Tag Archives: Marketing

The Difference Between Cheap vs. Expensive Writers

Some businesses complain about it. Many writers are perplexed by it. Content mills, agencies, and brokers take advantage of it. What’s the difference between cheap vs. expensive writers?

In most cases, there’s a world of difference between a cheap writer and an expensive writer. Remember the adage, “You get what you pay for.” It’s so true.

Money’s a funny thing and it’s all relative at the end of the day. I’m sure there are writers you can commission for low rates and get a perfectly good product. For the most part, um, no. How do I know that?

First of all, writers working for one penny a word (or less) are not going to research a topic. Heck, writers that are paid five to ten cents a word don’t want to bother with too much research.

And what happens when your copy isn’t researched?

YOU GET CRAP. That. Doesn’t. Convert.

I know some writers who work for low rates. They can do this because they either have second incomes or they work on volume. They churn out content as fast as their fingers can type.

Some companies groove along with crap on their websites. We don’t do that at Big Grey Horse Media. Never. Ever. Ever.

I think A-list blogger Steve Pavlina wrote that his blog posts took hours to craft and perfect. Guess what? He’s not the only one! Big Grey Horse Media’s blog posts can take days to write depending upon the topic. And yes, we’re extremely proud of producing content that readers enjoy.

Here’s the deal. You can hire cheap writers and get your work turned around quickly, sometimes within 24 hours. Sure, you think that the copy should be easy because it’s a 400 word piece about bird watching.

And when you pay a writer $10 to write that piece, you’re gonna get, at best, five minutes of research that’s been quickly read over and then vomited back onto the page. Regurgitation is the hallmark of cheap writers. I’m sorry to offend my fellow writers who do this and I don’t mean to alienate you. If I were writing for $10, I’d do the same thing.

What I despise hearing even more is “I just write it off the top of my head!” Ugh. Really? I’m sure your clients don’t appreciate that. And if they do, all the more power to ’em. If I pay a writer, I expect quality, not the top of someone’s head or vomit on the page.

We have a completely different mindset around here. I dig:

  • Interviewing my clients.
  • Determining goals.
  • Researching and digesting marketing collateral.
  • Working out strategies to reach those goals.
  • Defining what didn’t work in the past.
  • Refining copy until it fits.
  • Testing as we go.

There’s more, but that’s the core of what we do at Big Grey Horse Media. When we’re hired, we become a partner. We’re just as invested in your business as you are. When you succeed, so do we.

Your business with Big Grey Horse Media is an investment. We see your need to grow and reach higher and we help you climb. We take your goals seriously and we’re in it with you, every step of the way.

Why are some writers so damn expensive? Again, money’s relative. A small business that’s boot-strapping isn’t going to appreciate paying $500 per blog post when the biz doesn’t have a marketing budget. A large corporation or a well-funded start-up takes $500 a post in stride and places an order for a package of 15 posts. Consider that the $500 blog post has unique photos, is placed within the company’s content management system by us, is fully linked, optimized, and part of the company blog’s overall structure, brand, and also is part of a specific content marketing campaign.

That’s the difference between a $10 post and a $500 post.

It’s not to say one writer is better than the other, because I truly believe many cheap writers would love to increase their rates and work for better clients. Most writers won’t because the truth is, they don’t want to. And that’s fine.

When you’re building your company brand, however, do you really want what’s basically spun content on your site? Think about it.

When you work with us, the sky’s the limit. Grow your brand the right way.

We love content marketing – click here for more information.

 

Twitter Decoded: What Does #FF Mean?

TwitterIf you use Twitter (and who doesn’t – except my mom) you’ve seen it: the #FF hashtag. But what does #FF mean? Do you know how to use it properly? I’ll explain some Twitter mysteries and etiquette in our Twitter Decoded series.

#FF means “Follow Friday.”

How to Choose

How do you choose who’s worthy of tweeting about and following?

  • New Twitter accounts that only have a small group of followers but are HOT and need to be noticed.
  • Brands that you love and want to share.
  • Individuals or brands that you want to shout out about simply because those people and businesses are awesome.

How do you use #FF?

Use #FF on Fridays. Write a tweet and include #FF in the message.

Here’s some examples:

Check out @BigGreyHorse for Texas eatery reviews! #FF

#FF My recommended list of cool friends @MaryeAudet, @PinOakHouston, @KarinHernandez3, @UncleBillys.

When your followers see your #FF tweets, hopefully they, too, will follow the folks you recommend. It’s exposure, PR, and a personal recommendation neatly wrapped up in 140 characters or less.

