Archive for the ‘Tips and Tricks’ Category

Let Them Know You’re Alive: Keep Your Writer Website Up to Date

Wednesday, September 11th, 2013

I’ve been looking through our users’ writer websites in order to get a feel for how they use their online writing portfolios. It’s always nice to stumble upon a use case that hadn’t occurred to me before. Just today, I spotted this on on Stephen Travis Febick’s homepage:

Stephen Travis FebickThis site is to showcase my writing, however recently it has turned into something slightly more; both a useful tool in organizing the number of tasks i’m working on, as well as a handy way to keep readers updated on what’s coming next.

I recently wrote about how your writer website is more than just an online portfolio; it’s also a full-fledged marketing website and, as Stephen says, an organisational tool for cataloguing your best work. But as Stephen also points out, it’s a way to keep people up to date with what’s new (the blog feature is particularly handy for this).

Why share what’s new? Because it tells people you’re alive, you’re for hire and you’re a creative machine! It also lets you promote your work, announce events, share your thoughts and get feedback. Think about it from a reader’s perspective (especially if that reader is a potential client, editor or employer): if they go to your website and the most recent writing sample is from 2005, they might think you’ve moved on from writing or aren’t serious about your work.

Here’s a few ways to keep your writer website loaded with fresh new content:

  • Use the blog to share weekly updates about you and/or your niche
  • Make sure the Writing Samples section of your website is up to date with the latest samples and clips
  • Refresh the homepage copy on a regular basis to make sure it reflects the current state of play and the latest writing samples you’ve posted to your portfolio (Writer’s Residence does this automatically)

Can you think of any other ways to keep your website fresh and lively? Or other uses for your writing portfolio that I hadn’t thought of? Let me know in the comments!

How to use your online writing portfolio with social media

Tuesday, September 10th, 2013


I’m very excited to be sharing with you our first ever guest post! Today, freelance copywriter Bianca Marieta Budau explains how writers can use social media in conjunction with their writing portfolios to market their work and, as she puts it, “turn your online portfolio into an internet celebrity”.

You’ve created an online writing portfolio, now how do you get it “out there” so it shines in the spotlight?

As online writers, this is a question that haunts us (or at least it should). We know we’re good, but DO THEY?

Making your online writing portfolio famous is NOT a fairytale. But first you need to link up your writing portfolio with your social media accounts, and then go where your clients are. Let me explain…

Go where your clients are.

If you ask any marketing “guru” about how to promote your business, they will all tell you this:

You have to be where your clients are.

This is true whether you are a bricks and mortar company or the best online writer out there. Be where your clients are. And it just so happens that social media is a goldmine of potential clients.

This is why an online portfolio for writers is perhaps one of THE best tools. The trick is getting those potential clients to find you. Search isn’t the answer. While your online portfolio will be indexed by Google, it will not occupy a great position in search engines at first. And with the ongoing changes that Google is implementing into its algorithms you need to take your product (i.e. you) and put it in the face of your prospects.

You need to promote it.

Where?

The social media “trend” is no longer a fad; it’s a fundamental (and fundamentally wonderful) part of how the internet works. Everybody is using it –  businesses, business owners, ordinary people, kids, adults, seniors, clients, corporates, singers, actors, cooks. You’re probably using it, too. But are you using it to the best effect for your writing career?

This is where your online writing portfolio comes in. Here’s how to link up your online portfolio with the most popular social media accounts so you can start using these channels more effectively for marketing your work.

On Facebook

There are a couple of places in Facebook where you can include a link to your online portfolio:

1. In the “About Me” section. Add a link right before you start describing yourself; it is an indicator for people who visit your page to also click on that link and find out more about you and your work.

2. Add the link in the Biography or Description sections. Depending on what type of Facebook Page you create for your business (Business Person, Company, etc) you will be given different options. As you can see in the image underneath, I only included a link to my website once, but you can do it as often as you like.

On Pinterest

You can add a link to your portfolio if you have a Pinterest Business Page. It looks something like this…

… and you can create it in a few simple steps, by following these instructions.

Once you created your business profile you can add your writing portfolio as your website.

