Words of Mouse

Archive for October 2008

Web Site Contact Forms: Do You Respond to Them?

leave a comment »

In the past two weeks, I have tried to find both an accountant and a professional photographer to take photos of me for my site and marketing materials (no worries, Kristen – they will NOT be glamtastic photos!).  I asked a financial planner friend of mine for a referral to an accountant.  He provided me with three recommendations.  All have Web sites, so I filled in their contact forms and submitted them.  There is a photo studio in the area that does a lot of digital photography for professionals.  The studio did my senior pictures in high school and they also do a lot of wedding photos.  They have a great reputation, so I used their e-mail contact form to ask them for a quote as well.  This happened two weeks ago.  Not one person has contacted me.

If your Web site has an e-mail contact form, great.  However, you actually have to check your e-mail and respond to inquiries from potential customers!  It’s just bad customer service not to respond to people who want to give you their money.  Plus, it creates doubt in their minds.  “Okay, if I have to chase them down to even get a consultation, will I have to chase them down when I have a real legal/accounting problem or other issue that needs to be dealt with immediately?”  That’s not the image you can afford to portray, especially if you run a small business.  You know what they say.  Perception is reality.


Written by lzaykoski

October 25, 2008 at 10:27 pm

Reader’s Choice: Pick the E-book I Will Review This Weekend

leave a comment »

I’m working through a whole bunch of e-books (all of which I will review here eventually), and I wanted to give my treasured readers a chance to decide which e-book will be reviewed first. These are e-books that I have purchased, so expect some good information from all of them. I just want to make sure the first e-book I review is on a topic of interest to readers.  All of these e-books are from Bob Bly’s extensive line of information products.

E-book Review Choices:

  • Internet Marketing for Writers
  • Copywriting Master Touch
  • Take Your Copywriting to the Next Level
  • How to Turn Clicks Into Customers with Google AdWords
  • Copywriting for Fortune 500 Clients

Post your pick in the comments and I’ll get a review up here by Sunday.

Written by lzaykoski

October 24, 2008 at 3:18 am

Taking a Break: Fun Things to Do When You Need to Recharge

leave a comment »

Even if writing is your top passion, and you can’t imagine doing anything else, there are just some times when we need to put down our pens (or keyboards) and do something fun.  These little breaks allow us to recharge and recapture some of those creative juices that can get lost in keyword lists and boring article topics.  I’ve included links to some of my favorite break time activities.  What are some of your favorite sites to visit or games to play when you’re not working?  Discuss in the comments.

The Traveler IQ Challenge is one of my new favorite games.  I have to admit that, before I started playing this game, I was very deficient in my knowledge of world geography.  In my school district, geography was not a required course, so I took two years of U.S. history and one year of economics in high school.  Once I found this game, my knowledge started to improve greatly.  You can test your knowledge of world geography, U.S. geography, European geography, and other related subjects.  I’m still working on my knowledge of Africa and the Pacific island nations, but I’ve gotten a lot better.

Web Sudoku is another hobby of mine.  I fell in love with this number puzzle game when I lived in NYC (as I used to do the puzzles in the New York Post on the subway every morning).  These puzzles have kept me occupied during airplane rides, long car trips, and boring hospital stays.

Mental Floss Blog is one of my favorite non-writing blogs.  They have trivia challenges, weekend word games, daily lunchtime quizzes, and a lot of articles about random facts I never even knew I wanted to know about.

I recently found the original DOS version of Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego? online.  This game led to my love of Rockapella, the a capella group who sang the theme song for the show.  It was also pretty fun to learn geography while playing.  I had the Where in the USA is Carmen Sandiego? game for my Apple IIC+ back in the third grade.  Good times!

Written by lzaykoski

October 23, 2008 at 11:40 pm

Blogroll Update 2.0

with 3 comments

Time for another blogroll update! I’ve been enjoying the blogs of these writers and wanted to share their links with you so you could benefit from their knowledge. If you’d like me to link to your blog, e-mail me or put your blog name and link in the comments.