Twitter Etiquette

Twitter etiquette dictates that you send a “thank you” tweet if you are recommended via #FF.

How do you thank someone properly? You send a tweet back saying “Thanks.”

Here’s an example of the right way to do it:

Thanks @BigGreyHorse for the #FF!

Do NOT thank someone for a #FF by sending the entire message back.

Here’s an example of the wrong way to do it:

Thanks @BigGreyHorse! #FF My recommended list of cool friends @MaryeAudet, @PinOakHouston, @KarinHernandez3, @UncleBillys.

Never send back the exact tweet you were mentioned in. It’s lazy and laziness isn’t professional or thankful.

Another thing to remember is clarity. Twitter moves at lightning speed. I recommend not mentioning more than four of your tweeps in #FF lists. Some people say that #FF tweets shouldn’t have more than one individual or business mentioned. That isn’t a bad way to go, but you can list up to four names. (Some folks recommend a list of up to five names.)

Twitter isn’t hard to understand. Once you get on board and play with your account a bit, Twitter becomes easier to understand. The help section is informative, too.

Need help maneuvering through the Twittersphere? We can help. Contact us for more information. We LOVE socializing Texas style!

 

Affiliate Marketing: Why in the Heck Are Those Ads on Your Blog?

Money
Image courtesy of Gualberto107 / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

In the last month or so, I added affiliate marketing to the Big Grey Horse Media blog. Affiliate marketing has been on my mind for several years, but I wanted a fair amount of traffic before implementing advertising on our site.

Some would disagree and say that bloggers can monetize their sites at any point in time. While there are no hard and fast rules regarding monetizing your web properties, I felt Big Grey Horse Media should have good traffic first. Plus, many merchants won’t work with fledgling blogs. Add to that my feelings when I started the blog in 2010: I had no desire to monetize my site through ads.

Times are different. You can read how Big Grey Horse Media’s evolved since 2010 and gain insight into where we are moving in the future.

So why in the heck are those ads on our blog? Advertising makes money. Affiliate marketing makes money.

Big Grey Horse Media is a business. We’re in it to provide stellar service to our clients. In order to continue to give you first-class service, we must pay for services and products that are of the highest quality. And high quality products and services cost money.

When you hire us for writing, marketing, or social media services, we make money.

When you shop for products and services through our website, we get a commission.

The definition of marketing.
Image courtesy of Stuart Miles/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Those beautiful ads displayed in the sidebars are hand-picked from the merchants we partner with. We only partner with the best. First, we will only showcase companies that meet our standards and are products and services we either use or would happily use if the need arose. Second, we want to give you the best shopping experiences.

Making money is something that we do. Our clients who use our services for marketing, writing, and social media have been our bread and butter since 2008. Now that the blog has grown and branched out, it’s only right that we accept advertising and provide affiliate marketing services, too. The more money that comes in, the more money there is to provide you with the best experiences when you visit Big Grey Horse Media.

Shop through our links. Know that we thoroughly vet merchants and sponsors prior to partnering with them. These are trusted brands, folks.

As much as we appreciate the brands that we work with, our first priority is our readership. Without you, we couldn’t do it. Feel free to give us feedback on how we’re doing.

Visit this page for a comprehensive list of products we recommend.

Drive Your Business With The Genesis Framework WordPress Themes

Click to download the Genesis Guide for Absolute Beginners

Disclosure: Big Grey Horse Media is an affiliate for StudioPress by Copyblogger, who develops the Genesis framework. If you click these links, you will be taken to ShareASale, who handles affiliate processing when you purchase Genesis or any of the Genesis child themes. We receive a commission when you buy Genesis.

While we fully endorse the Genesis framework and its child themes, our partnership with Copyblogger does not sway our views. This post is not sponsored nor is it an advertisement. We are sharing our opinions and experiences truthfully and voluntarily.

 

Big Grey Horse Media uses StudioPress’ Genesis to drive and power our blogs. We’ve used the Genesis framework and its child themes since 2011.

I agonized over which WordPress theme to use for Big Grey Horse Media. When I began this blog in 2010, I used a free WordPress theme through WordPress.org. The free theme was fantastic for a baby blog that needed a place on the web, but hadn’t realized its awesomeness – yet.

Once I knew the direction Big Grey Horse Media would take, a freebie theme wouldn’t cut it. Not only did I want to make a fantastic impression upon my readers and clients, I wanted a theme that had the ability to morph into what I wanted it to be. All of the free themes I’d looked at and used were static and inflexible. On top of those problems, there wasn’t any support.

