The Value of Freelance Content Creators

Value. Our friends at Merriam-Webster note that “value” can mean utility or importance; a fair return on goods or services; and something intrinsically desirable.  Too often,value and freelance content creators it has come to mean a code word for “cheap.”  Well, I don’t know about you, but I’m done with that.  Whether we call ourselves content strategists, copywriters, editors, or consultants, our value as freelance content creators is ripe for a redefinition.

Our worth is not tied to a dollar sign or how much of our abilities we will sell cheaply.  It’s not something that can be bought and sold.  Value is something you work hard to provide, and it’s based on data that can be measured and verified.  Seven years of experience.  Twenty pieces of content.  Testimonials.  Open rates.  Prospect conversions.  Clients who say they are so happy they found you.

The Conclave has an agenda for 2015. It is about redefining value. To our clients and prospects (in Portland and beyond), it is to educate them on the value of our words and ideas.

For you, our members and prospective members, it is how we can be of service to you. The Conclave exists to share ideas, support each other, and have fun.

Here’s what we plan to do over the next several months:

  1. Event with “financial untangler” Shell Tain on February 5th at Forge Portland.
  2. Spring event with branding expert Lynette Xanders.
  3. Private forum for our members.
  4. Speakers with expertise at the freelance life.
  5. Blog posts at least twice a month.
  6. A few surprises up our sleeves…

2015 is shaping up to be an awesome year, so stay tuned.  And maintain your own personal and professional values.

P.S. Regarding image attribution for our blog posts; the last few have included images from which provides images available in the public domain under the Creative Commons Deed CC0.  We will always provide image attribution if the image creator desires it.

Happy Holidays!

The Copywriter Conclave of Portland bhappy holidayslog wishes you “happy holidays!” and hopes freelancers, business owners, organizations, and magical elves all have a safe and happy new year.  We have some cool stuff cooking for 2015, so watch this space for more details!

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?

Tech Tools for Freelancers

Full disclosure: I’m new to the freelance game. Entering the freelance world after a career of safe, cushy corporate positions is a bit like a baby bird being pushed out of the nest, but it’s worth the risk to have more direct control over my career. Thankfully, I’m smart enough to know I can’t do it on my own. Whether you’re a newbie (like me) or a grizzled freelancing veteran, there are loads of innovative tech tools for freelancers that can help you run your  business like a Fortune 500 company.

Time Tracking Tools

Harvest – limited free option or $12 per month. This flexible, functional time tracking app is compatible with popular accounting programs (Quickbooks, Xero), project management apps (Basecamp), and CRM tools (Salesforce).

Paymo – limited free option or $9.95 per month. Inexpensive option for the sole proprietor offers a goal calendar, client portal and a desktop monitor that will show you how you’ve been spending (or wasting) your time.

Toggl – limited free option or $5 per month. A simple, inexpensive solution offering desktop monitoring, plus a handy Google Chrome extension and a workspaces option for simple, effective project management.

Freckle – $19.95/month. Simplified manual tracking with a clever hashtag feature, professional, Paypal-friendly invoicing and the cool Pulse feature that gives you a calendar view of your productivity.

RescueTime – limited free option or $9/month. Not an invoicing program, but a very robust time tracking/productivity tool. Helps you set goals, block time wasters and rates your activities on a productivity scale from “very distracting” to “very productive,” to produce an overall productivity score.

Social Media Management Tools

Hootsuite – limited free option or $14.99+ per month. Somewhat of an industry standard, it’s robust offerings include management for multiple accounts, team collaboration, scheduled updates and customized analytics. Can get expensive as you start adding team members and/or requesting additional reports.

Buffer – $10 per month. The perfect tool if you need posting and scheduling help across Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and Google+.

SocialOomph – limited free option or $39.99 per month. Compatible with Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn. blogs and more. Features include post scheduling, analytics and dashboard functionality.

Sprout Social – free limited trial then $39-$99 per month. A Hootsuite competitor, Sprout Social lets you manage, monitor, post and analyze multiple social media accounts from one location.

TweetDeck – free. This tool will help you manage, track and organize multiple accounts, as long as they are all Twitter accounts.

Project Management Tools

Basecamp – $20 per month. Widely used cloud-based project management solution.

Freedcamp – free. Essentially a free version of Basecamp, and a functional, robust project management option for freelancers on a budget.

Trello – free to $50 per month. An elegant, visually driven project collaboration tool.

Asana – free. A great, affordable option for smaller freelance operations, free for up to 15 users.

What’s in a Name? How to Choose a Title for Yourself.

“…that which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet…” Yes, but if you ask for a tulip and get a misnamed rose instead, you may be a bit disappointed. I don’t think anyone would dispute Juliet’s claims that a name, a word, doesn’t really get at the essence of a thing. Calling a rose a tulip doesn’t change the essential rosiness of the rose. There are even times, such as with Romeo’s last name, when the word for a thing can get in the way.

What do you do?

One of the first things that people usually ask is: “What is your name?” Followed hard on its heels by “What do you do?” These things are pretty tightly wound together, because I think when people ask “What do you do?”, they’re really asking “What additional name should I apply to you? How can I distinguish you between the other Shawns that I know?”

It wasn’t so very long ago that people tended to end up with surnames related to their work–such as Smith, Carver, or Cooper–or their relationship to other people–Johnson for John’s son and Carson for Car’s son. I think people still want the comfort of having a name for someone else that defines them, a kind of mental shorthand for thinking about and remembering other people.

What do I do?

I have lots of ways that I can answer the question: “What do you do?” I could say, “I’m a writer.” Unfortunately, this only conjures up a very vague and general idea of someone typing away at a computer somewhere, probably wearing glasses, like I do. I could say, “I’m a freelance writer,” in which case, the person might picture me at home, in my pajamas, writing away, perhaps with a cup of coffee. Ultimately, the answer to this question doesn’t matter too much when making small talk at a party, but when looking for prospective clients as a freelance writer, the name that I choose to describe the work I have done and will do is essential.

If I describe myself as a poet, then a client looking for a technical writer won’t give me a second look, because they’ll most likely imagine me swanning about in graveyards, flirting with some wasting illness. If I describe myself as a technical writer, and a client is looking for someone to write humorous ad copy, they may not be interested, because they’ll imagine me as someone who doesn’t focus on what’s funny and entertaining.

I struggled with this question of what to call myself when I first started considering freelance writing work. I’ve done many different kinds of writing in my life, from blogging to poetry, playwriting to short stories, and I’ve even got a novel rolling along slowly in the background. Professionally, I’ve written instructional content, but most people aren’t really sure what that means.

The name I chose

Ultimately, after hashing it out with an acquaintance of mine, I settled on the name “Technical Content Creator.” As far as I know, it’s a fairly novel name for what I do and want to do, and that may have its downsides. “Technical Content Creator” doesn’t conjure up a particular image, but, for me, I think that’s its strength. My hope is that it will function as a kind of speed bump. That when people encounter it, they’ll pause for a moment to consider what it means.

On the other hand, sometimes it’s easiest to just say, “I’m a technical writer” and leave it at that.