4 Reasons to Consider Creative Staffing Agencies

There are many reasons to consider creative staffing agencies. (We previously covered the pros and cons in a blog post last year.) As you may know, being a temp has a bad rap. It implies you are wet behind the ears, not ready for prime-time, not worthy of a real negotiated contract between equal partners. As copywriters and business owners, we value our autonomy and ability to negotiate top pay for years of hard-won expertise and entrepreneurial can-do spirit that any employer would love to access.  Copywriters are high achievers; temping is for lazy wage slaves who can’t wait to clock out, right?

So, why do I work a temp job? Well, after having held this job a year, I have to say the experience has been positive overall, and not only because of the steady income. Here’s why:

  1. Quick pay and benefits. Being a contractor means you can negotiate a higher hourly rate, but often there is a lag time between invoicing and actually receiving the check. Depending on your clients, you can wait anywhere from 15 to 120 days (if not more). Temping gives you a weekly paycheck. And although the benefits aren’t as good as full-time employee benefits, they are reasonable especially if you have a family to support. Many temp agencies in Portland offer health, dental, vision, and long-term disability insurance; 401(k) plans; and ongoing professional development.
  2. Job bank. Most companies prefer to advertise and list open positions with temp agencies, jobs that often aren’t listed anywhere, else even though it costs them a lot. Companies find it’s worth paying for the convenience and no-strings-attached flexibility of getting a pool of vetted candidates. This flexibility goes both ways, too. If a new assignment comes along that’s better for you, you can ask your recruiter to switch.
  3. Yet another way to network. Temp jobs introduce you to companies and people you might have never known about otherwise. And they allow you to prove your skills to strangers who wouldn’t bother to read your email or return your calls.
  4. The benefits of collaboration. Although calling all the shots as your own boss can be great, it can also be a dead end creatively. I find collaborating with other writers, graphic designers, creative directors, marketing staff, and administrators to be valuable not only for inspiration and feedback, but also improve my ability to communicate ideas and work face to face with people from different backgrounds.

Freelancing while temping through a creative staffing agency can easily create more work than you’re comfortable with! You may find yourself trading the old feast-or-famine dilemma for a feast-or-feast more problem, which is not a bad problem to have. I often need to adjust, but I have found a 60-40 temp/freelance workload that gives me the best of both worlds: I have financial stability and opportunities to expand my skill set via temping, but I also have the freedom to continue building my business and pursue the projects that I want, not that I need.

Define and Write Useful You-You Content

When you’re writing copy, remember it is about you (the businessperson) and “the other” you (the client). Useful you-you content helps grow solid professional and personal relationships that form your client base.

To create your “you-you” message, demonstrate that you’re able to fill a person’s need or desire with your specific service or product (Talk about benefits that are pertinent to clients!) Also, provide additional free useful tips that improve their lives.

 Try these helpful steps for defining and writing your message.

Brainstorm and think like your client. Write everything that comes to mind.

  • What need do you fill? (Think basics, like saving time, reducing stress, creating beauty, etc.)
  • How do you meet that need? (Think method of filling those basics, like offering professional cleaning services to save time and reduce stress.)
  • Why should he/she buy your product or service? (Think what sets your product/service apart.)
  • Why should he/she work with you? (Think professional business bio, including your background, training, etc., which supports your credibility.

Define your message with the client’s point of view in mind.

  • Review and use your brainstorming notes to write a focused message that demonstrates how your product/service meets a client’s needs.
  • Include clear directions (aka, a call to action). Use verbs—like “call, read, click”—that invite people to learn more and interact with you.

Use this client-focused message as the foundation for your consistent brand.

Remember that your clients are busy! They’re filtering content in about eight seconds. A 2015 study by Microsoft Canada showed people’s attention span dropping from 12 to eight seconds. While the report acknowledged that, “digital lifestyles affect the ability to remain focused for extended periods of time,” it highlighted helpful insight for marketers and business owners. “When consumers are looking for something to care about at every moment, rapid fire tactics like branded content, native advertising and generally useful, entertaining, and shareable content are best.”

While your message might grow and evolve, don’t confuse clients with a constantly shifting brand. If your clients need to work hard to recognize your company, they might stop interacting with you. Stick to the message that addresses their needs—and maintains your business relationship.

Good luck and happy writing!

Writers, Don’t Worry about Creative Theft

(This blog post is part of our occasional series highlighting the websites of CC:PDX‘s members. If you’d like to see the original version of this article, please click here.)

