Words of Mouse

It’s Get to Know Your Customers Day!

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Today is Get to Know Your Customers Day (I have no idea who made it up, but it’s on the list of holidays I consult for blog ideas, so here we are). In honor of Get to Know Your Customers Day, let’s talk about how we get to know our clients. First, though, I want to tell a story about great customer service and how two shopkeepers in my town get to know everyone they serve.

A few weeks ago, I was looking for a consignment shop where I could consign some of my higher-end handbags and such. I searched for “consignment shops Wilkes-Barre” and found the Oncore Home Consignment Shop. They consign only home decor and furnishings, so they wouldn’t take my items. However, I noticed that they had a blog, so I started reading it and I was charmed. It turns out they were having a birthday party for the shop on the very same day I found their blog. I decided to check it out even though they wouldn’t consign my items.

When I walked in, I was absolutely amazed. The shop smelled like cinnamon and spices, and there was a big cart with homemade fudge and cookies, free for the taking. The women who run the shop are mother and daughter, and they were talking and laughing with everyone and generally just being wonderful people. When I checked out with my items, they gave me a free party bag full of candy and told me to pick a color. I picked pink, and then I got a pink bag with a free coin purse in it. I also got a store brochure, a coupon for $3 off in October and in November, and a frequent shopper punch card. If I get it punched 10 times, I get $10 worth of free merchandise.

Since their birthday party, I have been there many times and every time I am there, it is the same way. I’m greeted enthusiastically and the ladies chat with me like we are old friends. Their homemade fudge and cookies didn’t cost very much, and their free giveaway items came from the dollar store. But those two women put their hearts into everything they do in that store, and I will continue patronizing the shop as long as they are in business. Oncore Home Consignment Shop is an example of above and beyond customer service that we can all learn from.

So, how do you freelancers get to know your customers? Or, have any of your vendors gotten to know you in an unusual way? Share in the comments.

Written by lzaykoski

October 16, 2008 at 11:46 am

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

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This is the first post in a series of what will be dozens of posts designed to help you build a writer’s Web site from the ground up. We’ll talk about how to design your site to meet the needs of potential clients (instead of your own needs); how to follow the principles of good design and avoid common Web design mistakes; how to make your site more accessible for people with disabilities (particularly vision problems); and how to use your site as a marketing tool. If you don’t have a writer’s Web site or you’d like to give yours a makeover, join me as I build my own writer’s Web site step by step.

Building Your Writer’s Web Site: Choosing a Domain Name

The very first thing you need to do when building a writer’s Web site is purchase your own domain name. It’s very tempting to use a free Web hosting service, but purchasing your own domain gives you much more control over your site. In fact, the benefits of having your own domain name far outweigh the cost of paying a few dollars a year to register the domain. Some of the benefits of having your own domain name include the following:

  • Increased control over the advertising that appears (or doesn’t appear) on your pages
  • Opportunity to build your own personal brand
  • More control over how your graphics and content appear to visitors
  • Ability to choose your own Web hosting firm
  • Improved search engine rankings, if chosen carefully

Tip: Don’t let concerns about coding, technical issues, and site function turn you away from buying your own domain name.  Even when you buy your own domain name, you can still use templates and other easy Web publishing tools that make building your site as easy as possible.

Now that you’ve decided to purchase your own domain name (you have, haven’t you?), it’s time to learn how to choose the best domain name for your site.

Tips for Choosing a Domain Name

  • Don’t use your name as your domain name; instead, use words related to your business so that people can find you when using the search engines.
  • Keep your domain name as short as possible.
  • Avoid using clever spellings or misspelled keywords; it will make it difficult for people to find your site.
  • Use a .com domain extension instead of .net, .org, .biz or other extensions.

Purchasing a Domain Name

Once you’ve decided on a domain name, you must find out if it is available, and then register it for a period of one year or more.  I recommend Name.com for domain name registration, as they are very inexpensive and have provided me with good customer service.  Go to their site and you will be able to check on the availability of your domain name right from the home page.  Enter your desired domain name (e.g. http://www.copywriter) in the text area and then check off your desired extension (.com).  Click on “check availability” and you’ll be able to find out if the domain is available to be registered.  If it’s not, continue trying new domain names until you find one that is available.  If it is, you can make your purchase.

When registering the domain, you will be asked for your contact and billing information.  Be sure to give an e-mail address that is checked frequently, as they may send you important information about your domain name.  You may register your domain name for one year or more and you can also choose to make your registration information private.  Once you have filled out all of this information, you can submit your registration.  Keep an eye on your e-mail for notices that require you to confirm your account or address.  Once you’ve completed all of these steps, you’ll be the proud owner of your very own domain name.