On Google Plus

Google+ is growing to be one of the most popular social platforms out there, and many people are using it for business.

A great thing about Google+ is that you can add your portfolio to the Contributor section on your profile. You can then link your Google Plus profile to your website and set up Google Authorship. (Learn more about Google Authorship here.)

Here is where you can add your online portfolio link to your G+ profile:

Of course, you can always include your link in the “Introduction” section as well, but on Google Plus the most relevant section for this link is “Contributor To” because once you set up Google Authorship, here is how your work will appear on search engine results:

LinkedIn – Include your portfolio in the Experience section

LinkedIn was created especially for business networking, so you shouldn’t ignore it. You can add a link to your online writing in the Experience section or in the Summary area.

On Twitter

On Twitter, this is simple: add a link to your writing portfolio to the website area of your Twitter profile. This is the first thing people click on when they want to know more about who they’re following.

Here is where your website will be shown on your profile:

Now is your turn…

Are you already using social media platforms to promote your portfolio? What platforms are you using and how often do you post? Did you notice any improvements as far as traffic is concerned?

Let me know if you liked this article and if you’d like more information on how to use social media to your advantage.

We’ll see you in the next post, but until then you can always find me in the Comments section. 🙂

About Bianca Marieta:

Bianca Marieta Budau is a freelance writer and online journalist interested in Online Writing, Social Media, Internet Marketing, SEO and Mobile Marketing. Marieta has been working as a freelance copywriter since 2009 and is currently collaborating with several companies worldwide (such as Super Savvy Business Australia and Veribo Romania). You can follow Marieta on her website at http://www.biancamarieta.com.

5 Must-Haves For Your Online Writing Portfolio

Saturday, June 1st, 2013

Writer's Residence WebsiteIf you’ve just create an online writing portfolio website to market yourself and your work, then you’re probably eager to get it up to snuff as quickly as possible so you can start using it to land some gigs. To that end, I put together this list of bare minimums to get done before you start sending your portfolio to editors, clients and potential employers. After all, it’s a competitive world out there, and our goal is to help you stand out from the crowd with a stellar portfolio that really shows off your work.

Make the homepage shine.

This is the first page people see when they visit your website – use it to make a good impression and grab their attention. Summarise what you do in a paragraph – the shorter and snappier, the better. Focus on your ultimate selling points and why you’re the best at what you do. And don’t forget to upload an image – a great headshot adds personality to your page (for our customers, you can do this easily when you edit your homepage on Writer’s Residence).

Add your best writing samples.

This best way to show off what you can do is to upload a few writing samples, be they magazine articles, book excerpts, copywriting examples or newsletters. Make sure the sample is easy to access – ideally, text on a page or a link to the original article online. But you can also share documents if that makes more sense (in which case, use a thumbnail to provide a snapshot of the document, see my London Calling article for an example). In Writer’s Residence, you can add a writing sample in any type of format: text, PDF, jpeg, Word doc…you can even upload video and audio clips. Feeling at a loss for writing samples? Then here are a few ideas for new writers on using unpublished writing clips as samples.

Make it easy for people to contact you.

Make sure you have a contact page and fill it in with all of the relevant details: name, email address, phone number, social media links… different people prefer different modes of content, so give them as many options as you can to encourage them to get in touch. Also, call out your contact details on other pages in your website. For example, on the homepage, a simple sentence like “Contact me if you’d like me to write some amazing copy for you” with a link to your contact page can be a powerful call to action. That’s what this is all about, after all: getting people to see your stuff and think, “yes please, I’d like some of that.” Don’t make them have to hunt and dig for your contact details.

Choose a fantastic theme.

You don’t need to spend thousands of dollars to have a web design agency create super custom website for you, but you do to need an online writing portfolio that looks nice. Our advice: work with a platform with pre-built themes that makes it difficult to create an ugly website. Writer’s Residence comes with 16 beautiful pre-designed themes that let you personalise your website with the click of a button. You can also create a custom theme with your own header and colours to truly personalise your website.

Think Beyond the Portfolio.

Get your writing portfolio out there. Link to it in your email signature. Add it to your social media profiles. Put it on your business card. Use the blog feature to keep your website fresh and give people a reason to keep coming back. (A regularly updated website also improves your ranking in search engines.)