Some writers live in fear of plagiarism. They worry they’ll put heart and soul into developing a book concept, and then some thief will come along and run away with it. For some writers, this fear is so powerful, they won’t even tell you what their book is about, much less let you actually read it.

I was listening to my favorite podcast the other day (from Seanwes, hosted by creative entrepreneurs Sean McCabe and Ben Toalson). It was titled “Nailing Your Product Launch the First Time,” and they address this very topic. Sean recommends marketing your product (in our case, books) six months to a year ahead of release. Some authors would balk at this, thinking, “But if I tell people what I’m doing BEFORE the book is launched, someone could steal my idea and get the book out ahead of me!”

Yes, this would be terrible. Creative theft is real. Plagiarists are definitely out there.

But as Sean says in his podcast (and I paraphrase here): You shouldn’t worry about people stealing your work. You should worry about getting them to care at all.

I know. It’s harsh.

But the truth is, early on in your career as an author, no one cares about your book as much as you do. No matter how great your idea is, your prospective readers are overwhelmed and overstimulated; it takes consistent effort to be heard above the racket. That’s why your prospective readers need multiple marketing “touches.” It takes time to get people to even notice what you’re doing, and even more time to get them to understand it, be excited about it, and then be willing to lay down money for it. This has nothing to do with the quality of your book. It’s just the natural progression of the sales funnel:

creative theft

[Adorable illustration provided by Ryan M. Weisgerber]

So, the way this plays out in the mind of your prospective reader:

Awareness: “Oh, so-and-so published a book.”

Interest: “Huh, that actually looks kinda interesting.”

Desire: “Man, I really want to read that!”

Action: “Okay, I just bought it.” (And then, of course, they read it cover-to-cover.)

Advocacy: “Oh my God, I need to tell everyone how awesome this book is!”

This funneling can take minutes, or it can take years. Think about yourself—I’m sure you’ve made a spontaneous purchase of something the moment you discovered it; and I’m sure you’ve circled around a purchase for months or even years before you bit the bullet and did it. It has little to do with the quality of the product and more to do with the buyer’s perceptions and decision-making process.

However, if you’re so fearful of having your idea stolen that you refuse to engage in any marketing or audience-building prior to publication, you’ll find yourself in the disappointing position of having your gorgeous book ready to go on publication day—aaaand . . . your prospective readers are totally unaware of it, or are just barely aware. Maybe they’ll eventually be ready to commit to buying and reading it, but . . . just not yet. This creates a disappointing mismatch: you’re excited (and probably exhausted) because it’s FINALLY publication day, and then your announcements are met with the sound of crickets. Nothing sinks an author’s motivation quicker than feeling like nobody cares about their work.

You’re in a Catch-22, my friends. If you keep your ideas close to your chest, they won’t be stolen. But at the same time, by keeping your ideas “safe,” you rob your readers of the opportunity to enjoy them.

Also, while you likely already know this, I think it bears repeating: an idea is not a book. You, me, and ten other people could write a book about the same idea, and yet the results would be wildly different. Your book isn’t just an idea. It’s the execution—the finished product that expresses your wholly unique, un-stealable perspective and voice.

***

[Check out Sean & Ben’s podcast: “Nailing Your Product Launch the First Time”]

Content Strategy and The Force Awakens

The “content is king” debate (as I understand it) pits those who believe quality content should rule against those who believe any content is good as long as it brings in advertising bucks. The debate played out like a battle between the dark and light sides of the Force from the Star Wars saga. It’s appropriate that the deluge of articles about the latest Star Wars film, The Force Awakens, demonstrates this content conflict.

It’s a Star Wars heavy week, with the release of The Force Awakens on home media and the teaser trailer for Rogue One. I think it’s okay to talk about The Force Awakens’ plot points, but if you’ve been waiting to see the film from the comfort of your couch, assume major spoilers below.

If you’re a Star Wars fan like me, you were probably awaiting the seventh installment in the series with a mix of excitement and trepidation. After its release, the film, unsurprisingly, became a phenomenon in a short amount of time (I loved the film, but the reasons why are a topic for another venue). As I noted above, lots of articles speculated on a host of plot points came out at the same time.

Fans really wanted to discuss the parentage of the film’s protagonist, Rey (Daisy Ridley). The Force Awakens leaves the identity of Rey’s parents ambiguous. That didn’t stop movie news sites like Cinema Blend, Pop Sugar, Movie Pilot, Collider, The Mary Sue, and more, from running stories on every theory (valid and crackpot) from Reddit or YouTube. One video theorized that Rey is Anakin Skywalker reincarnated.