How to Choose a Domain Name: Quick Review

  1. Choose keywords related to your business and come up with several potential domain names.
  2. Avoid using long domain names or domain names that use misspellings or clever spellings.
  3. Check to be sure your domain name is available.
  4. Register your domain name for your desired period of time.
  5. Check your e-mail to be sure you do not need to take any further action.

Next Step: Choosing a Web Host

In the next post in this series, we’ll talk about how to choose a Web host so you can start using your domain name.  In the meantime, how many of you have your own domain names?  If you’re nervous about getting your own domain, what fears are holding you back from taking the leap?  Are there any domain research or registration tools you would recommend?

Written by lzaykoski

October 14, 2008 at 9:42 pm

The Best Freelancing Feeling

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We all know that freelancing has its up and downs. For every exciting article acceptance and wonderful client, there will probably be a non-paying client or a rejection slip that puts us down in the dumps. But today, let’s focus on the best feeling you’ve had in terms of your freelance writing career.

Mine just happened recently, when I was looking for work over at Freelance Writing Jobs. When I first started out, I would apply for anything I remotely qualified for, even if I had absolutely zero interest in the topic. Car rental articles? Sign me up. Blog about latex mattresses? Count me in! As I looked through the job listings last week, I clicked on a few and then thought, “you know, I have no interest in these topics” and quickly forgot about them. I didn’t have to apply for something I had no interest in because I’ve finally built my business to the point where I can pick and choose the projects I want and the clients I want to build relationships with for the long haul.

I tell you this not to gloat, but to offer some hope for new writers who are doggedly pursuing leads every day without getting much of a response. You’ve just got to keep putting the effort into applying and, slowly but surely, you’ll begin to receive more responses. When I first started out, I got a response maybe once out of every twenty-five resumes/cover letters I sent out. As time passed, I started receiving more responses, especially as I tweaked my application materials. Now I’m getting regular responses. Also, don’t get discouraged if you don’t hear back about a particular project. I’ve gotten three e-mails this week from editors asking me if I would be interested on working on different projects than I had initially expressed interest in. Funny thing is, I applied for all of the projects in August, so it has taken two months to get a response.

What has been the best feeling in your freelance writing career? Discuss in the comments.

Written by lzaykoski

October 14, 2008 at 7:01 pm

Freelance Writers & Web Browsers: How Many is Too Many?

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As a freelance writer, I try to have many tools in place so that I can serve my clients well every single time I work with them. This means having several different productivity programs in place, making my writing clips available in several formats, and communicating by phone, e-mail, or instant messenger (whatever is more convenient for the client). I also have a few Web browsers so that I can view their content in different browsers and let them know of any issues. Now, by a few, I mean four. I have Opera, Google Chrome, Mozilla Firefox, and Microsoft Internet Explorer. Which one works best? I think all of them have their own pros and cons.

Microsoft Internet Explorer is the bane of my existence. I don’t ever use it unless the site I am visiting is owned by people still back in 1994 and is not compatible with any of my other browsers. Seriously, I opened Internet Explorer the other day for the first time in months (a site wasn’t working, and I wanted to see if it was my browser or a site issue), and the damn thing crashed within about two minutes! I’ve never had more trouble than when I used Internet Explorer. All kinds of script errors and who knows what else made a regular appearance on my screen in those days.

Mozilla Firefox is the browser I use most frequently. I really like the viewing experience, and it crashes very infrequently. When it does crash, it’s usually because I have about 42 tabs open along with 12 other programs and the computer can no longer handle my thoughtlessness. Many site owners have gotten smart and now make their sites compatible with Firefox.

Opera has a great user interface and rarely crashes. However, I don’t use it much because a lot of sites won’t let me view or download certain content while using it.

Google Chrome is the newest kid on the block. The user interface is very minimalist, with bright, crisp colors. Plus, every time you open a new tab, it gives you a visual of your most visited sites (so all I need to do is click on the picture of Freelance Writing Jobs at 7 a.m. and it takes me right to the job listings). However, Chrome has several issues that made me put it on the back burner until they come out with a newer version. One is that it is not as secure as possible yet. Another is that it acts rather oddly at times. If I am on one site and then type a new Web address in the address bar, sometimes it will take me to the new site. Other times, it simply makes the tab I was working in disappear. I used it a lot the first few days I had it, but then I got aggravated and went back to reliable old Firefox.

What do other people prefer in terms of browsers? Have you experienced any issues with the above that I did not mention?

Written by lzaykoski

October 13, 2008 at 10:47 am

Upcoming Blog Changes

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I’ve been reviewing my blog stats and noticing that certain types of posts get more traffic and comments, so I’m making a few changes here to better meet the needs of readers.

