Guest blogging is a great way to be seen by a wider audience. It’s like going to the neighborhood social…in the neighborhood down the street. You get to step out, strut a little and talk to new people. But, ya gotta do it the right way. You can’t just waltz right in, you have to earn that invitation.
Whether you’re thinking of using featured writers on your blog or looking for other blogs to showcase your own work, approach it carefully:
- Don’t go out and randomly approach blogs. Find one you like. Find one that talks about the same things you talk about. Read. Engage with relevant, scintillating comments. Let the blog owner get to know you.
- Do your research. Do your research. Do the research. Know the blog and its subject matter. Read old posts, look for the About page. See what readers are commenting about. Don’t show up at a pool party in your cocktail dress.
- Write a strong compelling letter about the value you could add to that particular blog. Give a summary of what you’d like to write, your credentials and why you think you can offer something of value to her readers. You gotta fit in with the crowd.
- Provide a link to your writing clips. Strut your stuff. It’s not a bad idea to name-drop here. This is the time to brag…just a little.
- Follow up with a thank you. Even if your proposal gets turned down, a quick thanks for your consideration is a good idea. You never know when things might change or the blogger may remember you or have a specific need for that topic.
For the blog owner–it’s worth considering a guest blogger as long as you’re clear on what you want and why. It’s like inviting the new guy down the street to the party… he’s funny and seems to have some appeal. He can liven up the party atmosphere. Just make sure he’s not a total bore before you send the invite.
If you’re going to start inviting guest writers set some ground rules. Give yourself authority over content, the right to refuse a post if it’s unacceptable and the right to edit mistakes. Look at some bigger blogs and see if they have with guidelines for guest bloggers to get ideas on how to set up yours.
I got a recent offer for my other blog, A Woman’s Page. The blog is geared to older women and focuses on sexual health, midlife and dating topics. Not exclusively, but my focus is women. And, that’s pretty evident. The blog is linked to Vibrant Health, a women’s network and my blog appears on Alltop under the topic of midlife. It is a blog for and about women. This individual did a little research and her letter was well written. She talked about her skills and listed a few topics she would write about for my blog. The first topic? Prostate health. It’s A Woman’s Page. I rarely talk about prostate health. Wait, I have never talked about prostate health. Yes, she mentioned two others, but I got stuck on prostate.
I said no. But, I thanked her and wished her well. I don’t use guest bloggers–I’m not a big enough blog to be of much help for a beginning writer. If I look for a guest writer I’ll be wooing someone with a larger following. And, a better understanding of how to bring their best stuff to my party.
As freelance writers we have to take some pretty bold steps to get that invite, to find the next new client, to increase our exposure. It’s all about self-promotion. Pimping. It can feel like that sometimes. We have to put ourselves out there and proclaim our authority. Stand at the center of the crowd and say, “Let me tell you a story about how great a writer I am. Here’s what I can do for you.”
Bring on the party dress!
A short cruise around the internet and you’ll find blogs and websites of varying caliber. More than a few are cluttered, poorly designed sites with a jumble of color and images that overwhelm readers. I don’t want to read a blog that’s visually crammed with lots of widgets and animated crap. I really hate flashing colors and websites that launch into song! The song will usually cause me to leave almost immediately, or at the very least hit the mute button.
I’m visual; I respond to space and placement and color. Strong bold color can be fine, personally I’m drawn to white space. Yesterday I discovered the coolest site. I got there in a roundabout way, starting with a simple powerful tweet; I followed the link and found something that caught my eye. That link took me to a sales page featuring two women, one was Danielle LaPorte. I went to her website, White Hot Truth, and that’s where it happened. I’ve already, in those few short minutes, signed up for daily feeds and I’ve preordered her book.I don’t usually fall that fast, that hard. I promise (and I’m not getting anything incentives to rant and rave here).
Yep, this is all about book marketing–bet you thought I wanted to talk about web design. LaPorte has a book coming out in mid-April and it’s selling like hotcakes. The Fire Starter Sessions is being presold on 9 different sites. Plus, if you preorder and let her know, you get a free gift! She’s got powerful marketing mojo. And, she’s prompt and thorough. So far, everything she’s promised has happened and this morning she’s following me on Twitter. Awesome.
Somewhere in my meanderings I read a story about the success of her promotion, for a book that’s months away from hitting the shelves. I’m not at the ‘about to be published’ stage yet. Hell, I haven’t even finished the book, but I am paying attention to the publishing world, more specifically to how authors are going about self-promotion. I’d suggest you do the same thing. I’m collecting promotional emails, newsletters, blog articles and links to books like LaPorte’s. It’s nice to have examples of what other writers are doing–it’s a learning experience.