Writers Scribble is a bit different than the blogs I usually read, and that’s why I like it. Much of the time, I read only the blogs that pertain specifically to Web writing, blogging, and e-book writing. However, I’m realizing that I’m missing out on other sources of ideas and inspiration. Writers Scribble has some fun posts, as well as some posts that are very motivating for authors.

I don’t know why I haven’t linked to The Golden Pencil before. It’s a great blog, filled with expert advice and job leads for writers in many specialties.

Bookwebs is a company that designs Web sites specifically for writers and authors. I’ve never used their services, so I am not endorsing them here. However, their site has a lot of good information on why writers need Web sites, and how you can enhance your writer’s Web site. I think it’s so important that every writer have at least a basic site, so visit Bookwebs and see if any of their tips can help you get started or spruce up an already-existing site.

Angela Booth is fairly well-known in the freelance writing world. She has several blogs, all of which are great resources for established and aspiring writers. Visit Angela Booth’s Writing Blog for solid information on copywriting; Fab Freelance Writing Blog for information on how to make money as a freelance writer; Money Diviner for information about making money online; Top Ebook Writer for information on making money by writing e-books; and Fab Web Writer for information on making money by writing specifically for the Web.

Kathryn Lang has an excellent blog with a lot of inspirational posts. I’ve especially liked her posts on finding success in freelance writing.

Anyone who is interested in writing white papers should be reading Michael Stelzner’s Writing White Papers Blog. His writing is clear and concise, and he’s renewed my interest in getting into this type of writing.

Bob Bly’s Blog is a must-read, especially for those who concentrate on commercial copywriting for a living. His posts are often thought-provoking and he has an active community of commenters, which makes reading each post very informative. I’ve gotten some great ideas by reading his blog and “listening” to what the commenters had to say.

Brian Clark’s Copyblogger should be on every blogger’s list of blogs to read. Brian consistently provides solid information that anyone can use to make more money or improve their business.

Chris Marlow’s Get Great Clients Blog has given me a lot of marketing ideas, and I particularly like reading her posts about developing a niche for yourself.

Marcom Writer is Dianna Huff’s Blog. Here, you’ll find excellent posts on marketing your services as well as examples of marketing communication pieces that don’t quite cut it. Excellent resource for anyone who is involved in or wants to be involved in commercial copywriting.

Written by lzaykoski

October 20, 2008 at 8:04 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

Building a Writer’s Web Site Series: How to Choose a Web Host

with 2 comments

Last week, we talked about how to choose a domain name for your writing Web site. Once you have purchased your own domain name, you need to have it hosted somewhere. Today we’ll talk about how to choose a Web host.

Choosing a Web Host: Hosting Packages

Before you can choose the best Web hosting company for your needs, you need to know what your needs are. Do you just want a small site to showcase your writing samples? Then you probably won’t need an expensive package that includes high levels of bandwidth. If you need hosting for a high-traffic blog or plan to have free downloads available for your visitors, you’re going to need a more comprehensive package. Make a list of features that you absolutely need and features that would be nice to have. You can use this list to compare different hosting packages and choose the one that’s right for you.

Choosing a Web Host: Identifying Potential Hosts

When you are choosing a Web host, I recommend getting referrals from your colleagues and friends. Hosting companies are a dime a dozen, so it’s nearly impossible to research and compare them all without losing your mind. If none of your friends have their own sites, check out some of the blogs you visit frequently. I know several people that I link to here have recommendations for hosting posted on their blogs or sites. Develop a list of ten possibilities so that you can get information about each host.

Choosing a Web Host: Comparing Web Hosts

Once you have your list of ten possibilities, get ready to do some online research. Visit the Web site of each hosting company and find out what packages they offer. Compare their hosting packages with your hosting needs to determine what level package you need. You will find that some hosts on your list do not offer the features and capabilities that you desire. You can eliminate these hosts from your list and concentrate on hosting companies that do offer what you need.

Narrow your list down to three possibilities, but be careful not to make price your main consideration when making your selections. It’s important to save money, but it would be a lot better to pay $10 per month and get stellar customer service than it would be to pay $6 per month and have no way of contacting your host if you had a problem.

