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Chicago Freelance Copywriter

Tag: writing

Content Marketing Works – It Did For Me…

content_marketing_worksFolks, today was a weird day.  It was the first day in my life that I accidentally found myself on the Internet.  Let me tell you how it happened.

I was taking a break from work (I had just finished a case study and was starting in on a website – busy day), when I decided to check out one of my favorite blogs – Copyblogger.  Their post for the day was:  Top 10 Blogs for Writers 2010.

I am always looking for new blogs to read and learn from, so I clicked on the third one, Make a Living Writing.

I started reading the first post on the site, which was titled: Top 10 Articles for Writers – December 2010.
Guess whose article was number 2?  Mine!  I actually refreshed the page to make sure I wasn’t hallucinating.  The cold Chicago air can do that to me.  But I wasn’t.  So I showed my husband, and he smiled, and then I wrote this post.

I just thought I’d share because it proves a few things:

1.) Content marketing works.  The more content you put on the web, the more QUALITY content you put out there, the better the chances of you being found by people who want to hear what you have to say.  I didn’t write that article as an advertisement, I wrote it because I thought it was useful.  And apparently others did too.  If I was able to find myself by accident, how many other people are coming across what I wrote as well?

2.) I’m excited!

3.) For my fellow bloggers, it just goes to show that guest posting really does work.  I doubt if I had put that same exact post on my website it would have been picked up.  Make connections with other bloggers and it will take you a long way.

So that’s my short post on how I accidentely found myself.  I wasn’t supposed to post this week, but I’ll wish you a very happy new year once again and see you in 2011.

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why-you-need-to-hire-a-professional-writerHiring a writer is one of the smartest moves any small business can make.

I’m not just saying that because it’s what I do. I’m saying it because I have seen the toll that bad writing can have on a small business, and I’ve seen the effect of good writing.

For all you out there who know your website needs updating and are thinking about doing it yourself, please read the following analogy.

You need a new computer. You’re not sure what to get. (Although if you have half a brain, you should get a mac and I’m only saying this because it’s opinion week. Any other day I will respectfully acknowledge your right to buy a PC, although I may silently judge).

Sorry for the opinionated rant…back to the story:

You walk into a store and ask a sales person for help. You pick him because he looks knowledgeable, and he has glasses.  This reassures you for some strange reason that you may decide to talk to your therapist about.  He’s in his mid to late 30s which means he isn’t so old he doesn’t understand computers, but he’s not so young that you’re afraid he’s going to ask for a bottle in the middle of the conversation.

You introduce yourself, and tell him what you’re looking for in a computer. And that’s when it happens. He launches into an incredibly dry monologue about the computer in front of you. You don’t really follow a word he says, he uses technical terms that make your brain hurt, and you’re not even sure he listened to what you were looking for in the first place.

After four minutes your eyes glaze over and you patiently wait for him to be done. Let’s face it, if you could have walked away in the middle of the story without being rude, you would have.

The point of this story? Poorly written webcopy gives visitors the option to walk away in the middle of a long, boring story. If this sales person were to write the web copy for the computer store, it may be very informative, but chances are, it won’t be engaging. Most visitors will walk away in the middle of his story.

Now imagine you walk into the computer store and you ask a different sales person for help. This person is younger, but now you’re thinking maybe you need someone younger who isn’t going to bore you to death with crazy words. He has kind of a hipster look to him, and smiles at you. He’s friendly so you pick him as your guy. Again, you let him know what you’re looking for in a computer. And that’s when it happens.

Guy #2 launches into an incredibly personal story about the computer in front of him and why he loves it and you just have to buy it. His aunt got it for him for his 21st birthday and he used the computer to sign up for an online dating service and now he has a girlfriend and they’re going to have sushi for dinner that night. It’s a wonderful story. You were entertained. But did he convince you to buy the computer? Probably not.

Webcopy that is full of enthusiasm and makes you want to read it really fast like a teenage girl talking is fun, but it isn’t informative. It’s engaging, but it doesn’t make the sale.

There’s a magic behind writing copy that both provides information while also engaging visitors. Most small businesses owners can sit down and write about their company, but the question is: are they giving the correct information while also making it interesting? Probably not.

With my analogy I hope I’ve shown why it’s so important to have informative and engaging copy. It’s a skill that most copywriters work their entire lives to perfect. Make the investment to hire someone to write your copy in a way that will entertain and inform those who visit your site.

So ends the week of opinions. I feel like none of mine were overly controversial but it felt good to get my ideas and opinions out there. I encourage all bloggers to do the same!

What do you think about my analogy? Did it work for you? Do you think hiring a professional writer is worth your money?

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What to do When Your Brain is on Empty

what-to-do-when-your-brain-is-on-emptyTwo nights ago, I was woken up at 1:30am and again at 5:30am. The culprit?  Water was leaking into my apartment, setting off my carbon monoxide detector and potentially taking years off my life with that horrible noise. Is there anything worse than an alarm going off in the middle of the night? Yes, there are millions of things, I’m aware. I do read the newspaper. But somehow, in the moment, an alarm going off in the middle of the night really rates with the worse possible thing to happen in a long time.

Once the beeping stopped and I got another 30 minutes of sleep, I dragged myself out of bed at 7am to wait for the plumber.  In those bleary-eyed moments between 7:00 and 7:02, I knew I had a choice to make. I could either waste a day feeling tired and annoyed, or I could make it my business to use this abnormal schedule and change in my routine to motivate myself and get work done.

