Author: Mahesh Raj Mohan

4 Freelance Copywriters Who Give Great Advice

There are many freelance copywriters who give great advice. If you braved the traffic, wind, and Trimet last Thursday, you met one of them. Formidable copywriter and content strategist Hank Hosfield spent nearly twfreelance copywriters who give great adviceo hours giving advice both practical and inspiring for new and veteran freelance copywriters at the Copywriter Conclave of Portland’s monthly meeting.  (You’ll have access to the entirety of Hank’s talk if you become a member.)

If you don’t have access to in-person resources, there are many freelance writing advisors on the Internet.  Many monetize that advice through coaching, online classes, e-books, and so forth.  Some are good and some are bad. Peter Bowerman (we’ve written about him before) is one of the best.  He’s written for corporations (such as Mercedes-Benz), and now a major line of his business is marketing to freelance copywriters like us.

I’ve encountered many freelance writers in my online travels, and I’ve interacted with four in particular who give excellent advice.  They share some traits:  many years of experience; impressive client lists; and a generosity of spirit.

SEO Copywriting

SEO Copywriting is based in Oregon (West Linn) and was founded by Heather Lloyd-Martin.  Heather has more than 20 years of marketing experience, and she was at the vanguard of Search Engine Optimization (SEO) copywriting.  Heather markets to businesses, but she also offers a SEO Copywriting Certification to freelancers.  Heather sends out a weekly e-newsletter, and there is an array of informative blog posts at her site.  She’s also on Twitter.

Dr. Freelance

I became acquainted with Jake Poinier, aka Dr. Freelance, back in 2010 when I started my own freelance copywriting business.  Jake started his freelance shop in 1999.  He releases the Dr. Freelance series of e-books, and his blog posts are informative and entertaining.  He’s also personable, and I’ve learned a lot from him.  One topic he frequently tackles is the touchy subject of freelance writer rates.  You can also find him on Twitter.

Writing Thoughts

Laura Spencer has more than 24 years of professional copywriting experience, with 1,400+ articles and blog posts to her credit.  Laura is a working writer who is also a coach for freelance writers, focusing particularly on messaging and communication.  Laura writes valuable blog posts that touch on many aspects of running a freelance writing business.  Yup, she’s also on Twitter.

Productive Writers

John Soares is another Oregon-based writer (he lives in Ashland).  As of this blog post, he is not taking on new coaching clients, but he sells an e-book designed to help writers discover a niche that is right for them. (Our own Sheila Ashdown has similar advice.).  John’s own niche is in “freelance writing for college textbook publishers,” which has served him well over the years.  He is (you guessed it) on Twitter.

I think there’s an obvious market need for writing advice.  I’m on the fence if a “freelance advisor” should focus only on other freelance writers as his/her market. I think you run the risk of giving outdated advice unless you still market to businesses/institutions. That doesn’t apply so much if you’re discussing basic grammar rules or “how-to” prospecting tips.

I’ve learned the most from writers still “in the game,” and that’s why I’ve highlighted Heather, Jake, Laura, and John.

How about you?  Who do you feel gives great advice for freelance copywriters?

Heart of the Deal: If at First You Don’t Succeed, Adapt

The Copywriter Conclave of Portland recently engaged in a lively and free-wheeling discussion about prospective clients and proposals. We were able to attract prospects and even Heart by Corazonget to the proposal stage, but sometimes, the almost-projects fell through shortly thereafter. We all determined that some unseen, emotional aspect comes into play during the proposal/interview stage.

Here are some things we think will help us in the future (and maybe other small business owners too):

Prepare Your Project Proposal

Sending a proposal in the body of an e-mail (or a plain Microsoft Word document) is quick, but it might be too quick.  Spend some time creating an attractive proposal that contains your prospect’s logo, and your logo (or a nice font) and turn it into a PDF. There are some cool services like FreshBooks or Pancake that can also help you.

Use the Force

Yes, it’s time for another “Mahesh Star Wars analogy.” Star Wars: A New Hope cemented its place in the world-culture when Luke turns off his targeting computer during the climactic battle inside the Death Star trench. There will always be “that moment” when you’re discussing your prospect’s project where you’ll notice a synergy between the prospect and yourself. You may feel that sharing a personal detail could add depth to your conversation. Maybe one of you tells a joke or you bond over being parents or non-parents. Whatever it is, if it fits well, then trust your feelings.

Value Integrity

News sources inform us that the Great Recession is largely behind us, but the effects continue to linger, and they probably will for a while. For example, I’ve noticed how gun shy people are around major buying decisions. There may be moments when they convince themselves they don’t need a particular service. We all do it, even when we know we really need something. And here’s the thing:  businesses need quality content. More than that, business owners need quality content made by people who can verify results and reach audiences. We can’t pretend that keyword spinning, copy mills, and empty jargon lead to engaged audiences and higher revenue. Not anymore. So convince them that your skill set matches exactly what they seek.

