Why You Should Pay for Product Descriptions

If you’ve worked with a digital marketing or content firm before, they might have tried to upsell you by offering to write product descriptions for your e-commerce store. But why bother spending money on a bunch of content that many customers won’t even read carefully?

 

Why not use the descriptions from my supplier?

From a purely informational standpoint, your supplier’s product descriptions are probably perfectly adequate. However, besides generally being poorly written, these descriptions have a major flaw. Your supplier will make these descriptions available to all of their distributors, and many of those distributors will use them.

Joining a whole list of different websites who are posting this duplicate content can eventually get you in trouble with Google. Not only will your website be considered generally less important (since your content is readily available elsewhere already), but you might also get flagged as a spam site, which can seriously interfere with your ability to rank for important keywords in the search results.

Unique descriptions can also help to improve your rankings, but first and foremost they are an important way to protect yourself from negative attention.

 

Can’t I just write them myself?

Of course you can! Product descriptions aren’t really very tricky to write. You’re just packaging information about your product with a few relevant keywords into an easily digestible and readable format.

The problem isn’t that they’re so difficult to write, it’s that it takes a long time. If your store sells a fairly conservative 500 different products, you can expect to spend a good 100 focused working-hours just on writing, and that doesn’t include the time you’ll spend inputting, formatting, and uploading the descriptions to your site.

As a small business owner or marketing manager, it’s unlikely that you have the time to drop everything for 2-3 weeks to get it done. As a result, these kinds of projects tend to get placed on the back burner, and forgotten there for months or years. Unfortunately, operating with a half-finished looking e-commerce store for months or years can translate to a lot of lost revenue.

 

Looking for someone to create product descriptions or other written content for your business? Reach out today!

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How To Write a Sales Letter

Sales letters are something that every business needs, but few people actually know how to put together. Whether you’re building a landing page for your website, writing content for an email campaign, or sending out old fashioned snail mail, this is a problem that’s just not going to go away. No matter if you’re an aspiring copywriter, or a small business owner putting together their own content, you need to know how to write an effective sales letter.

There’s more than one way to do this, but we’re going to go over one simple and effective way to grab a reader’s attention, provide the information they need to make a purchasing decision, and prod them to get in touch.

 

Explain the Problem

Start off by helping the reader determine whether they’re in the right place. You can do this easily by making a statement or asking a question that illustrates the problem. A few examples might look like this…

  • Are you tired of your cat tracking litter all over the house?
  • Keeping your website updated with fresh content while also running a business is just too much work for many small business owners.
  • Is your HOA knocking the door down because your front lawn hasn’t been mowed in a month?

The point of this statement is to get the reader’s interest by showing them that you understand the problem. Additionally, it sets you up to provide a solution without just pushing a product at someone out of the blue.

 

Offer your Solution

Immediately after setting up the problem, indicate how you’re going to fix it. Many readers will want to make a quick evaluation before digging for more details, so don’t include any extraneous details here. A quick “We can help!” followed by a quick one or two sentence description or a few bullet points describing your product or service is enough.

At this point you’ll want to provide your contact information, or a link to your contact page. Many customers won’t be interested in reading on to get more specifics, and some might simply prefer to discuss your product or service with you over the phone or in person.

Explain how it works

Depending on what your product or service is, you can provide additional information in any number of ways. You might walk the reader through your process, describe product features, offer industry data, or explain exactly what makes your product or service particularly important or relevant to your potential customer.

You might do this using an infographic, a bulleted list, a procedure document, or just a few paragraphs of prose. In this section it’s ok to be more exhaustive, because readers who look at it will have scrolled down to get there on purpose, and are actively looking for more information.

 

Call to Action

It’s important that you don’t just let the page come to an awkward end. Someone reaching the bottom of the page needs to be naturally led to the next step, which would be to make a purchase or to contact you. Do this by again touching on the problem and your solution in conclusion, and then calling on the reader to take action by following a link, filling out a contact form, or calling a number.

Don’t have enough time to write your own sales letters for email marketing or landing pages? Get a hold of me using this contact form.

Why Content Rates Differ so Drastically

26574114111_260b0f5e81Whether you’re a beginning writer, or a business looking to hire a writer to produce content for your website, you’re going to run into a pretty confusing mess when it comes to figuring out how much content is worth.