My take-away? Ok, so maybe this post is about web design. Well, I’ve found a new blog to read that mixes creative energy with savvy marketing. And it feels like an upbeat place to visit. She is offering up the type of creative energy I know I can benefit from… I just know. And, I wouldn’t be raving about her website if the design hadn’t been so visually appealing and well-laid out.
It’s time for me to shake up my blog design. It’s energizing to see a good blog and think about how to translate some of that to your own. Even when it gives you a moment of anxiety. We all have different styles and what appeals to me might not appeal to everyone. Personal taste matters but it’s important to be consistent in messaging, which means making all aspects of your site compatible.
I titled this post Is Your Blog or Website on Fire? Shouldn’t It Be? Ironically mine is not–I have some work to do in the upcoming days and weeks.
How’s your blog?
So far, 2012 has been about getting rid of clutter and getting more organized. I have to give some of the credit to Leo Babauta of Zen Habits and his current series on clutter. It’s a battle I’ve had to fight more in recent years and his posts have helped motivate me even more.
I have a cluttered brain. And, therefore I have a cluttered desk and a less than efficient schedule. The ramifications of this chaos have the potential to derail all my best efforts. I am exaggerating a bit but I find that the hours spent in front of a computer, surfing the net, reading quick articles, following links and checking my social media sites are not helping me enhance my ability to focus.
My brain has begun (well, let’s be honest. I’ve always been this way I suspect) to drive my work patterns and conversational threads like a series of linked posts. One thought takes me three steps away in a totally new direction. Granted, I am able to tie things together and return to the original point. But, following along with me can be amusing, fascinating or frustrating depending on your style.
I’m developing new patterns. I make lists with regularity now–with a column for calls, email and to-do’s, prioritized if necessary. Each accomplished item gets a hot pink check mark. I’ve already begun a list for tomorrow with the things that I didn’t finish this weekend. As I want Monday to be uber-productive I’ve added times to the morning portion of the list.
The stack of New Yorkers marked for a must read article? Gone. In the recycling. Realistically, I won’t find time to go back and read them. Now I’ve got a corner of the kitchen counter free. And less guilt about not reading enough.
The piles of books in every room in the house? Sorted. Books to donate or trade-in are in one pile, while other books have gone downstairs to the library. There is a smaller, relevant stack next to my desk and a few, select books by the bedroom chair.
The pantry and kitchen drawer are next on the list but not as important. They’ll keep for another week or more. This weekend’s tasks have centered around the computer–deleting old mail and organizing documents.
I’m trying to get back to my personal writing. I blame some of my procrastination on the clutter. I see papers, folders and other things out of place and somehow it has a larger impact. A neat clean space without distractions gives me the physical and mental space to be creative. When I take care of the to-do lists and deal with things I’ve been ignoring it’s a very freeing experience. In procrastination mode I have constructed this notion that the tasks are tedious or time-consuming. Once I actually tackle an item I find it was simple and the feeling of accomplishment is just short of euphoric!
We’ll pretend, for the moment, that the garage is invisible because the house clutter is neatly residing in recycling stacks in the garage. But, hey! Ya gotta start somewhere!
One of my greatest frustrations as a freelance writer is the prospective client who believes he can get a page of web content for under $10 and expect it will be ‘good’. All I can do is laugh… and sigh. No one gets good content at that price. And, everyone wants good content for their website, newsletter or blog. Actually, no. Not really. There are clients who believe that basic SEO work is all that’s needed- you know the guys. They’re the ones with a list of keywords and instructions to insert phrase A 3 times and phrase B one in the last paragraph. Do it fast, get the commas in the right place and get your $9 (which, by the way, is big money to some of these guys).
As I made my way through some business reading this morning I came across Search Engine Land for the first time. Wonderful content and this article by Ian Lurie caught my eye. He captures the primary reasons to hire a quality writer, a content strategist. Like me, for example.
Here is an excerpt from From Garbage to Gourmet: Fixing SEO Content Strategies
You have to stop serving garbage to your visitors, and to search engines. Here’s a couple ideas to get you started:
- Write stuff that hasn’t been written before. There are already 999,999 articles about SEO and title tags. Try something else, or a new spin on your topic.
- Be interesting. Put some thought into how the article is put together. Use visuals where it helps. Use humor, even.
- Hire quality writers to write quality stuff.
- Ask your visitors and customers what they’d like to read. Then write it.
- Follow production best practices. Use good line spacing and typography. Place subheads to organize your story and make it easier to scan. A 500-word article vomited onto the page with zero formatting makes it look like you don’t care. If you don’t care, you don’t deserve to rank.
- Brainstorm and maintain a list of headlines you can assign to writers.