I’m not a WordPress developer or IT geek. Having a highly intuitive theme was imperative for my business.

As I shopped online, I viewed hundreds of premiere WordPress themes. The entire process took over 90 days for me to make a decision. I’d discovered Genesis at Darren Rowse’s famous blog, ProBlogger. That’s where I learned about Genesis’ simplicity, beauty, and structure.

And I kept going back to experience Genesis one. more. time.

When I made the decision to purchase Genesis, I knew it was best to buy the Pro Plus All-Theme package. This enabled me to have access to every child theme available that came with the Genesis framework. And – get this – I’d have access to every child theme developed in the future.

Is that a screaming deal or what?

I popped for the entire package, and it remains one of the best business decisions I’ve made for Big Grey Horse Media. The Nomadic child theme we currently use, which has been retired, is elegant. Genesis makes it so easy to share our experiences through content, photography, video, and social media.

Now that you understand how Big Grey Horse Media and the Genesis framework became teammates, I’ll delve into the pros and cons of Genesis.

 

Pros

Fantastic support. If I’d written this in 2011, I’d list support as a con. I want to state this upfront, because it was a huge problem for me. However, StudioPress has changed the way support is handled and it is 100% better.

You have access to straightforward instructions which include customizing your child themes to look exactly like the StudioPress demos.

There is more emphasis put towards people, like me, who don’t know how to write code. This kind of support ROCKS, because Copyblogger can’t assume everyone who buys Genesis is a developer or wants to hire one.

The price is right. You can’t ask for a better deal whether you’re purchasing one theme or the Pro Plus package. The Pro Plus All-Theme package currently costs only $399.95, and you get Genesis and every child theme currently available. For me, that means I have access to 59 themes! Where else can I buy that many themes, plus any future child themes developed, for less than $400?

The real kicker is this: You save almost $1000 by purchasing the Pro Plus All-Theme package. Sweet!

Support interface. When I’m logged in to my StudioPress account, the interface is clean and easy to use. Unlike the interface I used two years ago, Copyblogger has turned StudioPress into a wonderful place to hang out, look at new child themes, run demos, download themes, and read tutorials. The language is clear – even I can understand 98% of what’s written, which is a major upgrade. Honestly, in the past, I quit logging into my StudioPress account because of frustration. Now that things have changed, I enjoy logging in and learning new techniques or checking out new child themes.

Developer resources. If you’ve a developer, you have access to tons of resources. All the Genesis plugins are also found in this area (so nice!), along with mobile testing, web graphics, and code.

Simplicity. As I’ve stated, I’m not a WordPress developer. I’m pretty good with computers and can work with various software, but at the end of the day, I’m running a business. I’m not here to figure out how to code WordPress or develop a theme for my business. I don’t have time to tweak the themes I use – I need my business themes to stand on their own, straight out of the box.

The Genesis framework does that. It was as simple as downloading the Pro Plus All-Theme package to my computer, and then uploading Genesis and the child themes I liked to my hosted account. Sounds easy, yes? It is!

Customization is easy. If I wanted to further customize child themes for Big Grey Horse Media, no problem. StudioPress has developers I can turn to.

Features. If you’re looking for a theme that does it all, you’ve found it:

  1. SEO optimized
  2. Google authorship identification
  3. HMTL5
  4. WordPress security
  5. Regular updates – instantly!
  6. Easy customization
  7. Lightweight code
  8. Widget ready
  9. Comment functionality
  10. Auto-sized featured images

 

Cons

There aren’t many cons to list, but I’ve run across a couple.

Using WordPress. Prior to building my blogs, I’d used WordPress as a writer for my clients. The back end of WordPress isn’t difficult, but I learned very quickly that once you get inside as an administrator, WordPress has a learning curve. The upside is that Genesis is highly intuitive and in the almost three years I’ve used the framework, it’s become even more intuitive. However, don’t fool yourself into thinking that you can jump in and know it all in one day. The set up is easy – learning the ropes takes a bit of time.

More themes. If I could, I’d send vibes to those groovy StudioPress developers to make a few more choices for folks like me who run an online magazine or news site. There are several Genesis child themes that fit the bill, but they aren’t exactly where I want to go with Big Grey Horse Media. I’d like something a bit smoother and, well, prettier, without being a mommy blogger site (sorry, blogging moms, no offense meant). I realize that if I stick with Genesis, I will have to hire a developer, use a free child theme from an outside developer, or purchase a third-party child theme.

Wouldn’t it be nice, however, to find everything I need and want inside of StudioPress? Copyblogger knows people who buy the Genesis framework often do their own customizations. Why not develop child themes that include the features folks really want? My guess is, there is commonality in the customization features. Just a thought.