You can know the minutiae of your product or service, research your prospects’ companies and the problems they face, and then put together a killer proposal. There will always be a “wild card” element you cannot control. If you’re freelance or a business owner, you walk a tightrope without a safety net. Clients and orders are the lifeblood of your business. If you don’t close a deal, you have to start all over again. The stakes are always high. But if one prospect doesn’t work out, then it allows you to hone your pitch for the next one. I lost out on not one, but two, projects in one month…and then I landed the biggest client of my career (so far) one week later. So don’t lose heart.

How do you approach the proposal process with your prospective clients?

(This post originally appeared in slightly altered form at Enlighten Writing.  Image credit.

4 Valuable Services For Freelancers

U.S. CurrencyLast week we talked about 8 Cheap and Good Ways to Build Your Skill Set. This week we’re talking about valuable services for freelancers that aren’t necessarily budget-busting but ain’t cheap, either. As freelance writers and editors, our main selling point is how we can enhance businesses, institutions, and entrepreneurs by hiring us.  The services below help us enhance our own value propositions.


If you need to edit a document in Acrobat, create your intellectual property via Photoshop, or design a long-form project using InDesign, then you know Adobe is essential. The company now offers convenient cloud-based monthly plans.  You can even choose a single-app plan for less than $20 a month, and the entire Creative Cloud is available for less than $50 a month.

$19.99-$49.99 per month. More info here.

LinkedIn Premium

LinkedIn’s free profile gives every member some advantages, but the premium versions are much more robust. You get way more InMails, more profiles per search, and the ever-useful “Who’s Viewed My Profile,” because we all enjoy flattery.

$47.99 for Business Plus and $74.99 for Executive. More info here.

Pancake (or FreshBooks)

I used my own non-branded invoice for the first couple of years of my freelance writing career. That got old fast.  I researched invoicing programs and started using FreshBooks. I switched to Pancake this year. Pancake charges a one-time fee, and then you host the software on your site’s domain. It has many of the same features as FreshBooks, including time tracking, project management, one-click invoicing. I love it so far.

$179 one-time set-up fee for Pancake.

$19.95-$39.95 monthly plans for FreshBooks.

 What non-cheap services do you use for your business?


6 Ways to Successfully Manage Inbound Prospects

Reposted from the blog of Enlighten Writing with permission from Mahesh Raj Mohan.

Inbound marketing is a powerful way to grow your business, especially if you’re a freelance copywriter. I was thrilled when my first prospective customer found me after I’d written a blog post. It happened when I was two months into my nascent freelance writing career. My prospective client and I scheduled a call, we hit it off, and worked together for the next couple of months. That content is still in my copywriting portfolio.

Of course, there are caveats to an inbound marketing strategy. Peter Bowerman (the Well-Fed Writer) has mentioned that inbound marketing can bring in many “tire kickers” and even “lowballers,” and he’s not wrong. There are several steps, however, that you can take so the prospects visiting your blog or website will become lifelong clients. Creating your ideal client profile is helpful, and so is determining what type of content marketing your prospects need by doing some targeted research.

Here’s what to do next:

  1. The prospect will have many questions. How long have been a freelance writer? Are you full-time, or part-time? Do you have experience with the prospect’s industry? What is your rate? The questions may be overwhelming, but the conversation will be instrumental in determining if the prospect is the right fit.
  2. If the prospect becomes argumentative about your rate, then classify the person as a “lowballer” and move on. These folks tend to want quality work at a low cost (to them).
  3. If the initial contact ends ambiguously (e.g. no firm decision to hire you), then determine if you want to follow-up. We live in an age of e-mail glut, and because writers tend to be conscientious; we don’t want to spam anyone. But remember that the prospect sought you out, and sometimes people just get busy. So send a follow-up e-mail a few days after the initial contact. I always write, “Just checking in. Did you still need help with [insert content]?” If you never hear from the prospect again, even after a polite follow-up e-mail (or two), then classify the prospect as someone not ready to buy. The prospect may come back later on, when s/he is ready.
  4. If the prospective client agrees to your rate and you’ve had a good follow-up conversation (via e-mail, phone, or video conferencing), then clearly define expectations and write up a contract. If all of this goes smoothly, then congratulations, you just won an inbound client! Go you! (I usually take a deposit upfront for new clients.)
  5. The next step is easy. In the immortal words of Mad Men‘s Fred Rumsen: “Do the work, Don.”
  6. After the project’s (successful) completion, be sure to ask for a testimonial. Periodically check in on your client, and see how the content is working, and if s/he needs follow-up work or help finding other service providers. This strategy can lead to multiple projects with a happy client who understands how you work, and knows the quality that will result from your collaboration.

