Category “Web Content”

So you’re thinking of starting your own technical writing or content writing business?

Monday, 3 December, 2018

I recently had the opportunity to talk about my STEM career path in two different spheres – one was an article on the BCIT website and another was at a recent BC Tech and Discovery Foundation Aspire to Tech workshop. These opportunities really got me thinking about what a journey it’s been and how much I’ve learned along the way (through definite trial and many an error), and I realised that there are lot of things I can share now that I had no clue about when I was starting out, and that may help you if you’re  just getting started in a career as a technical writer or content developer. Read on…

Tip #1: Think About What Sets You Apart

We all have something that can shape what we offer to our clients and our audience. Think about your background, your studies, what you excel at. If you’re a career changer, how can what you did before this change work to your advantage? I often have students in my Writing for the Web class (part of BCIT’s Technical Writing program) who have degrees and experience in other fields, so I encourage them to look at what subject matter expertise and transferable skills they have, along with their writing skills. For example, you may have worked in the finance or medical fields, so these would be excellent areas to look for clients in, because you’ll bring not just the writing talent, but the industry knowledge with you.

Tip #2: See What’s Already Out There

If you’re not sure what kinds of contracts are out there, what client you might suit, or specifically what skills you might need to take on clients, then do your research! Google Technical Writing jobs or Content Writer jobs (+ your area). Look at job descriptions, the type of companies and industries hiring, and get an idea of salaries to figure out what you should charge as a contractor/freelancer (you can also use PayScale to help you with this). You can get a sense of whether you need to take a course, brush up on a skill, etc. Also take a look at your competition. What are they doing well? What can you do differently or better? And see Tip #1 🙂 

Tip #3: Build a Portfolio and Self-Market

You may be working in a technical (or other kind of) workplace currently that needs better writing – for their website, their general documentation, marketing, etc. Offer to do some of this (but try to get it to be within your job, not as unpaid extra work on top it) so that you can build up portfolio pieces. Look for websites that may be looking for articles (just be sure you aren’t under valuing yourself, but doing some articles for free at the beginning can be good for building your online presence). Set up a blog and write, write, write!

Use all the free online marketing tools you can – namely LinkedIn and Twitter. These have great search engine rankings, so they will help get your name out there. LinkedIn also has a publishing tool, so you can write and contribute articles there (also don’t be afraid to use the same content across these – use Twitter to promote your blog posts or online articles; post your blog posts or articles on LinkedIn as posts on your profile – saves you time and drives readers to your writing). LinkedIn Jobs is also very useful for looking for clients, as you can often find contract work this way. There are also other sites like Upwork that allow you to find freelance jobs. 

If you can’t afford to set up your own website yet, then at the very least, put together a PDF of your services, with your contact information. This was a highly valuable piece of advice that a career coach and friend gave me. That way, you can email your PDF to potential clients without feeling embarrassed that you don’t have a website**. I also found that when I sat down to do this, it actually motivated me to set up my website, so I ended up not having to use the PDF and instead got my website done. 

** That said, get a website ASAP 🙂 (see Tip #5).

Tip #4: Volunteer (and Network)

I know that everyone always says that you need to network when you’re looking for a job, but I believe there are more creative ways to do it than just attending networking events. Try volunteering. You don’t have to give all your time up for this, but this is an excellent way to build relationships and, in so doing, build your networks. Talk to people. Tell them what you do and what you’re looking for. Print up a cheap business card with your name, LinkedIn URL (if you don’t have your own website), and your email and phone number. Attend events that include people that aren’t just your competition. My volunteer efforts helped me meet people who became or referred me to my first clients. I didn’t have the budget to join a formal networking group, and when I was starting out, something like a BNI group didn’t make sense, because I didn’t have a network to refer others to, but do what feels right and what makes sense for you. 

Tip #5: Do Trades

When you’re starting out running your own business, see who you know that you can do trades with for services (often referred to as “contras”). Make sure that you know the value of what you offer, and draw up a proper letter of agreement (you can find templates online). For example, a friend of mine who is a talented graphic designer created my business cards for me, and in return, I rewrote and reworked her resume. Another friend of mine generously helped with set up my website and designed my logo (and didn’t even ask for anything in return!). Think about what you need and what you can do in exchange. 

Tip #5: Build Partnerships

Something that was invaluable for me what I was starting out was to build a relationship with a graphic designer who ran her own business. It was a completely logical fit, as she was able to advertise “full service” offerings to her clients, and then sub-contract the writing work to me. This way, I built my client list and portfolio, earned money, and built a great relationship with a talented designer. It was win-win! 

Tip #6: Ask for Help

Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Do informational interviews. Get advice from experts like the fabulous folks at Small Business BC. Start following people who might be potential clients or partners on social media (but keep it professional). 

And finally…

Trust that you can do this! Keep learning, keep writing, and know that although it will take time to build up a client list (I didn’t want to believe it but it’s true what they say about it being about 5 years to build up a business), you will. Running your own technical writing business or content writing company can be incredibly rewarding – terrifying at times – but I can safely say that I love what I do. 