- Assign target topics and phrases to specific pages on your site. Think through how you’ll interlink new content with those pages to build authority.
- Integrate content into your site. You probably won’t make much progress if you hang a bunch of lousy articles off your site like some kind of growth. Content has to be in the flow of a normal visitor’s movement through the site.
In short: think about it. Make content strategy part of your overall Internet marketing strategy and invest in it. You can’t outsource your writing to eLance for $5 per article and expect progress. Nor can you somehow automate or fake your way into the rankings. Yes, there are always the lucky few who manage it. But it’s not the norm.
Think about it. It seems so obvious. Content should be relevant, readable and of value to your readers. The days of poorly written, stilted, almost nonsensical writing are gone. It’s worth your time and your money to pay for a few well-written paragraphs on your website, in your article marketing and blog. Yes, it will cost more money. Take the long view-look to build your site’s reputation. Show off your product in a way that lets customers know it’s good. Good products deserve good promotion. You don’t really think the Mercedes Benz company hires a $9 an hour writer, do you?
If you’re in the market for content, feel free to give me a shout. Here’s where you can find a sampling of my client work.
photo from Wayne’s eye view on Flickr
First of all, let me say that I am not the Expert on product reviews…at least not from the marketing/blogging point of view. Though, I did sleep at a Holiday Inn Express last night so I’m ready to tackle the world today.
Say you’ve got a new product you want to promote, how are you going to get the message out there? There are the tried and tested ways- traditional advertising, press releases, website launches and social media blitzes. Many smaller business ventures turn to bloggers like me to help promote their product. A quick look across the blogosphere will reveal many examples of blatant promotion, often without a disclaimer about free product or services. There are also a lot of well-written blogs where you’ll find product recommendations, tastefully and ethically provided for consumers. The concept is a great one for drawing a buzz for new products and seeking relevant endorsements.
Last week I was given the opportunity to try out and write about a new product for dating singles. The request came specifically through a blog I write for occasionally, a blog for midlife women. Obviously the company wanted to focus on this demographic…assuming they’d done their research.
I’m not going to do the review. And, here’s why:
I don’t think the product is a realistic option for singles in their 50′s and up. I certainly wouldn’t try out this product-it feels contrived and potentially unsafe. Secondly I couldn’t figure out an angle for writing the review. So, I wrote the person in charge to say I’d received the product but that I was struggling with how to proceed. I asked if she have examples of other reviews. Her response was, “let me know what you decide”. That’s all she said, period. Truly.
This company needs a new marketing person!
- There were no blurbs, other reviews or suggestions offered for reviewers to use.
- This woman ignored every direct question I asked and only responded with useless information, as noted above.
- There was no ‘thanks for helping us’ or ‘do you have any questions’.
- There were no conditions, no product disclaimers or specifications for how the reviewer should proceed. Leaving them wide open for a nasty review or who knows what.
If I am going to review a product I want more information. And, I want it given to me before I ask for it. After all I’m writing the review for you, essentially for free. If you don’t count the free sample I got, which I presume comes with a free six-month membership, but even that wasn’t made clear for me. The company should be down on its knees trying everything it can to get a positive review for their product.
I’m being nice. I’m not mentioning the product by name, though I could as there are no restrictions. And, I’m not going to write the review I want to write-about how silly and contrived this product is. I won’t talk about the overt sexual message in this product or sex gone awry in our culture today.
She’ll get a polite, “I don’t think this product is suited for our market. We appreciate your invitation to sample and review your -insert name- but I don’t feel we can honestly give it the type of review you seek”.
The lesson: Be prepared. Do your research on your potential markets and remember you are asking for a favor- you have to earn it. This is a competitive market. Make it easy for me if you want my review. Don’t make me work for it…unless you’re willing to pay my going rate.
image from Auburn Business
The answer to my question naturally varies over time. Forty years ago the answer would have been my pen, paper and my typewriter. Today, a freelance writer’s valuable tools most certainly include the computer. I Have come to realize the value of my laptop computer and all the hindrances it creates in my life as well.
Like any savvy individual, I can quickly and compellingly make a case for being attached to my technology 24/7. The computer, the phone and the iPad are like attachments to my body. Think Edward Scissorhands here. Only this past week my laptop went on the fritz I was forced to give it up to the technology wizards for 3 days and 2 nights. I felt lost, aimless, without purpose. I also found myself reading more, getting to work earlier and having moments of “what do I do now”. Of course, this was mixed in with the anxiety about getting behind on a writing assignment.