Assuming that you’re only comparing native or fully fluent writers who produce grammatically correct content, you’ll still get a huge difference in price ranging from as low as about $0.02/word to $1.00/word or more. That means a standard 500 word article could cost you anywhere from $10 or so to $500 or more. What’s the difference in quality?

How much should a business expect to pay?

The main difference is a fundamental difference in the writer’s approach to writing, and in the business’ content needs.

 

Cheap Junk Content

Cheap content is both literally and figuratively cheap. It looks pretty good at first glance, but gets increasingly disappointing as you read through it. The cost is low because it’s usually produced with little or no research, at whatever speed the writer can type. Often it’s “spun”, meaning it’s completely plagiarized and reworded from another article. It has no original substance, no real entertainment value, and doesn’t serve the reader in any way.

That might sound uncharitable, but there is an enormous market for this type of writing. There’s an entire industry built around it; just google “content mill” or “content farm” to find it.

Fundamentally, this kind of content doesn’t serve the reader, because it’s not supposed to.

Cheap content bulks up the size of the website, and helps to define its niche by incorporating relevant keywords. Both of these things are primarily for SEO purposes, not for actual people to ever read.

 

Real Content

Let’s define “real” content as the level of quality at which we can reliably assume that the person publishing it is honestly hoping for a real human to read it.

This would be the lowest cost at which the typing speed of the writer becomes less relevant than their ability to vet sources and do basic research.

To me, this begins at about $0.10/word. At 10 cents per word, a writer has roughly the same amount of time to research and vet sources as they do to actually write and do basic edits on the final product. At this point, the final article will be “original content”, meaning that the ideas represented in it are actually those of the writer producing the article. Of course, this is still a pretty low bar in terms of quality.

The reason high level websites, magazines, and major publications often pay upwards of $1.00 per word is because they actually implement the writing process you learned about (and probably didn’t use) in college.

 

Great Content

Getting from “real” to “great” content is a smoother transition. You get out of it what you put in. Someone looking for great content needs to budget for a lot of time spent on in-depth research, multiple drafts, edits, meetings, and even auxiliary supporting content like graphics or videos. A single article could go through many rounds of revision to ensure accuracy, inject humor, simplify concepts, or remove fluff. It’s only really ever “done” when you decide it’s “good enough”.

So, at what cost do we start getting really high quality content?

It depends on what you’re writing about, who your audience is, and how much expertise your writer has in the professional field they’re writing in. To give you a number I’d figure that you can start seeing some legitimately unique high quality writing at maybe around $0.25/word, but that’s a truly rough estimate. As the quality of the content increases, you’re increasingly also paying for the writer’s education, and the value of their professional experience.

What you need to budget for your business’ content is dependent strongly on what kind of content you need, and what kind of content you want or can afford to have representing your business to the public.

 

 

 

 

Righting Wrongs about Writers

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There are a couple of myths about writers that I think could bear to be addressed, specifically regarding those of us that earn a living at it.

Most Writers are Starving Artists

Popular culture and the worried parents of English majors often think of writers as that guy at the coffee shop who’s trying to make it big by writing the next great American novel on his MacBook while living in his friend’s attic. Fortunately, writing isn’t just an art, it’s a skill. Those of us who practice it professionally are mostly doing fine, thank you.

Very few people make a living writing books, especially not fiction. Most modern writing jobs are either related to technical writing or marketing. What we write lives on the internet, on corporate servers, and in instruction manuals. I’m not saying that novelists don’t exist, of course, you’re just a lot more likely to run into one of us regular desk-jockeys than the more romantic inspiration-based people.

Great Writers Don’t Need Multiple Drafts

Good writing is very rarely produced in a flash of inspiration. None of us is that good, and if you are you’re missing out on your potential greatness.

Your first draft is just a basic breakdown of what you’re trying to say. If you want to produce something not just readable, but truly interesting, you’ve got to rework it a couple of times. Go through your writing a couple of times and think about how somebody who’s more interesting than you might say what you’re saying…

Writers Work Alone

It doesn’t matter who you are, if you’re the only one staring at your work, you’re going to miss some glaring issues that a second pair of eyes can clear up for you in short order.

The problem with working alone as a writer is that we, being mere mortals, tend to understand what we wrote exactly the way that we intended it, not the way that we actually wrote it. As a result, we have a natural tendency to produce inferior work when we’re working alone.