The Usefulness of Long-Form Content – for Sites and Readers

Wednesday, 30 November, 2016

pencil and shavingsWhile I tend to focus on creating concise, focused web copy for my clients (for many reasons – reader attention spans, mobile phone use, effectiveness, “punch”, etc.), it’s important to also keep in mind that readers do actually also look for and enjoy long-form content. It has many benefits for site owners, including on the search engine ranking front, and can help you engage more with your specific audience. I think it can be argued that the more reliant we get on our devices, too, the more we use them for all types of reading – both long-form and short-form content.

So, What is Long-form Content?

Long-form content is usually defined as content longer than 2,000 words, so that might include white papers, research reports, or a long article (all of which I do write for clients as well). Yes, as online readers, we’re inundated with clickbait lists and ‘viral’ – what I’d hesitate to even classify as – articles. Much of what we see these days is designed to be shared or skimmed by a social media audience (think of the Facebook “news” section of trending topic “headlines”). However, a lot of readers are looking for depth and value, and longer articles do also get shared – actually quite a lot more than you might suppose. I firmly believe that well written, engaging content can be of any length – as long as you’ve thought about your audience and purpose. For example, I wouldn’t recommend long-form content for a Home page of a website, but it’d be a great for an in-depth case study.

How Does Long-Form Content Help Site Owners?

One of the reasons I advocate for a blog for many clients is that it allows you to show your audience that you are a source of knowledge and expertise on your particular service/product/industry. Long-form content can be an integral part of this same approach. It helps connect with readers and can actually increase your leads. As a recent article on Content Marketing states, “Users will not only stay on a page longer to read lengthier content, but also they’ll look at more pages than the average visitor. In addition, holding a reader’s attention for more than three minutes (as opposed to one minute) makes it over twice as likely that they’ll return to a website.” So the more engaged your readers are with your long-form content, the more likely they will actually come back to your website, which can lead to more business and a better bottom line.

One of the elements that counts when optimizing a site for Search Engines is fresh content, and it has been shown that Search Engines also like long-form content. This provides more opportunities to then include more keywords when optimizing a website, which then drives more leads. In simple terms, adding new, longer articles to your website can boost where you show up on search engine results pages. Given that most web users these days use search engines to find what they’re looking for online, you can see how this important and helpful this is!

What Should You Be Careful of with Long-Form Content?

As I mentioned, you do have to make sure you’re picking the right time and place for longer articles. The information still has to be well written and applicable to your audience, and it also has to fit into an overall marketing strategy. You can churn out content (or hire someone like me to do it for you), but if there is no strategy on how it will be used, where it’ll be shared, etc., then it won’t serve your purpose. You also have to be careful that you aren’t using “shovelware” (content that was created for a different medium that has been dumped online); long-form content still needs to be written and planned with web users and the medium of the web in mind.

Interested in finding out more about how long-form content can help your website and your business? Feel free to get in touch with me.

Geraldine

 

 

Less is Definitely More When Writing Web Content

Tuesday, 10 June, 2014

Man surrounded by paperwork

I wrote the following post on the new LinkedIn publishing tool, and I know I’ve written similar topics before, but I thought it was worth reproducing here:

The architect Ludwig Mies van der Rohe famously stated that “less is more” when it comes to good design. The same applies to many things in life such as asking for favours, applying make up, McDonald’s, and above all, web content.

The challenge all web writers have is not only how to write engaging content but also how to keep visitors on a website long enough to actually read that content so they’ll do what you want them to do (e.g. buy your product, hire your company, etc.). One of the recommended rules of writing is that you should take what you’ve written, halve it, and then halve it again – leaving you with the core of the message.

It’s definitely something I’ve found hard, as a lover of words and coming from an academic background, but there is a certain satisfaction in knowing you’ve picked the most precise language, used one word instead of five (what’s wrong with using “because” instead of “due to the fact that”?), and kept it simple but eloquent.

So when you’re considering writing web content, remember the following tips:

  • lists and headings/sub-headings can often replace a chunk of text (but make these count – engage the reader and focus on your main ideas and calls to action)
  • images really can be worth 1000 words
  • paragraphs should be short and start or end with the main idea (think about how seldom we read everything on the page)
  • nouns and verbs should be concrete and precise
  • language should be easy to understand, concise, and conversational
  • meaning should be very clear – don’t make the reader search for key information (hint: they won’t!)
  • links and sub-pages can divide up long chunks of text and add value for the reader (remember we don’t read web content in a linear way like a book)

So, focus on what you want the reader to do on your page, help them navigate the information and the website as a whole with logical ideas and design, and make sure that whatever content you include answers all the reader’s potential questions.

Finally, Van der Rohe also said “God is in the details,” so don’t forget to do a thorough proofread, spell check, and fact check before you publish. Heaven forbid you include an incorrect phone number or broken link.

PS – If this sounds like your worst nightmare, despite my tips, then why not hire me to do it for you?

Monday, 28 October, 2013

“High-quality web content that’s useful, usable, and enjoyable is one of the greatest competitive advantages you can create for yourself online.”

― Kristina Halvorson, Content Strategy for the Web