The totally and completely amazing part is I did, and I think I learned a few valuable lessons on how to get myself to work, even when the unexpected happens. Now I share that knowledge with you in case you are ever woken by a water-filled carbon monoxide detector going off and scaring the bejezzus out of you:

I got started working right away. I have mornings, like everyone else, where I putz around on the Internet and take my time getting into my work. When I’m this tired though, putzing will only lead to napping. So I made it my business not to putz. I opened my computer and immediately opened a word document I had been editing. Score one for Rebecca.

I worked on projects that required more editing and finessing than content creation. I know my limitations and I need a brain on high to come up with content that will blow people’s minds. But editing and revising after I’ve already written is something I can do when writing brand new content just isn’t working for me.

I spent a lot of time following up on emails and responding to new client requests. Just because I’m not writing doesn’t mean I’m not working. That took me awhile to figure out. When you own your own business, work is not how many hours you bill, but how many hours you bill on top of how many new clients you are able to bring in.  So I spent a good portion of my day on those new client proposals.

When my brain really was begging for a nap, I turned to my Google reader and took it upon myself to read my favorite blogs and leave comments on the ones that moved me. Again, it’s part of my job, and it doesn’t take as much brain power as other parts.

In the end, I battled against the day and won. I got more accomplished than I do on some days I get 8 hours of beauty rest and don’t have to deal with a leaking ceiling.

So my overall lesson? It’s all a mind game. Perhaps if I ran marathons I’d already know that it’s 30% physical and 70% mental, or whatever the saying is. However, I am not mental, so I do not run marathons. But on this particular day I did put my mental state above my physical state and won.

How do you get yourself to work when you are lacking the brain power you usually possess?

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The Power of the Comma


Do you know why the comma is so powerful? It makes your words readable. With out it you wouldn’t know when to pause and when to take a breath.

Simply: A comma is a punctuation mark that reads like a pause when speaking.

However, the use of the comma isn’t 100% black and white. There are times when it is 100% necessary and other times when it is a matter of taste and style.

For example, an introductory phrase is a matter of preference:

On October 31st I wore a Halloween costume.

On October 31st, I wore a Halloween costume.

The rest of the time, around 70%, you need to know when and where to use it.

An example:

Let’s eat Grandpa!

Let’s eat, Grandpa!

In one sentence you’re eating your grandpa for dinner, in another, you are eating dinner with your Grandpa. In the second instance, the comma saved Grandpa’s life.

There are lots of grammar rules concerning commas.

– Dates

November 8, 2010

– Addresses

1234 Bloggers Lane

Blogville, Illinois 60623

– Serial lists

Eggs, milk, and cheese

Correct punctuation can really change the entire meaning of a sentence. Consider:

Welcome Barbara.

Welcome, Barbara.

The first sentence is a command. The second is an invitation. The difference? One comma.

But I’m not so concerned with the grammar “rules” of commas as how to use them to produce content that is easy to read and makes sense.

So please, be attentive to the comma. And if you’re ever in doubt on whether you need one or not, just read your sentence out loud. Wherever you pause is where your comma belongs.

I really have just hit the top of the iceberg when it comes to commas. But I wasn’t sure anyone could handle more than 300 words on such a little punctuation mark (in size, not grandeur).

For more comma reading check out the following, which will basically answer any comma question you should ever have:

Grammar Girl’s take on commas.

Do you feel passionately about commas?

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Is Proper Grammar Dead?

is-grammar-deadHave you heard the news? Nobody writes anymore! Grammar is going down the tubes! We might as well get rid of commas and apostrophes forever because nobody is going to know how to use them anyway.

Hi, my name is Rebecca, and I am a sensationalist. I would like to state for the record that I think people write more nowadays than they ever have in the past. We used to keep in touch via the phone, and now we keep in touch via email. You know what that means? We have to write!

In my line of work (writing), I tend to get a lot of questions on how important it is to have good grammar in this day and age of constant and instant communication. Isn’t texting ruining the entire English language?

I’m going to be the Debbie downer here (insert wah wah) but I think grammar is still extremely important. In order to deliver your message effectively, people need to know what you’re trying to say. And that’s where grammar comes in. Without the proper punctuation, capitalization, word tense, word choice etc. nobody is going to know what you’re saying (I even use the correct grammar while texting, but I realize that might be taking it too far.)

Sorry to be the bearer of bad news, but everyone still needs to learn the difference between their, they’re, and there, and know when to use commas, how to use semicolons, and so forth. They can use that knowledge to write content that rocks.

To take this to an even more relevant place is the idea of grammar in blog posts. Again, I’m going to be the bearer of bad news and insist grammar in blogs needs to be as perfect as it would be on a sales letter to a potential client. Because in the grand scheme of things, blog posts are sales letters to potential clients. Aren’t they?

So there are a few thoughts on grammar. I’m going to delve even deeper into grammar next week. If you’ve never read a post on commas that was so relevant and poignant it made you cry, then you haven’t lived.

What are your thoughts on grammar? Does it still matter as much? Do texting and constant emailing, Facebook updates, tweeting etc. make it less necessary? Am I wrong to assert grammar is still as important as it was, if not more so since we write that much more? I’d love to hear your thoughts.

p.s. Did you find any grammar mistakes in here? If so, it was a test. If not, I’m awesome.

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