One of the first and most important lessons that any writer learns when they become a professional is to seek out and treasure feedback, whether it’s from an editor or from a client. That feedback is going to make your work look better and save you from possible miscommunication and embarrassment.

Writers Have a Magical Talent

I can’t even begin to tell you how often I’ve been told by friends and peers that they “just can’t write”. They don’t mean that they can’t form coherent sentences, just that they can’t organize their ideas into a long-form readable format.

Fortunately, pretty much anyone can learn to write competently. It takes some study and practice, but it’s not so intuitive that you couldn’t make a step-by-step course for it (as literally every school and university can attest). So, if you want to learn to write, just Google it and start practicing!

Stop the Sleazy Injection of Sales into Marketing

I’ve spent several years now working with, for, and around  small businesses, and easily the most common issue that marketers run into is that clients conflate and confuse us with salespeople.

Your business needs both marketing and sales to grow effectively. They aren’t the same, and they shouldn’t mix too much if you want to avoid sabotaging both efforts.

Mixing Sales and Marketing is Sleazy

control1First off, let’s be clear that trying to push conversions through your marketing strategy comes across as incredibly sleazy.

Nobody want’s to be friends with a sleazy car-salesman type person. More importantly, nobody trusts a guy like that to treat them like a real person, which pretty much shoots your entire marketing effort in the foot right there.

To make a metaphor out of it, if marketing is like chatting with your neighbor about what you do for a living, then trying to inject sales tactics into a marketing project is like suddenly revealing that you work for Amway or Mary Kay halfway through the conversation. It makes people feel defensive and destroys perfectly good friendships.

Breaking it down…

Businesses naturally want to mix marketing and sales because budgets are usually tight, and they sound kind of similar on the surface; both are about making sure you’ve got plenty of fresh work to do, after all. Unfortunately, that’s where the similarity ends.

Iterate-Marketing-Funnel-03The first thing I want to make sure you’ve heard of is the concept of the marketing funnel. It’s a bit oversimplified, but it works great to illustrate the point of this post.

The marketing funnel is the process by which marketing leads to conversions, from raising awareness, to generating interest, to conversions, where it turns around and leads on to consumer advocacy. If you’re not familiar with the concept, please click on the earlier link, and feel free to do some more googling on the subject before reading on.

Marketing is About Awareness

When you bring on a marketer you’re laying the groundwork for sales. Marketing works to raise awareness about your existence and about what you do; it works at the very top of the marketing funnel. We build up your website and social media pages to bring your brand to a mass audience. This group of people isn’t your customer base, it’s your fan-base or your friend group. They don’t necessarily buy your product, but they’ll recommend you to people who will.

For example; think of Elon Musk’s Tesla; the vast majority of people talking about them won’t be able to afford a vehicle for decades (or maybe ever), but those same people are the ones who made them famous and successful by spreading the word and generating excitement.

Sales, on the other hand, works in the middle and at the bottom of the marketing funnel, working with people who have already expressed interest in your product and turning them into paying customers.

Marketing Doesn’t Aggressively Convert

Good marketing results in conversions, but it doesn’t go out and “make” them.

Sales is about finding people and getting them to buy your product. Marketing, on the other hand, is about making your business interesting, approachable, and human so that your customers will come to you.

Your marketing efforts should be designed to engage people on a personal level and establish yourself as an active member of your community by giving your company a personality and relatable interests. Leave the closing of the deal to your salesperson.

Small Businesses Need Internet Marketers

7483834044_9ab1dba92dIn the last year I’ve had friends and family ask me how “playing around on the internet” could possibly be worth actual real-world money. Then, as we talked, they’d whip out their phone to google for a good lunch place.

The Internet Is The New Primary Marketing Medium 

When’s the last time that you used a phone book to find a local service like an electrician, a landscaper, a lawyer, or an internet service provider? When’s the last time you actually called a number from a billboard?

For me, and most millennials, the answer is somewhere between “I can’t remember” and “not ever”. For Gen X-ers an older it’s become fairly uncommon as well. If you need to buy something in this day and age you’ll pull out your phone and check on the internet before you consider other methods.

It’s silly for any business today not to do everything they can to elevate their presence on the web.

Just Existing Isn’t Enough to Get Noticed

Since most business owners are clever and hardworking people, they do read the tea leaves and get a website and a few social media accounts. Unfortunately, that’s usually not enough, Everyone has a website, and unless people aren’t already looking at yours, it won’t rank much better than your competitors’.