 

Let’s Sum It Up

Genesis had my heart from the first time I visited ProBlogger. My hope is that you’ve found this post informative and helpful. If you’re agonizing over which WordPress theme best suits your business, give Genesis a try. You’ll definitely be in good company – some of the most famous bloggers on the planet use the Genesis framework.

If you’re not interested in the Pro Plus All-Theme package, you can buy Genesis for a mere $59.95. It still amazes me how affordable the framework is. Most premiere themes cost far more than $59.95.

Over 100,000 bloggers have purchased Genesis. I am one of those bloggers who’s happily using Genesis to run a successful business.

I bought the Genesis Pro Plus All-Theme package for less than what it currently costs. If I were you, I’d make my purchase today – the folks at Copyblogger could increase the price at any time (which would be totally justified).

Why not snag Genesis while it’s so inexpensive?

You owe it to yourself and your business to check the Genesis framework out. Click here to be taken directly to StudioPress.

 

If you have questions about the Genesis framework, feel free to contact me. I’m happy to share more details!

Why Your Small Business Needs A Website: Updated

OK
Image courtesy of Idea Go / FreeDigitalPhotos.net.

In 2011, I wrote why your small business needs a website.

Back then I circled the topic in a broad manner that any business owner, savvy or not, could understand. Almost three years later, if you’re not savvy about how to do business online, you’re pretty much out of the game.

However, there are some businesses that don’t need to be online. Some might challenge me on this but I can vouch for businesses in my area that get plenty of traffic without a website, social media, or even using email. Or worse yet, they’ve got email but never answer messages. Ugh!

These companies have a strong customer base that doesn’t look for them on the web.

If you’re one of these businesses, you’re doing a great job with offline marketing. For now, this system works.

 

Where the Future Is

In the future, I think it’s fair to say that without an online presence, these companies won’t stand a chance against strong brands that grew up online or were smart enough to make the switch along the way.

With mobile marketing and everyone glued to their smartphones, each day your company doesn’t carve its place on the web, you’re losing time.

Would I recommend that your company have a website and/or blog? Heck, yeah! What are you waiting for?

 

Where Reality Is

Just because your current customers aren’t looking for your online presence doesn’t mean that prospects aren’t and new customers won’t. When Big Grey Horse Media travels, we live by our smartphones’ browsers and Google Maps. How else can you find where you’re going? More so, if I’m looking for you and can locate your business:

  • It’s great to see reviews (positive and negative) that your customers left on various review sites. Because of the high prevalence of companies paying for favorable reviews, I learn more from mixed, neutral, and negative reviews than positive ones. Writers are paid to write those coveted, 5-star reviews. Think I’ve never been approached to do one? And no, I don’t do them.
  • I want to visit your website. Don’t have one? I’m passing you by. How do I “get” your message if you have nothing to say?
  • If you’re plugged into social media, it’s easy for me to send a tweet or post on your Facebook page if I need immediate attention.

This is just one perspective from a company that travels. Take it for what it’s worth – and realize there are thousands of other people out there wanting, needing, and craving your online presence. Those thousands, perhaps millions, of people have their perspectives, too.

To expand this, my mindset is that the world travels with me. I’ve had the pleasure of writing for and consulting with individuals and businesses from around the world. That’s the beauty of online business – it is available 24/7, 365 days a year.

 

The Down & Dirty

My prior post said that setting up a website was inexpensive and not too time-consuming. Bottom line, you can get a free website (not recommended – EVER) and start writing immediately. DO NOT DO THIS. I got Big Grey Horse Media set up and running for around $100 (domain and one year’s hosting). That’s extremely cheap in the world of online business. Course, I knew WordPress from using the back end of clients’ sites. Grabbing a free theme was easy, too. So in this respect, if you know basic HTML or WordPress and have $100, you, too, can get your business up and running in a few hours.

But you have to know how to write. That’s a trick most people can’t do. That’s how people like me get hired 24/7, 365 days a year.

And you have to know the basics of keeping your site’s back end running through your host and the regular administrative tasks that keep your site healthy. Some people can’t do this, either, whether it’s due to not having the time or the expertise.

I got tired of my simple, free WordPress theme and changed it as quickly as I could buy a professional theme. Again, you’re playing with the world and major brands, so free hosting and cheap websites never make a good impression. I had my eye on StudioPress’ Pro Plus Package, and that’s what we’ve been using ever since. I bought the entire package so I could have access to all the themes, and it’s been a super investment.