A great website is your opportunity to tell the world that you’re a professional writer who takes their work seriously. So make sure your writing portfolio fits the part and not only represents you, but also stands out against the competition.

SEO and your writing website

Tuesday, May 21st, 2013

One of our users recently wrote in with a question about SEO, which basically boiled down to this: How does Google find my website? Moreover, how does Google find my website if the website is created by a third party (like Writer’s Residence) and I don’t have control over the website’s metadata?

SEO is something that every writer should think about (though few writers do) because it’s an important step in optimising your website for marketing purposes. The bottom line is: You want people to find you. Search engines are how people find things. Thus, you want people to find you when they search for (1) your name or (2) keywords associated with the things you write about.

Below I’ve explained (1) how we address this issue, and (2) what writers can do themselves to improve their SEO. I’ve also included links to relevant sections of SEOMoz’s The Beginner’s Guide to SEO, a really useful primer that’s miraculously not boring as sin.

What we do in the back-end

Here’s what we do to help search engines find our users’ webpages:

  • We use ‘title’ tags (the stuff you see in the title bar of your web browser) based on the name you supply on your account
  • We use ‘h1’ tags to describe the main heading of your web page, again based on your name, and one of the first things Google looks at when deciding on a website’s page rank in search results.
  • When you create your website, we “tell” Google you exist so that it indexes your web page from the get-go and makes you immediately findable in search results.

What writers can do to improve their SEO

The most important thing for searchability is CONTENT, and this is something you [should] have complete control over, no matter who creates your website. To that end, there’s loads you can do, but here are a few ways to get started that are most important and easiest to implement:

  • Invest in your own domain name, and pick a domain name that relates to the keyword you want people to find you on (usually your own name, e.g. monicashaw.com).
  • Decide which keywords are most important to your business and use them throughout the content of your website.
  • Link to external and internal pages within your content.
  • Use social media (Facebook, Twitter, Google+, etc) to create external links to your content
  • Use Google Analytics to track your stats; adjust and adapt your keywords as you learn how and why people find your website. (And yes, Writer’s Residence does have a facility for integrating Google analytics from the Settings page)

Finally, you might find this SEO checklist handy: The Social Media Marketer’s SEO Checklist.

How to use your writing portfolio to apply to different types of writing jobs

Wednesday, May 15th, 2013

I just had an email from one of our users with a very good question:

Do you have any advice or blog posts about using a writing portfolio to apply to multiple types of writing jobs?
How should my portfolio reflect this, especially when it comes to the Writing Samples and Home sections?

I know this has been a burning question for me for the last four years since I went freelance, and speaks to a challenge that many of us face, especially when we’re just starting out in the trade.

Almost every pro in the business will tell you that writers should have a “niche”. It’s good advice, but even so, niche writers still write for numerous types of media. For me, my niche is food. Sure, I write food articles for magazines and blogs, but I also do lots of writing work WITH food brands, like copywriting, web development and various other forms of consulting. How can I use one writing portfolio to reflect my vast array of experience, and then use that to apply for specific types of writing jobs?

In the past few years I’ve sent my writing portfolio to a LOT of prospective clients and editors. Some of them even gave me jobs. And enough of them gave me jobs that I actually make a living at it. So here are my top tips to our user – and any writer out there applying to different types of writing jobs – based on my experience. I’d love to hear other people’s ideas on the topic, too, so feel free to add your advice in the comments!

It actually begins with your cover letter.

Whenever you apply for a job, or pitch an editor or new client, you always start with a cover letter, even if it’s just an email expressing interest. This is where you can call out your specific experiences that make you right for the gig, and also where you can point editors to specific parts of your online writing portfolio that contains information relevant to the job. My approach is to write a paragraph or two explaining myself and why I’m writing, then call out some specific samples of which I’m particularly proud. Here’s a typical closing paragraph from a cover letter which I sent to the editor of a food magazine, with a sign-off that has a link to my full writing portfolio in the signature:

I’m a freelance writer with many years experience writing about food and travel, with credits including food magazine, the Daily Telegraph. You can find a collection of recent writings on food and travel in my writing portfolio, including my latest piece from Chef Magazine, at the links below:

http://www.monicashaw.com/samples/categories/food-and-travel
http://www.monicashaw.com/samples/restaurant-websites-2-0

Warmest regards,

Monica
monicashaw.com

Use your home page.