You have to update your site regularly and interact with your community on social media to drive traffic and keep people’s attention. Unfortunately for modern entrepreneurs, this type of marketing is a process and takes a lot more time than the buy-it-and-forget-it ads of the pre-internet era.

Entrepreneurs are Busy People

Most startup business owners put in something between 60 and 80-hour weeks just to make sure their business runs. They don’t have time to sit down every single day to talk to strangers on Twitter and Facebook, catch up on industry news, and write blog updates for their site.

Even for the people who understand the importance of marketing on the internet, and take the time to do so, they often fall into what I call the “sales trap”.

Entrepreneurs Usually Excel at Selling, not Marketing

Internet marketing isn’t really about converting, it’s more about generating leads, and making it easier to generate more leads that you can work on converting later.

The “sales trap” is falling for the overwhelming desire to sell something to everyone you interact with in your marketing efforts.

control1Internet marketing can generate sales directly, but primarily it exists to raise general awareness about you and to make you easier to find through internet searches. That means that most of the people you reach out to won’t become customers. Instead, you’re creating a base of popularity that will encourage potential customers to come to you.

Since this usually means that, in the early stages of your campaign, your marketing efforts won’t bring a significant return in terms of sales, this can feel very frustrating to someone who is used to making things happen rather than helping them grow.

Hire a Pro

Traditional marketing was often actually more expensive than hiring an internet marketer is today. We tend to shy away from paying for internet marketing because it’s in cyberspace, and, on some level, we still don’t think it’s real.

If you’re running a small business, and you just don’t have the  time, energy, or patience to deal with running your own internet marketing, call me up, and let’s do lunch.

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Breaking Into a New Writing Niche

huge.15.78083Your best writing will always be in industry niches that you’re already familiar with. That means that you’re going to be limited by your own personal interests or past work history when you get started as a professional writer. If you’re in marketing, that kind of limitation can cost you a lot of contracts, which you probably can’t afford.

As you go, you’ll inevitably get a client who wants you to write something in a niche that you know nothing about. Knowing how to successfully tackle an unfamiliar topic with an unfamiliar audience can be difficult, but it’s perfectly doable if you’re smart about how you approach it.

Explain the Industry to Outsiders9623863701_16659786d4 

When you get started in a new niche you’ll be a total outsider; you simply won’t have anything relevant to tell people who are surrounded by it everyday. If you try you’ll inevitably come across as either badly under-informed, or just incredibly condescending.

You can circumvent that by just ignoring them for now, and writing for a totally different audience: laypeople.

You can translate your research on the industry into articles that your client can publish to reach out to the greater community. Being an outsider is actually kind of helpful when you’re writing an educational piece, because you won’t accidentally infuse your writing with industry jargon and unfamiliar concepts without bothering to explain them.

When you’re writing one of these pieces you’ll need to follow a few important guidelines that’ll help you become more proficient in the new niche until you develop the background necessary to comment intelligently on subjects that are relevant to the niche group.

Take a Minute and Read

Even if your client is giving you some basic 4341546201_89f1f13313points to write off of, you need to do your research on the industry. Go and find a few relevant industry blogs and familiarize yourself with the community and industry-specific language.

Find out who’s important, follow them on twitter, and listen to what they’re saying.

Don’t Pretend to Be an Expert

In those first few articles it’s always tempting to make yourself sound like a long-time expert in whatever field you’re writing about. Besides violating the trust of your readers, that’s also going to undermine the quality of your work.

Instead, take a more academic or journalistic approach. Cite and quote your sources to lend authority to your writing, and think about publishing an interview with a real expert, like, say, your client.

Ask Questions To Break In

Once you’ve written a good handful of articles in your new niche it’s time to start shifting your focus to the professional community. This new audience could be your client’s customers (often also businesses), or any other individuals who already have a real interest in the niche (kind of like you!).

Start asking informed questions that matter to you (and your readers) and write articles that bring your client’s answers to the masses. These articles are usually about broader industry news, or just more specific information about how things are run.

Becoming an “Expert”

Being a niche expert as a writer is VERY different than being an actual expert. An industry professional has to operate an industry; their writer just has to understand what they’re doing. That’s lucky for us, because it means we can become relevant pretty quickly.