There were rays of hope, such as thoughtful long-form articles like Tor.com’s “Hey, Star Wars: Episode VIII—Don’t Make Rey a Skywalker.” (Which I disagree with, by the way, but that’s the beauty of thoughtful long-form content. It engages you.)

It doesn’t take an experienced marketer to know that so many people were hungry to know more, more, more. By the end of the first week, though, I was put off by the clickbait headlines. There were articles with titles like, “This Theory About Rey Confirmed!” but the content was just some kid’s opinion that went viral. Running anything with the words, “Rey,” “Skywalker,” or “Snoke” put eyeballs on sites, generating “forceful” streams of revenue (sorry).

The articles that pretended to be long-form and descriptive articles were just empty calories. As long as people kept searching for news or discussion points, the websites kept churning out content. Did I just describe your company’s content marketing strategy? Dark side adherents like Kylo Ren would applaud such brute force actions, but I think following Maz Kanata’s advice about letting the Force flow through you (which gives Rey the strength to actually defeat the overconfident Ren) is a better strategy.

Here’s some basic content strategy tips to think about … cribbed from the entire Star Wars saga:

Be mindful

Do you have research on your customers? Be like a Jedi Master and center yourself with market research. This is the foundation for your content strategy and should remain your touchstone as you create campaigns.

Use your instincts

What’s the best way to reach your audience? Webinars, infographics, your blog, or social media? A mix? Channel the resourceful Rey as she assembled the perfect tools that allowed her to find hidden treasures on Jakku.

Track and follow up

It goes without saying that you should check your analytics and see what gets the most response. Be a tenacious bounty hunter like Boba Fett and isolate your top content performers. So-called vanity metrics are only useless if you ignore what catches your audience’s attention, and if you keep hammering the clickbait. Your audience wants substance. If your content converts, of course, then you know you have secured your prize. It’s up to you to enshrine it in carbonite.

Be nimble

Don’t be afraid to augment certain aspects of your strategy and ditch other areas that aren’t working. Yoda danced all over Count Dooku’s face when the latter tried to engage him in a “Force contest” in Attack of the Clones. Do the same with your non-starters.

The executives believe that releasing a Star Wars film each year will keep the fan base happy and engaged; will they score a win each time? Probably not. But they understand the most important aspect of a content strategy:  their fans discuss, debate, and serve as unpaid brand ambassadors. And that’s why the Force is with them.

Working Remotely Worked For Me

I always wanted to be the kind of dad who was around for his kids during the day. I always thought, if it worked out, it would be great to work remotely. For me, one of the hardest things about having a full time job away from home was a feeling of missing out, of not being around, especially in those early years when my kids were toddling around. I’d see my kids briefly in the morning and then for a couple of hours through dinner and bedtime, full of reading, stories, and song. I valued the time I did have with them, but I always wanted more. Then, around the time my son was entering kindergarten, we moved to a different city and I took the opportunity to turn my permanent full time position into a work-from-home gig. This turned out to be fortunate, because my son’s undiagnosed autism led to a difficult transition to kindergarten. As hard as it was, I was able to be there for him and support him at school. I used to joke that I was my family’s chauffeur, given how much I drove everyone around.

The predictability of my work-from-home job gave me a solid platform from which to support my wife and children in the way that they most needed at the time. In the morning, I walked my son to school. In the afternoon, I stopped by after school to help him transition to after care. I worked in the in-between times. Because I worked with a team of writers that was also working remotely, this worked pretty well. I didn’t feel like I was the only one calling in to the office.

My colleagues and I experimented with several different tools to manage workflow (Trello and Asana stand out in my mind), but in the end we settled on a Google Sheet to track the work that needed to be written. I found the flexibility of my work to be quite freeing. I didn’t need to clock in for set hours, because it was more important that the work was done. Even though my work sometimes bled into evenings and weekends, I felt like I achieved a solid balance between work and family obligations. Not only that, it allowed my wife much greater flexibility in her job seeking process.

Unfortunately, about a year later my entire team was laid off following an acquisition. With a strong feeling that my son needed me to be around for him, I decided to pursue freelance work so that I could continue working from home. Little did I anticipate how stressful the hustle for work would be, nor how often freelance work would take me outside the home. But that’s a tale for another time.

My job situation is different now. My children are also older and don’t need my attention quite so fiercely. As stressful as it was at times, I’m grateful that I was able to be there, working from home, during some of their earliest years.

No matter what happens, I’ll always be there to read to them at bedtime.