When you purchase themes, you’ll get a fair price but it’s never cheap. I don’t consider paying several hundred dollars for a theme package to be expensive considering all the perks that come with it.

Beware the “bottom dollar” marketer when you’re building a website for your small business. If it sounds too good to be true, RUN. Remember that building a site, especially an ecommerce site, should cost tens of thousands of dollars to be designed, built, and properly maintained.

You always get exactly what you pay for. If you pay next to nothing but expect the world, don’t cry when your site doesn’t work or you feel ripped off.

 

In a Nutshell

My time online has taught me two things. The web is the place to 1) build your brand and 2) make money. You can do one or the other or both. In the end, whether we like it or not, the world’s living in the unreal yet real world of the ‘net. You could say more people are becoming enchanted and trapped by that net every minute.

So if you’ve got the money, time, and courage to make your online business work, I say go for it.

If you don’t have the money, time, or courage, find another way to make money. It takes bawls to the walls 24/7, 365 days a year to be smart about teh wayz of teh interwebz.

It’s not easy to serve clients and serve your site. I’ve run into that problem many, many times and it’s not pretty. If you’re a good businessperson, you’ll find your way. Online business isn’t that different from the offline world. There are tricks of the trade and a vastly different, unique, and very cool culture in the online world, but most people can learn to adapt.

The best thing about being online is the wealth of information. Whatever you need answered, you’ll find. 24/7, 365 days a year. And if you can’t find it yourself, there’s plenty of people to assist if you hire them.

 

We offer several products, but one of our favs is content marketing. Ask me how Big Grey Horse Media can build content for you.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Building a Successful Business: A Rotten Economy? I Think Not! Part 2

This is the fifth installment of our Building a Successful Business series. We explore the second part of this rotten economy we’re in.

It’s been tough for a lot of people and businesses in recent years. But there’s change happening and that’s where I have to keep with the times and not close my mind to new technologies and new ways of doing business.

What I see happening, and it’s been going once since around 2005, is a new way of working. It’s the equivalent of people giving up horses to drive around in cars. Times are changing and like or not, traditional jobs have been flushed down the toilet.

If I want to go outside for a B&M job, I’d be looking at HEB cashier (at best) or bagger (more likely) for minimum wage, part time hours, and no benefits. If I couldn’t snag an HEB job (which is highly likely), I’d have to do fast food. Which makes me cringe. Don’t get me wrong, if that’s what it took to make things work, I’d be grateful for the opportunity.

But I’d lose my horses and all that goes with being an equestrian. And I doubt I could pay my bills…it would be a very sad life living – barely – hand to mouth.

That’s my scenario – and that’s why I keep my business going. I REFUSE to listen to what’s happening around me that’s negative. My area has not been hit hard like other areas of the country and there is plenty of money to go around. I tap into that. There are still people spending the bucks to play and entertain themselves.

Course, that’s going on everywhere. And back to my point about jobs.

Those who do not make this new economy work are gonna hurt. And hurt badly. Especially if they were accustomed to a better way of life.

Those who make this new economy work for them will prosper. And from those who prosper, some will rise to the top of the pile and do fabulously. (It’s all relative when it comes to money and happiness, ya know?)

In my lifetime, pensions and the company man and outstanding benefits and insurance WERE TAKEN AWAY.

In my lifetime, people now know they will have many jobs and possibly several careers. And that’s okay! (When I started in the early 80s, it wasn’t.)

But back then, you could still graduate high school, get a sales job in the tech industry – which was incredibly hot – and earn $50,000 your first year. All this without a college degree – if you could make it in sales.

Remember when $50K actually meant something? Ha!

We can make this economy work. We know the rules, the structure, and the organization. We understand the culture. Heck, if you told me, 20 years ago, that I’d be doing the majority of my business transactions virtually, I would have laughed. And probably not believed you.

Believe it now, folks. Make this economy WORK for you. There is PLENTY of money to be made. We are pioneers. Those of you who’ve been doing this for over 10 years are fully ingrained into the new culture and posses a deep understanding of how vibrant and fluid the web is.

Those of us who jumped on board in the last five to seven years are getting it, too. Things are changing FAST.

There’s tons of money to be made. Clients are STARVING for content. And websites. And mobile apps. And social media managers. And…and…and…

Your old way of making money may not work anymore. But there are plenty of opportunities for you to make money NOW. You have to find those ways, carve out your niche, and GO FOR IT.

Since this is such a fluid technology with rapid changes, you also have to be just as fluid with your business.