A writer becomes an expert when they’re integrated into the larger niche community. It’s a gradual process and you can think of it in a variety of ways.

Personally, I like to just go by how other people treat me. If people know who you are, you’re invited to industry tweet chats, and other professionals are citing your work in their own writing, you’ve probably arrived.

Remember to Follow Me on Twitter and subscribe to the blog.

 

Writing Is About Your Audience… The Other One

As writers we’re taught to think about our audience’s perspective and to write just for them. That’s awesome advice, but what we keep forgetting is that freelancers have two audiences, and one of them is our client.

Being former humanities majors, a lot of us tend to carry a weird juvenile grudge against businesses and corporations, because we see them as “the man”. We tend to ignore the fact that we have a job precisely because they’re “the man”, and “the man” needs help communicating with normal “Hyu-mons”.

The people who pay your invoices are 2192108211_2e4231545busually immersed in their field 24/7, and that can result in them losing sight of what normal people will be able to understand about their work. It’s our job to do the research to understand what the client is trying to communicate to their target audience, and then to build that bridge between the two.

If  we don’t successfully reach both audiences, the whole thing falls into the water.

Making your Client Happy

As writers we’re usually taught to “put a little of ourselves” into everything we write. That still sort of applies, but impressing your client is more about putting a little of them into your writing.

Just BS-ing well enough to convince laypeople is a great way to irritate your client and lose contracts. Making sure that you really know what you’re talking about is key to earning your client’s trust.

There’s no way that you can communicate your client’s knowledge and expertise to their audience if you don’t have access to it yourself. The first thing we need to do is to demand information. It feels weird to ask for something from someone who’s giving you money, but you won’t be able to give them what they want if they can’t tell you what they want to communicate.

Next we need to listen, and then do research on, the information that clients give us to make sure that we actually understand what we’re going to be writing about.

Achieving Long Term Success

Making your client happy is your first goal, but you can forget about getting hired back if your work doesn’t make an impact with your client’s audience.

Most of the time you’ll be trying to reach out to laypeople who have no special knowledge about your client’s field. To reach them, you’ll need to take your client’s message, and what you learned in your research, and figure out how to get the unwashed masses to care.

Your client lives in their industry and is inherently interested in their own work. We come in as outsiders and figure out how to translate the client’s needs for their audience. Your relatively recent ignorance in their field, combined with your communication and writing skills, gives you the necessary perspective to know what will and won’t speak to laypeople.

Please Follow and Add me on Twitter @writerworldwide

3 Surprises You Face When You Become a Freelance Writer

(If you didn’t do your research first)   🙂

Writing is, technically, something that you can do from anywhere in the world, 4341546201_89f1f13313which is what makes it such an attractive field for people who are unwilling or unable to stay in any one place too long. As it turns out, writing for other people presents a few challenges that your English degree didn’t prepare you for…

You’ll Need To Learn To Sell

Most of us studied writing related things in college because we don’t like talking to other humans if we can help it. Unfortunately you can’t run any business without salespeople, and, when you’re a freelancer, that salesperson is you. I was fortunate enough to work with and for companies that engaged in various types of internet marketing, so I got a bit of practice before I struck out on my own. If you’re thinking about doing this you might want to start with an intense Googling session about SMM, SEM, Email marketing, and Content Marketing.

The Hours are Nuts

That doesn’t necessarily mean there are a lot of them. In my case it’s become a trend that whenever I have a few days or weeks without any travel plans, family obligations, or other distractions I’ll suddenly run out of work. Then, as soon as I pack my bags I get an avalanche of assignments that I end up putting together in hostel rooms, airports, buses, random coffee shops in Belgrade, or anywhere else that I can glean a spotty internet connection.

You Can’t Bill for 40 Hours per Week

Charging 15 or 20 bucks an hour sounds pretty great if you’re a fresh college grad that’s currently stuck in an unpaid internship, but at that rate you can forget about making rent by yourself, or having health insurance. As a freelancer you’re going to spend nearly half of your time talking to prospective and current clients, marketing for yourself, and doing miscellaneous clerical work to keep your business in order.

To make a decent living, charge what you want to earn hourly at a normal job, double it, and add the cost of taxes.

If you still want to write for a living after reading this, you might just make it! If you’re a freelance writer, please comment and add in any other curve-balls you faced when you started out.