Although you’ll be pointing people in your cover letter to specific parts of your portfolio, you still want to make sure you represent yourself well on the main landing page of your website (having done a bit of hiring myself, I always look at an applicant’s website to see how they present themself overall).  Use the homepage place to summarise your range of experience. Don’t get too verbose – this is meant to be a summary. Freelance writer Carol Tice has done a good job of this on her website. You can see how I’ve tackled this on my own website at monicashaw.com.

Categorize your writing samples.

If you’re pitching an article idea on running for beginners to the editor of Women’s Health magazine, then it probably doesn’t make sense to send them a sample of your scholarly Master’s Thesis on liver glutathione homestasis (or the like). Use categories with your writing samples so that you can link specifically to the samples that are relevant. For example, I occasional write e-learning material for brands wanting to train their staff online, so I have a category for e-learning with related samples that I can use in any cover letters that I send for e-learning jobs.

Bonus feel-good tip:

This is a fast-paced world. People get that. And no one is going to raise an eyebrow if you take on different types of jobs. In fact, it’s expected. And it’s a good thing. It means you’re adaptable. Nothing’s wrong with diversifying your experience – it’s good business. Lots of people understand that, and those are the sort of people you want to work with, anyway! So don’t worry if your writing portfolio conveys a wide variety of experiences. Just make sure you point people to the right place in your portfolio when applying for jobs.

How to Make Your Website Theme Rock

Wednesday, April 17th, 2013

themesOne of our missions with Writer’s Residence is to provide writers with a website that looks good by default, so you can spend less time “designing” and more time writing. As such, we offer 16 pre-designed website themes (including a few recent additions from the fantastic designers at Wired Canvas), all of which are designed specifically with writers in mind.

But we also give writers the option to create a custom theme, with their own header and color scheme. To that end, I wanted to offer some advice for writers who want to use a custom theme to help them make it look as good as possible. Of course, these rules not only apply to Writer’s Residence, but to anyone who’s got a website that they’ve designed themselves.

Choosing a header image

This is the image that appears at the top of your page. In Writer’s Residence, you can use any size image you’d like (we resize it automatically to make it look good on the page) but a good rule of them is to use a header image that’s a long, wide rectangle. A header that’s too tall will push everything below it off the screen, but all that stuff below the header is important, and you want people to see it when they first access the page.

Good header:

headergood-1

Bad header:

headerbad-3

How to pick your website’s colour scheme

Writer's Residence Custom ThemeIf you’ve ever gone to a website that’s difficult to read because of the text and background colous, then you know how important colors are to a website. Why should anyone – particularly those all-important editors, clients and customers – stick around if they can’t read it?

In Writer’s Residence, you can customize your theme’s header, text, link, background and text background colours. A good general rule is that dark text on a light background is best. But you can also do even better by picking a colors that work well together and which suit your style and personality.

Here are a few of my favourite tools for picking color schemes:

  • Kuler – a community driven web app that lets your browse color palettes created by others. You can also create your own by using the color wheel, harmony rules, and color sliders.
  • Color Scheme Designer – a nice, simple interface that helps you create beautiful color schemes in seconds.
  • Pictaculous – upload an image and this app creates a color scheme based on that image. This could be particularly handy for those of you using custom header images.
  • COLOURlovers – this one’s a bit of fun and another community driven site where people create and share colors, palettes and patterns.

Color Scheme Designer

In the coming weeks we’ll put together some of our favourite website color schemes and palettes for you to use on your own website. In the meantime, has anyone else got some great tools or ideas to share for creating a rockin’ website theme? We’d love to hear about them in the comments!

In praise of custom domain names

Monday, March 18th, 2013

Custom Domain Name

The road to establishing yourself as a professional writer may seem long and ominous but one quick and easy thing you can do to speed things along is to get your own domain name. Why? Well, compare the following URLs:

  • http://monicashaw.blogspot.com
  • http://monicashaw.wordpress.com
  • http://monicashaw.com

Of those three, to which would you attach the most cred?