And speaking of business…because that’s why we’re here…good business means taking action. Good business means you’re going to fail and make some mistakes. Not every project will hit the ground running and make you millions. Unless you take action, however, and are willing to test and experiment and put your work/projects out there, you’ll never make a dime.

And that is good business no matter the economy, no matter the decade, the century, or the technology.

Direct your marketing questions to me – I can help you. And if you’ve realized that your site is starving for content that you don’t have time to write, we offer packages to suit your needs.

I look forward to hearing the responses to this post, and I hope to meet you soon!

Book Review: “Do It! Marketing” by David Newman

Do It! Marketing: 77 Instant-Action Ideas to Boost Sales, Maximize Profits, and Crush Your Competition by David Newman rocked my world. This book is a fun read – the action isn’t reserved for the steps you’ll take to become a better marketer. It’s way too easy to get sucked into the whirlwind of exercises David’s prepared. And I say this as the ultimate compliment. Unlike other business books I’ve studied, this one is actually enjoyable.

As one of my chosen summer reads, this book was supposed to help me get into the groove with my marketing. Like so many business owners, I’d run out of ideas in my marketing efforts. With Texas triple digits and lots of hot sunshine, I’m usually pooped by mid-summer. On top of it all, this typically is a slow quarter for my business.

Hence the reason for buying Do It! Marketing. A reason to get off my arse and DO something this summer.

The premise is simple. The book is broken into 77 action steps which are part of twelve chapters. Each step, and each chapter, takes you farther along in your marketing journey. Each step builds upon the other – you cannot cheat and start anywhere but at the beginning. Pretty simple, eh? I think so.

The book ends in a 21 day launch plan. And by the end of the book, you’re ready for this chapter. I felt a spiritually renewed in all of my marketing efforts by the time I got to page 228.

If you dig exercises and practical application, then Do It! Marketing is for you. There are small exercises scattered throughout the 77 steps. These are playful, fun ways to explore and dig deeper into your ideas.

I read quite a few books. Many don’t hold my attention for long or are hard to comprehend. Others are well-written but lack pizzazz. David Newman ROCKS. Throughout the book, I felt encouraged, invigorated, and ready to get busy.

You don’t get anywhere by sitting in a corner. You build a business through taking action. One step at a time. Many steps through time. In spite of failure. In spite of success. You. Keep. Going.

There are even more benefits to buying this book than gaining marketing savvy. You’ll receive freebies from David that include all kinds of marketing goodies (over 100 – who can beat that?). But don’t take my word for it – take action and DO IT!

 

 

Building a Successful Business: Tips to Help Other Businesses

The third part of our Building a Successful Business series offers tips to help other businesses. While I’ve focused on helping fellow writers, these tips can be used by any marketer who’s drumming up new business. If you’re hungry for new clients and want to develop relationships with prospects, you’ll enjoy these suggestions.

The Problem

A writer asks, “Other writers talk about having their own clients to write for, and I want to get inside that part of the industry. Problem is, I’m not sure where to start. Where do I find clients?”

My Solution

Here are some of my simple secrets for helping businesses:

1) Twitter

  • I watch what my followers are talking about.
  • I also do searches on particular terms I’m interested in to pull from outside the pool I swim in.
  • I watch what the folks I follow are talking about.

2) LinkedIn

  • I look at where my contacts have worked, who they’ve worked with, see what they are currently doing, and who their connections are. I work hard to connect on a local and regional level as opposed to national/worldwide. It’s easier for me that way.

3) Read the local weeklies

  • I see what’s happening, where it’s happening, when it’s happening. Local events, people coming to town, people doing special things.
  • I carefully monitor who advertises – they have some sort of marketing budget and understand the value of marketing/advertising.
  • I look for those who pull 1/2 and full page ads. They are very conscious of marketing and eager to find new business/customers.
  • I scan for who has a website. ‘Nuff said.

4) Talk to people

  • I can’t stress how important this is. I don’t care if it’s the cashier at HEB (these folks know everything because they see everyone), the guy down the street, or the people at my barn. Without conversations, nothing happens. When you listen, you will find all kinds of groovy information to work with.

So you’ve gleaned information about the people you want to work with. You know who’s in need of new customers and who has an advertising budget. You know who has a website. You know the events going on around your community and the businesses that are involved.

The next step is so easy, but few writers take it. ACTION!