Once you’re down to three potential hosts, do some additional research. Use a search engine to find information about each company. Is contact information available? Does the company make it easy for you to report problems, or are you going to be on your own if you experience any technical issues? Check Ripoff Report or similar consumer sites to see if any negative reports have been filed against the company. One report is probably not indicative of a widespread problem. In some cases, customers whose hosting has been cut off for non-payment file negative reports just to be vindictive. However, several reports can indicate that the hosting company has serious customer service issues.

Once you have information about price, hosting capabilities, technical support, and customer service for each company, make your choice based on this information. You may choose a slightly more expensive host that offers more features and excellent support, or you may choose an inexpensive host for your basic Web site. Once you have chosen a host, you will need to follow their directions for pointing your domain name to their servers. Once you have done that, you will be ready to move on with building your writer’s Web site.

In the next post in this series, we’ll talk about making the decision to hire a designer or using templates to create your own site. If you have any Web hosting recommendations, feel free to post them in the comments.

Written by lzaykoski

October 20, 2008 at 2:22 pm

Building a Writer’s Web Site: What NOT to Do

with 2 comments

So, I broke my Web site last night, and I really don’t know how to fix it. Inspired by Kristen King’s blog makeover, I decided to get my butt in gear and get my site going. I’d decided to use WordPress since it’s more visually appealing than most platforms, and I already know how to use it, so my learning curve would be pretty short.

The WordPress installation went fine – I uploaded the files to my server via FTP and changed the WP configuration file so it has my database name and password in it. When I was finished doing that, I went right to the install screen and chose a blog name. I got a message saying WordPress had been successfully installed. Except, when I visit my site, I get a 403 forbidden error that tells me I cannot access anything. Now what do I do?!

Written by lzaykoski

October 20, 2008 at 11:36 am

Weekend Wrap for 10.19.08

with 4 comments

My blog has been neglected for the past few days, and I apologize for that. I’ve had a headache since last Sunday (yes, for an entire week) and it’s made it very difficult to think and write. I’ve finished client projects that were due, but have been trying to stay away from the computer as much as possible otherwise.

The blogosphere (or “underground” as one of Deb’s clients called it) was busy again this week. I’ve got so much reading material to get caught up on, but I’ve made my way through a lot of it for this week’s weekend wrap.

Jenn Mattern started a new series about revenue streams for writers. Her first post in the series talks about blogging and how to earn money from it. There are some good points in there, especially about using advertising and affiliate programs to earn passive income.

Chris Bibey is almost at 500 subscribers for his blog. Why not help him reach his goal before the end of the year by subscribing to ChrisBlogging? There is a new post every day ad Chris gives some great tips on marketing, becoming a better freelancer, and balancing your work with your life.

Okay, so I just went to Kristen King’s blog to see if there were any posts I wanted to link to (I wrote all this down throughout the week, but somehow my notes are missing), and her blog has gotten a fabulous makeover! Check out Inkthinker and I guarantee you’ll love the new look.

Amy Derby had a new post in her Punk Duck Series: Punk Up Your Services Offered List. It’s a good idea to be able to provide more than one specific service to clients, especially in times of economic hardship. Think about your services offered. Can you turn your love of blogging into a blog consulting service? Do you offer proofreading in addition to writing services?

Avid Writer had a great post on Friday related to the economy and its impact on freelance writers. Read Is the Economy Changing the Way You Operate? for a thoughtful discussion of adding more services for your clients, marketing for the holiday season, and even lowering your writing rates.

Lori Widmer made a good point about mistakes and how they can often lead to more opportunities in our lives. Last week, Lori made a mistake when writing an article and wrote it about a different topic than assigned. However, her “mistake” has paved the way for her to sell the article to an even higher-paying publication. Have you ever made a mistake that turned out to be a good opportunity in disguise?

Angela Booth had some good information on why starting out as a local writer can help you make more money. I don’t agree with her assertion that you should “forget about the Internet,” but I do agree that you should write local if you want to become known as a working writer in your community.

Tomorrow I’ll have a new post in the Building a Writer’s Web Site series: How to Choose a Web Host. I’ll also have a review on an e-book by Bob Bly and more information on building a writer’s Web site this week. Have a lovely Sunday!