This blog post is a new offering from my site. About once a month, I plan to write a blog post chronicling an aspect of freelance writing or editing. Feel free to comment and weigh in on your own experiences.

Have you classified your inbound prospects? What are your strategies?

Competition, Copywriters, and the Conclave

A group of copywriters and editors in the same group may seem like a strange idea. After all, aren’t we supposed to be competing for the same pool of clients? If you’re a professional writer or editor in Portland (or you’re just starting out), that might be the first thing that comes to mind when considering membership in the Copywriter Conclave of Portland.

When Amber James invited me to join the group back in 2011, that’s what I thought, too. The funny thing, though, is that I have gotten some of the best leads (and kind support) from this talented bunch of writers/editors.

We do sometimes pitch to the same local clients. But it’s not a big deal. After all, we don’t just focus on the PDX area. For instance, I’ve worked with clients in Panama and China.

Anyway, if a Portland client ever chose one of my peers over me, it’s because they needed a particular set of skills.

And, let me tell ya, this group has a formidable set of skills:

Lisa-Natalie Anjozian: Earth and Space Science Writer

Lisa-Natalie Anjozian writes for NASA (particularly the Goddard Space Flight Center). She also writes for small businesses, but not many writers can say they have written for NASA. Like Jeff Gunderson, she has a talent for taking complex concepts and making them understandable to everyone.

Sheila Ashdown: Book Editor, Ghostwriter, Writing Coach

Sheila Ashdown focuses equally on writing and editing (they require different mindsets, trust me). She has written marketing copy for Powell’s Books and numerous small businesses. She edits non-fiction and fiction books and offers multiple editing tiers depending on her clients’ needs. She is also the Editor-in-Chief of The Ne’er Do Well literary magazine.

Dylan Benito: Technical Writer

Dylan Benito currently works as a technical writer for Intel, a copyeditor for Oxford University Press, and she is also a freelance writer for local and non-local clients. She also spent several years as a bookseller for Powell’s Books. Somehow, she also finds time to be the Conclave’s treasurer.

Kirsten Collins: Grant Writer

Kirsten Collins is a fundraising expert who offers a consultative approach to her clients. Her services include comprehensive grants management, as well as project-based grant writing. She even sets up grant plans and handles donor communications, making life as easy as possible for her clients.

Jeanie Gosline: Marketing Copywriter

Jeanie Gosline currently writes copy for and was a triple threat (proofreader/office manager/web coordinator) for Dissent Magazine during a critical four-year period (2004-2008). Her specialties include brand identity, web content, and marketing campaigns.

Jeff Gunderson: Water, Sustainability, and Natural Resources Copywriter

Jeff Gunderson writes engaging and laymen-friendly articles about complex technical processes. His clients include the University of New Hampshire Stormwater Center and Water Environment & Technology, the magazine for the Water Environment Federation. The three pillars of his consultancy are, “water, environment, building.”

Amber James: Marketing Copywriter

Amber James, the Conclave’s founder and fearless leader, has written for Nike, and she currently is the copywriter for Biamp Systems. Oh, and she was also recognized by the NCAA as the greatest female athlete in the entire history of the Division III indoor track & field championship. She brings that same level of power to her clients.

Kristin O’Neill: Marketing Copywriter and Consultant

Kristin O’Neill excels at matching a writing style to a particular audience. Like Amber, she has a sports background, and she’s written content for many small businesses, as well as a construction firm. She also dedicates hours of her time to marketing the annual Wordstock Festival.

Mike Russell: Marketing Copywriter

Mike Russell is a web copywriter who has written everything from white papers to faculty profiles. He also gives prospects a free report entitled, “5 Ways to Write a Bio that Sells,” that provides tremendous value to working professionals. He also has a keen interest in environmental writing and unconventional pizza.

Rachel Wright: Retail and Apparel Copywriter

Rachel Wright is a storyteller at heart and writes content that holds people’s attention. Her current focus is as a copywriter, editor, and content strategist. Her lucky clients include Nau, Roxy, and Nike. She’s also a talented and nuanced photographer.

Mahesh Raj Mohan: Marketing Copywriter

And then there’s me. I’ve written for the Oregonian and The Portland Spirit. I’ve created content for medical centers and physicians, and I’ve edited complete non-fiction manuscripts and novels.

If you want to know more about the Copywriter Conclave of Portland, or you’re ready to sign-up, go here. We want to know more about you!