  1. Contact the businesses that are sponsoring a local charity event. Congratulate them for the sponsorships and introduce yourself.
  2. Hand out a few business cards when you see your stylist, local grocer, realtor, etc. Tell people what you do.
  3. Telephone businesses that advertise in your local weekly (or daily) and introduce yourself.
  4. Send a letter of introduction when you connect with new people on LinkedIn. Ask for introductions to their connections, too.
  5. Re-tweet news that’s relevant to your Twitter followers. Let the person who tweeted know you’re interested in their news. Ask for an interview. Give them free exposure.

These are a few things that I do to help.

Notice that I said I do these things to help businesses, not close a sale. You gotta start warm and work your way up. I cannot stress how important it is to qualify a lead before pouncing on it.

Have questions? Need more help? Would you like a private consultation with Laura to discuss your marketing needs? Contact me and let’s get the ball rolling in the right direction. I’m here to get your business on track!

Building a Successful Business: Content Mills vs. Private Clients

This is the second part of Big Grey Horse Media’s Building a Successful Business series.  Today, we zoom in on the dilemma some writers have: content mills vs. private clients. Check out our Marketing Guide for Writers if you need help marketing your business and snagging the gigs.

One of my favorite forums had a lively discussion that turned into a small debate about content mills vs. private clients. It’s the same old argument, with writers on both sides, and each declaring why they work for the mills. Or not.

It was a highly agreeable discussion that was quite friendly, but it boiled down to a few specifics I find questionable.

Specifically, the idea that content mill writers hold is that marketing isn’t worth the time spent. Or it’s too much time spent on an unpaid activity, and they want money now. So why market when you can write a $3-$25 article? This logic makes sense, but my take is different.

What happens when you have to pay taxes?

Remember that those $3-$25 articles get chopped in half – fast. You’re not working for an employer, you’re a subcontractor/freelancer. You’ve got absolutely no benefits except that you are working from home (a big benefit, for sure, but that’s not a safe model to build a business upon).

What happens when the work runs out?

Content mills are businesses. There are no guarantees. This business model is not out to protect writers. The mills are a business like any other and the profits that are made line the pockets of the business’ owners.

More importantly, when the work is gone, you better have more content mills on the schedule or you’re screwed. You’d think freelance writers would operate from this premise and work regularly with several mills. While a few smart writers do spread their work out, the majority DO NOT.

Myth

Private Clients are hard to find and the time spent marketing to find private clients is unpaid.Why would I want to spend hours looking for work in a highly competitive market when I can crank out five $3 articles at XYZ content mill? My hourly rate is then secured at $15 an hour, which ain’t too bad.

The Truth

I’ve found that content mill work also has the unpaid time or downtime, too.

  • Time spent looking for articles in a queue.
  • Time spent refreshing a screen when there is nothing and you’re hoping something will appear.
  • Time spent finding those content mills.
  • Time spent filling out applications and turning in samples/clips.
  • Time spent on administrative tasks (which we ALL do, no matter who the client is or how they roll).
  • Time spent posting in forums, Facebook pages, etc. that the mills offer as their “writer water cooler”.
  • Time spent dealing with edits, rejections, appeals.

For me, working with higher paying clients is a dream come true. Content mill work can be easy because once you’re in, work is in a queue and “handed” to you, seemingly without struggle.

The problem with this model is the lack of personalization. It’s crowdsourcing. While that’s certainly one solid business model in our new way of working, it can bite many people in the arse if they’re not careful.

While the work is there, the light shines brightly upon everyone who’s working.

When the pickings are slim, well, mass panic and a huge exodus occurs.

I’m not slamming the mills or anyone who works with them. I’ve done it myself and from time to time, will pick up work to test the business model.

But it’s not worth it, for me, to do it long term or as my primary way of making money. Too unstable, the pay SUCKS, and everyone is treated the same.

Don’t be afraid to pick up a private client – or fill your list exclusively with private clients. You don’t have to travel to their locations, either. I’ve worked with clients from around the world and made it work.

I prefer the meetings and greetings and kissing babies and shaking hands simply because I’m my father’s daughter. He was a very successful entrepreneur and marketing/sales was his specialty. What he did to rise from a poor family to being worth millions by the time he was in his 40s are the same principles people talk about today.

Relationships. Taking care of your customers.

So when you’re looking for work, whether it’s a mill or something else, take care of your customer. The mill probably won’t have too many ways for you to be a shining star, but you can cut your teeth on the gig and learn. If you choose to work with this business model, there’s nothing wrong with that. It has excellent points and it has limitations. As long as you realize that crowdsourcing can run out, and as long as you have back up plans or more income to rely upon, then I say go for it.

I don’t have the luxury of relying upon anyone’s income but my own. While I have multiple income streams, I have to watch my money carefully and be aware because there’s no one else to look to if my money runs out.