It’s all about professionalism, and professionals have their own custom domain name. It’s really that simple.

How do I choose a domain name registrar?

You need to register your domain name through a “domain name registrar”. But who to choose? There are probably thousands of places out there where you can register a domain name, all of which vary in terms of cost and customer support (the latter being quite important if you’re not very technically-minded).

I have had positive experience with both Gandi and Namecheap, who both happen to be included in Lifehacker’s list of Five Best Domain Registrars. If you can recommend others, we’d love to hear about the comments.

How do I choose a domain name?

Your name is a good place start (i.e. monicashaw.com). Go for something short, snappy and easy to spell, with no hyphens. Try to get a “.com” domain name if possible. If you’re name isn’t available, or you want to highlight your niche, pick a name that’s on topic (e.g. copyblogger.com, foodwriter.com).

How do I use my domain name on my website?

It all depends on how and where you host your website.

Writer’s Residence customers can setup their custom domain by logging into their account and clicking on “Settings”, then “Website addresses” and following the instructions on the page.

Folks using other web services should be able to find instructions with the service’s support documentation.

Do you have your own domain yet?

We’d love to hear your thoughts and experiences on setting up your own domain. How did you choose a domain name? Who did you register with? Any particular challenges that I haven’t mentioned here?

Writing Samples: What if I haven’t been published?

Friday, March 8th, 2013

One of the biggest challenges in starting out as a freelance writer is getting your first article published. But to get published, you need show editors what you can do. How do you do that when you’ve never been published before?

I faced this problem when I first went freelance in April 2008 (feels like yesterday). I’d been working as a banker for over a year and held previous jobs in software testing, research and teaching. I decided to quit my job and give this writing-for-a-living malarky a go but was left with a dilemma: to get published, I’d need to demonstrate to editors that I can write. But how would I do that without samples of published work? The ultimate writer’s Catch-22!

My solution was to think a bit more broadly about “published work”. I ended up taking samples from teaching material, flyers and a few of my better blog posts and turning them into “writing samples” for my online writing portfolio. With the help of my portfolio (and a good pitch) I was able to land my first commission, an article on endorphins for The Daily Telegraph. After that, my arsenal of “published” writing samples only grew.

Just because you don’t have any published clips or writing samples doesn’t mean disaster – we all have to start somewhere. Here are a few tips for dealing with clips in the early stages of your career.

Think again

If you want to be a freelance writer, chances are you’ve already done some writing. Consider these possible sources for your writing clips:

  • Business reports
  • Technical manuals
  • Copywriting
  • Blog posts
  • Sales letters
  • Press releases
  • Newsletters

Write sample articles

Write a couple of articles in the genre you’d like to write for and be your own editor. Make sure these articles represent your best work and give them the same amount of attention you would to a paid article. Who knows, you might be able to sell them someday.

Publish online

Start a blog or offer to write guest posts on other people’s blogs. This is a great way to build up your portfolio and gain exposure to your work at the same time.

Go for small publications

Many small publications and local newspapers are more willing to take a chance on an unknown writer. You can also try pitching shorter pieces to magazines as fillers.

Query without clips

Don’t let a lack of clips keep you from pitching ideas. Simply write a great query and don’t mention clips at all. Instead, talk up other aspects of your experience that makes you right for the job. As always, play up your strengths and omit the weaknesses. Most importantly, keep writing!

Things you shouldn’t do

  • Write on spec. Some may disagree, but I think life is too short to work for free, so unless you’re writing about something you’d write about anyway because you just can’t help yourself, don’t spend the time until you’re sure you’re going to get paid. Professional writers get paid for their craft, and there’s monetary value in what you do.
  • Don’t acknowledge your lack of writing samples. All professional freelance writers have writing samples – that’s what you are, right?

In fact, that last point is the most important point of all: if you want people to take you seriously as a writer, YOU need to take yourself seriously as a writer. That means creating a presence that tells the world “hi, I’m a professional”. You don’t need a huge collection of published work to do this. You simply need a little creativity and confidence.