Awesome Change #1: I’ll be posting twice per day on most days. One post will be a more general post to talk about what’s going on in the freelance writing world, link to other writers’ blogs, and even rant and rave about freelance writing issues. The other post will be more instructional in nature, with specific action steps that anyone can take to make small, yet quantifiable, improvements to their businesses.

Awesome Change #2: New feature: Monday Money Makers. I know, I know; I promised that I wouldn’t make up any more features with alliterative titles, but I couldn’t resist. On Mondays, I’ll be posting about ways to make money using affiliate programs, information products, and other techniques that don’t focus on exchanging your time and work for money from a client on a one-time basis.

Awesome Change #3: Brand new series on designing a writer’s Web site from the ground up. I’m currently having a basic template designed for my site, but I will be adding my own content, coming up with a navigation system, and implementing many SEO and marketing techniques. With all of the information I have collected so far, I think this feature is going to last for at least two months, depending on how frequently I post. If you don’t have a writer’s Web site, or your site isn’t what you want it to be, stay tuned. We’ll talk about why you need your own domain name, good design elements vs. bad design elements, making your site accessible for people with disabilities, building trust with your site visitors, and much more.

Awesome Change #4: Reviews of e-books and reports that I have purchased or received for free in exchange for signing up for an e-course or newsletter. I have several waiting to be reviewed, so I will be posting one review per week for a while. Then, posting frequency may go to two reviews per month depending on how many information products I buy or receive. If any of you are working on an e-book or report, and would like to have it reviewed, you may send me a copy. Reviews will be at least 400 words in length, and I will link to the information product author’s site as well. I’ll also be posting reviews of teleseminars I have participated in.

If you have any suggestions for topics you would like me to write about, feel free to post in the comments area. See you all tomorrow morning!

Written by lzaykoski

October 12, 2008 at 11:33 pm

Weekend Wrap

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Many exciting things happened in the freelance writing world this week, and there are a lot of great things coming in the week ahead.  This week’s weekend wrap has a reminder about an upcoming teleseminar, links to information about an established writer’s new e-book, and other notes and news about freelance writing.

Jenn Mattern has a new e-book coming out called Launching a Successful Freelance Web Writing Career, and she has a new site to go along with it.  The Web Writer’s Guide already has a lot of useful information for freelancers who want to make a career out of writing for the Web.  The e-book is being launched tomorrow (October 13) and is sure to be an excellent resource for freelancers (her list of bonuses is also quite appealing).

Chris at ChrisBlogging had a great post on negotiating freelance writing rates on the telephone.  I haven’t used the phone very much as a freelancer, but his tips give me the confidence to do so when the opportunity arises.

Avid Writer had a great post about selling your own products as a writer.  Do you need to be an expert to sell your own products, or do you just have to have the know-how to research and write about a topic?

Deb at Freelance Writing Jobs put up a funny post about a very vague Craigslist writing ad.  Does it get on your nerves when you have to enlist the services of the CIA to figure out what a prospective client is looking for in a writer?

Joan Stewart’s How to Use Twitter to Amass an Army of Followers, Customers & Valuable Contacts–and Promote teleseminar is coming up on Monday and Tuesday, 10/13 and 10/14. The registration fee is $77 for two hours and twenty minutes of solid information. Not a bad deal.

I found a new blog this week! How did I NOT know about Writing for Your Wealth? I haven’t had a chance to look through past posts yet, but I will definitely be reading them and signing up for the free e-course.

Enjoy the rest of your weekend. See you bright and early Monday morning.

Frugal Freelancer Fridays: Thrift Stores

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Wasn’t it just Friday yesterday? October is one-third of the way over already, and here we are again with another edition of Frugal Freelancer Fridays. This week’s money-saver? Thrift store shopping for office supplies and equipment.

I visit my local Salvation Army approximately once per week. It’s very hit or miss, but I have found some great deals on office furniture, stationery, desk sets, organizing containers, and related merchandise. Items that sell for $10 or $20 in stores can be as little as $1 or $2 at a thrift store.

Here’s what to look for when shopping for office items at the thrift stores.

  • Are all of the parts intact?  For tech items, this means checking to see if the cables and other parts are included with the main piece of equipment.
  • Does the item have a funny smell?  Don’t laugh; some thrift store items smell terrible.  I saw a shirt at a local store today that smelled like someone had doused it in pancake syrup.  If it does smell, is it a smell that will fade with a good washing, or is it going to be there forever?
  • Are the items stained or damaged in any way?
  • Is it a good buy?  If something is $2, but can be found brand new for $5 elsewhere, it’s not that good of a deal.  If the item is $20 elsewhere, $2 is a darn good price.

Share your favorite frugal freelancer tips in the comments.

Written by lzaykoski

October 10, 2008 at 10:36 am