Private clients rock because the opportunity exists to package a deal and make it work over the long run. And if you over-deliver and rock the gig, you get referrals.

Word-of-mouth marketing is powerful, folks. And you won’t get this from a mill.

When you get exclusive, private client work, it’s solely on YOUR terms. It’s YOUR work – the project isn’t going anywhere if you step away from the computer. You’ve set the parameters with your customer and as long as you deliver what you’ve promised in the time frame you’ve discussed, it’s your gig.

And please, please, please don’t take what the bottom-feeder, crab apple clients want as real work. Sure, it’s work, but it’s the most distasteful work around, and it’s abundant. This is not the pool that you want to cast your net into.

I want to show the bright side of stepping away from the mills – not because I think they are wrong or bad – because I fear some people get the wrong impression about private clients and how to work with them. It’s not the huge pain you think it might be, especially when all things are considered and the entire picture is in focus.

Dealing with private clients means you factor in the administrative, downtime, and marketing costs. It’s not like you throw away the time you are unable to bill.

You factor those costs into your overall pricing structure.

You can’t do that with a mill. The price is set and it’s up to you to make it work (taxes, admin time, downtime, vacations, holidays, savings, expenses, etc.).

If you have questions, need some guidance, or want to talk with me about a project, contact me. I’m here to help!

Building a Successful Business: A Marketing Guide for Writers

Do you want to build a successful business? If you’re a writer on the hunt for work, this marketing guide for writers is for you. Not a writer? The marketing principles I outline apply to anyone who is looking for new clients.

This is the first part of a series dedicated to people who want to grow their businesses.

How do new writers get a gig?

The question isn’t new. If you’ve spent any amount of time in the freelance writing world, you’ve heard this question. I, too, was once a writer looking for work and establishing Big Grey Horse Media. Five years down the road, I’ve got some answers for new freelance writers.

What I’m sharing isn’t a trade secret or coveted marketing and sales insider info. I’ve learned to get work by doing just that: looking for work. When you’re hustling a new business out of red ink and into profit, you will do just about anything to gain the gigs. So much of building a business is active work. You never learn (or accomplish) anything by sitting around and remaining passive.

If you want wealth, if you want success, you must be willing to make mistakes. If you want to build a successful business, read what successful business owners have written. (More on this as I review and recommend my fav business books in future posts.) Partner with a mentor who’s been there and done that. Listen to what the experts recommend.

A Writer’s Marketing Guide

Pitching is the soul of getting new business. If you want to improve your chances of closing the gig, however, you must target your market.

If you’re pitching publications (online or offline), find those that are part of your target market. In other words, publications you can easily write for or the ones you have experience with. If you are a fashion expert, are aware of trends, and up to date on the latest and greatest, pitch what you know to that particular segment of publications.

If you are versed in marketing/advertising/sales and know how to put an informative press release together, pitch companies that need your services.

What it all boils down to when you’re looking for work (gigs):

1) Find niches that you understand and know. It’s easier to start here than in areas you’re not familiar with. Although great writers are fantastic researchers and can write about topics they are not familiar with, this takes more research, potential interviews with experts, etc. Make it easy and keep it simple when you’re starting out. Take what you know and start there.

2) Find your target market. It’s a marriage of blending what you know and who is in that sector of business.

3) Write a query/LOI (letter of introduction)/pitch to your prospect. Introduce yourself and include a killer query about the subject and how you will approach the piece. Show how your background supports writing about the topic.

**If your LOI/pitch is to introduce yourself/your business in order to secure a gig, this will be in a warm email introduction, sales call, appointment, etc. You don’t have to respond to ads or calls for queries/writers…you can make your own gigs by approaching a warm market in need of your services.

4) Close the deal. Follow up on sales calls, appointments, email, etc. If you’ve put out feelers but have no bites, stay in touch with your contact. You won’t always get the nibble on the first go. Persistence and patience pay off in spades.

5) Keep the deal. Offer high value for your customers. Help your customers solve problems. Customers pay for your expertise. Partner with your clients and you will have plenty of work and a highly loyal client base. This step also plays into #3 and #4. If you want to close the deal, if you want to get the deal, you must know what your customer wants/needs and have the answer to their problems. Remember this when you are putting your pitches together and when you are closing the deals.

Writing is a hot field, it’s not going anywhere, and there are endless possibilities to help individuals and businesses achieve their goals and prosper. And when they prosper…so do you!

Refer to this marketing guide when you’re drumming up new business. If you have questions, want mentoring, or would like to request a marketing consultation, contact me. I’m here to help!