Position yourself as a professional writer in your pitches, online profiles and especially on your website, not only through your writing samples, but in the words you use to describe yourself on your home page and about page. Soon enough, you’ll have more writing samples than you can keep up with.

Top Tips for Writers from Famous Authors

Wednesday, March 30th, 2011

I just discovered, thanks to Melody Godfred’s delightful Write in Color blog, an equally delightful series in The Guardian called Rules for Writers. The series features famous authors like Jonathon Franzen, Margaret Atwood, and Zadie Smith, who offer their shirt, pithy tips on writing.

Their advice reflect a certain practicality and sense of humour that must only come after “making it” in the big time. Some of my favourites:

Margaret Atwood:

You most likely need a thesaurus, a rudimentary grammar book, and a grip on reality. This latter means: there’s no free lunch. Writing is work. It’s also gambling. You don’t get a pension plan. Other people can help you a bit, but ­essentially you’re on your own. ­Nobody is making you do this: you chose it, so don’t whine.

Will Self:

You know that sickening feeling of inadequacy and over-exposure you feel when you look upon your own empurpled prose? Relax into the awareness that this ghastly sensation will never, ever leave you, no matter how successful and publicly lauded you become. It is intrinsic to the real business of writing and should be cherished.

Elmore Leonard:

Never use a verb other than “said” to carry dialogue. The line of dialogue belongs to the character; the verb is the writer sticking his nose in. But “said” is far less intrusive than “grumbled”, “gasped”, “cautioned”, “lied”. I once noticed Mary McCarthy ending a line of dialogue with “she asseverated” and had to stop reading and go to the dictionary.

Roddy Doyle

Do, occasionally, give in to temptation. Wash the kitchen floor, hang out the washing. It’s research.

Read more: Rules for Writers [The Guardian]

How to Survive as a Writer in the Real World

Tuesday, March 22nd, 2011

When I became a full-time freelance writer in 2008, I dreamed big dreams of lucrative commissions for national magazines, free meals at fancy restaurants, overnight stays at flash hotels and the thrilling rush of impossibly tight deadlines.

Luckily I reserved most of my dreams for sleep-time, and spent my waking hours facing the stark reality of what it’s like to get into freelance writing with zero experience in the freelance marketplace:

  • I had no magazine or newspaper clips
  • Most editors, especially for big publications, won’t take a chance on a newbie writer with no credentials
  • I have bills to pay, and it was hard enough getting one paid commission; to get enough work to make a full-time living felt impossible
  • There were already loads of people out there established as professional writers; how could I compete with them?

Almost two years later, I’m still a full-time freelancer, still making ends meet, but still nagged by these same concerns from time to time. Which is why I really liked yesterday’s article on Freelance Folder by Laura Spencer about how to survive in the crowded freelance writing marketplace. There she listed some very good reasons why it’s still possible to compete and suggests a few ways to strengthen your freelance writing brand.

One of her points rang especially true to my experience:

Consider the more lucrative writing fields of copywriting or business writing. While it’s nice to have a byline, it’s even nicer to get paid. Businesses have the money to pay and the need for writers.

It’s not exactly press passes and celebrity interviews, but business writing is a great way to stay afloat while you establish yourself in more journalistic roles.

I currently work part-time writing marketing reports and copywriting. This takes up about 75% of my working week; the rest I spend on my own projects and writing endeavors. Sure, I might establish myself more quickly as a writer if I devoted myself to pitching full time; but I’ve gotta make a living, and the business writing makes it possible.

It’s all about doing whatever it takes to enable the next step. Right now I’m about 75% business writing / 25% my own stuff. Next year that might be 65% / 45%, who knows.

For me, one of the most important points is that I’ve stayed freelance this whole time. So even if I go into a business environment, I’m still calling the shots, still keeping my head high as an independent contractor. It may not sound like much, but the confidence boost of going freelance is huge, and it just keeps pushing you harder and harder to stay freelance, and to make the next job that much more awesome.

So while you’re figuring how to be awesome yourself, go check out Laura’s piece for some great advice:

How to Survive in the Crowded Freelance Writing Marketplace