My computer issue was a lesson in how we pay attention to things around us. It’s all about knowing what question to ask. Three reinstallations of Mozilla, 2 letters to an ex-boyfriend/ tech expert, numerous virus scans, and a 3 night stay at Best Buy were not sufficient to fix the problem. The $199 tech support fee didn’t work either. I had been home with my baby less than 2 hours when the problem started again.
I’m a good diagnostician and a good reporter of history and behavior. I explained in great detail to each new support guy on forums, in the store and on software support sites what the problem was and how it manifested itself. The online support was the last help I got, a few hours after getting back from the repair shop. I spent my Friday night with a techie who was manipulating my laptop remotely. He concluded that my keyboard was faulty.
That was the last straw. I got up early Saturday morning, bought a new computer and an external hard drive and began to transfer my precious data. Upon completion, I took my wireless mouse and plugged it into my new computer. Yep,the mouse was the problem. It had gone haywire. No one picked up on the touchpad vs. mouse difference. It was a simple solution, albeit an expensive one.
The lesson here has to be about staying present, being careful and attentive. It has to be. I can’t really justify all this time, sweat and money if I don’t come up with the reason this all happened. I’m sitting here with 2 computers. And, no one managed to find this simple solution because they all approached this problem from a highly technical, “expert” state of mind. They failed to ask me any questions.
We know ourselves better than anyone else does. And, at the end of the day we alone are responsible for what goes on in our lives. Some days it’s a balmy walk in the park. Other days it’s cloudy and indefinably challenging. Things work out and we can choose to be positive and optimistic or we can rant and scream and blame. I’m sorry to report that I’ve done all of those things over the last few days.
But, I’ve learned a lesson that can be applied to my work with freelance writing clients. We may be the experts, but our clients hold the key to our joint success. We have to talk to the client, more importantly, we have to listen to them. Problem solving involves partnering with the person as well as her problem. We have to be many things to our clients- diagnostician, counselor, listener, miracle-worker. It can be an exhaustive list as long as the end result is a satisfied customer.
My most valuable tools as a freelance writer are concrete as well as intuitive. Computers, pencil and paper work in conjunction with experience, a willingness to listen and engage with my client to create the best possible outcome for her business needs. And, hopefully we both walk away satisfied.
photo by splorp, @flickr.com
It was a gorgeous day in Virginia yesterday- a wonderful day for a gathering to raise funds and awareness for our local writers nonprofit, WriterHouse. The event was held outside at a local winery, under a canopy of colorful foliage, with a balmy 65 degree temperature and glorious sunshine. A great time was had by all, writers and their families and supporters of the cause.
I played and noshed, sampled the wine and worked some as a volunteer. Looking around I was able to see a number of local writers; a winner of the National Book Award for Young People Literature in 2010. There were a number of published writers, some with books, some with short stories and essays locally and nationally. And others, like me, with hopes of being published one day.
For me, the challenge in writing is really all about motivation and procrastination. And, self-criticism. The September-October issue of Spirituality and Health featured an article by Emma Seppala, entitled Self-Compassion (at this writing it’s not available on their website). Self-compassion is the counterpart to self-criticism, something that as a writer I tend to employ more often than is helpful. It’s difficult to hold myself with compassion when I have so much judgment around my writing. It is a problem writers and other artistic people encounter often. We have an idea of what ‘good’ looks like and get caught in this wave of judgment when we fail to meet this self-imposed standard.
According to this article the key is to engage in a practice of self-compassion, a simple act of accepting defeat or failure, or any other negative emotion. By doing so we allow ourselves to develop a greater sense of self-worth and actually reduce stress. Allowing ourselves to live with a more positive outlook. It makes perfect sense, though the challenges of shifting life-long patterns isn’t very easy. Many of us are quite compassionate and caring…for everyone else on the planet, except ourselves.
We can learn to be compassionate with ourselves, overcoming years of conditioning to compete and succeed. And years of self-criticism. The key is to acknowledge emotions without becoming negative. A simple acknowledgement of how one is feeling in the moment-no judgment or criticism. For a writer, this might involve holding back that critic’s voice in our heads. It might mean giving up the word count, or comparing our work to the Pulitzer-prize winner. No more “I’m no good”, or “no one wants to read my work”. It’s about acceptance.
I often find myself in judgment which leads to a level of procrastination that could stop a locomotive. Then I read a new writer who’s won an award (think The Tiger Wife) and become convinced that I can not write at all. Bam! Stopped in my tracks.
So, I vow to start the week as a kinder and gentler writer. Yes, I will still set goals and expectations, but I won’t berate myself if I don’t do everything I set out to do. I might take a look at what got in the way -sort of an intentional ‘ah ha’ moment, then move on. No promises, no pledges, just a desire to find and follow the path that feels right.
How do you deal with self-judgment as a writer?