Melissa and received an instant reply. The company was thrilled with the speed and quality of our Cincinnati copywriting team. They were particularly impressed with the voice match of the content, which reflected the tone and style of their existing material.

Reliable copywriting that saves time

Words By Melissa provided RTV with a comprehensive refresh for their website content, and provided new copy for their corporate email templates. The company also enlisted our Cincinnati copywriters to write weekly blog posts in order to keep their website optimized with fresh content. As the owner stated, “The work speaks for itself…it saves time, and time is money!”

The team at Words By Melissa is pleased to help RTV keep their business website fresh, engaging, and unique, with quality content that helps their customers and providers succeed with virtual tours.

Success Story: World Web Content Writers

Thursday, January 15th, 2015

world_web_content_writers_-_seo_web_writing_services_and_search_engine_optimization_positioning_experts_-_logoWorld Web Content Writers specializes in producing high-quality web content, and also provides WordPress installation services. As the importance of content continued to dominate Internet marketing for all types of businesses, the demand for this small company’s services grew—and they had a need for more freelance writers who could maintain the professionalism and quality their growing business and reputation required.

The hunt for quality, value, and specialized skills

While professional and prompt content were essential qualities, World Web Content Writers also needed a copywriting solution that could handle high-quality content production for technical subjects, one of the fastest-growing demands from their clients.

The company placed freelance job ads seeking qualified talent and reviewed the applications that flooded in. “We considered and rejected many writers,” the company said. “We work only with the best!”

Words By Melissa: A letter-perfect match

Ultimately, World Web Content Writers chose to work with our Cincinnati freelance copywriting business to meet their content production needs. Their criteria included top-notch quality, professionalism, and attractive value—and WBM delivers on all counts.

The company stated that since partnering with us, they’ve saved both time and money on their freelance writing projects. “Our business revolves around writing, so [WBM’s] service is critical,” the company said. Words By Melissa consistently delivers prompt, polished content that meets or exceeds expectations, even for niche markets such as technical writing.

In addition, World Web Content Writers has realized increased search engine rankings and traffic through our SEO web content writing services.

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.

Success Story: Farmhouse Five

Friday, November 28th, 2014

Cowgirl_Boots_WSFarmhouse Five offers charming and affordable kids’ wall art, home accents, and nursery decor with original artwork. The owner, Therese, had been writing product descriptions and web copy since launching her home-based company 13 years ago, but she wanted more time to focus on her passions: drawing and painting.

Looking for a copywriter who could provide fun, unique descriptions of her custom products, Therese turned to Google and quickly found our Cincinnati copywriting service.

Whimsical copywriting to match adorable products

Therese was impressed by our copywriting samples, and contacted Melissa right away to hire her for web copy and product descriptions. She explained that she was looking for something descriptive and unique, with a fun flair, to help her website exude the same personality as her products for kids.

Therese was thrilled with the results. “Melissa is great at wording and putting together paragraphs that flow well,” she said. “She is also great with alliteration. . .my favorite [at] Farmhouse Five!”

Storytelling that sells

After redesigning with the new copy and a fresh layout, Farmhouse Five has a website that “finally flows with wording and photos.” The improved web content from Words By Melissa noticeably improved SEO and increased site traffic.

Farmhouse Five’s owner says that our copywriting service saves her valuable time. “[It’s] so nice not to think about this aspect of the website,” she said.

Differences Between Journalism and Business Writing

Friday, November 21st, 2014

journalism writingThere are many different kinds of writing, and sometimes it’s hard to draw the lines of distinction. Some writing disciplines overlap, requiring similar skills, methods, or mindsets. But it’s often important to know the difference, especially if you’re a copywriter with clients looking for certain types of content.

While there are some similarities between journalism and business writing, the requirements and approaches are different. Here’s what you should know about each of these writing areas.

Business writing: It’s mostly marketing

The business writing category covers most types of copywriting assignments. Web content, blog posts, brochures, case studies, email campaigns, press releases, product descriptions, and even some articles are all considered business writing.

The main characteristic of business writing is its intention to sell. The piece might be peddling a product or service, an idea, an opinion or viewpoint, or even entertainment—but it’s usually written to convince the reader of something. By definition, business writing is biased in favor of the business that’s using the content.

A piece of writing with intent to sell typically requires a different writing style. There’s always some degree of hype involved, with varying intensity—the hype might be subtle for press releases, and blatant for email campaigns. Business writing employs “salesy” copy, with strong descriptions, interesting turns of phrases, wordplay, and calls to action.

Journalism: It’s mostly facts

The journalism style of writing is for reporting the news. Journalistic pieces present the facts to readers, backed by research and fact-checking. But there’s more to this type of writing than dry, fact-filled paragraphs—journalists must also be able to grab attention and engage readers.

One of the biggest challenges in journalism is maintaining a neutral viewpoint. Every issue has at least two sides, but journalists aren’t supposed to pick one. Instead, journalistic pieces must be written in a way that informs without bias, and lets readers make up their own minds on the issue.

Instead of hype-driven wordplay and sales-tuned copy, journalism writing uses clear language, interesting turns of phrase, and judicious quotes from verified resources. One thing journalism and business writing have in common, though, is the need for catchy headlines.

Writing on both sides

As a full-service freelance copywriter in Cincinnati, I can provide pieces in a variety of styles, including journalism. One of my regular assignments is writing articles for Adweek, an online industry news website. A recent piece I wrote, “CVS Pulls the Plug on Apple Pay”, is a good example of a compelling headline followed by a balanced article that reports on the issue—including the pros and cons of Apple Pay for retailers, and the fact that CVS may reconsider if Apple’s mobile payment system sees more widespread adoption.

Had this been a piece of business writing, it might have focused on how great Apple Pay is, and why more retailers should adopt the payment system.

Do you take on business writing and journalism assignments? What’s your approach to journalistic writing?