Words of Mouse

Posts Tagged ‘freelance writing

Web Site Contact Forms: Do You Respond to Them?

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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

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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

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

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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

Weekend Wrap for 10.19.08

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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!

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